22 junio 2007

Hasta Siempre Ecuador

Well, here I am wrapping up my blogging days. One and a half weeks ago, I arrived safely to the St. Louis, MO airport. My luggage was so upset that their traveling days were over that they decided to go to Chicago for one last adventure without me. I was finally able to track them down and bring them home in Nashville, TN (I was in Nashville for my cousin's wedding and to see my beautiful nieces...and sister...and brother-in-law). I would like to share a few last pictures of my students and friends at the Hacienda de Esperanza. I am so proud of these kids. They are speaking and understanding English. When I first began teaching and speaking only English with them in class, I got everything from disgruntled faces to real tears. After a few days, however, they were understanding pretty much everything I said. And now I am receiving e-mails written in English. I am so blessed to have been a part of this school. Above is the older kids in the "Prayer Dome" singing songs in English. I quickly learned that singing in English was a perfect way to make their new language fun and accessible.

Here is Pamela. She's a spunky one who is obsessed with the Disney Channels feature film, "High School Musical." I always had to ask her to stop drawing in class, or organizing her colored pencils, or playing with whatever was near, but even though she was easily distracted, she was a fast learner and has a gift for good English pronunciation.

This is Cristian. He's the leader of the group because he is the oldest. I don't think I've ever heard an American thirteen-year-old say prayers quite like Cristian does. He already has an understanding and love for God that most adults don't have. He can pray in English too.

This is Leo (Leonela). She's usually very quiet in class and I had to choose my words very carefully with her because she seemed to cry very easily. Sometimes, however, she would get into a silly mood that was contagious and made everyone around her laugh. She loved being the first one to turn to the Bible verse during chapel so that she could read it before anyone else.

The three little girls on the left were not my regular students, but because they lived right next to me I would often play outside with them in the afternoons. My favorite thing to do was to watch them playing from inside my house and then when they were out of sight I would sneak out and hide until they came back and then I would jump out and surprise them. They loved it and always humored me with loud screams.

Cati (Catalina) is the tallest and oldest girl in this picture. She was the sweetest girl. At some point during meals or chapel when I was sitting next to her, she would reach over and grab my hand or just touch my arm and look up at me and smile. She was the only girl in my younger students class, so it was refreshing to have such a sweety among the boys.

Here they are: los muchachos. I loved these guys. Jhon is on the left. It's hard to see from this picture, but that day his black pen had exploded and so he had ink all over himself. Most people would have thrown the pen away, but Jhon continued to use it which resulted in even more ink all over himself. I think he's one of those creative minds that needs the right outlet to show his genius. Darwin is next. He's a real perfectionist. When he got a 98 or 99% he would be very sad. His perfectionism did help him in a few good ways though. Pronunciation is the hardest part of learning English, but Darwin will sound like a native if he keeps up where he's at now. It's truly amazing. Andres I've mentioned before because he's the kid that wrote the bible verse "In me, Jesus, you have peach" instead of peace. I love that story. Jorge is the one making the funny face. Go figure. That boy is hilarious and super smart. He's definitely going places. And there he is again below. His birthday is two days before mine, so I told him that someday he should come to the States so that we could celebrate together. I am hoping that it really does happen. I miss Georgie Porgy a lot!

Well, that's it folks. The final blog. There probably won't be anymore Ecuador adventures from this lady for a long time. I'm still transitioning to life back in the U.S. and I think it will take me awhile to be totally fine with not living in Ecuador. Be sure and keep your ears open for jobs in Nashville that might be calling my name! Thanks so much for reading.

31 mayo 2007

Visitantes de Los Estados

Last week I took some time off of school to go to the beach. But as you will soon see, I have no pictures of the beach because it rained the whole two days I was there, so I left. Instead, I went to the rain forest with my friend Megan and her family who was visiting. It was definitely a great alternative to what I had originally planned. In the rain forest, we hung ourselves on a 300 meter cable, 400 ft. above the ground. And then we zipped across at nearly 50 miles an hour. Pretty crazy, but pretty amazing too.
After spending time traveling and sightseeing with Megan's family, I headed back to Tabacundo to be a part of a medical campaign from the United States. A group of about 40 people (including doctors, dentists and nurses) came to our town for a couple days to give free health care and medication to the residents in surrounding areas.
I was able to help out by translating which was a fun and important position. I had never done anything like it before and it was a little nerve-racking at times because I had to be very sure of what the people told me about their medical problems.

Everyone worked very hard and the first day we saw over 450 patients.

During the campaign, I saw and learned many new things including, a ruptured eardrum, how to tell if someone is anemic by looking at their eyes, and an astonishing number of children with no appetite (most likely due to parasites). It was great being able to be a part of this mission and see how many people were helped and through the free health care.

21 mayo 2007

Soy de la U!

One thing that I always regretted about my time in Spain was that I didn't go to a "futbol" game. So I made myself a promise that I would go to one while I was in Ecuador. This past weekend I fulfilled that promise. Now, some people might take the term "fair weather fan" as an insult, but I really don't mind. When I lived with my Ecuadorian family I rooted for the 2006 national champion team, El Nacional. But there wasn't an El Nacional game that I could make it to before I left, so I easily changed my allegiance to a team whose game I could attend. I am now an official fan of La Liga Deportiva Universitaria, otherwise known as La Liga. I even bought a jersey for the occasion. My friends, Megan and Emily went with me, as did our Ecuadorian pal, Jimmy, who is a HUGE Liga fan. Above is a picture of the Liga Stadium, La Casa Blanca.

Here are my friends donning their Liga gear as well.

I caught a nice head shot...action photos are tricky!

The crowd was fun and crazy. We opted for seats on the exciting but safe Northern side of the stadium. The Southern side is known for its extreme craziness (as in throwing things).

The team we were playing against was Emelec, from Guayaquil. They are the blue guys...we are the white ones.

Here's Megan and me. We really enjoyed the game--watching people, smiling at babies, standing in line to buy Salchichas (hot dogs). Oh yeah, and sometimes we watched the game. No but actually we did watch the game pretty intensely. Soccer is a great game because it's fast and almost always exciting. We expected Liga to completely demolish Emelec and were surprised that the blue team gave a good fight. Liga did end up winning, thankfully, so we left happy and now I feel like I really am part of the U!

15 mayo 2007

Subiendo Mojanda

Two weeks ago, the school that I teach at had a holiday. But instead of using this Friday to sleep in late and watch movies all day, everyone decided to climb a mountain. It was a good choice. We all live on the side of the mountain called Mojanda. Every clear day since February I have looked up at the craggy peak of this mountain and had the urge to climb it. Also, one day I was looking at a topographical map of Ecuador and saw that there were lakes on the other side of the peak. This was a trip that I knew I had to take before I went back to the states. So on Friday morning 9 children, 4 adults, and one baby packed snacks, water, coats, hats, and gloves for the hike up the mountain. I was a little skeptical about hiking with kids, especially since the climb was not going to be easy. But honestly during the 4 1/2 hour hike, those children were great. They persevered, didn't complain and genuinly had fun. It was great walking with them.
We only took a couple standing breaks and one sit-down break for snacks. I was really impressed with everyone.
This is Andres eating "chifles" (plantain chips) during the break. He's a fun kid and has an amazing memory for English vocabulary. One time when he was writing a Bible verse in his notebook he wrote: "In Jesus, you have peach." He meant to write "peace", and when I explained what he had written he thought it was hilarious. So now that's a favorite English saying of my 8 and 9 year old class.

This is Cristian, Jhon and Patricia during break. The kids all have trouble saying the word "bird" in class, they pronounce it more like "beard". One day Jhon was reading and said, "the beards have wings to help them fly." I told them what a beard was and why it was important to say "birds have wings..." Jhon continues to point out the "beards flying" and the "birds with beards"--he always gets a big laugh from that one.

Here is Leonela and Jorge. As you can see, Jorge is a Titans fan...well, not really. Leo is really quiet, but every once in awhile she'll get in these really silly moods...it's fun. Jorge is in a continual silly mood--he's so great. He loves Spiderman and always tries to spider bite me with two fingers. He also tries to tickle me a lot and he doesn't believe me when I say I'm not ticklish...he knows better.

So after four hours of walking up...we finally arrived at our destination. And what a prize it was. I think it was one of the most beautiful sights I've seen. It was well worth the struggle.

Martin deserves a gold star for his trek up the mountain. He walked the entire way with his 20lb son, Santiago, strapped to his back. And Martin is not a big guy...I think he comes up to my shoulder (like most average Ecuadorians).

And here we are at Lago Mojanda. The pictures don't capture the tranquility and beauty...it was amazing.

The rest of the clan--those too old and young to hike up--came by car (there is a bumpy road that winds up one side of the mountain to the lake). They also brought all of our food, tents, and wood for fires. Above is Isabella, Maria, and Gladys.

There were little huts that we were able to put all of our stuff in and we even set up a couple tents inside to keep out of the wind. It was helpful, but I still experienced one of the coldest nights of my life. I didn't sleep very much.

Here is Pamela. She's a fiesty one. It's really not that unusual for me to see children carrying machetes anymore. Abigail and Sydney have a birthday coming up!

More views of the lake. Amazing. What more can I say?

We couldn't have picked a better day (it was perfect, except for the cold night). When we woke up there were blue skies and a bright sun to greet us.

Finally this is me with Lorena. She is the wife of Martin and mother to the baby Sanitago, not to mention all of the little girls. She and her husband have dedicated their lives to this orphanage and have taken in all of the girls as their own daughters. They are great people.
So there's another adventure for you. I really though I'd be sore after this one, but thankfully I have no pain or scars left over...only pictures. Enjoy!

03 mayo 2007

Lindo Mindo

Speaking of small worlds, I have a perfect example. Two months ago my friend Megan, from college, came to Quito, Ecuador to live and work here for six months. I was aware that she was coming but our trip were completely separate. Another friend of ours from Truman, Neil, was traveling through South America and stopped for a few days in Quito and Tabacundo to hang out. Then, just two weeks ago, I found out that another girl from Truman, Emily, has been living in Quito, teaching English, since October. I had no idea that she was here! So last weekend Megan, Emily, and I took a short vacation together to a great little town called Mindo. It's one of Emily's favorite places and had been on my list of towns to visit.
Mindo is special becuase although it is only two hours West of Quito, in the mountain region, there is a low growth rainforest that makes the climate warmer. This area is home to hundreds of species of birds including hundreds of species of hummingbirds. Over the course of her time in Ecuador, Emily has made many friends in the tiny town of Mindo. One of her good friends is the owener of a beautiful hostel. Another friend is an adventure guide. So we were all able to take advantage of her friendships with these people and really enjoy our time.

This is Emily, Javier, Megan and I hiking through the hills of Mindo. Below is the hostel where we stayed--complete with hammocks overlooking the bird garden.

Breakfast was accompanied by the sound of hundreds of fluttering hummingbird wings.
Mindo is full of bird experts. I learned that in the continetal US there are 9 species of hummingbirds. In Ecuador (the size of Colorado), there are around 100.

Mindo is not only a great place to relax, but it's also a great place to have an adventure. If whitewater rafting is quite risky enough for you, you should try out whitewater tubing...

All this for only $2.50.

It was a fun weekend and I hope to go back to Mindo before I head home. But next time I think I'll try the zip line through the rainforest canopy.

01 mayo 2007

The Real Culprit: Plantain Balls and How I Ended Up on the Floor of a Bus

[This is a story of something that happened to me a few months ago...enjoy!]

Slashed purses, lifted wallets and stolen cell phones. These are some of the stories told from Quito’s Trolebus—the city’s public transportation notorious for pickpockets. Guidebooks caution tourists from entering this “red zone”, but I wasn’t a “Quito-in-two-days” kind of traveler. I would be living in the city for six months. So I took a chance.

Twelve years ago the Municipal Government of Quito established a new form of public transportation. The hope was to cut down on the amount of smog produced by city busses and to help transport the quickly growing population. The Trolebus was their answer. This line of busses runs on an electrical track going North and South through the city. In the historical part of town, the Trole runs along Guyaquil Street, passing colorful colonial architecture, busy plazas and cobblestone streets. Further North, in the new section of Quito, the line goes along the avenue 10 de Agosto alongside hotels, restaurants, car lots and clothing stores. The cost of a ride is equal to that of a city bus, so the main draw is that the Trole is faster. It only stops at specific points whereas busses stop and go constantly at the whim of the passengers. Because of its relative speed, the Trolebus is generally packed with people—leaving no places to sit (and barely room to stand) during the busy commute to work. It is for this reason that the Trole has been deemed a pickpocket’s heaven. In such cramped quarters it’s nearly impossible to know which shove, push, or budge is unintentional and which is the hand of the person next to you reaching for your wallet. Cautious and alert as you may be, these people are professionals. Many guidebooks and websites, therefore, tell travelers to save themselves the trouble and call a cab.

I heeded this advice during my first week in Quito, but soon realized that a $5 taxi trip could have been a $0.25 Trole ride. That’s $4.75 that could buy three almuerzos (lunches), five Pilsner cervezas, or: two pineapples, four avocados, 25 bananas, 10 mandarin oranges and a guanabana at the market. So I stepped onto the Trole. And I continued to take the Trole for five months without any trouble. That was before the bolon.

Bolones de verde. Those smashed-up plantains, filled with cheese, and rolled into balls of fried goodness. Mmm. I had eaten many bolones and become quite fond of their taste—especially when drizzled with Ecuador’s spicy ají sauce.

One night a friend and I went to share a cup of coffee and bolones. And it was good. The next morning I woke up at my regular hour to teach English classes. My Ecuadorian host-mom had prepared a breakfast of fruit, bread, cheese, and hot tea as always. Typically I ate every bite, but for some reason that morning I was not hungry. When I told Margot, she looked at me strangely and asked if I felt ok. I said I was fine, which I was, but I just didn’t have an appetite. After my first class, though, I started to feel a little weird. My stomach began to ache and I had less energy than normal. I blamed the symptoms on my empty stomach and thought about eating, but I still wasn’t hungry. It was during my next class that I knew something was wrong. Sitting there in front of my student (explaining the difference between “to”, “too”, and “two”), my palms became clammy and I felt that I needed to lie down. As soon as the class was over, I hurried to the closest Trole stop to head for home.

The day was Tuesday and the time was 11:30 am. Generally not a busy time for the Trole, but today the whole city of Quito seemed to be crammed into “my” Trolebus. I worked my way into a space large enough for a broom and grabbed the bar over my head. The windows were all closed and the sun was shining bright—creating a Trole oven. After the first stop I knew I should sit down, after the second stop I knew I should lay down. At the third stop the whole world went black.

I came-to nearly 60 seconds later sprawled on the floor of the Trole. I was in a frightened daze as hands from above lifted me to a seat. Then I realized the horrible reality. My purse was not on my shoulder. My head flew around in all directions, grabbing at my side where the bag had been.

I knew it! The reports were right. It would happen on the Trole that some coward thief would take advantage to rob an unconscious foreign girl. I never should have taken the Trole. Ever. If only I had listened!

And then, in the midst of my cries, “mi bolso, mi bolso!” an older gentleman kindly handed me my purse and told me that it had fallen off my shoulder when I fainted. I stared in awe. How was it possible that no one on the “infamous” Trole had taken the opportunity to steal my purse? How was it possible that someone on the Trole had helped a traveler in distress? Was it possible that not only pickpockets, but good Samaritans as well, rode the Trolebus? At my stop I exited the Trole and decided to take a taxi to my front door rather than risk another faint. I had the next 36 hours of lying in bed (between visits to the bathroom) to realize, unequivocally, that the culprit was my “tasty” bolon de verde form the previous night.
I have since not eaten a single bolon (and not sure if I ever will), but in contrast, I have taken many lovely trips on the “dreaded” Trolebus. According to me, guidebooks should amend their warnings: “stay clear of bolones de verde and enjoy your faint-free ride on Quito’s Trole!”

18 abril 2007


I sent out an email with pictures attached but for some reason a few people didn’t get them. So I’ve posted them here for everyone to see. The first is of the new school that we recently moved into. It’s a converted cow barn. The second is of two of the students. The third is of Jhon and Jorge tackling me the weekend that I stayed with them while the house parents were gone. The last one is of Jorge dancing and being silly. That kid is great and he’s going to do some amazing things in his life, I’m sure. And when you know his background it’s even better. Jorge was living alone on the streets of a nearby town just a couple years ago. Jerry, the director of the orphanage, found him and asked him about his family and living situation. At the time he didn’t have a name or know his birthday. He chose the name Jorge because he “always liked the sound of it.” He’s my best English student and he’s definitely made an impact on my life. So there’s a little more information on what my life is like here. Enjoy the photos!

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