Sunday, April 20, 2014

jungle trek (or- i left my heart in tumpaim)

two weeks ago, i had the experience that i've been long-awaiting. a three day trek to the jungle to preach in shuar communities. i'd been told emphatically of all the things i would need - 'boots! you can't go in anything less than tall rainboots!' water purifier, food, mosquito net, change of clothes, bug repellant, sleeping bag, flashlight.

'simple enough' i thought, as i packed up my big backpack 'just like camping'. one improvement... hammock :)

so the morning arrived, and our groups met and piled into the back of a brothers transport van. we bumped down the road to makuma. some of us caught up on sleep, the rest of us watched the view unfolding in the dust behind the truck. hills, thickening trees, mist floating above. a waterfall tucked into the rocks.

we stopped at a town before makuma to fuel up with a big breakfast, and talk plans, invite the woman who ran the restaurant to the memorial. then we were off again.
when you get to makuma (almost 1 1/2 hours from macas by car) you have hit the end of the track. no more driving, it's all walking from here.  
in town i went with a brother to find some last minute internet and we approached a porchful of men. (a little intimidating, no?) they were all relaxed and friendly, took a few tracts and invitation in shuar, and listened to the scripture about the memorial. arrangements had been made to hold one in shuar in the town next to makuma, for the convenience of the people living in the surrounding villages. Jehovah looks after everyone!

after that we pulled on our backpacks and started our journey, sun beating down, already feeling the weight. at this point i was still optimistic about what i had decided to bring, but half an hour later i was cursing every single item as i struggled up a steep hill full of mud. eventually i had to stop because of a splitting headache and a sort of fuzzy/weak feeling. another brother kindly helped me with my load for a while and we made it to the first town, about an hour later, where we all sat on the front porch of a lovely shuar family to eat lunch. they gave us chicha, and thankfully i was too thirsty to realize what it was right away, basically chicha is fermented spit, with a few other things. yummy! but it was actually super refreshing. this was my first glimpse of the the beautiful welcoming spirit of the shuar, their quiet hospitality. 
and i'm sure they were thrilled to have people from all parts of ecuador sitting on their porch trying to speak their language. they all had big smiles on their faces, and freely let us fill up our bottles with water.

at this point our group divided and set off for different towns. ours was a few hours of walking away. we 'hired' a little shuar boy to guide us on the road. 

i need to take a moment to describe these trails. i've hiked a lot of places, and never seen anything like this. every square inch is full of deep mud, usually felled trees or branches placed in the middle to keep you from sinking. even on the hills, the mud can be over a foot deep. we had to stop and rescue one of the sisters boots at some point. i was understanding the necessity of rainboots.... you couldn't function with anything less. a good walking stick to keep you from toppling off the logs into the mud is also quite useful.

but the value of our efforts quickly became apparent as we met with shuar jogging (literally, i don't know how they do it) down the trail in the opposite direction. we took advantage to converse with each one and leave them an invitation. all conversations basically took this form, you greet each other 'penkerak pujam' (equivelent to how are you) and they ask where you've been, what you were doing, where you are headed. then you part with warm smiles and handshakes. (shiir weeta - have a beautiful journey.)
thanks to the groundwork laid by the previous witnessing treks here, a lot of people know who we are, and are thrilled that we have returned. 

a few hours down the trail we met with a shuar couple who lived in the village we were going to, and who had travelled all the way to macas for a special assembly day a few months ago!!! they helped us with our loads, and took off ahead of us. when we met up for break, we shared our snacks with them. we talked about the trail, trying to find out how much more we could expect to walk. we learned the hard way that shuar evaluation of travel time is about triple what we could expect for our jungle-newby legs ;)

eventually we arrived at our town, a small plateau above the trees. i collapsed on the porch of the school we would be sleeping in (a one-room wooden building with corrugated iron roof) and thanked Jehovah for getting us there in one piece.

and then the beauty started to sink in. as we sat there waiting for the sisters (who still miraculously had energy to finish leaving invitations at a few of the homes.) we sang a couple kingdom songs, watching the sun set over the forest we'd just emerged from. 

the next day we woke with the sun, and quickly washed in the river below the village. it was just cool and fast enough to revive us for the day. winding, green, overhung with trees and huge ferns, orchids peeking through the foliage. perfection.

we spent some time in the kitchen (see picture) making breakfast, and decided that since we were all tired, we would preach in the next village, 40 minutes walking distance, and return here for the night. at that moment we had to rush back to the schoolhouse, because we'd forgotten that there were classes that morning. we met a group of wide-eyed uniformed children standing in front of the door, staring at us as we ran around in a slight panic, putting the classroom back together.
then we were ready.
it was raining buckets, so we made our next little shuar guide get his rainboots, and wrapped him up in a rain-poncho. 

this time the going was much easier. we'd grown accustomed to navigating the mud and logs, and even managed to not be too far behind our guide! the path finally opened onto a large dirt air-strip, that the village is built around. we started preaching right away, and left the brother to conduct a study with a boy who had met us before. 
when you approach a shuar house you yell out well before 'winiajai! (i'm here) and 'pujamek!' (are you there?) and then wait for someone to come out. i was taught to say 'ipiajme' which is 'i invite you' or 'ipiajrume' (if there's more than one person) and then sort of read a bit out of the invitation... of course a lot of shuar speak spanish as well, so there's something to fall back on.

while i was sitting on a bank waiting for the sisters to finish a call, i found myself surrounded by a group of shy little girls. we had a fun chat, they taught me some shuar words, and i got to show them pictures of paradise and teach them Jehovah's name. in the meantime lots of people from the village passed by on their way home, and came to say hi. everyone was so welcoming and happy to see us.

at lunchtime we went back to a kitchen with an even larger group of kids and one of the men, pablo, and before eating gave him a really good witness, and showed everyone one of the video's from the website. we shared our instant soups and tuna, and ate out of huge leaves with our fingers :) happiest point of the day. after we played a little soccer with the boys (they are good!!) and finished the territory. 

we walked back (almost shuar-speed!) to our base-town, using a rather shaky hand-operated cable-car to cross one of the rivers :D when we arrived we discovered as well that another group had just finished blitzing some of the farther out villages, and would be spending the night with us.

that night the moon was strong and bright as we went to the river. everything glowed. fireflies blinked on and off. i remember thinking... is there anything better than this.

we gathered around the fire in the kitchen and talked. 'how many times have you done this trip?' for a few of the brothers it was their 6, 7th time. i can understand why they come back.

the next day we breakfasted with the shuar family, said our goodbye's and thank-you's (thank you in shuar is 'yuminsajme').

we were a little more on the ball this time with getting our things out of the school, and got out on the trail in good time. backpacks much lighter by now ;)

the other group headed out first, and i found myself a good half hour distance between the two groups, enjoying having a few hours alone to soak in the silent beauty of the jungle. broken only by the occasional birdsong and rustling of leaves, and greeting a few people heading back to their villages. one guy caught up with me, asked where i was going, and on discovering we were headed to the same town, said 'vamos!' (lets go). i laughed, because clearly there was no way i would be able to keep up with him, and said 'ciao' as he sprinted off through the mud. 

i think how you feel about a place when you leave is a good indicator of how much of an impression it leaves on you. if there's a pull at your heart. a good twinge as you move away from it.
i felt that. 
it was like finding paradise. the simplest life imaginable, in one of the most beautiful places i have been.
where life grows so thickly... where the vapid busyness of city life fades away... and it's just you. in the setting we were created to live in. with all that visible evidence of Jehovah's love, not only in the nature around, but in the people that we meet and reach with the kingdom message, way out in the middle of nowhere. 

we made it back in a few hours to makuma, left more invitations and had a couple nice conversations, and then caught a bus back to macas.
as we pulled away all the scenes from the past few days flashed in my mind. the lushness of the trees, the muddy trails, the rivers carving their way to hidden places, the tiny villages, the quiet and pensive shuar, greeting us with such warmth, and all the people back there who still needed to get to know Jehovah.

all i could think was 'i have to go back'.

and i will. 

(and no, we didn't see any dangerous animals. apparently there is 'uunt yawa' shuar for tiger, in the jungle, and a good amount of 'napi' -snake. but aside from a possible snake sighting waaaaayyyy up in one of the trees... nada. ah well, next time :D  )

Saturday, March 15, 2014

homage and parallels

i've been stuck inside the house this week with yet another bad cold (rainy season, will you just give it UP already?), with little energy but to do endless youtube digging for some new additions to my already oversized music collection. of course i found my way back to one of my favorite songwriters, neil finn, and was rewarded with discovering a few tracks from an album he put together with his brother tim. they have a musical chemistry that is so well-honed over the years... happiness for the ears.

this song especially stood out for me, i immediately tabbed it and added it to my list of cover songs. it's got such a lovely hopeful vibe, the joy of embracing uncertainty.

anyways, i've been on a neil finn/crowded house kick again lately. some music speaks to you more at certain times of your life than others. oddly enough it was reminding me of a time a few years ago (6ish already, eek) before i moved to scotland. i was imagining what my future would look like, and it came out in a drawing of me being driven away in a black car waving a handkerchief out the window, with a pile of tiny hearts blowing away behind. the next picture was of me standing happily beside my home, which was a mud hut with a thatched roof.
maybe something like this? this is shuar by the way.

at the time i was visualizing africa, but at the core there are enough similarities in environment and culture to say that now i'm very close to living out that visualization here in ecuador. who knows, in a couple years if i learn shuar and move into the jungle even the hut thing might become reality... how cool would that be!

anyways, i digress. so i was listening a lot to crowded house that year. the expansive imagery of the lyrics, music, and the intimacy of it as well was something that more and more was hitting me. and when i found the album 'together alone'... heaven.

so the other day i pulled it out again. it had been lost somewhere in the shuffle and mostly forgotten. but with the first notes of 'kare kare' (the name of the beach in new zealand where they based the recording of this album) i was back there. the feeling of space, possibilities, reflection. a profound connection with your surroundings.

all the things i was looking for then, and in fact did find when i went to scotland (which made it incredibly hard to leave) and now, years later, am beginning to find here.

there is music that offers a certain atmosphere for a passing mood. but there is also music that goes deeper, that calls to the very essence of who you are, to all the differing elements that weave you together.
crowded house is one of the bands that does that for me.

and when you're in the middle of life-rethinking, adapting, energy-healing and brain-rewiring, that is a beautiful thing to have. a little reassurance that you are still you. and some things don't change at all.

here is one of my favorite tracks off that album, played live.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


so i have a new little monster in my life. her name is alexie. or lexi for short.

she's a kitten... well... more or less half-grown now, which explains why she's somewhat delinquent at the moment. apparently cats have a rebellious teenage phase too. but for all that she is a lovely little being to have around. and when she's all done with her sneak attacks and frantic galloping through the apartment, she's quite content to climb into my lap and curl up for a good long nap. i think that bodes well for the future. (may those days come soon!)

once in a while she decides to try her hand at climbing things, and will very intently start up my leg. yeowch. and her favorite game in the morning is to hide in the kitchen near my feet and leap out at them, in full battle gear from behind the curtain. tremendous fun for her! especially as i leap around trying not to drop hot tea on her head, and shout 'lexi NO' in a desperate attempt to let her know who's boss. i wonder what the neighbours think... and those cat-training manuals don't seem to be working either.

it was love at first sight though. i saw her in a friends photo as a kitten in december, squealed and said 'where can i get one of those!'. she replied 'you can have this one.' so a month later i brought her home, small, wide-eyed, starting at every sound, curled into my chest as we bounced along in the bus.

she's a humanizing (animalizing?) element in my home, something warm to come home to. always entertaining, sometimes frustrating, loving and smart, challenging, a ball of energy one minute, a happy puddle of purring contentment the next. like right now. all lady-like and stretching out her toes like she's getting a pedicure.

i've always been more of a dog person, but over the years (and a LOT of catsitting) i've really started to like the feline species. it's another layer of personality and intelligence. and i love that you can let them just get on with things, without too much bother. alexie is somewhere in-between. part dog (following me around the house, yowling when i leave the house) part tiger (her moth-killing rate is 100%).

the downside to having a cat in the house full-time is loads of allergens. but the desire to avoid living in abject allergic misery is forcing me to keep my house pretty darn clean. points for domesticity. (silver linings)

anyhow, i wish i could philosophize about all this more eloquently, but what can i say. we're made to look after things. it brings out the best and worst in us, takes us out of ourselves, and we get so much love back in return. i'm a happier and more content person for having her here. simple as that.

(fleet foxes white winter hymnal is her theme song by the way. give it a listen.)

j and lexi out.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

the wonders of a vacation (did i never take one of these before?)

when i had the freedom (ie - dinero) to take a holiday a couple weeks ago, i quickly leapt at the chance. a few phone calls and a stop at the bus station later, i was on the road. destination, quito.  
even in those first few minutes, as we pulled out of the terminal, my head started to clear.
only three months before i had arrived in macas, totally unsure of what was in store.
and now, here i was. seasoned traveller, a few more words of spanish under my belt, navigating ecuadorian life with much more ease. not doing so badly after all. 

in any endeavor, it's easy to become engulfed in the details and struggles. but taking a breath and looking at the big picture can give so much confidence to keep going...

we arrived in quito at 6am. after crossing the city on various buses and trolleys (enjoying lovely glimpses of colonial architecture on the way) i finally got to my friends apartment. showering and napping never felt so good. (those night journeys are quite... something)

the week was refreshing in so many ways. i heard an english talk for the first time in months, (one of those life-changing, re-prioritizing talks. amazing timing.) got to speak a ton of english and connect with friends, go shopping at the artisan market (bargaining until blue in the face...), have an artsy painting day, sleep, read a nice fat book all the way through, start journalling again. it was all exactly what i needed. everything that had become overwhelming started to shrink down to a managable size. and i started feeling more like my old self. 

at the end of the week i travelled back home via the road that runs down the 'avenue of volcanoes'. the high bare mountains gradually got greener and more lush. the thought of soaking into oblivion in the thermals was just too tempting, so i got off in banos and checked into a hostel. the courtyard was overgrown with trees and flowers.
the next two days were completely lovely. great food, hotsprings at night, the lights of the town strung up and down the hills, and the gentle sound of the waterfall above. banos has a way of folding you in and spoiling your senses. its hard to leave.

but sunday came, and it was time to wrap things up and head back to macas. i was anxious, it was the first time returning after officially moving in. how i felt on arrival would be an indicator of how much i could let myself settle in. 

as we sunk further down into the oriente, i slowly relaxed. finally, when we pulled into macas a few hours later, i was happy and relieved. and home. 

there is a point when it becomes ok to give in. to stop holding back. to accept where you're at. a point when you stop struggling and everything becomes aligned. life flows a little more easily. 

(to keep mine flowing, i bought one of these fantastic things. hours of bliss and relaxation at home for only $13.

if it's not raining.)


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

language part 2 - musica

one of the best ways to fall in love with a language is to listen to it's music.
but i've actually been having a bit of a problem with this.
i do enjoy a lot of latin-american music, but there's some days that you just don't feel like listening to love songs or marc anthony (especially if your neighbours are enjoying him for you on repeat)... and salsa all day every day just gets a little over-stimulating.
and in the meantime, recuperating from the constant adjusting that happens outside my door, has driven me to create a haven of familiar sounds in my home... but alas this works against my purpose of gaining some momentum in the world of spanishness.
so, in an attempt to immerse myself further, i've embarked on an extensive search for some fresh spanish-speaking musicians who have the elements that i love. soothing tunes, great imagery. lyrics i can really delve into.
and this week i struck gold with these guys. vetusta morla.

i've always had a thing for this style of writing, layers of meaning, possibly incomprehensible, but delicious nonetheless (therefore, my undying love of crowded house). these guys definitely have something good going. and i love that the guitar work is simple enough to learn... :)

ive spent the past few days wandering around my apartment singing snatches of this song, finally breaking through the wall of english.

in fact, i've become so enamored with this band's poetic style, last night i got inspired and wrote a whole song of my own in spanish. (set to brazilian music of course- there has to be compromise somewhere). all the ideas that i'd stored up for a long time, which couldn't find a home in english, just came pouring out. turns out spanish is full of fun alliterations which lend themselves very well to lyrics. and there's a freedom in trying to express yourself in a new language... not tied down to preconceptions about how things should be structured.
this could be an exciting new branch of songwriting...
letting the words roll off my tongue is the happiest part.

singing is still much easier (and more confidence building) than stumbling through a conversation... *sigh*. i feel like i'm an awkward teenager all over again.
the strange part of language is it's comings and goings. some days, it's crisp and clear in mind, ready to use, sentences flow freely, i know how to say what i want.
other days, it's more like sailing through a thick fog. totally confused as to where i am and where to go.
the inconsistancy is the hardest part. but we all have days like that in english too, right? or times of day...
(see post about mornings. it still applies.)

but i'm enjoying the breakthroughs that do come (great relief), and finding a few new things to love and make my own.

little ways of making the hard work just a little more... fun ;)

peace out.

(coming soon, a new album of love songs by sail. written entirely in spanish. guest appearance by marc anthony.)

(i wish...)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

tea in macas

so the month of rain has arrived in macas. aside from making it a little difficult to hear my little students answer questions (they live on a top floor which is only covered by a tin roof, you can imagine what that sounds like), or being challenged as to the best time to do laundry, i'm actually enjoying this. having a nice dramatic thunder storm roll through every day is definitely an interesting change from hot, humid and sunny.

not to mention that everything becomes even more intensely green, if that's at all possible.

ecuador is starting to show her face a little more to me, or maybe i am showing mine. either way, we don't always agree. i think she's sometimes too pushy, and she retorts by saying, well don't be so passive then. still, we'll work things out. (not sure why ecuador is a she... i guess its the matriarchal vibe, despite all that machismo)
i'm a teeny bit resentful, but can already tell that living here will teach me to develop that extra oomph that you just don't need back in good old mannerly (and it's true, apologetic) Canada. this will probably serve me well in future life.
assertiveness training 101. while remaining friendly, of course.

one of the beautiful things however (as i've probably already mentioned) is the kind of hospitality that is shown here. it has nothing to do with great table settings or spending days cooking a feast, or having the best wine. it's more about offering what you have. a simple glass of water, juice, a little fruit or a cheese sandwich. something to make some else's day a little easier, and making them feel like a part of your family for a while, no matter who they are. it's one of my favorite things about this culture, and i hope is something that i can bring with me wherever i go, and shake off the western (or is it northern?) perfectionism and accompanying anxiety attached to 'having guests'.

today was a lovely day to be on the receiving end.  i got to taste some freshly smoked meat (right from the front yard, mmmmmmmmm) and drink tea made from the leaves of a local tree. i also got sent home with a bag of bananas and cinnamon and a little recipe for breakfast (cook sliced banana in milk with a stick of cinnamon, just for a couple mins. a nice relaxing food to start the day). amidst all these generous gifts i managed to squeak out that i would one day make some beef stew with beer and try to return the favor. but there's no way to win... you just have to accept it with gratitude.

ecuador is probably packed with more surprises. some good, some unsettling. is this an appropriate time to say 'life is like a box of chocolates'?
more things to get used to and decide whether to roll into my personal life vocabulary or leave to the side and just accept it as a part of someone else's.

still a long road ahead. one step at a time.

peace out.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

comfort zones

the past two weeks have been all about ditching english, leaving the comfort of my apartment behind, and getting out into this new world in which i find myself.

some days it's not easy. especially when i've woken up again from vivid dreams of all the places i've lived in the past, and for a moment, don't know where i am. i'm used to this sensation happening for the first few days of being in a new place, while the senses adjust. but not every morning for a month and a half. it's a little disconcerting.

and i have to admit, other than shopping excursions, meetings, service and the odd fiesta (which seem to happen quite regularly here) i have been spending a lot of time cocooning again. the thing is, i really enjoy spending a day just puttering, cooking a few things for the week while listening to vinyl cafe, or catching up on my favorite british tv shows. the problem is that it's not at all related to what's happening outside my front door. so everytime i leave the house, or try to speak a few words with my landlady, it's like a little shock.

 i think it's natural, when all around  is new, to perhaps more stubbornly revert to familiar things. but i have been learning the value of letting go of them
for a while (at least, spending so much time there), and just enjoying what's in the here and now. allowing a few roots to grow.

one day this came in the form of hanging out at someone's house for a couple hours, waiting for lunch to finish cooking, listening to the little familial interactions, watching spanish tv. aside from learning how to make a pretty delicious dish (a soup of little balls of grated plantain, cheese, onion, butter and salt, chucked into a veg stock and boiled until thick and creamy, yumm!) it was getting a glimpse of everyday life here. everyday life for people who's families live all in one building, who's kids run freely in and out of the house to play in the yard or streets, who always have a few pots of something boiling on the stove, and are always happy to share at least a glass of freshly blended juice.

today it was an impromptu tour of the city given by a friend whose culture has a great knowledge and appreciation of nature. she took me to all the parks in the city and attempted in spanish to explain things about the trees...(of which i understood about 20%... enough to know which fruit grows where and appreciate the variety). we talked to the warden of the biggest park, who generously pulled down a few pods of guava for us to eat (google ecuadorian guava, super cool), and i filled my water bottle with seeds to grow later. we walked past all the main buildings, and she explained what happened in each of them and all the city fiestas. today i felt like i finally had a grasp of this place, and found a few special corners that i could make my own. and most importantly i felt that i am not just passing through, but am really here to stay awhile.

so macas... here goes. the next phase of our relationship.

(and here's hoping that my somewhat unhappy relationship with mosquitos will come to an end... apparently after a while they tire of new blood. it had better be true.)

finally, here is a picture of the elusive volcano sangay, who is surrounded most days by cloud. but if you get up early enough, or keep an eye out on an extra clear day, you can catch a glimpse of her.

Thursday, October 31, 2013



After the whirlwind of Quito, I had some time to process on the overnight bus to Macas. I was feeling a lot of hesitation, doubt. Would it be as amazing as I'd remembered? What exactly was I doing in Ecuador anyway? Did I think I was some kind of conquistadora?

By the time we hit the jungle the light was starting to creep over the horizon. Silhouette's of trees emerged, alien forms against the sky. Then I remembered. This is what I had loved. As it got brighter, I saw the green rolling hills, wooden shacks dotted alongside the road, families huddled together in paradas with bags of things to sell in town. As the scenery rolled by I started to feel more and more reassured. This was the right decision, I had come to the right place.

I spent an hour sitting on my bags waiting for my friends to come pick me up. Time to look around, soak it all in. The center of Macas early in the morning is a pretty bustling place. People throwing bags of grain into the back of taxi's, ready to sell in the tiendas. Clusters of plantain wheeled around on bicycles. Uniformed schoolchildren pouring out of buses. The town itself looks a little bit scraggly... worn at the edges. It's not a tourist town by any means. But the location... along the edge of a wide and rocky river, and set in the middle of some of the most beautiful scenery in Ecuador (maybe I'm biased) is what sets it apart. Its tranquillity compared to the bigger cities makes it a pretty ideal place to start a new life.

And so it began, two weeks ago. I landed in the middle of a push to finish building the new Kingdom Hall, so there was a lot of activity. I had work right away, kitchen duty, sanding, painting, digging holes and shovelling piles of dirt into wheelbarrows... tumbling with a bunch of people into the back of a transport truck to go for lunch. All the while struggling with getting-to-know-you conversations in spanish. Whew! That week finished up with a huge fiesta out in the campo, the afternoon was full of dancing and food, and then we wrapped things up with more food (lots of rice and meat and salad, and some delicious spicy sauce with onions). In this area of Ecuador they seem to dance in rows opposite each other, no contact. Which is ok, saves you from being stuck with a lousy partner. Although here, there's not too much risk of that. Ecuadorians love to dance! Yay :)

So, the following week was more construction, which was completed on Thursday. The Wednesday morning a group of us went out to a small river to collect stones for the garden. It was an idyllic spot... all hung over by trees, down a dirt track... the stones we found were black with white stripes running through them, worn smooth by the water. Beautiful.
Also got to fully test out my new rainboots, and they are indeed waterproof. Could use a little more traction for riverbeds though, haha.

Anyhow. Although it still feels strange to be here, on the other side of the world almost, in a completely new environment, culture, language... I'm still seeing the potential of a pretty awesome life here, and when I sit in on a Bible study, or have my own (two kids who speak english and are visiting from the states for a couple months), that's when everything becomes focused, and I feel most at peace with this decision. There is so much to do here. And this place gives me everything I need to be able to do my part.

Learning spanish is the next challenge, still at the baby conversation stage, with much effort. But I'm taking lessons right now, two or three times a week over skype, which is helping a lot. The teacher I had last week was great, he clapped and roared enthusiastically everytime I got something right. Now if that isn't an ego boost I don't know what is! This week my teacher is much more sedate and structured, so I'm learning more details. She speaks slowly, corrects me more, and is filling in a lot of the blanks. And since the first thing they ask is why I moved here in the first place, I get to talk a lot about how we teach the Bible, and do our meetings. :D

Another thing I love is the pace of life. I find myself enjoying little domestic things much more. Like buying food. There's a decent supermarket in my town where I buy meat, dairy and grains, but the smaller tiendas and markets are where the fun is at. My friend recently introduced me to a weekend market that happens in her neighbourhood. We went at night when the trucks were pulling in from the country, full of fresh produce, and wandered from stall to stall, chatting with the vendors. I went home with bags full of fruit and veg and some fresh honey, and spent less than $10!

Here are the other things I love so far.

Having breakfast every morning looking out on the huge tree in my backyard, and the hills in the distance.
My landlady's dogs who now greet me with wags and grins instead of scary barking.
Lots of lightening storms!
Drying clothes in the sun on the rooftop.
Walking down dirt roads.
Making new friends with incredibly patient, loving, and helpful people.
Understanding the odd joke in spanish.
Chivalry is alive and well.
People have nice happy energy.
Naranjilla juice. mmm.

There will be much more to add to that list in the days to come.

Til next time...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

here we go...

so i made it, luggage and enthusiasm intact, to quito on monday night.

i will always love that first sight of the city, flying over hills of streaming lights, pooling into valleys...
quito just goes on forever, or so it seems from above.
we landed, a little buffeted by wind, at the new airport outside the centre.
it was slightly more tame than landing at the old airport, which bounced you between a couple mountains and came awfully close to taking along some poor old womans laundry with the landing gear.

i was met by friends, a very welcome sight after the long journey. and also as i was feeling quite conspicuous standing next to a cart piled high with luggage. 'here comes the newbie' it screamed. i was looking enviously at the sensible girl who had compacted everything in a smaller, wheeled, suitcase. too late for packing regrets now. after all, i should be proud to have squished all my life belongings into two (heavy) suitcases.

so we drove back to my friends place, and to be honest everything after that has been something of a blur.
i did have a plan of sorts, to register my visa downtown on tuesday, then quickly travel down to macas and get started on settling in. the ecuadorian government of course had other ideas, and told me to come back on monday to pick up my passport. hm.

my friend is kindly letting me crash at her casa in the meantime, and like i say, the past few days here have had a dizzy sort of feeling. quito always does that to me, and it's not just the altitude. there's just so much of everything... tiendas, streets, hills, stacked concrete houses, people, black smoke from buses, sprawling markets, fruit, music, stray dogs, etc.
on the ground it's just as huge as it looks from the air. its easy to spend an hour getting from one section to another, jumping in and out of buses, taxi's and trolleys. all the while trying to be as aware as possible of your surroundings and wallet.

just a little overwhelming for an already city-exhausted girl.... but at the same time the whirlwind has been a blessing, pushing me every day out of my comfort zone and into the heart of things. there have been a few moments of feeling totally in my element, which gives me hope for the times when everything feels strange and upside-down (the adrenaline junkie in me completely loves flying down the hills on the bus at impossible speeds to soca music).

i've been really blown away by the spirituality of people in ecuador. my friends are in a group that is learning creole to teach the bible to haitians, most of whom are on their way to brazil. but it's been such a treat to be meeting so many interesting people with a hunger to understand the bigger picture. and actually having the answers to give them. that is something i am coming to appreciate the value of more and more. and i'm getting a glimpse again of the kind of joy you can feel when your life is full of this kind of busyness.

now, about leaving canada...
there was so much love and positivity in the past few weeks, and it's true that love is a far greater motivator for change than anything else. feeling supported in so many ways by friends and family gave such a needed boost to be able to tackle this project.
not to mention the hugely exciting and helpful spiritual events that happened just before leaving. assemblies, meetings, and... new bible revision??? amazing.


so here we go. these are the first days. when the overwhelmed-ness dissipates, i'm looking forward to sharing more of the fun of ecuadorian life. (and some new pics!)

hasta la próxima!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sunday morning.

It's Sunday morning in a little park off rue Notre Dame. I have walked by here many times over the years and never stopped.  Today there are two pianos on a low platform, one covered with flowers in pots, the other half-draped with a white tarp. Chairs arranged loosely in front.

I decide to settle in with my book and see what happens.

First, a mother with two children approaches. One of the boys plonks away discordantly for 5 minutes, then leaves. (future jazz musician, I think). Next, a family with a toddler cheerfully comes to strike a few notes.

Along the side of the park, under a jungly mural of a waterfall, a woman sits, talking on her cellphone. Now, emboldened, she walks over and cautiously starts to play. With the first few notes I'm caught by surprise emotion. Tears well up and quickly overflow.

The music is slow, meloncholy, wistful. Under the open sky and shadow of maples, on the rich sound of a old upright, it is easily the most beautiful thing I have heard. I try to hide my face from the handful of onlookers that have stopped to listen.

She plays for a good ten minutes. A young man eagerly circles. When she is done he takes her seat. He launches into a much larger classical piece, playing to the extremities of the piano with gusto. A family from Philedelphia parks their car and gets out to watch. They applaud and beg for an encore. He grins and goes back for a passionate version of Moonlight Sonota. More people gather on the sidewalk.

He gets up and bashfully walks away amidst more applause, "I'm done now, have to shake the nervousness from my hands."

"A perfect moment." says a woman who has curled up in one of the chairs. I agree silently.

The park grows quiet now as the watchers begin to dissipate. There are only three people left, talking amongst themselves. This is my shot. I walk over to the bench and drop my bags. There are two songs I can half-remember, one from Amelie and another by Patrick Watson. I play these a little nervously, and gaining courage, enjoy a few more minutes of experimentation. Letting the notes and chords roll out into the air. It is exhilerating, playing outside. 

I finish, and without looking back, pick up my things and start walking again down Notre Dame. My hands are shaking. I understand what the man was talking about. And the woman in the chair was right.
This was a perfect moment.