Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Things You Can't Do Without Water

The Things You Can't Do Without Water
1. Drink water
2. Flush toilets
3. Shower
4. Cook
5. Wash dishes
6. Wash anything 

I discovered this list last weekend when our neighborhood lost water for about 15 hours. As a person who showers obsessively, I was incredibly grumpy about the lack of available showers. Fortunately, we are easily able to buy drinkable water in our area so all major problems were avoided. However, while I was annoyed at the rapidly mounting pile of dirty dishes and spent the evening grumpily in my room, lamenting the shower I longed for, I was reminded of what an incredible and taken-for granted resource having available water is. Coming from the U.S., where we are literally surrounded by clean drinking water - even in the toilets, we so easily forget what a luxury it is. While there are still so many places that have health issues from a lack of clean water or still must go to extreme lengths to acquire water, the water inequality between regions is astounding. While the area of Ecuador in which I live has relatively good water quality, water issues and water health are still a huge issue in this country. While I obviously can't compare my 15 hours without water to the lifestyles of those actually living without water access, it did serve as a reminder to a luxury that most of us take for granted each day.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Start of Something New

New things are happening here at Manna Ecuador! In the past months we have been seeking partner organizations in the area to offer our available hands and labor. Our ideas have finally begun coming to fruition! We have begun volunteering weekly at two different partner organizations. The first is called "Antorcha de Vida," and it is an organization which assists children with disabilities in education, therapy and vocational skills. This past week we took the kids to a local pool and were able to assist with pool therapy! We also volunteer at an organization called "Aliñambe," which houses youths from abusive or unstable homes. This organization not only houses the children but offers them an education, vocational training and a safe, family atmosphere many of them have likely never had before. Currently we work in the large farm at the organization which provides food and profit. In the future we hope to offer classes such as English and health as well. We're all very excited to reach out our hands to local organizations and can't wait to see how the relationships grow!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Viva la Mama Negra!

This past weekend my wildest dreams came true at the festival of the "Mama Negra," in Latacunga, Ecuador. The festival is a mixture of Spanish tradition and indigenous beliefs. Every year thousands of people flood into the small town of Latacunga for this day-long celebration. This year happened to be the 50th anniversary of the festival, so I was lucky enough to enjoy the grandest festival in its history. Bright and early at 10:00 am, the parade begins. Everyone is in traditional garb; both Colonial Spanish and traditional indigenous wear. There is traditional Ecuadorian music constantly playing during the 3-4 hours that the parade marches on.
Waves of traditional dances prance by as people of all ages jump from foot to foot in the repetitive steps of their ancestors. For every few groups of dancers and music there were men dressed in white with white masks covering their faces. They held various plants in their hands and moved swiftly through the crowds grabbing by standers at random. They would then encircle the chosen person, quickly rotating in a circle around them. As the men circled them they would tap them on the head repeatedly with the plants and utter a blessing from the mother volcano Cotopaxi. These men represented indigenous medicine men and their blessings. I was blessed 3 times!
Even more than a fun time, the Mama Negra festival in Latacunga was an incredible cultural experience. I can't wait to go back or discover other Ecuadorian celebrations like it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lessons From Ecuador

I arrived here in Ecuador just over two months ago. There have been many ups and downs to the experience thus far, but I am so glad I am here. We had some extra time off this weekend from our community programs, which got me reflecting on some of the things Ecuador has taught me. Although simple, I believe these examples embody the daily lives of the Ecuadorian people I have encountered.

    Live in the moment  
      Often I find myself looking or thinking to the next thing. Whether it is dinner plans, a weekend trip, or next year’s job hunt, I sometimes forget to slow down and focus on the present. My interactions with Ecuadorians consistently remind me of the importance to slow down and appreciate the moment. One example that sticks out in my mind is from a late night party with friends. It was well past midnight and one Ecuadorian friend took out his guitar, another took out her saxophone and the rest of us joined in singing traditional songs. This moment stood still in time. We all shared that moment together – no distractions from the outside world.
   Patience can be rewarding
The other day I walked 5 minutes through the pouring rain from our house to pay the electricity bill. While this may require just the click of a button back home, I needed to stop by a nearby tienda (small convenience store) to transmit the payment.  The owner informed me upon arrival that her Internet was down and that I would need to wait until it was back up. Initially I was frustrated, but she offered me a seat, a snack and then we proceeded to share a few minutes of conversation. This simple gesture brought new friendship to a potentially frustrating situation. The patience I experience from Ecuadorians weekly has reminded me that patience truly is a virtue.

    Having enough = Happiness  For Ecuadorians to have enough is to have those they most care for their side. Ecuador reminds me daily what makes life content: experiences shared with close friends and family. Nothing more is necessary. Happiness can be found in these moments.

It is my hope that I can carry these lessons and many more with me throughout my remaining time here in Ecuador and beyond.

 ~Evan Quinnell~ 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Trick or Treat?

It was great to experience the cultural exchange between the community members and our own Program Directors this weekend as we blended American Halloween traditions with those of Ecuador’s Día de Los Difuntos.  On the 31st, all of the PDs worked together to host a Halloween party for the community members. The haunted house was a huge hit for both kids and PDs alike – who knew it could be so fun to scare small children, and that they would enjoy it just as much as we did?

The next day the adult English classes shared a part of Ecuadorian culture by teaching us how to make colada morada, a traditional Ecuadorian beverage served the week of El Día de Los Difuntos. After three hours of preparation the colada morada was finished and we all sat down together to chow down on a colada morada and guaguas de pan.
~ Kate McCaw~