Posts tagged Ecuador
Posts tagged Ecuador
This fits today’s Peace Corps Week Theme “Invite the World to Your Table” so well, we had to reblog!
Your Ecuadorian Fruit Education
Lesson #1: Taxo
One of my New Year’s resolutions and goals of year numero dos in Peace Corps is to try more Ecuadorian fruit. It’s not as if I don’t eat a bastante amount of fruit here, I really do. I just usually stick to the basics like mango, pineapple, papaya, grapefruit and oranges. I’ve tried other fruits here of course but I don’t usually buy them on my own… but that’s all about to change! I have a brand-spanking new blender with a juicer too! It would be a complete waste not to use it and to not aprovechar my time down here with trying delicious tropical fruits. So, get ready for installment one in your Ecuadorian fruit education!
Up first is taxo. I’m not sure what taxo is called in English or if there even is an English translation. It’s a strange yellow fruit that’s about 3 inches long and shaped like some large gorilla finger or a fat stumpy cigar. When you cut it open, the insides look like a pomegranate or maracuyá with the orange, gelatinous fruit surrounding many small black seeds. Taxo is basically only used in juices but as the lady at the fruit stand tells me, you can also cut it open and chupar (suck) the fruit out. According to my awesome Peace Corps cookbook, it’s also used as a topping for ice cream but since I had no ice cream around the house, I settled for making juice.
I cut them open, scooped out the insides and put it my blender with a bit of water. After blending for a bit, you simply strain out the seeds and bam, you have jugo de taxo! I added some sugar to the juice primarily because I’ve integrated here and you can’t drink anything without copious amounts of sugar added and secondly because taxo does have a slightly sour taste that needs some sweetness added. Overall, not my favorite Ecua-fruit and it probably wouldn’t be my first juice choice but taxo definitely has an interesting flavor and unlike any fruits I would typically eat in the States.
Things I’ve Learned in Ecuador: #6 You Can Never Have Too Many Parades
About two months ago were the fiestas de la parroquia in my town of Tonchigüe. There was a rodeo, the election of the reina (more to come about that!), bailes and last but certainly not least were the desfiles. Parades are seriously underrated in the United States. Yes, we have Memorial Day parades, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, and the infamous St. Patrick’s Day parade in Scranton… but here in Ecuador they really, really, REALLY love parades. Just a rough estimate but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about twenty desfiles since arriving here in Ecuador which averages out to about two parades per month.
All the local schools participate in the desfiles and there’s lots of marching, baton twirling, and military-looking outfits, but by far the most important and distinguishing characteristic of the desfiles are the drums. I’ve only ever seen about 4 different instruments in the parades: drums, xylophones, trumpets… and more drums. There are about 15 drums to every one other instrument and they can be heard for miles around. There are big drums, small drums, medium sized drums, any kind of drum you could imagine. Goldilocks would certainly not have a problem finding her dream drum here in Ecuador during fiesta time. The drumming is always accompanied by some dancing with batons, inappropriately short skirts and sometimes berets.
There are also the costume desfiles. The marching of the schools I can somewhat understand but these costume parades still blow my mind. I’ve asked around town and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to how or what they decide to dress up as. I’ve seen children in Scream masks, dressed up as gangsters and Native American Indians. There are always all different sorts of animal costumes, traditional costumes from different regions of Ecuador but there’s also sometimes children wearing huge cardboard boxes painted like aquariums and some dressed as migrant farm workers. My favorite was the high schoolers walking around on huge stilts and dressed up in bright, multi-colored clown-looking costumes. Again, I have no idea why and I don’t think anyone else does either.
The best/worst part of these desfiles is that they last about 1 and a half hours minimum. I waited for about two hours in Atacames during one parade to see the kids from my high school and there were still about 15-20 schools yet to pass after them! And since all the towns in my area only have one major road, it’s always fun to see the buses lined up and stuck behind the desfiles for hours at a time. Luckily, I haven’t been stuck in a bus behind a parade yet!
Please someone come visit me! I can almost guarantee you will see at least one desfile!
Peace Corps Volunteer Erin Gilberten is working in a coastal city in Ecuador that faces many hygiene and water condition challenges. She shared this photo of children at her local elementary school where she teaches the importance of daily hygiene practices.
A youth development Volunteer works with children on a bakery project to help them earn money for their families as an alternative to selling candy on the street in Ecuador
Things I’ve Learned in Ecuador: #4 How to Make Empanadas
A little less than a month ago, I moved out of my host family’s house and moved in with Dani just until I finally move into an apartment of my own ya mismo. I was lucky enough to arrive in her site, Galera, on the week of their fiestas de la parroquia. The reggeaton was on full blast and everyone was out celebrating and drunk. Lots of cerveza going around!
Dani’s host mom, Esperanza, runs a little restaurant out of the house and since Dani and I are the brilliant, young PCV minds that we are, and because two heads are better than one, we came up with the idea that we should make and sell empanadas during the fiesta. First of all, it would give Esperanza a little extra income (PCVs are not allowed to make any money in country) and basically we just really wanted to eat some empanadas. Dani had already made some with her host fam a couple months earlier but it was going to be my first time making empanadas and I was super excited (and hungry).
We pitched the idea to Esperanza and she was all for it, she even suggested that we sell bolones too. We also promised to be her ayudantes and sell the empanadas and bolones after we all made them since gringa salesladies can never hurt in this country. So we made up a list of ingredients and supplies we needed and the next day Dani and I headed off to Tonchigüe to buy everything. We ended up spending $26 in total for the verdes, flour, butter, cheese, napkins, pork and salad supplies that we needed.
That night the cooking began! We started by making bolones con queso. To make bolones, you first peel the verdes (green plantains) which is quite a challenge… unless you’re Esperanza and can peel a verde magically in .4 seconds. Dani and I struggled a bit more with the peeling process and by the time Esperanza had peeled 10, we had just finished with our first. After the verdes were peeled, you boil them with some achiote, which, going to be honest, I have no idea what it is. When the verdes are softened up a bit you mash them with a machacador (try saying that five times fast!). You can also mash them with your hands if you can handle the heat and boiling water that Esperanza added to it. You then mix a heaping tablespoon (or two) of butter into the mashed verdes so it’s more like a doughy texture. With this verde dough, you form the bolón then make a little indentation to add some queso to the middle. Once all the bolones are formed and stuffed with queso then you heat up your aciete and fry ‘em up! Top it off with some ensalada made from cabbage, carrot and onion drenched in lime and you’ve got a delicious little snack. We sold them for 25 cents each and within a few minutes they were all gone… a testament to Dani and I’s great sales skills.
Since the first day was so successful, the second day Esperanza, Dani and I upped our game and made bolones con chanco. This was más o menos the same process except after mashing the verdes and adding the butter, we simply mixed in the fried pork and served them up! According to Jeff, a fellow American (and very nice guy) who was living in Galera in September, they were delicious! Since Dani and I didn’t actually end up trying once since we sold them so fast (cha-ching!), I guess we all just have to take Jeff’s word for it.
By this time, Dani and I were starting to wonder when the hell we were going to start making the empanadas. Don’t get me wrong, bolones are good and all but they’re no match for empanadas. By the time we started making empanadas, word had gotten around what a successful little micro-empresa we had going on and Esperanza’s daughter Monica helped us to make empanadas and her son Kevin helped us sell them. To cook empanadas, first you mix the flour with eggs and butter to make the dough. The best part is when you have to smack the dough as hard as you can off the counter to get out all the air bubbles, which Monica is an expert at! Once the dough was made, we separated it into little balls, rolled it out, added some cheese then folded them over so they were ready to fry. Frying empanadas is also an art form. First you have to heat up the oil and make sure you have bastante in the pan then push the hot oil onto the side of the empanada that is face-up to make sure both sides are cooked well.
When the empanadas were done, Dani and I first ate some ourselves and then went out selling with Kevin and Jeff. Literally within five minutes we had sold about 20 empanadas. Not too shabby! People even came knocking on the door later that night asking to buy some. The next day Dani and I went for a walk on the beach with a teacher and some students from the colegio. When we arrived back at the house, we saw Esperanza, Monica and two more women cooking up more empanadas. Our little business idea had really taken off! The women had even made morocho, a corn-based drink with cinnamon, milk and a lot of sugar… it kind of reminds me of rice pudding except with corn. Once again, Dani, Kevin, Jeff and I went out selling and about 15 minutes later were all sold out.
By then the week-long fiestas were finally coming to an end so we took a break from our slaving over the stove and counted up the earnings. Overall, Esperanza made over $35 out of our little business, which we like to call Empanadas de Esperanza (or Empanadas of Hope). Not too shabby for a few hours of work here in Ecuador!
But sit tight, America! No worries, Empanadas de Esperanza is now considering how to sell and export to the States. Ya mismo, ya mismo…
Ecuador - 2005
This photo was taken on May 23, 2009 at a dance competition in Ecuador. Traditional Kichwa dances are performed at every public event in the Napo province and troupes are composed children of all ages. The dance steps describe traditional activities such as clearing fields, making guayusa tea, harvesting cacao and preparing chicha (traditional spit beer).
- Peace Corps Environment Volunteer Laurel Howard
In recognition of Mother’s Day, Peace Corps Volunteers worldwide are engaging in projects to improve maternal health, educate new mothers and support women and children. Volunteers regularly serve in maternity clinics, teach nutrition to new and expecting mother’s and provide information to keep families healthy.
Today, 22 percent of all Peace Corps Volunteers work in the health/HIV sector. Health Volunteers help communities meet basic public health needs through education and awareness, providing access to safe drinking water, distributing bed nets for malaria prevention, teaching sanitation measures and more. Even though Peace Corps volunteers are not medical care providers, they provide the skills and training to help keep communities healthy and safe. Many volunteers participate in health-related projects during the course of their service.
We thank our Volunteers for supporting mothers worldwide and wish all the mothers in the Peace Corps family a happy, healthy, and safe Mother’s Day!
By popular demand, we’ve updated our Volunteer homes Flickr set. Check out these PCV cribs from around the world!