• Jess

Visit with Lisbeth

View of Quito from the Yaku water museum

At long last, here is the final installment of the Ecuador visits from back in July! I have quite a backlog - hopefully it won't take TOO long to get caught up...

The story of my visit with Lisbeth and her mom, Maritza, starts with an embarrassing admission – I don’t actually know my CI interpreter’s name. I’m a disaster with remembering people’s names, and by the time I realized I didn’t know it, we were WAY too far into the day and had been having WAY too good a time for me to be able to ask. For the purposes of this story, I will call him F, which I am 99% positive is the correct first initial, and leave it at that…

When F and I arrived at the community center, Lisbeth ran outside to meet me and gave me a big hug. She presented me with flowers and a gift bag, and I gave her gift bag to her as well. We went straight into the tour of the community center, though, so we didn't get to open them right away.

Over the course of the community center tour, I met the center's doctor and saw the employment program in action. F explained to me that the employment program is very targeted. They work directly with employers in the area to find out what specific types of positions need to be filled at any given time so that they can focus their work with the older teens on preparing them--and their resumes--to fill those positions.

I was then taken to a media room, where the journalism club was meeting. Lisbeth used to participate in the journalism program, but isn’t in it anymore. The setup reminded me a bit of the radio program at Karen’s center in Barranquilla, although they would have gone crazy for the recording studio in the Quito center. Apparently in Quito, they also recently had a rap recording session in the studio. It was really nicely put together.

From there, we went outside, where this particular center has a handful of other amenities. F pointed out the vegetable garden and the graffiti wall. (Side note: Quito is home to some of the most impressive and beautiful graffiti I’ve ever seen. Yes, I said it: beautiful graffiti. What can I say? I’m kind of a sucker for urban art.) He explained that the graffiti was done by the kids themselves as a learning experience. The center also has a basketball court. F said that when they have games, they’ll generally play by standard rules for a while, then change the rules, for example by adding a second ball to the game. They do this to try to help the kids be flexible in their thinking and keep them from becoming too rigid and ‘inside the box’. I think that would drive me completely insane (but that’s NOT HOW YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO IT!)…. but then I suppose that’s exactly the point they’re trying to make.

After the tour, Lisbeth and I sat down to open our gifts. Lisbeth especially liked the photo album. My favorite part of watching the girls go through the photo albums is always seeing their faces when they see their CI pictures all the way back to the beginning and watching how they react. In Lisbeth’s case, she laughed. Her mom enjoyed seeing the framed photo collage of all of her pictures as well. My gift from them was a couple of scarves – a thin, gauzy hot pink one and a heavier, knit oatmeal-colored infinity scarf. I amused them greatly by putting them both on at the same time for pictures, and then we all climbed into the van to set off on our next adventure.

We drove for a long, long time when we left the community center to get to the Yaku museum, which is an educational center dedicated to the importance of water. On the way there, Lisbeth was very quiet, but very quick to laugh. I kept everyone entertained with stories about antics from my younger days, like going to show choir competitions, making up lyrics to songs from the Riverdance soundtrack on the way to rabbit shows in the predawn hours, fishing chickens out of the mud after heavy rains… all the best parts of growing up in the Midwest.

It seemed for a while like we would never find the museum, but at last we arrived. The highlight was definitely the bubble room. They had lots of different bubble wands in various configurations and sizes, which we spent a while playing with. The best part had to be watching our driver and interpreter trying to make a giant bubble with Lisbeth inside it – they didn’t quite pull it off, but we all had a great time watching them try! We walked around outside the museum for a bit before we left and got some great views of the city, further proving my theory that there are no bad views anywhere in Quito, and managed to get sprayed by a fountain in the process.

After the museum, we headed over to the mall for lunch in the food court. There was also a World Cup soccer game in progress, so it was a very noisy experience, and both the driver and the interpreter kept jumping up from the table and running over to the TV every time there was a reaction from the crowd to see what had happened. After we ate, we went in search of a quieter spot with a decent wifi signal so we could have a quick FaceTime call with Ward so that he could say hi to Lisbeth, and then it was time to shop.

Lisbeth opted for clothes shopping, and quickly found a store that matched her taste. When it comes to shopping for clothes, I tend to let the girls take the lead as far as whether I stick close to them or back off and give them their space. I always feel a little bad for them when they’re trying to shop for clothes and they have a whole entourage trailing along behind them, watching their every move. Lisbeth seemed more like she’d like a little space, so I let her know what the budget was and let her go, and then dropped back to chat with F for a bit. (I also found a fantastic shirt for me and about a million other people I know - picture below...)

To be fair, I'm not sure I was ever REALLY normal... but months later, I'm still kicking myself a little for not getting this shirt. For myself and a lot of other people.

After a while, F and I decided it was probably time to check in and see how close to done she was. We found Lisbeth and her mom in the shoe section… or so we thought. As F crept up behind them and yelled “boo!”, I suddenly realized that Lisbeth and her mom were actually in the next aisle and he had just scared the crap out of the wrong people. Oops… We laughed about that for the rest of the afternoon. Lisbeth ended up with several new outfits and a pair of shoes, and managed to hit the budget almost to the penny. I was very impressed!

On the van ride back to her house from the mall, she and her mom told us that the family was leaving in a few days for southern Ecuador, where they would be spending two months with the whole extended family on Lisbeth’s mom’s side. It takes them about 12 hours by bus to get there, and they go every summer. I’m glad I didn’t time my visit any later than I did, and I’ll definitely make a note for future visits so that I don't miss them! When we got to the house, I met Lisbeth’s sister, her father and one of her brothers. Lisbeth’s father has a job making bus parts, and her other brother was at work doing the same. I was also given a tour of the house. I was glad I got to see Lisbeth’s room in particular, since I was able to see that the bed that Lisbeth and her sister share isn’t in great shape – I’ve since sent an inquiry to see about getting them a new one (or possibly bunk beds so they can each have their own space and free up some floor space in the room) and am waiting to hear back about feasibility and cost.

After the tour, it was time for final hugs and pictures with the family. Lisbeth’s mom had sliced up part of a watermelon while I was being shown the house, which we took for the road. I’m so glad I got to spend the day with her, and I really hope I’ll be able to fit in a second visit with her before her graduation in 2020.

At Lisbeth's home with her parents, one of her two brothers and her sister

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