So, it´s been long-time-no-post, but luckily absence makes the heart grow fonder (right?), so hopefully you will enjoy a quick update on my Ecuadorian life.
Today marks my official first full day of the second chapter of my study abroad semester. Yesterday, I bid farewell to my Qutio homestay family and hopped on a bus north to a small pueblo named Cotacachi — the Ecuadorian land of leather goods, in case you were wondering — to start my Independent Study Project (ISP). My job for the next month is to live here to research the water distribution and use within Cotacachi through many many interviews with many different people. (Added bonus: I´m living on an organic farm… it has a bicycle-powered laundry machine!) Here, there are a few issues with water, but the overarching problem is that there is a shortage — it´s expected that if things continue the way they are currently going, water will run out within the next 20 years.
There are a few reasons for the unsustainable usage, but one of the big ones is the fact that within the last 5ish years there has been as massive amount of retired grinogs moving to Cotcacachi thanks to two very organized and savvy real estate agents who realized the great money-making opportunity: Cotacachi is a beautiful location at a bargain price, and who wouldn´t want to buy some Ecuadorian land for cheap, hire some Ecuadorians to do the labor for cheap, and then make some green off the profits? May sound ideal, but in reality things are not so pretty. The retirees (or extranjeros, we call them) are creating a separation in the pueblo due to the fact that they don´t speak the language or know anything about the culture. Those that own land can´t really do anything with it (let alone make a profit), and others are living in large apartment complexes that are not only completely against the local culture, but also using a ton of natural resources — especially water (this is where my project comes in). In the mean time, our friends the real estate agents are rollin´ in the dough. The anger of the locals is definitely present: yesterday, another student from my program Stephen and I stepped off the bus in Cotacachi to meet his host family for lunch, and what started as a casual meal ended up as our first informational interview regarding the subject (Stephen and I are studying similar topics, but his project focuses more on the influx of extranjeros and less on natural resources).
So, fellow friends and students, the moral of the story is: before your parents retire and move somewhere exciting and foreign, make sure they´ve done their research.