Friday, June 28, 2013

Photos from Session 2

Summer session 2 has been flying by! Check out these pictures and read first hand about our summer interns' experience here!

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Summer interns getting their hands dirty helping our friends the Añamisis with their organic farmers cooperative de la mata a la olla, check our their work on facebook:

Morning gardening with Señora Betsabe, an organic producer from the community of Santa Isabel 
 Pete, Michelle, Val and Kristina hard at work
 Homemade ají... yum!
Our gracious host never lets us leave without lunch

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Straight Ballin'

 The "camino" to the court.
 Great friends..
 Greater enemies (only on the court, of course).
 Getting the rules straightened out, tie up your laces - let's go!
 The aerial battle begins.
 No uncontested jumpers allowed.
The battle for basketball supremacy rages on.
     True to form.

     For me, my year with Manna Project has been all about fostering new friendships, enjoying new experiences, and trying to learn as much as I can from my new surroundings.  Before coming to Ecuador, sports had always played a significant role in my life and since our arrival nearly a full year ago that has not changed (although the sports I play have).  Here in the Valley, basketball has supplanted hockey and baseball as my sport of choice.  Simply due to a lack of popularity (baseball does not seem to have caught on here), or lack of ice (poor hockey never had a fighting chance), the sports I have grown up loving were not accessible here.  But this has turned out for the best.  Thanks to basketball, I have met some great people, creating long-term bonds with some of them that I’ve played with, and had a great deal of fun.  I’m going to try to use this blog post to express to you a handful of different experiences/memories that basketball has gifted me during the past year…
     The first thing that comes to mind when I think about playing basketball in Ecuador is my friendship with my fellow PD Peter Wagner. Since meeting him last July in Miami (time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana) Peter and I have become great friends (or as he once memorably put it, “homeboys for life”).  We’ve certainly been through a lot together.  We’ve both seen one another at high points and low points, and we’ve shared countless laughs along the way.  One aspect of our friendship that has meant a lot to me is the time we’ve spent together on the basketball court.  When I think about it, my newfound love for the game (and some newfound moves on the court) stem from Peter’s influence.  Pete—a great basketball player—loves and respects the game, and his passion for it is contagious.  I don’t remember the first time we played together, but our trips to la piscina (a local court named for it’s location next to three public swimming pools) have become a weekly staple.  Peter has essentially
become my basketball mentor/guru; he has helped me to improve my footwork, he’s taught me a few moves down in the post, and generally has helped me improve my game while teaching me to genuinely enjoy it at the same time. Whether it’s just shooting around, running drills, “putting up 20s” (where one person takes 20 consecutive shots while the other rebounds and feeds), playing one-on-one, or playing three-on-three/four-on-four games with a group of Ecuadorian friends, our forays into the concrete playground have always been enjoyable, and I will sorely miss them when our time here soon runs out.
     The basketball court itself is like a small oasis where your focus becomes narrowed (delightfully so).  This is to say that on the court, you’re only thinking about finding the open man, hitting the open shot, playing solid defense, angling yourself for a rebound, etc.  To play effectively, and to enjoy the game, all other worries, responsibilities, and preoccupations must be temporarily pushed aside.  As John Cleese said once during a lecture on creativity, “Play is distinct from ordinary life, both as to locality and duration.  This is it’s main characteristic, it’s secluded-ness, it’s limitedness, play begins, and then at a certain moment it is over, otherwise it is not play.”  Basketball in this sense is a prime example of “play”.  The game is played over a finite time in a specific place, and not only is it fun, it’s therapeutic.  I have never come away from the court here not feeling refreshed and re-energized.
     Allow me to go off on two tangents: 1. Hooping full-court with a group of Ecuadorian buddies ranging in age from about 20 to 60 and 2. Connecting with someone from yet another country (this time France) through basketball…
     1. Patricio and the gang.  Some of our best friends here in Sangolquí are the Cevallos family (our great friends from Técnico del Valle—a local technical high school where Peter and I taught English classes for most of the year).  Patricio and Paulina, their children Jordan (very appropriately named after Michael Jordan) and Joselyn, Patricio’s parents Saul and Sonia, Patricio’s brother Carlos Saul, and others from their tight-knit clan have all become dear friends of ours.  For this blog novel/post I will delve deeper into our friendship with Patricio, another friendship that would not be the same without basketball.
     Patricio specifically has become someone we spend a lot of time with.  Lunches as his house, lunches at our house, time spent at Técnico del Valle, time spent at the Star Wars museum in Quito, celebrating New Year’s together, and of course, playing basketball… we’ve had some good times with dear old “Pato”…  Playing full court basketball here in Ecuador is much different than in the States.  There is much less contact and the offense calls fouls (normally in the States, the defensive player abides by a sort of honor code with respect to fouls: if you commit a foul, you acknowledge it yourself), which at times for us became frustrating.  Of course, adjusting to Ecuadorian basketball rules/norms was a learning experience in and of itself, indicative of the growing pains all of us go through when living in a new area of the world.  But regardless of these minor frustrations, we always had a blast playing with and getting to know a diverse group of Ecuadorians through sport.  There was Fabian, about 60 years old, the grizzled veteran and de facto of the group, white-haired and with belly the size of a small boulder, never moving too quickly, but frequently hitting the open shot, Carlos Saul, Patricio’s bull-in-a-China-shop of a brother, always driving hard with his head down to the basket, his
perfectly quaffed hair never falling out of place, and David, a middle-aged man with a solid command of English, he and his questionable goatee always looking for a baseline jumper, among many others.  Then of course there is Patricio himself, always decked out in Air Jordan apparel and Nike shoes, his hair suavely slicked back, cutting deftly in and out of traffic to hit lay-ups, make a smart pass, or hit a jumper.  Normally placed on separate teams, Peter and Patricio are kindred basketball spirits, separated by a generation and (normally) geography.  As Patricio once happily and sagely told Peter after winning a game (in his uniquely epic English), “Pete, once again, the old dog teaches the big puppy”.  Funny little moments like that (and there have been plenty) stay with you.
     2. Vladimir Molinié, Frenchman extraordinaire/bon homme.  Vlad was a first-session summer intern hailing from Toulouse, France.  He is a great guy: a gentleman with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a passion for basketball.  The three of us (but specifically Vlad and Peter) hit it off through the sport.  Watching Vlad mentally prepare himself to take on Peter, while suiting up in his Atlanta Hawks gear and his fresh white “dunks” always brought a smile to my face.  The look of pure concentration and determination on his face as he battled Peter one-on-one was fantastic. I must admit I was a little bit jealous when Vlad and Pete began stealing off for games of one-on-one (“That used to be me!”).  But I also couldn’t help but appreciate two guys, one from the US and one from France, striking up a friendship in Ecuador through a sport that they both loved.
     What I’m driving at here is that basketball (and sports in general) is an amazing conduit for inter-personal relationships and personal growth.  You can really learn a lot about someone by playing a game of basketball with him or her (I should say that you learn a lot about yourself, too).  Is a certain individual aggressive?  Passive?  Do they get upset after missing a shot or getting burned on defense?  Or do they maintain their cool and re-focus themselves for the next play?  Are they selfish?  Or are they a team player? Are they impatient?  Or are they methodical?  Arrogant or humble?  Peter and I have talked about this.  We believe that a person’s personality always will reveal itself on the court.  And learning to work with people on your team, no matter what type of personality they have, is critical if you want to succeed… skills one might find useful when living/working abroad… or in any kind of “real life” scenario.
     Basketball has become an integral part of my Ecuadorian experience.  The friends I’ve made through the sport and the memories that I now have to look back on are perfect examples of the stuff that has made the past year so special.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Session 2 !

Summer Session 2 is off to a great start. The interns have had a busy week, on top of getting used to a new country and culture they have been taking intensive Spanish classes, prepping students for their English midterms, entertaining our library regulars, participating in intercambios and planning post-midterm celebrations for our students. They are now off to Mindo for a weekend hiking and swimming in waterfalls. Read first hand about their experience by clicking on the Summer Session 2 tab at the top of the blog! (pictures to come)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


 A little something to think about.  Read Jillian's reflections on her experiences here so after her first month in Ecuador.

          ...If you find yourself more interested in the character development of a poorly made Jackie Chan film rather than the climax of the plot, you should continue reading this blog post. My time in Ecuador thus far has been comprised of countless meaningful details that have contributed to my personal experience rather than large awe striking events. For example, in this blog post I will not focus on the breathtaking zip line trip across a valley with hundred foot waterfalls, but rather on the fact that Kristina’s loving grip on my left hand reminded me why it is so much more enjoyable to experience these things with other people. Even if it results in a sore knuckle and a pierced left eardrum.
            Additionally, I will not focus on the movie night thrown in the teen center at the library last week, which featured the Amazing Spider Man, fresh popped popcorn, and a seemingly endless amount of Fanta orange soda. However, I would rather mention the fact that I played Bananagrams in Spanish for the first time. Already intimidated by my two new Spanish-speaking friends urging Jenni and I to play, I was exceptionally proud that I could take ownership of at least eight words by the third round of the game. (It doesn’t matter if Los Chillos is a name for something, it automatically implies that el chillo is a thing as well, right?)
            I couldn’t possibly force you to read story after story about our wonderful weekend in Baños riding bikes, relaxing in day spas, and consuming an absurd amount of delicious food. I would much rather help you imagine what it was like for us on our initial bus ride of the weekend from Sangolqui to Tambillo, a forty-minute trip. Picture a large plushy bus donned in decorative fringe and curtains, with a bumper sticker declaring, “We brake for no one”. Now, remove the bumper sticker and imagine the passenger capacity at double the suggested number. Throw in a group full of gringos with overstuffed backpacks and duffle bags, and you’ve got yourself a legitimate test of human strength and balance. But really, if your triceps and forearms aren’t sore by the time you get off, you’re doing it wrong. Throughout the course of the forty minutes we were guaranteed no seat, at least a half dozen face-to-armpit encounters, approximately four smashed toes, three awkward hand placements, and multiple wafts of unexpected scents including, but not limited to, cologne, body odor, street food, hair gel, or animal (questionably domesticated).
            There is nothing quite like finally getting a seat and being able to rest your shoulders. After we were all able to sit down, we realized the unsolicited workout we had received on our abdominals, as we had not been able to stop laughing at the chain of events experienced during the first twenty minutes of the ride. It was this enjoyable bus ride full of laughter and muscle conditioning that started our weekend in Baños off on the right foot for some much needed fun and relaxation.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Dia del Niño

Blog post from Lucy:

This past Saturday, June 1st, was dia del niño or children’s day in Ecuador.  As we’ve found out throughout the year, Ecuadorians sure do love their holidays, and this one was no exception.  But we were prepared this time!  On Friday, the kids were all off of school (for a different holiday, Sangolqui day) so we decided to throw a party in the Library for all the kiddos that we know and love in Ecuador!

The summer interns that are helping out with the Library, Charlie, Kristina, and Morgan, planned all week to come up with fun activities and ideas for the fiesta.  Joey, Kristina, and I went to one of the local elementary schools during recess to advertise for the party.  We dodged basketballs and swarms of running, screaming kids while trying to tell them all that they better be there on Friday

Kristina made delicious cookies and fruit salad, while Morgan and Charlie organized games and crafts to keep the kids entertained.  All in all, we had around 70 kids come to our tiny library that day, which was anything but boring!  We let them run amuck, periodically suggesting that they go roughhouse or kick the soccer ball outside on the field, which led to many outdoor soccer and Frisbee games.  They also took full advantage of our sidewalk chalk, decorating the whole path outside.  It looked really cool!  And I’m actually pretty bummed that the rain already washed it away.  The ones who stayed inside, however, made octopuses out of Styrofoam balls and yarn, which was probably the cutest craft ever! 

We had many of our library regulars attend, but we also saw tons and tons of new faces in the library!  We’re hoping that these new kids keep coming back so we can get to know them even better!

 Octopuses (octopi?) were a big hit
 Panoramic view of the madness
Of course, thats Profe Joey under that pile of kids

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Just for the Girls

Thursday evening was an extremely rewarding experience for those of us involved with and interested in women's programs here in Ecuador. I always enjoy Lucy's zumba class, but this week was extra special. We moved our hips to Spanish hits in a room packed almost to capacity with Ecuadorian women and our American volunteers. Summer intern Jeanine did an incredible job taking on three songs towards the end of class, showing off her natural dancing abilities and an enthusiastic smile.

After class we had planned a Women Only health charla to talk about children's nutrition, and then segway into an idea we've had to start a bi-monthly women's club to establish more personal relationships with our female community members and talk about the type of things that come up when there aren't any men around! We were nervous about the charla, since we were trying out a new time and idea, and we weren't sure how many people would show up. Our nerves were soon eased as we walked into the Preventative Health Center to a group of 11 smiling women, eager to talk about nutrition, and try whatever strange American dish we had cooked up this time.

We discussed why children's nutrition is important, and ways to reinforce healthy eating habits while kid's are still young. The women had a lot of thoughtful feedback and asked some great questions. Teaching nutrition in a different culture is always an interesting challenge. Although the chalra went well, the women were mostly just confused by our broccoli and cheese served with cabbage in pineapple sauce, and I'm not sure they will be serving it up to their kid's anytime soon. They ate it politely and some said they enjoyed it... and we learned that Ecuadorians have myths about mixing salty and sweet.

After eating, Jenni stood up to introduce our idea of a "girls only club" which the women laughed at, but seemed generally interested in. They came up with several topics they would like to discuss at future meetings, such as how to talk about sex with their children, and how to get along with their teenagers. A library neighbor and women's exercise participant Ximena also requested a club field trip, which sounds like a lot of fun... especially when we tell the boys they aren't allowed to go!

Summer intern Jeanine leading the zumba class 

PD Janine leading the charla on children's nutrition 

Enjoying their vegetables