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Monday, March 19, 2007

OA journal entry # 2

Hi everyone. Sorry for the delay but due to lightning and rain, the power was out at Casa Condor. Without further delay, Journal # 2.

The Equipment Arrives!

It was not an easy process by any stretch. The paper work could fill a small office. I can honestly say that this was the hardest bureaucratic process I have ever faced. After a painstaking journey, the soccer equipment has finally made it to Ecuador and Casa Condor.

We were awoken at about 3:30 am by Gavin and Roberto as they pounded on the door of C.C. their first words... "everyone up, weve got some work to do". After the 8 hour journey from Guayaquil, the truck driver decided that he was very uncomfortable about tackling the driveway to C.C.

This meant a bit of a hike to complete the journey. The truck´s lights met us as we rounded the last turn in the 150 meter driveway of C. C. In order to get our equipment to its next temporary resting place, we had to carry each individual box, one by one.

We completed this process at about 6 am. But its all here!

Another milestone worthy of mention. We had our first game on an OA field. We could not resist the opportunity to play a game before laying the field to rest for two weeks to allow the seed to grow on the field at Santa Isabelle.

We stepped over the threshold with a great feeling of satisfaction. With two teams kitted and ready to go, it was Canada vs. Ecuador. Unfortunately the celebration had actually commenced the night before for the OA boys so we were all a little hurting. Despite our headaches, the game went well thanks to a few Ecuadorian ringers and the MVP: Brenden Smith, who was playing his second soccer game ever. The final score was seven to one for team OA and Im happy to say that I scored my first international goal. I was also unfairly reprimanded for a late tackle giving me my first yellow card.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Work Continues

Last Sunday, as no-one in Ecuador works on the day of rest, we had the chance to take the day off and indulge in one of the local attractions, the Devil´s Nose train ride. This is a 6 hour trip that boasts some the most spectacular views in Ecuador. It descends the Andean mountain sides by completing multiple switchbacks. The appeal for us was the ability to sit on the top of the train as it raced through the countryside. Spectacular

Work at Santa Isabelle is moving at an encouraging rate. The fencing is complete and they are starting to till the field. We are now in the process of building two fields, the second located at a community called Guabug. The reception at Guabug has been very warm and the people are working incredibly hard (especially considering that a strong work ethic is not something that Ecuador is famous for). We hope to have the fields done by the 20th. So at the moment it is all about working our butts off pouring concrete, separating soil and stone and shovelling, shovelling, shovelling. At the end of the day it is back to Casa Condor where we work on the media front. The hard work is pure and liberating. I am quickly learning to deal with the the bureaucrats in a passive manner and focus on the result: a couple of fields done and ready to use. Although most of our association has been with the adults, it is still about the children. A simple plan. And as soon as the first kid steps on the field to play, I call it a success.

Worthy of note: I believe we have set a Gringo record for most days in a row with Guinea Pig consumed. I am in the process of contacting the Guinness Book...

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Construction Begins

A short while ago, we set up a meeting with the presidents of the communities which we thought had the most potential for the construction of a soccer field. The meeting was set for nine am at Casa Condor. At 945 none of the leaders had arrived.

This was to be expected. Here is an insight into Ecuador's tardiness problem.

Arriving late is so prevalent in Ecuador that, in 2003, the community group Participacion Ciudadana embarked on a national tardiness campaign to stop tardiness. The group called on Ecuadorians to come together at noon on october 1 and do the unthinkable: synchronize their watches.

An estimated 57% of public events start late. Jefferson Perez, the countries only Olympic medalist, was enlisted to kick off the campaign. Perez did participate but arrived late.

Why all the fuss? Because according to Participacion Ciudadana, tardiness costs Ecuador some $724 million a year - no small change in a country with a GDP of 49.5 billion.

Our meeting kicked off at about 10 O’clock and went very smoothly.

Two days ago, we visited a community in which we could potentially build a field. As part of their welcoming meal, they served cheese that was made in the community. We were shown the area where the cheese was made. Milk is put into a part of the cow called the guajo (as best I can tell this is the rumen) and allowed to ferment. The product is some of the rawest, saltiest cheese you can imagine.

It has been a very difficult few days. The decision of where to build our field has not been an easy one.

There is a paradoxical issue here. The community that is most in need of a field is destined to fail in its acquisition. The problem is that once you dip below a line of poverty, a community is unable to help themselves, let alone us. Unfortunately, we need a great deal of help in order to make this project a reality. One of the main necessities is equipment such as a tractor to help us till the field. This was not obtainable in some of the communities that we encountered. One of these communities was Calchi. Another problem with Calchi, was that they did not satisfy the enthusiasm criteria. They did not seem to appreciate what we were offering them. The elders did not think that they could get the people of the village together to work with us in the construction process. This alone might cause one to pass over a community in the selection process. The trouble we had with Calchi was that the kids were ecstatic, but the elders were not. The entire time we were in Calchi, we were surrounded by some of the dirtiest and happiest children I have seem in my time in Ecuador. It broke my heart.

Not too long after our visit to Calchi, I wondered if it was us who didn't appreciate what was happening there. Perhaps they were in need of so many things that they could not comprehend the meaning of a soccer field. I find this slightly hard to believe. I think that a place for their youth to grow and develop is something that every community should have.

We have chosen a place to build our first field. It is Santa Isabel. This is a
more inspiring story. We have visited their community multiple times. The children are beautiful and the elders enthusiastic. We told them that we were interested in helping them build a field. The next morning we arrived piled in the back of a truck as usual. The sight that met us, as we pulled onto the dirt area that is to be our field, was a powerful one. All the women of the community were walking down the mountain side towards us. On their backs they carried bags of gravel to be used to make concrete.

They have formed a “Minga”, which is a Quechua word that means to work together for the greater good of the community. Every day there is 50 people helping make concrete, digging up the soil to lengthen the field or making lunch for everyone.

We have almost completing sinking the poles for the 2 meter high fence that will surround the field. After that we start the seeding.

Most of you have probably seen it but we have posted a Youtube video on our webpage. Im working on the technology of embedding but for now…