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

4 thoughts on “The Final Countdown

  1. I’m envious – Central Ecuador is one of my favorite places. I spent a couple weeks in Puyo and a couple in Tena when I was younger and had less obligations. Pro tip: don’t go for a dip at Baños if you have a sunburn. Very bad idea. 🙂

  2. Micah, I think you’re the first person I know in person who has been to the area I’m headed. I’m glad you have good things to say about it! Thanks for the tip on Baños! That sounds really painful…

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