Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Time for another blog but I don't have a whole lot to say.  Peace Corps denied my request to stay in the Sierra region, where the temperature is tolerable, so needless to say, I am in Guayaquil where the temperature is not tolerable...or just tolerable...horrible....torible....maybe that is a new word for "tolerably hot."  I am living in a very nice apt. which is attached to the house of a very nice family.  Actually, it was their home but they are carving it up into apts and turning it in to a rental property with about 8 it was a big house.  I have an air conditioner in my apt so it can be pretty pleasant in there. 

I have been to my school 4 days and today starting working with a few teachers.  It is going to be a lot of  fun when I am actually teaching and not thinking about the sweat that is rolling down my back, my legs, my face and god knows where else.  Today I introduced myself and said all the usual things about my kids, grandkids, pets, etc and then I said , " Ecuador is very popular in my country, the friends are very jealous that I got to come here."  And you would just die if you could see the smiles that came across the students' little faces.  That made them so proud.  I felt that was the least I could do for the sweet things...sitting their sweating their guts out for 7 hours a day.  At least I get a break once in a while and can sit for a few minutes in one of the air conditioned work rooms....where, honestly, not much work gets done.

Anyhow, some of the things here are ok, the family that owns my apt. is just wonderful.  Their adult daughter, Adela, lives here too in the main house.  Apparently, she is divorced and is a school psychologist.  Very nice....34 I think.  She speaks a lot of English but when she gets going with a story or is mad, its all Spanish and very fast.  So, at least that is good exposure for me.

Most of the volunteers are very young and I really don't do anything with them since so much of it involves drinking late at night and into the early hours of the morning.  I'm an early to bed, early to rise kinda person...always was.

But, I have met one volunteer in the health section, a nurse, Becky, who is 46 and  also doesn't quite fit in with the younger vols .  She was also evacuated after the terremoto so I met her in Quito when we were all living in the hostel.  Knowing she was in Guayaquil,  I called her after I got down here.  She and I went to a park/street fair/zoo/benefit concert last sunday in a place called Parque Historico and it turned out to be real nice.  She was funny, after we had been there a while, she said, " don't get used to this and think this is normal for Guayaquil...this is the nicest park I have been to in the whole city. "  That does not bode well......

Anyway, we did have a nice walk around, some nice bus rides getting there and afterwards she showed me a little around the downtown where she lives.  She moved out of her host home after 6 months and lives in a sort of high rise in a very dreary apt. but she loves it.  She has a bike and rides around downtown on Sundays.  There is a boardwalk, they call it a 'malecon" near her house which runs along the largest river that runs thru Guayaquil so she likes being near it for walking, etc.

I'll post some pictures below of the park/zoo place we went.

Sooooooo, thats about it.   Pretty dull so far.  Hot and that sounds great, right ?  The best thing and the main reason I am not just packing my bags and leaving, is that parts of my family,  not sure who will really show up, are planning to come down and go to the Galapagos Islands as a group.  That is enough to keep me tolerating this torible weather until they come.  Of all the things in the world to see, long before I knew about Peace Corps in Ecuador, I wanted to see the Galapagos..did not even know they belonged to Ecuador.  So, fate..I guess.  So, here are some photos from  last Sunday at the park/zoo/street fair/ earthquake benefit.

The first animals we ran into in Parque Historico were these two toed sloths ( there is another "variety" with three toes....the things you learn at a zoo/park/farmers market.  Anyhow, just as we entered,  one of them was  oozing out of that tubular thing which is guess is their home.  He/she was sloooooowwwwwly making her way out to the rope.

She got to the rope, and into a comfortable position and fell sound asleep.  It was very cute.  Don't know if you can see her eyes, but she really looks asleep. 

Braile was provided at all the written signs..very progressive I thought.

All the walkways through the park are like this...very nice, clean etc. Pretty good for a developing country.

I know, I hate caged birds too.  But, boy are they beautiful.  Lot of good it does them in the zoo.

This shows the street fair aspect.  They had invited small businesses from the province that got hit the worst by the earthquake, Manabi, to sell some of their wares.  I bought some coffee, my friend bought some beer.  Those old fashioned buildings behind the umbrellas are just that.  They were located in downtown Guayaquil, built by some rich,  old Spaniards in the 1800s so when it came time for the city fathers to build high rises, they actully dismantled these old houses and moved them out to the city outskirts and put them in the Parque Historico.  Also, pretty progressive.  Quito has a famous Historic District where the buildings are made of cement and plaster, etc. so are being restored in place.   These houses in Guayaquil were made of wood, in the costal tradition, and were somewhat easier to move, I am sure.  I just think its really great that they preserved these...I am sure it was not cheap.  I guess this country had  a lot of money to spend on such things when the price of oil was high but now that it has gotten so low, the country is suffering. 

There were a lot of iguanas all over the park...ALL over the park.  This one had a loose neck skin  problem not unlike mine. 

Same iguaa

After we left the Historic Parque, we rode the bus back downtown.  On the way to her apt. we went through an/the Iguana Park where there are untold numbers of iguanas.  The city feeds them and apparently they don't leave the park as it is surrounded by city streets and I did n't see any squashed iguanas.

There are four iguanas in this picture..can you find them ??  They were everywhere. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A couple companeros and I went to the Oswaldo Guayasamin home and museum on Friday. He is far and away Ecuador's most famous artist.

 His home is in a beautiful area, Bellavista which overlooks a lot of Quito including the volcano Pichincha which appears in several of his paintings.  He and his brother, an architect, designed the home and he lived there for 20 years before his death in 1999.  Guayasamin's work is displayed all across the front of the General Assembly building below.  They would not allow us to take any photos inside the museum yesterday but many of his originals are hung there and they were beautiful.   We had a tour of his home, exterior photos below, and it is terrific.   The tour guide says it is in the same condition as it was when he lived here which is amazing because there are a lot of museum type artifacts all over the place.   We saw his studio and some of his unfinished works.  Almost all of his painting are huge.

  The guide pointed out a wall of photographs of him in his studio showing him with a bunch of world leaders and other artists and authors...none, not one, of him with anyone from the US.   Among his paintings that are displayed in the General Assembly building, there is only one representing the US and that is the one "CIA with a Darth Vader looking mask."  He was no fan of the US and that sentiment seems to continue today with the government of Ecuador.  On the other hand, there is a huge painting of Fidel in his studio.  He was married three times and has 7 children.  One of his sons who appeared to be in his 70s was giving an interview in the main salon when we arrived.  We waited for a few minutes and when the interview moved to another room , our tour began.  

As a side note,  the brother of my host family in Nayon is a Priest and performed Guayasamin's funeral. 

It is interesting that at the end of his life, he went to an eye clinic in Baltimore to have some eye surgery related to his diabetes.  Apparently the surgery was successful, but while he was in Baltimore, he died of a heart attack.  He was 80.

The view of Quito from one point on the museum grounds. 

This is his home which is now the is really stunning...I wanted to  take some pictures of the architectural aspects but not allowed.

This is the wine is a photo through the wooden posts in front...there was no actual wine being stored...just some on  display but we could not go in.

THis the front of the home, looking out to the pool and across the lawn to the view of Quito...I am sure it is really spectacular at night.  There are just beautiful examples of pre-Columbian and Colonial art all over the place.

THis is inside the General assembly building where the Guayasamin art is displayed all across the front of the chamber.  His mother was mestizo but his dad was indigenous, a taxi driver in Quito.   Guayasamin focused most of his art on the plight of the lower classes and the indigenous and their struggles.  The only reference to the US is the CIA painting up there in the corner. 

Another view of the art and the seats of the assembly persons in the chamber. 

 Other than this, I am still in the hostel in Quito waiting for an assignment.  Other evacuees are here too so its not just me.  Its 3 weeks today when my mosquito net started swinging wildly.  I have been working with another volunteer with her class in a school in North Quito.  It has been good to have something positive to do but I would like to get started on my actual assignment. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Now, I"ll try to get these photos posted.

This shows two things.   Hundreds of mattresses were delivered to the NGO, PLAN, in Quito and this is a line of college students who were transferring the mattresses from the warehouse to the waiting trucks which would then deliver them to the earthquake region.   The piles of white bags were filled with non perishable food which would also be delivered to the coast.

Above are several pictures I took of another food collection effort that was being held in the old airport terminal building.  This one seemed to be run by the city or national government since a lot of the workers were municipal employees and the trucks we were filling were dump trucks with the Quito city symbol on the doors.  Lots of citizens volunteers were working but there were lots of police and other govt. employees leading the effort. 

These two photos are sort of out of order.  I took them at a market not too far from the Peace Corps office.  I am just amazed at how beautiful the fruits and vegetables are.  

This is a whole aisle at the market for potatoes..   They grow a lot of potatoes north of Quito in the Ambatu province.   We are in the mountains, after all.

These show some of the murals they paint on their walls along the streets.  Really pretty stuff and it cuts down on the graffitti.

These are two shots of the Plaza del Toros.  Can you imagine...up until three years ago, bull fighting was legal here.  President Correa outlawed, thank god.  Now they use the venue for concerts.

This is a funny story.  I have seen this structure several times when I was downtown in the commercial center.  The Hilton is a block away, the Sheraton nearby.  I thought how wonderful that they preserved this ancient Incan structure right in the middle of this commercial center  Well, I learned last week that the building is called "The Caracol" which means the snail in Spanish and the building is a circular retail space with a spiral ramp up through it with little storefronts all along the ramp...nothing Incan ( or honorable) about it. 
Not Incan

Pretty dog patrolling the shopping center.  The top of his right ear is off...don't know the story. 

This is a water filter that is made by the Nikken of those pyramid companies that sells magnet mattresses etc. , lots of things based on magnet power.      But, they tell me these magnet filters work.  Interesting. 

 This is a link to an article I found on Huff Post.  There is also a good collection of photos at the end of the article.

We are all still in the Hostel in Quito and each of us is doing different things to stay busy.  Some have gone home for a few days but most of us are putting in  few hours a day at non-profits that are putting together packages of food and clothes to send to the coast.

A few of us have been told where they will be assigned.  No one knows when they are leaving for their new sites and most of us still don't know where we are going.

I have some photos below that will show a few of the places I have volunteered.  I went to a preschool yesterday morning just for fun.  It was hard work.

Since I started this blog entry, I have started working with another volunteer in her school located in the north part of Quito.  She teaches English to 10th graders...the classes are large and its the afternoon schedule..from 1 pm to 6 pm, so everyone is tired, but she does a good job and I am very happy to be able to spend this time productively.

I have posted a few more pictures of the relief effort but there is really no way to see it short of being there.  I do try to read a newspaper most days and recently I have learned about a lab that died of dehydration/heart failure after locating 7 people who were rescued alive.  Its hard for me to believe that she was being well cared for by her handlers if she got so dehydrated.  But, I guess I should not second guess people who are working under those circumstances.

The other good news is that a man was rescued two full weeks after the quake.  About 200 people have been rescued , over  600 have died and about 20,000 are homeless, living in camps and shelters.  Its also their rainy season on the coast so that makes a bad situation even worse.  Ecuador was struggling economically before this happened due to the low price of oil which Ecuador had based a lot of its spending on.  It was now relying on tourism to help the economy and now this quake has horribly affected that industry...the coast that has been so devastated was the center of the beach tourism industry.  The Galapagos were not affected and the jungle was not harmed.

 The quake was 7.8 and lasted almost a minute ( usually they last 10 seconds) and had its epicenter on the coast, about 200 miles from Quito.  Quito is high in the Andes, about 5000 meters high and far from the coast but the tremor was felt strongly here.  Today the other volunteer with whom I am working right now, told me that one of their computer labs in the school is not operational because it is on the third floor of the building and one of the walls was cracked during the quake and some cables that were running through it was cut.  Just something I would never thought of.

Because of some technology issues which I don't understand and cannot surmount, I am going to put all the photos on a separte blog post which will follow immediately.

Friday, April 22, 2016

THis is just a random sign on the door of a taxi here in Quito.    Notice how they depict the pregnant woman.....with a little baby in her abdomen....cute.

We are all safe in Quito in a hostel near the office.  Daily meetings and lots of  busy work, preparing goods to be delivered to the folks on the coast.  There is a group of three previous Ecuador PC vols. who are driving back and forth to our communities with things we put together for them here.  We current vols. are not permitted to do that, but the previous ones are free to do whatever they want.  They are escorted by police or military forces and are bringing people( damnificados - Spanish for victims)  back this way if they have family to stay with in the Quito area.

  I also worked at the Lions Club one evening helping them assemble materials to take to the coast. Their organization was very efficient and it was great to see a bunch of people who could have passed for Lions Club members from any city.

You can go to the " Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Ecuador Earthquake Relief"  facebook page to see how to make  Paypal contributions to the Returned Peace Corps volunteer group. They are posting video updates and photos.   They are in touch with people in the communities who they actually know from when they were active volunteers and are taking things that the people actually need.  They are assessing which communities are not getting support from other donors and focusing on them.  So, I think your monetary contributions will be well spent..nothing skimmed off for administration..only to pay for the gas for their vehicles and probably a little food for the workers...but, I guarantee there is not much out there to buy, even if you have the money.

Here are a few photos of my experience.  They are not too graphic.   I was evacuated before they started looking for people under the rubble, thank god !!!  These are just some buildings we saw as we drove into Portoviejo to pick up some people.

There have been aftershocks in the past few days and more buildings are collapsing, daily.  There is an article in the paper today that there was a 6.3 temblor last evening here in Quito.  I did not feel it.  I was sitting on my bed, blogging, I guess.
This is Claudia and Barbie.  Claudia is 11, daughter of the folks who took us in for two days after the quake.  She is a very sweet girl, a dancer, singer, plays guitar and violin....or at least has an interest in learning.

This was a little activity that kept us busy for about an hour.  We were shelling beans, habichuelas....string beans...but they let them mature and then shell them...they look like lima beans and were delicious.  The little dark skinned girls is the daughter of a young woman from Cuba who you'll see in a later photo.  The little boy is Andres, little brother of Claudia and very sweet too.....but, very active.

This is Claudia and her mother, Maria Fernandez.   MF is a medico..not sure if she is a doctor or a paramedic or some other type of medical person but she was not called in as an emergency medic..but very generous with her home.

This is the grandmother of Claudia who seems to live there and do all the cooking.  We had no lights, so I whipped out my headlamp and she loved it.  All the light in the photo comes from the flash on the was really pitch dark except right in front of her face.  I wanted to give it to her but I am still not sure where I'll be next and I might need it.   Andres wore it around after dinner for a couple hours.

This is a morning scene...the two women sitting on the couch are visiting in Ecuador from Cuba...they are visiting professors of music.  They had come to Maria Fernandez's home for dinner on Saturday and the quake hit around 6:45 so they were stuck there.  They were very happy to be there as their apts. were in center of Portoviejo and are likely damaged or destroyed and of course, along with the apts., all their personal things.     Maria Fernandez, the mom is on the mattress and  has her arm over her kids.

A sleeping scene. Thre were three women on the back mattress.  I spent two nights in a chair, but it was a lounge chair and actually pretty comfortable.  During the first night, we ran outside twice when we were awakened by replicas, aftershocks.  They brought the TV down on Tuesday when we got electricity.

Claudia and Andres....waking up. One of the Cuban women in the background doing her daughter's hair for the day. 

This is the corner across from my host family's house in Portoviejo.  This was the result of an did not fall during the original quake.  It was likely damaged and then the aftershock finished it off. While I was packing my stuff, a truck went by and touched the wires ( which I had been told were not dangerous since there was no electricity) and set off a bunch of sparks and noise.  People from the nearby houses were sitting in the streets, saw the truck and the sparks, and ran after the truck shouting and throwing rocks.  Thanks god, the truck kept going and did not stop to argue...I fear something

horrible might have ensued. 
This is my host mother outside her door with the electric cables draped across the house.  Sad sight.  She did get electricity and water back a couple days later but I feel sure she is still staying out with her niece, Maria Fernandez.  I was on the second floor of the house when the original earthquake hit and somehow made it down the stairs and outside through that door.  We then sat on plastic chairs in the doorway for a couple hours in the dark.  I did have my headlamp for some light which was helpful.  

I took this in front of the hotel we stayed in the first night after we were evacuated from Portoviejo.  The dog team is from Spain.  It was there on Monday, the quake happened Saturday night.  Fast
A "bombero" from Peru...firefighter/rescue
Just a view in front of our hotel.  Lots of press stayed here along with a lot of the rescue teams and the vice president of the country.  Its a 5 star hotel...very nice.  We had some damage but they assured us the place was telling what would have happened  if another "replica" had hit. 
These are two nurses who were with the dog team from Spain. We had a nice chat...
Another view of the staging of the rescue teams on Tuesday morning.
Another staging photo
Loading the dogs and gear to go to the sites.
Just a shot of one of the Spanish team's crates.
Self explanatory........

Two other evacuated volunteers and I helped the Lions make little bags of toiletries to take to the coast...they were getting one roll of toilet paper, a toothbrush, a cup, a bar of soap and toothpaste.  Think how good it would feel to brush your teeth .......