Saturday, August 8, 2009

Adventures in Manabí

Hey everybody

Jo and I just got back from a weeklong tech trip to the province of Manabí. The group was ten volunteers and three staff members. We left last Saturday afternoon for Quito, about an hour and a half away from where we´re at right now. We had about two hours to kill before our overnight bus, which was great, because we got to eat at a sushi restaurant and McDonald´s. I´ve never had sushi that tasted so good, probably because I haven´t had it in so long ... and I´ve also never eaten a Big Mac immediately after either.

Riding a bus, especially a long trip, in Ecuador is definitely an experience. The long trips are cool because they play movies the whole time. Violent, gory, bloody movies ... sometimes on repeat. The overnight bus played this movie I´ve never heard of called ¨Death Sentence¨starring Kevin Bacon and John Goodman. I´m pretty sure it was a straight to DVD release. Kevin Bacon is a typical suburban family man, until one day his son is stabbed in the stomach with a machete by a group of neo-nazis in a convenience store hold up. Bacon then starts a gang war. Basically every character in the movie is horribly killed ... legs shot of with shotguns, man trapped in car pushed off a building, etc. This movie was on at around midnight, and I was trying to get some sleep, but the tv screen was right in my face, so I could only doze off for about ten minutes at a time.

Anyway, we got to Portoviejo, the capital of Manabí, on Sunday morning. The food in this city was awesome. Not only did they have the best street burgers I´ve ever had (fried egg, bacon, ham, and cheese for about $1.50,) but the seafood was amazing. The 25 cent ceviche on the street was unbelievable. We had this huge plate of grilled fish, shrimp, calamari, clams and plaintains for about $4. No joke, this would have cost over $20 in the US.

The next few days we travelled to communities around Portoviejo to give talks to various groups. One day we had to give an HIV presentation to four groups of fifty high school kids. While I was trying to talk in front these 16, 17, and 18 year olds, all I could think about was, if some guy from another country came to my high school and tried to tell us about the importance safe sex, in horrible English, he would have gotten laughed out of the place. So in the sense that I didn´t break down crying in the middle of my talks, it was a great success.

If the high school presentations weren´t awkard enough, the next day we went to a women´s group meeting to teach how to give self breast examinations. Did I mention that I was the only guy in my ten volunteer group? Anyway, they were a lot more forgiving with my terrible Spanish than the high school kids were.

That night we stayed at this place called The Finca, which was an eco-resort. They had hammocks, more grilled seafood, some home made booze called chuchicha (I think) and a karaoke machine. Good times.

The next day we took a six hour bus ride to a city called Choni (pretty sure that´s misspelled). From there we had to take an hour and a half ride on another bus to a neighboring community. Unfortunately, the bus was packed, so we all had to sit on the roof. I kid you not. I got off the bus looking like Wolverine, covered in dust, and we had to give another presentation to a bunch of high school kids about family planning.

Talk about a total disaster. I´ll get into specifics maybe some other time, but at the end of the talk, the teacher basically told all the kids to ignore everything that we had just said. And I was profusely sweating the entire time. Awkward.

The bus ride back was a day bus this time, and we got to watch this action movie starring Dolph Lungdren ... twice. This movie was slightly harder to follow that the Kevin Bacon one, although I doubt the language barrier had anything to do with my lack of understanding. It was set in Russia, or some former Soviet republic, and in one scene, Lungdren attaches a remote controlled grenade to a guy, throws him out of a building, and detonates the bomb in mid descent. Gross. I didn´t catch the name of the movie, but in an interesting side note, the antagonist´s name was Drago. I guess he really can´t escape the fame of Rocky IV.

Anyway, training is done in about a week and then we are off to our site. We are having a great time, the food is great, and the people are awesome.

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  1. Rob, I really enjoyed reading about your latest exploits. Sounds like you and Jo are having a great time. I'll give you a call this weekend. Love and miss both of you. --Dad

  2. I laughed out loud at your certainly sucessful family planning talks and picturing you traveling on the roof of a bus is priceless! I hope you are doing well - keep the blogs coming and, well, i've got to run - there are 2 great straight to DVD movies I have to rent!