Jeff Surfboard

Tyler Surfing

Oh yeah, we spent a weekend in Montañita, a surfing town where our Ecuadorian guide told us the best way to surf is to “Feel the velocity!”




Above: Fresh fish on the beach at Porto Lopez
Below: Handwoven tablecloths at Otavalo, one of the biggest markets in South America

Table Cloths

Strong Bridge INDY!

“Yes, my name is July and this is my friend, Eskimo. No, those are not our given names. It’s just easier for you to remember and pronounce.”

- Direct translation of South American saying

Written by Tyler Depke

Leaving Jipijapa was emotionally harder than I imagined it would be. The final day was quite busy from the start to finish. Waking up in the morning was different knowing this would be my last day volunteering in the schools, giving lectures about the environment, and going through the daily routine I had adopted. I felt like I had made some solid connections with the people there, especially my family. Not only this, I’m definitely going to miss the friendly atmosphere of the people there.

After finishing class at the first school, we celebrated with a little bit of reggaeton and Michael Jackson while the kids ate some kind of freeze pop and I ate the usual meat, rice, and banana that they gave me everyday after class. This time I was able to enjoy a little bit of time with the kids who were in my class and the younger kids. My second school, which was always more strict, gave me an official send off speech from the director of the school, the teacher, as well as one of the 6th grade girls who was nervous to say anything, but basically said, “Thanks for everything. We hope your travels keep you safe and that you may return someday.”

During the afternoons of our last week we were busy by giving seminars about the environment and the current political situation surrounding the dump and trash in Jipijapa. We went around with an engineer and a biologist from the Jipijapa Municipal Environmental Department (The same people that we went to the dump with, Jeff is going to talk about that later). We happened to be here while they were starting a push to get information out to the barrios around the city about trash, so we jumped on the opportunity to talk about global climate change, recycling, trash disposal and organic waste disposal. Our audiences were girls at a technical school, trash collectors, mothers, hard laborers, and other engineers working on similar projects. Although there is a lot of misunderstanding about what is being done and almost no funding for future projects, there is knowledge of the problems that will be faced if we do not change our habits now. The audiences almost seemed dejected that we were not going to be staying in Jipijapa to continue our efforts, and we are planning on going back to hopefully educate a few more neighborhoods.

As I reflect on the outcome of my English classes I honestly think that I made a difference in the lives of some of the kids. The hardest obstacles to overcome were that 90% of the kids did not do any of the assigned homework, no books were available, and the children are terrible at copying notes from the board. This along with other problems like: fighting in class, no morals about cheating, FREQUENT and daily distractions, and some serious problems regarding scholastic expectations (mentally handicap, kids who cannot hear and do not know sign language, and kids who cannot read) create a diverse set of learning abilities in an underfunded situation.

After two weeks into teaching, I found out that one of the kids in my class couldn’t read at all and could barely talk because of some kind of speech impediment. How does one not trained with any “educational” background go about teaching someone like this in a class of 15 other students? Well, although he didn’t write a single word on the test, (along with 2 others from my other school) having him participate and win a few rounds in the “Write This Word in English on the Board” game, a team-based competitive writing competition in front of the class with the help of his teammates made me feel as though I had accomplished something with what I thought was impossible.

The better students were able to memorize 85-95% of the words I taught which included, numbers, dates, months, days of the week, parts of the house, things used to eat, a few pronouns, the verbs to be and to have, as well as the rule of using adjectives before the noun it is describing (in Spanish it is the other way around), and a few other basic grammatical rules. If 3 of the 35 kids were able to learn this in 2 and a half weeks, I would definitely consider it a success. If even ONE of the kids goes on to learn conversational English later in life or that it’s not worth cheating in school, I would be proud that I was able to create even the tinniest foundation for them to succeed.

Gringo Goodness

Written by Jeff Vredenburg

Tyler’s crazy host uncle invited us to play soccer with the locals. We played outside the police headquarters on a 45×100 foot cement court. The ball that we used was a size 3, which is about the size of a large grapefruit and weighted so that it does not bounce.  Two gringos showing up to the neighborhood game raised quite a stir, and as soon as they knew our names, all we heard was Julio! Eskimo! Since they could easily kick the ball the length of the court, most of my goalie’s time was devoted to trying to use my height as an advantage for an easy header. Unfortunately, he overestimated my head-eye coordination, and all I managed to do was miss it enough times that he gave up. The other big change with sports here is that there are always bets on the pickup games.  Usually the first game starts at 50 cents a person and sometimes the emotion involved in loosing forces the bets up to 1 or 2 dollars. Luckily, Tyler and I were always on opposing teams and thus always came out even. What was great about playing with the locals was that after, when walking downtown or in the barrio where we played, the guys would stop and say hi and make sure to let us know when they were playing next. Jipijapa only has 18 thousand people in it and by the end of three weeks we were already able to feel like we were home.

Which brings me to Eddie.

I was walking home one day last week when I heard a distinctive Brooklyn accent, “Yo, where you from?” Turning around I saw a giant of a man waving me over.  “The States? Oh Yeah? I’m from New York. Stop by sometime and we can chat.”  Over the next few days on my way home I stopped by and talked to Eddie, the storekeeper in Jipijapa that had lived in New York for 20 years. I thought that he’d appreciate meeting another gringo, so I introduced him to Tyler. Before I could say anything he nodded as we approached, “Yo Jeff, who’s your friend?” “Oh yeah? Well my house is your house, come over and we can chat sometime.” Needless to say, we had a good laugh over his accent and the ridiculous coincidence of finding him among all the people of Jipijapa.

My host family demanded that before I leave, I make them dinner. Now I have cooked in other countries before, and it’s not always easy. For one, measurements are different, cups and teaspoons turn into actual cups (yeah, that looks about right…) and spoons meant for tea. I decided to keep it simple and easy, and went with Sloppy Joe’s, Potato Salad, and for dessert, chocolate chip cookies. I had almost no trouble finding the ingredients for the cookies, except baking soda. None of the stores seemed to have it, they all directed me to the pharmacies, where I was told that it was now being considered a medicine, and could not be sold without a prescription. Luckily, the last place I stopped had it, and I believe that the woman disappeared to her kitchen to get it for me in a little plastic bag, but hey, good enough for government work.

Següe: I think that the proximity of work and home life here is a very interesting aspect of the society. In the United States, most people live and work in different places. Here, most people that I see have a little workshop attached to their house, or their family kitchen is also their restaurant’s kitchen.  Sometimes seeing that makes me a bit uneasy, I don’t know if I would be able to live, work, and raise a family in the same place for my entire life, but it sure does make home and family a much more valued place than in the States.

The dinner went well, and although we had more people eating than I expected and 14 people ate, all seemed to enjoy it and of course, the chocolate chip cookies were gone as soon as they came out of the oven.

Last Friday, Tyler and I went to the dump in Jipijapa with a few people that work in the Municipal Environment Department. They wanted to show us their new project, and we wanted to get some pictures and video.  On the way, we stopped at a few parks and collected trash and tree clippings to take, and drove 20 minutes out of the city to our destination.  There was a dirt drive leading up to the actual dumping area, and there was no doubt that we were in the right place. Plastic bags, boxes, used diapers and tin roofing were lining the streets like it was Palm Sunday.

Then came the smoke. At first they were burning the paper and cardboard, sure the fumes were noxious, but we could deal with it. We drove back to the part where we could dump our trash and climbed a hill of dirt to get a better view. In the distance, there was a backhoe digging new holes and filling in others. The smoke from burning trash rose from all directions like a foggy backdrop in some macabre drama.  Vultures circled as the smoke turned from white to black as the next polluter was chosen; now they were burning plastic. The fumes from the plastic were strong enough to sting our nostrils and burn our eyes, the masks that we had did not seem to be working.

Then came the animals. Pigs, cows, goats and donkeys all arrived in procession without a human hand to guide them. It was feeding time. We turned to our guide and she shook her head, “The local farmers bring their animals here to eat, that way they don’t have to pay anything for feed.  The animals are so used to it thought that all the farmers have to do is open their pens and they come here from kilometers away by themselves.”  Even though I was scared of the answer, I had to ask what the animals were used for, “They are sold as food of course. Here outside of the city and in Jipijapa itself.”  We walked a bit further and there was a giant hole that was only partly filled with trash. “That,” Our guide said, “is the hazardous waste disposal area. All of the medical, chemical, and other hazardous waste goes there.”  We climbed down into it and sure enough. Dirty syringes and bloody cotton swabs mingled with record players and batteries. None of this area was restricted, nor was anyone around to prevent access.  It was absolutely shocking, and something that I will never forget.

Botadero Dump Jipijapa

Hazardous Waste Jipijapa

Hazardous Waster Disposal Area

Chanchos Pigs Eating Basura Trash


Trash In Trees Jipijapa

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Author: tdepke

One Response to “Week 4-5: School's Out, Surfs Up”

  1. Cris says:

    Great update guys! I happened to surf back to Jeff’s Chinese adventures, and noticed that October 4, 2008′s entry included:

    I apologize for standing you up on my weekly update; these last few weeks have left me little time. My time not spent in school I have been traveling, first to an island in the East China Sea, then to a Taoist temple in Zhejiang province to the south. My internship also started, my task: find an alternative way to measure CO2 emissions. (Oh, and solve the world hunger problem while you are at it…)

    I draw your eye to the fact that Jeff was busy traveling and charged with finding a way to measure CO2 emissions. What kind of gases were around that dump??? Oh yes — and solving world hunger….which I’m sure a sloppy joe meal ending with chocolate chip cookies in South America is lending to…SOLVING world hunger I mean, not lending to the problem! *smiles*

    So where will Jeff be on October 4, 2010??? I’ll stay tuned (and hope there’s a blog somewhere to read about the adventure)! Thanks guys for the updates….great to hear you’re doing well. I loved the video so we could hear the club music…..nice effect. Prayers for you, and love being sent your way!

    ~Aunt Cris

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