San Francisco

We spent 3 weeks in a town called San Francisco, which is a small suburb of Latacunga. I really enjoyed living in this town because we had more access to civilization, compared to Romerillos, where we were living in “el campo.” There were several days we took a bus to the city of Latacunga just to go to the mall that felt “American.” They had nice stores, fast food, and coffee shops. A coffee shop with a real espresso machine is very difficult to find here (especially in the small towns)! So it was nice to “escape” for a little bit. The mall also had a giant big screen tv and we watched several of the World Cup games there. Of course we were the only fans watching the US games, but when Ecuador played, the mall was packed. It was fun to watch the game and cheer for Ecuador with a mall full of fútbol-loving, patriotic Ecuadorian fans.

We stayed with a lovely host family in one of the nicest houses I have seen in Ecuador. It was really nice to have a hot shower every day. However, we had to get used to life without a toilet seat. Apparently toilet seats are a luxury item here in Ecuador. But I’ll definitely never take for granted a toilet seat again!

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Digna, our host mom, is the president of the FEDICE group of women in San Francisco. She raises and sells chickens for an income. She also has a pig, which will sell for about $400.00 when it’s fat enough. She has guinea pigs and rabbits to sell for food as well.

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Each day, we taught English in the preschool. FEDICE supports this particular preschool and has a great relationship with them. The Oregon Disciples of Christ churches also have fundraised and supported this particular preschool center for years.

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I enjoyed teaching English, but teaching kids who can’t read or write was a new challenge. It was very difficult for me to come up with activities for the 2-year-old class, especially because some of them are not yet talking. We had three classes each morning, a half an hour for each one. I loved the four-year old class and I was so proud that they learned all their colors and the names of family members.

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In the afternoon, I taught an after-school English class for older students. There were about 8 students and they were all very excited to learn English. We played lots of games and they all really enjoyed coming to class each afternoon. I had a great time with them.

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Overall, we had a great time in San Francisco. I’m thankful for getting to know Digna and her family, the women of the community, and the children and teachers of the preschool. Yesterday, July 19th, we returned to San Francisco where we celebrated the 20th year anniversary of FEDICE. It was wonderful to see all the women and children of the community again. The women worked extremely hard to cook a meal for 125 people for the celebration and they did a fabulous job!

Machu Picchu

On day four of our trek, we had hiked around the base of Machu Picchu mountain and we could see the beautiful stone city from hundreds of feet down. The anticipation of visiting the intricate, man-made-city-in-the-clouds was exasperating. At five in the morning, we began our trek up the steep Incan stone steps. The hike was exhilarating. The brisk air cooled our sweaty faces as we trekked quickly up the steep slope without stopping. As we entered the ruins, we watched the clouds lift as the hot sun rose in the East sky. We spent the day wandering the ruins, resting in the green grass overlooking the mountains, hiking along the ancient paths, and reading about the Incan empire in the cool shade of a stone wall. It was nonetheless fascinating to learn about this intelligently engineered city built by a great empire whose reign lasted less than 100 years. The incredibly creative and motivated Incan society left us with dazzling mystery and inspiration.

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Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

The first week of July, I embarked on one of the most incredible adventures of my life; a 5 day trek to the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu. The remote Salkantay trail led us by Incan canals, clear rivers, waterfalls, and jungle ferns. We trekked through luscious farming land, massive snow-capped mountains, dry valleys, and a beautifully unique sub-tropical forest. And on day 5 we reached our destination, the sacred city in the clouds, Machu Picchu.

Day 1

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Day 2

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Day 3

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Day 4

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Day 5

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*The National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine named the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu one of the 25 Best Treks in the World.

Quilotoa

“O Lord, how manifold are you works! In wisdom has Thou made them all; the earth is full of your riches!” Psalm 104:24

There is no way God does not exist when there is beauty like this in the world. Without a doubt, Quilotoa is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The crater exists at 12,000 feet in the tall mountains of Ecuador. After its last eruption 800 years ago, this vibrant, massive, bluish-green crater lake formed.

The cute town of Quilotoa is full of sweet, indigenous, Kichwa-speaking people who claim the lake has no bottom. Dozens of locals spend their days walking donkeys up and down the crater to give lifts to the tourists. We opted to walk instead of pay for a donkey ride, and let me tell you, it was a difficult 45 minute trek back up the steep canyon wall. I have a lot of respect for the locals who walk up and down with their donkeys several times a day.

When we arrived at the water, we rented canoes and paddled out in the middle of the lake. It was a magical moment in that canoe. We were surrounded on each side by 40,000 year old volcanic rock. The gentle noise of the paddle stroking the shimmering blue water made me feel as though the setting with straight out of a movie.  IMG_4794

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Find Freedom and Beauty in Doing What You Love

“Ambition and interest are two different things, are they not? If I am really interested in painting, if I love to paint, then I do not compete to be the best or most famous painter. I just love painting. You may be a better painter than I, but I do not compare myself with you. When I paint, I love what I am doing, and for me, that’s sufficient in itself.”  J. Krishnamurti

Why do we so often turn our interests into competitions? As soon as we compare ourselves with others, we lose the freedom and the unique beauty of doing what we love. If we allow competition and comparison enter the equation, we reject freedom, exploration, and creativity.

What do you love doing? Hiking? Traveling? Writing? Cooking? If you could be completely content doing something all day, what would it be?

Find that one thing that gives you freedom to be creative. Simply allow yourself to be content with your abilities. Rejecting comparison is the avenue to freedom.

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[One of my favorite pictures thus far from my travels in South America. Hola Vida Waterfall in Puyo, Ecuador.]

Today’s Challenges:

  • Study Spanish for an hour.
  • Do yoga.
  • Read Acts 6-8.
  • Be content and thankful for everything.
  • Drink fresh juice.

Today I am thankful for:

  • The beautiful and enormous volcano Cotopaxi I can see from the rooftop.
  • The warm equator sun!
  • My 4-year-old ESL class.
  • Good health and the ability to travel.