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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

catching up

I enjoyed the slower pace spent in Mancora this past week and was able to do some catching up including going through some photos and realizing all the things I wanted to remember but that I had never written down. The following is a collection of some of these thoughts. It is incredibly long. I got carried away.

Looking back at Ecuador...

Though it seemed daunting at first, I came to look forward to the walk up the hill to school each day, though it never seemed to get any easier like I thought it should. (It reminded me of when I decided to take the stairs up to the fourth floor Bunt office for a year, that never got easier either).

Though such a trivial event, the walk before and after school provided, in addition to the following highlights, an opportunity to reflect on days past and plan for the days ahead…

Clear mornings, with the clouds high above both Volcan Imbabura and Volcan Cotocachi, were a special treat providing great views from the school yard which, in a strange way, seemed to bring such a positive energy to start the day…..

The ‘flower girls’, as we came to call them, would meet us each morning heading down the hill as we were going up and heading up the hill each afternoon as we were coming down, and though they were very shy, would always giggle and be excited to shake our hands, ask us our names, and hand us big, bridesmaid caliber bouquets of flowers they had collected…

The woman plowing the steep hillside, breaking new ground for a crop with nothing but a hoe, wearing her skirt and of course her rubber boots (often chatting with a man sitting nearby, watching) inspired us and I think reminded us to push ourselves a little faster…

These two trusty mules, patiently waiting to be collected by their owners at the end of the day, would greet us at the bus stop at the bottom of the hill every afternoon…

The only thing I won’t miss about the walk is the dead animal sightings. The most horrific being a donkey...being eaten by a dog. Don’t worry, no photo.
The volunteers I had the pleasure of working with at Larcacunga were dedicated to the project, to working hard, and most of all dedicated to having fun! The number of volunteers at Larcacunga varied throughout my time there. We were four when I started, peaked at about 9 somewhere in the middle, and were down to being only myself and one other (Eryn) by the time I left. Eryn was the only one there for the duration of my entire stay, having arrived a few weeks before me and having left one week after. I will sure miss her!

The volunteers specific to each of the four schools all seemed to bond well and at one point, we instituted a Larcacunga dress code… Note the matching scarves below :). Yeah, that’s right, all women. Troy’s school was the only school with male volunteers during our stay, and you guessed it, they did not have cool matching scarves… When our Larcacunga numbers were many, the weekly Tuesday ride in the back of the pickup truck with the groceries was…cozy. On pickup truck days, the kids would wait to hear the truck come roaring towards the school yard and then from out of nowhere would jump on the back for a ride. Always nice to be greeted with such style!

The kids actually really loved to jump on any moving vehicle with something they could grab on to, the gas truck, the bakery truck, the garbage truck... It always scared the crap out of me when they would go running down the hill behind a truck to try to jump on as it left the yard. I often had to stop myself from shouting out any warnings or cautionary words, as the teachers themselves didn‘t seem to mind.

Because some of the things that seem perfectly acceptable here would not be allowed at home, I came to question everything before acting on an impulse. For example, one day I came to school to find the kids had started a small fire in one corner of the school yard. It was a cool morning so although my initial reaction was that fires and small children are a bad combination, I actually considered the possibility that this was allowed and even consulted the teacher before learning that, in fact, it was not. Chasing cars, yes. Starting fires, no. Got it.

The kids were kids though, often doing things I would have done as a kid, like eating kool-aid type juice crystals until their palms and tongues turned red…..

…like swinging in the playground…

…or just kicking around a soccer ball (much to their delight we brought them this shiny new one on my last day). And then they would turn around and surprise me with things I never would have done, like collecting giant bugs to allegedly take home and fry up for a snack… Boys will be boys though and there was a phase where they brought these giant bugs to school every day. I don’t know what they were called but their feet were like velcro so when they weren’t pretending to eat them raw, they were sticking them to our clothes. Squealing only encouraged them so I actually grew to accept the little velcro buggers as long as they just clung to me and didn’t try to move… The novelty of squealing volunteers would eventually wear off and their limbs and wings would be removed (the bugs’ not the volunteers’) and they would be deposited into backpacks to be fried up and consumed after school.

Though I can’t attest to the flavor of the bugs, I did get to enjoy another yummy favorite, Fanesca! The preparation of this traditional easter meal was a joint effort prepared at the school. Each family contributed. From eggs and beans, to potatoes and milk and everything in between that went into this delicious soup. Everyone had something to share.

Fanesca is basically a big soup with twelve grains, one to represent each disciple. What a feast it was. Everyone got their hands in the pot, literally. From shucking beans and removing curnels of corn from the cob, to frying bread balls and keeping watch over the giant pot.

It was truly a group effort. Definitely the hardiest of all meals I consumed in Ecuador, I never knew ‘soup’ could be so filling. And while I couldn’t have imagined eating another bite, even the littlest tummies went back for seconds. Enjoying the fruits of their labour to the fullest :). As teachers, our creativity was tested daily as we strived to come up with activities to entertain. Physical activities ranging from the lime and spoon race to the now famed ‘chair game’ were a big hit.

While crafts including people art, bracelet beading and paper mache masks tested their craftiness.

And crafty they were, at both the expected and the unexpected. When the intern (aka me) locked the keys inside the school on a no-teacher day, we found ourselves in a bit of a pickle. But not for long as the resourceful little minds needed only a chair, a broom, and a flexible child to, well, break in. It was sad to say goodbye to these kids and it was a strange feeling to acknowledge that I had spent so much time in a place to which I will sadly not likely return. I really enjoyed the time spent at Larcacunga as it was both positive and challenging. It won’t soon be forgotten.

Outside the classroom, over and above our mountain climbing trips, our weekends in Ecuador afforded us the opportunity for various other side trips. There was the trip to Mindo for tubing and zip-lining in the cloud forest canopy….. …horseback riding to a waterfall on these trusty steeds…

…and I learned all about SATs, american colleges, and boys from these freshmen-to-be, Eryn and Katie, while hiking the five hours around Cuicocha Lake (this, incidentally, was the day before the Imbabura saga).

These gals were great stand-ins for my sisters for a little while (It was fun to be the big sister for a change) and they even humored me and my need to take charlie’s angels photos at almost every opportunity. Except they made me be in the front. I hate being in the front.

I leave you with one last photo as it seems a fitting photo to signify ‘THE END’ of our adventures in Ecuador :).


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  2. Nic, Troy - I'm really enjoying your blog. I've actually started to share it with my grade 3 class who in social have been learning about different cultures, quality of life, and global citizenship. The kids (mine) really seem to "get it" when I read through some of your posts.

  3. I have gotten so involved in your trip that I even felt a bit "sad" about your leaving those adorable, giggling kids...
    You both have made an impact on many young lives. Maybe there are other teaching opportunities out there for you!
    Thanks for sharing.