Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Greetings from Ecuador, where Halloween preparations are in full gear! A little strange, since it is actually FINADOS which is traditionally celebrated here. People have already had community work parties to tidy up Guayabillas´ local cemetery, and families will soon be getting together to make delicious colada morada - a purple corn-based, mildly fermented beverage which features reddish fruits such as tiny blueberries and the andes blackberries as well as pineapple, naranjilla -even araza- with a multitude of spices (cinnamon, star anise, whole cloves, allpspice and ishpingo) and special herb bundles with amaranth, orange leaves, elderberry branches, lemongrass and lemon balm. Very yummy stuff, made in huge batches to take to the cemeteries with "guaguas de pan" - breads made in little human figures- and crowns of flowers for a picnic with the ancestors. people get an extra day off from work, since the traditional holiday (all souls, the day after all saints, which is the day after all hallows eve (Halloween).

Earlier this month, Shunku Llacta sponsored a workshop for interested residents of Sahuangal, Guayabillas and Santa Rosa in working with the native bamboo (Guadua angustifolia). Community representatives spent the day learning how to select the bamboo and prepare it for basket weaving from Santa Rosa maestro Celino Vasco. It was fascinating to watch Don Celino work the material, he made it look easy. But then we all struggled to figure out how he could weave those strands into a basket, and all agreed we needed some followup tutelage if we were to ever get it right! Don Celino was patient and adept. It was a great pleasure to work with him. We are hoping to add some sort of bamboo products to our line, as it is a truly sustainable material, native to the area.

In other news, Santa Rosa and Guayabillas, indeed many of the communities in our part of Northwestern Ecuador are now challenged to respond to the threat posed by a large-scale effort on the part of Avalanche Resources, Ltd. of Canada to open the entire area up to mining for metals. There is evidence that the many people engaged in projects to promote sustainable development and environmental conservation in the same area are beginning to join forces to create a resistance network. If we are able to show that sustainable alternatives are better for Ecuador in the long run, perhaps there will be government support for creating a special sustainable economic area free of large-scale mining and non-sustainably produced lumber.

Shunku Llacta is also involved in developing environmental education materials to share in schools, and bringing in volunteers to help community members and teachers understand this special environment and the watersheds which sustain us all. Stay tuned!

Mimi Foyle

Saturday, October 13, 2007

My experience with Shunku Llacta

I became very interested in Shunku Llacta because they were working with the communities of Guayabillas and Santa Rosa, communities very close to the property my husband and I bought in 2005 and will be our permanent home in few years. Thanks to Abby and Mimi I began helping Shunku Llacta by selling some of the artesanias. Since all the artesanias are hand made and signed, I became very familiar with all the names of the women of Santa Rosa and Guayabillas. The next step was to get to know them in person, so I took advantage of the Shunku LLacta 2007 trip and joined it. After spending three days in Santa Rosa and three days in Guayabillas, I sure feel like those people I shared the days with will be my friends for a long time. I look forward to moving to Ecuador and participating in the communities of Guayabillas and Santa Rosa.

One of the highlights of my three days in Santa Rosa was to be hosted by a local family, Miche and Franklin's household. Miche was a great host, she made sure I felt comfortable in her house and I was well fed! Their life in Santa Rosa is very different from my life in the Bay Area in California. I spend all day in front of a computer and attending to phone calls, and they spend their day caring for their animals such as chickens, pigs, guinea pigs, and their crops, which are their food source and their income.
I am glad I got to know Miche and her family in a more profound way by sharing their house. I hope to come back next year and I hope to continue to be their friend.

Another highlight of my visit to Santa Rosa was to work with the community on our second day. We painted the walls of the public bathrooms. It was a great day and we all felt a great sense of accomplishment. Working together is the best way to make community and get to know each other.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Jungle Hike

Don Orlando led the '07 volunteer group on this totally incredible hike to his farm through the jungle. Here we are pausing in the jungle: (L to R) me, Anita, Jadira, Lexi, Katy, Heber, Orlando.

And below . . . a flower we saw, I think the kids called it "Christmas decoration" or something like that.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

First Day in Santa Rosa '07

This past summer I (photo to left) visited Santa Rosa and Guayabillas as a Shunku Llacta volunteer for the second time. I was so excited to come back, find out if anyone remembered me, and see how much the kids had grown! This year we were a group of three volunteers: me, Anita Rodriguez (who lives near me in the Bay Area and just bought a farm near Guayabillas) and Elaine Velasquez (from Salt Lake City).

Mimi Foyle, Director of Shunku Llacta, hosted us at her farm as our home base. Our first morning, we hiked about an hour from her house to Santa Rosa. My pack was HEAVY!! I was carrying painting supplies for our mural project. But that was nothing. Mimi's pack felt like a solid rock!! She is one tough cookie.

When we arrived in Santa Rosa, the town was gathered at the school watching the students' pageant. Students danced and acted out popular songs about tough old grandpas (see photo) and an Ecuadorian boy whose girlfriend had migrated to NYC and died in the Twin Towers.

When the show ended, we greeted everyone. I am happy to report that my past host family remembered me! Andrea (mom) was happy to see me and so were her kids - Katy (in pic with me above) and little Kevin.

We (the volunteers) had planned an opening activity to help the families get to know us, and to do some environmental education while we had the kids' attention at school. We did a big name game with the whole group, kids and families, introducing ourselves and our favorite fruit or vegetable that sounds like our name. Well, "Abby Habas" stuck with me as a nickname for the entire trip! Ana Banana and Katy Colada were also popular.

Anita, Elaine and I split up the group for the activity. I took all the jovenes, or older kids and teens. My favorite age! Katy, her cousins Johnny and Jadira, and about 5 other kids came along. We went for a nature walk in the outskirts of town and our task was to find things that were living ("cosas vivas") and nonliving ("cosas sin vida") to bring back to the big group. We set out along a path in the woods.

We started collecting flowers and leaves as living things, and bits of trash and litter as nonliving things, discussing each item's role in or impact on nature. We stopped, as all the groups would do, for a short meditation. I told the kids to stand in a circle together in silence, and to use all their senses, including their hearts. Each one would choose one thing he or she loves in this place. We stood listening, smelling, and feeling for 5 minutes, and then everyone shared the birds, fruits, butterflies, and trees that they loved in Santa Rosa.

We went back to our search. Someone spotted a beautiful blue butterfly, as a living thing. Pretty soon, everyone was hunting insects and gathering them in a plastic cup (nonliving thing) to take back. Each kid would find a grasshopper, beetle, wasp (non-stinging), or caterpillar and ask Johnny (age 16) to identify it. Apparently, Johnny is the resident insect expert!! He explained what each one ate - the moth caterpillar that eats all our crops, the parasitic beetle that lays its eggs on the caterpillar that kill it when they hatch. I was very impressed!! We also found the shell of a large river snail (tasty to eat when roasted!).

All the groups gathered back at the school and we handed out paints, brushes and paper. Each group made a collage of the living and nonliving things we collected. Then, each group presented their posters, explaining the importance of living things in nature and the impact of the trash or other nonliving things on our environment. Everyone from the grandpa's to the kindergardeners had a chance to present!!

It was a great way to break the ice and start getting to know everyone, while learning all about the local nature and enjoying it together. And of course the message of protecting the planet. At the end, we went home with our host families for the next two nights. Miche requested Anita, who she had gotten to know on the hike. Elaine went with Andrea, while Olimpia (Andrea's sister) took me home. Jadira, my host sister, linked arms with me and showed me the way. We became practically inseparable for the next three days! I needed serious help to learn all the ropes--especially nighttime bathroom trips and outdoor showers! The fun was just beginning.
Photo of all the kids:

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Teresa Durán

Full name: Maria Teresa Durán.

I have 2 children. Johana is 13 years old and Jordy is 4. I am 32 and I'm married to my husband Patricio who is 36. I came to Guayabillas from a town called Ingapi 9 years ago.

My husband Patricio works the land and takes care of our animals and plants. I liked to do housework and I love to be with my family. I like to make handicrafts together with my friends.

In our town I like the nature, the animals, the rivers, and the peaceful and honest way people are. I love having cows, dogs, pigs and chickens. My favorite food is vegetable soup with pork chops.

I like to plant yuca, plantains, pineapple, taro, beans, corn, limes, oranges and other crops.

I'd like to have volunteers to teach them our customs and also to take advantage of the help they can offer us. Also for them to teach us their customs and to have new experiences. Anyone who visits us can stay as long as they like.

* * * * *

Tengo 2 hijos. Johana tiene 13 años y Jordy tiene 4 años. Tengo 32
años y estoy casada con mi esposo Patricio que tiene 36 años. Vine a Guayabillas de un pueblo que se llama Ingapi hace 9 años.

Mi esposo Patricio trabaja en el terreno y en el cuidado de los animals y las plantas. A mi me gusta hacer las tareas de la casa y me encanta estar con mi familia. Me gusta hacer los trabajos de artesania en union con mis compañeras.

Me gusta de mi pueblo la naturaleza, los animals, los rios y la sencillez de su gente y su tranquilidad. Me encanta tener vacas, perros, chanchos y gallinas. Mi plato preferido es la sopa de legumbres con chuleta de chancho.

Me gusta sembrar yuca platano, piña, papa china, frijol, maiz, limones, naranjas y mas plantas.

Me gustaria tener voluntarios para ensenarles las costumbres de nosotros y tambien aprovechar la ayuda que pueden brindarnos. Tambien ensenarnos sus costumbres y adquirir experiencias nuevas. Cada persona que nos visite puede quedarse el tiempo que sea placentero.

Omaira Collaguazo

Full name: Lourdes Omaira Collaguazo

I have 2 children, Alexander and Jomaira. I'm married and my husband Miguel is 29 years old and he works in the fields.

I was born, raised and I live in Guayabillas. I have been married for 5 years. My work is to cook, clean, take care of my children and also to work in the fields. I like this town because of the nature, and because I'm close to my family. The people are calm and quiet, and I'm part of the soccer team and volleyball team.

My favorite food is fish with plantains. The crops I have planted are oranges, tangerines, avocado, plantains, guava, pineapple, yuca, papaya and other natural plants. I have animals like chickens, pigs and cows.

I'd like volunteers to come to my house to show them how we work in the countryside and all the customs of our town. Also I'd like experience sharing with people from abroad. Any volunteer who comes to my house can stay as long as he or she wants.

* * * * *

Tengo 2 hijos Alexander y Jomaira. Soy casada y mi esposo Miguel tiene 29 años y trabaja en el campo.

Nací, crecí y vivo en Guayabillas. Tengo 5 años de casada. Mi trabajo es cocinar, lavar, ver a mis hijos y tambien trabajar en el campo. Me gusta este pueblo por la naturaleza, estoy cerca de mi familia, la gente es tranquila y soy parte del equipo de futbol y voli.

Mi plato preferido es el pescado con platano. Tengo sembrado plantas de naranjas, mandarinas, aguacate, platano, guabas, piñas, yucas, papaya y mas plantas naturales. Tengo animales como gallinas, chanchos y terneros.

Yo quisiera que venga volunterios a mi casa para enseñarles como se trabaja en el campo y todas las costumbres del pueblo. Tambien quiero tener experiencia compartiendo con gente extranjera. Cada voluntario que venga a mi casa puede quedarse el tiempo que le guste.

Janeth Puente

Full name: Janeth Puente Andrade

My name is Janeth and I'm 38 years old. My husband is named Timoteo and I have 4 children: Deysi is 13 years old, Jefferson is 12, Darwin is 10 and Widinson is 4. I was born in the town of Intag, in the parish of Garcia Moreno, Imbabura province. When I was three years old, my parents brought us to the town of Mashpi. When I was 23 I got married and came to live here in Guayabillas.

We work in the fields cultivating our land, and we also go out to earn money working in other people's fields in order to support our children in their studies.

I like where we live because of its location, because it's peaceful, and because I have my friends and family. My favorite food is green plantains with guañas (a local fish from the river), and with a drink made of grated green plantains with milk.

In my house I have chickens, guinea pigs and pigs to provide some extra income. I also have a cow and a mule. As a pet we also have a puppy. We have some land where we plant plantains, yuca, taro, corn, beans, pineapple, sugar cane, papaya, guava, avocado, borojó, anonas, etc., and a small garden for household use.

I would like to have volunteers in my house to get to know each other's customs and traditions, to know more about the place they come from, and so I can teach them some of my traditions. The person who visits us can stay as long as he or she wants and will be warmly welcomed!

* * * * * *

Me llamo Janeth, tengo 38 anos. Mi esposo se llama Timoteo y tengo cuatro hijos: Deysi de 13 anos, Jefferson de 12 anos, Darwin de 10 anos, Widinson de 4 anos. Yo naci en la zona de Intag, Garcia Moreno, provincial de Imbabura. A la edad de tres anos, mis papis nos trajeron a la zona del Mashpi. A la edad de 23 anos me case y vine a vivir aqui en Guayllabillas.

Trabajamos en el campo cultivando las tierras y ademas salimos a ganar trabajando los campos de otras personas para poder dar el estudio a nuestros hijos.

Me gusta este lugar por su ubicacion y tranquilidad y porque tengo mis companeras y amigas. Mi plato favorite es verde con guañas y de bebida colada de verde rallado con leche.

En mi casa tengo gallinas, cuyes, chanchos para ayudarme en el sustento. Tengo tambien una vaca y una yegua. Como mascota tenemos una perrita.

Tenemos un terrenito donde sembramos platano, yuca, papa china, maiz, frijol, piñas, cañas, papayas, guabas, aguacates, borojo, nonis, etc. y un huerto pequeño para el uso de mi casa.

Me gustaria tener voluntaries en mi casa para conocer las costumbres de cada uno y del lugar de donde vengan y yo poder enseñarles mis costumbres. La persona que nos visite puede quedarse el tiempo que desee que seran bienvenidas.

Martha Damian

I have two daughters. One, named Gloria, is 16 years old and the other, Lilia, is 15. I am married and my husband's name is Marco Lema.

I lived in a place called Paraguas and we came to Guayabillas 27 years ago. Back then, it took two days of traveling to get here. There was so much mud!

I got married here and now we work in our fields. We like the animals and plants.

My daughters work with us in the fields and they study at school once a week. They travel on Saturdays to Pedro Vicente Maldonado. They leave at 4 in the morning and catch the ranchera.

I liked to sow plants and make handicrafts in order to help my family economically. My favorite dish is plantains with fish, and also vegetables from my land. Animals we have are pigs, chickens, dogs, guinea pigs and cattle. Crops we have are cacao, pineapple, yuca, corn, papaya, lemons, oranges, tangerines, plantains, peanuts, taro root, araza, guava, many other fruit trees, and also trees for timber.

I would like to have volunteers visit to be able to share experiences like our work and our traditions, and to learn from the person who visits us. They can stay with us as long as they want!

* * * * *

Yo tengo dos hijas. La una se llama Gloria que tiene 16 años de edad, y la otra se llama Lilia que tiene 15 años. Soy casada y mi esposo se llama Marco Lema.

Vivía en un lugar llamado Paraguas y venimos a Guayabillas hace 27 anos, cuando se hacía dos dias de camino para llegar acá. Habia mucho lodo.

Acá me case y trabajamos en el campo. Nos gusta los animals y las plantas. Mis hijas trabajan con nosotros en el campo y estudian a distancia. Viajan los sabados a Pedro Vicente Maldonado. Salen a las 4 de la manana y cogen la ranchera.

Me gusta sembrar plantas y hacer los trabajos de artesanías para así poder ayudar economicamente a mi familia. Mi plato preferido es plátano con pescado y tambien legumbres de mi terreno. En animales, tenemos chanchos, gallinas, perros, cuyes y ganado. En cultivos tenemos cacao, piñas, yucas, maíz, papayas, limas, naranja, mandarinas, plátanos, maní, papa china, araza, guayabas, y otras plantas de frutas, así como muchos arboles de madera.

Quisiera tener visitas para poder compartir experiencias así como trabajos y costumbres y aprender de la persona que nos visita. Ellos pueden quedarse el tiempo que deseen.

Luisa Suarez

My name is Luisa Suarez. My nationality is Colombian and my husband is Ecuadorian. We met in Nanegalito, a nearby town. After we got married we went to "open the mountain," because people told us there was land where you could work. That's how we came here to Guayabillas.

We arrived in the year 1966 when there were no roads and it took two or three days of walking to get to this land. There was no school and 8 years went by until we started the first school.

We have 11 children, 25 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren. My husband works in agriculture and I do the domestic chores. I like that all my married children live close by.

We cultivate plantain, yuca, corn, and in the garden behind the house I have beans, onion, cilantro and radishes. My favorite dish is morocho with milk (a hot corn drink like hot chocolate).

I'd like to have volunteers so they can help work with us, and also to learn nice things, things that we don't know about.

* * * * * *

Yo me llamo Luisa Suarez. Soy de nacionalidad colombiana y mi esposo es ecuatoriano. Nos conocimos en Nanegalito, una parroquia cercana. Luego de casarnos, fuimos a “ abrir una montaña” porque decían que había terrenos para poder trabajar. Es así como vinimos acá a Guayabillas.

Llegamos en el año de 1966 cuando no había caminos y tomaba dos o tres días de camino para entrar a estas tierras. No habia escuela y tuvo que pasar 8 años cuando empezaron la primera escuela.

Tenemos 11 hijos, 25 nietos y 2 bisnietos. Mi esposo trabaja en la agricultura y yo en los quehaceres domesticos. Me gusta que todos mis hijos casados vivan cerca de mi.

Cultivamos plátano, yuca, maíz y en el huerto tras de mi casa tengo frijoles, cebolla, cilantro, y nabos. Mi plato favorite es el morocho con leche.

A mi me gustaría tener voluntarios porque nos apoyan, también aprendemos cosas bonitas, y lo que nosotros no sabemos.

Orlando Andegoya Toapanta

I was born in Pacto and then after I finished elementary school I left for Quito, the big city, to look for work. Then when I didn't find work I returned to my land to take care of a farm. After some time passed, my cousin Magdalena offered me a place to stay at her farm, located in Santa Rosa. That's how I came to live here.

That is how I came to know Santa Rosa and I liked it a lot. The town authorities have asked me to work with them. I have lived in Santa Rosa
now for three years.

My favorite pastime is is making chocolates and harvesting the fruits I cultivate, like pineapple, peanuts, corn and beans. I take care of my brother's farm and on the farm there is a beautiful river with pools and waterfalls.

I am 47 years old, single, and I like to enjoy the mountains. I'd like to share with volunteers to exchange knowledge and ideas about our environments.

* * * * *

Nací en Pacto y luego de estudiar la primaria salí a Quito, la gran ciudad, a buscar trabajo. Luego de no encontrar para buscar trabajo regresé a mi tierra a cuidar una finca. Al pasar del tiempo, mi prima Magdalena me ofreció posada en su finca ubicada en Santa Rosa. Es así como vine a vivir acá.

Así es como conocí Santa Rosa y me gustó mucho. Las autoridades del pueblo me han pedido que colabore. En Santa Rosa estoy ya tres años.

Mi pasatiempo favorite es hacer chocolates y recoger las frutas que cultivo como piñas, maní, maíz, y frijol. Cuido la finca de mi hermano y en ella hay un hermoso rio que tiene pozas y cascadas.

Tengo 47 años, soltero, y me gusta la diversión en las montanas. Me gustaría compartir con voluntarios para intercambiar conocimientos e ideas de nuestros ambientes.