So last time we mentioned we visited Loja earlier this month. We were visiting friends - Elena and Jeremy who served in the Sign Language Congregation before they left to go back home. They had been serving there for the last 9 months and due to Visa issues had to return to the US.
We weren't able to spend too long with them, just a couple of days. Taking time to go away has become difficult due to the amount of studies that we are conducting and also because we now have a few coming to the meetings, so we need to make sure the momentum keeps going (I suppose it's not a bad reason why). Our hours are still a little behind from our trip to Australia but we are slowly catching up, this month has been pretty big and although we didn't think we would make it, we think we should be able to meet our goal of a 100 hour month!! It's been long days and apart from the studies, metropolitan witnessing has helped a lot. Standing for so long though is taking its toll and I'm constantly with back pain - but Jeremy has kindly suggested a massage at the end of the month yeah!!
Anyways, back to Loja, the drive there has been the nicest one we've done so far, even nicer than the drive to Baños. The scenery is so beautiful and the roads are amazing.. The city has a population of about 200,000, and is situated 2060 m (6758 ft) above sea level. It has a mild Andean climate, ranging between 16 and 30°C (yes, that was straight from Wikipedia). It took us about 3 hours to get there.
The Sign Language Congregation is not that big and they have a large territory, Elena and Jeremy did a fantastic job learning Ecuadorian Sign Language, they had previously served in a Sign Language Cong in the US so they said it hadn't been too hard for them to learn the Ecuadorian version. Elena signed the Watchtower Study article for the meeting we attended and wow she was great! Made me think "hmm, sign language...?" Hehehe...
Loja was an interesting place, many have asked about serving there and have been told it's like a small Cuenca but I didn't really see it that way... A few who have lived there have also mentioned its nothing like Cuenca, sure it's cute and sure we didn't spend enough time there to really have an opinion about it... but there's been too many comments from those who have lived there or are living there that it's not the case. Cuenca is amazing, I love it, it's the best city in Ecuador... Again it's the only city we've lived in, in Ecuador, so I'm a little bias but if you ever come and visit Ecuador I'm sure you would agree. If you're thinking about serving in Loja, that's fantastic just make sure you go with a realistic expectation of what it's like... So as the branch encourages visit before you decide. (Sounds like Katherine is becoming a real Cuencana as they say here... he, he, - Jeremy)
While in Loja we visited Vilcabamba, it was so beautiful. It's a little town located in a scenic valley about half an hour away from Loja, I was surprised to see so many tourists there... but I quickly found out that it was because it is widely believed that its inhabitants grow to a very old age. It is said that it is not uncommon to see a person reach 100 years of age and that many have even reached the age of 120, even up to 135, which according to what I read in Wiki would make it an area with the oldest inhabitants in the world, hence it is often called the Valley of Longevity, of course these are only stories and whether it's true or not or even why people live for so long here only Jehovah knows... Hmm, maybe it's something in the water? Naah! Many say the lifestyle? Maybe... And others say it's the climate... It was pretty nice... There was some little markets that were selling little bags of what looked like grey dust, it's meant to be really good for your skin, you mix it with water to form a paste and apply it it all over until it dries out - similar to a face or body mask. I've used it twice and wow that stuff works. It's meant to be taken from this rock on a mountain which they grind into dust... Whatever it is - WOW it's fantastic! Elena even used it on her curly hair and said it worked really well for her too.
Ok, so what else hmm, oh yes we had an email from a really nice family from England, The Williams. They were here spying out the land with plans to hopefully come and serve in Ecuador one day. They had been reading our blog and wanted to meet us to ask a few other questions. We met at our favorite coffee place (it's the only coffee place in the city that has seating outside with heaters.) I know we have many back home but this coffee place reminds me so much of a cafe in Leichardt. They have two young teenage kids and we were so glad we got to meet them, (thanks guys for calling)... It's such an awesome spiritual goal they have and we are sure Jehovah will bless their efforts. We were surprised how good their Spanish was, they've picked it up so quickly. Bethan who's 16 accompanied us on calls and a new study who's progressing well, I was so happy we got to show her a little bit of what our days are like. Thanks Bethan for coming with me, loved our short time together.... It was funny how, although we'd never met, they had kept up with all that has been happening with us and knew quite a lot about us. We've always written this blog with friends and family in mind but guess many other brothers and sisters also read it and to them we say... Hi, if you ever visit, give us a call we'd love to meet you and hear your story....
So that covers most of our month... The month of May will also be a big witnessing month and we also have our CO visit at the end... Can't wait :)
Oh one other thing, I'm not sure if we've mentioned it, but we were accepted as delegates to the Arlington International Convention in June. We have booked everything we need to and are looking forward to an amazing convention. We are also going to NY for a week to visit the new Museum at the branch in Brooklyn. I've been wanting to see it ever since it was announced. Who said, pioneers don't get to go anywhere? We've never travelled as much as we have now... :)