Ecuador Mission Trip - July 2014

Sun., July 13, 2014:
Abby, Grace, and Madelyn (and Mom & Dad, of course) were eager to get up extra early to take me to the airport on Saturday morning. Too bad dad had to get right back in the car to come back to the airport to bring me back home.  :( But a
fter a 24 hour delay due to a cancelled flight, we are now on our way to Ecuador via Minneapolis, MN and Houston, TX.

Now we are waiting here in Houston to board our 5.5 hour flight to Quito, Ecuador.  We should be there around midnight to head to our hotel and get a little sleep before our "day of fun" in Quito on Monday.

"THANK YOU!"  to everyone who donated to Blessings in Blocks and help meet our goal of 100 blocks before I left for Ecuador!

Mon., July 14, 2014:

After a great night's sleep, the group headed out to some new locations in the capital city of Quito.  We first visited the Basilica del Voto Nacional (the Basilica of the National Vow).  It was both beautiful on the inside and out.

Instead of the gargoyles that you might expect, there were native Ecuadorian animals such as armadillos, penguins, Galapagos tortoises, and iguanas looking down from above.

The rose stained glass windows were unbelievable.

We left the Basilica and went to take a tour of the Presidential Palace.  A ceremony honoring the flag of Ecuador and the military in the square in front of the palace was taking place when we arrived.  This ceremony is held every Monday.  The palace guard and band were there along with lots of police, special forces, and "secret service."  Oh, and we were about 50 yards from the President and Vice President of Ecuador.  It was pretty interesting to see this pomp and circumstance.

We visited a few other places around the city including the Virgen de Quito.  This statue stands at the top of the city looking down to protect it from evil.  She can be seen from almost anywhere in Quito.

Around 4:00 we headed south to our hotel to get settled in for the week.  The group had dinner tonight with the family and maestros.  We are working with the same maestros as we did in February and the two children, Darwin and Myra, will be with us all week too.

Tue., July 15, 2014:

The family we are building the home for consists of Gladys, who is a widow in her forties, her father, Don Luis, and her daughter, Estefani, who is 16 and goes to school in Quito. 
Like in February, the house is being built in the middle of a corn field, but in a completely different neighborhood.  The house that we are building on this trip is somewhat larger than the one we built in February.  This is great for the family, but for the build crew it just means more holes to dig.  We dug twelve 1 cubic meter holes today. 
We finished that project just around eleven and then got busy tying rebar.  Kent, our group leader, brought some new "fancy" rebar tying tools called swizzles (at least that is what he
called them).  I am sure that they are great tools, but none of us could figure out how to
use them.  I stuck with my old tool.  The maestros loved them though.  They were all smiles when they found out that we had them. I am hoping that tomorrow one of them will teach me how to use them as we have tons more rebar to tie. 

We spent the afternoon mixing and pouring concrete. It was very hard work, but we got quite a bit done for the first day on the site.  It was a beautiful but windy day, and we were able to see most of Cotopaxi all day long. 

Wed., July 16, 2014:

Today we spent the day tying more rebar and mixing concrete.  We tied twelve rebar columns that serve as the supports for the walls.  I have decided that tying rebar in my favorite job.  We are able to sit in chairs and have good conversations while we tie.  
The majority of the day did consist of mixing LOTS of concrete.  12 holes, 3 batches of concrete each, and 6 buckets of sand in each batch.  That is 216 buckets of sand...just today. Needless to say I am pretty tired this evening.  
This is me after dumping about a third of those buckets into the mixer.
Kent and I walked to a local grocery store once we got home from the site to get some snacks for the group to have in the evening (Ruffles, Doritos, and Oreos...oh my).  I was able to see more of the town and the people.  There were lots of young people walking from place to place and I learned that it is proper for females to walk on the inside of the sidewalk, furthest from the road. 

After a great spaghetti dinner we were all so tired and full that we decided to skip games and head to bed early. 

Thu., July 17, 2014:

We started our day by visiting Lisa's Angels Daycare and hearing the status of the facility and FEDICE. This is one of the programs supported by the ISC and the Ecuador Partnership. They provide loans and support to local women who are starting their own agriculture "business."  The daycare is one way that FEDICE supports these women.  Currently FEDICE and the ISC are working together to build a 2nd story onto the daycare.  Here is a picture of the organization of the children's things in one of the bathrooms.  Each child has his or her own toothbrush, wash cloth, cup, etc.
I have a video of the kids that I will work on getting posted to the site soon.

Once back at the site we finished tying rebar  columns into the floor of the house.  This is a little more difficult then the support columns because you have to tie them on the ground.  We have to kneel or sit on the dirt or concrete floor of the house.  We then filled  the floor of the house with large rocks.  We loaded wheel barrows full of the rocks then hauled them up a small incline to the maestros who placed them in the house.  All in all today was a pretty easy day. Which is good because tomorrow we will pour the concrete floor and that is a lot of work.

By the way....we sent clothes out this morning to be laundered and my shirt came back perfectly clean. :)

Fri., July 18, 2014:

This morning we visited the house we built in February. It was a bit emotional to see the finished product.  When I saw the finished walls knowing that they contained all those hundreds of blessings it was a wonderful feeling. 
Back at the new build site we mixed and poured concrete pretty much all day. Too many loads of concrete to count.  Here are some pictures to show you the process.
We finished pouring around 2:30 and spent the rest of the day getting the site ready for the block delivery and taking photos with the family and maestros.  Even with the language barrier it is amazing how close we all become by the end of the week.  We have fun together.

Sat., July 19, 2014:

Today we started building the house.  Over 1600 blocks were delivered to the site that were unloaded.  We then mixed a large batch of mortar and started putting up the walls.  There were many friends and family of the Gladys, the home owner, working on the house today. All the people made the work go pretty fast.

As we left the build site I went around and took some pictures of all the animals that we encountered throughout the week.  Chickens, pigs, dogs, and the biggest hog that I think I have ever seen.

Tonight we will have dinner with the family and the maestros again.  There will be a nice presentation for the family as well as the members of the ISC build team.

This will be my last post for a couple of days.  I will not have internet access until I am at the Quito airport and it isn't the best.  I will for sure update the site once I am back home in the states. 

Sun., July 20, 2014:

After breakfast we said goodbye to two of our Ecuadorian friends, Erick and Carlos, who worked with us throughout the week.  They headed to the bus station to take a 10 hour bus ride to Guayaquil, which is on the coast.

The rest of the group went to church at Advent-St. Nicolas, on of Ecuador partners, for church. Evidently it was Illinois day in Ecuador because there as a group there from Chicago too.  We were able to meet up with two of their members, Bob and Roger, who worked with us for the first 3 days of the build. They are both from the Seattle area and have found themselves living in Quito for different reasons.  It was nice to have those connections with people living in Quito.  These photos are taken in the courtyard during fellowship hour.

We then went to Otavalo to the market, where I bought lots of fun treasures.Around 4:00 we headed back to Quito to Pizza Hut for dinner, then back to the Hotel Dan for our last night's sleep in Ecuador.

Mon., July 21, 2014:

We got a late start for our day and met in the lobby for breakfast around 9:30. We walked to a corner bakery for coffee and donuts. The group then headed to Mitad del Mundo (The Middle of the World) to enjoy a day at the Equator. While there, we visited the museum inside of the monument. The museum displays the various regions and cultures of the people of Ecuador.

Back in Quito, we spent the afternoon walking around colonial Quito. The architecture is completely different than in other parts of the city. The balconies & cathedrals were beautiful.

After dinner at a seafood restaurant, Mare Nostrum, we drove to the airport for our flight home.

Tue., July 22, 2014:

Our overnight flight went well. We tried to get at much sleep as we could.  The plane landed in Houston around 5:30 am and we had six hour layover waiting for our flight to St. Louis.  Even though we were missing Ecuador already, we were ready to be back home.  I am grateful for this opportunity once again and I can not wait to share more of my trip with all of you.
This is Ecuador's motto and symbol it is everywhere throughout the country. 
Ama la Vida... Love Life