Cary woman teaches recycling during Ecuador trip

CARY – For two years, Christina Forbes was on an adventure in Ecuador to teach people about the value of recycling.

Forbes, 28, of Cary, who recently returned to the country, worked as an environmental education volunteer for the Peace Corps.

While in the Imbabura province, she taught grade-school children about the differences in organic and non-organic material. She taught people how to make art, such as jewelry, with recycled products. She even wears a bracelet made out of old magazine pages.

“It was the most interesting to me,” Forbes said. “Here, we tend to recycle without even thinking about it. ... When I went to Ecuador, we threw away everything. I felt I could do something about that. Before they thought about recycling, they threw their trash, unsorted, off the mountain. It would eventually get into the river. ... It was messy.”

She lived in an area of about 15,000 people where there was fighting against mining influences.

“They’re looking for more ecological alternatives,” Forbes said.

The mining tends to contaminate a lot of the rivers in the area because it uses so much water, Forbes said.

“It has a lot of nasty byproducts,” she said.

In her province, locals were able to bring 395 pounds of plastic and metal products to Ibarra, a three-hour drive away, and sell them. The money was used to buy bags of candy and animal crackers for the children in the area.

Forbes said she expects the volunteer who replaced her to continue the recycling program.

She left for Ecuador on Feb. 2, 2011, and was on the last flight out before a blizzard hit the Midwest.

“I didn’t have a job, I wasn’t in school, it was a good time, I don’t have family, or a boyfriend, it was a good time to go,” Forbes said. “I wanted to get out and explore, and the Peace Corps pays for everything pretty much.”

To communicate with her family back home, she would head to a town about two-and-half hours away to go to an Internet cafe and use Facebook or Skype.

She stayed with host families during her stay.

“It’s so enriching to live with a host family,” Forbes said. “They help you out with your projects ... you learn more about the culture, practice the language all the time.”

Her mother, Lisa Forbes, is used to her daughter traveling around the world.

“I knew she was going there to help the people, to learn and lead a better life,” Lisa Forbes said. “I knew she would come back with lots and lots of good stories. She’s always loved mountains. Since she was a little girl, she looked at a map and said, ‘I’m going to go here, here, here and here,’ It was fitting for her to go to a mountainous, beautiful area.”

Christina Forbes said sometimes she faced skepticism from the locals, and she learned what it was like to be an outsider.

“It makes you sympathize for people who immigrate to the United States, have to deal with language [differences], have to deal with accents they can’t get rid of,” Forbes said.

Forbes said however, the program is something she enjoyed.

“If you’re in a time in your life when you don’t have too much going on ... and want to go on an adventure, and really get to know a culture, expand how you see the world, the Peace Corps is good for you,” Forbes said.

Now she is on a short break before going to North Carolina for a wilderness first responder training course. After that, she’ll be going to Alaska for a job as rock climbing, ziplining guide for the summer.

“I want all the experiences I could get,” Forbes said.

To learn more about Christina Forbes’ time in Ecuador, visit her blog at http://govolcano.blogspot.com/

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