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.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Swallows and Amazons...and the would-be robber

It’s true, swallows and the Amazon really do go together (book by english author Arthur Ransome). So last weekend I took my first trip to the Oriente, to jungle country… to a place called Mangayacu, a retreat for Christian groups. I accompanied the Aitken family and their English pastor Phillip (who was visiting them) as they went to teach some Ecuadorian missionaries. The journey took about 4 hrs from their house which is in the one of the valleys surrounding Quito, and was a very beautiful journey – must do it again coz there are lots of things to stop off and see along the way which we didn’t have time to see any of. Specially want to go in a basket over a HUGE gorge!! Oooo. I thought it was gonna be hot, so packed my shorts, but it wasn’t… humid yes but hot no! in fact quite cold at points! It rained pretty much all the time and on the last morning woke up to find a beetle (escarabajo) sharing my bed – though I’d killed it in my sleep!! All the better I say! I had a good time and was glad I went, managed to do quite well with my Spanish chatting to people and translating in conversations (roughly!!) for Phillip.

“I wanna be a robber”
I was walking to church for the run-through of the songs for the ‘culto’ (service) a week ago last sunday, my normal route by the centro commercials on the very edge of a park, just by the main road. To my right I noticed 2 wee small children sleeping in the sun (oo wasn’t raining that day!) and assuming they must be street children, thought to myself ‘i’d love to be doing some work reaching out to these kids but on my own not sensible!). Continued walking and noticed 3 boys clock onto me as I neared the bench where I was sitting, as I got nearer one got up and came in my direction….

He walked straight across my path, coming right up close to block me, crossing over from my left to my right as I stopped (he was in the way!) I didn’t quite catch what he said at first just but worked out he said ‘ te vaya a matar’, which means ‘I’m going to kill you’ (but said with a subjuntive tense, leaving it an uncertainty…) ‘Give me your money’ He starting sticking his fingers into my right pocket searching for money (actually all there was was tissues! Nice!), I took hold of his fingers and took them out saying ‘I don’t have any’… he started putting his fingers in my back pocket, I took them out saying ‘I don’t have any only my bus fare’… he seemed ‘satisfied’ at this response and opened my path a little, so I carried on walking and he shouted out ‘ bus or car’ and I didn’t reply…

As I started to walk away, my legs started to feel abit jelly-like and I started to think over the situ, talking to God about it. I actually didn’t feel afraid consciously (though obviously my body felt shocked coz of it’s reaction of jelly legs!)– I reckon if I it was in England I would’ve felt afraid coz I would understand straight away what was being said but because Spanish isn’t my first language, there’s a wee delay in understanding which takes some of the pressure out of the situation! Also he was actually a very threatening character, he didn’t even come up to my chin, he had no weapon with which ‘to kill me’, and as I looked into his eyes and upon his face, the overwhelming thing I felt from him was a sense of despair – eyes without a hope in the world. This has really left an impression on me – he was so hopeless that he didn’t even make a very good mugger – he didn’t even try to take my bag (which incidentally had my digi camera in – God providence there!), he made a very lack-lustre, half-hearted attempt at a muggery – it was also in broad daylight with quite a few other people around! Right by the main road… So as I caught the Ecovia to church, I continued to muse on the situation, I was thinking how I’d love to be able to go back and find out his situation, to start some street work and encourage them to leave the streets (and wondered how Remar would fit in!), but mostly tell them about Jesus, coz he’s the only one that can give hope and this boy didn’t have even the tiniest bit – but as a girl this would be silly, and as a foreign girl, even more silly, to do on my own!!! I need some ecua-buddies to do it with me!! Hmmmm…

No shame
Now for a bit of random culture news. Well it seems the men here have no shame… whenever they feel they need the to relieve themselves, WHEREVER they are, they’ll just go! There are a couple of places I walk past often which I have rather uncouthly called “Public Piss Points” … whenever you walk past them, your nostrils are filled with a beautiful (?!) stench of urine! Don’t you wish you were here?! This is such a big problem here (oo and unlike in England, it’s not just the drunks that pee against a wall but business men, little boys, students too!) that in the centre they’ve started fining people that are caught urinating publicly and either they pay a fine or they put on a ghostbuster like backpack and clean the offending area!!! And this was a story running in the Trole bus newspaper!!! Would you believe it?!!

Blown away
Been blown away recently by ways that people have been blessing Remar… The week before last some university students (UCT – don’t know what it stands for but its about 15 mins walk from Remar) organized a fiesta for the children (there were 2 days school holiday because people were marching against the government – explain more later). They did it so well, picking them up in a ‘luxury’ coach, dressed up and giving them all name badges… we arrived at the uni to be greeted by a load more students dressed up in fancy dress costumes of different genres (dolls, clowns, a flower, a wolf…), and they rushed all the kids up to the very top floor where they’d decorated with various pictures/artistic creations on the walls, balloons and streamers on the ceiling (which of course the children soon began to ask for!!!). There were games, a dramatized version of Little Red Riding Hood, food (biscuits, sweets, crisps, hot dogs + chips, cake, colas), and ollas encantadas (like the piñatas of Mexico but different, Ecuadorian style – will get photos put up at a later date!). Though I spent most of my time comforting and looking after Maribel who came down with a fever (she already had a wee cough) and so was balling her eyes out! Pobrecita! (poor thing). Many more things, but sure you don't wanna hear them all now!

Connoisseur’s corner and capped crusaders.
As you know my blog wouldn’t be complete without some reference to food. The other day I treated myself to a jar of Cadburys Hot Choc – the great british export! (coz as you know our choc IS one of the best in the world, there’s nothing quite like it – it must be that glass and a half of milk!) – cost me nearly $5 which is about 2.60 squids, is that expensive?? Can’t remember how much Cadbury’s costs in UK coz I now buy Fairtrade hot choc (but that doesn’t exist here) but actually can’t remember how much that costs either!!! So every now and then I am enjoying a taste of home with a cup a hot choc! Mmmmm….. was especially nice with the awful weather we had for nearly two weeks – very English like rain, from morning till night and oftern night through, though heavier than our rain. and one day we had English-like fog!!! A first here for me! I felt quite a home, like a rainy winters/spring day in Sheffield. The other food news is ‘Melcochas’, on my way to the Oriente we stopped in Baños, where there are these guys making it in doorways, pulling and stretching it over hooks. It’s pretty much pure sugar, bit toffeish, taste of dark demerara sugar – it’s made from the raw sugar cane…. I have a sweet tooth (here you’re called a ‘goloso or golosa’ – male/female) but it’s too much for me! It’s worth a try though! Ooo I almost forgot the capped crusaders refers to the police peeps, and traffic police who because of the rain were wearing these HUGE poncho-like watermacs, which reached down to their knees!! Comedy!! But practical for ease of movement and good circulation of air!

A new foreigner…. But not a gringo…
This week arrived, Ane, a german lass. She’s been in Ecuador since july last year with a german gap year organsation working in the coast. She arrived a week ago friday in Quito, to spend 3 months helping with some group, and she was directed to Remar. So now I have a new chum!!! I think we’re gonna be good friends, we’re meeting up on Sunday to have a walk around the historic center. I think the move from the coast has been pretty tough on her, as she’s now solita (whereas in the coast there was a whole bunch of them), and also getting used to life in Remar, the situations of the kids, their behaviour and all, she’s finding hard and shocking… So I’ve been able to support her and encourage her in that, that I went through a similar thing when I arrived of feeling abit useless and all. So that’s cool, looking forward to working together but hope I don’t end up speaking Spanish with a german accent – you know what I’m like at picking up accents!!

Full steam ahead…
.. with the card-making business. We received an order for 500 cards from a guy linked to Remar who lives in the USA. So we started to make a dent in that this week – just 68 card first, so that Maria Augusta could check the quality – but it’ll be all cylinders firing as of Monday!!! Looking forward to spending more time with the adolescents and mums who are gonna be making them, hopefully friendships will blossomand I’ll be a blessing and encouragement to all! So not had much opportunity to hang out with the younger kids, and I miss them!! Ooo we also all have taken de-parasting pills coz of the water, yummy!! But it seems i didn't have any, coz i didn't have any probs afterwards, whereas some peeps were on the loo for a few days as they got flushed out of their systems!

All you need is love…
So we’ve had Valentines day, hope you all had a lovely day and just to encourage you “lonely hearts” out there, here its’ the day of love AND friendship!! Much better I think! Maria Augusta and her family gave me a really lovely to surprise, I arrived home from Remar to find Maria had left a big bunch of marble effect roses, 24 in all!! Here the roses are dead cheap – one would never dream of buying that many in england ey?!! Only the most perfect roses are exported, so all those that are left, which are still really beautiful are sold here!! And very cheaply too! All flowers are, I paid about a quid for a big mixed bunch of flowers for Paquitas birthday which you’d pay I reckon 6 or 7 quid for in England!!

Reckon that’s all for now!! Enough for you to be reading for this week! Hope you’ve enjoyed it! Just to say today been painting murials in the church in the kiddies sunday school rooms...and that i have another cold! grr!!!
Oodles of love me xxxxxxxxxx


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