Tag Archives: Ecuador

hanging around in the guas

hanging around

Something about this photo makes me smile–maybe it is because Brian and Megan are smiling back. But I love the ‘motion’ and the emotion that seem captured in this momentary slice of life–a hammock in the living room in the midst of the barrio Guasmo Sur, south of Guayaquil, Ecuador.

I took this photo on one of my frequent visits to Guasmo Sur as part of the ‘Adopta Una Familia‘ and Mi Cometa projects. You can see more stories and photos from the Guas here.

Running, preaching, gardening and rain

It’s a good thing that I can type with my hands and not my legs (probably for many reasons) because I can tell you that after doing a long run today my legs are stiff, sore, and as Tommy says, just plain “weared out.” Aside from the post-run tiredness, in other marathon news I have been truly overwhelmed by the amazing support from so many of you (for the rest, there’s still time…just kidding, I mean, there is still time, but kidding about the pushy salesperson part) and I am happy to say that I have reached the $2500 point! Not only does that mean that the Labrecque Foundation gets that much more money to help research and hopefully cure lung cancer, but it also means I don’t have to take up a side job as a street preacher with a collection jar in front of me.

Speaking of preaching (talk about a segue), I preached to the choir again a few weeks back.  This is the same small, struggling church in Long Beach where I preached this summer and where there were more people in the choir than the congregation. This time the congregation had three times as many people as the choir! But unfortunately that’s just because the choir’s down to 5…  The text was the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37) and though you can’t listen or read it (they don’t tape and I was practicing my ‘preaching without a manuscript’ skills) the question I posed to them was one of wondering if the priest and the Levite (if you don’t know who I am talking about sorry, you’ll have to read the story) did what was logical, practical and almost to be expected (what I might do?)…and if it was the Samaritan who did the unheard of act.  If he was the good guy in the story, what does that mean for us and our lives?

Speaking of life reminds me of the garden. The good news is that the lettuce is going strong as are what I am affectionately calling “the world’s largest cherry tomato bushes.” The bad news is, apparently the gardeners (the paid kind) thought the pumpkin and Crenshaw melon patches were just a bunch of dead leaves (which they were) and tore them out, leaves, melons, pumpkins and all…the worst was that one of the 3 “Thanksgiving” pumpkins was just starting to turn orange and look like we might actually get our pumpkin pie from our very own garden. Tommy (7) seemed to rebound better than the rest of us from the tragedy, though he also lost his ‘stick pile’ in the destruction.

Speaking of stick piles, actually, that one doesn’t work… Anyway, the other tidbit to share is that I have links to new photos. These are photos from the Ecuador Photo Project that I helped teach this August (you can see pictures of the students themselves, their work, and pictures from our ‘exhibit’ on the concrete soccer field) as well as the LA Photopiece that I helped to teach this summer (you can see pictures of their work). It has been really fun to be involved in both of these opportunities to combine my love of photography with a desire to spend time with students and help them find their ‘voice’ and realize that they have something to say to the world about their world. This Sunday is considered World Communion Sunday and Christian churches around the world will all be sharing in communion (Eucharist, Lord’s Supper, depending on your tradition) together. As part of that, four of the churches that participate in the Ecuador trip will all be displaying exhibits of the Ecuadorian students’ work, hung on clothes lines, with clothes pins. If you are anywhere near Branford or Hartford Connecticut, or Monson or Weymouth Massachusetts, you should go by and see! If you are somewhere else and you know of somewhere to show the work locally, let me know!

Oh, and not to be negligent on my weather reporting, we actually had rain in Southern California a few weeks back! The first of the season, and according to the rain gauge, 1.5 inches overnight!

Sqaush updates, preaching to the choir and other news…

Greetings from the garden,

I have to say I got many funny responses to my email about ‘manually’ pollinating the squash…

After all that effort with the Q-tip I found out from a community college herbs and vegetables class (definitely an email in its own right) that the problem was likely either too much water or not enough carbohydrates. Though I contemplated pouring some spaghetti in the pot, I tried the ‘less water’ approach first and it seems to have worked like a charm!  My mom did comment that this seemed like a lot more work than simply going to Trader Joe’s…

I’ve also been doing some gardening with Tommy (he’s 7) in his grandparents’ (Martha and Jack) backyard.  So far we’ve got an herb garden, some undocumented succulents (yes, there’s a story there), cherry tomatoes, peppers and even a pumpkin patch! Martha makes the best pumpkin pie in the world, so Tommy figured we should grow her some pumpkins to make it from.  He also wanted to put in a fountain and a fish pond, but I told him that might be out of the scope of our initial gardening phase. In the experimental section of the garden we’ve planted an avocado pit. I think we might have some guacamole in about four years, if we’re lucky.

When I can fit it in amongst all of the gardening I am actually doing quite a bit of freelance work these days…writing, photography, and websites as well as preaching two weeks in a row. The first week I preached to the choir—literally!  I think there were about 8 people in the choir and about 7 in the pews… It was actually wonderful getting to know the 15 of them!  The following week I preached to more of a traditional congregation, size-wise. There was one funny moment when the offering had been collected, the ushers were standing in the back, the organist was playing, and playing, and playing…and all of a sudden I realized that I was supposed to stand up and call the ushers back to the front for the prayer. I wonder how long we would have sat there? If you are interested in the sermon I preached, it is posted (in text form for now) and called “It’s a Crazy Story.” Honestly, it really is a crazy story.

Finally, I am getting ready to head to Ecuador tomorrow for my third “Adopta Una Familia” trip with Erica (seminary roommate) and a team of about 70 gringos. We will all be staying with Ecuadorian families and while they will all be doing hard manual labor (mostly construction) my job will be to photograph them sweating!  Actually, this year I will also be teaching a photography class to 10 teenagers from the barrio. It should be fun, and I can’t wait to share the pictures with you! It is a mini version of something called photopiece that I have been helping my friend Leanna to teach in downtown LA last fall and this summer.

Stay tuned for (hopefully, internet connection willing) photos and updates from Ecuador…

ecuador: wednesday august 10

Well, the good news is that the sore throat has lessened its ‘fuego’ somewhat. Who knows if it was the leaves that Maria has been making me eat (very chewy and very sour, but supposedly they cure dolor de garganta!), the one antibiotico that I got at the corner farmacia, or the ten hours of sleep I finally was able to get last night, intermixed with waking up to loud music, roosters, and the ever present sounds of the barrio.

This is a picture of what is affectionately called ‘shit creek’ because it is where the sewage goes, since there is no sewer system in the barrio. The utilities were all privatized, which here means sold by the government to make a buck, but with no restrictions/guidelines to follow. Since the barrio is not somewhere that the companies, such as Interagua (which happens to be a subsidiary of an American company, but not sure which one..google it…) stand to make much money, compared with the new suburbs that are being constructed for the middle/upper class, they have no vested interest in putting in the basic services such as sewers and have no compulsion to do so based on the lack of government involvement. This is what we protested last year, and were promised that would exist by this year, and yet nothing was done about the promise once we left and ‘the problem went away.’

So, what do you do?


To the left is the corner store where we buy our sodas and snacks. To the right is the house where I live…and in the middle, a bunch of crap.

ecuador: a few photos

ecuador: sunday august 7

the corner farmacia

Another story from the Guas…

I have what has turned into a fairly raging sore throat. We were at the beach all day and just got back from the two hour bus ride (yes, I did take a two hour bus ride to the beach when I can drive to it in 15 minutes at home!) and I asked around to see if anyone had any medicine other than anti-diarhea…let’s just say, had my problem been that, I would have been covered, but a sore throat? Nada! So, I walked across the road to the corner Farmacia (I will definitely have to get a picture in the daylight, because you are likely not picturing it in its actuality, from this description!) which is just a ‘room’ on the corner of these people’s ‘house.’ I called in—I think they were eating or something, but the nice woman came to the ‘window.’

“I have a pain in my [here I pointed, because I couldn’t remember the word for throat.]”
“Is it inflamed?” [I think the woman said.]
“Yes, it is on fire.” [I think I said.]

So, having diagnosed the problem, she turned to a shelf, pulled off a box of some sort of pill, opened the box, cut off one of the pills from the sheet, and handed it to me. Somehow she communicated to me that this would take away the swelling, and was the answer. Oh yeah, it is an anti-biotic. I wonder if my new health insurance will cover the 35 cents that it cost? I think I have a $10 co-pay, so I am not sure if they need to pay me $9.65? If it does work, and tomorrow my garganta (throat, I found out) is better, I think I will stick with the corner pharmacy for my minor health needs—no lines, no prescriptions, but of course, no idea what the heck I just took! Don’t worry, Mom, I checked with Maria and she said it, Cataflan, was good and was what I needed, though she is going to make me some sort of herbal remedy that will soothe it. Looks like I am covered either way!

Cooking lessons with Maria

Last night Maria taught me some new recipes to take home and make. Maduro Lapreada (fried/battered sweet plantain, on the left) and Corviche (hard to explain, but sort of a cross between a pad thai peanut flavor, the shape of a pot sticker, and the outer part like a corn tamale…on the right)

I am now officially a wedding photographer! Two people in the community asked Erica to marry them. They have already had the civil ceremony at the court, but since Erica is the only pastor they have, they asked her to do it. I figured they should have pictures, so I went along too! Erica had printed out a wedding ceremony in Spanish, which she read, but nothing on her church’s website told her about the other functions that she would need to perform, such as opening the champagne bottle for the toast and dancing with the guests afterward! We had had a big day, and the wedding was supposed to be at 8PM. We were scrambling to get ready, and ran out the door, arriving a few streets down in the barrio at about 8:15. The groom answered the door in his shorts with some of the crepe paper seen in the pictures, in hand. We said we would be back in a half hour, were back in one hour, and were still just a bit early!

In addition to wedding photography I have found another job! I guess when it rains it pours, huh?

Just a couple more shots from our beach trip today.

We did have a mass (that is what all of the Catholic Ecuadorians call it, though I think any priest would be appalled to call it that!) and then after mass went swimming—not such a bad church, if you ask me! Shouldn’t every picture of a communion table have a beach umbrella in the background?

ecuador: work day 2

Saturday, August 6
Work Day 2

Last night was bingo night…crazy! Grand prizes were a stove (cocina), refrigerator (refri), and a mountain bike (bicicleta). Abbey (Erica’s sister) was doing the number calling, and at one point after a round was over she told everyone to “limpia las platas.” She was trying to tell them to clear their bingo cards, but instead what she did say was “clean the silver!”

I am keeping a running list of all the things you can buy off push carts that go by on the road in front of our casa. Last year it was one of my favorite activities. So far this year we’ve got fish (whole, entire, head and tail and all), eggs, and armoires!

little gary

Today the casas will start on walls and at Mi Cometa there is a huge project to pour the loza, which is the floor of the third floor. It is a solid concrete floor, or will be, filled in around concrete blocks. It is held up, from the second floor, by large pieces of bamboo. All I can say is that I am not sure I want to be standing on the second floor when they pour the concrete!

The concrete will be mixed down on the ground (they have brought in concrete mixers, which are still by hand, but are better than just using shovels!) and then pull it up to the third floor in an intricate pully system.

Eunice, 81, is from Erica's church in South Weymouth

At the third floor the buckets will get poured into a sort of trough, which then angles down toward a funnel, where a wheel barrow is waiting, which when full will be wheeled across a narrow bamboo ‘bridge’ and then taken over to pour on the loza…quite a production!