Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday November 17

I really feel like things in my work are starting to look up. I feel like my conversation with Lourdes is pushing me into productivity. I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I am throwing my name out there more and more, somethings bound to catch. Next Tuesday I am suppose to give a charla, or informal workshop, in English and Spanish to San Jaun, a high school here over global warming. Also, I am going to start teaching English in La Lolita a primary school here. I´ve been planning to teach English for a bit now, and I am hoping that I will start next week. I finally have a book. I am not sure how much English the kids already know. Most of the schools here provide some kind of English class, but sometimes the teachers don´t really speak English. It is hard enough to teach what you know, almost impossible to teach what you don´t. I think teaching English will make me feel a lot better about my work. I is something I can steadily do while I look for more health related projects. I have never taught English as a second language so if anyone has advice. I am all ears.

Sunday November 15

On Friday, my counterpart Lourdes really railed into me. I went to talk to her and she basically told me about that I haven't done anything which is true and about how I'm not friendly which is not true. I have three groups of friends and I'm finding them difficult enough to balance. I don't need to be any friendlier.

On the first account Lourdes is accurate. On the other hand I have only been here three months. I'm still forming contacts, forming trust, and learning the language. Peace Corps recommends you spend your first three months working on integrating. Still I can see Lourdes's frustration. Lourdes is the type of person who has a lot of really good ideas, but she is very busy so sometimes doesn't have the time to follow them through. I feel like that is how she is with me and projects she wants me to do. Apparently she has projects, but has never told me about them. In retrospect I should have asked, but when I see her she seems too busy to have time to deal with me and with my Spanish. I don't feel like she has done her part to help me with either work or integration. Anytime, I have done anything with the municipio, which is the organization I work out of, it has been with Jorge, my host brother. She set me up with a schedule that I have been following, but it doesn't really give me anything to do. It does keep me away from most of the workers in the municipio and I think this has caused the problem. One of the things that most frustrates her is she doesn't feel that she knows me at all, but between my schedule and hers she hardly ever sees me. This not knowing me is why she thinks I am unfriendly. In many ways I feel that she has not put forth much effort, but I guess I haven't done my part either. Now, I feel very foolish for not working on my relationship with my counterpart. I have worked on having a good relationship with my host family, the basketball ladies and my friends at the health center, but I haven't worked on my relationship with Lourdes, who could be one of my most helpful contacts. She really tore into me on Friday, but I am hoping that the relationship can be restored. I now know better what she expects of me. Unfortunately, I couldn't really explain how I felt to her so she still does not know what I need from her.

So Friday was a fairly awful day. It was one of the hardest conversations I've ever had. I would like to say I handled it with maturity, but I guess I still have some growing up to do. I actually did not even tear up when Lourdes was talking to be, but that is where my maturity ends After the meeting I went home and cried for about an hour and then I went to Amanda's where I spent the rest of the night doing nothing productive, speaking in English, and avoiding Ecuador.

So Yesterday morning I decided to improve my attitude and Saturday turned out to be much better than Friday. I ended up going horseback riding with Lucho, a very well off English speaking Ecuadorian who used to be in a TV show and will say things like, “I never got use to people asking me for my autograph,” Anyhow, we went to San Rafael which is a resort that Lucho owns or is in someway connected. He has some land out there for Amanda to do an organic garden. They are the last people who really need Peace Corps help, but they are interested in doing some community outreach through San Rafael so hopefully this will open some doors. If nothing else it will give us an organic garden to play with.

We went to scope out the land and ended up horseback riding. The horses are really calm and easy to ride. The saddles were actually comfortable. Right when we got there Lucho asked me if I had a hat. I of course didn't so he said I could barrow his for the next couple of hours. It is a straw two toned cowboy hat with a decorative leather band. It is really quite nice. A little bit later I asked Lucho where he got the hat from and he asked me if it fit. It did so he gave it to me.

When we got back to Bucay, I had a really great conversation with Jorge my host brother. He had heard about what Lourdes said to me and basically was telling me that he sees that I'm not the only one to blame in the situation. He knows that Lourdes hasn't put forth a lot of effort to help me. Also, he said that I didn't have to worry about the friendly comment. He's seen me around a lot of people who like me and find me perfectly friendly. It's great to know he has my back.

So to sum up my weekend. I had a very tough conversation with Lourdes and then I got a hat.

Thursday November 11

Ecuador is in an energy crisis right now. Last year was a light rainy season so now Ecuador does not have enough water for the power plants. Almost everyday between 5:00-8:00 we loose power. The rainy season starts in December so luckily we don't have to much longer to have to deal with this. It is odd that when I applied to Peace Corps I didn't really imagine that I would have electricity, but now that I am here and I am use to it, I hate when we don't have luz.

Last night we didn't loose electricity. I don't know why, but we lost electricity in the morning and not in the evening. Amanda and I wanted to play basketball with the women. I have decided to play in the next game although it will be horribly embarrassing. Anyone who meet me knows that I am bad at sports. The basketball women said that people were already at the court and that we should come and learn how to dance.

Well, I am just as bad at dancing as I am at sports and Amanda is just as bad at dancing as I am and hates to do it, but all the same we trouped over to Patty's bar where Patty and the two other basketball women tried to teach us to dance. It started out really fun. We were doing simple dance moves. I was mimicking Rosaria and Amanda was mimicking Suzy. Patty would walk around and interject with helpful suggestions. She kept telling me to move my hands more which seemed helpful and to listen to the music which is the most annoying of dance tips. If I had a sense of rhythm, I would stick with the beat.

Then it got embarrassing. we moved into a different room where a table of drinking men could see us. The dance moves kept getting more and more complicated. At the end Suzy was having us do some salsa move where you quickly tap your toes to the ground. It looks elegant when she does it, but we were off beat and not holding out weight correctly so we just looked like idiots. Fortunately, for me, feeling like an idiot is something I have gotten very used to here so I still had fun. These women seem convinced that I will be able to dance at the end of my two years. Maybe they are right, but I've had many people insist that they could teach me and eventually realize that I am a lost cause. We'll see if these women are up for the challenge.

Tuesday November 10

The fiestas are rolling to a close today. They started last on the 31st with the election of the reina and the party has been going strong in the whole community since. I am exhausted. It is shocking how tiring having fun can be.

I was celebrating Halloween with Peace Corp volunteers in Guayaquil on the Saturday elections of the reina, but I imagine it was very similar to the reina elections a few weeks ago in Cumanda. I assume the event started around 10 o'clock at night with musicians and dancers preforming. The candidates probably made their entrance in the evening gown around 11 o'clock and at about 3 in the morning they announced the winner to an audience of tired women and drunk men. This years reina is a member of my host family. She is my mother's niece's daughter. I guess that makes her my host cousin once removed? She's very pretty and her mother is very nice. I haven't ever spoken with her, but I have the feeling politics play a strong roll in the election of the reina. After all, my host family is pretty important in the community.

After the reina competition, were the rounds of basketball and futbol games. There were four mens teams and two womens. On Monday the men had the first round of games and on Tuesday the women played and the men's finalist played. Sadly the two mens teams of Bucay lost in the first round of games to teams of nearby pueblos. Excitingly, the women of Bucay did win; altough, Bucay had an unfair advantage. Bucay had a gringa. Amanda played basketball in college and was the tallest women on the court. Because the women won, they received an invitation to play in Milagro which is a pretty big city near here. The game is sometime in December and I have agreed to play this time, but I keep warning, “I can't play like La Mandi.” I don't know why I tell them this though. Its only been a few months, but already my reputation for not being athletic precedes me. I don't think anyone expects me to play basketball half as well as Amanda. I just hope I don't make a giant fool of myself.

On Wednesday there were rounds of futbol games. I watched a couple, but didn't have anyone to cheer for so I didn't find it very fun. I'm friends with a lot of the people that play basketball, but I don't really know any of the futbol guys.

Thursday was a competition of traditional dancing which was really fun to watch. I think the traditional outfits here are beautiful. They are colorful, many with hand made embroidery. A group of little kids around 7 years old did a dance. Kids are just precious in the traditional dress twirling and stomping around. Some of the adult dances were pretty complicated, definitely more complicated than I could do, but that doesn't say much. Some told stories appealing to the part of my heart that loves musicals. A couple of the dances included fireworks, a little scary, but cool. I don't know how they decided who won. I didn't even see who got the trophy, but I think having fireworks that didn't kill anyone should add a few points to any dance teams score.

On Friday night Bucay held a dance at the high school stadium. I didn't go. I was in an awful mood. I didn't have any work to do and my flimsy social plans had pretty much all fell through so I spent the whole day frustrated. I was angry and I hate being angry and will hardly ever admit to being so. I was angry with myself for not having done a better job with integration or work that day and angry with everyone else for no reason. I spent a long time trying to decide between going out to the baile and going staying in. I knew that staying in would only make me more disappointed in myself the next day, but I feared that if I went out that I would be grouchy to both people who I wanted to form positive relationships with and the people who are so kind and patient with me. I ended up going with a compromise. I went to Raices, Jorge Garcia's bar and hung out with him and the other bartender. Latter at night people started trickling in, but most everyone was at the baile. It lifted my mood and gave me the opportunity to spend at least some of the day in Spanish. At the same time, since only a few of us were there I didn't feel stressed or pressured.

Saturday we went to La Lolita which is an area right around Bucay. It was similar to a community fair. We got there and were immediately given large plates over flowing with pork, corn, and potatoes. Everywhere we walked people would hand us shot glasses of beer. Here you don't slowly sip on your individual beer, Beer is meant to be shared. They are in ridiculously large bottles and you pore a little bit into your neighbors glass which they drink in one gulp. Anyhow, with all the free food and free cerveza, its no wonder that most Peace Corps volunteers gain weight, at least the women do.

Sunday, we went back to La Lolita. In the morning there was a horse race. It was suppose to start at 11:00, but like most things in Ecuador didn't actually start until noon or later. It was kind of fun to watch the horses especially when something went wrong and the rider got thrown off. I do think there is something wrong with me because I found these men getting thrown from their horses just a wee bit entertaining, but the race lasted a very long time. Afterwards, we went to a baile at La Lolita. It was fun except this guy kept bugging me. He kept bringing me beer to drink, asking for me number, and asking me to dance. I could tell right away that this guy was not someone I wanted to hangout with so I was being as unfriendly as possible to show my disinterest, but he just would not leave me alone. I didn't feel threatened though because I was with Amanda and a number of Ecuadorians who I know would stand up for me. It was just an annoyance.

Monday, was the disfile, or parade. Like most parades, I found some of it to be fun to watch and some of it to be terribly boring. I actually saw the beginning and left in the middle and went back in the end. That night there was another dance in the cancha, or basketball court. I went for a little bit, but left early because I had to work today. At this point I was getting pretty tired of the fiestas anyhow. Although now I feel like I have secured a group of female friends. The women Amanda plays basketball with are absolutely amazing. They are so much fun. Plus they have taken a liking to Amanda and I and are trying to do things like teach us to dance.

Work wise I've started to get really frustrated. At the health center I have nothing to do. No one has trained me and even if they did, I wouldn't be able to the the job half as well as pretty much any Ecuadorian. Basically, what I do there is work as a secretary. It would be a very easy job in English, but I don't know how to spell people's names and when I ask them to spell their names they do so too quickly for my mind to comprehend. Spelling has never been a strong suit of mine. I don't know how to set up new clients with new charts. There is a series of questions people ask, and I could learn those questions pretty easily, but I don't know how they assign numbers and stuff. I've finally learned who works where, more or less, but I still don't understand the schedule or how many turns each doctor is willing to do in a day. Also, most of the time someone else is working my job so I just sit and read.

I really enjoyed working a Ecuavida, the special needs school, but on Wednesday I showed up and Claudia, the teacher there said the school was shutting down. They didn't have many children there at one time. I think the municipio that payed for the work felt that it was just too expensive for the number of children that showed up, It is sad. I felt that the school was well run and that Claudia and the other teacher were informed how to deal with special needs children, but only about 10 kids were benefiting from the service.

So Amanda and I are going to start doing charla Wednesday in the schools. A charla is an informal workshop. Right now the charla we are doing is about caring for the environment. On Thursday I am going to start teaching English in a nearby school. Hopefully as this ball gets rolling, other things will sort of pick up the pace.

Monday October 26 2009

One of my friends here Johnathan died in a car wreck yesterday. He was more of an acquaintance. We only meet a couple of times. He was really nice and had a great voice. He was in the car with a few of his friends. They were all drunk and apparently Johnathan did not have on his seatbelt.

Amanda told me about the wreck. She said she had some really sad news. I assumed it was something stupid, but then it was really serious and really sad. Being abroad gives me a sense of invincibility. I feel like I am so often out of my comfort zone and everything is fine making me feel that bad things won't happen, but then something like this happens. It wakes me up to the realization that stupid decisions can cause tragedy. I guess this is how I often feel when someone young dies.

The funeral is tomorrow. I don't think I will go though. I will if someone asks me, but I don't feel comfortable going alone. I didn't know Johnathan well and I don't know his family. I don't want to intrude.

Sunday October 25 2009

Last night I went to a dinner party at Paulina, a Doctor at the health center, and her husbands house. Paulina is from Riobamba and her husband Juan is from Quito. Doctors in Ecuador have to work in the pueblos for a year before they can settle down to working to working in the nicer hospitals or opening their own practices in the cities. Paulina just started her year in September so her and Juan are looking for friends here. This is perfect for me because I too am looking for friends.

I have some great friends here, but it isn't really an appropriate group for me to hang out with all the time. Usually the Ecuadorians I hang out with are 30 to 40 year old men like my host brother. They are great to me, but if I really want to integrate I need female friends my age. Now I have Paulina and hopefully through her I can meet more people my age.

The dinner was great. Paulina is a vegetarian so we ate carne de soya and a delicious fish soup. As desert we had empanadas which were delicious. Juan and Paulina were adorable preparing the food. They burned some of the empanadas which they joked were chocolate coated.

Afterwards, we went to La Casa del Teror. It was a fun haunted house much like the ones in the US with people in masks jumping out and screaming, ghosts and zombies and such. I was first in line. I guess the theory was sacrifice the gringa. We were all laughing when we left. I've decided that haunted houses are another place where the language barrier does not exist.
When we got out of the haunted house, we went to Raices which is Jorge Garcia's bar. When I go out, I usually go to Raices. I got a look from Jorge Garcia when I came in with a different group. It is always awkward to bring two worlds together. I found it more difficult here because I don't know what the cultural norms are. I don't know if I should have introduced everyone to Jorge. One of Paulina's friends is also a friend of Jorge. He didn't start introduction so I didn't either. I just greeted the people I knew and went back to hang out with the people I came in with.

Oct 6

So, I ended up not going to Guayaquil with Jennifer. Peace Corps put us on travel restriction. In the orient people are rioting and throughout the country teachers are on strick so Peace Corps wanted us to stay put. I would have been find traveling between my site and Guayaquil, but rules are rules.

I tried to figure out what was going on with Jennifer but all I was able to understand is that she is now in Guayaquil at a hospital and will probably be there for a couple of months.

The travel restriction put me in a really restless mood. It didn't interfere with any of my travel plans except this thing with Jennifer which I was relieved to not be able to do because I wasn't certain what was being asked of me and getting a flu shot which I wasn't that excited about to begin with. Just the knowledge that I could not travel really bothered me. Fortunately now the strikes are over and only a few places in the orient are off limits.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sept 25

Yesterday, I went with Claudia, the Colombian who works at the special needs school. On Thursdays Claudia makes house calls. That day we visited a young mother with a very sick two year old girl, Jennifer. Jennifer was fine for the first two years of her life and then she caught meningitis. From what I understood when her mother took Jennifer to the doctor with a fever, the doctor did not correctly diagnose the problem. The doctor did not put Jennifer on antibiotics or anything to prevent the virus from causing more problems. Then Jennifer started to have convulsions. Judging by the loss of muscle and baby fat, I think Jennifer got meningitis awhile ago, survived the sickness, but it really took a told on her health. She is blind, deaf, and her legs have lost all muscle so she cannot walk. She can´t even eat. Claudia gave her food through a tube.

On Monday, we are taking Jennifer to Guayaquil for intense treatment. I believe she will be in the hospital for at least 2 months. Claudia needed a photo of Jennifer for some reason. Maybe the municipal, which I believe is paying for Jennifer's treatments, wants a photo for an article. Maybe the hospital needs a photo. The mother wouldn´t let Claudia take a picture of Jennifer. I don´t think she wanted a picture of her while she was so sick. Anyhow, the mother found an older picture of the girl. In the older picture Jennifer is sitting upright, with a healthy amount of baby fat on her arms and legs. It was heartbreaking to look at the picture and then look at the girl in the bed. It was hard to imagine that they are the same child.

Claudia seems hopeful that we will be able to help this girl. I hope she is right, but I doubt she will ever be as healthy as the girl in that picture. I really like Claudia. She seems on top of things, maybe its the name. I think her work is really important so I hope to work more with her. There is definitely a need. I just need to figure out where I can contribute.

Sept 22 2009

Friday night I went to the election on the raina in Cumanda, my sister city. I was really tired Friday afternoon and was not very excited when Jorge, my host brother and one of the people I work with called me at 10:00 at night to come downstairs to go to the reina elections. Disgruntled I went downstairs and about an hour later we left for the raina competition. When we got there a group of women were preforming. They were pretty good and the music was very fast paced so that woke me up a bit.

At about midnight, the reina competition started. It began with the candidates walking around in there bathing suits and introducing themselves. After that a man came out and sang traditional Ecuadorian songs. Then the candidates came back out in their evening gowns and answered a question. It was two or so in the morning when the questions were asked. Many of the men in the audience would drunk and loud. I felt pretty bad for the candidates.

At three in the morning they announced the winner. A girl named Kellie or the one dressed in the cafe colored gown. I had called her as the winner. She was very pretty, but mostly she was very confident in her walk and the way she presented herself. I wasn´t really listening to what she said in response to her question. They were speaking in Spanish, but I was very impressed with mannerisms during the response. In my opinion she was the clear winner, but the people I went with preferred the girl in red. They said she was the nicest.

I cannot get over that the reina competition started at midnight and ended at 3am. The reina is really important in Ecuador. Kellie will go onto compete for Miss Chimborazo, the Provence and then the winner of that will go onto compete for Miss Ecuador. I just think that it is weird that something so culturally important would begin and end at such a ridiculous time

I spent almost all of Saturday alone in my house. I used the reina competition of the night before as an excuse to sleep in and then I just stayed in the house. It was really nice to have some alone time. I feel a little guilty about it. Especially since my host family believes that if I am upstairs that I am asleep. I really think they believe that I slept around 20 hours on Saturday. Personal time isn´t valued here, but since I am living in a different culture, I value it more than I usually do. I often feel overwhelmed with the cultural differences and the language barrier. I often don´t feel like myself because when I can´t express myself very well, I can´t talk about difficult, important topics and I can´t make jokes. If I do, they are usually not considered funny. I can´t be sarcastic and I love sarcasm. Ecuadorians aren´t very sarcastic in general and sarcasm requires a fluency level that few reach in a second language. Because of this, I require more personal time than usual. I always feel a struggle between wanting to be social and wanting to have time to be myself.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Feliz Cumpleanos

Last weekend, I visited a Deanna, a peace corp friend, for her birthday. It was really nice to be able to share and compare experiences. Her family is very nice, but with that comes overwhelming. Like my host mom, hers likes to talk about how alone she is. Like my host mom, her kids are usually only a few rooms away.

Deanna lives in the Bolivar province which is famous for its cheese and chocolate. I am both extremely jealous and relieved. The cheese and chocolate there is amazing. I brought back chocolate for my host family and accidentally ate most of it myself.

On Saturday for Deanna´s birthday the family through a party. They made two cakes for her. One they made her plant her face in. Making people smash their faces in their birthday cakes is a tradition here that I personally think is great, at least on other people´s birthday. After the cake we played various games including one similar to hot potato. We were passing around a balloon and if the music stopped when you had the balloon then you had to make a fool of yourself. For example, when the music stopped on me, I had to do the chicken dance. It is pretty funny and most of the time I feel like a fool anyhow so I didn´t mind when the music stopped on me. I have noticed that a lot of games here are focused on having a loser, not a winner. After hot potato we played a card game. The point of the game was to get rid of all of your cards. The game wasn´t over until all but one person had gotten ride of their cards.

On Sunday, one of the surrounding communities had a ceremony for the virgin starting at 6 or 7 in the morning. People from all over go to this ceremony and Deanna´s family and a lot of the community walked to it starting at midnight. They walked from midnight until six am. Deanna and I were going to go, but at about 11 we realized we were too exhausted. We went to bed when the family left. They did not get back to their house until 11 in the afternoon. I can´t imagine how exhausted I would have been if I had gone.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sorry this first entry is so long.


I am at my site now. I love it, but at times it is a bit overwhelming. Basically on Mondays and Tuesdays I go to the Centro de Salud. On Wednesdays and Thursdays I go to the Ecuadvida which is a school for mentally handicaped kids, and on Friday I am with my counterpart at the Biblioteca.

At the Centro de Salud, I spend the day confused. No one has taken the time to explain the system or if they tried, I was too overwhelmed to understand. I don't really know who the doctors are or what services are provided, but I am learning. The first week I felt very useless. People would ask me questions and I wouldn't understand. This Monday was better. I understand the accent here better and I know the questions that people might be asking even if I can't understand a word they say. On Tuesday for some reason no medics showed up to the office so I didn't have anything to do. I don't think it was planned for no one to be there. I don't know how common it is for everyone to not show up, but it seems like a flaw in the system. I haven't figured out what I am suppose to do with Ecuavida yet. They seem pretty well run. The first few days I observed. Today I drew pictures for the kids to color in later. So far with my counterpart on Fridays I have been meeting people and traveling out to the rural areas. Last Friday I judged an elementary school reina competition and then went to a community meeting.

This weekend, I am going to visit one of my fellow omnibusers. She lives close to Salinas in the province Bolivar. Salinas is famous for its chocolate and cheese. I am enjoying my site, but I am ready for a day away from it. It is exhausting to be here in Spanish all of the time. It is exhausting to live with a family.


Rafael Correa, Evo Moralles, and Rigoberta Menchu spoke in my training town. I was very fortunate to be able to go. Peace Corps Ecuador policy states that only five trainees can be in the same public place at the same time. Only the people living in my little pueblo were allowed to go.

Correa, Moralles, and Menchu spoke at the inauguration of a museum in honor of the indigenous rights movement and Transito Amaguyana.. Transito Amaguyana was an important leader in the indiginous rights movement. She fought against the hacienda owners. She is a point of great pride for the indigenous people of Ecuador. Earlier this year she died.
I was really impressed with Correa's speech. He spoke clear and enunciated well, things nonnative speakers appreciate very much. He began his speech in Kituwa which I thought showed a lot of respect toward the indigenous culture. I was also really enjoyed Rigoberta Menchu's speech. She was also easy to understand and in general the speech was very moving. The speeches were not political. They honored Transito Amaguyana covering topics such as freedom, human rights, and equality


My site visit went pretty well. I did not get to stay in the house that I will be staying in because my host Mom was in Riobamba visiting a sick relative and her son did not have the keys so I stayed with Brooke the volunteer that I am replacing. It was so nice to hear her opinion of my site. She had many positive things to say which was reassuring. Also, it was nice to hear the prospective of another volunteer who had been in the Peace Corps for awhile.

My site is an odd combination of Sierra and Coast. You can buy traditional food for either region. People generally have the coastal accent, but they do not speak quite as fast as people further west. I think it is a good combination. I cannot say something bad about either the Sierra or the Coast because on one side of me I might have someone from the Sierra and on the other I might have someone from the Coast.

I arrived at my site during the fiestas. On Saturday I went to see the torros. In other words, I watched drunken men run away from angry bulls. Also, a couple of drunken men were clowns. A lot of the jokes I did not understand culturally, linguistically, or both, but some of it was really funny. Often I felt bad for the bull.


I was wrong. I am not going to be living in the cold Sierra. My site is in a coastal province. It is very close to the Sierra, but I don't think it is considered a transitional zone. From what I hear, I am pretty lucky. There is a river dividing my town and another volunteers. Tomorrow morning I am leaving at 5:30 for my site visit.


Today there was a riot in one of the big cities near my training town. I do not know exactly what caused the riot or who the riot was against. The catalyst was that a taxi driver was killed the night before. The police sprayed the town center with tear gas, and any nearby stores locked the door, not allowing customers in or out. Fortunately, the Peace Corps warned me of the situation and I was not in the city at the time. My language group and I had been in the city earlier that day. We had noticed that the police were dressed for a riot, but did not really put the two together until later.

Tomorrow we find out our sites. I am excited and nervous, but truthfully, I don't care where I am sent. I am in a very cold part of Ecuador now and I would like to be in a warmer part, but it is beautiful here and I am surviving. The sites in the health program are pretty evenly divided between the coast and the Sierra. Only a couple of sites are in the orient. Already I can list some ups and downs for any potential site. I figure in time I will both love and hate my site so I really don't have a preference as to where I am sent. I feel like I will be in the Sierra, but I might be surprised. The only thing I don't want is to be in a major city like Quito, but very few health sites are in large cities.

A couple of days ago my host family got two puppies. They are adorable. I think they are about 6 weeks old. When I asked my host sister how old they are, she did not know. They are the cutest little balls of tan fluff.


I am pulling out of a dip in my language learning. When I first got here I was so excited about being able to speak in Spanish. Then this week I started to get tired of searching for the correct word and trying to remember the correct conjugations especially for those irregular verbs. I found myself avoiding speaking in Spanish. I might even have a question for my host family that I knew how to say and just not ask. I know that language learning is a process and you have ups and downs. I wasn't too worried because I knew I was in a down, but I told myself that if after this weekend I was still mopping around that I would have to start forcing myself to speak whenever possible.

Fortunately, I believe that I am through the worst of this down. Yesterday I helped my friend Peyton cook tacos for her host family. We tried to make tortillas using “Whitney's Amazingly Simple Tortilla Recipe.” With a title like that only an idiot could mess it up, right? Well, apparently Peyton and I are those idiots because the first attempts weren't great, but eventually we got the hang of it. They weren't the best tortillas but they were okay. However, they created a ton of smoke. We weren't burning the tortillas, but with each one a little bit of flower was left in the frying pan. Then the flower would burn, filling the kitchen with smoke. We were almost done cooking when Peyton's family showed up. Like most of the community, Peyton's family has cows to milk every afternoon. They must have thought we burned down their kitchen given the amount of smoke. They got a good laugh at us. I thought the dinner as a whole was a great success. The tacos were delicious. The guacamole definitely was a hit. Plus we had vegetables which isn't common here. The whole experience started to pull me out of my Spanish slump.

Then today, my host mother made a big fire in the shed where they keep the guinea pigs. Guinea pigs or cuy are an Ecuadorian specialty and I thought we were going to roast some cuyes. Usually the guineas are saved for special occasions. As far as I could tell, nothing was special about the day, but I figured that a fire in the guinea pig shed must be for cooking cuy.

I was wrong. We were cooking humitas which are also an Ecuadorian specialty. Humitas are a mix of ground corn, eggs, sugar, salt, a piece of cheese and butter wrapped in a corn shuck and cooked in oil for about 30 min. You can either have salty humitas or sugary humitas depending on how much salt or sugar you use. I was in charge of the sugar and I think that I made it a little too sweet. My eight year old host brother was telling me to put in more sugar and I did not hear my host mom tell me to stop, but they were still pretty good. I think I might prefer the salty humitas though. I looking forward to finding some to try.


A couple of days ago, we returned from the Afro-Ecuadorian community. It was amazing. The temperature was so warm. When we first got there a woman demonstrated how traditional masks of the region are made. Hers took five minutes and was very impressive. Then all of us got to make masks. Mine wasn't awful,but I wouldn't buy it. Fortunately they did not waste burning space on our masks. I am pretty sure that after we left those went back into the clay for reuse.

Sometime after that we went on a adventure to a creek. It was a little haphazard. The guides got lost, but I really enjoyed the walk. It included a walk through someones garden. I did not realize that avocados grow on really large, perfect for climbing trees. Sadly, the avocados were not ripe straight from the tree so we did not get to eat any, but we did get to have rather tasty oranges. With the help of some kids we finally made it to the river. The river was not particularly beautiful, but it is very important to the community. I was really glad to be in nature and be able to dip my hands in the water.

That night we watched some women and young girls dance the bomba. It is a really amazing dance. Traditionally, the women have bottles on their heads or babies on their backs during the dance. The leading woman was amazing. She could gracefully do push-ups with and empty wine bottle on her head. Apparently, when a girl can balance the bottle on her head, she is ready for marriage.

After that we went to the stadium to watch an indoor soccer game. Those kids were really good. After the game some of the Peace Corps people played the teams. We lost badly. It was fun but at this point I was pretty drained. I didn't even play soccer, but I was exhausted.

The next day we left fairly early after watching a few presentations. A musician gave a very interesting presentation over both the bomba and discrimination. Racial discrimination is not just a problem in the United States. It is very prevalent in Ecuador. Sadly, Afro-Ecuadorians receive more discrimination than any other racial group. It is extremely difficult for an Afro-Ecuadorian to attend high school. It is even more difficult for them to go to college. It was hard for me to understand everything he said because he was speaking in Spanish. From what I captured, he spoke about the discrimination that exists. How it has affected his life, but also, the support the Afro-Ecuadorian community has built within itself. I really wish that I could have understood more, but we were closer to the cost and the accent was different than in the Sierra. Also, I was really tired, but he was really interesting.


I am starting to really like the little town that I live in. It has very little, only a few tiendas where one can buy junk food and simple necessities. There is a soccer field and a church. Today I noticed a veterinarians office. Other than that, the town is devoted to the cows. In spite of how rural the community is, I am beginning to appreciate it. It is absolutely beautiful. The people are very nice. I feel safe. Also, living here pretty much requires that I take a 40 minute walk twice a day.

Tomorrow we are going to visit an Afro-Ecuadorian community. I am really excited. Culturally I believe it will be a great experience and it is suppose to be pretty warm.


Peace Corps service begins with training. Technically, I am not a volunteer. I am a Peace Corps Trainee or PCT, as the Peace Corps abbreviates everything.

We have been divided into groups according to our language abilities. I am in a group with 4 other girls living in a small village of very high altitude. It is so cold. The houses don't have any sort of indoor heating so there isn't any relief from the cold. We each have our own host family who we will be with for all of training. I have a host mom, a host sister who is 17, and a host brother who is 8. So far, the family has been wonderfully nice to me.

Right now, the whole area is having festivals. Today's festival involved a parade, bull fighting, street food and alcohol, and groups of people and families getting together. Unfortunately for me my stomach isn't feeling quite strong enough for the alcohol or the street food, and bullfighting isn't really my style, but I loved the parade. There is a different festival almost every weekend if not every weekend. I am very hopeful that the festivals will help me integrate to the community.
After we left the festival, I went with my host mom and sister to take care of the cows. I got to milk a cow which was a first for me. As it turns out I am not very good at milking cows, but fortunately my host mom helped me otherwise I would still be trying to fill one bucket of milk. Cows seem to provide the majority of my towns livelihoods. At the center of town there is a place to drop off milk.