Peace Corps Ecuador

El Clima June 2015 – “Posh Corps”

by a PCV in Ecuador

This is re-posted from the volunteer magazine El Clima.

Definition: Peace Corps site placements that lack the stereo- typical hardships of service. Sites with: running water, electricity, internet, washers and dryers, in- door plumbing, and/or hot water.

Among volunteers, this term can be loaded, implying that a volunteer is not suffering enough to earn real PCV status. The need of the countries we serve reflects the type of work and lifestyle that volunteers lead while they are abroad. I’d like to break the stereotype, without going too far into murky waters, which seems to be rooted in the nostalgia for the 1960s and reflects a paternalistic ideal of the world beyond U.S. borders.

As a volunteer in a middle-class community of educated professionals, I count myself among those who are in “posh corps” placements. At times, because of the idea that people have of “rough and tough” for Peace Corps, my middle-class life- style made me feel that I would let people at home down if they knew how much I was not suffering in Ecuador. Or that, frankly, my family would not support my being here if my placement were not “hard enough.” I signed up for worldwide service; yet here I am, working and enjoying some amenities common to the U.S., just like the population of the teach- ers I work with. I am as guilty as anyone for believing my experi- ence would be like the posters, something like a very rainy season on M*A*S*H with fewer martinis, and English teaching instead of surgery. It is nothing like I imag- ined, except for the teaching part. Also, there’s a lot more rum and zhumir here than gin. This may be a sign that recruitment propaganda is in need of an overhaul.Cuenca

Needless to say, I was uneducated about Ecuador and the TEFL program. That in itself is an important reason to come: to expel provincial ideas about the world that I unknowingly maintained. Volunteers live at the level of the people in their community with the goal of integrating into that community. This allows us to better share our expertise with the host country nationals who request it. In the countryside, volunteers may have an outdoor toilet and live at home with the family for their entire service. It all depends on how the people they work with live, and the cul- tural expectations of the commu- nity. On the other hand, I live in an apartment in a mid-sized city. I continue to eat with my Ecuador- ian family, but I have the option to eat at home. I have hot water and a bath tub. On weekdays, I go to work in heels and a suit jacket, just like I did in the US.

Among PCVs, enduring hard- ship during service comes in various forms and can be self- inflicted. There are volunteers who bathe in cold water though they have hot water available, or who do laundry by hand regard- less of having access to a washing machine. The idea is that suffering is a requirement to be a dedicated volunteer. It’s worth reflecting on why the notion exists that hardship is part and parcel to sharing information with the people we live and work with. Though I worked with struggling communities in the U.S., I never once felt that I should hand wash my clothes or take a cold shower to better serve their needs. I ask, how would host nationals inter- pret this motivation to go abroad to endure hardship? If the shoe were on the other foot, how would I feel if someone came to visit me and decided to camp on my lawn because my house was nicer than expected?

In short or long, being a volunteer is about sharing skills with and learning new skills from our communities. There are difficulties inherent to integrating and working abroad; we are people from distinct cultures, languages, and ideologies, and it is work to build friendships and working re- lationships in spite of these differences. Yes, I’ve taken a few bucket baths when the water was out. I’ve done this at home in Colorado, too. Thankfully, the world is a dif- ferent place than it was in the 1961 and the work we do has evolved according to the needs expressed by the countries who host volun- teers. There aren’t “posh corps volunteers” so much as there are volunteers who fulfill the requests for skills in a variety of communi- ties, like we always have. The reality that we are serving in increasingly better-off communities may just mean that soon we’ll be out of a job—just—as we hoped.

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El Clima June 2015 – Taming Public Transport

by PCV Alex Albanese…

You won’t find a slow bus driver on the coast. Whoever assumes buses are too large, have too much weight, and are too bulky to go fast has it all wrong. They haven’t felt the force of first gear and grappling onto any stationary object. They haven’t shot into a pack of passengers like a bowling ball after being caught off guard. They haven’t seen a bus pass taxis. They haven’t seen buses race.

Although I liken these vehicular drivers to Ricky Bobby, Jeff Gordan, or your crazy 17-year-old cousin who just got his license, there is a rhyme and reason for the accelerated lifestyle. One reason lies in the music culture. Almost every bus has the “accel- erated” thump of techno, salsa, reggeaton, and bachata. The rhythm fuels the need for speed hence the fast pace.

Surprisingly enough, the locals remain calm throughout this adventure. Me on the other hand, I am on edge, expecting the un- expected, and jiving to the music. So, if you are ready to make the leap physically and metaphorically to coastal public transportation, here is a comprehensive 8 step guide to success.

  1. Wave
    Each bus runs at about a 15 minute interval. Once you have identi- fied the desired bus, you must flag it down within one block, which is enough notice for the driver. The wave: stick hand out with palm down, wag hand furiously.
  1. Run and jump or hold your ground

Running to catch a bus grants you not only the good graces of the driver but also the accreditation of being a local. Many people of the Peninsula of Santa Elena walk slowly in the heat of the sun, yet, when they see the bus, they turn their Latino jets on. They waggle towards the bus, grab the outer bar, and swing in.

The second choice is waiting for the bus to stop because you are not ready for the local run down. In order to wait for buses, you must know the bus stop marked by a blue sign “parada.” If there is no bus stop sign, you must wait after a street light.

3. Board the busBus2

Once you are successfully in the door, beware! First gear will  punish those who don’t prepare. People have fumbled branches of bananas. Passengers have been knocked to the ground banging into bus bars, armrests, or even elbowing seated passengers.

You must spread your legs decently while boarding the bus steps, and make sure one arm is always on a bar. If you lose your footing and know you’re about to lift off, turn your back, cross arms, and ping pong off of the closest person standing in the crowd.

  1. Prepare payment

Exact change of 25 cents is always recommended. If you are ahead of the game, use the Tarjeta de Re- carga with the new scanner ma- chines across Santa Elena.

  1. Buy a Helmet?

Precaución de la cabeza!” Quite often, the height of the aisle hand- rail only serves for the average Ecuadorian height. Don’t be distracted by the driving, music, or crowds, because TVs, bars, and overhead storage provide possible hazards for the cranium.

  1. Proceed to desired open seat or area

The first two seats are always reserved for the elderly, pregnant women, the handicapped, and kids.

AlexProceed to desired seat and feel free to brush others to arrive at destination with polite remarks such as “con permiso,” and “perdón.” When passengers bulk up in the front, there is a higher chance of obtaining a seat if you move towards the back.

If no seat is found, lean against a seat and spread your legs for lower center of gravity.

  1. “Pare! Esquina! Gracias! Se queda!”

This is the fun part. Once you have reached your landmark, approach the driver one block before your stop and say, “Gracias, dé- jame aquí.” But, in the case you can’t make it to the front in time, warn the driver at an audible level to stop. “Se queda!” “Pare!” “La esquina!

  1. Disembark

It’s a 50/50 chance of jumping or walking off the bus. Be ready to jump and aim for a flat surface. Upon landing, you have successfully ridden coastal transport.

Each ride presents new discoveries of coastal Ecuador. After three months, I progressively find faster lines, new restaurants, or more stabilizing postures while riding. At first, I always allotted myself taxi fare as a Plan B, but I learned the lines as time passed. Local transport opened up the small comunidades between cit- ies, and that brings me closer to living like a common costeña. I struggled to integrate in some ways, but yelling “STOP” in a full bus gives me a rush of adrenaline and the confidence to live among

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June 2015 El Clima – From the Editors

We were fortunate to get the latest El Clima from PCV Chris Owen. Here are some select stories.

It is with our June issue hitting the streets—and as the overzeal-ous, water-gun-packing, Big- League-gum-smacking gang of story-chasers that we are—that El Clima rolls out a new chapter of our collective narrative here in Ecuador.

In this quarter’s edition, El Clima brings you tales of Peace Corps adventure from across the country. We hope to light a match: a single flame, which, upon meet- ing other tendrils of wandering smoke, spreads and infuses a greater spirit for adventure. May you reflect on your greatest ad- venture as you peruse all that is action-packed; from traversing the monstrous slopes of Cotopaxi with ice in your veins, to curling up for the night on Quilotoa’s treacherous rim. May these authors’ testimonies prove to readers of all shapes and sizes that, indeed, adventure is out there. All we must do is seek it.

And so our literary version of the Ron Burgundy legend carries on here at El Clima. As of this is-sue, we happily initiate two new team members in the forms of Content Editor, Tori “Trees are people, too” Sims; and Photo Editor, Alex “Living for the present” Albanese.

Lastly, congratulations to Omnibus 113 for successfully swearing-in to service, and a big welcome to Omnibus 114, as they join us on the adventure of all adventures, more commonly referred to as Peace Corps Ecuador!

Sharing your Peace Corps story,

The El Clima E-Team


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Update from Peace Corps Ecuador

Here is a belated August update from Peace Corps Ecuador.

Peace Corps Global Gender Workshop

The GGW was held in Washington, DC, March 16-24, 2015. Youth and Families Development Program Manager Cristina Rojas attended the workshop and represented PC/Ecuador in this worldwide initiative. The Global Gender Workshop came on the heels of First Lady Michelle Obama’s announcement of the Let Girls Learn initiative, a powerful collaboration with the Peace Corps to expand access to education for girls around the world. These two events provided Peace Corps with an excellent opportunity to reinvigorate our programming and training in gender. Currently, PC/Ecuador is in the process of redefining our gender strategy at post.

As Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet has said often in recent months “Peace Corps Volunteers were integrating gender long before it was mandated in the Peace Corps Act in 1978. And, they have continued to do so not because it is required, but because it makes sense. Our Volunteers see gender roles up front and personal and it is our task to give them the tools to make sure that everyone in the community—women, men, girls, and boys—are included in our work”. …

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A TEFL Volunteer Talks about His Experience

This is a story from PCV Shaun Neshium

As a TEFL volunteer (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), our primary work is the teachers in our schools. Thus, our lives are intertwined with theirs up to the point when they start thinking about what has to be done outside of school.

Whereas all TEFL vol-unteers live in the same community that their school is in, many teachers often have a forty-five- minute commute or longer every day; this applies to half of my teachers. Throw in additional, non-mandatory English courses, in which many teachers choose to participate, and the realistic expectations of working for the full day quickly diminish.

That being said, there are many English teachers who want to diligently work, learn, and become better teachers. In my particular school of 850 students, I have five English teachers, of whom four are motivated to use me as a resource to improve their teaching abilities through modeling, trainings, and one-on-one practice.

A TEFL Volunteer Talks about His Experience Read More »

News from March 2015 El Clima on the TEFL Program

Q&A with MD Chacón

Q: When did you begin your service as the TEFL Program Manager (PM)?

A: I was hired to start the TEFL program in September 2010, when we started the process of founding the TEFL program.

Q: What do you love about being the TEFL PM?

A: What I love is to see how in 1 or 2 years my TEFLeros turn into great teachers, and how excellent they are as trainers at the end of their service.

Q: Anything interesting about the TEFL program that you’d like to share?

A: I think the TEFL program has many years of success here in Ecuador. Four years ago no one knew about us in Ecuador, now a days, when they think of English classes or English training they think of PC TEFL PCVs, even the government. We have positioned the TEFL program in only 4 years in a good place in the mind of people and that is the impact we wanted. We also are going to start next year with a TEFL certification for PCVs, and that is also great news for our TEFLeros!

News from March 2015 El Clima on the TEFL Program Read More »

Basic Facts on PCE TEFL Program from March 2015 El Clima

The first group of PCVs came in June 2011.

The main objective is to support English teachers of public schools in their teaching skills. By improving teachers, we expect students will improve also.

There have been a total of 73 TEFL PCVs, with 30 more in OMN 113 who will be ready to serve in April 2015.

Usually, TEFL PCVs work at public schools 5 days a week. Some also work at local universities, with youth groups, and at TOTs with teachers in different topics.

Basic Facts on PCE TEFL Program from March 2015 El Clima Read More »

Stories from El Clima #2 – Take a Break, Find Your Place

This is a piece from the latest issue of El Clima by PCV Rachel Childs

Something funny happened when I woke up in the idyllic river province of Tigre, Argentina this past month.

The song “Home” by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros played from my friend’s music player while I washed the previous night’s dishes from the traditional grilled meat dinner, or parilla.

Though the song is about love, I could not help but think of my own definition of home.

The song “Home” by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros played from my friend’s music player while I washed the previous night’s dishes from the traditional grilled meat dinner, or parilla.

Though the song is about love, I could not help but think of my own definition of home. …

Stories from El Clima #2 – Take a Break, Find Your Place Read More »

Stories from El Clima Winter 2014 – Pumpkin Curry Soup Recipe

This is a recipe from PCV Nicolina Trifunovski

Soup is a lot like a family. Each ingredient enhances the others; each batch has its own characteristics; and it needs time to simmer to reach full potential. – Marge Kennedy

This sweet and delectable soup will warm your soul, especially during those chilly autumn days. Vegetarian and gluten-free, just about anyone can enjoy this taste of home.

Pumpkin Curry

Stories from El Clima Winter 2014 – Pumpkin Curry Soup Recipe Read More »

Updates from Peace Corps Ecuador

This is a guest post from Peace Corps Ecuador Director Alexis Vaughn (photo credit to PCV Sandrena Frischer).

Dear Friends,

The past few months have been ones of great change and excitement at Peace Corps Ecuador. In January, we inaugurated our new Training Center in the lovely garden town of Nayón with a lively Community Open House. US Ambassador to Ecuador, Adam Namm, and President of the Gobierno Parroquial de Nayón, Dra. Lourdes Quijia, joined Peace Corps staff and volunteers in giving a warm welcome to our new neighbors and volunteer host families. For many Nayoneses, our arrival in the community marks their first knowledge of Peace Corps and we are off to a good start indeed.

This week also marks the arrival of our newest training group, who will work in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). This is a group of many firsts, the first trainees in the new Training Center, the first trainees to live in the community of Nayón, and the first all-TEFL group (and twice the size of former TEFL groups). …

Updates from Peace Corps Ecuador Read More »

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