After a month full of adventure and memory-building, we arrived home, an exhausting 23-hour journey from Salvador via Panama City. We were all happy to see family, friends and pets; sleep in our own beds; and enjoy the comforts of home. Being away for so long, even the kids appreciated eating salad and drinking tap water.
We had hoped that the trip would expose Selam and Dian to other cultures, language and food; allow them to see how others live; prepare them for future service projects; and have them experience the natural beauty of different parts of the world. While we accomplished those goals, what I didn’t anticipate was that their curiosity and unabashed willingness to ask questions made my experiences richer as well. It was hands-on, experiential learning for the whole family.
The kids were great travelers, willing to try new foods and activities. While Dian rejected farofa, the Brazilian corn flour mix that he likened to sand, he developed quite a taste for frago empanadas and announced that the Kichwa blueberry drink was “Mishki, mishki.” (Delicious in Kichwa.) Selam tried surfing in Manta and horseback riding in the Andes.
Searching the beach in Brazil for snail shells, they attracted local kids to help them. The five young beachcombers communicated through a common goal though they had no common vocabulary. When they parted , Selam and Dian were able to thank them with “obrigado” and “ciao.”
Throughout the journey, a sprinkling of Spanish and Portuguese words started to appear in the kids’ conversations, and they are motivated to learn Spanish now.
We all agreed that our favorite part of the trip was Cotacachi, Ecuador, where we lived in a neighborhood; the kids named, fed and played with the stray dogs; we had authentic cultural experiences with the Kichwa; and we were able to visit local schools and bring school supplies. The school principal invited us to come back and volunteer any time. We hope to take her up on it!
It was a month that all of us will treasure forever; hopefully the first of many international adventures.