The Cajas and Our English Assembly/Guayaquil

Trip Start Sep 26, 2009
Trip End May 10, 2015

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Monday, August 1, 2011

Our landlord John took us up to the Cajas, or Cajas National Park to be exact, which is very close to Cuenca.  First of all, the highway that takes us there is quite nice, with it's guard rails, many reflectors and painted lines.  John was saying, that just 10 years ago or less, these roads were just dirt.  The way we went up to the Caja's is the way one would want to go to Guayaquil.  The park costs $2.00/person, but with that you receive a large, colorful map of the area with it's hiking trails, camping spots, along with some interesting facts.  You only pay if you visit the park, not if you just drive through.  Beautiful place however, lots of water, waterfalls and very green.  The visitors center is one you may want to spend some time at as well. Also up there, you'll see llamas running loose on the side of the highway.

Just before we entered the park, John took us to a popular little restaurant where we ate some local fish caught from one of the many streams.  The fish was trout, and prepared very well, even though from the pictures Fred took, it doesn't look too appetizing, but it was delicious.

Up there you'll see lots of pines trees in rows that look like they were purposely planted.  Well, because they were.  Why?  We were informed it was just because the government wanted to plant some forest.(?) The Cajas are at 4000 meters, so in the 13,000 plus or minus range.  It was pretty chilly up there. Actually, it has been pretty chilly even down here in Cuenca, which we have been told several times is unusual.  Cuenca is suppose to be in t-shirts right now, but instead we are in sweaters and jackets.  Actually, Cuenca is not suppose to get below 70 degrees.  So, as we have been told, the weather here is changing, but where isn't the weather going whacky.  I am very comforted by the scripture at Revelation 11:18 where it promises that God is going "to bring to ruin those ruining the earth".

While on the way up to the Park, Fred asked John if he wanted a bible study, as Fred had already given him the book: What Does the Bible Really Teach?.  We have gotten into several discussions and John has always enjoyed reading the bible and learning.  Anyway, he said that he would like a study very much.

Not going to bother with bottled water any longer.  Cuenca's water comes from the mountains and is then processed just like in the States, with the same standards, as I mentioned before. (Again, not the drinking water along the Coast.)  A lot of the bottled water in Cuenca, as a special news report brought out, is right from the tap anyway, if not actually contaminated due to the extra handling.  And let me tell you, the water is just so abundant in the Cajas, it actually comes out of the rocks, so a New Zealander friend told us.  John said, that at the higher altitudes, it is even safe to drink right from the streams, although I wouldn't.

However, water is not so abundant in our own homes at times!  Why?  Because just out of the blue, and without notice, they shut off the water.  Sometimes it can be for hours, and no city or neighborhood seems to be immune to a shut-off.  So, bottled water by the gallon or 5-gallon container with a dispenser, is a very handy thing to have.  Many houses have small cisterns hooked up to their homes for such occasions.

Learned the hard way that you should only have propane tanks that are of the same color in your home, because the white tanks are from one company, the yellow tanks are from another company and they will not interchange them.  Our neighborhood is serviced by the company with the white tanks.  John informed us of that fact and so took Fred somewhere to have our one yellow tank exchanged for a white one, for $1.00.

Now for the best part: Our District Assembly in Guayaquil!

Guayaquil is about a 3 hour drive, via the highway through The Cajas National Park.  We rented a van along with its driver for $12.00 per person.  The vans seat 7 besides the driver.  Originally, we had a van reserved through Azuay Tours, but that company not only messed up our reservation date, they refused to accept our large suitcases.  The very small suitcases, as the gal there told us, is their only exceptable size. A requirement they never even informed our friend of, who made the reservation, in the first place.  It was a good thing a small group from Canada showed up to rent a van to the District Assembly.  They were going to take a bus, but the bus terminal was shut down for a while.  Fine, we followed them down the block to Atenas Tours -- Remigio Crespo 12-26 y Sta. Cruz, Tel #: 074 041790/ 072 827621 or 072 842312.   Not only did they have vans and drivers on hand, they accepted our many large suitcases.  We had a good driver, so away we went.

Fred and I are used to mountain highways, so for us the trip was no big deal.  As I already mentioned, the curvy highway through the Cajas is a good one and will take you to Guayaquil.   However, we would not want to travel at night, as their passing habits, crossing double lines even on the curves, can put one a little on edge.  No pun intended.  There is also quite the thick fog up there, so leaving sometime mid-morning, we were told, is best.  But no matter what, you must drive through the clouds and it is a beautiful site, to see those puffs of white above and below you.

When we arrived at the flatland's, we felt very much like we were in the deep south, except with fields of bananas, cacao, and sugarcane.  Outside of Guayaquil, where we stayed, felt like the suburbs of Miami with its very attractive middle-class homes in gated communities, as well as very wealthy ones and lots of palm trees.  Not to mention shopping centers, malls, etc.  However, on the way to the Branch Offices/Assembly Hall there is a dangerous area that we had to pass through, and it looks awful.  In fact, the area is given a name I was told, (can't remember) that involves the word mortal.

It is interesting that many of these nice homes choose to not have their hot water heaters connected to the bathrooms or some, even the kitchens.  So we took cold showers each day, which really wasn't bad at all.  I did have to sleep with the air conditioner running in our bedroom however, even though I tried not to.

A young man, a dentist from Guayaquil, was put in our van as there was an extra seat.  Apparently, there was a shooting at the bus terminal that morning, and as a result was shutdown. This young man who spoke broken English, showed up at Atenas Tours needing transportation and so was put in with us.  When I told him that we were Testigos de Jehova, his eyes lit up.  His grandmother was a Witness and gave him about 5 books, which, as far as we could understand, he read.  But he does not have the Teach book.  If only one of us had the book in Spanish, he would of gladly accepted it.  Fred did take down his phone number, and we gave him an invitation, one in Spanish and one in English, to the District Assembly along with a tract in Spanish.  He appeared very interested in where he could attend a District Assembly in Spanish as he cannot understand English well at all.  He was also extremely helpful to us once we got near Guayaquil.  When he saw in what area 4 of us were staying in, he helped the driver drop us off at the McDonald's very near to the 2 families that were hosting us, instead of traveling all the way to the airport in Guayaquil to the van terminal, or wherever the drop-off point was.  Then we were picked up by the brothers hosting us, within just 10 to 15 minutes of arriving.

Betty and I had to get our McDonald's fix.  Let me tell you, this was a rather new and very large McD's,  It even had a full-service, separate espresso bar.  Yum, my Mac attack was satisfied. 

We cannot begin to express our gratitude for the hospitality extended to us.  We were taken such good care of.  From the elder in our congregation, who stayed right on top of things concerning our rooming and our transportation; to the brother in Guayaquil in charge of the rooming; to the families we stayed with, we were indeed well taken care of. Betty and Dan stayed with a couple, while we stayed with a wonderful family just five minutes from them.  What a wonderful, warm brotherhood we have, not to mention the warm Spanish culture.

The mom and dad where Fred and I stayed, gave up their bedroom for us.  Their two teenage girls speak English very well and what awesome girls they are, they are 19 and 17.  Mom spoke English pretty good too.  We just fell in love with the whole family.  We invited them to come to Cuenca and so hope they do come.  The youngest girl loves Cuenca, in fact, she loves the highlands.

Their dad, who owns and operates a school van, made sure there was either a hired driver, or a brother, or himself, available to drive us to and from the Assembly site each day.  Sat. and Sunday, in the school van as passengers, were a young single sister along with her two traveling companions (2 single brothers) all visiting from the States and traveling throughout Ecuador for one week; Dan and Betty, Fred and I, and four teenage girls. Each day, the brother asked for a prayer to be said before the van took off.  At the Assembly it was announced to always stay in groups; do not take any taxis off the streets; and do not take public bus transportation.  Bus transportation was provided for the brothers staying in hotels.

Fred and I, agreeing with the many comments we have heard, can't help but notice how different the teenagers and young children are here in Ecuador.  They are very well behaved and respectful; a pleasure to be around.  Samanta and Nicole had two of their young friends over who also spoke very good English and therefore joined us Saturday and Sunday for the Assembly.  Actually, one of the girls was born and raised in New York City and hasn't been in Ecuador very long, so of course, knows English.  They too are very sweet girls.

Our Assembly was just awesome. I don't know what else to say, it was awesome.  Just about all the speakers were either circuit or district overseers or long time missionaries in Ecuador.  What a treat.  Even the singing sounded amazing, and there were all kinds of accents spoken, many from Australia.  Friday afternoon we had 930 in attendance, and Sunday afternoon we had 1249 in attendance.  Two were baptized, a brother from California, and a brother from Nigeria.  Their names were announced from the platform, but now I can't remember them.

The weather wasn't bad at all; maybe a little hot in the afternoon but very bearable, even comfortable, with some nice breezes coming thru the open Hall now and then.  The weather at night was perfect!  Free coffee was provided every day.  Funny, we saw the Kirkland brand of coffee being served there, which is Costco's brand, as well as Gevalia coffee.  There is a water fountain there as well, especially designed to fill up water bottles with good cold water - it is safe to drink the water at the Branch.

The grounds around the Assembly Hall and Branch office are just beautiful, a paradise.  But of course, what else would you expect!  Actually, Ecuador is not far off from being a paradise already!  Such a beautiful, diverse country it is, with so many flowers, fruits, vegetables, mountains, beaches, jungles.  The country just needs for man's selfishness to go away and God's original purpose for this earth to be realized.

The drama went very well, the one Fred was in, presented by the Cuenca English Congregation.  Everyone did very well!  Both dramas at the Assembly were excellent. Loved them both as well as the audio drama on Friday.

We went back home Monday morning, instead of Sunday night.  We hired the same van company but it was just the four of us on the return trip, Betty and Dan, Fred and I.  We even had the same driver, the one that drove the 7 of us to Guayaquil Thursday morning!

Our landlord, John called Fred's cell phone Sunday night around 10:00pm.  I immediately thought that something happened, or maybe Milo got out somehow.  No, John knew we were at the convention but thought we would be home Sunday evening.  When he did not hear us come in and it was late, he said he got concerned.

The family we stayed with bought us a box of Cinnabon to enjoy on the way home.  How sweet is that!  Of course, we offered our driver a Cinnabon as well.

We had a wonderful time.  The Assembly was outstanding and we made new friends. 

PS:  They call them District Assemblies here, not District Conventions.  And starting from August 1st forward, in Spanish, Fred counted that there will be 57 individual District Assemblies in Ecuador.

Also, on the return trip home, we suspect that my two pairs of very cheap shoes that were inside a plastic shopping bag, as we had no more room in our suitcases, were taken by the guys who unloaded our suitcases from our friend's vehicle and into the Atena's van.  Whether they work for Atena Tours or not, we do not know.  All we know is, we did not leave them in our friend's car, as the trunk was thoroughly checked and I did not leave them at the friend's house where we stayed.  The contents of the bag were not really visible, as I had the bag tied well, or, believe me, there is no way they would of chosen to steal them, as the shoes costs like $3.00 each -- cheap plastic shoes from Coral Hipermercados- Ecuador's Walmart. So, who knows, that is all we can deduct for now.  Writing this so that if and when you visit Ecuador, just keep your eye on your goods at all times, especially when they are being handled by someone else.

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Eugenia on

Wonderful experiences and beautiful pictures...yes our family is wonderful. Question to which city should we fly into and then how do we get to your place?

Erika on

Your writing is very good. Makes me feel like I was there with You.
Very informative about all things.
Assembly is best ever this year.
Much Love and Prayers for you and Fred
He looked very good all dressed up. Erika

Jesse Lee on

Hi. My wife, kids and myself are currently need greeters in Panama. We are interested in moving to Cuenca, Ecuador and working along with the english. What is the status there in the english congregation. Elders, servants, publishers, etc? We are coming to visit in Oct. for the month. No arrangements as of yet. Any suggestions for renting a two bedroom? Is there more of a need elsewhere in Ecuador? We really like the idea of the cool weather. Please let us know and we look forward to meeting you when we are there. Agape, Jesse Lee

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