Monday, May 31, 2010

Start of School

This past weekend, our culture teacher took us to a nearby town where they grow these beautiful, exotic orchids, another leather/shoes town, and a town for mining silver and jewelry. The greenhouse was definitely my favorite, and I got some amazing pictures of the strange flowers. The next day, I went to church with my family for the first time, which was a lot of fun. It's very loud, and people are constantly walking in and out of the service with their kids. But I enjoyed the service a lot. Oddly enough, I could understand the pastor pretty well because he's an American and speaks spanish with a pretty strong American accent.

Today, classes and homework started for real. We have four hours of classes from 8:00-12:00, with two hours of discussion/vocabulary practice and two hours of grammar. It went surprisingly fast for a four hour class, and I really enjoyed getting more practical vocabulary. We'll probably be reading some short stories in Spanish in the morning, along with newspapers, magazine articles, and other forms of literature. They were impressed that my classmate and I had already read Cien AƱos de Soledad, one of the foundational texts in Latin American literature.

Tonight, we're going on a tour of the city center with our culture teacher, which should be interesting. The central plaza is very pretty, with lots of trees, fountains, and a beautiful cathedral, definitely a good place to hang out. That's really all I have to tell for now. Chao!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Apparently, there was a volcano... but don't worry

Well, apparently there was a volcano eruption in the north, but I didn't hear much about it until I got on Facebook today! We're fine, about 8 hours from the eruption by bus. The ash cloud might get in the way of flights, but we won't be flying out anytime soon, so all's good in Ecuador.

I've stayed the past couple of nights with my host family, the Delgados. They are absolutely amazing and take great care of me. I have three host siblings, two "sisters" who are 16 and 13, and then one little "brother" who is 2 and a half. It's been great getting to know them and the extended family. The very first night I was with them, they took me to meet a whole bunch of aunts, uncles, and cousins. I'm learning a ton of Spanish through the homestay too.

I'm still adjusting to the food here, though. They eat a lot more meat and eggs down here than I am accustomed to, so I constantly feel stuffed. But their juices are amazing, defintely my favorite part of the cuisine down here so far. The juices are all fresh, made without concentrates or anything added. So far, rasberry (jugo de mora) is my favorite.

Yesterday, we began classes, starting lectures in culture class and taking our placement exam for spanish grammar class. My friend and I are the only ones in level three, so we'll get a lot of one on one attention. Well, more relatives just came to meet me, so I have to run.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Estoy en Cuenca

Well, we flew into Ecuador around 11:00 two nights ago and made it to our hotel. It’s a beautiful old building, with all sorts of hidden corners and twisting hallways. The next day we woke up pretty early, ate a breakfast of bread, eggs, and watermelon juice (that was delicious) before heading out for a day of touring the capital of Ecuador, Quito.

In the city we saw several of the main plazas, I ate a Magnum bar (definitely a highlight), and toured a beautiful church. Then we headed out to the equator line as well as the point of 0’0’0 where we watched all the cool demonstrations about things you can do on the equator. Some members of our group were even able to balance an egg on a nail. Afterward, we headed back, saw several more sites in Quito.

Today, we did some more touring outside of Quito, seeing the gorgeous mountains, valleys, and volcanoes along the way. Later in the afternoon we went to a market in the middle of the mountains and did some bartering for all the goods they sell there. I’m pretty terrible at bartering, I decided. I just give in too easily. But I did get a beautiful scarf, a bag, and a couple of other gifts. We ate lunch in another town that produces leather before heading back to Quito to catch an indigenous ballet. That was very interesting on a cultural level; there was a definite mixture of Spanish and indigenous influences in their costumes and dances.

Right now we’re getting ready for bed because we leave for Cuenca at 7:30 tomorrow morning. It will be a 7-8 hour bus ride through the mountains, and then, at the end, we’ll meet our host families. I’m still pretty tired from traveling, but I’m very excited to be here surrounded by mountains, volcanoes, the Ecuadorian culture, and SPANISH!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Packing = Stress

Well, I got home from school last Thursday evening and I am leaving tomorrow morning at 5:00 in the morning. Kind of stressful to pack everything at school, unpack it here only to pack again for Ecuador. But so far, I've been doing well. Still have a lot of last minute errands to run and random threads to tie up.

I can't believe I'm leaving tomorrow. I really haven't had time to think about it yet, between finals and packing. But I'm very excited. We'll fly out tomorrow from Indy airport, catch a connecting flight in Atlanta and fly into Quito that evening. Thankfully, Ecuador is still in the same time zone as Indiana (not Chicago), so there won't be a huge time adjustment. From there, we'll spend some time exploring the capital before heading to our final destination in Cuenca, Ecuador. There, I'll meet my host family and jump into Spanish classes.

Some things you could pray for are
- safe, smooth travel
- smooth adjustment to the food and culture
- that I would have enough energy for another short semester of classes right after two tough semesters