Departure! The countdown is on...

August 12, 2009

Chao Amigos!

I am now home from Ecuador, and happy to be back with my family in Canada although I do miss all the wonderful people I met while I was away.

On my last night with my host family they held a huge surprise party for me with an enormous meal, a cake and they even presented me with a plaque thanking me for coming and sharing my friendship with their family. I had a few thank you gifts for them as well. It was a wonderful night spent with the people that mean the most to me in Ecuador, my second family. They have assured me over and over again that if I ever come back to visit, I will always have a home in Ecuador.

And now it is time to thank everyone in Canada who supported me on this trip. A final thanks to all of my donors, my family and my friends who have kept in touch, read my blogs and followed me on this journey. I cannot tell you all how much it meant to read comments on here or to hear from my family that others had been reading my blog and loved seeing the pictures and hearing the stories I told.

Both Ecuador and its people are beautiful, I absolutely feel in love with this country during my three month stay and even though Canada is my home, a piece of my heart will always be attached to the mountains at the center of the world.

God Bless you all <3


July 30, 2009

More pictures

I am finally at the internet with my camera cable. I take my camera almost everywhere but for some reason at 6 am when I am getting ready to go to Cayambe for work and sometimes to stay afterwards to use the internet I can never remember to bring my cable so I can post pictures. As a result, these are long overdue but I hope you all enjoy them :)

My host brother, Jhon, and I riding Amadeo on the way to visit the cows and help with the milking.
This is me in traditional dress dancing in the festival of San Pedro, with a man in a traditional diabluma costume.

There is lots of dancing in the streets, when we were going home in the bus there was a group of dancers blocking the road so no traffic could pass.

Jhon and Leti sitting on a planter on the side the road, they were tired after walking all afternoon watching the dancing for San Pedro.

Another parade where I rode my host father's horse Amadeo.

One afternoon we made humitas, a traditional food, they are kind of the texture of banana bread and we wrapped the dough in clean corn leaves and steamed them in a huge pot over the open fire. They are delicious!

Leti fabric painting the canvas bag that I brought as a gift.

Me dancing with a cousin, Bianca, in the house.

One afternoon we planted potatoes in the field next to our house. THey are just starting to come up now and will be ready to harvest in December.

Climbing Nevado Cayambe, a snow capped mountain. All of us were wearing tons of layers of clothing because it is so cold and we didn't have our winter jackets and things.
I will write again soon, enjoy :)

July 29, 2009

A Reponse to Handwashing laundry

A fellow traveler of mine just recently posted a blog about hand-washing laundry and the thoughts she thinks while doing so.

I happen to really enjoy hand-washing my laundry. Firstly, I don´t really have anything overly pressing to occupy my afternoons so doing laundry every few days is fine with me. Also, my 11 year old host sister thinks no one should have to do their laundry alone because that´s boring so she does hers at the same time as me. We take this time to talk about everything and anything and often have mini Spanish-English lessons. I teach her things like the ''I scream you scream we all scream for ice cream rhyme'' and she tries to teach me to roll my Rs like in proper Spanish (which by the way, I still can't do). In the end, we have fun together and laundry isn´t so much a chore as a time to talk.

I love washing laundry with my host sister because I also learn more about the country. We talk about different things that happened during our days at school or at home or plans that we have for later on. Also, she loves to ask me about Canada and how things are done there so I do my best to explain, even though sometimes it is a very round about explanation because I don't know all the words in Spanish.

Doing laundry has become a wonderful time for discussion with my 11 year-old host sister. I remember reading Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed and how much he stressed that we must live and dialogue with 'the other' and I can't believe how true this has been for me in the past months. At home in Canada, laundry is a chore to be done only as often as need be so that I don't run out of clean socks and underwear, but here I wash every two or three days and it becomes a time of dialogue. When I first came washing the people I lived with and the act of washing laundry by hand, along with many many others things were completely unfamiliar to me. The first time I did my laundry, my host mom took over partway through because I think it pained her to watch me go so slow, not to mentioned all the water that I splashed on myself instead of the laundry. But now, as is true for most things in this country, I now enjoy it, it is a familiar part of my routine. Something so simple has become a time for conversation with others and leads to learning more about the culture I am living in.

July 14, 2009

A Vocabulary of Memorized Sentences

While I am teaching my courses I have realized that many of the older students always use the same sentences and switch one or two words to make it a little different. At first I thought they were all just copying from each other but later realized that it was a case of each student having memorized a few sentences in English and they were re-using them for all situations, sometimes switching a few words in hopes that I wouldn't notice. As a result I have started to focus on sentences more and more and how to write different sentences. Sometimes at the end of class I write a list of vocabulary on the board so that the students will have more words and things that they can use.

I don't really know how to fix this problem. The students need to understand how to put the words together on their own, to be able tot think of a sentence and put it on paper instead of just using the same sentences over and over again. It is also difficult sometimes to teach because there are some things that are said in Spanish that just don't make sense in English. For example, in Spanish when a car is driving it is said to be 'walking', as a result I see a lot of sentences like 'The red car is walking in the park' and to explain why this doesn't make sense in English is very difficult becuase in Spanish it makes perfect sense.

I struggle a lot with helping the students here to learn English. Many of them are eager to learn but otehrs only come to class because their parents want them to take advantage of this incredible opportunity: free English courses offered an hour a day by a native English speaker, in this country such an opportunity doesn't happen often. I want to teach them everything and to have them be really good at it, but I only have so much time, only one week of classes left, and I can only do so much before they have to help themselves. I once asked the secretary of my school why they have ther students learn English and she said because it is so important in the world. The problem though is rooted in the school system as far as I can tell. Students only have one 45 minute class a week in English and they don't review what they learn from week to week so they forget what they learned each week and move on to a new lesson, therefore never really learning anything at all. A supply English teacher at my school once told me that even in University their professor gave them all the instructions and everything in Spanish so they didn't really learn English and then their exams were written in English and they all did very poorly becuase they couldn't understand what was being asked of them. I know that I am not going to be able to change the school system in my time here, and that is not my purpose here. Instead I have made a personal goal to help these few students as much as I can in hopes that in the next school year they may be able to benefit from what I can offer them.


Yo Soy Gringa

The word here for a foreigner from the Americas is ''gringo'' or ''gringa'' if you´re a girl. My host father explained this to me in the first few weeks one night at dinner. So for the duration of my time here I am a gringa, and this is made very noticeable because of the colour of my hair, skin and eyes. On any given day walking down the street I am treated differently by all people. Some are very happy to see me, they say hi and sometimes even stop to shake my hand and ask where I am from, others look at me and look away, and still others whistle, etc. in an effort to attract my attention. At first I was very aware of the fact that I didn´t fit in, I didn´t know the customs of the country and trusted my little host sister to show me where to go because I had no idea where anything was. Now however, after being here for nearly three months I am confident in where I am going and I have learned the language well enough to get what I need and understand when someone is telling me something. It is easy for me to walk down the street and sort of forget for a few moments that I actually don´t blend in with everyone else, but I am quickly pulled back to reality by some man saying ''hello, my name is...'' in very broken English or whistling, or even sometimes walking by of group of men whose conversation stops as they all stare. But don't get me wrong, not all men are like this, some are in fact very kind gentlemen.

I asked my host sister one day if ''gringo'' was a bad word, a derogatory term, she responded no that its just a way of stating where someone is from. Coming from Canada which is such a multicultural society that you can´t guess someone's home country based on the colour of their skin, this is one thing that still bothers me a little. It isn't meant to be a derogatory term but at the same time it obviously segregates you. Also, people here assume that I know every other white person in the country. A prime example is one day I was eating lunch in a restaurant with my host family and a girl with a fair complexion and blonde hair walked in with her boyfriend speaking flawless Spanish when my host sister asked me very loudly ''is she your friend?'' I just said no and looked up at the girl to smile appologetically and even laughed a bit. I don't know why they think this, but it has happened more than once. Also, people seem to think we know everyone in the country, there was a student here a few years ago that everyone talks about named Christopher. No one knows his last name or even what province he lives in but almost everyone says ''You´re from Canada, do you know Christopher?'' so I am left to say ''no, Canada is a very big country and there are lots of people named Christopher'' which is really the best explanation I can give.

So, while I am here I will always stand out, because I will always be a 'gringa' but after living here for these three months I have come to love this country, its people and most of its customs. Even though I will never quite fully belong because of my appearance, I feel that a small part of me will always be Ecuadorian.

Summer School

So I mentioned before that now I teach summer English classes for all the students who want to come.

I teach three hours of class from Monday to Friday. I start at eight and have an hour with the 2nd and 3rd graders, a half hour break then from 9:30 to 10:30 I work with the 4th and 5th graders, again a half hour break and then from 11 to 12 I work with the 6th and 7th graders. 7th grade is the final year of elementary school here and then they have 6 years of high school before having the option of goign to university.

Most days are wonderful, the kids are fun and eager to learn. I have been finding though that the students in the oldest class are mostly there because their parents want them to be or their teachers said they should come to practice. Sometimes they are difficult to teach because they just sit and talk to each other and don´t do any work. The younger kids are on the whole pretty good, although sometimes I do have to separate them from their friends in order to make them work. I teach things like numbers, colours and shapes to the younger classes and for the older kids I teach them verbs and lots of sentence structure.

Each day I have lots of kids at every hour, I average probably about 90 students a day spread across the three hours. It is encouraging that so many students keep coming and even today, two weeks into class I still have parents coming in asking how they can register their children because they just heard about the classes. My response is always the same '' you just have to come with a notebook and a pencil.'' I am not actually sure if I am supposed to allow students from other students to come or not, I asked the secretary once and she told me the director had said only students from the Himmelman were allowed to come, but then a parent came and said he had talked to the director who had approved one of his children coming who attended a different school, so my response is always yes. To me it shouldn´t matter what school the child goes to regularly if they want to learn English, I am not going to kick them out.

Hasta luego,

July 9, 2009

Teaching at the Himmelman

My placement started in Escula Himmelman, a school in Cayambe. I was placed there as an assistant to the English teacher, but his grasp of the language is so minimal that I understand him better when he speaks to me in Spanish than when he tries to speak English to me. He has decent sentence stucture but he would always say half the words in Spanish and conjugate the verbs wrong and mispronounce almost everything. Each school day would start at 7:30and run until 12:30. This is divided into 6, 45 minute periods and a half hour recess. Each grade has 45 minutes of English class once a week, except for the grade 7s (the last grade in elementary school here) who had a double period once a week. The students all had workbooks with lessons prepared in them and activities to do after the lesson was taught. So I would go into class, the English teacher would show me which page to teach and I would basically teach the lesson. He would interject to translate everything to Spanish for the students, anad as a result they know almost no English because everything was always translated for them and they became dependent on it. As a result I worked with seventh grade students who could barely write a proper sentence and most students didn´t know the numbers from 1 to 20 in English even thought it is taught in second grade.

The school system is very different here, teachers talk on their cell phones in class and if another teacher comes to the door to ask a question, even if they are in the middle of a giving the students a dictation, the teacher will go to the door and talk to their co-worker for a while leaving the children sitting in the class. The English teacher would often be on his cell phone or texting while I was teaching lessons, he would put his phone under the teachers desk or stand at the back of the class with his back turned, I guess he thought I wouldn´t notice. He would also leave the class for long periods of time and I would have no idea where he was. Sometimes though when he left the class it was good because I could teach the lesson without him interrupting to translate everything in Spanish. Sometimes though this didn´t work out because he would still come back and translate, and everything that they had understood was immediately undone. Sometimes in the last period of the day he would let me get started then pick up his briefcase and leave, giving me instructions that if they didn´t finish their work they couldn´t go home, and then he wouldn´t come back at all, so I think he just went home early.

The students here are really aggresive, even the girls, and when a teacher leaves the classroom they go crazy. They fight with each other, full out fist fights between the boys and hair pulling and kicking from the girls. They run around the classroom stealing other students´ books. backpacks, hats anything and run around to avoid getting caught. Sometimes when the English teacher left they would be good for a while and then go crazy on me. This was the worst because I was really powerless to control them, I didn´t speak Spanish well so usually I would help those who wanted to work and let the others go as long as they weren´t killing each other. Whenever I did tell them to stop hitting each other, they would always say they were only playing.

Most days I enjoyed, if only for the odd student who worked really hard at English and I would help them because they were interested and trying hard. I had one girl come up to me in class and say ''May I please go to the baño please?'' I explained to her what bathroom was in English and that she didn´t need to say please twice. She didn´t understand right away but I let her go to the bathroom anyway, about ten miuntes later she said I understand now and asked me again, this time with everything correct. I asked her who taught her how to say this and she said that she studies at home by herself so she taught herself. This happened on a day when I was particularly frustrated, but after that day whenever I was frustrated I would always think of that one little girl who tried so hard. I tried to keep in mind too that there are probably more students who want to learn too so I would just keep trying.

The school year is ended now though so I am still teaching at the same school offering free summer courses for anyone who wants to come. More about that in another post :)


July 5, 2009

Spaghetti for Breakfast

Well, Since I´ve been here for two months (oficially today) I think it´s time to share with all of you some of the Ecuadorian eating habits.

I know before I left I was worried about having to eat guinea pig, a delicacy here, but the closest I have come to that is being stared at by the one on someone else´s plate. thank goodness :)

Today I woke up and got ready for church, a Sunday norm, then I went into the kitchen to see what was cooking for breafast. My host sister was making fresh strawberry-banana juice, one of my favourites so I thought ''well, it´s off to a good start'', then I walked over to the stove: one pot held spaghetti and the other boiled poataoes, I don´t know why I found this funny but I almost laughed out loud. All I could think of was how in the last two months, spaghetti for breakfast has become somewhat of a norm and before I came here if you asked me if I wanted spaghetti for breakfast I probably would have screwed up my face and said ''spaghetti is not breakfast food''. But here, breakfast food doesn´t really exist: sometimes, very rarely, my host mom makes omelettes or boiled eggs or pancakes, but most often it is soup, or potatoes, chicken with rice and salad of tomatoes and onions, one morning it was beets and mashed potatoes another home-made french fries and salad. Anyway, I think you get the point. Here, breakfast is just another meal of the day with no particular food to it like how I would generally eat cereal or toast or eggs with bacon in Canada.

Also, June, July and August are the festival months in Cayambe, so I have experienced some of the traditional festival foods in Cayambe as well. First of all, I really like most of them. I have been introduced to empañadas which are a circle of dough folded over a piece of cheese and deep-fried then sprinkled with sugar, and they are delicious! Also, they have these things that the call chochos and we thin kthey are a legume but I don´t really know what plant they come from. Anyway, they serve them with large dried corn kernels (kind of like giant unpopped popcorn) dried banana chips, onion and tomatoes and a slice of lemon, this is also really good although I was somewhat skeptical when my host sister first offered them to me.

At parties they like to drink a juice called Chicha, I don´t know fully how they make it but I know it is derived from corn, sometimes it is fermented and sometimes not. They have a whole bunch of it in a bucket and go around scooping out cups of it to offer to people. Sometimes it is fermented and sometimes not, though I do not really like it either way, I prefer it not fermented. I usually drink it the first time it is offered to me but after that turn it down politely.

All in all, I have gotten used to the foods here. I still eat too little according to the locals who eat mountains of food. My host sister and brother who are 11 and 7 generally eat more than me and one of the teachers at the schoos would bring in snacks for his students at the end of the year, him and his wife were concerned that I didn´t eat enough so he would always invite me in to eat with his students which I thought was quite funny. If I saw his wife later on she would usually ask if I had eaten and when I said yes she would be very happy.


June 30, 2009

Fast Forward

So its almost the end of June, holy time has flown.

Today was the official last day of school and I attend the graduation ceremony of all the grade 7 students, including my host sister. The ceremony was pretty similar to in Canada. They sang the national anthem, gave out only one award to the student with the highest marks and he was also valedictorian. The poor boy though got so nervous that he forgot his speech, which was only memorized and not on paper, but everyone was sympathetic towards him and clapped. Then the principal made some remarks, which I understood very little of, One of the grade 7 teachers made some more remarks and they handed out the diplomas. To hand out the diplomas they called up 4 students at a time, had one parent tie a dark blue cape around their shoulders, then a teacher put the grad cap on their heads and gave them their diploma, they turned to face everyone, had pictures taken and headed back to their seats. The entire ceremony was outside, and it started to rain, so the students' diploma´s were getting wet so one parent went and collected them all back up so they wouldn't be ruined. Thankfully, it stopped raining later on and the sun came out so they were able to celebrate without getting soaked. After the ceremony, each of the 4 grade 7 classes had a feast in their classroom with all the students and their parents. I went to the teacher's feast and later to my sister´s classroom. As soon as I got there they tried to give me another heaping plate of food (they like to feed people excessive amounts of food here) and then when everyone was finished eating they turned on music brought out a bunch of beer and started dancing. No kidding, beer at the school for the parents and they like to try to force it on people, but thankfully my host parents said I couldn´t so they stopped trying to get me to drink. However, because of my skin, hair and eye colour, I am considered very pretty and they all wanted to see me dance so I ended up dancing a whole bunch with the parents of the kids in the class. My feet were so tired, I was very happy when my host parents said it was time for us to go.

I am going to fast forward throught the month of June and just write some of the major events and then keep posting to keep caught up with current events, instead of always being behind:

June 1st - This is international children´s day so at the school this morning their were several speeches and one of the classes did a presentation. Also, a lot of the classes had fiesta´s put on by their teachers with food, I was invited to one of the grade 7 classes and given chicken, potatoes, molte (a food made from corn that is like wet popcorn, it tastes pretty good), and cooked banana, of course served in a small plastic bag like most street food is here. It is very common to put food into plastic bags, and whenever their is a fiesta people take their leftovers home in plastic bags.

weekend of June 6th - all of us Candians went to Otavalo for the weekend. We saw the huge open market place and all of teh booths, it is beautiful. I finally bought postcards to send home to people. We stayed in a hostal and tried to take advantage of sleeping in but only actually slept until about 7 o'clock. On Sunday morning, I went to church with one of the other students. The churches here are very large and very beautifully decorated. I have pictures so I will have to post them soon.

Wednesday, June 10 - we were on the bus to go home after school, they had people packed in as much as possible, when a police officer came along, inspected the bus and said it wasn´t allowed to leave. So everyone had to get off and wait for another bus to come. Finally, another bus came and once everyone was on, it was also inspected and they told everyone to get off. As people were unloading though I guess they changed their minds because they told us to get back on again. By the time we finally got home it was past 2:30 (normally we are home by 1:30), my host mom was very worried about us, and I was starving!

June 12 - my host family planted potatoes today and I helped! It was fun. They said they can plant and harvest all year round. Potatoes take 7 months to grow so my family will harvest them in December and then they can plant more. It seems so starnge to me to be able to plant and harvest all year round. I explained to my host fmaily that in Canada you have to plant in the spring so things are ready to harvest in the fall and then you can eat or feed your animals all winter from the food you have stored up. Of course this concept was also very strange for them.

June 13 - Today after lunch I was feeling really sick. I had a really sore stomach and threw up once. By the time it was about 10 o´clock at night I was in a lot of pain and couldn't sleep, so I told my host mom I was sick. She got really worried and told my host dad. There were some aunts, uncles cousisn and grandparents at my house because my host mom's brother had come to visit from Quito and he only visits once every three years. Of course, hearing I was sick sort of broke up the party. They told me to go back to my bed and my grandmother came in with an egg to rub all over me (it was sitll in its shell), then my host mom came in with a bunch of leaves from outside, which my grandmother also rubbed all over me. My host dad was drunk from drinking beer all afternoon with the guests, and was sitting on the edge of my bed saying things that were suppsoded to be comforting but often made me laugh. He lept saying you´re strong, you´re strong and you´re my daughter, I´m your father over and over again, and 'que linda, que bonita' which translates to how beautiful, how pretty. Then they gave me alka seltzer to drink, I don´t know why, but it tasted horrible and was triggering my gag reflex, I managed to drink about half of it. During all of this on e of my aunts, and two cousins were all in my room along with my host dad, mom and grandmother, so on top of being sick, I had a huge audience. I woke up feeling quite a bit better and haven´t been sick since, so thank goodness :)

Sunday, June 21 - Today all of the students and I went to see one of the mountains that is snow capped. My host dad was acting as a guide and my host brother and sister, and my grandma and a couple of cousins came along at the last minute. We rode in the back up a pick-up truck, a very common way to travel here and took tons of pictures. We had lunch in a house at the base of the mountain and then started climbing towards the peek. It was hard because the altitude made breathign difficutl and we weren´t really prepared for mountain climbing. We were wearing running shoes for the most part and most of us didn´t have mittens. The children who came were also very underdressed for how cold it was so we ended up giving them all of the extra clothing we brought along and also a couple students took off their coats to give to the kids. The view though was breath taking, we were in the clouds and could watch them drifting past below us. We took lots of pictures so I will post them as well.

June 26 - We all travelled to Quito, the capital city, for the weekend to celebrate Canada Day. The chamber of commerce put on a pancake breakfast and some events for the day. The pancakes were awesome but the syrup was aunt Jemima lite, ew. I was definitely wishing I had been smart enought ot bring some of the maple syrup that I brought from home. oh well.

June 29 - today was the festival of San Pedro, a huge festival in Cayambe. There is a huge parade and groups of people from all of the surrounding communities dance. I danced as a part of a community that is higher up than Convalescencia (where I live) because they didn´t have a group. Four of the other students danced with Santa Isabel because that is the community that they live in. I will write mroe about this in a separate post.

Well, that is June in a nutshell. More to come about my placement, host family and everything that happens in July!



June 16, 2009


This is incredibly long overdue, I am so sorry that I really haven´t been blogging at all.

As a result of being so far behind I am going to put in excerpts from journal entries that highlight some of the main things I have experienced so far and I will include separate entries to tell you all about my host family, my work placement and my sort of daily life here.

I´ll start at the beginning:

There are 8 students here in Ecuador representing three universities in Ontario and one in Saskatchewan. We all flew together from Toronto to Quito, Ecuador on May 5th. Upon arrival in Quito we were picked up at the airport by the supervisor of FRI (Fundacion Reto International - the organization here) and we stayed in a hostal in Quito for two days for a brief orientation. Our language training consisted of a three hour Spanish class in Quito on our second afternoon, and on May 7th just after lunch we all loaded into a large van to drive to Cayambe to meet our host families. The next morning was to be our first day in our work placements.

Wed May 6th, 2009: I am up in the mountains, so the altitude is taking some adjusting to. Today, walking up 2 flights of stairs is extremely hard work and leaves me panting and tired. I am a toss up of emotions for meeting my host family tomorrow but am ultimately looking forward to it. Quito is a beautiful city and all of the landscape I´ve seen so far is breathtaking. It´s hard to believe though that I´m in a whole different country for three months, not just visiting somewhere for a few days.

Thurs May 7th, 2009: Today we met our host families. I was the 2nd last to be dropped off so I was able to see where almost everyone else will eb living, and I am not too far away, though it is a steep hill to walk up. All of the families that I met were beautiful people.
My own host family is also incredible. Leticia is 11 and Jhon 7 (not 17 as I was told prior to my srrival, oh well). My family likes to joke alot, Leti loves to learn English and they are kind to me with my incredibly broken Spanish.
My work placement starts tomorrow. I will be working at a school in downtown Cayambe helping the Englsih teacher to teach classes. Leticia and Jhon go to the school where I will be working and they are very happy to be taking me with them. All tonight they kept chanting my name. Both children are precious.
I am told that tomorrow I have to wake up at 5:30am to catch the bus at 6:30 to go to school. I am more nervous for this than I was to meet my family today.

* * *
Fri May 8th: A wishy-washy sort of day. Exciting but frustrating. I had my first day in placement at ''escuela himmelman''. The children were mesmerized by me, in the schoolyard they would always gather around me and ask my name, where I was from and my age. By halfway through the day I could hear my name being repeated over and over again by all of the children. I was invited to play hopscotch by a group of girls, the rules are different than when I used to play, but one girl would demonstrate and then I would copy. I accompany the English teacher to all of the classes, each grade has a workbook with lessons and activities in it, so I teach the lesson and then walk around the class and help the children to complete the activity. The teachers had a Mother´s day celebration which was interesting for me, because they had some speakers in and the only word I could understand was 'mother'.
Sun May 10th: Today is Mother´s day and I am missing my family. I went to church this morning with my host sister Leticia, it was nice but not the same because the traditions are different and I don´t understand a lot of it. I didn´t understand any of the homily but I tried to follow as best as I could and I say the responses in my head in English.
This afternoon we went across the field to visit my host mother´s family. I met a bunch of cousins and a couple of aunts and uncles and my host mother´s mom. I playe doutside for a while with the cousins and that was a lot of fun. With children the best part is that you don´t really need a lot of words to communicate, you just watch what they´re doing and copy.
Yesterday I went to Catechism with my little sister and actually really liked it. They were talking about the sacrament of reconciliation, the mortal sins, and how our bodies are God´s temple. Also they talked about the Bible passage where it says that if there is even one good person in a city, that city will be saved.
Tomorrow I will learn how to wash my laundry after school! I am actually very excited for this.
Tues May 12th: On the weekend we had no water from Saturday afternoon until Sunday afternoon. There was a break in the line, so we had to walk up to a neighbour who lived above the break to get water. Again on Monday morning the was no water, so needless to say I didn´t learn how to wash my clothes.
Today I moved all of my things out of my bags and into the dresser that my host family has for me. It felt like moving in since I am no longer living out of a backpack.
I don´t always understand what my family asks me so usually I just say yes. AS a result I sometimes agree to things without having any idea what I am agreeing to or thinking I agreed to something and finding it was not at all what I thougth it was. THis is how I found myself walking up the mountain to the neighbours with water buckets with my host brother and sister. This is also how I ended up walking across the road to do what I thought was say hi to the neighbours and take the some rice, and I ended up carrying wooden fence posts back to our house to use as fire wood later on. I also accidently told my family that I don´t like pop when they offered me coca-cola because all pop here is called 'cola'. This however, is not really a bad thing because they drink pop fairly often and I would rather just drink water.
Yesterday I went to milk the cows. It is a VERY long walk. The cows are all in an open pasture. They have a wooden trough where they put grain for one cow to eat at a time and then tie the cows back legs together and milk it while it eats. I helped to milk one of the cows, but my hands cramped up because I have not milked by hand in a very long time and I was extremely slow in comparison to them. My host dad goes every morning and night on his motorcycle and my host mom goes at night. My host dad kept wanting me to ride on the motorcycle so I wouldn´t have to walk all the way but I am very afraid to do this. They ride most often without helmets and they drive pretty fast.
Thurs May 14th: I am at the coast, on a class trip with Leticia´s class. It is like their graduation trip, they left on WEdnesday night and will get back on Friday night. Our hotel is about 2 blocks from the beach so we went to the beach before breakfast and spent pretty much all day there except for when we went for our meals. After dinner we went fora walk and saw an exhibit with sea horses, star fish, sea turtles, crabs and all kinds of other sea creatures. They let me hold a giant living shell wihch was pretty cool.
There are several classes here together and one of the teacher´s brought his wife and two kids. HIs wife is very kind to me and explains everythign to me very slowly so that I understand what is going on. Her daughter is 17 so we spent a lot of time together on the beach.
This is my frst time at the ocean, and it is beautiful. The water is so warm and the waves are huge, and so much fun. We have to be careful thought becuase they are also very strong and many of the kids aren´t very good swimmers.
Fri May 15th: We spent the morning at the beach and left after lunch. On the way home we stopped for dinner and all the kids were excited for hamburgers but we had full chicken dinner, with rice and soup. The soup had an entire chicken foot in it: claws and all. I almost gagged but ate out the rice and carrots and said I couldn´t eat any more. We got back to Cayambe around 10:30 and I was so tired.
Sat 16: I did my laundry this morning, for the second time. I actually really enjoy doing it by hand, but I am very slow. I am finally reading Race Against Time, and am really enjoying it.
This afternoon we went to a fiesta in Santa Isabel - one of the host communities where 4 students live - we danced, had some traditional corn juice called Chicha, and then went home again. Almost all of the Canadian students were there so it was a lot of fun.
* * *
Wed May 20: This morning at school all of the kids brought in their parents´macheties, brooms, garden hoes and grain bags and the morning was spent with teachers taking their classes out into the road, where the students ´cleaned up´the school by chopping down all the long grass growing along the school walls and on the median in the road. For the first half of the day there were no classes while the children worked. I really wanted to ask if I could take pictures, but thought it might be inappropriate, so I refrained and stood watching, absolutely incredulous.
Also today, two doctors came to the school looking for me. One of the Canadian students was sick and went to the hospital. She had flu like symptoms, so they thought she had the swine flu and sent her to Quito (the capital) for testing and then quarantined the rest of us for three days. I was told to go home, put on the face mask they had given to my host parents and not to leave my house, they would come in the morning to ask some questions.
Fri 22: The doctors came around today and told us that the other student´s tests had come back negative, so we were free from quarantine. I did a lot of reading in the day and a half that I had to stay home and enjoyed not having to wake up at 5:30 to go to school. It´s kind of funny how I now consider sleeping until 7:00 sleeping in, while at school I din´t wake up before at least 7:30 unless I had to.
Sat 23: Leticia had her first communion today. The service is very similar to in Canada. All the girls wear everything white, and most of them wear veils and gloves. There were two girls though who wore the traditional dress, one wore a green skirt and the other a red skirt with white blouses and gold necklaces. Most of them wear rosaries around their necks too. Leticia forgot hers so I let her borrow the one that I always carry with me, it was one that Uncle Peter brought back from Rome. They were very exctied.
At night I rode the horse for the first time and went to see the cows again. John rode on the horse behind me and my host parents took the motorcycle.
Tues 26: The English teacher was sick today and another teacher didn´t come in to school. There was a substitute for the English teacher and the director of the school took me to the other teacher´s cless and asked me to speak English to the children. So I taught an English class thinking it would just be one class and then I would go to the next class, but instead I was expected to be the substitute teacher in that class for the day. The morning went fairly well but after recess was relatively disastrous. Try controlling a class full of energectic children in a language you don´t speak well. And then try to teach them a natural sciences lesson on the different states of water - that didn´t go too badly because I know about the states of water in English so could explain with the help of their textbook for the Spanish words - but giving a Social Sciences lesson on the 24 provinces of Ecuador and their capitals and telling a little bit about each one was absolutely out of the question. Thankfully another teacher stopped in to see how things were going and he gave the lesson and got the children settled down again. I was so so thankful. As we were leaving he said to me 'you just have to keep them busy, thats all', I was a little frustrated and just said to him 'but thats difficult when I don´t speak Spanish very well.' He seemed to understand.
Wed 27: Today it rained a lot, and was very cold. When it rains a lot the bus can´t make it up the steep path to the community where I live so this morning we had to walk down to the next community to catch the bus. Tahnkfully this afternoon it had dried enought for the bus to make it back up though so we didn´t have to walk back up.
Fri 29: Today was a field trip day for the entire school. There were no classes because every class went somewhere. Jhon´s class went to a town called Oyacatchi where there are hot springs and Leti´s class went to a pool. I went with another class on a walk up a mountain and into the tropical rainforest. It was really neat but I had planned on goign to hte pool with Leti´s class and changed plans last minute becuase walking in the forest sounded like more fun, as a result I was completely unprepared, but thankfully the teacher who invited me gave me water to drink and food for snack. The elevation gave me a bit of a headache and the student´s too. We had a guide who took us into the forest and to a waterfall, it was beautiful though very tiring. We walked for about 4 hours.
Sat 30 - Today I went to Otavalo with one of the otehr students, Daniel, and his host mom and sister. It is a town known for its huge open market, and was absolutely beautiful. WHere the marketplace is there are vendor stalls set up all in the streets and in a sort of town square area. They have all kinds of beautiful things, fabrics, bracelets and lots of souvenir-type items. It is a huge tourist attraction andwe saw lots of otehr ´gringos´ - white people - which was actually kind of odd. Also, we could overhear conversations in English, which again, after being in a community where we are pretty much the only light skinned, English speaking people, it was actually kind of a weird experience.
Sun 31 - I went to church this morning again with Leti. We get a ride into church in the truck that comes around to pick up their milk and then we take the bus back home after. I usually call home after church too, which I enjoy.
Juan, the program supervisor here in Ecuador, came for his first house visit to make sure everything is going well for us today. When he came, I was making sand castles on a pile of gravel with my brother and sister out of plastic cups. They were trying to build a pyramid but it kept toppling over by about the third level. It was a lot of fun though.

May 17, 2009

Some photos

at the coast

some scenery

my family´s 5 cows

me milking the cows, I was sooo slow!

my host sister and I in front of the church where we go each Sunday

My host sister, my host brother and I in my room with my welcome gift of long stem roses from an aunt!

we flew in at sunset, beautiful!

Here are a few photos from my first week here in Ecuador, I will write more soon :)

May 4, 2009

One More Sleep

My departure is tomorrow morning at 9:00am, which means less than 24 hrs until I am gone for 3 months! Right now I am a whole mix of emotions: excited, nervous, sad, and sometimes I don't even know exactly what I feel. My last few weeks have been filled with packing, last minute supply shopping, meeting with friends, family get togethers, saying good-bye and tons of well wishes from friends and family. Once again I realize how blessed I am to have the wonderful support that I do.

Just last week I found out information about my host family and placement in Ecuador! My placement is in a school, Escuela Himmelman, in downtown Cayambe (a small town about an hour and 40 minutes north of the capital city, Quito). I will be living with a host family in a community called Convalecencia. My host family includes a mom, a dad, a brother and a sister. They have 2 dogs, 2 cats, and 5 cows! the parents both work at home caring for their cattle and running a small grocery store. My only house rules are to be open to communicating with my family and participating in activities with them, I think these should be easy enough to follow :)

Well, I am off ot put the finishing touches on my packing, weigh my bags and finish cleaning my room!

Adios mi amigos,
the next you will hear from me will be from Ecuador!
God bless,

April 9, 2009


This entry is dedicated to all my classmates, embarking on fearless adventures across the globe this summer.

I love country music, and I am a huge fan of Taylor Swift. I was listening the title track of her 2nd album called Fearless, and inspiration came to me. I remember at one point listening to an interview with her and why she chose this title and she said something along the lines of 'the word fearless doesn't necessarily mean not having any fears, sometimes fearless means having fears but jumping anyway'.

I think that each of us in this class is fearless, I don't think any of us has gone these entire two terms and never had any fears about the program or about our placements, but I think it comes down to the fact that even among those fears we are 'jumping anyway'. Of all the struggles we've encountered, individually and as a whole we have overcome, stuck with it and here we are today with less than a month before we are on our way.

And of course, as many have said, this isn't the end, it's really only the beginning, it's the moment we've all been preparing for during the past eight months. And as ti is the beginning we have yet to encounter many of our fears and struggles, which will come while we are in our placements. So I just want to encourage each of us to keep this attitude of fearlessness, to acknowledge our fears, but to jump anyway, to make the most of this experience and not hold back from all that it can be.

April 1, 2009


Courage doesn't always roar.
Sometimes courage is the quiet voice
at the end of the day saying,
"I will try again tomorrow"

- Mary Anne Radmacher

I know that no amount of 'what ifs' could ever
envision every situation I might encounter this summer.
So when I come across anything that makes me feel like giving up,
I am going to remember to have courage :)

March 25, 2009

Connection Leads to ...Isolation?

It is very rare to walk across campus and not see at least one person talking on a cell phone or to even sit through an entire class without hearing the ring or vibration of someone's phone at least once. With modern day technology we are increasingly becoming connected: cell phones, wireless internet, instant messaging. What does all this technology mean from a sociological perspective? How does it influence the way we shape our communities and societies? I remember talking about this in an English class last year when we were discussing isolation and alienation among the characters of different novels.

It would seem with all of our mobile devices that we are more connected than ever, and advancements in technology are ever increasing this. But how connected are we really? If we look at all those walking and talking on their phones or texting, they are totally absorbed in what they are doing, how much are they noticing of the world around them? It would seem that by being 'connected' to phones or whatever else we are isolating ourselves in this little bubble of technology, not really a lot of human communication going on. So how do we build community with people who we rarely see or talk to face-to-face? At the same time as we are connecting to the internet and our cell phones we are disconnecting from actual human interaction. I return, once again, to Freire's statement that dialogue is necessary for all humans. I guess you could argue that texting is like talking to someone, same as facebook and instant messaging, but in most cases it seems so impersonal. Let me just log onto msn to have meaningful discussion interrupted by emoticons to try to display my feelings. I guess I just feel that when I type something with exclamation marks and smiley faces or frowning faces, its just not the same as if you could see my actual excitement or hear in my voice how disappointed I was. And when you're having a bad day, how about I'll send you something that looks like this: *hug*, doesn't that make you feel good?

I'm no different than everyone else, I too am rather attached to technology, I think I check my e-mail about every 10 minutes, as if when someone send me a message they need an immediate response. I guess this summer I am looking forward to the interaction I will have with others in the community where I will be staying. I will probably not have a cell phone and internet may be a 20 minute bus ride away. It will be different not having all this technology everywhere, but I think I will appreciate it. As others have said, I look forward to getting away from technology and having a more simplistic lifestyle. I hope that when I return I can appreciate more the technology that we do have available but at the same time be less attached to it and more attached to actual people through relationships and friendships and working among the community.

March 11, 2009

A sense of Calm

This post was written March 9, 2009.

The title is somewhat contradictory to my last post considering it was in fact written before. I guess the only explanation I have is that at times I have this amazing sense of peace about everything, and at other times, like when I look at my to do list and start thinking about all that needs to be done, I feel overwhelmed.
Yesterday, I was talking to our amazing Beyond Borders prof and I told her that usually I'm ok if I just don't think about it too much. She told me I should put a sign on my wall saying "Don't think" and I could even make it bilingual if I wanted to! This is good advice because every time I start over-thinking everything that is coming up in the next month and a half of school and then leaving for the summer, that's where the sense of drowning comes in.

so here's the post that has been sitting on my desk for the past 2 days, (there is some repeat form the last post):

Tonight I was in the chapel at Saint Jerome's University and I had the most wonderful inspiration. It has been a long time since I have posted and I have been worrying about that because I wanted to write but I wanted it to be meaningful. So here goes.

In the past week or so, school has become very busy on top of Beyond Borders preparations. I love both but at times my 'to do' list becomes rather long and daunting. So for me on Monday morning this week had already started out as a worry week.

Tonight though, I went down to the Chapel to do my prayer & reflection time that I try to do each day. As I knelt in the Chapel and just let myself be still I felt this amazing sense of calm and peace settle over me. When I opened my Bible I came upon the story of when Jesus and His friends are in a boat, Jesus is sleeping and a storm comes up and His friends are worried so they wake Him and He commands the storm to stop, and immediately it becomes calm. And then He asks them: 'Why were you so worried?'

Now as I sat and let the familiar story settle in a totally new meaning became clear.

My worries are the storm and when I give in to them I start to toss on the waves, but when I run to Jesus he calms the storm that's raging inside me. I can almost see him lovingly shaking his head and saying "silly girl, why do you worry yourself into such a storm?"

I immediately felt the need to write about this and one of my major worries had been my rejecting this blog. Thank you Jesus for answered prayers and inspiration.

A few parting words of wisdom offered to me by my roommate on one of my previous worry days:

Matthew 6:34

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (New International Version)

March 10, 2009


This entire past week has felt like a struggle. I feel unable to pinpoint any one source but I feel that I am constantly struggling with everything. Yesterday I had a midterm that was fairly difficult and so all last week was spent studying for that and finalizing details for our pancake breakfast fundraiser on Sunday (which I will speak of in a bit). I was so focused on those two things that I fell behind in many other small things that have all added up. I have several novels to read for my classes, an essay to write and a fundraising event coming up this weekend. My to do list seems to be growing exponentially every few minutes and the amount of items that get transferred from one day to the next leaves with a sense somewhat like drowning. Speaking of drowning, I could not focus today until I cleared the sea of debris from my desk that had accumulated from the past week's busyness.
On top of all else I have been hard-core neglecting this blog, which actually saddens me because I was missing but didn't have any idea what to write and wanted to write something meaningful.

Despite all else I have found a great support network with my Beyond Borders class. In planning the fundraiser I feel I have come to know many of the other students a lot better and I guess I really just realized how much we're all in this together. I have found that the other students are so supportive and have a way of just popping up and saying the nicest things to absolutely make my day when its 9 in the morning and its already not going well. Offering a hug of reassurance when I'm over-stressing and just trying to generally trying to do too much. Or sending a quick message to wish me well on my exam. It's really all the smallest things that mean the most. I guess this is really saying thank you to all of you, you're more than wonderful :) I can't wait to spend more of our time together and to learn more about everyone. Also, thanks to our prof, whom I had the most wonderful reassuring talk with today.

That's all for now but rest assured there is more coming soon. I actually have another post sitting on my desk but it was written in semi-darkness last night, so I will have to decipher it and then I will post it :)

February 19, 2009

Fundraising - The Sun is Shining

This week being reading week, I have been home and finally been able to devote more time to further my fundraising efforts.

First of all a big THANK YOU goes out to all of my immediate family for supporting me in this. I love talking and sharing with you what I will be doing this summer, thank you also for all the e-mails and well wishes. You are wonderful :)

Also THANK YOU to Holy Family Parish in Hanover for graciously allowing me come and speak at mass later in March to request donations, and for helping to tie in my trip with the youth mission trip that is being planned.

I also owe a big THANKS to all of my friends and family who have taken the time to read my blog. I guess I had the idea that no one would really be interested in reading it, but after receiving comments from some, and e-mails from others, I know these entries do not go unread and I love to hear from all of you. Thanks.

Lastly, a little update. While at home I have delivered several letters to various groups and organizations in hopes of receiving donations, and have a few more to send out. Today I am feeling confident that I can attain my fundraising goals, and this is a wonderful feeling. Up until now I have been a little worried that I didn't have enough contacts, but after talking to several people who suggested clubs and organizations that I hadn't even thought of I am feeling much better. Also, with a fundraising plan set up for mid March through Holy Family Church, I am really starting to feel a ray of sun starting to shine.
Filename: j0282755.gif Keywords: clouds, cloudy, nature ... File Size: 7 KB
Thank you everyone for all your help and support, I am truly blessed to have such caring and wonderful friends and family :)

February 11, 2009

Slideshow - A Few Basics

Hi everyone,

I just thought I would post the slideshow presentation that I gave in class. This presentation is just general information that I compiled about Ecuador and its culture.

enjoy :)

February 9, 2009

Lessons Learned

I was at the Working Centre on Thursday for another wonderful time with the Speak English Cafe!There were almost 50 people who came out, the place was packed! I met a few new people and had to 're-meet' many of those whom I met last week because I had forgotten many of their names.

The activity for the night was very fun for such a large group. We were each given a sheet with 20 questions on it. We and to go around the room and find someone who could say yes to each question. The tricky part was that each person could only sign your sheet once. This was an excellent way to meet many new people and learn something about them. Next we had discussion questions again which we answered in small groups.

I still can't get over how relaxing it is to go there. It seems like when I am there, I stop worrying about all the things I need to get done for school and just have such a good time in the presence of others. I think I mentioned this in the last post, but I find myself fascinated by the kindness of everyone who attends. I tis refreshing to be able to be in the presence of others without technology and other gadgets to interfere. It is amazing to have such face-to-face conversation, not msn, facebook or telephone. I've learned so much from those I've met and I've only been twice!

Lessons learned:
- do NOT apologize for saying something that isn't wrong: When I first arrived at Speak English Cafe I paid special attention to speak clearly and use standard vocabulary, no slang. We were discussing summer activities and I was saying that my sister and I often go biking together. The participant asked me what biking was, and I said "Oh, I'm so sorry its bicycling", immediately one of the other volunteers stopped me and said: "don't apologize, the only way she will learn is by hearing vocabulary from you." I realized she was right, I hadn't said anything wrong, and my trying to speak only proper English wasn't going to help others who were out in the world hearing the slang and dialect that we speak, not necessarily proper English all the time. It is important to use words that are used in everyday conversation. When a participant asks a question because they don't understand a word they are learning, and they are able to put that word into context in the sentence that it is used in.

This also made me think of the time in class that we were discussing and someone mentioned an opinion and apologized. I remember Scott telling us not to apologize for our opinions and this helped to reinforce that lesson.

- Be open: Sometimes it is hard for me to open up to total strangers, I'm often fairly quiet in settings where I don't know anyone else. In the first two weeks at the Cafe, I have learned many things about each person I have met and talked with. Many of the participants are very kind and love to talk about their life experiences and travels and such. I find this makes people much more approachable and easier to talk to and relate to. Also, as a result of hearing these stories from others I tend to open up and tell my own stories and I find myself sharing much more easily than I normally would.

- Just talk: In this setting it isn't always important to follow the discussion questions or specific instructions for each activity. These things are general guidelines to initiate conversation. At the end of the night it doesn't matter if you followed the sheet perfectly and answered all the questions, it matters that you had conversations with others to help them to improve their vocabulary and understanding of the English language. Often I find that what starts out as the answer to a question turns into a conversation about many different topics with the questions forgotten.

As always, I can't wait to go back :)

February 4, 2009

Speak English Cafe

Last Thursday was my first time volunteering at the Working Centre and it was absolutely wonderful! I enjoyed myself soooo much! I volunteer in the Speak English Cafe, a program for non-native English speakers to come together with volunteers who speak English well, in order to learn English in an informal environment. Here the learning is done primarily through dialogue. Last Thursday, for example, There were four stations set up around the room, each with a picture of a different sport taped up on the wall. The sports were swimming, baseball, volleyball and soccer. A question was asked to the group at large (i.e. What is your favourite sport to play?) and everyone got up and moved to the appropriate group. Then a few minutes followed where everyone discussed in groups why they liked to play this sport. A second question, what is your fave sport to watch on TV was asked and again everyone moved and discussed. Later, the categories were switched to favourite fruits and then to favourite hobbies. Then, we all sat down around tables and followed a handout of discussion questions about summer activities and vacations.

I found that this was such a wonderful environment. Even though I had never been before, everyone reached out to me, introductions were made and conversations about anything at all took place. I met some of the most incredible people. And the best part was that I didn't necessarily teach or accomplish a lot, it didn't take up a significant amount of time, but it really made my day. When I was asked at the end of the night if I would like to come every week or every other week, I didn't even hesitate to say EVERY WEEK!

When I think of my time spent there I think of Freire and his insistence of the importance of
dialogue. Many of the people I met were not rich in the sense of worldly possessions, they were not the type of people I would normally approach. But when I think about it, these people were so full of joy, so willing to reach out and accept a newcomer in their midst, they listened when each other talked (and I mean really listened). At the end of the night the thing that stood out to me most was how fun it was just to BE with others.

I didn't go with an agenda or a to-do list. I didn't have a particular purpose, but I still feel like I accomplished something very great. My accomplishment:
simply being present.

January 28, 2009

Frustration = Learning

In our very first meeting of the term Professor Benham Rennick told us that 'being frustrated means you are learning something' and I can't believe how very right she was. Honestly, at first I was sitting there thinking, yeah right, I learn tons of stuff in class without ever getting frustrated over it. But what she said just kept coming back to me, specially in times when I was frustrated. I started to see that she really was absolutely right.

In class, I don't get frustrated because I am not really learning, most of my time is spent concentrating on what my prof is saying and writing down notes about everything he/she says so I will be able to do well on a test later on. It is a lot like what Freire talks about in the Banking Concept, I am just soaking up everything the prof is telling me but because I am not in dialogue and questioning the material I am not truly learning it. In fact out of the three classes that I attended today I could probably only tell you the broad outline of the material that was covered. And when it comes time to write a test, generally material is memorized more so than actually learned so that I can repeat exactly what was taught and receive a good grade.

I realize that I have become more aware of when I feel frustrated, and I make an effort to stop and think, 'what am I learning from this?' instead of just stopping because I am frustrated. An excellent example is this blog. At first I was frustrated, I had a vision of what I wanted it to look like, but my lack of computer skills and experience made it difficult for me to do what I wanted to because I didn't know how. Also, I didn't enjoy typing my entries so I wrote a nice little "coming soon" message and procrastinated as long as possible until writing my first entry. While posting my first entry and again while trying to scan in my hand-written entry I encountered all sorts of difficulties with the computer putting up its little box messages where the only option is to press 'ok' even though its not okay at all! Needless to say I encountered more than a few frustrations, but looking back and even now I can see that I've also learned many things. Scanning an entry and posting is no longer difficult and takes 5 minutes instead of about half an hour. I learned enough about blogging to learn how to make links and such on my page. And, believe it or not I have come to thinkof blogging in general as 'not so bad' and even get ideas in the middle of the day of what I'm going to write about next.

More related to my trip though ... I envision this summer as being a series of frustrations and learning experiences, and in the end I hope to have been frustrated enough times to be able to feel that I really did my best to let go of control and to truly lived and learned the Ecuadorian culture.