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?

7/05/2006

Finally settling down

Now you've gotten a few recent photos to look at and you know I haven't been erased from the planet.  You know a little of the things I've been keeping busy with, but you don't know exactly what's up with things on the ground here.  Since it seems to be taking forever once again to upload the latest photos, I'm going to spend some time and try to give you some news and some personal perspective about life here in Ecuador from my point of view at least.
 
The news:
As you know by now, I swore in as a volunteer not too long ago and am now down south in my site where I'm expected (and delighted) to spend the majority of the next two years at least.  I've been living in a spare room in the house of one of my counterparts (Ecuadorians who live in the sites and are usually the ones who request a volunteer in the first place).  In this case, I have been living with the head of the municipal tourism office along with her husband and 13 year old son.  They're really great people, but a couple of weeks with a family when you're used to being very independent is a taxing experience.  Living with the training host family wasn't too bad because my Spanish was still crap (and continues to be in some respect) and because I had mentally resigned myself to living in a state of being babied and coddled by the Peace Corps training experience as many people I'd spoken with had said would be the case.  I said goodbye to my independence and said hello to rigid schedules, planned activities, and having someone else cook for me basically 100% of the time.  It was fine.  The mom was a good cook, especially with the ubiquitous Andean soups, and if they knew how do make anything well it was fresh-cut french fries.  Mmmmmm, good stuff. 
 
But this time with a family things were different.  I'm a fully fledged volunteer now, my wings are decked out in their adult feathers and most remnants of my hatchling fuzz are long gone.  I'm ready to get out of the nest dammit, but once again I found myself entrapped by circumstance.  Soon after I got here I located an apartment that really agreed with me.  Only problem was that before I could move in it needed to meet Peace Corps official safety standards, which are a bit more than the average Ecuadorian has.  Stuff like burglar bars over all windows (even those three stories up, in my case), a main entrance exit plus and emergency one (for me, the roof counts as one), private bathroom, locks on all inside bedroom doors, deadbolts on the main entrance, bug mesh in all ventilation areas, etc.  Stuff that makes sense of course, but that also takes time to install.  So after making arrangements with the property owner, the main thing to do was to wait around for things to get done.  And at the PC staging event they told us that patience would be the greatest asset we could have along with us as volunteers.  But I don't like being patient when it's someone ELSE I'm waiting for to get off their arse and do something.  So almost two weeks after getting here I've finally got the keys to my place, all the light bulbs have been installed, and the slick new burglar bars are in place.  I just have to fill the space up with stuff and make it my own, and I started that process just a couple of days ago.  First came the chairs and table, in luxurious molded plastic.  They're totally estrechas (tight).  Then a few trashcans, because the cleaning process will leave me with some waste to put somewhere.  Last night I went to a neighboring larger city and got a bed, mattress (queen sized booyah), a toaster oven, a blender (for making wicked fresh juices with all the fruit that seems to be just coming out of peoples' ears here), an oscillating fan for blowing away those steamy equatorial midday blues, a set of flatware, and a pillow.  Today I got some trash bags, cleaning/disinfectant stuff, toilet brush, sponges (side note: Spongebob is really big here, but he's called "Bod Esponja"), a set of sheets,  a shower curtain, and a STEREO.  w00t!  This is Latin America my friends, and music is really really important here.  On the menu for tomorrow is a small fridge, a four burner gas stove and can tank, a set of pots, frying pan, and maybe a broom if I can't find one for sale on my way home tonight.  After spending tonight in my new place I'll have a better idea of whether or not I'll have to hurry to install bug mesh or not.  At least I have a mesh head net in case things get too hairy to handle.
 
So once I get things all flashed out here in my castillo, as my counterparts are calling it (it's the entire third level and roof/terrace of a building in which there's just a business, no one else living there but me ... hence it's my castle), what will I be doing?  The exact plan as of now is still on the fuzzy side, but here's a short list of the things I've been discussing with people:   I might be working in the municipio's new plant nursery, currently under construction, helping to reforest green spaces in the city and outlying areas damaged  by half a millennium of gold mining. (They told me they want to have ten thousand plants by the end of the year.  Damn, better get hopping.)  I might be able to improve the sanitation and solid waste management of my site.  Right now they just collect the trash and then drive it down to the river and toss it all in.  The river goes to Peru where the people there can't do much about it.  Pretty sad really, but at least the city recognizes this as a problem and wants help fixing it.  I could work with kids in some of the local schools to form small ecology clubs and teach them about the environment and the importance of maintaining and protecting it, and of course take them on hikes and camping trips and all the fun stuff.  I might work with the tourism office improving their general presentation and working to help make their promotional materials more professional and in more languages than just Spanish i.e. English as well.  In a similar capacity, I could work with the local guide group, helping teach them some basic English so they could be more attractive to people who don't speak Spanish.  I could develop interpretive materials in Spanish and English for them to use on their tours and excursions as well.  I might also do some work with coffee producers in the area and help improve their packaging/presentation/quality control so they can ask a better price for their product.  And if I haven't said it enough already, it is quite a nice product . . . when I have a stove to heat up some water I will be enjoying the coffee every morning methinks.
 
So yeah, that's what's generally up this week.  Just getting things settled in the new place, lots of cleaning and decorating and purchasing to do to fix up the castle for human habitation.  When I have more time I'll write more about the little strange differences and quirks of Ecuador as I see them.  Right now I gotta drag my stereo home before the rain starts again.  Ciao.

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