Posts Tagged ‘CIMAS’


Hilary: 24 new people!

September 8, 2011

The semester has started!  And along with it came 24 wonderful amazing new people!  We are now a strong group of 26 women and 3 young men.  That’s a lot of estrogen!!  As I walked into the auditorium this past Tuesday which is usually empty, I was confronted with 24 new people and a collective anxious and proud energy.  As the week went on I kept switching from staying in the background and watching quietly, to interacting and telling jokes and stories in English and Spanish.  This past weekend we all had a retreat in Los Bancos (a small pueblo just outside of Mindo, about 2.5 hours northwest of Quito).  This was a magical place.  The hotel was beautiful and set in a forest reserve.  I can’t begin to describe all of the flora and fauna that I encountered.  If I only leave with one concept when I leave Ecuador, for now I want it to be diversity.  Diversity of nature, animals, insects, plants, land, and finally diversity of peoples.  Over the weekend I learned the names of all of my new compañeros, learned about their lives here and in the states and started some beautiful friendships!

There are 4 different “tracks” in my study abroad program.  The first 3 weeks in CIMAS is a general program to learn about development and politics in Ecuador.  After these 3 weeks we will be split up into our prospective tracks.  These tracks are education, social services, public health, and environmental studies.  I am in the track of education. It is one of the smaller tracks—only 5 of us!  But I am looking forward to the opportunity to work closely with these 5 people!

Now to backtrack a bit… Last weekend the 5 of us from the pre-session took a tour of the northwest coast!  We visited Atacames and Mompiche in the province of Esmereldas and then traveled to Canoa in Manabí.  The ocean is so tranquil and calming!  I had a great time getting to know other travelers from all over South America!  From Colombia, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Guatemala.  We had great campfires on the beach with guitars, drums, accordions, flutes, singing, dancing, and great conversation. If anyone is in Canoa, please stop by the Hostal Iguana, wonderful people with buena onda (good spirit).  

This past week we had an amazing lecture by Doc Haliday, an ethnomusicologist who has been living in Quito for the last 6 years. He gave a lecture about embracing a new culture and letting go of inhibitions and habits from the U.S. I was loving it. He was describing the process I went through in India and in Guatemala to accept, grow, change, and learn different ways of interacting with the world and then he challenged us to spread our knowledge and what we learn, how we change so that the eyes of the world’s peoples can be opened as well. I am so fortunate to be able to be on this study abroad program, and in Ecuador no less. I am hoping to take advantage of all of the opportunities I have to grow and learn, and then to share with you and anyone who I bump into along the way!

One of the main things that I am learning about here is rights for the land and nature. Right now Ecuador has one of the most progressive constitutions in history. It has mandates protecting the land and the indigenous peoples and cultures who live with the land. This constitution clearly respects that we need the land to live and that if we take advantage of it we will suffer because it provides life for us. (In a nutshell, that is the point of view..)

Another idea that we have spent a lot of time talking about here is energy, the energy of the earth, of people, and the energy of the universe.  This is based of of Incan beliefs of the balance between north, south, east, and west; and also the balance between the four elements, wood, fire, air, and water.  We need all of these to live and to create an equal balance in our lives.  One of our guides was explaining the “myth” of 2012.  It is not that the world is going to die—it is that our poles are shifting, and that is creating off-balance in the land.  In 2012 they don’t have an exact prediction of how many degrees the poles will shift, but it is expected that they will.  He talked about the last tsunami/earthquake that hit Japan as an example of a repercussion of this shift. After this little talk, he took some volunteers to measure the size of their personal energy.  He used to metal sticks that cross when they encounter an energy field or force.  We were standing on the equator at this point and so he could show us the force between north and west/east.  He picked me and discovered that my “energy field” is actually quite large.  So cool to see it!

I am continuing to love my time in Ecuador and am ready and open to keep learning.  I hope you are all learning something too. Continue on your journeys, stay happy and healthy!


Sara: I made it!

September 1, 2011

Hola a todos!

I have made it to Ecuador! The flights were ok, nothing too exciting except a lightening storm in Miami which delayed us on the runway for about an hour.  Other than that I get picked up at the Quito International airport then shipped to a hotel right away.  We then left the next morning for CIMAS (my school).  Here we had tons of orientation (all in Spanish of course!) and then after a traditional Ecuadorian lunch and tour of the school, which is beautiful, I met and went home with my host family! I have my own room in a house about 15 minutes away from the school, so I will be riding the bus each morning and evening. I have a host father (papa) a host mother (mama) and 2 host siblings (Michelle 15, and Aaron 4).

They asked me tons of questions and I have learned so much about them! For example, none of them know English. Today we had a lecture and I felt like I was right back in Minnesota, minus the Spanish immersion.  I just had lunch which I bought at the markets down the street, an orange, a croissant fresh from the oven and a juice.  This weekend we are going on a trip to “las haciendas” which is the rural farms where we will be staying overnight.  Talk about packing things in! I officially start class tomorrow and that is when the real work is going to start.

I’ll have more updates and possibly a few pictures soon!

and for all of you who are wondering, yes, I do have altitude sickness and can barely make it up the stairs here!

Sara (Sarita)


Kelly: The past week

April 20, 2011

Jueves (14/4): Completed a couple of interviews with people. A friend made a Chinese soup with shrimp for lunch. My tutor and I tried to meet in Ibarra to talk about my paper, but we couldn’t find each other and the cafe we agreed to meet at was closed and buses took longer than normal. It was three hours and an entire 90 centavos needlessly spent on buses (round trip, mind you).

Viernes (15/4): Did more interviews. Had a meeting with Emilia from CIMAS to talk about how my internship is going and what I’m doing. I had a hard time explaining that last part because I don’t necessarily have a set schedule, but I end up doing a lot of little, varied things that make the days fly by. I got a bit overwhelmed in realizing that a) this paper is going to take a lot of time to write/complete, b) I only have two weeks left in Otavalo and, c) I only have 4 weeks left in Ecuador. Emilia was very complimentary of my project though and said it’s something that’s never been looked-into before.

There was a going away party for several Ecuadorian friends (and friends of friends). Two people are going to Venezuela (separate cities though) and two are headed to Chicago for nine months. I left the activity at 4am, which, I found out later, is when things started happening. It’s probably a good thing that there will be less people to hang out with in these last couple weeks… I hope it will help reduce my procrastination.

Sábado (16/4): Transcribed interviews for a while; it takes so long to do, especially when there are words in Spanish I don’t recognize or screaming babies in the background who make it difficult to hear. Had fanesca at the family of a friend’s house. Here’s how wiki translated some information about la fanesca: “

“The fanesca is a soup typical Ecuadorian cuisine , is traditionally served during the period of Easter (or even a week before). This is a soup that is served hot. Tradition from Spain. Its preparation brings the whole family several days before getting down to work to peel the beans and let the soup more delicate, so are taking away the grain, grain husks. The fanesca is all a celebration that marks the Ecuadorian culture, is about teamwork, sharing and enjoy the cooperation of all members of the family, the Andean tradition, the wisdom of the elderly, children’s hands and the time of the grandmothers. Cooked in milk and cod. This exquisite dish blends indigenous tradition of Spanish culture. In honor of the twelve apostles, has 12 ingredients, including grains are typically Andean such as: corn , quinoa , lupines , beans , peas ,lentils , peanuts and beans . It tastes very special and delicious. Its scent back to the grandmother’s home preparations.”

Anyway, it was quite good and I was easily welcomed into the family affair. Out of necessity, I’m getting better at denying seconds and thirds.

After a nap, a friend and I hung out in the Plaza de los Ponchos for a couple hours: people-watching, making up movie-scripts about stray groups of dogs, and playing a second of hot lava monster. We joined others to play Jenga at a pub, then braved the rain to go dancing. There ended up being a huge fight—evidence of which remained in blood splatters on cars. When they started letting people in/out of the bar again, the energy was tense and we witnessed the beginings of more conflicts. Maybe the full moon had influence.

Domingo (17/4): Went with Humberto to the start of a soccer tournament in Iluman (I think?) called “Llullu Muru Raymi Pascuas La Bolsa,” which I assume is Quechua. It’s an indigenous tourney for kids/young adults, and like all indigenous festivities here, food was not lacking. During the comencement ceremony, the madrinas (which translates to “godmother” but has different significance in this situation as most of the girls were under 18 years old) of each team and the madrinas of the tourney in general were recognized and the organizers and other women of the community presented their gifts of food (chicken and potatoes or a quantity of cooked grains). Once all the grains were dumped onto a sheet in the middle of the field, tended by several women and circled by hungry dogs, it was an unorganized rush to grab handfuls of the communal snack. Humberto didn’t have a bag with him, so we ate out of his cupped fleece jacket as we walked to Peguche to meet up with Luzmila, Shryi, Ishanti, and Itumi at the church.

So it was palm Sunday, right? Did you know that there is a species of little birds who live in the special type of palm-Sunday tree whose numbers are endangered because of the desforestation of this plant? It’s true. Which is why it’s not allowed to use that type of plant anymore—any leaf will do. Luzmila brought the tops of two stalks of corn and we carried the now-blessed bundle with us back to the soccer fields to watch a game or two. Shyri had been upset that this was the first tournament he hadn’t played in in nine years, but he ended up meeting up with friends who let him join. From everything I hear, he’s a great jugador and is always participating in some tournament or pick0up game.

Lunes (18/4): Worked on transcribing. Conducted two really interesting interviews. One with a holistically-minded gynocologist and the other with Luzmila. Found out that before pharmacists sell anti-conception or birth-control methods to women, they ask whether they are married or not; this helps explain why the pregnancy-rate of teenagers is one of the highest in South America (also, 94% of sexually-active young people know about birth control methods, yet only 42% use them). Men are not questioned about their marital status. Oh machismo—it manifests in so many ways. From a liberal, feminist, equal-rights perspective it’s interesting to live in this culture that degrades and highly values women at the same time. I don’t always know how to deal with it.

Went to Regina’s house to have fanesca with her host family. Every family has their own special way of making it and each claim that their grandma’s is the best. (I preferred the first type. It had peanut butter. PB always wins).

Martes (19/4): More f-ing transcribing. Practiced to a new Dave Farmar yoga podcast! Helped grind chochlo to make a colada. Will be meeting up with a friend to hang out before she returns to the states.

Also, did I ever post a picture of me wearing the anaco? I have proof…

 (I’m staying in Cesar’s room. He told me once that he likes the indigenous from my country and has dreams to meet and marry one… explanations for the wall decoration)

At the wedding. One friend of Humberto’s told me I should always wear the anaco. I think I look like I’m 12.

Erika and I took pictures with Photo Booth today. She’s been in a surprisingly friendly mood compared to the usual blank face she gives me when I try to chat with her.



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: 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: 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: 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

Brittany: A weekend on the equator

September 6, 2010

I had a great weekend! On Friday, all of the CIMAS students and three of our professors went to San Miguel de los Bancos, a town on the equator. After weaving along mountain roads for three hours (and somehow avoiding being car sick), we arrived at our resort, “el encanto.” It was small but nice, and our group had it to ourselves. The girls and guys each had their own “house,” which was really nice and big with fantastic views overlooking the surrounding forest. We were pretty far from everything—the actual town of San Miguel was 30 minutes away.

After eating breakfast, we went on a crazy hike. Guides from the resort led us down a trail through the forest, showing us plants and such along the way. At one point, we could see through the trees to a place where an earthquake had ripped through, and to another part of the forest that no one has ever been in before. There was also a horse and later a donkey randomly hanging out along the trail, which was pretty amusing. After about two hours of carefully trekking down lower and lower along the dirt/mud path, we reached the river. Someone heard that we went 3,000 feet down, but I’m not sure.

At the bottom, our guides told us to go ahead and take off our clothes (we all had our swim suits on), but keep our tennis shoes on. I figured that meant we had to swim with our shoes—maybe it was rocky. Instead, we had to climb up and down some final steep spots before actually getting to the right spot on the river.

Needless to say it was a little awkward to hike for another twenty minutes in your swimsuit… especially because when we finally got to the location it seemed like we could have easily just taken off our clothes there. It is possible this had something to do with the fact the guides kept filming us on their phones while we swam. So I might be popping up in a promotional video for the resort (at least I hope that was what it was for…).

Nevertheless, we finally go to the right spot on the river and swam for an hour. It was freezing but really fun. Of course, then we had to hike back up the mountain to the resort…

The rest of Friday and half of Saturday we got to swim in the pool, be in the hot tub, and hang out. We also had some school-related things, like group-bonding activities, a dance class and a session about Incan history and the environment.

Overall it was a really fun day and a half and we were all sad to go back to Quito. It was fantastic to hang out outside and relax. I like the weather in Quito, but I feel like I rarely spend anytime outside, so a little while exactly on the equator was perfect.

–Brittany Libra

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