"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, March 30, 2012

A long overdue update

Well hello, it´s been a while hasn´t it? I´ve been prodded by people to return to the blogging world and update this thing. I´m sorry I´ve neglected it.

First, I´d like to share a video of footage on a not-so-recent climb up the central peak of Rumiñahui in February:

Life in the campo of Ecuador has been up and down but I´m still at it, trying different approaches until things work. I´m focused on one project right now, my Brigada Verde, or the eco-club. One day I went to the school and handed out little slips of paper that were invites to come to the school at 2 p.m. on Sunday for the first (really not the first, but the NEW first) meeting of Brigada Verde. I brought some recycled crafts to show the kids and they went crazy over them. So with all the enthusiasm, I thought I had finally done it and finally had an established project with participation.

I prepare diligently and even bought my own little whiteboard for Sunday (by the way, this was last Sunday). I wrote out some ideas and thought of what I´d say. I was ready to go when Sunday rolled around, and I strolled to the school early to meet the kids. Only... there were none. I looked longingly up and down the street for kids to crest the hill en masse but none came. Then suddenly a girl jumped me from behind - aha, she and her friend were here for the club! We waited, then one girl ran off to apparently find more kids, and the other surprised me by turning on the air raid siren to attract more kids. Then suddenly there were five kids. Then 7. Then 9. The school director didn´t show up to open a room for us so we crouched on the church bench and tried to start, but it was distracting and the kids wouldn´t concentrate (they just want to play). So we packed up and went to the Casa Comunal, the communal meetinghouse. We knew it was locked but we risked it...and it was locked. So we commenced on the steps, only now we picked up more kids, a total of 19! Being a large, squirrelly group, I resorted to the goldmine and handed out membership cards for them to sign and color. It worked like a charm. So - ART is the key to these childrens´hearts.

An intimidating storm approached from the west (that´s backwards for the prevailing winds in my valley) and began thundering and dumping us with copious amounts of rain, so we broke up for the day. On Monday I met my host Maria in Riobamba and we found a place to laminate the cards. It was more expensive than I thought ($6 for 20! yikes) but they look good. I brought them to school on Wednesday to show the kids and told them they had to go to next Sunday´s meeting to get them. More kids asked if they could have their own cards. I think once this club gets established (perhaps, I mean to say, lures kids in with exciting crafts and activities), I won´t have to worry about attendance and kids not showing up.

I´m also working on designs for bread ovens that some people would like to construct. I had to switch mentality from the New Mexican adobe design (made of clay and sand) to a brick and cement-only design. I have plenty of materials now and hopefully the people that were interested are still interested.

In a couple weeks, Maria and I will be taking a journey to Quito for the baños secos (dry toilets) workshop. She seems very excited, and so am I - not just to learn about how to deal with poop, but for her to see some more of Peace Corps life. After that, I think I´ll be climbing Cotopaxi again (attempt 2) with another PCV. Super excited. If not then, then after midservice the first week of May.

And let´s see...what else...oh! I got a very interesting flyer from my grocery store that announced two places in Riobamba (and others in Latacunga and Ambato) are taking plastic number 2 bottles for recycling, and paying 2 cents for each. I really badly want to get my community into a recycling program - maybe as simple as setting out some containers in the Casa Comunal, telling people to deposit their bottles in them, and having volunteers accompany the cache to Riobamba on buses friendly to the cause. The money can go to the community, so 1) no more burning plastic bottles or tossing them in the river, and 2) money!

Ok, enough of work.

For fun, I´ve been following Maria around. Only lately she´s in a fishing mood, so we´ve been going to some really pretty spots. Being vegetarian, I have zero interest in fishing but I still find going out fun. One particularly beautiful day (until it hailed peas) we grazed a slope´s mora (like blackberry) bushes for their sweets. Most were picked over, but Maria underestimated my intense desire to collect berries. It must be a vegetarian thing - all that energy not fishing or hunting diverted to plants. So I threw myself into the bushes and got the extra juicy, sun-ripened berries high on top of the plant out of reach of normal people. Doing this, we filled a milk can with them and I ended up quite cut up and itchy. TOTALLY worth it though for a couple cups of juice. These are my hands, bloodied or juicy, sort of both:

On Tuesday, we got up super early (Maria at 3 a.m., me at 4 a.m.) and trudged up the hill with the local cheese maker Jose and delinquent neighborkid Rebeka. It began raining when we started, making the way muddy. But on we went, determined. I love hiking in darkness and really enjoyed every step. When the sun began subtly illuminating the valley, the mountains backlit so lightly, I got a real feeling of how immense they are and how delicate a perch my site has in them. We stopped so the group could dig up worms, then continued directly up to meet a trail that we followed to a small stream. My reaction was, ¨This is IT?¨ It was tiny. And they wanted to pluck large trout from it? Huh. But sure enough, Maria caught one and it was bigger than I´ve seen - about a foot long. We continued following up the stream but it was very, very difficult going. It was a narrow, incised stream covered on both sides by soft moss and thick plants. Some places were so sketch that if you slipped off the moss, you´d fall 15 feet into a pool, unable to climb back up the waterfall or down below - you would be truly stuck without a rope, and in very cold water.

Rebeka and I foolishly continued following Jose along the stream while Maria climbed out the other side. Eventually we met up but it was ridiculously hard. We kept following the stream and I wondered where it actually went - I thought we were near the crest of the mountains. Oh, how I was wrong. We entered one large basin and saw the stream far in the distance cascading over rocks. And at that cascade, we climbed up into another basin. It was here that we ran out of fish and the group switched to hunting rabbits. They had zero success so we packed it up and hiked on home.

Hmm... what else?

The weather has been unbelievably nice lately. Sort of warmish, sometimes sunny, nothing like the past year I´ve spent in the Andes. Very pleasant and doable. In fact, last night I recorded the warmest temperature EVER in my room: 71 degrees. Usually it´s in the 50s.

Finally, my kitten is a giant cat, and I she always looks happy even when she´s not:

Until next time! I promise to update more. Maybe once a week at most.