Monday, December 14, 2009

Last Hours

Well our time is up. We´re eating as much mangos and avocados as possible before heading back state side. We fly out in a few hours. Here are a few shots from the past week.

We hiked to a 300ft waterfall

This one is for our friends Colin and Kristin. The monument in the background marks the equator, so we are literally jumping on the middle of the world.

Cassie is finding herself in the jungle

Its important to be ready for the wildest of afternoon rain storms

See you soon,
Brent and Cassie

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Finca Vida

We found another farm to spend the remainder of our time at, and this one actually lives up to its name. There are a number of things going on here and projects happening. We have been learning about exotic fruit production, coffee harvesting, chocolate making, fish farming, and even guinea pig raising. We look forward to sharing more details in person.

For now we are headed back to the farm to process cocoa beans into chocolate for the local school kids for a Christmas gift from the farm.

Coffee Production

It's a lot easier to drink then to grow, harvest, husk, ferment, roast,and then process.

Today we hitched a ride into town with the daily milk truck. These little boys were having a good time dodging the milk jugs as we bounced along the dirt road.

We are experiencing the Ecuadorean countryside first hand, the other way we get in and out of the farm is on a Ranchero.

We spent about 4 days on the coast so I could finish up his final papers and exams. Not a bad way to spend finals week, with fresh exotic fruit on hand and swimming in the ocean for breaks. I'd say it was the most chill finals week of my university career.

We'll see many of you very soon,

Brent and Cassie

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Donde es la Finca?

Sorry for such a long time since our last post. We were an hours hitch-hike away from the internet.
Last you may have heard from us was that we were heading north to Ecuador in order to volunteer at an ecological farm in the Amazon jungle. We were there for the past three ½ weeks. We considered staying for the remainder of our trip, however considering some of the circumstances at the “farm” (such as the fact that it wasn’t a farm at all, they weren’t really growing anything aside from the Amazon jungle engulfing the place). The current residents on the farm have big plans for the place, but no funds and little experience or knowledge of how to make it happen. We decided to move along, in fact, we are currently at the coast.
Our first few days on the farm we spent our time working in the kitchen and making saunas for the numerous guest who came for a holiday weekend. While working in the kitchen we filled buckets and buckets of food waste and quickly recognized that their current system of composting was just making a pile for at least a years worth of food left to rot out in the sun, smelling foul and attracting all sorts of insects. They have plans to begin farming there so we saw an opportunity to help set up a composting system by building a new structure to house the compost area and set up a system for some effective composting. With knowledge that we already had (Cassie taught a composting unit for her second grade class) along with a bit of internet research we spent the better part of two weeks building a compost structure and developing a system to be implemented at the farm making use of their kitchen waste. Before we left we hosted a “workshop” in order to explain the composting process to the people who live at the farm.
So now we are at a chill beach town I am getting caught up on school stuff and preparing for the end of the term. We are hoping to volunteer at another farm that some friends recommended to us which is here near the coast.
Time is going fast it won’t be long before we are back in Oregon.
Much Love,
Brent and Cassie

The new structure during the construction in process

large bins for the different stages of the composting proccess

The Final Product

We found a sweet swimming hole that we hit up at least once a day.

I feel like Tarzan here

The bugs are vicious in the jungle. At one point Cassie and I counted over 400 bites on my legs and feet alone.

There are big ones too

and mossy ones!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Time to Move Along

Hello faithful blog followers,
Time is flying by we have already been at our current residence for a month. It’s time to move on from Sucre. We found an ecological farm/ashram that we have been welcomed to stay at. They have a number of projects going on which voluteers are encouraged to come and contribute to. Projects include farm work, building tasks, and educational plans at the farm and in nearby villages. In addition to community projects there are three community vegetarian meals each day, group yoga seesions each day, and they have a no drug policy (It will be nice to be around a more wholesome crowd). The farm is located in the Ecuadorean jungle amidst mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and hotsprings. So once school is finished this week we plan to head north. It will be a long overland trek, that will take a few days, and we are looking forward to seeing the countryside.

During a walk home yesterday evening, we noticed a crowd of people. Upon checking it out bit closer we noticed that there was a parade going on in the street. The parade consisted of lots of young people in different groups distinguished by different costumes, each group complete with its own band. The first group was about 30 grim reapers. Next was a lively dancing group clothed in all white. They were followed by an army of Roman soldiers. Then came characters in which the top half of the performers bodies including their arms were covered with a sack (looking like an oversized hat), a face was drawn on their stomachs, and fake arms came out at the waist. Taking up the rear was a cheer leading troop in skimpy cheer leading attire…oh yeah… by the way all the cheer leaders were men, many of which were fairly overweight. All of the groups were very animated and were dancing very flamboyantly they all seemed to be having a crazy good time. About half way through watching the parade from the sidelines some dapper guy with a face drawn on his bare stomach grabbed Cassie and pulled her into the parade to dance with him. Likewise a girl grabbed me and pulled me into the parade, asking me to dance with her (secretly I wanted to be in the parade the whole time I just needed an invitation). So we danced it up for the rest of the parade until we ended at a University building were the party continued in the street. Bottles of some mixed drink were being passed all around amidst the dancing. It was a pretty fun and energetic fiesta. After further inquiry I found out that this is the university student’s way of celebrating the end of the school year.

Thanks for your support,
Brent and Cassie

Thursday, October 15, 2009

You're living where?!!! With who?!!! Doing what?!!!

Dear Friends and Family,

There has been some concern brought to my attention regarding the last post. I realize that I should have been a bit clearer about what happened last weekend. Our current house mates consist of an Argentinean guy (Lucas) and another housemate (a French woman who recently finished volunteer work with a local NGO). Lucas is the father of a little boy, who spends time at the house regularly. Lucas is supporting his son through entertaining children at schools and birthday parties as a clown. These are the things that we were aware of upon moving into the house. Until last weekend, we were aware of only minimal drug use generally due to visitors to the house. The party that happened was a onetime deal (at least while we are here). For the next week the house residence will be Cassie, myself, Lucas, and the French women. After that we will be leaving the area. From my observations over the course of the last three weeks neither Lucas nor the French Women keep drugs in the house, and there will not be any more parties like last weekend.

We feel like the party last weekend was a bit uncomfortable and certainly not our preferred living situation.

I hope this puts some concerns to rest. Please know that what I described in the last post is not a situation that we prefer or that we are pursuing.

Thanks for your concern,

Brent and Cassie

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Party Scene

Turns out our choice of house mates is exposing us to a different scene in Sucre. Often times we completely miss each other, we are getting up to start our day and they are just going to bed, to sleep into the late afternoon. One guy offered me a pretty good deal for a new business opportunity. Turns out I can buy 10 grams of pure cocaine here for about $150 USD, I understand that any where in the US 1 gram goes for more then $100 USD.

I knew it was going to be a long night when I was shopping at the market and I received a flyer from someone that I didn’t recognize inviting me to a party that was taking place at my house. Our housemates hosted a party with a scheduled line up of performers, including clowns, puppets, juggling and fire dancing. The party got started around 12:00am. Once we were ready to go to bed around 3:30am we had to kick a few folks out of our room, and move the cocaine paraphernalia off of our bed. I got up around 10:00am to start the day and there was still about a dozen people finishing off the last of the gallon jug of vodka trying to counter act the stimulating effect of snorting cocaine all night so that they could eventually fall asleep.

The picture of the little girl has nothing to do with the party scene, it was just a picture Cassie took at the market.

Don’t worry Moms we will be leaving this place very soon, and we plan to be a bit more intentional about the next place we decide to stay, and I was joking about considering the new business opportunity.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Settling in

We found a place to call home for a bit. The place consists of three bedrooms that open to an uncovered patio area it also has a kitchen and bathroom. We have been doing our shopping at the local market a few blocks away, which means we are eating all Bolivian grown foods. Our “house mates” consist of a girl from France and an Argentinean guy his picture is below. We also began language school, studying for four hours each morning of the week. We plan to hang out here for at least a month. Then who knows what? For now, between 4 hours a day of Spanish lessons, plus the the three online courses that I am taking through PSU, my time is pretty full. Cassie is going to start volunteering at a local orphanage.

Cassie doing some laundry, I did my own.

This is the street that our place is on

Our new house mate, It's no joke...He is a clown

Experiencing Coca for the first time

The other day Cassie and I went for a stroll, we wanted to get to a good view point, so we picked out a nearby hill to climb to the top of. Once we got to the base of it, we found stairs that were formed from the rocks around. We took the stairs all the way to the top where there was a large statue of Jesus as seen above. There an indigenous man invited me over to his circle where there were 6 other indigenous men and women, all around a small cook stove that had burning coals on it. The man offered me coca leaves which I chewed for the first time. Then he pulled a huge hamster out of a card board box, and a women held a cup of water up to him. The man put the head of the hamster into the cup under the water. He held it there until the hamster stopped squirming, and lay motionless. Next the man put different kinds of spices on the burning coals and wafted the smoke onto each of the people in the circle. Then he offered me something to drink, it was some pretty strong alcohol, I partook and thankfully was able to hold it down, they all had a good laugh at my reaction to the drink (I later found out it was rubbing alcohol (95%) mixed with Fanta). Next the man accompanied by one other man took the small stove with the coals and the dead hamster to the other side of the Jesus statue, and about 15 minutes later returned with only an empty stove. I wished them a good afternoon and headed back down the hill, between the coca leaves and the shot of rubbing alcohol I had a very enjoyable walk home.

We always enjoy comments below,

Be Well,
Brent and Cassie

Monday, September 21, 2009

Still in Transit

We were hoping to write our first post from a place that we were “settling” into. However it is taking awhile for us to get to that place here is our trip so far:

September 15, 1:30am Depart San Francisco, USA
5hr layover in San Salvador, El Salvador
9:00pm arrive in Lima, Peru
Stay the first night in the airport, and second night in a hostel
September 17, 9:00pm depart for 15hr bus ride to Ariquipa, Peru
September 18, 2:30pm depart for 8hr bus ride to Puno, Peru
Stay the night in a hostel
September 19, 7:30am depart for 7hr bus ride and border crossing to La Paz, Bolivia
Stay the next two nights with couch surfer connection in La Paz
September 21, 5:30pm depart for a 13hr bus ride to Sucre, Bolivia

Here in La Paz, a city of over 1,000,000 pop. We are sitting at nearly 11,000 ft. above sea level, that’s just under the elevation of the summit of Mount Hood. Aside from the shortness of breath and occasional light headedness we are handling quite well.

We got to spend a couple of days in Lima with Amanda, its always good to have Goodness Collective connections.

We’ll post again soon from Sucre

Brent and Cassie