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.