The Double Dose of Comatose – At times I really think that I am blessed living and working in such a diverse country such as Ecuador. This is most likely one of the greatest places on the planet despite its little nuances. I am also really thankful for the great, supportive bunch of volunteers, friends in other countries, my family and the family of my new girlfriend, Maria José. They really get me through the tough times and give me new ánimo, a breath of fresh air to start work again rejuvenated like after an undisturbed sleep on a cool, relaxing rainy day. Thanksgiving was two of those times.
A festive group of volunteers met up in Cuenca to indulge in excellent homemade food such as mashed potatoes, stuffing, pineapple pork roast (mouth is actually watering right now thinking about it), fresh baked German style bread, a vegetarian quiche, some pot of goodness made by a foreign volunteer (I do not have the skills to describe this one, my apologies), and the wine and cheese that I brought (along with a package of teriyaki beef jerky that my lovely family sent me from Illinois). After dinner we decided to play the most American movie that we could find amongst the bootlegged $1 videos that are so common here. We decided on Dances with Wolves, because it has it all…those Native Americans and American military power. Hah, during intermission we turned it off because we were way too exhausted and called it an evening. Well that was the FIRST Thanksgiving on the actual Thursday.
The Second Thanksgiving was thrown by the lovely family of Majo (Maria José). This took place on a Sunday in the city of Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador. Much of her extended family was there along with my good buddy BIG MIKE! (quite possibly one of the skinniest men on the planet), or Michael Close, and the Jackie Gelose, the Italian who can cook like a good Italian woman should who I shared a training group within the town of Cariacu. This food was just as incredible – An entire turkey sautéed all night in aliño (which is a puree of garlic, onion, basil? And many more delightful things) and then it was basted all day with Coca Cola© (had to put that in that for legal purposes). Coca Cola© may sound strange, but my goodness was it delicious, wasn’t even too sweet. Jackie made the green bean casserole with an Ecua flair on top (instead of breaded, fried crispy onions, there were crispy, fried strings of potatoes – excellent substitute). Other family members brought Ecuadorian dishes such as a mango fruit salad (next time he is going to add shrimp into the mix, can’t wait for that one). I was honored to be chosen to do the “brindis,” which is the Spanish word for giving a toast. I gave the best speech that I could muster in my poor Spanish thanking everyone there making US (pesky gringos) welcome into THEIR home and sharing OUR holiday with us. Also, Jackie’s sangria was a big hit…never had it before with red wine, sprite and rum…try it some time.
¡No más SIDA, No más SIDA! – First off SIDA in Spanish is AIDS just in case you need clarity. I was tasked with putting together a community march in honor of World AIDS Day which is December 1 of every year. My march however was planned for the 7th, better late than never due to lack of materials from the Minesterio de Salud, I received them about 3 days late. I wrote the required oficios (formal documents that you need to write to get ANYTHING done here in Ecuador) sending them to the Junta Parroquial, the surrounding schools and the Colegio. They all seemed excited to participate but I was expecting blunders. Everything turned out great though! Everyone wore red, made signs and posters and banners and the school kiddos brought red balloons. It really was my first big success here in my site and it gave me much needed confidence. After the march I gave a Rompecabeza charla (Rompecabeza translates to mind breaker, which is sort of a puzzle piecing together what HIV and AIDS stand for so they could get a better understanding of what was going on. A charla is a non-formal education session that can take place in schools, community centers, in the street, wherever). After I presented the town doctor gave his more in depth presentation to the colegio kids (the older group). Great success it was!
A Taste of Invierno – What I have been fearing since my arrival… The townspeople constantly talked about how rainy and obscure the 5 month rainy season is that ranges from December to April. As you now know it is the middle of December and they sure were not lying. As I sit here typing this in my room I am soothed by the sound of raindrops on the Subcentro tin roof (along with a little Mozart as well). The fog rolls in daily around noontime and the darkness and rain commences. The town is pure mud and you can barely see 10ft in front of you (note to self: find the rain boots that I probably left in the house of my host family). The rain doesn’t really bother me, but the method on how my clothes will dry is another story…I’ll keep you posted on how I figure this rompecabeza out. I also hear that at times no one will be able to leave because of mudslides which block the muddy, rocky road that leads me and the community out to pavement, internet and banking. Interesting it shall be.
Drag Racing – Drunk Driving – Fuel Tanker Truckers: That is right. Blows your mind doesn’t it? When I was on the return trip to Gualleturo from Quito from our Reconnect Conference my bus had a slight delay just outside of the city that I take the bus into my town from. Later on I found out that I had just missed a collision of two fuel tankers in the wee hours of the morning. They had been drinking (a little) and decided to drag race down a straight away…the result was 4 deaths (two men in each truck) and 20,000 gallons of fuel spilled and consumed by fire on the highway. I returned a few days later to photo-document the scene.
Well I think that is all I have at the moment, hope it wasn’t too boring. Tune in next time for the tale of “The Return of Porky Muffin Top” and most likely some Christmas and New Years stories… Take care now, ya hear? and thanks for reading (if anyone even does)
Until Next time.
Your Humble Narrator and Andariego,