Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ecuador, Day 5

This was officially our R&R day in Manglaralto. We woke up late, drank a lot of coffee, slowly, & ate banana pancakes. Then we headed for Dos Mangas to do a little work.

Dos Mangas is a small community about 20 km inland from Manglaralto. To get there, you have to wait by the side of the road until enough people congregate to fill the truck-taxi. We rode in the back of the truck with half a dozen other people. One was a young boy who was transporting his new puppy -- very cute.

After a half hour or so of bumping along a badly-potholed road (worse even than the streets of Cranbrook), we arrived at Dos Mangas. The name 'Dos Mangas' means 'two sleeves', because this community is where 2 tributaries join together to make a larger river. This is a small community of perhaps 1000 people but it is very difficult to determine the population & in fact everybody had a different estimate.

We had a bit of a mission in Dos Mangas: to begin sketching out a 'community asset map' for this place. Community asset mapping is a key learning outcome for the new program we're working on, & Dos Mangas will probably be a pilot site for this activity. I had read about community asset mapping & did a rudimentary exercise on it for my Master's research but I was very keen to practice it in a more structured way. I highly recommend this as a fun activity to do in a community you want to get to know better. To do community asset mapping, you wander around a community & you sort of survey everything that's working for this community: the geographical features, the natural environment, the governmental services, associations, & human resources. We noted beautiful scenery, a good adult education system, strong community government involvement, & considerable artisan involvement in tagua ('vegetable ivory') carving & paje (a special kind of straw) weaving. We also made notes about all the NGOs operating in this community -- probably close to a dozen. The only serious thing missing as far as we could tell was a source of microcredit for new enterprises.

We made copious notes & took lots of pictures. So our next step, I suppose, is to prepare a framework for the students who will end up doing the bulk of the asset mapping in many other communities besides Dos Mangas.

We arrived very hot & tired back at Manglaralto. We bought cold beer & sat on the beach & watched the sun set. Manglaralto is so close to the equator so the sunsets are almost the fastest in the world, I suppose. It's daylight all along until that sun slips into the ocean & then CLUNK; in barely 10 or 15 minutes, it's night.

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