martes, 22 de julio de 2008

Farewell Ecuador...USA, Here I Come!

Well, my bags are (almost) packed and I am (almost) ready to go. Just four more hours, and I will be on my way! The last few days have been such an overwhelming mixture of emotions that I almost feel numb at this point. I don´t want to say anymore goodbyes. I don´t want to try to shove another thing into my suitcase. I don´t want to check one more thing off my to-do list. I don´t even want one more agonizing hug from my beloved children. I do, however, want to take this one last chance to reflect on the past 49 weeks.

I came to El Centro del Muchacho Trabajador to make a difference, to help, and to contribute to the world. Naturally, I have come away with so much more than I could ever possibly have given. These people, living a lifestyle you and I cannot begin to imagine, have shown me daily what it means to truly give, to love unconditionally, to trust without doubt, to have patience and understanding, to be selfless, and to find joy in what really matters.

I have experienced emotions to extremes that I never thought possible. I have never felt joy and love and happiness like I have here, and I have never felt frustration, exhaustion, and uncertainty like I have here.

My sister sent me this quote after I first arrived in Ecuador, and since I am struggling to find the right words at this moment, I will borrow Alan´s...

It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting. For in movement there is life, and in change there is power. - Alan Cohen

I left the comfort and familiarity of Minnesota and came to Ecuador. I have experienced the adventurous and exciting, and I have felt the movement and the change. I have fallen in love with the people, I´ve become part of the culture. Now Ecuador has become home, and it´s time to return to the life I once knew, to embrace what will no longer feel so familiar, and to look ahead to what is next.

My year in Ecuador has come to a close. I am leaving a family behind, some of the most wonderful people I have ever met. I know for a fact that the memories I have gathered here...the feeling of Luz Clara´s little arms around my neck, the tears in Ana´s eyes, the sound of Jenny´s giggle, the agony in Rosa´s voice as she wonders how she will make ends meet, the voice of Vicky screaming my name when I walk in the door, the sounds of each unique set of my housemates´ footsteps that I have come to know so well...they will be with me forever. And I pray to God that I have left just a fraction of a memory with each one of them.

Thank you all for the endless support you have shown over the past year - the letters, the phone calls, the packages, the emails, the thoughts and prayers. I truly am one blessed girl.

See you tomorrow.

viernes, 11 de julio de 2008

The End is in Sight...

Classes are done, Emily is gone, the despedida is over, grades are turned in, and goodbyes have been said. A beach trip, Patrick´s birthday, a few more goodbyes, lots of salsa dancing, and 12 more days until I am home!!!

Last Friday, we had a HUGE 4th of July party here, complete with watermelon seed spitting, bean bag toss, mini hotdogs, flag cake, 3-legged race, and face-pieing! I had tons of 4th of July-ish prizes, thanks to Jill, so the kids had a blast...even if they didn´t exactly understand what we were celebrating. One of the highlights of the party was USA trivia - which, I have to say, for being poor little street kids who don´t know the countries that border theirs, they did ok! My favorite answer was to the question "How many states are in the United States?" In true overly-excited CMT kid fashion, one girl confidently yelled out "TWO!!!"

The next day, both centers combined to throw us an even HUGER going away party. It started at 8am with breakfast, followed by a volunteers vs. Ecua-staff soccer game (they barely won 10-8, with the highlight being when one of our volunteers took out a little girl innocently watching from the sidelines), then mass, lunch, and the big program. The program involved lots of songs and dances, a skit, and a poem. It was really nice, and just Ecuadorianly funny enough that I didn´t have a chance to cry. Flannery and I somehow got roped into doing a traditional Ecua dance with our adult students. Despite long, disorganized rehearsals that resulted in a not-so-spectacular dance, we got to wear beautiful outfits and it was good time (look at the pictures on Facebook, if you can).

These last few days have been filled with more parties, dinners out, field trips, and gift-giving. Yesterday, one of my favorites since day 1, Celia (she´s 4), started asking me all kinds of questions...When are you leaving? Where are you going? Why are you leaving? Are all the gringitas (direct translation: little white females) leaving? When are you coming back? Can I come with you? Will your dad be there?

God, I´m going to miss these kids.

See you soon,

lunes, 23 de junio de 2008

Let the Countdown Begin...

I will be back in MN one month from today! According to mom, that puts us at 29 days and counting. I´ve been getting the "what´s next?" question a lot lately, so this is the plan for now: go home, live with mom and dad in good old Chanhassen, eat delicious food that I´ve been deprived of for the last year, spend major quality catch up time with friends and family, make some money at Deer Run golf course for a few months while I sort through the many opportunities out there...non-profit jobs, other kinds of jobs, jobs involving communication and nutrition, interesting jobs where I feel like I´m positively contributing to society, jobs in Minnesote, jobs elsewhere...the options are endless at this point. As our current favorite spanish phrase goes, vamos a ver (we will see).

I completed my third and (probably) final race at 10,000 feet yesterday. Two of my compadres and I ran a 15k, while one crazy volunteer opted for the longer marathon distance. Despite cramps, coughing and vomiting (oh yes, and the 5:30 AM start time), I ran my best per mileage time yet, thanks to Patrick and Chi running! I really hope to continue running back in the states, so if anyone knows of fun races or good running buddies, let me know. I did petition to get into the Chicago marathon in October, but we were not successful - very possibly a blessing in disguise. Maybe next year...

This morning, I stumbled upon a piece of paper tucked in my notebook titled, "Computacion Class: Day 1 Introduction." Needless to say, it was a full paragraph of what I was going to say to my very first class on my very first day of school. I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions as I glanced over the words...amusement and laughter, embarassment and shame(did I really say THAT?), and a good boost of self-esteem and pride at how "far" I´ve come. Really, I have to sound at least a little bit better than that today, after 10 months of agonizing spanish "oopsies." I´m not going to mention any names, but at least I didn´t argue about the bill with the chinese restaurant owner (turns out $2.50 times 5 IS $12.50, not $7.50) AND confirm our assignment to write a play full of jokes by saying "Sure! We will write a play full of sadness and have it ready for you tomorrow morning!" all in the span of 24 hours (payback time).

On that note, thanks for reading. I´ll be back soon. Love you all, and see you SOON!


domingo, 1 de junio de 2008

Feliz Dia del Nino!

To all you kids out there, turns out they have here in Ecuador exactly what we've always dreamed of in the United States...Kids Day! And here I thought it was such a long shot when Mothers and Fathers Day would roll around and I'd whine about how there isn't a Kids Day. That's one thing I love about this country - they celebrate EVERY holiday, and they celebrate it good.

On a more serious note, I hope all you "faithful" readers notice that I'm writing for the second time in five days, despite the lack of comments on my last entry.

Here is a list of observations I've compiled over the last month or so, titled "Things that still take me surprise after living here for 10 months." Enjoy.

1. Kids sharpening pencils with a straight-edge razor in the middle of class.
2. I am not sick of rice and beans, even though I eat it for at least 1 meal a day.
3. The view of snow-capped volcano, Cotopaxi, that can only be seen on the clearest days.
4. I regularly get by, even function, on 5 hours of sleep.
5. I dislike most of the chocolate sold in this country.
6. I'm a teacher, I have students, and they still consistently show up for my classes.
7. People never fail to greet everyone in the room when they walk in, even if it means interrupting a meeting they are a half hour late for.
8. I like running, and do so regularly despite the altitude, hills, and pollution, and I've missed it a lot since taking a break due to illness.
9. The sun is SO hot, and when it's not out, it is SO chilly.
10. People who get on the public bus to sell ridiculous things like cookbooks and make-up. And people actually buy them.
11. I suddenly love coconut after despising it for the last 22 years of my life.
12. Seeing our shoe-shine boys out on the streets actually shining shoes.
And finally...
13. I am surprised that I was not surprised to find a bottle of ketchup in my goody bag from a recent 15k race.

miércoles, 28 de mayo de 2008

I will officially be home July 23rd. I am getting pretty darn excited to go to twins games, hang out on the lakes, ride my bike, and shop at target. On the other hand, the reality of how hard it will be to leave here is really setting in.

The past few weeks (or months?) have been busy as usual. Mom and Jill were here visiting in April and we had a spectacular time relaxing in the rainforest, climbing to the top of the basilica, hanging out with the center fams, and salsa dancing! They were big time troopers and fit in just perfectly. Miss you, moms!

Classes are winding down (kind of), the first volunteer leaves Friday (love you Davey-baby), our last weekly reflection is tonight, and the discussions of everything we want to do "one last time" are taking over. I can´t believe a year (almost) has come and gone so quickly. On that note, before this becomes a big sappy mess, I´m going to sign off.

Sorry I don´t have anything interesting to write at the moment...I´ve been sick for the last 6 weeks, and that´s the only thing I can think of right now (but I´ll spare you the ugly details). I promise, I´ll be back.


miércoles, 9 de abril de 2008

I Should Have Stayed in Bed Today/Welcome to the Jungle

When I was in 2nd grade, I recited a poem for the school talent show titled, "I Should Have Stayed in Bed Today." I can´t help but think that phrase over and over again this afternoon, as I just had the worst morning I´ve had since coming to Ecuador (even worse than the time I woke up with a migraine, or the time I woke up thinking it was Saturday, only to find out that it was in fact Tuesday).

To make a long story short, I found out that I am supposed to be teaching computer class on Tuesday mornings still - I´d had them free for the last few weeks because, I swear, my course had ended. Then, in an entirely unrelated matter (I was already feeling bad about the miscommunication regarding before-mentioned Tuesday class) I got yelled at for about 20 minutes by the head of the sales and marketing department (under which I teach my computer classes) because, apparently, I have not been teaching my students anything and/or they have not learned anything (the verdict´s still out) for the past 7 months. Not only was this done IN FRONT OF 2 of my classes, but I was so frazzled (think: shaking, sweating, on the verge of tears) that I could hardly spit out a word of spanish in my defense. To put it bluntly, it was a situation that made me a. not want to stay here for another year, and b. want to quit today and never walk into that computer room again. Let´s just say that I am, more than ever, grateful to have pretty f-ing amazing friends here who 1. listened to be bitch for an hour afterward, 2. defended me to no end (i shouldn´t go without mentioning here that many of my students also lovingly came to my defense), 3. bitched with me before suggesting logical solutions, and 4. did not hesitate to crack open a few beers in my noon.

On a lighter note, I survived the jungle, FARC-less and anaconda-less! It was an absolutely incredible trip from start to finish...we saw tons of monkeys, beautiful birds, a red snake (from far away, thank God), and huge turtles. We also fished for piranhas (then cooked them and ate them), did lots of hiking (even in the middle of the night), ate dinner by candle light, went swimming at sunset every night, made yuca (potato-like root) bread, met a shamman, canoed, and got temporary (although mine has yet to even start fading...) tattoos from our guides with ink from a berry bush. I was challenged and uncomfortable at many points during the week (no electricity, no showers, lots of bugs, lots of humidity, lots of strange jungle noises at night, etc.), but I am so glad that I went and it´s an experience that I will not forget anytime soon.

Other tidbits...I am running another 10k this Sunday - pray that my knees hold up! My mom and Jill will be here a week from Friday - I am so excited to see them and show them around! It was brought to my attention that I made a few mistakes in my last blog (so it´s caRAbeener, lay off...and I think it makes more sense for rainforest to be 2 words anyway) - my English is suffering at the hands of learning Spanish (which is also suffering, oddly enough). Despite the negative tone of the first paragraph of this entry, I´ve had quite a few "I love my life" moments recently...which is probably why I deserved to have a wicked horrible morning today. Karma´s a bitch.

(Sorry for saying the b-word 3 times in this one, I said, my English is suffering. I´m not quite the human thesaurus that I once was. Take what you can get ;)).

Love you and miss you all,

martes, 25 de marzo de 2008

This is more of a "don´t worry, I´m alive" sort of update. My sister was here for the last 10 days, and we had a blast hanging out and participating in all that Quito Holy Week had to offer. I left the morning she left (yesterday) to take a quick trip to Mindo, a village in the rain forest about 2 hours west of here. Emily and I spent 2 crazy, yet relaxing, days hiking, biking, running, butterfly watching, laying in hammocks, eating delicious food, and doing a zip line course. And by zip line course, I mean we soared over the canyons and tree tops of the rain forest by way of a wire cable, harnass, and cabeener hook! For those of you who are not aware, I am severely afraid of heights. I try not to let that get in the way of kick-ass adventures though, and I´m so glad I didn´t pass this one up. It was amazing! I leave in the morning for a 5 day jungle tour. We are headed to the northeast part of the country (bordering Colombia - keep me in your prayers!). I´m a little nervous about the snakes and spiders, but I can´t wait to see the monkeys and pink dolphins! I promise to write again before a month from now :)