This is the Valley de los Chillos, where I will be living and working for the next year. This is also the view from the roof of my new “office building,” Manna Project International’s library where we hold nearly all of our classes and programs.
Being here is like floating through a dream. Mountains don’t soar like this in the states, at least that I have seen. The breeze carries whorls of fragrance from the eucalyptus trees, and from the distance the comforting scent of farmers burning their fields to the rhythms of the earth and sun, as they have for thousands of years.This is foreign to me, this idea of living a small-town life, this connection to communities built around commonality of place, and it is desperately, excessively beautiful.
I dream of waking up and spending quiet time in the morning hours on the roof with coffee and my Bible and this testimony to the goodness and beauty of God spread out before me. Yet, against this dreamy backdrop I am still trying to wrap my head around the reality of being here for an entire year, of making a home for myself here and working here. Like a tourist still I pull out my camera to take pictures of the mountains that will surround me 24/7 for the next thirteen months, so enthralled by the beauty that I promise myself I will never stop being in awe.
Manna is trying to bring us down from the clouds gracefully. For the past few days we have been shadowing the current Program Directors as they finish out their programs for summer break, learning all we can before we select which programs we want to take charge of. Even as we are finally starting to get into the nitty-gritty of what daily life will look like in the Valley, it has been hard to come to some sort of understanding that this is training for my first real jobs, and the next year of life working in community development here. My mind is filled with dreams about how to take programs to the next level, how to expand the work that the current Program Directors have started and how to impact even more people. My dreams could fill this whole valley, all of ours could.
Yet as we spend each day here, it’s the touches with the reality that are quickly becoming the sweetest. Something as simple as learning a few of the basic bus routes has given me immeasurable joy on top of my busy yet wonderful days. I know how to get to the Manna house, the Manna library, Spanish school, the supermarket… some of the routes that I will take daily for the next thirteen months. I have to say I am impressed with myself for these small accomplishments. I know they’re the start of something bigger, the daily process to build my life here.