Week Two: ¨Tú no eres un extranjero más¨

19 06 2011

Another week has passed and it has been one of those strange experiences where time is flying by but it feels like we´ve been here forever.  This week has truly been one of immersion across the boards. Not only culturally, but this week we also dove head first into the work of our internships.

The more I get to know the culture here, the more I love it.  One of the ways we got to experience it this week was with Salsa lessons.  For a bunch of gringos, I´m pretty impressed with the progress we made in Latin dance. While the girls are definitely still jealous of how well our instructor can move his hips, we learned some basic steps to get us started on the dance floor.  I´m finding that a lot of times it´s easier to get by in another culture if you´re able to laugh at yourself, and this was one of those times.

Another cultural highlight of the week was our trip to the market. For Spanish class we were each assigned an Ecuadorian dish to prepare and bring in for everyone to eat on Friday.  We took a fieldtrip to the market to buy our ingredients and were overwhelmed by the amount of foods we´d never even seen before.  With a few other students, I got to sample the incredibly dark chocolate Ferrero Rocher imports in order to dilute and make their candies. We ate exotic fruits and have some addicts amongst our group to these strange new treats, the Grenadilla at the top of the list.  Unfortunately though, we also experienced the reality of trying new foods, in that they don´t always agree with everyone’s stomachs, and had a few cases of people feeling less than 100% this week.  Everyone did an awesome job with their food, and we feasted like reyes on Friday.

It has also been really cool to be fully incorporated into our host families.  Mine has been extremely patient and caring since day one, but I knew I was fully accepted when I was jumped and wrestled to the ground by my four young nieces and nephews earlier this week.  Since, it has been nearly impossible to get anything done because all they want to do is wrestle. However, it is worth it to hear my mom say ´´you´re not a stranger anymore´´ when they won´t let me work.  Familial inclusion has been common with a few lucky students getting invites to birthday parties, first communions, and weddings. My luck was manifested in an invite from my older brother to go out and eat cuy (the delicacy of guinea pig) with the hombres on Saturday night.  I was a little nervous going in, and warily eyed the animals turning on their spits over the coals in the corner but when it came time to eat I didn´t hesitate to pick up my portion and I loved it!

This week has seen the transition of our afternoons from theoretical discussions to practical.  We learned about the different projects we will be working on this summer, and began planning our first consulting presentation.  Through Asesor Por Favor, we will be providing consultation to small businesses and organizations who partner with us in our work here.  The consulting varies depending on the organization´s needs, but ranges from trust and teamwork building to basic accounting and sales strategies.  The idea of leading these workshops in another language is daunting yet exciting.  We are trying to prepare for the unexpected, knowing our Plan A will face unforeseen challenges.  It was also a very exciting week for us and our leaders as they finally unveiled our new products for our Para Su Bienestar campaigns.  This summer we will be researching to see what the response would be to: clean burning stoves, drip irrigation, SMS services and Nutributter. Our research will mainly be through talking with locals on our campaigns with the Asesoras and taking surveys. Saturday, we visited one of the artisan groups which is a part of our Good Stuff Good Works project.  GSGW is about creating opportunity for artisans who wouldn´t normally have it.  It was awesome to see them at work and the beautiful fruit of their labor (family and friends get excited, theres a good chance your intern bought you something from Mujeres de Principal).

While it is very exciting to be moving on to our field work tomorrow morning, it’s also sad to be leaving our Cuencan familes behind as well as having to part with half of the interns here as we go to different regions of the country.  I cannot get over how fast a sense of community has grown between the interns.  I am confident in the abilities of the group and comforted in facing the unknown alongside them.  Thanks for reading, stay tuned for more from Social Entrepreneur Corps Ecuador!

(Daniel Peyton)

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