Dearest friends and family,
Something that I like that we do, but I seldom talk about, is the English classes we teach as part of our community service. I have taught many classes in nearly every one of my areas, but I am especially enjoying teaching English here in Cayambe. Maybe it is because the class is a tad bit smaller than we are used to? Or maybe it is because one of my favorite families, the familia Guerrero, always comes? Or maybe it is because I’ve found a new sense of confidence in both my Spanish and my teaching abilities of late? Or maybe it is because we often get a little off topic and end up joking, laughing and enjoying ourselves? I’m not sure which, perhaps it's a combination of all these things, but we have really been enjoying our classes every Wednesday evening.
Like any normal classroom setting, my class sometimes gets off topic. This past week I brought up the fact that I’ve been happy drinking a chocolate dust used to make chocolate milk called “Ricacao” (an off-brand version of Nesquik). Those of you who know me will understand that I can’t just say “Ricacao” but I instead semi-shout the name, letting the “cao” roll off my tongue with a more gravelly voice…a deep “RICA-CAOOOO!” So we were talking about that for a minute and then got even more off topic as the discussion moved onto other powder-in-water drinks. I made a final mistake of mentioning that I also enjoy this Kool-Aid type juice here called “Jugosya.” For me, it’s really convenient to boil 2 liters of water, throw in a 30-cent packet of powder, and turn that water into purazno, maracuya, guanabara, or even pina colada. I even love it’s name. In Spanish, “ya” means “now” or “already” so jugosya is a little play on words like you put the powder in and “ya – there’s your juice.” I don’t know, I’m a fan.
Anyway, I made the mistake of mentioning the Jugosya in front of this small group of people trying to learn English and immediately caught the wrath of one woman (who will remain unnamed) who chastised me for drinking things that are so unhealthy. In response, I tried to explain the convenience of it - that we (especially we Americans) love things that come “ya!” Fast food, ya! Finding information on the Internet, ya! Buying the latest gadget ya! More class members came to her defense, chiming in that the powder was just citric acid and food coloring. In the end, everyone ended up teasing everyone else and lots of laughs and smiles were shared. And not to continue the debate, I do think I ended up winning on the basis of cost alone – I mean it’s 2-liters of “juice” for only 30 cents!
This leads me to my point. I know I’ve touched on this before, but I wanted to share this week about something that has become very important for me. My mission – my time here in Ecuador - has taught me to pay attention to what I am supposed to be doing and learning right now; to pay attention to what God wants me to learn in this, and every, moment. So we got to do exchanges this week with Elders Welch and Harmon in Otavalo. Exchanges are always a good and lesson-filled time for me – a chance to learn and share with other missionaries with whom we don’t normally work. I went out with Elder Harmon and am grateful to get to know him a little better. I must confess while working that afternoon, I was feeling itchy about getting back to the apartment that evening because we had plans to cook dinner together and to commemoratively burn one of my white shirts in celebration of completing one year in the mission. I was also looking forward to catching up with Elder Welch who served with me back in Tulcan/Ipiales. Anyway, as we walked I was caught up in my thoughts of the evening to come when, all of a sudden, a huge “WHY?” flashed across my mind. Here I was, walking through some of the most beautiful countryside on my way to an appointment and I wasn’t in the moment. We paused to check our directions and then Elder Harmon led us up a quick little hill overlooking a stunningly beautiful lake resting at the base of the epic Imbabura volcano. And it was there, in that moment, I snapped to and appreciated what we were doing, genuinely. We continued a little further up the hill, to the home of an older gentleman who lost his wife 4-years ago. We shared a message perfect for him, which he graciously accepted as evidenced by the look of relief and comfort that came across his face as we spoke. I am not sure what will happen with him because my area is far from where he lives but Elders Welch and Harmon have a return appointment in the week to come. I definitely learned what time was trying to teach me that afternoon.
I know school is starting for many back home and my siblings and the majority of my student friends and, in some cases their families, aren’t looking forward to it. And I would never suggest summer isn’t amazing and infinitely better than being in school. But I am going to leave you with a thought: I wish I had paid a little more attention prior to my mission…more attention to the moment and what time was trying to teach me all those years, instead of just constantly looking forward to the next thing – the next meal, the next vacation, the next weekend, the next “ya!” Remember friends that the real juice is always much, much better than the powder-in-water substitute. Be in the moment and seek the real thing. I love you all. Have an excellent week.