ICP stands for awesome

ICP also stands for Implementing Church Partner – also known as the local church Compassion works through.  Sunday morning we got up, ate breakfast, and were off for our first project visit.  Since it was Sunday we started the morning off with a church service at our first ICP visit.  At each of the projects we visited we were greeted by the kids and – usually – they had whistles and kazoos and confetti and signs.


It took us a minute to make our way into the church and get settled, but once we were we were seated we were treated to a dance from the girls

and a skit from the boys

it was obvious to me, and I don’t think I was alone, that the kids were invested in these performances.   Yes, they had worked hard to impress the sponsors that were visiting, but it was also a chance for them to focus on their talents.

After these performances it was time for the message.  I might have been the only one who didn’t know the agenda, but I was truly surprised – and very blessed – to hear our tour leader, Sandeep, speak.  He shared his testimony with the kids.  Sandeep grew up in India and is a formerly sponsored child.  I know he was speaking to the kids, but I think his message might have had a greater impact on their parents.


After the service we were treated to a brief glimpse into some of the curriculum taught at this project.  For our team, it was a window into the Bible curriculum that is taught.

Then it was lunch time!  First order of business was a quick game of pre lunch frisbee.

Then it was time to serve the kids and then their parents.  I don’t think I’m exagerating (I might be, but I don’t think so) when I say there were 5,000 people.

After we’d served the masses it was time for us to eat.  Lunch was amazing and the proof that it was amazing is that I have no photos.  We were all too busy eating to take pics.  But, it is important to mention here we were introduced to a new fruit.  I didn’t take a picture of it, but if I were to describe it I would say it was very passion fruit-y.  One of the translators told me it was nicknamed booger fruit and I just did a google search for Ecuadorian booger fruit and voilà,.. I now know it’s cultured name is la granadilla, but I think I prefer booger fruit.  And I could eat it all day long.

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photo provided by google

Lunch was over and things were wrapping up at the church.  It was time for our group to head off.  But first, a couple of boys wanted their pic taken.  They are pretty snazzy.


Our next stop was a boat ride on a nearby lake.  There was discussion about wether we could all do the boat ride, was it big enough?  Then we found out the boat could fit 60 – so boat ride for all! (and I’m very glad there were not 60 people to test that claim.)

Boat ride over it was time to head back to the hotel to debrief and relax.  Most of us were pretty tired after a full day!

PHOTO - Ecuador - Group at Lake - 180506

the whole group post boat ride!


Tren Ecuador

Day 2 in Ecuador.  A very well rested group of travelers gathered in the hotel lobby to grab our box breakfasts and board a bus to take us to the train that would take us to the place we would be spending the next several days.

(Disclaimer:  my blogging mojo isn’t what it once was so I didn’t get pictures of every little thing, but my traveling companions have all been generous and have given me permission to steal theirs.  Or I guess since I have permission it’s just using, not stealing.)

One of the pieces of information we had prior to the trip was whom our “family” group would be.  And I bravely volunteered to head up our group.  There were 5 in our group and we were given the exotic name of “four”.  I’ll let you guess what names the other 6 groups had.  On the bus, headed to the train, we were gifted with a group translator.  (I’ve never wished I’d taken Spanish in high school more than on this trip.)  Our translator was Ramiro.


Since we weren’t given head shots of our translators I stole this from his FB page. (Sorry Ramiro)

The translators on these trips are amazing.  They don’t just translate the language, they translate the culture and the emotion.  They work tirelessly and are always smiling, even when they are exhausted.  They also are fickle and switch groups on a whim.  But we hadn’t discovered that at this point in the trip.

Any way…  the train.

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all of us (minus the trip leader)

PHOTO - Ecuador - Kientz Family Group - 180506

team quatro (4)

After the pics were taken tickets were handed out.  Michael and I were in the same compartment, but not seated together.  I was seated facing backward, which isn’t necessarily how a person who suffers a touch of motion sickness likes to sit.  Luckily we quickly discovered there was a sitting area at the front of our compartment.  Motion sickness averted.  The next excellent discovery was the dining compartment where coffee – real honest to goodness coffee – could be found.


Coffee and seats procured we were free to sit back and enjoy the scenery and conversation.  There was interesting graffiti,

and so much green…

We also had a train translator.  Who explained the sights we were seeing and gave us some important cultural information.  The only thing that really stuck was that they have lots of cows in Ecuador, but too bad the Europeans made the whole world lactose intolerant.  (That’s my extremely loose translation of what seemed to be his questionable tale.)

Shortly after boarding, or maybe an hour after time on a train doesn’t feel so linear, we had our first food offering.  Empanadas.  If I’d known this was coming I’d have skipped that box breakfast.  But I ate the empanadas anyway.  They were yummy.

PHOTO - Ecuador - Food on Train

This train also made a few stops, two of which involved us exiting the train and doing or seeing something.  The first of these stops was at the National Recreation Area of El Boliche.  (That’s my own translation of the sign…  Might be right, might be wrong.)


Recreation area means hike.  It also means llamas.  Here’s some random photos.

After our hike, it was back to the train station for a snack.  ***Side note… the very first thing I did when I found out we were taking a trip to Equador was to google what to eat in Equador and this was the first opportunity to put that knowledge to the test***  Snack time is where we discovered potatoes and corn are a big deal in Ecuador.  Also, we discovered Aji – an amazingly tasty, can’t get enough of it and luckily for us it seemed to be offered at every meal condiment.  (Wonder if tree tomatoes grow in Colorado?)  My snack included humita (think Ecuadorian tamale but don’t tell the Ecuadorians you thought that) and the locro de papa (potato and cheese soup) I ate – and the Aji.


After our snack, we were off again.  Chatting and looking at green stuff.

At some point, lunch happened, but that’s a bit vague.  We had sandwiches, seems like maybe a cross between pimento cheese and chicken salad, but I don’t remember.  And then we had our next stop at Alausi.  Where we stretched our legs and were treated to a dance.

After the dance, we were back on the train to finish our journey.

We made it safely to our hotel.  We’d had a great introduction to Ecuador and were ready to rest up for Sunday morning church at the first project we would visit.








The middle of the world is in Ecuador.  I’d ask, “who knew?”,  but apparently, a lot of people know and now I’m one of them.  And thanks to me so are you, if you weren’t.  Also, Michael and I went there.  Not to the specific point of 0°0’0″, but to Ecuador.

Michael celebrated his 10 years anniversary with Compassion international last year.  One of the very generous things Compassion does is send their employees (and a companion) on anniversary trips at 5-year marks (5 yrs, 10 yrs, 15 yrs, 20 yrs, etc..)  It’s a great opportunity for employees in America to connect with where the work is done.  For Michael’s 5 yr trip we went to Indonesia.  Michael’s work anniversaries conveniently happen to coincide with our monumental wedding anniversaries.  (His 5 year at work was our 20 year.  His 10 year was our 25.)  So we combine them.  So for our 25th wedding anniversary and his 10 year work anniversary, we took a trip to Ecuador!

Monica Packing

Last minute packing.

It started they way other trips of ours have started – with a delay.  We were leaving from Colorado Springs through Dallas/Fort Worth and planning an overnight in Miami.  We did that, but everything was pushed back a few hours.  Our overnight ended up being a long morning – we were in our hotel by 3am and checked out at noon.  So we did get a little sleep.

We left Colorado Springs with a few other Compassion employees who were also taking anniversary trips.  So we all started the journey and managed the delays together.  In Miami, we met up with the rest of our group.  I’m not one to get too mired in the details so I was a bit surprised to discover there were 30+ of us.  I’ve done other trips with Compassion and it’s always been in the 20 person range.  We made introductions at the airport and started getting to know each other.  Most of us were from the states, some had international travel experience and others were getting their first stamps in their passport.  We had one couple who had made the trip all the way from New Zealand.  But we all had some things in common, this was an opportunity for us to learn about what Compassion really does and (for most of us) a chance to meet our sponsor child.

We boarded the flight for Quito, Ecuador.  We arrived, gathered our luggage – there was a very, very lot of luggage because we all brought along our personal luggage and gifts for Compassion projects and gifts for our kids.  We made our way through immigration (giving me my second stamp in my passport) and met up with some of the staff from the Ecuador country office.  We boarded a bus for our hotel for the night.  We were exhausted and a bit disoriented and we had an early start the next morning so we made our way to our rooms with instructions to gather really early the following morning.


Oh, hi.

So it’s been a while… like a year and a half or so, but I’m hanging in here – until recently, like the last month or so, I would have added “barely” to that statement.  I feel like I’ve been hibernating and it’s now time for spring to get here.

I’ve got lots of reasons for my absence, but the biggest one is I don’t know how many ways I could say I just can’t function or even more, I don’t have the words to explain why I couldn’t function.

In the past 18 months…

I returned to America.  Not by choice, but at, what I do think, was a good time for our family.  And turns out many people had expectations of what this would mean and I found that very overwhelming so I responded in ways that could and did damage relationships.

I got a part-time job at World Market – great store, but also overwhelming to work retail at the holidays.

Then I spent Thanksgiving with my immediate family.   Michael arranged for Chan and Aly to make it to Colorado.  And there were friends there.  It was good. It was probably the first big positive in our return.


And somewhere in this time, I discovered that I brought a great big ol’ helping of social anxiety with me when I returned to America.  I don’t know where or when I picked it up, but man I caught a massive case of it and it seems like it might be a permanent part of who I now am.

Christmas came.  Parts of Christmas were good.  When we heard we’d be returning to America I thought a few of the positives that would come with that would be time with friends and time with family.  We had a great Christmas with some awesome friends.


We made it into the New Year – 2017, I was determined I would get things under control.  I didn’t.  But I didn’t give up.

In January of 2017, my older brother died.  It was devastating. Not because he died.  But because I’d wished him dead for many, many years and his death changed nothing other than to cause me more pain than he’d caused me while he was living.

The holidays were over, New Year was over.  I needed to do something that felt like forward motion so I got a job at Caption Call.  It was also part-time, so between my two part-time jobs, I had a full-time job.  And what’s the best thing to do when you have two part-time jobs? Find a temporary full-time job.  A temporary full-time job that is a Monday – Friday kind of job.   The kind of job that makes you quit your two part-time jobs.

In March of 2017, I started working at Compassion International.  Yes, the same place that Michael works.  The reason we were in Asia.  It was just the kind of job I needed.  Set hours and responsibilities that didn’t extend past the hours I was required to be at work.  In May of 2017, I was able to turn my temp job into a permanent job.

About this time Sam came to us and wanted to know if his graduation trip could be to Thailand.  He’d taken his GED and passed with flying colors with college credits and all that jazz.  When Chan graduated we took a family trip to Japan.  When Aly graduated we took a family trip to New Zealand.  Sam wanted to return to Thailand to see his friends graduate high school.   Michael and I thought this was a great idea, but it couldn’t be a family trip.  Finances and jobs wouldn’t allow for it.  So it was a Sam and mom trip.  It was a healing trip.  It was the first time I heard Sam speak of Thailand as his home and not as a place he’d never wanted to live.  It gave him an opportunity for closure.  It also gave me an opportunity for closure.  I saw friends.  I made my way along roads that for years had been home for me.  I saw life had gone on without me.  And that it was okay.  I returned from Thailand knowing Thailand was no longer my home and recognizing that I hadn’t made a home in America, either.

Life was painful.  Interactions with people hurt.  And that makes life very difficult.  When you want to put your best foot forward and make a really good impression, but every single time you try you fail, it doesn’t make life easier.  It’s caused me to mess up relationships with some neighbors and to not even try to have relationships with other neighbors.  It caused me to mess up relationships with friends and it’s caused me to mess up relationships with family.   It’s hard to navigate life when you feel like with every hello you say you owe that person an apology.    And when you see all the failed relationships around you and you see that the common denominator of them all might be? could be? is?  you, it’s crushing.

But that’s where I am. And the funny thing is that I do feel like I’m turning a corner.  Every day no longer feels like a challenge. I don’t think the tension of finding my home will ever go away, but I now know that I can live with that tension and thrive in that tension.


30 Days

I’ve been in America for 30 days.  I spent my first 7 nights with a good friend and her family (also friends) and then Michael and Sam returned to Colorado and we spent the next 15 nights with some other good friends. This first 3 weeks felt very vacation-y, with out being an actual vacation.  We’ve been in our house for the last week.  Sleeping on the floor.  We didn’t have to move to our house.  Our friends were still happy to put us up, but we were feeling the need to try to establish a routine and try to make progress.  Our container was supposed to come 22 Aug, but we were selected for inspection so it didn’t.  Lucky us.

I’ve lived here before.  I’ve lived in this exact city, in this exact neighborhood, in this exact house.  So why is it so hard to return?  Somedays it feels impossible.  Like I don’t know how to do it.  I’ve found a gym.  I don’t know how I feel about it.  It is nice to be working out again (a month off makes for some really painful DOMs), but it’s not the same as CrossFit Chiang Mai.  I didn’t really expect that it would be, but I was hoping a bit.  The other day, after the workout, two ladies were chatting with me and being really nice and I froze.  Like a deer in headlights.  I had no idea how to be friendly.  So much for making new friends.  I left the gym and found myself doing what I seem to do a bunch of lately.  Crying in my car.

The day after this I was running errands and swung by Target.  I saw a dress I wanted to try on so I parked my empty cart by the dressing room and went to try on the dress.  It wasn’t right so I grabbed my cart and went off looking for stuff.  Stuff I didn’t need.  About the time I realized he only things I really needed were groceries I also realized that I’d grabbed the wrong cart.  I had no idea what to do.  A) Push the cart back to the dressing area?  It had been probably 15 or 20 min.  If it had been my cart that had gone missing I most likely would have already grabbed another and replaced the items.   B)  Abandon the cart right where I was, near the tablecloths, and walk to the front of the store and grab another cart?  Yes, that made sense.  (For some reason I never thought to take the cart to the front of the store with me and tell someone about my mistake.)  About 20 min after I abandoned the cart a store employee comes up and asks me if I took the wrong cart at the dressing room and when I said I did he wanted to know where I’d left it.  He was plenty friendly, but still I managed to walk away from this interaction in tears.  I finished my grocery shopping and paid and left with a new awareness of my inability to be nice.  And cried in my car.  I should probably get some kleenex for my car.

In other news, we made this decision.


Day 18 – Mongolia to America

Up at 5am – or rather awake – finally got out of bed at 5:30a.  I was picked up at 6am for my 8:55am flight.  My route was Ulaanbaatar to Tokyo to Denver to Colorado Springs.  I’ll be picked up by my friend, Sherilyn, and spend the first week with her while I’m waiting for the rest of the family to arrive.

The flight from Mongolia to Tokyo was a bit rough.  Turns out Mongolia Air leans towards the bare bones side.  There is only one working toilet for all of economy and the line was 15 deep for most of the flight,but I got where I needed to be so not too many complaints.  I arrive in Tokyo and need to get my ticket for my next flight at the United counter.  It doesn’t take long to remember why American airlines aren’t my favorite.  It takes way too long and by the time I’m done there are 20 people in line.  Once I board my flight I discover that there is an entire class of 6th grade Japanese students and lucky me I’m on the aisle blocking two of them in and they really, really liked to get up.

Eventually we all make it to America.  I arrive in Denver, go through customs, recheck my luggage and make it through security and board my flight to Colorado Springs.  I make it to Colorado Springs, but my luggage doesn’t – at least not when I do.  It arrives about 6 hours later and is delivered to the door.

Day 17 – The Biggest Horse Statue in the World

I was up at 7am to get ready for an 8am ride to the Chinggis Khan Statue Complex.  This is the largest horse statue in the entire world.  It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records.

We toured the museum (four of us horse riders were on this excursion) and then made our way up to the observation platform.  The statue is impressive, but there’s nothing else to do there so we headed back to town.

We were dropped off at The State Department Store.  The first thing to do is eat.  I go for mutton dumplings.  I’m running out of time for Mongolian food and it turns out I like it.  After lunch I try to do some souvenir shopping.  I run into some friends from the horse riding and we finalize plans for dinner.  I head back to the hotel to rest a bit and then it’s off for my last dinner in Mongolia.  We eat at a really good Mongolian restaurant.  Again I have mutton dumplings and a salad.

After dinner I head back to the hotel to finish sorting my luggage.  It’s hard to get to sleep.  I’m nervous about flying and nervous about what’s to come, but I finally fall asleep at 1am after setting two alarms fro 5am.

Day 16 -Back to the Big City

Woke up at 6:45a.  We ate breakfast and broke camp.  We needed to be on the road by 10am to be sure we got to the airport on time.


Group photo just before our drive to the airport

The drive took us over passes and through valleys.  For a long time there was not a road to be seen.

We arrived at the airport about 2:30p.  Our flight was at 5:30p.  It was the only flight for the day which meant the airport was pretty much empty.  So we wait for the employees to arrive.  Once they do, we weigh our luggage and carry ons to be sure we are under our allotment.  We are.  We also become aware of how much we stink.  It’s time to board which means it’s time to say goodbye to the drivers and the translators.  They will make it back to Ulaanbaatar in the vans.


Boarding for our return to Ullaanbaatar

We arrive in UB about 7p and head to dinner.  We have a great Indian meal and then head to the hotel.

At the hotel I say goodbye to Jenn, our trip leader.  I won’t see her again before I fly out.  Once I get settled in my room the only thing I want to do is hear from my family.  It takes a while to get connected to wifi, but once I do I send messages to everyone and then I hop on a hot shower.  A hot shower is amazing!

It’s difficult to sleep, the room is hot and there is a lot of street noise.  I keep checking for messages on Facebook and finally hear back from Michael and Aly.  I fall asleep about 2am.