Friday, December 17, 2010

Off to snow

Tonight I'm headed to Quito and in the morning I catch my flight to Cleveland. Crazy! Ecuador feels like a dream...

My students took their tests this week. Most did really well but some only come once or twice a week and utterly failed. But I have a policy of "I only teach it once." They know they have to get the notes from friends if they aren't there one day. If I taught everything again for everyone who didn't come I'd never be able to teach anything new.

Right now I'm off to have a holiday party with my students. We are going to make snowflakes, presents, and letters to santa. Should be fun!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Here are some pictures of my adventures around Ecuador. You should look at them by set because the order is very strange on the photostream. Enjoy!

Or here is a slideshow of some of my photos.

Random conversations with Ecuadorians

Here are some random conversations I've had recently:

  • A woman on the bus is sitting next to me. She asks me where I'm from and we start a conversation. She finds out I work at Cecami and she says she also works in the municipal with my bosses. She then says she doesn't like them and asks me if I want to go to the jungle with her. Nice to know my bosses are disliked by other people too.
  • I am waiting to get off the bus and a man lets me get in front of him as we are getting off. He then stops me and asks where I'm from (this is a common question seeing as my hair makes me stand out like a sore thumb). He then asks me if I want to go on a date with him because he wants to make gringa friends. I tell him no and he asks if I don't trust him. I say I have to go and for a few blocks he follows me telling me he is trustworthy and he just wants to go on a date.
  • I was talking to my host brother who has been dating his girlfriend for 5 years. I asked him if he was going to propose anytime soon and he laughed. He then asked about my sister and how long she had been with her boyfriend. I said a year and he asked if they were going to get married. He was genuinely shocked that they weren't getting married anytime soon. I tried to give him some explanation so I went with the fact that my sister is all for human rights and since homosexuals can't get married she sees that as a violation of rights. The whole family started laughing and telling me how homosexuals are disgusting and how they should never get married or be able to adopt children. I guess this is really the country where homosexuality was illegal until 10 years ago...
  • Apparently it was my host brother's birthday yesterday. No one told me. So at 10:30 pm I'm in my PJs ready for bed and they come and get me. Suddenly he house fills with 20 people and a cake and we all start singing. I felt so bad that I didn't know it was his birthday!
  • I was talking with an Ecuadorian boy who is about 18 years old. He was telling me how he wants to go to Israel to do volunteer work. I said that was awesome but he needed to be careful. He asked why. I said because there is a lot of hostility in Israel between the Palestinians and the Israelis. He had no idea about the conflict... He just thought it would be a cool place to go. When I mentioned Gaza and the West Bank he asked what those were. I don't think international politics are important here...
Yesterday I went to Otavalo again to pick up some last minute gifts. I love that market. There is so much there! Not to mention some killer pie for only $1.20 a slice. Yum!

Less than a week left before I can eat real non-rice food again!

PS: I'm trying to upload pictures. Hopefully they will upload soon.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Teaching English is hard!

Side note: my host brother apparently won his school band concert! Cool!

Teaching English is hard! I want to teach my students the rules but for every rule there is an exception. Example:

Last week I taught them the simple past (add -ed). Then this week we talked about the past progressive tense. My grammar book explains the past progressive as being when two actions occur and one takes longer. "While I was cooking, the phone rang." When I explained it this way they understood.

Then we did a writing activity and one of them wrote, "While the adults were talking, the kids played." And I realized, wait, the past progressive can be used twice. So then I tried to explain the past progressive being for actions that take a longish time. And I said in most cases they can choose whether or not to use the past progressive or the simple past because both can be right.

This was okay with them but not quite clear. So I tried to explain that it is best to use the past progressive if there are two or more actions. It is not normal to use it with only one action. This made it a little better for them. But, I know it isn't true. You can totally say, "Remember, we were talking about that yesterday."

My students are super patient with me, which is great. But a lot of the time I just think I'm confusing them. But I'm confused too. There are so many darn exceptions! So if you have the perfect way to teach the difference between the simple past and the past progressive, please let me know!

In my other class we did parts of the body today. It was adorable watching them do "head, shoulders, knees, and toes" as fast as they could. They got so into it that some almost fell over.

I had another weird food today. Peas, carrots, and cauliflower, covered in cream cheese. Disgusting. I encourage you never to make it or try it.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Classic culture

Here is a short example of what I mean by Ecuadorian culture:

I had called my friend in Quito on Saturday and we planned to meet on Sunday. He was in a different city at the time but was getting on a bus to come back. On Sunday I went to his apartment at about 10am and there was no answer. His cell phone was off and he wasn't answering his home phone. I wasn't worried yet, but then after about 6 hours of him still not answering his phone I started to get a little worried. I ended up just taking a bus back to Ibarra.

The next day I tried calling him again and still his cell was off and he wasn't answering his home phone. I know bus crashes at night are pretty common so I started to look through the newspapers to see if there was one. There wasn't. So then I was just confused on what happened.

Around 1pm that day I called and his cell phone finally went through. The story: his bus broke down on the way to Quito and they couldn't get another direct bus. So they slept at the terminal, took a bus the next day to a big city called Riobamba and decided to go fishing since they were there. His cell phone just happened to be dead and he didn't want to stop somewhere for 5 minutes to plug it in and call me because that would be inconvenient.

But here is the really crazy part for me: he still has no idea that he should have called/emailed/something since we had plans and I couldn't get a hold of him for over 30 hours. Things like this have happened with other Ecuadorians too. It's really true that if they don't have anything to say to you they aren't going to talk, no matter how much you need to talk to them.

And a lot of WorldTeach volunteers are starting to pick up on this habit. They lose their phones or just simply don't call back. I think this might be my biggest annoyance with Ecuadorian culture so far. There is just such a lack of respect for communication. Drives me nuts! But it's their culture and I can't fight it.

On a side note: I did a class on clothing for my basics the other day. I played them the song "Red High Heels" (country song) and they loved it. They said they really liked country music and want me to play more of it. And they like when I talk in a southern accent. Crazy kids! But it was pretty hilarious watching them sing "Red High Heels" in an Ecua-Southern accent.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Parties in Ecuador

So here is what I've noticed about parties in Ecuador- really it's just more people out and about and maybe a few extra activities. I went to Quito this weekend for Fiestas de Quito which are celebrated in honor of the Quito Independence day, December 6th. A lot of the festivities are focused around bull fighting (which I don't have an interest in seeing) and concerts. My friend Claire and I went to the historic center and walked around. I was surprised at how little celebration there was. But at night we went to the Mariscal and saw a cool concert. And now it's Sunday and the city is pretty much dead. All in all, not a very eventful weekend in Quito.

This week was low key too. My students learned present progressive in one class and simple past in the other. I do like these groups of students much more than I like my last ones. I'll be sad to leave them in February when I move to Ambato.

I read today that last night the volcano in Banos erupted. Uh oh, that's where Kaytee, Max, and I want to go. But apparently it only erupts once every 2 years or so and it's never really a bad eruption. So things should be fine. They've even already downgraded the threat level.

Happy December, everyone!