Sunday, August 29, 2010

Random update

This is my first full free day... so if you can't tell I've had a lot of time to do nothing (hence the 3 updates in one day).

I have been getting a lot of questions about the Ecuadorian diet. Here are a few examples of typical Ecuadorian meals. The last one is a typical "fast food" meal.
  • Eggs and toast
  • Soup with potatoes, rice, and veggies; mashed potatoes, rice, and broccoli
  • Soup with potatoes, rice, and veggies; chicken, rice, and salad
  • Soup with potatoes and eggs; rice, beans, salad
  • At Pizza Hut: Personal pizza, french fries, cheese sauce, and a soda
... they eat a lot of carbs...

As for Spanish, I had a good day today. I had a decent conversation with the cab driver on my way home. We chatted about how I will be teaching English in Ibarra for the next year and what I plan to do for the next two weeks in Quito. And I also got to hang out with my host mom by myself because Krista went out for the day. It was cool just chatting with her because she actually had to slow down and help me understand. I told her about my trip to Mindo and she helped correct some of my grammar. It really pumped me up for Ibarra when I will live by myself with a host family and learn a lot more Spanish.


Here are some more pictures! (including Mindo)

Cascadas, Mariposas, and Mindo

On Friday we finally got to learn more about our site placements and about our practice teaching. I will be teaching at a university near the school from 6-8 for the next few weeks. I will only be solo teaching on Thursday and Friday and the other members of my group will be teaching the other days. I like this way of practice teaching because it gives us all a chance to teach by ourselves but also gives us a lot of time to observe other people teach. My group has a Basic II class (which is basically Basic 1). We’re going to have them make a family tree and teach them simple verbs. I’m meeting with my group this afternoon to work out more of the details.

Then that afternoon Shari and I found out more about Ibarra. We are going to have our own classrooms and we teach in a really small building. The entire curriculum is up to us and so we have complete free reign. I’m so excited! I don’t like teaching to tests and I don’t think multiple choice tests show that someone knows English. We don’t know about our host families yet but hopefully that will come soon. We are going to start teaching on September 13th (2 days after we move to Ibarra, crazy!) and we will teach Monday-Thursday. Should be fun!

After that we attempted to get a manicure for $3. Except it was the most painful manicure I’ve ever had! The lady took 2 hours to do us both and she kept answering her cell phone and then not paying attention to the fact that she was digging into my skin. It was definitely a strange experience… but it was only $3. I chose purple nails because every girl in Quito wears purple eye shadow out to her ears. It’s an interesting sight to see.

Then we went to MegaMaxi, which is more like Concord Mills because it is so huge. Then I went back and got my stuff and headed over to Cheryl, Claire, and Shari’s place to spend the night so we could go to Mindo in the morning.

In the morning we woke up super early and caught a bus to Mindo. It was so cool to be outside of Quito and not around a million people and disgusting pollution. Mindo is actually the jumping off city for a bunch of adventure activities. Since we didn’t have too long to stay in Mindo we only did a few things. We took a cable car across a valley and then hiked for about 4 hours to a bunch of different waterfalls. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the big waterfall because we couldn’t find it and were running out of water and time and hadn’t eaten in 8 hours. Cheryl and I have plans to come back and find that waterfall though J. It was also a cool experience because Claire hates the outdoors and so we pushed her to do it. There were some tough parts to the hike so I’m proud of her.

Then we headed to a butterfly garden and got to see some amazing butterflies. After that we got lunch and looked at some street markets while waiting for our bus back to Quito. I would definitely recommend making Mindo a whole weekend trip because they have so much there. There’s ziplining, horseback riding, tubing, bird-watching, an orchid farm, tons of hiking, and a cool city to explore. It’s definitely worth going to!

Then we headed back and got some Chifa (Chinese food) and I came back to my house and passed out.

Pictures of Mindo are coming soon!

Coolest Ecua-thing I saw in Mindo:

While Cheryl, Claire and I were hiking up and down and all around a mountain on a pretty intense hike we saw an Ecua-family carrying their kids and doing the hike like it was no problem. There were streams to cross, logs to climb over, areas that were so steep you had to slide down, and then an Ecua-family making it look soooo easy. It was nuts! We also ran into some Germans who tried to do it in flip-flops. I think they regretted that decision. Oh, and no one in Ecuador wears flip-flops. I still wear mine almost everyday though.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Did I mention Ecuas are loud?

This week is starting to look up a bunch. Yesterday was a huge soccer match between Ecuador and Argentina. A bunch of vols and I (and some locals) went to an Indian restaurant to watch the game. It was so much fun! The locals were going crazy and everyone was screaming at the TV. We were also in the middle of the Mariscal and the whole square was insane. No matter where you went you couldn’t hear yourself think! At half time a bunch of us went to a club called Bungalow. Wednesday is ladies night in Quito and this place had no cover and free drinks from 8-10. It’s actually a hilarious idea. They only let girls in from 8-10, give them free drinks (liquor only, no beer), and then charge guys a ton of money to file in at 10. I met some guy who said he went to Columbia University and now half owns a company in London that works with oil refineries. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t telling the whole truth about his job… but hey, I got a free drink out of it. Then we went to another club where they only serve shots. I’ve never been good with those but I was convinced to take an “Ecuador shot.” It’s basically blue Curacao, grenadine, vodka, and banana liquor layered on top of each other to look like the Ecuadorian flag. Then came more salsa dancing and then bed.

Today we went to an awesome Gauyasamin (sp?) museum. It was up on this hill that looked out over the whole city. Amazing! Inside we had a tour in Spanish that talked about his paintings. This artist is really incredible and if you haven’t heard of him you should definitely look him up. The museum was completely dedicated to him and everything he stood for. His big influences were Picasso and Dali, but he focused more on social issues in South America. If you ever come to Quito, I highly recommend seeing this museum. You can also go to his house, which is right above the museum, and see where he is buried.

After that I had my Spanish class and then I learned some basic grammar rules and how to teach them. Teaching English is going to be tough! I am also going to find out more about Ibarra and my placement there tomorrow. I’m so excited to hear more about it!

Then I came home and the whole fam was there and we had a nice dinner together. I actually understood most of the conversation but I still couldn’t contribute much to it. My brain just doesn’t form sentences that fast yet.

Oh! And this weekend I’m headed to Mindo (the cloud forest)!

More Ecua-isms:

  • · They put popcorn in their soup. Sounds sketchy but it is so good!
  • · Don’t drink strawberry juice or eat strawberries here. They can’t be washed well enough and so there is a fungus you can get that has a reaction a bit like tripping on shrooms. Some poor guys in our group had a very interesting afternoon the other day…
  • · It never rains in Quito. I have been here a week and a half and it rained for about 30 seconds one day. I had no idea it was so dry!
  • · The supermarkets here are called Supermaxi and Megamaxi. Basically walmart but with a much cooler name. I’m headed to Megamaxi tomorrow because it has a Payless attached to it. Yes, a Payless J
  • · Songs that didn’t make it big in America are huge here. I can’t think of any examples right now, but it’s hilarious listening to music in a club or on the bus.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First impressions

So after a whole week in Ecuador I can officially say that some cracks are starting to show in my first impressions. Yesterday was a mostly fun day. My classmates and I had an Amazing Race Quito, which was a lot of fun. We got to see the bull-fighting arena, the soccer stadium, and other random places around Quito. Then I came home with Krista and my host-madre talked for about 45 minutes without a break about her old job. Now one would think this would be fascinating, however, she still has no idea why I can't speak or understand everything in Spanish. So for 45 minutes I was listening so intently and I got most of it but boy did I have a headache after! And then she started to ask me questions and it just didn't work out so well. Which of course led to her saying that I need to learn Spanish. Dear people, I can't learn Spanish in a week. Thanks for understanding.

Then this morning Krista and I watched a dog get run over in the middle of a street by a semi-truck. It was so awful and I have no idea if the image will ever fully leave my head. And then we got on the wrong bus, got lost, got on another bus and I got stuck in the doors. Not a fun start to the morning. And to top it off, one of the other vols got her bag slashed last night and everything stolen. Plus several vols are starting to get pretty sick.

It's interesting how everything starts awesome and then the little flaws start to show. I haven't encountered anything I can't handle yet, and it is still awesome here, but parts of it will take getting used to.

I did find a place that had $1 huge beers last night though :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Salsa y picnic

Hola mis amigos,

Last night a bunch of us went salsa dancing at a chevere (awesome) club in Quito. There were tons of locals and everyone here is so good at salsa! I swear it is like in their blood. I, however, was not so good. But Daniel is taking Krista and me to a free salsa club on miercoles so that we can practice more. Should be fun!

Today we went to a picnic with all of the host families in this gorgeous park in Quito. It is way up on a hill so you can see everything (if you can't tell, everything is on a hill here). We got there and parked but then didn't know where the picnic was so in traditional ecua-fashion we walked around until we found it (about 45 minutes). And again, in traditional ecua-fashion, my host-sister who is 8.5 months pregnant walked up the huge hill for 45 minutes too. The park ended up having a llama farm right next to it, which was so cool! And there was an ecua-playground which had no safety measures whatsoever. Their take on playgrounds is "asi es la vida" or if my kid gets hurt then that's life. Everyone played soccer and we all just had a great time and ate a ton. The one thing I didn't realize was how much faster you burn because of the elevation. The part on my hair is super burnt now :(.

Then Krista and I came back and finally got some down time. I unpacked and took a siesta. Then we ate more delicious soup and now I'm writing this.

Tomorrow we are having more classes and then having an Amazing Race Quito! Should be fun!

More Ecua-isms:
  1. No one cares about pollution here. The mountains are covered in a smoggy haze all the time. It's still pretty, but gross.
  2. Time doesn't really matter here and everyone is on Ecua-time.
  3. It is impossible to find change. Everyone needs quarters for the bus and so no one wants to give you quarters. They also hate breaking $20s.
  4. They use like 10 blankets at night because it gets so cold and they don't have heating.
  5. Asi es la vida. They aren't very empathetic here because everyone just has the attitude of "that's life." It's pretty interesting actually.
Side note: My head is getting super full of Spanish right now. I think I've stopped processing new information and conversations. We'll see if a good night's rest helps.

Pictures: Check out this link to look at some of my pictures! Most are of the historic district in Quito.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Everything Ecua thus far...

(This is going to be long... fair warning).

Where to begin? Let's see... Last Monday I left the states to head to Miami. The flight to Miami was filled with bling everywhere (no joke it was hilarious). I got to the airport and then went straight to my hotel. A bit later I met up with one of the volunteers (Caitlin) and we went walking around the hotel. Good lord Miami in the summer is like a steam bath! We ate some awesome cuban food and I tried plantains for the first time. Then we headed back to the hotel and I met my roommate for the night, Teshema. She and I spent a long time talking and I realized that I was definitely going to like a lot of the people in this group. After that we headed to the lobby and ate dinner (hummus!) with some other vols. It was so crazy to be surrounded by people who have so much of the same view of the world that I do. After that we headed to our first orientation and chose spirt animals and talked about our worries. Again, everyone was so cool! Later a bunch of us went out to another cuban place until later and then I took my last hot shower with good water pressure. Then it was a nice and short 3.5 hours of sleep before the airport again!

We all shuffled ourselves to the airport and got on the flight to Colombia. It was definitely my first taste of everything being in Spanish and my head hurt a little. But it was all good. Then we landed in Colombia and hung out at the airport for awhile. I made some awesome friends and ate some delicious food. I also got to check out some of the duty free shops and (this if for Kaytee) found out that their favorite candy is guava jam in square form. Kinda weird and would be better on bread. I also picked up some dark chocolate, yum! Then came the big plane ride to Quito!

As we were flying in I couldn't help but notice how big quito is! It is a super long city because it is surrounded by mountains on either side. It was amazing seeing Cotopaxi and Pichincha (sp?) in the distance. Then we landed in the middle of the city (seriously) and got some taxis to our hostel. Quito is so gorgeous, but in a really understated way. It's pretty amazing.

We got to our hotel and some of us went out exploring for a while before dinner. Crazy potholes everywhere and pedestrians do NOT have the right of way. After that we went to dinner with the whole group and I had my first taste of Ecuadorian beer called Club. Something I imagine I'll be drinking much more of :). Then we were all super tired so we went to bed.

The next day we got up and went to our "school" and chatted about Ecuador. I had my first set almuerzo (lunch) of rice and beans. After lunch we had a big talk about safety in Ecuador and we were all pretty scared. Apparently buses are really unsafe (especially at night) and there were several WorldTeach horror stories. But all should be well as long as we take a reputable bus company during the day. The real fun came later that night when we got to meet our host families for Quito. I am living with a girl named Krista who is really nice. We were picked up by our Ecua-madre and her daughter and son-in-law. As we were taking our stuff to the car, one of the guys, Justin, wanted to help with my bag. Unfortunately, the hotel owner thought he was stealing my bag and put him in a pretty intense headlock. I felt so bad! We packed our billions of things into the car and... it wouldn't start. So in traditional Ecua-fashion we did not call a tow truck, or a taxi, we fixed it! Krista and I spent 2 hours pushing the car back and forth trying to get it to start and in gear with Diego (the son-in-law). It was crazy! We finally got it and made it to the house. It's really nice and we each have our own bedroom. We chatted for a while and thank goodness Krista is good at Spanish because I'm wasn't understanding too much.

Which brings up a good point. My head feels like a giant sponge right now. I am soaking up Spanish but I still suck at speaking. In nearly every conversation I can understand about 40% of it but responding is hard. My Ecua-mami is so cute because she wants me to understand so much and talks to me really fast and then says "mi Sarita... no se... preciosa!" My nicknames are Sarita (little Sara) and precious. I find the little funny because I'm actually taller than people here, even guys! But everything has -ita on the end. Ex: orita (little gold, aka: banana). I am taking Spanish classes though and they will help a lot. I'm in one with the girl who is moving to Ibarra with me. It is funny how the two worst Spanish speakers are both going to the same place.

The last few days have been filled with classes on culture shock and staying safe. They are very informative but they sure keep us busy. I've had 15 hour days for a few days in a row and it's making me muy consada! And after 15 hours in the city we come back and want to hang out with our host family. So I've been averaging very little sleep. Tomorrow is a relative free day though.

Last night Krista and I went out with our host brother, Daniel, to see the statue of the "Virgin of Quito" in the very center of the city. It is on a huge hill and looks over everything, so pretty! Then we went to this awesome part of the historic district called "La Ronda." It's basically a big street party every night with shops and musicians and mini-parades. We met up with some of his friends and I got to try Ecua-moonshine called "caneloza." It's cane sugar alcohol and some kind of juice flavoring served hot. It was pretty good but super strong! Then we tried "espumia" (sp?) which is weird non-cold ice cream like stuff. It was okay. Next were chocolates with alcohol in them, yum! And! Best part! All of this was paid for by Daniel's friends! Being a gringa can get you pretty far :).

Today we had more classes and we started learning about lesson planning. Most everyone in the group is freaking out about teaching. I actually feel pretty good about it. It's nice to have one strength (since everyone else has Spanish). I also went to a crazy cool market and will have to go back with more money. Next we had a salsa class because in a few minutes we are going salsa dancing! Granted I have two-left feet, but it's all fun.

That's my life so far!

  • Juice, juice, and more juice! Every kind of juice you can imagine and nothing from concentrate!
  • Ecuas always talk about the weather. It is either caliente or chachay (Quichua).
  • Ecuas have lots of Quichua words. Quichua is different then Quechua btw.
  • Food is cheap but almost everything else is expensive. I can get a super huge $2 lunch and then buy body wash for $6.
  • Ecuas are loud! Everything is amplified and crazy. It's awesome!
  • Hot water does not actually mean hot water. It means 10 seconds of hot water. We're all learning the "suds up while it's cold and rinse while it's hot" dance.
  • Ecuas love to love. Everyone kisses everyone hello. Even if it is a group of 20 people saying a quick hello to 20 people, everyone must kiss on the cheek. The night I went to La Ronda I think I kissed 20 cheeks and I didn't know any of them. It's a really cool sight to see. Everyone is just so happy and friendly.
  • Cell phones last on average 3 months. They are always stolen.
  • Speaking of robbers, they are very nice here. You can bargain with them to let you keep enough money to take the bus home, or to keep the watch your grandpa gave you, etc...
There are lots more that I can't think of right now.

I am definitely loving it so far! I am picking up Spanish and making some great friends. It's also been such a whirlwind and I haven't had any down time which is tiring. I think I'm really going to like it here :)!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Estoy en Quito

I am here safely and it's hectic but great. I promise to post another blog soon (when I find internet/am not muy consada). Quito is beautiful and my host family here is very nice.

That's all. A bed is calling me....

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Última semana

Tonight is my last night in Cleveland. Tomorrow morning I'll be heading off to Miami for a night and then to Quito with the rest of the WorldTeach gang. I definitely have a mixture of emotions right now, but mostly I'm excited and unsure of what's to come.

I've had a great send off week though. Kaytee and I went to Maine for a few days to spend some time together. We went kayaking, hiking, sailing, and lobster-festival-ing. So much fun! We even got to see the sunrise on top of Cadillac Mountain (the first place in the continental US where the sun rises).

Then I went to Philly and got to see Megan! I definitely miss my friends from school. I was also able to go to my cousin Jess's wedding. It was beautiful! She made a stunning bride and she married the perfect guy for her. It was also a great way to see my entire family from my mom's side. I got to say goodbye to everyone. It was a sad goodbye because I won't see them for the holidays, but I know they will be thinking about me.

Then I came back to Cleveland for my last few days of work and tons of packing. I went to a festival in Little Italy and had some amazing food. And the next night I was introduced to this fantastic band called The Silk Road Ensemble. You should definitely check them out if you get a chance! Tonight we had a few family members over and I got to cook my final meal here. It's so crazy to think I'm leaving tomorrow! I think I'm in a good spot with packing and almost everything fits. Now I just have to spend a little bit of time with my pets and try to get some sleep.

Top things I'm excited about:
  1. Being in a new culture
  2. All of the eco-touristy things I'll do
  3. The food
  4. Dancing
  5. My WorldTeach soon-to-be friends
  6. Teaching again
  7. Going to Peru
  8. Learning Spanish
  9. Living with a host family
  10. Trying new things
Top things I'll miss about the US:
  1. My pets
  2. Being able to talk to my friends and family whenever I want
  3. Electronics and wireless Internet
  4. My car
  5. English
  6. Being able to get food from any culture I want (Italian, Thai, Chinese, etc)
  7. My bed
  8. Being home for the holidays
  9. Having a job that pays
  10. Changing seasons
I'm off to Ecuador!