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.

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