I´m at an internet cafe in Quito, Ecuador that closes in about fifteen minutes, so forgive me if this post is a little short. I´m going to hit the important points first.
We had a lot of orientation today with Yanapuma, the program we´re parterned with here in Ecuador and what I´ve gathered is basically this:
1) We leave for Bua early tomorrow morning. Bua is hot and humid and at sea level, unlike Quito which is at 9,000 feet and for which I broke out the long sleeved shirt and the jacket.
2) Bua is UBER rural. We will bathe in a river. If we´re lucky a toilet will be a hole in the ground. I´m thinking no internet access...although in Santo Domingo, a town about 45 minutes away (I think) I might get some internet...I can go there on weekends, but if you don´t hear from me for a while, I´m most likely both still alive and totally fine.
3) My homestay partner is Isabel. She is actually from Guatemala and so is fluent in Spanish. I´m a little sad that I´m not the more advanced Spanish speaker, but on the other hand, she will likely just chat away with our family and the experience will be almost as if we weren´t partnered. Also she´s really nice. Not than I have anything really bad to say about anyone in TBB. Everyone is fascinating, unique and pretty generally friendly and awesome.
4) Bua is actually a villiage where the majority of the population is from an indigenous tribe called the Tsachila (I think...I don´t have my notes with me) and they speak a language called Tsafiki. I fully intend to learn some Tsafiki while I´m there. The school we´ll be working at is even a bilingual school and I´m pretty sure the two languages are Spanish and Tsafiki.
5) We will be working to bring sanitary toilets to the local school, and by ¨bring¨I mean build from scratch. It seems there will be a lot of digging and pouring of cement. The toilets we´re building are eco toilets so that all the human waste that goes in will come out either immediately or in six months as some form of fertilizer. Pretty awesome, right?
6) The traditional gender roles are apparently pretty strong in Bua, to the point where we girls may not be able to get a lot of digging or carrying in at the beginning without the men offering to help us out. Also, there is apparently no such thing as platonic friendships between men and women so I´m really curious to see what happens in the homestays where we have one girl and one boy. I´m a little sad I´m not in one of those as well, but honestly, I can´t really complain. There is no way this isn´t going to be an amazing experience.
That pretty much covers the basics. We had a two hour lecture about Ecuador´s history today, followed by a short introduction to Bua by a girl who visited for the first time last weekend, so my information may not be perfectly accurate. Then we had about an hour and a half of Spanish class...I was in an advanced group so we ended up talking about American politics after twenty five minutes of reading on Ecuadorian culture and learning words pertinent to our work in Bua. We were all trying to explain the war in Iraq to our instructor. She was honestly interested, but didn´t really understand why we couldn´t just pull out immediately. We figured out that she thought it was a war medieval style, with two armies charging each other on a field (or basically like that...as opposed to the policing and counter insurgency operation that it is in reality). She also knew a little about Obama and McCain (whom she called McClain).
What surprised me is that Ecuadorian politics right now is equally as exciting as American. They elected a new president in January of 2007 and he´s been instituting more reforms than any recent past president of Ecuador. Apparently they go through presidents pretty quickly here, with a lot not finishing terms. There is a referendum on a new constitution in two weeks. It would be Ecuador´s twentieth since it´s independence from Spain in 1809! Included are causes legalizing abortion and gay marriage as well as mandating free schools (and that 7.5% of the budget be spent on education) and free health care. The catholic church is against it because of the gay marriage and abortion clauses and the country is ostensibly 95% catholic (supposedly there are more people that practice indigenous religions than will admit it on a census), but most people seem to think it will pass. The question is, where will Ecuador get the money to pay for all this. Supposedly the government will start to tax the rich which it apparently does not do as of now, but with nearly 50% of it´s annual budget going to pay off the INTEREST on loans from the world bank (read: America conned Ecuador into perpetual debt so that it would be under our political thumb...you should really read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man) and only 1% of the budget currently allocated for education it still sounds a little far fetched to me.
Anyway, the internet cafe is closing, so I´ve got to go pay my seventy cents for the hour.
I´ll see ya when I see ya (but not if you see me first)
Quick! Name that movie reference!
Love to all,
Monday, September 15, 2008