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.

August 4, 2017

Since I’ve been sick, I’ve started looking seriously into preventing illness and/or curing illnesses naturally with food or oils.  It makes a lot of sense to me.  If we ate raw foods the way God intended rather than processed foods, would we be healthy again?  I think so.  Ecuador is a perfect place to transition to eating and be healthy because I don’t have all the temptations at my fingertips like I did in the states.  There is no Taco Bell or McDonalds or Burger King in my town (or even close that I know of) so I can’t fly through the drive through anymore as I’m out and about to satisfy my hunger.

So the fact that I either have to prepare my own food or eat at a local restaurant (which typically serves fish or chicken with rice and salad) eliminates a lot of the battle for me.  But I have recently also started implementing things in my diet.  I’ve heard of natural supplements before but truthfully didn’t care too much either way because I “was healthy” and really didn’t want to be bothered with the expense or discipline.  But now of course is a different story when it’s you that has the health problem.  So the last several months we’ve been talking with a local friend that believes in a supplement called Moringa.  It is grown locally in Ecuador and the particular Moringa that he uses is grown between Guanaquil and Salinas on an organic farm (hasn’t been farmed with other crops and no residue with pesticides etc.).  Our friend, Walter, is a strong believer in Moringa and claims that he’s been completely healthy for the past 20 + years from taking it.  In the past he had suffered with diabetes and other health problems but was able to go off all his medication by simply adding this to his diet.  I started researching it and decided to try it….what did I have to lose?

http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-benefits-of-moringa-oleifera#section5

I take it daily after a good meal whether breakfast or lunch, but not supper as it gives energy and may cause you to stay awake at bedtime.  I take a level teaspoon and mix it in either juice or yogurt to try to mask the taste which is bad.   According to research, it’s helping many things in my body that I can’t testify for sure however I will testify to the fact that I feel much better and my tumor on my tongue has shrunk!  I believe Moringa had something to do with this.

The 2nd supplement I introduced about 6 weeks after starting Moringa was Frankincense oil.  My friend gave me a bottle!  Which is like gold!!  So I was extremely thankful.  I use Frankincense (a tiny drop) directly on the roof of my mouth and press my tongue to the roof of my mouth at least once or twice a day.  It tastes bad but I suspect that many things that are good for you do taste bad.  In fact, if it tasted good, I would be leery.  Just me….I’ve been taking the Frankincense for about a month now.

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Just yesterday, my nieces turned me on to intermittent fasting.  I’ve always been extremely scared of fasting because at one point I had fasted for 3 days straight and got extremely weak.  It was an exhausting experience (the purpose was Spiritually related which I’m sure had a lot to do with my exhaustion though).  So since then, I’ve decided that eating is good and fasting isn’t for me.  But intermittent fasting is extremely do-able.  This link has some great information on the subject:

 

The type of intermittent fasting that I do, is for 14-20 hours only.  So it is not hard at all and the benefits make perfect sense to me.  My purpose for intermittent fasting is not to lose weight but rather for cell renewal.
“A lifestyle of fasting may involve an individual eating for a period of only 4-8 hours in one day. A 20-hour fast may involve eating food between 3pm and 7pm each day. This regular intermittent fasting lifestyle allows the body to produce ketones in order to fuel the entire body. The 20-hour fast may be optimal for individuals with the diagnosis of cancer, but may otherwise be incorporated into your lifestyle using a 16 to 18 hour fasting period.”    https://thetruthaboutcancer.com/ketogenic-diet-weakens-cancer-cells/  And, if it’s not what it seems (benefit wise) it certainly can’t hurt anything.  It’s good to give your stomach a rest.

I’m not into fitness workouts at all (just walking everywhere) so my health and wellness changes need to be small changes and obtainable goals.  Time will tell as to what difference this is making overall….but in the mean time I’m happy with the changes that have occurred already.

August 1, 2017

So I have been very very bad about writing lately.  I’ve decided I’m turning over a new leaf starting today.  I’m officially committing to writing at least once a week even if nothing profound is happening in our lives here in Ecuador.  I’ve been here long enough that everything seems so normal to me but I need to remember that it IS profoundly different here than the US even if I’ve grown accustomed to it.

The last several months I have not been feeling well which is maybe another reason why I haven’t written.  Basically in a nut shell I was “diagnosed” with cancer on my tongue.  I will go into more detail about the medical process here in Ecuador at a later date because it is quite different from the states.  But the short end of it is that I’ve had a spot on my tongue for about a year or so.  Prior to moving to Ecuador, I had my last dental cleaning in the states and the dentist didn’t seem to think it was serious but said we should watch it.  Well soon after that I moved to South America and pretty much put it out of my mind.  So several months ago it started bothering me quite a bit and I overall didn’t feel well so I saw a specialist in oncology and he said that upon visual examination he was sure it was cancer but we needed to do a biopsy to confirm.  The biopsy came back as non malignant!  The tumor still needs to be removed and surgery has been scheduled.  There are several pre op checks that need to be done and one is a chest X ray.  The chest X ray revealed two unusual spots on my lungs that the doctor said needs to be examined further and so I was scheduled yesterday for a CAT Scan.  CAT Scan machineThis was done at Solca which is apparently the regional cancer hospital in Manabí which is one of the provinces here in Ecuador.  Solca is a very well-respected hospital here.   Thankfully Crucita where we live is only about 20 miles away.  So the many visits I’ve had to Solca have been much easier to get to than other people who are traveling a much greater distance.

Me and IV

Do I really want chemicals in me?

 

Anyway, during the CAT Scan, they injected me with some type of solution that made my body extremely warm and I thought I had wet my pants.  😦  Very strange sensation.  He did tell me that it would be “caliente” meaning warm, but didn’t warn me about the wetting my pants part.  I was a bit worried….but later I read on the internet that is considered a normal sensation.  Very strange indeed.  We didn’t have an interpreter this time, but I was able to understand him to tell me to drink a lot of water over the next three days.  Also, he said to stay away from “queso, yogurt, leche, y huevos”  basically dairy and eggs.  The rest of the day I felt terrible and had a headache which I never have.  So whatever chemical was dripped inside my veins must have been potent.  Ugh!  I’m not a proponent of many of the medical procedures using chemicals (including chemotherapy) so this is difficult for me.

Solution in IV

Saline Solution prior to CAT Scan.

Regardless, the scan was done and my doctor will get back to me with results in a week or so.  So we wait.

In the waiting room of radiology I saw a man, maybe a boy, who looks young maybe in his early 20’s.  I’ve seen him before and my heart always goes out to him.  He’s a handsome guy but obviously has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy as he is bald and has no eyebrows.  His skin is a yellowish color and he is very thin.  Almost every time I go to Solca I see him waiting in one of the long lines to be seen.  He is usually in a wheelchair and he is always alone  No family with him.  I pray for his body to be healed and that he will know Jesus.

After the appointment, we took a taxi to Super Aki (where the locals shop) and picked up a few groceries and then walked across the bridge to the bus terminal where we took the bus back to Crucita.   It’s good to get on the bus at the terminal as it fills up fast and by the time we leave Porto Viejo, usually there are people standing, crowded in the aisles.  When someone needs to get off the bus, they squeeze their way to the front and everyone pushes up against everyone else.  All the while, there is fun exciting Latino music blaring in the background.

After arriving home, I laid down to try to lick the headache.  In the mean time Dave left with our friend Lenner (who I teach English) and tried to work on obtaining gift certificates from the restaurants and businesses for the silent auction coming up next month.  The proceeds of the auction will go to the school in Crucita to help with repairs to the bathroom, or repair of a retaining wall or a library (depending on the funds that are raised).  Explaining to a local business why they should offer a free anything for a gringo to bid on at an auction is not an easy task at all.  So far most are offering a dessert or a drink for free.  I told Dave that regardless, this is a lot for them and we should be thankful for any amount that they donate.

While Dave was gone, I heard a thud on my exterior bedroom wall.  The dogs who usually follow be around like a shadow had mysteriously disappeared but they were quiet so I wasn’t too alarmed.  Awhile later I decided to get up to feed and water my plants and as I was heading out the front door to water I saw Audrey sitting proudly next to a dead bird!  The site of any dead animal is not one I can handle (along with live mice) so I decided I would leave it for Dave to take care of when he got back. But in the mean time, Audrey had laid claim to the bird.  She wasn’t doing anything except laying next to it but somehow this must have had a profound symbolic meaning in animal terms because she wasn’t about to move.  Lilly was at the bottom of the porch steps and tried coming up into the house, but Audrey let out a deep low growl from the depths of her throat to warn Lilly to stay away from “her bird”.  I got Audrey away so Lilly could pass but after I turned my back a fight ensued and it was noisy enough to get the attention of Sandie our neighbor.  She popped her head over the fence and asked what was going on.  I explained I wasn’t about to touch the bird until Dave got home, so she promptly came over and removed the bird for me WITH HER BARE HANDS.  This was rather disgusting but I was thankful none the less.  The prize was gone now.  At least Audrey had about 15 minutes of bliss.

 

 

 

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!