ellen vs. the volcano volcano

This is my personal blog and does not reflect the views and ideas of the US government or Peace Corps

29 September 2005

To Work!

Now that I am out on my own, I feel like I am actually doing productive volunteer work. Last Monday I got cut loose, and went out to JoseGuango Bajo. I met up with the Teniente Politico, I think the equivalent to a mayor, and we he showed me the schools. There are 3 in JoseGuango, but 2 close to the center that I will be able to get to on a regular basis. So, I went into the schools and talked to the teachers. I am going to be teaching natural sciences/ geology/ volcanology to 5 classes from 4th to 7th grades- Tuesdays in the center, Wednesdays in Quisinche. We are first working on understanding the volcano, then on how to save ourselves from it.
The teachers also want to start women’s group with the mothers of the school so they can learn various skills and how to make stuff to live off of if their agriculture land is taken out by a lahar. This is extreme forward thinking for any group of Ecuadorians and I am stoked to start this up.
There are 7 neighborhoods in JoseGuango, and I will eventually be working with the local emergency committee in each of these barrios. I have had one meeting thus far, with the center neighborhood, and it was so very true to Latin American PC meetings that I have heard so much about. The meeting was planned with the president of the neighborhood on a Monday for a Friday. We were going to invite the whole barrio, and re-elect members of the committee. He failed to invite anyone until the day of the meeting, so about 8 people showed up, not including the president himself, who I guess found something better to do. He apparently also failed to tell them why we were having the meeting, or actually told them I was going to give a charla, because they were mad at me when I didn’t have a talk prepared about…. Well they would have liked anything at the time. So, with out anyone from the old committee, and no president, we didn’t elect a new one, and I just winged it and told them about the committees, what’s expected of them, and the importance of being prepared. I threw in a few case studies of successful evacuations and unsuccessful ones. It really worked out well, and was a great meeting in my eyes. I have another one tomorrow with the neighborhood Quisinche (where the other school is). I hope it goes better, but I’m not expecting too much.
I started teaching this week. I was a lot of fun. I went Tuesday to one school. I have 5th, 6th, and 7th grade classes there. They all listened as well as can be expected, and maybe learned something. We played learning games, and I think they liked them and had fun. Hopefully they’ll remember that if nothing else- then geology is associated with fun!!! Lucky kids to have me around, eh? The next day I went to Quisinche, and taught a 4th-5th class, and a 6th-7th. I was worried about 4th graders, but they were way more attentive than this 6th-7th. These older kids were terrible, and not nearly as smart as the other school. They can’t even catch a ball! I guess we should have played catch soccer-style. Anyways, after school, I went to lunch at La Presidente of Quisinche’s house. It was very nice, she is super sweet, and I think will be good to work with, being semi-motivated. Her rice was delish. My meeting with her and her committee is tomorrow.
Yesterday there was a nice looking plume from my volcano. It was almost 2 km high or so. Just gases, and probably just H2O vapor from the snow it got this weekend, but the most visible activity I’ve seen from it. Pete, the volcanologist in Quito, called down here to get my perspective on it, and asked me to watch it and note what it does all day, but the clouds came in about 20 minutes later. Sorry Pete.
This weekend 2 volunteers in Riobamaba (about 2 hours south of here) celebrate their birthdays, so I will be going down there. It will be fun. Maybe I’ll even take some pictures. Hope all is well in whatever part of the world you are reading this from.

19 September 2005

Tomorrow i start working in Joseguango Bajo. The mayor guy there is stoked to have me working with his people. The parroquia in general is very well organized, and i hope that i can do lots of good stuff there. I am really excited to be doing something real finally, and to have my counterpart out of my hair.

I spent the weekend with my buddies in Quito. Sunday we went to one of the boss´s houses, ate delicious food, drank beer, and watched american football after cheering on the folks running in the Quito half marathon.



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The first day with a good view out of my window, ironically, this was also the first day it rained

07 September 2005

I am going to be posting photos on yahoo photos for the ease of downloading. The new albums are Cotopaxi, Quito and swearing in, and Santo Domingo trip. Find them here:

  • Ellen´s yahoo photos
  • Quito! Aug 28- Sept 3

    The chartered bus left Cayambe at 9 am Sunday morning, with about 10 bottles of booze. Ellen’s was tequila, and nobody could believe that I would down it that way that early in the morning.. everyone else mixed their drinks, or at least had chasers. Thanks T-rex and Mexico for teaching me how it aught to be done. I’m pretty sure that when we got to Quito we went to lunch then to a bar. Roberto got so drunk that people had to drag him onto the hostal, and the lady was a total bitch about it, threatening to have Peace Corps send him home for drinking- obviously she knows a lot, and is very influential to Peace Corps. So, being a little drink myself, I sort of called her out on it, and then had to listen to her bitch about it for like an hour. Oops. So, then we went back out drinking. There’s a sports bar by the PC office, so went for beer and chicken wings.
    Wednesday morning was swearing in. We all got dressed up, and felt like we were going to prom.. kind of silly.
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    *my best buds and I at swearing in


    It was a nice ceremony, because it was short. Then there was a VAC picnic (volunteer action council, or something like that). We got to meet some other volunteers, and for some reason I got elected to VAC. It’s like PC student council, when did I ever care about student council? Oh well, it’s an excuse to go hang in Quito every once in a while, and have PC pay for it. That night we moved to the Marriot. Though it sounds excessive, and it is, PC gives us 12 bucks a night, and with 4 in a room, it’s only about another 15 per person out of pocket. And, luxurious for those of us who had been living in the campo, and will be again for the next 2 years (that’s not me). The next 3 nights were quite fun and involved booze and good food. Then we all said our goodbyes and were off to our sites on Saturday. Being as lucky as I am to have family here, I went to Pifo, and Matt and Alex came to Latacunga with me for a sleep over in my new place. We ate pizza, played monopoly and watched the Simpsons. I love my life.
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    *Me and Katie out on the town

    Tungurahua Observatory- Aug 22-25

    Ah, yes. The reason I fell in love with volcanoes. Tungurahua. Now, one of my jobs here is to spend time at the observatory. This was my first stint, and made me quite excited for more. For the first hour or so, with the volcano despejado and smoking, it was super exciting. After that, I read a lot. In reality, there is not a lot of active work involved when it comes to volcano watching, but it is cool anyways. The observatory is placed in an old hacienda, it is very nice- I had the room with the walk in tub, too bad there was not enough water to take a bath. The next exciting part was when we went out to check some instruments, and talk to people about ash fall- it’s very scientific: when you see a guy on the road, you ask him if ash has fallen in theses here parts, and then report it. The best part, however, was the road that we drove on. It was just re-opened, and obvious why. Every 500 yards or so, it had been totally washed out by lahars. We had to drive up each quebrada, and cross further up hill, either over the lahar, or a sweet sketchy wooden bridge that the buses had no reservations about, so I guess our little Vitara shouldn’t have worried me at all. The people were trying to engineer lahar paths by making concrete channels…. Questionable. Then we got to go into Banos for supplies. The first time for me, as it was evacuated 6 years ago when I was here (turns out, my counterpart was the guy who called for the evacuation). Thursday morning I got on a bus back to Latacunga, only to leave Friday morning to back to Cayambe for the end of training.
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    Santo Domingo and the Tsa-Tchili people- Aug 17-19

    Peace Corps, with a little coaxing, finally let me go on one of the trips to see another part of Ecuador. We went to first to Santo Domingo, a large, dirty and dangerous “coastal” town, about 4 hours from the ocean- considered coastal because it is down hill from the Andes. There, we stayed in a convent, and lived it up- it feels good to drink in the house of the lord, while giving charlas on “como planear mi vida.” The next morning we got up to go visit a site with the Tsa-Tchili people of the coastal jungle. There are only 7 tribes of these people left, but they are amazing. They live in communal villages where the traditional wrap-like skirts and the men paint their hair red. This is done because they believe that this is what saved them from dying of disease, as their relatives did, when the Spaniards came and conquered. We went on a little jungle hike and they showed us the plants, edible and medicinal, that grow in their forest, and we got to wade in a sweet river, and cross it on a super sketchy bridge.
    That night we went to Puerto Quito, now in the transitional zone between the mountains and coast, and stayed in a nice little hotel with a pool. We raced all evening, to one end, chug a beer, and back. The trainer, Perla, won every time- she rocks. This dude Ben cut the shit out of his leg trying to jump over plastic chairs into the water, and by trying to jump over them, I mean running right through them. Good times all in all- a nice break from everything else.