Saturday, June 7, 2008

At Home Again and THANKS!

We have been at home in Florida for a week having arrived in Miami on Sunday June 1. We are sure there will be many days of reflection about our experiences in Ecuador over the next few months. We are a bit different because of our experiences. Hopefully, the people and the school in Puyo are a bit different because of our work there. Our hope is that it truly was a win, win situation for all involved.
People have asked us if we plan to return. The answer is that most likely that will happen. The job was only begun and we have a great deal of interest in what becomes of the school. The people associated with the school are outstanding people and have a magnetism that would make anyone wish to return to see them again.
A major part of our reflection on the experience will be to readjust to the abundant lifestyle we enjoy in this country. What will be our obligation to share in the future? When you see your "neighbor" in need, what is our responsibility? What is a fulfilling retired life? These and many more questions will follow us in the future.
Thank you to the many readers who followed this blog. Even as we returned home we have heard of additional people, who only casually knew us, who followed our experiences. We feel a need to recognize two couples who made this expereince possible. Eldon & Phyllis Yoder from Iowa provided an opportunity for us to accept this assignment. And then there was the home front. Phil and Joann Long, our friends and neighbors faithly watch our home, cared for our property and made midnight trips to the Miami airport. A special thanks to these people. And also a thanks to those who sent emails of interest and encouragement. It meant a lot. Finally there were all those people last summer who provided books, cash and other support to make the project happen. Thanks!
Until the next adventure, thats it!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Process of Leaving

Once again the cultural differences emerge as we have entered the wind down process here. Completing a job, or at least moving on, in the US is very much a matter of finishing up small tasks and leaving things in good order for the people left behind. Here, we find it to be as much a matter of social transition as it is a matter of tasks transition.

And so Friday evening the entire staff and some new Junta members gathered at a restaurant just outside of town for the official social termination of our stay here. The evening starts out on a festive note with group games and contests. All is meant to be light hearted and fun. Then the more serious exit ceremony begins. The Director thanked us for our work. Each staff women gave MJ a small gift by which they could be remembered. The men also gave me small gifts, but somehow things were not as straight forward. One forgot to bring something and gave me the keys to his car which he promptly reclaimed. Several others gave things that were reminders of private jokes in the past. All was in good humor!

Finally, the serious thanking took place. Emotions came to the surface and a few tears were shed. I couldn’t even use my old joke about making it look like you were leading a parade when, in fact, they were running you out of town. All of this was a sharp reminder of how seriously the Latino culture takes personal relationships. At moments like this one can easily measure the degree of acceptance we felt.

One postscript is in order here. I was writing this blog late Sunday morning on my computer. The son of our landlady came with an urgent message. We were to appear in the church immediately. Because of a number of things pertaining to getting ready to leave and because I am a little under the weather with a sinus cold, we had decided to skip church today. We were dressed in five minutes and taken immediately to the church where we were presented with a “thank you” plaque. We had assumed that last Sunday was the official “thank you” when we, along with the new Junta and other teachers, were recognized during the church service. I said to the Pastor “no one told us about this morning”. He was dumb-struck and responded “but you always come for the first service.” This is an excellent example of Latino planning and US expectations in conflict.

Monday, May 19, 2008

New Governance For The School

Changing the school governance from a strong individual (senior pastor) to a school board (Junta) is both an interesting and challenging process. I have a feeling that the challenges have just begun. Playing roles one has never played or even observed before is full of surprises for everyone.
Today I spent about two hours working with the Director of the school on the topic of how she plays her role in a Junta meeting. First, the idea that one would outline, in writing, the details of every issue and present this document for Junta member’s consideration before the meeting is new. Secondly, the point that one needs to be available at the meeting to respond to questions and reactions of the Junta members is also new.
We are attempting to move from a procedure of announcing a new program to the public and THEN doing the research to see if it will work to researching first and then announcing a well planned program. Our school is suffering from a series of announce and then plan projects. Four announce and then plan programs have not worked and then retrenchment is required. Needless to say, that doesn’t do much for credibility of the institution.
Our next Junta meeting is Thursday evening. Before that time, we hope to meet with the president of the Junta to review the role she should play at a Junta meeting. We have discovered to this point that nothing can be assumed when it comes to playing new roles. We have some very good and sincere people who want the best for the future of the school. Whether or not the new governance will work depends a lot on our ability to teach the new governance roles.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Parade - Part II

This will be the second and last posting of the Puyo celebration parades. Hope you enjoy the color and the festivities. Part of the parade was in the rain. Didn't seem to bother those in the parade, however.

Friday, May 16, 2008

School Kids Parade This Past Monday

The photos in the blog today are all from the four hour school parade this last Monday. We often have difficulty downloading photos. Today was an exception and so we continued to download. Enjoy the color and the celebration that is done so well in this culture.

The two pictures below are photos of the Esperanza School kids.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


We had difficulty with internet downloads yesterday, so here is a part of the parade of last Sunday. As the sign indicates, the Huaorani (spelled several different ways) were a part of the parade. The dress (or lack there of) of the men bring about wide spread reaction in the crowd.

Seems that the history of these people in the last 52 years has been on some sort of speeded up version of an unlikely story. It was this tribe located here in the jungle that killed 5 American missionaries some 51 years ago this past January by spearing them to death.

Like most groups in the world who lived a primitive life, the Huaorani have been through a lot. Going from no money, living off the land and not being able to read or write to joining the modern world has sent shockwaves through their culture. Many of these shockwaves have been negative such as high alcoholism and living a life of subsistence poverty. The story is not over yet.

These people seem to have been accepted by the larger culture around here but at arms length. They are a curiosity rather than full partners in the local life and culture.

The future is uncertain. They have a large tract of land where they live their own style of "reservation life". The amount of land they cover is but a fraction of what it once was. Hunting and gathering took huge expanses of land to keep meat and food plentiful. The oil company invasion of their area has changed their lives forever.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sunday Morning In The Market

Sunday morning before going to the parade of indigenous peoples, we went to the Puyo Sunday market. Thought we would throw in a few pictures of food (one exception). Starting with the cows head, we were told that it makes excellent soup. (Count me out)

These pigs were in the back of a covered pickup. Fowl and animals like pigs are sold live and the butchering goes on at home. Well, it is fresh meat!

The picture above is a fairly common sight around town. Again, soup would be a food product, but you also see these things roasted and even the exterior fat is eaten. We called it "cracklings" years ago.

The above armadillo is really considered a great meat. They either roast or BBQ it. Some say it tastes like rabbit.

The non-food item above is broom straw made from a tree. Not sure of the details here.

And finally for dessert, the wiggly mess just does me in. I came by this box of "sawdust" and it was all moving. Inside were these giant grubs which feed on a certain kind of tree. The grub is considered a very special treat. (This is one of those pictures you need to click on to see the full size of these creatures.