Letters from Ecuador 10.26.2006

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 26, 2006

It is now Sunday (not really, but I wrote this on Sunday) and I’m recovering from the week that killed me. Last Saturday I went with Mariana, Michael, Johana, and Michita (Mariana’s cousin) to the dentist. Creepiest dentist office ever. It was in a dingy apartment building, with stairs worthy of some “most haunted places” reality show or something, and the only lights in the entire building were the ones in the actual office. The waiting room and the rooms surrounding were under construction, so there were no panes in the windows, only dusty paper coverings that had broken and were snapping in the cold breeze. The “plip, plip” from the rain outside came in through those windows, and having nothing to absorb its sound inside, proceeded to echo around the cavern–I mean, office. Couple that with the sounds of electric dental tools coming from the other room…

On Sunday (Oct. 15) I accompanied Mariana, Michael, Johana, and Mariana’s friend Marianni to the “colegio” (high school) where they were supposed to vote for the new president of Ecuador. They’ve been watching the news and arguing about who to vote for this entire week. It seems like Rafael Correa is the most popular candidate right now, except for the fact that he wants to change the currency back to Sucres (Ecuador changed to American dollars in 2001) which Mariana is not in favor of. The other major candidate that I’ve heard of is Alvaro Noboa, simply one of the richest men in Ecuador, who fancies running a country… we’ll see how it turns out.

(Rafael Correa did win the election that year. He’s also be re-elected twice since then (first to be re-elected since the 19th century), and has been a very popular president. He has significantly lowered poverty and unemployment rates throughout the country. He strained ties with the US in order to give Ecuador a little more independence, opting not to renew the Manta Air Force Base’s lease in 2009, effectively removing any remaining US military presence from the country. His environmental policies have been lacking, to say the least, with his priorities tending toward oil dependency.)

Now for the killing: This week at REMAR, the teachers decided to take Wednesday, Thursday and Friday off, without telling us volunteers beforehand. Jonathan took off to go to the beach with the Australians the day after he got back from Galapagos, and Hannes was out late a couple nights, so the only volunteers there besides me were Lisa, Corrine and Carol. It’s hard enough keeping track of one class for one hour with the teacher present, but we had all the classes all day with zero teachers. And our Spanish, though improving, is not nearly good enough to keep the kids under control. Plus, we had to think of things to do to keep them occupied all day, and give them homework, and try to answer questions the parents had before and after school. We locked ourselves in the second grade room during the recreation and I just immersed myself in German for an hour before starting in with the chaos for another two hours.

Now, though, Jonathan is back, and Mariana is very excited. The Australian girls left on Saturday, so we’re pretty sure he’ll be here for lunch and dinner (and work) at least some of the time now. After Galapagos, he went to the beach (as I said) and was gone for six days. He lost the cell phone Mariana gave him in Galapagos, so that was six days with no word. Mariana was beside herself with leftover food (As I said, I’m positive that Jon is some brand of vacuum).

I practice violin as much as I can, time and energy permitting. Which, after this last week, has not been much. I have, however, managed to learn all the new Thile songs and some Gabe Witcher breaks already. Sweet.

And finally, for those of you who’ve written emails of complaint through my father about drinking, *cough*mom*cough* I’ve had, count ’em—4 drinks and a shot of Tequila, all but two on different days, the entire month and three weeks that I’ve been here. Actually, in my entire life. That’s less than either Jonathan or Michael on any single night. So, I don’t think that qualifies me as an alcoholic, or a newly-emancipated-teenager-taking-dangerous-advantage-of-having-no-parental-supervision.

Ok, got that off my chest. Thank you for listening. In other news, still haven’t gotten sick from the food, and I will sorely miss it when I have to go back — especially the bread, and coffee. I even wrote a song in Spanish called “Cafe y Pan Fresco,” (coffee and fresh bread). If there’s anything that you should be afraid of me drinking myself to death with, it would be Ecuadorian coffee.


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