Thursday, November 29, 2012

More Internet Excuses/Volunteer Group

We've had some shaky internets over the past couple of weeks so prepare yourself for a slew of posts spanning our Teen Center revamp with our great volunteer group from Vanderbilt to a new video chronicling a day in the Ecuador PD's life. We'll start out with a post written up by Colin, one of the volunteers that were here last week.

Earlier this week, an awesome group of six Vanderbilt students arrived to spend their Thanksgiving break with us.  So far, it's been an incredible time.  We started off the week by spending a couple days touring around Quito and other sites in the area.  Some of the highlights included the Oswaldo Guayasamín Museum, the markets at La Mariscal, old town Quito, and the equator line(s) at Mitad del Mundo, "lines" being plural because there is one that is purely a tourist attraction and one that is actually the equator line.  Unsurprisingly, the real equator, complete with shrunken heads, is the better attraction.

After getting our feet wet and refining our Catch Phrase skills, we began our work at the Teen Center.  Despite the fact that the Center has lost some of its usual crowd due to technical problems with the videojuegos, it still has a lot of potential.  Hopefully we will see some new faces around after repainting the walls, adding a projector screen, bargaining with our carpenter amigos to help us build some new muebles, and purchasing a few more items, most importantly a Koosh basketball hoop.  The reopening party on Friday is destined to be a success.

We'll keep you posted!

So the posting was a little late, but you can get the general idea of how enthusiastic they were to get started. And yes, we did end up Koosh basketball hoop and the kids love it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rock Climbing!

Maria and Joshua demonstrating correct form.

Jessica scales the wall as Jefferson looks on impressed.

Steven enjoying the view.

What a beautiful day and view!

Just too cute to ignore.
Last Saturday the Teen Center team had a rock climbing field trip.  With the help of our good friend Joshua, a professional mountain guide, the team along with the teens set off for a morning of climbing cliffs.

Joshua knows this area close to our neighborhood where him and his climbing buddies practice and hone their skills.  Apparently the family who owns the property allows for climbers to enter for a small fee.  From there we descend down the steep hills, cross over the crashing cascades of a small river, and through the forest out into the open field where the cliffs stand tall.  

Jenni, Jefferson, our boss Heather and myself had a wonderful time watching the kids reach new heights.  Some had never been rock climbing before, but this was not obvious as nearly everyone scaled the face and reached the summit about thirty-five feet up.  Jenni and Heather were our belayers, while Joshua coached the teens through the cracks and crevasses.  After seeing Sebastien, one of the teens, master the toughest route, I decided to give it a go.  What a great workout and experience for everyone involved.  A definite success and a great shared experience, we returned home bug-bitten and tired. 

With little rest we welcomed the Vanderbilt Thanksgiving-break volunteer group that very night.  Look for more posts this week about their activities with us and at the Teen Center, where most of our efforts will be focused this week revamping the space, constructed organizational materials and games, and revitalizing the space for our teens.

Thanks for checking in folks - stay classy!

Saturday, November 10, 2012


The group minus Janine is off to Cotopaxi National Park for the weekend for hiking, good food, a hot tub, and the goal of teaching Polly how to ride a bike. Here's a little taste of our view.

The Vandy kids taking advantage of a nice photo-op earlier this year 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Haunted House

Hey Folks - Sorry it has been so long since our last post.  In all honesty, we have been partying too much; two weeks ago we had our Adult English midterm party and this past weekend we had our Casa de Espantos! We have been having way much fun that we almost forgot to tell you all about it! 

It is tradition to invite our Adult English students over for lunch and some much needed relaxation after the midterm.  Several types of humus with vegetables to dip complimented with a yummy pasta dish polished off with some delicious home-baked snicker doodles; the students left with empty plates and full stomachs.  What beautiful weather we had as well and we made use of our patio soaking up the sun while listening to music, conversation and laughter filling the air.

As for our latest fiesta, the team figured it would be a great opportunity to put on a haunted house for the community in celebration of Halloween. With Jell-O bowls filled with gummy worms as an appetizer, we then moved to our craft station where the kids made spiders from egg cartons, pipe cleaners, beads, and of course paint.  And finally we had our main event, the haunted tour. Turning the Teen Center into a haunted house took a lot of creativity and resourcefulness from all the group members.  Our efforts were not in vain as the library was filled with genuine frights and screams all evening. 

Jenni started the horror tour by first guiding the students through the tunnels to the witches lair.  Lucy did a phenomenal job at setting the tone as our house witch, telling a story of children who once visited the library in years past who had gone missing; “to this very day, the neighbors can still hear the children screaming!”.  This was my cue playing the token zombie role to thrash the curtains and enter the window in pursuit of fresh meat.  Jenni would then lead the students to a table where the eyeballs and brains of children past were displayed for touching.  Nothing more than peeled grapes and spaghetti to do the trick, the kids then got another jolt of terror when our boss Heather would grab their ankles from under the table.  Next Jenni would lead them the tomb where our library mummy, portrayed perfectly by Polly, who would then slide the tomb top off and rise from the grave.  If the kids were not scared by this point, which they were trust me, Joey would come rushing in as a masked lunatic from behind the group and all monsters would gather to usher the students through the exit tunnel back to safety.  Even the weather had its very own role as rain, thunder and lightning played into the ambience of the evening.

Exhausted with hoarse voices we returned home for dinner. Shortly thereafter some of the girls finished packing for a weekend in Cuenca, another principle city to the south that would be celebrating its Day of Independence all weekend long.  As you can tell, we have been busy working and having fun simultaneously.  Check back with us later on in the week to read about our adventures down here. 
Que te vaya bien!


We had a long weekend last week because  it was a feriado (holiday) so most of us traveled around the country with some going to Otavala and others to Cuenca. Upon our returns, we were all looking forward to getting home and settling in for the week. However, we came back to a blown wireless router and a sad, internetless house. This wouldn't seem like a big deal to some but a number of different factors made it a tough past couple of days. For one, we have lived here for almost four months and this is the first time we haven't had internet so it came as a big shock. Secondly, the service industry here is notoriously slow/flaky/non-committal. Basically it's tough to get any help right away so we knew it was going to a be a couple days. And finally, living in a foreign country, its nice to be able to keep up with family, friends, and the news back home. And as it turns out, there was quite an important event going on right during the middle of our internet blackout. We tend to avoid talking politics in the house since the group is pretty divided on the issues. That hasn't stopped us from watching the debates together and throwing an insult around every once in a while. Yet, when the time came, no matter partisan lines, we were all woefully and completely in the dark. We joked on Sunday that we would find out who won the election from the Ecuadorian paper "El Commercio" on Wednesday morning. As it turns out, that is exactly what happened. While I won't personally say who I was routing for in the election, I will say that while internet has returned, my world is still sad and dark.

It is good to back on the blog though.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Art Paseo

Last Friday, 8 of our star art pupils joined Polly, Joey, Janine, Madeleine, and Heather on a field trip to Quito. After corralling the children through 2 long and crowded bus rides – no easy task – we arrived at Parque Carolina, where CIMA Kids, an environmental awareness organization, was hosting an interactive and educational event. After having collected more than 1.5 million bottles to recycle, a feat that has landed the group in the Guinness Book of World Records, they set up an environmental fair for local kids and school groups to enjoy. We painted a giant elephant, got a 3-D jungle tour, and climbed a ropes course… some of the daredevils even scaled the giant rock wall! The kids (and PDs!) had a blast learning about recycling and participating in all the fun activities. It’s always great to provide our students with an educational and entertaining afternoon outside their local neighborhood!