Thursday, January 22, 2009

Seeing as another month has gone by, I figured I ought to update my blog. Life is still excellent here in site. The rainy season has begun in paradise, which means LOTS of bugs, humidity, heat, and all of the lovely things that accompany those. However, I’m happy as ever, if only slightly itchier and less well-rested. I really like the rain, though, and it’s transforming everything, which is so cool to see. Below is a Guyacan tree, which flowers at the start of the rainy season.
So pretty! I have yet to see the waterfalls that everyone keeps talking about, but I’m very excited for them. The river got pretty high and turbulent with the last rain. It’s hard to tell from the photos, but it’s a decent size river.
River in dry season
River after rain

Since my last entry, I’ve moved away from just accompanying other people in their projects and into starting my own projects. So far my work has been restricted to one community, which I prefer because working with few people allows me to get to know them better, which is not only enjoyable for me, but also helps us be able to get more work done. Besides, I LOVE the community…it’s so beautiful! I usually get a ride out to the community, stay for 2-3 days, and then get a ride back.
The community where I work

The first project I started was computer classes in the elementary school. The school is a one-room, 1st-6th school with 12 students. Class runs from 8am-10am, recess is 10-11, and then class resumes from 11am-1pm. Imagine for a moment being in a class with 12 students in six different grades for four hours a day with one teacher. It’s a challenging environment, to say the least. Well, the school has had one computer for three years with no one who knows how to use it. Computer classes went really well and we covered how to assemble/turn on/turn off a computer, mouse use, painting, and typing. The structure of the class actually worked to my advantage, as the teacher could only work with one grade level at a time, leaving most of the other kids to work on worksheets, etc., and 1-2 kids to practice on the computer. Since typing is something that requires more practice than instruction, I continued to give the kids time to practice typing, but we moved onto environmental education classes as a group.

Oh and I taught PE one day and we played kickball. Kickball, indeed!

hangin´out at recess

Dancin' at the Christmas Party

computer class- alejandra with all her deditos nice and comfy in their casitas

EE Class fieldtrips to the forest

Having said that, school lets out this week and I am looking forward to the opportunity to work more in-depth on other projects. I have two other main projects that I’m working on. First is a nutrition/nutritional security program that consists of three main components: 1) family gardens 2) theoretical nutritional education 3) practical nutritional workshops…that is, we are planting gardens, learning why what we are growing is good, and learning what to do with what we are growing (cooking classes). I am starting with a group of three families and the garden we are planting is going to be a little bigger than a family garden, and will serve as a model from which other families can learn. This garden is my first official financed project in Ecuador, hooray! (Granted the financing was less than $50, but whatever) Since there is not much excess water in the community, the idea is that families will plant small, individual gardens for family consumption only. So far, so good, but we’ve only just begun.

mmm roasted squash seeds

clearing the land for the garden

Seed bed

Main plot- 5m x 10m

The other project is small business development with the goat herders. I want to work first simultaneously with organization and controlling the quality and availability of input materials. Like I said before, the goats really only produce enough milk for the business in the rainy season, about three months a year. The rest of the year, if the women want to sell their products they have to buy milk. In the rainy season, that would be no problem as milk costs as low as .30/liter. However, in the dry season, when they need milk, it can cost up to .80/liter. What’s worse is the market price for the products they make is higher in the dry season and lower in wet season as well. Therefore, in the dry season they lose money because their costs go up and in the wet season, they lose money because of market flooding. Also, the women only sell to people who seek them out and sometimes in fairs, which generally require a lot of time and transportation and generate few sales. So what we want to do is find a way that the women can have sufficient, consistent milk output year-round and organization so that sales, too, stay consistent year-round. The work, then, has various parts. One being business consulting, how to organize a business, how to set up a client list and take orders, how to keep records, how to analyze if a business opportunity will be profitable, how to calculate costs and prices, how to do a market study, etc. Another part is setting up pastures and stables for the dairy goats as well as better controlling the health and well-being of said goats. Hopefully this will have many effects as the goats will become healthier, produce more and better-quality milk, and increase incomes. This should motivate people to want to move towards a more controlled approach to raising goats, decreasing the amount of time that the goats spend in the forest, thereby aiding NCI’s forest-conservation efforts. We’ll see…we’ll see. I’m working on helping to write up a proposal for the pasture part of the project with an Ag. student who is doing an internship at NCI.

Hope you all are doing well. Thanks to those who have been sending emails, they always brighten my day.

Oh, and I wanted to share these pictures too:

The chicken decided to relax in the hammock for a bit...

This is what the kids do when there's no school...hehFound this in my room in Cabeza de Toro...the kids thought it was hilarious that I put it in the forest instead of killing it.