Friday, August 28, 2009


We arrived in Machala and went to our house (address is Malecón 909 in Puerto Bolivar - a section of Machala). I learned from Sandra that not all houses have numbers; they usually write what intersection the house is near and then describe what house it is. We entered the gate in the car (it opens with a clicker) and walked around to the side of the house where the family was preparing for the 2nd birthday of José Martín (they call him Panda). Almost everyone here has nicknames (sobrenombres) so it´s even more difficult to memorize because they have 2 names - and the names are said differently or just a different name than those in the U.S. I met two of my brothers (Fernando and José Andrés), the wife of Andrés (Paola), and my uncle (Fernando) in the house of Tío Fernando (the uncle). They coerced me to play guitar (on their classical guitar with nylon strings) for them, but since I don´t have many songs memorized, I only played for a little bit. I played and sang a little of "Green Eyes" (by good ol´ Coldplay) and Andrés and Paola recognized it. Then my sister, Patricia María, gave me a tour of the grounds. She showed me the pool, the little court (with basketball hoops and fútbol goals), the exercising room, the activity room (with pool tale, ping-pong table, stereo, organ, and TV), and the house of Patricia and José. She also showed me the terrace where you can see the ocean (about 50 feet from my house) and the neighborhood. We ate some cake (chocolate mint) and strawberry soda and sang "happy birthday."

Yesterday morning (Friday) I woke up and ate some cereal and yogurt. I was going to work out, but my mom called me and told me that there is a festival going on down the street. I changed clothes and headed out of the gates. Many people were congregating around the stage (with steroes and some posters) and the many booths. I saw Wacho (the driver for my mom) and went over to talk with him. My mom was sitting under a little tent in front of the stage with some other women. I went over with Wacho to meet them, and then Wacho and I walked around looking at the booths. He took me out on a pier where there is a museum of preserved sea creatures (like eels, fish, whale bones, seahorses, etc.). We went back to the tent with my mom and sat and watched some of the shows (one of them was a skit with clowns about hiring young people). The cultural festival was promoting the youth and their rights (or something like that). There were clowns on stilts, vendors on tricycles (homemade so that there are 2 wheels in the front with a cart where people ride or where they have their good that they sell), and mimes. One of my friends (Angie from the Rotary club) was there with her school, and I went with her and her sister, Támara, to walk around. Támara bought some "mango verde con sal" which was mango (green) with some lime juice and salt. It was really tart and bitter but wasn´t very bad. They left with their school and I stayed till the end of the festival, watching bands, singers (one of them sang Selena!), and dancers. One group danced to part of "Thriller." When it started playing, I looked around kind of nodding my head because it was music in English.

I did get a little sunburnt even though it´s in the rainy/cloudy season in Ecuador.

This morning my dad made some kind of soup with a lot of tabasco, a little whiskey, and oysters (I think there was more ingredients but I don´t know them). A friend of his named Fultón (that´s how they say it) came over and brought bread and ate with us. He likes it a lot, but me, not so much. We also ate some chifles (that Miguel, the gardener, bought from down the street), peach juice (so delicious), and watermelon. While we were eating, we heard music from across the street. It was a caravan of boats celebrating the "Virgen María." We ran outside and watched as they passed near the shore. There were like 20 boats filled with people and balloons and playing music. My family told me that the "Virgen" was on the big boat in front with the music. I didn´t have my camera the first time, but I was eating an egg tortilla with shrimp when I heard them again. I sprinted upstairs, grabbed my camera, and continued on up to the terrace to take some pictures.

Later today I´m going to a fiesta in a small town of Santa Rosa with people from my class!


So we stayed in Guayaquil Saturday night and then woke up around 9. I took a shower and talked with Sebastian, Paulina, José, Patricia, and Patricia María. It was a mix of Spanish and some words in English as they worked on their English. We went to the Mall de Sol in Guayaquil, a huge and nice mall. I went with María, Sebastian, and Pauli to a bookstore, and then we met Patricia and José to eat in the food court. I had ``churrasco´´ which was meat in a kind of sauce, complimented with fries, rice, and a fried egg. We then left Guayaquil for Machala. We passed through banana plantations, cacao plantations, and some tiny, poor towns. It was kind of ironic that the song that was playing when we passed some of these towns was called ´´Pobre.´´ They told me the process of cacao beans - they´re picked, put in oil, then laid out on the ground to dry. I also caught glimpses of fútbol games being played on little dirt fields.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

El Viaje

The trip started out at 3:30 in the morning last Saturday. We went to the St. Louis airport, and my family sent me off. I had a backpack stuffed to the top, Tevas hanging of the straps, a Nalgene bouncing around, and a guitar loaded with various things in every possible crevasse. I felt pretty cool being "that one guy with the guitar" walking through the terminal but by the end of the day, it was pretty cumbersome. I made my connection in Dallas and went on to Miami. We landed, but it was raining and storming there so we couldn't "taxi" into our gate for another hour. After deplaning, I booked it on over to the gate, following another girl (in her twenties) who was going to Guayaquil too. We were fast-walking/jogging through the terminals because the screen said our flight was still on-time and it was already time to start boarding. We got to the gate, and it turned out that our flight was delayed and it just didn't say it on the screens. Our wing was filled with Spanish-speakers, and I felt a little overwhelmed. I talked to some people and then met Heidi, from Texas, who is going to Guayaquil for a Rotary Exchange too. An interesting thing is that she lived in Indonesia for 6 years in her younger days. On the flight I sat next to a kind Ecuadorian girl (around 23 years old) who also went on a Rotary Exchange to Holland years ago. I talked to Sandra, and she was headed back to Portoviejo (the city of Marcelo!) - what coincidences. I talked to her in Spanish for the greater part of the 4 hour flight about things from beaches to music (she does, in fact, have a great taste in music including Bob Marley and Jack Johnson). We landed, and I eventually got off, having difficulty squeezing between the aisles with a guitar, overpacked backpack, and my customs tickets falling all over the place.

Customs took a while but we got through that and continued on to collect our baggage. I knew that I wouldn't be able to carry everything so I went to get a cart. I think they charge for them if you go out of the terminal, but I was stumbling through my Spanish so I think the lady felt bad and she gave me one. I could only find one of my gigantic suitcases and Heidi could only find one too. The suitcases were still in Miami, and they ended up sending them to us. We eventually arrived at 10:00 (for what was supposed to be an 8:35 arrival), and we walked out into the line of people waving and carrying signs. My niece Paulina (13) was holding a sign reading "Logan Brunner." I was swarmed with hello's and hands helping me with my luggage. Greeting me were my host-parents, Jose and Patricia, my sister Patricia Maria, my nephew Sebastian, Paulina, and Johnny! I told them I lost a piece of luggage, stumbling through Spanish again, and they told me to tell them in English so they'd understand. This ended in giving the lost and found people another number to call when they got the luggage. We went to a house of theirs in Guayaquil, and then I went with Patricia, Maria, Sebastian, and Pauli to a restaurant. We had this bread with a chuchurri, a green sauce that had a kind of bitter/tart twang that was pretty good. Then we had some meat (I think beef) on a sizzling platter with coals underneath. I also tried some sandwhich with really tender chicken and cheese that was so delicious (vegetables and all). Then we went back to the house and crashed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Before the Trip

So I am set to fly to Guayaquil, Ecuador this Saturday, August 22. As of now, I still have not packed except for 10 boxers and a t-shirt with the Rotary outbound students, like myself, on the front. I clipped my fingernails and toenails, so I won't have to worry about it when I first get there because doing that is never very enjoyable. I got my hair cut, unfortunately, because my school is private and requires short hair. The school is Principito y Marcel Laniado de Wind (, and they wear uniforms there.

I will be living with Jose and Patricia Ugarte in a suburb of the city of Machala, Ecuador. The city is south of Guayaquil, is the capital of the El Oro Province, has about 430,000 residents, is called the banana capital of the world, and is on the coast. My host family has a son Francisco (17) who will be going to Livermore, California for his exchange. Also living with my padres are their two sons and their wives. They have two boxer dogs, and I think they live about 10 minutes from the city. They are going to pick me up from the airport along with my Rotary Counselor. There also may be special guest appearances by Johnny Morocho and Marcelo Garcia.