Ecuador, Part 3: The Jungle and the Beach ; September 25, 2012

And finally, as promised, here is my last of 3 posts about my time in Ecuador! Sorry for the delay... I have been busy since this fall semester started!

So, at the end of April, we took a second trip to Misahuallí. We stayed there for 5 days—a little longer than our first trip. It was like a final ministry and service trip to wrap up what we had learned during the semester. We worked with the same ministry that I described in my post on February 16, and we did basically the same thing: construction work in the mornings, and VBS in the afternoons. We actually finished the house that we were working on before, and we helped the family move all their furniture in! It was so neat to see it come full circle.

On our second day in the jungle, we took a break from our service project. We took a trip to... the jungle jungle. We went to meet a tribe of indigenous people, who sang songs to us, put paint on our faces, and took us on a hike through the jungle. They showed us some fruits they eat, as well as lemon ants and a poison from a tree bark that they use to kill monkeys. The old men showed us how they climb trees, and the women showed us how they weave baskets out of leaves. By the end of the hike, my group was all sweaty, hot, and tired... but the natives were just fine! :)

Here are two of the men of the indigenous people group we visited. They are descended from/or somehow connected to the Waorani people, who were the people that Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, and the three other young men were trying to reach when they were killed by them. The Waorani were then evangelized by the 5 men's wives and others. Although the tribe we visited is not directly descended from that group of Waorani, they are part of the same people group. Oh... and when we visited them, they were wearing their traditional dress... meaning they were not dressed. (Well, the women were dressed...mostly... but the men weren't!)

The next day, after a morning of working on the construction site, we held a VBS-type thing for the kids in the town. That day, the town was having a party because the new bridge over the Napo River had just been finished. So they had set up a greased pole with little prizes on top, and all the boys were trying to climb up the pole to get to the top! I love this picture because you can see our group's bus, the crowd of kids around the pole, the new bridge, the crowd of people celebrating, the giant tree, and a rainbow! :)

I didn't take this picture, but it is one of my favorites from my entire time in Ecuador. See the massive gray object behind us? That's the trunk of a tree! In the above picture with the bridge, you can see the tree in the background, with its bare branches on top standing out above the rest of the trees. So a bunch of us ran across the new bridge with a bunch of the kids, who took us up to this massive, ancient tree! One of my favorite moments in Ecuador... marveling at the hugeness of this tree, walking around its base and into the gaps in its trunk, feeling our own smallness as we stood beneath it. And all with a bunch of energetic, fun, Spanish-speaking, loving kids.

Me with one of those energetic, fun kids. This little girl is one of the many sweet children I had the privilege of hanging out with, singing songs with, teaching, and playing games with for a couple of days.

This little girl carried her kitten around with her in her shirt all day! It was the cutest thing I've ever seen!

All right. Now it's time to jump to our very last trip of the semester. After just two days back in Quito between the two trips, we went to Ecuador's coast for 3 days. This final beach retreat was basically just a time to relax, debrief, reflect on the semester, and prepare to go back home.

There I am walking on the beach. With all my assignments turned in and classes finished, I definitely felt relaxed. It was such a beautiful beach too. We stayed in a hotel of little cabins, right on the beach. It was picturesque. :) Every day for lunch, we walked 15 minutes down the beach to a restaurant on the sand. I got shrimp every day... it was cheap, and so yummy! Our other meals were provided by our lovely leaders. :)

While we were there we had a lot of group time, where we reflected on the semester. We each shared our favorite thing, our least favorite thing, and what we would change about the program. We also shared what we had learned and how we had grown spiritually. I really appreciated sharing that, and hearing what everyone else had to say too. We also talked about "reverse culture shock" and how to re-enter our home culture.

One evening we went to the town of Atacames for pizza, coconut smoothies, and a little tourist-y walking around. We took a public bus to get there from our hotel. Then, to get back that night, we took these little 5-passenger taxis that were kind of like mounted on motorcycles, with no walls or windows, just open. :D And our taxi drivers were zipping down the curvy roads really fast, and racing each other, and we were all laughing about how crazy it was! On that wild taxi ride, as the wind whipped my hair around, I remember watching the dark hills go by and looking at the stars and thinking to myself, Remember this moment. In just a few days you won't be in Ecuador any more... you'll be back home in your normal life. Remember this moment. ... And so, that moment is imprinted on my memory. :)

I took this picture on my last day in Quito. It's just the view of Quito from the apartment, but I wanted to remember what it looked like on my last day there. On my last day, I got to see my host family one last time - but just my host dad and sister. They gave me some going-away presents: a little pink stuffed animal, and 3 Ecuadorian dark chocolate bars. :)

Goodbye, Ecuador! My last view of this beautiful country that I came to love. I flew home on May 11.

You might be wondering why I didn't write a blog about it all until now. I think it's mostly just being busy and that it hasn't been a priority. But another thing is that I'm sad it's over.

The strange thing is that I went through the whole summer at home, working at Ponderosa. And now September is almost over, and I am in the full swing of my last semester at JBU. But even though my mind is set now on my classes and what I'm going to do after I graduate, my time in Ecuador is ever-present in my thoughts. Every day, I remember at least one thing about my experiences there, what I learned, or how I grew. I miss being there, and I miss the people I met. But what matters now is what God taught me through my time there. And that is invaluable.

10:36 PM  |  

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