Happy 4th of July week!! Celebrating 4th of July here was a lot of fun but a little bittersweet because it made me miss Murrica and fireworks and cookouts and festive Murrica-themed drinks. Nonetheless, we made the best of it here!
We had an epic potluck at the training center during the day then spent the evening on another volunteer’s rooftop blasting country music and cheers-ing to America. Obviously.
I spent a long week of training shoveling horse poop to make fertilizer for our gardens, and I’m going to go ahead and say I don’t plan on incorporating a lot of poop into my work at site. One day we spent the entire morning mixing poop with dirt for our gardens and I got completely covered in it, then in the afternoon we had to give formal presentations to PC staff. I had a nice skirt to change into but no way to clean off the poop that was caked onto my body, so I gave a presentation LITERALLY covered in horse poop. I knew Peace Corps wasn’t going to be glamorous but this is just extreme.
I spent today with my Ecuadorian family and witnessed some customs I have NEVER seen before. In the morning, my host mom asked if I wanted to go to a baptism a few towns over with the family. I said of course! I didn’t ask who it was for because their extended family is so huge I figured I’d have no idea who the kid was anyways. We jumped into the car and made our way up the mountain to an adorable little town called El Quinche about 30 minutes away. My family started talking about how I was going to be the madrina (godmother) for the baptism and I finally asked who was getting baptized. My host sister said it was the car. I laughed at her funny joke and didn’t think anything else of it. Next thing I knew we were pulling up outside of a church, and my host dad got out of the car and rolled down all the windows and opened the hood and trunk. My host sister and I were still sitting in the car when a Catholic priest dressed in long robes came out and started saying prayers and flinging holy water onto us through the open windows. It lasted about 30 seconds and then the priest was gone. And that was how I participated in my first ever baptism of a car. Once I figured out what had happened I could not stop laughing…I told my host sister I thought she was kidding when she said we were getting the car baptized, and she was surprised I had never heard of this tradition before. Apparently it’s common here to get cars baptized (my family just bought a new car a few weeks ago). Who knew!
We also explored the church and town a little bit…everything was packed and super busy. This wall of plaques was on the wall of the church. People made plaques to give thanks for the miracles the saints had performed for their families. From the looks of it, the saints have performed a LOT of miracles.
When we left El Quinche we went to my host mom’s parents’ house, which we do almost every Sunday for lunch. After lunch we all went outside to a huge open field behind their house for “abeja-terapia”, which means bee therapy. I have never heard of this, that’s just what they told me we were doing. Bee therapy, I learned, is a way of making aching muscles feel better by having bees sting you in the spots where your muscles hurt. I didn’t quite understand the reasoning behind this, but what do I know!?? This is a real thing that people do. The little kids ran around the field and caught bees and then put them on the adults’ ankles/knees/shoulders and pinched them so they would sting. The adults then screamed and cried and seemed pretty upset about being stung by the bees, which is understandable. Then they had the kids run back and find more bees…I think the adults ended up with around 5-7 stings each.
People also rub live cuy (guinea pigs) all over their bodies when they are sick because they are supposed to suck out all the bad energy. I can’t say I understand all the medical practices here, but they are definitely entertaining to learn about. I politely declined participating in bee therapy. I haven’t decided whether I will allow someone to lather me in guinea pig next time I am sick.
Tomorrow is a big day here in Tumbaco…our counterparts will be meeting us at the training center before accompanying us to our communities on Tuesday! I am nervous and excited to be meeting the person I will be working alongside for the next 2 years, and even more anxious to see my community for the first time. I’ll be spending the week living with my new host family and following my counterpart around at my organization. After that we have 2 weeks left of training in Tumbaco before swearing in and being shipped off to our communities on our own. Where did all the time go!?? 3 months of training seemed like an eternity before I started, but time has flown and I’m a little overwhelmed. I hope my counterpart and my host family and my community like me, because they are going to be stuck with me for the next 24 months.
HOW CUTE IS THIS!?? I’ve seen this adorable duo on my way to the training center the last few mornings. It makes me so happy every time.