Well, the travel is done until this Thursday when Dunc and I take our Vanderbilt spring break group to Banos, and the blog is back in the sense that most posts this week will be written in sleep-deprived stupors late at night...but at least progress is being made. No camera yet, so I might resort to posting pictures I find on the internet, otherwise you'll just be left with my words and we all know those can get old quick :)
Dana and I are currently both on our computers in my room (she's moved in for the spring break weeks so that the college kids can have the apartment to themselves), and everyone else is sound asleep. Apparently today's Minga at Alinambi went exhausting-ly well, and also apparently buying enough food from markets for spring break requires a truck bed. Oh the joys.
Welcome, March. Time for another monthly update...the first of the new year. Coming soon, I really do promise.
That was my weak attempt at a joke, trying to scare Mark (who is currently on a plane back to the states) into thinking all we're going to do for the next week is sit around feeding each other pineapple on our roof. He'll be gone for the next week, but honestly things are picking up so quickly down here that we really won't have much of a chance to even pretend to slack off in his absence :)
This post is late in coming today because we just got back from Quito, where we watched the Vice Presidential debate between Governor Palin and Senator Biden. Disclaimer: I promise I won't use the daily life blog as some kind of political platform from which to spew my ideas, unless those ideas include the establishment of a mandatory dessert hour. While we were all nervous (and some of us a little too eager) to watch Palin after having youtubed her interview with Katie Couric many times, overall both candidates presented their platforms in respectable manners. Which platform is respectable in its own right I'll leave up to you to decide for yourself.
I write about this because, for the first time in our lives, we’re experiencing a presidential election while not actually living in the States. Granted, most (all?) of us have only been able to vote in one prior presidential election, so a precedent hasn’t really been established. Yet it is incredible how passionate we’re all feeling about the whole deal. It’s as if the distance has made us even more involved, wanting so badly to taste the electoral anticipation and read as many articles and editorials as we can, to keep track of our state’s polls and to find key policy pieces which tie us to certain candidates. Maybe every young person experiences this as they become more aware of the scope of elections, but this time around it just feels different; fresher, bigger, closer. And that, written from south of the Equator, is truly saying something.
5:45am on Saturday found team Ecuador stumbling around our kitchen trying to find coffee and scramble eggs with our eyes half closed, laughing at how out of it everyone is before 8am, our usual kitchen meeting time. After dangerously passing 2 ladders from the roof down the front of our house by hanging out the second story windows and hoping they didn’t drop on the faces of those waiting to receive them on the front patio, we all piled into what was quite possibly the most beat up Mazda truck I have ever seen and headed over to the river.
Upon splitting into two teams, the ‘river people’ and the ‘cleaning people’, we got down to work. Serena, Luke, and I started out in the river with 5 Ecuadorians, all decked out in rainboots and rubber gloves, looking hesitantly at the enormous pile of bottles, while Seth, Jocelyn, Eliah and Dunc headed down to the ‘cleaning station’ at Aliñambi, which consisted of wash tubs and a cement patio to crush the bottles. Craig was our 'go between' guy, hauling the bags from the river down to the recycling center, and Mark set about constructing “NO Bota Basura!” signs to put at different points along the river's path.
Starting at 7:30am, we worked straight to 1:30pm, at which time we were all a little woozy from the amount of trash and fumes from the discarded paint cans, gasoline bottles, and fermenting plastic. Serena, Paulo (a community member who spent much of the time in the river balanced on one of the ladders pushing the bottles away from the deep middle) and I all ended up falling into the river at some point, filling our boots with sludge and soaking our jeans in awful ways. Despite having filled up 49 industrial sized trash bags, we were barely half way through the bottles, and the executive decision to split the minga into two days was made by Christina after we realized we had already overflowed the recycling center’s capacity for bottles 3 times over.
Overall, it was a day filled with sweat, trash, bilingual conversations, horrible smells, frustration, and laughter. It was hard to spend the entire morning waist deep in trash, thinking not only about the work of cleaning it up, but also the feasibility of changing the mentality that turned the river into a trash pit. But none of us came down to Ecuador with the intention of avoiding encounters with the difficult, rather we came to dive into the thick of it. This weekend was a study in that dive; and while we may have bellyflopped a few times, it’s good to be in the deep water together, even if that water is a contaminated river...