Our first full day in Ecuador started with an awe-inspiring clear view of the city of Quito, which we were able to enjoy from the very same 5th floor terrace where we have our meals at our hostel (La Guayunga). Breakfast today consisted of a nice mix of fruits, granola, yogurt, bread, a selection of teas and fresh made juice. After breakfast we got on a bus and had a nice ride through the city to our final destination: Casa Victoria – which we will talk more about soon. During our private bus ride (accompanied by Andean music on the radio) we had the chance to navigate through the narrow colonial roads with amazing classic structures that gave Quito its title as the first Capital City in the world declared UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a special treat, we were escorted through the city by our very own police motorcade, as the President’s cars drove behind our bus!! Glimpsers were able to snap some pictures of the motorcade and wave at the president, who responded by waving back at us. Being in his motorcade allowed us to fly through traffic and we quickly got to Casa Victoria.
Casa Victoria is a local center (non-profit organization) that works under hard circumstances, to provide a safe environment for kids (between 5 and 12) of low income backgrounds to come and do their homework, have a meal, learn skills (such as using computers, social skills and values), read books and do arts and crafts. They are able to run thanks to donations and the work of volunteers from Ecuador and the U.S. The director, Mama Alicia, is a kind-hearted person who received our delegation with open arms. After sharing a brief description and history of the center, she took us on a tour of the facilities and areas of work (homework area, library, computer room, arts and crafts room, dining area, kitchen). She then shared her dream of opening up a cafe and pizzeria, so that their scholars can learn professional and business skills while working in the cafe (after they finish high school). This pizzeria/cafe would also give the neighborhood a much needed change in environment and eating options. We took the opportunity to also give the director a donation package prepared by the second delegation in Riobamba (big shout out to RB1B, our second 2015 delegation!). We played sports with the kids, helped them write donor letters and adding some drawings as well. Other Glimpsers were reading books in their small library with some of the kids – the sight was precious. At the end, the Glimpsers also served them food (locally made arroz con leche with roscas). One of the Glimpsers shared that this made her realize how a very simple thing could make someone so happy -as she passed the arroz con leche to the kids and saw their expressions of genuine joy. It reminded her of how simple things in life are often what makes us happy. Another Glimpser shared that she made 3 new friends, and that they became so close with the little girls, that they were already sharing secrets together. After Casa Victoria’s kids had lunch, we were invited to have our own home-made pizzas (from Casa Victoria) made with local ingredients and a lot of love. When our bellies were full we embarked on a journey through Ecuador’s history, a seminar led by the GG Leaders that sparked a lot of interest and questions in our group.
To top the day, we had the chance to walk on the historical and colorful streets of Quito. The diversity of society here is impressive (indigenous, mestizos, afro Ecuadorian and tourists altogether), as it is the level of conservation of its classical buildings. We passed through the famous Plaza Grande, in front of the Presidential Palace, where the President himself was still working. We wondered if the possibility of meeting him could happen one day. We took many pictures and continued walking until we found the famous Basilica – where the Pope itself visited just weeks earlier. It is an amazing construction, and of course, we had to go up to its bell towers. After going up the staircases, we found ourselves in a great adventure going even higher and higher. At the end of the staircases – some very narrow – we got to embrace the magnificent view from an even higher altitude. As one of the Glimpsers rightfully said: “we were at the same level with the clouds” – and that’s how we all truly felt.
Leaving the Basilica could not have ended without a quick stop by their souvenir shop, where the group had their first chance at buying a series of locally made items such as ponchos, hats, instruments and handicrafts. We were all very happy with our day’s activities. Back at the hostel a delicious dinner awaited us – followed by our first reflection session, in which Glimpsers had a chance to think about what they experienced today, and how it relates to the U.S. and their lives back home. We truly took the most of Day 2, and as we prepare to leave for Riobamba tomorrow, everyone is energized and happy with the group, its great vibes and what’s ahead of us.
Until next time!