Letters from Ecuador 10.14.2006

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 14, 2006:

It has now been eleven days since I last put out an email, for which I am very sorry… I have been both busy and have had nothing new or really interesting to say.

As you know, Jonathan and Mariana were in Galapagos, so I had lessons to plan by myself, but it was the same old, same old. Colors, numbers, “My name is…” etc. Repetition is the key, but not too repetitious; you have to put it differently or else they get bored. Sometimes they get bored anyway. Some kids refuse to learn, others painstakingly follow exact orders, and the others are constantly asking during the breaks (or during lulls in class) “How do you say _______ in English?”

There are now no more Australians, but three more Germans! First there is Hannes, a crazy guy who loves to party; then Corrine who, like me, just finished the German equivalent of high school, and is taking a break in Ecuador; and also Carol-of-the-impressive-hair… and the fourth, of course, is Lisa, who’s been here already for three months or so. I would feel completely lost in foreign language if it were not for Natalie, the volunteer from Canada who’s here for the week.

Last week was a big party/holiday week. On Thursday, Jon and Mariana flew to Galapagos, and on Friday there was no school. The people in charge at REMAR decided on Thursday afternoon that the teachers were going to have a brief meeting on Friday instead of teaching lessons. And then on Monday there was no school either, because of the big October 9 festival in Guayaquil (several hours away). Hannes was particularly excited about this announcement: “Four days no school?! That’s (counting on fingers)… tonight: party. Tomorrow: party. Saturday: party. And Sunday: party!”

It’s a good thing he took advantage of it that last weekend, because THIS coming weekend all the bars are closed and drinking is prohibited because of the elections. They want everyone fully awake and thinking clearly when they voted. And everyone (all citizens of Ecuador, anyway) MUST vote, or they go to jail or something. That’s what I understood, anyway. I, however, did not party that weekend, but took the opportunity to take Spanish lessons and practice fiddle. I’ve decided that reflexive verbs in the past participle are one of the most annoying things in the world, including Slim Whitman…

This week I had help from Corrine and Natalie teaching English (the fourth grade is especially unruly) and yesterday (Friday) was a half day; we put on a carnival for the kids. Fauve and Katrina were already back from Galapagos (somehow their 5-day trip kind of turned into a 3-and-a-half-day trip) and they’d brought paint and candy, so we did face-painting, and passed out candy, and the kids played with the new equipment. Oh! The new equipment! The two soccer nets, basketball hoops and volleyball net that Katrina bought for REMAR with money from her school is finally all installed. It’s REALLY nice, and the kids love it. Plus it keeps them occupied; they have something other than volunteers to climb on during recess.

Michael convinced me to go out on Wednesday night because the bars would be closed on the weekend. It was pretty cool. The places I’ve gone so far with Jon and Kate and Nicola, etc. have been very crowded (since it’s usually been on Fridays) and full of “gringos,” but I got to see a different set of bars this time. Michael is a bartender, and he takes his job very seriously. All four hours that I practiced music the other day he was outside also practicing. He does “flair,” which is a very elaborate bottle-juggling sequence. That night we went first to a bar where he was giving the owner “bartending lessons.” We got in free, and had free drinks. At the second place we went to, we also got in free, and drank for free. Michael knows SO many people! Everywhere we went it was “Ey, Michael! Como le va?” (“Hey Michael how’s it goin’?”) And all Michael had to say was “Este es mi amiga, Anita,” (“This is my friend, Anna”) and it was “Oh, si si! Anita! Mucho gusto; ven, ven adentro…” (“Oh, yeah, yeah! Anita! Good to meet you, come in!”) Muaha, I’m connected now.

Until next week…




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