"Every planet has its own weird customs. About a year before we met, I spent six weeks on a moon where the principal form of recreation was juggling geese. My hand to God. Baby geese - goslings! They were juggled."

Friday, January 1, 2010


This entry is a brief overview of my host country and what I'll be doing there as a member of Omnibus 105, the 105th group to arrive in Ecuador.

From Volunteer Work in Ecuador

Ecuador! Bordered by Peru and Colombia and situated on the Pacific Ocean, Ecuador is about the size of Colorado. For its size, the country is an ecologically diverse wonderland divided into four main zones: 1) the Galapagos Islands, 2) the coast (light yellow/tan), 3) the sierra (goldenrod), and 4) jungle/Amazon. Running north to south down the center of Ecuador is the Andes mountain chain spotted with some very active volcanoes.

What I'll be doing in Ecuador:
I'm in Environmental Education and Awareness which is part of the Natural Resources Conservation program. Major tasks will be:
  • Assess existing community knowledge of the local environment and socio-economic situation.
  • Identify and select local organizations, leaders, park guards, teachers, youth, and children that may be interested in participating in non-formal environmental education activities.
  • Identify and promote the formation of groups for non-formal environmental education activities.
  • Develop a plan and implement non-formal environmental education activities, including goals, objectives, activities, teaching materials, and evaluation tools.
Where we'll be during pre-service training:
Tumbaco, about 40 minutes east of Quito (red dot on the map above). During this time, each of us will be living with a host family.

What will pre-service training be like:
11 weeks of intensive language and technical training. I have a feeling I'll be posting a lot on that.

My job location:
Unknown until after pre-service training. While many Natural Resources Conservation volunteers are placed in rural communities, it could be in the Andean highlands, the Amazon Basin, the coastal lowlands, a city - who knows? Not me! Most sites have basic infrastructure (water, electricity) and bus transportation. Peace Corps has changed our baggage allowance from 80 pounds to 100 because some of us will be living in the cooler sierra. Like pre-service training, we have to live with a family in our community for at least three months.

Swearing in:
If we make it through training, we will swear in as official Peace Corps Volunteers at the Ambassador's Residence on 20 April 2011.

Other members of Omnibus 105:
Better than Middle Earth
Ecuador: La Sierra, Cuy, y Quichua
Ecuador: My Moveable Feast...
Heather's Life in a Different America!
Hokie Hokie Hokie... Hola!
Peace Corps Adventure
Peace Corps Strix
Sometimes in This Country
The Peace Corps Extravaganza

Packing list

Last updated: 1/11/2011
* denotes something I still need to get.

ELECTRONICS: ridiculous, I know. I blame photography.

-Nikon camera
-Nikon camera cards
-Nikon camera batteries (3)
-card reader
-Nikon camera battery charger
-rechargeable AA batteries + dock
-iPod charging cord
-laptop cord
-surge protector
-Exilim camera
-Exilim camera batteries (5)
-SD cards*(1/2)
-Exilim camera battery charger
-external hard drive + cord
-thumb drive
-alarm clock
-1 AAA battery*
-short ethernet cord
-SW radio?*


-U.S. stamps
-journals (2-3)
-daily planner

BATH: mostly extra things I already have and would rather not buy again.

-tea tree oil
-nail clippers
-medicinal wax*
-lip balm*
-soap bars
-super dry towel
-razor blades (3)
-elastic hairbands
-hair straightener


-sewing needles and thread
-knitting needles
-crochet needles

OUTDOORS: horray for being an outdoorswoman!

-large Osprey pack
-large bag #2*
-REI daypack
-water purification tablets
-sleeping bag
-sleeping pad
-cotton insert
-warm hat
-cool hat
-nalgene/metal bottles (2?)
-neck warmer
-overnight pack
-day pack
-hiking boots
-Chaco sandals
-crampons (if possible)
-ice ax (if possible)
-4 lithium AA batteries
-pocket knife
-camelbak reservoir (?)
-slacklining kit (if possible)

CLOTHING: still have to get a lot.

-long underwear
-black mtn. hardwear pants
-khaki mtn. hardwear pants
-mud mtn. hardwear pants
-short sleeved shirts
-long sleeved shirts
-business casual outfit
-business outfit
-bathing suit
-waterproof jacket (*?)
-heavy coat


-luggage locks*


-recipe book
-chile pepper*
-garam masala
-nutritional yeast
-matcha tea
-loose tea (sencha, white chocolate chai)


-Environmental Geology
-Living Off The Grid
-Viva Travel Guides Ecuador: Climbing and Hiking Guide
-Ecuador & Galapagos Insight Guide
-Big Red Book of Spanish Verbs
-Field Guide to Geology
-Medicine for Mountaineering
-Spanish Phrasebook
-Spanish dictionary (?)
-Spanish Among Amigos Phrasebook


-Staging information
-Backup copies of documents
-Loan deferment forms
-Immunization record


Early June 2010: Began online application.

Late June 2010: Application is complete.

7 July 2010: Second part of application arrives, including fingerprint chart.

15 July 2010: Got fingerprinted and mailed the application with USPS Priority.

21 July 2010: Phone interview.

27 July 2010: Recruiter called to asked more questions about Spanish-speaking background and vegetarianism/veganism. Emailed a standard vegetarianism form to me. I returned the form completed.

28 July 2010: Nominated for Central or South America in Protected Areas Management departing in January 2011.

30 July 2010: Medical kit mailed.

16 August 2010: Labwork tests completed in Healy, AK. Physical exam completed.

17 August 2010: Free dentist exam and xrays in Fairbanks, AK. Found problems but didn't have the time in the next four months to see me.

18 August 2010: Ophthalmologist exam in Fairbanks, AK.

19 August 2010: Returned to Healy, AK for evaluation of PPD injection.

23 August 2010: Second dentist visit for evaluation in Fairbanks, AK.

26 August 2010: First third of lab results arrive.

27 August 2010: Immunization records are finally released from Illinois to Alaska. Tetanus booster in Healy, AK.

30 August 2010: Second third of lab results arrive. Medical form is sent from Healy to Fairbanks for the overseeing physician to sign.

31 August 2010: Polio booster in Fairbanks, AK. Picked up completed medical form. Returned to dentist in Fairbanks to finish tooth repair.

1 September 2010: Final lab results arrive in Healy, AK. MAILED MEDICAL AND DENTAL FORMS IN (with confirmation).

11 September 2010: USPS notes the package was delivered to the D.C. address, but forwarded.

12 September 2010: Emailed medical representative to ask, she responds the next day reassuring me it takes a while and should be in this week.

20 September 2010: Emailed medical representative. She no longer works for the OMS. Emailed the new email address and called OMS. Got a reply back again saying it takes a while, but if nothing is updated by the end of the month I should contact them again.

22 September 2010: Arrival of medical application acknowledged; physical exam accepted, dental clearance obtained!

25 September 2010: Toolkit update at 3 a.m. - medical decision made! Wait for letter in the mail.

27 September 2010: Email from Agriculture/Environment desk congratulating me on medical clearance. Assessment and Placement Assistant emails me to ask for updated resume and experience that my recruiter said was needed. I respond with what he asked for and mentioned I was unaware she requested that; he responds back saying I was right and my file didn't actually require additional information. The medical clearance letter arrives in the mail!

1 October 2010: Emailed the Office of Placement an update to my resume.

4 October 2010: OP responds, tells me when I can check in next.

21 October 2010: Emailed OP again to check in. OP assistant emails right back assuring me all is going well. Later in the day my Placement Specialist emailed me to schedule time to talk, and I responded immediately. Minutes later, she requests I call because my phone isn't working (?!). 30-minute interview, followed by an invitation! Offered a choice between forestry in Sub-Saharan Africa and environmental education in South/Central America. I couldn't decide!

29 October 2010: Invitation to Ecuador arrives! Accepted the invitation!