domingo, 9 de octubre de 2011

Insert Witty Title Here

This week was depressingly cold, cloudy and full of garua.  Garua is what happens here in the Galapagos instead of rain.  It’s extremely misty and almost looks like snow but you still get very wet.  I was hoping to spend my free time hanging out on the beach, but alas I was unable to. 

There is a group of graduate students here from Portland State and their focus is international service and they’re all required to volunteer at a specific location during their stay here.  One of the girls, Jacquie, is working with an afterschool program at a library up in El Progresso.  El Progresso is outside of the main town up in the highlands and the kids there don’t have that many opportunities and this program was started to give them something to do and learn outside of school.  Jacquie needed help for a program up there so I went every day but Wednesday when I opted to study for my final exam instead.

The library is tiny and only has 6 shelves full of books, plus a row of children’s books, half of which are in English and no one there really knows English.  When I went on Monday there were about 8 kids there, the lady that runs the program, who’s really cool, and her boss, who apparently doesn’t normally come, but she’s crazy.  The boss lady, Sessie- not sure exactly how her name’s spelled, but that’s my phonetic rendering- made us practice these puppet shows multiple times throughout the week and was super particular about our Spanish pronunciations and was telling us to pronounce words the way she says them even though we were technically saying them fine.  For example, the word ayuda- we all say and I’ve heard natives say, ay-you-da, but she was making us say ay-jew-da.  And as she did this, there were children running around outside in thorns and stuff they weren’t supposed to be in.

On Thursday, after practicing our puppet show, Jacquie taught me how to make a balloon animal dog, which was pretty sweet.  Little did I know that I would get real good at making them the next day.  Friday was the big event down on the malecon- essentially the boardwalk in town.  We went at 2 to set up and it was way more legit than we were anticipating.  We had a tent with books and face painting, a box for our puppet show and a table with information about the ministry of education and I think they were giving out school uniforms.  Right next to us on one side was a tent from the national park handing out information and on our other side was a tv blasting the Ecuador-Argentina soccer game.  So a bunch of people were watching the game while their kids came over and got face paint and balloon animals.  Then at halftime, they turned off the game, some lady that is in charge of the department of education came out with a microphone and talked a bit about their programs and then introduced our plays and passed us the microphone.  There was quite the crowd watching us and I’m glad we couldn’t see them from behind our box.  I thought it went pretty well and was super impressed with us.  Then they turned off the game and we came out and made balloon animals for the kids.  It was insane and we got swarmed by children and parents asking for different animas and such and we only had one pump for the balloons and 5 of us making animals.  And the people here have no concept of lines or personal space.  One of the guys, Devon, said they were like zombies coming after us, and that’s a pretty accurate description.  Children would be holding onto the end of the balloon I was making and a couple of times I just let them take it before I finished twisting it.  Finally, we ran out of balloons and had to send the people away.  Then, I went around and picked up all the stray balloon pieces that had popped and the people from the national park gave us all of their extra stickers and pamphlets which was pretty exciting.

After cleaning up, I went to the panaderia to get a snack and then went back to the malecon because my host brother and sister’s school had a parade and dance show.  Each class studies a Latin American country and makes a float and does a dance for their country in traditional apparel from that country.  It was really cool and the dances were super cute, especially the real little kid ones.

Then Saturday morning there was supposed to be a regatta of international sailboats and we woke up at 6:30 and were supposed to go out and greet them.  I’m not exactly sure what happened, but that didn’t happen, but at 9 they were having the largest ceviche of the Galapagos and there was a bunch of live music and such.  Ceviche is a soup with raw fish cooked by the lime and cilantro they put in with it.  I don’t really like seafood, but I thought it was pretty good.  Unfortunately I couldn’t stay and really enjoy any of the festivities because everything runs on Ecuadorian Island time- basically things start an hour or more after the stated start time.  It’s super annoying.  I was recruited to play on a soccer team for this hacienda up in the highlands that another one of the grad students volunteers at and we were supposed to play at 11.  We took a taxi up to the hacienda and it was a super fun ride in the bed of the pickup in the garua… not.  We got there and there were little boys playing on this concrete field in legit uniforms and we were wondering what we’d gotten ourselves into.  We watched them for a bit and then went back to the actual hacienda and met the other volunteers there.  Amy, the girl in the grad program just goes up there 2 or 3 times a week, but the other volunteers are from all over and they stay there.  It was super nice inside, but they have to do a lot of hard work helping out.  We ended up hanging around until 1 when we started out soccer game- only 2 hours late!

The girls we played was super aggressive, and we ended up losing 0-4, but 2 of our 5 girls had never played soccer before and a random Ecuadorian girl was our goalie and I don’t think she’d ever really played either.  It was still a ton of fun and I was soaking wet and my white shirt was covered in mud when we finished.  Then, we hiked up a super muddy trail to a lookout.  It was georgous and you could look down to see the main town and the ocean and kicker rock which is a huge rock formation sticking out of the water just off the coast.  Then we took a taxi back into town and snice I was already wet and muddy I sat down in this muddy pool of water in the bed of the pickup and when we got back, I had the lines imprinted on my butt.  We got some empanadas from a lady on the street and then I headed home. 

I definitely got placed with the right host family, because Friday night I came home with this intense mask in face paint and Saturday I came home super muddy and they were totally fine with it.  And then this morning, I went with them up to the highlands with another family who I’d met Tuesday night at my host brother’s birthday party and we had corn on the cob and empanadas and coffee at this random place and then we went and played soccer which was super fun.  There was this really nice parque with a grass field and swings and there was a family that lived next to it that are good friends of my host dad.  We hung out there all morning and then at one we went back to the place we ate at before and had lunch before heading home.

I’m definitely starting to integrate more into the culture and meet more people on the island, which is super cool.  It’s so small that you end up knowing someone everywhere you go.  At the hacienda, the lady that works at the library came out to me and wished me luck playing, and walking around town I always see people that have helped out at our salsa classes.  We had 5 lessons and it was super fun and I now know a descent amount of salsa!

P.S. I’m sorry if this jumps around/ is lacking descriptions- my mind’s all jumbled.  If you want to know more/clarifications, feel free to e-mail, facebook, or skype me J

sábado, 1 de octubre de 2011

Evolution Insanity

We arrived to the Galapagos on Sunday and Monday got straight to work.  We went to class Monday morning and our professor gave us the syllabus for Evolution and went over it and then assigned us presentation topics and then left the room for a few minutes so we could trade topics if we wanted and we all were hoping he'd come back in and say "just kidding", but unfortunately it was all  true.  We had class 2x a day from 9-11 and 3-5, had to read 1 or 2 chapters from out textbook every day, and presentations on evolutionary traits of various Galapagos animals and he wanted us to be experts on them.  There are 3 different tracks in the whole program, and one of the boys in my class just left and switched to one of the other classes.

For the past 2 weeks, my routine has essentially been:
4am- wake up to a cacophony of roosters
6am- get out of bed and go for a run or go to school and do yoga on the beach
8am- breakfast
9-11- class
11-12- start reading the next days chapter
12:30- lunch at the restaurant of the week- the program I'm here with includes lunch which is awesome, but it's really segregating because the 11 of us go to lunch and everyone else is back at the university making pb&j, plus Ecuadorian meals are always a soup which may or may not be good and then meat with a pile of rice and I'm getting rather sick of it, especially the lack of fruits and veggies
1:30-3- either finish reading, research for my project or go swimming/snorkeling
3-5- class
5-7- either research for my presentation, study, or hang out on the beach and watch the sun set
7- dinner
8-9- play with my host sister, waste time on the internet
9 or 10- bed

The first Wednesday we were here, in the afternoon we had a field trip into the highlands.  We went to visit the first settlement in the Galapagos which is now ruins of a house, el junco which is the only permanent lake on all of the Galapagos Islands.  Our professor said we would probably think it was more like a pond, but it was so misty/cloudy that we couldn't see more than 15 feet in front of us so I have no clue how big it actually is.  It is in the crater of the volcano that formed the island.  San Cristobal is the oldest surviving island of the Galapagos so there is no loner volcanic activity- the islands are formed by a hotspot of magma rising from the Earth's crust and moving toward mainland South America via continental drift.  There are older islands that have sunk and are now mounds under the sea.  After visiting the lake, we went to Galapaguera, a giant tortoise reserve on the island.  It was so cool to see them.  There were baby ones which were about the size of the palm of my hand and they grow to be over a meter long!  After visiting the tortoise reserve, we went to puerto chino.  It is the most beautiful beach I've ever been to with nice white sand and perfect waves rolling in.  September is the coldest month in the Galapagos and all the locals think the water is freezing but we all went right in and the water felt great.

We also had a field trip Saturday going snorkeling.  We took a boat to islote lobos, a shallow water area where sea lions like to hang out.  We saw a bunch of fish, a stingray and swam around with some sea lions.  Then we went to puerto grande, a beach, and explored a bit talking about some of the plants and wildlife and then we just hung out.  Some people kept exploring, some played in the water, and me and a few others just laid out.  Then we got back on the boat to eat lunch.  You're not allowed to picnic on beaches, although as we ate on the boat 3 people jumped into the ocean to recover trash that had blown away because there was no where to set anything down without the risk of it falling over from the rocking of the boat.  Lunch was this real nasty cold rice and chicken mixed with ketchup and mayonnaise.  I ate it because I was so hungry, but it didn't agree with me too well.  We sped of to kicker rock, a 500 ft tall old lava cone split in two.  In the middle of the two peaks is a popular place for sharks. We got there and the sea was really choppy and I could feel my lunch which was miserable, plus I was a bit terrified to jump out and go swimming with sharks.  We slowly made our way around and jumped into the choppy ocean and started swimming through the channel.  We saw white or black tip sharks- our guides couldn't agree- and on the other side of the channel we saw a bunch of sea turtles!  Then we got back on the boat to head in and on out way we saw a whale!  We followed it for a bit and we all tried to convince our guides to let us jump back in and go swimming with it, but to no avail.

The university teaches English classes and has a program called primos (spanish for cousins) where we are grouped with locals to help them with English and they help us with Spanish/getting to know the island.  Sunday, I went with my friend Miranda to her prima's house for lunch and they gave us lobster.  It was a whole lobster cracked open and the meat was glazed in this delicious sauce.  I wasn't really sure how to eat it, which was amusing, but it was delicious- and I don't really like seafood.  Then, they took us to el ceibo, a treehouse with a complete working bathroom.  It also had an underground dwelling in a hole in the base of the trunk and we climbed the tree like a rock wall on the side.  It was amazing!

Next week, I don't have any class which I'm super pumped about.  We have to write research papers and study for our final on Thursday which includes reading a whole other book, but I'm really looking forward to hanging out and enjoying the island.