Well today was the big day for the team and Gloria and her family. We woke up early again today to get out to the work site to make sure we had everything done. The family was told not to come to the house until around noon so we had a few hours to finish a few things and clean up. The countertop in the kitchen was finished, the girls did a lot of the painting, the bathroom was finished and we did a LOT of cleaning. The house is cinderblock and mortar so the dust and chunks of concrete made up most of what we had to clean up. We also set up each of the three rooms. Grandma Maria and Gloria had their own rooms while the five girls shared a large back bedroom with bunk beds. Each bed had a colorful sheet set and comforter and each family member had their own shelf space and new sets of clothes. The girls also got new backpacks, school supplies, shoes (a commodity), and some other fun items like hair ties and toys.
As we were getting the house ready, Tiffany (my roommate on the trip) and I were outside the house when we heard gunshots. We heard them several times before we decided to investigate (smart right?). We walked around the corner of the house and saw a very long parade of people going through Gloria’s small town dressed in traditional costumes and following a brass band. We went to take some pictures and later asked what that was. It was a Saint moving parade. They literally moved a Saint statue from one place to another. We ran into Gloria while we were exploring the parade and she told us to follow her. We could finally see the front of the parade line and they were carrying a large wooden box with the Saint statue inside. It was interesting to be a part of although the townspeople were looking at us a bit funny for being in their parade.
Anyway, the time came for the family to see the house. Jose, the pastor in Quito blessed the house in Spanish and our group said a prayer in English. We then released the girls to see the rest of the house. Elizabet, the oldest of the girls at 15 was overwhelmed even before we showed her the house. Gloria and Grandma Maria thanked us and prayed that God’s blessings would be returned to us ten times over. It was all very moving and there were lots of happy tears.
I do believe Gloria’s favorite part of the house was the nearly fully furnished kitchen. Some of the men had to teach Gloria how to use the stove and what exactly to do with the refrigerator as she had not used those before. Ecuadoreans do not refrigerate their milk or eggs. The girls were beside themselves at their room. They immediately began climbing all over their beds and jumping on their new mattresses. Elizabet of course was crying profusely which made everyone else cry.
We ate a quick dinner with the family and said our goodbyes. It was difficult as we’d grown to love this family and especially the little girls. They are happy, sweet girls and full of energy. I will miss them.
After the house, we had some time to go visit Old Quito where many of their small shops, churches and the Presidential Palace are. You can tell it is the old part of the city as the streets were incredibly narrow and as bad as traffic is anyway, it was quite an experience. We stopped first at Quito’s most famous church, the National Basilica, built in the 1400’s if I’m not mistaken. It was beautiful of course. We saw several other churches that looked much the same but on a smaller scale. All the churches we visited had the same life-like, full-size replica of Jesus Christ in a posture of pain and suffering as he is dying on the cross. It was all very dramatic and as I said, life-like and kind of creepy. But the churches of course were beautiful although we didn’t get to see a whole lot of each of them as it was Mass time in the city.
Dinner was at the Quito mall. Very modern with stores like Diesel, Tommy Hilfiger, and Fossil. There were also a lot of other stores that I had never heard of but everything was hugely overpriced and I didn’t buy a thing. However I did go into one store and saw a cosmetic case that was cute. I said to the lady “Quando cuesta?” (how much is this?) and she told me it was four dollars. I looked around a bit longer and when I took it up to the register, she told me my total was ten dollars. Long story short, Susan from Extreme Response said that was what she called the gringo tax! Food is extremely cheap but clothes, shoes and handbags are expensive here.
Tomorrow is our touristy day. We will visit Mitad Del Mundo (the equator) and do some shopping at the markets up there. We will also visit several church services in the area.
When I return to the states, I will try to upload some photos of the trip so you can see what I’ve been talking about during these days.