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