Hello again from Ecuador! But this time, Zach and Zoe are posting instead of our mom, Susan. Along with our younger brother Drew and our dad (Kyle aka Roberto), we arrived in Ecuador late Thursday night after a five hour flight from Atlanta. Surprisingly, we flew through security and checking our bags, so we had lots of time to eat and wait in the airport.
After boarding the plane, we settled in and watched movies for the duration of the flight. Upon landing at the Quito airport, Pancho Zola, our friend from Ecuador, picked us up, accompanied by his two sons, Danny and Mateo. We rode back to their house, exhausted from our travels. We were greeted by Pancho’s wife Pity and soon went to sleep.
The next morning, we woke to a delicious breakfast of pancakes and eggs. Afterwards, we prepared to give the family gifts that we had brought from America. First, Zoe gave Maria Victoria, their daughter, a new basketball, while Drew gave Mateo a new soccer ball. Danny received only an air pump for the balls, since he had already received an unexpected gift from the Whitefield cross country team a few months ago. (Members of the team raised $2000 in less than a week for Danny to attend running camp with them in North Carolina. He will flying back with us after our visit and staying in the U.S. for over two weeks. He is very excited about his visit to America!) Roberto, as he is known in Ecuador, had a special card (written in Spanish) from our mom, who had visited Quito last month as one of the leaders on the Ecuador Mission Team (EMT) from our school, Whitefield Academy.
Fundación Amor y Esperanza, Foundation Love and Hope in English, is the school that Pancho and Pity started in Quito over fifteen years ago. It provides Christ-centered education for children in Carmen Bajo, an at-risk neighborhood in the city. Whitefield has maintained a partnership with Amor y Esperanza for the past fourteen years. Last year, both of our parents traveled to Quito with the EMT and quickly realized that they were not just on a mission trip — they were part of a family.
Last November Roberto applied for a Retaining the Best grant at Whitefield, which is a program that provides financial awards to veteran teachers who have been working at the school for seven or more years. He received funds to return to Ecuador and do a chess camp at Amor y Esperanza. The camp begins tomorrow, Monday, July 10th (Roberto’s birthday!).
After sharing the gifts with the Zola family, we set off for the market in Ottavallo, a city about an hour from Quito. The market was filled with various alpaca clothing and blankets, as well as handmade jewelry and other various things. We had to haggle and negotiate to get prices that we liked. Zach and Zoe both ended up with backpacks and llama jackets, and Zach also purchased a melodica, which is a portable piano. Drew got a wallet, a t-shirt, and a sweater, while Roberto bought a very comfortable sweater. Next, we went to a large lake and took lots of pictures of the incredible landscape. The lake fills a crater formed by a volcano erupting. Since the volcano is still active, there are no fish in the warm, bubbling water.
After lunch and a long day of driving, we crashed at Pity’s family’s farm in Nono, a rural town of about 800 people. Drew and Roberto played lots of blitz chess and Roberto was very happy when he finally won a game (Drew lost track of time and flagged in a 3 minute game). We settled down to a delicious dinner of hamburgers and fries — just like home! Later, Maria Victoria, Mateo, and Danny led us on a mountain trail around the farm. The kids played multiple card games that night, but Zach was exhausted and went to sleep fairly early. The rest of us stayed up a while longer sitting by the warm fire. Eventually, we all made our way to our beds and fell asleep quickly after a long day of driving, activity, and fellowship.
Saturday was a fun filled, relaxing day in Nono. We slept late and ate a delicious breakfast to prepare for the day ahead. Pancho, Mateo, and Danny set up the Ping Pong table, and a tournament proceeded. Roberto was the overall champion, beating Pancho in two very close matches, and afterwards Zoe handily beat Drew 5 games out of 6! (Drew claims that the tree was in his way and his sweater was impeding his range of motion, but Zoe clearly proved her superior skill.) After table tennis, we went into town for lunch at a chicken restaurant. Zoe was very hungry and thoroughly enjoyed her pollo. Then, we went to an ice-cream shop, which was surprisingly cheap. Once the group finished there, we played basketball (not soccer!) in the park with the new basketball that Maria Victoria received. We played a game of 4 on 4 to 15 points. Pancho, Roberto, Danny, and Drew vs. Mateo, Maria Victoria, Zach, and Zoe. It was a long and arduous match, with Pancho and Roberto scoring most points off of rebounds and turnovers, while Zoe displayed her long-range shooting skills, leading her team in scoring from 3-point range. In the end, despite Zach’s superior ability and hustle, Pancho led his team to victory by scoring the final two buckets. Remarkably, it was only the eighth time Pancho has played basketball.
Back at the house, the kids played more Ping Pong and collected firewood for a campfire. After an exciting game of manhunt, in which Drew was almost attacked by rats, we sat down to a delicious dinner of tacos and rice. These tacos were indubitably the best Zach has ever eaten. After dinner, we built the campfire. although it was surprisingly difficult to light without the help of Daniel, our older brother and resident Eagle Scout. With the assistance of Pancho, we had a great time roasting s’mores and hanging out. After ensuring that the fire was put out, we went inside for a time of fellowship and prayer. Pancho shared the verse Col. 3:23 and the message of pursuing God and living for Him in all areas of our lives. Roberto (guitar), Zach (ukulele) and Zoe (singing) led a few worship songs, and we all enjoyed each other’s company in the presence of God.
We arose at 8:00 on Sunday to eat breakfast and leave for the Equator. At the museum, Pancho, Roberto, and the kids learned a lot about the different physics at the equator such as the Coriolis effect and the competing forces at the equator. Drew was the only person in the group able to complete the challenge of balancing an egg on a nail, attaining the title of Egg Master and receiving a diploma. (He may never become a GM but he is now officially and EM!) After touring the museum, we were on a mission to visit one of the local women, Elvira, that our mom met last month at one of the shops. She was very happy to see us, and the feeling that we are a part of God’s family was palpable. It was no coincidence that we came together; it was clearly the work of the Lord. In fact, Elvira’s son may attend our chess camp next week tomorrow! Pancho prayed for her and her family, and she was very loving and hospitable to us, people she did not even know until today. This was a clear expression of the love that believers are called to have for their fellow brothers and sisters.
After a tiring day of sight seeing, the group headed to Crepes and Waffles for a bite to eat. Roberto was not hungry, so he just ordered a chocolate milkshake (classic Roberto!). The children, especially Drew, ate and enjoyed their meal. On the way home, Roberto and Pancho had an interesting conversation about denominations within the church. This alone was a major feat because Pancho does not speak much English, and Roberto definitely no habla Español. However, with the occasional translations by Danny, Mateo, and Zach, they had a deep conversation about bringing God’s followers together despite denominational and theological differences. At last, once they arrived at home, the kids relaxed and played wii video games and at a nearby park before heading to dinner (at an up-scale Carl’s Jr. where Zach had to order Roberto and Zoe’s complicated orders in Spanish) and the movies (to see Spiderman).
While we were out at dinner, Danny tricked Drew, who does not know much Spanish, into asking the Baskin Robbins employee for a cuchillo (knife) rather than a servilleta (napkin). The employee was very confused and we all laughed and had a great time. Overall, it has been an exciting and fun-filled but tiring weekend of family and fellowship. We are very much looking forward to meeting the students at Amor y Esperanza and using chess as a platform to show them the love of Christ and the pursuit of the King. Hasta Pronto!