coming to an end...

The end of service is approaching and I find myself full of anticipation and trepidation. I am most definitely excited to be going back to the States, my family and old friends, but I am also worried about how much I have changed. I was reading some magazines from the States that someone else had brought back, and was amazed at how many options there are and what kinds of things people were concerned with. I think adjusting back to the bustling life after spending 2 years at a meandering pace will be a challenge. There’s nothing much to worry about here, just keep on trudging forward. But going back to States, you have money to worry about, things to buy, clothes to keep up to date with, and always things to do and places to be. It will be an abrupt change from my way of life here. I want to go into town and use some internet and shop for groceries; great! That’s an all-day event in which I can take my sweet time and wander from place to place, stopping at the DVD store, maybe taking to look at the cute puppies.
I will be making a trip home in about one week and I can’t tell you how excited I am to be going home!! I haven’t been home in almost 2 years and I expect a lot has changed. One change is going to be the house; my parents have remodeled the upstairs (my old room). I still have a bed to sleep in though, which I appreciate!! Old friends have continued on in their lives (of course!) most of them with babies. It makes me feel a little left behind. But I can fully appreciate my time here in Ecuador and know I will look back on it later with many fond memories and some great new friends.


Mom's Visit

I am writing now after much time. Since I've last updated not too much has happened. Just living life as usual. Mom came in for a visit on the 23rd of Aug. She flew in to Guayaquil, so Leah and I met up and took the bus over to the airport to pick her up. We spent an uneventful morning walking around Guayaquil a little, checking out the Iguana Park, where they have a lot of iguanas running around and they feed them to get the to stay, and the Malecon, which is the boardwalk. Then for a long 4 hour bus ride back to Cajabamba. THere are many more details about the trip, but most of you have read mom's journal on her view so I"m going to put in a small portion that I wrote about our day exploring Old Town in Quito.

Lindsay’s view on a Day on Old Town- Quito, Sept 1
So we started out the day around 8 am leaving the nice old-fashioned hotel Vienna, and planning on grabbing some breakfast and finding a new hotel. Well, at 8 am in Ecuador, nothing is open. So we decided to go sit in a park. However, parks (which in this circumstance is closer to a plaza) here aren’t like they are in the states, you aren’t allowed to sit or even walk in the grass (in real parks you are, but like I said, this one is more like a plaza). So we settled on a bench, maintaining vigilance over the many bags and stuff we already accumulated, and peopled watched for a while. This particular plaza happened to be the plaza outside the President’s palace. That’s right, it’s not a house, they call it a palace (palacio) here. So we sat around here for a while and while I guarded the stuff mom walked around and took photos and read the informational billboards they had put up for the people. We think it was about history and culture of Ecuador, but not sure. Eventually we both got bored so I asked if she wanted to walk over and take a look at the Plaza San Francisco and the church and monastery that are in the plaza. SO we went with all our bags and the camera out, looking like the tourists we were. They are currently doing construction on the front façade of the church, but they have put up a tarp (or something?) that has a picture of what the front looks like over the construction so you can still see it. From across the plaza we noticed a sign for a hostal, so we figured we would check it out. This you can read about in mom’s section and it is a very accurate description. The gentleman running the place was super nice though!!! And I had internet! What more do I need?!
So we settled our stuff into our rooms and headed right back out to see the sights. From here we went into the San Francisco church which was in session with mass. We went next door to the monastery (don’t know if there are still monks there- don’t think so) and saw some interesting art and artifacts, as well as a gorgeous courtyard which I think are referred to as cloisters (not positive). There was also access to the balcony of the church where you can see the choral seats for the monks and 2 huge organs, overlooking the main hall in the church. Well enough there, we left to head to La Compania church; this is a very opulent church which is coat/plated in gold. (And we still had to pay an entrance fee!) Here we got a tour (in English) and a very sweet girl led us around the church and told us all about the church. They had some of the original pews, made out of black cedar just like the confessionals were. There was a fire at some point in the church’s history, started by the candles lit by the people. You could see the differences in the reconstruction, where there was fire damage. On the ceiling there are little cherub faces and one is black, a remainder from the fire, kept to show the effects of fire. You could also see in the floor the blocked over holes in the flooring where they have openings for coffins to be lowered down into the catacombs below. Very cool!! Too bad we couldn’t see down there!! As well, there is a spiral staircase which leads up to the balcony in the back of the church for the organ and choir, and from the front of the church you look back on it and you see two spiral staircases on each side of the main entrance. This however is a trick of the eye, because there is only one staircase, the other is a painting on the wall to look like one. This was an incredibly interesting church, there was also some interesting artwork depicting hell and the seven sins and the other was of the final judgment showing heaven and hell and a bunch of people.
From here we went to a convent called Monastary of Santa Catalina. It’s a tiny place that you wouldn’t take notice of if you were just walking by. We walked in to see if we could get a tour (in English) and the guard (yes they have a security guard) and the tour lady we had were so nice and accommodating. The woman took us up through the parts of the convent they have converted for visitors where we saw a lot of religious art and how it changed through the ages. As we walked through the convent we felt compelled to do so in a quiet manner, but the 400 year old original floors made that quite impossible. They were the noisiest floors you can imagine!! The tour allowed us a peak in at the nuns’ cells where they sleep, and a peak of an actual nun! She was in the courtyard and once she came in we had to shut the curtain because the nuns of this convent spend their time in solitude and aren’t allowed to see outside people. They spend their time (aside from worshiping) making wine, creams, shampoos, and many more things. We received a shot of the wine at the end of the tour; it was very sweet but good. However I do find it odd that nuns are making alcohol. Another remarkable part of this tour was the excursion up to the bell tower. We traipsed up a tight spiral staircase, which was encased in cement, up to the tiny bell tower. They have the bell hooked up to a machine so they don’t hand ring it. It offered beautiful views of the Panecillo (a statue on a hill overlooking the city) and the amazing Basilica on the other side of Old Town. Climbing back down, we had reached the end of the tour and were given a shot of the wine and sent on our way.
The next destination was the President’s palace. They let the general public in at certain times to look around. However there was a bit of a line and it didn’t seem to be moving anywhere, so we opted to go to the Basilica. We hopped a bus which would drop us off right outside the church (it was close enough to walk to the Basilica, but it was all uphill and steeply inclined, so we bussed it) and still had a hill to climb to get to the doors of the church. This church is done in typical gothic catholic style, with the exception of gargoyles. Most churches done in this style have gargoyles or other similar creatures on their walls; this one however boasts turtles, pelicans, iguanas, and other such animals typical of Ecuador. I love this!!! We walked in the main door into the church. This church is a resting place for some of Ecuador’s heroes and important people or parts of people. On our tour of the Monastery of Santa Catalina, they have some relics of Garcia Moreno, the first President/dictator of Ecuador and pictures of his body being found. After this they relocated his heart and stomach to the Basilica to be kept there. There are some other people as well, and in one place you can see a couple marble encased coffins that hold someone. But the cool part about the church is the fact that there a multiple places to climb to the very top the church. First you have to buy tickets ($2/ person) then go in a small door on the opposite side of the church and you can either climb the first of many stairs or take the elevator! Mom was tired of all the walking and climbing, so we decided on the elevator, which took us up to the 3rd level. We got out and walked to the center (the part we were in was under the clocks on the double towered side) where you can walk the plank above the church to the other side which has a steep climb to a spire with a little gazebo-like at the top. It was a Very steep climb up 2 latters, so mom chickened out. But it gave you an amazing view from way above the city! I climbed back down and we headed to the other side where you can choose your clock/bell tower to climb, but only one allowed you to go to the tippy top. So we chose that one and began the ascent. After LOTS of stairs, we made it to the top, and it was breathtaking. This side was even higher than the spire and not something you want to do if you’re afraid of heights; it was WAY up there!! After enjoying the view and taking more than our fair share of photos, we climbed back down in order to grab a cab to take us to the Instituto Geographico Militar.
Here we wanted to check out some topo maps for dad. I had heard the last time I was there that you could get all the maps of Ecuador on a CD. So we asked about it, and the guy helping us actually remembered me from the last time I was there! How funny, it was probably 7 months ago! Finding out that we could find all the maps on a website, we left and meandered over to the Planetarium. They had incredible displays out. One was a map of Ecuador, topographic style, but 3 D so you could actually see and have a more conceptual idea of the levels of the mountains and volcanoes. There was also a map room, talking about cartography through the ages. They began with the Babylonians and they had a disk depicting their idea of the world, from there they went through Greeks and Romans, the theologians and thinkers ( I believe ?), to Christopher Columbus, who is known here as Cristobal Colon, then all the way up to the end of the 20th century with GPS and infrared viewing and satellite mapping. There was another room dedicated to the planets, their moons, and stars. It was outside this room we were able to become astronauts!!! And see Felipe, the space penguin. The entire place was really neat. Along the curving wall they had pictures of space things through the years as well as old space and mapping items. I don’t have any idea what they really were, just old machines. Seeing all there was to offer there we walked out to try and find a cab. Not finding one we made the short walk down (finally! Right mom?!) a steep hill to find one at the bottom to take us back to the crappy hotel. We had a short rest then it was back in a cab to a restaurant Café Mosaico. It was a beautiful little place with a suburb (trying to use more adjectives) view of Old Town at night, but the food was only ok. We shared a plate of lasagna which came with 2 sides, so we both got the soup. It came in a huge bowl that would have been plenty for us, but then the lasagna. We ate quick and headed back to sleep, we were exhausted!!! Long day.
So this is just one day of the trip, but we had a lot of fun together and didn't get to see nearly as much as I would have liked to show her. However I am extremely glad mom was able to come and visit. I really enjoyed it. Love you mom!! and of course, Dad too! Miss you~!!!


Peruvian vacation

I realize that much time has gone by since I have updated you on the goings-on in my life. To sum up the last few months, not much has happened. I am teaching my neighbor kids English and having a lot of fun doing it. We start out with a planned lesson and end up just asking and answering questions about the States or about words in English. We have a great time, and it’s given me a reason to go over to this family’s house at least once a week and socialize. I adore their family, they are super sweet! I have also been working a little with the missionaries that come in to work with the foundation. I translate for them during their trips and help out with things. I do have a good time getting to know new people, however at the end of their trips I am always glad to see them go, mainly because I have just had white-people overload. A little too much stimulus and work than I am used to for a normal week. So that is mostly all that’s been happening here! Now on to the Peru adventure!
Our Peruvian adventure began around 4 am Friday July 1st. We left from Leah’s house in a prearranged camioneta, which left us on the side of the road to wait for a bus to Guayaquil to pick us up. After waiting for about a half hour we finally caught a bus; got into Guayaquil around 9:30 am. Inside the terminal we did some wandering around trying to find a good bus company to take us across the border. The trick was finding one that was going farther than just the border to leave us safely on the other side in Tumbes. This part of the trip was a little exhausting, what with all the buses and traveling. We arrived in Tumbes sometime in the evening around dinnertime. We found an ATM to pull out money in the local currency, which are soles. $1 = ~ 2.70 soles. Then we spent some time walking back and forth, and back and forth talking to bus companies trying to find one that goes to Trujillo but wasn’t full and was willing to drop us in Pacasmayo. This was a challenge, and we ended up settling for a local bus that was almost completely full. We got 3 cramped seats in the last row next to some young local boys, who we later found out (around 5 am) had a fighting rooster in a bag behind our heads. It was a normal rooster who enjoyed greeting the raising morning sun with the typical crowing. Fun! This was probably the worst bus of our trip; it was 8 hours overnight, and we arrived the day before our race early in the morning. But we had finally arrived in Pacasmayo, Peru!! The landscape in Peru was quite different from what we expected the coast to look like. It was all sand and desert. And the beach in Pacasmayo was so much colder than we thought it would be! It was kind of a surprise!
We found our hostel El Duke, run by an old surfer dude. Settled into our room, which didn’t have a door on the bathroom, so it’s a good thing we’re all so comfortable with each other! Then we stumbled around town looking for some breakfast, and then register for the race. We met some of the PCV’s from Peru and we chatted for a while with them. Interesting folks. Uneventful rest of the day, spent resting, and walking up the only big hill in the race to see Jesus at the top. Sunday morning came all too soon, and with it, RACE DAY!!!! I was pretty nervous, never having done a race like this before. But we all got ready and headed down to the boardwalk where the starting line was. The atmosphere was thrilling! Everybody hyped up ready to run. The starting gun was a shock when it went off, and off we ran; all bunched in a pack as we ran down the boardwalk. Approaching the big hill it wasn’t as daunting to me, having “trained” at an altitude of 3,200 meters, and having to walk up a steep hill every day to my house. Made it up the hill no problem, but shortly after I felt the need to walk, and thus began my 10k run/walk. It was a fun experience, esp once I hit the turnaround for my group; all the runners that were passing me were all very encouraging and upbeat. I was so happy once I reached the Jesus statue at the top of the hill and knew I was so close to being done!!! I reached the finish line to see all the green shirts from the 10k runners cheering me on, that was a great feeling, crossing that finish line and knowing it was all over! As soon as I crossed, I threw my shoe off to relieve the pain of my burst blister, which was bleeding through my sock. But all-in-all, well worth it! Thanks Leah!! I met up with Carrie after I had recovered a little and we got set to cheer for the others as they passed their midpoint in the race. Around 12:30 it was all over. There was a small ceremony to recognize all the winners and a group foto. We took some time back in our room to refresh then headed out and met some PCV Peru folks for some lunch. It was really enjoyable, and we spent the time talking about some of the differences between our services and the differences between Peru and Ecuador. It was quite interesting to see such differences in countries so close to each other. They use different words for avocado, the ceviche is a completely different dish; in Ecuador it’s a soup, in Peru it’s a plate of seafood. Delicious though!! We spent the rest of the day laying around and resting.
Monday we left Pacamayo to head to Trujillo, we ended up on the same bus as some PCVs and one guy was extremely helpful and showed us their main hostel to go to where we could store our stuff till our bus to Lima at 10:45 that night. As we got to the hostel there was a tour group leaving to visit the ruins of Chan Chan and a couple other places, so we quickly jumped on that wagon. There wasn’t room in the bus they had already arranged so they called another car in to drive us around. We ended up in a swank black car with nice leather seats; we felt really special being driven around in such a nice car!!! We arrived at the first set of ruins, Huaca Archo Iris made by the Chimu people who are a branch of the Moche people. They were partially restored because the rain has destroyed a lot of it and they are uncovered so they are still being damaged from the little rain they do receive. The type of temples this group of people made are constructed with only one main entrance in between 12 feet walls. Their adobe-like walls remain in some parts, still holding up because of the strength of their mixture; made with animal hair as well as mud and other substances. Their designs on the walls are quite beautiful, depicting people dancing for fertility, rainbows, and mermaids. After viewing this first site we then travelled to the actual site of Chan Chan. As we drove in we could see mounds and mounds that used to be the 10 temples of the Chimu people. Each emperor had their own temple, so they were a short lived people. As we walked into the main entrance for the only reconstructed and (pretty much) complete temple, we were amazed by the height of the walls and the large open plaza where the body of the emperor would be laid out on display. We continued through the temple and saw some other interesting things. After our Chan Chan adventure we headed back to the hostel where we had stored our stuff, met up with fellow volunteers Christina and Joe for some great pizza and sangria! We had a great time with them!!
After a great dinner and conversation we had to get back to catch a 10:45 pm bus to Lima. We were amazed when we saw the interior of the bus. We climbed to the second floor and went to the back to our seats, right next to the bathroom. We had an attendant who showed us a safety video and passed out a snack, then put a movie on for us to watch. Before we knew it, it was morning and we were in Lima!! We had a breakfast in the terminal, and I was astounded by the quality of the food in Peru, even in a bus terminal it was wonderful!!!! I had ordered a jam and cheese sandwich, and was so surprised when they delivered to me a hot buttered and toasted sandwich with melted cheese and a slice of ham in the middle. It was delicious!! Peru was shaping up to be pretty great!!!


Oh Ecuador!

Oh Ecuador…
I find myself repeating this phrase quite often recently. I have reached that elusive one year mark when supposedly everything turns around and you start accomplishing things in your site and you feel somewhat successful. Well so far, for me, I don’t feel successful. A couple things are looking positive, my social life and integration with Ecuadorians seems to be taking off, and my project with the Santa Rosa community which I thought to be dead looks like there is a possible renewal in sight! But so far, workwise, things are about the same. I spend my mornings trying to find things to do in my house, and then around noon I head over to the foundation and help serve lunch to the kids Mondays-Weds. After which I use internet and pretend to be doing something! Usually around 4 I head back to my house and think about how I should be running, but don’t actually do it. Very productive!! However, there is a light around the corner, but all I can see right now is a flicker of it. But I’m hopeful!!! One year down!!
While I’m still here I might as well tell you all about the experiences I had during Carnival. I don’t actually know the history behind the holiday here, but people LOVE this holiday!!! They pretty much just have a LOT of parades, water being thrown, eggs smashing into heads, flour tossed, and foam sprayed. You will basically spend days wet and dirty. It’s fun for about 2 maybe 3 days, but it just keeps going! I spent my first Carnival in Guaranda with Leah and numerous other volunteers. We celebrated in Leah’s town the first night I got there, Thursday. They of course had a parade, and then continued the party till late in the night drinking and dancing. We ventured out of the house around 11 that night to see how the party was. It was interesting!! Lots of drunks stumbling around, one young kid was trying to fight the other who were trying to take him home, he mostly just fell on his face. It was very amusing to watch! The next day we traveled to Guanuho, a town near Guaranda, where we celebrated at a concert with dancing, water balloon throwing, foam spraying, and general merriment! Lots of fun! On the bus ride back to a fellow volunteer’s house, Leah and I got off the bus a little early and began to walk down the hill to Deanna’s house. On the way we saw an overturned bus that had probably taken the corner into the gas station too quickly and just tipped over! It must have just happened, b/c we saw people climbing out and gasoline still leaking out. The cops hadn’t even gotten there yet! So we kept walking and next we observed a pig killing. The people were slicing the neck, and then they took a blowtorch to it while we are pretty sure it was still alive. Walking down the side of the road we watched as the blood from the pig drained alongside us. It was quite an interesting walk! The next few days passed in kind of a blur, more parades, a party at Leah’s house with corndogs and buffalo chicken, made by us, and of course more foam, water, and beer! By Monday we were quite ready to be done with the parties, however the Ecuadorians weren’t! SO we suffered through another day and spent Tuesday in Leah’s house recovering. Over all it was a great experience and a lot of fun! These experiences are what make my time here so awesome!
PS. Pictures to come...


Holidays in Ecuador

Christmas in Riobamba! So Patrick and I decided we were going to spend Christmas together. Doing what- we didn’t know. But the Thursday before Christmas we finalized our plan, after a lot of vacilating! That morning we went to Guamote in order to buy a goose for the Christmas dinner we were going to have with the rest of the volunteers in Riobamba. We bought the goose and brought it home to Cajabamba. We weren’t really sure what to do with it while we prepared everything to kill it, but we ended up keeping it in the bag in the shower. I walked into the bathroom at one point, I had rolled the bag down so it could get some air, and it looked at me and hissed Now this wasn’t a normal hiss- it sounded like a dragon about to blow fire at me!! I turned and ran out yelling for Patrick!! He wrapped it back up safely and we waited for the water. Once the water boiled and we had things ready, we took the goose up to the roof for the killing. Now I’ve killed a chicken before, but this… It was incredibly gruesome. Patrick and filmed the process (he had never killed a goose before either), it was long and gory, don’t think I will be doing that again! Finally after maybe an hour the goose was killed, plucked, and the entrails removed. We stored it in the fridge till after our Christmas Eve adventure. We returned Christmas day and went to Daniel’s house to start cooking the goose. Eventually the goose was cooked and we were ready to eat our delicious Christmas dinner. It was a great way to spend my first Christmas in my new country, with friends and great food! We had a wonderful time!

New Year´s in Riobamba was an incredible night as well! Not at all what I was expecting for my new year’s celebration, but definitely an amazing time!! We spent the evening in Riobamba walking down the street and people- watching. What we actually ended up watching was a cultural tradition of young men dressing up as women (traditionally it was supposed to be widows, but ???) and stopping traffic while dancing provocatively on and against the cars, and demanding some sort of payment for passage. There were a few large groups of guys working together humping each other and the muñecos, which were usually strapped to the cars. Now this deserves an explanation as well. Another tradition in Ecuador is the making or purchasing of muñecos, also called Viejos del Año, and at midnight the people make large bonfires, usually in the streets, and burn the dolls. The dolls are generally either popular characters of the season, such as Woody from Toy Story, or a disliked person. Before burning the dolls, they enjoy driving around the city with them strapped to the car, generally to the grill in front, but last night we observed one on the windshield and some on the roof. The ones on the grill usually ended up getting “molested” by multiple groups of drag queens. This went on until almost midnight. Patrick and I spent some time walking the streets and enjoying the “show” then we joined up with some friends. We all met at a friend’s restaurant to continue watching the festivities on the street. One of the fellow volunteers, in the spirit of integration, decided he wanted to join the drag queens on the street. So we exchanged outfits, I had on a cute skirt and a black slinky tank top made for going out and dancing!! Mind you this fellow volunteer is about 6’2 and I am 5’ even. So his clothes on me looked ridiculous, but he looked especially good in my little outfit!!! (good is relative here) He went out on the street in front of the restaurant and began stopping cars and dancing! He immediately drew a crowd! The Ecuadorians LOVED seeing a gringo adopting their tradition! People were snapping photos and filming him, and he completely embraced it and hammed it up! There was even a news person filming him who said it would air on the news Sunday or Monday. By about 11:50 he finally gave it up, after making nearly $10!! So we went back inside and changed clothes. By that time it was midnight- Happy New Year!!! We rang it in on the streets of Riobamba watching the fireworks with many of our new Peace Corps friends! It was a great night!


Market day

Walking through the Cajabamba market having all the people stare, bopping along to my american music, admiring the amazing mountainside and peaceful small town around me; I felt at home while embracing two conflicting cultures.
If you have never experienced an indigenous market in Ecuador, you really need to!! It is a burst of color, sounds and people. The pushing and shoving, the cars going down tiny streets already bursting with people, vendors shouting at you to come buy their products, the vast amount of stuff!! It´s enough to make your head explode sometimes! Which is why I only go to market every other week if I can help it, and not usually the Cajabamba market. I went out to buy a clove of garlic (which I bought for $0.25) and look at kittens. So as was enjoying the experience walking back to the animal section of the market, watching people stare, then poking their neighbor to tell them to stare at the gringa, I was enjoying my wonderful American music and appreciating the fact that I am in Ecuador, living it up!! I eventually meandered my way back to the cats and fell in love!!! This tiny little white ball of fluff that smelled only faintly of poo, and which snuggled immediately under my neck. I said I´d take it, even though I only came to look. Ha! Yea right! And now, 3 days later, let me tell you that kittens are kind of annoying!!!! They need to be held and touched all the time, and mine never likes to be away from me, meowing every time I leave it, or even just when it wants me to hold it. But the cuteness makes up for it!! I think I have settled on a name, Bug, however, Araña would be more appropriate. She has this habit of climbing up me, clinging with her nails, when she wants to be near me. She just scurries right on up until she is sitting on my shoulder. Kind of amusing.

Well, now for all you blog followers who have no idea what I have been up to…. Let me tell you. I have finally settled in to life here in Cajabamba. I actually like it now that I have moved into a nicer house! I am working in Santa Rosa still, usually go every Monday and teach them random things such as how to make Te de estiercol (manure tea), compost, and organic pesticides using garlic and hot peppers, and on Monday how to make sugar cookies!! We are working to find money to build a large greenhouse so the people from this community can increase their income and bring in new plants to the area that otherwise wouldn´t grow at that altitude. I am also working with my Foundation (Fundacion Rescate). We have a large goal/project in mind. It is a teaching farm here in Cajabamba. We want a farm with organic crops, chickens and pigs, in order to teach the people in the surrounding communities organic and sustainable practices. It would be a great undertaking, but with such great rewards!! Of course the problem we have with this is money: money to buy land and startup costs. SO that is what I am working no now: writing grants. Fun work, especially when you´ve never done it before!! So that´s a work update.
I have also been traveling a little bit. We went to Macas and celebrated Thanksgiving there with some other volunteers. We had turkey, stuffing, cranberries, apple pie, and lots of other great food!! It was really cool getting to meet some of the other volunteers I hadn´t had a chance to meet yet. There´s a lot of cool people in Peace Corps! I also recently travelled to LaAsuncion near Guaranda to visit Leah and ended up riding a pony in the lead of the parade for her town, for more details see Leah Anderson Smith´s blog. There have been some other small trips here and there, Cuenca for Halloween and Chaza Juan. But that´s about it on my adventures. I´ll try to write more often!! Love you all!!!


Activities and Thoughts from Ecuador

So after some pestering from my parents, I decided I had better update my blog. Much has happened since I have last written. However it also feels like nothing at all has happened. During the first of June I gave 2 charlas (talks/lectures) to the people in my community of Santa Rosa. The first was on composting and there were only 5 people there, because of a miscommunication of my counterpart. Because of this I made sure to get the number of a person in the community so I could arrange meetings in the future rather than go through my counterpart who then calls the president of the community who then talks to some of the people. Sounds kind of messy and unreliable-it is. So the charla went ok for my first one, they didn't really understand all that I was saying, it also didn't help that we didn't have all the materials we needed. So I set up a time for the next week to come and do the same charla again, and they would arrange for more people and the materials to be there. So I went back in a week, and it turned out sooooo much better!!! I was more prepared and more researched on the matter, and it wasn't like a charla, it felt like we were all just kind of hanging out, joking around, and doing this compost pile just for fun! It was great! Since then however, I have been slacking. I haven't been back to my community to see how the compost pile is doing or to further plan the garden and greenhouse we are going to make. I have, though, done some translating work with my foundation. They had a group of missionaries in and they needed someone to help, so I agreed, thinking it would help my spanish. I didn't realize until we were on our way to the first community that this would be a different kind of spanish that I had never learned or thought I would ever need. We would be talking about the Bible and God and blessing and stuff. EEEKK!! But I managed through okay, and even made a contact in another community nearby that I could possibly help in. So it turned out rather well I thought. Since then I have done a bunch of nothing, and it is starting to get to me. I have made friends with a family in my neighborhood. They own a tienda (store) that sells agriculture stuff and feed for animals, so I buy my dog food there. He gives me a good price on it because he wants me to help his daughter learn more english, they are big fans!! They are a really nice family and have offered to watch my dog whenever I go away, which is great!!! It feels good to start integrating more into the community, it helps me feel more connected here. It has been a difficult journey so far, and I just know it's just going to keep getting harder. I am going to have to push myself harder than I have been accustomed to doing if I want to succeed here. One of the other volunteers has stated previously that you have to find that one thing that makes it worth being here, and just keep thinking about that in order to survive. I haven't found that thing yet, but I'm going to keep looking hard for it!
On another note, I was standing in line at the grocery store the other day and I found myself staring at a small family. It was a mother and her two daughters, all with white skin and blonde hair. As I was staring at them I realized I was doing exactly what the Ecuadorians do to me (and it always irritates me so much!!). I began to realize that we are such an oddity here that when you do see someone that stands out, that doesn't look like they belong, you can't help but stare as you wonder what they are doing here. I always thought I was aware of the reason they stare at me, but I had never been put in their shoes before. I feel like I have been here long enough now that I think of myself as someone that belongs here and now when I see other extranjeros (foreigners) I always look a little longer wondering what they are doing here. Then I try to remember how much I hate it, and look away. So just a little lesson learned, put yourself in someone eases shoes every once in a while.