Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Second Trip to Ecuador's Capital

After my birthday festivities, I stayed up and packed to go to Quito. I got a couple hours of sleep then headed out with my host-parents and brother to Guayaquil. We then flew to Quito and met up with some friends of my host-family who lived in Machala. I had met the daughter of the family who had gone on an exchange to Colorado a year ago the week before going to Quito. The primary reason for going to Quito was that there was a Rotary conference for the new office-holders. I went to the conference and it was quite boring and long (probably on account of me only getting one hour of sleep the previous night). So my host-parents sent me to the house in Quito in taxi; it took one hour because of traffic! My host-parents left in taxi later and still beat me home.

On Saturday we spent with the family. In the afternoon I went with Sebastian, the son who went on an exchange in Minnesota 3 years ago or so, to my first fútbol match! That was fun. It was Liga vs. Deportivo Quito. Liga is pretty much the best team of Ecuador (they won some South American cup or something). They won 1-0 despite getting two red cards in the first half. We sang cheers, confetti flew, and there was a fight between fans with a police intervention.

Later that night I ate a hotdog with ketchup, onions, chips, and pineapple jelly. It was so great.

The next day we went to a really old cow farm from 1643. The owner was a chipper old woman who was the last person in the family to get the house. The place was like a museum, with chapel and an old military uniform in a glass case. There was some connection because the great aunt of the family we were staying with was friends with the owner or something like that.

I went again to the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), but this time with my host-mother and -brother. We checked the museums because this time we went in the morning, and not at night when everything is closed. We went up to the top of the monument and looked from all the sides. We then scoped out all the little artisan shops.

The next morning I went with my host-mom to the artisan shops in Quito, where we spent the whole morning looking and buying. She bought me this sweet sweatshirt with llamas on it that's made from alpaca wool!

Next day we toured the historic downtown, where we passed some churches, the palace of the government, and a little coffee shop, where we ate.

We then flew back to Guayaquil, got in a van, and came back to Machala.

Nine and Ten Years of Life

The birthday madness started at midnight on March 4. I was watching some movie with my cousin, Virgilio, and brother, Guillermo, at the house. My host-mother, Patricia (or Pati), was on the computer chatting with her son in Alaska. At midnight, she came over and gave me a hug. She then made my cousin get up and give me a hug. She tapped my brother but he was sleeping so I didn't get a hug from him. She went and woke up my host-father, Olmedo, and he came and gave me a hug. It was just a late-night, happy hug-fest.

In the morning, Olmedo was home from work to check on the cake (with apples, raisins, nuts, and carrots). He's really into making desserts; he always seems to bring some to the Rotary meetings and they're really good. Pati was preparing the table. They invited some of my exchange friends over - the two other boys in Machala were in Guayaquil so it was just me and ten exchange student girls. Olmedo kept making jokes about that. We ate, then had the cakes. Two exchange girls (Lara R. and Lara C. both from Germany) brought cakes - one was a cake from Sweden and the other was an apple and nut cake. On Olmedo's cake, they put one fat candle. When they lit it, it was like a firework; I'm surprised it didn't burn a hole in the ceiling. After that, Pati started a game where the others would guess some question she made up about me, and she'd give them a mardi gras necklace if they answered correctly. This was pretty much awkward for everyone, but I'm sure we'll look back on this and laugh.


Later that night, my host-parents took me to a concert in Machala hosted by our Rotary club. Some of the exchange students were there, too. It started first with a band from a university in Machala, and then went to the main program: two men who call themselves Ars Duo that play a violin (from 1670!) and guitar. They started with classical songs - my favorite being Gymnopedie 1 - then went to songs by Spanish composers (I didn't know those). After the show, we talked with them, and the guitarist gave me one of their cds! Someone must have told him it was my birthday.

Host-parents: Olmedo and Patricia

President of my host-club with the 1670 violin

Security guard that looked like Goober from The Andy Griffith Show

Cascadas de Manuel

There are these awesome waterfalls about 45 minutes from Machala. We went with the exchange students from and from around Machala. You walk along this trail to get to the eight waterfalls.

At the beginning, we were walking carefully on the bridges and stepping stones, but then, there comes a part where you can't avoid wading in the water. There's this part where you have to crouch through a little rock tunnel, and the water is up to your knees. It was at that part that I decided to not care about getting completely soaked. We also eventually started swimming in the water with all of our clothes to get under the waterfalls.

Little tunnel

The rugged terrain

Exchange students

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Carnaval is the three-day festival I think in most of South America. Here in Ecuador they celebrate it by throwing water (with buckets or balloons), foam, and corn starch on everybody walking down the streets. When we were driving through Machala and we saw people with blow-up pools on the sidewalk, buckets of water to throw, and water balloons. It's pretty big in Salinas and Montañita. I hear that those beaches are just packed with people. Because of that, my host-family doesn't like to go anywhere for Carnaval.

The first day was Sunday, February 14, and we just went to a little day-resort where you could swim, eat, and play games. Later in the night, I went to visit my old host-family, who was grilling, because I had left so promptly. I bid them adieu, but I'm going to visit them still.

Monday I went with Tjarko and my new host-cousin, Virgilio, to Jambelí Beach. There were a ton of people there! It didn't seem like Jambelí was a ghost town like it did before. We then swam in the vast ocean!

Tuesday I didn't do anything too climactic for Carnaval. I watched the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in Spanish. That was pretty monumental!

House Change

There are four exchange students in my club: Tjarko, Lara, Jessica, and me. For the switch, the two boys changed houses, and the two girls are going to change houses. There wasn't really a fixed date for us to change, so Tjarko and I just decided when to do it. We got back from the Amazon and decided to change that Friday, February 12. It was kind of abrupt because I had only mentioned to my family that we were going to change soon. Also, since everyone in that family works, I hardly saw anyone all day to tell them that I was leaving Friday. I told my host-mom in a text message (she couldn't pick up her cell phone when I called)! It now seems that it was so sudden.

I packed up all my things - I had a suitcase and a garbage bag of stuff that wouldn't fit in my original two suitcases and backpack! Que bestia! I don't know where all this extra junk came from. I went through my brothers' closets to look for my clothes. My old brother Juan Jose had quite a bit of things. He would wear my clothes, then I'd tell him, and he'd always say "Sorry, I thought it was Fernando's." When I talked with Fernando he said that he started sending his clothes to a laundromat because Juan Jose was taking all his clothes.

For the Amazon trip, I needed a long sleeve shirt. I didn't have any, so I asked Juan Jose to lend me one. He said he would, but I had to trade him some gym shorts. So after the Amazon, I put his shirt in the wash and told him I needed my shorts. He said not until his shirt was in his hands. One day I met up with Tjarko, and he brought me the shorts and some socks which weren't mine. We stopped by the radio office and talked with my old host-father Pepe, and Juan Jose. I asked Juan Jose if the socks were his, and he said they were. I wasn't too sure if they were his or Fernando's, so Pepe told me to go check with Fernando first, which I thought was funny. It turned out that they were Juan Jose's.

Back to the house swap. I finished packing, lugging my suitcases downstairs. Then I just pretty much waited for someone to come home to drive me to my new house. Like five came home at the same time, and I broke the news to those that didn't know. I threw my stuff in Andres' truck and he drove me to Las Brisas (the part of the city).

My new host-parents had a dinner for the goodbye of Tjarko and the welcome of me. They invited some of our friends over, too. That was just so nice of them! We had hawaiian ham, shrimp, wine, and a cake made by my new host-father. The party finished, and I was left in my new house with a new host-family!


1. The palm-down hand wave:
This is, by far, the most common thing that Ecuadorians do. There are a couple ways in which they use this:
a) To call someone over. This wave is with your hand near your face, fingers loose facing down. You kind of just wave your fingers back and forth. It really looks like you're trying to shoo someone away. In the US, I would always joke about this wave with my friend Sterling who was in Spanish with me. Someone would do the wave, then the other would stagger back and forth abruptly, stuttering "wait, uh, you want me to, uh, do I go there, uh, you want me to, uh, leave, er, uh," ending with laughter from the both of us.
b) To hail a bus or a taxi. This wave is down by your waist with your whole hand loose (still palm-down). What you do is when the bus/taxi gets close you stick your arm straight out and wag your hand up and down. The trick is to do this for as little time as possible because of how ridiculous it looks. It's a bummer when the bus/taxi just passes and you have to do it again. One time I was trying to get a taxi for like five minutes but they were all occupied. Maybe ten passed. I finally saw one without anyone in it and just got in, not even using the hand wave.

2. The hand flip-flop:
This is made with the hand flat and fingers spread apart. You hold out your hand and flip-flop it (palm facing up, then palm facing down) until the point is made. The purpose of this is to convey to someone that there is no more of something. Two hands may be used for more emphasis. This actually is quite a useful action. The first time I saw it was when I was with Johnny and his family. Johnny and I went across the street to look for phone cards but had no luck. To tell his father across the street, he did the hand flip-flop. What a great move.

3. The whistle:
It seems that every guy can do either a loud whistle with just their mouth or a little whistle that sounds really airy like a bird. They use the bird whistle whenever something is embarassing or has to do with a guy and a girl. Ex: A guy has to pick a partner for something in class, and he chooses a girl. Response: The class erupts in little bird whistles that are surprisingly loud. That's really all it takes. When I went to the soccer game last Saturday, I was rooting for Liga. The other team is Quito Deportivo. Whenever the Quito fans were singing cheers, the stadium was filled with the little bird whistles from all the Liga fans. The loud whistle is just used to get someone's attention. I'm just amazed how many people can do it.

4. Lip point:
Instead of using fingers for pointing, Ecuadorians just use their lips. They just pucker them in the direction of the thing they're pointing at. I remember one night when my old host-dad was driving me home. We were at a stop light, and there were a couple of girls standing outside a restaurant, when he puckered his lips at them and raised his eyebrows, meaning "Check out these girls." I haven't adopted the use of this gesture, yet.

5. Cheek kiss:
When a man greets a woman or a woman greets a woman, they touch cheeks and give a little kiss. The exception for this is during business matters, where you just shake their hand. Sometimes also for really old people you just shake their hand. For everyone, it's normally their right cheek. If someone is seated, and it's really awkward for them to do a 180 degree turn, then you just touch your cheek to their head. Sometimes with women who wear a lot of makeup, you touch your cheek with their ear. I don't know if that's proper, but it seems that sometimes they turn their head a little more than normal so that you don't put your cheek in their makeup. I could be completely wrong.

What's in a Name?

Logan isn't a very common name here. I now introduce myself as "Loh-gahn" because it's easier for them to say it and causes less confusion. If they do know it, it's either from X-Men (because that's Wolverine's first name) or from the Renault car (because the name of the model is Logan).

Andres, the concession guy at my school always says Wolverine and holds up his fists so that if he had claws, they'd form an X. I always just smile and nod because I haven't actually ever seen X-Men.

There's this crazy (not literally) guy in Machala who is a friend of my old host-dad. His name is Raul. He drove me to get my Ecuador ID in my first month here. He remembers my name because of the Renault car. We always call it my car, too. Every time I see him, he always yells "Logan, Renault!"

The last name is way harder. When my name was in the newspaper here (pretty popular don't you think?), they put me as Logan Prunner. I even spelled it out for the photographer. The Morochos still laugh at that and say "Logan Prunner."

Speaking of mixing letters, what is difficult here is that the letter b and v have the exact same sound here. The lower class many times mixes these up when writing. On the side of a wall I've seen "No vote basura" which means "Don't vote trash," but it should be "No bote basura" which is "Don't toss trash." I was so confused at first because I had no idea what words they were trying to say because they pronounced them the same. It's actually more like the v that sounds like a b. When I was helping with English in school, I had to teach the kids that there are two distinct sounds for the b and the v. I like to say the v like a b because it's fun. With the exchange students, we say "vamos" which is "let's go." Now I love saying "b-b-bamos!" I say it all the time.