Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Work and Play

Well folks, now more than ever it feels like I am working. First lets back on up to where we left off. I was feeling like there was no hope for my project and just kind of seeing other options in my community. Then, all of a sudden, a very respected person in the community asked me to show him what I had been working on and seemed to like what he was seeing. The very next week I was out on the river in a boat using GPS to determine the rivers length. This may seem all fine and dandy, but I was on the river with guys that had never really been in a boat. It took a little getting used too, not to mention that the river was cascaded in brush and fallen over trees. We had to use the machetes. Oh, and don't worry Peace Corps, I had my life jacket and helmet on. During our adventure we saw a butt load of wild life. I saw giant snakes, a sloth, and iguanas just to name a few. It took us about a week to travel the entire 20km río. We would embark from a random bridges leading to the campo and travel to the next bridge leading to the campo. Every time we saw a bridge, we would stop and get a ride back into town for some lunch. Everything was going somewhat fine, but on the 4th day tragedy struck. We were stuck with a new experienced boat navigator that we had not used yet. I really doubt he had ever manned a boat in his life, because after about 100 meters on the water he ran the boat into a tree and the entire the turned over on its side. So picture this, me and a bunch of Ecuadorians that cannot really swim are stuck in the middle of the river while the boat is flipped upside down. I handed off my life jacket to one of them and started swimming away. I was mostly ticked off that this had happened. I get out and am standing on the other side of the river and watching them struggle to maintain composure. They were going to be ok, they were only like a foot away from the shore. They get out and immediately start to blame me, which is usually how things go around here. The gringo did it, its his fault. Of course, none of them can take the blame. It was all good though. I fired back and pointed out that I was the last one in the boat trying to keep it from flipping. We eventually all laughed about it and got the boat out of the water.

Now, we are standing in the middle of nowhere in someones pasture and have to get a boat and a boat motor to the nearest road, which is about a half a km away. Everyone is fighting about who is going to carry the boat motor because none of them really could carry a motor by themselves and that was going to be the only way to carry it considering our terrain. Well, you guessed it, I did it. I put it on my shoulders and began to walk. It was easy at first, but then two guys that were about a foot shorter than me wanted to help. One got in front of me and one got behind me. They pretty much pulled the motor down towards them and caused me to lift more weight and walk slower. I eventually made it to the truck, but I still had to go carry one half of a boat back, while they 4 people on the other side. It was a sight I can tell you. We made it back to civilization and there were no hard feelings. Mostly laughter and sighs of relief. I am still a little irritated about it, but what can you do. We did finish this part of the project and celebrated doing so, by toasting our progress with beers. These pictures are backwards, so sorry.

El Río

El crew
Juan relaxing while the motor was broken

We did fix it


Some guys posing for a pick and then asking me to help out. haha.

After this long week I took time off and went to the beach. I went fishing and ate delicious food. It was a much needed vacation.
I even caught a pretty big fish.


Now for more work. We now needed to go out to every persons house along the river and explain that we would be around clearing brush and planting new trees. Every seemed ok with this, so that was easy. Every house wasn't so easy to get to.
Work truck

A very sturdy bridge

video

Work eventually led into carnival and carnival has led into now. Carnival was somewhat crazy, people spraying foam on other and throwing water balloons. It was really fun. As for now, we are clearing the buffer zone of the river of brush and invasive species. This is going to be quite the long process, but we got a team of people helping out. Until next time, I help all is well in the states and I miss everyone. Sorry for such a long post, I am sure there are many spelling errors and sentences that just don't make sense, but thanks for reading.

Monday, January 17, 2011

What?

Yes, I am still here. I have been doing some stuff lately, but with the holidays and everything it has been very difficult to get much done. My day to day is either really boring or jam packed with stuff. I will start off in December.

After Thanksgiving, I was trying to get as much stuff done at the Municipio as possible. I finished making the last corrections to the plan and presented it to the head of the department. He said it looked great. I then had about a week before I was going home to Texas for the Christmas holidays. I asked him what I needed to do until then, and he said find grants. I thought to myself, geeze, I asked yall about seven months ago if yall needed grants to fund this project and I was told no. Oh, well, I gave it a shot. The magnitude of this project could never get done with any grant that I could get from the sources that had been presented to me. So I told them and waited for their counter argument. Well, I never received one and then went home. I figured everything would be the same when I got back.

So I flew out of Quito on the 13th of Dec. at like 7 am. This meant I had to be at the airport at like 5 am. It was a long day. When I left the Quito Airport there were no people speaking any Spanish. This was the most English I had heard in about ten months. The people saying to board the plane, the ticket counter people, the people in gift shops were all speaking English. So I figured this was my first taste of the states. Well, I got to Miami at about 11am and noticed that there were no people speaking English at all. Everything was back to Spanish. Talk about a shock. So I get I almost get through customs ok, but then I was chosen to be searched of course. When I got to the counter the officer kept insisting I was a student and not a Peace Corps volunteer. He kept saying how Peace Corps was part of school. I was confused cause it seemed like he was trying to confuse me or was just confused himself. He then asked if I could speak Spanish, and when I said more or less, he said ok cool. We then continued the rest of the convo in Spanish and I was done with him in about two minutes. Lunch time came around and I decided to get a bit to eat. When I got to the restaurant, the lady taking my order could not speak English and when I spoke Spanish to her, she looked even more confused than the guy in front of my trying to tell her what to leave off of his pizza. She understood me, but I don’t think she was ready to hear a guy who looks more like a lumberjack than a Spanish speaker to give her my order in her native language. Regardless, I got my first bite of America. It was only ehhhh, because I could only afford the cheapest restaurant that I could find. I then took off to Houston.

I arrived at the IAH at about 5 and was greeted by not only my rents, but baby bro too. We then went and got coffee and I visited my bros house to see how the dog, Catcher, was doing. Everything seemed to be good, but I was dying for my Tex-Mex fix. We had to go all out, so we hit up Papasitos. It was probably in my top 5 favorite meals of last year. I got the fajitas of course and a michalada made with a tecate to wash it down. It was a night to be remembered.

While home, I got to see many friends and family. I didn’t see everyone, but there were many to say whatsup to. I think the number question asked to me was “describe your typical day as a volunteer.” Since there is no typical volunteer day, I usual told a short story or something. So there was good talks, video games, music, and beer throughout the holidays. Oh, the beer was magnificent. I just wish someone in this country made a beer other than Pilsener. Don’t get me wrong it is a good beer at a great value, but I long for more. The weather while home was erratic as usual and I even got to visit Austin for a bit. All and all it was a good trip and can’t wait to do it again. Well I got back to Ecuador and a friend of mine, Afton, flew back w me.

I was excited to show someone else my site, and I think she was excited to visit me before she headed to the Galapagos. We had a good time. We spent time at the beach on new years before she headed out to those islands that seem pretty cool.

Now that I am back in the full swing of things, I am not really sure what is happening. The director of my department was gone when I got here and replaced with somebody else. I was told he is only on vacation, but the new guy has told me to not work on what I was working on before. Now, I am just getting the straightened out and trying to figure out what needs to be done. I hope everything turns out well. We will see. Regardless though, I am still very happy to be here and having a good time, no matter what is thrown at me.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mansgiving

Just wanted to make a real quick update. I wanted to share my thanksgiving experience with friends and family. It is humorous, sickening, and awesome all at the same time. Enjoy.

It all started on a bus to the beach. I was loading up on bus carbs, you know the usual, pan de yucca, empanadas, tortillas, and random candy bars. From there I ended up at the entrance of a beach community with some friends. I was told to wait for a bus because the long walk to the beach could be dangerous. So I waited for about two seconds and started walking cause I am real real hardcore. 4 seconds later, a bus showed up, so I didn’t make it to far. When I got on the bus I noticed that some other friends were actually on this bus. We got to the beach and found a cabin that we had rented and bought some really big beers to break the place in.

For the next couple of days we ate a lot of empanadas, went swimming, made fires big enough to be illegal in some states, hiked, and played some American football. It was a beautiful scenario and it was spent with some cool people. We cooked all the food on a campfire and some people even caught some food from the Pacific.
From the time we got there we did not think that we were going to be having a normal thanksgiving, but then we noticed that the owner of the cabin had a turkey walking around. This is the first turkey I have seen in Ecuador and it is walking around the beach in the middle of nowhere on Thanksgiving. Talk about lucky. Well what happened next is expected. We asked the lady to part with her turkey friend. She did, but you could tell she was a lover and not an eater.

So now we have this live turkey and we have instructions on how to kill it that we looked up on the Internet. The turkey was then laid upon some wood to prepare for the kill. With one chop of a machete, the turkey’s head was done. The turkey seemed pretty calm before he was beheaded, but after that head came off it went crazy for a good five minutes. Oh, a bunch of blood came out too. Some guys then drained the blood, plucked the feathers, and proceeded to butcher the turkey. Remember all we had was a campfire, so that is what we were going to be cooking the turkey on.
After the butchering we put pieces of the turkey on the fire and started to grill it up. I was a bit iffy, but the turkey was actually really good. After a hefty lunch we knew what had to happen next. Thanksgiving Football Game. We played and we had the tallest player on our team, so we won. Then we went swimming and came back in to tend the fire that had been burning for quite some time. I was drinking a victory cerveza when I noticed that my stomach was starting to knot up. I set me beer down and went inside and laid down for what I thought would be a few minutes. I ended up falling asleep.

I woke up about 2 hours later and knew that I had to get out of bed, I just didn’t know what for. It turns out that Mr. Turkey had made me a little sick and my thanksgiving lunch needed to make an emergency evacuating out of my face. So that ended my thanksgiving evening and I headed home the next day.

It may not sound like it ended up very well, but this will be one of the most memorable thanksgivings I have ever had. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It doesn´t rain in november here

Hey yall. I am currently sitting in my office with not much to do and thinking about something to use my time on……well, why not the blog. It has been a while since my last post, but that doesn’t mean nothing has been going on. My life here at my site has been a little slow lately, but that is mostly because we are waiting for the raining season to kickoff our reforestation project. I think it is actually going to happen now. I gave my plan to my counterpart and he actually hugged me. I think that is a good sign. So hopefully, we will be kicking it off pretty soon.

I have been enjoying myself this last month. I hung out with some friends on Halloween and even dressed up. I actually found costume blood in a store here and kind of just covered myself in it. I was a zombie. I think I may have had the scariest costume out of everyone. I say this, because some of my friends would not even talk to me too much because of the way I looked. I got to watch some football games. My Dallas Cowboys are pretty piss poor right now and I don’t see them turning anything around. I think they should bench the starters for the rest of the season and play some rookies and practice squad guys. I mean, that would be kind of exciting, you know watching someone play with some heart. Now on to college football. I haven’t seen one college game this year and that is fine with me. UT looks like it is barely doing a better job than the cowboys. Yuck.

Now on to some sad news……I had my Ipod stolen. It isn’t so bad, but I had some pretty awesome headphones that I used everyday. Oh headphones how I miss you.

Ok, I think I have like 34 days or something until I am returning home for what will be known as the great 25-pound weight gain and good beer trip. It will be precious…I mean cool. I can’t wait to see everyone. My family, friends, and kitty cat have been missed. Maybe I will post something between now and then, but until next post, take it easy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Good Luck

So I am betting most people in this world are asking themselves right now, “How is Ross doing?” Well just to make everything clear, I am doing pretty good. I have accomplished some stuff over the past few weeks, but I think these last few weeks have been more of ultimate integration/figuring out things to do to stray boredom. I guess let’s start at the beginning.

Back at the end of September/early October something happened here in Ecuador. Everybody is mostly ok, but it involved me not being able to leave my site. This seems fine and dandy, but it happened to be my birthday and I was stuck at my site. So 26 came and went while I couldn’t do anything. All good though, I am 26 and who cares about that age right. What else?

Oh, so my counterpart has been on vacation for pretty much the last month. He deserves it. He spent sometime in the hospital and was looking pretty bad for a while, but now he seems like he is back in full swing. The other day he invited me to his family reunion. We took some grills, food, soda, and a bunch of people down to the river and had an Ecuadorian barbecue. I was designated as photo taker, but then I was designated as cook, but then I was designated as babysitter, but then I ended up being the token gringo. It was a good day. I spent all day getting dirty and cooking food.

These were the two main things that happened this month. I also have had a few awesome observations. Just a few days ago a guy walked in my office and there was something different about him. I was trying to figure it out when I noticed that he had a Hitler mustache. I guess that style is coming back in here. It didn’t look bad, but it was kind of funny. Also, if you pet a dog that is charging you and barking he will be confused and continue barking, but will also not leave you alone because you are the only person on this planet who has made any kind of positive physical contact with it. Onto another area of observation, sometimes people here hiss at others to either get their attention or pretty much whistle at them to hit on them. The other day this was happening to girl I was walking next too, so I figured what if I turn around and hiss at this guy? I did and he just looked confused and stood in the same spot for a minute or two. Those are all the observations for now.

Texas will be experiencing Ross from December 13th to the 29th. Trips planned and its gonna happen for sure.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sippin on some syzurp

Hey friends and family. Ross here. Have you ever felt like you were a tourist for about 8 months straight? That is what I am starting to feel like. I know I am not really a tourist and that I live here, but whenever I visit other places, people always tell me welcome to Ecuador and then try to speak to me in broken English. At first, I would get a little upset and try to explain to the person that I am living here and that I have a job in this country. Now, I kind of play along. I have found out it is more fun to replying to there statements in English. They either think it is really funny or just look really confused. I mean they are yelling at me in another language and I am returning thoughts to them in my native language. All of a sudden, they are bilingual. I don’t know if this is mean or nice, but it helps me pass the time.

Also, I have been returning all the “hey you” and “gringo comments” by just simply saying “hey you” back. It is pretty awesome and most of the people in my community find it comical. Sometimes it seems to like a game to Ecuadorians. They are all trying to see if they can say something to me and have me understand. The best thing I have seen/heard was about two weeks ago when I was on a bus back to my site from Quito a random dude ran on the bus I was riding looked at me and shouted good morning pollo. He then smiled and darted away from the bus. He simply said good morning chicken to me, but he had forgotten to translate the pollo part into English.

So what has been happening lately in the Ecuador world you might be asking? Well, about a month ago I went to what I would like to call I minor freak out when my counterpart was put into the hospital in Guayaquil. All of a sudden I could not understand Spanish and people were just telling me the worst things about his conditions. Don’t worry though, it was just a minor freak out. Today, he rode his bike to work. He is doing much better even though he claims he is only mas o menos.
After the freak out, I went to reconnect. It is like a conference/reunion thingy. All I know is it was the GREATEST week of my life. You get my drift right. What else? I have been back in the Municipio for some time now and they will give me the dinero for my project, but they want me to change my project. Instead of making a tree nursery, they want me to buy 18,000 trees from another tree nursery and then teach people in the community how to plant them. I am gonna try and talk them back into the nursery idea, but hey, at least there is money to do something. I think the next project that I will work on will be a garbage separation project. I want to teach the people in this city how to separate organic and inorganic garbage and then have the Municipio pick up each type on separate trips. This way, we can make compost in a large scale next to the landfill. This will greatly effect the amount of garbage in the landfill because right now about 80% of it is organic. We would also then have good dirt to give away. I have basically been in a brainstorming coma for the past two weeks. I got plans and it is just a matter of translating these English thoughts into Spanish activities. I think I can.

So I am planning on coming home for Christmas still, I am gonna try and buy a plane ticket this week. Lets hope it is reasonable. I will let yall know exact dates asap. I hope everyone is doing good and again, I miss most of you…ok all of you.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I´m so cold

The life of a volunteer is a tough one. I would compare myself to those little kids that worked in the coalmines back in the day. I am developing black lung and there is not much hope for survival……..yeah that’s another lie. I would compare my life to a mix of the movies lost in translation and that airport movie with tom hanks, oh and animal house.

So now you know that I have it pretty good. I have been keeping somewhat busy lately. I am not really sure what is keeping me busy, but I have not been bored. I kind of have a routine now, but I should probably switch it up some. I get up go to work, eat, relax, and sleep. It varies somewhat day to day, but I usually find the time do to all that. Tough, I know. I am getting good at water cooler talk at work. We seriously sometimes just hang out around a water cooler and talk. They are usually trying to get me to be inappropriate, and I usually try to do something stupid without them knowing that I know that I am doing it. It brings a good laugh.

As for the future, I have been preparing a presentation for my community for the past few months. The presentation is about what I have learned just by living here and potential projects that are possible for the future. My counterpart and I will be presenting this information to Peace Corps in a couple of weeks at a giant meeting/training/get together. It should be fun. Also, next week is the fiestas of my city, dun dun dun. I am imaging music blaring for 3 days straight along with people drinking in the street for 3 days straight. I will probably hang pretty low. I might go out one night and see what the big deal is, but hanging low seems to be the plan. Other than that, everything is just happening and I am taking as much in as possible. I really do have the best life ever right now. I like it, even though sometimes things get tough. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow has to bring. Party.