Category Archives: Riobamba

So . . . did I summit Chimborazo?

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chimborazo.pictureAnd the answer is . . . no.  But . . .  I am completely at peace with the outcome because it was an amazingly beautiful (and challenging!) weekend.  Here’s a play by play for you.  Also, after you read the chain of events from the weekend, check out the pictures at the end of the post that show you more details about the journey.  (By the way, if you have no idea what I am talking about so far, read this post first.)

Friday, June 21

  • 2:30pm: I was driven to Casa Condor (about 30 minutes away) by a friendly taxi driver named Roberto.  Ironically, he ended up being the father of one of my previous students here in Riobamba.  I stayed at Casa Condor because it is at a higher altitude (3800 meters/12,400 feet) than Riobamba and it’s wise to slowly acclimate to the higher altitude of Chimborazo.
  • 4:00pm: I went on an incredibly challenging “walk” to acclimate to the higher altitude (this was suggested by my taxi driver).  The place I walked was so steep, it was quite a challenge!  Here’s a video of me while I was resting on my walk.  As you can tell, it was a bit windy!
  • 6:00pm: I went to scope out the kitchen in the hostel so I knew where I’d be cooking my dinner.  That’s where I met two other guys that that I learned would be hiking with me the following evening.  They are both from Australia and their names are Garrick and Ron.  They are nice guys and as it ended up, I was really glad that we all took this journey together.  That evening, we made a pasta dinner and talked a bit to get to know one another, since we’d be spending plenty of time together over the next 36 hours.
  • 8:00pm: I went back to my room and was asleep by 9:00pm. 🙂

Saturday, June 22

  • 8:00am: I got out of bed after reading for awhile, took some pictures of the beautiful countryside, and made breakfast.
  • 10:45am: Garrick, Ron and I went on a walk around the community where we were staying.
  • 12:30pm: We were picked up by our guides and drove to the first refuge (4800 meters/15,700 feet) of Chimborazo.
  • 2:30pm: We drank Coca tea (apparently helps with altitude sickness) and soup at the refuge.
  • 3:00pm: We went to rest/sleep to let our bodies get ready for the upcoming demands of the evening.
  • 4:30pm: We woke-up and ate “dinner” and then hiked to the second refuge (5000 meters/16,400 feet).
  • 6:30pm: We arrived at the second refuge and got ready for bed.  We were supposed to sleep from 7:00pm until 10:00pm to rest for the hike.
  • 6:45pm: I walked outside to see an amazing sunset and filmed a short video before going to sleep.  Watch it here.
  • 10:00pm: We were woken up and to eat “breakfast” and then got dressed and ready to leave for the hike.
  • 11:30pm: 3 hikers (me, Ron, and Garrick) and 3 guides (Fabian, Raul, and Alberto) left to begin the journey up Chimborazo.

Sunday, June 23

  • 12:15am: After hiking for about 45 minutes, we stopped to put crampons (equipment you put on your shoes in order to hike in snow and ice) on our boots for the rest of the journey.
  • 12:20am: I had no idea how to walk with crampons.
  • 1:00am: I started to partly understand how to walk with crampons.
  • 2:00am: Our group of 6 discussed our progress at that point.  We were pretty exhausted already.  Our guides decided that at our current pace (apparently rather tortoise-like), it would take about 6 more hours to summit Chimborazo.
  • 2:15am: Two of us decided to go on and continue to hike onto the glacier.
  • 3:30am: My guide, Fabian, told me that we still had about 5 hours until the top.  At that point, I needed to stop about every 30 seconds to rest and I didn’t foresee that getting better as the altitude increased.  After hiking through a lot of ice and snow, I decided to call it quits (5700 meters18.700 feet) and surrender.
  • 4:00am: We started to descend and head back to the refuge with another hiker and his guide.
  • 6:30am: We arrived at the second refuge and tried to get a couple of hours of sleep.  (This was very difficult because it was freezing!)
  • 9:000am: We walked down to the first refuge, were picked up and driven back to Riobamba to end our adventurous journey.
This is where I stayed on Friday evening . . . obviously an amazing view.

This is where I stayed on Friday evening . . . obviously an amazing view.

After going on my "walk," I relaxed by listening to some music at the top of the hill and looking at Chimborazo.

After going on my “walk,” I relaxed by listening to some music at the top of the hill and looking at gorgeous Chimborazo.

Several cute sheep hanging around the hostel.

There were several cute sheep that lived next to the hostel.

The incredible view from my room . . . for only $12/night.

The incredible view from my room for only $12/night.  Amazing.

These are the two guys from Australia that I met.  We all hiked together with our guides.

These are the two guys from Australia that I met, Garrick and Ron. We all hiked together with our guides.

Here is the food I bought for dinner, breakfast and hiking.  Note the Hershey bar that cost $1.50!  That was quite a splurge!

Here is the food I bought for dinner, breakfast and hiking.

This is the first refuge.  We ate downstairs and rested here for awhile before walking up to the second refuge.

This is the first refuge. We ate downstairs and rested here for awhile before walking up to the second refuge.

This was the sunset from the second refuge.  Look at how cool it was that we were above the clouds!

This was the sunset from the second refuge.

Ron, Garrick and I getting ready to embark on the journey up (part of) Chimborazo.

Ron, Garrick and I getting ready to embark on the journey up (part of) Chimborazo.

My wonderful guide, Fabian, who hikes Chimborazo 2 or 3 times each week!

Here I am with my wonderful guide, Fabian.  He hikes Chimborazo 2 or 3 times each week!  Holy cow!

You wondered what crampons are?  They're the spiky things that are on my boots here.

You wondered what crampons look like?  They’re the spiky things that are on my boots.  Interesting, huh?

Here I am - looking a little chilly.  But, I want you to notice that I was expected to walk through those rocks behind me - with the crampons on.  Yeesh!

Here I am – looking a little chilly.  I want you to notice that I was expected to walk through those rocks behind me – with the crampons. Yeesh!

Here is the picture of me after I surrendered to the mountain and decided not to hike anymore.  At least I was still happy!

Here is the picture of me after I surrendered to the mountain and decided not to hike anymore.  At least I was still happy!

We had a perfectly full moon during the hike.  This picture is at about 6:30am, when the sun was coming up.  The moon is amazing and you can see how high we were since the clouds are all below us.

We had a perfectly full moon during the hike. It was so bright, we didn’t have to use our headlamps.  This picture was taken at 6:30am.  The moon was still amazing and you can see how high we were since the clouds are all below us.

Yikes!!!

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Well . . . here I go!  Apparently, with only two weeks left in Ecuador, I felt the need to take on a challenge that is very likely I may not complete.  Ready to hear about it?  Let’s do it!

This weekend, I am attempting to summit Mount Chimborazo.  What is Chimborazo?  Well, actually, it’s the furthest point on earth from the center of the earth – higher than Mount Everest – and the closest point on earth to the sun.  If you don’t believe me, check this out.

So, here are the details:

  • Friday, June 21: I travel about 45 minutes to stay and sleep at a hostel, Casa Condor, for the afternoon and evening.  This hostel is about 1000 meters higher than Riobamba, at 2700 meters.  This will allow my body to begin to acclimate to a higher altitude in preparation for the hike.
  • Saturday, June 22: In the afternoon, I am picked up by my guide and we make our way toward Chimborazo. Around 5:00pm or so, we eat dinner and then head to the second refuge on Chimborazo, which is at 5000 meters.  We sleep there for about 5 hours (again, so our bodies can acclimate to the altitude) and begin our hike at 11:00pm.  (Yes, you read that correctly – at night.)  The reason we hike at night is because as the snow is warmed by the sun, avalanches are far more likely.  On top of this, any rock held in place by ice will start its gravity-induced downward journey once the sun has melted the cementing ice.  Nights and early mornings are generally clear, and clouds normally come in by midday, which is another reason to climb at night.  Also, the weather tends to be better during full moon . . .  and guess what?  Sunday is a full moon. 🙂
  • Sunday, June 23: We will be hiking from Saturday evening until early Sunday morning – hopefully.  The plan is to summit, but if I have to stop earlier because of altitude sickness, we will do so.  Optimistically, I will be back down from the summit by 10:00am on Sunday morning.  At that time, I get picked up by the guide company and driven back to Riobamba.

So, what can you do for me?  PRAY, PRAY . . . AND PRAY.  I am looking forward to the challenge – because I do like a challenge – and am excited about the possibility of making it all the way to the top.  Yay!  But also, I pray to have peace if I do not make it to the top.  I pray that I do not feel like a failure and can be happy with myself that I at least attempted the journey.  So . . . please pray for our safety, to enjoy both journeys – up and down, to feel peaceful regardless of the outcome, and to revel in the beauty of this majestic mountain.  I will be in touch next week and let you know the outcome.  Thank you in advance for your prayers. 🙂

Some other volunteers and I "visited" Chimborazo last December.  Little did I know that I'd be attempting to make it to the top several months later.

Some other volunteers and I “visited” Chimborazo last December. Little did I know that I’d be attempting to make it to the top several months later.

Yo soy una montana rusa!

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roller coasterYou might be wondering what the subject of this post means, right?  Let me tell you.  It means, “I am a roller coaster!”  I say this because I feel that over the past few months, my emotions have been quite similar to a roller coaster.  Yikes!  At some points, I have absolutely loved Ecuador.  But at other points, I felt like I was done and wanted to go back to the U.S.

And now . . . the good news!  While many tears were shed during those months, now I feel like my heart is peaceful and Ecuador is where I am supposed to live right now.  I feel like I am over the hump and am pleased to be here until July.  Yay!  If you knew where I came from recently, you would know that this truly deserves a celebration.  Seriously.

During the difficult times the past few months, I have to honestly tell you that I continued to experience God’s faithfulness.  Even when I didn’t feel like looking for God’s presence and was starting to give up on everything related to Ecuador, He was still with me.  Amazing . . . but not surprising.  Here are two situations where God continued to be by my side.  First, during the beginning of this teaching cycle when I was contemplating whether to return to the U.S. early because I felt horribly out of place and sad, God gave me a beautiful gift of security and predictability.  He secured a position for me to return to the same elementary school to teach this fall – Robinson.  This was an incredible comfort for me and settled my heart in amazing ways.  Next,  I received my two favorite groups of students this teaching cycle.  These students and I have connected and have fun and learn together – simultaneously.  There is a comfort with these students that I have not experienced with other students thus far in Ecuador.  And again, I believe this is another example of God’s faithfulness that has comforted my soul.

As I was reflecting the other day, I realized what a weird feeling it is to enjoy where I am living, while simultaneously craving another place too.  It’s hard to be caught in a place of tension between Ecuador and the U.S., but it is thought-provoking too.  I think I find it fascinating because each culture is very distinct and I am in awe that I can feel comfort in both locations.  I have a feeling that the tension between living comfortably in one place while desiring another is going to travel with me when I return to the U.S. in July.  I am going to miss Ecuador and that is difficult for me to digest.   So I begin to wonder, is there a way to combat this?  Unfortunately, I think that this tension is simply a part of the process when one lives in another country for an extended period of time and while it will fade over time, it will always be a part of who I am.

So, now what?  I soak in as much Ecuador as possible, right now, and happily anticipate the familiarity of the U.S. in a few, short months.  I work on “being present” and not rushing through my days, like I so often do.  I live . . . moment by moment, and do not worry about trivial things that can so often snowball into anxiety and worry for me.  I trust in my God and know that He has everything taken care of for me and know that He will continue to be faithful in everything Ecuador and everything U.S.

This morning, as I was walking to my Spanish class, I was thinking about how when I return to the U.S. I will (surprisingly) miss the blasting, dance music that shouts out of appliance store entrances . . . our stores in the U.S. just aren’t that hip. 🙂

As always, thanks for traveling on this journey with me.

Me . . . the Different One.

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eggI am the different one in Ecuador.  So my question is, “What does it feel like to live as a minority on a daily basis?”  Well, it feels a lot like these pictures.  Kind of adventurous, kind of lonely, and kind of awkward.

My intention in this post is not to throw a “pity party” for myself.  However, my intention is to communicate what it feels like living as a minority and for many of us to (hopefully) open our hearts to those we interact with on a daily basis, who are considered minorities.

After living in Ecuador for almost six months, I believe I can speak about what it feels like to be a minority.  Not only do I look different; I think, cartoonact, and speak differently too.  In a recent post about the things I love about Riobamba, I wrote about how sometimes I feel like a celebrity from the attention I get because I look different.  In parenthesis, I added that I have a love/hate relationship with this fact.  When I walk down the street, people often stare at me.  When I walk into a store, sometimes I am the one that a child stares at.  When I am out in public, I am often told at a later time that someone who knows me saw me in the street – because I am that recognizable.  As a result of my cultural upbringing, I often do things differently or expect other people to act differently.  As a teacher, I usually think and teach differently because I am have lived in a different culture for 95% of my life.  Sometimes these events are really funny and sometimes they are eye-opening for everyone involved, but sometimes they are uncomfortable and make me feel sad.  So I begin to ask myself the following questions:

  • Is it a disadvantage to be in the minority?  If so, why?
  • Can there be positive aspect about being a minority? If so, what?
  • Do some people thrive in the minority? If so, who? (I’d like to meet them!)

In the interest of keeping this post short, I will spare you with long, detailed stories.  However, if you’d like to hear more from me directly, just let me know via email.  Needless to say, my experience thus far has proven to be difficult.  But to take a different spin on things, maybe it does not have to be as difficult, or as negative, as I make it out to be.  Maybe I am thinking into things too much.  Or . . . maybe I am solely looking at things from my perspective and there is another way to view the situation.  And maybe, just maybe, there is as way I can use my “minority status” in a positive way to serve and love others.  After all, when I had an opportunity to teach English to indigenous children, my appearance definitely got their attention because I looked markedly different than everyone else in the school.  Plus, they might have even learned a little bit more as a result. (I sure hope so!)

When I return to the U.S. in July, I ask myself, “How will my temporary experience as a minority change my perspective about those who are living in cultures where they are in the minority – either temporarily or permanently?”  I wonder how my perspective will be different in two specific areas.  One area is with people originating from other countries or cultures, and another is with students in my classroom who are considered minorities.  Will I have a different sense of empathy for each individual?  Will I identify with them from a heart level, instead of just from my head?  Will I love them differently?

Ok . . . you knew it was coming, so here is your part. 🙂  Seriously though, I desire to hear your perspective and what you think about minorities in your culture.  Please write a comment and share your heart with me about any of the following questions.

  • How do you view and treat minorities in your life?
  • What can you do differently today to treat minorities differently?
  • Am I being too analytical and serious with my perspective of what it feels like to be a minority? (I tend to over-think things!)
  • How can I use my “minority status” to serve others in positive and loving ways?

I love living in Riobamba because . . .

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*people give me a kiss on the cheek when they greet me or say goodbye to me.

*when I am walking down the street, I often hear loud music coming from an assortment of stores.

*it is always an adventure when I go running.  Sidewalks have obstacles such as:

metal posts, deep holes, rocks, mud, dog poop, and trash.

*Ecuadorians take such pride in their family relationships that they often live with their parents until they get married.

*I can eat foods like habas and choclo anytime I want.

*most days, I can see beautiful views of Chimborazo and other surrounding mountains.

*I teach English to students from 8 – 45 years old (in different classes, of course).

*I can wear a t-shirt and sandals in February.

*my students love to learn English – on most days.

*a taxi ride is still $1.00.

*sometimes people treat me like a celebrity because I look different (I have a love/hate relationship with this one).

*tea seems to solve all illnesses – or at least many people think so.

*my students have such pride in their country that when a student was taking her oral exam and said that there

were no disadvantages to living in Ecuador, the rest of the class applauded.

*there are parades about once a week and no one seems to clearly know the meaning behind any of them.

*I can walk everywhere.

*the trash truck plays the music we know as the ice cream truck music.  This makes me laugh.

*it is not unusual for me to see horses, sheep, alpacas, pigs, dogs, and cows – in the same day.

*it is not uncommon to see people jump in church when they are singing.

*I can buy a bottle of Coke Zero for 64 cents.

*people strike up conversation with me often, just to be friendly.

*Ecuadorians love to eat ice cream – so it’s for sale everywhere.

*I can travel to the beach in about 4 hours.

*I have started to relax about being on time for things and am beginning to feel comfortable with

being 5 minutes late – even for class because my students aren’t there anyway!

*everyone comes home from work to eat lunch together – and then return to work in the afternoon.

So . . . what do you love about the city where you are living right now? 🙂

Post a comment and tell us two things you love about your city!

A Short Story

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Preface

flowerHola mis amigos!  I know I have been absent for a little while.  Please forgive me!  My absence simply means things have been busy and without time to do much writing.  During these past two weeks I have been overwhelmed with my time – or lack thereof.  My days generally consist of teaching, planning for classes, and taking Spanish.  In the midst of that, I have tried to get to know my new host family.  And finally, I have worked on making time to relax and enjoy not being busy.  As you read the next few chapters, I hope that you are able to gain an understanding of what life is like while living in a foreign country.   Feel free to read each chapter or just those that interest you.  As my friends and family, I hope that you will also sense my connection to each of you and the appreciation I have of your support.  In particular, I need to thank the following who have consistently supported me during my time in Ecuador up to this point: Lesley, Lisa, Shari, Cesar, Beatriz, Soraida, Kristen, Liz, Laurie, Nicci, and of course, my parents.  I also need to share my gratefulness for having God with me each step of the way during this journey.  If it weren’t for God, I would be completely lost and broken at this time.  With His presence, I can settle into peace, contentment, and hope.  Read on!

CHAPTER 1: First Day of Classes – Take 2

On the first day of classes, I was ready to teach the same classes I taught last cycle.  Whew!  What a relief . . . I knew what to expect!  I soon found out that God wasn’t going to make my life that easy.  During the first class, all of the teachers and students met in the auditorium for about 40 minutes.  During those 30 minutes, I spoke with my director’s wife about possibly teaching another class in the future.  This particular class, lasts four months, instead of two months like my current classes.  Since I won’t be here long enough to complete the four month class next cycle, I was literally assigned to teach the other class 15 minutes later.  Eek.  I was excited, nervous . . . and overwhelmed.  This meant that I would be teaching a one hour class at 3:00pm and 2 two hour classes at 5:00pm and 7:00pm.  And without much fanfare, I began teaching the 3:00pm class the next day.  Now, two weeks into classes, I enjoy my students greatly.  There is something special about students who really want to learn.  Their heart is invested in their learning in a particularly refreshing and enthusiastic way.  And as their teacher, I love it.

CHAPTER 2: Spanish

cafeThe battle of “Spanish vs. Rachael” is alive and kicking everyday in Ecuador.  Yeesh.  My host family only speaks Spanish, which makes it a good – yet challenging – “learning” experience to communicate with them.  I continue to take Spanish classes with mi maestro, Cesar.  He has been particularly patient with me in the midst of my frustration and short-term memory with the Spanish languge.  While I know I have made progress, I still struggle with understanding Spanish during most conversations.  However, the time I spend in the cafe where I take Spanish lessons is one of the best parts of my day.   Of course it is entertaining when I confuse the word for glasses with lentils (lentes vs. lentejas), but one day last week was hilarious.  As you can see in this picture, the front of the cafe has glass doors.  The door on the left is the one you are supposed to use to enter and leave the cafe.  While I was having my Spanish class, Cesar and I heard a loud BOOM.  I soon found out that the noise was a man who was trying to leave the cafe, but walked into the window, instead of the door.  Ouch!  Poor guy.  But . . .  we couldn’t stop laughing either.  Then, when I saw the man’s nose print on the door, another bout of laughter began.  So, even if I cannot fully understand Spanish, laughter truly is a universal language.

CHAPTER 3: Traveling Sundays

potatopotato babyMost Sundays, my host family and I travel to cities around Riobamba.  Many families in Riobamba do this so they can spend time together and see the country.  In addition, most places in Riobamba are closed on Sunday, so that provides an opportunity to get out and explore.  I am thankful for these Sundays because this is one of the few times I see my host family.  A couple of weeks ago was a particularly interesting day for me.  We harvested potatoes!  I have never done such a thing and definitely enjoyed the experience.  It is amazing how many potatoes one might discover beneath the surface.  Here is a picture of some of the potatoes we harvested.  As you can see, potatoes come in many different sizes!  Needless to say, we have recently enjoyed many soups that include potatoes in the recipe.

CHAPTER 4: Free Time

mallI have been working hard at trying to make time for myself to have free time.  The thing is, this isn’t so easy for me.  Many of you that know me are aware that I like to feel productive and accomplish – anything.  But, I am also aware that it is not necessary to always be productive with work or task-related activities.  Relaxing and enjoying free time is productive too.  It’s just a matter of shifting my thinking to truly believing that in my heart.  Some things I have begun doing during my free time to relax is to watch movies, walk to a store, visit the mall (check it out in the picture), read, write in my journal, sit in the park, and get together with friends to talk.  I plan to continue to make free time for myself and look forward to relieving the stress that so easily builds up with a busy schedule.

Epilogue

riobI have officially been in Ecuador for almost five months now (minus my time in the U.S.) and have some reflections I’d like to share with you.  As I think back to my first few days in Quito, I remember feeling both excited and nervous for this new adventure.  When I think back to my first few days in Riobamba, I remember feeling uncertain about what my life was going to look like in my new city.   Now, with my time in Ecuador nearing five months, I have recently had an interesting realization.  Ecuador doesn’t feel quite so foreign to me anymore.  I feel comfortable here and, Riobamba feels like a home to me.  I believe this is because I have some friends, a job, and a house; so life is enjoyable for me.  And, I say this with a sense of awe because I remember not too long ago when I was trying to figure out what it would take for Riobamba to feel like home.  I am still not clear on all of the contributing factors, but I don’t think I need a succinct list for you – or for me.  I believe the most important thing is that I am clear that I feel peaceful and enjoy my life in Ecuador.  And, oddly enough, I oftentimes forget that I am living in Ecuador because it just feels so normal.  Kind of strange, huh?  Recently, while I was teaching, I looked out the window and could see a perfectly clear view of Chimborazo (look at the picture).  I try to savor moments like this, knowing that they will only last forever in my mind.  And then, during a first visit to an indigenous community to teach English to a small classroom of children, I found myself on the verge of tears because being in that place and that time felt so perfect and peaceful to me.  I don’t know what the coming months will hold for me, but I can admit that I am excited to discover them.  I am sure there will be difficult moments too, but I continue to enjoy learning about me, you, and the world we live in.

Afterward

I am not sure where the “afterward” goes or what is supposed to be included, but I do have something else I need to share. I wrote most of this post before I went out of town for a meeting last week.  While I was out of town, there was an incident that has currently changed my feelings toward safety in Ecuador.  Please know that I am not trying to be cryptic and that no one was hurt during the incident.  I include this information because I pray to return to the feelings of peace and safety I had just a mere week ago.  I hate to end this post on a low note, but I have to be honest with you because each of you are important to me and I believe it is of utmost importance to be truthful with you.  Until next time . . .

A Potpourri of Photos!

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I have several photos that I’ve collected over the past months that I would like to share.  I hope you enjoy seeing a wide

assortment of photos in this post.  As always, thanks for joining me on this journey . . . I appreciate it.

chimborazoHere is a picture of me after hiking part of Chimborazo.

This volcano is a beautiful sight in Riobamba and was amazing to hike too!

barcelona game

I went to a Barcelona (from Guayaquil – not Spain) soccer game and LOVED it.  You can see from the picture

how passionate fans are for their team . . . especially the guy who climbed the fence!  How fun!

ile christmasThe school where I teach English went Christmas caroling one evening at a park and at a few other areas in town.

This picture was taken right before we left to impress everyone with our beautiful singing voices.

preile

One day, my school served food to homeless individuals in the Riobamba community.  In addition,

some of the younger students from the school sang Christmas carols.  It was a great day!

holding hands

I promise this is not supposed to be a “butt-shot” of my students.  I simply want you to see how sweet

the Ecuadorian culture is and how oftentimes when girlfriends walk places together – they hold hands.  I love it!

maria cookingMaria is an amazing cook!  Here she is preparing lunch one day.

It was very hard work grinding the plantains and then making soup.  Way to go Maria!

classroom

Here is a picture of the classroom at my school.  Yes, there is a post in the middle of

the room.  But surprisingly, the post isn’t quite as distracting as you might think! 🙂

meatballsMy school had a Food Fair in which each class researched a country, made food from the country, and presented

it to others at a celebration.  My class learned about Sweden and did a fabulous job presenting their research.

sweden Here are two of my wonderful students, Jhon and Veronica, from the Food Fair!  Notice the signs in the background too!

bday partyI had the opportunity to attend a child’s birthday party a few weeks ago.  This picture shows the clowns

at the party (very common in Ecuador) lighting the candles on the cake.  Also, I promise the clown on the right

wasn’t as creepy as he looks in the picture . . . the lighting was just at an awkward angle at that moment.

cesar and his family

Here is a picture of my Spanish teacher, Cesar, and his family.

Cesar puts up with my struggling Spanish skills for 2 hours each day . . . poor guy!

caballos For the first time in my life, I went on a horseback riding tour!  How fun!  My friend, Ali, and I went to Banos

(2 hours from Riobamba) and went on a tour up a mountain.  It was great – despite the constant rain! 🙂

gusano.planta

During the trip to Banos, we also saw some amazing plants.  Here is one of them!  Cool, huh?

carne

Here is a picture of some meat I saw one day when I was walking down the street.

I had to look twice to see if I was really looking at a cut up pig in the back of a truck.  Blech.

nacimiento

As families in Ecuador decorate their homes for Christmas, many make a Nativity scene like this.

The scenes are elaborate and they are interesting to look at.  This one is at the house of my host family in Quito.

flores

Ecuador is one of the top exporters of flowers in the world.  Every time I have an opportunity,

I enjoy walking past florists on one particular street in Riobamba.  They are beautiful!

job

Now it’s your turn . . . you have a job!  Please reply by posting a comment below.  I love hearing from you guys!

  • Which picture from above is your favorite?  Why do you like this picture?
  • What would you like to see more pictures of in Ecuador?  I am more than happy to take requests!

Observations from Riobamba

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 *you walk into a bathroom and see toilet paper, soap, and paper towels and think, “Wow . . . this bathroom is nice!”

*you learn to say chau, instead of adios, when leaving for the day.

*you wonder what kind of soup you are going to have with lunch because Ecuadorians have soup everyday at lunch.

*you get excited when you have the opportunity to buy a refrigerated drink.

*you see a man peeing on the side of the road and don’t think much of it.

*you look forward to bus trips because vendors get on and off selling tasty food.

*you expect bus rides to cost about $1.00 per hour.

*you pass bootleg video stores on a daily basis and forget how illegial that concept is in the U.S.

*you go on a walk to the park and naturally avoid cows walking on the same sidewalk.

*you look forward to seeing what Chimborazo looks like everyday.

*you kiss people on the cheek when you see or meet them.

*you pay 15 cents to use a public bathroom and think it’s worth it.

*you look forward to promotional saldo days for your cell phone.

*you frequently pack toilet paper in your bag because most bathrooms don’t have it.

*you walk down the street and don’t flinch anymore to avoid dog poop on the sidewalks.

*you get used to hearing people say, “Buenos dias, mi hija.” (Good morning, my daughter.)

*your English class “officially” begins at 5:00pm, but no one shows up until 5:05pm or 5:10pm – and that is normal.

*you get bummed out when you have a $20 bill because no one likes to take large bills.

*you learn how to flag taxis down like a pro.

*you come home from work and look forward to what kind of new, fresh bread is in the kitchen.

*you don’t think twice about using bottled water to brush your teeth anymore.

*you get used to seeing babies and kids in cars, without carseats.

*you are used to putting toilet paper in the trash can, instead of the toilet.

*you haggle with taxi drivers when they try to charge you $1.25, instead of $1.00.

*you learn how to cross the street without getting hit  by a car, bus or motorcycle.

*you aren’t surprised when you see an entire family (dad, mom, and kids) riding on a motorcycle or bike.

An interview with . . . ME! :)

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Hello friends!  As this Sunday, I have been in Ecuador for 12 weeks.  Muy interesante.  As I’ve mentioned previously, it doesn’t really feel like a long time, particularly since I started teaching English three weeks ago.

In this post, I have decided to write several questions and answers that you might be wondering about my 12-week-long Ecuadorian life.  So, I’m going to interview myself (ha, ha) and hope you enjoy learning some new information.

What has been your favorite thing to do so far during your time in Ecuador?  A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to experience my first FUTBOL game in Ecuador.  My host sister, Gatita, and I watched her favorite team play on a Sunday afternoon.  I loved experiencing the excitement and energy in the stadium.  Latin Americans are by far, the most passionate sports fans I have ever seen.

What fun things are you hoping to do in the near future?  Just the other evening I found out that one of my students, Alejandro, is a nature guide.  This means that he can take groups of people hiking, which is very popular here because we are surrounded by mountains and volcanoes.  So, hopefully in the next week or so I’ll take a hiking adventure.  Fun!

What do you like to do to relax?  There are three things I enjoy doing to relax.  First, I enjoy going on walks to a nearby park called Parque Ecologico.  Check out the picture of the park.  Next, I enjoy reading and writing in my journal on the terrace of our house (that’s just a fancy way to say the concrete roof).  And finally, I enjoy watching movies.

Do you enjoy teaching English?  I do enjoy teaching English.  It is quite different than what I have done in the elementary school setting, however, it is new and exciting each day.  I am continually challenged by my students and have a good time learning English grammar alongside them.  I must admit that I never realized how little English grammar I knew.  Thankfully, I am now learning about many verb tenses and other components that make up our language.

Have you met your goal of integrating more speaking into your English classes?  I am still working on this but have gotten into a pattern of having specific parts of the class be “speaking” parts.  I like listening to the students and of course, they like trying out their English skills.

How do you get to and from class?  I walk to class each afternoon . . . and absolutely LOVE it!  One of my greatest joys these days is not driving anywhere – and walking everywhere.  Particularly since the weather is usually quite comfortable, I enjoy being outside on my way to class.  My classes end each evening at 9:00pm.  Since it is dark, the wisest way for me to get home each evening is via taxi.  Therefore, I hail a taxi and pay the $1.00 fee for a ride home.  Funny enough, each evening I seem to have the same conversation with a new taxi driver.  The driver always asks me where I am from and what I am doing in Riobamba.  I always tell him my story, while simultaneously explaning that I only speak a little bit of Spanish – hinting for him to speak slowly.  The ride home is only about 4 minutes, which is just about the time our conversation starts to come to a halt.

Are you taking Spanish lessons?  I am so glad you asked. 🙂  If you remember, when I was living in Quito for the first month, I decided that I  needed to continue taking Spanish lessons in Riobamba.  I did take lessons for four weeks when I arrived, but was not happy with my teacher.  This week, I began lessons with a new teacher and am really enjoying the lessons.  My teacher’s name is Cesar.  Just the other day, I explained to him that in the U.S. there is a salad with his same name.  He found that perplexing and a little  bit humorous.  I meet with Cesar every day for 2 hours in the afternoon.  It’s intense, but so far it has been rather helpful.

What has been your favorite meal to eat?  Our cook, Maria, is by far one of my favorite people here in Ecuador.  She has a HUGE heart.  She is also an amazing cook.  Each day, we have soup with lunch.  Therefore, I will tell you my two favorite soups.  I have enjoyed both a pumpkin soup (make from a real pumpkin – not a can!) and tomato soup with hard-boiled eggs.  I know those soups don’t sound very exciting, but trust me, they are delicious.

What has been your least favorite meal to eat?  I don’t feel like I am being completely honest here because I didn’t actually eat the meal.  However, the least favorite meal served at my house has been soup with tripe and sangre.  You might wonder what sangre is . . . because I did.  Well, it’s blood.  Yes, soup with sheep intestines and blood.  Gross.  I just couldn’t force myself to try it and felt really bad about being disrespectful toward my family and Maria.  Again, I have really enjoyed all of the other foods here – it’s just that one that caught me a bit off-guard.

So . . . what are you doing for Christmas?  Again, I am glad you asked.  I have decided to go to the U.S. over Chrsitmas and New Year’s.  I will be in Denver for Christmas and then in St. Louis for the rest of the time.  I am truly looking forward to being with family and friends and enjoying some of the comforts back home (for example, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups – sad, but true).

What have you learned about yourself and about life so far?  Where do I begin?  Seriously.  Well, as some of you know . . . some parts of this journey have been difficult so far.  Not necessarily bad, just hard.  More specifically, some days have been challenging because I do not speak Spanish fluently.  I have found that there is often a huge gap with the potential in conversations and relationships with others when you don’t speak the same languge.  This lack of connection has been difficult and lonely for me.  With that being said, I am slowly working on this area in a few different ways.  For example, just recently, I met a new friend for coffee who speaks English.  It was really nice to connect with her . . . and speak in a language with ease.  Also,  I am hoping that starting new Spanish lessons will positively contribute to an increased depth in Spanish conversations with others.  Next, I continue to learn about how important it is to be flexible in a new culture.  With this, I learn that it is often not respectful or kind to frequently impart my culture onto others.   Therefore, I work on keeping an open mind and often remind myself that my culture is not always right.  Go figure.  Finally, I continue to learn about the importance of listening to my heart and who I truly am.  This might sound obvious to many, however, because I continue to meet new people on a frequent basis and am placed in new situations, I often need to remember to be true to myself and not sacrifice who I am at the core.

I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about my life in Ecuador during my “interview.”  Between now and my next post, feel free to comment and write any additional questions you are wondering about things here. As always, I look forward to hearing from you! 🙂

I’m a teacher again!

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Look at how hard this student is working! She must have a great teacher. 🙂

It’s official . . .  I’m an English teacher!  Weird, huh?  Currently, I am teaching two evening classes and one morning (reinforcement) class (two days/week) in Riobamba.   So far . . . it is great! 🙂

I don’t know exactly where to begin, so I guess I will start with Monday – the first day of classes.  At the beginning of each new cycle, all of the students and teachers met in the school theater.  In the theater, our director, Jim, welcomed everyone to a new session and had a student teach the others about the school rules.  He/She taught these in both English and Spanish.  (As a side note, the rules are a part of the acronym C.A.S.H.  This is for: no cell phones, attendance, no Spanish speaking, and homework.  Easy, huh?)  Next, the students were divided into their language level and sent off with their teacher.  By the time my students and I got to our classroom, we had a little over an hour left (classes are each two hours long).  There are 9 students in my first class and 12 in my second class.  The students’ ages range from about 16 to 30.  And, they are all amazingly engaged in their learning . . . I love it!  The first day of classes we talked about who I was, why they wanted to learn English, did a few speaking activities and then they got their homework.  (I know, homework on the first day!  I am a tough teacher, huh?)  Fortunately, the students in my classes are very proficient in English.  This helps me a lot when I am trying to explain a concept or activity because they actually understand the language!  Yay for Level 7 students!

On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I got into a routine of planning for my night classes during the day.  Since my classes begin at 5:00pm, I can spend time in the morning and afternoon planning for the evening.  Around 3:45pm, I leave for the copy center at the school and print my lesson plan and copies for the class.  This is a completely different routine from what I am used to in the U.S., but so far, this routine has been successful.

During English class, the students do a variety of things.  They speak with one another, discuss grammar points, play grammar games, and complete sentences that pertain to specific grammar points.  My personal goal is to keep the students engaged by speaking, writing, and thinking in English during the entire class period.  This is important to me because I believe it is very likely that our class might be the only two hours in the day that the students work on their English communciation.  With that being said, I noticed last week that it was hard for me to create several opportunities for the students to speak for extended periods of time.  Therefore, this has become my personal goal: to work on developing more opportunties for the students to speak in English during class.  Feel free to hold me accountable with this and follow-up with me on how I’m doing on my goal. 🙂

Happy students on Banana Day!

During the last class session each week (we only have classes from Monday – Thursday), I want the students to celebrate their learning from the week.  This first week, we had a theme for the last day of the week: Banana Day.  Some of the students were festive and dressed in yellow to celebrate.  Yay!  But, whether their heart was in it or not, the students were forced by their teacher (me!) to take part in various banana activities such as: Hot Banana (i.e. Hot Potato), writing a creative piece about their banana as a person or animal, describing their banana, reading a story about the history of bananas, and more.  After our banana learning, the students discussed what they learned during the week and then celebrated with snacks.  It was a great way to end the week.

It is very eye-opening to have the opportunity to teach English.  Granted, I know how to speak the language, but teaching the grammar behind the language is a whole different ballgame.  This past week, I was impressed with the knowledge the students have about English grammar.  I understand that these students have learned the languagevery  differently from native speakers, but they can actually identify past participles and the present perfect tense.  Holy cow!  Therefore, teaching grammar points to such intelligent students will be a huge learning experience for me as well.

I am learning that English grammar is not the most exciting of topics for students.  Likewise, as I was writing this post, I was aware that it might not be particualarly exciting for you to read about grammer, class sizes, student activities and so on.  However, I hope I have piqued your interest in something pertaining to teaching English.  If so, please write a comment back to me answering the following questions.  Gracias!

  • What tips do you have for me to meet my goal to help students speak more in class?
  • What would you like to know more about related to teaching English to non-native speakers?
  • What would be the hardest part for you to teach English in Ecuador?