Riddled with Failures – I now know what the Peace Corps recruiters meant by, “You will experience FAILURE throughout your service.” Oh no, what happened Mitchy boy you may be asking yourself… Well let me begin with the community bank debacle. In short, it failed after the first community meeting, the people lacked interest and the general terms of the bank didn’t set well with the público presente. I tried to start one up in the community of Gruta Pelte with the help of Don José (Don José went with me to the banking workshop inQuito and he is very good at explaining everything). I chose this community because it is súper close and the community members are generally workers for the land/cattle owners. The workers for these land owners are by far the most exploited in this little corner of the world….They take in maybe $60 MONTHLY at best working EVERY DAY milking the cows and taking care of the land (the suelto básico, or ‘minimum wage,’ here in Ecuador is about $240, más o menos).
Moving on to the next failure… A community wide Abono Orgánico (organic compost) project in the community of Gulag Bajo. I set up an organic compost bin in the far corner of the Subcentro complex with my own meager funds. It wouldn’t have been possible though without the help of a very kind man named Don Eulogio from the community of Gulag Bajo. He volunteered his time and some resources to make this possible. He even drove to a friend’s worm farm to pick up about 1,000 earthworms (the best damn composters on the planet). The bin is working well, so I wanted to implement them in the community of Don Eulogio (through the aid of a SPA grant) to turn it more green and to boost the awareness and production of community gardens. A SPA grant is assistance for small projects (free gov’t money), the only kicker is that it must promote bio-diversity. My project definitely met this standard, but then I was told that I must “fix the trash problem in Gualleturo before I would get approval.” Oh yes, let me get right on that… My community is located roughly an hour away from a paved road (being the highway) descending one mountain, crossing a river and ascending yet another on a single lane dirt road and the community of Ducur that is located ON the highway with direct access to municipal services dump their trash down the nearby mountainside. If anyone has any ideas how to fix the trash problem feel free to let me know.
Yeah yeah, enough with the Debbie Downer news. Moving on to:
Falling Even More in Love (with Ecuador) – I have been pretty busy since my last post, without the aid of my daily journal I would definitely be at a loss, I am a hard man to keep up with. Let’s talk a little about Carnaval and what that entails in my community. Well, since everybody knows each other in my little village things are slightly more wild than in a big city, or any other place in Ecuador I imagine basing what other volunteers and Ecuadorians reported. In some parts everything is banned to play with… but I experienced a full three days of play. In Gualleturo the people play with water (of course) a scented foam spray, cooking oil, various powdery substances including machica, flour and dyes, eggs,(which also mix great with oil, flour and water for the purpose of smearing entire faces) mud and one night the family that I was with used pig grease, chocolate powder and who knows what else they found in the kitchen. Around midday the community pool is also utilized for swimming, washing and throwing in the unfortunate into the icy cold water. Noone works during these days and the people dedicate themselves to play, drink, and food. Might have to bring this holiday back with me…
Other Travels: St. Patty’s day on a Finca in Ayacucho, A Sexual Education Taller in Guayaquil, Horseback Riding Adventure in Dug Dug, Coffee picking in El Airo very near the Peruvian border.
St. Patty’s: A coalition of Gringos and Ecuadorians met up to celebrate the art of drinking green beer in a multitude of ways on a beautiful resort-like finca. 11 hours of travel one-way definitely worth it. I slept in a tent (mattress included!) and the next day hiked to a beautiful waterfall.
The Sex Ed Taller: I was invited for a 3 day pasantilla by the director of the Red Cross Guayaquil (the counterpart of my good friend ‘Big Mike’ Close) to cover HIV/AIDS and prevention. Who would have known that it would include the most explicit condom demonstration on the planet given by the director himself…I would go into more details, but I will just say that I was blown away.
Magical Dug Dug: A fellow Peace Corps volunteer Clint had a birthday and a new project of horseback tourism invited us for a free day of riding and afterwards a meal, who could ask for more? I bonded with our guides with the aid of whiskey sent to me by my good Floridian friend JT, and they welcomed me back whenever I want. Super Buena gente and the views from the top of the mountain were incredible…I will definitely be back
Coffee Farming Down South: Two volunteers have put together an eco-tourism program that is called ‘CoffeeWorks’ and I went with my friend Julie and her brother Seth to give it a test drive. It took 14 hours to arrive, but again valió la pena (it was well worth it). I learned how coffee is grown and produced, planted a couple of trees, harvested some yucca, picked some oranges and coffee beans, stayed with an incredible host family filled with curious, adorable children and went on an awesome hike to an immense waterfall with a single palm tree stoically standing at the top.
In short, I LOVE this country and its people.
On to the Mitch At Work Section:
Overwhelmed (and Overjoyed) – I recently began a very progressive sexual education program in the Colegio of Gualleturo. I have each class for 2 hours each week for 6 whole weeks. These kiddos will be learning a thing or two. Mondays and Tuesdays are dedicated to this while Wednesdays and Thursdays I hitchhike down the mountainside to teach English, hygiene, nutrition (and who knows what else in the future) in a community called Lavadel. This week I also helped clear land with the parents of the school children to create a school garden. In June I will help the community of Lun in health education and a garden as well. The best part is that all of these programs were requested and I have the full support of the communities…an incredible thing and a blessing for a Peace Corps Volunteer I might add. Now I am constantly busy planning charlas and materials for my classes and being in the schools that I am no longer feeling that I am not reaching my potential in my service. Wish me luck for the coming weeks and months!
Now on to the Final Chapter, Why are you telling us things that I really don’t want to hear about your personal life? Vamos.
Medical Update (why not?) – Before Carnaval I had the worst stomach issues to date here in Ecuador. Yes, it was worse than my 2 day stint with Giardia due to the fact that it lasted for about 2 weeks. One sleepless evening I lied in bed with a fever, then the waterworks began. I lost all apetite, everything that I ate and drank passed in record time. I lost my campo-food belly, and it has yet to return. The stool sample verified that I had an intestinal infection with amoebas and a little mucous in the stool. Yummy.
Well that is all that I have for now, wish me luck and thanks for reading!
Until next time,