Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Worldly Wednesday: Ecuador Part 3

Happy Wednesday everybody! Time for another Worldly Wednesday!


Today I am going to be wrapping up my Ecuador trip, finishing with the teaching portion. To read Part 1 and Part 2, please click the links.

We left the Amazon and began our 7 hour bus ride to Riobamba. We were all very exhausted from the activities we had been participating in, and all the fresh air we'd been in so the majority of us slept most of the way there. We stopped in a town about 2 hours outside of Riobamba called Baños to eat lunch. Then, we got a little bit of time to look around in a few shops. Afterwards, we hopped back on the bus and headed towards our home for the next two weeks, Riobamba. Where we stayed was actually on a hillside outside of Riobamba at a religious museum and spiritual ground called Pucara Tambo.

This was the common area, a separate building, where we ate all of our meals and came to lesson plan or meet as a group.

Here is the Cabaña I stayed in with my friends, we lived in the left half of the building.

Here is the inside of the Cabaña, there was another set of bunk beds on the other side of the room. The top bunk pictured here was my bed, the ladder was against the wall so I had to climb up the base board of the bed to get into mine.

Here is the dreaded shower! That big white contraption with all the wires coming out of it is the water heater... attached to the shower head. As you may already be saying "but how can the water get very hot only passing through the heater briefly before coming out the head?" The answer is, it can't and it doesn't. Showering here was a very unpleasant experience, I am a very hot water type of person so this was a very big change for me. I became very skilled at washing my hair without getting my body in the shower, then quickly washing the rest of myself at the very end. The very last shower I took in Riobamba was the best, it was actually slightly warm, and I was able to stay in long enough the shave my legs.

Here is the view of Riobamba from Pucara Tambo.

When the clouds moved you could see some of the 4 volcanoes that surrounded the valley of Riobamba. This one, Tungurahua erupted a week after we left Ecuador.

If you remember back in my first post, I mentioned that there was an election happening in Ecuador while we were there. Due to this, we were unable to begin teaching until Tuesday, because the school was being used as a voting station on Monday. Instead, we went on a bit of an adventure.

These animals are called vicuñas and are similar to llamas and alpacas except that they have soft pads in their feet like dogs or cats, instead of hooves. These animals are nomadic in nature and cannot be kept on farms because they will become depressed and die. Their wool is very valuable as it is 10x warmer than alpaca wool (which is 10x warmer than sheep wool), so vicuñas are kept in national reserves, and are funnelled into a shearing station once or twice a year, and are then released afterwards.
This is the first Free the Children school that was built in Ecuador, we had an opportunity to visit the school and meet some of the students. They were very small and sweet, because of the high altitude and  cold wind, the people here have permanently red cheeks. With the help of our translator, we were able to ask the students questions and answer some of theirs. This school is built in an indigenous community and is not typical of the type of school you would see in the city. 

On our way to see the amazing Volcan Chimborazo. We had hoped to be able to drive up to the base of the mountain, but due to some recent accidents we required a licensed Ecuadorian tour guide to do so. Instead, we got out of the bus infront of the park gates and took pictures from there. Where I am standing in the picture below was 4300m above sea level. It was very cold and very hard to breathe. The top of this dormant volcano is the closest point on earth to the sun.

An alpaca!

Playing some soccer before dinner. Where we were standing is directly on top of the common area. There is a symbol dug out in the dirt, a spirit wheel, this place has significant spiritual significance to the people here. We made sure to ask permission before playing here.

That evening was my birthday!

The next day we arrived at our school, Juan de Velasco. Our group was split into two groups and half of our group taught at a different school.

When we arrived at the school we were informed that there would be an assembly to introduce us to the student body. We were taken up to this balcony, I'm the fourth one from the right.

All of our student standing in rows. My teaching partner and I taught grades 10 and 11 (which was quite a jump from teaching primary in Canada!).

Juan de Velasco Canadian teachers.

One class made this sign on their classroom window close to our meeting space.

Our first day teaching was very interesting. First of all, we were teaching core English (very similar to the core French program in Canada), and our students knew very little English. When you walked into a classroom all of the students stood up and said "Good morning teacher", they remained standing until you asked them to sit down, then they said "Thank you teacher" and sat. It was very weird to get used to. My students knew me as Teacher Melissa, but often just called me Teacher, unless they came to visit me outside of class time then they called me Melissa (which is a hard to pronounce name there, my students had a lot of trouble with it, it was either Mayleesa or Mayeesa). All of the students were very sweet and really wanted to get to know us, there were no behavioural problems only some off task behaviour (listening to ipods, checking phones, etc.) which was quickly corrected when you walked over.

That Friday night our school invited all of us out to a social evening hosted by the faculty of the school. They took us to a kareoke bar called 'Buh' that was decorated with pictures of owls on the walls. We had a lot of fun and learned some Latin dancing.
Here we are at "Buh" in front of one of the many owl pictures.

The next morning we headed to a small community to help dig holes for the foundation of a new wing of this school. The new wing is going to hold a computer lab for the students. It was a long day of hard work.

That evening we had a fire and roasted marshmallows. We asked if we could make s'mores so our facilitators got us some chocolate and some vanilla and coconut cookies (they couldn't find any grahmn crackers here).

The next morning we went to visit a women's group who showed us the process of wool from sheep to clothes. Here, I am helping to sheer a sheep with scissors, because they don't have electric shears. 

This is what these women use to spin their wool instead of a spinning wheel, this way they can take it into the field with them when they are watching their animals.

We learned how to weave the wool on one of these wooden frames. I brought my sister home a hand woven poncho of the same colours.

This is my favourite picture I took on my whole trip. This is my very good friend learning how to weave from one of the younger girls.

Below are some pictures of the classes I taught (I taught 5 separate classes, 3 grade 10 classes and 2 grade 11)

One of my students with myself and my teaching partner, she had just given us presents. She gave a very beautiful speech during our farewell ceremony that brought some of us to tears.

Here are our students waving goodbye to us as we leave on our bus. This day was the worst, we all felt so sad to leave it's still hard to think that I'll never see or hear from them again.

Some houses on our way back to Quito.

Flying out of Quito. Sitting in the airport none of us wanted to come home.

Well, that is the end of my amazing trip to Ecuador. If you have any questions about my experience or teaching ESL or internationally please feel free to ask me.

I hope some of you link up with me, I can't wait to hear your stories!

Only 4 more days until England!!!!

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Saturday, 24 August 2013

Saturday Snapshots

Today I am linking up with Run! Miss Nelsons Got the Camera, for my very first Saturday Snapshots!


 I can't believe it's already Saturday! I only have one more week to pack and get organized. I'm having a bit of packing trouble, I bought a luggage scale yesterday and my first suitcase is already 50lbs., and I still have more than halfway to go...

Today for my snapshots, I want to share some photos of my dog Katie who passed away almost 2 years ago. I've been thinking about her a lot lately. My parents haven't gotten a new pet (they like being able to travel) and sometimes it still feels weird to not be greeted at the door. I was six years old when we got Katie, so she had been around for pretty much my whole life.

I hope you all have a great weekend!

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Thursday, 22 August 2013

Worldly Wednesday (on Thursday): Ecuador Part 2

Good morning, it's Worldly Wednesday (on Thursday) time!

Today I am going to continue the story of my adventures in Ecuador. To read Part 1 click here.

We arrived in the Amazon at night when it was already very dark. I wasn't able to get a good look at our cabin (pictured) until the morning. At night we could hear monkeys and bats making noise outside, it was unreal. These cabins only had screens for windows (because it was soooo hot) so we felt very close to all the nature.

Here I am standing on the lodge patio with the Napo river behind me. There hadn't been any rain in a while so the river was lower than normal. Usually, the shole island behind me is covered with water,  but the locals were taking advantage of the situation, and boating to the island to fish.

Can you see it? We went on a four hour hike in the Amazon, and in the first two minutes of our walk our knowledgeable guide Robert spotted the most dangerous snake in the Amazon along the path. Above, curled into a ball is the Fur de Lance snake, which is very poisonous. If you are having trouble spotting it, look just under the log laying on the ground, it is beside the greenish looking twig.

Here we are, traipsing through the jungle!

Everything is bigger in the Amazon (sorry Texas!) these leaves were enormous!

Here are four grown women standing infront of a Kpok tree, this is the biggest tree in the Amazon and is very special to indigenous culture.

Here is the Kpok tree looking up from the ground. The tree is said to be the God of the Amazon, and is an integral place where the God of the sky (Eagle), God of the Jungle (Jaguar), and God of the water (Anaconda) gather at different times in their lives.

When we finally made it back out of the jungle, we had a traditional lunch served on a leaf. The green spinachy looking stuff on the left is cooked nettle leaves, moving to the right there is a salad of carrots and heart of palm, breaded yucca, and tilapia that was cooked on the fire inside a plantain leaf.

After lunch we walked to the nearby village of Mondaña to see the clinic, school, and homes. This picture shows the primary room of the school. There are bars on the windows because it is too hot and humid for glass pane. The bars are to keep animals and people out. Here are some more pictures of the school grounds.

The school had been given funding for a computer lab, and have about 8-10 computers. However, only two of the computers are functional because they become too overheated due to the climate. Robert was telling us that it's been really cool for the kids being able to connect to the internet. This school is quite interesting because of the way students travel to school. Some students will walk through the jungle from nearby villages, but some students are picked up by 'School Boat' form across and down the river to attend the school. Robert was telling us that BBC actually visited the community and filmed them as part of a documentary about how children travel to school in different parts of the world (I need to look it up!)

Playing cards on the patio.

One evening we went through the process of making chocolate, yum! We took cacao beans that had been left out to dry and turn brown, then cooked them over the fire until they began to pop like popcorn. We then shelled the beans, and ground them into a paste. Then we put the paste through the grinder again with sugar to sweeten it. It was so tasty.

Sunset on the Napo River.

 Here are some shots of the beautiful flowers I saw during my stay.

One evening we had a cooking class where we learned how to cook chicken in a leaf on the fire, and we also had the opportunity to sample grubs. Here they are still alive.

Some people tried them alive, it was tricky because they have pincers.

Here Robert is putting some grubs on skewers to cook over the fire. I tried one of the cooked ones, it tasted like bacon.

The next day, we took a journey to go visit the local Shaman. On our way we came across some Cacao fruits. 

Here is the inside. The cacao beans are inside of the white gooey pouches. Robert gave one to each of us to suck on because the white pulp is quite sweet. We then had a spitting contest to see who could spit their bean the farthest. 

At the Shamans home we participated in a cleansing ritual, where the Shaman blows pure tobacco (that he grew and rolled himself) over you and moves the bundle of leaves in a specific pattern over your body to absorb your negative energy. We were told that after the ceremony, the Shaman would take the leaves and hang them from a tree until the leaves dried out, he would then bury the leaves so that the negative energy can't escape.

Outside the Shamans house we were able to try out using a blow dart gun. It is quite heavy and can be difficult to aim.

This is Yolanda the parrot! She would frequently visit the lodge to get some bread and butter. She spoke some Spanish.

One evening, we took a night walk in the jungle. We saw a number of frogs, and a few snakes and spiders.

This is the opening of a trap door spiders trap door. When Robert opened it, the spider quickly retreated inside.

Robert was trying to coax out a giant spider, it wasn't home.

Snail eating snake.

Aren't I brave? Robert assured us that this spider wouldn't bite.

The next morning, Yolanda decided that our pancakes looked more appetizing than her bread.

Our last night in the Amazon, the local youth came and performed a traditional Quichua dance for us. It was their very first performance, and they did a splendid job.

Misty morning, after a night of heavy rain.

Last breakfast in the Amazon.

These banana boats were tied up right next to where our boat came in. I'm pretty sure I was called a 'Gringo' for stopping to take this picture. We were finally back to where we had left our bus for almost a week. We were soon to begin our 7 hour bus ride to the beautiful Riobamba. 

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my jungle adventures. Next week I will share my experiences teaching in Riobamba.

I look forward to reading about your journeys!

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