Tisa and Katie previously described our experience with our first two house visits and, through this blog I will share with you guys the last house we visited. Pati is known as a community leader at Casa Del Alfarero. Her job is to observe what’s going on in the community she lives in and to focus on the health of the people that populate that community. She lead us to her humble home where we were introduced to four of her six children (2 of which were sleeping) and her 4 month-old grandson . Pati’s home consists of one room with 3 beds, a dirt floor, a tin roof, and a blanket for a door. Pati, her husband, and her six children, and her grandson have made this room their home. They don’t have actual legal ownership over the land they live in so, if the government decides to use this land for an alternate purpose then they would be left without a home.
I was so grateful because Pati openly invited us into her home without hesitation and shared with her her worries, her hopes, and her past. As soon as I walked in to her home I noticed that the 8 year old boy was left to care for his 15 year old sister’s baby while she went to school. I sat on the bed and saw that he had a radiant smile that instantly filled the entire room. Pati then announced that there was something that she needed to share with everyone. She mentioned that after her first husband (the father of all her children) died of alcoholism she became very abusive with her children. She mentioned that she would beat them and speak to them with deep anger. She spoke with such sadness and said that Casa Del Alfarero had helped her see her children as blessings and it gave her such peace of heart. She told that she encouraged her children to dream big so that they can accomplish the things she could never do. She said that one of her sons would be an electrician because he loved playing with cables. Her 8 year old son was going to be her lawyer because he can retain information easily. Her youngest son would become a soccer player because he is always playing with a ball and her grandson would be a nurse, because that’s what she loved to do.
We gave her some words of encouragement that came from the scriptures and Laura asked one of us to pray for the family out loud. Although I was very hesitant, I offered to say the praying. I prayed for their health, I prayed to God and asked him to give Pati and her children the courage to continue to work hard and believe in their potential to achieve their dreams.
As we left the house I was talking to one of the volunteers from Casa Del Alfarero about Pati and her family. She shared with me that Pati’s daughter, Katy, was in a relationship with a man who was a drug trafficker and who impregnated and abandoned her as soon as their soon was born. Taking in the reality of these people was really a wake up call for Tisa, Katie, and me. We walked to Casa Del Alfarero with heavy hearts as we swatted the flies away from our faces.
Today we went on house visits within the squatter community close to Casa del Alfarero. It was very humbling, eye opening and emotional for all of us. Tisa explained our first visit in her last post, and here I will highlight our second house visit.
After we left Blenda, Virginia, and Ruth, we walked further into the community in hopes to find Carolina’s house. On the way we saw the community water supply. The houses do not having running water, and the cost to install the infrastructure was too expensive, to the community shares a water source which is reduced to a pipe and a bucket. We also learned that electricity has been installed in many of the houses, and some of the neighbors will share a cable bill. I never saw a bathroom, and in the shock of everything else did not ask what the people use or where they go. This question will be saved for another day.
We passed by dogs and children playing in the alley between the maze of cardboard and tin houses, and finally found Carolina. We ducked under the sheet she used as a door and escaped the smells of hot garbage, sweat, dirt, dog feces, and marijuana, and entered Carolina’s home. It was made of the same scrap metal and cardboard as the other houses, and had the same dirt floor, but was a little larger than the first house we visited. Carolina lives there with her two daughters who are 15 and 16 years old. As soon as I entered her house I saw that she had a bird cage, and in the cage were two parakeets singing their song, and brightening the mood of the home. Instantly I thought of my own parakeet, Santiago, and later shared that with Carolina; she laughed and introduced her birds to me. Carolina also participates in the jewelry workshop at Casa del Alfarero, but explained to us that even though her dream is to leave the dump behind, it is not possible to do right now because she still has to support her daughters. She attends the classes to prepare herself and give herself the opportunity to create a better life and escape the dangers of scavenging. Then, she told us a story. Carolina explained that the dangers of working in the dump go much farther than health risks and violence, recently while she was working the mountain of garbage gave out under many of the workers, this created a landslide like effect, and thankfully carried the workers with it down the side of the ravine where the dump is located. She explained that they were lucky, and many times the garbage will fall and bury the workers, who trapped under hundreds of pounds of garbage will die there, and may never be recovered. Carolina is anxious to leave the dump, but knows that it will take time to build her business big enough to not have to rely on the dump and its resources anymore.
Then Carolina showed us the jewelry that she made, and told another story. Last thursday, mother’s day in Guatemala, Carolina was very worried. She had no money and didn’t know what to do next. She went to Casa del Alfarero for her weekly jewelry class, and there Laura, another Volunteer purchased a set of her jewelry. Carolina explained this act as Gods blessing that gave her the opportunity to run to the store and purchase a phone card. With this phone card she was able to call her mother that she hasn’t been able to talk to in a long time on mothers day to tell her that she loved her. Her children were able to talk quickly with their grandmother, and she even had enough minutes left to call her brother in the U.S. to say hello to him. As Carolina told this story her voice cracked and her eyes began to water, and that is when my defenses broke down. Seeing her standing in her home, thanking God for the opportunity to talk to her mother, while so many things in her life have been so hard for her made me realize just how different life is for the Treasures.
We went to another house visit, which Nicol will explain in her post, and returned to Casa to teach our first class. In this class we focused on getting to know the women. We wanted to know who they are, and what struggles their facing, and what they want to get out of our classes. Tisa and I prepared about me speeches in Spanish to introduce ourselves to the women, and included information about our families, what our hopes and dreams are, and why we’re here. We believe that creating a trusting environment with these women will help us to help them as much as possible, and encourage them to participate in our classes so that our time may be spent productively and our lessons will be tailored to the specific needs and situations of these women.
I am humbled by their eagerness to learn, acceptance of our presence, and courage to dare to dream outside the life they have known all their lives, whether that be 20 years or 60 years. These women are some of the bravest people I’ve ever met, and I have learned more from them in the past few days than I could hope to teach them in the next month.
Hello friends and family and happy mother’s day to all the mommies out there
So, I’d like to start off by saying that since I’ve arrived in Guatemala I’ve made a series of promises to adopt certain “good habits” this whole month. The first promise I made was to not check my facebook throughout my entire stay. I think that it will be good to disconnect from what’s going on back home and really just focus on what I came to do here in Guatemala. The second promise I made was that I will wake up in a good mood everyday! It’s something that has been very easy to do here because I am enjoying waking up everyday knowing that I will experience and learn something new. It’s quite rejuvenating. The third promise I made was that I will eat foods that were gluten- free… but that went down the drain 2 hours ago when I ate spaghetti for dinner.
Everything about Guatemala is so humbling. Every day on our way to Casa Del Alfarero I look out the car window and I am absolutely fascinated by the many houses made out of tin that cover the mountains. The streets, although dirty and gray, are full of hard- working people ready to start their days selling on the streets or walking to the dump. It’s true what some say, that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. There are 13,000 people aged 14 and up that work at the dump, diligently looking for things of value that they can later sell in the market. We were able to see the dump on the second day we were here. I was so shocked when we saw it from the mountains and I asked Rogelio, one of the volunteers at Casa Del Alfarero, how much the scavengers complained about working at the dump. He said that most scavengers look at the dump as a blessing because it gives them an opportunity to make a living, no matter how small it is. wow. Lesson learned.
Keep posted for more posts in future!
So…only five days in Guatemala so far, and it feels like we’ve been here forever, and at the same time, like we just arrived. Our stay at Villas Majen has been comfortable, frankly more comfortable than we expected, complete with hot water, hot and tasty meals, and internet!
On Wednesday we arrived in Guatemala City and drove to the supermarket to pick up some food before we arrived at Villas Majen. Even the drive to our hostel made it obvious we were no longer in Gainesville. The streets are unkept, and the buildings are painted in beautiful colors, with chips of paint falling off the sides. Thursday we spent our first day at Casa del Alfarero, and met the staff, some women enrolled in the entrepreneurship classes, and many children. The people we’ve met so far are extremely welcoming, which goes a long way especially when communication is difficult because of my barely existent knowledge of Spanish words. My favorite person that I’ve met so far is a little girl named Ashley. She is two years old and has been teaching me Spanish words by placing my hands on different objects and saying their names and making me repeat them. She is so smart and so energetic. Below is a picture of us!
My favorite experience so far has been attending the cooking class held at Casa del Alfarero for the women interested in starting their own cooking businesses. These women, and their small children and their babies cram into a classroom used traditionally for children, equipped with a few tables, and some cooking equipment. The heat of the gas stove, the bodies crammed into the room, and the lack of air conditioning was extreme, but the energy of the women and the smell of the cooking food overpowered any surface level discomfort. In class we learned to cook a soup like dish called khakik, and a ceviche like dish complete with tomatoes, tomatillos, onions and pig skin. Both were so delicious, and we were able to get the recipes to bring back home to cook.
In class we learned to cook a soup like dish called khakik, and a ceviche like dish complete with tomatoes, tomatillos, onions and pig skin. Both were so delicious, and we were able to get the recipes to bring back home to cook.
We also were introduced to our long-term assignment we’ll be working on while here. We’ll be making a “how to create a business” book for people in the cooking, jewelry making, and beauty classes, as well as others in the community. We’ve decided to create a book that can be followed by people with varying levels of eduction, focusing on pictures to depict the general steps and ideas, and using text to provide more detail and extra examples. We’re all excited about how this project will turn out and are confident that it will be providing a sustainable resource that will increase opportunity for the people in this community in the long run.
As an ending note, I’d like to tie this all together with the reason that we’re here, and the people we’re hoping to serve. Over 13,000 people make a living off of finding scrap plastic, metal, or other sellable objects in the Guatemala City dump. These people are subject to the harsh conditions of the dump which carries many diseases and harbors dangers we could never think of having in our jobs. People risk developing harsh respiratory illness, and even getting run over by the dump trucks in their fight to find the most valuable materials as fast as they can. Many of these people view themselves as garbage and are stuck in this cycle of poverty.
Casa del Alfarero focuses on “taking the dump from the people’s minds” instead of taking the people from the dump. The idea is that if you simply move people, there will always be another dump, but if you teach them to see and aspire to more than the dump, they will create better lives for their families. The faith and humbleness of the people we’ve met is incredible. I’m happy to be here, and an anxious for what will come in the next few weeks!
until next time,
Hello family, friends, and whoever else might be reading this post.
It is officially the day before we leave for our trip to Guatemala and I am excited, nervous, scared, hesitant, eager and all of the above emotions I am sure the other girls are feeling. I think it’s because none of us really know what to expect when we get there. We are all going there with the hopes that we can inspire a group of 45 single mothers to believe in their potential to lift themselves from the impoverished lives they live. That is something none of us have any experience with, but if accomplished, it’s something that will not only change the lives of these women, but something that will change our lives as well.
We’ve tried to lay out a plan of how we can accomplish this goal. We thought about donating a computer and teaching them how to sell online, but then we realized that more than 50% of the women we will be working with haven’t made it past the 3rd grade so most of them don’t know how to read. We have considered donating supplies to them, but those supplies won’t last forever. We have come to accept the fact that these women don’t have many options, however, that doesn’t mean that there is no hope for them. We have decided to help them start and fund simple but effective businesses that they are interested in. With the help of an organization called Casa Del Alfarero these women have been given the opportunity to hone their skills in cooking, jewelry making, and hair styling that will help them launch their initiatives to become independent. We are there to help them with the financial aspects of the businesses as well as the management skills needed to use their skills and turn them into profit- making ventures.
I am proud to say that, despite all the obstacles Nourish has encountered this past year at UF, we are actually taking ACTION. Our words aren’t empty promises, we haven’t given up, and we continue to fight for the causes we believe in. I hope that in our quest to make a difference, we find a braver, more sympathetic, and more knowledgeable person within each of us. After all, it is said that adventures like these are what bring people to life.
Guatemala, here we come!
Saturday June 11th
Today started our other mini-vacation to the coast of Ecuador in Puerto Lopez. Did I mention it looks amazing. The beaches are magnificent. When we arrived we had one of the most exquisite breakfast at Paticon Pisao. The owner: Jaibel, a friend of our advisor: Alicia, was awesome! Because of him, today we went SURFING at Las Tunas beach, where there are usually surfing competitions but the waves during the summer months are usually smaller waves than the normal 15-20 footers! It was one of the best experiences ever. Out of the three of us, I (Harsh) caught the first wave! It was phenomenal! Haha. But we all surfed a ton of waves and got beat up by a ton as well. Did I mention the waves were like 6-8 ft high. Pretty sweet right? Afterwards for dinner, we went to a restaurant called Carmittas….omg the seafood was beyond excellent; basically our taste buds were going nuts. For dessert, we went to this small bakery and had delicious chocolate cheesecake and a brownie. Btw all this costed roughly between 5-8 dollars total. Jealous much?
Sunday June 12th
Oh so totally forgot to mention, our hotel is like 50 meters from the beach. So you walk out, cross the street and hit sand and the Habanas. Today we went on a tour to Isla de la plata and saw like a thousand birds indigenous to Ecuador and the island. We were probably less than 5 ft from most birds and the birds just continued with whatever they were doing, Then went snorkeling near a coral reef by the shore of the island. The last and by far the greatest sight of the trip was seeing Humpback whales! They were like less than 50 meters away from us! There were so many, in the distance some were playing by jumping and splashing. Simply amazing. Ironically for dinner, we went to the restaurant Whale cafe. No, they do not serve whale…it’s just the name. But the food here was just as exquisite! The fish, shrimp, and squid was excellently prepared. Lastly, to end the night we chilled in a habana by the beach in hammocks and beach lounge chairs.
Monday June 13th
Wow so today probably goes down as one of the most hellish experiences we all agreed have had…today we decided to go biking to las Frailes (a national park Beach); quite honestly, one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve ever been too, and Agua Blanca. Agua Blanca is another national park that has a crater lake with sulfur water and a museum. Now you may be wondering what made this so called biking experience hellish? Well continue reading…We biked about 32 km total and me and Binoy literally got lost in Agua Blanca’s single lane forest trail when we continued while Jaibel and Kunal tried to fix their flat tires. And before Binoy and I decided to continue we were all attacked by hundreds of wasps and Mosquitos that seemed to be resistant to Repel with 40% Deet… Oh and like 5 min into the trail a part of the trail gave out and Binoy fell in a huge thorny nest and got ridiculously scratched up…and if that wasn’t the worst of it, it was about 90+ degrees Fahrenheit all day with no clouds in sight for miles when the day before it was 100% cloudy. Taking the temperature into consideration our guide Jaibel said the 32 km translate to more like 60+ km. Oh and lastly, we ran out of water about half way through the trail. Once we finally reached the museum we called a transport back to Puerto Lopez. We got back and cooled off at the pool .in which our luck went south again. When I jumped in my glasses fell off and sunk to the bottom of a 9 ft pool. It took us about 30-45 min to find them because we couldn’t see underwater and it was too dark in the pool to see from above. For dinner we went to Jaibel’s restaurant and had the special Paticon Pisao with seafood/fish. Again the food was excellent as expected. We were thinking about going to have a second dinner at the italian restaurant Bellitalia but after the first dinner we were done. Lol. So we went to our friend Boris’s habana and chilled for the rest of the night.
Tuesday June 14th
We headed back to Quito and said our farewells to Puerto Lopez. A great trip overall besides our little mishaps I think we’ll live. haha. When we returned we went to “”gringoland;” which is their main tourist plaza, for a late lunch/dinner. We had a craving for some mexican food so ate at Mexicali and had burritos! Then basically called it a night since we were exhausted from our trip.
So after building the structure of the greenhouse to near completion all that remained was place the plastic as well as securing it and planting the flowers. Our job was almost done. After checking over all of the bamboo pieces to make sure that none of them compromised the structure we began the initial process of taking the plastic top and measuring it. Once again requiring ourselves and our leader Luchito to ascend to the top of the structure so that each and every measurement could be absolutely precise. After figuring out the dimensions we began to cut the necessary length of the plastic to be placed directly on the top part of the structure. As soon as this process was done we made a few quick trimmings in certain locations and began a VERY TEDIOUS AND DIFFICULT process of stretching the plastic to its greatest tension and then taking wooden poles to nail down the plastic. We did this so that any bad weather wouldn’t destroy the greenhouse by placing air pockets in the flaps and causing a rip in the plastic; which, in effect would destroy our entire project. So a few days went by and this securing process was done over and over again to each and every side of the greenhouse and multiple times. Along with the roof we also secured plastic to the foundation as well as the mid-piece of the greenhouse (the space in between the ground of the greenhouse and the roof). After many long arduous hours we finally finished this task and all was complete. All that remained in the greenhouse was building and securing a doorway and forming the actually garden for the tomato plants.
In our eyes, this was probably the worst part of the project we had faced yet. Kunal and I (Binoy) had to first form a ditch for the irrigation pipes and also to begin forming mounds on which the tomato plants would lie. After placing the main irrigation pipe within a water ditch we began the tilling process. This had to be the most difficult part of the project because this was the first time that a language barrier between us and Luchito took a toll on us. After an hour of back and forth movements and arguing with Luchito, we finally understood exactly how he wanted us to build the mounds. 3 hours into the project and we had finally finished the base for the garden in the scorching hot greenhouse. As soon as we stepped outside into the normal atmosphere we felt a huge cold wave come over us. Even though it was around 70 degrees Fahrenheit outside it felt like we stepped into a cooler. As soon as this was done we had to move to the next part of the project, which was making a mural.
Harsh began a detailed drawing of the mural, a soccer goal that was very detailed…almost too detailed. While he did that, myself and Kunal began finishing the door and its supports (so that it wouldn’t fly open in the event of a windy/rainy day) and also planting all of the tomato plants (which totaled to around 140 plants). After putting down the small irrigation pipes for each and every tomato, me and Kunal finished planting all of the plants and we also finished the structure of the door. All of this work combined exhausted us. The heat of the greenhouse was nothing to play with, and we learned that the hard way. By the end of the day, a small drawing of the mural was done…we had so much to do and we worried that we wouldn’t finish because it was completely ridiculous to make a drawing so detailed. We simply didn’t have the time. But I went in the next day knowing I would have to take control and get this mural done.
On our final day of work we finally began the mural. The curtains for the greenhouse were completed by Kunal and Luchito and me and Harsh began the mural. Quickly I employed the help of all of the school children, allowing them to paint everywhere that I had guided them. Within no time, the entire sky, and soccer field were done and all that remained were the two players (a tomato and banana I decided) and a scoreboard. Before lunch however, the entire school, its leaders, principles, nurses, all wanted to congratulate us on the work we had completed. All of the friends we had made, the kids, the adults all were there to hold a celebration for what we had done. Feeling honored and like celebrities we were rushed by the school children for autographs. Wow, I never knew something so small could blow up so huge. For lunch, we got a special treat. GUINEA PIGS! Me and Kunal had been craving this the whole trip because it is a delicacy here in Ecuador. After a few weird and new tastes we decided this was an experience in itself. After lunch, I jumped right into action with my Bon Ice in my mouth (best icepops ever). After saying goodbyes to our young friends (it was a heartfelt moment, the last time we’d see the boys and girls) we finished the tomato and the banana and the scoreboard. And finally at 3PM we finished the entire project. The mural was complete. Now all we had to look forward to was a well deserved vacation in Puerto Lopez (a beach side resort on the West Coast of Ecuador).
Wednesday June 1, 2011
So today was pretty epic building the greenhouse. Binoy and I (Harsh) were on 2 pieces of wood on top of the greenhouse frame. At first when Luchito randomly found some planks of wood, I looked at Binoy and was like I think he expects us to get up on top of the whole thing…and of course we had to in order to put on the top wood at the top of the greenhouse. Both of us were extremely skeptical on whether the planks were safe to stand on but when we got up there it was pretty cool. So next we lift up the log and nail it down, Luchito looks at it….and it’s too high. Now we had to un-nail the log, rest it across the structure then use the hand saw to saw off about 8 inches off both sides of the middle pillars. Believe me when I say this process was extremely arduous. To be up so high and cut a log sideways on unstable planks….definitely an experience and I’m not talking about a fun one. Afterwards, we took the machete and hammer and split 20 bamboo sticks to allow them to bend and flex properly. Next, we needed plastic wrap and some tools so we had to go to Quicentro Sur Mall to go buy stuff. Afterwards, we went back to the site and wrapped 20 bamboo sticks in the plastic and afterwards called it a day. Later when we got back home, Tachi (Alicia’s sister) took us to the crystal palace at ITCHIMBIA. The view there was amazing; we could see every part of Quito. The crystal palace was nice but the view around it is definitely worth the trip. Then, we went out for coffee in “Gringoland” at Republic de Coco. This coffee and chocolate was probably some of the best we’ve ever had.
Thursday June 2, 2011
We took the bamboo that we wrapped up and started putting it across the whole structure in order to create the roof. It was very strenuous trying to bend bamboo against the poles; it literally took all the strength we could muster up in order to hold it down while someone tried to drill holes then nail it down. Some of the bamboo had ends that were too thick and the tension across the whole bamboo after one side was nailed down was too much that some cracked. For instance, Kunal was bending one of the bamboos that he straight broke it in half essentially; it was pretty sweet! But for the ones (3) we cracked, we had to replace them with newly wrapped bamboo sticks.And in order to get the bamboo over the top log Binoy and I put up; I (Harsh) had to get up to the very top and hold the bamboo, drill it and nail it in making sure there was enough arc on both sides to create a semi-circle for the top of the greenhouse. Not to mention the middle posts of the structure were lacking proper support and were shaking the whole time I was up there trying to nail and what not…lol. Finally when we finish that we took metal wire and ran it across the greenhouse for the tomato plants to attach to.Then after that was done we wrapped around 20 wooden sticks in plastic with help of the school kids.
Friday June 3, 2011
Today was baller….literally speaking. Yesterday, the kids had made us promise we’d play basketball with them so today they dragged us to the basketball courts. J As soon as we got to the court, the kids swarmed us wanting to play with us. Most of them wanted to be on my (Harsh) team but we had to get everyone a fair time at playing. Haha. Anyway, it was Binoy’s team verses my team first… the result: my team won. Oh and mid-game like while Binoy’s team had the ball before I got to react I was swarmed by little kids on the court asking for autographs. As soon as the first game ended we all got swarmed for autographs and phone numbers lol. The 2nd game was Kunal’s team verses my team; the same result as the first game occurred. J Even during this game we were all bombarded with little kids asking for autographs after autographs…haha what can I say? We were kind of famous. The last game we played was me, Binoy, Kunal and one of the kids that was at our height for his age against all the other kids in one massive game. But, due to so many younger kids coming up to us asking for autographs we just ended the game. At one point, our little kids (the ones that always came to the garden where we were building the greenhouse to help or ask questions and what not) started acting like our bodyguards telling kids no more etc. It was hilarious and pretty awesome! Lastly, we painted half of a wall white for the base of the mural we are going to paint.
Saturday June 4, 2011
After our first heavy week of work, we decided we needed to relax so we went to hot springs with the whole Guzman family and Suka: a golden retriever. It was amazing; the water was geo-thermally heated and natural. Also, right beside the hot springs ran a river from the mountain that was literally Ice cold! And there was a pool that the river water was routed to for the people who couldn’t go into the river since the rocks were slippery and became dangerous. But, the three of us went into the river twice! We were also told to go from the hot water and then go into the cold water then back to the hot water because apparently that’s really good for your skin and body so we did that several times. It felt weird but good at the same time because it was the Icy Hot feeling and tingling sensation at the same time. For lunch, we had trout for the first time and it was the whole fish! The head, skin, tail and bones were all in there…it was delicious! When we got back to Quito, we had some of the creamiest ice cream ever and the flavors were all so different than what we find in the US!
Sunday June 5, 2011
We went to Anna’s (Alicia’s sister) Capoeira class; which is dance martial arts. It was stupendous; the teacher was doing flips and kicks so gracefully. It was just phenomenal watching, we thought about trying but we acknowledged we would probably have hurt ourselves more than doing anything properly. Lol. Also today was Alicia’s birthday, so when she returned from her hiking trip we all celebrated with cake and relaxed.
After a long trip on an airplane we finally arrived in Quito, Ecuador. The drastically different altitude immediately took an effect on our body. We knew right then that the low levels of oxygen would be difficult to get used to. After meeting our host family, we retired to our rooms and immediately went to sleep.
Our first day in Quito allowed us to realize the challenges we would face. Simply traveling around the Old City and viewing the monuments we got tired from walking as well as assimilating ourselves into a place where English is not the primary language. However, the trip was definitely worthwhile because we got a helping handful of the culture. We visited Palacio de Gobierno, La Iglesia de Santa Domingo, El Catedral, and the Plaza de la Independencia. The beautiful architecture taught us the Spanish and Indigenous influences that are prominent in this city. From Catholic structures and depictions of holy figures to the modern protests that occur in the Plaza, we dove right into our progress on becoming residents of this beautiful country. And of course, we had to try the amazing coffee that is such an integral part that makes the locals function. The fresh tastes, the strong flavors…the coffee was definitely the best part of the day due to its relaxing touches and quick energy boost. The catch: dehydration and a higher susceptibility to the altitude. After a struggle, we finally made it back to the comfort of home-cooked Ecuadorian cuisine: a platter containing celery and mozzarella soup, cooked vegetables, and seasoned beef; ALL FRESH. What better way to top off the night with a good night’s rest.
The next day, we got down to the nitty-gritty part of our trip. After making a squished voyage on a trolley bus trying to prevent the theft of our belongings we made it to El Factoria del Conocimiento, also known as ConQuito (a municipal center set out to help the citizens of Quito establish a better way of living, in financial, healthful, and a well-rounded life). After meeting Luchito, the leader of our project, we got a crash course on our reason for carrying out the building of a Greenhouse. Not only to create a sustainable structure we also were working on this project in order to establish a “fresh” lifestyle in the children and adults of the community. By teaching them the importance of growing crops and the necessity of maintaining a nutritional diet we hope to cure the impoverished and lacking lifestyles so evident in many parts of Quito. Along with the nutritional benefits, we hope to create a financial standard for these people. By selling any excess crops, the community will be able to use profitable moneys to further enhance their lifestyles. Once the work was done, playtime began. Making a trip across the city we landed at the Centro del Culturidad to learn some breakdancing (a type of dance that is very popular among the youth of Quito). We still hadn’t adjusted to the altitude but we made due of our abilities and learned a routine; but more importantly, we made many friends that exposed us to the youthful side of Quito.
T-G-I-F! The weekend started on Friday due to a holiday and we took the opportunity to travel around the city and experience a little bit of what people do on a daily basis. We traveled to malls, we saw movies (granted with Spanish subtitles), we even got a small taste of the pastries that are so sought out by tourists. Saturday came and we got to leave the city and visit the indigenous and natural landmarks of Ecuador. After wading through the markets at Ota Valo and purchasing goods for our friends and family back at home we got to visit a crater…yes, a full crater that is filled now and is a natural lake. Although the rain prevented us from taking a boat ride around the crater we got to witness the beauty, the real reason why we even came to visit this tourist site. A long drive through the mountainous terrain and we made it back home to our beds and our dreams.
After a slow Sunday, Monday arrived and our first real day of work. We met with Luchito and quickly traveled to the school to map out our plan of action. After creating a blueprint and determining our supplies, we got to work. Quickly, we made holes for the foundation and overall structure of the greenhouse. After getting a jumpstart on our project, we departed and were ready for the intensive side of the job to begin. On Tuesday, after finally getting past the traffic (which took around 1.5 hours) we quickly went to work, using our blueprint to lay down the posts that would create the outside wall and roof of our structure. After a long 6 hours, we finally finished for the day. I would give more details on this process, but words can’t really describe the event-filled day that we had. Pictures will follow!
The first thing that comes to mind when volunteering in Ecuador is definitely the immersion into a foreign environment. All the unique people and places we will meet and see sound enticing when you hear Ecuador. I believe I can attest for the whole group in that we can’t wait to board our flight to Ecuador. Food, culture, traditions, lifestyle; those are the words that jump right out at me when I think of Ecuador. A South American country that is filled with lush scenery, bordered by towering mountains, and filled with bustling alleys and streets. If that doesn’t seem interesting to someone I don’t know what is. After thinking about all the perks, the true goal of the project settles in. Journeying to another country in order to help its inhabitants with agricultural production is as humane as it gets. It makes me feel like I’ve contributed to helping a part of the world better itself and by creating one tiny change I know that I will be generating a shockwave or more acts of good will in the community. In terms of packing and prepping for the trip, everything is smooth sailing. Besides the tedious efforts of gathering the right clothes or small materials that might make life comfortable, I’m excited to bring the bare essentials and learn to adapt to this new environment. Of course, I’ll have my trusty Spanish-English dictionary handy. I guess that’s all I have to say for pre-trip information. Can’t wait to make my first post once we’re in Ecuador. But for now…I got to finish with these final exams.