Thursday, May 21, 2009

Back in the swing of things

Geez can you believe it’s nearly June and I still haven’t updated? Sorry ;) Truth is, I started an update a while back but never got around to finishing and posting it. I was supposed to go to a COS conference this week, but whatever-the-politically-correct-acronym-for-that-pig flu has hit Ecuador and thus our travel has been restricted. Good for me because I didn’t really want to travel all that way anyway and good for you because you finally get an update. Not so good, however, for the folks with the flu I guess.

So…despite the circumstances, the trip to the US was nice. It was good to spend time with family as time with family and friends is the only thing I really consider a sacrifice in PC. I’ve always loved the time I’ve spent in Fredericksburg, and it was nice to visit San Antonio as well.

I arrived in Zapotillo at an obscenely early hour on Good Friday (April 10). Easter was pleasant but rather uneventful. The kids and I painted easter eggs Ecua-style with brown eggs and colored pencils. I had some photos of this but I can’t seem to find them now.

Then back to work as usual on Monday. I started back at work in the office with a market study for palo santo essential oil. I made fairly good progress on it, considering that the only resource I had was dialup internet for two hours (on a good day) during lunch. The palo santo is a tree that is native to regions near here and the reserve has about 3000 hectares of land full of the trees, from which they pick up to 52.8 (out of an available 37,500) quintales of fruit during the annual harvest, which takes place in march/april. The locals are paid for their work and the fruit is sent to the city to extract the essential oils. Up to about 50kg of the oil can be produced annually and a portion of what is sold goes to the community bank as a bonus.

The next week I tagged along for measuring (with GPS) some land in order to legalize the community member’s property, charging only the processing costs charged by the government. I admire my work partners in the great progress and successes they’ve had over the years in this work because it is extremely tedious, the worst of the struggle being getting the people to understand that you are doing them a huge favor. The dudes wouldn’t let me walk around to measure the land so I mostly got to sit and chat with the locals, which is always a learning experience. Oh well, one day they’ll teach me GPS too.
04.5 Work Partners napping after a loooong day of measuring land

Other April happenings in-town included a friend’s daughter’s birthday party, elections, a week of protesting alleged election fraud and burning tires, and re-elections.

Portrait of me, compliments of Sayra ;)

Then we started work on a trail…the guys who are used to me let me help make the stairs, saw, use a machete, etc. Our first stair model was like this:

…to which I said, this is never going to last a rainy season let’s put some boards in and the guys said no, that’s a lot of work. The next week at work the boss (without my mention) said we needed to make the stairs more permanent. HAH. So my model got implemented, though I wouldn’t dream of getting credit for it. All that matters is that the stairs outlast cows, goats, and RAIN.

In early May I went out of town with a work partner for a workshop in Rainforest Alliance certification, which is basically a broad, yet flexible, socially-responsible, international certification for agricultural products. All of the other participants worked in coffee or cocoa production and we went on a fieldtrip to a cocoa farm and processing plant, so it was really cool to learn something completely new.

And then my work partner and I took advantage of some free time to explore Guayaquil. I didn’t take many pictures because it is supposedly very dangerous there, but the iguana park was too cool not to photograph.

On May 13th some visitors came from the US, a representative from the US branch of NCI and a representative from the San Diego Zoo. They wanted to get to know the forests because they are interested in maybe doing species conservation work here. I really hope they follow through on it, it could be a great partnership.

On May 15th we had an in-office workshop about ethics and values. It was cool, but very long. I made cinnamon rolls, so at least I contributed something...

Other recent, random news: Ecuavolley tournament in town. Ecuavolley is like volleyball, except not cool. My friend Stefanie got a puppy. Oh and my cool new camera allows me to take cool new pictures of all the cool (not new) stuff around here. Sit back and be amazed…I think they’re self-explanatory.


LCpl Roger Willey, USMC said...

Sarah, the pictures are great! You sound like you've had a lot of variety recently, keeping busy with many different things. Good work on the trail, btw. Looks pretty solid from here.

LCpl Roger Willey, USMC said...

Btw, what is that creature you're holding? It looks like a mix between dog and cow, and one of its limbs seems out of place. You know what to do with abominations...

Sarah said...

it´s a baby goat silly!

Betsy said...

I thought it was a cow, too! Well, a calf, but you know.

The pictures are AH-mazing! That is a camera put to good use!