My Journey in Ecuador - March
March 27, 2011
Si yo puedo! (Yes I can)
This past Saturday the Study Abroaders (minus a few) took an adventure of a life-time up Pichincha, a 15,400-foot volcano on the south side of Quito. We left early in the morning, knowing it could take us up to ten hours to conquer the climb. The Teleferico (aka gondola) took us part way up. On our way we were in awe of the beautiful site of the city. Being in the same area most of the time, it's easy to forget exactly how long the lovely city of Quito really is. "We're all in this together" was the mentality we had at the beginning of the climb. We laughed and enjoyed each other's company until it got too hard to breath. None of us are very skilled mountain climbers but we managed to share the little tips we did have with each other. Along the way many of us were still in awe of the fact that we're in Quito, Ecuador climbing a 15,000-foot volcano! God is so amazing! With only a little less than one month to go, we are embracing as much of the city and culture we've grown to love before heading back to our homes in the United States.
About three hours into the hike, we reached the more difficult areas. With little oxygen and tired bodies, we had to encourage one another to continue strong. At some points during the hike I was very ready to quit. Fortunately the lovely Christy Stumbo would not let that happen and became my own personal cheerleader. Though my body is very sore today, I am very thankful she pushed me to make it to the top! Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would make it to the top of a 15,000-foot mountain (let alone one in Ecuador)! Will I climb one again? I'm not sure, but knowing I can do it and I have done it makes it that much more of a reality! Unfortunately it was very foggy at the top and we couldn't see much of the city below us (we unknowingly actually picked a pretty clear day to climb). The hike down was interesting because in some parts we had to slide down rocks while in others we had to jump down in sand. It took us about half as long to make it back as what it did for us to get up there. By the end we will all be exhausted and ready to be back. As a treat (after a lukewarm shower), some of us went out for Indian food in La Mariscal (a more touristy part of the city) and then headed to Christy's house to watch a movie. Most of us didn't make it through the movie though because we were so exhausted!
This past week I buckled down and applied for three social work case management jobs in the Denver area. I'm still waiting to hear from my last graduate school (UIC) but want to have a back-up plan just in case. I also inquired in a position at a pregnancy crisis center here in Quito. It would be a volunteer position so I would have to raise my own support. Please pray for me as I make this very important decision in my life. " 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.' "
March 20, 2011
Let the rain fall down
It's been a week now since we've been back from our home-stays and it is great! There is nothing like being back in a comfortable routine and living with people you've grown to care deeply about. Three nights this week we had people over for dinner and had an absolute blast. The host parents of my roommate Chelsita gordita came over for dinner Monday night. After some wonderful comida, we had a time of worship (both in English and in Spanish which is a truly powerful thing to experience) and embarrassingly attempted to learn some Latin dances. Needless to say, none of us should drop out of college and become professional Latin dancers. It's amazing to see how much we have all grown in our Spanish speaking abilities. At the beginning of this semester, some students had a relatively good grasp of the Spanish language and some knew absolutely nothing. Now we can all hold brief conversations (usually with numerous mistakes) and understand much of what is going on around us. As I've mentioned before, the people of Quito are very gracious and patient with people who are just learning Spanish for which we are very thankful.
On Wednesday we celebrated the 21st birthday of the one and only Liz Brice. Rose and Nikki (our two professors from Trinity) will able to and see what a typical Wednesday night as a community looks like. We ended the night by performing a little Spanglish tune we wrote for Christy and Bryan (our deans) about our experience so far in Quito.
This night was both bittersweet as we were celebrating the birth of a dear friend but were also concerned for the life of Matt Jensen's (a missionary through Youth World) brother who was in a horrible plane accident in Long Beach, CA and was the only survivor. Instead of having our normal Bible study, we broke into groups and spent time praying for not only Matt and his family but also for the five families of those who lost their lives. Matt was able to get a flight out to CA later this week to visit his family. Please join me as well as with the Youth World staff and many others in prayer for God's will to be done in this tragic situation.
This weekend we had the privilege of spending time at El Refugio (an outdoor adventure camp about an hour out of the city). Friday afternoon most of us got on the public bus to make the adventurous trip to El Refugio. Trusting Bryan as well as public transportation to get us around is a little nerve-wrecking but always seems to work out in the end. The main reason for going to El Refugio was to start an intense one week World View class (though I'm actually not taking the class). Friday night and most of Saturday was spent in class. During our free-time on Saturday a few of us decided to play a game of volleyball only to spend most of the game in the pouring rain. Though it was fun at first (and very entertaining to see people slip) in the end it hurt to bump a wet volleyball (most of us have bruises on our arms to prove it). I think many of us were grateful for a relaxing weekend outside the city and hopefully are rejuvenated and ready for the coming week.
March 14, 2011
I milked a cow and survived
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you read the title of the post correctly. As many of you already know I am a city girl through and through. Now don't get me wrong, I can handle being on a farm for a few hours maybe even a few days and actually enjoy myself but I'd much rather be in the city where the smells aren't quite as rank. Saturday afternoon the study abroad students and our families had a BBQ at a farm about an hour outside of Quito. After some delicious shish kabobs we spent time mingling with the other families, taking pictures, and touring the beautiful farm. We had the opportunity to ride horses around the property and pet the adorable calves. Finally the time came when the cows needed to be milked. Most of us gathered around in the smelly barn and gathered up the courage to get close to the smelly animal. After watching a few of my peers, it was finally my turn. With a slightly disgusted look on my face, Princess got close and personal to the cow and milked it. It's a lot harder than one would think and it's not anything I ever have to experience again. Then on top of that we tasted a little bit of the milk... straight from the cow. Surprisingly it was pretty sweet and a little warm. After that wonderful experience it was time to head back to Quito and say goodbye to our families. For some it was a bittersweet time while for others it wasn't quite as difficult. Overall I'd say everyone had an enjoyable time but were very glad to be back in our apartments we've come to call home.
Late Saturday night Sharon and I went to the airport with Christy to pick up Rose and Nikki. When we got them settled into their hostel we were bombarded with wonderful gifts from home. The chocolate fix could not have come at a better time! After church on Sunday Bryan and I took Rose and Nikki to Old Quito to walk around and see the Basillica. Later that night the Trinity crew and Christy went out for dinner. All in all it was a very nice day and we're glad they made it here safely.
March 10, 2011
I Survived Carnival Weekend in Banos
I'm proud to give you the greatly anticipated update from our trip to Banos. As you may recall from my last post, Banos is a tourist town in the jungle that is popular for its hot springs (hence the name banos or "bathroom" in English).
Our group of 11 headed out early Sunday morning in order to make it to the bus terminal for our 10:20 departure. What should have been a 3 hour bus ride turned into a 5 hour trip due to every getting out of the city for the holiday weekend. After a late lunch/early dinner we walked around the cute little town only to be bombarded with the traditional Carnival celebration of spray foam, water balloons, and buckets of water. Apparently 11 Americans make for a great target! Needless to say, we all had fun and enjoyed spraying the Ecuadorians right back! We ended our first night in Banos by taking a Chiva (tour) bus up the mountain to see the volcano called Tungurahua. Unfortunately it was very cloudy out and we were unable to see the volcano but did get a great view of the beautiful city.
Monday morning we slept in a little and had breakfast at the house we were staying in. We then all piled into a truck taxi and headed up to Pailon del Diablo (Devil's Canyon) where you can hike up to see a phenomenal waterfall there. The ride there was so much fun... definitely not something you can do on a regular basis in the States! Three people rode in the cab of the truck and the other six were in the bed. Once we finally arrived at Pailon del Diablo, we had to hike about 30 minutes to get to the base of the waterfall. Once at the base, you can climb (on hands and knees) up through this little cave and stand behind the waterfall (and get drenched). Being fairly tall and not very flexible made it difficult to make it through the little space but it was well worth it in the end!
I think I can safely speak for the entire group that it was breathtaking to see God's power in the waterfall! God never ceases to amaze me each morning I wake up to the sun shining brightly and when I feel like I'm about ready to pass out from walking up the giant hills of Quito. After our little hike we rode back into town (this time in the back of a cattle truck) and found a place to grab lunch. After lunch myself and four other students found a place to rent ATVs and rode them up a path near to the volcano.
Liga! Liga! Liga!
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Though this week started out with me having a cold, it sure didn't slow me down!
Working at Alliance continues to go well. I am learning a lot and love being able to apply all I've learned over the past two years. Next week, the students (as well as I) don't have school. This weekend is the celebration of Carnival, and according to my research (which may be slightly incorrect), Carnival is a celebration of when many countries of the world were founded. It is a huge deal here and is celebrated over the long weekend (Friday to Tuesday)! Many people will dress up in costumes and carry flags around (as well as many other things that are not "living above reproach").
The study abroaders and I will be taking a little vacation to a touristy jungle town called Banos (not to be confused with the bathroom). We will be staying in the house of a lady Liz's host family has connections with (it's all about networking, my friends) and are planning on staying 1-2 nights. There are many activities to do: hiking, horseback riding, ATV/dirt biking, bun-gee jumping, and relaxing in the hot springs. Everything is incredibly cheap, so I'm sure we'll take advantage of as much as we can! Banos is about 2 ½ hours away by bus. The amazing Bryan Cole and Chelsey Brunt went to the station early yesterday morning in order to buy our tickets for us so we are guaranteed a seat on the way there.
On Tuesday after school, Bryan came to visit my family and me. We had a typical Ecuadorian/Colombian snack of bread, cheese, and hot chocolate (it may sound gross, but it's an amazing combination!). It was a fun-filled hour of all Spanish (little which was spoken by me of course). With only a week left of living in our home-stays, there are many mixed emotions. I think I can safely say for all of the students this has been an experience of a life-time. Some have had a harder time adjusting (including me) because of the language barrier and simply living in a stranger's home. During this time I have learned how extremely important communication is and how frustrating it can be when you don't speak the same language as someone. I am very grateful for the family I was placed with and their patience during this difficult time in my life. I hope God will continue to bless them as they have been a blessing in my life. With all that being said, I'm very ready to move back into the apartment and live with six crazy girls (I even miss the dog kennel place next to us, and that's saying a lot)!
On Thursday night, we experienced the cultural event of a lifetime! All study abroad students as well as some of our family members attended a liga (soccer) game verses the Argentinean team. Now, I like watching sports, but for the life of me I can't figure out the rules of soccer (there are just too many complicated ones as far as I'm concerned). Ecuadorians (like most South American countries) love their soccer. People go absolutely crazy! There was one section in the stadium where (very intoxicated) people were lighting sparklers and jumping up and down and singing most of the game. While I love to see their passion for the sport, I also prefer responsible passion. We all enjoyed cheering for liga and jumping up and down, and agreed that next time (if there is one) we'll print out the lyrics to the songs they were singing so we can fully participate.
Friday night I had the privilege of celebrating my host parents’ 30th wedding anniversary. We met about 30 people from their church at a nicer restaurant not too far away. After cheek kissing everyone already there, we sat down and listened to all the great things the congregation had to say about their pastor and his wife. Though I didn't understand most of it, I could tell that many people's lives have been touched by the Rubio's ministry. A mariachi band performed for about 20 minutes as our food was being served. We got a huge plate filled with steak, chicken, sausage, coleslaw, and a baked potato. I've never seen that much meat served on one plate at the same time! Needless to say, none of us left the restaurant hungry. I felt very honored to be considered part of their family and to have the privilege of celebrating this milestone with them.
Today, my family took me to see the Equator. I had been once before at the beginning of the semester but had forgotten my camera (blonde moment, I know). Because they had nothing else planned for the Carnival weekend, they thought it'd be fun to take me there again so I could have plenty of pictures! Because it was Carnival weekend, there were many people there, as well as a little parade. There were men and women dressed in traditional Ecuadorian dress dancing around as well as a group of extremely-talented percussionists who gave a performance. On our way back, we stopped at a little shop and had Ecuadorian ice cream (different than ice cream in the States but equally as good) and empanadas. Delicious! I'm definitely going to miss all the amazing food when I get back to the States!
Looking forward to relaxing and having a blast the rest of this weekend. Can't wait to share with you my experience in Banos! Oh, and T-minus three days until the Backstreet Boys come to Quito!