Tag Archives: Spanish

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?

 

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! 🙂

Me . . . the Different One.

Standard

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?

Thoughts from Ecuador

Standard

Meet my “host nephew” Gabrielito. He is so much fun! How could you resist this face? Muy guapo, si?

I noticed it’s been awhile since I’ve posted thoughts about my time in Ecuador.  I know I’ve recently written about a couple of great trips I’ve taken, but that’s just “stuff,” not what is really going on inside of me.  So . . . here you go – your glimpse inside my head and heart.  Proceed with caution. 🙂

I have been in Ecuador for a little over 8 weeks . . . that is a long time!  It’s hard to imagine that it’s been about two months since I’ve seen family, friends, my dog . . . and been able to drive.  While I miss those aspects of my life, my brain has been working to try to make sense of my current life and the new experiences here.  It’s strange being in a place where I feel comfortable and life feels familiar because of my routines, but yet it is all so unfamiliar at the same time.  Most everything is new and I’m not sure my brain knows how to process all of this yet.

I was thinking the other night about how I got here.  Meaning, how I got to the point in my life where I wanted to live in another country for an extended period of time.  Here’s the brief overview.  After visiting Central America several times in the past few years, I started to notice a passion inside of me for the Latin American culture and the possibility of using my teaching experience to educate those in need.  This past spring, God placed it heavily on my heart that now was the time to follow this passion.  So, I did . . . and, here I am . . . living in Ecuador.  (By the way, the decision wasn’t quite that easy, but I just wanted to give you the brief overview, remember?)

Someone asked me the other day if Riobamba feels like home yet and my answer was no.  That made me wonder what it takes for a place to feel like home.  I like the city, my Ecuadorian family is wonderful, and the school where I’ll be teaching seems great.  But, I don’t wake up with warm and fuzzy feelings as if this is my home.  Then I wonder, did I wake-up with those feelings in St. Louis?  I don’t know.  Do you?  In Riobamba, I feel comfortable, cared for, and safe, but it is not home . . . yet.  So, that leaves me thinking that I am not sure what it really takes for a place to feel like home.  Does it happen in 10 months?  It that an unrealistic hope?  What does it really take to call a place home?

And . . . how does living in a country that speaks another language fit into all of this?  Gratefully, I do feel like my Spanish has improved since I’ve been in Ecuador.  At the same time, however, Spanish has been hard for me lately.  I don’t feel like I am learning much Spanish during my weekly lessons and have realized that I need to be challenged differently.  With that being said, I am planning on finding a new Spanish teacher and hope for a positive change.  Obviously, when there is a communication barrier in any scenario, it can be difficult to connect and feel like you are valued . . . because you really aren’t sure.  So, now I wonder if strengthening my communciation is one of the key components to Riobamba feeling like home.

And, to conclude . . . I begin teaching on Monday.  Wow . . . it’s hard to imagine that the time is finally here!  After a month of orientation and a month of observing other teachers, the first day of classes is so close!  I am excited . . . and nervous.  I have been assigned to teach Level 7 English classes.  At my school, there are 8 levels (plus a few additional methodology classes), so this means that the students in my classes should be rather proficient with English.  At some point after I get into the teaching routine, I’ll let you know how things are going.

I know this post was long.  Thanks for sticking with me.  As you may have realized, I have a lot of thoughts bouncing around in my head these days.  If you have any advice to share with me about my time here, I would love to hear from you.  Hasta luego mis amigos!

Firsts . . .

Standard

During my time in Ecuador, for the first time ever I . . .

*hung my clothes on a clothesline.

*saw someone reading the Wall Street Journal in Spanish.

*used U.S. Sacagawea dollar coins daily.

*lived at an altitude of 9,350 feet.

*commuted to and from work on a city bus.

*missed my bus stop and had to walk back to where I should have gotten off.  Then . . .

*learned how to politely push my way through people on the bus to get off the bus faster at my stop.

*drank hot chocolate with cheese.

*regularly put my cell phone in my bra. (It’s what we’re supposed to do for safety!)

*gave people the “evil eye” to deter them from taking my stuff.

*took Spanish lessons in a group of 6 . . . and loved it!

*drank a sweet milk drink with corn in it . . . it’s delicious.

*saw someone riding a motorcycle and pushing a bike alongside them.

*visited beautiful Calle La Ronda at night.

*ate soup two times a day (lunch and dinner).

*accidentally called The Three Bears the Three Eyes in Spanish. (tres osos vs. tres ojos)

*accidentally said I had an “old” stomach instead of a “full” stomach. (estomago vecio vs. estomago vacio)

*drank tea two times a day (breakfast and dinner) and dipped bread in it.

*rode the trole.

*visited a museum displaying Mayan art.

*visited the market and saw a butcher cut a goat in half and begin pulling out the organs. (Gross!)

*took a salsa dancing lesson (this was mandatory from WorldTeach!).

What are you wondering about my time in Ecuador so far?  Is there anything else you are interested in hearing about up until this point?  If so, please comment and let me know your thoughts . . . instead of hearing mine all of the time! 🙂  Thanks for reading today!