Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Recycling Challenge - Day 1

This week marks our last week of summer camp 2013 and to kick the week off right we introduced a Recycling Challenge! We asked the kids to bring in plastic bottles with the promise of a fiesta if we reached 200 bottles and a prize to participants who contributed the most. We may have drastically underestimated their ability to find and collect bottles because by 9am this morning we already had about 90 bottles piled up in the corner of the library .. needless to say the kids here love good old fashion competition! This project is the beginning of what we hope becomes a more permanent recycling program at the library as the need for more advanced environmentally friendly infrastructure is ever present in the valley.
Profes Heather and Cate join Miguel, Isaac, Dominic and Priscilla who collectively brought in 58 bottles on the first day of the challenge. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Make sure to check out our new MPI Ecuador Instagram and follow us @mpiecuador! We will be putting up weekly photos of all the programs and activities taking place inside and out of the library. Right now you can see adorable photos from Summer Camp as the kids participate in art, environmental education, sports and english lessons. Here are two photos from last week featuring seed planting in environmental education! 
Decorating egg carton seed planters in art 

Planting tomato and basil seeds on the cancha 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

So, we have returned more or less in one piece from the coast after a brief, but well-deserved beach vacation in Atacames.  We returned just in time to hit off MPIE’s annual kid’s summer camp.  The camp, centered around the environment has been a great success so far, with over thirty inscriptions thus far.  Also, aptly themed as we have learned for there is certainly a bit of a deficit in the understanding of the environment and our role in the health and maintanence of it.  To quote one of my favorite campers “everybody keeps saying that the environment is messed up, but I’m like it’s right there!  It’s fine!”  Clearly there is work to be done.  More to come on this in the next post…
In keeping with the theme of last week’s post, here are the rest of new PD’s responses to their first impressions and hopes for the year.

1. What are your personal goals for this year?
Fluency in Spanish. Live more, care less. 
2. Which program are you most excited about?
Microloan and small business development. 
3. Should we get a cat or a dog?
Alpaca. Or cross bred Alpacadog. 
4. What has surprised you most about Ecuador so far? 
The weather is unpredictable due to the drastic change in elevation in different regions. 
5. Describe the weirdest cultural and/or language faux pas you've had so far.
Too many language faux to describe.

1. My personal goal for the year is to become fluent in Spanish.
2. I am most excited about the micro finance program.
3. If we were to get a pet I would prefer a dog.
4. What has surprised me the most about Ecuador has been the overabundance of carbohydrates in every meal.
5. I haven't had a weird cultural experience, other than maybe eating guinea pig.

1. I am looking to improve my Spanish and get a better understanding of Ecuadorian culture through setting up health and language networks in and around the communities where we work.
2. I am most excited to be teaching children both English and Nutrition classes. Working with the kids in different communities and getting Manna’s name out there has me very excited.
3. Doog
4. Most surprising to me is the accessibility and availability of fruits and veggies all over the marketplace. Yes, I can pay $ .25 for an avocado. Thank you
5. Probably trying to play sports or teaching yoga and just completely saying the wrong thing- which in the physical context of sports or doing a pose causes a mistake to be incredibly obvious. You know when you say to put all of your men up in the air and squeeze them together, the difference between hombres and hombros becomes quite accentuated.

1. My goal for the upcoming year to feel like a part of the community I will be working in as many ways as possible. I hope to become fluent (ish) in Spanish and work with my co-workers to add an environmental educational element to the Agricultural program. I would also love to perfect my salsa and travel as much as possible!! 

2. I applied to Manna Project because unlike many other programs out there it allows the Program Directors to work in a collection of different programs. Initially I did not think I wanted to teach English, however after sitting in on some of last semesters classes I think it may be the program I am looking forward to teaching the most. I am also really excited to work with the Agricultural Program and like I said add an environmental education program!

3. BOTH! I am a cat person and proud of it however I love dogs and ideally I would want both.  

4. What has surprised you most about Ecuador so far: This is my second time living in the Quito area, and I studied abroad here in 2011 for 6 weeks, however so many things continue to surprise me. For example the amazing views from everywhere in Los Chillos valley, the lack of good coffee, the amount of people that can be crammed onto a single bus and the wide variety of fruits and vegetables! 

5. I can't really think of one ... although I am still so awkward at greeting people in the customary manner of a kiss on the cheek ...

1. Definitely to become fluent in Spanish.  I also want to learn to assimilate into a different culture as seamlessly as possible.  This will require a hefty tan and much improvement on my Spanish accent.

2. It’s a toss up between yoga and Adult Nutrition.

3. I’m going to have to go with Kirk on the alpaca.  We could shear it and knit sweaters.  Because I can do that.

4.  Well the weather is amazing, so that was a pleasant surprise.  I was also surprised at how delicious Ecuadorean food.  Everyone says I’m crazy but I think cuy is delicious.

5. When attempt to ask a girl in the library if she was a “socio” I accidentally asked if she was a “sucio”.  No bueno.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Greetings from Calle Dario Figueroa!  Also known as MPIEHQ, also known as La Casa de Las Mandarinas, which is to say the house of the women who wear the pants.  Last night Joey and Pete, the last remaining former PDs said their goodbyes to us and boarded a plane for greater civilization.  It was a pivotal moment in our experience in Ecuador thus far.  Suddenly the lingering feeling of an extended vacation evaporated and the sobering weight of our immense responsibilities here sunk in.  Fret not though, predicting (wisely) that the conclusion of this moment might be too tremendous for us to bear, we booked a weekend trip to the beach in Atacames, just to be sure we’d be plenty relaxed before assuming our posts as the new Program Directors.  For future reference, we, the blog people are myself (Virginia), Heather and Abby.  I hail from the Deep South and I love all things Latino.  Heather is a corn fed Idaho babe, crunchy on the outside, sweet the inside.  Abby, the future Mrs. Daddy Yankee would like me to introduce her as “ya know, smart, beautiful, and ghetto, like I am”, her words, not mine.  In order for you to get to know all of us better we have asked everyone the same five questions and I will post them in a series of two blog posts so as not overwhelm.  Some people really disregarded the brevity request.
1) What are your personal goals for this year?
2) Which programs are you most excited about?
3) Should we get a cat or a dog?
4) What has surprised you most about Ecuador so far?
5) Describe the weirdest cultural and or/language faux pas you’ve had so far.

1) Conquer my lack of the Spanish language.  Not trying to be fluent, but want to be able to read Don Quixote with no problems! To give a lot of my knowledge in small business development to the community and help them flourish their ambition and set higher goals.  But also learn about agriculture and their way of life, study music, fashion and the indigenous culture and bring this back with me to the U.S, build a music program with Manna, learn patience, and gain humbleness!
2) I am most excited about Small Business Development…so much for me to give and so much for me to learn.
3) Definitely a dog!  Cats are evil. :)
4) How generous and patient the people are.  They are so patient with my lack of Spanish and try so hard to understand what I am saying and make the effort to teach me and correct me.  At the same time want to learn so much from me and rather than being frustrated by my lack of Spanish turn around ask me how to say it in English. All the dogs on roofs…. how do they get up there? Their love for their street animals.
5) The saying "Having cajones" does not exist in Latin America.  You will get weird looks.

1) I kind of see this year as a two way street. I decided to work with Manna out of a desire to help enact positive and sustainable improvements in the quality of life for those living in the Valle de Los Chillos in any way that I can. But on the other hand, I think I'll gain a lot myself. Apart from becoming fluent in Spanish, I want to narrow my interests in international development and public health and to gain the first hand experience I think is crucial for pursuing a successful career in one of these fields.
2) That's a tough question. One thing that drew me to Manna was the opportunity to work with a little bit of everything I've studied and am interested in-- agriculture, nutrition, preventative health, microfinance. I see a lot of room for growth in the agriculture and microfinance programs, so I'm especially excited to get started on those.
3) Well, the first contact I made with the group before we all met was to wage a campaign for a dog instead of a cat. In retrospect, that was a socially questionable move. But I stand by it. 
4) From my experience, Ecuadorians are much more open than Americans. Family dinners can last 3 hours with 3 generations. People I have only just met have treated me like family. I hope to take a bit of that back with me to the United States. And also the food is delicious. I hope to take a bit of that back as well. 
5) I have had a lot of close calls getting on and off the bus. If I leave this country without sustaining a serious bus related injury, I will be shocked.

1. I hope to become fluent in Spanish, build great relationships with the adults and children in the community, and become a phenomenal salsa dancer. 
2. The program I'm most excited about is teaching English, it's something I've also wanted to do. 
3. I want both! We should get a cat for mice, but a dog because they're cuddly. 
4. What surprises me is that it's extremely easy to get wherever you need to go - I'm loving the bus system here. And cabs are very conveniently cheap.
5. I don't really understand jeans without pockets and its popularity here.

1. Step outside my comfort zone and be challenged both professionally and personally
-make some serious connections and friendships with locals here
-cook some bomb-ass meals
-travel every opportunity I have
2) I am extremely excited to teach Adult Cooking and Nutrition. It will be great to meet the adults in the community and to spend time on Saturday afternoons cooking and learning. 
3. Dog, duh. But a cat would be nice to eat all da mice. 
4. Perhaps how comfortable I feel already living and working here. The Ecuadorean culture is so welcoming and warm, and I've already had so many deep and personal conversations with community members here. 
5. How Ecuadoreans don't really believe in personal space. On the bus, I could be sitting in an aisle chair and literally have a man's nether-regions in my face as he stands in the aisle. There's lots of space on the bus, sir. 

1) My personal goals for this year are to perfect my Spanish, travel as much as possible, make the biggest possible difference in the Chillos valley and finally learn how to cook (or at least ignite a stove).
2) I'm probably most excited for PHC (preventative health) because it has a lot of different programs and room to grow. I'm also excited for children's nutrition since I get to work with cute kids and get to know the Ecuadorian educational system 
3) The fact that this is even a question....... You've all seen me stop to pet every street dog here (which is approximately 18 per corner). Can cats save your life?!?! (Shout out to Izzy and Gracie, miss you)
4) The abundance of good sauce! (ají is amazing), the man-made barbed wire made of glass bottles that surround almost every house & building, the abundance of angry bird t shirts and the fact that they actually say cheveré here (every other word).
5) Well, the most "cultural" thing I can think of that has happened so far was when some Ecuadorian friends from Rumiloma took me & heather "sport fishing" in the back of a pick up truck and served us pig's tail, right after I had contracted a travel bug and was... Less than healthy. Apparently it's a delicacy, but pigs are my favorite animals…

Five more interviews to come, so put your excitement pants on.  For now it's off to the beach!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Things We'll Miss

Well this will be my final post. I had a great time running the blog with Peter. We always weren't the most on point people, but we went for the philosophy of quality over quantity and boy I think we nailed it. To end, we collected a list from all the PDs of the things we are going to miss here in Ecuador. Thanks for a great year and keep reading next year as Heather and Virginia take over.

Jefferson Deming

Sitting down to dinner together every night 

Seeing the relaxed faces of my yoga students during meditation

Giving kids piggy backs and having heart-to-hearts in the teen center

Hollering "vecino!" to all of our old neighbors out and about in the street

$1.50 almuerzos

Bakeries on every corner

Cheap produce

The mountains

The man cave

Affordable public transportation

Super Smash Brothers with Pete and Jeff

Living with seven of my best friends

Coco juice on the street

Endless pots of coffee

Daydreaming with Walter about one day retiring to the beaches of Colombia

Adding "-ito" to the end of any word that you want

Not knowing what to expect every day

Nightly dinners together

Fruit and veggie markets

Danna and Martin

Salsa dancing


Living with all of my friends

How cheap fruits and vegetables are

The kiddos in the library

Traveling all around Ecuador every weekend

The breathtaking views everywhere you look

Being forced to speak spanish

The sharing

Dirty burgers, corbiche, tortillas, street food!

Traveling with the group

Public transportation

Salsa dancing, or at least trying to Salsa

Tossing the frisbee on the beach at sunset

Dinner parties with the family (aka the group)

Basketball at La Piscina

The scenery

Cheap travel


Living with my friends 



Trying different restaurants

Hitting my head  

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ecuador Updates

July has been a whirlwind month in Ecuador, full of big transitions. We apologize for the lack of blogs but we have been very busy moving to a new house and transitioning a great new group of PDs for the 2013-2014 year. Here are some pictures from the move:

 The new Manna house
 All of our stuff in the yard at the old house
 We couldn't have done it without our vecinos (who are really sad that we won't be vecinos anymore)
All of our stuff in a pile at the new house