Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A long over-due update

As my time here is quickly coming to an end, I've been thinking a lot about what this means to me. I have experienced so many cool things and I have a ton left to do (school work and otherwise) but all and all it has been one of the hardest, most amazing, eye opening, fun, adventurous, non-traditional educational, slap me in the face experience that I have had thus far in my almost 21 years. It has opened the doors for possibilities in my future, and I really hope to use and apply what I learned/ gained here when I return to the states. I don't want to take anything for granted or forget the situations I have encountered. My family here was more than amazing, and the people in my group were pretty great too. I was thankful to have visitors from the states--although it kind of cramped my studying time-- it was definitely worth it. I've met fabulous people through my internship and other activities I have been involved with, and will be very sad to leave these friendships! I definitely would like to return in the future and see how things have developed and changed. I love Ecuador!

More reflection to come when all is said and done (and I have more time :) )

I've been super busy, but a little brief on what I've been up to lately! I was super sick with what I think was the Swine the week before my field trip...which put me out of commission for a few days. It was really hard to sleep and get things done, but I managed. I've also decided after a last minute cancellation that I will be traveling to Guatemala/Belize this J-term (3 weeks in January) for a tropical ecology class. I'm just a traveling fool!

Michael just left after spending a little over a week here. We had a GREAT time. The first 5 days we hung out in Quito and he saw what I do on a daily basis. He came with me to my internship, met and spent time with my family and classmates, and toured the city of Quito a bit. My group put together a Thanksgiving meal--which turned out really well. The food was amazing and the company was even better! We invited all the families and probably had around 60-70 people--and we (the students) did all the cooking! It was comforting to have a big get-together when all of us are away from home (although it's starting to become a trend for me to be out of the country for Thanksgiving--I think I'll start a new tradition!)

This past weekend Michael and I went to Baños. Although I had been there before, it was once again suuper fun. We rented bikes and biked out of town via the route of the waterfalls, hiked around a bit, ate some great (and not-so-great) food, and relaxed and enjoyed the scenery from our roof top terrace! We ran into another girl from my program Torrey and her boyfriend who also came to visit, so we spent quite a bit of time with them. It was an all around good time. Michael also had to experience the bridge jumping! What a rush.

We had to crawl through this sweet tunnel-like cave to get up behind the Pailon de Diablo waterfall. Amazing! (no actual pics from behind it--we got pretty soaked!)

Love love love

Sorry Becs--he did this while on your insurance :)

Otavalo/ Cotacachi

20-22 de noviembre

Our last field trip this semester was to the province of Imbabura, about 2.5 hours north of Quito. We arrived in Otavalo on Friday morning and visited a center for traditional/ indigenous medicine. Here, we watched (and some experienced) a “cleaning” with cuy, or guinea pig and also one with eggs. The cleanings were so crazy. A healer rubbed a live guinea pig all over Andrew’s body and chanted in Quichua. After about five minutes, she cut open/ dissected the guinea pig in order to see what was wrong with Andrew. The indigenous believe that the guinea pig will show whatever illnesses a person has. According to this cuy, Andrew had parasites in his stomach (there were actually bugs in there!) and a hurt back. I guess it was pretty accurate because this week Andrew is sick as a dog—and with parasites. Yikes. I couldn’t watch the dissecting—too much blood (one reason I will not become a doctor!) and sad L We also learned about some of the plant combinations and natural treatments they use for treating sicknesses. It was really interesting to see and learn the history about this alternative to western medicine. Not sure I’ll be switching clinics anytime soon though…
One component to this field trip was staying with indigenous host families in Cotacachi. We were paired up and assigned to a family through a tourism program that sets up home stays with indigenous families in the area in order to learn about the traditions, customs, and every day life of the indígenas. This was a really cool experience, and I’m sad that I didn’t take pictures of my family! Chris and I stayed with Carmen and Alfonso. They have 3 sons-- 9, 18, and 21. The two older ones work away from home doing construction and farming, and Marco (9) plays all day during the weekends with the other kids in the community and goes to school. We helped Alfonso in the field building a pen for sheep/ cultivating crops Friday evening and led the cows from a far field back to the house. Carmen cooked traditional food for us (rice, fresh vegetables, tasty soup, eggs). They were really friendly and curious about our lives back home and our experience in Ecuador. We didn’t have too much time with them throughout the weekend, only 2 evenings, but it was fun to spend time with them and see how they live/work.

Saturday mid-morning we went to the Feria, or market in Otavalo. Oh. My. Goodness. Talk about overwhelming! There was soo much stuff! From scarves to blankets to bags to hats to jewelry—they had it all. And a lot of the stands/tents had the same things—it was just a matter of where you could get the best price. I pretty much went crazy (buying gifts of course) and it was definitely good that we only had a 2.5-hour time allotment scheduled. I was addicted! After the market we went to the house of a family who still practices a traditional form of weaving (by hand). The couple (85 and 87 years old!) demonstrated how the process works; we were able to watch them prepare the wool, spin it into thread, and begin the weaving of a scarf. Very cool! In the afternoon/evening some members of our group went to the Assembly—where there were people from all the surrounding communities representing different groups/ issues—women, youth, city planning, environment, water, education, and health, among others. There were table discussions where they debated the issues and made decisions regarding laws and activities. I didn’t participate in this, but afterwards I really wished I would have! I instead went to Parque Condor where we saw a bunch of endangered birds (including an owl that MAY have played one of the parts of Hedwig in Harry Potter J). I discovered I’m not really into birds, but there were some AMAZING views from up on the hill where we were.
Sunday we went to Lake Cuicocha, which is a beautiful natural lake with islands in the middle. We took a boat ride around the lake and heard about the history of Mama Cotacachi y Papa Imbabura (the two volcanoes near by). We also received a talk from an indigenous woman regarding the Asamblea and had a “desystemization” session with the tour organization that sets up the home stays.

Everything was great (other than the fact that something really didn’t agree with my stomach all weekend!) but I was suuper excited/anxious to get back to Quito because Michael was arriving Sunday night!