Friday, January 28, 2011

Awkward Encounter

So one of the downsides of living with a family is that they have their own problems. One of them being their 15 year old son. So at lunch today my host mom and dad decided to lecture him on how his friends drink and smoke and how he shouldn't do that. Then the conversation turned to how he always invites the friends over when the parents aren't there and how that is totally disrespectful. So he is trying to defend himself by saying his friends don't smoke or drink there and the parents are like "bull shit. We know they do." So then the mom goes into how the dad doesn't drink or get drunk in the house and he goes out to do that. Then the dad started yelling because Andres is 15 and shouldn't be doing that anyway.

Of course, then Andres and the dad turn to me and ask if kids in the US do this. I didn't want to lie so of course I said yes. Andres felt vindicated and the dad was annoyed I told the truth.

Super, super awkward lunch! But it honestly sounds exactly like the lecture most kids get at some point or another...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Testing week

Testing weeks are so boring for me. I review the material with my classes and then they take an oral and a written test. I like spending my time planning cool lessons for my students so when all I get to do is plan a test I get really bored. So one way I have brightened my week is by testing out taxi drivers.

About 90% of the taxis I take have drivers that ask me if I'm married. Up until now I've only said, "No, I'm not married. No I'm not dating an Ecuadorian. No, I don't know if I will date an Ecuadorian." But they always ask why I don't like Ecuadorians and why I'm not dating one. So the other day I started to test out new answers. One time I said I had a boyfriend in the states and the driver just kept asking why I didn't want to cheat on him with an Ecuadorian because he is so far away. This answer didn't seem to be any better for me. So the next night I tried to say that I was married and my husband and I were both here. Then the driver just kept asking why I chose an American over an Ecuadorian and how it must be quite a honeymoon to be in Ecuador together. And how I should divorce my husband and marry an Ecuadorian instead. I guess I'll have to keep trying to find a good answer that doesn't lead to a million follow up questions.

There was one time I said I was dating an Ecuadorian and I remember the taxi driver asking if I wanted to break up with him and date him instead. So I don't think that is the best answer either.

Other than that I have been practicing Spanish a lot with an online program and doing yoga. I really wish Ibarra had more to do. But I guess that's one reason why I'm moving.

This weekend I'm going to Quito to see my friend Claire and plan a jungle trip for my friend Cheryl and me. Then I come back to Ibarra for a super boring week of doing nothing. I'm thinking about taking day trips but I don't like traveling by myself. Maybe I'll think of something cool to do or I'll go visit another volunteer at his or her site.

I'm also debating adding my name to last minute Galapagos tours. Apparently you can get a great deal if you're a single person and have a flexible schedule. Hopefully that works out!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fui a la playa

On Wednesday I took an extremely long bus ride to Guayaquil. I left my house at 4:30 to catch a bus at 4:45am. When I got on the bus the overly-friendly bus driver gave me advice on where to sit for maximum pleasure. He also told me the whole time he was driving he would be thinking of me. Weird. It took about 2.5 hours to get to Quito and then an hour to get to the south terminal in Quito. Once there we waited for an hour and a half for more people. After that we headed on some crazy roads with sharp turns down the mountains toward Santo Domingo. It got sooooo hot on that bus ride. I was sweating so much and my window wouldn't open. Then we waited for 20 minutes and headed to Quevedo where we stopped for lunch for an hour. I decided to just get a beer and it might have been one of the best beers of my life because it was so hot outside! After that it was another few hours to Guayaquil where our bus was stopped and my passport and visa were scrutinized for about 5 minutes. After 13 hours of travel I was finally in Guayaquil and taking a much needed cold shower.

Once there I met up with my friends at the bay area. A whole bunch of us went through Guayaquil so it was great to see everyone. We had dinner at a cute restaurant on a cute little cobble-stone street. Then we walked along the bay and got ice cream from a McDonlad's (it was the only thing open). That part of Guayaquil is actually very pretty. Since I didn't get to see any more of the city besides the pretty part I have decided that it isn't a bad city like everyone says it is.

Then the next morning we all hopped on a bus to our resort on the beach. We were at a place called Alandaluz, which is an eco-lodge. It has its own beach and really nice rooms. The only downside is that there is nothing else for quite a while. The beaches in Ecuador have one road that goes past all of them and this beach is very secluded from the rest. While at the resort I got to hang out with my friends and catch up with all the World-Teach stuff. It was a really nice vacation! However, the ocean was super super strong. The undertow made it so you really couldn't go into the water past your knees. I've never felt water like that. There was also one dinner where they made the aji sauce so hot that we all had to send back our food. I put just a tiny bit on mine and my nose was running, my eyes were watering, and I started sweating. I have no idea what kind of pepper they put in there but it was insane!

After the conference I tried to catch a bus to Manta so I could fly back to Quito. I didn't want to take a long bus again because then I would have no time to plan for my classes on Monday. I waited for an hour and a half on the side of the road and only one bus came but it didn't stop for me. After that I was pretty sun-burned and exhausted from waiting so I caught a caminoeta to another city and took a bus from there. In Manta I went to the beach and got some really good seafood. I also met a nice necklace vender named Christian who talked to me for 20 minutes about some jail in the Galapagos. I ended up buying a necklace for $1 because he was super nice.

Then I made it to my plane and in about 30 minutes I was in Quito. Flying is so much better and easier! And it is only $50! (The bus is $10). I think I will take a plane from now on for any bus ride over 8 hours. Once in Quito I went to the terminal and got a bus to Ibarra. My family wasn't home so thank goodness I knew the alarm code and password and they didn't put an extra lock on my door. Wohoo!

Today we went and had lunch at Yahruacocha (I have no idea how to spell it) lake. It is a lake about 20 minutes from Ibarra. The restaurant was up a hill and in a plantation. It had a million flowers and fruit trees. I would definitely take visitors there to check it out.

Tomorrow I'm back at CECAMI for my final week!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Knowing Spanish makes conversations much easier

I'm actually really glad that I took the time to learn Spanish while I was here. This way I haven't had to break a whole bunch of bad habits when speaking like other people have. But at the same time it has been really hard to connect with people. I think I'm finally starting to reach the point where I can have an affective conversation with someone in Spanish. I've started talking to the gate guard for about 5 minutes everyday after class. I talk to my taxi drivers and shawarma makers. I even talk to the guard outside of a Chinese restaurant because he looks so bored everyday. It's great practice. With all this said, I still am only at about an intermediate level. But I'm proud of myself.

Last night my host dad and I watched Spiderman 3 while drinking beers. I actually understood most of the movie and I've never seen it before. It was pretty cool! Then a bunch of the family went out to eat at one of my favorite restaurants here because I recommended it :). Of course dinner was at 10pm, but hey, it was still fun.

I spent this week trying to figure out what to teach my classes. We have 7 days left of class and I only have 7 students who returned for one class and 2 for the other. I'm thinking I'll do prepositions with a scavenger hunt for my basics and a newspaper project for the intermediates. I am really excited to have more students with more of a desire to learn. I completely understand that some students don't want to come back for 2 weeks when they've just had a month off. And the office probably only called some of them to tell them classes were starting again.

On Saturday I went to Cotacatchi. It is a city known for leather making close to Otavalo. It had interesting things but I'm not a huge leather fan. I'm glad I went but I don't think I'll go back unless I know someone who is dying for a purse or shoes.

This Wednesday I'm heading on an 11 hour bus ride to Guayaquil. Then to the beach on Thursday for my mid-service conference with WorldTeach. I'm excited!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New design

Check out the new design of my blog. My sister made it last night from one of her photos, pretty cool, huh? Thanks, Kaytee.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Back to Ibarra

So yesterday was a glorious day. I literally did not get out of my pajamas or leave my bed. It was wonderfully restful!

Then today I prepared for my classes. Before the break Cecami told me I was going to take Natasha's basic class from 3pm-4pm. So I prepared and showed up early. Then they told me I wasn't going to have that class. But, surprisingly, it didn't surprise me that they did this. Typical Cecami. Then I went to my classroom and looked for all of my things. But I was missing the speakers. So I went and asked Lupe and the gardner and they had no idea. The gardner was so nice and searched high and low for them but they were gone. Typical Cecami again. And to top it off, no one came to my second class. I waited for 30 minutes and no one came. Again, typical Cecami.

However, they did make up for it a little bit when everyone said they missed me and the gardner gave me a big hug. They kept asking if I really was moving to Ambato and I kept saying yes. They seemed a little sad. I know I will miss the gardner and the gate guard. They are so nice to me! And have nothing to do with the incompetence of Cecami.

On another note, my host brother told me congratulations for beginning to understand more spanish. That is a pretty big deal because he speaks soooo fast. And I am starting to get a hang of speaking for more than a few sentences. It's a cool feeling. :)

I have midservice in a week and we are all headed to the beach. Yay for an almost all expense paid trip to a beautiful beach in Ecuador!!!

Monday, January 10, 2011


Here are a whole bunch of photos that my sister took while she was in Ecuador. She is a really good photographer so her pictures are MUCH better than mine. They give a good sense of what Ecuador is like. Enjoy!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Feliz Año

I left the states very early on the morning of the 28th. I was worried that my flights would be cancelled because of all the snow. But thankfully they were mostly on time (which means they are all delayed so I never missed any). And my bags made it too! Both of the layovers felt like a close call on the luggage front.

Then I arrived in Quito at midnight and met my sister and max. We headed to our hostel and crashed for the night. Only after buying water of course. It is the best way to prevent altitude sickness. In the morning we woke up and had a lovely breakfast at the hostel. Then I snagged us a $12 cab ride to the terminal (he wanted us to pay $20. Never underestimate my cab negotiating skills. Once they learn you can speak some Spanish and you know how much the taxi should cost, they turn quiet). Kaytee and Max experienced their first bus ride through the Sierra of Ecuador. It was really pretty but it rained over Cotopaxi so they never got to see it.

After that they ate their first Ecua-lunch and surprisingly enjoyed it. Then we took a hair-raising bus ride to Zimbahua. It was like a rollercoaster! I could barely look out the window. Once we made it to Latacunga we hitched a camioneta (spelling?) to Quilotoa. We got in too late to see the lake that night so we just went to a friendly local artist's house and bought some art. Then we ate a communal dinner at the hostel and Kaytee and Max tried popcorn with soup. It's really good!

Funny story: I went into a store to buy a drink and looked around for the owner. There were a few people in the store and one looked at me and said the drink was $.75. He then asked if I had lotion because he needed some. He said he would trade me the drink for the lotion. He really seemed to need it so I agreed. A little bit later someone comes running after me and tells me that isn't his shop and I still owe $.75. Lucky kid who got the lotion for free...

That night we slept in a very cold cabin. I had 5 blankets and 4 layers of clothes. We were so cold because our fire kept dying. Thankfully my sister was brave enough to go and say "no hay fuego, esta muy frio!" So the ladies came and helped us build a bigger fire.

The next morning we went to Quilotoa. My sister woke up with a terrible headache so we only walked around a little bit of it. It was gorgreous! You can hike all the way around it (5 hours) or down it (40 minutes). The hike back up seems pretty brutal so they offer donkeys. Someday I want to go back and try the donkey thing.

Next we traveled to Banos. We didn't do too much that first afternoon because we were tired but the next day we took an awesome chiva down the waterfall highway. We stopped at a bunch of waterfalls and took tarabitas across the canyon. My sister and Max were chickens for the first one but they braved up for the second one. The biggest waterfall was called Machay and you had to hike down this killer hill to get to it. They whole time we were going down Kaytee and I kept saying "this is going to be hard to get back up." In the end it was worth it because the waterfall was beautiful. (Side note: the tour guide said it was a relatively easy hike and took about 15 minutes to get down and un poco mas tiempo to return. Yea, right. It was more like 30 minutes down and an hour back up. Ecuas are so crazy sometimes. Luckily he did warn people with heart conditions not to go). After the chiva we had a great lunch at a restaurant overlooking all of Banos. Delicious food and great view!

That night was año viejo (new year's eve). Everyone had masks and made muñecas (dolls) to burn. The street was filled with all kinds of dolls from spiderman to king kong to princesses. At midnight they light the dolls on fire and then jump over the burning piles of goo. It's insane! They also attach wishes for the new year to the dolls. It's a neat tradition. I was shocked by how many kids stayed out for this. There were tiny little kids hopping over piles of fire! And many unsupervised kids having fireworks wars. I thought some of the kids were going to get blown up. I guess it's safer than it looks.

The next day we went on a horseback riding tour towards the volcano in Banos. My sister ended up getting hurt on the horse so we turned back a little early. I don't think she will be going on horses anytime soon. Then we rested at the rooftop pool at our hostel and got crazy sunburns. It's a bad idea to go sunbathing at 8,000ft in the air.

Then we headed to Ibarra for a day. We took a 4am bus ride for 7 hours and I felt ill the whole way. It was terrible. But the lunch after was delicious (well for Kaytee and Max, I wasn't up for eating). We had lunch at a restaurant that specializes in coastal food. Yum! Ibarra is known for ice cream so we headed there after. Max ate 3 cones! Then Kaytee and Max went for adventures in Ibarra while I rested.

I was supposed to go to my house that night but my host family called and said they were running late. I told them I was coming back on January 2nd and even mentioned to them not to add any other locks to the door except the ones I had keys for. Of course they didn't listen and I was locked out of the house. So I waited with Kaytee and Max at their place until my family finally returned around midnight. None of us were very happy with my family... And it meant that Kaytee and Max never really got to meet my family. Oh well...

Then we headed to Otavalo and bought pretty things. The market is huge on Saturdays but we went on a Monday. This meant that there were only about 1/3 of the stalls and vendors. I think my sister and Max were glad for that because it meant they didn't have so much to choose from. I can't decide which way I like it better. It's pretty awesome on Saturdays but mobbed with tourists.

Quito was next. We got in a little late so we went to dinner at a yummy Thai place. After dinner we went and played beer pong with some of my friends from Quito. I won! The next day we took the TeleferiQo to the top of the mountain near Quito. It was beautiful! But unfortunately it was also cloudy that day and we couldn't see a lot. Next we went to Mitad del Mundo and saw the statue of the fake equator and went to a museum on another fake equator (the equator has changed with advancements in technology and GPS). The museum was so cool and talked all about cultures in Ecuador, especially in the jungle. We even got to see a life-size statue of a 3ft tall jungle man. Everyone in this tribe is short and their limbs are disproportionate to their body. I thought the funniest thing was that the men tied up their penises so that the "penis fish" couldn't swim inside. Clever. At the museum they showed you how water drains differently (it was a trick) and how you can balance an egg on a nail. I balanced the egg on the nail! Kaytee and Max didn't :). Then Kaytee and I went out for a sisterly dinner at a wine and tapas bar. The wine was good but the food was weird. You don't get to pick it and they just keep bringing it out in circles.

The last day in Quito was spent going to historic Quito to look at churches. It's a pretty area but there just isn't much to do. After we met up with my friend Peter and his cousin Alexander for fish soup (eceboillado). Then Alexander offered to take us to a museum (the same one I had been to before). This poor little car almost didn't make it up the hill! But we made it and the museum was great again. Guayasamin is awesome.

After that we went up the statue of the Virgin of Quito and hiked our way back down to the restaurant. Apparently the hike was unsafe and even had signs pained about robbers and such. But Peter promised it was safe so we did it anyway. Then we had a nice Ecua-dinner on the rooftop terrace of a hotel. Kaytee and Max went to the airport after that and I said goodbye to them. It was such a nice visit!

Now I'm back in Ibarra but I'm heading to Quito again because my friend who lives in another province is coming in. Then I start classes again on Wednesday. Crazy how time flies!

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Sorry blog-readers, I know it has been a long time since I've updated.

My trip back to the states was mostly uneventful. Except for the classic Ecua-ness I experienced right before leaving. I told my family I needed to catch a train by 7pm so I needed to leave the house at 6:30pm. 6:15 rolled around and my host family was nowhere to be found. The girl who works for my host mom just asked me to wait for them. So I waited. 6:30 came and went and still no sign of them. At 7pm they came through the door like nothing had happened and asked me what time I needed to leave again. I told them 30 minutes ago and they looked at me like I was nuts. I'm telling you, time means nothing to Ecuadorians.

Then I met up with some friends in Quito and turned out to have the role of "translator" for a date between Peter's cousin and a girl from Colorado. It was definitely interesting seeing as my Spanish isn't that great yet. But in the end they seemed to like each other.

Then I caught my flight back to the States and made it to Miami. My first meal was real Chinese food. It was wonderful. Chinese food in Ecuador tastes a bit like tar. While I was eating my food I contemplated all the things I had done in just a few short minutes that I hadn't done in months (flush toilet paper, use my debit card, and drink from a water fountain). After I had a long layover in Miami I made my way to the plane to go to Cleveland. However, when everyone got on the bus to go to the commuter plane we found out there was no crew. Apparently the crew was delayed and no one told the bus driver or the gate workers. Thankfully it was Miami and not Cleveland where I was stranded outside. Eventually the crew showed up and I made it back to Cleveland after a nice 15-16 hours of travel. Then back in the states I said hello to my kitties and drifted off to sleep with the smell of dryer sheets filling my nostrils.

The next morning I started my American holiday adventure filled with lots of non-ecua food and family. I headed to both Columbus and Pittsburgh on my adventure and got to see a whole lot of my family. I even got to skype with my dog, Brady! I made cookies, sang Christmas carols, and opened presents. I also got a lovely facial with my aunt Ginny. The most adventurous part of my trip was definitely when I tried to go cross-country skiing. Apparently I'm not so cut out for it because I fell a million times. Three-fourths of the way through I decided to take off my skis and just walk. It was a brilliant idea. My dad and I also attempted a super hard puzzle of Machu Picchu. I left with about 100 pieces to go. I got to see my friend Amanda in Columbus too! I haven't seen her in forever!

And I even got pulled over for the first time by a police officer on Christmas. I was driving out of a gas station because I filled up before heading back to Cleveland. I made a U-turn at the light because I needed to go in the other direction. Apparently those are illegal in Columbus. Who knew? So the nice police officer flashed his lights at me and I pulled out my handy-dandy North Carolina driver's license and said I wasn't from there. He told me to have a great Christmas and not to make U-turns in Columbus anymore. (I don't think I told my dad that story yet, opps).

If I didn't get to wish you a Merry Christmas then here you go: Merry Christmas!

I'm so glad I got to see everyone and I'll probably be back in July to see you again. The next post about New Year's and Kaytee and Max's visit will come soon!