I thought I’d write today about an average day in my Ecuadorian life.
It begins at 5:25, when my alarm sounds (except Thursdays and Fridays, when I have to arise at 5). Today, of course, I pressed the snooze. Twice. Or, I thought twice. The second time, I accidentally turned my alarm off. At 5:52, I woke up, suddenly, looked at my phone, and knew I needed to get out of bed. Normally, Reyna is up at 5:45, but she was nowhere to be seen, so I knocked firmly on her door and said “Good morning, wake up!” (in Spanish).
We were dressed, fed, and out the door by 6:20. Yes, folks, I am capable of leaving the house a mere 20 minutes after waking up. My getting ready process here is: put clothes on, throw my hair into a ponytail, splash water on my face, apply sunscreen, eat breakfast, brush my teeth, and- maybe- treat myself to a hint of bronzer on my cheeks, my one vain indulgence. Mondays- Wednesdays, Reyna and I walk about a quarter of a mile to the place where our buseta meets. Thursdays and Fridays, I walk about 2/3 of a mile to my bus stop. This morning, on our way to our stop, we stepped into one of our favorite shops because we needed to buy ingredients for guacamole. In one of the classes today, the students would be reading the recipe for guacamole (The lesson is entitled: Guacamole, a Mexican Dish) and making it! Yum! The store only had 2 ripe avacatoes. Problem. But we had to take what we can get. Reyna then bought 12 tomatoes (!), 4 key limes, a few red onions, and some cilantro. When I asked her if she had brought any chili powder or hot sauce with her from the house, she said that the kids in Pulingui don’t like spicy food, so that we weren’t going to include it in our version.
We arrived in Pulingui at 7:10 and spent about 20 minutes chillaxing (you can bet my English students are learning words like chillaxing in my classes) with the other teachers. At 7:30, there was an assembly with all of the students because today is the 6th of December, Quito’s Foundation Day. It only lasted about 15 minutes. At 8:15, Reyna and I had our first class, the guacamole makers. I taught the kids Christmas songs while Reyna and a few girls made guacamole in the back of the room. (sidenote- a hint at the gender roles in this society- when Reyna needed a hand putting together our ingredients, she said “¿Hay unas señoritas que pueden ayudarme, por favor?” – are there any girls who can help me, please?) For anyone who thinks that any food south of the United States equates to Mexican food, you are wrong! I think I can hear Israel Sanchez, my Cuban friend, vehemently agreeing with me. Food here is not spicy. Albeit, on about any Ecuadorian table, you will surely find a bowl of aji, Ecuadorian hot sauce. In a US grocery store, this stuff would be sold in a bottle labeled “mild.” It’s not crazy hot, but it is crazy good (that reminds me of the crazy hot spectrum on How I Met Your Mother… hehe). Back to what I was saying, I had a feeling this guacamole would be a little different than guacamole made in Mexico, or even the US.
Guacamole, the Ecuadorian way
Yes, you are looking at a photo of a 6:1 tomato:avocato ratio. No, no avocadoes were mashed in the making of this dish. Yes, it is being served on bread, not with chips. Yes, Reyna called in Guacamole. And yes, it was pretty delicious.
We had that class for an hour and a half. Each class is only 45 minutes long, but there are some that are back to back. The first 45 minutes of the next class, I taught the kids Jingle Bells, which they already (kind of) knew. They knew this much (I guess from movies and TV):
Jeengle bells, jeengle bells, jeengle aw dee waaah
We worked on that for awhile. Songs the students in Pulingui will also have the pleasure of learning (goodness, I love Christmas!): Deck the Halls, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Holy Jolly Christmas, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Rocking Around the Christmas Tree, and Silent Night. I’m also teaching a couple of songs to my kids in Guamote; not nearly as many as I’m attempting with the older kids in Pulingui. We had a recess (recreo), then after 30 minutes of that, Reyna was like “Bye, I’m going to go to Guano [this other small town that is known for selling shoes] with the director to look for shoes the teachers can wear in our parade!” (We’re going to be in this parade in Guano on December 20th. If any of you can make it to see me dressed in the same clothes as my compañeros, I’d love to see you! No really, this parade- the uniform, more than anything else- has been such a big deal here. Now the principal of the school and one of its teachers were leaving midday to buy shoes for this parade, which meant I was about to get to teach the last few classes SOLO!)
Normally, there is always another teacher in the room with me. In fact, it’s kind of mandatory with my organization. However, things here just work differently and you can’t always shoot for perfection. Here, at least in my small rural schools, when a teacher is absent, the students just don’t have that class and get to hang out in the school courtyard area and wait for their next class, totally unsupervised. Or in elementary schools, they get to sit in their classroom all day unsupervised… yes, so different. I was pretty scared to hold class in a language other than my own, but it went pretty okay. Funny, however, I managed to accidentally say both penis and vagina in Spanish throughout the course of the morning. In one class, I was trying to say page “pagina” and, being American, I didn’t pronounce my consonants well enough and it sounded like “vagina” (remember that the v sound has a b sound here, more or less)… later, in another class, I was trying to say pain, “pena” and apparently it sounded like “pene.” I’m just that great at life. I really didn’t know the word for penis until today. But when you have 10 kids laughing at you and you’re turning red, it’s easy to put two and two together. I won’t be making those mistakes again!
At 12:45, I was done teaching. I was able to relax for a while before dining with my coworkers. I love lunch here so much. I need to reserve a future post for that. Moving along. We had a meeting in the afternoon, then drove home a little past three.
And that is a pretty normal day of work for me. I would go into the fun I had this evening celebrating fellow voluntaria Alice’s birthday, but so far, this post consists of 1,185 words… sheesh. As always, thanks for reading!