Marilyn works as a volunteer missionary with FEDICE (Ecumenical Foundation for Holistic Development, Training, and Education), which is based in Quito, Ecuador. Glenn supports her where he can. We are also under the auspices of Global Ministries, the missionary arm of both the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denominations. Global Ministries lends support to grassroots organizations such as FEDICE worldwide.
Most of FEDICE's work takes place in communities north and south of Quito, helping people help themselves through a variety of activities. A few of the activities include:
making small loans for projects that will raise income of indigenous peoples so they don't have to leave their communities in search of work;
providing technical training to support these projects;
coordinating the construction of needed facilities (such as preschools, community centers at churches, etc.) between local authorities, national authorities, and mission groups desiring building projects;
I had finished writing "Disheartened, Disgusted, Depressed", a pretty negative post, which in turn put me in a sour mood. Almost as soon as I sent notices to friends, family, and acquaintances, I received one of the most cheering, uplifting emails I've ever received - and it was from a dead person. Having written the post aforementioned, I felt almost duty-bound to write a positive post based on the email.
Pat Nickell was one of the kindest, strongest, most caring people that Marilyn and I have ever met. And she had a great sense of humor. Marilyn likely told me of her passing. Just as likely, I had my head buried in my computer keyboard, said something like, "On, no," and promptly forgot that she had passed on. Pat reminded me last night with the following auto-response to my update notice. It's followed here by my response to her son. (A little editing was done for privacy.)
What a wicked sense of humor! I'm very sorry to hear that a great lady such as your mom has passed on, but I know you must have some very fine memories of her. I know I do. This email takes the cake, though. I can hear her laughter ringing out among the heavens (to paraphrase a Jimmy Buffet line.) I can't believe I'm still laughing out loud after such news. Remarkable.
Pat's email restored my belief in a Higher Power, whether it's the god she believed in or something else. Think about it. She had (or maybe has is a better word) the ability to make me laugh out loud from beyond her grave! Whatever you want to call it, whatever you attribute it to, that's special. Thank you, Pat, for watching over me and setting me back on the right path when I really needed it. Enjoy eternity with Nick.
No matter which course U.S. politics may take, I'll always be able to depend on finding joy in people like Pat Nickell. They'll keep me on and even keel.
Pat And Me On Mission Trip, Inside A Church Being Refurbished Near Otavalo, Ecuador, 7/5/2010
I don't really like to write about politics on this blog. I'd rather describe the wonderful things life has to offer. But at least politics got me back to writing. It's been very difficult for me to watch politicians race to see who can be the meanest, most money-grubbing people they can be instead of developing enough foresight and compassion to do the things that really would "Make the U.S. Great." "Make America Great Again" is a total misnomer because, 1) the people saying it are only thinking about the U.S. as opposed to America (which, inconveniently for them, consists of North America, Central America, and South America), and 2) I'm not aware that our country STOPPED being great (unless it happened in the 2016 presidential election!)
Just as I gave Obama the benefit of my doubt when he was elected, I gave Trump a chance when he was elected, despite deep misgivings. After two years, I decided I didn't like the way Obama and the Democrats were doing things. After only five months, I loathe what Trump, and the majority of Republicans who suck-up to him for naked political gain are doing. They are tearing the country apart. They have help from Democrats, to be sure, but Republicans are now mostly to blame. There was a 60-vote nomination threshold for a reason - to help build consensus on important nominations, which helped insure that no one party could run over the other. First Harry Reid and the Democrats got rid of the needed 60 vote majority to confirm lower justices so they could nominate people who agreed more closely with their ideas, then Mitch McConnell and the Republicans did the same thing for the Supreme Court Justices for the same reason. Result: A judge is not an impartial judge any more. Judges have to show partisanship to get nominated. The sane thing to do would have been for the Republicans to restore the 60-vote threshold for lower court judges and then do the hard work of finding candidates acceptable to both parties. I believe that "blind justice," if not already dead, is in a death spiral. I remember when Supreme Court Judges surprised people by voting differently than expected. That happens less now, and will lessen even more, because judges will be more partisan instead of judging a case purely on the facts and precedents and using the constitution as a guide.
That's only one thing that I'm upset with. You'll see more in the following paragraphs. I suspect that, no matter who you are, you'll disagree with some of my expressed opinions and agree with others. I may not be as articulate as I should be, but I can't just sit back and watch the destruction of our country without saying anything.
The thing that tipped me over the edge on June 30th was receiving an email from Senator John Cornyn simply to meet an arbitrary fundraising goal by an arbitrary deadline. Did he explain why he needed the money? Of course, not. Did he tell me how the money would be used? Not on your life. I was just supposed to blindly hand over the money because I'm a registered Republican. "Trust me," was the implication. "I think like you." No. I value honesty, hard work, compromising with others even when they are assholes, and a desire to do what's RIGHT for the country even if it goes against my self-interests. I no longer see those qualities in most of our Representatives and Senators. Below is my response to that email (with a few changes because I can't stop myself from editing my own words for readability.) If you don't enjoy this post, I can't blame you. I don't enjoy reading rants very much, myself.
To Whom It May Concern (Especially Senator Cornyn):
You and most Republicans don't have my support anymore. Why are you raising money anyway? So you can get reelected and again do nothing to help the country? So you can slash taxes again for those of us who CAN afford to pay them. So you can cut services for those who need them most? So you can kowtow to the obvious buffoon the U.S. has as a president simply because he got elected by lying, abandoning common decency, bullying, insulting, and lying some more?
I've been a Republican since I first voted in '68. But I'm fed up. I had to vote for Hillary Clinton in '16 because most Republicans didn't want to unmask Trump for what he was and is - a complete charlatan (provided a buffoon and a charlatan can occupy the same body at once.) Representatives and senators made a show of being thoughtful and embarrassed by Trump, but the majority eventually hopped on the gravy train. All because they wanted to ride the rails of misguided populism to victory over Democrats. Did they really want a fiscally responsible country? No. It's clear now that they wanted the upper class, the fortunate, the RICH to have even MORE money at the expense of those who have less money. How is that fiscally responsible? It's certainly not morally responsible.
I'm disabled - severely. However, because of a program called Louisiana Vocational Rehabilitation (supported by taxpayers), I was given an opportunity to obtain a B.S. from the University of New Orleans and an M.S. from the University of Illinois. Because of this, I found gainful employment with Exxon. Over the course of my career, I probably paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal taxes. I still pay tens of thousands each year though I'm 68 years old, because I withdraw $100,000 or more from my IRAs, often to help others. With the matching funds from Exxon, I was also able to endow two $50,000 scholarships each at both of my alma maters. I've truly been fortunate. Much of it is due to hard work. But, without Louisiana Vocational Rehabilitation to give me an initial boost, none of this would have happened. Instead, I'd likely be living in a nursing home paid for by Medicaid. I'd be a drain on society instead of a contributor to our great country. Think about that the next time you put a social program on the chopping block so you can pay for unneeded tax cuts. We have responsibilities to lift up our fellow citizens, not to help the wealthy among us get even wealthier. That's their jobs. If they can do those jobs legally and morally, more power to them. But it's not the government's job to pave their way, beyond ensuring that competition is fair.
Apparently you don't realize that the U.S. (not "America," because that covers all of North, Central, and South America) was greater last year than it is this year with Trump at the helm. I didn't like the job Obama did, but I loathe the job Trump and the Republican sycophants are doing. Taking health care as an example, Republicans had almost a decade to come up with ideas to improve Obamacare to make it more cost-effective, cheaper, and more responsive. When they finally got control of the house, senate, and white house, all they could think about was replacing Obamacare with something that wasn't thought through and would even hurt vast numbers of the people who put them in a position of power in the first place. If this isn't a quintessential dearth of ideas and empathy for fellow citizens, please feel free to point one out.
Until the Republicans show me they have some backbone by really caring about ALL people in the country, they will not get my vote. Until they start fixing the country's infrastructure instead of arguing about gay rights and abortion rights, they will not get my vote. Until they make Obamacare better instead of banning people from countries who have never attacked us, they will not get my vote. Until they begin compromising with Democrats for the good of the country (which should be a core spirit of our lawmakers) instead of being afraid that Democrats will get credit for some good ideas, they will not get my vote.
Neither will the Democrats get my vote because I've never liked their fiscal policies. They seem to start social program after social program without fully thinking through the mechanics of how to pay for them in a sustainable manner. So what if our debt substantially grows bigger? No one will ever call it in all at once. Ah, ever hear of China? They and others would do it in a New York minute if it served their purposes.
I'll just have to find candidates I can vote for as a protest vote. It will be a protest vote because they'll have virtually no chance of winning as long as we're all-but-locked-in to a two party system.
Once upon a time, I believed tax rates were too high, also. But Reagan solved that in the '80s. However, since then tax rates have been cut again and again. Look at what the country needs now - 1. modernization of infrastructure, which will be huge; 2. developing GOOD jobs for people* (not just flipping hamburgers), which involves education and training, another huge thing; 3. making sure our military and government can meet external threats, including cyberattacks; 4. getting our debt to a sustainable level; not to mention 5. a plan to adapt to global warming. *As an alternative to #2, would you rather give every citizen a guaranteed income and see productivity REALLY go down the tubes?
As a global warming skeptic and a former geologist, I do not believe that global warming can be stopped because it's part of a long-term climate change cycle. Man-made pollution certainly exacerbates it, but, as climate change scientists have said, if ALL pollution were stopped today, the world would continue getting warmer. As far as I know, they haven't specified for how long it would continue getting warmer. That's because we've been in a warming cycle since the last ice age, about 12,000 years ago. I find it fascinating that so many people actually expect the climate to remain unchanged, even over hundreds and thousands of years. The earth and its atmosphere are anything but static. Thus, we need to adapt to a warming climate, just as I've adapted to my disabilities instead of continually trying to walk and feed myself, things that I would never have been able to do adequately. Similarly, we're not going to get the climate "back to what is was" until the "back to what is was" phase of the cycle comes around again, probably thousands of years in the future. What I've said on this subject is not rigorously scientific, but it does use scientific knowledge to inform common sense. An argument is that species are becoming extinct at a faster rate due to man made pollution. That's sad, but I have to say," so what?" There have been mass extinctions in the distant past, before humans walked the earth. These were certainly not caused by humans. The world adapted and survived. The difference now (assuming no other long-ago species developed cognizance to the same degree) is that we're cognizant of what's happening. And we think we can stop it. There's no greater hubris that I can think of. But, be forewarned. Adaptation to global warming, climate change, whatever you choose to call it, is no "easy way out." It will cost vast sums of money, beginning with relocating people who are on the coasts. We need to start planning for that now, Paris Accords or not. And the crunch will likely be here sooner than we think.
Still think taxes are too high? With all that needs to be done, they're definitely too low now. Why are Republicans focused on cutting taxes instead of setting them at the right level to deal with U.S. problems? Of course, the cynical answer is that they want to give "the people that matter" something for nothing so Republicans can maintain power. Or could it be that they're in their positions because they were able to raise enough money to get elected, but are not really deep thinkers willing to tackle these problems? Instead of honestly trying to solve the country's problems and treat everyone equitably, it sounds like they're saying, "No skin off my nose. I'm outta here long before we have to reckon with any of these drastic changes. In the meantime, I'll keep spouting catch phrases that are market tested to bring me more wealth and power. 'Make American Great Again' is the best catch phrase the Donald ever came up with. Thank you, Mr. President, Sir!" Newsflash. Because of my age, I'll be "outta here" sooner rather than later myself. But, even though I don't have children, I care about leaving the best possible world to those who follow me.
If Senator Cornyn see this, I'll be surprised. But he should see it. This fundraising email really set me off. Asking for money without even specifying what the money will be used for. The unmitigated gall!
I also looked up Senator Cornyn's email contact and sent it there. The response was originally sent to his fundraising organization at email@example.com. I knew he'd wouldn't never see that. There's a 99.9999% chance he'll never see the communication I sent through his official email channel either, but at least I tried. The only thing I regret is resorting to name calling. But, hey, I have a role model in President Trump.
Glen, It is hard to read anything political anymore, but first, I was glad to hear from you, and second, your comments are excellent. Certainly every politician in office should read them. I\'m going to share them!
Most of the people I know are "Disheartened, Disgusted, Depressed" but our comments are less persuasive than yours. Thank you!
You go! It's important to say what you need to say - and more so now than it has been. While you are right I don't agree completely, I appreciate various points of view to keep my own thinking open. Keep up that good thinking!
Olga Yan Pardo rode home with us from the FEDICE meeting in Quito on June 1st and she's still here. (But that was the plan.) From the second day she was here, we have called her Olguita, a term of endearment. There's no doubt about it. She certainly has endeared herself to us, as well as the people with whom she has worked.
Olguita came to FEDICE as a Global Ministries Mission Intern Long Term Volunteer from the Dominican Republic (Repúbica Dominicana). She has a degree in Social Work and is putting her skills to excellent use while associated with FEDICE. I know because I just read her monthly report and could not have been more impressed. Her passions are youth rights, education, and the Lord. She conducts programs on children's rights, child abuse, spousal abuse, sexual education, and life planning.
An interesting thing happened on the way from Quito to Otavalo that first day of June. Olguita told us that her uncle, who lives in New York City (and is loved dearly by Olguita), was in Ecuador for a visit and was coming to see her. "Oh, when?" we asked. "Tomorrow. He's flying from Guayaquil to Quito to see me, but I'm not in Quito anymore. He asked if there were any good but inexpensive hotels in Otavalo," Olguita replied. Well, say no more. We offered to let him stay in our guest room. We even told her that we wouldn't mind going to the Quito airport to pick him up at 6 pm the next day, because we weren't sure if there was a bus from the airport to Otavalo.
If the term "interesting" can be applied to this revelation on the ride from Quito to Otavalo, the only term that can be applied to what happened the next day is "funny." Olguita was having her first breakfast with us when the telephone rang about 9:30 am. It was her uncle. He arrived in Quito at 6 AM, not 6 pm. He also came to Otavalo by taxi from the airport (no small expense). He needed to know where we lived because he was in the central square of Otavalo and could get a taxi to our house if he knew where it was.
We were dumbfounded - Olguita, too.
Marilyn was making breakfast that morning, so she handed Isabel the keys and asked if she'd take the car and Olguita to pick up Uncle David. About 20 minutes later, in walked a tall man - Uncle David. Not far behind him was María, Uncle David's pretty wife. Not far behind her was Erika, María's niece from Guayaquil. For those mathematically challenged, that's three people instead of the one that we were expecting. Surr-prise.
After six years of living in Ecuador, we have become accustomed to surprises like this. Marilyn casually put more food on to cook and Isabel pitched in to help. Soon, a hearty breakfast was ready and we enjoyed picking each other's brains about what life was like "back home," and in Otavalo for that matter. Marilyn and I were interested in hearing about life in The Bronx (especially since Marilyn lived in New York City for seven years, but in Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan). We were also interested to hear about Guayaquil, where Erika lives, and which is a metropolis we haven't visited (yet).
After breakfast, Marilyn went into her "tour guide mode" and showed everyone the sights in and near Otavalo for a day and a half. After all, Olguita herself had only visited Otavalo for work until now. But, all too soon, it was time for David, Maria, and Erika to head for Quito, and the rest of us to get back to work for FEDICE.
Besides working with indigenous communities near Otavalo, FEDICE, with assistance from churches in the U.S., is supporting two very needy families. In one, an elderly woman with health issues of her own and very few resources, is raising four grandchildren who were orphaned at a young age. Part of Olguita's job while in Otavalo is to guide both of these families in putting together life plans. In this, her training as a social worker is invaluable. I can say with some knowledge that many Ecuadoreans, though smart, are not accustomed to planning ahead. Olga's teaching this skill to these two families will aid them immeasurably in the future.
Another part of Olga's job is conducting programs on child abuse and youth rights in churches and schools. Yes, Ecuador is not immune to abuse, either spousal or directed towards children. Ecuador has its problems and challenges just like any other country. I'm confident Olguita will guide people with whom she works in alleviating, and solving, some of these problems.
Since being here, Olguita has had a chance to participate in many events of familia "loca" (an affectionate name for the family that has adopted us), including two picnics and a parade. She was even on hand for the airshow performed by yours truly. The family is called familia "loca," but they all stayed on the ground that day! Who's loco?
Olguita with Familia "Loca"
Her infectious smile, deep and joyful laugh, singing, helpfulness, and dedication to her work make her a joy to be around. Even our dog loves her (and Canela gets no food from Olga!) Olguita is supposed to be in Otavalo only a few weeks this summer, but we hope it's longer. After all, Bethany Waggoner was supposed to be with us for three months and wound up staying for eleven months. Never know. If that happens again, Blanca Puma, Executive Director of FEDICE, may start to think of Otavalo as a black hole that sucks in new talent and won't let go!