"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, July 8, 2011


1. Went to the other side of the river to meet the teachers and students. Totally different welcome there. No handshakes, kisses on cheeks, no smiles, no introductions. Nothing.

2. At a parent-teacher meeting for the end of the school year, my teacher friend helped me announce to the group the formation of an 'eco-club' if they're interested. It received an enthusiastic 'yes' all around, and another teacher has volunteered to lead the group. Also, she slid in the suggestion of me leading a English class for kids entering the colegio (high school). That was even more well-received.

3. I started reading my first book in Spanish (White Fang, or Colmillo Blanco). A neighbor girl saw me reading it and said she loves stories and asked if she could look through it. Hmm. I said maybe we could start a community library, and her eyes lit up and, smiling, said "Yes!!" The next day she told me her friends wanted one too, and another girl walking by said her grandmother loves the idea. So...we'll be figuring that one out soon!

4. I'm pretty ok at knitting socks. The word has spread, and now people are coming up to me with their hands together as if in prayer, begging me to knit them a pair. Some have even offered to buy them from me, but for a few reasons (number one being that we're not allowed to make money while serving), I had to turn that down. But! Trading is fair game. I asked one woman if she could teach me how to 'hilar', or spin wool, in return for a pair of my knit socks - she said "Of course!" It's one of the many Andean skills I would love to take with me.

5. Another skill I'm hoping to learn is how to play the quena, the vertical pre-hispanic flute of the Andes. It's a gorgeous, haunting flute that I sort of know how to play, but I may be taking formal lessons each Saturday to learn it properly.

6. Started my garden...again. A couple weeks after I first got here, the school had a small minga for clearing land plots to garden. The director gave me a small plot to plant my seeds from the Peace Corps seed bank. Unfortunately, only some of the pea plants grew and none of the onions or chives ever made an appearance (it might have something to do with the fact that the seeds were years old). Also, the pea plants are growing at a snail's pace. Two months later, and they're still just five inches high at most. Does it have something to do with the altitude and cold? Anyway, the other day I decided to find a pair of gloves and buy a bunch of fresh seeds in Riobamba. I had to clear a considerably large stretch of dirt that was completely overtaken by ortiga, or stinging nettle, then build up neat rows, and plant carrot, radish, cabbage, and beet seeds. Here's hoping something grows!

7. I spent my first night out of site and accidentally encountered two major fiestas! Went to Alausi where they were having an enormous festival for San Pedro, and hopped on one of the world's train engineering marvels to see La Nariz del Diablo. Got back in time to catch a bus back to Riobamba, but not in time for a bus back to my site so I had to stay the night. They, too, were having a festival in honor of the Chimborazo province anniversary founding. Not only did they have vaca loca (a person with a fireball-shooting cardboard cow carried on top, dancing and charging people around it as it showers sparks over them), they had impressive fireworks and one of those scaffolds they love to light on fire that also, of course, shoots out sparks and fireworks. Being the night of the 3 of July, I think I got a taste of home for the 4th!

8. Moo knows how to escape AND get back into the cage... this last part is still a mystery to me and you'll understand why if you've seen the pictures of her elevated, top-opened cage. She also learned how to jump up and on the bed to annoy me for carrots. And if I don't wake up before 7 a.m., it's fair game for her to start rattling the cage door as loudly as possible to get me going. Also, she's more or less litter trained!! Yea!! Happy one month 'versary with a rabbit.

9. I talk a lot about the cold, but it's even colder now. My host just said to me as she muttered the traditional 'Ahchachay!' - "It's going to get colder. But you shouldn't be afraid. You have to be strong. The cold will make you stronger." Shiver. I keep reminding myself over and over, especially walking back from the school just a short distance away as wind pummelled icy droplets of rain in my face: Mongolian volunteers have it worse. That sort of makes it better.

10. My host got more chickens! And as is her usual bad luck with them, the rooster escaped the day she got him, before I even got to see him. But the hen stayed, and so far her 10 little pollitos (bitty chickens) are alive and well. I think I amuse my host because I'm so fascinated with usually mundane farm animals. Oh WOW a piglet! I have to pet it! Whoa, a llama! Those chicks are so CUTE!

11. I haggled for three things fairly successfully (in my opinion, but my host would say I was robbed for being a gringa) at the market in Riobamba: a sweet black and white wool shoulder bag that's perfect for books that I've wanted a while, a dark green velvet sheet that lower elevation Quichua women would use as a skirt, and a beautiful black and white hand woven belt to tie it up (the artisan said he can make four a day...and I bought one for $5). Now, to wear the skirt...it's pretty cool but the thought of wearing something that could so easily fall off is semi-frightening.

12. Finally: Cotopaxi, early September. YES.


  1. Sounds like life has been treating you well recently! I'm so glad. I love your stories. I've been knitting socks too! I really want to buy some nice sock yarn but I have so much 4-ply yarn it seems silly.

  2. Thanks to you I think I really like knitting! I´m about to finish my very first sweater. Far from perfect, but it´s exciting!