|At the top of Taita Imbabura (the volcano near where I live)|
Well it has been so long I don't even remember the last time I wrote a blog. My apologies. It is crazy how life can get going and all of a sudden you have no clue where the time went. For example, today is the last day of November! How is that possible? I was talking to my Nana yesterday and she reminded me of the day I received my invitation to join the Peace Corps. I couldn't believe that was last Christmas eve, and now here I am about to start the month of December here in Ecuador. She asked me if I regretted my decision, and happily I was able to say although it has been hard I have no regrets. My path in life is here right now, I feel that I am meant to be here and I am prepared and want to see it through. What does life look like here? That is always the famous question. Where to begin is my question now.
|Sisa busy drawing a protected area|
Throughout these past days I have occupied myself with both the Reserve that I work for and the community of Morochos. I continue to work on the tree nursery project with Elena and Laura. It is going very well and I am happy to report that we have over 8,000 trees and about 8 different native species. I also continue to work on the preschool project of putting in a composting toilet for those little munchkins and help them have more space, however, it is a slow process and I try not to get too frustrated. I hope good news will come in the new year. I am happy to say that I have officially started an environmental education program with the Reserve. We are currently in 4 local school, two urban and two rural ever Wednesday and Friday. The best part is that I am working with the park rangers and they come with me to each class and help me. Although I love teaching the kids and believe it truly is important, my focus is more on the park ranger to help them become better and more engaging educators. Teaching here is tough. It is different in almost every way possible to what we do back home. The kids sit at their desks all day and copy whatever the teacher writes on the board. There is no critical thinking, no imagination, and no self-thought. If I can do anything to move people towards this direction that will be my biggest accomplishment in this country. For those who know me you know that nothing makes me happier than to be back with the kids. They are the ones who light up my day, the ones who assure me that I am here for a reason, the ones who assure me there is hope in this world. However, it's funny when coming to Peace Corps I thought I might out environmental education on hold and focus on other things I'm interested in. However, it seems to follow me wherever I go. This has truly shown me that environmental education is a true passion and something I wish to pursue for the rest of my life. Between this project and Morochos I have been keeping quite busy.
|My kiddos busy doing water experiments|
As for the rest of my life. Things are good. I have my own apartment which is wonderful. I have three bedroom, a living room, a kitchen (with great counter space), a bathroom, patio, and small piece of land. I live a little on the outskirts of Cotacachi and love that I fall asleep to the sounds of crickets and frogs every night. Let me tell you that beats the sounds of buses, church bells, and motorcycles any day! I am happy to have my own space and cook for myself, however, I still feel that something is missing in my life here, and I finally figured out what it was about a month ago. Here I am living very comfortably in a great Ecuador, in a beautiful city in Ecuador, surrounded by amazing, majestic mountains, busy with work that I am passionate about, but still something is missing. It came to me with a little help from a few good friends. I am still lonely. I am a people person through and through and living in the city is lonely. You are surrounded by people but hardly know anyone on the street. I was craving that sense of place, that sense that I belong, that I am a part of a community. I guess I never realized how important this is to me until it was missing. So with much thinking and talking to friends and family I have decided to move. Don't worry I'm not coming home, not yet anyways. I have decided to move to Morochos. This indigenous community of 800 people is where I feel most content. It is there that I feel that I truly am in Peace Corps. It is there that I feel I can make a difference, be a part of something, create relationships and memories that will last far beyond my return to the states. I was nervous though. What if they didn't really want me to move there? What if I had to live with a host family again? However, when I told Elena what I was thinking about she was delighted and right away took me to her mother's house where there is a little casita (little house) that they want me to live in. Apparently, they have been talking about me living there since they first met me. The little house is next to her mom's house but completely separate. I will have a kitchen, a fireplace, a bedroom, and a bathroom. What more could I ask for. I am going to move when I return from my trip home in January. A perfect way to start the new year. I feel content and at peace with this decision. I want to be there every day to participate in meetings, mingas, soccer games, help harvest and plant the crops. This is why I came to Peace Corps to be a part of a community, to be a part of something beautiful and incredible, to feel that I belong.
|One of the famous churches of the city of Cuenca in southern Andes|
What else? Well in September I went on an amazing hike called 'El Trek del Condor'. It was about 65 miles through the beautiful paramo of the Andes. I went with a friend and it was 5 days of long hikes through some of the most pristine and breath taking landscape I have ever seen. Imagine, only seeing three people in five days. Imagine being surrounded by mother earth just the way she was made. No human influence to alter the landscape. Imagine navigating with only topographic maps, a compass, and the landmarks surrounding you. It was truly magnificent. We slept by a pure mountain lake, under the stars at the skirts of one of the most gorgeous volcanoess called Antesana, in the waving grasslands of the paramo, and next to the second largest volcano in Ecuador, Cotopaxi. It was hard and I was tired at the end of each day but truly it was one of the most amazing things I have ever done in my life. Something I will hold dear to me for the rest of my life.
|Cotopaxi during my hike|
In October mister Reed Fisher came to visit me. Let me tell you I have never been so excited to see my dad in my entire life. I stood jittery at the airport awaiting his arrival and at the first sight of him I burst into tears. I don't think you realize how much a person means to you until you are separated for so long. I miss my family and friends so much it hurts sometimes but at the end of the day I wouldn't change what I am doing for the world. We had a blast when he was here. Birdwatching in Mindo, hiking around the lake in my Reserve, horse back riding in Morochos followed by a delicious lunch of all my favorites from here, a trip to Otavalo to the markets and raptor rescue center, followed by 4 amazing days in the jungle. In the jungle we hiked, looked at beautiful flora and fauna, drifted down the majestic Rio Napo, visited an animal rescue center, learned how to shoot a traditional blow gun, drank chica de yuca with a local indigenous woman, relaxed in hammocks overlooking the Rio Napo, and yes I even swam in the pool, such a luxury! It was hard to say goodbye to my dad but it was such an amazing trip. Thank you daddy-o, you came when I needed you the most. Having him hear and showing him proudly where I live and what I am doing made me realize how much I really do love it here. I think the most magical thing that occurred was when Elena told my dad how thankful she was that he was lending me to her and her community. I have never felt such love and determination to do anything and everything I can to help them.
|Dad with Elena and her beautiful family|
In November I awaited anxiously the famous Turkey day. I knew it would be a bit strange to not celebrate with my family, but I did the next best thing, I went to the BEACH. There were about 18 of us and we spent four days swimming, drinking delicious juice, eating great food, singing along with the guitar next to the camp fire, and exploring the tidal pools. On Turkey day we killed a turkey! Well not me personally, I stood about 50 feet away and I must admit this was the third thing I have witnessed being killed here in Ecuador and I just can't handle it. I have nothing against it, and am happy that I know how the things I eat are killed because this is truly important to me since I eat meat, but I just don't do well with it. My automatic reaction is to gag and almost throw up and then I cry. Maybe I will get better, but honestly I think I am a lost cause. I am the girl who's parents had to fast forward through the beginning of Bambi so I wouldn't know the mom had died. Needless to say we had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and even a form of sweet potatoes.
|Where you can get the best fruit juices on the beach|
Now we are about to begin December. I have next week followed by a week long environmental education conference and then off to the states I go. It is all I can think about. I can't get home fast enough. I think I am ready for a break. I am ready to be surrounded my my family and friends, familiar smells, good beer, and all my favorite food. I will be happy to come back, feeling refreshed but until now I will continue to count the days till I am on the plane.
Reflecting on this first year in Ecuador it has had its ups and downs but at the end of the day I love it here. I love the pace of life, I love that I am getting better at Spanish, I love how different the country is, I love the beautiful mountains I am surrounded by, I love the beautiful culture that is Kichwa, and I even am starting to love the food. Till next time hope all is well and as always missing all that are dear to my heart.