Tuesday, March 6, 2012

so real blog entry this time

Ah, sorry I've been so horrible at blogging lately. I would love to say it's because I'm very busy and important lately, but that's not true at all. It more has something to do with my terrible internet connection. I even had an entry alllll ready for you guys about a month ago and almost had it all posted with pictures and everything and boom! there went the internet. But hopefully this one will go through this time. This is my entry from last time:

Que has hecho de bueno? Many people ask me that in my site and it literally translates to 'what have you done of good?' so for a loooong time, I thought they were asking what kind of productive things have I been doing lately. I got excited and would tell them about whatever little work detail that was going on. Now I think it's just 'what's been going on good in your life?' or 'anything exciting been going on?' because people don't really care about people's worklife. That's not really life here -- life here is family and family details are important. So what if you just worked with the government to improve the local center of health? Good for you, people will say, and get on with things. But tell a tale about a nephew who fell into a table of glass and had to get 25 stitches and people will be enthralled. 'But how did it happen?' 'what kind of table was it?' 'how old was he?' 'were there bananas on the table?' and many other important questions will crop up.

Soo, que he hecho de bueno?? Welllll, good question! Let's see... I've painted my house (another layer of yellow -- it's almost ready for the final touches!), gone to a wedding and gotten a garter put on my leg by the groom (not sure how I feel about this tradition), hidden a dead quail from my nephew (he cried for days about the last one), gone to a beauuutiful, pristine beach, celebrated 1 YEAR IN ECUADOR (say whaaa??), started running again consistently, gotten my heart broken and subsequently repaired, planned for the next mountain excursion (this Friday, Rumiñahui -- very excited), gone to a funeral, kept on with the projects, and most excitingly of all,

I am now a godmother!!!! :) Okay, now before anybody gets too excited, apparently there are three different types of godmothers -- one for baptism, one for wedding, and one for any other major ceremony. I was the last; my little aijada (as they call goddaughters here) is 4 years old, named Valeska, and I helped her graduate from the local pre-school. I'd worked with her before in English a bit, and she still knew her numbers and hello/bye-bye. Needless to say, I was a proud mama that day. Wish I had pictures, but they're all on Valeska's dad's camera. Someday I'll steal them and put them up.

Anyway, last but not least, I have another fruit entry.

Today we're going to learn about the glorious, wonderful, stupendous pitahaya. I believe pitahaya is called dragonfruit in English and it's found in other places in the world, including Thailand. If you go to the market, especially nowadays (they seem to be in season, but still expensive: 3 for a $1), you'll find some vendors peddling a strange yellow fruit:

Don't be afraid. Just cut it in half:

The inside is strangely reminiscent of a kiwi: sweet flesh specked with tiny black seeds. I eat it like a kiwi too -- with a spoon. Supposedly it's a good cure for constipation -- it's guaranteed to make you poo. Well, I just ate two tonight, so I guess I'll find out in a few hours.

Anyway, probably won't write again until after the mountain adventures, so mucho amor para todos!


So that was the last entry and now I'll elaborate. First of all, the pitahaya definitely did what it was supposed to. I was in the bathroom for a good chunk of time. I've heard a rumor that some of the other PCV's have had a contest as to who can eat the most pitahaya at one time. I believe 7 was the winning number and I don't even want to imagine what that person's night was like.

Let's see... Rumiñahui went very well. Met up with Christina and Ricky in Quito... we had some very nice meals (well... maybe except for Christina... sometimes when you order a salad in Ecuador, you might just get a bowl full of lettuce and nothing else), climbed a genuine climbing wall in Quito (of which there are not that many in Ecuador), and then headed off to our hostal Tambopaxi, which is very cool and nestled right in the heart of Cotopaxi National Park. We explored the area a bit, realized that Rumiñahui is ridiculously close to Cotopaxi, which is (along with Chimborazo) possibly the most famous mountain in Ecuador. It's a very beautiful snow-covered volcano. We also got hailed upon as we were heading back to the hostal for the night, which always happens when Christina and I climb together. That night we had a lovely pasta dinner (to carbo load of course) and headed off to catch some Z's.

The next day we started off bright and early at around 5:30. We had a wonderful day filled with beautiful weather, lovely views of Cotopaxi, a cool trek around the lake Limpiopungo, and a summit of Rumiñahui right around noon. Not sure how I would rank it compared to the other mountains I've climbed so far (that was my fourth summit!), although any mountain with sandy scree will not be my favorite probably, but it was definitely a great climb. And! we only got hailed upon again when we were about 20 minutes away from the hostal, which definitely beats being hailed upon on top of a mountain. We also saw not one, but FOUR Andean condors, which are incredibly rare. There are less than 100 in Ecuador and somehow we had the luck to see four of them. Pretty cool.

Almost exactly a week after summiting Rumiñahui, I was back in the Sierra with my boyfriend Luis. This time we went to a concert: Maná. Maná is this incredibly popular Mexican rock band that's even fairly well-known in the US. They sold out the biggest stadium in Quito, Atahualpa, where the Liga soccer team plays. So needless to say, the atmosphere was incredible and Luis happens to looovee Maná, so it was nice seeing him so happy.

Soooo... but what about Puerto Limón? you might ask. Well, I have not forgotten about my pueblito. We're on vacation right now, so things are slow. But today a strange development came up. They made a giant hole near the river (aka the most important part of town, where people go to have fun, to wash their clothes, to bathe, where tourists come from out of town to visit) so that they can put the sewage of three houses directly into this hole which will have tubes leading to the river. Which basically equals poo right into the river. Anyway, my host dad, host sister, and I got pretty steamed up today about it, so we took a bunch of pictures and sent them to the government in Santo Domingo. Now the government in Santo Domingo is pretty steamed up after seeing these pictures, so they're coming tomorrow with reporters. I'm pretty excited about their response, so hopefully they can get this stopped. I know environmental issues are tricky and can be pretty complicated, but it doesn't get more simple and fundamental than NO POO WHERE PEOPLE BATHE AND SWIM!!

Speaking of environmental issues, I'm pretty ashamed that the people of Tennessee voted for Santorum today. This is the guy who said:

"I believe the earth gets warmer, and I also believe the earth gets cooler, and I think history points out that it does that and that the idea that man through the production of CO2 which is a trace gas in the atmosphere and the manmade part of that trace gas is itself a trace gas is somehow responsible for climate change is, I think, just patently absurd when you consider all of the other factors, El Nino, La Nina, sunspots, you know, moisture in the air. There's a variety of factors that contribute to the earth warming and cooling, and to me this is an opportunity for the left to create -- it's a beautifully concocted scheme because they know that the earth is gonna cool and warm. It's been on a warming trend so they said, "Oh, let's take advantage of that and say that we need the government to come in and regulate your life some more because it's getting warmer," just like they did in the seventies when it was getting cool, they needed the government to come in and regulate your life because it's getting cooler. It's just an excuse for more government control of your life, and I've never been for any scheme or even accepted the junk science behind the whole narrative." (from http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/daily/2011/06/08/the_rick_santorum_interview)

He is such an embarrassment. I was reading some of his political stances out loud to my host sister tonight and she kept saying 'But why? Why does he believe that? That doesn't make any sense.' and I could not explain. You're right, Pao, it does not make any sense. Sometimes I wish we could just have a hamster run for president.


This is of me and my German sister at Carnaval. Carnaval is basically the same holiday as Mardi Gras, but celebrated entirely different here in Ecuador. Here it lasts for several days, and includes dancing for hours at a time and throwing dye and water on each other. It's great fun. Annie and I decided we looked like zombies with the red and black dye.

Some of you have been asking what the bf looks like. Here is your answer.

He can also be kind of cute when he wants to be.

climbing in Quito

We climbed the middle peak of this bad boy.

This is Cotopaxi, one of the most gorgeous mountains in the world. (might be climbing this bad boy in May. :) )

The poo hole near the river. :(

two of my nephews (Janpi and Erick) and I

Sunday, January 15, 2012

yum yum yum

Allo! A couple of days ago, we had our big ceremony for the winners of the recycling contest at the local high school. It was such a big hit; I'm really proud of all the kids. With the money we raised from selling the bottles and paper to Santo Domingo, we were able to get some baller gifts for the winners and we'll be able to build a bigger, better facility for the recycling. I'm hoping to do that over the next few months while the kids have vacation. I'm hoping to get recycling going for the whole of Puerto Limón too, which will probably be slow-going. But well, I have another 15ish months left, so bring it on.

I would like to tell you guys a little more about a topic that I have neglected thus far and therefore wish to remedy. This would be Ecuadorian cuisine. Now, Ecuadorian food is not internationally recognized and there are definite reasons for that. First of all, there isn't too much variation day-to-day. Typically lunch/dinner (at least on the coast) consists of white rice, plantain in some form, cooked meat (beef, chicken, or fish... rarely pork), and a 'salad' (which is usually chopped tomato, cucumber, pepper, carrot with salt and lemon squeezed on top). That being said, apart from the rice, I don't mind the food at all. And there're some dishes in particular that are really good. One such being ceviche -- a sort of seafood soup with lemon, onions, and other stuff (basically anything you want to throw in there!). Another is encebollados, which I've mentioned before. Also, it always impresses me how practically all Ecuadorian ladies (and some men!) can cook really well and without recipes. So... though it could use more variety, as a whole, I like Ecuadorian food.

Especially the fruit. Oh my deliciousness, the fruit. Being an equatorial country with consistent rain and sun, the plants go crazy here. Almost every single fruit you find in grocery stores in the U.S. grows here and a bunch more besides. The two fruits I haven't been able to find here are blackberries and cranberries, but everything else, yes: oranges, kiwi, guava, pears, apples, limes, grapefruit, raspberries, melons, starfruit, etc. I want to spotlight one fruit right now: maracuyá, otherwise known as passionfruit. So, sometimes in the U.S. we can find passionfruit ice cream or maybe passionfruit candy, but sadly, like artificial grape flavor, it doesn't really match up to the real thing. Here, they eat maracuyá whole, but more likely, they'll make juice out of it, or colada, which is when they boil fruit with oatmeal and then strain and serve as a drink.

Here's what the real thing looks like:

You then crack it in half:

And on the inside is a very slimy substance with lots of seeds:

But it's goooooood eatin'

Its tart, but sweet flavor leaves you with ganas para más:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year or: How I Got Burned in Effigy or: bojangles and tyler hansbrough-- an ode

Happy New Year's!! I would say that in Spanish, but I forgot how to make the squiggly above the n, and if you don't put the squiggly on the n in year, then it becomes 'butthole' and I don't think anyone reading this needs to be wished a happy new butthole. Hopefully.

Anyway, the last month has been eventful. First, we had a conference back in good ol' Tumbaco about starting an eco-club. I'm not too sure that I actually am going to start one (we'll see, we'll see), but anyway, we had to bring a youth from the community and I think it was a good experience for him. I brought this 16-year-old named Luis who looks and dresses a whole lot like Justin Bieber, which I think pleased all the young ladies at the conference. He didn't seem motivated by the talks we had, so I don't believe he'll be gung-ho for starting an eco-club, but he is really interested in art. He perked up when we started talking about maybe doing some environmental murals outside of the school, so that might be an idea for the future. It was also nice getting to see some PCV's from my omnibus and meet some PCV's from some of the other omnibuses.

Then my mama came to visit me for Christmas! We toured a bit around the Ecuador and got some cool pics. Especially lovely was Cuenca, the 3rd biggest city in the country. Hopefully, despite a few hiccups, she had a great time. Thanks for coming all the way down to South America to spend Christmas with me, Mom! <3 Then I got back to Puerto Limón in time for New Year's, which is a little bit nuts in Ecuador. They start making/selling these manequins (manigotes) about a week before New Year's, with all sorts of themes. Some people do political themes, making politicians; some do popular culture, making Batman or the Chapulin Colorado; but most people make members of their family or neighbors. Well, my family decided to steal my jeans and make me this year. So, I come back to Puerto Limón and here's this strange version of me, dressed in my clothes, stuffed with newspaper inside, and no head. Well, we make a head really quickly and drag me out to the streets. At midnight, everybody hugs each other warmly and wishes the other, 'Happy New Year!' They then proceed to drag all the manigotes to one pile, kick them a bit, douse them with lighter fluid, and set the whole thing on fire. They call it 'burning the old year'.... I call it 'now I need some new pants'. Soooo, time for cliche reflections of the year? I think so! 2011 was mostly about my new country -- finding out I was moving to Ecuador, preparing to move to Ecuador, actually moving to Ecuador, and then the difficulties of being thousands of miles from everything you've known in a completely different culture. I'm so so glad I'm here; I couldn't picture myself doing anything else at this point and I think I need this experience. I've always been kind of a shy, withdrawn person and I don't necessarily like that, and in Ecuador, there are so many opportunities to be with people and enjoy life. Here, they are a lot poorer than in the U.S., but it's nice in a way. While a lot of people there surround themselves with things, with computers and collections and cars, people here don't have that luxury. So they live their days surrounded by people. And in a lot of ways, they live richer lives than a lot of people in first world countries. The average Ecuadorian doesn't know who the vice president is or where Belgium is, but they almost all know how to cook, how to comfort a crying child, how to dance cumbia. They know how to live life. The average Ecuadorian inspires me beyond belief. And as for 2012? Well, barring the end of the world, I hope it is to be a good year. I've got lots of goals, both personal and not, so we'll see what happens. Mostly though, I just want to be flexible and spontaneous and enjoy the heck out of whatever Ecuador chooses to do with me. Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas, a lovely New Year's, and hope to talk to you all soon! Love love love, c Mom in Ecuador!

This is what we woke up to on Christmas.


Pretty cathedral in the Mariscal sector of Quito

modern art in Quito

in Chordeleg: famous for its filigree and jewelry



Cuenca has some ballin' graffiti

Along with the manigotes, another New Year's tradition is men cross-dressing and asking (AKA demanding) for money

Chimborazo from the air!

Pao and I and... me

the pile of manigotes

Happy New Year's!!!

Friday, December 2, 2011

para otro día más de pura diversión

Well, I wrote another post several days ago in an internet café, but apparently excitement about the upcoming adventures led me to not actually posting it. Oh well.

Today is our 10-month anniversary here in Ecuador! Yay us! 10 down, 16 1/2 to go. In just a few short months, we'll be halfway through service. Very strange feeling.

Puerto Limón has been going fine. I keep busy with random projects and volunteer work. We're starting recycling in the local high school, and it has been a great success so far. We're having a competition for the kids to see who can bring in the most bottles and they've taken to it like white to rice. One little boy came up to me and said, "Miss, miss! Today I brought in 117 bottles!" They're so enthusiastic. On Monday, a truck is going to come and take all these bottles, paper, and cardboard to Santo Domingo, where we'll sell it for $4 every 100 lbs.

Happy Turkey Day!! While it was very strange not being in the U.S. and being with all of you guys back home, it was still a good day. Definitely missed deep fried turkey and family, but it was nice introducing the holiday to the family here. I cooked for the fam, and since I'm inordinately proud of the food, I'll make a boring list of what we had:

*turkey (but, of course! although turkeys are kind of expensive here, so we just bought a breast)
*salad with 3 types of dressing (store-bought caesar, vinaigrette, and ranch)
*roasted carrots
*cole slaw
*mashed potatoes
*sweet tea
*apple pie
*blackberry cobbler

It was so much fun cooking all day and we ended up with about 12 people at the table (and check out the diversity: 2 Americans, 1 American-Mexican, 1 Tsáchila, 1 German, and 7 Ecuadorians!). I figured Ecuadorians would like the holiday since it's all about eating. A couple of other PCV's and I gave a short speech about what Thanksgiving means (tactfully ignoring the whole awkward indigenous thing) and then we all said what we're thankful for. In other words, it was quite heart-warming and if I couldn't have spent Thanksgiving in the U.S., then I'm very very glad to have spent it in Puerto Limón.

After Thanksgiving, it was mountain time!! I bummed around Quito with the boyfriend for awhile, trying to acclimitize, then got to see my Tumbaco family again which is always great, and then met up with my friend Christina to climb some Ecuadorian peaks. We had our hearts set on Iliniza Norte, the 8th biggest peak in Ecuador, and El Corazón, the 14th biggest peak.

I'll talk about Iliniza first since it was the bigger of the two. So, Peace Corps has a very specific mountain policy, as they don't tend to enjoy it when volunteers fall to their deaths and such. This policy sometimes includes the need to hire a guide, depending on the peak, and they said that a guide was necessary for Iliniza Norte. So, the night before the big climb, we stayed in a cute little hostal called La Llovizna ("The Drizzle", as that apparently is the normal weather for this town). We got there too late to explore the town, so just ended up having a dinner and trying to go to bed early to be well rested for the big climb. We started the next morning with our guide Marcial, who turned out to be excelente. We were a little worried since our other guide cancelled on us at the last minute and we had to scramble to get a new guide, but he turned out to be amazing. He was super knowledgable, super friendly, and super at-home on the mountain. He made everything look easy and when there were a few moments when I started to break down because of pain and fatigue, he helped me get back on form. Definitely recommended. It was amazing because there were certain times on the mountain when I was struggling, breathing hard, every step painful, and he was practically skipping up, singing Cuban songs as he went.

Anyway, I won't describe every moment of this hike, but let's just say it was amazing. We hiked a few hours along normal uphill paths through the páramo (which is an ecosystem in the high mountains that has really cool plants), then had to hike through sandy scree for a couple hours, which is completely exhausting. After you get through that part, there was about 1/2 hour of rock climbing, which I am not ashamed to say, I was attached to our lovely guide the whole time with a rope and harness. Then, basically right about the time we summited, it started to hail and lighting! So, we snapped a few pictures and then hauled butt off that mountain.

Though smaller, for me, the harder mountain was Corazón. Corazón is kind of a marathon mountain. From the hostal we started at, to the top, and then back down again, was altogether 12 1/2 hours of hiking, 8 1/2 of that uphill, and 2 of that hard climbing. We were already tired at this point, and so after a couple of hours in, every step for me became difficult. At one point, we had been climbing about 4 hours and we turned around a corner and saw the mountain in the distance and I was just about ready to give up -- it seemed so far away and so foreboding! But Christina encouraged me, and we kept going. Again, I won't give too many details, only to say that this day was the most challenging day I've had in my life, both physically and emotionally, as far as fear goes. There were a couple times when I really thought we were going to succumb to the mountain or to fatigue, but all the pain and suffering was worth it -- the feeling when we got back to our hostal (because we didn't allow ourselves to feel good at summiting -- too many more hours of hard work ahead) was one of the best I've ever had in my life.


The Ilinizas. Iliniza Norte is on the right.

Our top-notch guide, Marcial

Chris and me, marveling that we made it to the top!

It got snowy real fast! Andes weather is notorious for changing rapidly.

Looking up at the summit. This is the rocky-sandy scree we climbed through.

A view of Iliniza Sur.

Chapiriqui (or something like that) -- a pretty mountain flower that's supposed to be lucky if seen before a climb!

Me and Marcial!

We found a furry friend coming down.

view looking back

El Corazón

pretty climb on the way up to El Corazón!

arquitecta, a plant only found in Ecuador -- used to cure prostate problems

getting closer to our goal!

creepy fog that started about 2 hours before the summit... I'm pretty sure I'm going to have nightmares about this part of the mountain

next to the summit cairn!

We made it!!

Monday, October 31, 2011

no te doy por vencido

Well, it´s been a good spell since I´ve written, I think. In fact, it was before I got back to this wonderful country. I knew I was back in Ecuador-land when the manager to my hotel that I stayed at in Quito offered me a massage. That´s very generous, but I don´t tend to accept free massages from 50+ year-old creepsters. And neither should you!

What has been going on since I got back in the good ol´world of Ecuador? Not much, honestly, which has been one of the reasons for not writing. My projects are going suuuppperr slooowwly, partly because the last few weeks in the schools have been fiestas, exams, and now vacation. Hard to get any sort of work done with that going on. So hopefully after this week of vacation, things will pick back up again. The pigeons ate all the seeds in our anciano garden and I´ve been feeling kind of disconnected from Puerto Limon, as a consequence of being gone for so long.

On the other hand, it was completely worth it to go back to the States for those few weeks! Plus I´m learning not to be hard on myself as far as projects go. I´ve always lacked initiative and leadership skills, so even if the projects fail, but I can learn how to lead and start projects, at least, I´ll consider that a success.

Still, I can´t help but feel discouraged sometimes. Especially because yesterday, a dreadful calamity happened. I opened the gate to the patio where my apartment resides only to find Kristofer, the family dog, chewing on something strange. It was dark, so I couldn´t tell what it was, just that there were bits of something dark and long everywhere. I thought he had gotten hold of a leafy plant, and so didn´t investigate further, although in the back of mind, I was a little suspicious. The next day, I went to check on my quails´ food and the door to one of the cages was open. OH NO. I went back to where Kristofer sits and sure enough, there were feathers everywhere.

RIP Flan Ganchozo Baylor October 30, 2011... You were a good quail and I hope you´re romping around in quail heaven.

So I´m one quail down and feeling a little triste right now. BUT! I´m going to redouble my efforts, get another quail (maybe a male this time so we can have eggs), and really get going on my projects. There´s so much to look forward to, as well: My friend and I are climbing a pair of mountains a couple days after Thanksgiving.... My german host sister and I are planning on throwing a super special Thanksgiving dinner for the fam (I think she´s intrigued by the thought of Thanskgiving).... Some friends from the local barrio and I are going to the beach in a couple of weeks.... I learned how to cook bread the other day and while it was not perfect by any means, that is just step one to having a fabulous loaf.... and more!

Also, in a couple days (Wednesday) will be Día de los Difuntos, known as Día de los Muertos in other countries. Basically, many people will be going to the local cementary that day to remember lost family members, clean their graves, and eat a whole lot of guaguas and drink a whole lot of colada morada. Guaguas are little loaves of bread decorated like people and colada morada is a very very tasty drink that´s made out of a special kind of flour, sugar, spices (like lemongrass and amaranth), and basically whatever kinds of fruit you want to throw in there. My family made it the other day with pineapple, blueberries, strawberries, and raisins. Pretty delicious. Already, I´ve been invited to two separate cementaries that day. Hot dates, right?

P.S. Happy Halloween!! Ecuador is not super super into Halloween like us Amuuricans are, but I did see a couple of cute little Spidermen today and what may have been a fairy or may have just been a fun outfit on a 4-year-old.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Get back to where you once belong

So this is strangely reminescent of where I was and what I was doing almost exactly 8 months ago: in Mom's house in Alexandria, franticly packing for Ecuador. Tomorrow I head back after an amazing visit to the US. I was telling some people how the last 8 months of Ecuador feel like a dream to me now because it was so easy to get back in the swing of things and completely forget about my other life. Now it seems so weird to be heading back into Puerto Limón and the projects -- it's definitely going to be hard to refocus. I feel like I'm always looking forward to the next thing when I'm in Puerto Limón -- as in, the next trip to the coast, or the next mountain to climb, or the next conference to attend. I need to stop that and start living more in the now.

Anyway, all that aside, this trip was beautiful beautiful beautiful. I got to see basically all of my family and some good friends, and my big sis got married! The wedding was lovely and my sister looked stunning in her dress. I'm just gonna get sappy if I keep writing about it, and no one wants that, so we'll just leave it at it was a very, very special day. Also, I loved seeing my aunties and uncles and grandma and everyone breakin' it out on the dance floor. Ecuadorians are very good at partying with all generations, from 3 year-olds to 80 year-olds. In the U.S. it seems like the only time you dance with your family is weddings -- amiright?? I can't think of any other occasion. Que lástima -- it was fun boogieing with my cousins.

Thanks for all your guyses' kind words on my blog -- I didn't know it was so widely read! Good thing I've been keeping it PG and didn't mention those wild nights in (kidding!!)

Anyway, going to take advantage of fast internet to post some pics.

Heily, my host sister's (always grumpy) little one

My counterpart Franco and I find some beauty pageant candidates!

Ag club at one of the local high schools

So, on your birthday, people here like to push you into your birthday cake.

kids at the local preschool where I teach English -- so adorable!!

terrible picture of me, but my wall is now prettier!

This is Puerto Limón!

Part of my host family! To the left of me is my host brother Yofrito, then my host mom Mama Zorida, my host dad Papa Yofre, my old German host brother Jacobo, and his girlfriend Francis. Sadly, my host sis isn't in the pic, nor my new German sister