Here’s a rundown on some of our favorite images from 2013. Just like for 2012, we decided to do the Top Twenty because we couldn’t decide on a Top Ten.
Enjoy & Happy New Year!
Mari & Paul
Best Vacation Postcard
Best Silly Moment
Best Mari & Paul Moment
Best Aerial Photo
Best Interacting with Nature
Paul and I recently traveled to Cuenca, a charming city in the sierra for the Festival de Artesanía de América run by CIDAP, the government ministry that supports artisans and the “popular arts.” The tents were all lined up on the river and we were lucky to have gorgeous weather throughout the whole event. Our booth was in the middle section of the above image.
Some of our best friends from Peace Corps live in Cuenca and it is also where I lived when I was a 16 year-old volunteer and where my host family (see above) from that summer still lives. So, besides presenting an incredible opportunity for Mujeres: Cambia, it was the perfect place to visit with friends both old and new and to celebrate my birthday! Here are a few highlights from the trip.
I can’t tell you the number of people who stopped and asked, “papel?” or “paper?” Yes, Mujeres: Cambia jewelry is made from paper! We were fortunate not only to find many new supporters but also those who acted as ambassadors and sent their friends to visit us throughout the festival. We loved seeing the happy customers walking around the fair and several came back by our booth to model their new pieces.
Leticia and Betsy were chosen as two of the featured artisans to give public demonstrations of their process. Above, Leticia explains the process of rolling paper beads to an enthusiastic crowd.
Betsy, Leticia, Paul, and I spent many long hours manning the booth together. It was nice to have time to catch up during our 11 hour days. In the end, all of the hard work paid off as the women earned over $2,500 in sales!
My amazing friends threw us a surprise baby shower complete with games (guess the number of candies in the baby bottle, among others), music, and Ecuadorian food. I was shocked but so happy to share this experience with the women from Mujeres: Cambia and with **Natalia**, my Cuencana host mom.
Besides our great friends **Clare**, **Nikki**, and **Steph** who live in Cuenca, **Jess** and **Khayla** also came into town for the festivities. On my birthday, we walked around town wearing tinsel antennae and taking silly photos.
I felt very special on my birthday as we celebrated a home-cooked lunch with our host family (the only candle we could find was the number 2!).
Every time we visit Cuenca we make an attempt to eat at Tiestos, a well-known hot spot. Finally, we were able to make it a reality with a birthday dinner there. Our favorite part of the meal (besides the delicious cake they gifted me) was the variety of delicious sauces that came with the bread and variety of salads that came with the main dishes. We can’t wait to eat there again!
All in all, we had a wonderful time on our trip and even managed to visit two museums, take a double-decker bus tour, and see two movies (one in 3D with Leticia and Betsy, their first ever!). We miss you already, Cuenca!
Last year we welcomed 2012 with this video post and in 2010 I counted down my Top 10 Images from that year. I had quite a few ties that time around so to save me from having to choose, I’m going to do the Top Twenty Images from 2012 (according to me).
Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!
Best Interacting with Nature
Best Ecuadorian Moment
Best Vacation Postcard
Best Group Photo
Best Aerial Photo
Best Night Photo
Best Boat Photo
Working with youth means that our workweek starts on Thursday, runs through the weekend, and leaves us with Tuesday and/or Wednesday as our “weekend” to run errands, catch up on household chores, and rest (what’s that?). Here’s what a typical week looks like for us right now:
In the morning we prepare our lesson plans and catch up on work. Mari teaches a craft class to a women’s group in San Pedro in the afternoons (not to be confused with San Pablo where Mujeres Cambia is located). The San Pedro women’s group is just getting started but with hard work and a little bit of luck it could grow to be another group like Mujeres Cambia. Time will tell! Right now we are working on paper crafts (other than jewelry) that we are hoping to sell in Salinas.
Paul either joins the women’s group meeting and/or has meetings with Neo Juventud staff and students about specific projects like painting and installing trash cans on the beach and training staff on accounting and marketing. Right now he is working with Fundación Neo Juventud’s Treasurer on the group’s books as well as training a new Palmar Pizza manager.
We usually have Mujeres Cambia meetings in the afternoon, which means preparing for them in the morning. Some days prep means printing out recent sales lists to give to the Treasurer while other times it means printing labels, folding brochures, editing organizational documents, and other oh-so-fun behind-the-scenes stuff.
At the meetings we take photos of new items for inventory, make labels, talk about upcoming events, review any social fund loans that are due, vote on how to spend group fund money, and share new designs. Last Friday we had a special activity: making Mujeres Cambia t-shirts! The women have been very excited to learn how to silkscreen and to create their very own MC uniforms. Uniforms are very big in Ecuador and are not just for students. Many professions and associations also have uniforms. Now we do, too!
Occasionally, as was the case last Friday, we are invited to events at night. Last Friday we celebrated the birthday of one of the youth group members with dinner, cake, and live music at the Center for Art & Design.
Saturday is our longest day because not only do we teach a class of kids in the morning, we have Open Studio Time after lunch and then a class of teenagers in the afternoon. To top that off, often we are invited to events on Saturday nights but sometimes we’re just too tired.
The lessons last Saturday included making line designs with the younger kids (I can still remember when I learned how to make line designs – my 5th grade math class!) and silkscreening and print-making with the older kids. We also prepared for a project to paint and install 10 trash cans on the beach.
Mornings are usually pretty lazy and laid back (thank goodness!) but we also have Open Studio Time at the Art Center after lunch and we teach a photography class in the afternoons. Our photo project in the afternoon consisted in taking photo montage portraits of class members.
Nights we usually have a Skype date with someone or we just cook dinner and relax. Once in a while we have a special event to attend with our host family like a baptism or a wedding. This past Sunday we exercised and then spent the rest of the morning preparing packages of Mujeres Cambia jewelry to send across Ecuador and to the US in time for Christmas. Once in a while Paul also has Spanish classes on Sundays with a friend of ours.
We have our weekly meeting with the President of Fundación Neo Juventud in the morning and the Mujeres Cambia meetings in the afternoons. Lately, we’ve been invited by the folks at a hotel in Salinas to have a table selling jewelry on some Mondays or Tuesdays. It has been a great opportunity for the women to practice selling to gringos – many of whom don’t speak any Spanish.
Our weekend starts! We sleep in a bit (if Max doesn’t wake us up barking) and then get stuff done like food shopping, laundry, cleaning, going to the Post Office, planning for classes and events, visiting the Vet with Max, and relaxing. Last Tuesday we took Max to be neutered, which all of our Ecuadorian friends think is rather odd. In addition, we went food shopping, saw a movie, and Mari got her haircut.
Depending on the week, we either have another day like Tuesday or we could end up with meetings for the youth foundation, impromptu Mujeres Cambia activities, or Spanish classes for Paul. Last Wednesday we had some Mujeres Cambia orders to fill so some of the women came to our town to drop off the goods before Paul had a meeting at Neo.