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!