Friday, December 11, 2009


November was a good month and seemed to pass very quickly.

Saturday the 7th I celebrated a friend, Paulina’s, birthday with her and her family (the Martinez'...the family I always talk about, with whom I’m very close) during the day.

(L to R: Ramiro, me, Chelita, Moshe, Mayra, and Paulina)

They always joke that her daughter looks like my kid and so we took some photos which were meant to be a (albeit cruel) joke on my parents.

(SURPRISE! I had a kid and you didn't know. Isn't that HILARIOUS???)

At night my host mom and some of my other (shall we say more mature?) friends surprised me with a party in one of the town’s clubs, cake and all! It was touching that they would do this for me considering that I don’t think they’ve ever gone to either one of the clubs and it was clearly outside of the social norm for them. We had a great time though…

(This, ladies and gentlemen, is what SCANDAL looks like...)

Sunday three of my coworkers invited me to some beer to continue the celebration, and I convinced them that we should hold the celebration at the weekly soccer games, which is where I spend my Sundays anyway. Monday, my actual birthday, the Martinez family invited me to a birthday lunch at their house and in the afternoon all of my coworkers closed the celebration with cake, singing, etc.

Three days of celebrations all planned by friends here…the people are unbelievably warm and generous, I can’t remember ever feeling so loved, and so unexpectedly so.

Mid-month I started a World Map project with the kids in Cabeza de Toro. The project is to paint a world map on a wall or a bball court, etc. and integrate geography education.

(So far, we've just traced it.)

Other work projects this month included organizing a group of kids interested in environmental issues and giving them some workshops on solid waste management and, in my spare time, helping out a youth service group (JuventudeZapotillo) that formed here years ago but has recently been inactive.

…and then I went to Quito for Thanksgiving and a little getaway...

(From the Camilo Egas Museum...he was an Ecuadorian "indigenist"/ expressionist/ surrealist/ cubist/abstract painter.)

(A sculpture by Ecuadorian Manuel Chili at the Franciscan Museum "Fray Pedro Gocial.")

Photos from an exhibit by André Cypriano about the Quilombola culture.

The Basilica del Voto Nacional...I climbed up the tower on the far left. For those who worry about me, it was no real risk but for those who like to hear adventurous stories, I suggest you read the Lonely Planet description of the ascent.

Quito from the Paramo...that's the Teleférico on the far right.

Quito, view from the paramo

The city as seen from the Basilica del Voto Nacional

Kasia hangin' out at the paramo in Quito...right before she headed off to Galapagos for a year!!

Akila is clearly better at fake falling off of fake cliffs.

Photos from an interesting exhibit where 10 ordinary Quiteños shot their own unique views of the city in celebration of its anniversary.

Embassy-hosted Thanksgiving. The people, the setting, the food; it was all awesome.

Alright, folks, that's all for now. Take care, I love and miss you all a ton! Abrazotes,

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


First and foremost, October was the start of

which means lots and lots and lots of all sorts of mangos all over town.




In work news, I was invited to participate in a World Food Day fair in the main plaza. I made a poster about the benefits of various vitamins and minerals and Darwin helped make some carboard cutouts of fruits and vegetables with their benefits listed on the back. I made burritos (minus the tortillas which turned out basically cups of rice, beans, and pico de gallo) and squash cake to demonstrate how to incorporate more veggies into any meal and how to make a complete protein with beans and rice. We also had a table to promote and give out samples of the goat cheese and dulce de leche from Cabeza de Toro. I couldn't motivate anyone from the community to come out if they weren't going to sell anything, which was disappointing, but at least everyone liked the samples.

Oh, and I got my picture published in a Loja newspaper with a short announcement about the event. The guy on my right is the mayor and the lady on my left is a friend of mine from bball. (Article reads: "TOWN CELEBRATES WORLD FOOD DAY *Zapotillo* The municipality of Zapotillo, along with the support of COSV, NCI, CARE, The Minister of Economic and Social Inclusion, The Children and Family Institute, the Nourish Ecuador program, Zapotillo High School, and other participants, hosted various activities to celebrate World Food Day. Those present included the cantón's mayor, Ramiro Valdivieso, and representatives from the participating institutions. The festivities included expositions about healthy diets followed by traditional dishes, desserts, and exotic drinks prepared with local products.")

Also, we drove by the "landfill" to check it out because we were thinking about starting some garbage/recycling activities with the high school kids here. What we found was pretty turns out that despite the nice sign at the entrance that declares it at a landfill, it is actually a dump where the garbage is brought weekly in uncovered trucks and left until they burn it. Nothing is sorted and nothing is excluded, even though they have worm beds to put the organic garbage in, a cement tank for hospital waste, and a house for sorting recyclables. We found paint, batteries, tires, poison, needles and other hospital waste, aerosols, shoes, organic waste, plastic, cardboard, paper, glass, tin cans, aluminum, etc...all mixed together waiting to be burned. What doesn't burn (tin cans, etc) is left there to presumably go into the next week's fire. The entire perimeter of the dump has garbage strewn about. I'd hate to see the fire that would result if they weren't careful enough burning the trash...can you imagine how quickly things would catch fire at the end of a 4-month dry season? The worm/composting beds lie empty and the only thing in the hospital waste disposal tanks is the garbage from someone's lunch. The house that is meant for sorting recyclables has some bank records from long enough ago that I doubt they've ever actually done anything with the recyclables. It's absolutely disgusting that they pass this off as responsible waste management...they might as well save themselves a lot of time and money and just let everyone burn their own garbage in their homes. UGH.

Other than that, work was kinda slow as we experienced a lack of transportation and electricity. So I took advantage of the opportunity to kick Darwin's butt in Scrabble...yet again.

That's right, cry little man, cry

Hehe, office geckos

In campo news, like I said the Ceibo trees' fruits opened up and gave off these fluffy little cotton-like balls. I should have made a better effort to collect's super soft and people say it makes great pillows. Oh well, maybe next year.

This is another owl we have around here...much smaller than the other one I showed you...about fist-sized.

And in personal news...
The circus came to town! Actually the circus was kinda creepy. The clowns got little boys to come up front and take their shirts off and they had a dance contest to Michael Jackson music and then inevitably made fun of them. Hmm...oh well. At least the fire-eating dude was cool.

And it was my host mom's birthday! In case you didn't catch her in earlier photos, she's the third from your left.

Oh and i just liked this's funny because you really do see kids driving motorcycles here...but parents usually don't let them until they are like 11 so I guess it's not that bad...???

Oh and it's started getting super hot during the day again. Things get super lazy around noon...notice the dog napping in the middle of the street...

Alright, that's it for now. Abrazos!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Phew...I'm having trouble keeping up with these blog updates! Bueno...The most exciting news about September is that I finally got a new propane tank! You may not find this to be such a big deal but I had gone two months without cooking and, due to too many bologna sandwiches, too much beer from the August parties, and an extended break from basketball, my health was declining and I had gained 10 lbs. September started like any other month, with a meeting the 2nd of the reserve's management comittee. They do hikes to monitor the forest and to keep out foreign livestock and such. From there I stayed in Cabeza de Toro a few days...I've been trying to start teaching again regularly, but the distance of the community from Zapotillo is problematic. Anyway, when I can, I am teaching English/Computer/Environmental Education classes and basketball during recess. Since I've been staying there a few days at a time, I've been honing my firewood gathering/fire lighting/cooking over a fire skills.

This year's class...just a few new faces.

Reviewing how to connect the various parts of the computer. They had it wrong the last time and thought the computer was broken because all of the plugs were just jammed into random ports. 

Printing out coloring pages


It seems there are always kittens at the Sanchez cute!

Clowning around in Cabeza de Toro.

I found these amusing...

OH! So, also in September, a photojournalist came to visit me in my site. He's putting together a book for the 50th Anniversary of Peace Corps in 2011. The book will document the lives of PC volunteers around the world to show what it means to be a PCV, how PC has changed over the years, and its continued relevance today. Here are links to his project siteand tohis blog.So the idea was that he followed me around for a few days to document my life, which was kinda weird and cool at the same time. Unfortunately he missed out on the class! Anyway, here are some photos...he hasn't sent me photos from the last day yet.

Stupid flu vaccines

Morning coffee talk with the boss/hanging out at the office

I love this photo!!

Checking out a fish pond project

Campo life

Serving lunch after a meeting

Talking about camera lenses, I think

Love this photo too! Taken from my neighbor's house.

Zapotillo at sunset

Hiking in the reserve, training a potential new guide.


The little girl (Sayra) and I were discussing the intricacies of colors in english.

Visiting with my favorite family!

Random Photos from September:

My coworkers assisted in confiscating some wood that was illegally cut down to sell. I was so disappointed I couldn't go with...we were on travel restrictions! They confiscated like 600 of over 1000 posts. Luckily a coworker took photos for me.

The town castle is the best place to go stargazing here...on a clear night it's awesome!

Maria with a new puppy...there are actually very nice, friendly dogs here, it's crazy!

A bird that got left out of the bird post...can't remember its name.

Random picture with the Italians in my site. The girl, Marcella, just left. =(

Well, I guess that's it for now. As always, I love and miss you all! Abrazotes,