Friday, July 15, 2011

Terminating the semester

The title for this post comes from the verb "terminar" which translates to "finish." So everyone is asking me if I am "terminating" the semester. It's one more example of how cognates don't always transfer successfully. (For other examples: Realizar, Recuperar, etc...). So be careful when you come here and use cognates all the time.

This has been a week full of ups and downs. Pretty much everyone has left me. Most people I know did their exams last week and then left last weekend or early this week to head home. But I'm glad I took the extra time to stay a little bit longer so that I could finish my grades and say goodbye to my students.

Grading was super stressful. It's always hard knowing you have someone's "fate" in your hands. These students pay $140 per semester to take English classes. And that is no small amount of money here. So I feel terrible every time I fail students. However, I am also the kind of teacher who tries really hard to help students not to fail. So by the end of everything, if they really did fail, it's kinda their fault in my eyes.

I ended up failing only 4 students in my one class. I fudged on one grade because she was .1 away from passing and I figured I probably made some kind of error somewhere so I gave her the extra partial point. But the 4 others really did fail. There was one boy I felt bad about failing because he "can do" the material he just doesn't. He sits in class and doesn't do anything and he doesn't do his homework. He was the only one who complained about his grade when I showed him that he failed. He kept telling me to go back and re-check my grades but I told him I couldn't "help him."

That's the phrase here: "Teacher, help me." Which translates to "teacher change my grade so I can pass." Lots of other students in other classes said this a lot. In my one friend's class, a girl faked fainting so he would feel bad for her. He told her to get up. In another class my friend had two students crying and begging. I was so glad I didn't have to deal with that. But, honestly, I think it's because the 3 students who didn't ask me to help them, knew they were going to fail and didn't hold it against me. They knew I had been fair.

So today I turned in all my grades and now I am terminated! My one class even took me out to dinner and got me THE BEST PRESENT EVER. They are the coolest slippers. They also got me a watch and a plaque thingy.

It has been suuuuuuper cold here recently. There is no heating so when it goes down to 45 at night and the house gets down to 55, it's freezing! It's so cold I have to talk myself into getting out of bed in the morning. Tungurahua usually has no snow on it, but recently the top has been covered in snow. Apparently August and July are "winter" months here. I'm glad I'm leaving!

I also ended my classes with the directors of the university. Two of them consistently showed up and the main director never showed up after the first week. Oh well. And in typical Ecua-fashion, they skipped the last day (today) and didn't tell me. So I woke up at 6:30 for nothing. It's one of the disappointments you get used to here.

Tomorrow I'm going to do laundry and clean the whole apartment. It should be super fun!... I have to decide on what I'm taking back and what I'm leaving. I know I'll need to throw a lot of clothes away and buy more while I'm in the states. A year of bad washing and clothes really do die. My goal is to only bring my medium suitcase back with me, but we'll see if that works out because I want to bring a lot of things back to Ecuador with me too. Then on Sunday I am heading to Quito, saying goodbye to my two favorite WorldTeach non-Ambato volunteers and then I'm heading to the airport. I'm actually going to sleep in the terrible Quito airport because my flight is at 6:40, so I need to check in by 4am and I just can't convince myself to get a hostal for 5 hours. Maybe it's a silly idea but I feel safe at the airport and if nothing else, I'll be guaranteed to sleep on the plane.

I might write one more blog post before I leave, but for now, this is it folks. The first year in Ecuador has terminated and I am heading back to the states! My cat, my family, my sister's new puppy, Chipotle, shopping, driving... so much to look forward to!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I bet you thought you'd never see that title for one of my blog posts. However, I just experienced the most Ecua-efficiency to date.

From the beginning: I was walking home from the bus stop and walking by the market. It was really, really crowded and people were shoving each other. Suddenly, I'm standing on the sidewalk trying to cross the street and two women SHOVE past me, but kinda take their time. I thought it was weird because they didn't have to shove that hard and they didn't have to take 5 seconds to do it. Then, right after it happened, I reached in my pocket, and I knew what had happened. I'd had my cell robbed. They are very crafty about it! I didn't know what was going on until after the fact. And of course, once I turned around, they were lost in the crowd. Awesome.

Efficiency: So after having my cell stolen I went up to my apartment and told my roommate. She told me exactly what to do. I then left my apartment, walked half a block, and went into the Movi store. There I said my cell phone had been robbed and I needed to get my number back. They took about 5 minutes and $3 to do this. So then I had my chip and my full cell credit was restored. Next, I crossed the street and went to buy a new cell phone. I asked the woman what the cheapest model was, she showed me, and for $40 I bought it. All in all, it took me 15 minutes and $45 to get everything back to normal (except I have no numbers of course). Efficiency, I think yes. But it is a little sad they Ecuador is efficient only when it comes to bad things such as having your cell stolen.

*Side note, the good news is, I really don't have to add many numbers to my phone because all the WorldTeach numbers I had aren't important anymore since pretty much everyone has left the country. I just need to get about 10 numbers (all of which are in my roommates phone) and I'm good.

Exams started last week. I think they are going pretty well. I imagine I will have to fail about 2-3 in each class, but we'll see how the grades work out. Lucy has already finished her grading and she had to fail several in each class. She said when she gave them their grades they cried, begged, and one even fainted. Thankfully, I think I have enough of a backbone to say, "Dude, you should have studied more and asked more questions." I hate when people blame the teacher for their lack of motivation and work.

Last weekend was cool. There was a big double birthday to go to at a dance club. It was a lot of fun.

Right now Lucy is packing to leave this afternoon. So I'll have the apartment to myself for awhile for grading and cleaning. I'll definitely miss her, but I pack and clean better when I'm alone. Then, on Sunday, I'll head to Quito and super early Monday morning I'll catch a plane back. A year is over so fast! But I'm super excited to go back and see Trixy and my family and friends!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ahh! 2 weeks left!

Well, 2 weeks before I head home for 5 weeks. There is so much to do! This week is a review week and then next week I have to start giving exams. But that requires so much work! There is giving each of the 3 tests (per class) calculating the grades, calculating the classwork grades, and then putting it into the Ecuadorian system of 10 points and then converting it with the other scores to the 20 point system. Basically it's a lot of math, and I hate math. But I'll just try and do it little by little and hopefully everything will be done on time. I basically have 2 days (wednesday and thursday) of next week to get it all done, because on friday I have to turn in the grades and give the students their scores.

On top of that this next week will be hectic. Because reviewing disjointed learning is hard. And the books we teach with are SO disjointed. Basically I'll be reviewing modals, past, future, and perfect tenses all at once. Hopefully they will remember most of it and reviewing will be easy. My advanced class is doing biographies. Last week we watched Never Say Never about Justin Bieber and this week they have to present their own biographies about someone from a different culture. It's a good way to wrap up reading, listening, speaking, and writing all in one project.

Then I have to decide what to pack. Should I bring everything back? Should I leave some stuff? I have no idea...

But this last week has been pretty good. Classes with the rectors are finally getting better. Two of them consistently show up (all except the president). Now we're working on "my, your, his her, our, etc..." and which verbs are non-action verbs and can't be progressive. (Ex: I see a bird, not I am seeing a bird). And with my other job, it's going nowhere fast. Most colleges are telling me they can't decide anything at all until the fall when classes are in session again. So we'll see what happens.

My sister got her puppy and I got to skype with him! He's so cute!! I can't wait to meet him.

This weekend was filled with some sad goodbyes. We all went and played ping-pong and pool one night to say goodbye to some people and then had a dinner party at my place last night to say goodbye to more people. Everyone is leaving! I guess it's good we're all leaving at the same time so no one is stuck here alone. But it's still sad!

And I think I've been to this bar called El Portal like three times this week for random get-togethers. It's a great bar because it has 2x1 drinks Monday-Saturday until 8pm. And they are quite strong so you can split it with a friend and get a drink for $2.25. They even have an amazing chocolate drink with baileys that's frozen. So yummy!

I've decided I'm really excited for next year when I can hang out with more Ecuadorians. Right now I feel tied to my WorldTeach friends and I don't like feeling tied down sometimes. I'd rather hang out with lots of people. So next year I think I'll make an effort not to get pulled into the new WorldTeach group that comes and really try and branch out.

I'll see most of you in 2 weeks!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Happy in Ambato

Last Saturday was so much fun! It was my roommate´s birthday and we had a pot-luck lunch/dinner/and dancing. We cleaned our place on Saturday morning and then starting around 2pm people came over and used our kitchen to cook. We had tons of pasta salad, hummus, 7 layer mexican dip, and lots more. I made strawberry shortcake with the bisquick my dad brought me and we made real hand-whipped whipped-cream. It was so good! The Ecuadorians had never had it before and they loved it. So the whole day we just relaxed and hung out and then at night we went to an awesome club. It´s on of those where you pay a bunch to get in ($8) and then that money goes towards buying alcohol for the group. We ended up getting tons of bottles because our group had about 18 people. Then we just danced salsa and bachata and reggeaton. Super fun night! Sunday was not so fun because I had to clean the apartment because Lucy had to go somewhere with her boyfriend for father´s day. But thankfully one of my friends came over and helped me clean. It was a disaster!

This week has been pretty slow. I´ve just been working and such. I think I´m going to Baños tonight and then going to see the monkeys again tomorrow. I love the monkeys! Then on Sunday we have a going away party for one of the guys who lives in my building, Papo. He is an Italian teacher and is leaving July 1st. It´s crazy that he and all of us are leaving so soon. This is just the first of a million goodbye parties. But it reminds me how happy I am that I´m coming back to Ecuador next year. I´m definitely not done here.

I´ve also been asked to do more at the university. I´m starting to be asked to contribute to magazines and help create curriculums. It´s cool that they trust me so much and want my help. Now if I could just get paid more for it...

I have also become a really good guacamole maker. It´s so cheap here! You can get 4 avocados for $1! So I make it all the time. That and patecones are my usual creations. But now that I know people like strawberry shortcake I´m sure I´ll make that too. Because you can get a bag of 50 strawberries for $1. Produce is so cheap! However, you have to know which stall in the market to go to. There are some nice ladies who charge me a fair price and others charge me almost 10x the amount it should be. Then they get surprised when I say that it costs too much and I´ll go somewhere else. I guess the blonde hair is deceiving.

Other than that, I found a cheap flight back to Ecuador. It should be around $730. The only catch is that I can´t book a real return ticket yet because it is too far in advance. So I´ll have to change that ticket and I think the change fee is $200. But even with that, $900 is not bad. It´s worth it!

And I think visa stuff is finally coming along. Sara assured me that the papers were being signed and I might have them in my hand as soon as next week. That´s good because if we don´t have them next week we NEED them the week after. Because people start leaving the 12th of July.

Not much else is new. I´ll try and post again soon :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

One month to go

Crazy! As of tomorrow I have one month until I go back to the states for a little over a month. It's so strange to think about because so much still needs to be done. The visa thing is taking longer than we thought it would because they aren't doing much work for it. Thankfully I think we got Sara (the director) to forcefully start working on getting us our paperwork. None of us want to come back here on just a tourist visa and have to deal with all it in September when we come back.

The job with the rector was put on hold this week because he is partying in Orlando, FL. I guess he should have thought about English lessons before going to the states...

My other job seems to be going quite well. I have about 5 universities that are really interested in an exchange program. But none of them can really do much for it until next fall when all the faculty come back. Hopefully though, with 5 interested, one will pan out.

My classes are going smoothly. We have about 3 more weeks of regular class and then exams. It will be tight to finish all of it but I'm sure I'll get it done. I just hope they do their end of the deal and study! We read "The Most Dangerous Game" in my advanced class and they really liked it. They are making a movie out of it too. If you haven't read it, it's a short story by Richard Connell and it's awesome.

I really love living in my apartment. Last weekend we had a birthday party for the Italian teacher who lives below us and tomorrow we are having a party for my roommate, Lucy. We are having a cook-out here on the balcony and then going to a salsa club. Maybe this time I'll learn how to salsa? We'll see...

But, the exciting news of this post, I met a very nice guy named Miguel at the party last week. He works at my university in the post-graduate section and his English is really, really good. I'll keep you updated if anything interesting happens. But as of now, we've gone on a date about everyday this week and I really think I like him. Crazy!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Sad Goodbye

So last week all the volunteers and I made our way to Quito for our End of Service Conference. It was awesome to see everyone but sad to know that it would be the last time I'll see many of these people. On Thursday we had a few meetings to talk about our time here and then some of us went out to dinner together and chatted about our futures. Friday was the big conference day and we discussed what teaching has meant for us and how we can use it in our future jobs. We also talked about who is staying (about 9 people are staying in country!) and who is leaving. That night we had a really nice dinner party at a famous Ecuadorian restaurant (the food was good Ecuadorian, but was still pretty bad). We all gave speeches about each other and thanked our directors for everything they had done for us. The on Saturday we all said goodbye and headed back to our sites. It was a really nice time together but it was clear that some people weren't there. In total, 5 people left before their year was up for one reason or another. Out of 33 people, I think having only 5 quit is a good sign. The new February group only had 15 volunteers and already 5 have quit. Crazy.

The craziest part of my trip to Quito came Saturday night. We all went out to a bar and one of my friends had someone put ethanol in her drink. We didn't know it at the time and just thought she got really wasted. But after several hours she still wasn't anywhere near okay. The next morning we took her to the hospital and her blood alcohol content was 1.6! (The legal limit is .08). So basically the doctor said she almost died. It was pretty scary for all of us to hear that. The doctor also said it was a common thing for bartenders to do. They just slip ethanol in a drink and no one knows until the person is incapacitated. She will be fine though. But in our adventures of running her around to different doctors and police we had to go to the police hospital (where Correa was held back in September). You can see all the bullet holes on the walls and I can see where several people died on the ledge between the streets. It was kind of surreal. And of course the police couldn't do anything for her because their system is so crazy. We went to 3 police stations to get all the necessary paperwork only to find out that she needed to have more bloodwork done to file a complaint and that the police doctors couldn't do that until Monday, when clearly the results would be different. Oh well, that's Ecua-police for you.

The on Sunday I was a little sick so I rested most of the day and geared up for my full week of teaching. I think I'm finally getting into a groove with my students and with the book because they did much better on this quiz than previous ones. And in my level 8 class we are reading "The Most Dangerous Game" and I think they really like it. It's a pretty awesome short story that grabs the attention of most people.

I also started a really stupid new job. My director asked me if I would teach the president of the University and his two friends English. I said sure but had no idea what I was getting myself into. For the first day they showed up 45 minutes late. Then the next day they didn't show up at all and when they finally came in they asked me to give them class (to which I said no because I was doing something else). They just really want things to be their way all the time and that's not how class and teaching works. So now they've recruited an Ecuadorian teacher to teach them English (through speaking only Spanish) and I just sit there and help with pronunciation. It's the dumbest job ever because I'm 100% not needed. But I'm getting paid for it so I guess it's okay.

This weekend I have a few birthdays to celebrate and a bunch of planning to get done. I can't believe I leave Ecuador so soon!! It's crazy to think about!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I'm not a frequent poster anymore

Sorry guys, looks like I'm not posting too much these days. I keep forgetting and I'm not sure why. I'll try to be better about it.

Last weekend wasn't too exciting because I was at UTA all day Saturday making up class time and grading. But on Sunday I did go on a trip to Banos with some students. We ended up taking a chiva to the waterfalls and I hiked up Machay AGAIN. That is a hike. I liken it to about 30 flights of stairs at one time. But they had tons of fun and the waterfall is really pretty. It's always nice to see the Ecuas tired as well. Then after the waterfalls we went to the zoo in Banos. It's not so much a zoo as a monkey and bird area. There are lots of different kinds of monkeys and birds in small cages. It was actually pretty sad. But the zoo talked about how they were trying to rescue animals and save endangered animals. I don't know how well their doing because they had a puma in a 20ft x 20ft cage. And the zoo had a million stairs because it was located on a mountain (strange). So I hiked more stairs. All in all it was a fun day with some students but a terrible day for my foot. I really hope the doctor can fix my foot when I'm back in the states.

Then on Monday I gave more exams and graded non-stop for a while. On Tuesday I actually got to have class again and teach. It was fun and it felt like forever since I had taught. I came up with a cool listening exercise using a clip from the book "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" and the students created skits predicting what would happen at the end of the story. Hopefully they liked it. The problem was, at the end of my second class I got a letter saying classes were canceled for Thursday because we had a meeting. So I told my students no class Wednesday or Thursday. On Wednesday I had to do the oral tests for the expertise test that I was helping with. On Wednesday morning I found out I didn't have to go to the meeting and could have class on Thursday but I had already told my students we didn't have class and I wasn't going to see them to tell them otherwise. So basically I had to cancel class for nothing. It was so dumb. They really need to work on their communication at UTA. Maybe next year I'll try and help them with that...

So Wednesday I was helping with the oral tests and it was a neat experience. However, that teacher that I don't like was also there and he teaches most of them. And so he would grade them differently and with tons of bias. It was super unprofessional and I'll have to introduce them to the idea that the judges for a professional test should never have taught the students taking the test. You don't know the person who grades your SAT, do you?

On Friday it was a holiday to celebrate some famous battle in Quito, so I didn't have class again. I'm really running out of days to finish all of my units. I hope I'll be able to finish.

Cheryl, my friend from San Miguel, came to visit me Friday-Sunday. We did some touristy walking around Ambato and found really neat stores for jewelry and such. We also made some delicious dinners and baked chocolate chip cookies. But Ecua ovens don't have temperature scales so they burned. I still think they were good though.

On Sunday I went with Cheryl to get her hair dyed because she wanted to get it red. I had been thinking about getting my hair cut lately because it was starting to fall weirdly. So as I'm in the salon I start to feel comfortable with the place and the staff and it looks professional enough. I even find a picture of exactly what I want. I give it to the stylist and she starts cutting. I noticed that she was cutting my hair diagonally from back to front and I thought it's weird but I wasn't sure what she was doing. Then it became apparent she was not giving me the cut I wanted. When I stopped her and asked her why the back was shorter she said she thought I would look good with a longer front that comes to a point and then a really short back. I looked at her like she was nuts and said, but that's not the picture. She said she thought this would look better. Wow. That is all I have to say. So at that point I just asked her to cut it all as evenly as possible and I left. I only paid $10 and the hair is fixable so it wasn't horribly traumatic. But it is a pretty bad haircut. I can make it look fine if I straighten it but it almost looks like she cut it with dull scissors and a machete. It is longer on one side and still shorter in the back. I guess I learned my lesson about Ecua-hair cuts...

Next week I have an end of service conference in Quito which should be fun and bittersweet. It's the last time I'll see a lot of these people. But it also means less time I have to get through all of my units because I leave in 6 weeks. I have no idea how I'll finish it all. But I have to so the students will just have to study much harder because we will be moving very quickly.

On a side note, my friend showed me this website called Lan South America Pass where you buy one way flights in South America for really cheap prices. I'm thinking about taking next February to travel around South America since I'll have a pretty long break. And I'll be making more money next year so I should be able to afford the trip. I'll keep you posted as I make plans!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Long time no post...

Sorry blog readers, I have been slacking on my posting. But in this case no news is good news. Everything is good here.

Last week my students in both classes threw parties for me. They were so cute! My first class took me out to eat at a restaurant in Ambato. I felt weird signing into the system and then leaving campus when it's not allowed, but it was worth it. Then I came back to campus and my other students had thrown me a surprise party. They got a huuuuge cake and as is traditional here, they shoved my face in it. I ended up showing them classic party games from the States like chubby bunny and pin the tail on the donkey. It was a lot of fun.

Then that night I rushed to Quito to pick my dad up from the airport. It was great to see him! We went to Cuenca the next morning and walked around looking at churches and parks and the river. We also went to a cool museum with shrunken heads and awesome representations of all the indigenous cultures in Ecuador. Then there was some Incan ruins out back that were fun to walk around. That night we went up to a viewpoint to watch the sunset, but there was no sunset because of the clouds.

The next day we took a tour to Ingapirca, Incan and Canari ruins about 2 hours from Cuenca. It was an awesome trip. The guide was truly bilingual and did a great job. We got to hear about how they built the area and why they built it. We also took a short hike down to see a face carved in a mountain. My dad said it was a bit like Mount Rushmore, but I disagree. I also got to explain to my dad that the ecua-tradition is to not ask permission, this way no one can tell you no. And it came in handy when we ran off from our group so I could get a picture with a llama. After that we had a nice lunch at a posada (guest house) and traveled to a church that was built in a mountain. It was up an intense amount of steps.

Then that night we flew back to Quito and had a delicious dinner. The next day in Quito we explored the old town, the Panecillo (statue on a hill) and a market. We also got lunch with two of my friends. We were supposed to take a taxi service to Ambato but the taxi service forgot about us. Awesome. So instead we took a bus and I'm not sure my dad appreciated the ecua-bus experience of bad movies, loud noises, and annoying people. When we finally got to Ambato we had a nice dinner and I got a free birthday dessert.

The next day we headed to Banos and Puyo. In Puyo we went to a monkey reservation and hung out with a bunch of monkeys. It was so cool! They just came up to you and jumped on you and ran around and swung from things. But the experience was dampened because my dad lost his camera when one of the monkeys stole it and smashed it against a tree.

Next we took a bus back towards Banos and stopped off at a waterfall with a tarabita. Surprisingly my dad was not scared at all. We walked around the waterfall and then took the tarabita back up. Since no buses wanted to stop and pick us up on the side of the road we were thankful a nice woman picked us up.

After that we came back to Banos and rested while drinking some locally brewed beer at our awesome hotel. We also had dinner at this great French/Mediterranean fusion place. It even had an awesome $20 bottle of wine. So much better than the sweet boxed crap they sell all over the place here.

The next day we walked around Banos and came back to Ambato to have lunch with my roommate. Then my dad went back to Quito and I went to go teach my classes. It was way too fast of a turn-around. I was still on vacation mode and trying to teach. Not cool.

On Tuesday I was supposed to give a test to a group of "expert" students from the university. However, someone in the testing department switched the tests and so we couldn't give it. This caused a lot of people a lot of frustration and so they moved the test to Thursday. But that meant I had to cancel my class again for Thursday even though my class was scheduled to take their exam then. So now I have to give part of my exams Monday (because most of them have a field trip with school Friday) and have to grade everything in one night. Oh the joys of being a teacher.

There is also one teacher that I really can't stand here at UTA. He is about 80 years old and so unprofessional. If someone asks him to do something he just flat out says no. And he never follows the rules and always thinks he knows best. I take offense to this because I know what it takes to be a team player in an education setting. Yes, you might think you know what is best for the students but sometimes you have to follow other peoples' rules to keep your job. So today he came in to help give the "expert" exam and he told the students they had 2 hours before the listening. After an hour and 15 minutes he told the students they had 15 minutes left and then they would start the listening. I tried to point out that he told the students they had 2 hours and now he is taking 30 minutes away from them and he kept saying "no it's 2 hours for the whole test." Well, I believe you that it's 2 hours for the whole test but you told them they had 2 hours before the listening. Argh, he just didn't listen. So most of the students didn't finish and it was just so unfair to them. But there wasn't anything I could do.

I also had a meeting with my boss today about doing some extra work for more money. She is going to give me $280 more a month to work 1.5 hours a day in the mornings trying to set up a professor exchange program. She wants to send 2-3 teachers to the states to teach Spanish and bring 2-3 teachers here to teach English. This way everyone would get a chance to experience a new culture and learn more language. I think it sounds like a great program and if any of you know a university that would like this, please let me know.

I'm also going to ask her if I can help with the testing next semester because it is just ridiculous. There are no rules here and it's driving me insane. When I walked into the "expert" test there should have been a set of guidelines for the test and they gave me nothing. They also have no rules on cheating and leave it up to the professors. They need rules. I caught a student texting during her exam and so I took it and called that cheating and the university doesn't necessarily want to back me up on that. So annoying.

This weekend I have to make-up the class time that I missed last week for my birthday, so I'm going to be sitting in a classroom for 6 hours grading exams. I'm not going to ask my students to come because I told them they could take a field trip and we planned it and last week the university told me we couldn't do that. So to me, they made up their time and I'll just have to sit there and make-up the time according to the university guidelines. Boring, but I can use the time to grade.

Nothing exciting is coming up. So hopefully no news will mean good news again.

Monday, May 9, 2011

New apartment

Last Saturday I moved into my new apartment. I really like it! Moving day was hectic though. My roommate and I met at the university at 9am and picked up our truck and driver and headed over to my old house. Getting my things into the truck was easy because there weren't any stairs involved. It was just a hassle because my host mom wasn't there so I had to go back a few days later to give her the last of the rent money. Then we went to my roommates old apartment. She lived up 4 flights of stairs and had a TON of stuff. That was fun. Next, we headed to our new place and started to bring everything up the new 4 flights of stairs. That was even more fun.

Finally all of our stuff was at the top of the stairs and on our little landing. The only problem was we couldn't get in because we didn't have keys. Turns out the woman from the university who had the keys forgot she had to take an exam that day and didn't end up giving us the keys until 6pm. So did we sit outside and wait with all of our stuff? Of course not. We found a window to climb through and open the door :). Then we had the enormous task of cleaning the place because it was pretty gross. We bought a ton of bleach, mops, brooms, sponges, and other necessities and got to work. Cleaning took about 3 hours but we had some great help from friends. After that we just decided to have everyone stay over and bought a few packs of beer and relaxed.

I really like my new apartment. I have a nice sized bedroom with a desk and vanity. However, there is no dresser so all of my clothes are piled on the desk. It's not ideal but hopefully the university will buy me a dresser sometime soon. The only problem is I don't have too much room for it. All I need is like a bar and a set of hanging shelves and it will be perfect. But no one thinks that sensibly in Ecuador.

My classes have been going pretty well. I finished the units I need to for the exam in my level 3 and in my level 8 we did writing workshops. Now we have a few days of review and then I'm off on vacation. The Monday my vacation ends is when exams start (I think...). They keep wanting to change the date. I wish they'd just give us a firm calendar.

Other than that I've just been settling into my new apartment. I enjoy cooking for myself and haven't eaten rice in about a week. It's crazy. I also live right next to a market that sells fresh fruits and veggies so I go there a lot.

This week should be fun! My dad comes in on Wednesday and we're going to Cuenca, Quito, Banos, and Ambato. I hope he likes Ecuador! And my birthday is Sunday!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Moving.... again

My sister asked me the other day if I was having a really crappy experience here because this is now the second time in a year that I'm going to be moving. Surprisingly, I'm not the one who has had it the worst in this country. There have been several others with problems and I'd say almost everyone has had to deal with at least something. But, again surprisingly, we all handle it really well. We understand we're in a country that is new to us and we can't always choose how things turn out. So here is my story:

When I moved in with my host mom she told me that she had a son in London and she might go visit him this year with her daughter. I thought that was pretty cool since I lived in London for 4 months a few years ago. She then booked her ticket for the middle of July. When she told me when she was leaving I told her I wouldn't be done at my school until after that date and she said it was no problem because her daughter would still be here because she wasn't going to join them until August. I asked her several times to make sure it was okay and every time she said yes.

Then, this Tuesday at lunch, she sat down and said that starting in June I had to find a new place to live. I was pretty shocked and didn't understand. She told me that her daughter was going to move into the apartment after they got back from London and she had to get it ready. She kept saying it was no big deal and that I should just move in with a friend or a boyfriend like all her other volunteers did. I told her that wasn't an option for me and reminded her that she had signed a contract. Eventually she decided to say that I could stay until July 10th. I absolutely had to be out by then because her daughter was now leaving for London with her and she didn't trust me with the house. So that still left me 8 days with no place to live before heading back. And those would also be 8 intense days of exams and grading. So I was not very happy.

I called my director (Kate) and she tried to talk to my host mom. She asked her if I could just stay in my apartment and not enter the house for those 8 days and then leave the keys with a family member. My host mom said absolutely not and then started being rude to Kate. (Older Ecuadorian women don't like when things don't go their way. They are VERY passive aggressive and mean when people don't follow their orders). So when she called me back she told me that she thought I should move out right away because my host mom was going a little crazy. She also said that moving out is moving out and it doesn't matter if I do it now or with 8 days left. And since I'm staying another year it wouldn't be a bad idea to get an apartment that I could stay in next year too.

I talked to my director (Sara) at UTA and asked her about apartments because she had been saying she wanted to give the foreign teachers apartments next year. And luckily enough, one was actually available now because a teacher had left. So I went to go check it out and it was really nice. Another girl, Lucy, a British teacher, went with me. She currently lives in a really crappy apartment so we decided to move into the new place together.

I told my host mom this and it was like she didn't even care. She also stopped talking to me and looking at me. I guess people really do have their crazy moments. Because I'm still not exactly sure what I did wrong. We were getting along just fine before Tuesday.

So I am moving out today. I am going to live on the 4th floor in a tiny apartment with a nice girl. We should have internet starting next week so hopefully I can keep blogging.

Other than that, my kids still don't study for their tests. And teaching inferencing to ESL students is really hard! But it's part of the TOEFL test so they have to learn it.

Hopefully next week is less crazy...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I got to watch this!!

Except the ash really does make you cough. My kids and I had to stop our class for "coughing and sneezing breaks" because of ash. Luckily the wind is pushing the ash away from Ambato.

Another update is coming soon about a hectic issue that has come up. Life is never dull...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A surprisingly sad Easter week

So my Easter week started off with the whole package fiasco. I did eventually get my package but unfortunately I wasn't in a good mood and couldn't enjoy it.

On Wednesday my dad told me that Lily was sick and in the hospital (Lily was my little cat). She died late Friday night from heart problems. Who knew a 3 year old cat could have heart problems? So dealing with Lily in the hospital and tests and things took up most of my week. I hope she's happy hanging out with my mom in heaven. I think my mom would have liked her.

Classes were more fun this week. My advanced kids worked on pronunciation with tongue twisters, Shakespeare, and karaoke. And my intermediates learned about expectations and describing problems.

On Friday we had no class so on Thursday night I went to Quito because I had been told there was an awesome Good Friday procession. Websites described it as the second best procession in the world (second to Seville). Well, I wasn't exactly a fan. It was cool to see people so devout and all that. But they were attaching cacti to their backs and barbed wire around their chests and carrying huge crosses strapped to their arms so they couldn't lower their arms for hours. There were even people flogging themselves with tree branches and getting little cuts all over themselves. It was really gross and sad. I ended up almost passing out and had to leave after about 20 minutes. But I think my friends had seen enough too.

It's really interesting how this country doesn't celebrate Easter, they celebrate "holy week." There is a big difference apparently. It is so somber and sad. Everyone is crying and holding crosses and saying the rosary. I remember Easter being happy (and not just because of the candy). To me it's a time to rejoice and be happy, not sad. I wanted to tell the people "stop hurting yourself, Jesus did that for you so you DON'T HAVE TO." But it makes them feel closer to God. And today, on actual Easter, no one cares. It's just like any other day. Strange Catholic country...

Next week looks like it is going to be normal. Just teaching and grading.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Another lesson in Ecua-inefficiency

So my dad sent me a package with some medicine in it about 20 days ago. USPS said it would take 10-15 days to get here but they have no tracking once it gets to Ecuador. So it hadn't arrived as of this weekend but it should have. My host mom explained to me that mailmen tried to deliver a package once and then if no one was home they took it back to the post office. On Monday I headed over the post office and met the laziest guy in the world. He said my package hadn't come. I asked him if i could check out the packages or if he could look a little harder and he said no.

The next day my host sister headed over to the post office to talk to them. She said she had some friends there. They told her my package had arrived but they couldn't give it to her for some reason. She came back and told me that the package was in Ambato and would probably be delivered tomorrow. I'm not sure why they are going to try to deliver it again...

My host mom told me that my best bet was to wait by the window today and hope it came. So I've been waiting here for several hours just staring out the window. I asked her when she thought the guy would come and she said she had no idea and he might not even come today. Then I started to get confused and asked "um, what?" She explained the carriers decide where they are going on certain days. So they keep all the packages with them and go to certain places. If the guy for some reason doesn't come here today he keeps the packages and possibly comes by another day. So now I'm just continuing to wait for a package that IS IN AMBATO but I just can't get it.

Who thinks of this system???

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Canoa and parties

(Happy late birthday, Megan!) (Happy early birthday, Kaytee!!)

So it turns out I really am bad at Ecuadorian parties. I had been told by some teachers and my family that my students would throw me parties and give me presents for "teacher's day" on April 13th. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I had the 13th, 14th, and 15th for vacation. So I guessed that maybe my students wouldthrow me a party on the 12th but I wasn't sure. My first class showed up and they didn't have anything planned. They said they wanted to have a party because lots of classes were. I said "sorry guys, parties come with planning and presents, try again another day." I wasn't going to waste class time so they could talk in Spanish with each other for an hour and a half.

Then my next class came in and they were going to have a re-test that day because they did pretty poorly on thereal test. I said if they made over an 80 on the first one they didn't have to come. I was a little confused why everyone showed up but no one said anything. Some of the students did their warmer and then left while the others took the test. About 5 minutes into the test one girl looks up at me and raises her hand and said "but teacher, we planned you a surprise party..." with the saddest look on her face. I felt really bad. Here they planned a party they just didn't think they could have it because I made them start taking the test. I still made them finishthe test but after everyone finished we got to hang out and have a party. It was a lot of fun. They gave me a very ugly scarf and a very sweet card :).

The next day some friends and I got on a bus and headed for Manta, a beach on the coast of Ecuador. In Manta we picked up a few more friends and went to Canoa, a really pretty beach in the north of Ecuador. We basically spent 3 days just relaxing on the beach and doing nothing. I got a pretty decent tan! We also ate some amazing food. There is a guy who lives in Canoa who moved there on his honeymoon with his wife. They just saw a bar and decided to buy it. So now he makes classic American food (like veggie burgers!) and all of the gringos eat there. It was great. The seafood at Canoa was also really good. I think we all needed 3 days of doing nothing. However, since we did nothing, we all came back to a TON of work.

Getting to and from Canoa was quite a hassel though. It turns out the bus drivers like to lie to you on the coast. We wanted a bus straight from Manta to Bahia (a town near Canoa) and the bus driver said "yea, we go to Bahia." After about a 2 hour bus ride we stop and he says it's the end of the route. We're super confused and not sure what to do. He says to wait on the side of the road until another bus comes and hope they go to Bahia. So we wait and luckily one comes. The on our way back we are told that a bus is going to Manta. Halfway through the bus ride the bus driver tells us to get off the bus and wait for another bus on thecorner that will go to Manta. I guess they just want the gringos on the bus or just want our money. Either way it was super frustrating. Because there is no way to tell if they are lying or not.

Then we took a very long bus ride back to Ambato on Sunday. On Monday my other class threw a party for me and gave me very pretty flowers. We're working on pronunciation this week, so that should be fun. They are having a karaoke contest and reciting Shakespeare. We don't have classes Friday because of Easter so I'm going to go to Quito to see a really cool parade. Apparently it is the second best Good Friday parade in the world, second only to Seville, Spain. I'm excited!
New Ecua-ism:
Ecuadorians are the crazy people who actually choose the rooster or cowbell for a ring tone. It is very rare to find an Ecua with a normal ring tone. The other day I heard Alvin and the Chipmunks and Donald Duck as ring tones. I've stopped finding it weird when a rooster randomly starts crowing on a bus...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lack of common sense

So here in Ecuador we use gas for most things like kitchens and showers. For the most part it's cool because you can regulate the heat and replace it easily if it goes out. In Ibarra I completely took it for granted because the gas was always changed for me. So now, after 2 months in Ambato, I realized I needed to change the gas tank. I asked my host sister for help because she had done it before. So we lug the big thing up the stairs and start hooking it up. After a few unsuccessful attempts of turning the stove on we realize it isn't working. We go out to give it one last try and then as she is messing with it I turn on the gas to see if it's working. BAD IDEA. Apparently, when you have been trying to light the gas for a while the room starts to fill with the gas. Yea, POOF. Luckily nothing was burned and I still have my eyebrows. But, wow, that was an intense moment when you see everything in front of your face go up in flames. I guess I should have figured that.

My students were pretty dumb this week. They just don't realize they need to study. I was pretty harsh on them and made them do a practice test before the real test. Their main problem is that they just don't ask questions when they need help. I think they are scared to look bad in front of their friends. But, seriously, I'm there to answer questions, so ask! I haven't graded their actual tests yet... so we'll see.

Yesterday I went to Banos with my friend and her English class. It was a lot of fun. Before I got there they went to a monkey reserve in Puyo and from their pictures it looks like I'll have to go someday! Maybe I can talk my dad into going. The monkeys like climb all over you. So cool! Then we went to a waterfall called "Pailon Del Diablo." I think that mean's devil's cauldron or something like that. It's a decent hike to get down to it and then you are at about the middle of the waterfall. You can go down some more steps and get sprayed with the water or you can go up a very cave like thing. I was freaking out in the cave and had to back out. It was so small and dark and I don't get claustrophobia much but I definitely got it. My friends who did go up said it was really cool and you basically got soaked by the waterfall. I want to go back and do it. But maybe I'll bring a flashlight, poncho, extra clothes, and a waterproof bag for my camera. Maybe I can talk my dad into that? We'll see.

That night we went dancing in Banos and it was a lot of fun. Her students are all different ages so it was fun to hang out with a really diverse group. We went to this one club where they have break dancers on staff and when people aren't into the music they just start dancing and pulling everyone else in. There were still some major creepers who make any dancing experience not as exciting, but overall it was a really fun time.

We got back at about 3am and then at 5am I had a panic attack because I left my window open and my computer by the window and it had been raining for about 24 hours solid. So I rushed on a bus and made it back to Ambato. Thankfully my computer was safe. But then the power was out so I went back to bed. After that I wanted to go see the Justin Bieber movie but they switched the times and so we missed the movie. Oh well.

Now for some intense grading...

And I am heading to the beach on Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Silly Basketball

So, these past few weeks, I have been waiting and waiting to watch real basketball. I watched it over my computer, I watched it through skype, and I watched it on mute in a restaurant. Finally on Monday ESPN was going to show the game on cable. We have cable at my house so I was so excited. And... the game was terrible. I want to thank you Butler for having 19% shooting in the only game I could watch this season.

I have moved classrooms again. Last week I was in the library and now I'm in a classroom the size of a shoebox. I haven't figured out what the problem is with all of the room changing but it's really disruptive. It means I have to start my class late everyday because I have to find my students and tell them where to go. But hopefully I can finally keep this classroom. Even if it's so tiny it barely fits my students and I don't have any space to walk around. Next year I'll petition for a bigger room. It's just silly to waste the big rooms on teachers who have their students sit the whole class. My students are always up and moving and now they can't. I guess I'll just have to be creative with my sitting activities.

This weekend was fun because my friend Claire from Quito came to visit. We went to see a movie and graded lots of papers together. I like when people come and visit me! And it saves me money since I'm not the one always visiting people like I did in Ibarra.

My dad bought a ticket for Ecuador! He is going to come over my birthday! Now he just has to learn spanish in a month and a half :).

I think I'm going on vacation to the beach in a week. We have a few days off and I've wanted to go to this beach. Some other friends are going to a beach close by so I'll probably travel with them and then take a day trip up to the other beach. Hopefully it's fun!

I found out I have to switch banks because the account I made on Thursday doesn't work for some reason. So now it will be another 3 weeks until I get paid. This is not cool. But at least I can keep the money in my Ecua-account and use it next year.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Voy a quedar in Ecuador!

So this week was a bit hectic because I did a lot of running around. On Monday Ariana, the new volunteer, and I went to the government offices to try and get some paperwork done for our job at the University. We ended up waiting in line for 5 hours and got served with just minutes to spare before the agency closed. I guess red-tape is alive and well in Ecuador too!

Then on Wednesday I was searching for a few hours trying to find a secretary from my school so that I could open up a bank account. Unfortunately, that feat wasn't accomplished until Thursday. But now I officially am in the university system and I have a bank account. Now if I could just get paid!!

My dad and I have decided on a trip! He is going to come over my birthday and we'll take a few days to travel in the southern highlands around Cuenca. I'm excited! And he is bringing me girl scout cookies!!

Now, for the big news: I had a meeting with the director of the university and she was really excited that I wanted to stay in Ecuador. They are going to start providing housing for volunteers and offer more money! So now it's basically official that I'll be staying in Ecuador another year! It's a really great offer and I don't have anything that I need to be back for in the states. It feels crazy though. I don't think it's sunk in yet. And it's not 100% official because I haven't signed a contract yet. I'll have to get a contract that lists my housing and my salary before I officially commit to staying. But so far it's looking good. I really like teaching and I like this university. And since I've only been here for a month and only have 3 months left, it makes sense for me to stay.

On Friday I got a glimpse into my future at the university. They are trying to change things for the better so I envision a lot of staff meetings to come. There is one professor who has been there for 4 years and he is super jaded. I almost wanted to tell him to quit if he's that unhappy and can't come up with any good solutions. But he won't. Luckily, the people running the meeting were focused on solutions and didn't pay much attention to him.

It feels good to have my mind almost completely made up now. It was a lot to think about. But job prospects in the states just are not good. And I'd be silly to pass up a job where I can actually start making and saving money.

As for my classes, they are still great! Except they are changing my classroom again and so I was in the library for 2 days. They "think" on Monday I'll have a classroom. Cross your fingers for me!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Family Quirks

I realized I haven't told you much about my new family in Ambato. So here is a post about them along with their quirks:

  • Mom: My host mom is Teresa and she is about 65 years old. She has 4 children (2 still live with her, but I'll talk about them later). Every morning she wakes up at 5:30 and walks for an hour and a half. She is diabetic and never eats sugar or processed flour. She eats tons of fruits and veggies and the house is always stocked with that (I like this part). She eats a breakfast of fruit and yogurt when she gets back from her walk. In the afternoon she makes lunch and only eats meat and veggies. She doesn't eat dinner. Her dinner consists of 5 cups of tea from 5pm-8pm. It is a very special tea to help her stomach. She talks on the phone ALL THE TIME. She talks to each kid at least once a day, and all her grandkids at least once a day. She is super sweet but it's impossible to have a conversation with her because she always gets a phone call. But, it is a blessing because she gets them during lunch too. I eat lunch with her everyday and she is a terrible cook. She overcooks everything, even the rice (which is hard to believe an ecuadorian can do). Today she made ceviche. Now, I don't really like ceviche but usually I can choke it down. She made ceviche that was warm and tasted like a bowl full of ketchup with lemon and onions. So the blessing is that when she gets a phone call I can pretend to eat my food but actually just give it to the dog. It's a good system Inder (the dog) and I have going on.
  • Daughter: One daughter, Pilar, lives with us in the house. She works a ton and has a very serious boyfriend who lives in Quito. The boyfriend comes down every weekend and stays at the house with us. They are really cute and I like the daughter. But the boyfriend is 35 and she is 33. She desperately wants him to propose but he won't. So she is stuck living at home. It's kinda sad.
  • Son: Raul is in his 40s and has a wife and 2 kids in Quito. However, during the week, he still lives in Ambato with us. His job is traveling and he basically travels all over the central highlands. I have absolutely no idea why he chooses to live with his mother during the week when he has a family in Quito. I asked him once and he said he could live in Quito but he just likes spending the weeks here. Creepy. That and he keeps trying to pretend like we have secrets. He told me that he and his wife bought an expensive house in Quito and that I can't tell his mom. Sorry buddy, but your mom already told me about that and she is pissed at you for spending all that money. You can't keep secrets like that from mothers.
  • Son: One son lives in London. He is married and has 1 or 2 kids. I chatted with him over skype for a few minutes one day. He is cool and his English is perfect. But his mom is annoyed with him because he hasn't taught his kids Spanish. So the only people he ever speaks Spanish to are his family in Ecuador and my host mom feels like she can't communicate with her grand kids. It's actually a little sad if you think about it. He could have easily taught them Spanish when they were young. She and her daughter go and visit him once every 2 years. I have no idea how they afford it.
  • Son: Another son lives in Esmeraldes with his wife and 2 kids. However, that area of Ecuador is really unsafe. But he has to stay because he doesn't want to leave his job. So he is deciding whether or not to send his kids to school in Quito or Ambato because he wants them to feel safe. He thinks they are the only white kids in the whole province.
  • Dog: Inder is Raul's dog but lives here with us because he doesn't want her to move to Quito. She is so sad because she has to stay outside all the time. No one takes care of her and she has a ton of fleas and I'm pretty sure she is getting a cancerous tumor on her leg. I wish I didn't have to drag her out of the house every time I go in. It's very sad. I don't know why Raul can't take his dog to Quito with him. Teresa totally doesn't want him here.
So that's my family. They are all super nice but it's very interesting learning all their quirks. Let's just say I love having my own apartment behind the house so I can cook and get away from the drama.

Wish me luck! This week I'm having my meeting with Sara to talk about extending at Tecnica. I'm also seriously considering changing how I run my classes. The books are so dumb. So I'm trying to think how I can teach my way while still teaching what they "have to" learn. We'll see. And I'm not sure I'll ever let me kids democratically vote on something again. They voted to watch Saw 7 as our movie on Friday. GROSS!

I'm also incredibly sad about March Madness. What a weird tournament it is turning out to be. But I'm rooting for Butler or UCONN now.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The joys of being a teacher

That's not sarcasm either!

Seriously, teaching can be so much fun. I was really hard on the kids the first few days because I wanted to set up the procedures in my classroom. And now, it works like clockwork. They know to come in and start the warmer. They are even there 5 minutes early most of the time and when a student comes in on time they say "dance, dance!" (I make them dance if they are more than 10 minutes late). So it's cool that they want my class to start right away. It really pays off to stick with the rules until it sinks in for them and they just do them automatically.

Because once they are actually focused and listening, we can have fun. And I try to make my classes really fun. Yesterday in advanced we compared and contrasted being a loser vs. being popular using the "popular" song from Wicked and "loser like me" from Glee. They really like when I expose them to different kinds of American music. And today in my intermediate we worked on texting slang. I made up some random text messages and then interpreted them. They thought it was hilarious learning words like "wacko," "rocked," and "Def!"

But it is still super hard to teach out of the book. Today they wanted me to teach comparisons. That I can do. But they added in comparisons with past participles and the students had no idea what a past participle is. But I didn't know they didn't know that so I hadn't prepared a lesson on it. It's just a dumb book. And it's unfortunate that so many teachers only use the book.

This weekend was fun. I found out I can kind of watch the games online if my internet is running fast enough. There were so many upsets!! Now my bracket is terrible, but at least OSU is still in it!

One of the gringas from Ambato left today. She got a job with Teach for America and has to be back early to start training and stuff. But another gringa came. She is really nice and I like her a lot.

I'm starting to seriously consider staying in Ecuador another year. I can't think of any reasons not to. I have to make up my mind soon though.

Tomorrow some vols are coming up to Ambato to celebrate another vol's birthday. Should be fun! Except a bunch of them teach at 7am (thank goodness I don't!) so we won't be able to really celebrate. I guess that will come this weekend.

Other than that all is well in Ambato. Happy travels.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

First week of teaching in Ambato

So on Wednesday of last week we had a meeting to say goodbye to the old director at Tecnica and find out our schedules. We all went to the meeting and heard about how they had problems assigning students and how we would probably have more issues. I expect problems, I didn't expect what happened the next week. They told me my schedule was going to be 2 level 3 classes at 2:30 and 5.

  • Thursday: I get to the campus about 1 hour early to find my classroom and see if I needed to do anything. Except at 1:30 it's the lunch hour and there is no one to ask. Slowly people started to trickle in around 2pm. I start to ask around where my classrooms are. One lady tells me to just look at all the classrooms until I find my name. So then I scour the entire school (it's big) in search of my name. It's nowhere. Then I ask someone else and she told me the handyman would go find me a classroom. Turns out they never really assigned classrooms and then forgot about teachers when they were putting names on the doors. He then takes me to a classroom and tells all the students in there to get out and their class has been moved. He tells me he will send all my students here. But, since they never told me where my classroom was, they never told my students. So most of them ended up going to the other building. I had 7 who actually showed. Then for my next class they changed my classroom and only 5 showed.
  • Friday: We had another meeting at noon to meet the new director. She is really cool and I feel bad for her that she came into such a mess (the old director was asked to leave and so he left everything a mess). So she told us that she was working on the problems. In typical Ecua-fashion the meeting ran long (because of all the insanely long greetings and unimportant information). It went until 1:30 and the new director didn't want to take away our lunch so she canceled the 2:30 classes. I went home, pretty cool. I came back at 4:30 for my 5pm class and she told me I had no classroom again and I could just go home. I was glad she was honest with me but getting a little annoyed.
  • Monday: I showed up and went to the director's office and she asked me if I could change schedules. Since I hadn't really met my students yet I said yes. Now I'm teaching a level 8 class (almost fluent) and a level 3 class (pre-intermediate). She also said I still didn't have a classroom but she was going to call the students and tell them to come to the library. I ended up waiting for 1.25 hours for the first class to show because they all went to the wrong building. Then the second class showed up 30 minutes late. But I decided the library was a horrible place to have class. People kept coming in, music was playing, it was tiny. It was so bad for establishing classroom management procedures that I sent them home early.
  • Tuesday I had an actual classroom but they told me it wasn't going to stay my classroom. So my students were all late again because they didn't know where to go. But for the most part, it was a pretty solid first day.
  • Wednesday: I finally had my own classroom with my own students. The advanced kids are really cool because I feel like I can teach and talk to them about more than just grammar and basic stuff. Like we did a discussion comparing the earthquakes and tsunamis in the past few years. Why they are worse for some countries and such. My level 3 students wanted to be stupid and act up. I shut that down really fast. They probably thought I was mean for making them all stand up, go outside, and re-enter the classroom the right way several times, but I'm not one for kids acting out. Everything runs more smoothly once classroom management is established. And once they know they shouldn't talk when I talk, we can all have some fun. (I promise, I really am a fun teacher. I just don't mess around with classroom management).
  • Thursday: Another real day. Today we did more discussing about natural disasters and humanitarian work. They are really shy about talking so hopefully I can get them to get over it. The pre-intermediates were cute. I'm excited about my students and think I'll really like them!
I've decided I hate teaching from a book. For my pre-intermediates I have a book I have to teach them from. It's terrible. It wants me to teach "adverbial clauses" and "relative pronouns as subjects and objects." My students don't even know the difference between a subject and an object! So everything the book tells me to teach them, I have to teach them so many other things as well. Because the test comes straight from the book I have to model everything after the book. So even if they don't understand it because the book is dumb, they still have to regurgitate it. And the activities the book has are super dumb! So I think I'll be creating a lot of my own stuff again. I hate boring classes just as much as the students do. We'll see how it goes but I'm definitely not having fun using a book.

This weekend I went to a town called Salinas. It is a very small town in the mountains that was struggling financially about 100 years ago. So they decided to start businesses and ended up becoming really successful. The town is now a little hub for cheese and chocolate production. You can take tours of the businesses and then sample the products. Yummy day!

I found out I can kinda watch March Madness on my computer. The internet cuts out a lot but it's better than nothing. Go OSU!!!

I've also started thinking about staying in Ecuador another year. What do you guys think?

Happy St. Patrick's day everyone!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"You has how to dance" - Carnaval

So this past week was carnaval in Ecuador and it was so much fun!!

I decided since I had the time off I would go visit one of my friends who lives in the province that celebrates carnaval the most. She lives in a tiny little town called San Miguel (about 3,000 people). I got there on Thursday afternoon and we dar veuelta-ed (hung out and circled the town). There was a huge dance going on in the center of the town so we stayed and danced for a while and also got some foam (espuma or carioca) to spray at little kids. Carioca is one of the biggest parts of carnaval in that province. Everyone has a can and everyone is spraying it. There is no escape! We stayed at the dance for quite a while but left around 8:30 because it ended early. The town decided a few years ago to end the concerts the first few nights of carnaval early because people were getting so, so, so drunk at them. So instead of encouraging the drinking every night for a week they try and take it slowly the first few nights.

The next day we watched a parade in the center of town. Now, I have seen ecua-parades before but the ones I saw during carnaval were awesome! The only down side was that they were super long. The first parade was 3 hours long and consisted of school groups making fun dances and people in crazy costumes walking on the street. Then after the parade Cheryl, I, and some little kids got in a giant foam fight (see picture). I realized that once you have foam on you, people just want to keep spraying you. The foam is colored and does get clothes dirty but it washes out really well. Then we went to lunch with her family and rode in the back of a truck. I love riding in the back of a truck but during carnaval it is a baaaaad idea. Tons of people have buckets of water on the side of the road and throw them at you as you drive by. We were soaked!! They also throw flour too. That night we went back to another dance in the center of town. It was fun because she knows a lot of people and a lot of her students were there. One of her students that was in love with her danced with her for most of the night. I got passed around between all his friends because they all wanted to dance with the gringa. It was a lot of fun!

The next morning we went to another small town really close to San Miguel called Chimbo. Since the whole province celebrates carnaval they just move the parades from town to town. The Chimbo parade was not as good because it wasn't well organized. The timing was terrible and you'd have to wait 5 minutes between each act. It ended up taking 4 hours! However, the town is crazy. Everywhere you went people were dumping water off of balconies and shooting you with foam. If you didn't have a good attitude about it then it would have been horrible. But I loved it! After that I went back to Ambato because some of my friends were coming in.

Ambato isn't known for carnaval but it is known for a festival that happens during carnaval called fruits and flowers. Around 1940 there was a giant earthquake that destroyed Ambato and the people wanted to re-build their lives and celebrate what they had. They decided to celebrate the two things Ambato was famous for, fruits and flowers. So now every year during carnaval Ambato has a huge parade. The parade is televised and really pretty!

I woke up at 6am on Sunday so that I could go and get seats for the parade. Apparently like half of Ecuador comes to this thing and my host mom said I would never find a seat if I got there after 7. So luckily I was able to find seats for me and my friends. The parade was awesome. Each float had a theme (like pear or lily) and was decorated to represent that. The dancing was awesome too. After the parade I hung out with my friends for a while and then we went out dancing that night. There was a band playing in the middle of the center. Carioca in Ambato is becoming more popular ever year so it wasn't too bad in Ambato but I can tell people want it to become more popular. I also had this neat experience with a taxi driver. Ambato was having fireworks but I was supposed to meet my friends. As we were driving we found this perfect spot to watch the fireworks. They were being set off from three different places in the mountains. The taxi driver asked me if we could stop for a few minutes and watch the fireworks. Of course I said yes. It was really cool that he felt comfortable enough to ask me that. I guess he was sad he had to work during them. And I'm definitely glad I stopped to watch them for a few minutes.

On Monday I decided to go back to San Miguel because it was so much fun! I stopped in Guaranda first to watch the parade. This parade was great. The costumes were amazing. The parade was about different dance groups around the country and whichever group had the best act won a prize. It was super long but awesome. Everyone was into it and dancing in the street. That night we went to another dance in the city and stayed out pretty late. This was where one Ecua told me that "I has how to dance." I thought it was funny.

The next morning we went to a place called Lourdes. It is a monastery way up in the mountains with an incredible view. The monastery is also known for making honey from the bees on site. It was a fun excursion! Then I went back to Ambato.

Today I had my meeting about teaching. I'm going to be teaching two pre-intermediate classes from 2-6:30 Monday-Friday. The hours are pretty good so I'm happy about that. Tomorrow I officially start teaching and I'm nervous but excited. Then this weekend I'm going to a town called Salinas that specializes in making chocolate and cheese. Ecuador is so exciting!

(And, yay! I figured out how to add pictures to my blogs!)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ambato and Quito training

On Sunday I arrived in Ambato. I picked the house I wanted to live in because it had a full apartment that I would use. But when I got there I found everything except the bed was taken out because she wanted me to "use the house" and "feel like I was part of the family." I think when I looked a little shocked she changed her mind. So she brought everything back out of the bodega and into my apartment. It's really nice now! I have a full kitchen, bedroom with a dresser, and soon I'll have chairs for the living room. I still go down to the house to eat most of my meals (they don't eat dinner) and to watch TV with my host mom. She is really sweet and I like talking to her.

My first few days in Ambato were pretty boring because everyone I knew was working or out of town. So I just explored the city. Then starting Wednesday I went to Quito to help train the new volunteers. That was a lot of fun! It's crazy how in just 6 months I've become an "authority figure" on subjects like student-run activities and classroom management. They all had some great questions and hopefully I helped them learn a little. Best of luck to them as they head to their sites!

Then I came back to Ambato and it was the weekend so my friends were free. We went on essentially a pub crawl over two nights so I could see the different places. I'm just happy there are more places than in Ibarra to go out! There are really cool bars and then dance bars. One that I really liked was called Crazy Horse and plays classic rock videos and has super cheap drinks. The crowd is interesting though.

On Saturday a few of us wanted to see the "Reina de Ambato" pageant. We arrived 2 hours early to get tickets and seats but found out that the tickets were on sale yesterday and had sold out. So the only available tickets were being scalped for 5x the price. We heard from some locals that if we waited it out that the prices would go down but unfortunately they didn't and we decided not to go. $20 for a pageant is nuts! And, alas, it was rigged, the mayor's daughter won. Everyone expected that.

Yesterday I went to Tecnica (where I'll be teaching) to meet with my director. I don't know why I had the expectation that I'd find out anything. He basically waved to me, had me wait for 45 minutes, gave me cake at a "welcome" party, and then told me to come back tomorrow. The cake was awesome and a surprise. But it would have been cool to find out about my classes. So today I went back and again learned nothing. They are doing "registration" right now and so they don't know any more than I do. They are hoping by tomorrow they can at least tell me my classes and I can stop by and get my books. Seeing as Friday-Tuesday are holidays and class starts Wednesday. We'll see. I've learned to be flexible.

I did meet a nice french chick at Tecnica. She is going to be a french teacher. She speaks french and spanish and a tiny bit of english. I speak english, spanish, and a tiny bit of french. Therefore our common language is spanish. It's cool to have to speak spanish with someone who is not a native speaker and knows how hard it is to want to say something and not be able to express it. I think talking with her will be really good for my spanish.

Tomorrow I'm going down to banos to see if I can offer my services in their tourism office. That will give me something cool to do on the weekends. And then Thursday I'm going to San Miguel and Guaranda for Carnaval. Apparently it is crazy down there! But I'll be back in Ambato for the big parade on Sunday.

I'm feeling very homesick for my bed and my cats right now. Lily had a harrowing adventure yesterday. Luckily she springs back quickly. Only 5 more months in Ecuador. Crazy...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Galapagos movies

Here are a few short videos I took while I was in the Galapagos. Enjoy! Pictures coming soon.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Here are some photos of Quilotoa, the jungle, the beach, and more of banos. The Galapagos are coming soon! Enjoy!

Galapagos ideas

Here are some ideas about going to the Galapagos:

  • Take a boat. They say it's cheaper to stay on land and just do day trips. But that can be more expensive because the day trips cost between $60-$150 each and they don't always include equipment or food. And then you have to pay for a place to stay on the island
  • Take a small boat. If you take a big boat it takes forever to get everything organized and you can't spend as much time doing the activities. Not to mention the big boats can't get permits to go to certain small islands.
  • If you don't speak fluent Spanish, take one with an English guide. In the jungle it was fine for me to have a Spanish guide because I didn't need to know everything. But the Galapagos is so interesting that you'll want to understand as much as you can.
  • The southern islands and the norther islands are pretty different. So make sure you research which ones you'd like to visit. But you won't be disappointed either way.
  • Don't splurge on the boat. You're only on the boat for a little while and you're only in your room to sleep. It's silly to waste tons of money on a nicer room when you'll only be in it for a few hours.
  • Be ready for adventure. Yes, some cruises cater to people who just want to look around. But most of the islands are deserted and the animals come first. Which means tourist friendly things are few and far between. Bring a pair of hiking boots, a swim suit, and be prepared to sweat!
  • Don't freak out when the animals come near you. They are nice and friendly because people are nice and friendly to them. Don't ruin it for everyone by scaring the life out of them and screaming when you see a bird fly near your face.
  • Try and stay for as many days as you can. Any less than 5 and you haven't seen much of anything. This is one of those places where you'll want to experience as much as you can.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

If Dr. Seuss created a world...

I just went to the Galapagos for 5 days and it was amazing. I decided it was like a land made by Dr. Seuss. Plants are different colors, you swim with sharks that don't want to hurt you, and you stare at penguins and sea lions who only want to play with you.

I had a few reservations about going to the Galapagos because it has the potential to be harmed by humans. But after visiting I saw how much the park rangers and guides really try and protect the environment. Tourism in the right way doesn't hurt the Galapagos, it actually helps it. It is so expensive to go there because all of that money goes towards preserving the islands and making amends for things settlers did a few hundred years ago. About two hundred years ago almost every island was exploited, but now endangered animals are thriving and human impact is helpful, not hurtful.

I started by going to the airport in Quito. If you fly out of Quito you have to have a refueling stop in Guayaquil. Then I made my way on the same plane to San Cristobal. (BTW, AeroGal is a great airline!). I didn't know what to expect when I got there but I definitely wasn't expecting what I saw. The airport is a one room building. There is one runway. And literally nothing else. It felt like a deserted island from the minute I got off the plane. I tried to get into the park for $6 because sometimes they let you with a 12-3 visa. But it didn't work that day. Oh well.

Then I was picked up from the airport and we rode to a conservation center to check it out while our boat was getting ready. There I learned about the history of the Galapagos and evolution and all of that. It was a really well done museum. Next we all headed to our boat and I saw sea lions for the first time. They were right next to the boat! Needless to say the boat was tiny. I shared a room with a girl from Montreal but only one of us could be in there at a time unless we were sleeping because there was NO room. Even the shower was just a sink and a toilet and you pulled the shower handle out of the sink and showered over the toilet. That was an experience.

My boat had 4 germans, 1 irish guy, one girl from canada, and two kiwis. They were really great people and I loved getting to know them. Our first adventure was snorkeling off of a tiny island called los lobos. I snorkeled with sea lions (the most amazing experience ever) and sea turtles, fish, and sting rays. Next we took a hike on the island to check out the crabs, iguanas, and birds. The hikes are a little perilous because you move around the animals. If the animals are in the path then you walk on slippery rocks around them. Everyone fell a lot because these hikes aren't necessarily tourist friendly, they are animal friendly. But nonetheless they were great experiences. At night we went to the small town of San Cristobal. A bunch of us went and got drinks and then watched the sea lions hang out on the pier.

The second day we went to another island called Espanola. On this island we took a really long hike in the morning. I got to see amazing bird colonies, new baby birds, crazy iguanas, and a blow hole on the side of a mountain. This was probably my favorite hike. After that we made our way to this incredible beach that was covered in sea lions (like 200). I even saw a new born baby sea lion (surprisingly not very cute). We also went snorkeling around some rocks and I got to check out more turtles and sharks and rays.

On the third day we went to my favorite island, Floreana. It was so beautiful. Pirates lived there a few hundred years ago and some settlers had tired to form colonies, but there is no real water on the island so they all died. However, they set up something called "post office bay" where people leave letters and other people come by and pick up letters that are near them. So I left a few letters and picked some up that are in Ohio. The tradition is to hand deliver them. I think this is such a cool idea! After that we went to some lava tubes. They are caves created by lava. That was pretty freaky because none of us really brought flashlights and there was a super wet area where I took off my shoes but then my feet hurt soo badly. But it was worth it. Next we hiked to a look out point and saw the whole island. It has a few hills and valleys and one lake with flamingoes. Then we sailed back and passed penguins (so cool!). After lunch we went to snorkel around this amazing geological feature in the ocean called "the devil's crown." It is a circle of huge rocks about 1km from the shore. I saw an octopus and white-tipped sharks swam under my feet. Crazy! Then we went for a hike to another look out point, to a beautiful beach, and passed the flamingo lake.

My last day on the boat was cool because we went to a tiny little island that looked like another planet. It was covered in red bushes because the bushes turn red when they don't have enough water. It is also covered in prickly pear cacti and tons of iguanas. It also has a bachelor colony of sea lions and those guys are big and loud! Then we made our way to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz and went to see Lonesome George at the Charles Darwin Research Center. He was pretty funny looking. All of the giant tortugas are crazy looking. They are huge! Like the size of two grown men put together. Did you know that they are the inspiration for E.T.? If you see their faces up close it makes total sense. Then that night the boat paid for me to stay in a hotel and for my dinner since the fifth day itinerary was only to go to the airport. I decided to stay an extra day on the islands though.

That night I met up with some of the girls from the boat and one of them had forgotten shoes on the boat. Luckily the boat was still in the harbor and we went back on it. Unfortunately, we found out the new group was having some serious problems because the owner forgot a few permits. I felt terrible for them because they paid so much for the trip and it turned out they couldn't really leave the port.

On Thursday I went to another island called Isabela. I'm fascinated with Isabela because it is the biggest island but yet there is almost nothing there. It was funny because the guide and people from my boat ended up going on that day trip too since the boat couldn't leave the port. It felt like an extension of my trip but I didn't have to sleep in a tiny cabin sweating all night. And I loved my guide and the other people on the cruise after me so it was really fun.

On Isabela we saw another tortuga conservation site and I got to see how stupid turtles are. The one giant tortuga was mating the wrong way with a girl. It was pretty funny to watch. And then we saw some flamingoes and went to an awesome little island covered in volcano rocks. There were more iguanas and sea lions and I got to snorkel with sea lions again. I also made a good friend from the new group of people.

That night I got together with my friends from WorldTeach who were in the galapagos. It was fun to just sit on the pier and watch animals swim by in the ocean. Then I stayed up with the german girls I met and went to bed pretty late. Next I woke up early, made my way to the airport and said goodbye to the galapagos.

Overall it was an amazing trip. It is a place I was so sad to leave because it was almost perfect. Between the nature, animals, and people, I would love to live there someday. Hopefully I'll get to go back someday. And I hope all of you get to go someday.

Pictures are coming soon! I wish I had an underwater camera because a lot of the magic of the galapagos comes while snorkeling. There is nothing like looking down and seeing 5 big sharks swimming happily. It was so awesome!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

All is well!

Hi, it's Kaytee. Sara texted me to say that she's doing fine. There was an earthquake in Quito, but she's enjoying herself in the Galapagos. It hasn't made the US news, so it's probably not that big. She says hi!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Vanilla Ice Cream

Preface: If you know me pretty well then you know my theory about ice cream. I believe that your favorite flavor describes your personality. And again, if you ask anyone who knows me well, the worst flavor to have as a favorite flavor is vanilla. I mean, common, you can have annnnnny flavor in the world and you choose vanilla?

I told my sister and my friends I wouldn't blog about this, but it was so lousy now I feel like I have to. I went on a date tonight with an Ecua from Ambato. We met on the bus a few days ago and he seemed nice. He got my number and we realized we would both be in Quito this Saturday. For protection I never told him I was moving to Ambata, I said i lived in Ibarra.

So he sells tires for a living and travels all over the country. He told me he would be getting in to Quito around 4pm but actually ended up having to make another stop in a city far away. So my friend and I head to dinner and he meets us there around 9pm. He had been traveling all day and was going to go back to Ambato that night. I thought it was nice that he wanted to see me so much he decided to leave the terminal, take the hour long trolley to the Mariscal, and get ice cream with us.

As he came up the stairs I was excited to see him. This was going to be my first all-Spanish date. Even my friend was excited to be a third-wheel on an all-Spanish date. But as he started talking, or rather Claire and I started talking, we both realized he was terribly boring. He barely said or asked anything and just kept looking at me. Weird. Then when we got ice cream he ordered Vanilla. Aka: the kiss of death for any chance with me. He told me he hates every kind of chocolate. Another kiss of death. AND to top it off, he only drinks white wine. Sheesh. My theory proved true again that Vanilla lovers are boring.

****Disclaimer: I'm sorry if your favorite flavor is vanilla and now I've called you boring.****

Claire and I ended up faking being tired around 10pm and left. He then proceeded to text both of us 30 seconds after we got in the cab. Needless to say I deleted his number and won't be telling him that I'm moving to Ambato.

I guess there are bad dates in every country.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

El Oriente and my first visit to Ambato

On Thursday I made my way down to Tena, which is a jungle gateway city. It was frustrating because the bus to Tena leaves from the south terminal in Quito. But after you leave the south terminal you have to pass the north terminal on the way out of Quito. It added an extra 2 hours to my trip which I wasn't happy about. But as we drove I got to see Papallacta again. It is still really beautiful. Then as we descended down the mountain we were in a super dense cloud. I have no idea how the driver could see through the fog. Then around dinner time I finally made it to Tena. I had thought that it was in the jungle, but it's still on the outskirts. It's a fully functioning town with markets, houses, restaurants, and no bugs and snakes crawling everywhere.

When I got there I met up with my friends Justin and Cheryl. We went to dinner at this awesome restaurant with sloths hanging out in the roof. I tried to get some pictures but they are small and hard to take pictures of. But it was so cool to eat dinner with a sloth hanging out right above me! Next we went to get drinks at a restaurant called arana (spider). They are famous for a cocorum that is made with condensed milk. Justin raves about it but I thought it was pretty weird. Then we went to bed and thankfully there was a nice breeze to fall asleep to.

The next morning we woke up and had chocolate and banana pancakes and made our way to Musahuilli, a city a little further into the jungle. In this city there are supposed to be tons of monkeys running around all the time but I didn't see any :(. Then we went further into the jungle in a jeep towards our lodge.

At the lodge we realized we were the only ones there. We started to get a little freaked out that it was just us and some guides. Horror movies kept coming to mind. But they were very nice and nothing too crazy happened to us. On our first afternoon we took an epic hike up a "mountain" to a vista. The hike took about 4 hours and we did it in rain boots. I had never hiked in rain boots before and I don't think I'm a fan now that I have. But they were very welcomed because on our way back we hiked through a riverbed. My pants still got soaked. On the hike I ate a flower, ants, and termites. I also had my face painted, a crown made for me, and almost fell off the side of the mountain. The last one is because the lodge's dog, Jack, came with us. But Jack just liked to run on the path and try to get past you on tiny little stretches of trail. He was so cute though. Who ever thought I'd eat ants and termites? The ants strangely taste like lemon and the termites help protect you from bug bites. Interesting...

After the hike we went swimming in the river. I was told there were no bad things in the river because it comes from Cotopaxi (the big mountain) and by the time it reaches this lodge the water is still too cold for snakes and pirahnas and such.

The next day Cheryl and I took a boat tour down the Rio Napo. We stopped at an informational reserve. This is a group of natives who run a museum and help educate tourists. Surprisingly it wasn't overly touristy (probably because everything was in Spanish) and I really appreciated the place. They rescue some animals and I got to play with monkeys and an ant eater looking thing. I also got to HOLD A BABY OCELOT (basically a little jaguar). It might have been the highlight of my life. However, then a monkey was swinging from a branch and HIGH-FIVED ME. That was pretty awesome too. We learned about trap techniques and medicinal plants as well.

Then we traveled further down the river towards another indigenous camp. We learned about their spiritual beliefs (a big rock is god) and they danced for us. They also tried to get us to drink this nasty fermented drink that is common in the area. You take yuca, spit in it, and then wait for it to ferment for 3 days. I wasn't up to drinking saliva from people I don't know...

After the boat tour we went back to the lodge and practiced making chocolate. We roasted the beans, shucked them, and grinded them. Then we mixed them with milk and sugar and boiled it until it became liquid chocolate. It was really good but pretty gritty. Wendy told me it was gritty because the technique to smooth chocolate came after chocolate was found in South America. We then mixed the chocolate with lemon (not recommended) and bananas (super yummy).

On our last morning we panned for gold in the river. You take a big bowl and put dirt in it and then swirl it in the water until only black sand and gold flecks are left at the bottom. I found 7 gold flecks :). Then we went back to Tena and on to Ambato.

In Ambato I met up with my friend Caitlin and stayed at her house. Together we visited a few host families. The first night I met with a nice older lady who has a daughter and a private apartment behind her house. Then in the morning I met with a family that has 3 kids under 7 (super nice but the house would be crazy!), a literally crazy woman who kept changing her answers to ever question and explaining how laundry is done, and a nice older family in a good neighborhood. I ended up choosing the first woman because I think I'll like the privacy of my own space.

I think Ambato will be good for me. It is bigger and so there is more to do (it has a movie theatre!). And more WorldTeach people are there. It's also more centrally located and more places to visit are accessible. I also think I'll offer my services at the Banos tourism office every couple of weekends and see if I can help with translating things. Banos is super touristy (for both natives and foreigners) so I feel like they need the translating help.

Now I'm in Ibarra for my last 3 days and on Saturday I'm moving my things to Quito where my friend, Claire, will watch them. On Sunday I ship out to the Galapagos!!! and I'll come back on the 18th. I think it will be good to be in the Galapagos on my mom's birthday. It will keep me busy. Then I'll go back to Quito, help out with orientation for the new kids, and move to Ambato. February is a crazy month!

Happy travels.