A Travellerspoint blog

Principal

Food

Wow, what a great weekend! Principal, small town two and a half hours northeast of Cuenca is home to women who establsihed a farming, trout, and weaving cooperative in 2001. Our visit there began with a two-hour hike around the town. The hike was gorgeous. Principal is situated at a significantly higher altitude than Cuenca, so directly in the mountains was where we were placed. I will hopefully photos soon. Then we we were treated to a huge meal of trout, vegtables from their garden, fruit, and fruit smoothies...all products from their land. Although we did not have the opportunity to see much of their garden coopaertive as a result of the rainfall received the night before, we did have the pleasure of seeing products made from their weaving work. Baskets, hats, placemats, lampshades...you name it they made it beautifully. The original intention in creating a weaving coop was to remove the intermediary, the middle man who supplied the town with the plant and the dye used for their projects. This intermediary would take the majority of the profits leaving virtually no monetary reimbursement to the women of this town. I purchased four items, three small basket and a larger own as well. We departed from Principal extremely exhausted but really enlightened by the women we met. After we arrived into Cuenca, I was ravenous! When I become hungry I become slightly irritable. The majority of my group was returning to their homes for dinner, this held little appeal. You see, over the past two weeks, I have grown increasingly disenchanted with the food. Although I adore my host family, I have yet to experience a meal that I have found fully satisfying or a meal that has held strong appeal. I often feel like I have to give myself internalized pep talks as I am eating, "okay, you can do this, two more bites" or "how can this dish relate to something I have eaten before?" "I wish I could plug my nose". I realize the candid nature of my thoughts and realize their potential to be perceived as disrespectful, ignorant, impatient, and highly insensitive. I have tried and successfully eaten EVERYTHING on my plate that has been served to me. It is difficult to avoid eating meat when it is served with almost every meal, I rarely eat meat in the States so the transition to eating it as often as I am obligated to leaves me feeling less then thrilled to partake in meals with my family. Which is incredibly unfortunate, as it is designed to be a special time for connecting. So getting back to the original story, I returned from Principal on Saturday to find only a few students not intending to return home for dinner, I asked them if they wanted to join me for dinner elsewhere and fortunately they obliged. We found this GREAT Italian restaurant where I ordered a huge bowl of pasta alfredo...I ate it rapidly and didn´t look back...it was absolutely delectable.
I know I am terrible person for disclosing this...but you know something I don´t care, hahaha, becuse truthfully if anything it has granted a heightened understanding and value of food. I have never been in a position in my life in which I have had no control over what I am consuming and how much I am consuming. This experience has challenged my patience, flexibility, appetite, and weight. I have lost 10 pounds since my arrival.
In addition to the Italian meal I had on Saturday, some friends and I went to a sport bar located about 20 minutes from my home to partake in SuperBowling! It was so much fun despite the Bears´loss to the Colts. I there also chose to order a large meal and despite my usual emotional response being guilt to such circumstances and to such disclosures of frustration, I am choosing otherwise.
I now have to head to the orhanage...
Thank you for allowing me to share.

Posted by A Burrows 11:29 Comments (0)

Orphanage, Tutoring Opportunity, and Photos

Yesterday marked the beginning of my internship at Miguel Leon, an orhanage near my home that serves fifty girls between the age of 6-18. I will tutor girls between the ages of 8-12 from 3:00-5:00 two-three days a week. I think I am going to love it! Although incredibly heart-breaking, I found my experience there already inspiring. I know little personal information about the girls with whom I work but they were eager to ask me questions about myself, play with my hair, hold my hand, paint my toenails. I will tutor them in math and English...fortunately I can manage elementary math. :)
They are so beautiful, so precious...
One devastating experience of yesterday's visit there occured while I was helping them complete an English assignment. They were to draw a picture of their family and name each member of their family. Furthermore, they were to construct sentences such as, "my mom has blonde hair", my dad has a beard", "my house is white"...clearly they had no point of reference, they were left feeling confused and frustrated. It was so heart-wrenching, how do you describe the notion of family when such a concept has been absent since birth?
On a lighter note, yesterday morning while walking to school, I was randomly stopped on the street and questioned by a man and his wife about the opportunity to tutor his 9-year-old daughter Vanessa in English. They know my host family relatively well and apparently heard me speaking English to one of my classmates. I agreed immediately, they seemed incredibly nice, they also have an older daughter and an infant son who might I add is ADORABLE! He asked if I could stop his house around 5:00 yesterday afternoon and I agreed, this gave me the opportunity to meet Vanessa, who is a charm...so polite, intelligent, and quiet yet eager to learn. I begin tutoring her today and will do so 3-4 times a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and sometimes Sunday. I will be paid 3 dollars each session. I am really excited, I this will be a really cool opportunity to enhance my Spanish abilities...however, I wanted to throw out a question to those reading my blog. If you would like, send me teaching suggestions or effective dynamics for learning a new language...this especially goes for Matt, Ellie, Jane, B, and Dad and anyone else that would have some insight!
Lastly, I finally uploaded photos, I was thrilled as now you can actually visualize some of the things I have been sharing with you!
Enjoy and take care!

Posted by A Burrows 09:38 Comments (2)

Eye-opening lecture

Steve Wille, the director and dean of CEDEI hosts meetings/lectures on a weekly basis. This week marked the first of the 12 in his series. Today's subject was regarding the tumultuous history of Ecuadorian presidencies.
If I may, allow me to share some fascinating information gained from this lecture.
- Ecuador just elected and inaugrated a new president two weeks ago, Rafael Correa.
-Correa is anti-U.S. and anti-U.S./Ecuadorian relations
-Correa is good allies with Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez
-Ecuador returned to a Democracy in 1980
-65% of Ecuadorians live in poverty
-30% of Ecuadorians live without running water
-Rafeal Correa, is a socialist and his campaign platform was to remove power and wealth from the elite, he is claimed to a warrior of the poor
-In Ecuador there is no checks and balances over the military, the military has a limitless budget
-Jaime Roldo the president of Ecuador from 1978-1981 was a socialist, it was his presidency that marked the end of military rule over Ecuador and a return to Democracy.
-He was assassinated in 1981, his death was largely coordinated and supported by the US government and CIA
-Ecuadorians do not vote for someone, Ecuadorians vote against the person, instituition, or ideology they are against
-the thesis of Steve Wille's lecture was based in the notion that political tension is caused by disparities and differences in top and the bottom NOT tension between the right and left....something to ponder, political tension caused more by class and economics...
-the constituition has changed 30 times since 1980!
-corruption of banks, Treasurer, and governmental financial offices led to the end the currency of the sucre and the beginning of U.S. dollar--at this time the sucre was valued at 25,000 sucre to 1.00--extremely devalued---causing the current state of poverty in Ecuador

...so yeah, some interesting factoids about Ecuadorian political history!

I begin my internship tomorrow afternoon. After much deliberation and investigation into several agencies, I resolved to working at an orphanage quite near my school as well as my house. The orphanage, Miguel Leon, serves 50 girls between the ages of 6-18 whose placement in the orphanage has been caused by multiple reasons ranging from sexual abuse, parents' death, parental abondonment and crime. The orphange is operated by a group of 20 nuns. I, along with two other students from my group will be tutoring the girls 3 afternoons a week for two hours each day. I am so pumped!
Tonight, being Wednesday evening is "Ladies Night" at the Eucalyptus Cafe 6 blocks from my house. Our group will meet there for a few hours for "hang out" time.

Posted by A Burrows 14:05 Comments (2)

The Weekend

Incapirca, The Birthday Party, and Brief Illness.

Friday, following my morning classes we, as a group attended a merengue dance class-so much fun! We put our dance lessons to use later that evenng when we went to Fuzzion, a small live-music club...so much fun! We danced with Cuencanas and learned additional dance moves! I returned home and went to bed feeling great. I woke up suddenly an hour later feeling nauseous. To condense the remainder of this story, I spent the night sleeping or attempting to sleep on the bathroom floor until 7:00 AM. I took some Pepto and I was finally able to return to bed and slept until 10:00 AM. I felt fair for the remainder of the day. I assumed that my brief bout of illness was caused by drinking a beverage with ice in it. No Ecuadorian tap water is advised to be consumed.
Later that afternoon I went with my mama and papa to a birthday party hosted by a family friend. My mama's sister is also the host mother of a student in my group so it was even more enjoyable to spend that afternoon with a familiar face. Birthdays in Latin America are a big deal, regardless of age. I have never witnessed such a high concentration of drunken adults in my entire life, hahaha. All the men present at this gathering held an apparent appreciation for my eyes. As I left a line of 14 men was created to take photos of strictly my eyes...oh jeepers.
Katie and I (the girl whose host mother is my mama's sister) spent the remainder of that afternoon touring the city, window shopping, and cafe interneting. It was an early evening as we had to prepare for an early departure for Incapirca on Sunday. Incapirca is the site of an Incan ruin 2 hours north of Cuenca. Remaining from this ruin were structures to represent the sun, moon, the moon's cycle, seasons, and the summer and winter equinox (June 21 and December 21). It was so fascinating to stand on ground that was designated to honor universal elements such as the planets, sun, and moon and conceptions of time long before the influence of Galleleo and Colombus were introduced. Clearly these structures embodied much more advanced notions than that of European influence. Clearly these natives were much more precocious and mindful of the presence of something greater long before any other civilization. Incapirca spreads over about 3 acres of steep and rugged terrain so our day was spent hiking-a lot! Incapirca is really rural and 3,000 feet higher than that of Cuenca's altitude so sun exposure was especially strong. It was gorgeous, clear day and despite my application of sunscreen, my face and neck are quite red! The area of Incapirca is absolutely stunning, mountainous, green, rolling hills, and surrounded by a small river. We had a picnic lunch half way through our hike, finished the remainder and headed back to Cuenca. I had a little bit of homework last night and tried to go to bed early. I was so exhausted!
Today marked the beginning of a new week, with plenty to accomplish. My Spanish grammatics class is really challenging and really thought intensive, not that classes shouldn't be but this class especially leaves my brain hurting :)
This afternoon, we toured a museum in central Cuenca which holds ethographic artifacts of each indigenous tribe in Ecuador. It was really fascinating...among these artifacts included musical instruments, clothing, masks, and human heads found in aftermaths of warring tribes.
I am just about to head home for dinner at 7:30 and spend the remainder of my night doing homework.
I am still working hard to upload photos. I have made progress in that I have been able to download them onto my Kodak Easy Share program however, am having difficulty transferring them onto a file in "my pictures". If any of you have any advice regarding this matter-let me know! In the meantime, take care!

Posted by A Burrows 14:30 Comments (2)

Classes and other reflections

My classes began today. Although they offically commenced on Wednesday, due to my delayed arrival I was not able to attend the first set of classes. My Spanish grammatics course will be INTENSE, homework intensive, facilitated by a professor who demonstrates no mercy for those who cannot keep up. I feel slightly overwhelmed but have confidence that it will be entirely beneficial for my pursuit of language proficiency. My second course, service learning theory and community action and development should be academically easy however, the internships atteached to this class should be challenging. Initially I was encouraged to research a position at an orphanage however, it now appears as though I will be placed in one of two positions: A women's health center OR a women's prison...
I have heard both locations would prove to be a challenge however, I am actually really forward my visits to both locations next week. I am now done with classes for today and spending my free time prior to lunch responding to some emails and updating my blog (clearly). I will return home for lunch and then come back to school for a dance class at 3:00. Because my arrival was delayed I was not able to purchase any textbooks needed for my classes...therefore am having to pay money to the entirety of both books copied. Fortunately, it is only 1 cent per copy and it should only cost me about 15.00 for both books.

Things that I love about my experience thus far:
-my mama and papa, their warmth and their affectionate nature towards me
-the fact that my mama when speaking to me always holds my hand
-the beautiful view of the entire city from my rooftop
-consistently warm temperatures
-the smell of rain in the afternoon
-all of the females of my group
-walking everywhere
-feeling completely secure and safe
-las panaderias (little bakeries) on every street corner
-the architectural antiquity of the city, including the cobblestone streets
-the fact that I don't have to worry about my passport being stolen because CEDEI keeps them all in a safety deposit box, I just have to carry copies :)
-our German Shepard, Whiskey
-speaking Spanish until I reach the point of not wanting to speak English
-the educational resources and facility of CEDEI
-interacting with natives
-quaint little cafes that we frequent
-the inexpensive prices of EVERYTHING
-the entire staff-they are so helpful
-plenty of natural light in all buildings

Things I don't care for:
-the odor of exhaust when walking down the street from all the vehicle traffic
-taking cabs with directionally-impaired drivers
-the whistles, honks, stares, and sexual remarks received by the majority of Ecuadorian men
-chaos of traffic and the concept that pedestrians to not have the right of way
-cigarette smoking is permitted in all locations, including classrooms

On Sunday, as previously mentioned in my last blog entry we are headed to Incapirca the site of an Incan ruin two hours north of Cuenca.
Other girls in my group have been trying to upload photos and were haveing difficulties as well so perhaps e can out our brains together and see wat the issue is. I really do hope to have them uploaded soon!

Posted by A Burrows 09:14 Comments (1)

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