Category Archives: St. Louis

Cinco Semanas!

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As of today, it has been 5 weeks since I returned to the U.S.  Holy cow!  Just last week, someone said to me, “Tell me about Ecuador in 10 seconds.”  He was kind of kidding, but wow!  Talk about a challenge!  I told him, “It was amazing . . . and it was hard.  But I am so glad I went.”  That kind of sums things up, huh?  Then, I referred him to this blog. 🙂

I cannot really begin to describe how it feels to be back.  (That’s clear, right?)  I don’t think I can even fully process it myself at this point!  Without a doubt, I think of Ecuador multiple times a day.  I reminisce about the beautiful country, amazingly loving people, fun and enthusiastic students, wonderful – yet difficult – language and incredible adventures available (and taken!).  Life feels very strange right now because I often have to remind myself that I recently had a life in Ecuador – for about a year.  I have to remind myself of this because I have essentially gotten back into the swing of things, which is definitely good in many ways.  However, sometimes it feels like a bummer because I don’t want the memories of my experience in Ecuador to ever be too far away in my thoughts.  And truthfully, I hope that my life in Ecuador has helped to shape who I am right now.

Just this morning it dawned on me that oftentimes, we remember events in our lives because we have lived them with other people.  All of the people I lived life with in Ecuador are not with me now, so that is one of the reasons it is really hard to remember my Ecuadorian life on a consistent basis.  I must mention that some people gave me really tremendous welcomes when I returned.  And surprisingly, it was mostly people I wouldn’t have anticipated to have missed me so much. 🙂  They definitely made me feel loved and that has made my heart happy.

While I was in Ecuador, there really weren’t oodles of things that I missed having from the U.S.  After all, Ecuador is much more of a developed country than most people think, so I had mostly everything I needed.  But, some of the things that have been enjoyable since I have been back have included: eating ice cream with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, touching books (instead of reading them on a Kindle), watching television in English, listening to the radio, working out at a gym, having unpredictable weather from day to day (or hour to hour, at times), drinking cold beverages, brushing my teeth with tap water, throwing toilet paper in the toilet, walking to the park and walking on sidewalks without holes in them.  As you can see, these are pretty small things, but have been nice to return to in St. Louis.

With all of that being said, I am s-l-o-w-l-y starting to wrap my head around my new position of teaching fifth grade, while building excitement at the same time.  I continue to wonder how my experience in Ecuador will impact my relationships with fellow colleagues, students, and families.  One thing that I have realized is that while I have been working on organizing my classroom for the school year, I keep thinking about how few things I feel like I actually need to facilitate great learning and discovery.  At the same time, I sometimes feel anxious because other classrooms look so cute, even though they have so much stuff – although it’s always amazingly organized.  I begin to feel anxious because I wonder if I am forgetting something or if I should have more stuff in my classroom.

But then, I think about my school in Riobamba and how I didn’t set-up anything or have much more than an iPod and whiteboard markers – and we learned.  The students learned . . . and I learned.  But before you begin to worry,  I promise that I am not going to have a bare room.  However, I do want my classroom to be organized with items that are intentional to guide both learning and strong community development.  And, once my students and I decide on new things we must have in order to do our best learning, we will gradually add to our room.

As I end this post, I suppose that means it’s the end of this blog site (sniff, sniff).  However, I have begun a new blog for my fifth grade classroom. (When one door closes another door opens!)  Please check it out and you can even subscribe to read posts each time it is updated.  The website is: http://www.im4students.wordpress.com

Again, thank you for being with me during my journey in Ecuador.  I don’t think I would have had the experience I did if it weren’t for my faithful blog followers who continued to send me encouraging words along the way.  I am glad to have lived and grown with you during the past year and I hope you have grown as well.  Hasta luego.

In conclusion . . .

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I feel like this should be either a spectacular or life-changing post, but truthfully,  I’m not sure it’s going to be either.  I just want to share my heart during these last days in Ecuador and the jumble of emotions I feel inside.  Here you go.

Excitement

  • Family and Friends: Of course I am looking forward to seeing family and friends that are 3-D, instead of 2-D on my computer.  It wil also be wonderful to get together with family and friends on a regular basis and be able to live life together.
  • Hannah: I have missed my dog terribly during my time here and am thoroughly looking forward to having her back in my life when I return to the U.S.  She is 12 years old now, but I am hoping we can enjoy our time together like we did before by walking, hanging out in parks, and driving in the car together.  I am so excited to see little Hannah.

    Yes, this is part of my family: dad, mom and niece.

    Yes, this is part of my family: dad, mom and niece.

  • School and Students: I am happy to return to Robinson where I taught 6 years prior to my time in Ecuador.  I feel like this is a blessing and I am excited to return to the comfort of being back at this wonderful school.  I will be teaching fifth grade and I cannot wait to have some of the students I taught when I was their teacher in first grade.  Fun!
  • Apartment: I am excited about the apartment I am moving into when I return to St. Louis.  The main reason is because it is located less than a mile from my school.  Therefore, I will be able to walk to and from work.  Yay!  After realizing how much I enjoyed walking in Ecuador, I wanted to continue this when I return.
  • Baseball: I don’t know if I ever thought this would make my list of things to be excited about, but I look forward to seeing and hearing about baseball.  Of course I am a Cardinals fan, but I think more than anything I am looking forward to the cultural aspect of the sport of baseball because it truly is one representation of our American culture.
  • Seasons: I have missed having four seasons.  At least, right now I miss it. While it has been nice to have predictable weather everyday, I miss changing seasons and the correlation seasons and holidays have throughout the year.  So, when I am complaining this winter about how cold it is, remind me that something I was looking forward to were seasons.

Sadness

  • Friendships: Thankfully, I have made three wonderful friends here; Cesar, Paty, and Soraida.  In addition, I have met incredible volunteers and directors from WorldTeach, as well as people at my school whom I absolutely adore.  Fortunately (and unfortunately), I have really gotten to know the teachers and secretaries at my school better in the past month or so, which is one of the reasons it is so difficult to think about leaving so soon.

    Here is a picture of me with my students after they presented the country of Mexico during a fair at our school.

    Here is a picture of me with my students after teaching others about Mexico during a fair at our school.

  • Spanish: It is no secret that Spanish has been a challenge for me during my time here.  However, I am sad that I won’t likely be able to struggle through Spanish conversations on a daily basis once I return to the U.S.  Even though it has been hard, I will miss hearing Spanish on a daily basis.
  • School: The school I have been teaching at in Riobamba is amazing.  The culture of the school is fun and relaxed, which has made it a pleasure for me the past 8 months.  Not only are the classes dynamic, but we provide extra activities for the students to enjoy as well.  As a result of the amazing things that take place at my school, I am going to miss it a lot.
  • Students: A direct extension of the school are the outstanding students I have worked with during my time in Ecuador.  Of course there have been difficult times in my classes, but overall, I have loved learning with and getting to know my students.  They are fun and sweet and have welcomed their foreign teacher with open arms – even if I am too serious at times and don’t let us play games during the entire class period. (This is a common complaint from my students.  What is wrong with me?!?)
  • Walking: As you know, I have enjoyed walking to and from places in Ecuador.  When I commute by foot in Riobamba, there is always something interesting happening.  This might be someone selling food or drinks, a pharmacy having a sale with music blaring, an appliance store having a sale with a man on stilts outside to attract customers, a fruit truck selling fruit with a loud speaker or a laundry truck playing lullaby.  It is always an adventure – and I’m really going to miss it.

Nervousness

  • School: Ok . . . remember that I am excited to return to Robinson, right?  I am also nervous.  I have never taught fifth grade and don’t know what to fully expect from the curriculum or my students – yet.  I know that over time this will get better, but I am slightly nervous about the change at the moment.

    Here is little Hannah.  She is 12 years old now.

    Here is little Hannah. She is 12 years old now.

  • Friendships: Some of my friendships from the U.S. have changed since I have been in Ecuador and will not be the same when I return.  Therefore, I am nervous about what my friendships will look like and if I will have people to spend time with – or who will want to spend time with me!  But, I am also trying to look at this transition as an opportunity to meet new people and share the new parts of me that have developed in Ecuador.
  • Aging Dog: Of course I am excited to see Hannah, but I am nervous about her age.  Like I said, she is 12 years old and I do have some worry about how her health will be in the future.  I think that this worry has recently come about because the dog that I was living with here in Ecuador just passed away on Saturday.  Therefore, I have some nervousness about what Hannah’s future will be like when I return.
  • Church: My church in St. Louis is wonderful and has been during the several years I have been attending.  However, because I am moving to a new apartment, there is a church (still the same church, just a different location) that is closer to where I will live.  Therefore, I am nervous as to what it will look like to transition to a different location and don’t know what to expect with this change.

Familiarity

  • Family: How nice it will be to have family nearby when I return.  I look forward to this immensely.  Also, it will be nice to celebrate family events together, take my niece and nephew out, and meet family for dinner on a regular basis.
  • School: Again, what a blessing it is for my heart to return to the same elementary school I left last year.  One of the reasons I want to return is because the school community is amazing – we have incredible students and families.  Another reason is because the principal of my school is wonderful and encourages me to learn and become a better teacher.  I desire nothing more than to be back at this school for the upcoming school year.english
  • Dog: I know . . . Hannah is rather popular in this post.  However, I look forward to resuming our daily walks and enjoying the company of my sweet dog.  By the way, I have to give a HUGE thank you to my friend, Christina, and her family for taking amazing care of Hannah while I have been away.  They have truly been a lifesaver  and have kept me at peace during times of worry about my dog.
  • English: Whew . . . I will actually understand all of the conversations, television, music, and other forms of communication around me.  Although I am confident I will miss hearing Spanish, there is comfort in understanding 100% of the communication I am exposed to.

Dread

  • Driving: As many of you have heard, I do not miss driving at all.  First off, I have not driven for 6 months, so watch out!  Secondly, I love being able to hop in a taxi if I need a ride somewhere and not having any stress related to driving.  Therefore, I am not looking forward to driving when I return, but am sure it will be fine once I get back into the routine of tackling the roads in St. Louis.

    I hope this isn't my first reaction to driving!

    I hope this isn’t my first reaction to driving!

  • Price Shock: Ecuador is pretty inexpensive, as a whole.  And Riobamba is even cheaper.  I am used to paying $1 for a taxi, 64 cents for a soda, 35 cents for Oreos, $3 for lunch, 40 cents for bottled water, 20 cents for my favorite new snack, Palomitas, and so on.  Now do you see why I am going to experience price shock when I return?  Eek.
  • Food and Grocery Shopping: I’ve been a little spoiled because someone cooks lunch for me everyday and I don’t ever have to grocery shop or make meals for myself (other than bread or oatmeal, on occasion).  Granted, I do pay for this luxury, but I am not particularly looking forward to having to start cooking and shopping for myself.  No wonder I have had some extra time on my hands while I have been here!
  • Taking out the Trash: Ok, another luxury.  I never have to take out the trash here . . . it is always done for me, which is another pleasure.  I guess I need to come back to reality and take care of my own trash when I return.  Bummer.

Uncertainty

  • School: Even though I am returning to a familiar school and environment, I don’t know what it will be like returning with my questionEcuadorian teaching experience.  How will this impact my teaching and students?  I have no idea, but I hope it will do so in a positive way.
  • Relationships: What will my relationships be like with friends and family who can’t fully understand my experience in Ecuador?  I know that some people will want to hear about my time in Ecuador, but no one is really going to “get it” except those who have lived abroad for an extended period of time.  Will this be hard having few people to relate to my experience or will this be a good thing?
  • Spanish: What will it be like to hear virtually no Spanish after being exposed to it on a daily basis for the past 10 months?  Will I forget everything I have learned or will I find opportunities to continue learning Spanish through classes or connecting with other Spanish speakers?
  • Blending In: If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you know that I battle with looking different than a majority of the people I live with and come into contact with in Riobamba.  However, I wonder what it will be like to return to an environment where I am just like everyone else.  Will it be weird to fit in again?  Will I miss being different?  After all, when I visited Chimborazo last weekend, two groups of Ecuadorians wanted to take pictures with me just because I was a foreigner.  How silly, but sometimes it’s kind of funny too.
  • Traveling: As I have mentioned previously, it is incredibly easy and inexpensive to travel in Ecuador.  I love picking-up and leaving for the weekend to travel by bus to random cities across the country.  I wonder what it will be like not having that same ease of travel and knowing that it will not be as feasible to travel as it has been here.  Will I miss it or will I make it a priority to take more trips knowing that I enjoyed it in Ecuador and have learned that I want to explore more of the U.S.?

So . . . that’s it!  I know it was a lot.  Remember I said I had a jumble of feelings about my transition in a few, short days?  I hope that now you have a glimpse of why this is difficult for me.  While this will probably be my last post while I am in Ecuador, I will write about my transition back to the U.S. at some point in the near future.   Thanks for sticking with me on this journey.

 

My First Blog Post!

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Well . . . here I am!

I’m not exactly sure how to handle the whole “blog-thing,” but my goal is to figure it out soon.  I want to write about my journey as I prepare for Ecuador and during my time in Ecuador.  Hopefully, we can stay connected – or begin a connection – during this time.

As I say prepare for Ecuador, the process has been S-L-O-W.  Or, maybe I have been slow. 🙂  Hmph.  Some of the things I’ve been working on are: finding a foster home for my dog Hannah, selling my car, finding a storage unit, purchasing international insurance (this is NOT an easy task because most people think you are speaking a foreign language when you ask about that), trying to learn Spanish, and getting a will written up (that’s a fun thought, I know).  With that being said, I have completed none of the tasks, but have made headway on most of them.  One day, I hope to tell you that I have completed all of my tasks.

WorldTeach, the organization I am traveling with to Ecuador, confirmed my flight today.  I leave on Sunday, September 2.  Wow . . . that’s only 40 days away!  I have a feeling that while it sounds like a lot of days, it will be here pretty quickly.

With that being said, my biggest hope is not to dwell on my “to do” list.   I really want to enjoy these days too.  I wonder what some fun things would be to do in St. Louis to soak in the city before I go.

  • What would you suggest I do to savor my time in St. Louis?
  • What would you do if you only had 40 days until you left the country for a year?

Post some comments because I’d love to read your ideas!  Thanks for reading my first post!