Friday, December 20, 2013

We're alive!

Hi everybody! So sorry I have not posted anything in a few days. Quite a bit has happened.  Last you heard from me we were in Cuenca visiting friends. We had a fabulous time there but we wanted to see the coast and explore what coastal living is like as well as what the needs of the congregations are.  We took a 7 hour bus ride and finally arrived in a sleepy little surf town called Olon. I may provide details in another post about our time in Olon.  But long story short, finding an apartment or rental home there was extremely difficult with our budget. After much prayer and I must admit, even tears, we decided that it was clear we would have to keep heading north for more suitable living in our budget. In just three days though, we fell IN LOVE with Olon and also the few friends we met from the congregation. Their $3 pina coladas on the beach, we fell in love with too!

So anyway we took a 4 hour bus ride yesterday and arrived in the bustling city of Manta, right on the coast as well.  We are staying with a family that moved to Ecuador in November from the states, with two little boys and all.  They are the picture of what I envision a family with Matt might be like on this side of the home schools them herself, service all the time, and a couple beach days throughout the week.  They're an awesome family putting Jehovah first and they have been so encouraging to us.

Tomorrow we are planning on travelling to the hall in Crucita, a beach town about 50 minutes  north.  It's known for its handgliding and parasailing and beautiful beach. We also hear their spanish hall has only two elders and one is just learning Spanish. (This has been the big challenge, finding an area in need of help with their territory and in a place that suits us and our budget!) One thing we're learning though, is that December is the absolute worst time for a gringo to find a good deal on a rental in a beach town. December starts their summer and holiday season when everyone flocks to the beaches. So prices get jacked way up up until about early mid January or so IF you can even find places that haven't been rented yet!

So that's that! I can't lie, the last few days have been a little rough emotionally.  It's been difficult even wanting to write about anything,  because it means having to process my stress and anxiety even more.  Matt keeps encouraging me to write though since this is, after all, a documentation of our story with all its ups and downs. Sigh. And perhaps by sharing with you all the "lows" of getting situated in a foreign country, you can triumph with us when we finally figure things out.  When I start to panic, I search deep down (usually after some prayer) for that feeling, that belief (that usually hides in the shadow of anxiety and hmm, prolly some hormones haha) that Jehovah's GOT this, he's GOT us and as long as we keep grasping his hand, He'll never let us go.

I miss you guys. You (our congregation and family and friends) are always on our minds and we really enjoy sharing this experience with you.

Here's some photos from Olon...

 What you see while walking through Olon, stray dogs and donkeys:)

Here we are with Ian, the son of a couple that was helping us find a place to live.  He is the sweetest little boy. ALTHOUGH, we had very differing opinions on spiders.  He would just stick his hand in the middle of a huge web and grab a fist of it and chase me around while trying to wipe all that spider/web goodness on my shirt. What a sweetie pie:/

Friday, December 13, 2013

A little update...

Just wanted to update you on the commenting situation. I know some have told me how frustrating it's been to add your comments to the posts because a login is required.  Well no more folks, no more! I finally figured it out in settings. So now anyone can comment freely. We hope to hear from you!

And since I'm here I'll leave you with a picture!

This picture is from when we visited the branch in Guayaquil a few days ago.

We had the privilege of being toured by Toni Toth.  Her and her husband have been at the branch for 40 years! They are Gilead grads from the 56th class.  Her enthusiasm for our plans and words of encouragement were invaluable!


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Shopping in Cuenca

Well this post has nothing to do with need greater work....Well actually give me a moment and I'll find a connection. Lalala..ok got it. Travelling, I find, many times goes hand in hand with shopping and when you're going to be spending lots and lots of time in the ministry, well a girl needs her essentials right? 

So we found ourselves in the perfect place to shop...I mean, to EQUIP ourselves for the ministry;) Cuenca is a mecca for little artisan shops.  They have gorgeous Panama type straw hats and jewelry and leather goods.  Their prices aren't the cheapest you'll find in the country because this city is pretty touristy but it's always fun to try and talk them down on the price. You can always knock off a few bucks doing that. 

Below are some goodies Matt and I found.  The brown bag is for Matt to use in service. You can smell this leather from a mile away. It's a little bit smaller than a large briefcase, cost $50, so take that Wilson's leather.

Oh and the earrings were $3!

So we attended our first Spanish meeting here. And well I must say both Matt and I left overwhelmed and feeling, gringo.  There was really only one brother who's Spanish I could follow pretty well.  But I guess today's meeting made me realize that we will not learn this language by osmosis (sadly I think part of me kinda believed that) We will need to devote time everyday to learning and practicing.

I did give a bible highlight though! The ispeech app helped a lot with that. If you're learning a language check it out. You can either type or speak what you want translated and it will write out the translation AND dictate it to you too!

So tomorrow we're all going for a hike so hopefully if it's a clear day I'll be able to share some nice pictures of the mountains here.

I'll leave you with a selfie I took with my hat.  These hats SAVE you from the sun. It's the strongest sun I've ever felt. You burn it 2 seconds flat.

Oh yeah and and my husband! So handsome drinking his cafe americano con leche. Sorry he's been a little MIA from the posts so far but I'll try and make him more of a presence on the blog for those who miss seeing his face:)

Nos vemos! Ciao:)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Peaks and valleys

The camera will never quite capture it but the mountains here are gorgeous, like nothing I've ever seen in person. They have these incredible green peaks that shoot down creating a steep cliff and finally land in a beautiful valley with orange tile roofed houses collected in the shadows of these mountains.  We drove up to a higher elevation today to check out property that our friend's (Joel and maria) family is building on. The house is being built on the side of a mountain overlooking Cuenca. The picture above is part of the homes view. Amazing!

Here are the guys climbing through part of the property.

So this morning I accompanied Maria on her study before meeting the group for service. I was focusing so hard on trying to understand everything, that I actually got a little dizzy haha. Started seeing spots and everything.  So I was thrown a bit of a curve ball at the end of the study when Maria asked if I wanted to say the closing prayer. A ya yay! But I just took a deep breath and I did it, I did it guys! It was so exhilarating! And I really do appreciate that Maria just threw me in there, I know that's the only way I will gain some confidence.

So taking the bus back to meet the group was interesting.  You board the subway type bus from the front but the rule is you must get off from the back.  So when we got on it was packed alllll the way to the bus driver, and as we made more stops we kept getting more and more squished as people kept boarding. When it came time to move our way to the back, I literally slithered past every bump and curve of ecuadorian body you could imagine...Well maybe don't imagine:) I kept waiting for reactions, i mean I was all UP in everywhere! But no one even flinched or even tried to move over...I guess we were all in this together. You simply check your personal space at the door!

That's it for now. Ciao!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Don't need to be J. Lo to have a glow!

This is me and my glow. I made sure Matt captured it with my iphone. I have been on a high the last couple days because I am just loving this whole letting Jehovah direct us thing haha.  The picture above is from this morning after our amazing breakfast at the bed and breakfast owned by a witness family.  The night before when we had explored the city, the sister we were with had started talking about a town on the coast named Olon. My ears immediately perked up because I had read and seen pictures on it and had already fallen in love with the town. She told us that a new Spanish group is being started and that a couple there own a bed and breakfast too.  They're a young couple from the states and she asked if we would like their yeah! So I put that info in the back pocket of my mind as something to pray about later. So we pray that night specifically about Olon...

Next morning at the b&b! We sit at the dining room table with this couple from Canada.  They just had a house built right on the coast overlooking the sea in a town called Puerto lopez.  Well again my ears flinch because I had read about Puerto lopez and how it was such a quaint cute fishing town (right up my alley).  Well next words out of her mouth are "but I think you would like olon, really nice town nearby, it's clean and easy to get around".  Cue glow! And I pretty much spurted the scrambled eggs i had just eaten from my ears! Who knows what will happen for sure, but at least we have a direction and a connection to the coast. Yay!

So today we boarded a bus to Cuenca, a beautiful colonial looking city in the mountains.  The big picture behind my blog title is of Cuenca.  We are visiting Joel and Maria Hudson, friends from Matts earlier bethel days.  The bus ride was four hours and took us on a winding road literally inches from the edge of the mountain. Kinda scary! The bus was really nice though. Cost us $8 per ticket and this was a nice bus, similar to Peter Pan with a TV and everything.  I'll keep you posted on our stay here.  We'll be here for about a week and then I think we'll head to the coast.  Our plan is to figure out our final destination with in our first month.

I'll leave you with a blog feature that I will call "now get to the point!"


Most dominant feeling at the moment: giddiness and a slight headache probably from The 9000 ft elevation.

Favorite thing so far: how cheap everything is!

Least favorite?: getting noticed everywhere, thanks to my giant of a German husband:) puts me a little on edge, because i know it makes us targets for theft or higher price tags.

What do i see a lot of: tight tight jeans on women and low low shirts and breastfeeding everywhere! They do it while they walk, impressive!

until next time, ciao!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

day 1 in Guayaquil

Well everybody I can't believe we are here in Guayaquil. And on top of that, we have already made friends! Of course this is Jehovah's organization so that shouldn't really surprise me but ya know:) 

First of all, flying could not have been more of a breeze. And don't even get me started on how easy it was to get our luggage when we got off our flight.  Of course I was convinced that someone would throw our luggage onto a cart and sneakily wheel away with all my neatly packed tropical wear and blow dryer. Nope, all three pieces of luggage were taken off the conveyor already, nicely placed together and in excellent condition, i mean not even a smear of dirt. 

So exiting the airport was interesting. I felt like a Celebrity. There's this long corridor that leads you to the exit doors, and seriously at 1 in the morning there were a couple hundred people leaning over the railing of the corridor watching us "cat walk" out of there. It was nice to see all these families reuniting after who knows how long.  Kinda funny feeling though too, I had done just the opposite a few hours earlier and now I was waiting for a stranger to come pick us up.  

So anyway I was kinda excited to see a big sign with "Matt & Damaris" in bold held up high by the family that the ecuador branch had set us up with. So that didn't happen. We spent the next hour wondering if somehow we miscommunicated and they actually weren't coming.  So I wandered through the crowds as Matt stayed by our luggage, holding a pretty crumpled watchtower magazine, hoping the family would recognize we were their people! So anyway after figuring out how to use a payphone (ya know those thingys with a spiral cord that have buttons and tons of germs?) we finally got in touch with our people.  Turns out the sweet older sister coming to get us had fallen asleep waiting for our plane to arrive. So a few minutes later we were off in her van to her bed and breakfast!

Next day consisted of sleeping and ordering pizza hut, yes I know I know. Well never again I tell you never again! It's just not the same, something about the sauce... so just as i was feeling kinda bored and lonely and a little like "oh gosh what have we gotten ourselves into?..bad pizza has that effect I guess) we hear someone at the door. It's Ivon, a petite beautiful sister who is the daughter of the B&B owners.  She invited us out on the town to explore the city! We stayed out til midnight and had so much fun, and we met with another group that had need greaters with them.  Of course I attacked them with questions.  But more on our night later. I'll leave you with two things I learned: 1) don't leave food on the counter, these teeny bugs come out of no where in seconds..and really like bad pizza and 2) I'm tall! Here, I should add. Most women are around 5 ft. but that just kinda tickled me:)

Our really long plane

Daddy, Cristina and jonathan, Jeff and Kay came to the airport to bid us farewell!

This is me about to board the flight to miami, i highly recommend this airport bar. This vodka cranberry almost knocked my socks off:)

And this is Ivon on the left and shamyra. Our first friends here!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Separation Anxiety

I've been wondering when it would strike. I knew it was inevitable. I've been walking around with a goofy grin this whole time, feeling a bit emotionally distant from those around me that have already begun to express emotions of separation anxiety as we prepare for our trip. But you see, I'm really that girl at the airport that you pretend not to look as she sports the incredibly ugly cry, I mean snotty face, mouth full of saliva ugly cry as she clutches her loved ones and stellar luggage (see post below).  Of course this scene usually takes place at that awful security check point where you must separate from those not boarding the plane with you. Ugh, most of my airport memories of this particular area are in major slow-mo (yes, very traumatic times).

So this separation anxiety usually hits pretty conveniently for me (separation anxiety is perfect right before boarding a plane because the soon to be had fear of dying on the plane usually trumps and  takes care of it quite well.)

So anyway Matt and I leave next week for six months to Ecuador and today we were driving to Massachusetts for some last minute family time.  I'm doing my makeup in the visor mirror when I feel the reality of the situation hitting me.  Yes I'm leaving on this awesome adventure, but I'm also choosing a path that will strand me from my comfort zone, my unconditionally loved zone, my family. Tears came at so not a good time because, well my concealer, and secondly, this is way too soon.  Once these floodgates open I'm not sure if they will stop.  How in the world will I get through Black Friday shopping if I'm slipping on all of my tears?! 

Crisis somehow averted, I swallowed those tears back before they hit cheek.  But I was on high alert now.  I have entered the anxiety separation emotional zone a little sooner than expected. 

I am completely aware that this may sound dramatic.  Six months is not really that long. But well, sometimes it seems like a very long time especially when I contemplate the notion that I may have chosen a path that has a life of its own.  I have started this "relationship" with need greater work that, who knows, may capture my heart and leave me madly in love and situated indefinitely away from my family.

More than anything, what I feel is my heart bursting with love for them.  They have been so supportive of this dream and so unselfish.  I'm not sure if they will truly ever understand just how much their support has fueled my courage and confidence to leave them for a little while.  If I am happy, then they are happy for me. Period. So I guess that kind of love is worth ruining your makeup for.  

Separation anxiety, here I come.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ramblings about Luggage Mostly

We are in countdown mode now. Ecuador is 16 days away. And we have 247 things to still do! Typing that just made my hands shake a little. I remember this feeling when we were about to move out of wallkill bethel back in August. I would subconsciously count down the days while simultaneously computing the time it would take to accomplish all the "moving out" things needing to be done (and I wonder why I have panic attacks). Our room was in a constant mess of messy piles (this pile I'm keeping, this pile is stuff I never returned to people, this pile is makeup I don't use but can't throw away...) So many piles!

Ok where was I? Oh yes, ecuador. So yeah, we have a lot to do.

But I must say I have discovered something I love doing in all this ecuador! Ok  I know (and you know) I already love shopping.  But I mean I am really enjoying getting traveling stuff like....suitcases! Do you know there are all different types? Hard case, and fabric and 28 inch and 30 inch and "spinners"? We just bought two and they have found a home near our kitchen. I usually make a beeline when i get home for any baked goods or candy we have stashed on our island table.  And lately, while I stuff my face with a cake pop I'll just marvel at those suitcases, picturing myself in slow motion rolling those beauties past customs while clutching my neck pillow and passport in the other hand. I'll whip them off the conveyor belt in ecuador while my fellow travelers gape at how smoothly they spin and twirl while saying to myself, "you done good girl, you done real good." I also got quite a high from my money belt and luggage tag purchase too.

So shopping aside, we still need to finish packing our bags and packing up our apartment. On to more exciting things to read about (hopefully, I mean that last part got me excited...)

Soooo my family came to surprise me this past weekend! All day after our meeting on Saturday Matt was trying to get me off my iPad (um i was shopping for dreamy luggage for goodness sakes) but little did I know he was trying to get me half way decent for my family's arrival. He finally left to "take out the trash" and came back with my twin sister, her husband, my mom and step dad in tow! I think I jumped up and down for 3 minutes.  I'm smiling now just thinking about it.  Theres nothing like being truly surprised.  So yeah, this past weekend was a dream.  Everyone slept over in our little studio and we cooked bacon and pancakes and went to Cheeseburger in was just perfect.  And to make things even better, my mother, father and brother in law came on Sunday to join in the festivities!

Here are some pics from the weekend...

Mi familia! (And Ron and Jackie!) such good times.

Holding my gift from my sister, Cristina.  Thanks to her I will be sporting Madewell's awesome leather travel tote at the airport as my personal item. Yessss

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The thoughts I have right before I fall asleep...

Some people close their eyes and drift off to a far away place as soon as they shut the lights to go to bed (like my husband) and others daydream about that day, what could've been, or said, or the anxieties of tomorrow.  I fall into the latter category and have to pray often about letting things go and leaving tomorrows anxieties with Jehovah.

As you all know, we are in the throws of planning a major trip to Ecuador.  We get asked all the time, "so you have a place?" "Where you gonna stay?" I cringe a little inside as I wait for the reactions I get when we reply "nope, we're gonna figure that all out when we get there..isn't that exciting?" The truth is, there are bubbles of "exciting" in a glass full of anxiety when doing things this way.  It's not panicky anxiety but a subtle under current that, if I'm not careful, can grab by the ankles and yank you from your oxygen source.  Thank goodness for a father like Jehovah.  This trip is truly teaching  me to rely on Him.  These are my current "top thoughts" that occupy me before I drift off to sleep:

1.)  can we REALLY find an apartment under $300?
2.) can we really find a FURNISHED apartment under $300?
3.) can I coexist with creepy things like spiders, big ones, and possibly disease carrying Mosquitos? (Those of you who have heard my story of how a jumping black spider almost single handedly (er, well eight leggedly) prevented me from making it to my special assembly day, will probably be wondering this same exact I right??)
4.) should we BUILD all our furniture, possibly from pallets like all those creative people on Pinterest do?
5.) do ecuadorians use pallets?
6.) what happens if we absolutely love it, love it so much that we want to stay and only come back once a year? Could I survive away from my family? Would they forgive me for leaving and missing important life moments (lots of thoughts, #6! Calm down!)
7.) what if I find out I'm accidentally pregnant RIGHT before our plane leaves, do we cancel the trip? Or travel the jungle with a cute baby bump while drinking coconut water straight from a coconut that I cracked open with my bare hands! Ok ok, just sort of.

But what if what if what if!!!

Matt is so so right for me.  He can see the racing thoughts behind my eyes before I even have time to say, "baby, are you worried about...?" He'll pull me close and say, "look how far we've got, Jehovah isn't going to abandon us now, c'mon what do you want to pray about?" Ahh. And I sigh it out. Pray it away and leave it with Jehovah. Who knows, maybe he's already smiling about that awesome coffee table we'll make from pallets we found for free.