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Friends of Ecuador goes to Ecuador…part 5

Friends of Ecuador goes to Ecuador…part 5

We had a chance to visit the refuge at Cotopaxi. Since the volcano erupted a year ago or so, you can’t yet climb above to the top, as I did nearly 20 years ago. Nonetheless, the refuge and volcano remains as stunning as ever. The glaciers have retreated though.

We stayed at a place nearby called the Secret Garden which is a popular place for backpackers. We were able to ride down by bike from the parking lot above the refuge to Secret Garden, which sits at the base of Passochoa.

We took back roads to get to the hostel which remained as cobble stone, but the main roads from Quito to Ambato are now toll roads that bypass a lot of the towns along the way. The route is fast, though heavily patrolled to deter speeding. The country has invested quite a lot in improved infrastructure, and you can tell. (Even some of the country roads like between Pillaro and Patate are now paved with lots of road signs to tell you where to go).

Friends of Ecuador goes to Ecuador…part 4

Friends of Ecuador goes to Ecuador…part 4

My good friend Mark Thurber has lived in Ecuador more than 20 years. He is the author of Climbing and Hiking in Ecuador. He works on environmental impact assessments to try to limit the damage from large infrastructure projects.

In the process, he came upon a fantastic cloud forest near Vulcan Reventador that he and his colleagues bought to conserve as a reserve for wildlife. It’s called Reserva Alto Coca. It’s just in the shadow of the volcano which you can hear rumble in the distance and see plumes from on a clear day.

We had an opportunity to visit this rugged site, accessible by muddy trail four hours above the road as you head out to the Oriente. There are cabins out there now with cold running water and serviced by a cook and support staff. It was an amazing trip. The photos below hardly do it justice.

We saw pictures in the camera trips of jaguars on the trails before and after we hiked up it. We also saw scratches on the trees from spectacled bears as well as tapir tracks. We’ve blogged about it before, but now, I’ve gotten a chance to see it up close and personal. You should too. It’s tough but you can find out more from Mark if you are up for adventure hiking through Trip Adviser.

Friends of Ecuador goes to Ecuador…part 3

Friends of Ecuador goes to Ecuador…part 3

I got to spend some time with the host family that housed me during my years of service (97-99). The picture above is from the site of the house where I lived. It’s subsequently been torn down and replaced with a more modern house with running water. At the time, I had electricity but dirt floors on the ground floor, a compost toilet, and one outside tap in a cinder block house. The view is the same thought. The children of my host family live there now with their kids. The son works in construction all around the country so agriculture is less central to their lives now than it was when I lived there.

Some of the other kids have also moved, one working in the nearby town as a taxi driver, another for the oil companies in the Oriente, and a third who is married and lives in another city.

Friends of Ecuador visits Ecuador…part 2

Friends of Ecuador visits Ecuador…part 2

I was able to visit with a number of people I worked with at my site. They showed me how the trees we planted almost 20 years had grown up. We also talked about an irrigation project we fought for was finally realized more than a decade after I left. We talked about friends we knew had died.

They talked about what they were up to now. Changes in the town, paved roads, bus service, cell phone service, and how many people had moved out of agriculture with many of their kids looking for other professions. I tried to honor them by capturing some photos with a lens that does great portraits. Here are some photos from that visit.

Friends of Ecuador visits Ecuador…part 1

I spent two weeks in Ecuador in July and posted a number of stories on Facebook along with photos. I’m going to reference them here. It was a fantastic trip, commemorating 20 years since I started my service. I saw a number of old friends in my Peace Corps site as well as wider friends from my Peace Corps service days.

One amazing thing was that a number of people from my site didn’t know I was alive. For some strange reason, a rumor got started that I was killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Though I was in touch on and off via email with some folks from my rural site (outside of Ambato up in the mountains), I hadn’t heard that some folks thought I was dead, and they hadn’t heard otherwise. There was one phone in town when I left and no one had Facebook or email addresses. Times have changed. Here is a Facebook post the reflects a little bit on that with a photo from my host family’s house.

Ecuador’s Elections

Ecuador’s Elections

Ecuador held presidential elections last weekend, and it looks like the left-wing candidate Lenin Moreno holds a lead but may not have exceeded the 40% threshold (and 10% difference with his nearest rival) to avoid a run-off. This from Reuters:

Ecuador’s leftist government candidate Lenin Moreno looked set for victory on Monday in a presidential election, but slow results meant it may take days to know if he will face a runoff with former banker Guillermo Lasso.

As results trickled in from Ecuador’s Andes, jungle, and Pacific coast, Moreno, a disabled former vice president, was just short of the 40 percent of votes and a 10 percentage-point difference over his nearest rival to win outright.
For more background on the election, see this piece on the Guardian that talks about how the left-wing tilt of the early 2000s in South America has subsided, but perhaps not in Ecuador where the ruling party may yet win, as Rafael Correa steps down:
The favourite is Lenín Moreno, a former vice-president under Correa who is standing for the ruling Alianza País coalition, but very different in style and politics from the outgoing president. As his first name suggests, Moreno is from a leftwing family, but he has a reputation for inclusiveness openness and humourthat earned him approval ratings above 90% when he quit the vice-presidency in 2013 to take up a United Nations post as special envoy on disability. If he wins, he would be the first paraplegic head of state, having used a wheelchair since he was shot in a robbery.

Voting is obligatory for the 12.8 million people eligible to cast a ballot in this country, which covers an area bigger than the United Kingdom and ranges from Amazon jungle and Andean mountains to the Pacific coast and the Galápagos Islands….

Correa leaves power with ratings around 40% – impressively high in a country where no previous leader in a century had lasted more than five years….

Most Ecuadorians are far better off than when he took power in 2007, poverty and inequality have gone down and infrastructure, schools and hospitals have been impressively upgraded….

But 10 years in power and a downturn in global oil prices have taken their toll.

Ecuador’s economy shrank by more than 2% last year and the IMF forecasts a similar decline in 2017. Many voters are weary of authoritarian leadership. Indigenous groups and environmentalists accuse the government of putting Chinese oil and mining interests above local people and protected areas in the Yasuni national park and among the Shuar territories near the southern border with Peru. The middle class complain of high taxes, excessive bureaucracy, clampdowns on NGOs and attacks on the media.

 

Friends of Ecuador – Back after a Long Hiatus

Friends of Ecuador – Back after a Long Hiatus

All,

We have a series of stories to post in the coming weeks. There is a new country director in Ecuador, and we have a message from the departing country director. There are upcoming elections in Ecuador for a new president of the country. We have some updates on projects we supported over the last year or so. And, the United States has a new president.

The last point is only germane to the extent that we at Friends of Ecuador have been transfixed by the unfolding challenges to American democracy. I’m a political scientist so this is something I study for a living, but it’s also been a tough time to be an observer of U.S. politics. I don’t say that as a partisan but just as a concerned citizen.

In any case, that has left me with less bandwidth to dedicate to this important cause, but we’re going to try to collect some stories in coming weeks to inform our readers. We’ll have a new newsletter for the first of March when these will be published collectively. In the meantime, I’ll try to get them out a bit at a time.

Ecuador Earthquake: How You Can Help

Ecuador Earthquake: How You Can Help

As you know, a major 7.8 earthquake struck Ecuador two days ago, the strongest in Ecuador since 1979. Several hundreds have died and thousands are homeless. We have been posting information on our Facebook page for those wanting to get regular news and where to donate.

Many friends in Sierra have reported they are safe by checking online through Facebook. All Peace Corps volunteers have reported that they are safe.

Epicenter was on the coast with major damage in cities like Pedernales, Porto Viejo, Muisne where there has long been a history of volunteers. Several hundred people have died, including friends of RPCVs and volunteers. Volunteers are mobilizing to get resources to the coast for rescue and relief operations, though it sounds like some areas are dicey in terms of security, as there is some desperation in towns for re-supply.

Here are photos of the damage, with people sleeping outside for fear of aftershocks. This photoset from Manabi is heartbreaking and includes aerial photos of the damage.

How You Can Help

Current Peace Corps volunteers have expressed an interest in helping and many of them who live along the coast are mobilizing funds to try to help. In general, it’s hard since unless you are trained in disaster response, it’s difficult to be useful, especially since outsiders converging on an area may themselves need food, water and shelter that are in short supply. It sounds like some coastal based volunteers, current and former, are working with local foundations and law enforcement to try to provide assistance. Others are channeling money to them. Money is probably better than donated goods.

Here are three sources that came up that are known to us personally or through the Peace Corps network. At bottom, we provide links to more well-known charitable organizations. We’ll try to update as we have more information.

Ouida Chichester who has worked with Friends of Ecuador in the past in Pedernales with a foundation for people with disabilities has a donation site and is working to mobilize funding.  Read More »

Summer Visit by the Pope to Ecuador

Summer Visit by the Pope to Ecuador

The pope spoke to a million in Ecuador earlier this summer.

QUITO, Ecuador— Pope Francis praised the family as society’s primary haven of virtue but said its joys still elude many, and he voiced hope that a meeting of bishops at the Vatican this fall will help those who feel left out of family life.

The pope’s schedule for the week features a number of events reflecting his concern for social and economic justice. Arriving in Ecuador on Sunday, he called for sharing the benefits of development with the “most fragile of our brothers and sisters and the most vulnerable minorities.”

The pope had traveled to steamy Guayaquil, on the Pacific coast, from the Andean city of Quito, Ecuador’s capital, where he was scheduled to remain until departing for Bolivia on Wednesday.

He also made environmental protection a major theme:

Pope Francis on Tuesday called for increased protection of the Amazon rain forest and the indigenous people who live there, declaring that Ecuador must resist exploiting natural riches for “short-term benefits,” an implicit rebuke of the policies of President Rafael Correa.

In his final stops of a busy day, Francis made environmental protection a central theme, invoking the biblical tenet for humans to be guardians of creation, while praising the way of life of indigenous peoples living in the rain forests. Several indigenous leaders attending Francis’ final event of the day have been fighting the policies of Mr. Correa to expand oil exploration in the Ecuadorean Amazon.

Galapagos Volcano Erupts!

Galapagos Volcano Erupts!

In May, the Wolf volcano in the Galapagos Islands has erupted for the first time in 33 years. It’s not a populated island (by humans). It’s located on Isabela island, the largest in the archipelago. It does however pose a threat to pink iguanas.