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.