The Holidays are upon us again.  As with the first Thanksgiving and Christmas here without family, we try to continue as best we can with new traditions.  This year we had some friends and neighbors over for a Thanksgiving feast complete with all the fixings.  I bought a 22 pound bird from Supermaxi and cooked it in a bag.  Absolutely delicious!  Partly because it had been so long since we have had turkey I’m sure.   I also made a butternut squash pie since I had no pumpkin to work with.  I have to say (as did everyone else) it tasted just as good if not better.

I’m working on making cut out cookies to give to the children at church as well as guards and other neighbors.  The cookie baking takes place over a couple different weekends and I refrigerator them. Cookies Of course, I have Christmas music playing in the background.  This Saturday along with Lissette and a few other moms/kids from church, we will decorate them.  They will be distributed the next day (Sunday the 17th) for our annual Christmas festivities at the church.  The children will also receive toys and treats!  It will be a fun time for all.

This year we have Christmas lights AND a small artificial tree!

That makes 3 trees we have as Dave made a driftwood tree last year and I also won a  tree in a drawing which was homemade by our friend Frank!  The tree is a metal structure with netting and has painted shells all over.  It’s beautiful and looks even more beautiful lit up on my 3rd floor terrace at night!  Tree on roofSo even though it’s a different kind of festive since we are a warm climate away from family…it’s still festive and we make the best of it.  I must admit that I definitely don’t miss the commercialization from back home.  All the shopping…..The bustling of people, the Christmas music playing non stop and the smells perfumes and colognes lingering in the air from customers testing.   There is some of that here, but not nearly to the same level.  Not even close. I never was a big shopper at Christmas (love to online shop though) so being here during the holidays is really a breath of fresh air in that respect.  But I do miss the snow (just for that day) and the warmth of a fireplace.  And most important, we both miss the family.

Aside from the holidays, our schedules seem to be getting more and more filled with wonderful things.  Our weekends are very busy with the children’s church activities.  Some Saturdays (we try to do every other Saturday) we visit local families.  Sundays of course is busy with the church and then often our own time together as adults after the children leave.  Yesterday we spent several hours of planning ahead for next year’s schedule putting together a calendar of events in addition to the regular Sunday activities.   We have recently been requested to have a Bible Study on Tuesdays with the staff  from Gran Oasis Hotel.  This is open to the public, but for now it’s an intimate group of about 15-20 of us.  Cristian gives a message, we have some songs and prayer time.  It’s a precious time for all and though we aren’t fluent in the language, we have a strong bond with these wonderful folks.

I have also taken on another private student whom I teach English to.  Elkin is a 12-year-old boy who has a desire to learn and learns very fast.  ElkinI’m amazed at his desire and dedication as he diligently writes down the new words and phrases he is learning and trys hard with his pronunciation.  He reminds me in some ways of my own son when he was that age so it is such a pleasure for me to interact with him.  With one of my students, we work especially hard on pronunciation.  His goal is to learn the words without a Latin American accent….this is especially hard, but he is doing fantastic!

On Mondays and Wednesdays I also have a new teaching opportunity with GAD (Gobierno Autónomo Descentralizado) which is a government agency that assists with local needs.  They have put together an English program from students from the area and have asked for the expats to help teach.  There were several time slots as well as locations to fill and I have Crucita library along with my friend Tina on Monday and Wednesday mornings.  The other regular teacher from Ecuador who teaches English is a young student intern from the University in Portoviejo.  Though she speaks English, she is still learning and working on pronunciation,  so Tina and I make it a point to have basic conversations with her before and after class so she can practice!  Any time a student can practice with a North American, they love it!  And anytime I can practice speaking with an Ecuadorian who is willing to take time to help me, I love it!  So it’s a win win.

As of the last week and a half to two weeks, I’ve noticed a shift in the weather here.  I believe the humidity is starting to creep in.  It’s still beautiful at night and in the evenings, but depending on the day, it can start getting pretty warm. I told Dave we may need to break out the fans soon as they have been put away over the last 6 months or so.  Remembering back from last year, the really hot weather comes mid January through about April or May.  Last year was quite stifling especially at night when trying to sleep without air conditioning.  This year we are prepared however as we have an A/C unit now in our bedroom!  Perhaps the change in weather has also brought about the huge amount of turtles laying eggs the beach!  Two nights ago, the guards alerted us to a huge tortuga laying eggs.  Dave went out to take a look and she was enormous!  However the next morning, the eggs couldn’t be located to mark off the area.  Many other nests from other turtles have been spotted though and are marked off waiting for the big day when the little fellows make there way back to the ocean.

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We have lived in Ecuador for over a year now.  I’m not exactly sure what a good rule of thumb is for measuring how well you are adjusting to a certain area, but I would think one year is sufficient.  Ecuador is so very different from the United States.  Overall, there are obvious differences such as infrastructure and advancement in technology.  But our lifestyle here is quite different than what we had in the states.   At this point, we do not have a car which is a huge change.  But even if we did own a car, we do not live in a community where you can zip over to the grocery store within a couple of miles.  I can’t head over to a store like Walgreens to pick up a birthday card.  Nor could a send a birthday card to friends or family back in the states without planning weeks in advance as it takes a long time for mail to reach it’s destination.

At times we experience power outages.  Not as often anymore, but it does happen and it doesn’t shock us if the power goes out.  Usually it comes back within hours.   Internet tends to be sketchy on the weekends especially when there are a lot of people here.   And of course if the power is out, the internet is out as well.  At times, we get water from the municipality which drains into our cistern.  But if we don’t get water, we have to order a tank to come and fill us up.

Time is not of the essence here.  That is a huge adjustment.  But here, it just isn’t important.  If someone says they are coming today, they will try, however if they don’t make it today, no one is really concerned or worried.  Likewise if you arrange a time to get together with friends or family, arriving anytime within an hour or two window is acceptable.

Driving here is also quite different.  In particular, lanes are merely suggestions.  It isn’t unusual to have someone pass you on the right or left or both at the same time!  Safety is also not the same as in the states.  It isn’t unusual to see an entire family on a motorcycle as that may be their sole means of transportation.  Interestingly the driver is required to wear a helmet (according to the law) but the passengers (including children) are not.  Seeing a cow (or other livestock) transported in the back of a pick up truck is also not completely unusual.

As for where people live….it really depends.   It is very possible to find nice subdivisions similar to the United States.  However, in the country side areas of where we live, it is quite common to live in a cane house with a metal roof and dirt floor.  Laundry is done outside and very often by hand.  Electrical cords are strewn about as there may be only one source for power coming into the home.  For some people, water quality is quite poor resulting in skin conditions and other problems.

Restaurants here in Crucita are family owned and the family may live on the premises.  Sometimes the floor of a restaurant is dirt and the tables and chairs are usually plastic.  On the Malecon, keeping things clean and swept is a non stop occurance.  Within a half hour, tables will need to be wiped down again from the salt that collects due to the sea spray.

So, yes…things are very different here.

We recently went back to the United States to visit family and friends.  The visit was fantastic!  Of course we miss everyone, but the thing that struck me was that I had no real emotion over being back in my homeland.  Don’t get me wrong, The United States is a wonderful country and I’m so grateful to the military who down through the years have fought hard to keep our country safe and free.   Of course, I love my homeland….but I felt somewhat confirmed in the fact that for now, it is no longer my current home.  All the conveniences and choices and entertainment activities were at my fingertips again.  But it seemed different to me this time.  How could it be that I prefer fewer choices?  Or not having the convenience of taking off in the car to run an errand just wasn’t a must?  I love Red Lobster….and that was on my list check list of places to visit when we got to the states.  And it was good no doubt, but not amazing like I remember.

I’m struck with how we change when our environment changes.  I truly have changed.  Here in Ecuador, I don’t find the dirt streets and the dust blowing in my face when the bus races by as odd.  Just normal.  I see the little family tiendas as a real store now and Walgreens as more of a mega store!  lol  My fine dining experiences now involve plastic chairs, real seafood, street dogs strolling by and salt spray from the ocean.  My feet are always dirty.  I might have make up on but I might not.  Usually I don’t wear much jewelry.  I find that 70 degree temperatures with the wind blowing is actually quite chilly!  I tend to wear jeans and long sleeve shirts now whereas in the past, 70’s would have been pretty warm.

I’m finding that I love Ecuador.  It’s my home now.  The biggest love for Ecuador however comes from the people itself.  The culture is different no doubt…sense of time is not the same.  People live in the present and tend not to worry or concern themselves too much about the future.  But above everything else, I find that the people here are for the most part so kind and generous.  Generally speaking,  people here do not seek to accumulate more but rather give.  They give when they themselves don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  It’s a beautiful and humbing experience.

Our friends and ministry partners who are Ecuadorian themselves serve breakfast to all the people who come to church on Sunday mornings.  There is no “budget” for this.  They go and buy bread or fruit the morning of, to serve to their neighbors free of charge.  Depending on how much work they had that week, it may mean that they themselves go without something.  They are being the hands and feet of Christ Himself!

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My friend, Rosie, served us a delicious viche meal on plastic table with a pink tablecloth and lovely dishes while her home is currently open air (2 walls and no roof…only tarp).

The boy from the pharmacy drove Dave to a nearby town (about a half hour drive) in the evening to get a prescription that they didn’t have.  He was joyful and kind and had a hard time even accepting gas money.

When we were having technical difficulties last Tuesday night at our Bible study, everyone present sat patiently and waited for about 20 minutes.  No sighs…no grumbling under their breath….no glancing at their phone….just patience.

The daughter of the roommate I had while in the hospital came by our home with her mother (the patient I shared the room with) to check in and bring us fruit from their garden.

The very poor family who immigrated here from Venezuela that we visited Saturday whose plastic chair didn’t have a back and the seat part was zip tied together gave Cristian and Lissette a bag of fish!

Visiting

These are the things that I am impacted by.  These are the things that make me take notice and think “wow”!  My Ecuadorian friends teach me so much every day by their example which truly mirrors the examples set forth in Scripture of patience and kindness.

I’m proud to call Ecuador my home.  The lifestyle is different in so many ways but it is comforting and refreshing to me now.  My choices are very limited, shopping conveniences are no longer available here in Crucita, and fast food drive throughs don’t exist here either;  but at the same time there is a sense of calmness and peace.

 

Turtles hatching again

We just got back into Crucita, Ecuador from a visit to the United States Thursday.  We again had the privilege of seeing baby turtles hatch and make their way to the ocean.  Each time I see this, it causes me to ponder in-depth and I always see Spiritual parallels with this awesome wonder.

The people working to protect and ensure the little hatchlings arrive safely to their destination watch tirelessly for hours and sometimes in the middle of the evening just like a midwife would do.  They carve out paths for these little creatures to make it to the ocean.

Some of the little turtles move along steadily and quickly and you can tell they have energy and strength, but others walk along, but then stop to rest.  I heard one of the little Ecuadorian children say “murio” which means died.  No little guy, the turtle is only “descansa”,  tired, my friend.

And sure enough, after a few seconds the little turtle takes off again.  The turtle hatching rescuers (not sure what they are officially called) spend hours patiently watching and waiting.  The obvious question would be ….why not just pick them up and put them in the water?  Wouldn’t that make everyone’s life so much easier?  turtles final 2But the answer is profound.  They MUST struggle through this.  Without the struggle, they would have no strength for the mighty ocean which is their final destination.   This reminds me of humans on our path to our destinations in life.  Often we ask why God doesn’t just rescue us and brings us to the destination.  But without struggle, would we be able to handle it once we get there?  The struggle is necessary to strengthen us for what lies ahead.  I also thought of my own children and seeing them go through struggles.  I want to rescue them and make it all better.  However without the struggle, they don’t get strong or grow or learn how to handle the mighty “ocean” of life.  Just like God with us, we carve a path and try to lead and encourage them however it is up to them to get there.

A couple of the turtles starting turning to the left and a couple turned toward the right.  However the ocean was right in front of them.  They needed to keep on the straight path.  How often do we go to the right or to the left when all along the path is right straight  in front of us?  How painful it must be for God to see us struggle and leave that straight path and go through so many unnecessary struggles to the right and to the left.  Similarly it is painful when we as parents see our own children move in paths that cause pain, exhaustion, depression and despair.  turtles final

If the little turtles kept moving to the right or to the left, it would end in death.  There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12)  However, similar to the endless work of the turtle rescuers, our Heavenly Father says to us:  “Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil”…  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding”….  “In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight”.

Thank you Lord for teaching me through your Creation profound Biblical Truths.  Thank you for teaching me not to rely on my own limited human understanding but to seek You and to stay the course to the finish line.  Amen. human

Being hospitalized in Ecuador

I try to look upon everything that happens to me as an adventure.  Not worrying, but only trusting that “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose”.  I believe these words and cling to this promise so with most everything that happens, I learn to flow with it and realize that although the road isn’t easy….it’s covered.  There is so much comfort in that!

When I found an abnormal spot on the side of my tongue over a year ago back in the states, I was told to watch it, however it was most likely due to hormone changes in the female body.  I accepted it as “great…nothing going on here” and pretty much dismissed it.  As to “watching it”.  How does one do that when you move to a 3rd world country, and are trying to learn to live day-to-day and learn the language and get through life?  I guess a spot on my tongue wasn’t top priority for me.  That is, until it start to bother me.  Around June or July I believe (after seeing a local doctor to treat for obvious infections etc) I was referred to Dr Leon who is an oncologist in Porto Viejo which is a city about 25 miles from Crucita.  He took one look at the tumor and said it was cancer. Dr Leon has over 40 years experience in medicine with over 25 years experience with treating cancer.  So he’s seen a lot.  He explained the first step was a formal biopsy, but then we would do surgery to remove the painful tumor.  Much to our surprise, the biopsy revealed no cancer!  However Dr Leon still had doubts and said that during surgery another biopsy would be taken to ensure.  He explained that they would be cutting out a tiny portion of my tongue and I would regain all feeling and have no problems with talking, eating, tasting etc.

Surgery was scheduled for September 7, but Doctor Leon had indicated he was going to move it up to get it taken care of sooner.  That never happened, but in retrospect, I now know why.  🙂  The surgery was to be between 1/2 hour to an hour-long and my total stay in the hospital was two nights total.  They want you there the night before surgery as well.

Surgery time was upon us and everything is so confusing.  Dr Leon speaks very little English and staff speaks no English.   We were blessed to have at times Matt from Fundacion La Vida and our friend Omar with us for some appointments but not all. IMG_9159So he remainder of everything that is done and said is left to my imagination.  Which isn’t always good, because sometimes I have quite the imagination.  I wondered if when they put me under if they would have me count backwards.  Would it be in English or Spanish?  These are the types of thoughts that plagued my brain.  They laid me on the very skinny table and fitted me with a properly sized oxygen mask and I saw a man insert a medicine in my IV and within seconds I realized, this is it.  No counting.  I was out.

I believe I went in to the operating room maybe around 8:30.  By the time I came out it was 12:30-1.  Slightly more than the hour they predicted, however they also dealt with “slightly more” than they thought they were.  The doctor said that he saw cancer cells under the scope and they decided to cut further to ensure that it was removed.  Another biopsy was taken and results will be back shortly.  In addition they went into my throat and I woke up to a 5 inch slice on my jaw line where lymph nodes had been removed as well as a drainage tube inserted in my neck.  I remember waking up to a horrible headache.  My tongue completely numb and my neck completely numb.  Pain was very minimal throughout the whole process other than the head ache when I woke up.   My surgery quadrupled in time and so did my stay in the hospital.  I was there 4 nights.

My experience at Solca was great.  The hospital is well-known throughout Ecuador with 5 locations throughout the country.  The hospital I was in was the regional hospital for the province of Manabí.  The staff is professional and friendly and I can’t say enough about Dr Leon who made some important decisions during my surgery to go more in-depth and take it to the next level in order to ensure my health will be completely renewed.

The hospital is very clean and rooms are constantly being swept and mopped several times a day.

We also saw some rooms without patients being completely disassembled with all beds in hallways to ensure a proper sanitation of the room.  My bedding was changed daily.   All equipment is modern and clean and from a lay person’s standpoint, all proper precautions are used to ensure that disease is contained and not passed to other patients.  The liquid diet I was on was fantastic.  I wish I knew what they served me (when I asked, of course it didn’t ring a bell) but one morning for breakfast I was served a delicious warm liquid custard type food with what tasted like a slight cinnamon seasoning.IMG_9184  It was almost like a light version of pumpkin pie before it was cooked.  Yum.  Their soups were wonderful.  I would have to say in spite of the fact that this was hospital food, it was some of the best darn hospital food I’ve ever had!  I’m extremely grateful for the care I received at this hospital and would have no hesitations of recommending this facility to anyone.

I also want to touch on the differences.  I call them differences because that’s simply what they are.  Our American culture is different from Ecuador.  What we find “unacceptable” is perfectly normal here.  So I want to talk about them as I find it interesting, but in no way is this meant disparaging toward this culture and country.

  • One thing I had noticed even prior to the hospitalization, during my doctor visits is that the woman’s bathroom does not have toilet paper nor soap.  You must bring your own, or learn to drip dry.   Also bring your own hand sanitizer.   While the bathroom in my hospital room did have a soap dispenser with soap in it, there was no toilet paper.  We needed to go purchase some at a local tienda across the street.  There was a sheet and very nice blanket (all in plastic…had been sanitized) however I did not have a pillow.  Thankfully I brought my own.  Towels are available upon request however there are no wash cloths.  Bar soap and shampoo must be brought from home.
  • Everything here is paid for in advance.  There is no billing per se.  You settle your debt immediately.  Prior to surgery, the doctor said I needed blood work, a chest X ray and I needed to see a cardiologist.  This is all done on your own.  You find the facility to go to get this done.  Sometimes it can be done directly at the hospital, but other times it cannot.  He may give you recommendations on where to go to get this done, however it’s up to you to go find a place to do it and bring the results back to the doctor.  All medicine that the staff uses on you during your stay in the hospital is purchased up front.

    The doctor will write an order and you go to the pharmacy (take a number like at the deli dept back home) and they will call your number and fill your order.  All medicine including syringes etc are in a plastic bag that you bring back to the medical staff so they can administer the medication.  Prior to surgery we were told I needed a diaper and a pair of support stockings. IMG_9167 How fun is that!!  Well the pharmacy didn’t just sell one diaper…go figure.  My roommate bought a pack and let me use one of hers.

  • Another huge difference (but then again maybe they DO do this in the states??) was that several times in the middle of the night, the staff comes in abruptly using their “outside voices” and flipping on the bright fluorescent lighting to do simple tasks.  There is no hushed whispers or gentle lighting.  At 11PM, they do their staff rotation and I swear it reminded me of a Wal-Mart oo rah-rah staff meeting as they all come in talking loudly, flipping on the light, giggling and telling jokes.  And almost as quickly as they come in, they leave.  I thought of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz when she said:  ” My, people sure do come and go quickly around here.”
  • Dave was asked on more than one occasion to help transport a patient from the stretcher to the bed, something you would not see in the states due to liability issues.  lol  Also…privacy issues are non-existent.  They don’t have HIPAA laws here and people will crowd around when you are making appointments or paying and able to hear all the details of your stay, the cost etc.  This is also true in the hospital rooms….no privacy as to what is ailing you or what needs to take place.  Your room-mate will most likely get a full earful of the exciting details.
  • We also found that the staff and even patients are good with having their pictures taken.  Dr Leon even motioned for Dave to come by and take a picture of the inside of my mouth.  They love this!  And often will pose!  You never know….maybe they are the next Ecuadorian talent that has gone unnoticed!
  • It seems that all patients have a relative or friend with them at all times also.  They encourage people to stay with you as they are the “runners”.  Any medications that are needed, they are responsible to go get them.  Helping with bathroom and showers falls on your  loved one as well.  Of course settling the bill needs to be done at the hospital and this will need to be handled by them too.  Although there were no cots or extra beds the first 3 nights, Dave was able to sleep in my hospital bed right with me.  Close quarters, but they allowed it none the less.  The 3rd night in the room, an Ecuadorian woman came in accompanied by her two adult daughters.  I’m struck with emotion as she was loved on and cared for by her girls.  Kissing her and stroking her hair.  Helping her to the bathroom and overall making her comfortable.  Not calling in nurses to assist, but doing their best with their mom on their own. IMG_9191  I’ve noticed that this is quite the norm here in Ecuador where children are extremely loving to their parents/grandparents.  It warms my heart to see the level of intimacy displayed.  This says a lot about the people of this country.

Earlier on I mentioned that Dr Leon was going to move up my surgery instead of waiting until the 7th of September.  Well that never happened and I was good with that, but now I know why it stayed the date it was.   As we were checking in, I saw a gringa trying to communicate with the office staff and was having some difficulty.  Our friend Omar who is fluent in English and Spanish was with us and of course offered his assistance.  He was able to give her some instructions including the fact that she needed to buy a diaper (we still laugh about that).  After completing our paperwork, we were told that the room was still not ready for check in and that we were free to go get something to eat across the road.  Upon eating lunch, we see Sandie there next door at the pharmacy trying to buy a diaper but having some difficulty communicating.  She just wanted 1 diaper but apparently you can’t buy just one diaper.  Omar helped.  She came by and said she obviously didn’t need six so she gave me one from her pack.  Oh joy!  I told Sandie….”just how a girl wants to spend a beautiful afternoon….diaper shopping….and sharing with friends who may be in need.”.  We laughed.

After lunch, we headed back up to Solca and the room was ready.  They directly me all the way down the hall to the last door on the left and who do I see waiting for me in there?  Sandie!  She was my room-mate for the next two nights.  What a delight!  Her and her husband Tom live in Bahia (about an hour up the coast from us) and have been here for several years now.  It was wonderful having someone to joke with and laugh with.  Some of these things you just have to laugh about.  Like the diaper thing….still kills me.  Sandie has a great sense of humor which I love, but the most precious of all is that she is a believer in Jesus Christ!  Woo hoo!!!  Instant bond!  She mentioned that her pastor and a couple of others were stopping by to pray with her and I felt the Holy Spirit feeding my soul and comforting me and saying “it’s all good!  I’ve got this covered!”   What a time of fellowship….I couldn’t stop smiling.  The most touching part to me was I felt God hugging me.  The odds of having a gringa in my room with me were not good.  But have a strong Christian sold our for Christ room mate was only icing on the cake!  So I took this entire September 7th date as a divine date of the Lord who knew all along.  In the mean time, I’ve met some more beautiful Christian believers from Porto Viejo and feel blessed beyond measure.  God gave me the perfect room mate who I will know for all eternity as a sister now!  God is in control….Our ways are not His ways.  Wait on Him.  These are truths that I cling to these days.

Bottom line…no one wants to be sick.  But, would I trade my Solca experience for a different one?  NO WAY!  Life is wonderful when God is in it and I don’t have to worry about the details.

August 31, 2017

Our friends, Cristian and Lissette, had an opportunity to address a concern regarding the lack of medical resources here in Crucita to the Governor of Manabí (our province).  The governor explained that the proper channels would be to first present this concern to the president of Crucita and gather as much information from the citizens to confirm that this is indeed a concern for most.  Though there are a few doctors who are available sparingly and very limited hours, there is not a 24 hour facility here nor is there an ambulance that works properly.  Currently if there is an emergency, the people have to somehow get to Porto Viejo (or Rocafuerte) which is a good distance away by car.  And many folks here don’t have cars, but rather depend on buses which do not run all night.  The need is very great.

So the past several Saturdays, Cristian and several of us have been going door to door in the various communities within Crucita parish to collect surveys of what the people are saying in regard to the need for proper medical resources here. 20170701_110010  Of course we have fun along the way.  Javiar says to me, “Jenny you are my best Gringa friend!”…..I say back to Javiar, “Javiar, I am your ONLY gringa friend…but you are my best Ecuadorian friend named Javiar!” 20170709_120749

The people are more than happy to participate and tell their own stories of being in desperate need and having little to no options.

Currently, most depend on home remedies or go to the pharmacy and try to figure things out on their own.  Almost 100% agreed that we need 24 hour medical services here as well as an ambulance that is in good working condition.  This information will be presented to the president this week on Wednesday.  We are praying that this information is received well and moves on to the next phase to get something in place here.  In our own expat community, two of our fellow expats died due to an accident on the beach.  With proper resources in place, it’s possible that their lives could have been spared.  So this need truly hits home to both foreigners as well as Ecuadorians alike.

Some very exciting news is that my CAT Scan came back as normal and the spots on my lungs are of no concern!  I still am scheduled to have surgery a week from today on my tongue.  We are praying that all goes well and that healing is fast.

Also, last week, I received my visa!  Tomorrow, we travel to Guayaquil to pick up my Cedula (government ID card).  I was absolutely thrilled because it has been a long, arduous process getting this visa.  It seems as if the laws regarding immigration are continually changing.  I can’t say enough about our processor that helped us through the entire process, Dana Cameron.  She is extremely knowledgable and works relentlessly at her job to ensure that each person is taken care of and granted their visa.  It has been a pleasure working with her.  I feel for her though as she has no control of regulation changes and often times the changes occur without any warning.  So you can only imagine the position she is in with regards to helping people get through all the red tape.  Long story short,  the law had changes when we moved here almost a year ago and they would not process both of our Visas together.  Dave had to apply and go through the process first and then I was eligible to apply.  Dave’s process took about 6 months.  When I was finally able to apply, they wouldn’t take my application because they said I needed to have a bank account here in Ecuador with $8,000 for 6 months (new law).  Since this was impossible being that we just heard of this and did not have an account with $8,000 for 6 months.  We were in Guayaquil to apply and we had to turn around and go back to Crucita.  There was nothing more we could do.  Dana was shocked  and tried to get information as to how we could work around this but no one seemed to have answers or know anything different to do.   We decided to apply in Manta and Dana graciously met us there and they took the application no problem.  Whew!  They told us we would hear something in 15-30 days and that we would receive an email confirming once the application was approved.  30 days passed….no email.  60 days….no email.  A couple weeks later, Dana’s daughter (who speaks Spanish fluently) called to find out what was going on and they would only say that an email had been sent but would not give her any information other than that.  Our only option was to physically go to the office and try to hope for a person to help us that could speak some English.  We got there and were told that there was good new and bad news. The good news was that the Visa was approved, the bad news was that the law has changed yet again and now they are requiring that people supply proof of health insurance before a visa is issued.  This is somewhat of a catch 22 because we can’t get the government insurance without first having a cedula (Visa).  Somehow by the grace of God, they approved it anyway!!  It was a miracle in my opinion.  This could have been delayed even further, but we were able to move forward and apply for the Cedula which I should receive tomorrow.  It was a process I wouldn’t like to repeat again for a very long time….if ever.  IMG_9117

As a result, we were able to confidently purchase our airline tickets to go back to the United States for a visit.  Without the Visa, I wouldn’t have been granted access back into Ecuador for another year.  We are going for 3 weeks and already have quite a full schedule, but we look forward to seeing our parents and children and friends again!

 

 

August 17, 2017

So last week we had the incredible opportunity to experience whale watching.  In true Ecuadorian fashion, we were able to experience this very raw and inexpensive which I love!

About 12 of us boarded a small fishing boat with bench seats and we were kind of crammed in like sardines although we all had life preservers!

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We set sail from La Boca which is a short distance north of Crucita up the coast.  Our captain and first mate were non English speaking Ecuadorians so the tour was a silent one but charming none the less.  We went out maybe 5 miles until we started seeing water spouts.  The boat quickly moves in the direction of the water spouts and you begin to see activity from all directions.  Most of what we saw was distance away but even with the distance we saw the majestic size and grace  with each time they surfaced.  According to our friend Chris, we saw two different varieties:  gray and humpback.  We also saw them in pods of what we could count maybe 6 or 8 of them together.  Truly spectacular!  The price was $15 per person and to me the boat ride in and of itself was well worth that.

We also saw a sea turtle and some pelicans when we neared shore.  They were waiting for a morsel from the local fisherman.

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June to September is the time frame that you will see whales in Ecuador.  I highly recommend this as an excursion if you visiting the country during that time frame.

August 8, 2017

Weekends are fast becoming my favorite time here!  Saturdays we have been visiting (with Cristian and Lissette) various families in the neighborhood.  Just popping in to say hi, reminding them of the children’s church the next morning and handing out cereal bars to the kids.  We visit a variety of neighborhoods, many of them quite poor.  Most families are very gracious and pull up plastic chairs for us to sit on to visit.  Others are more leery of this church thing but seem thankful for the invite for their children.

One thing that is obvious is that Cristian and Lissette truly care about the neighborhood children.  They are so dedicated each week by opening up their home (their garage area) for this little children’s church.  We are also hoping that more parents will start to come.  Currently we have about 6-8 regular moms.  Still working on the guys….but in time.  🙂

Once a month we have a Birthday Sunday for all children’s whose birthdays fall in that month.  They are honored in front of the rest and have an opportunity to earn “money” by answering questions related to the lessons that month.  Then they can spend it at the “store” for  trinkets, toys, crayons, markets etc later on. Children's church “Money” is also earned other Sundays as well so everyone has a chance to earn dollars.  We sang a Spanish style Feliz Cumplianos and we also enjoyed birthday cake!  This is nice especially for those whose birthdays may not be celebrated as much at home or perhaps the families don’t have the money for a present or party.

Lately we (as a team) have been meeting after the kids and parents leave and have our own small meeting and prayer time.  Even though the language is still a slight barrier, the friendships are becoming strong with these precious people.

This past Sunday was extra special as we had a chance to partake in the Lord’s supper together (reflecting upon the Lord’s death) but we also decided that we would enjoy a real meal together afterwards.  A new friend, Michael, is from Peru and he volunteered to make a Peruvian meal for us!  Peruvian food is much spicier than Ecuadorian food.  He made a salad with boiled potatoes on top and then a delicious sauce drizzled over which consisted of cheese, chilis and milk.  We also had sliced tomatoes with a lime dressing as well as pan fried chicken with a curry type coating.meal

Just fantastic!  I brought dessert and decided to bring chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal cookies.  This was a first for most of them and it was a hit!  Cookies aren’t big here in Ecuador, so having cookies other than the standard ones in the store (shortbread and wafer type cookies) was very intriguing to them.  I told them next time we would have peanut butter.  Peanut butter in cookies???  They couldn’t hardly believe that.  Here….peanut butter is mainly for cooking.  For example, viche is a popular soup dish with a peanut butter type dumpling.

After the meal Dave volunteered to clean up all the dishes (they were paper plates).  Cristian looked a bit confused and said “but they’re paper”.  I grinned and then Cristian and the rest burst into laughter.  They are getting used to Dave’s humor more and more.

Soon after that Cristian’s Venezuelan friends showed up to play futbol that afternoon.  So we had people from 4 countries (Venezuela, US, Ecuador and Peru) all in one place.  Of course we had to take a photo!4 countries

We also took a walk in the neighborhood where our friend Javiar said casually, “Hey Dave, I like that shirt you are wearing.”  Dave said, “Do you want it?”  “Sure” said Javiar.  So…Dave walked back through Los Aranales shirtless getting a few stares.  I joked with Javiar that the folks in the neighborhood was going to think that Javiar was a real bully walking back down the road with Dave’s shirt on and Dave with no shirt on.