Saturday, April 23, 2011
Sitting in the Miami airport, just beginning the 8-hour lay over- straight from the diablo. Time to do some processing...
Things I will certainly miss about Quito:
· The people. Of course, my fellow semester abroaders, but also the Bible-reading gang (Mika, Roberto, Jose Luis, Joe,David, Dan, the twins,... so many!), the host family (Lilli, Ivanhoe, Cris, Gabi, Melba, Mathias), and of course... the fine folks over at Christy's store and my beloved Cuban (of, what else, "the Cuban store".)
· The language. I love Spanish. I love speaking it, and I love hearing it being spoken. Good thing I’m from Chicago.
· The food. Rice with aji, lots of avocado, cilantro and regrettably, mushrooms. Soup with bones! pancitos, cafe con leche... ugh, everything.
· The smells. Walking past Arenas Panderia every morning, the natural medicine cart... this semester was also an adventure for my nose.
· The trolley, the bus. Public transit in general. What a totally nutty part of Ecuador, but it certainly makes it what it is.
Things I can't wait to get home to:
· The people. Mom and Dad and all the friends at home make ‘goodbye’ a little easier on the other side.
· Flushing toilet paper.
· Certain foods. Dr. Pepper, Rold Gold tiny twists, Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A, pickles, hummus, regular cucumbers.
· Driving my car, feeling like a grown up.
· Knowing what to expect when I do things. Shopping will be easier, traveling more familiar, and greeting new acquaintances will be a breeze.
Yep. So that’s it. El fin. Vaya bien, y'all. Cuidate, no?
Same old, same old but not in the Same.
Friday, April 22, 2011
Don't be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetime, is certain for those who are friends. -Richard Bach
... And the goodbyes have started. The Cornerstone folks and Caleb left this morning. Sharon leaves tonight, and I head out tomorrow. This is weird. But that's something for another day...
We returned from the beach town of Same (pronounced sah-may) on Wednesday. You wouldn't believe how beautiful it was, well maybe you would – but I’m from Chicago. Ecuador's Pacific Coast provided us with great waves, only two occurrences of jelly fish stinging, sunburns/tans, a great sand castle, and lots of memories. We left on Saturday night (spending no more than 24 hours in the apartment after the jungle) and took an overnight (and then some) bus to Same. It was a nine hour bus ride, both ways...
It was a wonderful, relaxing, albeit bittersweet trip. We used the time at the beach to debrief from our three-month crazy bus experience, and just hang out with each other one last time. Did I mention that it was beautiful? It was. It put my sad beach experiences at Lake Michigan to shame. We stayed at cabanas called Islas Del Sol that were right on the beach... it was amazing.
This next part may come as a surprise... but every day we ate shrimp for lunch. Amazing. We walked down the beach to a place called Barnabay's each afternoon... so good. Coconut shrimp, ceviche, fried shrimp, garlic shrimp, and lime. Lots and lots of lime... mmmmm. Even better, it was just a walk down the beach – the whole experience was sans shoes.
The beach was such a great way to end a great semester. For my last full day here in Quito, I am booked up. I am going to La Mariscal with Alyse, Sharon, and Chelsey for some last minute souvenirs, lunch, and then meeting up with Jose Luis for the last time in the Centro Historico. I'm even hoping to check out a Good Friday mass in old Quito at El Convento del San Francisco. I'm not wasting a minute.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Wow. Just got home from the jungle. What a wild week. I'm alive, which is also helpful. Fun language fact: the word for ‘jungle’ in Spanish is selva, which also means ‘wild’. What a fitting word.
We did some construction and hosted a VBS in Pununo all week with an organization (http://www.itsaboutkids.org/home.html) based just outside Misahualli (I still don't know how to pronounce it), and on Thursday traveled down the Napo to Pasuno for a one-day VBS. And it was beautiful. Beautiful like you wouldn't believe (well, maybe you would if you have been somewhere tropical), but probably the most exotic, enthralling place I've ever been.
Misahualli looked a lot like other towns we had been to – a few streets with a central park. One fun aspect though – this central park was packed full of monkeys. I'm not kidding. Every morning at about 6:30 or 7:00 a.m., the monkeys come into town from the pier and hung out at the park. They steal food and anything they can get their hands on. It was awesome. We even witnessed a dog vs. monkey fight over a piece of bread. During said fight, a monkey ran right up the side of Alyse. Again – awesome.
Of course, I didn't take enough pictures. Well, I didn't take any pictures – my camera broke the day we made ceviche – a little Google image search actually does some justice. Misahualli is on the Napo River – a winding, brown mass of super seguro bridges, long canoes, and little villages that I have no hope of pronouncing the name of. In short, it was beautiful. Like most of my favorite parts of Ecuador, I have no hope of describing it here. It was a mix of summers at Poskin Lake with some possible anacondas thrown in, and every adventurous, Indiana Jones-type movie you've ever seen. Incredible.
Now onto the clima in the salva. Picture with me, a scorching hot afternoon in mid-August in the second or third floor of a house in Chicago. A/C is out and Sears is out of fans. That sweaty, nasty uncomfortable environment is pretty much what the jungle feels like. Well, all that plus killer bugs. I wish there was photo documentation of Alyse's legs. They swelled to the size of a woman at nine months pregnant and were covered with bites from pinky toe to knee cap. Que linda!
And this is getting long... some highlights
· VBS. Had a great time meeting some great new kids, being in charge of crafts with Alyse and learning new Spanish kids songs (like “Caminamos en la Luz de Dios”, “Alabare”, and “Yo Tengo Gozo”).
· Seeing the widest tree in the jungle. Vines, crazy kids, it was like the Jungle Book. This tree was about as wide as half a football field. You could see it popping out of the jungle from town.
· Getting to work with It's About Kids (http://www.itsaboutkids.org/home.html). Cool ministry, cool kids – generally cool.
· Watching my friends (namely Caleb) jump off bridges in town. I just couldn't muster up the courage for that one.
· We made our own chocolate. It actually wasn't very good. But I also ate cacoa fruit during the day while doing our construction stuff. Weird, right?
...some low lights.
· It was hot. See above.
· Mixing concrete by hand, like its 1899. (Okay, that was actually kind of fun. For, like, a minute.) Good thing we brought Stacy, who's calling is to be a human concrete mixer.
· Bug bites.
**We're leaving for the beach here in t-minus one hour for our overnight bus ride to La Costa. I am hitting the Estados in seven days. That feels weird. I refuse to say that out loud.**
Basillica y liga otra vez!
Satuday, April 9, 2011
The girls and I headed out to old Quito yesterday afternoon to climb up the huge, old basilica in the city. It's weird; it's probably one of the younger churches in old Quito, built in 1809. It took over 100 years to complete, to avoid paying taxes to the Vatican. All that work, and not too much to show for it. It's pretty amazing to look at from ground level, but it’s not so pretty once inside. We climbed up spires and towers and felt like Quasi Moto in the bell tower. It was great to view the city from that high up, not so great to see the years of graffiti layered on top of one another in every corner of the church. I need to do some more Google research to get to the bottom of this Quito mystery.
It was one of the weirdest experiences of all time. The city basically opened up this huge basilica to become a tourist playground. After three sets of stairs, there is a maze of sketchy ladders and rickety bridges to traverse this old, stone monolith. The ladders were probably the best and most frightening part. It was quite the afternoon. Did I mention I felt like Quasi Moto? I may or may not have yelled up the dizzy-ing spiral staircase, "I'm here, Quasi - it's Esmeralda!"
More fun to be had tonight as some of us hit up the Liga game. It was Liga vs. Quito (I have no idea how to explain that one – Liga is also a Quito team...) at El Estadio. The game ended in a tie, with both teams having zero points. Bummer. Two high lights for the night – empanadas de morocho with ahi (yes, despite Cole's warnings of "eat street, die"), and that we sat in the Muerte Blanco section. For more information on Muerte Blanco, please see previous Liga entry. Chelsea Smith bought a CD of liga songs, as well. What a night.
Tomorrow, we're leaving for Mishualli, a jungle town about 7 hours from Quito.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
It's been a week since I've updated, because I'm trying to suck the life out of each moment here. Kind of like I've been sucking the oxygen out of the air all semester here at 10,000 feet.
This weekend was quite the mezcla. Saturday I hung out with the Williams' kids, a YouthWorld missionary family that lives in the jungle. They were in town for the weekend and Bryan volunteered to hang out with their kids for the day. Alyse, Sharon and I went with them to play laser tag at a mall a few blocks from our house. We had so much fun and the kids were great... espera, me cachaste (wait, did you get that?) I played laser tag here in Ecuador, in a mall. Weird things. We took kids that have grown up in the jungle to play laser tag and then we ate McDonalds. [Insert feelings about western influence in Latin America here.]
Sunday, I traveled south with Sharon to visit my friend, Jose Luis's church. He preached at the early service and then invited us back to his house for lunch. We had an amazing time with lots of bicultural and bilingual laughs. I love Latin culture in that way – even though there is a bit of a language barrier in some moments, the people here are so forgiving. Jose laughs off my terrible language faux pas and I correct his English pronunciation. It's perfect. We talked about cultural stuff and laughed some more about that, too. I'm beginning to love these Ecuadorian friendships I'm forming and the cultural interactions I get to have. When Ecua meets USA, inevitably, laughter ensues. Basically, "I'm lovin' it," but not in the way of McDonalds in Quito, even if they label me an aninada (spoiled brat), but that's another story.
Wednesday, I hung out at the dump with the Chelsea(y)s. Chelsea has been interning there and showing off her Spanish cutesy kid all semester, I needed to check it out. Chelsea's job at the dump is helping with the day care run for the children of parents who work at the city dump. Some are scavengers for metals and plastics and others are employed by the city. In my non-biased opinion, all of their kids are cute. We had a great day. We colored, practiced writing big A’s and B’s, and little a’s and b’s. We even sang a song to learn colors in English and Spanish.
Today we made ceviche with Mario, our Spanish professor. For those who haven't experienced this Latin delight, it’s a cold soup made of orange and lime juice with tons of cilantro, chopped onions, and tomatoes. Our ceviche had shrimp, but in South America there are lots of varieties, some with fish, mixes of sea food, or some with clams. I'm glad we played safe with the shrimp. To a North American palet, ceviche certainly sounds gross, but it was great. Enjoy it with all the Ecua fixins', and it'll be reminiscent of the first time you had Chick-fil-A (OK, not that good, but close.) The Ecua fixin's are congil (popcorn), tostadas (big, un-popped popcorn kernels), and homemade chifles (fried plantain chips). You put the popcorn in the soup, and munch on the other two on the side. I know it sounds bizarre, but it really was great.
...oh yeah. I wish I had pictures of our Ecua creation, BUT we dropped my camera half-way into ceviche prep.