John, where have you been? Don't answer that, the list could take weeks...
I AM ALIVE I PROMISE!!!!
So it has been way too long since we have last chatted…I do apologize for that. It has been so long I am not sure were to begin. I suppose we could just start where we left off:
Galapagos: What an experience! It was so beautiful! As you all could guess, I loved it as I love everything here in Ecuador! It was absolutely gorgeous and there were so many beautiful animals and flowers. We went hiking, swimming and exploring. We went snorkeling a bit when we were there, and I got to swim with sea turtles, sharks, mantarays, and penguins! Yep I said penguins! They are fast little swimmers! I had tons of fun exploring restaurants, pirate cave, natural springs, hidden coves, and many other fun features of the Galapagos!
Cajas: Cajas is a national park here that I think I have brought up once or twice before. Well we got to go camping there! This was absolutely wonderful! It was a bit cold and a tad rainy, but we would not allow the weather put a damper on out exploration. We spent most of the days and even part of the night, hiking and climbing mountains, playing Frisbee in the hilly region of where we slept, trekking through the paper tree forest (named after its paper thin bark), and enjoying ourselves to the fullest. I got to go rock climbing up this intimidating cliff! Many of you know that I like to pretend that I am not afraid of heights, but the truth is I have never climbed so fast in my life. I do not know what came over me, I got a little nervous and the next thing I knew I just started cruising! I was kind of impressed that I could do it because climbing a mountain is a bit different than the rock wall at my old high school. There are not any nice manicured rocks to fit your hands around. I made it the majority of the way up, got stuck and could not figure out another route so I had to call it quits, I was tried for the second highest of the group so I will call it a success. My buddy Chris man handled that cliff and mad it all the way to the top, it was quite impressive! Also, a few of us and our guides, who by the way happen to be my cousins here (everyone is family in Cuenca), went on a hike at 3:30 in the morning to make it to the top of a mountain to watch the sun rise! We made it up quicker than we thought we would so we arrived a tad early and had to huddle for warmth of the far side of the peak. But when that sun rose, we stood in amazement as God said good morning to the world! A thin layer of clouds made the perfect backdrop for the sun to reflect rays of orange, pink and red across the sky. And the numerous lakes below glistened like freshly laden snow. It was absolutely amazing! It made the frozen toes and fingers all worth it!
Ceramics: So we got to take a ceramics class last week. It was really cool; it makes me wish I would have looked into this hobby a bit sooner in life. We had to use the old style turn tables that were operated by the kicking of your foot spinning the disk beneath. It was in this old style shop that utilizes very traditional techniques to create the many pieces of art that line the walls of the building. The work we did was in the back garden, surrounded by holes where they dig the clay, old wood burning ovens for the kiln, and many hand tools used for crafting the piece. We are decorating our art next week, so I will let you know how it turned out, don’t get your hopes up, I am not the artist of the family –that would be my sis and cousin.
Night life: As always, I strive to enjoy myself to the fullest and embrace every moment possible, so naturally we have been having a lot of fun. We have been able to explore a few new locations for our night time diversion. A teacher at CEDEI performed at this benefit concert with a few other artists so we got to go see him play the other day. Dancing up a storm, we have really had a great time celebrating our last few weeks here.
Last few weeks here: As much as we do not wish to talk about it, unfortunately our time here has begun its decent. A few students are teetering the line of becoming homesick, but I will be honest I do not think I am ready. This is not to say that I do not miss you all at home, because I think and pray for you all a lot, but I just do not have homesickness creeping up on me. I love home a lot and I love all of you guys, but I feel there are more adventures to be had. No worries, I am actually coming home this time. I will not be extending my trip anymore, I do have a few obligations back in the states and more exciting things to encounter there, plus my mother would not be too pleased with me, but I am planning to come back here one day. I just found out that they have an international teaching certificate program that I think I will return for one day. I am still here, but I am already looking forward to my return! Lol
Classes: Well this semester has been a little tougher than the first; I have actually had to buckle down a bit. Last week especially was quite the killer and I spent many of nights up finishing research papers, presentations, and reflections. Let me just say I am so glad that I am finished with last week! I had to present a 20-30min demonstration on world economy in Spanish. As much as Erin and my family will disagree my Spanish is not amazing, though better and I can definitely get by, the class I am in is at a language level that far exceeds mine. Plus, it is about economy. Probably one of my least favorite topics in the world right next to politics, I absolutely despise talking about how much our world’s economy struggles. BUT I made it! For those ex-teachers of mine that are on this email list, you would have been so proud of my B.S.ing skills. You teachers know I can be a good talker at times, but to spit out that presentation in Spanish was a whole new trick for me. :)
Keep the blood pumping: A few of us have taken a liking to the physical side of Cuenca and have spent quite a bit of time at the park after class playing basketball, volleyball/Ecuavolley (their version of volleyball), and running. Yea I said running, Erin has convinced me to go running with her from time to time. And I have been persuaded to take on a challenge that I am not quite sure my body can handle. I have always been a sprinter, never a long distance guy, my body just cannot do it, yet for some reason of which I do not yet comprehend I am signed up to run a 15K next week. I will let you know how that goes….pray I finish. Lol
Service: I am no longer working at the correctional facility for young boys. It became a real challenge with my schedule and my morning classes to make that happen. They are very strict and a bit limited on when volunteers can come to work due to their rigid schedule, so I decided that it would be best if I stepped down from the position. But I am still volunteering a bit! Erin works at a school for kids with special needs and I like to stop in from time to time with her to help out. The students are so wonderful! They have such big heart and a grand desire to learn. I tease Erin a lot, because she has been there all semester and the majority of the students remember my name over hers. We are both working as teachers’ assistants, aiding the class with math and writing skills. Last week we worked on measurements and helped design a home with a garden and garage and such, the kids were more interested in decorating the house; I loved it!
Family and friends here: The fam is great, nothing too bad going on, smiles all around. Because I no longer have any weekend excursions, I have been able to spend a little more time with the family and it has been wonderful. Erin and I went to a cousin reunion last Friday. My brothers could not make it, so it was just us and we had so much fun! And a sadder note, my brother’s kid, Juan Martin, fell off a bike the other week and broke his arm pretty bad. He needed immediate surgery and will be out for the next few months. He is in good spirits though. My friend Jen’s sister had to be rushed to the hospital the other day due to a hemorrhage, due to a miscarriage. She was five weeks pregnant and began bleeding pretty bad. Unfortunately she lost the baby, but she is doing alright and is now back at home after a few days in the hospital, but is still on bed rest. My buddy Tyler is back in the states, which has been a hard transition on us as well as him. He went through some heavy reverse culture shock and had a heavy heart. Fortunately, he flew out to CO this past weekend to see his gal, and is doing much better, but still missing Cuenca. I am not sure if I previously wrote about this or not, but a few weeks ago our coordinator and friend, Lisa, broke her foot canyoning. Well she was in a cast and had been working on recovering, when she slipped off the stool in her shower and cracked her cast, dislodging the bones in her foot. After much consideration, between her folks and the insurance companies, she was flown back to the states for surgery. Her operation went well, and will hopefully be back in a week or two, but we miss her dearly! Please keep these folks in your prayers and that God will cover over anything that they are struggling with and prayers of thanks for the positivity that has flooded from all of their hearts!
Family and friends in the states: I guess Tyler and Lisa could have been placed her as well seeing that they are currently in the U.S. but I will keep them in the other category, because I know that their hearts are still here in Cuenca! My grandma had surgery the other day to replace her knee in an effort to relieve the pain in her spine. There were quite a bit of complications after the operation, but fortunately she is out of the hospital and is now recovering in a nursing home for the next few weeks doing rehab. I just found out that a family friend of ours has been diagnosed with cancer and he has been having intense radiation and will continue this until the end of June. The tumor resides on his vocal chords so in efforts to preserve his ability to talk, the doctors do not wish to perform surgery. He is in good spirits though and my folks were able to see him the other day. On a lighter note, apparently my parents have been missing me a little too much and they felt the need to replace me with a puppy. I was informed by my little sister’s facebook status and when I skyped my folks in question there are a small fuzzy little ball of fur sitting in the screen. Her name is Roxy, and she is quite cute. Her and Brandy (my other dog) get along for the most part, but Roxy is a herding dog and occasionally nips at Brandy’s ears to push her in a certain direction. Sadly, Roxy does not realize that Brandy is more than twice her size and will not take such insubordination. Roxy will occasionally get a tuff of fur fro Brandy, but Brandy will always have the upper paw. I am excited to meet her. Please pray for those who need a little extra love right now.
Bible group: This is more just a time that we can all hang out and talk about life, and occasionally we throw a little bible out there, but it is just absolutely wonderful! I love the relationships that have been created from this group and the comfort we have with one another. We spend a lot of time in prayer, and a lot of time simply loving upon one another, and sharing how God has been pouring out his love in this place. We actually had a few new people come and join us this past week! It is so awesome to be able to grow together as Christians and feed into one another, all different people, with different stories, with different denominations, with different thoughts, working together as one body of Christ!
Well I think that might be all for now, I do not want to overwhelm you with these updates. I know it has been a real long time and I am really sorry about that. Sometimes I just get consumed in the moment and forget. Hopefully in these last few weeks, I can write to you all with a little more frequency and that way it can have a little more detail than a quick run through of my time. I hope all is well, and for those of you in Chicago, you are enjoying this weather! My ma told me that it finally feels like spring today. I love you all!
Cristo la Roca,