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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

fotos, at last!!!


mariela, isabel, carmita, paquita, armando, mum, dad, tim, on the way to otavalo (may 28th)

just before the tears!!! saying goodbye! (june 9th)

yes, it is me officer! bye bye ecuador!

cake face!!! (birthday's ecuadorian style) june 1st

me and little estefania on my birthday!!!

so here are a couple of photos!! yeay!! at last i've managed it!! thanx to mim!!!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

¡Viva la waffle!

Oo lots of bits to waffle about this week…

Project Guarderia go, go, go… (nursery)
Well… sunday I put my finishing touches to my designs for the nursery – I spent ages working on a ABC chart in the form of a jigsaw, and I hope it turns out well!! On Thursday we (the other volunteers and I ) started the work off, by sanding down all the walls! I felt like a was in abit of a whirlwind that morning as I was running to and from my 2 classes to put mi mano a la obra (put my hand to the work) as well! The six of us got it all sanded in a morning!! And I started on giving everything a wipe down, but only one ‘cubicle’ got done.. two more to go!! We (a new volunteer – Ecuadorian lass and I) tried to go buy the paint on Friday, Tati told us that the name of the shop was ‘Multicolor’, we searched everywhere around where Tati said it was, asking people but we couldn’t find it!! We got back and said so, and Tati said no it was called EXPO color, but was a multicoloured building – argghhhh!!! So, we’ll try again on monday, and hopefully start painting the basic colours! I’m very excited about seeing how it will all turn out!! will be painting murals next sat with some youthy types from my church!

Impertinent questions…
Man… people just don’t hold back… I was catching the trole home the other day, and I noticed the guy behind me in the queue being creepily curious in checking me out in the queue. Then once on the trole came the question ‘¿usted no es española?’ (you’re not Spanish are you?)… I replied rather cagily and bluntly ‘No.’… trying not to look at all interested in continuing the conversation… but he persisted '¿esta trabajando aqui?' (are you working here?)… ‘Yes.’ I replied (how anyone can’t take a hint from such cagey answers, I don’t know!)… so he continued '¿donde?' (where)… I replied even more cagily (coz obvisouly you don’t want a complete stranger to know where you work! Well, not here anyway when one’s a foreigner and not in such peculiar circumstances!) ‘In a fundacion.’ … and thankfully he finally got the hint of my cagey answers!! He looked abit like a foreigner, about 40 years old, but whoever it was, I really don’t like strangers making conversation with me!

Well, that’s what I’m going to call her… it’s not her real name, one of the girls in Remar… had some very touching moments with her in breaktime this week… I’ve always tried to say to her things like she’s pretty, and she always negates them… and this week we had time for a good wee chat about self-image. When one says to her she’s pretty, she always says no I’m ugly, but there’s always a shy smile on her face, which to be signifies she needs to be told it so much more until she believes it. She’s abit of a tom-boy and can be very aggressive, so doesn’t always get along with people… but under all the bravado, she is a really lovely girl.
Oo I’m going to explain to yous what I call my treasure chest theory (have I told yous before?). Each of these girls (indeed all girls, and boys) has a treasure chest… and whatever people say about each girl is stored away in this chest… If all they hear is ‘you’re no good’ ‘you’re worthless’ ‘you’re ugly’ ‘you’re dirty’, this chest gets dilapidated and horrible, its ugly and becomes a source of great distress… but, on the other hand one can fill it so that it is a beautiful, shiny, precious treasure chest decorated in many precious jewels that lights up ones whole being. So what I want to do is try to fill each girl’s treasure chest with these precious stones… basically I want to help increase their self-esteem where it’s been (or is being) ripped down by the things other people/children say… So, I had a good chance to talk with this girl about identity, and how the most important thing we need to know is that as girls, God thinks we’re beautiful, and that he smiles and dances so much over us (zeph 3.17!!)…all these girls need to know this!

Man, at times they are so hard – when you’re faced with a bunch of grumpy kids, it might just be one or two – who don’t like anything you give them to do, who just moan and moan!! And it’s so frustrating, that however many times you go over something, the next time you ask, they don’t remember a thing!!! And they don’t make an effort to learn either! Another part of the problem is that they get all defeatist if they don’t understand straight away, and it can be quite hard to get them out of it… but we get there in the end!! Oo and it was very sweet, the little un’s yesterday were asking ‘have we got English?’ and when I said yes… it was a chorus of ‘yeahhhh!!’… though I didn’t actually get to give them their class (it was gonna be 'The wheels on the bus') – we had a teacher’s planning meeting for the end of year celebrations… which is a week earlier than I thought it was!

La bebe
Update on Estefania… I spent monday morning with her and Beatrice in the hospital for her monthly checkup… it really is a crazy system here… as they didn’t actually do anything… all the tests have to be done in a clinic outside, and as well, a full body x-ray has to be done eslewhere– one wonders what they can actually do in the children’s hospital. But good news is, that the ‘tumour’ doctor (I’m sure there’s a specific name but I don’t know it!) thinks the tumour from the outside appears to be decreasing in size, which he says is rather unusual but obviously extremely welcome!! Though the not so good news is that she has an infection where they operated on her arm, so she’s on anti-biotic’s and has to go back and see the doctor next week to check that it’s clearing up well or it could cause problems.

Oo random bits… been adverts on the TV recently, telling people how to take precautions against dengue fever – just basic health and hygiene advice but obviously needed. had a wander of the historic centre, and went to a wee museum about money in ecuador (bit geeky i know, but it only cost 30p!!!) adn there i discovered that ecuador's old currency the 'Sucre' was imprinted in Birmingham - of all the places in the world! weird!! and oooooo received the most exciting news I’ve had in ages last saturday, that two of my fav people are going to get married to each other!! My dearest liz and matt (from uni)… I’m well excited and well happy for them both, and look forward so much to getting back to England to join in the celebrations!!! Woo woo!! Well, that’s about it for this week!
God bless yous all in your places!
Me xxx

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Earthquake...well nearly!

Oo lots has happened this week – not least I discovered my poor family got stuck in Guayaquil for 17 hours!!! They ended up arriving a day later than they should’ve done and with their first stomach upsets of their holiday! The advice is, don’t fly Iberia! Hmmm… poor things.

My weekend was extremely different to that of my parents!! I spent it in church – now that might sound abit weird!!! But it was great fun! It was a programme called EJE – Encuentro Juvenil en el Espiritu – Youth meeting with the Spirit – now I’m suer that still sounds weird!!! Basically it was a weekend of ‘listening to our hearts’ (sounds abit hippy) and sharing about various issues – relationships with friends, family etc… we were put into wee groups called families and we all cried lots about various experiences…. Not sure I’m explaining it very well but it was really good, and they kept giving us loads of surprises – posh dinner when we thought we were going to bed, breakfast with a place full of gifts – from friends and from family. I was really touched as Pedro, one of the ‘’youth’’ had sneakily talked to my mum about it all, and she’d left a wee gift… and I thought that was all, but then at another point we had to close our eyes and put our hands out to receive something – which was an ‘envelope’, and inside letters from one’s mum, dad which were really touching letters about how they loved us, what they say in us, memories they had of us, and how proud they were of us. Then they surprised us with another envelope, this time with letters from brothers/sisters and friends – I was so touched that so many of the ‘youth’ in my church had written me a wee message – it was so lovely, I felt so loved and special, and I realized that all my prayers and those of others had been answered – that God has blessed me with some true Ecuadorian friends!!! Yeay! So I had a fantastic weekend apart from very little sleep as a girl in the room I was in was snoring! Grrr

Back to work!
So fully got back into work on Monday, full steam ahead with my English classes – which have overall been fun but pretty trying at times!!! Not really involved in the cards anymore, the ‘girls’ are kind of left to their own devices – and as a result, they’ve come up with some awesome new designs of their own which is really encouraging!
Monday Anne turned up to say hello and to sort out some things before heading off traveling proper, and Tati announced she was inviting us to lunch! So at 2pm (and feeling very hungry) off we trundled in taxi, Anne, Tati, Valentina (her 4yr old daughter) and Estefania (the baby) to ‘Crepes y Waffles’, and Diego (Tati’s husband) met us there. It was a lovely lunch and I felt so touched that they’d made the effort!! And then on Wednesday Tati gave me a present, which I really wasn’t expecting, so with all this, felt very valued which was nice!
Other wise in Remar, we have had an influx of short term volunteers – Adam from Canada arrived before I went on holiday, and he’s here till the end of July, there was Fanny from France (was here for a month, now gone), Kelley from New Jersey (3 weeks now gone), Marco from Switzerland (with us till the end of school), Katie from America (also till the end of school). Most of them have come or are coming just in the morning, and helping in the school – but Thursday two more Canadians Adam and Christine (from Toronto) started to come in the afternoon – and they’ll be here for 3 weeks I think…. So we’ve gone really international – it’s weird to go from being the only volunteer for months to now being one of loads (oo just remembered 2 more guys visited the other day and will be helping for a wee while starting Monday)… and I think more will come and go. Maria Augusta says she’s NEVER seen so many volunteers in all her time helping in Remar (10 years or summat like that), and did suggest that perhaps they didn’t have need of striders any more – which she does have a point, but only in terms of the summer months when loads of foreign students arrive to do their social bit. I reckon when the summer’s over, I’ll go back to being alone – until the new girls arrive!

Sad news…
Sad to hear that during my time away, several children ‘escaped’, ran away from the Fundacion – Mitzi, 16, who’d been in Remar for quite some time, long before I arrived – I was shocked and am wondering why, and where she’s gone!! Then Angelica and her brother Angel, and 2 nephews (remember I told you about them a little while back, how they’d entered) – don’t know what happened there either – apparently their sister had turned up to see them and I reckon it stems from that, but I don’t know! So that’s all abit sad and disheartening, when they were all doing so well!

Well you can’t really call it an earthquake, I’m hugely exaggerating, but on Wednesday night at 1.05am, all the countries on this side of south America experienced severe tremors – here in Quito measured 4 on the Richter scale – but in Chile, the worst effected, it was 7 (!!!) and some people died… I’d totally forgotten that it happened until Tati asked me if I’d felt it when I arrived at Remar the following morning. Then I remembered how I’d been woken in the night, feeling EVERYTHING was moving, my body, my bed, the building (!!!), and I remember thinking ‘oh stop it, I want to sleep’ – I was soo full of sleep I didn’t really realize what was happening, and felt no fear whatsoever! Wonder how I’d feel if it happened in the day time. So, I’ve experience my first ever tremor! Ooo

Low points of the week – walking past some men on the way to Remar and having one shout at me ‘monkey’…hmmm….. then the following day walking to catch the trolley in the Colon and a guy stopped talking to his friends so that as I passed he could say ‘Haylo’ (hello) and try to kiss my cheek – urghh, I felt sick, I mean any stranger to do that but this guy had a severely minging, greasy mullet and was about 40+ years old! The things women have to put up with here!!!

So that’s my week – had a chilled day today, just doing nothing, really needed to rest – and it was such a treat just to be able to lie in bed and read a book for an hour or so!!
Hope you’re all well, I’m gradually getting up-to-date with my emails, just be patient for my reply, I will reply eventually!!
Oodles of love
Me xxx

Friday, June 10, 2005

Whistle-stop tour...

Oo my, I don’t know where to start!! We were going to set off to Puyo a week ago Sunday… but Paquita woke up feeling extremely nauseas – she immediately thought it was a problem with her heart so the trip was postponed whilst they went off to the hospital… I spent a very tense morning waiting for news which praise the Lord wasn’t bad!! It turns out Paquita was just suffering from vertigo (or so they say in spanish) and that the symptoms are the same – but the doctor ordered she stay in bed, rest, and do no traveling.. so we adapted to a new plan. Sunday we did nothing in the end, but Monday we took a trip to the Middle of the World which was very interesting, I got a certificate for managing to balance an egg on a nail – on the real line there is less gravity (or summat) so an egg can balance and there were other tests we did too to 'prove' it was the real middle of the world!… Tuesday we took a trip to Cotopaxi (Volcano of 5897m), one of the well-known attractions of Ecuador and we did our best do climb up… we managed to get to the refuge but it was hard work!!! Though I did it in 40mins!!! My bro in half an hour and my parents in an hour and 10… I really don’t have the adventurous spirit to go the whole way though – that’s quite a serious undertaking and one has to train!!!

Mis cumpleaños…
Wednesday 1st it was fiesta, fiesta, fiesta!!! We had good fun – Anne and I arranged some olla’s encantadas (the Ecuadorian version of a piñata, though it’s a wee round pot made of clay) which the kids enjoyed though it was abit manic!!! We also made them some wee party bags which they liked… my family really enjoyed getting to know Remar abit… they went off to eat and shop after the party and I stayed the rest of the day…. At about 3.30 we tried to get people together to share cake for my birthday and for Anne’s goodbye, but there was no-body around!! Though eventually we managed to round a few people up, then the ‘celebration’ began with Tati shoving my head in the cake!! (tradition here!) so then I cleaned myself off, cut up the cake and was JUST about to eat my slice when smack – Nellie smashed an egg on my head!! It was amusing but rather uncomfortable – cold and slimy!!! So then I popped in the shower to wash my hair!! Ivan, the husband of the couple who look after the boys home, it was his birthday too – and Nellie feeling particularly impish got him as he came up the stairs with an egg… poor guy, caught off guard… and he’d just cleaned himself off when up came Nellie again with a cake in her hands (laughing extremely impishly!! Oo she loved it!), and he tried to close himself into a room, but alas he got got!! It was easier for me coz I was fully expecting it and was prepared!! In the evening we had a wee birthday tea with Paquita and Armando then we (my family) went off to Jacchigua – a national ballet, which was awesome!! It’s all based on the indigenas cultures of Ecuador, and all the costumes are traditional – fantastically beautiful colours. It was abit expensive (though not English standard) but definitely worth it and a great birthday treat!!

Off we set…
So we decided to head off to Puyo in the Oriente (jungle, but really only just) on thursday without Paquita as she had a doctors appointment on friday (the plan was she would join us in Guayaquil on sat but as it turned out she got a cold and the doctor said she couldn’t travel – which was very disappointing for all!). along the 5hour route we stopped off looking at waterfalls – one awesomely powerful one called ‘Devil’s cauldron’ and which if you stand by the side of it with your shower gel, you could have a nice shower!!! We also took Ecuador’s longest and highest cable car across a gorge (500m long, 100m high) – to be honest when we first set off, my legs felt rather weak –and I felt real nervous – it’s a LONG way down!!! My dad was saying he was worried it would stop working and we’d be stuck there hanging over night!!! great thought to share!! Though the journey back across was far more enjoyable coz one had more trust in the wee basket!
We spent a day in Puyo - the morning we went white-water rafting on the River Pastaza, which was awesome though really not long enough – our guide said it was higher than usual coz it had rained, hard, ALL night long! I have to said that rafting is my one thrill-seeker outlet…45mins just wasn’t enough (although I ached enough afterwards!). In the afternoon we went to Jardin Botanico Las Orquideas – which was just utterly amazing. This guy has ‘grown’ it from scratch into a proper piece of jungle land, rescuing plants and trees from where the loggers cut down, it’s 25 years old and is just amazing… the size of some of the orchids you just would not believe, tiny, tiny, tiny!!! And what was really good after about a 45 minute wait outside (they lock the gates when there isn’t a spare guide coz people have been entering and stealing the plants), the owner arrived and he was our guide, which was the best!!

Coasting it…
On saturday we headed off to Guayaquil… long drive but beautiful scenery… unfortunately Chimborazo (another famous Ecuadorian Volcano) was largely covered by cloud!! Booo!! My dad was joking with Armando that he didn’t believe there were any high volcanoes/mountains in Ecuador coz they were always covered by cloud… We took a night time stroll on the Malecon (sea front) and went to see the famous slum which has been renovated and completely transformed into something beautiful… next we went up the coast to Puerto Lopez, where in the night we got woken up by a drunk singing outside who I thought when he woke me up was a mariachi band, Mexican, serenading – but my family informed me that no it was just a drunk singing out of tune! Hmmm…. On the way to Puerto Lopez, we stopped off at Montañita which is now becoming a surfing hotspot and my bro had fun trying to catch the waves – one day I’d like to have a lesson I reckon, maybe?! From there we continued up to Bahia, then the next day back to Quito. It was a mammoth trip but great to see it all – the biggest difference from Quito, or indeed the Sierra (highlands) or the Oriente (jungle) was the houses – a lot of people build their houses on stilts and they’re made out of wood – it’s really quite different…

Back in Quito…
So we got back into Quito and me back to my house at 8pm!!! Bit late… wednesday we did a wee bit of Quito sight-seeing and tried to sort out our hire car business, which is all a complete mess – basically the owner is taking us for a ride and charging $590 more than he should!!! So now we have a fight on our hands… it’s a good job I’m here and that I have Ecuadorian friends… coz apparently the owner has done this sort of thing before to foreigners but obviously when they return the cars, they generally leave the next day so there’s nothing they can do about him charging fraudulently but a-ha he’s come a cropper… watch this space to see if this thief gets his just desserts!!!

Nowt else to say, been back in Remar today - it has been a relief to get back to 'normality' after all that’s happened over the past 3 weeks!! It was great to have my family here, I hope they enjoyed themselves, though I’m pretty sure they’re leaving feeling more tired than when they came!
oo news on the baby, Tati and Diego have now offically adopted her so Valen (4) now has a wee sister!! The doctors decided not to operate you like i said in my urgent email coz they felt her wee body couldn't take a 3rd op!! so now she has to go for expensive tests each month for a year when they´ll reassess the situ and try to operate then!

Well i reckon that's enuff for this week’s waffling!! Oodles of love

Thursday, June 09, 2005

parents gone....

hey there,
it's been awhile as this is just a quickie to let you know i'm still here - hoping to get an update on the past 2 weeks written and uploaded tomorrow!
so my parents and bro have left after spending nearly 3 weeks with me... well actually they're still here, waiting in the departure area... it was a slightly tearful goodbye - i was fine but my parents started to cry and whenever everyone's crying that sets me off too, so we left abit bleary eyed!!! next time i see them is october which i'm sure will just fly by!!
ok that's all for now, update soon!
hope the corner of the world you're in is good!
oodles of love
who esle.... xxx