First Day on the New Job

In order of occurrence:

  1. Woke up at 5:45
  2. Put on tights, a skirt, a long sleeved shirt with a wool cardigan and jacket, knowing that Reyna, my host mother, would tell me I needed to change.  She often does this.
  3. Reyna told me I would be too cold, but I told her my tights were thick and that I’d be fine.  She said, “Okay, but no complay a me when you are frio.”
  4. Around 6:30, I entered a van with Reyna that was headed toward the school that I was going to teach at, a high school in Pulingue.  15 people crammed into an 11 person van… ridiculously typical.
  5. At 7:30, I was introduced by Reyna (host mother and host English teacher… really hoping that having to live under her roof and teach with her will not be a problem) to our first class, about fifteen thirteen year-olds.  Then I sat through and helped with the class, with Reyna doing most of the teaching.  She mostly read (had me read) passages from the book in phrases, then had the students repeat the phrases, sometimes up to three times.  They had no idea what they were reading.  Their level of English is very low, and I kind of want to just forget the textbook and start at square one, but I don’t think that I can do that… much work ahead, though, if I’m wanting to actually teach these children (and, yes I do!)  Really hoping that Reyna is open to some changes in the structure of the class and methodology, but I’m not going to try to change everything.
  6. At around 9:30, there was an assembly.  I guess there’s one every Monday.  I was told to sit in front of the student body, on the stage.  When the assembly began, the students and teachers sang two songs: the school song and Ecuador’s national anthem.  Of course I knew neither, and of course all eyes were on me.  I nervously mouthed “watermelon, watermelon…”
  7. At around 9:40, the headmaster gave a nice speech in broken English thanking me for being there.  After his speech, I was asked to speak as well.  It’s the stuff of nightmares: unplanned public speaking in another language in front of a body of students and teachers on whom you are hoping to make a good impression.  I will translate the way my speech probably came out: “Wow, I am nervous because it is not normal for me to speak in front of a large group in Spanish.  I am sorry if I am bad at Spanish.  I am very excited to be here with you.  I hope that I can teach much English and learn much Spanish during the next six months.  Thank you for accepting me on your school.  I think your country is beautiful.  I am here for six days and everyone is…were?… been very nice.  Thank you!”  Goodness.
  8. After the assembly, there was a coffee break in my honor.  It was very nice.  All the teachers gathered in a conference room while the students got extra playing time and we drank jugo de tamate (not normal tomato juice- it’s a little bit sweet) and hot chocolate and ate sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs.  The teachers are great, very welcoming.
  9. During the coffee break, the headmaster started talking to me about when I arrive at the school and when I leave.  I’m nodding my head and understanding, but then he says something about 6:00 pm and I say “No te endiendo.”  (I’m not understanding you)  Then, with some of his English and some probing, I figured out that he was confirming that I was going to be able to teach taxi drivers for five weeks.  Each group of taxi drivers (taxistas) needing a week of classes (2 hours per class, 2 classes a week), beginning next week.  This was the first I had heard of this and I still need to discuss it with Reyna… he mentioned “economico,” so I’m not sure if maybe the taxistas are going to pay him and perhaps those wages will go toward feeding me and transporting me to his school (he paid for my lunch out of his pocket) or if I’d be getting money.  On this adventure, so much is just go with the flow.  I nodded and said, “Okay, yo puedo!”
  10. It dawned on me that Reyna was right.  It was freezing in Pulingue.  It’s higher in altitude than Riobamba and there is no heat in the buildings.  Tomorrow, I will definitely wear “pantalones,” not a skirt.  Teachers were giving me their jackets and gloves for the day… hahaha.
  11. After having a total of five classes, the students left and I went with seven teachers to a house nearby for lunch.  The teachers were very kind to speak slowly and try and make the conversation interesting for me, asking me about Kansas, telling me about things to do in Ecuador, and even asking me about my religion.  Haha!  I think I’m going to get along very well with them.  They were very fun and friendly.  Lunch was great, too 🙂  So far, I really haven’t had anything that I don’t like, food wise.  Except… the coffee here is all instant.  Very sad.
  12. After lunch, I asked the headmaster if I was supposed to teach the teachers English too, and when.  He said yes and that we could start now.  We walked back to the school and all the teachers entered a classroom and then it was all me.  I had been told that today would just be me observing the classes and meeting the students, but whatever.  I taught greetings, common introductory conversational questions, and words of departure.  Communicating with a room full of Spanish-speaking teachers in my less than perfect Spanish… you can imagine all of the corrections I received.  After almost an hour of class (I wasn’t sure how long I was supposed to teach), the teachers were signaling for me to stop.  They were experiencing the brain pain that I know so well.  I will be teaching them every day, which means I have (including the taxistas and a young girl I teach from the house) 9 preps, not including my two days in Guamote… holy cow.  Why am I blogging right now?  I should be lesson planning.  Ay.
  13. After the English lesson, Reyna brought me back to our room where we practiced the school song (she found some lyrics for me- hallelujah!)
  14. At about 3:15, seven people crammed into the headmaster’s five person truck (I scored the non-seat that’s in between the driver’s and passenger’s seats, practically on top of the gear stick.  The way I was sitting, trying to lean more on Reyna than the headmaster, led to the most intense sleep my leg has ever experienced.  After about 45 minutes in this position, I got out of the car and my left leg was like jelly.  I kind of collapsed… the teachers looked at me in a worried way.  I laughed and pointed to my gummy leg.  Reyna gave me a pen and told me to put it behind my left ear, that that would help… again, going with the flow, I did.

What a first day!  Glad I now have an idea of what I’ve gotten myself into 🙂

Chola, Cholo, & Chalo

It’s Sunday (Domingo), which means that I’ve been in Ecuador for five full days.  I can’t even begin to describe how differently time moves here.  In Kansas, I would start most days by making a to-do list, get to work, take too many breaks, and before I knew it, it was dinner time and I had no idea where the day had gone.  But here, it’s like the minute hand only moves every two minutes.  It feels like I have been here for at least a week.

I think the slowness stems from how passive I feel right now.  When in the US, I’m pretty in control of my day.  I am fluent in the language that is needed to accomplish tasks around town, understand others, and communicate effectively.  I do what I want to do when I want to do it.  I know my way around Topeka.  I know what is expected of me in my workplace and feel competent in my ability to complete daily tasks.  It’s not like I’m in control of everything, but I’m able to get around, communicate, understand what’s happening around me.  Here in Ecuador, I am confused on a daily, nay- hourly, basis.  I’ve been abroad before, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt this foreign.

I’ll begin with the most perplexing to me right now: the language!  I can tell that by April 25th, when I head home for good (and by that, I guess I just mean the summer), I will speak Spanish much more proficiently than I speak now.  Already, all that Spanish that receded into the dark corners of my brain over the last few years is surfacing.  I’m bombarded by new vocabulary and grammatical truths each day.  Some make it into the part of my brain that remembers, some go into my little self-made dictionary where I write notes, but many of them do not fit into my over-satiated brain.  There are only so many new things one can learn each day, you know?  When I’m in a group of people who are laughing at their Spanish jokes, or I’m trying to understand what my host mother is saying to me, or I’m trying to not be super awkward and silent around somebody I’ve just met, I am reminded of this foreign kid who came to Med-o-Lark (the camp I worked at last summer).  I’m going to call him Bevel.  It was his first time in the US and he knew very little English.  Trying to communicate with him was PAINFUL because you could never understand what he was saying to you (his English vocabulary was very small and he spoke rather… mumbly), when you tried explaining something to him he just stared blankly, and he was so persistent that both parties understood one another.  I often feel like Bevel.  I’m the person that people don’t want to try and converse with because it will usually result in a blank stare, a fake nod, or having to explain in very basic words and gestures.  I hate being slow here!  It’s weird to feel stupid and incapable of speaking.  All this is giving me great sympathy for people who immigrate to the US and feel instantly illiterate, mute, and deaf to the world around them.

Other areas of confusion include:

  • My job (I’ve never taught English to a class of Spanish-speaking students- I just want to do a good job!  I meet some of my students tomorrow, which will be good)
  • This city (I’d like to be able to walk from place to place, not take a taxi, but first I need to become oriented here)
  • How to be a good guest in my host mother’s house (she’s great, but pretty quirky!)
  • How to do things that were once simple: Bathe.  The only time I’ve showered at my house, I checked the water to see if it was working (there is often no running water…), but it was cold.  I boiled water in the electric kettle and filled a bucket with half boiling water and half tap water then bathed using probably one gallon of water.  When I asked Lisa, my German host sister about showering today, she said that what I did is not what they normally do and that she’ll show me later.  Going to the bathroom!  Yes, even this is different.  Here, you are not able to flush anything but excrement down the toilet, so all toilet paper and sanitary products go in a cute (not) little bin next to the toilet.  I can’t tell you how many times muscle memory has let me down and forced me to reach into the bowl and remove my toilet paper, lest I be the reason for a clogged toilet.  Ew.  Greeting people.  One kiss or two?  Should my lips actually touch their cheek?  Oy.

The good thing is this: authentic learning cannot occur without confusion.  You have to go through the pain of wanting to understand, but not being able to before you can truly comprehend something.

There is one thing that I know for sure; no confusion about it.  Ecuador is such a beautiful, unique country!!

Quito

On the drive from Quito to Riobamba. Ecuador is such a verdant country!

Today, we went to Baños! This is one of the many cascadas in that area.

My little family and me in front of some of the Baños waterfalls!

I saw two women catch THIS fish. So fresh and so good!

The majestic Chimborazo

I really am enjoying it here.  It´s just not the easiest thing in the world, being transposed into another culture.  By the way, the title of this post- these are three words I learned in one day.  Chola is a delicious roll filled with sweet cream found in the village of Guano in the Chimborazo province (15 minutes from Riobamba).  Cholo is a term I would not use to denote someone with Amerindian heritage (the term means different things in different Latin American countries).  Chalo is a word I saw on a building when my host mother was driving.  I asked her what that word meant, curious, since I had learned chalo and chola earlier that day.  She hadn’t seen the word.  When I asked her, she seemed confused, repeated the word, and after a bit of thinking, said it was an Israeli greeting…  I still don’t know what chalo really means.

Packing night

I wrote this post while traveling to Ecuador.  I’m now in my host mother’s home in Riobamba and can tell that the next six months are going to truly impact me!  This is good.  More on my time here later.  Here’s my sad, admittedly kind of sappy post on leaving loved ones behind:

It doesn’t matter how far in advance we plan journeys like this; I don’t think we’re ever really prepared for the feelings that come with departure day.  I’ve had the desire to spend a significant amount of time in South America for years.  I committed to working with TEV in March.  I started writing in this blog in August, knowing it would be used to update people back home.  In other words, I was well aware of what was lying ahead.  It’s never until your hands and feet start going through the motions that your mind has been dreaming of that all of that planning becomes real.  Last night, after a day spent finishing final tasks I wanted to accomplish before leaving (including having my car repaired, getting new tires installed, and writing an ad to be put on Craiglist- the car needs to go), spending some time with Jeremiah on his birthday, and having a nice “last supper” with my parents and Jeremiah, I put my hands into this work of leaving.  And in those hours of packing, this all became so real.

I almost always leave packing to the last minute.  It’s such a bad habit; one that has resulted in many frantic, exhausting nights of packing until the wee hours of the morning, getting a couple of hours of sleep, then walking through airports the following day in a zombie state.  This time, however, I vowed to do better.  On Saturday, a full three days before d-day, I began to pack!  I made a thorough list, chose which clothes I would take (often, for me, the most time-consuming part of the packing process), and put in a good three hours.  Perhaps I had finally learned!  The problem was that my packing spree was put to a halt by my Saturday night plans, Sunday got away from me, then it was Monday with all of its car-fixing and sentimentality for being my last day at home/ Jeremiah’s big day.  Somehow, it was 10:30 pm and I hadn’t touched my suitcase since my valiant start on Saturday.  After three hours of decision-making, sorting, counting, and fighting with zippers, all my bags were packed*, but I felt far from ready to go.

While I was in my room frantically trying to finish packing, Jeremiah was sleeping on my basement couch (we all know that there is no help that a packer can receive from another- it is a one-man job).  He was the one who would be driving me to the airport at 2:45.  At 1:30, I stared at my large purse, backpack, and two suitcases, all neatly stacked by my front door and felt a train of emotions hit.  I headed down to the basement and, with tears streaming down my cheeks, snuggled up beside a sleeping Jeremiah.  It was in the teary hour that I laid there in the dark, with Jeremiah’s arm around me, that I dwelled most on how hard it was going to be to leave.

As much as I’ve been looking forward to this, when I committed to the idea of traveling and immersing myself into another language before settling down, I had it planned in that order: travel, settle down.  By settle down, I mean meet someone and settle into a career- basically start acting like a grown-up.  The especially fun thing about what I mean by travel is that my Spanish language and culture quest does not end after Ecuador.  I am coming back to the US in February for just a week and a half so that I can attend the University of Northern Iowa Overseas Teaching Fair.  If I secure an international teaching job, I will be out of the country, with visits to the states, until my contract (most with international schools are for two years) ends in the spring of 2014!

I never meant to fall in love before this overseas experience.  I even recall excitedly making a list during the spring semester of my senior year of college.  On it were possible avenues I could take to reach life in South America, steps I would need to take to make the trip (in my case now, trips) possible, and even a list of possible ways my goal of venturing to South America and gaining fluency in Spanish might be shattered.  On that last self-cautioning list, I wrote and underlined “Do not fall in love!”  I had been on enough trips with love-struck friends to know that if a part of one’s heart rests with another, then as long as the two are not together, both hearts ache.  Basically, my girlfriends with boyfriends always seemed to me (and I’ll be the first to admit that I had absolutely no idea how they really felt and judged them with little empathy) to be too homesick, too sad, too distracted to really enjoy themselves on their travels.  I was ridiculous to think that a. I could control something like the timing of love, b. love could hinder me.  Sure, it’s harder to say goodbye now, but I have someone I can report to, someone who will kiss me in the baggage claim when I come home, someone who likes me enough to give me freedom to spread my wings like this.   There is only pain in separation because the bond is strong, and I wouldn’t change that for anything.

Jeremiah and I groggily rose at 2:30 ( I don’t think I slept for more than 15 minutes) and were ready to leave in ten minutes time.  If I had kept my composure up to this point, the following would have cracked me.  We reached my front door, ready to head into his car, and I looked up the stairs at my dog of ten years: Tabooli.  Although Jeremiah had slept soundly during my packing hours, this loyal companion kept her sad eyes on me with each item I folded and placed in my bags (Tabooli believes packing is a job fit for two).  She has been mine long enough to know what suitcases mean.  As I stood at the door, on the verge of tears, I called to her, hoping to hug her goodbye.  But she just sat, with the saddest posture, at the top of the stairs, as if she was saying “Not again!”  I called to her again, this time actually crying.  But she remained motionless, staring at me in a way that said “Just leave already.  Get it over with!”  So I did.  The entire way to the airport, I asked myself what on earth I was doing.

This was the hardest departure day I can recall ever having.  I thought I was immune to homesickness.  If I’d have obeyed my underlined warning against falling in love, it would have been an easier day.  But the pain I felt today just reminds me of how lucky I am to have someone I love enough to really miss.  Someone who loves me enough to stay committed to me, even when I’m all the way in the southern hemisphere.  I’m promising myself and all of you that I will not cry myself to sleep each night or spend my precious time in Ecuador pining for good old Topeka.  I know that this is going to be an amazing time.  It’s just that right now, I’m on the plane, probably over the island of Cuba at the moment, and until I get some much-needed sleep and see those breath-taking Andes tomorrow morning, I feel like I’m entitled to dwell on this homesickness.  It’s taken me twenty-four years to feel, after-all.

*After writing that post on simple living, I feel compelled to confess that one suitcase didn’t cut it- to my surprise, however, both bags were checked for free- this was a delightful surprise!

A Dollar a Day

Simple living is so in right now.  In the age of information overload, maximum efficiency, and consumerism, life is tiring.  Many people are coming to the realization that as difficult as it may be initially, it is better to back away from facebook, the iphone, the laptop, that to-do list, the mall.  Turning from the busyness and embracing simplicity can remind you that the world turns even when you’re not watching over it through the lens of your computer screen, that you really can make it through this autumn without that new anthropologie jacket, and that that phone of yours really is not a plastic sixth finger.

Click on the poster to view a blog devoted to simple living.

The noble thing about choosing to live simply is that it’s just that: a choice.  To have the discipline to not check facebook first thing in the morning, or sit through a meal without giving in to the urge to turn on the TV, it’s admirable.  Limiting yourself to reading just the important information, curbing digital time-wasting, reflecting on the exhausting money earning and burning cycle, aiming for more organic interaction with your friends…  I think that we can all see the value in this decluttering of our time and brain-power, but it’s easy to get comfortable with the fast-paced, complex, entertaining world in which we live- in which we are encouraged to partake.

I have no choice in the to “live simply or complicatedly” matter right now.  In two days, I will embark on my journey into simple living.  I’ll only be towing one suitcase behind me (with a limit of 50 pounds).  Here are some things that will not be hiding in that suitcase, objects I will be without for six months:

  • My Chi straightener, hair dryer, and curling iron
  • My 2 pillows (one firm and the other feathery)
  • My… thirty-something dresses
  • Make-up (this is terrifying me)
  • Most of my jewelry
  • Tabooli, the dog
  • All but one of my credit cards (Ecuador uses US dollars, so I’ll be paying with cash to avoid foreign transaction fees)
  • My own bedroom (found out today that I will be sharing a room with a German girl!  I’m just as confused as you are)
  • Huge salads topped with tons of vegetables, parmesan cheese, sunflower seeds, and vinaigrette (I eat one of these pretty much every day)
  • Jeremiah
  • Free, effortless, daily access to the internet
  • My car (and, thankfully, all of its expensive problems… it broke down on the highway en route to my going-away get-together two evening ago… I am very ready to be car-less)
  • My cell phone (well, I’m bringing it along for my travel days, but the service will be suspended when I’m in Ecuador)
  • Easy, frequent contact with the outside, English-speaking world
  • TV, and word of new movies

I’ve made efforts to strip my life of excess before.  Although I was never Catholic, Lent appealed to me my middle-high school years because it gave me the chance to give up something (usually I picked TV).  I’ve been four months facebook free.  I’ve even tried going the basic dietary route (cutting out any food that stemmed in cruelty) and endured two months as a vegan (this was not nearly as simple as I thought it might be, but eating only plant-based nutrients did feel refreshing).  There is something in me, probably in all of us, that just wants to live on the marrow of life, not the fat.  Reduce our dependencies on technology, cut back on the mindless time-suckers like TV shows (that was hard to type, as I am prone to TV series addictions), reevaluate the value of a facebook friendship in light of an actual hang-out buddy, cut back on possessions we are conditioned to desire but don’t really need (since they end up making our lives and budgets more strained and keep us from being in a position where we have extra with which to bless others).

Each time I’ve been to a country in need (Guatemala and Jamaica), I’ve come away from the experience with a new sense of how to live simply and the joys of living simply.  The people I have met in these parts of the world have blown me away with their ability to delight in the company of friends and share laughter over a slow-cooked meal, a good game of soccer, or a sultry afternoon spent relaxing outside.  They seem to posses a true thirst for fellowship that we, here in the “developed” world, often lack.  I’m a big fan of skype, blogs (obviously), and emails as a way to communicate with my friends from all over.  And, yes, facebook can be fun (heck, many people reading this post probably found it using a link on my facebook wall).  It’s just that I don’t even know my own neighbors.  Not counting Jeremiah, I maybe hang out with my friends once a week.  As much as I am drawn into it (checking it… many times a day), facebook is a poor substitute for authentic companionship.

I was reminded of the value of actually getting together with pals the evening of my going away shindig. I do have some great ones!

And then there’s the value of monetary simplicity.  I realized a while ago that if you want to save up money, you can a. work more, b. make higher wages, c. spend as little as possible.  Options a and b are often not true options for me, so saving is usually my best bet.  With volunteering, it really is my only option.  I have a set amount of money and if I’m not careful, I’ll run out.  And that would be bad.  Sure, housing and food is provided, but transportation costs are not.  Plus I know that, as simply as I’ll be keeping things, I will want to explore and experience Ecuador, which will not be free.  The rule I have devised so that I don’t run out of money?  $1 a day, or if I don’t spend my dollar one day, then $2 the next day.  That’s all I can spend.  No rule-bending possible!  It should be a good way for me to get into the habit of budgeting and practicing saying “no” to my consumer urges.

I’m hoping to return home in April, reminded that I lived for six months on just a suitcase, minimal spending money, little access to technology, few beauty products, and few of the modern conveniences I use without a second thought at home.  With that kind of minimalism under my belt, I hope to be better at living a small in excess, but large in quality kind of life for years to come.

Fun Fact for the Day

Mount Chimborazo is closer to outer space than any spot on earth!

Not the highest in elevation (distance from sea level), but the farthest from the diameter of the earth, therefore the most jutting-into-space point.  This is because of earth’s rise around the equator (for details of this fact, please refer to this article in Daily Galaxy).  Although Mt. Everest is a taller mountain than Mt. Chimborazo (by almost 10,000 feet), Chimborazo is riding on a taller pair of shoulders than Everest, so it is farther from the Earth’s center.

The Final Countdown

Today, I take my first malaria pill, which means that in one week, I will be in Ecuador.  (Fortunately, not in the coastal or far inland areas* where the risk of malaria is greater, but I figured that if there were places in this Nevada-sized country where malaria existed, even if they were away from where I would be staying, I ought to err on the side of caution and take the medicine.)

I’m as close to Ecuador as I’ve ever been.  Six days away!  The last few weeks, this seemingly off-in-the-distant-future journey of mine has become more real than ever.  I’ve moved from the initial “how exciting” stage into the practical realization stage.  Questions I’ve mulled over during this last month include:

My hairdresser and friend's solution to my query on shaving.

  • Do women shave their legs in Ecuador?  And if they do, how do I do this when: a. I will have little access to showers, b. when I do shower, the pressure and quantity available will be low and I will not want to waste it on shaving my legs, c. the water will not be completely pure and if I cut myself, it could lead to infection?
  • How can I make English lessons fun and effective for the children I will be teaching?
  • How long will it take before I am adjusted to the altitude in Riobamba and can jog?
  • How will I spend my 1.5 hour bus rides (3 hours round trip) twice a week- I will be teaching three days a week in Riobamba and two days a week in the mostly indigenous community of Guamote- when bringing my kindle or ipod on the bus would be a terrible idea?
  • What kinds of meals can I expect to be fed by my host family?
  • What should I buy as gifts for my host family?
  • How often can I expect to be able to call/skype with people at home?
  • How expensive are cell phones and minutes in Ecuador, and will having a phone make life easier there?  Is the convenience worth the cost?
  • How do I convert Celsius to Fahrenheit again (ohhh, estimate in this way: C temp. x 2, + 32= F temp)?  Meters to feet (approximately 3.3 feet in a meter)?  Note: For reasons beyond my limited technological understanding, the table at the bottom of this post will not move up here where I wanted it, nor can I insert any text above or below it, so I’ll just explain it right here.  When you look at this average monthly highs and lows table, you will notice a few things: there is very little variance in temperature and it’s kind of cool!  For the Celsius-impared, average lows are between 52 and 56 degrees Fahrenheit and average highs are between 58 and 61 Fahrenheit, meaning temperatures in Ecuador will usually be in the range of 45-65 degrees Fahrenheit.  Sounds like my definition of perpetual Fall 🙂  One more note, with about 20 days of rainfall each month, I am definitely going to be bringing my umbrella.
  • How long will it take before I am understanding more Spanish?  I know I will go through a hell of a language barrier confusion phase, the kind that may make me wonder why on earth I decided to do this, but I’m hoping that that won’t last for more than… a month?  Hoping that I can establish English and Spanish teaching words with my students right off the bat, so that I don’t find myself drowning in a classroom of young Spanish-speaking voices, unsure of how to get their attention or make them listen.  Eeek.
  • How can I live on as little money as possible?  My next post will go more in depth on this, but I do not have nearly as much saved up as I would like to, so I’m going to be using my money verrrrry sparingly.
  • How can I contribute to the Teach English Volunteer project and make it easier for more potential volunteers to understand what they do?  I’m thinking that I can help them make their application process more consistent and organized.  My boss is really excited about some ideas I’ve given her and is open in her desire for volunteer assistance with the more administrative tasks of TEV.
  • Can I really fit everything I’m going to need for 6 months into one suitcase?  I just went away for a weekend in Colorado and took two suitcases… I’m not known for being the lightest packer ever.
  • Will the cons of not making any money for six months; being away from my family and friends; all those parasites that I will surely pick up; language and culture confusion; the rustic living conditions; and the danger that comes with being an easy target (gringa in a non-touristy area) be outweighed by the pros of living in another country; serving children; gaining invaluable teaching experience; immersing myself into a Spanish-speaking world; the satisfaction that will come with finally living abroad after years of wanting to; the change of heart and self that, I find, always seems to come with experiencing a life other than the one you have known; and the people and experiences that I’m sure I will encounter and cherish in my heart for the rest of my life?  I’m definitely hoping (and believing) that the answer to this run-on sentence will be yes.

* Ecuador is divided into three areas by the Andes that run through the middle of the country and lead to the small nation being split into geographically unique regions.  There is La Costa, or the coastal area, La Sierra, or the mountainous area (this is where I will be and I’m guessing that mosquitoes are not as bad because of the high elevation- in Riobamba, I will be 9,035 feet above sea level- almost twice the elevation of the mile-high city of Denver) in the center of the country, and La Amazonia, which comprises of almost half of the country’s area (the eastern-most part), but contains only 5% of the population.  In the following map of Ecuador’s Malaria risk, the division is pretty plain to see.  Oh, and if you want to check the map and make sure I really will be relatively safe of Malaria, Riobamba is pretty close to Baños, a resort town full of hotsprings… ooh yes.

Underneath the map is that pesky temperature averages table… darn technology.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
14°c 16°c 16°c 15°c 15°c 15°c 16°c 15°c 16°c 16°c 15°c 16°c
11°c 12°c 13°c 12°c 12°c 12°c 11°c 12°c 12°c 12°c 12°c 11°c