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How can time fly by so fast at times and then move so slow at others? This is the question I ask myself as I sit on my new bed, in my new home, in my new community. It seems like yesterday that I was here visiting. Where did the last month go? Where did the last three months go?
I did it! I am officially a Peace Corps Volunteer. My time as a trainee is over and I was sworn in. The long days of charla after charla, PowerPoint presentation after PowerPoint presentation are over. I know I was ready to be finished with training but I would not be telling the truth if I said that I was jumping for joy when the time came to leave the training center. Tumbaco had become my home and the training center a place of familiarity. I knew what to expect there, I felt comfortable there. Now, I am in a world of unfamiliarity where I don't know what to expect or what to do with myself. Sure, I felt this way when I first arrived in Ecuador, but I was surrounded with 41 others who felt the same way as I did. Now, I am alone. However, I know that this too will be a challenge that I can overcome, a challenge that will allow me to grow and learn more about myself. First though, lets take a look at the last month.
Returning from site visit, I felt relieved to return to my home of Tumbaco. I was so happy to see my friends and my host family. I felt nervous then about leaving and boy did my last month fly. We continued with classes of security, health, technical information, culture, and language at the training center.
|Waterfall San Rafael near El Chaco! Hermosa!|
One weekend after our return, I had the pleasure to visit the farm of a friend's host family. We traveled the 3 hours to a town called El Chaco in the transitional zone between the Sierra and the Amazon. I must say that this section is breath taking. I was surrounded by lush green mountains, plants as far as the eye can see, and flowers of the rainbow. We arrived early in the morning on Saturday and ate breakfast with the family. After, we drove up winding roads and across rivers to where the family farm was located. Isolated and surrounded by lushness, I felt peaceful and content. Then to my surprise, I realized that there farm was actually a ranch. They had about 100 cows and those who know me can understand the look of excitement that was on my face. However, this was a group of cows like none I have ever seen before. Here in Ecuador breeds are not as important, so I found myself looking at Brown Swiss beauties, Ayrshire, Herefords, Holsteins, Brahmas, what looked like Short Horns, and others that I couldn't identify. Also to my surprise, they were all bulls, and boy were they aggressive in ever way possible. I found myself obsessing about the fact that I had found my first Brown Swiss in Ecuador. He was so tranquil compared to the others, which confirms there wonderful nature. I found myself daydreaming about all the Brown Swiss calfs that are being born at Shelburne Farms. However, my day dream was interrupted by being asked to help with vaccinating all the bulls. This was a traumatic and informative event. Bulls were shoved into a small passageway, and then we went down the line with a needle and shoved it into there neck flesh as we quickly pushed the vitamin formula into them.
Needless to say, I avoided the Brahmas after a needle was broken in one's neck because of how aggressive it was and chose to focus on the Brown Swiss and Holstein bulls. When we had finished we walked the 6KM back to the house stopping here and there to eat fruit off trees and visit other farmers. After lunch, we got into the car and drove about an hour to one of the most spectacular waterfalls I have ever seen. We were surrounded by subtropical forest and I couldn't believe the size of the leaves of the trees. This wonderful day ended with us sitting in a hammock on a porch listening to the sounds of the night and eating a delicious meal. I found myself wanting to stay forever in this peaceful, tranquilo, atmosphere.
|On a ranch in El Chaco|
After this wonderful weekend I returned to Tumbaco and re-packed my bag because I was off to the southern, coastal region of Ecuador. I was so excited to leave the Sierra and see another part of this beautiful country. I found myself on a night bus leaving from Quito to a town called Arenillas with 10 of my fellow trainees. The 12 hour bus ride was long, but we did our best to sleep most of the way. Arriving there at 8:30 in the morning on Monday, I was welcomed with suffocating heat. How is it possible that this tiny country of Ecuador, only the size of Colorado, can be so cold in some regions and so so HOT in others? I have never felt heat like I did there. I think the worst part was there was no escape. We weren't on the beach and the rivers were all too dirty to swim in. I did find myself acclimating towards the end of the week, but I never stopped sweating from the moment we arrived to the moment we left.
|A poisonous snake we found!|
The week was crazy busy but interesting and exciting. We visited a vivero (tree nursery), took a boat ride through the mangroves to visit shrimp farmers, visited a waste management center, visited the local ministry, taught high school kids about recycling, visited a garden, picked up trash, discovered how glorious a banana batido is (milkshake), ate lots of chocobananas (chocolate covered frozen bananas), went on an amazing walk in a subtropical forest, saw monkeys, visited an organic coffee farm, saw banana plantations as far as the eye can see, and managed to get some rest when we could. Needless to say, I was exhausted at the end of the week, but it was rewarding. We returned to Tumbaco Saturday morning and I enjoyed spending time with my host family and friends who had been on other tech trips.
That Sunday I was off on another adventure. I went with a friend to a place about an hour from Tumbaco called Papallacta. It is high in the Andes and is one of the most famous places in Ecuador for thermal baths. We got off the bus and hiked the 3 or 4KM up to where you can find the thermals. We were surrounded by beautiful mountains and like El Chaco this place also had a sense of peace to it. It was early in the morning and the town was quiet. We arrived at the hot springs and enjoyed the many different temperatures the pools had to offer. It was beautiful!
After about an hour we decided to take a hike and check out the reserve. We hiked for about 6 or 7 hours discovering powerful waterfalls, unique vegetation, many birds, and even a full rainbow as the clouds began to roll in. Before I came to Ecuador, I always imagined the Andes to be rough, mysterious mountains with their bare rock showing and clouds rolling in and out. Here is the reserve, I found just that. It was hard to see at times, however, this only added to the adventure. At times we found ourselves making our own paths and would have to turn around, but it was wonderful to hike and explore. After a long day. we returned to the hot springs to enjoy a final, relaxing dip as the sun went down. We reluctantly left and ate some dinner before hopping back on the bus that would take us back to Tumbaco.
It's hard to believe that so much has happened since I arrived here in Ecuador. I know it will take time to adjust to my new home in Cotacachi. I can only do my best to take things a day at a time and go with the flow. At the moment I have no idea what I will be doing or what is expected of me, but I hope that with time these answers will come. I miss my fellow Peace Corps friends immensely and will count down the days till we all will be together again. I feel so lucky to have met them all and thankful to have them in my life. I know that great things await us all.
Till next time I send my love back to the states and hope that all who I love are well. Stay tuned for more about my life here in Ecuador!