Monday, September 12, 2011

My Love-Hate Relationship with Ecuador

After having lived in Ecuador for a complete year I have become accustomed to many things Ecua, but I have also realized that there are just some I will never adapt to. The other night I went to a restaurant with my boyfriend and as usually he ordered something “strange” in my opinion. He ordered “hubre” which he orders on a regular basis yet I always look at it and hesitantly ask, “what part of the animal is that again.” He always laughs before he tells me... well, makes a motion, which tells me that it would be the cow’s boobs. Then he waits for the same reaction that I always give, a slight cringe as I try to act like it is completely normal to me.

This got me thinking of all of the other things that I still think are “weird” or more appropriately, annoying. I realized that the things that ABSOLUTELY DRIVE ME CRAZY about this country are also the same exact things that I ABSOLUTELY LOVE.

Here is my I hate it, but I love it list:

1. No sense of time... at all

HATE: The other day I was at my wits end waiting for people. First, I was meeting people at the bus station at 8:00 to travel back to Portoviejo. I waited for 40 minutes before giving up and getting on the bus by myself... I had a job to get to but no one else seemed to have anywhere particular to get to. Yet, they casually walk onto the bus as it is leaving and say “I cant believe you were going to leave us.” Then I waited in my office for a friend to eat lunch with me... an hour and a half later I went to get lunch by myself. I was OVER IT and ready for SOMEONE to show up on time... or at all!

LOVE: That same day as I finished class at 6:00 I was trying to finish up some work quickly and get home when a friend of mine stopped by to say hi. I hadn’t seen him in weeks and it was so great to catch up. He had nowhere he NEEDED to be so we just chatted for about an hour and then he had plenty of time to drive me home. I didn’t feel rushed at all in our conversation and we were both very present, not thinking about the other 5 million things we needed to do. I am going to miss that!

2. The Spanish Language... particularly “regalar”

Well first off, I just LOVE the Spanish language but I HATE how much I mess up. No matter how much I practice, question, and study I just still mess up the simplest things.... stupid masculine and feminine words. I mean what characteristics does a table have to make it feminine or a problem to make it masculine. AHHH

So this word “regalar”

HATE: The word literally means “to gift” which I don’t think is a verb in English and if it is it certainly isn’t used often. Well Ecuadorians LOVE to use it. It really isn’t the word itself that annoys me, it is the way that they say it. Ecuadorians are always asking to get something for free “regalame un poquito mas de.... fill in the food/object/etc here” meaning “give me a little more ___ for free.” There is a unique tone that fellow volunteers and I refer to as the “ecua whine” and it is VERY overused when they say “regalar.” Imagine people going into a store or restaurant and saying in a whinny voice “just give it to me for free...” ANNOYING

LOVE: This word is also used in a very poetic and beautiful way that reminds me why I love the Spanish language. After spending a day with friends one might say “gracias por regalarme este dia contigo”-translation- “thank you for gifting me this day with you” or “gracias por regalarme tu compania” -translation- “thank you for gifting me your company.” BEAUTIFUL :)

3. Greetings

HATE: Okay so a couple of months ago I went to meet some friends on a Saturday night. So I arrived and gave a nice wave and big “hola, como estas” to everyone. Then I proceeded to talk to a friend and ask him how his week had been. He totally gave me the cold shoulder and when I asked what was wrong he said that I didn’t greet him properly. Meaning I did not give him a kiss on the cheek when I arrived. Okay, I had lived here nine months and should have known better, but still I thought I was giving him sufficient attention by saying hi and asking about his week. That same night 3 other friends came over to “yell” at me about not properly greeting them. AHHH

LOVE: It is tiring and often awkward to walk up to everyone at a party and say hi and in my case “nice to meet you”, kiss them on the cheek and then repeat the whole process before leaving. However, it is so nice that you walk into a party and are introduced to everyone and talk to the whole room. In an American party you can easily go and talk to only the same people you arrived with. People can often be very separated with their own group of friends and the greeting tradition in Ecuador really breaks the ice and makes everyone interact. Once again, so much more human contact.

4. Rice

HATE: So I have eaten more rice in this year than my all of my previous 22 years combined. To put it simple, I am sick of rice.

LOVE: However, there is this part of the rice called “cocolon” that is so delicious. It is the burnt part of the rice that is scraped off the bottom of the pot... you have to ask for it special because there is only so much of it and it is in high demand. Too bad I am never going to make a batch of rice big enough to create some good “cocolon.”

Thats it. Living in a different culture can be so frustrating and uncomfortable but it can also be so amazing and mind opening when you take time to look for the positive. Thanks Ecuador :)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Is this soccer or a beauty pageant?

Round 2... back in Ecuador :)

So my contract with Worldteach ended in July but I just wasn't quite ready to leave Ecuador and the life I have created here. I had an amazing break and trip home for 3 weeks where I was able to eat some DELICIOUS food and spend time with my family and a few friends. I got back to Ecuador a couple of weeks ago and I couldn't be happier with my decision to stay. Life is very different because my Ecua life partner (Krista, the other Portoviejo worldteach volunteer) left me to start grad school. It was so nice this past year to have someone to share the experience with that really understands everything. For example, Krista was there to feel awkward with me when people talk about taboo topics like salary or weight ALL THE TIME and she was there me to feel awkward together when everyone else was completely comfortable just staring at us. Now its just me battling these things but having her here for so long definitely helped me prepare and she still enjoys the stories from afar :) Since I have been back I have been very happily busy and my friends have been great about stopping by to see me at my office, coming running with me, and all those fun things that Krista used to do with me.

Me and Krista before rafting in Banos, Ecuador

Classes have gotten off to a great start... I am especially enjoying my intermediate class because when I started with them a year ago they could say "My name is..." (kind of) and now they can make sentences like "Yesterday I was talking to my sister when my mom called" and "Diamonds are more expensive than pearls." That is a BIG change. Unfortunately I am still having to teach some beginner classes... I mean all of the students are great but it just gets old teaching "What time is it" and "What are you wearing" over and over. In October 3 new volunteers... yes THREE!... are coming to Portoviejo. Two guys and one girl will be coming so I will be able to teach more advanced levels which will be exciting and a fun new challenge.

I also have been teaching about 5 or 6 private lessons every week. They definitely keep me busy and it is a nice switch up from a large class dynamic. I am also continuing my private Spanish lessons... I am only taking class about once a month or so but I really enjoy having someone to ask questions to that actually knows how to explain and has a lot of patience.

What has been taking a lot of my time is SOCCER. I have been playing a lot since I got back because I am participating in a tournament. We have jerseys and all! Mine of course says "Heder" which you will note in the picture... I think that is my separate Ecua persona haha Heather at home, Heder abroad.

So the first day of the tournament I showed up ready to play soccer, but I forgot something SUPER important. Oh no, my 5 pounds of makeup! I forgot soccer is not just a sport, it is also a beauty competition. Really.... there was a beauty pageant to kick of the tournament! One girl from each team participated, they brought dogs, their babies, sashes, skirts, tights, and their teams soccer jersey. I wish I had a picture... I should have seen it coming I mean I have been in Ecuador for a year, but I was too in shock to tell my friends to snap pictures.

My team did not win the beauty pageant, but once we started actually playing we kicked butt! We won 6-0 and have 2 games left to play (we play every Saturday). Unfortunately on practice last Thursday I pulled a muscle in my leg, but I think I have recovered and should be able to play tonight.

I will keep you updated on our results!!!!