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 . . .???