We have returned from our gira and it was AMAZING!!! We went to Machala first, which is just like Guayaquil except smaller and less dangerous. We were only there for two hours because it´s really close to Guayaquil, like 3 hours away, so we didn´t need very much time to see all the hospitals and stuff. Plus there wasn´t a whole lot else to see besides banana trees and rice fields so bueno, we left for Loja, which is about 6 hours away from Machala. We were driving along in the bus and all of a sudden BOOM!!!!! Big green beautiful mountains EVERYWHERE!!!!! I had my face glued to the window pretty much the whole time and I took a lot of sweet pictures, which I will upload next week I PROMISE. I wanted to do it today but we didn´t end up going back to the house before we came here so I don´t have my camera. But seriously, next week I will get them to you all.
So then we arrived in Loja and it is just the cutest little city ever. It reminded me of Canandaigua a little because it´s small and tranquila and there´s a lot of little shops and restaurants everywhere, although it doesn´t have a lake. But it is very pretty, you have to drive through a castle to get into the city and I felt like a princess (yeah, feel free to make fun of me here). It´s like a little fairytale town, there´s a park that we went to that has little castles in the playground and you can go up into them and slide down and there´s llamas walking around and it´s just super cool. We stayed with Hermana Glanzer and Hermana Velasquez in their new house that´s incredibly amazing, and the next day we ate lunch with them and Hermana Montenegro and Hermana Montezuma. It was super fun and soooo good to see them all again. Don´t worry, we did do some work-we went around and found all the hospitals and looked at them and everything. But it was just such a cute little town, so peaceful and I didn´t feel scared to walk around with the cell out or with my bag or anything. Although something kind of weird did happen-we were walking down the street and this guy was walking toward us from the opposite direction and when I saw him I felt something kind of weird but I didn´t know why. Well as he passed me, he reached out and made a grabbing motion with his hand!!! I had borrowed one of Hermana Castillo´s little bags and it was hanging across my body on the right side, but I grabbed it and pulled it out of his reach. Hermana Foster saw the whole thing and was like, what was that all about?? I was like, I don´t know, he either was trying to rob me or grab something else!!! Random . . . . . but I would be the only person that almost gets robbed in Loja of all places!!!
So then we got on the bus from Loja to Cuenca and the drive was even more beautiful. We saw even greener mountains and lots of little towns in the middle of nowhere and a bunch of indigenous people in traditional dress and it was just way cool, except the combination of being on a bus with the high altitude with not drinking enough water took its toll and by the time we arrived in Cuenca I was feeling extremely ill, with a bad headache and nausea and stomach pain. This continued pretty much all night until we got to the hermanas´ house and Hermana Barker gave me some tylenol with benadryl in it and I felt a lot better. The next day I felt good again and could fully appreciate that Cuenca is the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my life and I could totally live there forever. I´m not kidding, it is gorgeous there. Mom and Dad, when you come, I would love to take you guys there even if I never end up proselyting there. It´s freezing cold but SO gorgeous, and green!!! And it´s tranquila too, we didn´t even almost get robbed there, no one shouted random english words or offensive things at us, and everyone spoke more slowly and with a really cool accent. We ate lunch with a family of Hermana Foster´s converts, the Familia Cajamarca. She had told me all about them and I was so excited to meet them. We actually went to see them the night before and they invited us to lunch the next day. So they made us the best food ever and then Hermana Cajamarca brought out a gift for Hermana Foster. I was like no big deal, but then they brought out a bag full of pastries and set it in front of me and said, we got this for you hermana!!!! WHAT??? I was really touched-they´d known me for less then 24 hours but they gave me pastries to take home with me!!! I officially love this family now and I really hope that after my time in the office I get sent to this ward so that I can visit them all the time.
So then we had to come back to Guayaquil after 3 days of being in the mountains, so we went to the terminal to find a bus. This guy came up to us and was like, come on, we´re leaving to Guayaquil right now!!! We were a little skeptical but the next bus didn´t leave for another hour so we went. Well we got on and HNA Foster was like, I don´t like this, they weren´t patting anyone down when they got on, there could be anyone on this bus (and we had all our stuff with us). So I said do you want to get off?? She said let´s just put our stuff down below, so we did and then we went to the very back of the bus and sat down. We still both felt weird but then the bus left the terminal so we were stuck. Well somewhere in the middle of the mountains, the bus pulls over, stops and ALL the lights go out. Uhhhh . . . . . what?? Then the driver and a few other people got off and were looking under the bus to figure out what was wrong. We were like . . . . great. We should have just gotten off and waited!!! Then we heard a hammering sound and got even more worried, but they all got back on and started the bus and off we went again. But then this bus started rocking back and forth like crazy and we started hearing this weird sound and HNA Foster was like I think we have a flat tire!!! We went up to tell the driver but he brushed it off and said it was normal for the bus to be like that. Uhhh . . . . how is that normal??? We thought we were going to roll for sure, which is scary when you´re driving through the mountains and there´s nothing but valley on either side!!! But we made it safely back to Guayaquil at about 11:30ish, went home and passed out. The gira was super fun but super exhausting too!!
So then the next day we were stuck in the office for way longer then we wanted to be and I was getting really worried because I had just realized that we´d been out of the sector for 3 days and I wanted to get back in there and visit everyone with baptismal dates and all that. So we got out and we visited them all and it turns out that they´re all fantastic. Yvonne and Camila didn´t go to church last week because an aunt from the States came randomly and they couldn´t go, but they went to an activity while we were gone and they´re coming to church tomorrow. We found this girl last week that came to Yuri´s baptism, Maria Soledad. She just came with the Familia Haz and said she wants to get baptized and we were like, uhh, okay!!! We´re working with the parents to get permission with all of them but I have a lot of faith that it´s gonna work out. Plus we had this super cool activity last night at the church, it was a festival of typical songs and dances from Ecuador and it was WAY cool. Hermana Laime has it all on video and I´m gonna get it from her and try to send it, but all the girls came and all of our converts showed up too!!! It was the best night ever. So the Lord has really blessed us even though we´ve been out of the sector for 3 days. PLUS, we´ve been teaching this guy Omar, who technically doesn´t live in our sector but is always there because his friend Ninoska is there and she´s a member. We´ve sent the reference a bunch of times but for one reason or the other they couldn´t find him, so we taught him a lot of the lessons. Well we found out yesterdayd that he´s being baptized TOMORROW!!!!! And president said we could go!!! So we´re having a baptism and we didn´t even plan for it or really do anything!!! It´s a miracle, de verdad!!!
Well, gotta go. Time´s up!!! Love you all and be good and read your scriptures every day and pray all the time and ALWAYS keep the commandments!!!!