Goodbye to the Tropics

Only 48 hours until I have to kiss this beautiful city goodbye. Trying to tie up loose ends and enjoy my last moments. A crazy week, super full, as they say around here. Planned a minga (barrio clean-up), a mural with an ecological theme, and the inauguration of the Bosque en las Ruinas park. 

The minga was a success last weekend; 12 kids from one of the high schools in town showed up on a Saturday morning to clean up the park in preparation for the inauguration. We ate mini-mangos during a break. A few girls from the Maria Auxiliadora Ecology Club came to lend a hand as well. Spent several afternoons with that club in the past few weeks. 

Thursday we didn’t talk too much about ecology, just played soccer. The agreement was that if my team won they were all obligated to go to the inauguration on Saturday. We put up a good fight, but victory slipped from our grasp in the end. Pleased to see almost all of them at the inauguration anyway. Two of them had a few words to say about the new park, and another, Ariel, played the bongos (quite well, I might add) for the crowd that gathered. He was one of two kids that stayed up painting the mural at the bottom of the hill until 5AM that morning. Talk about dedication. 

Two long nights have gone into the painting of the mural thus far. One more long haul and it’ll be complete, fully vibrant and visible from 3 blocks away. Encouraging to see the reactions of the many people that are passing by and can’t help but stop and stare for a while. It actually provided us with an excellent opportunity to promote the inauguration to the community as we explained what we’re doing and invited them to get involved. We’ve received a lot of support from local hardware and paint stores that have given generous donations of paint and brushes, despite the fact that every penny counts here right now. The overall impression seems to be that the mural is chevere (cool), and I can’t help but agree. It covers a large retaining wall on one side of the Miguel Valverde school where Miguelito, the huge Galapagos tortoise lives. 

The mural starts at one end with mangroves and the estuary and comes all the way along the length of the city (with key landmarks highlighted, like Marcelo’s house in Bella Vista) and out to the lighthouse at the end of the point, finishing with sea creatures underwater and a huge setting sun. It’s no wonder people stop to watch us work under the street lights and madrugada mist. The other night the power went out around 2am but the moon illuminated the mural . . . even under moonlight it’s breathtaking. 

And at last, the new city park, El Bosque en Las Ruinas, has officially been inaugurated, after a lot of hard work and sweating. Had hoped to see more adult faces there after all the promotion we worked on (including radio interviews, articles in local newspapers, and posters), but maybe having all the kids come is more important anyway. They’re the ones that are going to play there, and grow up there, they are the ones that have time to enjoy it and protect it. I was glad to see them all come trooping up the hill to participate in the ceremony. Luckily, some of the most important adults came, like the Priest, and representatives from the Centro de Educacion Ambiental Eco-Bahia, the city, and the media. 

Support was expressed from all these groups, and also from Jaime Perkins, a resource analyst from the East Bay Regional Park District in northern California. After juice and some pan de coco (chocolate bread), a few of us headed out to assess potential problem areas with Jaime. It was good to get some professional advice. 

Brazilian water expert Augusto Bravo and I, the only remaining members of the Planet Drum “volleyball team” (as we called ourselves when 5 staffers were here at once), celebrated the inauguration with dinner from the new pizza place in town and a lot of laughs. Went with him the next day to have one last look at his project in the neighborhood of Fanca. They’re almost ready to put a in a drainage canal, just in time to prevent recurrent flooding during the rainy season. The sky is getting heavier every day, won’t be long now until rain falls with full force. 

Feeling good about the work that has gotten done in the past few months. I’m not entirely ready to leave the “ciudad sin copia” (city without equal). Seems as though some of the things I was working on are just starting to happen, results are just now becoming visible, not only to me but to the community. Hard to leave that momentum behind. (Won’t miss the rooster that crows day in and day out behind the apartment though.) 

Speaking of chicken . . . Culinary notes: Thanksgiving came and went without much fanfare. I did my best to find a turkey and had no luck (they were all getting plumped up for Christmas), so we had Bahia-style BBQ roasted chicken, and some yummy mashed potatoes. Fun to share the concept of over-consumption with friends that had only heard about the Dia de Gracias. The most amusing aspect of the dinner was dessert, a sweet potato pie, an understudy for the pumpkin pie that couldn’t make it due to the lack of pumpkins. The sweet potato here (camote) turns purple when cooked, so we had a lovely purple ‘pumpkin’ pie that was enjoyed by some more than others (Augusto would like to add that it was horrible). 

Correction: It has been brought to my attention that Coca Cola should not be given too much credit for being ecologically aware. Although they do re-use a good amount of glass bottles daily, they also produce plastic bottles of a type that are not recyclable and aren’t returnable, and they apparently have no plans to change their production (even after being pressured by concerned consumers like Nicola Mears).