On Tuesday, June 14, 2016...
It is crazy how quickly time is flying and how much has changed since I first left home. My first week in Ecuador was very good but required me to do some adapting. For instance I was not fully prepared for the amount of bugs in the house. My first night I woke up to the sound of this gigantic bug crawling across the floor of my room. Also, I have already seen three tarantulas around the property!! (But although they look very scary, tarantulas are not supposed to be very poisonous or very likely to bite. I’m still a little skeptical.) Also, week one was a little bit hard for me in terms of Spanish because the people here speak very softly and do not really annunciate so they are a bit harder to understand. I definitely had my fair share of moments of trying to ask questions about a product or how to prepare a food and having no idea what the answer to my question was. On the bright side, I understand more and more conversations everyday and my ability to speak Spanish is constantly growing. I definitely still have some work to do on my Spanish and especially my confidence in speaking, but I am trying my best to challenge myself every day.
Speaking of challenging myself, I will be staying with a host family starting this afternoon! I am very excited but also a little bit nervous. I think it is the best way to really get involved in the community improve my Spanish, live in solidarity with the people, understand the problems occurring in the community and contribute to the development of the Kichwa people.
My first project is working with a Kichwa community in their process of opening the first ever Kichwa owned guayusa processing facility. This is important because right now Kichwa farmers only grow the guayusa. Processing it (ie drying and cutting it) adds more value and thus a higher selling cost. So my specific job for this project is to create a participatory monitoring and evaluation system for the community so they can measure their impact on livelihoods and their stakeholders. My other project is creating a business/production plan for this cool purple jungle peanut that is supposed to be less allergenic than regular peanuts. Unfortunately, Ecua-time is very slow so it is taking a bit of time to really get going on these projects. For example, I needed to do three interviews (which would each take approximately 30 minutes each) and I waited probably two hours in the office just to get taken to the community. I am very used to everything being go go go and I thrive on efficiency so having work that is very slow is not usual for me. I think it is a big part of development work though so it is good to understand what the work is like. It has also been very nice to have a change of pace from how it is at school. I have much more time to relax, cook, hang out with other interns, and even do some yoga.