A STUCO retreat for the whole family

One of the duties that I decided to continue this school year was being a class sponsor.  The Class of 2013 were freshmen students last year and this year they are full-blown sophomores.  As one of my high school teachers used to tell me, sophomores are “wise fools” as defined by their name.  In spite of the interesting and challenging personalities of some of the students, I was looking forward to a new year of helping these students raise funds and learning more how to work together on different tasks and projects.

One of the first big events for the class sponsors is the STUCO (Student Council) retreat.  I decided that Luke and Jared should also come, because I couldn’t stand the thought of being away from them overnight.  It ended up being the trend among adult sponsors as three other parents brought their young children, as well. 

A large tour bus took us out of the city of Quito to a property owned by the school in the city of Calicali.  Because of it’s location in the mountains, the weather tends to be quite chilly.  The only time it warms up is when the sun is shining directly on it. 

We arrived in the evening and spent some time running around in the open fields between the cabins.  Jared brought a soccer ball and spent a lot of time kicking the ball to another little boy who was also there.  Luke didn’t really care about the balls.  He wanted to play with the grass or chase the dogs that lived on the property.  Fortunately, they were very tame dogs who tolerated well the aggressive and chubby little hands of my 20 month old son. 

We all ate dinner together and then I tried to entertain the boys while their dad spoke to the group of student leaders about conflict resolution and how to deal with conflict.  However, it was quite challenging to keep them both quiet as Jared was fascinated with the moths that were attracted to the light bulbs inside the windows.  Jared kept yelling, “Look, Mommy!  There’s a butterfly!”

I would try to shush him and say, “That’s great, Jared…just try to be a little more quiet.”

Finally, the session was over and I took the boys back to our cabin to get ready for bedtime.  I dressed them up in about six layers of clothing and then placed a single bed up next to the bottom bunk of one of the two bunk beds in the room to make some child safe sleeping areas for the boys using blankets and pillows. 

Jared was excited about his little cozy corner of the bed where I had propped up pillows on both sides to keep him from rolling around the bed.  Luke was more excited about climbing around the room than sleeping in his area between the pillows.  It took me until 10:30pm before I could get him to fall asleep.  I slept across the end of the single bed to provide a barrier on the side of their bed that wasn’t against the wall. 

The air grew colder as the night hours dwindled into morning.  Jared woke up a couple times needing his covered tucked around him better.  Luke kept pushing his head into my side as he tried to scoot himself out of his little “nest.”  Somehow I managed to keep him well covered during the night. 

Breakfast time was welcomed by all and the sun began to heat up the mountain air around us.  The boys were able to take their sweaters off to play in the fields later that morning. 

By the time we had to leave, the boys were tired and happy.  Everything went smoothly except for one thing.  I managed to forget my purse with my wallet, my cell phone, my keys and other personal items by the outdoor campfire location and didn’t realize it until we got back to Quito.

Thankfully, we had friends who lived in that area and they were able to pick up my purse and bring it back to school to me the following Monday.


An Emergency Graduation

About mid-December of last year, one of our senior students at Alliance Academy International (AAI) was stopped by local police in Quito.  It is uncertain why they decided to pick on this particular Korean student on that day.  However, we know that they decided to take Kay Jang down to the police station.  That was when she was told the news that the visa that she and her parents were using had been invalid for several years.  We were told that they had originally obtained visas to live in Ecuador about five years ago. 

It is a mystery as to why it took the government this long to figure out that the visas had been processed incorrectly, unless you take into account the amount of corruption and legal loopholes present in this country. 

Kay and her parents were forced to leave the country “immediately.”  They left the country during Christmas vacation.  Her father returned to South Korea, but Kay and her mother were allowed to return to Ecuador under a temporary visa to take care of their home and all the belongings that they had been forced to leave so abruptly.  During that time, Kay was allowed to continue to attend the Alliance Academy International and finish her first semester of her senior year.  In the meanwhile, different people at AAI were working feverishly to get the visa situation worked out so that Kay would be able to finish her senior year and graduate with her class.

However, it became apparent that it would not be possible for her to stay in Ecuador past mid-February.  In light of that situation, Stephen and other administrators and the school worked out a way for Kay to graduate early with a general education diploma.  She would also be able to obtain her college prep diploma by completing two more classes through correspondence with her teachers and receive that diploma at the end of the school year. 

Kay gives her speech at her special graduation.

Kay and her mother purchased plane tickets back to South Korea for Tuesday, February 16, and the school scheduled a special graduation for her on Wednesday, February 10.  The afternoon classes were shortened to allow for a special graduation ceremony for all of high school (9th through 12th grade) to attend. 

Kay gave a special senior address that was a testimony to God’s grace in her life.  She expressed her struggle to understand why God would let this happen to her, but she wanted her fellow classmates to know that she saw God working through the situation and she knew was teaching her through the process.  There were many tears as she finished speaking and as each senior came to the front of the stage to hand her a rose and give her a hug.

Kay expressed her faith in God’s timing, realizing it was not her timing.  Then, God worked a miracle.  Two days after this special day of closure, Kay and her mother met with someone who had connections with immigration.  One small meeting was all it took for Kay and her mother to get special “student” visas that would allow Kay to stay in Ecuador until this coming summer. 

Now they are faced with a dilemma.  They have already purchased tickets to return to South Korea and Kay has officially graduated from AAI.  Do they really have a reason to stay any longer?  For Kay, it would be a bit awkward and embarrassing to return to school after so much has been done to help her graduate early. 

Kay has left the “stage” of her high school life, but now she can return to it and say “Wait, there is still one more act!”  It will be interesting to find out if she decides to do that or not.