ins and outs

This week has been filled with 16 person meetings, 1 on 1 programmatic planning sessions, and preparing for tonight's Despedida/Bienvenida in the library. We moved the newbies in a week earlier than usual, cutting their time in Quito to ensure a smooth 2 week transition. We are forced to say goodbye to another two PDs this week, Chet and Mike. But we're also given the opportunity to get to know these new enthusiastic and innovative minds and rest assured knowing that our programs will grow and prosper as we return to the states.

And now, a little introduction to who Chet refers to as the 'new hires.' (this pleasantly disregards the fact that we are not in fact paid employees.)

Ashley, Hannah, Zoe, Noel and Becky enjoy Chet's Birthday Chivas Tour

Luke, Sam, Brock, and Jack check out Guayasamin's digs in Quito

We've already turned them into LIGA fans...

... and they've already been published in a local paper!


Feliz Cumpleaños, Quito!

A few weeks ago, 10 de Agosto was simply one of a dozen confusing historically dated street names in central Quito. But this August 10th is a bit different, being the 200th anniversary of Quito's independence and all. Sunday evening all nine of us new PDs wandered into downtown Quito for the the Bicentennial. From the minute we stepped off of the bus, swarms of Ecuadorians surrounded us, all headed for any one of the area's countless plazas. It was a nice change of pace to walk around streets closed for pedestrians only, rather than the usual custom of getting honked at for being too close to the edge of the sidewalk.

Sarah taking a beautiful picture of the PDs in Plaza Grande (From left to right: Shawn, Sonia, Haley, Krysta, Chet, Jackie, Erik, and Mike)

While heading towards Plaza Grande, we stumbled upon what appeared to be a dress rehearsal for the Ecuadorian Symphony Orchestra, whose performance was supposed to begin within 15 minutes. However, being accustomed to Ecuadorian time (a.k.a. late), we knew that likely would not be the case. Even though we were shoved pretty far back, we had a very decent view of the stage (thank you Ecuadorians for making us less-than-5'5'' constituents feel tall). By coincidence, we wound up right in front of the Ecuadorian equivalent of the White House just before Rafael Correa, who was just sworn in for his second term in office yesterday, came out to say hello to the crowd.

Sarah enjoying being squished into Chet

An aerial view of the crowd

Me laughing at Krysta's whistle for Correa

While making our way towards Plaza San Francisco, we were stopped by soldiers making a passageway for Correa to walk on stage (again, by sheer luck). We held our ground against shoving groups and watched as he strode past, shaking hands and patting niños on the head. After grabbing empanadas for dinner we met up with Bibi (see yesterday's blog for an interview with our exceptional country director). We spent the remainder of the evening plaza hopping, and eventually ending up at Plaza Santa Domingo
to watch the Conocoto Youth Orchestra (represent!) play an amazing set. We showed off our truly American dance moves, including but not limited to the lawn mower, the bicycle pump, washing the clothes, and milking the cow. As some looked at us in disbelief (including fellow PD Erik), most joined in. A group of adolescent Ecuadorians even came up to Mike to instigate a conga line that we all, of course, joined in for.

As midnight approached, we caught some fireworks in Conocoto and shimmied our way back home to get ready for another jam packed week in the valley. Not a bad way to spend the last few weeks of summer, eh?
- Jackie

Exciting Hellos and Reluctant Goodbyes

Right now transition is the name of the game in the Manna House. For the past 10 days roughly 15 PDs, both old and new, have been living under the same roof in order to facilitate the turnover process between the two teams. The nine of us newbies have divided up every household, organizational and programmatic task known to mankind - from who is responsible for taking out the garbage (thanks Chet!) to who will be running the Women's Exercise program. We have been closely following (think mama duck/baby duck style) the 2008-2009 PDs in order to learn bus routes, shopping lists, the ways of the house, as well as the ins and outs of running our programs.

But the time has come to say (reluctant) goodbyes to our old PD friends, as they begin to trickle back to their families and friends in the United States. The general sentiment has not been one of "out with the old and in with the new," but rather of somber thankfulness. Without the hard work of our 2008-2009 PDs, we would have been handed a very different Manna Project. And for that, we say thank you, and we hope that our mentors will pop in from time to time through guest blogs and (cross our fingers) maybe even a visit or two!

Now allow us to introduce ourselves. We are Jackie Weidman and Sarah Scott, the newest additions to the highly coveted administrator status on the MPIE Daily Life Blog. Our interests and programmatic involvement are extremely varied. With that in mind, we hope to offer you two different voices and perspectives on living and working in Ecuador by alternating blogs each day. Other than the addition of two voices to the blog, not a lot will be changed. We will still be including ample photos from the MannaCam, weekly guest blogs, and the occasional video.

Sarah and Jackie, the newest Daily Life bloggers

In the spirit of new beginnings, here is the first interview of the 2009-2010 MPI season with none other than our very own Country Director, Bibi Al-Ebrahim. We couldn't be happier to be working under Bibi and we're confident that her passion and leadership will shape our programs and us, as individuals, in incredible ways throughout the next year.

Here's to the next thirteen months of adventure, community service, and of course, daily blogging!

Sarah and Jackie

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.


The Year Ahead

(Kicking off Monday right, a new voice in the 'guest blog' world, MPIE's new Country Director, Bibi Al-Ebrahim)

"Last week I was not here in Ecuador. I was across the globe at my brother’s wedding and fully enjoying a family trip. But, it was impossible not to think of Ecuador, not to think of the new Program Directors with whom I will spend the next year, not to be concerned with what I may have been missing. I suppose angst stemmed from my fear of missing out on some group adventure or inside joke.

As the new Country Director for Manna Ecuador I too am starting a new adventure. And it may be just that that this group of new PDs, the first group of PDs under my supervision, will prove to be the most influential and sentimental in my experience. Although Ecuador and Spanish are no longer new to me, the position of Country Director and the responsibility that comes with such a position are. With such responsibility comes my wish to do the job well, not just for the organization, not just for me, but for us- a group comprised of individuals with different histories, and clearly different futures, but with the same desire of spending the next year together. Right now, in the present, we have chosen to do this together, encouraging me to do my best.

And in wanting to do my best I often have to tell myself to take one step at a time, to not expect to know everything only six weeks into the game. Under Mark Hand and the 2008/2009 PDs my transition period has been wonderful; I’ve been pushed to learn Manna ways and all its various components in a positive, patient, and gentle manner. It’s in this same way that I hope to guide the new PDs into Spanish, into Ecuador, and into Manna. The more I think about it, the intimacy of my six weeks with the old PDs acts as a reminder that the beauty of the new PD transition period and the year to come does not only lie in inside jokes and adventures, but in the learning together. And that I should not worry about missing out on, because I too have a lot to learn.