Archive for the ‘Brittany in Ecuador’ Category

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Brittany: The end is here

December 23, 2010

Soo….I am back from the beach. It was amazing—really relaxing and I got a lot of sun (maybe a little too much…)

It is hard to believe I have been here for 3 1/2 months! I am excited to see everyone, but am worried I may die from the cold! After the Amazon and then the coast I have lost all tolerance for cold. It is 50 degrees in Quito today, and I am freezing!

I´ll leave you with two quick lists…

Things I Miss from the USA:

  • Good chocolate
  • Real coffee
  • Washing machines and dryers
  • Flushing toilet paper
  • Driving myself anywhere
  • The food
  • Spices of any kind—anything but salt!
  • Drinking water from the tap
  • Having more than one week´s worth of clothes
  • Eating healthy
  • Independence
  • American boys
  • Animal Control
  • Brownies and cookies

Things I Will Miss from Ecuador:

  • Traveling on a whim
  • Fresh juice in the morning
  • Raspberry-coconut batidos (juice with milk)
  • $1.25 beers (and they´re nearly twice the size of the standard US bottle)
  • The music
  • Waking up to mountains or jungle or ocean
  • Cheap fruit (especially $.20 granadias)
  • The flowers
  • Kissing on the check to say hello and goodbye
  • Magnum icecream bars (yes, that is really their name)
  • So few responsibilities
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Brittany: Leaving Tena

December 11, 2010

Photos with my family from my last day in Tena.

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Brittany: Almost the end

December 9, 2010

It is my last week in Quito. The program ends tomorrow and then I’m off to the coast for a week and then returning to the US on December 20!

I got back from the Amazon during the Fiestas de Quito, a weeklong celebration of the founding of Quito. There were a ton of events throughout the city and the nightlife was on steroids.

I also went to my first soccer game (finally!) with my host family. My host dad’s team lost, but it was still fun. We ate at Pizza Hut after, which was way fancier than in the United States and they had a play place. I’ve been doing some last minute site-seeing with my friends, too.

Here are some photos of the past week:

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Brittany: Adios Amazon

December 3, 2010

I am leaving Tena tomorrow! I am ready to move on, but the time flew by. I will be in Quito for one week, and then Friday, Dec. 10 is the last day of the program! I will then be traveling with a friend until Dec. 20. Can’t believe it is almost time to come home!

Some observations and random thoughts from being in Tena:

  • I have had regular Internet access in my house while living in the Amazon, but have gone days without running water.
  • There is nothing discreet about breastfeeding here. When it is time, women just whip out a boob, no matter where they are. A good example? The other day I saw a women breastfeeding while riding a motorcycle.
  • It is very interesting/hilarious to watch the news. The national and local level regularly bring out a newspaper and talk about the stories published on the front page. The camera even zooms in on the paper in the broadcaster’s hand.
  • Tena is a cute tourist town, but also has alarming rates (at least in my opinion) of suicide, teen pregnancy and drunk driving.
  • There are a ton of government commercials on TV. They are about eating healthy or people with disabilities or being proud to be a black Ecuadorian.
  • There is this horrible show called “Heroés Verdaderos” or “True Heroes.”  It is on Sunday nights and my family loves it. It is about famous people—actors or models, although once they had the captain of the national police—who go to really poor neighborhoods in Ecuador, find a family, and then live there life for a few days. So basically, they just talk about how rough these people have it in a really condescending way. Of course, they do have it rough—no indoor plumbing, living in shacks, one bed for the whole family. One guy had to work like 20 hours a day; his kids even help. At the end of the show, the family comes to the TV studio where the host, a model, gives them things to make their life better. They give out each prize one by one—silverware, sink, beds—until the end where they give them a house. It is like Extreme Home Makeover…but way worse. Of course there is no discussion of the fact these people will still make maybe $5 a day, even with a nice new house.

–Brittany Libra

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Brittany: Some silly things

December 1, 2010

The park (Parque Amazonica, where my internship is) received a $50,000 grant from the US Embassy—they fund different development projects—to build a science center/library on the island. The grand opening was a few days ago and so the US Ambassador to Ecuador, an entourage of embassy people, the Mayor of Tena and other local government people all attended.

Afterward, Anna and I were invited to a lunch event with our boss, the ambassador, the mayor, and their respective groups.  It was a little awkward—I felt like we had no business being there—but we got to go to this delicious restaurant and had a tasty, free lunch.

The gift giving began once everyone was done eating. The mayor gave traditional jewelry to the ambassador, like a “on behalf of Tena” thing, and the ambassador had things for the mayor and my boss. The event was winding down, but then out of nowhere, the mayor made Anna and I come up in front of everyone!

He apparently had two extra necklaces and thought it be a good idea to give them to the two random American girls. So we had to go stand at the head of this long table of people, say where we were from and why we were in Tena, and then the mayor slipped necklaces over our heads. It was pretty ridiculous.

Then, after work I went over to Julia’s house. She lives above a store, and so to get to her front door you travel down a long enclosed hallway beside the store that is open to the street. Once inside, you go up some stairs, through another door and then there is her house.

That explanation really is necessary because when I went to leave, I couldn’t open the front door! Someone had come and stacked giant bags of detergent all the way down the hallway so the front door couldn’t open all the way.

It was so absurd that Julia and I about died laughing. The door could open about 6 inches, so we tried scooting the bags out of the way. I tried squeezing my body through the crack. I contemplated trying to shove myself through and then climbing over the bags.  We even considered finding a window to climb out of. I was literally stuck inside her house! Luckily before I tried the last option, this guy came and moved the bags for us.

That describes my general experience in Ecuador well. I often feel out of place and strange things are always happening that don’t quite make sense, but it always works out in the end and makes for a good story!

–Brittany Libra

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Brittany: Parque Amazónico internship

November 27, 2010

I enjoy my internship, although it has little to do with my academic/career interests or my final project for the semester.

As I explained briefly before, I am working the Parque Amazónico. It is on an island (well, technically a peninsula) in the river that goes through the center of Tena.  The municipal government runs it, and its purpose is environmental conservation and education.

It is free to visit, and one of my jobs is to give tours to visitors. There are a lot of plants and a decent amount of animals. (The only snakes I have seen are the boa and the anaconda they have here, both of which are safely secured in a cage). There is also a big observation tower from which you can see the Sumaco Volcano.

A flood in spring 2009 destroyed a lot of the park’s infrastructure, including the bridge that connected the island to mainland.  Now, people have to come across in canoes.  That is also how Anna and I have to get there. There are plans for a new bridge… but government moves slowly and there isn’t a lot of money for such a big project.

Anna and I also work in the office some days across from the island on the mainland, doing random jobs.  Most days we work a lot in the mornings, have two hours for lunch, and then spend the afternoon waiting for 4:00 so we can leave. Sometimes there just isn’t that much to do, or our boss doesn’t use us as much as he could. In a typical week we work Monday through Friday, 8 to 4.

The last two weeks have been really busy. Last Wednesday was the first day of our “Day in the Park” program. We invited fifth graders from 10 schools around Tena to come to the island at different times over the next two weeks for a special program geared toward kids. The theme is the connections between animals, plants and humans, and we give the kids a tour and play a game, all connecting back to that theme.

So far it has been pretty exhausting. Sometimes the kids are super crazy. And last Thursday, a school came on the wrong day and two schools came late so we ended up having three schools there at once. That meant Anna and I were basically dealing with 100 kids at once!

Overall I enjoy the job. And, of course, getting to play with the park’s monkeys doesn’t hurt…

–Brittany Libra

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Brittany: Boys, bugs and beer

November 21, 2010

It is getting to that point where I really need to write my final paper for the semester, and I really don’t want to.  I have been interested in oil the whole time I’ve been here (and before), but a few days ago I got it into my head I’d rather write about teen pregnancy and compare cities to rural communities.  But it is too late to change and so oil it is…

I’ve accepted the fact I am just going to have a lot of mosquito bites until I go back to Quito.  I wear repellent, but there is no way to avoid them completely.  The worse is when you sleep.  My sister closes the windows—there aren’t screens—but it is too hot and stuffy for me! I have to sleep with them open, so that means sleeping with whatever flies through the window too. Yesterday I saw this flying beetle/cockroach thing. I swear it was at least four-inches long.

The food has gotten better.  Not healthier, but better.  I made a joke about Ecuadorians eating a lot of rice, which my family found hilarious and brings up daily, but since then they have been giving me a lot less.  That wasn’t my intention, but it works! There have been fewer boiled potatoes lately too.

I have been running a lot. The thing to do here is exercise at the airport.  It is really small and planes only come a few times a week, so everyone runs up and down the runway.  If a plane comes, the siren goes off and you just move.

Boys are the same as in Quito.  They don’t whistle at girls, instead they hiss!  They make a series of short, little weird noises with their tongues against their teeth.  I’m guess I should be used to it now, but I am always going to think it’s totally creepy.

Water is sometimes an issue here.  It will just randomly stop working for a few hours.  I am not sure what the causes are in those instances, if it is just basic infrastructure problems or what.  Last week there was construction on the road near us and they accidentally broke a pipe.  There was no water for two days!  I had to shower with a bucket in the yard where they do the washing, which actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

I think I may have given some people the impression I am living in a much smaller town than I actually am.  Tena is small enough that you run into people you know all the time, but big enough that there are plenty of things to do. It is becoming a destination for ecotourism too, so that helps.  Tomorrow for example, we’re all going out with Francisco’s family to this touristy thing where we can swim. We have found some pretty good restaurants for lunch, although Anna and I also make sandwiches a lot and sit on the boardwalk by the river and eat.  There are a decent amount of bars and places to go dancing.  I am going to have a hard time going back to the US where a beer at a bar is $3 or more! We went out yesterday and I spent $6.50 the whole night, including two taxi rides and a few beers.

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is this week!  Everything here stays green all year, and so sometimes I forget it’s fall-almost-winter in the US!  We have Friday and Monday off of work Thanksgiving weekend, so the people in Tena are probably going to travel somewhere.

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