You say goodbye, and I say hello!

We have some big news to announce here at MPI Ecuador.   Right now MPI Executive Director Lori Scharffenberg is visiting Manna’s site in the Valle de los Chillos for the first time during this year’s Program Directors’ tenure.  This means that Tuesday, when she arrived at the house, was the first time I’d seen her since our Miami orientation last July and the first time she’s seen Manna’s new Ecuador digs!  She was duly impressed, but checking out the house was in fact not her primary reason for visiting.  She is staying for two weeks largely to help transition in MPI Ecuador’s new Country Director, Darcy Phillips.

That’s right, our beloved Bibi Al-Ebrahim, who has been Country Director since the summer of 2009, is leaving us.  Thankfully, she is not leaving the area altogether and will merely be moving up the pista to Quito in a couple of weeks to be closer to her new job with the Peace Corps.  Bibi, it just can’t be enough to say we will miss you!!

Our next two weeks are thus filled with meetings and tours and the orientations.  We are very excited not only to orient Darcy to programs and daily life in Ecuador, but also to bring Lori up to speed on how Manna is running on the ground these days.  Welcome, Darcy!

Bibi is not the only member of this year’s team who we are having to say goodbye to.  A few weeks ago my partner blogger, Hannah, packed up and headed back to the States for good in pursuit of educational opportunities that required her to leave before the rest of us.  Before she left, we spent some quality time together as the 2010-2011 Manna Ecuador team.  We decided to make our third retreat a laid back one after starting it with a Saturday night joint celebration of Hannah and Jack’s birthday, the last birthdays of the year, with a cookout on our patio, a piñata (ok, so this is Mexican, not Ecuadorian, but we figured getting it in the shape of the national beer of Ecuador was enough), and a throwback to our first days in Ecuador last July: a chivas bus!  

Jack's birthday card, designed by Zoë in the form of the Capelo bus, the bus we take to Rumiloma every day

Jack and his birthday Pilsener piñata
Hannah with her piñata winnings

MPI Ecuador 2010-2011!
The following Sunday we spent the first day of the retreat in Sangolquí, eating at the San Luís food court, watching a movie, and playing a personal favorite game, Bucket of Nouns.  Then Monday we took an hour and a half bus ride to the gorgeous mountain-nestled thermal baths at Papallacta, where we read books and chatted by the pools for the day.  It was a perfect weekend goodbye to Hannah, who’s put in so much time and energy into her programs and life in Ecuador this year.  Hannah, we already miss you dearly!
Jack epitomized our Sangolquí retreat day in his pajamas carrying an ice cream cone and a bucket of fried chicken (yes, it was all for him).

Pools at Papallacta
MPI Ecuador lounging in thermal baths in the Andes

Papallacta baths again
Despite losing a couple of personnel, the Manna house is about to be full again as our first session of summer volunteers arrives tomorrow.  Six volunteers from across the States will be bringing a breath of fresh air (and 12 extra hands!) to MPI Ecuador for a month. 

So many new faces in the house!  Welcome to all!