Friday, April 26, 2013

Quito Benefit

I need to start off this post with an apology. I'm in a fragile state at the moment. We've had a few bug issues in our house recently so we decided to pull the trigger and get the house fumigated. Oh, the horror, the horror. We should not have done that. The amount of bug carcasses I just swept up over the past hour would permanently scar any normal person. Fortunately, I've lived in this house for the past nine months so I've built an emotional foundation that will serve me the rest of my life. Anyhoo, the Quito Benefit.

It's going to be tough to follow Joey's eloquent ramblings on the Valley Benefit so luckily I have a built in excuse having just waded through a sea of arthropod death. I'm happy to report that the Quito Benefit was just as successful as the one held in the Valley. We had our's at the American run restaurant Cuchara de San Marcos (Cuchara Trip Advisor Page). Peter, Madeleine, Polly, and myself were in charge. We spent the majority of the time soliciting donations for the raffle and ended up with a list of ten restaurants, cafes, and a hotel of which any would have been happy to walk away a winner. We opted for a cocktail hour sans cocktails. The PD's acted as servers of the hour'derves and had the pleasure of weaving through pleasant conversations as others worked the room with another group at the raffle table. The attendees ranged between friends from Quito, past directors, students, and American friends visiting. Overall it was a wonderful evening with everyone, winners and losers, walking away with a smile on their face. 

Diana Suarez Giving a Speech about Manna

Joyous with Success 

All the Happy Winners

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Spills & Thrills

 Stretching it out.  Big day ahead of us.
 We got a little wet.
 Action shot #1.
 Acton shot #2 : Crushin' it.
 A happy crew.
 Paddle 5!
 Splishy splashy.
This must be the place.
The crews after a day on el río.

A few weekends ago the group packed their bags and hit the road for Tena for some rafting on Río Alto Misahuallí!  Part of being a Manna PD are these wonderful cultural retreats when every three months we take off for some part of Ecuador, usually with some outdoor activity involved.  The reason for these trips is it gives us a relaxing, enjoyable environment to have group discussions on various topics.  We passed the afternoon discussing how to foster individual involvement and relations within a community. These discussions serve as a sounding board for the groups ideas and are incredibly helpful in developing our community. 

After some Hollywood B movie, sharing bags of candy with the other travelers, and a brief dance party on the bus, we arrived at our destination.  Pizza settled our hungry stomachs and we retired to our rooms early anticipating the raging rapids that tomorrow would have in store for us.

A consistent rainfall during the night raised the water levels, thus changing our plans.  After scouting a few rivers and their levels, we decided to test ourselves on the techincal, class 3+/4- rapids of the Alto Misahuallí!  After a review of the safety precautions and equipment, we were on the river getting our feet wet, literally.  Most of the crew had been rafting before, some on bigger rivers with bigger rapids, but the Misahuallí is very technical and requires group cooperation and synchronization in order to maneuver the rapids safely.  We had an amazing time getting to know our raft guides, Jaime and Dan.  Dan, a North Carolina native, has been rafting and working in Ecuador for nearly 15 years now and was expecting his first child.  He said it was probably his last rafting trip for the near future and we assured him we would get him home safely.

Exhausted physically and from sensory overload, the group took a final dip in the river, hopped back in the bus and bid farewell to our beloved raft guides.  We of course returned the following morning to tip them before leaving town.  Always tip your raft guide, always.  Karma runs especially deep in the river.

As always all the best!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Friendship in the Alley and Benefits in the Valley

We have been very busy the past two weeks planning our first ever Valley Benefit and our third annual Quito Benefit. Here is a post from Joey, our poet extraordinaire, about last Saturday's event:

Last Saturday witnessed the first annual Valley Benefit in Sangolquí.  It was epic.  Friendships were strengthened.  Character was revealed.  Prizes were won. Memories were made. 

A brief haiku:
Oh friend—
Smile with me.
We all benefit.

After an ink-spilling thrill ride of a Saturday morning (our students skillfully navigated their way through their final exams, nary a word nor idea was lost in translation), we all lightly gallivanted our way back to Sangolquí for lunch at Tiamata, a local restaurant that agreed to collaborate with us for the occasion.

Everyone settled down for lunch soon after arriving.  Having everyone come together in a non-classroom setting is always a good time; there’s no talk of prepositions, adverbs, or any other parts of speech, there is only good old fashioned conversation amongst friends.  I think it’s safe to say that we all view our students as friends rather than just students.  Especially with our adult classes, many of the people we come to know are our age or older.  It’s only natural that once we start to get to know one another that we all become quite close.  For me it’s still odd when anyone calls me “profe” or “teacher” because I oftentimes feel like I’m learning far more from my students than they are from me.  But to me that’s the whole idea… MPI is a cultural exchange where everyone involved is a student.

Anyway, after lunch Heather got up on the mic to thank everyone for coming, express our gratitude towards all of the people who frequent our community center, and begin our bingo-bailable bonanza.  Lucy and I proceeded to take the stage to announce the bingo prizes (including restaurant gift certificates, a free semester of English classes at the library—which has already been redeemed!—a free haircut and manicure at a beauty salon run by one of our close friends in Sangolquí and a giant blanket donated by the local professional soccer teamIndependiente) and start the game.  Everything went off without a hitch… in between games I even tried my hand at a little stand-up for our pals.  The jokes were bad (What did Buddha say to the hot dog vendor?  Make me one with everything!), but the audience humored me quite gracefully.  With a brief salsa-interlude included, we commenced the benefit’s final event: a cakewalk.  Three lucky attendees went home with apple-cinnamon cookies, banana bread, and chocolate cake (which was made by Jenni… sure to be absolutely delicious). 

Things gradually came to a close at that point.  We once again thanked everyone for coming and reiterated how lucky we feel to be living and working here in Ecuador.  Sometimes when we get caught up in our routines we forget just how unique this experience is.  As our time in the Valley begins to wind down (it’s hard to believe we only have four months left), I find myself thinking more and more about just how lucky we really are.   

But alas, my wistful ruminations were cut short when I was reminded that we had some afternoon karaoke to attend to.  Only in Adele’s wildest dreams could she hope to nail “Someone Like You” as well as we did.

Take care everyone,

Patiently waiting for lunch 

 Our lovely event planners, Joey and Lucy

Practicing English

 Janine with some of our favorite students

 Lunch has arrived


Joey with one of our bingo prizes, an Independiente blanket generously donated by the soccer stadium 

Hopefully awaiting their chance to yell BINGO 

And of course no Bingo is complete without a salsa interlude

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Easter Parade in Quito

One of the most famous Easter parades in the world happens in Quito. Heather generously gave us the morning off to go in and watch. What we realized while straining over the crowds to get a glimpse of the parade was that it's famous for its size, not it's content. Twenty minutes of watching hundreds of people walk by in an assortment of costume and dress turned out to be enough as it started to get very repetitive. It was an amazing cultural event to witness and was made even better by not taking up a substantial part of the work day. Check out the pictures below for the highlights.

Coming Back For More!

            Weeks ago we hosted four different groups of spring break volunteers.   One of the most rewarding aspects of working here in Ecuador for MPI is to see how this experience can affect the individuals on the trip, even after their service work is completed.  Luckily for us, we have more volunteers coming in the summer months. 
Morgan Lowery was the trip leader for UGA’s spring service trip and decided that one week with MPI Ecuador was not sufficient.  That is why we will be seeing her again come May as a Summer Intern.  Please read her blog below to see how the experience here with MPI has brought her back for more!

After our frigid plunge from the waterfall at Molinuco.
The UGA group with brand new signs!
 Making plans for breaks from school may seem like a fairly simple task, but it can be somewhat difficult with the many choices now available to students.  When spring break comes around you’re expected to go to the beach and soak up the UV rays and possibly engage in some questionable behavior.  Up next is the all important summer break.  Summer plans are perhaps my least favorite to make.  There is the constant pressure from your parents and advisor to do something that relates to your major and what you’ll be doing the rest of your life or to get ahead by getting those lower level classes out of the way.  So you could listen to what everyone tells you and do the “right” thing or you could do something way more rewarding like I did over spring break and will be doing this summer.
            What did I do for my breaks you may ask?  Well, thankfully, making plans for spring break were much easier than they have been in the past.  Having been on a spring break trip to MPI Guatemala the previous year, I applied to be a trip leader for the Ecuador spring break trip, and, much to my excitement, I got it!  So I spent my spring break in Ecuador along with seven other girls from UGA helping the MPI with the advertising they do for the community center.  With the money we raised we were able to buy and a brand new, professionally made sign to go outside of the community center and refurbish other signs advertising the programs offered by the center.  While we weren’t working on our group project we were helping with the programs like English classes, art classes, and hanging out in the teen center. 
            One experience I had that I found interesting was the adult English class I sat in on. To me, a three-hour class is enough to make me have second thoughts, not to mention it was on Saturday morning.  However, I’ve never seen a more eager to learn group of people.  The adults that attend English classes come on their own accord and take time out of their day to study all in addition to their jobs and taking care of their families.  This was truly inspiring to me because it’s a serious struggle for me to make it to my classes while being a student is the only job I have.  The people that attend the class don’t come because someone else requires them to, but because they see it as a chance to make a better life for themselves and their families.  It’s hard for me to picture myself tacking on another 5 or so hour commitment to my already hectic schedule that might slightly increase my chances of getting into graduate school.  It was cool to see that MPI doesn’t force the help they offer onto the community they serve.  The people of the community want to change their lives as well and they are willing to work for it.  I could really see the idea of sustainable change at work.  This is just one of the many reasons I love MPI and the people it serves. 
            This experience along with many others is why I decided to return to Ecuador for a four-week summer internship with MPI.  I don’t know what exactly I will be doing yet, but I know whatever it is it will be something truly worthwhile and life changing for both the people of the community and me.  In addition to the work I’ll be doing, I can’t wait to experience more of the Ecuadorian culture and spending more time with the MPI team.  I can confidently say that this summer will be one to remember, but hopefully I won’t be slowed down by food poisoning this time.  It’ll be okay if I do though, because, as we proved over spring break, no one knows how to rally better than a UGA student.

So on that note I’ll say goodbye and go dawgs!  Hopefully you all will be hearing from me again sometime soon!


If you or someone you know is interested in spending a week, a month, or a whole year working with MPI Ecuador, please visit the home website for more information about getting involved, applying for the Program Director position, and much more!

As always, thank you for checking in!
All the best,