¡Ecuador 2015! Surrounded by Awesome

September 25, 2014 BY Kelly C. Bawden, MS, CCC-SLP

It has been an interesting September in Portland. I’ve often proclaimed it as our most lovely month, our just reward for the soggy and cool days of June-uary that kick-off the summers around here. While we were thankfully spared much of the June drizzle this year, September unfortunately didn’t get the memo that it was time to chill out a little bit. I share all of this with you because, while it is cool and rainy as I write this, such was not the case on the day of our first Ecuador team meeting. It was hot. Like, really hot and kinda humid, too (okay not that really hot and humid, but still. 90º? September? Nothankyou.) Such unpleasantness meant that I was sweating profusely as I approached THF Philanthropy World Headquarters (aka Heather’s flat), clutching/juggling my chips and salsa and purse and notebook and water bottle. I was repeating the address over and over again in my head, dodging the bearded locals, when I found the digs I had been looking for. Luckily, fellow-teammate Jenny was just on her way in, and she kindly held the door for me. She did this because she is a nice and polite person, and maybe also because I looked a little bit like I might drop something soon.

Now, I know that big metal door wasn’t literally a portal to another world, but on that hot, sticky afternoon, it sure felt like one. The street had been bright, and loud, and smelled like coffee and waffle cones and brill cream. Behind the door and down the small hallway, though . . . it was dim and cool and green and smelled like Zen. This new world had an elevator, too, and it was shiny and smelled like New Things. The transport was complete when we crossed the threshold into World Headquarters. We found ourselves in a Technicolor dreamland, full of sacred hearts and giant butterflies. So alive and adorable and bright and exciting – the perfect spot for the beginning of a grand adventure.

The rest of the team arrived in short order, all present and accounted for. And let’s just take a hot second to reflect on that remarkable fact, because 2 of our team members live, like, way far away. Like, even 2 or 5 hours away. File that little nugget away under Dedicated. Anyhoo . . . things got underway with the requisite introductions. Mine went like this: “Hi, I’m Kelly and I’m not sure why I was picked because no hablo mucho español at all, but I’ll be responsible for sarcasm.” It was just so clear in that moment that the other people in that room knew THINGS. Lots and lots of things. And they are smart and can use the things they know to DO OTHER THINGS. You’d think I’d learn to not be constantly amazed by the caliber of people I work with, but I never do. Perpetually in awe. These people are just . . . rad. And it is here that you will hear me say (not for the last time, I assure you) that I feel deeply privileged and grateful and frankly a bit astounded to be along on this ride.

In time, our meeting dug into some of the meat of the trip and I am here to tell you, Heather has this thing DIALED. I mean, seriously. We’re talking color-coded calendars, folks. Travel dates are set –June 21-28, 2015 — as is a loose itinerary while we’re there — work, work, work, work, play, play, work, work. Said color-coded calendar also tells us that we’ll be spending the coming months getting paired up into working groups, discussing the ethics of international service work, having a whole meeting in Spanish (#ayúadame), exploring Ecuadorean culture, and running through our PowerPoint presentations. Yes. You read that right. Because in addition to working directly with the students and staff at Esperanza para todos, we’ll also be hosting trainings for the families and staff in Baños. It’s that old “teach a man to fish . . .” thing, right? We won’t be there forever, but they will. And if we can share a little bit about what we know, they can in turn share it with others, and our little trip all of a sudden doesn’t seem so little anymore. (Read more about the school on our first Ecuador post).

And when the meeting was almost over, sweet Manny took this picture of us.

Back Row, L-R: Gina Ossanna, Debbie Welch, Me (Kelly Bawden), Heidi Peters (and Baby B), Nina Simmons, Heather Higgins. Front Row, L-R: Jenny Peddicord, David N-T, Sarah Lockhart

Back Row, L-R: Gina Ossanna, Debbie Welch, Me (Kelly Bawden), Heidi Peters (and Baby B), Nina Simmons, Heather Higgins. Front Row, L-R: Jenny Peddicord, David N-T, Sarah Lockhart


So, here we are. Your Ecuador 2015 team. You can’t even tell by looking at this photo that part of my brain was thinking about large bugs and snakes, can you? You know why? Because most of my brain was exploding with wonder and gratitude and excitement. And also that little twinge of fear that lets me know that I’m pushing myself to the brink of what I think I can do so that I’m able do what I’m meant to do. That flutter of trepidation is where the magic starts, and I am very much looking forward to the next 9 months of magic-making with this outstanding crew.

ecuadorThis post is part of our series documenting our forthcoming international service trip to Baños, Ecuador. You can read our other entries here, and be sure to check back often for future updates.