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, January 29, 2005

I've been to the middle of the world...

Well actually it probably isn’t exactly the middle of the world but that’s what it’s called -‘Mitad del Mundo’… I went with Maria Augusta and her two girls, first to Remar’s boys home then to the monument. There are about 30 boys (a few girls) in the home which is run by Migdaler and her husband (she’s 2 children and a baby). Mitad del Mundo is about half an hour from Quito, and where the house is situated the road is really not worthy of the name ‘road’, it's more of a bumpy (extremely) dust track. There are no names to the roads either so we had a wee bit of trouble finding it but we got there in the end. It’s a very dry, dusty, hot place – glad my ‘placement’ isn’t there! It was really lovely to visit them all though but we weren’t there very long. It has a very different feel to the girls home, it’s much more relaxed and chilled, and feels a lot more like a proper home – the problem with the girls home is that it’s the hubbub of everything and contains the school in the same building so it’s not very homely!! So then we went to the monument and what is apparently a line that divides the north and south equators… but it’s abit dubious (Paquita thinks it might have changed anyway as a result of Tsunami, is that possible??). It was a nice trip though and got my photo duly taken in front of it! Had a scrumptious lunch (there I go again about food!!) of llapingachos, which are potato patties served with a fried egg, chorizo (type of sausage) as well as avocado, beetroot and salad. yummy!

This week in Remar…
Only a wee bit of cardmaking this week, just finishing off an order from the week before – no new ones coz Maria is thinking in other things (the mother of Paquita and Maria died a week ago yesterday). So, I spent the vast majority of the week helping in the kitchen. Sometimes I struggle with the fact that I’m not actually spending time with the kids, but then I remind myself that they are in school till lunchtime and what I’m doing helps the general running of things… but a real positive to working in the kitchen has been to get to know Clara. She arrived just before Christmas, she lives in the ‘Mothers’ home which is for women as well, she ‘admitted herself’ to get free of drugs and alcohol. We’ve started to become friends and have quite a laugh with each other – and it means I’m actually speaking!! (with the kids generally you don’t have conversations). We’ve had some really good conversations not least about stuff to do with God and the Bible.

Joanna the breadwinner…
Well, not so much breadwinner but breadcarrier! Normally after bible club Maria Augusta and I go to fetch ‘pan’ (bread) from a panaderia factory which donates their leftovers from their shops. Maria didn’t come this week but Remar still needed their bread, so I went on foot!!! Took a girl with me each time for the hour round trip up hill then down. Thursday was much harder work coz the sun was out and extremely hot! But Fabiola (14) and I carried a bin-bag each on our heads – the most comfortable way of carrying it which also gave us shade! Would’ve made for a fantastic photo opportunity if only I’d had my camera with me!

The kids…
Had again this week that I have a big nose like Pinochio!!! These kids don’t hold back what they think! But neither do they hold back on affection, they love giving and receiving hugs so that makes up for it! Oo sweet thing, one of the girls helping with cards whilst her teachers are on strike, Jajaira (15), has taken to calling me ‘ñaña’ which is quechua for ‘hermana’, sister…
2 new wee ones arrived this week, abandoned by their mum – Juan Diego (3, a little ‘gordito’ …chubby) and his sister Jennifer (4, in comparison rather thin). Poor wee Juan Diego hardly been in Remar 24 hours and he’s broken his arm – some notice type boards fell on him… ‘pobrecito’ (poor thing).

Pesky students…
Those pesky university students have been out demonstrating again, well they have reason the presidente is doing some naughty stuff, but I don’t appreciate my eyes streaming from the gas!!! Monday was particularly bad, the worst yet, our eyes were streaming in the house and I left in a cloud of the stuff! But tuesday was better, only a wee bit of gas and the rest of the week, the students were still out in force down the road but there was no gas. Hopefully next week it will have calmed down completely!

Sore point of the week, my hands are looking rather worse for wear!! i'm abit dangerous when peeling veg, well, i'd be fine with a veg peeler but we use knives! Wednesday i got a nasty sore blister from dealing with Yuca (bit like a sweet potatoe in shape with tough brown wrinkly skin but suave creamy white inside) - i had to 'skin' and cut alot of it and a nasty blister developed and burst!! mmm lovely! so then it made it difficult to peel other veg and yesterday i ended up 'slicing' my little finger of my left hand... only a flesh wound, no blood but it stings!!! pobrecita me, ai is me... hee hee :)

went to youth group (or rather young professionals) again last friday (though not last nite, went to the cinema instead with dave and bev as dave was up for the weekend from ambato. we saw 'the forgotton' or mysterious obsesion as it's translated in spanish... good psychological type thrillery thing) again it was good, though found it a little harder to understand people than my first time! we have a wee time of singing and they noticed how i harmonise and asked if i'd like to join 'the choir'... so on thursday i went along to rehearsal for the first time -scary! Lovely people, though not sure i've got the hang of the songs yet, and as Armando put it, i've got my debut on sunday! It's cool coz it's another way to get to know more people in the church, and hopefully i'll be a blessing too!

That’s about all for this week, had a wee bit of a dodgy tum yesterday and today, not serious but dunno what caused it, perhaps a chocolate donut i bought?! My sweet tooth is getting me intot trouble! Grrr!!! Hope you’re all well! Keep in touch!

Jo xxxxxxxxxxxx

Monday, January 24, 2005

oops forgot to add the photo!

here's what guanabana looks like
(fraid you'll just have to touch the link, it won't let me put the picture on! grrr!!!)

oo summat a meant to say, people have thought i am canadian, german and french ....hmmm. the one i most prefer is canadian but der, i'm english! OO comedy moment the other day, i've taken to going to a resturant called 'Fruteria Montserrat' nearly every friday lunch (just a min from Remar), and they're reckonising me now... anyways this waitress came and gave me my order and asked if i was from USA... i said NO, england... she said 'do you speak english?' (der!!! we invented english!!)... i said 'yes'... she said 'Alot?'... slightly stunned i said yes again! then she asked if i gave lessons to which i replied no, but that's by the by, the funny thing was somebody questioning whether we spoke English in England!!!

out of the mouth of babes
more funny stuff the kids have said to me... i have had children say i have a nose like pinochio several times!!! it's enough to give a girl a complex! though a lovely comment was 'you have nice hands'.... not so lovely... why are your eyes like that? (refering to the reddish, purplish colouring under my eyes!)... most forward question "are you divorced or married?" ... it was kinda shocking that those were the two options the boy came up with!!

that's it... ooo it's monday now and those pesky students are at it again causing havoc... eyes steaming and stinging as i left remar from the teargas, and there was a man filming the scene, so maybe i'll be on national TV tonite?!!! xx

Saturday, January 22, 2005

I've been to Columbia...

Well hello its me again!!! I have soooo much to tell you all which hopefully you will enjoy, 2 weeks worth – I took a last minute trip upcountry with Armando to Tulcan, and to Columbia but more about that later… first thing I wanted to say was, please tell me what you think of my blog, like how I can improve it, whether there’s stuff you’d really like to know.. also you can make comments about what I’ve said, that I or other people can read. You do this by clicking on “comments” at the bottom of an entry, then clicking on "post a comment".

First things first, food!
I seem to always say alittle about food so I’m going to keep up the tradition, and there’s lots of little differences that I think it’s something worth telling people about! Have a told you about all the weird and wonderful fruits before? Well last week I tried another new fruit ‘Guanabana’ .. hopefully a picture should appear below…

it’s abit of a weird fruit can’t put my finger on the taste, it’s nice but it is weird, and extremely messy (well it is when I eat it anyway!) coz it has these huge big pips which you can only get out when you’re chewing the flesh in your mouth, it’s abit of a battle, so in go the fingers and voila, mess, juice running all down my hands! Also had taxo…not eaten it as fruit but as juice, tastes abit like gooseberry’s but it’s not gooseberry. Oo pepino dulce, another we don’t have, the taste is a cross between cucumber and sandia, very watery. I’ve decided that on the whole I much prefer the fruits I’ve know before, rather than these random new ones, they just seem like variations on a theme –though some are delicious (Badea)… If you’re veggie skip the next few lines… I ate a traditional dish that paquita made, it’s very popular and cheap… bed of lettuce, avocado, potatoe, salsa thing and cuero - pig skin. Cuero isn’t like our cracking on a roast, it’s cooked so that it’s squadgy. It wasn’t very nice, but I tried to eat as much as I could out of courtesy! Me thinks, never again! Oooo highlight – salt and vinegar crisps!!! What? salt and vinegar crisps I hear you say? Yes, salt and vinegar crisps… they don’t exist here and I’m rather partial to a pack every now and then… so when jules (strider in SD) said her parents where coming and was there anything that I’d like them to bring, I said a good olde pack of walkers… and last week it dutifully came! Rather forlorn looking from it’s long trip, its contents mostly mashed into smitherines but boy it tasted good! Um ummmm.

Random bits
One thing I forgot to say about the beach was that we saw people with socks and sandles!!! It’s not just us crazy brits that insist on this madness (well, it’s mad in my eyes but I can see the practical side!).
Oo Emmie and Ashan, been hearing Lifehouse on the radio, some new stuff!!!
The other day I heard a Tim Hughes song ‘Here I am…’ in Spanish and also MercyMe’s ‘I can only imagine’…both of which sound beautiful in Spanish!
And, does anyone know who on earth Alan Parson’s is? Of the ‘Alan Parsons Live Project’? They’ve been advertising him on radio and TV for weeks!! I don’t have a clue, some old dude with a bad mullet! –ooo Suzanne if you ever read this, you’d do well with your mullet hairdresser shop here, I’ve seen plenty o beauties! Not!

You’ve heard me moan on before about the men here… it’s such a machisisimo culture (male chauvnist)… just yesterday I was sitting in my usual internet café near Remar emailing away quite happily and these business men arrive and sit round the computer next to me…didn’t take long for the most sleazy to say ‘Hello missus’… arghhhh, my skin crawled and he did it several times! Argghhh!!! It pervades all levels of society… the other I was walking back from ringing my mum for her birthday one lunchtime and I passed a guy with his girlfriend, I repeat, with his girlfriend, who said “Hola mi amor, buenas tardes” with a lovely sleazy look on face and sound in his voice (Hello, my love, good afternoon). But at the same time there are some real gentlemen, who’ve obviously been taught well by their mothers, like today on the trole… chocker bus, someone got up from a seat nearish me and a young fella stretched across to tap me on the hand to see if I wanted it. Also Max, one of Armando’s nephews (17), when we went to Columbia, always ‘made me’ go first when we had to pass people on the street (which to be honest did get alittle annoying went it meant we had to switch places… but I can understand why in terms of safety… keeping on eye on the lady) and when we crossed the road he put out his arm to guard me from on coming cars (never had that before!!) So they’re not all bad, but the male chauvinism is way worse than Eng.

My first diagnosis (clever me!)
There’s a boy called Sebastian who spends the day at Remar whilst his mother works… I first met him when I was helping with school. I noticed how he just didn’t seem to be with it, he couldn’t concentrate and wasn’t interacting well with the other children. Since then they’ve given up trying to teach him and he just wanders round often aimlessly, or in search of a palo or escoba (stick, broom) with which he has a fixation. He’s not stupid, he can speak and understands all that you say but he can’t interact normally with his peers or others, and you can often find him hitting the other children as they tease him. He finds it very hard to concentrate on doing anything and if you tell him to stop doing something, you have to tell him several times – it’s not that he doesn’t understand, he just can’t seem to stop. Because of the inability to concentrate and to stop doing something I thought ADHD – Attentional Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – then I heard Tati talking to the social worker, and she said autism and I though ah yes that’s exactly it, that’s the word I was looking for. Autism often it co-incides with ADHD (I think, I can’t quite remember my studies). So I didn’t have the completely right name but I’d noticed all the symptoms.

Jo the plumber!!! (would you believe it)
Been helping in the kitchen again… one of the sinks doesn’t have a grate thingy so everything just goes down it… when I do the washing up I use the other for doing the cleaning bit and this one just for rinsing… but not everyone thinks the way I do, so it often gets blocked… normally a bit of plunging does the trick but not this time! I first I asked if Jairo was around (handyman) as I didn’t want to do any damage but he wasn’t so we took things into our own hands, literally! We disconnected the pipes under the sink and I took them outside to have a look, ended up taking apart some more bits and discovered the tube was completely blocked with rice and finally a big chunk of potato!!! Cleaned it out, put those bits back together and connected it back up!! Yesterday I had to do the same again, this time it was a big old broad bean! (oo which incidentally I have tried sugared this week!) So Ecuador is teaching me about plumbing!

Oo comedy moment, nearly fainted coz a girl get her thumb real bad!

Life in Remar
Started back making cards, though my girls have completely changed! Alittle frustrating but there we go, one has to ‘roll with the punches’. Had a good time, though sometimes (actually most of the time) the girls speak so incredibly fast that I haven’t a clue what they’re saying! This week we changed the cardmaking days to mon, wed, fri so now I can get back to joining in bible club on tues and thurs (and help in the kitchen, play with the kids the rest of the day)… so that’s cool. I must say it has been nice to have a break from cardmaking coz I get to spend time with the kids. Had one particularly fun afternoon with a huge skipping rope (just a normal piece of rope), which me and Carolina swung whilst various kids jumped in and out and tried to better each other – the most jumps reached was 69!!! I only managed 2, but I am extremely out of practice not having skipped since school! Go to know some more tiddlers who have been very sweet when I’ve said I’ve got to leave now, saying ‘No te vayas, no te vayas’ (don’t go, don’t go) and clingin onto my legs and an effort to stop me walking! There’s one little girl, Laydee, who’s my friend again – she’d gone shy of me for some reason for quite a while but she’s taken a shine to me again which was nice… she’s 6years old and has the most darling laugh and smile, and she’ll laugh at almost anything! If I was in Ecuador for life, and was married and could adopt her and her brother and sister, I would! They’re a handful but lovely!

One little girl I spend quite abit of time with is Sophia, she’s cute as and I’ve started mimicking her baby speech (she’s 2). The other afternoon we were all outside sucking on a colacion (snack) of icelollies, and some of the kids asked why I was there… so I explained God wanted me to be there because he loves them, and wee Sophia, who was stood facing me as I was sat down, piped up ‘Dios me ama?’ (God loves me?), and I said yes, he loves all of you, and she repeated ‘Dios me ama? Y me mami tambien?’ (her mum is 17 and lives in Remar)… yes I repeated, God loves you and your mummy aswell. She had a look of great delight (and confusion I think!) on her face, it was a precious moment coz I’m sure that was the first time she’d been told that God loves her.

“Youth group”
Finally I went to ‘youth group’ for the first time (though I think I was the youngest there!!! Just to remind you youth roughly means from about the age of 16 to any age if you’re not married, but there are actually some newly weds too). It was abit of a battle to get there. I’d been feeling a wee prodding that now was the time to go, that I actually needed to do something active about making some proper ecua friends but I was really nervous and anxious and unsure. I’d been thinking about asking Paquita about going but on thursday I decided I’d put it off for another week after all I was really tired and blah, blah, blah. But God had other plans…at dinner time Paquita asked me what I was going to do on friday, whether I wanted to join them, go to youth or stay in!!! So I had to fess up!!! Slightly to my annoyance but really to my relief, and she was very encouraging saying I didn’t need to worry, that they were a really lovely bunch, always cracking jokes and having fun, and that she’d ring Rafael to ask if he could lift me home. So on friday, slightly nervously I went, and it was fine, really good in fact – Paquita was completely right, they are lovely and really funny (never a dull moment – lots of extroverts!). I had a really good evening and decided I’d definitely go back! I didn’t understand all they said and made a COMPLETE hash of it when I tried to pray in Spanish so much so that my ‘partner’ said I could pray in English next time!!! (you have to laugh!!!!!!) but hey ho, I keep on!

Yeah, so last weekend I took a last minute trip with Armando up country to his parents town of Tulcan (we planned to set off at 7am but didn’t end up leaving until 10am coz of camioneta ‘truck’ trouble…). The journey was lindisimo (beautiful), so much to see and take in… unfortunately the mountain tops were covered so I couldn’t see them (on the way back too) but that didn’t matter really. Stopped at a roadside ‘café’ and ate (there I go again) choclo (one of the 6, yes 6, different types of sweetcorn – and I bet you thought there was only one!) and fried meat – very tasty! 4 hour journey… I had wee rest at Armando’s parents house while he ran a few errands…then we set off to Ipiales, the nearest Columbian town, just 10mins over the border in the company of Anna Cristina, one of Armando’s numerous cousins, and her son Max. Didn’t have to show any papers or anything to cross!! But I’ve got a picture of the border to prove I went! Basically went there to shop, Columbians make very good clothes and ropa interior and it’s really cheap – Armando says they’re the best copiers (fakers!!) in the world, very talented with hand-made stuff. Weird coz that place isn’t out of the war but I didn’t feel at all unsafe… the only strange thing was seeing the army’s sand bag ‘huts’ on street corners. I think if I’d been with other gringos, it would have been a different matter but as I was with ‘locals’ I felt fine. Oo back on food again I ate the weirdest mix of a sweet fried batter inside which was sausage, ham and cheese, and a grape flavoured cola which tasted of sweets (urghhh).
Next day we took an early morning trip to Tulcan cemetery which is famed for being romantic… which surprisingly it was, not at all sad… they say it’s the happiest place in Tulcan… it’s filled with pine trees cut into allsorts of amazing sculptures, animals, people, randomn designs. Then we popped aback into Columbia to visit Las Lajas.. a sort of Catolica pilgrimage site where there’s a church and hot water that people bathe in to get healed ( and than thank Mary… hmmm…..). And then we traveled back to Quito, taking a slightly different route at points… saw fields of potatoes, cane sugar, quinoa (mum!!), stopped off at another Mary thing, a grotto that had formed where a bit of a mountain had fallen into the river gorge, and the river still runs through it giving hot water (people again bath in wee pools for health).

Oo I think I’ve written quite enough, you’re eyes must be getting tired!!!! Well I hope you’ve enjoyed this latest instalment, I look forward to receiving yours (hint, hint!! Hee hee) Take care one and all, till next time
Oodles of love
Me xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
p.s. I’ve actually written this friday night so you’ll have to wait for news of sat for next week, I’m taking a trip to the mitad el mundo

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Sun, sea, sand, sunburn and lobster

Happy New Year everyone!! Hope you all had a fabuloso time. Lots to tell, so here goes!

As you could tell from the title this week I did get to the beach!! And all four of us managed to go (at one point it looked like just two of us)!! Bev, Jules (strider in Santo), Clare (long-termer in Santo) and me. Bev and I traveled down to Santo on the 30th then we went together to Atacames on the 31st. Interesting journey, thankfully we had seats, I reckon there were 30 odd seats, but we doubled almost tripled in number with people standin up in the aisles, getting on and off at various points (on the way back we had to stand for an hour but then got seats!! yeay!! 4hr journey standing all the way would not be nice!! Shared part of it with a live chicken, could hear chicks cheeping and a piglet squealing too!). Having soo many people squished on made it a wee bit difficult to get off. I was really glad I had a window seat not least for the air to combat travel sickness (windy roads!), but i love taking in the view along the way which were beautiful, lush green jungly type vegetation, wee wooden houses on stilts with balconys of plants, ranches of cows, caught our first glimpses of horses. It was also good being near the window as it gradually got hotter and hotter the nearer we got to the coast.

El Tiburon (the shark), y Tahiti
We arrived around about lunchtime to our hotel 'the shark' and it was pretty minging! Box room, the windows weren’t set properlyand there was no mozy net on them (so we had to keep them shut and nearly faint from the heat), you had to step up about 2 feet to get into the bathroom and squeeze through a tiny doorway which was partially blocked by one of the beds! Needless to say we set about looking for somewhere else quick smartish! We spent just one night at that hotel and spent the other 2 at another which was a much nicer affair.. spacious room and baño (bathroom), pool as well, only thing was (well, didn’t bother me) that the fan sounded like a helicopter was in the room with us and we found a cockroach which Jules squished with my trainer - lovely!!! but we much prefered it there!

The beach itself was hot and sunny and the waves pretty powerful (I nearly got wiped out a couple of times jumping them!), and also very chocker with people!! Lots of Ecuadorian holiday-makers over for new years – by monday morning it was almost deserted!!

The food was fab, I’m not a great seafood fan but it what i had was really tasty… ate lots of prawns and squid (emmie + liz remember the baby ones i ate in barce?). On the last day for almuerzo (lunch) we got a seafood platter between the four of us for $12, which at the current exchange rate is just about 6 quid. It contained: prawns, scallops (bit too chewy for my liking), mussels (hmmm, bit too 'fishy'), crab (not much meat on them is there?!- who ever said i was fussy?), big ‘battered’ fish, half a wee lobster (how much would that cost alone in England??), plate of rice and menestra (lentil stew), a bowl of ceviche (ecua speciality - fish soup), a plate of maduros (sweet banana fried, very yummy!) and a jug of lemonade (not Sprite but proper stuff made with lemons!! Though i think they rather overdosed on the sugar as it tasted rather like a sherbert lemon!) Ooo very exciting.. beach is lined with wee bars which tend to have music blarring most of the time (gets abit much when it’s the same songs over and over again…) merengue beats driving you crazy.. one particular song ‘Za za za’… argghhhh!! Though did hear some REM (random!!!) and some Bob Marley (they like their reggae here!) oo got sidetracked… at one I had 3 types of icecream in a pineapple for 50p!!! yuuummmmyyyy!! + bargainious!

Mainly we just chilled on the beach, paddling in the water, and sitting in deck chairs (the all important shade, being near the equator the sun can be particularly fierce! people can get 3rd degree burns from ecuadorian beaches!). Somehow I managed to get a wee bit of sunburn on my back and some rather random patterns of my feet (dodgy application of suntan lotion!!!) but wasn’t bad, didn’t hurt abit! Oo we went to the Aquatic ´museum´ which was just outside our hotel. Basically it was a slightly (not much) glorified shed (open sides from shoudlers up, thatched roof, all made of wood) with about 30 cases of sea life exhibits.. I use the word life when infact some of them contained dead things… mmm, lovely… but my guide book did warn us! Sad thing was to see 2 turtles in a glorified bucket, dirty water, nothing to do except swim round and round in wee circles, poor things!! Was interesting though!

New Year Celebrations…
The big tradition here is to burn ‘Año Viejos’ (old years). They are men made of old clothes and stuffed with sawdust or whatever one can find (similar to our Guy Faulkes creations). Paquita told me a funny story of a friend who lives in England who made one out of her English husbands workclothes… she went to burn it in a park and was most dismayed to find it wouldn’t set alight… so she went home and then realized that her husbands clothes are fireproof!! Doh!!! It was a good job it didn’t light coz the authorities might not have been best pleased… unlike in england, here in Ecuador they can burn anything, anywhere…so when it comes to new year people are burning their año viejos here there and everywhere! When these old men are burned it symbolizes the ‘old year’ with all it’s bad bits going and being forgotten. The other part of the tradition is that men dress up as widows and ask passers by for ‘caridad’ (charity) since their old man is going to die and they will be left destitute! These widows put up barriers (usually a piece of string) next to their old man, and in order to pass you have to pay them a ‘centavo’. All very amusing and I think the men really enjoy dressing up in drag!

In Quito the Año Viejo’s are made of material and you can buy them all over the place, and also masks to put on their heads… but in Atacames the vast majority are made of paper mache. Some were politicians, some were animals, some of Spiderman…all sorts… got a good picture of some which I will provide a link for a some point! The little ones costed $18 and the large $30!! We spoke to the lady that made them and she said she’d been at it since June!!! It’s a very important tradition… so Friday night we got to see them being burning on the beach and the road that runs along the top of it… they also set off lots of fireworks (health and safety!! kids picking them up and throwing them... there had been warnings that there have been some extremely powerful fireworks this year which are really dangerous, burning a huge area suurounding them because of too much gunpowder!!! hmmm, needless to say we didn't get close!). We burnt some wee sparklers that my gap year room mate sent me (very exciting!!), hung out on the beach abit watching the goings on and went to bed about 1ish… oo earlier when it turned midnight English time, clare and jules insisted on singing old lang’syne (how you spell it? Not like that!!) much to the disapproval of bev! hee hee...

Back to Quito
Returned to Quito on tues… and during our bus journey bev and i received a biology lesson from a traveling salesman who was selling a wonder pill which supposedly helps with cirrohis of the liver, pMT, blood disorders, gastritis, prostate cancer, cholestorol, and so much more, suitable for all ages – likely story!! He told us all about PMT, prostate, liver and kidney problems. Bus journeys here are never dull, there’s always someone trying to sell something! It's something you should experience!

Started back at Remar on wednesday… I was enthusiastically greeted by people which was really encouraging! This week mainly been spending time with the kids which has been really good and helped in the kitchen quite abit too… Couple of things the kids have said this week which are kind of funny: I was told I have eyes like a cat (I have ‘green’ and they all have brown), that I have a nose like pinochio and why is my nose shaped as it is? Kids ey?! No shame!! I was also told my Marcelo that I speak ‘medio raro’.. slightly strange… not sure whether he meant my voice, my accent, or my Spanish!!! Also got asked by an 11-yr-old boy for advice on relationships… he was in an quandary… 2 gels he really liked and he didn’t know which too choose… I was touched that he asked me, showed me that I’d being accepted by the kids… though my advice he didn’t like (wait, don’t make a rash decision), he wanted me to say one or the other.

Here in Ecuador they use all sorts of names to refer to people, and I have been called most of them! ‘Mi vida’ , my life, ‘Mi amor’, my love, ‘Mi hija’ or ‘Mi hijita’, my daughter, ‘Mi preciosa’, my precioussssss, ‘Mi reina’, my queen (this one really makes my skin crawl! especially when you get called it by some random guy on the bus), ‘Mami’ or ‘Mamita’, literally mummy but doesn’t really mean that… It takes some getting used to to have people call you their daughter when you've just met them!! But they're a very affectionate people and this is the culture... i've not taken it on yet though! but watch out people!

Oo I’ve waffled on quite enough, there’s soo much more I could say about differences in culture but I hope you’ve found this weeks entry interesting!!! I know I would find your waffle interesting (hint, hint!)…write me about the sublime, the mundane, the downright ridiculous…whatever it is I’d love to know!! Keep me in your lives!!! Please!!!
Ok, desperate plea over!! Wishing you all a joyful 2005, look forward to seeing many of you later on in the year! Oodles of love me (who else?) blahhhhh