Live from Cariacu, Ecuador!

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Interesting things that have happened in my first few days here include-

- there is an ostrich across the road from my house

- started my internship where I work from 8ish to whenever we run out of things to do

- went on a 'visit' with a social worker and got to see her calmly ask our to pry a door out its hinges so we could reclaim a little girl's clothes as we moved her to a safer home

- woke up at 2:30AM this morning to help my new host family butcher 70ish chickens

- had my first 'real' salad here (real by American standards- it wasn't cooked any way!)


My New Host Family-

Gabriel- My host dad is a professor by trade, he teaches day and night classes on the subject of solidarity economy model. So his students usually are interested in forming cooperatives or other community enterprises. He is also very socially and politically active, his lived in Cariacu his whole and has served on all sorts of boards and committees, including currently one focused on stopping alcohol and drug abuse in children and teens. I haven't really seen him for half the week because he's attending a huge protest against government mining policy in Quito.

Isabel- My host mom is definitely the heart of the family. She basically runs the farm herself (the business and production parts) and therefore is constantly working. She milks cows, single handily kills 70 some chicken and makes almost all our meals and her work isn't halfway done. She loves having students at the house so talking with her is always super easy. She's also really connected to her indigenous heritage and practices traditional medicine and teaches Quichawa.

Katty- My 19-year-old sister is pretty quiet and reserved. I found out yesterday that she is roughly 8 months pregnant (it doesn't show), thankfully my awkwardness in responding to this news was blamed on my poor Spanish skills. As I understand it, while the father of the baby is completely out of the picture Katty is still planning to attend a small private university in Quito to study agriculture in the fall. Til then she helps Isabel out in all the never-ending farm work.

Sumac- My 14-year old brother is even more shy than his sister, but once you get to know him he's quite the comedian. He plays guitar very well and like Katty he assists in almost all the farm work. He also seems to have a very active social life in Cayambe, playing on a school soccer team among other things so he tends to get home rather late.

Don Pedro- While not part of my host family by blood, Isabel says he's like a father to her and he helps out in all manner of ways around the farm. Him and Isabel are a good team when it comes to things like butchering chickens or doing things with traditional herbs. He loves talking politics and negotiating business deals

Chloe- My fellow host student hails from southern France. She is in her 3rd year of university and works with me at the INFA Center. Sometimes we have the same job and days we do completely different things, but it seems like usually we'll be able to go to lunch together. It's also very nice that Chloe has lived here for at least month and is more than happy to show me around Cayambe. We are at about the same level of Spanish so when we talk to each other understanding usually isn't an issue.

Adelaine- My other fellow host student is also from France. She's in her final year of university and speaks excellent Spanish after having lived in South America for 9 months. She's like a cool older sister or cousin to Chloe and I and works at another INFA center in a town 20minutes from Cayambe.

To sun up quick- I really like my new host family. They a little more hands off then my last family, possibly because we students actually sleep in a separate building. I am very glad there are other students here with me so I have someone to share weird cultural observations and it's super nice to have Chloe as my instant work friend. Plus since English is a second language for them it's way easier for all of us to only speak Spanish to each other. Stay tuned for sometime in the coming week for a better explanation of what my new home And job

Winter Break and Beyond

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3/17/12

I can't believe it's St. Patricks already! I celebrated a bit tonight with my programates for one last hurrah in Quito before we all divide out Monday to go to our internships. But before I brief you on what's in store for me in the next several weeks I need to fill you in on my winter break!

Winter Break

Last Friday (the 9th) I set off for the lovely historic city of Cuenca, in the south of Ecuador. Two of my friends and I paid $10 to bus the 10hrs there over night, but the adventure began when the bus arrived at our destination at 4 AM, a full 2 HOURS earlier than expected. We proceeded to approach an equally confused gringo, who agreed to split a cab with us to a cheap hostal. When we at there it was discovered like in the Christmas story there was 'no room for us in the inn', so the 4 of us chose to catch a few hours sleep on the lobby floor. We all ended up staying at a cheap more centrally located hostal (with the exact same name) and spent the day exploring the city with our new friend, Mantus, of Lithowainia. There were at one point 9 students from my program in Cuenca through Wednesday. We saw lots of cool museums, ate an insane amount of good food, visited some Incan ruins and a really cute town outside of the city, observed some weird llama behavior and generally wandered the city. There were plently of American and other foreign retirees, so we heard a lot of English and overall the city felt really calm and safe (we never really located a nightlife for young folks haha). We met all sorts of interesting travelers and residents including, some austrailians, who run a small café, some retirees from Texas and an English woman, who's been traveling the world volunteering for the last year.


On Tuesday night four of us hopped another night (and another and another) to get from Cuenca to the costal city of Puerto Lopez. While on the coast of Ecuador it is currently 'low' tourist season we were able to get halfway decent acomedations in a hostal with oven like rooms. They even came with such ammendities as a single 'high velocity air circulator' (aka ineffective ceiling fan) and a fancy mosquito net canopy for each bed. On our first day on the coast we got to spend the afternoon on the most beautiful beach I have Ever been to or seen, called Los Frialles. It was like walking through a postcard! We also took a tour to Isla de la Plate, which is know here as, the poor man's Galopoges. Here we hiked bit on the nice island and saw insane anmounts of Blue Footed Boobies and saw some Huge sea turtles. Other fun coastal activies included treating myself to excellent sea food, bathing in a scared sulpher pool after covering myself in sulfer mud, and successfully getting tan on the beach! Got back to Quito at 6AM this morning after yet another nightbus. Though this one came with a very serious "bus nazi" who insisted on making everyone move seats to match the numbers on our tickets (very unEcuatorina) even though the physical seats had no numbers haha.

Future

On Monday I begin the internship portion of my program, in the small town of Cayambe. I have no more classes and I will instead observe and work with a psychologist in a government organization called, INFA (Institute for Ninez,, adolescencia and familiar affairs). I will be living with an indigeous family in a smaller village out Cayambe. I'll have a mother, a father (who's appartently important in the community), a 19 yr old sister anda 14 yr old brother. With hours for 8am to 4pm. I hope to have time to run on a regular basis and I also get to work on writing a +20 pg pager about the work I'm doing for INFA, called my monografia. I hope to uset this beast of a paper to get credit in Spanihs or Psych at Morris, but we shall see. I return to Quito to live with my old family after 6 weeks for one more week of frantically attempting to finish this paper and then present it to my classmates and professors. Then I get on the plane the next day to go home. Time has already gone SOOOOOOOOOOOOO fast here. But because of all this updates here may be less frequent. Just so you know haha.

3/7/12

-had my first 'unsupervised' weekend trip
-wandered the charming tourist town of Baños
-had one of the best veggie burger I've Ever eaten
-sat next to an Ecuadorian clone of Joseph Gordon Leveit on the most ridiculous bus I've ever seen. It had neon lights everywhere and played really loud club like music
-biked roughly 25 miles in the mountains- SO fun
- visited a huge water fall called puntal de Diablo
-visited the town of Shell- If you've seen the movie "The end of the spear" the missionaries are based out of this little town with an airstrip
-had my last program trip and it was hands down the best one
-saw the ash cloud from a volcanic eruption(was safely on a different mountain promise)
-stayed the night in a farmers house and was served an absolutely delious breakfast
-I finally broke my streak of perfect health here by throwing up said breakfast :P
-visited a school for young carpenters and saw how they make the solidarity economic model work
-brought my first book here (yes it's in English don't judge)

Food and dining

I realized that while I been in Quito for over 6 weeks (SO crazy), I haven't actually taken the time to discuss one of the most important activities in my day- Eating! According to one of my professors food is second only to family, as a favorite thing for Ecuadorians to talk about. So I'm not being snarky when I say they take food very seriously here. Though in my home there isn't a ton of variety in meals, all the food I've eaten here is of excellent quality. I begin each day with a large breakfast by US standards. There's an egg, a bread roll, instant coffee in warm milk and often, fresh juice. Most days my hostmom joins me for breakfast and I usually get to cook my own egg, which is a small thing, but it's really nice to have control over my food every now and then. I usually do the breakfast dishes by myself since Gemma needs time to put on her face haha. Lunch is the one meal where I am expected to completely fend for myself and there a few different options available to me- I can buy the fixings to make my own salad or sandwich in the school kitchen or go out to lunch at one of the little restaurants near school. The first of these choices is fun because there's lots of room to experiment and if I don't actually want to prepare something two rolls of bread filled with cheese are only 40 cents. Unfortunately when it comes to being economically minded it's really hard to turn down going out for lunch because for $1.50 you can get a TWO course meal- soup and a plate of rice, meat and veggies. Thus I tend to choose the second option, as it is more food for less work, but occasionally I create exciting experimental mango, onion and avocado salads. For supper my host mom and I eat the same meal that my sisters have for lunch, so it's more soup and rice with meat and a salad of some sort. I've prepared my own supper a few times out of necessity, but most days Gemma prefers to do it herself. My sisters only join my hostmom and I about half the time for dinner, depending on how late they eat lunch, and how early we eat. Now for my favorite part of eating here, the deserts!!! I've had so many great pastries, including chimboyaso (spelled that how it sounds...), which is basically orange flavored corn bread/cake wrapped in a cornhusk. These are sent via my host cousin from my host grandma, who lives 3 hrs away, for the whole family to enjoy. There is also a bakery near school that makes this fantastic creation that involves a wonderful creamy caramel spread sandwiched between two cookies that are covered in powdered sugar and coconut. But the Very Best thing I have eaten here is, hands down, the frozen chocolate covered bananas that cost 10 CENTS. While of the subject of food I'd like to proudly say that I made chocolate chip cookies at 9000 ft the other day, which was a blast and they even turned out to be quite delicious.

2/25/12

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I know I didn't update that long ago, but through some less than fortunate circumstances I'm trapped alone in my house tonight. I was theoretically supposed to work with my group on our essay tonight, or at least I assumed we would get together to work today because to me it seems dumb to try to do it ALL the day before it's due. But the plans fell through because my group never got back to me and I had no way of contacting them since I'm out of minutes and the internet at my house was down. What really sucked about this scenario was that I missed a chance to go out with my family because we all assumed I would be working on this essay. But I figure I might as well put the time to use and also it's probably good for anyone thinking of going abroad to know that sometimes stuff like this happens. Plus I'm sure you'd love to hear how I entertained myself during a night in here in Quito.

Basically I got a whole new sampling of Ecuadorian tv haha

-New favorite telenovela is specifically for women and dealt with the issue of drumroll please psychological pregnancy haha!!! What women couldn't identify with that??

-Catwomen is hands down the worst possible "superhero" movie I've ever suffered through15 minutes of and I think the Spanish made it more bareable

-Enjoyed almost all of The Goonies., which just as good in espanol. Loved the hairstyles!

- Still don't know if 'Riverworld' is a really weird movie or a crazy LOST like tv show...

Other things I during this very short week

-Changed the location of my internship (I'm going to be in an indigenous Morris sized 'metropolis' now!)

-Had a round table style interview with the staff of my future internship

- Learned they are absolutely loco about the last intern they had so I have big shoes to fill

-All my future coworkers seem really open and friendly

-Got a private history lesson from my professor who drove me to my interview

-Helped my family rearrange the living room

-The girls also washed Vicky, our dog AND painted her nails :O (poor poodle haha)

Carnaval or Things I Learned while Vacationing in Ecuador

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*Sorry I keep uploading in bulk but I don´t have a lot internet time here often so I´ve been updating the blog that my parents use to keep tabs on me first and coming here when time permits
2/22/12

To start off, personal experience has taught me that vacations are situations where expectations and reality often fail to match up. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it can be a great test of patience. A great example of this was how we expected to broad a bus at 10ish on Friday night and travel a maximum of 10 hours to arrive on the southern coast of Ecuador by 7am on Saturday. The first part of this plan went very well, but it became clear to me that our reality was going to be very different when I woke at around 7 the next morning to watch a twin mattress being shoved down the aisle of the bus as the bus driver promised we would be to the coast by noon. Other fun adventures of what turned into a 20 hour ride included a quick stop to pick up the owner of our rented house (yes, of course she was coming to vacation with us, it's actually perfectly normal here), the time our driver leaned out the window to ask a passerby where the coast was, and a terrifying double U turn that Had to take place when it was revealed that our bus didn't have the proper papers to be traveling through a port city. This last bit of excitement was also very confusing as nothing was explained to us until after the fact, so it was perfectly logical for those of us in the back of the bus to assume that our driver was in fact smuggling drugs in the mattress and that was why we were avoiding the police. The solution to the paperwork problem was for us to wait out the police on the side of the road... we'd already come 17 hours at this point so there was no turning back. When we rebounded the bus we were told if stopped again that our cover story was that we were bound for a religious conference on the coast because somehow that'd make the paperwork less important. Around this point most of us had hit the point of hysteria where everything is so ridiculous that laughter is the only solution to any of it, and no one will deny that those 20 hours in the bus were excellent bonding time.

Eventually we did arrive at our house at 5pm on Saturday afternoon and we discovered how fortunate we were to have the twin mattress because 15 person house it was definitely not. Factor in that La Duena, the owner, got her own room with a queen size bed and that we had to put up the bus drivers as well, and the number of beds vanished quickly. Of course considering the amount of time we spent in the house and the mattresses we were able to find, this wasn't a huge issue. We got to the beach that evening for a few hours and later got to go out and experience Carnaval, which, I probably should have mentioned earlier, is the Latin American version of Mardi Grasi. This is to say, it is a celebration of great equality that everyone is meant to enjoy and all the basic rules of society go out the window. It's really common for things such as eggs, flour and water to be thrown at people, but in our region the weapon on choice was karaoka. This charming foamy soap mixture is generally shot out of pressurized cans directly into your nearest gringo's eyes, or at least that was my experience. Fortunately the stuff doesn't stain and for the most part it's all in good fun, but after awhile one tires of the smell and the feeling of being covered in foam. We also had someone get thrown into the ocean by a group of locals and in general there was a lot of music on the beach and a general free for all in the streets. And this craziness goes on for 4 DAYS, but thankfully the beaches, where we spent most our time were generally pretty relaxing places, where only small children wielded cans of foam.

The rest of the trip involved lots of juggling the expectations of 20 some people, a third of whom were members of students' host family's with completely different and at times it seemed secret, plans for the trip. There was plenty of time on the beach, much seafood was consumed and many gringos were burned to the point that walking and sitting are still pretty painful operations. Our bus drivers, who were contracted to drive (and vacation) with us for the whole trip also kept things interesting. In the words of one of my classmates, "They're both nice guys and I'd drink a beer with them, but given the choice between hiring them or an unlicensed 12 year old who was a blind in one eye and prone to epileptic fits I'd have a hard time picking." While keeping in mind that this was moments after we were all thrown at least 3 feet off our seats after speeding over a speed bump the size of a small cow, this statement explains those two perfectly. The ride home, which HAD to begin 4:30am (thankfully we were on proper Ecuador time so actually left around 6am) on Tuesday, was pleasantly only 14 hours long. By then we were all sick of the heat so the water that got shot at our windows in most towns was welcome and the drivers only had to ask for directions once or twice and everyone remained calm when the bus was searched for a fugitive. SO to sum up (sorry this entry was kind of long) my vacation was a rather entertaining adventure and I hope I was able to convey that here.

Things to make people miss me less

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2/14/12

-While it's only Tuesday I'm done with classes for the week!

-Wed-Fri I'll be traveling with my program to several more towns north of Quito to learn about internship opportunities involving working with kids.

-Then on Friday night I'll be setting off for 4 days of VACATION for Carnaval (Ecuadorian Marti Grasi)

-A group from my program has rented a bus and a house on the Beach

-I hear it snowed in the Midwest recently... so sad I'm missing out haha

O And on Sunday I attended a festival just outside of Quito and there I tried a bit of guinea pig. While it tasted a good, the presentation left a lot to be desired as it is cooked whole, with eyes and all other organs still intact. There is no way to pretend you don't know what you're eating haha. But now I can say I've tried it and the festival was also a grand adventure. There were lots of cool indigenous costumes on display, an Adanean rock band and lots and lots of people spraying each other with... I guess you'd call it canned soap foam (like silly string sort of). Me and a couple friends were essentially the only foreigner there and apparently that made us great targets for kids and adults with cans of foam. It was a lot of fun, though I sent the rest of the day slaving over an evil group essay, which was no fun at all.


Television

As I've mentioned before there are two TVs in my house here in Quito, one in my host mom's room and one in my sisters'. The difference in their programming choices are interesting to say the least. The girls like to watch comedies and game shows. There is a show solely devoted, from what I can gather, about all the various violent crime in Quito and Guayquil (the largest city in Ecuador). It's sort of like cops... I think. Every week night "Combate", the highest rated show in Ecuador, has two teams of young adults competing in strange competitions that range from, athletic type things like racing through a ropes course to being artistic in dance competitions. I recently learned the competitors occasionally are at risk to be voted off, but they don't seem to be competing for money or a grand prize from what I can tell. The main sitcom that I've seen here is called "Happy Couple" and it's sort of like King of Queens, in that it revolves around the life on one couple and their group of friends. I really appreciate their use of odd cover of famous American songs including the theme song to The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (guess someone forgot to properly copy right that one) and "Staying Alive"


My host-mom watches much more serious soap operas. The main one is called "The One She Cannot Love" and it takes places on a ranch owned by an evil wheelchair bound cowboy (who ALWAYS wears black- if you needed help knowing he was the villain), there are also several love triangles involving cowboys and servants, evil scheming aunts and recently the lead actress discovered she had a long lost rich father only to have him die within days of meeting her. Needless to say, while it's not exactly addicting it is VERY dramatic and entertaining. The amounts of broadcast time that the government purchases here is also rather surprising. I learn something new about the political goings on of Ecuador almost everyday thanks, to the government's 5- 10 minute newsbreaks. While the information needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as it's an election year here, the current administration has no friends in the mass media and several of our professors have suggested that the two factions are currently at war.

Week's worth of adventures Feb 5-11

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-Helped my little sisters learn handstands. (Addy and/or Bailey Bengtson we greatly could have used your help!)
- visited several possible internship sites in and north of Quito, all pertaining to the prevention and assistance of interfamilial violence
-visited an indigenous community and learned about the influence of machismo
-professor took us on several short unauthorized tourist ventures
-learned some basic salsa steps
-lost my cell phone...
-RAN for the first time in 25 days in the Parque Carolina
-got lost in Quito so many times in the span of 24hrs it's almost not funny
-learned the bus system better (hurray for perks being lost)
-nearly finished 2nd of 3 group essays

Quito Transportation
All the cars here are manual and there are so many in Quito that each vehicle can only be driven 6 days a week, it's called pica- y- placo. The public transport of choice here is the bus, though crime fairly common on the more crowded ones, it's only a quarter to ride and that includes a transfer from a station as well. There is always a person on the bus responsible for correcting fares when you get on or off the bus and they also tend to shout at pedestrians all the wonders of the places the bus is headed. Why you would here about how great the centro historico was and just hop on a bus going there I have yet to understand, but it seems like a exciting career choice if school doesn't pan out. Also the there are NO schedules for the buses, just 3 main systems with north-south routes, and telling their buses apart can be tough as they can be ANY color or size.

The taxi drivers here are especially crazy drivers and generally agree on a price before they let you in the cab. They tend to be a pretty chatty and friendly bunch, unless they feel you've lead them astray in directions and then will very seriously demand a higher fare. They also mark up the price a couple dollars if you look foreign and it's your responsibility to call them out on it and talk them down. If cabs aren't your cup of tea and you are a real Quito native you can also hitch a ride in the bed of a passing truck. There are speed bumps all over the place in the residential streets and I have no doubt they save live. At times it seems the only reason we slow down on the way to school is to survive the dreaded cement bumps. It appears the most liberating way to travel here is by motorcycle, for whom there are NO rules. They zip in and out of traffic at will and tend to ignore all signs or traffic flow. While most have the sense to wear helmets I can't help but assume there are a lot of fatal accidents involving this roadway rebels. There are virtually few bikes here in the city, as it is in no way biker friendly, but on Sundays there is a route open for folks to try to bike the 30k across Quito.

Because I would have to take 2 buses reach school, it is required that my family and I hire a taxi. Thankfully, there are 3 other host families in my neighborhood and one of them has an obscure connection (we think 2nd cousin) to Edwin, who happily drives us to and from school each day for $25 a month. He has good taste in music and is very easy to talk to, even while dodging through traffic at ridiculous speeds.

2/2/12

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2/2/12

Week's Adventures (thus far)
- loooong walking tour through rural right outside the city
- first group essay and presentation were survived
- cooked quienwa soup for my Spanish class
- ate SO much Ecuadorian food in one sitting that it wasn't even funny
- explored my neighborhood

AND this was all before Friday, which we had off of classes. 16 or us from my program and Patricio (experienced trail guide and a host father) set of in a sketchy 15 passenger van to Coliplaxi, one of the tallest and more recently active volcanoes in Ecuador. After driving part way up the slope, we got out of the van to discover that despite being practically on the Equator it was COLD, with wind to put Morris to shame. Thankfully we were all pretty well prepared with layers, hats, gloves and sunglasses. Personally, I'm regretting having left my running tights in WI, but made do with sweatpants underneath my jeans. The elevation on Coliplaxi was literally breath taking. Our poor griengo lungs could only handle climbing less than 50 meters up the surprisingly beach like vertical incline before having to stop and rest. Despite that I'm in fairly good leg and lung shape, I can easily say that this was one of the most demanding physical things I have ever done. We stopped our climb at roughly the 5000 meter mark where there was a lodge marking the snowline. The view from this height was spectacular and the journey down was laughably easy.

After that fun physical challenge in lung strength we drove a couple hours to stay in a hostel by Quilatao, which is an enormous volcanic crater, where we planned to test our endurence. At 7am the next morning we set off to hike the entire mountainous circumference of the crater. Again the views were fantastic, like the cool part of being in a plane where you're high enough to see everything, but close enough to identify all of it. While we were not as high up as the day before we were often higher than or at the same level as the clouds. The route around the crater lead us up and down steep rocky mountain trails, through forests out of Jurassic park or Middle Earth and across sandy beach like (but waterless) slopes. I'm proud to say we completed the 12 miles in a little less than 5 hours. After lunch some of us made the questionable decision to hike down into the crater to look at the lagoon that fills it. While the lagoon was very pretty and worth seeing up close, the problem was having to hike the LOOOOOONG way back up, especially as lazier people rode by on mules. Needless to say, we all slept the entire ride back to Quito that evening. Overall it was an absolutely fantastic weekend.

People and weeks highlights

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1/29/12

This Week's adventures
- was dragged on stage at a traditional Andean dance performance
- received first free drink
- tried Ecuadorian cider and hot dogs
- played several short games of soccer- shockingly 'team USA' did not triumph
- visited several historic spots in Ecuador including the president's mansion in the historically restored section of Quito
- got a cell phone
- went to a professional futbol game where we witnessed several fighting and SOO many terrifying pyritecnic displays (the fan set off road flares and fireworks when their team scores) As for game itself, it was very evenly matched city rivalery and beautifully played.
- did laundry for the first time. This act requires strategy as you want to wash as many clothes as possible AND still have something to wear during the DAYS it could take for it all to dry.
- learned some salsa steps

I also learned about Ecuadorian gestures Saturday. While in the US to call someone to you one holds their hand palm up and curls their fingers in, in Ecuador the palm faces down. It looks like a cross between a shooing motion and 'come here' so when l was slow to respond to my host mom's use of this gesture she proceeded to assume I forgot to put in my contacts and was in fact mostly blind. I was eventually able to prove I could in see fact and that it was a cultural misunderstanding. I think she believes me...

Host Family- now that I've lived with them for almost 2 weeks I'd like to properly introduce my host family and others people from my daily life here in Quito

Genma is my host mom. She has hosted several students before me and is very good at explaining things slowly and being insanely patient. As a single mom she runs a fairly tight ship, especially when it come to school for the girls and cleaning. My current theory is that cleaning is how Genma de-stresses, which would explain why she takes it so seriously and does so much of it on the weekends. We also all eat very healthy because Genma is allergic to (get ready for this) lactose, gluten, eggs and sugar, so there's lots and lots of veggies and rice. She also claims to have an excellent nose and usually knows within minutes if the girls raid her lotion cabinet. Overall my host mom is very understanding with an excellent sense of humor and, while taking her job as a mom seriously, she is very affectionate and close with the girls.

Paulita (Paula) is one of my younger sisters. While her and her twin look almost identical I can tell them apart purely by their personalities, Paulita is still very much a kid and is happy to help me learn knew words and just hang out with me. Other key differences include; the color of her glasses (pink), that only she has braces (the result of a car accident) and she has a scar on the left side of her chin. Paulita likes reality and comedy tv shows, is a afraid of amusement park rides and loves to draw. She's open and excitable, which usually translates into to those around her getting a play but play of what goes on in her head. Thus far she seems to have more homework than her sister and she does it all very diligently. She always does her best to include me in things and checks to my sure I understand things, which is why I feel lucky to have her in the house.
Camila (Mila) is my other younger sister, who seems to inhabit the flipside of Paulita's childlike 13. She is always on facebook and seems to be pretty involved in her social life. She too, really loves to color, doodle and draw all over her notes and homework. Overall, Mila puts out a general sentiment of indifference towards me, but when it's not inconvienent for her, she doesn't mind teaching me words and correcting my grammar. She's very into fashion trends, makeup etc. and I suspect she helps Paula out in this area, as they both seem to be possessed by some strange obcession with "the Nightmare before Christmas" and loves to paint both their nails. School is easier for her than her sister, I think, because she get low As while her sister gets high Bs.

Vicky (Victoria) is a small white poodle. She is very affectionate and protective of the girls. From what I can tall she sleeps all day when no one is home and goes outside a couple times a day. She is adored by my whole family (they all passive aggressively fight for the privilage of sleeping with her) and on the whole, very well mannered.

At CIMAS (class)- I see all these people nearly everyday and am getting to know them quite well.

Beto (Luis) is my Spanish teacher, who claims to be eternally 33. He tends to dress like Chea when we go on program adventures and has an excellent sense of humor. As a teacher he's pretty demanding and wants us to better understand the general politic working of all of South America. He's worked with our program for a while and clearly enjoys it.

Emilla is in charge of helping us figure out our internships. She also teaches Spanish to the other half of my class. She tends to ramble a bit about whatever come to her head (the last one was about the dangers of the prison system here) She tends to take the only program VERY seriously, as she is in charge of organizing almost everything that happens at CIMAS.

Machicha is like a mother to all of us, since she's esponsible for selecting families suited to host students. She laughs easily and is always checking in with everyone and loves to dance.

Freddy is our 'tech' guy down here. He rules the computer lab and the wireless internet with and iron fist and keeps the lab free of food. He is a VERY classy dresser and despite being 36 we all easily believed he was 25. If Machichi is our mom he's our awesome older bother, who gives out advice on where to go to get cheap drinks and what bands are best live. To top it off he teaches salsa and tango after class in downtown Quito.

Adventures, Academics and Daily life

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First weekend adventures-
-hiked in cloud forest!
-swam in rio blanco at the bottom of a water fall
-saw a sloth
-had soooooooooo many different kinds of food and Juice I lost count
-bonded with the 20 other members of my program
-went to Catholic church in Quito...kneeled on marable floor
-learned the bus system with my host family for several hours
-saw griegolandia

Academics
After only 2 days of real class I have to say I think I'm really going to enjoy the "work" part of the program. All the professors "lecture" in Spanish for roughly 90min at a time and it ends up being more of a discussion, as they are more then happy to follow whatever tangents our questions create. They are all very good at explaining complex abstract issues using only pretty simple Spanish and gestured examples. Also in keeping with Ecuadorian culture there is an emphasis on group work! All our presentations and even some of our essays are to be done in groups, which should actually be a lot of fun. Since there are no tests in 2 of the 3 classes (grading is based on participation and essays) the "lectures" have this really casual feel as though... heaven forbid... we are actually learning for fun (or simply because the topics are interesting)?! The Spanish grammar class, which has a final test, seems to be the only class where there'll be regular homework that isn't reading.

My daily schedule
Since time is weird in Ecuador I'm just going to give you an idea of the order of events in my day... yes after a week I do have a schedule.
I wake really early here since my sleep schedule has yet to adapt and depending on the day I shower quickly and join my host-mom in the kitchen for breakfast. When finished I do my own dishes and pack my bag for the day and move fairly quickly to catch my carpool to CIMAS (class). At school we (theoretically) have two 90min classes with a 30min break between followed by an hour and a half lunch. The theoretically is there because we rarely start or end on time for anything, which is fine by me. Lunch is always a grand adventure as we are left to fend for ourselves and we get to explore our corner of Quito a bit. After lunch we have a 2 hour class and then my carpool takes me home, where I usually attempt to start my homework and talk with my host-sisters. When Genma gets home I help with dinner, if allowed, and after dinner we do the dishes. Between dinner and bedtime there tends to be some excursion; to visit my host-aunt down the block or to buy bread. Usually the last couple hours of the night are spent watching tv and since the girls have their own tv in their room and so does Genma, I usually ping back and forth. Onces everyone's in bed I stay up and type things like this, do homework and read my Bible before I try to go to sleep, which is proving difficult as I have yet to adjust to going to bed SO early and my body doesn't understand living on more than 6 hrs sleep.