Thursday, August 5, 2010

Last Night and Trip from Ecuador to Missouri

On my last night, I visited my first host family. I was lucky because it was my host-brother's birthday so all the family was congregating at the house. I said my goodbyes to all and then went to the exchange party. We had music and enjoyed one of our last parties in Ecuador. The Morochos (Johnny's family) stopped by the house, and I got to say goodbye to them. Normally I have a curfew with my host-family, but that night, I just had to be back by 4:30 a.m. when we were leaving for Guayaquil to catch my plane.

The hardest part was leaving my exchange friends after that party at 3:30 a.m. After this crazy year in Ecuador and being used to seeing them almost every day, they were like sisters to me.

When I got to the house, I lay on my bed and just thought how it came to an end. I finished packing my final bags (stuffing my guitar case full of objects - even squeezing things inside the body of the guitar).

We (host-family and Flavia) drove up to Guayaquil and waited at the airport. Alexis from Switzerland and Marcelo (the exchange student who lived in our house years ago) came to the airport to visit me. I tried to get Johnny to come, but he overslept and said that he couldn't end up going! I checked my luggage (fortunately I only had to leave one pair of old jeans!). I was carrying my backpack, guitar, gift bag, and Panama hat bag all stuffed to their brims, as well as wearing four t-shirts, gym shorts under my jeans, a jacket, and holding my Rotary blazer over my arm.

Stuffed guitar case

That was such a pain to lug around all my flights. At the end of the day, I thought my arms were going to fall off from so much weight. We had some breakfast, and I was feeling so nervous. Then took place another difficult departure. They were all waving as I walked down the empty hallway.

It didn't really hit me that I was leaving until I got on the airplane. When we took off, I felt so sad to leave the country in which I was for just over ten months. I felt like just another tourist on that plane. I was also sitting next to a loud American teenage girl who was chomping on gum and talking loudly to her mother about the trip they had and about future ventures to other countries. It also didn't help the sad feelings that I was reading the letters the other exchange students from Machala wrote me. I listened to Ecuador music that was a playlist of songs that I learned to associate with Ecuador over the year without indie or folk music.

Goodbye Ecuador

I arrived in Miami, hauling all my carryon bags, and encountered a strange feeling being back in the United States. When I went through the passport check, the man asked me where I was coming from. I answered Ecuador, and he just said "Welcome home." That felt nice. I was stumbling every time I had to talk to anyone in English and wasn't sure what to speak.

I made it to my gate and waited about four hours. Before the flight, I looked up and saw a woman in the distance who appeared to be Marlene Medin. I looked to the right and saw a man who was closer with a goatee who resembled Ron Medin. I just sat and stared at Ron as he put his stuff on the bench catty-cornered to me. He looked up and saw me and I think he said, "Well, what do you know." I gave them a great big hug then. They claimed they were organized to be my welcoming crew for my arrival in the USA. I let them watch my stuff, as I could finally go to the bathroom without leaving my stuff alone. I also got a drink from a water fountain which I greatly missed on my exchange! Ron shared some pizza, then we had our flight to St. Louis.

I was sitting in between a group of Colombian kids who were off to a camp in Springfield to learn English. That was nice, and I felt comfortable speaking to them in Spanish; they have many similar words to those in Ecuador because they share a border. I got home and was greeted by my sisters! We then drove to my abode in Jefferson City.

A little taste of America after taking off all the excess clothes

Final Days in Ecuador

At the end of my Ecuador trip, I left school and enjoyed my days. This involved watching the World Cup with some of the other exchange students (mainly with Alexis from Switzerland and Flavia from Brazil). We picked teams and cheered them on.

Another thing we did was watch all six of the Star Wars movies. That was fun. It was with Katherine from the US, Alexis from Switzerland, and Tjarko from Germany. We started at about 11:30 a.m. and that lasted until 2:10 a.m. We did have two eating breaks and not everybody stayed awake through all of them (although I did stay awake until the sixth and fell asleep for only a half hour). I'm pretty sure Tjarko saw a total of 30 minutes of Star Wars because he was off on his computer then he slept through like four of them. And in case you were wondering, we watched them in the order of the series, not order that they came out.

I got to meet my host brother who was in Alaska while I was in his spot. He got to Ecuador two days before I left. He's a fun, nice guy. He got in Thursday night, we hung out Friday, and then Saturday I left.

On that Friday, we had a big lunch where we got the exchange students and Felix's friends over. We just talked then left to prepare the exchange student party. We exchange students had a goodbye party at an exchange student's house where we invited all of our friends from school and everywhere.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Final Trip

The last trip of the year we had was at the end of May. This was with all the exchange students in Ecuador. At the beginning there were 120 exchange students but by this trip I think there were about 90 because of those who had already left for home or had been sent home. We started off in Guayaquil and the Rotarians had a big reunion/meeting where we walked in and one girl from Machala spoke about our exchange. We walked up Las Penas - the old neighborhood of Guayaquil - and then along the Boardwalk.

Las Penas

We drove in the buses back to Machala. You know what that means: shrimp farms and bananas! We first had lunch at my counselor's shrimp farm and saw the works. Next was seeing a banana plantation. Later that night we went to see Puerto Bolivar. It was pretty strange because we went at night to see the port. We learned how Ecuador exports a lot of broccoli (that's about all I remember from it).


We stopped at the cocoa, lime, and ostrich farm on our way out of Machala, where we ate ostrich. From there we headed to Cuenca! The major things we did in Cuenca (we stayed there two nights) were going to the lookout point, seeing the downtown (historic churches, artisan market and such), and visiting the Panama hat museum. Leaving Cuenca we hit Ingapirca, the Incan ruins, and the city of Chordeleg, a city known for it's silver and gold (jewelry).

Nora from Hungary with a giant silver earring

We went to a llama farm, learned about them, and ate some of them. At that time, the volcano Tungurahua was erupting (mainly ash) and certain places were covered in ash, so we were able to feel the rumbling under the ground, despite the distance. We continued on the buses to Riobamba just to walk around the city and stay the night. We headed to Banos and stopped at a giant waterfall called the Nariz del Diablo, or the Nose of the Devil. You would hike to this cascade and could walk around on the paths up to the waterfall.

We toured around the downtown of Banos and got some melcocha (really hard taffy candy). Banos seems like a cool town, not completely inundated by commercial businesses trying to take advantage of the tourists. It had a lot of waterfalls, rivers, and action activities. We got back on the bus and drove more north for Quito. In Quito, we went to the Presidential Park and then the San Francisco Church.

The exchange students in Ecuador in front of San Francisco

We went to the Mitad del Mundo, the Middle of the World, took pictures, and got souvenirs. After that, we visited Otavalo, a city know for its proud indigenous habitants and artisan. So, of course, we hit up the artisan market (I think the biggest in the Americas), where we practiced our bargaining skills (the secret is to team up to buy in bulk and work down the price). We left the market for a presentation from a Rotary club near Otavalo. For some reason, we, all the exchange students, planted a little plant for the presentation.

Market in Otavalo

We got to hike up to a cool lake in between some mountains that was really beautiful.

After that we drove to Cotacachi which is a place known for its leather. A lot of the exchange students were going crazy buying the "cheap" leather. I just walked around the little downtown; it had a nice, little main street. With that, we drove back to Quito and finished our trip with the others. It was a big cry-fest when we were getting on our respective buses and saying goodbye to our friends that we might never see again. It was quite sad.

We Machalenos and Guayaquilenos got on our large van and drove south to our cities. That wrapped up our amazing final trip!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Uh oh

So I'm back in Jefferson City, Missouri, and I still haven't finished writing all of my adventures! My last few weeks I was planning on catching up, but I was just enjoying my last days in Ecuador. But don't worry, I'll be wrapping up my blog soon!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dia de la Madre

For Mother's Day I had some big plans with my host-brother (Guillo) and cousin (Virgilio). On Saturday I went with my cousin and we bought a big flower arrangement. In the house we had to sneak it past Patricia. Virgilio distracted Pati while I snuck the flowers into the little bathroom near the front door that nobody uses. Then later I passed it through the house to my room. That night we celebrated with a dinner with the family.

On Sunday I got up at 5:30 with Guillo to make orange rolls for Pati. A little later came Virgilio, too. We started making them and were waiting for them to rise. After all these years watching Mom make orange rolls for Christmas and Easter, I didn't realize that she let them rise overnight. In retrospect, I do remember normally seeing a bowl on the counter with a towel draped over it, but that only came after. We just sacrificed an hour waiting for the dough to "rise" and then continued the rolls. We finished fixing up the rolls, which only made like nine rolls because we didn't have time to let them double. We also made a coffee cake. I was arguing with Guillo and Villo about the crumb topping because they said it was impossible to form crumbs if I add butter to dry ingredients. They kept telling me that you couldn't form crumbs unless you made them by hand. I had to make my own little experiment in a separate bowl to show them that if there are more dry things than butter then it would form little balls.

We also made French toast, and Guillo made bread with an egg in the middle (he cut out a hole in the bread and cooked the egg in the hole in the frying pan). Guillo decorated the plates up, and the three of us walked in to Pati's room with her breakfast. What a fine breakfast that was.

Trip to Portoviejo

At the end of April I went to Portoviejo to see Marcelo, the exchange student who was in my house in 2004. He had was just finishing his summer break so he invited me to his house. That Friday, I barely caught the bus out of Machala, went to Guayaquil (3 hour bus ride), and then to Portoviejo (3.5 hour bus ride). Marcelo picked me up and took me on a little tour of Portoviejo (he likes to call it Portohueco or Polvoviejo. "Hueco" means hole referring to the numerous potholes in the city and "Polvo" means dust referring to the streets that are filled with it).

We went to the beach city of Manta that night for his dad, who's a doctor, because he had a presentation thing to go to. We went back to the house and Marcelo had some friends from his high school over for karaoke.

The next day we ate a ton: encebollado for breakfast, mapi mint ice cream, ceviche for lunch. Marcelo and I went with his dad to the farm. It had cacao, banana, and cows. We just walked around for a while and sucked some fresh oranges.

It started raining so we left, picking up yucca bread and a corn bread thing on the way home. That night I went to a ballenato concert with Marcelo and his friends. At midnight we all wished Marcelo a happy birthday. We finished the late night with his friends and slept.

Sunday we went to La Crucita, the beach that we went to on the Rotary trip earlier this exchange year. Before we arrived, we stopped for lunch, and I had a typical plate from the province of Manabi: viche which is a soup with peanuts (common in Manabi), fish, and plantains.

We went to the lookout point place where people parachute from the cliff. We got to see one guy jump off! We headed down to the beach, and I walked on the shore with Marcelo a little. It was kind of overcast so we didn't swim at all.

Back in Portoviejo, Marcelo, Leonardo (Marcelo's brother), and I packed our bags and got on the bus for Guayaquil. We got to their apartment at 12:30 at night and crashed. Marcelo had early classes the next day so he left, then later Leonardo sent me off to the bus terminal for my trip back to Machala. That was a super fast trip.

Super Super Senior

After my family left, I had to start yet another year of high school, making it my third time as a senior. Since my old class graduated, I had to join a new class with new people. It was nice though that the teachers already knew me and that there were three other exchange students in my class: Kelsey from the USA, Flavia from Brazil, and Tjarko from Germany. Regardless, school was still boring.

Exchange students

We had Spanish classes on Thursdays and Fridays. Those on Thursday were with a male teacher with whom we would just look at dictionaries and write little stories. Those classes on Friday were with a female teacher with whom we would just read aloud stories and talk about them.

One teacher who I don't think I'll ever forget is Richard Clavijo. He taught my class economy and geoeconomic problems. He was always so critical with the homework and the projects of the students (luckily with the exchange students he wasn't as harsh). In his class if we the exchange students did the work, he gave us smiley faces next to our names because we don't really have grades. He would always come in to the class and shout about the rows of desks saying they're crooked. He would also ALWAYS say "o-ey-ee" (at least 5 times a class) whenever something embarrassing or awkward happened. That actually became pretty funny and now Flavia, Alexis (an exchange student from Switzerland who was in another class but still had Richard as a teacher), and I say it sooo often.


Once in Clavijo's class the students were having an organized debate up front. I was near the back with Flavia and my classmate, Jean, who was in front of me, asked me to hand me his backback which was behind me. I leaned back in the chair (plastic, might I add) and left all my weight on one leg, causing that leg to break off. So I was on the floor, the debate was stopped, and everyone was looking at me. I got up and gave a little wave and Richard says "o-ey-ee" while everyone was laughing. How embarrassing.

The broken chair and me

In English class, we had a teacher from Ireland. He had a strong accent and would always mention how Americans use so much slang and so many idioms. He didn't speak any Spanish when he came, but he's learning it now. In his class (the most difficult English class) I mainly just read and occasionally chimed in if he asked me a question. He would only speak English to the students and seemed to continously nagging the students to speak English back. It seemed like a pretty tough class to control because they all just talked so much and didn't like to do work.

English teacher from Ireland

Thursday was my last day at Pacifico. In the morning there were only exams so Richard booted Flavia and me from the class, and we went to the cafe bar place to watch the World Cup with Andres, my buddy from the bar.

Doing the Texan cowboy pose with Andres; Andres wants to go to Texas and be a cowboy so he can say "You lookin' at me?" like in the Western movies.

When we went back to class, we just took a million photos. The next class was with Richard so he made everyone go to the front of the class and said a goodbye message to me. I am going to miss the crazy experiences that I've had in that school.

Johnny's brother and sister!

Brunners in Guayaquil

We left Machala for Guayaquil, stopping for some yucca bread and yogurt and sugar cane on the way. We met up with Marcelo, the exchange student in our house in 2004, and went to eat some crab. We also met up with my host-father's neice, who I had never met before that night. We walked up Las Penas which is the old neighborhood in Guayaquil situated on a hill. We went all the way to the lighthouse at the top. We went back to Johnny's apartment to prepare for their flight home.

Later that night Johnny, Rachel, and I drove to McDonald's and got a bite to eat (that's what we did on Johnny's last night in the USA).

We packed up and headed out early with all their suitcases. We got to the airport, and Johnny, Marcelo, and I sent them on their way back to the USA.

Machala with the Brunners

We stayed in my current house and had a huge breakfast. We basically spent this whole trip eating and eating. We left for Frutilandia which is a little restaurant place where you pick fruit and corn flakes and yogurt and such and it's so great! I'm sorry to say that it's now closed. Ugh! Anyways, we met Mathilde, an exchange student from France, and Flavia, an exchange student from Brasil, there and socialized as best we could (Flavia doesn't know English and Andy was the only one who spoke Spanish).

We went to an art exhibit downtown of the crucifixion of Jesus due to that it was Good Friday. We continued on to the house of the president of my Rotary club's house. There was a little party and we ate fanesca, a dish of grains and fish eaten on Good Friday.

At the end of the day we drove to Puerto Bolivar to visit my first host family. I got to show them the house and then we just talked (most of them know English so they could have a conversation).

The next day we started off going to the shopping mall of Machala - big times! We toured my counselor's husband's shrimp farm and got to eat the best ceviche in the world (I'm still workiing on getting that recipe). He also showed us the shrimp in the pools. We left for Pasaje, said a quick goodbye to the Morochos, then left for Guayaquil with Johnny.

Day with the Morochos and Machala

We all woke up to a loudspeaker that was on a municipal truck telling people to take their trash out. It was on repeat and was parked near the house. It was sooooo annoying and the entire day that song was stuck in my mind. Dad and Johnny accompanied me to the barber shop where I got the majority of my hair chopped off.

We stopped at a banana plantation and Johny (the dad) explained to us the process. Then we went with the Morocho's to an ostrich farm and saw those weird creatures.

Sporting the hats

We drove on to Puyango, where there is a petrified forest, and spent most of the day with the huge trees.

We sped back to Pasaje and packed our bags at lightspeed so that we could get to Machala on time. With the Minuche family (my current family and whose house we all stayed in) we went to the weekly Rotary meeting, where Andy did most of the work translating, and then we left for the house of my host-father's aunt to eat.