Rolling over on my bed I could see the alarm going off; just like usual – 5:50 AM. Sliding the bar on my smart phone to turn it off I (unfortunately) decided to tell myself to lay there for a few minutes more. Next thing you know it is already 6:15, “Dang it, I missed prayer again.” I have recently been falling into the bad habit of not waking up for prayer, and I am going to try to get back into it. Be that as it may that is how my day started off today, I would have also normally rode my bike to my Kung Fu class at 7AM but it was canceled today so I decided to just sleep in. Being that it was Monday I would also have normally gone to the Confederacion Del Iglesias Evangelicas after my Kung Fu class (it is a meeting of Ecuadorian Pastor’s from all over Cuenca from different Christian denominations) but I also was going to be missing that today.
Later on I had to be ready since Julia, the missionary from Ireland, had asked if I could help her move her washer and dryer into the house. BJ, a missionary from her organization, came over in his Jeep only to find out that no one actually knew where Monica (the woman who had allowed Julia to store her washer and dryer there) lived. “I know she lives that way at least” I said as I pointed off to the distance. Well, that was a start but it wouldn’t do. We decided we had better call Monica to find out exactly where she lived- only that when I called one of her kids answered and started to shout “Ya conteste, ya conteste” (I already answered, I already answered) adding to the confusion then hung up. I called back again and thankfully this time he handed the phone to Monica and we got the directions.
It took a little bit of creativity to get the washer and dryer out of Monica’s house, but passing it through the window worked perfectly fine. Two trips later and we were done. After that I decided to take a walk into town to Coffee Tree to do some studying. I headed over to the corner of the street on Solano and hopped on the bus number 22.
Taking the bus in South America is always interesting- but you can get around for pretty cheap (only 25 cents per trip) at least. If your hygenically sensitive I recommend you bring some hand sanitizer and a strong will, since the seats are always dirty, who knows where peoples hands have been (not to mention the familiar stinky sweat smell), but for the rest of us who don’t mind all that you just have to make sure you keep your bag or backpack on your lap so no one steals it. About five to seven minutes later (depends on how aggresively your bus driver drives, which is almost always bordering violent) you will have arrived to the corner of Solano and Benigno Malo, where I usually get off and stop at the bank then head up the stairs into town.
Before heading on into Coffee Tree though I decided I was a little hungry and didn’t want to pay the expensive price of food that they offer, so I stoped in to one of my least favorite (and least expensive, 1.25 for almuerzo) restuarant for lunch. One of the good parts about Cuenca is you can eat for pretty cheap, like I said 1.25 for lunch is pretty good right? And I have yet to tell you how much food comes with that. First course is always a bowl of soup (when you walk in you just sit down until a waiter comes, then you ask for almuerzo. Every day almuerzo is different, but you can’t change what they give you… you just accept it. Think soup of the day sort of thing) then comes the main course which is usually a huge pile of rice and then maybe a little bit of meat substance (I say substance because I often don’t know what it is) with a little bit of salad or veggies on the side and a glass of juice. Not too bad for 1.25 right? You have to not mind carbs though, because the typical Ecuadorian diet is 95% carbs.
Ok, so I am filled up on carbs and ready to go. Just in case your thinking “I can’t live like that!!!” don’t let that discourage you… there are plenty of upscale restuarants that are still much cheaper than those in the States to keep you busy for a lifetime. After paying my bill of 1.25 and without a tip (tipping is so North American, you only have to do it if you actually liked the service a lot but it isn’t required) I head on a little bit further down the street and decided to stop in at the place where I normally get my hair cut just to show you. It is one of the more pricey places since a hair cut cost 4.50, but hey you get quality work from a very feminine Colombian male, and say what you want but feminine Colombian dudes do good hair work.
Moving on I make it to the Coffee Tree, my home away from home. As I have said in previous posts I always feel the most comfortable in coffee shops, I love to study there and nine times out of ten I meet new people or the Lord opens up ways for me to minister there. It is one of the more expensive places in town to buy coffee (1.95 for a cappuchino) but it is also one of the only places in town that actually knows what they are doing. Surprisingly enough Ecuador does not have much of a coffee culture, most of the time they are happy with instanst Nescafe (pray for them!). On this day there just so happened to be a game that Ecuador was playing for the FIFA cup, so the city was in full celebration and people had gathered around to watch the game.
So, the party for the soccer game (football for you Brits) outside was getting a little crazy so I decided to head back closer to where I live to do some more studying and eat dinner at the Italdeli. In order to study I have to get out of the house since if I stay at the Pastor’s house there are too many things going on to get any real studying done, plus I like to go out instead of always staying in. Got to keep things interesting.
Well, that was enough studying for one day, and enough coffee for two. After that I decided to head back home to the Pastor’s house, yet on the way I ran into Basem again and invited him to a cup of tea in the house (It’s an Egyptian cultual thing, you always have time for tea).
After a cup of tea we had a church elders meeting (every Monday at 7 till about 9; at times we have even gone on till about 11 then have pizza after. I don’t understand it but some how Ecuadorians are both night and morning people… when do they sleep!?!!?). Where we talk about all sorts of things, and then sometimes about ministry, chendo (JK) these guys really work hard here and they really are a solid group. You can pray for them if you ever get the chance, their names are Pastor Freddy, Juanito, Eugenio, David Leon, Marlon, Kleber, myself and announcing the newest elder from the English service… Mike Grimm (we just jumped him in last night, he is a retired Air Force pilot from Arizona living here in Cuenca and has been a huge help to the English service).
Well, that’s about a typical day for me in Cuenca, but the truth is no day is typical. Every day is different. If you want to survive in South America (and even more so be in the ministry here) you have to learn to be very, very flexible. Time and apointments are relative. Contracts are more like suggestions. Planning isn’t to be done anymore than two weeks in advance at the most. So if you want to live here your going to have to leave a lot of your North American culture at home, or else you will just be grumpy all the time. It’s not that your habbits of timelyness are bad, in fact I think they are thought of as commendable by the Ecuadorian mind, but still it just isn’t how most things work down here. Remember that every time you go to a foriegn country you are their guest, not their boss. If I invite you to my house I expect you to conform to the manners and customs of my house, and you would be rude not to. When you enter a foriegn country you are a guest in their house, so mind your manners and learn their customs. The sooner you do, the happier you will be here. So on that note, come to Cuenca!!!! We are waiting for you!