Saturday, November 28, 2009


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.


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!