Ecuador Recap: 5 Lessons Learned through Adversity

ecuador recap

I’ve put off writing this post because I haven’t had anything to say about Ecuador. I haven’t even wanted to think about it much less ruminate on our two years there, trying to conjure up some nuggets of wisdom.  If I were going to summarize our experience in Ecuador in a single word, it would be HARD. Just HARD. I wish this were a post about embracing the situation you’re in or how a gratitude journal saved my life, but it’s not.

As I  (jubilantly) awaited our final flight out of the Quito airport on June 25, I posted a stream of consciousness highlights reel on facebook:

Goodbye, Ecuador! We loved Galapagos, the jungle, Baños, El Monte, Narciza, beautiful scenery, pineapple and avocados on demand, favorite produce all year round, World Cup qualifying games, meeting the child we sponsor, drinks on the lanai, Parque Metropolitano, our bronco, our families visiting, and our neighbors!”

There were moments of inspiration, but the other side of the beautifully instagrammed and facebooked photos was the most difficult two years I’ve experienced for no reason at all. And before I go any further, here’s my disclaimer: We are tremendously blessed. I know that so many people experience things incredibly difficult, far more difficult than what I’m describing. Things like cancer. Heartache. Poverty. Loss. I get that. Our situation was nothing in comparison, but it was difficult for us. And at the risk of sounding whiny, I want to document it.

On paper, Ecuador seemed as though it would be “easier” than Egypt- greener, cleaner, quieter, with less pronounced gender, religious, language and, perhaps, cultural differences.  After Egypt, I was ready for easier. The reality of Ecuador couldn’t have been more different. It’s almost laughable now to recount our first moments in Ecuador, but they were a foretaste of our entire two years. We went apartment hunting for over two weeks, toured 33 apartments, and our only real option was still significantly out of our price range. We spent over $12k on necessities: basic appliances (everything from a washing machine to a range and oven) and the most basic of furnishings almost as soon as we stepped off of the plane. The only thing kept us afloat was the generous wedding gifts from our friends and family. Upon arrival, the government canceled most of our school holidays, including Christmas. It took three months to open a bank account, eight months to buy a car, yet our electricity was cut off within 24 hours of non-payment for a bill we never received.

We found our place of employment to be nothing as advertised. We were lied to and bitter about it. I hated my job. I felt purposeless at work.  We worked more and accomplished less than anywhere else I had taught. I lost my “voice”. As a result I burned with anger, feeling as though I was stuck in a “box” that other people had created for me.

I was altitude-sick for two years. My body hurt all the time. I didn’t sleep well, waking several times per night, and never having REM cycles. Getting up each morning felt as insurmountable as completing an Ironman triathlon. I was physically exhausted. We struggled through our first year of marriage. Fuses were short; misunderstandings were common; feelings were hurt, DAILY. The usual first year of marriage adjustments were compounded by a situation we both didn’t like. I entered counseling. I wanted to cry, but had no tears.  People who knew me in Ecuador only knew a certain version of me, a version I didn’t even like.

Thankfully, I didn’t come away from Ecuador empty handed.  As reluctant as I have been to admit it, there were some valuable lessons learned:

1. Sometimes you just need a change of scenery. Not every time, place, job, situation, relationship, country, culture is for everyone. It takes courage to realize a situation is not for you and to find something different. (Obviously, I’m not talking about my marriage here :)

2. Taking care of yourself is paramount. Rest is incredibly important. And nothing is good without it. When I’m well rested, I take care of myself better in other areas too. These days, I’m sleeping long, eating well, exercising my body, and setting aside time to cultivate my mind and my interests.

3. Find inspiration around you. Ecuador helped me learn that my soul needs a creative outlet. I sought refuge in hobbies. I learned how to knit, started my first quilt, and dabbled in home decorating. I’ve become intentional about finding the beauty around me and am inspired by it. These days, I am resurrecting my blog, recuperating my piano skills, and starting a side business that excites me. I challenge myself through the things that interest me and say no to things I don’t want to do.

4. You don’t have to be stuck in a job you don’t like. Life is too short to be miserable in a profession that you find wholly unfulfilling. It is possible to make a career that you enjoy. I’m inspired each day by people who pursue their dreams and passions and I believe it now. I’m not there yet, but I’m working toward it.

5. A difficult season makes the next season stand out with even more brilliance. Everything now seems bright, sunny, positive, and incredibly easy in comparison. I’m able to cherish each moment of our return to Egypt and fully live in the present because it’s just so wonderfully different. It’s not easy, but it’s not the past two years.

I’m thankful for these lessons learned. But I’m also thankful for the transience of our international lifestyle. There is great freedom in leaving hurts and disappointment all behind and starting afresh. So, here’s to a clean slate!

 

On the move…

globe questionThe Klinks are officially on the hunt for a new location! We will not be returning to Ecuador next year. However, we won’t be moving back to the States just yet. So…where in the world? We’re hoping to find a place we’ll both be happy to stay for several years. In January, we will attend a job fair in Bangkok where Mr. Klink will look for a new job. I will explore opportunities outside of teaching. In the meantime, we are updating resumes, searching job databases, filling out applications, and planning for the exhausting process of moving, but we think it will be worth it.  Photo source.

 

 

 

Ten Pins- #2

Lots of activity on Pinterest this week- recipes for every dessert bar imaginable, how to get your toddler to do chores, how to be successful on Etsy, instructions for 25 DIY Christmas ornaments, and a plethora of baby nursery ideas. I probably pinned it all, because who knows when I might need that? 😉

These are among my favorites and things I might actually be inspired to try out.

1. How to get cheap flights on the internet: I’m curious to try this out!

cheap flights internet

2. A good word: 

do what you can

3. Salt and vinegar kale chips: Now that I have a reliable kale supplier in Quito, I’m ready to find some recipes. I like the idea of kale, I just hope I like it when I start eating it regularly :)

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4. DIY Toilet fizzies:

toilet fizzies

5. Healthy palak paneer from Pinch of Yum (one of my favorite sites!):

palak-paneer-5

6. Thanksgiving leaf banner 

thanksgiving leaf banner

7. DIY mosaic table: Nice idea, but I bet I could make mine prettier 😉

mosaic table

8. Homemade red enchilada sauce

red enchilada sauce

9. Plank- the right way

plank

10. Paleo pumpkin pie ice cream: I pinned so many things from Elana’s Pantry this week. I’m so inspired by her recipes!

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H-E-B’s Rotisserie Chicken Salad {Copycat Recipe}

I had forgotten how much I love H-E-B‘s (my favorite everyday grocery store in Texas) rotisserie chicken salad until I was brainstorming ideas for Mr. Klink’s lunches. I googled and found this recipe for the H-E-B rotisserie chicken salad and gave it a try. This recipe is as close as I’ve been able to come to the original (and Mr. Klink gave it rave reviews), though it’s still missing something. If you figure out the missing ingredient, I would love to know!

HEB chicken salad

HEB’s Chicken Salad
Adapted from this recipe

1 rotisserie chicken (original flavor), chopped or shredded
2 large celery stalks, chopped
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Tabasco sauce
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
handful of cilantro, chopped
1 T. green onion, chopped

Combine chicken, celery, onion, cilantro, and green onion. Stir together mayonnaise, sour cream and spices and add to the chicken mixture. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Ten Pins – #1

Since I spend quite a bit of time on Pinterest each week, I’m shamelessly copying (or let’s just say I’ve been inspired by) this idea. Here are ten of my favorite pins from this week.

1. Fabric on the wall: Since we’re vagabonds for the foreseeable future, I’m on a hunt for creative (temporary) solutions for white walls.

fabric on the wall

2. Cajun Shrimp & Grits: because I love shrimp, grits, and Cajun!

cajun shrimp and grits

3. Color Wheel Trivets: These are adorable. Serious inspiration for an upcoming project.

color wheel trivets

4. Bare legs and boots:  I love the edginess of this look- the boots, the leather jacket, and the frilly dress. Good thing it’s always boot season in Quito.

bare legs and boots

5. Baby girl’s nursery: So this pin obviously needs a disclaimer (and primarily for the potential grandparents): I AM NOT PREGNANT. But this color palette- navy, coral, antique gold and white- WOW! I also like so many of the soft, feminine touches in this nursery. An idea like this might almost inspire me to 1) use wallpaper and 2) find out the baby’s gender if I were pregnant…which- have I mentioned- that I AM NOT?! :)

navy coral gold palette

I don’t love the artwork they’ve chosen, but I am a fan of the subtle turquoise touches here:

coral and navy nursery 2

6. Anniversary gift: 

anniversary gift

 

7. Housewarming gift: Because I’ve always wanted to be the person that has a perfect little gift for every occasion. Or maybe I just love the glass jar.

housewarming gift

8. Turmeric sun dressing:  because this one could be awesome or awful and is begging to be attempted.

turmeric sun dressing

9. Five Ways to Enjoy Hand Washing Dishes:  I could have come up with these. But I didn’t. Because I hate hand washing dishes. So this is more of a pep talk for me because when you live overseas, you hand wash your dishes.

EnjoyHandWashingDishes_pixabay

10. Copy Cat Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies: completely naughty, but doesn’t your mouth water just looking at that picture?!

oatmeal cream pies

P.S. Pinterest HAS been known to be drunk. This site is hilarious!

Our Wedding: Flowers and Cake

I had originally planned for the next installment of this wedding series to be on my wedding stationery. However, we are traveling and away from my photos so the plans have changed!

So on to flowers. When we started the planning, I didn’t know much about flowers. I knew the overall look I was hoping to achieve which was an elegant all white/cream palette and preferably just a bouquet of peonies.

Perhaps something like this?

white-peonies

source: theknot.com

Andrea (my sister) and my mom chose Dream Bouquet after visiting a large bridal extravaganza in Houston.  Fairly soon into the plans it became clear that peonies were not an option. They were not in season and the florists at Dream Bouquet would not even use them out of season because they had not held up well at another wedding. There was some mild disappointment on my part, but I moved on. At that point, since I was back to the drawing board and had no idea what I wanted, I handed over complete control to my stylish sister to make the flowers happen.

And make it happen, she did. On my wedding day, I saw my bouquet for the first time. I could have cried because my bouquet was PERFECT- elegant, fragrant, and everything I wanted but couldn’t verbalize. My bouquet consisted of white peony, hydrangea, white vendela roses, dendrobium orchids, and gardenia (a favorite of mine!). It was such a pleasant surprise to find out that that Dream Bouquet was able to incorporate a few peonies into my bouquet. The gardenias were an extra special surprise. As it turned out, the roses were from Ecuador which was fun!

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source: Scott Kelley Photography

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source: Scott Kelley Photography

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source: Scott Kelley Photography

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source: Scott Kelley Photography

For the bridesmaids, Andrea chose a bouquet of white hydrangea, vendela roses, and dendrobium orchids.

 

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source: Scott Kelley Photography

Mr. Klink and his groomsmen had boutonnieres of white dendrobium orchids. Mr. Klink’s grandmother’s corsage was also white dendrobium orchids.

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source: Scott Kelley Photography

 The mothers carried single vendela roses.

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source: Scott Kelley Photography

The flowers for the cake were white hydrangea, ivory roses, white classic mum, and white dendrobium orchids.  Speaking of CAKE, my wedding cake was by Finale by Glenna. It was a rich carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and vanilla buttercream on the outside. And of course as far as the design on the outside, my only requirement was elegant. My mom and I poured over several wedding cake pictures. Working with Glenna, she pulled together this design with our monogram (which has always been my monogram, by the way :) and chocolate brown color. Like the flowers, I outsourced the cake design (this time to my mom) so the outcome was a complete surprise to me! I couldn’t have been more pleased with both flowers and cakes.

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source: Scott Kelley Photography

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source: Scott Kelley Photography

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source: Scott Kelley Photography

Andrea and mom had the brilliant idea of a travel suitcase sitting on a map of the world for Mr. Klink’s groom’s cake in our (mildly) travel themed wedding. They picked out places Mr. Klink had been or (in the case of Ecuador) was soon to visit and found a picture for each that would become the “stickers” on the suitcase.

travel sticker 1 travel sticker 2travel sticker 3travel sticker 4travel sticker 5atravel sticker 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing, no?! The cake was vanilla with vanilla buttercream icing- exactly what Mr. Klink wanted.

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source: Scott Kelley Photography

Both cakes were as delicious as they were beautiful and- as I can attest- delicious even a year later.

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source: Scott Kelley Photography

Posts in this series:

Our Wedding: Venue
Our Wedding: THE DRESS and My Bridal Style
Our Wedding: Bridesmaid Dresses, Accessories, and Gifts
Our Wedding: Flowers and Cake

1st Anniversary

Mr. Klink and I celebrated our first anniversary on July 15th. We spent a low key day in Houston at my parent’s house just laying around. We celebrated the day with an elegant dinner at the restaurant where we hosted our rehearsal dinner.

After dinner, we enjoyed the top layer of our carrot wedding cake. It was actually quite delicious!

2013-07-15 23.35.48

Since it was our PAPER anniversary, and since Mr. Klink is quite the writer, I gave him this journal.

Here’s to many more!

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June Photo-a-Day

June’s FatMumSlim photo-a-day. So much fun! Play along here. Follow me on instagram here.

JUNE-PHOTO-A-DAY_zpsda153a55

 

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source: Emily Kinison via Printsgram

June Photo-a-Day Captions (left to right):

1. B is for our new BALCONY furniture.
2. A MOMENT organizing scarves. And picking a favorite is like picking a favorite child!
3. ON THE TABLE. 
4. Blogging is what I did today AFTER DARK!
5. We may not have academic or behavior standards but our school sure does love the ENVIRONMENT! Middle school garden/greenhouse.
6. TRANSPORT.
7. The BRIGHT spot in this school year just moved back to China. Sad day!
8. My favorite ANIMAL.
9. FROM DOWN LOW.
10. You (ME!)
11. Ecuador vs. Argentina tonight! If only they put this much effort into their schoolwork. :/ SOMETHING FUNNY(ish)
12. Empty classroom at 11AM– my favorite!
13. Light and bright KITCHEN.
14. “TEXTURED” wall in the guest room.
15. Quito FROM ABOVE in Parque Metropolitano.
16. FAMILY.
17. Not CENTERED but interesting park statue.
18. STREET view.
19. CURRENTLY READING.
20. These kids planned a “surprise” bday party for me- complete with two kinds of cake, snacks, balloons, birthday songs, a card, and a gift. Can’t get over how CUTE (and well-executed) it was!
21. He and his mom made my favorite Brazilian treats for my birthday lunch(time)!!
22. ENJOYING LIFE!!
23. Enjoying the LAST drink on our beautiful lanai until August :) Texas, here we come!!
24. NEGATIVE SPACE
25. SHARP beak on a SHARP new pillow cover.
26. Not so EMPTY suitcases because we’re ready to say hello again to warmth, shorts, sandals, and good restaurants!
27. INTO THE (Quito) SUN , enjoying a granizado.
28. RED sashimi grade tuna- I’m going to eat this whole thing!
29. Fabric for cloth napkins currently INSIDE my (laundry) BAG!
30. Loving this HANDWRITING courtesy of @jillzybean