My site is in southern Ecuador, on the Peruvian border. It is hot and dry (though I hear that it is hot and humid for part of the year, too) and under 200m above sea level! What a change, there is a wide variety of plants and animals (no llamas though) here and sometimes I don’t even sleep with a blanket.
Ursula is the furthest left and Jhonny is the one in the middle next to Romulus.
My social life here is great…that is, my friends are a gang of kids, my BFF being an eight year old named Rommel (I call him Romulus). Rommel is a hell of a kid, though. He’s soft-spoken but very intelligent and a quick learner. At first we just played war (lots and lots of war) together, but now we are working on a simplified version of Scrabble.
There´s this cool practice here called a ¨minga¨where the community gets together to volunteer to do some public works project. The mingas we do in the reserve are mostly building fences to keep the goats out. Check it out:As far as work, I am replacing a couple that was here (sounds like PC didn’t suit them) so I am busy, busy, busy! I can’t believe how much work there is to do here and how different the attitude is. It’s sad, though, because I am starting to see how difficult life is in Bolivia. I am amazed at how progressive and enthusiastic the people in the campo here are. Although I love Oruro, it was so hard to work there.
So…what have I been working on since I got here? Well, like in Mach, we work in the surrounding communities, though this time those communities are around and within a forest preserve owned mostly by my counterpart organization. We have various programs to help community development and, simultaneously, forest preservation. My first month here I tried to take advantage as much as possible to tag along with people, get to know as much of the communities and other projects as I possibly could. There is a project working with women to make and sell goat dairy products and I’m really excited to take that on as my main project. Luckily, we have many agricultural and other natural sciences experts working with the organization, but what’s lacking is someone with more business knowledge and experience. Which is very convenient for me! There’s a lot for me to learn and a lot for me to teach. My favorite part about the work is that the main objectives are not profits or production, but rather preservation of the forest and sustainable community development.
We have a fair to go to on Sunday and then we’re going to talk about planning for the rainy season. The problem is that there is hardly any milk production in the dry season (like 8-9 months of the year) and then there is overproduction in the wet season (3-4 months). During the wet season, due to market flooding, the price of cheese drops drastically, not to mention that transportation is difficult which means that their products can spoil before they are sold, since they are all-natural without any preservatives. I’m really going to try to push the women to try to come up with their own solution to this problem. They know that if they just make fresh cheese they will lose money because they sell it below cost. They know that neither I nor they can fix the road. We’ll see what they come up with and hopefully we will have an attack plan by January.
Amusing ways of cutting wood for bee boxes. iloveit.
I guess that’s it for now. I don’t want to test my luck here or anything, but I’ve been in Peace Corps for 15 ½ months and I’ve got less than a year to go…at this point I’m so enthusiastic about my project that I’m just hoping I can do everything I want to in that short amount of time! I’m going to try to update this at least once, if not twice a month. If you want to email me, I will respond. If you want to call, my cell phone gets incoming calls, as well as being able to receive and send texts from/to the states. I think you all already have my mailing address (GMA, I received your Birthday card, THANK YOU! And sorry for being so rude and not having written to you yet, I’ll get on it!). Alright, I’ve got so much to do (starting a computer class tomorrow morning!) but I swear I will try to stay on top of these blogs! Love you all,
Sarita (con cariñito)