Week Four: Adventures in Yantzaza

25 07 2011

Week four, what adventures we have had.

On Monday we all piled onto a public bus in late morning in Loja, because yes, team IMPACTO was headed for the Oriente!.  We were all sad to say goodbye to our wonderful hostel, but we all have to move on at some point.  I think I speak for the whole group when I say that we were all beyond excited for a change of atmosphere, literally.  For the first two weeks we were in the mountains in Cuenca, pretty chilly in the morning, and if the sun was out in the afternoon it was very warm, but you were always wearing pants and sweaters.  Then Loja we were told would be warm and sunny, but something we have come to realize is that our group really attracts the rain! Loja was still a very cool city to explore and the places we travelled to around it were stunningly beautiful.  Even with the beauty, we were all so excited for the Amazonian heat that we boarded the bus in our shorts and t-shirts, prepared to sweat, and man did we get what we expected! Yantzaza was steamy!

Loja had been a pretty crazy workweek for us, and we were excited to hear that the week in Yantzaza wouldn’t be QUITE as hectic, but it was still very busy.  We spent most of Monday settling in and exploring the town. Yantzaza is a pretty small place, and there aren’t a lot of options when it comes to restaurants.  Our group spent a large chunk of time on Monday night wandering aimlessly around Yantzaza looking for somewhere to eat.  We finally stumbled across this little place that I think had four tables and no names.  The woman who was cooking dinner was cooking out of her family’s kitchen, the restaurant had no name, and if you had to use the bathroom, you walked into the back, through the kitchen where her whole family was eating, and out into the back where there were Guinea Pigs running wild around the back yard… Only in Ecuador!

Day two in Yantzaza mainly consisted of our marketing campaign and preparation for our consulting APF’s.  We went as a group in the back of a pick up truck to a small town called Chicaña. We split into groups with Brad, Luz and our two assessoras and took the very sleepy town by storm handing out flyers and telling people they should come to our campaign the following weekend.  We are coming to realize that every marketing and campaign goes differently, and every time we learn better ways to do it. Chicaña was much more calm, and a lot easier than Gualel because we are all building our confidence in speaking with people and explaining who we are and what we do, in Spanish! After a rainy morning of marketing we made our way back to Yantzaza in the pickup and began working on our Assessor Por Favor consulting that we had to do the next day.

The next two days consisted of a lot of community engagement. Wednesday we finally got our Jungle boots!!  We strapped on our boots and climbed into the back of a pickup truck and travelled to a Shuar community for one of our APF Charla’s. It was a very interesting experience because the community was very excited to have us, and even MORE excited to talk about their lives.  Something that we have learned here in Ecuador is that people like to talk, a lot.  We have learned that when you ask a group of people to stand up and say what their name is and what they do, it normally turns into a ten minute schpeel about their lives and their families and many other random facts. Our day consisted of giving charlas, having lunch, and enjoying exploring the Amazon.  The next day was dedicated to Good Stuff Good Works. WE traveled, in the back of a pick up truck of course, to a small pueblo called Guadalupe.  Aside: We have all been in Ecuador now for about four weeks, and we have all grown accustomed to rarely know what the people around us are talking about, and that is why the beginning of our adventure in Guadalupe was so entertaining. We were then approached by a gringo-looking woman, and all of the sudden she started speaking English. Several of us stopped and looked at each other to make sure that we were all hearing the same thing… we were, she was American.  She has been a nurse in South America for over 20 years, and getting to know her throughout the day and her experiences in the town were very interesting and useful to all of us.  We spent the day learning about the peoples’ lives in Guadalupe and purchasing beautiful handicrafts from their homes where we were given treats and greeted as family.

There was a lot of work done on our Stove and Agro Drip projects this week, and when we weren’t out in the field or working on our projects, we were watching movies on Maria Luz’s projector, all 9 of us crammed onto two beds, or breaking into the kitchen because we just NEEDED some vegetables in our systems. Throughout the entire week we all had numerous chances, whether it be in the back of pickup trucks, or the balcony of our hostel, to have some pretty awesome heart-to-hearts.  Week four Yantzaza was definitely the place where our friendships took the step from new friends, to people who can talk to each other about anything.  It was a great week for learning and bonding, and we were all sad to see it come to an end.  However, the end meant we would again be reunited with all of our friends in Oportunidad! The drive home was a very long one with our anticipation growing every passing hour!  Driving into Cuenca, it just so happened that the other bus was driving in at the exact same time.  We were all hanging out the windows trying to catch a glimpse of our friends, and so began our week of reminiscing and reuniting in Cuenca.

(Madison Reiser)

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