Saturday, September 27, 2008

Week 2 in Bua: The Cliff Notes Version

Hi again to everyone!

First I just want to say that even though I don´t really have time to reply individually to everyone´s emails and comments on this muy lento (sloooooooooow) internet connection in Santo Domingo, I love to hear from you all -- anything and everything from politics and the economy to family news or about what you´ve been up to -- so thanks so much for keeping in touch! (Those of you not being in touch take this as a subtle plea for updates on your lives).

I don´t know how long it feels like it´s been since I left the U.S., but I´d have to say at least two months...and we´ve just broken 3 weeks I think! But I´m having the time of my life.

I think I´m going to depart from the play by play style this blog has adopted in the interest of not spending every Saturday between now and March at internet cafes the world over, but don´t worry, the good stuff will still be here and I´ll have more stories to tell when I get home :-D

This past week has been a whirlwind. I´ll start with Monday.

Monday: Goodbye to Nina and a Hello from Correa
Monday was a rollercoaster of a day. We arrived at work at 8am ready to go. While we were sitting around waiting for our morning seminar (it fluctuates between morning and afternoon...) Lily and John mentioned that their homestay father was going into Santo Domingo to hear Rafael Correa speak. Correa is the current President of Ecuador and has spearheaded the writing of the new constitution. There is a referendum on the constitution tomorrow.

We all jumped at the news and started talking about how we should go in and see him speak. Robin went outside for a few minutes to make some arrangements and before we knew it we had plans to head into Santo Domingo at 10 to hear the noon speech.

But first, some news. As we sat in a circle, ready for our seminar, Robin said he had some sad news: Nina, the third guide with us other than Robin and Sandy (the married couple and two thirds of the TBB founding team), would be leaving. We recieved as good an explanation as Robin and Sandy could give. Basically, the program just wasn´t a good fit for her. A letter was sent to our parents that probably explained it as honestly and fully as it was explained to us. We were all very surprised, they had all three done a good job of keeping any strife away from the group, and we were all sad. A few tears were shed and there were hugs all around and then a cab came and spirited Nina away. Her bag had been in the room and no one had noticed. We´ll all miss Nina, but we´re all fine and Robin and Sandy have made sure that there will be a third staff member with us at all times until an official replacement hopefully meets us in China.

After that, we had an hour long discussion about Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (read it!) and then hopped in the back of our now semi-official group truck with it´s driver, Wilson (not my homestay father), and headed to Santo Domingo. We arrived at about 10:45 and they were still setting up. I ended up sitting next to a Tsachila man from another villiage who was probably about 25. We talked about the government (Correa´s OK...better than the line of corrupt presidents they´ve had in the last ten years), the constitution (he liked some of it and thought it would pass), birthdays (don´t ask), and the American government and the war in Iraq (this seems to come up a lot and mostly people really don´t get it, really want information). At one point I was trying to explain why some American government officials don´t like to talk to other countries and he finished my sentence for me as I searched for the right words in Spanish: they think they´re superior. Yeah...pretty much...good call... Hearteningly, though, all the Ecuadorians I´ve met so far may not be fans of our government, but they have nothing against us as Americans personally. In fact, as you´re about to hear, they rather like the fact that we´re here visiting and helping out.

At noon some provincial officials including the governor spoke and a lot of giant checks were given out (some micro loans, I believe). Finally, at 1:30, Correa got up to give his speech. While we´d been sitting around looking at our cartoon pamphlets explaining the new constitution, a woman working for the campaign came up and talked to us, asking who we were, where we were from, what we were doing etc and we ended up being introduced as one of the groups being welcomed which was pretty cool. We thougth that was the end of it, but in the middle of his speech, Correa mentioned that some foreigners were present and then switched into English to welcome us to Ecuador, ask if we were enjoying the country and tell us that they were in the middle of a revolution and needed change. Then he calmly continued on in Spanish. Oh, and I have it all on video thanks to my handy little cannon point and shoot :-D I think Sandy is going to try to put it up on the website at some point!

His speech was a little hard to understand because of the microphone feedback, but Isabel translated it for us afterwards. What I did understand though, was a part about change that sounded just like Obama. Voting for the constitution is voting for change, voting no is voting for more of the past. The "past" here is about at popular as it is in the U.S., maybe even less so. As far as delivery goes, Correa is very charismatic and all the women seem to find him muy guapo. (I asked my homestay father how old he is and he guessed 38. ) He speaks fluidly and forcefully without any notes or a teleprompter to guide him and even improvises well in English as we found out. (He is a U.S. educated economist from some college in the midwest I think...I don´t remember exactly where.)

Afterwards, we ended up networking with some of the local prefects adn the sister of a prefect ended up visiting our project site in Bua. It would be great if we could get them to work with Yanapuma (the organization we´re partnered with here) and support their efforts. All in all, it was a very sucessful trip.

Tuesday through Thursday:
We´ve been workign on our project and looking into projects we´ll be starting next week. Most of the trenches we dug the first week ended up being useless. A few of us helped redesign part of the project and it looks like it´s good to go for now. It´s been frustrating, but educational and in the end something good will come of it.

My homestay partner, Isabel, has been sick, so I´ve been taking care of her. She finally went into Quito to the hospital yesterday and actually just walked into the internet cafe as I typed that. She´s fine and she´ll get rest and get better. Don´t be alarmed. If anything, feel good knowing that we get good medical care here when we need it. Mostly we´ve all been a little sick on and off...just different food stuff mainly, and an inflamed foot due to an infected bug bite...or an alergic reaction to it...or something.

Friday: The Jungle
Instead of work on Friday, we took a trip to a forest preserve and walked around with a guide for 3 hours. It was pretty interesting and I got to take lots of fun pictures and play with the macro function on my camera so I was thorougly entertained.

Anyway, I´ve been trying to keep up with the news whenever I get internet. I read about the debate today, and Zack and Isabel got to watch it while they were in Quito last night so I have some first hand sources, too. I hear the economy sucks. Sorry about that. The dollar is rockin´here in Ecuador. A bottle of water is 25 cents. Lunch today, crab soup, chicken and juice, was two dollars.

Oh and a mini soap opera update...the girl who ran away was actually, as far as I can now gather, my host mother´s niece and is now living with us. She is fifteen, could pass for seventeen on looks but acts younger. She´s happy all the time now and is perfectly nice. Her daughter lives with us on and off...I think she´s next door with the grandparents the rest of the time but I´m not positive. Also, the home she no longer lives in is also a TBB homestay family, but luckily it´s in the area with the four homestays all together so the TBBers assigned there get family time in with "the commune" as we call it. That´s all. Just thought I should finish the story I started.

I´m off! I think we´re taking a little trip to the coast next weekend so I don´t know if I´ll have internet...So bye for now and keep in touch!



Staci said...

Hi, Becca -

I love reading your updates! I can't believe the President acknowledged you in his speech. How neat is that! Glad to hear all is well and that you're having the time of your life (but sorry to hear that you lost a staff member.) All is well here, but yes, the economy is still scary.

I've just been busy at work, as we had our annual fundraiser a couple of days ago. I'm still tired! And I perform at the biggest ukulele festival on the mainland next Friday night with my ukulele club, so I'm in rehearsals for that:)

Enjoy your trip to the coast!


friend Nancy said...

Hi Rebecca - love hearing about the politics there and similarities to Obama campaign... if McCain and Palin get elected I may join you overseas - cannot bear to hear Palin continue to use Alaska's closeness to Russia as her international "experience" - unbelievable that the McCain people haven't reprogrammed her on that issue already... so exciting to have been greeted by Correa - WOW.... I'm reading sequel to Confessions book now... it's just as powerful (although a bit repetitious)...

so glad you gave us the soap opera update - makes me feel I live in your village.... hugs for now.... what a blast being able to keep up with you so closely... hugs, hugs, hugs....