Archive for the ‘Sam in Ecuador’ Category


Sam: The end

December 15, 2010

The last week in Quito and in Ecuador was a success. Everyone seems to be content in our accomplishments. We celebrated the foundation of Quito, contracted a chiva, finally saw el Panecillo…

Something something apocalypse

Nuestra Virgen de las Pesadillas

…ascended the basilica…

You can almost see Quasimodo from here

From above the city

…and said goodbye to our favorite spots in La Zona. Today we gave our final presentations, handed in our bound works, and said goodbye to the CIMAS staff, the city, the country, and most importantly each other. In only a matter of hours I will be on a plane over the Gulf, hopefully sleeping, en route to the homeland.

It will be difficult leaving all of this behind since I’ve grown and changed so much over the course of the semester, but I’m also ready for the comforts and familiarity of home. I’ll miss the beans, but not the rice. I’ll miss the sierra, but not the city. I’ll miss the scenery, but not the transportation. Mainly I’ll miss everyone and everything that has made this such a meaningful and complete experience. If I had to go back and do it all over again, I’d do it exactly the same.


Sam: Ecuadorganization

November 17, 2010

Overall I haven’t felt too much of a culture shock in Ecuador. I feel comfortable with the language (except when my coworker breaks into Kichwañol), I can confidently navigate the cities, I know how to be safe and, slowly but surely, businesses are noticing that we CIMAS students do indeed live in Otavalo and have started serving us and stopped ripping us off.

The issue I have had being an American abroad is the concept of time. People show up 30 to 60 minutes after the designated time for meeting (on average). I expected this for trying to organize activities; I did not expect this for work. I suppose being a half hour late is fine in stores and restaurants, but heaven forbid I need emergency surgery I can’t say I’d be content to just hang out for an hour until my surgeon decided to show up. I have included a list of my observations regarding what people say and what they mean:

“Ahora” (“Now”) = “Today(ish)”
“Ahorita” (“Right now”) = “Within an hour (possibly)”
“Viene ya mismo” (“He/She is on his/her way”) = “He/she will get around to you when he/she feels like it”
“Apúrate” (“Hurry up”) = “Move at the speed most convenient to you”
“Un ratito” (“A little while”) = “Four hours to a week”

Furthermore, organizational skills are not mandatory, which has been a huge issue for my punctual American conscience. Today we drove to a high school so I could administer a survey. I assumed that all was arranged, mainly because I was assured that it was when I asked. Unsurprisingly, there were no students at all because it is the job of high school students to collect census data all this week. Thankfully, I did get an appointment for Monday, so it remains to be seen if that will come to fruition.

Fortunately, all is not hopeless. My Honors project is approved, the sun came out for a bit today for the first time in a week, and I’m pretty sure I received a job offer for an indigenous agricultural organization if I return within the next two years. I think that’s just the way things are here.


Sam: I’m still alive

November 6, 2010

My room-house

It has been exactly two eventful weeks since my last update, so rest assured that I have not been kidnapped and know that this could take a while to read.

Monday, October 25, was my moving day. All of the students with internships in the northern sector climbed aboard the bus with suitcases and backpacks to begin a long morning of placement. After all of the Otavalo students were placed, we met up with our families to be taken to our new homes. My host mother, Tania, first took me to the food market before heading back to the house. The highlight of the market is definitely the meat: refrigeration isn’t necessary and kidneys and chicken feet are often on display front and center. The fruit is always fresh and good here so that definitely made up for the hanging half-bull. When I arrived at the house I met my dogs, Pancho and Laika, and my siblings: Anayani (12), Ankalli (9), and Amauri (8).

Amauri and Ankalli playing with Laika

Tuesday, October 26, was the first day of my internship at CEMOPLAF. My boss, Mariana, showed me around the facility and introduced me to the staff. The first few days were filled with observation and preparing the Adolescent Room for Thursday, when the high school students from the region would join us for the new adolescent program. On Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons I went to Iglesia Evangélica Jesús el Buen Pastor in Calpaquí to see CEMOPLAF’s dentistry services in action for the sponsored children who receive lunch and services at the church.

Anita revels in the pain that Henry inflicts upon this poor child

Luis is a representation of Otavalo and clearly helps dispel regional stereotypes

Thursday I observed the adolescent program and began writing my own surveys and programs for the kids. Friday was the beginning of festivities as the kindergartens and primary schools marched in the first parade for the Foundation of Otavalo. I mistakenly volunteered to observe in pediatrics that day; almost nobody came in because they were either in the parade or watching their other children in the parade.

On Saturday I woke up early to head to the Otavalo market. Seven hours later with a bag of loot I returned to the house to rest and prepare for the rest of the festivities with the family. On Monday I watched the secondary schools march to celebrate the actual day of the Foundation of Otavalo. After that I headed to Cotacachi with some other students to search for fine leather goods. The few places that do make men’s boots do not carry my size or close to it. After shopping and compulsive snacking I met up with my extended family to make bread in outdoor ovens for the Day of the Dead celebrations.

Tuesday, November 2, was Día de los Difuntos: the Day of the Dead. For breakfast I had my first taste of cuy, or fried guinea pig. Gamey. I went with the family and their friends Angeles and Luis from Cataluña to the indigenous part of the Otavalo cemetery where we met up with the extended family from the night before to eat lunch and fruit.

Mario, Tania and Abuelita eating inside of a tomb. Seriously.

They taste pretty much the same as they look.

After that we drove to Cotacachi to purchase champus, which is a sweet corn drink not unlike some kind of dessert chicha. We returned to Otavalo to Mario’s mother’s house to eat lunch number two, which included a creamy corn soup, champus, and churros. These churros are not the fried tubes of dough as they are in the rest of the world…

Even Cachetes (Cheeks), Abuelita’s bear-dog, won’t eat churros

Surprisingly enough I survived the cuy and churros to make it to Wednesday for chores and lunch with a family friend, Yaro, and his son, Yaro. Later that night, we met his first daughter, Yarita, and his youngest daughter, Victoria, who somehow made it into this world with a name that doesn’t begin with “Yar.”

This week is only Thursday, Friday and Saturday to make up for the vacation days, so I will be spending it working instead of going to Latacunga for Mamá Negra unless something happens where I both don’t have to work and can find room at a hostel. Instead, maybe I’ll just go to Cayambe to continue my search for leather man boots.


Sam: Last day of classes

October 21, 2010

Tomorrow is the last day of classes. I use that term lightly, because we really only hand in our essay, some groups present, and then we have a debriefing before lunch. After that it’s all downhill until Monday. On that day, I leave at about eight in the morning for Otavalo to meet with my boss and my family. After that brief meeting, I’ll be off to settle in and possible begin my internship that same day.

It’s going to be very different. I’ll be going from an urban setting with two older parents and an older brother, all of whom have their own busy lives, to a village with three younger siblings and two dogs. Right now, I’m ready for all of that, but who’s to say once I am working 30 hour weeks, writing an ethnography, and still trying to enjoy the culture and the experience.

I’m sure I will learn a lot from my internship and my new family. Without CIMAS and a room full of English-speakers, my language skills should greatly improve just by living my life as normal. I’ll miss my classmates and my free time, but it’s high time to begin the independent part of the program and, quite honestly, I’m ready to be done with Quito. I’ve had some good times in this city, but keeping an eye on security and relying on taxis for everything gets old very fast.

Peguche is a small village predominantly composed of Kichwa artisans. Hopefully this means I will be able to relax a bit and get to know my neighbors. Otavalo, while a bit larger, is still by no means Quito. The main crime problem in Otavalo is pickpocketing among the crowds on market days. Since I no longer carry a wallet and won’t have much cash on me at any time being a “local,” I can’t see myself having any problems. The only real problems I need to remember are natural: I especially need to check what I eat and drink (for the first few weeks at least) and I need to maintain altitude and sun precautions, as Inti will still be disposed to char my tender flesh.

Sam: The crave list

October 12, 2010

Before lunch today some of my classmates and I discussed the things that are making our stomachs homesick and, unsurprisingly, many were the same. We all appear to be jonesin’ for some kind of fast food (many for more than one type) as well as a few regional or unusual blends. Here is my personal list (and yes, most are horrible):

  • Brownies
  • Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Chili Doritos
  • Taco Bell Chalupa Supreme
  • Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme
  • Blue & Grey Café buffalo chicken meal deal
  • Waffles
  • Lunch meat sandwiches
  • Hummus
  • Lehigh Pizza with meatballs
  • Real milk
  • Assorted teas
  • Isaac’s Pipet
  • Fistfuls of cake from work

Sam: The latest news

October 11, 2010

Indeed has it been a busy time since I last wrote, however it has been a lot of the same. Last week was composed entirely of schoolwork and errands. Both essays went over well and the presentation was peachy. During the week, I finally got my censo, meaning I can get citizen rates on touristy things and, most importantly, I can leave the country (since I’m here on a visa, not passport).

It was already decided by mid-week that we were going to the beach, so Brittany, Francisco and I saddled up the taxi and headed to the bus terminal that would take us to Bahía de Caráquez in the central Pacific coast. Luckily, we bought our tickets during the day; the bus station was a stand with a parking lot in the most terrifying neighborhood I have ever visited. I would have taken a picture, but I’m pretty sure there’s an ordinance that says that anyone with electronics will be immediately stabbed. We got our tickets along with some lunch and the legendary salchipapas, which is a wax paper bag filled with fries, ketchup, and mayonnaise and topped with tiny hot dogs.

It finally came time to go to the beach (at 10:30 p.m. on Thursday) so we headed back to the ‘station.’ The taxi driver seemed pretty convinced we were going to die before getting on the overnight bus, so he drove us over the curb and up to the edge of the station. We got on with no trouble and slept most of the way. I awoke with both kidneys, so I already knew the trip would be a success.

Once in Bahía, we opted to head up the shore to Canoa. We hopped in a public bus brimming with school children, hopped off at the wharf, got on a boat to cross the bay, and climbed on a motorcycle taxi to Canoa. Canoa is where the locals go when they want to go to the beach. It is two streets and neither is paved. We had breakfast and suited up for a day of sun and surf…

I barely dodged a debilitating sunburn

Over lunch we met Leo, the (debatable) longboard surf champion of the country who was preparing the head to Peru for the South American championships. His (debatable) cousin Jorge met with us at dinner to sell raffle tickets. We did not win.

Saturday morning, we spent a few more hours in Canoa before getting in a dump truck with a paper “Taxi” sign and returning to the wharf that would return us to Bahía. We checked in to Coco Bongo, which had enormous rooms and a private balcony. We explored the town and watched some sort of parade…the purpose is still unknown. We went to bed early and awoke early the next day to return to Quito. To give an idea of how the return trip went, the bus played the first three ‘Lethal Weapon’ movies back to back to back. Yeah, it went that well.


Sam: Otavalo/¡Huelga!

October 8, 2010
Last weekend, we in the Public Health concentration track had known for a while that there was an observation trip but little did I know that it would be in Otavalo. Again. Luckily, I like the ‘valo, so missing class to go to my future location of retirement was no skin off my back. We left from CIMAS at seven on Tuesday morning and drove to Hospital ‘San Luis’ de Otavalo. On a side note, Ecuador is really into unnecessary quotes. There is a store down the street from me that touts its “‘Carnes’ frescas” (Fresh “Meats”). The hospital caters to both mestizo and Kichwa populations, so all signs are bilingual in Spanish and Kichwa. I began to feel dizzy, so our track coordinator, Vanessa, gave me some orange drink and took me to the magical realm of the ER to get my blood pressure checked. We think it is altitude sickness but it could easily be a reaction to medicine as well.

After the hospital we went to Jambi Huasi, a traditional clinic, where Señoras Conchita and Juanita perform diagnostic rituals with eggs and cuy (guinea pigs). I was the lucky one who received the cuy diagnostics (videos and pictures coming soon). Señora Juanita, who stands eye-to-eye with my sternum, rubbed me down with a live guinea pig. The guinea pig dies in the process (probably due to being swung around by the neck) and is then skinned and gutted, acting as a representation of the client. According to a deceased rodent, I am completely healthy.

The group left for Casa Sol, where we would stay the night, for a lecture on ancestral wisdom and health. In the lecture, we learned some basic plant remedies, however the plants can only be harvested at dawn, noon, dusk, and midnight so that the plant energies are most effective. After that, we performed a wisdom ritual and then walked to the Peguche waterfall just because we could. The sun set, and we had dinner before going into town for pies, empanadas, and phone minutes. Casa Sol is famous for being designed by the Kichwas and painted by first graders.

On Thursday we went to Cotacachi, a leatherworkers’ village north of Otavalo, to learn about traditional birthing methods in Jambi Mascaric, a center for health and education catering to the Kichwa community. The demonstration took longer than some actual births, but I suppose for some members of the group it was helpful and interesting. In recent news, Francisco is a new father.

When we got back on the bus we learned about the state of affairs of the nation. For those who do not yet know, the police began protesting a new law that would allegedly limit their benefits. The police began burning tires in the street and took the Quito airport and a bridge in Guayaquil. President Correa took to the street, where he was hit and tear gassed. After this, he was rushed to the hospital to be treated, which was promptly surrounded by police. The military and the police got into a shootout with rubber bullets, but two police officers died in the standoff. Correa’s supporters busted him out and took him to the presidential palace where he gave a speech denouncing the protest as uninformed and unprofessional (as the ones who are meant to keep the law are the very ones who brought on the anarchy) and suggested that it was an attempted coup d’etat by former president Lucio Gutiérrez. People in the States who say that Obama is charismatic have never heard Rafael Correa speak. Maybe it was because of the situation, but there is a reason he has such a high approval rating.

Back to the task at hand, Dr. Suárez, the Cimas program director, would not let us return to Quito, so we joined with the Education track (also in Otavalo) to stay at Casa Sol and watch the aforementioned events unfold. We also learned how to play Cuarenta and heard some good Ecuadorean jokes.

This morning we were finally cleared for takeoff, so we came back to Quito where we were debriefed and met some of the students from the University of Washington who will be with Cimas for a few weeks.

Sam: Internship interview

September 27, 2010

On Friday I left my house at 5:50 a.m. to catch a bus to Otavalo for my interview and to meet my placement family. Besides being way too early for anything, the trip was uneventful. Transporter 3, followed by Transporter 2, were on the bus television in Spanish. Judging by the action, I wouldn’t have understood even in English.

As requested, the driver dropped our early bird group of four off at a gas station where we called Nate’s host parents, Marcela and Carlos, to come pick us up and drive us to our interviews. Nothing says “good morning” like being picked up in a big white van at a gas station by complete strangers.

I was first to my interview at CEMOPLAF (Centro Médico de Orientación y Planificación Familiar [Medical Center for Family Orientation and Planning]): it’s going to be great. Dra. Quelal et al are going to have me working in the clinic as well as sending me to talk to high schools.

After the other interviews I got to meet my host mother, Tania. Her husband, Mario, is the mayor of Otavalo. Nice. She showed me Peguche, the village where they live (98% indigenous, mostly artisans—I can hear looms working from my house) and then showed me the house, pictures of the kids, and the dogs, Pancho and Laika. She was going back to Quito anyway so no bus for that afternoon.


Sam: Internship

September 16, 2010

Good news: I have a tentative internship lined up. I will be heading back to Otavalo next Friday so I can meet the organization and so they can meet me. If I continue with this plan I will be working at CEMOPLAF, an educational and clinical organization for adolescents (predominantly indigenous [Kichwa Otavaleños]). Other than that, no news of note to report, although I have been jonesing for some Hot Dogs de González Suárez…


Sam: Classes

September 9, 2010

Classes are in full swing here at Cimas. The content is generally very interesting and the lecturers are all distinguished in their fields, but seven hours of classes a day are a lot. Spanish especially is very frustrating since the methodology up to now is based on memorizing verb tables – surely a thing of the past. The MSID group, however, is fantastic. Everyone seems to get along with each other and, with a few minor differences, we share similar goals and inspirations. Tomorrow is the last day of classes for the week and Friday brings the guided tour of Quito…almost two weeks after our arrival. There has already been talk of an excursion to the local Mindo cloud forest this weekend and plans are beginning to surface regarding visits to other locales in the future.

Snow-capped Corazón from across the city after a rainy night
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