small business classes

So much time on their hands...

Tonight marked the last night of the two week small business course that Dunc and Eliah organized with the local Cooperativa, and we all tagged along to lend support and applause as the class presented their business plans.

As we sat down to await the first presentation, I found myself looking around the class at all the participants. Ranging from two stylish 20-something girls to a silver-haired man dressed in a dapper suit to a young couple who couldn't find a babysitter for the evening and thus brought along their 2 month old daughter, the class was an eclectic mix. And of course our two gringos were the cherry on top. (Eliah even borrowed a pair of Dunc's pants for a change from his hole-infested jeans!).

Each group presented their plans (a construction company and two papelerias (paper shops)) with a combination of pride and nerves to members of the Cooperativa, the local organization which stands as a potential lender in starting up the businesses. It was exciting to watch Dunc and Eliah and their respective teams put into action all that they'd learned in the past two weeks. After it was all over and the champagne toasting had finished, the boys had looks of semi-disbelief on their faces. Having spent four hours every day for the past two weeks in class, Dunc summed it up when he said "Well, now what are we going to do at night? Hang out?!". We're glad to have them back for dinners :)

(outside the local Cooperativa (The Hope and Progress of the Valley), co-sponsors of the class)

Late Night Arrivals

Eliah and Dunc just walked in the front door a few minutes ago (it’s currently 10:47pm) from their fifth day of small business class, and they are both spent. Instead of simply putting the class on, the boys are also participants in the program, which is proving to be quite the undertaking.

Considering we all are getting up at 5:45am tomorrow morning to head in to San Francisco to take part in a community minga to clean the plastic bottles from the river (see the daily photo), I can only assume that the late night friday class was particularly difficult to get through. Or so it seems by the amount of heavy sighing currently coming from the living room where they’ve both collapsed onto the couches. It’s also a little late to be up in the kitchen making churros, but sometimes when I start something I can’t make myself stop until the task is complete. Plus they’ll be great for breakfast tomorrow morning, right...?

Happy weekend!
(the local San Franciscan river and site of our 7am community minga clean-up!)

The Start of Small-Business Classes

When we first started through around the idea of a Daily Life Blog, everyone was a little worried that, come day 4, I would run out of things to write about and the blog would fade into the forgotten past, along with all-Spanish Wednesdays and certain feathered pets. Everyone clearly underestimated my ability to embellish tiny, insignificant moments into blog “worthy” entries.

As I sit down to write today’s entry, my mind is swimming with an overwhelming amount of moments to share with you all. From our morning chats with Susanna (the venta lady from whom we buy our weekly fruits and vegetables) to our encounters (and in Dunc’s case, fights with) certain street dogs, every day down here teams with stories worthy of sharing. Luckily, we have 11 more months to go...I think I’ll have the time to go there.

Tonight marks the beginning of the two week small-business start-up course which Dunc has been organizing tirelessly for the past three weeks; as I write this, those involved are entering into their fourth hour. Dunc has thrown his whole self into the project, walking around the neighborhoods every day for hours recruiting people, coordinating between the local Cooperative and the organization running the class, setting up meetings with everyone involved, arranging transportation to Sangolqui (the big town close to Conocoto in which the classes are being held), and making an exorbitant amount of phone calls following up with those he’d already talked to.

It is so exciting to see things come together as they have tonight; to be enacting our site’s mission of empowering those individuals taking part in the course, strengthening the local Cooperative institution, and building networks amongst the participants. The only downside to the program is that Dunc and Eliah will be missing from family dinners for the next two weeks, as the course runs from 5 to 9 every night. We will all have to exhibit a lot of self control to make sure there are enough leftovers waiting for them when they get home...I’m looking at you, girls.

Just as an aside, I’ve loved the comments you all have been leaving; they remind me how many people out there are invested in our house and work, which is uplifting and encouraging. Keep them coming!


Slow Returns

So it’s Saturday, and I feel like I owe you all something for my unexplained absence the past few days. The lack of Thursday and Friday’s contemplations would suggest another internet outage, but that’s not the case. Nor was I intimidated by Dunc’s homage to a certain carbonated orange nectar, although it was quite powerful. The actual reason was a horrible tussle with what we’ve assumed to be food poisoning. Without getting into any details (you’re welcome), let’s just say it was a small victory this morning taking my pillow out of the bathroom and throwing away my toothbrush (you taught me well, Mama).

Anyway, having missed out on the past two days in a haze of delirium, I’m slowly catching up with everyone on what’s been happening. From soccer games in the community to stressful visa complications; countless calls regarding the start of the small business classes this coming Monday (yeah Dunc!) to making three new Canadian friends, it’s been a full two days.

Friday afternoons always finds me in the kitchen cooking dinner for the group, sou-chef Mark tailing close behind and dreading the inevitable question “will you cut the chicken breasts from the rib cages?”. Usually cooking for 8 calls for about 2-3 hours in the kitchen, boiling huge pots of water, cutting and dicing a lot of veggies, detaching chicken breasts, mincing garlic cloves, juicing limes, etc. Seeing as how yesterday I was just returning from the land of the dead, Mark was still in Quito, AND we were having three extra guests (hello Canada!) for dinner, I headed to the kitchen at 2. I was moving slowly, ok?! After washing my hands about 40 times and dousing myself in anti-bacterial soap, I felt ready. From what I’ve been told, 5 hours later dinner was good (I was still on the strict ‘toast and gatorade’ diet), and the house was full of loud voices, hilarious stories, purple wine-stained lips, and an abundance of laughter. The perfect Friday week’s-end.

Below you’ll find my recipe for Cinnamon-Sugar Banana Bread, which was effectively devoured last night. Enjoy!

Cinnamon Banana Bread
* 1/2 cup butter
* 1 cup sugar
* 2 eggs
* 4 large bananas
* 2 cups flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
* 1 tablespoon butter, melted
* cinnamon-sugar mixture

*Cream butter and sugar.
*Beat in eggs, one at a time.
*Mix in mashed banana.
*Sift dry ingredients together; stir into banana mixture, add nuts.
*Pour into greased 9x5x3 loaf pan.
*Bake at 350 for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into loaf comes out clean.
*While cake is warm, pour melted butter over top and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture.