a week to remember

To close out our last few days in Ecuador, Aimee and I decided to embark on the Quilotoa  loop, a 3-4 day hike through the beautiful hills and valleys of the Andean mountain range that leads you to the volcanic crater lake known as Quilotoa.

Here are some photos from our foot journey…

día 1: Sigchos > Isniliví

día 2: Isniliví > Chugchilan

día 3: Chugchilan > Quilotoa (horseback)

We arrived to Quilotoa around noon that day and decided to hike down to the crater lake, do some kayaking in the sparkling green-blue water, and hike back up. We finished the day by drinking hot chocolate by the wood stove fire and eating dinner by candlelight as all the power had gone out. The following morning, however, around 3 a.m. we experienced a 6.8 magnitude after shock earthquake. We decided against hiking around the crater lake that day and chose to leave the town ASAP. So we hitch hiked in the back of a milk truck with some friends to the bus station where we then took the bus to Latacunga.

día 4: Quilotoa > Latacunga

día 5: Latacunga > Cotopaxi

We spent our last night at a hostel called The Secret Garden: Cotopaxi, located on the outskirts of the Cotopaxi National Park, the tallest active volcano in the world. We stayed in the hobbit homes which truly resembled those out of Lord of the Rings. The people, the dogs, the views, the food, the hot tub, the free banana bread, the waterfall hike and swim, everything about this place is perfect.

 

 

fuerza Manabí

“‘Yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed’, says the Lord who has compassion on you” –Isaiah 54:10

As many are now aware, Saturday evening just as the sun had set, the Ecuadorian coast experienced a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that lasted around one minute. 60 whole seconds.

Aimee and I were sitting on top of piled boulders towards the back of the beach. The rocks began to move. About 5 seconds in we recognized the abnormality of what was happening. The reality of everything kicked in and we jumped off the boulders landing in the sand. The movement continued and became stronger. The ground moved as though it were liquid, all lights in the town shut off leaving us in darkness, pool water sloshed over the balconies, car alarms sounded, bats emerged from their hiding places filling the sky. People started to panic- screaming and crying and running.

I write, yes, to share my personal experience, everyone’s being different, many being much worse. But more importantly, I write with the hope of shedding a bit more light on the actual severity of this tragedy and the damage and destruction this country is enduring.

The current confirmed death toll has numbered to over 400 lives, injuries at a number well over 2500. These numbers have continued to increase daily, if not hourly, as rescue teams are finally arriving to destruction sites. Many coast cities, including but not limited to, Pedernales (epicenter), Canoa, Manta, Portoviejo and many small towns in between, have suffered extreme damage and destruction and some still remain without power, light, water and transportation.

I was forced by my program to evacuate from Manta for obvious safety reasons. So I remain in Quito while the people I had quickly grown to love and the city which had quickly become my home remain in chaos. Nothing regarding that statement sits well.

Yet in the midst of tragedy, in the midst of complete chaos, we have access to a peace and a comfort from a God who sees and who knows and who promises to never leave, to never forsake. And let me tell you, that peace and comfort is much harder to accept and to feel than it is to declare. But it does exit, it is there. And I am confident the country of Ecuador, specifically the provence of Manabí, is in a long process of experiencing true grace and restoration from a God who loves to restore, who loves to make all things new.

The response of resilience, solidarity, and unity here is incredible. People are joining together from all over the country and bordering countries sending rescue teams, food, water, clothing, etc. But this solidarity should reach much farther than Ecuador and its bordering countries. For those who are not residing in Ecuador and South America, please realize the severity and tragedy people here are experiencing and with that realization please respond in prayer, and in thought, and with what you are able.

Fuerza Manabí, fuerza Ecuador.

http://www.cruzroja.org.ec

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/04/18/474650673/hundreds-dead-thousands-homeless-after-quake-in-ecuador

http://fusion.net/story/292515/heres-how-you-can-help-ecuadors-earthquake-survivors/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=fusion

 

 

manta: día 1

Me siento libre Sandra asserted as we drove down the coast highway sharing various and scattered details of our life stories: the heartbreaks, the celebrations, the normal day to day. But here, she feels free. And I can see why.

I arrived in Manta at exactly 12:38 pm. Coming from rainy Quito, I was dressed in black pants, boots, a t-shirt and a sweater. My oh my, what a mistake that was. The second my booted feet hit the airport tarmac I knew I was done for. 34 degrees C… that’s 93 degrees F and with 100% humidity. Why are you wearing boots? and WHY did you not pack that blue dress? I thought to myself as I waited in the small airport for my bag. Stupid, stupid, stupid. 

Sandra met me at the big glass door holding a blue sign with my name inscribed on it. Looking ever so trendy in her tight dress, flip flops and big sunglasses, she greeted me with a hug, took my luggage and off we went into one of the best days I’ve had in all of Ecuador thus far.

We stop first at Sandra’s home so that I can drop my things. A beautiful house she lives in–white and pristine adorned with vibrant, colorful art from all around the world. Quickly we change into bathing suits and off we go to a small, local, family-owned chevicheria where I have the best ceviche ever known to man–think octopus, shrimp, clam, fish and lemon all in one bowl. Once finished we head to her friend’s home where we swim and relax by the pool. Surrounded by 50 year old men and women, I listen as they tell me their stories and experiences of travel, of interexchange studies, and of Ecuador. There were no feelings of inferiority because of language or age. I was welcomed and treated as a friend.

We say our goodbyes around sunset. The sky a cotton candy pink with hints of periwinkle. It’s Sunday so all of the city is at the beach. It feels just like summer, it feels just like home. As we drive down the coast highway, Sandra turns to me, Quieres helado? Yo quiero helado. We stop at a stand called CocoExpress where they sell everything, and I mean everything coconut. We each get a cone of soft served coconut ice cream (Aimee are you ready to visit yet?) and we try to eat it as fast we can before the heat gets to it first. We end the day at a hip local pizzeria eating and laughing and drinking in celebration of a friend’s birthday.

This is my place, the kind of life I love to lead. The feeling of sun kissed skin. A refreshed mind, body and soul after a day devoted to the water. The salty smell of sister sea and all her glory that lingers in the air. Truly knowing, loving and celebrating the people who surround you. Me siento libre, me siento vivo. 

Manta, I’m glad you chose me.

thoughts upon thoughts

Time is flying here in Ecuador. Days are filled with school work, excursions to place after place, really good mango smoothies, hikes with the most incredible views, speaking Spanish until I get a headache, and encountering the most beautiful people. But this doesn’t leave much room for time to decompress and reflect, let alone to sit down and write a little somethin’ somethin’.

Saturday I leave for a month-long independent study. The program I am enrolled in is basically defined by what is colloquially known as the ISP (independent study project). All of our schooling, all of our travels and excursions, are essentially devoted to preparing each and every one of us seventeen “rainbow warriors” for a month on our own, gathering and documenting information about a topic we have hand selected.

So Saturday, at approximately 4am, I will be making my way to Manta, Ecuador a small town located on the coast in the province of Manabí. Though I am still unsure of exactly what I will be doing and who I will be working with (that’s Ecuador for ya!), I hope to eventually find myself documenting the community response to and healing process of women who are survivors of sexual violence. Choosing this topic was not easy, and I am well aware the process of learning and documenting a topic such as this will not be easy, but I believe in a God who makes all things, all things, beautiful. All things holy. All thing good.

So Saturday marks what I choose to believe will be the start of one of those chapters in my life I will never forget.

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San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador. Photo: Madie McKay

*I’m also super pumped to be near the ocean and sand and sun. So that’s fun.

ecuador: día 1

Saludos de Ecuador!

My brain is a little sore at the moment due to lack of sleep and 2,895 meters altitude adjustment. So a few pictures will have to do for now!

 

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charming accommodations
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como se llama?
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all architecture here is rich in a variety of textures
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hotel puppy
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hostería san carlos
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reading time with some café

 

Quito bound: thoughts from gate d2

I have anticipated this day for quite some time, but never thought it would actually come.

Starting my junior year of high school, after a quick trip to India, I knew without a doubt study abroad was a must do within the years of my college career. When the university search began, my first question to any and all admissions counselors/tour guides was something along the lines of “what kind of study abroad programs do you have to offer?” a.k.a. “where can I go?”. I wanted options, and I wanted lots of them.

However, once I began my life at Hope, the idea of a semester abroad faded to the very last of my thoughts. I could never imagine myself leaving the place and the people I had grown to love with my whole being.

And then the pieces began falling together, clearly pulling me towards my original heart for travel, for culture and language, for new experience, instilling in me a longing that was only satisfied by the words “yes, Lord”. At first it was an easy “yes” because it was exciting. I was allowed to dream big and far dreams. I thought first of Spain and then of South America and then of India. And then life did its life-thing and everything fell to chaos. Credits wouldn’t transfer, timelines were inching closer, and my heart was all over the map. Literally.

After all options were exhausted and researched, the pieces seemed to puzzle Ecuador. And so Ecuador it was. Ecuador it is.

And I’m ready.

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sunrise in miami

to the two people who walked in & changed everything.

Friendship is an incredibly beautiful, frightening, and all together radical thing. A place, a home, a heart that calls for intimacy, for vulnerability, for mutual and steady conviction. Something that so clearly reflects some of the best qualities of the heart of our Father. And yet, by the immeasurable grace of God, is able to be held between broken, unworthy humans. An equation that has the potential to send someone like me running out of fear. Running to the nearest and easiest escape, to a place of self-pity, of shame, of darkness. Because by all means, I will carry your burdens, I will welcome you with open arms and remind you of your worth and your value, but don’t you ever think of returning the favor. I won’t let you. This destructive practice has led me to a long history of superficial friendships. The fault being all mine to bear, because as I have finally come to understand, after twenty years of life, friendship is a mutual and equal giving of each party involved, each self. It is abounding, not lacking. A cup that overflows. It doesn’t come in pieces, but rather it comes as a full and destructive force that eradicates walls and barriers you never knew existed.

So this, this is a Thank You to two people who walked in. Who walked in to intimacy, vulnerability and conviction and who, despite my stubbornness, doubt and distancing tendency, did not walk out. With steady endurance and patient hearts, they have held me to a higher standard, knowing I am fully capable of the fullness of friendship the Lord desires to lavish upon us.

A gift I am not entitled to. A gift that calls me to look beyond myself, but also allows me to give of myself fully— the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between. A gift that is so sacred it cannot help but give me a pure glimpse of Heaven on earth, of Kingdom come. A Heavenly reality of which I will always be in awe.