Friday, 30 December 2011

Christmas 16: Beach

Same beach at sunset
It has been such a busy time of year. I didn’t realise how tired I was at the time, but reading back over the highlights of this festive season, I have realised why I have been so tired. Not only have allthe special programmes been going on, but on top of that, normal life of living and working in another country, culture and language. I have still been working in the schools, Orphaids and Laura Flores trying to do some speech and language therapy amongst the busyness of Christmas.

Us in front of the Christmas tree
After Christmas I went to the beach. It was heaven. To get away. Be somewhere sunny. Not have any worries or things to do. I slept a lot. I swam in the sea a lot. I just love the sea and could have stayed in there for hours. I have come back recharged, refreshed and excited by what the New Year brings.

Happy New Year.

Feliz Año Nuevo


Water seems to go from one extreme to another here. I have had to think a lot about water here. When I first arrived in Santo, there didn’t seem to be much of it. The family I live with had to “get” the water from the pipes in the road, in the middle of the night, every few days. The authorities would only send the water every few days. (I say “get” because I don’t know how they got it… I think they had to pump it in to our water tank from the pipes in the road.) This meant we had to be careful how much water we used, to make sure we didn’t run out before there was more in the pipes again. The school I work in and the flats above used to buy tanks of water. This was expensive and again, you had to be careful so you did not run out (which often did happen).

Most of the families who live in LF do not have running water. They buy in what they need. This is hard when you do not have much money. Cleanliness, hygiene and health are then increasing problems. The children I work with are always thirsty.

At the moment, we are moving into the hot rainy season. As I write this it has just started raining… pouring down with rain. So much water comes down that it is a real problem on the roads; drains get blocked, roads become a wash with water making it unsafe to drive, landslides etc. There is more water around.

Today, we have not got water in the house. The tank when the water is kept, when it comes in from the pipes in the road, has been emptied and cleaned. Although it is obviously good to clean the tank regularly, it has left us without water today. We will have water tomorrow when the authorities send the water in the pipes in the road. It is so strange to be without water. In England, I do not think about water. I am careful with water; to not use too much, to not waste it, but I never worry about it running out. In England I would never ask a friend if they had enough water in the house or if they had any water for me to drink. I do not know anyone in the UK who does not have water.

Christmas 15: Boxing Day

I love Boxing Day. I think I love it more than Christmas Day. It is a really chilled out day with the family, normally spent with some more of the extended family. We go for a lovely cold winters walk. It is also a day of eating leftover Christmas food, cold meats and turkey and my Dad always tries to get me to eat the yellow piccalilli chutney on my cold turkey!

This year, Boxing Day was boiling hot. Really sunny. It was so so nice. I went into town with Victoria, took back her fetching elf costume and went to the post office. I had received a parcel from friends who I used to work with. Full of exciting treats and things to make me feel christmassy. I spent the day at my English friend’s house (with her Ecuadorian boyfriend) and some other English friends. We had an English roast dinner topped off with a lit Christmas pudding, brandy butter and “Love Actually” DVD.


Christmas 14: Christmas Day

The drama- Santa, Santa's helper, me (a posh
demanding mother and my teengae daughter)
I don’t remember the last time I got up this early on Christmas Day. The last time must have been when I was a child! Because Christmas Eve felt so Christmassy, Christmas Day didn’t really feel Christmassy- more like Boxing Day. I was up bright and early and heading to church for a 9am, 3 hour “special Christmas programme”. We had to perform our Christmas drama again. This time I was far more nervous than the LF performance. We were performing in front of people we knew, to far more people and those people could actually hear what we were saying. In LF I am not sure how much the children heard. It went ok…as well as an ad-libbed drama in your second language can go!

Back home for lunch- cows hoof soup followed by chicken and rice and a quiet afternoon with the family. It was nice to skype my family in England with my Ecuadorian family. In the evening I had some yummy English Christmas pudding with the Brits to complete Christmas Day.

It was a really lovely, very relaxing day. To be honest, I didn’t miss people so much on the actual Christmas Day. I knew I would be away from my friends and family and I was happy with my new family. In hindsight, I definitely found the lead up to Christmas hard. Everything was a reminder that I would be far from home and would catch me out at unexpected times.

Sunday, 25 December 2011


Recently I have had some interesting conversations about alcohol and dancing. Here is a completely different culture. Therefore people think differently about drinking alcohol and dancing than my culture.
I love getting to know people better and recently have learnt a lot more about people. People have told me stories of their lives; how they have got to where they are now. I have seen how God has been at work in their lives in radical ways. After one particular conversation I kept thinking about grace.

I kept thinking how we as Christians are saved by God's grace. However far we have gone from God, however wrong we have been, however much we have messed up, we can be forgiven. God will forgive us. We can be saved. It is by his grace.

Ephesians 2 v 8-9
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast"

Efesios 2 v 8-9
"Porque por gracia sois salvos por la fe; y esto no de vosotros, pues es don de Dios: No por obras, para que nadie se gloríe"

Christmas 13: Christmas Dinner

Most Ecuadorians have their Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve to see in Christmas Day. We had ours slightly earlier. It was such a nice evening. There were 10 of us in total and it was such a great evening. Although I knew I was far from home, I had a great loving family here to celebrate with. What helped is that I felt part of the family. Although I still struggle to talk in Spanish I can understand a lot more and was able to have some really good chats with various family members. It helped me get to know them better and for them to know me better.

My Ecuadorian family
This year, instead of Turkey, roast potatoes, cranberry sauce, honey roasted parsnips, sprouts, fried mushrooms and gravy, we had; chicken, rice with spinach, salad and potatoes. It was a great meal full of lots of laughs. After a few silly games, we shared some presents and sat around chatting. It was a really fun and enjoyable evening. As I write this late on Christmas Eve I feel content after having an enjoyable Christmas time. I don’t think tomorrow (Christmas Day) we will be doing very much. Most people have got to go to work on Monday so I think it will be like any other Sunday. I feel blessed that I will be with my family.  Although I will not be with my family in England but thanks to God, he has blessed me with a new family here.

Christmas 12: Drama in Laura Flores

Well, this young peoples drama for the children was well and truly Ecuadorian, in so many ways. Firstly, we organised so many rehearsals, people didn’t show-up, times were changed, people we late etc!! Eventually it got to the day of the performance and we all arrived at 2pm.
Santa's helper, a child, gran and me, all visitors to Santa
However, we were down the main part, Father Christmas. So we waited, and waited, 3pm came and went. The programme was due to start at 4pm. The bus was picking us up at 3:30pm. 3:30pm came and went. No bus. No Father Christmas. 3:45 and the bus arrived. We piled in the bus, 2 to a seat, amongst the elf shoes, bottles of colas, bags or sweets and biscuits for the children and Christmas bread (like panetone). We arrive to Laura Flores and we were greeted by hundreds of children, ready and waiting for the programme to start. They were so excited. Really excited. We eventually battled through the children, joined in some songs and then Father Christmas arrived, Praise the Lord! After a quick last minute we rehearsed and then performed.

A girl telling Santa about Jesus
The drama went so much better than I had imagined. It was great to be part of it and see a hundred children watching and hearing something of Jesus this Christmas time. After giving out the bags of sweets we headed home.

Iluminous colas and Christmas bread for the children.

Although initially I was annoyed we had to wait around for ages and I had cancelled other Christmas activities to be there, I was so pleased to have been part of it. 

Giving out bags of sweets and biscuits to every LF child
There is so much good stuff happening in Laura Flores. The Ecuadorians in the church are increasingly keen to work there and take ownership of the programmes and activities, rather than it be run by English missionaries. There was a real buzz about the place. I came back feeling very christmasy. The fact that it was dark and rainy, also reminded me of Christmas!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas 11: special school

Papa Panov making shoes
On Thursday, the special school had their Christmas production. They had been working hard for weeks, preparing and getting ready. The stage and many of the props had been made by the children. They had been involved in every part. It looked really good. The morning included performances from children in the Baptist church school, songs from a man in church, a birthday cake and the children’s performances.

The children performed their Papa Panov drama really well. The children had little black “Russian” hats, matching outfits and were so excited to perform.
The street cleaner
The shoe cleaner

The Policeman

The sweet seller

The carol singers

The Chorus

The mother and her child, receiving her new shoe 
Angels singing
Singing about the donkey to Bethlehem
Afterwards, the children performed their songs. Some of them sang and danced to a song about the donkey on the journey to Bethlehem. It was the catchiest tune ever written. Most days since the end of October, this song has been going round and round in my head. Afterwards the others sang a carol song about the bells of Bethlehem. They were dressed as angels and had brightly decorated wings. It made it a little hard to help them dance.

The children received their Christmas gifts from the shoe boxes, and from the Baptist Church school children and received bags of biscuits and sweets. It was a very successful morning. Of course, we also had some lunch; some chicken and rice to finish off the morning. By the end of it I was well and truly exhausted but very proud of the children. (See blog entry below entitled exhausted)

It has been a busy few weeks. Amongst all the Christmas programmes, I have been trying to fit in some therapy sessions with the children. It has been a month of ups and downs. The lead up to Christmas has been a lot harder than I imagined it would be. Having reminders of Christmas every day has reminded me every day that I am not with my family this year. However, now it is just 2 days until Christmas, I am excited about experiencing Christmas in a different culture. I feel more relaxed now it is the end of term. I am looking forward to having some time to be with friends and my new family and focus on Jesus.

Christmas 10: Christingle

I have never made a Christingle before. In the last “club”in Orphaids before Christmas, we made Christingles. The children loved it. I think it was mainly the sweets that caught their attention!

  • The orange – represents the world
  • The red ribbon – indicates the love and blood of Christ
  • The dried fruits and sweets – symbols of God’s creations
  • The lit candle – symbolises Jesus, the light of the world

Christmas 9: PEPE

Mary and Joseph
The Pre-school children in the PEPE classes in Laura Flores, had their Christmas production this week. One PEPE class performed a song and the other a nativity drama. The PEPE teachers did really well to organise it.
Shepherds and sheep

Mary and her donkey. Poor donkey!
I have a lot of admiration for these teachers. They have had little training and have had a lot of hardship in their life. However, they see the importance in educating children from a young age. These teachers are devoted to the children they work with.


Lunch - chicken and rice

Christmas 8: Staff meal

The staff that work within Fundación Vida en Abundancia went out for their Christmas meal. Again, it was a very Ecuadorian experience. The meal was for 7pm, but no-one ever gets to a function on time. There are English who run late and that’s fine. 20 mins or maybe even ½ hour. Here, you can wait 1 hour or 2hours or maybe even more at time! I wondered what time we would eat! Fortunately it wasn’t too late. It was a really special occasion. Everyone made a real effort to dress up nicely and enjoy a lovely meal. It was a chance to celebrate together, the work that the fundación has done this past year. We are all so different and offer something very unique to the team. It was a privilege to be part of the team.

Christmas 7: BBQ

Yes, that’s right. A BBQ in December! The staff in the special school were invited to Bayron’s house for a BBQ. He is the director of another charity here which works with children with disabilities. Our children go to their charity once a week for horse riding therapy. It is the highlight of the children’s week!  
Victoria and I preparing the salad
We all contributed something and as a team, prepared the BBQ. It was very Ecuadorian… Yuca, special Christmas rice (cooked in coke not water) salad, with lemon dressing and lots of meat, big bits of chicken, beef, sausages and chickens feet. Not a burger in a bun in sight!

It was a great evening together, full of Ecuadorian traditions, and exchanging of presents. It was a great experience in December!   


Christmas 6: Latin Link

I joined the Latin Link team for their Christmas meal. It was so lovely and I left feeling very Christmassy. I had arrived not feeling very enthusiastic and not very sociable, however that soon changed. We had a great meal, of which everyone contributed something. (Pears cooked in red wine from the Dutch couple were a definite favourite!)

We had a great meal, a surprise visit from Santa who gave us all a gift, Christmas games, tea and Christmas cakes, (sent from England) and Christmas Carols. It was a lovely Christmas Day. A time with good friends, good food (and lots of it) fun games and celebrating Jesus through singing Carols. It was a great time together to really remember what Christmas is all about; Jesus.  

Christmas 5: Women

The women who live in Laura Flores were invited to a special church service and lunch (chicken and rice!!!)
I love this picture. It gives a glimpse into Ecuador; the chicken and rice, the illuminous drinks, the traffic passing by just outside the church, Victoria chatting to the women, and happy faces. 
One of the PEPE school teachers recieving her
Christmas present for her family
Afterwards, they each received a Christmas present for their family. They received clothes and children’s toys. Most of these gifts were donations from England. The women were delighted with their gifts.

I do not really have anything to do with the women’s work. I see some of the Laura Flores mums on a Wednesday afternoon.

Whilst they have a bible study, I do some therapy work with their children.

The more time I spend with the Ecuadorians who work with these women and with the English volunteers I learn more and more about the lives of these women. Some of the stories would shock you, make you cry and just wonder how anyone can live in such awful/difficult situations. Some of the stories are just beyond belief.

Within the charity I work with the children; in the special needs school, the Baptist church school children and Laura Flores children. The charity also works to support women, many of whom have lived/are living with abuse.

The couple which works within the Laura Flores community are amazingly servant hearted people, with a genuine love for these women and a real heart to serve God.
Everyone enjoyed the chicken and rice!
Although I do not know many of the women very well, I do know some of their children. I can not begin to imagine what their life is like. I do not want to imagine some of the things they have seen or heard. I so often wonder what their future holds. Will they ever leave their community? Will they get a decent job to support their family?

I wonder how I can help them? I know my contribution to their life is so miniscule. Some days all I feel I can offer them is some time, an interest in them, encourage them and share a smile through my therapy sessions.

Christmas 4: Shoeboxes

Last year the charity received loads of shoeboxes from Samaritans purse, Operation Christmas Child.

Thousands of people each year package up shoeboxes to give as gifts at Christmas time. They are sent out to needy children all over the World. This year, our school received loads of shoeboxes full of amazing things. Victoria and I had the joy of sorting through the things and finding Christmas presents for each child in the school.
Wrapping the presents, ready for the end of term
We both had prepared shoeboxes before and both found it great to see where the shoeboxes go. It was great to know the children and be able to find just the right gift that we thought each child would like. There was so much that will go a long way, not just only for the children as Christmas presents but also toiletries that can be given to poorer families for example in Laura Flores.

Please keep preparing your shoeboxes. They bring and share so much joy to many many children and families.

Christmas 3: Cards

At the end of a tiring week and generally feeling tired and a bit sad that I was so far from home at Christmas time, I received loads of Christmas cards and letters and words of encouragements. Perfect timing.
Thank you.

Christmas 2: Pancakes

Although it wasn’t really very festive, in December Victoria and I made pancakes for the church youth. Well, I use the term “youth” very loosely. “Youth” can be from 15 upwards… u to any age if you are single. As you can imagine it makes for a very mixed group of people every Saturday evening! This particular week I volunteered to make the pancakes and introduce the Ecuadorians to lemon and sugar. After an afternoon of cooking, kindly assisted by Victoria eating all the pancakes that weren’t good enough to give away, we took them to church and they were successful. It was strange to be cooking/eating pancakes in December, rather than February but never mind! It was great to be able to serve the “youth” and great to feel a little bit more a part of that group.
The following day I also made loads more for my extended Ecuadorian family here. The grandson LOVED them! 

Christmas 1: Rehersals

This December there are so many Christmas “programmes” happening. It is great but very tiring! Working in several different settings has meant there have been so many programmes. Each has been different but really great and Jesus can be seen in all of them!
The special school began their Christmas rehearsals back in October. It certainly felt strange talking about Christmas then!! The children love to dress up, act, dance and sing. The Christmas programme was going to contain all of those.
The Christmas drama was called “Papa Panov”. Set in Russia, the children began to act out the story of the old village shoemaker and his visitors over Christmas. The children acted out several people who Papa Panov welcomed into his house.

The rehearsals were great. Victoria and I had to use our imagination to put the costumes together, with the limited clothes we had!

This has got to be my favourite! The Police man!

The shoe shiner with Papa Panov, looking very Russian!
We had an Ecuadorian boy dressed as a Russian policemen with a Ben 10 woolly hat, a shoe shiner wearing jeans, and a poor, shoeless child wearing a pink summers dress! The children loved it!

Papa Panov fitting new shoes onto the shoeless child. It was a bit tricky!
The story explains how Papa Panov was told in a dream that Jesus would visit him! It goes on to talk about all the people Papa Panov welcomed into his home, but he became disheartened that Jesus never showed up. An angel then reminded him of the Bible passage that when Papa Panov fed, clothed and helped all the poor visitors he had, he was actually serving God.
 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,[f] you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25 v 34-40


It is interesting how music can trigger certain memories. Listening to the Carpenters always reminds me of the lead up to Christmas. My mum will put on her CD and do her Christmas baking; make her mince pies, ice the giant Christmas cake (that seems to last until March) and steam her Christmas puddings. The music is so cheesy but brings back good memories. This year I won’t be there with her. December has been harder than I thought. I am not sad about missing Christmas Day in itself. I will have my new Ecuadorian family to celebrate with. I am looking forward to the new experiences, which is likely to include eating Christmas dinner at midnight on Christmas Eve.
Christmas 2010
For me, I miss time with my family and friends. Everyone has the time off work and there is plenty of time just to spend with people. I love that. For me, spending time with people is so important. This year, although I have new a family and new very supportive friends, it is not the same. It is not the same as spending time with my family.  


When asked what my “one word Wednesday” would be; a word to sum up the past week, I replied with “exhausted”. The past few weeks have been exhausting in the run up to Christmas. As I write this at 8.30 on a Thursday evening, I wonder if it is too early to go to bed or not!? My day to day life is probably not as tiring as my life in England. I work less hours than in England. In England I probably do more in the evenings and weekends, but I am definitely more tired here.

Today, after the school Christmas production, I went for a walk. I was so tired but wanted to get out of the house, on my own, to get some fresh air. It was really nice. Just a walk twice round the park, but really nice. I thought about why I was so tired and it dawned on me how different my life is here, than it is in England. One of the most tiring things in my life is speaking in Spanish. Having a conversation is far more tiring than it would be in English. My brain is working hard not only listening to the words and understanding what people say, but also on another level, working out what they mean. Sometimes people assume you know what they mean; not only what they have said, but what they infer also. A lot of that can only be picked up through knowing the culture. My brain also works hard at forming a sentence to continue the conversation. I feel I have got worse with my Spanish. I certainly understand more and more each day but my talking really isn’t good. This frustrates me and the Ecuadorians are so nice, that I am never corrected!

I am also tired because I need a place i can go to chill out. I love being with people and around people. I do not like to be alone. However, I need just a small amount of time on my own, recharge my batteries and then have enough energy to be sociable. I am missing that. I miss being able to go for a walk at whatever time of the day/night, on my own and to think. 

Chilling out in front of the TV is different here. I only have the brain power for an English programme which narrows it down to a very random English spoken film, CSI, Hawaii 5-0 or House. Slim pickings! It is often House!

I also miss being able to phone people when I want to. Skype is a God send. It is amazing to be able to chat to and see my friends and family. I am not sure what I would do without it. However, sometimes I want to speak to somebody now. There and then. But I can’t. I often have to arrange a time to speak with friends. 

Re-reading this sounds so negative. However, it has been helpful for me to realise some of the things that affect my life here, make me tired and therefore grumpy. I love my work and my life here. It is good. It is a whole load better when I am not tired. For 2012 and I am going to make time to chill out and properly rest. Hopefully that will mean there will be a better, more energised Amy to serve here!

After my walk I had a lovely afternoon sleep and was very refreshed for the evening ahead of which you never know what happen! I helped make Victoria some Elf shoes for the Christmas drama, burnt my fingers on boiling glue from the glue gun, went to a drama rehearsal to find it was cancelled and finally finished off the day with some very nice chips for dinner!

Tomorrow is the first day of the Christmas holidays. Hooray!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Blogging: a waste of time?

The last 2 weeks have been full of ups and downs. At times, writing this feels a waste of time. I don’t share everything I have done, thought or places I have been to or children I have worked with. I often feel people are not interested. In a way, what I write about it doesn’t reflect what I really have been doing. I want to try to be more open about all the things I have been doing and learning, to share with you. Recently I have thought no-one really reads my blog or is interested, but over the past few weeks I am thankful for the 250 or so page views. Thank you for your interest. I hope to have a bit more time to myself after Christmas, before school begins again in the New Year.  I will try and write down a whole load of things I have been doing and give you a greater insight into my life here. There are so many funny stories to share, difficult situations which I have seen, and some great work I have had the privilege to be a part of.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


I don't feel Christmasy at all. It is hard to feel Christmasy when it isn't cold, there are no familiar traditions and I'm sat wearing shorts and t-shirts. Having said that, I recieved the best gift in the post this week which will help me count down the days until Christmas... an advent calendar!
Being here has certainly helped me remember what Christmas is really all about. It is about Jesus. Jesus being born and the importance of his life; living to set us an example and then dying so we no longer have to live with the burden of all the mess ups we have made.

Christmas for me this year is not about making mince pies whilst listening to Carpenters music (family tradition), going on wintery walks, putting up the tree, eating turkey and cranberry sauce, buying a Christmas radio times (family tradition) or eating party rings (another strange family tradition). It is still a joyful time to celebrate with the family, but this year I will have a different family and can celebrate with them, the birth of our saviour.
"They will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1 v 23

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Autumn 2011

A few photos of the past few months, to give you a glimpse into some of my work in the schools.
I am here with CMS but as there are only a few of us, we frequently link up with some of the Latin Link missionaries.
Latin Link team conference - Oct

Making pom poms for the Special Needs Olympics

Christmas decorations made from yoghurt pots (right) and Father Christmas made by the children

The most recent birthday in the school

Enjoying work

Learning about animals and making their noises using the instruments 

Some children needs a little more persuasion to work, than others!

Delivering Speech and Language Therapy 
Working in Laura Flores. This girl has made such good improvement with her attention and listening

Measuring water