For the next two years I will be living in San Vicente in the Manabí province of Ecuador! I am really, really excited about it although I don’t know much about it. It’s a small town right on the Pacific Ocean…I’ll be living in the city itself, which has about 8,000 people, but the Canton (comparable to county, I think) has about 22,000 people. Here is what I got from google maps:
Since it’s right on the ocean, their main industries are fisheries, tourism, and agriculture.
The town across the river is Bahia, which I think is a lot bigger than San Vicente. Peace Corps told me there is another volunteer already working there, so I am definitely going to track him down. There are also about 4 other volunteers from my Omnibus within a few hours of me in various towns along the coast.
This bridge connects San Vicente and Bahia. I think.
I have to say I was a little disappointed when I found out I’d be on the coast instead of the mountains because I love the mountains here so much, but how could I not be excited about living right on the beach!? It will be hot, I will have to take malaria pills for two years straight, I will sleep under a mosquito net, and I could not be more excited.
I’ll be working with an organization called “Oficina de Desarrollo Productivo y Comunitario Del Canton San Vicente” which loosely translates to “Office of Productive Community Development.” According to my program director, my primary activities will be:
- promote food security
- health promotion
- motivate social organization
- micro enterprise development projects (???)
- nutrition and gardening to families and schools
- organize youth groups and women’s groups
I was a little surprised that my assignment had little to do with HIV/AIDS education and sex ed because that was what I was told I’d be doing, but this is the Peace Corps and flexibility is the name of the game. However, I received a form that explained what the organization itself wants from a volunteer and it mentioned that I’ll be providing support to the “Women’s Office” by giving talks on teen pregnancy and HIV, as well as working with various universities in Manabí and with the Maternal and Child Health Center in San Vicente. Basically it sounds like I’ll be doing a little bit of everything that has anything to do with health, and I am more than okay with that. This town has never had a volunteer before, so I’ll have a lot of freedom to shape my own projects and decide what to do.
I also found out a little bit about my host family – it’s a couple with a 7 year old son. I’ll live with them for the first 6 months and after that I’ll be able to decide whether to stay with them or find my own place. They own their own small farm, so hopefully they’ll be able to teach me about gardening. My program manager also told me that my organization is really excited about my arrival. When we go on site visits in 3 weeks, there is one person from the organization that comes to Tumbaco to pick us up and take us to our community. She told me that my organization tried to convince Peace Corps to let 6 people come pick me up. Peace Corps told them they had to choose one. It’s nice to feel loved before I’ve even met these people!
I realized today that it was almost exactly 2 years ago that I decided to apply to the Peace Corps. It has been a long, winding, anxiety-ridden journey, but I could not be more excited to have a place to call home for the next 2 years. I know there will be countless struggles and even more mosquito bites, but I am so thankful to be here and I can’t wait to continue this adventure.