Friday, March 18, 2011

Water: El Sangre de la Vida

Water, our sustenance. From the mighty power of the ocean, a small trickle of a stream or a glamorous snowflake, it is water in which our life depends. We are at the mercy of water in all of its forms and natural manifestations. We are now reaching a global water crisis which is becoming apparent throughout the world, and more so in nations which do not have the funds to manipulate its nature.

We are now well into rainy the season her in coastal Ecuador. It may not seem so traveling down the dusty dirt roads to arrive to the small town in which I live. One may suspect that we are in the midst of September while covering ones eyes from the dust swirling past. “Never in my life have I seen a rainy season so dry, 15 days with out rain when we are accustomed to long downpours every evening.” Don German Quinonez, cacao farmer and President of UOCAQ cacao cooperative. The changing weather patterns are not only inconvenient given that they have coincided with the Carnival festivities but they are also detrimental to the livelihood of the farmer’s in the community and their precious crop of cacao.

Every year Ecuadorian coastanians celebrate Carnival by marveling in the plentitude of water. People flock to the beach from all over the country, and a pedestrian is never safe from an unexpected water gun or bucket. The holiday is celebrated through water and all its glory. Those in the campo take shelter from the heat in the local river and dance until the morning. Throughout the world water is a spiritual, cleansing element. Many cultures and religions use water as a sacred facet. This seems very fitting considering water makes up three fourths of the world as well as our bodies. Without water we have no life and we spread the importance of this natural gift into our religious teachings and cultural traditions. “We worship the sources of mighty rives; we erect altars at places where great streams burst suddenly from hidden sources; we adore springs…and consecrate certain pools.” Seneca The Younger, 4 B.C.-A.D. 65.

During this last week my necessity of water became ever so clear as no water came from the stream which is its source, my beautiful cherry tomatoes began to dry and sag, and I realized I had been taking for granted this wonderful resource from God.
While living between two large rivers as well as flowing streams it is not so obvious that there is a global shortage of water. It can be easy to take this abundance of water for granted, but when I realize even we are facing this problem, I can only imagine how the lack of water devastates other regions a million times amplified.

Not only are we facing a water shortage, but a lack of clean water. Water is being poisoned by humans all over the world on a small and grand scale. We are causing massive oil spills, leaking chemicals into our water sources as well as throwing trash and human wastes into lakes, streams and rivers. Water is a global resource and positive change must be worldwide to thrive. We can not put up boundaries between nation’s water sources so that contaminates from one land do not reach another. To improve water quality, we all must be in this together.

While teaching students in Ecuador the water cycle we mapped the path of one contaminated drop of water starting from our small classroom. We saw that this path would flow into the stream behind our class, then into a larger river, to eventually reach a larger river, Rio Esmeraldas, and finally make it to the grand Pacific Ocean. This activity illustrated the interconnectivity of the land and the impact each community and individual makes on a global scale. Though it may be hard for my students to understand the expansiveness of the world, we are all connected in the fight for clean water.

It may seem evident that only in a matter of time we will reach a tipping point in which the fight for water will prevail in the struggle for human existence.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Community Banking Workshop

Future Soccer Star
The rainy season has come


Blog 1-18-11

…so there has been quite a lapse in my writing, and since we dutifully make our new years resolutions, I figured it would be fitting that mine would be an updated blog. So here we go…

I am back in Ecuador after a lovely extended vacation in the states. It was so great to see my family and friends, and be home. Pablo was fortunate enough to get to visit with me. It was great to show him my home and my country, and it was interesting to see his point of view on things, since it had been his first time out of Ecuador. And yes I was a true tourist in my own home, taking pictures of the airplane, Starbucks, Walmart, all the D.C. sights, and Pablo took a lot of squirrel pictures (which pegged us as tourists instantaneously) :P Within my trip I went out to New York, D.C. and saw Miami for the first time. It was great rediscovering all the wonderful things the area has to offer and actually going out and enjoying museums and different places I have not yet been.

Favorite things about home:

Hot, clean, running water

Comfy clean beds

Flushable, available toilet paper

Crisp winter chill

Water fountains


Food variety

City public transportation

Washer and dryer

Libraries and

So now I am back, partly sad, but on the other hand rejuvenated and ready to really get things going this year and be a much better volunteer than during the last. I am starting to feel comfortable enough with the community and my language skills to really get going on some projects. I just finished a community banking seminar in Quito, and am putting all my efforts into implementing it here in the community. I think the P.C. model is really great and simple, and I have been spreading the word about making a bank for the past week. I hope to have a meeting or two to explain the concept to the community members, and we can move forward from there.

So now we are back into rainy season. I do love the sound of rain pounding on the tin roof; the force of nature is both humbling and soothing. This always seems to be the crazier time of the year. Just yesterday we saw a poisonous black and white snake on the road, a puppy chasing a large iguana around the school house, and at night a pond formed in front of my house within an hour and all night I was scared the pond would soon engulf my house and creep inside. Luckily the water hasn’t made it inside…yet. Though don’t worry, if it does everything that could get damaged is raised and I am ready.

Other than that I am keeping myself busy during down time by studying for the GRE. It’s crazy to think that I still have a year and three month left of PC but I already need to start planning for my return. Time really is flying, even though there are moments that seem to dragggg on. I am definitely getting more accustomed to the slow way of life out here in the country. At first I had a problem just sitting around the porch passing time, but now it can be rather enjoyable, and even the 5 hour bus rides to Quito seem to pass by in no time. I have been spending a ton of time with the kids, playing cards, coloring, making jewelry, cooking and other things. Though sometimes I can get a little frustrated by their persistent visits, I love them and they and we are learning a lot from each other.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Home Sweet Home

My new room, it kinda turned out Barney colors but hey its probably the last opportunity I will have to have a Barney themed room!
My cana closet and hey I never expected to be a PC volunteer with a tv

John just can´t copy my eyebrow lift, I think it is a family thing

Beet teeth :) after a night of cooking

Keeping it clean, fighting ant takeover

Mi casa

I´ve accumulated a ton of stuff in just 7 months...oops, so much for minimalizm


The community member from my site enjoying some yummy dessert
Amber and I

Reconnect! We have been here in site for about 5 months now, and we just finished reconnect, which is a week long meeting where all of us volunteers get together with our counterparts to plan our goals and objectives for the next year and a half and hype up our motivation. It was really great to see everyone after a long time and share ideas and experiences.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Another Day

On the 18th I was officially in country for 5 months! Wow time has been flying by, especially since I have finished training and gotten into my site. Tomorrow I will be going into town to meet the two new volunteers who will be starting in about a month. This is very exciting, though sad at the same time because another volunteer will be leaving us next month. He has been so helpful over the past few months letting me crash if I don’t make it back into the city by the last ranchero and answering all the random new volunteer questions I have. Soon I will be moving into a house of my own, this will be a period of many transitions though I am very excited. My friend from the States will be visiting in a few weeks which is also very exciting. I really hope she has a great time in Ecuador and I am able to show her a good time (I still feel like I just got here!) While wandering around the Mariscol the other day while I was in Quito another gringo stopped me and started talking to me (I think I looked pretty lost, which I was since I was looking to find a vegetarian restaurant). Anyway he was from Germany and had decided to travel around Ecuador and Colombia for a few months during his summer break from school, and today was his very first day in country. We had a coffee and chatting with him made me realize I have learned a lot about Ecuador even though I don’t realize it. I must say it is pretty balzy to travel around South America without a plan, that which may be easy with the European train system is not at all how things are down here. Anyhow my trip to Quito was nice and refreshing. I have really been missing being able to explore a city and take advantage of all it has to offer. I was able to wonder around the Old Town district in Quito and check out the Cultural Center and see the art which was displayed there. The weather was also a very nice change, it was kind of like an early April day, it started and ended pretty nippy but warmed up in the day when the sun came out and was beautiful!..and of course there were a few showers to top it off. I had to laugh though when I saw people with big puffy coats and gloves on in 60 degree weather.


Motherly Love

This past week the testament of a mothers love was displayed in a quite unusual way. There is a new puppy in my host family’s house which is the puppy of the male dog in my house and the mother who is a rotwhiler lives next door. My family would not let the mother near her puppy because they thought she would bite it. So the mother had been trying to get into the house to find her puppy all day. At night my host dad put the puppy in its box and we all went to bed. I awoke in the middle of the night to a laud sound, it sounded like someone was shaking the bars on the door trying to get in the house. This happened numerous times in the night and I realized that is was the mother dog trying to get to her baby. The next morning found out that the rather large mother dog squeezed through the small openings in the window bars two times in the night! Apparently love can overcome the most difficult obstacles.


At times I have doubted my belonging in the community…though today I was reassured I am right where I supposed to be and fit in just fine. I sat down to the dinner table this afternoon to find a squirrel in a cage hanging in the window. Though this small event may seem an oddity to the average person to me it was more than just another funny animal in the house. Apparently my “spirit animal” is a squirrel…and animal abundant in the States which I had not yet seen in Ecuador. The whole spirit animal is a long story though I think a squirrel is fitting for me. Living in the rainforest I would never expect to see a squirrel but apparently they are a quite adaptive animal, they seem to be just about everywhere. To the farmers here they are just a pest that eats the cacao so they try to either kill them or they trap them so that they can eat them. I must say if we are planning on eating the squirrel I will have to set a dinner date elsewhere for that evening. Anyhow I think this squirrel symbolizes my adaptation and integration into the community, I think I am finally starting to belong.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A job well if she could just find the one that lives above my bed
Johncito and the new lil pup
Brotherly love
Demonstration about the new law of education
HIV Information session in Quininde held by another volunteer

Ariel :) I love this kid

Visiting an artists house on the coast, he has some great artwork. These are the seeds of the palm tree which people carve into little figurines...chevere
Kids working in their garden

The coop working on a greenhouse to store the fundas of cacao and maracuya

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Community minga making fundas to plant cacao trees
Ants... The ants go marching two by two...

Organic pesticide
The garden at the middle school

The kids at the middle school playing cats in the craddle, brings back memories
A successful backyard garden of a neighbor in town

Today we worked on the elementary school garden in my town. It was really great to see all the kids working hard and getting excited about planting their vegetables. Just in one morning a fence was built to keep out the chickens and animals, we made seed boxes to start the seeds, the kids dug up plots for the gardens and broke up the soil and then finally we planted the seeds! It is very exciting to have this up and going and I hope the garden will be a sustainable community project for the future. I am hoping get a group of students together and maybe have some type of agriculture or gardening club after school.

Other than that my house is now having many repairs done right now. Considering the rent will only be $30 a month the fix up costs are sure hefty! Any how it is very exciting to be getting a place of my own in the next month and I can’t wait to get settled. I must say I really love staying here with my family and am not in too much of a hurry to move out, especially when I know I will have to face the snakes, bats and rats alone in night!! Anyhow, I can’t wait, and I think I am going to paint the outside yellow, so bland…though this is a hard decision since it may be the only time in my life where it will be acceptable to paint my house pink, neon green, purple or orange.

I also finally started teaching English at the elementary school in my community. It ended up going very well though it was quite a challenge since there were 37 students. I hope to figure out a way to focus my lessons on other topics such as health, environmental issues, agriculture or logical thinking while teaching a bit of English in the meanwhile.

It seems like project related things are starting to pick up, and I am just trying to figure out which things to focus my time on. I am also getting better at firing down the many marriage proposals and explaining, that I do not have any children.

Next weekend is the 4th of July! And ironically the 3rd is the independence of the three towns around me, including Esmeraldas and Santo Domingo! Apparently they have quite a few festivities for the weeks surrounding this date, yesterday I saw a parade in procession, and I hear next weekend there will be bull fights, the reigning of the queen, parades and a horse parade as well. I will say people sure know how to party here!