Point 10: Spanish is Easier to Learn in Mexico (or Ecuador!)
February 10, 2015
Point of Grace Number 10: We believe that Spanish is easier to learn in Mexico (or Ecuador!) than a school classroom. This year we put Point of Grace Number 10 to the test in the Andes mountains and the Amazon jungle. Here’s our story:
After a few setbacks due to delayed flights and too close time crunches, we arrived in Quito, Ecuador a day later than originally planned. Our team of six was quickly met by pastor Pedro, who was from the church we were going to stay at. He drove us from the airport back to an absolutely adorable house which doubled as a church on Sundays. The hosts staying with us were members of the church body and they were exceedingly hospitable. We spent the next two days in Quito, adjusting to the alleviation and climate change (the climate wasn’t too hard to get used to!) We visited the Equator and ate plenty of foreign food.
We set out early Friday morning and caught a bus to Tena, a city about five hours south. From there we hitched a ride from the jungle pastor, in the bed of his truck. It seemed like the next three hours flew by, since we were all mesmerized by the beautiful scenery. By the time we reached the edge of the Amazon river, the sun was falling behind the horizon as we all soaked in images of the moon reflecting off of the water. Not so much to our surprise, we figured out our form of transportation was a canoe, or better said, a hollowed-out log. One of my favorite parts of the entire trip was the twenty minute long canoe ride through the middle of the Amazon in the pitch darkness. While we ate cookies in the boat, we discussed how we would certainly use this experience in the game, ‘Never have I ever,’ that our school so often plays. “Never have I ever NOT ate cookies in the middle a boat, in the middle of a river, in the middle of the Amazon at night.”
The canoe steered to the side and we docked on a bed of unbalanced rocks. The last stretch to our final jungle destination was a short hike through the dark rainforest into a little village of huts. We stayed in a hut next to the village’s local and only church. There, we were met by barking dogs, many children, and, surprisingly, electricity. We ate and began to acquaint ourselves with the children, who only knew Spanish. It didn’t take long to notice the open gymnasium area not too far in the distance. We heard the roar of laughter and excitement spilling from it and the four of us girls ventured over to investigate. We found a decently sized group of young boys playing soccer and eagerly asked if we could join. The rest of the night was spent laughing, meeting new people, playing, and many broken Spanish sentences.
The following day, we spent a fair chunk of time dispersing medical supplies to isolated huts scattered throughout the jungle. We met many children along the way and some of them joined us in our
excursion. The opportunities to try cocoa beans, fresh papaya, and Ecuadorian drinks (don’t ask what was in the drinks) were handed to us during our time exploring. Our Spanish skills improved as we talked more with the native people. For every meal, in the jungle, we were offered a plentiful amount of delicious food (much of it was rice). Grubs are considered a delicacy there, and if you don’t know what those are, I’d recommend looking up a picture. They were quite an interesting part of our time there.
That night, there was a church service and us Americans were asked to speak at it. We all prepared a message, of either a part of our testimony or our favorite bible verse, and we had to deliver it in Spanish. It seemed like the entire village attended the service. Although there were no microphones or words on a screen in the background, we all worshipped the same God together. I had butterflies flying around in my stomach as I waited for my turned to go up to the front and share. I barely can speak in front of others in English, so I wasn’t sure how the whole Spanish speaking was going to go down. Even though rain beat against the tin roof, children ran in and out of the building, and dogs barked loudly outside, we all still delivered our messages well enough for people to get the jist of them.
The next morning was Sunday and there was one last church service for us to attend, before departing back to Tena. The four of us girls helped with Sunday school for the younger children. To my surprise, I understood, for the most part, the lesson that was being taught about Zacchaeus. We then helped the children write out a bible verse and sang songs. Following the service, we packed up and headed out.
We spent one night in Tena and then returned to Quito for the remainder of our trip. The last few days were spent sight-seeing, lots of eating, getting sick (for two of our unfortunate team members), shopping, and going to Church. On Wednesday morning, we visited a hospital for people with leprosy. We brought a couple of bags of clothing for the patients there, and got to talk and pray with them. On our last day, we visited an Indian Market to buy souvenirs. It was sort of like a more extravagant Arts Fest. Every person we met during our time in Ecuador was so kind and wonderful. I wish we could’ve stayed just a bit longer to get to know them better, and I’m hoping with extra might I’ll be able to go back sometime in the future!
I am so grateful to have such kind and supportive people in my life. This Ecuadorian adventure most definitely would not have happened, if it wasn’t for your generosity! It was quite the experience of a lifetime and I’m eager to see what other mission opportunities lie along on the road ahead for me.