Forever grateful for the love and kindness

Today is Friday, our last day at the center working with the children and staff of Calderón, and our last day working together as a team. At breakfast we talked about what we were going to do today and reviewed the words to “Te Quiero Yo,” the Barney song “I Love You”, which we appropriated to represent our feelings toward the people we are serving in Ecuador. At the team meeting, Tom read a moving poem by a cancer survivor that helped remind us what we are doing and why we are here and Seija read her journal entry, which included reflections of her extended stay in Ecuador. The team, already feeling the bittersweet reality of ending a successful mission and facing saying goodbye to our hosts, were equally moved by Seija’s emotional writing. On the bus to Calderón, we practiced “Te Quiero Yo” several times while I did my best to play the chords on the charango, and our driver, Fabián (the husband of Pilar, a key member of our host organization, FUNDAC), tried to keep his eyes on other cars, buses, and trucks as they dashed in and out of traffic with abandon.

 

We arrived late at the center, with the children having already eaten their breakfast. Being Friday, many children were home with their families; Katie was a bit disappointed to find that there were only four kids in Tía Alexandra’s class. Tom started his day as usual, with a task list that included more to do than any person would be able to accomplish in one day. Today he started by finding examples of screws he needed Maggie to buy at the hardware store. (Maggie has become quite the hardware shopper, by the way, while supporting an array of Global Volunteer projects.) Seija reported to Ruby’s classroom and proceeded as she did every other day, proactively helping the children move from task to task with a mix of fun and precision; one might hear her chanting, “uno, dos, tres, cuatro” with the kids as they literally marched to the bathroom. After going on a brief shopping mission in the local commercial area, Suzanne resumed working in Tía Gaby’s class and I made my way to the kitchen.

 

The morning proceeded like any other morning at the center with the exception of the tías obviously making preparations for our final celebration and the tías in the kitchen making plans to move to their new location about five blocks down the street from the center. In between preparing healthy meals for the children, Olga, Elisa, and Marisol were sifting through drawers and cabinets selecting items that would be moved later in the day. While the ladies were generally happy and relieved to have found an affordable location to prepare food for both centers and to have received permission from FUNDAC to borrow the stoves and a refrigerator from the centers, there were moments of sad reflection. One such moment involved Olga finding a memento from her late husband’s funeral. Elisa and Marisol huddled around Olga as they read the words next to a photo of her husband in a frame bordered by the baby Jesus, his Mother Mary, and angels. This poignant moment made clear that the ladies had shared good times as well as emotionally difficult times together in this soon to be decommissioned kitchen.

 

After helping serve lunch to the kids, and as the kids were going down for their naps, the Global Volunteers team went to Belén’s for our final lunch and devoured another delicious sampling of Ecuadorian cuisine. On the way back to the center, Tom, Katie, and Seija stepped into a masapán shop for one more look at the handcrafted souvenirs that are the pride of Calderón. We returned to the center while the tíaswere finishing their lunch. While we were away, the ladies in the kitchen had already moved the stove to the new location and asked if I could walk there to help the driver unload the refrigerator that was being relocated from Center 2. We walked down the street, over the highway on a pedestrian overpass, and another block and a half to the new kitchen. The driver and refrigerator were waiting in front of the white block building that had a large metal security door and smaller service window built into the front. Inside was a large, immaculately clean space with kitchen equipment stacked throughout on the floor. Olga explained that, with a little help from members of the community, everything was going to be set up on Sunday. All of us on the Global Volunteers team are relieved that the FUNDAC organization and staff conceived a workable solution to this issue that threatened the ongoing viability of the centers.

 

Time to party!!! One by one, after each of us finished our last task of this volunteer trip, the Global Volunteers team sat down in the large room at the front of the center. The tías were all wearing black and were taping themselves with masking tape to simulate skeletons. Elvita started the final celebration with a short speech thanking Global Volunteers and our team while Maggie provided us with an English translation. The tías then gathered in front of us and the kids, donned skeleton masks, and started a song playing on the sound system about skeletons who get up at night, kill imaginary things, scream when they see their reflections in the mirror, and then go back to sleep during the day. Many thanks to Maggie for the translation of this song; some of us were a bit concerned about what messages the tías were trying to convey. We now understand that they were honoring us with a locally popular song and a creative interpretive dance.

 

Then it was our turn to perform for the children, the tías, and the FUNDAC members who were present. Tom started our portion of the celebration with an impassioned speech of thanks to all of the center staff and FUNDAC for allowing us to share these two weeks with them. He told those gathered that we would be forever grateful for the love and kindness we received from them and that we would remember them forever, a sentiment shared by all members of the Global Volunteers team. After Tom finished speaking on our behalf (with gentle prodding from Katie), we started singing “Te Quiero Yo.” As I played the charango, Seija, Katie, Tom, and Suzanne sang and did hand motions toward everyone. With little encouragement, everyone joined in when we sang the song in Spanish.

 

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After we sang the English and Spanish versions of the song, each member of the Global Volunteers team said a few words to thank our hosts, the tías, and the children. Then, with everyone singing along, we sang the Spanish version of “Te Quiero Yo” one more time. No sooner did we sit down than the tías asked each one of us to come forward, one at a time, to receive handmade cards and gifts of masapán. The tías thanked each one of us and gave us a big hug. A frenzy of dancing and picture taking followed and lasted for the next hour. Hugs were shared among nearly everyone left in the center, along with requests for email addresses and promises to return to Ecuador some day. After much well wishing, the Global Volunteers team made it to Pili’s van for the return to our hotel.

 

Tía Norma and Neal

Left: Elvia and Suzanne, Right: Elvia, Suzanne, and Tía Gaby

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Left: Óscar and Tom, Right: Katie, Tía Roxana, and Tía Alexandra with two little ones

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Left: Suzanne, Tía Ruby, and Seija, Right: Tía Olga, Suzanne, and Neal with his new handmade magnet

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Left: Pilar and Tom, Right: Suzanne showin’ her moves

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Left: Tía Gaby and Neal, Right: Tía Karina and Seija

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Left: Elvia, Katie, Suzanne, Pilar, and Seija; Right: Shirley and Tom

 

Maggie met us at the hotel at 6:15 p.m. to take us out on the town in the Historic Center of Quito. After a cab ride in the typically slow Friday night traffic of Quito, the Global Volunteers team arrived at the part of Old Quito known as La Ronda. The street and just about every business was crowded with people eating, drinking, and listening to a variety of live Latin American music. We stepped into one restaurant that served what must be the largest empanada known to man; I think it was about two feet long, a foot wide, and covered in coarse granulated sugar. Then we walked to the bottom of the street and back up to a restaurant serving traditional Ecuadorian fare and featuring three musicians playing a variety of Ecuadorian and Andean music. Here Maggie recommended we try a traditional Ecuadorian cocktail, to which, being the compliant volunteers that we are, we eagerly complied.

 

By the time we finished our courses at the Ecuadorian restaurant, it was time to catch a cab back to the hotel. At the hotel, the team presented Maggie with a card and a token of our appreciation. We thanked her, said goodbye to one another, and went to our rooms. Tom and Katie planned to get up early in the morning, take a shuttle to the airport, and catch a flight back home to Georgia. Seija planned to check out of the hotel and check in to a hotel in the Historic District of Quito to finish out her long stay in Ecuador. And Suzanne and I planned to rent a car and drive to Baños to veg for three days before returning to San Francisco.

 

On behalf of all of us on Ecuador Team 151, thank you, Maggie, and thank you, Global Volunteers, for giving us the opportunity to serve the community of Calderón, where we received much more from our hosts than we provided through our humble service.
“Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.”
Entry submitted by: Neal Pierce

 

Message of the Day – Tom Horne: “There was a time in my life during my years in college when I was so talkative that the waterfall of words kept others at a safe distance. Of course, in time, this cascade pushed others away. But what I didn’t realize till much later was that I kept talking faster and louder to the world around me because I couldn’t hear the world within me. Of course, the more noise I made, the less chance I had of having what was real enter me or rise from me. It became a damning cycle.
 
“So often, we mistake the need to hear with the need to be heard. All that talk was a way of reaching out to others with my heart. Ultimately, it was all based on the fear that if I didn’t throw my heart out there – through endless words and gestures and questions – I would be left alone. It’s taken me many years to learn that the world comes flooding in if I can only keep myself open.

 

“It remains important to reach out and to express oneself, but underneath that is the need to be porous and real. Through the opened heart, the world comes rushing in, the way oceans fill the smallest hole along the shore. It is the quietest sort of miracle: by simply being who we are, the world will come to fill us, to cleanse us, to baptize us, again and again.” – Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening

 

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