Saturday, March 28, 2009


It finally hit me yesterday that I’m living one of my biggest dreams. Right now. I’m living in an average-sized city in the middle of Ecuador. I really am living here. When I go to the grocery store with Jonathan we buy things like onions, milk, bread, and laundry detergent. I’ve named the neighbor’s dog. I know a corner store on Calle Uruguay that carries liter bottles of refrigerated Coke and KinderBuenos. I know that the garbage truck with its loud garbage man jingle blasting from its megaphone comes by our building every morning between 7:25 and 7:30. I know that when I cross Calle Junín I only need to look for cars coming from the south and when I cross Calle Argentinos I only need to look for cars coming from the north. No looking both ways on one-way streets; that’ll give you away in a second. The employees of the bakery on the corner know us and they know what we want. We’re regulars. We’re regulars! In Ecuador. As much as I’ve dreamt about it, I still can’t believe that it’s happening.

Today is our one month wedding anniversary. It’s been the happiest month of my life even though I’ve had some struggles. I’m still dealing with a parasite (see my poll). I don’t know how I got it but it’s causing sharp stomach/intestinal pains on and off throughout the day* and headaches. I’m still trying to decide what to do about it since the main drug offered here for parasites isn’t FDA approved. However, I remember that most of the indigenous people we work with don’t know what it’s like not to have parasites. I’m just getting a little bit of what they suffer through every day. Sometimes our work days seem long. We drive for hours on bumpy roads and we sit through meetings in endless Spanish. The good thing is we’re doing it all with the hope and goal of making people’s lives better. I’ve seen many successful projects in progress: medical campaigns in schools, several classrooms and cafeterias being built in different communities, a class training some indigenous young adults how to start and run small businesses, running water in people’s homes for the first time in their lives, the list goes on. It makes the hard work so worth it.

Jonathan has done an amazing job on designing a pamphlet and poster to publicize our micro-business training class around the city. Carlos, our boss, likes the pamphlet so much that he wants Jonathan to design similar pamphlets for our other Ecuador office 5.5 hours away in Cuenca. We took a trip to Cuenca this past Thursday to Friday with Carlos to have a meeting with the three staff members there. While we were there we also had a meeting with some rich and important people in Cuenca that might be able to help us with a fundraising gala we’re planning in Cuenca this summer.

Ascend’s accountant works in the Cuenca office and is feeling very overloaded with work. She was mentioning this problem to Carlos in our meeting and he asked me if I would learn QuickBooks and get trained on how I can help our accountant get caught up. Wow. Sure. Haha… Learning QuickBooks in Spanish will be a challenge but I’m up for it. The only thing I’m worried about is getting trained by the accountant. I’ve never heard more jumbled and mumbled Spanish than what comes out of her mouth. I understand 90 to 95% of the Spanish I hear here. But from her? 20% if I’m lucky. It will be a great listening comprehension exercise at least. I hope I’ll be able to help.

On the drive home from Cuenca (the three of us went in Carlos’ truck) I was amazed by the beauty of Ecuador. We are literally living in the Andes and it’s incredible. On the way there we were basically driving in a cloud the whole time. It was extremely foggy so we didn’t see much of the landscape. The fog had cleared up for the drive back to Riobamba, though and… wow. It had rained a lot the night before, causing two huge mudslides to make the main road back to Riobamba impassable. We got out of the truck and watched the workers try and clear the mud. It wasn’t working too well because the mud was still sliding down the mountain. It had wiped out a couple of houses. I really hope there wasn’t anyone inside. Carlos said mudslides are one of the most deadly natural disasters that Ecuador deals with.

This is the smaller of the two mudslides. The other one is about 20 yards down the road. It goes right across the road and continues down the mountian.

A local boy told us the mudslide had happened at 7 that morning and it still looked like this when we got there at noon.

Here's the view of the mudslides from far away. You can see the line of trucks and busses that were too big to turn around and take a detour. They'd been waiting for hours.

After waiting for about a half hour we decided to take a detour. I’m so glad we did. It was beautiful. I can’t describe it and I know my pictures won’t do it justice but I’ll show you some that I took from the car anyway.

In other news, we are enjoying our branch. The people are so kind and fun. I play the piano in Sacrament Meeting every Sunday which has proved to be fun but a little difficult. As you all probably know, my piano skills aren’t pro. I do the best I can and pray for the blessing of not messing up too much. So far it hasn’t gone too badly and I love playing the piano so it really is a blessing. However, for some reason, the congregation thinks they want to hold some notes longer than they are written in the hymn and other notes they just skip right over. I’m debating over whether to stay true to the way the hymn is written or to just go along with how they sing it so everyone doesn’t get confused and think I’m a horrible pianist. The chorister is another matter. I play the introduction and look up at her and she just stares out at the congregation with her arms at her side waiting them to start singing. So I just go ahead and start playing and they eventually get semi-on with the piano and she waves her arm around and smiles. It’s kind of funny.

On Wednesday night this week Jonathan and I went to “Noche de Hogar” at the church. It’s basically family home evening with the branch. It was supposed to start at 7 pm and Jonathan and I walked in at 7:50 thinking we’d probably missed most of it (we’d had a meeting that night). We were wrong. They were all sitting in the Relief Society room just getting ready to sing the opening hymn. I was asked to lead the hymn since there wasn’t a piano in there. On the second verse of "Praise to the Man" I noticed that two teenage boys in the second row were leading along with me. I had to try to keep singing and not laugh. It was pretty funny. They did the same thing during the closing song. I can only hope that now maybe someone in the branch understands the purpose of having a chorister.

After the Noche de Hogar lesson we played hang-man and ate hot dogs. One man tried to sell us internet service. Another man asked us if the foundation we work for could help pay for his colostomy bags which cost him $40 to $60 dollars a day (a lot of money here!). He even pulled us aside and showed us his hugely swollen and misshapen belly with a colostomy bag hooked to it. It was sad but it’s not really something we can help with. I wish we could help him. Another lady started talking to us about how much her daughter’s school (which is nice compared to indigenous schools in the communities outside the city) needs more classrooms. I hope nobody feels bad that we can’t help them with everything they might need just because we work for a humanitarian organization. If I’m ever rich, I don’t think I’d be rich very long. It’s hard to see how many needs there are out here.

This past Saturday Carlos invited us to come to a family get-together at his aunt’s house. His uncle lives in Maryland and was here for a visit. Carlos has a big family like me and it was fun to get together with all of them. It made me miss all the get-togethers** with both the Graceys and my family. All of Carlos’ cousins and aunts and uncles were so friendly and fun. Jonathan talked for a long time with Carlos’ cousin’s boyfriend who’s also studying graphic design. We learned that there’s a graphic design studio near our apartment. Jonathan wants to stop by one day and talk to the designers about their work. I love how motivated he is.
The highlight of the get-together was the food. Shortly after we arrived, it took 3 women to carry this out of the kitchen.

(Yes, it's dead)
Everyone immediately crowded around it and started picking off pieces of the skin to snack on. I love the look on Jonathan’s face here.

Then the women tore it apart so it could be served. They seemed fierce as they ripped off the legs and tore apart the flesh. The scene was a little gruesome and I tried not to think of Babe.
Other food highlights of the party included pig intestines filled with rice and beans, blood sausage, and potatoes with peanut sauce. The intestines were… okay…until Carlos told me what they were. The pig meat was good except for the skin. They think the skin is the best part but I thought it tasted like a too-thick , kinda-burnt, fatty chip. And Jonathan’s piece of skin had whiskers. Maybe he got the eyebrow or something. We hid the skin under our napkins and sneakily threw it away.
Now for a few more pictures from the past week…

For those of you who know how much I love ducks and want one as a pet, you’ll understand how hard it was for me not to take one of these little guys home from the market. Somehow I don’t think Ascend would appreciate a pet duck in the office though.

For those of you who’d like to see, here are the awesome people we work with every day. Adriana is on the left. She’s in charge of the health and education projects. Carlos is in the middle. He’s the area coordinator. Lenin is on the right. He’s in charge of the simple technology and micro-business projects. They’re all so nice and a joy to work with.

For those of you who like climbing, this is supposed to be one of the hardest mountains in the world to climb. Right outside our own Riobamba. I forgot what it’s called but I think it looks like a witch’s lair.
For those of you that like doors, here’s a cool one that Jonathan took a picture of… random.

For those of you who like breakfast, this is what happened when I went to make scrambled eggs this morning. I’m guessing it’s going to be a happy day.

For those of you that have seen Peter Pan, this is Nana. She’s our friendly across-the-street neighbor dog who lives on the roof of an apartment building. I love her.

Jonathan thinks we should call her Beethoven but I’m sticking to Nana. This is her favorite past-time:
This is my favorite person in the world. He went with me up to the roof of our building so I could take a picture of Nana. He actually barked to get her to look at us. Folks, this is the man I get to be with forever and nothing could make me happier. Happy Anniversary, love.

*No, I’m not pregnant. To all the numerous people that have suspected it, I can assure you that the only thing living inside me is a parasite. Anyone have any ideas for names?
** My cousin Arianne is getting baptized today. Congratulations, Arianne! I’m sorry I’m missing it but I hope you have a great day. I’m proud of you.


David and Brooke Gallagher said...

Again I love your pics, and I like the dog you call Nana! I hope you get feeling better soon, you should name your tenet Murphy! Good luck!

Lindsay said...

Quite a contrast to your last blog. I am a little jealous. Enjoy it! Happy anniversary!

Jessica said...

Amanda, Amanda, just get the silly stool sample test done so you can feel better! When I was in Brazil we had to take worm medicine every six months.
Make sure you use your clean water for everything...brushing teeth, washing dishes, etc. Make sure to wash all your veggies REALLY well before eating,(with your clean water!) And, if you are nervous about getting the poop test done, ask me sometime about my stool sample test I had to get done...In a public restroom...with three kids. Is that TMI?

Michemily said...

There was so much I wanted to say as I was reading through, but I forgot most of it now. I love Nana. She looks so sweet. And the pig skin sounds gross and made me laugh.

Scottrbarnes said...

Congrats on acquiring your first passenger (Mr. Parasite(you should find a clever name for it)). When I was in Taiwan, we had to take pills every six months that made everything taste like metal for a few days. Don't know what they were, FDA approved or not, but I didn't get parasites.

cathy said...

I'm so glad you're all doing well. I know that feeling when you realize you're actually living there and that's your home. Sorry you got the cha-cha-chas, but hopefully that will be resolved soon. For contrast, next time I'll take a picture of what we ate at grandmas. Tonight is was roast pork loin (no skin) spinach salad, foccacia, and buttermilk cake.

JP said...

Happy Anniversary guys! I love your egg picture - that is my favorite by far! And again w/ the kinderbuenos!?! Really, you've got to stop tempting the rest of us unless you play on bringing home a big box to share.

brycenbeans said...


Carly said...

ha ha ha. I started laughing my head off when I saw that dog...seriously! LOL. What about the crazy one around the block from you that rams the fence every time you walk by. It used to scare me to death every single time.