After leaving a very relaxing couple days at the beach we all loaded up and headed back to Curico to finish our service at the Conin orphanage. Once in Curico we went to a hardware store and got three bottles of blue spray paint to finish painting the high chairs that we started the last time we were there.
We arrived at Conin eager and ready to paint. We took turns spraying away and making sure to cover all white spots on the high chairs. It was only a matter of time before the three spray paint bottles ran out. Kristin went back to the hardware store to get some more while we went to play with the kids. I went straight for the babies! Others went to help feed the toddlers. We held babies and watched as one of the staff members fed one of the babies through a tube in her belly. Many of the babies have little bald spots on their heads from not being held enough, so we all had babies in our arms. When Kristin returned with four bottles of spray paint this time, we got back to work. We went in shifts and finished the high chairs off with lots of smiles.
Overall, I am very pleased with the time we spent at Conin. It was one of the best experiences within the expedition. I hope to go back and visit the next time I am in Chile!
The end of our trip has been bittersweet as I am not ready to leave, but the barbecue at the Torrealbas house was so fun. First of all it is a beautiful house with the most breathtaking view ever. It looks over Curico with an infinity pool and a hot tub. Then, after a night of swimming dinner started. The turkey was delicious and so were the pork chops. Then I was able to try a Chilean dish of humitas, which is a corn based dumpling wrapped and tied in cornhusker. I got to practice my Spanish as I talked to the Torrealba family and Veronica the mother invited me to come down during my summer and teach English at the school. Her sister and I immediately became friends as both of our names are Alejandra! Before we knew it, it was midnight as we see all singing Avril Lavigne as Maria Jesus (one of the Torrealba children) played the guitar. Then we headed up to sleep as fire works were going off in Curico and we slept under the stars. It was the perfect last night in Chile. Hasta pronto Chile!
The past few days we spent at the beach in a beautiful cabana in the town of Buchupureo. While there, I got the chance to try out ocean surfing in my kayak for the second time, this time in actual waves of 6 feet or more. I was a bit nervous when we got on the beach and then began to be hit by wave after wave as we paddled out, but when we reached the calm part beyond the breaking it was worth it. I waited about 30 seconds, and then Sean instructed me to begin paddling in to catch my first wave. I caught it just as it broke and rode it all the way into shore, it felt amazing.
This continued for about two hours with Sean, Matt, and I as we caught more of these huge waves, and yes, there were some wipe outs. But even when my entire helmet and dry top was filled with sand, I kept going. When my boat flipped in the shallow part and I pulled a muscle in my neck I still managed to have fun. Overall, I am so glad I got out there and did not allow myself to be too afraid to try, because who knows when I'll have the opportunity to surf Chilean waves like these again!
As group leaders of the day Maggie and I decided to paddle the Rio Enco. I love being leader of the day because I can decide exactly what I want to do and conquer it. The opportunity that Alzar has given me to be a leader has really been an eye opening experience. I now realize how rewarding leading a group is (not to mention how tiring). Maggie and my challenge of the day was to be ambassadors to fun. Without hesitation we rose to the challenge planning charades, flashlight tag, paddling the Rio Enco, and a surprise ninja game during study hours.
While being ambassadors to fun we were also faced with unforeseen obstacles as the river took much longer than expected due to the paddle to get to the river itself and the walk from the river to our car was 1.5 kilometers. At this point one of our previous leadership lessons came to life as I realized the importance of resiliency. The group's attitude would reflect the leaders, and due to our positivity the group successfully trekked on the journey to the trailer. Once we arrived at our other truck another obstacle was presented as the truck's battery had died. Luckily due to the school's friendship with a local hotel, after asking him for help in Spanish, he agreed and we were soon on our way back to the campsite. Being leader of the day has taught me how much effort and work is needed just to have one day run smoothly, and now I feel that I can successfully go into the world and conquer any obstacle that comes my way.
We drove from the campsite in Los Quenes to the town of Curico, where our Chilean student, Issy, was from. We were to volunteer in the orphanage and help with what ever projects they needed to be done there. We were ushered in by older women dressed in scrubs and were led into a room of about 6 babies, aged from around 3 months to one and a half years. Kristin picked up one of the smallest of the bunch and held her to her shoulder, the baby had a bald spot on that child's head from rubbing against the mattress on the crib. This was extremely sad to me, making me feel thankful again for being blessed with a family in which I never had to experience hardships like these babies face. Since there were many babies in the room, when one began crying, it set off a chain reaction. I picked up another baby, who was particularly skinny and who was beginning to cry. I walked around the maze of cribs in the room, cradling his head in the crook of my arm, as I'd learned from holding my cousin Ben several years ago. Each time I attempted to put the baby down, it began scrunching up its face like it was about to cry again, making evident once again how much love they need while staying there in the orphanage. I finally handed the baby off to a worker for a diaper change and walked with the rest of the group into the play area where several children looking around 2-3 years old were running around. Sean sat with a young girl named Krista and when he got up to talk to one of the workers, she began crying and clinging to his shirt. He left her with me and when I tried to approach her, she began crying even harder, reaching out for him even though he wasn't even there. I was told later that Krista had just arrived two weeks ago. Children are brought here for reasons such as lack of financial stability or health, and there was a chance that Krista may never see her mom again. It was obvious how mentally scarring this could be, especially on a three year old to be taken from her parents. This may result in later problems for her, and she could very well end up in the same situation with her own children.
We were then told by Kristin that we were going to get supplies for our community service project. We picked up cans of periwinkle and white paint, plus a can of dark blue latex paint to re-paint the high chairs. We returned during the kid's naptime and began covering the walls, freshening up the yellowing walls and giving the room a complete makeover. Matt, Issy, and Hannah took care of the high chairs, a process much easier said than done. The job required extra detailing to ensure there were no left over white spots. After finishing the wall painting and completing the paint job on the 5th high chair, we then washed our paintbrushes in the sink, turning our hands the color of a smurfs. Don't worry, Sean took pictures. Visiting the orphanage was extremely rewarding, making me so much more grateful for every past experience I've encountered and those to come in the future.