RPCV Angela Fresne writes: My experience in Ecuador taught me not to take basic things for granted
I was "La Gringita" and I was original in my village because I was blue eyed, blonde, English speaking and American. These things gave me rock star status in my village. Children would chase me down the street, yelling my name, holding my hand and chattering away at me in fast Spanish. Generous, inquisitive people invited me to meals and shared fruits and vegetables from their gardens with me. They liked to ask me questions about life in the United States, and they were especially interested in finding out about my parents and my relationship with my family. My day to day life seemed to always circle back to the clever chicken who would manage to get in my kitchen and tear through the trash looking for something edible. This same chicken ate the worms out of my model worm-bed and tore up all my most delicate seedlings in my model-garden. My neighbors found the daily shouting and squawking match between the two of us a constant source of entertainment. I would chase the chicken around and yell I was going to eat it for dinner when I caught it. I never caught the chicken. Read more.
A Volunteer returns to Ecuador
In 1971 I checked off the Spanish speaking region of South America on my Peace Corps application as my choice of service area, expecting this would give me the best chance of being located close to the Andes Mountains. Living in Southern California (although raised in Iowa), Spanish was my obvious language choice, and my hiking and camping trips in California's mountains attracted me to the Andes. With the luck of draw, I was assigned to Ecuador, a country that I decided, after visiting Columbia, Peru, Bolivia and Chile, has the most scenic and cultural contrasts of any in South America.
Since ending my tour in 1974, the only bars to returning were money, time and resolve; however, after years of mostly talking, my wife Isabel and I finally left on May 19 for a 16 day visit to stay in Quito, the capitol of Ecuador and my Peace Corps site. Our plans were to re-explore some parts of the country, visit some Ecuadorian friends, see just how the country had changed and, hopefully, collect seeds from the little known fruits grown in Ecuador.
Today, my high opinion of the country's attractions remains the same. But, instead of "natural or scenic beauty," the current descriptive term is "biodiversity." I've seen published studies ranking Ecuador as number one in biodiversity density. Two tourists I talked with extensively said they almost passed up Ecuador after reading about its political and economic turmoil online in Quito's main newspaper "El Commercio." This caused them to look further into Ecuador's history where they discovered continuous turmoil was normal, so they made the trip anyway.
Since the 1970's, Quito has grown from what seemed like an easy going town of 600,000 persons to a bustling metropolis of over 2 million. The impression is that the oil revenues, which started upon completion of the first pipeline in 1972, fueled Quito,s development. However, some residents said that the most visible additions of new highways, overpasses and tunnels, the trolley system, and the many high-rise apartment buildings just started within the past five years.
The Peace Corps program appears to be alive and well (fluctuating between 100-200 volunteers) - the same nurse who prescribed our dysentery pills in the early 70's was still on duty. She reported that my program "small business" had come and gone over the years but was being restarted again - the current term is "microbusiness". The headquarters offices in Quite have been pushed about a dozen blocks to the north from their 70's location and now appear to actually have an organizational structure. Behind the main staff offices (a converted house) is a smaller carriage type house converted solely for volunteer use. The second floor has an extensive library, including a librarian, with two computers and e-mail access for volunteers and the ground floor has a lounge, kitchen, shower, storage and rest area for visiting volunteers. After my group went to Ponce, Puerto Rico for training, the entire program was shifted in-country; and, finally after many changes of contractors, the office decided to run their own program on a nearby hacienda. Read more.
Peace Corps Volunteer a hapy cricket writes: You say it best…*
I finished the book about the PCV in Ecuador from the 60s. In one part that I really was glad to hear, he talked about writing up a letter in Spanish and having a native speaker check it over for him to make sure it was grammatically correct. The reviewer thought he did a good job and commented ‘I didn’t know anyone could say so much in the present tense.’ It is a interesting way to try to communicate, everything must be in the present, or the botched past tense, or the cheater method for the future. The cheater method is easy for me because in Texas we use it all the time; it’s like our “fixin’ to.” I’m fixin’ to eat. That gets you into the future tense. Only in Spanish, it’s “going to….blah blah blah.”
Last night, I had Spanish in my dream. I wouldn’t say I dreamt in Spanish. But I was definitely talking in Spanish in my dream. A fellow volunteer said it best recently when he said, “I dream in Spanish sometimes. I don’t like it though…I don’t understand what’s going on.”
In the PC office in Quito this past week, I demonstrated my Spanish prowess to my fellow volunteers by trying to get some people up and moving to go eat lunch. I was attempting to say something along the lines of “I was born ready,” which is a bit of a stretch for me to even attempt. But in this case, I used the verb “nadar” which means swim rather than the verb for born which is “nacer.” Everyone erupted in laughter. Oh well, I like to be funny. I just wish I was more in on the jokes these days. Read more.