Water flow experiment! Look closely!

Our last day in Ecuador,
Thursday May 22

It has been an incredibly long day! Yesterday at this time, 11:45 am, we were hanging out at the center of the world…literally. We traveled about 20 minutes by public bus from the Working Boys Center and entered into one of the most unique experiences of our lives. Going to middle of the world may sound easy, but in fact the only place in the world where you can actually stand on the equatorial line is in Quito.
As we entered into the quaint outdoor museum and before standing foot on the line, we received a well-guided tour through a simulated village of how the different native tribes would have lived and survived in the rainforest’s, mountains and jungles of Ecuador. We learned about the process and purpose behind the shrunken head ritual. We entered into what would have been the homes of these people and witnessed what burial rituals they practiced as well. The history and richness of their traditions are beautiful in their original context, however many have been long since extinct such as the shrunken heads and burying alive of chief family members once the chief dies.
Finally at the end of our tour, we got to take part in some of the many experiments that prove we were definitely standing on the equator.
First, our strength was challenged by our guide. When standing on the south side of the line our strength was normal. We held out our arms with clenched fists and resisted the pull down by our guide Ricardo. When standing with one foot on the south side and one foot on the north in the same position, our strength was lost. The guide pulled our arms down as if we weren’t resisting at all….wow! I thought I could beat the myth. Later, we were challenged to balance a raw egg on the head of a nail, which in any other part of the world is impossible, but on the Ecuatorial line is completely possible. See Elizabeth’s proud reaction above.
Finally we witnessed the all too familiar water flow experiment. On the south side of the line, the water swirls clockwise and on the north side, as we are all aware, the water swirls counter clockwise. On the line… It doesn’t swirl at all! See the video posted for a real life witness.
It was an absolutely wonderful experience I know our group will never forget. In fact, this entire trip has been a whirlwind of memories and cherished moments we hope will remain in our hearts and minds and actions throughout all the days to come.
We hope you don’t mind if we come home to you with stories to share and maybe a few gifts to give. You have been a blessing to us just for having followed our journey and supported our efforts. Hopefully, you find that we can do the same for you.
We have a little more time left in Chicago before taking off to St. Louis and for the Kansas City crew…the journey continues a few hours more after we land.
This blog wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t mention how thankful we all are for our most humble and outgoing tour guide, Sr. Mary McGlone. She has been our trusty translator, our cultural guide, our tour guide to Banos, our companion, and spiritual presence. Without her on this trip, we would have felt much more lost than we did and we would have missed out on the unique and personal tour of Quito and Banos. Truly, she has been the ace of God to us all.
And again, we can’t thank YOU enough for giving us your prayers and hopes for a good experience and welcome return.
May you be touched by the people and places of Ecuador through us and our stories.

Peace and Gratitude! We are almost home!


All of us from Avila!
Julie, Grace, Kayla, Elizabeth, Theresa, Rebecca, Hannah, and Haley!

Wednesday May 21
A reflection by Julie:

Buenas Dias y Noches!
The internet hasn’t been working at the center the last couple days. We are sitting at the airport now, through security and awaiting our flight to Miami! The following is a reflection from yesterday:

"Go with the flow" echoes in our heads as we enter into each day, knowing full well that what we expect might happen probably won’t. It is as if the Ecuadorian people were born with this mentality and that is why they are able to live it so naturally. We Americans, however, are used to structure, timelines, and schedules that give our day purpose and understanding. To say the least, we have learned little by little to simply go with the flow and let go of expectations because in the end, all will be well. It has been enriching and beautiful to live in their culture and experience the true meaning of ‘immersion’.
Today, we woke up early, grabbed some breakfast, and caught the center bus to head to the downtown center#1. All we knew was that we would be painting and baking and that we’d be there for about 11 hours. When we arrived we were motioned to wait…so we waited. Soon after, we were split by our Spanish speaking leader into 3 groups and began our painting jobs. My crew (Hannah, Rebecca, Kayla) continued painting the ceiling in the cafeteria from last week, while Elizabeth and Haley worked on base boards, and Grace and Theresa painted outdoor cabinets and pillars. The painting continued through the morning and after translating what I could (which consisted of ‘mass’ and ‘pan’) from our local Spanish speaking leader I understood we were to wait for a bell and head upstairs for mass, then lunch, then baking bread ;) However, to our surprise, there was no bell, and later discovered there was no bread baking either :( So, we waited some more and were saved by an American full time volunteer from the center. She confirmed that it was good we decided to help ourselves to lunch and told us that we were to help serve lunch to the students followed by dishes followed by shadowing full time volunteers in the classroom! We felt relief to have some direction.
In the midst of a full afternoon of working and shadowing around the center, we were pulled out of the classrooms to suddenly get transported back to the main center #2 where we are staying. We were told the bus was broken down and that we were going back sooner than expected in a pick up truck. A pick up truck? Yes…a truck we thought only sat three, yet there were 8 of us. “When in Ecuador…do as the ecuadorians do”…or something like that.
It isn’t often that we, Midwestern Caucasian females, get to fill up the bed of a truck and ride through the streets of Quito. Indeed, after some hesitation and fear, we or rather I found it freeing to allow the moment to happen, get comfortable and embrace the awkward stares.
Our time here is running out and it is in these final hours that we anticipate coming back and sharing the comfort of home again. It is also in these final hours that we anticipate sharing our stories and feeling supported by loved ones through a listening ear over dinner or coffee. Our time here has overwhelmed our senses through new tastes of fruits and grains, sounds of a foreign language and city streets, smells of fresh mountain air and rotting trash on a hill side, the touch of sweet little children who love playing with someone new, and sights of a land and people so rich with beauty and heritage it’s hard to believe it exists.
We are so incredibly blessed to share this experience, rather we are privileged and recognize that what we have seen and felt is unique and rare.
Thank you for supporting us!
Just go with the flow and all will be fine.

Paz y Amor,
Julie

Saturday May 20
A reflection #2 by Rebecca:

Hola from Quito! Before we returned to the capital of Ecuador this afternoon, we spent some more time in Baños. In the true fashion of women, we walked around the adorable town and did some shopping! My favorite store was the tagua shop, where the owner showed us how he carves the tagua (a tree nut) to make jewelry and figurines. It was a fascinating process that he said he’s been doing his whole life. It was also great to be able to buy artisan products from the artist himself. Then we had a few hours set aside for more shopping and exploration. I enjoyed having time to just wander the small town and see everything it has to offer. It’s such a gorgeous place that is set away from everything else enough to be peaceful, but busy enough, in its own way, not to be boring. Everyone seems to know everyone else there and a lot of them remember us too! Theresa and I returned to a shop from the day before and he remember that we were part of the group with Sister Mary. What an honor! Before we left Baños we went back to the retreat center where we stayed to grab our stuff. This place was a beautiful u-shaped building with the doors to our rooms facing in. The place was covered with gorgeous flowers and vines that gave it such a homey and earthy feel. Before we left, Kayla and I climbed a ladder to a little patio above the third floor where we could look out over all of Baños. There was a wonderful view of the town and the mountains. It was a great view from above, but within the town. Then we hopped into the van with Leonel and he graciously took us back to Quito. We are all so very thankful for him, because without him we would have never seen so much of Baños or the waterfalls! ¡Muchas gracias Leonel! After we returned to Quito some of us took much needed naps and some of us got our nails done. It was nice to have some downtime after the whirlwind trip to Baños. Unfortunately tonight we had to say goodbye to Sister Ava, since her plane leaves early tomorrow. She’s been such a joy and we have greatly appreciated having another bilingual person around! We will never forget the smiles she has brought to our faces and I know we would all love to visit her in San Diego some day! I can’t believe we only have two more nights here! This trip has flown by, and even though we have absolutely loved every second, I think we’re excited to see our families.
¡Hasta pronto!
Rebecca

Tuesday May 20

A reflection by Haley:

Hola todos!!! Sorry we haven’t posted in a couple days, we have been in Banos, enjoying the beautiful mountains. Sunday was supposed to be the day we did a “minga,” (helping build a home) but unfortunately it was cancelled. But, like Sister Mary said, often the biggest event are those unseen. I’m sure there was a good reason it was cancelled. Perhaps the family had an issue that morning and just wasn’t able to contact us. We will never know, all we can do is trust in the glory of God. But don’t you fear, we still made the most of the day! While we were waiting for the bus to show up, we performed some songs from Frozen for the nuns! They thoroughly enjoyed our performance. We also helped clean up around The Center, which I’m sure was greatly appreciated. We also went down to the bakery and baked a variety of cookies for all of the volunteers. Then we departed for Banos. The four hour bus ride was filled with beautiful scenery everywhere you looked. We drove past the active volcano, which was perfectly crowned with a ring of clouds. On the drive, there were times where we were so high up, the clouds were actually beneath us! I thought that only happened in airplanes! When we arrived at Banos, we enjoyed a delicious Italian meal. Who knew you could find Italian food in Ecuador! The next day, we got to explore Banos. Banos is a cute little town surrounded by mountains and at the base of a living volcano. We all agreed we would some day return to this adorable town to live permanently :) We enjoyed walking around the town, admiring the cute little shops and parks. The first morning, we went on a tour in Fuvirese, which is a rehab center providing physical therapy, speech therapy, and special education. Next we went horseback riding in the mountains, and although there were some challenges taming and learning how to ride, we were happy we did it. I know none of us will ever forget it because it forced us to support each other, learn something new, and grow in our weaknesses. Next was my favorite part: led by our personal tour guide leonell, we went on a hike in the mountains to view the various waterfalls. They were gorgeous! We even got to stand right behind one of the large waterfalls!!! Not in front of it, not next to it, but BEHIND IT! We got soaked and had a great time! Next we went to the highest peak in Banos. This peak has a great view that overlooks the entire town! It was breathtaking. This peak also has a huge cross that lights up at night and can be seen all throughout the town. Then we went to a Spanish mass in a very beautiful church. It was such a neat experience. Behind the altar was an enormous, ornate castle, upon each layer of the castle were statues of various important religious figures, but at the very top of the palace was Jesus Christ, showing that Jesus truly is the King of Kings. It was breath taking. That night, we had dinner at a delicious French restaurant. We ended the night by gathering together and singing songs, with Sister Mary playing the guitar. We had a great time enjoying each other’s company. However, there was one drawback for me of the place where we were staying…I am absolutely terrified of cats and there were tons of them everywhere! But the plus side is that all of the girls enjoyed my fearful reactions, so I guess you can say I served as some source of entertainment :)

Also, on this trip we were accompanied by Sr. Ava Rodriguez from San Diego, CA. We love that she joined us!

Con amor,
Haley Baer

Saturday May 17

A reflection by Elizabeth:

Hi friends,
Today, was filled with lots of F-U-N! We made four awesome stops today. We entered a new state in Ecuador today. Imbabur was the state name!!! The first stop was in Cayambe for biscochos and cheese-it was delicious, the second stop was the Cuicocha Lake which is found north of Quito in the Ecuadorian Andes. It is an ACTIVE crater lake, we observed some gas emissions- which was really neat and beautiful-oh and we went on a boat ride around the lake- no big deal! The third stop we stopped in was a little leather town- the leather was so unique and it smelt amazing, The final stop was the market, Otavalo! “This little piggy went to market, this little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had none, and this little piggy cried wee wee all the way home”. Otavalo was filled with everything: scarves, purses, jewelry, trinkets and tons more. I shopped till I dropped.

As we were getting onto the bus to head back, an Ecuadorian lady asked if she could sing to us in her language, Quichua…. Of course we said yes! She sang us three songs! I definitely saw God in her today because she was so proud of who she was and her heritage. It was a perfect way to end a perfect day!:)

I’m so blessed and honored to be here!

Much love,

~Elizabeth

Friday May 16
A reflection by Grace:

After a long yet very fulfilling day yesterday, we were looking forward to exploring the various workshops that The Working Boys Center offers to its students. These include a carpentry shop, a beauty shop, a metal mechanic shop, a sewing shop, auto mechanic shop and a bakery. We were able to choose which shop to attend for two hours and Rebecca and I opted for the beauty shop, which was fantastic because they kindly pampered us with manicures and pedicures while simultaneously teaching us how to do both. Though the language barrier, as always, was a hard thing to overcome as I am NOT well versed in Spanish, the girls as well as the ladies were very kind and understanding. Theresa and Hanna had a full day at the Center. Haley went to the metal mechanic shop and absolutely loved the welding process. She even made some friends with the boys and was able to bond over the work with them. Kayla and Elizabeth went to the bakery, and after putting on some awesome bakery hats, they helped make various delicious breads. Julie wanted to make a stool so she went to the carpentry shop and worked her “do it yourself” magic!

We then attended afternoon mass held by Padre Juan, which is such an uplifting event because of how animated the children and the choir are. Even though it is all in Spanish, I was able to understand what was happening and felt very at home in the presence of God.
After lunch, one of our amazing tour guides, Theresa along with Sister Mary took us to a food market, which was only a few blocks away from the center. Not only was there an enormous variety of fruits and vegetables, but there was also large pieces of meat and live animals along with pottery, spices and fish. I tried a few pieces of fruit that I’ve never even seen before and it’s definitely an experience to taste something completely new. Most of us came back with items in our bags and smiles on our faces!
I am in awe of this experience so far. The people we have met, the things we have seen and the unity that we are building is too precious for words, and we still have a week left! Sister Mary has challenged us to figure out what God is saying to us on this trip and I don’t have a complete answer quite yet. I do know that we are supposed to know as much as possible about the Center and I look forward to figuring out what to do with the experiences we have had and will continue to have. Reflection is key during a trip like this and I’m learning to do so. God is good. We are blessed.
-Grace

A reflection by Hannah:

Today was Thursday. We toured the downtown center #1 and Gota de Leche, which means “drop of milk” in English. They serve needy women with babies by offering healthcare, milk, and other things.

After touring Gota de Leche we went sight seeing. Our main objective was the cathedral, called the companion of Jesus (or something like that). Being an outsider to Catholicism, I found the experience was quite like a museum. Everything inside the building is symbolic, and there were many, many stories that Sister Mary told about Catholic history. It was an enlightening experience for me.

At the center #1, we dropped in on some classes taking place. The second graders recited the poems they wrote their mothers for Mother’s Day. Of course, it was in Espanol, but the children were very theatrical. They used their arms and one boy even used a rose to perform the pieces. Other classes sang for us and we sang for them!

After touring center #1, a painting job was waiting for us, and now we are splattered with paint! You may have noticed the photo of Elizabeth. Isn’t she the cutest? Needless to say a shower was mandatory for me that night (I had been getting by before this).

Traveling with a group has been difficult for me. I prefer to be a loner, especially when I am experiencing new things. I like to reflect and explore on my own, but we have had to do a lot as a group. This culture is also very big on interpersonal communication. Everyone greets everyone. When I say “everyone” I mean everyone greets each. individual. person. in. the. group. This was quite tedious for me at the beginning, but now I can appreciate it for what it is- their culture. Which, I dare say, is more focused on relationships and therefore may be healthier than our own. Still, I prefer my own culture. I like to get lost in the crowd and to not be expected to acknowledge every person’s presence.

One great thing I have learned while being here is the importance of hard work and education. Really, I valued these things before, but now I understand them. It is as if I have found new vigor to pursue my own goals by seeing how important an education is in order to do anything. Hard work backs it up quite nicely, and I will admit I’ve been slacking this past year. I would not have guessed that these values would be personally stressed during my time here, but I am happy to have found them bright and shining as ever.

Three days has felt like a week. We have done so much all ready! I’m in need of some rest or something so that I can slow down and think. I have been journaling, and average ten pages (not double spaced) per day. There is so much to document!

Well, I will write more next week. And as some say here, Ciao!

Hannah

A reflection by Theresa:

Hola familias y amigas! It has been a very busy day for our group. Bright and early this morning we gathered for breakfast in the cafe below the center. Such delicious food! We then spent the morning visiting the homes of three members of the center. It was incredibly eye opening to see where these people were living. One of the houses had 9 people living in two small rooms. And they had to worry about the rain washing away their homes. The amount of respect I have for these women that opened their doors to us is overwhelming. They have so much pride in their homes. It was a very humbling experience.
In the afternoon, we got the opportunity to shadow the year long volunteers that live and teach here. The class I was with was a group of girls ranging from 7 years old to 11 years old. We helped them with their English and read and played with them. They were such trusting and loving little girls. They constantly wanted to be with us, holding our hands or hugging us. I wish I could express the joy I felt spending an afternoon with these girls. Finally, in the evening, a few of us helped teach an adult class. These men and women were learning how to read and write basic Spanish because they grew up speaking a native language that is slowly fading out. They had so much determination to learn, even when they were frustrated. I wish I had the kind of dedication they had.

I am constantly amazed by how much I am being given here. I’m learning so much about this country and this culture, but also about myself. I can’t wait for what these next few days have in store!

Hasta luego!

-Theresa

A post by Kayla:
Holá! We finally made it after a year of preparation!! I dont think anyone could understand or imagine how excited we all were for this amazing journey! We also were a little nervous about this experience, but as soon as the plane landed and we were greeted with friendly faces all of our nerves disappeared, and we were ready to take on this adventure!!
Tuesday:
We were greeted this morning with beautiful weather and a beautiful mountain view. Surrounding the Working Boys Center in every direction are gorgeous mountains with houses and buildings all up the sides to put an image in your mind, think of how movies portrays Greece and you got it!!  Today was full of many eye-opening experiences. First off, we learned that very and I mean very few people speak English. Luckily, Sister Mary came with us and was able to translate everything!  We started the day with a tour of the WBC and were able to see how great of a place it really is. It is a center that teaches boys and girls overall life skills as well as letting them choose a specialty for a career (mechanic, hair dresser, seamstress, etc.), so that when they graduate between the ages of 14-16 with an equivalent of a high school diploma, they can quickly get a job or start their own business.  It also requires the involvement of each childs entire family to participate weekly in classes to better themselves for the sake of the community. Next we went to an all Spanish Mass with all the students! It was such a great experience seeing all of them get involved with the songs. They seemed so happy to be there and they go 4 times a week, where most of us go once a week and dont have half of the excitement, so this was definitely a memorable experience. Then, after helping to prepare dinner, we went to a daycare ages 2-5 and played with the kids. It was so fun! Despite the language barrier, we were able to interact and recognize the joy and love in each child! They were constantly hugging us and playing with our hair and taking pictures. They were seriously the cutest!! The best part was that they all out on a little performance for us. They sang and danced and even grabbed us to dance with them. It was definitely one of the best parts of today.  It is so inspiring to see how much hard work everyone does to keep this place up and running. And it makes it that much more of an honor to be here helping them. 

We have only been here one day and it has been so amazing!! We cannot wait to see what is in store for us in the coming week! 

Hasta Luego! Kayla.

A post by Kayla:
Holá! We finally made it after a year of preparation!! I dont think anyone could understand or imagine how excited we all were for this amazing journey! We also were a little nervous about this experience, but as soon as the plane landed and we were greeted with friendly faces all of our nerves disappeared, and we were ready to take on this adventure!!
Tuesday:
We were greeted this morning with beautiful weather and a beautiful mountain view. Surrounding the Working Boys Center in every direction are gorgeous mountains with houses and buildings all up the sides to put an image in your mind, think of how movies portrays Greece and you got it!! Today was full of many eye-opening experiences. First off, we learned that very and I mean very few people speak English. Luckily, Sister Mary came with us and was able to translate everything! We started the day with a tour of the WBC and were able to see how great of a place it really is. It is a center that teaches boys and girls overall life skills as well as letting them choose a specialty for a career (mechanic, hair dresser, seamstress, etc.), so that when they graduate between the ages of 14-16 with an equivalent of a high school diploma, they can quickly get a job or start their own business. It also requires the involvement of each childs entire family to participate weekly in classes to better themselves for the sake of the community. Next we went to an all Spanish Mass with all the students! It was such a great experience seeing all of them get involved with the songs. They seemed so happy to be there and they go 4 times a week, where most of us go once a week and dont have half of the excitement, so this was definitely a memorable experience. Then, after helping to prepare dinner, we went to a daycare ages 2-5 and played with the kids. It was so fun! Despite the language barrier, we were able to interact and recognize the joy and love in each child! They were constantly hugging us and playing with our hair and taking pictures. They were seriously the cutest!! The best part was that they all out on a little performance for us. They sang and danced and even grabbed us to dance with them. It was definitely one of the best parts of today. It is so inspiring to see how much hard work everyone does to keep this place up and running. And it makes it that much more of an honor to be here helping them.

We have only been here one day and it has been so amazing!! We cannot wait to see what is in store for us in the coming week!

Hasta Luego! Kayla.