Friday, February 5, 2010

Delicious and Nutritious All Natural Honey!

A Walnut Heart

A Day of Planting...and Fun

The Fam Before a 15th Birthday Party - Dressed to the Nine´s!

Salinas for ReConnect

Time for Some Pictures

February Has Begun, and With it Comes More Rain and Bug Bites

Its hard to believe the last blog I wrote was before Christmas, and more than 2 months have gone by without an update from me. Well, if you check my blog regularly like I know some of you do (I love you Julia), you’re in luck today. I’ve got a lot to say.

First, I’m sitting in my house and I can’t find the last blog post I wrote, and since there is no internet here, its not like I can just jump online and check out what I wrote. So…I’m just going to start.

Andrew and I had an amazing trip together. It was so nice for me to get out of the campo and into a Hilton. I treated myself to a massage, hot shower, hot bath, and jumped up and down on the bed like a little kid – I was so happy to see something so big and clean and comfortable. We walked the Malecon in Guayaquil and went to Las PeƱas. If Andrew ever sends me the pictures from that day, I’ll post them.
From GQ we came back to my site for a few days, and Andrew got to experience campo life. Turns out when he got back home he was diagnosed with poison ivy, better than the scabies he convinced himself he had. Don’t let this scare you from visiting! I’ve never had poison ivy or skin problems, only amoebas  From my site we headed to the beach for New Years and stayed in a quiet hostel, practically having the entire beach to ourselves. We watched a bunch of movies, swam in the ocean and the pool, went for runs on the beach, ate great food, and went horseback riding. It was perfect.

Getting back to site after seeing Andrew off at the airport was really hard. I was pretty down in the dumps the next week, but I left for Salinas with my counterpart on January 10th for a meeting with PC and that took my mind off of Andrew. The meeting in Salinas was my omnibuses first “reconnect,” where a bunch of volunteers get together with their counterparts to brainstorm ideas for projects and how to actually develop one, and share the results of the interviews we all had to do in our communities.

The trip was a great opportunity for Nelly and I to bond. We were forced to listen to each other without distractions and hammer out a proposal for a project. She finally understood that because I did my interviews with the Committee of Volunteers I wanted my project to be about them, about making their committee stronger, ultimately benefiting families in communities around our canton; not necessarily a project like Corazon Feliz. I really believe that we can’t move forward with more information and expect the volunteers to participate in another project without first bringing some order into view. Right now, the volunteers and health promoters receive charlas from a doctor once a month that are supposed to be replicated in communities, but in reality no one listens to the doctor let alone gathers people in their community to share the information with them. I believe a lot of this has to do with the fact that some volunteers have received minimal education and aren’t comfortable giving a charla on health topics. They don’t have self-confidence.
After Salinas, I presented my results to the health promoters to try and get them bought into my idea before presenting it to the entire committee, and for the very first time since I’ve been here, I think they finally listened to me and understood what I was saying, and even better, were in agreement with me. I’ve never been happier to hear “tienesrazon” than with the health promoters 2 weeks ago. I shared the results with the whole committee last Wednesday, and the volunteers there agreed with my conclusions also, and so we agreed to have the first taller about business organization – job descriptions, defining a mission, goals, and specific objectives, etc - on February 24th. I also want to work on team building and enhance the volunteers’ confidence. This is a project I never anticipated doing, but one that I am happy to be involved with despite my frustrations. I’m getting better at looking for the little victories in everyday, like the use of minutes during our meeting to control the time people have to babble about their personal feelings concerning a topic that may or may not be related to the Committee.

I do however, continue to be frustrated on a daily basis when I have to work with the promoters because it takes them forever to do anything, and they can never all concentrate on the same thing at once. Its like being in a classroom of 10 year olds. BUT, I am starting to feel like I’m bonding with them too. Nelly’s daughter turned 15 last week, and so we celebrated her quince ano last night. We danced, joked around, I understood them and they understood me, and Petita called me this morning to go to another dance with her this afternoon, which may sound lame, but made me really happy even though I couldn’t go.

I’ve also decided that the only way to get more involved with the youth in my community is to offer to teach English classes, as much as I dread the idea and said I would never do it. I can’t think of any other way to incentivize the kids to come to my house and participate in a project. My plan is to draw them in with English, but use the time as an opportunity to do other things as well. I want to basically have a summer camp. I think it would be awesome. I really need to get on it, and fortunately we have a community meeting this Wednesday so I’ll be able to talk to all the mom’s there about classes and start making my rounds in the community. Too bad people don’t have email here and I can’t just shoot out a meeting request on outlook.

On a more personal/social update, I had an awesome birthday. Ali came over, my family cooked a chicken, colored rice and broccoli! Ali and I watched Bride Wars that night, which made me a little homesick, but overall it was great. Then on Friday some of the nurses and doctors in the Centro de Salud took me out for lunch and bought me an ice cream cake. I’m working with Dr. Velez every Tuesday or Thursday in my community – she started a hypertension control and I’m talking with youth about HIV/AIDS and just getting to know everyone better. So because I’m seeing this doctor more often, who is awesome, and I’m dropping by the Centro de Salud more often, I’m becoming good friends with a group of women there. We celebrated another birthday last week of one of the nurse’s. The women are really nice and I have fun with them, it reminds me of being in a work environment at home.

Anyway, there are more birthday updates…so that night, January 22nd, Marisela and Dolores had a surprise party for me! I had absolutely no idea they were going to throw me a party, I thought we were going out in Sucre. But when I got to their house, people jumped out from behind the door, flicked the lights on just like any good ole fashioned surprise party. They decorated the house for me, had dinner, and a cake. I was literally shocked because this family doesn’t have money and to throw a party for someone is a big deal. We danced until about 2AM, on the early side for Ecuadorians, but perfect for me. I wish I had the words in Spanish to express to them my gratefulness. As soon as I have a cocineta and am able to make dinner on my own, I’m going to invite them over.

So…that is how I started my 27th year on this earth. I’ve decided without really thinking that this is going to be the year of ME. I’m going to stop caring what people think, I’m going to work hard and concentrate on my projects and make them happen. This is the only full year of my life that I’ll have in Ecuador, I’ve got to make it count.

Random Observations/Thoughts:

1. Tomorrow is already February! I’ve lost track of how long I’ve been here and stopped counting down to my COS date, instead the days, weeks, and months continue rolling by.

2. Class distinctions in a town of 130 families. It blows my mind the division that exists in this community because of money, when everyone is living without clean drinking water, hot running water, paved roads, and either has a machete on them at all times, or keeps one in their house and uses it on a daily basis. Ultimately lacking all things we as Americans consider modern and are living in poverty – the majority of the people living in my canton earn less than $2 a day.
Also, there is a huge divide between Los Tillales afuera (outside) and adentro (inside), the very same community separated by a river during the rainy season. Los Tillales adentro in general is much poorer than Los Tillales afuera. The majority of families live in cana houses as opposed to mudubi and their living conditions or worse.

There really is no sense of community, or at least not like I expected. I thought everyone would get along, want to help each other, but I guess this is another example of how people are the same everywhere. No matter how poor you are in world standings, when you don’t know anything but how you’ve been living, its easy to see how the person with the brand new roof in the biggest house that sits above all the others is like the person living inside a mansion in the states.

Small town politics and class distinctions don’t go away because people are living in poverty. These people know they don’t have much money, that they can’t always afford the things they want, but because this is all they’ve ever known, they don’t know how poor they are – they have no idea what the world is like outside of their community.

My family is amazed at my descriptions of what its like to be in an airplane. Abuelita can’t read, neither can Edgar. But at the end of the day, none of that matters, because they are amazing people who are always willing to help, even though they are fighting to get through everyday. Sometimes when I’m with them, they drive me crazy. But when I’m away from them, I remember how strong and caring they are, and how they have had no choice but to make lemonade from the lemons they’ve been given and continue living their lives, enjoying the simple things like family and friends, and finding something to laugh about everyday. They drive me crazy, but they are an example to me everyday of how I want to and should be living my life. I will leave here having learned more from them than I have taught, of this I’m sure.

Sembraring – I almost forgot to mention that I planted corn and peanuts 2 weeks ago. I went with Maria and Priscila and some other people to our neighbor’s plot of land. We left at 6AM, broke for lunch and finished around 12:30PM. I was impressed at the speed with which we planted – the area was big. I need to go back to get a picture of the whole thing, but here are the pics I took that morning. We all had a great time. We did everything completely by hand, from making the holes to dropping in the seeds. I learned how to drop the seeds into the little holes standing perfectly straight, along with some bad words in Spanish 