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, July 26, 2005

Challenges in Ecuador and beyond...

Where to start?
At the end of the last blog I was telling you about the ‘bum pinch’… well after that came a rather unexpected challenge… of just riding in a trole bus. I found myself getting extremely anxious, panicky even, on the packed trole, anticipating being harassed again with every slight brush… it really was horrible to feel like that, being on edge all the time but I got over it with God’s help!

Bolivia provided an interesting challenge in terms of their bus service!! They seem to be road-block happy… the number of times I’d heard my friends talk about blocks and somehow didn’t think it would happen to me… but it did happen, and just when I had a reasonably tight schedule. After visiting Lago Titicaca and the Isla del Sol (which was very lovely), I was getting a bus back to La Paz with an hour and a half in lieu to catch the night bus to Cochabamba where my strider chums are… all went well, got back from my boat trip (which I thought was a bad idea to begin with as I very quickly brought back up my breakfast, but turned out to be quite good! Worth the £1.75), got my 6pm bus, but then, disaster struck. The road between Tiquina (where you all have to get off the bus, and it goes across on a wee raft, you on a boat for 10p) and La Paz was blocked for a fiesta, so we had to take a roundabout cross-country route which involved firstly, a few getting off the bus so it could make a tight turn, then secondly, in another part of the road we all had to get off, as it was too dangerous (!!!!) for us to stay on it ! We finally arrived at 12.15am!! I’d seriously missed the last bus , didn’t have a hostel, couldn’t contact my friends, I was gutted!!! But I did manage to find a hostel, got a room, and promptly burst into tears from the disappointment, frustration and sheer '¿y ahora?' (and what do i do now?)!!! slept and it all turned out fine… I rung Niki at 7.30 the next morning just as she and james (strider from Uruguay) were about to catch a bus to meet me, so they went back to their beds! And I went to catch a bus!! So I finally arrived in Cochabamba at 3pm on sunday which meant I had less than 24hours to catch up with James – which was a shame but we made the most of the time we had!

It was a dark night…
And the final challenge came once I was back in quito… I’d just left the house to go and say goodbye to Anne before she flew back to Alemania… walking just a few minutes from my house, to get a taxi… and boom, I get mugged!!! Would you believe it?!!! I couldn’t! I was so utterly dazed and phased that I didn’t feel scared when the guy pulled a knife, I didn’t even think of just taking out my wallet and giving them my money, but they got it anyway, and (most annoying of all) made off with my ‘snow’ jacket (which also annoying still had my toothbrush and paste in it)! I didn’t have a clue what to do afterwards, I continued walking the direction I was going for a minute, but then realized what I was doing and walked rather rapidly back to my house… they’d taken my wallet so I didn’t have my keys, I didn’t have my ecua-parents mobile numbers, and I didn’t have even a cent to ring them if i did have their numbers… so I just sat on my ‘doorstep’ until Paquita and Armando arrived half an hour later…
So I must say that that rather took the wind out of me… I was full of questions and worries, and felt pretty shaken – I shan’t be going out in the evening again alone!! but you know one can't live in fear, one has to get on with living!!

What I got up to…
So yeah, back to my holiday in Bolivia, I saw the famous Lago Titicaca, which was impressive, just the sheer size of it… to get to Copacabana we were going round the side of the Lake for 2 hours!! Then I had thought that after spending a few days with my fellow striders in Cochabamba I would go to the salt flats… but once I was with my friends, I decided I’d stay the whole time with them – they were afterall the main reason for the booking of my trip, not sightseeing!!! So I spent 4 full days with Niki and Rosy… visiting their projects, hanging out – even got a chance to get creative, creating 2 new designs for Niki’s ‘Freehands’ business
It was really lovely to hang out with james for a wee bit, with the girls and their friends… it was a great holiday – though taking the journey back to la paz on the night bus wasn’t easy – I hardly slept a wink! My last day in Bolivia I spent with Remar Bolivia, and they were sooo lovely, so hospitable, so open, taking me to see the kids home and the couples home…felt very at home! By the end of it they were even trying to match-make me and ‘kidnap’ me from Ecuador!

Oo random bits and bobs… on the flight to Bolivia, they showed a programme about the history of the London underground!! Bizarre!!! Also saw a Jamie Cullum video, him looking slightly ridiculous pushing round a grand piano! In Bolivia I saw the long lost relative of Gumdrop – remember him? It was also well bizarre to see David Beckham’s face plastered on a wall – that pesky globalisation!! urgghhh!!

Patience run out…
Man, just before going to Bolivia, I was just sooo fed up with men’s comments and people’s stares that I just could not cope with it anymore! I was really hoping that Bolivia would be different, and it was!!! What a needed respite, I still got a few comments but the people are nothing like here!! However now I’m back and the stares have started again, and to be honest I’m just so fed up with it… I love my work, the friends I have etc, but I just can’t stand ‘people’, and the machista culture! It is just getting too much, can’t wait to be back in England so that I’m normal!!! Or maybe I should get a bottle of self-tan??!!! And dye my hair darker!!! Not sure it would work though!!

So there are challenges, but I’m overcoming them, and fighting on!! just over 2 months and i'm back!!
Love to you all
Me xxx

Saturday, July 09, 2005

bit of everything

well, what a week it's been! i don't know where to start!

paint update
well the plan was to finish the wall paintings today, but it ended up being just me and mari-ester - we didn't even finish one, but it IS looking well good! so tati has said to finish it with the other volunteers, and i've a great idea for the outside!! watch this space! mon/tues and bit of wednesday/thurs i spent painting the outside, the green has turned out to be somewhat psychadelic, but it's 100x better than what it was before!! the outside is now ready for stg 2 ' decoration!'

man, yesterday, i had my worst male chauvinism moment yet, that left me utterly indignant! i was on a packed 'Ecovia' (a sort of bus), and just felt really uneasy about a particular guy behind me... i thought i felt my hair being touched, but decided it could just have been his cap moving by accident... but then, as he got off for his stop, he PINCHED BY BUTT!!!!!!!!!!!!! ARGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! i was so indignant, i shouted 'oiga' (which means sort of 'well, look here') and gave him a slap on the back - as you all know that was quite something for me to do as i'm not an aggressive person - it was just SOOO rude! and what made it even worse was that no-one else on the ecovia paid the slightest bit of attention to my plight - i left at the next stop virtually fuming at the sheer lack of respect and cowardice of that man......arrrghhhhh!!! otherwise this week, i got a 'hey you'... this i WILL NOT miss!

man i feel i've missed out on so much this week - was keeping up with the LIVE8 on the internet and all the campaigning surrounding the G8 in scotland...then i heard on the radio 'Coldplay's new song, and just felt so out of touch with home!! but the great thing about Coldplay is that they carry you right back to england when you hear the beautiful whines of Mr Martin - there's something very quintessentially english about their sound, i can't put my finger on it, but i reminds of home!

toilet duty
monday afternoon tati roped us (as volunteers) into maning the loos at a big precaher event held in the olimpic stadium... remar had been given the opportunity to be responsible for the loos which also meant the 10cents charged came to us too -amazingly with 2 nights, they raised $600!!!!woo woo... it was very cold work though, and we didn't stay all the time, but during the time i was there i got almost frozen to the bone, which wasn't good for my cold!

other bits
wednesday night i went to see some live jazz in a square in the historics centre, as the suggestion of a fellow volunteer from canada... so we met up there, and i met a whole bunch of the other people from his volunterring organisation all working in different projects. it was a concvert of about an hour and a half, out in the open air, and it rocked!!! not that i actually know much about jazzmusic, but i enjoyed it, and thought the guesting guitarist and flautist particularly awesome!!
i've been put somewhat dubiously in charge of the other volunteers in remar, which is a little hard - i don't really want to be 'in charge' but hey ho...though it's alright at the mo as there's plenty of practical stuff to do. oo comedy thing, there's a bunch of guys from oregon supposedly finishing the outside washing unit, and they keep going on a out how cool my accent is! what accent i say!!! and we're also noticing differences between our englishes, for example i taught them 'swish' and 'nick' (as in to nick something) - which is quite amusing! also one guy said that he loves 'Hyacinth Bucket' - remember her? He find s it utterly hilarious! Hyacinth, the great British export! hmmm... hee hee
yesterday i had a few slices of what i believe is the worlds biggest pizza!! it was huge!!! like over 15" big!! humongous!!

so school is now offically out for the summer... wednesday we had a 'party' in whichh the fourth graders said goodbye to the fifth graders, then on thursday, we had the offical end of year ceremony which was quite sweet, and i gotquite emotional when me gels did a dance in front of everyone! i was so proud! it'll be weird not to have school for the next almost 2 months!! have to think of things to do with the kids, so that they aren't bored/ don't get up to mischief as thye're wont to do!!

oo time i running out, just to let you know, i'm off to BOlivia this week for 9 days, so there won't be an update i don't reckon for a little while! but don'y you worry i'll be back with a vengange to waffle away!
oodles of love xxx

Thursday, July 07, 2005


man, just have to write something!
so when the 3 english lads arrived at remar this morning, they told me, 'there's been bomb attacks in London' what?!! so off they nip to the internet to find out more... my immediate thought was of my brother, i had a peace in my heart that he was ok, but i still wanted to make sure so rung my mum... as i thought of the possibility of my brother dying, my eyes welled up and i was like i couldn't cope with him dying! but then i thought my God is my rock and with him i can cope with anything!! but praise God my brother is fine, though i have yet to hear from my other london friends...
just been reading all the news on the bbc web, man it's so rough! i can't imagine what it must be like for you guys over there, my heart and prayers are with you... i love you all LOTS!!!
i was touched by a comment that Blair said that the majority of muslims are as much in disagreement with what has happened as others... i feel that it is REALLY important that that is said, as i fear greatly that racism against middle eastern/asian people will greatly increase in the UK as a result of this, and that makes my heart 'bleed'...
may the Lord be with you all! xxx

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Paint splattered...

well, this week has well and truly been a week of painting!! everyday!!! though today was the most exciting!! some 'youth' from my church came to help me paint murals in the nursery, which was really good but we're only about half way through!!! we were late getting started coz of a few setbacks , so i reckon we actually did quite well! so far all that's finished is a winnie pooh, a roo, and started are clouds, eeyore, dora the explora (emmie!!), and a ABC mural designed by yours truly!! reckon we'll need to draw a few more things too! i'm well pleased with how its turning out, and everyone seems to like the colours i've chosen!!! ceci said it's Jo in Changing Rooms! now maybe there's a future career for me??!! hmmm....

schools out...
almost.... next thursday is the offical last day and we're having a special end of year ceremony, which means my english classes have been somewhat disrupted this week coz of rehearsals! which has been somewhat frustrating, but the most frustrating thing is that i'd planned my ''fun'' last classes for next week and there's no ounce of lesson time at all for any subject - grrr, and they were going to be good too! grr :) ... though i must say it'll be nice to have a break from teaching, it does grind one down at times when your students are so unenthusiastic!! that said, sweet moment, one afternoon, mayra 'cornered' me and got me to play english teachers (!!!) - she tested me and i her - and she's remembered an awful lot - but then she is in 5th grade! but that was encouraging!!

youth time...
it's been really cool to spend time with my ecua chums!!! feel very blessed to know them and to be accepted wholeheartedly by them!! last sunday we had a movie evening and watched 'Collatoral' - what a bizarre movie... and gee, a grey tom cruise!! he always did like to get himself a running scene in each movie he does! and i was well pleased my chums agreed to help me paint in remar, and they're up for finishing off next sat too! tomorrow we're off for a picnic which will be really lovely!

ooo yesterday we had some more tremors... nothing big, i don't think i would've realised what they were if someone hadn't said, it just doesn't seem to register in my brain!! and it felt rather how one's feels when one lives near a railway line, and a train goes past - weird!!!
oo some VERY english weather this week - freezing cold!! apparently got down to 1oC which is VERY unusual for here, and the snow on the volcanoes has sneaked further down their sides! this is the kind of weather i need in my last few weeks, so that the shock of abit of autumn then winter when i get back won't be so hard!!?

well we seem to be having a spate of escapings of the teenage girls which is rather upsetting. Mitizi ran off a few weeks back, but we've had contact from her which is encouraging, though we'd obviously prefer she'd come back - she's been in remar 3 years, so her escape is all the more keenly felt! also Olivia has done a runner - we think it's tied up with some young fella, it's such a shame coz she's obviously left school (in exam time!) and we don't know how/where she is... then Jessica also escaped back to the prison with her mum, so although we know where she is, if she's in prison, she can't continue with her schooling... argghhhh!!! this sort of thing is part and parcel of this kind of work, but each time it happens, it is shocking, disappointing, heart-breaking - but God is bigger!

so there's a wee quick blurb of my week! not got much time as i'm writing this online as the home compu is broken! hope you're all REALLY well, and enjoying good summer weather wherever you happen to be reading this! oodles of love xxxxxxxx
p.s. don't forget you can post comments/questions etc about what i've written by clicking on the comment thingy just below!