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!    

Festivities in the New Year!

We have made it to 2011! The months so far have flown by and we are currently looking ahead to Spring Break groups and Summer volunteers. Our return to Ecuador has been a busy one, but not without festivities. We celebrated our first birthday of the new year this past weekend! Noel entered into her 25th year this past Monday. Our fiesta in Quito was one to be remembered, complete with one of Zoe's amazing cards, good food and a Packer's victory (shout out to Brock and Luke). The only downside of the night was the Ravens' loss which was quickly forgotten after good food and time spent with even better company.

Zoe presenting her work of art to Noel. It's beautiful!

Noel enjoying her personalized birthday card complete with the score of Happy Birthday on the front.

Bibi and Lucia out way past their bedtime to celebrate at Hunter's.

The girls making friends at Strawberry Fields.

I would like to wish Noel (my partner in crime on the blog, and in Ecuadorian life) all the best on her 24th birthday. I hope that this 25th year is filled with nothing but happiness, success and love.

Until next time
Besos Chao Chao

Week(s) in Review

A lot happens in the weeks that lead up to spring break, including running around Quito writing down directions, finalizing trip budgets, and setting up bunk beds / moving me and Erik into the house for the month. Thanks to Haley and the other group leaders, we feel pretty confident that things will good pretty smoothly come next Friday!

In the midst of all the planning, a number of other things have been happening that we've neglected to mention - a myriad of enthusiastic art classes, Erik's birthday, really professional grant writing meetings, and a fantastic visit from SETH! - Felicitaciones from the Manna house to him and his fiance, Johanna, who got engaged just a few weeks ago right here in Quito! I smell a reunion for your wedding (wink wink)?!

Here's a rundown through pictures of what we've been up to...

Erik turns 22, holler back youngin'!

Sarah and Bibi duke it out to see who gets to write the Gates Foundation grant (other match ups include: Mike vs. Chet, Haley vs. Krysta, more or less everyone else vs. Bibi)

Lucia, Marjorie, Johanna, Seth, and Shawn celebrating in Quito!

All of the art students hold up their masks in-progress

Emily and Mateo painting away

Wendy decorates with style

Stay tuned this week for notes from our first home stay, a rundown about a new 6th grade nutrition/class garden education program starting on Tuesday, updates from preventative health progress... and of course, spring break arrivals on Friday!

until next time,

Birthdays, Bonfires and Buffets

So here we are, returning back to the so-called "Daily Life Blog" with our tails between our legs. Yes, we are quite aware that our last post was on Wednesday. Seeing as how that was five days ago... well. You get the point. Sorry about that. But in our defense, life has been crazy around the Manna House in the last week. Here is a brief recap:

1. Summer Camp ended on Friday! It was a great way to start off our year, as it allowed us to get to know the kids and parents of our communities. We're thrilled to have had such a successful first program and hope that success will carry over to the programs that will begin in two weeks. (We're equally thrilled to not be required to get 10 people out of the door by 8am...)

Mike, Erik, Sonia and Sarah try their hand at the teeter-totter.
The weight distribution was clearly very equal...

Gisela chases Santiago in a game of duck, duck, goose.
(Or, as Iori likes to call it, "duck, duck, duck".)
Krysta walks the little ones back to the library.

2. We co-hosted a very successful health clinic at Alinambi on both Friday and Saturday. Krysta's weeks of planning (along with a little help from the rest of the health girls and the house) finally paid off! And she's kind enough to be writing a guest blog about it later this week!

The entrance to the clinic

Haley shows off the impeccably organized pharmacy.

LOTS of toothpaste donations

Krysta and Haley lead a charla on brushing and flossing.

The whole health crew

3. And finally, today is Jackie's birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JACKIE!)! In order to celebrate both Jackie and Bibi's birthdays in style, we had our first rooftop bonfire of the year last night and made s'mores. We followed up the late night of s'mores and group bonding with an enormous buffet at the Marriott in Quito. Apparently all celebrations revolve around food in the Manna House.

The birthday brownies at the Marriott

Jackie's THREE... yes, three... birthday cakes
(Unfortunately we already ate the leftovers for breakfast/lunch. Typical.)

The whole group post-brunch and pre-food coma

All in all, it's been a fun (and hectic) last few days. This week will be more relaxed, as we're planning for our programs that begin in two weeks, catching up on work that was pushed aside last week, and making the blog a little more "daily"... :)

Thanks for checking in with us!

25th Birthdays?

Greetings from the kitchen of the Manna house where I'm half writing this entry and half admiring my new blue bracelet, courtesy of Seth.  After this morning's camp session, we were all up to our ears with various tasks.  Seth and Sonia donated all of the items that have been piling up under our staircase, generously left behind by old PDs and picked through by us over the past month.  The healthcare girls crafted educational materials from food pyramids (or, what is now more of a column?) to dental hygiene posters.  And, the most important event of today: BIBI'S BIRTHDAY!  We joyously celebrated with a homemade cake, optimistic candles, and a poster from that Bibi promises she's going to frame and hang in her house. 

Bibi proudly showing off her present

Bibi's cake + incorrect candles

I apologize for the brevity of this post, but Seth is catching a bus to Guayaquil in twenty minutes and it's getting a little emotional on the couch in the kitchen...

Sporting our new digs