After an amazing first project and a relaxing but demanding project at Machalilla National Park, we returned to Quito with good tans, burns in some cases, a great appreciation and much respect for the amazing people at ConQuito who we’ve collaborated and worked with so far, and an extreme craving for Crepes and Waffles (probably the most gringo restaurant we could possibly find here). After talking about eating there for over a day, we hopped in a cab and stuffed ourselves with salads the size of our faces, crepes with delicious fillings and of course ice cream. As usual, we arrived home a little after 9 and all proceeded to pass out. We’re such a rowdy group!
We had planned on starting the second project on Tuesday, the 21st but were delayed 2 days. I guess I’ll have to backtrack a bit to explain why we were held back. So Triple Salto and ConQuito work pretty often with volunteers from the UK. These volunteers are usually high school students who are partaking in their “trek” which is an adventure trip that is required by many schools there. Arranged by an adventure trekking company, these volunteers can do any number of projects, but in working with Triple Salto and ConQuito, their project is a greenhouse, garden and mural, just like ours. So while we left for the coast, 2 groups of 16 English high school girls, along with their teachers and guides, had started their projects. Both groups spoke much less Spanish than our group and were having difficulty communicating with their engineers but were also just cutting it close to their deadline for finishing their projects. In order for us to begin our second project in the neighborhood of San Jose de Monjas, we needed the tools and of course the agro-engineers that the girls from the UK were occupying. That being said, we split into 2 groups and went to their sites to help in any way that we could.
It ended up being Adrian and I, and Bri and Renata, then Bri and Chris the second day. The morning of the 21st, we headed out to meet up with the groups we were going to be working with not knowing what to expect. Adrian and I were met by a group of kind, smiling 16 and 17 year olds, their 2 super sweet teachers and their male trekking guide from the company they are doing their trip with. He had a sort of sour demeanor and he seemed to not be looking at his situation with this group in the most positive of ways, telling Adrian and I when we asked him if he was a teacher from the school or a parent, or what his association was (because we had no idea who he was at first) that he wasn’t a teacher or a father and that “he would never sign up for this if he wasn’t getting paid!” This tipped us off that communication was going to be the main issue of the day.
We chatted with the teachers and the girls, who were all really interested in their project, but just sort of confused on everything that was going on. They hadn’t been able to really communicate well with their engineer so far, they were receiving little instruction and couldn’t see the big picture of their project and they wanted jobs to do, but just didn’t know what. That was where Adrian and I came in. Although we had only built 1 greenhouse, our project had been at a slower pace and we had taken part in every step of the process so we knew the order of things to be done and more importantly why certain things had to be done at certain times and in certain ways. This I think was the key to everything for our group, knowing the purpose of all the little jobs they had to do and seeing the big picture of the greenhouse.
When we arrived on site, a primary school really far in the south and partway up into the hills/mountains, I’m not sure what to call them, we went straight to work. We introduced ourselves to the crew, asked what the jobs that needed to be done were, and took over as translators between the agro-engineers and the girls and everything seemed to go pretty smoothly. At times we just took the project into our own hands, figured out what jobs needed to be done next, asked the engineers and got approval and just started them on our own. I think that sometimes projects can get overwhelming for everyone and people get focused on their task forgetting that there are 20 people standing around, willing and ready to work but just waiting for instructions.
Halfway through the day, Alicia came by the site to check on everything with Alex, Maria and Angelito from Conquito. Our project seemed to be moving along, so they stole me away to go on a mission: buy gineau pig compost. It was cool to talk with everyone from Conquito about my expectations and impressions of their organization and the projects, but I could have done without the gineau pig poop. We drove for about a half hour up into the hills in South Quito and came across a house with a small “abono de cuye” or gineau pig compost business. We were invited into the yard by the husband of the woman who raises the gineau pigs and shown the animals before we got down to business. We had the lovely job of transferring every 3 small bags into 1 big bag or compost. This involved getting up close and personal with some rank smelling stuff, I am a little nauseous writing things now because I feel like I smell the compost while thinking and writing about it…gross!
After transferring the poop and getting a lovely layer of it all over my pants, shoes and sadly, hands, we headed back to the site to drop it off and continue working. By the end of the day, we had 3 walls completed, trenches dug for burying the plastic of the walls to make them tight, beds dug, filled with compost and rebuilt and everything in place to finish the following day. We finally made it home around 6, ate dinner, and got ready to do the same thing the next day.
So we decided to switch projects sites for the next day in order to see as many different sites as possible. The other site was at an orphanage for abandoned children. It’s a really cool place because instead of having dorm-style rooms for the children, instead they have around 12 houses that each have a “mom” who lives there with 10 or so children. It’s a really interesting way of organizing an orphanage that I think is amazing because it does its best to mimic a normal family style life for the children. The group of girls that we worked with at this site needed a little more motivation than the other group, but I think it was just because they weren’t used to doing physical labor/volunteer work. After another long day of work, their project was in a good place and all they had to do the next day was plant the tomatoes!
I think the determining factors for each project has been the intrinsic motivation of the workers and the relationship they build with their agro-engineers and crew from ConQuito. Working closely with such wonderful people like Luchito and Diana who are amazing leaders, who care about everyone they are working with and who get the job done well and in a timely manner has strengthened our experience here!
After our second (and final) day helping out the girls from the UK, Chris left us to return home to the states. The next day, Renata headed back to the states as well leaving Brianna, Adrian and myself to start and complete our second official project!