Archive for November, 2011

Its been awhile… oops

Its been awhile…

I will try to remember what has happened since the last time I wrote. Basically, two weeks ago I was still going on vaccination campaigns every day. Its fun… always an adventure, that’s for sure. Sometimes the truck gets stuck, or we get a bit lost, or we end up picking fruit for a half hour… I don’t mind it. The highlight of my week was receiving almost $200 worth of brand new, beautiful, hardcover books for my library from Amazon. The shipment was anonymous, so I don’t know who sent them! But whoever it was, it was an EXTREMELY generous donation, so thank you!!! The kids loved them! I was also getting ready for my community assessment presentation the following week. Which brings me to…

The Peace Corps Reconnect Conference. This conference takes place after about 3 months in site. It has a few purposes. First, every new volunteer has to summarize and present their findings from their community assessment surveys. The idea is that the results help the community decide what programs they want, rather than the American arriving and saying “ok we you need this this and this, this is what we are going to do”. It is also a practice run.. we need to present the results to our communities after the conference. Another reason for the conference is to work on project planning and management with our counterparts… everyone is supposed to bring someone. Nelly didn’t want to go, so I brought Cecelia instead, which was nice. The counterparts were only there for the first half… the second have was more technical training, medical review, and safety and security review. They also introduced a new program- the peer support network- for volunteers, and run by volunteers. I am really interested in it, and I think I will be applying in December. My favorite part of reconnect was just seeing everyone again, talking to everyone about their sites, about the craziness that is the PC Ecuador experience, about whatever. Everyone seems to be doing pretty well aside from the hiccups here and there. Actually, a really cool thing happened with this group. No one else has early terminated from our training class between training and reconnect, which apparently is really rare; usually 2-3 people leave before reconnect. In fact, a staff member told my friend that they were now actually a little over budget, because they work into the estimate that two or three people will leave, and we are all still here! I personally think that’s pretty badass. Ending reconnect was kind of sad, because I know I won’t see some people until our one-year conference about 10 months from now.

This Sunday, I am heading back to Quito for a food security conference. It should be fun, and I am excited to meet volunteers from other training classes (finally… no offense 106). When I get back from that conference, I am moving to my new house!!!! It is only a few feet away from my host parents’ house, but I will have my own living space, so it is really the best of both worlds. Then we are into December, which marks six months in Ecuador. When we got here, everyone told us that time would pass very slowly, but for me, its flying. I feel like I can barely keep up! If this keeps up, I will be back in the States before I can blink twice!

I also received some exciting news from my Aunt… she and my Uncle are allowing me to use their airmiles so I can fly home! I will be visiting the States for two weeks in February/March, and I am super excited about it! It was not something I even considered before I left for my service, so it is an extremely pleasant surprise, and a very generous gift.

I guess that is it for now… I am sure I missed a lot but I think I hit the most important stuff. Look for pictures of my house soon! =)

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Day of the Dead and Translating

This week was insane, but great. I hardly slept and now have a cold, but it was totally worth it. All week during the day, I was helping out a fellow volunteer, Erin. Her organization is an American medical foundation based in Portoviejo (the nearest city to my site). This week, the owners of the foundation brought about 10 doctors from the States to give medical attention for one week. However, the doctors don’t really speak any Spanish, so they were looking for translators, and that’s where I came in. At first, I didn’t want to do it and I was really nervous. I didn’t know if my Spanish would be good enough to help. But, actually, it was really fun and a lot easier than I thought it would be. I wasn’t always able to translate word for word, but I know enough Spanish now that it was easy enough to explain what the doctor was saying to the patients in Spanish. The other thing that was really cool was that even though these were people in other towns who I had never met before, I was able to understand almost everything that they said. Moreover, it was so much easier to alternate between Spanish and English than I thought it would be. I am still using basic tenses, but I feel like my comprehension/listening skills have improved immensely, and I definitely have sufficient vocabulary to communicate efficiently. I never ever would have managed to translate like I did when I first got here to my site. WHOO! The doctors were also fun to be with. They were all older, and mostly from southern states, so their accents were great. They all had a good sense of humor and made the week fun.

The other thing I loved about this week was that Monday and Tuesday my community had Day of the Dead celebrations. It is not actually called Day of the Dead here, and it is not quite the same thing. Here in Ecuador, it’s called Los Fieles DisFuntas or Los Fieles. They celebrate the night of November 1st a little bit of during the day on November 2nd, and the night of November 2nd. My host family said that everyone has their own little rituals that they like to do, but in general, families go to the cemetery after dark on both nights, and put candles and sometimes flowers, on the grave sites. This is also a time to repaint the names or do any repairs they need. It is a totally different atmosphere than cemeteries in the U.S. I think most of us think of cemeteries as sad places, not somewhere anyone really enjoying going. But here, they had vendors set up selling not only flowers and candles, but also tons of food, like any other street fair. Once families light the candles, they just sit in front of the graves and talk and eat. The kids run around and play. The families move from one grave site to the next, making sure to visit all of their relatives. It felt to me like they were including their passed relatives in a party, including them in their lives and conversations. It was really special, and I think it was my favorite holiday here so far.