Tuesday, July 24, 2012

An American Week

Dear friends,

It's hard to believe I've been home for a week! Well, I have jumped all over the place a bit, from Chicago, to Fishers, to the lake, to Bloomington. The rising sun found me in Alabama this morning, but this is good for my nomad soul. The point is that for a week now, I have not been in my beloved Ecuador.

I still feel like I am adjusting a bit to being back. I don't really like the concept of home in general, at least not in reference to any place in this world. I find emotional ties to physical places to be a bit strangling, and thus try to avoid them. This summer I have failed in this area. As our plane took off from Guayaquil, I felt a deep sinking inside me. A lot of that was due to my good friend science. However, some of it was due to my heart tugging me towards Guayaquil, resisting the forces causing me to leave.

Sometimes I look at the woven Ecuador bracelet on my wrist and catch myself thinking that there is no place I'd rather be. When I take a moment to really consider, I find that my ideal location is not dependent on geography.

As David says, "You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever." He pleads, "Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings" and declares "I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake."

That is home, to be in the presence, right hand, eye, and shadow of my Creator. I've spent a lot of time in my life trying to figure out where to go or what to do, but everywhere I've gone, I've found that my Savior is there. "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?[...] If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me."

It is impossible to escape the one who indwells me. How beautiful it is to live a life wandering and exploring this earth while resting at the right hand of the throne of the Todopoderoso, the Almighty.

I live in confidence that this whole life is a short term mission trip. I get to enjoy different cultures, different people, and different foods. I get to give my whole heart in laboring for the Lord with enthusiasm. I get to speak truth, to pour into people, and to love well. And at the end of it all, I get to go to the place I will be able to call home emphatically and without cringing.

"Behold, I am making all things new," declares the One on the throne. And in this newness, where "He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them," and if that were not enough, where "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain" when "the first things have passed away (Revelation 21)."

No matter where morning finds me, I can awake fully satisfied in the Lord, and in the hope of someday going home. Where else would I ever want to be?

On the road, physically and spiritually,

Jenna B.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Los Estados Unidos

Here I am, finding myself in Fishers, IN after a weekend at Finca la Gloria and a couple of days of travel. The weekend was awesome: three days at a farm-ish type place to debrief and get used to the idea that soon, we wouldn't be seeing each other every waking hour of the day. We climbed crazy hills in the dark, stargazed, rode horses, climbed trees, ate fresh pineapple, and encouraged each other before heading out on Monday morning.

Upon our arrival to the US, I spent my first night in the state of Illinois. I spent last night in the state of Indiana. Overall, I am mostly just in a state of reverse culture shock.

I feel guilty every time I flush toilet paper (though a still small voice in the back of my head tells me that my American friends would hate me if I didn't). I am not used to the blazing temperatures, and catch myself dreaming of the temperate equator. And here in my tank top and shorts, I feel simply scandalous.

There are positives, though. For example, last night, I got to cook dinner. I was beyond excited to make my own food. Family and friends are cool, too, I guess.

Please keep me and my team in your prayers as we are adjusting to the culture here, missing each other, and taken so quickly out of the "spiritual greenhouse" that we had together in Ecuador. And as you pray, don't forget Ecuador. The Lord is doing awesome things there.

I will continue this blog, but will no longer be posting daily, but rather in a more normal, less obnoxious fashion.

Besos, yes, still besos,


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Flan, Pastel, y Jugo

Today was SO HARD. Saying goodbye is not one of my favorite things. After discipleship, I headed over to a grupo that was slightly sober, knowing that it was our last time together. We enjoyed some delicious flan that Mandy made with her sister. May the word go out that today was the first time I actually enjoyed flan. It was that good.

We headed over to the Vida Estudiantil meeting where we had a surprise birthday party for Courtney, whose birthday is in a little over two weeks. There was cake and balloons and everything. It took Courtney quite a while to realize what was going on, but when she did, I would definitely say that she was surprised. Take notes: a surprise birthday party is most successful not only the party, but also the birthday itself, is a surprise.

I narrowly avoided tears as we hugged and beso-ed our amigos for the last time.

When we stopped for our last trip to the jugo stand, I had Courtney order jugo de guanabana for me as I went to the bathroom. When I came out, she told me they were out. I could have sworn she was lying, so I asked our friend who works there and SHE WAS RIGHT. Again, narrowly avoiding tears, I ordered maracuya and approached CJ with a look of utter sadness upon my face.

"No," he said, "They're out of guanabana? No, they aren't. Oh, they are!" He knew. My face told it all. He gave me a sip of his guanabana and a much needed hug. Jason also got guanabana and offered insistently that he would trade with me! Oh happy day! What a team I have!

We got home much later than usual, with full hearts. Currently, we are between a trip to the art market to buy last minute souvenirs and a night of food and fun with the team. Everything is happening so quickly.

Taking it all in,

Jenna B.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fiesta de Despedida

Yesterday, our friends asked if they could have a goodbye party for us today. I told them I would cry. It was only a very small lie. Today, I got to the department of lenguas and there were PEOPLE sitting on OUR benches singing cheesy English songs I had never heard. They clearly didn't understand how life works, and how it has been working for the past few weeks.

Today, we came together at the usual time and located to an unusual place, benches a few yards away from OUR benches. Our amigos whipped up some mayo/tuna dip and we ate crackers, dip, all kinds of chips, and drank Coke. Even I drank the Coke, I was feeling just that festive.

After we ate all the food, it was decided upon, and not by the gringos, that we would play a crazy game of casa/inquilino/TERREMOTO, like we played at the Vida Estudiantil meeting last week. I had a negative first impression of this game, as I quickly realized that there was no winner in it, and therefore, I could not win. I don't like games, but I do like to win, so I generally figure that if I'm going to play a game, I might as well try to win it. Not that I'm competitive...

Despite whatever competitive issues I may or may not have, every time I play this game I have a ton of fun. We played until people decided they were too sweaty. This is more significant than it may sound, given that these particular friends are cold everyday. Yes, we are in Ecuador. Yes, we meet outside. Yes, they wear sweaters in 80+ degree weather. And yes, at least one of them is always still cold. On this team, we know a lot of science, but not even science can explain this one.

It then came to pass that I led the group in two enthusiastic rounds of Down by the Banks. If you don't know what that is, or the gibberish lyrics to the song, then that is probably because it is more of a regional thing than I ever knew. Generally, I stick to teaching this game to kids 10 and under, but, at our cores, us college students and 10-year-olds are made of the same stuff.

It was a grand time. Tomorrow is the real goodbye: our last day on campus. This week, I have realized how, though I know little about my friends here, I love them deeply. Tomorrow will be hard. And I may cry, just a little.

Keepin' it real,

Jenna B.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Una Carta de Amor

Dear Team, 


One month ago today, I went to church in Indianapolis, got in the car with my parents, and rode to Chicago, where they left me. I had no idea what adventure I was in for, as evidenced by my inability to answer any of my father's questions about what my summer would look like. 

After dropping giant suitcase off in a hotel room, I went upstairs to a room filled with a giant table and several of you all. The following two days in Chicago were filled with laughter, food, and...could it already be love? Yes. It was love.

Through the past month, we have had so many good, bad, hilarious, challenging, and unbelievable times. An incredible amount of times to fit in just one month, really. Together, we have left our homeland and made a new, temporary home here among the people of Ecuador. We have left behind our families, our shorts, and our right to flush toilet paper in pursuit of this adventure.

The last month has been one of the best in my life, and I have you to thank for part of that, and God to thank for all of it. When we return home and all go our own ways, dispersing over the glorious Midwest, I will always think fondly of this time together. I could not have asked for a better group of humans to do life with.

Here is a little ditty I wrote to express my feelings:

Thanks for the memories, for loving me, and for following our Savior intentionally and boldly. I know we've only been together for one month but I WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER <3.



Monday, July 9, 2012


I am exhausted, my stomach hates me, and life is good. This morning's run took more out of me than usual, as we went for personal records on the stairs. Jeremy made it all the way to the top. I made it...you know...like 250 steps. But that's ok, because in all reality, if the day comes that I am required to run up 444 steps, it was probably not a day I was meant to live through.

 Today on campus, we waited for an appointment that fell through and then walked around, encountering mostly men, and so not stopping to talk, until our 11:00 meeting with el grupo. Ann and I went through today's milla without any help from Enrique, and it went quite well. The milla explained the basics of the Bible, and was fairly straightforward and simple to go through. I even spoke some Spanish, which happens far less often than I had hoped going into this trip.

We finished early, and left to share for the last hour of our campus time. Our poor friends were confused when we left them before one, but life gets crazy like that. Courtney, Ann, and I walked around la facultad de medicina (the medicine school), again, coming across mostly men. It seemed that whenever we stopped to talk, the people we wanted to chat with had to study. We were all feeling discouraged and tired, but the day ended with a great conversation with three sweet girls who were already believers.

The afternoon was spent dropping off laundry, haggling for souvenirs at the art market, drinking jugo de guanabana, and chilling on the malecon before training on the topic of evangelism tonight. Training was awesome, because us girls at UG had just been talking about the same topic earlier today. We all swapped stories of how God had opened our eyes to the value of evangelizing to strangers, as well as to friends. I love serving a God who chooses to reveal Himself in different ways to different people. He is so much bigger than the logic and time restraints that I so often try to put on Him.

Today's post is a little boring. I understand that. But I want you, dear reader, to know that when something exciting does happen, I will be here for you, reporting in gross detail whatever occurs.



Sunday, July 8, 2012

Regresamos a Guayaquil (Domingo)

This morning, after a wonderful giant pancake and after a hostel employee sang JBieb's "Baby" ten and a half times, we left Cuenca. I could have spent a lot more time in that city with its sweater-conducive temperatures, quaint-ness, and mountains. Though the going was not always easy, and sometimes we needed a restroom more desperately than words could describe, and sometimes the driver was lost, and sometimes the driver put on the heat instead of the AC, we made it back home to Guayaquil.

We had down time this afternoon and evening. The streets were alive with the excitement of today's Barcelona game. People were honking out of celebration instead of frustration and their was yellow everywhere you turned. The Malecon was hopping with people of all ages and especially with young children and babies.

Tonight we all gathered in Linsey's room, rejecting each team member until he or she came through the door in proper llama sweater attire. We sang songs of praise, whistled our hearts out, and prayed together. Chris hit a milestone with his first real whistle escaping his pulled-out lower lip. We prayed over our last week on campus. Since I just mentioned that in passing, I am going to take this moment to point out that this is our LAST week on campus. That is terrifying. 

Pray for us as we go out this week, that we would really be able to help connect long-time and recent believers to the movements at UG and ESPOL. It will be a difficult week of sharing, investing, and of goodbyes to people that we have gotten to know over the last month.



Las Montanas (Sabado)

Saturday morning we awoke, some of us from sleep, and some of us from valiant attempts. After a seventy cent breakfast from a local bakery, we all visited the outdoor market. They sold many of the same touristy souvenirs as the artisan market at Guayaquil, but seemed to have a greater emphasis on llama sweaters. This worked out great, because we, as a team, have a great emphasis on llama sweaters. 

We haggled and haggled and eventually went back to the hostel, some of us with long awaited llama sweaters. For lunch, I stopped at a hole in the wall place with a few of my teammates. This restaurant did not have a name, at least not in my range of visibility, nor did it have a menu. You just ordered right of the specials displayed in the window. There was one guy working there in that one room and he made me one much-needed quesadilla. 

With free soda in my belly (and soda nearly never ends up in my belly), I went with about half my team to ascend a nearby mountain. We started out on a street that wound upwards and, after crossing more busy roads than I generally prefer to cross, we quietly walked through an open fence and began off-roading on a small, dirt trail.

We walked and climbed through grass, eucalyptus trees, and overall just more green than I have seen in the last month. It was incredibly refreshing to be out of the city and in nature. As we got higher, we approached the great Naked Face for which Naked Face Mountain was named (in a sentiment quite similar to our Butt Cheek Park closer to home). 

Eventually, we reached the top and looked out over the city. I observed two things that I had been previously told but just then came to believe: 1. Cuenca is a very large city. 2. This city is located in a valley. We saw tons of red rooftops, mountains all around, and rain off in the distance while the sun beat down on us. Breathing embarrassingly heavy due to altitude, we sat to take in the view, then ventured over to one of the creepiest cemeteries I have ever visited.

Photos from  http://megwalters21.tumblr.com/

Ducking between barbed wire (the only casualty there was a brief struggle with Megan's hair), we found tons of crosses covered in kitchen tile, tomb stone, and stacked, catacomb-like structures. These stacked cubbies were the scariest, as most of them had been broken into a lay empty. Around the back of it, we saw a very dirty cloth that once held a deceased person and a baby casket lying on the ground open and empty. I love cemeteries. They are hopeful places to me.

Our descent was much easier than the way up, and on the way home, we walked along a stretch of a river. Near the river's edge, we all simultaneously saw a grand tree. No sooner had we all seen it than we were all in it. We all took a moment, in that tree, to bask in the simple facts that we were in a tree and that no one was instructing us to be otherwise. In that moment, I did not miss the malecon. 

We enjoyed delicious pizza for dinner and a quieter night at the hotel. We located the Southern Cross and stargazed until the smoking, turbaned alien cloud led all of his cloud friends to block our view of the stars. I then chatted with teammates and with some Europeans over live music until our new friends got drunk enough that I could not understand what they were saying, even though they had near perfect English.


Jenna B.

La Fiesta (Viernes)

Friday, we left for Cuenca. The bad news is the transportation was two hours late to pick us up. The good news is that we got two smaller vans instead of one larger one, and at a lower price. If we are going to be totally honest, each of these vans was almost as big as one of the bigger ones.

We rode through the mountains and YOU GUYS. It was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I like words. I have lots and lots of them. However, I do not have words for the things I saw riding to Cuenca on Friday. After a minor season of freaking out in a stretch of no visibility and excess winding and passing, we broke through the clouds and were above them. We looked down on a sea of clouds as far as the eye could see that broke against mountains on all sides. I have never seen anything like it.

We arrived at the hostel to find cute little rooms, a cute little cafe, and a cute little courtyard with cute little hammocks and less cute, less little toilets-turned-seats/planters. We also found a quite friendly, quite hungover kid in one of our rooms (that I walked into), so that was fun. We were all excited to be there and even more excited to order mac n' cheese for dinner, on the project.

Back at the hostel, we found quite the party. The same techo track for seven hours, a bonfire, drunk people, drugs, this hostel really had it all. Jason and Jeremy cleared the whole dance floor, besides the unmovable man with sun glasses and a backpack, with their "break dancing," in the words of the Ecuadorians. We learned to fit in a bit better by "slow dancing," which entailed head bobbing and a slight sway or side step. However, one of our new friends pointed out that our American humor was excessive, so I guess we never fit in completely. He also pointed out that I looked like Taylor Swift, so any insults are forgiven.

We also were able to engage in some spiritual conversations around the fire before our new friends got too drunk. Though I'm told the music didn't stop until about 3a.m., I slept fairly soundly in my bonfire-scented jeans on what very well could be the hardest mattress in Ecuador, if it was really a mattress at all.

Life is crazy,


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Una Semana Mas

Today, Thursday, was the last day of the school week for this team. As crazy as it sounds, we only have one week (four days) left on campus! I am experiencing conflicting feelings of growing a bit tired, but also of not being close to ready to leave behind the campus, this city, or this country.

This morning, as every other morning this week, copies needed to be made of the milla for the day. Generally, CJ orders the copies, but today, I was very, very brave and undertook the mission myself. I asked for twenty copies, fairly clearly, and watched as the man turned and told the lady making copies to make forty. When I asked how much it cost, he said nothing, for my friend CJ. It is awesome to have people supporting what we are doing, even people in the copy shop.

After discipleship time, I headed over to las lenguas. Given that the Vida Estudiantil meeting was today, we didn't want to do a milla and risk going over on time. We chatted with the students and invited them to come to Vida Estudiantil with us. Several students came, and said they would leave early with us at one. After another crazy game of casa/inquilino/terremoto (house/renter/earthquake) we were all laughing and having a grand time. We had to head out, but all of our language friends stayed for the rest of the meeting!

Tonight was another project fun night. We all made the 444 stair trek up to the top of the hill. As this is our usual running destination, and I have been there a lot, it was fun to see other team members experience the view for the first time. The whole hill is possessed with a totally different kind of life in the evenings. In the mornings, we see security guards patrolling, people sweeping, dogs trying to eat us, kids walking to school, and military men running. Tonight, the restaurants were blasting music and crazy lights, shops were open, people were talking to each other and walking around. And the dogs were still trying to eat us.

For dinner, we went to Frutabar, a strange but enchanting mix of wonderful fruit juice, food, hippy vibe, and rap music. I dig it.

In the morning, we depart for Cuenca, where I may or may not have internet. Keeping life mysterious for those of you who need some excitement in your lives. That's what I'm here for. That is literally why I came to Ecuador. (I lied.)



Wednesday, July 4, 2012


In celebration of the Independence Day of my country, you will notice the title of this post not in Spanish as has been the trend here, but in American.

If you have been following my blog, you may have observed that the members of our team here in Ecuador have many things in common. One of these things is that we all LOVE celebrating the Fourth of July. For the past week or so, we have all been talking about what we will miss about a good, Midwestern Fourth. We spent nearly the whole walk to campus today discussing which foods we would probably catch a plane home just to eat today. My list includes barbecue pulled pork, corn on the cob, strawberries, baked beans, cherries, and my mama's lemonade cake. So, if you have the opportunity, eat some for me, and think of my lunch of a meat cake (yes, that is literally the translation) and jugo de maracuya.

rojo, blanco, y azul

Tonight, for our small group dinners, my group (and others) went to the Grand Hotel to eat hamburgers, like Americans. After everybody had a couple of hours of quiet time with Jesus, we reunited in Linsey's room. The lights were off, the door was shut, and a fireworks show erupted on a laptop whilst we sang about our pride in being Americans, where at least we know we're free. 

We watched a scene from The Sandlot, we had cake, and we ate it, too. It was a delicious cake, followed by some delicious patriotic tunes. When "Party in the USA" came on (Yes, this is my jam. You win, Mr. Daniel C. Hillen.) we all jumped up to dance, like Americans, because in the states, Christians can dance. Usually poorly, but we can dance. Hannah carried the weight of the team in the country music arena. Our patriotism got a little carried away, from singing the preamble to U-S-A chants, to listening to bald eagle calls on YouTube. You may think you would never get to that point, but do not be caught off guard, dear ones, if you happen to find yourself listening to bird calls out of love for your far off country. Such a flood of passion.

While the freedom our country gives us is great, our freedom in Christ is far greater. Hallelujah for that. To have freedom purchased for us is such a gift.

Feeling Festive,


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

El Grupo

If you asked me to describe today in one word, it would likely be encouraging, although I am not sure, because that question would merit much thought, and thought which I have not given nor do I plan to give.

When we wandered over to the lenguas area to meet with the students who we have begun to refer to simply as "el grupo" at 11, we discovered that a few of our friends weren't going to be able to stick around for Milla 3 (the third follow up). We were also met by several new and attentive faces in the group. Enrique went to class, so CJ and I were feeling pretty adventurous in leading on our own. By that, I mean CJ began to talk, and I began to smile a lot, because Jesus and truth make me very happy.

Luckily, one of our newer friends who we met at the end of last week jumped right in and started preachin' the Word like she was born to do it, flipping pages to well-read and studied passages time after time. Right when she had to leave, Enrique walked up and picked up right where we left off. God's timing has been repeatedly perfect during our times on campus.

It was fun to meet some new people and pour into some new hearts. Tomorrow, we are hoping that we can introduce el grupo to people who are involved in Vida Estudiantil. Pray that we would be able to help establish solid connections that last far longer than our time here. Enrique was able to drive us home, which was a huge blessing, however, which also caused us to miss out on jugo for the second day in a row. At this rate, I might be approaching a healthy daily dose of sugar at a much faster rate than I had ever planned.

Tonight, we had guys and girls Bible studies. The girls went to Unipark, which somehow offered a completely different menu than the last time we were there. Megan got her soup a significant amount of time earlier than any of us got our food. At the point when that "Grandma soup" was placed before her, Megan became the priority and the sole concern of the restaurant. When she began to spoon unwanted chunks of cheese out of her bowl, from across the room, a waiter brought a small bowl to use for reject parts. She even got a new plate in the middle of eating.

Eventually, the rest of us got some food too. As there were zero boys there, I am proud to announce that I finished my food. I am less proud to announce that I ordered an appetizer that I let everyone sample as my meal, but nevertheless, I finished my food.

We had an excellent time of study, learning about walking by the Spirit and confession. In our time together, there were tears of sadness and tears of laughter. In a women's Bible study world, that is a good indicator of success. I am so blessed to be part of such a beautiful group of ladies. 

Love always,


Monday, July 2, 2012

El Segundo Mitad

Today was back to reality after a tropical weekend getaway. It feels oddly like home. You know "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody," that gem of a Disney Channel show that was on back in the day, where kids lived the dream life in a hotel? That's kind of the life we are living. We see people come and go, but this is pretty much our home.

Today was back to running the malecon and stairs, back to a freezing cold shower, back to hot dog bun and salty scrambled egg breakfasts, back to sharing, back to follow ups, and back to nap time in the beloved family bed.

There seemed to be nothing too special about today except how routine it was for me. We walked to UG, shared for a while, met up with the language group, went through the second follow up, and chatted until it was time to leave. I was terrified that I may have to attempt the follow up by myself, and goodness knows that near nothing would have been communicated, but Enrique showed up just in time. Things got a little crazy when we forwent our daily jugo stop, instead eating at Gus, a fast food place.

Pray that we would find beauty and see God in the everyday and in the routine. Pray that we would maintain enthusiasm for the mission here and for God's work in Guayaquil. Also, pray that we would be well received by staff at UG, especially in the language department. And praise God for his overwhelming faithfulness!

Tomorrow is another early morning, so I am off to bed.



Sunday, July 1, 2012


I promise you all, this is the last blog post before I go to bed, which I plan to do with some excitement. Today, we had to leave the beach. We left the magical breakfasts, the giant, beautiful dogs, the hippie art, the library, the gardens, the instruments and hammocks for guest use. We left a half trampled Kingdom.

It is probably for the best that we left. Had we not, many a terrible thing was bound to happen, including, but not limited to:

  • Skin cancer from too much sunburn. The top half of my back is bright red as it is.
  • Nervous system damage from too many jellyfish stings.
  • Fatness from the amazing food.
  • Death from falling off of a rock. The longer I hung around Misty Point, the more liberal I became with my definition of climbable rocks. I am lucky to have only a few minor scrapes.
  • Getting even more behind on the blog.
  • Missing out on awesome opportunities in the big city and on campuses.
  • Courtney would run out of memory for videos.
Basically, it's great that we are back at hotel sweet hotel, safe and sound. 

The weekend was a great time of rest and refocus. We discussed areas of the team norms and of our mission here that are going well and that need improvement. Getting to sing songs of worship together outside was absolutely lovely as well.

Besides all of the things God taught us, we sure learned a lot about science. The first thing under this category is exactly how many times in a weekend one can say/hear the word "science." It's more than you think. Science is everywhere, especially on the beach. 

Best of all, I learned how to flip in a hammock without falling out, enabling me to sleep on my stomach. And thus the name of CJ Hansen is found within the list of people who have changed my life for the better.

Tomorrow, we are back to business. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we start out this second half of our adventure in Ecuador. Science is telling me that it is getting pretty close to time for bed.



El Castillo

I like beaches. However, I simply cannot do the whole "laying out" thing. I've tried, and it just never lasts. Anything deemed by society as "relaxing" bottles up my energy until I nearly explode. Luckily, our team had plenty of beach activities up its sleeve.

Day two at the beach was shockingly jellyfish sting-less. After body surfing in some waves that were much better than Friday's, I went to join a few of my teammates in sand castle building efforts. As I approached, I was greeted with a strict strategy involving a moat, a mountain range, and a plot for a castle. While the mountain range may make this plan sound involved, you honestly have no idea.

What ensued in the following hours is now known as Kingdom. Kingdom is many things. It is a place, a dream, a coming together of the body of Christ. It is a vineyard, an irrigation system, a village, a three-towered castle, a cobblestone framework of roads, a towering palm branch, a bridge that can support the weight of an adult. Kingdom is a cemetery, and not an airport because, "This is a kingdom! There are not airports in a kingdom!"

(photo credit to Linsey)

Never have I ever seen so many people who are so very old working together on a sand structure. Never have I ever seen so much pride invested in anything, either. I truly love the amount of enthusiasm we put forth as a unit towards just about anything. Using trash, water, and sand (though on a beach, Jess always somehow seemed to be running out) we made art.

Speaking of how hardcore our team is, for the second day in a row, our men cracked open coconuts for us to drink out of. Those things hold a surprising amount of jugo.

We missed normal lunch time, being caught up in construction, and after a late lunch, a few of us wandered towards "Misty Point" to climb on some big rocks. We found a beach area with giant, smooth stones where you could see nothing but ocean and mountains and hundreds of crabs. I could have explored all day, but alas, we were subjected to Fancy Picture Night. Personally, I prefer big rocks to fancy pictures, but I suppose there is something to be said for keeping all the mothers at home happy. By the time we got back, scraped, wet, and gross, most of the team was all dressed up and lovely. We made it work.

One more post to come tonight,


La Playa

Hello there friends! You may be wondering, Why is my Facebook newsfeed not blowing up with Jenna's blog? You may not be wondering that at all. Either way, I shall explain myself: I was at the beach without internet. So now, I will catch you all up, beginning with a journal entry from our first day at the beach, Friday:

Dearest Journal of Mine,

Here you find me at long last. I must be straightforward: I am only crawling back to you because I lack access to my computer. You also should know that anything I am writing is likely to appear on the internet in the not too distant future.

After an extra late night of blogging and Sporcle, I had an extra early morning to get in a "short" run before we met to leave at 7:45.

With the dreaded jugo de arbol in my belly, we rode off in a trusty 17 passenger van. During our journey, we ran across a less than convenient police officer who seemed to think that there were too many of us and who then decided to show off his impressive counting skills. From what we could tell, the driver gave him enough money that he ripped up the ticket and told us to have fun at the beach.

We looked out the windows through the city, the "suburbs," and the mountains. We arrived around 11:30 at what appeared to be paradise. We are staying in the cutest cabins that have ever existed with waterfall showers and decks with hammocks in bright colors. We are right on the beach with its blue water and soft sand. However, the evil was surely lurking just beyond sight.

Ashley and I were the first to plunge into the warm water, body surfing, jumping, laughing, and just generally having the best day ever. As more people joined us, my right arm starting stinging slightly, and I inquired as to if there were lea lice (also known as biting plankton). The sting increased and I determined that this was definitely the work of a jellyfish. This was not my first run-in with an unfriendly jelly, so I tried to play it cool, as I did with the next sting on the back of my left calf. By the time a jelly attacked my right shin, I immediately yelled for someone to pee on it, and the sneak attack, wrap all around Jenna's right thigh strategy eventually got me out of the water. Safely on shore, where the only jellies were satisfyingly dead, my stings started to puff and bubble and swell up. Now, they just look like bad razor burn and only sting a little, so you put away your panic face for the time being.

After a half-hearted attempt at a sandcastle, 9 of us took a walk down the beach. We discovered dead, deflated pufferfish, tons of dead jellyfish with royal blue tentacle, some kind of a leech that look like a clear tapeworm with a single vibrant blue vein down the middle, and overall just lots of things that Jason has claimed to have seen on the World's Deadliest Animals.

Eventually, much of the group turned back and Ashley, Courtney, Jeremy, and I strode onwards. We found a giant jawbone which Jeremy attached to his already frightening staff in pursuit of what he refers to as the Moses slash Samson look. While Ashely took photographs, we climbed onto a giant rock  covered in tiny barnacles and swarming with speedy little crabs. After more exploring and climbing, we walked back to the beach in front of our hotel for some hammock time.

I am now all showered and all hungry, ready for dinner. We are all so excited to be here, away from the city, the smog, the smells, the stares, the showers that choose their own temperatures, and most of all the creepy garbage truck music. Though it is a slap in the face that our summer project is already half way over, life here is good.