Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quick update on Protests in Ecuador

Hi everyone - it's Kaytee (Sara's sister). I just talked to Sara, and she's fine. If you haven't noticed, there's a bit of chaos happening in Ecuador.

The World Teach folks have been really great about keeping us in the loop about everything that's happening. Their advice to their volunteers is to stay home until things subside, and that's exactly what Sara's doing. She's at her host family's house in Ibarra, with no internet, which is why I'm posting for her.

If you want to read more about what's happening, go to and search Ecuador.

She sends her love and thanks everyone for their concern.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Oh, Ecuador...

That is all I can say this week. Oh, Ecuador...

  • Worldteach has a contract with the Ecuadorian government where we teach adults. CECAMI (where I work) has us teaching kids. We told our director (Kate) for Worldteach and she told CECAMI to get them out of our class because it is breaking the law and could possibly shut Worldteach down. CECAMI, of course, doesn´t care. So now I´m teaching kids when I´m not supposed to and I ask CECAMI to take them out of my class and they say (in front of the kid) ¨Why don´t you want him/her in your class? Do you not like him/her?¨ No, dumbo, I am not allowed to teach kids! You know this but still your way to make the situation better is to make the kid think it´s my fault and I just don´t like him/her.
  • I have tomorrow off for a holiday. I didn´t officially know that until today.
  • CECAMI called me at 9pm on Thursday night to tell me I had a conversation class at 8am on Monday. I show up at 8am and no one comes. I ask the assistant in the office and she said, ¨Of course no one came, there is a program in the high schools this morning.¨
  • I have random bites all over my legs. I thought they were mosquito bites. It turns out I have fleas because the dog at my house has fleas. Yes, I have fleas...
  • I came home to an empty house Saturday night and my host family had never mentioned they had an alarm system. I use my keys and the alarm goes off. Frantically I call my host mother and she is able to explain where the alarm is and what the code is. I´m thinking, wow that was crazy. Then the police sirens started and the police showed up. Luckily I was able to explain the situation to them and they didn´t even come in the house.
  • I was walking down the street and a car starts to follow me for 2 blocks honking at me and trying to get me to get in his car. I was 4 blocks from my house and I had to get in a taxi and pay $1 because a creeper wanted to kidnap me.
  • I still can´t convince my host family that milk should be cold when you drink it. They insist on serving me lukewarm milk with my cereal.
  • I eat corn for breakfast every couple of days. An ear of corn.... for breakfast....
  • My new schedule is from 8-9am and 4-8pm. Everything opens at 10am, closes from 12-3, and closes for good at 8. Not sure when I´m supposed to get work done...
  • And I don´t have access to my classroom in the morning between 10-12 because it is used for a tourism class. So they use all my stuff and rearrange everything. Which means from 3-4 I´m putting all my stuff back together.
  • I took a bus from Quito to Ibarra this weekend and two very smelly men sat in front of me.
  • On these buses they play very stupid fighting movies. Basically everyone gets the shit kicked out of them and dies. The movies are also insanely loud and you can´t drown out the sound of a leg breaking and blood curdling screams.
  • I can´t sleep, read, or listen to my Ipod on a bus. If I lose concentration for any amount of time my stuff will get stolen.

Oh, Ecuador.....

Monday, September 20, 2010

First festival weekend

After classes on Thursday Natasha invited Shari and me out for dinner with her Peace Corps friends and other random people who speak English. It was a lot of fun because she even had some of her students who are advanced come along. The Peace Corps vols were super interesting because they are each doing something totally different. One girl is working in an orphanage, one girl is working at a health clinic giving AIDS talks, and a guy is working on re-foresting a park.

Then on Friday I did some laundry (this time with just a washing machine, not hand washing needed) and had my Spanish class. I´m not a huge fan of the teacher because she is German and knows Spanish because she married an Ecua. She also just uses a workbook and asks us to work out of it. There isn´t enough explanation. I think Shari and I are going to look for somewhere else to take Spanish classes.

Then Pedro came up from Quito and we went to the parade. Parades in Ibarra are very interesting. It´s like there is one group of people that walk by or dance by or whatever and then 5 minutes later another group comes by. So there is a lot of waiting around and the parade took like 3 hours. We ended up going to get food in the middle of it because we were hungry.

Then next day we went to Otavalo, an indigenous market so Pedro could take pictures of indigenous people. It is a really neat market but it is a little annoying to be a gringa there. Everyone kept asking me to buy from them incessantly. It was like I couldn´t even look at something without being harrassed. I´m sure I´ll go back because it is an amazing market with a ton of stuff. I´ll just have to work on me ¨I don´t speak Spanish at all¨ look.

On Saturday night there was the ¨Reina de Ibarra¨ beauty pageant. It was pretty funny watching these 17-18 year old girls parade around in swimsuits and evening gowns. It was a legit beauty pageant.

Then on Sunday I did a whole bunch of planning and rested up for my week of teaching.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

More Ibarra

So I have officially started teaching. I plan from 9-12, eat lunch, then teach from 4-8. Starting soon I will also teach a class of kids from 3-4. It´s not bad so far. I have one class of basics which is way too full. I find I can´t do too much with them because they get overly excited and start yelling in Spanish. I really like my intermediate class though. There are about 10 of them and most are professionals who really want to learn English to advance their job prospects. I´m finding I can really challenge this class. The basics will take some adjusting to.

My host family is still really great and they work with me on my Spanish. I think I´m improving a lot. I was able to tell my host mom that I won´t be at dinner because I was invited to go out with some people and I won´t be staying there tomorrow night because my friend is coming in. I´m also finding that I don´t hesitate before talking as much as I used to. I know what I am saying is probably coming out wrong, but at least I´m not afraid to say it.

More weird food: eggs with slightly popped corn. They looked like eyeballs....

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bienvenidos a Ibarra!!

Friday night we all went out to celebrate our last night together. We went to a fancy pizza place and I had pizza with brie. Another girl got pasta in a pizza crust, it was cool! Then a few of us went dancing and to a late night coffee shop. On the way back another jerk cab driver decided to add $5 to the total because our stop was a little further away than he thought. Dude, we told you where we live (you´re the cab driver, you should know!!). And of course they say either pay or get out in a very sketchy part of town so you have to pay. It sucks. On Saturday Shari and I took taxi lagos to Ibarra. It´s this awesome company that picks you up in a large taxi (with other people in it) and takes you to where you want to go for $8 plus $2 if you have a lot of luggage. It was a much safer option than a bus since we could make sure our stuff was secure. The only downside is that it isn´t very timely. Taxi lagos is definitely on ecua-time. We were supposed to leave at 1pm and ended up leaving at 2:45.

And now here I am in Ibarra. Yay!

Reasons why Ibarra is better than Quito:
  • I can walk everywhere! Granted it might be a 45 minute walk to the other side of town, but I can walk anywhere I want to.
  • There are a few taxi drivers and I haven´t taken one yet but they seem nice. They don´t honk at me as I walk down the street and say ¨Gringa, need a taxi!?¨
  • My host family is nice to me. I have a mom (who pretty much works all the time but she is super nice), a dad (who also works all the time), 2 brothers who study in Quito and come home for the weekends, and a brother who is in high school. They all want to help me learn Spanish and understand that I don´t know a lot.
  • We have an empleada who cooks all the food (so it´s very yummy)
  • I eat weird things at weird times. Yesterday morning I had corn and cheese for breakfast and cereal with strawberry yogurt for dinner.
  • They have an awesome TV with tons of channels. I watched Tarzan yesterday.
  • My school is so cute! I have my own classroom and the grounds have a bunch of gardens and a very nice gardner who brings me plantains that grow in the garden.
  • My schedule is from 3-8. I teach one class of kids and two mixed classes. And I only teach from Monday-Thursday.
  • There is a festival this weekend, one on the 28th and another on October 2nd. Yes, dad, more parties.
  • My family is considering getting wireless (yay!)
  • The other worldteach volunteer in Ibarra (from the February group) is super cool and from London.
  • Everything closes from 11-2 in the afternoon because it is lunch and ciesta time.
  • I have a nice shower with hot water and a nice bedroom with tons of closet space.

I´m sure there are more reasons but that is the list for now. The only negatives are that since it´s a smaller city there aren´t really places to take Spanish classes and there isn´t much of a ¨going out¨ scene. Hopefully I can convince someone to teach me Spanish because I need it!

That´s all for now. I shall update more soon!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Babies, babies, babies!

So on Wednesday night I headed out to watch the soccer game in Plaza Foch on a big screen TV. It was nuts! People were throwing bottles and flares when Liga won. It was a ton of fun though. The bad thing is there was nowhere to go to the bathroom. Some of the guys had been taking shots from random people (basically all the alcohol people drank was free because everyone was so excited we were there to watch the game). A whole bunch of people ended up getting really drunk and I found it much more pleasant to hang out in the Indian restaurant after the game. Soccer fans are crazy!

Thursday I had more classes and found out about my host family in Ibarra. They sound very nice. I will be living with a mom, dad, 14 year old son, and 2 sons who study in Quito. The only downside I know of is that I have to share a bathroom with those 3 boys. But they have an empleada and so it should stay clean. Then Krista and I stopped by a movie store and I picked up a ton of cheap movies. I got an entire season of Friends for $5! After that we met up at a bar and watched our last dose of American football before heading to our cities.

Today I got to meet my host sister´s baby. Her name is Sophia and she was born about 36 hours ago. She is so tiny! Then I got to stop by a petstore and see tons of kittens and puppies. It was like baby overload!

Now I´m off to Spanish (we are getting lunch instead of having a regular class) and then I´m moving my stuff to Shari´s so we can be ready to leave in the morning. We have a final dinner with the group tonight and then a few of us are going out for Asia´s (another vol) birthday. Should be a good final night in Quito!

More about cars in Quito:
  • They don´t have seatbelts in the back seats. It´s totally unsafe but I have only seen one accident
  • They drive like crazy here. It is like playing chicken.
  • I have now decided to argue with cab drivers. I honestly think this might be how I learn Spanish. I am so annoyed at the way they overcharge me and try to drop me off at random places. So now sometimes I get out without paying the whole fare. I don´t recommend doing this unless you are most of the way out of the car when you hand them the money. And you have to judge based on the cab driver´s personality. There have been instances where cab drivres have kidnapped people because they were rude. But, regardless, this should not be a problem in Ibarra because cab rides should only cost $2, not $10.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Last week in Quito

So Sunday was filled with going to the mall and skyping with my dad and Wendy. I also got to meet my friends´ host family. They are so cool. They talk slowly and actually interact with me. I hope my host family in Ibarra is like them.

Monday was just full of workshops and watching people practice teach. A few of us also caught the VT-Boise State game after teaching. It was cool to eat american food in an american-ish bar.

Tuesday was more workshops and then I went on my first ecua-date. His name is Pedro and it was fun. We just went for dinner and a walk while others practice taught. He speaks English really well so the communication wasn´t a problem.

Today we had a session on sex and love in Ecuador. It was actually fascinating because it was done from a totally sociological standpoint. She went back to the differences in colonization between North and South America and how that affects our present mindsets on gender and relationships.

Now I´m rapidly planning a lesson for tonight because the boy who was going to teach got sick and is in the hospital (intestinal parasites, yuck!). And I just got to skype with my grandma and other family :)

Tomorrow and Friday are my last days in Quito. It´s so hard to believe! Tonight after teaching I´m also going out with some friends because the second of the big soccer games is on TV.

Have a lovely day!

Sunday, September 5, 2010



So on Friday my Spanish class and I headed to a market to learn some market related vocab. It was pretty cool and I'd like to go back sometime. There are stalls for fruits and veggies, herbs, random crap, flowers, etc... Then we checked out a local cheese and chocolate place and I tried some chocolate con aji. Delicious! After that we had a session on giving directions while teaching English. I understand that it's hard to give directions in English because the students don't understand the English, but it's super hard! They basically had us cut out every word we were saying and strip it down to the bare minimum. Unfortunately, I had to teach right after this lesson. The directions giving lesson didn't jive well with how I teach so I wasn't quite on my game. I think it will take some time to fit that into my "teacher-mode." But at the end of the day the students learned what I taught them and that's all I can ask.

Saturday we headed to Papallacta. It is about 2 hours from Quito (to the east) and is super high up. As we started to ascend up the mountain the vegetation became pretty harsh. Papallacta is about 12,000 feet. Once we got there we headed to lunch and I had some fresh Papallacta trout (yum!). Then we hit the hot springs (more like swimming pools with hot water brought in). It was a lot of fun because the pools were different temperatures. So we would go from the hot to the cold the the medium to the hot, etc... Pictures to come.

After we got back from Papallacta we headed to our director's house (Kate) because her sister-in-law owns a chocolate business. She had us taste her chocolates and give her feedback. I really loved the passion fruit and nutella chocolates. Then as people were doing the focus groups we drank wine and played games in the kitchen. Wine and chocolate for free... pretty perfect.

We also went out after the wine and chocolate to the Mariscal because it was a girl's birthday. Fun!

Now I'm just hanging out on my day off. Next week is my last week in Quito and on Saturday Shari and I head to Ibarra!!!

- Laundry is an ordeal here. They seem to not believe that washing machines actually wash clothes. So they hand wash them first and then put them in the washing machines. I'm pretty sure they are clean after the intense hand washing they get. But because laundry machines are "cool" the clothes also have to go in there. It's pretty funny and a slight waste of water.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Long week or practice teaching

I know, long time no-update. But it’s been a crazy week! On Monday we had an awesome session with an Ecua about Ecua-schools. It really clarified a lot as to what problems I’ll face while teaching. He went into how Ecua-schools are very meta-cognitive (teacher provides information) and American schools are much more cognitive (student does the learning). He said this causes a lot of problems because we will want our students to do things like homework and projects and individual work, but they will want us to spoon feed them everything. He suggested we use a lot of group projects but warned us to stay strict on grading. It was a really informative session!

Then we all started our practice teaching. I have a group of Basic II students. They are all great and range in age from 13-55. The teaching started out hectic because there were four teachers. After a little while we all got in our groove and taught them a few things. I realized I really missed teaching.

Then on Tuesday we had more sessions and I observed Kari practice teach our class. She taught them about greetings, letters, and numbers. It’s really interesting watching a first time teacher teach. There is just so much that comes from hands-on experience. You can have this amazing lesson planned, but if you don’t have the experience to be flexible, stay firm on classroom management, or have an idea of timing, then teaching can be rough. She did a great job and improved immensely in the second hour of her teaching.

Then Wednesday I watched her teach again and she was awesome. She taught about time and the verb “to like.” I also went out Wednesday night because it was free drinks again. We started at the Indian restaurant and then made our way to Bungalow. After that we hit up a few other random bars. Wednesdays are really fun in Quito!

Today I went to sessions and got ready for my practice teaching. I taught them the verbs “to be” and “to have.” It was so awesome to teach again. The people who observed me said I have a definite “teacher-mode.” The class was great and I think they learned a lot. We also got to listen to some Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees (they love that kind of music here) while we did some activities. I’m so excited to have my own classroom J

Tomorrow I’m practice teaching again and they are making Facebook profiles about themselves using the verbs they’ve learned. Then Saturday we’re all headed to Papallacta, a place with hot springs. Should be fun!

Ecua-ism of the week:

- Bad cab drivers. There are some cab drivers in Quito who suck. After practice teaching on Monday, Krista and I took a cab back to our house. However, the cab driver let us off 2 streets away and said “for $2 more I’ll take you to your actual house.” So we walked. Then the next day it was pouring and another cab driver let my friends and me off 2 blocks from our destination because he didn’t want to drive over the bridge. He also said “for $1 more I’ll take you to your actual destination.” So, again, we walked. Ridiculous!