Sunday, August 26, 2012

Epic Ecuador

It is said that when opportunity presents itself that you should take it.  This was my mindset when on the second Sunday I went to church, courtesy of the young English speaking ward member who served as a translator, I heard about an upcoming ward temple trip. The closet temple to Piura actually is in Guayaqill, Ecuador (some 700 miles north). I enthusiastically signed up to go. This was my opportunity to go to the temple with a group, instead of alone!

I didn't hear anything about the trip until the 12th of August. As luck would have it, the trip was set for the upcoming weekend. I had planned to have a karaoke night to celebrate my birthday with my colleagues.  I didn't want to cancel either activity, but I did not want to miss out on a trip to the temple. I worried that if I cancelled on the karaoke night, that people would be upset.  Yet, the organizer was fine with the change and understood my situation.  As the week dragged on, I still didn't have many details for the trip.  After the week from hell, I was emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted. I didn't even want to go on the trip. A nice, long weekend of relaxing sounded much better as I trudged home.  Then I got a phone call. "Where are you, are you coming to the temple?"  I said yes and raced home. I grabbed my bag that I had packed. Why didn't I listen to the prompting and take it with me to school? Why didn't I just call my contact and verify everything? I let class out early that night anyway. I usually have class until 8:30 at night, and the bus was packed to go at 8:30.   I prayed that I'd be able to make the bus before they left me.  I got a taxi and it seemed I had the most considerate driver in town- slowing down to make sure he didn't take corners fast or speed bumps too fast for me. At that point, after a series of hurried phone calls, I should have said, "hasta pronto Senor!  He knew right where to take me thank goodness. I gave him his 5 soles and hopped out of the taxi. I hopped on the bus and away we went. I made it. I made the bus and was on my way to Ecuador and to the temple.

We left Piura at about 9:15 pm.  Onward and upward to Ecuador.  The bus could have been heading to Wendover, Utah with the flashy seat fabric, lights and setup. After watching the hilariously stupid movie "Bloodsport," I fell into a fitful sleep.  At some unholy hour in the night or maybe the morning, we arrived bleary-eyed at the border. Everyone filed out into an office to stand in line, fill out forms, and hope to not be hassled at the border.  I didn't know what was really going on. I had my passport, but it turns out I also needed another document -the Andean Immigration Card I got at the airport. I had given that to the university so I could get my visa extended.  So, after some discussion, the immigration person determined I had to pay $5 US to get another one. So I filled out the card again and paid the $5 (which he put into his wallet) and he put the card into a drawer.  Then when I got to the Ecuador side, I had to fill out another card. At least this time, it didn't cost me anything else.

Back onto the bus we went. This time, my seat mate changed, and a young woman from the ward sat next to me to learn some English. She already knew much of the basics, and she helped me with Spanish too. It must have been in the early morning and finally we both drifted off to sleep. When I woke up, the sky was overcast and the fields were full of banana trees. It was like a jungle, exotic and green, not like the sandy desert of Piura.  I went back to sleep and watched the small towns, and farm land pass by as the sun peaked through the high clouds.  People were slowly rising and getting a start to their Saturday morning.

Finally at about 8 am or so, we arrived in Guayaquil. It seemed like a nice city.  We got to the bus terminal, and shuffled off.  The bathroom was a popular first stop, and of course, like in any country, anywhere in teh world, there was a line for the women's bathroom.  Also, there was no toilet paper.

Rule #2 of traveling. Take your own TP, wet wipes, anything. You never know what you're going to get (or not get!).  Rule #1 is always take a towel (Thanks HGTG).

After we reassembled in the taxi area, we tried to figure out how to get the group to the temple. I didn't really  have any part of that, just stood and tried to stay out of the way.  Finally, some of us got into a truck with a camper shell on it. There were two benches, so we squished everybody in.  I was on the end so I could look out the back.  There was no door or window, so I nearly fell out a few times.  Well, not really but it felt like I could on some of the corners.  Guayaquil was clean and pretty well-kept, at least the parts I saw.  We all arrived at the temple. Everyone rushed to a building next door. It was a hostel or hotel of sorts for travelers. The trip was roughly 12 hours.  After a quick shower and change of clothes, I tried to figure out the schedule.  There were no headsets, so I had to do a session in Spanish. Luckily, I felt prepared from my (nearly) weekly temple attendance in Utah so I could follow along fairly well.  Let's just say the last part was the hardest.

But, after a week that I had, I was so thankful to serve in the temple. All of the frustrations, angry, anxiety, fear and doubt melted away. It was a very special and spiritual experience. The Lord knows all of His people no matter where they are in the world. I felt the healing balm of Christ on my heart.

Afterwards, we changed and headed back to the bus terminal. We stuffed ourselves into several taxis (no trucks this time), and went back to the bus terminal. The bus terminal was also a mall, so I thought I'd just go get a bite to eat, but I ended up shopping. I got some new sandals for $5! Good deal. Shoes in Peru are expensive - even at Payless! The bus this time was smaller and not as flashy.  Off we went. We had several stops to pick people up and a mandatory "off the bus" stop somewhere on the way that required a walk-through the snack bar.  At immigration, I had a problem because I didn't have that Andean Immigration card again. The guy kept it leaving Peru. So, I had to fill it out again to enter Peru. At least this time it was free.

Is it me, or does the trip home always seem longer than the trip to a place? Maybe it's because we're anxious to get home, get changed and get into bed (or the shower). It seemed like it took forever to get to Piura. We had to stop for a security check and we all had to show our documentation. I wonder what would happen if  that happened in the US. Say you were riding the Greyhound  to LA and had to stop outside Barstow for a document check?

Finally, after a long, long 12 hour bus ride, we made it back to the bus terminal in Piura, got a cab, and I finally and happily made it to my room.  It was a very fast trip but one that was very well worth it.

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