Shout-out: Among the Stone Cactuses

StoneCactuses

One of the great things about being a Peace Corps Volunteer is the amazing and inspiring network of returned and current PCVs you become a part of…instantly. Even during the arduous application process, technology allowed us to become part of a larger community.

In particular the Peace Corps Wiki (now under the auspices of the National Peace Corps Association) and Peace Corps Journals (which is off-line for now but there are plans to re-start it again under NPCA) were our lifelines during our nearly 2-year application process. We calculated the odds of our country assignment based on stats from Peace Corps Wiki and we dreamed of what our life might look like from the words of current PCV blogs we found on Peace Corps Journals.

While I don’t read PCV blogs as much as I did in those application days, lately I have been following the blog of a fellow PCV in Mexico called Among the Stone Cactuses. The author and I share a lot of similarities and it is interesting to read about her experiences in Mexico and to compare and contrast them with our life here in Ecuador. The PCV is working in the Protected Areas Management program, which is like our Natural Resources Conservation program.

Two recent posts in particular struck a chord with me since I felt like I could be writing them! I appreciate her sincerity and candor. Read her take on how hard it is to translate humor here and the difference between friends and amigos here.

I, too, have found that my sense of humor doesn’t exactly translate and that I don’t find 90% of the jokes or cachos here to be even remotely humorous. Part of it is also the preponderance of non-PC jokes that are racist, sexist, homophobic, and just plain mean. But, I guess that’s a part of humor any where you go.

This PCV writes about how tough it can be to make friends since she lives in a family-centric culture. Not only is it tough to make friends with people because of the family-centric culture here in Ecuador but it’s also tough since I am serving with my best friend already.

We had a facilitator during Pre-Service Training explain to us that we are all each other’s best resource since it will be really hard to find people you can relate to as much as you can with other PCVs. I didn’t want to believe her at the time…I wanted to believe that I would become super close with my host family and with the people I work with at site. Yet, as we finish up our 19th month in-country I am starting to understand what she meant.

I love everyone I work with so much but many of my closest Ecuadorian friends are mothers and live 40 minutes away. Being a mother here means days filled with domestic and family obligations. For some, our Mujeres: Cambia meetings are the only excuse they have to leave the house that isn’t related to taking care of their families. Think about that…the ONLY time they leave their houses that isn’t to go to the market, taking a sick kid to the doctor, or walking their kids to school. For some, they don’t even do those things.

Something else that I appreciate about Among the Stone Cactuses is that the PCV shares at the end of her posts what is making her smile. So, in this spirit I will do the same!

Making me smile:

  • Successfully hosting 11 people at our house this past weekend for a Mujeres: Cambia Board Retreat.
  • Hearing from our friend **Marianela** that she sold nearly ALL of the Mujeres: Cambia jewelry we sent her for her house party in New Jersey. The women earned more than $600 from her efforts…thanks again Marianela!!!
  • The fact that when my friend’s daughter’s hair caught on fire from a birthday candle everyone laughed and didn’t freak out. “It’s only hair!” they said. Can you imagine a mom in the US being that cool about a kid’s burnt hair?
  • How excited the kids in our Brigadistas class got when I took out felt and taught them how to make little felt creatures and felt animal masks during our last class. Felt and construction paper are not the craft staples here that they are in the US. Here the staples are cartulina (card stock like oaktag) or fomix. I don’t know how to translate fomix – it’s similar to the material used on the bottom of flip-flops but is sold in thinner sheets in every imaginable color. It’s also terrible for the environment so I try to find other materials when I can…
  • Finishing and sending in my logo design entries to a contest…my first entry ever into a graphic design contest. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
  • The upcoming visit from two fellow PCVs **Khayla** and **Jess** as well as a trip we are planning with fellow PCVs **Nikki** and **Clare** for August. So excited to catch up with great friends!

Interested in reading more PCV blogs? You can check out a list of the top 40 Peace Corps Blogs from 2012 here

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