Friday, February 20, 2009


Sorry for the extended absence; instead of dwelling on the expected excuses (We're so busy! The afternoon thunderstorms have knocked out our internet! Holly forgot to post something.... again...), I'm just going to jump into highlights from the week. It has been an exceptionally packed one, even in MPIE terms.

Sunday: We hosted a dinner party for Mafe's family at our house, cooking up a Tex-Mex fiesta even the most pica-adverse (pica = spicy) Ecuadorian's could enjoy. It still confuses me how much the Ecuadorians in our circle despise spicy foods. Since everything lacked any spice of any sort, the collection of spices for us gringos on the table was prolific, to say the least :)

On a rather depressing note, my beautiful camera Cecilia (please just humor me that it's normal to name electronic devices) was stolen out of my backpack while Eliah and I were at markets shopping for the evening's feast. The daily photographs will be lacking for the next few posts until I can figure out an alternative. Sad news all around, but that's how it goes I suppose.

Monday: Another stellar team meeting, productive day at Apoyo and Children's English, and a hysterical evening at women's exercise. Jocelyn and I set up a circuit training rotation, something the women had never seen, and we suffered through each station together. Considering that all 7 women in my group got up together and "went to the bathroom" right before we got to station 5, push-ups, they figured out ways to manipulate the system.

Thursday: Children's Art was an...experience. We studied Jackson Pollock and his splatter, drip, and pouring techniques before beginning our own. Each student mixed their own paint color (how Alexis, the most machismo guy in the class, ended up with bubble gum pink is still bothering me) and "took turns" splattering (read: throwing) it onto the butcher paper on the floor. Taking turns quickly turned into everyone throw the paint at the same time while Alexis dumps enormous pink piles of paint everywhere, but eh, at least it was fun. Hopefully they'll remember some of it! Dana's mom and brother came to class, too, which was awesome, and once I get a hold of the video they shot I'll be sure to post it.

Friday: We all headed to our respective destinations for Carnival: I hopped on a plane to the states (where this missive comes from), Jos and Serena braved the mud-pit streets on a bus headed to Canoa (the coast), Seth headed down to Argentina, and Dunc and Eliah went somewhere for a 4 day backpacking trip. Posting will be a little light this week as well, but when I get some news from Ecuador I'll be sure to share some choice anecdotes.


Friday, February 13, 2009

First 5 Lessons

I've been taking photographs after every children's art class of the collected works assembled to dry, and thought that I'd post those pictures here to give everyone a better idea of what we've been up to (other than our elbows in paint) for the past 3 weeks. I am so encouraged by by the progress, in terms of originality, which has blossomed this past week.

(Drawing Neruda, personal responses to two Neruda poems)

(Tissue paper valentines)

(Who am I? Collages)

(Painter Study I: Vincent Van Gogh and Starry Night)

(Painting birds, inspired by the beautiful book Abuela, donated by Dunc and Jocelyn's fabulous grandma!)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Neither Here Nor There

(Today's guest blog comes from Mark Hand, Country Director extraordinaire)

Men in Botswana holds hands to display their purely platonic friendship. In Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, cars drive on the left side of the road. In Nicaragua adios ("to God," literally) means hello and goodbye. In Louisiana, the southern gentry stand by their chairs whenever a lady arrives at or departs from a table. Travelers both seasoned and novice note these sorts of cultural quirks. Sometimes they are just that – quirks. Often, they point to deeper cultural currents.

In my travels, these quirks have always been amusing, and at times thought-provoking to me. While in Nashville last week, for example, my sister would physically push me away for walking too close to her on the sidewalk; an amusing notion, and one which in more thoughtful moments could lead to a discussion of the quintessentially North American need for personal space.

This trip back to the US, which I spent at a conference in DC and in MPI's first organization-wide conference in Nashville, was the first time I have paid more heed to those quirks in myself than in my surroundings. When in an uncomfortable formal situation, I used to find myself reverting unconsciously to my training as a southern gentleman; now, however, I find myself acting more like a polite Ecuadorian country boy. When I walk into a room it feels more natural to greet evry last person – the men with a not-too-firm handshake, the women with a single fake kiss on the cheek – than to slip in quietly, shake hands with those in close proximity, and nod in recognition to those who make eye contact from across the room. When I make physical contact with someone on the metro (a grave offense in the US, apparently) my immediate reaction is to say perdoname rather than excuse me. And man, driving in the US is boring.

I am back in Quito now, interviewing an excitingly strong group of applicants for next year's E-team. And instead of coming back with open questions about the differences between Ecuador and the US, I come wondering about how I fit into both – or neither. So Mom, if I stand up at the table whenever you do, but then attempt awkwardly to kiss you on the cheek, you'll know why.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Boxes of Books

Before I post Mark's guest blog for the day, I have to write a quick note about the exciting package that was just dropped off at our house. Dunc has been working tirelessly to procure books for our library so that when we have the grand opening concert in March, our still-to-be-constructed bookcases will be full, instead of empty and sad.

To that end, he's found himself at the US Embassy, the Ecuadorian Ministry of Culture, the local paper shop, the Ministry of Education, and who even knows how many websites convincing the People with Power to donate books to our little endeavor. We've also been shown just how strongly we're supported through donations from MPI friends and family, specifically via our wishlist - thanks, Dad and Mom!

Anyway, we just got a box chalk full of books from the US Embassy! Woo hoo! They range from a child's touch-and-feel ocean book to Farenheit 451 in Spanish to a book on US politics and Obama... something for everyone :)


Monday, February 9, 2009

The Table Game

Last Thursday, in between Apoyo and Children's Art, Eliah and Jeremy were tasked with re-arranging the tables. Jeremy decided that a far better idea would be to hide under the table while Eliah moved it, effectively evading the job tasked to him and amusing himself thoroughly. It was too cute to stop.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


(Today's guest blog is from Serena Zhou, MPIE's tri-lingual, pre-med rockstar. Enjoy!)

This is my lucky year: the year of the Ox (牛), my birth year.
一九八六年, 一月十九日.
I am lucky to have three homes: one in Ecuador, another in the United States, and the last in China. No matter which home I'm in, the other two eventually venture their way to my front door.

I am lucky to have my beloved Manna family along with a handful of chevere ("cool", "sweet") Ecuadorian friends celebrate my 23rd birthday with me, and to have a successful joint bbq birthday bash with Mark, packing the Manna house with colorful bilingual nationalities, sinfully delicious pork loin, carrot cake, chocolate cookie cake, and Mississippi mud cake (thanks girls).

I am lucky to receive presents that every kid dreams about: A KIDDIE POOL + sour patched kids (thanks Holly) + a stuffed duckling named "Patita" as in "little foot" (thanks Seth). (Given the fact that I accidentally failed to properly care for the real duckling(s) we had for less than 24 hours). Monday morning meetings have now been officially moved up to the roof, rain or shine.

I am lucky to have Andres ("the only male belly-dancer in Ecuador") perform for me and the girls plus Dunquito a jaw-dropping private show. And, might I add, I am lucky to have gone on a heavenly trip to Maui, my birthday present from mi amor Ryan, which I still daydream about and wonder if it really did happen...

I am lucky to have a local Chinese family take me in on New Years day, invite me to their home in Caracunga, personally expense my trip, and feed me the most amazing home-made, authentic Chinese food I've craved ever since landing in Ecuador. I am lucky to witness a modest Ecuadorian apartment miraculously transform into the hottest Asian techno nightclub in town, forgetting for a moment that I was actually in a Latin American country.

I am lucky to be accepted into my respective communities, and to not only having three homes, but also three inter-being families as well.

2009 Year of the Ox. It's going to be a lucky year...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Pictures of the New Space

Today Jos and I stopped in to visit our new space after Children's English to snap a view pictures for this little site, since I was too uncoordinated to get them up in time for Seth's post last week. Video to come soon (as soon as I can find an internet signal strong enough to survive the upload!). It will be fun to look back on these bare little photographs once we have furniture, book cases, paintings and the teen center set up!

(main room, as seen from the entrance)

(check out the trophies that come with the space! winners!)

(main room; the door on the left opens out to the porch)

(Jos looks out at the soccer field from the porch)

(view from the main room looking back)

(back room)

(back room view, different angle)