Over the River and Through the Woods

Do you sometimes wake up and wonder what you are doing in the place that you are currently in? Well, this morning I woke up in Lima wondering just exactly what am I doing here. I could be in the states, working...making a decent living, and not having a worry in the world. But, instead I am here, in South America spending the little savings that I have giving all that I can to impact these people to possibly make their lives a little bit better. I believe that today is the first time that I have doubted my place being here...

On to happier things...we are finally in Lima! Liz counted 9 buses and 3 taxis, one unmarked car, and who knows what other type of transportation. We left Quito on Saturday...arrived in Cuenca around 2am on Sunday morning...slept for 6 hours and were off again. This is where the journey officially began...Cuenca 12pm...we left Katie who is flying out of Guayaquil tomorrow to wonder about the city and set off for Lima. Lima doenst look that far on the map but let me tell you...it is far! Super duper far from the northernmost part of Ecuador! First bus...Cuenca to Huaquillas...5 hours turned into 8...hours spent on the side of the dusty PanAmerican highway when the bus would only go in reverse. Not sure what happens exactly but something apprently was stuck...the driver got under the bus with a medal bar and started beating on something. As he was beating on whatever this something is the bus boy was jiggling the gear shift...eventually this worked and we were on our way. About 30 minutes later, on the side of a cliff the bus decided to suddenly reverse...once again we are on the side of the road while the bus driver and bus boy beat and bang trying to get it to go forward again. Unfortunately...or fortunately for our lives another bus came up behind and we boarded that bus to our destination. Only a few hours late we make it to Huaquillas...this is the boarder town between Ecuador and Peru...the bus boy throws our packs on the curb and takes off. We gather our belongings and go through customs...by this time it is dark outside and we are left with a few other people on the side of the road to catch a bus or car to take us across ¨no mans land¨ to the entrance of Peru. We run across the street and jump on a bus...hoping it will take us where we want to go. A few minutes later we arrive on a bustling street, once again with our belongings thrown on the curb. We try to get a taxi, instead he tells us that he boarder is just a few blocks and we should walk. Walking....with about 70 pounds on my back through the busy streets of a border town...in the dark...might not be the smartest choice. With no other options we walk...until a man asks if we would like a ride. Liz immediately sees his unmarked beat up station wagon and says under her breath that she wouldnt dare enter that car. So...we keep walking....and he keeps following us. In the end we got in his car...luckily we did because the border is not a safe place...he took us to the entrance of Peru and handed me his car key while we got our paperwork done. After he drove us all around Tumbes (the border town on the Peru side) trying to find us a bus to Lima. We got on the last bus leaving to Chaclayo (somewhere north of Lima but better than staying in the north)...thankfully! We made his day and he made ours! Super thankful for random persistent people!

Chaclayo took about 8 hours...throughout the night...landing us in a tiny bus yard at about 5 am. Fortunately we looked up and across the street was another bus and the bus boy was yelling that they were going to Trujillo...we threw on our stuff and borded yet another bus. Some hours later we had arrived...still not in Lima but slightly closer. By this time we realized that we had only used the restroom twice since the start of all of this madness. Liz cheated and went on the side of the road while we were waiting for the bus to be fixed....but I on the other hand had not relieved myself since about 3 hours into Peru. So, once before we left Cuenca at 12pm on Sunday then not again until about 11pm somewhere north of Mancora and then one more time before we arrived in Lima somewhere in the sand about 3pm on Monday. I do believe that a bladder infection might be in my future...lets hope not!

Once we arrived in Trujillo the bus boy told us to wait right there for a few minutes and there would be a bus to Lima...we were done with that bus line! Right next store were a few buses that looked a little nicer...were we wrong...oh well we borded and headed to Lima. Many hours later we arrived...about 7pm...we grabbed a cab and came to the convent where nice clean beds awaited us. While en route to the convent we realized that we had only eaten once since this whole fiasco started...cold bread with cold eggs at about 8 am on Monday morning. We were suddenly STARVING! After fighting with the cab driver on how much it would cost to get us here we very nicely asked him to stop somewhere...anywhere that had fast food. We ended up at a chicken place....Liz ordered the entire menu...and some. When she got back in the cab with the food we started tearing into those bags but decided to wait the 5 more minutes until we made it to the convent. The first thing that we did on arrival was throw down our stuff and stuff our faces like we hadnt eaten in days! since we hadnt...chicken and french fries and some sort of chocolate cake never tasted so good! How thankful we are for the little things!

Now we are in Lima....we just met Larry...the guy who started Solidarity in Action and we are going to get the low-down on what the next few weeks hold for us. We are super excited to see our orphans and get to help them out! Liz and I will be taking a few students (30 college students will be here for a few weeks working on different projects) to work over there with the kids! Cant wait to see those beautiful faces....and the smiles when we open the door! This is what we are here for! As for fun in the past week...since Katie was here we wanted to take her somewhere to see some other parts of Ecuador...we went to a cloud forest! It was beautiful...called Santa Lucia...is the first coop of its kind in Ecuador. It was started by 30 families...now only 3 farms remains because of the poor soil conditions but they focus on ecotourism. The cater to bird watchers but anyone is welcome to explore their protected land. After leaving at 4am from Pimampiro, arriving in Quito at 8am, then taking a bus to Nanagelito, then a taxi to Nanegal we arrived at the Santa Lucia office where a nice English lady met us. She quickly described to us the path that we would have to walk to get to the lodge and we reorganized our packs so that they were easier to carry (or so we thought that they were). We put on our rubber boots and jumped in the truck which took us to the first landslide.

Ecuador has been getting an unsightly amount of rain recently...so there are landslides everywhere. This made our hike to the top 4km longer than it should have been. Originally it should have taken us just over an hour to hike the uphill 2km but with the added 4 more it took us just over 3 hours. We carried two packs between us...thinking that this might have been easier...in the end Liz carried about 30 lbs and Katie carried about 25lbs. I carried it for awhile but apparently Im a sad sight carrying a pack uphill with rain boots and bad hips! Yes, my hips grind together when I carry my pack...always but especially uphill in rain boots! Liz is young and spry and she busted up that hill faster than I could go with no pack! On the way the road had washed out so now there is a river where the road used to be....the English lady told us to just ´take off our trousers and make our way across´. Hmm...fortunately the river was only about knee deep so no removal of clothes was necessary but I can only imagine the three of us with our packs taking off our pants to cross! When we arrived at the top...lemonade awaited us and warm showers! Our bungalow was amazing...overlooking the cloud forest...no electricity and only wildlife to enjoy!

¨All we have to do is understand that were all here for a reason and to commit ourselves to that. Then we can laugh at our sufferings, large and small, and walk fearlessly, aware that each step has meaning. We can let ourselves be guided by the light emanating from the Vertex.¨ What do you mean by Vertex? ¨In life too its the culminating point, the goal of all those who, like everyone else, make mistakes, but who, even in their darkest moments, never lose sight of the light emanating from their hearts. The Vertex is hidden inside of us, and we can reach it if we accept it and recognize its light.¨Paolo Coelho (The Witch of Portobello)