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JRF Scholars Venture Abroad

JRF Scholars Venture Abroad

Visit their photo galleries to Mindo and Cuena Ecuador


Our host mom, Albita, is just as sweet and caring as David and KeLea mentioned. She quickly embraced us and took us shopping on the very first day. She drove us to our first day of work and makes us great meals three times a day. We are staying in an affluent neighborhood in downtown Quito. I was also very surprised to see that we live nearby two upscale malls that include Mundo Mac stores.

We tried to venture out into the city last Sunday but found out that most of Quito shuts down on Sundays.

On Monday, we started work with a small orientation and introduction with our CARE supervisor, Marthy Rodriguez. She is very patient with our Spanish skills. She let us off Monday so we explored the mall near the office to get phones and use the internet. From Tuesday through Friday, we have been working full days at the office. I also found out that the two USA CARE interns have a lot in common with me. Carl is also from Georgia and Marci also went to Stanford University. It definitely is a small world.

I am working with Carl on the library of materials and resources here. It is really interesting because we get to read about how CARE promotes equality, sanitation projects, and development through its resource materials and info packets.

We have not ventured out too much but we went to the store and saw a movie this week. This weekend we have plans to visit the El Centro Historico to see the Church of San Francisco and more in historic Quito. I am looking forward to it and will fill you in next week.

Overall situation I would say that we're still in our "adjustment phase." I've been a bit up and down mood wise. But I'm hoping things get better in the next week, and the weeks to come. Also I read this great quote today "Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them." So here's my awareness: it's week one, I'm going to stop focusing on all the difficulties that come with the first week, and realize that things will probably get better!

Work situation Today marks my official full week of work! I found out on Monday that my primary assignment was going to be updating their website. It needs a lot of work, so I believe I have a hefty assignment ahead of me, which I'm pretty excited about! Sharada's primary assignment is updating CARE Ecuador's library by coding and organizing all of the books. I helped her and another intern do that task, until I had a meeting yesterday morning about how I can get started with the website! I have a lot of graphic experience, and I have designed a website before, but I have never actually put it on the web! (My boss knows this). Today I was able to Skype with a friend who designs websites, and she gave me a mini tutorial on how to use the program to edit/code the website! I still have to read up on a few tutorials. But I think I'm going to be able to have a great handle on it soon! I have a meeting with my director and our IT guy on Monday to discuss what I will be doing with the website next!

Other things about work: - In the beginning of the week, I was terribly shy around the office. My Spanish speaking skills haven't fully come back to me, so I kind of clammed up, and didn't speak! But today I had great conversations with both the IT guy and with my coworkers at lunch! Little by little! - I'm able to keep up with the World Cup via ESPN radio! (I listen while I do my work). Go United States! (I'm also rooting for Brazil, Uruguay, or Ivory Coast).

Living situation My host! She is SO incredibly warm and kind, genuinely cares for us, and treats us like her adopted hijas (daughters)! Sharada and I each have our own room, which is nice! She's been hosting students since 1997, so she's very experienced to say the least.

Travel situation Sharada and I plan to do A LOT of sightseeing, traveling, and hopefully some volunteering! So stay tuned for pictures/videos/funny stories. We're also hoping to find some more things to do during the week! (We admit, the afternoons of our first week were spent mostly at home, watching episodes of Friends, Dawson's Creek, Grey's Anatomy, & Project Runway).


I feel like Imani and I are adjusting more to the program after two weeks. At first in Quito, I will admit I had random bursts of nostalgia for the United States every now and then. However, we are now getting in to the routine of things at work and home. Our host mom is still very nice and tells us more about her life experiences. I really enjoy talking to her about the local issues like food prices, Presidential elections, and medical services.

At work, it has been kind of slow. We are working on a library project at the CARE Quito office. However, we finished all the boxes of books last week so we do not have much work to do most days. I am trying to be more proactive and make the most of this experience, so I am going to meet with Martha about getting more work assignments or visiting the field more often.

On the weekends we are trying to travel more. Our first weekend, we went to the historic Old Town of Quito. We walked around quite a bit and saw a lot of pretty churches, plazas, and stores. We even got to see a spectacular view of the city at the top of one church.

This past weekend, Imani and I went out with one of my friends from school and her family. We went to try local Ecuadorian cuisine. Since I can only eat chicken, I guess I missed out on the hornado (pig), but it was interesting anyway. We also went to a movie and saw a bit more outside of Quito.

I cannot believe it is already Week 3!


This past week in Ecuador things picked up at the CARE office. I had two meetings with the person who handles all of the IT work for CARE, regarding what work I will be doing on the website! At the meetings we decided that I would just use the program they already have to edit their website, that I will use a trial version of Adobe Photoshop to edit new photos for the website, and that in the next week Sharada and I would go out into the field to take new photos and maybe interview people (all for the website)! It's exciting to have such a grand assignment! In the meantime, the communications director of CARE asked me if I could help her design a poster, invitation and agenda for an upcoming event they have regarding HIV/AIDS. The event is inviting other CARE offices (from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and Peru) to meet with CARE Ecuador to discuss HIV/AIDS and the work each country's CARE office is doing. I was very excited for this assignment as well, as I love graphics, and this was my first time actually using my graphical skills for a job! I've attached the finished products!

Sharada and I were able to visit Old Quito two Saturdays ago! It was fun visiting old Catholic churches, walking around the narrow streets, and seeing what used to be the main area of Quito.

During the week Sharada and I ventured out a bit more when we went out to eat with her friend from Stanford. (She's Ecuadorian and therefore knows Quito very well!) The follow Saturday we ventured to a town called Chillos with Sharada's same friend, her two sisters, her brother in law, and friends! This town is apparently one of the best places you can try Ecuadorian food and they wanted to give us the real experience! Pork is huge in Ecuador, so you can either try pork one of two ways "Hornado" (baked) or "Fritado" (fried). I ordered hornado and tried a bit of fritado as well! They were both great! (Although I would probably order fritado next time). After lunch they took us out to a movie and after the movie we had ice cream. Sunday I was able to go to church again, and was able to talk to a girl my age for 45 minutes! This was a huge accomplishment for me, since I tend to be shy when I'm by myself'and because it means my Spanish is improving in such a way that I can have a conversation for 45 minutes! On to week three!


On Monday, Imani and I ventured out to Mariscal to look at a book shop. Afterward, we went to dinner with my friend who lives here. It was at the top of the mountains and was really beautiful! We got to see the entire city at night.

On Wednesday, we were able to visit the project sites of CARE USA by visiting two schools in the rural area of Ecuador. We took pictures for the websites. The kids were absolutely adorable and friendly. The middle school students were more reluctant to let us take pictures. But the little kids were so excited to have their picture taken. I want to print them out and send them back to them so they can have them. The view of the mountain area was absolutely spectacular with rolling hills, clear blue skies, and more. I have attached some pictures of the kids and scenery. The CARE Woman Alex was so friendly and bought us Ecuadorian cookies. She even let us stop to buy 25 roses (that only cost $2!!) for our host mom.

On Thursday, Imani and I decided to buy tickets to go to Cuenca next weekend. We look forward to getting away for a bit and venturing outside of Quito. Last night, I was making a list of places to visit. We had better act fast since we are almost at Week 4! I hope that we can get all of our traveling done before time runs out.

As for this weekend, we plan to visit some closer areas like the Middle of the World, a skyline, or see the Cotopaxi volcano. I will definitely let you know how that goes next week.

Wednesday, Sharada and I had the opportunity to do CARE work outside of the Quito office. We traveled to Cayambe as "photographers" with fellow CARE coworker, Alex. (I will later use these photos to update the website!) The project we visited is called "Juntos Liderando" (Leading Together), and according to the CARE Ecuador website this project seeks to fight against the discrimination and exclusion faced by 1,000 Indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorian and Hispanic boys and girls tied to the worst forms of child labor through consolidating the education processes that has begun at the local level, building capacity for empowerment and leadership among girls, systematizing lessons learned and information regarding the education of working girls and encouraging the creation of local and national public policies on the education of girls and the eradication of the worst forms of child labor.

As a photographer it's important to capture moments, therefore we couldn't really get caught up in conversation with the children. I've worked with children since I was 16 (both as a job and during my previous travels) so it was a bit of a strange feeling not being able to talk or play with the children but, nonetheless, I enjoyed photographing them and I have some amazing pictures to show for it! After taking photographs at two different schools we spent some time in the CARE Cayambe office with Alex. After that Alex took us to a small restaurant where we got lunch for two dollars! As we were leaving Cayambe, we stopped by a few flower shops to find some of the flowers that Alex had previously raved about. (The "Juntos Liderando" project also helps with flower businesses in the town). We were able to buy 25 roses for only $2! On the way back to Quito we chatted with Alex about our families, studies, and futures. She also stopped the car several times, allowing us to get out and take photos of the amazing scenery. Alex was so incredibly warm and friendly, it was great working with her for a day and I hope to go back and help more with the project! Finally, when we got home, Sharada and I gave the roses to Albita. She thanked us with a huge smile and a kiss on the cheek! I'm telling you, we could not have asked for a better host mom!

The rest of the week activities included eating at a restaurant that had an amazing view of all of Quito, seeing Toy Story 3, working a bit more on the previous designs I made for the upcoming HIV/AIDS event CARE Ecuador is hosting, and learning more about the program I will be using to update the website. This weekend Sharada and I doing some traveling with friends! Stay tuned!


This past weekend, Imani and I ventured into Mindo, Ecuador, which is about a 2.5 hour bus ride from Quito. The place was very pretty and gorgeous with a lot of nature opportunities for hiking, zip lining, flower gardens, etc. Imani was really excited to see a coffee farm since day one of our Ecuador adventures. So, of course, we stopped by a local coffee farm to see how it was grown, roasted, and packaged. Additionally, we went zip lining over the hills and treetops of Mindo. I will admit, it was pretty terrifying, especially when the shook the cables to add more thrill. Overall, it was very pretty and had a great view of all the green in Mindo. We also visited an Orchard and Butterfly Garden to see the vast ecological diversity in Mindo. We finished off the trip by visiting a local chocolate farm in Mindo. They literally had the best organic chocolate brownies ever! Apparently, they only sell in Michigan right now and have hopes to expand in the near future. However, if you are ever there, I definitely encourage you to check out the chocolate and support the local business --- http://www.elquetzaldemindo.com/chocolate/.

This week was a bit slow at the CARE office. I am working on their library. So we only had a few books to put in the database and shelve. I have emailed Marthy about more work so I have been doing some translations for them, which definitely helps occupy the time. However, I wish we were given more opportunities to visit the CARE Project sites like KeLea and David did last year. Even the CARE Atlanta office told us to take every opportunity to explore them, so I hope we do soon. I feel like working at these sites allows us to gain a broader and real perspective of international development. The work I am currently doing feels like work that could easily be done via email in the United States. So I emailed Marthy again about the work situation since we only have one month. I expressed my concern about learning more about International Development and she said we could meet next Wednesday.

Right now, we are preparing to leave to Cuenca, Ecuador for the weekend. It will be exciting to do a longer travel trip outside of Quito. I will definitely keep you posted!

FRIDAY, JULY 16, 2010

This past weekend, Imani and I ventured out to Cuenca, Ecuador. It is an hour by plane or ten hours by bus...so we opted to fly there. The city was absolutely beautiful with rolling hills in the background and cobblestone streets. It was just as the Lonely Planet travel book described...nuns roaming the streets, serene, small town feel, etc. We even ran into various people (tourists and locals!) several times throughout the trip given the size of the area. Also, Cuenca is a major hot spot for immigrants as well! There were a lot more people from Asia as well as America. Given the recent economic crisis and housing downturn, many retired Americans have ventured to South America for affordable housing and economic well being. Additionally, there were tons and tons of Middle Eastern restaurants advertising their best Shawarma dish.

In Cuenca, we did a lot of shopping at the local market, went to Chordoleg to see jewelry (and more importantly, watch the World Cup final!), and mistakenly stopped in small agriculture town to see a cow/pig exchange. We also visited the Banco Central museum with Incan ruins and local traditional clothing (and at one point Imani rode a llama!). We went to a great Modern Art museum to see glow in the dark paintings that had different meanings with the change of light. The New and Old Cathedral were spectacular as well.

We also explored El Centro Historico in Quito at night! It was pretty amazing to see the buildings glow at night. Imani has better pictures so definitely check them out!

As a result of our trip, we have only been in the office for three days this week. I asked for more work this week and now am helping out with the electronic portion of the library. Afterward, I hope to help out Imani with translating for the content of the web page. Marthy, our boss at CARE, is letting us visit a project site in Cayambe to work with kids during our last week here. I am really looking forward to it!

We went to Cuenca this past weekend. We left Friday afternoon and got back Tuesday night. Oh man, I'm in love with the place. It has that "small town" feel to it, you know the kind of place where everyone is super friendly and you see the same people several times a day (which we did). This is the kind of place that I would love to live for part of my life (not my whole life).

So we arrived in Cuenca Friday night and took a walk to find dinner. It brought back amazing memories from the best summer of my life (when I lived in Santa Monica with 71 other amazing people on a Campus Crusade Summer Project). I actually forgot to take a picture of our hostel but it was incredible! It had great rooms and the sweetest woman ever owned it! Check out the photo gallery Cuena for some of the sights.