Thursday, August 8, 2013

I'm Here!!!! Possibly Forever!

Sooooo...a lot has happened over the last few months.  I am married!

My wonderful husband asked me to marry him in March and we were married in June! The love of my life asked me and (of course) I said yes.  After so much time here in Ecuador and so much time knowing what I wanted or what I didn't want, I found my best friend and my husband here in this diverse, strange, exotic country I found the love of my life and I made the choice to stay here in the Oriente and support my husband as he pursues his dream of finishing school and us getting a job here.  Maybe I am a rare bird or something cut differently from the 'family cloth' but I have chosen to stay here once I finish my service with Peace Corps. So for the next 4 years I will be here in Ecuador pursuing life, love, guayusa and the unknown......Are you out there readers? Stay tuned!!!!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Chonta Festivals and Styles of Traditional Dress in Ecuador

I have an excuse for not writing in over a month and that reason is....My computer is on sick leave.  Our sweet little kitties decided to knock my computer off its perch and now we are dealing with some serious screen and hard drive damage...No worries it's recuperating and should be in ship shape in the next week.

That being said....On with the post!

So the fiestas the last week in April were the Fiestas of Archidona and the Chonta Fiesta.  If you guys remember from my last post I talked a bit about chonta.  Just a refresher its a big staple point in the Kichwa diet and the main (well only) ingredient in making chicha.  It's really only available around the end of March until June or July so April is the time to celebrate the first harvests of the Chonta!

Main street in Archidona during the parade

This was a perfect time for me to take photos of traditional out fits worn not only here in the jungle but also on the Coast and the Andes!  

Here we have several styles of Kichwa dress some of which are still worn today:

The outfit worn by the little girl is an outfit that I still see in communities.  Usually worn by the older
Kichwa women; usually consisting of a light checkered colored shirt (pink, yellow, or blue) and a navy skirt.

 The photos to the right and below are styles of dress before they used their traditional navy coloured clothes.  Mostly made from animal skins and plant fibers.  The men to the right play their instruments while the women below dance and act out hunting techniques.  The spears are covered in feathers from parrots, toucans, and other colorful amazonian birds.

These styles of dress are seen more during parades, festivals, celebrations, etc:

 Typical style of dress for women with artesanal jewelry and seeds from the amazon.  In her hand she holds a 'cuya' a type of gourd that is hollowed out and dried and used as a serving dish for guayusa or chicha.
A typical style of dress for men.  Cloth navy pants and shirt also with artesanal jewelry, seeds and of course his spear for hunting!

This is one of my favorite photos from the parade.  You can really see the beautiful colors and seeds used in their traditional dress.

Well that does it for the amazonian 'traje tipico' and now on to the Andes!:

I feel like typical andean style clothing has always been so striking and COLOURFUL!

I really only took a few photos of the coastal traditional wear:

These outfits are traditional to the Esmeraldas province with lots of Afro-Ecuadorian and caribbean 

Well there is a small introduction into traditional garments worn way-back-when here in Ecuador.  People today do not wear these out on the streets with the exception of the Sierran Quichua.  They still hold firmly to their traditional attire and I wish it was something that was done more here because in the Amazon there is an increasingly noticeable disappearance of traditional amazonian Kichwa culture as they move more and more into westernized society.

Next week let's talk about GUAYUSA!! 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Brief Guide to Kichwa Cuisine

Tahdah!!! Here it is friends and family feast your eyes upon the delicious.....CHONTACURO!!!!  I will explain this exquisite little grub in more detail but first!

I must introduce the basic Kichwa foods and that is starch starch starch in the form of....Yucca!! Yucca or 'Manioc' as I think it's known in the States, is a potato like food that is a huge staple in the Kichwa diet.  Its usually boiled and eaten with some salt or mashed, fried, made into flour (for bread), or put in soups.  Pictured on the right is a typical breakfast you might find of fried yucca with guayusa or lemon grass tea.

Pictured here is yucca after it has been boiled and is then put it on this big wooden plate and mashed with a big rock or a mashing stick. This is how they make Chicha...which i will explain in more detail.

Another important staple starch here in the communities is Platano or Plantains as you may know them.  This banana like fruit/starch is usually boiled as well and mashed and sauteed with onions, garlic, etc for added flavor.  Also it can be thinly sliced and fried to make plantain chips or cut into thicker slices, fried, mashed, then re-fried to make patacones...Delicious!!

So we've covered a few starches and there are many many more but these are the two main ones.  Some other examples are: Papa chinos (or "elephant ears" as you might know them) the bulb at the base is boiled and eaten and is really really scrumptious; Palmitos or "heart of palm" are like those bamboo shoots you find in your fancy salads; Patas are this nut like starch and so delicious too....That's all i can think of for now.

And now on to my favorite Kichwa foods....Maitos!!!  So Miato is a type of leaf that is used for cooking things like fish, chicken, grubs, cheese, beef, can basically cook anything with maito's like natures tinfoil.  Cooking food in maito gives food this added burst of flavor (to me its like a peanut flavor) as well as bringing out the natural flavors of the food you are cooking.

Pictured here is your typical tilapia maito with some yucca and tomato-onion "salad".

So about those grub worms....Chontacuros!  These grub-like worms live in the trunks of the chonta trees and are considered a delicacy with many medicinal qualities.  They say that if you have a soar-throat, cough, or congestion to eat these worms and they will help in a speedy recovery.  They certainly don't look very palatable but they are actually quite salty bacon.  I've watched many faces of new comers trying chontacuro for the the first time and the usual phrase after eating is...'hhrrmm it's not that bad'.

Now last but certainly not least, we have come to one of the most culturally important beverages in the Kichwa diet....Chicha.  Chicha comes in many forms depending on if you are in the mountains or the jungle.  Sierra chicha is usually in the form of corn while in the jungle you find yucca and chonta as the main forms of chicha.  Chicha is a big staple point in their diet.  It makes you strong, gives you energy, and fills you up.  It's usually drunk throughout the day as farmers machete their plots, prune their cacao trees, or harvest their crops.  It can also be made into a fermented beverage and drunk during festivals and family celebrations.  Pictured above are chonta fruits.  Like the photo pictured earlier of the mashed yucca, 'chicha de chonta' is made in the same way.  The fruit is boiled then peeled; the seed is removed; and the fruit part is mashed (or chewed depending on if you are making an fermented form or not) into a paste and then stored.  The paste is mixed with water and voila!! You have your chicha! I know I mentioned 'chewed' earlier and in some communities (from my experience I've been told it's been done more often in the communities further into the jungle than closer to rural areas) they chew the chonta fruit or yucca into a paste and the bacteria from the saliva ferments the chicha and makes it into an alcoholic beverage.  I think now they have other ways of fermenting chicha apart from chewing but I'm not sure how.  Now I'm not saying its the best tasting drink out there but it certainly fills you up and gives you energy.

Well that about wraps up our basic guide to Kichwa food!  Next week:  Traditional garments and dance!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Napo: Where Am I?

So in the time that I've lived in Ecuador I don't know that I've blogged too much about the part of Ecuador I live in; who I live around; what they eat; and Kichwa culture.

Here we go!

First off I live in the Province of Napo in the Amazon (el Oriente) of Ecuador.  The capital of the Napo province is Tena, about 15 minutes south from where I live (Archidona).

(Photo below of Sangay, pronounced 'San-guy')
I am not the most travel savvy or adventurous .  Most of my vacations and traveling growing up consisted of family outings to Disney World or beach trips to the Atlantic, and the most I had seen of the jungle, great plains or desert consisted of what was shown to me on National Geographic, Animal Planet, or Planet Earth.  I can't say much but I can say this.... 
I live in a f***ing badass place...

Seriously, I have the Sumaco volcano towering over me from the north; the Sangay volcano to the south of me; the fingertips of the Andes mountains coming in to settle to the West; and to the East a vast expanse of rainforest filled with sounds, smells, textures, and emotions one could never imagine. 

It really is one of the most beautiful places in Ecuador...and dare I say it...On Earth?
(Photo above of the volcano Sumaco)

Ok well there is a little bit about where I am; what is around me; and what I see on a daily basis.  Next week...FOOD!!!  And pictured below is a sneak peek of some of the foods I'll be talking about....Enjoy!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Santo Domingo COMPLETED!!!

Santo Domingo:

Well it was fun but as with all things it must come to an end...Actually, it came to an end a few weeks ago.  We completed our 8 week curriculum with the kids covering topics such as:

  • Soil and Soil Types
  • Trash (both organic and inorganic) and Composting
  • What's a seed?
  • Gardening Maintenance
  • How to Make Natural Pesticides
  • Nutrition
The end result:  A lovely greenhouse with lots of little plants just growin' growin' growin' away and an almost compost pile that was burned up on accident....Whoopsies!

Lessons Learned:

  • Children have the attention span of 5 minutes (and that's only if you have an entertaining/interesting subject)
  • They are nice to you before you start class and want to be your friend then they RIP YOU APART as soon as you stand up infront of the class.
  • Children love digging holes
  • DON'T touch chili peppers with your bare hands while making natural pesticides....I learned that the hard way
  • Patience. Patience. Patience.
And now on to a new school in the community of......ALTO TENA!!!!!

So now we are starting this project in Alto Tena a community about an hour outside of the lovely city of Tena.  One of the Global Citizen Year girls is working with that community and I thought it would be a good opportunity to start a new Gardening/Environmental Ed class with the children.  We've got the structure up and on Friday we are putting up the roof and making the beds and building a fence.

A few of the kids from the Alto Tena school

A Giant Worm!! Yes they exist...

Me (very tired) and the kids

Lady with a birds nest

All the kids LOVE Clare's hair!!

That's all for now on the gardening/Environmental Education side.

I have decided to set a new goal for myself on this blog.  I'm going to do weekly updates no matter how boring and I want to incoporate more facts and history about the culture here and in Ecuador in general.  What do you guys think??? 


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Class 3: Planting reality one seedbed at a time!

Class 3:  Seeds and Seedbeds

What's in a seed I ask?  And how is it that such a tiny thing can grow into such a huge plant such as a watermelon or tomato?? Trying to convey this thought and enthusiasm to a group of eight-year-olds who would rather be watching WWF wrestling than listen about gardening is certainly a feat but I think poco a poco the kids are starting to get more and more into our gardening classes.

This week we talked about seeds and seedbeds and then had the kids make their own seedbeds.  We planted watermelon, tomato, cucumber, cauliflower, and some herbs and the kids were really into it.  The best part of these classes have been the transition of the teachers participation.  The first class the teachers were very in the back of the class and not really helping us control the kids but now on our third class the teacher were participating with the kids and even going out and looking for container for seedbeds and taking the initiative to go and pass out seeds to the kids and help plant!  The director of the school also asked Helen and I if we could make a manual/document of all the classes we have done and classes we are going to do so she can use the information for future classes!  So all in all a very good 3rd week!

 Helen and I making seedbeds out of egg crates and bottles

Two heads are better than one!!

Filling up our seedbeds

The directora and teachers helping pass out seeds

Kids helping gather soil for their plantitas!!!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day 2: Trash and Composting!

 Class 2 with the kids we identified the difference between organic and inorganic trash and started a compost pile.

  So we had our second class in Santo Domingo working with the kids.  This week we talked with the class about identifying the difference between organic and inorganic trash.  This class luckily coincided with the Municipio de Archidona giving the school 4 sets of trashcans labeled for organic and inorganic wastes.  So we used them for one of our games with the kids.
Helen and I explaining our "race to get the trash in the right place" game.  This is one of new trashcans donated by the Municipio.

Helen showing the difference, to the class, between the 'red' trashcan for inorganic wastes and the 'blue' trashcan for organic wastes

Me attempting to wrangle up the kids and get them into lines to start the game.  Success?!

  The game went more or less successfully and after we separated and disposed of all the trash we talked to the kids about the benefits of using organic waste for composting.  We talked about starting a composting pile out behind the school to use for the vegetable garden.  The kids seemed pretty enthusiastic about it and in no time at all we had our pile up and ready! 

The kids and I throwing the organic wastes together with leaves, sticks, etc.

The Finished Product!! 

  Next week we will take a peek inside and see how our compost is doing and hopefully add more too it.  We are also going to have class next week on seeds and how to make seed beds!  Stay tuned!