Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fool proof way to burn off a Magnum bar

This week's guest blog comes from Haley Booe about an exceptional group of women involved in our exercise program. We had 9 of these women over for dinner a few weeks back. Everything went very smoothly, save running out of gas, forcing Mike to run around the valley in his basketball shorts to find a new one and me to cook broccoli in the microwave. Overall, it was a pleasure having them over to learn more about their lives and enjoy some Italian food!

"Hello blogging world! I hope you enjoy this wonderful time of the year when the school year comes to a close and kids are shrieking at the sound of ice cream trucks. I am definitely one to scream for ice cream, especially considering ours are pick-up trucks installed with soft-serve machines. Aside from eating my weight in ice cream sandwiches, there are a couple of other things that I’m passionately excited about. Over the past 10 months, I have developed a deep love for spandex, techno music, and sweaty women. Any member of the Manna Household will attest to how attached I am to the women in our community and how much I LOVE exercise.

The W.E. program has changed a lot since last August. We hold class in our own space, which has increased women's involvement in the center as they drop off their kids in the library; this has encouraged them to join other programs like cooking class and enrolling kids in Englihs. The women have developed relationships amongst themselves through socializing before and after class; they often meet up outside of class and continuously encourage each other in pursuit of healthier lifestyles.

We now offer 4 clases a week: Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi on Mondays, Tae Bo on Tuesdays, A mixed class on Wednesday mornings, and Aerobic circuit training on Thursdays. Many of the women attending class come every day; there are several who have missed no more than 5 classes in the last 6 months! I've really been able to develop relationships with these women and it is so encouraging to hear how much they appreciate what Manna is doing in their communities.

Exercise women + the 7 MPIE women = lots of estrogen in the Manna House

During spring break program rotations, volunteers helped me plan class for the day and completed various tasks including several improvements to our classroom. To name a few, the room is now a pale blue (which is very relaxing during Yoga), inspirational posters are hanging on the walls, circuit class 'stations' are well labeled, and a newly painted bookshelf now holds all of our equipment. Volunteers also helped plan a workshop to train the women to be fitness instructors. After the women complete the course this summer, they will assist or substitute for me and eventually be able to lead the class themselves; this is one exciting step closer to making exercise more sustainable in the long term!

This program relies on inscription money to pay for advertising, informational packets, and attendance prizes (including t-shirts, cookbooks, and yoga mats). In the past month, we've made some capital investments to improve our classes' effectiveness. The wonderfully handsome David Lawler brough down hand weights, exercise balls, and yoga mats for the women to use in class.

Dave and Haley enjoying some down time at the beach

Since we used most of our budget to buy this equipment, we don't have as much to spend on other costs. The women in our community enjoy this program so much and we appreciate any donations you can give to make Women's Exercise successful! If you would like to help financially support this program or would like more information, please e-mail me!

Peace, love and sweatbands!


Monday, April 26, 2010

Guest Blog: Erik and Teens Get Artsy

(This week's - ok, fine, last week's because I forgot to post it - Guest Blog comes from Mr. Erik Swanson. Erik is involved in running both the Teen Center and the Small Business Microfinance Program... as well as being in co-in charge of the Summer Volunteer Program and the brand new cooking class with yours truly. He's also known for being in a long-term relationship with rugby, and for having descended from the Nordics. Here's Erik's account of the first TC paseo of the year... Disfrute!)

"This weekend, the Teen Center will be having its first trip of the year. It will be the first of many trips with the goal of connecting local professionals and artists to the Teen Center. The hope is that we can expose the youth in the area to both their opportunities in life beyond Rumiloma as well as try to open up new avenues for creative expression.

For those of you who are daily readers to our blog, you are already acquainted for my love for a small beach town called Ayampe. It is in Ayampe, by blind luck, that I met the professional that is now helping us this weekend. Her name is Fernanda Ponce. She is an artist in Cumbaya, the valley to the north of our own, and has her own studio in which she gives classes as well as does a good amount of her work. She happened to be in Ayampe doing an art exposition with a friend, also from the Quito area, and invited me to come check it out.

Upon arrival at her studio, we began planning activities and exercises for the kids that would make the trip to Cumbaya. First, Fer will begin by explaining her point of view on exactly what art is: a method of communication. Secondly, she will guide the kids through the steps of how she creates her works from inspiration to finishing. Lastly, we will create a work of art as a group. This work will be a cardboard tree, freestanding, and will include three leaves from each child, each of which will depict a different thing in their life that affects them.

We are greatly looking forward to having a series of trips like this one in the future, and will be trying to make sure that at least one per month occurs.

- Erik"

Thursday, April 22, 2010

El día de la Tierra

Happy Earth Day!

It probably comes as no surprise to hear that Earth Day in Ecuador isn't quite as big of a deal as it is in the states; but just because there isn't a glorified holiday doesn't mean that Ecuadorians don't take their natural resources seriously. I have found that people here are extremely proud of their country's every landscape; one of the first questions I'm asked when meeting people is where I've traveled to and what I think of such a beautiful country.

People are also serious about issues such as water conservation, as a high percentage of the drinking water in the Quito metropolitan area comes from the diminishing glacier of Cotopaxi. In fact, I was told that thanks to FONAG, Quito has one of the best water conservation policies in the world, taking 1% of each household water bill (higher percentages from bigger companies and industries) to fund conservation projects.

We've noticed implications of climate change here in the valley, including increased droughts and an untimely rainy season; which pretty much just started, rather than running its usual course from October through February. Because of these issues and more, we have decided to use this international holiday to raise some awareness about human implications on the environment and what we all can do here in Ecuador to make a difference.

Last week, for our monthly 20-minute radio segment in Sangolqui, Bibi and I performed a little skit that defined Earth Day, climate change, and local environmental issues and solutions - for example trash incineration, dirty public transportation, and unreliable energy sources. We focused on advocating for change, something that isn't practiced very widely here but is definitely possible; most local town governments hold public meetings devoted entirely to hearing its residents' opinions about community projects such as trash collection. It was received very well by the radio station's employees and we can only hope that listeners out there took it to heart as well.

Today in the centro we'll be distributing pamphlets about climate change and tips about how to help combat it and protect the priceless resources of this country. We'll also be giving our earth day coloring sheets and activities to the kids.

I hope that you're all celebrating Earth Day out there in style; you can rest assured knowing that the PDs in this house are continuing their lack of showering, composting our food waste, eating very locally-grown produce and of course taking public transportation everywhere (really, it's not just because we have to...)

Sustainably yours,

Sunday, April 18, 2010

So Happy Together

Though we have been bad at keeping up with the blog this month, I can sincerely report that it's partially because we have all been spending so much time with each other (other reasons include spring break and quarterly reports). You might think that we get enough face time in our tight living/working quarters, but in the past two weeks we embarked on a three-day weekend trip to Guaranda and Salinas, had a 'lock in' in the library/teen center, and spent last night in Quito celebrating Shawn's 23rd year of life (HAPPY BIRTHDAY SHAWN!).

Last weekend was our third retreat to Guaranda, a small city nestled in a valley that's surrounded by seven hills of patchwork quilt-like cultivated land and pine trees. The bus ride to and from Guaranda twisted through the high Andes right past Ecuador's highest peak,
Chimbarazo. While in Guaranda we climbed up to the statue of Guarango, who the town is named after, wandered the city, ate our fair share of street food and Magnum ice cream bars, and watched an episode of Glee in Spanish (while the boys enjoyed a municipally supported cock fight). From Guaranda we took a day trip to Salinas where we learned about the successful co-op there that employs a large percentage of the town through its textile factories specializing in producing tea, cheese, chocolate, soccer balls, and more. Lucky for us, our guide passed around an appetizing glass of alcohol fermented by an intact snake corpse to get us ready for the walking tour.

View of Chimbarazo from our bus

Admiring the 7 hills from Guaranga's statue

Chet and Erik pose with the coveted snake beverage

This past Thursday most of us participated in locking ourselves in the library for a night. Why would we ever want to do this, you may ask? Well, for one, we got to have dinner at a street side paradilla (barbeque) and experience what an average week night is like in Rumiloma. We also participated in a Halo tournament, played set, watched movies, and celebrated the completion of our quarterly reports.

In general, we (usually) love each other and I for one hope to have many more non-work related opportunities to enjoy each other's company throughout our last four months in South America.

We just can't get enough of each other

Cheers to being more consistent blog writers over the next few weeks!
- Jackie

Monday, April 12, 2010

Questions for Krysta! (i.e. Kweschuns 4 Krystal!)

Annnnd... it's that time again. Time for PD Interviews Round 3 (or "tres," if you're super cool). Our very own Krysta Peterson will be getting her 15 minutes of fame behind the camera this FRIDAY... so be sure to either post your questions to this blog entry, or to e-mail me ( BEFORE this Friday (April 16th) at NOON.

If you're having trouble coming up with questions... I suggest the following topics:
1) Her involvement in the new Alinambi nutrition program
2) Her love for writing really long grants
3) Her (in)ability to speak English
4) Her thoughts on jorts
5) What it's like being the blondest blonde in Ecuador
6) Her favorite nickname
7) Her thoughts on baked goods
8) Her obsession with all things UT (Texas, that is) and her love for the Padres...

Krysta cheering on her Longhorns during the BCS Bowl game in January.
(I was CLEARLY cheering for 'Bama... Roll Tide Roll?)

Send in those burning questions!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Time flies when you're with Tulane

We rang in the first week of April with an enthustiastic group of spring breakers from New Orleans (hence the neglecting of the blog). I could go on and on about how delightful and hardworking they were, but I'll leave the explaining to their co-group leader, Sonia...

"As I sit down pondering my time spent with Tulane, a few adjectives come to mind: eventful, gleeful, and priceless. Here’s why - we spent mornings sightseeing Quito and afternoons rotating through programs. We learned of Karington’s slight narcolepsy and how to eat the peels of kiwis. We saw that money can magically disappear and reappear in underwear and we admired the result of Tulane’s artistic abilities, a spectacular mural on a wall in the library. Let’s start at the beginning...

The week started off Saturday night at the airport. I was worried that we might not find them until a group walked through customs door clothed in Tulane attire with pillows and suitcases much too large for a week. After we accounted for the 10 of them maybe 100 times (don’t worry, my paranoia eased off as the week continued), we all cozied up in a snug busetta, so snug that I was sitting on Shawn’s lap. The other program directors were waiting for us at the house. What started off as a brief introduction ended in words of wisdom about toilet paper disposal etiquette.

Co-leaders Shawn and Sonia pose at the waterfalls in Mindo

The next morning we embarked for an afternoon soccer game in Quito (LDU, the house’s chosen club team versus El Nacional). On their first day, Tulaners had to face some of Ecuador’s fullest buses. They quickly learned how to maintain their balance with elbows sticking into them and little to hold onto. They ate hot dogs, bought jerseys, and sung LDU to its victory.

That Sunday night after a brief orientation, team Tulane and team Program Directors battled it out over Catch Phrase. Although Tulane lost 1-2, they put up a close fight considering that the program directors had 3.5 hours of practice time the night before.

At day 1.5 I was already in love with Tulane. Their relaxed attitudes and humorous comments made time fly. Here is my attempt to mimic how quickly it felt: we climbed the Basilica, toured colonial Old Town, visited the Guayasamin Museum, and shopped at the Artisan Market. Although it sounds like a lot of sightseeing for one week, Tulane worked as hard as they played. They leveled all of the teen books for a summer reading club; painted two rooms and two bookshelves; cleaned the Centro; and painted an unbelievable mural of Ecuador on one the library’s walls. They did this while cooking and rotating through programs: women’s exercise, children and adult English, the library, and teen center.

Eventful, right? To take a breather, we left for the cloud forest town of Mindo. There we indulged in the country’s best brownies, tasted Fanesca, the grainy soup of Semana Santa (holy week), and went zip-lining, tubing, hiking, and sliding.

The highlight of the trip was without a doubt the night the 13 of us trotted into an empty karaoke bar. Completely American (and completely un-Ecuadorian), they sang pop songs in English (usually Spanish ballads), stood in front of the room (typically seated), and danced. Twenty minutes later the bar was filled but because our teetotalism wasn't profitable enough, the owner kicked us out.

Come Sunday morning, we found ourselves once again in a snug busetta. This time not leaving but going to the airport. Seven days later much had changed. Not only did alpaca attire and Ecuadorian purses/duffle bags fill the busette but so did the exciting yet sad feeling that occurs when new friends part.

Jordan, Jess, Katherine, Lauren, and Rose out in Conocoto

Our new library mural! Isn't it amazing??

Karrington and Katherine play dominos with some children's English kids

The whole group in a camioneta in Mindo

I couldn’t have asked for a better group of individuals and I hope they take away as memories from our week together as I did.

- Sonia"