UGA Spring Break

Tuesday, March 12th 2013

The eight of us arrived on Sunday night and got settled into the hostel, which has very nice accommodations including hot water! It’s not a big deal that we didn’t get to stay in the Manna House because we literally share a wall with it and the hostel is great! Yesterday, we got to explore Ecuador through a rain forest hike which was really beautiful. We even got to jump off of a waterfall along the hike with native Ecuadorians (Amanda fell in love with one of them).  Even though our clothes were soaking wet for the rest of the hike, it was completely worth it! We were lead by our adventurous program directors Lucy and Pete. After we experienced some local street food, we spent time relaxing and getting to know each other at the hostel
            Today, we began our project by first assessing what needs to be done with the existing signs at the community center and then getting estimates for a new sign.  We finally found a place that will make us a professional sign at a low price.  After that, we returned to the Manna House for lunch.  Then, we returned to the community center to observe and help with the various Manna programs.  Corinne, Lindsay, Danielle, and Amanda sat in on Polly’s class, which was a beginner English class for kids.  Kelly, Jessi, Rebecca, and Morgan sat in on Joey’s class, which was a basic English class. We got to interact with people of all different ages including the children from the classrooms and the members of the Ecuadorian army.  They were learning English for their upcoming trips to America.  One of the men is going to Columbus, Georgia so we got to tell him about what to expect when he arrives! Overall it has been a great first couple of days and we are looking forward to the rest of the week!


Last Years UGA group:

Our UGA girls in front of the Basilica

Saturday March 18, 2012

Got books? Today, a few of us went with our PDs, Nicole and Rachel, back into Quito to buy books for the library. This warm, beautiful day was perfect for a day-trip to the city. We left the Centro in the morning to meet Nicole at the train station in Quito. Once we were all together we began our search for a bookstore that would supply our needs for children and young adult books. Rachel accidentally left the paper that had all the bookstore information on it at the Centro, so we stopped at a local internet shop to recover that information. But before that, our awesome PDs finally let me get more ice cream. MORE MORA!!! After getting the information that we needed, we stopped by a Starbucks like café and ordered Humita. We were all super disappointed however, because they were so dry. From there we finally went to the bookstore and had an amazing time. We found the discount part of the store and the five of us had so much fun reading the books and choosing which ones we thought the kids would love. 

The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around the center of town trying to see if we could find another bookstore. To no avail, but still having had a lot of success earlier, we headed back to the Centro. However, on the train to the bus station, I definitely saved Rachel’s life (major exaggeration). As the whole group was standing up on the train, I proceeded to sit down and just so happed to witness the man standing next to Rachel attempt to reach into her purse. I immediately called her name and he retracted his hand at the same time. I softy told her to move her bag to the other side of her body and he and I continued to make eye contact throughout the rest of the train ride. It was incredibly awkward for me, but at the same time the situation allowed me a rare look at the type of person who would do something like that. What I realized was, considering this man didn’t at all look like the type of person who would rob someone, there is no standard profile of this type of person.

Though this was the last day at the Centro, it was incredibly difficult to feel too sad. I couldn’t imagine crying; the children were as they always were: adorable and open, and the adults were ever eager to learn. We fought embarrassment together as we sang “Head, shoulders, knees, and toes” but it was so worth it. God, they’re so fun to be around. I will miss them just as much as I already miss the kids.

De-briefing. What can I say? It was the culmination of the pent-up emotion we’d gathered in our hearts all week. It was a tear-fest, in essence. We all came to the collective realization that we will carry our experiences with us for the rest of our lives. The people of Ecuador will still be here, but they’ve also taken permanent residence in our souls. El fin.

-Amanda Bailey y Jacqueline Leftwich

Friday, March 16th, 2012:

We woke up bright and early to head to Quito for a fun half day out or as I like to call “shameless tourism.” Our first stop that morning was the Basilica, a large, beautifully constructed, gothic church with stained glass windows that took your breath away and great views of the surrounding area. The climb to the top was somewhat intimidating: lots and lots of stairs (what a workout!), wooden planks held up by rope, steep metal wire stairs where a false move could lead me to my doom – scary stuff. But the climb was well worth it. I couldn’t capture a picture of Ecuador like that anywhere else.

After the Basilica, we sprinted like racehorses to make it on time for our salsa-dancing lesson. I didn’t need to know what the instructor was saying to learn the dance moves and have a great time. All you needed to do was watch his (the instructor’s) feet and body motions. We were separated into “boys” and “girls” based off of our height after learning some basic salsa steps and then learned fancier moves such as turning. I had so much fun!

Next was lunch. Man, were we hungry! We went to Este Café for sandwiches, burgers, and actual Ecuadorian food. Then we hit up the artisan market for souvenirs and cool Ecuador stuff. Sadly, we only had 50 minutes to shop, which is clearly not enough. I was so overwhelmed at the market – too little time, too many things to look at. And for my first two purchases, I forgot that I could bargain. But in the end, we were all really happy with the things we bought and ready to head over to the center for what we really came to Ecuador for.

I am much less frustrated than I was at the beginning of the week. I can’t understand what almost everyone is saying, but I slowly came to grips with that. I have virtually no Spanish-speaking experience (elementary school and 7th grade Spanish don’t count; I don’t remember anything), which makes communication very hard. I want to converse with the Ecuadorians, listen to their stories, get a snap shot of their lives, learn from them, and try to see through their eyes. But I can’t (not really, anyways). I can only guess from the very, very, very, very, very, very, very little bit I know or what I could figure out, or helplessly ask another volunteer or PD to be so kind as to translate for me. I don’t expect the others who are proficient with the language to baby me and translate everything for me. That’s not why they’re here. That’s not why I’m here. I suppose it is my fault since I decided to come even though I don’t know any Spanish and though I was aware that not knowing Spanish would greatly affect my experience here, I was not prepared for the degree of the uselessness and frustration that I felt. Maybe I’m just an ignorant American.

But out of the many things I wasn’t able to do to the best of my ability, there is one thing that I do truly love and didn’t epic fail at. I love hanging out with the kids in the library the most. I don’t need to speak with them in Spanish to play card games or board games or color or draw pictures or have tickle wars or give them piggy-back rides. I mean, it would have been nice to actually talk to the kids, but it wasn’t absolutely necessary. I don’t need to know Spanish to make them smile, laugh, and feel happy. I didn’t need to speak Spanish to communicate.

It’s amazing how close and attached the kids and us volunteers get in just a few days. It’s amazing how the kids will open their hearts to you even though you are just a stranger. Out of everything I have seen in Ecuador, I will miss the kids the most. I feel sad and a bit guilty to leave them. While I am flying back to the comforts and luxuries of home and the U.S., they will still be here. I won’t be there when Camilla comes looking for me in the library. I won’t be there to play Egyptian Ratscrew with the boys. I won’t be able to play Candyland with the girls. I won’t be there to see if Manna Project helped Steven become a better person. Those kids pretty much made my whole week worthwhile. I hope that I was able to make a difference, no matter how small, for them as well.  

-Carol Pengshung
The UGA girls learning salsa

Thursday March 15, 2012

I can’t speak for everyone, but the past 24 hours have been some of the best hours I’ve spent in my life. It all began last night with a delicious dinner in
Quito. The drive in to Quito from the Manna house in Sangolqui was absolutely breathtaking…literally. I don’t think I will ever forget the sight of all the lights and houses along the valleys and mountains. I found this view at night to be particularly ironic. During the daytime, whether it be on the bus, in the Centro, or simply walking around town, it’s so easy to see the poverty and hardships that so many people face from day to day. It’s really discouraging at times and it’s easy to feel bad for these people. However, at night time, when all you can see is thousands of lights, you can’t help but smile and be so appreciative of this amazing country. In a way, it gave me an odd sense of hope and comfort that I really needed and will cherish for as long as I live. Needless to say, the nightlife of Quito did not disappoint. It was really neat mingling with people around our age group and getting to see how other young people spend time together. I felt so grateful to have the opportunity to see that side of Ecuador as well.

This morning was kind of my “ah-ha” moment when I realized why I’m here and why I want to be involved with Manna. I had the opportunity of working with physically and mentally disabled children and teens in a Horse Therapy session. It’s been proven that the temperature of the horse and the movements made while walking have been very therapeutic for disabled individuals. After the first few minutes working with the kids, I couldn’t help but feel a little down. I honestly just felt bad for them, and I was on the verge of tears at one point. I really think my life changed a little while helping one particular boy. I don’t recall his name, but he needed full assistance while on the horse, and I was spotting him the whole time. At one point though, the man directing the horse and leading the therapy session said in Spanish, “Alright, now hug the horse and lay down”. This boy released his tight grasp on the reins, and laid his head so softly on the horse’s mane, and smiled so greatly. I will never forget the look in his eyes. He felt so comfortable and safe in that moment, kind of like how I felt when driving in to Quito the night before and seeing all those lights. It’s little moments like these where I realize how small I am in my little world back in the states and how blessed I am. Had I not gone on this trip, would I have been able to see that boy’s smile and realize how important our work at Manna is? Definitely not. I don’t want to think about the fact that there are only two days left before we go home. All I’m going to do is make the most of it, help out in any way I can, and continue to grow.

-Margaret Mary Serletti

Tuesday March 13th

Que hicimos juntos: This morning we packed onto a bus from Sangolqui to Rumiloma to work at the centro for the first time. We were impressed by the expansiveness of the centro. Manna has rented part of a building to house classes, games, and the library. The library was a tad disheveled. It was our assignment to clean and organize esta biblioteca. We were a machine, a well-oiled, book-sortin machine. It took about three hours to remove and clean all the books then sort them into manageable categories onto freshly cleaned and protected shelves. The space looks much bigger now that the books are neater and everyone was very impressed with the amount of work we did in only one morning. Though this project seems small it is something that the program directors would not have had time for had our group not been here to help. Thanks to this project books are even more accessible and there is space to enjoy them.

Almuerzo: PASTA. It was a group effort.

Ensenando al centro: I (Jacqueline) assisted in teaching the advanced English class with Watkins. Alejandra and Karmin  were super eager. The boys contributed as well, but I was so thoroughly impressed by Alejandra, who grasped the idea of homonyms right away. We covered some pretty complex grammatical concepts (cognates, articles, and homonyms), so the fact that the kids kept up at all—let alone fought to answer questions—was incredible to me.

Jugando con los ninos: During the 5 hours I (Jessie) spent in the library at the centro, approximately 2 hours of which spent playing Egyptian Rat Screw with the children. Though it was only a card game, it was an interesting look at a shared part of culture. These kids who live on a different continent than me know this game with the exact same silly rules that I learned and played every day in high school. The rest of the time I spent doing dozens of puzzles and re-learning Old Maid. The kids never seemed to get sick of any of these activities. I met a variety of children: The loving Evelin who hugged everyone who walked into the room, the sassy Steven who called all of us “aburrida” (which means boring, but he also used numerous Spanish words I’m sure were equally offensive, haha), and sweet Wendy who always had a smile on her face.

-Jacqueline y Jessie

 Kelsey, Amanda and Jacqueline organizing books

The UGA girls with Spring Break leader Nicole and English student Nadia

Monday March 12, 2012
Ecuador—Day One

Our day was filled with bus rides and ice cream. We began around 9 am with a delicious breakfast, followed by a safety talk. Then began the first of three bus rides on our way to Ambato. On the first bus ride, the view was beautiful and full of nature. “If I had a nickel for every cow I saw, I would be a rich man”, as said by Kim Morris. There was literally a cow at every corner. The second bus ride was about two hours long, most of us just napped during the ride there. Once we arrived in Ambato, we went to the market area and ate llapingachos along with fruit smoothies. It was amazing, so yummy! We looked around the fresh market at all the fruits, vegetables, and meats for sale. A very different sight than the United States. We then went to an artesian market where they sold bracelets, purses, and other souvenirs. Sara and Margaret bought purses and bracelets, Amanda bought a carved wooden mini home and wooden crayons, Kelsey bought a dream catcher, and Jessie bought finger puppets! So many cute souvenirs. We went to a beautiful Catholic Church after and everybody took lots of pictures. We then went to a park with hummingbird statues surrounding a big water fountain. The hummingbird statues were very unique and not something you see often. They each had a unique painting on them. We attempted to go to see a volcano, but we were not able to see it. We went to café Oasis instead and had some of the yummiest ice cream. Amanda got an ‘Africana’ which had chocolate ice cream, pineapples, grapes, chocolate syrup, coconut shavings, and lots of whip cream! It was a cute café, I really enjoyed it! After the café we went to catch a bus to take us back to the Manna House. In general, we had a good sightseeing and shopping day. The towns we saw and the country in general is just so different than the United States, it is eye opening to see how they live compared to how we live. I love being out of my element and so far this trip has done just that. It is great and we can’t wait until tomorrow!

-Sara Jananeh

Some of the UGA girls in Ambato