I know that I have been off of the radar for a while….my apologies. I have been recently riding an emotional rollercoaster that has finally stabilized and now life is very good. In short, I checked myself before I wrecked myself. I recently returned from our Peace Corps Reconnect, a week-long conference in which we were locked in a spiritual center for a week to obtain some more “training” and present our community diagnostics. The food was great but the gates closed at 9pm…que bestia. Oooh, one thing that I did not miss from Pre-Service Training was the never-ending PowerPoint presentations, or death by PowerPoint as a wise man once told me. Seeing everyone from training again was refreshing though. I was on emotional edge until the last day in which I finally mustered the strength to air my concerns to my program manager because then I had the feeling that I wouldn’t last very long in this new age Peace Corps.
Why you may ask? So many things… but the main themes were my housing arrangement and visiting a city that has recently been put off-limits. I was told at my site visit a month prior that where I wanted to live wasn’t exactly up to PC standards…The general rule is that you must live alone or with a host family for the entire two years. I don’t believe that I could have done either to tell the truth. I definitely would not like the solitude of a single room because I am sort of a social butterfly and my new host family needed silence around 8pm… I also didn’t like locking myself in my room until I fell asleep. And being in control of your own kitchen is a great feeling, something that I did not have at the house of my host family. Anyway…I was cleared to live where I wanted!! With the Subcentro Staff. And…I am now also allowed to travel to Guayaquil to visit a special lady friend once a month which is not a bad deal. My spirits were finally uplifted for a longer lasting term…no longer did I have to live in fear, like I was always doing something wrong!
Which brings me to my next topic. Making it hail… What the hell does this mean you may be asking yourself? Well let me explain. It has to do with carefree, casi reckless attitude to raise the spirits on monthly or bi-weekly escapes from the ultra-isolated campo life. The money of choice here in Ecuador is the golden Sacajawea coins and I make them fall from the heavens whenever I am in the right mood – like in Cuenca for the festivals hanging with Guayacas or pre and post Reconnect with training buddies. I was always told that I have champaign taste on a beer budget by my parents…not much has changed it seems.
On a more serious note, I went to a Parroquia meeting this morning and it fueled some great ideas. The Junta Parroquial serves 18 communities and the theme of the gathering was that they are now going to prioritize community needs, each community spokesman could only state ONE developmental desire…It took a visiting governmental economist to figure this out. For example, One community wants a decent bridge built over a river that their vehicles can cross, another, latrines that do not overflow during the rainy season, another, a new roof for their dilapidated school, another, drinkable water, another, new flooring for the snack bar of the Colegio. I have a feeling that most will not come through because budgeting is quite limited as I am told. But if they give the damn Colegio snack bar a new floor first I am going to be real pissed…
The Peace Corps wants me to start sustainable projects. My first goal is to install a water treatment system in the main town of Gualleturo. I have the president of the Junta on board…all that is lacking is a little research on NGO’s and the data of the water which I can easily obtain from the president of the water (there is a president for everything here). I also heard that a couple of schools would like a computer or two to familiarize the children on how to operate such technological marvels that seem to be running this world. I believe that this can become a reality with a grant from USAID. The Peace Corps also told me a main way to fundraise was through friends and family, but I realized that most of my friends and people in my social network are poor folk like myself… I don’t think a donation of $3.50 will really go too far here… My secondary project will be trying to get some public computers installed with internet in the Junta. It would be nice to keep in touch with development projects, the main provincial government that visits once a year, and facebook of course. There is also an interest in starting a community bank, we shall see how this will develop.
Adventure time – I have to give you readers something to excite the imaginatory receptors. Well, where to start… If you ever have to vaccinate vicious campo dogs for rabies, all I have to say is make sure they are well tied AND have an owner there to make sure their jaws do not get a hold of you… I also saw an entire side of a mountain on FIRE… I have been awakened by a man with a recent stab wound by some rusty metal object by his wife (maybe being incoherently drunk on his part had something to do with it) What else? I traveled for 17 or so hours on 4 buses and a taxi from my site to meet up with some friends, repair the boots and visit my host family in the north of Ecuador before training. This was the first time that I really traveled by myself in Ecuador and it went surprisingly smooth if I must say so myself. The first bus I took was sketch, I think I was placed on the worst bus on the fleet…good thing it was only a 9 hour excursion in the middle of the night…haha. The taxi that I took to cross Quito was also a little sketch. Since it was high traffic time we took some excellent side roads and he gave me a tour of basically the whole city…the barrios with very high robbery (in which stopped a couple of times to chit-chat and ask the destination of other cab seekers…what the hell guy!?), the colonial district and the famous Police Hospital where the Ecuadorian presidency was threatened not so long ago. Not exciting enough…got it. I went on a horseback ride once again with my lovely host family, this time they gave me the horse that likes to RUUUUUUUUUN. I literally thought that I couldn’t control this beast of burden especially when I was flopping around on the saddle and shouting my best Spanish curses, but I managed. If running wasn’t enough, he also liked to haul ass up muddy sloped mountain paths…we nearly took a couple of spills as did the horse of my host sister. Overall, it was an incredibly peaceful ride; I guess I shouldn’t really call this section adventure update…forgiveness please. I can’t post everything that is going on of course due to good old fashioned government censorship!!
Ahh yes, I figured out the mystery of the bubble guts. I actually had giardia and parasites, an infamous duo of sorts. If you are not familiar with giardia, look it up. The simple description is poop to mouth. Somewhere along the line I ate some fecally contaminated food or drank some fecally contaminated water…which at all is not surprising due to extremely high levels of fecal contamination found in laboratory tests taken by the water inspector of the province. One of the main reasons why water treatment is my main focus.
In short, I hope that you all enjoy such basic things that we all take for granted in the good ole US of A. Infrastructure, Potable water, schools with roofs, hot showers! Etc… I begin to learn to love my mother land more and more every month it seems. Just remember that you have it great is all that I ask!! But I must touch on the Ecuadorian health care system sometime…remind me will ya?? The US of A could also take some notes
Take care and may the god of your choice bless you! (yes I stole this from a Kinky Friedman campaign T-shirt)