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.
-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.