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.
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!!!!