The Low Down…

(Most of this was written January 12th… had a tragic flash drive
disappearance mishap but was somehow able to recover most of my

So after writing that last enormous amount and a lot more thinking and
questions from people, I realized I should start from the beginning
and explain why I’m here and my very fragmented plan….( even though
there are so many way more interesting things I need to describe…)

But FIRST… let me just throw in a small disclaimer… now that my brain
is almost completely thinking in Español, it seems quite backwards to
be writing all this in English. That said, I will just have to throw
in a bit of Spanish here and there, to keep the waves of Espanol
flowing …

Anyway, my very loose plan…

So I am here in South America for my third and final co-op, which I
chose to do as an international co-op as more and more
Northeastern-ers (NEU=northeastern) are doing. It was definitely
extremely difficult and slow to make decisions and to set up… but I’m
really excited/curioso about what I’ve managed to somehow arrange….

~First two weeks – Otavalo, Ecuador – Living with an Ecuadorian
familia, taking an intensive Spanish immersion course (7 hours per
day, one-on-one!), and working some on my research project. Otavalo
is a small indigenous town in the Northern Highlands region, 2 hours
from the capital (Quito). I am here in Otavalo now (and I LOVE it
here… more on this later)

~Jan 28th ish – Return to Quito, take a few more classes and begin
work/interning with an organization called Amazon Watch… you can check
out their website if you want: or

Amazon Watch (AW) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization
working to defend the environment and the indigenous peoples of the
Amazon Basin.

Lou Dematteis

Huaorani women march on the opening day of the trial in Ecuador - Photo: Lou Dematteis

Where did this come from? When I was looking for a co-op for this
Spring, I researched millions of volunteer programs – but none seemed
to fit what I wanted to do… most were teaching English or healthcare
or building. I also emailed tons of international organizations that
were based in Latin America which I had heard of or that just looked
like interesting places to work. I had actually heard of and worked
with Amazon Watch while I was at Global Exchange in San Francisco for
a lot of campaigns, so when Kevin from the Quito office replied and
sounded interested I was ecstatic! They are working on campaigns and a
huge environmental trial that is exactly what I am interested in and
have been researching (again, more on this later). AND although I
didn’t want to be in a city at first it ended up being inevitable but
that’s MORE than okay because I am hearing better things about Quito
every day and will definitely get to travel with them to the Amazon at
least twice. Yup, a perfectly amazing fit!

~ After Mid April – PLAN B – Since this Amazon Watch in Quito
arrangement was extremely slow in actually coming together, or I
should say, seeming real, I wanted to have a back-up. So I looked into
this volunteer program that a friend from NEU did last year (Ally
Neff) called Para el Mundo, which is in a small coastal town called
Mancora, Peru. However, in the process of arranging this, I got very
excited/enthusiastic about it. That is probably why most of you
thought I was going to Peru until ummm two days before I left?
Actually, I still have to go to Peru since my return ticket is from
there. I was going to keep the last 3 months TBD per how awesome or
not awesome the job in Quito goes, but now I have just found out that
my passport may determine otherwise. Either way, definitely ending up
in Peru to meet up with Andrea and Ashley for some hardcore hiking and
“Wonder of the World” visiting (Macchu Picchu!!), but more on the Peru
details later , this is getting wayyyy long!

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