Sat., June 27, 2015 and Sun., June 28, 2015:

After our flight back to Quito the group drove two and half hours north to Otavalo, the market. We stopped at a lookout with a beautiful view. 

It was a great trip for everyone and a lot Christmas shopping was done. 

On Sunday, we went to Advent St. Nicolas church, one of the conference's Ecuador partners. The service and the atmosphere was great. The church and its grounds are so peaceful even though it lies in the middle of a bustling city.

        

The group then headed to the Mitad del Mundo. So much has changed since I was there last July. A new entrance has been built. As you enter a large path is lined with busts of important people in Ecuadorian history and beautifully painted humming birds. They are similar to the cows that started in Zurich and the arches and cakes around St. Louis. Each one it painted by different artists.

    
We then went to meet with the Chuquiragua girls at the Kiwanis Club in Quito. It was a moving experience to hear the girls and their mothers talk about what this scholarship opportunity has done for them and their family.


Our last stop was to the Virgin of Quito. We went right at dusk and were able to see a great view of the city. 
 

It was then time to go back to the hotel to say goodbye to the group from Alhambra. They were flying back home around midnight. It was hard to say goodbye to my new friends, but I know that I have tons of new wonderful adventures ahead of me in the next three weeks.


Mon., June 29, 2015:

After an early morning flight Lee-Alison and I arrived at Carmita and Galo’s home in Loja.  

Lee-Alison and I worked together at DuBois after High School and reconnected through the Ecuador Partnership Committee for the Conference.  
Over the course of her travels to Ecuador she has become close to a couple of families in the southern region and that is where I will be for the next week.  

We took a siesta after breakfast and then headed to the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja where Carmita’s daughter, Solé is an engineering professor. We visited the civil engineering labs where they test soil and building materials.  They also work with mining companies to determine how saturated the ground is with primarily gold, silver, and copper. 

Testing the use of natural products in building materials for strength and fire resistance. 

Determining the quantity of gold and silver  in a sample by heating it to 1000 degrees C.





Solé served as our tour guide throughout 
the day. She showed us so much of the campus and it was very interesting. The two gentlemen in the picture showed us around the labs and even demonstrated a few things for us. 

I loved every minute of our lab tour. It was cool. I was totally nerding out the whole time. 






We also visited the campus chapel and cafe. Carmita's oldest daughter Andrea joined us for a coffee and delicious snacks.
 


















Tue., June 30, 2015:

Today we toured Loja.  Every few blocks there is a park with a church.  The parks have pavilions where the people come on the weekends to enjoy music and dancing.  We saw many statues and pieces of architecture devoted to Simón Bolivar, who liberated Ecuador and many other countries from Spain.  Here are some pictures from my day.

We went to a sacred village called Vilcabamba. This was from a lookout from a hostel nearby. 


Wed., July 1, 2015 and Thu., July 2, 2015:

On Wednesday we went to Cera, a VERY small community in the mountains.  They make ceramics there (hence the name Cera).  As we were driving through the mountains it started to mist and this beautiful rainbow appeared in the valley.
 
We left Cera and went to Catamayo.  This is Pastor Segundo and his wife Julia.  The conference helped built this church with them in 2007.  At that time the consisted of two make shift walls that leaned up against wall of another building.  It had a dirt floor and . The church has grown so much since 2007.  They have developed a pre-school program and a youth program.  They are actually looking to expand the building because they need the room to continue to grow their youth programs.  They have done so much with very little.  God has truly blessed this congregation.  

On Thursday Lee-Allison and I went to Cuenca with Carmita's son and his fiance. It was a three hour drive north through the mountains.  When we were 14 km away we hit a traffic jam. We turned off the main road in an attempt to get through faster, but it was packed too.  We were there so long that we turned off the car and got out.  This was our view and the weather was beautiful.  I walked up and down the road looking at the homes and small farms.  I felt very much at home....well not at home...more like at the farm. :)

Cuenca is a World Heritage Site and is a beautiful city.  There are four rivers that run through the city.  The hostal where we stayed looked out over one of these rivers.  The sounds of the river helped drown out the sounds of the city.  I could have just sat by the river all day, but we had much to see.  Below is the Cathedral in Abdon Park. I passed on climbing the 150 stairs to the top.  
  


Outside one of the churches was a flower market. As you may remember Ecuador is known for its roses.  The pink roses were HUGE...every bit of three inches in diameter.

In the evening we went to a play at the local theater. I was worried that I would not understand enough of what was going on, but it ended up being a silent play.  That was good for me.:) I understood it as much as everyone else.  It was a bit strange. 


Fri., July 3, 2015:

Today we continued our tour of Cuenca.  We met up with Sole's husband (he was visiting his sister), and he served as our guide for the day.  We went to a museum dedicated to the Pumapungo Inca tribe.  In the 1940's the city was expanding and they broke ground on a new high school.  That is when they discovered the ruins of the village of Tumipampa. Construction halted and numerous gold and clay artifacts were discovered. 

(I couldn't take pictures in the museum.  I am looking on the internet to see if I can find any of the artifacts)

Archaeologists and anthropologists unearthed the remains of the city and the foundations of the buildings. Here are a few pictures of the site. 


The museum constructed a replica of the type of building that would have been in the village.
            

Similar to the  Cahokia Mounds, this tribe built their village on higher ground as protection from the river.
  

A garden containing the types of food and plants the Pumapungo had is also planted near the
river.