Tuesday, January 26, 2010


December was an exciting month (well, for me) so this should be an exciting update! The 2nd I skipped our monthly rancher’s meeting to guide a short tour for a woman studying tourism in Loja and to work on the World Map project we started in Cabeza de Toro.

photo: darwin martínez

On the 7th a group came from the University of Loja to learn about the reserve, practice soil studies, and to help out fixing up the trail.

As you may recall, in November we started a series of workshops on solid waste management with a group of high school kids. Those workshops continued into December as well and on the 10th the group decided to form an ecological club, wrote a constitution, and named the club EcoAmigos.

That weekend a youth service group that I’ve been helping out (JUVENTUDEZapotillo) put on a cultural program to raise money for a young man here who has Leukemia.

The following week, the whole team went to Progreso to do a community diagnostic, since NCI is going to start work in the new reserve there. I was assigned to do an activity to chart the townspeople’s’ daily activities from which I could analyze the division of labor and complete a SWOT analysis of allocation of time, etc. Each diagnostic tool is pretty boring in and of itself, but the diagnostic as a whole, particularly the analyses are interesting and necessary for the development and conservation work that we do.


a Kasia tree

Not sure what these are called but it´s some kind of less-domesticated chicken...Guinea or something...

Alligators in the Puyango River!

I don´t know the scientific name for this plant, but the locals call it ¨huevo del burro.¨ If you know spanish, I´ll let you laugh about that for a while. If you don´t, I won´t be vulgar enough to explain it to you ;)

photo: darwin martínez
This parrot thinks its mother is a chicken. Very amusing.
photo: darwin martínez
photo: darwin martínez
The next week I was “a full” (a particularly funny saying here that means very busy) helping out JUVENTUDEZ in a project where they went around town collecting donations to go out to the communities and give cookies, candy, and toys to the kids for Christmas.

Also, Eco Amigos had their first official event on the 22nd, making a Christmas tree they made out of litter found around town and presenting it at a Christmas Carols competition. It was a LOT of work, organizing, finding the bottles, etc., making the tree, preparing the event, getting t-shirts, etc., but it was definitely worth it. The event was great, everything nicely decorated, good attendance, the president of the club spoke very well, the kids were all in uniform and carried themselves well…I only wish I could have gotten a video of the whole thing, but they made me a judge for the competition and I couldn’t leave the judges table to tape it.

The 24th I stayed in my host mom’s snack shop so she could go visit her kids in Machala. That evening I closed to go to midnight mass and then to the Martinez’ for a bit…it was really nice. Christmas day I basically just walked around town, wishing everyone I knew merry Christmas and giving them cookies I made. I got to talk with most of the family as well which was nice. The day after Christmas I went with the Martinez’ to picnic on the river, which was nice because Pauli, Ramiro and the girls were in town (they live in Machala).
photo: darwin martínez
I love these girls!!

It was the most satisfying holiday season since I left home. Luckily I was busy enough this year to not think too much about being away from home for Christmas. I think what really make a difference this year, though, was that despite not being with my biological family, I still got out and spent the holiday sharing with people I care about and who care about me.

The 29th I finally was freed up to be able to go with JUVENTUDEZ to hand out some gifts that were left over. Even though it was after Christmas, it was great to be able to reach out to some communities around here that I hadn’t been to before.

The 30th, Bolívar, Darwin, and I went to Progreso because we had heard that there was a bunch of baby alligators nearby and we wanted to try to capture some. To be fair, the alligators hatch something like 20 at a time and they are lucky if a few survive, and we wanted to catch them with the intention of raising them and releasing them. Unfortunately, the net that we were using was completely ineffective and the gators got away. I’m disappointed that we didn’t capture any gators to raise, but it was still a really good trip.

photo: darwin martínez

The Chaguano trees opened up their fruits!

The guayacán trees had just started to bloom and the whole area was covered in this sheet of vibrant yellow. It’s impressive; something that you really have to see in person to appreciate. I think the guayacán trees stand out most of all the trees when they bloom for two reasons: 1) they tend to be concentrated in certain areas 2) they bloom right at the start of the rainy season, when the whole forest is still dry and leafless so against the dull brown/gray background of the trees, the yellow flowers really stand out.

New Year’s I spent in Zapotillo, mostly with friends. It was cool, nothing too spectacular to tell. Alright, that’s it for December folks.

Take care! Abrazos a la distancia, les quiero hartíssimo,