Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Last days in Ecuador

After finishing up exams on Thursday I was ready to relax and enjoy my last few days in Ecuador. And so I have done. Now I am ready to fly out tomorrow morning bright and early. I can barely sleep because of the excitement. I'll be home for Christmas!
Friday was my relaxing day. I mostly stayed inside and played with my host sister, Estefania. I am truly going to miss that little girl. She is so precious to me and it has been so wonderful to watch her grow during the last four months. She is talking quite a lot now and we have very interesting conversations. She is the cutest two year old who loves candy and silly bands. I'm going to miss her precious smile, the way she says my name, and spending time with my little shadow.
Saturday morning Kimberly and I headed out to the tiny village of Quilatoa which sits on the edge of a volcanic crater that is now a lagoon. We did not know exactly where we were going so the bus ride there was quite interesting. On the first leg of the journey we were separated in the bus with Kimberly up front and me in the back with some rowdy kids my age. It turned out to be so fun and I was laughing all the way there as they amused me with their jokes and requests for English phrases. It was fun to hang out with the youth of this country. On the next bus we were weaving up into the mountains when the clouds started to settle in. The bus had to move at a snail's pace because it was so difficult to see because of the fog. It was a bit eerie to be quite honest. Then, some of the people in the bus were shouting at the bus driver to stop. On the other side of the bus, on the outside of the window, some yellow liquid was dripping down. This again made things all the more eerie. Thankfully it was just soup that had been packed on the top of the bus but had turned over. Then, a few more minutes down the road a man looks at Kimberly and I and asks if we are headed to Quilatoa. Quilatoa is frequented by tourists and since we were the only gringas on the bus the deduction could be easily made. We nodded and he chuckled and said that we had just passed it! We quickly shouted at the drive to stop and they let us of the bus telling us to walk back a bit. But the fog was so dense that we could not see anything. We laughed to ourselves about being dumped on the side of the road and not knowing where we were. It was so unfortunate that it was comical. We barely saw a building a little ways in front of us. Since I had to use the bathroom we decided to stop there and ask for directions. We opened the door to the lodge and stepped in. It was dark and appeared to be like a scary movie. We shouted hello but got no response. Finally, we heard some noises. So we ventured further in and finally found a man in the kitchen. We had wandered in to a hotel. The price was steep but because we had no idea where we were and the man said the crater was very close, we decided to stay there. It was the most rustic but charming lodge with a fireplace and a heater and couches. We ate our tuna fish and talked for a while but then decided to take a nap. Then, we woke up for a delicious dinner that was included in the price and talked some more. We woke up the next morning to have breakfast and hike along the crater. We could see the volcanoes off in the distance and I realized how much I will miss those mountains. It was a beautiful spot! It is probably one of the most beautiful things I have seen in Ecuador. I sat on the edge and just admired how gorgeous it was. It was a great time of talking and reflecting on what God had done in our lives over the past four months.
Now I am back in Quito and have been passing the past few days doing a few of my favorite things in this city. Yesterday I rode my last bus to Cumbaya and back and ate choclo con queso with my family in the street at night. Today is bread and wandering around the market with friends. I am ready to come home. The bags are mostly packed. I should be Stateside tomorrow at 4pm.
God has been so faithful. I am amazed by His faithfulness and goodness. He has kept me safe. He has given me a great host family. He provided friendships. He directed me to a church. He has given me great experiences and lessons that I will never forget. He has given me great times in His Word. He has let me come to know Him more...
Oh how He loves us...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

You're the God of this city...

Quito, luz de America, alma del mundo

This weekend, and on through Monday, are the fiestas de Quito. This week long party celebrates Quito's independence from Spain. It is a time of food, drink, concerts, dancing, parades, plays, and much more. The streets are filled with street vendors and chivas, open air buses that are like moving disco bars. This city parties hard from the young to the old. It has been so interesting to watch how this city comes alive with pride and with spirit.
Yesterday I went to watch the parade near my house. The street was full of people and it was hard to find a good place to stand and watch. The mayor finally arrived and the parade began. Dance groups went by arrayed in different indigenous outfits. Others dressed in garb from the colonial period. School marching bands played some demonstrating an astounding amount of precision and discipline and some seeming chaotic but truly enjoying the music. One school band even played an old Quichua song that I recognized. Men on stilts paraded through...twice (yep, same guys). The Queens from the different cities as well as the newly elected Queen of Quito went by on floats. The police dogs demonstrated their training by doing various tricks. Some jumped on the backs of their masters and sat up to wave at the crowds. Young and old women danced the traditional dances. Men dressed up in outfits that took us back to the time when Quito was an Incan city. The parade was full of life and action...FOUR HOURS of life and action.
My favorite thing in the entire play was a dance routine that rivaled anything from Step Up One, Two,...and is there really a Third (fracaso= fail). In this dance routine their were indigenous dancers. Some with scarves from the city, some dressed as those from the mountain regions, and some dressed like those from the amazon. Each group danced a different dance simultaneously that all followed the same beat. Paired with all of them were break dancers. It was amazing but what it represented the most was the amazing diversity of this country. Not diversity in different peoples from different nations, however, just the diversity of Ecuador itself. It was a clear display of what is so controversial yet so beautiful in this country.
Tomorrow we are going to watch the bullfights which is tradition here in the city of Quito. And I am sure that tonight I will here the chivas go by and here the shouts of "Viva Quito!" (Long live Quito) all throughout the night. I certainly heard those shouts during the parade. City pride is so important for this country. In fact, many might die for their city before their country. People identify by what city they are from. And with all the vitality of this pride yesterday I wished I could say I was quitena. I shouted "Viva Quito" once or twice but the words tasted strange in my mouth. I realized that this is not my city. I am far from home... and I am ready to go back.
So as I sat and prayed with other believers today in church for this huge city of Quito... I also prayed for another city that is constantly on my mind. We begged for God to move in Quito, and I begged for God to move in my city. We asked that God would move our hearts with compassion for the city...I am still asking that God would move my heart and others for the city I cannot wait to get back to.
You're the God of this city
You're the King of these people
You're the Lord of this nation
You are...
Greater things have yet to come
Greater things are still to be done in this city...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

El Dia de Gracias

Thanksgiving was a normal Thursday here. But for all of the international students from the US, we remembered. We thought about our families and what things were like in the States. We missed home and it seemed strange that there was no recognition of this holiday here.
But on Friday afternoon, I found myself cooking up a storm with my best friends here. We had tried hard to track down the familiar foods of Thanksgiving and were overjoyed with what we had found. We cooked and laughed and talked for about two hours until we had finally readied the feast. And it was wonderful! Such a taste of home! It was so wonderful to spend time with good friends and eat familiar foods. I was so thankful for this time.
Here are some other things that I am thankful for...
* My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the salvation that He has given. He is the only One who satisfies. He has been my comfort and my joy!
* My family. I miss them so much but I praise God for their support and their prayers. Only 17 more days til I see them!
* My fiance, Jon. God has provided such a wonderful, godly man to be my best friend and my husband.
* The opportunity to study in Ecuador and my host family. I am thankful for this beautiful country. I have learned so much about this culture and about this language. I am so thankful to be here.
* My friends here. God has provided some wonderful friends. I am enjoying their company but I am also enjoying learning things from them.

I am thankful for so many things, much more than I have noted. But I am asking the Lord to give me a heart of thankfulness not just for these few days but continually. It is something that is not natural and must be cultivated. However, I am asking God to refine me by His grace. May I be constantly and consciously thankful.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The heights of the mountains are also His

I woke up that morning thinking, "I did not come to Ecuador for this." And yet, I was packing my bag and heading to the Ecovia to meet Kimberly and go to the agency for our trip to Cotopaxi. Not just to Cotopaxi, but to summit Cotopaxi. There is something about the mountains that captivates me. And this mountain in particular has captivated me. This gigantic active volcano sits about a two to three hour drive outside of Quito. On a clear day, it is hard to miss this majestic 5,897 meter giant, even from the city of Quito. Hence my obsession with this mountain. On my bus rides to school, as well as numerous other trips, I have not been able to keep my eyes off of its perfect volcano shape and beautiful snowline. The urge to get up that mountain just grew over time.
In order to go up Cotopaxi, you need the proper gear and a guide. It is best to get both in one when you go with an agency. That is what we decided to do. So we met at the agency at 8:30am on Friday morning, loaded the gear, and got started in the car. We stopped in Machachi, a town that sits at the base of Cotopaxi for food and batteries. Then, we continued on our way.
As you approach Cotopaxi there is a flat grassland. All of the sudden you see huge rocks lying scattered all over this grassland. Some were bigger than the SUV we were in. These were from the 1877 eruption of Cotopaxi, where these rocks were launched kilometers and kilometers from even the base of the mountain. It was fascinating yet somewhat eerie to drive through.
We hit the snowline very quick. This area (including Quito) has been having very bad weather for this time of the year. It has rained for almost two weeks now and the temperatures have been frigid. And they say that conditions will not improve until January. Therefore, needless to say, there was a lot of snow on Cotopaxi. It was difficult to get the SUV up to where we needed to park. At one point I was sure that I was going to die in the SUV as it slide down the mountain. But, we were able to get it securely parked. From there we put on our snow boots and grabbed all of the gear and started to ascend to the refuge. The pace was nice and we felt great. We reached the refuge without a problem and the guide was impressed at how in shape we were. We unpacked our things and headed out to train in using the crampons and the icepicks. By this time it was snowing pretty hard. We finished our training and went inside to get ready for dinner. We talked with the other guests at the refuge. It is always so much fun to see where everyone is from and where they are going. I have met people from all over the world just in the two times that I have climbed and I really enjoy that part.
After we ate we talked with the guide. The weather conditions were bad. They had been bad for the past few days. He told us that even if the weather was perfect the following day we would not be able to summit. Too much snow had fallen and it would be too dangerous. Cotopaxi is usually not a dangerous mountain. There are crevices that you have to watch out for. But the most dangerous thing is avalanches. These conditions with a lot of snow that had not been melted and compressed by the sun made for conditions right for avalanches. Most of the guides at the refuge were not going to climb past the glacier because of the danger level. We went to bed disappointed but still with some hope.
Sleep actually came easy for me. I was able to settle my breathing and drift off til 12am when we were to wake up. We got all our gear on and headed down to a breakfast of bologna, cheese, bread, and coffee. Refuge's in the morning are so much fun because its everyone walking around with headlamps. Some groups are gearing up and some groups are leaving. Our guide gave us the choice: we could go back to bed and wake up at 6am to see the sunrise and take pictures or we could walk a little ways then. We decided to walk a little ways then. We looked over the dark landscape and lamented that we could not go to the top. Two groups went up and tried only to come down saying that conditions were far too dangerous. We took pictures and breathed in the night air which was surprisingly not that cold. We went back to the refuge and talked for a bit then headed back to sleep for a few more precious hours.
I awoke at 5:30 and ran outside to see the sunrise. The mountains looked blue in the stillness of the morning. I hiked a little ways to see a piece of the sun peak from the side of Cotopaxi. Soon, the mountains came alive with the light. It was one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen. I named the mountains in my head as I saw each of them shine in the morning. They are so amazing.
The guides decided to take us on a short hike to see the glacier. The sun was beating down on us as we hiked a little ways across the side of the mountain. At times, the snow was up to my knees. But the hiking was so much fun. We took pictures and laughed. We even slid down part of the mountain on our bottoms using our icepicks as our brakes. Upon returning to the refuge we packed our bags and went back down to the cars.
There were so many mixed emotions running through me as we rode back to Quito. My dreams of getting to the top of the mountain were not able to come true. I was frustrated because we were in the physical shape to summit, just the weather was not good. It was sort of sad driving away. But there is this verse:
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
Psalm 95:4
My God is the Creator of those mountains. My love for those mountains are not for the mountains themselves; its that my God, who fashioned those mountains, is so much more majestic and so much more glorious. The mountains are in His hands, so is the weather; He is sovereign over all things. In Spanish, you use the verb "conocer", to know, to say that you have been somewhere or you are familiar with it. That verb is usually used with people and places. People would use this verb to ask me if "I know" the summit of Cotopaxi. As I came down from the mountain, I was frustrated that I would not be able to say that I know the summit of Cotopaxi. But I am reminded that I know the God that fashioned and made that summit. I intimately know the Creator and Sustainer that allows that mountain to stand and hold its form. And I realize that I do not need to know the summit to be complete. I am satisfied in the One whom I do know, for He alone is everything.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

So I decided to do this blog in a series of Facebook statuses since we are all so addicted and accustomed to reading about peoples' lives in this form anyways. Enjoy!

Katelyn Rhodes...is trying to recover from her Tena trip the weekend before and get herself in gear for the exam that she has tomorrow... study session (ie. freakout session) at the apartment with some friends. Really helped, ladies,...I sure remember what a "sinverguenza"(a shameless person) is...not Amish.

Katelyn Rhodes... is trying to regroup after the Spanish grammar exam. This is probably the hardest grammar class I have ever had in my life.

Katelyn Rhodes...saw a taxi run over a guy on a motorcycle as she was walking to the park this morning. So thankful that the man lived.

Katelyn Rhodes...just finished her presentation on machismo in Ecuador. It is sobering to read the data that says that 8 out of 10 women in this country are abused in some manner.

Katelyn Rhodes...went to a bookstore and drank a chai tea in a coffee shop. God provides seemingly small but significant comforts and I am astounded by His goodness.

Katelyn Rhodes...feels to small for this city. She sits eating her double hot dog and watching the cars go by.

Katelyn Rhodes...was walking back from church and thinking about the great gospel-centered message when a guy rides by her on a bike...with a dog riding on his back. Distraction, yes. But isn't God glorious! He created us in His image and created this dog with the unique ability to ride piggy-back style.

It has been a good week. God has been so gracious to me every day. I am amazed by how He is working in my heart as well as in the hearts of those around me. Oh how He loves us...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

River thoughts

Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.
Saint Augustine

When we stepped off the bus we immediately felt the humidity and exclaimed, "Ah! Too much oxygen!" Yes, we were in Tena, the jump off town for jungle excursions and missionary ventures to hard to reach people. We were in "el Oriente." We had barely missed one bus that morning so we had decided to eat bagels and sip coffee while we waited for the next one. And we were so glad that we had eaten something before that four hour bus ride. However, the bus ride was probably one of the best since we could watch the terrain change and the clouds clothe the mountains in a mysterious manner.
We arrived in Tena just in time to pay for the next day's rafting excursion and find a hostal close to the river. Because it was later in the afternoon we decided to walk around town. We found an ecua volley game tournament that was going on and decided to watch some incredibly athletic older men play some of the best volleyball I have seen. Although we were the only gringas, we felt part of the culture and thoroughly enjoyed simply being a part of the Friday night activities.
The next morning we got up bright and early to eat breakfast and head out to go rafting. We met up with the rest of the group at the rafting office and piled into pickup trucks to head to the launching point. Kimberly and I were placed in a raft with the guide, Lucho, who only spoke Spanish, as well as with the cutest couple from Spain who spoke perfect English and continually made us smile at their Spanish lisp. We were given a safety briefing and a review of paddling commands. Then, we were off down the river Jatunyancu, which means "big water" in Quichua.
The river was perfect! It was Class III rapids but the rapids were not continuous. We went through rapids and then pools, rapids and then pools; this allowed for swimming. The river was frigid but fun to float down alongside the raft. The guides encouraged us to get in, and even pushed us in several times. They wanted us to enjoy the feel of having our bodies be carried by the strength of the river. And the rapids were great too. Sure, we flipped several times but we enjoyed every minute of it. We rode rodeo style on the front of the raft and were continually laughing at each others surprised faces. It was a great day on the river, admiring its beauty and enjoying time spent with one another.
I think what was most captivating about the day were the people we saw along the river. There are many Quichua communities that still live along the river. We passed people looking for gold under the rocks on the river banks. We rode alongside half-naked children swimming with water bottles to stay afloat. Like us, they were enjoying the pull of the river's current. Their smiles were enchanting. Suddenly, I cared not about the rafting experience. Seeing the different peoples was the greatest pleasure.
While admiring the amazing beauty of the landscape and the people, I was reminded that not too far from where we were, five men were killed in 1956. These men gave their lives to reach people like the ones I was floating by. They were not living for the experience of a fascinating and beautiful land. They were living with a passion for people. They had a heart for those who had never heard God's name and had never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They were willing to give everything for this. Jim Elliot, one of the men who was killed once said, "he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Indeed, he gave what he could not hold onto anyways to gain Christ, whom would never leave nor forsake him.
I asked myself on the river, "Have I been giving to gain? Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ the most important thing to me? Am I living it, sharing it...?" I was passing beautiful people on the river and for two months I have been passing beautiful people in the city in which I live. Sure, I stop to admire the mountains. Yet, have I stopped to admire the people? Have I stopped to think that they need Jesus? Have I stopped to think that I pass so many image bearers of God, however, many will never see His face? Do I have a passion for these people or am I simply passing the time gazing at mountains and "gaining" experiences?
God loves people. We were created for Him, to be satisfied in Him, to glorify Him. He had a relationship with himself designed for us. But we sinned; we rejected Him. Not just Adam and not just Eve; all of us. But, even though we rejected Him, He loved us enough to make a way for us to be restored! There is no other way besides denying that we cannot make it on our own and trusting the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on the cross. We deny everything we thought would make us happy and fulfill us for what we were created for, to praise our gracious Creator and live for His glory. God's heart is that all may know Him, have a relationship with Him, be satisfied in Him... God's heart is for the nations. For those of us who know God and have a relationship with Him, this should be our heart as well. However, I must confess that I myself have been sidetracked. I have gone after experiences and sites and bucket list points. But please join me as I pray for a change in my heart; that I may have a heart like my Savior, one that loves the Gospel and loves people.
Another quote by Elliot: "Surely those who know the great passionate heart of Jehovah must deny their own loves to share in the expression of His."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Me encanta...

Iliniza Norte: 5126 meters/ 16,818 feet
8th highest peak in Ecuador

This is the mountain that Tom and Kimberly and I picked to hike this weekend. Friday began our five day holiday break from classes and, while everyone and their mom (literally, a lot of families are here to visit) decided to head to the city of Cuenca for the super long weekend, we decided to go climb mountains for Saturday and Sunday. While bus tickets and hotel rooms were completely booked for Cuenca, we boarded empty buses destined for small towns on the way to our mountain of choice, Iliniza.
We began early Saturday morning by meeting at a bread store to get breakfast and hit the road. We made our way through the trolley and bus terminals of Quito to head to Machachi and then to El Chaupi. In El Chaupi we hopped in the back of a pick-up truck and headed toward the start of the trail that would lead to Iliniza.
On the bus ride there we looked out the windows anxiously to see if we could spy our mountain. We caught site of it and immediately knew it was the one. Iliniza used to be one huge volcano. However, the crater split a long time ago and now there are two distinct mountain cousins that are side by side. Iliniza Sur (South) is a mountain defined by snow and glaciers. It is the sixth highest peak in Ecuador and is an extremely technical climb involving guides, ice picks, ropes, etc. Iliniza Norte (North) is a rocky, orange and red mountain that can be climbed without a guide but involves rock scrambling.
So, we arrived at the beginning of the trail that would lead to the refuge that sits on the ridge between the two mountains. We began to hike through what looked like a desert. We were walking through sand mostly which can be hard on the legs. We took a break for lunch and ate our tuna fish and crackers as we surveyed the beautiful view. At that point we could see Cotopaxi, the third highest peak in Ecuador and the one we are hoping to climb in a few weeks. In fact, we stared at it envying its grandeur knowing that this hike was a preparation for that goal. We continued to hike on having to climb a steep and sandy ridge. But we laughed and joked the whole way as we enjoyed talking about experiences in Ecuador and Demetri Martin comedy. We reached the refuge after three hours of climbing. We put our gear down and chose our bunks. This was a tiny, one room refuge with bunks stacked on top of one another and a tiny, tiny kitchen. This refuge could hold twenty five climbers which was amazing. After placing our gear on our bags we decided to hike to the lagoon between the two mountains. This involved climbing on the edge of what felt like moon dust. We were on our hands and knees at times as we climbed along the ridge and looked down into the steep valley. We reached the lagoon which was an eerie bluish green. But it was captivating. Kimberly and I sat and watched the clouds come in the background and the sun begin to set as Tom ran over to touch the snow at the base of Iliniza Sur. The landscape was so beautiful!
We went back the refuge to cook pasta for dinner and to set up our beds. As we ate we talked to the other climbers from all over the world. But soon after eating we all went to bed but not before leaning in to listen to a Demetri Martin comedy soundtrack on Tom's ipod. Sleep was not coming for any of us. At first it was hard to steady my breathing. It is weird to fall asleep when your breathing is altered because of the altitude. Between that and other hikers waking up at two to go hike Iliniza Sur, we did not get much sleep. I got up at about 5:30 to go watch the sunrise. I stepped outside and looked over a world of beautiful deep blue sky that was changing as the sun came up. I looked out and could see three volcanoes in a row. First, Cotopaxi. Second, Antisana. Third, Cayambe. Then, as I looked around Iliniza Sur, I could see Chimborazo, the highest peak in Ecuador which lies about 6-7 hours away! The view was spectacular and I do not know if I could ever fully describe it. Never have I seen the line of volcanoes so distinctly and they looked impressive in the distance. The looked like looming, perhaps sleeping giants and I was in awe of what God has created!
Excited to start hiking we hurriedly ate breakfast and packed. We decided to only take one pack with water and snacks and to rotate it as we climbed. We started to ascend thinking the rock climbing that we were doing was only for the first little part. Little did we know that that was the easy stuff and that it only got worse as we went on. We were climbing on rocks with nothing to our backs besides a cliff that went straight down. The tiny trail of footprints was sometimes very hard to see. At times, there was nothing to grab on to. You had to be careful because many of the rocks were loose and again there was a rocky sand mixture. We also had to watch our heads because sometimes small rocks would slide or fall from above. None of us expected a climb of this kind. We enjoyed the first part and took tons of pictures. But as the climbs got more technical, we did not dare to remove our cameras from our pockets. We needed our hands!
I was climbing in tennis shoes as my hiking boots are at home in the States. This made things all the more dicey for me. At times I was panicking. Never in my life had I done any climbing near what this was like. About 300 feet from the summit I stopped due to the lack of grip on my shoes. That was good enough for me. I was going to sit there and figure out how to get off this mountain while Kimberly and Tom went to the very top. In my mind, I had gotten close enough. But congratulations to then for making it all the way!
We did finally make it down. We stopped for lunch on a ridge and enjoyed the view before heading back to the lodge. After grabbing our gear we headed back down the trail where the pick-up truck was waiting to take us to town. We enjoyed talking and laughing and making other mountain climbing plans on the way home. I arrived at the apartment with dust in every crevice of my body and my gear, with tired legs, and with a sunburned face (even though we had put on 70 that morning). Took a shower and helped my host mom set up the Christmas tree. What day is it? Oh, Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Birthday, Road Race, Pifo= muy cansada (very tired)

Although I did not travel this weekend, this has been one of the best weekends yet. It all began Thursday night when family came in from Guayaquil and we were cooking up a storm for a ten o'clock dinner. It was great to meet new people and immediately be welcomed into the extended family. On Friday, we all woke up to go to celebrate Estefania's (my little ecua sister) birthday at her school. We bought a cake and candies and a pinata. We had the best time setting up and awaiting her grand entrance. That was fiesta #1... after which we went to the mall for a bit (at least us girls did). I left to go all over Quito to find my new running shoes that I had purchased online. They were being held hostage in a post office to the south of where I live. It should have been easy to get there, but in typical Ecuadorian style there was a protest and the police had shut down one of the streets. Thankfully, I got to the post office, rescued my shoes and returned to the house. We had dinner with the family and fiesta #2 (which also means cake #2). Then, we left to drive through the city at night, which is gorgeous. I am falling in love with Quito...But my extended family continues to joke on me because I, a silly gringa that has been here for 2 months, know Quito better than my host family, or at least some places. That's what you get for walking everywhere or taking public transport. You may get lost but you learn to navigate this gigantic city.
On Saturday I enjoyed my cup of coffee and God's Word in the silence of the morning, which are my favorite times in Quito. The mornings are so beautiful! Then, we all had a good breakfast and headed to the artisan market. My host mom had never been and we both had fun buying scarves and bargaining for the best deals. I think that she will be returning soon. We went back to the apartment to make the best shrimp tacos ever and spend hours talking and laughing.
After washing the dishes and cleaning up, I got ready to race in the 10k Nike race We Run Quito 2010. It was a 7pm. race starting off near my house. It was so cool to be jogging across the city to get to the starting line and to see tons of neon shirts (the race shirts we were given) coming from all directions. There were 7,000 runners and the atmosphere was crazy! We started and a shout "Viva Quito" (Live Quito) was heard during the first kilometer, to which everyone answers "Viva!" It was so much fun. There were stages for music groups and lights shows. There were people lining the streets. I ran by a guy dressed up as a monkey. And we finished in the middle of the park by my apartment. I quickly got my glow-in-the-dark medallion, blanket, and bag, grabbed a cup of canalazo and jogged back to the apartment for fiesta #3 (yes, there was a cake #3 as well). At the house, family just kept coming through the door. And with every family member came introductions and kisses. It was a great party. Shrimp, cheese, cake, and great family members. Karaoke followed and we sang late into the night.
On Sunday I woke up early to take the bus to Pifo, where I lived the last time that I was here in Ecuador, to visit my friend. My heart was so happy to be walking the same streets and I had forgotten how much I love that little town. Everything and everyone looked the same. We walked to church, enjoyed the service, and ate Chinese food for lunch. After lunch and brownies, we went up the hill to 700 steps which are the steps that take you down and up a pipeline. We all dared each other to walk them without stopping. And we made it, huffing and puffing. We sat at the top of the opposite hill to look down on the valley. It began to rain but we didn't mind. We just sat there in silence, enjoying the beautiful country. The country I love...
Full weekend, but a wonderful one. Good time with family, especially the times washing dishes with my host mom. Check off the bucket list, running a road race 3,016 meters above sea level. And reuniting with friends in a small town. Wonderful weekend.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Beautiful People

This past weekend we journeyed to Otavalo, which is a market town about two hours north of Quito. Otavalo is known for its huge market of indigenous arts and crafts. But before one jumps to think that this is simply one huge tourist trap, let me inform you that this has been going on since the time that the Incas reigned in Ecuador. This market was one of the very first places where the indigenous people came to barter and trade. And that is still going on today. Not only is there the arts and crafts market, where you can find anything from fertility statues to purses and llama blankets, but there is also an animal market and a fruits and vegetables market. This market is still a way of life for these people and it was a unique experience to get to step into this culture.
We arrived on Friday by bus and found a great hostal only a block away from the market. Hostal America International was quiet, peaceful, and very comfortable for $7. We immediately went to find food and stumbled into a tiny restaurant where we are fruit pizza complete with mozzarella cheese, strawberries, apples, peaches, and pineapple. Now, this may sound weird but it was absolutely amazing and I will definitely be trying this when I return back to the States.
After eating we found ourselves lured into the market which was rather quiet on a Friday afternoon. We had decided to do our Christmas shopping and so we began to peruse. We spent several hours bartering with vendors over the things we wanted (this is expected and it can be very fun) and showed off what we had bought to each other at the hostal.
Shopping had worked up a hunger so we wandered around the town of Otavalo for a bit and then made our way to the Shenandoah Pie Shop. Now this place was truly wonderful. Theses ladies had about 10 different flavors of pie. Chocolate, maracuya, strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, pineapple, apple...and more. We decided to have dessert before dinner and we each bought a warm piece of pie for $1.20. It was incredible!
After that, we had to walk some more. We went in some stores in town but mostly just enjoyed the night air and the atmosphere of Otavalo. We could hear Andean music being played from inside several restaurants; this music has a sound which, for me, is enchanting as it involved flutes of all different sizes and pitches and has a rhythm that makes you want to sway with the poncho clad musicians.
Having readied ourselves for dinner, we went to Buena Vista, an upstairs restaurant that overlooks Plaza de los Ponchos (the market square) in town. We had a beautiful view and the quiet atmosphere of the restaurant was just perfect. We decided to splurge (vowing to eat cheaper the next day) on the file mignon for $5.80. It was so worth it and reminded me of my Dad's favorite steak and potato nights at home.
We were so completely full that we went back to the hostal to relax and watch television, a luxury that we had not had in any previous hostals. We just wanted a night to relax and so we gladly took it!
Saturdays are Otavalo's huge market day. The market in Plaza de los Ponchos swells to other streets and basically takes over the town. And they start to set up early is what I found out. The first sounds I heard began at 4:30am! We woke up at 6:30 and got ready to go to the animal market. This starts at 6am and goes til 10am. So we got up and walked to a local bakery just as it opened to buy a donut. Then, we started following the people to the animal market. The animal market is fascinating. It is a mass of people bartering over live chickens, cows, huge pigs, sheep, chicks, goats, and, of course, guinea pigs. We weaved our way in and out of the crowds of people and animals to look at all the variety and watch several deals being struck. I had a slight urge to try to haggle over the price of a pig, just to say that I had done it. But I resisted. It was such a unique experience though; unlike anything I have ever seen before.
As we made our way back into the heart of town, we meandered through the fruit and vegetable market. You could by anything imaginable here. The colors were magnificent.
Next, we took a taxi to Parque del Condor, which is way up on a mountain outside of the city. We could see Volcan Imbabura partly hidden under a cloud. At this park there were several unique bird species to observe and they were all so interesting. However, the main attraction are the condors. There are only 40 condors left according to the 2009 census of these (I'll be quiet frank...Ugly) birds. This park had four in captivity; which means, ladies and gentlemen, that I have seen 10% of the remaining condor species. Anyways, the park was great. Jon had assigned me to take a picture of a condor, and I did not fail him. There was a flight demonstration which was also very interesting.
We headed back into town to eat from one of the women cooking on the street. We ate a delicious
plate of llapingachos (potatos and cheese) meat, lettuce, beats, and a fried egg; this is typical ecuadorian food. And, of course, on our way out we had to stop at the pie shop for round two.
This trip was filled with good food, relaxing, and wandering through new places. But what fascinated me the most was the beauty of the people. I found myself in awe of how gorgeous indigenous women are; women of any age. Their appearance, their strength, their culture...all captured my interest. I enjoyed watching the men in their traditional blue ponchos. I enjoyed listening to the banter between friends that most likely saw each other every Saturday as they took part in this tradition. I was fascinated by the life and vigor of these people.
I stopped to talk to several vendors as I shopped on Friday. I tried to use this opportunity to practice my Quichua. One woman looked at me like I had four eyes and asked me why I would want to learn Quichua. I expressed to her that it was a beautiful language and that I was enjoying learning it. She seemed amazed and as she continued her tiny, meticulous stitches, we continued to talk. I told her that I had even heard of a Quichua church in New York; her language was not dying or reserved to her own country after all. She seemed excited at this news and her eyes sparkled. I am pretty sure she still thought that I was the strangest gringa girl for wanting to learn Quichua. But it was that conversation with her as well as another conversation with a man sewing a typical Otavalo mask that were great highlights for me. He explained to me the significance of the mask and allowed me to practice more of my Quichua. In fact, each time I passed by after that, he would fire off a question to see if I was ready. I enjoyed shopping for things to help me remember Ecuador, but these conversations as well as some others, are the things I will remember the most. These are the things I did not have to barter for, for they held the highest price.
These were just two beautiful people, with a beautiful language and a beautiful culture. We have a Creator who created beautiful people all over the world. And we are but flawed image bearers. Therefore, consider how beautiful our God must be! I cannot even imagine...but one day I know I will see in full.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Jumping Off Bridges

What an incredible weekend! This past weekend we packed our bags and headed to Banos. We were so glad to be leaving Quito for a bit since the government crisis had kept us cooped up. So we left on an early Saturday morning bus and headed to the notoriously touristy town of Banos.
Banos is an adventure town to say the least. You can do a variety of activities in this small town that sits right below a volcano that erupted in 2008 and 2006. You can ride dirt bikes or go carts. You can go hiking or repelling down waterfalls. You can go rafting or just enjoy walking around the town.
We first arrived and decided to find a hostal for the night. We finally settled on an amazing hostal with an amazing rate of $5.50 a night. Therefore, Hostal Santa Cruz has become one of our favorite hostals. After finding a hostal we bought two dollar pizzas that were delicious and geared up for the afternoons activities. First on the agenda was horseback riding, which was on my bucket list. Although I have lived on Horseshoe Point Road all my life and have seen horses every single day, I had never ridden a horse. So I mounted Burrajo and we all headed on a one hour ride through town and then up a hill in the countryside. The view was magnificent and riding a horse was thrilling.
Next, we dismounted only to scamper off to find someone to take us bridge jumping. Processes in Ecuador never cease to amaze me. We went to one place and said that we would like to go bridge jumping. The man said "Sure" (in Spanish of course) and we asked when. He told us right now. We handed him fifteen dollars, signed absolutely no papers, showed absolutely no identification, got into the back of a supped-up golf cart and were headed to the bridge. From the moment I stepped onto the bridge, it took five minutes for them to have me strapped in and ready to jump! Ha! I barely had a chance to look down to see where I was jumping. Actually, down below were rapids. several onlookers from town were staring at the three crazy gringitas who were about to be absolutely foolish. I asked to guy harnessing me in, "Es seguro?" (Is it secure?) to which he answered in a questionable manner... "oh sure..." We barely had time to think before they were ushering us to the side of the bridge and telling us to climb over onto the tiny square of a platform mounted on the outside of the bridge. Looking down took my breath away. Hands up, Kimberly! (We would be jumping at the same time) Uno, dos, tres! Free fall! That was the craziest feeling of my life. This bridge jump was more like a huge swing. So you free fall and then swing under the bridge. I barely heard myself scream. While we enjoyed the rest of the swing over the river, we laughed so hard at the thrill and immediately wanted to go again. Lesson learned... Trust is easier when you are rushed and do not have time to question. Do don't think. Worked in this case...but I do not suggest it for all of life.
After bridge jumping we went around town watching all of the guys working the taffy on the door posts of their shops. Picture huge wads of taffy being pulled and tugged to keep it soft and mixed. We made it a point to try each one so that we could decide our favorite flavors. Coconut was mine but blackberry was a very close second. Since we had a bit of time we decided to go and visit the church of the saint of the holy water. Apparently, this saint and her waters from the volcano have saved hundreds of lives. The church was packed and we thought that we were attending a mass. So we stood in the back admiring the church and listening to the priest. Slowly I began to pick up on the fact that this was not a mass but a funeral! So, another check off the bucket list; we have now, not purposefully, attended a catholic ecuadorian funeral.
It began to rain and we chose to go to dinner at Casa Hood. This place was the most wonderful restaurant with fireplaces, bookshelves, and a Spanish movie playing in the adjacent room. We ordered lasagna and burritos and later dessert and coffee. We enjoyed our candlelit table, looking at books from all over the world, and talking for hours. I was able to trade one of my books for one of theirs for just a dollar which was an exciting process. We absolutely loved this place and the rain beating down outside made it all the more surreal.
After dinner, we changed into our bathing suits and headed to what Banos is famous for, the banos. These are hot pools naturally heated from the volcano. So, as it sprinkled rain we sat in these hot pools and gazed at the night sky and the waterfall that was to our right! Although the pools were crowded at night, we had a relaxing hour or so before we headed back to the hostal and off to bed.
The next morning we got up bright and early to pack and eat an amazing breakfast at Cafe Blah Blah. We enjoyed pancakes, eggs, bread, and coffee before we rented bikes for $5 dollars and headed down the road toward a town called Puyo. We rode for 3 hours and about 30 miles enjoying the sites of waterfalls (even riding under a small one) and riding through a tunnel carved in the mountain. Most of the ride was a thrilling downhill ride although we had a lot of uphill stretches towards the end. For the sake of time, we did not make it quite to Puyo but we were very close. We flagged down a van and payed them to take us back to Banos, where we had just enough time to return the bikes, get our book bags, buy taffy, and run to the bus back to Quito.
This weekend was incredible and filled with so many fun activities and great times with friends. However, I will never forget the feeling that washed over me while I was on the back of the horse and on my rented mountain bike; a love for this country. I have been enjoying my time here and growing accustomed to living life here. But I feel like this was the trip in which I fell in love. While riding the bike and the horse, I just paused to look around, to breath in the air, and thank God for allowing me to be here. He created this beautiful place and these beautiful people and I am enthralled. I am even more enthralled with the Creator of this creation and am praising Him for giving me this love.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Thursdays of almost coups...

Let me just begin by saying that this was not on my bucket list.
On Thursday morning I was sitting in my Ecuadorian Culture class where we were discussing Ecuador's crazy history of presidents and leaders, many of which were ousted by the people. We began discussing recent developments in the government and things that were being voted upon and discussed in the present. Our professor said that it would be very possible to see strikes against decisions made involving education and workers' benefits. However, we really thought nothing of it. After all, we receive Embassy emails almost weekly of some kind of protest. Yet, at that very moment the door opened and a student told us that they were canceling classes for the remainder of the day due to a revolt in Quito. Everyone was supposed to go directly home. And I wanted to say to him, "Muchacho, what timing! Impeccable!"
No, it was not part of the class and it was not a joke. As my friends and I were trying to exit the university, they stopped us and told us that it was not even safe for us to leave. We had to stay because things were so dicey in Quito and they were not sure we would be able to make it to our residences. However, after a few hours they said that transportation was running somewhat and that we better try to get home now before things turn worse. So we made our way to Quito carefully not sure what we would find. We found everything closing down. Some of us stayed together until we had to split up to take different buses; however, we promised to call when we made it. The bus that I had to take to get home did not seem to be running to my stop but I took it anyways figuring that I would have to walk the rest of the way. However, thanks to the Lord, the very last stop was my stop... the driver changed his mind right at the end. I was able to get home.
Now here is what was happening... On Wednesday, Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador, voted against giving the national police force some of their benefits. Therefore, on Thursday there was a national revolt, meaning that this was not only taking place in Quito but in other major cities such as the coastal city of Guayaquil. The were demonstrating right outside the presidential palace, which is very accessible to the people. Do not think White House where I could not even throw a rock and hit it. I can touch the doorknob of this place if I wanted to. This is where all demonstrations happen. Apparently, they were striking and Correa went out to negotiate with them. It was then that he was sprayed with tear gas and jostled a bit. He was then taken to the Police Hospital where he was basically being held by the police force. This had all the makings for a coup and many thought that this was it. The people would decide once again.
The nail-biter of the day was who would the military side with. The police were revolting and the president was calling for the military to step up and do the right thing. However, the military have not always been Correa fans. But, the decision was made and they would respond to support the president.
Meanwhile, Quito and other cities nationwide were going crazy. Imagine, all of your law enforcement has decided to take the day off to complain about the president. Things went crazy. Some banks and supermarkets were robbed. Some cars near the school were broken into. Things began to shut down just to stay safe. In Guayaquil the looting went as far as stealing cars and refrigerators so I am told. So think about a bunch of Americans trying to make our way back into the city. We are already targets anyways because many think Americans always have money. Now, we really were a bit nervous. Do we take the bus? Would that be the safest? Do we take a taxi? That seemed to be safer, however, there have been stories of people getting robbed in taxis. What on earth would stop them from doing that today? But we made it safely, praise God.
As things began to shut down, so did we. We were told not to leave the house. We watched the news and read other news blurbs online. The airport shut down and a state of emergency was declared. Peru closed its border to Ecuador. It was not until later that afternoon into the early evening that the news got truly interesting. I could not believe what I was watching. On the television was a gunfight between the military and the police outside the hospital where Correa was being held. This is really not that far from me. Think same city...maybe ten or twelve blocks. The military were successful in rescuing Correa out of the hospital and taking him to the presidential palace where tons of supporters were now gathered. One moment I'm am watching him being rescued out of the hospital into a car and then five minutes later he is on the balcony shaking his finger and letting those who revolted know that this will not go unpunished. He would not negotiate. What a night! What a day! We were not sure what we would wake up to.
However, miracle of all miracles, Quito slowly returned to normal the next day. Things seem to be back into their rhythm. The airport is now open and people are moving about the city. Correa is still president and it appears that the police force has gone back to work. All is well.
I have been reminded of God's sovereignty so much these past few days. God is so good that this did not happen a week ago when my friend and I would have been right at the heart of the madness in the city. God is so gracious that this did not happen only a day earlier when I was walking by myself to get groceries. God is so faithful that none of the students were hurt. God is sovereign and in control of all things. I am reminded that even leaders are pawns in His hand. Governments are only things He controls and moves as He wills. I got to see that this week and I am so thankful. All the more reason to praise the Mighty God who delights in doing His will.

Who is like Him
The Lion and the Lamb
Seated on the throne
Mountains bow down
Every ocean roars
To the Lord of hosts

Praise Adonai
From the rising of the sun
‘Til the end of every day
Praise Adonai
All the nations of the earth
All the angels and the saints
Sing Praise

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things...

For anyone who has ever seen Sound of Music, one must agree that one of the best songs is the song about favorite things. It is arguably my favorite and I am a huge fan of the musical in general. I was thinking about that song this morning. This past week it has finally began to dawn on me that I really enjoy things here...I might even miss them when returning to home sweet home. And that made me smile. Thank you to God and His grace for giving me a love for this place. So here is a list of some of my favorite things.
* Waking up to see snow on Ruku Pinchincha (this is "Old" Pinchincha in Quichua and it is the mountain that I wake up to see every morning)
* Studying what is now my third language, Quichua
* The "chao, Katie" I receive from little Estefania when I leave in the morning
* Newly discovered Oreo flavors shared with friends
* Interesting Ecovia rides... nothing spices up the morning like watching a guy get escorted off the Ecovia
* Coffee (even if it is instant... which it always is) in the morning while I read God's Word
* Admiring the indigenous women for all their strength and their bright smiles
* The flower shops I pass in route to school
* Early morning runs in Parque de la Carolina
* Studying God's Word with friends by the lagoon at school
* Being able to see three snow covered mountain tops as I go to school
* Worshiping in a different language
* Watching the telenovela "Donde esta Elisa?" with my host mom... we are kinda addicted
* Bread stores!
* Afternoon rain in Quito

I'm sure that there will be more to come. For now, I am taking joy in the Lord and joy in what He has provided.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I met the Pacific

I have known the Atlantic Ocean my whole life. In fact, when people in the lazy surfing town of Canoa asked me where I was from, I told them that I was from the other ocean. I have always loved the Atlantic, but I was happy to have the opportunity to meet the Pacific Ocean this weekend and my friends and I ventured to yet another diverse part of this country.
Our journey began with a taxi ride to the bus station in Quito at 11pm. When you have to take an 8 hour bus ride, it is better to do so at night when you can sleep... or try to sleep. Bus drivers in Ecuador think they are race care drivers. There is a reason why there are curtains on the windows... so that you will not be able to see how fast you are going and how close you are to hitting other vehicles. Anyways, we made it to Bahia in one piece. From Bahia you have to take a small boat over to San Vincente. Again, boats are like all other transportation in Quito; fill 'em to the max. Reminds me of that time when I put 14 people in my Honda Civic... only here its scarier. From San Vincente we took a bus to Canoa, a tiny little surfing town on the Pacific Ocean.
This is where we met and it was glorious. Although the morning was cloudy the sounds of the Ocean were amazing and the waves were just the right temperature. We were delighted to be at the beach and wearing shorts. What a change from Quito weather! We threw the frisbee and looked for shells. I enjoyed a nap on the beach while some sipped fresh milkshakes. The sun came out in full force and we enjoyed the day.
We stayed at a wonderful hostal called Hotel Bambu. The room was great and the hammocks were perfect. Although I was sick to my stomach for most of the trip, I heard the food was wonderful and my friends were so excited to be eating five dollar lobster. When my stomach did settle a bit, my favorite was the banana chocolate crepe with black coffee that we ate outside at night listening to the sounds of the ocean.
We enjoyed two days of laying out in the sun, walking on the beach, sipping coconut milk, reading novels from the hostal, etc. And then this morning we began the long journey back to Quito.
Yes, we are back in the smoggy city now. However, we have our memories of the weekend on the water. There is still some sand lingering at the bottom of my bookbag... perhaps I will leave it there...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

He that keepeth Isreal shall neither slumber nor sleep...

"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Isreal shall never slumber nor sleep..."
Psalm 121:1-4
It has been another week here in Ecuador...and it has been a month since I have been here in this place. This week has been busier than the first three but I feel like I am finally getting acclimated to the city and to classes. I finally feel like I am doing life here.
This week has been filled with so many great conversations. I plan on doing several exciting things while I am here, however, I feel like I will remember the conversations more. The topics discussed roll over in my mind. Faces still seem to appear when I think back on my day. These are the things I am remembering the most. Who would have thought that I would be sitting next to an ex-gang member on the bus and talking to him about why he had to get out of the gang and how his life was here in Ecuador. Who would have thought that I would be receiving wise advice regarding my upcoming marriage from a woman I talked with on the bus ride to school. And who would have thought that I would spend two hours at the small breakfast table of the apartment talking about the marvelous hand of God, how gracious it was even during hard times, and how glorious it is to daily walk with Him. Who would have thought...
When I tell Jon what wild things I would like to do in Ecuador (like summitting a mountain with ice-picks or going piranha fishing in the jungle), he jokes that I am only here for the experience and that I am his little daredevil. However, the things I want to do most are to sit and talk with people, to hear about their lives... Those "experiences" mean more to me but, often, they take more guts than trying to summit a mountain. They take stepping out of my own little world and into a world of being willing to listen and share with others. These experiences take more boldness for one like me. But they always bring the most amazing result, humility.
We journey to El Panecillo today. This is a hill in the center of Quito that is said to have been there for ages. On the top of this hill is a huge statue of the Virgin who looks over and guards the city below. As I stood beneath her and looked for myself at the vastness of this city, I thought of the One who guards me...the One who has watched over me for my entire life and this past month. This month has not been easy; in fact, it has been one of the hardest of my life. But the Lord has ordained and orchestrated all that has happened. He has watched over me. I am overcome with praise for Him, my Keeper.
As I lay my head down at night and listen to the sounds of the city, I am reminded that I need sleep because I am not self-sufficient and that I am in desperate need of God's grace. Yet, I am so glad that I have an all-sufficient Provider. He is what satisfies.
"He that keepeth thee will not slumber..."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

One incredible weekend

This has been one of the best weekends of my life. There could be many reasons for this since it was such a weekend filled with fun and exciting new things. However, there is one particular reason.
Sure, Kimberly and Katie and I traveled to Mindo, Ecuador about two hours away from Quito. We traveled by bus and proved to ourselves that we really can travel on our own.
Sure, this was an opportunity to take my mind off of my recent health concerns. It was a time to get away.
Sure, we would be visiting a completely different area of this beautiful country of Ecuador. We would be experiencing very different weather from Quito; thankfully this weather was quite a bit warmer.
Sure, we stayed in the most amazing hostal in the middle of the selva complete with hammocks on the second and third story porches.
Sure, we loved exploring the tiny, quirky, tourist-supported town of Mindo.
Sure, we were delighted as we went canopping (ziplining) all through the forest in all the different poses... Superman (self-explanatory) and Mariposa (butterfly; means that you go on the ziplines upside down).
Sure, we enjoyed the leisurely walk back to town. We walked downhill eating packages of precious Chips-Ahoy cookies.
Sure, we fell in love with the little cafe "El Quetzal" where we took part in a tour of how chocolate is made. We got to see and taste the whole process from seed to chocolate. We also ate the most amazing brownie, chocolate ice cream, and chocolate syrup (all made from there) and authentic ginger ale. We also had to buy home grown coffee for loved ones.
Sure, we squealed with delight over our stone oven cooked pizza and salads that we had for dinner in a quiet open air restaurant.
Sure, we loved resting and talking in the hammocks on the second story porch of our hostal. We shared stories and Captain Crunch cereal. We even enjoyed talking with the other curious yet entertaining guests at the hostal.
Sure, we laughed as we scared a decent size rat out of our room before heading to bed.
Sure, I woke up delighted with breakfast on the porch made by Claudia, our hostal mom, who called us her "honeys". We had mango yogurt with all types of fruit in it, scrambled eggs, bread with butter and jam, and coffee! (I really ate the most that I have eaten in Ecuador so far which hopefully will help me to gain back the weight I did not mean to lose).
Sure, we loved the tarabita ride... think small metal cage that crosses over from one mountain to another via a pulley system. As Ecuador is in most things, they like to pack you close even on the tarabita.
Sure, we had a great time hiking to see five different waterfalls and swim in the frigid waters of the sixth. We took lots of pictures and regretted only that we could not take the sound home with us.
Sure, we rode on the craziest truck taxi on the way back into town... think wild taxi driver and screaming locals!
Sure, we loved lunch at "El Cheff" in town where we ate a big and filling lunch.
Sure, we enjoyed the bus ride back to Quito as we munched on our new favorite brownies.
Although all of this was incredible, this was not why the weekend was so amazing. The weekend was amazing because Kimberly and I got to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with two men at the hostal. We were explaining late into the night and they were listening... and Katie was listening as well. As we shared why Jesus Christ was everything to us, the Gospel fell and the Lord drew Katie to Himself. We shared about what Christ had done on the cross to pay for our sin and our inability to merit His favor. The night ended with Katie asking the Lord for forgiveness of her sins and stepping out in joy into a relationship with Christ!
This is why the weekend was so wonderful and why I am still rejoicing now! The Gospel of Jesus Christ (that while we were so far off in sin and we could never have a relationship with God, Christ died for our sin and made a way for us to have a relationship with God) is worth far more than any of these fun activities or experiences. Christ is worth everything! He is my greatest joy and satisfaction... my greatest pleasure. Now, someone else is experiencing that as well.
Is He worth everything to you? Do you have a relationship with Jesus Christ? He beckoned Katie... His goodness is so abundant.

(more pictures can be found on facebook)

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I am coming to like Ecuador and the city of Quito more and more. The feeling washed over me as I was walking today. The sun was warming my back and I genuinely enjoyed each step that I took.
Yes, I walked to church today. I am still unsure how best to use the transportation system here so I decided to walk since Sunday is a very busy day here in Quito and it is perfectly safe to be out. So I decided to walk the 35 minutes to a Spanish church that a friend had mentioned.
It is truly a blessing to see the church abroad. Although the language is different, we still worship the same Lord and believe in the same Gospel. It was great to be able to sing songs of praise that uttered the same truths that we sing about back in the United States. It was incredible to see the same passion for the Lord and His Word in a different context.
The sermon and the communion that followed reminded me that I am only who I am by God's grace. There is nothing in me and nothing that I can do that can merit His attention, love, or salvation. I am only desperate before Him... humbled by His sacrifice on the cross. This was an especially pertinent message to me because I have struggled so much in the past two weeks. I have felt incredibly weak and ashamed at how I was adjusting... or not adjusting. At times, I was unsure I would be able to do this. I have been fighting thoughts of not being good enough and not improving as rapidly as I would like to in this language. But, I am pointed back to the Gospel... that I will never be good enough. However, by God's grace, I am what I am. He loves me not because I am great at Spanish or because I am tough as nails and adventurous, but because He loves me... because of His grace.
It was wonderful to be reminded of that again today.
~Dear Conrad Memorial Baptist and Carrollton Baptist Church:
Thank you for your prayers. It was so great to be in another church today although I missed both of you so much! Please continue to pursue the Gospel! Remind each other of it daily... many people are having to remind me of it constantly. It is worth everything! Know that there are other churches, even in Ecuador, who are seeing and savoring Jesus Christ. Even as these churches are pursuing Him, continue to pursue Him. I love you all and am praying for you.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

You know you have been in Ecuador for almost two weeks...

Lately I have been thinking about all the things that I have learned while in Ecuador these almost two weeks. Some of these things have even shaped my behavior! So here is my list...
You know that you have been in Ecuador for almost two weeks when...
1) You find yourself being very frugal. "No I don't want to pay a few centavos extra for food or for copies, or for anything... that 50 cent bus ride home is expensive! No way am I going to pay $3 for lunch... I can eat for $1.50."
2) You are becoming increasingly adept in your real life Frogger (car dodging) skills. In Ecuador, they just passed a law giving pedestrians the right of way... let's just say that many times it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks.
3) You are getting accustomed to having a stomach that is not fully able to take on any food.
4) You realize that you should never tell someone that you rode the most crowded Ecovia or Trole... inevitable your next ride will be even more crowded. The definition of full on an Ecovia or Trole is when faces are smashed up against the window and you can barely breathe. Think of it as a moving flesh pile or bearhug if you will.
5) You are learning a lot but "come se dice" are still your favorite words.
6) You are still doing the funny touristy things such as straddling the equator line at Mitad del Mundo and bragging that, at that moment, you are in two places at once. (do not take offense... these things must be done and pictures must be taken)
7) You are used to waking up and seeing the mountains of Quito all around you... for some, they never cease to take their breath away.
8) You are jingling because of all of the change that you now carry. (I am just thinking of all the pennies that I left in my car back home and all that I could buy with them)
9) You are still slightly miffed when people are late... but it is starting to faze you less and less. After all, you like the grace every once in a while when you are late.
10) You are used to the piropos (flirtacious comments, compliments, whistles,etc. ... in Latin America these are not offensive and are completely harmless) as you walk down the street. In fact, you are somewhat disappointed when you don't hear the whistles.
11) You are ready to settle in... ready to explore, see, experience... ready to do life here... be here...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Small but significant joys...

Well, I am almost one week down. This week has been one of the hardest of my life but I know I will look back on it as being one of the most important of my life as well.
It began with being completely overwhelmed and scared. Everything scared me and at one point I had not been out of the house in 29 hours. For those that know me... I am not a sit in my pajamas all day kind of girl... I think the idea of it sounds romantic but after a few hours, I get antsy. So that time was a long time. But thankfully one of my friends rescued me and showed me around the bus system here in Quito. I still do not know much of it but I know enough to get me to school and back and I am learning.
I am also learning how to deal with fear. This has been hard for me over the past week and I have been reading a lot of Scripture. This has comforted me but also convicted me of how fear is a sin. I can have confidence in my Holy God. Thank you for all those who have been sending me Scripture to read... It means more than you can ever know. I am constantly praying for God's peace and protection.
I have met many new people which has been wonderful and I like my classes so far. I especially enjoy the family that I am staying with. They are so generous and patient with me as I struggle for vocabulary. "Como se dice?" is my new favorite phrase...but I am learning many new words thanks to their patience. I so enjoy sitting and talking with them about all kinds of different things... it is great that my Spanish is improving and we can talk about deeper things than my favorite color or my likes and dislikes.
They have introduced me to several new foods...some that my stomach is tolerating and some that it is not. One such food was tripe (cow intestine) which I actually liked. Another food was choclo, which was delicious as well. I have tried everything here...just not everything agrees with my stomach. A friend and I did stumble upon a panaderia (bakery) today and we just could not help ourselves. The sweet breads were so good. I will definitely be going back because this blows Panera out of the water!
Right now I am tired... it could be that 13 minute run this morning that completely took it out of me. The altitude is high and breathing is hard... but it was so nice to go out and stretch my legs.
Overall, it has been a hard week. But I am excited for the weekend. God has given me small but significant joys over the course of this week and I am so grateful for these. I am learning more and more as each day passes.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


That is about how I feel right now...overwhelmed. However, this is a double-sided coin...this overwhelmed feeling that is.
Sure, I am overwhelmed by the vastness of this city and how I have absolutely no idea where I am. Sure, I am overwhelmed by the language and how little I understand and how much less I can communicate. I feel reduced to a mere yes and no answer for everything. Sure, I am overwhelmed by the fatigue my body is feeling due to lack of sleep and the altitude. Sure, I am overwhelmed that this will be my home for the next four months. Sure, I am immensely overwhelmed with feeling helpless and humbled. I am indeed overwhelmed.
But I am also overwhelmed with God's grace. He has been so abundant to me! He has provided beyond my desires. He has provided a beautiful family who is so gracious to me including a precious little girl who deemed me worthy to play with her this afternoon. He has overwhelmed me with their hospitality. He has given me internet at the apartment where I will be living and even provided a free way to call home. I am astounded by all that He has orchestrated. I am overwhelmed by His good gifts. Indeed, they are very good but it simply points me to the infinitely good Giver of these gifts who satisfies more than these gifts themselves. He is my joy and satisfaction. "How He loves us...Oh how He loves us..." those were the words that were playing on the drive to the airport yesterday. Those are the words that Jon softly sang in my ear. And those were the words that I could barely choke out. But they are also the words that are echoing in my mind right now. God's grace and love are abundant. They were abundant on the cross and they are abundantly displayed in my life right now despite being overwhelmed in the other areas.
Please pray for me. Pray that I would rest in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as I feel overwhelmed. Please pray that I would be able to better understand and communicate. Please pray that God would comfort me as I struggle to combat loneliness and tears on this first day apart from my family. Please pray that God would use this experience to mold me.
I love you all!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

One week, several doses of nervousness, and a handful of excitement away...

6:44 am. That is the time that my cell phone displayed when I first opened my eyes this morning. 6:44 am. I immediately thought that in exactly one week from that moment I would be boarding a plane destined for Ecuador. My head fell back on the pillow and I took a deep breath. One week away...
As I have been preparing for this trip, I have shopped for all of the necessities. Research on Quito is continuous. Closed toed shoes have been purchased (which is a big deal for this flip flop loving female). Webcams have been tested. Candy orange slices hope to make it to Ecuador...who knows...they will be lucky not to be eaten before then. And, I have been doing a lot of thinking and praying.
Most of my preparation has been mental preparation. I am so excited to get to return to Ecuador. It is such an amazing opportunity. I am nervous yet excited to be able to study in the city of Quito. I am preparing to see another beautiful part of the world. I am looking forward to being back in the mountains. I am ready to smell the smells of Quito again and enjoy the colors and rhythm of the city. I cannot wait for the new experiences and interesting foods. I am curious to see what relationships form. I am preparing myself to be overwhelmed...
I am readying myself to feel small as I realize, yet again, that the world is so much bigger than I am. I am going knowing that I will feel lost at moments. I am praying to be humbled, which I am sure is inevitable. But I am preparing to learn and to share.
I am most excited to share the message of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I have often failed at doing this while on the comfort of my own campus. I have often been caught up in indifference. I am looking forward to meeting people to listen to their stories as well as share mine and the difference that the Gospel has made in my life. I am even preparing for those lonely moments, knowing that those might be the sweetest moments of walking with and trusting in my God. I am so blessed to get to see God's creation in a different part of the globe.
One week...
Therefore we labor that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him.
2 Corinthians 5:9