Monday, February 18, 2008

From Ecuador to MIT

Sorry for making this so belated. I have a few things to update on -- the end of my time in Ecuador, a brief journey to Peru, and the start of a new semester at MIT.

First of all, Ecuador --

Looking back, the work we (Fernando and I, but actually more the community) accomplished exceeded my expectations. The water board really stepped up to take initiative and control of their water system. The first summer we were there, Froy and I had to lead the community along during meetings--teaching, guiding, directing the community practically every step of the way. But slowly they have learned to take on that role, and now know and understand the technical and administrative details such that Fernando and I hardly had to participate at all in the community meetings where they came together to make important decisions about the future of the water system. It was a real feeling of satisfaction to start to feel superfluous -- after all, that's the whole point!

At the end of the month, my mother came to Santa Ana for about a week. The whole community was extremely excited to host her, especially because she is now working with me to establish an ongoing "Art for Water" program to purchase ceramics and jewelry from the women in Santa Ana. The hope is to generate some income for the families, but also to bring the story of Santa Ana to the United States and raise money for the water system. It was a thrill for me to re-connect with my old artistic instincts -- the days back when I used to make all sorts of things with sticks, pine cones, feathers, and a pocket knife -- as I spent a few days learning and understanding the basics of their traditional art.

Check out this video I just finished producing that tells the story in a nutshell:
Also, if you haven't seen it yet, check out our website. I still need to update it based on the advances in January, but it still gives you the sense of what we are trying to do:

Peru --

I went to Peru with the intention of visiting a clinic founded by an American doctor in the middle of the rain forest. I did get to see the clinic, and speak with the doctor about her experiences and perspectives, but what actually was the most amazing part of the trip was seeing the "deep jungle" that people in Santa Ana are always referring to. Santa Ana is higher in altitude, and mostly secondary forest, so it doesn't have the same trees, frogs, birds, fish as the interior. It was really hard for me to be in a touristy lodge with all sorts of services and amenities, but I did appreciate the chance to chat with communities in Peru and learn about how their communities and their environments differed from what has now become so familiar to me in Ecuador. People really opened up to me when I told them about my experiences in Ecuador, about the way my friends in Santa Ana eat particular foods or what they have taught me about different plants. I also got to see river dolphins, piranhas, poison dart frogs, ceiba trees and the like. The canoeist in me loved to see how the villagers all got around the area in dugout canoes.

Finally, MIT --

As you can expect, its a bit of a let down to be back to a world of problem sets, lecture halls, laboratories, and cement. I'm definitely over the hump, as they say, and feeling ready to start moving on from this place. Which is good, because I'm firming up plans to graduate at the end of next fall. Still, I hope to make the most of the opportunities I have here to meet amazing people, learn such diverse things, and be a part of some amazing projects. The big reason it has taken me so long to get this e-mail out is exactly because of one of those projects -- the environmental student group that Froy and I are a part of "Share a Vital Earth" just finished putting on a 3-day, campus-wide symposium on climate change. It has been exhilarating to see all of our hard work come together and for the event to get such great attendance, attention, and publicity. You can check out the events and related information on our website:

That's all for now. Its been a long time since I've heard from some of you so I'd love to hear a bit about what you are up do, how things are going, what you are passionate about these days.

Last but not least, I've uploaded some pictures on Snapfish for you to check out if you are interested:


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