Team #143 has arrived in Ecuador!

Journal by: Steve Bennett

Up at 7:15 after a night interrupted by car alarms three times. I am slow to get more sleep and have strange dreams for another night. Altitude adjustment or so they say.

Breakfast is típico with fruit, scrambled eggs, braided rolls, blackberry juice, and other goodies. The orientation begins in the commons area on the second floor as our small but enthusiastic team all share a bit of information. I am struck by how everyone seems to be involved either with administering or being a participant in the educational or social services system. When I think about it, this should be obvious to me why the FUNDAC in Calderón would have appeal. The introductions are followed by an explanation of our daily schedule and project preferences. Dean and I are the only ones oriented to the construction and this is no surprise. Looks like I will be hanging out at Center #2 where most of the maintenance, cleaning, and construction opportunities seem to exist. Flexibility is the order of the day.

Skills of all those present are evaluated to see what skill sets people have and how they can be applied. Next is an interesting exercise, everyone makes cards of their goals for the program. Many goals seem to have commonality. Next a break for lunch of potato/avocado soup with chicken, fried potatoes, and rice. It is tasty carbo-loaded lunch topped with a blackberry whip that some liked and some didn’t. Anxiety continues over Sherri and Dean’s missing luggage with no clear resolution to be seen. Prior to lunch the two ladies from Calderón had made an appearance. You could see in their eyes that their concern was most genuine. I was impressed by the fact that they had made a special appearance just to welcome us.

After lunch everyone complained of wanting to take a nap and seem tired. We persist and go through an extended Spanish session to practice and learn common terms that may be needed. I struggle and feel that I am far and away the most challenged. I am muy bien happy when this is over. Martin, a tour operator, next appears to explain spare time options. He elaborates to a great deal on some points, but then seems to leave out important points. He does offer a fairly wide arrangement of different options to do. I am concerned with my energy level for some of these things after working a full day in the sun. We shall see. I follow Kristina, Jessica, and Sherry down to the mall and we split up. I go over to the park. It is around 5:30 p.m. and the park is packed with families enjoying their Sunday interspersed with young beaus enjoying each other. The park seems alive and from another time and era. I felt that this strong bond and joy of doing simple things like playing soccer, riding paddle boats and horses, or just strolling as a family was lost in America. The park, rather than just occupying space, was fulfilling a valuable social need. I was also charmed to find monkey puzzle trees of good height. I return to the mall and withdraw some money from the ATM with success. I am pleased.

Back at the hotel Sherri and Dean have still no word on their luggage. Dinner is roast chicken with a vegetable soup starter and a filo dough creation for dessert. Everyone is stuffed. Sherri persists in trying to line up activities for every day, but I am worried until I see how this goes and flows. Tomorrow the adventure begins.

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