Saturday, February 26, 2011

Well I've been pretty busy lately! I feel like I haven't really given a very accurate picture of my life in this blog, but ya'll get good glances now and then. Writing isn't really my gift...

It's hard to even remember everything I have done this week. Here's a few: my group from NP cooked a huge dinner for our host families on Tuesday, we went to a parade on Friday for literature class, had a big presentation in my grammar class, went to a magic show last night, spent the day relaxing in Baños de Cuenca (thermal pools in the mountains) today, took the public bus for the first time - only 25 cents!.

Other than that... just doing the usual! This is a fairly typical weekday, although different things are always happening:
Eat a delicious breakfast, sometimes I sit by the river in the morning before class, 40-minute walk to class, 2 hours of class, walk home for a huge lunch with the fam around 1:30, do a lot of "homework"with friends in various cafes in the afternoons, visit museums or other places with the group as part of our program, watch American TV shows with my host sister and our poodle, go to dance class, usually go to a gringo bar for an open mic night on Wednesdays, hang out in the central park when it's nice out, eat lots of ice cream & fresh pan... mmmm. On week nights I usually stay in the city with friends or return to the casa at night to have a small dinner and hang out with my fam and finish homework.

So there's a little snippet of my life in Cuenca! Each day I get a little more comfortable living here - living with my host family, getting around the city, improving my Spanish, not letting taxi drivers overcharge me, dealing with the chicos who whistle at me in the street, learning all the names of the traditional foods and all that kind of stuff.

Que vayan con Dios mis amigos...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A couple of you have asked for my address, so here it is (it's actually my school's address, but that's what we're supposed to use to get mail.) Keep in mind it will take a few weeks to get here. Trust me, I'm not expecting anything as it's probably pretty expensive to mail things internationally, but here it is!

Kellie Rock
Luis Cordero 5-66 y Juan Jaramillo
Cuenca, Ecuador
Casilla 597

Que vayan con Dios mis amores =]

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ecuador is taking on Chevron...

Maybe this isn't news to any of you since this legal case has actually been going on for several years, but it's news to me! Ecuador is currently taking on Chevron, the gigantic oil company, for environmental damages. I'm not an expert on this country or on legal affairs, but I have seen that for it's tiny size, Ecuador is incredibly rich in natural resources - not just oil. The extraction of oil has caused tons of damage to the Amazon rainforest and to the indigenous communities that live here. I won't go into too many details because I don't know if any of you are interested, but if you are, I thought I'd share a couple of interesting articles I read about this case:

"Amazon Pollution: Chevron Hits Back in Row With Ecuador"

"Chevron: Indigenous Ecuadorians Seek Higher Damages"

I know a lot of us have been hearing "save the rainforest" since we were young, but this is actually a real and important issue in the world! The rainforest is an incredibly valuable resource, display of God's creation, and the groups affected are real people with real stories. Just thought I'd share another little piece of South America with you all!

Mi Pasantilla (My internship!)

This week I started my internship! If all goes as planned (and it might not, because that's how Latin America likes to function, which is okay with me) I will be interning at a government-funded school for students ages 0-18 with special needs. Supposedly I will be working with the older groups. I will spend the first month observing, getting to know the kids and staff, letting the kids get used to me. Then for the rest of my time here I will teaching some very basic English to the students and helping wherever needed.

My first day didn't go as planned because when I got there, all the teachers left and I found out they were on strike! Some of the other employees were there as well as another volunteer from my school, so we just played outside with the niños for a couple hours. The second day, they weren't on strike, so I had my first day of observing their classes. Apparently they don't have school on Monday or Tuesday, and I am supposed to call one of the teachers to find out if there is school on Wednesday? So it's not the most organized system but I am very excited to work with the kids and actually feel like I'm starting to connect with the community in Cuenca. So far my trip has been absolutely incredible, but I feel like I have been pretty isolated from any social problems and people in need of a helping hand. I really don't know what to expect, but I am hoping this will be a good challenge and an interesting experience, and hopefully I can give a little help to this school!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Día de San Valentin

Feliz Día de San Valentin! (Happy Valentine's Day!)

It's only 9 am and I am already starting to think Valentine's Day is a big deal here. Right around 1:00 am, I heard loud singing outside our house. I was groggy/sleepy and figured it was just some annoying neighbors so I ignored it for awhile and tried to sleep. Then I remembered what Karen (my older host sister) told me: it's super common for novios to serenade their girlfriends for Valentine's Day! I peeked out my window, and sure enough, there was Jeovanni (my sister's boyfriend) with a guitar and a bunch of other people singing to my sister's window. Could there be a more adorable tradition?! I think this should make it's way to the U.S. ;)

This morning at breakfast, my host mom greeted me with a big hug and said "¡Feliz día Kellie! Hoy es el día de amor y amistad" (Have a happy day! Today is the day of love and friendship.)

So I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine's Day as well. Con amor mis amigos.
"El amor es como la guerra. Fácil empezar, pero muy difícil parar."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Also, I love the food here. So much. It's just so fresh and delicious. I get really excited for my meals like an hour before they even happen. At some point I'll write an entry completely dedicated to describing the wonderful food.
So let's be honest, I am updating this to procrastinate on my homework (some things don't change even when you travel to a new country!) I have to write poetry about memorial day for my literature class... hmmm..

I guess it's been awhile since I've updated! My weeks are always so full I don't even remember what I've done. Here are a few things though.

1. Fiesta de Cumpleaños (Birthday Party)

On Sunday my family brought me to a birthday party for my host mom's uncle, who was turning 75. First of all, when you get there, you greet every single person with a kiss on the cheek and ¿Cómo esta?, the normal Ecuadorian greeting. There were a LOT of people at the party; my host family didn't even know half the people there.

We started with some orange drink (that I think might have had a spot of rum in it?), a delicious lunch, and plenty of chatting. Then the games began. It may sound lame that they had organized games, but it wasn't, it was so fun. Everyone participated - kids, grandpas, cousins, madres, todos. We played a game where you have a balloon tied to your ankle and people try to pop it, a game similar to musical chairs, and a bunch of 3-legged races. Then the dancing began. We all got fun little plastic party masks, whistles, and plastic necklaces. It started with a conga line then turned into just fun dancing and people blowing their plastic whistles to the beat. ¡Chevre! Let me tell you, people really know how to move their hips here!

Then, of course, singing and cake and presents. And more dancing and chatting. A lot of us were just sitting around in a circle talking with some people dancing in the middle. The young kids were off trying to play Carnaval (something you'll hear about later.) There were a few people walking around passing out dulces (candies) and roncitos (a little bit of rum/coke.) After about 6 hours, it was time to say goodbye to everyone with a kiss on the cheek and Que pase bien / Chao. Overall, it was really fun. I'm glad that I am doing a family stay while I'm here so that I get the opportunity to experience things like this!

2. Grammar Class

Surprise! I love my grammar class. Never thought I would say that, but I do because my teacher is really fun. We usually spend half the class just talking about social issues in Ecuador, such as gender relations, adoption, education, and much more. Today we played a typical Ecuadorian kid's game called pare la mano to practice vocab, which is similar to Scattegories. I decided to teach my teacher a couple of kids' games from the U.S.: MASH and telephone pictionary. It was definitely a test of my language skills to attempt to explain how to play both of these games in Spanish, but it was so fun!

3. Ingapirca

Went to see some Inca ruins and a ballin cathedral built into a mountain called The Cathedral of San Francisco. We only got to do part of the tour of Ingapirca before it started hailing and raining on us, but it was still sweet. I actually felt kind of weird walking around the Ina ruins. To me it felt like walking through a ghost town knowing that an entire civilization was there at one point, but no longer exists.

4. Orfanáto (Orphanage)

Today we visited a place (I don't remember the name) that is run by nuns that has three separate areas - an orphanage for girls, a hospice for people with terminal illness, and a nursing home. It was actually a very beautiful location, with a huge garden, lots of art on the walls, very clean and open. I felt very blessed to have the opportunity to see this place but it was difficult seeing some of the older people who were physically suffering and hearing bits and pieces of the reasons why some of the young girls were there. It just made my heart ache and made me want to do something good for the world like those nuns are doing.

Other than that there's been a lot of ice cream eating, going out dancing, homeworking in cafes, walking to and from school (it's a 40-minute walk each way), small grouping with some students at my school, chilling with my host family, trying to figure out life here, and a little bit of touring the city and shopping! Also one of my new hobbies is translating American pop songs into Spanish, but it really annoys my friends here a lot....

Que vayan con Dios mis amigos