The holiday season was great and full of friendly faces.  I had a wonderful time relaxing in Costa Rica with my parents and grandparents.  I felt so spoiled to eat so much wonderful food and have my parents all to myself.  It was also great not to feel like such a weirdo all the time.  Then Jason came for Christmas, and we had a blast exploring the jungle and sleeping on the each.  Ultimately,  Abigail cammeee!!!!!  As always we made some of the most tranquilo situation the most exciting.  Fortunately we got to practice a lot of dancing and cooking.  I think it was great that she was the first person to visit my actual community to see how others would react.

 

In the past three months, I have really become accustomed to living in my community here in Ecuador.  I no longer feel so strange or weird, I feel like this is my life and I’m extremely lucky.  I live in a beautiful place and have the best job I could ever ask for.  People have stopped being so distrustful of me.  Needless to say, it has only taken eight months.

 

As for projects, I feel ask if I have a lot on the go.  In October I started working at an agricultural technical high school.  I help with English classes, in agricultural practicums, and on Saturday’s I supervise around 120 students in environmental education.  Working with the students has been an extremely educational experience for all of us.  Most of all, I continue to learn not to sweat the small stuff and to always intend on keeping my calm nature.  Also, I have begun a garden and some compost.  I am working on the applications for various projects with three different community organizations.  Hopefully this week, I will start my relationship with the women’s group in my community.  Overall, I feel there is not enough to time to rest; there is always something more to do.

 

This week, I had an interesting experience with culture shock.  A group of about forty Americans came to provide medical services to a few nearby communities.  After being notified by a neighboring volunteer, I decided to help translate for a while.  To be honest, I do not miss the United States that much.  Yes sometimes I miss being able to go to Walmart and find everything you need in one place at a cheap price, but hey whatever life is more relaxed here.  Anyway upon sitting down to lunch, I started going crazy…everyone had blue eyes!  So many blue eyes!  I couldn’t stop staring.  I never realized how weird it would be to see something so different again.  However, this experience did give me a greater appreciation as to why sometimes people just can’t stop staring at me in a completely creepy way.

 

Much love to my parents, Jason, and Abby for all of their support this past month.

So in the spirit of season and to work on some other goals in Peace Corps, I decided to teach one of my English classes about Halloween.  To preface, basically this English class never does anything, sometimes six kids will show up or sometimes none.  However, I am determined not to let them go yet.  Last Friday, I told them all to bring a sambo and a knife to carve it like the pumpkins I showed them.  I did not think they were that excited, but apparently I was wrong.  About fifteen kids showed up ready to carve!!!! I was so proud of them for actually getting interested in an activity.  The pictures are kind of blurry because there was a lot of sun and I only had my computer to take photos but check it out.

 

 

Oh yes point of reference—sambos are big green vegetables that grow like pumpkins.  Here where I live I noticed they basically only use sambos to feed the pigs.  While I was in training, I ate sambo in soup.

Thursday and Friday were supposed to be such nice peaceful days; however, as we can never predict life, they were action packed.

Thursday I was in a seminar to learn about organic certification for farmers with four other volunteers and some staff. I was so excited to be in an academic setting again and have some stimulating conversations. Midway through the morning, I received a call from the Peace Corps (PC) office to say that the national police were on strike. The office was checking to make sure everyone was safe and find out our locations. As the morning dragged on, it was impossible to concentrate because all we could think about was what was going on in the outside world. Even the director of the conference went on stage to announce what was going on and that anyone could lave if they thought it was necessary, but the conference would go on. Everyone was basically on their cell phones the entire morning until lunch. We had an uneventful lunch with a lot of that stimulating conversation I was waiting from. Immediately after we were told, ok we are leaving the conference, you are going straight to a hostel. From what I understand the police were starting to shut down the roads, and the situation was starting to get a lot more serious the later in the day it got.

So we arrived at the hostel with only the clothes on our back and were told to wait until the morning to hear anything more. On the way to the hostel around 2:30pm everything was closed, even the malls. As well, there were very few people out, it was then I started to realize the gravity of the situation. We were not allowed to leave for anything so the hostel workers were so helpful to bring anything that we might need…..it reminded me of preparing for snowstorms. Basically the news has pretty well covered what went on at night. However, we could hear gunshots from our hostel and were told to stay inside. There were a few demonstrators we saw on the street. The crazy part was watching the rescue operation on television knowing the location was about 1km away. I was never really worried, PC keeps us SUPER safe. In the morning, we were all called in and briefed on the situation. I had to stay in Quito because my foreign service exam was yesterday, Tuesday. Needless to say, that went pretty smoothly and the embassy was beautiful. We will see if I can pass again, I am not getting to worked up.

I am starting English classes again today. I gave the kids a break to get started again with school. As well, I have been pretty busy this past month with conferences and everything else. I have a strong feeling I am going to have little participation. The kids and their parents feel that when they are in school they do not need to do anything else. They barely get any homework and they only go to school from 8am-12pm, with a recess. English is a required class, everyone just kind of ignores that. It really frusterates me because imagine kids in the United States and how many extra curricular activities they have, but whatever I am not in the US. I will just patiently continue trying.

The dry weather is killing all hopes of getting stuff planted. For anyone who does not believe in global warming, I would love their explanation of what in the world is happening here with seasons. Basically when it is raining it is winter, and when it is not raining it is summer. In the past, it rained July, August, January, and February in my community. Now we have no idea. One week is summer the next day it is winter. This is making it pretty hard to plant a garden or plant trees. There is a huge water crisis in my community and it is impossible that I could possibly use the little water we have for irrigation.

On Kennedy-she is getting fixed next week…I hope. I do not think she will be very happy. Lately she has been enjoying playing with guinea pig manure and chasing the chicken out of our garbage bin. A chicken has been laying eggs in my garbage bin. I told my landlord about it and he said I could have the eggs. However, the chicken is trying to make a nest there to hatch her baby eggs, so Kennedy has to be the boss and chase her away. Quite an exciting life we lead here. I am pretty sure everyone in my community thinks I am crazy about my dog….o well! O ya and I finally have internet!!!!!!! 2000mb per month…I have no idea what that means, but it is fantastic.

I wish I could have made the last word rhyme, but I think I may have lost the skills I perfected during 12th grade AP Calculus (Nickie D. you know what I’m talking about). Trees, latrines, and immigrants can basically sum up the mountains of ideas that are spinning around in my head constantly.

Trees. To my luck I received over three hundred more fruit trees. I can say that whenever I finish Peace Corps I will probably never want to hear about black cherries again. To be honest, I am really happy about all of the reforestation projects I will hopefully be able to do in the community. It may take a while to realize but it will really benefit everyone. Begging for the trees and arranging for there pick-up really has been taking up a great deal of my time. I can’t let people forget that they promise me. Usually I have a conversation with one of the engineers and he will tell me randomly that he will have three hundred black cherry trees ready on September 15. At this point I have to remember and keep calling him so he does not give the trees to someone else. I’m glad I learned how to stay on task.

Latrines! So I got this great email that Builders Beyond Borders is coming to Ecuador. Builders Beyond Borders brings high school students to do service projects like building latrines during their breaks. I sent an email to the director and she came two weeks ago to visit my community. The whole community is so excited about this prospect. They have already started pulling together to fix-up a one of the buildings the kids would use if they come. THis is a huge responsibility for me and the community, but I really hope we get approved. I know these kids would have an amazing experience, seeing everything that is real about living in the mountains of Ecuador.

Finally Immigrants. I’ll keep this one short and try not to be too political. I used to feel a lot differently about illegal immigrants in the United States before coming to Ecuador. I want to say that the recent deaths in Mexico are really making the news too. The province where I live is a hot spot for sending young men and women to the United States. In fact, you will find it very difficult to find anyone from the age of 18-45 in the five communities I am working in. I wish I was a documentary film maker honestly. Every week I meet a new person who has come back from the United States. Most have really nice cars, at least one huge beautiful house, and their family just waited for them. I have only met one man who speaks English, the rest just got by. All of them paid coyotes anywhere from 12,000-15,000 dollars. Really the whole story must be amazing to see how they decide to leave a wife and kids for at least seven years, how they survive in the United States while sending back money, and how is it to adjust when they get back. How does an illegal immigrant leave the United States? Just hop on a plane? I would imagine someone has already made a movie or written a book about this….I’d love to watch or read if anyone knows of something that is really worthwhile.

As always hugs and kisses. Packages or in-person visits are highly encouraged.

To begin, relating to my post title-it is raining all the time. Remember those days in Carlisle in between Winter and Spring when you couldn’t tell if it was going to snow, but it just kept raining and raining. That is basically my life right now. It will not stop raining and it is freezing. I can say it doesn’t do too much for my usually chipper attitude.

However, I have great news! I am living alone. My host family was probably the best people I have ever encountered traveling, without them I seriously don’t think I could handle all of the daily stresses. Although, I really like my privacy and making my own meals when I want to eat them. I moved into an amazing house in a neighboring community. I no longer wake-up with twenty flea bites to put on my huge rubber boots, nor do I have to climb an hour up a mountain to get to my house. Not to rub it in, but I have a lukewarm shower! In addition to this great news, I got a dog!!!! Kennedy Belle Megargell is a cocker spaniel weighing in at five pounds and three months old. She is probably one of the best new additions to my life. We are like peas in a pod. She does like chasing chickens and jumping in mud puddles. We are learning a lot together.

I can say Kennedy’s least favorite thing about her life are English classes. Yes, I gave in and am teaching English. It’s nice to have something to do whenever I want something to do. To be honest, the kids are pretty fun too. I really like playing soccer with them everyday and they are teaching me a lot about patience. Teaching is pretty cool too when they actually learn something. I’m hoping I’ll be able to turn my class into an environmental club in order to achieve some other goals.

Right now it’s basically impossible for me to do much agricultural related things such as planting a garden or starting an organic fertilizer with all the rain. I am taking this time to get organized aka asking in-country institutions for money and project planning. As well, this has been a great time to plan my secondary projects. The one project I really want to see succeed in my community is sexual education. There are just so many un-wanted and un-planned pregnancies it’s ridiculous. Hopefully something good will come out of this.

Ok, only four months until I get to see my parents, grandparents, aunt beth, and great cousins…can’t lie I’m pretty excited. Also, I want to take this opportunity to send a special thanks to Alli for the cd (keep them coming everyone!), Nickie the postcard (love it), Abby (everything you always send me), and Jason the birthday card. It was so nice for everyone to send me stuff around my birthday, I loved it all. I’m also working on putting up all your letters and everything on my wall. I really appreciate everything you send and it’s filling up my empty house.

Love to all! Come visit me!

When I arrived in my community two short months ago, my community was very interested in starting a variety of reforestation projects.  Recently the community built a new road to reach a piece of land where they will be building houses for all the single mothers in the community.  Being the that dirt was fresh and soft, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to start planting.  A member of my community and I managed to receive over six hundred fruit trees for free to plant along the new road and hand out to the students.  To my grand surprise, the parents of the children in school and the kids really came together and got everything planted within an hour and a half.  When people in the community work together on a project like that it is generally called a minga (reference my blog post title).


In other news, I am scabies free but still dealing with the fleas.  Hopefully in August this will no longer  be a problem because I should be able to change my housing.  I am waiting with great anticipation.

It has been a while since I last updated everyone, but to tell you the truth nothing epic has happened.

Work is progressing rapidly. I have already interviewed over fifty families in my community as to what needs they may have. In doing these interviews I have been working with a local doctor who is turning out to be a great counterpart for my work in the community.

Life with my host family only gets better and better. I really feel like I have a younger brother. He is constantly worried about me and playing jokes with me. When ever I may feel even a little frusterated he is there to lighten the mood. Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming how much everyone is concerned for my well-being, however I know it is all for the best.

I continue to get ill frequently, but I am learning to deal with it. To tell you the truth it does not get me down too much. The fleas are a little annoying and it grosses me out to think about them. However, for now there is nohting I can really do and I am learning to make a joke out of them.

The weather continues to be extremely rainy and cold. The mud is really intense when trying to trek up and down the mountain…very slippery. I am happy to have years of practice walking on ice in Pennsylvania.

Everything else is going smoothly. I am happy to be getting into a routine at my site and I am absolutely loving my work. I feel like I am accomplishing a ton in a short amount of time. I try to just take life day by day. Oh ya if anyone wants to send me anything I was thinking a mix cd of awesome music would be elegant!

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