On May 4th, Jillian arrives to spend the next three and a half weeks with us. She is a high school senior and the daughter of a family friend, and will be doing her senior project here in Ecuador. Her first week here, we take her to see some of the local sites like the Equator monuments in both Cayambe and Quito. She goes to church with us the first Sunday to Pisulí. Starting the Monday after she arrives, she takes a couple of hours of Spanish classes each weekday. She knows how to play the ukulele and starts teaching the boys how to play using a couple of ukuleles she brought with her from the States. She even cooks dinner for us one night!
In addition to my normal weekly activities (homeschool, teaching English classes), I also do some planning for upcoming groups (bills and menus) and work on a family newsletter. On Friday, I help supervise the setup for the camp's annual Clothing Sale. The pre-sale for camp employees is on Friday afternoon.
The Clothing Sale is a big success. This is our second year to do this, and it helps clear out our inventory before filling the closet back up with more donated items from all the summer groups. We advertise the sale to the families of the kids in the After School Program, and sell the clothes for $1-2 per item. All proceeds benefit the After School Program. The Clothing Sale has been hugely popular -- the families like that they get to shop for and purchase things that they need, and they like knowing that they are helping to support the program that their children participate in all year.
Sunday, May 13th is Mother's Day. We attend church at Urcuquí, a new church plant. Rusty has been coaching the evangelist there, and he invited Rusty to preach on this day. After the service, Rusty treats us all to lunch at Puerto Lago, one of my favorite restaurants, right on the shores of San Pablo Lake. The pepper steak is to die for!
Jillian is planning to major in marine science at university, so her mother has arranged for her to spend a few days in the Galápagos with Rusty and me! Thanks to the generosity of several friends, we are also able to take our friends Jake and Tanya Wilson along. They will be leaving Ecuador soon and this trip is a sort of group goodbye and going-away present for them. The Marcums have agreed to keep our kids for 5 days while we are away, so the day before we fly out, we get them packed up and drive them into Quito to drop them off. They are excited to spend the week with their cousins.
On May 15th, we head to the airport for our flight to the Galápagos. We fly to Guayaquil, then to San Cristóbal island. We are staying on this island, so after we land, we go find our hotel. Then we have lunch and spend the rest of the day exploring. We find an interpretive center and do some hiking and walking on the beach. The views are breathtaking!
The next day, we take a tour of the highlands. The guide takes us to a freshwater lake, the largest in the entire archipelago, then to a tortoise conservation center. We end the morning with some playtime at a very pretty beach. After lunch, we walk on another beach where the waves are just enormous. Then, some of us want to snorkel, so we rent gear and find a quiet and calm cove where we can see some underwater life.
The following day, we take a "360 tour" by boat around the island. The boat stops off at different points so we can snorkel, enjoy the beaches, or take photos of birds and landscapes. Lunch is included. Our last stop of the day is the Leon Dormido (Sleeping Lion), a huge rock of an island divided by a channel. The snorkeling in the channel is supposed to be some of the best in the Galápagos. Unfortunately, the water is rough, the sky is cloudy, and visibility is poor, so we don't see much.
Our last day in the Galápagos, we decide to take a ferry to the island of Santa Cruz. We visit the Charles Darwin Research Center, then take a long hike to an absolutely beautiful and pristine beach, Tortuga Bay. After lunch, we take another ferry back to San Cristóbal island. We watch a beautiful sunset and have delicious burgers for dinner.
It's time to head home after an amazing few days. We are tired and sun-burnt, but carrying precious memories of time spent with friends exploring this beautiful corner of God's creation. We have breakfast, pack, and then head to the airport. We arrive back in Quito by mid-afternoon, go to pick up the kids and then head home.
The next day is Sunday. We go to church at Cayambe, then take Jillian to the Condor park, and to the artisan's market in Otavalo. She does a little shopping. We have yummy pie at the Pie Shoppe, right off the market square.
The first group of the summer is just a couple of days away. I am busy shopping, ordering food, organizing employee schedules, and making sure the cabins are prepped for their arrival. The group from Madison Academy arrives on May 22nd, marking the official start of our summer at Camp Bellevue!
Jake and Tanya are running the Madison group; however, they are collaborating with us on a couple of projects. The group is putting in a cement floor for a neighbor's house. They are also doing several days of literacy activities for the After School Program. They are a hard-working group and we really enjoy them. Jillian jumps right in to help with some of their work projects. Midway through Madison's time at the camp, another group arrives.
Somehow, in the midst of all that is going on with the groups, we manage to find a night to sneak away to meet up with the Marcums in Quito and see "Solo: a Star Wars Story" in the theater together. We are all big Star Wars fans (all except Josh, and we are doing our best to convert him), and we have enjoyed seeing the new movies together as they are released.
Josh's cousin Carson is in Ecuador for a few days to take pictures and shoot some video footage of the different Operation Ecuador ministries. He is putting together the annual video that we will show at the Operation Ecuador summit in October. See the final video here. He comes out to the camp and spend several hours taking photos and videos of all the different things going on. He also interviews Rusty and me.
Jillian has just a few days left in Ecuador before she heads home. She has planned an art project for the kids in the After School Program. With her help, each class makes a handprint art poster. We plan to display these in a couple of weeks at our end-of-school parent night. On her last day, Rusty takes her and Stephen to Mindo. They enjoy zip-lining and the butterfly farm. He drops her off at the airport later that evening for her flight home.
On the last day of May, we serve a special snack to the kids in the After School Program in honor of International Children's Day, which is tomorrow, June 1st. The kids love the taxo popsicles we made for them! Taxo is an Ecuadorian fruit kind of like a passion fruit, and it grows in abundance at the camp in a "vine tunnel" that Rusty had put in behind our house.
May is over, but the summer has barely begun!
May moments (clockwise from top left):
- "360 Tour" around San Cristóbal island with Jake, Tanya, and Jillian!
- Galápagos sea lion
- Happy Mother's Day -- Rusty bought me this pretty cake!
- At the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World)
- Rusty and I at Tortuga Bay -- whitest sands I've ever seen, apart from Kenya's gorgeous coast!
- Galápagos tortoises
- Jillian and Stephen at the butterfly farm in Mindo
- The group from Madison Academy helped put in a cement floor in this house belonging to one of our neighbors.