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.


(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!


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.


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.


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


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.