Getting an early start after a late night is always challenging. Getting an early start after 20 hours of international travel is borderline misery…unless your destination is Ecuador. Upon getting only four hours of sleep, our first day in Quito began with a traditional Ecuadorian breakfast: buttered toast, fruit, and likely the strongest coffee on the planet. Given the four hours of sleep, I welcomed the strong coffee without my usual long pour of half and half. At 9:00am SHARP! we boarded our bus to Fundación Cristo Misionero Orante, a mission for children of all ages run by seven Catholic nuns. Here, we had the opportunity to interact with the children and teach them a little bit of English. However, I believe we learned much more from them than they did from us. Full of hugs, smiles, and wishes for a ¡Feliz año!, these little angels were so worth the hard labor we put into the morning. If I’m recounting the day honestly, I spent more time taking photos and video than digging holes and painting. The group of students I’m leading gave it their all today and accomplished WAY more than I thought physically possible with old, worn out shovels. It’s amazing what people can accomplish when others are counting on them.
The students painted a wall bordering the children’s outdoor ball court and relocated two pieces of playground equipment that were secured in the ground with concrete blocks. The latter was much more labor intensive than the former and required some bad ass digging skills which many of these students came through with. I was thoroughly impressed. We’ll be back at the mission tomorrow to finish the job.
With dirty pants and dusty shoes, we had a beautifully served and delicious lunch at Patio Andaluz, a restaurant inside a quaint boutique hotel in downtown Quito. We had a four course lunch, Ecuador’s main meal of the day, that consisted of an asparagus salad, a tender piece of sea bass with steamed vegetables, and ended with this exquisite piece of cake that tasted a bit like tres leches.
Our tour of downtown Quito followed lunch and began at the historic city center which is surrounded by extraordinary churches, museums, and shops. But before we hiked through the narrow stone streets, I sent my daughter, Julia, a Happy Birthday text standing in front of this piece of gorgeous architecture. Happy Birthday, Julia! It was hard being so far away from you on your special day, but I couldn’t have been in a more beautiful place when I was thinking of you today.
With the Virgin Mary of El Panecillo always in the background, I was able to capture some stunning views of the mountains peppered with colorful buildings. Of course, the photos don’t do the colors justice. They never do.
After one of the best showers I can remember, we ended our long day with a fantastic dinner at Achiote Ecuador Cuisine where we enjoyed an authentic Ecuadorian meal prepared just for us.
It’s going to be a long two weeks away from home, but look at these faces. These are incredible students who work hard together. I can’t think of a better group to be learning alongside as we explore Ecuador and its people together. Thanks for a rewarding and meaningful day, Quito!