Updates from the States

Amid snowstorms, santa clause, and satellite TV, I'm missing Ecuador (especially the climate) and reporting adventures to you! Wishfully thinking that maybe you miss us too, here are some exciting updates from break so far:

During our first weekend of break one of my very close friends Dana Zichlin hosted a party in Manhattan to raise funds for her feasibility trip to Guatemala. As you may know, MPI is working on a third site expansion and accepted proposals through November. After months of preparation, Dana will be heading to train with us in Ecuador in late January, followed by a seven week feasibility trip in Guatemala. We are so excited to spend time with Dana in Ecuador and show her the Manna ropes!

Helping a stuck sedan en route to the fundraiser

Dana and Chris Taylor cheers-ing to Manna

Love you Dana!

We also have exciting news to share about our kitchen project! The Peterson family graced us with a visit right before winter break. In addition to giving us tips on how to improve our grill and helping put together our shelves, they also graciously donated kitchen supplies for our cooking class.

Cosas de Petersons:
2 slip-resistant cutting mats, 3 oven mitts/potholders, 4 kitchen towels, 1 dishcloth, 6 dish scrubbers, 3 rubber spatulas, 8-piece utensil set, 4 wooden spoon set, grater, 2 peelers, can opener, measuring cups and spoons, 4 paring knives

A huge thank you to the Peterson family!! For more information about this project and our full wish list click here.

Enjoy the last day of the decade and have a fantastic and safe New Years!
- Jackie

October Showers Bring Courtyard Gardens

It's officially October and you know what that means... MLB playoffs!  As well as some Ecuadorian-specific things, such as the beginning of the rainy season.  Tonight was the first Camioneta ride home in the rain and half of us were really prepared (perhaps too prepared.. cough cough Chet put on rain paints over his jeans) while others braved the pelting wind in tee-shirts.  

But the rain also means exciting things for us, specifically less dust to wipe off of our faces at the end of the day AND the start of our vegetable/herb garden!  While our original plan was to use the expertly-crafted boxes Eliah built for a rooftop garden, their services were heavily demanded for compost containers when it became clear that the nine of us consume a lot of food.  So at least for now, we've decided to focus on revamping the courtyard, which no offense to last year's PDs, is pretty gross.  We have two plots on either side of our walkway, one to be used for our vegetable and herb garden (featuring plantas de tomatoes, onions, mint, basil, and lettuce) and the other to be used for small lime trees and aromatic flora.    

Eliah demonstrating his craftsmanship back in August

A closer look at the box base

I'll be using part of this three day weekend to weed and plant, while the other half will be spent at the Ecuador vs. Colombia (World cup qualifier!) futbol game this Saturday.  If you can, be sure to check it out and look for the five Gringos somewhere in the crowd... that is assuming we can claim our tickets (we've been having some difficulty finding the box office open).  

Time to get back baseball and listen on Shawn's radio to the Yankees beat the Twins... 

Don't you just love October? 
- Jackie

Upon his return

(Eliah and Dunc have been gone for about a week, so imagine my surprise when I opened my email to find something from Eliah titled "Last Guest Blog". Turns out he just can't seem to get enough :) So here it is, Eliah's last hurrah.)

"Here I am in my first week back after thirteen months with Manna and it's clear things have changed.
Take my brother's yappy beagle, with whom I cohabit when in the States. While I've been gone, she has matured, like a fine wine, into a less-annoyingly yappy state of being. Unlike this time last year, I now have an irresistible urge to put used toilet paper in bathroom trash cans. Of course there was never anything abnormal about spending the afternoon hunting for mushrooms in the woods, but when I got home today I cooked them. That wouldn't have happened a year ago. Meanwhile, no one anywhere in the house has screamed in the last hour. Strange.
But that's not all. Things in my own head, too, are not the same as before. Maybe I can't get past the fact that I just spent a year volunteering in a country with a higher rate of nose jobs than southern California. Or that I paid about as much to work for that year as Ecuadorians earn in the same amount of time ($7150 vs. $7500 according to the CIA World Factbook). Then again, maybe it's something else. Something about a unique time and a way of living gained and then lost. People, places, and experiences I know I won't forget. Something that can't be captured in a single blog entry. Or maybe that's just the parasites talking.
Whatever it is, after a year with Manna things have changed, and in a way I can't
—and wouldn't—undo. Still, it's comforting to know that some things are exactly as I left them thirteen months ago.

I need a job.


It's like summer camp all over again!

Right now our living room looks like a summer camp cabin; sweatshirts strewn everywhere, pillows piled on the chairs, Nalgene water bottles thrown in random corners, and 18 pieces of near-to-busting luggage covering every inch of the floor. No, spring break isn't happening all over again, something even better.

The new PDs are here!

Dana and I spent a solid two hours today emptying out our room of all clothes, shoes, brushes, random socks, backpacks, and the other things that clutter a life in 13 months. I wish I had found something exciting that I'd whined about loosing earlier in the year, but sadly all I found behind the dresser was a broken hanger and 3 horribly dusty bobby pins. How boring is that?

Anyway. They're here, we're excited, and the house is moaning, full to the brim.


Cooking Delights

This past Friday, the girls held our first (of hopefully many, hint hint next year's PDs) women's cooking class. Advertised as a class focused on natural ingredients, healthy recipes and new cooking techniques, we found willing participants through Serena's women's exercise group.

When Priya and Mari (summer volunteers) were down here, they worked hard with Serena to pull together a cohesive menu of appetizing, inexpensive, and nutritious foods whose ingredients we could actually access down here. All the women agreed that they more than accomplished their goal. Below you'll find the menu of foods we made, along with one of the recipes. If you're interested in any of the other recipes, please feel free to email me! holland.c.ward at gmail dot com.

The Menu
Homemade Soy Milk (from the beans!)
Iced Chi Tea

Tomato-Corn-Avocado Salad
Grilled Vegetables and Pasta Salad
Drunken Beans

Rosemary Honey Roasted Chicken

Banana Nut bread
Zuchinni Muffins

(Preparing the corn-tomato-avocado salad in the dining room for lack of space in the kitchen!)

(Our taste testers, just making sure we got the flavors right.)

(The whole cooking crew with satisfied bellies and zuchinni muffins in hand)

(Of course, I can't currently find the cookbook we used, but here's a delicious variation of one of the salads we made, a house favorite whenever we can find mangos!)

Avocado, Tomato, Mango Salad

* 1 mango - peeled, seeded and diced
* 1 avocado - peeled, pitted, and diced
* 4 medium tomatoes, diced
* 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
* 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
* 1/4 cup chopped red onion
* 3 tablespoons olive oil

1. In a medium bowl, combine the mango, avocado, tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro, and garlic. Stir in the salt, lime juice, red onion, and olive oil. To blend the flavors, refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving.

Easy and delicious and summery. Which works basically year round down in these parts.