Chronicles of the Wayward Moot

WELCOME TO THE MOOT, oh world-wanderers and word-whisperers. After two years of Peace Corps. After 2,200 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. What. Comes. Next?

14/03/2006

The Site Is No Longer a Mystery!!!!!!!!!

SO I found out this morning that I got my first site choice.  w00t!  The process was as follows:  There is a site fair during which the PC training specialists and facilitators discuss every site that is available for a volunteer to go and live and work in.... then we get two days to fill out a form that lets us basically choose our three top choices in no particular order (at least in theory...many people still managed to sneak in ways to give preference to one or two of their three sites), and then two days later - TODAY - we find out where we are assigned.  My three choices were:  Isla Isabela in the Galapagos for tourism development.  Cotacachi, in the northern Sierra, also a tourism focused site, but much colder and nearer to snow covered mountains and cool alpine lakes.  The third site is:  Well sorry I wont tell you exactly where Ill be for security reasons, but I will tell you the province so you can check an atlas and get the general idea....  I will be spending the next two years in El Oro province (The Gold) in the south of the country relatively close to the Peruvian border.  There is a long history of gold mining in the area and my site is an old mining town situated on the side of a steep mountain slope in a region surrounded by precipitous ridges and great views.  There are apparently no flat streets in the entire place, kind of like a mini San Francisco or something.  The town is known for its gorgeous century old wooden colonial architecture that is flashy and brightly painted.  In the surrounding hillsides are many abandoned and still-functiong gold mines and the accompanying environmental degredation like deforested and eroding slopes, mine tailings polluting some waterways, and the ever present danger of unsafe mine shafts and other hazards that I will no doubt explore to no end Indiana Jones style!  The site is at 1200 meters and is the ony Habitat Conservation site that is in the transitional biome between the steaming hot coastal region and the oh so chilly-at-times Sierra.  This means that climate-wise I can expect the best of both worlds, and plus I can take a bus down to the coast for a beach fix or up higher into the mountains for a snow fix.  There are several awesome national parks and protected areas within a few hours of the site so a weekend of backpacking among alpine lakes and luschious ochid-covered podocarps should be within my reach.  If I need a big city for something, I can hop a bus and make my way to Cuenca, the third largest city in the country.  Main industries in the area are cattle production (another environmental degredation issue to ponder), gold mining, and the fabrication of aguardiente, which is the local rotgut sugar cane alcohol!  They also have a lively coffee production sector which is self-proclaimed as the best in the whole world and part of my job could be to help them better market and distribute their products.

Ok so you have an idea of what the place is like, but what will I be DOING?  Primary activities are to assist in reforestation of urban areas and outlying micro watersheds.  (The local municipality is already building a greenhouse to assist in plant propagation)  There is help needed with solid waste management, so I will have the opportunity to get them started with a recycling program and conservation intiatives.  I will likely do some environmental education with local schools and ecological clubs, helping the next generation of Ecuadorians to better value their resources and take care of them in the future.  ALSO, part of the job will be to identify, develop, and promote local tourist attractions, both manmade and ecological, including developing interpretive materials for local guides to use.  That means that I can count visiting and exploring the local fun things to do as part of my work = ) It looks like I will get the chance to participate in trainings focusing on watershed management and conservation as well.  Weet.  There is a ton more to it of course but that is the basic gist.

Living conditions?  I get a choice of a couple of different apartments in the steep city on the mountainside.  From what I have been able to ascertain, there is seemingly a decent assortment of restaurants and internet access available in the site, so I will hopefully be able to keep everyone informed of the goings on in a relatively frequent manner and get more to eat than just the black crsut I can peel off the bottom of my pots after attempting to cook.  There seems to be a public swimming pool near the top of the mountain town with amazing views of the mountain panorama that surrounds the town.    I will most certainly be taking advantage of that local resource if it is available...    The long and the short of it is that while I will be in a somewhat urbanized area, it is FAAAR from Quito and the Peace Corps administrative infrastructure, and it is so close to Peru that it will feel like Im in a backwards frontier boomtown on the edge of nowhere....but with internet hopefully....and a swimming pool among the hilltops and colonial buildings.  And lots of places and people to investigate both in the site and in the surrounding mountains and valleys.

SOOOO, doesnt sound too bad right?  Therefore, yall who are the adventurous types can have good nighty nights sleeping and dreaming about your imminent visit to the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) and we can hang out in a gold mine or hike in a cloud forest or go to the beach or hop a bus to Peru or a plane to the Galapagos or whatever.

OKOK so you might be wanting a contemporary story to illustrate the craziness of life here.  Fine.  Yesterday I was collecting guinea pig shit from the little building to spread over a garden Im trying to build.  One of our three dogs snuck through the closed door behind my little brother and me and caught the scent of a cuy that had falled through the cage floor and was making his home on the ground.  A few seconds later, CHOMP.  Dead cuy.  Well, I picked the little bugger up and we went outside and after a quick discussion with my mom, it was decided that I was gonna eat cuy for dinner.  YAY!  So I observed firsthand the proper procedures for de-furring, gutting, cleaning, and roasting a guinea pig (photo documentation to follow one day soon).  Deeeeelish.

Peace yall.
-MJ

2 Comments:

Anonymous n.e.s. said...

to the contrary, mi amigo, the site IS still a mystery if you don't tell us where it is, no? well, keep it a secret from the riff-raff, if you will! luckily I get secret personal updates since I have a somewhat higher status than most riff-raff you know. ;)
---prettyfacehead

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Achim said...

Good news I would say. Sounds like a place that should be comfortable enough to be there for two years --- at least I'll keep my thumbs pressed.

And for this nicely put invitation. As I'm expecting a well paid job every minute now (mmmh), I'll might come back to this idea in a year or so. Would love to see that place, your description sounded great!

All the best for you!!!

8:00 AM  

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