Short title, don’t you think?
Isla Puná was a more humble place. It was a week of digital detox since there was no Wifi, but we kept busy. The house I was at had a hammock and I often lounged on that. Ruthie and I sometimes stayed up talking until either one of us knocked out. Every morning on that island, I heard the sounds of the free range donkeys and roosters as I brushed my teeth and washed my face on the outer sink. These farm animals were all over the place eating the nearby leaves, grass and barks of the local trees.
Sometimes the lights went out. Sarita told us that you never knew when that would happen, but it would be sudden and you never really knew when they would come back on. The same would happened with the water. The house I slept in had very limited light and no hot water. We had to fill up this large tub that was inside the shower with the cold water from the shower head. We then filled up a large pot with water and boiled it. Once that water began to boil, we added it to the tub of cold water and used a smaller container to rinse and wash inside that bathroom. This was how we were able to shower. Now, I really didn’t mind it because it brought back memories from my childhood during my visits to Mexico: there was a time we had to bathe like this at my aunt and uncle’s house while they repaired the shower. It’s also a GREAT way to conserve water.
Another interesting thing about my childhood trips to Mexico was how I always went home with multiple mosquito bites. My mom always said “you must taste like dessert to them!” Well, as “fresh meat” in Ecuador, we were definitely a full four-course meal to those pesky bugs. BG, however, took the prize; she had the most bites out of all of us! Everyone there told us that after you live in Ecuador for a while, they stop biting you. Their mosquitos really have a thing for foreign blood. You could literally bathe yourself in bug spray, but if you forgot to spray your forehead, you will wake up a unicorn with but bites as your horn.
Our usual schedule consisted of meeting up early at Sarita’s house for breakfast at around 8am, going over the daily scripture, and then heading out to service. There was one man on the island who was a progressive bible student and he owned a truck. He picked us up and dropped us off on the days we went to territories further out. Yes, all 11 of us including the driver hopped onto this truck. Most of the time I got to ride in the back. He was always on time. By the time it was noon, we would return to Saritas house and together we all helped to prepare lunch. Once lunch was ready, we ate together then we cleaned up together. We were like one huge family!
I remember one of the first few days, we ended up walking all the way back to Sarita’s house. It was about a 30 minute walk across almost no trees, just dried plants. At one point there was a dog that was tagging along. This dog had a lot of energy! He was also protecting us in a way… or, he thought he was. He ran around us, then walked along us. He’d chase away other dogs. I think… I think he was trying to adopt us. Along the way, we encountered a donkey. Well, the dog charged the donkey barking at it and the donkey ran away crying. It was comical, but also heartbreaking for the donkey. It looked genuinely upset that the dog was being a bully. The dog lost interest in us, and he left just as quickly as he came.
Meeting day was coming up and after spending the first few days inciting everyone we met to it, well, meeting day finally came!
The location was incredibly tiny! still, we filled it up with chairs and even a small podium. On that day, more brothers and sisters came from the main-land congregations: the speaker and some who were in the Ecuadorian Sign Language congregation. On the Island there were a few deaf people who liked to go to the meeting and they showed up whenever sign language was available.
I remember we spent one evening cleaning up this little makeshift hall. While we cleaned it, we found a DANGEROUS animal! a scorpion! This thing was ready to attack, in fact it began to charge Tiff! If I hadn’t been there, Tiff would’ve been eaten for sure. This thing was HUGE. Well, thankfully it was dealt with because imagine if it came out during the meeting? What if it bit someone?
Something else amazing that I learned was that if a baptized brother wasn’t able to make it to the meeting there for whatever reason, Sarita and Jeanette would take over for the meetings and conduct the watchtower study. That was incredible! These two sisters were great examples of what it means to give Jehovah your all!
The preaching work itself was one of the most memorable things. Everyone listened to us! Everyone watched our videos. One of my favorite things to do in service was to show the Caleb and Sophia videos to the children. The moment I walked up to one kid and showed them a cartoon, about 5 or 7 more would run up to us so they could watch too. After the videos ended, I asked them a question about the video. The way their faces lit up with these animations shows just how much Jehovah loves them!
One day we packed more than just our service bags. We wore our swimming clothes beneath our ministry clothes because we were going to a territory that was on the beach. After we finished going to every house, the plan was to have fun and go swimming. At the very end of the territory, there was a cliff. We took pictures and made fun videos together then began to make our way down to the beach.
I remember the way the sun was reflecting onto the water. I was staring out at the ocean trying to take everything in. I thought of everything. I had recently lost touch of someone dear to me. Before that trip, I had learned a hard but very valuable lesson. I thought of the bad and how it had nothing on me in that moment. In fact, I was this tiny speck on the earth watching the motions of the water… staring at the motion of water is quite therapeutic to me. I was thinking about how much I loved the friends I was with at that moment, the refreshing preaching work we’d done, the examples of these excellent sisters who were living on the island, and the experience we all shared together. I must’ve thought of other things, but I in the end, I know I felt an intense form of gratitude. I wanted to remember that moment. I knew I would look back one day, like today, and remember it with much warmth.
The beach was all ours! Some of us got in the water and I remember the water not being very deep nor it being very cold. We played and splashed. I remember I would pick out random pieces of a plant. Now, I get very VERY excited when I go swimming. Whenever I go to the beach or a lake or a pool, and actually go in, all of my energy comes out and I feel like a mermai… I mean kid. I feel like a kid again! While all of us were there having a great time, these two dogs appeared. They were healthy looking and full of energy. I don’t know exactly which house they came from, but we were so happy they were there. They ran into the water, and ran out. I remember we raced them and played with them. We became instant friends with them!
As the sun began to set, the truck came and we all hopped on to go back to the houses. I remember as the truck drove away, the two dogs chased after us (chime in emotional soundtrack). One of them gave up sooner, but the other dog kept chasing after the truck as though he just wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet.
Ok, I may be remembering the order or all these wrong, but on one of the last few days, we all paired up and helped Sarita and Jeanette with their bible studies. We were on fiyah! We must’ve each gone to around 2 or 3 studies. After finishing one, we went to find either Sarita or Jeanette and they’d send us to the next one and tell us exactly which chapter they were on in the book.
Well, the last day on the island came (ecuadorian tear). We all spent time together playing games, talking and just enjoying each other’s company. Sarita and Jeanette then led us outside for a surprise on the side of Sarita’s house. There on the tree were some balloons and a sign that read “Los amamos!” (we love you!) We all hugged and then began to play dance music on one of our phones. It was a very simple gesture with a lot of heart. We had a tiny goodbye dance party.
We went to Isla puna hoping we could help with whatever we could, but Isla puna ended up changing us. We spent a week not knowing anything about what was going on in the world, we just kept focused on our ministry and forming beautiful bonds with each other. Initially isla Puna may not have be the most appealing, but the beauty it holds is one that comes later and one you have to dig for. It’s beauty was in the peacefulness, the memories and the way it made us feel. It was the perfect place to reflect, cleanse, reset mentally and refresh spiritually with zeal and desire to tell others about Jehovah. The week we spent there was definitely a highlight of the entire trip.
Now, enjoy the photo shoot Ruthi took of us: