Ecuadorian teachers receive three weeks of summer vacation.  As you have seen, I took full advantage of this time to meet up with other volunteers and travel around the mountains of Ecuador. However, I have been working a little bit, too.  So far this summer, I taught several workshops at a teacher training conference and for my own teachers at my school.  I also helped out a GLOW/ BRO camp, met the Peace Corps Director and “Reconnected” 
with my teachers and fellow volunteers at our Peace Corps Reconnect Conference. 

GLOW (Girls Leading our World) and BRO (Boys Respecting Others) are gender empowerment initiatives to teach youth around the world about the benefits of gender equity, the importance of challenging gender stereotypes, how to improve self-esteem, and make good choices in their relationships with others.  All Peace Corps Volunteers in Ecuador are encouraged to use this curriculum in our work.  In July, I got my first taste of the program as I helped out at a camp for 30 teenagers who were also 
members of a traditional dance troop.
 The students participated in three days of intensive classes, team building games and even various forms of yoga to learn about their own bodies and consider ways to respect others. 
As a professional dance troop, they are used to choreographing their own routines.  So, as part of the finale for the camp, they were challenged to create an original dance to perform in front of their parents to illustrate what they learned during the three days. 
This is part of what they came up with, first highlighting the traditional ways dances are  choreographed in Ecuador.
Then, some new dancers came out on the stage to challenge the gender norms of their normal routines. 
In this very traditional country, it is quite possible that this is the first time these girls have been able to put on traditionally male costumes and show off their equally capable and energetic dancing abilities.  They had so much fun in this “girls can do it too” dance-off!  
It was such a powerful moment for everyone involved.  
I’m so lucky I got to be a part of this!
In early August, the Director of Peace Corps, Dr. Jody Olsen, came all the way from Washington, DC to visit Ecuador, meet some volunteers and help further the work of Peace Corps Ecuador by meeting with President Lenin Moreno and the Minister of Education.  Jody served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the 1960’s and has worked at many different levels in the organization.  I really enjoyed talking to her over lunch about my service and my adventures!
Here I am with other volunteers and an entourage of Peace Corps 
administration in the famous Indigenous market of Otavalo. 
In August, our group of volunteers came back to Quito to “Reconnect” after 4 1/2 months of service at our new sites.  We had so much fun spending time together again, telling stories – and trying not to compare – our schools, our cities, and our families.  Our group is down to 33, as three of our friends have already chosen to leave service.  
The mural we are posing in front of is our gift to the Peace Corps Training Center.  We are Omnibus 119, or the 119th Peace Corps (Cuerpo de Paz) group to serve in Ecuador.  The mural was designed and mostly painted by two members of our group, Ashley (from Chicago) and Alex (from Texas), but we all added our handprints and names 
around the edge.  
Our Reconnect Conference was also a time for us to share our Peace Corps efforts with 1-2 teachers from our school.  The purpose was to attend workshops together and generally get on the same page regarding the projects that I hope to initiate at my school, as well as the responsibilities the school and staff have to support my service.  I had a great week bonding and planning with Jennifer and Daniela, two English teachers 
from my school in Ibarra. 
For me, the best part about the week was getting to spend time with a new host family!  Blanca and Robert have raised four amazing children (Alex, Aiylin, Emilio and Bianca) and for two weeks, the whole family was so inviting and fun to be with.  We went to the park, played games, read English books (which I translated into Spanish), watched movies and laughed a lot.  As a family, they run a green house and landscaping business.  I look forward to visiting them again and again whenever I adventure down to Quito! 
Finally, to kick off the new school year, I started a series of workshops for my teachers in Ibarra.  Here I am teaching a workshop on strategies for establishing rules and routines while integrating more speaking opportunities in the classroom.  My teachers generally enjoyed the new ideas and are working hard to engage their students more during their classes.  Throughout the year, I’ll continue giving various workshops, coaching my teachers on lesson planning strategies, and co-teaching with them in the classroom.  
The work (and play) of a Peace Corps Volunteer is never done!