back to the mountains

I took my first trip out of my site last week, back to the Sierra and the beautiful mountains I’ve missed so much since being on the coast. I also got to see volunteers I haven’t seen since training, which was rejuvenating and refreshing and really, really great.

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We went to visit another volunteer in Ibarra, about 2 hours north of Quito and the capital of the province of Imbabura. We took short day trips to explore other towns nearby, including a few incredible lakes way up in the mountains.

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This is at Cuicocha, which means “guinea pig lake” in Kichwa. It’s named that because the islands in the middle of the lake looked like guinea pigs to the people who named it…always with food on the brain!

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This is an image from google because the lake was too huge to really capture with my dinky little camera. It was formed in the crater of a volcano and can’t support life because the water is highly alkaline.

Besides exploring lakes, we spent our time together catching up, trading stories, and eating a lot of really amazing food including pancakes and apple pie with vanilla ice cream. I also took hot showers the entire time I was there, which really made the 10-hour bus ride worth it. With the exception of the one night I stayed at a hotel with my parents in Quito, this was the first time I’ve had hot water AND running water AT THE SAME TIME. Incredible.

Besides this trip to Ibarra, I’ve been spending my time in San Vicente continuing to try to “integrate” and looking for project opportunities. Things are actually picking up a lot and it looks like I’m going to be very, very busy in the coming weeks. Saying “yes” to everything was a good idea at the beginning, but now I am running out of hours in the day to continue saying yes. I am helping to teach theater classes every Monday and Wednesday afternoon, and teaching my own English classes every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. On Wednesday mornings I give charlas at a kindergarten about simple health topics like hand-washing and tooth-brushing (the kids are 3-5 years old…I don’t know how much of the information they are internalizing but they are SO CUTE it’s really just an excuse to play games and run around with them). Starting next week I will be working with a high school in San Vicente to develop a curriculum that ranges from self esteem and decision-making to drug and alcohol abuse and sex ed. We will be splitting the kids into three age groups so I’ll have 3 lessons a week to teach. I’m also working with a nonprofit called Fundacion Futuro to organize a minga (community service project) for kids to pick up trash on the beach, then use the trash we find to make recycled art. We are also planning a “bingo day” fundraiser and a “dia de juegos” (game day) for the kids in San Vicente. I’m also working with the director of the women’s office at the municipio to organize a campaign called “Motherhood is a choice, not an obligation.” I also went to a 4-hour seminar last week on artificial insemination for cows and an all-day conference on plant-life in the Galapagos. Learn something new every day!!

…now that I’m writing everything down, I’m realizing I may have said “yes” to a little too much. Nevertheless, I’m excited to get involved in as much as I possibly can now, in hopes that I will discover what I’m really passionate about and find my niche here in San Vicente. We also have to spend time between now and November conducting “community assessment” interviews to get to know people in our town and find out what the most pressing needs are. In November, we have to give presentations to our communities on our findings and our project proposals for the next two years. Only a slightly daunting task…which is why I’ve been spending my time playing with kids and putting off these interviews. I’m an expert procrastinator, but I’ll get it done…eventually.

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These pictures were all taken at the ludotecas, the weekend activities Fundacion Futuro puts together for kids in San Vicente.

In conclusion…

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The hostel/bar in Bahia where we play trivia every week just got these two adorable baby kittens. SO CUTE IT HURTS.

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One thought on “back to the mountains

  1. Rachel, it sounds like you have found lots of things to do. When do you have time to do the m all? What do you enjoy most and really look forward to doing and then don’t want to stop? That may help you determine where your passion is. Of course you also have to do what your community wants!
    Glad you had such a nice week-end trip with good food and hot showers! Plan more of those.
    Love, Granny

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