I finally made it to Otavalo and it’s famous indigenous market. I was overwhelmed by the countless vendors of art, food, clothing, and really anything that can be sold on a small table. The Saturday market takes over the town. We got lost a few times as the streets become unrecognizable and packed with people. I think my favorite part was all the vibrant colors and variety of goods. Despite considering a sweater, ring, necklace, scarf, and hat, I ended up with only one small painting (mostly because I don’t really have any more room in my suitcase). It was fun chatting with the artist and his wife about the artwork. Here are a few photos from my day at the market!

Project Update

I am back in San Cristóbal after a few weeks of traveling on the mainland and a fun Fulbright conference in Quito (more about that later). I have started a new phase of the black fly project. We have already collected most of the samples necessary for our genetic studies. Due to limited laboratory resources here in Ecuador, most of those samples were sent to Creighton University and the Baylor Genome Center for processing. We will soon know definitively whether Simulium ochraceum is a native or invasive species.

I am in the process of interviewing people who own land in black fly infested areas. This social science aspect of the project was not something I had planned on doing, but I am really enjoying it! I am finding that everyone is extremely willing to answer my questions and share about how black flies are affecting their quality of life. We hope this information will help the government make an informed decision on how to reduce the black fly population. I will keep you updated!

Fiestas, Friends, and Scuba!

I cannot believe how fast the year is going! We are well over half way done with our ten month grant. While I have already seen so many amazing places, I still have a long list of things to do before I leave this beautiful country. Looking ahead, it is difficult to foresee a time when I will have this much flexibility in my schedule. I am trying to see, read, learn, and experience as much as I can. Here is what I have been up to…

Fiestas de Galápagos and Carnival
This was a week of celebrations on the island. There were all sorts of parades, dances, competitions, shows, and concerts.

Nelly (fellow Fulbrighter) and her friends came to visit!

And Jeff too!

Field Work at El Junco (a freshwater lake in San Cristóbal)

Last but not least, I am learning how to scuba dive! Though terrifying the first time, I finally feel comfortable hanging out around 60 feet underwater. After passing the final exam, I now have my open water diver certification. The course involved a day of pool training and then four open water dives. Diving in the ocean is unlike anything I have ever done. You feel virtually weightless in the water. The wildlife is incredible! So far, I have seen sea turtles, starfish, rays, sea lions, and vibrant schools of fish. We also went to the site of a huge sunken cargo ship, Karahua. I hope to get a few more dives in before I head back to Iowa in August!