I am writing my first blog from El Arbolito (little tree) in Duran, Ecuador. I have been here for a week that has seemed like a month. To start, I´d like to talk a little bit about my program- Rostro de Cristo (Face of Christ). Who would have thought I would be spending a year, living in simplicity with a Christian community. But I really dig it- My whole life I have hated on large institutions, including the church. But Rostro de Cristo is truly an amazing program that will give me an opportunity to experience a new culture and live out my faith. I am determined to keep in touch with my roots, but embrace the ideas of my new community. The programs mission is, simply, to live amongst and work with the Ecuadorian people to, accompany them in their joys and struggles and offer any help to find sustainable solutions for their community´s needs. After my two week orientation, I have come to realize that I will not be hammering nails, laying bricks, starting up businesses, or paving streets. I might never see anything built. My role, here, is to talk with people- to listen to them, and make relationships. More simply to be fully present. (more will come when I find out where I will be working)
To start, I need to overcome this language barrier. I went through Rosetta Stone over the summer and have attempted to build a small foundation. With the few words and phrases I know, my first test was at an afterschool program, two bus rides away, called ¨Manos Abiertas¨ or open hands. Located, litterally cerca of a dump, or nicely labeled, land fill. After getting off the bus, I was perplexed, where is the program held? There were scattered houses made of bamboo and elevated about 6 feet off of the ground to prevent snakes, scorpions, and mostly flying trash from, enetering their casitas. After walking for a while, amoundst the thick dust, and unidentifiable smells, probably from a burning trash pile, We saw about 40 screaming children stampeeding us with joy. The former volunteers, Danny and Elyse guided us into the outdoor facilty. The facilty, in the center of a wasteland, was beautiful inside the concrete walls. Colorful murals illuminat the inside. The childrens laughter give the place life. There are blossoming trees with orange flowers. There is so much color, such a contrast from outside of the walls. Outdoor classrooms?! With the children, I jumped right into ¿como estas?, me llamo Daniel, tengo veintidos años. etc... I was feeling really good, especially since there were other volunteers around me. Then I jumped right into homework help- just like the Boys and Girls Club, right? Try explaning the square root 4236 in spanish- not easy. My first test was not easy, but the children here are HAPPY to learn, they are patient to understand me, they want me there. The first day flew by, and, as everyday goes, I feel that I belong here. (Psychologists call this the honeymoon phase of culture shock, in which I am destined to come off of, but why not enjoy it while I can, right?)
Every day I carry my pen and notebook and write down new words, phrases, and NAMES. Hay muchos nombres aqui. Writing down that Edison , the boy who I met after church, likes Michael Jackson, will come into play later, because he is my neighnor, I will see him again. And thats why I love it here. Everyday I learn so much. I will meet most of my neighbors, here. And when you pass by someone on the streets, you always say buenos dias, buenas tardes, buenas noches, always. I get such good vibes from this community, how they prioritize the person and politness. The more and more I learn, the more I like about Duran.
I still don´t know where I will be working this year, we have been taking tours at our partner foundaciones, seeing where the 11 of us will fit. I have been overwhelmed with the posibilies and the next time I write, I will know what I will be doing. As for now, I can only talk breifly about my new home. El Arbolito is in Duran and Duran the city outside of Guayaquil, Ecuador. This is what Bob Marley called the Concrete Jungle. Streets are rarely paved. There are stray dogs everywhere you look. They are even on the roofs! Smells vary from street to street. Sometimes you walk past a panadanerie, but more commonly you walk by burning trash. Fires are more common than stop signs. People drive crazy here, its like a videogame with all the bikes, people in the streets, dogs and everything else. Everything is exotic to me. Everything in new, not a word is familiar. No buildings are more than two stories. Most are made of bamboo, some of concrete. Every window is barred with steel. Street vendors are allways trying to make a buck. And everysunset is beautiful. By the way, its fucking hot here. All day- everyday.
And amongst all this chaos in the streets, everyone is warm and welcoming. My house, nonetheless has a security guard at all times, common for South America. We have two rottweiler/doverman mutts that are intimidating, yet friendly (Clubber and Condesa). They lied next to me while I was reading Thomas Merton on our hammock this morning- Did I mention I love it here? Our house is really nice, lots of trees, an orange, a mango, and we even have a little pinapple growing- I know this because I talk with our guards. They have been awesome. They know the town, know the people, know where to buy whatever we need. And they are really helping me with my Spanish.
Other than my day to day impressions, I want this blog to follow my spiritual journey this year. First of all, I have quieted my life down, alot. alot. I have been waking up early in stead of staying up late. I have been eating bananas, pinapple, tomatoes, peppers, beans, brocoli, cucumbers, rice, plantanes, bread, watermelon instead of hamburgers and fries. No cell phone. No cable TV. No internet en mi casa. I have stopped drinking in excess, but will never stop celebrating life. Simplicity and Solidarity are my purposes for this change in lifestyle. Not only do I want to learn alot here, I want to grow alot, and mature. God put all these beautiful things on this earth for man to enjoy, and throughout my life, I have either taken them for granted, or abused them. Moderation is my new path. Contemplation is my new concern, always looking for ways to deeper my self-cultivation. Prayer, meditation, journaling, and reading are my new hobblies.
I want to end my first entry with a couple words of gratitude, for this opportunity, was not my decision. If you are reading this blog, it is because you have inspired me. Yes, you have inspired me. I am so grateful for everyone who is taking the time to keep in touch with me through this blog. When I first came to Ecuador, I felt this extreme guilt for leaving everyone for a year. I thought, How could I leave behind all the people and places that have made me feel so at home, so loved in this world? Why did I leave? And after much thought, it is because you have inspired me to go out into the world to, live a lot, and love a lot. Yes, that is my philosophy right now- live a lot, and love a lot. Thank you for listening and please keep in touch, I am even more excited when I come to this internet cafe, on this computer from the 1990´s, to read what YOU are doing, rather than to let you know what I am doing.
Phone number is - 011.593.80187996 or 011.593.85489862. Ciao!
Dan Gagnon o Megan Radek
Guayiquil, Ecuador, South America
And ps- no pictures for a while. poverty=crime and also, it goes as far as my purpose here, not to be on a poverty tour. As they say here, Algun dia, I will have some to share.