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”.