"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."

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A mad dash across the country

I formed a plan for moving all my stuff plus my cat Misi and my rabbit Moo from point A (Alao Llactapamba, Chimborazo) to point B (Pucará, Imbabura).  It was complicated figuring it all out but in the end not a thing went wrong.

Step one:  Pack up all the stuff and bus it to a volunteer's place in Riobamba.

Step two:  Next day, bring up animals plus their stuff.  Spend night at volunteer's place, but...

Step three:  Wake up at 2 a.m. Drag stuff downstairs for a taxi.  Take a 3 a.m. bus to Quito, get a porter to move stuff around, get bus to Otavalo at 6 a.m.

Step four:  Pile into the hostal, eat pie.

And that's how it went.

Today was just loooong though.  It was rush, rush, rush.  Out of one vehicle into another.  Misi cried the whole time but there wasn't anything I could do.  Moo was perfectly fine.

I was relieved to finally get to the hostal, relax, and investigate the many things I've heard about Otavalo, except then Misi began crying nonstop.  It was pretty bad too - to the point where I thought maybe my gracious hostal hosts might retract their offer to let me keep them in the courtyard and kick us all out.

So I went to the vet just down the street to ask for help, and they had me bring Misi in.  They checked her out and there seemed to be nothing wrong with her - just, as I emphasized, she was scared and stressed about moving.  So they gave her an oral injection and a pill to calm her.

An hour later, she was still howling.  But sort of...blinky.  Droopy.  Aha!  It kicked in.  I went off for dinner and came back to find her waking up yowling, passing out, then waking up again crying.  I feel terrible but hopefully soon she'll be settled with me in our new home.

So we pack up again and head out tomorrow morning.  Finally!  I'm still so happy I made the decision to change sites.  It was definitely the way to go.

And finally, I got all the talent show videos up from our last training (Midservice).  Some acts are amazing.  Some are hilarious.  Some are...well, they are.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

And then life was good

Any doubts I harbored about Pucará were dashed in minutes upon arriving in the community and I knew things were going to be just fine.

The drive is long and scenic, like driving to Alao only even more stunning.  The mountains are rugged but more or less covered in reforested greenery.  My new community is remote but well connected by a bus system to Otavalo that also continues in the opposite direction to a larger community called Apuela - where people go for market day on Sunday.

Because I´m changing sites (drastically) I´m required to live with a host family again for three months at minimum.  All those anxieties I had about what kind of family I´d be living with (especially after my last experience) were also dissolved when I met Alicia, a super friendly, helpful, caring mother of three.  I´ll be living in an addition to a small cement block house, in a freshly painted room (the same color as what I painted my old room!!) with a window view of volcán Cotacachi - yes, outside my room I can see snow!

But the weather in Pucará is completely different than Alao.  It´s semi-tropical so the climate supports plantain trees, yuca crops, sugar cane (caña), mandarine oranges, and even some coffee plants.  The climate is generally chilly or warmish at night and sunny and hot in the mornings (however, people tell me this is recent and before it would rain all the time, so I´ve been getting a kind of funny impression of the place).

Already I´ve done more in four days than I have in a year in Alao.  Each day has been full of meetings, we had a minga on Saturday, I´ve been given tours all over.  I probably know more people in my new site in four days than I know right now in Alao.  People were so ridiculously friendly and inviting - already I have invites to at least five houses to visit and hang out.  It´s overall just a completely different culture and experience.  And already having a year in another part of Ecuador has really helped with integration and the likes - it´s not nearly as hard the second time around inserting myself in a new community, especially one so warm and welcoming.

Today, Tuesday, I´m back in Riobamba.  I just moved most of my luggage to a volunteer´s apartment in Riobamba, and tomorrow morning I´ll cart my cat and rabbit and their things.  Thursday morning, very early, I should be on my way north for good.

I promise pictures very soon, but my little digital camera broke and am waiting for my replacement.

Also, please note that I have changed my mailing address to the right if you intend to write to me :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Wow, another post??

I´m here in Quito enjoying nearly boiling hot, skin-beating showers and delicious American-style bagels. 

The day was not totally perfect like that.

Yesterday was the breaking point.  I paid my host half a month´s rent ($35) because I was fairly sure I would move soon.  She at first smiled and said thanks and then...counted.  She asked where the other half was, and I explained why it was so.  She argued I had to pay for the previous month, and suddenly things got pretty ugly.  So ugly that I had to call my program manager to have her explain that I pay for the month in advance - always had.  So my host agreed but hasn´t talked to me at all since.

I went upstairs and immediately began packing.  That was it.  I´m DEFINITELY moving to Pucará!

This morning woke up super early to drag my heaviest bag (the one loaded with Peace Corps books and climbing magazines...of course...) and my travel bag downstairs to catch the 7 a.m. bus, but the 7 a.m. bus didn´t come.  Another one about 7:30 got me to Riobamba.  Took a taxi to the terminal (who was using a meter!  shocking.  Fares are always $1 wherever you go, so he raced to get me there when the meter struck $1 on the dot) and got a bus to Quito. 

That´s where we leave the ´good day´ part to return to later.

Going from south Quito to north Quito is not fun.  It usually requires using trolebuses which are often packed.  Thankfully, mine were not so bad.  Except I got on the wrong one, pretty much three times.  Ecuador PCVs out there, don´t laugh.  I´m terrible at cities.  Two mess ups were easy.  One not so much.  That was the one when I realized I needed to be on the blue line, not the green line.  So I thought I could get off at one closely-located stop and walk to the other line.  Hah!  Apparently I still have much learning to do about Ecuador.  I did, however, find that stop and get on the right bus, sweaty, tired, annoyed.

And back to ´good day´!

I dumped my ton of books at the hostal and walked to the Peace Corps office.  Had a great talk with my program manager about changing sites and all the details, got some paperwork signed, saw the doctors about the previously mentioned disease, and left feeling pretty good.  And it was 5 p.m. which means... BAGELS!  Mister Bagel, that wonderful RPCV-owned joint near Parque Carolina.  I was told it would close at 6 so I took a taxi that overcharged me and didn´t even go the whole way.  Horray!  But I got my bagels.  Lots of delicious bagels.  And walked back.

So... until next week!  It´s a busy next few days...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Why not to ET - the big giant list of stuff

Still waiting to visit Imbabura - the date has been pushed back until next Thursday.  So here´s a post I´ve been meaning to publish for a while!

One rainy, cold day when I was feeling particularly down, I decided to try to organize my thoughts into a list of ´Why Not to ET´ (ET = early terminate = governmentspeak for ending service).  Well... suddenly I thought if there´s a list of ´why nots´ maybe I should make a list of why it would be a good idea to ET.  I hope you can see the humor with some of the comments.


1.   I made a commitment to 2 years of service.
2.   I'm worried it would look bad for future employment if I quit.
3.   I have free health care.
4.   My food, shelter, and extra stuff is paid for.
5.   I want to feel a sense of accomplishment for getting to the end.
6.   I get to climb a mountain every month.
7.   My loans are deferred.
8.   I'm practicing Spanish.
9.   I have free time for self like reading, knitting, watching movies, etc.
10. I get to travel occasionally.
11. I'm learning patience.
12. I'm learning humility.
13. I live in the mountains.
14. I like sierra food more than oriente or costa food.
15. I'm remote but I have electricity, water, and gas.
16. The Milky Way is brilliant when the power goes out at night.
17. I get free flute (quena) lessons every Saturday.
18. I have a job with almost no supervision but a lot of trust and faith.
19. People I hardly know from the States sent me packages full of tea and candy.
20. My room is freshly painted.
21. My favorite person in the community is the new president.
22. I am finally cooking for myself.
23. My cat doesn't have the right immunizations or medication to go to the U.S. yet. (done)
24. Movies are $1, yea!!  Which is great until: See #23 of opposing list.
25. People finally want to work with me building ovens and making recycled things in an artesanias group.
26.  I have earplugs now.
27.  I'm learning a new language bit by bit (Quichua).
28.  Getting packages and letters is fun!
29.  My immunity is finally kicking in...?!!!
30.  I'm getting along better with my host now that I cook for myself.
31.  I have a DVD player again!
32.  What else would I do? Job, grad school, be a bum?
33.  Big avocados are roughly 3/$1, oranges 10/$1 and there's Malta, spicy chifles, Amor chocolate wafers, alfahores, patacones with ketchup, fresh limeade, cheese and onion sugar-coated empanadas, mora, bamboo-scented deodorant, lychees, ...
34.  My Ecuadorian mom in Tumbaco checks in on me and cares about me.
35.  There's now recycling in Riobamba that pays for plastic bottles and I'm going to encourage my community to take advantage of this.
36.  I'm getting used to not having internet.
37.  The kids seem to really like me.
38.  I have an amazing mountain view out my window.
39.  I have apparently avoided getting parasites (so far).
40.  I've been offered a site change.
41.  I don't get noncompetitive hiring status in the federal government if I leave early.


1.   I miss blending in.
2.   I'm sick frequently.
3.   I'm lonely and bored.
4.   Every person I've developed a working relationship with in my community has left.
5.   It's cold and I don't have a heater - just lots of blankets.
6.   It rains a lot and there's a lot of mud and pig poo somehow always gets indoors.
7.   Donkies, roosters, buses and lecheros wake me up at 4:30 a.m.
8.   Maria is hard to get along with sometimes.
9.   Internet access is once or twice a week.
10. I don't understand Quichua.
11. There are gigantic chunks of meat in the fridge dripping over everything.
12. The school teachers (used to?) drink during class.
13. Sometimes I see or hear animals slaughtered.
14. The weekly parroquial meeting I pay $1.30 to get to only actually meets...never.
15. Bills are draining my bank account without me noticing.
16. Spanish is still hard to speak and understand sometimes.
17. I feel somewhat forgotten/cut-off...from people outside the country and from people inside.
18. I have to bring my garbage to Riobamba - compared with burning it or tossing it in the river.  Not a great alternative because it just ends up in an environmentally unfriendly dump anyway.
19. After my journal was stolen I've felt a little violated and bitter.
20. People see me as just a rich gringa and attempt to swindle money from me.
21. Things aren't happening and I feel I'm wasting my time for people who don't care about me.
22. The kitchen is gross and when I clean it, it just gets messy again the next day which is not my doing.
23. The cat broke my DVD player (turns out that's not hard to do).  But this is resolved.
24. Phone service cuts out a lot.
25. Sometimes landslides cut off access to my site and I have to walk 2 hours with groceries.  The worst part is that the road is in bad condition when it opens back up - almost too dangerous for buses to travel on.
26. I feel like I'm missing time I'll never get back with family and friends.
27. I miss the changing of the seasons.
28. Maria doesn't believe in me or support me, yet still expects me to get something done when no one else participates.
29. One year has passed and nothing has happened.
30. My cat has all her immunizations to go to the U.S.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bacterial dysentery!

A fancy term for getting e coli., or some other equally fun germ that settled quite well in my digestive system.  I have to say that it´s pretty phenomenal I got this as I don´t eat meat (strike out raw meat sources), I boil my water, I wash my veggies, and I use hand sanitizer.  Oh well eh?  It´s probably from my cat sticking her paws in my mouth in the middle of the night.  Tests were pretty conclusive so I got the right meds and am on my way to healthiness!

So that was a fun update.

I should also add that I have a date with Pucará, my new community, on Wednesday!  I head up to Quito on Tuesday for some Mister Bagel, run up to Otavalo and then Pucará on Wednesday for a day of meetings and activities, come back for a night in Quito, run back to my site, and hopefully begin packing like crazy.  I´d take pictures of the site and of the journey ahead but my camera (my waterproof, shockproof, dustproof camera) bit the dust when my cat bumped it off the bed.  So much for being shockproof.  So far she´s broken my digital camera and my DVD player.  Must be on a mission to cut me off from modernity.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

There is nothing much to say

Well I screwed up trying to keep up with this blog, and some of you have reminded me it exists!  Sorry about that!

But the truth is, I haven´t had tons to write about, or at least, any motivation to write about the goings on of my Ecuadorian life.  Things might be changing though, dramatically!

I was offered a site change by my program manager and I think (like, 99% sure) that I´m taking the offer and moving to...


...Imbabura province!

Believe me, this was not an easy decision but it seems the most logical one.  My site in the mountains of Chimborazo has been disappointing.  I stuck it out for over a year but things weren´t happening.  I like the people in my site but unfortunately trying to get them into one of my projects was like pulling teeth.  It´s the same story for a lot of people - set up a meeting for something and no one shows up - except it happened over and over and basically one year later, I´ve got absolutely nothing done, my language hasn´t improved (nor have I picked up much Quichua), and I´m in a pretty bad emotional place about why I´m even spending two years of my life being miserable.

I spend most of my time reading, watching movies, yep, there was supposed to be a third thing there but I realized that´s about it.  I used to go out and wander around the community every day looking desperately for something, anything, to do, but nothing resolved.  I helped my host with her tiny high-angle farm some days.  I used to have a garden in the school but one day I found it all ripped up.  I went to community meetings and parroquial meetings every week.  Despite all the energy I put into searching for needs and desires, trying to launch projects, etc., nothing materialized and here I am feeling very dejected, unaccomplished and mopey - basically, waiting for my time to be over.

This isn´t ok.

After having some excellent talks with fellow volunteers to help me straighten out my thoughts (thanks guys, you know who you are) and talking with my program manager and the country´s second-in-command, I realized I had to do what was best - and now I believe what´s best is leaving my community.

I have one option and so far I´m liking the idea of it - a small (smaller than mine right now) community located in Imbabura province.  I´m planning on visiting it soon, hopefully next week or shortly after.  There´s already quite a volunteer program started there so that would be my main concern - where do I fit in?  I also want to make sure my new host family accepts my cat, maybe even my rabbit.  Moving across the country requires me to live with a host family again for three months.  Don´t think I mind this too much.  I like living with other people.

If you´re curious about the site, there´s tons of information here:  Pucará

Hopefully...changing sites will give me more to talk about here!