Category Archives: Traveling

Mis Meses en Ecuador . . .

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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. 🙂
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Vida de Ecuador

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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!

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  • 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! 🙂

Let’s go to the beach!

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Last weekend, I visited the coast of Ecuador.  Another WorldTeach volunteer, Jessica, and I left on Friday morning and returned to Riobamba on Monday evening.  Long weekends are one of the blessings with having a late start date at our teaching site.  It took 8 hours to get to Manta by bus, but was worth the long ride to experience the beach and the warm weather that goes with it.  Also, I had an amazing day on Sunday, which I will tell you about shortly.  There are two other WorldTeach volunteers living in Manta, Bridget and Angelika.  Just like us, they are staying with host families.  So, we gratefully stayed at the homes of their host families while we were there.

I have to admit this is a picture from the internet, but I wanted you to see what I experienced!

On Saturday, we visited the beach and swam in the ocean.  For those of you who aren’t sure, it’s the Pacific Ocean. 🙂  (By the way, if you would have asked me a year ago what ocean was next to Ecuador, I probably would not have known.)  The beach was fun and I even got a coconut to drink . . . and eat.  Check out the picture.  After you buy a coconut, the vendor cuts the top off with a machete so you can drink the coconut water with a straw.  After you finish drinking, you take your coconut back to the vendor and he cuts it apart and gets out the “meat” for you to eat.  Mmm . . . it is tasty, I must admit.On Saturday afternoon, Bridget and I relaxed at the house of her host family.  In the early evening, we started talking about what activities we could do the next day.  A few hours later – after a trip to an internet cafe, the bus station, and an ATM – we had a day trip planned to Isla de la Plata.  Our plan was to leave Manta on a bus at 4:00AM, so we needed to head to bed early.

We arrived in Puerto Lopez bright and early on Sunday morning after our 2 1/2 hour bus ride.  Shortly thereafter, we found a tour company and bought tickets for our day trip to Isla de Plata leaving at 9:30AM.  You can click on the link to learn more about Isla de la Plata.  However, it is also known as “The Poor Man’s Galapagos Island.”  While the island was wonderful, I have to guess that The Galapagos Islands are much better.  Regardless, we had a super day.

We took an hour boat ride to the island, which was amazing.  I loved feeling the wind on my face and seeing the waves all around us.  Next, we went on hike around the island to see some beautiful and rare birds living there.  There were two species of birds present on the island:  Blue-Footed Boobys and Fragatas.  (As a side note, the name “Booby” is thought to originate from “Bobo” the Spanish word for clown.)  The Blue-Footed Boobys were all over the place!  As you can see from the pictures, the birds were always protecting their young . . . either eggs, day-old babies, or month-old babies.  Look closely at the pictures to find the baby boobys! 🙂

After our hike, we had lunch on the boat and saw some sea turtles.  This is the best picture I could get.  After that, we snorkeled in the ocean.  This was my favorite part by far!  The fish in the ocean were amazingly colorful and beautiful.  Here is a picture of some of the fish when they came to the surface.  Unfortunately, this just gives you a glimpse of the incredible sights I saw underwater.  If you’ve gone snorkeling before, you understand what I mean, I am sure.

Next, we took the boat ride back to Puerto Lopez and headed back to the bus station.  At the bus station we found a bus going back to Manta and embarked on our 2 1/2 hour journey back to Bridget’s house.

There is one last thing I feel you might like to know about some bus rides in Ecuador.  While on the bus, it is quite common for people to frequently get on and off the bus selling food and other items.  For example, I saw  people selling watermelon, pineapple, chicken, empanadas, bread, corn on the cob, water, juice, soda, and jewelery.  So, here is a picture of the corn on the cob I bought.  I figured that there aren’t enough opportunities in my life to buy corn on the cob on a bus, so I decided to take advantage.  Now it’s your turn to answer the following food question.

  • If you were on a bus ride in Ecuador, what favorite food would you most want people to sell  to you?  What would really hit the spot? (Reply to me in a comment please!)

As always, thanks for reading my blog and for being interested in this journey in Ecuador.  Have a wonderful day! 🙂

Banos Anyone?

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Here I am in Banos! My first trip in Ecuador!

No . . . it is not what you think!  Banos is a city in Ecuador . . . not the bathroom.  Well, it is that too, but not in this case. 🙂  Two weeks ago (13/10/12), two Riobamba volunteers – Sarah and Alicia – and I went on a day trip to Banos.

We left on a bus at 7:20AM.  It takes about two hours to get to Banos from Riobamba.  The bus was very clean and quite comfortable.  (I didn’t know what to expect for my first Ecuadorian bus ride.) There was a  television too!  I was excited when they started a movie, but then I realized that it was The Thing – a scary and gross movie, in my opinion.

This is the river running through Banos.

During the rest of the ride I tried not to watch the disgusting things going on in the movie, but sometimes I couldn’t help but to sneak a peek.

We arrived around 9:30AM and explored the city.  It was quite beautiful.  It was nice to wear a t-shirt and feel warmth all day long.  (This is not the case in Riobamba.  Usually it’s warm in the morning and early afternoon, cool in the late afternoon, and very cold at night.)  We walked around the bridge and river in Banos and then hiked up to a sculpture at the top of a mountain.  Let me tell you, I was exhausted.  The altitude was rough on my lungs! I made it though . . . with plenty of sweating.

This is one of my favorite photos so far! Amazing!

Next, we walked over to a waterfall in town.  It was breath-taking, as you can see.  After that, we went to a restaurant for lunch and then to a different restaurant for dessert.   We had to take advantage of being on “vacation” for the day and have dessert, right? 🙂  After that, we walked around town a little bit more and then headed back to the station to catch our bus back to Riobamba.

Overall, it was a wonderful trip.  As many of you know, one of the things I want to do while I am in Ecuador is to travel to many of the beautiful places in the country.  Banos was my first trip and I enjoyed it a lot.  I also loved learning how easy it is to travel by bus in Ecuador.  Plus, the bus is really inexpensive!  Our tickets were $2.00 each way – what a bargain, huh?

One final thing you may not know about me – I love public transportation!  I know I am in the minority with this one, but it is really fun and humbling being around other people experiencing the same things as me.  I don’t know how else to explain it . . . I just like it.  Even in St. Louis, I loved riding the MetroLink.  Go figure.

So . . . now I turn it over to you.  Here is a link to 10 places to visit in Ecuador.  Check it out (it’s brief!) and tell me:

  • Where do you think I should visit while I am here?  Why?
  • If you came to visit (which you could!), where would you want to travel?