Archive of ‘Adventures In…’ category

The Trauma of Being a Woman

These posters were drawn by artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh and hung around major U.S. cities

These posters were drawn by artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh and hung around major U.S. cities to raise awareness about street harassment.

This semester in Quito I am volunteering at an organization called CEPAM, information pills which is a center the promotes the welfare of Ecuadorian women. The organization does research, phlebologist writes books, treatment and does community projects to educate people about gender violence. They also offer legal and psychological help to victims of domestic violence and other forms of abuse. One day in a staff meeting one of the women asked me what I wanted to do for a career and I answered trauma therapy. And she made a joke about the “trauma of being a woman.”

The trauma of being a woman has never been as apparent to me as it in now, living in Ecuador. There have been some times in my life that I’ve felt the trauma of just existing in a woman’s body–when I’m not affirmed as a leader at church because I’m a woman, when people don’t take me seriously because I’m just a girl, when I struggled for 12 years with horrible body image and an eating disorder partly because of society’s pressure for women to look perfect and skinny–but I’ve never felt it so acutely and so regularly as I do here in Quito.

Everywhere I go in Quito, I can expect to have men staring me down and making comments on my appearance as I walk by. This is absolutely constant and an every day occurrence. It makes it absolutely exhausting to go anywhere. Whenever I step outside of my apartment, I have to prepare myself. Anywhere I walk I have a blank expression on my face, I look straight ahead, and I do not smile or respond to anyone. I don’t like living like this. I enjoy smiling at people when they walk by and maybe saying a “Buenos días” as I pass people. But I can’t do that here because I don’t want to encourage any of the men who are staring at me and I want to try to avoid seeing the looks they give me and ignore the whistles or things they say. And it’s really hard.

For example, on a normal day the building manager who always greets me in the lobby calls me, “mi niña bonita” (my beautiful girl). Then I leave the apartment and walk to the bus where men either stare at me, very obviously, the entire time I walk by or whisper comments like, “Qué deliciosa” or “tstststs” in my ear as I walk by. Oh and let’s not forget the classic whistling. Then once on the bus I face other challenges. Besides having to be aware that at any moment someone could try to steal something from my bag (pick-pocketing is huge here), I have to navigate the uncomfortable situation of men who have absolutely no sense of personal space. One time I got so flustered by a guy who was standing pretty much on top of me that I got off at the wrong bus stop because I needed to get off the bus. And I’ve been lucky that so far I haven’t gotten groped or grabbed like several of the girls in our study abroad group. We’ve had experiences where Ecuadorian guys take pictures of us without our permission or friend us on facebook and then do not stop messaging us.

For anyone who’s reading this and thinks that I’m making too big of a deal out of this or that I should take it as a compliment that these guys are noticing me have clearly never had the experience of being victimized and objectified. I do not feel special when a guy comments on my appearance. What I do feel is objectified, as if I’m only walking by for his enjoyment and not because I actually have important things to do that day. I feel unsafe. I feel gross. I do not need the approval of random scumbags men on the street.

The thing is, street harassment happens everywhere, I’ve just been lucky enough to have not experienced it in the other places I’ve lived. Latin America has a machismo culture in which men think that being a man means harassing women. In Ecuador I see such an ignorance surrounding this issue. My family in Quito was telling me that on the coast on Ecuador there’s a lot of this sort of cat-calling, “Not like here in Quito where that doesn’t happen.” And I sat there dumbfounded. Let’s STOP saying that street harassment doesn’t happen and let’s STOP saying that it’s a compliment to women.

Why am I sharing all of this? It’s not to make you feel sorry for me or to make you worried about me or to make you scared of ever visiting Ecuador. I’m writing about my experience to raise awareness that street harassment is very real and many women have to deal with it every day. We need to do so much to educate young boys how to treat women with respect and to educate women that they deserve so much more than cat calls. To women who are being catcalled–stay strong and please keep the conversation going. To men who harass women or think catcalling is ok, please stop and please listen and understand what we’re communicating. I’m a real person. I have value. I deserve respect and to be able to walk in peace.

Life in the Clouds #ecuadorgroupselfies

This past weekend has been super busy and really fun! Saturday we went on a Quito City Tour with our BC group. I walked with another girl who lives close to me to the fútbol stadium a few blocks away where we all met up and got on our bus!

The first place we went is called El Panecillo and it’s a huge hill that gives you a great view of the city.


At El Panecillo is a huge statue of the Virgin Mary, tuberculosis who protects the city. Those tentacles she’s stepping on represent demonic forces/Satan that she has crushed. At the time of the statue’s installation, resuscitator the Virgin was facing the entire city and protecting all of Quito. But since then, more has been added to Quito and much of it is impoverished housing. So the people who live in that part of Quito say that she has her back turned to them.


Then we headed to the Historical Center of Quito, which was super pretty! There were lots of colorful houses. We saw the President’s house (top left)–it’s not where the President lives, only where he works. We also visited two churches–La Iglesia San Francisco and a Jesuit church as well, both built around 1570. They were both absolutely beautiful and so ornate–everything was coated in gold. We ate at a restaurant here and it was super rico (yummy). Steak is pretty cheap here so almost all of us had it and it was quite tasty!

8.23.6Then we headed to the volcano Pululahua. This volcano is still active, although there hasn’t been an eruption in around 500 years. Still I would not want to take the risk that a whole community is taking by living and farming inside this volcanic crater! Yes, that’s right! The elevation is so high that we were literally standing inside a cloud which was both amazing and cold. At first we couldn’t see anything inside of the crater:

8.23.4But then the wind shifted and we got to see a little glimpse of the community that lives below:

8.23.3That was a really special view :)

I’m really loving the group of BC students studying abroad with me and I feel like they get me because they are totally on board with my love for group selfies! Here was our first group selfie. Everything is white around us because we are in a cloud! (You can find us at #ecuadorgroupselfies).

8.23.1After this we went to La Mitad de Mundo, the center of the earth! I’m so happy I wore my pretty sandals because I, of course, had to take a picture of my feet as I straddled the equator.


And here we had to do our second group selfie :) Of course you can’t really tell where we are but oh well!


Last night most of us went out to the Foch, which is the area of clubs and restaurants. Yes, guys, I went clubbing. So not in my comfort zone but I actually had a lot of fun :)

Today we went to Papallacta, which is a hot spring that is fed by waters heated by a volcano! I don’t have a picture of it but just imagine crowded outdoor hot tubs. It was nice but we were scheduled to be there for 5 hours which was a little overkill! We stayed a couple hours and then took our bus back and then got ice cream at the mall. Today we did another group selfie, this time on the bus with “not-impressed” faces in response to the Papallacta thermal waters. Although I enjoyed myself :)

8.24.1I can’t believe I’ve only been in Ecuador for a little over a week. It feels much longer! Classes will start this Wednesday and I’m excited to get into more of a routine here.

God continues to be so faithful to me here. I’ve continued to have sweet times with the Lord and today I finished reading The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis. It was one of the best things I’ve ever read. I’m so glad my friend told me to read it since so many people write it off and skip it when reading the Chronicles of Narnia. Don’t skip it, people! There’s one chapter with Aslan that is so powerful–I was blown away by the goodness of God and just crying at how amazing He is. I feel like it added a lot of insight for my Lion of God research, which I’m loving :) I have a lot of blog posts I want to write and I’m going to try to alternate those with my Ecuador updates. Thank you all who keep checking in on me and praying for me! God is so amazing and so good and He keeps surprising me and amazing me with his love and affection every day :)

My First Days in Ecuador

The view from my living room

I’ve only been in Ecuador for 3 days but it feels much longer! My flights on Saturday all went well. In Miami I met up with two other BC girls who are studying abroad with me and so when we got to Quito we were able to navigate immigration and customs together, dosage both of which were super easy. Our host families were waiting for us at the airport and greeted us with hugs and kisses. I rode to my new home with my family. I live in an apartment in the northern part of Quito with my host mom and two of her three kids–a 24 year old son and 29 year old daughter. They are all super sweet! There is also another daughter who lives on her own with her almost 3-year-old son.

The apartment is really nice–I have my own bedroom and bathroom which is awesome! Sunday was my first full day here. I woke up and showered. The shower was pretty cold which I found out was because the water is heated electrically and needs 3 hours to heat up! I was glad to know not all of my showers will be cold. My host mom made pancakes for breakfast which were delicious and after we all left and when to the market. The market we went to was really large and they sell pretty much everything. We were there to buy fruits and veggies. There were a ton that I’d never seen before! In Ecuador it’s super common to make your own fruit juices and so we bought naranjilla, breast which is a fruit native to this region, drugs to make into juice. We drank that with dinner–I thought it was good and reminded me a lot of dragon fruit.

Las naranjillas are the orange fruits above the onions. The red fruit above the naranjillas is called tomate de arbol and is another fruit from this region. I haven’t tried it yet, though.

After the market we went to Itchimbia, which is a park at the top of a hill so you can see all of Quito. That was pretty awesome! At itchimbi there is also a building called the Palacio de Cristal where there are art exhibitions. We flew a kite at the park–it’s super windy here and colder than I was expecting! The highs have been around 70 degrees.

Our kite--Cometa

Our kite–Cometa

Yesterday we went to our school, la Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ). The university is in Cumbaya, about a 40minute-1 hour bus ride away. Our host moms went with us on the bus to show us the way. I take one bus for 2 stops and then get on another that brings me to Cumbaya. I have several other girls who live close to me so we can take the bus together which is good! The busses are pretty easy to navigate. The driving here is a little on the crazy side but not nearly as bad as in Haiti (but that’s not saying much at all!).

We got a quick tour of USFQ (which is very pretty) and then started our BC orientation and also took a Spanish placement test. This next week we will be taking an intensive Spanish class with the BC coordinator to help us especially with grammar. I definitely need the help!


USFQ–Aren’t these mountains unreal?

Every evening I eat dinner with my family. A lot of the host families don’t really eat dinner–they have a large lunch and then something small for dinner. But my host mom is from the coast of Ecuador and there they eat 3 large meals a day, ha! So I get to have dinner with my family, which is nice. A normal dinner always has soup and rice and also meat (usually chicken) and veggies, plus fruit juice to drink. During the weekdays for breakfast I’ve been eating bread with cream cheese and jam along with fruit. My host mom is always trying to get me to eat more! We eat lunch at the school–there are a ton of restaurants nearby. Today I had a crepe with nutella and strawberries. It was THE BEST. I’m so glad nutella is a thing here!

Quiet time with Froggy and Olaf!

The whole time I’ve been hear I’ve felt like the peace of the Lord has been over me. This adjustment has been better than I could ever have imagined and I know it’s because of all the prayers that I and others have prayed over this time abroad. For all of you who have been praying for me, THANK YOU! Your impact has been immeasurable. I continue to be blown away by the faithfulness of God. I’ve had sweet quiet times with the Lord each morning and am starting to study the image of God as a lion in scripture. This is a picture that has been significant for me this past year and keeps coming up, so I’m excited to see what God has to teach me :) I’ll probably blog about what I learn as well!

The physical adjustment to Quito has been a little harder than expected. My migraines haven’t been worse than usual (praise God!) but I have still had them. The altitude (over 9,000 feet) has made me feel really tired and also has made it hard to breath. My first two days here my heart started racing whenever I did anything the least bit active (aka make my bed) and my chest feels really tight when I breath, which I’m not so much a fan of. I also haven’t had much of an appetite. These side effects should hopefully be completely gone in the next few days!

Funny story–in my last post I wrote about how God told me to study abroad in Ecuador. I was really excited to come here but my first question was, “God, is it humid there??? Please don’t send me to a humid country!” Praise God for his faithfulness in the little things because Quito is super dry! This is great news for my hair but means I’m always thirsty and always need chap stick. But let’s be real, I only really care about my hair ;)

Right now I am watching Catching Fire en espanol on Netflix. Ecuador Netflix is sooo much better than in the U.S.! There are so many more options. It’s the best. Lots awaits me the next few weeks–lots of traveling, getting to know Quito better, the official USFQ orientation, and the beginning of classes! I’ll be sure to keep you updated on it all :)

The Start of My Adventure!

adventures in ecuadorTomorrow morning I am leaving for Ecuador! I will be studying abroad in Quito for my entire Junior year.

Several years ago I applied to be a part of a National Geographic student expedition where I would have the opportunity to travel to another country and do photography. I had to choose with countries I wanted to go to most and for some reason my first choice was Ecuador. I knew nothing about Ecuador and to this day I have no idea why that was my first choice (when I had other options like Spain, dermatologist Italy, web Australia, plague Iceland, etc. to choose from). But Ecuador was my first choice! However, I ended up not getting a scholarship to go and so I didn’t go to Ecuador.

A year or two after that, a group of people from my church were planning a mission trip to Ecuador and I was ready to go. However, the mission trip never materialized and so I didn’t go.

A few weeks into my freshman year of college I was in bed getting ready to fall asleep when God said, “Why don’t you study abroad in Ecuador?” and I said, “Sounds good!” The next day I looked up my university’s study abroad programs and turns out there was one in Ecuador and it had everything I wanted–a host family program, awesome trips, everything in Spanish, and a great psychology program! This program was made for me and it was finally time for me to go to Ecuador.

I’m not sure why Ecuador is significant for me but I know that God has called me to this nation for His purposes.

I’ve had some super sweet times with the Lord this summer. I’ve received more words and pictures from Him and words from other people than I ever have before. One of my biggest words for Ecuador is to step out with a heart of adventure. I’m excited for God to continue cultivating a heart of adventure in me during this school year.

I plan on blogging a lot during my time in Quito, both about the adventures I’m having and about the usual theology, psychology, etc. But for now, here are some things you can be praying for me for this first semester!

~Fun classes
~Great volunteer placement
~Increased Spanish ability
~Strong friendships and sense of community
~Thriving faithgroups
~Blessing over my host family
~Safety–that nothing will be stolen and that I’ll feel safe during my time in Ecuador
~No migraines!
~Deep intimacy with the Lord

I look forward to writing more…my next post will be from Ecuador!


Adventures in St. Louis

I’m starting a new blog category called “Adventures In…” in which I talk about whatever fun adventures I’ve had in different cities and recommend fun things that you can do!

A word of the Lord for this season of my life is to step out in faith with a heart of adventure and I feel like God means actual adventures. It’s coming at a good time–I leave for Ecuador in a month (I’ll be sure to write about that when it gets closer) and I feel encouraged to push myself to go out and explore the cities I live in. And I want to share these adventures with you so you might be encouraged to step out and explore as well.

My family spent the fourth of July weekend in St. Louis and had a great time! This post is dedicated to sharing and reviewing everything we did there :) St. Louis is a really great family-friendly city because there is a ton of stuff to do and much of it is free!

Where We Stayed:

We stayed at this wonderful rental. It had 3 very comfortable bedrooms, there a great kitchen, physician a huge TV with Netflix, and more. The guy who rents is was super nice–he even brought us donuts one morning! I took several walks around the neighborhood and it was really pretty and safe. We all loved our time here and I would recommend this house to anyone who needs a place to stay in St. Louis.

What We Did:
The Arch

Adventures in St. Louis--He is Making Everything New--The ArchThe St. Louis Arch is a staple feature of St. Louis and I highly recommend going to check it out up close! There is a pretty area around the arch where you can sit or walk around and there is a free museum underneath the arch all about westward expansion. Beware of the gift shop…you might just find yourself falling in love with a bison stuffed animal and be unable to leave the store without him…

Adventures in St. Louis--He is Making Everything New--The Arch

Meet Little B. It was love at first hug.

You can also take a ride to the top of the arch, which I also recommend. The tickets are $10 for adults (over 15) and $5 for people under 15. You take a little pod on a ride to the top and you get to hang out there as long as you want, looking out the windows.

Here is a view from the top:

Adventures in St. Louis--He is Making Everything New--The Arch

TIP: If you want to go to the top of the arch, buy your tickets right when you get to the museum. We bought them after we had gone through the museum and there ended up being an hour wait. So make sure you buy them right away and also know that riding to the top, hanging out there for a few minutes, and riding down takes about an hour because there’s quite a bit of hanging around, waiting in line.

Do I recommend it? Yes! I enjoyed seeing the arch and going to the top. Even if you don’t want to ride to the top I recommend just going and seeing it up close. It is the Gateway to the West after all!

St. Louis Science Museum

Adventures in St. Louis--He is Making Everything New--The Science CenterThe St. Louis Science Center has free admission! That makes it worth a stop in my book. There were some cool exhibits and I had a fun time there with my family. We did see a lemur IMAX movie (which does cost money) which was really cool, too. The IMAX made me dizzy because of its sheer size but I enjoyed the movie.

TIP: The parking at the Science Center costs like $10 but you don’t have to park there. There are other lots on the same street that are close by that have cheaper or possibly free parking.

Do I recommend it? If you have limited time in St. Louis, I wouldn’t call this a must-see. But if you have a couple hours to kill, this is definitely worth a stop! And since admission is free you’re really not losing anything by going.

Grant’s Farm

Adventures in St. Louis--He is Making Everything New--Grant's FarmGrant’s farm is the property that used to belong to Ulysses Grant and is now owned by the Busch family. It is also the location of the the Budweiser clydesdales, as well as other animals such as a variety of cows, bison, deer, goats, elephants, and tortoises. Along with this they have paddle boat rides, a tram that takes you around the property, food, and camel rides.

Grant’s farm is another place with free admission, although there are lots of things that cost extra money, such as the paddle boats, clydesdale tour, goat milk bottles, food, etc. There was quite a long wait to get in to the farm when we were there (but it was 4th of July weekend) but a few of us left the line and wandered around the stables and saw the clydesdales while we waited.

Once you get in the farm, you take a tram ride around the property and learn about the history and see a lot of animals such as cows, deer, and bison. I enjoyed the tram ride a lot. Then you get to the main part of the farm where we were attacked by fed goats, saw some animals, and ate snow cones.

I personally found the main part of the farm a little boring–it was like the zoo but with much fewer things to see and what seemed like much poorer habitats. It makes me really sad to see elephants kept in spaces that seem way too small for them.

Do I recommend it? Personally, I would skip Grant’s farm and go to the zoo. I didn’t find much to do at Grant’s farm that I loved while the zoo is also free and has much more to see.

The Zoo

Adventures in St. Louis--He is Making Everything New--The ZooSo our family didn’t actually go to the St. Louis Zoo this year (sad) but we did go last year! These pictures are from the zoo last year. I really enjoyed the zoo–there were tons of animals to see and free admission. I will say I still like the habitats at the Nashville Zoo better–the animals seem happier at the Nashville Zoo, but overall I liked the St. Louis Zoo and want to go back.

Do I recommend it? Yes! It’s free and fun. If you only have a short time in St. Louis, the zoo is one of the things I would recommend you check out.

Forest Park

Adventures in St. Louis--He is Making Everything New--Forest ParkForest Park is one of the St. Louis places I would really love to spend more time in. It is an enormous park, containing the zoo, art museum, and much more! I saw in a guidebook that you can take a 3 hour bike tour through the park–that is totally down my alley! The fireworks were in Forest Park this year so that’s where we were for the 4th of July. We walked through the park to get to where the fireworks were happening and then ended up walking/running 2 miles back to the car after the fireworks! That was an experience. But the park really is beautiful (I was just dying wanting to do a photo session in the park!) and I’d love to spend more time there and check out the art museum.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely! It’s a beautiful place to take a walk and you can stop by super fun places like the zoo and art museum for free!

Missouri Botanical Garden

Adventures in St. Louis--He is Making Everything New--Missouri Botanical Garden

The guy we rented our house from gave us his members pass to the Botanical Garden so we all got in for free! Otherwise it’s actually pretty expensive. I would have really loved the Botanical Garden except that the night before we went I had taken meds that basically give me narcolepsy for 24 hours so I was so sleepy while we were visiting the Botanical Garden. It really is beautiful, though–it has beautiful statues, Chihuly glass art, and a huge selection of flowers and other plants. If I had been energetic, I would have loved to walk through the Botanical garden and explore.

Do I Recommend It? Well, how much do you like looking at plants? I don’t think I would have paid for admission into the Garden but if you can get in for free (borrow a member card or come with someone who lives in St. Louis) and enjoy looking at plants, I would recommend it!

The City Museum 

Adventures in St. Louis--He is Making Everything New--The City Museum

The City Museum is one of the coolest and most unique aspects of St. Louis. It’s a huge indoor and outdoor jungle-gym type structure that’s super fun for both adults and kids! There are tons of slides, things to climb on, an inside cave system, and so much more! You do have to pay for admission but it’s worth it.

TIP: Wear knee pads. You might look odd, but you won’t regret having them on! It will make climbing much more enjoyable. Also, there is a roof section of the City Museum with extra stuff like a ferris wheel. The roof costs extra and we’ve never done it. You definitely don’t have to pay for roof access–there’s plenty to do otherwise!

Do I Recommend It? Yes! The City Museum is SO fun! Come with energy and ready to adventure.

Where We Ate:
Crown Candy Kitchen

Adventures in St. Louis--He is Making Everything New--Crown Candy Kitchen

Crown Candy Kitchen is one of those iconic St. Louis restaurants. It’s an old fashioned soda foundation that offers delicious lunch, dinner, milkshakes, and candy. I had this BLT. Have you ever seen so much bacon??? Crown Candy Kitchen has simple, yummy food at very reasonable prices.

TIP: The lines can be HUGE. We waited for like an hour and we were all so hungry. If the line is long, I recommend ordering your food to go. There is a separate to-go ordering line–if you head inside (skip the long outdoor line) you can get in the to-go line. That way you get your food much faster and can eat it outside (there are tables across the street). If you do eat inside, beware that the booths are tiny, only big enough to fit 4 people.

Do I Recommend It? I’m not sure it was worth the hour wait but I’m glad we had the experience and in the future I think we’ll definitely consider the to-go line.

Ted Drewes

Adventures in St. Louis--He is Making Everything New--Ted DrewesTed Drewes is known for their frozen custard and it is definitely yummy. They have one custard flavor (vanilla) and they add other things to it, like oreo or recees, to make a concrete. They also have sundaes and cones. It was very tasty!

Do I Recommend It? Yep! It was very tasty.

I hope you can see why St. Louis is such a fun city! I’d love to hear what your favorite St. Louis spots are. My last tip for a St. Louis trip is to not go on 4th of July weekend or on a weekend if possible. You can avoid a lot of lines this way :) I look forward to sharing more of my adventures in Boston, Nashville, and Quito, and who knows where else!