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It has been a while since I have written a blog and so much has happened. I will attempt to do my best to summarize the last few weeks here in Ecuador.
On Wednesday March 16th, 2011 the moment we all had been waiting for occurred. We arrived to the Peace Corps training center as we do every morning, but this morning was filled with anticipation, anxiety, nervousness, and most of all excitement. We were summoned out back to the futbol field where we found a giant map of Ecuador sketched out in the field with rose petals.
The map was divided into the provinces that make up Ecuador. One by one our names were read by our facilitators and with our name was the name of our site. The name of the place where we would be spending the next two years of our lives. The site that we had dreamed of since we received our invitations in the mail. I waited patiently as I watched my fellow trainees running to their spot on the map. Finally, it was my turn. “Paige Fisher, Cotacachi, La provincia de Imbabura”. My hand was taken and I ran to the northern most province that we are allowed to visit in Ecuador. I was met by my province neighbors Dan and Mina with smiles and excitement. Ahhhh! I will be working and living in Cotacachi, Imbabura in the Sierra region of Ecuador for the next TWO YEARS!!!! Now, I can't deny that I felt a little disappointment. Not because the sierra is not beautiful, but because I had seen myself in a more tropical and bio- diverse setting. However, being surrounded by beautiful mountains for the next two years doesn't seem to terrible. That Wednesday was one of the most overwhelming days I have had here in Ecuador, and to top it off we were all leaving the comfort of Tumbaco and the comfort of one another the very next morning to travel to these places that we had dreamed and wondered about for so long.
That Thursday I traveled with Dan and Mina the three hours or so to our sites in the north. I was met by my counterpart in the park of Cotacachi and taken to the office that I would be working for. I will be working with the Ministerio de Ambiental (more or less the equivalent of Fish and Wildlife in the US). I will specifically be working for La Reserva Ecologica de Cotacachi-Cayapas, the third largest national reserve in Ecuador. Only 30% lies within Imbabura and the rest is within the province of Esmeraldes. The reserve goes from sea level to about 10,000 feet, which means that the biodiversity within this reserve is huge. It ranges from tropical forest to paramo. I am hoping that I will be give the chance to explore all areas of this park as I work with them for the next two years. I spent my days doing my best to learn as much as possible about the reserve and how it works, however, this was difficult to do in Spanish. I did my best. Each day I would go to the reserve and work with the other guys in the reserve. It was hard work but I wanted to prove myself being the only girl. It was great though I did trail work, a reforestation project (on my birthday) and met many members of the reserve. It's hard to know exactly what I’ll be doing and where I can be the most helpful, but I walked away having ideas of Eco-tourism projects with the reserve and indigenous communities around the reserve, more English within the visitor center as well as English classes for the guides, and working in the schools. It is hard to know how this will all occur but I feel good to have a few ideas to begin with.
|Reforestation Project. First time with a Machete!!!|
|The Volcanoe Imbabura. The view from my balcony.|
My host family in Cotacachi is wonderful. I am living with a 29 year old uncle who takes care of his niece who is 13 and his nephew who is 18. The house I will be living in is wonderful and they own an art cafe where you can get the best empanadas in Cotacachi. There are definitely no complaints. On my birthday I was feeling a little sad to be so far away from my family and my friends, however, when I returned from working in the reserve that day with my counterpart I was greeted by balloons, confetti, streamers, and song. My new family had thrown me a surprise birthday party with cake, a bracelet, and delicious food. I will be sad to say goodbye to my family in Tumbaco but I feel so lucky to have me yet another wonderful family here in Ecuador.
|My new family in Cotacachi!|
I am now back from my site visit. It was a week of ups and downs that is for sure. That first night I sat in my new room with a new host family and wondered what on earth I was doing here. What made me leave the comfort of home and of my friends? However, as the week went on I was reminded that I am supposed to be here. My path in life has led me here for a reason and I am ready to embrace whatever may lie on this path. For now I will enjoy my last month of training here in Tumbaco with my friends and host family. I am nervous to finally be at my site, but excited to begin what we came here to do. I came home from my site visit feeling as though I was returning home. I felt relief when I arrived in Tumbaco. I only hope that one day I will feel the same about Cotacachi.