Lisa’s post: My first reaction when asked “What do you do with your days?” is to panic. Am I being productive? Am I contributing? Am I fully using my talents here in Ecuador? But, there are other times when I am sure that my time in Ecuador was not meant to be about being productive – quite the opposite – this was my time to work on just being. To be still. To listen patiently for a/the/any “call”. To be quiet and comfortable with downtime. I’ve come to the conclusion that growth can be found in silence and lack of “busyness”.
Ana Luisa and her family
But, I still get flustered about not doing anything so my default activity has been to focus on my only goal while here – namely learning Spanish. I’ve had one-on-one classes twice a week with Ana Luisa, who has since become a good friend. She even pushed me to translate presentations from Spanish to English during a conference on GMOs – I still need to work on my grammar and vocabulary, but I feel pretty confident now in most situations. I also took a class at the University of Cuenca (in Spanish) on indigenous cultures.
Staff at El Arenal
I have also been able to volunteer – mainly consulting on
Betty showing me repairs that were supported by gringo donations
fundraising. The experience has been reminiscent of my Peace Corps days; I received far more than I gave and things move at their own pace. Even though my time was numbered in months, things still took months to happen if they happened at all. I had the privilege to work with Fundacion el Arenal, a support program for 75 at-risk children who live in poverty. Betty, the director, is a passionate, committed and gracious person – I learned a lot from her about tenacity.
US Dentist working on children from El Arenal.
Thankfully all my work was done in Spanish (see my only goal cropping up again?!) I am particularly proud of connecting a visiting US dentist with the Fundacion. He did exams, extracted some children’s painful teeth and in the process we found a Cuencano dentist willing to continue seeing the children for free in the future. How nice to leave here knowing that those children will not have to overcome dental pain in addition to the other hurdles in their lives.
I had written before that I volunteered to serve as a class parent for Rachel’s class at the kids’ school, Santana. I was hesitant at first – mostly insecure of my Spanish abilities, but it has been a rewarding part of my
Moms at our Costa Rican booth during a Santana festival
time here. My interactions with parents and the administration at Santana put me right in the heart of Cuencano culture. To be honest, sometimes I can smile at the differences and other times they drive me nuts! Educational systems are reflections of cultural values and Santana has taught me a lot.
Amidst these other activities, Wayne and I have maintained our real estate business. We were incredibly fortunate to have Sarah, Dan and Martin to manage the properties. While there have been harried times, neither of us can complain of long hours. It is a huge blessing that we have been able to live off our business income while here. The challenge is that sometimes it makes me feel like we have had one foot in Cuenca and the other in Asheville.
Art with Arie and Gary
And…my days are also filled because everything just takes longer here. There is no such thing as one-stop shopping! I’ve learned to cherish the couple of hours I spend walking to/from and shopping at the local market every week buying vegetables and catching up with market friends. I can’t get everything there though…need to go to the supermarket, the coop, the bakery and the meat vendor too.
I’ve also challenged myself to try some new things. I took my first ever art class and took a course through the Baha’i church here. I am so thankful that I have had the time to venture into unknown waters. I’ve been active in a gluten-free support group here too.
But…we’re not out of here yet. Our artist friends have asked our family to paint a mural for the children’s ward at a local hospital and Wayne has signed us both up for some awesome exercise classes three times a week. We are just trying to take advantage of and savor every moment we have left of this great experience.