Yesterday, we left Otavalo for the 4th Violet Groth Vaca Memorial Meeting for Women which was to be held in San Francisco, a small community near Latacunga, Ecuador. It was also the 1st Victor Vaca Memorial Meeting for Women. Further, we were celebrating 18 years of service to communities by FEDICE. After picking up Blanca, Luis, Grace, Rene, and Steven at the FEDICE office, and driving through a torrential thunderstorm, we all spent the night at Cabañas de Volcáns, about 30 minutes north of our destination.
(NOTE TO THOSE WHO FOLLOW SUCH THINGS: Violet Growth Vaca actually passed on five years ago. However, the memorial meeting for her was not held one year. Thus, it's not termed "annual". Further, Victor passed on a little more than a month ago and this was the first meeting in his honor.)
A Poster For The Meeting --Hugo Pacheco
This morning, Marco, husbandry and agricultural technologist for FEDICE, came to pick up Blanca and Grace at 8:00 a.m. so they could all go to San Francisco early to make preparations for the meeting. The rest of us didn't have to be there until 10:00 a.m., so we had a leisurely breakfast. Luis, Rene, and Steven were with us. Rene and Steven are the husband and son, respectively, of Grace, FEDICE's accountant.
After breakfast, we began the 30-minute drive to San Francisco, where the meeting was being held. About 15 minutes down the road, our horn started blaring and wouldn't stop. It had done that yesterday and we'd had to stop until IT stopped. Next, it started doing it intermittently. When we were about 10 minutes away from our destination, it began sounding weak and then stopped. Marilyn and I dropped Rene, Luis, and Steven off so they could get to the meeting on time and we went to see if we could get the car repaired or the horn disconnected.
Marilyn prayed that we'd find an honest mechanic. We found two. The mechanic at the first place where we stopped said that he couldn't help because he wasn't an electrical mechanic. He didn't tinker with the car just to take our money. Instead, he recommended a diesel electrical mechanic and gave us directions. Between the two of us, we found the place.
This second mechanic had two people ahead of us, but he got to us in about 10 minutes. He found that something was burned out (possibly because the horn wouldn't turn off) and asked if we wanted the horn fixed or disconnected. Since the car was going into the Hyundai dealership in two weeks for other repairs, we asked him to disconnect it. Marilyn rarely uses the horn anyway.
We arrived at the meeting 40 minutes late and were immediately introduced to the group. It was a great turnout, with people from the communities of Cochapamba, Jatun Juigua, Maca Atápulo, San Francisco, Pupaná Sur, Luz de América, Romerillos, Santa Rosa, and El Chaupi. In fact, we were told that only one person failed to show up.
Grace Zurita Presenting FODA
Hugo Pacheco Assisting A Group
The purpose of the meeting was to analyze each community's strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, and threats to those opportunities. FEDICE calls this process FODA (Fortalezas, Oportunidades, Debilidades, Amenazas). For example, some strengths (fortalezas) might be efficient administration of programs and the ability to obtain low-interest loans from FEDICE. Some opportunities might be selling to mercados or large companies. Examples of weaknesses could be inefficient administration of programs, insufficient capital, or a lack of training. Threats (amenazas) to the opportunity of, say, selling, might be varying prices in the marketplace or diseases to animals and crops.
With the FODA process completed, FEDICE is better able to define its objectives and goals for the next five years with respect to these communities. Rigorous processes like FODA help FEDICE insure that communities are being realistic about their needs. These programs also insure that communities come to FEDICE with identified needs and plans, instead of expecting FEDICE to tell them what they need, like a parent figure.
Grace and Hugo presented the process. The gathering then broke into groups according to the communities they represented. Each group went through the FODA process, identifying their own strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, and threats to those opportunities.
Blanca, Grace, Marco, Hugo, Rene, and Clarita (who is a university student doing her thesis on the community of San Francisco) assisted the nine groups with the process. Luis and Marilyn took pictures and handled other logistical tasks. I mostly observed so I could write this post.
After completing the process, reports were presented by the various groups. This helped them understand what they could realistically accomplish in the future with the assistance of FEDICE.
Sebastian Caiza Accepting A Plaque
Blanca Puma Accepting A Plaque
The last thing before lunch was the presentation by different communities of various gifts and plaques to FEDICE in honor of Violet and Victor, and the assistance received from FEDICE. Marco also read a poem he had written in honor of Victor.
After a traditional almuerzo (lunch), a mass was said in honor of Victor and Violet. The priest was late, so Maria, wife of Marco, led us in singing hymns until he arrived. She had a beautiful voice.
After mass, we loaded up Billy Bob and headed home. There were three more people with us than had come down yesterday (Sebastian (President of FEDICE), Hugo (an economist with FEDICE), and Clarita), so it was a tight fit. We took the short cut back and noted where to turn off the Pan-American highway in order to take it next time we go to San Francisco instead of going all the way to Latacunga and then backtracking.
It rained on us again, but not nearly as hard as yesterday. We stopped just before Quito and Blanca bought us all ice cream. Luis went back for a second one. And he calls me a goloso (glutton)? In Quito, we dropped Hugo off on Av. 6 de Diciembre before continuing to the FEDICE office to deposit Blanca, Luis, Grace, Rene, Steven, and Clarita. Only Sebastian stayed with us until we dropped him off at his church in Tocagón, near Otavalo.
We arrived home at 7:30 p.m., meaning it only took us a little more than four hours. That was faster than we'd expected, especially for having stopped a couple of times and having gone through part of Quito instead of all the way around it.
The volunteer work Marilyn and I do for FEDICE is increasing. We hope our skills will keep pace.
Once again I feel like I have been to Ecador. Your discriptions of your work and adventures help me to visualize and share in your experiences.God Bless you and your work. Dotty
My mother used to say that bad things always came in three's. When I told Marilyn about that saying, she discounted it, pointing out that one could always count off "bad things" by three. I tended to agree with her, especially since I didn't recall Mama specifying the severity of badness of a "bad thing", nor a time limit for three "bad things" happening before they could be considered a threesome. Was a death considered a "bad thing" having the same moment as a loss by a favorite sports team? I can assume that the three "bad things" could be expected to happen in a relatively short time. But how short? How relative?
The events of the time period I'm referring to (Feb. 18th to March 2nd) tend to make me think about Mama's "Old Wive's Tale". Two death's of friends and a serious injury to another friend qualify as "bad things" in my mind - and tend to make me reflect. If I can't attribute it to Mama's "Old Wive's Tale", I can at least refer to it as a rough stretch of my life.
As most readers of this blog are aware, Victor Vaca, Co-founder and recent Executive Director of FEDICE, died on February 18th, 2013. Since there is already a post on this blog about his death, I needn't go into his life's accomplishments again. Victor was about 80 years old. Some might argue that his death really couldn't be considered a "bad thing". He had been sick for a while. He had accomplished many wonderful things in his life. He would even be reunited with his beloved first wife. A loss for sure, but hardly a "bad thing". But, try telling that to the many poor people he helped better their lives. Try telling that to the woman who was planning to marry him.
The period was bookended by the death of another friend. George Perrine died at 1:55 p.m. on March 2nd, 2013. George was a retired Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minister. So is Jane Perrine, his wife.
Marilyn and I first met George and Jane when George was a guest minister for the day at Bethany Christian Church, a church we attended in Houston, TX. Years later, we all ended up together as congregants at United Christian Church in Austin, TX, after all of us had retired.
One thing that may have drawn me to George was the fact that both of us used wheelchairs. But there was so much more. George was a kind person, and a good listener when the situation called for it, two quality ministerial traits. He was also passionate about sports, like me, and he liked to read, like me. I will miss him.
The day before George died, Lisa, another member of our FEDICE team, fell on a stairway and had to be taken to the hospital. She broke her ankle in three places. Because of an infection and cold, she waited in the hospital for 10 days before she could have surgery on the ankle. She lost much of her strength from lying in bed all of that time. At the moment, she's just beginning to recover that strength.
So, are these three things related? Did they come in some sort of cosmic package, as my mother once indicated? I doubt it, but I can't presume to know. What I do know is that life will go on despite the loss of two friends and the injury to a third friend, whether "bad things" in fact come in three's, or I just experienced a rough stretch in life.
Yes, these have been some pretty rough times, but God always gets us through. We know who's in control.
This morning a friend emailed and asked what was new in Ecuador. I thought my reply might be "blog worthy".
What's new in Ecuador? Not much, but there's plenty going on at our house.
I noticed our water bill had been high the past couple of months. Then we noticed a water leak on the back outside wall, underneath the calefón [an on-demand water heater]. Yesterday it was much worse, so we got someone out to knock a hole in the wall and fix a leaking pipe. Today they're supposed to patch the hole in the wall.
Wednesday Isabel noticed that the refrigerator wasn't freezing anymore. Yesterday a repairman came out and fixed that. Luckily, it was still under warranty.
Who? Me? And What's That Behind Me?
The night we brought Bill, Debbie, Taylor, Robert, and Ally [friends of FEDICE] to our home, Canela [our dog] was loca. I guess she had decided we weren't coming back that night and was extremely overjoyed that we had. She was jumping up on everyone and running around as fast as she could. Marilyn left the driver's door open on Billy Bob [our car] while she greeted the family and introduced people. Pretty soon we hear, "BOOM!!! Eee-eee-eah!" Apparently, Canela doesn't always watch where she's going. She ran smack into the car door and bounced off. She recovered, but a hinge on our car door didn't fare so well. It broke. After a little while, with the help of Bill, Brayan, and Taylor, we got the door to close again. It got fixed today.
Finally, after teaching her preschool classes yesterday, Marilyn stopped to see a friend. The friend's wife was in tears. Our friend had been arrested for not paying the fines he received for not having a valid driver's license. We loaned them some money to get him out of jail and pay the fines. I don't think they were able to get the necessary paperwork done before nightfall, so he probably had to spend the night there. We haven't heard from them yet today. I imagine they're pretty embarrassed, especially our friend, who shall remain nameless.
It's always something, especially if one has family they care about, friends they care about, a house, a car...
Here it is a week into March and my pre-school classes just started today. Glenn and I got back from the U.S on January 9th. I expected to begin classes early in February, but that was not to be.
Last year, the pre-schools around here were closed in January. It was the same this year, but the reason was different. Last year, there was no money from the government for food so they closed the pre-schools. This year, there was a top official that changed and since there was to be an election in February, they closed the pre-schools until after the election. If you have a pre-schooler, you might want to say a little prayer of thanks that you can pretty much count on your day care center to be open most of the year and when it is not, you know way in advance so you can make other arrangements (except for snow days). Parents here are not so lucky. Holidays and other closings seem to be planned a few days in advance, or at least the teachers do not seem to be notified until a few days before.
So the pre-schools reopened in late February and I needed to wait a little longer since some staff changes were made by the local school district. That was lucky for me because I did not need to cancel any classes surrounding Victor’s funeral and the extra staff and executive committee meetings that FEDICE required.
Children In Front Of New Construction
The Old school Is In The Background
One of the pre-schools where I teach is getting a new school building thanks to the help of FEDICE and some of our partner churches in the U.S. All the classrooms are tiny, leaving little space for the many children who attend here. I teach in the largest room, which is also the dining room.
I came back from my five schools this morning feeling really positive. The children will receive English classes twice a week for about 30 minutes a class. It is “about” because the time I scheduled between schools is tight, enabling me to go to five schools instead of just four between the children’s breakfast and lunch. I might arrive a few minutes late or if the children are too restless, I might end a few minutes early. Fortunately, my program is interesting enough that the latter does not happen very often.
During all that free time in February, I found more easy songs and a few games to teach on the internet. My program is no longer feeling stale. I have new things to try out. And the new songs I taught and the game I played today went well. The children are 4 months older and they had some English experience last fall. Whippee! It’s going to be a good spring of pre-school English classes. I thank God that FEDICE is still making a difference in the lives of some communities and some individuals here in Ecuador.