Hola from Ecuador!

May 18, 2012

University of Kentucky Study Abroad Trip

Today was a very busy day for our travelers! We started off our morning with a very anticipated stop—Otavalo! Otavalo is the largest open air market in the country, and one of the biggest in South America. We made lists of all the gifts and souveneirs we wanted to purchase and practiced our haggling skills on the bus ride. Before arriving in Otavalo we stopped at a sight seeing store and two Ecuadorian girls got on our bus to sing traditional tunes and let us “preshop.” They sold scarfs, bracelets, and traditional Ecuadorian pony tail wraps. I bought one and let one of the girls arrange my hair in the traditional Ecuadorian style. When we arrived at the market we quickly set out in groups to and pretty much bought one of everything. It was a lot of fun to haggle prices and see all the different colors and items represented in the market. After spending as much money as we could, we loaded the bus and headed to lunch at Runa Tupari where we ate lunch at their community kitchen. Then we went into the town of Cotacachi to a leather market.
After Cotacachi we dispersed into groups of two or three for our homestays. We were dropped off at different houses in two villages. My group of three had a wonderful time picking fruits from the garden of our homestay family, including fruits I had never heard of and of cours the favorite, Mora, which is a combination of blackberries and raspberries and make an absolutely delicious juice and marmalade. We spoke Spanish the entire time, since our families did not know English, which was a great way to build our speaking and listening skills. We helped make dinner after walking around the community and were treated to a delicious dinner of grilled steak and peppers, stir fry choclos, potato cakes, and Mora juice made from the exact berries we picked earlier in the afternoon. After being fully stuffed, we sat around the table and talked for hours. Our family was so accomodating and made us feel like part of the family. I was disapointed when we finally had to depart for bed because I knew our stay was almost over.
by Mariah Rowland

Skinner’s Dental Project

The following article on Partners members Ruthi and Rankin Skinner appeared in Perspectives, a quarterly magazine published by The University of Kentucky            College of Dentistry.

Rankin Skinner was just a young boy working on his grandfather’s farm when the spirit of volunteerism and helping his neighbors was first instilled in him, as he saw neighbors helping neighbors as needed sowing, growing and harvesting crops.

Skinner, a 1969 graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry, has dedicated his life – and his passion for dentistry to the people of Kentucky and far beyond.

“I learned you can’t just be involved in your own life, you have to help out others in need,” Skinner said. “A life of service is where you are happiest and it’s a part of my life.”

Skinner’s career in dentistry began with the U.S. Navy right after graduation from the College of Dentistry until he went into private practice in Winchester, Kentucky in 1971. Over the course of the past 40 years, Skinner has been actively involved with countless volunteer organizations, including Partners of the Americas, since 1985.

Partners of the Americas is an international network that connects individuals, volunteers, institutions, businesses and communities to serve others through lasting partnerships. Currently, Partners has 120 volunteer chapters linked in 60 partnerships. Chapters in the U.S. form partnerships with chapters in countries or states in Latin America and the Caribbean. Each chapter is a private, non-profit institution that works to improve the quality of life of others. One such U.S. chapter is the Kentucky/ Ecuador Partners.

In 2002, Skinner and his fellow volunteers with Partners started the Kentucky/Ecuador Dental Sealant Project, working with 15 clinics in the capital city of Quito and another 15 clinics in Ibarra and surrounding communities. Ibarra is Winchester, Kentucky’s Sister City.

Dental decay in Ecuador is in the 85 percent range. In the United States, the national average is 22 percent and in Kentucky it is about 50 percent, with significantly higher rates in some areas. The goal of the Kentucky/ Ecuador Partner Sealant Project is to significantly improve children’s dental health through education, regular cleanings, and fluoride varnish and dental sealant application.

Skinner’s group hastrained 65 dentists to place sealants and later, fluoride varnish in each of these cities. They provided the material and the government dentists placed it and created a partnership with participating schools, local governments and most importantly, parents. After five years, a dramatic 50 -78 percent drop in decay was noted, from responding clinics.

Skinner’s volunteer work with Partners of the Americas is acually a family affair that involves his wife, Ruthi; their son and daughter-in-law, Ian and Jill; their daughter and son-in-law, Erin and David Smith; and Rankin’s brother and sister-in-law, Donnie and Roberta. The family was honored as the FamilyAward Winners for 2009 by United Way of the

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Ecuadorian Education Abroad Scholarship Awarded to Jazmine Shoup

Miss Jazmine Shoup

“I plan to become fully immersed in the culture and lifestyles of the Ecuadorian people, and am so excited to be given this opportunity!”

We are pleased to announce the 2012 Ecuadorian Education Abroad Scholarship has been awarded to Jazmine Shoup, a sophomore at the University of Kentucky. Jazmine, an Elementary Education major, will be traveling with the UK Honors Program lead by Kentucky Ecuador Partners Education chair, Dr. Larry Grabau.   For 2 weeks beginning in May, she along with 11 other members of the Honors Program, will travel throughout Ecuador visiting Quito, Santo Domingo, Tena, Mindo, Cotacachi, and Otavalo, among other places. The trip is designed to introduce the students to culture, environment, language, indigenous communities, food, and overall atmosphere of the Ecuadorian life style.
Following the Honors Tour, Jazmine plans to spend an additional two weeks working with the organization Compassion International. She will be living with an Ecuadorian family and helping in the home country office coordinating youth sponsorships, as well as helping with youth activities sponsored by Compassion in Quito.
Kentucky-Ecuador Partners awards one $500 scholarship each year. This is the 3rd one that has been awarded.   The purpose of the scholarship is to support study abroad in Ecuador, and to increase awareness of the Kentucky-Ecuador Partners of the Americas program among a new generation of students.  The scholarship honors Ronn Padgett (1946-2004) who was devoted to the mission of Kentucky-Ecuador Partners.  Ronn served the organization as President, member of the Board of Directors, and as chair of numerous committees.  Factors taken into consideration for eligibility include academic achievement, financial need, GPA, relevance of the Ecuador program to the applicant’s education and career goals, and previous international experience.  
Last year’s recipient was Nick Bratcher who was featured in this blog as Featured Traveler. During his travels, Nick provided over 25 detailed and colorful posts to this blog. (See posts beginning with Day 1 – Quito). and currently serves as chair of the membership committee.
We congratulate Miss Shoup and look forward to her contribution our blog. Jazzy, best of luck and buen viaje.

Appalachia Meets Latin America in Free Concert

April 11 The Kentucky-Ecuador Partners cosponsored, along with the Lexington Public Library Foundation, a concert by Appalatin at the newly renovated 139 seat Farish Theater at the Central Library in Lexington. An audience of over 70 members were treated to the exciting fusion of Latin sounds with traditional Kentucky music unique to this band. Concert attendees were invited to shop a table of Ecuadorian crafts, set-up at the entrance to the theater where volunteers from Kentucky Ecuador Partners were on hand to welcome guests and answer questions about the organization.

 Yani Vozos, the band’s frontman, noted that his interest in Latin music was spurred by attending a Partners sponsored concert of Ecuadorian music in the Central Library some 15 or more years ago. Among the musicians is Fernando Moya , a native of Quito, Ecuador, and master musician of indigenous instruments from the Andean Mountains in South America.
 Luis de Leon, Yani Vozos, Steve Sizemore, Fernando
Moya, Mason Roberts, Marlon Obando Solano

To learn more about Appalatin and to hear examples of their music click on the following link.


The Lexington Public Library’s events calendar may be accessed with this link:

2012 Annual Meeting

First, congratulations to new president Jan Yon and all the new board members and previous members in their new positions. I think we have an excellent group that will charge into 2012.

Saturday, January 28 we enjoyed an inspiring annual meeting. In addition to breakout groups discussing the many interesting possibilities for KEP in membership, fundraising and marketing/communication there were three fascinating speakers. 

First, María Moreno, a graduate student who is doing research work in the field of anthropology, talked about the changing roles of women in the native highland villages. She noted that as women become more involved in politics their role in the home and the community is changing. It was interesting to hear about the strength of the women as they meet these challenges.
Following Ms. Moreno’s presentation Nick Bratcher spoke about his project in Ecuador building a playground for the community. He spoke of the life-changing experience, the friends he met and the thrill of seeing the children swarming the new playground “like ants.” Nick’s presentation reminded me of all our experiences meeting great new friends in Ecuador.
Hali Gaither was asked for an impromptu explanation of her recent trip. She went as part of a grant. She echoed the sentiments of the previous speakers in the delight in meeting such warm and welcoming hosts. Like all of us, she is looking forward to her next trip to Ecuador.

While we listened to the presentations, we dined on a delicious meal from the Nicaraguan Grill followed by Tres Leches cake – yum! We concluded the afternoon by listing all the ideas and suggestions from the breakout sessions. Ideas and suggestions were in abundance, so be on the look out for more communications about all the projects and volunteer opportunities coming this year. 

One of which I can already divulge. Wednesday, April 11 at 7 PM the Kentucky Ecuador Partners and the Lexington Public Library will host Appalatin at the Central Library Farish Theater. Appalatin combines Bluegrass and Latin music. Crafts from Ecuador will be available for sale before and after the show (lots of new stuff!). Bring a friend. Bring your family. And it’s FREE!
Peggy McAllister
former president

You Are Invited

We encourage all members and those who might be interested in becoming involved in Kentucky Ecuador partners to attend the annual meeting Saturday, January 28.
The day  will include luncheon catered by the Nicaragua Latin Grill, talks by a couple of our student travelers as well the business meeting and elections.
This year In-kind contibutions are children’s books in Spanish and art supplies.
Please respond  to Kay Roberts by January 20.
See the invitation below for details.

Otavalan Dress for American Girl Doll

If there is a special little someone on your holiday list who loves American Girl dolls, then we have the perfect gift – doll sized Otavalan dress.

Imelda Inuca demonstrating embroidery

Indigenous women in Ecuador’s Otavalo region can be recognized by their long, knife pleated skirts, hand-embroidered white blouses, and rows of golden beads around their necks. As both men and women travel to other parts of the country, they retain their native dress. They are talented artisans, well-respected throughout Ecuador and all South America for their beautiful handiwork. Their delicate, hand-made tapestries are among the most sought-after of any indigenous group in the country.

This year, just in time for holiday shopping, we have 
 imported a few hand-made,intricately outfits in a style worn by indigenous girls of the Otavalo region, specifically designed to fit American Girl dolls. Each outfit includes a hand-pleated skirt (anacu), blouse with intricately embroidered yoke (blusa), espadrille – like sandals (alpargatas), black felt hat (sombrero) and gold bead necklace.  

Take this opportunity to encourage your child’s cultural awareness and appreciation of fine handicraft. By purchasing one of these ensembles you support Kentucky Ecuador Partners as well as add a unique outfit to your American Doll wardrobe.

Supplies are limited, so contact Kay soon.   Kay.roberts@uky.edu

Price:  $45.

Coffee Time

We are pleased to announce that the coffee we sell as a fund raiser has arrived and we are now taking orders.  The product which is Certified Fair Trade and Organic, is high quality and has been extremely successful in past years. 
We’ll be selling two types: South American Fair Trade and French Vanilla Fair Trade in 16 oz. packages.  Both are available in regular or decaf, both are certified fair trade and organic. All the coffee will be ground (no whole bean). The ground coffee is attractively packaged in heavy foil gusseted bags — royal blue for regular coffee and green for decaf, with a colorful Kentucky-Ecuador Partners label.  We sell it for $12/pound, leaving us a profit of $5/pound.   
South American Fair Trade has a bright taste with rich aromas and is available in decafinated as well as regular.
French Vanilla Fair Trade has a  luscious vanilla flavoring which gives this coffee a rich and satisfying taste. Perfect with dessert, rich enough to stand alone as a dessert beverage. Both types are welcome holiday gifts.
The process is easy: 
•  Download and fill out the form, (If you have not received a form by email, contact Kay Roberts.
•  Collect payment at the time the order is placed. 
•  Get the form and the money to Kay Roberts by November 5. The coffee will be available for pick up Thanksgiving week.
Coffee Fundraiser Timeline:
October 7, 2011           Begin taking orders
November 5, 2011       Order forms and payment due to Kay Roberts  (contact info below)
Thanksgiving week      Coffee available for pick-up and delivery
Orders are pre-paid, so be sure to collect the money when you take the order.
$12. per pound

Kay Roberts, Community Liasison – International Affairs
Executive director – Kentucky ecuador Partners
102 Bradley Hall, University of Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky 40506-0058
phone:  869-257-6601 (note new phone number)

Michael Barnes Provides Training for Musicians

Songwriter, performer and producer Michael Barnes conducted presentations and workshops in Cuenca, Ambato, and Quito this past summer. In the workshops held during July and August, Barnes taught recording music using Reason software. Presentations demonstrated  uploading music to the internet, creating CDs, as well as tips on how to gain an audience, and instruction on building a homepage, and selling music. 

Approximately 30 people participated in the Cuenca conference held at the University of Cuenca; around 30 people at the Ambato conference held at City Hall; about 16 students participated in the conference held at the University of San Francisco in Quito.  Students in Ambato and Quito brought their own laptops and MIDI keyboards for use in the workshops, and students in Cuenca used the Mac computers that were available in the computer lab.

“It was an amazing experience. Hopefully, I’ll get to return one day.”

For more information on Michael Barnes and his music, see the “Featured Traveler” column to the left or follow this link: www.michaelbarnesmusic.com

Rankin and Ruthi Skinner – Buenos Aires

Note: The following two blog posts are the final submissions by Ruthi and Rankin Skinner from their time spent in South America earlier this year.

Buenos Aires is a large, cosmopolitan and truly beautiful city with a European feel. Everyone who visits seems to fall under her spell. This is an immigrant city, most of its original inhabitants having migrated from Spain and Italy. The architecture is definitely European, along with the layout of the streets, broad boulevards with green space in the center. Buenos Aires lies in the Pampas. Pampas actually means “land with no trees”, but one of B.A.’s early presidents had the vision and foresight to have planted 150,000 trees during his term of office, and the trend has continued. Now Buenos Aires is tree-lined from one end of the city to the other. Every park has public art and the people here frequent these lovely parks regularly.
We arrived at Ezeiza International Airport via Lima, Peru. It is a 30-minute taxi ride from the airport to the center of town. We stayed at Las Naciones Hotel, right in the center of the theatre district, and situated on Ave. Corriantes, one of the main streets in town. We arrived in early evening and everything was lit up, with big billboards advertising all the plays. The city was (as it always seems to be) alive! Folks here walk arm-in-arm at all hours of the night; lovers, friends, whole families with their kids, even kids who seem to be all alone (!!). Most restaurants do not open until 8 or 9 P.M., and no one eats early here. One of our favorite things to do was to sit in outdoor cafes, have a coffee or share a bottle of wine and people watch. Speaking of wines, Argentina is known for some of the best wines in South America. In one restaurant, we had a great small bottle of Malbec for $17 Argentine Pesos ($4.25). We are not meat eaters, but everyone raves over the steaks here. Of course, Argentina considers itself to be the beef capital of the world. The steak houses (parrillas) will give you a choice of several different cuts, and the servings seem to always be more than any normal appetite can handle. Argentinians will tell you it is so good because free-range Argentine cows eat nutritious pampas grass, without the massive quantities of corn, antibiotics and growth hormones which American and European stock is given in feedlots. In Argentina, the average yearly intake of beef is 70 kg/person.
Buenos Aires proper has a population of 3,000,000, not including the surrounding area which swells to 12.4 million. B.A. is separated into 48 separate neighborhoods, some very wealthy, others desperately poor. The city is also known for its cutting-edge designers and great shopping. One cool shopping street (1 block from our hotel) is Calle Florida, a long pedestrian street with no automobile access. It is one of the main arteries of this neighborhood. It is always jammed during the day with business people, shoppers and tourists seeking vehicle-free access from north to south without bus fumes and honking taxis. Buskers, beggars and street vendors thrive here, adding color and noise. The day we shopped here, there were several bands playing along the street, including a jazz band, Otavalan flute band (they’re everywhere, they’re everywhere) and reggae musicians. Ruthi was pleased to find our daughter Erin some cha-cha little sandles here.
A note: We really do not discriminate between our kids, grandkids and in-laws. The ATM at the airport in B.A. had eaten our debit card, so our shopping possibilities were severely hampered. What the heck. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It was because of  needing to use the phone when we reached Puerto Iguazu to call our bank back home that we were treated to that charming little town, which we wrote about in a previous blog. Then, David Coffey just brought us down some cash from Winchester, so shopping would pick up again in Quito. 
The next day we visited several of the neighborhoods. One, Recoleta, had tree-lined streets with mansions copied after ones found in Europe. If you want one of these you had better have plenty of cash. Most of the middle class citizens live in Palermo, another interesting area in 3 distinct parts. Many museums are found here, as well as many embassies of different countries. In one of the parks here is found one of Buenos Aires’ most unique sculptures. It is a monumental flower by Eduardo Catalano, constructed of polished aluminum much like the museum in Bilbao. An interesting feature is it is solar-powered and the petals close at night. Really cool! Next, we visited La Boca, a blue-collar neighborhood, where many of the houses are covered with corrugated metal and painted in bright colors. This neighborhood is a rough one and it is not recommended to stroll away from the main streets, where there is constantly a street fair, with tango dancers, musicians and artists. Another neighborhood nearby, and known for its antique shops and great cafes, is San Telmo.

The newest and least conventional of B.A.’s barrios is Puerto Madero, located east of Microcentro. Once an old waterfront, it is now a wonderful place to stroll, boasting cobblestone walkways and a long line of attractive brick warehouses which have been converted into ritzy lofts, business offices and upscale restaurants. Skyscrapers are being built here in record numbers and here is found some of B.A.’s most expensive real estate. 
Of course, no visit to B.A. is complete without a visit to the tomb of Eva Peron (Evita) who championed the poor during her husband’s presidency and gave women the right to vote. Today she is revered with saint-like love and respect by nearly all Argentinians. Tragically, she died of cancer at only age 33. There is a beautiful much-oversized statue of her in the park where her body lies, testament to the way in which her memory is treasured. 
Another site which should not be missed is La Plaza de Mayo, where in 1977, 14 mothers marched to demand information about their missing children. This was during the human rights violations of then-President Jorge Rafael Videla. These women’s bravery turned  into a strong social movement which challenged the military government. Their movement is credited for the country’s return to civil government in 1983. Thousands of young people disappeared during this time and the mothers continue to march in the plaza demanding retribution and information. In 2005 the Argentine Supreme Court overturned an amnesty (which until then protected former military officers suspected and accused of human rights violations during the 1973-1986 military dictatorship). Mothers still hold silent vigils every Thursday afternoon in remembrance of the “disappeared”. 
Sadly, our time in Buenos Aires came to an end, but we left knowing we had only touched the surface of what this great city has to offer. Stay tuned: if at all possible, we’ll be back for a longer stay next year. 
Rankin Skinner