Tina Bauer (l.) LaDonna Manternach, BVM, Tracy Bauer, Robert Monfort, Lori Ritz, and Debi Marek shared adventures and inspirations on a cultural immersion trip to Ecuador.
A shared cultural immersion trip to Ecuador brought individual reflections. Read observations and insights from participants here.
Arrival & Day 1 – Nov. 1–2, 2019
Each one should use whatever gift they have received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.—1 Peter 4:10
“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The lawyer answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” Luke 10:25-28
LaDonna Manternach, BVM
After the safe arrival of everyone, Olivia and Lori shuttled us to the CMT. Our group includes Debi from San Antonio, Tina, Tracy, and myself from Dubuque, and Robert from Indianapolis. We arrived about 11:45 p.m., so it was time to get a good night’s rest.
In the morning of our first full day, Saturday, we gathered around 9 a.m. for a day of adventure across the Andes. This is a holiday weekend—through Monday—in Ecuador to celebrate The Day of the Dead, so families were out together to visit the cemeteries and celebrate together. The traffic was heavy as we climbed through the mountains, but the day could not have been prettier.
We saw fields being cultivated for spring planting and many greenhouses, too. In this region they are known for growing roses, though we saw much more in the fields.
Along the way we stopped for a regional snack of bizcocho—a crisp buttery biscuit. It went down well with a mochacino. When we reached the national park, we took a boat ride on Lake Cotacachi, a lagoon in a volcanic crater that was a perfect marine blue. At places one can see the gases from the volcano rising up through the water. There are no fish in this lake, but ducks and marine fowl that eat the algae graced the views.
Next stop was the Otavalo open market. There we met Marlena, a friend of the center, who helped us shop thriftily. I had no intention of shopping, but it is irresistible when the items for sale are so pretty.
It was a day of safe travel, beautiful vistas, and wonderful people. Our hearts have been opened.
Day 2 – Nov. 3, 2019
Your word is a lamp to my feed and a light to my path.—Ps 119:105
We needed that light to guide our many paths this Sunday. Heading to Mass, we had a wild taxi ride, followed by being dropped off at the wrong church. Before finding the right church, though, our group helped a young girl with a project she was doing for school to learn English by interviewing some of us. Then a street vendor was thrilled with the opportunity to practice his English with us as well. Getting lost helped us immerse even further into the culture of Quito.
Once we found our way to meet the other half of our group, we shared Mass at La Compañía, which of course was completely in Spanish. What a great experience to understand so few words but still feel the meaning of them. After Mass, we had a fantastic authentic Ecuadorian lunch and shopping at Tianguez, a small restaurant on a large plaza.
Our next path led us back to the church for a guided tour to learn about its history and architecture. We also got an extra tour of the part of the church that had housed the original Working Boys’ Center. We were treated very specially since we were working at the current center this week.
Our final path led us back home to the center, where we had a not-so-authentic dinner of French toast and eggs. Then we played golf (a card game) and Yahtzee. (Olivia got three Yahtzees in a row. Unbelievable!) It was a great way to end our day of many pathways.
“When you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, This is the way, walk in it.”—Isaiah 30:21
Day 3 – Nov. 4, 2019
Reading “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”—Catherine of Siena
When I read that quote I think of many “things” that people are meant to be. It may be a career, it may be being a mother or father, sister or brother, friend, husband or wife, but also who you are, as in how you treat others, how you love others, and also how you spend your limited time physically on this Earth.
I think throughout all of our days here we have seen Ecuadorians wear all different “hats” of who or what they are meant to be. And from my point of view, they are setting the world on fire with their gifts, genuineness, and hard work. They inspire me to work hard, continue learning, and be thankful, grateful, and blessed.
Today we went to the Mitad Del Mundo and I showed the silly, intrigued personality I have by participating in balancing the egg on the nail, walking on the Equator with my eyes closed, and even doing a handstand on the Equator.
I believe no matter who you feel you are meant to be, do it to your greatest ability and “set fire” to the world and make a difference any way you can. Everybody has something to give in this world. You may not be the smartest or the funniest or the wittiest, but something that somebody else lacks, someone else in the world makes up for.
Day 4 – Nov. 5, 2019
Reading “You have the most laborious duty, but the most profitable for time and eternity; you teach the poor of our Lord. Do thank Him for that glorious privilege, and when you see a very poor and neglected little one, look on her with love, and be kind to her.”—BVM Foundress Mary Frances Clarke, Letter 8, June 7, 1861
Today I went on three home visits in some of the poorest places around Quito, the capital of Ecuador. These were three homes I have never seen or ever thought of living or growing up in. These homes were small and not built very well at all. Some had no running water or heat. I was amazed at the courage, faith, and hope the mothers had. They took what they had and made it work. Everything the parents did they did so their children could have a better life and be happy.
Day 5 – Nov. 6, 2019
Reading “Leave the future to God; I have no fears so long as you are working unitedly but that He will aid as in the past.”—Mary Frances Clarke, Letter 212, September 17, 1885
In the eye abides the soul. The eyes I have looked into this week—be they students, families, staff, or administration—present a vivid vision, a confidence that they can attain that goal, and the character to keep on the proper course. Most importantly, they reveal the capacity to enjoy the process along the way.
Day 6 – Nov. 7, 2019
Reading “Go on steady and quiet . . .”—Mary Frances Clarke, Letter 11, June 21, 1867
My bags are packed. The plane leaves at 5 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 8. After two weeks at CMT in Quito, am I ready to go?
There is always the desire to get back home. But it is the experiences and the people here in Quito that hold me back. My life has been touched in ways that I am sure I do not know yet.
The people, families, and children have touched my heart. Their vulnerability, their faith, and the love of others gives them hope for the days ahead—as difficult as they are. The bright eyes, the big smiles, the huge hugs show their love for those who touch their lives. And the hearts of the staff at the CMT and La Fundación are so generous—focusing always on the needs of their families.
I have been proud to share with those who have accompanied me on this journey from the United States. Their generosity of time to spend with people here and sharing their gifts is beyond measure. They, too, have touched my life.
So, yes, I will board the plane on Friday—“steady and quiet”—but I will never be the same!