In the Mountains of Ecuador

by Sarah

In the Mountains of Ecuador

I hope that I never forget my time in Ecuador. It all started last year, around February. One night, coming home from baton practice, out of the blue, Mom asked me “Would you like to go to Ecuador with me over spring break?” She then explained that Missy, her friend from church, had invited her to come to Ecuador to help out at a women’s retreat. “Sounds cool,” I replied, “let me think about it.” I did not need to think long. I would be traveling to somewhere new, and I would be helping out as well. I gave a resounding yes.

            Around a month later, Mom, Missy, and I started our trek towards Chicago. Our plane left the next morning, and I was alternating between excitement and dread. Excited, for going to Ecuador. Dread, for the plane ride. I would not describe myself as scared of planes, but when you read a book about a real life plane crash that occurred nearly twenty years ago, you get the realization that the plane could fail, and that you would just plummet to your death. But I could not turn back now. Early the next morning, the plane was in the air. I could not turn my face away from the window. The clouds floating over the ocean looked like a second sky below us. Every now and again, a miniscule island would come into view. Sure, the engine made a sudden noise every once in a while, but for the most part, my jitters disappeared. Finally, we landed for our layover flight in Panama. Let me tell you, Panama is beautiful. The palm trees were a vibrant forest green against the blue sky. You could feel the heat the moment you stepped off the plane. I wished we could have stayed and looked around longer, but our layover was only an hour. Back onto a plane.

Finally, after seven hours split between two planes, we finally reached Ecuador. Outside the airport, we met Mary; she and her husband Frank owned Camp Bellavista, where they were hosting the women’s retreat . Mary’s mother had made delicious fried chicken for us, and in the middle of the night, we stopped to buy roses for the retreat. There, we learned that Ecuador is the world’s main exporter of roses. We got huge bouquets for around a dollar each. Later, when the gorgeous white roses bloomed, they were bigger than my fist. After stopping for the roses, I had trouble keeping my eyes open. The last thing I remember was that our car was curving up the mountains.

Two days later, the women arrived. In addition to focusing on their faith, the retreat offered the opportunity for them to relax and take some time for themselves, all of it taking place against the backdrop of Ecuador’s breathtaking mountains. To help them with the relaxation, we had set up three activity areas. With Missy, they could talk and craft; they made sugar scrubs with my mom; and I was at the games station. We worked puzzles, played Uno, and a group of women taught me how to play an Ecuadorian card game. It is called Nervous Donkey, and in a way, it is similar to Slap Jack. I had a great time playing it, and am so grateful they taught me how to play. When the women were at church services, we watched the kids. I remember at one point, they played a giant game of tag; when they found a feather, it became a game of tickle tag. Cue a lot of exaggerated laughing from me, and cries of, “No! Not the feather! No! Please!” when I was suddenly the new target of the tagger.

Eventually, like all good things, the retreat, and our stay in Ecuador, had to come to an end. We said goodbye to the friends we made and took down the decorations. As I packed, I thought about how I did not want to leave, just not yet. I had a great time, made new friends, and I learned a bit about Ecuador’s culture. I knew that all the women who had come to the retreat had had a great time as well; they were talking about what they enjoyed, took pictures together, and thanked us and the counselors for a good time. I was glad to have played a role in that, even if it was as small as playing cards with them. But I was also ready to go home, sleep in my own bed, and see my cats and goats again. Someday, I hope I get the opportunity to go back to Camp Bellavista, and reunite with all the people I met. But until then, I can reminisce about my time there, and keep an eye out for opportunities to return in the future.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *