It's the name of my new home for the next two years. And again, it's exactly what I thought I wanted.
First I was assigned to Ecuador, my top choice in countries...and now I've been assigned this site, the exact location, the exact pin on the map that I told the NRC director I'd like to live. It's eerie. Again, how does this happen?
This morning the facilitators led us to the field in the back of the training center where they drew out a map of Ecuador and its provinces using rose petals, and after they all lined up along a path leading to the map, calling our names one by one and led us (often skipping) to our new provincial homes. None of the locations were familiar to me, and when mine - Alao Llactapamba - came up, I only knew it sounded extra exotic, and maybe indigenous? And then 'Chimborazo' was said. The PCVL led me to Chimborazo province, which is to say south central Ecuador on the border between the Sierra and the Oriente. I tried to remember where Sangay volcano is - it had to be near there right??
When the ceremony was over, I beelined for the map on the PCVL wall. There it is, Alao, just around the corner from Sangay Volcano. The closest site to Sangay, THE site I pointed out to the NRC director. Alao Llactapamba is a small village of 500 people located 3100 meters (over 10,100 feet) high in the mountains. It's cold, I've been told. If you want to see it on google maps, search for 'Alao, Ecuador'.
Of course, though, these sites are chosen based on our skill sets and interests. So my jobs may or may not include developing environmental education programs with school teachers, helping organize eco-clubs, start an organic orchard, help train ecotourism guides, etc. Apparently I'll be learning a little bit of Kichwa to gain trust, though the population speaks Spanish.
One of the first things we had to do to start this journey was call our future host family and our counterparts. My host mother, the matriarch of the community, didn't answer, but one of my counterparts did...or his wife did, I think. Speaking Spanish by phone is a difficult thing to do for fledgling speakers like myself, so I was dreading the task. But I think I handled it perfectly fine - I understood him, and talked, and didn't stumble at all. No awkward 'no entiendo's. All's well, I hope.
I should be packing, and really I ought to be in bed. But like any trip, I can't sleep. Tomorrow morning, around 6:45 a.m., I meet up with another trainee and a facilitator to travel part way to our sites. After that, we depart alone, mine being a six-something hour bus ride. I'll be staying with my host family, exploring the community and it's desires and needs, and returning in a week
So...until next week...