Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Updates from the States
During our first weekend of break one of my very close friends Dana Zichlin hosted a party in Manhattan to raise funds for her feasibility trip to Guatemala. As you may know, MPI is working on a third site expansion and accepted proposals through November. After months of preparation, Dana will be heading to train with us in Ecuador in late January, followed by a seven week feasibility trip in Guatemala. We are so excited to spend time with Dana in Ecuador and show her the Manna ropes!
We also have exciting news to share about our kitchen project! The Peterson family graced us with a visit right before winter break. In addition to giving us tips on how to improve our grill and helping put together our shelves, they also graciously donated kitchen supplies for our cooking class.
Cosas de Petersons: 2 slip-resistant cutting mats, 3 oven mitts/potholders, 4 kitchen towels, 1 dishcloth, 6 dish scrubbers, 3 rubber spatulas, 8-piece utensil set, 4 wooden spoon set, grater, 2 peelers, can opener, measuring cups and spoons, 4 paring knives
A huge thank you to the Peterson family!! For more information about this project and our full wish list click here.
Enjoy the last day of the decade and have a fantastic and safe New Years!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Snowflake Feasts and List-Making
This holiday season, the Manna House inhabitants have an extra day to mark on the celebrations calendar: December 15th. What happens on December 15th, you might be asking yourself... WINTER (or "snowflake," if your name is Chet) BREAK! Most of us are heading home for the holidays... back to the States, the cold weather, and most importantly, the food. Others (coughMIKEandKRYSTAcough) are staying around Ecuador and going on adventures with their family and friends. Either way, we're all looking forward to a few weeks of break and time spent with family and friends (and maybe even time spent away from each other for essentially the first time since July...). :)
In the spirit of going home and countdowns (which I usually cannot stand), here is a brief sampling of things that are on our lists of things to do/eat during break (well, the lists of those who responded...):
1. Drink milk (Erik and Haley)
2. Sleep in an amazing bed (Haley)
3. Not wash dishes (Shawn)
4. Play with blue footed boobies in the Galapagos (Krysta)
5. Enjoy chill time with the fam (Haley)
6. Two (maybe 2.5?) words: Steak 'n Shake (Sarah)
7. Buy packaged chicken breasts (Shawn)
8. Flush toilet paper down the toilet (Haley)
9. Shower somewhat regularly... with WATER PRESSURE (Haley and Sarah)
10. Enjoy NOT cooking (Erik)
11. Get carried up the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu by Chester (Krysta)
12. Drink fountain Diet Coke with crushed ice until I explode (Sarah)
Most things revolve around food. Coincidence? I think not.
In the continuing spirit of all things food and celebration, Haley and Chet decided to go all out and make an enormous Snowflake Feast for tonight's dinner. The menu included two whole chickens (kudos to Chet for that...), mashed potatoes (6kg worth...), corn bread stuffing, green beans, gravy, and TWO desserts (apple pie and peppermint chocolate cake). IT WAS SO GOOD. After eating more than our body weight, we promptly collapsed into movie-watching, anticipating our last weekend before break, and trying to figure out who has whom in THE Secret Snowflake gift exchange, which is set to take place on Sunday.
Here are some pictures from the Snowflake Feast:
Fancy table (with our fancy multi-colored plastic cups)
Thanks for checking in!
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
"To quote Andy Williams, December is 'the most wonderful time of the the year.' Starting backwards, you have New Years Eve, proceeded by Christmas, Christmas Eve, my birthday*, the last day of Hanukkah*, and the first day of Hanukkah, all days that lead to general good cheer (*generally in that order). Well this year, we must tack on to the end of that list Feria de Quito, the 9-day festival celebrating the (re)founding of Quito on December 6, 1534.
The Feria de Quito, among other things, celebrates Quito's Spanish heritage, complete with a compliment of parades, chivas parties on large trucks with live music, and bull fights. It's also a time to celebrate Ecuadorian culture, with local artisans touting panama hats and leather goods, available for sale in the markets and near the Plaza de Toros.
Another highlight of December is our Secret Snowflake. Similar to Secret Santa but with more irony (snowflakes in this equatorial sun?), we have all drawn names and sworn secrecy until the exchange this Sunday. While a limit of $5 would stifle any gift attempts in the States, it has only spurred creativity, due to a penchant we all share for baked goods and the still-coolness of Ecuadorian markets. Shawn, Chet, and I all picked up our gifts Friday, leading to the most difficult part for me as I have to wait 6 more days to give my gift to a certian MPI hermano.
While I am not joining the seven other PDs going home for the holidays (the joys of a one-way ticket), I will have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with my family here in Ecuador. This will be only the second time I'm not in Michigan to celebrate with extended family, and while I'll miss the snow and cold, I'm looking forward to showing off my new city to my mom, dad, and sister.
I wish you and your family a wonderful December filled with family, friends, and, perhaps, a little reflection; afterall, New Years resolutions are only a few weeks away (followed shortly there after by my second favorite month- February, when we break our New Years resolutions).
Monday, December 7, 2009
Fiestas de Quito!
Fiestas de Quito started on November 27th and ran all the way through December 6th. There were parades, concerts... and, of course, the infamous bullfights. While all of us trekked our way into Quito several times throughout the weekend, only five of us chose to attend the bullfight last Sunday. Besides being one of the most popular Fiestas de Quito events, we decided it was also a significant cultural event... a learning experience, if you will.
The five of us made our way into the city on Sunday morning and made it to the Plaza de Torros early enough to eat our fill of delicious empanadas de morocho, dance to the blaring reggaeton music, and take pictures with the colorful bull statues (clearly a must). Once we made our way to our seats (in the nosebleed section... but with a great view!), we realized we had no idea what to expect. Flash forward to the end of the first round bullfight (who knew there were SIX rounds?!) - there were five gringos with their mouths wide open (and maybe a few girls with some tears in their eyes...) surrounded by cheering Ecuadorians. I guess you could say we caught on pretty quickly.
Although a few of us didn't think we'd make it through 5 more rounds, we stuck it out and became intrigued by the tradition and cultural significance behind the bullfight. Personally, the jury is still out on how I feel about bullfights, in general. And I'm pretty sure I'll be content to have only gone to one bullfight in my lifetime. But even so, I think it was an enlightening experience, and one that I am glad I got to witness.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
25,000 SMACKERS! :)
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Top Chef: Ecuador
I’m happy to report that all nine PDs are back in Ecuador and accounted for. After spending our Thanksgiving holidays globetrotting to Nicaragua for the MPI 5-year reunion, Argentina, Venezuela and the good old US of A, we’re all glad to be back in the country we call home. Though we only have two weeks from today until winter break, there’s a lot to be wrapped up and more importantly, lots of brainstorming to be had envisioning new projects to start in January.
One such project is building a kitchen on the third floor of our library. As you may have read in previous posts, this space is now being used for English and natural science classes as well as women’s exercise. The focus groups that we’ve held have emphasized the importance of nutrition education in our community. Last year’s PDs also hosted two different cooking classes for the women in our exercise classes.
The goal of these classes is to increase the extent of which Ecuadorian produce is cooked with as well as how to maximize their nutritional value. In order to accomplish this goal, we plan to install a kitchen on our third floor.
We’ve compiled a wish list, in order of necessity below. Sonia and Krysta have spent the past month running around the valley pricing these items and compiling a comprehensive budget for this project.
Our Wish List:
- Gas tanks (2)
- Gas hose (6m)
- Wood for gas tank cover
- Plastic table
- Water filter
- Dish rack
- Set of knives (2)
- Pans (3)
- Plastic mixing blows (4)
- Peeler (3)
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Forks (12)
- Knives (12)
- Spoons (12)
- Oven pan (2)
- Metal grater
- Wood spoons (3)
- Rubber spatula (2)
- Laddel (2)
- Pot (26cm)
- Pot (22cm)
- Wood cutting board (2)
- Plastic cutting board (2)
- Metal spatula (1)
- Rolling pin
- Fine strainer
- Plastic shelves (3)
- Pot hooks (7)
- Spice rack
- Oven mits (2)
- Plates (10)
- Bowls (10)
- Plastic cups (10)
- Cake pan (2)
- Towel set
In total, our wish list items add up to an expense of $735.20. We plan to cover food costs from inscriptions or from asking our students to bring in items. Our short-term goal is to get this class up and running as soon as we obtain enough donations to cover our basic expenses. Any support that you would be able to give towards this project would be so appreciative; we literally can’t do it without you!
Checks can be made out to Manna Project International, with “Ecuador kitchen” in the memo. Checks should be mailed to the MPI headquarters in Nashville:
Manna Project International
P.O. Box 121052
Nashville, TN 37212
Additionally, support can be given online at www.mannaproject.org/donate. Please click "donate here!" and when prompted, fill in “Ecuador kitchen” designated on under the‘support for.’
We're no strangers to the kitchen, cooking for each other 6 days a week
Only fresh from the local market produce in our kitchen!
If you have any questions, concerns, or wish to learn more about this project please feel free to e-mail me here.
Stay tuned to our side bar as we keep you updated on our fundraising status and project process!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Ready... Set... EXPLODE!!
Our 2-part class on volcanoes had a suspenseful start with a volcano diagram and learning, in Spanish AND English, about the various parts of a volcano. Then we swiftly transitioned into our lecture for the day with material stopping just short of discussing plate tectonics, but none the less just as invigorating! We had planned to do a worksheet and show a video but due to the awesome power outages, neither of those caught a glimpse of action on Volcanoes Day one. We ended day one with the actual building of the volcanoes! WOOHOO! Since our class is so large, we split them up into 2 groups allowing each group to make their own paper mache volcano. And naturally without fail they teamed up into boys and girls teams. As day one came to a close the volcanoes were taking shape and looked awesome!
Cotopaxi is one of Ecuador’s more famous volcanoes with its spectacular summit peeking over mountains and clouds providing views from all around Quito. Did you know that Cotopaxi has erupted 50 times since 1738?! If you were in our class Friday, you would have learned this! NO WAY! Yes way...
After some English vocabulary review, a Discovery Channel video about volcanoes, a worksheet and a lesson about the effects of volcanoes on the environment, the time had come…Explosion time! Needless to say they were a huge hit, I mean what kid doesn’t love volcano eruption day in elementary school? So, I’ll let the video and pictures do the talking from here….
If you are just beside yourself with excitement and jealousy that you didn’t get to build a volcano with us, we offer free Skype dates so you too can learn how to bring the fun to your home! (*Materials not included.)
Thanks for reading and have a splendid Thanksgiving week!
Hugs and an Ecuadorian side kiss,
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Smells like Teen Spirit
As each team was announced, they paraded around the courtyard with homemade banners and lots of energy. After the parade, a couple of the seniors did a lap with a light torch, Olympics-style, to the tune of Eye of the Tiger. There was a homecoming queen-esque competition for the girls, all of whom were dressed in their best dresses and heels, looking older than me (although let's be honest, it isn't all that hard). All and all, it was great to spend some time with Christian outside of the teen center, witness so much school spirit, and be offered chevichochos at 9a.m. about six different times by a guy wearing an "I spent a night in Paris, ask me about it" shirt.
Other exciting weekend highlights include:
- Spending some quality time with Seth who's been visiting Quito/Guayaquil for the past couple weeks = coaxing him into cooking for us and playing a couple rousing rounds of catchphrase in the dark during one of our blackouts.
- Two epic scoreless soccer games from both the girls and guys soccer leagues.
- Watching Sarah creep around the house/apartment/library/soccer fields with the video camera gathering footage for the Manna Reunion in Nicaragua next week (don't fret readers, you get to see the video too!)
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Part 2: Business Class...in Spanish...
"...We had to act out the four different teaching styles in Spanish the first day (Erik and I actually did the best out of everyone, but we failed that exercise as a class pretty hard). The second day began with an 80 question oral quiz to determine what learning style we had (I’m Teórico Reflexivo, Erik is the complete opposite. This was so not-surprising it was funny). On Wednesday Erik and I had to teach a 1.5 hour exercise about business organization to a class of college students. On Friday we had to analyze a small factory and recommend efficiency upgrades. My plan beat Erik’s by a country mile (this is a sore subject with him; if he brings it up simply ask him why he created such terrible indoor plumbing problems). We were expected to give full feedback after every exercise (retroalimentación, one of my new favorite Spanish words). In short, the amount of Spanish the class demanded was challenging and tiring. I know a lot more Spanish now.
But was the class worth it? I certainly think so (did I mention my diploma?). But it brings some tangible benefits to our microfinance program. Erik and I have the basic outline to teach a 40 hour course. We are currently working on preparing a complete manual (in both English and Spanish) so PDs in the future who want to offer small business courses do not have to go through the same certification. Being able to offer the class by ourselves allows us to teach at a more accessible schedule for the community; perhaps every Saturday for two months rather than every “morning” for two weeks (which is hard to do if you are employed). Personally, my Spanish is better and I am more confident using it. If I can bumble through teaching a class to college kids I can totally bumble through a conversation with some parents at the library. Also, more trivial tasks seem less menacing to me now. To put it simply, we have the skills and information to teach an entire class that was not possible to teach before.
And our journey still isn’t done. Erik and I now have what I am referring to as “Continuing Education.” At the end of the course, one of the things our instructors stressed was getting more practice with the teaching techniques, more practice leading the class, and more projects to try. We have already been to one class and will hopefully go to one a week until at least Snowflake break.
And that’s the haps with team Microfinance.
Song of the Blog: “Jefe” by Daddy Yankee"
Thanks Chet for filling us in! Stay tuned for a more eh, regular blogging session this week (we promise, especially since we're all heading to various countries next week for dia de gracias... more on that later...)
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Part 1: Business Class... in Spanish...
"It has been a while since I last checked in. Too much has gone on in the interval to fully describe, but there is one recent occurrence that sticks out when I think about everything I want to write about (other than my current attempt to grow a mustache). Erik and I (team Microfinance) are now CERTIFIED to TRAIN small business class INSTRUCTORS here in Ecuador.
Sounds pretty cool right? Well it is; I have my certificate/diploma/licensure propped up on my bookshelf. “But what is this certification? Where did it come from? Why was it more than a waste of time? Do you have any good stories from the class?”—Those are all good questions imaginary readers, so let me try to fill you in.
This was put on through CIDE (Centro de Innovación y Desarrollo Empreserial), a section of ESPE (Escuela Politécnica del Ejército), our local military polytechnic institute. Dunc and Eliah put on/attended a small business class through them last year, but due to the rather large time commitment this class wasn’t as accessible to the communities we work in as we’d like them to be. Erik and I underwent this training to become capable to teach these very same courses on our own in the community. After much discussion all around, we decided on the certification to train instructors rather than simply attending the basic small business class and taking good notes in order to seem more qualified to put on a class in the community (and also to get a better handle on the information). As an important side note, we were able to pay the fees for this class with some of the funds I have raised over my initial obligation; so thanks donors, for helping bring small business classes to Rumiloma and the surrounding area.
This class had its fair share of difficulties getting off the ground. We initially met with CIDE to talk about this in July. We were told to check back September first. After several more meetings about what course we wanted to take, costs, and students, we set a date for the second week of October. This fell through. We set a new date for the last week of October. We got final confirmation and a large supply list Friday morning before class was to begin the following Monday, which made for a busy weekend.
This class was tough, readers. The material was straightforward, but getting through the class was quite difficult. It was a 25-hour certification over the course of the week: we had class from 8am-1pm Monday-Friday. We then had to roll straight on into programs at the library (which got sequentially harder as the days went on) making for 12-hour work days (which was a "good" experience). We had to be out the door around 7:15 to complete our mile walk to the puente, fight the morning commuters on the bus, and be sitting in front of our classroom by 8am. The class was also completely taught in Spanish (Surprise!). This wasn't exactly to punish us, in fact, most of my notes are in Spanish, which is helpful, but it was certainly challenging. This course was designed for people with or actively seeking college degrees, and with only 5 people in the class total, a lot was expected of Erik and I participation-wise..."
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Vamos a la Playa!
Thankfully we had plenty of time to catch up on our lost sleep, as we spent the majority of our three days laying on the beach, napping in exquisitely-placed hammocks, eating lots of seafood, frequenting the Magnum ice cream bar shops (try 2-3 times per day...), and drinking as much ice cold Fanta as physically possible.
We headed back to Quito late Tuesday night and arrived home at about 7am on Wednesday... with plenty of time for naps and showers before opening the library and teaching English class that afternoon. :) Oh the joys of overnight buses... but definitely vale la pena.
Shawn loves them, too!
The beach in Canoa
More of Canoa's beach... and some of the little tienda huts that line the main road
Dinnertime at a local pizza place
The other half of the table
The beach at sunset
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
"I haven’t told anyone, but I think I may be falling in love. I don’t want to admit it, or lose any street cred, but it’s true, I am falling in love…with a group of people - all younger than me. I never anticipated the extent of such a sentiment and had you told me a few months ago, I would have called you crazy for thinking it possible. But here I am, months into our adventure together, and I find myself always thinking about, and even missing them. It’s not healthy, and although I have yet to draw ‘Bibi hearts Ecuador10’ in my notebook, I never-the-less always find myself wondering about what they’re doing, whether they’re safe, what they’re learning, and even what cool idea they’re going to come up with next.
Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. I just read the first guest blog I wrote months ago when I was considered to be in the ‘transition stage’ of the Country Director position. I did anticipate some of this happening, but like I said, not to this extent. As predicted, this group of PDs, my first, has been an incredibly influential group - impressing upon me positive and lifelong experiences and lessons learned. How could that not carry or llevar some sentiment of love?
Now, you may be asking why I’ve chosen to write about this in my second guest blog and not about something more Country Director-like, such as programs, or community affairs, or organizational future plans. I’ve chosen to write something cursi (cheesey), because 1) the PDs have been doing a great job updating you with programs and community affairs; 2) sometimes I think it’s necessary step back, see the bigger picture, and focus on the positive; and 3) I’ve just finished one-on-ones. For the last four weeks, I have spent a few hours with each PD, alone. Most have been lunch dates, and typically meant trying something new and adding some variety to my not-so-diverse diet. We spend the few hours together talking about social contentedness, professional fulfillment, personal tidbits that often only come up in more intimate settings, and how their overall experience could be improved.
A few pounds heavier, I proudly confess to the blogging world upon completing all the one-on-ones, that my love for this group of PDs is deep and true. Incredibly different, at first, the group didn’t have the chemistry many wished for or even expected, but they have worked non-stop to build, from great differences, friendships. It is clear that despite the constant loss for words and confusion of living in a different country, the glue that binds this group together is Ecuador and our work. With a few last words, Ecuador10, I would like to say something positive, as both motivation and straight up recognition; I tip my hat to you, for sticking with each other despite the occasional (or not so occasional) aggravation of it, for sticking with Ecuador even when you’ve been so uncomfortable you’ve wanted to hide, and in light of all of that, finding a way to make this year happen.
Ecuador10, admiring our fearless leader