Father’s Day in Crucita

Today was a special day in Crucita at the little church.  Typically the church consists mainly of children as well as 8-10 moms that regularly attend.  As of yet there are no fathers and we thought that being that it was Father’s day, it would be a great excuse to invite fathers to come along with their families to church today.  Yesterday Dave and two other men walked the neighborhood inviting dads to come to church.  We had previously discussed that  if 5-6 came, that would be great.  I was praying for eight thinking that was a big request.  But to our surprise and delight, we had 12 dads show up with their families!  It was a beautiful thing to see them break away from their normal routines and spend family time.

Today Dave had a chance to speak to them through a fine young interpreter, Sarah.  He gave them a message of hope and explained how their responsibility in their family is so great in setting an example to their wives and children.  Of course he also presented the amazing message of salvation which is available to all people of every tribe, people and nation.

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The day included music and even some of the guys joining in with clapping!   There were also a few fun games one of which needed 4 or 5 volunteer dads along with one of their children.  Dads and kids were separated and the kids were asked questions like what are their favorite foods or what is your birthday.  The dads were challenged to see if they would answer correctly!  This isn’t exactly the easiest thing when you are in front of an audience and are put on the spot!  Some did good and some not so good but it sure brought a lot of laughs especially to some of the mom’s faces.  There were also wheel barrel races which involved dads and their kids (the wheel barrels) picking up an object with their mouth and bringing it back.  It definitely involved arm strength, but some of those little fellows are pretty strong!

Everyone was also given a special snack of meat balls, pastries, and juice.  We had a such a great turn out, we ran out of food.

But Lissette and Kenya calmly whipped up some more pastries by hand and fried them up.  No worries….and the people patiently waited to be served.  In the mean time, Christian ran out to buy more food and ended up getting “corviche”.   It was my first experience with corviche and I’m not going to lie, I was a bit nervous when I was told it had fish in it.  But…..it was delicious!  This is a food common in this region in Ecuador and has fish, plantains and peanuts.  Put a little sauce on top and voila!!  Muy Rica!

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We are so thankful for all the neighborhood folks who came today and put a smile on their families faces and we pray that some of the fathers will return.  Most are fishermen and their schedule is completely dependent on the ocean and what’s available for fishing at any given time.

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Happy Father’s day to all the special men in my life as well.  My husband, my father in law, my daddy in heaven and other family/friends who are fathers.  We love you!

 

Children’s Day

Recently we were introduced to some new Ecuadorian friends here in Crucita who moved here about a year ago from Porto Viejo to follow God’s call to start a Christian ministry for the children in Crucita.  They offer a safe place for kids to go on Saturday afternoons from 3-6 as well as Sunday mornings from 10:30-12.  Recently some of the mothers have also decided to join the fun!

Today was an extra special day to celebrate kids called Dia de Ninos with over 120 neighborhood friends coming to the event!  It started off with each child receiving a breakfast of batido (similar to a milkshake or smoothie) as well as a pastry roll.  There was music, prayer and a special speaker who told them several stories relating to faith.  He asked for actors and actresses to help out as he explained the story of Jesus healing a little girl as well as two blind men.  (The blind men took their jobs very seriously…keeping their eyes tightly closed.)

In children’s church each Sunday, the kids and parents alike are awarded “money” to spend in the church store.  By participating and answering questions related to the teachings that day, they are able to earn store dollars which can be cashed in on certain days.  Well today, they had a chance to cash in!  What an excitement there was.  Some of the merchandise included things like socks, toothpaste, coloring books, books, fun jewelry and other trinkets.

 

Mother’s day

Today is Mother’s day of 2017 and we have been in Ecuador for just over 7 months.  I’m not going to lie…I was already slightly feeling a bit sorry for myself at the beginning of the week thinking about how I will be without my children and my mother this year.  But shortly after that I received a message from a friend of mine Rosie, who works with people with disabilities here in my area of Ecuador.  She asked if I would like to help her put together some baskets of goodies for the mothers of the families she works with.  I’m so glad she contacted me!!  Instead of sitting home and feeling sorry for myself (which I would have done) I had the tremendous privilege of getting a peak into the lives of these people here whose need is unbelievably great.

We were able to deliver groceries to about 15 families today and let them know someone cares for them!  Soon after we started on our way, it started to pour out, so many of our visits were done in the pouring rain, trudging through mud and thankfully not getting the vehicle stuck in the mud.  My next door neighbor Sandy graciously agreed to drive us around all the way from La Boca to Los Arenales.
All of the mothers are either disabled themselves or are caring for disabled family members.  Some disabilities are mental, some are physical and some are both.  Today I saw poverty unlike I have never seen before.  Many of the homes we delivered groceries to are off the beaten path, are made of bamboo, have concrete floors (some dirt), and windows open to the outside (no glass or screens).  Most furniture consists of a few plastic chairs which the families eagerly brought out from other rooms to offer us a seat.

One woman is elderly and is caring (by herself) for 4 adult children who are all blind.  One family of four (mom, dad and two small babies) live in a tiny one room house the size of a walk in closet.  One adult mentally disabled son is helping care for his elderly mother who is not able to walk or sit up.  One woman is caring for both her mentally handicapped teens by herself as her husband has passed.   One woman is completely bedridden and is cared for by her daughter in law who also cares for 4 small children.  These are only a few examples of the homes we visited today.

I am struck by the kindness of the Ecuadorian people all eager to pull up a chair and invite us to sit down with them in their home. Some even reciprocating by offering us coconut milk fresh from the coconut. All very thankful for the food and the short visits.

I was also struck by the kindness of my friend Rosie for giving of herself so tirelessly and allowing me to tag along side her.  Rosie is also Ecuadorian, has two jobs and 3 children of her own she cares for along with her husband. I’m amazed at her giving attitude and her desire to help others out even though today would have been a perfect day for her to take it easy herself.  God bless you Rosie!

The mothers I had a chance to meet today were amazing strong woman who keep going even though some days I’m sure they don’t feel like it.  It was truly a beautiful Mother’s day!

Travels

Dave and I recently had an opportunity to visit other parts of Ecuador via bus.  Our friends Yvonne and Chris, who are on the final legs of their stay in Ecuador, agreed to dog sit while we were gone.  As a result, we were able to truly enjoy traveling without having to worry about our girls!

Because Dave had to go to Guayaquil anyway to complete more steps in what has become a lengthy Visa application process, we started our travels in Guayaquil.  Guayaquil is a very hot city with similar temperature to Crucita on the coast but without as much breeze.  We stayed within walking distance to the historic downtown which is also right near the newly constructed river walk covering a distance of over 2 miles of walking.

The river walk is a fantastic place for all ages and includes children’s playgrounds and rides as well as a ferris wheel which from the top allows you to see great views of the city.  There are also beautiful gardens and coffee shops as well as other places to eat both fast food such as McDonalds as well as more fine dining.  The area is also very secure with plenty of city workers as well as security officers patrolling.

Because of our location, we were within walking to museums, shopping and restaurants.  We were able to view both the historical museum and art museum as well as take the double decker city bus tour which lasted a couple of hours.  We have found city bus tours to be a convenient way to see the city but also a easy way to get some beautiful photos both of the architecture as well as fun people watching shots!

We visited the famous Penas lighthouse which was over 444 steps up the side of the hill leading to even more steps up the lighthouse which allows panoramic views of the area.  The winding stairs leading up the hill takes you through quaint village streets with children playing, men lounging in hammocks, those who are sweeping sidewalks and watering plants.  Normal life really.  However they see tourists climbing the stairs to the lighthouse on an ongoing basis, smartly taking advantage of the long trek by selling cool drinks and snacks.

Also while we were visiting the city, we saw several demonstrations due to obvious disagreement with the recent presidential elections.  Our hostel happened to be right in the middle of the street which was closed and lined with armoured trucks as well as riot police waiting to be summoned should they be needed.  One interesting thing I saw which I thought was also very humorous was a vendor making a killing selling snacks to the riot police.  They were all lined up conveniently and were a captive audience and no doubt hungry!  There was also a vendor that was able to sell a shoe shine for one of the police lined up.  What a way to sell your goods!IMG_6960

The next stop was Cuenca located in the Andes mountains.  The bus ride included beautiful mountain scenery but also included hair pin turns and  a few heart thumping moments as the bus barrelled around corners zig zagging through the mountains.

Cuenca is a completely different climate and was a comfortable 70’s during the day with the sun out, it was lovely!  Not too hot and not too cold.  In the mornings and evenings however, the temperatures drop dramatically to the point where you need a coat or thick sweater and of course shoes and socks which we had not worn in over 6 months.  The feel in Cuenca is very cosmopolitan.  Such a wide variety of people from traditional Andes dress with the woman wearing knee length skirts, knee high socks, and black hats; to college students with gages and dreadlocks; to businessmen; to woman with jeans and below the knee leather boots and sweaters and much more.  The feel is familiar to a visiting a larger city in the US.

There is amazing ethnic foods such as Chinese, Thai, Italian, Mexican as well as real red wine served in a real wine glass as well as amazing coffee shops with pastries.  We took a city tour to Turi which is a mountain with breathtaking veiws overlooking the city.  My favorite thing about Cuenca was the “normalcy” with the amazing dining experiences.

We stayed in a simple but clean hostel  for $22 per night and in addition there was a breakfast offered for an additional $2 each which included eggs, toast, and coffee.  The pricing on other dining was more expensive than what we are used to on the coast but would be similar to what you would pay at Applebees for example but much much better quality both food and expereince.  So a good steak dinner would cost about $13.  I loved our visit in Cuenca, however the weather was not something I am ready for again having just left a cold climate in WI.

Our next stop was a one night visit to Riobamba where we were catching a bus to Banos the next morning.  We arrived in Riobamba mid afternoon and stayed in a hotel called the Tren Station which was right across from the train station (imagine that).  There are tours available in between Quito and Guayaquil  and the scenery is supposed to be spectacular however due to timing we opted to not do the train this time.  Riobamba had a more reserved feel to it as compared to Cuenca.  I didn’t see many tourists there at all and the feel was a bit off for me but we were able to walk to the main park and people watch as there was a festival going on.

A good breakfast was included with the price of the hotel and while eating I witnessed an interesting site outside the hotel.  A man was selling some type of breakfast juice which isn’t unusual, however I noticed whenever he poured a glass of his homemade juice, he used a butter knife to cut through the liquid which appeared to resemble a thick egg white consistency.  I also noticed people taking a drink of some liquid ahead of time and then having the man fill their cup with this thick substance which was also hot.  I later found out that he was serving some type of drink with what appeared to the insides of an aloe plant (which gave it the slimy texture).  I also heard that the “shot” ahead of time was a different natural drink that is extremely medicinal and good for the body.  The local Ecuadorians loved it and were lined up to get this drink as many of them appreciate more natural remedies for ailments as well as natural foods to stay healthly.

I didn’t try it, but looking back I wished I had.  Overall the weather in Riobamba was cold such as 40-60s.

We left for Banos the next morning which was just another short one hour bus ride.  Banos is a big backpackers/tourist destination and reminded me of a mix between Door Country and the Wisconsin Dells back in my home state of WI.  Since Banos is a tourist town, there were many many shops with souveniurs, and home candy made from the local sugar cane.  They pull taffy while attached at one end from a hook.

Many of the tourists there were younger and physically fit looking for hiking, rafting and other adventures.

There are backpacker’s hostels on nearly every street corner and depending on what you are looking for, you can pay anywhere from $6-$40 a night for a hostel.  We opted Hostel Carolina which included a nice sized bed as well as a private bath and breakfast included in the morning for $34.  Excursions are available in rock climbing, rafting, ziplining, waterfalls tours and even tours to the natural hot springs.  The weather can be quite cold although we had a beautiful sunny day to explore the town and again took the double decker city bus which included a ride to several waterfalls and ziplines as well as an amazing waterfall called Pailon del Diablo.  It was a long walk to the falls but the view was beautiful!  We did a lot of walking even as “non-back packers” and my feet were sore by the end of the day.

The food is delightful but not as fine as Cuenca.  Banos is overall a beautiful place to visit.  Though wonderful, one day was enough for us.

That was going to be the extent of our trip this time, however in analyzing the route back we discovered that to go back by way of Guayaquil which is how we came verses going back by way of Quito (which we had not yet seen) was not that much of a difference in terms of travel time.  A new Ecuadorian friend from Crucita had casually commented on one of my facebook posts to “come visit them in Quito”.  So we decided to take her up on the offer!  What a pleasant part of our journey!

Her and her family were so incredibly gracious and offered us to stay in their beautiful home with them (we stayed two nights).  They took us to the highlands area which showed us yet another completely different landscape of Ecuador.  Quito itself is in a high altitude with weather being cooler overall and at this time of year raining most every afternoon.  It is a large area of many different suberbs and smaller neighborhoods everywhere you turn.  The weather in the Quito area is quite diverse in itself with the valley areas being 10-15 warmer than the city.  Some areas consistently get more rain than other areas within the greater area.  To get to the highlands we traveled even higher by car  and were prepared for very cold weather.  If I had to guess it was maybe in the high 30s, but still not as cold as we are used to back in the states.  The highlands reminded me of the mountainous areas in Montana or Wyoming with beautiful
fields, lush grassy landscape and fields stretching between the hills.

We drove through a national park area where there were wild bulls, a large variety of birds, deer, rabbits, llamas, alpacas and the very protected and revered national bird, the condor.  We did see a couple of them from the distance and they were spoke about by our tour guide friends very excitedly.  We would be driving along and all of a sudden Gustavo would point and say “condor, condor!!….never mind, it’s just an eagle”.  Of course in the US, we are just as excited about seeing eagles so it was very interesting so see the excitement when seeing their national bird!  We were also able to see some condor nests in the rocks.  The highlands are beautiful and serene.  We saw wild horses as well as domestic horses with some of the local more indiginous people riding on them with their beatiful traditional hats and ponchos draped over their shoulders.  We would have never known this area existed without the help of our friends Gustavo and Patricia!  Our visit with them was priceless and they were some of the best hosts we have ever had.

Ecuador is a beautiful and diverse country.  Our travel experience was amazing and overall we felt safe while traveling by bus and enjoying the local people.

 

 

Backpacker Adventure

We have had an amazing backpacking adventure since December.  Our adventure was not in backpacking itself but being introduced to a couple that had such a great impact on our lives, Chris and Yvonne.  We were introduced to them at an event here in Crucita in December.  They had just answered an ad for house/dog sitting here in Crucita Ecuador which is what brought them to our tiny town.  We became good friends and we invited them to stay on with us after their house sit ended as they truly loved Ecuador and wanted to see a few other sites while here in the country.

King Solomon once said Iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.  God allowed us brief time together to sharpen each other in so many ways and it will never be forgotten.  We had the privilege of hearing so many incredible accounts of their travels literally all over the world.  We were recently watching a show on Netflix with them called 72 Most Dangerous Places to live and I kid you not, Chris seemed to know each one and in many cases has either visited or lived there!

Our times together have been filled with fun, laughter, joy and they have been an incredible support to us both physically when we moved to a new location as well as mentally and Spiritually.

Their time here has also been a time of growth for them as well.  Chris decided last night that he wanted to be baptized in the Pacific ocean at sunset.

Today is a somber day for us as their time here has come to an end…..for now.  We watched them board a bus headed for Quito and then on to new travels.  We are hoping and praying that God brings them back here in the future.

I’m not saying goodbye…..only hasta luego mi amigos.  Safe travels and come back soon!

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Life is precious

Today was an exciting day to witness baby turtles hatching and scrambling towards the sea.

It was beautiful to see them head for the ocean with no mama there to tell them where to go.  They just knew.  Their lives are sweet and fragile and I know that percentage wise many will not survive the unforgiving ocean with its predators searching for their next meal.  Regardless, life is beautiful and to have the privilege to see this was amazing.   At times, the waves would get so close to the babies within centimeters, but not quite enough.

The next wave would take them head of heals into the water topsy-turvy to start their new life and adventure in the sea.   As the babies reached the water, I could hear shouts and claps from the local children.  And then as quickly as the excitement of that turtle reaching the water was, it was over as the ocean drew them in.

Ironically at the same time this was happening, I looked up and saw a funeral procession on the Malecon.  I couldn’t help but wonder who this person was and what their life was like.  Their loved ones respectfully carried the coffin down the street as is the custom in Ecuador.  While others sang beautiful songs in mourning.

All life is precious and we never know when it ends here on this Earth.  I’m reminded just how fragile our lives are.  For turtles, it may only last seconds or minutes.  Or it could last for many years.  Likewise, as humans we never know when our time on Earth is over either.  This past week, a friend from WI passed away.  He was only in his 50’s.  The week before, another beautiful young mother and wife that I know from WI passed away in her 30’s.

I’m reminded to take advantage of each day on Earth that I have.   I’m reminded to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving.  I’m reminded to count my blessings.  I’m reminded to be ready to meet my Maker at a moment’s notice because life is precious and we never know how much longer we have here.

Moving

Well I’m finally taking time to write again.  It’s so easy to make excuses as to why I don’t write, but it really boils down to priority.

A lot has been happening the last month or so.

We met some friends (Christ and Yvonne) who are professional house sitters and travel all around the globe keeping an eye on people’s homes, pets or both while they are away.  We met them as they were here in Crucita on a job for some people who needed to travel back to the states for a time.  They both took a liking to this area and after their job here ended, we invited them to stay with us for a time before traveling back to the UK.  What a delight getting to know them better and learning about their very interesting lives!  During the time that Chris and Yvonne were staying with us we had our very first visitors from the US, my best friend Sheri and her husband Donny.  The six of us had quite an amazing time as it just happened to be Carnival here in Ecuador.  Carnival is celebrated throughout all of Ecuador and Crucita is no exception.  In fact, people come from surrounding areas to spend Carnival (which is similar to Marti Gras in the states) in Crucita.  There was food, parades, music, dancing and foam!  Cans of foam are sold on nearly every street corner and it is traditional to spray each other (even random people you don’t know) with foam as you pass them on the street.  Kids would chase each other with it having foam wars.  Adults took part as well and if someone sprayed you, you laughed it off.  It’s part of the celebration!  It was wonderful seeing a familiar face again and having time to talk, pray and re-connect with each other’s lives.  I’m hoping to see them again soon.

Yvonne and Chris decided to take some time to see the rest of Ecuador about a week or so after Sheri and Donny left.  They decided to travel around the country and experience the mountains, jungle and wherever else their travels took them.  They plan to return shortly and spend a little more time here in Crucita with us and I’m anxious to hear about their adventures.

The day after Sheri and Donny left to go back home, we had an interesting experience at the property we lived on the beach.  The lease was up on March 10 so we were getting ready to move to a different place anyway, however on the 1st of March our internet went out so we had very little means of communication and needed to find other areas with a hot spot to connect.  Then on around March 2nd or 3rd the power went out and stayed out (it’s not uncommon for the power to go out for several hours at a time here randomly).  We had no way of contacting our landlords and later learned that the electric was disconnected intentionally.   So with no power, we were forced to move a week early…in the dark, with food thawing in the freezer, and no way of getting water due to the water pump being electric.  We felt so blessed to have Chris and Yvonne with us still as they were a tremendous help for us packing in the blistering heat and helping us relocate to a different home.  You would think packing would be easy since we came to the area with only 8 totes of personal belongings, however we have accumulated quite a few items in the short 5 months we were here and it took several truck loads of help from a friend who has a vehicle to move us.

I know and was reminded again of how God works all things out after being in the new home for only one night.  We live in a gated community which at the time wasn’t extremely important to me however I’m appreciating the value of being able to walk the dogs in the community without fear of traffic, broken glass and debris and of course the street dogs here.  We have to be careful because our girls  cause quite a ruckus if they see other dogs and wouldn’t stand a chance in terms of a fight.  Also the poor street dogs unfortunately are often full of flees, tics and diseases.

The home needed a tremendous amount of cleaning and painting and after several weeks of chipping away at it, we are finally settled!  What a beautiful home it ended up being!  The exterior resembles a large ship with three levels.  The three levels have patio areas in which the railings on the patios come to a point reminiscent of a boat.  The home has 4 bdrms and 4 baths (each bdrm has its own bathroom) as well as a half bath on the upper level “deck” or patio area.  There are 5 patios total not including the upper level deck.  We are excited to potentially have a covering built on the 3rd level deck so we can spend more time up there and enjoy sunsets.  In addition to the 1/2 bath, there is also a small bar/kitchen area with a sink and outlets for a frig or other appliance.

The home is located in Crucita off the Malecon and is easy walking to restaurants and the subdivision is directly across the street from the beach.  We are also located directly on the bus route when we need to take a trip into Porto Viejo.  We feel incredibly blessed and happy to be here and are excited to continue our adventure here!