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, May 28, 2005

What’s the laziest animal on earth? ..keep reading to find out!

2 weeks have past… I was trying desperately hard to get to the internet last saturday but events took the opportunity out of my hands and nearly didn't make it today either! This week I’ve been in Galapagos with my family but the week before I was in Remar so I shall start with that…

Remar events
The baby came home! Which was awesome, she came home on thursday… she’s so lovely!! But poor thing she had to have another op on tuesday just gone (not sure of the news yet) because the fatty growth they took out from her arm/chest is growing again, and will continue to grow!! All abit worrying but she’s amazingly strong! Thank you so much for your prayers for her, keep going!
I had an unplanned visit to the prison again, the ladies didn’t recognize me, which isn’t surprisingly as it was quite along while ago that I went! Tati asked me to go so that afterwards we could go on a shopping spree for the ‘guarderia’ (nursery) as the big plastic shop was near the prison… Using money from my parents church we bought a load of stuff to deck out the inside of the nursery – tables, chairs, bins that kind of thing… in a couple of weekends time the ‘youth’ from my church are gonna help me paint it using money from my Chi church which is rather exciting!!
Another great class with the little un’s, they are learning!! Well it’s just the numbers but that’s a start!! And they were trying to join in with the song we were using which was encouraging too… I hope Anne’s getting on well alone and I hope I’ll do ok without her!
Bit o card sorting, now just one young lass working on them which is abit lonely for her – they’ve rather lost the umph they had!! Hmmm… and otherwise on remar I’m getting rather excited about the fiesta… Anne stayed over on friday so that we could put the wee party bags together before our girls day out… more later.

Tears all round…
So friday 20th my parents and brother arrived, albeit an hour late… as we were waiting for them to come through, I felt really nervous – I don’t know why, it was all abit weird… and as I expected their arrival through the doors I felt tears welling up, don’t why either!!! So when I finally saw them and they were stopped by a security door for a moment, it was all too much and the tears flowed… mum came over first and she was crying too, had a lovely long hug – then with dad and he was wet-eyed too!! They were pretty crashed out so we just took them to their villa so they could rest up – but being very, hmm not sure of the word, - well I told them they should rest and not do anything for the day on saturday – but what did I find out when I arrived at their place late sat afternoon after my girls day out? That they’d been painting the town red!! Naughty naughty, and they felt the effects of the physical exertion on sunday!! Everyone says that even if you feel pretty fine, on arriving in Quito you really should do nothing for the first 2 days!

Girls day out
Anne, Anna Maria (the lassy who did the Identity workshop with the girls) and I took out some (was meant to be all) of the adolescents for a day trip out of Remar… we picked them up at 11 and walked just a few minutes down the hill to a wee shop where one can make jewelry… it turned out to be a whole lot more stressful than we imagined!! But we got there in the end, with each girl choosing a design and bead colours – between them they made an assortment of necklaces, bracelets and earrings. We then popped back to the house to pick up the food and off we set to El Parque Metropolitano for a picnic and chill in the park… it was good but after certain attitudes that we experienced from the girls we decided to sit down and have a wee chat, which was really helpful, though painful, for them – they were able to freely express things that had been bugging them, the tensions within the group, and I think we all came out better for it! On the way back we got caught by the chapas (police) for having too many people in the car (11!!!! Hmmm, knowingly law breaking!) – at first the women said that Anna Maria would be off to prison and we were like ‘aahhhh’… but Anne got out and went to talk to the man, explaining we’re from the fundacion, 2 mins from the house, blah, blah, blah, and as she was a female gringo and quite persuasive, we ‘got away with it’…

Well it’s actually my opinion and not scientific fact, but I think that sea lions are THE laziest animals around – or at least on Galapagos! They just lie there most of the day on the beach, sunning themselves and being very vocal about it! Oo the baby ones are soooo cute!! I’m now a very educated person and can tell you the difference between seals and sea lions – do you know there was one? (several actually!).. So just got back yesterday from 5 days in the Galapagos – a great experience but not without it’s frustrations – the other airport was closed so our itinerary changed… sniff sniff! So as not to bore yous out of your minds I shall just give a quick resume…
Giant tortoises (in the wild!!! Awesome!!), saddle sore (completely unexpected challenge of horse-riding!), seasickness (nuff said!! I’m sure you don’t want details – needless to say I shan’t be jumping at any chances to go a cruising!!), blue footed boobies, iguanas (man you ugly!)… there was so much we didn’t see which we feel was partly for lack of effort on the part of our guide but that said I really did enjoy it (well apart from the sickness!!) – the boat was lovely, the cook EXCELLENT, the crew really friendly, and the company fantastic – we were comprised of two German couples, one Canadian family (with 2 fantastic kids, 5 and 8), my family, a young French couple and a young Australian couple – we all got on really well, lots of laughs which really made the trip I think!
But the trip wasn’t without it’s challenges, especially the horse-riding – my brother fell off his horse coz his saddle came undone – it was just tied on with a piece of rope = HEALTH & SAFETY!!!!!!, Clare (5) got thrown off her horse when another horse bit hers and it bucked!! But she was SOOOO plucky and within minutes was back on another horse!!! Luckily she didn’t get concussed or anything… then my mum got kicked in the leg by another horse, and luckily it didn’t get broken!! Of course all were generally coping with the seasickness, but one of the German women she was hit soo bad, poor thing that it was very hard for her to enjoy the trip!! Oo ended rather negative but it was a good trip, I’m REALLY glad I went!

Last point for this week… today with Paquita and Armando, and some friends (Carmita, her daughter and her daughter's friend) we took a trip to the Otavaleño market, now famous throughout the world for their weaving!!! bought prezzies for people that my parents can take back with them!! hee hee - parents are very useful! we had a good but tiring day, i'm fair exhausted now!! we also squeezed in a wee visit to a high altitude lake...

Well, time to go again… fraid my ability to email at the mo is ZERO, will do my best to catch up with yous all when I’m back online, though I reckon it’ll take me a little while!!!
Hope you’re well, and for those of you in England, that summer is finally arriving!
Oodles of love
Me xx

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Ice-lollies and fiestas...

News update on the wee baby...
She’s still in the hospital – she’s a real fighter!! But sadly looks like another op might be on the cards – where they operated on her arm/chest, there’s now an infection and she has to stay in hospital until monday when another medic will take a look – as you can tell I don’t really know all the ins and outs, but hopefully she’ll be given a clean bill of health soon!!!

My family
‘Ya mismo vienen’ – really soon they come … this time next week they’ll be here on Ecuadorian soil – lots of things planned to do which is very exciting, starting with a tour of the Galapagos!!! Ooo weee!!! Whilst they’re here not sure if I’ll have time for much emailing but I’ll do my best to keep yous updated on my exploits.

It always seems like there’s some kind of fiesta here or reason not to have lessons, and according to anne, it’s not just Remar – it happened a lot whilst she was in the coast too! Otra vez (another time) we’ve not had a full week of lessons – though very nearly, just missed one – a clown (payaso) turned up to have a wee ‘party’ with the kids – it was SOOO lovely to see them just being kids and joining in WHOLEHEARTEDLY with the actions, completely unselfconscious! So coz of various breaks in classes, it turns out that cuarto/cinto grados are now way ahead of the other classes by about 5 lessons … and this week we had a go teaching them some grammar! It proved a WHOLE lot harder than we thought, they just about got it in the lesson, but I don’t reckon they’re have remembered for the next! We taught the ‘gerund’, the present continous i.e. I am reading… Grammar is actually a very hard thing to get a hold of in your language let alone in another!! The other classes are still learning the colours which is quite fun, and having a reminder of the animals – for some reason they get really mixed up with ‘worm’ and ‘horse’!!! bizarre!!!
Had great fun yesterday with primero (the mas chiqititos – the smallest ones), singing a song ‘Five sticky ice-lollies’, I’d made wee “puppets” and everything, and it seemed like they really enjoyed it!! Yeay!! Though it’s not easy keeping their attention!

Oo exciting plans coming up
Well, apart from my parents coming, couple of other exciting things planned!!! Firstly a ‘girls day out’, Anne, Anna Maria (trainee psyc who did the Identity workshop with the girls) and I are going to take out the adolescents, a week today, for a ‘girlie day out’… plans aren’t finalized but we’re hoping to take the girls first to a shop where they can each make a necklace and later to have a picnic in the park!! Looking forward to it!! And also in the middle of the time that my parents are here, it’s my birthday!!! Yippee!!! So we’re going to have a ‘fiesta’ – it’s actually going to celebrate 3 things - my 23rd, Dia del Niño (day of the child) and good bye Anne… just starting to think about what we shall do, and I’m really quite excited!!! Though not looking forward to not having anne around, she's been a great chum!!!

‘a ventas’
- selling – on wednesday I went out with maritiza and monica selling… every day some of the women in remar, and some of those adolescents that don’t study, go out on the streets to businesses and shops trying to sell cleaning products – erase any kind of ‘Kleeneze’ connotations from your minds!!! – Remar fabricates window cleaner, disinfectants and the like, as well as brooms and mops, and the women (and the men too, though one doesn’t normally see much of them) got out to sell to raise funds for Remar. So out I went to see what it was truly like, and man, it was hard – not so much physically (though I didn’t carry as much as one could!), and apart from the strong sun, it was hard mentally… you have to keep going from shop to shop asking if they’ll buy – if you don’t ask, they won’t buy – but even if you do, they don’t!! we sold just one broom in the day!! Not good!! But I reckon it really depends on where you go - where we went, everyone said there wasn’t money, which makes it rather difficult to sell!!!!! The reaction of some of the people to my giving the speil was amusing – one guy decided he’d try out his English, then instead of asking me where I was from (which always makes me cross, ‘hello, I’m standing right here in front of you’), he asked Monica, and he assumed I was from the US… others just stared at me half-confused, half-shocked to see this foreigner!! Glad I went though!!

So sat night I went out with anne and her ecua-friends to supposedly dance salsa – but the guys (only 2) didn’t really know how to dance, they kind of had their own rhythm completely!!! To dance well, you and your partner need to have the same sense of rhythm, and as I’ve forgotten a lot of what I learnt so I really need someone to lead me!! Hopefully I’ll get an opportunity to dance salsa with someone that knows at some point!!! Arrived at about 1.30am to my house to find paquita still up, heating water in the kitchen by candle light!! The electric had gone in the afternoon in just the kitchen, Armando rigged up a clever thingy to the light bulb so that the fridge could still work, but then that blew and threw the whole department out!! So sunday morning had to shower in cold water and in darkness!!! But thankfully the electrician came abit later and sorted it all out, so we weren’t without electricity for too long!

I reckon that’s it for this week, as classes have gone well, feeling quite upbeat and not so tired!!! Sincerely hope yous are all well!!! God bless oodles and oodles of love to yous all
Jo xxx

Saturday, May 07, 2005

hmm, this week...

Baby shower
Well my week started off with my first ever ‘baby shower’, an American tradition which has been taken up here in the last ten years or so… one of paquita’s niece’s is going to give birth very soon so it’s like a kind of celebration before the baby arrives. So what does a baby shower consist of?? This one, lots of wee games related to baby stuff, chatting, and eating (of lots of sweet things!!). it was good fun though I didn’t like the bit where I had to play a game on my own – during the time it takes a match to burn out, you have to say as many words as possible related to babies – I was like, ‘no, I don’t know the words in spanish’, and the niece’s mum said in English then… but I was like no don’t make me, I can’t remember the English words either!! But they made me do it, and I felt absolutely awful in front of everyone, REALLY on the spot, like EXTREMELY and uncomfortably so, and I only came up with 3 or 4 words!! If I’d have wanted to do it, maybe I would have come up with more, but I’m not so sure!!

La bebe…
The wee one I was telling yous about who had been abandoned… is back in hospital again, she’s had some kind of infection in her hip so they’ve had to operate again, which is serious stuff for a wee baby!! But amazingly she’s doing really well, and Beatrice has definitely fallen in love with her, she’s spending most of her time at the hospital looking after her! That’s a weird thing about hospital’s here, that the relatives do what a nurse would normally do in England – guess it’s coz they have to pay for it all, it’s not free health care! It turns out, as we thought, that the lady that left her was the mum, but she doesn’t want the baby, feels no love or care for her – sad story… I think she’s going to be living remar soon and leaving the baby, so not sure how that will work out…

The worst ever far
- not that I’m a pessimist or anything!! Anne’s been ill this week with a stomach infection so didn’t turn up on tuesday, which meant I had to give the class to cuarto/cinto (4th/5th grade) on my own – their teachers weren’t in the class either as there was a parent-teacher meeting – I was completely alone, and it was completely demoralizing!!! They just didn’t listen or pay attention, completely without respect for me, it was virtually impossible to give the class, though the majority did end up doing the worksheet I gave them – I left utterly dejected, and it took me a wee while to let it go! But praise the Lord for his providence – that I didn’t have to give the second class – tati wanted me to be with the teenagers doing the cards because there was a social services inspection!! I really could NOT have coped with them again in that state! But, in the difficulty and dejection, there was a silver lining – some kids that just saved it for me – firstly pepe, I was teaching them the colours and using the rainbow song, and he was singing along so energetically, and got me to repeat a couple of bits he hadn’t got the hang of!!! Then en recreo (in breaktime) Vanessa came in and said, oo give me the class (she’d been helping clean the house) and continued to enthusiastically fill in the worksheet! So it’s not all bad!!!

Fiesta, fiesta, fiesta…
Only 2 classes were given this week, these ecuadorians are always having some kind of fiesta!!! Thursday we didn’t give classes as the boys had been invited to play a footie match, and the girls had an outing to the parque… then yesterday there was a celebration for ‘Dia de la Madre’ (Mother’s Day = 8th may), so no classes then either!! We’ve not given a full week of classes in I don’t know how long?? What with getting rid of presidents and teacher-training courses!! Oh well!

Back on the cards…
as I wasn’t in classes, I was put in charge of card-making – the organization of which has all gone downhill abit again!! Good to spend time again with clara, just chatting about everything and anything, then yesterday I had two new students, though I wasn’t very attentive in teaching them (oops! mind on other things) but the other gels took on the responsibility which was really encouraging!!

“Surprise, surprise”

‘Surprise’ visit from Chris Stansfield from the Latin Link office… well, I knew he had arrived in Ecuador, but I’d totally forgotten that he’d come to visit and we hadn’t spoken about how we’d meet and he didn’t know where Remar was or anything! Then, out of the blue on thursday afternoon his head popped round the door of where we were making cards!! What a shock, completely not expecting it, completely absorbed in what I was doing! Gave him a quick tour of the premises, and introduced him to the peeps, then we went off to a nearby café for a wee chat! It was good to chat about stuff, and I got him trying some new delicacies!! Mum, dad, tim, just you wait!!! Left feeling very encouraged which I guess was the aim!! (oo by the way, Chris is on a general tour, bit whistle-stop, touching base with a whole load of latin link people in a bunch of different countries!)

‘Super raro’ ‘Really strange’
man, the weirdest thing happened yesterday… walking along Amazonas (a road) checking out different travel agencies for flights to Bolivia…and a lady starts ‘hissing’ at me to get my attention – I don’t think it’s me so continue walking, I mean what would a complete stranger be doing trying to get my attention? Then a guy says, that lady’s calling you… so I stop, with (I’m sure) a complete look of distrust, and say ¿Que? rather defensively… it turns out she wanted my ‘skills’ as a ‘translator’ – she was trying to speak to a lawyer in the US about her son who is in prison there but he (the lawyer) doesn’t speak Spanish nor she English – well, it was an interesting experience!! Spent, I reckon about 45 mins with her, on the phone and then chatting, obviously very worried about her son and what’s happening with him.. she wants to invite me to her house but I feel abit awkward about going to the house of a complete stranger, however nice they may seem???!!!… she wants me to translate a letter from Spanish to English… hmm

frogs, frogs and more frogs (no it's not a plague!)
just been to see a well interesting exhibition of ecuador's frogs!!! they've got something like 10% of the world's species here - ranging from ones less than 2cms long to ones 25cms!!! an amazing host of colours and patterns, and shapes - some really cute, others just down right ugly!!! and did you know (i don't expect you did), that one of ecuador's frogs has led to the discovery of a painkiller many times more potent than morphine, by scraping it's skin with a spatula!! they expect there are many more medicinal qualities as yet undiscovered!! it was definitely well worth the visit!!

ya, that’s it for me waffle today. Another week gone and once again feel utterly exhausted – don’t really understand why, but I’m taking it easy!! Though I’ll be off out dancing salsa tonite with anne!! Hmmm…
oo went to see ‘Super Engordame’ (Supersize me) on wednesday – I’d wanted to see it in England but hadn’t got the chance, has anyone else seen it? ¡Super interestante! Some stuff just left me shocked, a guy whose eaten 19 million big macs – he must be mad!!! For those of you that haven’t seen it, it’s basically about the bad effect McDo’s has on your health but given in an entertaining way! I reckon it’s worth seeing if you get the chance!
Chaos for now...