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Monday, May 3, 2010

Volunteer Ecuador and WWOOFing

One thing I love about google chrome [which is one of the best applications]... when you search a lot of sites that are in another language, it asks you if you want to change the language - how perfect! I highly suggest everyone with a mac get google chrome! you won't be disappointed!

So when I was looking for something else to write about, I started to look into newspapers from Ecuador, especially ones in English. Instead of giving me a newspaper, I came across this website: Volunteering Ecuador. I think that this is interesting and it is a very good idea for people looking to look for other volunteer opportunities abroad. I think that it is a great website to just look through and see what kind of other opportunties are available - especially when i'm graduating and have NO idea what I wanted to do. Also, since i'm looking for jobs simply in New York, it makes me laugh at the currency different, even though they do use the dollar, it is $350 per week for a teaching job that I was looking at, which would be nothing in the US, yet some of the people living in Duran live only $1 per day!

It also reflect something that I have been thinking about doing for a long time which is WWOOF-ing (world wide opportunities on organic farms), traveling through a country/state or other place to work on farms or do work for people. My best friend did a program in New Zealand just last semester where she got the chance to buy a car with her sister and drive around to places from a website, and work for people in return for food and sleep. I think it is a great opportunity, especially when you thrive to travel!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Happy Spring Weekend!

This weekend marks my third and final Spring Weekend at Fordham - so surreal... just pretending it isn't the last. I am honestly just so excited that I got here and am actually going to graduate on time. What is great is that everyone will be out - especially my EcuaLoves, and I hope to be able to run into them all. Although I am stuck inside at my internship on the Friday of spring weekend, hopping the next Ram Van back to campus is what is helping me out... I may even take a cab back to Lincoln Center because I am THAT lazy.

This is about the time of the year when I start to evaluate my year at Fordham, yet this year it is different because I am looking back at my whole college career. I think that my trip to Ecuador was definitely one of the biggest highlights of my college career, and to think about all that I have gone through, it happened right at the same time. Although I only spent a week in Duran, I have found it extremely helpful to read through the blogs of the current Rostro de Cristo volunteers, like Jamie, Dan, and Tom's blogs. Here are the links... definitely check them out! If you think that I am confused about how I feel and how to relate it back to my life (and even how to understand it in general)!

Jamie's A Nurse Goes to Ecuador
Tom's Tomas in Ecuador
Dan's Babylon Burn Down

They are definitely very enlightening, and are all very deep and impressive writers. Though they don't update a lot, it definitely helps me to read them and better understand what I went through... and what they are going through for the whole year.

Some exciting news:  One of the chaperone's from my trip, Danielle, had originally planned on applying for the 3rd round of JVC, but when she found out that she most likely wouldn't get placed, she did not know what to do. At the same time, she noticed that Elyse from RdC was on gChat and decided to just ask her a few questions. After their quick chat Elyse asked Danielle if she could meet with her that Sunday when she would be in NYC, and sent her all the paper work to be a volunteer for RdC. With 2 days to spare, Danielle found out that they had not placed the last spot in the houses yet and told Danielle to apply. Although people were on the wait list, Danielle was in the top 3 for this last spot - Talk about FATE! I am on my toes waiting for her to let me know back about what happened, since she should know soon!
I'll keep you all informed!

Ciao.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Technology down-grade

I feel as though I went on this trip not expecting much, but now that I am back and still not feeling any big change, I have to take a look at the smaller things.



Last Saturday I made the trip into Manhattan and headed to the verizon store with old phone in hand. I made the switch back! Bigggggg thangs! I downgraded from my Blackberry, back to my LG EnV2. Believe me, this was a big step and still is. Weird thing though, everyone told me that I would feel detached, but true fact is that I feel more attached. I am no longer constantly checking my e-mails, I am not waiting for a facebook notification, and I can still just normally text people without using BBM. It is so much easier to be attached to real life without a blackberry constantly in my pocket. Although I do miss getting e-mails right away or being able to check the weather, or find the location of the nearest Jamba Juice... it had made things simple and I am starting to get really used to it.

Coming back, I have honestly realized how much technology detaches us from one another. We no longer are able to have normal conversations at lunch, or at the dinner table, and someone ALWAYS has their cell phone out. I have been able to slowly detach myself from the cell phone in general, as well as save my mother $30 a month! Very thoughtful of me!

Friday, April 23, 2010

GO! Gala!

I was going to just put this all in my last post, but it got too long... plus it deserves its own post anyways!

This past Saturday was the GO! Gala where all people over 21 (mostly Seniors and alum) can attend a lovely evening where the scholarship receipents get there scholarship awards, there is dinner, lots of drinking... and lots of dancing ensues. If you are an underclassman... do a GO trip just for the GO! gala. $50 was a bit steep for the event but it was so totally worth it in the end, plus I ended up knowing a lot of people there.

I was a bit nervous going because none of the other Seniors from Ecuador were going to it... considering the price, but I wanted to be there to get my awards so I sucked it up. One of my chaperones, Danielle, ended up being there, as well as my leader from my Mexico trip and a bunch of other people! I was so happy to know someone.

At the beginning of the night I was asked to sit with the Aquilone family and Michael, the gentleman I had the interview with, and I was so glad I did, as I thought we would have NOTHING to talk about. They were absolutely the sweetest people ever. I'm sure they definitely raised a great son, and I am sad they lost him at such a young age. Mrs. Aquilone had gone to Fordham to get her masters in Social Work, and she had so many stories to tell. I was able to learn about the volunteer work she now does, as she is retired, and what the social work scene is like. We talked about adoption for a while and how much the system has changed since she started, and I was just so enlightened. One other girl also received the award with myself, and so it was great to meet someone at Fordham that I had not before.

Once the awards and dinner came to and end, the Aquilone's went home, and the dancing began. With drinks in hand (no worries... we are all 21), we all hit the dance floor... and as per the rumor, Paul Francis got his groove on. Multiple Fordham administrators joined us on the dance floor and we all broke it down, plus one of my other co-workers from ram van got one of our bosses out to dance with us!

Definitely better than I expected it to be, and I am glad it was! :)
Ciao

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

SURPRISE!!!

(well... not this much).

So almost a week and a half ago I had an interview for the Peter Aquilone scholarship. It is given out every year to 2 people who attend a GO! trip in Winter or over Spring Break, that exemplify the qualities that Peter exemplified before his unfortunate death in 2003.

I made the hike in between classes to W. 172nd and... some random street that I had never heard of. Some how I made it there via the bus, which I have never taken a long distance before, and found the office of Michael, one of Peter's friends from Fordham undergrad. I didn't really know how to act and considering the crappy weather, wasn't really in a good mood, but managed to be myself and be happy, and act like I really did want to be there (well I did... but ya know).

Anyways, I thought the interview went really well and he told me that the recipients would know by Thursday (it was Monday). Thursday came and went, and I never heard from him. I went home for Easter break and just assumed that I did not get the scholarship. My mom wrote me a check for the remainder of the payment due and I handed it in on Wednesday. On Thursday I talked to one of my professors about the interview and what I could have done wrong... I thought I really had messed up!
Friday afternoon, after returning from my internship and having just spent my last $30 on groceries, I got a phone call from Michael, who apologized for not having contacted me. He told me that he wanted to offer me the scholarship and asked that I attend the GO! gala the next weekend. I was SO excited and honestly did not believe him... I kept saying: "you are kidding, right?!" Funny thing is, right as he was saying it, my phone cut out and I asked him to repeat what he had said. He thought I just wanted to hear him say it again!

Anyways, I am so happy to be getting some money back from all that I have put towards this trip and even happier that I got chosen for the scholarship!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Small things I have learned from Ecuador

Just a couple of things that I was thinking about after returning that I think have now become points that I reflected on, and have taken into consideration:
  • Lime juice is a simple and easy substitute for salad dressing
  • Plantains are a great source of carbs and are extremely easy to make, taste really good, and can be made in different ways!
  • Cold, military style showers really aren't that bad.
  • Humidity and heat simply mean that you can shower more, but you still never feel clean.
  • Sun tan lotion works as a good moisturizing substitute (not like you have to moisturize in 95 degree weather).
  • It is really hard to brush your teeth without water... when you can't drink the tap water.
  • You can live without technology, cell phones, laptops... better yet without knowing the time.
  • When climbing 500 steps, don't wear flip flops.
  • Don't under estimate 95 degree, humid weather... you will sweat... and you will want clean clothes.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Boarding: Back to the States

Waking up in a panic, Christine realized right before bed that the itinerary was wrong and that our plane left an hour earlier that we had thought. She woke us up an hour earlier that we thought (not like we knew what time it was anyways), we pounded on the volunteer house door and woke them up to take us to the airport. They were not really happy campers!

We made our plane with plenty of time, and the culture shock already hit, even while sitting in the Guayaquil airport. Televisions, cell phones, RUNNING WATER... it was all too much. Thankfully we had no problems or delays, and things ended up working out really well coming home (which was kind of sad!). We all slept a lot and journaled, and attempted to ready ourselves for our return to the United States.

Flying back to New York

Upon boarding our flight from Miami to LaGuardia, we got a real reality shock when a group of about 25 Fordham students, tanned and hyper, were on our same flight... they were coming back from Punta Cana (lucky them?). And when we landed at LaGuardia, we were right back into things, almost like we never left. One of the ram van drivers, a friend of mine, picked us up at the airport, and it was almost like we had never been away. It was a crazy feeling since we had just gone through some of the most amazing experiences any of us had ever had. It was hard to not forget, but at the same time, being back in the States slightly forced us to get right back into normal life.

When I got back into my room... all alone... by myself, I sat in front of my turned off computer and cried! I was so overwhelmed, and called my mother to let her know I was back. I hopped in the shower and couldn't help but start crying again - I wanted to turn off the water while I showered! I was wasting water!... but I really wasn't, in US standards. "I pay for this water", I thought, "it's okay, Sarah... just take a REAL shower." The smallest things, since i have been back, still seem to amaze me, like running water and the small things we have that they don't. But as I have been told, in a story by one of my chaperone's, "you can't send the water to them!"

Friday, April 16, 2010

The final supper

When we got back to the house... we expected to have to head right in and start cooking with Ricardo (our other Ecuadorian helper, who loves soccer!),  but the door to our house was wide open! And inside we found Jamie, one of the RdC helpers, and Aide's mother and sister making us dinner. What a great surprise! I was so happy to see them (and kind of relieved that I didn't have to make dinner).

We ended up having this huge surprise dinner with all of the volunteers, from both houses, as well as Ricardo and Aide's family. We had rice, lentils, fish, plantanos, and lots of food. Half way through the dinner we lost electricity... and not only that, but the STUPID plastic chairs that we were using, didn't really like me and as I went to sit down (while the electricity was out), the leg gave out and I fell to the ground. Of course I just laughed it off!

After a couple of games of Mafia with the volunteers and our group... a game which I never want to play again, we said goodbye to them and had our last reflection, which ended up going until about 3am with an affirmation circle that must have lasted about 3 hours long. A little packing before bed, and we spent our last night's sleep in Ecuador.

Our group with Theresa at the top of Santa Ana Hill

Thursday, April 15, 2010

El fin de la semana!

While going into the last day in Ecuador, it was scary and unreal! We had NO idea what we were doing that day but had a small idea that in the morning we would get to have some of our neighbors come back and sell their crafts, etc. Gabriel, the leather man, and Idea's mother and sisters came to sell their crafts like belts and journals, as well as bracelets and purses. Wellington and his family came with all their crafts like earrings and bracelets for us to buy. I got 2 pairs of earrings, a couple thread bracelets for friends, a leather bracelet with my roommate's name stamped onto it, and an Ecuadorian cookbook for my mom!

After cleaning the house... mopping all the floors... and packing a bit, we found out we were heading into Guayaquil for the day! We headed into the center of the city, went to the Iguana Park, the cathedral of Guayaquil, and the Malecon (a 2 mile boardwalk along the Guayas river).

Dennis "petting" an Iguana at the Park

Looking down the Malecon from a tower

At the end of the Malecon, one of the volunteers, Tom, told us to look up at the lighthouse at the top of this huge hill... and told us we would be walking to that! (if you look at the previous picture, you can see it way in the distance on the top of the hill).

At the bottom of Santa Ana Hill

It would be 500 steps to the top of Santa Ana Hill and when we finally made it to the top of the lighthouse we got to look over all of Guayaquil and Duran, and could even see the Andes mountains in the distance. It was an amazing sight and absolutely rewarding after climbing all of those stairs... in the heat and humidity. Needless to say, we were gross! 

When we got back to the bottom of the hill, we got yet another surprise....

Annie, Shannon, Nicki, Christine (and Danielle) eating ice cream! Yummm!

ICE CREAM (Penguino)!... which, random fact, has the same logo as Good Humor ice cream product here in the States.

Monday, April 12, 2010

All for youuuu!

Hola chiquitos!

As I finish working on my last couple days of updates about my time in Ecuador, I have come to the point that I have some other ideas about what to add to this blog, but I DON'T want it to end!

Here is where you come in: I would love some ideas!

I figure that it is easy enough to keep talking about Ecuador but what do you want to hear? I really would like to turn my focus with this blog to things that people enjoy and are enlightened by. It is good to tell people my beliefs and what I experienced, but then what!

Comment here with some ideas for me and stayed tuned for a BIG update! 

Ciao

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day #5 - WARNING: Long journaling day!

On Thursday, I really had time to reflect on what had happened and WANTED to (finally!). Four pages of my journal later - here I am! I'm going to share a portion of this with you, since it is a little more personal.

"This week is quickly coming to an end but I think today was my favorite day so far. This morning we went to a couple neighbor's houses in AJS - Wellington and Gabrielle. Wellington* is one of the guards at the other house. They are just so genuinely kind, which is something I have almost been brought to tears by all week. Their willingness to say their door is always open when they are just meeting us is something so uncommon to me...Him and his wife asked a lot of good questions and hard ones too, including how he was interested in the prevalence of suicide in the US. It sparked a lot of tension in the group and debate during discussion tonight...
Next we went to Gabrielle and Theresa's home - an 80 and 68 year old couple simply doign what they do to stay afloat. Gabrielle went around and wanted to know our names and then told most of us we have strong (or sort of strong, in my case) characters. They gave us coke and cookies, and Gabrielle showed us his leather collection, and let us stamp letters and symbols onto some. The spirit that he had was amazing and so inspiring. And even though we did not get much time with them, I was so impressed by their welcoming attitude, kind spirit, and overall generousity... After that we hopped in the van and went to our mystery location...Nuevo Mundo! It was the most gorgeous school ever! We got ot talk to Pat, one of the people who started the school... the school has around 1200 student in the morning and 400 in the afternoon, who are mostly kids from Duran that get bussed in and go for free... It was one of the most amazing schools I have ever seen with one of the most enlightening woman I have ever had the privelege to speak with.
In the afternoon we got to go back to Semillas, do a scavenger hunt, and then played soccer on some teams with kids, and then again after the program with the older helpers - ayudantes. It was so fun and sweaty, and just a good ol' time! Going back to Semillas was the best since it was the group of kids that we felt we got closest with. We really got to work closesly with kids of all ages in the hunt groups and had some authority, which was different. It was also the day that they chose which kids got to go on the field trip (to see Alice in Wonderland at the Cinemaplex), and could only bring 12. It was so sad to see some kids heart broken, as they had behaved all week. The field trips they do are things that these kids could never afford to do, so it is a real treat for them!"

* Wellington had Hansen's disease and spent a little time at Damien House. The house him and his family currently live in was provided to him by Sister Annie (owner of Damien house) and he very humble to have that provided to him.

I really enjoyed Semillas, since I loveeee working with children. To have all these little kids hanging all over me was such a joy, minus the obnoxious ones! But it was so fun and enjoyable, and a great way to wrap up the week.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Happy St. Patty's Day (from Ecuador!)

So unfortunately I completely forgot that it was St. Patty's day... and wore my only green shirt the day before. So silly of me! Anyways from my journal I find this...:

"Happy St Patty's Day! This morning Christine, Shannon and I went on the bread run with Theresa. The bread is so good here! After breakfast we went to Joceline and Juan's casa. They were two of the kids from Semillas who also go to Nuevo Mundo (a private school in Guayaquil). We talked about Harry Potter en espanol and their mother asked about our customs and daily life in the States (that is really weird to say!) It really made me realize how much they do want to learn about us, just like we are here to learn about them except most of them will never have the chance to visit the US which is very unfortunate. We also went to the Nuevo Mundo day care in Duran and go to do puzzles with 4 & 5 year olds, which is so fun, of course!
In the afternoon we went to the third after school program in an invasion community - a community where people simply just move in and sometimes the owners of the land will bulldoze the land and make them leave, and probably will just come back. This program was at the Alan Lynch private co-ed school and was called Manos Abiertas (Open Hands). These kids were the WORST and didn't listen, plus it was hot as *****, per usual. It was really hard to connect with any of the kids there and all of us just seemed completely drained. I just cannot stop comparing each program to the otehr and reflecting on how the kids act as proving a point about the community or barrio around them."

Wow, holy long journaling day! Unbelievable that here we are about half way through the week. The idea of an invasion community really just blew my mind, that that is how communities start in Ecuador is through a group of people just moving to empty land - EMPTY LAND... now that is a concept we don't understand. The new neighbor, by the way, is called Veintiocho de Agosto.

PS: LOVE that I used some vulgar language to describe the heat. Clearly I was over it!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Adventures of Tuesday, March 16

"We went back to Damien house and got to buy crafts from the patients like earrings, bracelets, and peace birds (little fabric sewn stuffed birds with bells on the end). It was so nice to be able to sit down and actually talk individually with both the men and women, minus the language barrier, but just listen to them and be there for them just to share time. It was very nice and all are such happy people that it made it so much easier to feel comfortable. I wish we could spend more time with them but there are just so many places to visit.
In the afternoon we went to an after school program in the other neighborhood (Antonio Jose de Sucre - AJS), called Valdivia with Tom (one of the volunteers from the Arbolito house) and two of the AJS RdC volunteers. It was definitely very different from Semillas but still good. I got to do multiplication tables with los ninos and they were so fast, well I would be too (in English)! We got to do a chista for the kids, which is a sketch about the theme of the week - sportsmanship. It was fun and the kids like it! Also today was our day to COOK! and we made a BOMB dinner of tortillas de papas con queso (potato tortillas with queso) Sooo yummy!"

At Damien house I spent a good amount of time talking with one of the patients who I could not understand at all. I really didn't care about the language barrier, or even the fact that he had a speech problem and no one could understand him,  but he just got to speak and tell stories, and when I did pick up on things, I loved it! Little things like that make me happy and I was just humbled to be there. What else was I going to do with my time!

Making dinner on Tuesday was so much fun, and surprisingly easy, and everyone was very jealous! Tortillas in Ecuador aren't the same as we think in the US! They were just balls of cooked and mashed potatos that we made a whole in before cooking, and put some queso in. We made a "salad" minus the lettuce with lime juice on it for dressing - soooo good! who knew it would be just that easy!

I was surprised during the week of how much onion we ate, mostly for flavor, but it definitely made me like onions more!

Ciao!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The travels of Monday, day #3!

I figure now, that I journaled during the entire week, so why not use some of that to recap! Duh!

"Today we visited Damien house in the morning, a house for patients living with Hansen's disease (also known as Leprosy)I was slightly petrified that it would be scary or that I would be disgusted by the people due to deformities and also didn't know a lot about the disease but that was not at all the case. It was amazing and one of the most gratifying experiences. All the men and women were so humble and happy, and grateful for our presense in their community. They shared so many stories and experiences, and just very much enjoyed that time. Tomorrow we get to return and hopefully spend more time with them. In the afternoon we went to an after school program called Semillas de Mostaza, nearby and I got to work with the younger kids. The girl I worked with was named Belem, and she was not having it, but it was good to feel like I had some authority, even with the language barrier!"

A little more information about Semillas and my time there... even though the kids aren't currently in school, they come to the after school programs in the neighborhood. Not all of the kids even do go to school. Semillas was in the neighborhood of Arbolito (where we stayed), and was a quick walk from the house. We were bombarded with children as we walked there and soon our group got bigger and bigger, and by the time we got to the park and cancha (the soccer field). It was our first interaction with the kids of the neighborhood, what I have been waiting and excited to do, and where I first got to really use my spanish (and got laughed at!). Nicki and I found a couple of kids who wanted to play futbol on the smaller cancha. It was so fun to just run around with these kids and not understand half of what they said!

Kids in Ecuador are not different than kids in the US when it comes down to it. They want to play and have fun and just be kids, and they love it. And though half of them go to school and the other half don't, there is no stereotyping or differing in the relationship between those kids, and they don't judge. That was just amazing to me!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Recap Ecuador Day #2

It really takes a lot for me to get on here and write this. What it takes is meeting with my team and knowing that i need to share this experience... and so it continues.

Day #2: what a crazy first day. Not because it was crazy, but we were still all realizing the fact that we were finally in Ecuador, doing what we have been preparing to do! When we woke up, we found fresh bread for breakfast... and that was what we had for breakfast every morning, as well as bananas. On that first day we had known we would also have bananas, so on the counter we found a banana looking fruit, so we ate them! Come to find out, they were plantains. PERFECT!

After breakfast, we met Aide, our Ecuadorian translator/tour guide around the neighborhood. We headed over to a couple of our neighbor's houses, including Aide's families house where we met her mom, 2 sisters and little brother, and got to talk about to them about the differences between American and Ecuadorian life. We then went to Oscar and Jenny's house, met their whole family, and were very bluntly thrown very hard questions. Jenny told us about her life and how she grew up knowing she was great and very intelligent, and wanted to be a lawyer, but real life called and she couldn't afford the things she wanted. Now she is a very happy mother and wife, and that is her job. It really differed from the US and how if people tell us we are smart - we can go to college (well most of us), but just the difference in opportunities between the two countries and areas.  It is too unfortunate that this is the case and opened my mind to a lot of things and made me thing.

After lunch, tuna, fresh bread, and a veggie "salad" (same as every day). In the evening we had downtime while some of the group cooked dinner with Aide, and after dinner and more free time, we had our nightly reflection. it was the first real time when we got an idea of what everyone else was thinking. it was great to just reflect on this true lifestyle changed we had gone through over the past day!


PS: I don't know how i even slept while I was there, since not only was I sleeping in a room with 1 girl and 2 boys, but it was hotter and more humid than I have ever experienced in my life! But some how I did!

Ciao

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Recap Ecuador Day #1

After close to 24 hours of traveling, due to a long delay between Miami and Guayaquil, we stepped into the humid and hot air of Ecuador. After going through customs and filling out all of our paperwork to enter the country, we found our volunteers from Rostro de Cristo waiting for us right outside. I found it already hard to comprehend being in a different country when I didn't feel like I was... like I had just flown for over 8 hours and traveled all day, and was still in the country. We went out to the truck, put our bags in the back, and hopped into the van. We were asked to have a silent ride to the house, to use to observe everything that was outside and that we were passing. It really helped my head to slow down and I wasn't worried about what other people were thinking but just was able to reflect on the environment that was passing me by.

Although this was nice a full day in Ecuador, and didn't land in our new country until 2 a.m., it was our first glimpse into how we would be living for the next week. It is funny to look back on now and thinking about what I now known about the community and the neighborhood that we silently drove by on that first night. My perceptions were changed drastically... from being nervous about the week, to passing by the same exact places on the way back to the airport and being so content, but sad to be leaving a place that I had grown to love. I'm sure during that ride I thought lots of about the week to come and now that I have been through it, I can't wait to share my experiences with everyone (especially you all!)


 Where we ate, slept, and lived for the week!
The group with Aide, on one of our first days!
Ciao!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lo siento!

So... it has been a few days and believe me, I'm feeling the pressure to update. I am still trying to understand everything and figure out how to reciprocate my feelings into this form of communication. It is hard to just sit down and talk about it, here or even in real life, and my feelings are continuously changing.

I have decided that the best way to explain what I experienced is to speak about each day separately, or maybe in half since we tended to do two drastically different things each day! A layout for this is the best thing I can do to start to ground myself in understanding of all the events and things that I encountered in Ecuador. I loved my experience, and I want you all to be able to understand that (well...not completely)!

Til' then! Ciao!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hola Estados Unidos!

Back in the US and it is a slight culture shock!
It was one of the best weeks I have ever had in my life, what a different world! I don't even know how to completely process things right now and have to decide what is most important about this trip and how to explain it all to you readers out there. It is a crazy different world in this other country, with very different people (though identical to us at the same time).
It was very refreshing to be surrounded by a community of the most welcoming and happy people i have ever met in my life. And although they aren't completely content and lack some essential necessities, they are so happy and want to learn!
Over the next couple weeks I will slowly recap the most essential and shocking parts of my trip and fill you in on a life after Duran, Ecuador, and my slow (but good) understanding of what I experienced!


Our group at the Hemiciclo de la Rotonda on the Malecon (Guayaquil boardwalk)

Ciao!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fun Fact #8

Outdoor markets sell fresh and flavorful fruit, but the markets are a place where germs fester. We have to make sure to peel our fruits and vegetables. Ones that can't be peeled need to be washed with soap and bottled water!
Thankfully we will have a RdC volunteer to show us how to do all this.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fun Fact #7

The majority of Ecuadorians drink coffee - not the good stuff though, just instant!

Good thing that I don't drink coffee :)


EDIT: In fact, it is not the good stuff! It is a form of coffee that simply desolves into hot water... but it really isn't all that bad (and even good as iced coffee!).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fun Fact #6

If you want to wave someone to come over to you, make a waving motion with your palm down and your fingers pointed towards your body (like the upside down way we would do it in the States).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fun Fact #5

If you want to use your hands to demonstrate a person's height, place your hand ike you are going to shake someone's hand, not like you are going to pet a dog - placing your hand palm down expresses the height or size of an animal.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fun Fact #4

Personal space between Ecuadorians is closer than personal space for Americans - this should be interesting since I don't really enjoy strangers touching me! :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fun Fact #3

In Ecuador, the sewage system is not built to handle toilet paper waste. In order to prevent a catastrophe, we have to drop any paper waste in a trash can - what is funny is that even though it is gross, i'm sure it will stick with me when I return to the states!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fun Fact #2

If you haven't noticed, the past couple posts instead of saying Adios, I have said ciao... the reason for this is:
"In Ecuador people say 'ciao' for goodbye, not 'adios'. Adios literally means 'to God'; in other words, it is a formal way of saying goodbye and the Ecuadorians take it to mean they will never see you again until you both meet God."

I will see you all again!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fun Fact #1

Yawning in public is considered rude, and burping is even WORSE!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Estoy lista viajar a Ecuador... MANANA!

Tomorrow is the day. The first time I will leave the country, the first time in 5 years I will fly, the first time i'll get my passport stamped (the most exciting thing to me).
I really cannot wait... now if only someone would stop hogging the washing machine so I can finish my laundry!
One week away from talking to my mother every day might be the hardest part about the experience. She got very emotional the other day when talking about how she won't be able to see me before I get on the plane, nor will I personally be able to call her to say I landed in Miami and in Guayaquil. I did sarcastically offer the options of her coming down to Laguardia from Boston. haha
In all, it is a surreal feeling and been long awaited. I cannot believe it is finally here, but I am ready and just have to do a little more prep before 8am tomorrow. I'm hoping that during work tonight (COME VISIT ME driving the 9:30pm, 11:30pm & 1:30am runs) I will be able to listen to some more Coffee Break Espanol and get better at my spanish. I did pack my Spanish phrase book though... no worries.

During the break, I have set up posts to automatically post on here with some interesting cultural facts about Duran, and Ecuador in general!

See you all in a week!

Ciao amigos! Have a great Spring break!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ecuador blogs

I finally thought to look at other Ecuador blogs. I found this blog about a couple who has traveled to Ecuador, called the Ecuador Escape.
While skimming through the site, I found this post that I thought might help me, and my team, from a first hand experience of speaking Spanish in Ecuador (but most likely not!)... check it out!

Here’s my Top Ten needed Spanish Language Phrases for a Vacation in Ecuador... continued here 

Ciao!

Congratulations you leave in... 5 days & 18 hours?!

Holy cow! How did we get here?
Last night was our last meeting before we leave (which is Saturday), and had the lovely Emily, from the GO! office, come talk with us and remind us of things, go over stuff we learned early in the process, and get us ready to go.
After finally getting my check from my Give Forward fundraising, I was able to drop that off today (so that GO doesn't cancel my plane ticket... eek!) and now i'm ready to go. I am just STILL freaking out about packing. Thankfully our meeting definitely tied up some loose ends, and I was able to learn that a lot of other people are worrying about the same things, especially packing... well the girls at least. PLUS my mom is sending a pre-trip care package this week. So fun!

i FINALLY remembered to tell my team about this blog... HI TEAM! :) and sent them the link. I am excited to get some reaction back and some interest in other things I should write about, which I already have.

Since this week has been one of the most stressful of my college career, who would have thought it would have been my LAST semester, falling behind on here has happened. Now, with lots of ideas rolling in from these fantastic people I get to spend a WHOLEEEE week with, during this week I'm going to try and focus on culture ideas, so that i can focus on them myself.
I'm off to listen to some coffee break espanol and practice my spanish!

Ciao amigos!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Anxiety week (and a half)

One week from today I will be arriving in Guayaquil, Ecuador. It seems unreal. Waking up this morning, the first thing I could think of was the fact that it is only one week until I am finally in the single place that I have been preparing for for the past many months.

With the show (Into the Woods) ending tomorrow, I think that the stress that has been put on my body the past couple weeks will finally slightly be lifted. My body doesn't tell me that I am stressed in the same way that everyone else's does. Instead, this past week I have had the most horrendous pain in my stomach, which finally went away, but today, after going for a run, it came back. Not only that... but I also sleep texted a friend the other night - SO WEIRD! I have never been through this form of stress before, then again, i don't think i have ever been in this much stress before. Funny to think this is the most stressful semester and also is my last one - and it doesn't even end here.

Thinking past Ecuador is one thing I am trying very hard to not do is think about jobs and housing and graduating... and life. I shall have to wait until I get back, tooooo bad! :)

Tomorrow night marks the last weekly meeting before our trip. I need to get good at soccer ASAP (by the way)... maybe i'll be this!



Just a wish...

Adios for now.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Happy Commissioning!

Yesterday was a very Ecuador filled day!
To start, from 1-3pm today we had a waffle brunch at Rodrigue's coffee house. Not as many people showed up as we had hoped but we made some money and had lots of fun playing games and just hanging out per usual. In between that I was able to finish up the program (though I had to skip mass) for Into the Woods! FINALLY.
Also last night was our GO! Spring trip commissioning ceremony held in the church basement. It was really nice to be able to see the other teams who are going on their trips at the same time as ours, it is actually really exciting! I can't wait to get back and talk to them all about there's, and thankfully I know at least one person on each trip. At the ceremony we were given pretty wooden dove cut out necklaces by our board buddy, chaperones and leader.

Unfortunately, instead of attending mass after the ceremony with my team, I had to head back to the library to slave away, only to see them again at 10 for our meeting. Our board buddy came to chat and check in on us, which was really nice, and actually really helpful because she went to Ecuador as well. She gave us a few tips on clothes and things to bring (especially bug spray apparently)! Our meeting went the same, per usual: longest highs and lows of all time, and a nice little chat about everything coming up. It is so ridiculous to think that next week is our last meeting before our TRIP! Eeeek!

Well off to the theater I go! Tech week = HELL... especially during midterms.

Peace&Love + Adios

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Who knew Senior year was this stressful!

I have nearly had no time to myself this past week, and am sure that more is yet to come.

On top of my classes and planning for Ecuador, as I said before, I am on the board of the Mimes and Mummers. Our show goes up on Thursday and things have been absolutely ridiculousl crazy! Who knew it would get like this. Although I thought that design the poster would be the hard part, that has proved far from true. From running around to get the programs printed, getting the headshots taken, finishing the program, I have been absolutely non-stop on my feet. BUT it should be a good show, so everyone out there best stop by Collins Thursday-Sunday to see this crazy amazing show! (PLUS Thursday is FREE for Fordham students!).

Anyone is invited to come see our show! It is held in Collins Auditorium on the Fordham University Rose Hill campus. Tickets are $10 for non-students and guests!


Here it is... of course, just a little publicity stunt, but it is just another thing I have been working on during this Ecuador process and thankfully will be over before I go on our trip and can think for a few days before I leave!

And the countdown is on....

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ecuadorian Politics

When Elise, from RdC, came to speak with us, we asked her about the political situation that is happening in Ecuador, and she said one word: CORRUPT.

She went on to tell us about a woman who was the previous president or govern of the area, and was very well renowned in the area for all the work she had done, including thinking to put water pipes underground so that some day they would be able to have running water to the villages. And although she was loved by the people, we was eventually found to be embezzling money, which is very common in Ecuadorian politics. People still loved her after this since she hadn't nearly embezzled as much as other previous people. After she left, her son succeeded her and has also embezzled a lot. Some how I cannot find anything about this on the Internet, so it is proving difficult to tell this story from memory. Eventually I will find it and update.


After just looking through the previous and current presidents of Ecuador, atleast two of the presidents that I have come across so far were arrested on charges of embezzlement, of nearly millions of dollars! Abdala Bacaram was only president of Ecuador for 6 months after all his previous supporters turned on him and protested until congress dismissed him, and within the first 2 months he was found to be embezzling millions of dollars and was succeeded by the first female president of Ecuador, the previous vice President, Rosalia Arteaga, who was only in office for 2 days. Not only did Bacaram embezzle but he came into the presidency after the previous vice President, Alberto Dahik was found (3 years into the term) to be embezzling and fled to Costa Rica, where he still lives, under political protection status.


Okay... sometimes we think our politics are rough, this is pretty bad!

Monday, February 22, 2010

And the countdown begins...

Only 19 days away and we will be boarding our little (actually BIG) plane to Ecuador, away from technology and American civilization for a WHOLE week.

Our weekend away was actually really great this weekend, and very simple. We stayed in our sweats all day and hung out in the basement of St. Luke's Church on W. 152nd & Amsterdam Ave in the area between Washington Heights and Hamilton Heights (it has another name, which I forget at the moment!). The boyfriend of one of the girls on my team lives in the same area, and so it was very cool to hear the history of what was around us, since I had never heard it before. Apparently, it is a big jazz and music area, and by there is Covenant Ave which is where in the 1920's many of the predominately rich African American population lived and opened jazz clubs and such. Really cool!

Anyways, pretty much our retreat consisted of us all just hanging out in the same room for 40 hours straight, playing games, laughing and talking. We had some great middle eastern food (sooo yummy!) and some pizza as well. It was great to get to know everyone on a different level and really enjoy everyone's company.

The best discussion we had was of religion and what we all believe, and how we were raised. It opened my eyes to a lot of different things and allow me to relate to my team on a different level.


 
our home for the weekend


After this weekend I absolutely feel so much more open and happy with my team!
At last night's meeting we finally learned about our flight plans and so it follows:

Leave LGA @ 12pm on Saturday, March 13
Layover in Miami for 4 hours
Arrive in Guayaquil @ 11pm on Saturday, March 13

Arrive back at LGA @ 10pm on Saturday, March 20

I cannot wait, plus I weirdly like flying (and especially being in airports)... so pumped!

Adios!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The end of February!

I cannot even begin to say how fast February flew by. It is crazy to think that just a week from today is the last day of the months, eeek! So much to do! We leave in 3 weeks, which is absolutely unreal. I apologize in advance for the random topic here but this is what is on my mind.

While I am not planning for Ecuador and writing in this blog, I am also on the board of our theater club on campus, The Mimes & Mummers. Next Thursday is the opening night of Into the Woods, my last show with the board. :( It is slightly bitter sweet, but I am so ready to be done with the craziness that 2nd semester of my senior year has been. I love working with the Mimes and the shows we produce, but at the same time, holy stressful!

For this show I have picked to be head of Publicity, and have started to put my photo shop skills to work. We shall see where they take me. I am on a race this week to get the poster and program done (by Thursday) so everything else is unfortunately falling behind (including this blog!). Hopefully soon I will be able to share with you all my final product, since I would love to know what you think. Hard work ahead for me!

Stay tuned tomorrow (or later tonight) for an update on the retreat from this weekend and our meeting!

Adios!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Retreat!

I will be gone until Sunday afternoon on our retreat. We don't know where and we don't really know how we are getting there, nor can we bring cell phones or watches, so it shall be an interesting weekend!

See you when we get back Sunday!

Adios

PS: I know I posted later about this, but retreat was absolutely amazing, especially considering that we had no idea where we were going... it definitely let us live like we will (did) in Ecuador! So fun!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

SATURDAY IS THE LAST DAY!

If you are still interested in helping finance my trip to Ecuador, even with a mere $10, please PLEASE visit my fundraising site! Enjoy --> giveforward.org/sarahcollins/

Thanks all!

Buenas noches

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Good morning, real world

The options that Ecuador could open for me are starting to make me happy about my choice to go here. On Friday I finished my application for a $1,000 scholarship towards my project. I have had tremendous trouble over the past couple months in attempting to acquire donations from friends and family to fund my trip. Thankfully I have found some great people to dig into their wallets and give forward (which I hope to be able to do when I get rich). Since I do not officially need the whole of the money, if I am chosen *fingers crossed* I would give the remaining amount to split up amongst my teammates. The whole silly economic problems are really hurting me, so make it stop! :)

Another thing this whole trip has made me realize, is how I wish I could say I am doing something next year... not that i'm not, but to have a definite answer at this point would be a great thing. To know where my life is headed, is very me. I need to stop living in the future. (another goal of mine for this trip). To live in the moment is simply what I need to do, and with this trip, I am hoping that I get a better idea of where I am heading and what I want to do. Where that leads me, I will see, but I have decided that the job hunt will wait until I return!

The count down is on...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Shots shots shots

Not of the alcohol varity, but of the vaccination kind.

Due to the snow day on Wednesday and the mass close down of campus, including the health center (and work... party!), I was forced to get my unfortunate shots today instead. Originally the health center requested that we take malaria pills, which now knowing what they do to you, i'm grateful I don't need them, and also the yellow fever shot. Instead, I was simply forced to get highly expensive $$$$ hepatitis B and typhoid shots.

#1. I hate HATE HATE needles and shots of any sort, so I was not too keen on that whole process but made it through
#2. Usually, if any shot hurts afterwards, it is something like hepatitis, thus in anticipation of that problem, I decided to go swimming to keep the arm movin' along. For a while I was good, and three hours later, it wasn't my hep shot that caused me extravagant amounts of pain, but the typhoid one! Really odd.

Needless to say, doesn't look like I shall be contracting hepatitis or typhoid any time soon (and lets hope not yellow fever or malaria). Come to find out, the last case of malaria hasn't occurred for over 25 years.

In terms of other epidemic diseases that affect Ecuador, HIV/AIDS is becoming more prevalent, and currently the prevalence of it is where South Africa was at the beginning of their epidemic (which doesn't seem to show much hope for the worsening of the disease).

Along with HIV/AIDS, Leprosy (now known as Hansen's disease), has a large affect on the country and has forced many people to be forgotten about by their families and banished to hospitals and colonies together. We will in fact have the chance to work at a health center that does deal with Leprosy, which is something I have never seen or experienced before. It should be incredibly eye opening!

Until the next update, peace amigos!

Monday, February 8, 2010

This has nothing to do with Ecuador but...

I am constantly amazed by this, and think everyone EVER should see this.
It is officially a life's goal to get there (Japan).



The day that I see this aquarium, I hope I still have a blog... because I think it is something I want to share. I have a cousin who lives in Japan, so let's keep our fingers cross that I can make that connection!

Real life experience

This whole posting after our Sunday meetings is getting a bit hard... especially when we start at 10pm and run till after midnight sometimes. Forget homework, it is time for bed!
Well here I am, Monday afternoon, and up to it again.

Last night, after anxious awaiting, some of our prayers were answered, a real normal Rostro de Cristo person sitting right in front of us! Elyse came into New York from Boston (where the RdC headquarters are) to answer a lot of questions and give us more detail into what RdC does and what we are going to be doing.

If you look back to my 2nd previous post, my anxiety about the weather, well let's just say Elyse confirmed it... but instead of 91 degrees, it will most likely be 97, humid, and rain a good amount! My favorite conditions! None the less, she did provide us with a great packing list and more information about the area, showed us a slide show of people and places around Duran, and let us know (not exactly) what we will be doing. Since this is a "BEing rather than DOing" project, the RdC volunteers with pretty much give us only a half day schedule every day. No watches needed to keep time, no cell phones needed to communicate, etc.

A normal day would entail something like this:
7:30am - Wake up!
8:30am - Get bread from local bakery and make breakfast with the help of RdC Ecuadorians
9:30am - Head out on our first "adventure" of the day, which could be going to hang out and chat with the local neighbors (who love the retreat groups!), stop by the health clinic, or look into the schools
Noon-ish - Lunch of pre-processed and packaged foods like tuna
1:00-afternoon session - Go to the kids after school programs and work on an educational project for up to an hour, then have recess! (they LOVEEEE soccer!)
6:00 - Dinner, made by our team with the help of the Ecuadorian staff.
Later - Reflection time and bed by 11pm.

Generally an overall exciting day, filled with a lot of interactions, Spanish speaking, and Ecuadorian food making!

Better start to work on my Spanish skills!
Peace

Friday, February 5, 2010

No Technology?! Impossible!

Roommate: "I would never be able to do a GO! trip... I thought about it, but I can't!"
Me: "Why... it isn't that big of a deal and is a great experience"
Roommate: "No... you know how I am without my blackberry for one minute, I have withdrawal... a whole week and I would die!"

While in Ecuador I will be forced to give up all technology, leave my CrackBerry at home and stray away from all technology for a WHOLE week. Okay... I might be exaggerating but at the same time, think about how much time we spend with technology. Right now, I am using it right here. I'm sitting in front of the TV and my cellphone is next to me.

The good part - I won't have time to think about how much I miss it, and HOPEFULLY won't be compelled to rush back to it when I get back. I'm sure it will take time to get reacquainted, just like any vacation away from technology, and I'm kind of excited for that.

Not only is it a requirement of the Global Outreach program here at Fordham University, to give up cell phones, iPods and the like during the trip, but also, we are going to an area that probably is not all that safe at all time and is drastically poor. During our week, we will be most likely so busy and immersed that there will not even be an ounce of time thinking about what else is going on in the world. The life of the Ecuadorian is exactly what we are going to learn about and to embrace that, we not only have to follow the rules implemented by GO! but also focus on them, how they live, what they do, and become part of their culture.

It will give me time to evaluate the extent to which I use, or abuse, technology and how I can really live without it, get beyond the fact that we can survive away from technology and it doesn't need to rule our lives!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New Month - New Fears?

The one thing I have been thinking about the most lately is the weather and climate of Ecuador, which of course derives its name from the equator (so it must be hot?). Since i'm a female... of course I have started to think about what i'm going to pack, and how much! That is a scary thing for me. Our lovely fearless leader has a large packet of info from Rostro... yet has decided to withhold it from us, so clearly I did some research!

DurĂ¡n is also, apparently, known as Eloy Alfaro, and is located north east of Guayaquil, right on the Babahoyo river. Ecuadors.org has a nice little description of the climate and normal weather around the country, and as I understand it, the "innerlands"of Ecuador, Quito as the website says, has a normal monthly temperature high of 74°F. The weather really changes per region and per day. Another website describes the Guayaquil climate as a tropical savanna climate and the most rain comes in March (greattttt!). The max temp in March is 92°, and the low is 71°. Really...?! My hair isn't going to like that, not that I should be worrying about that of course. Well that is kind of really warm. Not that I'm a fan of the cold, but I am not a fan of the HUMIDITY! That is my least favorite of all weather climates... so I guess I'm in for it.
Maybe wikipedia is lying to me, let's hope, for my own sanity. Nonetheless, it is going to be a great adventure and I can't wait to keep you all updated!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Duran videos

Enjoy a drive through the town that I will be staying in! It is a bit delapitated and most people live in very poor conditions. I will be updating about the common statistics and economy of Duran in one of my next posts, but enjoy this view for now!

Drive through Duran Ecuador (embedding disabled)

Another youtube users has multiple videos of Duran, different parts of the city including houses, construction, and playground!

Check it them out here



Post more soon! Adios!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Plan

Since my team meets on Sunday nights, I'm hoping to update the blog after every meeting with the things that came up, including fundraisers, schedules, and other things about Ecuador.

Getting ready to go to Ecuador is kind of overwhelming, especially when we have no idea what we are doing there! As it is a cultural immersions program, the Rostro de Cristo (Face of Christ) organization will be giving us our schedule and we won't know it until we get to Ecuador on the 13th of March. They have worked with hundreds of volunteer groups and know the best way to give us the best experience, which may be way better than us trying to set up things on our own. It leaves us on edge and willing to accept anything on this trip.

I am very excited to find out what is ahead and to use this blog to not only show others our progress, but also use it to grow with myself. Personally, I need to practice more Spanish, really understand the Ecuadorian live style, and the history that blossomed into the culture that Ecuador and Duran currently have!

Stay tuned for another update tonight! Adios

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bienvenidos Amigos!

Welcome to the Ecuadorian Experience blog!

During the next couple of months leading up to my departure date to Ecuador, March 13, 2010, I will be compiling information about Ecuador including food, language, culture, and environment, as both an informative site for others and a reflection for myself.

After my one-week trip, I hope to return sharing insight from my first hand experience, and blog about what I encountered in my travels!

Keep posted for photos, links, videos, and more!!

Feel free to leave comments, support, and other interesting facts about Ecuador!

If you are interested in donating to the cause, also please visit my fundraising site for more information!

Thank you, and ENJOY!