Week of Adventure

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We spent Monday and Tuesday in Latacunga at the orphanage. Monday was Elizabeth (the other volunteers) 23rd Birthday. So we had a celebration with the kids, with lots of dancing and cake. Then on Tuesday we had another fiesta because we welcomed a new girl to the orphanage, who’s 5 and blind. It was a bit of a difficult transition for the girl because she had spent her whole life at another foundation and now has a new home. With all the new arrivals in Latacunga there’s also a lot of new Tia’s training in, so there were lots of new faces! 

      Tuesday night we took the bus to Banos, because early Wednesday morning we went on a tour to the Amazon Jungle. We really had no idea what to expect, so it was definitely an adventure! On Wednesday we got to go to an animal rescue center and see animals from the jungle, like jaguars, cheetahs, monkeys, birds etc. We also got to go to an indigenous village, where we learned to hunt with blow darts, get face paint and canoe down a river in a wooden canoe. It’s crazy the temperature difference, just going down in elevation to the jungle. Then we got to take a beautiful hike into a waterfall, where we swam. It turned out we were the only ones in the group of about 15 that were on a 2-day tour. So we spent the night at a village with 2 guides, where it was an open “cabin”, meaning we slept outside with a roof and mosquito nets. Thursday they took us on a beautiful hike up a mountain, showing us all sorts of medicinal plants and animals, like the monkeys and turtles. They truly are one with nature, it’s amazing. We went up to a beautiful look out point and I did a tarzan swing, swinging 125 meters above the jungle. They took us down to some lagoons as well where we saw a couple alligators. They caught some fish from the river and cooked it for us for our lunch. We got to relax in the hammocks before the 4 hour bus ride home. 

           Friday we spent our last day with the kids,. We got to take them on a nice long walk before heading back to Quito, which was nice but still don’t like to say goodbye. 

    Saturday we got to hike Pichincha, the volcano in Quito. Little did we know, what we were in for. We took the Teleferico (gondola) up part of the mountain. We were lucky to have a clear day, to see the entire city of Quito. From there we started hiking up to the summit. It got real cloudy, so we didn’t really know where we were heading, but kept saying, “It can’t be much farther, can it?” Well it was definitely harder and farther than what we had expected. It took us 3 hours to get to the summit, after partnering up with 2 other guys, because there was no trail but they knew the way. It was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done, we were rock climbing in the rain, with a very steep slope. Our hands were frozen, we were exhausted of 3 hours straight up. But as soon as we hit the summit, it was amazing, we had accomplished it! The way down took us half the time because it was all straight downhill. We were so tired once we got to the bottom though! After a nice rest we spent the night in La Ronda, which is an alley way near Old Town. It has lots of live music, street performers and food. 

           Today, I had my last church service at English Fellowship Church. I will definitely miss this church, it’s been great to have during my time here. Then Elizabeth and I went on a really nice run. It’s really neat, here in Quito, they shut down part of the main road on Sunday’s from 8-2, for people to bike, run or walk. So I finally was able to take advantage of this! It’s been a crazy week, but I’m really looking forward to spending lots of time with the kids this week in Quito!

Back to Latacunga

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It’s been a really great week. Monday through Wednesday I was in Quito. It was beautiful weather so we spent a lot of time outside on the swings with the kids. Tuesday we celebrated my host sister’s 17th Birthday at Dunamis. We also finished painting all the murals at the orphanage!  

         

 Wednesday, Elizabeth and I came to the orphanage in Latacunga. It’s been fabulous. There are 2 new twins here, that are in wheelchairs, so it’s been great getting to know them. It’s a bit different because they now have babies here! There’s 7 kids now downstairs, under the age of 5. It’s been so much fun with them, jumping on the trampoline and having the dance parties every night. It was really cool, on Friday I was able to go with about 7 of the tias and 9 of the kids into Latacunga (yes we all piled into one van, with the wheelchairs on top). A school had put on a run that raised money for the orphanage, so we were at the end. The kids gave the winners their medals and there was a big dance party with all the participants.  

 

Then on Saturday morning, we went to Cotopaxi national park. On clear days, we can see the Cotopaxi volcano from the orphanage. So we were able to climb up to the refuge of this massive volcano. Who would have thought we would be touching snow in Ecuador, especially on the equator?! Well we hiked up to almost 16,000 feet, as it’s the third tallest active volcano in the world. It was just beautiful! It was the first time I really felt the altitude since being here. There were many wild horses and you could see many volcanoes in the area as well!  

     

 On Sunday, we went to Banos, again. It’s Elizabeth’s 23rd Birthday tomorrow (Monday), and she wanted to celebrate her birthday there. We went to La Casa Del Arbol, or the swing at the end of the world. We walked around to the waterfall in town and to the thermal pools. It was a fun, relaxing day.  

   

 Crazy to think that in 2 weeks I’ll be home!

La Compañia

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This past week has probably been the hardest this far. We hadnt been given very much information as to what the situation was going to be like. We took a bus with one of the tias in Sunday morning to the village she lives in, Buena Esperanza, about 1 1/2 hours away near Cayambe. It reminded me a lot of home, a very rural area with lots of fields and livestock, but up in the mountains. We had a beautiful view of Mount Cayambe. We would be staying with her sister and her family. It was a lot nicer than we expected, with electricity and running water at the house. As soon as we got there, we walked to their field and picked corn for lunch. Everyone in the community knew everyone and were very friendly so we felt very safe.  

       

 Every morning we’d get on the bus at 6:30 to ride up the mountain for an hour to the area called La Compañia, where it was very cold. It was a real bumpy ride as the roads are similar to broken cobble stone. We went with the tias niece because she works at “Segundo Miguel Suarez” where we helped. She told us the kids came by car, which we thought was weird because no one really has cars in this part. We didn’t realize she meant they all came piled in the back of one pick up truck bed (except for the girl who got dropped off by horse). They all stared at Elizabeth and I as they pulled up and piled out, which we later realized was because they hadn’t really seen white people before. There were about 40 kids from babies to probably age 3, with 4  care providers. 

  

  

  

Each day they were fed breakfast, snack, lunch and sometimes another snack, which was great because they’re definitely not underfed. It was chaos from when they got out of the truck, they were crazy kids. It really made me appreciate the organization at the orphanage. The kids receive no discipline and it’s really a free for all, which was so over whelming. The “teachers” fly by the seat of their pants, singing songs, giving them Legos to play with and trying to do a craft with the limited materials they have. They have their babies strapped to their backs so they’re constantly breast feeding or caring for them. They usually resorted to giving them really old, torn apart magazines to look through.

It was horribly unsanitary, as they didn’t have bathrooms. The kids would walk 2 steps outside the door and go to the bathroom, in the areas they played. Sometimes the dogs would eat it, or catch it on the way out. It made me sick to my stomach. Often they didn’t even make it outside and we would just find puddles on the floor in the building.  It is a very poor area, so the kids often wore the same clothes, that smelled of pee for days.  

       

After lunch was nap. So they piled all the kids onto these tiny mats, face to feet and somehow got them all to fall asleep. It was amazing! Then around 3 the parents or older siblings would come pick them up, strap them to their backs and walk home.

Then we’d catch the bus home, except for the day we missed the bus and had to start walking. Thankfully, the only police I saw the entire trip, drove by in a gator and drove us home.  

 

Then the family would feed us, usually rice, and we’d play soccer with the little boy, or go on walks around the area. They served us guinea pig one night, which tasted okay but right after we finished she asked if we wanted to go see the live ones outside.  

     

 Tueday and Wednsday were really the hardest days, they need so much help, we didn’t even know where to start. Thursday was great though, we really had a lot of fun. It was so kind, the teachers put an Ecuadorian flag on ththe kids table and had all us adults sit around it. They all went around and said how thankful they were for us and how we were the first people from a different country to come help them and were always welcome and they hope we return. Then they gave us gifts of fruit and things the kids had made. And told us they’d prepared us a meal. It was rice with chicken, beef and guinea pig. We then discussed how more we could help. 

 It’s really hard to put this experience into words, I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was extremely challenging, but I think it’s really opened the door for the future and how they can receive more help. We returned on Friday and relaxed back in Quito, had bible study and went to the food market. Saturday I was able to meet up with a foreign exchange student from 5 years ago, Sam Aguirre which was really fun to meet her family and catch up! 

 

Santa de Semana

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Another busy week here in Quito. At the orphanage – we’ve been doing a lot of painting in the baby house. We also welcomed a new little boy to the baby house on Monday. He has finally adjusted by the end of the week, to the routine of the house. We had a couple goodbyes this week as the volunteer coordinator left to go fund raise for the orphanage in the US for 3 week, we also said goodbye to a volunteer as she made her way back home on Thursday.  

 

 On Tuesday we were able to go to Dunami’s again. Tuesday’s is a jewelry making day for them, so we were able to assist them wherever they needed help with making the jewelry as well as just hang out with them.  

 

 On Wednesday night, Becky and I made our way to Old Town, for Musica Sacra. Musica Sacra puts on concerts in the old churches around Old Town during Easter Week. We went to Iglesia de La Merced and got to listen to American Spiritual. They’re obviously an American vocal group from the south that sing old negro songs from the times of slaves.  

       

 Thursday, Becky and I went to Extreme Response’s Women’s Resource Center. A little background information – Extreme Response (ER), the umbrella organization began as only doing kids club at the garbage dump in Quito. The garbage dump’s workers live and scavenge in the garbage dump, spending their days sifting through the trash, looking for something to eat or sell. They’re the people society has forgotten. So the Women’s Resource Center is a place women from the dump go to receive counseling, basic life skills training. ER found that these women were illiterate, didn’t understand simple hygiene things that we all take for granted. For example, they would find that they kids would have on the same diaper for 3 days, or that the women didn’t understand that it wasn’t okay to wear the underwear they were finding in the garbage. I learned a lot about the lives of these people, and the struggles of how to best help them so they can better provide for themselves and their families. We served them a meal, Fanesca, the traditional Ecuadorian Holy Week soup. They were so incredibly grateful to us.  

 

 Ecuador celebrates “Santa de Semana” or Easter on Friday. So Elizabeth and I went with my host mom, Paulina to Old Town. We visited the National Presidential Palace, where the Ecuadorian President works. There were so many people, it was crazy. We watched the processional for about 2 hours as well. It was from the oldest church, Iglesia de San Fransisco to the Basilica. People dressed as Jesus were carrying huge crosses, some people wore barbed wire on themselves while others hit themselves with weeds. Along with the crosses, were thousands of people dressed up in purple, with pointy hoods, carrying crosses. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, very interesting!  

             

 This week I will be going to one of the Tia’s indigenous villages, to help out at a daycare that has 60 kids, and only 2 care providers. It will be a very interesting experience! I won’t have internet, so if I don’t respond don’t be worried. 

Beautiful Week in Quito

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It was good to be back at the orphanage in Quito this week. On Wednesday we had a volunteer appreciation dinner at a lovely old couples home that sat on a hill and overlooked the city. It was delicious traditional Ecuadorian food. We celebrated two volunteers that are leaving this week.   

  

We’ve had beautiful weather so we’ve been going on lots of walks with the kids and playing outside. Then on Friday we celebrated the two girls who had March birthdays at the orphanage. It was a crazy birthday party- with lots of food, face painting, a piñata, and a puppet show.  

I also moved back to the original home I first lived in on Friday. It was a great experience living with the family and I will definitely miss the home cooked meals and my bed being made for me 😊 below is the view from my host family’s terrace 

  

Saturday was a great, very full day! We went to the soup kitchen, Pan de Vida again and did a bible study with the girls. We learned about Job and David and their faith to God in all circumstances. We then colored Easter eggs, which was so fun because they had never done it before. Then we took the girls to the pool at the orphanage and they swam for hours. 

   

 

Then another volunteer Ruth and I took the oldest 2 girls from the orphanage to our home to cook! We made banana bread and they absolutely loved the attention

     

Busy week ended at the beach

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Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I spent a lot of time at the orphanage, usually 8:30-6. Then came home for supper and spent time with the family. It was really exciting meeting up with Joel on Monday. He was a foreign exchange student at Sibley east from Germany 3 years ago. He’s now looking into volunteering at the orphanage for a few weeks. 

  

Then on Thursday I took a day off and spent it with my host mom, Paulina. We went and go pedicures and manicures for only $5.50! We then took Mateo to the shopping mall and did some shopping. We’ve been eating lots of rice, smoothies, bread and chicken-very Ecuadorian! They only speak Spanish aroud me so it’s been good for me!

Friday was an exciting day! It started early at Dunamis, the ministry that teaches life skills to girls that have been in sex trafficking. It started with a bible study and then Becky and I did a girls day with them. We did make up and straightened their hair and did nails and I took pictures. They absolutely loved it! I got to meet the 13 year olds new baby-so precious! 

  

    

Then we went back to the orphanage for a bible study were doing as a group of volunteers called “she’s got issues”. Which we talked about being control freaks. After, I got to spend time with the toddlers in the pool! Friday night I was shopping on the street with my host parents and also experienced my first street fight which was a little freaky!

  

Saturday, the orphanage had a huge yard sale. Yard sales are not common in Ecuador so it attracts quite a crowd as people were lining up over an hour before we opened-reminded me of Black Friday with the pushing and shoving. We helped at that all day- last year they made $15,000, so we’re excited to see this years results. 

  Saturday night Jen, 3 other volunteers and myself took an overnight bus to Esmeralda’s, on the northern coast. Arriving at 6 am we took a “tut tut”, which is a motor bike with seats for passengers on the back, to Jens friend, Amanda’s house- who also happens to be from MN! We enjoyed relaxing days, jumping the waves and laying on the beach. It was extremely hot and humid, but felt great in the water! We ate lots of seafood and coconut smoothies!

   

  

  

 

We just arrived back from the short get away-and will be enjoying my last few days with my host family! 

Travelling with the Family 

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Its been a great, busy week with the family in town. Sunday morning we flew out to the Galápagos Islands, landing on San Cristobal island. From the moment we got off the bus, we were presented with wildlife. A sea lion lay under a park bench, crabs and iguanas lined the rocks. We boarded our 16 passenger boat, Javier and set off to the other islands. Over the next few days we learned a lot and enjoyed the humid, warm weather. We saw very unique wildlife on our daily hikes and snorkels. They included blue footed boobies, frigates, penguins, Sharks, sea lions, land iguanas, native iguanas, rays and many more! We also learned about the crazy huge lava fields that make up some islands. The final day we stopped at Darwin Station and got to see the huge tortoises.  It was amazing, getting to experience a totally different part of Ecuador! 







After getting back to Quito on Wednesday, we left for Mindo onThursday. We bussed to the cloud forest and rappelled down a 43 meter waterfall promptly upon our arrival. It was a little sketchy but lots of fun. Then on Friday we went ziplining, which was also very fun as there were 10 cables and we got to do some crazy tricks. 



We went back to quito Friday and we had a surprise birthday party for Ben and I.  All the volunteers, my host family and a few others had supper together and dad made balloon animals. 



Then on Saturday morning Ben flew out. Then went to the artisan market in Quito. After church on Sunday my new host mom took us to Mitad del mundo and her restaurant. And my parents flew out Sunday night. It’s been a great week, and very exhausting so now it’s back to reality. I’m so thankful they were able to come visit and see what I call home for 3 months. 



I’m now living with a new host family for 2 weeks. Paulina, Marcelo and their 11 year old son Mateo. They are a very sweet family and she loves to cook! I now take a 15 minute bus with Marcelo to the orphanage everyday. It’s exciting to have a little change.