Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Home again, home again

I got home around 5 weeks ago and lets just say, I hit the ground running:
-12 weddings, 2 bridesmaid dresses and 3 bridal showers later, I successfully saw my best friends marry the man of their dreams. 
-Started my last semester of school at the U
-Found an awesome apartment in Salt Lake
--->Have not moved down yet due to lack of time
-Went on a trip to Bear Lake
-Got some quality wakeboarding in
-Saw many wonderful friends that I have not seen in centuries
-Planned trips to Egypt and California
-Celebrated my mom's big 50th birthday


Monday, September 1, 2008

The GRAND finale!!

I know that it has been forever since I have updated my blog and I realize that it gets harder and harder to motivate myself to do so because of all of the events that happen and are "blog worthy." Therefore I find the idea of updating everything far too overwhelming and give up.  Today I was at my Favorite Aunt Cindy's house and she said she made a blog and that we were linked now, the pressure is on... so here I go:) 

Before I tell you all about my wild American days, I have to finish my Ecuador saga. This could take a while so sit back and get ready to laugh at my crazy life.

Note: I flew to Ecuador on a buddy pass that my great friend Amber let me use. In case you don't understand buddy passes, it means that I fly stand-by and I can only get on the plane if there are seats available, and if there are seats open then I have to wait for the other stand-by passengers that have higher seniority to get their tickets before I am issued mine. Keep in mind  that I had the lowest seniority of anyone on the list. 

I had come up with a brilliant plan to surprise my family. I told them quite a while ago that I was planning on going to Peru for the last week of my internship and was bound and determined to see Machu Picchu. I booked a flight to Peru and made plans with friends to meet up with to go all together and see the amazing ancient ruins. Well, the plans fell through around the second week in July, it was such sad sad news. The Galapagos and Machu Picchu were the only two things I wanted to do the entire summer and now I was not able to see either.  Since going by myself to Peru was not an option due to safety issues, I never told my parents and instead decided to surprise them 7 days early.  I watched the flights carefully as the 31st of July came near and had two options... 1. I could stay in Ecuador and fly out of Guayaquil, or 2. I could use my ticket from Guayaquil to Peru and fly out of Lima.  The flights leaving Ecuador were filling up fast and were oversold. Whereas the flights out of Lima had some 80 seats available for stand-by passengers. There was no question, Lima was the place to go to get home the fastest.  

We had a big fiesta in each community we worked in to say good-bye, I had my hair done all cute (since I had not done anything but blow dry it all summer), and packed my bags. Time had flown, it was amazing, but I was so excited to go home. I wanted a hot shower, clean floors, a couch and home-cookin' more then anything.

 I flew to Lima and was sure I was going to make it on the midnight flight for Atlanta, they only had 2 flights a day- one at midnight and one at 7 AM that headed to America.  I stood in line with other fellow stand-by passengers and had a nice conversation with a flight attendant from Atlanta who warned me that Peru is one of the hardest places in the world to fly out of because of all of the cargo issues they have. Apparently because of all of the exports from Peru to America, the cargo becomes more precious then the paying passengers. With a plane that had 80 seats open and 12 stand-by passengers ahead of me, I was the only person who did not make it on that night. 

I decided to stay in the aiport because it would be pointless to get a hotel for 4 hours.  I met a girl named Rebecca from Detroit and Petra from Holland who were both my age and staying the night in the airport  cause they had an early morning flight to Cusco where their boyfriends were meeting them. They were so fun and we spend the rest of night sitting in Starbucks talking as the hours flew by. Soon it was time again for check in and I was the first in line at 5 AM.  I was again denied  and the plane went out virtually empty of passengers, yet weighted with cargo. 

In my mind I decided again that it would be dumb to get a hotel because if I were to make the flight at midnight, the room and money would go wasted. The airport was clean, I had free internet and I could just find a corner to sleep in- not bad. I had one problem though, I promised my mom I would call her that day and let her know I was safe. The original plan was not to call her but to be home by that time to surprise her, so I had to make up some believable story and convince her I was safe. I told her I was on the bus and we had just stopped for lunch for a few minutes. I had to keep putting my microphone on mute during the conversation to silence the intercom announcing the arrivals and departures of flights that was just overhead. My mom kept getting frustrated and I just said it was a bad connection which was (luckily)enough to put her at ease.  

Midnight came around again and there was an even larger line of stand-by passengers then before and less seats available- bad news.  The customer service agents knew who I was by then and didn't even ask for a passport to see my name. 2 stand-by passengers made in on that night and no one else. I tried to sleep in the comfy chairs at Starbucks that night, but my nerves were begining to get the best of me and not even 2 hours of snoozing was all my mind would allow. Morning came and guess what? same story. I begged the customer service agent to tell me if there is any possible way I will be able to make it on the midnight flight. She told me I needed get rid of my luggage somehow and then I would have a much greater chance of getting on the plane. I was determined to get rid of my bags in any way possible just so that I could get home. I was exhausted, smelly, my cute hair was now covered in grease and all I wanted was home.

I was in the hallway sitting on the floor trying to google how much it would cost to ship my 50  pound bag home when an airport employee who had talked to me before asked if he could help with anything. He knew I had been there for days and from the tears streaming down my cheeks, he could tell I was frustrated and desperate. I told him I needed to get rid of my bags and I had absolutely no idea how to do so. I asked him if I could do it from the airport and he said no but that he could take me to a place where I could. I can't tell you what a relief it brought to have someone help me. We went to the huge compound just outside of the airport where all of the cargo is handled. We then proceeded to go to every airline and ask how much it would cost to ship my bag. We got every answer from $250 - $900. Once I found the cheapest place I then had to go through 20 pages of paperwork, fingerprints, passport scans, drug-dog sniffing, saran-wrapping and a credit card charge, my bag was finally on its way 5 hours after I had started my shipping search. 

I had to call my mom again, I was making up a big story in my head but after no sleep at all, 2 solid days in an airport and hearing her voice, I broke down. She asked how I was and I could not stop crying. I then explained my situation and everything that had happened. My parents told me to buy a ticket and get home. But after spending so much money on shipping costs,I could not bring myself to buy one because of the hope the customer service agent had instilled in me.  I told them I would try two more times and if they were not successful then I would buy a ticket. Now I knew my mom and dad's nerves were on edge, but it oddly enough seemed to bring so much comfort and take my nerves away. Therefore I was able to take a four hour nap in the hallway, until a man yelled at me for sleeping in that particular spot. 

I met some girls from Seattle at Starbucks that night, who went to BYU. We had a lot of fun talking and they were amazed at my crazy stories. I also met another girl that night from Holland who had crazier stories then I did. The people working in cafe in the airport began to recognize me and gave me my usual seat. The taxi drivers stopped asking if I needed a ride because they knew I would say no. The security wrap guys stopped asking if I wanted my bags wrapped cause they knew I didn't need it... come to find out later that they all had bets going on how long I had been there and how long it would take before I got home, just like Tom Hanks in The Terminal. 

I didn't make it on the midnight flight, nor the 7 AM flight that day, not having bags did not help my chances at all. I was so mad.  I broke down and bought a flight for that night at midnight. It only got me to Ft. Lauderdale FL but thats all I needed. Even just being on American soil was enough joy for me at the time. I could use my buddy pass from Ft. Lauderdale  to Salt Lake then.  I bought my ticket online and sat in Starbucks waiting with excitment... I was FINALLY going home, guaranteed!I met a group of people flying stand-by on Delta as well and told them all of my adventures from the past 3 days. They were stunned and were not looking forward to the trials they had to face. I gave them a list of the best places to sleep, cheapest places to eat and most entertaining times of the day in the Lima airport. 

I was the first person in line for Spirit airlines and when the lady handed me the ticket I started to cry out of pure happiness. It was the most amazing feeling to have a ticket and nothing was going to bring me down from my state of bliss. I walked back up to Starbucks and showed my stand-by passenger friends my ticket to which they stared at in frustration. During my last meal at the Lima Airport Cafe the sweetest couple from Ft. Lauderdale offered me to join them and ended up paying for my meal. We had a wonderful conversation and they were so kind to me. They offered me their home in Florida if I got stuck there and were truly inspiring to me. I showed my servers at the cafe my ticket and they all clapped for me as I told them I was finally leaving.

Going through customs is usually a tedious task, however I could not wipe the grin off of my face as I willingly let the TSA officers search everything of mine, including my person.  I was excstatic to see a whole new part of the airport and wandered the stores until my flight called for boarding. I was finally heading to America after 4 days of living in a land of chaos, confusion, frustration and mostly, foreigners. Nothing could have made me happier at that moment in time. 



Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ketchup...Catsup... Catch up

I realize that I have not written on here for far too long. So much has happened, that it has seemed far too overwhelming of a task. After some talking to my grandma, I decided I would bite the bullet and update everyone on the last few weeks of my life here in Ecuador. It will be a very summarized account, so if you would like to learn more just ask and I will tell it to you because for some reason my vocal chords can last longer talking then my fingers can typing. Alright... here we go...
- Went to the airport with Mark, Susi and Mark's dad to see Mark off to Canada... pretty awkward for me.

-Explored the city of Guayaquil, which is really ugly and pretty all at the same time

-Went back to Montanita and enjoyed the tide pools

-Puerto Lopez is a fishermans village that is the starting point for trips to the "Poor Mans Galapagos"

-Went SCUBA diving in Puerto Lopez. Beautiful reefs and some very unique sea creatures. 

- Back to work in Cuenca for the week

-Went to a huge open aired local market to grab some cheap veggies and got my bag knifed by a 90 year old indigenous woman that is literally two feet shorter then me. Luckily she didn't get anything out because I noticed the giant tug on my bag as she knifed it. Honestly though, the person I would least expect to do something like. Right now, I am probably more mad about my bag being ruined then the fact that she tried to rob me.

-On the weeked, explored Cajas National Park which supposedly has 300 lakes. It is absolutely beautifully cold and somewhat barren besides the lamas wandering around.

-Went to artisan villages surrounding Cuenca which were fun to see but once was enough.

-Kimley flew out on the 23rd so on the 22nd we got to take the day off and hang out with her. So...we met up with Karla and Matt at the mall and sat in the food court for hours hearing all about their adventures and talking all about ours since they had left to travel for 5 weeks.

-I did the biggest load of laundry I have ever done in Ecuador.

- Happy 24th of July!We worked in the communities to celebrate! Sounded like the celebrations in  Utah went well though.

-Emily and I took friday off and slept until noon and then went out for an all-american breakfast of french toast and pancakes. Then we went to Panama Hat factory which was really fascinating. After the tour we sat on the roof of the hat factory for 3 hours talking to a minister from Minnesota who had just gotten done reading Under the Banner of Heaven. We had a bit of explaining to do...it was the richest, most open conversation I have ever had with someone outside of our faith. He said that Emily and I were the most liberal mormons he had ever met- I took it as a compliment. :)

-Today is Sunday which means I only have 4 days left in Ecuador. It is a bitter sweet moment when you realize how little time you have left but you reflect on the time you have spent here. Soon I will be off to new adventures, exploring new countries which I can't wait for.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Chi Chi


I could see my breath this morning when I walked to the store. Yeah, it is that cold. I can't wait for a weekend on the coast to warm me up a bit and before you know it I will be back in the 100 degree weather of Utah. I'm so excited to be warm!

Today was Mark Steve's last day. He is moving to Canada for a month to finish up his schooling. I am so excited for him to be able to live in Canada, work on his english and hopefully get his foot in the door to get his wife and child Canadian citizenship. However,I am so sad that he is leaving us here for a month to work the two people who don't like us. Maria Eugenia does not like us and Priscilla is so fun but she is not as close to us as Mark was. It will be a long few weeks that we have left as far as work is concerned, but we can handle it. 

I am so thankful for people who try their hardest to make others feel comfortable when they are out of their element. Mark introduced us to his family, took us on tours around the city, took the time to talk to me english when I was frustrated with spanish, invited us to go dancing and to his exclusive restaurant opening. It is so nice to work with a person who is not only your boss, but is your friend, someone you can talk to. His wife is wonderful and is 22 years old, so we have a lot of fun talking to her and she can relate. I will miss Mark Steve and am so thankful for the Ecuadorian family comfort he created for me during this internship. 

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My very favorite Sister!

I was told by Cassie, that she hears from me the least of all of her siblings including her brother in Iraq... So I am here to redeem myself. Hopefully this will make up for lost time.

I could never have hand-picked a more perfect woman to be my sister. Ever since I was a little girl, each year I would ask Santa to get me a sister for Christmas, it always seemed to arouse quite a response from the jolly ol' man but it was truly all that I ever wanted. I gave up hope on a sister when I was in high school... thats right... high school. I had survived my brothers all by myself and by the time high school rolled around they were on their missions and I had no need of a partner in crime. Soon it was time for Preston to come home and can I just say, thank heavens for missions! He came home a totally different, much more kind, person and we were best friends, not just bratty sister and mean big brother, but friends. It only took a matter of weeks before he met a girl who changed his world and before I knew it, he was a goner. 

At first I was sad to lose such a great friend (and not to mention-a car to use) so quickly after he came home, especially to a girl only one year older then me. But that feeling didn't last long at all for after a few times of meeting Cassie, I knew we would be the best of friends and she was the perfect fit for a our odd little family. Cassie is the perfect sister that I always dreamt of having. Here is why, she:
- is SO kind
- is the most loving person towards everyone she meets
- has awesome style
-gives the best haircut and color in the world
-is always willing help in time of need
-is always there to lend a listening ear
-has a contagious smile and laugh
-is always up for a good time and tries to make everything fun
-is creative
- is always willing to share her clothes or anything else for that matter
-has given me countless make overs
-is so accepting and open hearted
-is willing to try new things like some of moms cooking :)
-has an incredibly strong testimony which shines through her countenance

Thank you Casandra for looking past my big bro's weird qualities and loving him enough to be with him for eternity because you are the best choice he has made. You have been the perfect addition to our family and I am so thankful for all that you do for me. Here is to you on your big day, I am so blessed to be able to call you sister. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Cuy







Ok I know all of you are dying to know how to make edible guinea pig food bowls so I thought I would share the secrets I learned today... be excited!

Step one: Dump a huge amount of random grains and herbs on the floor of the community chapel

Step two: Make sure to mix up the grains good. ( Bad english I know)

Step three: Add a little bit of cement, thats right cement for the guinea pigs to eat.  

Step four: Mix in a vat of molasses that is about the size of a small volkswagen

Step five: Mix, Mix, Mix

Step six: Using plastic bowls for a mold, smash as much of the goop in the bowls as you possibly can

Step seven: Dump the food out of the mold and let dry 

Enjoy!


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Adoption

For the past week we have been working up in one community everyday teaching classes on guinea pigs. We have been teaching about how to properly care for them, what to do when they are sick, which kinds are most expensive and best tasting, which ones should mate with other ones and worst of all, proper ways to kill and cook them.  Once the villagers have graduated from these classes, we will help them to build a hutch, as well as give them guinea pigs to start their own little business that will hopefully benefit their whole community. 

There is a little boy in the community who is absolutely adorable, his name is Johnny and he is about 4 years old. Kimley and Johnny have become buds and he is for sure her favorite. Kimley was joking around with his parents, saying things like " Oh I could just take him home with me, He is so cute." To which they basically said, completely seriously, "Yeah he is special but...How much do you want to pay for him?" Kimley explained that she was not being serious at all, however, they are still taking he seriously. Ever since that day they have been asking her if they could work out a deal where she takes him home for a few years and pays them monthly... basically renting their child. They asked if she could take more of their children and said they wouldn't mind. Today Johnny was all dressed up with clean clothes, he was washed and was wearing jewelry. It is as if they were trying to make him look better so she will want him more. I can't believe it. I am absolutely in shock at how quickly and easily they would sell their own son for a little bit more money. Who does that? I was thinking that maybe they were saying those things because they want their son to have the opportunities that they may never be able to grant him. However, as time as passed, through their speech and actions you can tell that they are just in it for the money. I cannot imagine being so desperate for money that would you be willing to give up your own child. What a humbling, frustrating situation this has been.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sunday Stroll

Today I wandered the hurried city of Cuenca to enjoy the beautiful weather, amazing architecture, take pictures and enjoy being on my own. I can't believe it, I live in Ecuador. I have grown quite fond of this diverse city and had an absolute adventure discovering new places and revisiting some old favorites. I thought I would share them with you...











Medical Campaign










Yesterday we worked in the communities along side 5 dentists to provide dental care for those who can't travel the distance into town for check ups. It was a wonderful experience. 

We rented a bus that hauled all of us and our supplies up the steep terrain to the community named Yanalpa. When we got there we turned the classroom into a clinic by giving each dentist a desk for the clients to sit on, we had a receptionist that took down their information and we also had a station for writing thank you card to the donors of ASCEND for making it possible for this campaign to happen. We, well I shouldn't say we because I didn't do much of the hard work, the dentists worked solidly for a few hours and were extremely efficent. Before they were allowed to get checked we taught them how to properly brush their teeth and gave them a toothbrush and toothpaste to keep. 

It was absolutely amazing, the dentists were full on giving shots, pulling teeth, scraping out cavities etc. and not once did I see a tear or hear a noise come from anyone including the 30 kids we had come through. You go to an American dental office and inevitably you will hear a child screaming in the back room. Not here, these kids are tough.  Overall, it went very very well and I would love to do more of these medical campaigns even if I can't stay in the room where all of the procedures are going on for more then 10 minutes. Yeah, watching teeth being pulled is not my cup of tea.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Americano

I know this is not the best post for the 4th of July, but it's how I am feeling so here it is.
Although I feel it a priviledge to be an American, I hate the inequality that is associated with such a title. As often as I try to shut it from my mind and act as if it does not happen, I can't help but notice the acts of inequality that surround me daily in Ecuador.
A moment today brought me to tears of frustration and absolute madness. I could not stand the fact that I was riding in the comfort of a heated cab while three women with infants on their backs were riding in the bed of the truck soaked with rain. I wanted to scream when I heard the babies crying from the cold and I attempted to stop the truck. Mark Steve would not let me  and he said in broken english was " It is hard for me too." If it is so hard then why do we allow it? For the rest of the ride I cried with thoughts of being in their position and hoping that someone would give up their seat for me or at least for my child. 

This is just one of the many times I have noticed how terrible my position is in Ecuador. I feel like I am taking a step back in time whenever I ride on the bus. I watch from my seat in the front as all of the indigenous villagers are either passed by on the side of the road or are forced make their way towards the very back. It is not fair, yet I feel as if there is nothing I can do. Im stuck in a world where all I want to do is scream but I'm forced to be silent because of a language and cultural barrier. 

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Kampak Wasi

Last night, Mark Steve invited us to his wife's new restaurant, Kampak Wasi to join in a family feast and watch futbol. The grand opening for the restaurant is tomorrow but they invited us early for a sneak peak. It was so fun and the food was delicious! However, they did think that we were the strangest people they had ever met, we didn't want to eat the meat, or drink the wine, or drink the liqour, and we through a series of conversation they found out that we were all virgins. We ate the meat because they insisted and even though it was very good, it still made us a bit sick. After not having meat for 3 months, it's a little shocker to your stomach when you finally do, in Emily's case, it had been 7 years. The family was all so warm and welcoming and it was nice to be in that setting, it feels as if it has been years since I have had a nice homemade meal with family gathered together. The restaurant is beautiful and will be such a success when it opens. They have incredible taste and business skills so I'm sure it will be booming after tomorrow. They are going to give us one of their serving dishes to remember them by which is so neat, it will be crazy carrying it home but such a fun piece. 

The futbol game was insane! We were down 1 to 3 at the end of the game and went into double overtime somehow and won the game in a shootout! Let's hear it for Ecuadorian Soccer teams!

Today we went into the villages and taught micro-enterprise classes using Cuy (Guinea Pig) as the investment. The classes have been going so well and I'm excited to stop talking about it and actually getting to work. I'm not excited about the outcome for the guinea pigs but it will be nice to have a project that makes you work hard. It was absolutely freezing today, I have been wearing 4 layers and stayed wrapped up in blankets and still can't seem to get warm. I hope this cold spell ends tomorrow, I heard it won't end.  For all of you in 100 degree weather, be thankful, because you could be in my position. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My Famous Family!!

I started it off by being on Ecuadorian news, but my family has taken the cake by being featured on the news as well as on the internet! It was so fun to see my mom and Grandpa Lofgreen tell their American story. It was even more fun to show my co-workers how cool my family is because they were streaming live to our office all the way in Ecuador. 

I heard that my mom will be on the news in Utah too, so keep your eyes open on Friday the 4th of July on Fox 13. 

Go to www.realamericanstories.com, click on "My Story" and watch Launa Costley and Val Lofgreen because those are the best ones:) But I admit- my opinion is a bit biased.

I can't wait to see who is next for our family's 15 minutes of fame. Maybe Cameron will discover a pirates treasure in the caribbean, or dad will be featured on a Saab documentary for putting the most miles on a car in the shortest amount of time. Whoever is next, I know I will be proud to call them family. 

I love you all, enjoy!

Unsolved Mysteries: Ecuador

This program is about unsolved mysteries. The re-enactments and specials effects are actual eyewitness accounts. What you are about to read is not a news broadcast.

Mystery #1: Where did Emily's headset go?
Answer: Hidden under a decorative hat that no one touches, or even notices for that matter.

Mystery #2: What happened to Marianne's 10 dollars?
Answer: Unsolved

Mystery #3: How did Maria Eugenia know exactly where we hid our room keys?
Answer: She dug through all of our food and supplies in the kitchen to find them.

Mystery #4: Why would Maria Eugenia want to have our room keys?
Answer: Unsolved

Mystery #5: Where did Emily's headset go again?
Answer: Hidden in a locked drawer that only certain employees have the keys to. 

Mystery #6: Why were we told to keep our rooms locked at all times?
Answer: Slowly I am begining to realize why...

Next time on unsolved mysteries, we will look into the lives of 3 young interns living in Cuenca Ecuador who have been linked to this particular case. 

Sunday, June 29, 2008

How Great thou Art!

O Lord my God,  When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all, the worlds thy hands have made; 
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
and see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration
and then proclaim "My God, How great thou art!"

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Spa Day

Steam box exfoliation treatment - $4

1 Hour Massage- $15

Taxi ride- $2.50

Being warm for once and relaxing to the fullest extent- Priceless.


Today we stayed in and worked all day with Maria Eugenia- how is that for a fun Saturday? Well it was freezing cold and raining so it really was not much of a sacrifice. Kimley and I decided to keep our lazy weekend very lazy so we set up spa appointments with one of our co-workers cousins. 

First, she had us get into swimsuits and sit in these big wooden boxes, I was for sure skeptical- looked more like torture device to me. It is hard to describe but I will do my best to paint the picture in your mind. So the box opens up and inside is this little stool that you sit on and then they close the box around you so only your head is exposed. She handed me some exfoliation oil to smother myself in while in my treatment. When you are inside, the box fills with steam and the scent of Eucalyptus and you stay in there for a half an hour. Basically, it is your own personal steam room, but I can't imagine how strange it looks. It was nice and I think I lost about 20 pounds of water weight. Sick.

Second, I was looking so forward to my 1 hour massage, but too bad it was more of a rub down. She did some reflexology on my hands and feet, but everything else was like a back rub you get during sacrament meeting.  I feel asleep and it really did feel very nice, but it did nothing for my knots. Kimley passed by so I asked her to tell the massage therapist, Anita, to give a deeper massage, I had no idea that Kimley was passing by to go pass out in the bathroom.  

We have discovered that Kimley is allergic to heat and after the hot box and she went to hang out in the jetted bath tub it was not a good idea.  She passed by as  she went running towards the bathroom- so quickly that her towel totally fell off. Anita followed her into the bathroom, where she was throwing up totally naked, so she rubbed her back while she was sick- can you say akward?  So funny, sad, but funny. Anita kept trying to give her tablespoons of sugar saying that it would make her better  but it only made her more sick. In the meantime, I am just totally zonked out on the massage table having no clue as to anything that is happening. After Anita came back and finished the massage I found Kimley just lounging around in her towel seeming totally fine.Luckily after she got everything out of her she was feeling better,  I had no idea about most of this until I got home and she told me the story. Just goes to show how relaxed I was. What would a day be here without an adventure, even a day meant for nothing but laziness?  

Friday, June 27, 2008

New additions to my love list...

I am a lover of fruits. If I had to choose one food group to eat for the rest of my life, fruits would be it. I love how cheap fruit is here in Ecuador. Last night I bought a huge fresh fruit salad with every fruit you can imagine in it for only 2 dollars. Heaven. New favorites: White pineapple and Coconut

I love the new Coldplay album. It is beautiful. If I had to listen to one band for the rest of my life, it would be Coldplay.

I love warm weather. It is begining to get warmer here in Cuenca and I am seem to be a happier person because of it. They told us it would get warmer in July and they were surely right.

I love Chilcapamba. It is my favorite community that we work in. Although it is not necessarily the most impoverished, they still have basic needs that we are trying to meet. The children are so excited to learn which makes me excited to see their beautiful faces.

I love working in the dirt. I can't wait to start gardening  and really getting my hands dirty.

I love sleep. Something that I have not had much of lately, but I plan to rest up, to create a lazy weekend. I was considering going  back to Montanita with Emily but for some reason, traveling does not sound as good as sleep- sad I know. Don't you worry, not every weekend will be this boring.

I love the people I work with. Although Maria Eugenia does not speak any English, we manage to get along alright. Her radio in the morning drives me crazy, and when she talks to me in extremely fast spanish assuming I understand gets frustrating, it's all good. Mark Steve is so kind and is like an older brother figure for me. He is sweet and very protective of us girls. Prisilla is so beautiful and is such a great example of never-ending charity. She works two jobs, both of which are centered around improving the lives of others. Everyone in the communities love her and there is no doubt as to why.

I love taking pictures. I have never had so much fun taking pictures, all thanks to my sweet new camera that I got before I came here.

I love Skype.I love being able to talk to my family and friends any time that I want. 

I love cleaning. I know- crazy huh? But really, I took everything out of my room yesterday, scrubbed the floors, washed all of my bedding, dusted and straightened everything up and had a blast doing it. I just love when it is all done and I can walk into my room that now has a clean scent, walk barefoot on my scrubbed floors and snuggle up in my clean sheets. It is just such a good feeling.

I love cooking. Since living in Ecuador I have had so much fun cooking and trying new, random foods. All of which are healthy, I know, even more crazy. At home, all I knew how to cook was sweets because I sure knew how to use an oven. In Cuenca we don't even have an oven so I have had to learn how a stove works for foods other then Mac N Cheese and Grilled Cheeses.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Viva la Liga!!

We watched the championship soccer game for all of South America and Ecuador won!!  It was so fun to watch surrounded by Ecuadorians and having gained that Liga pride since having lived here. It was incredible to see how passionate these people are about their soccer. I loved it. It made it my favorite soccer game I have ever watched.  

English Classes

We have set up a program within all of the villages we work, to teach english classes to the children. It is incredible to see how eager they are to learn something that I too often take for granted. It is as if they are taught by their parents that if they learn english then they will be able to do anything and have anything they want in life. The adults are also very eager to learn which is so wonderful that they would have confidence to go back to school. It is so funny that we have so many other courses to offer them, as well as projects that we could accomplish in their villages such as irrigation systems, health classes, gardening etc. However the most important program for them is to learn english while the Americans are in town. 

The children are so fun and so responsive. Today we taught the ABC's, colors and every villages favorite- Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. It has been such a good learning experience for me because I knew very few of these simple words and phrases in Spanish. I am not teaching the children, the children are teaching me. The funny part is, they know it so they giggle at me the majority of the time.  We have set up a reward system which makes the children want to answer the questions even more.  We made fake money which they can use at the end of the program to buy the treats we brought from America.  I am so excited to see the progression of their learning throughout the next 4 weeks. Wow, only 4 weeks left. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Braveheart

I am feeling brave. I have walked around the city all by myself three times now and am starting to get the hang of it. I really enjoy being by myself with only my thoughts to keep me company. Although I cannot get completely consumed in my thoughts for fear of not being on my guard, it still nice to think, even if it's just a little bit. It is amazing how strange it feels when you are always with someone whenever you leave the house, to not having someone with you. I love that feeling though. I love being alone and, honestly, it's nice to be a little selfish sometimes.

Last night I wandered the streets, window shopping, breathing in the cool night air and feeling the rain mist away my confusion. During my night time self discovery, I discovered some shops with just what I needed for a little pick me up- dresses. ha, I honestly hate spending money on clothes, and food. I just think that with that money I could pay for a flight somewhere, or it could pay for gas on a roadtrip.  Since I have been in Ecuador, the majority of my money has gone to food, because eating out is just so much fun and inexpensive.I have never been on a shopping spree and don't usually like shopping by myself, but for some reason last night I went out of comfort zone and spend way more on a dress then a should have, but, strangely, had a blast doing it.  Afterwards, I treated myself to grilled cheese and an ice cream sundae. I am changing. I just hope these habits don't keep up when I get home, otherwise,  I will be broke.

Today I walked around the city during my two hour siesta and just enjoyed the sites, sounds and beauty of thus bustling city. It is amazing how much there is to discover in one city, I have lived here for two months and I feel like I only know one part of town and the rest is a complete mystery.  Living in Utah my whole life, I have never felt that way, I feel like I can go to any city on the Wasatch front and be able to find exactly what I am looking for.  In Cuenca, I feel like one of those experimental rats that has to find it's way through a maze. Around every corner there is something new to discover. I thrive on this new element of surprise in my life. 

Speaking of elements of surprise: The woman who set up our trip the Galapagos said that all of the plane tickets are sold out so now we are on a waiting a list that probably won't thin out. Surprise! Thats a bummer. Well I sure hope my Manchu Picchu trip does not fall through as well.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Middle Man Syndrom

So I am at this stage in my internship where I have passed the "Honeymoon stage"  which is where everything is new and exciting  and am not quite to the "Homeward Bound stage." It's tough being in the middle. I am really so happy to be here and love the work, the people, the culture, I love everything here, but somehow as I sit and eat my grilled PB&J, I can't help but think of how much I miss home. So here I am, a sappy homesick person that I never thought I would be... after all, it's only 3 months, not 2 whole years.  I am going to vent for a little while and hopefully that way it will be enough to help me move on and finish this last half with a bang.
I miss:
-my family
-my friends
-bare feet
-boating
-mom's cookies
-a couch to sit on
-movies to watch while sitting on the couch
-my big fluffy clean bed
-being clean
-having a clean house with clean floors
-a bathtub
-hot water
-being able to drink water straight from the tap
-fresh milk
-Great Harvest bread
-an oven
-English
-warm summer days/nights
-air conditioning
-swimming pools
-campfires
-hiking
-longboarding
-rock climbing
-Late night chats
-Special K Vanilla Almond Cereal
-being able to walk around at night feeling totally safe
-sunsets
-the wasatch mountains
-my backyard
-family reunion
-24 hour Grocery stores
- a car to drive so I don't have to pay for taxis
- feeling safe
-understanding what people are saying
-Grandma's cookin'
-Watching my dad talk to himself
-Salt Lake in the summer
-The orange bag of skittles
-the 4th and 24th of July
-Circus animals cookies
-Cucina and Sages Cafe
-Understanding church lessons
-E.L. Fudges
- Cake batter shakes
-Maren and Lindsey
-The sound of lawn mowers outside my window on saturday mornings
-the sound of sprinklers
-Husking corn on the back patio
- Star
-having nothing to do
-3 generational shopping sprees
-Cassie and her amazing hair cutting skills
-Drive-ins
-being able to talk to people without it costing me 5 cents a minute
-Everything

Well how was that for sadness. I really feel much better now. Thank you for listening to me, but please don't worry, I am cured now and will be ready for the next wild ride of a month!  

Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer Solstice

So I am now half way through my internship and summer decided to have a party for me! Although living near the equator nothing changes, the sun still rises at 6 and sets at 6, it is nice to know that my friends and family back home can celebrate for me with sunshine late into the night. 

This week we have been working in the communities teaching english the children and gardening. It has been fun, but it does get hard at times when you are trying to communicate with people and they don't understand a word you are saying even though you are trying your hardest to get the point across. I had a few meltdowns this week, and am missing home like crazy. However, I love it here, and can't believe how fast it has gone. I can't wait for this second half because if it is anything the like the first half it will be a blast. I will of course still keep you updated, whether you like it or not...or more likely, whether you are bored to death or not.

Happy Longest Day of the Year everyone! Party until the sun goes down for me! 

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Montanita





So since all 5 of us girls were together, we decided to pack our bags and take time for some fun in the sun. We left at 4:00 AM on Saturday morning for Guayaquil with an American couple, Matt and Carla. Apparently the doctor gave me the equivilent of Loritab for a pain killer, I had no idea, I just took them not knowing anything. Stupid. He also told me that I had no need to take the pills with food. I don't do well with pain killer, especially strong stuff, so needless to say, I was extremely sick. There was no way I was going to let it stop my date with the ocean. I was so nervous about the 4 hour bus ride that was ahead of me and asked Matt to give me a blessing. It was such a terrible situation to be a on this bus, with crazy spanish music and people talking, but the Lord was there with us and brought so much comfort.  

Emily, Kimley, Matt, Carla and I went to the temple in Guayaquil while Ashlie and Marianne kept on going to Montanita to scout it out for us as well as to enjoy an extra half day on the beach. The temple was incredible. It is huge and the facilities around it are beautiful. They have an entire apartment complex/hotel for anyone traveling a far distance. Emily forgot her recommend, but after the temple president made a few calls, we were given a green light. The baptistry was packed! I was so humbled by the dedication of these people who traveled long distances to be there.  I loved hearing the ordinances performed in spanish, it is such a beautiful language.

Kimley, Emily and I headed straight for the bus terminal after the temple and found out that the last bus had left to Montanita 20 minutes before we got there. We had no idea that there were so few buses that traveled there. They did, however, offer us an alternative route where we would have to switch buses half way through, we took it and were on our way within 10 minutes. We had successfully gotten off of one bus and on to the one to Montanita which was standing room only,when we were pulled over by the cops. They said there were too many people standing to be safe so they made all of us that were standing get off of the bus in the middle of nowhere.  Luckily there were enough furious people to convince the cop to let us back on the bus... however.... the only way we could get back on was if we sat on the floor. We all eventually stood back up and were finally on our way.

Montanita  is home to Ecuador's best surfing. Lets just say that I know I was meant to be born in a tropical climate therefore it was like heaven to me. It is this small little surfer town where the phrase "no shirt, no shoes, no service" is nowhere to be found.  Although the drugs and booze were too abundant at times, the scenery was breathtaking.We found this amazing hostal right on the beach and far enough from town to be quiet at night. The only problem with this hostal was the giant spiders infesting it! No joke, I have never seen spiders so big and all of us were scared out of our minds to even try to sleep there. We found the manager to have him come investigate and when the spider would not die because it was mutant he upgraded us to his house. Thats right, we had the entire upstairs of his beach mansion all to ourselves.  We always seem to get some sweet hook ups from hotel managers every time we travel. There was a gazebo right by the beach with hammocks, cushions and a TV, so every night we would end up falling asleep to a movie and not use our sweet beach house, oh well, it was hardly a sacrifice.

We spent the next three days laying on the beach, swimming,surfing, exploring tide pools, bargaining with vendors, making friends with locals, lathering up in aloe and stuffing ourselves with incredible vegetarian meals, topped off with fresh coconut ice cream. Can life get much better?  Swimming in giant waves is such a fun, exhilerating experience. 

Thoughts: The ocean is so powerful and overwhelming to me. It is so beautiful to relax and let her take you away, tossing you in the waves and then washing you on her shore. The ocean has always held my heart, it is a place where I can feel totally comfortable. It is like home to me when I am far from home.
The moon was almost full and illuminated our nights which is another part of our world that stops me in my tracks in awe.  The moon is the only tangible thing that has any control over the ocean. How would it be to have that kind of power? Since our bodies are made up of a lot water, I wonder what kind of movements it makes within me. Maybe that is why I am so drawn to it.

I was in no way ready to come back to cold, rainy Cuenca but... duty calls. I can't wait for the day when I will live on the beach and be able to combine the two for a perfect life.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Daddy-O

To my dear ol' Daddy-o.... 
Thank you for being my support, my traveling buddy, a listening ear whenever I need one, for being the kind of man that I want in a husband someday, but mostly, for being my best friend. I love you. Happy Fathers Day!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

An apple a day... and bug spray





My mutant bug bites never stopped swelling and hurting, even after I pumped my body full of anti-histamines. I showed one of my co-workers last night how swollen then were and he said " Oh, well we should get you some anti-itch cream." So with that reaction I thought things like this happen all of the time. This afternoon, I showed another co-worker because the bites were just as bad and she freaked out... which of course, freaked me out. She took me to the hospital immediately and in a not so good, round about way, basically told me I could die from these bites. I started to get more and more nervous as we inched toward to the convent/hospital. First of all, I hate hospitals, sorry to all of you that love them, but any time I am in one, I usually pass out or just get dizzy enough to have to sit as close to the ground as possible. When we got there, I handed the nurse my ID card and my credit card because I knew it would cost more then I had in cash. After she created my record she gave me my bill... for SEVEN dollars! I took my card back and handed her cash which did not help my nerves. What kind of a hospital charges only 7 dollars? Thoughts started running through my head about them just cutting my foot off because it was swollen so big, or Kimley misinterperting something and having them take me to a dirty back room somewhere where they performed an operation. Yeah...maybe freaking out is an under exaggeration. 

They took me into a room filled with nuns that only spoke spanish and told me to sit in a chair. When I did, five of them came at me at once all saying things at once as well... it was a nightmare. Can you imagine being surrounded by nuns with random tools in their hands, all speaking to you in a language you don't understand and then using those tools on you at once? I handled the situation by crying, they thought I was weird. Kimley told them I was nervous, but really, I was scared out of my mind.

Finally I was free of the numberless nuns and walked into a room where I was greeted with somewhat broken english "Hello! Where are you from?"  I replied with, " Oh great! you speak english, I am from Utah." he then said  " Wonderful! I lived there for ten years, because I am a mormon. Anyway,I will be your doctor today." My nerves were immediately calmed as I thought back to the prayer I had said before I entered the hospital where I asked for help from the priesthood. I had in mind of a blessing from someone in the ward, but it came in a totally different form. The Lord truly had blessed me with one of his many tender mercies.  What are the chances? It was truly a miracle. 

Turns out they were ant bites, it is nothing terrible, but I do have a very allergic reaction. It was so bad, the doctor thought that I had badly sprained my ankle because it was so swollen. He wanted to give me a shot, which is when I got nervous again. For all of you who don't already know, I am deathly afraid of needles. I can't even get my ears pierced because I am so afraid of poking something sharp through my skin. I usually pass out whenever a needle is within eyesight, even if it's not for me. Strange- I know. The doctor even said " You are 20 years old and you are afraid of a little poke?"  to which a replied proudly, "Yes, Yes I am."  Luckily I weaseled my way out of it and he gave some pills to take. So now, I am not to eat anything sugary or processed for two days, soak all my bites in herbal tea, and take pills for the next 10 days. 

My pledge: I promise I will never sit in grass in Ecuador without bug spray on, or better yet, never leave the house.... HA! Like that is going to happen. Until next time...

Time for a lil' R&R



Carlos, our manager, decided that all day Wednesday should be for celebration after a long month of work. He took us up to this resort/ hotel at the base of Mount Chimborazo and we spent the day playing soccer, basketball, swimming and basking in the beauty of the incredible views. Carlos had arranged an incredible dinner for us, served on china, with crystal and white cloth napkins to add to the ambiance. It was wonderful and so nice to relax.

While we were playing outside in the warm sun, little did I know that I was being attacked by a blood-sucking bug that I am allergic to. I have never had an allergic reaction to a bug bit before and I pray that it never happens again. Huge rashed formed around each of the many many bites, and then after the rash set in, each bite began to swell. Unfortunatly, they are still swollen and won't stop hurting. The day was still wonderful, but now I hope I don't swell up like Byanca in Willey Wonka.

We headed back to Cuenca last night and the Riobamba girls came with us. It is so much fun to be all together. We will have a great few days here and then for weekend, we are off to the sun, sand and surf of Montanita.

Lights, Camera... Action!



The big day has arrived! After months and months of preperation, the hard work was paid off on Tuesday! The day went by slowly as we anxiously awaited that night when we could finally see what we had been working on since our arrival in Ecuador. Our nerves were going crazy, as we hoped that the theater would be full and not empty. We only had sold 200 tickets and the theater seats 600. When it was time to see the show, we shined up our shoes and put our best dresses on, which brought comments from our co-workers such as " Wow, you clean up well." or " This is a change." I had no idea that I looked so bad all of the time.

When we had to delay the show for a half an hour because there were people outside that were still waiting to get in, calmed my nerves. Needless to say, it was a full house. How exciting! It must have been such a boost for kids to see how many people had come to see them. It was sure a boost for me,it gave me hope for a community I had lost faith in. The show was incredible. The costumes, the lights, the music, the coreography was so much fun. The children did so well and you could tell they were loving every minute of it. I cannot describe in words the wonderful spirit that was felt there. It was truly inspiring.

We helped clean up and load things into the car which made the after party not come soon enough.We all went out to eat at 11:00 at night and I had the best sandwhich of my life. It could partly be because I was starving, but I would like to think that it was because it was that good. I was full, comfortable and exhausted so I decided not to go to the kareoke bar after dinner but just went home.

This is when the after show started... at 1 AM there was a knock on the door, then another, then a pounding, more pounding, louder and louder. It scared me so badly. Come to find out, it was the lady from downstairs saying that we were too loud. It was insane how scary she was, we didn't open the door because we honestly would have put our lives at risk. She kept pounding the door as she was yelling through it and I guarantee she woke everyone in the apartment complex with how loud she was. She was way out of line and control. Come to find out later, that she hates Americans and her sister used to work for Ascend but got fired so now she is extremely bitter and will use anything to get us kicked out of the apartment and out of the country. It is so discouraging sometimes, when there are so many people that don't want us here, yet we are here to serve them and better their communities. Well, hopefully the girls in Riobamba won't get kicked out, but then again, it may be a move in the right direction.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Malabar

The American way of sweet ticket selling tactics in Ecuador...

Hanging gigantic posters throughout the city...
Speaking a language that no one understands on the morning and evening news...
We tried to hire this man, but he said his work was strictly solo, however, he did give us some good advice.Thats right, we took advice from an old man, dressed as a bug. (He even had wings!) What can I say, desperate needs call for desperate measures....

The only success we had- Face painting, all thanks to Ashlie's artistic skills...
We even learned new talents to try and sell tickets-Juggling. It drew a large crowd around our colorful tent, but only because we looked liked idots. 

As incredible and innovative our attempts at selling tickets have been, they are still not good enough. Well... it looks like Emily will have to start her kissing booth and I will be in charge of the bikini car wash- if that does not work then, goodness, what else will? 100 tickets down, 700 more to go by Tuesday.



Friday, June 6, 2008

15 Minutes of Fame

Thats right everyone, I am now famous in Riobamba. I am basically the Ecuadorian version of Barbara Walters. They have engraved my name in the hall of fame and tomorrow they are pouring the wet cement to have a ceremony while I leave my handprints, surrounded by a star, permanently in their sidewalk. The plaque underneath the handprints will read.." Christyn Costley- The only girl who came from America that was featured on the news and spoke no spanish and had no clue what was going on."

Ok well, maybe it is not that grand, but it was a big deal to me. I was on the evening news with Carlos, my manager. We went on the news to promote the play that the children with disabilities are performing in. I had a whole two speaking parts!
Speaking part #1:
Anchor:Christine, what made you want to come all the way from America to help these children with disabilities?
Me: Los Siento, Me habla espanol muy muy pocquito. ( I'm sorry, I speak spanish very very little)
Then I switched to english with a very very red face and said-
I have been blessed with opportunities in the United States that I feel the need to share with others and hopefully give them the same opportunities granted to me. bla bla bla

Speaking part #2:
Anchor: Christine, Would you like to say anything else and invite people to come to the show?
What I should have said:
This play will not only be incredibly fun and enrich your life, but it will help to enrich the lives of the children in the school, as well as help to build a new kitchen in the community in need. The 5 dollars may seem like a lot of money but think of how much it will effect the community that surrounds you.
What I actually said with an even brighter red face: Yes, Everyone please come!

So maybe I was not quite as smooth as Barbara, and it was not really my ideal first taste of fame, but hey, you have to start somewhere right? Hollywood here I come!!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

To my OLD big bro

Happy 40th.... no uh.... 32nd.... um wait.... 25th?.... Birthday! Whatever birthday it is does not matter because as hard as the years are to count, the countless amazing memories I have shared with you mean much more to me. 
Thank you for:
- always being there for me even through my "bratty little sister" stage (I know, I know- I'm still in that stage).
-letting me come DJ with you because I always felt cool doing that
-not letting me be a girly girl
-taking me for rides on the Express
-raking the leaves into a big pile for my friends and I to jump into
-locking me in my room ( I would never have learned how to pick a lock)
-giving me rides everywhere
-showing me what Tiger Esteem  is really supposed to be.
-teaching me about cars
-saving me when the electricity went out and taking me up to Will's house
-making all of the movies and slideshows for me throughout the years
-hangin' with me in Europe
-letting me borrow your car all of the time
-being there when I need to vent
-sitting around with me when I had a bum leg
-being active in the church and always choosing the right path
-having good friends 
-going on a mission
-getting married in the temple
-always showing strength through your testimony and devotion to the Savior
- loving me through and through
Well hold on tight bro, because we have eternity together and in that time, there are plenty more memories to be made! I love you! 

Catch up

 There is school in Riobamba that is just for children with disabilities.  The school decided to they wanted to put on a circus/play for the community, therefore, while they are busy practicing away, we are taking care of all of the advertising, sponsorship, ticket selling, etc.  We have no debt yet, all of the donations we have received have been able to cover the cost of all of the supplies, printing, costumes, stage equipment and location costs. Everything that we make from ticket sales and the raffle will be straight profit.  Half of the money earned will go towards the school and half will go towards a project of building a new community kitchen, that we are undertaking in the villages. Hopefully it will be a full house so that we are able to earn all of the money we need.

This week we have been waking at dawn and working til dark,  hanging over 500 posters in store-front windows, going on radio talk shows and TV morning shows, we have been going to schools and university advertising, we have been selling tickets and all the while trying to land more donations. As much as I don't like waking up early,  it is nice to really have projects to do each day- it's never boring around here. I can't wait to see the play, we have been out to the school to watch the practices and the children are so incredibly amazing.  I am so humbled by them and their happy energy that they exude after long days of practicing.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Room with a view


Today the bus ride to Riobamba was breathtaking. It was stinky and long, but the views made the whole ride worth it.

You would think that after a 6 hour bus ride we would be anxiously awaiting the stop for Riobamba, which we were, we just were not sure where it was. Well... we missed it. Once we realized we were heading the wrong direction and were far past Riobamba we asked the driver to let us off. Here we are, three blondes with backpacks, in pajama-type clothes, walking along the highway in the middle of nowhere. There were no stores around, no streets, no cities, just cars passing by. It would be like three elephants walking along that stretch of I-15 between Nephi and Fillmore. Random. Thats right, we are just about as weird looking to them as an elephant would be to us.We were able to hail a cab but when we got inside we forgot the address of the apartment. We had to have him take us to the nearby Ford dealership because that was the only thing we could remember that was close. Whatever works- right? 

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Pancakes

Nothing is better then watching a classic american sit-com, talking in English and eating pancakes with peanut butter and homemade syrup. We met a couple from Salt Lake that came to Ecuador to live and they were so kind to share their Americano meal with us.

I met the Guayaquil Temple president (President Marriot) and found out that he went to Weber College and was the Student body president in '57. He said he knew my Grandpa Lofgreen- small world. 

I'm off to Riobamba for the next week and a half.

Thank you

Thank you:
-To the people outside my window right now who decided to play their music so loud that I can hear it through earplugs and headphones, with the volume turned up. Otherwise, I probably would not write this list at 5 AM. ( I promise the time on the bottom of this is wrong)

-To my house mates who decided to follow my example and sleep until noon today.

- To the person who invented the washing machine.

- To the sunshine for actually gracing us with your presence because you warmed me while I walked today.

- To the people who overprice trips to the Galapagos, which gives me motivation to find the best deal ever.

- To the little boy who decided to bargain with me and give me a poncho for 3/4 off of his asking price.

- To the people who created the Cocoa y Canella Cafe. 

- To the person who worked in the Cocoa y Canella Cafe and made the best chocolate fondue and Cinnamon Chocolate milkshake I have ever tasted.

- To the American couple we met at stake conference who have black-market editions of The Office and will let us watch them tomorrow while eating pancakes.

-To the people at Cafecito for letting us eat and talk there for hours.

-The man who invented the cheap electric shower head that died a sudden death of smoke and purple lightning bolts. It was shocking to all. This will be the third shower head we have broken in three weeks. The freezing cold shower seemed to make everything warmer tonight. 

- And finally, to the city of Cuenca for not having noise ordinances, or a police force that cares, because I will probably get a lot more done tonight.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Chicken Soup for the Crazy Soul


Vegetarian is not even word in the Ecuadorian dictionary. The people here have never heard of such a thing and quite shocked and confused by the concept. Yet, they think us "gringas" (americans) are crazy for not wanting to eat Cuy (Guinea Pig) or Perro (dog). We respond with " We don't eat our pets." 

Today we went to a community we have never worked with before and they were so excited  and so appreciative to have us there. They made us lunch to show their gratitude and I was worried that it would be cooked guinea pig because that is their delicacy. They told us it was chicken and that we could pick it out of we wanted to, which was so kind of them.  I thought I could handle chicken until they brought out the first course. It was soup... chicken foot and throat soup!  When I took the foot out of my bowl I was so disturbed that I had a hard time trying to eat the left-over broth. Worst part: Watching my co-workers eat it clean off the bone. 

The people were so kind to offer us such an amazing meal but I honestly could not come to grips with the fact that there were feet and a throat in my soup bowl. 

Luckily the dessert was an incredible vanilla cake with whipped cream and fruit topping. I ate two pieces to make up for not eating the soup:)


Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Hard Day's Night

Yesterday was a wonderful day. We were able to go into the villages and I was actually able to help. We taught the school children the alphabet, colors and numbers in english. They were so anxious to learn and so happy when they would get the pronunciation right. I loved being able to somewhat communicate with them.  We also taught the women how to properly wash their hands, brush their teeth and then after I painted their finger nails. It's amazing how much I take for granted. I never would have thought to be thankful for proper teeth brushing instructions.

After a long day of work and long night of painting the town, I was so ready for a luke-warm shower and a cozy bed. However, it is somewhat difficult to crawl into my cozy bed when I have locked myself out of my room with the key inside. Do you ever have moments when you are looking so forward to something and that something does not happen?Whenever that happens, I feel as if nothing could ever compensate for that something lost. This is so selfish of me but although my roommates were so kind and let me borrow PJs, and half of a twin bed, it was still not good enough. Today, I was rescued by my boss with a spare key. Hopefully this lesson will only be learned once.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Universal language of music

I joined the ward choir. It was so fun to attempt to sing in Spanish. The choir members have so much enthusiasm for singing together. Although it was not technically on key, the spirit mixed with their happiness made the harmonies blend and melody ring perfectly throughout the night. I hope I can keep up the enthusiasm I feel when I sing here and take it home with me.

Sunrise:Sunset

My apartment in Salt Lake had floor to ceiling windows covering the west side of the house. My favorite part of the day was dusk, when I could lay on my bed and watch as God painted the skies with shades of red,orange, pink and purple. It is a beautifully, magical time. It has been weeks since I have seen the sun rise or set. I find myself longing for a chance to capture those moments in Ecuador. Living in the center of the city is not worth it to me if I can't see my nightly picture painting.  

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Love Love Love

My two best friends are now officially engaged to their Prince Charmings. I am overwhelmed with gratitude as I reflect on the 17 years of memories we have been able to share. The memories are endless from selling rocks, to playing Harriet the Spy on our neighbors, from learning times tables to learning to drive, from planning our next club house to planning high school dances. As time has passed, I have found my love for these girls growing deeper and unbreakable through tough times and the best times. Now as we are getting older, our bonds of friendship have progressed into bonds of sistership. They both found incredible men to share their lives with, which adds to the excitement of what the future will hold. I am so thankful for their examples; I have always looked up to them and I know I will only continue in amazement by the incredible lives they will lead. So here is to your future Maren and Lindsey, I love you and am excited with thoughts of seeing you and your family grow. 

P.S. Please don't forget your single sister once you live with your best friend :) 

Iglesia

There are five wards in Cuenca. Incredible. In the ward we went to today, the chapel was filled to capacity. I was amazed. Although it was hard for me to follow and comprehend what was going on, it was still so great to know that I could understand the sacrament prayers and the songs. I love how that church is the same across the globe. No matter where you go, there are things you can count on by being a member of the church.


Festival of Sugar!

I have found that Latinos are always up for a party, they will try to find any excuse to light some fireworks and block off the streets for a parade. This week the celebration was for Corpus Cristi which somehow brought everyone together to eat sweets. The streets were lined with booths, much like the Park City Arts Festival, however, instead of being art and handicrafts, the booths were filled with all types of sugary deliciousness. There were doughnuts, cakes, cookies, candy, chocolate, fruit... lets just say, when I create my own world, it will be exactly like that-minus the flies and dirt.  I can't wait to see what other types of celebrations unfold this summer, it will be pretty hard to top this one.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gardening

Yesterday we went into the villages and worked in the garden of a women who can't figure out why her vegetables wont grow. We pulled weeds, tilled the soil, transfered and re-planted the vegetables. It was nice to be working in the garden, diggin' in the dirt-reminded me of home. 

Last night, we went to buy a space heater because we have not been warm since we got here. The only thing we could find was a radiator and it was too expensive:( I guess for now we will just have to be cold. However, while we were there we did get a new electric shower head so hopefully we can have warm showers! yeah!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cafe Eucalyptus

Tonight we took a risk and left the boundaries of our compound after dark. We found a diamond in the rough of the city. We went to the Eucalyptus cafe which had amazing "tourist friendly" food and they had a live band playing. We made reservations and since we were Americans they set us a special table and took such amazing care of us. It was the first time I had a salad since being here.... its incredible how much better things are when they are taken away from you. I can't wait for the chance to fully enjoy a hot shower, bare feet, a hot meal and walking around alone at night. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cuenca!

After a 6 hour, stinky bus ride we made it to Cuenca. It is a beautiful town that has a European feel to it. Cobble stone streets, amazing architecture and a church on every corner. We have a little cottage house in the middle of the ghetto. We are surrounded by apartment buildings but we have a house, with a little front yard, garden and front porch. Its nice to have green grass in midst of this cement jungle. 

Today we went to two villages. Each of the villages had their children put on a program for us. There was just 5 of us and each child got all dressed up in native costume and each grade performed a song or dance for us. It was so humbling to see all of work that was put in just to welcome us. They are so grateful and I know I will learn from their example. It made me so excited to work with them to see how excited they are to work with us. I am so impressed with how important education is to the indigenous people.

We played games with the children and had the best time. Who knew that Red Rover would be such a hit. Life is beautiful.

We taught the village women how to cook chocolate chip cookies, only we didn't have a recipe, a normal stove, and we forgot the whole altitude difference. Nonetheless, they were a hit even if they didn't rise. Lets here it for only knowing how to cook desserts but still not quite knowing how to cook all around.

Tonight we saw Indiana Jones before it even came out in Utah. Lets just say, it was fun to see an american movie in english, eat popcorn and drink sprite, (total $5) but if I were in the states I would have been disappointed to have paid for it. Aliens and Indy do not mix.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Poster Child of Hospitality

This weekend we took a trip to a beautiful town at the base of an active volcano called Banos (translation:bathroom). Because we went down in elevation the mountains surrounding this town were breathtaking because of their immense power they proclaimed as they towered over us. This weekend was filled with so many adventures and I hope that I can protray them well enough.Here we go...

Adventure #1 Horseback riding on a wild mustang to an incredible waterfall. When I said wild, I meant it. I had the fastest horse and when it wanted to go home it took off, I was running through the city streets on this beautiful horse with this look of HELP in my eyes. The horse would not stop, which made it scary but at the same time the funnest rush ever. I felt like Ms.Rodeo Utah barrel racing-only the barrels where small children, cars and buildings. Finally I got it to stop enough for me to get off and walk to the street where I gave the horse a good talkin' to and met up with the rest of the group.

Adventure #2 Going to the Banos, not the bathroom, the hot springs created by the active volcano surrounding the city. Just imagine, soaking in a hot springs at the base of this beautiful waterfall cascading directly above you- now imagine being there in a "standing room only" setting, with you and 300 of your closest friends. Aparaently that is where the party is.

Adventure #3 Randomly meeting our hotel manager and his family. His name was Oswaldo and he was the most incredibly kind and hospitable stranger I have ever met . I cannot believe everything he did for us. He drove us Jurassic Park style 900 feet from the mouth of an active volcano-he claimed it was the most dangerous part of Ecuador. It was the most beauitfully terrifying experience. The sounds the volcano emitted, created the most intense energy, that consumes you when you come so close to something so powerful.

Adventure #4 Getting back to the hotel and finding out that there is no electricity and water. 

Adventure #5  Flying over a raging river, strapped in a rock climbing harness, connected to a zipline. 

Adventure #6 4-wheeling through the Andes and passing 15 waterfalls, one of which we zip lined over as well. 

Oh what a weekend!