These past two weeks have been an absolutely amazing experience, the things we have learned and the everlasting friendships that have been made will be in the minds of the PERL 300 students forever! The 11 of us are so blessed to have been the first group to do this study abroad tour and I am sure that each year they will find ways to make it different. It will certainly never be the same experience.
The play day on Saturday at the school was the last day that we were ever going to be there and that was tough. It was hard to have to say goodbye to the kids and teachers that we have got to know pretty well over the course of only a week. We did not have the turn out that we expected but even though there was only a selected number of families there I think that was almost better because each of us got to bond with a few families and by the end of the morning I could tell that no one was ready to leave. Goodbyes are always hard because we all knew we would never get to see them again. A specific moment that stood out to me was when this mother was saying goodbye and she spoke Spanish to me and then cried into my neck, that was hard and it was the moment I was no longer to hold back any more tears. The truth is I am going to miss each and everyone of those kids, I have never experienced anything that has really pulled at my heartstrings the way this trip has. After seeing how happy each of these kids are it really has shown me how easy it is to be grateful to have what is simply basic things to us in Canada.
The group had two days together on the coast 3 hours outside of Guayaquil in a town called puerto rico where we stayed at a place called Hosteria la barquita. It was absolutely amazing and I think the group were all so thankful to have the two days of rest before they left on a long journey home. At the beach, everyone experienced a variety of activities from horseback riding in the jungle and along the beach, surfing, swimming and snorkeling. The group shared some final long lasting memories before another goodbye was said to Chelsea and I. This was another hard goodbye for me, because saying goodbye to 9 amazing classmates and two amazing teachers who have been like a mom and dad to me after living together for the past 14 days and nights could not have been done easy no matter what. Words can not begin to describe how much I miss my Ecuador family, even the little things like the food garbarators to eat my extra food to the endless slumber parties with the girls. This trip has made so many memories and it was sad to say goodbye to them in Ecuador. When their bus finally drove away and only Chelsea and I were left at La Barquita we both couldn´t believe how fast the experience went.
It is crazy to think how fast two weeks can go by, I think back to December when we started meeting for PERL 300 and how Ecuador seemed like a dream at the time. We would meet once or twice a month to discuss fundraising, costs, and planning for the trip and May 22nd seemed so far away and now the trip is done. The memories that made will be cherished for a lifetime and hopefully never forgotten. This whole trip has seemed so surreal and still being in Ecuador about to embark on the second part of this journey I am almost positive that everything will not completely sink in until I am back in Edmonton when I share with both friends and families photos and stories of all that we have done. I can´t believe how close each and everyone of us has become in 14 days, I really did feel like a family especially when we had our ¨family meetings¨. All in all, saying goodbye to everyone was one of the harder parts of the trip and being away from them is not going to be easy.
Once again, I am so thankful to have met all of these amazing people in Ecuador and with PERL 300 because without every person it would not have been the same experience. I guarantee that my life will be forever changed for the better because of this trip and I have absolutely no regrets.