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.


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