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Friday, April 30, 2010

Happy Spring Weekend!

This weekend marks my third and final Spring Weekend at Fordham - so surreal... just pretending it isn't the last. I am honestly just so excited that I got here and am actually going to graduate on time. What is great is that everyone will be out - especially my EcuaLoves, and I hope to be able to run into them all. Although I am stuck inside at my internship on the Friday of spring weekend, hopping the next Ram Van back to campus is what is helping me out... I may even take a cab back to Lincoln Center because I am THAT lazy.

This is about the time of the year when I start to evaluate my year at Fordham, yet this year it is different because I am looking back at my whole college career. I think that my trip to Ecuador was definitely one of the biggest highlights of my college career, and to think about all that I have gone through, it happened right at the same time. Although I only spent a week in Duran, I have found it extremely helpful to read through the blogs of the current Rostro de Cristo volunteers, like Jamie, Dan, and Tom's blogs. Here are the links... definitely check them out! If you think that I am confused about how I feel and how to relate it back to my life (and even how to understand it in general)!

Jamie's A Nurse Goes to Ecuador
Tom's Tomas in Ecuador
Dan's Babylon Burn Down

They are definitely very enlightening, and are all very deep and impressive writers. Though they don't update a lot, it definitely helps me to read them and better understand what I went through... and what they are going through for the whole year.

Some exciting news:  One of the chaperone's from my trip, Danielle, had originally planned on applying for the 3rd round of JVC, but when she found out that she most likely wouldn't get placed, she did not know what to do. At the same time, she noticed that Elyse from RdC was on gChat and decided to just ask her a few questions. After their quick chat Elyse asked Danielle if she could meet with her that Sunday when she would be in NYC, and sent her all the paper work to be a volunteer for RdC. With 2 days to spare, Danielle found out that they had not placed the last spot in the houses yet and told Danielle to apply. Although people were on the wait list, Danielle was in the top 3 for this last spot - Talk about FATE! I am on my toes waiting for her to let me know back about what happened, since she should know soon!
I'll keep you all informed!


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Technology down-grade

I feel as though I went on this trip not expecting much, but now that I am back and still not feeling any big change, I have to take a look at the smaller things.

Last Saturday I made the trip into Manhattan and headed to the verizon store with old phone in hand. I made the switch back! Bigggggg thangs! I downgraded from my Blackberry, back to my LG EnV2. Believe me, this was a big step and still is. Weird thing though, everyone told me that I would feel detached, but true fact is that I feel more attached. I am no longer constantly checking my e-mails, I am not waiting for a facebook notification, and I can still just normally text people without using BBM. It is so much easier to be attached to real life without a blackberry constantly in my pocket. Although I do miss getting e-mails right away or being able to check the weather, or find the location of the nearest Jamba Juice... it had made things simple and I am starting to get really used to it.

Coming back, I have honestly realized how much technology detaches us from one another. We no longer are able to have normal conversations at lunch, or at the dinner table, and someone ALWAYS has their cell phone out. I have been able to slowly detach myself from the cell phone in general, as well as save my mother $30 a month! Very thoughtful of me!

Friday, April 23, 2010

GO! Gala!

I was going to just put this all in my last post, but it got too long... plus it deserves its own post anyways!

This past Saturday was the GO! Gala where all people over 21 (mostly Seniors and alum) can attend a lovely evening where the scholarship receipents get there scholarship awards, there is dinner, lots of drinking... and lots of dancing ensues. If you are an underclassman... do a GO trip just for the GO! gala. $50 was a bit steep for the event but it was so totally worth it in the end, plus I ended up knowing a lot of people there.

I was a bit nervous going because none of the other Seniors from Ecuador were going to it... considering the price, but I wanted to be there to get my awards so I sucked it up. One of my chaperones, Danielle, ended up being there, as well as my leader from my Mexico trip and a bunch of other people! I was so happy to know someone.

At the beginning of the night I was asked to sit with the Aquilone family and Michael, the gentleman I had the interview with, and I was so glad I did, as I thought we would have NOTHING to talk about. They were absolutely the sweetest people ever. I'm sure they definitely raised a great son, and I am sad they lost him at such a young age. Mrs. Aquilone had gone to Fordham to get her masters in Social Work, and she had so many stories to tell. I was able to learn about the volunteer work she now does, as she is retired, and what the social work scene is like. We talked about adoption for a while and how much the system has changed since she started, and I was just so enlightened. One other girl also received the award with myself, and so it was great to meet someone at Fordham that I had not before.

Once the awards and dinner came to and end, the Aquilone's went home, and the dancing began. With drinks in hand (no worries... we are all 21), we all hit the dance floor... and as per the rumor, Paul Francis got his groove on. Multiple Fordham administrators joined us on the dance floor and we all broke it down, plus one of my other co-workers from ram van got one of our bosses out to dance with us!

Definitely better than I expected it to be, and I am glad it was! :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


(well... not this much).

So almost a week and a half ago I had an interview for the Peter Aquilone scholarship. It is given out every year to 2 people who attend a GO! trip in Winter or over Spring Break, that exemplify the qualities that Peter exemplified before his unfortunate death in 2003.

I made the hike in between classes to W. 172nd and... some random street that I had never heard of. Some how I made it there via the bus, which I have never taken a long distance before, and found the office of Michael, one of Peter's friends from Fordham undergrad. I didn't really know how to act and considering the crappy weather, wasn't really in a good mood, but managed to be myself and be happy, and act like I really did want to be there (well I did... but ya know).

Anyways, I thought the interview went really well and he told me that the recipients would know by Thursday (it was Monday). Thursday came and went, and I never heard from him. I went home for Easter break and just assumed that I did not get the scholarship. My mom wrote me a check for the remainder of the payment due and I handed it in on Wednesday. On Thursday I talked to one of my professors about the interview and what I could have done wrong... I thought I really had messed up!
Friday afternoon, after returning from my internship and having just spent my last $30 on groceries, I got a phone call from Michael, who apologized for not having contacted me. He told me that he wanted to offer me the scholarship and asked that I attend the GO! gala the next weekend. I was SO excited and honestly did not believe him... I kept saying: "you are kidding, right?!" Funny thing is, right as he was saying it, my phone cut out and I asked him to repeat what he had said. He thought I just wanted to hear him say it again!

Anyways, I am so happy to be getting some money back from all that I have put towards this trip and even happier that I got chosen for the scholarship!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Small things I have learned from Ecuador

Just a couple of things that I was thinking about after returning that I think have now become points that I reflected on, and have taken into consideration:
  • Lime juice is a simple and easy substitute for salad dressing
  • Plantains are a great source of carbs and are extremely easy to make, taste really good, and can be made in different ways!
  • Cold, military style showers really aren't that bad.
  • Humidity and heat simply mean that you can shower more, but you still never feel clean.
  • Sun tan lotion works as a good moisturizing substitute (not like you have to moisturize in 95 degree weather).
  • It is really hard to brush your teeth without water... when you can't drink the tap water.
  • You can live without technology, cell phones, laptops... better yet without knowing the time.
  • When climbing 500 steps, don't wear flip flops.
  • Don't under estimate 95 degree, humid weather... you will sweat... and you will want clean clothes.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Boarding: Back to the States

Waking up in a panic, Christine realized right before bed that the itinerary was wrong and that our plane left an hour earlier that we had thought. She woke us up an hour earlier that we thought (not like we knew what time it was anyways), we pounded on the volunteer house door and woke them up to take us to the airport. They were not really happy campers!

We made our plane with plenty of time, and the culture shock already hit, even while sitting in the Guayaquil airport. Televisions, cell phones, RUNNING WATER... it was all too much. Thankfully we had no problems or delays, and things ended up working out really well coming home (which was kind of sad!). We all slept a lot and journaled, and attempted to ready ourselves for our return to the United States.

Flying back to New York

Upon boarding our flight from Miami to LaGuardia, we got a real reality shock when a group of about 25 Fordham students, tanned and hyper, were on our same flight... they were coming back from Punta Cana (lucky them?). And when we landed at LaGuardia, we were right back into things, almost like we never left. One of the ram van drivers, a friend of mine, picked us up at the airport, and it was almost like we had never been away. It was a crazy feeling since we had just gone through some of the most amazing experiences any of us had ever had. It was hard to not forget, but at the same time, being back in the States slightly forced us to get right back into normal life.

When I got back into my room... all alone... by myself, I sat in front of my turned off computer and cried! I was so overwhelmed, and called my mother to let her know I was back. I hopped in the shower and couldn't help but start crying again - I wanted to turn off the water while I showered! I was wasting water!... but I really wasn't, in US standards. "I pay for this water", I thought, "it's okay, Sarah... just take a REAL shower." The smallest things, since i have been back, still seem to amaze me, like running water and the small things we have that they don't. But as I have been told, in a story by one of my chaperone's, "you can't send the water to them!"

Friday, April 16, 2010

The final supper

When we got back to the house... we expected to have to head right in and start cooking with Ricardo (our other Ecuadorian helper, who loves soccer!),  but the door to our house was wide open! And inside we found Jamie, one of the RdC helpers, and Aide's mother and sister making us dinner. What a great surprise! I was so happy to see them (and kind of relieved that I didn't have to make dinner).

We ended up having this huge surprise dinner with all of the volunteers, from both houses, as well as Ricardo and Aide's family. We had rice, lentils, fish, plantanos, and lots of food. Half way through the dinner we lost electricity... and not only that, but the STUPID plastic chairs that we were using, didn't really like me and as I went to sit down (while the electricity was out), the leg gave out and I fell to the ground. Of course I just laughed it off!

After a couple of games of Mafia with the volunteers and our group... a game which I never want to play again, we said goodbye to them and had our last reflection, which ended up going until about 3am with an affirmation circle that must have lasted about 3 hours long. A little packing before bed, and we spent our last night's sleep in Ecuador.

Our group with Theresa at the top of Santa Ana Hill

Thursday, April 15, 2010

El fin de la semana!

While going into the last day in Ecuador, it was scary and unreal! We had NO idea what we were doing that day but had a small idea that in the morning we would get to have some of our neighbors come back and sell their crafts, etc. Gabriel, the leather man, and Idea's mother and sisters came to sell their crafts like belts and journals, as well as bracelets and purses. Wellington and his family came with all their crafts like earrings and bracelets for us to buy. I got 2 pairs of earrings, a couple thread bracelets for friends, a leather bracelet with my roommate's name stamped onto it, and an Ecuadorian cookbook for my mom!

After cleaning the house... mopping all the floors... and packing a bit, we found out we were heading into Guayaquil for the day! We headed into the center of the city, went to the Iguana Park, the cathedral of Guayaquil, and the Malecon (a 2 mile boardwalk along the Guayas river).

Dennis "petting" an Iguana at the Park

Looking down the Malecon from a tower

At the end of the Malecon, one of the volunteers, Tom, told us to look up at the lighthouse at the top of this huge hill... and told us we would be walking to that! (if you look at the previous picture, you can see it way in the distance on the top of the hill).

At the bottom of Santa Ana Hill

It would be 500 steps to the top of Santa Ana Hill and when we finally made it to the top of the lighthouse we got to look over all of Guayaquil and Duran, and could even see the Andes mountains in the distance. It was an amazing sight and absolutely rewarding after climbing all of those stairs... in the heat and humidity. Needless to say, we were gross! 

When we got back to the bottom of the hill, we got yet another surprise....

Annie, Shannon, Nicki, Christine (and Danielle) eating ice cream! Yummm!

ICE CREAM (Penguino)!... which, random fact, has the same logo as Good Humor ice cream product here in the States.

Monday, April 12, 2010

All for youuuu!

Hola chiquitos!

As I finish working on my last couple days of updates about my time in Ecuador, I have come to the point that I have some other ideas about what to add to this blog, but I DON'T want it to end!

Here is where you come in: I would love some ideas!

I figure that it is easy enough to keep talking about Ecuador but what do you want to hear? I really would like to turn my focus with this blog to things that people enjoy and are enlightened by. It is good to tell people my beliefs and what I experienced, but then what!

Comment here with some ideas for me and stayed tuned for a BIG update! 


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day #5 - WARNING: Long journaling day!

On Thursday, I really had time to reflect on what had happened and WANTED to (finally!). Four pages of my journal later - here I am! I'm going to share a portion of this with you, since it is a little more personal.

"This week is quickly coming to an end but I think today was my favorite day so far. This morning we went to a couple neighbor's houses in AJS - Wellington and Gabrielle. Wellington* is one of the guards at the other house. They are just so genuinely kind, which is something I have almost been brought to tears by all week. Their willingness to say their door is always open when they are just meeting us is something so uncommon to me...Him and his wife asked a lot of good questions and hard ones too, including how he was interested in the prevalence of suicide in the US. It sparked a lot of tension in the group and debate during discussion tonight...
Next we went to Gabrielle and Theresa's home - an 80 and 68 year old couple simply doign what they do to stay afloat. Gabrielle went around and wanted to know our names and then told most of us we have strong (or sort of strong, in my case) characters. They gave us coke and cookies, and Gabrielle showed us his leather collection, and let us stamp letters and symbols onto some. The spirit that he had was amazing and so inspiring. And even though we did not get much time with them, I was so impressed by their welcoming attitude, kind spirit, and overall generousity... After that we hopped in the van and went to our mystery location...Nuevo Mundo! It was the most gorgeous school ever! We got ot talk to Pat, one of the people who started the school... the school has around 1200 student in the morning and 400 in the afternoon, who are mostly kids from Duran that get bussed in and go for free... It was one of the most amazing schools I have ever seen with one of the most enlightening woman I have ever had the privelege to speak with.
In the afternoon we got to go back to Semillas, do a scavenger hunt, and then played soccer on some teams with kids, and then again after the program with the older helpers - ayudantes. It was so fun and sweaty, and just a good ol' time! Going back to Semillas was the best since it was the group of kids that we felt we got closest with. We really got to work closesly with kids of all ages in the hunt groups and had some authority, which was different. It was also the day that they chose which kids got to go on the field trip (to see Alice in Wonderland at the Cinemaplex), and could only bring 12. It was so sad to see some kids heart broken, as they had behaved all week. The field trips they do are things that these kids could never afford to do, so it is a real treat for them!"

* Wellington had Hansen's disease and spent a little time at Damien House. The house him and his family currently live in was provided to him by Sister Annie (owner of Damien house) and he very humble to have that provided to him.

I really enjoyed Semillas, since I loveeee working with children. To have all these little kids hanging all over me was such a joy, minus the obnoxious ones! But it was so fun and enjoyable, and a great way to wrap up the week.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Happy St. Patty's Day (from Ecuador!)

So unfortunately I completely forgot that it was St. Patty's day... and wore my only green shirt the day before. So silly of me! Anyways from my journal I find this...:

"Happy St Patty's Day! This morning Christine, Shannon and I went on the bread run with Theresa. The bread is so good here! After breakfast we went to Joceline and Juan's casa. They were two of the kids from Semillas who also go to Nuevo Mundo (a private school in Guayaquil). We talked about Harry Potter en espanol and their mother asked about our customs and daily life in the States (that is really weird to say!) It really made me realize how much they do want to learn about us, just like we are here to learn about them except most of them will never have the chance to visit the US which is very unfortunate. We also went to the Nuevo Mundo day care in Duran and go to do puzzles with 4 & 5 year olds, which is so fun, of course!
In the afternoon we went to the third after school program in an invasion community - a community where people simply just move in and sometimes the owners of the land will bulldoze the land and make them leave, and probably will just come back. This program was at the Alan Lynch private co-ed school and was called Manos Abiertas (Open Hands). These kids were the WORST and didn't listen, plus it was hot as *****, per usual. It was really hard to connect with any of the kids there and all of us just seemed completely drained. I just cannot stop comparing each program to the otehr and reflecting on how the kids act as proving a point about the community or barrio around them."

Wow, holy long journaling day! Unbelievable that here we are about half way through the week. The idea of an invasion community really just blew my mind, that that is how communities start in Ecuador is through a group of people just moving to empty land - EMPTY LAND... now that is a concept we don't understand. The new neighbor, by the way, is called Veintiocho de Agosto.

PS: LOVE that I used some vulgar language to describe the heat. Clearly I was over it!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Adventures of Tuesday, March 16

"We went back to Damien house and got to buy crafts from the patients like earrings, bracelets, and peace birds (little fabric sewn stuffed birds with bells on the end). It was so nice to be able to sit down and actually talk individually with both the men and women, minus the language barrier, but just listen to them and be there for them just to share time. It was very nice and all are such happy people that it made it so much easier to feel comfortable. I wish we could spend more time with them but there are just so many places to visit.
In the afternoon we went to an after school program in the other neighborhood (Antonio Jose de Sucre - AJS), called Valdivia with Tom (one of the volunteers from the Arbolito house) and two of the AJS RdC volunteers. It was definitely very different from Semillas but still good. I got to do multiplication tables with los ninos and they were so fast, well I would be too (in English)! We got to do a chista for the kids, which is a sketch about the theme of the week - sportsmanship. It was fun and the kids like it! Also today was our day to COOK! and we made a BOMB dinner of tortillas de papas con queso (potato tortillas with queso) Sooo yummy!"

At Damien house I spent a good amount of time talking with one of the patients who I could not understand at all. I really didn't care about the language barrier, or even the fact that he had a speech problem and no one could understand him,  but he just got to speak and tell stories, and when I did pick up on things, I loved it! Little things like that make me happy and I was just humbled to be there. What else was I going to do with my time!

Making dinner on Tuesday was so much fun, and surprisingly easy, and everyone was very jealous! Tortillas in Ecuador aren't the same as we think in the US! They were just balls of cooked and mashed potatos that we made a whole in before cooking, and put some queso in. We made a "salad" minus the lettuce with lime juice on it for dressing - soooo good! who knew it would be just that easy!

I was surprised during the week of how much onion we ate, mostly for flavor, but it definitely made me like onions more!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

The travels of Monday, day #3!

I figure now, that I journaled during the entire week, so why not use some of that to recap! Duh!

"Today we visited Damien house in the morning, a house for patients living with Hansen's disease (also known as Leprosy)I was slightly petrified that it would be scary or that I would be disgusted by the people due to deformities and also didn't know a lot about the disease but that was not at all the case. It was amazing and one of the most gratifying experiences. All the men and women were so humble and happy, and grateful for our presense in their community. They shared so many stories and experiences, and just very much enjoyed that time. Tomorrow we get to return and hopefully spend more time with them. In the afternoon we went to an after school program called Semillas de Mostaza, nearby and I got to work with the younger kids. The girl I worked with was named Belem, and she was not having it, but it was good to feel like I had some authority, even with the language barrier!"

A little more information about Semillas and my time there... even though the kids aren't currently in school, they come to the after school programs in the neighborhood. Not all of the kids even do go to school. Semillas was in the neighborhood of Arbolito (where we stayed), and was a quick walk from the house. We were bombarded with children as we walked there and soon our group got bigger and bigger, and by the time we got to the park and cancha (the soccer field). It was our first interaction with the kids of the neighborhood, what I have been waiting and excited to do, and where I first got to really use my spanish (and got laughed at!). Nicki and I found a couple of kids who wanted to play futbol on the smaller cancha. It was so fun to just run around with these kids and not understand half of what they said!

Kids in Ecuador are not different than kids in the US when it comes down to it. They want to play and have fun and just be kids, and they love it. And though half of them go to school and the other half don't, there is no stereotyping or differing in the relationship between those kids, and they don't judge. That was just amazing to me!