Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
Saturday, July 24, 2010
To start with, we had the opportunity to travel to a remote community of Afro-Ecuadoreans to teach English. The village was called La Loma and was only accessible by a gravel road in the foothills. Getting there was an adventure; of the six times we went, we had car trouble at least half of them. We are now experts in the of art of riding in the backs of pick-up trucks. If it starts to rain, sit with your back to stay dry. (It also helps to remember your rain jacket.) When we actually arrived in La Loma, we had about 25 students from age seven or eight on up. The kids were extremely eager to learn as much as we had time to teach them. On our last day in La Loma we held a graduation for all of our students complete with English notebooks and lots of pictures. It probably took an hour and a half after the graduation to get pictures with everyone and we probably could have taken more!
This week we got to visit our families for the last time. Useful life skills we´ve acquired include peeling potatoes (with a knife, anyone can use a peeler), making empanadas, shuffling cards, and the ability to tell riddles in Spanish. It is sad that we don´t get to spend more time with them, but it has been a wonderful experience getting to share their lives for a little while. We can´t emphasize enough how wonderful the people here are. Many of them have offered us their homes should we come back to visit and we hope that we get the chance to.
At the end of this week we returned to Quito to see a little bit of the historic district. We got to see the Ecuadorean equivalent of the White House, as well as the national library and lots of churches. Construction on one church began in 1603 and it has been under construction ever since.
Our Spanish skills have improved greatly. Now we feel comfortable attending church and Bible studies entirely in Spanish. In fact, last weekend we attended a fire and life safety course in preparation for this week´s teen camp. At first it was a struggle because none of us speak Spanish, but gradually things have improved. We even met a group of college girls this weekend that were surprised to find out that most of us haven´t studied Spanish in years.
And in case you were wondering,¨chuticas¨is the Ecuadorean equivalent of the American expression ¨shoot.¨ The pastor here uses it all the time, even in sermons.
I hope everyone is doing well. It is nice to finally find a break in the action where one can sit down and take at least a little time to write about what is going on here. I myself have been volunteering at a children's Summer Camp so far. Some of the options the children have are Arts & Crafts, Sports, and Singing & Dancing. Standard fare, but incredibly fun nonetheless, especially when I am able to watch the younger children pull out some hilarious dance moves. I cannot stress enough how much joy this has brought me. The situation here is very difficult, but being able to see the happiness in the children that I work with day in and day out is such a blessing. Though I must admit running around for hours in 90 degree weather isn't the least strenuous thing one could do, and for that I ask your prayers! A great thing about these camps is that many children, especially during the Summer, have nowhere else to go. Parks and other recreational areas that are ubiquitous back home are few and far between here. It is much better than sitting at home or ambling through the streets because one's parents are busy with work or volunteering. The people in this culture are very relational, and the children here are no exception. Despite the dialogue being an Arabic-English pidgin, it's clear that having fun and spending time with one another transcends any barrier.
It's getting late here, and as we must get up early for a trip to Hebron tomorrow I have to cut this short. Please continue keeping us in your prayers, it is often difficult here and to have so many lifting us up is a huge blessing. Much love, maa salaama.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
This week we made a road trip 50 miles south to
Our work this week has been very random, so we'll do our best to get everything down. We finished putting up the basketball hoop now that the court is ready to go. Kids have been playing on it almost non stop since we finished it. There is another missions team coming from
Hope you're all doing well. God's Grace,
Thursday, July 15, 2010
I wanted to let you know that Emma called today! They are now out of the no-contact time and she is hoping to be able to call weekly. She said that they are supposed to have internet access but that hasn't proven true. I told her about Team Ecuador and she was bummed on their behalf.
In brief, they are all doing well. There are 12 of them on the team and they are nearly all from Washington. They will be going on their retreat soon at a mining camp that is comprised mainly of Irishmen, who will be gone on holiday. They are excited because they will have hot showers, flushing toilets and American food. They have been to the mining camp before to watch some of the World Cup games, including the final yesterday. She said that they have been well taken care of in the village - they have all bottled water, they have their laundry done and everyone is super nice. The food is fine although they are tired of fried foods and no vegetables. And coffee .... I think they'll be drinking coffee the entire lay over in London!
Didn't get too much information on what they are doing. Sounds like four days a week they go out in teams to other villages to do work. Emma said that after the retreat there is one week where they will be helping with a youth camp and another week when they'll be doing a youth camp. She said that they will be leaving the village early in the last week so that they have a few days in Freetown to go to the beach, shop, etc.
Health has been good. She told Jeremy that she could send really big spiders, rats and assorted bugs that like to eat you home to him, but he didn't sound too delighted with that offer.
So, those are the highlights. Just wanted you to be in the loop.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
Ecuador is home to the mountain that is the furthest point away from the center of the Earth. Fact. Taller than mount Everest you say? That's right ladies and gentlemen, Mt. Cotopaxi is the mother of all mountains, and we got to experience it from well, about the same distance we as Seattlites experience Mt. Ranier on a day to day basis.
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
Monday, July 05, 2010
[And as posted on Alex's other blog]
[Note: Anyone interested in seeing better quality photos or to comment on them, visit Alex's Picasa album]
- Pathetically small, ever since the Israelies have been pumping out more and more water from the
Galileeand creating dams and such, there really isn’t all that much to this water-way anymore. BUT, there’s this “Baptismal Location” you can visit (as we did… felt like they were – dare I say it – marketing baptism. It was honestly disgusting… get your photo while being baptized! Get your bottle of “Holy River Water!” Get your samples of holy dirt, holy oil, holy smokes! Felt like overturning some tables…) There was a place you could stick your feet in the water, and these fish would eat off your dead skin. Totally exfoliating.
- Small wonder they called it a Sea! Seriously, the most vast body of fresh water I’ve ever seen. You couldn’t even see the farthest end of it! We took a boat to the otherside, ate some horrifically overpriced fish (“Jesus Fish”… the “same fish” that Jesus ate. So I gained like, 200 Spirit Points).
- Now, a Tourist Trap. It was pretty alright, had some sweet reconstructed ruins. A massive Aloe-Vera plant thing that seriously looked alien. Someone made a comment about it being a giant venus fly-trap. Ironic, visit the
West Bank, get killed by a plant.
- Traditionally believed to be the location where Jesus preached His sermon on the mount [Mathew 5-7]. I actually was just reading through that passage, so to be able to put a place to the words: ridiculous. The view of the Sea from there is breathtaking. The church there is also pretty alright, lotsa nuns. More gift shops.
- We spent the night here in a hostel, in this small town up by the border with
… I’ve Syria er seen anything like it. The Mountains literally all around, a view down into nev like nothing else… ending up playing soccer with some kids and Trey and Eric (another HLT participant)… sunset like nothing ever… Israel
- Me and Trey both firmly belive we’d come back to this place… it was also the only place I’d say we got to more than simply “taste” for half an hour, like most the other places listed here.
- Most industrialized city in
. Israel Nuclearants --> totally sweet [photo coming soon] Power Pl
- Ba’hi Gardens O_O
Mount l e m r Ca
- Neither sticky nor sweet, yet had a killer view
- Place where Elija did some awesome stuff
- Spetacular view of the Meditterean and the Ba’ai Gardens
- Ice Cream Truck
- Beach on the Meditteren
- Were only there for 30 minutes… =(
- Ancient Roman aquaduct right there on the water!
Poor choice building on the Sand, silly Romans. Should have visited the Mount of the Beatitudes first…
- Got my jeans pretty soaked, Trey and several others decided to strip down and jump in (Skivvies only…or, as Jenny our Brittish friend would say: Pants only)
Never getting time at the beach = a piece of my heart er getting satisfied. Right next to the part of my heart that nev er get peanut butter or bacon or mashed potatoes or tacos or milk or OJ or cerial….. nev
- Our single act of patriotism. Supporting Cooperate American Supremacy. I opted for for the chicken sandwich from the 10-Sheckle Menu. Total Rip-off. Trey got a Big Mac ™ . Paid for it later.
We thoroughly enjoyed our first full week at the school. Everyday our morning begins at 5am when we get up to go walking with our host mother around the park across the street. After walking around 5 times (30-40minutes) we come home and get ready to go to school. Sarah and I usually make toast or cereal for breakfast along with fresh papaya and banana – the fruit here is soooo good! (we’re spoiled). We eat our breakfast on the rooftop terrace and normally read our bibles for half an hour each morning after breakfast. This has become a great new habit and one we hope to continue when we return home. At 7:25am we catch the school bus to school and take the half an hour ride through the busy and chaotic streets of Bangalore. Once at school, I go to assembly with the younger kids and Sarah goes with the older kids. As assembly with the younger kids we usually practice spelling and saying the day, week, and month, greet eachother, and either sing nursery songs, or do a small activity (such as passing a ball around or learning to blow out a candle). At the assembly for older kids they practice morning exercises, sing a short song, and hear a daily bible story. I’ve been working with the nursery age kids (age 4-8) and Sarah has been working with the kids in second standard level class. The little ones are a bit of a handful, they are always running around, it’s hard to get them to ever sit still, but they are a lot of fun. I have multiple biting and pinching marks as evident battle wounds of struggling to get kids to sit quietly even for a moment. Sarah has been enjoying working with a few of the students one on one teaching reading and colors. In the second standard level class there are 8 students, 7 boys and one girl. There are many more boys than girls at the school, as having learning disabilities is more common among boys (according to our host mom). In the class, Sarah sits between Aswin, a non-verbal autistic child and Mouly, a deaf child. Her work with Aswin is to encourage him to stay focused on the lessons and his class work. In the past few weeks Mouly has taught her the abcs in sign language. She uses that and pictures to describe the lessons and help him complete his class work. Manjunath struggles with reading, so Sarah has created a few worksheets that use the words learned in class and pictures to make sentences. The school has about 100 students, housing a large range of disabilities. Getting to know the teaching staff has been a great opportunity to glimpse another part of Indian culture. The school is very different from schools at home. It’s nice that the entire school is dedicated to special needs kids as it creates a large community and safe place for kids to feel accepted amongst each other and form friendship with other students of their same level of learning. The work is tiring, but the kids are very loving. Prayers that God may work in and through us as we form relations with the students and teachers.
In addition to attending school, we have also had the opportunity of experiencing a little Indian culture on a daily basis. School finishes at 2pm, so we usually have the afternoons open for exploring. The following accounts our daily adventures and new experiences throughout Bangalore. Some come as a bit of a culture shock at times, but we are definitely learning a lot from the Indian people, gaining insights to a different way of life.
Last Sunday we attended church with Prem and Rita (our host parents) at the Indiranagar Methodist Church. The service was longer than what we’re used to; there was even a 20 minute prayer! But the singing was very nice and the worship music was good. We were familiar with most of the worship songs – they were a little taste of home. Also, for Sunday dinner we went out for Chinese food (our host mother doesn’t enjoy cooking…hahaha). The food was very good. Every restaurant here tends to be a bit over staffed however, there were 4 different waiters watching us eat (a bit unnearving, o well, must be a cultural thing…)
On Monday we were back to school. Monday afternoon was had quite the fun cultural experience! We went shopping for our very first saris! Our host mom, Rita took us to the silk and sari shop where we were quickly overwhelmed with a multitude of colors, choices, patterns, and designs of fabric. At the sari shop, they sit you at a table and then start pulling out heaps and heaps of different sari fabrics spread across the table. You simply shake your head yes or no and they continue to pour out more fabrics from the large display of folded saris that runs against every wall of the shop room. We were shopping for saris to wear to the upcoming wedding we will be attending next week! I was so overwhelmed with choices, I thought I wouldn’t ever be able to make a decision. Sarah was a bit more decisisive, but in the end, we both ended up purchasing beautiful saris. Sarah’s sari is deep magenta with fabulous gold trim and lots of sparkly accents – a perfect sari to wear to a wedding where the goal is to “see and be seen” according to Rita. My sari is deep purple (true husky purple pride thru and thru ...hahaha) and is trimmed with a simple gold floral design – chic and sophisticated. After the silk shop, we had to go to the Jeweler to get the appropriate bling to wear with our saris to the wedding. The jewelry is very lavish, yet extrememly inexpensive. It is strikingly similar to jewelry you might wear to play dress up as a child. It’s perfect for the wedding. We each bought matching purple and maroon bangles. Also, the necklace and earrings come as a set, so we each got blinged-out, diamond-encrusted sets. The man at the jewelry store kept trying to convince me to buy a dangly head piece to wear on my forehead as well; I politely refused. With bangles, earrings, necklace, and sari to match, I didn’t want to over-do it any more than necessary. After leaving the Jeweler, we were off to visit the tailor! Each sari dress must get a custom made belly shirt top, known as a blouse, to match. Thus, at the tailor, they only measured from the bust line up. Hahaha. The front of the sari is covered by drapey fabric, but the back is open. We each got to choose a different custom design for the cut of the back of the blouse. This was a lot of fun.
On Tuesday, we ventured out on our own! After reading the detailed guidebook section on Bangalore, we decided our best option was to visit one of Bangalore’s main attractions, the Botanical Gardens. We took an auto (small taxi rickshaw) to the gardens, which was a bit difficult, seeing as we’re obvious foreigners, so everyone always wants to rip us off. But luckily our host mom has taught us all the tricks of the trade, so we managed to get an auto for a decent price (still a bit over charged however…haha). When we arrived at the gardens, we followed the guidebook instructions, and hired a buggy tour guide to drive us around the whole of the gardens. The gardens are more than 96 acres. The buggy guide man took a huge liking to us! This was wonderful! He offered to hold our cameras and take our photos for us at EVERY SINGLE stopping point. It was a bit ridiculous to be entirely honest, especially seeing that there were at least 6 other people on the same buggy ride as we were, and he didn’t offer to take their pics nearly as often, it ever. At one point, while we were trying to take a photo of ourselves by outstretching our arm, he snatched up the camera and took a photo of not just Sarah and me, but of the whole buggy ride gang (!), forcing everyone else on the tour to stop and pose for my camera! O gosh, all I can say is he was most flattered when I asked to take a photo with him; I thought his eyes might have begun to tear up. All in all the gardens were a lot of fun. In addition to the attention we received from our guide, we also attracted lots of attention from other people passing through the park. Multiple people came up and asked to take photos with us! And lots of people tried to take sneak photos of us on their cell phones and cameras. People came up and asked our names and wanted to introduce themselves. At one point, a man asked me to hold his baby daughter and pose for a picture! He was so excited I couldn’t refuse. I felt like we were celebrities or something.
After we left the park, we caught an auto home and did some running around with Rita. We went to the grocery store and stopped along the street to drink fresh coconut milk straight out of coconuts! The man simple cut a hole and dropped a straw inside so we could sip on the sweet milk. After the milk was finished, we passed the coconut back to him and he sliced it open to reveal fresh coconut meat/cream for eating. It was delicious. I felt like we were in the tropics!
On Wednesday afternoon we decided to go exploring with Rita. There is a small lake located fairly close to our house which Rita said had recently renovated with the addition of walking paths around the lake. We all jumped into an auto and went to the lake to take a lengthy stroll around. We started the journey around the lake, but after only 20 short minutes of walking, we encountered a slight problem. Come to find, the path we had thought encircled the entire lake, in fact only went half way around. Our 20 minute walk had landed us in the middle of a garbage pit and 12 foot fence with no exit and nowhere to turn but back the way we had come. Hahaha. I guess it was a naive to assume the renovation would have made a path that went around the lake, why not only half, that’s far enough I suppose. After our half-walk around the lake, we went back home and went out for Indian kabobs. Once again we encountered 5 waiters staring at us eat, I guess we’ll just have to get used to that…but after dinner, we stopped at the sweet shop to sample some Indian delicacies. Most of the candies here are milk based or rice based, as is every food in India. I had no idea you could use rice is so many different new and creative ways; rice cakes, steamed rice, vegetable rice, rice tortillas, rice dessert, rice milk, on and on and on. People who can’t eat wheat/gluten would be in food heaven here!
On Thursday afternoon we went to Rita’s friends house to attend a yoga session. Although we were looking forward to experiencing authentic Indian yoga, we couldn’t have been prepared for what the session had in store for us. The yoga instrucot insisted we come early to the session so he could introduce himself and meet both of us. What this really entailed was the instructor giving us a long-winded lecture on the philosophy of life and how it’s only through yoga a person is able to experience inner peace and happiness. Sarah’s brave soul was quick to counter his argument, stating that we find peace from Jesus and contentment with His plan for our life. This was not acceptable to the yoga instructor. He has been teaching yoga for 36 years and needless to say is a very eccentric man. No matter what we could have said, I doubt he would have listened to a word of it. After our awkward and slightly uncomfortable introducing, we proceded to the yoga class. This was held on the rooftop terrace and we sat on reed mats. It was lovely. Except for the fact that the yoga instructor kept picking on both of us throughout the entire session; there wasn’t one exercise we did correctly the whole hour! The session was more religion focused than anticipated (I have an inkling he was trying to convert us to Hinduism…haha), and the instructor was very intense about breathing properly. Hmmmm. It was a bit odd to say the least. After the session was over the instructor approached Sarah and me and proceeded to look us both up and down and then began evaluating us! I was in complete and utter shock. He told me I have funny spots under my eyes and that I have poor blood circulation and other physical things I should try fixing. He recommended I eat more fennel seeds and a bunch of other jibberish home remedies. The audacity of this man was simply outrageous! Sarah told him thank you, but surprise surprise we were happy with ourselves and our bodies before he began evaluating them and we weren’t in need of any of his advice! Hahaha. I was so happy when it was finally time to leave. I don’t think we’ll be returning for future sessions…
On Friday we went to school and then had a very relaxing afternoon. We did a bit of shopping around when we live. I purchased my first India outfit (for daywear, not a sari) and we bought some pirated movies on the street. :) It was a nice afternoon.
We woke up very early on Saturday because we planned a daytrip to the neighboring town of Mysore. We booked the trip through a guided tour bus and were eager to meet the other people traveling on the bus with us. Since it was a guided tour, the only natural assumption was that there would be other tourists from around the world on the bus. I was looking forward to traveling with other American, European, or Asian tourists, so we would better blend in crowds of people. WRONG! When we arrived on the bus, to our great surprise we were the ONLY non-Indian tourists and the ONLY young women on the bus! We couldn’t have been more naïve in our assumption. It turns out Bangalore isn’t a very popular place among tourists and the schools in the northern part of India have summer holiday during the months of June and July, so many of the other people on the bus were Northern Indian Nationals. I have never felt like more of a minority. It’s exhausting always standing out from the crowd, never feeling like you really fit in, and receiving ceaseless stares from onlookers. But that aside, the day trip ended up being a lot of fun. Our guide took a liking to us (we must have looked like lost puppies on the street) because at every tour destination spot, he came and personally delivered the instructions to us, making sure we fully understood and guiding us through the security, camera checks, etc. We visited a beautiful palace, a Hindu temple (one of the eight most holy places in all of S. India), the botanical gardens with a light up dancing fountain, and the silk and sandlewood factory (what Mysore is known for). It was a very long day, but luckily we had packed plenty of snacks for the bus ride and took lots of great pictures. The only slight detraction was the constant haggling of street vendors. They are very persistent and would follow us for ages shouting prices for goods over and over again. Finally I told one man I thought his carving was very ugly and would he please go away. This didn’t work. Our tour guide was able to shoo off a few of the hasselers for us, but the day would have been much less stressful without the constant oncoming of vendors; we must look like easy targets.
That concludes our daily adventures for week one in India. It’s been quite a ride.
Prayers for good health as our host dad was been a bit under the weather and Sarah missed one day of classes due to pink eye last week. Also, prayers that we may connect with the other teachers at school and form friendships with not only the kids, but with the teaching staff as well. Thanks to God that we are getting along with our host family so well, they are wonderful to us! Prayers for safety. Prayers that God would continue to open our eyes and hearts to a world outside our own; that we may be open to new experiences and learn from different ways of life. Prayers that we adjust to being starred at all of the time and don’t get discouraged or frustrated by this.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to read our blog and thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.
Sunday, July 04, 2010
Thursday, July 01, 2010
Last Friday and Saturday, Team Ecuador treked to Lita with a bus full of Kentucky doctors. Yes, they had accents, yes, they were cool. Though they laughed when we asked if they ate Kentucky fried chicken.
Anyway. Each morning we would clamber into the back of a truck and ride windy and crumbling roads up the mountain to a remote village of indigenous people. Although a bit terrifying at times [Jamie has video to prove it] the area is absolutely beautiful. Very much a jungle with beautiful butterflies, banana trees and the sounds of cicadas abound. We each had various jobs at the clinic the doctors set up. Mandi and Jamie weighed everyone who came through and put it on their charts, Kellie was compiling necessary meds and toothbrushes into take home baggies for the patients, Erica kept track of who came in and out and directed families to open doctors, and Allyssa treked supplies and food for the team up and down the mountain with our pastor host, Washington. There were a lot of heartbreaking cases of widowed 2o year old mothers who couldn´t take care of their children and one man who blew his hands off while fishing with dynamite. Don´t ask.
Other notable mentions about Lita: we pretty much suffocated when we all bug-sprayed the crap out of our beds for fear of waking up with a beetle on our faces. [Trust me, all the locals really built up the bug issue, so we were terrified]. Jamie slipped and fell in the mud multiple times while going up the mountain. Preeeeetttyyy sure she has the record for most falls in the dirt this trip. Erica is surprised because normally she is the biggest klutz. And last but not least, Mandi freaked out when a puppy woke her up one morning. It was a harmless, tiny, little white ball of fluff, people. Needless to say Erica still mocks her to this day for it.
On our way back from Lita we stopped in Otavalo, which has the biggest artesian market in all of Ecuador, if my sources don´t deceive me. We were all afraid to buy something at first, because seriously, in Otavalo once you start buying you don´t stop buying. FYI: Allyssa is a heartless haggler. "Cinco dolares. No mas." Accompanied by a flat out hand motion. That´s a direct quote. Erica also felt like a baller when she got a sweet handpainted item for 8 dollars instead of 14. Who knew?
The church we are living in, "Amigos en Cristo" also had it´s first ever service in English for all of the expatriates living in Ecuador. There was a great turnout, we heard a message from one of the German missionaries here and we sang worship songs. Everyone was really happy to finally here something about Jesus in English. Seriously. There is only so much you can get out of a sermon when you don´t fully speak the language. Unfortunately Erica and Allyssa were sick during this long-awaited for event. They were really bummed, but there is another one in two weeks, so they are eagerly awaiting it.
For the past week or so there has been a giant festival going on with all of the indigenous people celebrating San Juan. We had no idea that this many people even lived in Cotacachi. They are literally coming out of the woodwoork and mountains to celebrate in the town squares. Notable things about this festival: All of the men wear giant furry chaps and large black cardboard cowboy hat-ish-things. Also? They like to dance through the streets. And throw rocks and fruit at each other. You heard me correctly friends, they throw rocks at each other. For fun. Only in Ecuador! It has been really cool to see how other people celebrate and dont worry, we haven´t witnessed any rock throwing, only heard about it from everyone we talk to.
We have still been working with families this week: babysitting, working in restaraunts, cleaning, cooking and sometimes just sitting and watching how the people live here. We all really love the people here. They never hesitate to make us feel like we are family too and have a home in Cotacachi.
We also attend Bible studies three times a week and absolutely love them. Of course, the messages and conversations are all in Spanish. Sometimes we have trouble with Bible references - "wait, was that mateo veinte-cuatro or mateo treinta-cuatro??" But we absolutely love them since they are with the families that we work with during the day a lot of the time.
- pretty much everyone has been sick off and on. Save Mandi and Jamie. How they do it, I have no idea. Kellie, Allysa and Erica have all had their turns at being sick. Wah wah wah.
- Allyssa made BALLER cinnamon rolls from scratch. She will be getting a request for more soon. Trust me.
- Erica and Mandi changed their first diaper today while babysitting. Yes, it is gross. Yes, it smells. But you know what? They were warriors. And they high-fived after. Preettty much an epic moment.
- Mandi and Erica also very [almost] seriously considered buying a baby duck from a guy selling them on the street today. It was just so cute! After weighing the pros and cons, they decided that it probably wouldn´t be very practical to have a baby duck in the church. It also could have rabies. So sadly, they decided against it.
Well that´s all I have for you know, but stay tuned folks, and next week be ready for another exciting adventure with las pollitas americanas in the beautiful country of Ecuador!
"Ya neva know... only in Ecuador."