Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The rest of the Ecuador trip is on its way, but first:

I don't get chance to watch it much, but I love King of the Hill. It's been on for about 10 years now almost as an after thought -- usually preempted due to football games on FOX. Still, it is usually full of subtle humor and light parody. Like Hank Hill, the straight-laced and stoic lead character, the show keeps going on and makes amusing comments about life and society without demanding attention.

After visiting Texas, I also found out that King of the Hill is a documentary.

Anyway, I found a clip from the show where the Methodist Hill family does some chuch-shopping. After a few disasterous stops, they end up at a mega-church with HD screens, trams, and a gift shop. Enjoy:

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Act 2:

For supper that night, we had stopped at a strip mall with numerous resturants and stores that wouldn't be out of the place in the suburbs here in the states. Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken (both untranslated) were two of our options. This, however, just seemed odd to us -- you don't travel to another continent and eat at places you can walk to from your house. Nonetheless, my father ordered a pizza for us from a local establishment before I could object. It was standard pizza, however, it was accompained by a group of girls playing on the foosball table next to ours. Some things are easier to translate than others.

After spending the night in Ibarra, we went back to the church the next morning do clean up and prepare for our trip back to Quito. After this final stop at the church to load our bus with additional chairs we slowly made our way back. Admittingly, the rest of the day was not a filled, which was nice after a long day before.

On our way out of town, it was clear that Ibarra was much like other cities: beautiful and somewhat prosperous at the first glance, but had populations that couldn't easily afford what we shopped and ate at the previous night. The disparity is something I don't think we're used to as much in the well-off suburban and urban areas.

For a late lunch, we spent time at "El Mitdad Del Mundo," aka The Middle of the World. It's a monument and tourist stop on the Equator about 10 miles north of Quito. The centerpiece of this is a monument that is placed right on the line that separates the Northern hemisphere from the Southern. We took an elevator to the top of the monument, and we able to get a wonderful (albeit windy) view around us. Here are a few more pictures: Due West. Nearby villages. Right on the line.

That evening, we made it back to our original Hostel and had most of the evening free. Our Hostel is located about 4 blocks from one of the major roads in Quito, as well as next to one of the malls. The mall contains a McDonalds, a coffee shop, and a number of upscale resturants -- and it was somewhat strange to think of myself as in another country, one that is often referred to as "third world." A few blocks away, and it was a little easier to remember. They also had a sizeable movie theather, one that was showing mostly US or British-based movies. I just hope they don't get their view of the US from Tom Cruise and Jennifer Aniston movies.

The next morning we headed out to a local Hospital and Hospice to distribute chairs for some of those in the Hospice. While some spent their time fixing chairs on the site, I ended up, again, taking pictures for us to catalogue back in the States. There were subtle reminders of the neighborhood around us. First off, we were right next to the airport, with planes going overhead every few minutes. The other reminder was the barrier of broken glass bottles that surrounded the hospital area to keep people out. Still, out on the patio, it was a rather nice view of Qutio. Inside, people continued to fit people into their chairs while people like my father helped out the patients.

In the afternoon, our groups split up. My father and I went out to the local marketplace while others took a short tour of the city. While we both had a nice afternoon, we were unable to take part of a bit of Ecuadorian culture. It seems that the rest of the group had a chance to sample Cuy - BBQ Guinea Pig. From what I'm told, it is quite the delicacy in Ecuador and other Andean cultures. It is fried whole, skinned, and then presented. I'm also told it tastes like chicken, or possible rabbit. Believe it or not, but I actually kind of regret missing this.

Part 3 is on the way, again, sooner than later.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I think one of the reasons that it's taken me forever to write about Ecuador is because I'm trying to find supurlatives that aren't overused on "missions trips." I'll get my cynicism and linguistic rants out of the way first, just because the trip was largely cynic-free.

When on a trip like this, it's easy to compare Ecuador to what I know based on only a small sampling. The grass is greener, most notably when you've only got a week - and that week is spent largely in the prosporous capital city, within walking distance of two malls - either of which could have been in Minneapolis or Edina. When some of that other time is spent wandering around after dark in other sizeable cities, it's hard to gague a whole country on a short trip. It's jarring to walk past a Tower Records and cell phone billboards, and then be told the country's average income is about $300 a month. The disconnect is a bit striking.

That being said, I loved my time in Ecuador. As someone who has lived all but two years in the flat world of the midwest, waking up to mountains on every side of you is something you don't want to get used to too easily. Strangely enough, even though Quito is about 10 miles south of the Equator, I wore a long-sleeved shirt or a jacket nearly every day - the city is located rather high in the mountains. Even some of the mountains near the city were snow capped.

In short, our goal was to distribute wheelchairs in connection with some of the churches in Ecuador - who had already found people in need. This happened many of the days we were there. Unfortunately, about half of the chairs we wanted to give out (around 300) were still on a barge in the Panama Canal by the time we got there, so were had an extra day free. Still, that left us with a large number to give out.

The majority of the chairs were given in Ibarra, a city about 60 miles away - a three hour drive via bus. We set overselves up in the courtyard of the Bethel Iglesia Del Pacto Evangelico (Bethel Evangelical Covenant Church), but there was a long line in front of the church before we got there. We spend most of the day talking to people about how the disabled manage in Ecuador, fitting people in their chairs, cataloging pictures of people in their chairs for office use (which was my main duty), and hearing about the lengths people took to get to Ibarra. Many took long bus trips (3-14 hours) to pick up a chair, while others were carried on the backs of friends or mothers. Others sat outside the church for at least 12 hours, waiting for the shipment of children's chairs in the evening. I knew that my definition of patience needed to be stretched, and this was a good day to see examples of what waiting means.

I will get to Part 2 of this sometime the week. Really. I'm making a note of it. Now that I've got all of the photos online, it shouldn't be much of a problem.