summer camp

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!

The Faces of Summer Camp

Here is a small glimpse into our mornings as summer camp counselors for little kids. They are a little crazy and they wear us out, but just look how cute they are!

Emilia and her brother, Ivan, discuss important matters over water.

Classic Iori

Ivan and Joel ponder Jackie's Rainforest lecture.

Gisela getting ready for face painting.
(I finally got a picture of her! She hates the camera... and was subsequently angry at me for taking this one. Oops?)

Mike and Paola take turns face painting.
(Paola calls him "Mickey Mouse" and thinks it's quite possibly the funniest thing ever.)

Emilia takes her turn painting the profes' faces.

Joel and Emilia discuss their next tactical artistic move...

Looks like it's my turn...

Krysta wins. No contest.

Jackie and Joel

Haley and Gisela

Iori and Chet

Emilia examines her origami perrito.

The boys discuss whose orgami penguin can kill the others' origami penguins... in typical boy fashion.

Origami lessons... a perfect way to end the day.

Hope you're having a wonderful week!

Instilling Environmental Values, One Niño at a Time

    Laura teaches the kids how to plant onions  

Diana, Lady, and Pricilla love the camera 

Me and the kids in front of our masterpiece 

We were so inspired by the success of 'envirocamp,' that we decided to add a similar segment to our niños camp.  Today, we spent environmental hour learning about the Amazon, specifically the layers of the rainforest and what types of animals live in each.  The kids were eager to pick different animals and plants from my basket and place them in the either the canopy, understory or forest floor.  We ended the lesson with face painting, courtesy of Dana and Holly who brought us back Achote plants from Tena, a fruit that is used by the indigenous communities there.  I pretty sure the kids liked painting our faces even more than getting their own done (see Krysta below).  

Haley and Shawn enjoy getting made up
           Emilia and Joel decorate each other    

Krysta definitely wins MVP for today
All of the PDs posing with their make-up artists

I am so grateful to have been able to shadow Cristian and Laura to help prepare for niños camp and the natural science class Krysta and I plan to start in September.  So far, the kids have loved the games, art projects, and science experiments that we've come up with.  Camp is shaping up to be a perfect test run for planning our programs in the Fall!

Stay tuned for Mr. Chester Polson, who will be gracing us with a guest blog on Thursday in place of my usual post, to hear all about taking over Holly's art classes and his progress with co-running the Microfinance Program with Erik. (Yes, art AND finance... he's a pretty well-rounded catch, ladies!) 

Sustainably Yours, 

Crazy Schedules and Family Dinners

So here we are in our second week as "the official and newly minted PDs," as the eloquent (and sorely missed) Holly Ward would say. I'm happy to report that we are quickly adapting to running programs, staffing the library/teen center and being the face of MPI while wandering the streets of our communities. While much of the credit goes to a well-planned turnover, I'm fairly certain that the rest goes to having impeccably scheduled (and busy) days.

Each of us is operating on a slightly different schedule, as we are juggling various responsibilities. Today, we kicked off our summer camp for niños. For the next two weeks, we get to spend each morning together entertaining and playing with the kids at camp before scattering to tackle other tasks in the afternoon. Krysta, for example, has been working non-stop to organize a joint free clinic day with the local school/orphanage, A
liñambi, in late August. Jackie and Dana have been teaming up with a community member to help run an environmental camp for kids (fondly called "Envirocamp" around the house). Mike has been learning the ins and outs of running the teen center and library, while Chet and Erik have been planning what the microfinance program will look like. Sonia and I have been researching and brainstorming what goes into developing a preventative health clinic. And last, but certainly not least, Haley and Shawn have been practicing their aerobics, tae bo, and yoga (in the living room... quite entertaining) in preparation for women's exercise, which happens three times a week. (Haley has also been spending her time trying to learn the bus routes as she has been stranded twice in the last three days... in the same place...)

Even with our different and hectic schedules, we manage to swarm the dinner table at the same time each night for family dinner, and I've found it to be one of my favorite parts of the day. Hearing my housemates talk about their progress and success amidst the jokes and pleas for dessert (usually from Bibi) is exciting and grounding. It reminds me that our 10 different schedules, infinite different interests and abilities allow us to impact our communities in countless ways.

Looks like it's begun. How lucky are we?

Until next time,

The weekly calendar (i.e. how we keep track of everyone else)... strategically placed next to the kitchen, the most popular room in the house

Haley practices taking Shawn's blood pressure before tonight's Women's Exercise class

Shawn, Sarah and Haley's legs feel GREAT after an hour of squats and Tae Bo...

This is how we feel about teaching aerobics during tomorrow's Women's Exercise class...

Can Someone Mail Me a Gavel?

Transitions by nature require lots of planning, which leads to lots and lots of meetings. There are the programatic meetings and then there are the operational meetings, my personal favorite, where pretty much no topic is off limits. We discuss anything from whether putting a compost pile on the roof will collapse into someone's bed to lectures about how to use the bus coin jar properly (and tossing imaginary gold stars to those who utilize the pennies). If I had to guess, I'd say about 75% of the time that we're all together in the house is spent either in meetings, or discussing random operational topics. Therefore, I felt it was especially important to paint you a picture of what these meetings look like and why they are oh so important (and entertaining).

During the first of these meetings, we doled out operational roles and I landed the job of secretary. This means that I take minutes for each of our meetings which may seem boring to you, but in fact it's really great.  I can write down anything inappropriate or embarrassing that happens within the perimeters of the meeting and document it for everyone to see.  I also get to make side comments, like how outrageous it is that Bibi has never seen FernGully (don't worry, we're showing it during niño's camp).  I also get to send all of the meeting minutes to the MPI board members;  I can only imagine them on the edge of their seats while reading that we decided to switch which day the kitchen floor gets mopped.  

Because of the hectic schedule of the past couple of weeks, we've been having our meetings during family dinners. This means I end up sitting at one end of the table, fork in one hand, keyboard in the other, hunched over trying to shield my computer from flying rice and condiments while furiously typing.  Amongst discussions of whether we should buy an iron for the house and what exactly falls under the job description of "dishwasher," we do, in fact, discuss serious matters. One of the more serious topics at our latest meeting has been how the kids in the community are handling our infiltration of the library. We've been trying to spend as much time there as possible, getting to know the kids and how everything works. But like all smart kids, they realize that since we're new, they might be able to bend the rules around us whether it be getting extra art supplies or pre-12 year olds trying to sneak into the teen center.  It's challenging because while we want to befriend all of the kids, we also wait to maintain stability and a level of authority.  

As we venture into our two-week long niño's camp next week, we have the perfect opportunity to create a foundation of both friendship and respect that will be built upon for the rest of the year.  And, in between, we'll have our team meetings to continue to solve problems, plan events, and a few laughs when one PD darts another from across the table and his or her head slams onto a nearby plate until saved, hypothetically speaking, of course.

Playing games in the library

Mike guitar-ing and supervising video games

Hurray for ping pong! (and Manna!) 

If you want to see more pictures, check out our new Picasa photo album by following the link on the right labelled "Snapshots of Life in the Valley!"