January 28, 2012
It is Saturday afternoon, I’m isolating myself in my room to write this eventhough I won’t be able to post until the internet is back. Luz and her friends are making donuts, and the eldest friend literally called her 27 year old to convince him to come and meet the foreigner who could potentially be his novia. I declined politely but she insisted, and finally dropped it when I suggested my host sister was more available than me (didn’t know she’s 18, whatever)
Friday was fun. We got out of the training center. I learnt that I got placed in the “intermedio alto” Spanish group, which made me happy. The requirement to be aboe to swear-in is “intermedio medio”, so I’m good. My goal is to reach the advanced level.
Once we got split up into groups, we went with our language facilitator to the town of Pifo, about 20 minute away by bus, to visit a local highschool. The training here is really about development, or as Peace Corps states it, “helping people helping themselves.”
Peace Corps has such a bad reputation of imperialism, when, honestly, they do an excellent job at teaching the volunteers integrating in the community, listening to the community and work from there. So this visit to the school was practice: go there, talk to people, do an “needs assessment”, a seasonal calendar and a community map to see how you’d work in this community if you were placed there. Of course you can’t do that in a couple of hours, it takes your first 3 months at site…. Nonetheless we went, were welcomed by “la rectora”. It turns out the highschool is an agricultural highschool with a “lactosios planta” where the students learn how to make cheese, milk and yoghurt that are sold on the market. We were given cheese and yoghurt and it was pretty good! The highschool also has an entire farm, with various guinea pigs (cuys), a veal, pigs, parrots and even a lama. Once a year the students do a big project, living on campus feeding, taking the temperature of about 200 chickens that they sell on the market. We talked to a few 18 year old students who were wearing their flashy red uniforms and looked very blasées. They talked about an “antique” library, the need for more creative classes and activities, more space. Then we talked to an English teacher who wanted to practice, and gave us a tour, showing off all the amenities of the school. It did slip out that the gvt is changing the English books and expects the teachers to train students so that they would leanr automonously their last two years, and that she was a bit at a loss about that. She showed us her students projects and then we moved to the teachers’ lounge where a PE teacher, in little shorts and polo was playing the guitar, and starting explaining (very very very fast) that he owns a “tienda” and thus never takes vacations. Ever, because he needs to pay for his son and daughter’s education, and his wife doesn’t work. He explained something about a bulldog too but I had kind of dropped it at this point.
After the school visit we went to Cumbaya for lunch – don’t expect anything crazy, we eat rice more than in China, who would have expected?- and a quick visit. It was real nice to get out of town and out of the center.
Today, Saturday, I got my first big ass sunburn. I was told we’d go to a one month celebration in honor of the death a a distant relative. Of course I expected it to be IN the church. Turned out we were sitting outside, on benches, right under the Ecuadorian sun. Any inche of skin that was not covered (aka hands and mi cara) got burnt, and of course, I got the multiple comments coming with it….
Anyway. I’m sure this won’t be the last time. Hope next time I’ll have something else that cream for dry hands to put on my face….
The mass itself was interesting. It took place in a little chapel where the graves are not in the ground but in buildings that look like the shelves where you’d put boxes with ashes. Except they’re bigger and can fit the whole body. Way more colors than in a French cemetery. The mass started with a band, 3 guitars, one man and two women with beautiful voices. I closed my eyes for a moment and could see the Texan chapel atmosphere from Kill Bill….
However, it wasn’t a wedding but a funeral (kind of) and everyone was wearing black, standing, sitting, standing, sitting, and after the music came the speeches with many tears. It was sad, because eventhough I had no idea of who this guy was, I don’t do well when I see people sad. Were they sad or dramatic? I don’t know. When Luz came to sit next to me, I told her she should stay with the family and she told me it wasn’t family and it didn’t matter. I think I heard “el fui nadie para mi” but yet I could see Luz’ s eyes tears. Thank god, the music made it nice.
One guy (direct relative) answered his cell while the priest was talking.
As we were walking out, Luz showed me her mum’s “box” and explained that her mum had blue eyes like me. There was a little scultpure of a a blue-eyed woman on the stone.
After the mass, which lasted about 30 minutes, we went to the family house for they invited everyone for lunch. We all sat on white plastic chairs like dominos, and they distributed lunch in the form of a plastic spoon and a styrofoam box with rice and chicken and a glass of pink soda. No one talked, we ate, and we left.
And here I am with burnt hands typing this.
I think I need to get used to carrying an umbrella, a hat, sunscreen and sun glasses in my bag. At all time.
Oh, I also learnt how to wash my clothes. Under the crazy sun at 10 am, I washed and washed and washed and then put stuff on the rope.
-Luz: “te gusta lavar la ropa?”
Yeah. No. It takes forever and it’s hot and I have a feeling it’s not the cleanest it can be when I do it. But it’s not like I have a washing machine handy, huh?
Next step: apprender a planchar.
And here are a few photos. You will see a “limon pera”, which is basically a lemon that you can’t buy, you can only pick it on farms or in gardens, you peel it, and eat the crunchy white part and it tastes like a pear. Actually super good!
The other fun thing I learnt/tried: “trago”
José put a bit of this hard core pure alcohol (sugar cane) in my hands, told me to rub my hands against one another and then breathe into them ( I coughed like a baby smoker multiple times) : it is supposed to kill all the germs when you have a cold. My cold is almost gone, but I think the non-aspirin medecine and other PC pills might be equally responsible…..