Thursday, January 28, 2010

One small step for man, one giant leap for MANNA-kind

This week's edition of the guest blog comes from none other than our esteemed guest and compañera for the past week, Miss Dana Zichlin. In such a short period of time Dana won over our hearts through her deep love of crosswords and high tolerance for library games. We wish you all of the best in Guatemala and hope to see you soon, whether it's back here in Ecuador because you can't get enough of us, in Guatemala as 2nd year PDs, or back in Jersey (yes, that Jersey) for holidays. We love you!!

"It's been a whirlwind of a week here with team Ecuador. It seems like months ago that I was deciding whether to hug or handshake my soon-to-be new friends. Since then, I've really come to appreciate the time and effort that goes into running the library and its everyday activities.

Dana and Sonia bonding atop Pasachoa

I thought I would write the remainder of this guest blog in High Fidelity format...

Top 5 things I'm going to miss:
1. Family dinners over candelight
2. Bibi's where's waldo sunglasses (see below)
3. galapagitos (aka animal crackers version 2.0)
4. Riding in the back of a camioneta
5. The 'woo woo' hand snap (that I will never master)

Bibi & sunglasses, per item #2 above

Top 5 things learned:
1. Always label your food in the Manna house
2. Buses are closer than they appear
3. Headbands are just as effective as showers
4. Don't let the sun fool you, it will hail at any given moment
5. No matter how many options there are, children will always repeat your example

Top 5 lessons to take with me to Guatemala:
1. Everything sounds better in Spanish
2. When in doubt, assume it's a cognate
3. Moving from tourist to community member is the most important step
4. Don't make hollow promises
5. Everyone defines development differently

Today, I'm taking off for Guatemala to start the 'feasibility' part of the feasibility trip. Stay tuned for progress updates at

Thank you to all of the Ecuador PDs and Bibi for your individual suggestions, wise words, great senses of humor, and contagious optimism. You will all be in the back of my mind throughout this great adventure.

It looks like I have a lot to live up to...

- Dana"

For more information about Guatemala, the feasibility study, and future opportunity to apply to be a Guatemala PD (!), please tune into Dana's blog and the MPI website!

Monday, January 25, 2010

On the Horizon

Since Dana spent 3 months in Tsuraku last summer, complete with travels all over the country, at first it was a little difficult to think about where we could take her that was new and exciting. Luckily, we had been discussing climbing Pasachoa since before break and found some friends to guide us. We couldn't believe that after a mere 4 days at 2,800 meters (9,189 feet) in the valley, Dana easily conquered another 900 meters in the form of two peaks at the top of Volcan Pasochoa, the breathtaking mountain most clearly visible of those that surround the valley. Other weekend activities included the continuation of the boys' playoff saga (only 3 games left!), a Manna meal in Quito, and cuddling up on couches to avoid a late Sunday afternoon rainstorm.

Some of the girls out in Quito after our Manna meal on Friday

Dana leaping between boulders on Pasochoa

Group shot at the summit before the hail storm started

Lucky duck Dana got to sit in on one of our longer-than-usual MMMs, which was partially spent trying to convince Bibi that we thought it was a good idea to invest $4,000 in an Azblan bus for sale in front of the library. After taking us seriously for about ten minutes, we all burst out laughing, and she responded with something like "I was thinking you've all been here far too long to suggest such an absurd idea." Which reminds me... TOMORROW marks the halfway point of our 13 months in Ecuador! Pretty exciting and crazy how fast time has flown, but I have a sneaky feeling the next 6.5 will be even more of a whirlwind (ie: we're already taking spring break inventory).

For now we're enjoying the end of (or at least a break from) the rainy season, looking forward to a bonfire celebration tomorrow and attempting to stream the State of the Union Address on Wednesday (cross your fingers for us!)


Friday, January 22, 2010

Guess who's here?!

We’ve been back for almost two weeks and things are more or less back to ‘normal’ (if your definition of normal is wrestling 6 pairs of hands to get watermelon out of an overflowing Tupperware container while waiting for dinner to be served and singing along to a 14-year-old US pop sensation).

There has been some fresh excitement in the Manna house and beyond since returning. Our proactive advertising strategy resulted in a serious influx of kids to the library – we’ve been averaging 18 kids per day, which I’d like to think had something to do with the interactive library tour Krysta and I gave this past Saturday. While we’re very excited about all of the new faces, especially in light of classes starting this week, 2/3 PDs in charge of that many kids can get overwhelming. Therefore we’ve adopted a new approach: take all of the kids out to the playground for 30 minutes after classed end at 5. We get some tranquility in the library and the kids get their energy out – kudos to Mike for instigating such a brilliant tactic!

We also have a very special guest in our house for the next 7 days! Dana Zichlin, Manna’s newest addition and one of my dearest jersey-raised friends, is training here with team Ecuador before she departs for her feasibility study in Guatemala next Wednesday. We’ll be showing her the ropes which includes sitting in on our elusive Monday morning meeting, going out for a monthly Manna meal in Quito, shadowing classes, sitting in on programmatic and organizational meetings, playing with kids in the library, and a bonfire-side tell all where she gets to ask us anything and everything she wants (gasp). We’re so excited to have her here!!

For more information about Dana’s project in Guatemala, please check out her blog!


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Celebrate Good Times!

Hello hello blog reading world! Long time, no see... er, write. Thankfully my blog partner-in-crime, Jackie, has been a champ and on top of the blog since we got back! (Thanks, Jack.) :) Things have been busy (to say the least) around here since the final three members of the team arrived home in Ecuador a week and a half ago. Last week we scrambled to figure out the schedule, work out the details, and advertise (and I mean AD-VER-TISE. Lots of it.) for our Celebracion Comunitaria which was held on the soccer field across from the library last Saturday. Ideally we would like to make this an annual event, and I think we would all agree that this was a great start to attaining that goal. Here's a slew of photos from the event...

Wendi helps Jackiepants (who is sporting our SWEET new shirt!) set up the MPI info table

Wendy, ever the little helper, blows up balloons (even though she can't tie them herself...)

Haley shows off one of her many talents: blowing up balloons at roughly 8,500 ft. altitude (she got skillz)

Several local organizations were asked to participate in the event. Here, Christian and Laura sell produce from their organic garden.

Selena and Priscilla show off their face paint

Bibi, Wendy and I had out the first raffle prize, a frying pan! All of the raffle proceeds went to the Ecuadorian Red Cross to support Haiti.

Erik essentially single-handedly beat all of the kids at Tug-o-War...

Several community members enjoyed the half hour sampling of a Women's Exercise class

Chet shows off the beautiful rainbow that we conveniently planned to coincide with our Community Celebration...

And, as usual, the Ecuadorian sunset failed to disappoint.

All in all, it was a fun, busy and successful weekend! And a perfect way to start the new year!

Happy (late) New Year!

Friday, January 15, 2010

PD(s) on the Radio

We spent the better part of this week promoting and preparing for tomorrow's celebracion comunitaria. Some of these activities include collecting borrowed chairs and tents, picking up 80 brand new manna shirts, coordinating local restaurants to cook and sell food, buying raffle prizes, preparing composting workshops, and so on. Promotion involved jumping on buses heading into the valley, walking around surrounding communities with flyers and loud speaker in hand shouting 'celebracion comunitaria en la cancha cordovez mañana a las tres en la tarde!'

Additionally, today Krysta and I made a special trip to Super K, a radio station in Sangolqui that broadcasts all over the valley, to advertise during a 30-minute interview segment. Krysta had been there twice before, once with Seth's teen camp in July and again to promote our free health clinic from August, but it was my first time and I was terrified. Not only am I not big on public speaking, I tend to panic when I can't take my time to think about my Spanish and conjugate tenses before I blurt things out.

Oh the fear of live broadcasts!

Oswaldo, the incredibly friendly director of Super K asked me a few questions in the beginning that went well and then Krysta took over, fluidly discussing everything from our current programs to tomorrow's celebration. Thinking I was off the hook, I got a little distracted by one of Oswaldo's co-workers who was snapping pictures at us. Before I knew it, Oswaldo was directing a question at me that I only half heard and interpreted to be 'what other games will you be running tomorrow?' to which I enthusiastically answered 'sillas musicales!' (musical chairs - my specialty). In reality, he was asking me about our Rumiñahui soccer team and what position I played.. oops.

Later this afternoon, while advertising with Sonia and Bibi, a community member commented that she heard us on the radio and will be coming to the event tomorrow. Despite her little chuckle as I walked away, I think a little humiliation is a small price to pay for a well-attended event...

Stay tuned for a post-celebration update!


Monday, January 11, 2010

Feliz Año Nuevo!

Happy new year from everyone here at MPI Ecuador!

Our first morning in the house and subsequent afternoon in the library was a conglomeration of familiar faces, fresh ideas, and new technology. We started our day with a 3-hour long
Monday morning meeting (formally referred to as the MMM), enjoying each other's company after almost a month apart while discussing topics from class schedules (which start up on the 18th) our next retreat, and most importantly, our celebracion event to ring in the new year this coming Saturday! MPIE, in collaboration with local organizations, Coopertiva Esperanza y Progresso del Valle, Añamisi (an environmental education org.), and the Ministry of Health of Conocoto, will be hosting a celebration in the cancha across from our library. The afternoon will be filled with live music, carnival games (including face paint and bingo), mini soccer tournaments, food from local restaurants, and a wealth of information about sustainable agriculture, nutrition and health.

In order to spread the word more efficiently, fellow PD Mike Gabrys went on a scavenger hunt to find us a portable perefoneo (translation: loud speaker). After traveling to many stores in Quito and the valley, we finally got our hands on it. To no one's surprise, Bibi was the most excited person to use our new toy (Erik being a close second).. as soon as she arrived at the library she ran to the roof to test it out, resulting in a booming "LA BIBLIOTECA ESTA ABIERTOOOO" shaking the bookshelves and amusing the kids in the reading ring.

Needless to say, it's very good to be back.

Chet reads leisurely in his new UT snuggie (thanks, Santa!) before the MMM

Bibi having a little too much fun on the roof

We came home to a bloomed tomate de arbol in our garden...

...and more living things in the compost bin! hello potatoes!