Youth Ambassadors (YAMS) Ecuador 2013, Day 8
Youth Ambassadors (YAMS) Ecuador 2013, Day 8
Day 8 – Stefanie Henry
Today is the final day of our trip. There are mixed feelings amongst the little family we have formed for the duration of our stay in Ecuador. There are some who are eager to go home to their families and return to their life in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut. Others, like myself, would be fine with a few extra days to enjoy one another’s company and really soak in the culture, but whether or not we are ready – it is time to go home.
Our day started bright and early at 5 a.m. We were instructed to be downstairs in the lobby, ready to leave for the new airport at 5:45 a.m. I am happy to say we all got downstairs with our luggage and our roommates in good time. The men of the group were asked to load the pickup truck and the bus while everyone else returned room keys and prepared themselves mentally for departure from the beautiful country we have been welcomed so openly into. Once the luggage was packed away, Ms. Gail said, “Load ‘em up, and move ‘em out,” for what we feared would be the last time. After taking our seats, we prayed for travelling mercies and blessed the driver. Once the engine started I took one last look at Hostal La Carolina to my right and watched as our home for the week faded out of sight behind us.
As I looked around at the people sitting next to me I noticed eyes glued to the scenery; taking one last look at the vibrant green of the park across the street or the enchantment of the spiraled path that leads to a walking bridge that permits you to cross the street. I remember looking at the people as they went about their daily lives, not giving a moment to the view that captivated all of us for days on end and truly realizing this trip is one of a kind. Then I fell asleep…
It was terribly early, but I woke up to see something I wish I hadn’t. There was a car flipped over on the side of the road and I was told there were two bodies in a bag, but before I could panic I asked God to deliver us safely and He did. We arrived at the airport in good time, so good that the Avianca check-in station was not even open yet. Regardless, we stayed with our family groups and luggage that was unloaded by the boys with help from Mr. Chito, our ever-watchful eye and protector during our adventures in the city.
While waiting we exchanged a few laughs and spoke about leaving. Finally the line started to move. When checking in we were told that there was an additional tax that had to be paid that was approximately $15 per person. This was extremely frustrating, but we had no choice. I thank God that Ms. Gail had the money to pay the tax because we could have found ourselves in a whole lot of trouble. Once all of this was taken care of there was barely any time to eat, and being a vegetarian didn’t help because every sandwich was croissant with cheese and ham or turkey, etc. I had to settle for green tea. Luckily, when we got to the boarding area there was a sandwich with just cheese.
While I was eating five members of our group were pulled aside for random bag checks for narcotics. There was a lot of irony in that, a mission group . . . carrying narcotics for sale in Colombia. That certainly made me laugh, however Ms. Gail was not amused at all. After this our flight was delayed, and then we had to switch gates. We were convinced that this was not the day to leave Ecuador. Everyone made jokes about how we should go back to Hostal La Carolina, but moments later we were on the plane. We were all fairly close together, and I was next to Heather, whom I have grown very close to during this trip. The plane ride went by quickly, but once we got to Colombia, customs officers took away Onye’s canteens because they thought there might be an illegal substance between the stitching and the bottle. Finally, they took them away because they were made of glass. We were delayed on again, but when I was sitting next to him on the plane later, I was glad to see he didn’t hold on to the anger developed when the canteens were first taken away.
During the descent into New York, I experienced the most terrific pain in my ears. I couldn’t hear for an hour. I think I’ll need earplugs the next time I travel. It made going through customs a little difficult, but thankfully the person checking me in understood. Afterwards, we gathered our bags and went through immigration. By then a lot of people, including myself, had called our parents and were preparing for the New York weather awaiting us. The final moments of our trip included many exchanges of love, hugs were given and slowly the group dispersed. Friendships were sealed with exchange of numbers and everyone said their last goodbyes.
I feel that the YAM group of 2013 to Ecuador will remain close and that this experience will leave lasting memories of love and kindness. The work will instill and strengthen each member’s determination, and the lessons learned, and the tragedies we’ve seen will solidify faith in us all.