Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Quick and Useful Survey

To Whom it May Concern:

In the interest of filling this blog with the stories, information, and pictures people are actually interested in (instead of using it as my own personal sounding board and dumping ground for sunset pictures), I'm going to try something new. Something exciting. Something called "Asking for feedback"... see, exciting, I told you! We aim to please down here.

Basically my creative juices are less like juice and more like molasses...as in not flowing. So that's where you all come in: What do you want to read about? What would you like to see photographs of? If I post another sunset picture will you throw something at your computer screens? What programs haven't been given enough blog time? More stories about the house, or more focus on Manna as an organization?

Any and all suggestions are welcome, either as comments or as emails directly to me (holland.c.ward@gmail.com)! Just don't tell me that my grammar is atrocious or my spelling is bad, because a) I'm very sensitive about that and b) I am well aware.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

(Not related at all to today's post, but still kind of cool. The Conocoto church is now PEACH. Less cool)

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Girls and The Quito

This past weekend, Jos and I planned a girl's weekend in Quito for the four of us. We rented 2 rooms in a hostel and spent the weekend wandering through our beloved city as (slightly more informed and jaded) tourists. Serena and Dana joined us Saturday night for a nap, some dinner, and a lot of dancing, per usual. When there's a live cover band singing a medley of Beatles, Led Zepplin, and Doors songs, one has no other option. One must dance. Please enjoy the pictoral account of our weekend.

On Saturday morning, Jos and I had bagels and fresh fruit juice for breakfast and wished our house had potted plants in our window sills.

We spent a late morning in silent awe inside a church painted in such decadent colors it felt as though we had walked into a sorbet coated, South American Versailles.

We walked through a tent city protesting PetroEcuador's presence in the rain forest.

We climbed two huge metal balls in a park. And then some spray painted helium canisters because they looked lonely.

We ate a lunch of red bananas, pineapple, freshly baked wheat bread, and avocado-black bean-onion-tomato-lime salad on our little hostel balcony.

Then we took a nap and readied ourselves for a classic-rock jam session with 100 of our closest Ecuadorian friends...

On Sunday, Dana reorganized some of the cement parking aids...

while Jos found herself a handsome boyfriend at the mall.

Then we all watched Transformers 2: Rise of the Fallen. And we LOVED IT. Seriously. It was hysterical.

At 9pm, we hailed a cab, piled all our bags into it's trunk, and let out collective sighs every few minutes as we drove our tired, city-dazed little souls back to the boys, the summer vols, and the fresh-aired valley.

Sigh. We will certainly miss this place.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Maps and Cobblers

For my birthday yesterday, Taylor Brown (a summer volunteer, family friend and fellow Coloradan) and I decided to do a birthday project.

This birthday project involved 50+ maps from our massive supply of National Geographics...

3 canisters of Ecuador's version of rubber cement...

2 different types of accents (British and Indian, if you must know)...

some pretty clutch dance moves...

and a lot of pasting, stepping back, realizing it was horribly crooked, peeling, and re-placing countless maps.

And then laughing at ourselves.

Coming home to a peach cobbler baked by my housemates was the perfect end to a really wonderful birthday.

I love my housemates. And summer volunteers, too :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rainstorms and Dry Pipes

This past weekend was a whirlwind for everyone down here, and we're still recovering. With Dana back in the states (until tonight, hurry home to us!), Mark, Eliah and Seth out on the coast, Priya and Tim in Otavalo and Dunc and I leading summer session 2 to the cloud forests of Mindo, Jocelyn and Serena had the house all to themselves. There was probably a lot of eating, screaming, dancing and youtubing with all the boys away and unable to whine (like old men, maybe?) about all the noise.

Despite the huge rainstorm that hit the valley this afternoon, our house still doesn't have running water (3 days and counting), making daily tasks like laundry, dishes, cooking and showering quite difficult. The summer vols have been wonderful, volunteering to go buy big jugs of water, lugging their laundry to a local laundromat, and keeping the whining to a minimum.

Making soup for tonight's community meal was an ordeal and a half; I have a new found appreciation for frontier women who ran huge houses with no running water (even though I still dream about having a homestead in Montana...), especially when it comes around to dish duty. Running back and forth between the sink and the little pump outside to fill up my bucket with enough dishwater was an exhausting way to spend an afternoon; thankfully I had Mari to help me dry and a glass of wine to relax with :) We make do down here.


(our new dish washing system)

(Stormy June skies)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mindo is Lindo

Mindo: Adventure weekend in a cloud forest.

Our home away from home for the weekend, Casa de Cecilia.

My Swiss Family Robinson dreams come to fruition.

Most of the group heads out to zip-line, while...

Dunc and Ryan enjoy a Pilsner by the river.

Early morning contemplations on the porch are very serious.

The girls talk around the breakfast table.

An ideal breakfast. Followed by pancakes.

Scott, Meghan, Michael and Ryan learn about coffee roasting.

Roasting Coffee Beans!

Coca beans ready to be shelled, roasted, ground and spread on our pancakes.

View out the back of our hostel.

Scott, Taylor, Meghan and Ryan sit on one side of the truck bed...

While Dunc, Michael, Mari and I sit on the other.

Getting the "hold on really tight" speech before tube-rafting.

Everyone's ready for the river. Especially Dunc and Meghan...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Markers, Blokus, and Picture Books

Yesterday was the first official day of programs for Summer Session Two (ss2 from here on out).

The day started early; 7:30am found half the group prepping for language school at the house and the other half out at Christian's with Eliah working on the community garden project. After lunch we split again; Priya, Tim, Mari, Michael, Taylor and Sarah headed out to the library to teach English class, play ping-pong in the teen center, and read with the 35+ kids who showed up, while Meghan, Scott, Ryan and Fiona joined Jocelyn in kicking off another 3-week English class in San Juan, our neighboring community. Follow that with women's exercise, family dinner, board games at the dining room table, and Spanish homework, once we actually took a breath, stretched our bones and realized how exhausted we were, it was already 11:30pm... summer around here is anything but dull!

(Michael reads with Issac Suntaxi Suntaxi (seriously that's his name, amazing))

(Priya and Selena put some important details on their cat drawing)

(Mari and Priscilla contemplate their next moves in Blokus)

(Selena and Wendy crack me and Michael up)

(Sarah and Taylor lead English class)

(Tim and Sarah excite the kids with an English memory game)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Another trek to Mitad del Mundo

With the arrival of summer session two, we PDs found ourselves revving up for another week of orientation. Of course, since I am notoriously bad at opening email attachments, I didn't end up signing up for an orientation spot until the last minute, at which point I realized that, oh, the only spots available are for...Mitad del Mundo! Again!

If Mark were reading over my shoulder he would say something along the lines of "Well, this is what happens when you don't open attachments or answer your cell phone or..." (ok, so I have a slight cell phone problem, as my family can also attest to).

We missed Fiona and Mari, who were feeling a little under the weather and opted out of the 4+ hours of busing, but overall had a funny day out on the equatorial line. It's always a strange feeling to realize that you're standing in both the northern and southern hemisphere at the same time...

Until tomorrow,

(getting the talk about the sundial and shadows and equatorial lines and all that jazz)

(Michael tries an Andean mask on for size)