Travel with the Locals: Guápulo Park

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Guápulo is technically part of Quito, but it feels worlds apart. Quito lies in the narrow valley between two mountain chains. Guápulo is on the other side of the northern mountain border, on the way to Cumbaya, one of Quito’s suburbs on the plains outside its narrow valley.

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The town was established by the Spanish and later incorporated into Quito. But on this sunny December day, we headed for a new public park on the far side of the village. We would never have known about it if my sister and brother-in-law didn’t live there.

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According to the security guard who my dad made friends with, the land was formerly owned by the owners of one of Ecuador’s major banks. (UPDATE: Banco Popular.) They stabled their horses on the land. When things got bad with the economy (or they were about to get caught embezzling), the owners left the country (with all their millions, of course), and the land was seized by the government.

Today, it’s a lush hiking, picnicing and leisure area.

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After a stop for croissants, our gang descended Guápulo’s winding Camino de Orellana through the town, then up again to the park entrance. The path into the park was steep, but even the kids and grandpa could handle it. And everything was green and lovely, with eucalyptus trees lining the way, providing a soundtrack as the wind ruffled their leafy limbs.

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We stopped for breakfast at one of the picnic areas, and lazed about, enjoying the deep blue skies and warm sun on our faces.

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[Spoiler alert: I should have worn sunscreen.]

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But we were ultimately headed for the playground, so we continued on.

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It turned out to be one of the coolest playgrounds I’ve ever seen, with wooden structures, a zip-line and all the things, plus views of Cumbaya beyond.

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My dad always says he’d never want to be in one of the high rises peering down from the mountain ridge during an earthquake.

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We played hard (even grandma went down the zip-line!), and too soon it was time to head home for lunch and naps.

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So we climbed back up the path (those of us who don’t live at 9,200 feet altitude took it slowly). And we certainly were only able to scratch the surface of all the fun to be had at Guápulo.

Reconnecting with my Roomie in Salt Lake

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This summer we managed to make two stop overs in Salt Lake City to see my college roommate and her family. I met this woman as a scared 18-year-old college student, and we managed to stick it out together for four years. We went to each other’s weddings, visited each other in different countries and just managed to stay in touch all these years.

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So when the opportunity came to have our families hang out, we jumped at it.

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Julie graciously opened up her basement guestroom/playroom, and my kids thought they were in heaven.

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When we drove up into the mountains, however, I thought I might be in heaven.

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The kids got along famously well.

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And everything was so green, so green, you see.

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It was a welcome sight to our Oklahoma eyes. And the mountains were everywhere.

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And just when our hosts said, “Sometimes we see moose up here.”

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Baby moose alert! He/she let us get pretty close.

Because it was summer, the air was pretty dry, too. We came home dusty.

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(Probably not going to make the family Christmas card. But still so pretty.)

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It was so great to be with Julie and her family that we were sad to leave. But a week later, we ended up stranded in Salt Lake on the way home with a canceled flight. So we went back to Julie’s again. #bonusextranight

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(She has an etsy shop, with the most delightful baby items. They’re so cute they almost make me want to have another.)

Next up: they need to come to Oklahoma so we can show them some bison. Or something.

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A Life Well Lived

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I lost my grandpa today.

It’s a bittersweet feeling. He died doing what he loved: he suffered a heart attack while driving his motorcycle. He was 91 years old.

And what an exemplary life he lived. He was in the Navy and later the Foreign Service. After a stint in Israel and Jordan, he worked in Turkey where he met my grandmother. They moved back to his hometown of Miami, Florida. After they became believers early in their marriage, they dove right in. My grandma regularly had the neighborhood kids at their house in Miami where she taught them Bible stories and God’s truths, and my grandpa was active in the church. Their three kids were raised with missional hearts, and from a young age, my mom wanted to serve overseas.

I mostly knew them in the latter part of their lives, when after my parents were serving as missionaries in Ecuador, we often stayed with my grandparents while on furlough. My sister and I would live with them while my parents traveled and spoke in churches. My grandpa had a thick tickly gray mustache and often smelled of the sawdust from his woodshop.

After he retired, he and my grandma began a new career path. They bought an RV, which they towed all over the U.S. and Canada, spending months at a time serving at different organizations. They came to Ecuador several times while we were there. My grandpa would work in the hangar or on construction projects while my grandma volunteered in the school library.

As they traveled, they took each of their grandkids on a trip with them. In 1996, I spent a summer with them at the Wycliffe Center in England. Again, they modeled servanthood. My grandpa worked on a new building, my grandma reorganized the campus library, and I got assigned to gardening duty a.k.a. pulling weeds. It was a character-building experience for a 16-year-old. On weekends, we explored the country, while my grandpa figured out how to drive a stick-shift on the left-hand side of the road.

My grandma died of cancer in 2004 while I was volunteering with OM. But Grandpa Frank never stopped their ministry lifestyle. If there was a need a church, he was there. He preached every month at the truck stop, where passing truckers could spend their Sundays in a make-shift worship center. He went around to all of his neighbors and invited them to weekly Bible study at his home. Some of them came, and the group continued to meet regularly in his home for the rest of his life. I know my grandpa was instrumental in helping lead some of those men and women closer to Christ.

Since we’ve been in Oklahoma, my grandpa visited several times… driving the whole way from Florida on the motorcycles he had enjoyed his whole life. Everyone was amazed at how much stamina the 80-something year old man had.

He was a reader, consuming books and magazines and sermons. He read everything that I wrote, encouraging us. He supported me when I went with OM, he supported my sister when she joined a mission organization, and I’m sure he did the same for my cousins. I know it brought him great joy to see his grandchildren following the Lord.

Like I said, it’s a bittersweet feeling to know that he’s gone. I won’t see him again this side of eternity. But when I think about it, though my eyes fill with tears, there’s a smile on my lips. He died doing what he loved. He lived well, and he left a legacy of godly servanthood to follow.

You Can Take a Girl Out of the Jungle, But You Can’t Teach Her to Sled

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My one faithful blog reader (hi, dad!) complained about the lack of posts since Halloween. I have a few things to share – the rest of the Argentina/Uruguay trip, a trip to China and then all the in-between, but let’s wrap up last year with our 10 days in Idaho at my parent’s house.

Originally, it was just to be our family and my parents, but a last minute event allowed my sister’s family to join us from Ecuador.
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It was a little crazy with all the little kids running around, but it was so fun to have the cousins together. IMG_5191

This sledding adventure was near the end of our trip, but I know it was a highlight for J, and definitely memorable.

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We tried sledding a couple of years ago, but the kids got cold, and the hill wasn’t that great.
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This one turned out to be just perfect, and we finally figured out the secret to sledding: WARM CLOTHES.

How to DO Halloween

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This happened.

(Cute, color-coordinated costumes credit goes all to my mom, who hit the stores on Nov. 1 last year to score big for my kids me.)

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We trick or treated around our neighborhood. It was great, because there’s no other time when it’s culturally acceptable to walk up to someone’s home and ring the doorbell for no reason. (Unless you’re a salesperson, in which case no one wants you around, anyway.)

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In this, our second year knocking on the doors right next to us, it was fun to talk to neighbors who we rarely see, even though they live right down the street.

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J was so excited about it, because he truly “got it” this year, that if he’d ring the doorbell of houses that had their lights on, that someone would come to the door and hand him candy. R was kind of freaked about about it, but was still more than happy to keep taking candy after candy out of the bowls.

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And finally, my silly pumpkin won a contest! We got a commendation for our use of power tools. Go us.

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming for a Warm Fall Afternoon

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Fall in Oklahoma is quite wonderful.

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Warm days, cool nights. The afternoons smell like warm leaves. The nights are chilly, so you can bundle up in a warm blanket as you sleep and feel your cold cheeks outside the covers.

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The bugs (mostly) die, and it’s actually pleasant to be outside.

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The leaves turn goldens and browns. The grasses bloom and grow puffy tops.

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We’re right on the edge of a large national forest, and we don’t go there often enough. But today we managed to meet some friends there for a delightful afternoon walk. The kids had a ball running up the trails, picking up sticks and throwing rocks.

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And it was good to chat with friends who we don’t get to see often enough.

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It was wonderful and refreshing.

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And then on the way home the baby threw up all over her car seat and me, of course.
Too much perfection and we couldn’t grow as people, right?

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