Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What Is Happiness - A Simple Life

In “A simple life…” a blog post from Life of an ordinary Aussie woman the author, Melanie Baker challenges her readers to consider if we live a simple life and even more, to consider what actually is “a simple life”. It is my way to “try to find a balance” as Melanie put it. I find that worrying about things just makes me unhappy. 
A finding that was confirmed by an article in The Guardian (here is the link) that sited many scientific studies that confirmed that materialism and wanting things just makes a person want more things, more unhappy, creates loneliness, social isolation even anxiety and depression.


I consider myself to live simply. To justify myself to the readers (and Melanie that caused this blog post) I will tell you that I am a Finnish woman, living in Ecuador. I work for Finnish Free Evangelical Church as project worker.

My job here is to help to design and implement an inclusive and special education system for indigenous kichwa children and youth with special needs. The work is developed in the Ecuadorian amazon region and even though I live in a small town, life here is simple.


My work is a mix of office work, teacher training and visits to schools in the indigenous communities, with one or two surprises thrown in just to make it more exciting.

I have a house that has high ceiling, so I don’t have an air conditioning, even though I live in the rainforest. I have electricity and running water, even a luxury, gas heating for hot water. I also have internet and Netflix. I must admit that living without internet connection would be really hard for me.


My personal luxury is a big refrigerator where I can keep my favorite drink - sweet tea, ice cold. It is a wonderful sensation to drink something cold on a really hot day. And it makes you apreciate how small things can be so important.

Like not having roaches at your home. That is a luxury I would love to possess.

I usually buy my clothes couple of years apart when I visit my family in Finland, from sales. And I use them until the, very cheap, sewing lady can’t fix them anymore.


My big spending vices are books that I buy in my beloved iPad (that I got for Christmas from my parents two years ago for Christmas). When I start saying that I don't have money, my father usually tells me not to spend so much in books.

A huge luxury that I have is my parents. They don't live with us but they do live here in Ecuador. They are both retired. And it's wonderful to have your family close. Wish my siblings would live here too.


No manicures or pedicures here. Although they are extremely cheap in Ecuador, I just don’t seem to find time. My occasional splurge on beauty area is getting waxed at home and ridding myself of the hairy legs syndrome.

I don't cut my own hair anymore. I have decided to take some time for myself. And also, Ecuador is the country of the cheapest hair cuts. I really don't have an excuse here,

So, I would say my life is “free from frills and lavish luxuries” like Melanie says.


There is one basic reason for this, a very sensible one. I don’t have much money. The missionary's salary really isn't a big one. Although it does reach much more here than it would back at home.

Then there is another one, a more profound one. I have found out that I enjoy life with less. Less frills, less luxuries, less furniture, less clothes, less clutter and things, just less. For me less is more, much more.


Cutting back I found out that I have so much more. I have more time, I have more love and I have more happiness.

I do want to find balance in my life and I believe it is not found in wanting and buying more.

At the same time, living a simple life, not splurging, not spending, not owning and having less does not automatically mean “indulging in God’s blessings”, as Melanie asks us to do.


For me, they are a way to find balance and concentrate on God. I think they are good ways for everyone, at least according to the studies cited in The Guardian. Even Jesus told us how hard it is for a rich man to find his way to heaven. And after all, how many sayings there are around the world, repeating that money does not bring happiness.

But… happiness is not God. 


Let’s not make, not owning, not spending, a new god for us. Let’s not concentrate on balance (as in Oriental religions) but in our Savior. And let Him bring us balance.

I am not happy because I don’t have much. I am happy because I have God.


“And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Monday, May 25, 2015

Plantain Chips or Chifles



 
Plantain chips, also called banana chips or chifles in Ecuador and Peru, are thin slices of fried or dried banana.

They can be sweet or salty, depending on the use of ripe or green banana respectively, and the addition of salt, sugar, honey and spices.

Usually chifles are made with green plantain bananas, whose slices are fried in oil, and then let to dry and cool off.

The chips made from ripe bananas can be used in granola or in dry fruit mix.

Chifles are also known as platanitos, platanutres, or mariquitas in other Latin countries.


In Ecuador is very typical to see hawkers or street vendors selling banana chips.

They can be found on the streets, at the exit of the schools, on the beach, on buses, and so many other locations.

The chifles are an excellent accompaniment to soups, ceviches and beers.

They can also be used as snacks served with salsa, tomato sauce or pink mayonnaise sauce (mayo and tomato mixed together).



CHIFLES OR PLANTAIN CHIPS


2 Green plantain bananas
Oil for frying
Salt to taste
Optional: Peppers and garlic to flavor oil

Preparation

1) Peel the green plantains bananas under running water or in a bowl of cold water to avoid staining of clothing or cutting board. Green bananas are easier to peel than green bananas.


2) Cut the bananas into long and thin slices.

3) Heat oil, either in a deep pot or fryer until the temperature is between 375 F- 400 F. Use enough oil so that the slices of banana are completely covered when frying.

4) Add the sliced ​​banana to hot oil, be careful not fry too many at the same time to prevent sticking. Fry until they begin to brown.

5) Remove the chifles from the oil and place them on paper towels to drain off fat.

6) Sprinkle with salt to taste. They can be served hot or cold.

ENJOY!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Time Is Very Flexible When It Floats


Living in the tropic I can better understand the Oriental idea of time being a wheel. 

Here time doesn't move linearly, the are no changes with the season. It may rain more one month, it may be a bit colder the next one. Then it will be hot and rainy.

The changes come with the dates, days we commemorate something special, with the changes in the moon and the sun.


People here name their months according to the changes they see in the nature. The is a cloud month (puyu killa), a baby animal month (wiwa killa), a fish month (mihanu killa), a corn month (sara killa), a rain month (tamya killa) and there is even an empty month when nothing grows (mutsuy killa).

The year is a circle and the months are represented in a circular form. Not a line from left to right but a bird's colorful tail.


The moon moves in a circle and in the circle of the moon you can see the changes in the nature. The rain doesn't depend on the season of the year but the season of the moon.

Here time doesn't move, it doesn't tick or run, time floats or stays still while the wheel turns around and it's time for the next festivity. There is no rush to prepare it all, because it will come in it's time and rushing around may just spoil everything.


How can you pick corn if it's not the time for corn? How can you hunt for ants if it isn't the ant month and the ants won't be ready yet?

In a hot temperature, it's wasteful to try to hoard things. If you kill more animals than you can eat and cook at once, it will only spoil and the insects and vermin will have a feast. 


If you plant a seed next to a river you can return when the fruit is ripe and ready to eat. Picking it earlier would only spoil it for human use.

We just passed the Chunta Killa. The month of the fruit of chonta palm. A very important product that is used as food or let fermented and then made beer of.

The current month is known as Ala Killa. The month of the mushrooms. Delicious brownish mushrooms that grow from fallen logs in the jungle and are searched, and eaten, with great enthusiasm in the Kichwa villages.


Christmas is one of the special days that mark the flow of the time and tell us that another year has passed.

How has this affected me life? The impact has been huge. First the chafe, the pain of change from thinking the year and time as going forward. Keeping my eyes in the future, planning for today.


The change from time tables, calendars, and appointments to living the moment. From the rigid planning to "maybe around four o'clock on Thursday but it could be Friday at five". Change to "tomorrow", "in a little while" or "just in a minute".

Which minute? The next one or one of the minutes tomorrow, next week or next month? A little while from Thursday, or a little while from next week on? Or maybe a little while from Christmas or Passover?


There is always a tomorrow. So, maybe it's tomorrow from next weeks Monday. But there always will be a tomorrow.

As there always will be a Thursday or Monday or Wednesday, every week, every month. And if you get what you expected a month later from the Tuesday you first expected, it's still Tuesday, or the day after Tuesday or just a little while from Tuesday.


Time definitely does not move. It swamps around, stands still in ponds or floats above our heads where we can not touch it. 

And then the wheel moves, next moment comes. It's another morning, another tomorrow, another while.


What is there to do?

Live this moment and let tomorrow worry about itself.

Monday, May 18, 2015

SIMPLE AND DELICIOUS GLUTEN FREE PEACH BARS



 
Looking for an easy and delicious dessert?

Or something delicious to offer to your friends?

You don't need to look anymore!

These peach bars are both delicious and easy to make.

And they are gluten free!

The bars are guaranteed to make everyone happy and compliment your baking skills.

Especially if you serve them with some of super delicious vanilla sauce.



PEACH BARS

PEACH AT THE BOTTOM
1 can of peach
4 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 tea spoon of cinnamon


ON THE TOP:
100 g butter
2 dl manioc (cassava) flour
3 dl oatmeal (gluten free)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tea spoon of vanilla



1) Take the 100g butter from the fridge and place it at room temperature.

2) Cut the peaches in wedges. Make them small or big, depending on your taste.

3) Stir in the brown sugar and cinnamon. Put the mixture in a greased casserole dish.

4) Cut the butter into small cubes and rub the brown sugar and flour and oatmeal until they are well mixed. Add vanilla and mix well.

5) Put the mix on top of the peach mix in the casserole. Bake at 200 ° C for about 30 min.

6) Add some cold vanilla sauce and  ENJOY!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Virtual Or Real - In Which World Do You Live?


A fellow blogger Susan Evans wrote a very interesting post called Virtual or Real (Part 1).

It talked to my heart as a mother. It made me think about being a mother. It made me think about my son, our relationship, our relationship with God. And what all this means. At once I felt I had to answer her.

Just a few days ago I was looking at pictures of my son when he was little. He's 11 years old now, a big boy. And I missed that little boy who would come to sit on my lap and I could pick up and carry on my arms. I miss him so much.


I have my son still, but the relationship changes all the time. And I don't want to miss the important moments. Like yesterday watching a movie together while we ate pizza. Or reading him when he goes to bed.

Just a few days ago he sighed while he was laying in the bed, hugged me and told me that he's so glad I'm there for him all the time.

I felt a queer mixed sensation. I know I try to be there, but there are so many moments I feel guilty that I spend with the computer or at work and I'm not there for him.



I struggle with this daily. I try to find moments to show that all my attention is to him. To teach him about God and God's love, by showing him, my love, mirroring the love God has with the love I have for him.

And when he talks about his love for God, how he will never forget or deny God, it makes me feel so proud of him. And scared. Because I know how hard the world can be.

I find Susan's honesty encouraging and I respect her, as a mother and a person, even more because of it.
There are moments when my son asks me something while I'm on the computer and I answer something half intelligible. Sometimes he repeats what he's saying, sometimes he waits, other times he just gives up. And it breaks my heart when I think about it later on.


There are times when my son gets angry and says: You only care about the computer. Why don't you spend time with ME?

I think it's excellent that he can express his worries and anger. But it still breaks my heart.

But it also makes me a better mother because it makes me think about my choices and he challenges me to put him first and everything else I do second.

The good thing is that I have had some opportunities to take him with me to my work. We have visited indigenous communities, he has seen how the people there live, the schools they go to. And I think it will help him to see the world in quite a different way.


But it still broke my heart when he told me that he had thought that I didn't really work but only spend time on the computer. I guess since my office is at home, that is what he sees. His mother at the computer, just spending time when she could be with him.

A heartbreaking situation that many mothers must face today.

My answer to it.

Stop working when he talks to me. I know, it kills the flow. It takes ages to remember what I was doing and find the thread of thought I was following. But it also shows that I care, that I put him on the first spot.


Write when he's at school, asleep, with his friends, find moments when he isn't around to write. And when I have to write when the work absolutely takes me away from him, explain it to him. He is big, he's nine years old, he understands a lot of things.

And like I said before, make him part of the work. Show him what I do. Make him understand why it is so important to me.

I must tell these things have improved our relationship immensely. But there is still a lot to do. And I still keep praying and seeking God to give me understanding how to show more love to my son. How to show God's love and care to my son.


"Children are not casual guests in our home.  They have been loaned to us temporarily for the purpose of loving them and instilling a foundation of values on which their future lives will be built."
James Dobson