01 July 2007

If I´m living on the equator why is it freezing??

I´ve made it to Ecuador safe and sound and with a little more than a
week in country It feels like a month worth of experiences and
emotions have passed. Our first days consisted of lock down 10plus
hours everyday of Peace Corps policy, security, & culture. Which left
us all a little paranoid and ready for a real taste of Ecuador. My
training group is 46 volunteers with half working in rural health with
me and the others in youth and family, 2 married couples, 5 men and we
all range from 21-28 years old. Quite the diversity. haha. Poor men.
So we are all living with host families for the first 3 months and are
spread out into 10 different communities. I am in a high altitude
small village which means that it{s freezing!! I am missing that
Wenatchee sun! But since we are so close to the sun even though it´s
cold and windy the sun is crazy intense during the day. I am sporting
a nice red, burnt face and chapped cheeks. Cute, right? Our town for
being rural is pretty entertaining (I use this word loosely) because
we have at least 6 bakeries, a shoe repair store, bootleg DVD store,
12 small stores (think closet size 7-11s), cabinas (phone booth) that
tried to charge me $18 to talk to my mom for only 25mins. The struggle
of being a gringa in a latino world. haha. And what makes it worse is
that You have to look at a roasted pig Head while you chat. not such
good times for a vegetarian. ha. But my traditional Ecuadorian family
is great and by traditional I mean my 70-something parent, 37 sister
who live with her 2 sons (5&7) and 41 year brother.

So back to my new home for the next 3 months we arrived Saturday
afternoon and Peace Corps dropped me off at my family´s tiendita my
mom, Senora Fanny, greeted me with a hug and kiss and then hurried me
off with my new sister to watch Los torros, which for me I think of
those crazy fireworks in Mexico they call them El Torro. So I was
confused but after being kindly pushed up a homemade shaky ladder to
an even shakier stand overflowing with people I saw Los
Torros....real bulls. Oh! There is a lot of Spanish influence here in
Ecuador and that was obvious when I saw about 30 men with red flags
running from the bull!! Very traditional, but a little too extreme for
me to digest in my first 15 minutes of REAL Ecuadorian life. Maybe I
will grow to be a bull fighting aficionado by the end of my first 2
here but in that moment I was like "I wonder in PETA is in Ecuador?"
ha. But all was well when I broke my first PC law "don't eat in the
street" and have a fresh Ecuadorian empanada. oh wow! If I only could
send those in this email. It{s a flour dough with a little cheese deep
fried and a touch of sugar wow a heart attack delight and worth every
single trans fat.Then 2 other volunteers living in my town decided to
check out the local dance. With a local Quito group, we made the most
of our 1st night in town! Sunday morning awoke to Senora Fanny opening
the oven and pulling out of the oven a whole cuy (guinea pig) I mean
legs, toes, head, eyes, teeth and asked "do you eat this type of meat?
I some how managed to recover from the shock and say no. She then
wrapped it back up in pig skin and into the oven. So, if you don't
already know Cuy (guinea pig) is a very traditional and sort of
delicacy here in the mountain area of Ecuador. I´ve heard that it has
a flavor similar to chicken. ha ha. Then I watched the amazing parade
full of typical indigenous dance and dress (SEE PHOTOS).

Living in the Sierra I have a distinct diet of potatoes, white rice,
and mote (hominy) good thing I am not a follower of the Atkins diet.
But some dietary delights I have found are the fresh juices of all
kinds of fruit every morning & Quinoa soup or any soup for that
matter. According to my sister "it´s not an ecuadorian meal without
soup" and my fellow volunteers added "...and it´s not a soup with
potatoes." haha.

And to wrap up this long, too detailed e-mail all is well. My heart is
happy. We will begin to work at the local clinic this week in addition
to our 6 hours of spanish/cultural classes. Very excited for that! My
3 fellow volunteers are great! Ann, 25 a fellow Seattle-ite, shares my
homesickness for REAL coffee. Stacia, 25, a Maryland native studied in
Ecuador for a year and it a great wealth of knowledge. and Francesa,
23 is my soul sister and gets followed by people asking to feel her
twists. ha. And for that matter all the volunteers are awesome and I
already have many dear friends.

Hope this finds you all well.
Much Love.

Alicia O´Dell
Cuerpo de Paz
Casilla 17-08-8624
Quito, Ecuador
South America

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