Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ecuador Day 16: The Fourth Day of Classes

Today has been a very long day. We had to be at the Seminary by 9:00 because Karen had a meeting and Cindy had to meet with a couple of students in the class. I spent the time going through a large stack of books for the seminary library that needed call numbers looked up for them. I made a spread sheet of all of the books I needed to look up so I could actually look them up once I had some time and access to an internet connection. There's about 60 books that will be added to the collection. Some of them looked fairly interesting. Unfortunately, I couldn't read them since my knowledge of Spanish leaves a great deal to be desired.

Jon Lambert grading homework

Once I had plowed through all of the books, I finished re-reading over the material I was planning to teach today. This has been the first time that I've had to write new lectures for every class time. At the museum and at the zoo, I had a limited amount of material I could teach. That's because there's only so many science demonstration we could do at the museum, and there's only so many animals in the education collection at the zoo. Granted, I was continually teaching different programs, but they were mainly variations on a theme. It's been fun to research different topics and then be able to teach on them. There's certainly more variety this way. It's also a much more work. I'm just thankful I've had good classes on the subjects I'm teaching, and have good written resources to consult. It's made the going much easier.

After this, I still had some time to kill, so I went downstairs to see how Cindy and her shoe sorting were going.
Mariano, one of our students. This man truly has a servant's heart

Last week, we had picked up the 346 pairs of shoes she had raised the money to purchase.

Karen had put together a list of how many pairs of shoes we would be sending to each church, so now the shoes needed to be sorted by size and then by church. This took Cindy, Mariano, and Rodrigo more than an hour to do. I was quite impressed at how quickly they had accomplished their task.

Finally it was time to head back to the house to eat and change clothes for the upcoming classes. We ate lunch quickly enough that I even had time to take a power nap before class. I went to bed earlier last night than I had in quite a while, but I was still exhausted when I got up. I'm going to chalk it up to the thinner air up here, but that's really just an excuse. It's a good one though.

Cindy and a giant stack of shoes

My lecture today was on Jehovah's Witness. This is the one I was the most nervous about. The reason for this is that it is a tricky religion. They use Scripture so much, and their arguments are so polished that they can really pull you in if you're not well grounded in your own beliefs. It's not a terribly big religion here, but they're growing faster outside the US than they are in it.

I feel like it went fairly well. The students did have a couple of questions I did not have an answer to. One student was able to answer a question because she has friends who are Jehovah's Witness and she's even been to a party they hosted. I was surprised when she said they served quite a bit of alcohol there. It did show me that they have made it here though, and that they may be growing.

One problem I ran into today is that we've now gone through all of the material I had planned to cover, and even a bit that I hadn't. I realized during the first day of class that this might happen, so I had been looking for something to do on the last day. I found an article written by Watchtower that list six "myths" of Christianity and why Jehovah's Witnesses believe we're wrong. Luckily, they've also published it in Spanish, so we're going to go through that tomorrow and see how students would respond to this, and why they disagree with the arguments made in the article. I hope that they find it's helpful.

I sat in on Cindy's class again tonight. She finished up talking about conflict resolution and started on addictions. This will be probably the longest section she'll teach on. It seemed to really hit a lot of the students close to home because many of them have friends and family members who are addicted to something—many to alcohol. In fact, almost every one of our pastors sitting in here were raised in a family where at least one parent was an alcoholic. It is very prevalent here. After class, Cindy spent at least 45 minutes answering questions and then talking with one student.

During this time, I sat in the library and was reading a book on my iPod. Mariano came in and asked me about it. He knows some English, and I know a little bit of Spanish so we can communicate somewhat. We spent almost the whole time listening to music on my computer and looking at pictures of his family on his phone. We mainly listened to Fernando Ortega because he has some songs in Spanish. Mariano told me that he loves music, but he's not a fan of television. He said one of his favorite things is to sing at church. It was so sweet and interesting to see what really speaks to him. He has a son named Jericho who is just two months on. He's very cute. He also showed me pictures of his older children, two of which are attending seminary this week. I recognized them, but had not realized that they were his children. I got to see pictures of his class at school and his teachers. He's working on finishing high school. He takes classes in the evening. I really admire him for working so hard. Having his high school degree will allow him to get a better job in the construction field.

As he was showing me pictures, he came upon quite a few pictures of work campers. He knew some of them by name, but he kept referring to everyone of them as his brother or sister. After we looked through his pictures, I checked my computer to see if I actually had any pictures of my family. Because I've only had this computer a few months and I mainly got it for travel, I haven't put many pictures on it. I did have a few pictures of my parents, sister, and nephew. Mariano took one look at a picture of my dad and got really excited. He exclaimed that this was his brother and pastor. I knew he knew who dad was, but I had been pretty sure that he had not made a connection between us. Almost everywhere we go, Jon introduces me as the son of Pastor Jim Todd. Some people make the connection, but not everyone. Once Mariano realized who my dad is, he gave me a big hug and told me to give dad his greetings.

Spending some time talking with Mariano is definitely one of the highlights of my trip. I've been working near and with him for almost two weeks now, but this was the first time we were able to spend more than a couple of minutes communicating. He truly has a servant's heart. Serving along side him this week has truly been a pleasure. He's also been one of my biggest encourages in class this week. Even when I feel like I've given a lousy lectures, he's been encouraging.

It was about 10:00 before we made it back to the house. We sat down to eat supper and talk for a few minutes. We ended up talking and joking for more than an hour. It was a great way to blow off some steam. We certainly need it. It has been a very busy and stressful week. I did not appreciate how much work seminary is. Granted, I only had to teach one hour and fifteen minutes today, but there was always plenty of work to keep me busy. By midnight, I could barely keep my eyes open and was ready to head to bed. Tomorrow's the last day I have to teach a class!

Ecuador Day 15: Shopping in Calderon and the Third Day of Classes

We decided to not even head to Calderon until 10:30-11:00. We all needed some time to sleep in and this was the best day for it. Besides, Calderon is pretty close by. There are some local artisans in Calderon who make things out of bread dough. The bread dough is colored with food dye or painted and then baked in an oven to harden it. Calderon is the only area that makes figurines and items quite like this.

The shop we usually go to is owned by a Christian family. Jon and Karen have built a relationship with Raul and his wife over the years even getting a medical work camp to bring in anti-rejection medication for Raul after he had a kidney transplant and had trouble getting his medication in the right dose. Another reason to go there besides supporting a Christian family is that they give us the best price around. They treat us very fairly and no bargaining is required.

They've created quite a few new items since the last time I was there several years ago. Their 7 year old grandson (I think) has started painting scenes on glass, firing it in a kiln, and then slumping it into molds. They pieces are really cool. One of their daughters has started making really cool stylized animals that you can hang on the wall. They've also created some new nativity sets. The last time I was here, I bought one made out of eucalyptus nuts and bread dough. This time, they also had a set made out of walnuts and bread dough. They only had one left, but the animals are really awesome. I snapped that one up. Most of their nativity sets are made in the style of the various Indian tribes here in Ecuador. I purchased one of Otavalo Indians because they were wearing blue clothing.

I also picked up two very cool clay figurines for nearly half off. I'd been wanting to get one for quite some time, and he happened to have some nice ones in. I was pretty excited that he made me such a good deal. He was practically giving them away! By the time we finished up there, it was time for lunch.

As luck would have it, there's a new La Tablita nearby. Tablita is a restaurant that specializes in grilled chicken, steak, pork chops, and sausages. We got two lunches for two which had some of everything, fries, and salads. With that kind of carnivore's delight in front of you, who needs salad? I had thought I was really hungry, but we still had quite a bit of food left over. I dream of the day that this restaurant comes to Wilmore. I'd eat there all the time. Plus, they're pretty affordable.

We stopped by the house to drop off our purchases and change clothes for Seminary. Then it was time to head off to class.

When we got to the Seminary, we found out that one of the showers had quit working. To fix it, they needed Jon to pick up some supplies at this house. Since it was about time for class to start, he asked Karen to translate for me. We started off my class today by showing a video clip of a morning prayer during a Hajj. This allowed us to cover several things with it. It showed the class what the Ka'ba looks like, it gives a perspective of just how big the Hajj is, it allows us to hear a call to prayer, and it even had English subtitles. Granted, they then had to be translated into Spanish, but it gave them an idea of what is being said in the prayer. I had assumed that we wouldn't really be able to hear anything since the speakers on my laptop are quite small and not very powerful. We decided to give it a whirl anyway, and they ended up working quite well.

We then walked through some of the major beliefs in Islam and how and why the differ from our beliefs as Christians. I ended up quoting the Qur'an quite a bit, and that worried me as well. I didn't want them to think that I'm Muslim or that I support that religion, but I felt is was important for them to have an idea of some of what's in the Qur'an. Overall, I think it went pretty well. I also wanted to spend more time on Islam because it's not covered in the books we supplied them with. We did find some pamphlets that were about 10 pages each on Mormonism and Islam that we put up as posters so they could read it if they wanted, but it just wasn't a lot of material. I wish I could have provided them with a good book like the one I was using, but it's too expensive to buy for the whole class and I couldn't locate it in Spanish.

This is one of the major problems here. Books here are very expensive because there are very high taxes on them. Also, many of the books for sale here are merely translations of books written in the states. To make matters worse, there were quite a lot of books at the Christian bookstore by authors such as Benny Hinn. This is not exactly someone I want to endorse to the class. The library at the seminary is pretty nice, but it's pretty lean too because good books are so hard to find. Jon has been looking at Bible software for sale here, but it's not the greatest and it's a little pricey. I did discover that Logos makes some great software in Spanish, but it's not cheap either. The nicer packages are anywhere from $250 to $500 and the few add on packs they have are about $80 each. The plus side is that for $500, you can get 350+ books on the computer. This saves a lot of space in the library, and the price per book is pretty affordable. But, that's a really steep price to pay for books that cannot be checked out by students. It has to be used in the library here. I just wish that we were able to offer the students and pastors here resources like we have at Asbury.

Ecuador Day 14: Mitad del Mundo (again), and the Second Day of Classes

Today, we got to spend the morning going to Mitad del Mundo. The reason for going is that Cindy had some shopping she wanted to do, and there's a paila shop there I wanted to visit again. It was a win-win situation in my book. I was really only tagging along for the paila, but I figured that it would be fun to look around in some of the stores I hadn't gone to on my last visit. One store had a really great winter hat that's ridiculously long. I thought it was pretty fantastic, and the shop owner came down to $4.00 so I figured it was worth it. We looked around in several other shops and the only thing that really caught my eye was a three foot tall llama made out of real llama. It was really soft and awesome. I figured that it might fit in my suitcase and I could name it Rowdy. Then I realized that it had to be at least $200, or probably more. That nixed that idea.

We then stopped at a restaurant there to get really fantastic empanadas as a snack. The bonus is that there's a music store next door to it so I popped in there while we were waiting on our food. I realize that I have very little willpower in a music store, but I did want to see what they had. I was thrilled to see that there was nothing there that I really wanted. The reason is that I already own most of the instruments they were selling. It also made me realize just how many I've purchased on previous trips.

After empanadas, Karen and Cindy went to try to find blankets in the size Cindy really wanted. Jon and I went over to the monument to get my picture in front of it "holding" the ball that's on top. We kept hoping that Elvira and her husband would open up their shop before we left. As luck would have it, they were just opening their shop when we headed over to the paila shop. We went in and thankfully they had blankets in the size Cindy had wanted. As it turns out, they are the only shop there who still carries the smaller ones. I realized at this point how little willpower I really have. They offered the blankets at such a good price that I got one. Then Jon pointed out the really cool ponchos that they are now selling. They’re made out of llama fur and are really soft. I ended up having to get one too. Then Karen found another awesome hat that they offered to sell me for a mere $2.50. You can't say no to a deal like that. At least I can't… Thankfully I got out of there without too much damage to my wallet.

Me at the Mitad del Mundo monument

We grabbed some paila and then headed to the house to chill for a little bit before seminary later in the day. There was even enough time for me to take a short nap before heading off to teach.

I planned to spend the next two days talking about Islam. This is not something I had planned to teach on, but Jon said that Islam is starting to be talked about some in Ecuador and it would be helpful for the students to be aware of the basic beliefs and practices of Islam. I had planned to spend the lecture talking about the history of Islam saving the major beliefs and the 5 Pillars for tomorrow. I once again underestimated how quickly we could go through several pages of notes.

After talking about the history of Islam, we still had 20 minutes left. Yikes! I was still finishing up my material for tomorrow, but I had already had my notes for the 5 pillars of Islam. We spent the rest of the time talking about those. As we were talking about the daily prayers and the Hajj, it occurred to me that most of the students have never seen any pictures or videos of either of these. I asked them if they'd like me to try to find a video for tomorrow of Muslims praying. They said the would, so I hunted down a video clip later in the evening. Hopefully it will go over well.

Instead of sitting in on Cindy's class, I spent the rest of the evening in the library working on my material for the rest of the week. While I had a good idea of what I was going to talk about for the basic beliefs in Islam, I hadn't finished putting it together yet. Before I'm called a slacker, which I know I am at times, I didn't know I would be teaching on it until I'd been here several days. So really, I'd only been procrastinating for a few days. I prefer to call it ruminating…

After classes were done for the day, we headed back to the house to eat supper, prepare for the next day, and most importantly go to bed. Seminary week is much more tiring than I had expected. On the plus side, we'll get to sleep in tomorrow because we can't go anywhere until at least 9:30 because of Pico y Placa. This is something that has been started by the government in the past few months. One day a week, you cannot drive into the city 7:30-9:30AM and 4:30-7:30PM. This is based upon the last digit of your license, and serves to reduce the number of personal vehicles driving in Quito during rush hour by 20%. While annoying at times, it really does make traffic lighter during rush hour. The worse thing about it is that the paila shop near the house closes at 7:30, which means no paila on Wednesdays. As it would so happen, the day I most want paila on seems to be Wednesdays. At least I got some at Mitad today!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ecuador Day 13: The First Day of Seminary

The first day of class started with me getting up at 10:00. My logic was that I needed to be well rested for the day. Staying up late might be part of it too. I spent the morning going through my notes and adding some material I had been planning on tossing in for my lecture the next day. Jon and Karen got home in time for lunch. They had spent the morning matriculating more students at the Seminary, buying more books for some of the classes, and shopping for sugar.

The government has decided that since sugar is produced in Ecuador, no imported sugar will be allowed. The amazing thing is that so much sugar is being produced here, people are only allowed to buy two bags of sugar at a time. Granted, these two bags can be 1 pound bags, 2.5 pound bags, or 4.5 pound bags. But you can only buy two of them. This is a problem because Rosario, who is cooking for the seminary, had figured up that she needed about 50 pounds of sugar. Karen's plan was to go see how much sugar she could buy at the grocery store she goes to when she buys food for the food program. She figured that if they wouldn't let her buy enough, us four gringos would just go through the line, each get two bags, put them in the car, and then go through the line again. Thankfully, one of the managers at the store greeted her warmly and instructed a staff member to get her more sugar than she thought she'd need. The seminary won't need sugar for quite a while. I just hope the manager doesn't get in trouble for selling her so much.

After lunch, we headed up to the seminary to set up the projector in the classroom. They had some many students sign up that we realized that there would be 38 students in my class. We started rearranging desks, adding chairs, and bringing in more tables so that we could fit all of the students. We figured that if there were that many students for my class, we'd need room for at least 50 students for Cindy's class.

I expected to be really nervous about teaching, but I actually felt pretty confidant about it. This was a surprise because I'd been pretty nervous for several weeks. Class started with Jon introducing me since many in the class had not been able to be here the night before. We then sang a song that I didn't know, and then prayed. Then it was time for lecture.

The first religion I wanted to cover was Mormonism. The reason for teaching on Mormonism is that it is growing very quickly here. As we started discussing it, I found out that several people in the class have Mormon neighbors here in Quito. I had expected to only get through the history of the religion and maybe a few of the beliefs. After all, teaching through a translator takes at least twice as much time. I was in for a surprise, we flew through everything in just over an hour. This included taking questions from the class and assigning some homework. This was cause for some concern. Material I expected to take almost two full lectures only took one. The plus side to this is that we can cover more material than I had initially expected.

The rest of the day was spent eating supper and then sitting in Cindy's class on communication. Her class runs 5-8:30, which is a pretty long stretch. We ended up having quite a few students from UCL come to the class. UCL is the only Evangelical seminary in the country that is recognized by the government. SETE (our seminary) is working on partnering with them so that we can offer some classes that will count towards a college theology degree for our pastors. Students from UCL were told that they could attend some of the classes here to get extra credit for their studies at UCL.
A student from UCL helps Jon demonstrate an exercise in Cindy's class

We expected only a couple of students to come. We were surprised when nearly 10 students showed up. That means Cyndi has one very full class. It's just about standing room only.

Two students doing a communication exercise

To demonstrate how difficult communication can be, Cindy had students pair up and do an exercise.
Two other students working on the exercise

Because it required talking, she had students spread out all over the building. This struck me as a good opportunity to walk around and get pictures of them working together. I headed up to the top floor to watch the students, and was treated to a beautiful view of Cotopaxi as the sun was setting down. I ran downstairs to grab a longer lens and snap some pictures. I suspect this is the best view of Cotopaxi I'll have all trip.

Cotopaxi as seen from the roof of the seminary

After the classes were finished, we took Jenny (who is translating for Cindy) to catch a bus, and started to head home. We were bemoaning the fact that the paila shop was already closed when the Lamberts pointed out a restaurant that has really great chocolate cake. We got it to go and enjoyed cake with Danny back at the house. It was a great way to end our first day teaching at the Seminary. There's only four days to go!

Ecuador Day 12: Church at Zabala and the Start of Seminary

Getting up early for church was certainly worth the effort! I had forgotten what a hugging and kissing church Zabala is. Everyone is greeted with hugs and kisses from their brothers and sisters. One young girl asked Jon if I was a pastor from the U.S. When he said I kind of was, her comment was that I must not know Spanish then. She went on to say the only languages I probably knew were English and Chinese. I was kind of hurt because I also happen to speak Pig Latin pretty well. At least I think so…

Jenny led worship, and did a wonderful job of it. Granted, I didn't always know what was being sung, but I knew we were worshiping! As Cindy put it, we might not understand Spanish, but we knew what Jenny was saying! When we got to the preaching part of the service, I was in for a surprise. Marta talked about her journey to Zabala, and what it had come to mean to her. She then invited several different people up to talk about how they came to Zabala and how it had impacted their lives. Marta also called Jon and Karen forward to share about their history with Zabala. Many people there did not know that Jon and Karen had helped build the original church building not only before there was a congregation there, but also before they were missionaries here.

We also saw some pictures of what had taken place in the life of the church in the past year. We saw pictures of a big baptism service that had taken place earlier in the year. They made the celebration into a weekend trip for the whole church. It looked like a great time. The youth in the church also held VBS at several of our churches outside of the city. They went to Tonsupa for one of their VBS trips. Marta said that it went so well that people in the community begged them to stay an extra week, which they did. They worked with about 70 children, many of whom do not go to that church. I'll admit that I kind of wish I could have gone with them. One reason for that, though, is that Paula and Kati are fantastic cooks. The food looked awesome! I'll admit, I really like food. But the VBS looked awesome too.

Marta also went to Amazonas. Amazonas is a church that is south of Quito and is (as the name implies) in the Amazon jungle. The church building is so cute! It was interesting to listen to Jon and Karen's comments about the church because they've never been able to visit it. They were seeing parts of it and members of the church that they have never seen before. Part way through the slide show, Marta cut it off and told us that there were some sisters working hard upstairs to prepare some finger foods for the celebration who would like to see the pictures as well. With that said, we all headed upstairs.

We all got upstairs to find Jenny finishing up a lesson with the younger children. They seemed to be having fun. There were benches around the perimeter of the room with the children's chairs in the center.
Some of the kids at Zabala

There were some tables across the front that had snacks and three cakes on them. Karen, Cindy, and I made it upstairs ahead of Jon. We tried to go sit in the back and we were quickly informed that we had to sit behind the tables at the front of the room. We were not fans of this idea, but we weren't given an option. Jon managed to sneak in and grab a seat towards the back. Then they brought the projector and computer upstairs and decided the best place to show the rest of the pictures would be at the front of the room. Since they wanted us to be able to see them, they moved us to the back. This seemed like a much better option. Or it did until they moved the tables to the back. Not only were they moved to the back, but they were placed directly in front of us again.

I was pretty excited about the snacks on the table, but then they started bringing out potato cakes. They had cooked enough for everyone in the church to have them. Even better, they had some awesome ají to put on them.
Yum! Ají!

The potato cakes had beef and vegetables in the center. They were the best ones I'd ever had. Someone also brought out a plate with several more and put them on the table in front of us. Karen told me that we might as well eat them because they wouldn’t let anyone else have them. They were for us. Well, I felt bad about it, but I figured it would be bad to let them go to waste. They also had lemonade for everyone, but they brought us a big bottle of Coke. I asked Karen about it, and she said that many work campers won't drink the lemonade in case it's unsafe to drink. I figured I'd go for the lemonade anyway because I've never had something at that church that has made me sick. They are very careful to only serve food and drinks that are safe for us.

Karen cuts the cakes

The anniversary celebration lasted for about an hour, and we didn't leave church until about noon. We headed back to the house to eat lunch, but I wasn't the least bit hungry after eating at Zabala. We knew we'd have to leave for the Seminary in a few hours to get stuff ready, attend a worship service, and matriculate students. I took them time to take a nap. After all, it's Sunday afternoon, which I think is the best time to take a nap.

Little sisters: annoying brothers all over the world

Later in the day, we mosied over to the Seminary to get everything ready to matriculate students and give them their books and other necessary items. We did that for a little while and then headed next door for the worship service. Some of the young adults at Comite led us in praise and worship and then Jon shared about changes happening in the country that are changing the way Seminary is going to have to be structured in the future.

Part of the praise band

He then preached about the importance of getting education to prepare ourselves for ministry. After the sermon, he introduced those of us who would be teaching class. Manuel, the pastor of Comite is teaching a class on evangelism in the morning, I am teaching a class on other religions in the afternoon, and Cindy is teaching classes in the even on communication, conflict resolution, and addictions. Jon prayed for us, and then it was back to the seminary to matriculate students.

I was surprised at the age of many of the students. For a student to attend they must be at least 15, be actively serving in a church, and have the signature of their pastor. Many of the students are teenagers. The youngest is actually 14, but she's one of the most mature students here. Almost every student who signed up tonight are teenagers. We were told that there would be more students registering the next evening just for Cindy's classes at night. The reason for this is that they have to work during the day, but they are available to take classes in the evening. This is one of the first times, if not the first time, that there have been night classes. The hope is that they will be popular with those who work during the day but could attend at night if classes are offered.

After we finished up at the Seminary, we headed back to the house to get a bit of food and start thinking about bed. Because my class isn't until 2:45, Cindy and I don't have to be at the Seminary until around 2:00. This means sleeping in and study are both called for in the morning.

Ecuador Day 11: Meeting and More Shoes

The past few days have been very busy. Saturday started off with the National Committee meeting at their office at the seminary. It was great to meet many of the pastors. Some of them I'd only met once or twice several years ago, and some of them I'd never even seen before. The Lamberts translated for us some, and I was able to pick up enough on my own to at least have an idea of what was going on. It was a meeting though, which means it can only stay interesting for so long.

We had planned to go back to the house to grab some food before picking up the shoes for Hands 4 Ecuador's Happy Feet program, but the National Committee had other plans. They decided to treat everyone at the meeting to lunch down the street. I'm still not sure where the money came from, but the food was very good. We went to a small restaurant that is close to the Seminary. The food was roast chicken, rice with beans (can't remember what the dish is called), french fries, and cole slaw. It was a neat experience. I'd wanted to eat at a place like that for quite a while, so it was nice to finally do that.

With lunch out of the way, we headed off to the shoe store to pick up 300 pairs of shoes. Mariano went with us to help us load and unload them as well as get a truck for us. I would say that it took longer than I expected to get the shoes, but that would be a lie. At this point, I'm getting pretty used to the concept of Ecuadorian time. While we were waiting, we found some more shoes on sail, so Karen and Cindy picked out another 14 pairs of shoes bringing the total to, I think, 344 pairs. One interesting thing we noted was that the price tag on last years shoes were $26. The same shoes this year cost $36. That's a huge increase in just one year! Because of the increased price of shoes, school has just gotten much more expensive for families, and it makes it much harder for many families to send their kids to school.

The best part of dropping the shoes off at the Seminary was that we planned to get paila afterward. Have I mentioned how much I love paila? It's pretty awesome stuff!

Jon and Cindy showing off their paila

We took Mariano with us to help thank him for all of his hard work. He said he'd only had paila once while he was in the military. I think he's as big a fan of it as I am!

Mariano and his delicious paila

We spent the rest of the day at the house working on our lessons for seminary and just relaxing a little bit. We knew that Sunday would be a long day. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, we didn't need to go to Ofelia for church so we discussed where we'd like to go. We decided on Zabala once we realized that it would be their anniversary celebration. The downside was that the service starts at 8:30 so we'd need to leave by 8:00. Oh well, I figured it'd be worth it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Ecuador Days 8, 9, and 10: Shoes, Seminary, and Ceviche

It's been several days since I posted partly because we've been somewhat busy, but I haven't had a great deal to post. Part of the reason for this is that a family that is moving from Quito to Orlando stayed with us for several days. The husband is from Ecuador and the wife is from Illinois. Their kids, while American citizens, have grown up in Quito and are essentially Ecuadorian. They owned a hair salon here catering mainly to Americans. As Americans have left the country due to the government here being less friendly to Americans and American business, their business has declined. Because of this, they've felt that moving back to the United States is a better option for them and their family. It's been interesting seeing the family saying their goodbyes to friends and family here while preparing to transition to life in another country. Their kids were asking me lots of questions about what it's like to live in America and what Orlando is like. While they've travel to the US some to visit family, they've never spent a significant amount of time there. To make matters even tougher, they are not Christians. They Lamberts have spent years developing a relationship with them, but they have not been terribly open to Christ. My prayers go out for them during this time of transition that they not only find Christ, but that they find a place to settle and jobs.

Their last night here, we all went to a restaurant called La Ronda. La Ronda is a restaurant that serves traditional Ecuadorian food. Fritada is one of their specialties as well as a very traditional Ecuadorian dish. I decided to order that and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. Fritada is a dish that is made of pork that has been boiled and then fried. It was served with fried bananas, a type of corn cake, and hominy. I've had hominy multiple times, and have never been a fan until this time. It was pretty fantastic. My only complaint about it was that it had quite a bit of cilantro on it and I'm not the biggest fan of cilantro. Over all though, I was a big fan of the food. I would eat there again in a heartbeat!

The best part of the restaurant was the live music. They had a group of six men who went table to table playing traditional Andean music. They were all dressed in matching ponchos and hats, and played quite a variety of instruments. They had guys playing quenas, pan flutes, guitars, drums, and even a charango. One of the guys who played the charango played it the fastest I've ever seen. It was truly impressive. They were not the only life music though. There was also a group of three guys who played Spanish guitar and sang ballads. They were quite excellent as well. It was a truly enjoyable experience.

The next day (Wednesday) after the families departure to the airport, we headed out to run errands. Our first stop was at a shoe store to price out school shoes. Hands for Ecuador has been raising the money to buy school shoes for children in the churches here. They had hoped to raise enough money to buy 220 pairs of shoes. Cindy called a couple of days before to tell us that they had managed to raise more than $5,300. With this number in mind, we set off to see how many shoes could be bought with this money and to put a deposit down. After picking out styles for both younger and older boys and girls as well as sizes, one of the salespeople set off to see how much 200 pairs would cost. He came back 15-20 minutes later with the quote, and we realized we could buy at least another hundred pairs. The salesman went off and came back a few minutes later with his total. 305 pairs of shoes came out to just under $5000. This meant that we still had $300 left to spend. While he had been putting together the quote, we had been looking around the shoe store and found some really awesome shoes that looked like Chuck Taylors and had dinosaurs all over them. I'm still kind of wanting them… Anywho, we also found a clearance rack with some shoes from last year. All of them were 50% off. Karen told the guy to get us every pair he could find as long as the total was under $300. Several minutes later, we were walking to the register with another 30 pairs of school shoes, the most expensive of which was $10. Keep in mind that all of these shoes are made of leather and are pretty good quality. Karen paid for the shoes and then put down a deposit on the rest of the shoes. The salesman seemed pretty excited for his sale and event through in 200 plastic rulers with the Bunky logo (the shoe manufacture) on them. We'll had back tomorrow to pick up the other 305 pairs of shoes.

After that, we grabbed lunch at a Chinese restaurant and then headed to the Seminary so Jon could attend a short meeting. While he did that, I helped Karen go through all of the Children of Promise files to look up the birth dates of all of the children in the program. I enjoyed getting to see all of their pictures and hearing about some of them. Some of them, like the kids at Meridiano, have grown up a great deal since I last saw them nearly 8 years ago. It was also a good time to learn more at the Children of Promise program. I didn't realize just how little I knew about it.

After Jon's meeting, we headed back to the house. They worked in the office some and I studied some for my upcoming classes. I might have read a little bit of Harry Potter as well. Ok, I read a little bit of Harry Potter. After Danny got home from working at the hospital, we had supper. As we were finishing up, Jon was commenting about how nice it would be to have some paila for dessert. Sadly, there was no place to get paila nearby, or so we thought. Danny told us there was a place only a few minutes away that looked pretty good. That was enough for us. We grabbed our shoes, jumped in the car, and were off with Danny at the wheel. As we got there, the owners were just leaving the shop and were in the process of locking the doors. We inquired about their hours, and it turns out they close at 7:30 and we had gotten there at 7:35. They then told us we'd be welcome to still come in and get some if we'd like. They had a ton of flavors to pick from. I ended up getting a scoop of taxo and a scoop of guanábana served in a tulipan. A tulipan is an edible ice cream bowl that looks a little bit like a tulip. All I can say about the paila was that it was absolutely delicious. It wasn't as pretty as the one I had at Mitad del Mundo, and didn't have all of the extras on it, but it didn't need it. I suspect I will be getting paila there at least another couple of times before I leave Ecuador.

On Thursday, Jon and I started off the morning by heading to the Seminary to drop a hand truck off so that Mariano could go get the gas cylinders filled for the kitchen at the seminary. Mariano is the man who was stabbed, thrown off a cliff, and left to die several years ago. I've only met him briefly before now. Our next stop was Mega Kywi. Mega Kywi is the largest hardware store in the city. It may be the largest in the country (Jon isn't sure if the one in Guayaquil is bigger).

Mega Kywi is a lot like a Home Depot or a Lowes. They have just about everything you could need ranging from desk to plants to mowers to hardware. The biggest difference between Mega Kywi and hardware stores in the US is the prices. Many items such as lawnmowers are much more expensive here than they are at home. Karen pointed out to me later that while the prices may be significantly higher, at least you can get all of these things now. In the past, it was almost impossible to get much of what Mega Kywi carries. On the way back to the car, we stopped by a little stand that had really great vanilla cake donuts. Jon knows of all the best food places around!

After our trip to the store, we headed back to the Seminary to drop stuff off. We had purchased a desk and a file cabinet for the office, so we left those with Mariano to put together. Then we headed home for lunch, and what a lunch it was! Karen had cooked ceviche for lunch. Ceviche is a traditional Ecuadorian soup that is served cold. Karen made ceviche that was tomato based with shrimp and chochos in it. Chochos are a type of bean that you can only get here. It was very, very good.

After lunch, we headed back to the Seminary so that Jon could meet with some installers who are putting in internet at the Seminary. The internet they're getting is the cheapest available. It's 256K and cost $80/month! It's still cheaper than the other option which was a blazing 512K and cost a mere $175 a month. When the told me the cost of the more expensive one, I about fell over. That just seems like highway robbery to me.

Once we were done with the installers, we headed to Santa Clara to hit up the market to buy some pots and pans for the seminary. Some of the cooking utensils have a habit of walking off, and some larger pots and pans were needed so that the cooks can prepare food for more than 40 people. We went to three different shops to compare prices and ended up getting some stuff at each one. With that out of the way, we headed to Bosque, one of the malls in the area. We went to a computer store first to purchase an ethernet cable for the Seminary. I was expecting it to be really expensive, but a 10 foot cable was only $4. It turns out that the cable is imported, but is not considered a luxury item. Because of that, computer cables can be made here very cheaply. While Jon was buying the cable, Karen noticed a rack of jackets on sale for $10 a piece. She looked at all of them and mentioned that they'd make great Christmas presents for some of the older girls in Children of Promise. She ended up picking out 10 of them. It was fun helping play Santa for some of the kids. We're hoping to hit up the Christian bookstore soon to pick up presents for the rest of the children while the store still has some good stuff in. We then ate dinner at the food court in the mall.

We ate supper in front of some big windows that face out over part of Quito as well as the airport. As the sun went down, we noticed that one of the valleys out past the airport was positively glowing. Over the next 15 or so minutes, we watched the light creep up the side of the mountains. The light turned everything gold and it cast deep shadows helping to see the topography of the land. Sadly, the show was over pretty quickly. The sun sets and rises incredibly fast here on the equator. Once we were done eating, we wandered into a movie store for a few minutes. They sell DVDs for $2.50 each, and have tons of them. They also sell games for computers and many gaming systems (also for $2.50). You can guess where the DVDs come from. It seemed funny to me to see two such stores in one mall.

Once we were finished at the mall, we headed back to the house for the evening. I worked a little bit on stuff for my classes and then played on the computer some. We had hoped to get some paila, but were not able to make it to the shop before they were closed. Maybe next time…

Today, I've just hung around the house reading for school and for fun and worked on finishing up my lectures. I also did some laundry while I had the chance because life starts getting much busier tomorrow.

Tomorrow is the meeting of the National Committee. We also need to run pick up the rest of the shoes, all 305 pairs of them. Sunday, we're going to church at Ofelia where Jon will preach both services. Then we have to go to the Seminary to register people for the week and then have a worship service for the seminary tomorrow night at Comite. Classes begin on Monday and run through the rest of the week. It's going to be an adventure!