Just another blog update...
Trip Start Aug 19, 2007
17Trip End Nov 19, 2009
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Where I stayed
Well since last time I updated my blog, I guess I've done a decent amount of stuff. First of all, Mom and Doug came to visit. We spent Easter weekend in Santa Cruz and just kind of hung out and explored the city. We also went to the Butterfly Conservatory, which was pretty cool. It was really beautiful out there. They have the largest butterfly dome in the world...which it turns out is actually too large for the butterflies, so they were in the process of transferring them to a newer smaller dome and had put a variety of birds in the big dome. Inside the dome was a tower that you could climb up and look out over the dome and see for miles because everything is so flat. They also had natural pools to swim in and an area for orchids. However, there weren't but a few orchids because they don't bloom until October and November. We spent the morning there and explored and got some good pictures. Then, after Easter we came back to Conce for a few days. We pretty much hung out around here and I introduced Mom and Doug to the people around Conce that I know and showed them the places where I hang out and stuff. It was super hot so we didn't do a whole lot of wandering around, but we had a lot of fun. Two of the three nights we were in Conce, I cooked them dinner at my house (pasta both nights), I even made a homemade pasta sauce that was pretty good if I do say so myself. They also helped me put up all my posters that I got at the International Tourism Fair in February, so my room looks a lot better now. They stayed a week then had to get back to work, but it was really good having them here, especially since it was only going to be two more months before I get to see everyone at home :)
They also got to meet Laura's parents (my sitemate) who were around Conce at the same time. They came to visit Laura for a little over two weeks, so I got a chance to spend some time with them before Mom and Doug came and then we had a meal or two with them while we were in Conce. So basically, after all the parents left Laura and I had a decent store of special treats from the states that they had all brought down in extra suitcases, which we are still enjoying and trying to make last until I head back to the states for a couple weeks.
After Mom and Doug left, I got sick with a sinus infection in Santa Cruz, so I was stuck there for a few days trying to recuperate, which I did with no problems. Then came back to Conce for a few days for some meetings, and then headed back to Santa Cruz for the B42 despedida (going away party).
We always have a big despedida for each group about 3 months before their close of service because no one can travel during the last 3 months of their service. We had it at a resort similar to the one we went to for Thanksgiving, but this one was about an hour closer to the city, and more spread out. I personally preferred this one. It had like 3 or 4 connected pools and lots of lounge chairs, a volleyball court, and an emu. Mafi went with me and got to spend the whole weekend running around their huge property...I'm decently sure that she even made friends with the emu (or at least attempted to make friends with him in her own way :) It was lots of fun but after 3 weekends in a row in Santa Cruz I was ready to spend some more time back in my site.
I was back in Conce helping get ready for the International Baroque Music Festival (April 24 - May 4) in Concepcion. I've kept working with my tourism club, as well as having some more meetings with the artisan association to plan for the Music Festival and also to talk about some plans for after the Festival. We are planning on improving their business practices so that they can eventually make a bigger profit and also have a more professional appearance and practices. One thing that is planned right now is another volunteer from my group coming to visit later this month and we are going to do a workshop on basic accounting practices to kind of give them an overview of what kinds of things they need to be taking into account and figure out what they can do as far as accounting practices go to be more efficient and make more money and better use of the money they already have. I'm also planning to start teaching two English classes a week after the Festival is over when people have more time to come. I'm going to offer these classes to the artisans', the guides, and other people that work in the tourism industry. We are going to start with 2 one hour classes each week, and then depending on interest and schedules figure out where to go from there. I'm also working on making a database of all the information for hotels and restaurants in Conce for the tourism office (and hopefully to put on a website that I'm going to work on). Anyways, that's a small overview of some of my projects right now. It was really great to have Doug down here to chat with about them, as a lot of the problems we are having are similar to what not-for-profits in the states face and that he is familiar with, so he was able to give me some new perspectives and some new ideas that I am anxious to test out. We also worked on a proposal from the town to get an Ecotourism Congress to come out to Conce in June for a meeting that they are having. This would bring 250 people out to Conce for about 4 or 5 days and give us more tourism opportunities. We are currently waiting to see if they chose Conce or San Ignacio to do their Congress and as soon as we find out if they chose us will begin preparations for that. So basically there always seems to be something to do here with regards to tourism, so I do pretty well about staying busy.
Anyways, after a couple weeks in my site, I had to head back to Santa Cruz. It was time to get Mafi spayed and I had a computer workshop to attend with my counterpart. Poor Mafi had to stay in the vet all weekend to get the surgery and then recuperate some before I could get her back. But all went well, so she will not be having puppies and she has already gotten her stitches out, so now we are just waiting for the scar to go away. She has also seemed to calm down a bit since the surgery and I'm really hoping that she stays that way...My computer workshop went well also. It was organized by the 3 Information and Communications Technology volunteers. There were about 10 of us that attended (some with and some without counterparts....mine ended up not being able to come). We learned the basics of how to use Adobe Dreamweaver and create a website for our communities, as well as some of the basics about Photoshop and Illustrator that should prove useful in my work with tourism here in Conce. So all in all it was a useful workshop to attend and hopefully I'll be able to put this new knowledge to use pretty soon.
Right after I got back to Conce, my project director and the country director came to do my site visit, which went really well. We had meetings with my counterparts and I showed them some of the stuff I am doing here in Conce. They were only here one night, but I think they got a pretty good idea of what it is I'm doing here. Unfortunately, about that same time I also got strep throat. But as soon as I realized that's what I had, I went to the doctor in Conce and got a penicillin shot which cleared it right up. I got that taken care of just in time for the Baroque Music Festival to start.
That Thursday was the first concert, and there is at least one a day until Sunday the 4th of May. Every evening after mass (about 8:30) there is a concert by an international music group. Also, on most of the days at 11:00 am, the orchestra from Conce plays a concert. Everyone has been very good. All of the international groups have been different, but they have all been fantastic. There have been groups from the states, Israel, France, Italy, Belgium, Poland, and Holland, and we still have 3 more nights of concerts to go. I have to gone to all of the evening concerts to help out with making sure everything is running smoothly. The concert series was organized by an NGO in Santa Cruz, so they are in charge of everything, but I worked with the head person during the Raptor Birds Festival in November, so I am working with her again with anything else that they need. I've gotten to hang out with several of the groups after their concerts and they are all really nice and fun to talk to. I've served as a translator for a couple of them because most of them speak English but some groups have had very few with and knowledge of Spanish. They all have bilingual guides with them, but I've tried to help out where I could. I've really enjoyed seeing all of these concerts and all of the visitors they've attracted (last weekend we probably had about 8 extra people from Peace Corps out here), but I'll be kind of glad when they are over because then I can get back to my normal bedtime and not have to stay up so late.
Right now we have all four of us Concepcion volunteers in Conce because of the referendum that is going to be on Sunday. There is going to be a vote on the autonomic statutes, so they want all of the volunteers within easy communication. We don't really expect anything big to happen. It will probably just be like it was in December...a whole bunch of talk and not a whole lot of action. But I guess Peace Corps has to have a plan for all possibilities. So this weekend should be interesting, the end of the Music Festival and a big vote. So Frances is staying with me for a while and Jamel and Beth (2 other volunteers from around Conce) are at Laura's house, as is a friend of Laura's from the states. So I've still got plenty of company around here.
So after this weekend, stuff should be back to a kind of normal. My plan is to stay in Conce until I head back to the states the beginning of June to try and make some more headway on my projects. I'm going to start the English classes, keep working with the tourism club, help plan for the Ecotourism Congress, try and finish my database, work with the artisans, and whatever else comes up...So with all that to do, I expect the next month to fly by and be back in the states to visit in no time :)
Oh yeah, and now that it's fall, we've already had 2 surs (Antarctic winds that come up through Patagonia) in like 3 weeks. Each sur lasts like 5 days and it gets pretty cold. I stay pretty bundled up during those days, even wearing an alpaca sweater and a toboggan. While the temperature doesn't get that cold, there's a lot of humidity, so it's kind of a wet cold. Anyways, it basically gets a lot colder than I thought was possible, and apparently it can get even colder during our winter months. So now I actually believe people when they say that it gets cold in Conce...before I was always like "yeah, sure," but it's true, it is actually cold.
Anyways, sorry again about taking so long to update the blog and about it being so long because of that. Hope it's not too tedious to read. I've got a bunch of pictures ready to be uploaded to flickr; I just need to find a day to go sit down at the internet and start putting them up. I'll try and send out an e-mail once I get them all up.
Well, hope this finds everyone doing well and in good spirits.