Ecua-Camp!

Hello All,

I hope life has been great for all of you since the last time I wrote! This week was much busier than the first few weeks in site, so it was a nice change of pace and I have some fun things to report!

This past weekend there was a youth camp for all of the Red Cross youth in Loja province and since my counterpart agency is the Red Cross of Celica, I got to participate and help out!

I was really excited to get out of site again especially because Loja city has American food and I have been craving American food (or any food that isn’t Ecuadorian food, really) pretty much since I’ve gotten to Celica. It’s been bad, I’m pretty much constantly like …

pizza

I have realized that Italian food and McDonald’s are my version of Food-crack…  Also just thinking about a decent cup of coffee can keep me distracted for days… Not proud, just honest…

starving

Since I got to participate in some of the workshops with the other Peace Corps volunteers I decided to leave a day early to help prepare…

Side Adventure: My bus had seat covers that said Firts class and then promptly broke down at the terminal, after we had been sitting on it for 40 minutes…  Not so firts class if you ask me!

So then I got to take the next bus that didn’t have any windows that would open so we were all pretty much like…

hot

for 4 1/2 hours… It’s always an interesting time on the buses here… 🙂

But I did finally arrive safe and sound in Loja city and worked on projects and ate chili with current volunteers that have already been here a year! I got to hear some amazing stories and I learned that the chances of me saying this within the next two years are pretty high…

pooped pants

Well our first workshop was on Friday and the topic was Recycled Art! It went really well, it’s fascinating what Peace Corps volunteers can do with a little trash! We worked with magazines newspapers and tubes from damaged tires to make jewelry, wallets, vases etc. The kids were really creative and all of us facilitators were like…

teaching style

The next day we got to do a workshop on teenage pregnancy and all I could think of was…

sex ed

But of course our workshop was much better than that!

During the workshop I got to demonstrate the proper way to put on a condom! I was really surprised with how mature the kids were. I expected them to be like….

Ew (1)

But they were all pretty much like…

nod

Later on in the evening we had a talent show and I got to really see some differences between American teenagers and Ecuadorian teenagers… I have never seen so many teenage boys so eager to take off their shirts and dance on a stage before, in my life! It happened multiple times and I’m pretty sure they felt like they looked like this….

magic mike

But really it was more like this…

dancing kids

Then one of the groups asked for a female adult to participate in their act… My youth were chanting my name but I refused to volunteer and I’m so glad I didn’t because they sat her in a chair and 3 of the teenage campers pretty much gave her a lap dance!

All of us volunteers were like….

Jlaw-what

Absurd

And also we were like, if this was America….

jail

But it was pretty funny since it wasn’t serious and you could see how embarrassed the counselor was the entire time.

Then after the talent show there was a camp dance and all of us volunteers made sure we danced in a circle so none of the teenage boys would try to dance with us one-on-one and make us feel like…

awkward

And I made sure to dance like this…

ace ventura

Because that’s obviously, the best way to dance…

So all in all, camp was an awesome experience, I learned a lot and got to spend some quality time with my youth and other volunteers… And I also got my American food fix…

what im talking about

AND Next weekend I’m traveling to another big city with a few other volunteers for my personal days and every time I think about it I’m like…

excited girl

So I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to tell you after that adventure!

I hope everything is great in your part of the world! I hope to hear from everyone soon! Apparently I’ve received my first letter so I’ll make sure to let everyone know if it was from America or Peace Corps so we can know if my address works!

Until next time!

Peace out!

New experiences and lessons learned…

Hello Again!

Wow, I honestly can’t believe it’s already been 2 weeks in our sites it really only feels like 1. The time has been flying by! I hope it stays that way because I’ve got 102 left!

speechless

Exactly…

Well my first week in site was pretty interesting, I spent most of my time getting to know where everything is, how everything worked and who I was going to be working with…

I had to get into a rhythm with my new host family which wasn’t too hard but was a little awkward at first because they want to treat me like a guest when really I’m more of a new daughter or tenant (depending on how you look at it).  They’re a very sweet couple, they both work during the day and at night they’re tired so we pretty much just do this…

no-thanks

Which I am very grateful for because my other volunteer friends are constantly telling me how their host families are like…

Clingy

Except MUCH less adorable…

I’ve been contributing to the household by washing dishes and I made them tuna fish sandwiches because I couldn’t find ingredients for anything else that I know how to make! They pretended to like them at least…

I also went and bought some stuff at the store that I only later realized was all past its expiration date…

louie

But you know… it’s the thought that counts?

My host mom usually cooks for everyone and the food so far has been pretty good, but today I actually encountered a meal that I couldn’t even force myself to eat…

Pork skin stew… we had rice and potatoes and PORK SKIN! At first I was like, ok, I can stomach this, just swallow it, don’t chew, don’t think about it…. Then… I noticed the hairs… PIG SKIN HAS HAIRS! IT LOOKS LIKE MAN STUBBLE!!! At that point I couldn’t even try to eat it, when I looked at it I was like….

do-not-want

And I then only ate the potatoes and rice… Fortunately they had to leave half-way through the meal so I just threw the rest away. I hope to God I never get served that again!

As far as my work is concerned, my Red Cross youth group is trying to raise money for a camp that is now in a week so my first weekend in site we held TWO fundraisers! The first one we made empanadas and half of us were like….

cooking

And the other half were like…

lazycat

And we didn’t make NEARLY as much money as we thought we would, so we decided to sell fruit salad on Sunday too!

This is a summary of what happened…

happy chef

chop

pulling hair

fire

bomb

We worked for around 5 hours and only made about $3… To be honest, I was a little discouraged. Then to make things extra discouraging, that evening I got sick… So I pretty much felt like…

rudd-sucks

The best part of the day was that I experienced my first earthquake! While I was sleeping, it shook me awake and in my mind I thought someone was shaking me and I was like….

karate fail

But then no one was there and my room was still shaking. So then I was like…

tumblr_m7abge6Pwf1r089y6

But it stopped and then I was like… Well, since I’m awake now, might as well go to the bathroom!

joey-shrug

So it wasn’t too inconvenient…

So moving on, earlier this week since I’m supposed to be working with youth in general (not just the Red Cross) I helped out with a fundraiser for an animal rights organization with mostly kids. Each month they put on theater style movies with a snack bar and everything! This day was Monster’s University so all of the local kids came and it was like….

freak out kid

But all of their volunteers were organized and they made a TON of money!

Then after that we set up a snack bar at the local high school’s sports competition. And we sold out of everything! I kept asking myself, how is this organization doing this so easily compared to ours!?

does-not-get-it

Then I realized what we were missing…

mom

EXACTLY!!!

Wellllll, at least an Ecuadorian woman in our group…. they have them… we don’t…

Just for some cultural clarification… My counterpart is a 30 year old male who is very dedicated and professional… However when it comes to Ecuadorian culture, cooking, handling food and taking care of children is NOT a man’s job… So it makes perfect sense why having an Ecuadorian woman present makes things run so much smoother…

Sooooo when the Red Cross youth group had our third fundraiser today, I put on my teacher hat and delegated my face off! It felt like…

magic cooking

And this time around everyone was working on something instead of sitting around waiting and all of us were like…

chef

AND GUESS WHAT!? We sold ALL of the empanadas! Afterwards I felt like…

godzilla

Now I know this couldn’t have happened my first weekend here because I didn’t know the kids and they didn’t know me AND we ALL didn’t know how to make empanadas… But this has really helped me realize how quickly I’m integrating and how much I’m going to enjoy working with these kids. Rewarding and fun…

Well, thank you for reading my blog I know this was a long one! I’m gonna be pretty busy next weekend with the camp so it will probably be a little while before I can post again…

I’m going to post my new address in the Contact tab soon so if you feel like sending me a letter there it is!

I hope all is well in your part of the world!

Peace out!

Week 1 of the rest of my life… for the next two years…

Hello once again everyone!

Since the last time we spoke, I have not only become an official Peace Corps volunteer but I have also officially traveled across Ecuador to move to Celica, Loja!

It was a pretty epic trip to say the least!

This last week, like every other week, was… Crazy! (why change things now!?)

First, we had our swearing-in ceremony! For those of you that couldn’t make it (aka everyone) it pretty much looked like this…

crazy-celebration

Then finally after 3 months of training and forming into an inseparable Peace Corps family, we all had to leave our Ecua-security blankets back in Tumbaco and venture out…

Alone…

To our sites….

tumblr_ls21xio6tz1qldb3b

It was challenging to say the least.

Honestly, repacking everything was probably the hardest part… Why did I think I needed all this stuff!?

packing

packing 2

Well fortunately for me I didn’t have to travel the whole way alone! I got to travel with two of my besties part of the way so the transition wasn’t so traumatic… However, the bus rides were!

The entire way we were traveling in the mountains and passing other cars on blind turns and it felt like we were going to either do this…

bus crash

Or this….

driving_off_a_cliff

And the entire time we were like…

shocked

jack-scared

And when I finally got to Celica I was like…

hallelujah

Needless to say, I’ll be thinking twice about traveling out of site anytime soon…

So now I’m officially in Celica for the next 2 years! Woot!

I know everyone is wanting to see what it’s like so here is a picture I took from my window…

celica

It’s pretty amazing isn’t it!?

Sorry I couldn’t help myself… I’ll try to post some REAL pictures soon though…

Well, after traveling/fearing for my life for 18 hours when I got to my room I was like…

exhausted

So on Saturday I managed to hole myself up in my house, ALL DAY! Impressive, I know…

Little Peace Corps fun fact… During training we were told multiple times to accept every invitation so we can integrate into our community faster… well…on this aforementioned Saturday I declined one invitation so I could spend the day rearranging my furniture/unpacking and then begrudgingly accepted an invitation to go out dancing that night… Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been so upset about going out dancing! Later however, the dancing got cancelled and I was elated that I could sit alone in my room on a Saturday night… All I could say to myself was… What is wrong with you!?

emotionally-compromised

The next day I got to learn a little more about Ecuadorian culture when my host family took me to a neighboring town to “have lunch” with the extended family. While we were there I met TONS of people, ate A LOT of goat… and I mean A LOT… and parts that I’m not even sure what they were… But as usual I was like…

patrick-eating

Well lunch turned into dinner and we ended up getting back to our house around 7:30pm? Sooooooo I have now learned that I should only accept a lunch invitation if I do not have any other plans for the rest of the day. Luckily for me though, my evening plans got cancelled so I didn’t have to upset anyone. 🙂

 

Soooooooo after my weekend of fun and relaxation I got to have my first official work day in Celica on Monday!

In the morning I went to the market and greeted everyone that I walked past and they were all pretty much like…

dr-mccoy-and-captain-kirk-approve

But while I was in the store I could feel people being like…

cat-peeking-window

I made sure I went to the small store that actually has a register/scanner so I wouldn’t get cheated on prices since I’m a giant white girl.

I then wandered around the actual market trying to find honey and was told $8, $20 and $12 for the EXACT SAME BOTTLE! I was like…

RUDE

But now I know that I’m gonna have to go to shopping with an Ecuadorian friend, at least until they know me…

As for the rest of my work day, in the afternoon we had a meeting with the president of the youth group….. and that was my first day at work!

Needless to say, the pace is a lot slower here than in the States, but I’m really happy about that because adjusting is pretty difficult… Honestly, just getting out of the house is a personal challenge…

On the outside I look like….

Smooth

But on the inside I’m more like…

tumblr_inline_mhjol0wpCs1qz4rgp

However, I’m so glad that I’ve done this before and I know what it feels like and I know that after time the awkward goes away and then you’re just you in another part of the world!

Well, now that I’ve moved I know people are curious about my new address ,   so here it is!

PCV Courtney Heptig

Correos de Ecuador

Loja-Celica

Calle Colón y Loja

Junto a la Escuela Manuela Cañizares, Ecuador

 

Honestly, we might want to send a trial letter or two because this is pretty much the equivalent of telling someone:

American Post Office

Dallas Texas

On the corner of 1st and 2nd street

Next to that Elementary school, USA

I LOVE that I’m in such a small town that this is how the post office works but I’m not so confident that a letter from the States will actually make it here based on that address.

Either way, we better find out soon because I’m going to be requesting stuff from you guys since I am now in a place that has very few things to remind me of home… I have a feeling in a few weeks (or hours) I’m going to be like this…

donut

Well, it’s late and I have a full day of integration to do tomorrow so I’ll be in touch throughout the following weeks!

Peace Out!