Political rallies are growing with intensity daily.

August 24,2004

In the field: 
Everything got watered both this week and last. We also managed to mulch all the sites over the past two weeks. We used a combination of plantain stalks and cornhusks as mulch. Once the material is collected from the food market (we secured a sympathetic source for the plantain stalks and cornhusks), we have to break it up into manageable pieces. The mulch mixture is then taken to the sites and strategically placed at the base of each individual plant.

At the greenhouse: 
Another 25 plants were transferred into larger containers. All previous transfers are doing well. The soil beds have been turned and a mixture of compost and soil were added. We also have begun planting seeds for the  fast approaching rainy season, four-dozen Colorado tree seeds so far.

Regarding the Jorge Lomas Canal site: 
Pablo, the landowner, came to the office on Wednesday morning. He  explained to us that this was indeed his property and talked of his plan to sell the land to be made into lots for housing. We accompanied him to the municipality to discuss the situation with the architect, Vicente Leon, who  originally asked us consider this location for revegetation. After an hour of consulting maps and deliberating we came to no solutions to our problem. Vicente invited us to the Canal on the following day to reiterate what we discussed in the office. We agreed and on Thursday spent the morning walking the partially constructed canal. Vicente said that all the property on both sides of the canal is privately owned with the exception of a six meter (in width) area that runs parallel to the canal on the west side. Four of  these six meters is designated to become a road. The canal’s ending point is just after the first site (the one to the left of the road when you walk in). The plot in the upper-most section on the canal is unaffected by both the canal’s construction and aforementioned property being sold. It seems at this point that we will inevitably lose the lower site either via the construction of the road or after the property has exchanged hands. The silver lining to this dark cloud is that both Vicente (the architect) and Pablo (the landowner) recognize the need for a forested buffer zone between the canal and the barrio. (According to Vicente, there is going to be a lot of development on the west side of the canal.)  They both insist Planet Drum submit a proposal to extend the width of the area that is designated for the road, allowing a space for revegetation. The proposal would be discussed between three parties: Planet Drum, the municipality, and CorpeEcuador (the company that is constructing the canal). It is estimated that it will cost ten thousand dollars to buy the land for a buffer zone. (Vicente did the calculations for the estimate.)  He is also willing to assist in writing the proposal and providing maps and diagrams to illustrate our point. 

I do not want to harp on this misunderstanding and yet I must say I’m a little put off by this whole situation. Why wasn’t a contract implemented by Brian and the municipality from the get go?  Is it because we (Brian and myself) believed this to be public land?  In a recent email Brian sent he confirmed that he too was under the impression that this was indeed public land. What is the exact procedure for securing new sites (contracts, verbal agreements, etc.)?  Is there one?  If not I could come up with a proper procedure.

In Bahía: 
The electric power has failed at least a dozen times this past week and the taxi drivers and buses went on strike again. Political rallies are growing with intensity daily, causing much unwelcome street noise late at night. We are without water for a day or so because apparently Emelia did not pay some bill. This occurred Tuesday while I was in Guayaquil. Emelia came to the door asking for money to pay a $230 water bill. She spoke with Sol since I wasn’t around. Sol was reluctant to give her anything in my absence. Emelia supposedly went to the mayor’s office and got the bill knocked down to 100 bucks. Sol waited for her to collect from all her other renters first then gave her the last twenty dollars. The water got turned back on in the afternoon on Wednesday. I spoke with Emelia regarding this matter and the twenty is being subtracted from our rent.  

A man named Jose came by and spoke with Sol regarding some land he wants to preserve. He has 60 hectares of land containing primal forest. The forest spills into his neighbors homestead (another 20 hectares). Apparently his neighbor is thinking of clear-cutting it. Jose is opposed to the idea and came to us for advice on how to preserve it. He has no intentions of deforesting his land and put a lot of emphasis on bringing consciousness to the community. He has requested that we survey the forest and identify some of the old growth tree species. He inquired if he could obtain some kind of “official document” (by a foundation) stating how valuable the primary forest is (due to its native full grown species that he’s never seen anywhere else). He would use this document as evidence in his “argument” to make sure the other half, owned by his neighbor, is not sold and cut. We have his contact information and he stated he would check back with us in a month. It is unclear as to where the property is exactly.

Belqica, the wife of Jorge Lomas barrio’s president, dropped by yesterday. As it turns out she is finishing her thesis and came by to get the correct spellings of our names and titles to include in her acknowledgements. She also invited us to see her project in Jorge Lomas, which we are planning to do next week.

At home…volunteer update:

Celena left on Tuesday as I mentioned to you before. Christina is leaving this evening. Sol got her tourist visa straightened out so she is undoubtedly staying throughout October. Jackson is feeling better. I had not mentioned this before but he has epilepsy. He has to medicate himself heavily on a daily basis to avoid having a fit. His meds had some ill side effects, including rolling vision and drowsiness when he combined them with other medication for stomach problems. I admire his dedication to living his life to the fullest with this disability. We have, unfortunately, experienced Jackson have two epileptic fits, which consist of a short period of unresponsiveness followed by a longer period of short-term memory loss. We are all comfortable enough with this situation and responding to his needs when he has a fit. He has been traveling and volunteering in South America for well over a year.

Materials You Sent:

The Discovering Your Life-Place workbook mapping exercises are completely appropriate for the Bioregional Education Program. They are very creative and I am thinking the volunteers and myself will do the activities ourselves one afternoon. Thanks for copy of Earth Island Journal and the Mattole Restoration Newsletter. I look forward to curling up on the couch with them.

New Sites:

We have not yet followed up with the landowner from Guayaquil. I will do so this week. Also I had a chance to survey Fernando’s property on Thursday. It falls on the east side of the canal. We found an area ideal for planting if you are interested in this location.

Final thoughts: 
These past couple of weeks seemed to have lasted forever. Once again life in Bahía has been transformed. The plethora of volunteers, at the Planet Drum house and in the town in general, have come and gone as the summer approaches its end. I can’t get used to the intense experiences I share with all these people that inevitably slip away. The bright smiles of Christina and Celena will truly be missed.


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