Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Wheww...so things are really starting to get busy here! I just got home Sunday night from our salida de campo to the village of Olmeda, in the province Esmeraldas (the northwestern coast of Ecuador near Colombia, about an 8 hour bus ride from Quito). It was an eye opening experience for sure! Olmeda is a small afro-ecuadorian community right on the beach that depends solely on fishing for their income. The people live in 1-2 room “houses” (pretty much shacks with shabby walls and a tin roof slapped on) that are on stilts for when the tide comes in. Every family had at least 6 kids, and I talked to a woman who had 22! (but only 12 were still living). The “hotel” where we stayed was the nicest structure in the pueblo. We had comfortable beds, and running water for most of the time! The food was quite tasty… good soups, fried corn tortillas, yucca, and amazingly fresh fruits. I’m still hanging in with the vegetarianism, but the others got fish almost every meal. (yuck) The people were hard to understand—although they speak Spanish, it was definitely a different style— a lot faster and they don’t say their s’s. This made communicating a bit difficult at times! The weather was suuper hot/humid. Kids were EVERYWHERE. (I swear they had their own gibberish language as well!) And they LOVED us. You couldn’t walk anywhere without them jumping on you, holding your hand, tickling you, following you—you name it. It was fun…but by the end of the weekend I was ready to have my personal space back.


We went on a hike/walk through mangrove forests—what an amazing unique ecosystem! We also went through a "tunnel" of mangroves via boat. I don’t know too much about the mangroves, but they are trees with huuge roots sticking out of the ground that can grow in the water. They are home to many creatures, crabs being one, and are a large part of the afro-ecuadorian communities in Ecuador. There are major problems right now in Olmeda and all throughout Esmeraldas with shrimp companies clearing out the mangrove forests to put in shrimp pools. It’s a constant fight for the people.

I swam in the Pacific Ocean—it was almost too warm!—and had a giant mud fight with the kids.

We visited a couple other communities and a bird island via boat, all pretty similar to Olmeda. It was cool to walk around and hear about the history of the villages…not to mention we were usually wearing BRIGHT orange life jackets. As if we didn’t stick out enough already…We did a mini America’s Next Top Model photo shoot African village style as well. Pretty impressive ;)

This last weekend was a huge festival/celebration for Olmeda and the surrounding villages; we lucked out and got in on the festivities. One night we played a bunch of street games with the kids (amazingly fun), danced, yelled, and played some variations of hand-slap-patty-cake. The kids ate.it.up. We also experienced a beauty pageant, Esmeraldas style. We’re talking skimpy clothes, booty-shaking, only answer 1 question and it’s not about world peace, kind of pageant. It was really entertaining, but definitely a different culture. The after party went allll night (not even exaggerating…the whole town was literally still bumping with dancing music when we left at 830 the next morning!) It’s tradition for this celebration to go the entire weekend. Whew. I didn’t stay out that late—but my sleep was definitely lacking after this weekend.

Oh yeah, and I couldn’t go to an afro-ecuadorian community without getting corn rolls! The woman braided like a pro. And while she was braiding, I experienced my first holding of a baby! (yes, I know…gasp). An 11 year-old girl just plopped this adorable 2 month old little boy into my lap…a bit of a shock at first. But how precious.
J It was sad to see all the kids rolling around in the dirt with sores on their body and random mis-matched clothing that doesn’t fit (or none at all)…but they were happy! So so happy. I guess when it’s all you know…it’s just life. (now I’m just praying I didn’t pick up lice from that ordeal…)
I had crazy mixed feelings throughout the trip, changing from intrusive, obnoxiously out of place to integrated, overwhelmed, sad, and excited. And really, all at the same time! The community was full of so much Love. It was really an amazing experience to be a part of. Needless to say, I was ready to get back to my comfortable routine in Quito. But it did really make me think about the opportunities I have and how lucky I am. I’m counting my blessings every day! Thank you mom and dad for making this possible!! J

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