Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Photos finally

Most of my photos I will post at www.flickr.com. You will find a search window; click on people; enter rdlurie, and you should find my photos. There's also a link to Tia's photos in Chile. Also, my email address is rdlurie@yahoo.com, if another way of communicating is desired. My address in Ecuador, via the Peace Corps, is Roger D. Lurie (PCT) Cuerpo de Paz - Casilla 17-08-8624, Quito, Ecuador, South America. Letters, news clippings from Ohio, photos, etc, all are welcome. On Wednesday we leave for a 10 day technical trip through the Sierras - should be interesting. Swearing in as an official volunteer is April 20 - right around the corner.


Iglesia in La Esperanza

Iglesia in La Esperanza
Originally uploaded by rdlurie.
iglesia in La Esperanza

On the road to Cahuasqi, Imbabura province

on the road to cahuasqi, imbabura province


Originally uploaded by rdlurie.
On the way to Cahuasqi

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Domingo 25 de Marzo

A surprise opportunity to use the internet. My host family here in Ibarra (also my counterparts) are in church today so I have the whole morning free to wander aound town. My promise for photos will have to wait a little longer.
The past week has been full of incredible experiences and meetings with dozens of new people. In less than one month, after swearing in in Quito, I will be returning here to Ibarra and El Milagro to begin the next two years of my life. At times this all seems surreal! At El Milagro I will be living and working on a small farm - about 6 acres - which currently raises chickens, quail, and cuyes (guinea pigs) (not for pets), alfalfa, and many varieties of vegetables. My main occupation in the coming 2 years will be to help the farm make a transition to organics, and to provide outreach to some of the other communities we (UCAN) will be working with. UCAN if I have not mentioned it before, is my counterpart organization. Largely funded by a Canadian cooperative, UCAN works with Peace Corps and other aid agencies to bring new techniques and sustainable technologies to various populations in the Imbabura and Carchi provinces here in Ecuador. Much of their work is in the Chota Valley, north of Ibarra, populated largely by AfroEcuatorianos who grow sugar cane and tomatoes. Also served are mestizo and indigenous populations.
In yesterdays post I mentioned Nick Zetts in Cahuasqi - his town is predominantly mestizo and he is working with a farmer who wants to move towards organic production. One of the concepts Peace Corps drives home is that we volunteers are to serve as ëxtensionist multipliers¨ - meaning that, with hard work and luck we assist one person or group who then assists another, etc.
There are challenges here which simply do not exist in the U:S: The market for fresh vegetables is inundated, prices are incredibly low - for instance, in the grocery last week I bought a beautiful head of broccoli for .13 cents! Imagine what the grower received once that .13 cents has filtered through the chain of middlemen! A possible solution to low prices is to assist farms and families in the development of value added crops and products - por ejemplo to use milk for cheese or yogurt production, rather than selling it as a raw product. After seveal months, or even a year, on site a volunteer can attempt to procure grant money to help start up such small businesses.
Another major problem here concerning organics is the lack of a winter! No freezing temps to kill off insect pests and other bad stuff (technical term). Even for those of us lucky enough to come here with some degree of technical knowledge this problem alone is daunting. For any readers interested in such stuff (Brian S.) I will try to keep you posted on developments.
It´s a beautiful day today, bright hot sunshine - Volcan Imbabura hovers over the city and i should get back out to continue my wanderings before a one PM lunch with my hosts. Later today my site visit ends and I return by bus to La Esperanza and my Ecuatoriano family.
Before leaving:
-there are many internet cafes all over the place. Some have 2 computers, some have 20 or more. Most are pretty slow. Costs range from .50 centavos por ahora to :90 centavos. (Ecuador uses U.S. currency)
-I have finally figured out the difference between papelerias and panaderias. The first sells paper and such, the other sells bread and cookies, which I prefer. Also discovered that licorerias do not sell licorice - they sell liquor.
-Day one in Quito 6 or 7 weeks ago I tested as a mid novice in my Spanish. Last week in my 2nd test I reached the level of low intermediate - thus a ¨jump¨ of 2 levels - bottom line is that my spanish still sucks, but not as much. PC ¨requires¨us to reach a level of mid intermediate - so I have to improve at least one more level before swearing in on April 20
- some days I wonder what the hell I was thinking when I signed up for this - but most days I can´t believe how lucky I am.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sabado 24 de marzo

muy frustrado!!! I just spent forty minutes posting and then all the computers turned off!!!" Someone tripped over a plug %&%#¬!!!

2nd try!

Last Sunday a hopped on an Ibarra bound bus and made the relatively short trip in 1.5 hours. Many of my friends in omnibus 97 had to leave for their site visits Saturday night - overnight trips lasting well into the next day, some as long as 20 hours. True, Ecuador is a small country - also true is the lack of many good roads. Even where the roads are paved and solid it is always slow going.
I arrived in Ibarra and met my PC contact, Nick Zetts, a volunteer from Virginia who´s been here about a year. While waiting for the next bus up to his town of Cahuasqi we drank (cold!) pilseners and played video soccer. Eventually we caught the bus and with some other friends of Nick´s we set off for the 2 hour trip. Cahuasqi is west and North of Ibarra, and we slowly made our way up and up and up, passing through charming pueblos wearing fresh and bright coats of paint- greens and yellows and blues. Most towns had beautiful central plazas fronted by handsome iglesias - being sunday afternoon the towns were full of locals chatting, working, and playing. As we got farther from Ibarra, and higher in the mountains, the roads became narrow and crumbly - occassionally traffic would have to back up to allow others to pass.
Cahuasqi comes into vies - it is appropriately called the island in the sky - a peaceful farming community lying in a fertile valley - encircled by some of the most rugged mountains I have ever seen.
We leave the bus - the air is hot and thin, our elevation is close to 10000 feet, I believe. A brief stop for some local hellados - ice cream made in heavy copper pots with local fruits and no cream- it´s fantastic. We make our way to nick´s casa - he and friends have planned a pizza party for tonight so we boil tomatos, make crusts from scratch, and fire up the clay horno (oven). Feeding it kindling and wood the hoirno soon reaches 600 degrees or so, the pizzas cook in 3 or 4 minutes, and they are fantastic. We eat and drink cerveza well into the night.

Well that´s the condensed version of my original - sorry about that. More later, and I promise NEXT post will contain photos!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

An interesting week it´s been! Had my pocket picked on an overcrowded bus outside of Cayambe last Saturday. It was in my front pocket! So whoever got it is pretty good. Peace Corps was quite helpful with credit card and Identification stuff. Seems like the occassional petty theft is not much of a surprise. Anyway I´ve learned my lesson and have all kinds of new places to keep money and ID.

In my community we have had 2 mingas (work parties) to get our garden project underway. We cleared a chunk of land at the local health clinic and built 5 raised beds. The plan is to grow vegetables in 3 beds and abonos verde (green manures) in the other 2, using a rotation system.
The work has been fun, and we have had good community participation which is one of the key components of a useful project. A major problem is the lack of water - though it´s supposed to be the rainy season in the Sierra right now in reality it is very dry. Ecuador in general has been suffering through a very severe drought.

I´d like to post some photos, but alas they have all been lost! A glitch at the local photo shop, I was hoping to have them all ( about 90 photos) burned to a CD, but they accidentally erased the contents of my card. I was a little bummed out, but frankly I have been stymied by the whole photo thing here using PC´s. Again, it makes me long for my Mac.

This past Wednesday a group of us had lunch with the US Ambassador to Ecuador. Can´t remember if I have posted about it already or not. Learned alot about US Ecuador relations, Ecuadorean politics. We ate lunch at a fancy hostal out in the campo - it was a treat to have some ravioli and a real salad.

My Spanish is improving, a little. I can almost have a conversation with my 4 year old sister. I am frustrated to not be progressing faster, but I have to keep plugging away. This past week in training we heard presentations about our future permanent sites, all in Spanish. Most of the sites look pretty good - we will know our destinations this coming Tuesday.

Yestrerday we had a tech training on a great local farm - learned how to castrate cuyes (guinea pigs - a culinary delicacy in Ecuador) and chanchos (hogs) Most of us in the Ag Program will end up working with animals one way or the other.

To those of you posting comments, again I really appreciate it. It´s good to hear from you. Colin, your note prompted me to create the following list, and by the way you guys have a great trip to Mexico!

New things I am learning (besides Spanish)
To remember not to put toilet paper in the toilet. It goes in the trashcan next to the toilet.
To smile and say thank you when I am served soup with hooves in it.
To wait for the next bus so I can actually sit down (a standing rider is an easier target to pick)
To appreciate the games of soccer, and Ecuavolley ( a local derivative of volleyball - 3 players on a side and a super high net - impossible to spike)
To not drink too many 70 cent bottles of Pilsener (the popular local brand of cerveza)
To not schedule anything more than 3 days in advance
Ok and here´s the sentimental one - to appreciate the opportunity I´ve been given.

That´s it for now.

Friday, March 2, 2007


Originally uploaded by rdlurie.
Okay - still trying to figure out the photo thing. I really miss my Macintosh right about now! If this works I will try to post more on Sunday. This photo is part of our group on the farm I described

2 Marzo, Viernes

First a word or two about La Pana - the Pan American Highway. I have to walk across it at least twice a day to get to and from mi casa. So far I´ve had to walk it once at night - a truly harrowing experience. Imagine US 68 between Yellow Springs and Xenia - except at 10,000 feet in altitude. Now imagine a 2 foot shoulder on either side, and imagine further a 2 lane roadway teeming with people, dogs, and 3 billion diesel buses and trucks spewing black smoke. Add a few dozen underpowered motorbikes, and a bicycle or two. Finally consider that when making a left turn, all traffic pulls far to the right, into the shoulder, and allows traffic to pass on their left. When all seems clear, they hit the accelerator and cross both lanes to complete the turn. If any thing, dead or alive, human or machine, is in the way - forgetaboutit!
Where I am living is fairly well populated - so in other parts of the country things are not so exciting.
Bus fares in Ecuad0r - for long distance trips figure a dollar an hour on average - six bucks for a six hour trip. Locally, my bus to Cayambe from La Esperanza runs 25 centavos, trip takes 25 minutes, usaully. My bus from Cayambe to Ayorra takes 10-15 minutes and costs 16 centavos.
Ecuador uses the US Dollar as its´currency - a centavo is one cent. We are issued some walking around money while we are in training, it´s not much so we have to conserve. The past few days I have been a little sick (GI) so I have skipped lunch (almuerzo) which usually costs 1.50. SO it´s quite a big deal that I have saved 3 bucks in the past 2 days.
We didn´t make it all the way to the coast and la playas on out technical training trip. So I can not talk about the beautiful beaches and wonderful ceviche - not yet. But I can say that the tech trip, to what is called the ¨transitional zone¨between the coast and the high sierra, was prettty incredible. We were hosted by a woman who runs a farm on some incredibly steep terrain - growing mostly cacao and bananas, though she did have other crops such as corn and yucca. She is mostly growing organically, but has a fair amount of trouble with insect pests, such as ants. She raises chickens and cuy (guinea pig) (haven´t tried it yet) as well as tilapia in fish ponds. A nice operation. Hopefully a pic or two from the trip will make it here to the blog.
I could rave about the lush jungle flora - but I´m sure you can imagine. The heatr and humidity were truly brutal, and all us pale, sweet gringos and gringas were eaten alive by no-see-ums, despite applying gallons of deet based spray all over.
I continue to be impressed with the Peace Corps operation here. The planning, the logisitics, the training; all top notch. Next week will be exciting, we will learn more about out permanent sites, and have a chance to discuss them with current volunteers and counterpart organizations. There are many great opportunities. Also next week, 6 volunteers, including me, will be having lunch with the US Ambassador to Ecuador. Should be fun.
Today on the bus to Cayambe I truly felt "at home¨. I´ve had some doubts in the first days and weeks, but today I really felt great that Ecuador will be home for at least the next two years . . .
and after that . . .???