Friday, March 18, 2011. It was the last full day of our Ecuador trip, and in some ways the most important of all. We were going to meet Stella’s sponsor child, Sibel.
Originally, our group was going to meet the children and their mothers at an amusement park. But at the last minute, this was changed to a water park in the outskirts of Quito, roughly a 40 minute bus ride away. We brought all the gifts, plus foodstuffs we had bought at the supermarket days before. Stella was very excited as the bus pulled into the park.
There were no signs of the families in the parking lot, but after entering through a stone gate, we saw a crowd of people on the grass. Various children were holding signs, and one of them was Sibel.
She was dark haired and pretty, with a serious expression. Behind her stood her mother Yolanda, also pretty, a translator, and a minder from Compassion International, to make sure all went well. Sibel gave a flower arrangement to Stella, then we both posed for pictures with the child. After some pleasantries, we all trooped over to the indoor snack bar for some unusual ice cream bars.
After ice cream, Stella changed into her bathing suit and took Sibel into an inviting pool. I was the appointed picture taker and didn’t want to get wet, so I snapped away as the two of them splashed and swam together. Stella was smiling happily, and Sibel seemed to be relaxing a bit.
For lunch we had chicken and rice, then went back to the pool. There was one water slide, but much smaller than the ones we knew in the U.S. We all lounged around while they swam, and I took pictures of Yolanda and the interpreter.
In the mid-afternoon, we paused to exchange presents in the snack bar. Stella had a large bag of gifts for Sibel and her family, and they gave Stella six white and red roses and two plaques. It was a happy, emotional time.
It was then time for the children to board their buses. We all gathered on the grass where we’d first met the children, for a large group photo. It was now starting to rain. The photo took a while, then we walked with Sibel to her bus. Crying, she said goodbye to Stella and I, and back home they all went.
Our group got back onto our bus as well, and we stopped at a marketplace to pick up some souvenirs. I bought a tee shirt and two table runners for the folks back home.
The last dinner at our hotel was an Ecuadorian feast in a private room. Goat meat, calf hoof soup and serviche shrimp were served, along with rice and pasta. Stella and I left a bit left early to explore the hotel grounds a bit more, then we went off to rest. Our wake up call would be at 3 am, and we needed to be packed and ready by four.
Our Ecuador adventure was at an end. Those seven days went by fast, but they were deep and meaningful, unlike any vacation I’d taken before. Stella may go back someday, to check on Sibel and help her succeed in her world.