Friday, January 27, 2012

Ecuador Post Part 3


Next morning, we awoke to seagulls screaming and the sound of the tide lapping up on the beach. After breakfast, we met in a conference room where Wess Stafford shared with us about his passion for the Compassion ministry and his love for the poor! He told us about his childhood growing up in the tribal villages of Africa and speaking eight languages every day! He told stories about being a spy, an ambulance assistance and a disc jockey. There is so much passion in him and so much love for the people around him that it radiates from him! He makes everyone feel special and accepted, no matter how long he's known you; for five minutes or fifty years. I can't say enough about Wess Stafford and the work that God is doing in with and through him. I learned so much!

There it is! The beach!!! My first ever glimpse of the Pacific Ocean!

After that meeting, we loaded up in the shuttle and took a scenic drive to a very small town in one of the driest parts of Ecuador called Las Lagoonas (many lakes :). The church was, appropriately, built at the top of a hill that overlooked the city and I was touched with the love and acceptance of all the people there, not just the children! The excitedly welcomed us into their church family. We laughed, chased each other and gave many, many hugs and kisses.
The children gave us these foam faces that they made! I think I counted 21 in all between me and my dad! :)
There's Becca surrounded by beautiful little girls!
The hat was still a favorite!
Here's one of our trip leaders Justin and some new friends.

Once again, my big straw hat proves to be a great ice-breaker!
Tim holding another baby! Not a surprise at all!
Silly Mr. Tim!
Daddy was adored by the kids

This is Chloe. She too tried my hat, but it had those foam faces in it!
Once again! Smiles all around!
This is Ellie, her dad and their sponsored child, Evelyn! How sweet!

Lunch was tuna salad and chips with fresh fruit and a desert called “flan”. A mixture of sugar and eggs who's consistency is similar to nothing I've ever eaten. The closest thing would be custardy fish because of the way it comes apart in clusters.

Our home visit was eye opening. The mother Maribelle had two children and they lived in a sturdy brick house which was built by her husband who was out in the field that day. The main occupations in Las Lagoonas are brick-making and farming. Our translator, Roberto asked Maribelle what she would say if God asked her what she would want. She replied that all she wanted was for her children to be healthy! It made me think of how much we can take general health for granted here in America. There are lots of diseases that people can get from drinking water, eating poisoned food and so on. The people in Las Lagoonas get their water once a week from a rusty water truck that comes and fills their buckets. That's the water for the whole week. Talk about needing conservation skills!

Looking around Maribelle's home, I was touched at how evident it was, that she had done her very best to make it less of a shell and more of a home. She said she hoped that someday, they could add another room because she didn't like that it was all one big room. She had rugs and blankets up on ropes to simulate walls that separated the bedroom area of the house from the living room/kitchen. It reminded me very much of a modern-day "By the Banks of Plum Creek" (a Little House book by Laura Ingalls Wilder) scenario.

These are Maribelle's chicks. They're in an old gas tank with the top cut off

Here's Maribelle, her sons and I outside their house.

When our visit was over, we loaded back on the shuttle to visit another plant several miles away. I'm afraid I can't remember the name of that town either...We had a fun time playing with the kids and the family who had planted the church, talked to us about what they were doing there.
There was a rope-jumping competition. Boys vs. Girls :)

Next Day, after a meeting in the conference room, we boarded our flight back to Quito and drove straight to the market place from there. I can't believe I didn't get any pictures of it! My dad and I sort of kept one translator named Liseth to ourselves as we shopped around. We got so many great deals!!! I found matching blouses for my mom, my sister Marley and then little dresses to match those for Mandee and Mirial. Dad found hats for Max and Moses, scarves were really cheap and there were an abundance of trinkets and such for prices that were both cheap and overpriced :)

That evening over dinner, we met two of Compassion's LDP (Leadership Development Program) students. For $300 a month, a sponsor can support a young man or woman to go through college and help support their family. The young lady sitting at our table, I think her name was Naomi, was going through the most prestigious electric engineering college in the country. She was designing prosthetics for children who have lost limbs because of illness and wars. You could see how passionate she was!
This was my meal on our last night. The stuff in the bowl is ceviche. It was delicious! I tasted tomato juice and cilantro mainly. There was shrimp in it. So rich, I couldn't even finish it!
This is Naomi! She was very gracious to talk to us while her food got cold!

We had to leave early that evening to make our midnight flight. Everyone else was leaving the next morning, but Daddy said that we saved over $1,000 on our tickets by booking them at midnight. Our flight to me seemed endless especially because I don't like sleeping on planes. I barely caught a wink and was falling asleep on the escalator and trying to keep up with daddy as he moved us fast enough to get us through customs and security before we would be caught up in a long, long line.

After a quick breakfast a Chili's (not bad at all), we boarded our next plane back home. I slept the whole way :) As soon as we touched down, Daddy called the house and within half and hour, we were in the minivan on our way home! I had jet lag pretty bad for the next couple of days, but now I'm better (in case you were wondering :)

To sum up: I can't wait to go back!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ecuador Post Part 2

Part 2

I haven't had a chance to write since that last entry. It's been a wild time! Let me, there's too much; I'll sum up: Soon after I wrote that, we boarded the plane and during the 5 hour flight, I got to watch Dolphin Tale. I highly recommend it. It's all clean. Not the most exciting story in the world, but it was a great family movie.

After we landed and went through customs, there was a group of Compassion staff to greet us. Even though it was after 11:00, they were very friendly and much more awake than I was. Quito is almost 10,000 feet above sea level, so the air is very thin up there. At first, I had a hard time catching my breath because I was pulling heavy luggage and trying to keep up with my dad's long strides. But, after a while I got used to it, breathed almost the same as if I'd been back home and had a good night's sleep.

What a view!!!
Then next morning, I awoke and opened my windows to a spectacular view! There was the regular city buildings and houses, but looking beyond them, I saw the Andes mountains. Beautiful! We were already 10,000 feet up and still the tops were shrouded in mist! At the very nice hotel we stayed in, their idea of a “Continental Breakfast” is a huge buffet with everything you can think of! Eggs, bacon, pancakes, toast, oatmeal, cereal, deli meat, cheese, crackers, juice, quiche, potatoes and a special omelet cook ready to take your order! We didn't even have to bus our own tables... Anyway, after that happiness, we took off in a bus to the Compassion Country Office. We were briefed on what would be happening during the next couple of days and given a tour of the office where they handle the sponsorships, curricula and hundreds of letters that come and go every day.
Looks almost like you could just hop from one roof to the other!

I never did get to swim in that pool...
This is Becca the day I met her :)

Taylor and her dad Shane.

This is a bull-fighting ring! I snapped it as we were driving by in the shuttle.
In the Compassion Country Office we were briefed in this room on our trip.
They have pictures everywhere of children in the programs :)
Fernando, one of the translators, and the woman in charge of finances
These are all letters to and from sponsors and children. They are individually translated by people in the community.
This woman is in charge of mail and gifts.

When our tour was over, we loaded back up in the bus and drove for about twenty minutes or so until we reached a Compassion project in a village who's name I cannot begin to pronounce. The children were so precious! As soon as you give the initiation of a hug or a smile or a handshake, they take you in as if they had known you their whole lives. I saw such joy and happiness on their little upturned faces begging for attention and love. But after we entered the church, I found it a little harder to break the ice. A lot of my friends had children sitting next to them in the pews or on their laps, but I didn't. So, I had an idea. Behind my pew (which was in the back), there were some little girls playing with balloons. So I got up and took off my big straw hat (I had it because I sunburn easily, you wouldn't believe how useful it's been) and grabbed one of the red balloons out of the air. I used the hat to catch it and throw it back up. They thought it was the greatest thing ever! I even put the hat on their heads which they thought was hysterical! I made a lot of friends that afternoon.

The girls loved to pose!

Really pose!

Friends and Fun!

Best friends? :)

Apparently word got around that I had a camera...

The sweetie in the pink headband attached herself to me and made it a point to be close by.

She really liked the hat!

Tim was the baby whisperer! He was never seen without a baby at the projects.

The children didn't see cameras often. They didn't know what to do sometimes!

Lunch! Wow! That was a satisfying and very tasty meal!

One of the little boys gave me a flower he'd  been given. So generous!

Hello there!

This pic was take accidentally when the camera shutters weren't open yet. It turned out great!

So presh!

Wess, Milan and me!

Wess with Milan on his knee. Love it!
So sweet!

After lunch, we split up into four groups to visit local houses of CSP (Child Survival Program for children under 4) children and their families. Our group loaded into the back of a pick-up (which is ALWAYS fun :) and rode about a mile or so down the road to a very small concrete house with a little garden behind and another house down the road. The family living there consisted of a mother, a grandmother and two young boys. The older boy, Jonathan, who looked about eight or nine, was in the CDSP (Child Development Sponsorship Program for children and adolescents aged 4-18) and the younger brother, Sebastian, who was three was the one in CSP. A great part of the CSP program is that it usually starts before the child is born, helping the mother to go through her pregnancy healthily and help deliver the baby. Then, the “promoter” steps in. A promoter is a knowledgeable lady from the community who visits the house at least three times a week to teach the mother things and give the child lessons like flashcards.

The promoter in the house we visited was teaching the mother how to take a temperature and give fever medicine. Pilar led us in a song and prayer before her lesson (see video below).  As Pilar led the lesson, the mother explained to us that she was not looking forward to Sebastian becoming old enough to join the CDSP because then, Pilar (the promoter) wouldn't come to their house anymore. She was like a family member to them.
Here is the house with Jonathan leading the way.
Here's Sebastian...being shy!
Pilar is using picture illustrations to teach the mother to read!
This was most of our visiting group.

Jonathan and Sebastian with one of their puppies.

The rest of the day went by in a whirlwind. We drove back to the hotel to check out and then boarded a plane to Manta, Ecuador. We checked into the hotel and had dinner. The hotel we stayed in was about a five minutes walk down to the beach. I could see the Pacific ocean from my windows and there was a pool area in a courtyard that could be seen from our balcony. Wow! That night, some of the girls and I decided to wade in the pool, but I was so excited that I actually got into the water and swam. It felt so odd to be swimming in January when it's snowing back at my house! The pool there was warmer that night than the pools in Canton ever get on the hottest summer day.

After a shower, I stayed up extra late instant-messaging with my mom on my dad's Facebook account. Then we went to bed and that was the end of our second day in Ecuador. How fantastic!