Life with 3 Ecuadorian Priests

After a few more days of exploring Quito and wrapping up WorldTeach training, I have officially arrived in my new home for the next month – Riobamba, Ecuador! The drive from Quito to Riobamba was about 3.5 hours of windy roads and gorgeous views. After we got outside the city limits of Quito, we were in pretty rural areas until we actually got into Riobamba. Many of the homes and shops were in poor condition and stood in stark contrast to the surroundings.

 

Check out this squinty photo of me at a look-out spot that we stopped at! Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day today so the mountain peaks are not visible but the drive was stunning nonetheless.

Like Quito, Riobamba is in the Sierra region and is surrounded by the beautiful Andes mountains. The native language of the Ecuadorian Sierra people is called Quichua. So far, everyone that I have met speaks Spanish but in some of the smaller villages some people still speak Quichua only. Of course, Quichua influences the Spanish of the people here so those who do speak Spanish mix in some Quichua words which are really fun to learn! For example, the word “Guagua” means nino or child.

 

I haven’t seen much of Riobamba yet but I am excited to explore! Riobamba is in the Chimbarazo province and has about 150,000 people.

 

The most interesting thing about my placement here is that we live and do our volunteer work on a school’s campus. The school, called UESTAR, is half public and half private. In other words, there is a religious organization which owns the campus but the teachers are hired and paid with government funding.

We arrived just as classes were letting out for the day (this is the last week of school for Ecuadorian students!) and it was great to see the hustle and bustle. In Ecuador, most schools contain grades kinder-12th on one campus and this school is no different. There is an elementary school building with grades kinder-7 and then a high school building with grades 8-12. The building where I am living (pictured below) is right in-between the elementary school and the high school. The campus also includes several snack bars, basketball courts, and “Ecua-volleyball” courts – I hope I’ll get to learn how to play!

Upon arrival, our camp director Maria Jose met us and helped us get settled. She and her assistant both speak fluent English which makes things quite a bit easier! As I mentioned before, this campus is owned by a religious organization, which means that we are living with priests in a dorm-like building. This dorm building is much bigger than I expected. Downstairs, there are several meeting rooms, a small chapel, a kitchen and dining room, and a big open space with a table and huge bird cages! The “open space” is built in the style of a greenhouse and has a huge glass roof overhead, which lets in natural light. The room is filled with plants and greenery. I know that I’ll be spending a lot of time here lesson planning!

      

Upstairs, there is a small living room and library as well as a washing machine. Clothes are hang dried, of course! The priests all have bedrooms on one side of the upstairs and the 2 other volunteers and I have rooms on the other side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to the 2 priests, there are 2 cooks who each work for half of the week. We met one of them today who helped show us around and explain how to do laundry and where to find things we may need during our stay.

After lunch, we had the opportunity to interact some with the 3 priests! The oldest priest is a man from Spain who is retired and loves to garden. The greenhouse type area and the backyard is his domain! He grows some vegetables and will apparently invite us to help out in the garden. Nothing is blooming yet but he promises that in a month there will be lots. Next, there is a man in about his 50’s who is the director of the school. Finally, there is a younger priest who is from the “Costa” (coastal) region of Ecuador who is known for being very open-minded. He is the only one who speaks a little bit of English!

We arrived on a special day today; one of the priests is celebrating his 20th year of priesthood. Several community members came over to celebrate and we had delicious carrot cake, cheese, and coffee. It was nice to practice Spanish and get to know everyone. The priests and this particular group of women have been building a chapel in a local juvenile prison. The project was recently completed and we are invited to visit the new chapel and meet some of the young adults living in the facility. I am thrilled to have made some community connections on our first evening and to continue developing those relationships. The priests plan on taking us to the mountain Chimbarazo as well as other fun places in the area. We will also learn how to play an Ecuadorian card came called Cuarenta!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While it was a bit challenging to communicate with the priests, they were very patient with us and slowed down their Spanish to make sure that we understand them. I also joined them for a meditation devotional in the small chapel! We will be eating meals with them every day, so we will have lots of opportunities to practice our Spanish! Breakfast is at 7:30, lunch at 2:00, and dinner at 7:00. Our first dinner tonight went really well. We had shrimp risotto and a little bit of red wine for the special occasion. Generally, the biggest meal here is in the middle of the day, which will take some getting used to!

 

Hasta pronto!

Courtney

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ecuador

What the Hecuador?!

I have officially been in Ecuador for 3 whole days now and life has already been full of good food, new friends, lots of learning, and lots of “what the heck?!” moments.

This week and until Wednesday of next week, the 5 other volunteers and I are staying at a hostel in Quito, Ecuador to complete our WorldTeach orientation. Our days are long and full of teacher training sessions that focus on health/safety, teaching tips, and Spanish lessons! I truly missed this feeling of getting to know a new city and I am so happy to be here in Quito. I don’t even know how exactly to describe Quito — it is most similar to my visit to Valencia, Spain. It is a big (actually huge) city that is surrounded by the mountains. It is quite surreal to walk around a hustling and bustling place with glimpses of the mountains in the background. The other volunteers and WorldTeach staff are fabulous and I know that this 8 weeks is going to fly by.

What the heck #1 – the buses!

Yesterday, we got to experience our first bus ride to get to the Megamaxi (basically Walmart). It is only 25 cents to take the bus! This, of course, is a fabulous deal. I have learned that everyone takes advantage of this deal. Every time that I thought that surely no more people could fit on that bus, more people fit on the bus. When it came time for our stop, we had to shove ourselves off and barely made it as a group.

What the heck #2 – TRAFFIC

I should also stop here to mention that Quito traffic is the craziest I have seen so far out of all of the places that I have been. Pedestrians definitely do not have the right of way and crossing is definitely at your own risk. Drivers do not seem to follow much pattern and the roads are extremely windy and curvy (the mountains, duh!)

 

A decade or so ago Quito was considered an extremely dangerous city but thankfully, it is fairly safe these days. WorldTeach is also very vigilant about our safety and really looks out for us and I have felt very safe! So far, the only bad part has been some catcalls and some stares — the stares are kind of expected considering that we are a large group of gringo ladies. We all follow general safety tips that I wouldn’t always consider in the United States (for those who know me, I am not known for my safety hahaha sorry mom). For example, here in Quito, I don’t carry my Smartphone around and only carry the cash I need with me and we stay in a group! This is one reason why I do not have a ton of photos to add to this blog! Riobamba is much safer, so I will have many more photos to come. The cash economy here has definitely been an adjustment for all of us. Ecuador does use the U.S. dollar but since things are cheaper here, they have trouble even breaking $20 bills. This leads me to my next point…

 

What the heck #3 – Cost of food

I had heard that food was cheap here but it still manages to surprise me every time. The food is also covered by the fee to participate in the program, so we are really fortunate! A common lunch here is about $3.75 (including tax and tip) and will include a soup, a hot main course, and a small dessert. Dinner is a bit more expensive and you can really find all of the options here in Quito.

You might be wondering, how is a young lady with little to no Spanish skills getting around and getting along in Ecuador?! Well, I am quite lucky to have several volunteer friends whose Spanish is much better than mine and who are able to communicate when I am not. However, I am trying to practice as much as possible and not worry if I make mistakes. The local people here are so extremely patient and kind with my floundering Spanish skills. As I mentioned previously, we are enrolled in Spanish classes here in Quito for 1 hour per day and I hope to continue lessons and practice in Riobamba.

 

What the heck #4 – toilet paper

My final what the heck moment thus far has to do with toilet paper placement. This one is not necessarily Ecuador specific, but still takes adjustment. No toilets here allow you to place toilet paper in the actual toilet. Instead, one must remember to place it in the trash can. I have heard from WorldTeach staff that this becomes a habit and that when we go back to the United States, we will actually have to re-train ourselves again! Luckily, in our hostel, the bathrooms are cleaned frequently and it isn’t really as gross as it first seems. Our hostel, Cafecito, is absolutely adorable. I am currently downstairs with some friends hanging out in the cute little lobby/bar. One of the bartenders actually just brought us a free drink – Canelazo (cinnamon spiced rum). Clearly, I am not missing much here in Ecuador!

Once again, I am just so happy to be here learning Spanish and training alongside some great people. I know that there will be ups and downs over the next two months (after all, we have been warned that we will all most likely get some kind of stomach illness during our stay here), but I am looking forward to embracing the journey. I look forward to sharing more about Quito and Riobamba in the next week or so!

 

P. S. I recently found out some of the amazing places that we will get to visit during our midsummer conference and our post-summer reflection trip and lets just say, there will be rafting, hiking, and ziplining in my future!

Buenas noches!

 

Ecuador Uncategorized

8 Weeks in Ecuador – What I’m Packing

Hi everyone!

I have a few more exciting updates about my trip to Ecuador, which I leave for TOMORROW! It still really has not set in that I am about to head out and will be gone for 8 weeks. My flight leaves from DFW, stops in Houston, and then arrives in Quito at 5:55am on Sunday morning. In total, there will be about 7 hours of airtime. One of the other volunteers is actually also from the Dallas so I will have a new friend on my flight! Here are a few updates and photos of what I’m packing:

Training in Quito

For the first 9 days of the trip (Monday the 18th to Wednesday the 27th) I will be completing training alongside the other volunteers in Quito. Our training will focus on teacher preparation, Spanish lessons, and cultural lessons. We will have long training days but according to the directors, we will also have some time to explore the city!

Teaching vocabulary

On Wednesday, 2 of the other volunteers and I will travel to Riobamba (4 hours south of Quito) and move into our placement. I talked about my placement a little in the past post, so check that out if you missed it! I now know that I will be teaching the vocabulary class. Every week, I will come up with a theme to teach the various age groups of students. The difficulty will vary based on age group, but they will all have the same theme. The age groups are divided as follows:

RED FROGS         4-5-6

BLUE BEARS        7-8-9

ORANGE BEARS   10-11

BLACK DRAGONS 12-13

GREY WOLVES      15

I will have an older Ecuadorian highschooler volunteering with me in the classroom — this will be a huge help with the language barrier! A few days after arriving in Riobamba, our director is hosting a potluck welcome dinner at her house. The Ecuadorian volunteers will bring Ecuadorian dishes and the other volunteers and I will bring American food. It might be a challenge to find the correct ingredients there!

Packing

One of the most frequent questions I have gotten when I tell people about my trip to Ecuador is the understandable question, “What are you packing?!” Packing has been a bit challenging because I will be there for 8 weeks, the weather can get chilly especially in the evenings, and I need clothes for both the classroom and for outdoor adventures. My airline allowance for baggage is one 50 pound checked bag, one bag for the overhead compartment, and one small personal item under the seat.

Here’s what I have packed so far:

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Pants: 1 pair outdoor pants, 1 pair outdoor capris, 2 pairs dark denim, 1 long skirt, 3 pairs workout leggings, 1 pair cute shorts, 1 pair athletic shorts

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3 graphic tees, 1 workout tank, 2 versatile tees

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1 sweatshirt, 1 coat, 1 rain jacket, 2 cardigans

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4 longsleeved shirts

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3 dresses (one was in the laundry)

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Shower shoes, Chacos, Hiking boots, sandals, and (not pictured) tennis shoes for the plane

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Daypack, contacts, watch, scarf, warm socks, hat & gloves, jewelry, Flonase, hat & gloves, toiletries, English and Spanish dictionary

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Grammar book, 2 journals, kindle, money belt, passport (+ necessary paperwork), LOTS of small bills – large bills are hard to change in Ecuador!

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1 swimsuit, 1 hat, water bottle, gum, sunscreen, quick-dry towel

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Gifts for my hosts!

Other random things not pictured:

  • Small prizes and classroom decorations
  • Underwear/socks/additional toiletries
  • Small purse
  • Chromebook
  • Sunglasses

 

Que la aventura comience!

Ecuador Uncategorized