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Alan Sandars Diary from Ecuador

Sept 11, 2009 One Week Down...9 to go!

Hola todos,

Well, I´m having the time of my life. I´ve meet dozens of amazing, inspiring, Ready to rumble in the jungleand genuine people. I´ve been out late singing "Living La Vida Loca" with random Ecuadorian bar hoppers. I´ve been woken up at 6 every morning for the past week to hike an hour into the jungle to machete down bushes to build a roof. I've been speaking at least an hour and a half of Español every day. Needless to say, Ecuador is my new 'home away from home'.

I guess that by this point in my blogging career you´re more interested in the intricacies of living abroad than you are with how I´m feeling at the moment (in case you are wondering, I feel healthy and not the least bit sick!)  As far as the intricacies go, I may or may not have found out first hand that if you are a gringo at a karaoke bar, women will accept your invitation to dance. I´ve found out that Bob Marley is not only a famous musician, but also a flaming shot. I´ve found out that in Ecuador, you don´t pay for the bus by the number of miles the trip is, but rather how long it takes to get there (one dollar per hour) and it is therefore wise to profile the drivers for safety and quickness. I have also learned that no matter how much DEET or how many times you re-apply bug spray, mosquitoes still find some exposed skin and then have the family over for thanksgiving!

I am currently in an internet cafe in Baños, a city on the eastern side of the Ándes, famous for its close proximity to an active volcano which warms hot springs, making it a mecca for both tourists and locals for a brief vacation. (I need to say that these tourists look like they need the break!). Many of them have been hiking around Ecuador for months and def. look ready to bañarse (to wash oneself in Español).

Sept. 19, 2009 A Short Post

All is well here, the house we're building with the Tsachilla tribe is almost completed; we only have to thatch the roof and nail up the bamboo walls. It´ll be sad to say goodbye to the amazing people that live there: alfonzo-the man of the village, melinda-the woman who has two children who have taught us the nastiest swear words around, and richard-the eighteen year old who has memorized every spell in the harry potter series.

Sept. 24, 2009 Back in Quito

Alan with fellow LeapersHola!  We completed our cabaña two days ago and had the whole of yesterday to visit the local school and participate in some local ceremonies. It was a wonderful way to end the three weeks with the T´sachilla community. We all received necklaces for luck and a final spiritual cleansing, which consisted of the local shaman shaking leaves all over me, spitting chewed-up ginger root on my face, and giving me a serious pat-down with a solution that smelled eerily like Vick´s vapour rub. Needless to say, I felt much cleansed.

We will be in Quito until Sunday night, when we board an overnight bus to the northern coast, one of the only sections of Ecuador where the rainforest stretches all of the way to the coast. There we´ll have our own house to live in while we work on a cacao farm. We´ll start work early in the morning so that we can get off early and enjoy the beaches that we will be close to. Goodbye Oregon pale, hello bronzed overtones.  Buenos, Alán

Oct. 9, 2009  A Big Weekend

 As of the last post, we´ve sweated a lot, tanned a ton, and had some fun weekend activities.

We made it to Caimito, a small section of unpaved road with about 40 residents where we have been working on Cacao farms for the past two weeks. We use machetes to clear the grounds to make terraces and we Pony trekking in the Ecuadorean mountainsclimb the mossy, ant-covered trees to prune dead sections, diseased branches, and various abnormalities. Not too difficult, except Caimito sits on the ridge of some giant hills and all of our work is done on slopes greater than 45 degrees. It´s tiring but rewarding. We are helping the local farmers receive their organic certifications which will help them make more money (most make well under 1000 dollars/year).

We have spent nearly every afternoon at the beach (much to the delight of Rosie). We hitchhike about 10 minutes down a steep hill and back to the closest town to Chinge. There we have made some friends with the kids who love to play soccer with us. Life is good.  Alan.

Oct. 12, 2009  The Nicest Thing Anyone's Ever Said to me

Last night, while cutting a rug in Atacames, an Ecuadorian lady said, "¡Estas el bailador mejor de los gringos!" Translation: "Hot damn, Alan, you have some sweet dance moves." Needless to say I was flattered. Not even dejected by the fact that she called me a gringo (not a bad thing in Ecuador).

The best dancer around.  Alan

Oct. 19, 2009  Living the dream in Quito

It´s amazing what sleeping in and a hot shower can do to one person, but I am feeling the effects. It was the first warm shower I have had in three weeks and it was amazing. Not only that, but the average group member showered four times in the last three weeks. Gross. No complaints though, no one seemed excessively dirty due to the fact that no one was clean!

We´re all excited to start the final three weeks of volunteering, however sad it will be to leave the lap of luxury that is Quito. Oh well. More to come next weekend, I hope.  Alan

Oct. 22, 2009  A Surprise mid-week post

Alan and friendWe´ve officially made it and are settled into Chicapamba.  It´s awesome here.  I never thought that it would, but rain makes me super happy here; it´s so much like home!! We´re living high up in the Andes where we´re building a new playground for kids aged 2-5 and they are the cutest things I have ever seen. It´s a little chilly so they all have little snot dribbles coming out of their noses and they all have these cute little hats and scarves to keep warm. The only problem is that they all have identical braided hair and it is literally impossible to tell their genders apart. That is except for when they suddenly walk out of their classroom, past where I am working, and pee on the ground. That makes it very easy to tell Jane from John.

On a slightly cleaner note, everyone loves it here. We live in a valley between some volcanoes and it is beautiful. There are cows and pigs next door and everyone is extremely friendly. The food is great to boot; we´ll never want to leave. We are living with a family this time. The father´s name Tupac and his friend Justinis Alfonzo. He is the man. He never stops smiling and he speaks super clearly and slow so I feel like my Spanish actually works the way it should. It´s great here. Alfonzo has a son named Tupac. Yes, like the rapper, Tupac! The kid is nuts. He runs around, jumps all over things, is five years old, and constantly gives Ben and me hugs. He´s the best.

We´re heading off to Otovalo this weekend to do some shopping. Items to fight off the chill of Middlebury and my list include: Sweaters, woollen socks, hats, and mittens. Life will be very warm after this weekend and needless to say, my Christmas shopping is taken care of.

Another highlight of living in the Andes is that I, standing at a mere 5 foot 8, am a giant amongst the plethora of 4-foot men that live here. We run into them periodically simply because they only come up to our waist height!  ALAN

Alan Sandar's placement in Ecuador was arranged with The Leap