Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Week in Cuenca

So this week has been sleeping in, walking up and down cobbled streets, cooking for myself for the first time in two months, and generally getting settled in. I do have the same feeling like I sometimes have on vacation, where although I am in a new and interesting place, I still have the feeling that a thousand things are going on under the surface that I can´t see or detect by virtue of being an outsider, the difference being that I plan on sticking around for awhile, so hopefully that feeling will abate.

Tonight my friend Paul and I were walking down the street when we smelled this wonderful smell, and we were both so overwhelmed by it we stopped to figure out where it was coming from. It smelled like how your house should smell on Christmas morning, or the best raisin bread you have ever eaten. In front of a little tienda, there was this huge pot of bubbling, caramel colored fruit, and we asked the woman in the shop what it was. Was it bread we said, and she threw over her shoulder one word - higas or figs. Because we continued to stand there and look longingly at the pot, she came over and offered us one and we agreed it was the most delicious thing we had ever had.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


The week before I left Cayambe, my friend Marcela asked me for ideas for her husband who is in a big city in the U.S. working. He was working rather, he got laid off from his job in construction, owes lots of money to the people that got him to the states, and was generally feeling despair about having left his family in Ecuador. She was hoping I could help him in some way and I do not know for sure what she had in mind, but about the only thing I could think of was to get her some information on organizations that work with immigrants. It took me a couple weeks, but once I got to Cuenca I pulled up the National Council of La Raza site and found two affliates in the city where her husband is working with job placement services. She seemed pleased to have phone numbers to give to him, but we will have to see if they can get him some connections to work.

Marcela is 23 and has two beautiful kids who are five and one. I met her when my language group attended a nursery school graduation in Cayambe. She came to the little practice charla that we had and she consented to let me do an interview with her that I had to do as part of my pc training. From there we became friends and when my host mom in Cayambe suggested I invite some of my classmates over for a farewell dinner, I asked if I could invite Marcela too. It might have been a social class thing or some proprietary feeling about their gringa, but my host mom did not want to invite some Ecuadorian girl to dinner. I had to explain three times who Marcela was, where I met her, and why I wanted to have a chance to say goodbye to her. I took a little gamble, because Ecuadorian hospitality is sacred, and I figured that once Marcela and her son were in the house, my host mom would make them feel as welcome as everyone else, and that was they way it worked out. Her parents live near Cuenca so hopefully I will get an opportunity to see them again at Christmas.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Madame Ambassador and Two Funny Boys in Tuxedos

It has been pointed out to me that I mentioned a ceremony connected with me becoming a Peace Corps volunteer, but that I did not elaborate upon it or verify that it happened. As it did in fact come to pass, a fine photo of our group and a little press release about us is available here (I am at the top but you can not really see me.) The white tuxedos and handle bars mustaches on the front did not make the write up, but I assure you it was very exciting.

Only a little bit late

Now, courtesy of my good pal Ashley and her digital camera, some fotos de Ecuador. On the left is Cayambe, the volcanoe and on the right is the catherdral in Cayambe.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Gringoland, Ecuador

I´m sitting the Mariscal in Quito looking out at the brightly colored bars and restaurants that make up the tourist district here. It´s raining here and I feel pleasantly ensconsed in with a comfy chair and a cup of brewed coffee, listening to Beyonce. This weekend was devoted to eating a ridiculous amount of food we can´t get in other places in Ecuador. Tapas, argentinean steak, pancakes, and mexican food figured prominently. I also hung out with Jordan, of Pigeontoes fame and went to the best gay clubI have ever been to. People were super friendly and I had like four new best friends at the end of the night. Tonight I head down to Cuenca with my colleagues. Next week looks to be pretty chill because my organization is closed for summer vacation, so I will have sometime to adjust and explore.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


We are in our final week of activities in training in Quito, staying in Quito in the youth hostel, spending the day in meetings in the Peace Corps headquarters. It's exciting but we are all a little jittery and cranky from the transition, I think. Some of us are also hung over.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Still here

I am sorry that I have been delinquent in keeping up with what I have been doing and what happens now that I am done with training (!!!!) Let me say that one more time, cause that has a nice ring to it: I am sorry that I have been delinquent in keeping up with what I have been doing and what happens now that I am done with training. Yes, we swear in a week from tomorrow. Leading up to that, we have goodbye parties, some boring administrative stuff, and language assessments. It is very exciting and a little overwhelming and we are all sort of giddy and cranky at the same time.

Now here I should say that from moment to moment I alternate from adoring my beloved co-aspirantes here to throwing my eyes up to the sky with ill-disguised impatience with a thousand shortcomings. If I go too long without seeing someone from my group, I get kind of nostalgic and wonder who I can find to go have a beer with me. Then one of them will play New Kids on the Block or the Spice Girls, you know, to take the girls in the group back, and I will be rudely reminded of the fact that when I was moving into my first apartment, most of the people in my group had not yet entered puberty.

Last week though, I was in love with my training group and frankly in love with the Peace Corps Ecuador. On Thursday, we went to a town to the north of us called Mascarilla where the community, which is Afro-Ecuadorian, has started a project of mask making in order to foster cultural identity and create a small business opportunity for the artists. We helped the youth group do a mingha and pick up trash in the town. In the afternoon, we went to Ibarra, also to the north and hung out with the youth in the Cemoplaf affiliate there. (CEMOPLAF is like Planned Parenthood) We visited a big hacienda and saw cuy (guinean pigs raised to be eaten) and a field of tomatoes de arbol, tree tomatos, which are totally different from regular tomatoes. The teenagers did traditional dance that was typical of the area and made us dance with them. On Friday I went with a little subgroup to give talks in a shelter for teenage mothers, some of whom had been trafficked in the sex trade. That was both intimidating and chaotic, but good practice I figure. Saturday I spent with my family and then Sunday we took off again for Mindo, towards the coast, which is a good site for bird watching and has subtropical cloudforest. We stayed in a wooden house open to the forest, that was situated right next to a river. We did do some work while we were there, but lots of time was spent hiking and jumping off big rocks into swimming holes.

So, there is more coming soon, but that is what I have been busy with. So, there is not too much to complain about as you can see.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Cuenca is everything it promised to be and I´ve been pleasantly busy in the organization where I will be working. I wrote something in Spanish for them, which was reasonably well received. More detailed updates once I get up to Cayambe, but so far I am off to a good start!

Also a more substantive post in the works. As interesting as my cultural adjustment and stomach problems may be, I feel the need to get in to something more reflective.