Profile: Patrick Smith
Patrick Smith shares his experience in the Ecuadorian rainforest through letter excerpts and photos. We join Patrick as he finishes his first year of service in his new community, Puca Chicta:
August 19, 2002
So, wow, I have been here for a year now. Crazy. It seems like just yesterday that I was getting on the airplane in Denver, Colorado, and now I am here in the middle of the province of Napo. Very different.
People have asked me what I think of my time in the Peace Corps. I have had a year to reflect on what I am doing, and what am I thinking.
Personally, I think that the Peace Corps is one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life. It is a lot of fun, we are helping people, and we are building relationships which will hopefully pave the way for better friendships in the future. I think the Peace Corps is a great use of our government's resources.
President Bush wants to double the size of the Peace Corps in the next five years to 15,000 Volunteers. That means that there are a lot of opportunities for anyone who is interested. The cool thing about the Peace Corps, as I have said before, is how diverse it is. I wanted to live in the middle of nowhere, while others wanted to live in a big city, such as Quito. Some want to live without electricity, some want Direct TV. There is something for just about everyone. For those of you who are not really doing much, who have a couple of free years, who want to live a little differently and help the world, look into the Peace Corps.
I have gone through many personal changes here in Ecuador. The most obvious is the riotous beard I now have. After that comes the big improvement in my Spanish and Quichua. Coming from this is a huge leap in my confidence, and in my ability to communicate effectively. When I first came here, I did not like to speak in front of a group, but I have overcome that fear and have become more assertive in my dealings. I have also learned a lot about problem solving, organization, and even a little management. I can also drink chicha and eat grubs with the best of them.
So, I have a little over a year left. Invariably, this leads one to begin thinking what I want to do after my Peace Corps service is finished. Unfortunately, I am not sure yet. About the only thing that I know I really want to do is travel all of South America. I have some other thoughts, but nothing set in stone.
Of course, maybe I will just do the Peace Corps for the rest of my life. Hop from country to country. Now I am in South America, next in the South Pacific, maybe the Caribbean, over to Africa. Its a very tempting thought, but we will see.
There you have it. Good stuff this Peace Corps. Good stuff.
October 15, 2001
I had to leave Santa Lucia yesterday morning. It was a lot harder than I had imagined it would be. They had a fiesta the night before for the election of the school queen, but during the dancing, the DJ kept getting on the microphone and saying goodbye to us, and thank our friends from the “Cuerpo de Paz”, Pato y Kristina. Pato is the shortened name for Patricio is Spanish. Coincidentally, it is also the Spanish name for duck, so for the last three months whenever someone called me Pato, I would start quacking. They all thought it was hilarious, especially the children, who would go out of their way to call me Pato so they could hear the gringo quacking.
When I went to leave for on the bus, it was like a scene out of a movie where the son is going off to war and the whole town is out to see them off. It was rather touching. I however, am not the hugest fan of emotional send offs, but I was struck nonetheless. It was rather comic, the bus that I rode was jammed packed, and I had to stand in the open stairwell grasping onto the bar half hanging out the door, waving at the people lining the streets. I had to laugh in spite of myself as I looked back on it. Three people from town accompanied me all the way to the main bus terminal in Santo Domingo. Quite cool.
November 3, 2001
I have started a garden. The first thing I did was collect a bunch of dead brush, leaves, old peelings, and other organic material to make a compost pile for my garden. I was dismayed when the next day I go to my garden, only to find that some guy was burning all my stuff because he thought the pile was ugly. I had to laugh, and when I explained to him that it was supposed to be used as fertilizer for my garden, he looked at me as if I had grown an extra head. It was funny.
November 23, 2001 It is amazing how fast life goes when you are having lots and lots of fun. I cannot believe that it has been over a month since I swore in as a Volunteer and am out living in the middle of Napo province. Life is good, and fun and fulfilling. There is a foundation nearby that does ecological work called Jatun Satcha. It is so cool. I know I mentioned it before, but I saw a tree sloth (three toed). Even though it moves at the speed of slowness, it was way cool. The other day, I climbed a forty meter tower and had commanding views of the mountains and far out into the jungle. Next week, I am helping on the national census. My counterpart, Roberto, and I are going to survey about 160 houses in the surrounding four communities. There is a big packet of questions for each house, and we expect it to take eight days in total. A long job, but it will be a good way to meet everyone and get to know the ins and outs of the community members.
Take it easy, everyone, and I hope that all is tranquilo in your hearts.
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