Tuesday, June 21, 2011


When we first arrived at Mushuk Kawsay, I spent quite a bit of time walking around the school, observing customs and habits, and making mental notes about what might be useful health education.  One of the first things I noticed was the bathrooms, including the fact that there was no soap or toilet paper, and faucets were not readily used before exiting.  So, in a February conversation with the director, I brought up the idea of providing bars of soap at the sinks, and then doing handwashing education with all of the age groups.  In public bathrooms in Ecuador, especially in rural areas, there is generally not soap or toilet paper, so this situation really is not unusual. 
However, from the beginning, the director thought it was a good idea to provide soap.  He needed, though, to speak to other people involved with the school, and think about how to go about it. 
Weeks stretched into months, and in my mind, that type of timing seemed to me to mean nothing would be done, though we talked about it regularly.  At the end of April, though, I was asked to help choose soap and toilet paper dispenser for every bathroom.  I had thought small, with bars of soap, but the director was thinking bigger, decided liquid soap would be better, and traveled to the city to find someone who would install dispensers. 
On the big day, there was a short assembly by the director for all the students and teachers, informing them of the additions to the bathrooms, and reminding them to conserve the products (Push the soap dispenser only one time, Use only small amounts of toilet paper, etc), and then throughout the day, I went to each classroom.  With the smallest children, I emphasized how to wash your hands, and then we walked to the bathroom to try it out.  It was like a field trip!  They had so much fun with it.  With the older children and high school, I talked about how to wash your hands thoroughly, but also spent more time on why- what germs are, and how to prevent spreading them.  The teachers got involved in teaching the kids as well.  One of the teachers said that this is the first school in the area to have soap and toilet paper, so it was kind of an exciting day for them!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

17th of May

Since we are here with a Norwegian mission group, we were invited to the local celebration of their Constitution Day.  It was a fun day of traditional Norwegian food, songs and games.  There are quite a few Norwegians with Ecuadorian family, so it was a mix of Norwegian and Spanish languages, with a little English for our benefit.  Here are a couple photos...

Monday, May 30, 2011


One free Saturday, we finally took a day trip to Ingapirca, local Inca, and previously Cañari, ruins.  It is not nearly as large or complete as Machu Picchu, but an intersting day nonetheless.   Included are some pictures and a website link about the history for those interested...
Ingapirca website in English

For any of you interested in stonework, we took quite a few more closeup pictures of the stonework in different areas...  ask us and we can send them to you or show you when we return:)

Visit to Vilcambamba and Loja

The week before Easter, we had a few days free from school, so we traveled south in the mountains to the area around Vilcabamba.  It is advertised as a place to become younger, or live a very long time, so there are a lot of tourists, but we went for the scenery and hiking.  It was a long bus ride(s), but the view through the mountains really was beautiful.  We found a place outside of town with small cabins located near the start of many trails and enjoyed the nature.  We were able to spend one full day hiking, on a horse trail through a lot of mud.  We should have had waders!  But, it was a really nice hike, and we ended up in a cloudforest, which we had heard of but never seen.  Unfortunately, our camera batteries died right about then, so we don't have good pictures of it...
Seth relaxing and waiting for food in Vilcabamba

Jen relaxing in the hammock in the cabin.

The view from the hammock

Seth recovering from a fall in the stream...

Seth crossing the river.
The final destination, and a glimpse at the cloudforest... 

This area has a lower elevation than where we live in Cañar, so we were able to experience much warmer weather, as well as large spiders around the cabin...  but we are not including pictures of these:) 
After a couple days around Vilcabamba, we spent a day in the city of Loja.  Here we bought coffee beans and just generally relaxed before returning to Cuenca early (Resurrection) Sunday morning.   We had beautiful views again on our early morning bus ride back to Cuenca, and attended a Spanish service in Cuenca before returning home to Cañar.

Guayaquil and Jennifer's Birthday

At the beginning of April, we went to Guayaquil to visit some Norwegian missionary friends that live there.  We were planning to go by bus, and as we were waiting, we met some nuns who were also going to Guayaquil.  We passed up one bus that has a bad safety reputation, and the next bus was full, and as the time passed, we started to wonder if we were going to make in, when the nuns suddenly said "We're driving and you will come with us."  (in Spanish)  So, we did.  They got a truck, and it was an interesting ride through the storms down the mountains!  It got more interesting as we realized they didn't really know the city, so there were a few tense moments sitting on the side of the highway and driving through traffic until our hosts came to pick us up in a convent. 
We were only in the city for a short weekend, but we were able to visit some of the city's highlights, attend church in Spanish, and had great times of visiting with friends.

 After returning early Monday morning (by bus), we were back to work at school, and Seth was busy preparing the goose for a birthday dinner, from live goose in the yard to dinner table.  We had some friends over to celebrate Jen's and Atle's birthday and had an enjoyable evening. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cañari Bible

In the middle of March, we were privileged to be able to witness the "debut" of the first complete Bible translated in to Cañari Kichwa.   They had a program on Friday night consisting of speakers and musical or folk dance selections from various groups in the Province of Cañar, as well as Kichwa representatives from other areas of Ecuador to celebrate with them.   A group of children from Mushuk Kawsay also sang a selection in Spanish, Kichwa and English.

The next day, people lined up in the town of Tambo to walk along the road to Cañar, where the official presentation would be.  At first, there was a bit of rain, and it didn't look as though there would be a lot of people, but people kept coming and adding to the parade.   There ended up being thousands of people that walked those kilometers!   It was really neat to see all the groups of people- mostly people from Kichwa Lutheran and Baptist churches from all around, and to talk to various people who were walking.  They were so thankful for the work that had been done and for the possibility to be able to read a Bible in their native language, and use it in the church.  It was also moving to meet an older missionary woman, that had lived here for many years, who had returned for the occasion.  When that generation of missionaries were here, they faced many trials, as did the Kichwa people, especially those first, who were Christians.   When this woman saw how many people were walking along the road in support, she had tears.   It was a great day to experience.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mushuk Kawsay

The school we are working at is called Mushuk Kawsay ("New Life").  It was started in the 1990s by a group of evangelical Christian Kichwa families to provide an education for their families.  Each year they have added new grade levels, and 2012 will be the first graduating class.  Their aim is to be trilingual- Spanish as the primary language, with Kichwa and English also taught in classes.   Before we moved, we met with the director and interested teachers and parents to talk about our role as volunteers in the school.  First, they asked us to pray for the students and their role in helping them learn and develop.  Many of the students have one or both parents working in the United States, and, while most of them live with other family members, there are many children that haven't seen their parents since they were infants or toddlers, and don't have a close family environment. 

Seth's primary role is to teach English in the high school.  Sometimes he is teaching in conjunction with the school director, but usually he has the classroom.   The books provided to the school are way above the actual level of the students, so Seth has developed his own curriculum, starting from the beginning, with "Good morning" and "How are you".  
I help with at least one English class period per week per grade level in the elementary school, and spend other hours working on health projects.  The first project, after consultation with the director and doctor from the local health center, was to make a basic medical chart for each of the 200 students, including birthdate, height and weight, for the doctor and/or other health workers to use when they come to examine students or give vaccines. 
 We enjoyed our home stays during our first few weeks- it was a great way to meet new people, learn about about a culture and practice speaking Spanish, but we have been very thankful for a place in which we can prepare meals, invite people over on occasion and relax by a fire.  We are including a couple pictures of our place and our view (if there is sun)...  Blessings until our next update!