Monday, 9 July 2012

Final Post. I'm Home.

I do apologize for the long time it has been since I posted a blog. To make a long story short, my time in Ecuador stopped being some big new adventure I wanted to write about every day and simply turned into living life. It was still awesome and I have tons of stories and experiences to share but I just stopped really wanting to get home and write about it. 

I think in my last post, I said that I had been sick for a while. Well that sickness lasted 2 weeks. I lost about 15 lbs, depleted all my gained muscles from the month previous and shrunk my stomach down to the size of a 12 year old girls stomach. The problem was a parasite and I know I said I had gotten medicine but it was the wrong kind apparently. Once I finally realized that and got the right stuff, the parasite was gone in just two days and I was back to normal. I began eating again only this time even more than I had before. I had to make up for lost time and lost food. As a result, I am now sitting on my couch in Kentucky and have gained back all the weight I lost but without the muscle. 

After my sickness lifted, school had ended and it was time for summer staff. Several new people came into Casa de Fe as the regular teachers left. We all went to Banos the weekend Kelcy left and had a great time hanging with her. My highlight from that trip was sitting in hot tubs at the top of the mountains overlooking Banos late at night. It was a fun experience and so beautiful. Once summer staff started, my schedule looked a little different. I only had a week left of work since I would be flying out the next Tuesday. Another reason I didn't write towards the end is because I was coming home 3 days prior to when I had told my friends and mainly Hannah. I wanted to surprise her so if I had written of my packing and saying goodbyes a week early, she would have known something was up.

Summer looked like this. I showed up at 8 for a staff meeting and short prayer time. At 8:45 I helped lead a small Bible time with the boys of the house. They ranged from ages 2 to 11. That was an adventure for sure. Then at 9, I tutored Javier and Wilson for an hour then played with the toddlers for another hour. At 1130, I ran free time for the kids until my lunch break at noon. After Alexanders, I would return and help lead choose an activity time then big activity time. In these times we would do everything from sports to crafts to walking to the park in the city. By the end of our staff meeting at 530, I would be free to return home. Every night though I would take a child out to dinner after work. I took Wilson the first night, Gilmar the second and Javier the third. It was a ton of fun hanging with those guys. 

On Friday of my last day, I went and took pictures with all the kids so I could remember all of them easier. I said my goodbyes on Saturday and then headed to Quito on Sunday. On my last two nights in Shell, we went to Puyo for dinner at two Americanized fancy restaurants that were so good. A lot of the summer staff went as well so it was fun hanging out with everyone before I left. In Quito, Melissa, who was flying out the same day, and I walked around and shopped. It was a really fun day and I was able to buy lots of gifts for family and friends back home.

Me and the boys during morning devotion. It looks like a posed picture
but this is actually a fairly close representation of how my mornings looked.
What a blessing! I love all those boys and that is only a few of them. From
left to right: (Back Row) Dennis, Wilson, me, Gilmar (Middle) Javier, Aleho,
Martin, (Front) Antony.

These were the awesome Maestros I got to work with every 
day for construction They were all so smart and so good at their jobs. 
It was a blessing to know them. From Left to Right: Me, Heime, 
Hernan (squatting), Eddison, Louise, Flavio or Puma 

All of the oldest girls were also a blessing to know. I really hope to stay 
in their lives and at least stay in touch as best as I can. They all have
amazing bright futures and know God loves them which is most important.
From left to right: (back) Julissa, Thalia. (middle) Rosa, me, Jenny, Abigail
(front) Maria, Ana, Maribel, Marcia

This is Nicole and Ruby, two of the middle aged girls. They are so sweet
and I can't wait to see them grow. I always loved how Ruby would say 
my name every time she saw me: "Mr. Cato" she said it not perfectly 
correct but it was always really cute.

Once Tuesday rolled around and it was time to go, I woke up at 3 in the morning to head home to my unsuspecting girlfriend. All went well with the travel and I was in Lexington by 6 that night. My whole family picked me up, handed me the flowers I had requested and then we went to get Hannah. It was great seeing my family and being able to catch up after two months. After we got to Hannah's street, I had my parents pull away and I just sat out on the street with my little flowers waiting for her to drive up from work. She did eventually come and I surprised her and gave her a big hug. It was kinda awkward because her neighbor was trying to back out of his driveway and she stopped the car when she saw me right in front. No worries though, it was a good moment. 

We all went from there to dinner at Abuelos which was so good and then after that we returned home to debrief the fam. I went through all my pictures and told all my stories and was just really happy to be home. Below are some of my pics from the trip.

In reflecting on my trip, I recognized how much of a true blessing it was to have gotten to go. I learned a lot about myself and grew in several areas that greatly needed growth. I learned a lot about patience and flexibility which very much needed in my life. Not to say I am patient and flexible now but I am definitely working on it and am a lot better now than before. It was so much fun getting to know the kids and I know this is said a lot but they really did help me more than I helped them. I learned that my calling as of now is not overseas but rather here in the States. With that being said however, the trip did spark a desire in me to travel and to serve abroad in some other forms in the future. I gained a greater appreciation for missionaries and I truly do hope that someday I can return to Casa de Fe even if just to see the kids again. I built relationships with a lot of kids there and I really do hope to keep them up. It was such a blessing to go and I am so thankful to God for the opportunity. If anyone is ever looking for a place to go short or long term, I could not think of a better place to recommend. Thanks God and thank you for reading. God Bless you.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Beach Trip!

Before we left on the infamous trip, we were first paired up with a kid. Now just to make sure we are on the same page, the beach trip is not a vacation but rather another form of fun ministry for the kids. My job, which I was blessed to have, was to hang out with Javier the entire time. He is the oldest boy and has so much energy. I was blessed because in many ways, he is the type of boy that I feel called to witness to and mentor in the States so it was good practice playing with him. 

After a very long 10 hour bus ride starting at 3 am, we arrived at the Beach. Once moved in, we did what we had to do, go get in the water haha. It was so much fun swimming with Javi. He could swim really well and just needed me around every once and a while for a steady arm. It was a blast and oh my goodness, it was so beautiful. I can't describe the scenic view we had so I wont even attempt except to just say it was gorgeous. 

During the 5 day trip, we played in the ocean for several hours every day, had three great meals, craft time, lesson time, and cleaning time. It was a well run trip and the best part was just seeing the kids have fun. I know you would probably like more details but unfortunately, I was sick the entire time and am still now. Thus, I have no energy to write a large post. I did have an amazing time and almost all of my stories have to do with how awesome God is and how I can see God through the joy of children. Hopefully I can post more later but for now, I am hitting the sack. A 10 hour bus ride while taking care of an 11 year old all while not eating anything because you are sick can really take it out of you. 

Thanks for reading and I'm sorry there isn't more. 

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Poison!!!!! Ivy. Haha. 

So all this weed eating got me poison ivy, surprise surprise. I was weed eating in wet amazon bushes that are all over 5 feet tall with all kinds of wildlife, random plants and a bazillion rocks in them. By the end of every day, I am covered in cuts, bruises, and little speckles of all kinds of plants. I feel disgusting but good as I know I have completed a good days work. Dwight told me why I was weed eating the other day. He said "we need to weed eat so that there aren't as many snakes and bugs . . . " That didn't make it any better knowing that I was standing in probably hundreds of snake holes. I hate snakes, bugs are okay but I hate snakes. Lucky for me, I oddly still haven't seen any and as of today, I am almost done with my project. I wish you could see how much I have done. Not that it is impressive by any stretch, it is just a lot. I have pretty much weed ate the whole property. So poison ivy or not, I am almost done and that is a great feeling. I wont remind myself that the weeds grow faster than the plants and that I will probably have to start back from the beginning once I reach the end.

The last couple days have been swell. I have slowly come out of my sickness and am gaining more and more energy with every step. I worked a full day yesterday and today and almost feel at full strength. I also ate all of my lunch for the first time today which is a good thing considering I was eating all of my lunch as well as the rest of everybody else's haha. Yesterday, after work and a little basketball with some of the missionaries, I went over to Megan's house with a few of the new summer staffers. We made homemade pizza which was pretty good and then watched Courageous which was amazing. It was the second time I had seen it and I loved it still. The acting is so so but the message is clear and right on. If you haven't seen it, do. It was fun cooking and hanging out with people. The new staffers are all really cool too.

Today, dinner was different. After some more basketball with the missionaries, I went by Johnnys and got a burger. It was pretty good but I think I like the other place in town a little better. For dessert, I stopped by the lady at the park and got a maduro. It was a good filling end to my burger. Oh yeah I forgot. Avocados are my favorite vegetable. I'm going to have to start buying more. I got one on the way to make pizza and just ate it on top, oh it was so good. I love avocado on pizza.

So now I am just sittin on my bed waiting for the NBA playoffs to start. I think Maria has cable so hopefully I can get it on there. I'm pulling for the Thunder but will be okay if the Heat win too. What a blessing it is to be here. I am very much looking forward to the beach trip coming up on Thursday. I have gotten a lot closer with Eddison who is deaf and Boris who is all smiles. Eddison likes playing rough and every time we hit and push, I end up hugging him which he likes too. Our play time goes like this. Rough up for 3 seconds then big long squeezing hug then repeat over and over. Boris is fun too and always wants me to just give him a hug. I am really looking forward to getting to hang out with both of them on the beach trip. God is great!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

1 Month Down

So the tickets didn't end up working out. We had a couple different sources saying a couple different things so we ended up not going. It was a bummer but it just means I'll be able to go another day and it will be that much better. Friday, I was still sick so I didn't go into work until after lunch to teach PE. It was raining a ton so we stayed in the multi use building. Melissa had her class watching a movie there though so I had my PE class join in too. They were watching a musical called The Happiest Millionaire or something like that. It has the guy in it that played Moses a long time ago and came to Asbury to speak this semester. I can't remember his name but it was cool watching it now that I have met him. It was cool watching it anyways though because he is a good actor.

Saturday was a chill day as I started to climb out of my sickness. I still didn't eat much and stayed in my bed most of the day but come dinner time, I was feeling a little better. Kelcy, Jenae and I walked around town buying groceries to make chicken avocado burritos. We bought the little skewers of chicken sold on the street so we didn't have to cook the meat. It was a good idea and turned out great. I ate two gigantic burritos and all in all probably two whole avocados haha. It was super good and considering my stomach had shrunk recently from bing sick, I was stuffed. Afterwards, me and the 5 girls . . . played some Dutch Blitz and then I got a real treat.

Kelcy noticed that game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals was on. I haven't been able to watch much basketball since I've been here and I love watching the playoffs so it was a treat to see that they were on. We called up Patti Sue and headed over to her house to watch. The Heat won pretty soundly which means it is going to be a Heat vs Thunder playoffs. I am going to try to watch some of the games because I think they should be pretty good. My prediction is the Thunder in 6.

Today I have been able to sleep in, eat some breakfast and read my Bible. It is really cool reading right now. I have been reading through the Bible over the past 2 years haha. I know you are supposed to do it in 1 but I'm not the best reader haha. Anyways, I am in Corinthians now and it has been really cool reading through all of Paul's writings. I guess I just haven't read through these chapters before at this current state in my Spiritual walk so God is showing me a lot of things I haven't seen before. I'm not necessarily getting a bunch of revelations, just a lot of stuff I have never thought of before and questions I've never had before. It's cool to think about too because when I am finished, I can just start again and when I get to the same spots, I will be at a different Spiritual maturity so I will get different or more things out of it. I am looking forward to it and have really enjoyed reading what I have so far.

For now, all is well, my bug is dead, my energy is slowly coming back along with my appetite and tomorrow I will be ready to start a new week. I am ready to come home just because I miss a lot of the things about home but I am also thoroughly enjoying everything here and don't want to leave. I am still trying to live in the moment and thank God for every day here because again, I know I'll miss it when I'm gone.

Thursday, 7 June 2012


I know I haven't posted in a couple days but that is because I have been busy laying on my bed doing absolutely nothing. Tuesday night after I got home from the dance thing, I tried to do a P90X workout. For some reason, I was not able to do as much as I normally would have. I wasn't sure quite why but I quickly found out as I woke up the next morning to a call from the restroom. Lets just say I visited there frequently that next morning. I decided to stay home from work at least for the morning so I could figure out what was wrong with me. I felt tired and worn out, my stomach felt awful and worst of all, I wasn't hungry.

I forced myself to eat and decided to head to work a little late. Upon arrival, I was pretty tired from the walk over but decided since I only had an hour til lunch, I would try to work anyways. I weed ate for an hour and became more and more tired so after lunch I headed home to rest. Upon waking up, I tried to eat a little something but afterwards, it just felt like it was going to come back up. It never did but it definitely could have if I wouldn't have been holding it down. 

So to make a long story short, I have been laying in bed all day today and most of the day yesterday because there is a small bug living in my stomach. It doesn't let me eat and it drains my energy also giving me head aches when I stand. The worst part is that I am bored out of my mind. I have tried to do a few things like get out and walk to get breakfast this morning but anything I do just drains my energy super quickly. After a long conversation with Hannah last night, she finally convinced me to get some medicine. I got the meds and will start tomorrow so I am sure I will be just perfect by the end of the weekend. Prayers are always appreciated though.

For the weekend, assuming I am well, we are going to try and go see an Ecuadorian National Soccer game in Quito. We don't have tickets yet but we are going to go up early Sunday morning and try to get some there. Sorry for the quick and not very detailed update but believe me, you don't want all the details of what I've been doing the past couple days. God Bless.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Long Weekend = Long Monday

The weekend was a ton of fun but as you know, I did not get much sleep. On Sunday, I slept in until about noon but it was on and off sleep so I woke up not feeling very rested. To add to my fatigue, I went and played ultimate frisbee for an hour and a half followed by basketball for an hour and a half. Afterwards I was toast. I tried to go to bed fairly early but did not get as much sleep as I would have hoped. This meant that todays work day dragged on very slowly. It was a lot of fun don't get me wrong, I was just dead tired all day. 

Work wasn't bad, I did some more weed eating from about 9 to 12. It was so much easier when I had my phone to listen to music with. Even without it though, it is still not that bad. It beats shoveling rocks. No, it was just fine. I needed a good lesson in being a servant. I had a lot of time to think as I ate weeds and I thought that helping and serving are two different things. Helping gives you some type of entitlement and makes you feel good about yourself, at least for me. It makes me feel like I am offering something that I should be thanked for. As a result, I feel entitled to pick and choose what I want to help with. Serving is much different. There is no entitlement and for me in service. I am simply doing whatever is needed with a good attitude and gracious heart. When serving, I am thankful and am receiving a blessing from being allowed to do whatever it is I am asked. I am here to serve, not help.

Around lunch time on my long walk to Alexanders, I walked beside Eddison. He is the youngest Maestro if you didn't remember. I tried my best to ask him and his family to dinner some time to which he understood and responded that tonight would be a good night for them. After a long time trying to tell him where to meet me, I finally had Heidi, who was walking close by, translate. He didn't know where Tablitas or Johnny's was which was weird because it was one of the most famous restaurants in Shell. I think it is probably because he doesn't ever eat out. Anyways, he knew where Alexanders was so we met there at 6:30. I went a tiny bit early expecting them to be like typical Ecuadorians and be 20 minutes late but as I arrived, I was proved incorrect. Eddison, his wife, and their beautiful little girl were waiting for me even a little early dressed up a little bit and ready to eat. 

I introduced myself to the Mrs and we sat down to eat. I knew little Spanish and they knew no English but I blessed the meal and we had a great time eating and talking together. The talking was a little rough but I think we did okay. It was such a blessing for me to be able to eat with them. I really wish I could speak more there language but I would rather be able to take them out to dinner with only smiles than nothing at all. I had to urge them to get what they wanted as they seemed very hesitant to order. It was a wonderful blessing buying them food. They were super respectful and I could tell they didn't want to make me spend a lot. Once we were done eating, we said our goodbyes with huge smiles on our faces and I left being better off because of it. I don't know if half the stuff I said at the table translated correctly but I hope the love of Christ made it through. 

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. Today I got to play with a different Eddison at Casa de Fe. This one is quite a bit younger and he is deaf. We became friends because I played with him today. We played with squirt guns and he loved spraying me with water. My heart goes out to him I think partly because my sister was deaf. I couldn't communicate with her but smiles and attention always did the trick. The same was true with Eddison. For the rest of the day, every time I saw him, he smiled real big, squealed to get my attention and then waved. I have gained a new friend, another of which I can't wait to play with in Heaven where we can communicate better.

What a blessed day!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Quito Trip! (Long Post, Dig In)

Abby’s two week stay here was now officially over which meant Kelcy was heading to Quito to drop her off at the airport. At first, I did not want to go at all mainly because a 4 hour bus ride both ways for one day in Quito did not sound much fun. However, after considering that Kelcy would have to do it by herself and honestly, I wasn’t doing anything else with my Friday and Saturday, I decided to accompany her. It was a good decision and much adventure followed.

After dinner and youth group on Friday night, I quickly cleaned my entire apartment and packed my bags ready to move out. I was not yet sure where I was moving too, all I knew is that a new team was coming in on Saturday and a couple summer staff girls were taking my current domain. I had everything clean and ready to go for the arrival tomorrow; I even took a shower to clean myself haha. Once all was done, I packed a quick bag with a couple things for Quito and then Kelcy, Abby, and I headed out for our adventure. It was around 10 o’clock when we boarded our first bus. This one was headed to Ambato which is a town about 2 hours away from Quito. We chose to take this route because we thought it would be easier to catch a bus from Ambato rather than Shell.

We were correct about that but did not think that we would have to stand in the rain in Ambato waiting for 45 minutes for a bus to arrive. No worries though, it was fun bonding time and sure enough, our bus did come eventually. We loaded the bags and now around 1 am, I fell right asleep.  I had slept a little on the first bus ride too so by the end of our riding; I had a total of about an hour and a half of on and off bus ride sleep (not the best kind). Upon arrival to the bus terminal in Quito, we then grabbed a taxi and took our 30 minute drive to the airport. I really enjoyed getting to know Abby these past two weeks and it was a sad moment for us when she had to leave but since we could not pass through security with her, the drop off was rather quick and painless. She said goodbye, took her bags and was in.

Now the adventure begins! 

So after dropping off Abby, Kelcy and I now had a few hours to kill before the new team came in and took us to Shell with them. They weren’t flying into the Quito Airport until about 10 on Saturday night and since it was only 3 o’clock in the morning on Saturday morning, we decided not to stay and wait. Instead, we decided to start walking . . . (This was probably not the best decision once we realized we had no idea where we were going). We decided where to go by playing a game (my idea). We started with my name: C-A-T-O- and since C was closer to the L in Left rather than the R in Right, we took a left and then since the A was also closer to the L in Left, we took a left at the next street too. This game, which was very short, lived by the way, lasted until we were quite a ways away from the airport and walking through who knows where in Quito at 3:30 in the morning.

We were now lost, not that that is any worse than being at the airport because there we were lost too. Kelcy said she knew her way around a tiny bit but that was only if we started at a place she already knew, which the middle of random streets a 45 minute walk away from the airport was not one of those places she knew. We found a really nice guy walking along the street and asked for directions to anything that was open. He gave us some directions that neither Kelcy or I understood but he did tell us the name of a place in down town where we could go. He said it was a long walk so we should probably get a cab but we were into walking so we did. We kept walking for a while, still lost until we decided to ask some other people for directions. This time, we asked to middle aged guys sitting in a dark alley smoking at 4 in the morning. Haha, they were super nice and told us we had to get a cab because it was way too dangerous to walk.

We graciously said thank you and then finally did decide to get in a cab. After some short debate with what the price of the cab should be, the driver finally agreed and took us on a 30 minute car ride to the middle of down town Quito. We were so far off from where we were trying to get, it was embarrassing. Anyways, the place he took us was a big square with places on all corners and streets. Nothing was open except a really cool coffee 24 hour coffee shop. Since that was the only open place, we decided to eat some early morning breakfast. So around 4:30, we ate a good breakfast and then decided to go find another place to explore. There was really no place open but there were people out walking around.

After we walked around several blocks and was offered some cocaine, we turned the corner to a guy getting mugged. They were about a block in front of us and there were four guys kicking and punching this other guy. They all looked Ecuadorian I guess but the four guys were totally ganging up on the one. We stopped for a second as my first instinct was to run and stop them. 4 on 1 was not fair at all and my sympathy automatically went to the 1. Kelcy asked if I should go help too but once I got past the unfair numbers, I quickly made what I think was a wise decision. I decided that although I was bigger and stronger than the guys doing the jumping, maybe it wasn’t the best idea to get involved. I just imagined for a moment what would happen if 5 guys were in a fight and all the sudden a gringo came running in punching people not knowing how to speak Spanish. Haha, that would have been a disaster. I thought of it if it had been turned around and I was in the states. If some random foreigner came in punching me and my friends and yelling random non English words, everybody in the fight would probably just start punching him, hahaha. So I just said no, let’s turn around and go back the way we came.

We did and after that, we decided maybe it was a little smarter to stay in a more public and well lit area. We then saw some motion up in some windows that looked like an art gallery. It looked like they were having a party, like a party where only super rich people are invited so we tried to play the gringo card and invite ourselves. They did not buy it and kicked us out, haha. So then, we went back to the coffee shop and found some guys standing outside working. We asked them a few questions of things to do and they were so helpful. They told us nothing was open, which we had already figured out, but then they said that anywhere we would go would be way too peligroso (dangerous) so we should just stay there. That was way too boring so instead we decided to grab a cab and go to the Equator. The working guys standing their heard us trying to describe to the cab driver where to go so they helped us out and made sure we got to the right place.

The cab driver dropped us off at a corner near the metro station which didn’t open until 6. It was now 5:30 so he yelled out the window to a guy selling tea on that corner and asked him to watch out for us until the metro opened. They guy agreed so we got out and waited. The cab driver left with wise words to not go anywhere because we would get mugged, so we didn’t.  Once the metro opened, we paid our 25 cent fee and headed to the town where the Equator was which was about an hour drive. Too bad the actual Equator tourist spot didn’t open until 9, haha. So we walked around the town there from about 7:15 to 9 just looking around and talking. It was light now and we were no longer in Quito so there were no worries at all about getting mugged there. We stopped in for our second breakfast at a small restaurant that was really good and then returned to the entrance at 9. While waiting for them to open the gates, we met a Chinese guy and got to know him for a little.

Once the gates opened, we walked in took our pictures straddling the line and then headed back to the metro. By this time, we had been up all night traveling so once we got back on the metro to head back into Quito, we both fell asleep. Unfortunately for us, we passed the point where we were supposed to get off. We were looking for the big market so we could do some shopping but we had passed it by a long shot. Kelcy asked around how to get there but nobody was giving the best directions so we finally got off and asked some cops. They told us of a better market (not even close though) that was nearby so we walked all around Quito for the next 2 hours trying to find it. We never found the market we were looking for but we did find a couple other markets. We found shoe heaven! It was like 37 different alleyways all covered and turned into shoe vendors. There were literally 500 different vendors all side by side packed together each with about a 10 foot by 10 foot space lined with knock off shoe brands. Everything from 100 dollar fake Nikes to little plastic shoes for 5 dollars. We got lost walking around there and once we finally got out, we decided that the market we were looking for had to be far away because nobody could direct us to it. We grabbed lunch at this huge fresh fruit and veggie market and then headed to the metro again to head back the other direction.

Different people told us different things of where to go but to make a long story short, after a lot of confusing directions and help from the police; we got on the right bus and headed back into down town. Once we thought we were close, we hopingly hopped off the bus and to our surprise, Kelcy saw the market. Praise the Lord, we had found it. So we spent the next 2 hours from there bartering which was soooo much fun. I loved it. My parents always told me I would like it because I like arguing, I always laughed but did not realize how much I would like it. I bought a lot of stuff and although the ending prices we got down too were still probably more than what it cost to make them, it was way less than they asked and still way less than I would pay for in the States. It was just fun piecing together the small
Spanish I knew to act super offended at certain offered prices. I liked arguing only with numbers then walking away and getting urged to come back and keep going. The day was a big success as far as shopping goes and I got a lot of stuff for very little money.

One cab ride later, we ended up at a big very Americanized mall. We ate dinner at a Sports Planet (very similar to Applebees), got  Tres Leches for dessert (a very Ecuadorian moist cake) and then watched a Spanish Subtitles movie at the theater. We watched Snow White and the Huntsman which was pretty good. Then again, anything would have been good because all I had to compare it to was Milo and Otis on my computer hahah. After the movie and some more walking around, we headed out of the mall to another Americanized restaurant called Old West. We had just eaten like 3 hours ago so we weren’t that hungry yet. Ecuador was playing Argentina in soccer though so we sat around drank some fresh juice the restaurant had and cheered for with the locals for Ecuador. They lost 4 to nothing. By the time the game ended, we were hungry again so we ordered a Billy Bob Pizza and chowed down. 

After all of that, Kelcy and I were so tired but since I had two huge glasses of fresh juice (Mora and Coco) I was on a sugar high. That quickly ended once we got to the airport around 9 to wait for the team. We found a nice poll to sit against and just sat for an hour almost not moving or talking haha. Finally, around 1020, the new team from Tulsa Oklahoma arrived ready for their week in Shell. Also, Heidi and her friend showed up ready to escort us and the team. Heidi has been here before apparently and was in Quito for a week before meeting us at the airport. Heidi and her friend were the ones moving into my apartment. Status update on that by the way, we couldn’t find me another place so we ended up staying in the apartment I am in and just locking a door in the middle to make it two apartments instead of one big one. I am still in the same place, just a different room now. The girls and I share a living room and kitchen but I we have separated rooms and bathrooms so it ended up being nice that I didn’t have to move all my stuff completely.

We met the team, all became friends, got on their privately rented bus, stopped by McDonalds on the way and then continued to Shell getting in around 4. We dropped off the team and then Heidi, her friend, and I all went home. I showed them around, took a shower and was in bed by 5. More will come on the team later but for now, I just want to give God thanks for how much of an amazing day it was. I was so glad I went. I had a blast exploring, eating, walking, and talking in Quito. Kelcy was fun and put up with me the whole time which is very impressive by the way. No, just kidding, we had a great time and more than anything, I want to thank God for keeping us safe. We met so many people and openly talked to everybody. We got lost, got offered drugs, saw a mugging and through everything, we were always protected. Everyone we talked to was super helpful and friendly, even the two guys smoking in the dark alley at 4 in the morning. I know the whole day could have turned out so differently but God watched over us and I am thankful.

We were never scared either which is another thing I want to thank God for. In my devotional this morning, I read Romans 8 and in Romans 8 I think verse 31, it says if God is for us then who can be against us. That truth is what I felt all day and night walking around Quito. I don’t care where I am or what I doing, I literally have no fear and that is only because God is for me and nothing else matters. Thanks God for an awesome day. I praise you for your promise of always being on my side. Thanks for keeping us safe amongst not so wise decisions maybe and thank you for letting us have fun. I praise you in Jesus name. Amen

One quicker story before I end this three page monologue. For our lunch at the fresh fruit market, we sat by a really old Ecuadorian couple who we talked to for a little before we ate. They were finishing as we were sitting down and after we prayed for our meal, they stopped and prayed with us. I prayed in English so they didn’t understand what I said but they knew we were praying to God. Then as they left, they told us how awesome it was that we thanked God for our meal and they blessed us and said may God be with us that day. So it was really fun meeting them and it is always great to meet strong believers and see those encouraging random strangers even here in Ecuador. Thanks God.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Day 23 - Visit to the Waroni Tribe

Today was our scheduled flight into the Jungle to meet some of the Waroni villagers at the place they live. Our flight, scheduled to take off at 9 was delayed until about 2 because of weather. So instead of waiting around, I walked across town back to Casa de Fe, got some work done, then ate lunch, and headed back for the flight. Once we took off, I got to see another side of Ecuador that I hadn't seen yet, the view from above. It was awesome. We flew in a 5 passenger plane over all the trees and mountains until we landed in a small extremely muddy grass field right next to a Waroni village. 

Now if you haven't seen End of the Spear, watch it or better yet, read the book. It is an incredible story and today I got to meet one of the main characters. Dewey (sp?) was one of the original Waroni men that around the age of 20, killed the group of missionary men going to witness to them. Dewey is now completely different. Almost 80 years old we think, he greeted us at the plane and almost immediately began praying out loud for us. We didn't understand him because he speaks Waroni, not even Spanish, but none the less, we appreciated the prayer. He then walked us into the woods up a big hill and to the place where they lived. It was beautiful and so simple. They didn't have much at all but were overjoyed to see us and share a part of their culture with us. 

Other members of the community quickly went and changed into their traditional clothing and then came out and welcomed us. Dewey told us that he was so thankful we were there and that he couldn't wait until we were all in Heaven together and no longer have a language barrier. I thought that was awesome. The locals sang a couple songs, painted our faces, put a crown thing on our head and then took us around the village. Oh yeah, the other people that went were Darnell, my friend from New Zealand who works at Casa and an older really fun couple from Holland that I met this morning. 

Visiting with the tribe was so much fun. We threw spears first which was fun because I already kinda new how to do it. Since I threw javelin at Asbury, it was pretty easy and they commented that if I lived in the jungle I would not starve. They told me, after seeing me throw, that I would have no problem killing a wild bore. I thought that was pretty high praise from them. :) I then tried to show them how we throw javelin here which was pretty much similar. They didn't really get it but were impressed at how far I could throw (If only they new I got beat by everybody and their mother at conference this year, they wouldn't have been so impressed. haha). Then, they showed us how to shoot a blow gun. They had one that was probably 5 feet long and they were shooting it at a banana hanging from a tree. I shot twice and stuck the dart in the banana on the second one. They were really impressed with that too.

Aside from the weaponry, they also greeted us with a traditional Waroni greeting. They all huddled together then walked around in the mud chanting whatever the lead guy would make up. It was really fun to watch and it went on quite a while. Apparently, that is how they welcome other tribes too. At the end, they came right in front of us and finished the chants before backing away again. I was super impressed with how well they mingled though. They never once seemed threatened or annoyed that we were there. They were all smiling the entire time and everybody wanted to shake our hands or give us a hug. 

It was an awesome experience getting to see that. Please read the book or watch the movie because it really is a great story. One quick note about it though. When the missionaries were killed, they had a gun but chose not to use it because this is what they said: "We are prepared for eternity, but they are not". Because of those men and their bravery, the tribe I visited today is now full of believers on fire for God and sharing his word with all the other tribes around them. It was truly amazing to be able to go to a place and meet an unreached people group who are now out there doing the reaching themselves. God is so great and he used those men's deaths to save the eternal lives of so many people. I don't ever want to give God any push back or complaints on what He wants to use me for, ever. 

The other cool thing about the people of the tribe is that they really don't have much at all but their quality of life I am sure is much much better than lots of wealthier people that I know. The joy of the Lord is truly their strength and it just radiates out of them! I would count myself blessed to be as happy as they are with as little as they have. I don't ever want to forget the blessings God has given me and I don't ever want to stop giving back to people in need.

On the flight home I sat up front and got to fly the plane. I didn't take off or land but I got to fly for a good 30 minutes which was pretty fun. Once I got back, I walked home, got a salad and a smoothie from the pizza place and chowed down. Then, I did an hour of P90X  and am now sitting down uploading pictures and writing my blog. Speaking of Pictures, I know this blog can be a bit dry or boring at times and I also know that pictures make it much more readable, however, it is a real pain to upload pictures here. For this reason, I have uploaded many more photos that I would be able to load here, on to my facebook. Feel free to get on there and check those out. I have a lot more but I think I got the highlights uploaded so please check them out. I think some of them are pretty cool looking. 

Today has been another great blessing. God just keeps them coming! I cannot say thanks enough for His provisions. Thanks God. Also, I bought a blow gun. Hope I can get it back to the States.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Day 21 and 22 – One Long Day and One Short

Tuesday started out early with Zumba at 7. One of the people from the team hadn't been yet and I needed to work out anyways so we went nice and early to get our groove on. Once it was over and I was thoroughly sweat out, I headed to work. Starting right around 8 o’clock with shoveling 20lb rocks and wheel barrowing them through mud, I began to realize that Zumba in the morning was a horrible idea. What we were wheel barrowing for was cool though because we were landscaping a tilapia pond by creating a path around it. Parts of the path however were in a huge mud hole so trying to push a couple hundred pound wheel barrow full of rocks through the path proved to be rather difficult.

I was the youngest and least skilled worker on the pond that day so all the heavy lifting and wheel barrowing fell to me. I didn’t mind but I sure did get a good work out. And I got to hang out with new people from the team and talk a little bit which was also fun. They guy heading up the landscaping is awesome and super nice. He has been here multiple times and I heard him talking about coming back in the Winter to do more. I wish I could show you a picture of how far this plot of land has come since he got here and started working but I don’t have any so you will have to just imagine. It is really cool though and has come a really long way. What was once a random hole with water in it surrounded by mud hole was now a rather fancy looking tilapia pond with walking trails around it. It is really fun working on something and seeing it develop overtime.

For dinner on Tuesday after my long day, I decided to go with pizza from Homeros (like Homer from the Simpsons). I got a pizza, salad, bbq wings, and a smoothie. I ate mostly everything that night while I stayed in and watched a movie on my laptop and the rest I saved on purpose for lunch the next day. I was proud of myself for not eating it all because I definitely wanted too. In the evening, I just got to relax after a long day, skype with Hannah, watch a movie, and hit the sack. It was a pretty long day but a good one at that.

The next day, or this morning, I woke up for a different kind of work. Once I got to La Casa, We grabbed all the kids from pre-K up, paired them off with each team member and then loaded the vans for a field trip. I got Martin and Wilson. It was mostly girls that went on the trip because the guys stayed back to work but there had to be a couple guys go so they could watch the handicapped kids. I was a lucky one and got to play with Martin all day. After we loaded up the van and the truck with almost 30 people probably in the back, we headed to the Aquarium and Pool.

The Aquarium wasn’t all that special, although Martin seemed to love it. He really enjoys observing and learning. He is always fascinated with things and that didn’t change with fish. He loved stopping, staring, and showing me what he discovered. It was fun watching him. After the aquarium which was just one hallway that lasted about 15 minutes, we headed to the Pool. I helped Martin change himself and then we were ready to go. Upon arriving to the pool and noticing that it was a hot day outside with zero cloud cover, I decided to wear sunscreen. This was the first time I had worn it all trip. Unfortunately for me, I do not have long enough arms to get my back and I didn’t ask anybody for help. I also didn’t put any on my face for some reason. I guess I though since I am a little tan now that it would protect me, haha. The result of these poor decisions is to come.  

So once the sunscreen was applied and I lathered up Martin, we hit the pool. Martin LOVED swimming but he can’t do it on his own so really he just loves being pulled through the water and thrown in the air. For about 4 hours then, that’s what we did. Back and forth in the kitty pool pulling him, pushing him, holding him and throwing him. I was worn out by the end of it but it was a ton of fun just seeing him enjoying it so much. 4 hours is a stretch too because he did take one or two breaks to lay out and get warm (the water was pretty cold). I also got some breaks from him as he graciously allowed me to split my time between him and Grace who can also not swim on her own. She loved it too and I loved watching her face light up as I dragged her body through the chili water.

So off and on, off and on we went swimming and playing, going from the big kid pool to the kitty pool back and forth until lunch time. It was a blast for me and them. After lunch though, it ceased to be blast for Martin. There was a slight miscommunication on when we would be leaving so I changed Martin’s closed. This was an error because I changed him about 30 minutes before some of the other kids. I wasn’t the only one by any means but that wasn’t the point. The point was, there were other kids swimming and he wasn’t. Martin did not like this and thus put on a frownie face for a while. It ended up okay though because we played on the hammock and danced around to the music and I sat with him and tried to keep him from smiling (which always made him smile). So all in all, the day was a success and even though he didn’t leave the happiest camper, I know he had a great time. It is kinda a bummer though to have a ton of fun with a kid all day and then mess up the last thing and him be mad at you when you leave. No worries though, I have 5 siblings so I’m used to it.

Once we got back and I walked home in the blistering sun which was only hitting my right arm I now realize, I quickly took my shirt off to see the damage. I first noticed the front of my body which looked like a Picasso painting of pink and white from the lazy non thorough job I did with my sunscreen. The front burns weren’t too bad though. Next, I noticed my face, neck and arms. They were definitely burnt but it was a combination of tan and burnt because they have been exposed the most over the past few weeks. In other words, they don’t look too bad. Except for my right arm which baked in the sun for an extra 20 minutes during my walk home, it is a lot more burned than it is tan. That is not the worst of it though. The last thing I noticed was my back! Think horrible Dracula music right now. It is completely red! I look like a strawberry without all the little white things around it and a head instead of little green leaves. It is awful and it hurts a lot. I have some stuff with aloe in it but no straight aloe. Hopefully I can get some before the week ends but IDK.

Once I showered, which made the burns show up more, I grabbed a ride with Dwight and Tandy to the Teams house for their last dinner here before they leave in the morning. The food was good but the fellowship we had after was even better. We all sat around in a circle and had a debrief where we each shared a little bit about the trip. It was so awesome hearing what everyone had learned or been through. I respect this team a ton and really have enjoyed knowing them. I was blessed every day being with them and even more blessed in our last night hearing some of their stories. As the night drew to an end, we sang Amazing Grace and I’ll Fly Away Acapella then began to say our goodbyes. I cannot say enough how awesome of a team they were. I seriously hope to stay in touch with as many of them as I can and I hope to see them all in the future. I might even have to visit Mississippi some time just to visit their church.

May God bless them on their trips home and I pray that the lessons and experiences they learned here will not be forgotten in a few short weeks but will always be a reminder of the wonderful service they provided to Casa de Fe and the great blessing they were to my life. Amen 

P.S. I'm heading into the Amazon in the morning and I kinda forgot to take my Malaria medicine. . . whupps. No worries mom, I'll just wear pants and the bugs wont get me . . . Hahaha

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Day 20 - Weed Eating and Homemade Southern Food

While walking to work yesterday morning, I was thinking how much fun it was going to be to play with the toddlers some more and then when I showed up . . . Wham! God said, show me you have a servants heart. Not really. Dwight met me early and asked if I could weed eat, I wanted to say sure, after baby time, but that wasn't what he asked so I decided to just say sure. I weed ate for almost 4 hours. It really isn't that bad because Casa just got this new weed eater that was much needed. It is super powerful and mounts no your side with straps. We put the metal blade on it so it could cut through almost anything. Even if it would have been hard though, I am here to serve in whatever way they need so I was happy to help. Afterwards, I was super sweaty, sticky and I had grass, mud, and cuts all over me but that just made lunch break that much more enjoyable when it came. 

I did learn something from the experience. Not the actual work but the buying of the tool. The team from Mississippi that is here saw that Casa needed one and went out and bought it for them while they were here. They have been a great team and so good for the organization. I asked Dwight a couple weeks ago if short term mission trips were actually good for the organization. He gave a great and honestly unexpected answer. He said that in some cases yes and some cases no but that isn't the point. The point is that it doesn't matter if they physically help or not because you can't limit God's power or work in the volunteers lives or the kids lives. I thought that was a great and wise answer.

With that being said, I do know that some groups are more beneficial to the company as others. This group is one of those that is a huge help. They have come not for themselves at all but only for Casa. They have diverse ages and still have fun like the other groups but their focus is to actually make this place better and not to mark a mission trip off their calendar. It has been awesome both getting to know them and seeing them work. There are so many experts in different areas that have come down here strictly to use their expertise for the Glory of God. I am very thankful for this group and think that all groups should take notes and follow in their footsteps as far as having servants hearts when they come down. 

PE was fun, I played kick ball with the older girls. They were a little more difficult today because one of the tias (who is like 40) told the girls that I was cute. Because of this, it is now the only things the girls can talk about. They never take a breath and are constantly saying how me and the tia will get married and fall in love and she thinks I am so cute. The tia is awesome and hilarious and in no way annoying but the girls are the opposite. None the less, we accomplished PE and got back just in time for school to end. 

I headed home briefly after and got to skype with the family for a good hour. It was good to see and talk to them. Once skype was over, a much needed shower followed and then the long walk to Gringo Land commenced. The Mississippi group invited me over to eat dinner with them which was a great idea and one I am very thankful for. I got there right around 6 and dinner started shortly after. I had peas, corn, fruit salad, potato salad, carrot salad, broccoli salad, meat loaf, cake, and homemade peach cobbler. YUMMMMYYYY! It was so good and they made so much so I ate a lot. It was equally awesome just sitting around getting to know all of them too. They were super welcoming and showed the true meaning of Southern Hospitality.

After dinner and about an hour of talking, we started playing games (which I haven't played in a month). We played banana grams where Sara spanked us all and then Spades. I played with the younger of the group and it was a lot of fun. By younger I mean like a 12 year old, 18, and 20 year old. It was nice playing with people closer to my age that also spoke English haha. We played for probably two hours before I left to walk home. And after my 20 minute walk home, I went right to bed thanking God for a wonderful day. It felt like home again where I had people to hang with later into the night. I didn't go to bed until about 1130 but that is okay because I was up hanging with people  until then. This was a much better alternative to going to bed at 830 and not hanging with anybody. I wasn't doing P90X in the morning which is why I could stay up later. 

It was a super fun day and I am very thankful for the Mississippi team for both being so nice to me but more for being the hands and feet of Christ to La Casa de Fe! Thanks guys.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Day 19 – Fun with the Mississippians!

I decided again today that I didn’t really want to go to church for two reasons. One, I don’t understand anything they say or sing, and two we kinda had church last night at the talent show. In between acts they gave a message and sang worship songs so it was good. I did have a pretty good quiet though just reading my Bible. I just finished reading through Acts which is an awesome book by the way. I felt like the whole time I was reading an actual story or book.

After a little bit of sleeping in, some Bible reading and breakfast, I packed a quick lunch and headed to Gringo Land (the fenced area where all the white missionaries live), and got ready for a day in Hola Vida or something like that. We loaded a bus around 11 and drove about 45 minutes to this place in the Amazon. Eric, one of the missionaries here, told us that the place we were at was called the secondary forest because it was what was left after they leveled the entire place. This was cool because there were a ton of huge trees and bushes. It didn’t look like anything had been cleared out.

We paid a small fee to a man standing there, (not sure if he was really legit or not but we paid anyways) and then we headed on a 45 minute beautiful hike into the woods. After the hike, we settled down at this beautiful really tall water fall. This one was different than the one I went to Friday because this one you couldn’t climb but it also had a lot of water at the bottom that you could swim in. I swam under the actual water fall several times which was really cool. I even tried to stand directly under it for a few seconds but never lasted more than 2 because it was super painful. It was a ton of fun seeing another part of God’s creation though. I had never really seen waterfalls before this trip and now I have seen two in one week. It was beautiful.

I got to know several of the team members from Mississippi better too which was cool.  I walked back early with an older gal, (80ish) that just talked the entire time complaining about everything, all in good taste though. It was funny walking and helping her back across all the skinny rickety bridges. Then, once we got back to the gazebos we started at, we all sat around and laughed as her and this other younger lady, (50ish) just talked. They weren’t trying to be funny necessarily but they were hilarious just being themselves. 

We had a lot of good laughs and then headed home around 4. Once we got back, I took Taylor who is a guy on the team that just graduated high school, to play basketball. The locals loved it because again, they had two Gringos to play with instead of just one. Also today, a younger guy came out and played that was lot better than the others. He must have played for the high school team or something. I got to guard him so it was a bit more competitive than other days which was nice. It was more than just me and the one big guy this time, much more like a more evenly spread game. We played until about 7 when I walked Taylor back to Gringo Land. We got to talk a little and he seems like a nice kid. He is in a group of a lot of very diverse people and no other guys his age so it was good he got to come. It was good for me too because I love company. I think I am going to go tomorrow to eat dinner with the group and hang out some too so that should be more fun. 

Once in Gringo Land, Taylor left, and I headed back for more basketball. I played until about 8 trying my hardest to not get frustrated at the differences in play style (with not the best success). Again, I let my competitiveness get the best of me. I didn't say anything this time but people definitely knew I was frustrated when they did dumb stuff. That's definitely not how I want to be because one, it's not Christ like and two, I do dumb stuff all the time. To receive grace, you must give grace. 

Following basketball and the walk home came a quick snack, shower, blog writing and then will soon end in bedtime. I haven't got a hold of Dwight yet but I assume he is getting up for another 5 am wake up. This time I don't have an alarm clock though because my phone is broken so we will see what happens. God is great!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Day 18 - Rest and Relaxation

Wakeup came a couple times because for some reason here, I have to use the restroom a lot more. So after my 6 o'clock restroom break, I didn't wake up again until around 11 which was glorious. I ate some breakfast, did a couple P90X workouts in my underwear (inside my house of course), had some devotion time, and then went and ate lunch. Alexanders was closed today so instead, I hit up this hole in the wall place and got their lunch. It is always awkward ordering because again, I can't speak Spanish but I think I am getting better at it.

After lunch, I put on a movie on my computer and just sat doing emails, playing minesweeper, and checking facebook. It was very relaxing. All I had for a movie was Milo and Otis which is a kids movie about a kitten and a pug dog. It wasn't the best but I borrowed if from Casa to watch with the boys the other night so it was all I had. Later in the evening for dinner, I just ate the rest of my left over Chinese food along with yogurt and granola. It was pretty good too. 

After a fairly short day of doing nothing, which was fun in and of itself, I headed to the girls house to pick up more girls at Casa and then go to a local talent show some church was hosting. It was me and 11 girls going to a Spanish talent show, what a fun time haha. Now I am trying to be very positive this entire trip but I am also trying to be honest. The talent show was a little difficult for me to sit through. It was all in Spanish of course which means I understood nothing that was going on and there were only 5 acts that were all pretty bad at best. They had three rounds and the event lasted over two hours so I had no choice, I left. 

I went and got a second dinner at some local burger place. I got French fries with chicken on top and a coconut milk drink. It wasn't bad but I probably shouldn't have eaten all those French fries. I then was able to catch up with the girls and walk them all back to Casa. Don't get me wrong, it was a fun night and especially hanging with the girls was a plus. They don't get many young guys around here so several of the girls like to hold on to me when we walk places and talk in Spanish giggling because they know I can't understand. They always talk about how one of their 11 year old friends like me or they will talk about my girlfriend back in the States. It is always slightly annoying but I guess kinda fun too. Sometimes I'm able to pick out what they are saying about me but most of the time I have no idea. Mostly, it has to do with me stinking, needing to shave, or them wanting me to dance.

After going to the dance classes, the girls found out that I was capable of cutting a rug and then to make matters worse, now I am teaching them dancing in our PE class. This means that anytime we are anywhere, they are trying to get me to dance or mocking me by laughing while they sarcastically do the moves I have taught them. Pretty much every time they talk, I just smile and not my head. Sometimes I through in a Si here and there but for the most part, I just smile (this also helps sometimes in the States when talking to women . . . and sometimes it backfires horribly) haha. JK, It always backfires. 

I forgot, when I was walking around killing time during the talent show, I also picked up a couple movies for a dollar a piece. They probably aren't good quality but it beats Milo and Otis. haha. I think I'm going to watch one now before I go to bed. I got Kung Fu Panda 2 and Cars 2. Tomorrow, the team here has rented a bus and is going to another town somewhere to a waterfall. I think I might join them but I'm not sure yet. Thanks for reading and sorry today wasn't all that eventful.

Day 17 - Adventures in Banos!

Yesterday was a long and very eventful day. It started by waking up with the boys, Martin and Gilmar and taking them back to Casa de Fe. We stopped by a bakery on the way and I got them a pastry. After we dropped them off, it was a quick breakfast and then myself, Melissa, Kelsey, Powell, and Abby all hopped on the bus for a one hour ride to Banos which is the third most visited city in all of Ecuador. When we got there, the first thing we did was run to the bathroom where it cost 10 cents to go number one and we saw people swing jumping off a bridge. I immediately wanted to join but was talked down by some others there. I have always wanted to go bungee jumping but this apparently was not that. This was more like jumping off a bridge with a rope tied too you that didn't bounce hence the name swing jumping. It sounded very painful and not as fun so I declined and will wait until another time. 

We started out the day by walking through the market which was a bunch of cool overpriced touristy stuff. It was fun walking through but I didn't get anything this time around. For lunch, we stopped in the most random restaurant ever as far as menus go. They had everything from mexican food to pizza to pasta to seafood to sandwiches to french fries to soups. I got fajitas that were super good. We then went to rent some go carts which was awesome. We got two go carts and one four wheeler for two hours and headed off through town and out up this big mountain. We were trying to go to a water fall that was up the mountain but the go carts couldn't make it up the hill. That was an adventure in and of itself. I had to get out and push while Melissa drove, haha. And then, the other go cart with Kelsey and Abby in it shut off and wouldn't restart. Melissa and I drove all the way back into town to tell the guys. I was really frustrated but couldn't speak Spanish so that was useless. Melissa told them what was up and then we traded for a four wheeler (because they were faster) and took an employee out to the place where the other cart was stalled. He finally got it to work, scolded us for going up to steep of a hill (which they didn't tell us not to) and then he left. Powell and I were super annoyed that we couldn't argue with the guy, get money back and stuff but that's what happens when you aren't bilingual. 

It all worked out fine in the end. We didn't get an extension on our time but we did trade the employee for his four wheeler so now we had 3 four wheelers that could all easily make it up the hill. We blasted up the hill to this gorgeous huge water fall. It was so beautiful and amazing. I quickly hopped out, rolled up my jeans and started climbing. I felt like I was in my element climbing. It was so much fun except for the one time I fell pretty hard. There was a huge steep rock that I saw was wet and I was bare foot so I just though it would be a little slick. Wrong! It was a lot slick. I leaped from my place to the rock with all my weight going forward and down and right when my feet hit the rock, they slid right off. I banged my leg, and arm really good, got several cuts all over the backside of my arm and then got up and kept climbing. 

Once I got to the top, I could see all the surrounding land. I was surrounded on all sides by green forest on mountains and I could say way down into the valley where the city was. It was so high and beautiful. I couldn't help but just stand and look as I said a little prayer thanking God for how magnificent he is for making such a beautiful creation. All I could think about was how amazing it was and how much I wanted my friends and family from back home to see it too. There is something about being bare foot in nature, climbing up a waterfall and then basking in God's beautiful creation. There are not many better moments in life than those. The only thing that would make them better is being able to do them with the people you love and miss. 

There are pictures but I don't have them. Kelsey took them all on her camera so the will probably show up on facebook later.

After a while just standing in the puddle of water at the top of the water fall, I slid back down all the way to the ground and mounted the four wheelers to head back into town. We got back just fine, returned the four wheelers then went to this beautiful old Catholic Church. It was huge and just filled with another kind of beauty. It was still God's creation, just a different kind this time. It was the creation of God's creation, man and it was also stunning. We walked around for a while and then needed a snack so we at a guinea pig. Yep, you read it right. In Banos, they roasted full guinea pig, face, teeth and all. They take the hair off and everything then stick a metal rod through their rear and roast it over an open flame. They are expensive too, like 18 dollars for a whole one. We just bought a piece to try some and all shared. It was actually really good. Tasted a little tougher than chicken with tougher skin and a slightly different after taste. It was all in all a good experience. 

Following the guinea pig appetizer, we headed to a local ice cream store where I got some fruit topped ice cream. It was also really good. I got some flavor called guanabana which I still don't know what that is except that it is some kind of fruit. After ice cream, some sight seeing and more walking around, we finally got a cab around 6 and headed up the mountain to this beautiful restaurant overlooking the whole city. It was a hotel and restaurant and the view was breathtaking. Luckily, we got there in daylight so we got to see the whole city in day and then by the end of dinner it was pitch black dark so we got to see the whole city light up which was also really cool. I got a smoothie, a salad, and steak filled crapes. Yummy.

After dinner, and a long cab ride back to the city, it was about 8 o'clock. Powell was catching a bus to Quito airport at midnight so we had 4 hours to kill in Banos night life which is very big here. We went to a restaurant that the girls new of that had karaoke. Of course, all the songs were in Spanish so that was no good but as luck would have it, they had a couple english songs. Guess which ones the girls picked for us to sing. . . Yep, you guessed it. Hit me baby one more time by Brittney Spears. I fought so hard for them not to do it but they did anyways and then shoved the microphone in my face. I couldn't back down and by that time, it was well past my normal bedtime here so I was a little adrenaline happy so I accepted. Yes, on Friday night, I was in an Ecuadorian bar singing Brittany Spears karaoke to a bunch of non English speaking people. It was a really good time and I have no regrets . . . except that I think Kelsey filmed it. Not ok, I really hope that doesn't show up somewhere because it is probably really embarrassing. Haha. 

After that, we headed to this really big restaurant/club place that had a really big fire pit in the back with a ton of seats. We rounded out the night there just sitting and talking and meeting people. We met two Ecuadorian girls that allowed us to sit at their table, a French guy who is traveling all across South America for 7 months and a girl from Finland or something like that. It was super fun just hanging out and hearing their stories. We got to share Christ with them too. We didn't convert or baptize any of them but we did get to be good examples and let them know about our relationships with Christ which was really cool. They were all really receptive and it wasn't awkward at all because we were all just getting to know each other and let Christ come out of our stories and lives. 

It was a fun night and around midnight, we headed to a street where we knew the bus would pass and waited for about 30 minutes. While we waited, Melissa bought some pure sugar cane. I had never had it before but it was really good. It is bamboo looking plant that you cut in pieces and suck the juice out of by chewing it. Once Powell's bus finally came, we helped him on, loaded his bags, and sent him home to Alaska. It was great meeting and getting to know him but crazy that he had been here for two weeks. Time is flying by. After his bus took off, we then waited about an hour for our bus back to Shell. We tried to hitch hike and flagged down several taxis trying to get a ride for under 15 dollars but it wasn't happening. When the bus did arrive, we loaded, paid our 2.50 and fell asleep. One hour later and around 2 o'clock at night, our day was finished and we were home. 

I walked home, and thought about all the cool stuff I had done that day. One quick negative note, somewhere along the way, my phone stopped working. It isn't dead, it just goes white when I click anything. I can tell it is responsive but it doesn't show anything on the screen, just a slight light that comes on. That is a bit discouraging but other than that, the day was great! All in all, I had a ton of fun but the one thing I wish is that my family and friends could be here with me. It is so beautiful down here and so much fun but it only makes me think of how much more fun it would have been if Hannah was here. (My family too) Okay, sappy moment over. 

A wise guy down here told me that when you are here, you will always miss home but when you return home, you will always miss here. I agreed with what he said and really want to try to grasp that while I am here. As I noted, time is flying and I do miss home but I need to thank God for the time I have here and live in the moment. It is such a blessing to be here and I don't need to forget it because soon it will be no more. 

What a blessing it is for a three day weekend and a Friday of no work and all play. It was a great day and I am sure there is more to come tomorrow! Praise God!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Day 16 - Fun Stuff and Pictures

For dinner last night, in case you were wondering, was awesome. I got a smoothie, two huge calzones that were pretty tasty and a salad. Quick note on the adventure of getting to dinner though. We took a cab to Puyo and back because it is about a 15 to 20 minute drive and the cab ride was crazy. We were in a small pick up truck taxi and if you know anything about Ecuadorian driving, you know what is coming. The cab was full so Powell and I, being the gentlemen that we are, let the ladies sit inside while we took the bed. (On the way there, we rode inside and the ladies sat in the bed so we felt guilty on the way home) Anyways, in the bed on the way back, driving on roads that are super windy, curvy, and hilly (not as bad as KY roads but close), our driver was going 100 km/hr. That is crazy. Ecuadorians pass everything by the way whether it is a bus or car and whether it is a blind curve or steep hill, they don't care. This made the ride really fun as we sat in the open air bed going 100km/hr zooming past huge buses over super steep hills that we couldn't see over. We got in saying if it is our time, then it's our time. Praise the Lord, it wasn't.

Here is that Italian restaurant that is so good
in Puyo. It is so good and still really cheap.
They also have real smoothies. The kids
were just there and wouldn't get out of
my picture. haha
Now on to today. Morning routine was same old same old. . . except for an hour and a half of P90X yoga. That was awful. Once work started, I had toddler time and today played with Eddison and Angel. It was a lot of fun and both boys were pretty good. I started out with Antony again but he was so bent out of shape that we had to put him back with the others. Most kids like going outside to play with me but Antony just really wanted to be inside with the rest of the pack. I don’t blame him, it was hot outside. So yeah, me and the boys played for a while and then I went down with all the toddlers and a couple of tias to the basketball court where we played for about 2 hours. It was a lot of fun but really crazy trying to keep 25 kids all in one area. Haha. They kept running off and we had to keep going and getting them. By the time we got one kid to not do something wrong, we had 2 other kids doing 2 things wrong. It was great fun though.

In all my time playing with the kids today, I got to see the tough love side of Ecuadorian child raising. I kinda liked it. If a child got hurt, fell down, or scraped something, we would just stand them back up, say you are fine and then keep going. If the child was crying, once you picked him up, they were fine and kept playing. This is completely different than babies in the States where at one extreme, if a by cries at all, we don’t stop until they get what they want. Babies are so much more tough and self reliant down here which is great. I know too, when the kids get older and are pretty tough young men and women, they will look back on this and be thankful. Kids that get coddled and held and swung and things given too every time they fall down and sniffle, never learn to pick themselves up. These kids know how to pick themselves up and I am sure that will serve them well later in life.

One thing that was a little hard for me was that even when the kids are normal and happy, the tias don’t like me picking them up. It’s not just me, they don’t like any of the kids being held for a few different reasons that are all good. It is just hard sometimes when an affectionate kid like Samuel walks up with hiss arms raised just wanting to be held and you have to say no. But again, these are tough kids so they don’t go cry about it, they just move on and do something else.
                                                                                                                                        (Horrible pic quality! I'm sorry)
After play time and lunch at Alexander’s, Powell and I hiked up to the water tower and took a few pictures of the land. One of them is below. It was beautiful being able to see the city, the river, Casa de Fe, and the Forest all from one location. Following that, I took the young ones out to the walking trails where I got another workout playing freeze tag with all the kids. They cheated a lot but in the end, me, Nicole, and Gilmar got them all tagged. Once work was finally over, I was feeling really tired and didn’t really want to do anything else. At that time, I really felt a tug on my heart to take some boys home with me even though I didn’t want to. I felt that taking kids home and spending personal time with me is the root of what I am supposed to be doing here, so I did. I took Gilmar and Martin this time who are two of the cutest boys here. Martin is 8 and has braces on his legs so I carry him most places. Gilmar is perfectly healthy, quiet around strangers and always happy. He is 6.

I brought the boys back to my house and plopped down to watch Scooby Doo which Gilmar’s older brother Javier said he liked. He was right. We watched the movie, ordered some pizzas, then chowed down. Then, we headed back to the Casa de Fe for the all famous 2nd annual art show. The upstairs of the multi purpose building was covered in all sorts of different kinds of art created by all the kids. The kids were all excited and there were lots of community members that had different connections in attendance. At that time, I hadn’t decided if I would keep the boys for the night so Martin was a little sad because he wanted to spend the night and I kept saying I don’t know yet. I tried to get him to talk to me but he was pretty sad. A little while later, I decided to do it so I told the boys and they were super excited, as was I.

This is the 2nd floor of the multi use building. It is fully
decorated. The next picture is an awesome bug display
the older girls put together. (Sorry for the horrible quality,
it does that when I upload it to the website. I have better
pics on my camera, no worries)
Once the art show was well on its way, the young kids were told to go downstairs. I carried Martin down and he started to cry as I put him down.  I assured him I would come back and get him before I went home but I don’t think he trusted that yet. He just kept crying as I left him and went back the show. A little while later, I came down to his smiling face as he called Gilmar right after he saw me. He was so happy and ready to go. I grabbed the stroller, loaded him up and took the long walk home. It was a good calf workout pushing him up the huge hill. It totally mad up for the 10 pieces of pizza I ate for dinner. (BTW, the pizza is good here but it has nothing on Sims).

After we arrived, I sat the boys down and got to skype with Hannah. They said they wanted to meet mi novia en Estados Unidos as Martin kept saying. We got to skype for about 10 minutes which was really fun. I’m glad they all got to meet each other. Martin was especially happy and talked quite a bit. He was really amazed at technology and the idea of talking to a person on the computer. Gilmor was amazed too but very shy so he didn’t really talk. After skype, I switched on Hook and they intently watched as I cleaned all the dishes, wiped off the counters, took out the trash, sprayed all the bugs, vacuumed the carpets and swept the floors. Then Powell showed up so I was able to take a shower and do some much needed laundry. I was finally able to sit down for the last 30 minutes of the movie. By that time though, Gilmar was so tired that he wanted to go to bed. So after a quick prayer and some tucking in, Gilmar was asleep and Martin and I finished the movie just the two of us.

He really likes to talk during movies. He pretty much gives a play by play of everything that is going on which would be super annoying if he wasn’t 8 and really cute. Also, side note, I had my shirt off so Martin wanted to take his off too. I told him he could since it was just guys. That reminded me of my brother William from back home. So we cuddled up on the couch and finished out the movie. By the time it ended, Martin was pretty tired although he said multiple times he wasn’t. I put him in bed, said a little prayer and now I am writing my blog. Good thing I’m skipping the P90X tomorrow cause it has been a long day and a late night for me. Today was an Ecuadorian holiday so we moved it to tomorrow to get a 3 day weekend.

Two really cute and very smart boys. I had a blast hanging out with them.
(Again, sorry for horrible picture quality)
Powell leaves in the morning so we are all going to go with him to Banos for the morning to hang out and do something fun. Then, he will head from there to Quito and I will return with Melissa for another wonderful Friday only without the work. I will take the boys back after breakfast and I am really hoping that they don’t wake up at 6 like Wilson and Javier did. Who knows though. If they do, it will be more time to hang out which is always a plus. J I said it yesterday but I will say it again today. It is such a blessing to spend time with these kids. One on one time especially makes me see and feel God’s love for his children. There is not much better out there than knowing that you are making a kid happy and seeing him first hand show that. I love it. Tthanks again for reading. I hope the pictures made it a little more enjoyable. Until tomorrow then . . .