Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wrappin' up

Another good stretch of time since the last post and I have to admit that this keeping up the blog is not easy with all other things going on. Here we go....


Recently the BIB hosted a number of fundraising events which some were successful and others not so much. First on July 31, the BIB held another garage sale. Take any garage sale I have been to at home and multiply it by 100. There were crazy lineups outside the foundation before we even opened the doors. And when we did open, holy shit, it was like Black Friday at a Walmart. There was shoving, and running, and someone even put their baby down to go and find the bargains. Jessi (the BIB librarian) had to rescue the child and ask who the mother of the year responsible for the child was! Regardless, the garage sale raised nearly $800 which set a record for most money earned, and we had a BLAST running the show.

Preparing for the mad rush

We got to fashion some of the clothes prior to the sale opening

We had a great team and a lot of fun!!

The next day was not as successful as anticipated. The BIB put on a fundraising concert held at the Posada del Arte, a local hotel. After days of pounding the street and handing out flyers, only 10 people (excluding volunteers) showed up. I can definitely say that I have heard a lot, and I mean a lot, of better folk bands than these guys. But, the day was fun regardless getting to share it with the other volunteers.

We are truly lucky to have found such a beautiful country. Both Dalene and I had no expectations for Ecuador, but Ecuador, you captured our hearts. I think that somehow the sky is more blue and the trees are more green. I truly believe it has some of the most stunning scenery and offers so much in terms of natural beauty. From volcanoes to rain forest, the magnificent Galapagos to stunning waterfalls. Here are some adventures I have had over the past several weeks:

My only taste of the Amazon (this trip..)
View of the Amazon Rain Forest from Puyo, Ecuador

Waterfalls on the outskirts of Baños

A view from the top

A tree house on top of the mountain overlooking Baños

The treehouse had a swing over the valley

One of the many beautiful views on our hikes

Baños from atop the mountain
Teleferico in Quito, Ecuador

We were treated to this sunset overlooking Volcan Cotopaxi

The Foundation (La Biblioteca Interactiva de Los Niños)

What can I say? The reward of working with these kids is the reason I didn't go home with Dalene when she left. From the moment I started at the BIB until the day I have to leave I have felt I made an impact. The smiles on their faces, the hugs I get when they see me walking in the street, and always getting pulled in 16 different directions by a separate child to go and play a game or draw with them...it is all priceless. They have truly stolen my heart away and it won't be easy to leave them. In fact my favorite has asked me if I could put her in my suitcase and take her home. Don't know how I would get that passed customs....

Me and Vero

Naelli and Me and storytime

Cecilia and her Niños

Reading time

Face painting day for Christian, Dayanara supervises the work of Sam

A tearful farewell to Sam and Chris

Amy has taken on the very popular music class

Yoga is always packed

Friends and Fun
The people both Dalene and I have met through La BIB, friends of the BIB or local Bañenos have made this whole experience that much more enjoyable. We have both learned so much from other people about their travels, culture etc. We now have everlasting friendships (and a couch to sleep on if need be in the future). There were many a good time and laughs shared.

The nightly ice cream run

A little Karaoke with Susana from Bolivia and Santiago, a bañeno

And after Mocambos and Karaoke, the club

Dinners at the BIB were a common thing, so many great chefs!

The new crew, and our fearless leader Karlito during a hike

Boby and the Bibi

Jody and Boby, the minds behind the BIB

Ok, if you haven't realized it by now, things are quite different here. Some good friends keep repeating a key phrase "El Ecuador man, El Ecuador". Here are some examples of what I have seen and what I see everyday which makes you look twice.
Baños de Cajon - they pump steam into a eucalyptus filled cedar box that has you in it only with your head exposed. Genius concept and will cure the nastiest hangover, but boy do they look funny with you in them.

Pelileo - Blue jean retail capital of Ecuador. I can understand the half mannequins for the jeans, but this one was a little on the strange side....
Branding and Copyright - well in South America anything flies. It seems that any copyright or branding law is thrown out the window. If you want jeans with an Armani tag on them, you just have to ask and they will put it on for you. You also get patches and sayings on clothes that are ridiculous, but worth a good laugh.

We are starting the SWSE club
I have not seen a retail DVD for sale in 12 months, and have had numerous reference books photocopied without even a hesitation. Have to say it is nice paying $1 for any movie to own versus the $6 you have to pay to keep it for only 1 night...

Zoos and animals-
actually this one I thought was pretty cool. They allow some of the animals to just roam around the zoo. We found this thing just having a nap. One of the other people standing around said it was ok for us to get close. Hmmm, strategy to off-the-gringo or just being nice..... (it was the latter)

We also got to go to a monkey sanctuary. This was one of mine and Dalene's favorite experiences. I got a chance to go again, and wasn't missing my opportunity. Nowhere do I know of in North America you can walk through jungle and have the monkeys climb all over you and play around. Strange but awesome!!!

I am le tired

Efficiency - ok, lesson 1 to learn when coming to South America is to be flexible and patient. Things will not get done the same way as back home. Efficiency, throw that concept out the window. Once you get into the routine, you don't want to get out. Life just seems to become easier. We had a good laugh at this sign which was posted for the operating hours. Yep, the hours are the same for everyday, but they for some reason they needed to split it up. Well done.

Adverts etc.
- ok, well I have to hand it to whoever thought of this one. What better way to advertise your teleferico experience!

This was the strangest store name I came across. It translates to "We are not Chinese, but we are cheap". Wow.

Food - ok, I know we all have our customs, but eating Cuy (Guinea Pig) just didn't sit well. Neither did the idea of eating slugs that this guy was selling... I'm sure they are really healthy, but pass.

Need a broom? How about a tv antenna? You can't go anywhere here without hearing somebody and their mobile business. From traveling fruit stands, juices, ice cream, and even a traveling broom salesman.

Chi-Chiva Leche!! This guy takes his goats around town and sells fresh goat milk to anyone who wants to buy. We partook and got a glass. Have to say it was pretty tasty. To wrap up the South America experience I am going to make a little list of what we will miss the most, and will not miss in the least.

  • The children here at the BIB. I can't say more than I wish I could bring you all home with me!!
  • The amazing people we have met along our travels and were able to get to know.
  • Teaching English was such a rewarding opportunity. It has opened a door that now I want to get my certification to teach English so next time I have a little more structure to know what I am doing.
  • Culture, such an opposite from North American lifestyle. Things get done when they get done. Meetings usually start 15 minutes later than anticipated. PS, to all who make plans to see us, please take this into account that we will probably be late.
  • The views every morning of a mountain, volcano, and waterfall staring at you
  • The buses have been surprisingly efficient and convenient. I have not driven a car in over 9 months and do not miss it at all.
  • Speaking Spanish - we worked so hard to get to the level where we are, it would be a shame to lose it. (we have vowed to inter-cambio with our friends on the net and to keep studying)
  • Visiting the local market for fresh fruit and vegetables has become a steady part of my daily routine. The fact you can a full bag of fruit and veg for less than $3 where in Canada I don't think you can even buy a pineapple for that price.
  • Noise pollution - this will the biggest one for me. I will not miss the big diesel engines with no exhaust muffle devices, the chiva buses driving by at all hours of the morning blaring their reggaeton music, and finally the car rigged up with megaphones and speakers blaring what they have for sale
  • Bugs - This affected Dalene the most as she was the one with the delicious blood. Still it will be nice to be in a place for a while without bugs to worry about.
  • Getting stared at. People can't help but to just lock eyes on the foreigner and not blink. I now have resorted to either making a funny face, or talking to them. The stares usually disappear after that...
  • Gringo prices - getting taken advantage in terms of pricing will not be missed. Speaking Spanish adds a lot of benefit when you are able to successfully negotiate and tell them they are charging you WAY too much
  • Finally the biggest thing I will not miss is the feeling of security. No, not the homeland security bullshit, but just the being careful with all your valuables and documents. You always have to be on your guard with your things. You can't leave your bag 2 feet from you unattended or put your luggage in an overhead compartment. You have to be on your watch always, otherwise if not, eventually something will happen to you.
So that's it. This chapter of the Hecktic Travels is coming to a close. What an amazing year. Thank you to all of our dedicated readers for sharing our adventures. Our next step is undetermined at this point. I am going home and we are going to rest for a few months. Most importantly spend some quality time with Dalene before we embark on our next adventure. Rest assured, we will have our backpacks on again before we know it. Stay tuned...

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