Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mom and Dad come to Ecuador!!!!!!!!

Right before Christmas my parents made it down to visit me in Ecuador! My last day of classes was December 15th and I hopped right on a bus after class to go meet them in Guayaquil. They got in late so we stayed at a hotel and then got right back on a bus first thing in the morning to bring them to Portoviejo. Yes, my dad rode in Ecuadorian buses. I am pretty sure that they would have failed his safety inspection miserably but they got us to where we needed to be. My family fixed us a huge Ecuadorian lunch with shrimp as a treat. They were somehow shocked when my parents got here and they really didn't speak any Spanish... they looked at me and said "you weren't lying...not one word." My host mom was really cute and tried to use her limited English to communicate. My favorite was when she said "you English, me Spanish, big problem." Even though there was a lot of translating involved I thought the conversation moved along pretty well. That afternoon I took my parents to my University so they could see my classroom and office and also because there is nothing else to show them in Portoviejo... we got back to the house and had dinner with my host family and then my friend Krista came over to meet my parents. We all sat around and talked and then my little brother insisted that we play both playstation soccer and soccer on the patio to "show my parents how we play." My host family took off work and school for my parents visit so they decided to take us on one of their epic beach trips... this always beens hours in the car and limited time at the beach. On this particular day they decided to invite our housekeeper to come along for the first time which meant we were packing 8 people in a 5 person truck. It also happened to rain for the first time in 4 months so we couldn't ride in the back. There is nothing like sitting on top of each other for 4 hours to bond some families... We made it back to Portoviejo in time to catch our bus to Guayaquil but on our way there with about 15 minutes to spare I remembered that I had left my passport in my room. AHHHH We somehow made it back to the house and to the bus before it left-- it was the first time I was happy that everything runs behind schedule.

In the morning we left from Guayaquil to the GALAPAGOS!!!!! We stayed on Santa Cruz island where we got to see a bunch of giant turtles up close at the Charles Darwin Station. They were surprisingly active but every time I tried to get close for a picture they had this creepy deep throat sound... it freaked me out. Santa Cruz is also home to Tortuga Bay... a beautiful white sand beach. We had to walk 30 minutes from the entrance of the park to even reach the beach but it was beautiful. We planned two day trips and the first trip was to Bartolome Island. We took a two hour boat ride to get there and then hiked up the volcanic comb to an amazing view where we could see the Penacle Rock- it is the most photographed view in Galapagos. We went snorkling around the Penacle rock and got to see some Sea Lions swimming and active on the beach. We even saw a penguin but it looked surprisingly like a duck when it was swimming. The next day we went to Isabela island where we saw Flamingos, a white tipped shark, penguins fishing :), and TONS of iguanas. We even saw a giant turtle on the beach that our tour guides helped back to sea. We went snorkling again and then headed back to Santa Cruz for dinner and drinks.

We flew back to Guayaquil the next morning and had all day to explore the city. We walked along the river and people watched for awhile and then walked up 444 stairs to a nice view of the city. Guayaquil is one hectic city! That night we took advantage of the hotel and mom and I spent some time in the hot tub and pool. We had a nice breakfast the next day and then mom and dad headed off to the airport. I took advantage of that hot shower one more time and then went to the terminal to catch a bus to Portoviejo.

We had a great time and it was definitely the best Christmas gift I could have asked for!

New Years is coming up and I am looking forward to the fun Ecuadorian traditions... then my best friend is visiting for a week! I am feeling lucky these days... anyone else want to book a plane flight?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Many small steps, one giant leap towards REAL LIFE!

So I have been here 3 months... what?!?! Time has really flown by... I can’t believe it is already December. These past few weeks have been key to me feeling like my life here is real. I was lucky to have a lot of breaks in the beginning and get to travel, but staying in Portoviejo makes me realize that I am not just a tourist passing through, I live here and I have finally made some steps to being Portovejense.

Step 1:
I am now a discount card owner at the local grocery store. (Yes, I know you are proud of my money saving ways Megan Holt). I often get asked by Ecuadorians to let them use my card... those are very proud moments.

Step 2:
I now am getting paid regularly and know how the system works at the bank. I can officially deposit and withdraw money without a big scene. yay

Step 3:
This is probably the biggest step... Krista and I found a group of girls to play soccer with twice a week! It was such a nerve racking experience getting it started... we went to this soccer complex where we were told girls play every Wednesday at 7. We got there super early of course (I have not converted to Ecua time yet...aka being at least 30 minutes late to everything) and at 6:50 there was still not a single girl in sight. Finally, right at 7 a few girls come up. We were nervously discussing different ways to approach them and ask if we could play when one of the girls came over and asked if we were here to play with them. YESSSSS we were so excited. Now they know our names (that took a bit) and we play with them twice a week. They aren’t particularly good, but it is a lot of fun. They are actually scared of Krista and I... they duck or get out of the way when we shoot. Off the field though we are really hopeful that this can be a route to some girlfriends (which are almost impossible to find here). They actually asked us to stay after the game and have a beer with them! Progress!!!!

Step 4:
Friends... I have some. I only have one girl-friend who I met through my host family, but she came over the other day and we watched Mean Girls. As you girls know, that pretty much solidifies a friendship. My guy friends are really great and a lot of fun. We had a fun movie night last night where we all got together and watched Get Him to the Greek. They are really sweet and always looking out for me. It is really convenient to have them around when we go out because if a creepy guy is hitting on me... this happens way to often...I just make one of them pretend to be my boyfriend. This is the only thing that seems to work with the guys here because no one gets a hint when I am trying to ignore them and they don’t seem to believe me when I outright say “I don’t want to talk to you.” Thank goodness for friends.

Step 5:
Teaching... I feel like a REAL teacher now. I have really gotten the hang of teaching and lesson planning appropriately for their different levels (well, almost... I am still struggling with my Beginner 2 class, but I can see the light). I can’t express how exciting it is to here them speak. My Beginner 1 class is the most exciting because I know that I taught them EVERYTHING that they know. The first week they could say the alphabet and count, now they say sentences like “My cousin is tall and has brown eyes and long, brown hair” or “English class is at 4:30 in the afternoon on Monday.” We are spending a lot of time working on questions, but that will always be a struggle.

My students and I have a lot of fun in class and while I still have problems with cellphones, talking, cheating, and coming late, they know the rules and don’t fight with me when I enforce them. Most of them willingly hand over their cellphones... I actually had mine taken in class the other day when it rang :) Rules are rules. We have final exams in 2 weeks so I am trying to plan a helpful review week. Now I really understand what teachers meant when they said “I don’t want to trick you, I really want you to do well.” I know that all of my students can pass if they study and participate in review this week... I think I might be more nervous than they are. My Beginner 1 students are really excited about moving up to the next level and keep asking me if I am going to be their teacher still. August is so far off but they always approach me really worried and ask about what will happen after I leave in August... I explained that new volunteers would come, but it does feel good that they seem to enjoy my class.

Step 6:
Volunteering... okay unfortunately there is not much progress on this step, but efforts are being made so it is bound to happen eventually. We went to this meeting for an organization called JCI that is an international non-profit. It was probably the most uncomfortable experience of my life... we got there at 9:30 (even though the meeting was scheduled for 8) and then it actually started at 10. This meeting lasted until midnight... why, you might ask. Well because we had to each stand up one at a time and introduce ourselves. This of course does not mean simply “Hi, my name is ___ and I work ___.” No, we had to spend at least 5 minutes on each person while they described in depth the impact that JCI has had on their lives or why they are interested in working with JCI. My introduction was about 15 seconds long and I don’t even remember what I said... afterwards, of course the other volunteers had to answer a few questions about ourselves in front of the group. Then, why not, we were in the group photo that will be used on websites etc. They are very into posing and taking photos so that was a long process. There was time to stay and talk at the end and we actually met some really nice young people then, but the organization overall doesn’t seem to do much. It seems like it is a leadership development program for the members and they go to a lot of seminars and on trips, but they don’t seem to do much hands on service.

Since that didn’t work out I talked to my host family about different opportunities. My host brother has autism so I asked about any programs that he has been involved with here and there is a foundation for kids with special needs. She promised to take me and introduce me to the organization after Christmas! I am really excited about his possibility so we will see where that goes...

Time to go do some lesson planning...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Full Adventure!

I have decided that “Full” is my favorite word in the Spanish language... even though it is really English. Full is used to mean “a lot of” or “many.” For example, “hay full gente aqui” means “there are a lot of people here.” It is wildly over used and cracks me up... when I was on a trip recently to Banos there were signs everywhere that said “Full motos” or “Full music.” This will most likely be a large part of my vernacular now... even in English.

I have had FULL adventures recently! A couple of other volunteers and I traveled to Banos which is a town about 2 hours from Quito that is known for outdoor adventure activities. It was BEAUTIFUL! It was basically the picture of Ecuador that I had before visiting... green everywhere with beautiful waterfalls. We decided to take advantage of our time there and do everything we could.

Our first day we went white water rafting. My family and I really enjoy rafting so I have been quite a few times, but this surpassed them all! They definitely had the most intense rapids that I have seen so far... our guide said that it is usually more intense when the water is higher. That night we went on a chiva ride which is basically an open air bus. We were supposed to be able to see the volcano when we got to the top, but there was too much fog :( We still had a great time standing around a bonfire and chatting with random people... aka little kids that wanted to take pictures with us. By the way, I learned the word for bonfire (fogata) one of my first weeks here and I never realized it would come in so handy. There are full fogatas here!

The next morning we went canyoning... basically repelling and sliding down waterfalls. It was so much fun! We repelled down 5 waterfalls and we were really lucky to have a guide just between the 3 of us rather than going with a big group. That afternoon we went mountain biking... it turned out to be quite a long “trail” but it was a great, cheap way to see the beauty of Banos.

PS. each of these adventures included a nice uphill climb that they failed to advertise... we had to carry the raft up the first one. Our guide later told us that we were “mujeres super fuertes”... very strong women. We later tried to take cute pictures in our wetsuits which we discovered was impossible and our guide told us to just stick to being fuerte... hmmm This fuerza came in handy later when secret hikes were part of canyoning and mountain biking as well.

That night we were EXHAUSTED to say the least. We got some sleep and then headed to Ambato the next day. Ambato is a city that is 45 minutes from Banos. There are 5 volunteers stationed in Ambato so we got to hang out with them for the night!

It was a great trip... definitely worth the 11 hour bus ride each way. (ahhh) Full bus!

I made it back just in time for my next adventure... going to a Quinceanera (15th birthday party) with my host parents. It was some cousin of a cousin’s birthday and it was a blast!!!!! EVERYONE dances at these events... there were maybe 2 people left in their chairs. My host dad told me that I don’t dance “too gringa”... I am taking that as improvement on my dance skills haha At midnight we experienced "hora loca" where girls in costumes showed up and passed our boas/glasses/hats/balloons/etc and everyone went CRAZY for an hour. It was hilarious.

Definitely some great adventures! Hopefully I will have pictures up soon :)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Top 10 things that Ecuadorians Love

So I have been here for awhile now and I have noticed that there are a few things that Ecuadorians just freaking LOVE!!! Here they are....

#10. The Simpsons
Seriously... the Simpsons are everywhere! There is a bar here with Homer on the sign, the Simpsons are always on TV during lunch hour, and it there are ALWAYS reruns on TV. I don't know what it is... but its true.

#9. Wafers
Yes, wafers. Almost every single piece of Ecuadorian candy includes a wafer. I am already over wafers.

#8. Yelling things in English
Okay, maybe not everyone things this should be in the top 10 list, but I sure do here a lot of people yelling in English. Mainly I here "hello" "beautiful" "how are you". Some people get a little ambitious and say "see you later." Occasionally, there are complete sentences and when I hear those I am not annoyed, just impressed.

#7. Speed walking - "marchar"
Yes, Ecuador has sent somebody to the olympics in this sport and they brought home a medal! Of this they are very proud. At the local track there is a big statue in his honor. At first this was funny to me, then, while I was jogging at the track I got lapped by a speed walker. It is not so funny anymore...

#6. Soup
Oh my gosh...they LOVE soup! Some parts of Ecuador are cold, however, on the coast, where I live, it is VERY hot. The heat does not deter this love of soup. We have soup every single day for lunch. The soups are delicious, homemade soups, but I often break quite the sweat during lunch hour.

#5. Honking their horns
This is sometimes aimed in my direction, but mostly they just like honking their horns. There aren't a whole lot of traffic laws, well at least that people follow, so people use this as a sign that they are coming through the intersection. I guess it is a safety thing, but good lord I can't go five minutes without hearing a car horn!

#4. Dancing
Yes they DO love dancing and I am so glad! I have not gone one weekend without participating in a dance party... this happens at random peoples houses, at bars, at discotecs, at festivals, outside of the school, etc. They are ALWAYS ready to dance. Proud moment: my ipod was actually used for the salsa/bachata portion of a dance party. My ipod is NEVER used for parties in the US... my music is finally appreciated :)

#3. Beauty Queens
This is no lie... they LOVE beauty queens. There is a beauty queen for each festival, each city, each fire department, the list goes on and on. I even went to a non-profit conference and there was a beauty pageant segment. They do not joke around about beauty queens either- just a word of advice if you ever visit.

#2. Karaoke
Wow... they love their Karaoke. Apparently this is a new phenomenon in the past few years, but whenever I meet new people they always want to take me to a karaoke bar. They love it. However, people do not get up and dance, sing, and have a big performance. No, they sit calmly in their chairs and sing their hearts out.

#1. Rice
Was their really a question about what would be #1... I have consumed more rice here in these 2 months than I have ever consumed in my life. I am not completely sick of rice yet which is good...I just kindly dont eat the giant portion they give me each time. However, they do know how to cook some good rice. I need to get lessons while I am here.

That is my list! I love this country :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Traveling out of the dust

This past week I had vacations to celebrate "PortoViejo day." The other PortoViejo volunteer (Krista) and I decided to travel out of our dust cloud for the weekend and took a bus up to Cuenca. Cuenca is a beautiful, historical town in the mountains of Ecuador. We were able to see a lot of beautiful churches and check out a few museums. The museums didn't have very extensive collections, but they were free and fun to look through. Our favorite was the modern art museum... there were only three rooms, but in one there was a "googly-eye" piece. Basically it was a bunch of googly eyes glued to rocks and placed on metal rods... but we had a nice picture shoot there. As Krista said, "I don't understand... thats how I know its modern."

After our day of exploring the museums and churches we decided to take a day trip to Guallaceo where there was supposed to be a nice market. Fail... the market is only on Sundays. We ended up just walking around the city for a little bit, but we did find some delicious mangos! (There was a large fruit and meat market) We went back to Cuenca and found a market there where we did a little touristy shopping. That night, we met up with the Cuenca WorldTeach volunteers... unfortunately they had to work during the day. One of them brought their host cousin and her friends and we went to a salsa club where we proceeded to make fools of ourselves :) Her cousin wanted to stop by a law school graduation party of one of her friends and somehow we got invited to come along. One of my favorite things about Ecuador can also be a little awkward... every time you enter a room you better greet every singly person by kissing them on the cheek. Everyone was sitting in a large circle at the party so the 6 of us lined up and took on the circle... luckily no one asked for my name this time because that can really slow up the process. Hele...Jeda... Heder...yep thats it.

That volunteer has quite a large extended host family and another one of her cousins invited us to his country house on Saturday. We spent the night out there with a bunch of new friends, played a little soccer (US vs Ecuador... the US held its own), and made a Fogata (campfire). Of course there was someone playing the guitar as we sat around the fire and made "smores." I put that in quotes because smores here turned out to be roasted marshmallows with a little chocolate syrup on them. I would not recommend it... chocolate syrup somehow ended up on EVERYTHING.

Sunday morning we took our 8 hour bus ride back to PortoViejo... a little rough but we made it. Luckily we planned to come back with a day to spare before teaching so we could rest and lesson plan. We also were able to attend the last night of the "Feria de PortoViejo." It was a legit fair! One of my students and his friends showed us around and took us on some rides... The Terminator, The Pirate, and the Ferris Wheel. The Ferris Wheel by the way is not just for the view... that thing moves fast here. I explained to my friend that it is much slower in the US and he said thats because you like to relax in the US and people in Ecuador like to have fun :) haha

Random Updates:
--I FINALLY OPENED MY BANK ACCOUNT!!!!!! I have never felt so successful
--My students did well on their test and I am pretty sure no one cheated... there were 2 forms of the test, they were sitting every other seat, and their bags/materials were at the front of the room... I tried all of the teacher tricks. One of the students tried to copy his notes on a little piece of paper before the test and when I asked him what he was doing he simply said, "Teacher it is notes for test." You think he would at least try to hide it...
--Last but not least.... for all of you who haven't heard, my little brother made the UNC-CH Varsity Basketball team!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I had to throw that in there- I am so proud :)

Friday, October 8, 2010


So I have been here for 2 months and I can hardly believe it. Being in Ecuador is finally starting to feel like my real life rather than just a vacation. This is very exciting because I am becoming comfortable with my host family, starting to develop some sort of a routine, and beginning to feel like a real teacher. However, with real life comes real frustrations.

Today I went to the bank to open an account...this is necessary if I ever want to get paid by my University. It also needs to happen somewhat soon so that I can in turn pay my host family. So... this morning I paid for a taxi to the bank since I was carrying my passport and I didn´t want to risk it getting stolen on the bus. When I get to the bank they tell me that foreigners can´t open accounts. I try to go into the details of my visa and they explain that I need an additional form of ID from immigration as well as copies of a bill from my house to prove that I live here. I can get the bills easily, however they don´t have my name on them so I am not sure how this proves anything. The ID on the other hand isn´t so easy... I would have to go to a major city (at least 6 hours by bus) to even try to get one and I doubt they will even be able to give me another form.

This is all very frustrating, but luckily I have a big support systerm here from the University, WorldTeach, and my host family. I am sure this will all get figured out and as they say in Ecuador... Asi es la vida (thats life). This whole process really got me thinking about being an immigrant in the US and if I am experiencing this kind of bureaucratic frustration in Ecuador... it must be 10 times worse in the US. Plus I have a huge support system to help me figure this out, which is not the case for many immigrants in the US. As much as I don´t want to experience more frustrations associated with being a foreigner here, I think that each one will help me better understand the process of immigration and how it affects people.

I am also realizing... I AM REALLY A TEACHER! I am giving a test on Tuesday and this kind of solidified it for me. I am excited to see how my students do on the test, but I am very nervous about having to deal with cheating. So far I feel like I have been able to be authoritative, but still a fun teacher. I am definitely going to be strict about cheating, but I don´t want to have to deal with the list of excuses that follow me failing them. By the way, Ecuadorians are the kings and queens of excuses! First, they give you an excuse then they bring their mother or parents into it and then they bring in the secretary. The secretary usually tends to think we just don´t understand their excuse because our Spanish isn´t good enough. I understand fine... I just don´t think that coming into a class an hour late everyday is acceptable even if it is because of your job. The Ecua-whine... another (permanent) frustrating in my Ecua-life.

I am off to a play with some friends (yes, friends!). Tomorrow I am headed to a nearby beach town for a surfing competition... ahh coastal life. Frustrations don´t last too long here :)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Calm down Ecuador...

So Ecuador got a little crazy the last couple of days... I woke up on Thursday to news of a police strike in Ecuador. I soon realized that this meant the ENTIRE police force in the whole country. It also took me way too long to realize that the President had bee kidnapped... my family laughed when they realized I hadn´t caught on to that, but then preceded to give me a much needed run down of the situation. I quickly got a call from WorldTeach and was told to stay in my house all day (unfortunately there is no internet there...sorry for the late report). This was all a little alarming, but everyone was pretty calm about the news and PortoViejo was pretty calm. Basically, everyone in PortoV just stayed inside to avoid getting robbed and all of the craziness stayed in Quito. I was home with my host family all day completely safe. Now everything is back to normal and the police are back to work...

As far as teaching goes... I am starting my third week on Monday! I have 3 classes: Beginner 1 (17 students), Beginner 2 (10 students), and Intermediate 1 (6 students). The numbers are lower than expected since I was told I would have 40 students, but I am very glad. The class of 6 is a little hard to plan fun activities for so unfortunately that class is more boring than the rest, but luckily they are advanced enough to be able to do some writing and reading activities. Lesson planning is tough... I have developed a whole new respect for all teachers. It is quite time consuming, but it is also really exciting to see the activities play out in class and see the students actually using the material themselves. My students who barely knew the ABC´s can now say things like "The book is next to the desk." You guessed it... last week we focused on classroom objects and prepositions.

My beginner class has been going great and I have been using the same material for beginner 1 and 2. The students are very close in ability, however I need to start finding ways to challenge my level 2 students more as the cycle goes on. My intermediate class has been my biggest struggle... it is hard to figure out what they already know and what they need to focus on. I got excited about being able to do more advanced activities with them and COMPLETELY BOMBED trying to teach in depth weather vocabulary...wrongly assuming that they would know the base vocabulary and understand the difference between adjectives and nouns (ex: cloud and cloudy). It was rough, but good to learn this lesson so early and now we are continuing with our weather theme, but in a much more appropriate way.

On a fun note... I am enjoying living on the coast. Last weekend a few volunteers and some friends we met in Quito met up in Montañita... a beach town about 4 hours away. We had a great weekend that involved a lot of dancing and a somewhat successful beach bon fire. Today I caught a ride to the beach for a day trip with Krista, the other PortoV volunteer, and her host family. This one was only about an hour and a half away... not quite as close as the beach in Charleston, but I will take it!

I already have my lesson plans for Monday so I am starting this week feeling prepared!

Friday, September 17, 2010


I have officially settled in at my year long placement... PortoViejo. It is a nice little dust cloud about 30 minutes from the beach. Before arriving I asked around about what people thought about PortoV and all I got in response was, "hay mucho polvo," aka its dusty. They did not lie... it is extremely dusty and not the prettiest city. A lot of cement buildings with plenty of potholes, open man holes, and random poles sticking out of the ground. For those of you who know how clumsy I am, you realize how dangerous this is for me. I have already tripped over many of these random poles/rocks in the middle of the sidewalk... on the upside, maybe I will be forced to learn how to actually walk properly. The cat calls are more prevelant here as well... the other volunteers and I are really the ONLY gringas here so we get a lot of hissing which is a little disturbing. However, I find it pretty hilarious when they imediately yell out whatever they know in English... usually it is "hello" or "how are you" but one time I even got a random "see you later." I usually just wear sunglasses so that they cant see me rolling my eyes.

So at face value PortoV isn´t the greatest city, but I love it here so far. The people are really nice (once we get past the hissing) and my family is great! I have walked around some and have been to a couple of parts, but there is still a lot of PortoV for me to explore.

What I do know... my family! My host parents (Maria and John) both work at Plan, which is an international non profit that works with kids in and around PortoViejo (as well as Africa, Chile, etc). I am trying to learn more about it and I was able to go to work with my host dad the other day... they are filling out reports for the donors so we went out to the country (and I mean COUNTRY) to take pictures of the kids and their families. I was able to try a lot of exotic fruits along the way! I also met a PeaceCorps volunteer that lives out there and we are going to be in touch to maybe work together on a project or hang out. My host parents are really sweet and very attentive to my needs- they are always checking on me and force feeding me about 15 tangerines a day. They dont seem to understand this idea of "I´m not hungry"... somehow in Spanish that translates wrong and they always ask "you dont like it?".

I also have 2 host brothers... 8 year old twins :) John William and John Henry-- lots of Johns. John William is so sweet and is OBSESSED with soccer. Pretty much anytime he sees me he says "Jedher, jugamos" (Heather, lets play)... most of the time I play and he is teaching me all about his favorite team- Barcelona. He apparently is going to be their coach one day and knows all of the stats. However, he is a little bit of a cheater right now so we will have to work on that. Whenever we play he is constantly getting random penalty kicks and always screams "no vale, no vale" (doesn't count) whenever I score. A lot of times he says this before I even shoot. John Henry is autistic and he has very limited speech- pretty much just Mama, Papa, and Thomas. His obsession is Thomas the train... he watches those DVD's on repeat about 2 inches away from the screen. He is generally off in his own world but understands almost everything... I am still working on connecting with him, but I think that will come with time.

While I love the boys, they make a lot of noise so I feel extremely lucky to have my own space. I have my own seperate apartment above the families house and it is so nice! I have a kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom as well as a terrace outside. It is fabulous :) As of now I dont have internet there but I might get it installed depending on the cost.

Thats all I know for now... teaching starts on Monday! Wish me luck

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Teaching High...

So I am currently riding a teaching high :) I did my practice teaching in Quito three days last week and I loved it! Although this orientation that I have been going through seems long, it definitely helped prepare me for teaching. I have a million and one ideas floating through my head to teach the students in Portoviejo.

Details on my teaching days... the first day I co-taught with 2 other volunteers and we mainly did get to know you games that helped us figure out the level of our students. I led "Stand up if...", a classic retreat/alternative break activity- I have stored up a few of those over the years :) My students were in Advanced 1 and they were very good speakers... it was difficult because I wanted to be sure to challenge them, but it was fun because I could jump into fun activities right from the start. The first day the theme was daily routines and time. We reviewed simple past, present, and future...which they knocked out of the park. Then, we went over english idioms regarding time. For example, "once in a blue moon," "in the nick of time," and even "five o'clock shadow." The students loved it and even used many of them throughout class the next day. Tuesday was my favorite lesson... we discussed first and second conditional and to introduce the topic we listened to "If I were a boy" by Beyonce. The students filled in the blanks to the song and then we discussed the use of conditional (classic senor brand activity!). At the end of class I had 30 adult ecuadorian students singing a beyonce song in english :)

I still have a lot of room for improvement, but I have never been happier that I signed on to do this for a year! Next week I get to observe 2 other volunteers teaching which will be very helpful.

On another note, I took a one-on-one salsa lesson last week. It is only $6 and hour which is great because I am going to be needing quite a few more lessons. The quote of the day was, "jedther...dejeme guirar" (Heather... let me lead). Apparently I was trying to lead even though I didnt know what I was doing. The intimate nature of salsa is also a little tough for this gringa to fully grasp as I am used to a lot of personal space. I am apparently supposed to stare at him without looking away while being less than an inch away from his face... I could not do this with a straight face. I have another lesson on Thursday which I am sure my instructor is looking forward to :) Learning to salsa/rythm in general is one of my goals for this year.... unfortunately I don't think the salsa clubs in Charleston prepared me as well as I had thought.

This past weekend we had another adventure as a group. We went to Papallacta which has natural hot springs. Then, we came back to Quito and had chocolate and wine night at our directors apartment (which has a gorgeous view of the city!). Her sister in law makes chocolates and was doing market research for her thesis... we willingly participated as participants in this research!

Tomorrow starts my last week in Quito... I cant believe I am moving again so soon.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Otra Semana...

So I have made it through another week in Ecuador and have quite a few stories to tell...

I have settled in nicely with my host family and can't believe I have to leave them in 2 weeks. My host sister and neighbors are so sweet to invite this gringa to do all kinds of things with them... mainly experience the night life. It is great because I feel safe going out with them and I get to practice my Spanish that much more. They also came with me to the "family BBQ" for all of the volunteers and their families. We had a blast and even got to play some soccer. I am loving being surrounded my soccer here... we watched the ¨la Liga¨ game on Wednesday which is the Quito team. My neighbor happens to be a fanatic and we won!!!! so much fun. This afternoon I am meeting some friends to play a little pick up soccer.

After the family BBQ last Sunday my neighbors took my housemate and I to the Equator! It was quite the trek to get out there but it was bacán (I keep learning new ways to say cool). There was live music and lots of picture taking. I will hopefully post some pictures soon.

Speaking of adventures... yesterday I took a trip with about 7 other volunteers to a town called Otavalo. They have a huge market there where I got a pelota (ball) to use in my classroom and a little jewelry. It was fun to haggle a little with the merchants and see all of the random stuff that was sold. We also went to a few of the neighboring towns where we got to see a beautiful waterfall, eat some fresh boscochos (biscoti), and see a lot of scenery along the way. For lunch, one of the people in my group ordered Cuy (Guinnea Pig)... an Ecuadorian specialty. Quoting him, "it tastes like chicken."

Salsa classes last week were a blast! However, they also showed off my inability to dance. According to one of my Ecuadorian friends the class made a big difference so I am scared to know how bad I was prior to the class haha. I signed up for another class on Wednesday so hopefully I wont be embarrasing myself for too much longer :) They also play quite a lot of American "popular" music in the clubs such as the song we all know and love... Vanilla Ice. The dance moves and excitement that I saw accompany that song will forever be burned into my memory haha

We have two more weeks of training left and I start practice teaching tomorrow!!! ahh... I have the advanced 1 group but I am not sure yet how advanced they will be. The first day is group teaching and we are just doing get to know you type games to get a feeling for their abilities and are setting the rules. I teach solo on Tuesday and Wednesday and our group has decided to base the two weeks on an Ecuadorian theme. The students will teach us about Ecuador using grammer/vocabulary/etc that we want them to learn. I am nervous, but it will be nice to have a little time to get used to teaching before I have my own class for the whole year. I will also have the chance over the next two weeks to observe other teachers and to get feedback from my directors/fellow teachers.

This week is going to be super busy and filled with lesson planning, but hopefully I will have another report at the end of the week saying that I didn´t crash and burn.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Hola de Quito!

So I made it to Quito safe and sound... so far it seems kind of like freshman year of college meeting the 32 other volunteers and traveling in packs everywhere we go. I just moved in with my host family and it is finally starting to feel like I am in another country. My host mom´s name is Piedad and she has a 20 year old daughter named Andrea who is "chevere" (cool), but she is super busy. I have another volunteer living with me for this month and Andrea has promised to take us out on the town one night :)

The biggest adjustments so far have been the altitud and the shower... I had a continuing headache for about two days but that was cured after drinking TONS of water. It is also winter here and "esta ay chay chay" aka its cold. During the day it is actually pretty warm, but my house is in the mountains and does not have heat. I have been layering on about half of the clothes in my suitcase while I sleep, but it does the trick. The shower... well it turned off today before I was able to rinse out the shampoo in my hair, but after a few minutes I was able to get some nice cold water to finish my shower. Fun stuff

My orientation schedule is pretty busy and so far they have spent about 2 days teaching us all the possible scams that could occur while we are here. This includes the possibility of getting "mustarded" where I could be walking down the street and all of the sudden have mustard squirted on me... the nice people that come to help with then rob me. Yay cant wait.. it made us all very aware which was the goal, but I am ready to stop discussing the dangers and move on to why we came here. Tomorrow we start getting teacher training! yay

On an exciting note, we have salsa lessons tomorrow and then are venturing out to a salsa club! Yes, 33 gringos at the salsa club...

Here comes the nerd in me... we started Spanish class yesterday and I am loving it! We are divided by level in small groups and we only have 5 in our group which is nice. We will have class for 1 hour each day! We have been discussing specific tenses in detail and today learned a ton of Ecua-isms. We had to go out on the street and ask Ecuadorians to explain words like "poser", "wasted", "friend with benefits", and "mama's boy". haha soon I will be talking like an Ecuadorian :)

Thats all for now... ¡te le vaya bien!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Here goes nothing...

I am headed to the airport at 8 am tomorrow... I just spent a great (although rainy) weekend with my family at the lake followed by a trip to the movies with mom to see Eat, Pray, Love. I can't imagine a better send off!

I don't have many more details now, but here is what I do know:
I will be living in Portoviejo, a small University town near the coast (about 45 minutes). I will be teaching Beginner and Intermediate students at La Universidad Tecnica de Manabi. Apparently I will have up to 40 students in each of my classes... this idea frightens and excites me all at the same time.

I might not have internet for the first couple of weeks but I will fill everyone in more as I get more details.

I love you all! Keep me in your prayers.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I have had a lot of questions about where I am going, why, and where exactly Ecuador is.... so I thought answering those questions would be a good place to start this blog.

See that country between Colombia and Peru??? Thats where I will be! Right smack dab on the equator... I will be in Quito, the capital, for one month doing a very intensive training program. The program includes Spanish classes, education courses about how to teach English, and courses designed to help with cultural adjustment. I will be living with an Ecuadorian family while I am there and yes, I will have running water... it just might be cold. I do not yet know what city I will be in for the rest of the year, but I will post that soon!

Why am I going? I could write about this forever, but to give the short answer I feel that it will be an amazing life experience and help me in my future career goals. For the past couple of years I have been thinking about participating in a service program post college and after teaching ESL classes in Charleston for the past year I know that WorldTeach was the program for me.

To answer a couple of other common questions, Ecuador uses the US dollar and is 1 hour behind the East Coast right now, but they do not observe daylight savings so that will change.

Feel free to post any of your other questions and I will be happy to answer!