Getting enough quality time on the internet is nearly impossible here. Nothing is easy. Nothing at all, which I guess is my first lesson regarding living abroad. Add about three hours and $10 to everything at the very least (by the way, $10 here is like $50 at home). For these reasons, I have not been able to adequately post about my last two months in Ecuador.
I spent the majority of September in orientation for nearly 12 hours a day that included practice teaching for two hours and two hours of Spanish lessons (I am not sure class was helpful though because my Spanish is still reproachable). During this time, I made about 40 friends of which nine are still living here in Quito. The rest of the group dispersed into the provinces south and west. It was very strange to go from seeing these people everyday to seeing only three or four of them once or twice a day, if at all. We had the rare instance of having a large group of people who got along and were pretty much amazing, friendly, and exceptionally interesting. I look forward to our reunion this weekend in Cuenca for the festival.
In September, I learned how not to get robbed (with the exception of my host family's incident, I have been lucky and DILIGENT), how not to get sick, if possible, and how to survive public transportation without dying, which has proven to be the most difficult thing here. Riding the buses is what I imagine surfing would be like if you were a sardine. More than once I thought for sure I was going to die while getting on the bus. I am completely serious when I write that they barely stop, and they most definitely have no concept of 'crowded' or too many people on a bus. If I hear 'Siga' one more time..... Frequently, the buses have stopped for me but there is no room and I have to stand on the first step, like the very first step you take to get on the bus, as in hanging out the bus. I could write an entire novel about my bus experiences here during the first two weeks and it would be quite involved and humorous.
My first month included an interesting trip to a Festival in the barrio Guapulo where I listened to a Spanish Nirvana cover band in a hippie bar. I also danced salsa in front of a huge church with hundreds of Ecuas until the wee hours of the morning. I road in the Teleferiqo to the top of Mt. Pichincha and almost died from lack of oxygen 12,000 feet up. (That is another thing, it is HARD to go from sea level to 10,000 ft. in the Andes. I was huffing and puffing for weeks. The stairs still kill me.) I experienced a few clubs for 'gringos', a Cuban club with an excellent live band, and may interesting restaurants. I have to tell you the majority of the food the Ecuas eat is rice, chicken, bananas, and potatoes FOR EVERY MEAL. It is very bland. I think I have had enough to last me a lifetime.
On a more serious note about our time in September, four members of our group were kidnapped by a masked gunman carrying a machete while hiking on top of the mountain in Quito. They spent the entire day hiding from the man from whom they managed to escape. Luckily, the national police (with PERSISTENT coaxing from the U.S. Embassy) rescued them unharmed. Three French tourists and one Australian were with them, and also escaped. Needless to say, our fellow volunteers were slightly traumatized, yet, they all stayed in Ecuador. So I won't be hiking Pichincha again....
My host family is very nice. I enjoy talking to them and feel I am extremely lucky to have been placed in their home, even though they kind of abduct me and take me to tile stores, mall food courts for lunch, as well as 8 hour visits to grandma's house. It is very frustrating to live with a family in another culture, but the experience is worth it, as they are kind, generous, and especially helpful during this experience.
This month, I began teaching. I have two classes: Sufficiency I and Advanced 2. Who knew it would involve me studying English grammar for at least an hour every day. These are the two most advanced classes, so it proves slightly challenging to teach but I enjoy them for the most part. I teach four hours a day from 7 to 9 am and 6 to 8:30 pm. Classes are Monday through Friday morning. I spend most of my days planning for classes and wishing I could eat munchos, butterfingers, mac & cheese, and peanut m & ms. Having to be up early is not exactly fun, as I have to catch the bus at 6:30 a.m. then I don't get home until after 9 pm. We eat dinner at 10 p.m., which is about the time I fall into bed. Eating this late has been a very difficult adjustment. People here barely eat breakfast then wait seven hours for lunch, and another seven to eight for dinner. Needless to say, I've taken to snacking and maybe even taken emotional eating to an entirely new level. They have tasty snacks and I've come to love the mora (blackberry) anything: jugo (juice), yogurt, ice cream, etc. you name mora and I love it. I am trying desperately not to become a gordita, a.k.a. a little fatty. I haven't been able to join a gym yet so I have been practicing karate in my driveway and bedroom. People stopped to watch when I was in the driveway so I started doing exercises in the privacy of my bedroom. I look forward to finding a gym soon. I NEED to find a gym soon.
There are days when I am fine and think I will make it without a problem. On other days, I am ready to hike down the street to the airport to catch the next plane to Miami. Being a 'cultural learner' is difficult in not so obvious ways. Stay tuned, there is a great deal more to come....