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!!