How the Time has Flown
|Volcano Cotacachi with Snow!|
It is hard to believe that it has almost been a year since I last wrote. I didn't mean to forget my blog but the time has flow by faster then I ever thought possible here in Ecuador. There has been so much change in this past year, but it has all been for the best. I can finally say that I have found my place here and feel that this is where I am supposed to be in this moment of my life. It is interesting where our roads will take us, which turns we will make and what bumps we will meet along the way. I will take you down the road I have taken as best I can.
After returning home for Christmas last year, I returned to Ecuador feeling discouraged and sad. I realized how much I missed my home and hot little I felt that I belonged here in Ecuador. Living my family and friends was harder than it had been the first time and I had no idea how I was going to do another year. However, with the support of my friend Roxanne and fellow Peace Corps peeps I was able to take a turn that changed everything about my service.
|Maiz we harvested|
February was my month of change. I decided to leave Cotacachi and move to the small indigenous village of Morochos where I had been doing so much work. I felt lonely in Cotacachi and lived in a giant apartment all by myself. For those who know me I am a people person and I learned that eve more in my months living in this apartment. I learned that for me to be happy I need to have people around me. Having alone time is important too but too much was making me sad, depressed, and unmotivated. It was a scary move but I can now say it was the best decision I could have made. I also decided in February that my work at the Reserve was done. I had tried for a year to make it work and it just wasn't going to happen. With the support of my program director of Peace Corps I said good bye to the Reserve and began working with Roxanne, a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer who was getting to leave, in the office of UNORCAC (an indigenous organization in Cotacachi). Since taking these turns in my bumpy Peace Corps road I have found my place and finally feel content.
|The Scholarship Kids and Katie :)|
So what am I doing now you ask? Probably more then I should but I am learning how to juggle my time. My main projects consist of working for UNORCAC with their scholarship program. The program helps the kids from the Cotacachi indigenous communities have the chance to go to high school. I have learned that less then 8% of the kids here graduate from high school which is incredible low. I love working with the program and in August we raised about $12,000 dollars for them. We have 65 students in the program and every Wednesday afternoon I have an Ecological Club with them where we do lots of recycled art projects and will be starting a garden next week. I love working with the kids and feel that what I a doing has meaning. I am currently finishing up a website for the program and will get that out to everyone soon. I am working with this project two days a week and have the other three to dedicate to Morochos.
|Planting the trees in the edible forest|
I love that I have more time for my community. It is exactly what I had imagined Peace Corps in Ecuador to be. High up in the Andes (9,500 feet to be exact) I live in a community of about 800 people. The nights are chilly and the days are warm and the peacefulness is breathtaking. On a clear day I can see three of the beautiful volcanoes. I feel at peace here and love that I am surrounded by animals and trees.
I am still working on the tree nursery project with my friend Elena and it is going well. She is amazing and works so hard. Our goal now is to find buyers which is challenging but I am working on another website to help promote the project. I hope that we continue to sell so that the program will continue. In the space of the tree nursery we planted what is known as an edible forest in February. It was an amazing day and we planted about 50 native trees, in which all give a fruit or nut. The idea is to take a piece of land that was used for cultivation and reforest it but using trees that give something. In the years you are waiting for the trees to grow you can plant other crops. The soil is pretty poor so we are going to plant a cover crops to help fertilize and then peas or a local crop called chocho which will help put nitrogen into our soil and help the trees grow as well.
In October I am proud to announce that we finally started building the composting toilet that I have been working on for so long. I received the grant money in September and we started construction about three weeks ago. The building is slow because we can only work on the weekends with volunteers from the community but it is about half way done and I couldn't be more excited. We are building this toilet for the preschoolers of Morochos. So often they are without water and therefore without a bathroom. Having 40 children using the bathroom in our edible forest and tree nursery space is both unpleasant and unsanitary. This month we also plan to start building a medicinal garden in this space as well as vegetable gardens. I can't wait to come back to visit in five years to see this space. It has so much potential and little by little it is turning into a beautiful community space with birds and butterflies and space for the children to play.
|My kids in Quiroga whom I teach Environmental Education|
On top of these projects I am teaching environmental education in the school in the town Quiroga. I love working with the kids and most of them are from Morochos. Starting in the summer time I started a class in Morochos for the kids on Thursday afternoons where I teach English and Environmental Education. I will also be teaching in the local school on Thursday mornings. I love being with the kids and although it is challenging I love teaching and the connections I am making.
I am a busy girl but it makes the time go by and makes me feel that I am here for a reason and that I have a purpose. I suppose you can say that my life in Morochos is a bit more challenging but I am so much happier that I don't tend to notice. There are buses that come up about 6 times a day through the community, which makes it easy to get to Cotacachi. I can also make the hour walk down the mountain for some fresh air and exercise. It gives me a chance to think and let my frustrations go away. No mater how many times I make that trek I never get bored of the beauty that surrounds me.
|Mira Paige we learned how to play Go Fish|
|My room all pretty and purple|
So where am I living? I am living with Elena's mom who I call otra mami (other mom). It is what the kids call her and I have started doing the same. I am so lucky to have met and to live with such a wonderful family. They are kind and have welcomed me with open arms into their home and into their family. I truly feel that I have a family here in Ecuador. I live in the little house right next to theirs. I have my own kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. When hearing that I would like to move there they turned the storage room into a bedroom and put in a window for me. They also patched up the holes and built me a brand new bathroom with tiles and hot water. I love my little place. It is perfect for me. I have my own space but have the family right next door. I am constantly with the kids and although they can be a bit much I love them to pieces. I drink coffee with the three year old almost every morning (well she drinks hot milk) and play with the others when they get home from school. We color and play games and make cookies and laugh. I help them with their homework and they help me not feel sad that I am so far away from home. Every night at about 8 O’clock we make our way to the kitchen where we sit by the open fire and eat hot soup. We chat and I listen to their beautiful language of Kichwa. I can pick up on many words and phrases now but still have a lot to learn.
|My Family and Peace Corps Friends during Inti Raymi|
|My best pal Dayana and her kitty named Chipi|
|My wawa Urku (his name means Mountain in Kichwa)|
Life can be challenging and there can be so many unexpected bumps and turns in the road but I have learned that the most important thing is to never give up. After returning home from Christmas I wanted to pack my bags and return to what I know, my language, my home, my friends and my family, but I didn't. I grew stronger and made changes in my life. I took some scary turns but they ended up being the best thing I could have done. I love where I live and I love the people that I live with. I have projects and a job that mean something which gives me a purpose to be here. I have learned so much and continue to learn each and every day. Where before I couldn't wait to pack my bags, now I can't imagine it. Life here is simple and peaceful and beautiful and I feel so lucky to have been give the chance to experience it. I love and miss my friends and family at home but I have one here too now. If I do nothing else with my service my relationships with the Perugachi family is enough. I know that they will be in my life and in my heart for ever and isn't that the most beautiful success a Peace Corps Volunteer could accomplish.