Archive | May 2013

A Month in the Life: Highlights

Visiting Playas!

Dani, Mari, Paul Sunglasses

I haven’t posted much about our life lately so I thought I’d catch up on what we’ve been doing the past month. Recently, we took a weekend trip to Playas, a nearby beach community with friends to celebrate **Ben’s** birthday. We rarely take vacation and are usually working with Neo Juventud on weekends but we managed to slip away for some excellent R & R. Above, **Dani**, Paul and I are rocking our sunglasses on the ride from Puerto Engabao to Playas.

Otherwise, it’s been a productive time, especially when it comes to teaching. From our Saturday environmental art classes with kids and a Mother’s Day party with Mujeres Cambia to a visit from a youth foundation from Guayaquil, we’ve been teaching recycled art projects, color theory, crafts, entrepreneurship, and youth leadership. See for yourself!

JUCONI Foundation Visit

Visit to Neo

Fellow PCV **Tom** from Omnibus 108 works with Junto Con Los Niños (Together with Children) or JUCONI, a foundation based in Guayaquil that works to eradicate child labor.  Learn more by visiting their website: Many teen participants were once street children begging, borrowing, or stealing. The foundation provides them and their families with structured activities, therapy, education, professional development, and excursions to learn from other organizations like Neo Juventud.

Participants first traveled to San Pablo to learn about social entrepreneurship and how to build a micro-enterprise in Ecuador from the ladies at Mujeres Cambia. Then, they continued on to Palmar to hear about Fundación Neo Juventud and to take a workshop with me about branding culminating in a logo design exercise in groups. It was a great experience and we hope to have the opportunity to take our own students to Guayaquil to see JUCONI in action there.

Brigadistas Class Going Strong

Kids Artwork

Our Saturday Brigadistas class is going well and always puts a smile on my face. Recent projects include water color painting, flora and fauna crafts, playing an environmental poetry game, and watching The Lorax in Spanish.

Mujeres: Cambia Celebrates Mothers

Mother's Day

To celebrate all of the fabulous mothers and members of Mujeres: Cambia (say that ten times fast) we threw a recycled art party where we taught various projects including how to make earrings and coin purses from inner tubes; how to make flowers, boxes, and other origami projects from magazine paper; how to make a wallet from a milk carton; and how to make a bracelet and earrings from toilet paper tubes and magazine strips. Several projects we perfected at the recent Recycled Art Workshop that Peace Corps hosted in Quito. There is another one coming up in August that we have been invited to as presenters. Can’t wait!

Santa Rita Festival Take Two


It’s finally hitting us that we’ve been at site for over a year. One of the reminders of this is celebrating the Santa Rita festival. Another year another castillo set on fire. This time, we knew what to expect and I had my camera ready to document the experience (last year I left my camera a home during this festival), we helped to serve pizza at Palmar Pizza during the event, and I bought another inflatable to add to my collection. I really must photograph my growing collection including two planes, a zebra, a fish, and a panda bear. Think of a stuffed animal but instead of being made from fabric it’s made out of the same material as a pool float.

Puerto Engabao Surf Competition

Puerto Engabao

During our weekend getaway in Playas we traveled to fellow PCV **Kecia’s** site of Puerto Engabao. What a beautiful place! There was a junior surf competition going on and we got to watch from the pier as 16 year-olds and younger surfed and body boarded enormous waves.

More Recycled Art Workshops

Recycled Art

After the success of the Mother’s Day recycled art event we were asked by another women’s group in San Pablo to present similar projects to their female entrepreneurs group. We gladly agreed and spent a lovely afternoon at our friend’s beachside restaurant teaching 20 women the art of turning trash into treasure.

Doodle 4 Google Winner

An incredible example of how to tell a story with images. Read more about this winning Doodle 4 Google by Sabrina Brady here.

Enjoy, Mari

Ecuador Inspiration: Color

Ecuador COLOR!

As anyone who has ever met me in person knows – I like to wear black. Basically, a good 60% of my wardrobe is either black, black & white, gray, or a pattern with black, white & gray. Actually, it’s probably more like 75% since I just surveyed my wardrobe by looking across the room (which tells you just how limited a Peace Corps Volunteers wardrobe is!).

I’ve always liked wearing black even before I became a New Yorker. Maybe it was inspired by my love of black & white photography or the fact that my bedroom growing up was covered with black & white images (click here to see a post with pictures from my teenage room) but I have to admit it’s probably more out of laziness. Having basic black and gray pieces of clothing means I don’t have to think too much when I get dressed. Yet, since arriving in Ecuador I’ve been attempting to take more risks and wear a bit more color. It might just be candy-apple red sunglasses or a yellow tagua and paper bracelet but it’s a start.

Lately, I’ve been in a reminiscent mood. Toni Morrison writes in her book, Sula:

It’s sheer good fortune to miss somebody long before they ever leave you.

That’s how I feel right now. I am thinking about what’s next. Where we’ll be and how this crazy, amazing, scary, incredible, glorious, and challenging experience has changed us.

For one thing, I have appreciated the vibrancy of Ecuador – in general and specifically in life on the coast. From the bright pop of a purple flower against a dusty wall and the unimaginable hues of blue on a beach day to actual rainbows and a family’s bright clothing hanging on a line to dry there are a lot of colorful inspirations everywhere I look.

Ecuador’s natural wonders abound – the Galápagos, the Amazon, the Andes, cloud forests, and beaches. They inspire me to express myself more with color as do the people and their handiwork from artisan crafts to Guayasamín’s anguished paintings. There’s a reason the logo for Ecuador’s tourism campaign is a spiral of squares in a spectrum of colors (as pictured in the collage above).

Have a colorful day!


You Are Beautiful

Jaime Moore’s Not Just a Girl Project

Emma as Susan B. Anthony

When I was younger my mother called me “Susie.” Clearly, that’s not my name. Not even close. I used to tell her, “You should have named me Susan if you wanted to call me Susie.” So, why did she call me Susie? Because it’s short for Susan B. Anthony, of course.

I thought of my mom today when I saw the following series of images by Jaime Moore, a mother and photographer who is also a Susan B. Anthony fan. She took these portraits of her daughter Emma (click here to go to her website to see all of the images) on the ocassion of Emma’s 5th birthday to teach her about amazing women from history. Truly inspiring. I can’t wait to have a daughter one day so I can call her Susie and dress her like Amelia Earhart (also the subject of my first research report in fifth grade).

Enjoy, Mari

Emma as Amelia Earhart

Emma as Coco Chanel

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother's Day!

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