Here are the thoughts of Joanna nee Lake as she spends time in Ecuador, and beyond... Disciple, Fairtrade Freak, Psychologist in the making. Now part of the Blundell Jones clan.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo

Merry Christmas to one and all!! i must say today it really doesn't feel like christmas, bright sunshine, blue sky, in the mid twenties!! not normal!! and much to my great joy heard mr jamie cullum on the radio this morning!!! englands not so far away!
i hope you've all had a lovely time with your friends and families! as for me, i have had a good christmas! Here they celebrate on the 24th, and open their presents then, but because Paquitas mum is ill, we celebrated on sat with 'all' the familia (paquita is one of eight!!!, though we were missing one sister and her family), so that made it not seem so strange! On the 24th we had the Remar christmas party - the adolescents dressed up in costumes and Tati made me into a flower, though my leaves kept falling off! It took place in their church 'theatre', over 100 kids + adults!! Full of joy and excitement - Maria later said that this really impressed upon her, that all are so joyful even though they don't have much! Challenge for us with our materialism!! ) (i must say i haven't missed that aspect of christmas in england... the feel is different here) There were games, dancing and presents... though i had to leave before all the presents were handed out coz Maria Augusta (my mentor) had invited Paquita, Armando and me to her's for dinner and we needed to get back for the turkey! Had a good evening with them, completely stuffed, and we had proper english gravy! yummy! and i conversed in spanish with some friends of theirs, not much as i'm not very talkative even in english but i did speak!! i am gaining more confidence day, by day, especially with paquita and armando coz they're very accepting of my mistakes!!!

Christmas day
woke up bright and early, the sun was shining - reckon it got into the twenties, but when the sun goes in it's mighty it wasn't shorts + vest-top weather but i was in a skirt. I opened my wee prezzies from my parents in anticipation of their phonecall... they rung about 9.30am and i managed to speak to all, i only wish it could've been for longer but dad's mobile ran out of credit! You know it really is true that 'absence makes the heart grow fonder'... i was sitting eating breakfast with armando and paquita just thinking how much i love my family, and how i'm so glad they're mine... i'm really looking forward to next christmas when we can spend it together! not felt hugely homesick, praise God, but my eyes did well a couple of times over the weekend when i thought of what people are doing without me! But i am very happy and content here....

so we had lunch at paquitas mum's, some 20+ people + kids!! different christmas lunch to england... only same thing was the turkey... we had mince with bacon, raisins and prunes, rice, mashed potatoe, prune 'gravy', a sort of waldorff salad in lemon jelly, redcurrant jelly in slices...and pudding was coconut cake which i couldn't partake of coz i HATE coconut! after eating our fill, and drinking whisky (! not i! though i did try a sip of the creme... yeukkk!) we sat down to open to presents... i was really surprized to recieve any from the rest of the family!! Paquita and Armando, gave me a vest top and a towel thingy both of which are handmade in ecuador through a co-operative (ethical - nice!) , paquitas mum gave me a traditional christmas decoration, monica (one of the sisters, who got me in touch with the choir) gave me two little ecua dolls in traditional dress, sonia gave me an ecua parrot pot, and as well i recieved 3 fundas (bags) of sweeties... It's tradition here at christmas time to give bags of sweets, chocolates and biscuits - the kids at Remar have received a ridiculous amount!!! their teeth are rotting nicely! (no joke, went to the dentist -for 3 hours!!! uni students!- with some kids this week and it wasn't good news!). so i was really nicely surprised! When we got back to the house, i opened the other presents i had, a couple i'd been sent with and one sent to me here, and Paquita had made me a stocking (!) which i opened with sweets and couple of little bits and pieces... all in all my christmas was very happy! i felt very blessed. Hope you guys did too!

bum-pincher, shoe shiner and large...
intrigued? well i am very sad to have to report this, but the other day i was helping mari-elena open the gates and this guy passed rather close staring at me, i thought nothing of it and ignored him, only then i felt my bum being pinched... needless to say i shouted extremely loudly with utter indignation 'POR FA-VOR', the guy was drunk and didn't take much notice. When i recounted what had happened to mari-elena, she found it utterly hilarious! grrr! Shoe shiner: I went with Tati to buy christmas presents for the kids. Just as we were about to catch a taxi back, she realised she'd forgotten to buy something so left me with all the bags (there were lots!!) at the top of some stairs whilst she went back down. Very quickly a wee shoe-shiner boy came up to me and seeing me with all these bags asked if i'd give him a present... i said no, i'm sorry i can't, they're for the children of Remar, they're not mine to give... but he kept asking, asking, asking and asking, and asking. Then he brought his friend too, and they both kept on asking.... and i kept having to say no and explain and explain that they were for Remar... they didn't take any notice... i was starting to get abit uncomfortable as they were 'kings at pestering' and there was no way i was going to give in so i thought they might just steal them (but they had more manners than that, which impressed me alot)... tati came back and they continued to pester the both of us. It was so sad, because they have nothing and we couldn't give what we had... I felt bad...
Finally 'large'... this is something you will not believe... this week i bought a new zip top coz it get's so cold here and at Remar they get so dirty, and i had to buy a large!!!! and you all know how thin i am... crazy!!!

i am most gutted that here i can not get away from nestle, they monopolise virtually everything! so i have to admit that here i eat their produce! as of yet i haven't bought it myself but i'm sure i'm gonna have to, though i'm trying to avoid it as much as is physically possible! but one thing i haven't had to do yet is eat in McDonalds (though if anyone invites me i can't say no), though i have eaten 'fast food' from chains, i'd prefer not to but in most cases than not it's safer for my belly than a little cafe on the corner!

bananas and behaviour
well, these two things aren't really related but bananas makes too small a paragraph on it's own!! yes bananas - lizzle, if you ever get the chance to come to this part of the world, you will be in banana heaven! here in ecuador there are 6 types of bananas to eat!!! Platanos de seda (our usual), maduros, maqueños, rosados, oritos, platanos verdes.... all are of a different size, 'colour' and taste, and are used to make different things! only one i've not tried is an orito. Behaviour, is in reference to the kids... i've noticed their favourite words are 'mentira' (lie) and 'mentiroso' (liar), it annoys me muchly when they call me a liar, i actually find it quite offensive! They say it whenever they don't believe something you say. But one beautiful thing i've noticed is that when the kids receive biscuits and sweets, and not everyone receives it, they share it out. They very willingly give their sweets to others... it's not the same with other possessions though! Not made cards this week, we had no orders, and Maria says we're gonna have a rest till valentines day.. so i'm not sure what i'll be up to after my holiday (off to the beach)... generally i help alot in the kitchen, and play with the kids. They're so very affectionate, and need a lot of attention, e.g. the other day one girl Johanna (about 11yrs) was just sat on my lap her arms around me, mine around her for about half an hour, extremely comfortable in just sitting there. I'm glad i'm here with them...

!chao! Dios les bendiga, jo xxx

Photos, i hope!

Had a bit of trouble working this out coz i don't have my own computer, i can't download the programme to upload photos but i think i've worked out a way to get round it, fingers crossed.... this will take alot of room, so don't forget to read the new blog below these... nope doesn't work but if you follow the link below you will be able to see some photos!!!

An example of our cards...

Maria Augusta and Bev (bit blurred though, oops!! i'm not the greatest fotographer!)

First day teaching cards, Claudia, Mitzi and me...

The Schools Quito celebration... Second graders piece...

Fourth graders waiting to perform... L-R, Pepito, Richard, Daniella, Juan Andres

Latin Link Christmas in SD...everyone wearing the hats i made!!!

The pudding! My brandy butter!!

Everyone... can you spot me?


Saturday, December 18, 2004

it's been a while! ... nits and navidad (Christmas)

well helloooo...
it feels like its been ages since i've written... i wasn't going to be able to write now but we've not gone to tulcan this weekend, it's been posponed until january...

so what's been happening in your lives? guess you're madly rushing round trying to buy christmas presents... definitely not the same craziness here as in england at christmas time, so i'm not sorry to be missing out on that part!... there are the odd adverts on tv but no where near the extent that we have and none of those ridiculous ones aimed at kids, which is refreshing!

guess you'd like to know abit about what i've been up to? last time i wrote i was about to head off to sing in some ¡Viva Quito! concerts celebrating the fundation of quito, and i wasn't sure if my voice would hold out... well it did!!! i did have a few coughing fits in some of the songs though (in the 2nd half when we sang five songs in a row, a medley...), very unprofessional but i couldn't help it!!! really enjoyed the concerts, so glad i was involved in them! though i didn't enjoy wearing my peuce coloured dress with green embroidery... mmmm.... i was truly beautiful! (not!!!) ... one interesting thing i discovered whilst talking to a fellow choirer (in english.. he wanted to practise) was that they don't like it (though probs just the younger generation) that people refer to The States just as America... to him he's American because he's on the continent of South America... so if we're refering to USA we should say USA not America... then i pointed out how us english are almost the opposite - we're 'on' the continent of europe but we in no way do we see ourselves as europeans, we're almost fiercely 'British' or English!!

because i was tied up with choir i didn't really get to do any of the quito celebrations... and on the day itself (6th dec) Bev and i took a road trip to the south of quito (to a valley but still part of quito) where stuart and janeth live (the other couple here long-term with LL in Quito)... which was rather comedy... cause of advice Bev had recieved from people at church, we decided to change the where we caught the bus from... this was a mistake... where we changed it to the buses were rather infrequent... we had to wait an hour for the right coloured bus!!! (which incidentally we only found out about coz we asked 2 policemen at the bus stop!! this long-term missionaries i think take for granted what they know and forget for us it's our first time of doing things and that we need specific instructions!!!) so eventually we got to where we were meant to get off but when Bev had gone before, she went in a car which is a slightly different, and she didn't have a clue where to go next... we wondered around abit lost then i asked a security guard who very helpfully pointed us in the right direction, and we got to their house crossing a wee river on a rickety bridge (which Bev really didn't like!!!)! We ended up arriving a lot later than planned but it was all ok in the end, and we had a lovely lunch and afternoon with their family and friends, and Bev met the woman who runs the project she's gonna get involved in! We had some really comedy rounds of UNO... the ecuadorian way of playing makes for lots of laughs... whenever you make a mistake you have to pick up 4 cards!! and everyone takes great delight in telling you when you've made a mistake!!

last week on friday i went to Santo Domingo, a 3 hour bus ride from Quito bus terminal, for the Latin Link Fiesta de Navidad (Christmas party)... i arrived at about 6pm...waited abit but couldn't see any sign of jules (the strider in SD)... so i tried ringing but couldn't get through - thankfully i had brought with me as an afterthought the other numbers of people in SD... and i got through!!! they were slightly surprized to know that i had arrived...( it turns out that Jules hadn't received the txt maria had sent through about my arrival time, mobiles can be abit temperamental), but they hopped in the car to come and pick me up... in the meantime i found a seat and was chatted to by a very chatty middle-aged venezualan man who also was waiting to be picked up. the majority of Latin Linkers live outside SD on the CLEE (training/retreat centre for pastors) and Orphaids (homes for children orphaned by AIDS) compound, and this is where i stayed... chilled, had something to eat and spent time chatting with Jules, Simon (strider in nicaragua who having just finished had come for a visit) and Clare (long-termer works in Orphaids amongst other things)...

next day up and peeling veg for our christmas dinner by 9am!!! Dave from Ambato and the others from Quito arrived midmorning nad pitched in organising and cooking. Had a great dinner (and everyone wore the christmas hats i had made! though in the ''heat'' of SD the colours ran with sweat so people had coloured foreheads!!) : turkey, gravy (!!!from Eng), brocoli, carrots, roasted potatoes, roasted parsnips (though nothing like yours dad!!!), cauliflower, stuffing (from Eng).... pudding: mince pies (with mincemeat from Eng, doesn't exist here) with brandy butter (!!! made by my fairself - surprise, surprise... you know, i'd never thought i'd have made it in ecuador!!!), choc cake, and gingerbread men - we were thoroughly stuffed!!!!

After washing and tidying up we played 'Dirty Santa'... everyone buys a present for $5 and puts it on the table... everyone is given a number. Number one goes to the table and picks up a present and opens it. Number 2 has 2 choices, they can either take the present of Number one (in which case number 1 chooses another from the table) or they choose one from the table... each present can only move hands 3 times, so if you have it the 3rd time it's yours for keeps. I ended up with a rather attractive fruit clock (i am being sarcastic!!) and some napkins but thankfully i was able to swop them afterwards for some chocs! those these were cocktail flavours (yukk) so then i made another swop with dave for his which were just normal ones!!

Then we had a good olde english sing song with a rather hotch potch mix of instruments... 2 flutes, 2 guitars, 3 recorders, and a keyboard (which i had a wee tinkle of later on which was really great, miss it!)... comedy coz all of us are amateurs but good we enjoyed ourselves which is the main thing! Retired to the house of Sally and Orlando (Brit + Bolivian) for the evening... for more food ( could barely move!) and for several games of Mafia which was funny! And that was our wee english christmas in ecuador.... next day went to jules' church which was interesting coz all the songs we sang we ''english'' ones translated into spanish... afterwards we walked up Bomboli (hill) to go vine-swinging but as it had been raining real heavy in the night it was far too slippery!! boo hooo!! lunch with Jules' ecua-family which was really nice then caught the bus home! i was greeted by a round of applause as i finally managed to open the door on my own!! I've been having real trouble with the lock!! (Joy - i'm sure you understand what i mean...)

oo a little bit about the bus journey... the journey to santo, takes you right up through the mountain, which is very foggy - at points you can barely see 3ft from the window.... i'd hate to drive in that, especially a big bus!!! it was soooooo nice to see greenery, and because of the wet and fog it made me long for a winter's day walk in an english wood with the dew dripping from the trees and that beautifully fresh wet smell... you don't see much greenery in quito... i miss the countryside! and it made me think as we passed all these wee mountainside communities that i'd love to have a wee patch of land of my own someday! big difference of buses here it that when it stops to pick people up, a lot of vendors swarm on with their wares... generally food but people with glasses (eyes not drinks), magazines, pretty much anything to make a few centavos.

now it's time for Remar news (which stands for Rehabilitation Marginal, by the way)... mondays in the kitchen... best job this week was cleaning slightly mouldying chickens (their skin was lookin abit green!)! slimy job! Card-making business is continuing to go well, though this week, and abit of last week, i've lacked workers.... the girls have had to go out selling coz Remar needs money to pay people a sort of christmas bonus that is required by the government of all employers for their employees (which i think is just the school teachers)... but despite that the orders have got finished... enlisted a few of the younger girls to help me. Last Friday the school held a presentation in celebration of the foundation of Quito, and each class prepared alittle piece... also some students from a related secondary school came and did some 'cheerleading', not actually i think it's baton twirling (the american influence) and some traditional dancing. Really enjoyed it, it was really good fun, i was very proud of the kids! i was meant to sing a song but Esteban (the headmaster) never asked me up, so i got away without singing... it was gonna be Come and go with me in spanish... Generally at Remar i'm continuing to build relationships with the 'staff' and kids, though still lack alot in my language... but Maria said yesterday she'd spoken to Tatiana and others, and they were happy with my contribution to life at Remar which was encouraging as it's hard to tell! - oo as you will have gathered from the title, this week i caught my first nits from the kids... grrr.... they've gone but think i'm gonna be paranoid forever now!!

last little bit for this week... weather... been very english this week with lots of rain, particulary yesterday, it was our time of drizzle for most of the day... there are two types of rain here.. either all-day drizzle, or extremely strong outburst in which you get soaked through... i got caught in this second type on monday.. thankfully i had a brollie but my feet got absolutely soaked... and it's took 3 days for my trainers to dry (no central heating)!!

well i think i have truly waffled on for long enough... there is soooo much more one could say but i'll be here for ages and you'll be there for ages!! doubt i'll get to update my blog on sat as it's christmas day... so i shall wish you all now A VERY, VERY, VERY, Happy, Joyfully, Peaceful, Restful Christmas!
christmas eve i've been invited to take part in a fiesta with Remar which should be good fun... not sure about christmas day plans.... but i get 7 days to take off around christmas/new year, so jules, clare, bev and i are gonna go to the beach for new years....bit different!!! God bless you all oodles, love jo xxxx

Saturday, December 04, 2004

One month in!

it's gone pretty quick really! can't believe it!!

this week in Remar has been good, full steam ahead with the card-making business! it's good working with the girls, though it's hard coz i can' really trust them: if i'm not in the room they'll just help themselves to the stuff - i want to be generous but they've got to learn they can't just take what they want when they want it!! had a sad moment when i had to tell them off for taking stuff ( i was quite suprized that i could sound so serious in spanish!)!! i'm really looking forward to really getting to know the girls better and investing in them... ooo sweet moment this week, one of the girls called me 'sister' and gave me a hug... i think they're starting to feel comfortable with me which is good but still can't understand most of what they say... oo comedy moment, one of the girls refered to me as the 'gringita' and i said loudly, 'hey i'm not gringita, i have a name!' which made them laugh lots!!! So it's mostly positive working with the girls, but it's not without it's hairy moments! Monday i helped in the kitchen again, and this time was better, understood more what was going on, felt more useful, and spent time with some different girls. though i spent 2+hours peeling potatoes (i was slow, and they were tiny which makes it very fiddly) and ended up with stained fingers, which still aren't completely clean now!!! Friday morning i was just hanging out with the kids. As its the Fiesta de Quito (celebration of the city's independence) this weekend they didn't have many classes and we had mini party with music, dancing (comedy!!), and games...though every time i sat down, i got bundled by millions of kids (slight exaggeration!!! about 5) It's good fun hanging out with the little kids, though i spend alot of time telling them not to hit each other!!!

coz it's fiesta de quito, i've got my concerts with the choir this weekend... 2 today and 2 tomorrow... i'm hoping my voice is gonna hold out - we had a rehearsal (ensayo) on thurs, and i couldn't sing, i'd nearly lost my voice... and no, it's not from shouting at the kids for being naughty, it's because i've had (and still have) a stinking cold this week! with a lovely chesty cough!!! Paquita thinks it's because the climate is so changeable, that my body's not used to it! (can be really sunny hot in the morning, really cold + wet in the afternoon!) ... this also probably means (along with the traffic fumes) that it'll take me longer to recover than it would in england!! hmmm...i've got a red nose! grrr.... but choir's really good fun, and this week i met a girl whose my age, hopefully we'll become friends! i'm off soon to the teatro (theatre).

in keeping with my normal randomn writing fashion, i shall now jump to something completely different!! or a few different little things.... firstly, a little about the trole, the transport i take everyday. It's kind of similar to the trams we have in sheffield, crossed with the underground in london... and they have a tendency to be extremely squished!! this week had a rather unpleasant bum-bum experience with someone, arghhh! but what i really wanted to say is that some of them play music...and the other i was coming back from a promo sing in one of the centro comerciales (malls), and i experienced a real blast from the past...songs from the 60s that i used to listen to when i was a little (a tape of my dad's)... can't remember they names now but it was weird to hear them!!

now, a little about jobs here, obviously there are the same jobs we have in england... but also a lot of people are employed as security guards, at houses, at businesses, at shops... anywhere and everywhere! the big difference to england is the number of people that work on the streets, of all ages... people with little sweet stalls, newspaper stalls, women with a little BBQ type contraption for cooking platanos (big bananas), people selling DVDs, gloves, fruits, veg... anything... Then at traffic lights you get people selling the mobile phone company top'up cards (dressed in blue or yellow jumpsuits, attractive!!), and you also get entertainers - some are pretty poor, some are good - flamethrowers, clowns, dancers, who take the road when the light is red, then before it changes go by the car windows to get a few centavos for their performance... Oo an 'english' highlight for the week... got my first post!!! janee (my big 'sis') sent me a fab card which is a mini advent calendar... soo cool!!! i'd totally forgotten about advent calendars!!

oo still getting comments and being stared at, this week i had "Hello precious, do you have the time?" (but instead of 'hora' = hour, he said 'horita', -ita is added to things alot, it kind of makes words more cute, well, thats the only way i can explain it..) I was talking to Janeth, an ecuadorian latin linker about it, and she said i should like it that people make comments! i don't like people making comments in england let alone here!! though i have noticed, it's not just people like me, i've noticed men really obviously checking out ecuadorian women ... so now i reckon it's not soo much that i'm gringa, but it's the machismo culture!!! but grrr anyway!!

not sure when i'll next write, coz i'm away next weekend - i'm taking a trip to Santo Domingo for our Latin Link 'christmas day' - it's gonna be alot hotter there, so i might actually get to wear my shorts, and not wear a jumper!!! looking forward to it, my first time outside of quito!!!
it's time i was going, but i hope that you're all well! don't forget to keep in touch with life were you are!! oodles of love xx

p.s. if you're squimish don't read this next bit...
just a wee update on my BCG!! just had to let you know (especially stacey!! hee hee!!) that it stopped pusing awhile ago, and now there's even no scab... so it's healing nicely! yeay! though people keep noticing it, and asking what it is with really worried faces!!! xxx