Outside the Casa de Mera, Guayaquil, Ecuador (8/10, 6:25 p.m.)

( transcribed entry from 8/10/08, 6:25 p.m. )

After a pancake breakfast (which I cooked!) this morning, we had church service on the soccer field, the highlight of which was a beautiful solo of Amazing Grace, sung by North American teen K. I was also honored to be able to serve communion to about half of the participants and Ecuadorians.

We proceeded to the Mi Cometa community center for a ribbon cutting and dedication, which was very moving. With a few brief speeches, the Ecuadorian leadership of Mi Cometa, with Erica, the North American pastor/founder of the project, cut the red ribbon on the metal gate and ushered us inside. We went in up to the brand new– today!– finished community room.

looking into the Mi Cometa community room a day earlier.

Looking into the Mi Cometa community room a day earlier.

What a difference a day makes!

What a difference a day makes!

There were several speeches, including a great one from César, one of the heads of Mi Cometa, who spoke of the power of dreams, of what has been accomplished, and what is still to be dreamed. “The dreams of the poor,” César said, “are the most powerful dreams, because we have the world to gain, and nothing to lose.”

We were also addressed by the economic minister and political adviser under Ecuadorian President Correa. Between plugs for the proposed new constitution (which sounds pretty good if they can actually do it– lower the voting age from 18 to 16, free public education through high school, and a universal understanding of citizenship “because no person should ever be considered illegal”) the minister praised Mi Cometa, and its commitment to justice, the poor, and the equitable use of natural and human resources.

Following the cake and coffee reception, we came back to the house for a great honor. I baptized Angela’s new, 18-day-old son, Kenyon Ezekiel. Bonnie was the godmother and Andres the godfather. That took up most of the afternoon, and not we are waiting on the evening program and official farewell, and maybe a few more rounds of jokes before bed. I can’t believe this is the last night already.

Kenyon Ezekiel with his godparents, grandmother, and parents.

Casa de Mera, Guayaquil, Ecuador (8/9, 11:15 p.m.)

( transcribed entry from 08/09/08, 11:15 p.m. )

Becca C, Bonnie B and the Mera family at the beach.

Becca C, Bonnie B and the Mera family at the beach.

Beach day was pretty fun– the best day we’ve had. There was even some sun, a big improvement over last year. I waded a lot but didn’t swim (it was still pretty cold). Treated my family to ice cream and boat rides and lunch, where once again I was amazed at how much the members of my family could eat when the food before them was limitless. I finished half my lunch. Andres ate enough for about five people.

As with last year, lunch was our only meal of the day– only snacks for breakfast and dinner, so I’m quite hungry.

This evening, we talked late into the night, Andres, Eddy, Carlos (not my host brother, but Eddy’s cousin by the same name), Diego and I, telling jokes in Spanish. Now that takes a pretty good command of a language, to tell and understand jokes. Admittedly, it was like telling jokes to a child, because they often had to explain the punch line four or five times for me or define a couple of words before I’d laugh, but we did it. And I held my own. I actually did ‘Who’s on First?’ in Spanish; Quíen on first, Qué on second, and Yo No Sé on third… And their jokes were hilarious, told with great expression or perfect deadpan, when appropriate. I feel like I’ve truly arrived, both as a member of the family and as a person who can communicate in Spanish.

Casa de Mera, Guayaquil, Ecuador (8/8, 11:44 p.m.)

( transcribed entry from 08/08/08, 11:44 p.m. )

Erica worked it out with my family so that they– well really just Andres– could go to the banquet last night. The women stayed home with the children, and others were too young to go. The food was great, and Andres gave his characteristic ‘ooh’ when he saw it.

Who *wouldn't* want to hang out with these sweeties?

Who *wouldn't* want to hang out with these sweeties?

We spent most of the day today out of the barrio touring Guayaquil and shopping as a group of North Americans. I did have a nice talk with D, my traveling buddy and fellow Taurus of 1979 and parent of a 3-year-old-daughter. We had lunch together (he treated– big spender!– all of three dollars) and talked religion. That was the highlight of the day pre-dinner.

During the tour, there was a moment that summed it all up for me: we drove past the gardens on the Malécon, where last year the four buddies, Abby, Andres, Cristian and I, had strolled, posed, picked flowers, and chatted an evening away. This year I saw it as a tourist: over a fence, through the glass window of a bus, sitting by myself. No friends, no host family, no leisurely strolling. I was glad to return to the barrio to spend time with my family.

This evening we had the dance, which was also very different from last year, but also more contained (no beer kegs, which, given the age of some of the North American volunteers, is a very good thing indeed).  Bonnie and I went with Andres and Eddy from next door. Isabel (host mother) and Martha (her second daughter) showed up later. I danced with Eddy and a few times with Andres, who is quite a bit approved over last year (but that doesn’t say much, as anyone who’s met my dear bro-at-heart would know– *no* rhythm!).

Feeling pretty melancholy this evening; missing my friends from last year and my family back home, and still disappointed that my family’s house is unfinished. A rough night.

hiatus (and olympic spoilers)

We interrupt your Ecuador blog-a-thon for this important message:

There are a few things for which it is worth staying up until nearly 2 a.m. On a work day. On a day your daughter decides to wake up early.

Watching an American win the women’s all-around gymnastic title for the third time in history– that’s one of them. Watching two Americans go one-two in the women’s all-around gymnastic competition for the first time ever– that’s priceless.

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