Freezin' in Ecuador
Trip Start Mar 04, 2004
24Trip End Ongoing
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I'm sorry it has been so long since my last entry. Either I have been really busy or really lazy! I am siding with the former! Since my last entry, I moved into my house, visited the most successful indigenous community in southern Ecuador, adopted a dog and began a series of business lectures in my community.
After two and a half months of the run around, I found a house that I like. It had sat unoccupied for a number of years so I had a lot of work to do when I moved in. The first night I was without electricity or water - a treat in Haiti but standard here. I fixed the water connection and my neighbor helped me wire the electricity
The community of Saraguro is three hours south of my community. I do not know much about the Saraguros but as I understand it, they have adapted well to the agricultural trade in Ecuador. They work together raising cattle and crops. They were originally settlers of the region of Lake Titicaca, Peru but were forced to their present location by the Incas. The Saraguro have land in the Sierra Mountains and in the Oriente. They cross the mountains with their cattle and let them graze in both regions. The most interesting thing about the Saraguros is their dress. They wear either black bowler hats or large white flat brimmed hats. Both men and women wear black ponchos and the men wear knee low black or navy pants - Capri pants more or less! The men also sport long braids down their backs. Unfortunately, the influence of North American pop culture is apparent. Some of the younger generation cut their braids and wear American hip-hop gear - hats backwards, basketball jerseys, huge jeans and basketball shoes
There is a posh restaurant in Cuenca called Café Eucalyptus owned by a Brit and an American. I was intrigued by the place the first time I ate there because they have a nautical chart of the Chesapeake Bay hanging in the front room. The owners lived in Shady Side, Maryland for 11 years! So, Aunt Sharon might know them. Small world, we all know that ride in Disneyworld. The owners are very close with a married couple that is in the Peace Corps with me. The married couple lives down the road from me about an hour and a few weeks ago I was at their site helping with a tourist group. They have a great dog and asked if I was going to get a dog. I said no, unless it was trained and the owner could not take care of it anymore. The owners of Eucalyptus had a dog that fit the description perfectly. I met with Fran the next week and took her home after my trip to Saraguro. I have had her for a week and I think she likes the country. She is a year and a half-year old, forty-pound mutt but she looks like a black lab. She is spade and has all her shots.
About two months ago, the business coordinator for the Peace Corps came to my site and gave a presentation on Feasibility Studies. Sunday, the 8th, I continued the business series with a lecture on Business Organization. There were 19 people present out of 31 members of the community association. Any number of attendants higher than five is considered a success in Ecuador! The lecture was scheduled to start at 2pm but the people did not show up until 4pm, also typical. The lecture went well and the majority felt that my presentation was simplistic and basic. I asked why there were not more ideas and more moneymaking enterprises in the community if the basic principles of income generation were clear to them. They did not have an answer and I am beginning to think that the people are the one's that lack motivation. Opportunities abound but it is hard to get more than two that want to work on these opportunities. Despite my counterpart's questionable morals, I see the frustration that he feels when he presents moneymaking ideas that go nowhere. For example, I wrote an article in the Peace Corps newsletter about the money doubling guinea pig operation
I received a fifty dollar grant from the director of Peace Corps Ecuador to start a model integrated farm at the elementary school. I will start this project after the summer break. I am going to teach English at the school as well but I am going to make it a requirement that the students in the English class participate in the integrated farm as well.
I am waiting on a grant for a chicken project but I have not heard yet if my proposal was accepted or not. I want to build a small greenhouse off the back of my house as an example of how easy it is to grow a variety of crops in a small area. We'll see how that goes over with the people.
August 29th through the 1st of September I am going to a community banking conference with my counterpart's wife. A community bank is an opportunity to pool the community's money for future projects. This seminar will present successful models and hopefully my community will support the creation of one of these banks with enthusiasm. If not, I'm moving! Just kidding, I am very happy here now that I have my own house and projects are beginning to roll. All I need now is visitors so buy your plane tickets, I have plenty of floor space!
Yours - Matthew Koerner and Fran