Jungle, Ice and Wax

On the Napo River in Ecuador

Sometimes I get a glimpse of my life from the outside. I like to sit back and admire it. Jet-setting in Ecuador, kicking-ass ice climbing in New Hampshire and then whipping together paintings for a show at the last-minute, while controlling chaos in a creative classroom every day. Yup, that's been my glamorous life the last few weeks. Only not really. That's what everyone sees and it sure looks fun and pretty that way. Wish I could just watch my life from the outside too. Wish my mind wasn't filled with the sea of doubt, anger, anxiety, and exhaustion that seems to rise up and destroy whatever lovely thing I have just built on the shore when I thought everything was fine.

View from the second floor of the work site in Ecuador

Many lives look pretty from the outside. I tell myself this and will myself to not want what other's have, but it happens anyway. Looking at the road that others walk we cannot see their valleys, their stones, their ruts. The pretty trees and walls usually hide all that and we see the nice stuff. We only usually get a look into the gory details of a few people's lives in our lifetime. And the few people who see our gore and still love us are the people we truly can call friends. The people whose hearts break and heal with ours are worth more than all the glamour the world can dig up. The jungle, ice and wax have been fun and great, but in deeply personal ways that involved opening wounds and healing in stronger ways than before. Good stuff but hard work and lots of tissues.

Well, enough abstract ruminating on the journey of my life. I know you want to hear some details.

The trip to Ecuador was pretty epic. We spent the first and last night at Montebello Academy which is a beautiful private Christian school in Quito. The school is set up so that the cost for a wealthier child to attend actually covers the cost of a poor child too. In addition, Ron and Sharon have personally taken in orphaned or abandoned children and have a total of 15 children. They have seen a lot of success and it  certainly filled me with hope.

We then went to the jungle via the Andes Mountains. Quito is around 9000' and we had to cross passes around 14000' and then back down into the jungle bordering the Amazon. There we stayed in Misahualli and worked mainly in a village called Pununo. We stayed in a lovely hostel/hostel where bug nets draped over our beds, hammocks hung from the porch, and we ate amazing meals.

We went to the jungle because this is where Montebello has started a jungle school. Here we met Robert and Charmai who have started a school and have also taken in abandoned children. Our daytime work was to pour the second floor of the building that will become the housing for Robert and Charmai and their adopted family. Right now they all live and teach/learn in the same building. So when the new building is complete their living and schooling will be separate, which I'm sure will be nice! We also ran a camp-like program in the afternoons for the village kids. We did skits, games, crafts and a Christian teaching. The kids were beautiful and their needs were very apparent at times.

At the end of our time we traveled down river to another village with even greater poverty and issues. We ran a camp program for them too. A lot of our efforts, while short and barely scratching the surface, really served to increase the village's awareness of the school's presence and their desire to be a long-term benefit to the community. After our stop there we also went to a wildlife rehabilitation center and got to see some animals.

On our way back to Quito we stopped at some cool touristy things, like a gondola-death ride, an enormous waterfall and the shopping center of Baños.

All of the teenagers we took down had a good time and did very well. Our nightly debriefs were always my favorite part of the day. I love hearing their reflections and the things they learn from having their worldviews pulled open and new information pouring in.

About four days after we got back Ben was itching to go ice climbing and had no one to go with so decided it was time to try it. So last Saturday I tried ice climbing. A far cry from the jungle, but it was adventure. I had my apprehensions about how much I would like it, but I actually loved it. What's not to love about wielding giant pick-axes through the air? That's one way to release all my frustration about school!

And then I had the last-minute opportunity to put together a small show at our local ice cream shop here in Easthampton. It is a great first step and I was happy to accept. So I produced a few more paintings and got everything ready to hang this week. The Art Walk is tonight and it will be up until the first week in April. I will post pictures. I am thrilled. Wonderfully encouraging to see twelve of my pieces up in public!

**Tomorrow I will do a post just of pictures from Ecuador!**