Saturday, June 09, 2012

I'm out of practice...I'll get back into it.

Some kind of clever, witty introduction to us leaving soon again for Ecuador. 

Monday.  2:35am.  Taca (not as comfortable as American Airlines, and not as much in-flight entertainment...but pretty good food included in the ticket price).  We'll arrive in Guayaquil (pronounced "why-a-keel"...have I ever mentioned that?  Sorry.) at 3:00 in the afternoon.  And then we'll get to work on accomplishing our goals for this trip.  I mean, not RIGHT then...we'll probably take a nap first.  And clean up our apartment...put all the furniture back in its place, take the plastic off everything...get some know.  And THEN get started.

What I will miss most while I am there: 

1.  You
2.  The smoothies my mom makes for me every morning
3.  My dog, Pooper
4.  Hour-long church services
5.  Air conditioning
6.  Easily-accessible Wireless
7.  My paycheck
8.  The concepts of time and punctuality
9.  Hot showers in which you don't have to worry about your water tank can just let the water run
10.  Walmart
11.  Just kidding about the Walmart
12.  Haha

What I will not miss:

1.  Ismael (he's going with me)
2.  Hurry
3.  The Bakersfield summer heat (believe it or not, the evenings in Ecuador are cool and breezy this time of year)
4.  I can't really think of anything else that I won't miss...I mean, nothing I can say out loud, anyway.

What I look forward to about living in El Recreo:

1.  Whatever

I still have a lot of packing to do.  So, once my bags are all packed and all within the designated weight limits, I will feel like I look forward to something other than having my bags packed.  So...wish me luck.  Here I go.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Anything feels possible now...

Well, I guess when you don't post for seven months, you have to face not only your guilt and shame but also several design changes on blogger.....  I should avoid lengthy inconsistency in the future.

I've been thinking for a while now that I want to start blogging again...but I just haven't been able to think of anything worth sharing.  So I decided to forget about trying to think of something worth sharing and just share whatever.

So this is what I've got:

We were invited to go to the Magic Castle next week for a friend's birthday.  Well, the Magic Castle is a classy kind of place where you need to be wearing a coat and tie to get in.  (Not me...I'm a girl.)  Ismael doesn't own a coat OR a tie, and the last time he borrowed a tie from my dad, he chose the brown 1984 Olympics tie with the Sam the Olympic Eagle embroidered on it've got nothing against Sam...or the 1984 was fun that he wore that one once....I mean, you get me, right?

Ok, so we ventured into Kohl's tonight to look for a coat and tie for Ismael.  (What?  Isn't that where EVERYONE gets their suits?)  Found something that fits nice, looks good, and was 50% off.  Jacket, pants, shirt, tie (black...classy).  So he found the clothes that he's going to wear to the Magic Castle, and I found some clothes that I'm going to wear to the Magic Castle and we went to the register.

The guy at the register next to the one we were at looks over at us and says, "Gettin' all ready for the prom, huh?  We've had a lot of you kids coming in here today!"

Yep.  Gettin' all ready for the prom.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Not pregnant...FYI. And really not fat either, actually.

Dear Latin-American Culture,

I know you think it's cute to say exactly what you think when you think it, especially when it comes to the physical appearance of other people. But I have to tell's not.


Yesterday Ismael and I bought dinner from a neighbor of his parents who he knows relatively well. She was BBQing some delicious-smelling chicken and serving it with "arroz con menestra" which is one of my favorite dinners.

Neighbor (to Ismael...about me...right in front of me): Is this fatty pregnant?!

Ismael: she's not...

Neighbor: What are you waiting for? You guys are married already aren't you?

Ismael: Yeah, but that's not the only reason to...

Neighbor: She's FAT!!!

Ismael: .........k, bye.

I appreciate that I'm in a different culture where comments like those are not intended to be offensive. And I understand that as a Christian I'm not supposed to find my worth in appearances, etc.

But still.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I mean really...the pizza was truly incredible.


I promise I did not just insult anyone or say anything inappropriate.

Ismael and I went celebrate our very first anniversary! Yes, that's year ago on Sunday we stood up in front of friends and family in Shafter, California, and I, Amy, took him, Ismael, to be my wife. And then after lots of laughs, took him to be my husband. It was a super fun day.

And so, to celebrate one year of good times...or whatever...we went to Cuenca! IT WAS AWESOME! I love Cuenca. Love it!

Here it is on the map. Not too far away from where we live. It was about a four-hour motion-sickness-inducing bus ride through super-high mountains. And the city was so cool! I was excited to see the Incan ruins outside the city, but there was just too much neat stuff to see inside the city and not enough time...

We got there Thursday night, ordered some delicious hamburgers to our room, watched some television and delighted in the HOT WATER!!! I miss hot water...

Friday morning we enjoyed the free buffet breakfast at the hotel and then took a bus tour of the city. It was really neat! It was one of those busses with seats on top, which we sat in.

It took us all through the city and showed us all the historic sights and the cathedrals and the river and it was beautiful!!

We went allllll the way up the road outside of town and ended up at a little lookout point looking over the whole city. It was very cool.

After the tour we enjoyed some mexican food, which was not as good as the enchiladas at the Happy Donkey, but it was still delicious...And then in the evening we took a walk through the city. The lights on the cathedrals were so beautiful that we decided we needed to take another walk the next night after the camera battery was charged again.

So we did...Saturday night we went out for pizza which was INCREDIBLE!!! Then we took a loooong walk in the drizzle and took pictures of almost all the cathedrals in the city.

We stopped in the Calderon Park where we saw a horse and carriage parked on the street and asked the driver how much for a carriage ride. $2 per person is a great deal, so we took it!!

It was super fun! Then Sunday morning we took a walk by the river and visited a museum that had lots of old stuff in it and saw a little tiny Incan ruin, and then came back to El Recreo...completely against my will. I would have stayed in Cuenca forever!

love, love, love!

Next time we'll go see the big ruins outside the city :-). Happy Anniversary to us!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Really....deportation is not an impossibility.

Ok, I have several buenas noticias (good to share. I’ll start with the obvious frontrunner in importance:

Our toilet works! If anyone guessed that our landlord would finally fix our toilet on August 31st, you were wrong. If you guessed that our landlord would EVER fix our toilet, you were also wrong. He did nothing. But here’s what happened…

I will not say who left what in the toilet on the morning of August 31st. (But it wasn’t me. And it wasn’t pretty). And as you know, our toilet has not been flushing properly since we got back to Ecuador at the end of April. It flushes…the water just doesn’t move through the pipes very quickly…so…it doesn’t take everything with it…if you know what I mean (I mean the poo). Every time we’ve needed to flush, aside from flushing with the handle, we’ve had to pour several pitchers of water (anywhere from 3 to 10, depending on what we had eaten) down the toilet and sometimes use the plunger to get the job done. So…gross, right?

Yeah, I know. This is my life.

Well, I guess I just felt mad about it all and on the morning of August 31st, I channeled my anger into the plunging I was doing. Apparently plungers work in both directions. Not only do they push things down the tubes…they also pull things back up the tubes. So after plunging my little heart out for a couple minutes…out popped the culprit.

I don’t know how the landlord’s bro-in-law missed that. Also…that is a hearty toothbrush. It’s obviously been in the toilet for at least four and a half months, maybe longer. And for all the bleach and lye and acid we’ve been dumping down our toilet for the last four and a half months…I mean, even the bristles are still intact. So kudos to you, generic brand toothbrush. You won several rounds. But not anymore.

Anyway, the lesson to be learned here is: put the lid down. Also: don’t let our friend Jose use your bathroom. So, that is good times. No…scratch that…GREAT times.

On to the other news…

Ismael started a car washing business! He and his cousin, Raul, wash cars outside of the church Monday through Saturday. So far it’s going pretty well. They’ve made enough money to pay for all of their car-washing supplies and even earned a little profit. Ismael hopes to make enough money to buy a small pressure washer soon, in order to speed up the washing process and be able to wash more cars in a shorter amount of time. Plus, some people don’t even want you to wash their car if you don’t use a pressure washer. Snobs. I don’t see what’s wrong with using just a regular hose. But, I’m not Ecuadorian. So…wh

atever. It’s good to have goals,

I guess.

Anyway, I’m proud of him. He got tired of handing in applications for jobs and not hearing back from the companies, so he took some initiative and decided to start his own business. Please pray for his continued success.

And…in just a couple of weeks on September 25th, Ismael and I will be celebrating our first anniversary. We’ve been saving up to take a little weekend trip. We’re going to go to Cuenca, which is a few hours southeast of El Recreo, where we live. It looks like a cool, old city which will be fun to explore, and there are some Incan ruins not far from there that we can go see. So, it will be an adventure!

Oh…that is, if I am still legally allowed to be in Ecuador on the weekend of the 25th. My visa expires on the 22nd and so I went at the beginning of the month to the Visa Department in the Ministry of External Relations building in Guayaquil to renew my visa. I submitted all the required paperwork with my application to renew my visa, and was told to come back on Wednesday the 14th to find out if my application has been approved or not. What do you think the odds are of me getting deported twice from the same country?

Anyway, wish me luck! I’ll let you know what they say :-).

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Today is Laundry's a long day after Baba.

And the winner is…

Definitely not me. After a month and a half of having to flush our toilet with three pitchers-full of water and a plunger, our landlord decided to do something about it for us. (I wonder if it had anything to do with us letting him know we were going to hire a plumber and pay the plumber out of our rent money). The landlord’s brother-in-law came over to take a look. He removed the toilet and after weirding around with the toilet in my shower for twenty minutes, decided there was nothing stuck in the toilet, and that it must be that the inside of the toilet plumbing has got enough built-up gunk that the poo can’t get through easily. So, Aunt Julie, if that's what you meant by "toidy bowl ring" then you win the prize...which was going to be an Ecuadorian chocolate bar, but I don't know how well that will it might be something else.

Brother-in-law told the landlord that he needs to replace the whole toilet. So here’s the new contest: When will the landlord replace the toilet? The person who guesses closest to the actual toilet-replacement date wins a prize. Bonus points if you can guess how many times we’ll need to ask him to replace the toilet before he does!

In other, less complainy and much less poopy news, we have had an awesome time this past month working with the missionary groups that have come to El Recreo! The first group, from El Paso, Texas, came to give out water filtration systems to the people of El Recreo. Ismael and I were among those given the responsibility of choosing 4 of our neighbors who would receive filters for their homes. It was very cool being able to give something like that to our neighbors. Besides being a way for them to have clean water without having to spend all their money on bottled water, it was also a way for us to build friendships with them.

The group gave Ismael and I a water filter as well, which is AWESOME! I love my filter! I wasn’t convinced at first because look at it…it’s basically just a bucket, a hose, and a black thing that they say gets rid of all kinds of junk. But then we had the opportunity to go with a couple people from the group to visit a university class at ESPOL in Guayaquil where Shane Walker, a professor at the University of Texas in El Paso, gave a guest lecture on the water filtration system they were giving out. And after hearing all about what’s inside the black thing and how it works to filter out the bacteria and parasites, I’m sold.

After the group from El Paso left, another group from Newbury Park First Christian Church came for a couple of weeks to work with the Iberoamerican churches in Samborondon and Baba. Ismael and I were invited to go to Baba with the group and help them out there with construction and VBS (and translation, which I found out after we arrived to Baba).

Let me tell you something about Baba. It is dirty. The word “baba” actually means “dog drool”…so there you go. I mean, I love the people at the church in Baba. They are some of the most welcoming, hospitable, kind people you will ever meet. But they live in some of the grossest conditions imaginable. And I don’t really get it. It’s not because they have to…the grocery stores around town do sell bleach and brooms and mops and toilet bowl cleaner…for cheap! I don’t know…I think it’s just because everybody’s used to things the way they are. Yuck. So Ismael had the pleasure of sleeping with all the boys in the church building (also, the added bonus of begging one of the gringos to share his air mattress). The hard part for the boys was that they had to deflate their air mattresses and pack up all their bedding every single morning and move all their bags to another part of the building and then re-inflate their mattresses and redo their beds every night since they had to do construction work in the church building where they slept every day. So that was tough on them. Oh, also…there were fleas. All over. A lot of the guys got bit up by fleas every night. So it was definitely a tough trip to Baba. Not to mention we did that for a week. I have never seen them take a group to Baba for that long. The longest I’ve ever heard of them taking a group to work in Baba has been three days…so…it was a long time in Baba.

I had the pleasure of sleeping in the living room of the house next door to the church, which the pastor of the Baba church had rented for us ladies for the week. The living room of the house next door (along with the rest of the house) belongs to a sweet little old man whose wife had just passed away a month before. He was very kind to us and very welcoming. But I don’t think the poor guy had cleaned his house in years! The kitchen was covered (seriously) in ants, grease, chicken poo (not kidding), and whatever else had made its way into that kitchen to die in some corner in the last 20 years. The bathroom was crazy. The tile in the shower was a kind of orangey-brown color. Originally, it had been white. I think I scrubbed the tile with bleach and steel wool for two hours and got it down to a nice beige. But that’s not the worst of it. I can handle dirt and gunk. What I found most revolting was the cat-sized rat that scrounged around in the kitchen every night. Man…and here’s the kicker…the last night we were there we were all in bed with the lights off and I heard some noise in the kitchen down the hall. I shine my flashlight down the hallway into the kitchen and there’s the giant rat. I know people say that rodents are generally more scared of humans than humans are of rodents. But this rat was not so much scared as it was irritated that I was bothering it with my light. It stopped what it was doing when I shined my light at it…looked up at me, stared for a second, and then continued to rat around in the kitchen. Haha! I can laugh about it now that I’m home and can see no evidence of rodents. But at the time, that was just wrong. Oh yeah…and the next morning there was rat doo on top of the little table right next to my mattress.

Oh, Baba…

I’m not even going to tell you about the bathrooms in the church building. I won’t do it.

So, that was good times. No, but really though…it was a great time bonding with the Newbury Park crowd. We did lots of VBS programs for kids in the different schools in the area. We (the boys…not me) did a lot of construction work. We did lots of preaching and teaching. And I translated a ton of it! Even Ismael got to translate some, which was pretty cool.

After Baba, we got to go with the group to the beach in a place called Curía (pronounced like Korea) which, after several miscommunications and the terrible possibility of more construction work there, ended up being mostly relaxing. No fleas! It was a nice trip. We had a lot of fun hanging out with Geovanni too, who was our trip leader. He is one of the two men who Marcelo has been "training" to take over the church when he goes back to Chile. Geovanni is a good guy.

Now the Newbury Park group is gone and we’ve had several days of sleep which has been great! But it was sad to see them go. We made lots of great friends who we look forward to hanging out with again next time we’re in the U.S.A….which reminds me…Happy Independence Day everybody! Hope you enjoyed some great legal fireworks (and illegal firework…Burkhardts)! Man, it’s been forever since I’ve been in the U.S. for a 4th of July! Someday…

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Seriously...I will get you a prize.

Dear Blog,

I messed up. I was selfish and stupid and I took you for granted. I didn’t appreciate your value and so I neglected you. I’m really sorry. Please forgive me and consider giving me another chance. Probably several more chances. Thank you.



So, God has given me this great gift. He brought me here and set me down in the middle of an entirely different country and people and culture, and allows me to experience things I never would have experienced in the U.S. And that is awesome. And silly me…half the fun of this is being able to share it with those I love back home. Oh, and I came up with a world full of excuses for not sharing like I know I can. (Imagine the following in the “Chris Luna Mocking” voice) “ooOOOoooohh, I’m Amy Morrison…I’m so busy. I don’t have time to blog. oooOOoooh, I don’t have the internet in my apartment. It’s too hard to blog. OOOOOooh, there’s nothing new going on. I don’t have anything to blog about.”

Lies!! Well…not the no internet in my apartment one. That one is true. But the rest…I’m not busy. I choose to busy myself sometimes with things that can wait. I do have time to write. I can make time to write. It’s not too hard. It’s just not as convenient. That’s not the same thing. And there’s always something to write about. Maybe there’s nothing new to me. But how do I know it’s not new to you? Maybe you’ll find things interesting that I’ve grown accustomed to.

So, there you go. I’m going to try again. I’ll start from the beginning.

I live in South America…in Ecuador, which is a small country on the west coast, right on the equator. Ecuador is divided into 21 provinces, plus the Galapagos Islands.

I live in the Guayas province which is on the coast. The Guayas province is divided into 25 “cantónes”, which I guess you could say is kind of like a county.

I live in the cantón called Durán, which is right next to Guayaquil, the largest cantón in Guayas. The cantónes each contain a big city that shares the same name as the cantón and lots of small “ciudadelas” which are the little towns surrounding the big city.

So within Durán, I live in a small ciudadela called El Recreo. The ciudadelas are divided into “etapas”, or sectors….kind of like the zip-code system in the U.S. I live in the 3rd etapa of El Recreo. The majority of the houses here are not divided by streets…they’re really more like apartment buildings, in the sense that there are rows and rows of houses with just sidewalks in the middle, and the actual streets are few and far between.

So a row of houses is called a “manzana” and all the manzanas have numbers. And the houses in each manzana (MZ) have a villa (V) number. I live in manzana number 361, in villa number 9. So my address looks like this:

Amy Morrison

El Recreo, 3ra etapa, MZ. 361, V. 9



If I wrote my address that way in the U.S. it would look like this:

Amy Morrison

Bakersfield, 93314, Hinault St. 13506



I wonder if my letter would make it if I sent it to that address. I would try, but it costs a lot more to mail a letter there from here than it does to se

nd one from there to here.

So now you know all about provinces and cantones and ciudadelas and etapas and manzanas and villas. Congratulations! I expect you’ll be able to send me lots of letters now that you know how to address the envelopes. Just letters, tho

ugh…no packages…unless they’re under 4 pounds. Anything bigger and they will charge me a million dollars to get it out of customs. J They tax packages and boxes that come through the mail by the pound…especially if whoever send the package sent it with any kind of certification or priority. They think there’s something worth something in the box, so they make you pay extra for it. We discovered shortly after paying a lot of money to get a Christmas package out of customs a couple years ago that if you send a package that’s less than 4 pounds from the U.S., and if you just send it in the regular mail wit

h no guarantees or certifications or anything special…well they just pass that package right along to Durán…it doesn’t get stopped in customs in Guayaquil. I guess they just figure it’s not worth anything, so it’s not worth anything to the

m to keep it there. Hahaha!

Anyway, that’s how it is. I hope you’ve enjoyed

reading about addresses and corrupt customs offices. And now for an unrelated riddle:

I'm stuck in Amy and Ismael's toilet! Boiling water won't flush me down. A plunger won't plunge me. A wire coat-hanger can't fish me out. A bottle of bleach won't budge me. Lye can't liquefy me. Acid doesn't persuade me to leave. What am I?

Firs person to answer correctly wins a prize!