January 2012 Archives

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.

First impressons

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Hola!!! I've only been in Ecuador 2 days and looks like I'm practically fluent... or not haha. Though the language is getting much easier already I sense it'll be awhile before I start thinking in espanol or anything cool like that.

Just thought I'd try to put some of my first impressions down now as it's clear I will not have a lot of time to do so in the.

The trip here was relatively uneventful, besides being delayed a few hrs in the frozen tundra of the Miami airport (you think I'm being sarcastic but the AC was on hyperdrive or something)! Thankfully I had lots of company, 13 people from my program and a Quito native named Andra and her 18mo son Juan. The little guy kept us all endless entertained as we all frantically tried to finish the course readings. In a strange scenario I also ended up being seatmates with a former MSID student who was returning after 3yrs to work with a grad student. She was able to give me lots of helpful advice about the program and Quito, despite us having just boarded the 6AM flight from Minneapolis to Miami.

While I only met my host family yesterday I like them a lot. Genma, my host mom, is very friendly and has hosted several students before me. Her and her twin daughters Paulita and Camila (usually just Mila) are very patient with me and seem happy to teach me new words and correct my horrible grammar. They also have little white dog named Victoria or Vicky. We live in what I can best describe as a gated community, though Everything in Quito is fenced or walled in, where several apartment and duplex complexs surround a central parking lot and tennis court/play area for kids. There are 2 guards, who patrol (all the time?). This is what tipped me off that my family is definitely upper class, though since Genma works at some sort of travel agency I get the feeling they are not comfortably upper class, but in the process of climbing. Thus they host students like me and it seems to be working as the girls attend a private catholic school and they live in a place that requires 4 keys to enter. We live right on la Ave 6 de Deciembre and this means there is traffic all time (a fun change from the Chippewa or Morris).

General things about Ecuador- when greeting those you are familiar with it is expected that you touch cheeks and make a kissing noise. The drivers here yield to no one and there is a place called Griegolanda, where all griegos (white people) are expected to go at least once. Altitude takes adjusting to, as I discovered after 20min of soccer. While on health issues, I also got sunburned during that soccer game, so sunscreen is going in my purse now. The tap water is not safe to drink, but my family has a charming filter in the shape of an apple (I don't understand how apples and clean water go together) and I can brush my teeth in it. So far the food here is very good in taste and health, with lots of soup and fruit. The most common noise in Quito is car alarms and I don´t think it´s because they are all being broken into as I hear them everywhere! Finally, time moves MUCH slower here. Which is good, as soooo many things fit in each day, but I'm still adjusting... accidently said good night to my family at 9pm tonight because it felt later (normal bedtime is 9:30 or 10). Rather embarrassing as by the time I checked my watch it was too late to undo the ritual I had completed, but that's why I have time to write this post.
Sorry this is so long, but I think I should put stuff down now while I have the drive and the time.

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Off to Ecuador!!!
Fast Facts:

Who- Maddie Gehrig- Chippewa Falls resident, current undergrad at UM Morris, and now... World Traveler!!!

Where- I'm off to study abroad in Quito, Ecuador!

When- I leave Jan 16 and return to May 5

What- I'll be spending the first part of the semester (8 weeks) in Quito taking classes through my program, MSID (Minnesota Studies in International Development) then I'll spend the rest of my time working in an (unknown) internship position. I'll also be staying with (possibly) 2 host families over the semester.

So since I don't fly out for 7 hrs I'm going to take the time to fill you in on some thing people have been continuously asking me-
What do you bring to Ecuador?
Clothes
-2 pairs of jeans
- pair of dress pants
-2 skirts
-sun dress
-sweat pants
-10 pairs of socks
-long sleeve shirt
-5 tshirts (1 for running)
-3 tank tops
-wind jacket
-rain jacket
-3 sweat shirts
-pair of sandals
-tennis shoes
-flats
-glasses
-shorts
And I promise I'm bringing underwear, but exact numbers would just be too much information.

Other
-mac ibook (2005) w/ charger
-mini alarm clock
-batteries
-head lamp
-water bottle
- leatherman
-sun screen
-wet wipes
-lotion
-imodium
-ibuprofen
-malaria pills
-other obvious toiletries that I don't need to list
(Another reason I made this list was for my own use so I can compare what I bring back and actually use. And hopefully it'll be of use to others who venture off to similar places)

I'm off to bed now. I fly out at 6:05AM and should reach Quito by 7:30PM (eastern time). Hopefully I'll be able to keep up with this blog to fill you all in on the adventures I have.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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