Monday, January 30, 2012

Ecuador 2012

After a 2 year hiatus (last year i couldn't come because of my dad's illness and death) i am enjoying myself so much. i have stuff to do but the pace is quite relaxing.

i thought i was avoiding my usual grippe this year, but alas, i came down with something last week. i started antibiotics right away, and hopefully it will keep any real infection away. i feel fine, just a slight cough now. the combination of change of climate (hot and sunny in am, rainy and chilly in pm), pollution from the busses and new microbes to which i have no real immunity yet all contribute...

life with the astudillos couldn't be better. the test is always if you can pick up where you left off. after 2 years, it was as if i had been here yesterday! they truly are amigos de mi corazon. they built a new house not 5 minutes from their old house. its in a much more tranquil sector (or barrio) next to a lovely rushing river. they designed it together, and pepe was the general contractor; it really is beautiful, tasteful and simple.

I go almost every day to Casa Maria Amor, where lots of changes are afoot. they are building a new casa farther out, where they will add an agricultural component to their vocational training. the laundry and the cooking school are combined and now both go by "Mujeres con Exito", the name the women picked for the laundry. but they are both undergoing transition - the laundry with new industrial machines, and the cooking school upgrading too and moving for the time being to a new location. the new house won't be ready for 2 years. i am working with the women and the staff on a business plan, and with the women to update their training and regulations.

i went to San Cristobal yesterday for the monthly meeting of the Banco (now called Caja de Creditos y Ahorros"). there too there is transition with a new board of directors, lots of new members, and growing pains. they decided to take the opportunity of my presence to revisit their rules and regs to update them: tighten procedures, lower interest rates, promote savings as well as credit etc. but imagine with $5700 in original seed money from us, they now have almost $35,000!!! i told them yesterday that while american banks went kaput theirs grew!! they are so proud. as am i.

there is a new very progressive priest assigned to the parish - Fr. Hernan Rodes (if i call him "Father" rather than Hernan, he calls me "madre". he has initiated a lot of good things like: links with another womens group in Paute, a nearby larger community, who do workshops for improving production, marketing, etc. he also has linked up with a government program which will provide seeds and equipment at discount rates. they won't be free, but San Cristobal qualifies for a discount. this program is also only for women. The emphasis is on independence and not "paternalism", ie dependence on charity. it certainly worked with the women of the bank!

so lots happening.