Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ecuador Part I

We have spent the last 10 days in Ecuador. I tried to write a post on the second day but we were so busy that posting was impossible. So this is the first of a series on our trip to Equador. Below are Max and Grayson poking their little heads out of the suitcase. They didn't get to surface again until the just before the end of the trip. We did 10 trainings in 10 days. We had one day off - sort of - Monday of the first week we didn't have a training but I met with a mission president and 5 missionaries and Darwin taught a non spanish speaking senior finance secretary how to do an audit in spanish and we put together our own outline of how we wanted to do the trainings because on Tuesday we did our first training on our own. The last Saturday we did 2 trainings. (We did one and Miguel did one at the same time in another part of town.)

There are more pictures at the end of the itinerary, in a slide show that lasts a little over 6 minutes. There are some good shots of the area in and around Otavalo and Ibarra. The Otavalo Indians dress in there traditional dress. The men and boys wear while shirts and pants with a blue ruana, sweater, or vest and white sandles. Some wear western dress but most of the members of the two wards we visited in Otavalor (over 350) people were in traditional dress. The young men of Otavalo are not required to cut their hair to serve missions. They can wear their traditional hair style. We met a elder from Otavalo in Guayaquil serving in one of the wards we visited. We also have one serving in the Bogota South mission. During the week they where regular suits but on Sunday they wear their traditional clothing.

Our itinerary looked like this:

Left Bogota 6:30 pm Friday night, arrived at the hotel in Quito at about 11 pm.

Saturaday Morning Left Quito at 7 am for Otavalo and Ibarra. Did training in Ibarra and spent the night in Otavalo.

Sunday Attended two different wards in Otavalo and spot checked their financial records. Miguel did the same thing in a different building. Did a training in Otavalo for 2 stakes on Sunday night and returned to Quito after the training. Got to Quito about midnight.

Monday-Spent in the Quito office. Darwin training the finance officer for the mission and me meeting with the mission president and several missionaries (5) with problems. In addition we worked on putting together the outline and powerpoint presentations for the trainings in a way that made sense to us since we would start doing the trainings ourselves on Tuesday. Spent the night monday in Quito.

Tuesday left Quito by plane at 7 am and flew to Manta on the coast. Did training for 2 stakes/districts the Portoviejo Stake and the Jipijapa District. Stayed the night in Manta-This was on the beach - great swimming pool but we didn't have time to do any of that

Wednesday. Left Manta and went by 12 passanger bus to Guayaquil got hotel and then drove out to Milagro Stake for training that night. Stayed the night at Guayquil.

Thursday. Revised the training in the morning due to the nuances we discovered in Portoviejo, Jipijapa, and Milagro Stake. Went to Babahoyo District for a training that night. Stayed in Guyaquil.

Friday. Drove to Salinas. Was a relatively short drive. We had 3 hours to play before we needed to go to the training. We got to swim in the ocean and play on the beach. It was the first real break all week. Drove to Libertad Stake for training that night. Stayed the night in Salinas

Saturaday. Drove back to Guayaquil and split up the training. Darwin and I did Two Stakes in one building and Miguel did 3 stakes in another building. Stayed in Guayaquil

Sunday. Attended church in a different stake than we taught in. Spot checked the financial records.. Miguel went to a different building and did the same thing. In the building we attended there were mission farewells in both ward Sacrament meetings. 3 elders leaving from one ward and 1 elder leaving from the other. 4 missionaries out of two wards that week. Guayaquil has a population of about 3 million. There are 39 chapels in the city with 99 wards. I am not sure how many stakes. We were not training all the stakes in Guayaquil or any of Ecuador. We just train the ones with new leaders, or problems in their audits, or where we haven't had anyone do any checking for 2 years or more. After church we had about 3 hours before we had to be to the airport so we walked to the park of the iguanas and took pictures. Our plane left at 6:30 pm and we got home at 9:15 pm. We had a very exciting, hectic, educational, trip with great opportunity to see and do things I never expected to see and do in my life time but we were glad to back in our own bed last night. Bogota feels like home now. I love it here. I do look forward to our next trip to Ecuador. (Could be sooner rather than later, depending on the results of an audit that is going on right now)

I will do several posts with pictures of the whole trip. Below is a slide show of our first 2 days. It is just a little over 6 mins long and the title slides do not stay up long enough. You can pause it if you need longer to read the title slides.

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ciclovia and The Mall

Today was a holiday in Colombia. Again we are not sure what holiday but we took advantage of it since the office was closed. I did end up with one consult in Peru but other wise it was one of those days that we joined in the activities. Ciclovia occurs on every sunday and all holidays from 7 am to 2 pm. Most of the main roads in the city are turned into bicycle and pedestrian ways and all kinds of people ride bikes or push strollers or wheelchairs, or rollerblade or skateboard or just plain walk down the street. We have a series of pictures below showing some of the doings along 15th. Remember that this is just one little part of a city that turns its main roads over. This is a hurge city and Ciclovia is a big deal each Sunday and on holidays. Parents ride with kids and hospitals take their patients out for walks. Cars are not allowed on the main roads and the traffic that does have to flow is routed around the main roads that have been turned over. We have a big round about that has 5 spokes comming off of it just down from us and most of those spokes had at least one half of the lanes open to the bikers and others. There were hundreds of people out on the streets today in our little area and we are not even the main area of the city.

Below is a Bicycle Service Station. There were two of them along the 20 or so blocks that we walked. Below somewhere is a picture of the tools at the second station. By the way. We got permission (finally) to get bicycles so we can ride to work and to shopping. We will keep you informed as to when we get our bikes. The Church has a humanitarian project in small communities and rural areas where kids have to go a long way to school. They are providing bicycles for the children (elementry and high school) so they can ride to school. They have a contract with several bike venders and get the bikes relatively inexpensively. They also provide helmuts and protective gear. We will be able to buy our bicycles and protective gear from the humanitarian project supplies for cost. The guy that is in charge says there are all kinds of colors and styles and sizes because different kids like different things and the Church tries to give them some choice so everyone is not alike. We shall see. We hope to go pick them out next week but have to wait until he is available to take us to the wearhouse. We know that we will be getting bikes with wide tires and not bikes like our road bikes. There are bike paths most of the way to work but there are also some rough areas and negotiating is easier with wider tires.

Venders along the route. I am planning to do a whole blog on street venders. They are facinating and sell everything from plumbing supplies on in the streets.

Ice Cream is a big thing here. Lots of the litte cafes on each block have very good ice cream. And there are ice cream venders everywhere

Second bike service station

A vender supply and garbage pickup wagon. I think they must get paid for recycling card board because ever one that doesn't have a full load takes out cardboard. The horse drawn carts particularly pick up cardboard and wooden crates from the streets. I can tell you stuff like that doesn't stay too long. Garbage is collected everyday but we noticed today that some of the garbage hadn't been picked up

Below and above are uniformed police. These are the ones that we call the boy scouts. They are so young. They look like about explorer age 16-18. However, it is nice to have them on the blocks. They are on the corners and sometimes direct traffic (that is rare. only when things get really messy). They are also stationed in the middle of the block. I hope to do a blog about security one of these times. It is relatively easy to take pictures of these guys but the ones that come out at night to replace them all have submachine guns or automatic rifles and it is harder to get pictures of them. You don't just go up to a guy with a submachine gun and say "Can I take your picture" At least I don't. The girl with the guy below is one of the Ciclovia workers. They have them on bikes as well and they help handle interesections where bikes have to stop to let cars go by and where cars have to give the bikes the right of way until they are told they can go on.

These are the cyclovia bike workers. I didn't get a good shot because thy were moving.

Below are some pictures of the Mall. A Mall is a mall and this is a huge very modern one. There were probably 10-12 major resturants though out the mall and then in addition there was a huge food court. I took a picture of the featured fare in the food court. In addition there was a 12 plex movie theater and a large bowling alley. There was also a bingo cacino and you can see some pictures below of the kids amusement park area with a merry go round and other rides. Through out the mall there were vidio game areas and computer cafes. All and all quite impressive. One of the other blogs I want to do is about the bags of Bogota. Everyone carries a bag of some kind. Brief cases are out to lunch because it is hard to get on a bus with a brief case but bags are every where in every shape. Darwin and I bought new bags today. I have one that I have been using that is a traditional Colombian bag. In the next blog I will show you the bags of Bogota including ours.

Mall Parking lot. Huge above and below ground facility.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


It is Saturday night and I am sitting here enjoying the fact that we didn't travel this weekend. This is the first time in three weeks that we have been home on the week end. I will give you a description of the Duitama trip later but first some of the excitement of the night.
Darwin and I decided to go out to dinner to night, expecting that when we stepped out the door we would be met with the usual hussel and bussel. Our block is full of people until about 8:30 or 9:00 every night. Then it slows a little but there are still lots of people about. Tonight we left our appartment about 5:30 and it was dead outside. There was hardly anybody on the street. Earlier today we walked to a huge mall (see the mall pictures below) and there were plenty of people but tonight it was really quite. Since we haven't been here for very many saturday nights we will have to find out what it is with no activity on Saturday. We walked about 4 blocks to the World Trade Center which has about 30 resturants on the ground floor and a great park out back. We only found 1 resurant open. At least it was a good one. "Crepes and Waffles" It is a chain here and is a great place to eat. It wasn't crowded when we got there but the place livened up after a short time. A couple of family groups came in and several couples and the place was doing fine. They brought out a birthday cake for one of the children at the tables behind us and we were supprised to hear "Happy Birthday" sung in English (with a spanish accent). Shortly after the cake, while we were finishing off our desert, the place erupted with people screaming and I looked up and saw what I thought was a bird that had flown in the open doors and was flying around in the resturant. It turned out to be a bat and it decided that under the table where Darwin and I were sitting was where it wanted to land. I removed myself rather hastyly from the table but Darwin sat there quietly watching it on the floor and not really sure what to do. He decided to get up and get out of the way since we were done by that time and we moved over a little ways to wait for the bill while one of the waitresses went over to our table to check out the thing. About then it flew again and hit the woman sitting with the birthday party in the back. She jumped up and by then the whole resturant was trying to get out of the way. I moved outside because one of the things they told us in the MTC was "protect yourself from Bats". In many foriegn countries the percentage of bats that have rabies is quite high. I didn't feel like a trip to the hospital. I watched from outside as the kitchen staff and waitresses got out a large sheet of plactic and managed to down the creature. I did get a close enough look when it went under our table. It was black and red and about the size of my hand laying on the floor. In the air it looked like about the size of a sparrow. Like I said, never a dull moment, even on a quite night in this city.

The next three pictures are the outskirts of Bogota and the country side just outside the city. The two below that are the view from one of the windows in the building we have our office in. A little difference in terms of population density.

Fields and landscapes on our way to Duitama. This was a beautiful drive. It reminded me of Montana. Remember Bogota is at 8,800 ft and we went up. -it is usually about a 3 hour drive, it took us 6. There was lots of construction and we stopped to visit the battlefield of the battle that won Colombia it's independence from Spain. Miguel was so excited to show us. It was an emotional experience for him. You can tell that he loves his country and it's history and he is proud to be a Colobiano.

The Battle Field. This is a place that is talked about in 5 countries, Colombia, Venesuala, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. This region was once called greater Colombia but all 5 countries were given their independence when Simon Bolivar and his commanders won on this battle field. In one of the pictures Miguel is charging over the bridge. The river was much larger during the original battle as was the bridge and it was wooden then. But he did the charge non the less.

Below are some pictures of Duitama. There is a district here with several Branches and at least 2 chapels. This is a little town high in the Andes.

Max and Grayson. They are our mascotts and have gone with us everywhere. Max is a little rambuncious and drools a lot. Grayson is stoic and tries to keep Max under control. They are quite the pair. I think Max got fleas in Mexico so he has had to have a bath.

Sharing a treat after church

Hot water heating system. It does not work well in this area even though it workds quite well in other areas because it is not sunny much of the time. Most of the time it is overcast and they can not get enough hot water to fill the font.

Lunch on the way home.