farm animals

Summer has begun

As I mentioned before, our first session summer volunteers arrived last week and have since taken over the apartment, or as I like to refer to it, The Hostel. (People tolerate my little phrases and oddities down here because I have interview editing power). While they're all currently out working hard (hosting programs at the library, shadowing at the local clinic, teaching English with Jos in a local neighborhood), last week we got to play tour guide and drag them around to our favorite tourist traps in the city.

This meant that they climbed the Basillica, toured the Plazas in old town, lounged in Parque Moya, ate lunch at Sazon de la Abuela in Conocoto, experienced the Guayasamin museum, hiked to the waterfall in Selva Alegre, and did science experiments at Mitad del Mundo (the equatorial line). All us jaded PDs got to experience these things (which we've admittedly done more than a few times between family & friends visiting, spring break, and our own wanderings) based off a meticulously planned schedule created by one Dana Conway, our summer guru.

Since Serena and I took the kiddos to Mitad del Mundo, those are the pictures I have to share with the blog :) There was even a llama sighting, which made me very happy. Have you SEEN their eyelashes?! Incredible.

(summer vols pose on the fake equator, which is actually 240 meters off from the real one)

(the summer crew on the ACTUAL equatorial line, as dictated by GPS)

Ginny balanced an egg on a nail! And got a certificate for it :)

(Serena does a balance experiment on the equator)


You just never know.

This is the third month we've been partnering with Christian, an up and coming community leader, on conversational classes with his English students. His courses consist of two parts: theoretical instruction and conversation, but as he is a native Ecuadorian, he initially described his conversational classes as problematically "reinforcing poor English pronunciation". Enter Manna Project, which just so happens to be chalk full of native English speakers whose only pronunciation issues surface when certain Texans insist on calling "Jalapeños" "Jaal-op-in-yos" or "Quesadillas" "Ques-a-dillll-ahhs"...ahem Duncan Fulton.

Three times a week, 2 of us head over to Christian's home and attempt to hold purely English conversations with his slightly bewildered students. It is pretty comical hearing one another speaking as articulately and slowly as possible, only to be greeted by the big eyes and partially open mouths of our students. They're all pretty driven to learn, though, and have made some impressive progress since we first met them in November.

This morning marked our first class post-December break, and Jocelyn and I slumped around the kitchen at 6:30am in a daze (we're the lucky ones blessed with the Tuesday 8-10am slot), talking ourselves into the first bus ride of 2009. When we arrived at Christians, there were no students, but there were 4 little piglets to check up on, one mama pig who, according to Christian, "needs a man pig soon", a new type of Ecuadorian beer to try (at 8:30am), to which Christian would not take "no thank you" as an aswer, and English dialogues to write and record onto his computer. Eventually a "man pig" did show up, and a conjugal visit between pigs...happened...while Jos and I tried our best to focus on the dialogue we were writing about Christmas vacation. It was not easy to do.

And just think, all this happened before 10 in the morning. It's going to be a good Tuesday.
Oh Ecuador, how we've missed you.


(four little piglets!)

(our working table)

How to measure time's passage...

(Today's Guest Blog comes from Dana, our apartment-window-climber, early-morning-runner, new-music-gifter, and my fellow hippy-kitchen-dancer. How we made it 3 months without her I don't know.)

"Having grown up in Colorado it only seams natural that I became accustomed to the coming and going of seasons to be the indication of a years progression and therefore the passing of time. Now, with the experience of living in another part of the world comes the necessity to adjust to a new climate. Here in Ecuador we may have seasons, the rainy season and the dry season, however the ideas of winter, spring, summer, and fall exist only in stories of far off places.

Since I arrived in September there has been a noticeable change in the afternoon clouds behavior from about the hours of three till five. Aside from this, our days and nights, weeks, and already hard to believe months have a very peaceful ebb and flow, occasionally interrupted by a frustratingly lengthy downpour of rain or a 45 minute hail storm. Due to this drastic lack of diversity in the beautiful Ecuadorian sky, I've had to concentrate on other forms of growth and progression to remind me that the earth truly is still rotating around the sun.

While chilly air accompanied by an instant sheet of hail cannot suffice for naked tree branches, fresh blankets of snow, or seasonal allergies, we do have the most adorable puppy who lives at the end of our street who at first we could cup in just one hand and examine every line in his new to the world face. Now he has a precious pot belly and so much energy that at times not even two hands are enough to contain him.

There are the calves we see roaming around outside the Casa Barrial and each time insist that one of them must be the one that Jocelyn and Dunc saw birthed back in August and comment, my how much he has grown. There are the women in our exercise class who have lost over a kilo of weight and now recognize the importance of wearing t-shirts and sweat pants to class rather than their alpaca sweaters and flip flops. There are the houses in the distance that use to disappear with the sun every evening at the exact same time, however now they remain visible, illuminated by the flickers and glows of their elegant Christmas lights. And of course, there are our family dinners, which at the Manna house are progressively more and more delicious, but more importantly an increasingly significant part of each of our days. This is the time for us to regroup and remind each other of the new and amazing things we're accomplishing, one day at a time.

While this holiday season greets you with frigid evenings, cozy fireplaces, shorter days and longer nights, remember that there are things in all of our lives beyond just the seasons to help remind us of the passing of time and the progression of each year.

Happy Holidays and looking forward to seeing many of you very, very soon.
Dana Conway"


At any given time, on any given day, shepherds can be seen from our upstairs windows directing their herds up and down our main “cobblestone” (ie. cement block path) street. Apparently the grassy stretch off which our front door lies provides choice sweet grass perfect for long gestation periods and multiple stomachs. The little guy from the picture was so caught up in the vegetation that he didn’t notice when his entire family LEFT. He hung out in front of our house for a good hour before realizing, ‘oh wait a second, i’m alone. oh...NO.’ Thus began an imaginably scary 45 minutes of moo’ing his heart out while staying rooted in the same exact position. After half an hour of this, I couldn’t take his sad lonesome moo’s and so decided to take a picture with him. Because we all know that when you’re lost, what you really want is someone you don’t know to take a picture with you. Help you memorialize the moment. Or something.

Happy to oblige, little guy.

His shepherd did return 20 minutes later and smacked his rear all the way back to the herd. It was a rough day for all involved.

Thanks for checking in!

(me and the forgotten calf)

Bird Flu

This past weekend was a full one. We hosted Jens, a state-side visitor from the organization HealtheChildren who came down to Ecuador to meet with Julia at Aliñambi about expanding the clinic there. Mark and Abbie (a recently departed, sorely missed 2007-08 MPIE founding member) have been working since April initiating, coordinating and nurturing a budding partnership between HealtheChildren and Aliñambi, and it was awesome to see months of emails, phone calls, and planning come together this weekend. After tomorrow mornings’ team meeting I will have a better idea of where the collaboration stands now, but we are, as Mark put it, “cautiously optimistic” about how things progress from here.

This weekend was also the close of the Sangolqui Corn Festival, and Saturday found Dunc, Jos, Serena and I watching an enormous parade of horses, searching for the much anticipated bulls, dancing on the sidewalks with questionably drunken Ecuadorians, and jostling our way through the throngs of people in an attempt to get to the “largest cake in Ecuador”. With Jos taking the initiative on that one, we got there pretty darn fast :)

We also added to our Manna family, but these little guys are a current point of house tension, so until tomorrow’s meeting I will refrain from posting anything more than just their pictures...