Ecuador Orientation! ; January 31, 2012

Well friends, I have been in Quito for 1 week now! It has been an amazing experience so far, and what blows my mind is that it's only the beginning. I still have 3 more months here! Now I'll try to squeeze what I've been doing into one post.

I arrived in Quito on Tuesday night last week. I live in an apartment with 8 other girl students and 2 girl RA's. The 5 guy students and 1 guy RA live in a separate apartment. Wednesday was our first day of Orientation. There is a missionary family here from the US — the dad in the family is one of our professors, and we'll go to their house once a week for dinner and chapel/Bible study. So on Wednesday morning we had breakfast and talked about the program in general. We talked about how the purpose of this program is not to try to bring us back to Ecuador later to be missionaries, but to build our knowledge and experience of God's kingdom, and to give us a heart for the nations and for what is on God's heart. So awesome. Then we took a short walking tour around our area of the city, stopping for lunch on the way. Some really typical food here is soup, lentils, rice, chicken, beef, and cooked plantains and bananas. Plus some fun, exotic fruits and veggies. And everything is so cheap... like an avocado for 50 cents!

At a fresh food market called Iñaquito

On Thursday morning the dean of students talked to us about community and loving each other. Then we all went to the Youth World staff meeting just to see how the organization works and some things that they do. (The study abroad program is under Youth World.) That night we took the trolley (that was quite an experience... there's really no concept of personal space here) to Old Quito. We walked through some old streets and ate empanadas for dinner and dessert. The dessert empanadas were filled with queso fresco and covered with sugar... our big group shared about 5 of them because they were really huge!

A street in Old Quito

On Friday we did a crazy, fun scavenger hunt all over the city. We split into four teams and had to find various places that we will be going frequently this semester, like malls, restaurants, and markets. There were 10 locations and things to do at each place to prove we went there. So, we took taxis, walked, and took the trolley once. It was long and tiring but soooo much fun to explore the city and get oriented geographically :) The highlight was going to La Basilica, a really big, Gothic-style cathedral that was built in the 1800's. We got to climb to the top and see a view of the city from above. The funny thing is, my team was taking our time and enjoying every place we went to, because we didn't really care about winning. But then we were the first team to get to the finishing place! So we won a gift card to the Cinemark to go see a movie. :)

La Basilica

The view from the top

Saturday was our fun trip up into the mountains to the Mindo ziplines and the equator. The van ride was long and bumpy, but we got to the zipline place and right away got our harnesses and helmets on. Then we went on the zipline course with 13 ziplines - it took about an hour and a half, and we had to hike up a trail between each one. It was so much fun and the views were incredible, going over lush, green valleys, and through trees sometimes. It was quite an experience!

A view from the starting point of one of the ziplines

Then we went to the equator tourist place, in Mitad del Mundo. A tour guide showed us a bunch of cool things about the equator. For example... water poured down a drain on the equator goes straight down. Just a few feet to the north, the water goes counterclockwise, and a few feet to the south it goes clockwise. Also, you can balance a raw egg on the head of a nail right on the equator. Finally, your strength is diminished when you stand on the equator - it's a lot harder to push your arms up against someone pushing down on them, and it's harder to balance, because the force of gravity is somehow different on the equator. (I didn't take any pictures at the equator... sorry!)

That night we went to a restaurant called Café Mosaico. It was on a hill near Old Quito, and it that had an incredible view of the whole city at night. It was clear and beautiful. The restaurant was fun and classy too, with really good food. I am also loving all the fruit juices here... pineapple juice, strawberry juice, peach juice... yum :)

A view of the city at night

On Sunday I went to a Spanish-speaking, nondenominational church called Dios es Fiel. I really enjoyed the worship because the lyrics were on the screens... so I could understand most of what I was singing. :) And I enjoyed the pastor's sermon, even though he was sometimes hard for me to understand. The message was about reasons why God is sometimes silent... with some really good points, like how God wants us to come near to Him, not just to look to Him for things we need. So, after church our group went to lunch in the food court at the really nice mall called Quicentro. After that all the girls in my apartment had a meeting about house rules, community, and how to love each other - we all shared our different love languages and personalities. Later on we went to the grocery store called Supermaxi (us girls get giggles out of that... there's also a Megamaxi) to buy groceries. It was really crowded (note to self: don't go grocery shopping on a Sunday evening again!) but we got some really good food for cheap. I got sandwich stuff, eggs, rice, fruit (pitahayas=yum), yogurt (I like their yogurt so much better than our yogurt in the States because it's drinkable and creamier), cereal... all the good stuff for just $23.

Monday was our first day of Spanish school. Right when we got there they had us take a multiple-choice placement test over grammar and vocabulary. I got into the intermediate/advanced class... there are 5 of us in there. Sadly, there are only 2 class levels, so the people who are kind of in the middle are stuck in the beginner level... and the intermediate level is too hard for them. :/ Luckily, I have been learning a lot already, in just two days of Spanish class. I am very optimistic about this class and about being able to learn Spanish better. Our teacher is great... she uses conversation to get us to practice speaking. At the beginning it was hard for me to understand her because she spoke quickly, but after more and more listening, today in class I was able to understand almost everything she said. We have been talking about poverty in Latin America and Ecuador, and how it compares to poverty in the United States, and how we can fight against poverty. It has been great for me to talk about a real-life, important topic in Spanish, because it helps me use what I know of the language to talk about my general knowledge and beliefs. Also, in just two days of class I have noticed a LOT of connections with what I learned in my TESOL classes. I have a feeling that if I really pay attention to my Spanish teacher, I will glean a lot of helpful strategies and methods for teaching English as a second language to my future students! :)

A little area on the first floor of my Spanish school

9:59 PM  |    |  

God Never Hurries ; January 17, 2012

I read something very thought-provoking today, in The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer:

"How completely satisfying to turn from our limitations to a God who has none. Eternal years lie in His heart. For Him time does not pass, it remains; and those who are in Christ share with Him all the riches of limitless time and endless years. God never hurries. There are no deadlines against which He must work. Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves. For those out of Christ, time is a devouring beast; before the sons of the new creation time crouches and purrs and licks their hands. The foe of the old human race becomes the friend of the new, and the stars in their courses fight for the man God delights to honor. This we may learn from the divine infinitude."

I only have one week until I get on the plane to Ecuador. It sure feels like a deadline. It feels like there is still a lot of scrambling to do to get ready. My mom and I spent 4 hours yesterday shopping for last minute things like a rain jacket and good walking shoes. And I have yet to start packing. That will take a lot of time.

But it's a good reminder that it's not really a problem at all. I don't have to worry about getting everything done because God is on my side... time is on my side. God isn't in a hurry, so why should I be? God has no limitations, so all I have to do is trust and depend on Him. My life is already hidden with Christ in God. It's time for me to set my heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1-3.) He's in control... and my life is now embedded within His eternal, infinite, self-existent life.

Still, it doesn't feel quite real that I'm going to South America for 3 1/2 months. I keep thinking it won't feel real until the plane takes off... and that's probably true. :)

11:31 AM  |    |  

Did You Learn To Love? ; January 9, 2012

This is such a lovely song... the song on my heart right now! I saw them perform it at the Onething conference a week ago in Kansas City. I love Misty Edwards's worship leading and her message of complete devotion to God.

On another note, I'm working on changing my blog layout a little, to make it easier to navigate. That includes adding a sidebar, putting the blog archives in the sidebar, adding a way for you to subscribe to my blog via email, and adding a link to my new music website (that's right...soon you'll be able to buy my music!). Why these changes? Because I'm going to Ecuador! :) And I promised at least 20 people at JBU that I was going to have a blog and update it regularly, to keep everyone in the loop on my adventures in Quito. I was considering making a new blog, but I decided it would be a lot less time-consuming to just use the one I already have, but spruce it up a little. So, it will soon be fully functional! I'm glad I told so many people I would have a blog, because it will keep me accountable for actually writing blog posts regularly... and get me out of this weirdness of only writing a post every 4 months or so! :D

You may have also noticed that I renamed the blog to "chromatic heart"... this is because I also decided to sell my music under the name "chromatic heart," so I wanted continuity between them. :) I will soon add a little snippet to the About page explaining why I chose this name.

Signing off for now... 15 days till I fly to Quito! :D

12:46 AM  |    |  

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