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…
Day 6 was easily the longest day of the trip – mainly because we were all super anxious to see our kids at dinner, but, before we could do so, we had a couple of other stops planned. We started the day by touring the main country office. Here we got to see the process of sorting and delivering letters, tracking student progress, and curriculum development. I also love going through the various project mailboxes and look for letters waiting to be delivered to my kids.
After the tour, we stopped for lunch at a local pizza place – which took forever, but had some really great food. I ended up begin the last one to get my food, but it was worth the wait. After eating, we went back to the hotel to rest and prepare for meeting our kids. We gathered in the hotel lobby to drive over to the event space and set up our tables for the dinner with the kids.
I had my own table for the dinner, since my group was going to be so large – and I decorated it with confetti and streamers. The kids ended up arriving 30 minutes later than expected, and let me tell you, we sponsors felt every second of it. On the plus side, this gave the event space staff time to get their wifi working – which meant that I was able to Skype home and let Mom talk to Gladys, so it was worth it.
To meet our kids, our group leaders lined all of the sponsors up in order and one at a time, our kids came through the doors and met us. It was a cool way to do the introductions, and allowed for plenty of good photo time. I’m also very grateful for these photos – especially the one below – because I knew as soon as I saw my Emily that I’d be picking her up. My friend Jodi also got a great video of the moment – which is the best!
I love, love, love that Ecuador does this dinner before the fun day. It’s nearly my favorite part. And this year they had a photo booth – which was such a fun idea! I don’t have any of the photo booth photos – I let the kids take them all – but I do have some other photos that capture the night perfectly. In fact, I have so many photos that it would be impossible to share them all without creating a blog post that is insanely long. So instead, I’ll just tell you some of my favorite moments:
- Josue celebrating his birthday (which was 2 days later) with the ceramic cupcake I brought him
- Opening the elaborate gifts created by my kids for me – including: a sculpted paper heart from Josue, Guava jam from Emily, and a balloon giraffe from Gladys.
- Watching Emily and Gladys become fast friends
- Hugs on top of hugs on top of hugs
- Watching Gladys skype with Mom and take photos of my computer screen with Mom’s face.
- Learning that Josue was competing in a reality TV dance show – seriously! This boy is so talented!
Some of my favorite memories are from this night – and I wish I could go back to it every single day. These kids, they are why my heart calls Ecuador home – and they are why I make every effort to visit as often as possible – to write as often as possible – and to send my love across continents. These kids will have a brighter future because of Compassion, and I am honored to witness it.
As I mentioned Tuesday, the Compassion Bloggers are blogging their experiences in Ecuador this week, too. To read more from the bloggers, click here. To find your own beautiful child to sponsor, click here.