Oh my goodness, I can't believe that I've just wrapped my third year with Living & Learning. I'm so incredibly thankful to love, love, love my job and to be sad about the year ending and excited for the next beginning! Spending my days mentoring and discipling is an absolute gift!

We finished off the year with our annual beach trip full of spike ball, lunches at Bernabes, jelly fish stings in the water (tradition at this point), epic kayak fails (this time with Bry, Oliver and I trying to ride simultaneously) and processing students' return to the US. A favorite of this trip was sharing a bed with EBB. Typically our family of four shares a cabin and that was the original plan but it was EBB's last trip with us and so we planned to do a little slumber party to have late night pillow talk on the first night. The next morning both Nate and I had slept so well (we usually share a really small bed together and then two kids in the room on top of it) so I stayed with her the whole time. I LOVED spending days out with students and staff, listening to them, but then to come back to the beautifulness of a dear friend late at night where you can talk about all the things until you drift off to sleep. Another favorite was spending time with a staff member post a session where they shared all of their learning over the past year and spoke such beautiful words over me and the relationship we'd shared over the year. 

Following beach is banquet night and I had the privilege of speaking into four girls' lives who I'd gotten to know over the semester. Saying goodbye to Aly was especially hard after her letting me fully into her life and sharing our Cusco trip together. In between too much bread and the affirmations, I got a text that my friend whose been trying to get pregnant a long time was pregnant! So cool. 

Students left and we went straight into debrief where we shared highlights of the semester over Indian food on night one. The next day we spent the afternoon hammocking at Metro Park and sharing some of our learning, processing and evaluating of the semester. That night we met at Bryan's for breakfast for dinner and then to watch the 3-hour long Infinity Wars. We were well prepared with candy from the US, popcorn and caramel corn. Kendra and Oliver detailed the plotline of the last 100 million Avengers movies that I've never cared to watch and I surprised myself by being far more caught up in the movie than I thought. (Not even a single nap in there!) Day three involved breakfast at the cereal restaurant and then a meeting for returning staff. From there we did lunch at Ceviches. The plan was to paintball as a final staff bonding activity. Numbers dropped as people weren't feeling well or don't like shooting each other, but 6 of us set off excited to play. Paintball was unfortunately closed, though, and we rerouted to an Escape Room. We lost Phil on that one but the final five of us had the BEST time solving a CSI-type room, despite having a moment where we all huddled in fear as a fake man started moving in a smoke filling room. We were giddy with excitement and worked SO well together that we all agreed we'll have to repeat that. Post Escape Room we grabbed ice cream and the flavor of the month turned out to be Cookie Butter. What?? I'd never seen that flavor anywhere in Ecuador prior. That night we had our final staff dinner at Briciola out in Cumbaya. We dressed up and enjoyed wine, cream covered stuffed mushrooms and raspberry pulled pork with the doors open and the ivy background. It was a beautiful end to the year as we celebrated Raylin and Lauren and said goodbye to them as they move on to different jobs and studying back in the US.

Debrief ended but people were still in town, due to a canceled beach trip. Usually everyone flies out immediately and I found myself appreciative of the extra time to just be friends with each other and put aside roles of supervisor, etc. With my kids still in school and work done for the next few months I had the margin to just "play." We went paddle boating at Carolina park. Kendra, Oliver and I hiked the perimeter at El Refugio while Ray journaled at base camp. It was a gift of a day that I didn't expect. The perimeter hike was so crisp, fresh and peaceful and we walked leisurely along, picking wildflowers and talking about the enneagram and how elusive joy can feel. Meanwhile my heart felt so full of joy on that hike. Moments to remember include Oliver falling in a ditch and getting smacked in the face with flying giant mushroom parts after Kendra and I encouraged Oliver to "kick it like you mean it." We also spent a night at an AirBnB out in Tingo and enjoyed wine, a fireplace, and an intensely personal game of sharing led by Kendra. I didn't know how much I needed it, but these final days were so sweet together before 2 by 2 people started to leave and go off on different summer adventures. 

 

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