Thursday, December 24, 2009

Chancho and Rotary




I woke up Saturday, December 12, to my brother Juan José yelling outside for me to open the door. A proclivity of his is to arrive in the wee hours of the morning, after my father has locked the door. The only ones with keys to the door are my brother Fernando and my father. So when Juan José gets locked out at 3:30 am, he whispers loudly from below my window "Logan, abre la puerta." This has happened maybe four or five times. Side story: one morning, after I had gotten sick, he came in my room and whispered his line, to which I responded by hopping out of bed and grabbing my glasses. I then realized that he was in my room with me, just checking on how I was doing. He got quite a chuckle from that. So now if I see him asleep I whisper "Juan José, abre la puerta."

Well, the point to him yelling for me this specific morn was because my family had hired a family business to prepare a whole pig for my brother Andrés' birthday. I snagged my camera and hustled downstairs in my pjs. There were about five people fixing vegetables and side food when a big meat truck pulled up outside the house. We opened the large door of the gate for cars and in came a man running with a pig on his shoulders, slamming it on the table outside. From this they prepared misturiado (a mix of the pigs innards), fritada (fried pig), chicharrón (fried pig skin), caldo de tubo (a nasty soup with a bunch of chewy pig intestines), and seco de chancho (the meat of the pig in a sauce served with rice).

After I saw the start of this production, I got ready and went to the Rotary club. I met up with other kids from Interact and with some Rotarians to present two houses to some very poor people in an underdeveloped part of Machala. After that, we all went to my counselor's shrimp farm with Rotary clubs near Machala. There, we also ate pig (caldo de tubo, chicharrón, and seco de chancho). We had a competition between Rotary clubs and the exchange students. This included 3-leg races, egg-on-a-spoon-in-your-mouth races, tug-o-war, hula hoop, a kayak race, top spinning, and sack races (I did that and won!). Headed home with Uncle Roberto and ate more pig at home for Andrés' birthday. So much PIG.

Insects

(This is a pretty random blog) Now since I go to school at 6 in the morning, I get up before the break of dawn. On some mornings, while I'm taking a shower (if we have water - sometimes when I turn the spigot, the only water that comes out is that that is already in the pipes. When this happens, I usually jump in and rinse my hair which is a mess from bed-head) bees come in and buzz around the light. They crawl in from the screen on the window and get stuck in my bathroom. This really bugs me because I have to dodge them when I'm taking a shower or brushing my teeth. One time there were six of them buzzing around! I exit the bathroom quickly and close the door behind me. After school when I come home, I find them dead on the floor. On the day with six bees, after school I found the six dead in the shower and three more outside of the shower. I never really was a bee guy. I mean, I like honey, but that's about as far as it goes (thanks Mitch).

There are quite a few mosquitoes here. I especially notice them when I'm sitting at the computer because they bite at my ankles. I think there has to be a hive under the chair or something because there are so many. My family has even sprayed the couches in this room - we joke that it asphyxiates us because the smell is so strong. Sometimes the mosquito bites get so bad that you can just see the red bites covering the exchange students' legs.

Cockroaches here are common on the streets. There are lizards here that eat the cockroaches. At first when I saw a lizard crawling on the wall inside the house, I was surprised and thought that it got in somehow. Araceli explained to me that they're fine. One morning when I was brushing my teeth, a lizard fell from the ceiling on my back then scampered away. I usually see one pretty much every day.

Kevin's Primera Comunión

Geovanna Morocho called me up a few weeks ago to see if I could join them in Kevin's first communion. So on Saturday (Dec. 6) morning, I got slicked up in some nice clothes, and Johnny picked me up. It was funny because we looked like twins: we both had blue oxfords, black slacks, and black shoes. On our way out of town, we picked up a flower display (I really don't know a good word for this. It's like a group of flowers on a wooden stand) for Kevin.

We went to Pasaje and picked up Johnny's great-aunt and sister, Jocelyne. We then went to a church in the nearby town El Cambio. We sat through the service (Geovanna spoke some), and the Father fed the kids their first communion. He got really serious at this point and said no cameras allowed because it's an intimate time between the kids and God. There were still a lot of photographers on the sides of the room taking photos. In the middle of giving communion, he went and sat down in his chair for like five minutes. He then had the photographers ushered out, and then he finished with the remaining youth. While waiting there, I found myself staring at this statue that reminded me of the statue in Nacho Libre that is looking down on Nacho when he is in the sanctuary drawing wrestling outfits.

Afterwards, we went to the Morocho's house and par-tayed on their terrace with family.

I stayed the night there in Pasaje, again. The next morning I ate ceviche (I LOVE this ceviche that they buy from across the street. It's the best one I've had, and we always eat it when I go to the Morocho's) and chilled around their house (Johnny usually helps work the store on Sunday). I went back home to Machala with Johny and Geovanna, where I made some mac and cheese with my nephews, neice, and neice's cousin. I showed them the noodle-stick-trick: you fling a noodle on the wall to see if it sticks (I flung it on the glass wall that extends above the stove)!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rotary Zaruma







A couple of weeks ago Rotary took the exchange students (from Machala and surrounding areas) to Zaruma. First, we went to a little reserve for hummingbirds. I don't think they live in the wild in Europe because some students said that they don't have them. That surprised me because I'm used to seeing them all the time at Gramma and Papa's house in Owensville!

We then went on to the city of Piñas. We drove up this mountain with this gigantic cross that overlooks the city. We took some scenic photos and then went to a mine. We first watched a video and then geared up. We were funny-looking with the big rubber boots and helmets. We went in the mine, looked at the rocks, and listened to the guide. At one point he told us to move our hands in circles while facing the rock wall and then put our hands near the rock to try and harness the power of the rock. Some people said they felt something. I didn't.

We left to eat lunch at this little place, Doña Cleme. I had tigrillo and fresh orange juice. We went to the little shop and tasted some "bocadillos" which are like little sweets. They had some cool homemade things. An employee lady brought some of us to the balcony of her house where there was an impressive view of a little mountain-side city.

We went to downtown Zaruma and walked around for a little bit. There was a little festival thing going on. This included (for some reason) a giant inflatable corn - with which we took mimicking photos. We then regresed to Machala in our little bus with the usual bus driver, Diego!

Thanksgiving!






So we exchange students from the United States of America hosted a Thanksgiving for the other exchange students. I was set to prepare the pumpkin pie. Here there isn't canned pumpkin, so I went with Wacho to some market downtown to locate a pumpkin and the ingredients. He seemed to know exactly where everything was. We got spices and even got something that resembled a pumpkin (I don't think they're very common).

Wednesday night I made the pie crust (thank you for the instructions, Rachel) and prepared the pumpkin. I just cooked it in the oven and then scooped out the meat. The next morning I blended the pumpkin because I thought it was supposed to be more like pulp. I hauled my stuff over to Julie's (the girl from Denmark) house. Eventually more people came, and we all pitched in to make the feast. We decided to have chicken (which worked out fine) instead of turkey because the price for a turkey was redonkulous. I forgot my pie crusts at home, so I had to wait to make my pie until after we ate dinner when my brother dropped them off.

We had it all prepared and gathered around the beautifully set table. We held hands, said what we were thankful for, and then toasted. It was all so great! For most of them it was their first Thanksgiving. We had representatives from the USA, Germany, France, Denmark, Switzerland, and Ecuador.

We then filed through the buffet of food. We had chicken, gravy, two salads, yams (that were soooo delicious with marshmallows!), green beans, mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, and bread. We feasted and talked around the big table. It felt so much like Thanksgiving despite the fact that we were away from our families and homes. It was weird. After dinner we had a little rest from food (I ran into the kitchen to make my punkin pie!) where we just talked to each other. We then had like six different desserts! How great is that?! The others said that my pumpkin pie was good, but I think the inside wasn't solid enough. I also cooked the seeds in the oven with some oil and salt. The employees were taking notes of the ingredients for the pie and the seeds. I think I heard them say that they want to sell them on the streets. I want to make some more pies because I have two crusts left, but I accidentally left them in Julie's fridge. I suppose they're still there.

Pacífico




So I wasn't really happy in my previous school, Santa María, so I was working with my Rotary counselor to change. My family here didn't know how much they could do and suggested that I work with Rotary to change, so I just took matters into my own hands. I talked with my counselor, and she has a son-in-law who is the son of the Commander (like the principal) of a school called Unidad de Educación Integral Bilingüe del Pacífico (UNEIN del Pacífico). I had talked with various people here, like Rotarians and the Morochos about good schools here, and they all said Pacífico was a good school. Also, next year Johnny's sister and brother are going to go to Pacífico!

One Friday, when my Santa María class went to Pacífico to vote for something, I snuck off to talk to the Commander about changing to his school. He said it'd be fine, so I was overjoyed. I talked with my counselor over the weekend, and I went with her the next Monday to Pacífico to buy my uniform and talk with the Commander. We got most everything worked out, and I was set to start Tuesday.

Later on Monday, I told my uncle that I was going to change schools. That was pretty difficult because he told me how Santa María was good enough for his kids and such. So I didn't have a way to go to or get home from school. Also on Monday, my brother Juan José came from Canada (he's married to a Canadian who had her exchange here in Machala years ago and has two kids) to stay with us for a few months. He asked me if I wanted to go see 2012 at the mall with him. I asked my parents, and even though it was late, I went! So we went at like 9 and it finished around midnight! Yikes. We got home, and I talked to my mother about how I'd get to school. Juan José offered to take me the next morning - how nice!

I got him up at like 6 and we left at around 6:30. Formation (when we stand outside in order and listen to the principal) at Pacífico starts at 6:50. I was a little late so I had to stand in the very front in a line with all the late people, facing the rest of the students. On my first day! Normally they take names but they excused me because I'm a foreign exchange student/it was my first day.

So now I've been in Pacífico for a while, and I like it! It's good because I'm in the highest grade (sexto) and in "Sociales" which studies philosophy, democracy, rights, history, etc. I ride a bus which is a crazy and fun experience but it comes to my house at 6 am! Also, school goes until 2:30 pm. It is a long day, but it seems to go faster because I'm in a fun class. There is another exchange student in my class, too. Her name is Kelsey and she is from New York, the state.

Canadians




Thursday of my little break, my Tío Roberto called me and he picked me up to go to the Rotary president's house because three Canadians came. We got there and there were a ton of people, Rotarians and Machaleños. I met the Canadians and found that they came to give out wheelchairs for which their district in Canada raised money to buy. They only spoke English, and those Rotarians who spoke English spoke very little, so I was the translator for them. It was crazy and confusing but fun.

We helped people move from their old chairs (mostly broken and old) into the new red ones and then took their picture. They were so thankful. One blind lady was talking to one of the Canadians and was trying to tell her something but she didn't understand because it was Spanish. I translated for her and she was so appreciative.

When we finished with this crowd (of about 25 people), we headed out to a mental hospital. It was very sad. The rooms had doors with locks, a bowl on legs for a toilet, and a bed. The Canadians were saying how horrible the conditions were, and the Rotarians were saying how the government doesn't help at all. It was quite eye-opening. They made two cakes for us that were delicious!

We then went to a Rotary-sponsored assisted living home. This had a nice atmosphere and was nice. We finished giving out the chairs and then went back to the president's house to eat. We had ceviche (yum!). I was running from table to table helping translate between the different conversations. The Canadians then headed out to meet up with the rest of their crew (of, I think, 28). What a fun event!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Zaruma




In Santa María about a month ago, the students had exams, so, naturally, we exchange students didn't come. Free week (they don't require the exchange students to take the exams)! I mostly worked on college applications. Woo hoo.

One day, Marilou (my parents' friend from Miami who's orignally from Ecuador and stays with us sometimes) asked me if I wanted to go to Zaruma with her and her cousin. I had nothing better to do (and, of course, those college applications could wait) so I headed out with Marilou, her cousin, her cousin's husband, and the driver (I'm not really sure if he's their employee because he's studying at the Unversity. I don't think he was their son).

This was my first time in the mountains of Ecuador (we weren't very deep in them, but we were in them), and it was amazing! We traversed the mountain on the winding road, passing little streams and large, beautiful vistas. In the city, we walked around the town - it was so cool because it is a quaint little city, situated on the side of this steep mountain. We joked that the people must have had huge leg muscles from walking around here.

This city is known for its "tigrillo," a delicious dish made from bananas, egg, and cheese, and its coffee (they say it's the best in the world). I tried it. I'm not a big coffee fan (actually, I'm not one at all) but this wasn't too bad. We walked around the main square, and I, the tourist that I am, took some pictures.

On our way home, we stopped at this one place where there is a small stream/waterfall, and there are two metal pipes that lead the water away from the mountain a little, so you can stand under it or get wet. We splashed our faces and drank some. It was cool, but there was trash everywhere (a ton of shampoo bottles).

Back in Machala I went to my sister's house and ate with her family some typical dishes: pan de yuca (kinda like bread with cheese but not really), humitas (sweet mold of corn), and bolón (mashed bananas with cheese and fried pork). We ate in the dark with some candles because there was no power.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Primo's Wedding




Part 2 of maybe this crazy day (the first part was the SAT II)

Got on OroGuayas, a transportation company that has cars run from Guayaquil to Machala (I think to the whole province of El Oro) and vice versa. I arrived in Machala and hailed a taxi to the house. Everyone was rushing because we were all going to the wedding of my cousin. I didn't even have time to take a shower! I just threw on some dress clothes and applied some deodorant (that always works, doesn't it?). Got to the house of my cousin (sister to the groom) and saw a ton of family.

Something weird happened at this point. I saw there the Rotarian Roberto Gallegos, who had recently begun taking me to the Rotary club meetings because he lives in Puerto Bolívar, too. I knew him from the meetings and he was at the Banana Queen thing (see pictures above - he's in the last two photos). Well, I asked my cousin why he was here at the wedding, expecting him to be a friend or something, and he turned out to be my uncle! How crazy. That seems to always be happening. It's funny because Johnny here is my cousin (in a distant way). Johnny's dad's sister's daughter is my sister-in-law. Wow, is that crazy or what. So much family!

Back to the wedding. The groom was Roberto, my cousin, and the bride was Meng Yuan (who we call Mong), a girl from Taiwan. They met in the US, and they speak English to each other! Right now they live in Guayaquil and Mong is learning to speak Spanish. Her family came to the wedding. They didn't speak Spanish, and only a few spoke English. It was really cool to see these two families come together and to think how I came to be there in the mix. My father did the toast. We dined and listened to the live music. Here, everyone knows ALL the songs, not even kidding. They all know the songs, sing along, and dance, especially the adults! I asked Johnny how everyone knows the songs, and he said it's because they don't have many good songs, so that when there is a good song, they play it so much that everyone knows it. So all the people were singing along. After the live stuff, a DJ played some stuff, including "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones and "You Can Call Me Al" by Paul Simon! I was singing and dancing my little heart out on those.

I left with my brother Andrés and sister-in-law Paola. On the way home we stopped at San Viernes, a little store and burger joint. My brothers had been telling me about these burgers, so finally I got to go. My bro ordered me "la completa" which was a burger with cheese, tomato, crumbled chips, ham, mayo, and fried egg (I think that's everything). It was so delicious. I might even venture to say that it was the best hamburger that I've ever had. It was funny because when we got our ticket, we were number 1039 or something, and they were calling like 99 and 105. Andrés was joking that it was going to take until Monday, and I corrected him, saying probably not until Wednesday. That was pretty funny. The burger was humongous! When we finally got home, I just laid in my bed, expecting a heart attack.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Standardized Testing

Take a standardized test in a foreign country: check.

I'm going to preface the test day with a little story. I didn't bring my calculator to Ecuador, due to lack of foresight. So my parents sent me a package containing the calulator in the middle of October. Normally, it takes about a week for something to get here, and we were a little nervous about sending a calculator, but this was urgent. When I got back from my Manabí trip, my host parents had already left with my uncle and aunt to a winery tour in South America (Ruta de Vino). I couldn't retrieve the package then because the shipping address is to my uncle's box at the post office. So when they got back I asked him if it was there. It was taken to customs because it weighed too much. So the Wednesday before the test, my host mother took me out of school to go to the post office. They said that I had to go to customs to pay the fine. So I went to customs (and ran into another exchange student who was in my same class in my school here who had the same exact problem - overweight package). I got some papers. They sent us to the bank. I paid the $77 fine! I went back to the post office and finally got my package. All that for candy and a stinkin' calculator. I was so relieved that I ate a bag of skittles right then and there.

Friday I left school early and went with Wacho, who drives my host mother around, to Guayaquil. I had a backpack full of clothes and testing materials: three sharpened pencils (almost forgot those at the house), admission ticket, fruit snacks, eraser, cd player, headphones. We went to the Guayaquil airport to pick up a friend of my host parents, and I met up with Johnny there. Johnny and I hitched a taxi to his apartment, then we went to the San Marino mall because there was no power in his apartment(there have been quite a few power outages because of the lack of rain here). At the mall we ate at the American Deli - I ate grilled beef, rice, menestra, salad, and a fried egg. How American! Then meandered around the mall. We finally found an unused computer with internet (we had to go to the mall across the street) so I could check on the test - and get some last-minute studying in. Went back to Johnny's apartment, ate some jello and skittles, and went to sleep early to get some good rest! We had it planned that his cousin, Andy, come, sleep in Johnny's apartment, and drive us the next morning.

The next morning I woke up myself and Johnny - fortunately Andy was there, too. Johnny helped me make some eggs (mixed with milk and cheese like at my Missouri home). I also ate jello, chocolate milk, cereal, an apple, and yogurt - what a hearty breakfast. We left at 6:30 (entrance to the test was at 7:45). We got a little lost and had to ask for directions from this old man in a muscle car. Johnny and Andy were joking that I had stopped breathing in the backseat from nerves. We actually passed the place when I told them the name of the place, and we had to turn around. Luckily, we still got there at 7:15. The door was locked so we waited a bit with the other people. It was surprising to me that all of them were Ecuadorians. I was expecting at least one other North American in a similar situation to mine, but I don't think there were. I took a walk around the block to get some oxygen - I think Andy must have thought that I'm a little weird because my pre-test drill. Got in and to the room. I was with only one other student because we were the only ones taking an SAT II with listening. He didn't have a cd player so the teacher searched and found a stereo that he used. Luckily I had my big headphones and didn't hear the noise. When we were filling out the info on the form, the teacher was pointing out everything for me, even though I've taken these tests multiple times before. Did the test. On the Spanish one, since the other boy finished early, she struck up a conversation with him even though I was still working. Had breaks, like normal. Ate my fruit snacks. At one point she reassured us, saying that she wasn't too strict on time, because she doesn't want to stress us out. How nice. I also saw her skim over a lot of the text and ask me if they really read all of it in the US. After the test I headed to the front gate and was a little nervous because I still had my ticket. I asked the other boy but he said that she doesn't collect them. All I was thinking was "I hope that test gets to the US and they accept it." Johnny and Andy picked me up, we went to the apartment, and I packed my stuff to return to Machala. What an experience.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

HaLLOweEN

I bought my AAA batteries for my calculator and printed off my admission ticket for the SAT II that was in a week. My host-mother told me that we're going to Guayaquil. I packed my bag and we headed out, chewing on some Missouri salt-water taffy! I went with my host parents (we went to Guayaquil to drop off my host-father at the airport the next morning), my brother Andrés, his wife, Paola, and their kids, Pikín and Paolo. When we got to Guayaquil, we went to McDonald's. Pikín and Paolo love this place because it has a playplace. This was my first time eating at McDonald's. I had a chicken sandwich, and guess what, it tasted exactly the same! There were decorations and a ton of kids here in costumes. The whole atmosphere really reminded me of the USA - it's weird to get these feelings!

Later we went to Samborondón to the house of one of my host-father's friends. The house was amazing: all modern design with large doors, lot of glass, little streams, a pool, and lounge. The lounge had a TV that could work as a computer, music player, or just a TV, controlled by a little wireless keyboard! That was amazing.

My host-mother and Andrés took my host-father to the airport. Later, I went to the Mall de Sol with Andrés, Paola, and their kids. I walked around the mall a bit while they all waited for McDonald's to open - those kids just love it. There was a huge line for the Michael Jackson movie "This Is It" with people dressed up in sequin jackets, gloves, and hats.

We then left to eat at the Tennis Club with some Guayaquil family. Andrés, Paola, and their kids ducked out (they were sitting outside while the rest of us were inside) and went to McDonald's again! That's three times in less than 24 hours. We then regressed to our abode in Machala.

Trip to Manabí

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The 16 exchange students from around and in Machala met and headed up the coast of Ecuador. We stopped and ate some cheese empanadas (with sugar!) and peach juice at this little gas station/restaurant. On this trip I listened to Bob Dylan, the Clash, and the Ramones. We arrived in Las Crucitas at the hotel/resort place and reunited with our exchange buddies! The hotel was amazing because it was right on the shore of the ocean. We hauled our stuff to our rooms - we had to pass the pool on the way and they were throwing people in. I evaded that luckily, and arrived safetly - I think most of the others got thrown in by the end of the night. We had an introduction and then party. Marcelo and his parents came too! I got to talk to them for a while. Now I finally believe it: Marcelo does live in Ecuador. He let me call Gramma on his phone because it was her birthday!

The next day we (120 students) went to a parade in Portoviejo (Marcelo's city). We had our blazers and flags. We were singing songs from our countries and taking millions of pictures. We then went to Montechristi where Rotary organized street vendors and a band to meet us. This is where the original "Panama hats" came from. Everyone was buying them - so we were a group of foreigners wearing matching shirts and Panama hats. I actually didn't get one. I just meandered through the artisans.

Monday morning (before sunrise) there was an optional walk along the beach to a fish market. We walked for a good hour in total. It was really interesting. Approaching the shelters, there was a cloud of birds above, circling. Men would fish on the boats in the water. They'd bring the boats on the shore and pass the fish off in crates to other men. These men would run up to the little shelters. While running, the birds would swoop down and try to take a fish! At the shelters, there were rows and rows of tables. They'd then dump out the fish and start chopping away, at incredible speed, cutting off the head and tail and such. There were blood trails leading to the ocean and piles of the scrapped fish parts - disgusting. We spent the day on the beach, bathing and burning. Burning in two senses: 1)sunburns and 2)jellyfish stings. I applied and reapplied sunscreen so I got burnt only a little: on the backs of my legs, tops of my feet, and a stripe on my back. We played some sports, too. My soccer team won the tournament! Champions! We went on a walk to a little mountain where we took a group picture and could see the city and ocean. During the night we had a presentation from each country. We were going to do songs from Grease, but that fell through. We ended up singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and the national anthem.

More beach Tuesday. We traveled again to Portoviejo to new hotels. At night, we rode on chivas: open-air buses with seats in and on top. We even had a band, complete with drums, trombone, saxophone, trumpet, and washboard, join us on top, as we circled the city. That was crazy. We ended with a presentation in a large, elegant meeting-room. They chose a queen and king, they presented awards to the winning sports team, and there was a mariachi band. We toasted (with champagne! look how sophisticated we are), ate, and danced the night away. It ended kind of roughly. They were doing the limbo and a girl from the USA (in our group from Machala) popped her knee out of place and it was serious. She is now in a full-leg cast.

Wednesday we headed home in our little bus again. End of a great trip with a ton of exchange students. I still don't have very many pins from others, though. I thought I traded quite a bit. I don't know what the deal is. My host parents were still on their "Ruta de Vino" trip in some South American countries.

Chemistry

Note 1: When I was going home with a taxi, I saw a stoplight with the red and green lit up at the same time.
Note 2: The other day I was with the Morochos, and we were driving around Pasaje. When we were crusing, I did see a stoplight with all three - red, yellow, and green - lights lit. My stoplight bingo is now complete!

One day back in Santa María, it was time for chemistry class. We were supposed to bring petri dishes, goggles, and aprons for a lab, but none of the exchange students brought them because 1)we didn't really understand that we were supposed to bring them and 2)we didn't have these things on hand: neither in our houses nor in the class. We all headed up to the lab, and I was thinking that the teacher would make us wait outside because we didn't have the safety equipment. He let us come in and stuck us in groups. We were mixing a dry chemical with water and mixing it - I really have no idea what it was testing.

I then watched as the chaos began. There were kids pouring the chemical on the balance, spilling on the table and floor, without any gloves - I don't think it was dangerous at all, though. To get distilled water from the beaker, you were supposed to stick in the pipette, tilt the beaker, and try to get the most water you could. I looked over once and saw a student having trouble with this, so he finally just sucked on the end of the pipette to get more water! With his mouth! I was thinking that my high school science teachers would have had a heart attack if they would have seen this. But wait, it gets better. They had to heat up the water and get it to boil. To do this, they had little jars with fuel inside and with a rope sticking out the top. They lit these and had this crazy open flame. They had wooden clothespins to hold the test tubes over the flame. One girl just held it with her FINGERS and was swirling it in the fire - not even looking the whole time!

The teacher found an extra petri dish, so he gave it to Lara, an exchange student from Germany, and me to use - without any aprons or goggles. There was no real measurment for the amount of water. We just mixed it up, showed him our solution, and he just told us that we needed more water. Students were even sniffing the solution (not wafting). This whole experience was quite funny and amusing. I was laughing the whole way through this "experiment."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Primera Playa



So about a month ago, I visited my first beach (in Ecuador)! I went with my sister, Patricia María, brother-in-law, César, and their kids, Paulina and Sebastian. We headed out from Machala the Thursday (Oct. 8) and went to the apartment in Guayaquil (that I went to my first night in Ecuador). The next day we drove up to Salinas (the name of the city and beach) and met some more family (my uncle, aunt, cousin, etc.) It was overcast so no beach that day. Instead, we drove up along the "Ruta del Sol" which is a highway that follows the coast up. First, we drove up for a bit then turned around. We stopped in a little town and I touched the sand for the first time in South America! We backtracked to Montañita, a well-known place for hippies, drugs, dreadlocks, and Bob Marley (yeah!). There weren't many people because it's not the season for beaches yet, but I still saw some hippies! The soundtrack for this tour was 70's music because my uncle loves that stuff. We were flying down the road in our Hyundai bus, singing and watching Earth, Wind, & Fire, Sugarhill Gang, and the Bee Gees on the car's tv screen. We went to a Yacht Club where my uncle is a member. Boy, was this a feeling of the United States! It was crazy. I don't even know what it was about it. Later that night, I went with my cousin, Fernando (about 17), my nephew, Sebastian, and neice, Paulina, to get some ice cream! It was like a Coldstone for a third of the price of Coldstone.

Next day, I went to a little artisan market with some family. We went to the beach but it was still cloudy. I wore a sweatshirt and shades. We got several things from the passing vendors: choclo (a type of corn) with cheese, sunglasses, music, and movies. What service! We went to the Yacht Club to eat some ceviche (I also had some fresh cantalope juice). The Ecuador vs. Uruguay game was on and so we hopped in our van, pulled down the screen, and watched the game on our way to the apartment. Ecuador lost by a close call (there was an uncalled handball on Uruguay in the Uruguay goal box). We started watching a movie, and I thought that the night was over. Wrong! We prepared ourselves (always the trend here) and went to the Yacht Club again. I ate a marvelous dinner - breaded shrimp, risotto, watermelon juice, and ice cream with peaches - that was accompanied by live music, a man with a guitar. After the music man played his Spanish set list, he started with some English songs! He played Cat Stevens, Louis Armstrong, and Eric Clapton. I was singing with him on these.

On Sunday, our last day there, the sun broke out from behind the clouds and shined down. We grabbed our beach gear and ran to the carpet of gold. We played in the Pacific Ocean and César rented two jet skis (Mom, you can rest assured, we did wear life jackets)! At first I rode with Paulina and César rode with Sebastian, and then Paulina and I each rode one solo. This was so incredible! I rode out into the ocean blue toward the horizon that never ended. It was so liberating and exhilarating. The view of the shore, the beach and the buildings, and of the Yacht Club, with all the boats, was very beautiful too. We left for home, eating in Guayaquil at the Tennis Club (like a country club with tennis courts, pools, fitness center) with some more Guayaquil family. Got home to Machala. Then had school the next day which was a slap in the face - back to reality.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The English Language

(Sorry I haven´t written in a while. I´m in the process of applying to colleges, so I haven´t been able to update my blog. I thought it was funny what Diana said about this. She said that she doesn´t think my senior year will ever end. So true, so true.)

So after being here, it´s obvious that English is the universal language. All the students here in Ecuador are taught it in school (it´s a different story about whether they can speak it or not), and all the other exchange students know and can speak it a little bit, if not fluently. When we get together with other exchange students, we usually start out speaking Spanish, and it somehow ends up in English. This happens quite often except when the French girl in my Rotary club, Jessica, is around, because she knows very little English and is better at Spanish.

I do feel at a disadvantage since I only spoke one language (now two!), but I am glad that I can speak English well. All the Europeans are taught British English so most of them have an accent from England (along with the accent of their country). They would ask me if they have a strong accent. When we were with all the exchange students, I told them how the students from Australia and New Zealand had strong (and cool!) accents (I tried to talk to them a lot because of that). Since English is not some of the exchange students´ first language, it does make for some pretty hilarious moments. One thing is that they always cuss. This is pretty funny sometimes because they use these words so freely in their normal conversation and quite often. In my class at school, the students just sometimes shout out English swear words, and I look around with my eyes wide-open. I tell them that it is strong in English, and they tell me that in the movies they always hear cuss words. That´s great, basing the English language off the movies.

Short story: I was talking to a girl (I´m not going to name a nationality) and she was asking about my high school in the US. She asked me if we had uniforms, and I told her that we didn´t. She looked a little shocked and then told me that she thought that all schools in the US wore uniforms because she saw them in the movie High School Musical. I explained that some schools, like the private ones, do. We did go on to talk about how we do have lockers in US schools (the movies were right about that one).

Another funny thing is when they say things that don´t really make sense. An example of this is when we were on the trip with all the exchange students. We were in our hotel room (there were six of us in our room) and about to go to sleep. Right before I turned out the light, the kid from Norway kind of said kind of quietly, "Whoa, it´s not good to go to bed without animals on your pillow." I still don´t really know what that means. It was pretty late (or early in the morning), so maybe that was the reason.

I do have a great respect for all these students who can speak several languages. I try to relate it to me speaking in Spanish, my second language, and I realize that most are really good and well-taught in English. It is amazing some of the sayings they know and how well they can understand it.

Since they all speak more than two languages, I´ve decided to work on some more languages of my own. I´ve started learning a little bit of German from the German students and the Swiss student (even though the Germans tell me not to listen to the Swiss boy´s accent). I´m thinking I´m going to try to pick up a little French, too. So, there´re some more goals for this year. Good on ya!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Feria de Durán with the Morochos

It was a Wednesday night (Sept. 30), and I finished Interact. I went to Papá´s office (the radio station), and waited there for a bit. There speaking at the radio was Lucio Gutiérrez, a former President of Ecuador. He walked out with "his people" (aids, guards?) and was talking with Mamá and Papá. They introduced me to him, and they asked if I had a camera with me (at the time I had absolutely no idea who this guy was). Luckily, I had my phone and took a picture with him. Then, Patricia María whispered to me who he was. The photo didn´t take so I ran after him to get another - mission accomplished.

Headed home and sister-in-law Mayra told me that the Morocho´s were trying to call me. I called them back, and they said they were going to the festival in Guayaquil the next day! I asked permission and packed my bags! Another weekend with the Morochos (better yet, two days out of school)!

Left early Thursday morn. They picked me up, and we got to Guayaquil (Johnny´s apartment). I accompanied Johnny to his University and we toured the campus. At the athletic department we played a little ping-pong (I won, for your information). We ate lunch in the mall - I had KFC (breaded shrimp, rice, menestra, and maduros). There were other young people and foreigners!

The family and I took Johnny to class then went to another mall, where we ate again. I played in an arcade with Kevin. We went back to the apartment, and I met some more of their family.

The next morning (Happy Birthday Dad!) we went into Guayaquil. Johnny and I walked through a museum of Guayaquil´s history and of Catholic art. I had a great time there! Knowledge and art! We then went to the Malecón 2000 (a boardwalk along the river). Johnny and I spent our time identifying the "gringos" that were there. Quite different than Machala.

Later that night, we finally went to the "Feria de Durán," celebrating the independence of Guayaquil. We somehow were able to sneak in the back way (we had tickets, we just were avoiding having to walk to the front gates). We walked through exhibits of clothes, art, and food! I tried "espumilla" which is like whipped cream with a flavor, churrón de soya, and avena. Another surprise, I liked them all. Johnny, Johny, and I got t-shirts of Ecuador! Now Johnny and I have two matching shirts: Invisible Children, and Ecuador tree! We watched some presentations, and Johnny and I walked through a large military tent, looking at the branches and trying on the gear. Tell Pop that I´m not ready to sign up yet. We then went home and crashed.

Saturday we got up and went to a little restaurant for breakfast. I had the "Bandera" which is like a taste of 5 different meals and is available at pretty much every restaurant. We dropped off some defective cloths that Geovanna picked up (from her supplier) and looked at a car dealership. We went to a drugstore and then McDonald´s. I had a "Tango" McFlurry. Since the food here is really cheap anyways, McDonald´s isn´t the monopoly on food. That was a weird realization.

I went back to Pasaje with the Morocho family, buying some fruit on the way (8 guabas for $1!). After we got to their house, Johnny, Jocelyne, Kevin, and I went out on the town: this consisted of driving in circles around Pasaje and honking at all the people Johnny knew for maybe an hour. This was quite a strange experience for me - I guess I missed out on the "cruising around town" that happens in smaller cities. We went home and Johnny, Kevin, and I fell asleep watching Harry Potter and the Triwizard Tournament.

Sunday we got up and ate more ceviche - I will never get sick of ceviche! Johnny and I walked around the town again - getting a batido de naranjilla this time. The Morochos and I left Johnny to do homework in Pasaje and headed to Machala. Home again, home again.

Family Weekend


About two weeks ago a lot of my family from Guayaquil came down to Machala. This means extra talking and extra-extra eating. I met like 5 new cousins and 6 new aunts and uncles. I helped make some sandwiches then got dressed up for the night. We all went to the pier (a block from our house) and watched a presentation for Gina (either an aunt or my mamá´s cousin). She wrote 3 new books so they were awknowledging her for that. After that, we ate some sweets and listened to the band - three people: a singer, a keyboardist, and a percussionist.

We returned home and split up into groups: older people and younger people. The elders went to a bar called "Bistro," and I went with brother Fernando, cousin Juan, cousin Carlos, cousin Caroyo (real name = Fernando), cousin Andy (distant I think), and the girlfriend of Carlos (we still called her cousin or "prima") to a bar called "Treinta Ocho" (or "Treinta Once"). We took our seats and Fernando ran down the street to buy two packs of cheese puffs and to buy me two Gatorades. We talked and listened to the music, which was rock - I think the only bar in Machala that does so. They played some good music like "The Hardest Part" by Coldplay, "What I Got" by Sublime, and "Karma Police" by Radiohead! Later in the night, brother-in-law César, sister Patricia María, cousin Alejandro, and cousin Bernardo came. There happened to be an "incident" with the "prima"(involved tossing cookies from the tequila), so César, Alejandro, and Patricia María took her and Carlos home. I talked a lot to Juan, and we got on the music of Arcade Fire! The first Ecuadorian, other than Johnny, who has heard of them. We discussed the amazing music. Then, we finally headed out - 14+ beer pitchers later - at 3 am. I was in the shotgun to watch the wheel on the ride home.

We climbed out of bed around noon and ate some ceviche. The topic of discussion was the poor girl and the previous night. We ate AGAIN, this time some pulled pork, rice, choclo and cheese, and potatoes. Then, they all loaded up in their cars and big Hyundai van and headed back to Guayaquil.

Center of the Arts


Many times I´m just working on the computer or lounging around before I have to leave for a meeting or something, and my Mamá says "Vamos!" I don´t have an easy way to get into town so I stop everything I´m doing, drop my things, sprint to my room to get appropriate clothing (usually jeans and a t-shirt) and my things, and book it to Wacho´s truck. One night, she asked if I wanted to go with her to an art museum. Being the good Rotary student that I am, I agreed (I actually wanted to go, though). So I warp-speeded it to my room and got ready.

We arrived at the building downtown and it was lit up and filled with people. We stepped inside and the center was absolutely amazing. Machala has a lot of trash in the city and doesn´t always look like it appreciates the arts, but this building was a flash to modern times. I was completely awed by the beauty of this building, and it felt like some kind of haven. I tagged along with Mamá and we talked to several people. Inside was filled with artwork, and there was a pianist tickling the ivories and ebonies. The president of the arts (I think) spoke then the mayor. I was following my Mamá then realized that she was heading to stand alongside the mayor and other important people so I veered off her trail and took a place in the crowd.

After the speeches, a choir sang. I wandered around, looking at the art. I headed upstairs to look at the building. I meandered through the empty floors alone, through an eating lounge, theater practice room, and dance rooms. With each floor I was more stunned and felt pride, for what I´m not exactly sure yet. I kept ascending and finally reached the terrace, which had a beautiful view of the downtown city. I made my way back downstairs and fought off some people to eat some hors d´oerves. They were just mauling the waiters for the food. I went to the drink station and found Wacho helping serve drinks! I managed to get a strawberry soda and continued looking at the art.

The pianist at first played classical music, and that made me really miss the piano. Later, he played some modern songs like Eric Clapton and John Lennon. He played "Imagine" and I quietly sang along while gazing at art. It reminded me of playing the piano in the Governor´s Mansion back home in good ol´ Jefferson City, Missouri.

Reina Mundial del Banano



So a few weeks ago was an annual beauty pageant that takes place in Machala. It crowns the "Banana Queen of the World" and is between the winners of different countries. The contestants were here for maybe a week.

I was heading to Interact club with Araceli (really early at that. It was 5:15 and the meeting doesn´t "start" until 5:30. In Ecuadorian time, that means the meeting starts at 6:30, usually, at the earliest), and we noticed a huge crowd downtown along the street. Turns out there was a parade for the Queens! We stood there and watched the dancers and floats pass. When the US contestant drove by, I cheered especially loudly. I felt like I should go to the meeting, but Araceli said that I could just go late because it´s a special event. Eventually the other exchange students came to get me, so then I went to the meeting.

The next night I got slicked up in black attire and my Rotary blazer and hailed a taxi for the Rotary meeting at 8. The Rotary place was decked out in fancy decorations for the banana queens. I hung out with the other exchange students and kids from Interact while we waited for the appearance of the queens. we went to get some ice cream across the street! I think I got "mora" flavored ice cream - a berry. Anyways, we came back, and the queens finally came at maybe 11. They first walked in one-at-a-time and then sat at the front for some pictures. They then came out and talked to all of the people. There were two girls from the US: the winner of last year and the contestant for this year, both from California. They came and talked to us (exchange students) first. They said that they don´t know what´s going on half the time because they don´t speak Spanish. And they are homesick. And they think we are brave and valient and courageous and charming and charismatic (ok, maybe they only said the first one) because we are going to stay here for a year. After a little chit-chat, I ran around with another exchange student as my photographer and got pictures with all the ones that were there. We were dodging through people, jumping into photos, and intercepting the contestants. At the end we talked again with the US girls and with the girl from Brazil, who spoke English but not Spanish. The night ended with a large congo line/dance circles with the older Rotary men dancing with the beauty contestants. They finally worked their way to the door and left. After all that excitement, we ate some shrimp crépes, brownies, and guayábana cake. Took a taxi home and settled into bed at 1:13 am - on a school night!

The exchange students presented their flags at a fashion show thing in an old mall the next week. We just walked down the stage in our blazers and waved our flags around. Later in the night they presented the queens. They tried to speak Spanish to them all, along with some English (very little English), and some with a translator (for the girl from Germany). I don´t know when or how they decided, but the Banana Queen of the World utimately was the chica from Venezuela. And I do have a picture with her.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Drinks

Drinks are pretty different here too. Since the water is not safe to drink, pretty much every household has either boiled water or purified water (in large water containers). You can use the water to brush your teeth and stuff but just not to drink. More common to drink is soda. It´s oftentimes the only option to drink. Unlike the USA, strawberry, orange, and apple soda are everywhere. I prefer the strawberry personally.

Many drinks are also served in plastic bags. At school, kids buy soda in bags and drink out of them with a straw. It looks quite humorous because the students are running around with a hamburger in one hand and a bag-o-soda in the other. My first bagged drink was "batido de guineo" which is like a banana milk. All this drink is blended banana, milk, and a little bit of sugar. I tried "batido de naranjilla" in Pasaje last weekend, and it was good too. I made some last night for myself. All we had were "plátanos" in the house so I went out and asked Juan, the security guard, if it would still taste alright if I used it (many times I go out and ask him about cooking things). It was good.

Since the fruits are so good, of course the juices are incredible too. What I found kind of ironic was that we have Florida orange juice because my Papá likes the taste better. The juices are fresh and usually are just the fruit with some sugar added. Common for juice (and what I am in love with) is the "tomate de arbol." The pineapple juice was great as well. One that I´m not really fond of is "tamarindo" juice. It has kind of a sharp taste and isn´t too sweet. One of my uncles told me that I should be careful with it - then he showed me the action of someone going to the bathroom. That was funny seeing that. With the Morocho´s this past weekend I drank a lot of peach juice! We also have a lot of mango juice.

Here the legal age for pretty much everything is 18. Still, pretty much every kid has already had an alcoholic beverage. My family is a fan of wine on the weekends, but most of the people here drink beer. I tasted the beer, and I think it is disgusting. I did like the "cocktail de menta" that I tried. My Papá here makes a soup here with tobasco, whiskey, and oysters (once with shrimp). There are other things in it but I don´t know what they are. This soup was quite a kick in the mouth and took a little while to get used to. I think it might have been the whiskey. I eat it now with plenty of chifles to depress the taste.

Disclaimer: I am allowed to drink by Rotary rules (can´t get inebriated or soaped).

The milk here is is either bags or cartons which is different. A lot of times I have chocolate milk and to make that they put in a chocolate called "Milo." Pretty much everyone knows what that is for reasons that I do not know. Coconut "agua" and "jugo" is also common. There are vendors who sell it on the streets. The "agua" is the milk straight from the coconut. Johnny and I got some in Pasaje and the vendor just cut a hole in the coconut and poured it right out for us. I´m not too wild about it. I haven´t had the "jugo" yet; it´s thicker and made with some other ingredients. I haven´t really had any other drinks off of the street.

In summary, I just can´t get enough of these juices!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Food

So to put it plainly, the food is incredible. The word everyone here uses for every single food is "rico." When someone asks me about the food I just say "rico" and they wildly agree. I haven´t gotten sick at all from it. The locals here say that the food gives some people problems. I think the test is food from the streets. After a week here, I had "pastel de pollo" and didn´t have any issues so I passed.

Here they eat a small breakfast, a large lunch, and a small dinner. For breakfast I usually eat Zucaritas, which are Frosted Flakes Spanish-style, and a toasted sandwich. These sandwiches are all over the place here. They´re just a sandwich with cheese and sometimes a single slice of ham/bologna. They are toasted by an appliance that is like a photo-copier in that it presses the sandwich. I was surprised at how common these are. They sell them at school, and when I went to Guayaquil with Johnny, we went to a little café that sold them.

Lunch is amazing. It´s even better because after 7 hours of school, I´m starved (because I try to hold back on eating at school). It starts out with soup, usually of vegetables. Sometimes the soup has a chunk of meat or some choclo in it. The main course is a meat (most often chicken). Sometimes it´s fish, sausage, shrimp, or beef. With pretty much every meal, there is rice! What I like even more is the fried egg on top of the rice. Sometimes instead of rice (or with rice) we eat "puré" which is just cold mashed potatoes.

Accompanying the meal is often some form of banana. There are a ridiculous (in a good way) number of ways to call bananas here. They have patacones made from "verdes" which are just hard, green bananas. The next most common type of banana is "maduros" which are cooked, sweet bananas.

With the Morocho family, I had plenty of "firsts." I ate chichurrón (fried pork), morocho (the rice milky drink), and umas (sweet smashed choclo) with cheese. This past weekend we stopped by their plantations, and they pointed out to me many new fruits. It was quite crazy how all those fruits were in one place.

Empanadas are amazing as well. They are just little fried bread pockets of cheese or pockets of "verdes" with meat. The ones with cheese you eat with sugar so they´re even better!

Another thing that I love here is ceviche! This is a soup of sometimes fish or shrimp. It has onions (here I love the onions. I think they´re just usually cooked with lime) and some other spices, and you eat it with squeezed limes, chifles (banana chips), and bread. Encebollado is really similar to ceviche (just as delicious!), and I still don´t know the difference. I´ve been saying that I am going to make these when I go back to the USA because I won´t be able to live without them.

And, of course, the fruit is unbelievable. I am eating a fruit right this second that I haven´t ever heard of before; it´s called "mamey" and is orange, hard as an apple, and sweet. They have amazing mangos, papayas, and granadilla. The last one was a fruit I´d never heard of before too. One day another foreign exchange student brought a granadilla to school and was in love with them. She showed me how to eat it, and I tried some - and big surprise, it was amazing. It was a bunch of slimy, semi-crunchy seeds exploding with delicious juicy flavor. I don´t ever remember loving mangos in the USA, but here I love them. I can even cut my own. The seed is large, and you suck on it to get the fruit off - detriments to this is that your teeth get filled with little mango strands and your hands and face are drenched in mango juice. But it´s still worth it. Surprisingly enough, I don´t eat as many bananas here (even though I am in the banana capital of the world). I haven´t noticed that they are incredibly better, but the other fruits make up for it. One week Wacho brought some "mandarinas" from his farm and they were the size of softballs! They were so juicy and sweet. In the orangy fruits there are like 20 seeds in each one. But it´s worth it for them too.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Spanish Campamento

About two and a half weeks ago, I went with the Rotary students from the south of Ecuador to a Spanish camp in Nobol, a town near Guayaquil. All of us from Machala, Pasaje, and Santa Rosa met and headed out in little buses. We took a stop and then made it to the camp in Nobol. The other group (from the north of Ecuador) had their camp in a hotel so we didn´t know what to expect. We pulled into a little resort with cabins and pools along the river. We ate lunch with everyone then moved in our cabins; I was in a room with Tjarko, a German from my club in Machala, and Alexis, a Swiss from another club in Machala. We had our own bathroom and three beds (one bunk and one queen-sized), a little nicer than the girls´ quarters. They had maybe 10 in a room and had I think 2 community bathrooms.

To get around, we rode on 2 tractors pulling wagons of wood. We all looked like we were on a sarafi because we had our cameras out, and we were jammed on this little cart. By the end of the week, we started riding on the back and the top of the wagon. The tractors that pulled these wagons would make an incredible amount of smoke; that was a pain. Each time we got on these wagons, the drivers would race against each other. This was made even more difficult because of the ridiculous bumps in the road. So we were swerving, choking on the dirty smoke, and the people on top were getting hammered by the tree branches. What a blast.

When we first got to the camp (on Tuesday) we took a Spanish placement test that put us into different groups according to our level. I was put in the highest, the Intermediate group (I should say so, after so many years of study!). Our group of south-Ecuadorian exchange students was split into two groups, one with classes in the morning and the other with classes in the afternoon. I was in the group that had classes in the morning. In our class, we worked a lot on worksheets and did review. There were only 6 of us so we also did quite a bit of speaking. In our class we could only speak Spanish and our teacher spoke to us in Spanish too. It was four hours everyday with a break in the middle. One of the days we got to watch the movie "Qué tan lejos" which was nice. On Friday, the other group was cooking in the morning and they brought us some food, so that was a nice break too.

The food was nothing to write home about, but I´ll write about it anyway. I´ll say that it was better than MO Boys State food. For breakfast we usually had toast and cheese with warm milk (on occasion containing chunks). Sometimes there was juice, but that was actually good. Lunch we ate outside and was a soup followed by a meal. The soup usually had some meat in it and the meal was a type of meat with rice. They served soda with that. Dinner we had a meal of meat and rice. A big secret that was discovered by the middle of our stay was that the kitchen sold Pingüino, a brand of ice cream. It was such a great taste and escape from the food.

Every afternoon my group had activities. The first night we had free so most of us went swimming in the freezing water. The second afternoon we had Gymkhana, a trivia game about Ecuador. This was kind of difficult because none of us were from Ecuador. You would run and grab a little keychain and answer the question. If you answered it wrong, you had to do a punishment. If you answered it right, you got 10 points. On a question where no one was going up, a counselor, Walter (who went to Germany on his foreign exchange last year), told me an answer. Turned out it was wrong (thanks Walter), so I had to stand like a flamingo for 30 seconds. My team lost, and we had to do "embarrassing" punishments. Since I know you´re wondering, the second time I had to dance. After this, we played some fútbol outside. We played without shoes, and I got a blister on one foot. One kid did say I was really good at soccer (yeah, JC soccer!). I stopped playing after I got the blister and for the rest of the week made makeshift moleskin with toilet paper and some athletic tape. Thursday afternoon we made skits, posters of Ecuador, and learned how to dance (to dances like Merengue and a traditional Ecuadorian dance). Friday afternoon we learned how to make patacones and empanadas con queso! That was so delicious. We also showed off our skits and dances to the other groups. Saturday afternoon we did a cultural simulation called BaFá BaFá. We split up into two more groups and each had a culture to learn. We all took turns visiting the other culture and tried to adapt. For some reason, on my visit to the other culture, I was placed in the jail twice. During the ending explanations, I was sitting next to the Hungarian girl, and she kept whispering in Hungarian, wanting it to be over. I don´t think it was that bad.

Most of the nights we had free. We traded pins and cards with each other. On Thursday night some of us were sitting around outside, and we started singing our countries´ national anthem. We then got in a big circle and started doing sing-a-longs and repeat-after-me songs in all languages. We moved this group to a little stage and had representatives from each country sing songs in their native tongue. This was so cool! We had USA, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Denmark, Ecuador, and Hungary! We from the USA sang "Evertime We Touch" by Cascada for reasons unbeknownst to me. I suggested Bob Dylan and started singing "The Times They Are A-Changing" and "Blowing in the Wind," but they paid no attention to me. Friday night they played music over speakers spread throughout the camp and had a little dance party. Saturday night there was a bonfire and music to dance to. After the bonfire some of us stayed up and talked (me mainly about music) until 2 in the morn!

On the way home we stopped a little less than half-way at a solitary little open-air restaurant bar (we did this on the way up too). I got a peach yogurt and a cheese empanada! We got to Machala, and Walter and his mom gave me a ride home. At my house the streets were blocked off because there was a shooting on the street. This became the topic of discussion for the next 2 weeks or so. What excitement to come home to.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Morocho Weekend!











My second weekend here in Ecuador I spent with the Morocho family! They invited me to go with them to a Rotary party (to watch the fútbol game of Ecuador vs. Colombia) on that Saturday. I packed a bag because I ended up staying the night.

That Saturday morning Johny Morocho (the dad) came to pick me up in his truck. On our way out of Machala, we stopped by a marketplace where the vendors were selling flowers. There were huge bouquets that sat on stands and had little homemade containers. Johny bought one that was maybe 3 feet tall and only costed $3! We stopped by the mall - here called "Shopping" (not Spanish but used anyways) and "El Paseo" - and he bought some bonbons. These were for Geovanna (the mom) because it was her birthday!

We headed off to Pasaje - and bought a mini flag of Ecuador for the big game. Johny tried to stick it on his window, saying "mi país." Once in town, we went to a little restaurant downtown for breakfast. We ate "encebollado de pescado," a super delicious fish onion soup, with chifles and soya con leche, a good cold drink that kind of tastes like chai. We finished the soup and went to pick up a chocolate cake for the birthday festivities. We went to the house and I hardly recognized it because unlike the first time I saw it, the streets were filled with markets and vendors under their metal roofs that look like scaffolding.

Geovanna was working her store, but we all went upstairs (Johny, Geovanna, Johnny Andrés, Jocelyne, Kevin, and me). We ate the delicious cake and sang happy birthday - here they sing a mixture of the birthday song in both Spanish and English. Johnny and I went a couple doors down to an internet café. On our way, all the people waved and said hello to Johnny (his grandmother owns the building so they all know him). I met Katty, Johnny´s girlfriend, and her mother at Geovana´s store. Her mom parked illegally because they were just stopping by, and a cop came. They explained to him that it was only for a moment and they got out of a ticket because Catty´s father is an official or something like that.

We loaded up in their car and toured the town. We got some "chichurrón," pork that´s deep fried. There were still decorations and a statue of the Virgen María from the night before, when the city was celebrating María for some festival. We drove out to the Rotary members house and ate MORE food.

The men were all preparing for the big game by setting up a projector, a screen, and having several televisions. The majority of the people were dressed in yellow jerseys - Johnny and I didn´t have one. The TV to projector set-up wouldn´t work, and I finally explained to them that the TVs didn´t have an AV Out outlet - that´s fifth place in Introduction to Technology Concepts FBLA! Someone did end up bringing their TV from home and then we got the projector to work.

Johnny and I walked around outside and picked some fresh oranges from the trees. He peeled it and cut a piece off the top. These oranges, he explained, you don´t eat. What you do is suck out the top and squeeze the orange to get the juice to come out. I kept breaking the skin of the orange and getting sticky, but by my third orange, I got the hang of it.

Well, Ecuador lost 0-2 to Colombia. On our way out, we picked a cacao bean off of a neighbor´s tree and booked it home. In Pasaje, we ate morocho, a warm rice drink, with bread. Johnny and I walked around the town, and I drank some batido de guineo (a banana milk drink). It was all sooo delicious!

I played some Pictionary with their family - actually quite difficult in Spanish. Then we all went to Machala to drop Jocelyne off at a Quinceañera party (a huge celebration for a girl´s 15th birthday). We walked around downtown Machala (my first time doing so) then went to an ice cream/frozen yogurt place called Twister Ice. I got a mixture of fresh kiwi and pineapple! We went home and ate sweet "uma con queso," smashed choclo with cheese.

Johnny and I headed upstairs. We looked through his photos of old times in Missouri and reminisced. We started watching the Blues Brothers, but I ended up falling asleep, so Johnny turned it off.

We woke up and ate encebollado de pescado again! How great is that? I talked to Rachel and Mom while Johnny and I walked the town. I had two hands on my phone the whole time - stories about cell phone robberies are common. I lingered around Geovana´s store for a while then went to buy jeans - I only brought 2 pairs and have to wear them to school most of the week.

Johnny and I went back upstairs and listened to some Cat Stevens and Ryan Adams! We then went next door, and I met his grandmother, grandfather, aunt, some cousins and their daughter and nephew (or something like that). They fed us some more oranges (to suck) and guayaba (fruit).

Johnny then drove me back to Machala - different because it used to be me driving him! That was quite the fun weekend.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Lifestyle

My mother is currently the Vice-Mayor of the city of Machala. My dad was a Congressman in Ecuador, and now he owns a radio station (he´s on from 8-10 weekday mornings, and my brother Fernando also speaks on it), a banana plantation, and a owns a fair share of the buildings in Machala. Most everybody in the city of Machala knows the family. Our house is fenced in with the house of my brothers (each brother has a floor for his family). The house has a swimming pool, a small soccer/basketball court, an exercise room, and an entertainment room (pool tables, stereo, ping-pong table). Each adult has a car (my father has two). So you might be able to tell that this family is well off. There is a downside to this: my parents work long days. My mother wakes up with me and sets me off to school. I sometimes see her after school when she comes home to eat lunch, but then she takes off again. I don´t see her then usually until 9 (unless I´m downtown for some meeting then walk to the Municipio, the city hall, so she can take me home - still usually between 8:30-9). I don´t usually see my father until 10 at night (unless I go to his office during the day). They do try to compensate for this during the weekends by staying home. Most of the family then comes over and we eat together and spend time together. I actually haven´t been home for a Saturday night yet: I was in Guayaquil my first Saturday night when I arrived, I went to Santa Rosa, I went to Pasaje with the Morochos, and then I had the Rotary camp. I do plan on sleeping in my bed this Saturday night and partaking in all the family activities.



Around the house there are so many helpers:



Wacho (real name is Washington, but this is how they say it as a nickname) - the driver for my mother who also works at the Municipio. He somtimes drives me around, too, if I need to go somewhere. He also picks up food that we´d like or any supplies (he bought and brought me a blue tie to school my first Monday). He also has a little farm where he grows "mandarinas" - large clementines the size of my two fists together. He brings them to my house because I love them.



Araceli - The nanny for me (previously for Francisco). She first came when Francisco broke his leg, then she stayed to help. She does the laundry and cleans up around my room and the house. She stays to make me some dinner (usually just a small meal because lunch is the big meal) and to give me some company. She is around usually from 3-8 or until I leave (sometimes she accompanies me via taxi).



Gladys - The cook who makes us lunch during the week. She prepares a soup and meal for Mamá, brothers Fernando and Andrés, sister Paola, and me. She´s home when I get home from school at 2 and stays until 3 or 4.



Miguel - The gardener for the house. He takes care of all the plants and maintenance of the house.



Juan - A nice, old security guard who comes at night to guard the house. He also feeds the dogs the leftovers from lunch. Once I was exercising and glanced out the window and saw don Juan peeking in the window. I spit out some comment about how I haven´t exercised in a while, and I continued with my exercise. Next time I looked he was gone. That was a little awkward, but he´s really nice anyways.



María - A babysitter for my nephew Paolo (son of Andrés and Paola). She is usually around a lot and watches, plays, cares for Paolo.



Yolanda - A lady who comes, reads the piles of newspapers, and cuts out certain articles for my mamá.



Señor de la Piscina - I just found out about him today. He cares for the pool. Araceli doesn´t know his name either, just Señor de la Piscina.





I think that does it, but I´m not sure because I keep learning about new helpers.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Spelling Bee

Two weeks ago some younger students (2 groups) in my school were preparing for a Spelling Bee. They would compete with other students in their level, first against students in Santa María then against students from the other schools. Julie, an exchange student from Denmark, and I got roped in to helping out the teachers. I thought "helping out" meant that we´d be with a couple students reviewing a list of words that they knew. It turned out that the teachers just gave us 15 kids each and a room. I´m not even sure what kids were left for them to teach. A couple of times we got kicked out of our classroom because another teacher had it, so we just shuffled around the school and found other classrooms.



They did give us a list of words, a different one for each group. I ended up taking the older group (with more difficult words). We asked the teachers if we needed to do something in particular, but they just said that we can do whatever we need to do and take breaks whenever. When we did take breaks, I´m not even sure if all of them came back because there were so many students. The teachers asked that we work with the students from the start at around 7:15 to 12! I got really good at using "you (plural)" commands. It was so long, but we did this anyway Thursday, Friday, and Monday. We did take ample breaks because it was so dang long. Sometimes I just sat back and talked to the students about Ecuador (like the nice beaches and citys). A classmate and Lara, another exchange student from Germany, came and visited (They told me our class was doing nothing - big surprise) when we were talking and said that I was a bad teacher, but I told them that I wasn´t the teacher and had no obligation because they weren´t paying me. Sometimes the students called me "Teacher," and I said "Who?" because I´m not the teacher. They snuck snacks (prohibited in class) in at first then I told them that I don´t care. We did review most of the words.



The words were crazy hard! I asked the students if they had ever seen this list of words before, and they said that they hadn´t, so that was even better (sarcasm), starting fresh. Some words were juggernaught, gourmet, quiche, and courier - crazy - amounting to 1,289 words. Since they didn´t know the words, I just let them glance at their list if they needed to. They had enough trouble with their letters.

On the last day, the teacher did buy Julie and me a hamburger and coke so that was nice. I don´t think any of them won against the other school because I haven´t heard anything, and from those that I did see, they said they didn´t win.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Colegio

My high school is supposedly the "nice" school in town where the wealthy people send their children. I´m not sure if they are getting the best education for their money, but at least their students enjoy the school. Class "starts" at 7:10 a.m. and that just means that most of us are in the classroom. We have four classes each day, but they change every day. Most of the classes are 90 minutes long. This is my schedule:

Monday: Physics, English, Math, Bioanatomy
Tuesday: Math, Physics, Chemistry, Accounting
Wednesday: Technical Drawing, English, Literature, Chrisitan Formation
Thursday: English, Chemistry, History & Geography, Math
Friday: Literature (45 min.), Bioanatomy (45 min.), Investigation, English, Physical Culture (like P.E.)

My first week I started on Tuesday, and we did barely anything. Wednesday was a day of "sports," where each class had a "Madrina," and there was a competition between them. My cousin, Caroya, was the one for her class, and she was dressed up. I don´t know what it was judging, but our "Madrina," Sole, got second place. We stood outside and watched cheerleaders, a police dog jumping over 4 feet high hurdles and hopping around on two feet carrying a flag of Ecuador in it´s mouth, and a presentation of the best sports players from each class. Some other classes started playing fútbol and tennis, and our class just watched and talked to each other. We did no work that day either...AND we didn´t even have school Thursday and Friday.

We wear uniforms. Monday we wear a beige shirt, blue tie, blue blazer, blue dress pants, blue socks, black dress shoes. Tuesday through Thursday males wear jeans, blue socks, black tennis shoes, Santa María jacket, and Santa María polo; females wear Santa María skirt, blue socks, black shoes, Santa María jacket, and Santa María polo. Friday we wear Santa María gym shorts (with built in underwear might I add), Santa María gym pants, Santa María t-shirt, and Santa María jacket.

The man in charge of discipline is called "Teacher Juanchila" (all the teachers are called "teacher" here). He checks our fingernails, electronics, hair, attire, and grades. He is an odd man who uses only a wrist-grab handshake. Today was funny because Lara, another exchange student, and I saw him halfway-hiding behind a corner of the wall, extending his cell phone about 2 feet from his body. It looked like he was taking a picture, but I think he was texting. When he noticed that we saw him he ducked completely behind the corner.

I already mentioned this but every day we get 2 recesses! The first is for 20 minutes and the second is for 15 minutes. During this time, we´re free to go outside, mingle, or buy a snack from the food bar. They sell sandwhiches, burgers, a plate of food (rice and a meat usually), drinks, and candy. Also, at the end of the day, we have 10 minutes where the teacher advisor for our class tells us info that we need to know (like announcements, news, etc.).

Sometimes the teacher doesn´t show up, then we have a "free hour" where we do anything we want, with the exception of leaving the campus. Sometimes we play basketball, walk around, or just sit, talk, and listen to music when this happens. I think I asked maybe four different people what was going on the first time this happened because I could´t believe it. Now it´s just old hat. This morning we had technical drawing so we went to the computer lab. When we got there, we found out that the "AutoCAD" program wasn´t yet installed, so we just spent the hour surfing the web (I spent my time looking up information Bob Dylan and the US Open). That was great. Oh, and our teacher didn´t show up today for Christian formation.

We get homework every once in a while. We´ve had to do some research and answer questions. With the assignments I just jot down the answer in my notebook, but I´ve noticed that the other students put more work into it. They type their work, color the pages, add pictures, and sometimes put it in a plastic folder! This is surprising to me, but maybe it accounts for the lack of work we do in class.

Two weeks ago our class spent the majority of the classes preparing for the English Fesitval last week. They practiced dancing to a mix of songs: the first cut was the rap song Low, Hot N Cold by Kate Perry, and Mambo Number 5. That was a little too much so they ended up just using Low and Mambo Number 5. This is them http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wELVt2b4vg. Keep in mind that took up precious class time. I was gone last week at a Rotary camp, Tuesday to Sunday, so I missed the performance. I hear we didn´t do any work either because of the English Festival. Hooray.