Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bienvenidos a Cayambe!

Well, I've been in Cayambe for a few weeks now, so I think I have a fairly good idea of what it's like by now. To be honest, I didn't fall in love with it instantly, like I did with the Dominican Republic. I actually expected it to be a fair bit like the DR, but it really isn't. But the more time I spend here, the more I love it. I especially love the view of the mountains! We are really missing out by not having them in Southwestern Ontario (no, the Hammer doesn't count). Cayambe has mountains on every side. The view is even better from my school (don't worry, I promise to take lots of pictures). One thing that I noticed right from the beginning was how busy it is! Though it's smaller than Guelph (I'm told 70 000 people), you'd never be able to tell from the crowds that are always filling the streets, especially around the park and downtown area. They are really friendly too, always honking or saying 'hola!' or 'buenas tardes' (good afternoon) as they go past. I really love how colourful the buildings are, as well. They are often painted orange, yellow, blue, pink, or any other colour you can think of. Even my house is sunflower yellow and forrest green. There are also a lot of paintings and murals on walls, either advertising products, like milk and dog food, or just showing the name of a school or business with illustrations. There is also a lot of grafitti (one of my new favourite things, if you didn't already know), which I like. I will take lots of pictures. I set out in search of a digital photo printer, but I haven't found one yet, and failing that I wanted to send some postcards, but I can't find those either. There are lots of shops all over the place, including MANY convenience stores, fruit stands, restaurants, panderias (bakeries - the Spanish word for bread is pan), and even some superstore type places like Wal-mart or Zellers (though not quite as big and with not quite the same variety). My family buys bread (which are actually buns) to eat every afternoon, which I really like. I might try to do that more often when I get back to Canada. Often I am told to "vamos a comprar pan" (go to buy bread) with my little sisters. Though there are tons of bakeries, they always go to this one specific place about 15 minutes away, though I don't really know why. My friend Brittany and I have taken to coming to the park and buying chocolate bread to eat. It sounds kind of gross, but it is actually really good. It's a sweet bread that kind of looks like a cinnamon bun, but it's actually chocolate. One place even puts icing on top. Yum. It's hard to resist for $0.20. One other thing I am not used to about Cayambe is that there are lots of wild dogs, which is weird. I don't mean wolves or coyotes, just domestic dogs that don't seem to have homes or owners. They aren't vicious or dangerous, but they are everywhere. I will pass 10 or more on my way to school alone. Big, small, long-haired, short-haired, any kind you can think of, I've seen. It actually kind of makes me want a dog, strangely (so I home mom and dad still plan on getting one soon). They are even at my school way outside town in the mountain! Some of them try to get into the classrooms, and occasionally they are successful. There was a cute little one hiding under the desks behind the legs of a few students. One day there were 5 in the school yard at one time. It was strange. But then again, it isn't unusual to have animals there. One day there was a horse in front of the door, another time there was a donkey grazing near the playground. I am getting very used to livestock. I pass lambs, goats, chickens, cows, donkeys, pigs and horses regularly. As for vegetation, there isn't as much as I thought there would be. Many people have gardens around their houses (mine has cactuses and cala lillies!), but there isn't much on public property, except for a few parks, one of which I visit often and is in the center of the down town area. It is pretty impressive. I has a bunch of palm trees which I love, and also tiger lilies that are taller than me, and benches so that you can relax and enjoy it all. One thing I don't enjoy is the milk man. I know, it sounds like a pretty benign thing to dislike, but starting early in the morning, men with huge speakers on their big pickup trucks drive around calling "Leche, leche, le-leche" with their mega horns. You can't hear clearly and it kind of sounds like when kids used to say "girl" into their fists to make a weird sound. It's unnbelievably obnoxious and loud. I will not miss buying milk quietly from a store when I get home. Although I do appreciate the milk, now that my family lets me have it cold in my cereal instead of hot. I'd love to tell you more but my fingers hurt and I want to go get a chocolate bun and sit in the park with Brittany (I wasn't kidding lol).

Much love to all of you! Keep the comments coming!
Hasta luego (until later)!!
-Amita (my host dad calls me that)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sorry only have a minute . . .

Hey all

I know I said I would blog soon but once again I am out of time. One of my fellow Intercordians wasn´t feeling well on Tuesday, and there was a big panic that perhaps she had swine flu and we were all quarantined for 2-3 days, so we were unable to leave our houses at all. Of course she just had a regular cold and it was just blown out of proportion, but that's why you haven´t heard much from me lately. Everyone is okay and we all head back to our placements in the morning. I will do my best to write more this week.

Much love!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

My First Week (or so) In Cayambe

Hello again!

Sorry it´s been awhile since my last post. There has been quite a lot to get used to as I moved in with my host family. I don´t want to forget anything so I am going to break things down into sections.
Host Family: My host family is great. I moved in a week ago Thursday. My host mom´s name is Teresa and and my host dad is Jaime (here pronounced kind of like hi-may). Teresa is a tailor and has her own business with at least two other employees. It is attached to the house . . . actually the back door to the business is about 5 feet from my room. Jaime works for a Nestle factory that makes dairy products and runs a small restaurant (also next door to the house) in the evenings. He is a good cook and does most of the cooking. I have an older brother named Santiago, and older sister named Lisette, and two younger sisters named Amy (I think she is 10) and Jocelyn (she is 6 or 7). It is so fun having siblings, even if it is only for awhile. Santiago is married to a wonderful lady named Maria, and they have a daughter named Domenica. They live close by so I see them fairly often. He speaks English quite well, which is nice. When I got a sun burn, he took me to the Farmacacia and told me what to buy. He also showed me around town and bought me a yogurt freezie thing. It´s awesome having a big brother. I think Lisette works out of town, so I don´t see her all the time, but she speaks a little English too and she is great. She is taking university classes to be a book keeper if I understood that right, and she teaches dance classes as well. My little sisters are really cute and always want to be around me. One time Amy even hung out in my room when I was taking a nap! They play Barbies, soccer, like to watch TV, regular little girl stuff. On my first night we watched Enchanted in Spanish! It wasn´t quite the same without Patrick Dempsey´s voice, but it was fun. They are a very family oriented bunch, which I really like. On Sundays they get together with Teresa´s brother´s family and play basketball. I was dreading it at first (you all know how sporty I am), but it was actually a lot of fun. I even managed to score a few points (after a bunch of misses). Then there was a party to celebrate an aunt´s birthday. As you can guess, the house is pretty modern. They have at least 3 Tvs, a microwave, the works. Not heating, though. They have a washing machine which I probably could have used, but they mostly wash their clothes by hand I think, so I did the same. It took me 2.5 hours! It made me miss fabric softener as clothes washed by hand and dried in the sun do not end up very soft. I think from now on I will wash things as they are dirty so it isn´t such a huge chore at the end of the week.
Teaching: This has been a bit of a challenge for a number of reasons. First of all, since September I had been hoping to be volunteering at an orphanage, so I wasn´t expecting to teach. I didn´t even know I was at a school until maybe a week before I left, and even then I wasn´t sure the age groups or what I´d be responsible for. I brought no supplies with me and feel pretty unprepared for it. All I am using is my university Spanish text book. For some reason, though I live in downtown Cayambe, I teach at a school in the mountains a fair distance away in a little village called Convalasencia (or something like that). It costs $0.30 to get there on the bus. I catch it about 10 blocks from my house. It is a pretty poor school, and there are about 80 - 100 students from age 4 to 14. They are only divided up into 3 classes though, which is tricky all on it´s own. In the youngest class some students can read and write, others can´t. I teach anywhere from 1 to 2+ hours at a time in each class. Some days I teach all three, sometimes only one. I don´t really understand the system here. On certain days, random teachers just don´t show up, and one day all but one teacher left at 9am (school here starts at 8). Despite all that, teaching is actually going fairly well. The students are eager to learn and pay attention pretty well. I am teaching them numbers, letters, colours, months, seasons, days of the week, animals, basic conversations (how are you, what is your name, how old are you etc.), and even a few camp song to mix it up a little (Alice the Camel for one). I don´t know how much they are actually retaining but I will keep reviewing it all. Quite a few students hang around me before class and during recess or whenever they get the chance and ask ¨¿Como se dice ______ en ingles?¨ (how do you say ____ in English). Usually it´s a name they ask about, sometimes an object. Sometimes I ask ¨¿que es eso?¨ (what is that?), but usually I can answer them. I get a bit stumped with some of the names (anyone know how to translate Gonsalves?). Some of the young ones have taken a liking to me, which is nice. I rarely walk anywhere without at least one girl on each hand. On Friday one of them gave me a hug on the bus and ended up falling asleep in my arms. It was very sweet. School ends at 12:30 here, which is nice. The worst part about school is the trek home. It takes me 1.5 hours to get from school to my house, and most of that is on foot. I don´t really understand why there isn´t a bus, but I am getting used to the walk. Friday I wiped out and scraped my knee pretty good. The first day I had to walk I took a 4 hour nap, though I think that is partly due to altitude as well. Anyway, I am getting the hang of teaching and it´s actually pretty rewarding. I think it will get better as time goes on as well.
Oh . . . one other funny thing that happened on Friday! Another girl with the program, Brittany, ended up helping me teach because her placement wasn´t running. Towards the end of the day, we were standing at the front of the class while another teacher explained something to the students, and something moving in a on the ground caught our eye. Brittany was like ¨whoa something is going on with that bag!¨. The teacher turns to her and simply goes ¨chicken.¨ We both busted a gut laughing as the poor thing moved around the floor in his bag. A regular occurence here I guess, but we aren´t used to it. The teacher later told Brittany to open it, which she did, but a student had to close it after we saw it´s little rooster head and freaked out. Turns out Brittany´s host mom, the teacher who told us what was in the bag, took it home. Maybe it was dinner last night?

I have tons more to write, but this post is already super long, so I will leave it at that for now. Internet is cheap here ($1/hour or less), so I will be back soon to tell you more. And please comment! It´s nice to know if people are actually reading the nonsense I write about.

Tonight my host parent´s other son is holding a coffee house at his cafe, so I am excited about that. There will be live music and maybe even dancing! I´m hoping to get ahold of some of my Canadian friends here to join me as well.

That´s it for now. Stay in touch! Let me know if you want my mailing address.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hola from Quito!

Hola los todos!

I arrived in Ecuador last night and I love it! Last night and tonight we are staying at this beautiful hostel in Quito. A wonderful little lady cooks for us, and birds and plants are painted on the bright walls. The 8 of us are getting along well and having a great time. Some of us had a little bit of altitude sickness but we are getting better now. It´s weird, but you get winded after just one flight of stairs because there is so much less oxygen in the air. I would love to write more but some fellow Beyond Bordians are waiting for me outside, and I think they are about to shut this internet cafe down. Anyway . . . know that I am well and having a blast! Tomorrow we head to Cayambe to move in with our host families.

Love you all very much!