Getting Things Done: After a year in site, things are finally going smoothly and developing quite nicely. I can’t believe that a year has already passed… Recently I have become a garden master, not bad for a city boy. I have successfully emplaced gardens in the community schools of Lavadel, Lun, the highschool and health center of Gualleturo, and in Gulag Bajo. I of course didn’t accomplish all of this all by my lonesome. Without the help of the parents of the school children, the teachers and the Ecuadorian organizations of the Ministry of Agriculture and Ecuadorian Food Security, I am sure the land would still be overgrown with weeds. The goal of the gardens is to promote organic gardening and with the seed beds parents can transplant the vegetables in their own home gardens promoting well-balanced nutrition and knowing that the community members are not eating chemically treated foods. What threw me for a great surprise was that the first Peace Corps Volunteer in my site in the 60’s actually promoted the use of chemicals (so I have been told)!! And they are just now weaning off of them after seeing the effects.
But not all is work, work, and work. I still have plenty of time to read and to enjoy the country of Ecuador during the weekends. Recently, my friend Lauren made a trip down and I took my first official vacation days to travel to places that I would never have gone (or been able to go to) in a weekend. We enjoyed all the major areas of Ecuador, the coast with gorgeous beaches, the abundant waterfalls in the mountains and even a little tour of the jungle…and there is still so much more to see.
A Week in the Life: This week has been quite eventful, just like every week in site. I find it sinful to be bored and unproductive.
Monday: I hitchhike in a milk truck to the community of Chiglidel (about a 45 minute bumpy ride) to teach basic hygiene and some basic English to the children. After class one of the parents invited me to his finca (a large property where there is generally fruit and other cultivations). I of course went. It was about a 2 hour hike down to the base of the mountain and then winding westward through hills passing through the abandoned community of Zhurun. Houses and a nearly brand new school are left vacant… Anyway, we arrived and they gave me a tour of their orange groves, and rows of corn. I helped pick and shuck the corn while my host climbed orange trees to knock out the delicious fruit. We enjoyed some fresh oranges then hiked further in to meet his friend who produces the now illegal cane-alcohol. It is illegal at the moment because 25 people died of methanol poisoning in another province. This stuff was fresh out of the distiller, so we mixed it with guarapo (which is delicious freshly squeezed cane juice, extracted by a large, crushing machine). The mixture of cane juice and alcohol is called mapanagua. We enjoyed a few drinks and talked until the sun began to set. There was no possible way for me to make it back to Gualleturo which would have been about a 3 hour hike to the road and then a wait for a 30 minute truck ride which quite possibly would never come. I was invited to stay with the family and we made an hour and a half trek to his house which was straight uphill traversing in the pitch black of the night stumbling through mud and climbing loose, rocky footpaths. I spoke with the family in the kitchen of their mud-brick home for a couple of hours and then they showed me the bed they cleared for me (I felt bad as always when a family crowds into a single bed while I get one to myself…I tried to sleep on the mud floor but they weren’t having any of that). I love the Ecuadorian people. They always offer what little they have even to a random, goofy looking gringo.
Tuesday: After a decent night’s rest I woke up once the sun rose. I ate some breakfast with the family and accompanied the children to the school of Chiglidel. I rested there for a couple of hours, ate an early lunch with the teachers, then made my way walking in the beating sun to the community of Lavadel to teach. I taught my classes then hitchhiked to Gualleturo and finally made it back to my home by about 3pm. I walked in the house to discover it an all-out disaster zone. The kitchen had dirty pots and pans everywhere, my bed had been slept in and not made up and there was some sort of liquid smearage on my floor…and some unkown party had drank almost all of my 3 liters of cane alcohol that was gifted to me to take back to the states. Luckily, I am a very patient person and just shrugged it off like any other troublesome time I face here in Ecuador. I found out that a traveling medical brigade was in the Parroquia of Gualleturo and had a great time the night before. I am friends with all of them, so no worries.
Wednesday: A trip with the medical brigade to the community of Gulag Bajo. They were scheduled to visit a community named Enen which is situated lower than Gulag in the mountain but it was blocked by a recent landslide. In order to reach the patient in Enen the doctor and I were lead by the child’s mother by way of an old horse trail to the community. The views were stunning (as always) overlooking mountain range after mountain range and the endless sea of clouds westward which are the heavens of the coast. We made it to the house, the doctor prepped, viewed the stitching from the surgery (job well done) and extracted the stitches. The young man had problems with the veins in his groin, he went too long without treatment and the accumulated pockets of water ruptured one of his testicles which had to be removed. We made sure the incision healed nicely, which it did indeed. The return hike was a brutal 70 constant incline in the beating hot sun but luckily after 30 minutes we encountered the Parroquia president cruising around in an SUV. They did a turn-around and took us to the site of the enormous landslide. Another truck was waiting at the other side to take us back to Gulag Bajo. Needless to say we had to cross the god-forsaken landslide. I was extremely hesitant at first but the Pres said that he would prove that it was safe by going over first. I followed directly behind. The first 20 feet or so was perfectly fine, no big deal….until the dirt and small rocks became exponentially more loose. Shit. I looked down tracing the tumbling rocks all the way to the river below, hundreds of feet. I imagined myself taking the next step, loosening the already loose earth under my feet and sliding all the way down, arms spread out to produce the most friction possible so as not to barrel roll to my demise. Not a good thought. The Pres shook me out of it and I very shakily made it to the other side. I personally would have rather tread the steep incline until Gulag Bajo….But I am still safe and sound. We made it back to Gulag and I observed the doc taking care of the patients. The one that stuck out the most was a man who nearly electric-sawed off his toe 2 months ago constructing a house. He had a surgery to put it back together but it still has yet to fill in the 2 inches of gap. I am pretty sure even some of the bone is still visible. Ouch. After attending the patients I played some Ecua volley against the locals with the doc and the mobile unit driver and needlessly to say we dominated 😛 I then invited one of the parents of the Gulag Bajo kids for a beer, chatted with him for a while then made it back to Gualleturo in time to make dinner. After dinner my stomach was a-rumbling. Can’t be good. I slept very little and made trips to the bathroom every 30 minutes to an hour during the late night hours.
Thursday (Today): Awakened out of my not-so-resting ‘sleep’, I decided to read a good portion of Steinbeck’s East of Eden before I showered and attempted to eat breakfast with the medical brigade. Wasn’t hungry in the slightest… especially after finding a pinky-length, skinny, white worm shoot out of where it had no business being…I Called the Peace Corps Medical Office and remembered that they are ALL in the USofA for a conference. A replacement doctor called me shortly thereafter and prescribed me a treatment and all I could do was wait to leave site on Friday to travel to the nearest pharmacy which is about 2.5 hours away in bus. My stomach is so bloated I look like a mal-nourished child. I generally hike to Gulag Bajo on Thursdays to teach but since I was there yesterday I made up my Wednesday Lun day after I finished up my last 2 classes in Lavadel. I now lay in my health center bed writing this little article and am thinking of the sweet, sweet medicines that destroy my intestines but at the same time kill the worm-like parasites. Tomorrow is going to be good. I plan on planting a seed bank in the health center with the school children of Gualleturo, then directly after heading out with the teacher from Chiglidel to see his home in the Province of Cotopaxi, which is the home of a great mountain and excellent organic strawberries. Perhaps we will camp under the grandeur of the mountain and go fishing. Only time will tell what fate has in store for me.
Just wanted to let you all know that I am and everything is fine here in Ecuador. I only wish the water supplies weren’t so contaminated. Other than that I am foot-loose, fancy-free and full of jubilee.
P.S. I will be in the states in under a month now! Very, very excited.
Until next time,
With much love from the misty mountains of Ecuador,
Mitchell ‘Andariego’ Adams