The trip to Paute was quite beautiful. We passed through a region that is well known for growing flowers and you could see green houses and fields stretching out to the foothills. Babies breath seemed the most prevalent crop at this time of year. I'd love to take time to tour some of the farms sometime in the future.
|Getting on the bus|
|Countryside of Azuay Prefecture|
The house on the left is a new build, with solid cement construction and luxuries like windows. The building you see on the right is the residents' current home and also operates as their place of business. They operate a small store out of the front of the shack. As you can see, the new building has a nice weatherproof roof, much more space and offers far more security. It was evident that the matriarch was thrilled with the progress of her new home.
We arrived at the school and began to unpack the bus. As soon as we stepped onto the school grounds we were rushed by enthusiastic children, all eager to give us hugs and kisses of greeting. Even the parents and teachers were visibly excited to see us and greeted us with traditional cheek kisses and words of welcome. Before we started giving out presents and food, the staff invited us to go out back of the school for a "celebration". We spent a good hour dancing and clapping with all the children in their courtyard. They were tireless, but we ended our fiesta with a rousing "Gangnam Style" ...yes, it has made it all the way to Paute, Ecuador! Then our fun truly began. We handed out food hampers to the mother's who waited with quiet anticipation and then gave stuffed animals to the students and bags of sweets to all the children which included the students and many of their siblings.
|One of the students proudly showing off some of their Christmas arts & crafts made from reclaimed objects.|
|The start of the "fiesta"...I was too busy dancing to take more pictures.|
Between the emotions, dancing and hot sun, we were all tired, so we took a lunch break and stopped at a Parradilla (Argentinian style barbeque) for lunch. The restaurant is not yet open, but they allowed us to use their property for our break. The mother is a volunteer at the abandoned elders home and generously opened her doors to us. (She actually housed many of the elders, while the residency was being built.) Valley Farms Butchers is a lovely stop, with gorgeous grounds, a swimming pool and delicious and unique treats. (We had canned green apricots, a local specialty, which were delicious!) They also offered up some very tasty strawberry ice-cream, which was perfect on a hot afternoon. (Another display of hospitality.) Can you believe that I didn't even think of taking pictures of the property??? I do have one of the apricots.
Well sated and partially rested we took the short trip to the old folks home. We were more prepared, but the enthusiastic greeting was still heart rending. Another fiesta ensued, with much dancing, this time to more traditional music and the residents danced us off our feet. Even Ron got in to the action! (He said I was allowed to post his photo!)
|Cutting a rug...the stuffed critters we gave as gifts are on the table.|
|Overview of most of the gang "gettin' down"|
I was reminded that its not what we have that brings us happiness, but what lives in our hearts. I started out the day thinking about how great it would be to do something for the people in need and I wound up getting so much more in return that my heart can't hold a single extra thing. This is the Ecuador that I wanted to become a part of and Ron and I have been blessed to have experienced it so soon. (As I listen to "Van Diemen's Land" by U2...if you don't know it, look it up...it's about the struggle for rights and hope.)