It was another beautiful day in Ecuador, not just because the weather was ideal but rather because of the 22 good will ambassadors we have traveling with us on this trip.
Today we watched as our students peeled potatoes, cut squash, read stories, sang songs, made friendship bracelets, danced and colored with 40 people from Baños at the elderly center where we volunteered for almost four hours. It was perhaps the most rewarding way to end our trip as we watched our students interact with the local residents as they helped prepare their lunch and led activities to get to know them.
Each day Monday through Friday about 40 or 50 elderly people from Baños arrive at the center and are served lunch. We helped peel and clean the potatoes, cut up vegetables and prepare some fruit along with the señora who prepares their meals each day. On Tuesday we collected almost $100 so that Luis and Guillermo could go to the store to buy rice and non-perishable goods to donate. We stopped by the store to pick up the food this morning on our way to the center to donate, in addition to the items we brought from home to donate.
Some of us helped in the kitchen while others drew on the paper we brought so that the local residents could color once they arrived. Around 10:30 a.m., while some of us were helping in the kitchen, some of the local residents began to arrive. They sat next to our students to color using the colored pencils and crayons we brought from home. We also helped them make friendship bracelets using materials that Zoe brought from home.
I wish that I could capture in words how beautiful it was to watch our students interacting with the elderly residents as they helped them color and make bracelets. They used their Spanish to chat with the men and women while getting to learn more about them. They were amazing good-will ambassadors. The senior citizen center needed our help and we were so glad to help by giving our time to serve them.
Around 12:30, we spent 30 minutes entertaining them. Our guide Luis said they all know the Star Spangled Banner from hearing it on TV and asked if we would sing it to them. It was an honor to bring a song from our culture to share with them. Afterward, we read them five short stories. This year’s Spanish 5 students wrote, edited and published a book of Spanish bedtime stories in collaboration with Lutheran Hospital and we brought five copies along with us to donate. We shared some of the stories with them. Finally, we taught them the Cupid Shuffle. It was a blast. Before leaving, we put on some traditional Ecuadorian music and invited them to dance in the small room in which they had been sitting around the perimeter watching. About half of them joined in as we smiled, laughed and enjoyed our last bit of time in Ecuador.
Here are several pictures and videos from the day.
We broke into our small groups to grab some lunch in Baños. We left Baños around 3:30 to head to Quito, a four-hour trip.
Half-way back to Quito, however, we were treated to an unexpected surprise: an amazing view of snow-capped Volcano Cotopaxi, the second highest volcano in Ecuador at 19,347 feet. It was the best view I have ever had of Cotopaxi and even Luis said he has only seen such a handful of times. Normally clouds cover the summit but not today as we admired the view for some 30 minutes as we headed toward Quito, with three short stops along the road to exit the bus and admire the views. It was the icing on the cake for what had already been a wonderful day.
We’re at the airport in Quito and should be boarding our flight shortly.
It has been an outstanding trip and we hope you have enjoyed following our blog.