Ecuador, etc.

If you haven’t yet tried your hand at posting a blog  for every letter of the alphabet, you don’t know how difficult it can be to come up with something interesting for everyone of those darn 26 letters.

I’ve been scrambling to come up with something for “E“.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 21.08.26Embarrassment at falling flat on my face as David and I talked with a shopkeeper on one of the calles yesterday. (Yes, I’m fine except for swollen knee cap and bruised ego.) Escuela for Katherine’s school that has already (in just three days) shown itself to be a bit unorganized in terms of communication, organization and expectations. And, there’s always “etcetera” to cover myriad observations.

But at last it hit me…Ecuador.  The country itself.  The reason I write.  This place I call home. The source of so  much that is new.

The first time I became aware of Ecuador was in the 1950s. As a preacher’s kid, a child of missionaries and member of a family whose heart was in missions, I got on my knees every morning and, with my brothers and sisters, mom and dad and anyone else in the house, prayed for every single missionary my parents and grandparents knew around the world. We would go in turn, asking God to protect Alice and Bob, and Dorothy in Africa. The Hoyts in who-knows-where.  And “bless Jothi in India and keep him safe.”

Now Jothi wasn’t a missionary. He was an orphan being raised in an orphanage run by missionaries we knew. I remembered him with my family every morning and with other children in the church every Wednesday night and  Sunday night. After years of remembering Jothi in my prayers, I got to wondering whatever happened to him. He’d be about 65 now.

All I knew about Ecuador was from missionary tales and Life magazine. It was a land in desperate need for missionaries … a dangerous place requiring great sacrifices from men and women dedicated to spreading the Good News. Ecuador had the Amazon jungle where tribes of mysterious people lived far from civilization and  didn’t know God.

Ecuador was the site where five men were executed by Indians for no apparent reason at all. These deaths, widely publicized by Life magazine in 1956 made a huge impact on Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 21.31.49Evangelicals in the United States.  And on my familly. One of my sisters named her son after Nate Saint, pilot of the missionary plane who flew the team of four in to an area called “Palm Beach.” Books were written, a movie was released about the drama that unfolded. Elisabeth Elliot, widow of one of the slain men, eventually returned to the Huaorani people and became friends with those who had killed her husband. The lives of the families in that tribe were forever changed.

Today, anthropologists, sociologists and missionaries have disparate  views on the effectiveness or wisdom of having established contact with this isolated tribe — a people known for violence against both its own people and outsiders. Pros and cons weigh in on both sides. But a few things are clear. Even taking away the spiritual impact on the community,  the indigenous society experienced a significant drop in violence and hostility. Economic opportunities opened up that helped improve quality of life for future generations.

Operation Auca was the sum of all I knew about Ecuador. (Auca is a pejorative word for the Huaorani people, a modification of awqa, the Quechua word for savages.) So I had a lot to learn. And I am learning.

The Amazon (also called Oriente) is just one area of this amazingly diverse country.  The Sierras refers to  two ranges of Andes Mountains that run north/south through the country. This is where we live, tucked between the two cordilleras. The Coastal region provides plenty of beaches, fishing, surfing and year-round hot weather for those so inclined. The Galapogas Islands (all 17,000 sq. miles of them) sit 500+ miles off the coast of Ecuador, home to, among many other rare and exotic creatures, the blue-footed booby.  (How can one not smile when you say blue-footed booby?)

Today in my History and Culture of Ecuador class, I learned about the Canari people and their defeat by the Incas. And how, less than 100 year later, Spanish conquistador Pizarro overtook 80,000 Incas with only 115 soldiers and a priest. Friday we discuss the colonial period, pros and cons.

I sit in a cool, shadowy room on the second floor of a grand old building overlooking a cobbled street. Ten-to-fifteen feet windows sit in 12-inch thick walls. Wooden shutters with ancient iron closures block the sun. The patina on well-worn wooden stairs reflect years of wear and hint at many stories.

History is very much alive here. Down every street we walk. Around almost every corner. Inca ruins open to the public just down Avenida 12 de Abril. Free museums keep the past very present.

I feel exceptionally blessed to be here.

Hey, that’s another E word.   And I close.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “Ecuador, etc.

  1. What a wonderful post! I can see you in your shadowy classroom surrounded by history. Ever since reading about Charles Darwin and The Voyage of the Beagle I have wanted to visit the Galapagos Islands. I just have to persuade my husband who is getting over a back operation.

    Missionaries! A force for good or destroyers of culture? Certainly there is no one answer. I remember as a child watching slide shows of various missions overseas and in Northern Australia and not questioning their right to be there. Now of course we think so very differently about respecting other people’s beliefs but as you said, stopping people from killing each other is a definite benefit!

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    1. the building is quite old and full of memories–i can just feel it. the teacher is quite good. she is American (Boston) but very fluent in Spanish. has lived here quite a while and considers Ecuador her home. she makes the history so interesting. thanks again for reading and replying.

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  2. Nancy, you never cease to amaze with your wonderful descriptions of Ecuador and it’s history. It sounds more exciting every time I read your blog. Keep up the good work and remember not to give way to the thought that you can fall or be hurt. God is with you in a beautiful opportunity to prove all is blessed.

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