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