Once again I find that I have no idea how to begin this post – or even the words to use to describe the amazing experience that was Ecuador. I know I left part of my heart in South America, and in all honesty, most days the trips I took there feel more like a weird, wonderful dream than reality. I got to see my sponsored children again. I got to speak with them, hear their own voices, give them hugs, and show them love in person. I held their hands in mine – and once again utterly left my heart with them.
There’s no way I could convey the full range of emotions felt from this trip in a single post – so, just as I did with my last trip, I’m attempting to share in a series, breaking it down day-by-day or story-by-story; but bear with me, these words are hard to write and even harder to share…
[Long post alert – consider yourself warned]
Day 4, and I wake up to the most spectacular hotel ever. Seriously, look at my room in the morning light – don’t you just want to curl up and stay forever? Just to the left of the photo is a wood-burning fireplace, too. This hotel, Puerto Lago, is now a definite weak spot for me. I had a very, very hard time leaving it – to the point of if I didn’t have commitments back home, I would have tried to find a way to stay longer.
On this trip, unlike my 2013 visit to Ecuador with Compassion, I opted to pay the increased fee and have a single room – and let me say, it was so worth it.
My room here had it’s own balcony, and all be it small, it was beautiful. The view looked over the lake with the volcano in the distance. It was truly breathtaking to see each morning – and absolutely peaceful. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to capture in writing the feeling of calm I got while here, but man it was amazing.
Also, there were alpacas at the hotel. Alpacas. At the hotel. Several – and they were fun to photograph.
For breakfast each morning in Puerto Lago, we ate at the hotel and had the best fresh fruit – strawberries, pineapple, melon, you name it. Plus, there was the most exquisite hot chocolate – like Swiss Miss to the max. After breakfast, we headed to EC-471 to experience a “Day in the Life of a Compassion Child.”
Before breaking into groups to visit the children’s homes, we toured the main facility. This project had recently made use of Compassion’s Complementary Intervention Funds and upgraded a room for the teens to include a ping-pong table and several computers.
After the tour, we once again loaded into the back of pick-up trucks and made the short but bumpy drive to the local homes. My group visited the house of Wendy and her brother. The house was constructed of concrete blocks and was one indoor room with a small kitchen area behind. You can see the kitchen best below:
Here’s another view of the kitchen – the family cooks over a fire, but does have a small range inside.
Against the other outer wall is a small lean-to bunk. This is where the adults (3) sleep. It’s covered with plastic sheeting to help keep the rain out.
Inside, there’s a bed where all the kids sleep, a bit of storage in the form of a wooden wardrobe, another small Cars themed wardrobe, and some shelving. In the corner is the weaving machine where Wendy’s Dad spends most of his time creating sweaters to be sold in the local market.
Wendy’s mother also knits (and is so fast it’s crazy). Together, their crafts earn the necessary income to sustain the family. In the little time we were there (less than an hour) Wendy’s dad had created the front panel of a sweater and her mother had banded a hat. It was amazing to watch.
We also had the opportunity to ask Wendy and her brother about their experience in the Compassion Project. Both children are sponsored, and Wendy has received several letters, which she was excited to show us (though her face doesn’t look it, I promise she lit up when we asked about her sponsor). When we asked if there was anything she would tell her sponsor if she could, she replied, “I would let her know that I was waiting for this moment [to be sponsored] my whole life.” So sponsor, where ever you are, your letters are working. Man are they working. So thank you. Thank you for caring for Wendy and her family. Thank you for writing to her and filling her spirit with encouragement. And thank you for allowing us to witness such a small part of you story.
Really, the entire family was so open, so grateful for their local church and Compassion. It was so inspiring. Also, see those minion and monster hats? Those are what the family makes to sell – and in the bottom right corner, that Canadian cloth? That’s the panel of the sweater they made while we were there. And, to top it all off, the family gave us each a hat before we left – they literally gave us part of their income because they were so happy to receive us in their home. Talk about generous – these who have less give most.
Outside, the family has a small personal garden and a pen where they raise guinea pigs (below you can see 2 of the girls trying to get in with the guineas).
Also, let me take this opportunity to reinforce the fact that I adore these Ecuadorian abuelas. I very much want to adopt one of these grandmothers as my own, they make me smile so.
After our home visit, we gave Wendy and her cousin a ride back to the project – and they had a blast! (Again, one of my favorite photos from this trip!)
Upon our return, it was time to play and, of course, paint nails! I will say, no matter where in the world you find yourself, little girls love nail polish, and the four or five of us sponsors painting nails were swamped the entire time.
I also had several bracelets my friend Yvonne sent to me to give out – and man, these were popular, too! We had a crazy line for them and I enlisted several other sponsors to help me hand them out.
After our play time with the kids, it was time for the projects grand finale – a birthday party for all of the kids celebrating their birthdays in April.
They had so much cake! And giant sprinkler candles!
And confetti! Truly it was one of the happiest birthday parties I’ve been to, and one I won’t soon forget!
And after the cake and the party, it was time to say our goodbyes. The project presented each of us with a knitted hat (animals for the women), we took our final photos, and loaded back on the bus to head back to the hotel.
I keep forgetting how long these days were – it doesn’t seem like we did too much each day, but still got in so many activities. All day with the kids, and then back to the hotel just in time for a sunset over the lake. Just enough each day – just enough to soak it in and still feel like you can go on. Just enough to fully take it all in without feeling too rushed. Just enough.
I’m planning to share more from this trip each Tuesday until the story is told. So be sure to check back for the next installment!