Monday, 1 August 2011


Here are a few pictures from the last month and a bit. If you want to see more, they're all on facebook =)

1.5 Months Summed Up

I know I haven't posted in a long while, sorry about that! Things have been pretty busy around here since returning from Portoviejo mid-June; I've lead three teams and have done various ministries in between.

My first team was from Daybreak church in Pennsylvania -  there were 15 youth and 3 leaders that came. We stayed in Quito and worked on building a new addition to the church in Caupicho, which is in South Quito. South Quito is very different from Northern Quito where I've been living when not with teams. Most missionaries and businessmen live in North Quito, so it is a richer area. Plus, Gringo Land is also in North Quito. South Quito is where all the Native people, the Kichwan, from the Otovalo area come and live. I led this team with Reese and often we were both caught saying, "When we get back to Quito..." just because it is very different - there's a lot more poverty in the area. While we were in Caupichu we spent the mornings working on the church, and in the afternoons we went to the park nearby to put on a VBS for the kids. A lot of the kids came from the church, but then we also managed to get some kids to join us who were just playing in the park at the time we were there. Also while we were working in Caupichu, we lived in the church there for five days and four nights. The church is no bigger than a mobile home, with only one room. The first night we got there was a Sunday, so when we arrived there was a service. A few of the youth went up to share their testimonies, Pastor Matt led the sermon, and both the team and the congregation took turns going up and singing songs in their language. It was definitely a cultural experience for sure! Afterwards the men of the church grabbed a bunch of carpets and mats and proceeded to nail them to the support beams to create 'rooms' for us to stay. The church was divided in half the long way; one side was for sleeping and the other side for eating/hanging out. And then divided in half again on the sleeping side; one for the girls and one for the guys. The remaining carpets were put down on the concrete floor and then a few thin mattress were provided to sleep on. Very different from the nice, comfy beds we have here at Casa Blanca.
The construction we did during the day consisted of digging eleven holes that were about two feet by two feet, and either five or six feet deep depending. Surprisingly we got all the hole dug on our first day! It was hard, but we managed to do it. The rest of the days we were there we worked on tying rebar for the support columns, moving rocks, and mixing concrete.
After our five days there we headed back to Casa Blanca for the remainder of their time here. We did various jobs around CB, helping Mabe and Fabian with whatever needed to be done.Then we also did a lot of tourist stuff, such as visiting Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world) and the Basilica.

Okay, next team:

My second team was from Cold Lake, AB (Yeah! Fellow Canadians!). It was nice to have a team come down from Canada, because then for the next 15 days the teasing stopped (I am the only Canadian interns and get picked on regularly for it - all in love I've been told ;) ). They arrived at night, so the following day was our tourist day (one of them). We went to Mitad del Mundo (again) and then toured Old Quito. It was a relaxing day because the following day we were headed off to Hauticocha, which is in the jungle about five hours away from Quito. We stayed in Hauticocha for six days, doing construction in the morning and VBS in the afternoons. Mark and Cheryl Shafer, missionaries with Inca Link, bought a piece of property in Hauticocha. Their plan is to build a missions training school for people who want to become missionaries. The back half of the property is for the school and the front half they have donated to the church there to build a new building. They also plan on building there house there so they can live in the jungle and help with the school. Our construction duties there consisted of moving gravel and laying it on the path that the previous team cleared - it's so muddy there and it's the type of mud that you just sink into when you step in it; full of clay. And then digging a hole for the septic tank. It doesn't sound like much, but when you're working in the heat and the humidity it's pretty tiring. In the afternoons, after lunch, we drove to this community 20 minutes away called 10 de Agusto for VBS. We went back there for three days and it was so much fun getting to the know the kids. There was this one boy, Lester, in particular that I found really hard to say goodbye to. Most of the kids were pretty shy and reserved, but he went out of his way to try talk to all of us even though most of us didn't know any Spanish. He also helped out a lot with the VBS, helping us get the craft ready, getting the other kids organized and getting them to listen, etc. The first day we were there he told me his story, and it was heartbreaking! I won't share it with you now because I need to keep this 'short', but I will share it when I get home. What an amazing little boy!
On Saturday the plan was to go to Peas, a small Shaur community in the deep, deep jungle. It was a three hour drive from Hauticocha (it actually took us longer because we hit a mud-slide on the way there) and then an hour by canoe to get to this community. However, things don't always go as planned... We made it all the way to the river only to discover that we didn't really have a way of getting to the community. The guy from the community who owns the canoes was suppose to bring his large, 30-person canoe, but instead he brought his small 8-person canoe. So we wouldn't have all been able to fit. Then we thought half of the team could walk for an hour and a half and a few of us could go in the canoe with all the supplies that we brought. The problem with this was, we didn't know if we would be able to leave the community that night to get back to Hauticocha; none of us were prepared to stay the night. The river was, apparently, also too low for the canoe, so we would have gotten stuck. Needless to say, there was no way to get there. How disappointing!  There is only one Christian couple in this community and they were really looking forward to our visit. We were suppose to do a VBS there and just visit with the people. In the end we had to turn around and head back. On the Sunday we went to a community 40 minutes from Hauticocha to have a church service with this one man, who is among the only Christians in the community of Guamani. There is only one other family that is Christian, but they were away that weekend. We had a service with him, prayed with him and encouraged him. That night we had another service in the church at Hauticocha. Tuesday we left for Otovalo, spent the night there and the following day we shopped before heading back to Quito. The team left early, early Thursday morning.

Last team:

My third team, and finally team, was from Greenville, South Carolina. We did a lot with this team! We stayed in Quito, but helped out with a lot of the ministries here, though our main focus was working on the church in Caupichu, various job at Casa Blanca, and with the kids at Ganas. I loved the chance to go back to Caupichu; to see the progress that has been made since I was last there end of June (so a month ago) and to see all the kids agains! I was surprised when the kids actually remembered me, and remembered my first team. They kept asking me where the girls were from the Daybreak team and it was hard telling them that they were back home in the States and that I was there with a new team. They still remembered all the songs that we taught them at VBS, so we often took breaks from the work to sing songs and play games with the kids. We were there for three days; however, this time we didn't not stay there. We communted back and forth from Casa Blanca each day. The last day we were there was pretty hard. Saying goodbye once already was tough, but for a second time it was pretty difficult! The girls kept asking when we were coming back the next day and it was hard telling them that we weren't coming back.
We were also able to take this team to Ganas three days. The first day there we just played with them and did a craft, but the last two days were awesome! On the Tuesday we took them to an amusement park; for some of them this was their first time on rides! To see the joy on their faces and hear their laughter warmed my heart. What a blessing it was to be apart of that! They had such a good time! Then on the Thursday we had a Christmas in July party. We played Christmas/winter games, decorated sugar cookies, had them act out the Christmas story, and gave them gifts. Again, what a blessing it was to be apart of that!

Before this team left, another team came. Once my team left I had a chance to return to Caupichu one last time with them. I was so glad that I went, but man that was hard! After the service Mark called both Reese and I up to the front (we were both there from the start and both had a chance to return multiple times this summer) to say goodbye for a final time. That was hard to do without crying! The girls gave me the biggest hugs, refusing to let go. One of them asked me when I was coming back the next time, crying, which made it really hard to tell I wasn't coming back at all this summer. Once was hard, second time was difficult, the third time was heartbreaking! I love the girls I got to spend a lot of time with this summer, and knowing that I may never see them again is super difficult. Maybe next summer when I come back, or maybe the following summer; either way, I want to try see them again!

So there is a month and a half summed up! I tried to keep it as short as possible, but in the process I left out a lot of stories. I will definitely share them when I get home!
Also, I'll post some pictures once I get some organized.

I'm off to Manta today for the next week; I'll try to remember to update once I get back!

Until next time!

Friday, 17 June 2011

And the Business Continues

Tuesday night we went to the Brown’s for pizza and to have a bit of meeting as we had not met up just us Ecuador interns since arriving back in Quito. We talked a bit of what the summer is going to look like, our special project for the summer (each intern needs to come up with a project that they are going to work on over the summer. It can be anything, in the past people have made calendars and Peruvian cookbooks to sell and raise funds for Inca Link. Basically it’s up to you to decide what you want to do; it just has to be something that will meet the need of a person, church/town, and ministry here. I still have to decide what I am doing for my special project as I just found out that I would need to be here for more than just the summer in order to do what I had originally wanted to do. There’s a need up in Huaticocha for someone to go and teach music lessons and I would have loved to do that, but I would have to go up there and live in the jungle for about three months and I leave in two. I was sad when I found out, so now I need to figure something else out), and wrote up our goals for the summer. Anyways, while we were there we found out that we (just the five of us and Liz as we decided later was going to come with us) would be heading to Portoviejo on Friday till Tuesday to work alongside Percy and the church. The days before we left were busy; we went to the women’s prison on Wednesday morning and Ganas house Thursday morning. We left for Portoviejo late Friday morning; it was an eight hour bus ride. This time was a little better than all the bus rides we took while we were on the race because we could bring iPods this time, but still, eight hours is long! We got to Portoviejo sometime around 7 p.m. We didn’t do much when we got there, Percy picked us up on his way to a visit (him and some leaders at the youth group make weekly visits to youth member who don’t go to youth often or who they are hoping will start coming to youth). Anyways, after the visit (we didn’t go in because we had to stay in the back of the truck and watch our stuff) we went out for supper and then went back to Percy’s apartment. Ben stayed on the third floor with Percy in his apartment and the five us girls stayed on the floor below in an apartment that was owned by someone in the church who let people come and stay there instead of at a hotel. I stayed in a room with Mandi and Julianne, and then Liz and Reese stayed in the other room. We thought we had the place to ourselves until a few days later when we actually ran into the lady who owns the apartment in the apartment. We just chilled our first night there; I tried to learn a few of the songs that I would be playing on Sunday at church. I learned three of the five songs. Thankfully I didn’t have to learn the lyrics like I had to do when I helped with worship in the prison, I just had to learn the chords which were really easy, everything was in basically in the same key so that was really nice. Saturday morning came quickly. We had to be up early because we had a busy day ahead of us: we started by going to the church for 7 o’clock for a pray meeting before the ministries for the day started. There were the six of us from Inca Link and then five members from the congregation (that includes Percy). We took about an hour to pray for the various ministries that were going on that day. When we got there Percy made it a rule that we could not pray with someone we knew, it didn’t matter if we knew Spanish or not we just weren’t allowed to pray with someone from our team. Every five or so minutes we would switch prayer partners so that by the time was up everyone had prayed with everyone. Though it’s still super frustrating not knowing any Spanish it was still cool to go to this prayer meeting. Half the time I didn’t know what the other guy was saying, but it didn’t matter because we were both praying to the same God who understands both of us. I just thought it was cool that we had this time together to just gather and pray.

Later in the morning we went back to the church to fill a water tank of water to take with us to the garbage dump. Every Saturday morning Percy and some people from his church deliver water to the community that lives in the garbage dump. The people of this community rely on Percy because they have no drinkable water, this is their only water for the week. Every home had a couple gallon pails that were filled, but when you look at how much water they are actually getting it’s not a lot. They have to ration it out carefully in order to have just enough to make it to the next week. I know for one of the challenges for the race we had to carry two two-gallon pails up the hill to the families, but this time we were actually able to stay longer and play with the kids and pray with them. Percy did a little Bible study for the kids and then handed out some notebooks and paper hats. It was crazy to see where these kids live because they live amongst all the garbage of Portoviejo, they run around bare foot in all this trash that litters their living space. Yet despite where they live and their circumstances these kids were happy. They were smiling when we got there and they lit up when they saw Percy. They loved the attention and I’m glad I got to go and spend some more time there. Afterwards we drove down the hill and into the area where all the trash is brought, sorted, and burned to hand out fruit to the workers (again similar to what we did during the race). Only this time it was a lot quicker because we didn’t go as far and didn’t really stay around long enough to talk with them. It was a busy day, we had to get back because we had to re-fill the water tank to take water to another community just outside of Portoviejo. At the second community we went to we were able to spend a little bit more time there. We stayed and had a Bible study for the women of this community and then we gave out water. Again it was just crazy to think that they have no drinkable water and they rely on this water week by week in order to survive. It’s just crazy!

We had a bit of down time after we left, but not a lot before we had to get back to the church for the youth event that night. The day before Percy told us he wanted us to lead something special for the event so we had a few hours the day of to plan something. We chose to do a cardboard testimony. During this no one spoke, we had one of the band member’s play his guitar, but that was it. One side of the paper (we couldn’t find cardboard) we wrote what we used to be like in one or two words and then on the flip side we wrote how God changed us. We each had to write two just to make it longer, and then we wrote one together that we all held up at the end. I can’t remember what I wrote because it was all in Spanish. Afterwards we just stayed and hung out with the youth. Before we left Percy told us that he didn’t want us sitting together or talking to each other. He said that many times before people would come on missions trips and then not talk or interact with the people of the church, and because of this North Americans are given a bad reputation. Our goal was to break that reputation. I was a bit scared at first because I didn’t know how on earth I was suppose to interact with them when I know all of two words in Spanish. However, a lot of people I found spoke English so that was lovely! I felt bad because I came down to their country without knowing the language and I am speaking to them in my language. Talk about ignorance. The people I met were pretty understanding so that helped. I had so much fun getting to know some of the leaders, I was among the last of us interns to leave because I was having such a great conversation. Thankfully I got to see all of them the following day in church.

Sunday morning Julianne and I had to get up earlier than everyone else because I was sharing a bit of my testimony at Percy’s Bible study and Julianne had to translate for me. That and we also weren’t allowed to travel by ourselves. The service was horribly long (I don’t know if I can actually say that about church, but if you want honesty here you go) and I didn’t understand a word of it which made it even worse. I didn’t play for the morning service, I played for the evening service, which was thankfully different and shorter than the one in the morning. I got there an hour before it started so I could learn the songs. They have a different way of practicing and playing music here; no one uses music. They all learn the songs by ear and then just play them. Someone wrote some of the chords out, but they also don’t write down the typical chords (ie: C, G, D, etc...) they instead write RE (C), SOL (G), and CO (D) which made it hard to understand. The guy that I stayed with during the amazing race, Carlos, was there and he was able to help me out by writing a few things down and then just shouting out chords to me while we were playing during the worship. I was so happy to see Carlos again, I got to talk to him that night before at youth and just catch up a bit. Out of everyone we met from there I miss him the most (he has a girlfriend for those of you who are thinking otherwise! I met her and she is an absolute sweetheart!), we connected really well because of our love for music and serving. He told me later when we were driving to the bus station to head back to Quito that that was the first time the church had let a girl play (not sing, but play) onstage. I was shocked, what an honour! I’m glad I didn’t know this beforehand because otherwise it would have added a lot of extra pressure that I didn’t need; I was already stressing because of the songs and not having the music in front of me. Then during the service I sat with Carlos and his girlfriend and he was kind enough to translate the entire service for me. I would have died of boredom otherwise because it is hard to sit there and pay attention when you haven’t a clue as to what is going on. Ben had to leave on Sunday night because he had to be back in Quito for Monday, so after church we dropped him off at the station and then just went back to the apartment and chilled.

Monday we spent the day at the beach in Manta, I posted some pictures of the day; I’m sure it’s pretty self-explanatory =P.

And then Tuesday, our final day in Portoviejo, we went to a town just outside Portoviejo called Calderone. We went to visit with the pastor and his family. I wish I could remember their names, but they were both very hospitable, and patient, and just very kind. We didn’t do a lot while we were there, mainly just visited but that was still pretty cool. We went on some house visits with the pastor and for the final one we had to drive a bit of ways to get there. I stayed back while the others went by bus because I was going with him on his motorcycle. However, when the others left we couldn’t leave because their son had the bike and was not back yet. This was terrifying at first because my only way of communicating with them had just left, I don’t know Spanish! It was very hard at first because I couldn’t understand a word they were saying and for some reason I was really nervous so that made it even more difficult. Eventually I was able to understand a bit of what his wife was saying/asking me and surprisingly enough a bit of what Chris taught me first semester this year came back so I could say a bit. Somehow his wife and I were able to have a conversation; I’m sure it was at a kindergarden level, but it was a conversation nonetheless. We talked about Canada in comparison to Ecuador, about Portoviejo, Quito, and Calderone, and then also a bit about Paraguay. It was just really cool. I don’t know how, but somehow God gave me enough Spanish knowledge to talk. It was just cool! I also go to see a massive iguana while we were outside talking, again, talk about cool. This creature was probably over four feet long, he was just huge! I wish I had my camera, but Jules had my bag because I didn’t want to take it on the bike with me. When their son arrived we finally headed out to this woman’s home. By the time we got there Percy was almost done, but we still got to pray for her. I don’t know her whole story, but she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and so we were praying for healing. I talked to Liz about it afterwards and she was saying that although this woman has cancer she has this amazing faith that believes that God is going to heal her. While this lady spoke to us she had this peace in her eyes, like she knows everything is going to be fine because whatever happens is God’s will. If you could pray for her as well that would be great, she also has a very young daughter (my guess is around the age of three) who needs her mom. From there we got on a bus and headed back to Portoviejo. We had only a few hours at Percy’s place before we had to head out again; this time to play soccer with some of the girls from the church. Talk about an unfair match! To make it worse it was us against them... again, not fair. Oh well, I had fun with it. I still can’t play soccer to save my life, but I still had fun. The game finished at 10 p.m. and our bus left at 11 p.m. So we had an hour to all shower and get to the bus station, talk about rushed. That was a bit stressful but in the end we made it to the station on time and everything was almost good. Again, it was hard saying goodbye. I would love to have stayed there longer. I don’t know if I’ll have the opportunity to go back there during the summer; I only have two more months here and there is so much I still want to do and I would love to be able to go back to some of the places that I’ve already visited and stay longer and just get to know people better. I hope I can go back, I really enjoyed my time there.

The bus ride back was brutal! I was stuck sitting by this lady that I didn’t know who ended up taking half of my seat when she fell asleep. Then add the guy behind me who kicked the back of my seat for six hours straight, yup I was not to happy when we got back at 5:30 in the morning. We arrived back at Casa Blanca around 6:30, went to bed and slept for three hours before Mabe came in to wake us up and tell me that my uncle was here to pick me up. The Wednesday we got back was Annalise’s grade 6 graduation at the Alliance Academy International school here in Quito. Grade 6 grad down here is huge! You should have seen some of the dresses! Anyways so I didn’t even have a whole lot of time to sleep. But speaking of sleep I should probably log off and go to bed... it’s after 1 a.m. here and it’s another early morning tomorrow.

More later!!

(the pictures posted are from just a few taken while in Portoviejo; some were taken there, in Manta, Calderone and then one from grad)
Day 8 & 9 of the Amazing Race (the final days and I’m going to try be brief because this is just going on way too long!)

We took a night bus from Mancora to Trujillo and arrived at Helping Hands in Trujillo first thing in the morning. We had just enough time to get ready for the day before our leaders got there. I was with Luke and Jessica for the day and we were off to a bit of a late start. Before we were allowed to leave Helping Hands we had to complete this quiz about various people within Inca Link, there was about 20+ people we had to answer questions on and before we could get our next clue we had to get it 100% correct. This took longer than expected and we really only finished it because of a process of elimination. When we finally finished we had to get on a bus to Victor Raul, which is on the opposite end of Trujillo from where we were. No team was allowed to be on the same bus and since we were the last to arrive at the parade, we were the last to get on a bus. We probably waited about 40 mins before we were actually on our way. When we got there we had to make our way to the children’s home for our next challenge, which consisted of making 20 mud bricks. Luck made all the bricks, Jess and I just mixed the mud with the sand to make sure they weren’t too runny or anything. Got the bricks made and off the next challenge, which was pretty funny. I didn’t hear the whole clue at first, all I heard was the word ‘guinea pig’. I panicked! The one thing I didn’t want to have to do during the race was kill and prepare cuy (roasted guinea pig). Thankfully that is not what the clue said; we had to get a guinea pig from the pail and get him through this 10ft long tube without causing him to have a heart attack (otherwise then we would have to eat him... yuck!) We were the last team to do this challenge and the quickest/most efficient. Every team started by putting their guinea pig in and slowly lifting one end of the tube trying to get him to go out the other end. Everyone felt bad about putting the tube almost straight up and down. Yeah, we were by far the least humane group. Luke happened to have a plastic bag in his backpack... we put the guinea pig in the bag, wrapped him up, lifted the tube, and sent him flying downward. He was out within a few seconds. Though we were the quickest, we were also the only team who had to chase our guinea pig afterwards, he got out of the bag and took off (not that I blame him). I’m just glad that he didn’t die; that’s the one thing I don’t want to have to eat while I’m here: cuy. From there we had to get into a mototaxi and travel to the orphanage (a mototaxi is a motorcycle with a little cart type thing behind it). We all got there at the same time, but we were the first team to get in one because we were the only team to not walk past them. Once we got to the orphanage we had to clean a pair of windows (both inside and outside) and take six one-gallon buckets of sand to the roof (two per person). We had some trouble here because our window was right above the sandpit, every time someone took more sand our ‘floor’ shrank down farther. Anyways we finally finished, had lunch and then headed out again. From here we headed back into Trujillo and we had to get to this busy intersection and dance in the middle of the street in order to get our next clue. When the light went red we had to take a banner out into the street and try get as much attention as we could. Thankfully for me both Jess and Luke were fine with dancing crazily, I just ran around. The first time we went out the dancing was good, but we had to let the people read the sign better instead of switch sides ever couple of seconds. We got it on our second try. Then we had to get on yet another bus and travel towards Huanchoca (a small beach town about 30 minutes (or less) from Trujillo). We didn’t quite make it into Huanchoca, we got off just outside the town in the little treed area. We had to run around and find three orange envelopes which contained our next clue, or the pieces to our next clue. The area itself wasn’t that big, so it shouldn’t have taken that long to find them, but it did. The envelopes were hidden high in the trees, nothing was on the ground. We finally found them (and helped a few of the other teams find theirs because like I said in earlier posts, none of us were very good at the ‘racing’ bit). Once we got our envelopes we had to put the puzzle together before we could move on. From there we were done, we just needed to head to our pit stop for the day, which was a restaurant. We ended third this day. After we ate we headed back to the children’s home, because that is where we stayed for the rest of our time while in Peru. I can’t really remember what happened that evening because it was so long ago and so much has happened since.

Okay finally onto day 9, our final day of the race.

Our first challenge of the day was to pick our own teams; our only criteria was that we couldn’t be on the same team with someone that we had previously been on a team with and everyone had not been with one of the team leaders (excluding the day where there was only three teams of five people, otherwise everyone would have been with every team leader). I was never on a team with either Annie or Amber, and I hadn’t had Ben as a leader yet. They had both been together and they had both been on a team with Ben, so that didn’t work. My team for the final day was Ben, Vicky and myself. I loved being on teams with Vicky, we always had so much fun! Once our teams were decided we had to get on a bus to Huanchoca for our next challenge. Again, no team could be on the same bus as another team; our team was the second team to get on the bus because we won the rock, paper, scissors match for who went next (we all arrived at the parade at the same time so we figured this was the fairest way). We made it to the pier and received our next clue, which gave us two options in which to choose from: “a) One team member must take a wave and surf standing on the board for a minimum of 5 seconds counted by the judge before you can receive your next clue. b) Your team must braid 10 braids of the member of your team with the longest hair to the satisfaction of the judge.” Because we had Ben on our team, who is into all and good at all extreme sports, we decided to do the surfing one. Ben had never surfed before, but within a matter of minutes he was up and we were onto our next challenge. Our next challenge was a lot of fun; Totora relay race. For those who don’t know what a totora is, it is a long woven straw canoe-type boat. The guy from the shop in which they boats were rented from steered the boat, we just had to sit in the back and relax (and try not to fall off when we hit the waves). We had to go from the beach to the pier and then back before our next team member could get on and go (we had to make it to the beach, we couldn’t jump off in the water, we had to be on land). Once we were all done that we had to grab our stuff, hold hands and run to the far side of the beach to the Inca Link umbrella. This was our final pit stop; once we ran ‘through’ the banner we were done! Because Ben did not have any problems with the surfing challenge we were the first team on the final day. There was only one team that did the braiding, the rest tried surfing. Many people tried and then switched with someone else. A few people had to get others to hold their board for the full 5 seconds so that they could finally finish the challenge (Mandi was out there the longest, about an hour and a half trying. She got up the most times out of everyone; she just couldn’t hold it for 5 seconds, always one short). Once we were done (by 11:20 in the morning) we just chilled on the beach until everyone else was done. We had the surf boards all day so we could have tried surfing before we had lunch. I didn’t try before lunch, I just wanted to relax. I tried after lunch though. Julianne and I really wanted to go out, but we weren’t sure if wanted too because the waves were getting pretty big and we didn’t know if we wanted to get wet again. We did go because we realized that this was probably going to be only chance to try surfing because we didn’t know if we would have the chance to go to the beach in Ecuador (as most beaches are at least eight hours away from Quito, if not farther). We got into the wetsuits and went out with Luke. The first time we went out I couldn’t get past the waves, both Luke and Julianne were passed them, but I was having so many problems. I got knocked down by one and from there it was a struggle. I was getting tumbled around under water as though I was laundry in the washing machine. I would get above the water with just enough time to catch my breath before I was pushed under again. Eventually the waves just carried me back to shore, I was so discouraged! I had wanted to try surfing for so many years and the first time I go out I get beaten by the waves. Jules and Luke came back and we took a quick break to decide if we wanted to go back out there. I didn’t at first because I had a massive headache because of the saltwater and lack of oxygen for who knows how long, but I also knew that I would regret it if I didn’t try again. This time around Marian came with us and she knows how to surf so she told me how to get over the waves. For those who do yoga, basically you do the snake pose, pushing the board under the wave while you stay above it. Besides the paddling (I was getting tired) I had no trouble getting far enough out that we could sit on our boards and just wait for a good wave to come. We probably sat out there for about 20 minutes talking before we decided to actually try catch a wave. At this point it was somewhere around 5 p.m. so the waves were getting pretty big and aggressive. Out only goal (Julianne and I) was to just catch a wave. I caught a few waves and the closest I got to actually surfing was getting up on all fours on the board. I thought this was pretty good for not taking lessons and with the size of the waves I was glad to be able to kind of get up. The final wave took me right into a pile of boulders; thankfully the board hit them before I did. After we got back to shore, Jess and Sara took the boards out for a bit to give it a try. We left shortly after that and headed back to the children’s home because Sara and the Brian’s were heading back to Quito that night. A few more hours before we had to say goodbye, not fun! I hate goodbyes, and that was only the beginning of them! We went for Chinese and then just walked around Trujillo for a bit before we called it a night.

Finally! I got the race up and finished. Us interns who are serving in Ecuador this summer didn’t leave right away, we stayed in Trujillo for another three or four days for training. Training wasn’t too exciting; it was just nice to have time to hang out as a big group before we split up.  Though I must say our final training exercise was pretty funny. It was a role play exercise, we each picked from a hat our role for the morning while we were picking corn from the field out back. There were three interns and the rest of us were a team from wherever. I got the role of encourager and had to find the good in everyone; I had more fun just watching everyone else get into their roles then playing mine. I would have done better as the quiet person who doesn’t talk (go figure). I could take the time and write about everyone and their roles, but that would take too long and this post is already a mile long. Lets just say it was really enjoyable, and also a good learning experience as we will probably have people on our teams that we’re leading this summer who will be like that (some of the roles consisted of complainer, hard worker (don’t care about anything else, just get the job done), quiet/shy people, cultural inappropriate, etc...). This was our last day of training, we finished in the morning and had the rest of the afternoon to pack (only us Ecuadorian interns) and chill. It was sad saying goodbye to everyone. We had just spent the past two weeks on this crazy adventure that took us all over Ecuador and Peru and then we had to say goodbye. The hardest part was knowing that this will probably be the last time some of us ever see each other. I know we’ll keep in contact via facebook, but it’s not the same.

Gustavo, Reese, Mandi, Julianne, Ben and I took the night bus from Trujillo to the Ecuador/Peru border and to the immigration office to get our passports stamped saying we are back in the country of Ecuador. We then took a bus to Santa Rosa to pick up the 15 passenger van that had broken down while we were on our way to Peru. The van was left with the church there to get fixed up so we could take it back to Quito when we were done the race. The bus ride from Trujillo to the border was eleven – twelve hours, and then about an hour from the border to Santa Rosa and then another ten or so hours to Quito. It was a long day! Gustavo drove and since there wasn’t that many of us we took turns napping on the beach seats in the back. To keep this short, lets just say that Gustavo is the scariest person I’ve ever driven with. In Ecuador no one wears a seatbelt, vehicles have them but no one wears them. We were (and still are) in the habit of not wearing them (it’ll be weird being back in Canada where the driving isn’t nearly as crazy but it is still required by law to wear them). Anyways, every time Gustavo would drive over a speed bump he would go slow for the front wheels and then speed up again before the back wheels had cleared it. We went flying every time! I haven’t gotten motion sickness in a very long time, but that drive back to Quito has now, once again, made me sensitive to driving. We finally got back to Casa Blanca just before midnight. It was nice to be home and have access to all our clothes, as we had been living out of a school backpack for two weeks.

We’ve done a lot since being back, I talked about a little of it in previous posts, but I’ll fill you in on it more later.

Until next time!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Beach Bums and Candy Canes

Day six of the race:

The day at the beach was much needed! We were all sleep-deprived at this point and just exhausted in every sense of the word. The beach was very rejuvenating! We had a simple breakfast at 10, though we were all awake by 9 and just chilling by the pool waiting for breakfast to be served. After breakfast we just went to the beach all day. The water was wonderful, the ocean was just gorgeous. Peru has a very hot and dry climate, so it was the perfect beach day. If you ask me the water felt like a warm bathtub, but ask anyone else from the team and they would say that it was freezing. When you grow up going to a glacier-fed lake, every other body of water is warm. We basically just spent the day swimming, and tanning, and chilling. I wish I had a picture, but I discovered the reason you never use spray-on sunscreen. I sprayed it on my arms and legs and thought I rubbed it in well enough... WRONG!! I didn’t realize I was burning until way later in the day and I burnt in a lovely candy cane pattern on my legs; I had two white strips down my legs and two bright red strips, in a sort of twisting pattern. It looked (an still looks) absolutely ridiculous!! I stood up and everyone laughed, I laughed to because of course this would happen to me. My tan line now is great; my legs go white, dark brown, white, dark brown, and the best part is that they’re peeling for a second time – I can now say it looks like I have a flesh-eating disease because it’s so gross looking. Anyways we eventually moved to the pool because the waves were getting pretty big and crashing up to where we were laying on the beach. The waves were also starting to get pretty rough; the first five or so feet into the ocean is all rocks and then when the waves come it feels like you are getting dragged over a cheese grater. You know how most people pull splinters out of their hands; I was digging pebbles out of mine. The rest of the day was just chilling by the poolside, walking down the beach after sunset, and then getting on an eleven hour night bus to Trujillo. Thankgoodness for gravel otherwise that trip would have been unbearable as the back of my legs were fried. I want to see if I can get as dark as the one section of my legs know that I know that I can actually get that dark. I’m finally almost caught up with blogging about the race; did three days today which I think is pretty good. More in a few days -  going to Portoviejo and I don’t think we’re bringing our laptops with us. My goal is to get completely caught up by the end of next week... here’s hoping!!!!

Day five of the race:

Since we all spent the night at different people’s places we all met at this restaurant for breakfast. Unfortunately we were not allowed to order for ourselves as the Brown’s had already ordered for us. I can’t remember the name of what we ate, but whatever it was it was weird. It looked like a pile of mush on our plates; it was ground beef, eggs, and mashed plantains. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t the best either. Also, it was very heavy and filling; I only ate a small amount of it because it was so filling. Besides, you don’t want to eat something that heavy before you have to begin a race. Today the teams were a bit different; instead of five teams of three, we had three teams of five. The teams were completely random, but somehow all of us Ecuadorian interns ended up on the same team (Julianne, Ben, Reese, Mandi, and myself). Our first challenge of the day was to find the outdoor market, find Señora Mercedes Ureta, who would give us some fruit to sell. We needed to sell $5 worth of fruit. We were given three boxes piled full of oranges, I think we were told that there were 40+ pieces of fruit per box. One box we sold for $2 and the other two boxes were sold for $1.50; what a good deal for so much fruit! We sold it all right away, but we ran into some guys at the bar and started to talk with them. They didn’t know any English, but Julianne and Ben translated for us. Símon and Fernando were there names, Simon owned the bar and Fernando was already drunk by 9 in the morning. Simon was excited and glad that we are here in his country serving. He told us to remember him and to come back and visit him if we were ever back in town (which we will be tomorrow night, so how knows, maybe we will be able to stop by and say hi). Fernando said some stuff to us, but Jules was having a hard time understanding him because he was slurring his words. Anyways we were able to pray for them before we left and Fernando turned around and prayed for us afterwards. It’s times like these when we forgot that we were in a race and took the time to get to know the people. We were probably there talking with them for about 20 or so minutes. After we prayed together we headed out back towards the market for our next clue. For our next clue we had to use this special paint (used by the Siccha Indians from Santo Domingo) to dye someone on our team’s hair. We dyed Ben’s hair because he didn’t care – the colour didn’t really show up anyways so it didn’t matter anyways. We then had to perform a song, along with a dance, that we had learned the previous night at Percy’s church. Thankfully someone on our team remembered the words because otherwise that would have been a problem. We had to dance in the middle of the market, so we had quite a crowd around us; crazy gringos =P. After that we had to get on yet another bus, this time to Guayaquil, once there we had to find the McDonald’s in the terminal (which was huge and looked like a mall) for our lunch and next clue. Part of getting our lunch consisted of running to the SuperMaxi (their version of Wal-Mart or something like that) and buying some pop and cups for the drive to the Peruvian border. We were the last team to leave the market and get to the bus station in Portoviejo, no team was allowed on the same bus as another so we assumed that we would just remain in last place. But somehow Julianne met this one guy who got us on the right bus that left Guayaquil earlier than the other buses. So we beat the other teams to Guayaquil by about 30 minutes. However, by the time we found the SuperMaxi and got our drinks the other teams had arrived. The line ups were huge so we paid someone at the front of the line to buy our stuff for us, that way we could remain in first. We got our lunch and then we had to find the TransForsur red vans to take us to the immigration office on the Ecuador side to get our passports stamped. We thought we figured out where to go, but turns out everyone we talked to lead us to where the buses left from, not to the parking lot where the vans were. By the time we figured out where to go the other teams had caught up and were all racing towards the vans. The drivers didn’t understand that it was a race and insisted that they wait until we ALL got there. Thankfully Rich was able to convince them otherwise – we ended up at the same gas station at the same time as everyone else so at that point we didn’t care about racing. We had to wait at that gas station for a bit because the white van that Inca Link owns broke down and we had to wait for the Brown’s and Gustavo to get to figure out what was happening. We eventually got to the office, got our passports stamped and then made it to this little bus station right on the border (we were still in Ecuador). We had to wait about an hour at this station for the leaders to get there, so we never really did finish the race for this day. Our leaders finally got there, we went out for supper and then got on a bus to take us across the border into Peru. From there I can’t quite remember what we did, all I know is that we got a private bus to take us to where we were spending the night. By the time we got there it was just after 11 pm (although it felt much, much later!). By this time it was already dark so we couldn’t really see where we staying, at first it didn’t look like anything special until we walked in. We stayed at this beautiful resort, with a pool in the center of the courtyard with the rooms wrapping around. It was so nice! We got our first clue for the next day when we got there, after we got organized into our rooms and figured out what was happening for breakfast. The resort we stayed at was in Mancora, Peru. We were so excited once we read our clue; it basically said that we were having a day of rest and we got to spend the day on the beach, it was lovely; so enjoyable and relaxing. I wish I had pictures of the resort and of the beach (I know Mandi has pictures up so I may have to steal some from her). Anyways, more later!

Day 4 of the race.

Like every other day thus far it started out pretty early. Once again the teams were switched up and I was with Sarah and Marion. Our first challenge was to walk to the bus terminal and take the bus to Portoviejo. It was funny because as we were all walking down the hill towards the terminal, a lady in a jeep honked at us and yelled out the window if we spoke English. She stopped and we walked over and it turns out she is from the States (somewhere in the South) and had heard that there were a bunch of gringos in town and wanted to say hi. We talked with her for a few minutes, telling her what we were doing and such. I just thought it was such a random encounter; but during the race, it was crazy to see how many people we met just on the side of the road who were interested in what we were doing and such. She gave us directions to the bus station and actually drove in that direction so we could follow her and not get lost. When we got there we discovered that we had to wait about an hour and a half for the next bus to Portoviejo. That was fine, we all just sat around there and hung out. There was a vendor right beside the the station who was selling yucca bread. I don't know how this came to be, but Annie went over and he showed her (and let her make) how to make yucca bread. Afterwards she bought some and shared it with the rest of us, and oh my goodness it was delicious! That is one thing I want to learn how to bake before I come home, yucca bread is absolutely amazing! Anyways, aside from the random facts... We eventually got on the 5 hour bus ride to Portoviejo. From there we had to find this restuarant where we were to get into a Inca Link vehicle and travel towards the garabage dump. Once there we had to fill two one-gallon buckets and carry them up the hill and give them to a family - this water was their drinking water for the week. We finally got the water up and then one of us had to share our testimony to the families, the only problem was that it had to be in Spanish. Thankfully Sarah is fluent in Spanish so she gave hers and then we had to sing a song, but again it had to be in Spanish. While we were driving to the dump Sarah quickly taught us “Open the Eyes of My Heart” in Spanish so we sang that; just like every other team. At least it didn’t matter that we all sang the same song, because otherwise we would have had a problem. I really need to learn Spanish; I now know a few worship songs in Spanish from helping my aunt lead worship at the women’s prison yesterday (Wednesday). And now I have to learn six more songs in Spanish for this weekend (I’m helping Percy, the pastor in Portoviejo, lead worship on Sunday).  I’m kind of learning Spanish from learning these worship songs, but I still cannot have a conversation with anyone. I think in a few weeks I want to try leading worship at the prison, and eventually I would like to lead a Bible study (an English Bible study – half the women in prison actually cannot speak Spanish, so every Wednesday there is a Spanish Bible study and an English Bible study. If my Spanish improves dramatically in the next two and half months I would like to try lead, or be a part of, the Spanish Bible study. However, I don’t think I’ll learn that much this summer, but in a few years I hope to be close to fluent. I know I’m getting off topic, but I need to try get caught up with what’s been happening this week, as well as finishing up my blog from the race. Anyways, I’m getting off topic from the race. Once our, well Sarah’s, testimony and song was approved by the judges we got our next clue. One team member had to ride one of the donkeys down the hill and over to where some of the locals were playing soccer; the only way to get our next glue was to score two goals. Oh dear! I can’t play soccer as y’all (thank you my Southern friends! =P) know, and both Sarah and Marion said they couldn’t play, so it was going to be a challenge. We played against two of the locals and then Casey and Renee’s boys, Luke and Jordan. Luke and Jordan were both playing forward, every time they had the ball and I tried to go after it I felt bad because I’m so much bigger than them and I didn’t want to hurt them. Luke is the oldest and in grade five I believe and I want to say the Jordan is in grade three. I didn’t really need to feel bad as they were both better than me anyways. We played for about 10 minutes and then Marion got both of our goals. Our next clue told us to walk around the dump and hand out drinks and oranges. The dump was pretty large, we walked for about 20 or so minutes before we reached the end of it. There were piles of garbage everywhere the people were sorting through looking for anything that could be recycled, the rest was burned. The burning garbage was a horrible smell. It’s crazy because you hear about people working in the dump, but to actually go there and see the condition people work and live in is quite shocking. It was gross walking around through the trash, but I didn’t want to make a big deal about it because we were there to serve those working there. How would they feel if we showed I showed my disgust? While we walked around handing out drinks we stopped and talked to people. Sarah was the only who could talk to them, so Marion and I just stood there and smiled and said what little we could. I would have been nice to do a bit more, because it felt like we weren’t really doing anything by giving them pop and fruit, but I feel like it’s the start of something. We’re (and by we, I mean Ben, Reese, Mandi, Julianne and myself – the only Ecuador interns this summer) heading to Portoviejo tomorrow to work and serve for a few days. Don’t really know what we’ll be doing, but it’d be cool if we could go back and serve more at the dump). We walked back and forth around the dump until everyone had something to drink and something to eat. Then we got our next clue saying that we had to drive to Templo Metropolitana Alianza for our next challenge; we had to paint the fence across the street. Each team was given a section in which we had to paint. The paint we used was a mixture of water and powder; thankfully since it was water-soluble we were able to wash it out of our clothing. I dipped the roller in and went to paint the top of the fence and got a paint bath. I was covered head to toe in white paint; the entire race I made a fool of myself with silly little things like this. Oh well, it was something to laugh about. Once our section was painted to the judges satisfaction we were done for the day. Afterwards we had a brief debrief about our time in the garbage dump and just talked about what we thought about it. Everyone had similar thoughts about the day, how we wish we could have done more than just hand out something to eat/drink. Though we didn’t do much, it was still the start of something. We then went to where we were staying for the night; everyone was split up among some of the congregation. I at first went to Percy’s fiancé’s house to shower and wash up, but then I found out that I would not be staying there. I stayed at this guy, Carlos’s place. Carlos know a little bit of English so we could kind of talk to each other. But after supper and the soccer game, he just dropped me off at his place and his mother doesn’t know English so that was hard. It was just frustrating because I wanted to tell her how grateful I was for opening up her home to me, but I couldn’t say anything. All I could do was smile and say ‘mucho gracias’. It’s something, but I wish I could have said more. Supper was a funny event; we went to this burger joint near the soccer field. They had more options than just hamburgers so I ordered a chicken burger. Unfortunately it came with bacon that no one would let me get rid of. I gave it to someone else, but Matt was quite shocked (him, and Sarah, and Robin, and Julianne, and Reese, and Vicky, etc...) that I had never had bacon before. Needless to say I was forced against my will to have a small bite. I can now say from experience that bacon is absolutely disgusting!! Other than that supper was a lot of fun, just hanging out and playing random games with the people I was sitting near. I know that there’s more that I could possibly write about this day, but I’ve already written a lot. More later!!