An Unexpected Turn of Events

As I wrote in my last post, September was a very busy month for me, as it was filled up by a month-long orientation conference with 12 new volunteers. Since writing that post, time has gotten away from me and I haven’t written a post for just over a month. In part, that delay was because the final week and half of September were taken up by orientation. However, it was also because the past few weeks have been very busy, as I’ve been transitioning to the role of Field Director here in the WorldTeach Ecuador program.

Earlier this year I accepted the position of Assistant Field Director, and that is the role that I stepped into back in May. I was working alongside Lee, who was the AFD when I was a volunteer and had taken over as FD. The office was made up of two Field Staff, as opposed to three when I was a volunteer, due to decreased volunteer numbers. When I began working in the AFD position, I thought that I’d like to work in that role for a year, with the possibility of becoming FD in the future.

However, in the summer we found out that the September volunteer group would be much smaller than in recent years (12 participants, compared to 35 in 2012 and 42 in 2011!) and therefore we would only have the numbers to justify one Field Staff. After receiving this news, Lee decided that she would move to Buenos Aires, where she lived before coming to Ecuador, and I was offered the Field Director position! I’m thrilled for the opportunity, though it definitely came earlier than I expected it might. As just one person in this office there will be a lot of work, but I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead. It’s also much different to be in the office as one Field Staff – it’s much quieter and there is no one to bounce ideas off of, but it’s also nice to have independence and autonomy in how I run the program.

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Aside from taking over as FD, I’ve also been biking a lot, as usual, though that’s been limited in the past couple of weeks by the seasonal rain that has been moving in. Right now there is potential for afternoon showers nearly every day, and occasionally that rain turns to heavier storms. One activity toward the end of Orientation that was fun was a visit to Mitad del Mundo, which is a monument/tourist site devoted to the Equator, which cuts through Ecuador just to the north of Quito. Surprisingly, in about a year and a half of living in this country, I had yet to visit that site. While it is a bit of an arbitrary tourist site, it did offer opportunity for some pretty cool snapshots.

Another highlight of the past couple of weeks was another round of World Cup qualifying matches, the final games which would determine who will be in Brazil next summer Ecuador played Uruguay and Chile in these two matches, with the first taking place in Quito. At first, I wasn’t planning to go to the game, because I knew that tickets would be reselling for a very high price – but, I was able to find tickets along with a couple of current volunteers living in Quito, and we went to the game. The game started out with some rain in the early minutes, but that cleared up – and Ecuador ended up winning 1-0, thus virtually qualifying for the World Cup! It was a blast to be among all of those local fans and celebrate the team’s qualification, and I can’t wait to watch them compete with the world’s best next year!

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A soccer match, a concert, and a 60-km bicycle ride

After a pretty busy WorldTeach conference last weekend, this week things slowed down at work and I had some time for a lot of great activities in my free time. First up, on Tuesday, was a World Cup Qualifying match between Ecuador and Argentina. At the moment, Argentina leads South American qualifying, and both teams are on in position to make it to Brazil next summer. With those standings, and the fact that La Tricolor would be facing Argentina and an injured but still threatening Leonel Messi, tickets to this game were pretty hard to find. The game had been sold out for weeks, so my only chance to get in was with some scalped tickets. To my surprise, as my friend Dave and I went to the stadium over lunch on Monday, it was really hard to find anyone reselling tickets. Apparently, the police have started to crack down more on scalping, and while hunting tickets, we actually saw a couple of people get searched by police. Though, what they were searching for is pretty unclear. Long story short, were able to find two tickets, but we payed well over the $20 face value.

The game was a blast, and Ecuador looked pretty strong throughout, but came away with a 1-1 draw. Unfortunately, the home team squad gave up a penalty kick after just 4 minutes, and Los Gauchos went up by a goal early on. The lead didn’t last long, though, as Ecuador’s Segundo Castillo scored a pretty header off of a free kick in the 18th minute. From that point on the game remained goal-less, though Ecuador was knocking on the door a lot in the second half. One highlight was the appearance of Leonel Messi, who has been injured recently. He game in with about 30 minutes left in the game, and though he didn’t score or produce too much, I was happy to see the beautiful, fluid way that he plays. There was also a pretty wild moment about 5 minutes before the end of the match, when Argentina’s Javier Mascherano was given a red card. He had been hurt and was being taken off the field on a golf cart, when all of the sudden the benches started clearing, Mascherano was given the red, and was escorted towards the locker rooms. It wasn’t until afterwards that I figured out that he received the red card for kicking the driver of the golf cart in the back. Gotta love the insanity that can arise in South American soccer matches!

On Thursday of this week, I had received invitation to a local concert from a friend here in Quito. I nearly didn’t go, as I was already pretty tired and the concert started at 10pm, but I went anyways and was really glad I did. The concert was at El Pobre Diablo, a local bar and restaurant that often hosts live music, and was even featured on the Ecuador episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. The show was a local band called Swing Original Monksand they were definitely one of the most unique live acts I’ve seen in a long time. They are a nine-piece group, featuring two guitarists, a bassist, a drummer, to lead singers, and a three-piece horn line made up of a trumpet, trombone, and tenor sax. As for their sound, it’s super hard to classify, but I’d say that it’s blend of rock, jazz, ska, and Latin sounds. Though I was pretty sluggish on Friday at work after getting home from the concert at about 2:30am, I am really happy to have found a new local band and venue for live music. Enjoy a few clips of the show that I filmed below:

Finally, yesterday was an eventful day, as I traveled to Baños to take a 60-km bike ride from Baños to Puyo. One of the best things about Baños is that you can rent bikes for cheap – I got one for the whole day for all of $7. I took this trip with Dave Shenk, his girlfriend Eliana, and her son. The ride itself is awesome, as you ride eastward out of Baños, generally descending out of the mountains and into the beginnings of the Amazon. Although the ride is mostly downhill, it was still really tiring, and I was pretty worn out by some of the climbs later in the ride. Despite some sore legs today, it was an awesome ride, and made me super excited to pick up my new bike later this week and begin riding in Quito. Unfortunately, my camera’s battery ran out before we got to Puyo, but I did take some photos and a video, which are below:

¡Hasta el próximo!