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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Last day in Cuenca=Stress

Oh my goodness, I have a TON of homework tonight. A TON. I cant get over it. Plus, I have my exam this afternoon to show how much I have learned.....I am stressed about that, because I don´t know that I will do good on it, and I don´t feel prepared! please pray today!

It´s really weird that this is my last full day in Cuenca and tomorrow I start the long journey home! It has flown and crawled by....

I hope everyone is happy to be back at Union! I miss you guys. See you Monday!

Facebook gave me a link to let people not on it look at my photos. I hope it works for you! First photo album Second photo album

Fun/Funny time at Jambeli

This was actually written Sunday night, but as blogger has not be letting me post, it´s a bit dated!

Well, I just got back from the beach at Jambeli, and it was a good weekend! We left Friday at 1¨:30 from school, and caught the 2 o´clock bus to Machala, the big city near the island. From there, we took a cab to Puerto Bolivar, which is the banana export capital of Ecuador (banana are commmonly known here as oro verde, green gold). From Puerto Bolivar, we took a dinky little boat out to Jambeli, which is a dinky little island. On on side its all mangrove trees and looks like the Everglades, and on the other side is the beach and some little restauarants.

So we get there Friday evening, and not havign a hotel booked, we set off down the street looking for one. Mind you, there are 2 street on the island (streets, but not cars). We found one hotel recommended b Lonely Planet and booked 4 rooms. They were crap. Haha. Really hot, one sheet on the beds, no toilet seat cover or toilet seat, no shower head, just a hose out of the wall, and definately no shower curtain. But hey, it was $5 a night, so I didnt expect much better.

After we dropped off our stuff, we went for dinner, where I ordered ceviche, a local specialty. Its kind of like a cold coup with conch meat or shrimp or fish in it. I had it in Guatemala and liked it was disgusting. So I ended up eating someone else meal that she didnt like, and all was well. The rest of the weekend was spent hanging out, eating, laying in the sun, talking, playing volleyball, etc. It was fun.

The island had a very different feel than any beach I´ve ever been to, more liek Jamaica or something. But it definately had a personality all its own!The people in Machala and Jambeli are a lot more lecherous and crude than the Cuencanos. In Cuenca, I normally only get 6 or 7 rude whistles and noises in a 15 minute walk. On the island, I got about 15 crude whistles every 5 minutes. Yuck. Also, the water in the Pacific is a lot saltier than the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico! The Spanish on the island is harder to understand. It´s almost like what I imagine Spain spanish to be like, where they drop their ¨s¨ from their words and slur everything. Maybe its because everone on the island seemed drunk. Ha. Anyways, just a few differences I noticed.

I´m not as tan as I´d like, but oh well. It was still fun! I talked to my parents tonight when I got back, and I am looking forward to Friday, when I get home. I have 2 intense days of classes, followed by an exam, and one more random day of class, then a flight to Quito, a trip to the Ecuator, a trip to a big market, and then my trip home! Hooray!! I´d love to come back here when I don´t have the pressure of learning spanish for credit hanging over me, and when I have a friend too. I miss you guys :(

One week from tonight I´ll be back at Union! Cant wait to see everyone! Love to you all.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Off to the beach!

I am off to the little island of Jambeli!! There is a group of 8 of us that is going to spend the weekend laying in the sun at the beach, and just enjoying (for me, my last) weekend here!!

Yesterday I was sick sick sick. I left classes early to go home and sleep, where I slept an extra 7 hours, in addition to going to bed at 10. Haha. I dont know what had me, but something did!!

This morning we went to the panama hat factory, which ironically enough, are actually originally from Ecuador, not Panama. Who would have thought?? I learned a lot about the process though, and took some photos. Maybe I'll pu some up on Monday if I have time. I have to make up 2 classes (one on one) and start studying for my credit test I have to take!! So, if I have time, I will post some new pics after the weekend.

Hope everyone has a great weekend off from classes, or a great last week before classes begin again! I'll be thinking of you all as I lay in the sun!! haha. Love!

Thanks....a bit better

Thanks to those of you who continue to encourage me while I am here, both with your words to me and to our Lord! I appreciate both so much.Today has been a bit better. I havent been as down in the dumps, and I havent cried at all! Yes! haha.

I just got done with my last dance class (sad....) and am getting ready to go to a fondue restaurant with denise, raban and jamie. Fun times.

This weekend is the beach at Jambeli, a small fishing village and bird-watching beach. I am just excited to get a tan before I go home :) HaWell, off to eat (something new and different!!) Love to all

Estoy frustrada!

Today has been tough. I am just feeling like I dont know nearly enough of what I need to know, and that my time here has not been that productive, and I hate this feeling. I am just frustrated in general, and we all know I cry and eat a lot when I get frustrated, so you can imagine how my day has gone.....So tomorrow is Wednesday, and that means I leave Cuenca in exactly a week. Crazy. The time here has crawled by and flown by at the same time. Necesito habler solomente in español para el resto de mi tiempo dificil. Please pray for me, friends! I am depending on your prayers. And let me know whats going on at home, too, so I can be in prayer for yáll as well. Thanks, and much love.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A lot on my mind....

Hello friends: Hope you all are enjoying the pictures! They took forever to upload, so I may not do another installment until I am back in the states.

Today was Ingapirca, the Inca ruins in a nearby town. They were really cool, with a lot of history and strategy behind them. Our guide was in Spanish, and though he told me a bit more in English when I asked, I feel like there is more that I didnt learn because I didnt understand. However, I did get most of it, so thats good. We stopped at a market on the way there, and also at this church built into a rock, which was really neat.

The church got me thinking (oh boy, deep stuff) about how easy it is to be superficial in our faith. The way the church was set up: it sits high up on a hill, for everyone to see and think that its nice and pretty, but I dont think very many people visit it. If you do go, its a bit of a climb to get into the main sanctuary, which is dedicated to Mary, or Ave Maria, La Virgen del Rocio. This sanctuary was like something out of Vegas, with a ton of decorations and the name written in neon lights. Like the sanctuary, you can get some of the faith (Mary) with a whole lot of fluff and polish for not a lot of work. Then, 14 stories higher up the hill, there is a summit with a small, humble building dedicated to Jesus, with a crucifix and some flowers inside. Not nearly as showy, but a much harder level to reach. The view from up there was incredible.

So maybe there are 3 basic levels of faith, the view from the road that is nice but not that enticing, the view inside the sanctuary which is all show and very little substance, and the view from the top, where jesus is. Its a LOT harder to reach, but totally worth the climb when you get there! Anyways.....I am going to try even harder to not settle for the bottom two levels.

Another thing today that got me thinking. During our tour of Ingapirca, there were a bazillion plants that had names carved into them. Think a cactus but softer, with peoples names and thoughts carved into the leaves. I started carving my initials in one leaf, and the Prof from the US started chastising me for ´´hurting that poor plant that never did anything to you.´´ I dont know what bothered my more, the fact that she embaressed me, or the fact that she stuck up for a plant when 20 minutes earlier she had been making fun of one of the ladies in our group. It just seems like a twisted set of ideals, if you ask me. I think she is a big hippie though (from other things she has said and done), so it shouldnt surprise me that she got upset about the plant. I am encountering SO many people here with other ideals and faiths, and thats hard. Its hard because the are so blase about it, and seem to not care at all......Most of the time I hear,´I dont believe in God, its just a waste of time´and I want to ask them if that gets exhausting? I would think it would be so tiring thinkin all your world is about you, and that there is nothing bigger than you to fall back on! Anyways....

But speaking of hipocrisy (of the teacher), I want to apologize. I feel like I am doing the very thing here that I have often chastised people about at school, with going to places like clubs and dancing, even fi there is no drinking involved! Im sorry for doing the same thing here, after I told you not to. Forgive me, please!

Anyways. Today has been a weird day mentally. I have had a lot on my mind, and I am feeling fairly melancholy and homesick. I cant wait to get back and see all your faces! Apparently, East TN is gearing up for a winter storm, which means it has hit Jackson, maybe. Hope you all are safe! Love-Lauren

Friday, January 19, 2007

The weekend

Really nothing exciting to report here. I went to a parilla for dinner after cooking class last night. Both the tamales in class and the steak at the restaurant were delicious! So much for cutting down my appetite while I am here! haha

Tonight Im going out with the regulars, because its the Swiss girls last official night in Cuenca. Tomorrow, I plan on sleeping and relaxing and HOPEFULLY finding a place to upload my photos! Start praying now, because I am ready for you all to see whats going on!

I think I am going to the beach next weekend. My prof told me the bus schedule and good directions, and it would be CHEAP to get there. I want some people to go too, but dont know if that will happen. I want to tavel at least a little bit outside of Cuenca while I am here.

Anyways......yeah. Nothing spectacular but I am grateful to be here having this adventure, even though I am missing home and Union! Soon enough though, Ill be back. Today is the halfway mark. Exactly 2 weeks ago today I arrived in Cuenca, and exactly 2 weeks from today Ill arrive home. Cant believe its gone that fast! Anyways. Love to all! Have a good weekend!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

So tired!

Last night was exhausting, but fun. The dance class was fun, and I had an interesting time at La Mesa, the salsa place. I danced with one of the guys who is a friend fo a friend, and a salsa teacher. It was a good time, but not really my scene.

However, I LOVED the indiginous ballet! It was AMAZING! Seriously, I can´t tell you how great it was. I know. How can a ballet be that great? It wasnt normal ballet, but instead, an exhibition of traditional Ecuadorean songs and dances from the various people groups around Ecuador. They all did a traditional dance from their region, and they were so cool! Seriously, if I can get my pictures to work, I´ll let you all see some! Maybe even some videos too!

The soccer game today was fun. It wasn´t quite as exciting as I think Argentinian games must have been for my brother, people were relatively calm, especially compared to the crazy Swiss people I was with! They cheered for Switzerland and Sweden (the opposing team) and Ecuador in a various languages. They´re a bunch of fun.

This weekend I am maybe going to go off on an adevnture by myself, I haven´t decided. Part of me wants to go to some little town and stay in a hostel on Friday/Saturday, but we´ll see. All the girls from Swrizerland are leaving saturday, so I want to be here for their last night. Sunday, I am going to Ingapirca, some of the best preserved Incan ruins in the region. Very cool. I am excited, but maybe that is the nerdy side of me that enjoys history! I had the choice to go to Ingapirca with people from school, or to Cajas Natl. Park with some of the guys from England and Swtzerland. I decided not to go with the boys to the natl. park. I thought I could maybe make a better decision. Anyways.

Last night at La Mesa was weird, because being here, I am constantly reminded of things. Some things I forget, like how it feels to be the only Christian/non-drinker/non-smoker in a room full of people who are not. Being here also reminds me of other trips I´ve taken, and other great people I´ve met......sad that those rarely work out and that I´ve lost touch with some of them.

Anyways, I´m rambling and spilling my thoughts in a random way. I´m going home to change out of my jersey for cooking class tonight. We´re learning how to make tamales con yuca. :) Hope everyone has a good night! -Lauren

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Busy day....

I am exhausted, and my night has not even started! After class today, five of us went to the market (actually my second time today, because we went with our converstion class.) Its cool, mostly clothing, trinkets, and fruits and veggies. I bought some fruit this morning (zapote, not so tasty) and then bought some sunglasses and a t-shirt this afternoon.The t-shirt is an ecuador jersey for the futbol game tomorrow!! Haha. We all bought them to wear to the game against Sweden tomorrow. I am really excited about the game. After all my brothers stories about Argentinian and other futbol games, this should be fun. I asked my teacher about chants, but she didnt know any :( Ill learn tomorrow!

Here in about 30 minutes, I have dance class. Tonight, we learn the meringue (mer-ain-gay). After that, I am going with a group the the indiginous ballet, should be interesting, and then to La Mesa, a salsa discoteque that is apparently a Wednesday nigh tradition for Sampere students. Well see how long I last! Haha.

Guess thats it......nothing major to report. I found out why the guys cross-dres here for the holiday 6 de Enero, which is supposed to commemorate the magi bringing gifts t Jesus. They do that, because they think the mothers dressed their sons up as girls to avoid having them killed by King Herod in Jesus time.So, that explains the cross dressing.....haha.Hope yall have a good day! Love-Lauren

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Spending way too much money!

Haha. This mentality I had the first week that I wasnt speanding hardly any money is suddenly out the window! I am spending $$ like theres no tomorrow, and thats not good. At least all the money I am spending is on good food and good times!

However, I just got jipped (gipped) out of $10 because I asked for a tarjeta instead of a chip for my now I have prepaid phone card when what i wanted was to be able to use my cell phone here by buying a new sim card.....Hm.
In other news. I went to Baños last night, to the hotsprings, which was fun. A group of 6 of us went and spent the evening in the hot springs and turkish baths (aka steam rooms) just chilling and relaxing. Good times.

Tonight I'm watching a movie about the invisible people of Bolivia, maybe somethign like the invisible children? We'll see! But now I am hungry and want to get something to eat before the movie, and I dont know that I have enough $$ to pay for internet, eat, and get home later tonight....haha. I should definately not have bought that phone card!

Tomorrow, I'm going to the biggest market in Cuenca to buy some sunglasses, because (sad day) I lost mine yesterday here in the internet cafe. It was seriosly a matter of about 7 minutes between when I left my computer (and glasses) and came back for them. Someone else liked them too! But I am sad, because I loved those glasses, and they have been with me to Ecuador (now), Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, and Guatemala. They're my favs. Oh well. Life goes on, I suppose.

Everyone surviving in the frigid storms of the US? Its been a beautiful sunny day of about 78 here :) Haha. This weekend, I am either going to the national park with some of the guys to go hiking and spend the night, or go to the ingapirca ruins with the school. I want to do both, but its not possible.....Hmm. Decisions decisions!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A wonderful weekend!

This has been a great weekend here in Cuenca.Wonderful weather, good times with friends (praise the Lord) fun in the sun, and church this morning!

Friday night, I met up with a group from the school, what Im now calling the regulars, (Jamie and Peter from England, myself,and Iris, Raban, and Tonja from Switzrland.) We all went to Cafe Tranquilo for a late dinner around 9,30 (sorry, this computers keys are really funny!) then hung out there until the live salsa band came on at 11,30. Us girls got up and danced in the aisles and had a blast. Then we all left there around 1,30 or so, and I headed home while the rest went to a discoteque.

Yesterday we went to the desert, which was surprisingly,a lot of fun. After driving around a while and looking at some sites and lookout points, we went hiking. We hiked up the mountain (desert mountain) then down into the canyon, then back up, then down into the river basin, where we swam and ate lunch for a couple hours. Then we headed back, and last night, we ate dinner at an Italian place, and went to a house party. There is a group of hippie teachers that Peter from our group knows, mostly from the States and Europe, and they had a bunch of students, and us, over. I went home about 11,30 because I was exhausted!

This morning was church with the missionaries. It was really different from my home church(es) but it was good. We sang, and listened to personal testimonies of how God was working in the peoples lives, and then had a message about obediance and disobediance in relation to our faith. This afternoon then, I hung out with Jamie in the park down by the river. I did my homework and we talked and listened to music, then went and got some pizza. I got to listen to his whole life story, haha. Fun times.

Now, Im going to head home and finish my homework. Tomorrow starts a new week at school, so maybe new students. I am going to make a concentrated effort to talk to more people in Spanish this week! English has been the language of the weekend! Haha.

The Lord is really answering my and your prayers this weekend. I have been very blessed with stuff to do and people to hang out with. Even though I dont have a Christian friend here, I have been able to have conversations with both Jamie and Iris about my faith, and Iris is wanting to go to church together next Sunday! The Lord is good, and moving in wonderful ways! So thanks for your prayers, and keep them coming! Continue to pray for my safety and health, still having a bit of an issue with foods. Also, pray that I will get more opportunities o share my faith here!

Thank you friends! Love to all, and I hope everyone is doing well! -Lauren

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Today has been a little weird. I didnt feel so hot earlier, a little fevery, but after my nap I think I am doing a bit better!

I found out my professor talked to the director, and I am being pushed ahead a book. So, adios to my two classmates from Switzerland, and hello 5 girls from the US. She said she thinks I can push myself and learn, so we will see! Hope it goes OK.

Salsa was fun last night. I have learned a lot from a friend of mine named Jose from Costa Rica, who is an incredible dancer, so it was more of a refresher course for me. I guess now I need to practice at the discotoque! Haha.

I had a true Ecuadorean experience today. We had cuy for lunch. For those of you who dont know what cuy is, it is guinea pig. For those of you who dont know this about me, I used to have 2 guinea pigs whom I loved very much. RIP Furball and Mr. Piggy! The cuy was not a bad flavor, but I couldnt stomach it, thinking about my beloved pets! Ahhh... They seemed to not understand why I didnt love it (especially the skin, which is supposedly ¨muy riquisimo!¨) until I explained about my pets....then they gave me some chicken. The two little ladies who cooked it, friends of Suca´s, were the cutest little things ever. Neither one of them could have been over 4´8´´ and they were just like you´d expect a Latina grandma to be!

Walking over here a little bit ago, I had a water balloon thrown at my by a group of teenagers. In all my stealthiness, I was able to dodge it before it hit me. However, my stealthiness must have left, because when I got to the internet cafe, I tried to sit in my bar-stool chair, about 3 1/2 feet off the ground, and somehow managed to knock it backwards and land on my butt on the ground....Just call me Grace.

Now, off to get a little dinner at Cafe Wunderbar, a popular hangout for us students in the same building as the school, then to a cooking class. I have no idea what we´re making, but I know its not cuy!! :)

Love to all!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A bit tougher.....

Class was not so great today. I not anywhere close to where I need to be to get credit for my grammar and conversation class at the school here, and I need to get that credit to help me get credit at Union. Please pray for my fluency level! I have to test out of the class I am in now to move up to start learning what I need to know for the higher level.....complicated. So that was discouraging, and the prof. is getting on my nerves. I tend to either have great relationships with teachers or bad ones, and I dont see this one being that great...I should work on my attitude!
In other news, there is a group from the US coming tonight from some university. I dont know where, but that will be interesting. On one hand, its new people to hang out with, and more people to speak English with, and on the other hand, its more people to speak english with, which is bad. I need to speak only in Spanish.

Pray for me, as I think I am hitting the second phase of culture shock ¨dejection.¨I am ready to come home, or at least have this fly by. I am trying to remind myself that very few people are able to take a month or more out of their lives to live in another country with a family and to learn English. I think, honestly, it would be more fun for me if I didnt have to recieve credit for these classes, and I could just enjoy learning the language to expand my mind! Haha.

I was reading in Romans 10 the other day, and was reminded that there is a higher purpose behind me being here. I felt called into the ministry in hs, and I believe that this is my chance to attain those skills necessary to what I feel the Lord wants me to do. And like it says, (paraphrasing, b/c I dont have my Bible in front me) ¨How can they believe in one they have not heard of? And how can they hear of one if they are not told?¨Thats gonna be part of my job, I think. At least I am trying to look at it that way.

Tonight starts dance classes, salsa y merengue, and tomorrow is cooking. Saturday I am going to the desert to go hiking and swimming. Sounds weird, huh? Most deserts are completely flat with no water....this one apparently has mountainous terrain and a river running along the bottom. I forgot a lot at home, like shorts, bug spray, and sunscreen, and which are necessary for the trip, so I have to buy these things. I bought the shorts, a lovely pair of black ones that cost $2 and give me, what most people lovingly refer to, as a mom-butt. They come up way past my bellybutton! Haha.

Well, I think thats all for now. Everyone have a lovely evening/afternoon! Love-lauren

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Cuenca in general

Classes went well today. They start at 7:45, and I get done about 1:45, so its a long day. My group for class is the hippie girl from California (who apparently is participating in No Shave Armpits in 2007....gross. More to come on her later), a girl/woman from Switzerland who is really funny and speaks English (as well as probably 4 other languages) and a guy from Switzerland about my age named Raban. He speaks 4 languages. I am amazed at these Europeans!!

Anyways, in classes today, two funny stories: We were talking about the lottery in our state or country, and the prof. ask hippie girl (erika) about a lottery in California. Erika launches into a spiel (in spanish) about how she only uses cash, so the government cant watch her. Its very corrupt since 9-11 and they like to keep tabs on everyone, so she refuses to leave a trail for them! Hahaha. Also, she is a secretary at a place where they make organic foods like Nutbutter......

During culture class the director spoke to us about the fauna and animals of the Andes and I couldnt help but get distracted. He has a large gap in his bottom two front teeth. I dont think he is missing teeth, I think it is a large gap. Everytime he says a certain consanent, his tongue pokes through and looks like a snake....random, I know. I just didnt learn as much as I should have since I kept getting distracted!

Ok, a little about Cuenca. Its a very interesting town. The area was originally settled by the Inca hundreds of years ago as a northern capital of their empire. It was called Riobamba. With the coming of Cortez to Mexico, and the eventual colonization of all of South America by Spain and Portugal, this area was settled by the Spanish, who tore down many of in Incan structures and began to build on top of them. There are churches here that still have the incan blocks at the bottom that you can see, with white stucco and blocks on top of that when they built the new churches. When the Spanish came in and settled Cuenca, they carefully planned the city structure to be the ¨perfect city¨and it is very planned-looking. There are 4 rivers, and the city lies in between 3 of them, forming its boundaries. The southern river, Riobamba, was originally the southern boundary, and it remained this way for a couple of hundred years. It wasnt until the 1950s that the Cuencanos spilled over this limit and began settlign the area on the south side of the river, outside of the original plan. However, it is still very evident, as the öld city¨and the ¨new city¨have markedly different structures.

To get to school each day, I walk about four blocks north through the new city, and cross a park, also in the new city, then cross the river into the old city. There are about 5 sets of steps up into the old city, and the school is situated near the top of the steps. Its a nice walk, once I get into the park. Otherwise, its nothing grand.

Anyways, theres your history lesson for today!! I need to go though, because I am watching a movie at school in about an hour, and I need to eat before then! -Lauren

Monday, January 8, 2007

Saturday night, & first day of classes

Well, didn´t get to update yesterday because it was Sunday and the Internet place was closed. BTW-Let me just say sorry for any grammatical errors or spelling errors I make. I know it doesn´t generally bother the general public, but it bothers me! I am on a spanish computer and it is a bit different!
Anyways. Saturday night, el seis de enero, is an odd mixture of holidays (in my opinion). Imagine Halloween for adults (think skanky costumes, bad makeup, and scary masks) mixed with the 4th of July (fireworks, a parade, parties, street vendors), mixed with something like Dancing in the District or Knoxville´s big bash downtown. There were a ton of people crunched into about 2 blocks around a park. There were street vendors selling yummy-smelling but weird looking food and the usual trinkets. A stage was set up with a band, either called reggaeton or playing reggaeton, playing music with people dancing. A parade with men on stilts and firebreathers, etc. Oh yeah, and a LOT of cross-dressing!! haha. The guys were kind of funny, because they all put on the catholic school skirts and did their hair in about 20 different little spikes. I didnt actually see anyone asking for alcohol, or selling alcohol, but I am sure it was present....
I spent most of the time in the house, watching the family play cards (Suca´s cousin and sister and her son) and watching them eat. I say watching because I had a bad migraine, so I was not feeling up to participating. We went outside a couple of times to watch the festivities, where I was repeatedly asked by little children to move because they couldn´t see around my tall self :) Haha
Yesterday was again, a whole lot of nothing. I think the only notable thing I did was have a good convo with Suca about shopping and watch a lot of Spanish TV to try and pick up new vocabulary.
TODAY! The first day of classes. I was so excited last night, I couldn´t sleep. Weird, huh? I can usually sleep very easily! We met at 8 this morning and took a written exam to test our level, and I think I am level 6 out of 10? If my understanding is correct. Afterwards, the group of us took a tour around the city center, with the director pointing out all the notable sites and telling us some history. When we went back to the school, we were given our schedules and our groups, and we had a ¨culture class¨which was listening to an older gentleman tell us about the Mongolians coming to the Americas with the wooly mammoth (Mam-MOOTH) and the eventual colonization of South and Central America by the Spanish with Cortez. Interesting, and I understood a decent bit of it, which I supplemented with my previou Latin American culture class (Thank you, Dr. Thomas!)
Then, I had my first REAL class, a one-on-one with a professor named Ruth. For an hour and a half, she drilled me on the different form of the commandments, like ¨pick this up¨in the informal singular, formal singular, informal to a group, and formal to a group.
My brain is fried, and the rest of the day, I will have two classes more than I had today! And everything will be in Spanish! I spoke for a while with a guy from britain named Jamie that is about my age. He is here for 3 weeks, and he knows hardly a lick of Spanish, so it was all in English (I´m bad, I know) I need to stick with Spanish, but it was SO nice to be able to talk in English for a while with someone!
Anyways, tomorrow is another day much like today, and Wednesday, I think starts dance and cooking classes :) Watch out men of the US! I am going to be a Latin terror in the kitchen and on the dance floor! Haha
Thanks for everyone´s encouragement, and if you have ANY helpful tips regarding learning Spanish (I am looking for the ¨por¨song) please give them to me!! Thanks, and love and hugs to all!

Saturday, January 6, 2007

What to do with myself??

Oh boy, for the second time today, I have written a novel and had it deleted by this computer! Frustrating. And for the second time today, I will be shortening what i wrote the secodn time around.

Today is my first full day in Cuenca, and I dont know what to do with myself. After sleeping in, I wandered around the house a lot, read a lot, ate lunch, did the dishes, and have now ventured out by myself. I am looking forward to classes starting on Monday to give me something to do, and to help with the language barrier. In addition to language classes, I will also be taking classes in cooking and dancing. Bailé! Haha.

Didn't sleep so well last night. After going to bed at 9:30 (for lack of anything else to do) I tossed and turned until 11 when I fell asleep. Was woken up repeatedly by fireworks, which are apparently very popular here. Despit their apparent appeal, I thought someone was shooting a cannon into my room about 3 am this morning....haha

Tonight should be interesting. Today is Jan. 6, which means it is the day on which they celebrate the Magi bringing gifts to baby jesus. However, to celebrate this, the adults apparently dress up in costumes and go to friends houses asking for liquor....interesante, no? Will write more when I find out what this is all about. Piedad told me we were going somewhere tonight to watch it or something....

Hope everyone at school is enjoying being back, and I hope everyone still at home is enjoying being at home! Love you all, and I miss all your faces! Thanks again for praying for me, and keep it up! -Lauren

Here in Cuenca

I am here in Cuenca, and all went well once I woke up this morning. I slept in a bit, then went downstairs and took a taxi to the airport. There was apparently a bit of confusion about where to drop me off at the airport, because I wasn´t quite at the airport. I went to the office the taxi driver dropped me off at(there are several outside offices around the airport) and he sent me to the carrier I needed across the street, who sent me back across the street to their office, who then sent me into the airport. I had no idea where the airport was, but I followed two guys in uniform who looked like pilots. Lucky me, I found it.

Once in Cuenca, Piedad, the mother, picked me up, and took me around the city just a bit, then back to the house. It is really nice. I have my own bedroom and bathroom. When they said her daughter lives close with her two children, they weren´t joking. You walk out onto the patio and turn left, and there is the door to her daughter´s house. She is nice, and apparently speaks english. Cuenca itself is very beautiful, with a river right along one of the main roads wheer it looks like a lot people hang out.

Anyways, today is a much better day. I am feeling a bit more confident and settled, and looking forward to classes starting on Monday. Thanks to everyone for your prayers and words of encouragement! I love yáll and am so thankful for you!

Thursday, January 4, 2007

I`m here.....

Hello friends- Thanks for your prayers. I made both of my flights today, and I have my arrangements for the morning flight to get me to my city. Today went OK with getting on the flights, a few moments of panic at the Knoxville airport when i thought I might not make it on (remember, standby) but I did, and I got bumped to first class on the atlanta-quito flight.

Once I got into Quito though, I realized I put way too much in my one big bag, and it is dang hard to put on by myself! After struggling with that for about 10 minutes, along with my new sweater that is shedding everywhere, I was ready to get out of the airport. Lo and behold, to my surprise, no one was there waiting for me, as I had been told there would be....not good. I caught a taxi to my hotel, which is very nice, and now I am contemplating a bubblebath, bedtime, and a good cry.

It`s stressful being alone and not speaking the language well. I attempted to have a convo with the concierge at the hotel about how I need to learn spanish, and he rattled off something that I didn`t catch a lick of.

Today´s prayers requests: 1) Make it to Cuenca and meet my family and hope that they`re really cool so I can be comfortable. 2) Start relearning spanish!3) That the Lord would give me comfort and strength right now! I know I must rely on him!!

Sorry to sound so down. I am just a little freaked out! But I love and miss everyone, and can't wait to share some stories when I get back!

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Gearing up for my trip

As most all of you know, I will be traveling tomorrow (Thursday, January 4) to Ecuador for a month to take classes and learn about the culture and practice my Spanish! I'm pretty sure I'll be able to access the internet once there and at school, so I'm going to write about what's going on with me on here, and on facebook. Feel free to stop in and see what I'm up to!
(This is a picture of Cuenca. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so it should be pretty cool!)

Right now, I'm asking for prayers from y'all! Many of you have asked how to pray for me while I'm gone, so here are a couple of things:

1-Pray for safe travels. I fly Thursday from Knoxville-Atlanta-Quito, Ecuador. On Friday, I get on a flight to Cuenca, Ecuador, where I will be staying for a month. Once there, continue praying for my safety!
2-Pray that I make all the flights I need to (I'm flying standby the whole way) and it could screw things up if I don't make a flight!
3-Pray for a friend for me. I am worried about not having anyone who I can hang out with while there. Preferably, pray for a Christian around my age who doesn't speak English, so I can't cheat with them :)
4-Pray for my health. Two big concerns are altitude sickness (7,000 ft. above sea level) and general stomach concerns, from new water and foods....

Thank you friends, and I will be sure to keep you all posted! Love-Lauren