30 octubre 2006

Mitad del Mundo

Yesterday I went to the equator. Below is a picture of me standing in two hemispheres at once. I went with my Ecaudorian family for the day to see the sights, listen to some traditional music and eat some good Ecuadorian food.In this picture, Magui is on the right, silly. The sun is so strong here because of the altitude and because we are on the equator, so we all wore hats.
The next picture is Magui's little grandson, Jose Milio. He is so precious! It's good to have a little one around since I only see my nieces on the web cam. The other day I was walking down the street holding him and people thought he was my baby because his skin is so light. His mom thought that was pretty funny.

On Sunday afternoons at the "Mitad del Mundo," "The Middle of the World," there are traditional dancers. The family kept telling me to go join the dancing--they love to joke with me!Also last week I went to the local zoo and saw some of the animals that are indigenous to Ecuador. I also now have two new English students and more people have contacted me about classes. So it seems like things are picking up. This week most of my friends from the hostel are heading to other countries so that will be about it for speaking English. I have made a few local friends, so I have people to hang out with, but making good friends takes time--especially in a foreign language. For those of you interested in sending cards, letters, packages, money, peanut butter, etc. here is a good mailing address:

Miranda Runcie
Apartado 17-21-431
Eloy Alfaro, Quito

It's an organization call the South American Explorers club and I'm a member so they will hold any mail for me there. It generally takes awhile for mail to get here, so if you send something and don't hear from me about it, it will probably be here in another week or two. You can always let me know when you've sent something so I can be on the lookout. Thanks for reading and for your comments--I love the support and encouragement from friends and family!

17 octubre 2006

No Pasa Nada

Hello, sorry for the lapse in blog entries but Ive been very busy getting used to my new living situation and trying to figure out which internet cafes are closest, fastest, cheapest, etc. Ahh the days of having internet at home at any time I want...actually this is much better for me because I can become a bit addicted to the internet when it is so convenient.
So let me tell you a little bit about my new Ecuadorian family. Magui (pronounced Maggie) is the mother and she is an amazing cook. She loves to explain in detail all about the way she has prepared the meal and what ingredients have gone into it. Im eating very well, meaning that I am always served a very large portion (it seems like its more than anyone else in the family...), but it is all extremely healthy. Magui prides herself in cooking very simply, using only fresh ingredients, many fruits, vegetables and whole grains. She also makes a point to tell me that she only uses "ajo y cebolla" (garlic and onion) to flavor her food--becuase she doesnt like her food "picante." She has definitely had her share of rough times in life, but has managed to maintain a very positive attitude and feels very blessed (and she gives all the credit to God). This is a picture of where my new room will be. Im still not in my room yet. They have to paint it and furnish it. It was supposed to be done by last Wednesday...I just remind myself that Im on Ecuadorian time and when they say it will be done on Wednesday that really means whenever in the near or far future that it happens to be ready. No pasa nada. Thats the way I see it. It will be ready when its ready. Im in Alexandras (Maggies daughter) room right now so I have a warm bed to sleep in and thats really all that matters. My new home is only a 10-20 minute walk from the hostel (the time depends on whether Im walking down the mountain or up it) so its good to still be close. Quito is stretched out along a narrow vally and I moved from one side of the valley directly to the opposite side.
So just when I thought that my birthday was over and the celebration was finished, my family decides to buy a cake and have a party for me. Above is a picture of Joanna, Allison and...at the moment the last name escapes me...sorry. Anyway, they are all Maguis grandchildren. Allison lives in the same house as I do and the other two girls (sisters) live next door with their parents.
On the far right is Magui, next to her is Sandra (who introduced me to the family) and next to her is Ashley. Ashley also lives in the house. Im so bad with names so I cant remember the last grandaghter on the left side. In the middle is the cake. They lit a candle (they only had the numbers 3 and 4, so in one week I gained 10 years), sang to me in Spanish and English and then told me to take a bite. I wasnt sure if I was misunderstanding what they were saying so I asked them to repeat it. "Yes take a bite!" they said. I felt so weird taking a bite directly from the cake, but I thought, hey why not, it must be an Ecuadorian tradition...

...So I took a bite and as I did they pushed my face into the cake. Thats the real Ecuadorian tradition! I was so surprised. I had icing in my nose and all over my face. It was really funny. Im so glad that my family feels that comfortable around me...

As far as other things go, Im still only teaching one student, but Ive made signs to hang in the universities so hopefully Ill be able to get those up soon. Every other day or so I go back to the hostel to hang out with people. Im torn between wanting to be around people my age who I can communicate with in ease and wanting to immerse myself completely in the language and culture of Ecaudor. Poco a poco...Im still in transition. My Spanish is improving, of course. Everyday I have to ask Allison to speak slowly--shes eight so she can get really excited about things and speak very quickly. The family is patient with me and they are more than willing to explain words and repeat entire stories or questions.

There have been a few misunderstandings, but nothing too major. The other day I was watching the news and I asked Magui if she liked the presidential candidate with the last name Correa (elections were last Sunday). She misunderstood and thought I was asking her if she liked to run (the spanish word for run is "correr"). She didnt seem surprised by the question and answered me as if I was really interested in her exercising habits. "Only a little," she answerd. "I get tired very easily." I didnt realize the misunderstanding until she started talking about running and walking and exercising in length. I decided to let it go and not point out the mistake. Whats so funny is that Magui is in her early 60s, stays at home most of the day and is not, lets say, the athletic type. So Im sure she thought it was a bit strange for me to ask if she likes to run...out of nowhere.

Well my friends (and family) thats about it. I look forward to hearing from you. Always feel free to comment--I love knowing who is reading this. Choa!

08 octubre 2006

Twenty-four in Ecuador

Yesterday was my birthday and as you can see from the pictures there was a lot of celebrating. It was good to be with friends. The party was in celebration of a few different birthdays so the hype wasnt just for me. There was a bbq on the terrace of the Secret Garden and I ate so much food! It was delicious. The two cooks are seen in the last picture with me. As is with most Ecuadorians, I tower above them, so they had to stand on chairs to get a picture with me. The flower was a gift from Sandra, the one on the left. Today (in about two hours) Im moving to my new home. Im really excited to get settled there and be speaking Spanish all the time. I still havent finalized any new English classes, but this week Ill have more time to find students.
Above is my friend Raphaella, from Austrailian, and me. Raph and her boyfriend, Jordie are new volunteers for the month of October.
I dont think we ate half of the food prepared. I couldnt even fit the whole spread in one picture. Below is Al, from Switzerland, and me. Al has been in Quito for nine months and he goes back in December.Here the chicas. These women are so much fun. At times they act like fourteen year olds instead of twenty nine year olds, but they are really great. And they know how to cook. I have been eating so well this past month. Probably too well. Good thing there are five flights of stairs at the hostel so I can get some exercise in! Sandra is on the left and Maria Fernanda is on the right. Sandra is my connection to the family that Im living with. She always says, "Mirandita, mi favorita." Thats about it. Im going to pack everything together to make the move. Hasta luego desde Ecuador.

03 octubre 2006

Muchas Cambias

Changes, changes, changes...My life here is going to look very different in a few short days. Some of the new things have started already. For example, last week a new set of volunteers (for the month of October) arrived and began orientation. Then my closest volunteer friend, Phillipp, left for Argentina. My last day of work at the Secret Garden will be Thursday or Friday. I am thinking of taking a few days to travel outside of Quito, but I'm not sure if that will work out or not. Also last week I met a family who would love to have me live with them for a few months. I found out about them through a woman who works in the restaurant at the hostel. She took me to meet them and see their home. It's a 10-15 min. walk from the hostel--still in the old part of town. Their apartment is on the side of a hill/mountain which makes for amazing views of the city. I will have my own room and bathroom (currently being fixed up for me) and I will eat all three meals with the family. In the apartment are three adults and two children. Maggie is the mother of the family and she has a son Juan Fernando and a daughter Alexandra. Juan Fernando has a daughter, Allison, who is eight and Alexandra has a daughter who is four. They are a lovely family, so nice and easy to be around. The kids seem to love having a new person around and they always ask me how to say words in English. I need to make sure that they speak Spanish to me though! That's the point! So I will move into their home in a week or so--whenever the room is ready to be lived in. Another new thing in my life is that today was my first day as a "profesora de ingles." I found out about a pediatrician who needs to learn English so that he can understand medical conferences. Today, I went to his office for the first lesson. He knows some English so we just spoke about his life so that I could get a better feel for what level he is at. He is a very friendly man and I'm looking forward to having him as a student. He is really eager to learn. I have also heard about a job at the Hilton Hotel in Quito that would be writing letters in English and reading and translating English mail. I haven't heard back from the contact person yet, but I think it would be good to have a couple different types of work. Anyway, that's my story for now. There will be many more changes and adjustments in the weeks to come. As for the pictures, I can't take all the credit. The two of the views from the terrace of the Secret Garden are mine, but the other three (the one's that are professional looking) are my friend Phillipp's photos. Well, I think that's about it. Until next time. Ciao!

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