Liz in Ecuador
I feel like Ms. Frizzle when I learn so much.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Quito is old. Old, Old. Not like the US, with a measly 200 year old history...
On Friday I visited a monastery built in 1625. En Serio. El Museo De San Diego is a monastery that has opened its art collection, and tours of its church to the public. It's incredibly beautiful – with more art, history, and culture that I could possibly soak up in one afternoon.
Saturday, I returned to Old Quito with my host family to visit a craft store and the City Cultural Center (a smaller, city-run museum). And later on, I returned to La Ronda for some late night, Euca fun.
Learning to love llamas and children that aren’t mine.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Part of my time here in Quito is actually spent hugging orphans. This is another one of those experiences that I know my words won't do justice.
As much as I'd love to paint a lovely picture of me as the pied piper, with adorable children and I dancing in rolling meadows, encircled by llamas in the Ecuadorian countryside that is not what my work at the orphanage looks like at all. It actually looks really different than I thought it would, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
I'm working at For His Children – Ecuador (http://www.forhischildren-ecuador.org/fhcmain.php?pg=01) in the northern part of Quito. I take the crazy bus there and jump off on the high way and traverse a mountain side to get there. This sounds a bit more exaggerated than it really is, as I do all of the above every Monday and Wednesday.
...Fine, "traverse" may have been taking it a bit far....
For His Children (FHC) is an amazing organization that does great work in the lives of the kids who live there. There are four houses for the kids, divided by age – one for babies, toddlers, and then two for school-aged kids. Most, if not all, of the older kids at FHC are special needs in some way, and each present a unique challenge for the staff. Each house is staffed by Tias (Spanish for Aunt) who function as "house moms" of sorts. They spend the most time with the kids and are some really incredible women. I am so impressed by the level of care the kids receive, and how happy each of them are. FHC is an incredibly joyful place that makes me feel alive in a real way.
Completely unrelated, but highly entertaining, is the orphanage's pet llama. It is the mangiest creature I have ever seen, and in miniature. Yep, a mini llama with dreadlocks serves as a "pet" to 40 or so kids.
My job at FHC is to simply help the Tias with whatever they ask in the casa I'm assigned to that day. Sometimes, that means cleaning around the house, washing and folding laundry or taking kids from one house to another. This week, I worked in Casa Harlow. Casa Harlow is home to the oldest kids at FHC, and all of them are high needs. I had a ton of fun! Jumping on trampolines, going for walks, playing on the swing set – it was great! In between all this warm, fuzzy fun, a 12-year-old girl named Adriana bit me. According to one of the Tias, it was because she was excited to see me. Awesome. I mean it.
In other news, I'm in love with my crazy Quito life.
Because walking isn’t an option.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Yet another reason to believe Harry Potter is more truth than fiction: the buses in Ecuador. The buses here remind me so much of the Knight Bus in the third Harry Potter book. The bus I took to school today had fuzzy, blue rearview mirrors and excellent 80s music (think soft rock meets regeatone) and, I’m not sure why, but it seems that you always have to hurry on the bus. Not just put some pep in your step to catch the bus, but, jump-out-of-the-bus-at-your-stop-because-it-will-not-come-to-a-complete-stop. On each bus there is a man who calls out the stops and takes your money, and he also hangs half way out the bus, trying to solicit business from the passersby. It really is like the Knight Bus, with the money/yeller constantly shouting, “Sigue, sigue, sigue no mas. Rapido!” (“Continue, continue, keep going. Hurry up!”) All this hurrying whilst the bus is being operated as though it is in a live action game of pin-ball. I equate it with surfing, which I’ve never actually done – the amount of balance needed to remain standing while the bus is in motion is quite a feat.
Flex-i-dor is the adventure of a life time. God is good, life is good, lovin’ livin’ it up in Quito!
Besos, comida, “chicles y coca”
Sunday, February 13, 2011
First Sunday at Lili and Ivanhoe's-I'm bursting at the seams with cultural experiences. Living in a Spanish-speaking country has been a dream since I was 14. Now, after removing the rose-colored glasses, I'm really experiencing it! (That means I’m going to be myself here, and honestly report on the experience.)
Ah, priemero-besos. I believe I've discussed this cultural phenomenon in the past, but here's a refresher. When you greet someone you give them a fake cheek kiss. Let me tell you, I touched cheeks with about 20 strangers today.
La iglesia- Spanish church, quite possibly the longest thing in the mundo. We got there at 10 a.m. and didn't leave until 1:30 p.m. Interestingly enough, Lili and Ivanhoe go to a Reformed church-and today's sermon was on the Calvinist classic, election/predestination.
La comida- for lunch today Lili and her sister Melba (Sharon's host mama), made Mexican food (?). It was great, but totally different than Mexican food in the states. Guacamole, sour cream (?), lettuce, and tomatoes with what tasted like baked beans and ground beef. Sounds nuts, but tasted great (yes, I even had a little beef!). Fun fact- the Ecuadorians eat tacos/burritos with a knife and fork.
All in all, this has been a great two days. I am so excited to get to know Lili y Ivanhoe and their family more. I'm sure by the time homestays are wrapping up, my espanol will be mucho mejor!!!! As they say in Ecuador- hasta pronto!
...you can be my Quito dream when you make ahí.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
"An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered." -Gilbert K. Chesterton
"An adventure may be worn as a muddy spot or it may be worn as a proud insignia. It is the woman wearing it who makes it the one thing or the other." - Norma Shearer.
I found both of these quotes over the past few days, and I really love them. The Chesterton quote is so true of Ecuador. I've had to really learn to embrace "flex-a-dor." Case in point, "the baby place" we visited for an almuerzo two weeks ago has started closing every afternoon when we walk by. I asked why, and the woman working told me they close every day at 11:00 a.m. and don't reopen until 12:30 p.m. Firstly, I was impressed with my own Spanish skills for having that conversation, but secondly, I simply couldn't believe the cultural difference there. In the states, a restaurant, or business, would not imagine closing for an hour and half each day, here it's commonplace. Mostly, I laugh it off, but it makes up a huge part of my Ecua-adventure.
Bad news for "the baby place" though, as the girls and I had the best lunch yet at a place a few blocks from our school. Arroz con pollo con tomato y aguacate (chicken and rice w/ tomato and avocado). SO GOOD! The ahí at this place was also unbelievable. We followed the whole meal with cafe con leche (coffee, or rather, nescafé- with warm milk and lots of sugar.) I could get used to this, no problem.
The "adventure badge" I've been wearing most has been my Spanish conversation skills. I love living in what I find to be one of the most beautiful languages I've heard. Every day is a challenge, but also a great learning opportunity. Today I had a conversation while waiting for the Trolle with a man who works for El Ministerio de Educación (ministry of education). He told me all about this job, his son, and his opinion on international politics. I even understood most of it! It was amazing to hear his opinion on the U.S. and how much freedom and wealth he thinks we have. I suppose this is where most people usually wax poetic with patriotism, but I'd rather hear what you, my family and friends think about this man's statement, as I was taken aback by it.
So for now, that's all. I'm loving life and living quite the adventure.
On my love for the grocery store and giving coca light another chance.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
I know I preached of my utter disdain for coca-light, but today, I thought perhaps I'd give it another chance. Knowing that there is nothing quite as refreshing as a fountain soda, today I took the plunge and ordered a coca-light at McDonalds. It wasn't great, it wasn't even very good, but better than the bottled version. Moving on…
The past few days have been uneventful. Of course, I've tried some new foods, had some humbling language experiences, but all in all, I feel like I'm falling into a routine here. Life is good and easy for the moment in Quito. In lieu of trying to string together the experiences of the past three days, please read these as though you're enjoying the CNN ticker during Anderson Cooper 360 (how I miss that man).
- Thursday, I met a cute dog in the park, the owner was also pretty attractive. However, I was too self conscious about my lack of language skills to approach said owner.
- Almost every day now, I visit the market on my way home from school. Santa Maria is a little like Walt's – homey, full of elderly women, and overall makes me very happy. My roommates find this profoundly funny and love to mock my grocery addiction. In my defense, it's not just Santa Maria that I like. There is also an open market next door, where you can bargain and practice Spanish.
- Ecuadorian tamales are a touch on the nasty side. Slices of boiled egg and green olive in the side? No, gracias.
- Fiora Vanti Soda has been the pride of Ecuador since 1868, and comes in strawberry, pineapple and apple flavor. Yum.
- Today was the "Turkey Bowl" at Alliance Academy, and some of the S.A.ers played. The Youth World team won, and all of us left with some totally great tan lines... I should say burn lines.
- After dinner tonight, we ran to the store for ice (for Sharon's sprained ankle from said Turkey Bowl). Latin America isn't big on ice.
- Today, I bought string to make friendship bracelets. It was 98 cents per skein (?). Just an FYI- it's 10 cents a pop in the States. En Serio?
Bruises, blisters, and another almuerzo…
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Another school day, getting up early, falling asleep while Mario drills Spanish grammar into our cabezas...
And another almuerzo, those $1.50 lunch specials that are one of the biggest South American food gambles you can take. You may remember from my last post, "Spanish class, salty snacks and a whole lotta walking", that my first almuerzo was quite the adventure. Today, the other S.A.ers and I visited another small restaurant offering cheap eats (unfortunately the "baby place" from Monday was closed?) and ate soup, chicken, rice, mashed potatoes, and Tang (the Kool -Aid of Latin America.)
My feet have begun to rebel against me. From all of our walking, I now have a total of seven blisters between both. It's like stigmata of the feet. I was tempted to post pictures, but apparently that's gross? Additionally, my killer bruise from zip lining is the nastiest, most unnatural, gray/green/purple I have ever seen.
Ecuador's still wonderful at about 70 and sunny – happy snow day, Chicago!