My Journey in Ecuador - February
Adventures in La Ronda
Monday, February 28, 2011
Saturday morning/early afternoon was spent soaking up some rays while watching Chelsey and Stacy play in the Quito Cup at Alliance. Not only were we able to watch some intense games of soccer, but we were also able to spend some time laughing and joking around with other North Americans (mostly a part of Youth World).
After a majority of the soccer game, I had the privilege of going to Old Quito with Liz, Sharon, and their host-moms (who happen to be sisters). Talk about entertainment! Those ladies are a hoot and there was never a dull moment! We walked around quite a bit and stopped in a huge craft store. Since I actually have free time for once (crazy, I know), I decided it was about time to start working on a crocheting project (not to mention take advantage of the insanely good prices).
Liz, Sharon, and I paid $0.75 to go to a cultural museum. Liz was our tour guide, seeing how she has the most Spanish knowledge. The museum was interesting but I don't feel the need to ever visit again. After a late snack of empanadas and cafe con leche, we headed back to their house. Later that evening, Liz and I met up with Stacy, Megan, and their host-families (also related) to visit a little place called La Ronda. La Ronda is a 3-4 block historical section of Old Quito that has many shops, restaurants, and karaoke bars. There are people everywhere, but the environment is awesome! We had a group of about 15 people (ironically Stacy and Megan's families look very North American but are completely Ecuadorian) and the night was filled with tons of laughter!
Sunday I went to church (Reformed, no less) with Liz, Lili, and Melba. Between Sunday school and the service, we were there for about four hours (that is too much Spanish for my poor little brain)! After lunch, we relaxed and ended the evening at a youth group night for the English church. Though Liz, Sharon, and I are past our high school days, we still had a great time getting to know a very diverse group of students.
Today (Monday), my morning started out great with my alarm not going off. There is no better way to start out the week than getting ready in about 20 minutes! Not exactly how I envisioned starting my morning, but I survived. I received my second grad school rejection letter, this time from the University of Illinois--Urbana Champaign. While this is very disappointing, I decided this past week to surrender it all to God. There is no point in worrying about something that is out of my control. God has a plan for me after graduation; I just wish I knew what it was. Not everyone is fortunate enough to spend a semester of a life-time in Ecuador so I better enjoy it while I still can!
Please continue to pray for me, as well as the other students, as we share this experience together. Though I can only speak for myself, this has been a life-changing experience and one I will never forget! May God give me (as well as others) a peace about the future!
They are Precious in His Sight
Friday, February 25, 2011
During our History, Politics, Culture & Missions class today, we visited Museo de San Diego (not to be confused with the San Diego in CA). Our tour guide is a teacher at Alliance and has an incredible passion for the history of Quito. She gave the whole tour in Spanish, so I apologize in advance if any of my information is incorrect.
From what I gathered, our tour guide is very familiar with the museum and staff, and used that to our advantage to get us into places that are normally off limits. The museum started out as a monastery and part of it was converted into a museum. We were able to see the area where mass is held. Though the decorations were very gaudy, in my opinion, there was also something very beautiful about them. The entire monastery used to have beautiful murals painted everywhere, but several hundred years ago an epidemic came through that area and there was speculation that if your walls were painted white, you'd be able to see the germs on the walls--no es verdad (not true). The monastery is in the process of restoring the walls, but it is extremely expensive. While it was very interesting to learn more history of Quito, after two hours straight of Spanish my brain was fried and I was ready to give it a little break.
After class, Liz, Sharon, and I went over to the missionary hospital to sit with a toddler recovering from pneumonia and surgery. Karla is living in the orphanage in Shell (a town near the jungle) with her four-year-old sister because their mom is currently in jail. Karla and her sister were found alone in their house very malnourished. Karla is a year-and-a-half but has the motor skills of a new born and the body size of a seven or eight month old. Because she is so young, someone needs to be in the hospital with her 24/7. That is a huge responsibility for one person, so many people from Youth World have taken turns sitting with her. Though I only sat with Karla for a few hours, I instantly fell in love! She is a very precious girl who deserves to have a good home. Hopefully she will be released from the hospital soon. It is my hope and prayer this precious child of God will find a loving family to take care of her (if it weren't for her current condition I just might have left with her, just kidding)!
Looking forward to another weekend in Quito! Some of our students are participating in the Quito Cup (soccer tournament) tomorrow. As always, I will be there to support them and get some of that great Quito sun!
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
This week started out a little rough for me. Here is a little background story before I continue to the point.
As many of you may already know, I am graduating from Trinity in May (in less than three months to be exact) with a degree in Social Work. As you may also know, it is pretty common for social workers to go on and get their master’s degree to concentrate on a specific area within social work. This past summer, I did a lot of thinking and praying and decided going to graduate school was something I could accomplish and would be very beneficial for my career. As the fall semester started, I did some research on MSW programs and narrowed my options to three schools: UIC (University of IL, Chicago), U of I in Urbana-Champaign, and DU (Denver University). In the midst of a busy semester and preparing for Ecuador, I sent my applications in early December. Feeling very good about my applications, the only thing I could do was wait patiently and focus on an amazing semester in Quito!
Well friends, back to my point. During my weekly Skype chat with my parents this past Sunday, I received my first grad school rejection letter from DU. While I knew it was a long shot of getting in (and there is no way I would ever be able to afford tuition), I was still very disappointed with the news. I had been joking around how I secretly hoped I only got accepted into one school so my decision would be that much easier for me. I never thought it would actually come true! While I still am waiting to hear back from two schools, I have been doing a lot of thinking and praying (and of course a lot of worrying) about my future. While one door has closed, I know God will open another door for me (I just wish I knew where it is leading to)! I just have to LET GO and TRUST in what He has planned for my life. I don't know about you, but letting go and trusting are probably two of the things I struggle with the most in my walk with Christ. As Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in ALL your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Okay God, please help me to surrender all to you each and every day! I can't do it without your help!
The rest of this week, I have been busy at Alliance. Tuesday, I had the privilege of watching a traditional Ecuadorian ceremony (unfortunately I don't remember the name) that happens once a year in schools all over the country. During this ceremony, 6th and 12th grade students show their honor to their country by pledging their allegiance and kissing a flag (instead of kissing the flag, the non-Ecuadorian students pledged their allegiance and placed a rose in a vase). Most of the time I had no idea what was going on since the ceremony was in Spanish but I still felt honored to be a part of this very special occasion for the students.
Though I was busy this week, I managed to spend a good amount of time with some of my fellow classmates. Wednesday nights are always a highlight in the week as we are all able to get together for an amazing dinner and Bible study at the Jensen's house. There isn't anything better than fun, food and fellowship with an amazing group of people! Last week, about half of our students got sick (from eating what, who knows) but it looks like after almost a week of recovering they are all doing much better. In the upcoming two months hopefully we can all stay healthy!
Chocolate cake and hot tea
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Friday, we, yet again, had a cultural experience for lunch. This time we decided to try Korean food. Because it was such a beautiful day out, I decided to walk (and save money by not taking a cab) from my host family's house to meet everyone else (minus the three who were feeling sick) at Youth World. While it seems like a short journey by car, my walk ended up being a good 40 minutes! After we got in the car, I asked Marlo (Youth World staff) where exactly this place was. Turns out this restaurant is run by a family in their house, kiddy-corner from my host family's house! I walked all the way only to end up exactly where I started! I guess it was worth the exercise anyway!
We were all very glad to have Sharon with us since the menus were in Korean (I can barely handle English and Spanish, there's no way I can add Korean in there)! We started the meal out with traditional Korean appetizers (though I have no idea what they were called). Liz and I decided to share a noodle dish with vegetables in it and an egg on top (I, of course, did not eat the egg. Having an egg for breakfast almost every morning is more than enough for me). The dish was different than I expected... apparently, most of their noodle dishes are cold and their vegetables are way different than what we use in the United States. I may be willing to try Korean food again, but not for a while anyway! Because lunch took longer than we expected, we ended up being almost an hour late for our History and Culture of Ecuador class! Good thing Marlo's married to the professor! After class, we all hung out in the apartment like the good old days when we weren't in our home-stays. A small group of us finished out the night watching Tarzan at Bryan's house; you can never go wrong with a great Disney film!
Saturday, we were supposed to climb Mount Pichincha, but due to low clouds it wouldn't be safe for us to go. We're hoping to try again next weekend. The TCC girls (Sharon, Liz, Chelsey, and myself) went to Parque Carolina (a nearby park) and walked around for almost two hours... that's how big this park is! There were so many families there, but it was great to get a different cultural view of the city. We then walked over to El Jardin (one of the nicer malls in Quito) and did a little exploring. Clothing in Quito is very expensive because most of it is imported, so we just window shopped. While sitting in the food court taking a rest, we decided to go to SuperMaxi (grocery store) and pick up some Mac 'n Cheese (with salchechas or hot dogs), salad, and bread to have for dinner. Turns out it might be better for next time to spend the extra dollar on the Kraft brand of Mac 'n Cheese instead of trying the store brand. Oh, the lessons you learn while shopping in a foreign country! After much laughter, we ended the night by going over to Christy's house to watch a rather depressing movie called Remember Me. None of us has seen it before otherwise we may not have chosen to watch it.
Today (Sunday), I went to church with my host family. We continued the sermon series on the Fruits of the Spirit. This week we had a guest pastor who was much harder to follow than last week. Fortunately, I know Galatians 5:22-23 pretty well, because I couldn't follow most of what was being said! For lunch today we had grilled chicken, rice, and some sort of vegetable salad. To top it off, we had an amazing piece of chocolate cake and hot tea (hence, the title of this blog post). Though this week was very fun and relaxing, I'm looking forward to a new week at Alliance.
Please continue to pray for me and the other students as we still may be adjusting to our home-stays. Pray that we continue to be open-minded about learning a new culture and pushing ourselves in our Spanish over the next three weeks. Also pray for health as this past week almost half of the students were not feeling well (most likely because of something they ate). Because we are in our home-stays, it is even harder to watch what we put in our stomachs, especially as we don't want to offend our families. After this semester we'll have stomachs of steel!
Thursday, February 17, 2011
You would think that being here in Quito with absolutely no homework to do would mean I'd have plenty of time to update my blog every day, right? Wrong! So... here is a quick overview of the past 4 days.
Monday was the celebration of El Dia del Amor y Amistad (aka Valentine's Day). It was also the start of Spiritual Emphasis Week for the middle and high school students at Alliance. The main verse of the week was from Deuteronomy 6:5 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." What a great verse! The pastor from the local English Fellowship Church gave a short "sermon" each day. We had the privilege of having Dave the Horn Guy (from Canada) lead us in worship. During the worship time, a group of students walked across the stage holding pieces of cardboard with different sayings on them. For example, on the front one said "My dad passed away from cancer..." and the back said "...but I have found comfort from my heavenly Father." Wow. How powerful is that?? I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't a dry eye in the room (I know mine weren't)!
After school, I went out for dinner with my two valentines (and roommates), Liz and Sharon. After the last two difficult days, I needed to spend some time with my dear friends. We ate American food in the food court (not McDonalds but still a hamburger) of one of the malls and treated ourselves to some delicious ice cream. I can't picture a better way of spending El Dia del Amor y Amistad!
Tuesday I was at Alliance as usual and had a lunch date with Christy. I look forward to these times each week and am so glad she has become a part of my life! In Ecuador (as well as many other Latin American countries) it is typical to not have dinner until much later in the evening. Now as a student of Trinity for the past four years, my body has become trained to crave food by 5 p.m. so waiting to eat until 9 p.m. has been a struggle for me. I must say the wait is well worth it as my host mom cooks amazing Colombian and Ecuadorian food!
Wednesday night is the night our group gets together for Bible study. It's also the night we eat the best because a) we're not cooking and b) everything Marlo cooks is amazing! Since he was in town, Dave the Horn Guy gave a little concert for students, teachers, and their families at Alliance. Dave is a very talented person (I'm sure you can find some of his work on YouTube). Though the concert was geared more towards younger children and their families, we still had a really good time. It was great to all be together again and share what our last few days away had been like!
Today (Thursday) was a very cold and rainy day! I have not missed being in the States with the snow and cold weather! It will be very hard to go back to that!! Though it was a great week, I am looking forward to the weekend and the many adventures ahead!
Through Christ Who Strengthens Me
Sunday, February 13, 2011
These last two days have been a roller coaster of emotion. As you may remember, yesterday was our first day of four-week home-stays. I have to admit, yesterday morning was pretty rough for me (a few tears were indeed shed). I've never done a home-stay before and had no idea what to expect. No amount of preparation can fully prepare you for an experience like this!
I have to admit the Youth World staff did an amazing job of pairing each of us up with a loving family who want nothing but the best experience for us! I'm trying my hardest to listen and understand what is being said to me, but it's a lot of work for my poor little brain. I know this is the best way to learn Spanish, but I wish it was easier (like it would just magically pop into my brain). I want nothing more than to be partially fluent in Spanish after this experience. The likelihood of that happening in three months would be a miracle, but I feel it is something I can accomplish (with a lot of time and patience) and would be very beneficial for my career.
I appreciate the continuous thoughts and prayers, and thank God for your support each day!
I’ve run out of catchy titles (not that they were catchy to begin with)
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
I realized I've been slacking off on my every-other-day posts so here's a recap of the last four days!
Sunday we went to church for the first time in Quito (last week we were in El Refugio worshipping with the Youth World staff). A group of us decided to check out an English church not too far away. It was very comforting to be in a familiar environment. My goal is to push myself to attend more Spanish church services than English church services; we'll see how I feel about that later on in the semester!
Since the Super Bowl just happened to fall on my birthday, we had a combined party. Watching (and by watching, I mean background noise) the game in a different language was interesting – not the same when they don't play the great commercials! I must admit the half-time show was the best part of the game (sorry for you all actual sports fans)! The lovely Christy Stumbo baked a confetti cake for my special occasion. Needless to say, this birthday will be one to remember (especially since I wore a ‘Dora the Explorer’ Feliz Cumpleanos hat most of the day), and I'm very grateful for the people who made it special.
Monday was another day back at Alliance. I'm finally getting settled into the routine of things. It amazes me how much I'm actually applying what I've learned over the last three years! I think I kind of like it! I'm still getting plenty of advice from my social work peers here, as well as my professors, but I'm doing it. I was able to sit in on an ADHD testing which was very intriguing. I tried analyzing one of the pictures the student drew, except that the only book available was in Spanish. Needless to say, I didn't get very far, but I learned some new vocab words. For dinner we decided to “visit” Italy and got calzones (and amazing Ecuadorian juice, of course) from a restaurant called Archies. What better way to end the night with some ice cream from Corfu!
Today I started my first social skills group (one with the 2nd graders, one with the 5th graders). This will be an 8-week activity. I'm looking forward to getting to know some of the kids on a more personal level. This coming Monday I'm hoping to start a 6-7 week focus group for middle and high school students whose parents recently divorced. I've finally finished preparing for it, now all I need is students to come to it!
Tonight we went to Matt and Marlo's for an amazing taco dinner, as well as a convicting Bible study lesson. I love being able to hear other people's view on things I never thought before. I look forward to these nights each week and pray we can grow stronger in our faith and as a community! Tonight we found out where each of us will be staying for our month-long home stays starting Saturday. I will be staying with a family who is originally from Colombia and have never had a student stay with them before. For the next month, I will be another sister to two teenagers, and the youngest actually is in 8th grade at Alliance.
Friday, February 4, 2011
I'm sitting in my apartment right now looking out the window at a picture-perfect view of the city and am speechless! I still can't really believe I'm in Ecuador right now! These past few days, I've been busy with my internship and getting into the routine of a new atmosphere, hundreds of kids running around speaking Spanish, and the fact that I now belong in the teacher's lounge instead of wondering what's inside it! I have met some really great people at Alliance and am looking forward to working with them.
Yesterday, I was able to meet up with some friends here who I knew from Denver. Judy, the mom, is teaching special education at Alliance, and her daughter Leesha is finishing up her senior year in high school. Every Thursday night Judy has six teachers from Alliance over for dinner. It was great seeing them again and being able to spend time getting to know some teachers I won't usually be working with.
Today was the first time I went to Spanish class with the other students. Getting to the school is quite the experience. We take public transportation, which is extremely crammed in the mornings. This past week and next week the students will be in an intense Spanish class for three hours in order to better prepare us for our home stays in a week. Though today was my first day in class, I didn't feel too lost. Hopefully this will continue to stay the same!
Today a group of us went out for lunch where I experienced my first almuerzo. An almuerzo is basically the special of the day and is very cheap (not to mention you get three courses, depending on where you go)! You must be careful because sometimes the food isn't properly treated. Almost all of the other students here have had the privilege of experiencing upset stomachs from eating an almuerzo (I have been very fortunate so far). Sharon and I were able to communicate via Skype with Rose and Nikki (two of our professors from Trinity). It was very nice to see them again and process some of the things that have happened so far during our trip. We all have had the opportunity to speak to our friends back home (and hear about all the snow we are missing out on), which is a huge comfort. What would we do without technology?!
I’m looking forward to a fun-filled weekend in Quito. Apparently, some of us are participating in some football tournament tomorrow. I, however, will not be one of those people!