Friday, November 28, 2008

Can't Move...

(our newest dinner guest)

Current locations of all MPIE PDs:

Jocelyn: Horizontal in bed, Perez Hilton up on her computer screen and dreaming about pumpkin pie.
Eliah: Horizontal, watching James Bond and avoiding the compost pile.
Serena: Horizontal, still eating turkey, watching James Bond.
Dunc: Horizontal, talking to himself about the Jalepenos his mom sent and chocolate pecan pie.
Dana: Sound asleep sitting up in a chair, "watching" James Bond.
Mark: Doing more dishes, wishing he was horizontal.
Holly: Horizontal on the floor, watching James Bond and attempting to write the daily life blog.
Seth: Who even knows, he went home and celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday. We miss him.
Chris: Horizontal, silently memorizing the lyrics to "oh holy night" as sung by Cartman from South Park. And watching James Bond.

Since we have 4 programs in the community every Thursday (Apoyo, English conversation, English for adults, and Women's Exercise), we decided to 'postpone' our Thanksgiving celebration until today. This was decided after we realized that the smallest turkey we could purchase was 25 lbs. and would take essentially all day to we would all need to be in and out of the kitchen making our respective side dishes starting at 8am (guess who got that lucky shift) until 5;30 dinner time.

I love the eclectic nature of life down here; my Thanksgiving day started with an 8am bike ride to the local market to buy fresh green beans, continued with my first attempt at chocolate-pecan pie and handmade pie crust (thanks for the rescue, Jos!), transitioned to a cab ride into Quito to join the hundreds of Ecuadorians watching day one of the Festivals of Quito bull fights, which subsequently led me to slight dehydration and nausea at watching 6 bulls die in 86 degree Ecuadorian sun...after which Jos, Serena and I piled into a cab, swung by the Mariscal to pick up Paul, a friend from Colorado living in Quito for the next year as well, and headed home to put our dishes in the oven and get ready for our feast.

And, judging by everyone's current positioning, it was an absolute success. Chances are pretty low that our leftovers will last past tomorrow...sorry Seth.

Pictures to follow, when I can muster the strength to climb the stairs and get my camera cord. But I don't think that will happen until next week, based on how full my stomach is :)

(Thanksgiving delights)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Menu

(Today's guest blog comes from Seth Harlan, who selfishly abandoned us all in our time of greatest need (ie. cooking at 25 lb. turkey) to enjoy Thanksgiving with his family. His actual family. As if that's what Thanksgiving's about...)

Thanksgiving Dinner Menu in Ecuador
25 lbs turkey (stuffed or unstuffed)
3 casseroles
2 pies
1 veggie plate
5+ side items
2 Sauces
4 beverage choices
Bread: optional

You may find a similar menu feeding 25 people at Obama’s table this Thanksgiving, but in Ecuador a meal like this only feeds 8. Do we really need mashed potatoes and a sweet potato casserole? If you name is Eliah, the answer is a definitive YES!!! The fact is, no matter how excessive the menu appears, it’s impossible to have a Thanksgiving dinner without at least one recipe from at least one grandmother of every PD in Ecuador. It’s usually the one time of year that PDs feel homesick. No expense can be spared on this occasion, and all things must be included, no matter how hard are to find or cook. Canned pumpkin and cranberry sauce are shipped from home (thanks Mrs. Fulton!), 25 pound turkeys are bought (not because we need 25lbs, but because there aren’t many other options), and PDs spend an hour selecting the menu and delegating tasks.

This year, I will spend Thanksgiving with my own family at my parents house Florida, and while I won’t miss the excitement how figuring out how to fit a 25 pound turkey into a 2x2.5ft oven, or standing in line to cook a side dish over one of the four burners on the Manna stove, I will miss sitting down at the table with the people I have come to consider family. It’s a truly special moment when the entire house sits down to a Thanksgiving feast after slaving for hours, fighting to keep Serena from sampling all of your dishes, and reminding Mark that the only thing he is allowed to do is wash dishes. The moment you cut into the turkey and pour the apple cider, you realize that you’re really not that far away from home. Instead of pro football you have the neighborhood soccer teams; instead of the rush the stores on black Friday, you have to rush to the corner venta to buy boxed wine before it closes; and instead of crazy Uncle TJ’s antics, you have “Uncle” Mark Hand, which counts for something. In other words, you make due with what you have, and in the end Thanksgiving in Ecuador isn’t so bad after all. To everyone down there, I want you to know that I’ll miss you guys and I hope you all have an amazing thanksgiving. Save me some leftovers, and I’ll see you Sunday.


Monday, November 24, 2008

A Good Read

Match the PD with the book they brought to read in Papallacta this weekend:

a) Rising Tide -------------------------------------------------1) Eliah
b) Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince ----------------2) Jocelyn
c) World War Z -----------------------------------------------3) Seth
d) The Rise of American Democracy ---------------------- 4) Holly
e) Light in August-------------------------------------------- 5) Chris
f) The Audacity of Hope------------------------------------- 6) Dana
g) How to Change the World--------------------------------7) Dunc
h) The Fountainhead---------------------------------------- 8) Serena
i) Barrel Fever ------------------------------------------------9) Mark

(answers below)

a=7 b=8 c=9 d=1 e=5 f=2 g=3 h=6 i=4

Friday, November 21, 2008

Little Packages

Today's blog is perhaps more of a personal anecdote than a program update, but I couldn't help but share it with you all.

I've made it no secret these past few weeks that I love autumn. Bemoaning its Ecuadorian absence on my personal blog, making references to it in the monthly update, carving a gourd that only slightly resembled a pumpkin, and fixing far too many mugs of apple tea in an attempt to channel the wonder that is Coloradan mountain apple cider, my other roommates, friends from home, extended family, etc. know too well how much i miss American fall.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I received a lumpy letter from one of my best friends (and past college roommates) Ashley, containing no fewer than 14 slightly crunched but fabulously colored autumn leaves. Picked up on one of her afternoon walks through St. Louis, Ash found Oak, Beech, Red and Sugar Maple, Hickory, and Buckeye leaves, stuck them in a manila envelope with my favorite picture of the two of us, and postmarked it to South America.

It's sweet to be so taken care of; Thank you, Thank you, Ash!


(check those beauties out! gold! red! orange!)

(The beautiful, leaf-gifting Ash and I back in Nashville)

Thursday, November 20, 2008


At any given time, on any given day, shepherds can be seen from our upstairs windows directing their herds up and down our main “cobblestone” (ie. cement block path) street. Apparently the grassy stretch off which our front door lies provides choice sweet grass perfect for long gestation periods and multiple stomachs. The little guy from the picture was so caught up in the vegetation that he didn’t notice when his entire family LEFT. He hung out in front of our house for a good hour before realizing, ‘oh wait a second, i’m alone. oh...NO.’ Thus began an imaginably scary 45 minutes of moo’ing his heart out while staying rooted in the same exact position. After half an hour of this, I couldn’t take his sad lonesome moo’s and so decided to take a picture with him. Because we all know that when you’re lost, what you really want is someone you don’t know to take a picture with you. Help you memorialize the moment. Or something.

Happy to oblige, little guy.

His shepherd did return 20 minutes later and smacked his rear all the way back to the herd. It was a rough day for all involved.

Thanks for checking in!

(me and the forgotten calf)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Tale of Horror and Suspense

(Today's guest blog comes from the infamous Chris Taylor, Manna Project International's state-side, go-to, answer-anything man. Currently residing in our Ecuadorian home for the next week, Chris was coerced into contributing to the blog to make up for the fact that I have missed three of the past 5 days. You're welcome.)

"Today’s blog is exciting for two reasons. The first reason is because I, Chris Taylor, legendary suspense writer, will be penning this week’s chilling edition of “The Guest Blog”. The second reason is even more exciting but you will have to read on to discover what it is.

When I arrived in Conocoto I quickly remembered how easy it is to get into the good graces of Americans living abroad in Latin America... and also how quickly they can turn against you. A quick, pre-flight stop at CVS for a bag of candy or a jar of peanut butter is really all it takes to ensure a warm welcome and pleasant stay. How foolish I felt upon arriving empty handed, having forgotten that the only real currencies down here in the Manna house bear the names Hershey’s or Skippy. I realized my fatal mistake only just before entering the doors of the Manna house where the PDs were hungrily awaiting my gift bearing arrival.

In a meager attempt at friendly relations I greeted the kitchen full of PDs with a sheepish smile, arms outstretched, hoping that my visitor’s faux pax would go unnoticed. My hopes were frighteningly dashed as the entire household shoved me out of the way and began rifling through my suitcase. I watched with terror as their initial disappointment quickly turned to a quiet rage. “Where’s the durned peanut butter?” growled Dana, the house’s newest and apparently hungriest arrival. “He didn’t even bring Pop Tarts,” a gaunter-looking Eliah mumbled and then their eyes... their eyes… eerily calm, turned to me in unison. The next words I heard will remain burned into my memory for years. A sinister curl of Dunc’s lips and then, “Let’s give him the treatment.”

At this point I must warn you dear reader that the following is not for the faint of heart or mind. The description of the aforementioned “treatment” is not an exaggeration but the actual events, which I have barely managed to survive through this past week.

First of all, they began making me throw my toilet paper in the wastebasket. Yuk! Also, I got a painful sunburn on my shoulders from rafting, which they all secretly knew would happen. I have tried unsuccessfully for days to email my mum while Jocelyn, Holly, and Serena continue to delight in sucking up the bandwidth with YouTube videos and Skype conferences amongst themselves. Mark, their de facto leader, remains secluded in his temple of an apartment whispering, “The horror, the horror” over and over again. He has bravely assisted my plight at his own risk by sneaking me portions of his delicious Nutella stash. But take hope reader! Their barbarism has slowly waned as the days pass and one named Seth has began regular communications with me. Still, as late as last night I was subjected to a two hour long meeting about programs and house topics. Bleh!

I have recently begun to see a glimmer of hope that I might survive my visit. But please dear reader, take note of the important moral to my horrifying tale. Any time you’re coming to visit Program Directors living abroad, know that a simple treat will make the difference between being warmly accepted and being subjected to their worst tortures. I bid you safe travels.

Yours in unnecessarily suspenseful writing,
Chris Taylor"

(the gifts Chris should have brought)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Community Meals

Each month, we at Manna Ecuador attempt to eat a 'community meal', which essentially entails us "getting ourselves invited" (ie. in most cases flat out asking for an invitation) to someone's house for dinner. Awkward is now spelled C-O-M-M-U-N-I-T-Y M-E-A-L.

October found us over at Pepita's for an impromptu meal after working with her family for 2 weekends at the river minga; score one for an actual invitation! Serena organized our November meal at Paola and Marjorie's house, a family involved in both our Apoyo Escolar and Women's Exercise classes. We brought the choclo (corn on the cob, Ecuador style), chicken breasts, and potatoes and, while Paola and her sisters cooked (and kicked us out of the kitchen) we hung out with their two huge dogs (one is actually named Hannibal Lector...great), watched X-Men 2 in Spanish, and played a mysterious 'ping-pong' game against sassy 6 year old Marjorie which was impossible to win unless you were named, well, Marjorie.

After our Apoyo families celebration dinner party last week with 14 different families, I figured we had exhausted our community meal resources for a while. Imagine my surprise when, after the last kid was shooed out of the Casa Barrial at 4:15 this afternoon, Mafe and her family surprised us all with an impromptu meal they had prepared for us. As they piled our plates high with grilled chicken, choclo, papas, and cucumber-tomatoe-onion salad, we maneuvered the tables which had moments ago hosted math homework and chess boards into a big clump in the center of the room and sat down to enjoy a meal with a kind family.

Looking around at everyone, from Mafe's mom still wearing her apron, to Lori and Amira (our Nicaraguan better-halves), to Serena and Jos fighting over who got Mark's extra chicken, I couldn't help but smile as I poured myself more Sprite. This, an unexpectedly generous meal in the middle of the afternoon, hosted in the Casa Barrial, with gringos and Ecuadorians laughing and eating, is what I've come to understand as community. And it was wonderful.


(South Quito and the Statue watching over the city)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bienvenidos, Familias!

(Today's Guest Blog comes from Dunc Fulton, who recently had his wish for a bed in the kitchen granted. He also recently recieved the biggest package any of us has ever seen, inspiring just a little bit of jealousy as he unpacked it amidst various "ohhh"s and "no way!!"s and of course "i want that!!"s. Oh the small joys of canned pumpkin and Butterfingers)

"Although all the PDs here in Ecuador love the hour and a half spent daily working with the local kids in our Apoyo Escolar class (except when they have math homework...yeah, I might need to review fractions…), 4 PM still brings a small sense of relief. All the kids in the class are great, but seem to have a wee bit more energy than all of us…put together. Today, however, the chicos didn’t all magically disappear when class ended at 4. Instead, we had an hour to set up before the families arrived for our 'fiesta familiar', while also dealing with the craziness that is 7 – 12 year olds. “Jonathan, stop bouncing the ball against the windows”, “Jorge, don’t put your finger in the projector”, "Dilon, get your hands out of the fruit salad,” are just a few sample phrases from that hour of “set-up.”

When the families finally arrived however, everything did become a little more tranquilo. The children were suddenly better behaved (surprise, surprise) as soon as their parents walked in the door. The food (thanks Holly) was served, families were seated, and a quick game of chess between the combo teams of Dana-Carmen and Santiago-me was played (I blame Santiago for our loss).

Once everyone finally settled in, team Ecuador took the stage as we all introduced ourselves to the parents. Seth then gave a very rousing speech discussing our goals and methods of Apoyo Escolar, after which Marco expounded more on our organization in general. Finally, our friend Fabián Gualotuña, director of the local financial cooperative, talked briefly to the parents, expressing his desire to put a portion of their monthly class dues into an account at the co-op to encourage savings.

After spending the past 3 months with all their kids, it was great to finally meet the parents and see their nodding approval as we explained what it was we actually did with their kids everyday. The evening was capped off by the laughter that rang through the Casa Barrial as we ran a slide show of mostly ridiculous pictures of the kids taken by Holly, our (semi)-official MPI Ecuador photographer. Thus, we said good-bye to families, packed up everything, and began the trek home. As I write this entry, we are all finally home in the Manna abode, tired from a long day. Jocelyn’s baking a cake, the guys are contemplating playing Risk, and it is rainy. Sounds like a pretty typical evening in Conocoto.


(Mafe and Cesibel help paint the "Welcome, Families!" sign for the front door)

Day in the Kitchen

Yesterday, I spent the large majority of my time in the kitchen. As in the entire day. I felt very much like a B-list PD, as Dunc would say.

After making an early morning venta run at 8am to get the necessary ingredients for the day's endeavor, I grabbed my computer, speakers, cell phone and ipod and set up shop. Today (Wednesday) is the day of our Apoyo Escolar parent's party, a meet-and-greet-and-hang-and-eat with all the families of our Apoyo Escolar students. Seeing as how we now have 25 students enrolled in our course, chances are the Casa Barrial is going to be packed. Thus, I barricaded myself in the kitchen to get to work cooking for the 60-80 people we could potentially be entertaining tomorrow. Luckily, my mom is an amazing cook and has a rockin' recipe for cold linguini pasta salad (recipe can be found at the end of the post). Couple that with an enormous fruit salad and countless loaves of bread, and I'm hoping we'll have enough food.

Making kitchen matters a little more complicated (ie. dirty), the faucet under our sink now has a serious leak. For the past few months the drip has been small, manageable with a big tub under the sink to collect the occasional drip. But for some unknown reason, in the past two weeks our small drip has turned into a serious flow of water. Every time anyone turns the water on to, say, fill up a huge pot to boil water for 4 pounds of pasta, the faucet leaks, the pipes leak, and within 2 minutes the entire floor is dripping wet. Yesterday was a bit of a mess, especially since after I finally finished cooking for today's party around 4, Serena and I had to start cooking family dinner for the 8 of us plus our three boss guests AND Christian (the Ecuadorian we partner with to host English conversations with his students) and his girlfriend. We quickly found out that vegetarian shephards pie is a beast to make, especially for 13 people. This morning, circa 7:30am the plumber finally came; here's hoping that our kitchen is now a dryer and safer place.

Keep your fingers crossed for us this afternoon; sometimes the electricity in the Casa Barrial randomly disappears. If that happens, we're going to be eating dinner by candlelight, listening to Mark provide music via his guitar and pretending like we can see the slideshow I've put together on the projector. You never know down here.

1 lb fresh linguine, cooked drained and cooled.
1/4 c. best quality olive oil

1 c. sliced radishes
1 small green pepper, chopped finely

1 med. cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut in halves lengthwise and then into 1/4 inch slices

4 scallions, minced
1/3 lb. prosciutto or Missouri cured ham, cut in julienne strips (I use ham -proscutto is ver $$ and not everyone likes it)

2 T. wine vinegar or tarragon vinegar
1/3 c. imported grated Parmesan cheese or more

1/2 cup heavy cream or more

salt and pepper to taste

black olives for garnishes

Toss pasta with olive oil, making sure pasta is evenly coated. Add radishes, gr. pepper, cucumber, scallions and ham. Toss. Add vinegar and cheese and toss again. Add cream and seasonings. Toss. Chill until serving time. Add more cream if necessary. Sprinkle with olives.

Tune in again later today for a guest blog!

(our newly painted shelves and fruit/veggie corner)

(the sink and leak bucket, door to the atrium/laundry room, and halloween-sticker decorated oven)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Where are the keys?

Monday: the abrupt start to every working person's week. Granted, I live in the Ecuadorian Andes and get to call playing with kids, painting stars, teaching English and working out for an hour 'work', but I digress. Today's Monday began abruptly at 7:50am with Mark banging on my bedroom door as a reminder that our weekly meeting starts at 8, and would I please actually wake up this time instead of sleep-sitting through the meeting? Right. Check. Cold water on the face.

After our morning meeting I sat down to the task of finishing the monthly update for November. And yes, I know that it's being sent out later and later every month, I'm WORKING ON IT, OK. After wrestling with the google group for about an hour (it still won't let me add everyone onto the list, something about "spamming 700 people" and "am I sure they're all my contacts" and "requests pending"...if one of my best friends in the whole world didn't work for Google I would be using a few choice words about now), I finally got the update sent out and posted on our blogger site (found here). At this point it was closing in on 1 o'clock; time for a quick bite of leftovers before bussing out to Apoyo Escolar to get down to some homework...only to find out that half of our kids have Monday through Thursday off from school. As Santiago said "No tengo debers, profe!! QUIERO JUGAR!!" (I don't have homework, professor! I WANT TO PLAY!!")...great.

After Apoyo it was time for a few minutes chillin' in 'la cueva' and then off to English and Exercise class. Upon arriving at the church where we host these programs, however, we found out that the doors were locked and no one knew where the keys were. No one seemed too worried about finding them either. As everyone milled around the gravel and dirt street in front of the church gates (did i mention it's gated with spiked fencing?) and did their best to convince everyone else they were trying to think of where the keys might be, Eliah disappeared, only to suddenly be seen walking out of the church into the gated courtyard. Apparently he had spotted an open window (think second story window) in the church, maneuvered his way up and over an enormous wall, wiggled through the window, used the speaker stand as a step, jumped down from the window ledge, walked out the front door and opened the church from the inside. Everyone was in awe (and a little freaked out that he had just successfully broken in to the community church), and classes were able to continue as planned, albeit a little late.

Pictures of tonight's break-in to come tomorrow, as soon as I get them off of Serena's camera.

Happy Monday!

Friday, November 7, 2008


(Today's guest blog comes from Serena Zhou, who has recently begun teaching us all words in Chinese while lounging on the couch in the kitchen.)

"Doctora: "blah blah blah, blah blah, blah papanicolau blah blah, blah?"

Me (pretending to know what's going ultimate downfall): "ya ya ya, bueno!"

La Doctora (Dra.) dons a pair of surgical gloves, motions me over to the patient bed, and hands me an ancient-looking metal clamp device. The patient, a woman in her 50s (although most women here tend to look a lot older than they are), starts unbuttoning her pants. Meanwhile, I'm holding this monster clamp in my right hand watching this woman willingly reveal her world, feeling my gracious smile beginning to twitch. What have I gotten myself into? 

In Ecuador, like in most other countries in the world, high school graduates apply to universities as a medical student. In other words, there is no such thing as "pre-med." To save the confusion in trying to explain this minor discrepancy, I tell the doctors that I'm a 5th year med student (my logic being that I've had 4 years undergrad training as a pre-med, planning to start my 5th year as a medical student-here's hoping!). I'm about to find out just how much "5th year med students" in the US are perceived to know by Ecuadorian doctors...

The clinic where I've been shadowing for the past month functions under the Ministry of Public Heath in Conocoto, and provides free services to its patients who cannot otherwise afford basic health care. I would've walked right past the unlabeled building if it weren't for the locals directing me to it. To be honest, it made the clinics in ghetto downtown Baltimore seem like penthouse suites. But I love it. 

Lines as long as those formed in Ohio on Nov. 4, 2008, appear every morning before it opens at 8am. The clinic has 2 nurses and 7 doctors (2 obstetricians, 1 gynecologist, 2 pediatricians, 2 general practitioners), who's showings are as predictable as Ecuadorian weather (that is, very UNpredictable). Over the course of the past few months, I have had the lucky opportunity to do clinical rotations and shadow a different doctor each week.

On my first day (that is, after a few no-shows), I shadowed Dra. Espinoza, an obstetrician. She taught me the word papanicolau, which means "pap smear" and subsequently set me to work. If it weren't for the lack of liability, I think I would have been in some legal trouble. The staff just don't seem to fully grasp the meaning of "no, no todavia he aprendido eso" (no, I have not yet learned that). I've been asked to prescribe medicine despite my broken Spanish (don't worry, I didn't. Not about to build a malpractice track record that will haunt me for years). But I do get to take patients' histories and fill out various medical forms in Spanish, fill out prescription forms (with proper assistance), and perform/record basic clinical procedures (blood pressure, weight, height, temperature). How accurate they are might be another story, seeing how I taught myself how to take blood pressure from a CVS pamphlet. But hey, the nurses seem to trust my measurements over their own. (It must be the white jacket? Or being Asian?


Nonetheless, these experiences have confidently prepared me for medical school in the future, for which I am immensely grateful. I can definitely see myself, and hope to be, working long-term in a clinic that serves underprivileged citizens such as this (apart from the flakiness). However, it did, I have to admit, confirm my interests to not specialize and instead go for primary least over ob-gyn.

:) Serena."

(Jocelyn gets her blood pressure taken by Serena. And tries not to laugh.)

The Manna Hotel

For those of you wondering what happened to the Wednesday guest blog, don't worry, it's still around...even though it's been mia for the past two weeks. Serena's thinking up her entry as I write this, which is set to appear sometime later today instead of Wednesday. Obviously. Since Wednesday has a blank hole where someone (ok fine, it was me) forgot to put anything.

Anyway! The MPIEcuador house is going to play host to three wonderful Manna Executives (for want of a better term) over the next three weeks, the first of whom arrived late Wednesday night. Lori, the director of Manna Project and one of its original founders flew from Nicaragua to Ecuador via Miami yesterday, which makes about as much sense as the man I saw watering his grass today WHILE IT WAS RAINING, but so it goes down here. She's already gone on a run to the bank in Conocoto, spent some time on the couch in the kitchen (we moved Dunc's bed back up to his room), read a bunch of Dr. Suess books with Maylen at Apoyo, played Go Fish! with Jocelyn's english students, laughed through women's exercise, and watched a movie on the projector. The girl's got a lot ahead of her, considering that was just day one, and we couldn't be more excited to show her around the Ecuadorian life we've built here thus far.

As for our other two guests, Chris and Amira, can't wait for you guys to get here!


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Si se puede...

Tonight, as we watched history unfold in a little bar named Mulligan's, in the middle of Quito, thousands of miles away from the places we sent our absentee ballots, none of us could hide our smiles or our tears as we joined with Ecuadorians in adding our voices to Obama's refrain, "Yes we can"... "Si, se puede."

"...we've been warned against offering people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope."

Monday, November 3, 2008

It finally happened

After making it on to every meeting agenda we've had since July, there is now a bed in the kitchen. Dunc's bed, to be exact.

After spending all day yesterday doing a deep DEEP clean of the kitchen (scrubbing the walls, sweeping 3 times, mopping twice, taking everything out, painting the cabinets, purging the fridge, de-mildewing the fruit baskets...I think my mom's horrified expression when she walked in last week inspired me), I thought what better way to welcome everyone back from their weekend adventures then with a little surprise.

Clearly it went over well :)

Back to work tomorrow, promise some program updates will be coming soon!


(Serena, Dana, Jocelyn and Dunc relax on the bed while Eliah checks the fridge)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Week's Recap

(the Wards come to Ecuador!)

And I’m back! Apologies for the extended absence. The week was a whirlwind filled with all of my favorite things about Ecuador and family, made all the better by the mixing of the two. A breakdown of our week’s highlights follows, hopefully it will encourage some of you to plan a visit down south some time soon!

Sunday: Met the Manna girls at the terminal and hopped on a 3 hour bus out to Otavalo for a day of artisan market shopping and haggling. How my mother is more successful at haggling in English than I am in Spanish I still don’t know... Highlight of the trip: getting to watch a Korean soap opera on the way out, and Black Dog 1 & 2 on the way back. Never seen them? Boy do I feel sorry for you... Dinner at Boca del Lobo, a place I’ve been drooling over since we first walked by in on break from language school back in July.

(inside of Boca del Lobo, as seen from the street)

Monday: Out to the markets at Sangolqui to do the week’s fruits and veggies shopping. Loaded everyone up (including Dana who’s now a market expert!) with bags and subsequently braved the bus back. Out to programs for the day; Apoyo, English, Women’s Exercise and then back home. Highlight: Seth and Dunc were making dinner!

Tuesday: Exploring Quito by foot; hit the dvd shop for my brother, the alpaca wool shop for blankets and the most incredible slippers (which I will never be taking off), and the English bookshop where you can get US magazines for 1.50 (Economist and Time if you’re lucky, Decor and Electronic Digest if you’re not, Vogue if you’ve hit the jackpot). Stopped for lunch at the theater cafe before tackling the Basillica! I managed to convince the boys to climb into the top spire with me while my mom enjoyed a coffee and her book at the restaurant halfway up :) Dinner at Latitude, a wine and tapas bar; intense political discussion followed.

(my new best friends, house slippers from heaven)

Wednesday: Toured the incredible Guayasamin museum in the morning (opens at 10am most days) before grabbing the coveted bagel with cream cheese at Magic Bean and hopping on a 4 hour bus to Baños, an amazing town tucked into the side of the Andes. Dinner at Casa Hood, my favorite restaurant in Ecuador.

(Guayasamin museum)

Thursday: Our adventure day! Rented bikes at a little shop off Calle Martinez at 10am; 5 bucks a pop for the whole day, and hit the road. After a “little” accident in the HORRIFYING tunnel (ie. my brother hit the wall, went in a ditch, and busted his arm horribly...don’t think my family has forgiven me yet for that), we continued on the ride through the Andes. Took a ‘gondola’ over the river gulch to get closer to El Manto de la Novia waterfall, hiked down through the forest for lunch overlooking the famous Pailón del Diablo waterfall, climbed up and behind Pailón for an incredibly wet and wonderful experience, and biked on/climbed down to swim in the final waterfall. Hitching a ride back to Baños at 7pm found us all wet and sore and beyond ready for dinner.

Friday: Caught an early 8am bus back to Quito where we were greeted by torrential rains and a gypsy cab driver who took advantage of my exhausted Spanish and over-charged us for our ride out to the Marriott Hotel. Taxied out to Conocoto (where we just missed the rest of the Manna crew who headed out to the mountains for the weekend) to carve our ‘pumpkin’ ie. green squash with REALLY thick edges. Piled back to Quito, indulged in a Marriott burger, the best bit of red meat I’ve found down here, swam in the pool, and had cocktails in the lobby after long showers.

(our dubious little 'pumpkin'...gotta keep with halloween traditions, even in South America!)

I’m now sitting back in Conocoto catching up on work that I missed last week and relaxing in my pjs (and slippers!); gotta love slow Sundays.