Thursday began with us all looking out the window to assess cloud cover here in Quito. We were hoping to go up the Teleférico, a tram ride to the top of a volcano here in Quito with amazing views. But as all the Quiteños laughingly remind us, the weather here can only be counted on to change unexpectedly and many times a day. We hopped on the bus, hoping for sun, but the clouds held and Vicente pointed the bus to the downtown center at La Marín.
There we met with Marcia, the same staff member who toured us around La Compania and the other churches. She is a small woman with heaps of energy, taking us full pace up the hills and streets of historic Quito, pointing out landmarks and telling us local lore all while dodging buses and cars.
She took us to the beautiful Museo de la Ciudad, an old colonial hospital converted into a museum of the history of this city. Although she had to teach a class, Marcia stayed with us as long as she could: she clearly loves the museum and takes the kids from the center there every year on a field trip. It is absolutely beautiful - my favorite part was the 20th century room, where we could compare old photographs of the views of Quito with the view out the balcony of the upper floor of the museum.
After grabbing quick
(sandwiches) from a tiny shop off the Plaza Grande, we headed back on the bus to the Cotocollao center in the north of the city. Here, we continued our volunteer work. Half the group worked in the
aula de artes (
art classroom) coloring with the kids. My brother really enjoyed this part and took the opportunity to express his own inner artist. He drew a
(a fantasy turtle). He started to draw antlers on the turtle and all the kids went, "You can't do that! It's not real!" And he says, "Watch me, I can!" and added a rainbow behind the turtle for good measure. There was laughter all around at this.
The other half of the group worked on cleaning the walls outside in the main patio. Jose set us to work with buckets of soap and cloths and things were moving along industriously until the students started their afternoon break. They were very curious as to what we were doing. Soon enough, little groups popped up everywhere and we were laughing, talking, hugging, and singing. Lyndsay said she felt like she really had time to connect and communicate with the two girls she was chatting with.
A group of kids found out that I knew how to rap and we began
freestyling). I love teaching kids how to freestyle because inevitably they begin by going, oh no, I can't, I don't know how. But with a little encouragement, sure enough, every one of the kids gathered around me managed at least 2 rhyming lines; some even began to tell their own stories. It was a really fun way to be creative with words, build confidence, and share stories, and I saw some of them practicing on their own later.
In the evening, Michael led our final reflection with a focus on gratitude. We had a beautiful session sharing our gratitude for the beautiful families and staff here, for the members of our own St. Mary's group, for the other volunteers we've come to know here and for the support of all of our communities back home. It was such a joyful and spirit-filled reflection, fitting for the final night of a joyful and spirit-filled trip.