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.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The sands of time

Winding down
I’m actually now in my last week, which is just crazy, I can’t believe it, and I don’t necessarily mean that in a really excited kind of way, but more in a half shell-shocked kind of way. But this week I’ve definitely been through all the emotions, felt really nervous, felt really excited, felt sad… it’s going to be hard to leave but I know I can’t stay, and that it’s not right to stay… but everyone, after saying ‘no te vayas’ (don’t go), they ask ¿y cuando regresas? (when do you come back?)

Maria llena eres de gracias
Maria, full of grace --- it’s a Colombian film that I’ve just been to see this week, don’t know if you’ve heard of it where you are? Basically it’s about a young Colombian lass who works in a flower factory but gets fed up with it and ends up getting into in being a drugs mule… it’s a very interesting movie, not gross, not violent but thought provoking. A few days later Tati happened to ask if I’d seen it, and it turns out that actually an awful lot of people in Colombia get involved in trafficking this way… she also said they’re always coming up with new and ingenious ways of trafficking, for example, they’ve made ceramics using cocaine, and they also somehow put it into paintings!!! And just to keep it real, this week in the Metro newspaper there was an article saying that Ecuador is the drugs ‘cabinet’ of the region… to give you an idea, between June and Sept this year, 14 tones of drugs have been ‘recovered’ in the country!!! Ooo

This week, I’ve been a bit trigger happy, clicking and clicking and clicking!! Why you might ask? as part of my ‘despedida’ (goodbye), I decided I’d give a foto to ‘each’ person in Remar, so I’ve been going round asking who they want their photo taken with… I finally ‘finished’ today and so am on the internet whilst they print them all out for me like 140!!!! I decided this was probably the best present to leave, as I can do it for everyone, they get to choose, having the memory that they want, and also they don’t have much chance to have their own photos, something we generally take for granted!!!

Not again…
Went on the great shoe hunt on thursday with Lili (responable de Mitad el Mundo a.k.a. Boys house), I was going to use the money left over from the swings in the girls home to start a renovation of the playground in the boys home, but I was so slow in organizing it that a new need came up, far more urgent – the boys don’t have school shoes… so we went hunting for the best prices to fit the money we had, though unfortunately we didn’t manage it.. though Lili and Ivan (her husband) went to Ambato on sat to a Señor who has given a good discount before, and I hope they got the 20 pairs of shoes successfully! (I’ve yet to see them)
So, the reference to ‘not again’, as we were traveling back to Remar, our bus had to take a different route coz those pesky students are out protesting again!! I’m not entirely sure what the problem is, but the people very quickly get tired of the governments, too quickly! But what got me, is that it isn’t just uni students, but school students! It makes me sad coz I see the hordes of them and just feel like they’re a load of lost sheep, getting carried along, not understanding the issues… hmm…

New striders
Sooooo, 3 new striders arrived on tuesday at midnight, and I got to meet them properly on friday – Janeth and Stuart invited us all over for dinner – Beccy and Debs are going to be in Remar till march and june respectively, and Ali will be in Quito a month before heading down to Santo… they’re really lovely girls, I find it really exciting that they’re just starting out and have so much to experience and learn. And they’ve been ‘hand-picked’, one is really up for getting involved in the English classes, and the other like arts n’ crafts so looks like she’ll be fab for the cards!!! Wow, God’s sorted that one out lovely!

On saturday I went up the Teleferiqo, Quito’s newest tourist attraction, a cable car that goes up to 4050 m … did feel slightly nervous during the 8min ride but what an awesome view, and it was great to go with my friends as they are always cracking jokes--- we came down about 3, ate a very late lunch whilst the queue got ridiculously long, I was so glad we went when we did and even more so because we got to the bottom of the park just as the heavens opened, there was thunder and lightning and everything, and just would not have wanted to be in a cable car in that storm, or on the top of the mountain for that matter!!

Well that’s it… and I guess there will only be one more blog update from these shores!! Though I will update me blog from time to time I reckon in England… oo interesting fact of the week, a men’s haircut I saw advertised as 70cents, about 40p!!! can you believe it? I’m gonna try and get a haircut organized here as it’s less than a fourth of the price and there’s no way I can bring myself to get a haircut in the UK when I get back!! Chao xxx

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The seasoned traveller!

So, over the last 2 weeks I’ve managed to fit in quite a bit of last-minute traveling,get ready for some waffling...


Last weekend I popped down to Cuenca with the primary purpose of saying goodbye to a 3 sisters who had been in the girls house here in quito but have moved down to the house in Cuenca. Tati was supposed to have rung them to warn the ‘responable’ at least that I was coming, only she didn’t, so although I was extremely enthusiastically greeted by a surprised Mayra, and the other 2 sisters, the woman in charge regarded me with extreme caution and almost coldness it felt… and when the pastor arrived I felt almost like I was being interrogated! Horrible! But anyway, Mayra (12) very proudly gave me a tour of the house, introducing me to everyone, then her and her sisters (Diana,14 and Maria Jose,18) excitedly asked me questions about all the girls in ‘La Embajada’ (the house where I work). So I spent the day in the children’s home there, playing with the kids, helping with lunch, taking them to the park…and then just before I left I got the gels to write a letter to the girls in quito which they really appreciated doing. They seem quite content in Cuenca but they do really miss Quito!

On the saturday I took a trip to Ingapirca, 2 and abit hours northwest of Cuenca, it’s the Ecuadorian rather measly equivalent of Macchu Pichu though worth the visit! I went with Ulf, who I met in Remar on friday, he’s a compatriot of Pascal, from the same organization but working in Remar Cuenca…so it was cool to have some company and not be a loner!!!
I came back to Quito on sunday afternoon, cheating by flying (it’s a grueling 10hrs in bus!!!) having spent the morning wandering the streets of Cuenca… it’s a beautiful colonial city, pretty laid back and they have a REALLY different accent down there, almost like they are singing when they speak and the Quiteños can’t stand it!! All in all though I liked Cuenca, and would heartily recommend my hostal ‘Milan’, the only thing was just as I was thinking how lovely it was to sit by the river in the sun and how it would make a great picnic spot, I saw a rat pass by!!! Urghhh!!!

So near yet so far, dreams thwarted by the weather...
Monday morning I popped into Remar for 1½hrs before catching a bus down to Ambato to meet David (other strider) and his visiting friend, Will. We were going to Shell (a wee village named after the company! Hmm) to have an encounter with the Huaroni, aka the Aucas (‘Savages’ in Quechua), the Indian peoples who became widely known in the 50s after they murdered 5 american missionaries. Our contact was through some American missionary friends of David’s who are working in the HCJB hospital in Shell.

We arrived about 6pm in Shell to be greeted by the hot stickyness of the jungle region and an interesting medley of creature sounds, there are some bugs who just sound like a load of sirens going off all the time, VERY bizarre!! Frances informed us that she'd got us a MAF flight booked for 2pm the next afternoon for a wee visit to an Auca community, and also to fly out over Palm Beach, where the murders took place (kind of morbid I guess but I have a great interest in this whole story as I wrote an essay on one of the missionaries during my time in Redcliffe).

Tuesday morning we took a wee trip into Puyo, the last stop before the jungle, for a wander and got back to Arthur and Frances’ in time for lunch… we rung just to check about our flight and were sadly informed that they couldn’t fit us in coz of some emergency to which they had to attend, but they said we could go the following morning at 7am… so, a little disappointed we found something else to do for the afternoon – first of all Frances gave us a tour of the hospital, then we wandered around Shell (there’s not really anything to see) until we came to the river… so we were sat there watching the kids play in the water when a whole load of new army recruits came marching by and proceeded to do some kind of extremely bizarre exercise in the water, boots and all! Hardwork! I remember once trying to swim in my pajamas in a swimming class and that was hard enough, let alone in an army uniform!!!

The following morning, we woke up to rain! it didn’t look promising but after breakfast we wandered over to the MAF hanger to await the rain stoppage and our flight out into the jungle… sometimes it rains then clears up quick, though after 4 hrs waiting, it became clear that the rain had settled in for the day, and, as we had to get back to Ambato/Quito, we rather disappointedly admitted defeat, that our flight was a ‘no-go’ and say our goodbyes. Though it wasn’t all bad as during our wait an Ecuadorian guy came over to chat to us, and it turned out he was a ‘teacher’ at the wee bible college they’ve opened in the community we were going see, so it was really cool and encouraging to hear abit more about it even if we didn’t get to see it! So, I’ll just have to come back to Ecuador one day to complete that wee dream, another excuse for a return visit!

School starts
The Remar school has now been going for 2 weeks, slighty ropey start but things are back in the swing now… English classes have started again but the responsilbilty has been handed over, Pascal is now in charge …although part of me would have liked to have been involved, even for just a little bit, it’s better this way, and I spent a good morning explaining to Pascal what Anne and I did last year, giving a few tips and ideas which hopefully will have set him in goodstead for the challenges and joys of teaching to come!!! It’s been good to see all the kids back in the house again, though I’m not getting much time to spend with them!


Yesterday it was Tatiana’s birthday and poor thing she ended up a complete mess!!! The celebrations didn’t start until the afternoon…first the girls decorated the dining room with ballons and streamers and things, and then finally the birthday lunch was ready ---which the mother-in-law had been preparing for 2 days previously (a special ‘tamal’, a maize meat veg thingy wrapped in plaintain leaf)… the lunch was eaten, then it was time for the cake… Everyone gathered round and of course there came cries of ‘Que muerde el pastel’ (that she bites the cake), Tati lifted the cake to her face saying nobody push me, but of course Ivan (the husband of the responable of the boys home, a real joker!) pushed her head right in, and as that happened, a load of the kids got her with eggs –more than 10 I reckon… and then began the ‘battle’… tati covered in egg yolk and shells ran outside to try and catch the culprits, only as she tried to catch them they threw more eggs and flour as well… this went on for ages, then Ivan came out with a bucket of water and soaked tati with that, more eggs, more flour and Claudia, the wife of Tati’s nephew, even managed to crack an egg in tati’s trousers! Poor thing she was well and truly got! And what was really funny (in a kind of cruel way?) was how upset Valentina got (her 4yr old daughter) at her mother’s plight, she was crying, and shouting at people and pushing/punching them to get them to stop! Finally it came to an end but not before they threw another bucket of water and a bucket of some kind of goo over her and of course more eggs and flour! She had it bad but it was very amusing and she was still smiling. Though I didn’t get to see her after she came out of the shower to find out if she did enjoy it as I had to leave!!

So that has been my past 2 weeks, JUST 2 more to go!! I know I have to leave, but part of me doesn’t want to go, although obviously part of me does! But I am looking forward to seeing yous…but its hard to leave and really doesn't seem real!
God bless
me xx

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


So, Remar, pretty chilled, we were pretty low key on the card making front, though that is where i spent my week… annoying thing is how the kids, particularly the teenage boys, insist on trying to matchmake Pascal and I! Grrr!!! It’s very hard to know how to deal with it! I guess that in a round about way it’s sweet, it could be a sign of affection that they insist on setting me up or it could just be ‘that’ stage!

Nice of them to let me know…
This week I found out through the monthly Latin Link prayerfile that 2 new striders are coming to Ecuador, to Quito, and to Remar! You’d think they’d let me know seeming as we’re here at the same time, there’s actually only an overlap of 2 weeks, but still!! But anyway that’s really quite exciting, and Tati is thrilled!

Can’t keep up…
More new volunteers this week, 5 american lasses, who will come just one day a week for the next few months whilst they’re here studying…

Over the border…
At the weekend, Paquita, Armando and I took a trip uup northh, to Tulcan basically in order that we could pop over the border for a shopping spree in Ipiales! At the border I tried to get a stamp in my passport, but before I could get the Colombian one, I had to get an exit stamp from the Ecuadorian side but the man wasn’t there to buy the form!!! The crazy thing was there was a Colombian lass who needed to get all the paperwork to get back into her own country!!! So, Ipiales, is the nearest Colombian city to the Frontera, and is very popular for Ecuadorians to nip over and do abit of shopping! The funny thing is, it literally has all 4 seasons in an hour… 15 mins hot, 15 mins windy, 15 mins raining, 15 mins sunny … no joke, it actually happens like that!! We set off at 6am (!!!), and made the journey in 3 hrs!!! (4hrs in bus, but then when buses leave, there is lots of traffic!) It was lovely to journey at that time of the day, watching the night-time clouds roll back from the mountains!! We shopped hard for a couple of hours, then went for lunch, and I ate my first Cuy!!! Which is in fact guinea-pig! I didn’t like it that much, the skin was rather like pork cracking (tasty) but the meat chewy and tastes abit like the brown meat of a chicken (which I don’t like very much)… reckon my bro will be upset to read that I’ve finally got round to eating a relative of his much loved child-hood pets!!! Then we went back to shopping before heading back to Tulcan where it was almost freezing! Ok, so it wasn’t freezing, but it was pretty cold!!!
a 'cuy'
Over the paramo…
Sunday morning we took a back path from Tulcan to the village of Angel, over the paramo, the highlands, which was actually a path the guerillas (FARC) have used in the past (!!!!) – it took us 2½ hrs to go 43km on a very bumpy road, but it was worth it! Armando called it virgin land, untouched --- it’s very different to anything else one would see, it’s covered in plants called (in Spanish) frailejones, the mountain sides are littered, freckled in them… and Armando says that in the twilight they almost look like loads of little men with helmets!

Frailejones in the paramo

Then we went on to San Antonio de Ibarra which is famous for it’s wood pieces and I bought Tati’s birthday present… I was wondering what on earth to get her, and I found a beautiful wooden frame and I’m going to put in a picture of her two daughters! Yeay! Sorted!
So yep, that’s about it for this week…
Keep well! Me xx