Category Archives: Teaching

Cinco Semanas!

Standard

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.

Top 10 Best Things about Ecuador

Standard

Oh my goodness . . . how did it get to the point where I only had 32 days left in Ecuador?  The days seem to be going by rather quickly and it’s already June!  Eek!

While many of you have read about my roller coaster of emotions and the period of time when I did not enjoy Ecuador, now I am loving many things in this amazing country.  (See?  I am a roller coaster!)  So, I thought I’d make a list of the things that are special about Ecuador, so you can get a small taste of why I love living here these days.  Here we go!

Top 10 Best Things about Ecuadordollar coin

10: THE VALUE OF A DOLLAR  In Ecuador, it is amazing how far a dollar can go.  The other volunteers and I have discussed how valuable even 25 cents can be these days.  Here are some examples of what I can buy with a dollar: 1 taxi ride, a soda and a small snack, 4 quimbolitos (a tasty cake-like snack), 1 hamburger, 2 humitas, 5 bags of palomitas (my new, favorite sweet snack), 4 bus rides, 2 shoeshines, or a movie.  Now, do you see why a dollar is so valuable here?  I love it.

hammock9. “MAS O MENOS” Where do I begin with this phrase?  To translate this phrase into English, is means “more or less.”  This phrase is used so often and it displays the flexibility and relaxed atmosphere of the culture.  For example, I could say, “Let’s meet for dinner at 7:00pm – mas or menos.”  This would give us each about 15 minutes on either side of 7:00pm to meet.  It makes things much less rushed and feels so nice to have as a part of my life these days.almuerzo  Look!  You can even see how relaxed I am in the picture on the left!

8. ALMUERZO This word means “lunch” in English, but has a totally different significance in Ecuador.  While dinner is the biggest meal of the day in the U.S., it is lunch for Ecuadorians.  Lunch always consists of soup, rice and juice.  In addition to those staples, we usually have any combination of meat, chicken or fish, vegetables, plantains, and potatoes.  The Ecuadorian family unit is represented well during this time of day.  Many families leave work around 1:00pm and return to their house to have lunch together.  This also means that oftentimes extended family comes over too.  For example, in my house a typical lunch consists of the mom, dad, son, daughter-in-law, sister, empleada, and me.  That’s a lot of people, but it’s pretty neat to see how everyone comes together in the middle of the day and returns to work around 3:00pm.  I have often wondered what it would be like in the U.S. to leave work in the middle of the day to spend time with family and then return to work.  Would it be a good thing to have a break from work mid-day?  I think it might. 🙂

7. TAXIS Riding in a taxi is always an adventure – for many reasons.  First off, I might get a taxi driver that is very chatty, completely silent, or on occasion, drunk.  But, what I have loved most is when I have gotten into a cab and the driver has his wife and child in the passenger seat.  This might sound strange, but I think it is really sweet.  It is an opportunity for the family to spend time together, during work hours.  Also, you might find it interesting to know that 99% of taxis have a “carpet” on the dashboard and a small rug on the backseat.  It is fascinating to see the style of carpeting each driver chooses . . . it shows his/her personality a bit. 🙂  And finally, driving in Ecuador is completely different than in the United States.  There are dividing lines on some roads, but this is rare.  Therefore, the drivers are able to “work it out” and know where and when to drive.  This might seem unsafe at first, but I love it because everyone is aware of everything – so I think it’s safer overall.  Plus, it’s not uncommon for someone to stop in the middle of the street, make a u-turn or do something else completely erratic – but because the other drivers expect the unexpected – they are ready for it.  It’s pretty cool to see.

sidewalk6. EXTREME SPORTS – AND SIDEWALKS  What?!?  Well, look at this picture of a sidewalk and  you can understand why I categorize them with the extreme sports that are available in Ecuador. 🙂  Surprisingly, I have now found the challenge of walking to be charming.  I never know if I have to hop over a hole, sidestep some dog poop or walk off of the sidewalk to avoid trash.  Moving onto extreme sports . . . things such as bridge jumping, canyoning, and zip-lining are offered here.  These are all fun activities, but a little crazy, if you ask me!  Many of you saw this link on another post, but I figured I’d link it again just so show you all how lucky I am to still be alive here in Ecuador after trying an extreme sport.  This was probably one of the scariest things I have ever done!  This is called canyoning. Check this out!  choclo

5. BUS TRIPS Oh the bus trips in Ecuador!  First off, check out this link to a bus schedule that has been very useful during my time in Ecuador.  I love the bus system here because without it, I would have had very few travel opportunities.  The buses are amazingly convenient and easy to navigate and are often an adventure.  And, as I have mentioned before, vendors get on and off of the buses selling a wide-variety of items.  From empanadas to ice cream . . . most everything can be purchased on a bus.  (However, I have yet to see pizza being sold on bus yet, which I think would be a very wise item to sell!) Here is a picture of some corn on the cob I bought on the bus one day. 🙂  On a more embarrassing note, I must admit that I often feel motion-sick on buses have become best friends with Dramamine on most of my trips.  However, the one time I chose not to use my best friend, I was the one on the bus that threw up.  Yep.  That was me . . . throwing up in a bag.  Disgusting, I know.

ceviche4: THE VARIETY OF FOOD AND DRINK SOLD ON THE STREET  Ecuadorians take pride in their diverse cuisine.  Therefore, most dishes are delicious and have been prepared with lots of love – and sometime with unclean hands – but . . . maybe that add to the occasional “uniqueness” of the cuisine.  In all seriousness though, I really enjoy most Ecuadorian food.  I can easily walk down the street and choose from a wide variety of foods and drinks such as: hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled plantains, pinchos (shish kebobs), candy apples, coconut juice, mangoes, tamales, ceviche (pictured to the left), salchipapas, humitas, quimbolitos, llapingachos, chocolate covered strawberries, juice, hornado, and candy.  Generally, the food and drinks cost anywhere from 25 cents to one dollar.  Can you see why this is one of my favorite things about Ecuador? cartoon

3. SPANISH As many of you know, I have been trying to learn Spanish for awhile now.  Trying.  While I have developed an amazing friendship with my Spanish teacher and his family, I have to admit that I am not a good student.  Learning a language is really hard for me!  Plus, I go through phases when I study outside of class and other times when I don’t.  But oftentimes, I just don’t make the time to learn Spanish other than during my class.  With that being said, I have not learned as much Spanish as I would have liked during my time here, but maybe I’ll find some opportunities to practice when I return to St. Louis.  Or,  since I still have a month to learn . . . maybe I will maximize that.  (The guy in the cartoon is exactly how I feel sometimes.)

tortise2. MOUNTAINS, VOLCANOES, WATERFALLS . . . AND MORE!  OH, AND THAT FAMOUS PLACE CALLED THE GALAPAGOS.  The flora and fauna in Ecuador is incredible.  Ecuador’s mainland is unique because it has three specific areas: the coast (beaches), the sierra (mountains and volcanoes) and the oriente (the jungle). Plus, Ecuador also has the incredible Galapagos islands, which I had the pleasure to visit with a friend at the beginning of May.  To the left is a picture of us with a tortoise.  There is also a city nearby, called Banos, that I have enjoyed visiting.  It is beautiful and there is always something different to experience in the city.  For example, here is a video of some waterfalls I recently saw in Banos.  Check out this and this.  Amazing, huh?students

1. ECUADORIAN PEOPLE . . . PARTICULARLY MY STUDENTS Ecuadorians are amazing and (most) have a wonderful heart!  The students I have had the pleasure of teaching these past 7 months have been wonderful.  Their hearts are simply an extension of the Ecuadorian culture.  For example, when you meet someone, say hello or goodbye, you always kiss the other person on the cheek.  This is just one example of what many of you have heard of as a “hot-climate” culture.  (By the way, if you want to learn a little more about that, click here.)  My students and I have been able to learn together and have fun – at the same time.  And, I don’t want you to think that all of the time has been rosy with my students, as there have definitely been some difficult moments.  However, overall, the students that I have met are one of my favorite things about Ecuador.  Oh, and it you’re bored today, here is a link to a video of me teaching my students.  It is LONG because it was a requirement for me to videotape myself teaching for WorldTeach.  Anyway . . . without a doubt – after the other 9 items on my top 10 list – Ecuadorians are by far the best thing about Ecuador. 🙂

 Please write me a comment and I will read it and reply to you.  Plus . . . I love hearing from you guys!

  • If you were to write a “Top 10 List,” what would it be about and what would be #1?

 

Mis Meses en Ecuador . . .

Standard

Hello there!  While I was out of town the past two weeks, I had an idea to write a post summarizing the events from my months in Ecuador thus far.  I thought it would be fun for me to reflect on my time here and hoped you might enjoy it too!  Here we go!

equatorIn September . . .

  • I arrived in Quito, Ecuador for my 10 month adventure of living and teaching abroad.
  • WorldTeach had orientation for 33 volunteers for four weeks to teach us about Ecuador and how to teach English.
  • four other volunteers and I rode the teleferico up to the top of a mountain in Quito.
  • my host mom, Susy, and I visited the equator and had a wonderful time!

In October . . .pajaro.1

  • I moved to Riobamba.
  • my host sister and I went to my first Ecuadorian soccer game.
  • another volunteer and I traveled to Manta and Isla de la Plata (the beach) and saw the famous Ecuadorian birds called Blue-Footed Boobies.
  • I took my first – of MANY – bus trips.
  • two other volunteers and I traveled to the city, Banos, for one day.

In November . . .

  • I started teaching my first English classes at my school, University of San Francisco.
  • my Spanish classes with my teacher, Cesar, began.

In December . . .chimborazo

  • I spent a few hours with friends from the U.S. in Quito.
  • some friends and I climbed part of the amazing volcano, Chimborazo.
  • I traveled to the U.S. to spend time with family and friends for Christmas and New Year’s.
  • I acted and danced in my first Spanish play – A Christmas Carol.

In January . . .

  • I began teaching new English classes.
  • I went to Esmeraldes (the beach) for a WorldTeach meeting.

dancingIn February . . .valentines day

  • my students celebrated Valentine’s Day.
  • I danced in my second Spanish play – Hawaiian Adventure.
  • I celebrated the Ecuadorian holiday of Carnaval.
  • three other volunteers and I visited Tena (the jungle) and went whitewater rafting.
  • I began feeling homesick and missed family and friends in the U.S. – a lot. 😦

robinsonIn March . . .

  • the students at my school decorated AMAZING Easter Eggs.
  • I had vacation time and took a cruise with my parents.
  • I felt very homesick and contemplated leaving Ecuador early to return to the U.S.  But then . . .
  • I found out that I would be returning to Robinson (the previous school where I taught) to teach fifth grade. 🙂

In April . . .bolones

  • I took a last minute trip with a friend to visit Cuenca (the sierra).
  • my Spanish teacher’s wife, Paty, taught me how to make bolones. (Here is a recipe!)  Yum!
  • I danced in 15 Latin American dances (with the other teachers) for the students at my school.
  • a student, friend and I went canyoning.  Check out this video.  Yikes!

galapagosIn May . . .

  • my friend and I visited the Galapagos for five, incredible days.
  • I visited Loja and Vilcabamba (the sierra).  Read about amazing Vilcabamba here.
  • I began my last teaching cycle and have 30 students – so far.  Yikes!sea lion

In June . . .

  • Oh yeah . . . I can’t write this one yet . . . but you can!
  • What are YOUR plans for June?  Reply to this post because I’d love to hear from you!
  • Plus, I’ll reply to you after reading your comment. 🙂

Sonrisas de Ecuador

Standard

laughingThe title of this post means “Smiles from Ecuador” because I wanted to share some things that have happened during my time here that have made me laugh.  I hope to give you a few laughs today too!  Enjoy!

*The b and v sound in Spanish are the same.  One night in my English class, I found myself explaining the difference between a vowel and a bowel.  The students thought that the word was pronounced the same way.  I tried to gently explain that they were not by teaching the students how to clearly make both the v sound and the b sound – hoping that there would be no confusion in the future.

*One evening was I was getting into a taxi I hit my head on the door.  As if that wasn’t funny enough, I got into the taxi saying, “Ah, mi cabeza!”  The next thing I knew, the taxi driver was asking me how tall I was.  I can only assume that he thought I was tall and that is why I hit my head.  Clearly at 5 feet, 2 inches, I am not breaking any height records.  However, after I realized that the driver was asking me how tall I am, I realized that I didn’t know how to answer him using the metric system – in Spanish.  I felt completely helpless not being able to tell someone how tall I am.  Since then, I have learned that I am “uno, cincuenta y ocho.”  Good to know, right?

*As I spoke with my Spanish teacher about his new contact lenses – “lentes” in Spanish-  I continued to mistakenly call them lentejas, which are cafelentils.  You know, the bean.  Slightly different than that you want to put in your eyes to help you see.

*For those of you who have recently joined my blog I am going to retell a story from the cafe where I used to take Spanish lessons.  This situation was so funny, I just have to retell it.  As you can see in this picture, the cafe has glass doors.  The door on the left is the one you are supposed to use to enter and leave the cafe.  One day, 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 AUNT.the man’s nose print on the door, another bout of laughter began.

*We were learning about family member names and adjectives in one of my classes.  So, I had my students make a book about their family and write a sentence describing each person.  Well, as you look at the picture on the left, you’ll see that while one of my students has wonderful English grammar skills, she was a little hard on her aunt.  Pobre tia!

*Sometimes to break up our two-hour English classes, we play a silly game in the middle of class.  One of the games has a person stand in the middle with everyone in a circle on the outside.  The person in the middle quickly turns and gives a command to someone.  They need to respond in three seconds or they are in the middle.  One of the commands they can give is “Jello.”  When this command is given, the person who is pointed to needs to start jiggling like jello, and the people on either side need to contain them with their arms . . . if this doesn’t sound funny here, give it a try and when you see people try to jiggle like jello it is sure to make you laugh.

*One day my students were taking a vocabulary quiz, and many – not just one – asked me if they could write the definition for the words in Spanish.  What?!?!  Um, no . . . this is English class.

*During my class with younger students, I use Spanish pretty regularly so they can understand what I am saying.  My Spanish is often grammatically incorrect, but they usually understand the general idea of what I am trying to say.  The other day, I was modeling how I wanted them to cut out an animal and write about it.  I used a picture of a dog as an example.  I taped the picture to the board and then drew a rectangle PHOTO.OF.MEaround it to pretend like it was a piece of paper.  I told my students, “Este es mi papel.”  They all started laughing.  So, I got defensive and asked what was so funny.  They explained that they thought I said, “Este es mi papa,” and they knew that the dog was not my dad.  So, now I try to pronounce my words a bit more clearly so they don’t get my paper confused with my dad.

*At the right is a picture that a student drew of me after taking a test.  Apparently, I dress rather formally when I teach here in Ecuador.

*Disclaimer: This story is not for young children.  (Pam – don’t share this one with your class!)  Next week, our school is putting on a carnival game-type event for all of the classes.  One of my student’s game is the Crab Walk.  (Remember the Crab Walk?  You flip over with your belly toward the sky and walk with your hands and feet.)  Part of her job is to teach the game participants how to play the game.  When we practiced in class, many of the students were putting their butts on the ground, so I instructed them not to do so.  The next day, as she was writing her instructions for the participants, she was planning to tell people to keep their ass off the ground.  Eek.  She didn’t remember the correct word to use!  Therefore, I gently corrected her and told her that there are much more appropriate words to use for that body part, such as behind (formal) or butt (informal).  Hilarious.

*So, now I want you to post a comment and share a funny story with me.  I always need more laughter – since I am sometimes too serious – and would love to hear a funny story from you.  Thanks!

Huevos de Ecuador

Standard

Happy Easter!  This past week, all of the students at my school were required to decorate a hard-boiled egg

for Easter and bring it to school to display.  Holy cow!  Their eggs were absolutely amazing. 

Check out these photos and enjoy some creativity from Ecuador.

BONITA.HUEVO

CERDO.HUEVO

CHICA.HUEVO

DRESS.HUEVO

HAWAII.HUEVOS

PADRES.PAPAS..HUEVOSPOLLO.HUEVO

PRE.ILE.HUEVOS

ART

BEAR

BEE

CHEF

DOLL

sponge.bob

HELLO.KITTY

GUITAR

MONSTER.2

MONSTER

ICE.SKATER

MAN

FISH

ONE.EYE

WOLF

GIRL.EGG

BIRD

CHICAECUADOR

And finally, after displaying all of this amazing eggs for two days, we had an Easter Egg Hunt on Thursday. 

The class with the most eggs won a big, chocolate egg.  Guess whose class won? 🙂

CELEBRATION

Vida de Ecuador

Standard

Hola mis amigos . . . . como estan?  In this l-o-n-g post, I have written about 5 activities in my Ecuadorian life.  I wrote from my perspective in the past, present and future.  I hope you can see how things have progressed – and changed – during my time here.  I also think you might enjoy reading about my hope for the future in each category.  So . . . here is the scoop on what is happening in my life in Ecuador these days.  Enjoy!

Spanish Lessonscartoon

  • Pasado: I started Spanish lessons with my teacher, Cesar, at the end of November.  We began meeting 5 days a week for 2 hours each time.  However, since my teaching schedule got busier this past cycle, we only met 3 to 4 days a week. Also, because I had more of a demand with my English classes, I was unable to make time to do Spanish homework. Argh!  I feel that during this time, my growth in Spanish was minimal because I didn’t have time to practice on my own.  However, even without homework, any Spanish conversation is helpful.
  • Presente: Currently, I feel like my Spanish ability is at an early intermediate level.  I can often communicate my thoughts, but lack correct grammar and consistently understanding others when they speak to me – unless it’s really slow, which I love.  Now, I meet Cesar at a restaurant to take my Spanish class.  He and his wife recently opened a seafood restaurant, so it is much more fun to talk with him, his wife and at times (when they will look at me or talk with me), their children.  We still meet 3 to 4 days a week and still have the opportunity to speak in Spanish for about 2 hours.
  • Futuro: I am hoping to be able to (somehow!) make time for more Spanish outside of class.  I spoke with the director of my English school last week about how he learned Spanish.  I was in complete awe of him because he taught himself!  He said that he wrote in a journal everyday, used flashcards when he had a spare moment, and would check his grammar on his own.  Wow!  With that inspiration, I hope to begin a Spanish journal a few days a week and start to utilize flashcards more effectively in order to improve my Spanish communication.

Teachingestudiantes

  • Pasado: Last cycle, I continued to teach two Level 7 English classes each evening (5:00pm and 7:00pm).  I also began teaching a third English class in the afternoons at 3:00pm.  This new class meant that I needed to leave my house at 2:15pm and was gone for the rest of the day – until about 9:15pm.  While I really enjoyed this new class, it changed my schedule drastically to where I had to do all of my planning in the morning before classes – and somehow squeeze in a 2 hour Spanish class. Do you see why I didn’t have time for Spanish homework now?  Yeesh!
  • Presente: During the current teaching cycle, I have the exact same schedule as last cycle.  However, I am slowly learning to manage my time a bit better and don’t feel as overwhelmed with my time outside of class.  In addition, during my two evening classes, I feel as though these classes are by far my favorite students and I truly have enjoyed my time with these new students!
  • Futuro:  With my new (wonderful) students, I am really excited to spend with them and guide them to learn English.  These students really want to learn English and are mature enough to have fun at the same time.  While we have only spent a week together so far, I hope to use the skills I learned from teaching Level 7 during the two other cycles to make this their a great learning experience for my students.  And finally, I have s-l-o-w-l-y figured out how to integrate speaking, listening, writing, and vocabulary into the classroom without feeling like we are zooming from one activity to the next.

Social Life and Making Friendsrafting

  • Pasado: Oh goodness, where do I begin?  Socially, my time in Ecuador has been a definite  growth opportunity for me (that’s a sugar-coated way of saying that it has been difficult).  It has been hard for me to make all new friends and try to get to know people at a heart-level.  Afterall, every person I have met during my time in Ecuador has been new in my life and sometimes that gets overwhelming and exhausting.  Sure it can be exciting too, but making friends is hard work!   Needless to say, I have had some emotional ups and downs in regards to making friends, but have thankfully gotten to know a few great people too.
  • Presente: Currently, my relational “anchors” in Riobamba are a friend of a teacher from school, Soraida, and my Spanish teacher, Cesar.  I see them both on a regular basis.  Thank goodness!  I believe that Cesar and Soraida have become my “anchors” because they show me that they appreciate me and help me feel valued.  They also make me think about life . . . and make me laugh.  🙂 I am quite thankful for these two individuals in my life.
  • Futuro: My hope for myself relationally is to push myself to be slightly uncomfortable and spend more time being social with some of the new people in my life – even at times when I don’t want to.  While this can sometimes be difficult for me, I also know it can be healthy for me in the long-run too.

Travelcactus

  • Pasado:  Before I came to Ecuador, I wanted to travel everywhere possible – whenever I could.  Shortly after arriving in Riobamba and traveling for several weekends in a row, I quickly realized that I did not want to travel as much as I had originally thought.  There was both a craving and a comfort to stay in Riobamba and get to know the city where I was living.  Therefore, I started to minimize my traveling and got to know my “Ecuador hometown” a little bit better.
  • Presente: Recently, I have felt like traveling a little bit more – maybe because I had taken the time during my first few months to get to know Riobamba.  I’m not exactly sure why this desire to travel has been reignited, but it has been nice to explore a few other cities and relax with others during the weekend.  For example, just this past weekend I traveled to Cuenca, an amazingly  beautiful city in Ecuador.
  • Futuro: In the coming months, I hope to travel to some other nearby cities so I can soak in Ecuador a little bit more.  Also, because it sometimes gets lonely on the weekends, it is nice to spend time with other people from WorldTeach on the weekends. And for a BIG goal for my future travel plans, I am hoping (nothing is finalized yet) to take a big trip with a friend from college to the Galapagos at the beginning of May.

Goalsgoal.cartoon

  • Pasado: When I was making my final plans to live in Ecuador for a year, I had many goals for myself.  These goals were to: strengthen my relationship with Christ, travel as much as possible, develop into a creative and engaging English teacher, become fluent in Spanish, get to know as many people as possible and build meaningful relationships with them, and practice “relaxing” more frequently.  While these might sound like hefty goals, I feel like I have been able to address many of them during my time here.  Meet all of them? No. But, work on each of them in various ways?  Yes.
  • Presente: I do not want it to be a secret that things have been very difficult for me over the past month or so.  After the six month mark of living in Ecuador, much of the excitement and novelty that comes with living in a foreign country began to slowly fade.  Relationships back home became more difficult and I started to miss my daily routine in St. Louis.  I miss home – plan and simple.  I have learned that regardless of where you are living, after awhile, life is still life.  We tend to get into the “daily grind” of life wherever we are – even in a country as beautiful as Ecuador.  As I mentioned, I am still working on making the best of my time here, but I am also thankful that I am starting to see glimpses of July 2, which is my return date to the United States.
  • Futuro: In the coming days, weeks and months, I hope to become better at: connecting with others in Riobamba and around Ecuador, stretching myself socially by putting myself “out there” more often, enjoying my students by laughing in the classroom more and making our learning more fun, and speaking confidently in Spanish.

Whew!  You made it!  Thanks for reading through all of that.  Now, I want to hear from you!  What has been happening in your life in the past, present and future?  Share with me.  Please, please, please post a comment and let me know what you are up to these days.  Thanks! 🙂

An interview with . . . ME! :)

Standard

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!

Standard

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?