It has been quite some time since I’ve posted an update. I’ve made some big changes in my life, well, big decisions that will lead to big changes. I will soon end my Peace Corps service on April 20th. As volunteers we are required to serve two years in our host country. Late last year I began toying with the idea of staying. Not in my community but applying for a “Peace Corps Volunteer Leader” position in Quito. This entails working primarily for the Natural Resource Conservation Program directly with my program manager. I was intrigued by this position mostly because it would be a great experience living and working in the big capital city of Quito working directly with my program manager. I could learn a lot. It will also be a great opportunity for me to make additional connections for a future career. I went home for Christmas, mulled it over in my head and with my awesome parents who want nothing more than for me to be happy and live up to my full potential. I made the decision to apply for the position and fortunately I GOT IT! I will be living and working in Quito as a PCV Leader for the Natural Resource Program for another year. Another year in Ecuador. And yes, it does sound a bit crazy considering there were several points during my service when I couldn’t wait to leave and there were some points in which I wish I’d never came but now, I’m very happy in Ecuador and I’m very much looking forward to making a big change from the campo in the coast to the metropolitan city in the mountains.
These past few months I’ve been traveling a lot. Like… A LOT. Between workshops, training sessions, medical sessions, meetings and technical exchanges I’ve had my plate full. When I have been in my site I’ve been primarily working with the women’s group getting them set up to the best of my ability for the initial stage of opening their business. It’s exciting times and I feel very confident and proud of the women. It hasn’t been easy for anyone involved and we’ve learned quite a bit during the process all of which will be beneficial for the future. I’ve established all the connections I can for them and all I can do is hope that they continue on the track they’re on. It’s not in my nature to hold people’s hands for extended periods of time so they’re going to have to take the initiative from here on out, which I think they will.
This past month I’ve said ‘good-bye’ to a few of the volunteers I consider to be good friends. It’s almost like high school. You hope to see them again but we all know the likelihood is not in our favor. Regardless, this awesome website called “Facebook” has proven to be a useful communication tool. If you haven’t tried it yet go to www.facebook.com. It will change your life.
I recently celebrated my fourth Semana Santa (Holy Week) here in Ecuador. This holiday starts on Thursday and ends on Easter Sunday. As a catholic nation most people celebrate the religious part of this holiday on Good Friday and Sunday is for church. A majority of Ecuadorians use this holiday to spend with their family. This usually involves copious amounts of latin music, beer and food. Many people use this time off from work and school as an excuse to go to the beach. An exodus of Ecuadorians make their way to various beach towns and cities fighting the crowds and cramming into buses. As a gringa I steer clear of the beach. I’ve always used this time to go in the opposite direction like the sierra or jungle. This year I went to the province Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas with two friends. It has been on my bucket list to experience the Tsachila culture. Originally from the highlands they made their way down to the inner coast of Ecuador changing some of their customs. They are most known for their brightly colored hair shaped into a ‘hat’ using the bright orange dye surrounding the achiote seeds (annatto seeds). They still live in a traditional manner as many indigenous cultures in Ecuador do. Of course you will still find modern conveniences in their homes they still dress in traditional clothes, eat traditional foods and live, for the most part, in a traditional manner. The community we visited has opened themselves up to tourists. The mostly receive Ecuadorian tourists but the occasional gringo will make his way up there. They gave us demonstrations of coloring their hair, hunting, making ‘medicines’, music, dance and so on. While it was fascinating it did indeed have a ‘touristy’ feel which took away from the experience. My friends and I also got ‘gringoed’ horribly (over charged because we’re white) which left a bad taste in my mouth but for the most part I’m very glad I went and finally got to learn first-hand about the culture.
Several weeks back I was asked to make a presentation about my work in Ecuador to present to the Ambassador for the US here in Ecuador. He’s new after the previous ambassador was deemed persona non grata after a wikileaks scandal. The current Ambassador, Adam Namm, was incredibly down to earth and pleasant. It was not a stressful experience and all of us 7 volunteers enjoyed the experience talking about our work, getting his feedback and conversing with him and the consulates who joined him. It was a memorable experience no doubt.
Well, I’m in the home stretch. I’m packing my stuff up, saying my ‘good-byes’ and preparing to go home to visit for a month (thanks Peace Corps!). I’m looking forward to coming back and starting a whole new experience here in Ecuador.