Friday, March 19

Friday March 19

Today was completely and one-hundred percent eye-opening. It's hard to put into words. We started off the day as our normal routine of eating breakfast and then it all changed. We went to the local county hospital first. Thishospital is nothing like you've ever seen in the Unites States. They haven't gotten any medicine supply in four months. The nurses are so limited that each has about 30 patients and the parents have to sleep on the floor under the beds to take care of the kids. If someone is lucky enough not to be turned away, there's no air conditioning in the rooms (it's 86 degrees and humid ) and there are flies everywhere, with eight patients per room, and without even curtains to separate them. Nothing is that I know of is perfectly sterile and the equipment is extremely outdated. According to the doctor who gave us the tour and is involved with Hands for Humanity, the hospital directors are actually placed only because of politics and are usually not fit to run the hospitals, not to mention that they manipulate facts to portray a better healthcare system, so the internet will say that they have much more than they do. That's really just the beginning. It was heart wrenching and extremely difficult to comprehend or understand and especially difficult to look at.

door to a lab
no elevators, they wheel the patients up this ramp
an emergency/trauma room

After we left the hospital, we felt like we had learned a lot, while at the same time felt as if a weight had been placed on our hearts. We went back to the hotel and discussed what we had grasped from this experience. After lunch, we headed out to the orphanage for the first time. We had met only a handful of the kids when they came to our hotel to dance for us, but every child was welcoming and immediately ran up to hug us. It is run by a group of amazing nuns and one of the sisters showed us around. There are 30-40 children there; the rooms are separated by gender and age. The children were excited to play with us and someone in the group brought hot wheels cars for the boys, headbands for the girls, and chalk. Some of the girls used the chalk to decorate the sidewalks and building walls, while others used it to play hopscotch. When some of the volunteers and I got out our cameras, the kids were very excited to snatch them from us playfully and take many pictures, as well as look at the photos that we had taken. Throughout our visit some of the leaders of our group assessed what projects would be the best for us to undertake in the next few days. It was an amazing experience, and it was hard to leave.
the young girls
thumbs up!
checking out the cameras
playing some hopscotch

We then went back to the hotel and recouped. Some went to their rooms, we went with a small group to a candy shop which was a few blocks away and had many different treats that we hadn’t ever seen or tasted before. Then it was almost dinner time, and we had decided to go to Montecristi, a neighboring town, to an authentic Italian restaurant. The food was thoroughly enjoyed by all and the setting was beautiful as it overlooked the city of Manta which we could see in the distance. It was a great bonding opportunity for the group as well as our first time fully together, considering there were some previous flight complications for our team members, Dewey and Kate. After dinner the medical and orphanage groups split to determine plans for tomorrow. Now it’s time for bed because some of us will be working early. Buenas noches!

Thursday, March 18

Thursday March 18

Yesterday we went to the Vivarium which was filled with all different kinds of snakes, turtles, frogs, and lizards. They were almost all native to Ecuador so it was crazy to see what the local reptiles are like. Unfortunately, my camera was not working (I think we got sand in it at the beach) so I didn't take any pictures when we were there. After that we had lunch at "Este Cafe" which was our favorite meal in Quito. It wasn't authentic Ecuadorian food, but it was damn tasty. We had ceasar sandwiches and a chicken quesadilla with peppers and a really good sauce (we have no idea what the sauce had in it).

Later on, we took a cab to Cumbaya to grab the rest of our luggage that we left at Robbie's house. We got to sit and chat with Juan who is Johana's brother and also lives there, and Claire who is a friend of theirs that was visiting. Claire is volunteering at the hospital here in Portoviejo that Juan and Johana's parents founded for seven months, so we'll be seeing her around down here.

After getting our things, we went back to Quito to the hotel to hang out until some of the people from our group got in. The girls that flew in were: Kari, Beth, Chelsie, and Stacey. We all get along great; everyone is unique and very interesting! Chelsie, Kevin, and I went out for a drink to celebrate St. Patrick's day at Plaza Foch.

This morning we woke up at 7AM and had breakfast at the hotel before Sandra came to pick us up and show us a little bit of Quito. We drove around, getting a tour, and went to a lookout point to see views of the city which was amazing, and I got pictures!

After our mini-trip around Quito, we went back to the hotel to get our things so that we could get to the airport and catch our flight to Manta which is about 40 minutes from our final destination of Portoviejo. The plane trip was only about a half an hour long so it went very quickly, and the views from the plane were gorgeous.
We took a van to the hotel, met up with a bunch of other people from our group and had lunch, I didn't have my camera but some of the girls took pictures so I can get some from them. We had ceviche which is a type of cold soup with lime and chicken or shrimp, along with rice and plantain. Then we got to go check out the hospital where there was a waiting room packed full of people waiting to be evaluated to see if their children will be treated or turned away. It was heartbreaking to see so many people in need of medical care and not knowing if they'd be able to receive it or not.
After seeing the hospital we had time to hang out at the hotel for a little while before eating dinner. Before dinner there was a "surprise" for us which turned out to be the best part of the trip so far. Some of the kids from the orphanage came to our hotel and did a dance for us. They walked into the hotel and immediately started hugging and kissing us, welcoming us, and thanking us for coming. I posted the video of their dance on my facebook page so you should definitely check it out there. After their dance they all got ice cream, and the girls played  a patty-cake type game with one of the doctor's daughters. I'm finding it really hard to describe the feeling I had when they came to meet us tonight, but it was touching and it was a moment that made this trip worth every bone in my body. For dinner there were many options and most enjoyed the dish they ordered (I had a glass of wine and steak with a black pepper sauce, yum!) and the dessert was a delicious scoop of fried coconut ice cream. We have a wake up call tomorrow at 7:30AM to get breakfast with the group, so it's bedtime!


Monday, March 15

Monday March 15

When we woke up yesterday we were a bit lazy and watched a movie. Once we got up and about we went for a walk and ended up doing a little shopping (Kevin still wants a hat, we were still unsuccessful) and walking through the park. It was a beautiful day and the park was huge and very lively with people walking, biking, dogs running around, playing soccer, and we even saw one guy juggling. It was a little strange though because, when we were walking through, it was as if everyone stopped what they were doing to stare at us. That's an over-exaggeration of course, but that's what it felt like because so many eyes were on us. This is how it's been for a lot of the trip, people staring at us because we're Caucasian (and probably also because Kevin is six and a half feet tall). It is such an odd feeling to be the minority everywhere you go. There were parts of LA that were Spanish-speaking and I felt like somewhat of a minority, but it wasn't so dramatic, and people didn't stare at me.

It has really gotten me thinking about how I actually really enjoy how the United States has people of all races. It's not an oddity for you or me to walk down the street and see all different skin colors. I love it. And not only that, but I'm so grateful for the abundance of culture that the US has to offer from so many different places. The US has tradition, music, fashion, art, and let's not forget the amazing food, that has all come from all around the world. It is so interesting for me to see how other cultures thrive, and being in Ecuador has been and will continue to be such an amazing learning experience for me.

Moving on, yesterday after our walk, we went down to Gringo Land again for a few drinks. We grabbed a table outside at Coffee Tree, which is supposed to be really great, but it was pretty busy so the service was a bit slow (I think our waitress may have forgotten about us at one point) so we walked over to Azuca, across the street with a colorful little bar. While there, we met a small group of students from Auburn in Alabama that are here for school. We all became friends very quickly, comparing stories from our trips. We talked about meeting up with them again before we go to Portoviejo, so that's a possibility.

Tomorrow we're going to Robbie & Johana's place in Cumbaya (which is really close to Quito) to get some of the luggage we left there and hang out with them and have dinner together. Then on Wednesday evening some of the other Hands for Humanity volunteers are flying into Quito, so we'll be meeting up with them, then all flying to the coast on Thursday.

Sunday, March 14

Saturday March 13

Our bus ride back to Quito on Friday seemed like it took FOREVER. When we left the bus station around 1:30, they were playing "The Final Destination" dubbed over in Spanish and one of the screens was directly above our seats so it was super loud, even when I had headphones in. But, I read The Giver which was nice because I've started that book so many times and never finished it, so it was nice to finally read it cover to cover. When the movie was finished I enjoyed the ride much more thoroughly. When we took the bus to Atacames the first time it was dark out, but now it was daytime, and the landscape here really takes your breath away. I've never been in the middle of mountains so high and valleys so low, and the mountains I've seen have been either desert or snow-covered. These mountains were so lush they seemed to draw me in, it's indescribable, I stared out the window for hours. When it finally got dark and I lost the comfort of my scenery, I started getting a little anxious and just wanting to be in Quito, so I listened to the album that never gets old and never fails to make me calm, Give Up by The Postal Service. Finally, we got to Quito around 8 and were dropped at this huge bus terminal where we found a much-needed ATM. I called my mom to say hi, we grabbed a Coca-Cola, and found a taxi to take us to our hotel, Hostal la Carolina. We checked in, got online, Skyped Seth with a terrible internet connection at the time, and passed out.

Today, we got up in hopes of finding breakfast. When we went downstairs, we were told that it was included with the room, so we sat down in the small restaurant at the hotel and immediately were served eggs, bread with a jam-like condiment, coffee (they pour hot milk into your cup, then you add the grounds like they're instant), and a drink I believe is popular here but I can't remember the name of which is sort of like a limeade.

We then walked down to the mall which was about 4 blocks. Kevin wanted a hat and we were unsuccessful in finding one he liked, but he did get a Whopper from Burger King, which was the only thing we got at the mall (he said it cured his homesickness). But, on the way home, we stopped to look at a movie store (they were obviously pirated) and we bought 6 movies for $10, then watched Ninja Assassin which was intense and we loved it. We might be going back there, so if you're reading this and you want us to get you a movie, let us know which one!

After being a little lazy and watching the movie, we went to Plaza Fosh which has been dubbed "Gringolandia" because it's apparently a popular spot for local white people and tourists. We forgot the camera, but are planning on going again before we leave Quito, so I'll get photos then. There was a small market with handmade items in the middle of many bars, restaurants, lounges, etc. so we sat down at one called "Dragonfly" and had some nachos and Pilsner. We looked around the market a little bit after that, then sat down at a bar called "Chelsea's" watched a little soccer and had some good conversation with my apple mojito and Kevin's long island. After a two-dollar, seven (or so) minute cab ride, we were back at the hotel and ordered a pepperoni pizza (they don't really use tomato sauce here) and watched Crazy Heart, starring Jeff Bridges, and it was absolutely an amazing movie. Goodnight!

Saturday, March 13

Thursday March 11

Last night we ordered some food from the restaurant at the resort called Mogli’s (like from the Jungle Book), again without having a clue what we were ordering. It was called Mixto and it ended up being a sort of chicken fried rice with different seasonings on it and plantain (if you haven’t had plantain before, is basically like a cooked banana, but it tastes better than it sounds, or looks).

Today was our last day at Green 9 Resort so we’re leaving Same tomorrow morning to take a bus back to Quito. We slept in and packed all of our stuff today so we won’t have to do it in the morning. We’re both pretty tired and not really looking forward to traveling tomorrow because we don’t know where we’re staying yet and it is a little exhausting to be on a bus that long. We also have been daydreaming about the food we miss from back home; things like homemade salsa and buffalo wings (or anything really spicy, haven’t had that here). Kevin said he misses his guitars a lot, but he mostly misses Seth. But even though we miss our family, friends, and conveniences of home, we are both looking forward to getting back to Quito for a few days and even more excited to meet up with the Hands for Humanity group and get to Portoviejo to start working with the kids! Alright, time for bed

Friday, March 12

Wednesday March 10

El cielo es azul! When I woke up today it was about 9am and the sun was shining brighter than it has since I’ve been here. Kevin was still sleeping so I went and used the internet for a little while, had to send a few quick emails and got to Facebook chat with Jeanine (Kevin’s mom) which was nice! Then I went back to the condo, Kevin woke up, I threw on my bathing suit and grabbed the sunblock because I didn’t want to miss the rays. We went to the beach for a few hours and it was nice and hot, the water is warm here too. A few guys were trying to surf but the waves aren’t very big so their attempt didn’t last very long. There are butterflies everywhere here and on the beach there are little crabs that scuttle around and poke in and out of holes in the sand. It’s about one o’clock now and we’re going to grab some lunch, I’ll let you know how it goes!
So we went to get lunch and ordered something to share, Arroz de Cameron, and we had no idea what it was when we ordered it. It ended up being rice with shrimp and seasoned with a few peppers, with some plantain on top. It was pretty good, cost about $8 and was more than both of us could finish. We hung out with our amigos at the bar on the beach and watched Jet Li’s “Fearless” voiced over in English, but subtitled in Spanish so all of us could understand it.
There is some sort of light coral colored lizard that keeps poking out from behind a frame in the living room of our place.

Tuesday March 9

Last night we hung out with some of the locals that work at the resort, there are 4 guys that work at the bar/restaurant on the beach: Daniels (22), Roosevelt (37), Jose (28), and Bimba (16). Bimba is his nick name, it means “lips” in Spanish. Roosevelt speaks English pretty well and his girlfriend Tina was here too; she’s from Slovenia and also speaks English pretty well. We were the only people in the place, and had a blast talking to them and despite the language barrier we had amazing conversations about life, love, and happiness.
 Jose, me, Roosevelt
Bimba, Daniels, Roosevelt, Jose, Tina (and Kev of course)
Jose makes the most beautiful drinks, with the most fresh pineapple, coconut, strawberries, oranges, etc. and he also really loves “bailar” so we salsa danced to their favorite music. We brought the guitar down to the beach so Kevin played some music for them, and I burned them a couple CDs of music that we like. We all agreed on loving Bob Marley and we watched a tribute DVD on the TV they have in the bar. For snacks we ate “salchipapas” which is basically deep fried sausage and potatoes (french fries, I guess) and it was delicious.

When we woke up this morning it was overcast and had poured all night long so some water leaked into our living room and the entire pool had been overflowed. Throughout the entire day they’ve been pumping all of the water out of the pool because it got so dirty, and the pump they’re using is insanely loud. Our condo is right next to the pool so it was a little bothersome, but it’s 9pm now and they finally shut it off. We wanted to watch movies again today but something must have been damaged with either the rain or the amount of electricity the pump requires because all of the TVs in the resort went out. So today we took a nice long walk on the beach, said hi to our friends, listened to music, and bought a pack of playing cards to play the one and only card game we can remember the rules to.
Kevin thinks I use way too much bug spray, but he just complained about mosquitoes flying around him.

Monday March 8

I finally used the internet for the first time today. They don’t have wireless anywhere around our resort that I’m aware of, but they let me use the (only) computer at their check in desk at the resort. I was only online for about 10 minutes, but good thing, because my mom was starting to freak (rightfully so) since we hadn’t had contact in about 4 days, since we left the comfort of Robbie and Joanna’s house to attempt to make it to our resort without complications, and I thought I’d have the internet every day here. But it was nice to be able to respond to my mom’s emails, and then to be on Facebook for a minute. My sister Ellen was online so I got to share a little bit with her and got an update from little Ben (he wanted to tell me that he was eating a cookie).
Anyways, yesterday we basically just slept in, went to the beach, had an amazing esalada de fruita con helado (a huge fruit salad with ice cream for $3) from the bar on the beach, along with a couple of the local beers, Club and Pilsner.
Basically, the rest of the day consisted of relaxation. I made some pasta for dinner, the only pasta sauce that Kevin could find at the tiny market was basically Ketchup, and we’ve deducted that they don’t do a lot with tomato products here, but Kevin liked it. We found a TV station that was playing movies in English that were just subtitled in Spanish (everything else was voiced-over). So, we watched the movie Bad Boys and made popcorn.
 ketchup crap.
Not planning on doing a whole lot today, just got some cereal and milk from the store, I don’t find it super delicious, but better than nothing and Kev likes it. Oh yeah, and yesterday someone gave us a fake five dollar bill with our change, and we didn’t notice until we tried to buy something and the girl at check out told us it was “falso”. Really, who makes fake fives?

Saturday March 6

We don’t have any internet connection right now, so I’m writing this hoping that I can post it soon. On Friday we took Robbie, Joanna, Wilson, and Johana’s friend out for lunch (they eat lunch late here, it was about 3:30 I think). The meal consisted of fritada (platter of potatoes, plantain, avocado, pork, corn), morocho, quimolitos, cerveza, and manzana.

Then they went to Alice and Wonderland at a movie theatre that was inside a mall, so Kev and I walked around the mall for a little while. We laughed about Sunglass Hut being called "Sunglass Hot" here, then we decided to grab a beer and strangely enough ended up at TGI Friday’s. Over a glass of the Ecuadorian beer, Pilsner, we listened to some live music, a girl singing and a gentleman playing jazz guitar, they were truly amazing musicians. After that we met back up with Robbie, Johana, and three of her friends that had met her at the movie. They got some ice cream before we said goodbye to her friends and went back to their house to pack. Robbie and Johana (and their awesome dog, Aragorn) helped us get our tickets ($8 for a 6 hour bus ride) and we made it to our resort, Green 9, in Same after a just a little bit of bus confusion that was a little scary...

We got on the bus in Quito at 11:45, falling asleep shortly after that, and waking up again not having a clue what time it was. We were stopping at a transit station and there were busses all around us. We were getting our belongings together to get off because we assumed this was Esmeraldas, our destination, when we noticed that only half of the people on the bus were getting off. Then we thought maybe this was a rest stop along the way, but when those people never got back on the bus and we were driving again, we freaked out a little bit because we were pretty sure that we were supposed to get off at that stop. (The bus driver never announced anything, and we had assumed that there would only be one stop, Esmeraldas.) So we were back on the road, arguing about whether that was our stop or not, and finally went up to try and ask the driver. A man sitting in the front attempted to help tell us that we in fact did miss our stop, and told me that it was about 20 minutes to the next stop. We got off at the next one with no clue where we were, thinking that maybe we could find a cab to take us to Same. There was a very nice woman that spoke English and saw that we were confused, so she helped us walk down about a block to get on a bus back to Esmeraldas ($0.80 per person). While on that bus a man got on with a live (more like half-dead) chicken and was holding it by the feet. We laughed about how we’d never, ever, see that on a bus in the US. Finally, we were back to the transit station that we were intended to be at in the first place. We told the driver that we wanted to go to Same, and he put us on another bus. This is when we realized that we were headed in the same direction as before, when we missed our stop, but it was in fact the correct way to be going. So we told the driver “Casablancas” which is the area our resort is in. We were dropped off in front of a road with some security gates, they let us through, and we walked a little bit to finally see “Green 9” and get to our destination around 9:30am.

Basically we walked around, slept, bought a bunch of water just to realize that it was carbonated (oops), ate some food (Ecuadorian version of burger and fries) at a little bar on the beach, realized how terrible that room-temperature pina coladas are (we can’t drink anything with ice in it), slept more, went to the resort restaurant and had some delicious pizza (the pepperoni is basically just sliced ham) and went to sleep.

Friday, March 5

Yo no habla Espanol muy bien...

We made it!
I slept on the plane from Minneapolis to Atlanta, and on the flight from Atlanta to Ecuador watched two movies (Distract 9 and Whip It, both good). So the traveling went pretty quickly. We arrived in Quito at 11pm and after getting really strange looks and questioning from customs (because of having a huge duffel bag full of teddy bears, which were for the orphanage, but they obviously didn't know that) Robbie picked us up from the airport and brought us to his house in Cumbaya. He lives here with his fiance, Johana, her brother who is currently in Germany so we won't get to meet him, and another room mate, Wilson.

the walk back to Robbie's

It's been about 80-85 degrees today. Kevin and I walked to a little bakery/convenience store this morning for breakfast (the pastries were 10 cents each) then came back and watched a little Family Guy with Robbie and Wilson before they went to play basketball, and we just walked around and explored a bit. There's a park not far from Robbie's and there is a school nearby; the people here, mostly the children, couldn't seem to pry their eyes off of the "gringos" (white people) which we heard them saying to each other on every block. I'm just trying to soak up the culture here because it's such an extreme difference from Minnesota. The only thing that makes me a little nervous is the language barrier (even in Spanish speaking areas of LA I still always knew that I could find someone who I'd be able to communicate with). I wish I could say I remembered more from high school Spanish class, but I've got the utmost basics, and a phrase book that will come out when needed. I've realized that since I learned French more recently than Spanish, I tend to make my Spanish words sound French which is even more confusing, but also slightly entertaining.

the park

Johana had a big exam today, she's in med school, but when she gets home we're taking everyone out for a late lunch. After that, we'll be getting on a night bus to Esmeraldas which will probably take 6 hours or so, and then a short ride to Same, the beach we're staying on. We'll check in at Green 9 tomorrow morning and I just want to lay on the beach for a few days!

Adios amigos.