Archive for the ‘Ecuador’ Category

New Job

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Hey all!

I´m back to tell (some) about my new job.

So, after much renewed confusion (like you would not believe), I finally got confirmation that I was working at the school (Yet, they still were telling me different schools. aka – wednesday of the first two week training block, they told me one thing, confirmed it friday, and the next tuesday someone asked me why i hadn´t shown up at the other school. Lol).

It all got sorted out. So, I am teaching First Basic (kindergarten) at ISM: International Academy( http://www.ism.edu.ec/). We first had two weeks of ¨planning¨, which was actually two weeks of mostly seminars and a little planning. Most of the  seminars were interesting and informative. Problem was: they were all in Spanish. Which is fine, usually, onlynot when they´re talking at the speed of light on a microphone to over a hundred people. Then, it gets very hard to understand.

Also, bureaucracy continued. In ways I don´t want to describe on a public blog when I´m still working (for example, though, received my list of students the friday before classes started, the day before I meet the parents, and at 2pm (I theoretically leave at 2:30).

Also, this school is SUPER religious. I knew it would be religious but OMG. I have never been so afraid to not be caught praying correctly in my life. I think if I get fired for anything, it will be because someone discovers I´m not religious. Which is a problem, because I have to teach bible for a minimum of 15-30 minutes every day. Which is hard, because I simply don´t believe in it. So, religiously I´m feeling a little oppressed. I mean really, to quote – ¨we aren´t telling anyone that they have to be Catholic. Or even Christian, just that they have to have God in their heart. And if they don´t. they can´t really work here.¨I just about broke out into terrified tears. It´s very repressive. Normally, I have no problem not talking about religion (because I don´t), but constantly having prayers and services and devotionals and being forced to teach religion makes me constantly very nervous about doing the wrong thing.

Luckily, the people are awesome. In addition to the foreign teachers, most of the Equatorian teachers I´ve met are absolutely wonderful. They´re so kind and helpful – especially the english teachers teaching first basic with me. I have no kinder training so I´m feeling very over my head, but they´re extremely helpful and nice all the time. I´m learning a lot. And, the students overall have been great so far (we´ve had one week with them of adaptation). A few problems, like my master escape artist who keeps somehow escaping the preschool area to wander the rest of the school in search of his sister, but I´m learning to deal with them. Though, I do feel over my head. Especially with these two weeks of adaptation (we´ve done one, the second one starts tomorrow). It´s  just kind of a free for all two weeks to get the kids used to being at school. It´s unstructured, so I´m running out of ideas of what to do with them to keep them entertained (I need to get my hands on a CD player and music, or chaos is going to ensue without singing or dancing). So, any idea of how to entertain 21 five year olds would be most appreciated.

Also, the school is really nice. It is in the middle of No Where in Calderon. Not the best place around it. It is so much in no where, it´s 40 minutes away by bus, and down a dirt road. Most roads in Ecuador are paved. The school is still adding a wing, so there´s dust, but otherwise it´s nice. It has a pool, soccer field, computer labs (theoretically with internet), a high tech admin building, fingerprint scanners for teachers, nice classrooms, and a cafeteria where they make food fresh every day. Seriously, lunch is comida tipica and the best school food i´ve ever tasted. It puts Seaco´s best nights to absolute shame. Of course, they use fresh ingredients and cook it right there, so it´s automatically better. It´s great. Also, my classroom is very nice compared with what I´d been told to expect. I have desks, chairs, supply cabinet, a tv and dvd player (unfortunately, their cords don´t reach the outlet, I´m still working on trying to get an extension cord). I´m just missing the CD player, but hopefully I´ll get that Monday. Granted, when I got the room, it was so dirty, it took me a day and a half just to clean it, and 3 and a half extra long (till 4/5) to decorate it. But cleaned up, it´´s really nice.

So, overall, I´m doing well. Extremely non stop busy and run down, but well. I´m surprised how much I am enjoying working with the youngins. Luckily, bureaucracy has seemed to smooth out (I finally got my schedule…a week into classes – no. joke.) ALso, it´s Ecuador, so teachers are much more relaxed and can be much more affectionate with students. Which really helps with them. Now, if only my facturas would be finished so I can hopefully get paid for the days in August…..

Wish me luck! I´ll have more stories next time.  :)

And fam, please give me another week before calling. I´m wiped. With soooo much to do.

Vacation

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Hey!

I’m back, done with TESOL, have a job, and am back from vacation :)

This whole job thing has been a nightmare, all because of Ecuadorian bureaucracy. They keep telling me new things and changing their minds. One day it’s “you’ll be working in the calderon campus in history with high schoolers” the net its “sorry, you’ll be working in the Kennedy campus with primary in science or english, we’re not sure yet.” They even keep changing the start dates. So, i’ll find out tomorrow when i go in to sign my contract.

So, to get away from the bureaucratic nightmare, i finally gave up and went on vacation. And what a wonderful vacation it was :) . AMAING

First, I went to Banos, a town 3.5 hours south of Quito. It’s still in the Sierra, but its only two hours away from the Orient. IT. Was. Amazing. The town is famous for its hotsprings pools, with good reason. As soon as I slipped into the water I felt as if I had died and gone to heaven. THe water was a fabulously hot temperature. The pool I went to was Piscina de La Virgin. It has three pools: cold, warm and hot. Also, it’s underneath a waterfall. Surrounded by mountains. Yes, the pool itself was man-made, but the view was sooooooo worth it.

Hot Springs Pools - heated from the Volcano

The road between Banos and Puyo is known as the route of the waterfalls, because of all the breathtaking waterfalls visible from the road. So, the morning after, I went on a chiva tour to all the waterfalls around Banos. Now, Chivas are wonderful party trucks.  They’re basically wood benched you hold on to as the truck barrels down the mountain highway. It’s like being on a roller coaster – only fun. And when I mean barrel – i mean faster than even I would drive down 95. Reminder, no seat belts. Also, the road – a complete drop if things go badly. It was absolutely fantastic. I hadn’t had that much fun in a long time.

The waterfalls were completely amazing. Most were in the distance, on the other side of the canyon because of the space between mountains. There were over twelve waterfalls that you could see from the road. Also, the mountains were spectacular.

The best, however, we had to walk to. It was a mile straight down through the cloud forest using all sorts of creaky stair cases, steep, muddy paths. Bear in mind: I had my pack. My backpacking pack. With all my stuff in it, it added an additional 25 or so pounds on my back. It made things much harder. But the falls were gorgeous. And feeling the spray on my face after such a hike was glorious. Then, of course, I had to hike back up. With my pack. I just about died. Everyone else was having a hard time too and giving my pitying looks as I huffed and puffed my way back up. I made it, and all those incredibly sore muscles were so very worth it.

Then, I made my way to Riobamba hoping to take the train over the Nari del Diablo. Unfortunately, it’s closed until December. So, I stayed the night, toured a little in the morning, and made my way to Cuenca. Fun point: leaving the bus station. The bus was so full, ppl were standing. But, the cops down’t let busses leave the station if people are standing. So, the people in the middle hid, sitting on the ground so the cops wouldn’t see, standing up as soon as we were free. Soooo funny.  Once there, I had a wonderful dinner with Jim (a guy from TESOL) and his girlfriend. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long because they were off to Loja on their own vacation.

Cuenca is gorgeous. It’s so much nicer and cleaner than Quito. Although, the public transport isn’t as good. However, Cuenca’s colonial center is fabulous. I spent my two days in Cuenca just in the center.

So, my first morning in Cuenca was the earthquake. I was woken up by my room shaking rather hard. I thought that it was just another temblor, and went about my day. It wasn’t until the afternoon that I found out there’d been a 7.1 earthquake only 85ish kilometers from me. Hee – whoops.

So, Cuenca. THe cool thing about Cuenca (other than the colonial center) is the Incan ruins. I got to walk on the ruins of an Incan temple behind Cuenca’s national bank. How cool is that??!!!! I was definitely smiling big the entire time. In addition to the temple, the priests’ quarters, the holy women’s quarter, etc, there is also a large beautiful garden of medicinal plants the Incans used among the lower section of the ruins. The whole place was soooo cool.

The Comple is huge. It took me 40 mins to walk through it all, this is just a piece :)

In addition to the ruins, I spent my time wandering through Cuenca’s colonial center. I love colonial architecture, It’s just gorgeous.

After two days in Cuenca, I headed off to Ecuador’s most famous ruins: Ingapirca. Another HUGE Incan temple comple.

Again, too big to fit in one. I'll upload more later :)

Also, so very cool. Unfortunately, it was cold and raining. So, within 35 mins I had to leave because I was frozen stiff. So, I caught a bus to Tambo to catch a bus to Quito. That was an adventure. No bus stop, so I had to rely on luck on flagging down the first Quito bus that came my way (between point a and point b, even intercity busses stop if they’re flagged down. You may have to stand for seven hours, but you’ll get on). So, I got back to Quito by Saturday night.

Great vacation. Tomorrow: Contract.

Otavalo

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

So, it has momentarily stopped raining. It is so clear out that you can see not only Cotopaxi and all its magnificent snow-topped glory, but also Antisana (rare, except in summer to see from quito), and one other wayyy in the distance also snow-capped. It´s fabulous. Ecuadorans are like, yeah, if you see Antisana for three days in a row, you may not see rain for six weeks or more. And I have to ask, after almost 3 weeks of nonstop cold and rain, is that a bad thing???

Anyway, last week I had a great time leaving Quito for the first time and heading to Otavalo. How did we get there?? LUCK. April and I (the girl I went with), must have been pinched by leprechauns at some point because I have no idea how we managed to get there at all.

So, we left our school about 6:45, and it was raining (of course), and dark. We got on the trolley to the last stop. From there, we needed to take a special bus to get to the northern bus terminal. We didn´t see it. We left the trolley stop and went to look for a taxi. Somehow, we looked around and managed to see a bus going where we needed to go, arriving just at the right moment (25cent bus ride, so much cheeper than a taxi). We got on, it was absolutely packed, but somehow April managed to hear the bus driver talking about the two americans on board (i don´t know how because i couldn´t hear anything). So, April struck up a conversation and BEFRIENDED our bus driver. In doing so, she managed to realize that the bus was not, in fact, going where we needed to go. But, in befriending him, the bus driver stopped, specifically to be like – that bus, on the corner, RIGHT THERE outside will take you to Otavalo. I have no idea how we managed to somehow be on the right street at the right time for a bus passing through Otavalo to Ibarra. So, we asked the new bus driver and he said, yes, he stopped in Otavalo before moving on to Ibarra.

So, we got on the bus. Then, the next leg of our adventure. As the bus started to move, the driver put in a video. No joke, it was the second Twilight, dubbed in Spanish, and recorded/bootlegged in a movie theatre. It was hilarious. Well, then we realized that the driver does not, in fact, let you know the town he is stopping in, you have to just kind of know where you are. So, we figured, in 2 hours we´ll ask the driver to let us know when we get to Otavalo (the trip is supposed to take 2.5 hours per the guide book). Yeah. 1.5 hours later, April is sleeping and i happen to look out the window and see a sign that says “Otavalo, 3 km”, another “Otavalo” with some kitchua, and another which said “Bienvenidos a Otavalo”. I was like, April, wake up, we´re here. She was like, no we´re not, you sure. At which point I said “I saw a sign that said bienvenidos a otavalo, that´s pretty damn sure”. So we got off (but not before april double checked with the bus driver). Again -LUCK. And, we happened to find a really nice, cheap hostel, really close by. So much luck.

We got up the next morning and headed out to the Otavalo market at 7:30 the next morning. The market is one of the biggest and best in Latin America. It was AMAZING!!!! I am soooo going back with money and buying stuff. There´s all sorts of bread, produce, food, clothes, and, or course, indian crafts (art, leather, textile, you name it). It´s really amazing, and i´´m def. going back at least once or twice.

After two hours, the hoards of toursits descended, so April and I hopped a bus to what we thought were the lakes. Not. We ended up in the middle of no where. But, it was a beautiful walk back and an excellent view of how the majority of Ecaudorans live.

Then, we hopped another bus to the Lago San Pedro. And, even though we ended up in a city that had San Pedro EVERYWHERE, April didn´t believe we were there and made us stay on the bus. So, we missed our stop. But, we ended up taking a fabulous bus ride through the beautiful equadoran countryside. Completely worth it and fun. We got back to San Pedro and had an authentic almuerzo ($1,50 for soup, salad, seco, and juice), and went to the lake (though it was raining). There was an awesome resort there where you could Jet ski, swim, blob, kayak, canoe, etc – that was aimed to Equadorans rather than american tourists. it was great.

So, Otavalo, awesome. I def. am going back and going exploring (other markets, the lagoons, etc).

TESOL  – intense. taken over my life. At least i´m learning a lot. One of the funniest moments was when a student surprised us with ” the orange is more delicious than the pinneapple”- We had no idea he knew delicious, it was fabulous. sooo many great stories.

So, one word on Quito culture. Fried Chicken. They LOVE their fried chicken. There are more KFCs here than McDonalds. There are entire KFC PALACES. No joke, these KFCs are like twice the size of my old house. I don´t know whether to be amused, or offended by the overbearing globalization. And it´s not just KFC – there are tons of other fried chicken restaurants. It´s really interesting. Which is good, because i love fried chicken. And after three weeks of comida tipica, i did not feel bad eating fried chicken when my host family bought some for lunch.

One more week of TESOL!! I should have a working contract signed in two weeks :)

TESOL

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

So, felt my first temblor yesterday…that was a shock to the system. At first, when the building rumbled a little bit we all were like, ¨is that an airplane flying too close??¨…then, it got a little stronger. Not a lot, just enough to rattle us a bit and make David a little worried that it could be an earthquake and not a temblor. So, we just kept on going with class.

Again…rain. thunderstorms. Sunny in the morning and then the clouds slowly creep up over the mountains and engulf the city (really cool looking) and it starts to rain about 3pm. sigh…i much prefer the sun.

TESOL….is really, really intense. I have no time to do anything but study (i´m only writing this because it helps me procrast working on an assignment before class starts :) ). I´ve taught twice now for an hour each…it´s rough. Especially since, in my teaching group there are two really experienced teachers and me and another guy (David) with no experience what so ever. It makes our learning curve need to be steep and our incredibly green status much more apparent. It´s rough. Plus, lesson planning time…practicall nill. Worse since i have practically no access to the internet and know almost no teaching activities. I don´t see how Sarah can do it all the time…it´s hard.

So, the job search goes on. There are quite a few schools (primary and secondary) looking for teachers. So, we´re making lots of inquiries. I may end up at a primary…or, a middle school. It makes me panic a little, but we´ll see.

This weekend, i may actually get out of the city. Yay

Also, I met Paola and Jacobo yesterday (i´ll next be living with Paola´s mother). They´re wonderful people, really nice. I´m going over to see the condo on sunday. Yay.

ok…now i´m just late for class. ttyl

These are a few of my favorite things…

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010
  1. The view: There is nothing more fabulous here than looking around at the mountains – whether it be a beautiful clear sunny day where you can see the snow capped mountains and volcanos (Cotopaxi!) some distance away, or the clouds wrapping splendidly around Pichincha and the mountains surrounding the city. It takes my breath away almost every day.
  2. Clouds of Doom: Quito weather is funny, you can have four seasons in a single day. The best is when it{s a bright sunny day, and then you notice the huge, ominous Cloud of Impending Doom gliding towards you, bringing with it an impending deluge. Then of course, right behind the dark black mass, is further deep blue, cloudless sky. Fabulous.
  3. Fruits and Veggies: All fresh, all grown within driving distance. Delicious.
  4. Fresh Bread: Bread from neighborhood bakeries is cheap, and cooked fresh several times a day. At about 3 or 4 cents a roll, with a cup of tea it makes the most declicious breakfast. Hot, cheap, delicious bread…all the time.
  5. Illegal movie stores: They{re so bold, they advertise themselves by displaying their illegal, incredibly cheap movies outside their stores. And, they{re everywhere. I donñt think i{ve seen a store selling legal movies yet. It{s hysterical. At 3 movies for 5 dollars, any requests?? :) lol
  6. Colonial Quito: Amazing. That is all.
  7. Freshly fried peanuts: It is impossible to tell you how good these were. Except that I couldn{t stop eating them.  Each bite is like being struck by deliciousness. Next time i{m in the colonial center I will def. get more.
  8. My host family: They{re so great. Over protective, yes. Is that hard for someone as independent as me, yes. But they are some of the nicest people I have ever met. I{m really glad i{m staying with them.
  9. Artisenal Markets: Gorgeous. Lots of fun.
  10. Menu: Full course meal for between $1.50-3. And generally really good. A great way to eat.
  11. The language school: Great people, great students, very helpful.
  12. Futbol: World Cup Fever – you try being in a room with four Ecuadorans when Brazil lost and resisting the urge to laugh at their reaction – it{s hard. But seriously: Brazil, Argentina – WTF
  13. Museums and Helpful Museum guides: The museums I{ve been to have all been beautiful and really interesting. And they always seem excited to offer you a guide.

…more to come.

Acculturation to Quito

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

Hello all again!

So, I survived me first week. I´m so glad that I had a week of Spanish classes from 8:30-12:30 each day first. Tomorrow, I jump right into having TESOL classes from 8:30am-6:30 pm each day. That, plus altitude adjustment the first week probably would´ve killed me. As it was, with everything, I just about collapsed from exhaustion thursday evening.

The battle of the shower continues. We got it fixed to what it´´s supposed to be – the problem is that that takes a lot of adjustment. Keep in mind that these are “suicide showers” aka – showers hooked to to so many electrical wires to produce warm water that it looks like a frightening maze. Thus, the dilema is this: water pressure or hot water? You can either: a) have plenty of water pressure as long as you don´t mind being drenched in ice cold water; or, b) have something between warm and hot water with barely enough water pressure to completely drench your hair. It´s quite difficult. Especially since the air around here stays between 50 and 70 degrees (gen around 60-65 in the house) and there´s no heat. Also – hot water only for the shower because otherwise it´s too expensive. So, dishes, hands, and laundry is all done in cold water – which has taken a lot of adjustment.

So, yes, this family´s great. Lupe (the wife)´s family owns the best two antique shops in Quito. THey are gorgeous – full of items from the late 1700-s to early 20th century. Everything is ornately decorated or carved, and for the most part contains mostly gold or silver. It´s like going to a museum each time I go. It´s so great. I´ve also met, I think, the entire family, and they are all equally nice – I even played with the grandkids. And, I finally got the freedom thurs and friday to walk by myself to the school (i´d been escorted or driven both ways before, leading to an hour long round robin in the afternoon between the school, the antique stores, and the grandfather´s house before I could finally eat lunch).

I´ve also finally gotten to tour the colonial center – AMAZING. I love it. But i´m not alloud to go there alone yet. Felipe´s girlfriend Glenda took me around, and to the Museo de la Ciudad and the Casa de Sucre, two great museums in the center. She´s great, with her interest in history she knew everything about the history of the neighborhoods, where and where not to go. Something interesting about it is how vibrant it is, not just with shops, but with everyday life – there were all sorts of people going to the old churches for services and for communion. Lastly, I want to live in an old colonial style upper-class home. They are amazingly beautiful.

Today, I went to the old Banco Central Museum, which, instead of being a banking museum, is a museum on pre-columbian and colonial art. The ancient ceramics were amazing, the coolest i´ve ever seen. I mean, pictures are one thing, but up close they were truly great.

So, my biggest problem with acculturation has to be: soup. I am only used to having soup when I´m sick. Having it every day has been the most severe culture shock of all – weird, huh. I got to a point last week where I was dreading eating soup by friday. Not because they tasted bad, they didn´t, just because i´m really not used to so much soup. Especially when it´s christmas puke green (although with cheese, it tasted the best of all :) ).

So, onward to four weeks on non stop classes………yay

Hello!!!

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Hello from Quito!. Yes, I landed safely in spite of the storms and have had a fabulous few days.

So, leaving DC was interesting. Emma, mom and I got to the airport, got my bags out, said our good byes. Then, I walked away to the doors, and…….nothing. They wouldn´t open because those particular doors were still locked. It was so funny – and it completely ruined the moment.

Then, turbulence. On the flight to Houston it was so bad I found myself wishing that I hadn´t rewatched the pilot of Lost with my father. And they weren´t kidding about being in seat 1A. <there was no one beside me, and I was so close to the cockpit, the pilot and I could´ve had a slumber party. The flight Houston to Quito was similar. The turbulence wasn´t so bad, but it was so constant for three and a half hours that everyone on the plane turned green. Just watching the movie made me sick the plane was shaking so much.

So, we landed late at 11:30. Customs till 12. Then ANOTHER line to re-scan the bags. I didn´t exit till close to 12:45. Thankfully, the family was still there to meet me with a sign and a smile.

<the host family are absolutely lovely people. There´s Lupe and Jorge, both 60 who live in a lovely little flat in down town Quito. I spent the entire weekend with them and their family. They have three sons: Jorge Esteban, Diego, and Felipe. Diego and Jorge Esteban are both married, while Felipe lives with his girlfriend. All are absolutely the most lovely, welcoming people ever.

There´s a lot to get used to here. First: the lack of hot water. Oh. my. god. My first shower in sixty degree weather to ice cold water was….not funny. Aparently, shower water can get warm, it´s just broken. They´re working on repairing it, and it should be done tomorrow. But until then…

Second: perpetual spring. It stays between 50 and 66 degrees here all the time. Which is really nice during the day. At night, however, when there is no heat, it gets…really really cold. Elisa, you know all those times I complained the apartment was too cold at 71 degrees? I aparently lied. I mean, we have lots of blankets, but 50 is 50. <but, i´m starting to get used to it in spite of myself.

Three- food. I am simply not used to having soup at every meal. But, good. Lupita is a wonderful cook.

So, we visited this awesome archaeological, pre-inca site called the Rumipamba. It was awesome, with a gorgeous outlook of the city. I´m still not used to the altitude, so, it got m really out of breath. <But it was still fun. We also walked around the neighborhood some and went to a park to look over the colonial center and at the Panecillo. I can´t wait to visit the colonial center. I hope to have time to do it soon.

I started class today.This week – one on one spanish lessons and culture-history lessons. Next week we dive into teaching. Woohoo.

So, that´s it so far. I´m great, Quito is great (I can´t get over the beauty of being surrounded by mountains), and everything is going well.

For future travelers – altitude adjustment meds. No joke, they´re awesome. And they work wonders. I´ve only ever felt a little sick to my stomach, but nothing worse.

Hasta luego!!!!!

Testing. Testing.

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Hi!

Welcome to my personal blog for my year teaching in Ecuador (which, if you’re reading this…you probably already know about it)

I’m hoping this blog gets used as a way to stay in touch, and to let you all see photos and hear stories about all the crazy stuff I’m going to use.

If you’re reading this (which, I hope I’m not going to do this for nothing), you can either know I’ve posted something b/c I’ll place it on my facebook wall, or subscribe through the RSS reader using Google Reader or another tool. Oh, and comment if you want to here or on Facebook (it’ll let me know you’ve been here and I love hearing from you guys ^_-)

So, I hope you enjoy this if you’re reading this. And, no, the photo up there is not Quito. Yet. It will be once I take a good photo of the city and upload it.

2 more days. Awesome.