Wednesday, April 29, 2009


After a long anticipated arrival, our new Manna camera finally arrived last week!! (Along with a box of 36 Reese's peanut butter packs, thanks Chris!) I've forbidden myself from naming it/her (oh no...) so that I won't get too attached, since I do know that it's not mine for keeping. All that to say, the daily photographs will live on again!

Today's are actually from yesterday's art class where the students perfected different Jackson Pollock painting techniques up on the roof. Spoon dripping, brush thwacking, paint splattering...all in a day's work :)

My Smallest Doctor

(Today's guest blog is from Mark Hand, who is currently in Quito with Dunc listening to a talk by President Carter...maybe I can squeeze another guest blog out of them about that!)

"On average, I kick back six rounds of antibiotics a year for sinus infections. If you've never had a sinus infection, it feels a lot like being held underwater and hit in the face with a rubber mallet at the same time, while somebody sucks out your life force.

One of the young girls who frequents the library these days is named Melani, and she noticed me snorting and sniffling the other day. "What's wrong with you, profe?" she asked, wrinkling her own nose.

"I've got gripe," I told her. Gripe, which is pronounced GREE-pay, can be applied to just about any mild sickness resembling a cold. It's a lot like the flu in Southern Africa. I didn't feel like explaining the intricacies of sinusitis to a nine year-old, so gripe worked just fine.

"You know what, profe? You should have tilo tea. We've got some at my house, you can come by and get it tonight. You put this much in water once it's boiling, let it sit, and it will cure you fast." At this, I asked Melani if she had ever considered being a doctor. Her eyes lit up, and she told me "Yes, profe! Since I was little!"

Melani and I spent the next thirty minutes in the health and wellness section of the library, she trying to explain pictures of hernias and scabies to me, I trying my best to be encouraging without actually having to look closely at any of them. Kind of reminded me of watching Animal Planet with my sister Minette growing up.

The tilo tea, which consisted of boiled flowers Melani pulled off of a bush in her front garden as she tried to set me up on a date with her shy older sister, didn't quite do the trick. I'm hoping the second round of antibiotics I got from a Chile-trained ENT in Quito will. Melani was disappointed that the tea didn't work, but agreed that antibiotics were a good next step.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Question time again

Please send me any and all questions you might have for Dunc! Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:

~the couch in the kitchen
~his obsession with risk
~zombies (trust me, he'd love any question about this)
~library books
~his mannerisms

Send them to:

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Interview a PD: Dana Conway

I'm sorry to have kept you all waiting; contrary to what Serena might have said in recent comments, I wasn't actually neglecting the editing to learn the High School Musical dances. But that is only because Dana hasn't picked out which dance we're all going to learn, otherwise yeah, that would probably have taken precedence :)

This time around I got a TON of questions, so many in fact, that I had to cut over half of them. The first cut of the interview was over half an hour long. Not only would that never load on our shifty wireless, but that's just far too long for any interview; poor Dana was such a good sport. If you don't see certain questions you submitted, know that they weren't bad questions (except for some of yours, Eliah), there just wasn't space for all of them!

Enjoy; I hope this makes your Monday that much better.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Keeping you in suspense

I know that after failing to post anything yesterday, you would assume that I would make up for it by posting the much anticipated Dana Conway PD interview tonight. But, here's the thing. The video isn't done. There, I said it. And I feel bad about it.

I potentially could keep working on editing it tonight, but seeing as how 6 dinner guests are about to arrive at our house and I am in desperate need of a shower, I'm going to sacrifice getting it up tonight for having clean hair and eating dinner with our guests from the Ministry of Health.

Instead I leave you with these pictures from a recent Children's Art class. We were studying Andy Warhol, and after painting our own representations of the classic Campbell's Soup Can, we played around for a while with the pop art options on my macbook.

Expect the video sometime tomorrow; I really am sorry for the delay!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Incan Water Balloons

(Today's guest blog comes from Dunc Fulton, half of the Texas constituency in the Manna house and Eliah's cuarenta partner, like you needed reminding... Enjoy!)

"One of the great parts about living in geographically diverse Ecuador is the proximity of numerous travel destinations. To enjoy the mountain scenery up-close over the recent holiday weekend of Carnaval, Eliah and I escaped the busy Manna-life to go backpacking down the ancient Inca trail.

(stop along the Incan trail)

Even though we enjoyed the peaceful mountain hiking, it came to an abrupt end as we were confronted with a strange Ecuadorian tradition on the Monday of Carnaval, when it becomes socially acceptable to throw water balloons at any passing person, whether 7 years old or 70.

After finishing the trail, we rode in the back of a pick-up truck down to civilization. Passing through rural Ecuadorian towns, we were suddenly surprised by the full force of the water balloons. Hit once, twice, three times, we were quickly plastered with more water than we had encountered our entire weekend camping. Using our ponchos for defense, we all became helpless lookouts yelling “bombas, bombas!” whenever more balloons sailed in from nearby houses, passing cars, or roadside kids.

(Eliah chases balloon-toting Ecuadorian children through the town square)

Finally arriving somewhat soaked in the town of El Tambo to wait for our bus, we realized that the madness wasn’t over. The town center was in fact a hotbed of children, teens, and store-keepers armed with water balloon and shaving cream. While most of our group was content to fight back with water bottles or the occasional balloon we managed to catch, Eliah was interested in taking a more assertive stance. By chasing children around the town square, sneak-attacking trucks filled with alert teens, Eliah proved that gringos can hold their own too. Even the crafty shop-owners, who would dart out to spray shaving cream before retreating, found no respite as Eliah would just follow them inside for revenge.

(Eliah and a face full of shaving cream)

Although I felt safer remaining on the defensive than the soaking wet Eliah, I too was forced to learn a lesson. As the bus approached, I smiled, since prolonged attention had allowed me to stay dry. All of a sudden however, I heard a noise above, and looked up to see a bucket of water being poured from the nearby second floor-window, completely engulfing me in water. I guess the gringos went 1-1 that day.

(Dunc and Eliah run away from a truck water-balloon launcher and 2nd story buckets of water)


Monday, April 20, 2009


While walking home from the library today, two of my newest art students came running up to me, pink flowers in hand. As they giggled and squeezed me around the middle, I asked them who their beautiful flowers were for. -You, of course!- they responded, pulling my face down to their level and sticking the flowers in my hair under my bobby pins. Then they were off, flitting on down to the library to do their homework with Profes Marco and Duncan.

Funny how something as tiny as pink flowers in your hair can turn a gray Monday into a delightful afternoon, and inspire you to bake blueberry muffins and fold paper cranes for tomorrow's art lesson.

Sigh. Holly

Questions for Dana

It's that time of the week again, where I ask for any and all questions for the next PD interview. This week I will be interviewing Dana Mara Conway, our one and only newbie. Even though she arrived in September, we still adoringly refer to her as the newbie. Makes us feel as though we've amassed a wider breadth of knowledge, being able to shrug off the newbie title and place it on someone else. Or at least that's how I feel about it.

So! Please send any and all questions you'd like to ask Dana to me at, or post them in the comments below. I'm excited to read them!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Interview a PD: Eliah McCalla

Sorry it's a little later than usual, but the Eliah interview is finally ready! Enjoy, I know everyone in the house will :)

Also, Eliah would like you to know that all of his clothes were in the laundry and he had no clean pants. "In the laundry"...right.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Oye! Watch out for that Puma!!

(Seth Harlan is today's guest blog author; apologies that it's been a while since someone else has weighed in on the blog! Enjoy!)

"Three weeks after opening our Teen Center, it was time to finally make good on our promises and offer something more constructive than video games and movie nights. (Pardon the interjection here, but for those who don’t yet know, the perks of my job now include playing soccer, video games, watching movies on the big screen, and taking kids on hiking trips. It’s a rough life we lead in Ecuador sometimes).

The teens were enjoying a week long vacation from school for Semana Santa (Easter) and we decided to go on our first excursion. Seven kids showed up at the teen center at 7:30 in the morning, ready to start our journey towards the 50 meter waterfall that lay at the end of the Río Pita. I was soon regretting my decision and missing my bed as I was badgered with questions and comments, “Profe why are we leaving so early? Profe why are we taking this bus? Profe why are we leaving so late? Profe, I’m cold. Profe why do we have to go to the waterfall?" (this from the girl who suggested the waterfall as our first excursion)...great.

It was with great patience (or the fact that I was still half asleep), that I endured the comments and decided to appoint the 15 year old vice-president Darling -nickname Chucky- as the official guide for the day. “All questions will be answered by Chucky, today’s group leader.”

Things settled down as we hopped on the bus and conversation changed to music, movies, costal Ecuadorian food versus food in the Sierra- the usual. Two hours later we made it to the trailhead. The trail started in the middle of a beautiful park, following the Río Pita and full of different spots for swimming, drinking the natural water, and mini waterfalls.

As we started Jimmy, one of the 13 year old boys, turned to me and said, “Profe be careful of the Pumas. Last time I was here we saw three.” From there we started the joke of the day “Oye! Hey, Watch out for that Puma!!” At ever twist and turn someone would yell out, “Duck, there’s a Puma!” With one silly joke, all the tension and self-awareness and awkwardness of teenage years had gone, allowing us to spend the rest of the day laughing and enjoying the hike. We finally made it to the waterfall, taking our time and plenty of pictures, and those who brought their lunch shared with everyone.

On a normal day, I would estimate this hike to take 5-6 hours round-trip, but we didn’t arrive back to the Teen Center until 4:30, 9 hours after we started. It wasn’t because we were slow hikers, but because we all fully enjoyed the day and were in no rush to get back home. It was the perfect mix of team building, group bonding, and fun. All and all I couldn’t have asked for anything more from our first excursion.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Eliah's Turn

I almost forgot to add another reminder: please send me any and all questions you might have for one Eliah McCalla by this Wednesday at midnight, as I will be interviewing him on Thursday for this week's edition of "Interview a PD". Thanks!

And now, more beach pictures. Because I'm about to fall asleep and dream about still being there :)

(On the cliffs of Isla de la Plata, home of the blue (and red!) footed boobie!)

(A pair of blue-footed boobies!)

(Dana and I overlooking the cove of our dreams)

(Sunset in Puerto Lopez, complete with fishing boats)

Beach Escapes

Most of us (Mark and Seth had other plans) spent our extended Easter holiday out on the coast between the two beach towns on Montanita and Puerto Lopez. Between fresh ceviche (citrus, seafood, tomatoes and onions), beach bonfires, barefooted wanderings, hostel hammocks, lazy days in the ocean, and a permanent sheen of sweat and sand, to say the trip was amazing would be understating it.

I would appreciate it, however, if it wasn't RAINING in Conocoto. Oh what a Monday it's turning out to be. I'm about to head in to the community to lend my skills at Children's and Adult English...seeing as how none of us have slept since Saturday night (that's what 12 hour overnight busses will do to you), today's lessons should be interesting :) At least we're not attempting a lesson in Ecuadorian math, or I'd really be in trouble...


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Interview a PD: Jocelyn Lancaster

It's here: the Jocelyn Lancaster interview! Exciting, I know. I'm pretty stoked.

Thank you for your creative questions, those of you who submitted them. If you've yet to submit a question, there's no better time than now! Especially since Eliah is my next interview victim.

Disclaimer: if you're confused by a certain question involving vampires, you're not alone. The girls (except Dana) have all succumbed to a slightly unhealthy obsession with the vampiric world of Twilight. Apologies (not really) that it made it's way into the interview.

Now, we're off to the beach! Horray!

Happy weekend,

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Afternoon Update

Eliah just came back from a trip into Quito, and while he was making the best looking plate of nachos Dana and I have ever seen (homemade tortilla chips!), he told us about the store he just came from. Apparently Craig took him there once to get his computer fixed, but before you write this off as a "oh Holly's bored and writing about computer stores" type of entry, let me tell you a little more about this computer store.

Not only does he fix computers, but the owner also makes homemade tortillas and chips (hence the incredible nachos), and sells wedding cake toppers, all while listening to 30's techno jazz and prancing around his shop like he's at a rave.

Computers, tortillas, cake toppers and techno.

All I have to say is, whenever the next computer crashes, someone PLEASE come find me because I will SO help you fix it. And by help you I mean I'll eat chips and pick out some stellar cake toppers for the next birthday.


Library Opening Movie

As you may already know, we made a little movie about the grand opening of our library space. At the risk of being redundant (and in an effort to spread it around as much as possible!) we've attached it below. Just in case, you know, you didn't get the Manna mail, or Ecuador monthly update, or an email from your very own PD telling you how excited they were about it :)

~Team Ecuador

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Saturday Night Sunset

As enjoyed by us girls. Who haven't quite mastered the art of MacBook photo booth pictures :)

For all of you blog readers, I have an early request. As mentioned at the end of the Mark Hand interview, this week I will be interviewing Jocelyn Lancaster (second from the right); exciting! However, this Friday Ecuador has a holiday (for Semana Santa) for which we will all be traveling; thus i'm pushing up the deadline for questions a day earlier.

If you have a question you'd like Jocelyn to answer, please post it as a comment or email it to me by Tuesday, April 7 at midnight!


Friday, April 3, 2009

Interview a PD: Mark Hand

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions via email for our first PD interview with country director Mark Hand!

The first half is filmed in the art studio; if you look through the window behind Mark you can see the back side of the library stacks! Apologies for any background noise, most of it is little kids reading and talking in the library (although some of it is the crazy bird who lives in the tree just outside the studio).

The second half is filmed in our living room in the Manna house, in front of our Spanish Brick Red wall (yum... I just love that color, although the video doesn't do it justice).

Thanks again and again to Bill Meier for donating the incredible video camera; we're SO excited to have it up and running! Stay tuned for a short film documenting the opening of the library, to be included in the monthly update.

And now, without further ado, the Mark Hand interview.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Big News!

Well this is exciting.

As I type, all the footage we've taken over the past 4 months with our fabulous video camera is uploading to my imovie; that's right, we FINALLY figured out how to get it to load! It took a few months, 4 attempts at instillation, 2 lost instruction manuals, and a new firewire connection cord (is that even what it's called?) Mark tracked down at the obscure Mac store in Quito to get us to this point, but it's finally happening.

With that said, I'd like to instigate a new system for this blog, a brainchild of one Jocelyn Lancaster and something that makes me giddy just thinking about it. This system is called: "Come Up With Questions For A PD Interview Which Holly Will Record And Put Online". Ok, so maybe I also need suggestions for the name.

Basically, until tomorrow (April 2nd) at noon you will be able to submit to me any question you might have regarding a specified PD; we will be rotating through PDs each week. Tomorrow after 12 noon I will compile all the questions into an interview, force said PD into the hammock room, record their responses, and post the video here on Friday.

The questions can range from anything; program updates, favorite Ecuadorian memory so far, what one song they'd listen to on repeat forever, their biggest challenge so far, misadventures in the kitchen, top 3 places they've visited, etc.

Our first victim: Mark Clayton Hand, country director extraordinaire. Please ask him questions about cooking, PLEASE!

You can submit questions either via the comments section here, or to my email account ( Feel free to ask multiple questions, too! Let the interviews begin!