After completing our national park project in 2 short days, we indulged ourselves in a whale watching island adventure. About 20 miles off the coast from Puerto Lopez there is a small island, around 3 miles long, named “isla de la plata” that is better known as the poor man’s galapagos. On this island you can see blue footed boobies, sea lions, masked boobies, and many other interesting species. We were lucky to be led on this journey by 2 of the park rangers from Machalilla, one of whom served as our guide once on the island.
We departed from the beach right when the fishermen were finishing up their morning exchanges. We hopped onboard and we very unprepared for the nausea that was to come, especially on my part. The waves were powerful, smacking the boat.
A typical day in the Old Town area of Quito involves passing by Romanesque churches with towering arches and intricate rose windows, juxtaposed with small shops and helado venders, occasional cobble street roads, and narrow paved streets flowing through a tall valley of multistory edificios. Spanish-Franco architecture elegantly blankets the tiendas with pastel hues of peach and sky blue, finished with adorned balconies. A typical day involves taking numerous taxis, which are just about as common here as in New York. It also includes witnessing black clouds of smoke that offend the lungs, perpetually exhaused by sardine packed buses, underneath the perpetually creamy white clouds that blanket the Andes verdes. Taking the bus this morning blasting Michael Jackson’s eighties hit “Beat It”–bus rides are always an interesting experience, involving passing vendors, guitarists, and the occassional beggar–I pondered all the curiosities of a city affected by the amenities and conformities of globalization. Here, American music and culture (food, fashion, language, you name it) is what is in. And I mean all of it: including the fast-food that we begrudgingly look down upon as the disease of the American multinational corporation infecting the entire world. And the white-washed overpriced taste of Hollister and Abercrombie. Yep. Dancing at a bar we listend to numerous American techno hits. Learning English is the road to success here. Talking to Tatchi about my apathy towards foreign language studies in high school presented a stark contrast between my situation of already speaking English and the grave importance of the American economy and language for Latin American countries: it is more of a necessity for students, accounting for the extra drive.
But then then there are certain things that are uniquely and distinctively American that have not been adopted. One of them includes excessive apologies and unnecessary politeness. “Don’t be sorry,” Alicia tells me with confidence. “That’s very American.” Another thing is the need to plan ahead, to organize our lives and the world around us. Busses don’t have any schedules, and plane flights are impossible to arrange far in advance. Also the weather is unpredictable. I wanted to know how the weather would be like for the weekend, and that was simply not forecasted in Ecuador. There is no Ecuadorian weather station–the vicissitudes of nature’s variable moods are deemed beyond human measurement. And that makes sense in a place where there are only two seasons per year, yet four seasons in one day! (Quote from Luchito, our excellent invernadero-builder Political instability is prevalent in Ecuador tambien. Ecuador has had eight Presidents in the last ten years, governance changing almost as erratically as the weather. As a result, political activism is ferfent and strong. I asked how old you have to be to vote and was very surprised to discover that you only need to be sixteen to vote (and only 18 to drink, of course), making me ashamed that I was one month too young to vote for Obama in ’08. The importance of politics is readily visible when walking anywhere in the city, for nearly all the street names are dedicated to historical events and important people. There is even one
Trapped in Paradise
Prose inspired by la Cascada de Peguche, Otavalo
Standing in the mouth
of river sculpted hollows
We watch the outpouring
of momentous froth;
A tongue of unrelenting roar
Pounding and pounding to form
ripples upon the cavern floor
And drips of saliva mist along
the moist, padded walls of moss.
We are at the mercy of nature’s
will and wonder, power and grace
We are at the hands of her care
and the hospitality of her
Humble abode’s dreams and dangers alike.
We are small, powerless;
We are nothing in comparison to
this grand mouth within which we are enclosed
To be consumed, mesmerized, and entranced
while consuming, with each and every
one of the senses wide awake
No one with a human heart
could resist being partially consumed
Stretched to bit of bias before this
To see the mystical and precious power that
the passivity of nature provides
And the grace of which none can deny.
We are Jonas trapped within
the mouth of the whale
Much bigger and grander and
more forgiving than us,
this mouthful of wonder
shows us both beauty benevolent
and the price of bounties burned.
Here are some photos from the first bit of our project! More to come soon…
The Guatemala 2011 team would like to sincerely apologize for our lack of blogging on the trip! Internet was difficult to come by, and we were incredibly busy throughout our amazing four weeks in beautiful Guatemala. However, my little journal is bursting with tales to tell you all, so I will be posting stories and pictures from our trip and final reflections from the team over the next few days. I know it’s a little after the fact, but we hope you enjoy it!
We appreciate all of the continued love and support we’ve received from family, friends, and Nourish supporters before, during, and after our project. You all are amazing!
hi everyone! We’re so sorry for taking a whole week to update again, but we have been so busy and the internet has been sparse. We are having an incredible time here in Guatemala, and we can’t wait to share all of our stories with all of you! We’re going to try to work some iphone magic to get some pictures on here soon, so keep an eye out for those.
The last time we posted, we talked about our visit to the school right outside Guatemala city where SIFE has implemented a recycling project. We returned the next day to make presentations in each of the classrooms about the newly delivered recycling bins, and the kids were all really eager and excited for the new color-coded additions to their campus. The kids got a kick out of our attempt at Spanish, too. We stopped for lunch in Antigua (the most popular tourist destination in Guatemala), and then returned to the city.
The next day we were supposed to visit the macrotunnels that SIFE has recently installed in the Maya community about 2 hours outside of the city, but due to the rain, there was too much flooding to visit that day. Instead of doing work in the field all day, we got an early and unexpected day off to visit Antigua again for the whole day! We were able to walk aroud by ourselves (something that is not encouraged in Guatemala City), and we visited amazing ruins, beautiful churches, and colorful marketplaces. We practiced our haggling skills at these markets and came back with lots of traditional Guatemalan gifts for our family and friends. Kristin and Ryan even got some awesome matching pants. We got caght in yet another unexpected torrential downpour in Antigua as we traveled back into the city, and we tucked in early as we had to get up at 5:30am to travel to the macrotunnels site.
Our visit to the tunnel site was definitely one of our favorite days here. We traveled with about 20 SIFE members over to La Comunidad Maya, a community of about 100 families living in exreme poverty in the rural countryside. This visit allowed us to see in action exactly why this SIFE team is as successful as they are. Their team travels out here every two weeks to meet with the community members, check on the progress of the crops, and answer any questions or concerns the farmers may have. During this visit, they were giving the farmers and their families an orientation and skills workshop for the use of the macrotunnels. The SIFE Macrotunnels Team is a perfectly well-rounded team with members who study agriculture, business, industrial engineering, and a newly acquired education major. With each of these members bringing their strengths and knowledge to the project, they community is supported in every facet. The education major created easy-to-use picture handbooks for the farmers to use, as well as an interactive calendar to track the crops. With these tunnels, the farmers are able to grow chile pepper and tomatoes in the off-season for sugar cane. Before this, they were not able to have income for about 6 months of the year because of the harvest cycle of sugar cane crops. After the skills workshop, we hopped in the back of a pickup for a terrifying yet gorgeous drive up the rolling hills to the tunnel site. We even got to go inside and walk around in the tunnels, which are about 6 feet high and 25 meters long. Half of the group stayed down in the town center to have a party and magic show with the children, which is part of the SIFE ideal of community inclusion. Every member of the Maya community is involved and connected to SIFE and the macrotunnels, and they are confident that this will be one of their most successful projects to date. Next week, we will actually be building these structures with our own hands at a new community!
The next activity we participated in was another center supported by SIFE members called Los Romeritos. It is a home in downtown Guatemala City for children who live on the streets. They come here to eat, play, learn, dance, and stay off the streets during the day. They needed help painting the chipped and drawn-on walls, so we offered our assistance for a couple days. The children were from 2 years old to 10 years old, and they were some of the most adorable little kids we had ever met. Speaking two-year old Spanish is actually more difficult than it sounds, so communication was a bit of a challenge. We learned that playing with toys is pretty universal, so we capitalized on that. We were really sad to leave the kids after the 2nd day, but we left them with freshly painted walls and lots of new toys and gifts to play with.
We also went to visit the UVG campus to watch the SIFE Competition Team prepare for the upcoming National compeition in July. While we were there, we saw the recently donated machine for the Eco-Weaving project that cuts the donated plastic labels into the right dimensions for the women to work with. This has increased their efficiency by an huge amount, because they used to cut these small pieces by hand. Our friends Gabi and Christina gave us a small workshop on how to make the simple bracelets, and Kristin, Kate, and I are all proudly wearing our first attempts right now! We spent the rest of the day preparing for our change of venue to El Jicaro, which is the site of the project that our UCLA Nourish Team implemented in 2009. We have big plans to paint the stuido, update the labels of the products, make new marketing materials, update and streamline the personal and business accounting system (Kristin has already begun work on this!), and visit the marketplace to offer consulting on how to increase sales. We will have lots of updates on our first day here very soon, but we have to leave in a few minutes!
This whole first week may seem a bit sporadic and spread out, but it has been extremely imortant for us to see all of the projects that SIFE has implemented here in Guatemala. By learning how they operate and seeing their many projects in actions, we have a much better idea of how our skills can be used for the rest of our project. They have also given us lots of insight on how to improve the operations of our own Nourish Chapter too!
Some last thoughts before we go! Throughout the short time we’ve been here, we´ve learned a lot about the politics, geography, and social landscape of Guatemala. A few important things we have learned during our time here: rainy season is not a joke. It will be sunny and beautiful for hours, and without warning the sky will open up on us for hours on end. Not a day has gone by without a storm. Secondly, the food here is incredible. We actually got to go back into the kitchen at a traditional Guatemalan restaurant and learn how to make tortillas! Ours were quite ugly, but they tasted delicious! Thirdly, we have learned that political campaigning in Guatemala is intense. There are 17 candidates running for president and more political scandal than we have ever seen. There are campaign posters and signs and paintings on every wall, car, lampost, and rock in the whole country. Lastly, the people of Guatemala are incredibly kind and hospitable, and we are so lucky to be working closely with such an amazing team!
We will be back with updates from our work with the women El Jicaro asap!
p.s. sorry for all the spam comments on the past few posts…we’re working on getting those filtered out
Hello Everyone! We made it to Guatemala and we are all settling in very nicely. We´re taking advantage of our internet access right now to let you know what we´ve been up to the past couple of days! Yesterday we arrived in the morning and met up with the SIFE team from UVG. They took us to the UVG campus to exchange money, and we stopped by and saw the SIFE team practicing for their upcoming competition in July. More on this later, but we´re looking forward to attending this! After lunch with our main liason Alejandra, we visited a traditional marketplace with tons of handicrafts. We resisted buying anything….for now. Our friend Juan Carlos took us out for our first Guatemalan National beer called Gallo (we think it means rooster?), and we thoroughly enjoyed it! This day wasn´t very work intensive, but we got an introduction into the work that SIFE UVG does here in the city and the surrounding area, which is really important to understand for the rest of our time here. We went to Jose´s house for dinner (another SIFEer), and met the president of SIFE UVG as well as Julio who was heavily involved with the UCLA project here in Guatemala in 2009. They gave us a presentation of all their projects in progress as well as past successful projects, which are essentially massive Nourish-type ventures in the communities. Like Nourish, they focus on sustainability and small-scale projects to create huge change. Their three Ps of SIFE are People, Planet, and Profit, and the UVG chapter has embodied these for the past six years. We are excited to be working with such an amazing group of young students who share the same vision as we do.
We had to go to bed relatively early to wake up at 6:30 am to eat breakfast (at a lovely buffet) and be ready by 7:30 to get picked up by Regina. Today`s effort served multiple fold: first, we were introduced to the type of community we will be working with; second, we got work on our Spanish (much needed); and third, we even got to offer our expertise in clothing sales! The community will be having a Barratillo (we think), which signifies the first Sunday of every month during which they will sell donated clothing, toys, and other household items to fund the school`s programming. Aside from that, we also got to work with a lot of school children today doing arts and crafts. They were an energetic bunch to say the least; Kristin got mobbed! SIFE works with the school to implement recycling, teaching children the proper way to recycle waste, as well as providing bins and educational materials. After the recycling presentation, we spent a couple hours moving and bagging donated beans into smaller, more manageable sized bags to sell later for profit for the school. This was a little bit tedious, but after seeing the mountains of beans (montañas de frijoles) shrink into nothing, it was well worth it… Tomorrow we`ll be headed back to the school to continue the work we started today! Hopefully we`ll be able to update you all soon!
As promised, here’s an in-depth look at our project!
The first project, EcoWeaving, has already been started in Guatemala City. We are being called in to assess the production and sales of the venture and to create an improvement plan to increase profitability. EcoWeaving combines the age-old craft of weaving with a modern twist: all the woven products are created from industrial waste like candy wrappers, chip wrappers, and plastic bottle labels, which are donated to the project from corporations like Pepsi and Colgate. Normally, these leftover or defective wrappers would end up in landfills, and now they are being utilized to provide food, medicine, and books for the women and children of Guatemala City. Before departing, we will be preparing some basic Spanish language information pamphlets about business skills, marketing, and personal/family finances in order to increase the effectiveness of the EcoWeaving venture. UCLA Nourish loves this project because it is creative and sustainable in every single aspect!
For the 2nd part of our time in Guatemala, we will be moving to rural El Jícaro to implement what are called Macrotunnels. SIFE at UVG offers rural farmers a full range of services including micro-loans, agricultural education, and financial & marketing consulting. Macrotunnels are the next phase of this project, and this is where the bulk of our resources will be spent during our stay. These tunnels are essentially mini-greenhouses that consist of arched tubes covered with a fabric called agryl. This protects the vegetables and other crops from harsh weather conditions, pests, and diseases to allow for a more profitable harvest.
The Macrotunnels benefit so many aspects of this rural community, and SIFE UVG is excited to finally have the funds and the manpower to facilitate their installation. We will be learning how to build these with our own hands and then passing those skills on to the rural farmers of the community! The products raised in these Macrotunnels will be sold at market or cooked and enjoyed by the community. In addition, they will also be integrated into the UCLA Nourish’s 2009 project, which involved making organic goods like shampoos and soaps to sell at the marketplace. Many of the ingredients for these creations will now be grown right in the backyards of the women who make and sell these products!
So there you have it! As you can see we have so many things to be excited about, and we are honored to be a part of such an incredible project in such vibrant communities. Stay tuned for more pre-departure excitement, and we’ll be sure to update you all when we get settled in Guatemala on the 15th!
Coming up next: UCLA Nourish Meet & Greet: Introductions and bios from myself and the rest of the project participants!
There are a lot of groups – and quite a few acronyms – involved in this endeavor, so we’ll break it down for you…
What is SIFE UVG?
The SIFE chapter of UVG (Universidad de Valle de Guatemala) is our wonderful partner for this project. SIFE – which stands for Students in Free Enterprise – is a nonprofit student organization working internationally in more than forty countries through more than 2,000 universities! SIFE designs and implements projects that promote sustainable development, much like Nourish International. The UVG chapter is in tune with the needs, limitations, and immense potential of the communities in which we will be working, so we are confident that the projects we’ve chosen will be both relevant and effective.
What is IMAGINA?
IMAGINA is a project started three years ago by the UVG SIFE chapter. It stands for Incorporating Women to Generate Income With New Actions…can you see why we like acronyms so much? There are three groups of women involved in this project: one in Guatemala City and two in El Jícaro. UCLA Nourish will be working primarily with one of the groups in El Jícaro, but we will be visiting the IMAGINA site in Guatemala City as well. Two years ago, Nourish at UCLA traveled to El Jícaro to found one of the projects that is still in motion today. We are excited revitalize and improve that project and strengthen our bond with both SIFE & IMAGINA!
Why focus on women’s empowerment?
It is proven that improving the education of the mother improves the education of the whole family, and women are statistically more likely to spend their income on food, education, and healthcare. This has the potential to lift entire families – and entire communities – out of poverty (womenthrive.org). Most of the women in IMAGINA are mothers of more than 5 children who make less than minimum wage. In addition, many of the women we are working with are survivors of sexual and domestic violence. These business ventures, when paired with financial and business education, will give these incredible women an ownership over their livelihood and the foundation for a brighter future.
Coming up next: an in-depth look at exactly what we’ll be accomplishing on our project!
Hello friends, family, and fellow Nourish-ers! This is the official blog for the Nourish International trip to Guatemala! This page is where you can find all the information about out travels to Guatemala City and El Jicaro with our amazing community partner, SIFE. The four of us are so excited for this project, and we can’t wait to depart in June!
So far, the UCLA Chapter has been busy finishing up the last of our ventures for the year. We finally reached our funding goal for this project with our mind-blowingly successful Thrift Sale a few weeks ago, and we could not be prouder. Almost $900 in four hours! Not bad for a Wednesday afternoon in the springtime sun of UCLA’s Bruin Plaza With funding now completed – thanks in large part to the hard work of our Stanford partners up north! – we have shifted our focus to preparing our group for the project ahead of us. We are working on having guest lectures from professors in the International Development Studies at our next general body meetings to help us gain a deeper understanding of the issues we will be encountering during our month abroad.
We are so excited to have you all following along, and stay tuned for a full rundown on all the details of our project soon!