Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Different views

Today I found this picture of my home town. The sight is so familiar and reminds me of where I grew up. I love it.

From where I grew up
Now my views are entirely different. From the streets of Laura Flores, to the volcanos in the centre of Ecuador, to the busy Latin American streets lined with street vendors and markets. I love it.
Tumburagua volcano
Laura Flores

Latin American streets (Quito)


Sometimes here I have been fearful. Coming from living in towns that are safe in England, to now living here, life is very different. At times I have feared getting the bus, walking down the road on my own or going to a certain place. I cannot let fear overcome me, otherwise I would spend all my time in my house! If I truly believe that the bible is true, I need to take its words very seriously. I need to follow the instructions that it gives me. I don’t know exactly, but it is somewhere around 365 times in the bible “do not fear”.  It is a short sharp instruction. It is to be followed. I know that I have a God who is bigger than my fears. 

Joshua 1 v 9

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”

Laura Flores Church

Inside the church. Art work made by the children of Laura Flores
when the American team came to visit
Today, (Sunday 26th) saw the first Sunday church service in Laura Flores. This barrio is a poor community. It is a totally different world. It is a place of gangs, prostitution, drugs, violence, poverty and single women abandoned by their husbands, often leaving them destitute with several children. The more I learn about this place and get to know people who live there, the more I wonder why God allows such suffering? 

First church service

There are women who have 6 or 8 children who have been abandoned by their husbands, women who have stayed with their husbands for fear of what the man would do to them if they tried to leave, a 16 year old who is pregnant with her 2nd child whose partner has left her for another girl,  the women who work hard to earn money and their partners spend all of the money on alcohol so the children go hungry, women who have children who are drug addicts… the stories go on and on. 
However, now, Laura Flores has its own church in the centre, right in the heart of this barrio. “A church that gives people hope. There are many people who work hard in this barrio to help some of these people get out of their abusive relationships, offer education to the children or therapy for drug addictions. However, many people do not take this help. Only God can help these people, change their hearts and minds.
I often wonder what the future holds for the children of Laura Flores

Monday, 27 February 2012

Sunday 26th Feb

2 months exactly. I only have 2 months left in Ecuador. Such mixed emotions. I spoke with a friend this weekend. She has her Dad visiting her. Someone asked him if he misses his daughter. He talked about how you can not imagine what it is like to have your daughter so far from home. I made a choice to leave home and come so far away from my family for this year. As hard as it was to leave friends and family, I never really thought about it being hard for my family.

There are so many times which I realise how far I am from home. For example:

-       When I am the only white person on the bus 

-       When I drink hot chocolate with lumps of cheese in it

-       When I see a mouse in my bedroom (I have been thinking which is worse… having a mouse running around your room or cockroaches!?)

-       When I have to hide my phone down my top to stop it being robbed

-       When someone asks me if, because I have green eyes, if everything I see is green

-       When the bus is crammed full of people that the doors can not be closed

-       When people slit your bag with a razor blade they have hidden between their fingers

-       When I am offered corn on the cob, yoghurts, nuts, crisps, coca cola, meat, toasted maize etc on the bus

-       When I see a man on a motorbike, with his 2 children and wife (who is doing her hair) on the back of the bike

Life is so different here. I know I am going to miss so many things of Ecuador. Today I spoke with a friend and some family members. It made me so excited to see them again.

More goodbyes and a "fun day"

Friday was my cousin’s daughters 18th Birthday. I can’t believe she is 18! It made me realise how fast time passes. It also made me realise how much I want to return to England and spend time with many children that I know and love. I want to enjoy that time whilst they are still children.
Friday evening was the monthly Latin Link meeting in Quito. It was a time to say goodbye to 3 people who have been here for 6 months. More goodbyes! Quito was SO cold! It is amazing how just traveling 3 hours from Santo Domingo, you can be in such a different climate!
Playing twister at the fun day.
Playing "castles". Each pair forms a house. The children are given instructions
as to how many people should be in the house. Here is a house
with 4 people. The kids loved it.
Saturday morning I helped at a fun day with some teachers who teach “values” in the school. It was a privilege to be part of it. The teachers teach the children important life values. Being the month of “El Amor y la Amistad” (Love and friendship) the children were told about what it means to be a real friend. Friendships and relationships are complicated and sometimes hard work. No-one is perfect. If you spend your time looking for the perfect friend you will end up friendless. Friendships can be such a great blessing and bring so much joy. I am very blessed with my friends. My book of encouragements is now overflowing. I have had to add extra pages in it. Words and cards of encouragements I have received go into my book. It reminds me how blessed I am.

A house with one person... a particularly tall American person. The kids loved him
Learning about true love and friendship

Thursday, 23 February 2012


The weekend of the 18/19th February was carnival. Everyone had the Monday and Tuesday off work. The tradition, which I had been warned about, was to throw water over each other. Didn’t matter if you knew them! This tradition has been extended to spraying each other with foam from a spray can or painting each other with black, green or red paint.
I did not have any plans for carnival. I have learnt that plans never go to plan so it is better to keep an open mind!
After seeing Victoria off at the airport, I had planned to head back to Santo Domingo, on that Friday afternoon. However, most people in the Country had decided that these 4 days off work would be a good time to go to the beach. Literally everyone descended on the roads towards the coast. Buses were full and there were no free spaces back to Santo until the Sunday. I was stranded, literally, in Quito with my boss for the weekend!
It turned out to be a good time to catch up with Quito friends and to get out of the hot, humid City of Santo Domingo. Quito felt so cold at night!
I eventually got home on Sunday afternoon. I was greeted by the heat of Santo, followed by intense rain and eating sugar cane with my family. It was good to be home!

On the Tuesday I went out for the day with my family and some other young people. I had no idea where we were going. A river or the countryside had been mentioned. So,  in preparation, I packed a bag full of anything I might need… swimming things, change of clothes, bug spray etc. It was a really good day. We went to a swimming pool in the Countryside. We watched the boys play football, ate green mangos (picked from the tree) with juice from the lemons (picked from the tree) and salt (borrowed from the shop owner). We finished the day with a super long (and violent) game of water polo. It was a good, fun carnival day with my Ecuadorian family! The day was finished off with pancakes (for shrove Tuesday) with the other English missionaries.

Mixed emotion

Today (friday 17th Feb) I said goodbye to my English friend Victoria. She headed back to England after working here for over a year. The time at the airport was full of mixed emotions. It was a really strange time. I felt nervous, full of anticipation I guess. I was so excited for her. Excited that in 24 hours she would see her family again. It gave me excitement, as if I was going home too. We had spent a fair bit of our time together. We were travelling buddies. If we went away for a few days, we would go together and shared many adventurous trips together. The time at the airport also reminded me that I was not going home. I would not see my family for over 2 months. Part of me wanted to go with her, to head home. However, the other part of me was pleased to be here, where my life has been for the past 10 months. I didn’t feel ready to leave Ecuador just yet. I wanted to stay a bit longer.

I know the next 2 months will fly by and I want to savour that time, enjoy it and learn more and more.

After eventually getting back to my “home” in Santo, I was welcomed home by my family. I was pleased to be back.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Feliz dia del amor y la amistad

Happy Valentines Day
Feliz dia del amor y amistad

This time of year, 2 years ago I went through a really difficult time. My life was very different to what it is now. 2 years ago I was struggling through a dark and tough few months. I wrote a poem about how I had lost my smile and how hard it was to see, hear, feel, or say anything positive. Throughout that difficult winter, life slowly became more and more difficult. I constantly wondered why I felt that way. I didn’t feel myself. I questioned God as to why this was happening to me. There must have been a reason to it but I could not see it at the time. By Easter, I was beginning to feel more myself. I made some difficult decisions that had a major impact on my life. As a direct result of those decisions, I now find myself here in Ecuador. At Easter I saw again how amazing God was. I saw how powerful he was to raise Jesus back to life. I saw the love Jesus had for me, to die for me. I could have that power in my life and he could change my life. Though his strength, I found my smile again.

I love living here in Ecuador. Each day brings a new challenge. It is a beautiful Country and it is a privilege to work with the charity here. I only have a couple more months left here. That brings mixed emotions. However, I know I am here for a reason. I have peace about being here. I have peace about returning to England; to a whole un-known chapter. I hope you find peace and love this Valentine’s day.   

"He led you out of your dark, dark cell,
broke open the jail and led you out.
So thank God for his marvelous love,
for his miracle mercy to the children he loves"
Psalm 107 v 14(The Message)

Monday, 13 February 2012

Blessing after blessing after blessing

Beautiful blue skies
Sunset over Baños
Going away for just 3 days to Baños, was such a blessing. It was great to have a change of scenery. There was blue skies (which don’t exist in Santo Domingo) and fresh air. Santo is a hot, humid place. The sun doesn’t shine very often. At the moment in Santo, it is either very hot and humid or torrential rain. It is extreme weather. Recently I have had several conversations with people about weather in England.
The Ecuadorians that I spoke to did not realise we do not have 3 set areas; a jungle area, a mountainous area and a coastal area. Nor do they realise we do not have the warmth or the rain like Ecuador has. However, I can’t criticise their lack of knowledge. I did not know what Ecuadorian weather would be like before I came here.  

My short time away was full of blessings, from the blue skies and warm sun, to ice creams, chai tea and carrot cake, meals without rice and speaking English constantly.

Baños town, mountains and blue skies
Baños is quite touristy and has restaurants and hostels which cater to tourists. Although I love embracing the culture here, it was so nice just for 3 days to have a break from being immersed in the culture.

White Water Rafting. We actually recieved a safety lesson before heading off!
I was blessed to see beautiful views, sunsets, volcanos, mountains, rivers, go on a hike, rafting and bathe in naturally hot (up to 45oC) thermal baths.

Recently I have been blessed so much through kind words and encouragements. Thank you for your emails.

We found a bakery that sold carrot cake!

“From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.”
John 1 v 16

Live life to the full

I have started this blog entry many times but can’t seem to write it well. There is a lot in my head that I want to share. The last few weeks have been full of ups and downs. I have tried to write about it but can’t seem to do it well, sorry.

Last week I felt really poorly. I had no energy and spent a lot of time sleeping. It gave me loads of thinking time.  I thought a lot about England and my life there. I felt homesick.  I think it was the first proper “homesickness”. It was the first time I just wanted to go home. I also thought about all the things I needed to do here; the resources I needed to make for the school, the professional development that I needed to record that was well overdue and I had no energy or concentration to do it. I then felt guilty for being lazy.

I felt I should be doing more, something useful with my time. I wondered if people back home would be expecting me to be doing more. Do they want to see that I have used every day and minute to helping the children in Ecuador? Could I take a few days off to rest? Could I spend some more time exploring this beautiful Country?

I have a friend here who told me that you should always aim to complete just one thing on an average Ecuadorian day. Anything else is a bonus. This friend has now recently got married and moved to another Country. Several of my other English friends are also packing up and returning back to England. I have been thinking a lot about home and how excited I am to see my friends and family.

However, I still have 72 days left in this wonderful Country. I did not want to waste the rest of my time here. After feeling loads better and having more energy, I spent a few days in Baños. 

Baños at sunset
It is a small town set amongst the mountains and volcanos. We did not plan to go there. We wanted to go on a train through the mountains. However, due to extreme rain it was closed. We then thought about the beach but after a small tremor  (click here for more information) and tsunami risk, we headed to Baños instead.

Cafe del cielo- The cafe in the sky. From here we saw a view over the whole of Baños
It was a great few days of exploring, rafting, relaxing in the thermal baths, and being blessed and refreshed.  Recently I think I have learnt that I need to live life to the full. The bible tells us that the whole purpose of Jesus coming to Earth, dying and rising again was so that we can have a life, a life in all its fullness. The charity I am working with is called “vida en abudancia”, “Life is abundance”. It is a constant reminder that Jesus came to give us an abundant life, not a boring one.

Tungurahua Volcano

Tungurahua Volcano explosion in 2011

My life is so different here; risks of earth tremors, volcanic erruptions, storms and heavy rain etc. Last night we had such a big storm. The thunder and lightening seemed to go on through the night. The roads became rivers and it was very dangerous to drive. It made me realise how fragile life is. It is there to be enjoyed, each day. We are given a life, to be lived in all its fullness.    

John 10 v 10:

New living translation: My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

The message: I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

King James version: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

The bus we travelled on to the river- no doors, windows, seatbelts or lights

Broken glass and barbed wire on the walls- an everyday sight

The volcanic ash on the road

Saturday, 4 February 2012


Today I visited the Tsachilas community. It was a really interesting morning. We learnt about their medicinal plants, spiritual healing houses, using snakes kept in oil to be used as medicines and their musical instruments. We had a go at dancing and playing their intruments.
Tsachilas man
The Tsachilas men wear a navy and whie striped material as a skirt. Many have black lines drawn across their bodies and paint the top part of their hair red. They use crushed seeds on their hair which is waterproof. The women wear multicoloured skirts. A very interesting morning!

The seeds they use to dye their hair red.

Playing the instruments

With the Tsachilas women

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Feeling poorly, visitors and grapes!

Just when I think I understand a bit more of the culture here, something new happens and I realise how different this culture is to my own. A few weeks ago I fell over in the rain and hurt my back. I felt so embarrassed. I thought only old women and small children fall over! My back hurt for a good couple of weeks. One evening, a knock on my door came and there stood 3 girls from the church. They had come to visit me because I was “sick”. They brought me a bag of fruit and it was really kind. However I am sure my face showed real confusion. So many things ran through my mind about how I was to handle this situation. Had they planned to stay for a cup of coffee? Did they want to have something to eat? Should we sit on the sofas or at the table? Should I sit and talk with them or be preparing something in the kitchen? Should I tell them more about my Ecuadorian family here or ask them about their days at work? It was such a cultural difference. Here, people, mainly the women in church, will visit “the sick” in groups. Not just 1 or 2 women but 4, 6, 8 women at a time! Imagine if you were really poorly, in bed. Would you want a group of people to visit you?

Someone in the family I am living with has recently had an operation. She came home on the Saturday afternoon. That weekend all of her extended family came to visit. Some travelled 8 hours, others 12 hours, just for a 24 hour visit to see her. They made sure her cupboards were stocked with food and they ate a meal and left. The lady who is poorly just loved having people around. Throughout the week, visitors have come and gone. Some just for 10 minutes, others for an hour or so. All visiting, bringing fruit. I have seen such kindness (and so much fruit! We have joked we may set up a fruit shop!) The lady has loved having people around. I wonder if it is just me that thinks if I was really ill, would I really like constant visitors or actually, would prefer a bit of quiet space to rest and recuperate. Is that my personality or my culture?  

Wednesday, 1 February 2012


Iguana posing for the camera
After all the end of year school programs and the American’s visit, my time has been spent with a few English friends who will be leaving shortly. One is getting married and moving to another Country and the other returning to England. We had a fun time visiting another city called Guayaquil. 

Completing the 444 steps up to the lighthouse, to view Guayaquil
It is the largest city in Ecuador. We visited the Iguana park- an open park full of Pigeons and Iguanas! It was almost like Trafalgar Square with all the pigeons but with Iguanas too! We walked along the river (Maracon) and up the 444 steps to the lighthouse to view the City.  
The view of Guayaquil; the City and river
Victoria, me and Claire, with the Iguanas in the Park
It has been a fun couple of weeks, to celebrate the children’s achievements in the schools and also to spend time with friends, visiting new places. It has been a mixed time emotionally actually; knowing that some good friends will be leaving soon and life will be very different for my last few months here. Although I am excited by what I may learn and experience in my last 3 months here in Ecuador,  I cannot help but wonder what I will do, where I will be when I return to England.

Passing many banana plantations on the way, and the Dole farms.

Smile for the camera!

The week with the Americans was busy. They spent time some in Laura Flores and finished the week with an art project which each child could be part of. The children loved the group of visitors. It meant that for a change, I was not the tallest white person here! Whilst the children were waiting for their turn to paint, they were entertained with songs, games and photos. They just LOVE having their photo taken so they were easily entertained.

End of year

Marjorie with her diploma
Gitaffe, elephant ant turtle
The school holidays here in the “coastal” region of Ecuador, starts at the end of January. School begins again at the start of April. The Special School finished with a big celebration, mid January. A group from America were here for a week and were able to be part of the celebration. Here, it seems, we have a lot more programs than we do in England.

The children had worked on a drama, and made animal masks, mainly from Foamex of course! This is a material which you can’t buy in England.  The schools LOVE it! Each child received their diploma for passing the year, a book full of their work and a shoebox full of useful things from Operation Christmas child. Dolls, cars, toothbrushes, sweets, soap. The kids loved it and it was real blessing.

rabbit, tiger and crocodile

Kamila and her mum recieving their shoebox

School staff; me, Victoria and Katy with Maria and Ruth, the teachers