Archive for the ‘Kathryn in Ecuador’ Category

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Kathryn: Guayaquil

May 20, 2010

The last two weeks I have passed the time with my lovely and welcoming Ecuadorian relatives. It has been a dream since my childhood to know the places, people and culture that my grandfather was born into and left over fifty years ago to come to the U.S., so this was an especially meaningful part of my trip to Ecuador. I stayed with my mother’s cousin Vicky, daughter of my Abuelito’s sister Maria Rosa. I met lots of cousins, aunts and uncles, but spent the majority of my time with Vicky, her husband Fernando and their three children. Andrea is 26, Vicky Sue is 20, and Fernandito is 14.

They live in a gated community in a beautiful area a few miles outside of the city. During my stay with them they showed me around Guayaquil; we went to the Cathedral, Parque de las Iguanas, El Malecon (a boardwalk lined with simple attractions like old train cars, ice cream stands, fountains, mini-monuments, etc.), and El Parque Historico.

Over the weekend they took me to a couple of beaches I wanted to visit: Salinas, Punta Blanca, and Montanita.  The sun there is extremely strong, but I used 50 SPF and didn’t burn!

I spent time with my Great Aunt Maria Rosa, who spends a lot of time putting puzzles together and is adorable.  I also went to classes with my cousin Vicky Sue who is studying jewelry design and is incredibly creative and talented.  I went to church with Vicky, who is very active at Santa Teresita, the family parish just a few blocks away.  Fernandito and I did some cooking together; we made lemon bars and chocolate chip cookies! In general I was able to relax a lot and enjoy getting to know the family and improving my Spanish through long conversations. All in all it has been a lovely stay.  I will try to do a last post in the next couple of days to close out the blog. Thank you all for reading!

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Kathryn: Day trip to Otavalo

May 17, 2010

The most popular attraction in Otavalo, about two hours from Quito, is the large open market. On Saturdays it is always crawling with visitors, but my buddy Mike and I headed there last Thursday.  It was empty—so much  better for quickly making our purchases. I got a hammock and several pieces of art by a local who uses a technique in which he extracts the brown from walnuts, mixes it with water, and paints. After visiting the market we wanted to hike to a famous tree in our guidebook called El Lechero. It turned out that it was located 4 kilometers away beyond a village and several treacherous mountainy crags… which we only found out because a kind Ecuadorian offered to drive us there for FREE! Praise God. We took pictures by the tree and enjoyed the gorgeous backdrop of the inactive volcano Imbabura and a sparkling lake.  There was also a notable cow tethered by the tree and lots of fragile soil that Mike insisted we not step on because it takes years to regenerate. We tramped all over hill and dale and found our way to a random street by following some indigenous girls down a mountain path, where we hopped on a random bus that we supposed was going to the town that sends buses to Quito. It was, and we hailed the bus to Quito as it was driving away and got the seats in front with the bus driver/sitting on the steps with the guys who collect the money. Here is a link to a slideshow I made of our outing…I think it tells the story better than I do! Enjoy: SLIDESHOW

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Kathryn: Semana Santa

April 16, 2010

Since over 90% of Ecuador is Catholic, Semana Santa or Holy Week has many festivities and customs observed by virtually the whole country. As with any holiday here in Ecuador, there is a special food associated with Easter. It is called Fanesca, and it is a very hearty soup made with as many beans and grains as can be found, salt cod, milk, onions, peanuts, and lots of other delicious ingredients, topped with slices of hard boiled egg, plantains, red pepper, and parsley. It is only made once a year during holy week, and I have already eaten three different, equally delicious, versions.

Another tradition that I participated in this year was the siete visitas, in which I made pilgrimages to seven churches in the historic district to offer up prayers and petitions. I was able to go with my friend Margarita, whose family is part of Opus Dei. According to its website, “Opus Dei is a Catholic institution founded by Saint Josemaría Escrivá. Its mission is to help people turn their work and daily activities into occasions for growing closer to God, for serving others, and for improving society.”

On Good Friday, I went back to the Centro Histórico with my friend Jessie and her host family to watch the famous Procesión de Jesús del Gran Poder.  In this procession, people who want to do penance for extraordinary sins or evils they have committed don purple robes with pointy headpieces and march in the procession. The special name for them is “cucuruchos.” The procession also includes many people dressed as Jesus carrying massive and very heavy crosses, often walking barefoot and sometimes with crowns of thorns. Others walk the route wrapped in barbed wire or dragging heavy chains on their ankles.  Jessie and her family and I watched in a packed crowd, underneath umbrellas to shield us from the heat. Nonetheless, a woman next to us fainted, and we dutifully shouted for CRUZ ROJA (Red Cross)! I also narrowly avoided being pickpocketed by the old man innocently standing next to me, groping into my purse.

Holy Saturday I was able to go to the beautiful chapel in the women’s house of Opus Dei once again with Margarita for the Easter Vigil.  As is the Catholic custom in many parts of the world, the ceremony began with all the lights out.  The priest then lit a candle and shared the flame with someone; each of us held a small candle. As the flame spread to each person at the service, we began singing, and the priest reminded us that Christ is the light of life.

After Mass, Margarita and I went out for dessert at TGI Fridays. We then headed over to the men’s Opus Dei house where they have an annual skit night on Holy Saturday.  In one of the performances, four elected audience members repeated a short interchange having to do with selling/buying a “duck” in different accents mandated by the Master of Ceremonies. First they each had to perform the interaction like someone from “the coast,” for example. Then as a Chilean. Then as someone “posh.” Then as Professor so-and-so that everyone knew very well, etc. All very amusing. The party continued at one of our friend’s apartments with more refreshments, music, and conversation.

On Easter Sunday I cooked some typical American dishes for my host family.  I made a green bean casserole (french fried the onions myself), bacon, scalloped potatoes, deviled eggs, and scones with lemon glaze. I also skyped with my parents and siblings back home for quite a while.

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Kathryn: Spring break, Amazon style

April 4, 2010

For spring break, I threw in my lot with a group of students from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, to go on a medical mission to bring a health clinic and spiritual nourishment to pueblos in the Amazon region of Ecuador. The team also included American doctors and nurses, Ecuadorian priests, and a number of English/Spanish translators. My role was to help translate health talks and religious talks and skits for people waiting to be seen at the clinic. The week was filled with rich experiences of generosity, culture, nature, and community. My only connection with the group was that I had been in email contact with a Franciscan alum, Lily Hannon, who is currently living and working in an orphanage on the coast of Ecuador. She and her missionary partner Breanna, had planned to participate in the mission trip, and it so happened that the dates exactly aligned with my Spring break.

I wish I had time to detail all of the experiences I had, but with the limits of time and space I will recount a few highlights:

  • Ferrying or taking long, thin boats back and forth across the river that separated our hotel from the towns where we brought the clinic.
  • Playing soccer, red light green light, red rover, and duck duck goose for hours with hordes of barefoot, dirty, smiling children.
  • Sneaking off with some of the kids to see the river in a hollowed out log-boat only to fall in the river five feet from shore.
  • Getting a tour of the jungle and eating cacao, papaya, an orange avocado-like fruit, pods with fluffy melony-tasting chunks inside, and hierba luisa—a grass used to make tea.
  • Speaking about and against alcoholism to a group of young men in a village; teaching groups of children how to pray the rosary; translating and acting out the Good Samaritan.
  • Handing out first aid kits and translating messages about basic hygiene—washing hands, brushing teeth, boiling water (or setting it in the sun for six hours in a clear plastic jug).
  • Watching traditional village wedding dances and being pulled into one by a seven-year-old boy.
  • Sleeping on the concrete schoolhouse floor under mosquito netting without mattress or blanket, listening to a monsoon roar outside.
  • Going to daily mass all week and relying on that grace to come up with religious talks, songs, and skits in Spanish with almost no preparation.
  • Getting climbed on, incessantly poked and chased by kids.
  • Going back to Quito and getting my nails done with one of the other missionaries for $2. Then going with her to get her ear pierced, also for an obscenely low price.

For those of you who just want to see it, here is a slideshow of the trip!

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Kathryn: Internship

March 24, 2010

After a wonderful Spring break, which I will post about next, I began my internship Monday at La Escuela de Formación Empresarial del Grupo Social. My commute to work, located in a Sector of Quito called La Floresta, is about a half-hour bus ride then a ten minute walk. Grupo Social Fondo Ecuatoriano Popularum Progressio is the name of the larger non-profit I work for, but within GSFEPP there are many businesses and outreaches. Several headquarters are located in the Quito office and “La Escuela” (EFE) is on the top (fourth) floor. I share an office with two others and have my own desk and a computer. I work Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m.– 5 p.m., and the internship will last six weeks.

The project I am working on now is updating the pages on the EFE website—quite a task. I began by cataloging areas for improvement and noting what information is lacking or out of date. Today I drafted a piece for the “current news” page that highlights the course that EFE created for the students at my University here, Fundación CIMAS. I also began creating promotional content for another section of EFE that supports Estructuras Financieras Locales (EFLs). Another project I will be working on is the organization and utilization of a vast photo archive.

In addition to my personal work, I am being completely integrated into company activities and dynamics. My compañeros consult my opinion about designs on promotional material or photo choices. Today we had a meeting to discuss a new logo; when to use it, how to use it, what it symbolizes etc. One of my coworkers is trying very hard to teach me Kichwa phrases. I take my lunch break with my coworkers and they often bring snacks or treats to share during our morning break. We are all going on a day trip on Sunday to barbecue at someone’s Rio Bamba house. Much of my personal work involves seeking information from other responsible or more-informed coworkers. They are always patient and very willing to help me find what I need. I’m really enjoying the work so far and I look forward to learning more each day.

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Kathryn: Mindo

March 7, 2010

Today I went to Mindo, another cloud-forest tourist town.  Three friends and I rode a bus for about two hours getting into town in time for lunch. We decided quickly to do zip-lining and soon were riding in a truck up to the first of ten cables.  Our guides were two Mindo natives who had as much of a blast as we did (understandable when your job is zip-lining…) and obligingly told us about many of the plants we passed and their properties.  Over the course of ten cables that sent us zooming over the forest, we took turns trying the different zip-lining positions: murcielago (a bat-like position), mariposa (a butterfly-like position), and Supermon (a Superman like position).  Unfortunately we only brought one camera, so I don’t have the pictures to display, but it was very extreme and very fun.  After riding in the back of the truck into town, we ate bananas covered in chocolate sauce made from cocoa beans ground that day.  Then, we paid $2 to tour through a beautiful greenhouse/garden full of mariposas and flowers!

VIEW AWESOME SLIDESHOW ON PICASA BY CLICKING HERE!

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Kathryn: Internship — la pasantilla

March 3, 2010

Last Monday and Tuesday the six students on my track and our coordinator, Jacky, went on a trip to see potential internship sites in Latacunga and Cotopaxi. These regions of Ecuador are a little further South and fairly chilly.  It was overcast and rainy during our time, but what we saw was interesting. The goal was to find places for each of us to participate in six-week internships from mid-March to the end of April. None of the sites we visited resounded with me, and I actually found an internship in Quito that I will be doing, but I want to post some photos and short descriptions of what we saw.  The first cooperative we visited, in a town called Pukara, had a huge water reservoir they use to save water for times of drought, like right now.  When there is plenty of rain each family in the community gets water daily, but right now it is parceled out once a week.  The community has used micro-credit to start businesses in which each family cares for a shed full of cuis (guinea pigs: a common—and tasty—meal).  They also grow various edible plants with the goal of “sobrealimentacion”—providing nutritious food for all.

Don Jose in a cui shed. The guinea pigs are separated by age.

The next two sites we visited were more or less offices that provide savings and credit services for the popular sector (poor people who can’t afford traditional banking services).  The offices were in very small, empty towns and it happened to be cold and rainy.  I must admit I felt a similar distaste for working at these places as I did when visiting prospective colleges a few years ago.  The last site, however, really fascinated me.  It was a carpentry trade school for young boys from very poor families.  They boys live at the facility Monday–Friday, taking classes in the morning and having “talleres”—workshops—in the afternoon.  They also receive religious formation and recreational time as well as rotating between domestic chores and outdoor farming duty.  They produce gorgeous craftmanship—intricately carved frames, plaques, furniture, and articles for the church. The second-year boys, no more than 11 to 13-years-old, each worked at his own table covered in wood curls, creating wooden boxes with floral inlays.  The more advanced students included tables and altars fitted together cleverly without nails, all high quality.  The institution enables boys whose families can’t afford to send them to school to get an education that will provide them with job opportunities when they are done.

Although I would love to learn carpentry, this was an all-boys school so I decided to wait and hope for another internship to come along… and it did!

I will be working at GSFEPP—Grupo Social del Fondo Ecuatoriano Popularum Progressae.  It is an NGO, non-profit, ecumenical organization in Ecuador that runs many different businesses all oriented towards helping the lower-income sector.  They have a division that shows campesinos how to register their land legally, for example.  Another sub-group within FEPP helps construct clean water sources and still another is working on developing technological infrastructure.  All of these businesses operate under the same vision: that of “la economía solidaria,” an economy that centers on human beings and their needs instead of profit, keeping in mind the need for sustainability.  I will be helping develop a marketing campaign for some new service or initiative that FEPP is starting.  I don’t know a lot of the details but I should be visiting next week, so I’ll have more information soon.  I’m looking forward to having a purposeful, full-time “job” here. The pasantilla will be Monday–Friday, roughly 8 a.m–5p.m. for six weeks.  I will be staying with my host family here in Quito because it’s only a half-hour bus ride to FEPP.  I plan to continue on the soccer team as well.  I’ll post more when I know more!

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