Subtleties of experiences

(18 de noviembre 2008)For my first blog post of November, I’m sure you are expecting to hear more descriptions of the places I’ve traveled or some fantastic, surreal experience that I’ve had in Ecuador. But, in contrast to the blue waves of the Galapagos or the wonders of the Amazon Jungle, this month I’ve been surprised by a series of small experiences that are no less important to me than those of extreme grandeur.

My rafting group in Baños–together in one boat we had representatives from London, England, Brazil, the Netherlands, Ecuador and the United States. Pretty neat diversity.

During one of the first weekends of November I did decide to take a short weekend trip to Baños, a city about three hours away from Quito that is absolutely full of tourists and outdoor athletic events. On Saturday morning I went white water rafting, the first time for me, but rather than the rafting I was struck by a conversation that occurred afterward. An elderly social worker from the United Kingdom and a young couple from Australia joined us on our rafting excursion and for lunch afterward. As the U.S. elections were near, we got to talking about OBama, McCain and politics in general when the social worker said something that made me stop to think. In short, he said that we expect too much of our politicians, we expect them to be super-human, to be better and more capable than we are ourselves. While I do not think we should hold low standards for those in office, it did make me wonder if it is fair to expect more from one person than I expect from myself.

Before the trail ride

(Side note: This story does not relate to the theme of the blog, so feel free to skip it if you wish, but I must say it is pretty funny. The last activity my group decided to do in Baños was go horseback riding. It was only for an hour and I had ridden trained horses before, so I wasn´t particularly worried. The guide gave me the horse dubbed ¨Campeón¨ and it didn´t take me long to figure out that my ¨Champion¨ was ubber-competitive and stubborn. First, it stopped to eat about every green plant that it could see (including some from some of the locals´ gardens). Second, he always tried to be in first place which meant that he would run into other horses if he had to (this left some bruises on my ankle). Third, our guide kept encouraging Campeón to go faster, even though I was flipping out quite a lot and trying to coax Campeón down to a slower pace—I tried Spanish and English, nothing worked. To tell you the truth, I think the guide just thought it was pretty funny to watch a gringa freaking out on a horse. I just about died.)After the day-trip to Baños I was able to attend Quito Mennonite church for the third time during my stay (This has really been a bitter-sweet thing about traveling. I am often gone on Sundays and I find that I miss the stability and routine of church.) and meet some travelers from the U.S. Linda Shelly, from Mennonite Mission Network, where I interned this summer, was kind enough to bring a bag of goodies from friends in North Newton which I loved, even if it did make me long for fall in the Midwest.The North American travelers from the Central Plain Conference were touring Quito, and perhaps other parts of South America, I don´t remember, to connect with other Mennonite Churches. They brought a prayer shawl to Quito Mennonite; the knitters would pray for the church while knitting. The presentation of the prayer shawl was interesting to see. Not only did it represent how connected we can be as a denomination, as followers of Christ, but it was also a twist to be on the receiving end. I am used to seeing quilts being made in my church for other congregations, or funds being raised for churches in different countries, but rarely do I get the chance to see and meet the people who are receiving. It´s hard to describe what I discovered from that experience—essentially it was humanized. I realized that churches in other countries aren´t necessarily struggling financially because they aren´t located in the U.S. and that, perhaps, the best way to support one another and connect as a denomination is through prayer.This weekend I decided to stay in Quito. As I have been traveling a lot, it was nice to stay in the city and have a somewhat relaxing weekend. Some friends from BCA and I ended up cooking breakfast for dinner one night for some of our Ecuadorian friends whom we had lost a bet to (Don´t worry, grandma, I´m not a hard-core gambler. It was just a simple card game called Cuarenta). We ended up cooking chocolate-chip (They don´t actually sell chocolate chips here. It was just a hacked up chocolate bar.) and banana pancakes and my mom´s breakfast casserole. Later in the weekend, I enjoyed playing soccer with USFQ´s (my university) soccer team and playing soccer in the park with some church friends. Cooking, playing sports, but mostly conversing with people makes me appreciate how wonderful the simplest things can be. I may not have seen sea lions or climbed a gorgeous mountain, but I am still surrounded everyday by the beauty of the people here and these encounters continue to bless me. Although I´ve started to miss the small things about home and Bethel, it is the people I miss the most. But, it is also the people in Ecuador that make this experience so incredible. Just yesterday after playing soccer with the kids where I volunteer, our program director´s car got stuck in the mud while we were taking the boys home. The boys could have been irritated and made matters worse, but they simply laughed and began singing songs about mud, and making sure that Becky (another BCA student) and I didn´t fall down in the mud.So, while I didn´t repel from a bridge or swim in water from hot springs, for the past two weeks the smallest things have made their impressions on me.Maya-I-am-never-riding-a-horse-again-Kehr