the beginning after the end

Everyone keeps asking what I'm going to miss most when I go home. After a number of things come into my head - the Andes, public transportation, Magnum bars - nothing strikes me as much as how much I'm going to miss the people I've grown close to. Manna's anthem is 'communities helping communities,' the latter referring to the six communities we work in and the former, and most important to me, the community we worked hard to form amongst the ten of us.

Working in Rumiloma has shaped me in more ways than I can count: I learned how to upkeep an organic garden, how to teach someone to read in a foreign language, what it means to understand and value a culture completely different than my own. Even though I have the utmost confidence for our PD successors, it is indescribably difficult to say goodbye to MPI. What's been equally difficult is watching all of my housemates leave for the states, one by one. And so, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank them individually.

To Mike for his open-mindedness; to Erik for his daily bear hugs; to Haley for her compassion; to Sonia for her contagious humor; to Chet for his quick-wit; to Shawn for her adventurousness; to Sarah for her organizational leadership; to Krysta for her spirit, and last but absolutely not least, to Bibi for her patience, guidance, and unfailing, diplomatic leadership. Thank all of you for helping me feel comfortable in a foreign country, accomplish my personal and professional goals this year, and for helping me grow into who I am leaving Manna and moving into the future.

I also would like to thank all of you you so much for your dedication this year. Without your support, none of what we do would be possible. Since visuals do a much better job at summing up this past year than I ever could, please enjoy my version of 'the year in pictures' followed by the Despedida/Bienvenida slideshow we screened last week to say goodbye to our beloved community members.

A twilight view of our beautiful home city of Quito

All decked out for summer camp field trips

Water balloon toss at our January Celebration

Paola shows off her work during Art class

Bibi reads to Samantha and Ronny

Chester Polson, ladies man through and through

The graduates of the Alimentate Ecuador Nutrition Class

There is nothing I will miss more than family dinners...

Two of our favorite teens, Joseph and Carlos, atop Ilalo

Los Profes de MPI 2009-2010

Trying to keep it together as Bibi speaks at the Despedida

Forever in our hearts, Ecuador

Qué vive los años siguientes (to the years to come),