A typical day…
Many people have been asking what a typical day is like for us here in Quito, so I thought I’d give you the play-by-play of what a day at the project site looks like. First, we’re out of bed by 6:45 am each morning (if you know me, you know how painfully early this is for me, especially without coffee!). We’re up early because the van that takes us to the project site leaves at 7:15. After hitting the snooze a few times, I’m out the door and headed down the block to a little corner store to buy breakfast; for a whopping 50 cents I get more than enough bananas and bread to fill me up. We then begin our 90 minute drive to the school, which is far outside Quito in the rural mountains below Cotopaxi, the 2nd-highest mountain in Ecuador (over 19,000 feet!). We typically sleep or read during the long van ride, and I also take pictures of the gorgeous Andes mountains that we pass through.
Once we arrive at the project site around 9 am, we start working on the greenhouse. We have 9 student volunteers (3 from UC Davis, 6 from the University of Viriginia) and we divide up the various tasks. Very few of us have knowledge about organic agriculture or how to build a greenhouse, but thankfully we work with 2 agroengineers, who assist with the project as part of Triple Salto’s partnership with Conquito, which is part of Quito’s municipal agency on economic development. Our agriengineers are Luchito and Edgar, both of whom are friendly and enthusiastic about the project and provide us with direction on how to construct the greenhouse.
We typically spend 3 hours working on the project in the mornings (either building the greenhouse or painting the mural) and then eat lunch around noon. The mothers of the schoolchildren prepare our meals each day, typically some sort of soup, rice, or potatoes, with a little bit of meat or vegetables. My favorite parts of the meals were the papas fritas (sooooo fresh and way better than any American French fry!) and the jugo de tomato de arbol, which is a sweet juice made out of tree tomatoes and a lot of sugar After lunch we return to work on the project for another 2 or 3 hours before heading home for the day. Most of us fall asleep within 5 minutes of getting in the van – manual labor at 10,000 feet is no easy task!
When we get back to our home in Quito, we shower (we’re always covered in dirt and paint when we return from the project site!) and usually nap again before heading out to explore the city and try new restaurants for dinner. Then it’s back home, Skype with the family, and off to bed to rest up for another day building the greenhouse!
Our first step in building the greenhouse was to clear the land for the greenhouse; this was a back-breaking job involving lots of hoeing, digging, and weeding. Then, we built the outer frame of the greenhouse – the exoskeleton, if you will. This required precise measurements and lots of sawing, drilling, and hammering. I’ve improved my hammer-wielding skills while here, although I think my weight-lifting coaches would be disappointed at how long it takes me to get a nail through the wood…!
After completing the exoskeleton of the greenhouse, we attached the outer plastic walls, which we attached to long pieces of bamboo wood which are wrapped tightly in plastic to protect the wood from the elements. The plastic walls are preferred over glass walls because they are much cheaper and also easier to replace if damaged. Finally, once the plastic walls and roof were in place, we assembled the door. After many hours of tough manual labor, our carpentry skills were greatly improved and our greenhouse was complete!
Upon finishing the greenhouse, we then prepared the interior for planting, making raised beds in which we planted tomato seedlings. Our greenhouse will be used to grow tomatoes, which will supplement the school’s garden, in which they already grow carrots, radishes, various types of lettuce, etc. The garden and the greenhouse will provide fresh produce for the children’s school lunches, improving the nutritional quality of the meals. Any surplus tomato crops will either be sold (with the profits going back to the school) or the surplus will be sent home with kids to be consumed by their families. While the greenhouse is directly affiliated with the school, it also directly benefits the families and the surrounding community. The enthusiasm from the school principal, the mothers of the kids, and the kids themselves make me confident that the greenhouse will be a great addition to this school and will be a sustainable venture, improving nutrition in the community for many years to come.
Ok, I’m up way past my bedtime and we’re up early for a trip to Otovalo to visit the indigenous market and buy souvenirs. 😉 Have a great weekend! ~Kaitlin
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