Saturday, September 30, 2006

One door closes...

So every cloud really does have a silver lining. When I stopped volunteering with ¨Volunteering Ecuador,¨ I had to find a new organisation to work with.
Now, the United Nations building in Quito is pretty imposing and the guard next to the metal detector inside even more so, but a friend and I walked in looking for volunteer opportunities nevertheless.
And it´s not for sure yet, but I may begin volunteering for the United Nations teaching English to Columbian refugees. I hope to begin in the next three or four days, after an interview. I have always wanted to be involved with the United Nations somehow, but have never had the necessary skills to be of any anyone, much less the United Nations. I´m very excited.


I love Ecuador. Last weekend I sat on top of a train as it wound through a mountain pass about seven inches from the edge of a cliff. No seats, only a railing on the edge of the roof of the train. Today I went galloping through the mountains on a horse without a hemet, without signing an insurance waiver, and only having paid three dollars.

Living In Ecuador

I´ve been working with this organization called Volunteering Ecuador for the past month. For $360 dollars a month (plus a $190 registration fee) I lived with an Euadorian family with three other girls because I wanted to learn all about the culture in Ecuador and practice spanish while making the world a better place. It didn´t work out so hot.
I don´t recommend this organization. It´s run by a guy who seems to be more interested in controling people and constantly having young women in his home so he can talk himself up than he is in helping the poor of Ecuador.
After about two days I didn´t really feel comfortable in this guy´s house, and I didn´t appreciate his jokes, ¨I thought she was a seven out of ten...with her blouse off.¨ I decided to move out after three weeks and in one day had found an awsome apartment with my own room for only 100 dollars a month with an Ecuadorian student as my roomate. I had initialy told the director that I would stay for between 2 to 3 months, but I hadn´t signed any sort of contract. I decided to tell the director that I had decided to move out, but I wanted to continue volunteering in Eucador. I didn´t want to be offensive so I just told him it was because of the price of the new apartment I had found. No one can argue with wanting to save money right?
WRONG. He acted like a petulant child. He was rude and offensive and immidiatly told me that I couldn´t continue teaching english and helping out at my school because I wasn´t affiliated with the organization any more. I said that was pretty stupid because his organization didn´t do anything for the school besides occasionally pointing volunteers their way, and there was no reason to take an English teacher away from them just because I wasn´t paying him a pretty exorborant price to live in his house. Well, after that he told me that he didn´t consider me family anymore and I didn´t cry all that hard when I left his house a week later.
You haven´t really gotten the whole story here, but oh goodness, I could go on and on for hours about how unusual and offensive this guy is, and how awkward it was living in his house, and stories about his strangeness, but I´ve already discussed it to death with the other volunteers...but if anyone pulled my arm I could be pressed to share some examples.
The bottom line is that I don´t recomend for anyone wanting to make a difference in the world.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

My New Family.

I live with two amazing roomates and a host family here in Ecuador. The host family consists of a really nice mom, two spoiled, snotty boys (still fully supported by their parents) in their early thirties, and a bi-polar dad.

Our worst (from here on out the phrases, "we," "our," and so forth refer to my two roomates and I)nightmare is to hear the phrase "for example." If you ask him a simple question like where the nearest place to make copies is, well, you only do that once. He will go off about stories when he needed to copy papers, he'll become nosey about what you need copied and why, and he'll go off on about eleven "for examples" about other people that have needed to copy things in the past. I don't know if he will ever actually answer your question or not because I've never seen it get that far. He's always inturupted in about the second or third hour with a, "Oh, I see. Thank you very much, ok, I need to go now. Thanks."

On the other end of the spectrum, he will invent things that your agreed to or that you've said, like spending a saturday in the park with him. Then when we're ready to head out Saturday morning to go see some Pre-Inca Ruins he'll be all confused and angry that you're not going to spend the day with him and slam doors and refuse to speak to you for two days. Then the following monday he'll give you an hour lecture about keeping promises and not asking to have an escort in the park if you don't plan on following through. Then he'll move on to "for example," how they used to do all sorts of things with former volunteers, but they never kept their word either, and so they had to stop organizing activities like this.

He's also quite a perve. He's just always talking, in the words of a roomate, rubbish. He likes to tell the story of some former volunteers from Austria who liked to come to the breakfast table in their underwear, and he respected that. He respected their culture, and if we wanted to do the same, he would respect us as well. He's just such a gentleman. He also likes to talk about movies and books where old men hook up with young women. He also likes to talk about how women should always wear skirts and dresses and express their femininity. He also likes to tell the same joke over and over again. When talking about an unattractive girl he'll say, "She's a seven...with her blouse off." It's a wierd house.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Five Screaming new band name.

I work at this daycare for kids aged one year to six years old in the outskirts of Quito, Ecuador. I assumed that because this particular country is located on the Ecuator, that it would be pretty warm. In fact I planned for this and brought plenty of shorts and T-shirts. I brought very few items of warm clothing. Turns out that once you hit about two miles in elevation, like it is here, it gets cold. And once you travel by bus for an hour even higher up into the mountains it gets even colder.
The day care is exausting. There hasn't been longer than an hour without some kid screaming at the top of his lungs. Which is way down from the first few days, in which the longest time without at least five kids screaming was 0 seconds.

It's funny to see how the kids react when other kids won't stop crying. At first they try and comfort the crying kids, they ask why they're crying and try to bring them toys to cheer them up. They pat their back and whisper that it will be ok. When that doesn't work they get irritated and start shushing them. Basically what I do.

One of the things that helps me be patient with the screaming kids are the cute, playful kids. Though there is a limit to how much they even help.

There's this one 3 year old that cracks me up. My first experience with him was him whispering to his friend while we were walking outside to play, "Voy a escapar!" and then he took off for the exit. I caught him and brought him back but before I even set him down he was whipering to his little friend, "escapate! escapate!" Thankfully at that point a girl started doing ballet for me and Alex got jealous of the attention she was getting and started to immitate her and forgot about escaping.

The kids get fed twice and it is just like something out of Oliver Twist. They sit down at long tables and eat out of steel cups and saucers. They get gruel and a chunk of bread for breakfast and rice for lunch. Alex sits down to his gruel and bread and shouts, "Que delicioso!" and starts chowing down. He finishes earlier than everyone else and then turns into a mini Dad, shoving food in the other kids mouth so they can come outside and play with him faster.

Apparently when I signed up for this project I temporarily lost my brains because I thought playing with kids all day would be fun and rewarding. Turns out that it is more exausting and tiring than fun. Especially once you add in the 2-hour round trip on the bus totally packed with people.

I've gotten shut in the bus doors four times so far, and busdoors here aren't as kind as they are in the states. (I would like to thank our high ratio of lawyers for that.) The doors really hurt when they close on you. I seem to be too polite when I'm trying to fight my way off the bus when it's my stop. Instead of shoving my way through the people hanging from the rails while the bus screeches to a stop and bowling through the people shoving their way on the bus I politely whisper, "permisso, permisso." Which only causes people to sense my weakness and stand firmer.

It's funny to see how the kids react when other kids won't stop crying. At first they try and comfort the crying kids, they ask why they're crying and try to bring them toys to cheer them up. They pat their back and whisper that it will be ok. When that doesn't work they get irritated and start shushing them. Basically what I do.

Monday, September 04, 2006

I either escaped loosing my wallet...or was really rude to a police officer.

So here I am in Ecuador. I'm sitting in a park reading and studying spanish and I realize that the sun is low in the sky. So I gather my things and begin to exit the park. The park is larger than I realize and I am still inside the park once the sun sets. There are still children playing with their parents and I can see the street from where I am. It seems fairly safe. Two guys on a motercycle drive up in front of me and start speaking really quickly in Spanish. This is our conversation as well as I can remember it. (I'm changing into English what I think they said and what I hope I responded.)

-Hey, what are you doing? (them)

-What? (me)

-What are you doing?

-I'm walking. (I begin to walk off)(They get off their motercycle and stand in front of me)

-Where is your passport?

-I don't have it here. (At this point I notice that their helmets have Policia written on them)

-Where are you from?

-The United States


-I said I don't have it. It's at my house.

-Where do you live?

-In the Portugal Building, just over there.

-Where's your immigration card?

-I'm a tourist!

-Give us your card.

-I don't have one!

-Where are your papers? In your bag? Give it to us.


-Your wallet, show us.

-What? (I know exactly what they want, but I'm not about to hand it over.)

-Your wallet.

-(blank stare)

-Wallet. WALLET. Wallet, wallet, wallet.


-We're police! Police! Look! (Points to his helmet)

-I don't believe you. You're not police.

-We're police. Do you have drugs?

-No, I don't have drugs.

-You have drugs in your bag, show us.

-(At this point I'm angry and it's getting darker and I have no interest in chatting it up anymore.) Fine, look. Here. I have water. You want water? Three books, a dictionary, a novel, and look, here's my spanish book. You want to learn spanish? A pen. Two pens. An apple. How do you say this? (I hold up flashcards) I can look it up in the dictionary if you want.

-(Spanish I can't understand, probably swearing.) Go away, get out of the park. Go.
(As they drive away I see on their left shoulders a pretty official looking badge and the words again, policia)

So I went home and told an Ecuadorian what had happened and he said they were probably not police, but they might have who knows?