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.


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 :) 


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


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


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!

Girls night out... and Carlos

On Friday, the five of us girls decided to go latin dancing. Carlos, our manager/latin father figure and was concerned for our safety so he and his sweet wife came with us. They are such a wonderful couple and its a plus that they are the most popular couple in town, so we got in for free. The dancing was fun and they even gave us gringas free t-shirts promoting plastic surgery....hmmm... I wonder if I should take that as a hint.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Viva la Lige!

Kimley and Emily spent all night with a bad case of...umm...the ria. Kimley was throwing up as well and I had a sore throat. This morning, while the other two girls were in the villages, the three of us slept until noon. I hope these girls get feeling better.

NOTE: Never drink the water or else you will end up like them.

Tonight Carlos invited us to his house to watch the soccer game. It was Ecuador (lige) vs Argentina. It was so nice to be in a home setting. What a different feeling it brings in comparision being in an apartment. His wife is a organic gardener so she made us tomato juice using sweet tomatoes that are only grown in South America and from her garden. It was incredible, I think I will go buy a blender and make it everyday. They are such a wonderful family and have made all of us feel so at home and have made sure that our every need was met. Ascend is so lucky to have them. I am so lucky to have them.

I am still having a hard time with the whole kissing the cheek thing... Its becoming more natural. I hope it does not become too natural so I dont keep it up when I get home, that could place me in extremely uncomfortable situations.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pictures in the villages!

Slow news day

Good news: The toilets are all working. They were broken for a long time and it was pretty ugly.

Went to the fanciest restaurant in town- reminded me of the Roof except not buffet style. I hope everyone laughs at what I ordered... Grilled Cheese, french fries and they even had fry sauce! I was feeling like some hometown comfort food.

Found out that Audrinas favorite band is Backstreet Boys and Rolando's (a male) is N'sync. Lets hear it for cheesy American boy bands!

Riobamba is beautiful.

The gift of tongues is still not working...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Day Two

The alarm worked today, great news. 

We went back to the villages that we worked in yesterday and we were supposed to build rainwater irrigation systems, however, the materials were not available.

Emily, Marianne and I rallied the village children together and got an intense game of futbol (soccer) going. My team totally won. It was interesting to find that most of the children like voliebol (volleyball) better. I would have to agree with them.

On the drive to the next village, the truck driver decided to drive through "quick mud." The mud was so deep that it was to the top of the wheel well on both front tires.  I'm glad I bought the cheap shoes for village work because I was up to my knees in mud. We finally had all the girls jump up and down in the back of the truck and it gave the front wheels enough movement to gain traction.

Tonight we went out for ice cream, as well to see the LDS chapel. It was a nice walk, but it was still pretty far. Once we turned the corner to our apartment Marianne yelled "The keys!" We had forgotten to take a set with us out of the apartment. The building is set up so that no one can get in without a key and no one can get out without a key. So someone was walking out as we got to the door so we went inside the foyer and headed up the 4 flights of stairs. Once we got upstairs and checked the door, we realized that we were locked in the building now. So we ran around the building knocking on doors until someone let us out. We then booked it back to the chapel with the slowest taxi driver in town, in the hopes that our co-worker we still in a meeting. Luckily he was and all was well.

Ashlie and Kimley arrived today. Now I really feel out of place- everyone speaks spanish muy muy bueno. (very very well) I am praying for the gift of tongues, hopefully one day I will wake up and be fluent. For now, it is hard, but I can't be frustrated because I hope there are people who can look past the speech language barrier and see my language of love. 

Monday, May 12, 2008

Villages and English Classes

Bad idea: Staying up until 2:30 AM talking. Emily, Marianne and I stayed up and lost track of time, when we realized the hour and the fact that we had to wake up at 6:00 AM we decided it would be smart to get at least 4 hours in before our adventures began. We set two alarms and both failed us. We were awoken by our co-workers waiting for us. Good thing we are all low-maintenance, we were out the door in 15 minutes... pretty impressive.

Highlight of the day: Today we visited two villages that we will work in and it was incredible. These incredibly loving people live in the most humble of circumstances, I had never seen anything like it before. I could never describe in words the beauty of these people, as well the beautiful surroundings of the village. Marianne and I were assigned to take pictures around the villages, to show the people that work in the Ascend headquarters what it is like. When we took pictures of the children, pretty soon the entire population of village children were swarming us, wanting to see the screen after the picture was taken. Many of these children had never seen a picture of themselves or even a reflection in a mirror. It was so much fun. The children are absolutely wonderful and they even let us "gringas" (americans) play soccer with them.  Too bad the babies were better at playing soccer then I was. 

Rolando taught Enterprise classes to the community members in the villages while Marianne and I took pictures. When he was finished, Marianne and I were required to make salami sandwiches for the class members. They gave us a block of cheese, sliced slami and bread- no knife, no napkins, oh and best part was, we had make them in the back seat of a dirty pick-up truck. We asked the driver of the truck if he had a knife so we could slice the cheese, therefore he gave us a dirty, old, well-loved serrated blade to a broken hand saw. It was sketchy, but we proceeded with the operation. Needless to say, those sandwiches did not touch our sensitive american stomaches.  

Audriana and Rolando ( co-workers) wanted the americans to teach them english for an hour each day. So we set up the white board and asked them what they would like to learn in English and instantaneoulsy, Audriana breaks out in song. Not just any song.  It was Eternal Flame by Amy Grant. A classic American 80's song. Better yet, we all joined in and sang the whole song with her.  We then began to write the lyrics of the song on the board so she could learn them and their significance.
Example lyrics:
Close your eyes, give me your hand darling. Can you feel my heart beating? Do you understand?

After that song it was Together Forever by Rick Astley.
Example lyrics:
Together forever and never to part. Together forever we two. 

Experiencias Buenas! ( Good times!)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mothers Day!

Happy Mothers day to the most wonderful mother! Thank you for your patience, kindness and love.

Rolando and the Lonely Hearts Club Band

So Rolando is an employee in the office in Riobamba, and he was the one who picked us up from the airport. When we finally made it home, we set up our beds and crawled into bed numb with exhaustion. We were so exhausted we didn't notice that Rolando was still in the office, on his computer, jammin' out to Guns and Roses while just staring at his desktop screen, not doing work. Thats right, its 3 in the morning and he is trying to prove his hip american style to us girls. What do you say to him?  Hey Rolando, you can go now...  So, Guns and Roses eh? Cool. Not to cool at 3 AM though.... So instead of trying to be blunt and rude after he saved us and got us home,all of us at random times would walk in and say Buenas Noches Rolando (goodnight) and stand there akwardly, hoping he would get the hint. Needless to say, we just went to bed and have no idea what time he left. 

Thank heavens for earplugs. 

I fell asleep last night on our 4 hour bus ride, and dreamt of being at home. When I was awoken, I was completely confused and scared while at the same time in a somewhat yelling tone ask "Where am I??!" Rolando was sitting next to me and had no idea what I said because he does not speak english. When I finally got my bearings, but still not mentally all there, I turned to Rolando and started rattling off questions in English, again... blank stare. No way was I in any state to try asking them in spanish so I just gave up and went back to sleep. 

80's American music in the Italian restaurant in Ecuador included:
-Video Killed the Radio Star
-Material Girl
- Cheesy love song that I forgot the name of

Marianne accidently washed her toothbrush off with the tap water, and was scared of the bacteria so instead of dunking it in boiling water... she boiled her toothbrush. So guess what happened? It melted. 

oh what a night...

- 8 hours of flying
- 5 hour layover
- 1 hour taxi
- 4 hours on a stinky bus
- 5 hours of no English
- 20 seconds on the wildest taxi ride ever
- Arriving home at 3 AM- Priceless