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Top 10 Best Things about Ecuador


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 . . .


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. 🙂

Sopa de Pollo para tu Alma


Listen to this – because my two English classes are A-W-E-S-O-M-E.

In our class workbook, my students recently read a story about Random Acts of Kindness.  After discussing this concept, I challenged each of my students to do a Random Act of Kindness and write about it.  (Well, it was their homework, so I’m not sure if they really had a choice in the matter, but I just wanted them to do something.)  After reading their journals, I thought that it might be interesting to do something together as a whole class, to be kind to others.

Each class took this challenge and did an amazing job with it.   Since we had to plan for when and where we were going to perform our Random Act of Kindness it did take away the “random-ness” of it, but I still believe it made others feel good and encouraged my students to think about what it means to serve others.  Read below to find out what each incredible class did last week.  I think it will make you smile.

candyMy 5:00pm class, which consists of mostly teenagers, made cards for the other classes at our school and bought a bag of candy for each class.  Then, each student delivered the card and candy to the other classes.  While this might not seem like a big deal, it is very intimidating for a teenager to walk into another class of strangers, interrupt the teaching and speak to the teacher in their non-native language.  I was so proud of my students for doing this, even if some of them needed a friend to join them as they walked into the classroom for support.  For some odd reason, we had extra bags of candy leftover.  So, my students decided that they wanted to walk outside and give candy to people in the community.  Wow . . . this was really neat to see.  As they gave out candy, they found out that people reacted quite differently to their offer of free candy.  Some took it willingly, some took it reluctantly, some  completely ignored them, and some asked how much they were charging.  Afterward, my students had an assignment to write about their  “random” act of kindness and giving out candy in the community was undoubtedly the most rewarding part.  I love this because that part wasn’t even planned!   How fun, huh?serving heart

My 7:00pm class chose to help a family living near Riobamba, that recently had a particularly difficult time.  The father in the family passed away, and now the wife is left to raise 8 children.  Ugh.  My amazing students decided to bring things to donate to the family – awesome, huh?  The next day, each student came in with multiple items, such as clothing, books, shampoo, food, shoes, and more.  Just seeing the generosity of my students filled my heart.  But . . . it gets better.  The next day, I went with three of my students to deliver the items to the family.  There is no way around calling out the truth that this family is very poor.  Without going into all of those details, I just need to say that it was a complete blessing that my students wanted to love them during this time.  Outside the house, we sat and talked with the mother for awhile, gave her the bags of items from the other students, and then got ready to leave.  And you know what was really sweet?  Because they live on a farm, they wanted to give something to us to thank my students for their generosity.  They gave us a huge bag of habas beans, which clearly shows her heart and her appreciation toward the gifts from my students.  Good stuff.

In my last post, I wrote about how these classes helped to positively change my heart during my most difficult months in Ecuador.  And now, I am sure that after reading the stories about what they did last week, you can see a glimpse of why I think they are wonderful people. 🙂

As always, now it’s your turn to comment.  Choose one – or both – to reply to please.  I look forward to hearing from you.

  • What is the most special random act of kindness that someone has done for you?
  • What is the next act of kindness you would like to do for someone?

Sonrisas de Ecuador


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


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.


























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? 🙂


I love living in Riobamba because . . .


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*a taxi ride is still $1.00.

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

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

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

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

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

*I can walk everywhere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m a teacher again!


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?