Head over heels in love with Project Bike Love

I'm lying in bed right now at a convent in Puerto Casado, I just finished texting my mom and am quietly crying as the girls all fall asleep around me. We're in this big room with 5 beds and we just finished a late night dinner of pizza and beer with the nuns. I don't drink beer but apparently nuns in Paraguay do, however you didn't hear that from me. 

I don't want today to ever end.  If it gets better then this, I should probably buckle in tight for the ride because I can barely handle the emotions I have now. 

We started off the morning getting off the craziest bus ride of my life.  Amy and I held each other in fear while Belen and Lupe slept through the entire ride as if they were in a completely different world. 

After getting our bearings we managed to get on a boat to cross the river. The boats are small and the water is murky, and you don't actually dock to anything, you just pull up to the dirt and hop of into the mud.

When we arrived we were met by a large group of children screaming and running at us. The smell here was different then anything. It wasn't necessarily unpleasant, just unfamiliar. Honestly it was overwhelming. Not in a bad way, but I wasn't feeling very good, and I'm in this entirely different world from what I've ever experienced. I loved every minute of it, but it was definitely emotionally overwhelming. The kids danced for us, sang for us, took pictures with us. They loved my tattoos and kept wanting to touch them. They sat with me as I showed them videos. They wanted to be held and touched and hugged. They loved the bubbles Belen had brought and we all took turns making bubbles for them to chase. We learned about their community and school. We took lots of photos and went on our way. 

I didn't want to leave though. I wanted to know so much more. I wanted to learn each child's name and let them tell us more about them. Some of the kids seemed really sick, lots of skin conditions and respiratory issues. I wanted so bad to help them somehow, not just say hello and leave. I guess if we brought a little joy to their lives, it was worth it! It's just my nature to always want to do more. 

After leaving the community we took a boat about 20 minutes up the river to Puerto Casado, where 11 women would get their bikes. These were the bikes we had to get and ship 2 weeks ago just to make sure they'd be here by the time we arrived. 

When the girls showed up to receive their bikes I was a little nervous honestly, the language barrier is tough for me, and poor Belen has been in charge of translating everything for us. Once we started learning about the women I began to really become present to what was happening. One girl in particular wrote a poem for us and when she was reciting it she was crying, then everyone else was crying, she was basically telling us how much this meant to her and it was the best thing that's happened to her in her entire life. That's when I lost it, all the fear, nervousness, anxiousness and other pent up emotions leading up to this trip just came out, I was a sobbing snotty mess. We fixed brakes and seats, pumped tires, taught the girls about the bikes, laughed, cried, kissed, hugged, and then we all road through the town on their new bikes, laughing and taking pictures. 

When we got back and said our goodbyes everyone went inside to rest before dinner. We didn't do much resting though, because that's when I noticed Liv Cycling listed us in their top 7 favorite bike charities. Needless to say I lost it again, and what does my loving supportive partner do, she grabs the camera to video me ugly crying about it! What can I say, I broke today. Not broke in a bad way, but I just let it sink in, that what we're doing here has such a HUGE impact. I took the planning and marketing hat off and I lived in what's possible for Project Bike Love. PBL was started to empower women with global connection and holy shit did I see that happen today right in front of my eyes.

As tears run down my face I can honestly say, today changed me. I'm head over heels in love with Project Bike Love. Before we got ready for bed, Belen and I started planning next years missions. Big things are happening friends!

Love, Erin