Well, its been a bit since I blogged last, and since I have some time on my hands, kind of (WEIRD FEELING) I'll share some stories of Ecuador...
First, the atmosphere: I am wrapped up in an undershirt, shirt, sweater, coat, other coat, and scarf. And I'm inside. The buildings here aren't heated, which makes it very hard to get up on mornings like these, where the rain is constantly pattering on the metal roofs and you walk 15 minutes to the bus stop in this rain (thank goodness for my danskos, which are waterproof and raise my pants out of the puddles). The bell just rang for recreo (lunch/recess time) and now everyone, with assorted sweatshirts and coats diversifying the usual gray sweater uniform, is huddling under the eaves of the classrooms. The most common word I've heard today was "Ay chai chai" which is Quechua for "¡que frio!, this coming from every single student de jardín that rode the bus with me this morning. I plan on typing until I can't feel my fingers.
I have to say, though, I really like the weather here. Its really weird because it doesn't change seasonally...I keep expecting the leaves to turn or the rain to turn to snow, as I hear it is in Alaska. I like waking up in the morning and snuggling under a warm blanket with the air outside chilly. I like how it (usually) warms up during the day enough to be in a tshirt when I'm eating lunch with prebasica. I like how it gets dark at night, and the lights in downtown Otavalo come on. I even like the rain, because unlike Alaska, it only rains a day, or part of a day, and then stops.
Other stuff: I am in love with where I live. There's this whole communal thing: Rosita, Maryam, and I share a room (Just washed the sheets today, YAY) and Mauro is next door (today we spent half an hour knocking back and forth on the wall to the delight of Kendy, the 3-almost-4 year old son of the family next door.) There are other people that share our same courtyard, including a 7 or 8 ish boy who talks to plants and encourages them to grow (only when people aren't watching. I was maybe spying out the window.) and Lovebird 1, who spends long long periods of time giggling and staring at Lovebird 2 on the stairs in front of our apartment (in perfect view from our bedroom. Spying is just so easy)
Its so wonderful to get home from a hard day at school to a huge lunch which has been prepared by Rosita, with Mauro, Belen, Wladimir, and Maryam all happy and relaxed. Its rejuvenating. Then, when in the afternoon, we walk to the Institute to do children's classes or to a community to talk with junior youth or whatever, I have energy. Its not as draining as school is for me.
Another mini-story: Yesterday was CRAZY. It was a Friday, so the kids were crazy. It was a full moon, so the kids were CRAZY. I had a class every single hour, so I was going CRAZY. And Maryam had a flu bug, so she wasn't there for me to rant at, which added to the CRAZY. (Maryam, I'm so glad you're here with me. So glad.) Anyways, the prebasica students started calling me Sophie. "Sophie! Sophie!" they'd yell. And I'd stand there, hands on my hips, and say sternly "Mi nombre es VALERIE. Que es mi nombre?" and they'd say "Baleri" sheepishly, only to yell "Sophie! Sophie!" once again. I was really confused at first, thinking, how the heck to you get Sophie from Valerie? and then I realized Sophie was their teacher last year. So Sophie, wherever you are, those kids remember you!
I love the family that lives next door. José Luís and Jaconda live there with their two kids Doghma and Kendy. They are such a good example for a loving, functional family. From the joint meals (which they invite us to every once and a while) to the family jump rope sessions to making meals while listening to music and dancing in the kitchen, its just amazing to see the nurturing environment. And the results are so apparant: Kendy is definitely the most advanced English speaker in my prebasica class, and I can tell that he has creativity, social skills, and all around intelligence that's higher than his peers'. Doghma, too is the highest in her class (says Maryam) and has more patience than me, at 3rd grade level!
I love cooking. Our tiny kitchen somehow accommodates cooking for 5 or even 7...a feat I'm surprised at. Our oven is a storage area for flour, leftovers, and bananas (because we don't want the flies to get at them.) We have no measuring cups, so everything is kind of made up as mystery foods. I made pancakes, but didn't know how to describe baking powder (or baking soda) so they were very flat pancakes. I've learned to make some new foods, for instance mystery foods with Mauro:
Me: "¿Que haces? "
Mauro: "No sé"
Me: "¿Como haces?"
Mauro: "No sé"
Me: "Okay. Yum!"
Some days, we go out to eat at the Plaza de Ponchos. In the daytime, its a market: tons of brightly colored fabrics, llama fur stuff, hats, etc. In the evening, everything gets packed away and about 7 yellow tents spring up on one side of the square. In these tents, a family will cook meals, which are ridiculously cheap and ridiculously delicious. There is also a pie shop nearby, which is AMAZING. On most evenings that we eat at the Plaza de los Ponchos, we end the day walking around downtown at night. Its really fun...like mobile people-watching. At first I was surprised, I was like "Adonde vamos?" and Mauro replied "caminamos para caminar" along with a sound effect thats not really possible to put into words...its like psh, but different.
Jeez, I love walking, and having conversations that I only partly understand with Mauro, and talking about everything and anything (literally, from dog breeds to tv shows) with Wladimir. I love hanging out in the room with Rosita and Maryam. I love cooking and washing dishes, albeit with cold water. I love showing Kendy how to water Maryam's cactus, and having conversations through my open bedroom window about The Lion King with him. I love seeing Miguel, a difficult student in 2o de basica, respond to our "secret sign" (I pull my ear when he's doing something good, like sitting in his seat or engaged in class. recently, he's started pulling his ear at me too, like "hey, you're doing good as a teacher too!"). I really love it here. Really.
So thats some of my life. Super long post, but the nice thing about anecdotes? You don't even have to read them all.