This Monday, the 6th of October, marks the beginning of my 6th full week here in Ecuador.
The first 3 weeks in Quito (the capital city) I lived with a host family, attending language school and training seminars, squeezing in bits of exploration as I could. I summitted Volcán Pichincha, at 15,796ft above sea level, pushing the personal limits I thought previously existed a little bit further. I found a little, unassuming coffee shop where the owner, Gladys, imports green beans and roasts them herself in-house; accompanied by her homemade tamales and chocolate cake, it was easy to pass a few hours journaling and people watching in the little window seat, cozily cornered between the bright yellow walls and blue checkered curtains. After picking up some herbs at a natural remedies shop (and chatting with the ladies there for awhile), I passed by a cobbler with beautiful multi-colored hand-made shoes lining the storefront. I popped in to admire them, and walked out 30 minutes later with a great bargain on a beautiful pair of shoes. The other Fellows liked them so much, soon half of the cohort was donning the sweet suede!
On September 21st, the Fellows destined for site placements in the Southern Andes’ regions of Cañar and Azuay (including me) hopped on a bus for a 10ish hour ride South on the Panamérica highway. I was dropped off in Cañar to live with my family for one week (called Immersion Week), to be followed by a Regional Training Seminar (RTS: a reconnect of Fellows within certain regional placement areas to debrief experiences and provide support) in Vilcabamba. Following an un-fun bout of food poisoning and infection during the first week of living in my new family’s home, it was a welcoming time to regain my strength going into a 2-month block living at my site placement until another RTS at Thanksgiving.
I’m living in the community of San Rafael, which I refer to as a farm suburb, nestled in the hills surrounding the large town/small city of Cañar. I am working with a locally-run organization CENAGRAP, an acronym of Centro del Apoyo de la Gestión Rural del Agua Potable (roughly translated: Center for the Support of Rural Management of Potable Water). It was started by farmers in communities local to Cañar who wanted to manage their own sources of potable water, due to the failure of supply by the greater municipal system. It evolved into an official organization that works to help develop and manage community-run water systems, offering the development technology and strategies to local areas. My host father is the director of CENAGRAP; he also serves as my apprenticeship host.
I’ve been invited to become involved in many different sectors within the organization, beginning with participating in community water system site visits and laboratory testing of water quality in the coming week. I am excited to begin to establish my new life and responsibilities here in Cañar, both at home and at my apprenticeship. For now, it is my job to listen, to learn, and to focus on being happy right where I am.