Eco-Ecuador 2002 Report # 1: First Impressions

Lisa Kundrat, Field Assistant

Received a letter from home. Spoke of cold hail running through apple wood ash. Makes me miss Montana these days when I have been questioning my role here, in this place that is not my own, where I am only just learning the feel of the hot ocean, learning to speak.

One night after being so ill, sitting on the crowded dark sidewalk watching lightning, no light in the city. Carlos rides up, takes me on his moto to eat chicken soup. And I remember why I am here: last week, pushing wheelbarrows through Fanca, full of trees, compost, me with the maps moving us along, but all with sweat dripping off noses, shoulders, knees, as we lower plants into the ground, mixing rich black compost with the clay-like soil of the patios. José and Cesár from the Municipio always dropping their current work to help us, digging hole after hole in the hot sun. Also with us each day are Joffre and Huberto from Club Ecológico planting and working hard. Patricia kissing babies, Sara distributing compost, Barrett, a friend visiting, teaching kids how to clean their eyeballs and introducing them to the post-hole digging monster who feasts on niños.

Planted for over 50 houses in the last week, moved fast and worked hard. But also stopped, drank water and juice offered us in the shade under a bamboo house where all relaxed in hammocks amidst the heat of the day, talked about the machismo of Manabí, were invited to a party on Saturday, and went. 

Drank hot pink soda, ate sweet cakes and plates of rice, later danced meringue as the guests. Barrett swinging niños (children) in the air. And of course, the parade of El Día de Las Mujeres (Women’s Day) — dancing through the streets twirling abuelitas (grandmothers) with roses to accordions and maracas played out the back of a pick-up truck. A man yelling, “¡Vive a las mujeres!” (“Long Live Women!”) as Bahíans line the streets and cheer. And after, sitting on the steps of the church steps eating more ice cream, my little friend with her gift of drippy coconut landing on both our feet. Funeral music playing behind us, and the whole world is all green, thumb wars, and drippy ice cream.

We will finish planting for Fanca 3 in the next week. We will also plant with the kids and women at the school in Fanca on Friday. Then we will need to return to all sections to plant with families we missed, or who never had a chance to receive lemon or mango trees. A flurry of planting before the rain stops, and then a greater focus on creativity and education with the coming of the dry season. Many are worried about the possibility of another El Niño this year, and this will be on all our minds as we look ahead toward the next steps.