I'm an official Peace Corps volunteer now. Training is finally over. I'm not going to miss it...I was burnt out on papelotes and sensitivity training about a month in. I will miss Tumbaco though. I'm going to miss my awesome former host family, several of my fellow volunteers, the wonderful staff, and all of the great times we had there.
With that said, I'm excited to begin a new adventure here in Muisne. During my site visit here a few weeks ago, I honestly wasn't feeling it. It's hot, grungy, and from what I've heard, quite dangerous...a far cry from relatively posh Tumbaco. With time, however, I have come to terms with this. This place beats the hell out of a lot of places I could have been sent. The beach alone is enough to supersede any shortcomings this place may have. It's gorgeous. The city really comes alive at night, with people walking the streets, socializing, and zipping around on mototaxis. I'm quickly realizing that people here are actually quite chill for the most part, and that this reputation for being dangerous is a little bit overblown. I'm smart, and I've got good people looking out for me, so I'll be fine.
These good people I'm referring to are my new host family. It's an older couple that I'm living with, in addition to their daughter, her husband, and their little girl, though I do believe they are moving into their own place soon. It's a bit weird though, because I'm still setting my boundaries, and I never know how the family is going to react. I'm walking around on eggshells, trying not to offend, and trying to stay on everybody's good side, which is difficult and never comfortable. I can't come and go as I please without alerting everyone and having to explain myself...I don't have a key to the front door first of all. Not to mention, my room is on the far side of the house, and there is absolutely no way to be quiet when you're having to walk over old wooden planks. I hear them whispering about me at 3-4am if I simply have to get up to go outside and use the bathroom. Like I said, they're good people and I know they're just concerned for me, but I really hope that they begin to chill out soon. Other than that, it's pretty much what I had going in Tumbaco...meals are cooked, clothes are washed, and I basically just provide company and a source of entertainment. I'm cool with that. They're actually very much like my real family, in that they like to give each other shit about everything (in a humorous way), so I haven't had much trouble integrating, even though I only understand about half (if I'm lucky) of what is being said at any given time. Needless to say, there are lots of jokes at my expense. My favorite are the millions about me being Justin Bieber.
I'm still figuring out my role at Agua Muisne, the nonprofit that I'm working for. So far I haven't done much of anything...I've just been showing up and hanging out. I've had the opportunity to meet some people around town, however, that I may be working with in the future, such as the director of environmental affairs here in town. She wants to collaborate on education initiatives, which is great for me, since that's my main focus here. They need a lot of help, especially when it comes to changing peoples' habit of not disposing of their waste properly. As far as Agua Muisne is concerned though, I'm just going to go with the flow. Eventually I'm going to see/realize what it is I need to be doing. Thankfully my counterpart is really chill and understanding of my shortcomings, especially in the language department. His family is great too; I love eating lunch over at their house and watching “Humor Amarillo” (yellow humor), the Spanish dub of the program MXC (Most Extreme Elimination Challenge). The humor is not quite as subtle as in the US version...there are lots of chaulafan jokes, even though chaulafan (fried rice, basically) is a Chinese dish, and the show features Japanese people...ah, but what are details...Asians are Asians. There really is no concept of political correctness here in Ecuador.
Anyway, that's what's going on right now...adjusting. If you would like to send me a care package at any point, being the amazing friends and family that you are, my P.O. Box is as follows:
PCV Justin Mullenix
Just make sure that you declare the value of the contents as $0, otherwise Ecuadorian customs will more than likely rip into it. If you plaster a picture of Jesus or the Virgin Mary on the package that might deter potential thieves as well.