Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A Year in the Life: March, 2018

March has arrived -- and spring break groups are just around the corner. Rusty and I spend the first day of March doing a big shopping trip for all the groups that will be staying at the camp over the next two weeks. Grocery shopping for groups is a pretty involved process. I make about 6 different lists -- one for the baker who delivers the bread we need fresh each day, one for the fruit lady, who brings us fresh fruit like papaya and pineapple from the coast, one for the vegetable man, who delivers fresh veggies to the camp in his pickup truck, one for meat, one for chicken -- these 2 are orders which get placed at the beginning of the week for pickup on Thursday (red meat discount day) or Friday (chicken discount day) -- and then the list for everything else that I have to buy at the grocery store in town.

Our first groups are coming out of Kumanii (Operation Ecuador's jungle ministry) after a week-long project there. They pass through the camp on their way to the airport. We sometimes feed these groups dinner and give them a place to shower and repack their bags before heading home (because who wants to get on a plane covered in sweat, sunscreen, and bug repellent?).

A group of students from Harding University arrives next for their spring break project. We are collaborating with Jake and Tanya Wilson (directors at the Hacienda of Hope Christian Academy) on some of their work projects. Rusty helps coordinate a roof-replacement project for a neighbor that the students work on throughout the week. They also spend time each afternoon helping at the camp's after-school program. They lead Bible lessons and fun hands-on science lessons with the kids. They are a great group, and several are from Central America and speak Spanish, which helps.

I stay busy running the kitchen -- we are serving the group breakfast and dinner each day, and they eat lunch at the school -- and keeping things running smoothly at the after-school program. Midway through Harding's time with us, two more spring break groups arrive, from LCU and Lipscomb University. We are only in charge of housing and feeding these groups; their work projects are being coordinated by the children's home. Still it is a lot to juggle -- for one night, all three groups are sharing space at the camp.

Harding heads home on Saturday. The following Sunday, the camp cooks a big dinner for both LCU and Lipscomb and all the kids, staff, and volunteers for the children's home, so they can all share a meal together. After dinner, they roast s'mores down at the firepit and have a devo. The last few days of the spring break groups are a bit easier. We are cooking just breakfast each morning, so I have time during the day for school with the boys (they had last week off while Harding was here) and teaching my English classes.

Alex attends the homeschool teen retreat over a weekend in mid-March. It is his first year -- since he turned 12, he is finally able to participate in the teen activities planned by a family in our homeschool group. He has a great time at El Refugio, an adventure camp just north of Quito. Meanwhile, I spend the weekend doing food prep and packing for our family vacation next week.

On Sunday, we leave for our vacation. We pick Alex up from the retreat, then head down to Machachi, arriving in time for their afternoon service. It is our first time to visit this new church; Rusty has been coaching and mentoring the young evangelist there. From Machachi, we head down to Baños. It is a long trip. We have a late dinner after we arrive, then head to our hotel.

Baños is beautiful! We spend the day exploring. We are thinking about bringing the Family Mission Trip here for their "fun day" at the end of their time with us in July, so we visit a few travel agencies and gather information on the various activities available and approximate costs. We also take the kids to a "Dinosaur Park," and after lunch we drive part of the "Route of the Waterfalls," stopping along the way to take photos and do a bit of hiking.

The next morning, we hit the thermal pools for which "Baños" is named. Then we head back to our hotel to get dressed, pack and have breakfast. We leave about mid-morning and drive the rest of the way to Atacames, a town on the coast of Ecuador, where we will be spending the rest of our vacation.

We try to take a little vacation time twice a year. Usually, we go in early May before things get too crazy-busy at the camp, and again in September, where we can breathe a big sigh of relief after the summer is over! This year, we are unable to take vacation time in May, so we have decided to come in March instead. For several years now, we have been renting our friends' condo for about a week at a time. It is a beach-front condo in a nice resort with a pool complex. Since we can come during the low season, we don't have to fight crowds of people and we often have the pools to ourselves. We spend the week in a lazy rhythm of playing on the beach, swimming in the pools, reading, playing board games, and watching movies. One day, we take the kids to a nearby water park with slides and a lazy river. They really enjoy that!

Our beach vacation time is soon over, and we head back to Tabacundo at the tail end of March. We arrive home to a fridge that is not working (hoo-ray), and lots to do to get ready for our Passover dinner and Easter, coming up in a just a couple of days.

Celebrating Passover has become one of our family's most meaningful Easter traditions. You can read more about why, as Christians, we choose to celebrate this Jewish holiday here. This year, the guest list includes several friends and my sister and her family. We have nearly 20 people in our home for the dinner and service. The Marcums stay the night afterwards. Passover and a sleepover -- a great way to wrap up the month of March!

March moments (clockwise from top left):
  1. Harding spring break mission team in front of the house they helped roof.
  2. Kids program science activity -- ice cream in a bag. A science experiment you can eat!
  3. Ben loves to help in the kitchen.
  4. Harding spring break mission -- the roof project in process
  5. Rusty preaching at the Machachi Church of Christ
  6. Baños -- this waterfall is called the "Pailón del Diablo" (Devil's Cauldron).
  7. Beach vacation
  8. The "haggadah" (order of service) for our Passover dinner

Sunday, January 27, 2019

A Year in the Life: February, 2018

During the very end of January and the first part of February, I help run the "School Store" for the kids in the after-school program. Two times per year, we offer a chance for the kids to redeem the points they have accumulated (for attendance, good behavior, and learning their weekly memory verse) for toys, snacks and candy in the "School Store."

A fun family tradition we try to do on a weekly basis during the school year is "Pizza and a Movie Night." I make homemade pizza and we pick a movie to watch together as a family. Since none of the kids are enrolled in traditional school this year, we can really do this any night we want, but we usually try for either Thursday or Friday evenings, depending on if we have a weekend group at the camp or not.

On Sunday, February 4th, we host a Superbowl Party in the evening at our house. One of the reasons we wanted to enlarge our house was so that we could host large groups of people more comfortably. It is nice to be able to open up our home for fellowship, fun, and community. Lots of our "gringo" friends come to hang out and watch the Eagles soar to victory over the Patriots. Everyone brings appetizers and finger-foods to share, and we enjoy yummy treats like Tanya's queso dip made with Velveeta and Ro-tel brought from the States!

Just before the Carnaval holiday (a 2-day public holiday here in Ecuador just before the beginning of Lent), we plan a day of water games and activities for the kids in the after-school program. They have a shaving cream and water balloon fight, and we set up a giant slip-and-slide on the hill just below our house. Some years, the weather is cold and rainy and not really conducive to this kind of outdoor fun. This year, however, we have a warm and sunny afternoon -- perfect for getting wet!

Elizabeth celebrates her fourth birthday on February 8th. We celebrate at home with a ballet slipper cake, the new "Beauty and the Beast," and presents. We also plan an outing with the cousins to Mr. Joy (a huge indoor play arena in Quito), followed by a sleepover at their house. The cousins love spending time together, and we try to plan an outing or a sleepover at least once every month or two. It is easier to arrange our schedules this year since Julie started homeschooling her kids.

Rusty does some marriage counseling using Prepare/Enrich with a couple from the Pisulí Church. Since they live so far away and it's difficult to plan a weekly meeting, we have them out to the camp to spend the night and do some intensive counseling. Then, later on the next week, over the Carnaval holiday, Rusty meets them at their home in Quito to do another day-long session.

The Carnaval holiday coincides this year with the school semester break. Schools are out for an entire week, which means the after-school program is also cancelled. Most of our staff take some vacation days, so it is pretty quiet at the camp. It's still a school week for my kids since we homeschool, but we also plan a field trip with the Marcum family to the Condor Park (a bird-of-prey sanctuary) in Otavalo. I do some organizing and straightening in the camp store-rooms. We celebrate Valentine's Day with a fondue dinner (cheese fondue followed by chocolate fondue), and we watch a lot of the Winter Olympics. The kids play outside with the slip-and-slide nearly every day until I dry it off and store it. They love to get wet!

The break was nice and over too quickly. The week after Carnaval is super busy. I work on updating the bulletin boards that hang in the camp dining hall and teach my English classes. Some friends and I host a baby shower for Syndi, who is due in April, and I make three sheet-cakes for one of our employees to share with friends and family at the special mass being held for his sister who recently passed away.

We have been planning a team retreat for the leadership team at Camp Bellevue (Rusty and I, Guillermo and Syndi, and Seyber), and our families. However, we have to cancel due to an unforeseen circumstance. We are pretty disappointed because there is literally not a single other weekend between now and the end of the summer that is available for us to reschedule. However, we decide to meet together at the camp on Friday afternoon for a "mini-retreat," and then we all go to dinner in Cayambe with our families.

A computer store in Quito where we have a contact has agreed to donate four refurbished computers to the after-school program's library. They send a couple of techs out one Saturday at the end of February to deliver the computers and set them up for us. We are pretty excited about this as the computers we have been using are very old and very slow. The computers in the library get used a lot, especially by the older kids when they have homework that requires the use of Internet, and we are thankful they will have some more modern equipment to use.

The final few days of February find me doing some planning for our spring break groups (menus, bills, etc.), which begin arriving in early March. We also celebrate Alex's 12th birthday! He asks for a 12-layer cake. I try to oblige, but it is pretty much a disaster. At least it tastes okay. My kids entirely overestimate my abilities as a baker and decorator!

February moments (clockwise from top left:)
  1. Carnaval fun on the slip-and-slide
  2. Dinner at the Vaca Loca with the camp leadership team and our families
  3. Superbowl party -- friends, food, and football!
  4. Alex is 12! Wait, when did that happen?
  5. Baby shower for Syndi
  6. At Mr. Joy with the cousins -- It's fun to dress up like a princess (unless you're a boy, of course)!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A Year in the Life: January, 2018

Our new year begins quietly. We spend New Year's Day at home as a family. After Christmas, we began a "Hobbit and Lord of the Rings" marathon. We finish that today with "Return of the King." Some other New Year's traditions are demolishing and eating the gingerbread house, drinking homemade eggnog, and watching "It's a Wonderful Life."

On January 2nd, it's time to reestablish the routines of daily life. Camp employees come back to work after several days of vacation, the after-school program starts up again, and the boys and I dive back into homeschooling. The weekly ladies' prayer and Bible study group starts meeting again on Friday afternoons after a break over the holidays. Rusty gifted the family with "The Muppet Show" (every episode ever made!) on DVD for Christmas, so we begin watching an episode or two in the evenings with the kids. Rusty and I also reestablish our more-or-less weekly lunch date, usually combined with grocery shopping. Our go-to restaurant in Cayambe is the Vaca Loca -- great food, yummy ice cream, and fast and friendly service.

I usually leave my Christmas stuff out at least until Epiphany (aka Ethiopian or Orthodox Christmas) in early January. This gives me time to enjoy it after the hustle and bustle of the holidays. This year, I have crock-pot freezer meals to prep for a pregnant friend, plus a family camping trip coming up, so I decide to pack everything away on January 6th.

We have decided to attend Sunday services at the Pisulí Church of Christ (a church plant in North Quito that we helped with several years ago) for the foreseeable future. The church is really struggling and can use our help to work through some issues. Going to church here makes for long days on Sunday -- the drive is 1.5 hours each way, so we usually leave about 7:30 a.m. and don't get home until mid-afternoon. Usually, we eat lunch out, and sometimes we do some shopping, since we are already in Quito. A fun family tradition is "brinner" (breakfast for dinner) on Sunday evenings.

During the second week in January, I put together 12 crock-pot freezer meals for my friend who is due at the end of January and begin planning for our upcoming summer groups. We also go camping for one night with the Marcum family. We camp at Chachimbiro, which has some great hot springs! We have tried several camping spots together over the years, and we all agree that being able to enjoy the hot pools right next to our campsite is a big plus!

I devote the third week in January to getting ready to begin teaching English classes to the kids in the after-school program. I am taking over this responsibility from Jerica, who is no longer volunteering at the camp. I organize, clean, and set up my classroom, familiarize myself with all the materials, and prepare for my first lesson. I also dust off the nice digital camera and spend some time each afternoon taking individual and class pictures of all the kids in the program to update the "picture wall."

We have groups at the camp the last two weekends in January. The first is just using the facilities for the day, but we still have to prepare lunch for everyone. We plan for 100 people, and 137 show up! I tell my staff that sometimes I feel like I'm supposed to be Jesus and just make more food appear as we serve it! The second group is smaller, but stays one night and so requires three meals.

Since returning from our furlough at the end of November, 2017, we have been slowly settling into the extension on our house. The extension was actually completed ("made usable" is probably a better way to say it) in the summer of 2017, but since we are so crazy busy during the summer months and then were gone for nearly three months in the fall, we haven't had time to do much with it yet. Rusty has spent a good part of his free time this month working on a backboard from old pallet wood for his dart boards. He gets that finished and hung, along with our "places we've lived" wall, which features a license plate from each country and state we've called home through the years. Shelving is also finally installed in our bedroom closets, allowing me to unpack and organize clothes that have been in storage for several months. I am then able to move a bookshelf out of our room and back to its new home in the playroom, where I can unpack and organize the five boxes of children's books I packed up when we began the process of knocking out walls to connect the extension to the rest of the house.

The final week of January finds me teaching my first English classes to the kids in the after-school program, helping set up for the "School Store," (scheduled for the first week of February), writing our quarterly newsletter, and planning our Superbowl Party. Rusty attends a wake for the sister of one of the camp employees who was killed in a tragic hit-and-run accident.

Some daily moments from January (clockwise from top left):
  1. New Year's Day -- taking apart the gingerbread house
  2. Homeschool -- we were studying machines, and their assignment was to sketch their bikes
  3. 12 crock-pot freezer meals -- my baby gift for an expecting friend
  4. Super Piano Player!
  5. Catching the camp alpacas so they could be shorn was a group effort! (Shortly after this, the alpacas went to a new home.)
  6. After-School Program -- the teachers made a new batch of play-dough, and the kids enjoyed playing with it for craft-time one afternoon.
  7. Our "Places We've Lived" wall -- we still need to get our hands on a Japan license plate!
  8. Elizabeth and her Uncle Josh, keeping warm by the campfire

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

A Year in the Life: Coming Soon to the Blog!

Several years ago, when we were doing language study in Portugal, I did a series of posts called "A Week in the Life" where I documented through photos and text our daily activities for a week. I got several comments from readers that they really enjoyed being able to share our days with us in this way and seeing how we were spending our time. Those posts were the inspiration for what I plan to do for the year 2018. Instead of linking up to a bunch of Facebook albums, I'll be taking you through "A Year in the Life" of the Campbell Family and Camp Bellevue. These posts won't have the same level of detail that the "A Week in the Life" posts had. But they should give a fairly accurate picture of the rhythms of our year. And maybe at some point in the future, I'll do another series of "A Week in the Life" posts that show our current life in Ecuador!

I'll be helped in making these posts by the photos we've taken over the past year, by my Facebook activity log (in many ways, Facebook functions as a sort of "mini-blog" for me), and also, by my 10-year journal. I started keeping this journal in 2011 -- writing 4 lines daily -- and it has proven to be a very good record of our family's lives and activities. (Side-note: the 10-year journal also makes a very unique and practical wedding gift to a couple just starting their life together!)

I hope you enjoy coming along for a year in our life!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Recap of 2017

It's a new year. It's 2019! The thought just boggles my mind. This year, Alex will become a teenager. Stephen will turn 10. Rusty and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage, and we will pass the 7-year mark of living in Ecuador. I certainly don't "feel" old enough to have been married two decades and be the mom of an almost-teenager. But the gray in my hair and the laugh lines around my eyes tell another story.

I've never been big on New Year's resolutions. As a perfectionist, I am prone to unrealistic expectations of myself and making New Year's resolutions just sets me up for certain failure, followed by feelings of guilt for not measuring up. I'm hard enough on myself without adding on that negativity. But as the New Year rolls around each year, I do like to think in terms of goals for myself, or habits that I would like to focus on. "Writing more" usually finds itself at or near the top of the list. For me, this can take many forms -- blogging and personal journaling being my two favorites.

In that vein, I decided it was time to finally get this blog updated, and then hopefully keep it updated going forward. Below, are links to various photo albums on Facebook that offer a "photo recap" of the year 2017. The first two are my personal photo albums (one focused on our life in Ecuador, the other on our 2.5 month furlough in the U.S.), while the rest are albums on either the Camp Bellevue or the Campbell Family in Ecuador Facebook pages. (You can like and follow us there to keep up with our ministry goings-on.)

***Please note: On my personal page, I have my privacy set to "friends only," so if you are not my friend on Facebook, you will be unable to view the first and second albums. The albums on our ministry pages are all public, and anyone can view those, even if you don't have a Facebook account.

2017 Annual Photo Recap
Furlough, 2017
After School Program, 2016-17
San Jose Chico House Project, 2017
Ecuadorian Missionary Retreat, 2017
Short Term Groups -- June, 2017
Family Mission Trip, 2017
Summer Camps, 2017