Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Project Pugarán

Last Saturday I set off on a half-day trip to start a health-based project in one of the communities surrounding Cahuasquí, but yet is still part of Cahuasquí. The community is called Pugarán and is a one-hour truck ride, two hour horseback ride or a three hour hike. All of there times are important because I will be going the latter two very often. I spent the past two weeks or maybe even more getting things prepared for a meeting with the entire community (35 families) to explain who I was, that I work for the United States Peace Corps, what the United States Peace Corps is, and what my plan of action was for Pugarán. I had written-up a Census of sorts to explain to the community, the president of the community was working with me and was going to organize the people in Pugarán and I had already rented two horses for myself and a friend, Roberto, who was going to accompany me. Now, with everything planned ahead of time, lets see what actually happened…..

The plan was the leave on Saturday April 30 at 13:30. At noon is started to rain. Nothing can be done about that so we must push forward. Roberto and I went to get the horses at about that same time that it started to rain and the gentleman who told me that he was going to rent me two horses told me that he had already rented them for the day. Without an apology and just a blank stare I left, fairly upset. I had no idea what to do know. I was expected in Pugarán at 15:30 for the meeting and had no horses. I called my host father, who has 3 horses but are kept an hour or so hike away from where he lives, to see if by the off chance the horses where closer and I could borrow them. The horses where far away, but my former host brother was close and my host father told me he would bring the horses to me. WHAT LUCK! Although it took a while we had the two horses at around 14:00. No big deal. With some luck comes a little more and the rain broke and the sun came out. Things where starting to look up.

Roberto and I left on horse, bareback, at a little after 14:00 for the trip to Pugarán. Although the roads where terrible due to the rain and there were many remains of landslides, the trip up was a blast. We made it to Pugarán before 16:00 and were still making goodtime. We met the president of the community who told me the meeting was going to be for 16:30, before a Church Service at 17:00, a baptism. With a little time to kill we went to the president’s sister’s house to eat some fried pork. Delicious. This is when I got the news that Pugarán had been without power for the past thirty hours, therefore the president was unable to make an announcement on the loudspeaker about my meeting. Therefore, no one knew about it. Bummer.

After waiting around the community meeting hall to see if people would come, I was surprised to see that actually 8 people had come. The president of the community suggested that I do the meeting after the Baptism, but that would be at 18:30. My meeting would last half an hour so our two hour trip back to Cahuasquí would begin at 19:00 in the dark. I did not like this idea (due to the dangers of riding in the dark) so I told the president that I would return another day for the meeting. He was very sorrow, but who would have thought that the electricity would have gone out and there was going to be a Baptism the same day that I came up. BAD LUCK! I told him not to worry about it because I was planning on traveling many more times to Pugarán so one extra trip was not a problem. And besides, it’s always fun to ride a horse.

As we started our trip back all the people who I encountered were very grateful to us for coming up and one women told me that she was so happy that I was going to be doing work in here community because she felt that all the organizations, foundations and governments around the world and in Ecuador had neglected them. This made the whole trip well worth it.

We left around 17:30 and I could not ride the horse. I was very sore from the trip to Pugarán and without a saddle I was in a lot of pain. We decided to walk the horses down to the river and then ride up the Cahuasquí (it is easier and less painful to ride a horse up hill than down hill). The trip went fine walking down, a little longer than riding a horse, so when we reached the river it was dark ad there was not a light to be seen. With just the light from my cell phone, we slowly made our way back to Cahuasquí were we arrived around 20:30, around a three hour trip.

Although the trip was not successful in many ways, I find success just in my presence in the community. Showing them that I was willing to make a trip to listen to them, find out there needs, and then see what we can all do together to reach those needs meant a lot to them. Although it has a hurt a lot to site down for the past couple of days I will make the trip to Pugarán again very shortly, but this time with a saddle.

Monday, April 25, 2011

On the Road (to Cahuasqui)

Cahuasquí lies about 45km to the northwest of Ibarra, the capital of the province of Imbabura. However, due to Cahuasquí’s positioning in the mountain and with numerous stops, the trip takes two hours by bus. While in the United States I can not remember taking a two hour bus ride just to visit a city a two hour trip away, but when internet, mail and a meal other than rice, potatoes and chicken is on the line it really does not seem like a big deal.

The road is well done and takes you on a little tour of the Canton of Urcuquí passing through Imbaya, Urcuqui, Chiryacu, Tumbabiro and Pablo Arenas before you get the fantastic view (weather permitting) of the Island in the Mountains, Cahuasquí. Although the view is breathtaking, there are still two obstacles to overcome on the single road into town before reaching the Fertile Heart of Imbabura—two bridges over a roaring river that appear as though they could collapse at any moment. BUT GOOD NEWS!! The government of Ecuador is building a new bridge to replace the older two. Construction is under way.

The construction has been going well for the past two months or so. Only every so often do they have to shut down the bridges to prevent traffic from passing and this only lasts for part of the day or at most a complete day. Normally this does not cause much disturbance in the daily lives of the people who live in Cahuasquí or those who need to travel to Cahuasquí for business, but today was an exception. Today, April 4, 2011 there were two medical emergencies in the local health center. The first involved a baby of a year and three months and the other involved a thirty-seven year-old pregnant women.

Today while walking into the heath center to discuss a potential project with the doctor in the health center there was an unusually amount of people in the health center. After interring I was told by the nurse that a young baby had a 103°F temperature and a terrible cough. In the health center, although the medicine is free, there is usually not the right type of medicine or not enough of it. With nothing to be done, the doctor called the ambulance to come to Cahuasquí. However after calling the doctor realized that today there was no passage on the bridge. With the pregnant women also needing a trip to a hospital in Ibarra, the doctor decided to wait to take both the bridge at once and pass over them on foot.

While waiting, I saw something that one would imagine seeing in a home or in a religious center—the doctor and nurse ran to the convenient store to by eggs in attempt to heal the baby. They rubbed the eggs on the young child’s head in attempt to reduce the fever and then neck and chest to heal the cough. The doctor then took the egg outside and threw it away. Such is the way of life here in Ecuador: a country continuing to move towards modernization, but yet holding firm to its customs of yesterday.

(Pictures to come with faster internet)

Friday, February 4, 2011

A day in the life...

As the pólice truck climbed higher up into the mountains the temperature dropped rapidly. It was only an 2 hours ago that I was walking around Cahuasqui shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables when my day took a drastic turn. But such is the life here in Ecuador. While looking for avacados (only about twenty cents a piece) the daughter of the president of Pugaran (a community an hour away from Cahuasqui, but still governed by Cahuasqui) came running up to me. I had met this shy girl a couple times before so this as rather startling to see her running towards me. While trying to catch her breath she asked me if I knew where the doctor was. I asked if everything was ok to which she replied no. She told me that someone in Pugaran had been shot (record player screeching to a holt…).

After searching at the doctors house and around town we were still unable to find her so we when to the dentist´s assistance, Chelita´s, house who lives in Cahuasqui. Chelita called the doctor who was walking around town with her mother. Together, Chelita, the Doctor, the daughter of the President of Pugaran and I went to talk to the police officer. While listing to the daughter explain what had happened to the police office I was able to better understand the situation. I twenty year old male was chasing a wolf in the fields and forest in Pugaran with a shot gun. The wolf had been killing live-stock and other farm animals and was losing his family a lot of money. However during the chase, the wolf turned on the young man causing the young man to change direction and run away. During his retreat, the young man tripped on a large rock and upon landing discharged his shot gun into his leg. This happened at about 12:30pm, around five hours ago.

In the old, beat up police truck we were careening around cliffs on a dirt road damaged by the recent rain. Despite the conditions of the road and the truck we were able to find the patient just as it got completely dark at around 7pm. Out of a community of around 80 people, 25 to 30 of them were surrounding the young man, supporting him and his family. It was amazing to hear that around 33% of the community was out late at night to support one of their own who had now been suffering with bullets in his calf for over seven hours.

After the doctor cleaned the wound, we loaded the patient into the back seat of the truck with his father, and I sat in the flatbed of the truck with the patient´s mother and doctor. Then hour drive back felt a lot longer sitting in the fridged air getting tossed back and forth during each turn, but I guess I cannot complain with the current weather right now in the northeast United States. I talked to the young man´s mother to try to help the time fly by when I learned that the young man was one of fourteen children, three of which has died at young ages. Her children ranged in age from two years old to 28 years old. She did not really seem upset at the situation, more in daze.

Five minutes after we arrived at the Cahuasqui Health Center the ambulance which we called arrived to take the patient to a hospital in Ibarra. Again, with more time to pass I started up a conversation with the patient’s father. His father told me that his wife´s father was already in a hospital in Ibarra and after this incident was really worried how he was going to pay for all the transportation to and from Ibarra and any lodging that they might need to pay for. Again, this is an extremely poor agricultural family with eleven children. It was just really sad to me (for lack of better words) that while his son was in agonizing pain, all the father could think about was how this was going to affect them financially.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Years Resolution: Write in Blog More

It wasn't that I didn't want to write in my blog or that I didn't have anything to say. I just didn't really know how to say it. As I write this blog, I am still not entirly sure how to express my thoughts and experiences over the last couple months, but I feel as the new year starts so can a new chapter in my brief blogging career.

In October of 2010 I started and failed my first attempt at a project as a Peace Corps Volunteer. The principle at the high school in Cahuasqui had to idea to start at program after school to help students with homework. When I worked as a social worker in Boston I was able to see first hand the positive effect that after school programs have on youth and teens so I was all for this idea. After talking to the students and getting many positive reponses I was very excited and already saw success in my inicial project.

My sence of success was only boosted when the first day 15 students came to the program (out of a school with 110), but as the days and the weeks, the number of students dropped to when finally I was the only one showing up for homework help (and I don't even get homework). Although initially feeling the failure hurt, I still believed in the program, but I just needed to find a better way to organize it.

During a Peace Corps conference with my OMNI BUS in mid-November, I had a wonderful talk with my program manager about my after school program and my work in the Peace Corp in general. The main theme of our 25 minute confersation was sustainability and how even if I successfully ran an after-school program by myself, when I leave in two years the program will fall apart rapidly leaving nothing for future students. The talk made me realize that to create a successful and sustainable project I can not to anything on my own. I need to find and use people in my community with whom I can collaborate and work.

When I returned to Cahuasqui I met with the President of the Padres de la Familia del Colegio (the organization of the parents of the high school) and talked to her about the program ater school to help the students who need extra help on homework and also provide more activity and recreation for the other students. The president was very receptive of the idea and thus called together a meeting of all of the parents in the high school to provide me an audience to explain my role as a volunteer and my idea of an after shcool program.

This is where we left off when the semester was coming to a close and the students were entering exams. I was upset not to be able to follow through with the momemtum the project was gathering, but I am ready to try and spark it up again. I hope now with the parents support and more support from the high school to be able to start a successful after school program that has the pieces in place to continue when I leave.

As the News Years past and the two weeks of fiestas (a blog soon to come about the fiestas) things continue to move slow with the after school program, but if the people in the community who say they are on-board actual are, then eventually there might be an after school program.

Friday, December 10, 2010

4 months in site and half a year in Ecuador...Man how time flies.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Finally, I busy week!

Last weekend I went to Buenos Aires (not Agentina) for a weekend with my host family. My host mother is from there and it is a beautiful town with a primary forest. The town does not get cell phone service so there are public phones that when anyone gets a call it is announced to the whole town that you have a call. In Buenos Aires I went to the Paramo which is the mountains above tree line. We went to a man made lake and went fishing for trout. It was a beautiful day that ended with a 5 hour hike back to town.

Now, the last week Cahuasqui has been really busy. Tuesday and Thursday I went around with the health center staff to all the smller barrios (La Florida [only 8 families], Pugaran, Wuanibuela and San Francisco) around Cahuaqui (still part of Cahuasqui) and gave Rabis vaccinations over 300 dogs and cats!! The vaccinations are paid for by the government because Rabis has been a huge health issue. It was so much fun and I actually got to give some of them. One of the towns was a 2 hour drive away and only has about 8 families (50 or so people). The towns are so beautiful and I am thinking about trying to so some work there because no other volunteers have and there are definate needs in these communities.

Also, on Thursday I gave my first lesson (Charla) to the whole high school (around 100 people). I gave it on self-esteem and I would say over all is went well. I know the director of the high school was pleased and then students seemed to have a good time...I just hoped they learned something!

I miss the USA, but then when I am in a bus driving in Ecuador and by barley turning my head can see three volcanoes (two snow covered) I miss the USA a little less.


Friday, August 27, 2010

First Week in Cahuasqui

This is where I am going to be living for the next two years of my life.

I have now been at my site for one week and things have been, well, slow. Schools are on vacation so I can not meet with the high school students and trying to integrate into a community with no structure is harder than I imagined. However, that is not to say that I have not been trying nor that I have not been integrating and found some success.

With little structure I make it a point each day in the morning, afternoon and night to pasear (to walk around aimlessly). While this usually results in countless salutation and simply getting my face out into the community, it has also lead me to some great experiences. For instance, the other day I was walking around down by the farms and a man called me over. "A donde vas?", he asked. Where are you going? When I told him I had no idea, he laughed and then called over his younger sister who brought me 10 tomatoes. She then asked what I was doing today and when again I said I had no idea, they invited me to pick and collect tomatoes with them on their farm. With little else to do and a desire to integrate into this agrcultural community, I said I would love to. We collected tomatoes until lunch when I was invited to go back to their house to eat. I ate rooster meat from the campo, which was delicious and then we all headed back to collect more tomatoes until 4pm. I think they tought my tomoatoe collecting skills (or free labor) was so good that they invited my back the next time the collect!

Here is one more story that I find to be a funny cultural experience here in Ecuador. I went to play soccer on wednesday with some of the kids in the community, but the field was being used by the All-Mother Cahuasqui team practicing before their big game on Friday. They play against other mothers from surrounding pueblos. I was lucky enough to be able to play with them and it was a blast. However, about 45 minuutes into the game I was passed the ball from our goalie and then looked around for my team. Teams were made of 6 played each and I could not find any our offensive players. That was until I looked at the sideline and saw both of our offenders breast-feeding their kids on the sideline. Oh Ecuador....

Other than that I have been eating a lot of carbs and walking around aimlessly. However, I hope these walks will create new and interesting stories I can soon share with you all. I hope all is going well in the US of A.

Peace and Love
Central Plaze and church in Cahuasqui. A rooster and me. This here rooster is going to be in a cock fight this sunday. Wish `em luck!!