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!

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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.

 

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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 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.

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!

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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