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.

20170618_110054

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!

20170618_123403

 

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.

20170618_111900

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!

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!

16836616_10211086056244011_253913682252844096_o

 

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!

There’s the good, the bad and the Reality.

It has been almost three months that Dave and I have moved to Ecuador.  A land that we had never visited before.

A sense of normal is settling in and now I’m finding that things that once fascinated me that I couldn’t believe I was seeing are very common place to me.   This is a beautiful place to live and extremely affordable especially for ocean front living!  At the same time, this is not the US and it is not a resort in Mexico.  There are things that are common place here that I’ve never seen back home and I’m sure there are many more experiences yet to come.  I wanted to write about a few things we’ve experienced so far.

There are many  stray dogs here in Crucita.  Recently a spay clinic was set up to spay any female dogs for free which is wonderful, but certainly not the final resolution to the stray problem.  The dogs are full of tics and mites and mange.  All are looking for food and for the most part are quite non aggressive unless they belong to a territory such as some of the beach dogs.  They don’t want any other animals (like our two small dogs) in their territory and send off warnings to stay away.  But the street dogs are simply walking along looking for a morsel.  Some are too tired to run, so they walk sluggishly or lay on the side of the street napping.  Yesterday it warmed my heart to see a worker at a restaurant slip out the side door and feed (and even pet) one of the strays with food that would be tossed out.  We gave him a thumbs up when we saw that.  Understandably though, the restaurants don’t want to feed the strays or they will be hanging around begging for food and disturbing the customers.

We also see pigs tied to trees getting ready to become food to feed the family.  It was told us that each family is allowed by law to have one pig on their property at a time.  One day I heard some squealing happening and I imagine that was “the day” the family got their food.  Today we saw two goats trotting through Las Aranales.  I’m sure they have a place they below, but they were on their own today.

At the end of our street we saw chickens being plucked by two woman.  Chicks can be purchased quite inexpensively here to be raised as food for families.  So it’s not uncommon for families to have them in a small yard in the back of the house right in town.  The chickens do taste quite wonderful here and of course there are always fresh eggs.

The streets here are mainly dirt although there are a few block or paved streets.  The main street in Los Aranales(which is named calle Diciembre 25th) is paved, but filled with potholes.  The tuk tuks (or motor taxis) know right where the bumps are as they maneuver all over the rode to create the least uncomfortable ride for their customers.  Rides cost 50 cents per person pretty much wherever you want to go in the area.  Although vehicles mainly stay to the right, there are no real lanes here.  Passing other vehicles is common place and you hear a lot of people blowing their horns.  This is done out of courtesy as they pass someone rather than impatience or anger like in the states.  Most of the roads do not have sidewalks and you need to walk in the dust and dirt to avoid traffic.  Buses and motorcycles whiz by within inches of hitting you it seems!  Often you will see families on a motorcycle, with the baby in the front.  The driver is required to wear a helmet by law, but no one else is including the kids.  market

This is the time of year I am told it gets quite warm and I’ve definitely felt a change in the humidity level.  It does no good to take a shower if you are walking any distance as you will soon be filled with salt, sweat and dust.  My hair is no longer a cute sassy cut (or at least I thought so) with highlights, but rather tied up or put back with a headband or hat to stay out of my face and keep cool.  My hair constantly feels dirty mostly because of the salt in the air.  Should I keep it really short?  That is a serious consideration right now.

There are no grocery stores in Crucita, but rather tiendas which are tiny family stores that typically you do not go in, but instead tell the owner what you want and they pass it to you through the bars.  Not all tiendas have the same things and may have one item one week, but not have it again for a long time.  Tiendas are for purchasing mostly dried goods such as chips, bread,  laudrey soap etc.  Or at least that is what we mainly purchase there.  The normal grocery store where you shop with a shopping cart, they play music and there is air conditioning is about 45 minutes away from here.  Since we do not have a vehicle, we typically take the public bus in and it will take about one hour twenty minutes to an hour and a half to get there ($1.50 each).  Then you need to get back, so if you have ice cream or other frozen items it’s best to hire a taxi for $12.

It’s possible to get by without having to go to the large grocery store, as you can get what you need here for the most part.  Chickens are sold on the side of the road hanging up with the vendors waving away flies.  The market here has all sort of fruits, vegetables and meat.  Again, the meat is not what you are used to seeing as it is unrefrigerated and hanging by hooks in the market.  Typically I see the carcass of the animal with the fur on it hanging along side.  I’m not sure if that is there as an advertisement to what type of animal it is or if people will buy them.  They will chop the meat up with machetes over blocks of wood.  No plastic gloves are used to put your meat in the bag and money is collected from the same individual.

Sometimes power outages are frequent.  Knock on wood, we have had very few of them over the past couple weeks, but prior to that it seemed every couple days the power would go out.  When that happens, there is no internet connection either.  At times the power can go out for quite awhile such as 12 hours or so.  Most of the time, it is a short period of time…but when it goes out, you never know when it will go back on. We were without internet recently for 3 days.  During that time, we cannot use the water either because the water pump is electric.  So we have water set aside for times like this just to take a sponge bath if needed.  Our drinking water is never from the faucet anyway, so drinking water is always available even during power outages.

So there you have it folks. This is our new reality that I wanted to share.  We do not live an American lifestyle for the most part (although some folks here choose to do this).  In writing this, I wanted to paint a real picture of life here so that people back home do not assume we are living a resort style beach bum life.  Or anyone who wants to visit, knows what they are visiting!  We love it here but it is different than what some might think.