Ten years ago this fall, I – freshly graduated from high school – flew to Quito, Ecuador, to teach English at an orphanage. Ok, well, really, I was getting out of my hometown, making my mark, immersing myself in language and culture, learning something new about a corner of the world far, far away from my tiny Eastern Oregonian hometown. Teaching English at an orphanage was just my means to do this.
This year I’ll be looking back: posting emails from a decade ago, and reflecting on my experiences from a much older, wiser perspective (riiight). I made editorial remarks in italics, but otherwise, say hello to 18-year-old me.
October 3, 2006:
This week went by fast. I’m running out of ideas for lesson plans already. The first grade teacher’s birthday was on Friday, and on Thursday the other teachers at the orphanage asked Jon and I if we would buy a cake, and bring some candy, and maybe some stuff to drink, etc. A cake?! Ha, it doesn’t seem like a lot to ask, but it’s not like we’re walking money machines, and there are quite a few kids at REMAR. Besides, some of the kids’ teeth are so bad, I don’t think they need any more candy. So Jonathan decided that jugo (juice) was the way to go. On Thursday Mariana went to the market and bought about two dozen maracuyas (passion fruit), and we spent Friday morning cutting them up and making juice out of them; I’m reckoning it was about ten or fifteen pounds of juice that Jonathan had to carry down the hill to the bus stop. Once presented at the school, it disappeared in about ten minutes.
This weekend I didn’t go anywhere. I’ve been sick for the past five days (head cold) so I didn’t feel like doing much. Jonathan took off with the Australian girls for the weekend, so I kind of had the house to myself. I explored Quito a bit; I’m finally learning which streets lead where, which buses to take; and I played guitar on my balcony for several hours on Saturday, in between cups of hot lemonade, my new favorite drink.
On Sunday morning, Michael and I picked the figs from the little tree in the back yard. I know! How cool is that, having a fig tree in your back yard? With these fresh figs, Mariana showed me how to make “Dulce de Higos” (Fig dessert). Or, how to start it, anyway. They must be soaked all day in water and then boiled for a few more hours the next day in a pre-boiled brown sugar and raspberry concoction. It’s very good, however, and if you ever happen to grow a fig tree in your back yard, you should attempt to make this dessert for yourself.
After picking figs, Mariana, Johana and I went up the mountain to visit Mariana’s cousin, Michita. It was the coolest house ever. You could see Quito even better from up there than from my balcony, which I never thought possible. Mariana lives in a very high-tech part of Quito, very modern. It was a radical, but nice change to see where Michita lived. She and her husband own a very simple house, with a tiny plot of garden beside it, and a bigger plot of garden on the hill above it. After my disbelief at picking figs, I got an even bigger surprise when I got to pick lemons from a little tree in the upper garden at Mariana’s cousin’s house only hours later. The ironic part of the situation was the lunch that we were taking up to share. Mariana stopped by the closest mall and picked up a bunch of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and we ate that off of “Coca Cola” collector plates in the tiny kitchen…
This Thursday Mariana and Jonathan are headed to the Galapagos. I know, I know, I’m not going. But for all people would berate me for “going to Ecuador but not seeing Galapagos,” they’re not really all that close. 700 miles from Quito– that would be like telling someone off for visiting Portland, Oregon but not going to see the redwood forests down in Northern California. And even with the lowered prices on tickets, airfare, boat fare, and host families that you can get by going with Mariana, it’s not exactly cheap either. It would cost around $500-600. Cheap, but not. So, another time…
This is the Australians’ last week here. They head for Galapagos on Sunday, come back to Quito for a few days then split off to the U.S., London, and Colombia to continue their “gap” years. It’s kind of sad, but there is still Lisa and Corrine and Carol (I don’t know what it is with Germans and Australians in Ecuador; they’re everywhere!) who will be here at REMAR for a couple more months.
In the meantime, REMAR is milking the Aussies for all they’re worth. One of the girls, Katrina, got a lot of grant money from one of her teachers in Australia, to do things for the kids at REMAR. She bought the paint that we painted the patio with last week, and also bought a basketball hoop, two soccer nets, and a new play structure that she said should be delivered and installed sometime this week. But, once the directors at REMAR found this out, they gave us a whole list of things they wanted money for at REMAR… such as cement and piping for a drinking fountain, papers, pencils, books… they’re definitely not shy.
I’ve been here a month! Who knows what I’ll be doing next month.