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…
First off, let me give you fair warning: this is the last of my Ecuador trip posts, and it’s a bit lengthy and photo heavy.
I started the day loading up the 7, yes 7, bags full of goodies, gifts, and my essentials (sunscreen lotion, swim suit, etc.) and heading down to the lobby for a quick breakfast at the hotel restaurant. You can read more about what I took to my kids here – but let me just say that the duffel bags I made were a huge hit and I’ll be making more of them in the future, also, they can totally be worn like a backpack (see photo below).
While all of the sponsors were gathering in a room below the lobby, the kids were arriving and having some fun with the baggage carts! The photo below is one of the jewels I got from Emily’s camera – and a big reason of why I take a digital camera to my kids and give it to them as soon as I see them – they take great photos! This is a tradition I’ll continue with each trip: I buy inexpensive digital cameras at Walmart before I leave home with the intention of giving each of my kids one of them. I also stock up on batteries and SD cards. The plan is to put 1 SD card in each of the cameras at the beginning, let the kids take photos to their hearts content, and then switch out the SD cards with new ones right before I leave. I then take their photos home & print them, and then send the photos back to the kids in the many letters I write them. It works perfectly. I got tons of photos, but never have to be behind the camera – it is so awesome!
Once we were all reunited, we boarded several busses and headed to the waterpark for our fun day. Emily, Gladys, Josue, and I got to sit in the very back of the bus – and had a blast during the hour or so ride.
Once at the park, we sat down our things and played some games – Josue is extremely sporty (which I am not – by any stretch of the imagination) and I cheered him on for a while before we talked all of the kids into trying out the swimming pool. Gladys had never seen a pool before, but she took to it like a fish. It was task to get her out of the water at the end of the day!
After swimming, and a quick lunch at the park, we headed back to our bags and began giving gifts. (It also started to rain on us a bit – but a few sprinkles weren’t going to deter our happiness). The kids all loved their gifts – and the quilts were a huge hit.
Gladys also loved, and I mean LOVED, the doll Mom sent to her. Can’t you just feel the excitement? Gladys is very, very shy. I don’t think she spoke more than a dozen words the entire time – but once we opened gifts she came alive. She was the most expressive of the three, I think. After each and every gift that she opened, she gave me a big hug. I have some of the sweetest photos of her from this time. You could tell by her face that she couldn’t believe this was really happening.
Also, note the “v” on the above bird – for months we thought Gladys went by her middle name – Valeria. We were wrong – as I found out on this trip. Oops!
After all the hard goodbyes (always the worst part), our group went out to eat at a traditional restaurant that featured dinner and a show. It was a fantastic way to decompress and process all that we’d been through. The costumes and dancing were amazing, and I’m so glad I thought to take some video of the performances – it really was a great way to end the day.
Finally, we closed the trip with a 2:45 wakeup call in order to make our early morning flight back to Miami and then my connecting flights home. I was exhausted, but the trip was amazing. I cannot wait to go back to Ecuador.
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.