What do you do?

Many of you have asked me what it is exactly that I do here as an almost Peace Corps Volunteer (I graduate and swear-in in two days–woot woot). I know it might seem a bit confusing as for the past two and a half months we have been in training, and traveling to the four corners of Ecuador but before telling you what we do during training, I will start by telling you what we don’t do.

What people think we do as Peace Corps volunteers:

Save lives.

What we actually do during Pre Service Training:

  • Talk about our bowel movements 90% of the time
  • Make memes about our lives. In fact, we have an entire album of memes in our Facebook group.

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  • Complain if we have to spend more than 25 cents on transportation
  • Avoid stray dogs or practice defence techniques for avoiding dog bites like picking up imaginary rocks.
  • Carry rehydration packs, bug spray and ibuprofen with us at all times.
  • Chisme. Chisme. Chisme. (Subtitles: Gossip. Gossip. Gossip.)
  • Talk about how to get rid of the obscene amount of rice we have on our plates for each meal.
  • Compare host families and observations we have about Ecuadorian culture
  • Make plans to travel
  • Sit in class all day
  • Take overcrowded buses
  • Play Russian roulette for two days of diarrhea
  • Go looking for wifi
  • Look for a place that is open and that sells something other than instant coffee
  • Eat carbs on carbs on carbs
  • Explain fifty times what vegetarianism is
  • Take over karaoke bars and play gringo tunes
  • Have a curfew
  • Complain when receiving fifty cents in change in all pennies and nickels
  • Going to the toilet for privacy because there is no way to get it anywhere else
  • Pooping in bags

That about covers it folks.

But seriously, we do other stuff as well…

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Banos

A few of the Peace Corps trainees and I went to Banos (gringo, outdoor adventure-filled city) for a short weekend trip. I think we all needed to get away from site for a night.

No curfew. No training. No street dogs of Nayon.

Just 8 trainees in an Air BnB canyoning, zip-lining, biking, hiking, drinking craft beer, listening to terrible music and dead leg dancing our way through town.

This is our adventure summed up in a few minutes.

Listen Up

9 hour training days, traveling, and Peace Corps volunteer visits have eaten up all my time. However, we were let out early today which means I am able to update you on a few things.

  1. A video is going to be coming out soon of our trip to Banos (outdoor adventure sport and gringo central).
  2. This weekend we are going on an Afro-Ecuadorian trip to an indigenous community for three days (look out for a video from that trip as well).
  3. We are going to know our sites next Thursday which is exciting but also equally nerve-wracking.

That is all in terms of the Peace Corps update though I do have a couple observations for those who are making plans to visit, (which by the way I am thrilled about).

  1. Ecuadorians eat everything with spoons so good luck for those who eat meat. All I can tell you is it takes a lot of practice (or so I have heard from my meat-lover friends).
  2. Guinea pig is a food not a pet and yes, we will be trying some whilst you are here.
  3. Outdoor adventure sports are cheap so be prepared to bungee jump for 10 dollars and go zip-lining for 5 dollars. Its a cheap to risk your life here.
  4. Beers are 1 dollar. Anything more than that and its considered expensive.
  5. Full meals are 1,50 (at most 2 dollars).
  6. Despite Ecuador being coffee bean central, most shops and restaurants sell instant. Please bring a french press and I will be eternally grateful.
  7. I will not have my own place until October which means if you stay with me you will be staying with an Ecuadorian family. How good is your English?
  8. The cheapest way to travel within the country is on a bus which means minimum 10 hours cramped with one bathroom (if any).
  9. People do not queue up for anything here and have no transportation etiquette. (Brits, do not be offended).
  10. Nearly no one speaks English. ¿Hablas español?
  11. Most places do not have toilet paper so, make sure you carry around a toilet roll with you.
  12. Despacito by Luis Fonsi is the national anthem here.
  13. Barter. Barter. Barter.
  14. American products cost 3 times more here.
  15. Rice. Potatoes. Yuca.
  16. A pound of sugar is added to everything you drink.

Just a few thoughts, now go home and pack mosquito repellent, a french press, and a camera. I have my calendar marked down with days for when all of you arrive!

Guayaquil Guayaquil Guayaquil

10 Peace Corps trainees. A 9 hour crammed bus ride with Bachata playing on the loudspeaker. 5 days. 1 host mom, 1 host sister and a host brother. Mass in the evening. 40 degree Celsius weather. A clock tower. One whole crab. A boat ride. A walk on an island. Crocodiles. Mosquitos. Running in the rain. A bus ride with an armpit in my face and a stranger putting his hand in inappropriate places. Ice cream. Iguanas in a park. Walking until my feet fall off. Lots of sweat. Bonding with other trainees. Cervezas. A game of jeopardy. A strong possibility that I contracted Dengue, a deadly tropical disease.

Guayaquil, I’ll be back.

Be back soon with more news from this side of the world..!

Goodbye Gothenburg

I had to admit, it was strange waking up and not meeting up with Adam. We had been glued to one another for the past few days that I almost didn’t know what to do with myself when I woke up. It was officially my last day in Gothenburg and I was finally going to spend it alone like I had originally intended for my entire trip…well, almost.

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I ended up walking along the canal, taking pictures and soaking in the last few rays of sun before heading back to grey old London. I sent a picture to Hugo near the canal as a hint to where I was. Apparently, water, boat, and tree was not detailed enough as he took a while to get there. He then took me on his own tour of Gothenburg which involved sitting next to the famous fish market in the city and eating salad. (He was hungover and slowly recovering). We joked about how watching him eat salad was an event not to miss in the city. We talked and walked around until I eventually had to take my bus to the airport.

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It was a relatively uneventful day and as I made my way through the airport, I thought about all the people I had met during my stay. I thought about the first night I met Adam. I thought about how two people in similar situations ended up finding each other and spending their entire trip together. Funny how that works. I thought about Hugo and all the people I met at Hops, my local bar. I thought about the conversations we had until 4 in the morning. I thought about how upon meeting him he seemed strangely familiar to me, like we had met before, (he said the same). Sometimes you meet people in completely different situations, in completely different parts of the world, but somehow you meet them again with a new face, in a new city, randomly (or not). I thought about Alex, the person who brought me to Gothenburg. I thought about whether or not I would see him again. Its rare to find true friendship in big cities, especially when its opposing genders but somehow we managed. I thought about how I was supposed to be on my own for the majority of this holiday and ended up never having time to myself. I thought about all these things which to me seemed like hours but in reality only lasted a few minutes.

Lastly, I thought about going home. I thought about how the next few weeks would be the last time I would call London “home”. Growing up, I named several cities, countries, continents home. Then I noticed that when I would move I would always think of home as the place where the person I was romantically involved with was. Eventually that changed and it became the place where I lived. It had taken me a couple years to finally think of London as home and I knew that as soon as I thought of it as that, I would want to move again. Now, here I was. A couple more weeks and I would go back to Paris and then to Houston, back where I started. I would go back to the diving board for a while before diving off again to another country, another city, another job…constantly moving until that one day comes where I don’t feel the need to move anymore. A time where the diving board no longer exists and all that is left is a pool I would finally grow roots in.

 

Last Day

I woke up sweating with the Swedish sun blazing in my eyes. My body ached as I rolled out of bed and into the shower. The day before had taken its toll and I hadn’t had the reparative sleep I was hoping for.

Regardless I managed to get clothes on and take the tram into the city to meet Adam. It was our last full day in Gothenburg and we had plans to make the most of it. We walked around and had coffee in the center and then walked along the canal for lunch near the market. We then continued on and hopped on a boat tour that was to take us through the canals to view the boat along the dock. There was a boat race that had just ended in Gothenburg and we were lucky enough to see them all lined up.

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We then walked to the botanical gardens nearby and had a drink in the sun. I dozed off a bit as Adam walked around taking pictures.

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By this time it was already 6 pm so we had dinner together and then walked back to Hops, our local pub, for a couple drinks with the people we had met during our stay. Hugo tried to get us to stay out until he closed but my feet were aching and Adam was going to wake up in four hours to take his flight back home. Instead, I made plans to met Hugo the following day for a tour of the city before hopping on my flight later on that night.

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This was it. My trip was coming to and end though, now I thought of it as “our trip” for I had spent all my time roaming the streets with my new buddy Adam. We said our goodbyes and made plans to meet up before I left for Houston. Its funny how a trip alone turned out to be a trip were I met a new friend(s).
This wouldn’t be the last time I’d see Adam, that was certain.

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Liseberg

I woke up with the Swedish sun blinding me. It was going to be a beautiful day. Adam was already up and about and asking me when and where to meet. I proposed we should go to Liseberg, Scandinavia’s largest amusement park. 

We met at the station and it took us about 15 minutes to find one another as there were multiple entrances. I hadn’t been to an amusement park and ages and apparently he had never been. I felt like a kid again walking around and waiting in line for all the rides. We weren’t going to leave until we tried them all. 

Luckily it was a beautiful day out and the lines weren’t too long as it was off  season and everyone was either back and work or at school. Also, Adam was just as much of a chatter box as I am so we had loads to talk about. We both found ourselves in a city we didn’t know at all and ended up finding each other. Funny how those things work out.

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After a few amusing and terrifying…mainly terrifying rides we had a bit of food. As Gothenburg isn’t used to having tourists, everything was in Swedish so we tried our best to decode the menu. 

Vegetarian? No, no sausage. Vegetarian. Soy sausage? No meat? Ok, thanks. 

That’s pretty much how the conversation went. 

After lunch we went back on the rides, secretly hoping we wouldn’t see our lunch again in a pile of vomit on the floor. 

Six hours later we were knackered but decided to have a couple drinks and dinner at our now local. 

“Two Heineken?”

They already knew our order by heart now. 

“Yes, please.”

We ordered and received a mountain of food that neither him nor I could finish. We just looked at each other in despair. We were too tired to eat. Hugo, one of the bar backs came to meet up with us and could not believe how much food we had left. Quickly I diverted the conversation as I too felt ashamed. 

Adam left us and Hugo and I carried on. We talked about how he hitchhiked through Japan, Alan Watts, the countries I had traveled to, his desire to go to South America, the Nazca lines…we talked about everything and anything. To everyone else it would probably sound like rambling and yes, part of it was, but to me it was a night of conversation I wouldn’t forget. 

In the wee hours of the morning we parted ways and I went home to crash on the couch. Time for a bit of reparative sleep…zzzz

Getting Lost in Gothenburg

P1016242.jpgI was knackered and a bit hungover from the night we had roaming the streets of Gothenburg but I was determined to go sight seeing a bit instead of passing out in a park.

I walked along the canal and ended up in the city center. I desperately tried to find a charger but failed and managed to charge at a local coffee shop for a bit before heading down the canal and unto a tram to Brad’s place. He was not in until 5 so I walked further down the waterfront to a museum for lunch and coffee. The sun was shining down hard but the breeze from the water made it bearable. 

I started thinking about what I was going to do on my own for the next few days. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t know if there was much to do in the city. I had met a few people the night before but we all know how that goes…you make plans but then never hear from them again. (I would find out I was wrong and end up making memorable friendships.) I thought, “well this is what you wanted, to travel on your own.” 

I then walked back to Brad’s when he got home and chatted with him for a bit before making my way down to Hops, the local that I would become a local at during my stay in Gothenburg. Adam, the English man I met the night before and I had a couple of drinks and dinner there and made loose plans for hanging out during our stay (we ended up being glued together during our whole trip). We chatted a bit more to the locals (we all know how chatty I am) and then said our goodbyes (until tomorrow).

Not the most eventful day but at least tonight I would get to sleep on a couch and not the floor. Also, it is always nice to get away from the city of ants where we are all stacked up on top of each other. 

I had no plans for the following day apart from meeting Adam and Hugo at some point. I would just use the Laura method of waking up and figuring it out, going with the flow…it hasn’t failed me yet.