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.
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.