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!