Monday, March 29, 2010

Village Life Part 5: Details

So, this is the final planned installment of the Village Life series, for which some of you may be grateful. These are the last few things that occupy my mind, and make a huge impact on us living here comfortably.


One of our friends comes to the house once a week, generally on the weekend, and hand washes our clothes at the utility sink outside. When we were living in the old house we took our wash to a lady down the road, but it was a pain having to wait up to a week for it to dry and for us to get it back. One time we tried taking it to the laundry mat in Manglaralto, but it's just not that convenient. Now, with our current set-up, since it hangs in the back yard we can bring it in as it dries, and not wait for the whole batch.

When we first came here BG was wearing cloth diapers. We quickly discovered, however, that it was virtually impossible to get them clean by hand washing. There was always a lingering urine smell, and sometimes I think detergent residue got left behind. She had so many diaper rashes that we ended up switching to disposables. When we get back to the States I’m planning on stripping all the cloth, getting them nice and clean, and starting to use them again. And trying to potty train her so that we don’t have to deal with too many more poopy cloth diapers in the future.


BG attends daycare in the village five days a week from 8am to 2pm. The building is a cinder block box with concrete floors, and is located almost on the other end of the village from our house. There are between 30 and 50 children on any given day, and seven teachers and two cooks. The kids range in age from infants to 5 (until they start school). They feed her breakfast, lunch, and two snacks, and bathe her each day. She absolutely loves going to school and playing with “los niños” and gets really sad on the days when we find out that school is closed only after we’ve gotten there. We bring her home at 2 so that she can get her nap – the echoing noise in the school, all the activity, and the lack of a set nap/quiet time means she doesn’t sleep there at all.
BG's daycare building. There's a cleared front paved area, blocked by the surge of growth in the photo, but the kids don't actually play outside at all, for which I am thankful.

Daycare costs $0.50 a week and is partially subsidized by the government. We had to give them proof of her immunizations, just like in the States. It’s a great deal for us, because we get time to work, and it’s great for her because she gets to socialize and gets a lot of exposure to Spanish.  The only downside is that the teachers have to attend fairly frequent seminars to keep their license, and on those days the daycare is closed. To me this kind of defeats the purpose. Also, they often don’t have advanced warning of these seminars, or at least don’t give the parents any warning. The worst example was just this Monday, when I showed up with BG in tow, only to find the doors locked and no sign or anything. I tracked down one of the teachers, and it turns out they are going to be closed for the next two weeks for “vacation”. Nice of them to let us know so we could make alternative arrangements!


We have two basic options locally for medical care. About 3km from our place, on the road between Dos Mangas and Manglaralto, is a compound of Santa Maria del Fiat, also referred to as the Finca. It is a charity organization, with ties in Europe, and they have undertaken water purification projects locally and have a school and sanctuary in Olon. At the Finca they raise livestock and sell various goods, and also operate a medical clinic during weekdays. You show up around 8 to stand in line and buy your consultation ticket ($2.50). Then you wait in that order to have your vitals taken and then see the doctor. The Finca also has a laboratory and pharmacy on-site, so you can get everything taken care of there. CBC and urinalysis costs around $2, and the prescriptions are at a reduced cost. This is where we go for most of our medical care, and on a typical visit we are there from 8-11 am. I’m not sure why they can’t schedule appointments, but there you go.

Our second option is in the town of Manglaralto itself, and is the local Ministry of Public Health Hospital. This is where we go if we need to be seen on the weekend or if (heaven forbid) we have a more major injury. The hospital has normal doctors that you can see, and that operates pretty much like the Finca, though you have to show up more like 6am for the good spots, and can end up sitting around until 2pm. There is also an emergency room where they take you pretty quickly, with the limitation being that you can’t have had symptoms for more than 48 hours. We’ve gone there when my cousin Taylor woke up with a full-body rash and swelling, when BG stopped eating or drinking, and when she’s had a fever over 39 C (102.2 F) that wouldn’t come down. At the hospital everything is free. All services, medicines, tests, everything. The only time you have to pay is if you need a medicine that they don’t stock, and then you have to run out to one of the private pharmacies. Pretty incredible that Ecuador can manage to provide free basic and urgent care to its citizens, and even to the international tourists who flock to the region. Just sayin'.

Theirs is kind of a third option, and that is to self-diagnose and go to a pharmacy and buy whatever it is that you need. Prescriptions are not regulated like they are in the States. The only exception is that in the last year, because of the Swine Flu, they won’t sell medicines for sinus or flu symptoms without a doctor’s order because they want people to actually see a doctor to contain the disease, rather than just treating the symptoms. But it’s nice for us to be able to shortcut the horrible wait and just get medicine, especially if it’s for something we’ve been through before, like sinus infection or allergies. We will also be stocking up on our daily meds and a few rounds of antibiotics before we come back to get us through the summer when we don’t really have access to medical care, due to the fun university system (for those of you who are concerned, we will all have health insurance, but only BG will have easy access to a doctor).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Village Life Part 4: In and Out

The main reaction we get from people back home, upon learning that we’re living in Ecuador, is wonder at how we manage (and gasps at the fact that we’re doing it all with a toddler). In the next two post I’ll be talking about some of the minutia of our lives here, and the practical things, which we often take for granted back home, but which easily serve to make or break our day (or week).


I love food, but if I could get by without cooking, I would be a happy camper (good thing I have my husband, who is a wonderful cook!). But having food on hand and preparing it is a good deal more involved than at home.

For our first three months here it was somewhat easy. We didn’t have a fridge, so we didn’t cook. Breakfast was jam on bread, or cereal prepared with powdered milk (which, like so many things in this country, had extra sugar added). For lunch and dinners we ate at Olga’s “restaurant”. Lunch is the biggest meal, and consists of a bowl of soup, a plate with meat, rice, and veggies, and a glass of fresh juice or cola. Price: $1.50. Dinner is basically the same as lunch, minus the soup. Price: $1.25. Most of the time we’d eat at Olga’s, but since dinner wasn’t generally ready until 7pm, which is Baby Girl’s bedtime, often one of us would walk down with an empty pot, some bowls, and a pitcher, and get “carry-out”.

Olga's restaurant and store
Olga’s also has a mini tienda attached, where you can buy staples like rice, flour, oil, cans of tuna, butter, laundry detergent, TP, fresh chicken, eggs, some produce, and drinks. Even though Olga doesn’t get to see us as much as she would like since we cook for ourselves these days, we still make extensive use of her store when we run out of staples, and several times a week for fresh chicken.

We eat a lot of chicken. I mean A LOT. Like nearly every day of the week. It’s what’s most easily available. You can buy it by the pound ($1.50) from most of the little tiendas in the village, and even from some people’s houses. There is a butcher in town who slaughters a cow in the wee hours every Sunday, but we’re never up quite early enough to buy from him (a 5am wake-up call for a weird cut of beef, no thank you). There are also people who come through the village selling seafood, but I really don’t want to try de-scaling and gutting fish in our kitchen with a toddler running around. So chicken it is.

The sacrificial cow, awaiting her fate. Should it worry me that on some weeks there is a horse tethered to the second post to the left of the cow?
Most of our produce we buy off the back of pickup trucks that come through the village. The offerings are fairly monotonous, but get us through. We typically buy onions, potatoes, avocados, limes, green peppers, and tomatoes. Sometimes we’ll get lucky and a fruit truck will make it down to our end of the village, and depending on the season we can get mandarins, oranges, mangos, pineapple, or watermelon, all for pretty cheap. We avoid things like lettuce and strawberries, or anything that doesn’t peel and you’d eat raw, which would necessitate being washed in a mild bleach solution before consumption.

The majority of our food we get from Mi Comisariato (kind of an Ecuadorian Walmart) that’s located two hours away, by bus, in Libertad. There we buy boxes of milk (whole and semi-skim, ultra-pasteurized and shelf stable so that they don’t have to be refrigerated until opened) by the dozen, boxes of juice and wine, cereal, cheese, yogurt, non-chicken meat (and some chicken to have on reserve for when the stores around here don’t have any), diapers, and a lot of dry goods. When I’m lucky the bag boys have boxes that they can pack everything in, and we have an insulated backpack (courtesy of my in-laws) that I use to bring back the perishables. Unlucky days I get saddled with dozens and dozens of plastic bags. The bag boys wheel our boxes of groceries out to the taxi stand, we get driven to the bus terminal (really, it’s not as fancy as it sounds), the bus attendants load the boxes under the bus, and then two hours unload them at the crossroads to our village. Our local taxi service guys load up the boxes into their trucks, drive me up to my door, and even help me unload. The local taxi costs $0.35 per person, each trip, the bus costs between $1 and $1.25, and each taxi ride (two each trip) costs $1.

While these trips take a lot of time (minimally five hours), I only have to make the trip once every other week. The grocery store also has pretty much everything that we’re used to preparing at home, plus some goodies like Nutella, Doritos, and brownie mix, so we feel pretty comfortable and as close to being at home as we can. Being able to cook like we normally do has been really important in getting us settled in. But I’m really looking forward to partaking in a huge leafy salad when we get back, and a big bleeding steak.


The village has its own water supply and water tower, so we have access to treated water. It’s considered potable, and people in the village drink it, but it would still do a number on us who are not used to the local flora. Because of the water tower most houses have running water, though we need to help ours a bit by pumping it up into a reservoir on the roof, and from there it drains into the house. Doing dishes and bathing is a snap, but draining the reservoir during a power outage can be a bit problematic. The village charges $2 a month for normal usage.

For drinking water we get those big 25 liter water cooler jugs of purified water. They cost $1.70 a jug, but a friend of ours delivers them to our door for $2 a jug. We go through about two a week. It was a bit difficult at first to adjust to things like not filling your glass from the faucet, and only rinsing your toothbrush with the purified water, but we eventually got the hang of it.


Trucks come through the village twice a week for trash pick-up – on Wednesday and Saturday. This is fairly reliable, though we went for nearly a month without any trash service after Christmas, and that was definitely a problem. Our trash is divided into five categories: general “dry” trash, empty cartons and bottles (which would normally be recycled at home), food scraps, diapers, and bathroom trash. The bathroom trash includes used toilet paper, because the septic systems here aren’t capable of handling flushed paper.

Since we divide this stuff up, it’s interesting to see how little garbage we’re actually producing. At home we won’t be throwing away toilet paper, we’ll be recycling a lot, using cloth diapers, and hopefully starting a composting system. The only trash we’ll still be producing is a small amount of “dry” trash, less than a full trashcan a week, I’d imagine.

This garbage pick-up system is pretty cushy, which is why I just can’t understand why people (our next door neighbors in particular) still insist on burning their trash, especially plastics! We are downwind of their place, so whenever they burn we get absolutely lovely fumes wafting into the house. For some of the more ecologically minded out there, I’m curious: in the absence of a recycling program, which actually has the lower impact on the environment, burying plastic in a landfill or burning it in your back yard?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Been Busy

The six levels that I washed yesterday, completing another unit. Only (minimally) seven more units left to wash!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

When Gorda Is Good

Walking back from taking BG to daycare the other day I ran into one of my excavation assistants who I hadn't seen in a while. Even though the village is small, it's not all that surprising that I hadn't seen him, since I spend pretty much every day holed up in the house doing lab stuff. And therein lies the problem.

He told me that I'm looking "bien gorda", nice and fat, basically. He said that when we were working up at the site that I looked like a line, but that I was looking much better now. I laughingly told him that I want to go back to how I looked then, but it was clear that he couldn't understand why I'd want that. It's nice being some place where the emphasis isn't all on being thin, but unfortunately I'll be returning to one fairly soon. And it's not just about being skinny, but also about the tone that came from an hour of strenuous hiking every day, hauling buckets, and all the other stuff that goes along with fieldwork.

Somehow the digging-before-lab-work schedule has got it backwards. You need to dig at the end of the trip, so that when you return home you can show off your tanned and toned muscles to all of your friends who have had to survive a six-month winter (and yes, maybe rub it in their faces a little). 

I'll admit, I'm having fairly major body issues after pregnancy. Nothing's changed all that much, everything is just looser. And I'm not the kind that easily takes a chunk of time to work out. If I can fit it into my daily routine, like hiking to the site or riding a bike to class, then I exercise. If not, then I basically don't. I also know that I'm snacking a lot more now that I sit around the house all day. I'm hoping now that I've realized it that I can start looking for those little ways to fit in more physical activity, and watch a little more what I eat, but I find it hard to do either when I'm not in the best of spirits. Steve and I definitely use junk food as comfort food here, and we're feeling that we need a lot of comfort.

Since we've been here Steve has lost around 30 pounds, mostly from stomach issues in our first few months here. He's gained about 10 or 15 of that back, but is still looking really good, and is probably in better shape than he has been for a fair amount of our relationship. He jokes that he's reverted back to his 1995 model. I'm not exactly complaining. I haven't really lost anything, maybe 5 pounds, but isn't that always the way? I think that we both need to find ways too keep up our activity levels when we get back, and hopefully start some better food habits. Suggestions, and offers for workout partners, will be appreciated.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Village Life Part 3: A Tale of Two Houses

We’ve lived in two different houses during our stay in the village, and to say that they were the best of times and the worst of times is certainly true, though I’m not sure that one house or another has a monopoly over the good or bad times.

Our first house was arranged before we arrived. I had seen it in 2006 while the owner was putting the finishing touches on it, and it was certainly a step up from my accommodations during that trip (a bed in the story above a shop, with a non-flushing toilet downstairs and outside, and bathing done in a basin). It was a nice open floor plan, with plenty of room for a simple kitchen, a dining area, living room, and study/artifact space. Two bedrooms and an indoor bathroom and with running water (albeit only a cold shower), and to me it was heaven, at least for Ecuador.
Our first place

The house was located on a hill at the back of the village, so fairly private. But literally right off the frame to the left of the picture was another little house, more tradition, where the caretakers of our house, and the owner’s chickens, lived. It was a family of two adults and seven kids, and six dogs. It was never quiet…either the kids were screaming or blaring music during the day (when Baby Girl needed a nap), or the dogs were barking at night (when all of us were trying to sleep). To add to that, one of those seven kids was the one that stole my phone. So yeah, they didn’t really instill any confidence in us as caretakers.
The kitchen and dining area when we first moved in

But the deal breaker, and why we had to find a different house in the end, was the fact that about two days into our stay the refrigerator broke. Two and a half months of asking the owner to get it taken care of (and eating at the restaurant in town because we had no food storage options), with absolutely no attempt to get it fixed, and Baby Girl losing several pounds simply because we couldn’t keep food on hand for her, and we were out of there.

Shortly before we returned to the States for my cousin’s wedding we moved into a new house. This one took a little bit of negotiating, and explaining the realities of being on a grant to people who sometimes just imagine Americans to have endless supplies of money. In some respects it’s smaller than the first house, but it’s oh so much nicer. It’s the vacation home of the brother of the last comuna president, and he lives in the house right next door.
The new place. Love it!

The first floor is split in half, with a living room (our office area), dining room, and kitchen on one side, and the bedroom and bathroom on the other. There’s also a loft which gives us some more storage space and room for people to bunk down for a few days when we have visitors.
View of the kitchen and dining area (with Dennis) from the loft

Arrrrg, walk the plank, matey!

The kitchen is small and kind of basic, and we don’t have our own fridge, but we share one with the former president next door. One of Steve’s favorite things about the house is the catwalk/gangplank that connects the two houses. MY favorite thing about the house, however, is definitely the bathroom. We have a bathtub!!! And hot water from a tank and not one of those wimpy electrical things!!!! It has made bathtime fun for Baby Girl (and us) again, instead of a freakout fest when we have to heat water to the right temp and try to get BG to stay put in a plastic basin while we clean her off.


Both houses had their fare share of pests. At the first place, the owner had a chicken farm on the property (and right next to the house), and Steve suspects that at least some of his incessant illnesses were caused by them. We also had mice in the kitchen, who would try to get into the few dry goods that we kept around. But for me, the worst pest we had were ants. They would appear out of nowhere and swarm all over things. And it didn’t matter if you kept the place spotless because when it rained they would stream down the walls and into the house, thousands of them. And they bite! We used up several cans of our bug spray killing ants while trying not to get bit by them. <> While we were in that house I had recurrent dreams that somehow swarms of ants were spilling out of the bed despite the mosquito netting (it probably didn’t help that one did manage to get in the bed, and bit me several times on the leg, even after I killed it).

The new house came with bats. My clever husband, however, figured out where the holes in the eaves were, blocked them up, and now we are bat free (no longer the bat cave). We also had mice, but Steve waged a pretty effective campaign against them (aided by some poison) and once again we are vermin free. I think the final body count was 15. Our current battle, and we have the rainy season working against us on this one, is with cockroaches. We got lax in doing dishes, and the house has been continuously occupied for more than a few weeks for the first time ever, and so the cockroaches moved in. I’ve gotten pretty good at smacking them with a shoe, but we’ve also turned to poison to get rid of them. They’re just so wriggly and can get into so many places (excuse me while I shriek like a little girl). They seem to be retreating, and I’ll be glad when they’re gone, though I do get a thrill out of saying “Survive THIS” right before I smack them.


We’re pretty much living in the lap of luxury for this area. There are screens in our windows, and even panes of glass. We have interior walls and doors, and even more importantly, an indoor bathroom (with hot water, did I mention we have hot water?). A lot of the houses in the area are basically cinder block squares, with gaps between the outer walls and the roof, and sometimes even missing parts of the walls. People use plastic in gaps and at windows to keep the rain coming in. There is very little privacy, with several beds in a single room, and several people sharing each bed. A lot of kitchens don’t even have plumbing, so doing dishes is a whole other chore.

That said, I can’t wait to get home, where bugs and mice aren’t invading the house, where I have a dishwasher, and an oven, and a microwave. And properly fitted windows that don’t gap. And air conditioning. And a vacuum cleaner. And cable and fast internet. As always, though, I’ll take the memory of this time back with, and be all the more grateful of what I do have for going without.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What to do on a lazy Saturday afternoon..

...but change the entire look and layout of the blog! I've been searching around for a while, looking for something a bit more sleek and streamlined, and I think this will do (at least for the moment). The background photo is stock, but I'll change it just as soon as I figure out where it is in the HTML code. Oh, and notice that the little icon on the tab of your browser is no longer the Blogger "B"? That's a customized icon for this site only, in the shape of a broken trowel (if you remember this post). I may clean it up so more so that it's clearer, but I'm pretty tickled about the whole thing.

UPDATE- the background photo is now my own...a shot of a paja stand up in the montaña.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Village Life Part 2: Animals

People and animals live in pretty close quarters here. I always hesitate on the customs form returning to the States when it asks if I’ve been on a farm. The answer is no, I haven’t, and I have entered any animal enclosures, but you can’t walk down the street without inadvertently stepping in animal feces of one kind of another (which is why we have dedicated indoor shoes).

The most numerous animal in town has got to be cows, which is probably why “moooo” was one of Baby Girl’s first animal noises. Many people have herds that are corralled right in town. There’s one pen just on the other side of our next door neighbors. Most are Brahma-type cows, and they are bred for meat. There are a few male Holsteins in town, but the vegetation in the area is generally not good enough to support milk production. These cows can be kind of aggressive, and it’s always a little daunting when someone’s driving a herd of them down the road at you!

Horses are fewer in number, but still pretty common. There’s something pretty nifty and wild-West about horses galloping through town. On several occasions one of my workers would lend me his horse to get out to the site, but not before I used it to drop Baby Girl off at daycare. Our neighbors have several dozen horses, which they hitch out front of our house, and use for harvesting cane, paja, and wood from the forest.

Pretty much everyone in the village owns chickens. These are not cage-enclosed, grain-fed chicken, these are crillollo chickens. They run around the streets, eat what they find, get served table scraps (including pieces of other chicken – yummy, cannibal chickens!), and are free to reproduce and often have a longer life than caged chickens. Locals claim these birds are more flavorful, and they generally are, but you can also get some really tough suckers that are barely fit for soup!

Cats and dogs are ubiquitous, but are not pets in the traditional sense. Cats are mousers and semi-wild and dogs are used for security and hunting in the montaña. Many families have multiple dogs (like, three to six) and they are largely untrained and unsupervised. Dogs roam the streets (or just sleep in them, making them kind of like the turtle shells in Mario Cart). Some of the dogs are cute and nice and well-behaved, but many of them are mean, flea-bitten, and all but abandoned. It’s really quite sad, seeing very mangy dogs with wounds from fighting with other dogs. The area could really benefit from a neutering program. The animal control plan currently consists of quietly poisoning dogs if they bite children, rather than pet owners taking responsibility for their animals.

So, with all these animals running around, it’s no wonder that BG wants a kitty or a puppy of her very own. I think it will come as a shock to her when we return to the States and there aren’t animals moseying down the road. Steve and I, on the other hand, are kind of looking forward to it (and not having to worry about the quantity of poop on our shoes).

 Next installment: Houses

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Malware Interlude

Ok,  so yesterday I started getting malware warnings when I would try to come to this site, and several of you told me that you were being automatically redirected to other random sites when you would try to come here. Odd, because I haven't added any gadgets to the site recently. The only thing I can think is that updating to Blogger's new publishing settings created a conflict with the countdown timer that I had on the site. So now the countdown timer is gone. The Universe's way of telling me to live in the moment? Perhaps, but that won't stop me from counting down in my head!

Village Life Part 1: Dos Mangas

I’ve had some requests for more information about where we’re living, so I’ll try to paint a picture of life here in the village, with some of the more amusing qualities, as well as the annoying ones. A disclaimer at the beginning: we've been here over 9 months now, and have over two months left, so while the picture I paint may be more vivid than it would have been 6 months ago, it's also more tired. We're looking forward to coming home.

Dos Mangas is located in the Santa Elena Province, on the north side of the Manglaralto River Vallye, a seasonal river. The road coming into the village (from the coast) and out of the village (further into the "mountains") both cross the river. When rains are heavy and the river rises (which hasn't happened yet this year) the village is essentially cut off from the rest of the world. Supplies, and the occasional person, have to be ferried across on rafts.

The village has two principal roads running parallel to the river with several side streets connecting them. The town has a daycare, an elementary school, an internet café, and numerous little shops that people run out of their houses, selling sundry and food items. There’s currently one restaurant, and a woman who sells roast chicken skewers on Saturday nights (these are awesome, both because we don’t have to cook those nights, but also because they kind of taste like bacon).

The population in the village is between 900 and 1000 people, with nearly a third of these under the age of 12. Most children do not continue school past sixth or eighth grade. Some families cite the cost of schooling, but others just need the help in the family business. Fourteen to sixteen seems to be the average age at which people get married and start having children. This is apparently a switch from even a generation ago when people were getting married in their twenties. We recently attended a First Communion where one of the kids participating was only a few months away from getting married and becoming a father. People live with their extended families - grandparents, parents, children, and the children's children often under the same roof, or in houses right next door to each other. Because of this it seems that there's always people around to help, whether preparing meals, caring for children, taking care of livestock, etc. It has also been my observation, though, that it's usually the parents, and not the young, newly parented children (did that make sense) who actually care for youngest members of the family. From the experience I had when my phone was stolen by a married 14 year-old girl, it is clear that the families still consider these individuals children, and not the adults that their responsibilities would demand they be.

Dos Mangas is a comuna, which is a legal entity under Ecuadorian law. Among other things, it means that the comuna as a whole is the actual landowner of most of the land adjacent (and not so adjacent) to the village – it leases out the right for people to work the land, often times in un-ending leases that approach private ownership, but the comuna still retains the right to recall the land. Only about half the population of Dos Mangas are comuna members. That means only half pay dues to the comuna, but the benefits that the comuna gains from the government or NGOs generally is shared by the entire community.

The majority of people in the village practice a mixed economic strategy - they farm various crops (corn, tomatoes, watermelon, etc.), they raise cattle and own horses, they harvest goods from the forest that can be sold (paja, cane, lumber), and some family members have wage jobs in the surrounding region. A decent cash income is around $200 a month, and families with children get a small monthly stipend from the government. 

Some people in the village bring in income as guides. Because the communal lands of Dos Mangas include several beautiful natural features, including a waterfall along one river and river pools along another, Dos Mangas has an organized groups of community guides who take tourists on ecological hikes to these areas. The group plans on adding the archaeological site to the tour. This work is seasonal, occurring primarily between January and April. 

Others make a living producing handicrafts that they sell to said tourists. The primary crafts are paja toqilla (woven palm) items - such as handbags, placemats, and baskets - and tagua nut (vegetable ivory) jewelry, keychains, and pipes (often with marijuana leaves on them - Dos Mangas is just a few miles away from Montanita, a town known for surfing and for drugs). Well organized cooperatives exist in the village to gather, prepare, and create these goods. There is a rough gender division, with women weaving the paja toquilla items and men carving the tagua.

One of the women drying paja.

In the forest!

One of the roles that the community has embraced is as protector of the forests. There are limits placed on the number of trees that can be cut down, and the community has teamed up with environmental groups like Fundacion Natura and other comunas in the area to help protect the Colonche Hills. They certainly are beautiful, draped in clouds and filled with animals, including howler monkeys, jaguars, boa constrictors, wild boar and deer (which are both hunted and yummy), and many others. The community seems to take this role very seriously, however they currently have an agreement with the government to mine the river bed adjacent to the village for stones and sand to temper the concrete that they're laying down to re-do the coastal highway. To me, this suggests a certain disconnect between conservation efforts, and perhaps what they are conserving for tourists, versus what they are conserving for themselves.

Next installment: Animals!