Sunday, December 9, 2012

Tower in the jungle


It was a good trip, long, hot, really humid and successful.  Last Tuesday my co-worker Wim and I packed our stuff and departed for what we thought would be 4 days in the jungle to provide technical assistance to the community as they built their new water tower.

Despite a long delay in leaving Shell, we departed after lunch and arrived safe and sound in Inayawa.  We stayed in the old school house, a one story, raised wood floor with a tin roof.  In reality, it’s a really nice place to stay.  Clean, dry and plenty large enough.  

From my last experience, (this is my third time in Inayawa) I had a better idea of what to bring along to make the trip a little nicer.  We were gifted a new water filter from Sawyer to see if we could use it in the jungle for our personal needs.  It worked well and we are glad we had it.  I also brought along a hammock, although I barely got to use it as Wim and the hammock got along really well.

The weather was hot, really hot, even for the jungle.  We did not have a temperature gauge, but we suspected about 95 degrees with near 100% humidity.  It was very easy to sweat while sitting in the shade under a tree.  The bugs were really bad for about half the days we were there.  I am not sure where they all went on the other days, but they definitely came and went.  The people are constantly bothered from insects and sometimes oppressed.  We saw a 6 month old child that looked like one big bug bite.  Ouch!

The people were a joy to work with.  They really had a heart to work and complete the tower.  They worked through the rain, hot sun and bugs.  One of the men was bitten by a poisonous spider on his hand.  The people made a jungle tourniquet out of vines and removed what they could of the venom.  I was able to pray over the bite, but was amazed by my own fear of how the people might react.  God is good and the man’s hand was better by the next morning – I learned an important lesson also about myself, and how to address the constant fear of stepping out for Christ when it really matters.

After several days of working on the tower we were getting close, but it became obvious that we were not going to leave on Friday as planned.  We revised our plans, made contact with my family and ended up staying three days more.  Saturday the people worked the longest day yet.  We worked all the way until dark and everyone was really tired.  We rested well despite the heat.

Sunday was a really good day.  We were asked to give a testimony and to preach in Church on Sunday.  Wim had prepared a Bible lesson and I gave my testimony.  I found it hard to give my story  using references that would be understood by the people. With God’s grace I think I did OK.  I am continually convicted about how I need to improve my Spanish.  I still lack nearly all the subtle aspects of Spanish.

Sunday was also our best “community development” day.  We were able to walk around to some of the homes, visit the people and just “be”.  I think I got a better picture of the people over the weekend than I did the other three days previous.

Monday it rained all morning and we were blessed to be able to make contact with the plane's base station and schedule the flight for the afternoon.  This allowed us to work with the people for another half day and complete the project before the plane arrived.  It was a great trip but it is also really nice to be home.

Typical home
Cut notches to receive horizontals 

First floor

Temporary floor
First beams of second floor

2nd floor being assembled


Chicaw break

How we made our connections

Adding in the cross braces

Finished tower less the roof

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Texas, first time back to the USA in almost 2 years!

My co-workers; Wim, Alfredo and I departed for Texas to participate in a four day training with Living Water International attending their well drilling training.  To make the most of our trip, we left 3 days early to see  a bit of Texas, (neither Wim or Alfredo had ever been to the states).
We arrived in Houston, rented a brand new car with 45 miles on it and headed out.  I would like to say we did something dramatic for the very first visit of Wim and Alfredo to the USA, but we did not – we went to Wal-Mart.  As an experience, I am not sure many of you who read this will fully appreciate the experience of going to a Wal-Mart.  The store is larger than nearly any store in Latin America and contains more choices in products than anywhere in Ecuador. Down here we are thrilled  to have 3 choices of cereal, if we buy it at all do to the high cost, but an entire row of cereal is a bit overwhelming.

Next was Wendy’s.  I slowly ate a spicy chicken sandwich and a frosty.  We drove downtown Houston to see the baseball stadium, the buildings and to just plain drive around.  Everything in Texas is huge if not excessive and it is quite the change from our small town in Ecuador.

Wim & Alfredo on the bridge of the Lexington
The next day we drove 3 hours south to Corpus Christi to see the aircraft carrier, The Lexington.  This was a desire of Wim to see and we walked all over the ship.  The vessel is huge, built is 1945 and full of history, planes and relics.  We had a great time. 
Picture of wim and Alfredo

The second to the last stop was San Antonio.  We stayed at the home of Justin and Shara, short term missionaries who visited Shell about 4 months ago.  They were wonderful hosts.  We went shopping, shopping, shopping and more shopping.  Shara helped us navigate our way through the town and helped all us of fashion challenged men pick out things for our families. 
Wim bought cowboy boots, we ate at “the worst BBQ in Texas” named Rudys – Amazing ribs, brisket and baked beans!

Aflredo, Eric, Wim, Justin and Shara at Rudy's Road House
We ate some more – Mexican tacos, Applebees, another stop for Burritos, ice cream, fruit bars, and so much more.  When we were ready to go to the training I was over stuffed.
I want to tell you about two of the highlights of the trip (not including the training).
First – Neither Wim nor Alfredo had ever played golf.  They each wanted to give it a try and stop at a country club.  I knew a little better than this.  We searched on the web for a place and finally stopped at a small out of the way driving range with a junky wood shack as an office.  As soon as we drove in I knew we were in the right place.   $8 worth of golfballs, some borrowed clubs from the left over basket and we headed out.

To add a little comic relief to the process, both Wim and Alfredo are left handed.  The “club house” only had one left handed club, so Wim used a right handed club backwards.  All this to say I am not sure it mattered much.  There was lots of laughter, jokes and light insults as so much effort was put into so little results.  We had a wonderful time and at the end of 100 balls, they were getting the hang of it.  Even got a few past the 150 yard mark.  Great fun.

Wim, Eric and Alfredo after a successful day at the range
Second – this is Texas you know – so I had to take them to a gun range and shoot a pistol.  Wim was all excited about it and Alfredo really did not want to go.  Again we were able to locate a range way outside of town, dumpy little shooting office and lots of kennels for dogs – I knew we were in heaven.  The guy rented us two pistols and we bought our own ammunition at Wal-Mart.  He was kind enough to give us the last place on the end of the range that was not being used – farthest from the people.  I gave an extensive class, showed how each part worked and we test fired a few rounds.
We ended up shooting 200 rounds and everyone had a great time.  Wim loved it, Alfredo was getting addicted and both Justin and Shara (our friends from San Antonio) did really well.  They guys took the targets home to hang in the office.  We all were very thankful that the only thing injured was the target and the back stop.

Finally after playing for several days in Texas we were ready for class.  Living Water International does a great job of hands on class, good book references and practical discussions after dinner.  We were very much anticipating a rural setting with rough conditions as they said it was not near anything…….   Well let’s just say our reference was different from theirs.  We were anticipating the “jungle” and what we got was a church lodge on several hundred acres, our own rooms, hot water, a chef, along with a facility to die for.  Texans sure know how to rough it.

Our drill team - Eric, Matt, Wim, Tom and Alfredo
Even with all the fun and great training in the states (after not having been there in 2 years) it’s good to be home.  I had some culture shock of my own adjusting to the life style of the USA.    I see more clearly as time goes by the pros and cons of the two societies I live in.  I want to support the good in each and shed the bad, I am not sure I will ever achieve it, but it would be nice.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A trip on the Amazon.

Iquitos, Peru may not look that far from Shell on the map and there’s a reason for that.  It’s not.  But let me tell you, it’s not that easy to get there from here.

Last week I had the privilege of going 7 hours up river on the Amazon from Iquitos, Peru by a small boat as a guest of Water Missions International.  Their office in Peru invited us to a dedication ceremony of their newest installation of the above ground 10,000 gallon per day system they have perfected.  I went with Alfredo and Adeline from out HCJB Community Development office here in Shell to determine if the filters would be an appropriate technology for the jungles of Ecuador.

Motor Taxis typical in Peru and Southern Ecuador

Alfredo while waiting for the police clearance for our van

Palace of the President - Lima Peru
The trip was long, longer and even longer than I desired.  We traveled 7 hours by car to Machalla, Ecuador, 8 hours by bus to Puira, Peru, flew 1.5 hours to Lima, flew from Lima to Iquitos and finally by boat to Requena (-5.060252,-73.852086)  with our final destination as “Monte Sinai” in the jungles of Peru.  I tried to find the village we visited on the map, but it was not there.  Its roughly 1.5 hours (40 miles) up river from Requena.  If this sounds messy to you, I will skip the half of it.  It took 3 full days of travel one way to arrive at our destination and 3 more days to get home – but it was well worth it.

Lumber mill at Requena, Peru

Typical transportation - hand dug out canoe with Honda "outboard"

Look for the High water mark about 1/2 way up the tree

Water Missions and Rotary inauguration in Monte Sinai
 We were able to see the filter in context of the community and we were pleasantly surprised on the overall development of the jungles of Peru.  With the Amazon and hundreds of navigable rivers that feed the Amazon, the “jungles” of Peru are not nearly as remote as those of Ecuador.  Cheap river transportation has allowed goods to be transported to Iquitos and sold at the market.  Commerce has brought electricity, cement, metal and telephones (cellular) to many remote places that would never have had anything in the past.

The technology of Water Missions was a perfect fit for the local people of Peru.  Water Missions and Rotary have partnered together to bring government, local business people and water filters together in a powerful mix.  
Sunset over a branch of the Amazon at Requena, Peru
On a side note, the Amazon was amazing.  The river is huge, maybe ¾ of a mile wide at the beginning.  Both rivers that merge just above Iquitos are each as large as the Mississippi.  We saw lots of boats, barges, dugout canoes and every type of craft that floats.    The most interesting item was their “outboard” motors made from Honda 4 cycle standard engines. 

Alfredo and Adeline on our fast boat on the Amazon
Our transportation from Iquitos to Requena to Monte Sinai and back

Push tugs on the Amazon

15 hp Improvised Honda to make it into an outboard motor

I am glad that God allowed us to see these filters in action and I hope we are able to get two (2) filters here in Shell.  One for the hospital and one for Emergency response for Ecuador.  If you would like to help that happen, please let me know and I will send you more information.

I say often to nearly everyone I meet: Come to Shell with your group to experience life in Shell, see for yourself what God has going on here and return to your home changed.  Allow God to expand your world view, alter your “normal” and allow your heart to break with the things that break His heart.

The jungles of Ecuador may not be the same as Peru, but both are filled with Gods children, endless opportunities to get involved from your living room and so much more.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Cleaning......   a normal everyday occurrence around the world.  Whether it is a maid in the White House polishing the marble, a home-maker wiping off the kitchen table and counters or a mom sweeping her dirt floor in Africa, cleaning happens, day in and day out.

I personally rather enjoy cleaning- in moderation.  I like the smell of a fresh bathroom and kitchen. I like to walk around barefoot and not have indistinguishable things stick to my feet. I grew up in a home that was kept neat and clean and I was taught at an early age to vacuum and dust and clean bathrooms. It is in my blood.

My husband refers to me as a clean-a-file, while my in-laws add Dutch to the front of that title. I am told that by adding Dutch to the title it makes a "plain" clean-a- file look dirty.   That is OK- I like the title and since I happen to have Dutch roots- no problem.

So, why blog about cleaning?  Well, since moving from the states, I have discovered that cleaning is a little different here AND my standards have gone down, just a little. 

Here in Ecuador, I have more time to clean than when we lived in Costa Rica, so one would think I would have my house in tip-top shape. Well..... cleaning here is a continuous thing- and I do mean continuous.  You see we live near the "ring of fire", meaning the line of active volcanoes that run from North America through South America into Asia and back around again through Alaska.  We have 2 particularly active ones nearby that spew off ash and smoke every 20-30 minutes.  That means dust every minute of everyday.The fine greyish stuff that cannot be seen except when moving items on shelves.

Ok- so dust can be ignored until Friday when I get to it- just don't move anything on the shelves and no one will be the wiser- plus they all live here too, right? 

Due to the proximity to the Amazon Rain Forest, carpeting is NOT recommended, nor even sold in this area.  Do you prefer tile floor or mildewy carpet?  Yeah, I thought so- but tile floor, especially white tile floor gets dirty easily and is easily seen - so we sweep everyday, sometimes twice and yes I still get things stuck to my feet.

Now, lets talk about these "indistinguishable" things- when you live in an environment where there is alot of rain (and I mean ALOT of rain) there will also reside bugs, of all shapes and sizes.  I am not particularly fond of bugs but neither am I particularly afraid of them, however, bugs have a place and that place is outside!  Can I hear an "amen"?    The bugs here do not seem to realize that however, and so I must remind them frequently that this house is for humans and humans only. This involves using a broom (and sometimes gloves) and removing them from the corners, under the  beds, the window sills, in the closet, behind the doors,........ well you get the idea.   If this "procedure" is not done at least every other day, well there may be a bug revolution or downright explosion or as in the case from a month ago- a really awful, haven't washed my socks that I wear everyday in a month, type smell.  

I hate to even admit it, but that "smell" has been in my house not once but twice now and I do have 4 "boys", but living here they don't wear socks, just sandals, so what could it be?   Time to get the broom AND the gloves and a bucket of disinfectant.  Sniffing, sniffing..... room located........ any guesses as to which one?  The boys room, of course....... could it be moldy laundry in the closet?  Continuing to sniff and remove items carefully from the closet- ahha!  Found it!  Now what was IT?!
Sweep up "smelly item" into dust pan and bring out into the light for further inspection-  of course, a shriveled up, blackened with age, rotting tree frog.  How could I have missed that!?

I guess my standards have gone down. ;)    Now the next question is:  Where is the rest of that millipede that I found the exoskeleton to yesterday while sweeping?  Maybe it's better if I don't know.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Shell?

Recently a Christian pediatrician that was part of a short term team referred to one of the children at the orphanage as "a shell".   He continued to say that this child did not and would never have the capability of doing anything on his own, he did not and would never "feel" love or be able to give it. He was unable to recognize when he was being held or distinguish between anything at all. He would be a drain on the system. ( Deep breath.......another deep breath.....)

The child he was referring to was born without several portions of his brain.  He is blind and has a hearing deficit- although the extent of it is currently unknown.  This little guy, Santiago (James), is 6 months old and is the size of a 2 month old currently.   He is being fed through a nasal tube as sucking is hard for him and takes a very long time- to the point that he was not receiving enough nutrients orally to grow. Does he have some pretty big obstacles against him? Absolutely!

Is he a shell?  Well, what is a shell (besides the name of the community in which we live)?
According to the American Standard Dictionary:

      a hard outer covering of an animal, as the hard case of a mollusk, or either half of the case of a bivalve mollusk.

      any of various objects resembling such a covering, as in shape or in being more or less concave or hollow.

      the material constituting any of various coverings of this kind.

      the hard exterior of an egg.

      the usually hard, outer covering of a seed, fruit, or the like, as the hard outside portion of a nut, the pod of peas, etc.
To some it up: a shell is a covering- the contents inside the shell vary.  Is the inside of an egg worthless? How about nuts or turtles- do they have value?
My question to the doctor was this?  "Is my brain different than yours?"  Of course the answer was yes.  "If we were to scan both of our brains- would the same areas of my brain do the exact same things as those same areas of your brain"?   No......    "Does God create each of us differently and uniquely"?    Yes........    "But Santiago has no value"? "He was created by God to be a shell?"   "An empty shell?" Silence.........     "Shells can contain some pretty awesome stuff and beneficial stuff, huh?"   Awkward silence.........  time to change the subject, so as not to dis-respect this fellow Christian.
How often do we see the outside of someone and think,  "they are a drain on society"?  I mean really, think about it- the homeless man on the street, the drunk who is  rarely if ever sober, the mentally handicapped? They probably don't work or contribute time or energy into making our world a better place.   Are they empty shells? 
May God open our eyes to what HE sees, to what HE thinks of those who are "less than perfect".
By the way,  every time I or someone else picks up Santiago when he is crying and lays him on their chest- he stops crying, his eyes open wider and he moves his head so that he can hear/feel a heartbeat.
Shell? I think my Christian brother was mistaken. 
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