Monday, September 29, 2008

Nuns, Prostitutes, and Mormons

That is what we are looking forward to this week in the workshop that we´ll be teaching in the morning. We are teaching a group of 18 ex-prostitutes who have been taken in by nuns and are currently learning to cut hair and want to open their own barber shops. The area presidency approved that we teach this workshop and the nuns are going to come as well to learn about the workshop. That should be interesting.
We had 60 people who graduated from our workshop on Friday. It was so exciting to call their names out and give them their certificates. They were so excited! They were such an awesome group. It´s amazing how the people who have the least are the ones who are willing to give the most. They give the most love, but they are also so willing to share every thing they have. They would always go out and buy us drinks or little snacks when they have so little to eat themselves. On Friday, so many people came with presents for us to thank us for the help we have given them. There was one lady who had a cute purse (Ecuadorian style) and I just commented that I liked her bag and she said, okay, I will give it to you. I insisted that I didn´t need the bag but that I liked it. She started telling me how a former missionary had given it to her, but that she now wanted to give it to me so that I didn´t forget her or my experiences here in Ecuador. I told her not to worry about it, but lo and behold, at the end of the workshop, she´d emptied out the items in her purse – quite possibly the only purse she has and has had for years, and gave it to me.
You come on internships like this one to make a difference in someone else´s life, but they impact mine more than I could ever impact theirs.
Friday night was pretty fun at the dance. They are a little different here first of all because they don´t dim the lights at all! Also, you tend to dance with only one person and instead of the mormon dance circles we make, they stand paired off in a line and just all dance. Natausha and I felt so out of place at first, but then we got used to it and it was pretty fun. I took my first steps towards learning to salsa dance. I have a long way to go!!! But, we told the guys we were dancing with that if they taught us how to salsa dance then we would teach them how to country dance. It seemed like a good trade off. People here are NIGHT-OWLS! The dance got over at midnight, but apparently that was just the start of the party. Afterwards, we went to a little restaurant on the street and got dinner and just hung out. We finally got home late and were all tuckered out! On Saturday we just kept running as well. We got up at 10, but our friends came to pick us up at 10 instead of 10:30 like we thought, so we´d literally just rolled out of bed and they called saying they were here…haha, it was pretty funny. We went and cooked an awesome homemade American breakfast, that we ate at 2pm. It´s really hard to cook for 11 people with 1 frying pan, 1 cutting board, 3 forks, and no hot pads or towels – especially when we need to make fried potatoes, French toast, and scrambled eggs. We were so pleased when it was finally time for us to eat.
We played in the pool in the afternoon. I am proud to say that even with my gimpy arm, I still won a couple swimming races. Apparently I can swim with a broken elbow. I will count that as my physical therapy. We did a bunch of relays and my team dominated. It was awesome! We had a lot of fun.
We kept running after the pool over to the Johnson´s – a missionary couple in our ward from Provo – for a nice dinner and then to the Relief Society broadcast for spiritual nourishment. I always feel so inspired when I leave those conferences. I really enjoyed President Uchtdorf´s talk about creation and compassion. It was a theme that very different from the typical and I really enjoyed it.
Anyway, so that was the weekend. It was crazy and so busy that I didn´t have time to be tired or bored…or do homework.
Write me. P.S. I also accept care-packages

Friday, September 26, 2008

Teaching Begins

Okay, this week I have not been able to update as much. There is just so much going on that it is so hard to find a few minutes to sit down and upload pictures and write, although I love doing it and definitely appreciate the comments and emails. I love to hear how everything is going back home.
Let me tell you about the workshop. There are 2 different workshops that we can teach and they have asked me to teach the Self-Employment Workshop. It´s a rather big assignment since we only talked about it for 3 hours in Salt Lake during my week long training. I have plenty of practice with the other one, but none with this one. So, last week, I studied up so that I could teach it. I love the workshop which a lot of the people here refer to as the microenterprise workshop. For any of you who have talked to me about that subject, I love the idea and success that comes through microcredit and microenterprise! We showed up at the workshop and 75 people showed up as well. We were honestly expecting maybe 10 or 15. When we went to divide up the workshop, I found out that they all wanted the Self-employment Workshop so I have been teaching a group of 75! It´s an awesome experience to teach such a big group. They are so excited and so desirous to learn and apply the principles. I am teaching right now in El Cisne which is one of the poorest areas of Guayaquil. It has been a humbling experience to drive there every day. The pictures that I have posted previously are nothing compared to what I am seeing now. The houses are made out of canes or cinder blocks or occasionally a wood sheet. There is nothing inside the houses and most of the roofs are not complete. Most don´t have windows. In spite of the circumstances, the members in our workshop come polished every day. I would never look at them and think that they came from such circumstances. It´s amazing when the stake president in that area, or bishop comes in with a white shirt and tie. It is also amazing that even though these people have nothing and the area is rather poor and dangerous, that there is a beautiful church. The church is the same quality as the church anywhere. Heavenly Father doesn´t discriminate.

It has been so exciting to teach the workshop and to watch the people´s eyes light up as they learn new concepts that will bless them and their families.
As for the rest of the week, we are finding it hard to get everything done. I tell you what, latinos sure do know how to make a person feel special and important. We´ve been very taken care of and already have some great friends. Yesterday we went to the top of a hill in the middle of the city called Cristo Redentor (Christ Redeemer) that had a beautiful statue dedicated to the Savior. It is on top of a hill because Christ was crucified on top of a hill. Therefore, on the way up the steps, we are to remember what Christ did for us as he ascended the hill and was crucified on the cross.
We went with some news friends – one is actually a friend from my mission – Victor. He was my first district leader and later a zone leader. What a small world!
I went to the doctor yesterday for my elbow. I must admit that I prefer doctors in Chile to the doctors here. Apparently I went to the best doctor in the country…The good news was that he supported my decision to not get surgery on my elbow. He said that it is healing properly. They took my x-rays and everything is as it should me. He does want me to do some physical therapy while I am here so that I have proper movement in my arm. So, we´ll see, but Heavenly Father blessed my elbow too.
This picture is for Zach with 5 or 6 guards 3 doors down from our house with big guns. 3 doors down there is an investigation center for DrugTraficking. They bring the people in to investigate so if it´s a big drug bust like the other day, then we get lots of guards and guns and crying families.

Lots of blessings!Well, until next time….Chao.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Weekend

This is from the museum. No, it´s not just a cool piece of pottery, it was a coffin. They put the dead people in fetal position inside of these bowls with their belongings and buried them. Very peculiar.
This is me and Andres, a friend in my ward, who has been kind enough to show us all around the city and took us to the beach and waited patiently as we walked through all the earring shops and shoe stores, etc...
Me and the Pacific. I couldn´t really get in all the way because I figured with a strong undertoe and an inability to swim with 2 arms, it might not be safe. It was fun anyway!
This is a view of part of Salinas - a popular tourist destination. Driving through that city made me very sad!
This is a Parque Los Lagos which is on the way to the beach. It´s a beautiful place but apparently doesn´t get many visitors, which makes it so much more desirable.
Yes...earrings, necklaces, and bracelets galore. It was like PARADISE! I can´t wait to go back to that place and buy some more stuff. Things here are more pricey than in Chile, but I guess 2 or 3 dollars isn´t that incredibly expensive afterall. Please let me know of your requests.
This was the beautiful street in town. I love the touristy areas because they are always nicer and more organized. It´s a great feeling to just get out a chair and chill on the beach, watching the boats.
This is Natausha and I outside of a Palentologial Museum that we visited on our way to Salinas. It was actually really interesting to learn about all these crazy big animals and their history in this area.

Friday, September 19, 2008

$3.10 and an Iguana

I am so pleased with us! We are figuring out this city. We studied our map and guidebooks and today we set out to find the tourist section of this city. We got in a taxi and headed out. We are super paranoid about our possessions so I had some money in my shirt, a plastic ziplock with my debit card in my pants and my camera tied inside of my pants – which was a strange thing to do, haha. I tried out that method yesterday so I wouldn´t have to carry a bag, but today my pants weren´t as tight, so it didn´t have quite the same effect. Plus, every time we went to take a picture, I had to reach into my pants and untie my camera, imagine that.
We had the nicest taxi driver who took us to Las Peñas. It was a rundown part of the city right on the Rio Guayas that they renovated a in 2000. So, now on the outside it is beautiful and quite the tourist attraction. They have security guards around every corner so it´s very safe. It was sad though because although it´s beautiful on the outside, the houses are still run down on the inside. They had pictures up of what the area looked like before. It´s amazing how they have improved the area, but it´s so sad to realize what people live in. The roofs are barely on top of the houses. Sunlight peeks in through various spots through the roof.
It was beautiful though to see the panorama of the city. I loved the brightly colored houses on the hill and the flowers and trees with the river behind us. It really was beautiful. There were something like 500 stairs up to the top where there was a lighthouse and a catholic church. Apparently they used to defend the city from pirates on the top of this hill.
As we looked out across the city at the next hill over, Santa Ana, I got a glimpse of what I´ve always envisioned as South America – poverty on a hill. Run down houses, crime, etc. Natausha and I were in awe wondering what can be done to change things – the problems, with poverty so high here, are so overwhelming. We did conclude however that the Gospel is really what will change this city. As people grasp onto the Gospel, they will better their lives and their vision will change. Little by little – one person or one family at a time, the city can and will improve. In 40 years, they have created 14 stakes in this city. Our taxi driver, as we explained to him why we were here, thanked us several times for sacrificing our time and money to be here among his people trying to help them.
After Las Peñas, we started walking along El Malecón which is like the River Walk. We found the best little lunch stop – Aroma Café. For $3.10 I got – soup with shrimp, octopus, squid, and fish. Yes, I ATE IT and it was delicious! Octopus looks a little strange but it has a very pleasant flavor; watermelon juice (YUM), a full on meal - rice, lentils, a whole fish with excellent seasoning and fried bananas; dessert – ice cream; and the price included the tip. We were right on the river with beautiful scenery! What a good deal for a delicious meal!
We kept walking and enjoying the scenery, taking tons of pictures. We ended up running into a guy from our ward that showed us around more of the city and took us to IGUANA PARK. Craziest thing ever. There are hundreds of iguanas, for real, and not little scrawny ones. There was a tree and I looked up and realized that there were iguanas on almost every branch. They blended in really well with the tree so it was hard to count them all, but I counted at least 20. We petted them and one just started walking on me. I didn´t know what to do with it so I just sat there.
I was approached by several really dirty little children selling candies. I just have such a hard time not giving them money when they look so dirty and so poor. If $.25 will help them to eat, then goodness, take it. Poverty is mixed in here on every street corner, at the cross walks, on the buses.
We decided not to take a taxi back because they are way to pricey and the bus is only a quarter, 12 times cheaper than the taxi. So, we decided to try to figure out which bus would take us back. We chose wrong at first, but then we found the lucky bus number 82. Bus rides are so horrifying! They drive like maniacs and the smell of air pollution is almost unbearable, but it´s such a great feeling when you make it to your bus stop and can get off the bus in one piece J I am grateful every time I get off the bus.
It was an awesome day and so much fun to get out and explore and see more of Guayaquil. I love that part of town!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

From the Banana Capital of the World

Okay – Here I am in Guayaquil Ecuador. It´s such an awesome city. The first day, yesterday, was moderately overwhelming. It´s always a little overwhelming when you have no idea where in the world you are. At church everyone was asking us where we lived…yeah, I couldn´t respond because I didn´t know. That´s always fun when you take a taxi and don´t know where you live, but we are managing. A friend brought us a map today. I already feel better. With a map, I can start figuring things out. Plus, I´ve already located some important areas – the Temple (which is within walking distance), the supermarket, the farmacia, Centro de Empleo (where we have the internship), the pool, and home. What else do I need to know?
I love all the palmeras (palm trees) and the flowering trees. I love the warm humid air. It´s so pleasant at night to walk outside and have it be a comfortable 80 degrees and humid. By the architecture, it´s quite apparent that I´m in South America.
This week we are just going to orient ourselves. We aren´t actually teaching the workshop yet. But, starting next week we are going to start travelling around Guayaquil and teaching the workshops at night. It will be an interesting experience. Johnny (my manager) kept telling us to take our cameras so that we can take pictures of the poverty and show every one at home. I think it will be a shocking experience. We live in the best part of town, with the pelucones (rich folks). There are lots of newer cars and newer buildings. We live right behind the World Trade Center in Guayaquil and by some nice shopping centers and the temple is close so that says it all. But Guayaquil isn´t a rich city. More than 70% of Ecuatorians live below the poverty line which means that they live on $2 a day or less per person. We can´t even imagine what that would be like. Things here aren´t really very cheap either. Today, we went to the grocery store and they use the American dollar as currency and the food was the same price basically as in the US, therefore, for those people living in poverty, I have no idea how they can even survive. It´s a poverty that I can´t really even understand. I hope we can help the people.
We have made some friends – every one has been nice enough to call us or drop by to invite us to different events. We are making friends which makes everything so much more enjoyable and meaningful. I can´t really complain. We have been warmly welcomed and are definitely being taken care of.
All is well in Guayaquil…

Monday, September 8, 2008

Getting Ready for Ecuador

This is why I'm going on this internship.
"A man out of work is of special moment to the Church because, deprived of his inheritance, he is on trial as Job was on trial - for his integrity. As days lengthen into weeks and months and even years of adversity, the hurt grows and he is sorely tempted to 'curse God and die.'
"Continued economic dependence breaks him; it humiliates him if he is strong and spoils him if he is weak. Sensitive and calloused, despondent or indifferent, rebellious or resigned - either way, he is threatened with spiritual ruin for the dole is an evil and idleness a curse.
"He soon becomes the seedbed of discontent, wrong thinking, alien beliefs. The Church cannot hope to save a man on Sunday if during the week if is a complacent witness to the crucifixion of his soul..." - Gordon B. Hinckley
I think that is such a powerful statement. People are suffering and they need help. They feel hopeless and I'm being empowered with the tools to help them temporally which will also bless them spiritually. Heavenly Father wants all of his children to prosper and be happy and he has given us the tools and the resources to do so. I hope that I can at least help a few people in Ecuador.
I'm so lucky to be able to do this internship through the Church - where I promote faith in Jesus Christ and teach people how much Heavenly Father loves them as I teach about their potential to work and find employment. The Gospel, when properly lived, will bless every aspect of life.
I'm here with a fun group this week and great teachers. Then, on Saturday Natausha (my comp.) and I head off to Ecuador.
We've been having a blast today - we like to think we're a group of injured kids and are thinking about starting a club. We have basketball games on our break - me one handed, another kid with one leg, Natausha without some fingers, haha, it's awesome!
I'll be updating this a lot more now. So keep in touch and keep me posted!