Peace Corps · Travel · Uncategorized

Jungle Cruise

A few weeks ago, I finally had the opportunity to head back to my old site, El Chaco, for a quick weekend! I needed to pick up some things that I’d left behind in my hurried return to the United States – spices that are crucial for adding variety to my Ecuadorian diet, my good frying pan, quality pillows, etc – and also wanted to spend some time reconnecting with my former host family and close friends from my site.

Walking in the door of my old home in El Chaco, I felt like I had never left the community. They welcomed with open arms despite the three months I had been away, setting a heaping plate of mote – a starchy corn mixed with diced vegetables and an eggy sauce – and cup of coffee in front of me after my 14 hour journey to their home. I had barely finished breakfast before they broke out the pink cane liquor homemade by the neighbors, inviting over our upstairs neighbors to toast to my good health and homecoming. The day was as rainy as always, so we weren’t able to head out to the finca in my family’s usual weekend tradition, but we teamed together to cheer on the Latin American teams for the World Cup. Because Ecuador didn’t have the good fortune to qualify for the competition this year, we have settled for cheering on the rest of South America, with enthusiasm dictated by geographic proximity to my host dad’s hometown: first Peru, then Colombia, and then Argentina gets an edge as a fellow Spanish-speaking country.

Later that day, I headed over to my best friend’s house, enjoying homemade empanadas with her, her family, and my fellow Patronato volunteer, Natalia from KOICA. They filled me in on all of the small-town gossip that I had missed in the intervening months, and promised to come down to Cuenca to visit me soon. Neither of them had ever been, and seeing as Cuenca is the third-largest city in Ecuador and a UNESCO World Heritage site, I hope they take advantage of my empty spare bedroom (my readers, my friends and family back home, you all are welcome to come and visit me anytime as well for this perk!) and come see me soon.

Because I had my arm cast removed just two days before leaving for this trip, I was worried that I wouldn’t be strong enough to carry everything home. I had left more behind in Chaco than I’d realized: two large backpacks, a big box, and a microwave. With only one strong arm at my disposal, I would need some help. Luckily, my sitemate and Cuenca neighbor, Nicho, was visiting Tena, just 3-4 hours away from Chaco, that same weekend. I headed down to meet him on Sunday afternoon. He had never been to the Amazon before, so we met up with an RPCV and my former sitemate, Daniel, to show him around. You’ve likely seen some of my simple iPhone photos of the monkeys and other animals around Tena before, but this trip Nicho brought his DLSR camera with him, so I’m excited to share some high-quality shots of the canoe ride!

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Walking through one of the rural villages
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When full-grown, these guys are just half a foot tall
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Heading out on our jungle cruise

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These are one of the many unique and odd birds that live in the tree branches
Peace Corps · Travel · Uncategorized

Temple of the Sun

I realized I’m getting behind on my blog posts, and want to make sure I share all of my pictures of this gorgeous country and the diversity of adventures I’ve had here with you all, so I’ve scheduled several posts to be published throughout the week, sharing stories from celebrating Inti Raymi at Ingapirca, a jungle cruise through an Amazonian wildlife sanctuary, and joining in the Pride parade in Guayaquil with my fellow PCVs. Once I’m back on track, look forward to hearing about my upcoming Fourth of July BBQs from the Southern Hemisphere and travels back to Tena to help with the first-ever Oriente GLOW leadership camp!

Two weekends ago, three of my neighboring Peace Corps volunteers and I packed up our backpacks with every piece of warm clothing we own – when we volunteered to serve on the equator, we didn’t fully realize how chilly these Andean mountain towns would be. At 7AM on Saturday morning, we headed to Ingapirca, hoping to make it for the 9AM Inti Raymi opening ceremony. Luckily for us, ecuatime meant that the ceremony didn’t truly begin until nearly 11:30, giving us plenty of time to set up our campsite once we arrived at the ruins.

Ingapirca is the largest known Incan ruins in Ecuador; the main attraction is the a mostly-intact sun temple. Although the exact significance of the ruins is still unknown, the temple of the sun was built perfectly positioned so that, on the solstice, sunlight would fall through a center chamber and enter through the top of the temple. Unfortunately, most of the chamber has fallen down in the centuries since it was built, so we couldn’t see this mechanism in action.

We started out the day watching an ancient ceremony celebrating the four elements – water, earth, wind and fire – that did an eloquent job tying in the lessons of the past with contemporary needs: embracing diversity by building integrated mixed-race communities, protecting our earth from the damaging effects of climate change, and preserving indigenous traditions in the technology-driven world.

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The Ingapirca Incan ruin complex
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One of the dances, featuring the Amazonian Chonta festival tradition
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Relaxing in front of the sun temple
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Waiting for the opening ceremony to begin

As the day unfolded, we watched Ecuadorian dance performances, danced along to live bands, toured the Ingapirca ruins and hiked through the nearby countryside to see rock formations like “the Face of the Inca”. The most memorable moment was just before 7AM the night after camping. We had barely slept all night thanks to a rancorous band of drunken men who sang Ecuadorian classics like Whiskicito with their guitars, ukulele, harmonica, and self-styled drums from empty plastic water containers. When one of my fellow PCVs, Meg, and I gave up on trying to sleep around 6:30AM and headed down the hill in search of bathrooms and coffee. The stand that had been selling us 25 cent canelazos (a hot alcoholic beverage of aguardiente, panela, cinnamon and passion fruit) the night before had transformed into a breakfast coffee spot. We purchased four cups of coffee, which came in thin plastic cups, and headed up the hill to share with our friends. It was another volunteer, Laurel’s, 34th birthday that morning and we decided to plan a surprise she wouldn’t forget: recruiting the men who had been “serenading” us to sleep all night to surround our tent and sing Feliz Cumpleaños, or happy birthday, until she woke up.

At first, she was groggy-eyed and confused, but soon we were dancing with their entire group for nearly an hour, us drinking cups of coffee, and them still working on their aguardiente and Coca-Cola combination from the night before.

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Happy campers
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Our “campsite” – someone’s cow field – for the night
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The birthday girl with her band of admirers
Peace Corps · site · Travel · Uncategorized

Happy Anniversary!

Wow! This month one full year spent living in Ecuador.

Reflecting back on the 365+ days I’ve spent in Ecuador, it’s hard for me to come up with a coherent message. The year has been one of personal exploration and growth.

Unfortunately for me, I celebrated it with my first-ever emergency room visit. On my way to work two weeks ago, I tripped on the uneven cobblestone and fell directly on my left (writing!) arm. I tried to brush it off, heading to work and settling in with a bag of frozen peas at my desk, but the sharp pain drove me to calling Peace Corps’ 24 hour on-call doctor. He called the local private hospital (Ecuador’s socialist government provides free public hospital care, but it’s known for long waits and hit-or-miss care) and briefed them on my arrival. They gave me an x-ray and, due to the severe sprain, set me in the cast with instructions to return two weeks later for removal and a session of physical therapy. At the end of last week, I had it removed! With two hands at my disposal again, it’ll be easier for me to type, write, do basic work and household chores, so expect more frequent updates here.

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Santuario de La Virgen de Lourdes near Guaranda during their annual pilgramage or ‘peregrinacion’
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A donkey at work in rural Salinas de Guaranda

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The final steps on the pilgrimage to the sanctuary cave

This trip was special because it gave me the opportunity to visit one of my closest Peace Corps Volunteer friends, Charli, in her rural site of La Asuncion. She has been living in this little community of less than a thousand people for the past nine months, and I swear every single person who lives there knows her name and has nothing but good things to say about her! It was cool to see how integrated she was in the small community. On the weekends, the hub of the Asuncion social scene is a french fries and hamburgers food truck that parks itself in the center of the town square. The kids are usually playing in the concrete soccer field, with parents chatting and socializing with one another on the edges, and the young people all converge on the stools of the food truck to watch TV, eat fries and drink pajaro azul, the locally brewed cane liquor.

We also had the chance to go visit one of the other nearby volunteers, Roxie, at her site in Salinas de Guaranda. Salinas is a unique little city in the paramo near Chimborazo, because of the Italian missionaries that came in the 1980’s and made quite the difference in the community. Today, the town has over 20 different artisanal factories, making everything from essential oils to chocolate truffles. But what they’re most famous for is their varieties of cheese – one of the only places you can find something besides queso fresco in the country! I’ll need to come back for their annual cheese festival in October, where the main event is a group cheese roll, and the winner takers home a 50 lb wheel of cheese.

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We joined a nearby volunteer at her site in Sayausi on the outskirts of Cuenca
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Grinding corn and learning how to make humitas by hand

Evelin, one of my Cuenca sitemates, lives in one of the rural parroquias on the outskirts of the city of Cuenca (we’re the third largest city in Ecuador, but once you leave the city center, it quickly turns into smaller Andean communities rooted in agriculture. She has been helping her community develop an indigenous tourism circuit, where locals can share their heritage with urban school children and foreign tourists in an effort to preserve it despite the rapid modernization of Ecuador.

We were the cuy, or guinea pigs, of their new program, and went through it for the first time to help them work out the kinks and take photos and video footage to use for promotion when they launch the project in a few weeks.

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A few of the flower stands in Cuenca’s gorgeous flower market, located just off the main square
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My kitten, Mayu, is getting all grown up! I let her out on my patio for a sunny afternoon at home.
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A huge array of desserts and sweets took over Cuenca for Corpus Christi

 

Travel · Uncategorized

Reverse Culture Shock

I spent the month of April back in the US reconnecting with my family after nearly a year abroad, but also slipping away for the weekends to see friends from other corners of America – from Seattle to Leavenworth to Portland to San Francisco and all the way to Boston.

While I was in Berkeley, I had the chance to sit down with my former Health Policy professor to discuss my experiences here in the Peace Corps. She served as an English teacher in Nepal in the 80s, and cited her experience there as the driving force for her to work in the health field. I took her class in the fall of my junior year of college. In one lecture, she shared a story about her experience returning from Peace Corps. After about a year in service, she flew home for a week to attend a wedding. She needed to buy new shampoo after she arrived, so she headed to the supermarket. But after a year in rural Nepal, where she would walk for several hours to get to the nearest shopping town, just to arrive in a small shop with one – maybe two – options for shampoo, the brightly-lit supermarket shocked her. Surrounded by the endless options, each promising ýour best hair ever! or blinding shine! she sunk down to her knees, overwhelmed. Eventually, she left without making a purchase.

Although Ecuador is a middle income country, considerably more developed than Nepal was over 30 years ago, the image of crying in front of an aisle of shampoo options resonated with me. Ecuador uses the US dollar, and after months of honing my bargaining skills to the last centavo, American prices were shocking. What do you mean, $4.50 for a latte? I could get 45 oranges for that price! Or at least 30 mangos. Or a romantic almuerzo lunch date for two.

I felt lucky to be able to spend such a significant amount of time at home, so that I could ease back into my normal routines. Normally, when I go on vacation, I go into a flurry of activity. When I was in France last spring, I would wake up for a sunrise run, try every new food I could, and wander ten miles around the city before collapsing in bed at the end of the night. Instead, on this trip I slept in late, tagged along with my little brother on his dog-walking duties, and went out to get my nails done with my grandma or Starbucks lattes with my grandpa. It was exactly what I needed to recharge. I returned with my passion reinvigorated for my second year of Peace Corps service, with the emotional resilience and cultural competency necessary for the individual HIV casework in my new role.

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Matt and I enjoyed the cherry blossoms in bloom just before a rare March Seattle hailstorm
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My family threw me an unbirthday party before I left, I will celebrate my real birthday this Friday in Ecuador

Although all of my trips to see my friends while I was home were fun – I tagged along on a sorority reunion weekend in Portland, and spent six days in the Bay Area seeing everyone I could – my favorite was the four days I spent with my closest friend, Mehek, in Boston. Because her two years at Harvard overlapped with my two years in Ecuador, I didn’t think I’d be able to visit her during that time. But, thanks to a cheap JetBlue deal, I found myself on a redeye to the East Coast on one of my last weekends in town.

The morning I arrived, I was on the “A Day in the Life of a Harvard MPP First-Year” tour. Our culminating stop was “Beers, Peers, and Careers” – a self-organized roundtable presentation where 3-5 students in the cohort could present on anything they liked. What does a random sampling of Harvard students present on?

  1. A kiwi goes abroad! A policy journey from New Zealand to England to the US.
  2. Talk your way into anything: How I raised millions of dollars for the charity I founded in undergrad and what Sheryl Sandburg taught me, a white male networking story.
  3. The wheels on the bike go round and round; Why I fell in love with bikeshares in Philly, and why you should too.

Spending the past year in Ecuador, I had been geographically isolated from my academic peers and forgotten how engaging I found the university atmosphere. I made new friends at the bars Mehek brought me to and joined them at IHOP until 3AM just so I could hear more about their stories and passions. Each student I met was driven to improve the policy world in their own niche community, and I wanted to learn everything about it. Ultimately, that weekend reaffirmed my desire to pursue a Master’s degree, and my commitment to diving into a GRE study guide so I could have a chance at an equally competitive, challenging program.

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Boston’s North End
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Mehek & I on Acorn Street
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Walking the Freedom Trail

Now that I’ve spent two full weeks in Cuenca, I’ll be sharing my experiences here in the upcoming week. Cuenca is the third-largest city in Ecuador, which has given me a drastically different experience with the culture and country than my original posting in a rural Amazonian town.

Here’s a few more highlights from Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, Portland, and my 9 hour layover in Miami on the way home…

 

Peace Corps · site · Travel · Uncategorized

Across the Country in Seven Days

My long-distance boyfriend, Matt, came to visit and ring in the new year with me. It was his first time ever in South America, and I was determined to show him as much of the country as possible during his trip. He was coming for just over two weeks, but I balanced out our itinerary so we could spend half of it just relaxing at my site, spending time in my typical routine – going to work, hosting clubs, running on forest service roads, shopping at the market and sharing dinner with my host family.

To kick off our travels, I picked out an Airbnb apartment inside a beautiful colonial building overlooking Ecuador’s famous basilica. The sites were gorgeous outside, but between with the rainy weather and catching up after seven months apart we spent most of our time cozied up inside playing cuarenta, Ecuador’s national card game and cooking together in the clean, modern kitchen (a heavenly sight for a campo volunteer like me). I love wandering through the winding streets of Quito’s Centro Historico, and had the opportunity to check out several new museums – my favorite being the Contemporary Art Museum of Quito, housed in the colonial hospital.

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From the back tower of Quito’s Basilica del Voto Nacional 
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Sitting on opposite sides of the equator in el Mitad del Mundo

Our next stop was Salinas, known across Ecuador for the country’s biggest New Year’s Eve celebration. As the clock neared midnight, the beach was packed full of Ecuadorian families dressed all in white – a tradition that helps start the new year on a clean slate – with fireworks and Frozen-style paper lanterns lighting the air, and music everywhere. When the clock struck midnight, huge bonfires filled with años viejos, piñata-like figures representing their favorite – or least favorite – images from the previous year were lit, sending sparks everywhere due to the fireworks mischievous revelers had snuck into the center of the pile. We spent New Year’s Day recovering with a traditional hangover breakfast of encobollado, or fish soup,  long hours spent relaxing and reading, and a long walk to the Western-most point of Ecuador, la Chocoletera, to take a dip in the warm ocean with the sunset surrounding us on an empty beach. It was a magical way to start off 2018.

January 2nd; however, was not so beautiful – the bus terminals were a disaster, with everyone heading home from the holidays. All the buses we wanted were sold out, so we made a game-time change to our itinerary, and thanks to the help of a friendly nun, were able to find a night bus heading towards Baños, a popular tourist town in the halfway point of Salinas and my site. We found ourself with an unexpected 12 hour “layover” in Guayaquil, which we spent strolling the malecon, exploring the revitalized neighborhood of Las Pinas, and checking out the dozens of iguanas lolling in the central city square. In Baños, we took a tour through their route of waterfalls and spent a few hours playing cuarenta in a cute coffeeshop.

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300+ Steps of Las Penas in Guayaquil
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Pailon del Diablo in Baños
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Iguanas in Guayaquil

When we did make it back to my site, it was just in time to welcome a group of other Peace Corps volunteers to my community, all of whom were also visiting me for the first time. We were hoping to tackle the rapids of the Amazon River with a long day of white water rafting, but the early winter rains meant that the river was moving too fast, and we would need a Plan B. Luckily for me, Plan B turned out to be an El Chaco activity that I’d always wanted to do but had not yet had the opportunity for – Cueva de los Tayos. The Tayo birds, or Oil Birds, have a different famous location in southern Ecuador, an expedition that requires several days of hiking into the deep cloud forest, and was once believed to hold exquisite golden treasures – think the Genie’s cave in Aladdin. The treasures were never found but you can watch a recent documentary about their search for them featuring Neil Armstrong. This cavern is smaller, but fascinating nevertheless. The two hour hike involved going down a deep cavern, fording the river and walking through a stream to arrive at a split in the mountain where the river had worn through over time, creating a walkable cave leading to through to the opposite side of the mountain. It was gorgeous, and when any of you come visit I’ll be sure to take you along the same trail.

After the weekend adventures, we started to settle back into my relaxed routine here in El Chaco. While I was work, Matt hung back with my kitten, Mayu, and read Pillars of the Earth, made lunch, or worked out. Having some semblance of a routine was the perfect way to end the trip, and spend some quality time together while giving him an insider’s look at my everyday Ecuadorian life.

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Walking across the river to get to the cave near my site
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A tribal dance ceremony in Misahualli
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I made friends with a baby monkey in Misahualli
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Cueva de los Tayos

And even better, I had the free time to play my entire way through Super Mario Odyssey on his Nintendo Switch.

Peace Corps · Travel · Uncategorized

(Not) Home for the Holidays

In my twenty-two years, this was the first where I spent Christmas away from my family. It’s hard to believe it was nearly a month ago now – the holiday season went by so quickly! After a week of town festivities before Christmas, a week of family festivities with my close Ecuadorian friend and her family, and two weeks exploring Ecuador and hanging out here at home with my boyfriend, I finally have the time to reflect on it all.

Christmas here was an interesting blend of commercialized traditions I recognized – like a night dedicated to each of the local children’s classes singing a different Christmas carol (all translated into Spanish, of course) and the bright colored string lights that were hung on the Main Street storefronts. But they had a distinctly Ecuadorian twist – the Christmas feast featured half a plate of rice alongside the turkey, and the kids all dressed up in full traditional, indigenous dresses and garb to sing their carols. On the Friday before Christmas for the local government’s celebration, we had a talent show where each of the departments competed against one another to show off their skills. We borrowed Otavalan-style indigenous clothing from the local dance studio to perform Whiskicito, Ecuador’s favorite party jam. It was super fun to spend the morning attempting (failing) the traditional dance moves with all of my coworkers, and try on the beautiful Ecuadorian skirts and blouses for the first time.

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My Korean co-volunteer from KOICA and I in our Christmas dance outfits

Another central custom here in Ecuador is giving the kids caramelos, or little candies and sweets, for Christmas. It’s like their Halloween. All of the tiendas show off big bags of mixed candies in their front windows, and the kids are wired on sugar all December long. When I was playing Doctor and Patient with a group of the neighborhood kids one day after work (picture me laying across the sidewalk, surrounded by one bossy seven-year-old and her posse of siblings and cousins, pretending to be pregnant with her blonde doll. It totally counts as reproductive health education), I was hand fed about about a dozen candies as my “medicine.” Another excellent teachable moment. The a good portion of the candy is given out through a partnership with a Chinese oil company that extracts crude oil from underneath the nearby Amazon rainforest, leading to significant environmental damage, and the local government. It definitely felt strange as a community health volunteer helping hand out the bags of candy to children in the indigenous community of Oyacachi, which was my shift to help.

For Christmas proper, I headed to Ambato with my close friend to spend the holidays with her extended family there. Her mom has seven siblings, each with children of their own, so it was exactly the packed, loud, loving Latino family I had imagined spending time with before coming to Ecuador. I brought a deck of Uno and regular cards to play with the kids, and they loved it. We spent hours going around in circles playing Uno and War throughout the entire weekend, especially with my self-declared new four-year-old best friend.

 

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Ecuadorian family photo
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Teaching my friend’s family how to make frosted Christmas cookies
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Christmas dinner with my coworkers – grilled turkey, rice and my now-famous apple pie

New Year’s Eve, on the other hand, was like no other holiday I’d experienced before. It was four days after my boyfriend, Matt, arrived in Ecuador – marking the first time I’d seen him after seven months apart! – and we were on the beach of Salinas, down on the southern end of the country.

The place was wild – all evening long, the beach was absolutely filled with people, usually with a Pilsner in hand, laughing with their family and enjoying the warm night air. Matt and I missed the memo to wear all-white, a Ecuadorian custom that helps you start your new year off fresh, and also didn’t bring our own año viejo. They’re giant paper-mache piñatas (sometimes filled with fireworks, so be careful!) that represent either something you hated about 2017, and want to say goodbye to, or something you loved, and want more of in the upcoming year. I’m not exactly sure how they can all be mixed together in the same bonfire, but Ecuadorians reassure me that it works. Every 100 yards or so along the beachfront, starting at midnight, was a bonfire about 20 feet tall filled with as many año viejos as they could stack on top of one another. Across the waterfront, everyone was lighting up huge fireworks and sending them out over the ocean.

Finally, in my favorite part, the skies were filled with floating lanterns, just like in the movie Tangled. For $2, Matt and I bought our own – only to remember that we didn’t have a lighter, or matches, or any idea how to light off one of the lanterns. Luckily, a friendly family helped us out along the waters’ edge, and we got to watch it drift off as it disappeared out over the ocean. With music and fireworks filling the air, and my first true New Year’s kiss, it was a night I won’t forget.

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Fireworks in the background with años viejos waiting to be burned in the foreground
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Watching the sunset on New Year’s before jumping in for a swim
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We had encebollado, or fish soup, an Ecuadorian hangover cure, on New Year’s morning

So here’s to 2018! I hope you all are as excited for the adventures this year will bring as I am.

site · Travel · Uncategorized

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