The lights had been brought down to a dim glow. Outside the window the shadows of Ecuador´s mountains were ominous yet inspiring. I was seated comfortably on a large cusion next to Benjy, the pastor’s son. His entire family along with our team was tightly-packed into their tiny but cozy living room. At the moment the television set flashed as Rod drove up the ramp, flew over the car, and crashed pathetically into the side of the landing ramp. As he tried to get back up he began to lose his cookies.
A high-pitched giggle sounded from the kitchen table. It was Washington, the pastor of the church and our deputation daddy, so to speak. He and his wife were laughing uncontrollably, uttering exclamations in spanish. Brittany and Missy were bouncing with laughter on a cushion with Jonathon and Samuel, the two younger kids. I took one last swig of my cup of black tea. It’s funny just how much sweeter things taste here, I thought.
Things only got better from there. Though we opted to keep the movie in English with Spanish subtitles no joke was spared for anyone. We thought watching a movie as American as Hot Rod would be an honorable way to comemorate our home country´s independence day (that and eating hamburgers for dinner), but I think it fair to say that we were all genuinely surprised by how much our church family enjoyed the film. With each subsequent explosion and terrible misfortune which befell Rod we all only felt more and more joyful. It felt in that moment like two cultures had genuinely been brough together, creating something beautiful.
When the credits finally began to roll we all sat still for several minutes. After a few seconds I got up and walked over to Benjy to ask him if he had enjoyed it:
´´¡Claro!´´ his eyes beamed as he patted me on the shoulder.
We were finally speaking the same language.
Ecuador has been absolutely amazing so far! Our team is definitely living it up in Cotacachi. We never really know what we`re going to be doing day by day, it`s all just a big adventure! We have been getting to know the town and many of the locals and have really come to start feeling at home in this wonderful town! Yesterday we journeyed to a town called Lita, in the rainforest where we will be helping out with a youth camp in a few weeks and got very excited for that! We`ve been falling in love with the city and the culture here. Some of us have even tried guinea pig! It`s definitely been a trip that has required a lot of flexibility, but we all just laugh it off and enjoy everything immensely. It has been amazing to see God working in each of our lives and the community here and we are each excited to see how that continues!
So unlike the other teams, we did not go across the Pacific or Atlantic ocean.
The team: Brittany Cook, Melissa Nipert, Sean Anderson, and myself Leonardo Lee.
Our first impressions of this gorgeous land were varied (This was from the airport):
myself (Leo) – looks like Cambodia! (the airport specifically)
Melissa – look at the glowing toll booth stopper things for cars!
Sean – *overwhelmed*
Brittany – OMG there´s so many people.
We were pooped when we got off the plane. It was midnight (we went to sleep at 2am) when we got through customs and all that jazz. Washington greeted us, not George but the pastor of the church we will be working at. Finding me first (figures as I am the only asian, later he chuckled at my observation of this) Washington introduced us his son Benji (the one Erica told us to pester) and also to Liana.
It was culture shock, I was overwhelmed by the fact I understood none of the words of this language (Brittany is the other on the trip that does not speak spanish, I think this is the hemisphere where my knowledge of Korean and Japanese would not help at all).
The landscape is beautiful, it reminds me of Korea, mashed with California. Cotacatchi is the town we are stayng in, it is two hours from Quito, the capital and the place where we landed. Cotacatchi is named after one of the active volcanoes sandwich the town. We were told the volcanoes were safe. The architecture reminds me of Cambodia and Mexico and graffiti is prevalent.
The weather is cold in the wet season, which is ending soon. In fact today was the first day of intense sunshine. It is going to be a blast.
The noise at night is entertaining, but keeps us a bit tired. We are next to a circus and we have witnessed calisthenic dances. A word that we struggled to find out what is means was Alabonza. We found out it means worship music, much to our surprise. Other cultural things we experienced: the sun dance (which coincidentally started when we arrived in Ecuador), bread, Pescado, the statue of Michael the Arcangel. The sun dance was dangerous, as they murder anyone who is dancing with other groups (I would think people would encourage dancing of many instead of attack one another). From this ceremony we saw a body of a dead indian as he was hit by a car trying to cross the freeway.
Each day has been entirely different. Our first day from arriving was a day of relaxing and getting to know Washington´s family. The second we spent repainting cement tilings for a roof. The third was orientating ourselves with the English pastor and cultural definitions of gender roles. Today we did worship sermons and youth activities.
Animals, the dogs seem smarter, but disease is more common, cows are pretty chill. We have not seen llamas or alpacas though much to my disappointment.
Our days are fluid, we work hard, start eary and end early. We are told what we will be doing the night before, and it feels like this is an adventure. We have lots of free time (lots of reading) and I have been studying music and theology as well.
For all back at home I hope you are all doing well, to all those who are praying for our trip thanks, and I hope to see you all soon. God bless.