I find myself both loving and being frustrated to death by this country. I suppose that's normal. Thankfully, what I love far outweighs what I don't thus far, so that's a good thing.
Having poor Spanish skills definitely contributes to my feelings of anguish. I know it takes time, but I'm tired of it holding me back. Frustrations have been multiplied since visiting the coast, where the rate of speech is more rapid in general and the clarity of the words are much less so than in the Sierra, where I'm struggling enough as it is. In a year I should be fine, so they say, but I often wonder how the hell I'm going to cope until then. All I know is that smiling and nodding is beginning to lose its effectiveness. And unfortunately, this is not one of those fake it till you make it situations, haha.
There are of course so many more positive aspects, which I try to remain focused on, especially for the sake of this blog. For example, every time I visited the beach in Muisne I couldn't help but think to myself how lucky I am to be here. Putting up with a little hardship is worth it for experiences like these, and I try not to forget that.
So yeah, I just returned from a week long site visit to Muisne. Muisne is a medium-sized coastal community in the province of Esmeraldas. It's located on an island, separated from the mainland by a river. It is lush with mangroves on the river side, with a beautiful expansive beach on the other. It is here in Muisne where I will spend my two years, assisting with the daily operations of a non-profit foundation dedicated to providing affordable, clean water to underprivileged people in the area. I'm not sure what else I'll be doing yet, but you can bet it will revolve around education, since that is my primary Peace Corps assignment.
The host family with whom I will be staying are very nice, hospitable people, much like my host family here in Tumbaco. The amenities aren't quite as nice, but that is the reality of the situation...I'm expected to live like the average member of the community for the purpose of integration. It's not all that bad...I will have to get used to taking bucket baths as opposed to showers, but other than that, it's about the same. The only thing that concerns me is the food/water. I like the food, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't exactly agreeing with my system. I left Muisne feeling pretty horrible in general. What concerns me is a lack of cleanliness in the kitchen. I just hope that my system adjusts quickly, because until I am living on my own and can prepare my own food, that's something that isn't going to change.
Culturally speaking, Muisne is noticeably different than Tumbaco/Quito. Muisne reminds me of living in a bayou setting, with a Wild West disposition. People carry around machetes as both a tool and a deterrent, if that gives you any sense of what I'm talking about. I'm not sure if I'll be visiting the local discoteks with as much frequency as I have been here in Tumbaco, because from what I hear there is an expectation that if you're going to drink, then you're going to drink hard, and you may or may not end up in a fight by the end of the night. Chilling on the beach at night is not advisable either, because apparently that's where the Rastas and the tourists go to do their Rasta/touristy activities. For me, my reputation as an outstanding member of the community is important, so there will have to be very little if any of that going on with me. Also, if you stray too far in either direction, into “no man's land” essentially, then you run the risk of something very bad happening to you.
But for all of the seemingly negative things that I just described, there really is a charming element to the community, and the people seem quite friendly in general. I obviously stand out as a gringo, but nobody really stares or has hassled me thus far. They are used to seeing gringos around, on account of the other volunteers (Germans) and the tourists that come through. It's a good thing.
So yeah, that's what's up these days. Just a few weeks left of training, and then it's on to the big show.
Sorry there aren't any pictures to go along with this entry...I haven't been taking a lot lately.
And I have decided that this blog will NEVER be in Spanish, as I feel that I need this escape into unadulterated English every few weeks. I apologize to those whom I am disappointing...all 1 of you, perhaps. Haha.