My Journey in Ecuador
Goodbyes are not forever. Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I'll miss you until we meet again."--Author unknown
After a very long bus ride back from the beach (9 hours), we had much to do in a 24-hour period as some of us were getting ready to head back to our homes in the United States. Last minute packing and souvenir shopping as well as cleaning our apartments consumed that short amount of time. Our last night together in Quito was spent at the Jensen's house eating one last amazing meal Marlo cooked for us. This night was incredibly bittersweet for us as we don't know when we would see each other again and just remembering all the good times we've had. After dinner we watched a slideshow Bryan made overlooking the semester. It was awesome to see how far we've come from that first day of orientation at Christy's house. Memories came pouring in of some of the awesome things we did. For example: zip-lining in Mindo in the pouring rain for 3 hours, straddling two hemispheres at once at Mitad del Mundo (middle of the world), home-stays, getting foamed at Banos for Carnival weekend, our missions experience in Misahualli, and last but not least debrief in Same. This, of course, is just a few of the many things we experienced over the semester.
Friday morning we got up early to say goodbye to the Cornerstone students as well as Caleb. Watching the car pull away was hard but knowing this isn't the last time we will see each other made it a little easier. This was only the first of many goodbyes as I was the last one to leave the beautiful city of Quito. Later that night we said another goodbye as Sharon (Trinity) was off for her long trip back to the States. There is no better way to drown your sorrows than by eating McDonald's and watching movies at Christy's house until you fall asleep.
Saturday morning we hosted some semi-unexpected guests who are in town for a Youth World wedding this coming weekend. The apartment was once again filled with craziness with 5 new girls and it seemed like the semester was back in full swing! With it being the last day in town, Liz and I found ourselves doing last minute packing and our portion of the cleaning. Before we knew it, it was time to bring Liz to the airport. And then there was one. Seeing Liz leave brought my own emotions up as I knew in a little more than 12 hours I would be the one in her position. Leaving Liz behind at the airport was very sad as I realized that yes, this is really happening and we're all not leaving for a weekend get-away and will be back in a few days.
Sunday morning came very quickly, and it was finally my turn to go to the airport. As one last hurrah I finished packing without electricity and was out the door in no time. The car ride went by way too fast and before I knew it, I was saying goodbye to the people as well as the city I've grown to know and love. After some confusion in the Quito airport, crying for a good 45 minutes at the gate, and 10 long hours of traveling, I finally made it home to CO and was greeted by my loving parents.
Getting readjusted to the American culture has been difficult but good. I'll never take the luxuries of being able to flush toilet paper down the toilet, continuous hot water showers, and clean water from the tap again! Not being the tallest one around for miles and being able to understand everything being said to me has been awesome! As I continue in this "fun" stage and move on to the other stages of readjusting, I hope I can apply the things I've learned over the past 3 months.
Thank you again for all your support over the last 3 months. It has certainly been a journey I will never forget and I know God will use it for greatness not only in my life but also in the lives of others.
April 21, 2011
Wow, these last few weeks have been a whirlwind of events! If you remember from my last post, we got back from the jungle and less than 24 hours later we were on another bus headed to the coast for four days. Sunday night what we thought would be a relatively "speedy" bus ride turned into nine hours. After a long night and finally arriving at 7:30 am, we ate some breakfast and then slept for a few hours before hitting the waves.
We spent a lot of time having fun but we also talked about how we've grown (spiritually, emotionally, physically) over the semester. It was amazing to see all that God has done not only in our own lives but also in the lives of my new friends. Each person has been a blessing in my life in one way or another and for that I am truly thankful to God. I know He placed them in my life for a reason and I'm so glad we were able to share this experience together. These last few days in Quito are bittersweet as I've come to love so many things about this city. Most of the students are leaving tomorrow which means today is very busy spending time packing and doing last-minute things as the community we have built. I would not change anything for the opportunities I've had here for the world and am very thankful for all the support I've gotten from my family and friends.
Please pray for safety as we will all be traveling back to the States in the next few days. Pray that our re-entry will go smoothly as it will take us some time to maybe not completely fit back into the culture we came from. Pray that our fruits we have learned here may be brought into our new life, wherever that may take us.
Thank you for taking time to follow me in my journey and I look forward to talking to each and every one of you more when I return. May God continue to bless you as you have been a blessing in my life.
April 16, 2011
We safely made it back from the jungle yesterday afternoon and haven't had a chance to slow down since then! Here is a quick overview of what our experience was like!
This past week the Semester Abroad students and staff took a missions experience to Misahualli, Ecuador, a small town in the jungle (about four hours from Quito). While there we worked with an organization called “It’s all about Jungle Kids.” The organization was started a few years ago by a missionary couple, Roberto and Charmai, who felt God calling them to help care for and educate kids in the jungle. With three children of their own and no school nearby, they decided to home school their children as well as start a boarding school for students in the area. Roberto is very involved with their church as well as working with other remote communities in the jungle. Through this, Roberto and Charmai ended up basically adopting a number of children who had been abandoned by their mothers because they weren’t able to take care of them. There are eleven children all together living with Robert and Charmai. There are two missionary teachers who are teaching the students who range from kindergarten to sixth grade.
Each morning we had the opportunity of serving Roberto and Charmai by helping out with some work that needed to be done on their property. As their organization is growing, they are running out of space to house the students and missionary teachers as well as their own family. They are in the very beginning stages of building a new boarding house so we were able to help out with that a little bit. Because their property is in the jungle and very open, it is hard for them keep other people from wandering in and stealing work tools, fruit, etc. Our team helped out by making huge concrete posts in order for a door to be placed at both entrances. Though the work was very difficult to do in the heat and humidity, we were able to complete the tasks set before us. Each student brought their strengths to the group, whether it was doing more of the physical labor or simple tasks such as getting supplies, holding things until they were needed, or encouraging others in their work.
Due to hurting my back before leaving for the jungle, I was unable to do most of the harder physical labor. Instead I was able to help out at the school doing a number of different things including helping the older students study for their math midterm as well as grading the tests once they were taken and helping the younger students during their ESL class. Though I was upset I wasn’t able to work with my friends, I loved building relationships with the students and learning more about their stories. I also had the opportunity to talk to one of the teachers and learn more about why he felt called to leave his life behind in the States and come serve a jungle community.
After each morning of physical labor, we had the opportunity of going into a smaller community and lead a vacation Bible school program. Our team separated into groups and each took on a task to lead. Liz and I were put in charge of leading the crafts for the kids. As a group, we decided on the topic of the Prodigal Son with each day focusing on a different character of the story. We started out the program by singing a few songs in Spanish and then performing a short drama to get the kids thinking. The kids then broke into three groups based on their ages and rotated to games, a Bible lesson, or crafts. The first day was a little rough, as we had no idea what to expect. After getting a feel of the group dynamics and having a little better idea of what was going on, things ran smoothly and the kids seemed learn and really appreciate the time we spent with them. We ended the program with more songs (the only three we knew in Spanish) and playing/watching an intense soccer game.
The last full day in the jungle we took about a thirty-minute canoe ride to a remote community where we only had fifteen students. The team had decided on which day we were going to repeat and instead of having the students break into groups we did one big group. I enjoyed having the smaller group because I was able to see the program as a whole instead of just from the perspective of crafts. The smaller group felt more intimate as we had one adult per kid. After the program, we were able to talk with the teacher (the VBS program was put on during school hours) as well as Roberto and find out a little more about the community. We learned that many of the kids are malnourished because there simply isn’t enough food and the parents don’t make enough money to feed all of their kids. At the age of twelve or thirteen, many of the girls are married off and have multiple kids by their late teens. Roberto and Charmai are in the process of adopting a few kids from that community because their mothers were too young to take care of them. It was heartbreaking to hear about the dynamic of community and that it’s a never-ending cycle. Roberto and Charmai hope to get a few missionaries in the community to help out in the school and with the people as a whole.
After getting back from our last day of VBS, we rented some tubes and rode down the river. It was quite the experience as there were about fifteen of us going. There were some points during our trip were we had to be careful because of the rapids and a few people flipped over but otherwise we all made it. We stopped in the middle of the trip to take a little climb up to see an amazing waterfall. It was incredible to see the beauty God has created for us that we don't even know exists! I am continuously amazed everyday of how incredibly beautiful this country is.
This missions experience was like one I’ve never had and was very eye opening. It made me fall more in love with the country of Ecuador and working with indigenous communities. I was able to talk to Roberto a little more about “It’s all about Jungle Kids” and found out there are in the process of looking for a few more teachers for their school. It was very encouraging and powerful to hear Robert and Charmai’s story and to see the passion they have for these kids as well as the community. The needs in the community are great but little by little their organization is making a huge difference. Will I find myself working in this community in the near future? Not sure, but I'd be more than willing to serve there if that's where God is calling me.
I cannot believe the semester has come to an end, and it's almost time to go back to the U.S. I know this will not be my last trip to Ecuador but for now it's time to say ciao.
28 days until graduation!
April 6, 2011
Where to begin...
I realize now that waiting almost two weeks to write my next post probably wasn't the smartest thing, but I will do my best to update you as best as possible. Here we go!
At the beginning of last week I spent recovering from our climb up Pichincha the weekend before.
This past Sunday the study abroad students had the privilege of going to Brad and Sandi Miller's (Youth World missionaries) house for a very late brunch. The food was amazing and the fellowship was pretty good too. Phil Payne (the director of semester abroad) safely arrived in Quito for a few weeks so we were able to catch him up on all that has happened in the last few months. Monday and Tuesday night were crazy as we had people over for dinner. Tuesday night was very special as we had my roommate Chelsea's host parents over for pizza. Gus and Vero (Veronica) are two of the most incredible, godly people I have met since my time in Quito (and believe me, I have met a ton). They are not able to have children of their own but have an incredible passion for hosting college students studying in Quito. After much food, many laughs, and a Liga game, Gus sat us all down and gave a little goodbye speech (all in Spanish of course). There wasn't a dry eye from the students (though some probably wouldn't admit to it) as we look back on the incredible ten weeks we've been here and the people who have shaped this experience. After wiping the tears away, Gus and Vero presented each of us with little gifts: matching Liga bracelets and Spanish bookmarks with Bible verses on them. "Si ustedes creen, recibirán todo lo que pidan en oración." "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." --Mt. 21:22 Amen!
This week is my last at my internship at Alliance. I didn't realize how bittersweet this week would be. I have learned so much since being at Alliance and have met some incredible people. I was able to take a picture with the social skills group I co-led with my supervisor. I have to admit I almost lost it when one of the students (who I also see on a weekly basis for individual counseling) ended the group in prayer, thanking God for sending me to Alliance to help them learn. How precious! I will dearly miss these students and wish them the best as they continue their education at Alliance (or wherever the Lord leads them).
The students and staff at Alliance have taught me many things, especially when it comes to different cultures. I appreciate having the experience of working in such a diverse school. Though I by no means completely understand the culture, I know enough to appreciate it in the event I work with the Latin American population in the future. I think the biggest thing I will miss about Alliance is the group of Ecuadorian women I have been eating lunch with. They did an amazing job of making me feel welcomed and including me in their conversations... even though they were usually in Spanish and I sometimes couldn't understand! I know these last three weeks will be very emotional as I prepare to say goodbye to a country I've grown to deeply care about!
This Sunday starts two weeks of craziness as we will be in the jungle for six days, be back in Quito for 24 hours, and then head to the coast for four days to debrief. While in the jungle town of Mishuallí we will be leading a three day vacation Bible school for the kids. Please pray we may remember the true reason for us being there--to serve God and His people! It is very easy for us to get caught up in making sure everything runs smoothly and that we receive satisfaction from the work we are doing while bringing as many people to Christ as possible but at the end of the day, that's not why we are here. Also pray for safety and health (especially with my unknown kidney problem) not only for those of us going on this missions experience but for the people of Mishuallí.
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!
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!
All grown up
Monday, January 31, 2011
Today was my first day at Alliance Academy, where I will be interning while in Quito. I woke up this morning with butterflies in my stomach (especially since I didn't really have any idea what to expect)! Bryan walked me over to Alliance and got me introduced to Rachel, the head counselor, and some of the other staff members. The first part of the day Rachel and I talked about what section of students I would be interested in working with (if you don't remember, Alliance is a K-12 school) and a tentative schedule for the semester. After lunch, I shadowed the counselor of the elementary school and observed some students. Recently, a few students have been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. If you don't know, Asperger's is an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social action, etc. Many of the teachers at Alliance were taught how to handle having children with Asperger's in their class. Part of my job is to research more about Asperger's and give suggestions to the teachers to make the students time at Alliance as successful as possible. I recently read a book based on a teenager with Asperger's so I'm very excited to do more research on the topic!
Though I loved all the adventures we had last week, I'm looking forward to having a more consistent schedule (those who know me well know that I love having a consistent schedule). My fellow classmates took an adventure to their first Spanish class without me. We are continuously learning different things about one another and have grown closer as a community.
A leap of faith
Friday, January 28, 2011
Today we went to a place called El Refugio, about an hour north of Quito. El Refugio is a place where groups can go to use adventure and nature programs to focus on leadership, team building, missions, and spiritual formation. We did a lot of team building activities which helped build communication skills, patience, etc. The most challenging part of the day was when I attempted to climb Jacob's Ladder. In this activity, you and a partner climb a life-sized ladder where each rung gets further apart. It is a lot harder than you may think, let me tell you! After watching 3 other groups, Bryan (one of the Youth World leaders) and I decided to take our turn. We made it about half way through before our time was up. Bryan had done this activity several times before, so I had to trust him with what he was telling me to do. My whole body is now incredibly sore!
We ended our time at El Refugio with a hot dog roast, s'mores, and an Ecuadorian delicacy... guinea pig. It was quite the experience and one I don't think I need to try again. After El Refugio, we went to the Equator, which was cold and rainy! I was in two hemispheres at once; how crazy is that?!?
We then walked around the plaza and looked at the beautiful artwork provided by the locals. Today was a good day and a great way to continue getting to know my new "family" for the next three months. It is my prayer that we continue to become stronger as a group. I know God has put this group of people in my life for a reason and I can't wait to see what He has in store for me!
Living and Learning
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
It's been a few day since my last post, so I figured I should get you all updated!
Yesterday we spent most of the day learning more about the program and how to safely live in the city. Today we went on a little walking tour around the city and saw some of the important places where we will be spending our time here. Walking here gives you quite the workout! I should be quite fit the next time you see me. We also learned how to call a cab, though I haven't been brave enough to try it out yet.
Today we went to a cafe in the plaza by our apartment. For a majority of us, ordering our first meal in Spanish was painful to hear (or maybe it was just me)! It was quite an overwhelming experience, but one that should feel more comfortable soon.
Tonight we went to Matt and Marlo's house for some delicious lasagna and intense games. Let's just say I will enjoy Wednesday nights at their house! I look forward to building new relationships with each of the people here. It is my prayer to grow closer to them as well as God. I was just telling a friend from home earlier tonight that I know God put me here for a reason and I wouldn't trade this experience for the world!
Monday, January 24, 2011
Well, after about 12 hours of traveling, I've finally arrived in Quito! Thanks to all of you have been praying for safe travels! I am feeling very blessed to be here right now. We were warmly greeted (with huge welcome signs) by the Semester in Ecuador staff and feel right at home. The apartment we are staying in is very nice and spacious. There is a group of girls from Cornerstone in Michigan who are also staying with us. We are all very excited to get to know each other over the next three months.
Tomorrow and the rest of the week we will be traveling to different parts of the city and getting to know the layout better. I received an email today from the lady from Alliance Academy International (AAI), whom I will be working with. It sounds like I will mostly be working with the elementary students but will also have an opportunity to work with the middle and high school students. It is my prayer that they will adjust to me, as well as me adjusting to them and their culture. Now that I know more of what I'll be doing, I am even more excited (and a little nervous) to get started!
P.S. The weather is fantastic (not to brag or anything)!
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Today is the day before I leave for Ecuador. Oh my goodness! Is this really happening? There are so many emotions going through my head right now. I haven't felt this excited, nervous, and at peace at the same time in a while. Even though I'm mostly packed, (yes, I spent ALL day yesterday packing and unpacking things that needed to be repacked) I don't think the whole situation will fully sink in until I've safely arrived in Quito.
In the past week, I've been able to say, "See you in three months," to many of my friends in Chicago and Denver, whom I know will be praying and emotionally supporting me every step of the way. Many conversations ended in hugs and plenty of tears, but I know this is an once-in-a-lifetime experience that will greatly impact me as a person and in my career. I don't think I can thank and tell my family and friends enough times how much I truly appreciate each and every one of them, and would not be the person I am today without them!
If you have been following this journey already, I ask that you pray for safe travels, not only for me, but for my friends and other students who will be traveling with me. Pray that we might have a peace about the work we will be doing and the information we will be learning. May all of it be pleasing to the Lord who has graciously brought us here!
The first of many
Thursday, January 20, 2011
I've never blogged before, so please bear with me! As many of you already know, I will be spending the spring semester of my senior year studying abroad in Quito, Ecuador. While in Quito, I will be doing my internship at Alliance Academy, a K-12 missionary school. I will be doing some sort of school counseling am very excited to see what God has in store for me! I will be gone January 24 through April 24. I know this experience will be challenging emotionally and spiritually, but it is one of a lifetime and wouldn't be possible without my family and friends supporting me every step of the way! For God and all of my supporters I am extremely grateful!