Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
In a poorly lit dining room in a big orange house in a middle class suburb of Sangolqui, Ecuador, seven American twenty-somethings sit in silence typing away frantically at seven illuminated Mac Book keyboards. This can only mean one thing—classes at the Manna Project International Bibiloteca have finally commenced. Surrounded by stacks and stacks of binders, books and teaching aids—the legacies passed down from our predecessors, the residents of the Manna house studiously press on through the misty jungle of lesson planning, a first for nearly everyone, as we prepare for our second week of classes.
Saturday evening was met with a sigh of relief after the first week of classes concluded, seemingly hitch-less. Art class, all English level classes for both children and adults, as well as cooking and adult nutrition have now joined the ranks with our exercise classes as well as our small business development and preventative health programs which are already in full-swing.
In a diagnostic test given in Profe Abby’s class, an adult English student responded to the question “Where do you live?” with “I am play soccer.” While probably true, a decidedly incorrect response.
All students have been very eager and willing to learn, though. Having been inundated with inscriptions for English classes, and having three more PDs than last year, we found ourselves in a perfect storm of opportunity and were able to add another basic level adult English class, accommodating twenty more students who otherwise would have been wait-listed.
Our focus, however, has not strayed from our many other obligations here in Ecuador. The small business development team is making inroads into involving our loan recipients in Jatampungo with our friends from De la Mata a la Olla as a possible new market for their organic produce. The Preventative Health team soldiers on with their weekly diabetes club, continuing to find new and creative ways of teaching about living a healthy lifestyle with diabetes. The PDs in charge of children’s nutrition are also finding new honey pots in which to stick their pedagogical hands into, starting up classes again in Chaupitena soon and hopefully as well at a new location in Fajardo. In other exciting news, Abby and Tari will kick off our group’s first live radio show this Friday. The topic will be Manna’s sponsorship of the acoustic concert Abby and Tari are organizing for Playing for Change, a global event where musicians broadcast their performances in the name of social change.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Hello all! So the troops and I have just returned from our first quarterly retreat in the remote town of Quilotoa. As social chair I can safely say this first retreat went off without a hitch. I say that because nobody fell off the cliff and nobody froze to death; a true victory in my social chair book. I knew I wanted to have our first retreat in Quilotoa purely because of how infamously beautiful the Quilotoa crater lake supposedly was. For those who don’t know, the lake to which I am referring (also pictured in the blog's banner photo) is a massive natural lake nestled in the crater of the most western active volcano in Ecuador, the result of a formerly massive now melted glacier. The trek to the tiny town of Quilotoa, which is populated by only about thirty locals all of whom spoke primarily in Quichua, required the boarding of three buses and impeccable timing because there is but one bus that leaves daily to Quilotoa from the Latacunga terminal. Needless to say, we made it and were greeted by two of the friendliest local women, donned in their finest indigenous garb, shouting my name, probably assuming that the foreign girl with the funny accent who made the reservation must be amongst the group of eleven gringos who stepped off of the only daily bus to Quilotoa that day. The hostel was warm, welcoming and relaxing, the perfect setting for our first retreat’s group discussion about the cultural boundaries we had encountered thus far. I like to think we all learned a little something about each other that night.
The beauty of the lake also truly exceeded our expectations. Due to a high concentration of dissolved minerals, the lake is a luminescent aquamarine color. It is hard to fathom that something this spectacular could occur in nature, but it surely does. Once we had all readjusted our now augmented realities of nature’s beauty and the bottomless well of Earth’s many mysteries, we trekked on. The next day I had planned for us to hike from Quilotoa to Chugchilan, another small town on the Quilotoa “loop”, about 10km away. The hike was to say the least…arduous, taking us along the crest of the volcanic crater, through forest and farm, across rivers and through canyons and probably pushed both our physical and mental boundaries a little more than I had anticipated. However, operating with a no man left behind mentality, I successfully herded my flock to safety. The second hostel in Chugchilan was a veritable paradise, complete with hot showers and cold beer. Pleased with the day’s accomplishments we reveled in the bounties the hostel had to offer and in the personal achievement of a long day’s hike. Bright and early the next morning, thumb high on the side of the road, we hitched a pick up truck back to Latacunga and started off for home. It was a rewarding and memorable first retreat to say the least.
Now home, washed and feeling anew, we are all preparing with much anticipation to finally start the rest of our programs next week. English classes, nutrition and cooking, and children’s art will all be underway by this time next week and the house is abuzz with lesson planning, strategy talks and goal setting for the weeks to come. Everyone is excited to get started. More to come next week on how it all goes down!