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Volcano Soup

I adore the community that I was placed in to live for the next two years, and feel very lucky to be here… but that doesn’t mean I don’t also love traveling across Ecuador to explore new parts of the country and visit fellow Peace Corps Volunteers! Ecuador is a pretty small country – about the size of Colorado, and although roads in poor conditions, the towering Andes mountains and rained-out Amazon rainforest roadways can make it slow going in the bus, it’s still relatively easy to get around.

For such a small land mass, Ecuador has its hands full with volcanoes: 27 of them are potentially active, and there’s plenty more extinct ones as well. Some video footage of the volcano closest to my house – the Reventador, whose ash plumes I can watch lazily rise up to the sky from up on my roof – has recently made the rounds on ABC. Definitely check out the video footage, but before you do – don’t worry about me! Even though the video just went live today, it was actually filmed about two weeks ago, and doesn’t threaten my day to day livelihood here in my community (although I sometimes carry around an ash mask, just in case).

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Early December footage of the Reventador, about twenty miles away from my site

It’s pretty wild living next to such an active volcano, but I trust Peace Corps Ecuador’s Safety and Security team to quickly pull me out if there was ever any serious danger. And I definitely won’t be doing any hiking around the Reventador anytime soon.

But the other, extinct and less active volcanoes of Ecuador are fair game.

In the past month alone, I’ve spent time around Antisana, Cayambe, Cuicocha, Cotacachi, Imbabura and Sumaco. Last Thursday, I joined my coworkers on the three hour journey – which includes two hours on a very rocky dirt road – to the indigenous community in our canton, Oyacachi. Oyacachi is famous for its warm hot springs and beautiful wooden carvings, so I’m looking forward to a future trip back to relax in the pools and spending the night in the cozy wooden cabins (come visit me so we can do it together!). On the drive out, we stopped along the way to stretch our legs and enjoy the clear day’s view of the Antisana and Cayambe volcanoes.

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Enjoying the cool air of the highlands at about 8,000 feet in elevation with Antisana in the background.

Additionally, the weekend between my Reconnect training and the GLOW/BROW Camp Training, I had the chance to celebrate a belated Thanksgiving at my friend Mikayla’s site in Otavalo, along with fellow volunteers Daniel and Charli. We enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving dinner prepared by another volunteer who has been taking cooking lessons in Ibarra in a beautiful art gallery. Then, we woke up early the next day, heading to Cotacachi so that I could pick out a beautiful handmade leather purse (they’re known for their leather artisanry in that city) and tackle the four hour hike surrounding the collapsed crater lake of Cuicocha. The name comes from the native language, Kichwa (which, by the way, I’m hoping to start classes for in the new year! I’ll be coming back to the States in 2019 with Kichwa and Spanish under my belt), and means “Guinea Pig Lake”. Guinea pigs are a popular delicacy in Ecuador, served for special occasions like birthdays, and the islands in the middle of the crater are rumored to look just like a guinea pig.

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Halfway through the hike around Cuicocha
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One of Otavalo’s many murals with Mikayla
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The hearth at the art gallery where we enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal

Finally, I want to show off a few photos of my adorable kitten, Mayu. She was born the day before I swore in as an official Peace Corps volunteer, and has grown into the perfect Peace Corps companion. She loves to spend as much time as possible napping on my lap, sleeping curled up next to me as I watch TV, read or head to bed, and best of all – catch and eat all the bugs that fly into my room!

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Adventure Kitty
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Cuddly Kitty
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