Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Power rationing

There is a huge drought in Ecuador...the worst its been in 40 years. Apparently they don't have much elecrticity because the power plants are powered by water. They are now rationing electricity. The schedule is different every day. Some mornings we don't have it, some nights we don't. Today it went out at 3 and won't go on until 11. I am on my blackberry now which requires no electricity.

I decided I like this. Something about it brings everyone together and gets them to turn off their TV's. We all have to sit around a few candles and hang out and talk drinking our evening coffee. Tonight Rosie made colada morada. Its this hot drink that's really sweet and made with tons of fruit. Its most similar to some sort of blackberry pie filling but a little thinner. Its delicious with bread! We all played Monopoly in spanish and Katty, my 13 year old sister killed us!! I also think its funny and makes me feel like I'm in another time period to have to walk around the house carrying a candle. After losing to Monopoly I sat reading by candle light for a little. I absolutely love reading by candle light. Its warm and cozy and so comforting. There is something peaceful about it.

If this was America people would be irate! Here its definitely and inconvenience and people are a bit frustrated but its not a huge deal. Life goes on and no one acts entitled to things. They just adjust and roll with the punches. I like it. I love my family here. I love just sitting with them at night. I honestly feel so at home here and I miss it when I'm gone for a day or two traveling. I'm worried that when I go home to PA I will feel more home sick for pimampiro than I feel homesick for home coming here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Adventure to Columbia!

So i never got around to writing about this but my favorite adventure day so far was about two weeks ago. one of pauls friends, Amy, from NY came with her son Andy who is 23 for about ten days. Andy was a lot of fun and quite refreshing to be around after being her for a month and a half. I had not realized how much I missed talking about normal things like tv, music, stories about friends and just the mundane American life until andy came. It was refreshing to have American conversation.

Anyway we both decided we wanted to go to Columbia, mostly just to say that we had gone. We had a very vague idea of how to get there and no idea of what to do once we arrived. We left early, at about 8 am and got a bus headed north to tulcan. From there we did not know what to do. Once in the tulcan terminal we found a taxi and asked them to take us to the Columbian border. The border was filled with chaos and confusion. We exchanged our money and the girl who changed the money for us explained that we needed to first go to the Ecuador side and get our passports stamped, then to the Columbia side to get out passports stamped, then come back and get a taxi. I did not know which side I was even on! So we found our way to the Ecuador side and then found our way to the Columbian side, waited in numerous lines, got our stamps and headed for a taxi. The taxi driver obviously wanted to know where to go and my response was Columbia? Haha. I feared his response because I knew what it would be. “where?” I had no idea. I asked him to take us to the closest town. He took us to Impiales.

Andy and I walked around and noted how clearly different Columbia was. You could just tell there was more money in the country. The clothes was nicer, there were more stores, it was cleaner, the people were still friendly but walked a bit faster and with more purpose. You could sense that this country put a higher value on education. It was just more progressed than even an hour south into Ecuador. It was refreshing.

After walking for a bit we sat down in a nice little café and ordered lunch. I had a chicken wrap with WHITE MEAT! Oh it was fabulous. Andy had a hamburger which I was still not quite adventurous enough to try in this country. I sat contentedly with my tasty little sandwitch and enjoyed talking with my new friend. We talked about relationships, family, jobs, travel and laughed, a lot, over ridiculous college stories. After lunch we paid for our food and then looked at each other as if for the first time we both realized we had no idea what to do.

We brainstormed over possible adventures but none seemed to thrilling, and andy and I were both looking for a GOOD adventure. Columbian Coffee was the only must on my to do list and other than that I felt lost. Then, wikitravel poped into my head. I quickly found impiales on the internet on my phone in wikitravel and all it really said was there was some church that attracted lots of people near by called las lajas. It didn’t sound exciting but I figured we could give it a try seeing as we had nothing else to do. We flagged down a taxi and headed to las lajas.

Andy and I did not have any idea what we were in for. We got out of the taxi and the driver pointed us down this long path and said the church was at the bottom. We walked for about ten minutes and then finally the church broke into view. I stoped dead in my tracks. It was breathtaking. I had little to no expectations of what I would find and this was far beyond anything I could have imagined. There were doves flying everywhere. There were waterfalls. There was a beautiful river and there was this incredible cathedral that was built into the side of a mountain. When you went inside the back wall WAS the mountain. I could not believe it. Andy and I were ecstatic with our find! We kept talking about how amazing it was that we found this and how we were such good adventurers. After a few hours of walking around in awe and taking pictures we walked back up to get a taxi.

The day had been beautiful. Perfect weather really. No more than 30 seconds after we got into the taxi it started to rain. I should not say rain really, torrents of water cascaded from the heavens and pummeled the little yellow taxi. I have never seen it rain so hard since I have been here. We got out of our taxi and ran a few feet to an overhang of a store and stood under it soaking wet. Andy had to meet his mother for an appointment later so we were feeling pressed for time but I was intent on getting my coffee before we left. We ran into a little store and asked for coffee. I asked if we could get it to go. The girl said, oh yes, we have to go containers. We waited for our coffe and I was quite surprised when the girl handed me two plastic disposable cups, a baggy full of sugar and a tupperwear container that resembled a small garbage can filled with coffee all in a little black bag to go. Andy and I tried to suppress the laughter until after we paid. My giggling immediately broke into laugheter once out of the store. WHAT WAS THIS? Coffe in a mini trashcan to go haha. It clearly only added to our experience. As we got our taxi to the border I told andy this day couldn’t really get much better. But I was wrong.
Once at the border we were walking towards a taxi when two young boys, about our age, asked if we needed a taxi. I said yes and asked what it would be to the bus terminal in Tulcan. They have a reasonable price so we climbed into the back of the taxi. Now many taxis here are peoples personal cars or trucks and the outside of this car looked seemingly innocent enough. Once inside I just about died. The seats were race car seats. Everyting was bright blue. There were 5 huge pioneer speakers in the trunk, two on each of the doors, cans of Nos on the sides of the car in the front, 3 tvs that played music videos and the driver BLASTED American rap or reggetton for the whole 15 minute ride to the terminal. I have never laughed to hard. This was one pimped out taxi. So I did the only thing that is appropriate to do in situations like this. I had myself a fun little dance party haha. once in the terminal our driver insisted on opening the trunk to show us the speaker system. We thanked him, paid him, and laughed for quite a while in disbelief.

We finally got on our buss back to pimampiro, sat down still soaking wet from the rain, and opened the lid of the mini garbage can and poured ourselves some nice warm Columbian coffee. It may have been some of the best coffee I ever had. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

the crazy things that happen on halloween

Oct 31 09
Today was a ridiculously crazy day. Justin and I had been in Mindo, the cloud forest, for two days which was absolutely amazing. We rode four wheelers in the jungle for a few hours went to really amazing dinners (the best Italian food I have had in my life) and the day he left we went zip lining through the canopy. Justins flight was at 7 so we ran back after the zipline, grabbed our stuff and got on the 2 o’clock buss back to Quito which takes about 2 hours. We got to quito, grabbed a quick dinner at KFC and then took justin to the airport.
At this point I should explain that I had forgotten my wallet with my bank card in it back at pimampiro. I started out my journey with 20 dollars for 3 nights and 4 days traveling around Ecuador. Thankfully I have a fabulous boyfriend who paid for just about everything but by this point I was down to a 5 dollar bill. Justin gave me an extra 5 to make sure I could get back alright (the three hour buss ride from Quito to juncal is 3 dollars and the car from juncal to pimampiro is also 3 dollars). After taking justin to the airport I took the taxi back to the bus station and that cost me 5 dollars. I was not expecting to pay so much for the taxi. I showed up at the terminal with 5 dollars and 50 cents and no way of getting money. I was aware, but had forgotten, that this weekend was a holiday weekend for “dia de los difuntos” or day of the dead, where they bring flowers to the cemetery and honor their dead relatives. Anyway, the buss terminal was not selling tickets because the busses up till 7:30 were full (it was now 5:45) and they would open at 7:30 to buy tickets up till the last 12 o clock bus out. There were hundreds of people and the busses fun to tulcan ever half hour. I was pretty sure I was not going to make it on a bus that night. To make matters worse Quito at night is freezing, almost cold enough to snow at times, and it started pouring down rain like I have never seen it rain in Ecuador. I stood shaking at the back of the line for two hours and had not moved even an inch. I had my visa with me but hostels don’t take credit cards. I could take a taxi to a hotel and pay 50 for the night but then I would not have any money to get back to the train station or to get a buss back to pimampiro. I had to wait and hope that somehow I would get on a buss, which was looking next to impossible.
At this point Im standing in the POURING down rain and im starting to get a bit scared because I realize I am freezing, soaked, have no money and cant sleep in the buss terminal in these conditions for the night. So I did the only thing I could and started praying. I knew God couldn’t leave me in this terminal because I would have frozen to death that night. I started thinking about Gods promises about how he clothes the flowers in the field and so how will he not also take care of our needs. I immediately felt my anxiety leave me and I just told God “Well, I don’t believe you will leave me here so Im excited to see what you do with this.” I was expecting that by some miracle I would make the last 12 o’clock bus and have only standing room and have to stand for till 3 am or something like that… which would have been incredibly kind of God to allow seeing as my only need was to be out of the rain and get home before morning. I love when God works in ways I can not even imagine. I could not have even imagined how blessed I would be that night.
Literally 5 minutes after praying that, at about 7:15 (2 hours of standing in line) a man takes the place of his cousin who had been waiting in line in front of me and decided to go home and try again the next day to get a buss. He kindly offers to share his umbrella with me as it is still raining unbelievably hard and we begin to talk. He tells me his wife and two boys, 4 and 6, are waiting for him in his car and they are going to go to Ibarra. He did not want to take the car in the rain but after about 5 minutes of waiting he realized he would not get a buss. There were two girls standing behind me in line who looked about my age and he offered the three of us a ride to Ibarra.
The problem with this is that busses do not leave Ibarra after 7 so I knew id be stuck there for the night. At least id be two hours closer to home and staying where I was was not getting me anywhere. If im going to be stuck, I should at least be stuck closer to home. Diana, 24, Tania, 22 and I talked and laughed the whole ride to Ibarra. Tania gave me an extra jacket she had so I could take off my soaking wet sweater. I had never been so thankful for something warm! We played with Javier and jose the whole ride and held them on our laps. We played thumb wrestling and also the “curve” game when you go limp around curves and squish each other. Tania had lived in florida for 6 months for an exchange program and was thrilled to practice her English which was pretty good. Diana and Tania called their parents to drive two hours to get them in tulcan. They kindly offered to drive me home, but not only to juncal (which was not out of their way) but to pimampiro which would have added another hallf hour to their trip. When we got to Ibarra their dad took us all out for dinner and we arranged for me to go visit them in tulcan for the holidays. Tulcan is known for is georgeous cemetery that is more like a sculpture garden. People travel all over to go visit this cemetery and I get to go spend the day of the dead with them at this gorgeous cemetery tomorrow. We got back at 11 pm, an hour before i would have even left quito, had I made it onto the buss at all.

I was stranded quito with no money and God just provided not only a ride home but he fed me dinner, gave me something warm to wear, gave me some really great friends and a place to hang out for the holidays. I was pretty amazed and excited. It ended up being such a fun little adventure and I felt so thankful!

oct 15 09

I am starting to work with a family where the mother is abusive, the father is an alcoholic and the children are all fearful, withdrawn and feel they have no value or worth and are not loved. I have spent hours trying to find resources for the family but in this area there are few. I finally got the child a doctors appointment where they confirmed abuse and gave me an official document stating that she had been abused. I then went with the “town judge” to sit down with the family and talk. We shared with the mother that this is illegal (which she did not know because when she was bad her mother would beat her to discipline her as a child). The father desperately wants to stop drinking but feels he can not. I am starting counseling with the father this Sunday and will be working with the mother as well to help her with parenting skills and also to just talk to her about the stresses of having an alcoholic husband. (she takes her anger out on the children much of the time). I will continue to work with the little girl in school as well. There is a rehab about an hour away in Ibarra that I found that is free for its services and you can stay up to a year. I am hoping the father will consider going if I can find a way to raise the 75 dollars a month the family needs to survive without him working. I have two short months to work with this family and I am praying that God would work miracles to restore this family as well as hopefully bring them to salvation.
Yesterday was amazing. Sue and I brought the little 14 yr old girl with us to Ibarra, the closest big city. She had only been there once when she was much younger. We took her to this luxurious fancy lunch place that has a water fountain and courtyards. You feel like your in spain, or another world when you are there. I thought her eyes were going to pop out of her head when she saw it! The menu was 4 pages long and she just looked at is smiling. She had never ordered off of a menu before and was so overwhelmed by it. We ended up having to order her something because she just had no idea how to even begin. She had steak and eggs with papaya juice and flan for desert. Lunch for the three of us was 16 dollars (lunch usually would be about 4 dollars for 3 people so this was super expensive) and she was amazed that we would pay 5 dollars for her for lunch. Then we were walking around outside and it started to rain. I took out my umbrella and she just laughed and laughed at this. Shes never walked under an umbrella before. We then took a cab to the shopping center that has the “super maxi” which is the only grocery store within hours of pimampiro and we bought some of our American comfort foods. My little girl was amazed by this. She had never seen anything like a super market before. They had these little bags of candy with a little toy in it for a dollar so I let her pick out 5, one for her and all her brothers and sisters. She just looked at me in disbelief. This is a little girl who goes hungry many days of the week because her father spent all their money on alcohol over the weekend. I am sure she has never had someone buy her a bag of candy that cost a dollar before. I think my favorite part however, was where we left the super maxi and went to the bathrooms on the top floor. There was an escalator and she just looked at me like “what is that!!!”. I told her its how we have to get to the top floor. She had a death grip on my arm and almost fell which would have taken both of us down and she laughed the whole time. She is so incredibly quiet and withdrawn so to see these brief moments when she would just laugh or smile in disbelief was so incredible.
Today I was reading in Hebrews 7. Its an obscure passage about the priesthood of Christ. I wanted to understand it better so I read a sermon by piper on it. I have to say is quickly becoming one of my best friends down here. I love pipers sermons. They are fabulous. Anyway, the verse that piper focused on was Hebrews 7:25 “Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him because he always lives to intercede for them.” Piper asks the question “saved from what?” the answer is God. Gods holy wrath against sin. The only thing that keeps me alive is that I have a high priest who stands between me and God blocking Gods just wrath and hatred of sin from giving me my just punishment. Not only this but I am able to draw near to this terrifying God who will act justly and punish sin. I can draw near to him and experience his love rather than his wrath because Jesus is living to intercede for me. And not only that but Jesus is praying for me to draw near to God and I am not left to my bent and sinful ways to try out of my own strength to muster up some affections to desire God above my sin which I clearly can not do. And its not that God is all wrath and Jesus is all love. It was Gods plan from the beginning to send his son so that we might experience his love while he still justly hates sin and pours out his wrath completely. He does not lessen or change the “wages” that he promised would be paid for sin. They are still paid in full by his Son who triumphed over sin and death and now stands between Gods holy wrath and my sin that I might be near God. Beautiful. The gospel never gets old.
Piper gave this awesome definition of salvation saying “The LOVE of God has rescued me from the WRATH of God in such a way that the JUSTICE of God is vindicated and the GLORY of God is exalted.”
I just love the gospel, and Jesus, and Piper haha. Anyway… all of that is to say that THIS is the problem with this family. Jesus is not their treasure so they are looking for life in broken cisterns that cannot hold water. They do not understand that they have a high priest through whom they can draw near to God and find streams of living water. Who needs alcohol when you have infinite treasures and satisfaction in Christ? But when you live in such brokenness without such a beautiful hope for eternity AND for today then why not drink away your problems? Why not bleed out your pain onto your children? Why not beat them and allow them to become objects of your wrath since you are one? Jesus is interceding on behalf of THOSE WHO COME NEAR TO GOD. 1. This does not say those who once had a spiritual experience and drew near to God at a point in their life. Its continual. If you are not continuously drawing near to God then the bible says you do not have salvation. 2. Jesus is interceding for those who come near to God which means He is interceding for his children.
So today I realized, then WHO is interceding for this family? Well…I am. Would God bring me to this time and place so that I would bring this family before the thrown of God in intercession? There is so much responsibility in that and at the same time no responsibility. God is the one who would put it on my heart to pray for them. He is the one who moves. It is always him yet I am still here realizing that I bring my prayers before Jesus who hears me and prays for me. I bring my prayers to God when I draw near to him through Christ and plead for the salvation of others. I am called to pray yet God is the one to move. Apart from Christ renewing their hearts and giving them eyes to see him they can not turn from their sin. Oh that God would move so that they might know the glorious riches of knowing Christ! Its one thing to see a little girls eyes light up by taking her to a nice restaurant and telling her you care about her and that she has worth, its quite another for her to come to know Jesus who so desperately loves her and for her to FEEL her worth and FEEL love in his presence. I can do and do and do but it is only a band-aid. The only real gift I have to offer her is my prayers and taking opportunities when God presents me with them to share with her the beautiful hope of the Gospel.

Monday, October 12, 2009

sometimes you backbpack, sometimes you are the backpack...

Sometimes you backpack, sometimes you are the backpack
Here in Pimampiro there is a hike you can go on that is quite famous. There is a “secret” lagoon that you can go to that is way up in the mountains, 3440 meters high. Its called Puruanta and if you are crazy enough you can hike there. My family wanted to go and I thought it would be quite fun. The problem was that when you tried to find out how difficult it was there was so much conflicting information. Some said it would take 3 hours for a guide who knew it well to get there, others said it would take 10-12 hours hiking. Most said you could get there in about 6 or 7. I was guessing it would be about a 7 hour hike. The said you go through swamps and a lot of mud which is sometimes up to your knee. Everyone said it was really difficult. Its not that I didn’t believe them. I was ready for difficult. I was not read for this though. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for what I was about to do.
I went on this “little” adventure with Carlos, my dad who is around 50, Carlos, my brother who is 17, his friend who is also 17 (I don’t remember his name), Katy and Carlita, my sisters who are 13 and 15 and Don Jose who is 35 and goes every other weekend to fish. Don jose said he got there in 3 hours once when a tourist got sick. He was our guide and I would have quite possibly died without him.
We were up at 3 am and out the door by 3:30. I began to wonder, after my 2 and a half hours of sleep, what I had gotten myself into. You know the journey will be rough when you haven’t started it yet and already cant wait till you get to the destination so you can crawl into your sleeping bag. We drove an hour to Don Jose’s and had some bread and coffee for breakfast. We then drove to his “hacienda” loaded up the horses got ready to leave.
We started our journey on horseback at 6 am and the horses were able to accompany us for the first two hours, until the trail became to hard for them. Carlita and katty were both afraid to ride alone as they have only been on a horse a few times. Since no one wanted to ride I excitedly jumped at the offer. One horse was mounted up with all of the backpacks to make the first two hours easier on everyone and the other horse I got to ride. This first two hours was an adventure in and of itself. I have never been so thankful for the horseback riding lessons I had when I was younger. Had I not known how to ride a horse I definitely would have been on the ground a few times. Two hours of bear back riding is quite hard on your legs and you can most definitely expect to end up with a bruised tailbone. Its hard enough when you are on even ground but this was more like scaling tall mountains on very narrow paths with steep drop offs on the other side of the mountain. And I thought driving cars here was scarry! The horses definitely know there way though. They have gone on this path many times but it doesn’t make it any less terrifying when they are slipping and sliding all over the rocks. You just hear their horseshoes scraping and sliding on the rocks under them and all you can do is hold on and pray you don’t fall off to you right or you will be tumbling down the cliff. It was not all uphill either. Going down the steep inclines was just as scary because the horses don’t just leisurely walk down… they slide down. I would have one hand on the reigns and a good grip on the main and the other hand I would use to just try and hold myself back on the horse so I wasn’t sliding onto its neck. Jose was in front of me with his machete which he uses to smack the horse (with the flat side) when its not listening. Every time he would raise the machete to cut a tree branch the horse would freak out and jump. We would go through trees that were so low that I would have to lay flat against the horses neck going down hill (which is quite scary) so I wouldn’t get clotheslined by the trees that were scratching over my whole back. I held on so tight with my legs that by the time we reached where we needed to begin walking my legs were already shaking and felt like jello. For the most part I wasn’t scared of the crazy ride (with a few exceptions of thinking I was going to go over the clif) but I was definitely in a lot of pain from holding on so tight and from my tailbone repeatedly hitting the horses spine.
Throughout this time, however, there was a tension between being in pain from the ride and being completely blown away by Gods glory. I was horseback riding through a rain forest with a light misty rain falling and the view was honestly breathtaking. Minus the pain, I felt like I was in paradise and I could not help but worship the God who created it all. My prayers were something like this “God you are so incredible for creating this and I am blown away by your glory and love you so much…please don’t let me die.” Haha. I have since decided that I will take this part of the journey and file it under “most amazing memories in my life” and simply separate it from the rest of the trip lol.
Now I knew that the hike would be hard but when they said mud up to your knees I was thinking maybe an hour or two would be that way. I was not expecting 8 hours of mud up to your knees. I can not even begin to tell you how exhausting it is to walk in the mud. The first time I got stuck my boot came off! You quickly learn how to walk without losing your shoes but the energy that is required is unbelievable. The mud is deeper than your boots and at points is above your knees. My boots were full of mud and water and I desperately would try and find roots or stones that I could stand on instead of sinking. The term “stuck in the mud” took on a whole new meaning to me. We start at 1800 meters and climb to 3440 meters. Parts of the journey are straight up with poor footing and if you grabbed the wrong root and it gave way you were going to fall quite a ways down. I quickly became aware that I was entrusting my life to tree roots and the sovereignty of God.
The first two hours were painful but I still was able to look around and thank God for the beautiful creation and enjoy it. The higher and higher we got the more exhausted I became and less oxygen was available. My little family and friends were used to the altitude. The guys who had gone a few times before walked or ran through the mud like it was dry ground. I don’t know how they did it. My little sisters, who play sports all the time and are very athletic, seemed a bit tired but for the most part were doing quite well. Calros, my dad, and I were the only two who were really struggling. We eventually stopped trying to keep up with everyone else and we walked at a much slower place. Carlos, my little brother took my pack from me and attached it to his as he saw how exhausted I was. He also took his fathers huge pack and one of the girls took a small backpack. They distributed most of the weight between carlos and his friend. Even though they carried all the extra weight they were still way inf ront of Carlos and I. My enjoyment and ability to thank God for his creation quickly began to switch to a “jesus please come back and take me now because I want to be dead and its so clear that I am living in a fallen world” type of mentality as I tried to stomach the nausea I was feeling from pushing my body to its limit.
It was about 5 hours of trudging through mud and wanting to die until we reached the swamps. Now this was a whole new adventure. I remember being at the beach with friends this summer watching an episode of bear grylls where he was walking through a swamp in florida and he said if your not careful you will go under. I remember watching him then abruptly fall through the tall weeds and cut a hole to get back out. It looked terrifying. Luckily this swamp was only waist deep so when you would make a wrong move and plunge through the weeds you didn’t go completely under. It was still quite terrifying. I just wondered what was swimming under there. I only went in once. My right leg was firmly on dry ground but my left leg went straight in up to my waist. My mind was quickly turned from the terror of what may attack my leg under the weeds to the sharp pain I was experiencing in my right leg. My right leg had twisted in another direction and a shooting pain was sent through my leg. Carlos, my brother helped pull me out. Once I was out I realized quickly that I had pulled my groin muscle and ever step was incredibly painful. Lifting my leg was what hurt the most and having it stuck in mud and having to pull it out with every step was agony. You honestly cant use your leg at 50% when it means that you might fall and hurt yourself worse or slip down one of these cliffs and die. There is nothing you can do but grit your teeth and keep walking at full force. I knew we didn’t have enough hours of light left in the day for me to turn back. The only thing I could do was walk the next two hours to try and make it to camp. I walked for a half hour on my leg and wanted to die. I thought about just walking into the swamp, going under, and not coming out. I had a face mask that they call a “passa montanas” which basically covers your face and you look like your going to rob a bank. I pulled it down so they couldn’t see the tears in my eyes and the expression of agony on my face. When I started to think I may black out I sat down and told them I needed a break and couldn’t do it anymore. Jose told me to wait there and he ran his pack up the mountain about a half an hour and then ran back. He rigged up his little rope and basically tied me to his back. He carried me the last hour and a half to camp. (the two girls ended up taking his pack the last hour and a half! They are pretty amazing.)
I was completely amazed at jose. He walked twice as fast with me on his back as I did before I hurt my leg with no pack at all. It was quite terrifying though. I cant tell you what its like to climb straight up cliffs on someone’s back. I clung to him as tight as I could so he could use his arms and I just prayed he would not fall. The rope cut into my legs and into his shoulders and my arms felt like they were going to fall off but it was better than the stabbing pain of me walking.
When we finally reached camp and my body was no longer straining to hold on the cold set in. I think my body may have also been in shock but I for the first time, legitimately though I may die there and not make it back. My whole body was convulsing from cold, pain and exhaustion. It took about an hour for the guys to set up camp. Once the tent was up I could barely take off my wet , mud caked clothes and get on my dry ones. My hands were not working and I was too tired. I wanted to admit defeat and lay down right were I was and die. They guys had to help me take my boots off because I didn’t have the strength. Once I finally got dry clothes on I crawled into my sleeping bag. I could not get warm. I laid there convulsing for an hour and a half. I honestly didn’t know if it was from the cold or the exhaustion and pain. I was scared it would be that way all night and that I just wouldn’t wake up. I tried to make my body stop but I couldn’t. I asked them to fill my nalgene up with hot water and then I put it in my sleeping bag. About a half hour later my body stopped shaking and I fell asleep. I slept from 7 at night until 10 am, which is 15 hours, and I woke up a few times through the night with shooting pains in my leg or the feeling of nausea from the exhaustion. I couldn’t throw up because that took too much energy to get out of the tent and it was so cold so I just tried to hold it down and sleep . It didn’t matter though, I was warm and I was not walking. When I woke up I wanted to cry thinking about the 10 hour trip home. I ate some ramen noodle soup for breakfast and went to look at the lagoon, which I now hated for even existing, and took a picture with the girls. I put my muddy wet clothes back on over my nice try clothing and we packed up and started back. I had taken 6 Advil with my breakfast and was feeling pretty good. I was determined to walk back because I could not imagine having jose carry me for that long.
I was walking slow. I did walk for an hour and a half but it was very slow. Going down was easier in some ways because you start out out of breath and then get more oxygen as you get lower. Its just as terrifying though. Going down these steep cliffs, I was scared of slipping and that being the end of me. At that point I really didn’t care much. “If I were on survivor” I thought to myself, “I would be the first to go and I would opt myself off the show asap”. I however, did not have the luxury of opting myself off of any show so I continued in pain to try and walk. Eventually jose found a tree that he hid his backpack in and told me that we would get back at midnight if he did not carry me. He also told me that it was painful to watch me walk because I looked like I wanted to die. That was accurate. So again, I was turned into a little backpack. The ropes were horrible. I was bruised from the day before so they only cut into my legs more. We found a way to rig it up using his sweater as well as the rope so that the ropes didn’t dig into his bruised shoulders quite so much. I felt like a little koala bear at first… then I just felt like a sack of dead chickens hanging there on his back. I would at times put my head on his shoulder and close my eyes and try and pretend I was not there. That was not possible however when he would duck under branches and come up too soon and smack my head on them. I am not in the least bit trying to complain because Jose saved my little life and im SO thankful for him but he is not good at gauging head room when going under trees. I pulled down my face mask to try and protect myself a little from the snapping tree branches. Jose carried me for 5 ½ hours. If I had to have a hero in life, I think it would be him! Haha. I don’t even know how he did it. He carried me with a machete in hand (which I was so scared hed fall and I would land on) and walked at twice the pace that I could have if I had not been hurt and without a backpack. I was terrified when he would scale these cliffs with me on his back and I don’t know how he didn’t fall. I was honestly as amazed by his strength and agility as I was by the rainforest around me. All I can say is that God provides grace where grace is needed and Jose was definitely Gods grace to me.
We finally reached the horses and I sat there fighting the swarms (literally clouds) of mosquitoes as he loaded up the horse. You cant sit still in the mountains there or you will be eaten. I jumped on the horse and realized the pain would be pretty awful as I had to used my legs to hold on. I didn’t even care about the horses sliping all over. If my life had ended I would have been grateful in that moment. Heaven seemed quite appealing to me. Carlos, who was extremely tired at this point got on the back of the horse with me. My horse did not like that much weight and was not thrilled. Carlos also didn’t really know how to ride that well and I think the horse knew it. He fell off when the horse slipped on some rocks and I was scared hed take me with him, but he didn’t. Then he got back on and my horse was not happy. He was throwing his head around and then he started to buck and kick. I got mad and yanked his head around and smacked him hard. I was not in the mood to be thrown from a horse with my leg killing me and I was in too much pain to be scared by its bucking. I was just angry and kicked it as hard as I could with my good leg. Carlos somehow didn’t fall off this time but immediately jumped from the horse in terror which I thought was a little funny, although it would have taken far too much energy to laugh. I was happy when carlos decided to walk because I did not have the strength to fight this horse the rest of the walk and it hurt like crazy to stay on the horse when it was acting up.
We finally got back after dark. The dark did not help with the horses slipping all over the path but I was too exhausted to care. Once we got to the hacienda they had dinner ready for us. I still felt horrible and I did not want anything to eat. It was agony to sit there while they all talked and laughed and ate. I just wanted to go home, take a shower and crawl into bed. Jose showed everyone his bruises and they laughed. They made jokes about how his wife would divorce him for having a gringo hugging him for 6 hours. They made jokes about his bruises saying I hugged him too hard and how would my boyfriend feel about that? He laughed and joked with me saying he would miss his little backpack or that his back was cold. I tried to force a smile and laugh but it took too much energy. Then we had the hour ride home. I finally got to the house and just about fell into the shower. I prayed and prayed for hot water (its not always hot here) and I had the most consistent and hot shower I have taken since I have been here. I never thought I would praise God so much for his grace to me with a hot shower.
I slept 11 hours last night and everything hurts today. Im just thankful for my little bed and clean clothing. I think im done with hiking for a little while.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The first of many sessions...

2 1/2 more months and im realizing there is so much here to do. Its hard to know im building relationships and earning trust with girls who will open up their lives to me only to leave their lives in a few months. There is brokenness everywhere and America is no exception but there is something different being in a place where most have little desire to help and would rather turn a blind eye to injustice. Maybe growing up around it makes you numb to it?

I had my first counseling session today and talked with a beautiful little girl who is the subject of verbal and at times physical abuse from her mother. Her father is an alocholic who she believes loves her but cant leave his alcohol. She is the oldest and is responsible to cook and care for all of the children. Her brother who is a year younger than her hits her when he does not like her cooking. There is little money for food as her father spends it all on alcohol. She sits in my office sobbing asking me why her mommy doesnt love her. She tells me how her brother who was born before she was alive had died as an infant. She says she wishes it had been her. Her mother kicked her out of the house and she rented a room for a year from a woman who she would work for all day and get fed only one meal a day. The woman eventually kicked her out when she found someone else to rent the room who could pay and she moved home with her family. Can you imagine a 13yr old girl living by herself? She asks me why shes had to take care of her brothers and sisters since she has been little but why no one has ever taken care of her?

Her father wants help to stop drinking. He wants to stop but cant. There is no AA in pimampiro. To go to rehab it would cost over a thousand dollars which is more than the family makes in a year. There is no child abuse hotline here to call. I feel so powerless to help. I have spent all afternoon looking for child advocate services or substance abuse centers with very little luck. There are laws against abuse but no one to carry them out, not unless you live in Quito or one of the other few large citys in Ecuador.

My heart feels so heavy. I know this will only be the first of many stories and i feel so illequiped to help when there are no resources here. I feel like i tiny bandade on a gaping wound.

In ways this is so good for me. I AM powerless to do anything. I can do nothing apart from Christ. I know that. I am just praying for opportunities to share Christ because he is the only hope of restoration. She so desperately needs to know she has a father who loves her so deeply and whos heart is breaking over the pain she has gone through. She needs the hope of the gosple, the hope that one day all this pain will be redeemed and restored. She needs to know the one who came and died so she could be set free to have joy in the midst of such great suffering.

Please pray that i would have boldness to take opportunities to share this hope with her but a gentle sensitivity and discernment as well. I feel like its the only thing of any real substance i have to offer to her.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mountain Adventures!

Get comfy... this is a long one!

Yesterday I had quite the adventure. After school I jumped on a bus (thankfully not a cattle car) and went for the hour long drive down the windy mountain roads (praying that the bus would not go over the edge of the cliff) to Blancas house for the night. Blanca (who is 14) has a sister Diana who is 17, a little brother Jefferson who is 4 ½ and a little sister Tatiana who is 2 ½. When we got to her house we were met by her mother, our lunch, and a kitchen full of jabbering cuys (guine pigs). Her mother laughed at me watching them scurry around the floor and told me her daughter had told her that in america we keep them as pets so I did not want to eat one. She thought this was hilarious (as all Ecuadorians do). I quickly found my favorite one, a little all white baby, and told them I named it Isabella and when they ate izzy they should think of me haha.
For lunch we had potatoes, rice, tomato and onion salsa and beans. Then they gave me a different pair of shoes so wear and sent me hiking up the mountain with the girls to feed the cows. It was at least a 45 minute hike up the mountain to where the cows graze. We met her brother Jefferson and her father there, fed the cows and went back down the mountain with their horse. The girls were very eager to see an American attempt to ride bare back and I was feeling particular thankful that I had taken riding lessons when I was younger. The through a little rug on the horses back and I jumped on. We went down the road a bit to their neighbors where we picked mandarins and then rode back. The girls did a little homework and they fed me a giant bowl of honey (which is a huge honor because its very expensive and takes a long time for the bees to make a little bit). This honey was not like the honey in america though. It has all the wax and pollen still in it. It tasted great but left a weird film in my mouth and my stomach was a bit uneasy. Their little brother, who may I remind you is 4, is one of the worst children I have ever met! I went from laughing so hard at the things he would do to wanting to put the kid on time out myself! I let him play with my camera and when we had to go and take it back he got ;mad and started yelling at his mom. His mom told him to stop crying so he got more angry, grabed his fathers huge knife, came back out, and started yelling again while giving his mother the finger. At this she just started laughing! I didn’t know what to do! Part of me wanted to laugh and part of me was so sad! He then started to beat up the animals. He would jump kick the chickens and beat the horse with a rope and tried to kick his kitten. I know animals are looked at differently in this culture but I don’t care what culture your in… you should still respect animals and the mom did nothing. It made me so upset to watch! He threw a rock at one of the chickens and it was limping around all day. If he had hit it square on im sure he would have killed it. He would swing from the rope tied to the horses neck and then tell it he was going to kill it. Hed get this crazy evil look in his eyes and try and hurt all the animals. I seriously was wondering if the kid was possessed! And they did nothing! I just tried to not worry about it but it was so hard.
After this we threw the rug back on the horse and I jumped on to go to their grandmothers house a half hour up the road. Jeffery got on the back of the horse with me and we started our little adventure. The ride there was fun and mostly up hill which was nice. Once we got there I met her grandmother and aunt, got the cheese and then started to ride back. By this time it was getting pretty dark and the ride was mostly down hill. If you have ever been on a horse you know it’s a bad idea to attempt to trot on a horse down hill. If its going faster than a walk it can trip and its really dangerous. These were steep hills too. I t was hard because Jeffery being on the back kept pushing me forward and the whole rug would move forward till I was practically on the horses neck. I kept trying to move back which was hard with Jeffery. Jeffry then decided he wanted to run so he starts kicking the horse insesently and telling it to run while im saying “whooooa” and puling back on the reighns. Im telling Jeffery its dangerous going down hill and its dark and you cant see cars around the turns and he needs to stop. He gets the look in his eye when he realizes im getting mad and he does it even more! The horse is starting to run down the hill and is tripping and im still pulling on the reighns. The horse is so confused that it sees grass on the hill and instead of running uphill it just bolts up the mountain and Jeffery is laughing histerically. I finally got the horse to stop and turned around. I told Jeffery if he kicked the horse one more time he was walking home. His sister came running and yelling after us and FINALLY yelled at Jeffery to stop, which he then did. Oh what I would have given for a saddle and a helmet!
I am not sure if any of you who read this have ever been on a horse bare back but its not comfortable and these horses are not well fed, which means there whole spine is digging into you the whole time. It was so much fun until about the last 15 minutes when that little episode happened and every step became somewhat painful. I will just say that I am quite bruised in unmentionable places haha.
After our little cheese adventure we had bread, cheese and coffee. They gave me half the thing of cheese to eat! I was trying to be polite and eat it all but I just couldn’t finish it. They make the cheese there and they don’t refrigerate it and every time I have it here it makes me a little sick. I had never eaten more than a small piece though and I knew in a few hours id be feeling it. We then walked to the little store they own where all the men hang out, drink, smoke and play cards all night. There were ment from 15-60 there! Every night Diana goes and makes hardboiled eggs to serve the men. She said the women are expected to stay home and cook. I asked if that’s what she would do when she was older and she said she desperately wants to go to college to be a teacher and hopes her family can afford it. She said she wants more than to have a baby and get married at 18, live with an alcoholic husband and cook eggs all her life. All she would do is put eggs in some boiling water, take them out and serve them while her dad watched. I asked why he didn’t just make the eggs and she laughed. She said it would make him “look bad” to his friends.
One of the eggs broke in the water and the white part came out and was cooking outside the egg so it looked really funny when we took it out. All the younger guys were trying to show off their tattoos and were making comments to me and tryng to be cool and get my attention. I told her that It would be funny if I tried to bring them the egg and tell them I had a special egg for them and it was a present haha. Even though I didn’t do it she thought it was hilarious and told her mom, her dad, her sister and all her friends on the buss this morning about it lol. On the walk home we had a good talk and I just encouraged her to wait until she was done with school and married to have kids and that she should wait for a guy who will treat her well to be with. No one here encourages these girls that there is so much more to life and it makes me so sad.
Her mother served us some soup with potatoes and then we all went to bed at around 9:30. They have 4 beds in the two room hut. Both girls had their own bed and each of the little kids slept with one of their parents in a bed. Blanca slept with her mom and brother so I could sleep in her bed. I layed there, being bitten by bedbugs and fleas for about 2 1/2 hours before I fell asleep on the “bed”. It was a real bed but it was missing a mattress so I slept on a board. They had so many covers on it that I honestly felt like I was buried under library books. I slept for a few hours and then woke up with a horrible stomach ache from the cheese. I laid there till 5 when they woke up, took my egg with me since I couldn’t make myself eat it (I thought I would throw up) and jumped on the buss for the hour long ride back. We got in at 7 and I went straight home and back to bed for 5 hours! I woke up feeling much better although my neck, stomach and well whole body are covered with little red bite marks. Rosie, my mom was so worried about me and doesn’t want me going to the mountains anymore because of the bedbugs haha. I told her it was ok and I didn’t mind that much. It was definitely and adventure but it was so fun for me to see how they live. Im exhausted, itchy and sore today but it was so worth it! I loved it! I would definitely do it again and although it was a bit crazy it was an awesome experience!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

La Escuela

I am really loving my time at this school. Today Sue had to meet with Paul so I taught her art class. We recently changed it into an English immersion art class because we want these girls to leave the school after three years with a better understanding of english. (the english texint books here are not ever correct and the kids can say "hi how are you" and that is about it after 4 years of english!). Sue is very expressive so she is perfect to teach immersion because its helpful when you are demonstrative. It takes patience and is hard to switch though so Sue has continued to speak a lot of spanish. I keep trying to encourage her not to do so because if you say something in english and then spanish they forget the english and grab onto the spanish instruction. It was so fun when i was teaching the girls because i only spoke english and they loved it. they were laughing and asking how to say different things. They were learning so much and practicing english all class while they were working on their projects. It was so great! The last ten minutes i let them ask me questions about america and i answered them in spanish for them. They made me show them my drivers licence and they were amazed that i did not have two first names (in latin culture everyone has two names). They thought it was hilarious that we keep guine pigs as pets in america. Two of the girls asked if I would go to their village tomorrow after school and stay the night with them. ( I told them only if they did not try and serve me cuy because we keep them as pets and it would be like eating my dog!!!) They laughed and said that would be fine. So i think im about to do my first overnight to a little andean mountain community tomorrow if it works out!

Also, sorry that I add three entries at once. I dont get the the internet often so i type out my blog/journal on my computer during the week and then just copy and past them all at once when i get to the internet.

Why you should label your cleaning products...

Yesterday was quite a crazy day. I will start with the most eventful moment of the day for me. The water here comes in big 3 liter bottles (like soda bottles) and one of these bottles was sitting on the kitchen table. Katty being the sweet 13 yr old sister that she is saw that I did not have anything to drink and got me a glass and poured the water up to the brim. I was feeling rather thirsty and took a big refreshing gulp only to find that what I had drank was NOT water. I would say that the fire in my stomach and throught and immediate headache was gave it away. First I thought it was vodka but I quickly realized it couldn’t be because vodka, though it burns, is NOT even close to this painful. I thought I was going to breath fire and that this liquid would burn a hole right through my stomach. Rosie realizing what happened quickly explained that I needed to drink a lot of water because I had just consumed rubbing alcohol which she had used to clean the crystal for the party the other day. She felt horrible and kept apologizing. I felt bad that she felt bad because it wasn’t her fault and she was quite upset about it all. I thought I was going to die for about an hour but eventually the burning stopped, I didn’t quite feel so nauseous and the headache dissipated. Its quite funny now that I think back on it.
After I had a nice glass of rubbing alcohol I went to help with a “minga” which is a Spanish word that describes when a community comes together to help with something. Sonya’s, one of the girls here, family’s cows are dying because of the drought in a certain area so we all got in a car and drove to harvest some greens for the cows. I got to use a sickle which was fun. the motherly instincts in me were rather concerned about the fact that there were 8 year olds that were also using sickles (which are giant and very sharp blades) but safety in that way is not much of a concern here and the 8 year olds looked more skilled than I was in using the instrument.
After some hard work we all went to the river to play for a little. The kids climbed some guava trees and we all had some of the yummy fruit. It was about 60 degrees out and I was quite cold but the kids were a bit crazy and went swimming in the river with paul. Eddy, sue and I had more sense and played with the few kids that were intelligent enough to stay on the bank.
We then went for a walk along these very tall, steep clifs and the walkway was about 3 feet wide. Again the motherly instincts felt a bit nervous and I made Natalie walk infront of me so I could watch her. But the walk was amazing… it wound around the mountains and went through caves. They showed me different plants that you can use to cook with, make tee, make herbal remedies. Its amazing how much they know about the land. Sonyas mom was with us and found a cotton plant. She showed us how to wind the cotton into thread. It was a perfect little afternoon.
I got home and had coffee and bread with my family like I do every evening and spent some time reading. I have really enjoyed meal times with my family here. Every morning I wake up to two hardboiled eggs, a cup of coffee, a piece of fruit, a piece of bread and my “mom” sitting at the table waiting to talk with me and ask me how I slept. Then at lunch the kids are home from school and carlos comes home for his lunch break at work and we all eat together. In the evenings we all sit and have bread and coffee since they don’t eat dinner here and since im used to dinner sometimes rosie cooks something little for me. Its so nice to have three meals with my little family here. Its not something that happens often in America. Life is too fast paced. Hands down my favorite part of being here so far has been being apart of this family. They are so loving and its so fun to be with them all of the time! I feel so blessed.

Party time!

I had not previously been aware of the fact that turning 15 was such an epic event in the life of a young girl, however, after the last few days of “quincinera” craziness I now see this pinnacle event quite differently.
You would have thought Carla was getting married. Infact, at the Catholic mass that had been put on especially for her, she walked down the isle to “here comes the bride” which made me laugh quite hard (in my mind, to avoid being rude) and I thought considering the preparations this was quite appropriate. I half expected a boy to jump out at the end of the isle and for someone to yell “surprise! Shes getting married!”. I don’t think they know that song is meant for weddings here.
Friday we left for Ibarra (a very large city about an hour from pimampiro where you go if you want to buy anything) at 9 am and spent the day running from store to store buying decorations, flower arrangements, food, clothing and many other preparations for the following day. We had gone to the bakery which is owned by carlas god mother to get some of the pasterys and cake for the party at 10 am. They had not made any of the order yet as they wanted it to be fresh. We went back at 3 and the order was still not done. This was not a big deal as we had many other purchases to make. The day was a lot of fun and I loved the time I got to spend with my little Ecuadorian family until around 7:30 when we, exhausted from the day, went back to the bakery to find that they were still not done. We then proceeded to sit at the bakery for 3 hours and 45 minutes until the cake was done. I have never been so bitter at a cake in my life. I eventually asked to sit in the car as it was freezing outside and fell asleep in the back seat. We then brought the godmother back to pimampiro with us which meant that I had to share the front seat with Carla. Driving on back windy third world roads is not a walk in the park, especially not when you have about three inches of space and your head hits the window over the bumps. Oh, It was a fun hour ride back. As deliriously tired and frustrated as I was I also realize that I should be quite thankful that this has been my greatest “trial” here in Ecuador thus far. I am amazed at how difficult it is for me to have even the slightest semblance of a selfless heart when I am exhausted, uncomfortable and irritated.
The preparations for the party were crazy the next day. I offered to help and they laughed at me since I have no clue how to cook. Things don’t come in bags here… you skin chickens and milk goats for food. In that kind of kitchen, I will be honest, I am of little use. They did find something for me to do though. A giant sack with at least 100 oranges needed to be hand squeezed and my little hands were put to work! It was quite painful by the end of the bag… but I was thankful I was not skinning chickens.
Then, I was moved from this task to something that I am much better/more familiar with. They put me in charge of hair and makeup. I felt like I was back in high school or college going to a dance. For almost three hours I did the girls and their cousins hair and makeup. I had so much fun! Katty has this thick beautiful hair and she has it styled with layers but she doesn’t have a hair dryer and she always wears it up. It looked so beautiful all dried, styled and down.
The party was crazy! It went from 6-2 am! It started with a catholic mass and then we went to a little hall they rented out and had some finger foods and dancing. Then dinner. Then more dancing. Then cake. Then more dancing. What I found hilarious was that the teens didn’t dance! Only the adults! I danced with Carlos my dad for a few songs and with Eddy (my old 5th grade teacher who knows sue and is here for 3 weeks visiting) for a song or two but that’s about it. It was sad because I wanted to dance more but they don’t dance unless your dancing with a guy. Its all partner dancing. It was a lot of fun though.
I just couldn’t believe all the work that went into this party. It honestly was more like preparing for a wedding reception. It was a beautiful little party though and quite an experience to be a part of.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

sept 24th

Sept 23 09 2
Isaiah 40:12,26 “Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?...Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: who created all these?”
At the end of my street there is a little place that I love to go and read. Its overlooks that most picturesque landscape of the Andes. I feel as though im living in a post card. A “breathtaking view” has taken on a completely new meaning for me. I am confronted with these powerful images of Gods glory everywhere I look. To know that the God that I regularly sit and talk intimately with, that I can be so very close to, has “weighed these mountains on scales” and created them is not only humbling but terrifying. I can not help but see how far I fall short of his glory each day. Even on my best of days when I love deeply and serve and do not commit any big “sins” I still fail to praise my God the way he deserves. He deserves infinite praise and because I fail to offer him even a fracture of what he deserves what I deserve is infinite death. I am confronted each day with Gods mercy to me in Jesus. I have been more deeply convinced of my sin, my smallness and my desperate need for Christ. He is all I have to stand on. When I one day stand in front of a such a holy God my only hope is that I am hidden in Christ. I am hidden in him and made perfect through his sacrifice and it is my only only only hope of salvation. I am daily completely dependent and desperate for Him. When I sit and look at this beautiful creation and “lift my eyes and look” from the pages of scripture I am reading I can not help but be convinced of Gods goodness to me. I am thankful for Christ, not only because of my salvation but because through him I can draw near to the one who created all of this and I can sit and talk with him, know and be known by him and just be so satisfied by being close to him. His presence and closeness in my life is the best gift I have ever known.
Today I went up to the mountains. We stopped at a school in a small community to meet the staff there. They shared that many of the 140 students at their school walk 2 hours in the morning to school and 2 hours back after school (maybe more because its uphill on the way home and these are not small hills here). They get there not having eaten anything and many don’t eat until 4 in the afternoon. The government used to pay for breakfast for the students (21 cents a student = 600 a month) but they stopped this past year due to the economic crisis so these kids are struggling to learn each day because they are so hungry. The school was asking for help to buy the students breakfast but Mountains of Hope doesn’t have that kind of money to help them. The kids get home and work in the fields until its dark. I just realized how much I have taken my education for granted. They go through so much to get to school. If its raining they show up cold and wet.
After the school we stopped at this little orphans house. Her mother died in child birth and her father died in some accident. She now lives with her grandmother who looks like she is about 90. They have so little but shared their dinner for the night with us. It was so touching. I loved seeing how they live. They are so poor and without the help of paul and sue this little girl would never be able to go to school and get an education. On Sunday we are taking rosie (the little girl) into the city to buy her some new school clothes and some things the grandmother needs.

Sept 23rd

“And so it is. Just like you said it would be. Life goes easy on me, most of the time.
And so it is. The shorter story. No love no glory. No hero in her scars.
I cant take my eyes off of you. “
The past few days I have been listening, on repeat, to this song called “the blowers daughter” by Damien rice. These words remind me of the gospel in this place. Life is just like the bible said it would be… so much brokenness but so much hope for the gospel. As I look around at poverty and brokenness I realize how easy my life is most of the time. My favorite words to this song are where it talks about the shorter story. It reminds me of the shorter story in the gospel that talks only about creation and the fall. Every time you hear someone say “it shouldn’t be this way” your hearing parts of the gospel. It shouldbe this way because we were created for something else( creation). We were not created a fallen world but now as we have chosen to turn our hearts from God and sin we now live in a fallen creation (the fall). But this is only part of the gospel. In this shorter story there is no real love, no glory and no “hero in her scars”. So many of these people suffer and do not know the God who promises to restore and redeem their suffering one day. Its not how is should be… but the rest of the story is that Christ came to fix the problem and make a way for us to be with Christ (the cross) and now we have hope that one day all will be made new, be redeemed, be restored.” Our suffering is no longer in vain. But many of these people have “no hero in their scars.”
I sat today with rosie, my “mom” here in pimampiro. I am living with her beautiful family and she is taking such wonderful care of me. I was honored that she would sit with me today and with tears streaming down her face share her story with me. Her husband, carlos, grew up with a single mother. She had 8 children and would beat them and send them out of her house to sleep on the streets or in the park under a park bench growing up. She could barely feed her children and many days he would go hungry. He never celebrated a birthday or Christmas. He grew more and more angry and resentful at his mother with each child she had out of wedlock as they moved deeper and deeper into poverty with every mouth to feed. Rosie and Carlos met and got married and Carlos developed a drinking problem. He was a very angry drunk and smoked constantly as well. When he wasn’t drinking or smoking he was irritated and horrible to be around. Rosie was very afraid of him as he was also, often times, abusive. He would get angry because his little girls would run away from him because they were scared of him. He would yell at his wife and blame her saying that it was her fault his children did not love her. One day, rosie had had enough and packed a suitcase. She remembers Carla wrapping her arms around her legg, sobbing and crying “mommy don’t go, don’t go”. With tears streaming from her eyes she tells me that to this day Carla, who is turning 15 this Saturday, remembers that packed suitcase. Katty the youngest can not remember anything from that time but the older two still remember their father like that and the fighting.
Rosie had been praying that something would happen to carlos to stop him from drinking and around this same time Carlos became ill with stomach cancer. The Doctor told him that he had to make a choice to change his life style or that he would die. This news coupled with Rosies packed bags broke Carlos down to the point where he began to weep and beg rosie to stay. He promised he would not drink anymore. Rosie told him if he drank again she would leave but she would give him this chance. Carlos stopped drinking and changed his friends. His friends would come to the door asking for him to go drinking with them and rosie would get so angry and tell them to leave.
Rosie and carlos now have a great relationship and a great family. Carlo is so affectionate with his children and a very loving father. He works so hard to provide for them so that his children never have to suffer the way he did. Rosie came from a wonderful family with loving parents but they were very very poor. She told me what a blessing it was to have me in her house and how she is so thankful that she has a good family to invite me into. I told her how sorry I was that she had suffered like that but that she has such a beautiful story that is so full of hope. I told her I felt honored that she would share her story with me.
Their family is so warm and loving, its hard to imagine it the way she describes it. I feel so blessed to be here.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Finally in ecuador! It is beautiful here and I know I will love it. The people are so friendly and I can not begin to decribe the view. I wake up everymorning in the middle of the andes surrounded by the most beautiful mountains you could imagine. It looks like a painting and I don’t think its quite sunk in yet that its real.
I got to Quito on the 16th and the head of the rotarians from emmaus who has given mountains of hope grants came to visit. My 5th grade spanish immersion teacher , Eddy, came as well to visit for three weeks. Its been so fun to see him after 13 years! Because Rodger came for only 4 days the first few days of my trip here have been quite chaotic to say the least. Our days have been incredibly packed with taking trips to villages and showing rodger all that mountains of hope does. I have been lucky if I get 8 hours of sleep a night. Roger went home today so hopefully the schedule will slow down a bit but sue and paul (the people who run mountains of hope) seem to be the type to go and go and go and never take a day off. I am quickly realizing I will have to be very intentional about making some alone time to rest and recover. Eddy, paul and sue went to quito today to take roger to the airport and were going to make a bunch of stops to villages on there way. I asked if I could stay back and have a day to rest and recover as I have been feeling completely exhausted from all the travel.
I was supposed to have a small appartment here but that fell through 2 days before I arrived so I have been staying in the only hostel/hotel in all of pimampiro. Its nice to have my own room, however, last night was Saturday night when apperantly the pimampirians party it up and the hostel has a little kareoke bar right next to my room (which has paper thin walls) and they were singing and dancing till at least 1 am. Needless to say I slept little last night. Luckily I had a relaxing day and had time for a little nap.
Today I moved into my permanent home for the next month and a half (paul and sue are going back to america in a month and a half and then I will move into their place). I am stayin with rosie and her family. Rosie is one of the teachers at the textile school I will be helping at. She has two daughters and a son. Her daughters moved out of their room and are sleeping in with their parents for the next month and a half! I feel horrible but they are insisiting that I stay with them. They are really excited to have me stay with them. There house is very nice in comparison to most of the homes I have seen. There are quite a few dirt floor homes with 6 kids and a single mom in one room. I feel so blessed to have my own room and a hot shower. I am a bit worried about having no place to be alone though. Already when I was there the girls just sat in the room with me and watched me unpack. I don’t think I will have much privacy or a place to be alone, which after being with people all day, will be hard for me. Im realizing im more introverted than I had thought and reach a point where I just feel emotionally exhausted and want to be alone for a little. I am going to quicikly have to learn to manage as I don’t think I will have much alone time for the next three months. I am excited about all of the relationships I am building though. Everyone is so kind and affectionate here. I cant walk down the street without a girls arm around my waist or getting a hug. I love it and im definitely not complaining but I just know in order to keep it up and love people well I will need some down time.
My favorite thing here so far, food wise is guanabana icecream. It’s a type of fruit and its amazing. Im sad though because there is no where in pimampiro that sells diet coke. The food here is not too bad. Its similar to what we eat in america. Lots of rice, veggies, fruits (lots of fun tropical fruits), and chicken. I wish I was not so weird about my food though. When I was up in the mountains yesterday they made us soup. The dishes were cracked and filthy and they killed a chicken for us (this is a big honor) and they don’t waste parts of the chicken. I honestly felt naseous trying to eat the soup and was praying the hole time for strength to eat this. I was so touched that they made us this food but it was so hard to choke down after seeing her clean the feathers off the chicken. I ended taking a few bites and then switched my chicken for sues bones as she wanted more and I wanted far less.
I went to a church today and that was in interesting experience. I found one church that did not have services today but I talked with the pastor. They are pentecostal and speak in toungues which I expected most evangelical churches would be like here but he also does not believe in the trinity. He believes God is one God and that he can manifest himse lf in different forms at different times. He wanted to stay and debate theology for an hour and I did not. Is incredibly difficult to talk about theology in another language. I talked with him for a little and went to another church. The second church was great in a lot of ways. They are also pentecostal but there was not any toungues in the service. They also don’t believe in the trinity but when I talked to the pastor about it he was so kind and told me i was still his sister and that he wanted me to feel at home here. That we both believe christ died for the sins of the world and that its far better to talk about christ than our differences. This was a good enough answer for me and I could not agree more. But I know there are a lot of things I don’t agree with (they were saying in the service that non-christain music is satanic and should not be listened to). At least I found a place where I know they really love jesus though and I have have a little fellowship even if I disagree with a lot is awesome to worship with brothers and sisters in a tiny town in the andes. There is an asseblies of God church that is also pentecostal but believes in the trinity that I would like to check out next week as well as I think there docrine will be a bit closer to mine. Im excited to meet with some people who love the lord though. It was refreshing and the sermon today was all about prasing and worshiping God with our lives and im definitely on board with that.
I think the hardest think for me is that there are a bunch of issues that the kids at the school here wrote down that they are having and paul and sue want me to talk with the kids and address these issues. Because mountains of hope is not christian and does not want to be affliated with a religion I can not talk directly about christ in any of the things I will talk to the kids about. With things like why you should not be getting pregnant at 12 years old there are practical things I can talk about and this is not a problem. Some issues though, I do not know how to talk about apart from the gosple. Self-esteem for example, is impossible to talk about apart from christ. I believe we are made in Gods image and because we are image bearers and because christ formed us in our mothers woumb and are fearfully and wonderfully made that we should have confidence in who we are and realize how valuable we are. But if there were not a god and we were all just going to vanish after this life than why would life have value or meaning? That value would be subjective. There is no foundation to talk to kids about how valuable they are appart from christ and I cant sit there and lie to them coming up with worldly reasons they should feel confident. Im just struggling to know how to approach these issues in many ways. If anyone has any insight after reading this please share!!! Im excited though, because the church I went to today wants me to spend time talking with the youth there as well. Im excited to have relationships with these kids where I can be an encouragement to them and they can encourage me as well as we share about christ. I can tell so many of the kids that were sitting there today were just there because they had to be. I hope I get to talk with some of them. I hope Christ can become real to them and not just a bunch of rules like “don’t listen to secular music”.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pingyao day 2, china day 6

I think what I love most about traveling with Emma and Lee is that I got to experience two cultures at once. I learned a lot about england and china :). This was the fourth full day we had spend with Emma and lee and it was fun because I felt like we got to be good friends with them by the end of our time together.

We woke up, got breakfast and bought tickets to go on a tour of the historic places in the city. Some of the little street vendors would be playing american music and one store had Michael jackson playing. It was so out of place in this little town but it was amazing because lee, in his hilarious/amazing BRIGHT yellow shorts that made me so happy would dance when no one was watching. It was fabulous :).

we went to this one area and it was amazing. The citys jails were there and it also had amazing court yards. It also had a few rooms where they had ancient torture devices and they showed what device they would use for what purpose depending on the crime, or for making someone talk. It was very sobering and they had real pictures of these things happening. One of the torture devices looked like a cross on a truck and Im not sure what they did with it. I dont think it was used to crucify people though. It was hard to look at and made me so sad that people could have it in them to torture another person like that. It made me cry as I thought about Christ dying on a cross for me and the torture he went through. I felt a mixture of emotions. Thankfulness for what Christ had done and just pain over the brokenness of the the world we live in. I thought about when Christians were persecuted for their faith in China and how they had to endure things like that. I thought about if I could if I was faced with that. Im not sure how I could go through that kind of pain...especially knowing you could stop it by renouncing your faith. The torture methods seemed to be perfected to bring as much pain to a human as possible. But honestly, I dont know how I couldnt. Where else would I go for salvation? I feel like God has to be merciful and give someone the grace they need to walk through something like that and remain faithful. It made me realize how faithful martyrs are. It may be the hardest thing in the world to go through... but at the same time it would be impossible to choose to not go through it. Its like there just isnt another way. It just broke my heart. It took me a little to recover. Going to the temples next was not that helpful.

The people in the city still worshiped at the temples so they were bowing and burning incense to their Gods while we walked around and took pictures. So many of their Gods are so angry and are depicted squashing people or they look like the incredible hulk holding chains. Someone said its to scare off evil spirits? They have a combination of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism in China. Reaching Nirvana may be the most depressing thing I have ever heard of. They believe that there are 3 or 4 different kinds of suffering or pain in life and you need to meditate until you reach nirvana and then instead of reincarnating and having to suffer in life again, you just disappear and cease to exist. Its basically a religion based on running from pain. How opposite from Christianity! It was amazing to me to reflect on the ways that Christ calls us to not run from pain but to enter it and that in it we find life. We can love sacrificially and lay down our lives for others and find true meaning and life in that. Its so backwards and upside down but its real and vibrant and maybe the most authentic thing I have ever known. We dont run from brokenness and try and escape it. We have a God who came down into it and was himself broken to overcome it. our pain is not ever wasted now but its redeemed. Everything will one day be restored and redeemed. There is no fear anymore and all brokenness has an answer for it. It made me wish they knew. There is so much they dont know and they live in such fear because of it!

The terracotta warriors are thousands of warriors that an emperor had made around his tomb. they believe that whats on your tomb goes with you to your afterlife and the after life has good and bad spirits in it. This emperor wanted an army with him in heaven. He did not want other emperors to know about this and destroy it after his death so he hired thousands of men to build these warriors and then killed every man that ever worked on it so his secret would never get out. And it was kept well. Farmers digging for a well found them about 20 years ago.

How sad. How selfish. Thousands of lives taken because of one mans fear of death and what is to come. They bow to idols that can not hear them, that will not act on their behalf. They live lives in fear running from pain and trying to reach perfection to make the "torture that is this life" stop. How do you see hope in that? how do you see beauty in today? there is no power to live life to the fullest today and no anchor to face whatever storms come tomorrow. I have never been so thankful for my God who loved me, rescued me, called me his own, bestowed on me a crown of beauty instead of ashes, redeems my life, sets me free from fear and death, will never be silent until my righteousness shines like the dawn and gives me a million other promises in scripture as well. I was just thankful.

Anyway... later that night we got dinner, paid a few yuan to dress up in these "authentic chineese costumes" and took some funny pictures with some old buildings. Tons of chineese people would stop and take pictures or ask to take pictures with us which was hilarious. (they are ALWAYS taking pictures of foreigners). Then that night we went to a dumpling party at our hostel. They taught us how to make dumplings and then we got to eat them. we met some fun people. My favorite was Clara who was an agriculturist from spain and spoke little english. She was thankful for someone who spoke spanish and I was thankful to have an opportunity to practice.

That night I still was feeling a little heavy from the day so I said goodnight to everyone early and went and sat out in the court yard alone and prayed for a while. I wished I could always go there to spend time with God. It was so beautiful and quiet. Amazingly peaceful. I felt so still and it was so refreshing.


Rich and I had wanted to go to shanghai or Chen to see the terracotta warriors. unfortunately we didnt realize we waited to long and couldnt get the overnight train tickets we wanted unless we sat on hard plastic bench seats over night. Everyone told us it was NOT worth it and told horror stories about the train... which I would soon understand a bit more. People also said shanghai was not that great but was just a city with some fun buildings to look at. I was so disappointed because I wanted to travel more. I really wanted to go to chen and see the warriors and they had a panda reserve you could go to and take pictures with pandas. Emma and lee had run into the same problem with getting to Chen on the train. We were all trying to figure out what to do when someone suggested a little ancient city that not too many people go to called Pingyao. There was a hostel there in the city we could stay at so we all decided to travel there together on the train (about 6-7 hours of travel) and spend two nights there together.

We all left the hostel at 6 am and walked to the subway with our huge packs and went to the train station. we got very good at traveling without understanding the language. Traveling is not quite as organized as it is in the states. You sort of have to roll with the punches and be flexible and just trust that you will get there eventually and it will work out. For someone who is type A personality I think they might have had a heart attack. We somehow found the train station and got to our terminal without much trouble.

The train ride was 3 1/2 hours long and left at 7 am. We were all exhausted and were trying to sleep but sleep did NOT happen. There are no words for the buss experience. I cant adequately describe how irritating it was. I swear they synchronized their cell phones to go off every 3 minutes exactly and they have the loudest most irritating variety of cell phone rings. They basically sound like an array of alarm clock noises. The man behind Emma and I talked on the phone every 15 minutes with a new person and had the most bellowing loud voice I have ever heard. The man sitting behind the cell phone man was watching a movie on his lap top. He had ear phones draped over his shoulders but chose not to use them. instead he played is sward fighting action movie as loud as it could on on his lap top for all to hear. Rich put his head down on the little table in front of him and the people sitting next to him took picture after picture after picture of him on their cell phone. The woman would just take pictures and then lean over and show her husband. It was hilarious and I started taking pictures of them taking pictures of rich to see if it would make them stop. They just looked at me strangely and kept taking pictures of him. The man also was chewing his gum so loud it woke rich up a few times haha. It was like irritating thing after irritating thing just kept piling on top of each other as you were deliriously tired and praying for sleep. It was im sure, comparable to chineese water torture. It just gets to you after a while and you start to go crazy.

We finally got to tiyuan where we yet again miraculously found our way to a bus station using chineese dictionary's and travel guides and took a 3 hour bus ride the rest of the way to pingyao. We got there around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and the hostel picked us up at the bus station. I was surprised the provided transportation until I realized its because cars cant really get into the city very well. we were picked up on a little motorcycle cart and piled on with all our luggage. It was quite the adventure. As soon as we got to the city gates I knew it had all been worth the crazy drive though. It was the cutest, most amazing little city i have ever seen and I instantly fell in love. It was like being taken into the past and into another world. I cant even describe it but it was beautiful. I dont know what I had expected but It wasnt what I got. I seriously kept being blown away by how much more amazing everything was than I had ever imagined. Our hostel, the Yamen Hostel, was litterally inside the city walls and was this ancient little building with the most beautiful little court yard. It was not very clean, we had a bag of rice for a pillow, you may have been able to contract diseases from the showers and they didnt turn on the water until 8 am (at which point you were lucky if you got a minuet of hot water in your shower) but in spite of all of that it was incredible. I would stay again in a second. You cant really expect to stay in an ancient city that only got electricity a few years ago and be clean. I was thankful to have a shower at all. I got woken up by little chineese men riding their bikes in the street at 6 am and Instead of being mad I just smiled and went back to sleep. It was like a magic little chineese city. The first day we just walked around, looked in little shops, ate some dinner, sat on the porch of our hostel, had a drink and then went to bed.

China day 4

So day 4, Emma was up at around 8 and I was up at around 9 and we waited till around 12 for the boys to wake up. FINALLY, they rolled out of bed and we all went to the summer palace together. It was really beautiful and almost as amazing as the forbidden city. I think there were parts I like more just because it was on the water and was so beautiful. They had lotus ponds and these beautiful trees and cute little chineese boats that were driving around. We didnt stay super long (maybe two could spend the whole day there!)because Emma and I wanted to go to the silk/pearl market to do some shopping.

The shopping there was the most amazing thing ever. You bargain for everything and they just have so much! I got a really nice fake chanel watch and some fake mac lipgloss thats actually really nice. I got the cutest little chineese dresses for Eva, Lucy and Emme. There was just so much! The t-shirts are hilarious too! I LOVE the broken English. I honestly think its just hilarious. My favorite t-shirt that I bought for myself has a large caricature of a sheep and says "Weedling Sheep" and on the back it has two little sheep and it says "fluffy...fluffy". haha. I dont know what it means but I knew I had to have it.

Emma, lee and rich wanted to go to KFC for dinner so I decided not to put up a fight and just get fast food. Then we walked through the night market again an looked at scary scorpions. Then we went back and went to bed because we had made plans to go to a tiny village together called pingyao and had to leave at like 6 am to make the train.

I loved having Emma and Lee with us. It just made the week so much better. Emma was hilarious. She would try and talk in an american accent and I would try and talk in a british accent. She sounded like a hick farmer (but she swears her accent is perfect haha) and I apperantly sounded "posh" and she would just laugh at how rediculous I would sound. They were so much fun to be with!

China day 3

Day 3 was my favorite day because this is the day that we met Lee and Emma. They are from England and are both law students there. I guess they have been dating for about a year and just came to China on vacation. They were staying at our hostel and we met them because we all sighned up to go to the great wall with a tour that left from our hostel. We basically spent all day with them... and then the next three days.

The great wall was AMAZING. Honestly, it may be the most amazing thing I have ever seen and I know why its one of the 7 wonders of the world. Its just incredible. I mean you see pictures of it in books or you see it on TV but this is just one of those things that you have to go see to really understand how remarkable it is. I could have spend all day there. I wish I could have gone back. We went to the more beautiful part of the wall that attracts more tourists. If I ever go back I would go to the part of the wall where you can hike it and its basically falling apart. I saw someones pictures who went to that location on the wall and it was beautiful. They droped them off and they had to hike for 4 hours straight in the crazy heat and picked them up at another location. I cant imagine walking it in that heat but i think it would have been worth it. Im glad we went to the location we went to though. The only thing I did not like was that When you would walk inside the little look out towers they all smelled horribly of urin. It was pretty gross.

The hike up to the wall just about killed me... and everyone else. Its so steep and takes about 20 minutes of intense stairs in 90 degree heat. There was a lift that could take you up to the top (like a skii lift) but we didnt want to pay and decided to treck up. I quickly wished I had taken the lift haha. But on the way down you could either take the stairs OR you could take the louge (I dont know how to spell that haha). It was about a mile long and was maybe the coolest thing I did in china. I felt like I was in cool runnings. Im not sure how safe it was... but it was amazing. Lee, Emma, Rich and I all went aroudn the same time and people in front of us would be scared so they would go slow so we were all bumping into eachother or stoping completely to wait for people in front of us to go so we could go faster. The little chineese men would just sit there and yell at us to "go go go go go" or "slow slow slow" haha... it was hilarious. Rich kept smaking into the back of me and my flip flops went flying. He said that time was an accident but I dont believe him :).

They took us to a little chineese restauraunt where you sat at a table with about 10 people (all people from our hostel) and they just brought out like 12 different courses of food. In china and taiwan when you go out to eat you go with a lot of people. They bring out tons of different food and you just eat a little of each. I love it! You get to try so many different things. The food there was really good. It was my favorite meal that I ate in China.

That night everyone wanted to go out so we went to a place where they had dancing called club banana or somethign like that. Rich, lee, Emma this girl paula from our hostel (i think that was her name) and I went. It was a lot of fun because in other countrys when you go dancing it feels more like how people would dance at a wedding. You dont have guys who are grabbing at you or anythign like that. people all just stand in a big circle and actually dance lol. I hate going out in america and well... I really just wont go out in america. I wish It was like china here because I think I would enjoy going dancing a lot more.

For some reason when we left at 2 there were like 5 taxis lined up and NONE of them would take us to our hostel. Rich was convinced it was because we were white and they were being racist and he proceeded to try and yell at them in chineese which really got him no where. Im surprised they didnt just run him over with the taxi. We finally found a cab down the street that told us he also would not take us until we bribed him with more money and told him he didnt have to use the meter (we paid him double or triple what it would have cost). At least we got home. I didnt care at that point. I just wanted my bed.

China day 2

Since im here in this airport ALL day I will just go through my week day by day haha. I have nothing better to do and this will occupy my time for at least an hour or two. So... China Day 2.

Rich and I went to Tian An Men suqare and the forbidden city on day 2. We went with some girls from the UK that we met at the hostel. Millie (who had spend the last year teaching english in Hong Kong), Hanna and I honestly forget the other girls name now!

Tian An Men square was pretty boring honestly. It was just a really big open area. It was sad to learn about the massacre that happened there about 20 years ago though. College students were peacefully gathered in the square for 3 days to oppose the communist government and on the third day teh government sent tanks that drove through the square, running people over and oppening machine gun fire on thousands. The government has never addressed the issue openly and they dont even know how many people died. So crazy.

China was seriously amazing in that everyting I went to see was WAY above what I could have imagined. I thought the things I would see would be pretty great but everything just blew me away. The forbidden city was incredible. It just went on and on forever. Its about a mile long and its just so huge and elaborate. To think that they built it all by hand is crazy. Someone told me that Its the oldest wodent structure still standing in the world. I kept feeling like I was in disney world at epcot in "china" and had to keep reminding myself I was ACTUALLY there.

That night Rich and I were dead tired from walking so much in the crazy heat. I dont think I have ever sweated so much in my life. We went and got messages at this little palace next to the hostel and they did not beat me like the taiwaneese people did. It was actually pretty relaxing and felt quite nice after carrying my lugage the day before and walking around all day.

Food in china was a bit more expensive than in taiwan but still was remarkably cheap compared to the states. There were not many little noodle places like in taiwan and they didnt have 50 tea so I was quite sad. I made due though. I could usually find somethign somewhere that I was willing to consume. I did like the food in taiwan better... but the alcohol was way cheaper in china. You could get a HUGE bottle of beer (prob equal to two and a half regular beers) for about 45 american cents. I would drink half of it and give the rest to rich haha.