Things wrapped up in Mono Loma nicely with an eventful despedida and farewells.
The group arrived into Quito on Wednesday evening and then spent today at the Papallacta Hot springs. We actually caught up with them on the phone while they enjoyed the warm pools. The springs is set up with multiple pools of different temperatures, and with an overcast sky, the rain occasionally fell onto the pools with a cooling effect. What a nice way to spend the day before heading to the Galapagos!
Rewinding a bit, before leaving the community the group worked hard to complete as much as they could. With such a great fundraising effort by this group, we were able to donate quite a bit to the community of Mono Loma and so the projects will continue even after the students leave. The bread oven is completed, and the students enjoyed testing it out with a pizza party for many community members. For some, it was there first time eating pizza!
The students made great progress on the sugarcane processing center. They finished the first of two ovens, and the second one is well on it way to being completed. There are plans now to add walls to the site with the additional funding the community will be receiving. This will help protect the area and the equipment from weather. The students also made great improvements to the school with a fresh coat of paint and a world map mural. The children in the community each added their hand print to create a border decoration. Everyone in the group worked hard this week to make as much progress as they could before leaving.
During the last few days in the community the students played endless soccer games and tried their hands at Volley Ball with an Ecuadorian twists: lots of setting and not a lot of bumping, and high nets. Everyone really grew to care for their host families.
With music, dancing, and even some musical performances, the despedida was a great celebration of all the connections and friendships made over the last several weeks in Mono Loma. The students, Kim, Kelsey, and many of the host families also exchanged closing words of reflection and gratitude. While this was a big adjustment for everyone at the beginning, by the end the friendships made and the experiences shared, the group and the members of Mono Loma were able to forge a special bond.
The group will leave for the Galapagos on Friday. They are all giddy with excitement for the experience ahead!