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!