Another glorious morning, with us excitedly watching the sunrise! Thanks to the children and our Slow time we still all go to sleep at about 7.30pm every night and wake up before 6am. It feels like such a special privilege to be able to sleep deeply. I remember how tired everyone seems to be in Japan and how even children have to 'gambate' and exist on just a few hours of sleep, catching up, if they can, on the train, or in classrooms - or anywhere else! Every morning here gives us some kind of blessing - today we found a beautiful green tree frog - the children were so excited that I had to save it from being loved too much!

After breakfast (home made millet pancakes are traditional on our Sundays) we went to the local markets and visited the colony of fruit bats in the remnant rainforest. You look up into the trees at hundreds of twisting, flapping, screeching creatures - careful not to make a big noise that would disturb them. It is our cathedral. I have always felt that nature is God's greatest church and never feel guilty about not sitting in a building listening to a sermon on a Sunday.

My daughter, Pacha, is now going to a Christian School (mostly because it is very close by and has very small classes) and although the school principal assured me that 'doctrine' is not enforced, Pacha sometimes comes home with songs about God and mentions Jesus. I make sure that she knows there are many emlightened messengers of God (Buddha, Mohammed, HH Dalai Lama, Bahaoula etc) - and that, in fact, all of creation is a message from God. I think a spirit of reverence and respect for Life is so fundamentally important - whatever name Pacha and Yani will decide to call this in their later life doesn't matter - as long as they have a sense of the sacred and basic principles of kindness, respect, reverence, love! I think they (and I!) will be happy.

I am very happy that the schoopl has a strong conservation theme. It is part of the local landcare group, has a reef guardianship program, participates in clean up Australia day and has a big garden project including planting a rainforest, tropical fruit orchard and a permaculture vegie garden. I couldn't help but volunteer to help and find myself now listed as the 'consultant' for this project hopefully some volunteers will soon arrive to help me with this task!

It has begun to cool down enough here to start planting vegetable seedlings. Pacha has her own garden patch and has planted Spinach, beetroot, spring onion, sunflowers and zinnias. My patch, deeply mulched with horse manure, has a few more plants - including a big cassava shrub. Cassava is the perfect plant for the tropics and from this one bush I will be able to grow a hundred more throughout the garden. In 9 months it will yield big starchy cassava roots - the mainstay of so much of the tropical world (including Ecuador) and so delicious too! This, along with the sweet potato, will provide a lot of our food in the coming months.

Then there is the longer term plan of the fruit orchard. I have started some 20 papaya seedlings and recently planted lychees and some more passionfruit. I have been quite busy lately. I have been attending a part time course to become a teacher's assistant. It's been fun to learn together with other women - though most of the material has been commonsense so far. In theory there is a great respect in Australia for cultural diversity and teaching methods that focus on positive reinforcement. Unfortunately, in the real world, many teachers carry their personal lifetime baggage with them and become mini dictators in the classroom (especially as classes grow in size).

Parents (like so many places in the world) work longer and longer hours and participate less in their children's lives and rely on the TV set to do most of the parenting! I look forward to actually going into the classrooms and seeing how things are.

My project to convert under the house into a comfortable room for guests and volunteers is coming along slowly. With some help from a local Italian handyman (Gino) - we have installed a small bath and a toilet (both found for $2 at the local dump) and I have tiled the floor and walls. Gino is 72 years old and seems to survive on coffee and cigarettes! He regularly comes to work early on a Sunday morning and I think he works not because he wants more money - but just because he loves to work (maybe works to live)!

He doesn't talk much and works quickly and I've never seen him actually write down measurements. He made a mistake with the calculations for the toilet pipes - which means I am now spending my afternoons digging a deep trench for the sewerage pipes when I am finished I will be able to enter the Miss Universe body building contest! Of course I could just pay the $200 to get a digger in - but my feeling is if I can do it myself, I will do it myself (and I feel a lot of satisfaction in it - with every flush!). Even if I had the money spare - there are so many other things that need doing, and that's before I think of the many projects and campaigns around the world that need support!

I hope I will soon hear from people in Japan who are interested in volunteering here or in Ecuador. Maybe I will even be able to entice my good friends (the Scan clan) to come and live here for a while! And the new deep eco-tour plan seems to be going well, with the revised dates of May 10th to 18th seeming to be more suitable. I hope this will be the start to regular tours. For now it is time to plant some more vegies and feed our three happy chickens, Molly, Holly and Lucy. I hope this finds you well!

For Life,
anja, pacha and yani.

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