This blog is courtesy of current volunteers, Betsy and Russell. They are serving in Cuenca, Ecuador and have documented their second week as volunteers. Enjoy!
Tuesday January 15th
Every Tuesday morning some of the children have the opportunity to go to “horse therapy”. It is so hard to get these big kids in and out of the bus.The older kids are really heavy, dead weight. When we get to the facility again we have to lift them out of the bus. But it is so worth it! We lift them up onto the horses and then have to hold them on it as they go around the arena. Each time they go around, workers change them to a new position which is very awkward. But, to see the sheer joy on their faces as they ride the horses, is worth the hard work. This is such a great activity for them to work on their muscle tone and balance. Also it is a wonderful time for them to get out of the orphanage and do different kinds of things.
Wednesday January 16th
Wednesday was all of the volunteer’s day off. Our directors took us into Cuenca for a tour. We started at a museum, Museo Pumapungo, which was very interesting. It had displays of an early group of people who were taken over by the Incas. Then the Incas were taken over by the Spaniards. This is why we see a lot of influence in architecture and culture from Spain. The displays were very well done. They had replicas of their dirt floor huts and actual weapons, clothes, pottery etc. Out in the back of the museum was ruins of the Incas and the earlier people. We got to pet llamas that were in the gardens, see lots of beautiful flowers and then there was a bird aviary. Evidently Ecuador has the largest population of different kinds of birds.
Thursday January 17th
We did tons of walking today. We walked to the market place. There are hundreds of booths full of different vegetables and fruit, grains, fresh meats. We have been trying may different kinds of fruit at OSSO. There are some pretty exotic kinds we have never heard of or see before. All the food was just piled up out in the open. A lot of the booths were from the indigenous Ecuadorians. They look so festive in their native clothes and hats. Unfortunately we can’t take pictures of them unless we are far away.
Friday January 18th
We walked to a flower booth and bought 3 bouquets. Flowers are extremely cheap here. You can get a dozen roses for $3.00. We took the flowers into the cemetery which is nothing like our cemeteries. There are three or four stories of vaults that are enclosed. Everyone puts flowers or pictures or trinkets on a little shelf in front of the vault. We went to 3 different vaults which were where three children from OSSO were placed. They had all died within the past year and a half. Sasha and Keenan shared with us each of their stories and it was very heart wrenching. These precious children had suffered so much in their short lives. Sasha told us what they felt the “purpose” of these children’s hard lives were. Heavenly Father loves these children dearly and allows them to be here to teach us Christ like love and compassion.
Saturday January 19th
We went to lunch, pigged out (The food is GREAT!) and then caught a tour bus of the city. We rode up on top of the bus and wound through the tiny streets in this amazing city. It is so alive and so full of life and activity. The bus took us to the highest point of the city where we had spectacular views of Cuenca. The homes and buildings go on forever it seems. They are all nestled in the hills and mountains and it is a sight so gorgeous! Here we hiked up even higher and were able to test our adventurous spirits. We got on a rickety old swing, assisted by a cute man who buckled us in. He then pushed us out over a cliff with a drop of several hundred feet. It was so exhilarating and it was so fun to hear the squeals of everyone of us who did it.
After the tour we went to a street market where they were selling Ecuadorian trinkets and souvenirs. The girls all bought lots of cheap jewelry and were thrilled. We also went to some artesan stores with nicer quality things. She took us to a store and the man who owned it took us upstairs into his storage room. It was full of sweaters, scarves, blankets, table cloths and runners, backpacks. He gave us fabulous deals, even cheaper than down in his store. He even gave us all a head band free.
It was starting to get dark but we all decided to stay longer and have dinner in town. Again, a delicious meal at a very nice restaurant. Rice and potatoes and meat are served at every meal. Not a time or place to be dieting fore sure! After dinner, of course, we had to stop at the ice cream store, Tutto Freddo, for the most delicious ice cream ever!!! I am sure we will all go back there as often as possible! We all plopped into bed, extremely exhausted after a fun day of discovery and adventure and learning to love this beautiful city, country and people!