THE Greatest Trip Ever
Monday, February 28, 2011
The greatest thing about Ecuador is not that I'm surrounded around such loving people, or that I get to explore Ecuador with my internship. It's the fact that this whole trip is not about me.
A great friend mentioned that she loved this semester abroad program because it's where you live a life with your eyes off yourself for three months. During these three months, we are challenged to live in intentional community with one another, serve at an internship, and see missionaries' lives amongst us. It's different than the "Me, me, me!" lifestyle we are so used to living in the States, taking everything for granted. Sometimes, having to experience bad travel days on the bus, where you are breathing in someone's sweater because you are so jam-packed into the bus, is okay because it has reminded me of how I've taken my car for granted. Getting hands smeared with poo and having a numb arm from holding a baby in the hospital may seem heroic to some, but it’s really an experience that has taught me the act of servitude and love.
These situations may not be what you think of as ideal situations during a semester abroad, and may not always be fun and games, but all in all, they have taught me to take my eyes off myself. When I find myself complaining about little things, I am reminded that these are situations that people actually live in. And when I take my eyes off myself, I am able to focus on God's beauty in the scenery here in Ecuador, and focus on the many blessings God has provided in my life.
The Words of L.B., “Una Pichanga!”
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Earlier this week, Melba (my host mom) tells me that we are going to La Ronda with the other church ladies for a Valentine's Day night out. I had no idea what to expect, but boy, was I in for a surprise.
After class, Liz and I waited until our host moms met us up by the Youth World office. What we thought was that we were driving there, but to our surprise, we were taking the Trole.
Apparently, it is best to avoid the Trole at all costs during rush hour, which is around 6:00 p.m. Remember how I mentioned that normally the Troles are packed like sardines? If that was being packed like sardines, I don't know how to describe this situation. The Trole platforms were packed to capacity, and Liz and I had to be the only non-Ecuadorians during this phenomenon. There's a great deal of pushing and shoving, and I'm sure pickpocketing in between, as well. We were blessed to get a Trole that was empty, which meant we had seats! Never thought I would see the day I would get a seat on the Trole. We probably rode until it was close to the end of its route, which meant this thing was packed more than capacity! Women were getting stuck between the doors, people shoving people around, and I don't know how children were able to breathe. It was even an adventure making our way through to exit on our stop. There was a lot of pushing and shoving.
We finally completed our journey to La Ronda, which is in the old part of Quito. The buildings are beautiful, and it was just a cute, little-town feel. I imagined this is what Spain or Europe must look like. We walked down the streets while we waited for everyone to arrive. To our surprise, there ended up being about 15 girls/women coming out for the evening. We tried empanadas de morocho, which were delicious, from one of the restaurants. Then we were on a journey to find a restaurant for have cheap, Ecuadorian food because they wanted us Americans to have the full experience. After three restaurant attempts, we found a great little hole-in-the-wall after climbing a narrow stream of stairs. The ceilings were quite low for Liz and I.
We enjoyed great conversations over our long dining table and many laughs. These women know how to enjoy themselves. There were many sing-alongs, joking, dancing, and getting serenaded by two gentlemen with guitars. We also discovered an interesting favorite of Ecuador, which is hot juice. It's like your average fruit juice served hot, as if you were drinking tea. We tried great food and enjoyed every moment of it.
BUT, let me tell you, after we ate, which was at about 10:00 p.m., the night wasn't over for these ladies. We headed over to the karaoke bar. Disappointingly, we didn't end up singing our songs, but had good times regardless drinking our virgin Pina Coladas while listening to sad love songs for couple hours.
Our night became complete as we headed back to the Trole, when we encountered a group of young Argentineans causing a great scene because they didn't agree with the policy of paying an extra quarter after midnight. It was craziness with the Trole security and staff as there was lots of shouting, throwing hands up in the air, and disappointed looks from our host moms who were upset with the Argentinians for disrespecting Ecuador.
All in all, the whole day was an “eventura,” as Lily and Melba would say. It definitely was one experiencia cultura we will not be forgetting.
Carmen Bajo and Korean Peace Corps
So as I mentioned before, I was in the transition of moving internships from Carmen Bajo, which is a great ministry and opportunity, but I didn't feel like I could help out with my best with my limited Spanish skills. As the great Youth World staff members were in search for my new internship placement, I had some time to visit Carmen Bajo couple more times to say my goodbyes and leave on a good note. I returned to visit Carmen Bajo on what happened to be Valentine's Day. As I was playing with the kids, one of the ladies from the kitchen invites me to go upstairs because the ladies have all prepared a special breakfast for all the staff and helpers. They were too cute by having their nice tablecloth, fruits, bread, and coffee. It was a great day to spend Valentine's Day.
Through connections and as people were looking for a possible internship, we got connected with what is called the Korean Peace Corps. I didn't know such a program existed in Korea, but they took the same concept as the American Peace Corps to send Korean citizens into underdeveloped countries all over the world to serve for two years. Bryan, Christy, and I had a meeting with Joe, who is part of the Korean Peace Corps to see if it was a possibility for me to intern under him. The project he has been working with has been under the Ministry of Education here in Quito in a special department focusing on schools in indigenous neighborhoods. He and his group go to a community called Cotocallao and have been doing community development/social work type work in this community. There aren't many resources in this community, so Joe and his team have been working to bring necessities to this community.
I have officially started interning under Joe and his team. The first two days I started, we went to the community that they were working with. They were waiting on a team of doctors to come check the health of the students at the school, but the doctors were involved with some news media of some sort. With the nurse we had on staff, we took the height and weight of every student in the school. I also sat in on a computer class for the teachers and joined in on a community meeting with the locals. The main goal is to help this community be sustainable without the help of outsiders, which explains the computer classes and community meetings to try to brainstorm. All in all, it seems that God had greater plans with my internship that, of course, I wasn't aware of. ;]
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
I like to believe I´m a pretty independent person, but God has been challenging me to depend on him and to fully trust. Since being at homestays, I have dreaded getting on the bus, trolley, or taxi because of the long distance it seems to take to get anywhere. I can´t depend on my own time and safety anymore but only on Ecuador´s culture and transportation system.
Also, with my internship situation kind of being complicated, I´ve had to depend on people to help me find another. I´ve had to learn to be dependent on people that God has put in my life, while I also am learning to trust in his plans for me. A friend shared, "The more fear I tolerate, the more the Spirit contaminates." It´s been a good reminder for me to let go of my own plans, and put it in His arms.
Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Proverbs 19:21 "Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails."
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Today was the day all of us (Semester Abroaders) were on our way to the home of our host families, where we will be staying for the next month. As we lugged our huge suitcases over to the Youth World office, finally seeing the presence of our host families, I found myself to be fidgety. Can't speak for all of us, but most of us were nervous for what was to come in the next few moments. I finally met my host mom, Melba. She has one daughter, who I have yet to meet.
The house I'm staying in is more north from where we were staying in a little gated community. It's pretty seguro, as Melba told me, that I can go running, walking, and play in the little park. My room is on the third floor, where it's the only room up there. It gives me a little privacy, and I'm blessed to have my own bathroom. One thing is that internet only works on the first floor, but I can work with that.
Not too long after arriving at Melba's home, we took a walk to the market to do some grocery shopping. It was like half a grocery store and half a store of random things, from dolls to dishes. We stopped by at a little store filled with vegetables and fruits. For lunch, she cooked rice and a dish that consisted of ground beef and vegetables. Muy rico! Hours later, we walked to a small store to purchase more minutes for my cell phone. For dinner, we had humitas, which is similar to a tamale. Muy rico tambien!
Conversations are going a lot better than I thought. I am able to understand Melba, and she helps me out with grammar whenever I try to say something. She knows very few English words, so it is kind of difficult. Surprisingly, with my limited Spanish and her limited English, we've had some meaningful conversations already. It's great.
If you have time, pray for her and her family, as she is one of the few Christians in her family.
God’s Plans, Not Mine
Friday, February 11, 2011
So almost a week ago, our team participated in an annual flag football tournament at Alliance Academy, which is a Christian international school here in Quito, Ecuador. The Semester Abroad students joined the Youth World team in this tournament. We got pretty sweet yellow CUY shirts to match and also started off with some unity nasal strips on our noses. It was a beautiful day, with meeting people left and right, and Youth World was dominating the tournament. Sadly, during the first game, I ended up bumping into someone and falling, while hearing my right ankle go *CRACK*! Despite the pain, I was blessed to spend a beautiful day with some adorable kids while relaxing under a bright blue sky.
This week was also the week I started my internship at Carmen Bajo, which I was quite excited about because I was excited to serve and get some hands-on experience. Carmen Bajo is a community organization in the poorer area of Quito that is a church, while it also has ministries like a preschool, an afterschool program, Bible study for the women, and many more. I was able to get exposure to the ministry in the beginning of the semester.
All in all, let's just say, it's been a very interesting week. A lot of emotions, but God never fails to teach me lessons through all that. A friend reminded me that my plans are not always God's plans. Proverbs 19:21 says, "Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails." Although I didn't plan to sprain my ankle or get lost, it was a nice reminder to have full trust in Him for whatever journey He has prepared. I've also been blessed to be surrounded with loved ones and a great staff to support me here through everything.
Now, here I am off to living with an Ecuadorian family for a month starting tomorrow. Nervous, yet excited! Keep me in your prayers for my ankle, internship, and growth. :)
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
We have started intense Spanish classes from 8 a.m. - 11 a.m. every day. Starting 8 a.m. classes means leaving our apartment at 7 a.m. to walk to the trolleys. The trolleys, or called Trolle, is an experience. You know in those movies where people are packed into buses like sardines? Well, that's what it's like here.
Spanish class is a good challenge for me. We are supposed to only speak in Spanish, so there is very limited talking involved during class. We do a lot of grammar lessons and engage in conversations. Our professors are pretty laid-back and make Spanish easier to learn.