Last week, I got my first glimpse of the Coast of Ecuador and the chance to fully experience the hot and humid rainy season!  
Our Peace Corps Training group was subdivided into 4 smaller groups and we each embarked on our own adventure to learn about the life, the foods, and the culture of the coast in a few different communities. 

Long distance travel in Ecuador is easy aboard these large double decker buses with air-conditioning and movies.

Although Ecuador is about the size of Colorado by comparison, it took us over 10 hours to travel half the length of the country due to rainy conditions and windy roads.  The elevation drop from the mountains (called the Sierra) to the
                                                                                    Coast is drastic and steep.

Along the way, we saw a lot of palm oil
plantations and banana plantations
with Del Monte and Dole
processing plants.  A huge food staple
of the Ecuadorian coast is bananas!

Our group first visited the coastal communities on the Santa Elena Peninsula.  We stayed two nights in a small fishing village called Anconcito. This family welcomed me into their home for a two-night stay. The hammocks were really nice to lounge in on a hot and humid evening. 

Inside was a sweet room of princess bed nets, which was appreciated since
the mosquitos were eating me alive!
Our first activity of the morning was to chat with the fisherman of La Libertad. These (primarily) men explained that there are two 10-12 hour shifts a day in which they’re netting different kinds of fish at different times, and in different seasons.  I didn’t see many boats bigger than this, and was told that they go many miles off shore.  I asked the fishermen about fishing regulations, and they agreed that laws did exist, but they didn’t expand on what they were, or if they followed them.  
Next, we had to find ingredients at the market and practice bartering with the vendors.  
Notice the rain pouring in between the stalls.  We were so wet and muddy 
before this adventure was complete!

Our challenge was to make Ceviche for lunch so
we needed to buy some fish!

At the coast, fresh fish, like this Octopus, is everywhere!

We made Ceviche for 18 people using a fish called Dorado.  After cutting it up, we added boiling water to the pan and lots and lots of lime juice for it to soak and cool in the acidic marinade.  
We also made a traditional dish called Patacones. Bananas- a main food staple at the coast- can be cut up, smashed, fried and salted into little banana cakes.

Some watermelon, rice and fresh lime juice rounded out our wonderful lunch!

Other Adventures in our Day….
The Voice of Anconcito

We met this wonderful community member who decided many years ago that the community needed a system of communication to be able to make public announcements.  So, he put a loud speaker on his roof, and every day, people shout up to his apartment from the streets with news about births, weddings, deaths, or other information for him to announce over the loud speaker.  He even has a different jingle he plays to alert the community to what kind of announcement it will be.  His microphone cord is so long, we watched him drop it down to someone in the street so they could make their own announcement. I was really touched by the importance and the successes of his efforts to keep the people of this little beach community connected. 

We also got to teach and learn some games on the beach with a group of teenagers from the community. We taught them games such as Red Rover, Limbo, and the Human Knot while they taught us games like Hopscotch, Human Tug-of-War, and Cat and Mouse. It was so much fun to laugh with them, and take a swim in the warm Pacific Ocean at the end of our day.
Next stop…. Guayaquil

Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador (population 2.4 million) and I found it to be very modern and beautiful.  Ecuador prides itself with wonderful architecture and public art, and the most beautiful parks with lovely tropical plants, tiled fountains and walkways.

 This is Parque Bolivar or the “Iguana Park”! These prehistoric creatures are free to roam wherever, but they get fed in the park so they are happy to hang out with the tourists and get their picture taken. 
The Malecon is the center of fun along the Guayas River.  Its a wonderful boardwalk with shops, restaurants, museums, art and                   a ferris wheel.                                                               After walking its length, we climbed the hill of Las Penas and enjoyed the views at sunset    from the top. 
In Guayaquil, we met and visited other Peace Corps Volunteers and learned about their year’s worth of experiences in the country.  For two days, they showed us their schools where they teach, they showed us around town, and they showed us a lot of fun!  Now, my group is more excited then ever to finish our training and get started on our service somewhere in Ecuador!