Saturday, August 2, 2008

Good times!

We hope you enjoyed our blog! We had a good time reminiscing about our adventures and selecting pictures to share with you! We appreciate all of your support and donations which helped us to better serve the people of Ecuador! Much love!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Day 11 - 12

Ellie: Today Lindsey and I both got the pleasure of being in two hemispheres at once - I know you are all jealous! We got to go to the Equator. We started the day with about a 3 hour bus ride, which we nicknamed the "Peel and Jolt", since the bus driver had a knack for peeling out and then slamming on the brakes. Needless to say Lindsey, and I both took some Dramamine and somehow made it through. When we got to the Equator we got to play on the line between hemispheres, while also finding out that the actual line for the Equator is actually located about 60 meters away in the middle of the freeway! Good 'ol modern day GPS found that out - after the monument was built, of course! Oh well! It is really all about the pictures anyway, right? We had a snack and hung out at the Equator - took some pictures and did some shopping. When we were just getting into the bus I found out that the thing I had been trying to find at the Equator, but was told was not there, actually does exists! Oh well. I had been looking for the place to balance an egg on a nail and see the water flush in opposite directions depending on what side of the Equator you were on etc. It's okay - I did get to be in two hemispheres at once!

After the Equator we took another long and eventful bus ride to North Quito, where we saw a huge statue of a virgin angel that looks out over and is meant to protect the city. It kind of reminded me of the Statue of Liberty, but not :) We got some good pictures of the beautiful and impressive view. The city is SO condensed and it's hard to imagine how many people live in this area alone! Next stop was dinner - we finally got to eat! We went to a Waffles and Crepes restaurant in the mall (yes, there was a mall!) that was actually really good and cheap. The highlight though was the Cheesecake Brownie Lindsey and I hunted down for dessert. We were definitely craving some American sweets!

Final stop: the Quito Airport. We were on our way home! We loved Ecuador: the people, the landscape, the food, the music, the shopping & of course the culture...and we're sad to leave it all behind. Hence, the sadface picture.When Lindsey and I reached the airport we discovered that our carry on luggage was with the other group! Half our group came home with us on Thursday night and the others came home four days later - they stayed to do a few more fun things. We wished we could have stayed but we really were ready to come home and grateful we weren't staying for four more days. We had our good friend do some Spanish translating for us and he got one of the guys from the other group to bring us our luggage - close one. Once we had our belongings we headed off to the check-in line, the exit tax line, the security line, and then an additional security screening where tragedy struck. They went through our carry on luggage one by one. Lindsey and I had put all our breakable items, wooden gifts etc., in our carry on luggage. As they went through our bags they found a beautiful wooden kitten Lindsey had purchased as a gift that had a long, sort of pointy, tail. They forced her to break the tail off saying it could have been used as a weapon. So frustrating!
Lindsey: Let me just say, that the sharp shards of wood that resulted from the bludgeoning of my kitty was much more hazardous than it was to begin with. I was so angry that they broke it and threw the tail away, then handed the rest right back to me, but it really got me going when the woman said, "I'm sorry, but since we already found one WEAPON in your bag, we're going to have to search everything else on your person." Fan-freaken-tastic! Needless to say, the accosted kitty did make it across the border and now resides on Tiffany Porter's desk :)

We then got the pleasure of going on a 30 minute flight South (so not towards Utah at all) to Guayacuil, Ecuador. We had a 40 minute layover where we got our luggage searched again - Lindsey and I both also purchased $7 chocolate bars - we really wanted some chocolate and it was worth it! Then the real trip began. A 6 hour flight back to "Hotlanta" and then on our way back to Salt Lake City. We definitely took the Red Eye and sleep was hard to come by but we were so grateful to land in Salt Lake City at 10:30 AM on Friday, July 25. Welcome home!!

Day 10

Ellie: Today Lindsey and I were both feeling better!! Yeah!! We started the day at the construction site and finished up some work there, such as moving roof tiles, painting murals, sweeping and cleaning up a bit, etc. (Lindsey: Below is one of the murals we painted, showing the local condor, sun, volcano & several muchachos with typical instruments and corn.) The school LOVED it and were so excited!

Here's another one that the kids got a kick out of! It's a llama relaxing in a hammock with lemonade! Good times!

After a few hours of work we got to see an entertaining presentation by the Ecuadorian children from the school. It was so nice of them to put together a presentation to thank us! The little kids were so darling in their traditional Ecuadorian dress and there was even a little boy in an Indian headdress and the whole bit. So much fun! They did a traditional style dance for us first, which we all enjoyed. It was followed but some audience participation. Lindsey got chosen to partner with an older gentleman in our group to do a dance where they had to put a tomato between their foreheads and dance in a circle without letting the tomato fall! It was hilarious! Lindsey and her partner came in second in the little competition. (Lindsey: let me just say one word...AWKWARD!) The next one was an eating contest; two of our guys participated and we were all a little worried that the fruit they were eating would make them sick - who knows?! The last, and most entertaining activity was a sack race. First all the little Ecuadorian boys competed against each other and then all the grown boys/men in our group competed. It goes without saying that it was hilarious and there were a few scraped knees and entertaining falls. Just as we were boarding the bus to go back to our hotel for a delicious meal while avoiding the guinea pig (cuy) lunch we were offered, the Ecuadorians surprised us with even more graciousness. They brought out a huge bag of the cutest and most colorful beanies - they had one for each of us and they were hand made! There must have been 40 or 50 of them and the women of the village had to have made them all the night before. Amazing, impressive and so sweet of them.
I have to say one of the highlights of today was finally getting to divulge in some Coquiero ice cream. Lindsey and I had been trying to have this delicatessen for days but we weren't feeling well and/or didn't have time, etc. We both devoured ours. A Coquiero ice cream is one of the Top 10 treats to try in Otavalo (or at least we were so told) and since Ecuador struggles in the sweets department, Lindsey and I were on the search for something delicious. While eating our ice cream we did a bit more shopping with some friends, I am sure you are all shocked to hear that news! Then we went back to our rooms to pack our bags and make sure all our souvenirs would fit in our luggage so we could get it all home. It was our last night in Otavalo!

That night the Ecuatorians put on a special show for us and a fancy dinner. It was at a 'nicer' hotel and they had a banquet room all prepared for us. We had a delicious meal while two local bands serenaded us. One band came in first and went around to each table and played a song for us. Then the second band came in played at the front of the room for everyone and the dancing ensued. After a while of dancing, presentations were made; Our leaders thanked all of our local Ecuadorian contacts with gifts and flowers and then they thanked us for our service and invited us back. They gave each person a shawl or scarf, a bag/purse, and a book of stories in Spanish (so we could learn for our next trip!). They were so nice to us and gave us everything they had - they are an amazing people. We look like twin Pocahantas' but we were very appreciative! After some more dancing, jokes, pictures and laughing we headed back to our hotel for one last night of sleep in our matrimony room.

Day 9

Ellie: Once I finally opened my eyes at noon, today started to pick up. I thought I was dying through lunch but I started feeling better around 2 or 3 PM. Lindsey had gone to the construction site and I heard about a really cool thing that happened. One of the guys in our group had asked if we could take some of the donations we were handing out to schools with school supplies, to the school where we were doing the construction work. He got a bunch of school bags and school supplies and they took them up there. It was amazing because we learned that the school had run out of paper the day before and the amount of paper we brought them would last them for two years! Thanks to everyone and your donations! They were widely spread and appreciated in Ecuador.

Lindsey: That was a really cool experience and the school teachers were giddy, they were so excited! Here's a pic of the kids shaking our hands to thanks us! This morning we also helped paint the outside of the school & bathroom and also started some murals on the sides.
The boys continued working on the roof, prepping for the new materials that hadn't arrived yet.

A guy in the group, Dan, was quite the talented artist and the school faculty tried to take advantage of his skills by asking for as many images as we had time to paint! He was sketch out the design and we would fill in the rest. They looked amazing!
Now back to Ellie: After the work day Lindsey went with some of our friends back to the wood market to pick up a few more gifts. (Lindsey: We hitched a taxi ride, where we experienced the "3rd lane" epidemic where drivers create a new line right over the double yellow line, in between buses, semis, you name it! It was pretty scary, but we made it!)

When they got back I was feeling much better and so we all went with a group of friends down to a pizza restaurant for a dinner to spice things up for a us a bit and awaken our taste buds from the rice and meat options we had been having - although delicious, we all wanted a change. We got 4 super gigante pizzas, which were basically the best thing any of us had ever tasted. We made Andrew, a friend and contestant in American Idol, sing us some songs! That boy does the best Aaron Neville impression I've ever seen!

After dinner, Lindsey took a break in our room and I played a card game (Golf) with some friends downstairs. I was finally feeling well enough to not be in our room and I had to get out. I couldn't stop talking because I had so much energy after laying in bed for two days, which caused some laughter among some friends of mine - good times! (Lindsey: I can vouch for that, because we were on the 4th floor and I woke up, hearing Ellie roaring with laughter in the lobby! Glad she's back to her old self!)

Day 8

Ellie: Today was the day I wanted to die - it would have been a better option. In short, I got sick, really sick. Lindsey had not been feeling well Saturday and Sunday but was feeling good enough to go with a group to the clinic. I hung out in bed, literally bedridden. When Lindsey got back from working for lunch she let me know that her morning had felt about like mine and she kind of wanted to die because she wasn't feeling too well either.

Lindsey: I ended up assisting dentists by sterilizing their chairs after patients were done, but then had to go lay down for a while when things went downhill. Also wandered around the eye clinic but didn't have much energy to offer much help, unfortunately. I probably tried to push myself a bit too much by even go outside, but I didn't want to miss out.

I wasn't feeling well enough to go back out to work after lunch, and Ellie was still miserable so I got a doctor and had her come and get Ellie and I to take us to the clinic so they could get Ellie some medications. Yes, it's the same clinic I had been at during the morning, attempting to work at, and everyone was surprised to see us there, not to help, but to be helped! The doctor gave us a list of prescriptions for Ellie and we got a ride back to the hotel.

Ellie: I got to get a fun shot from one of the Ecuadorian doctors - who knows what was in it? But I think it eventually started to help. A lot of people from our group were getting sick about this time and a lot of us received the shot. Let's just say it was painful - horribly painful. I also had the fun experience of taking so many pills and being so drugged that I couldn't open my eyes from 10 PM Monday until Noon Tuesday. But then I started to feel better!

Lindsey: Unfortunately we both had to start drinking Pedialite (hence the horrific pic above) and were both also on antibiotics. No bueno...

That night, our group was invited to the Stake President's house to see his daughter's dance group perform some traditional dances. I was feeling well enough to go, but Ellie had to stay in bed and get better. They performed 3 different dances that are very common to their culture which was fun to see!We also got a demonstration about what the traditional clothing meant to their culture. Very fun, and it helped that we just had to sit and watch! We thanked the Stake President for his family's hospitality and headed back to our hotel.

Day 7

Ellie: Today was Sunday and we had a really good experience at church. We walked to the Stake Center and sort of surprised the Bishop when he walked in because there were 69 of us and we had talked to the Stake President about us being there but not the Bishop. Church started 25 minutes late...for no apparent reason, except that the Bishop hadn't even showed up yet! ha ha! Things are much slower paced in South America. We had planned to sing "Lead Kindly Light" during Sacrament so we were all there ready to sing - it went really well. The men in our group that could speak Spanish sang the first verse in Spanish and then the women did the second verse in Spanish and we all did the third verse in English. The congregation loved it. We also had brought some Book of Mormons with us and gave them to the missionaries who told us it was a miracle we had brought them because they hadn't had Book of Mormons to pass out for two weeks! It was a great day, even though I couldn't understand much of the meeting at church.
This is a pic of Andrew, Ellie & I with Dr. Nantu after church. She is pretty tiny, as you can tell! Or...we're just giants!

After church some of our group went on a bike ride but Lindsey and I weren't feeling so great so we went back to our matrimony room and watched Transformers with a friend of ours to try to feel better and take it easy. Isn't that what Sunday afternoons are for anyways?

Day 6

Ellie: Today we got to go to the biggest market in South America, which is only 2 blocks from our hotel in the plaza. Like true American women, we proceeded to shop for the first 5 hours straight of the day and had to take a trip back to our hotel to drop off our treasures to go back out to shop again! The prices were amazing - at least to us - and we each bought a dozen bracelets (for $1.50 each) among other jewelry, alpaca blankets ($10-18 each), bags and other fun Ecuadorian souvenirs.

Lindsey: This was a proud day for me, as I was the "Spanish" speaker for the group, bartering with the best of them! Honestly, my Spanish is pretty bad, but I actually got told my a local that I had good Spanish, after she asked where I learned! Sure, it was after we spent like $50 with her, but I still felt it appropriate to gloat :)

We also saw some things you wouldn't necessarily see at your corner drug store here, such as a full grown pig roasting in a pan, head and all! We saw fried fish, but not just the fish you eat - the whole thing - tail, fins, gills, mouth and all. Delicious. After the market we went out to lunch and ate a delicious and filling meal at a Pizzeria. Lunch and drinks for 6 people was $12! I can barely eat lunch for just me for $12 in the states!

After lunch the real fun began. A group of us got together for some horse back riding. We arrived at the stable and all mounted our horses - some of us had pretty much no experience but soon we were trotting and galloping around the countryside of Ecuador.
It was so much fun! I have never gone that fast, or that long, on a horse and I loved it. We rode for nearly 4 hours and I laughed so hard at bouncing around that I nearly fell off laughing! Although, I have to say Lindsey and I were both a little saddle sore shortly after. But it was worth it! We went down some relatively steep and treacherous hills, through a tunnel where our feet hit the walls and through some streams and we loved every minute. My horse was kind of a brat and bit Lindsey's horse as well as made some other enemies but it was all in good fun and only brought on more laughter. Lindsey and I were the lucky ones though because two of our party did get kicked by their horses and one girl lost her camera - we consider ourselves lucky for coming out unscathed!
When we got back Lindsey and I went to bed early in an effort to combat the slight sickness we were both feeling. After nearly a week in another country where you can't even drink the water, it's bound to happen.