Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Updates from the States

Amid snowstorms, santa clause, and satellite TV, I'm missing Ecuador (especially the climate) and reporting adventures to you! Wishfully thinking that maybe you miss us too, here are some exciting updates from break so far:

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!

Helping a stuck sedan en route to the fundraiser

Dana and Chris Taylor cheers-ing to Manna

Love you Dana!

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!
- Jackie

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

$25,000 Richer!

We're THRILLED to announce that MPI finished as one of top 100 non-profits with the most votes in the Chase Community Giving competition on Facebook... so what does that mean?

WE WON $25,000!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Five grand will go directly to programs in Ecuador, and I can't wait to see what we decide to do with it... More chairs and tables for the library? Weights for Women's Exercise? Bookshelves for the Preventive Health Center? Pay raises for Program Directors? (Kidding on that last one.) :) The possibilities are endless.

Thanks SO MUCH to everyone who took the time to vote for us. We couldn't have done it without you!

Peace, love and Facebook voting competitions,

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Snowflake Sunday!

After many many many weeks of anticipation, we finally made it to Snowflake Sunday. THE Snowflake Sunday - marked by a dinner of pizza (8 pizzas for 10 people, and there are barely any leftovers...), a group discussion about a thought-provoking article and, of course, the Secret Snowflake Gift Exchange. Since I'm slipping into a bought of un-productivity, brought on by copious amounts of pizza, here's a glimpse into Snowflake Sunday via pictures. Enjoy!

Our HUGE Christmas/Snowflake tree... with all of the Secret Snowflake presents under, well more like "surrounding," it...
(please note the clever use of gift wrap including: real wrapping paper, newspaper, recyclable grocery bag, and... a dish cloth?)

Jackie received two sweet necklaces from Mr. Chet Polson

Chet got a WHOLE bag of Lindor chocolate truffles from Bibi

Mike got a full set of 10 finger puppets from Erik...
(Yep, we're just as confused by that one as you.)

Haley received a movie ticket to Twilight (which we saw last week) and an ice cream cone from Sonia

Shawn received a beautiful assortment of gifts including a particularly hysterical bracelet (reaction seen above), a plastic trumpet, and a little box thing from Jackie

Krysta got a coin purse, a scarf and a sweet headband (which she is expected to sport in the same fashion as seen in her photo) from Sarah

Sarah was the lucky recipient of a scarf, Galapaguitos (best things ever), a chocolate bar and a 2 liter of Coke Light from Haley

And last, but not least, Bibi got a new coffee mug and a bag of chochos from Krysta

Not pictured due to already being back in the States: Sonia received a bunch of colorful bracelets from Shawn. (We miss you, Sonia!)

I love how many presents revolved around food. Clearly a trend around here. After a great discussion about a thought-provoking article on community development, we all sat around the projector and welcomed President Obama into our living room to watch his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech.

Front row seats to President Obama's speech (a few days after he actually gave it...)! All the way in Ecuador!

We love Snowflake Sunday! ... And now back to the frantic Quarterly Report writing, packing, holiday gift sorting and cleaning that must be accomplished before leaving for Winter Break. It's so close I can barely contain myself!


Friday, December 11, 2009

Snowflake Feasts and List-Making

Can anyone really believe that today was our last day in the library until January? I mean, we've been talking schedules and time frames since we arrived on July 10th... but here we are, almost five months to the day later, and I (at least) can't believe it. Maybe it's the fact that it's still hot enough to catch some rays on the roof or that there's a serious lack of Christmas decor in Conocoto... but either way, I just can't believe it's mid-December already.

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:

The set dining room table... complete with curtain-turned-table-cloth and candles

Fancy table (with our fancy multi-colored plastic cups)

Pre-making ourselves sick from eating too much

A more accurate depiction of what goes on during dinner

The spread... post-dinner...

Sarah joined the Clean Plate Club... Krysta, sadly, did not


Plotting our next food-induced coma move...

Thanks for checking in!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This week's guest blog comes from Mike of the teen center... and the library. Lucky for us, he's taken a break from facilitating Halo, manning the front desk, and inputting books into our online database to detail how happy we are that it's December. Enjoy!

"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.

Erik and Mike enthused about our homemade Christmas decorations

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!

We've come to learn that Ecuadorians like to name big streets after important dates. Since the day we set foot in Quito, much of our public transportation lives have revolved around this big street that runs through the middle of Quito that's called 6 de diciembre. Turns out December 6th is Quito's founding day, and thus, cause for an annual celebration of epic proportion.

The streets of Centro Historico at night during 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.

Told you we took pictures with the cool painted bull statues

Me and the boys with the cool bull

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.

Plaza de Torros under the beautiful Ecuadorian sky

Nose bleed section! What up!
Note their cool Panama hats. They don't even look like gringos...

The opening ceremony of the bullfight

El Juli, a super famous matador from Spain, during the first round

Hasta pronto,

Thursday, December 3, 2009

25,000 SMACKERS! :)

Hello hello! Long time no see... er... blog. November was a crazy month with daily power outages, long weekends, and globe-trotting Thanksgiving Breaks. But now we're back in full force, and working hard to win $25,000! Yes, you heard correctly... $25,000!

Chase Banks is putting on this competition called Chase Community Giving, in which the top 100 non-profit organizations to earn the most votes on Facebook will win $25,000. This is HUGE. As of right now, we have a definite shot of being within the top 100... but WE NEED YOUR HELP.

Here's what YOU need to do:

1. Click here to become a "fan" of the Chase Community Giving contest on Facebook.
2. Click here to vote for Manna Project International.
(3. Or you can just click that handy little button at the top of our blog, which Jackie, the tech genius, put up yesterday...)

That's all you have to do! One vote really does make a difference. (And if you want to send an e-mail out to any friends, groups, co-workers or listservs who might be willing to vote for us, that would be fabulous!)

If we win the 25k, $5,000 will go directly to funding Ecuador's programs... this could include more furniture for the library (we are in desperate need of more tables and chairs!), appliances for the nutrition program kitchen, more books for the library, and much MUCH more! (How was that for a sales pitch?)

Additionally... since you can vote for up to 20 organizations, we are teaming up with a coalition of other non-profits to cross-promote and increase our chances of winning. This joint effort is sure to give us a leg up on the competition, so please vote for these organizations as well:

Thank you so much for your support... we stand a great chance of winning this competition and we can't do it without you! We appreciate your commitment to our ongoing initiatives, as well as your votes!

Dale pues,

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:

  1. Stove
  2. Gas tanks (2)
  3. Gas hose (6m)
  4. Wood for gas tank cover
  5. Plastic table
  6. Water filter
  7. Dish rack
  8. Set of knives (2)
  9. Pans (3)
  10. Plastic mixing blows (4)
  11. Peeler (3)
  12. Measuring cups
  13. Measuring spoons
  14. Forks (12)
  15. Knives (12)
  16. Spoons (12)
  17. Oven pan (2)
  18. Metal grater
  19. Whisk
  20. Wood spoons (3)
  21. Strainer
  22. Rubber spatula (2)
  23. Laddel (2)
  24. Pot (26cm)
  25. Pot (22cm)
  26. Wood cutting board (2)
  27. Plastic cutting board (2)
  28. Metal spatula (1)
  29. Rolling pin
  30. Fine strainer
  31. Plastic shelves (3)
  32. Pot hooks (7)
  33. Spice rack
  34. Oven mits (2)
  35. Plates (10)
  36. Bowls (10)
  37. Plastic cups (10)
  38. Cake pan (2)
  39. 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 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!

Cheers, Jackie

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ready... Set... EXPLODE!!

Tonight's guest blog comes from Miss Krysta Peterson, fellow natural science profe and my traveling companion for the next week. Since you already know how fabulous she is, I'll let her blog do most of the talking:

"A our natural science class sadly came to end this week, we decided we want to go out with a bang…. or rather an EXPLOSION!

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….

The boys enjoying constructing (and sticking newspaper up their noses)

Jackie and Krysta (and more thumbs up)

Profe Krysta completes the second demonstration

Our whole class!

And FINALLY, our epic video explosion:

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

Bright and early Saturday morning, before either of us usually gets up during the week, Krysta and I made our way into Quito to support one of our community's teens, Christian. His school, Colegio La Salle, is in a beautiful part of Quito, right across from the Basilica in the heart of the historical city. As we walked up to the school and into the main gates we could hear the crowd roaring and the principal trying to restore order to announce the school "teams." In Ecuador high school students choose concentrations, similar to college majors, and each of these concentrations made their own team equipped with uniforms, a mascot and cheerleaders. The teams ranged from Real Madrid to LIGA even to the New York Yankees (represent!).

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.

View of Colegio La Salle from a tower in the Basilica

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!)
Even though the power will be out tomorrow night, my dedicated central American correspondent Sarah will be at MPI Nica headquarters giving you some awesome information about our kitchen-building & cooking class project!


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Part 2: Business 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...

(Today is Part 1 of this week's Guest Blog from Mr. Chet Polson, king of garbage take-out, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, and incessant reader of the mummy book to Selena - imagine Chet semi-yelling, "UNAAA MOMIAAAA!" roughly 50 times per day in the library and you've got a pretty good idea of the mummy book's plot. Chet recently completed a small business course, along with microfinance partner-in-crime, Erik Swanson. Here's what Chet had to say about the course... Enjoy! Look out for Part 2 tomorrow!)

Blog-writer side note: sorry for the on-and-off blogging around here... these power outages/internet failures make blog writing (and showering) a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type thing.

"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..."

... to be continued tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Electric Feel

As I'm sure you've noticed, our blogging has been a little haphazard throughout the last week and a half. Although we always have excuses, this one is actually legitimate (ie: not because of travel, procrastination, or forgetfulness): The Andean region of Ecuador is in the midst of the worst drought in four decades.

What does this have to do with writing the blog, you may ask? Well, when you live in a country that gets about 60% of its energy from hydroelectric power, severe droughts lead to power outages and subsequent lack of internet. At first we weren't aware of any set schedule of blackouts and would find ourselves abruptly interrupted while nuking coffee mid-morning or feeling around for toilet paper in a dark library bathroom stall. But now, thanks to some local friends, we have a website ( that gives us daily power outage updates, which Chet graciously e-mails out to our list-serve each evening. It looks like tomorrow's blackout will be taking place between 7 and 11p.m. which leaves us with a candle-lit family dinner and making flashlight puppets on the living room walls to entertain ourselves until bedtime.

Besides living by the moonlight, we've also been up to a few productive things since we've talked to you last. This past Saturday we participated in a very successful town meeting discussing both health and environmental topics with community members. Erik and I took the stage first, presenting our survey findings about installing public trash bins, cutting down on litter, and combating trash incineration. We were ecstatic at the enthusiastic response supporting these projects and numerous inquisitions about starting a public recycling program to raise money for the municipality. Sonia and Krysta also presented forum questions about whether a preventative health clinic would be something our community would both want and need. The lively discussion brought up concerns about topics ranging from increasing cancer victims in the community to parasitic water. The response was overwhelmingly in favor of such a facility and is a big step for our efforts to research and start our own preventative facility.

Keep on truckin,

ps. For an accurate depiction of what the rainy season is supposed to be like, please see any one of these entries:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Vamos a la Playa!

Thanks to back-to-back feriados on Monday and Tuesday, we had a four-day weekend last weekend (couple that with practically daily power outages and that would explain the extended blog absence). Eight of us chose to pack up and head for the coast for some much-needed R&R. (Erik had a rugby game in Quito, which they won!) The travelers hopped on a night bus from Quito to Canoa on Saturday night... and after some really great sleep in the really comfortable chairs (ha.), blaring Reggaeton music, the coldest air conditioning known to man (who knew they had AC in Ecuador?!), and a water taxi ride at 6am... we made it to Canoa. At 7:30am on Sunday.

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.

Krysta and Haley show off the comforts of the overnight bus

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

The girls grabbed dinner while waiting for their bus back to Quito... and consumed just a few Cokes along the way. (Did I mention there were no bathroom stops during the 7-hour trip? Painful.)

Krysta demonstrates the proper reading-on-the-overnight-bus strategy. We were THOSE gringos on the bus...

Thanks for checking in...