Week 2 Quito,Ecuador (IVHQ)

*Disclaimer: I’m posting these all late, but I took notes and videos of almost every day. Take this with 90% accuracy. Also, as for my complaints, these notes are in real time. If I were to give an overall summary I would not sound so whiny. I’m know I sound SUPER petty. Believe me. What can I say? It’s my daily journal.

*I’ve decided to treat you all with some videos of my time in Ecuador that I wasn’t planning to add until I revived my YouTube channel in several months. The videos in this post can only be accessed here.

Room tour in Quito at Susanna’s home stay (IVHQ)

Monday 1/9– Got to tour the main city since orientation was canceled last week on a Monday. It was really cool. We saw a parade near La Ronda. Two of my suite-mates went to Banos for the weekend with some other volunteers. One came back on crutches because she got her ankle sprained literally within five minutes of getting off the bus. Unfortunately, the entire weekend she was stuck with a sprained ankle in a bed bug-infested hostel room. Yep, you read that right. I’ve got the pictures too. There were at least three volunteers who got bitten but hers was the worst as she spent all her time in the hostel. They gave her a $30 refund, medicine and said they were gonna “shut down” for the week. The name of the hostel is Hostal Transilvania. According to my suite-mate, Gina-the program coordinator- did not understand what she was saying with the bed bugs and the sprained ankle so there was no immediate assistance for her-at first- when she returned to Quito. Eventually, they assisted her and made sure she washed everything she owned. She hopped everywhere for the next week. It sucks as she is only staying in Ecuador for 2 weeks and can’t go back to volunteer with the street children program. My other house mate doesn’t like her Spanish teacher as well, she is also at upper-intermediate Spanish and says her professor only focuses on grammer (and her cellphone).  I felt a little bored in my Spanish lessons today. Wondering what i’m gonna do for the next 7 weeks. So many people are here for only a few weeks. So far I am here the longest. No good meetup groups in Quito except tech ones. Drinks here are warm sometimes. Thinking of doing street children program once a week?

IMG_0639

Bed bug bites from hostel.

Tuesday(1/10)– At school, the principal and another teacher took me out of my main class to take pictures with kids I’ve never seen before. Spanish lessons room is so loud it’s hard to listen but nothing is done about it even when I complained. There’s really no where else to go as all tutors and students are in the same room. My Spanish lessons have been improving a lot, we talked about all the food we wanted to eat. I believe it improved because I asked to reduce my hours. So far, this program feels like a factory , no one wants to give real attention to a situation because the situation will leave in a week or two. I went to the gym a block from the program office, it only costs 50 cents a day 🙂 It’s a really cool spot!

The gym!

Wed(1/11)– For breakfast, the host mom baffled my five housemates and I when we realized she used the microwave to heat water for our tea. I tried to fill my bottle with the giant bottled water all home-stay mothers are supposed to provide but was quickly halted and told that we could only have water at dinner -_-. Today at school the kids were all up in my hair asking if I use Vaseline in it lol. They’re so cute! One of them actually told me they used it in their hair. This left me so confused because this little girl literally has straight hair. They also asked if Yan (who is Chinese) and I are sisters…. My Spanish teacher is asking me what to talk about for class. He is the teacher. After I talk about my day what else can I say en Espanol? Remember, this class is an hour and a half. After halfway through he could not conversate (fake word). This week i’m frustrated that no one writes about the negatives on this program online or everything that goes on, we’ve reached the point where we (my housemates and I) are questioning if our host mom is getting paid enough to feed us. I will come in and state, however, that every house has its goods and bads. I really like our house. Also, the night before I requested a dish I saw online and she made it 🙂 Recent thoughts: compared to my Cuban home-stay mom i’d score her a 5/10 but study-abroad is much different than this program. She has to get acquainted with a new kid every week. 

Thursday (1/12)–  I was, unfortunately, 10 minutes late to my placement because I woke up with a stomach ache. Another teacher made tea for me. It must have been a “travel-bug” another housemate of mine is also sick. This morning, I was happy to notice Susanna normally boils hot water on the stove (yes I’m anal about that, I do not like microwaves) unless one of us is in the kitchen, so far two people have asked for bigger portions and better cleaning. Today I noticed that the Spanish lessons are unnecessarily too long and not great for advanced students. Students can’t even stay focused in an hour language lesson, let alone an additional 30 minutes. I wanted to stop at 12 lessons but I felt sorry for my professor. I’m from the US and privileged and I feel if I reduce my classes i’ll basically be robbing him.

Friday (1/13)– After my class assisting with the 8th graders, my wonderful amazing teacher(is that what I call her? I’m her assistant) pulled me aside and wrote the words: “bitch” and “beach” and asked me to pronounce the difference. I happily taught her. It honestly took me a good minute to curse on the board though. I’m such a prude, I skip curse words even when i’m reading a book. I freaking love this school. The kids are amazing, they clap every time I read allowed in English like i’m getting an Oscar or something. Even the 7th grader. Yan left and all the kids were crying. She left a real impact in her two weeks (lol emoji). I found out next week school will be closed, I told Gina but she wasn’t aware. My Spanish teacher was 11 minutes late and insisted that we focus on grammer lessons because he can’t work with advanced students. Right when I thought things were getting better we fall back. I asked him if it’d be best if I end at only 12 hours in total of teaching. I felt bad because I initially paid for 30 but once I realized that my teacher was only experienced with beginner level students I wondered if I should lower it. All but one of my housemates stopped going to their Spanish lessons. He told me we should work more together (he wants the $$$) but I wish I listened to my spirit and didn’t feel bad for him. I decided on 20 hours of lessons. Worst private lessons ever you all are better off with Verbling (I ordered 5 Verbling lessons online because my teacher only wanted to teach grammer). I would not recommend him if you are an advanced student. Advanced students will be bored out of their minds. He taught me things I already knew and then he’d say, “you don’t need lessons…. -_-” like I said, my conversation is not fluent enough. I beg all future IVHQ volunteers not to pay for more than 12 lessons until after a week with your teacher. That way you can experience what it’s like. If you’re a newbie you’ll be better off but even the newbs in my house stopped going to them. It’s not fun. I was looking forward to this. 

Saturday (1/14): I searched online for chill places to hang out, meet new people and get some work done. I took the bus to the meetup by myself. It was kind of nerve wracking. Getting on and off the bus was quite interesting. It’s really cheap, for foreigners, like less than 25 cents. I made my way to the meetup by using Google Maps and asking random people. The meetup I went to was at a burger joint in a lovely, hipster neighborhood of Quito. It was the most annoying meetup of my life. Never again. It was a language exchange, but from the moment I got there (unfortunately early) the two guys in attendance would not let me breath. I was so hungry, attempting to eat my burger and I couldn’t even take a bite until another half hour because more people came. The moment they turned their heads I ditched to the next table and managed to get a few bites before we began. They just wanted to practice their English on me. You literally had to have been there to see the craziness of it all. They ignored alllllll social IQ signs.

Sunday (1/15): This weekend was a chill one. I went to a church about a 15-20 minute walk from my homestay. It is called Iglesia Santisima Trinidad. It was an okay experience, nothing special unfortunately. Not really memorable as no one talked to me. In Japan and Cuba, I had better feedback. It was nice to see the park nearby with people  playing football/soccer. For lunch, I was really excited to try the Chinese food, I heard it was decent. Maybe, I ordered the lamest thing on the menu but I literally could not finish the meal. Ugh, it was not good at all. I also went to the grocery store. Look at the price of Snickers. $10! Some things that we have in the states for cheap are really expensive here, especially electronics.

IMG_0732

Here is the food my host mother fed us this weeks. I requested the first one. We normally get plain rice and beef.

Thanks for reading this post and bearing with me. The next one will be uplifting I promise. I’m trying to get the rest of these Ecuador posts out before the new year. I’m hoping to launch my Youtube one i’m finish posting this trip. I kept a weekly vlog of my time there. The next blog post will have one of my vlogs. See you soon!

Advertisements

2 Months to learn French

Hey guys, sorry I haven’t been uploading consistently, i’m preparing for job interviews and have only been updating on my tech blog. That has taken 90% of my free time. As a result I need to get back on the language grind and posting my travels. I am taking the B1 French fluency exam in December. That means I have 2 months to get to a B1 level of French in reading, listening, writing and speaking. I took 2 semesters of French in college 4 years ago. However, that has been extremely insignificant being that I only passed because I crammed the night before exams. I literally new like 10 max French words before I started French about 2 months ago. I have not been studying French consistently because of my studies and now I have to rush. I’m planning on applying to teach in France.

*I should also note that I am basically fluent in Spanish(B2/C1), as I’ve been studying it intensely for the last 3 years. And I am B2 in Esperanto. This has aided me French journey a lot.

How i’m studying

Duolingo– I’m not even halfway through the tree yet and i’m trying to finish it by the end of the month. Not only do I need to finish it but I also have to go back and redo past lessons for review. I currently have a 200+ day Duolingo streak. You should follow me: https://www.duolingo.com/purplewater

Lingvist– I had used this for about 2 weeks before I got distracted by my other studies. It is amazing and definitely a great compliment to Duolingo. I find it very engaging.

Yabla – I won’t pay for this until November but I’ve used it for Spanish. It’s amazing. Yabla improves your listening comprehension and teaches new vocab. It’s hands down my fave in terms of entertainment.

Pimsleur French – This is to help with my pronunciation. I have several of the discs from years ago that I never got to utilize. It’s perfect for practicing pronunciation.

Meetups/Tandem – I’m from NYC. There are tons of language exchange meet ups here. I’ve been attending meetups since 2011. The Tandem app is also great for language exchanges with French speakers.

Well there you have it. I pray I am able to pass that exam easily despite my busy schedule. I’ll check back in every 2 weeks. I also made a video a while ago so that I could compare the little French i’m starting with to the results after my exam. Stay tuned.

 

Quilotoa, Ecuador Day Trip

Quilotoa in one word: Breath-taking

Sunday Jan 8th.

So my friend Yan and I had our tripped booked by Gina on the Friday of our first week in Ecuador. I forgot the price but it was cheaper than 40 dollars. We took a taxi that Sunday at 6:15 a.m. We were a little tripped by the price. When we got in the taxi the lady said it was 7 dollars flat but there was no meter. Usually from our place to la Foch it would be $5 (only a 2 dollar difference but still). It wasn’t even labeled as a taxi. The next week Gina explained that no we were not being scammed, we were in a private taxi with a set destination. So ten minutes after leaving our dorms, we arrive to the Magic Bean where the tour buses pick us up from. We were so tired and hungry but there was literally only one restaurant in the entire Foch that was open. If i’m not mistaken I think the place was called “Foch Yea” and they had the audacity to charge eight dollars for a buffet that consisted of fruits and bread. -_- Nope, no thank you.

Around 7 a.m. the bus arrived, but they did not leave until thirty minutes later as they were waiting for lost/late people. On the bus, I met a woman from Japan and another from Holland. The Japanese woman was four months into a six month trip of travelling the world. Apparently, her husband (to be) hates travel. However, she loves it. She decided to quit her job and take this trip to get travel “out of her system” before she had to settle down. I found this very sad.

The trip was about 3-4 hours but with stops. First we stopped at an indigenous market where everyone in our van went to go buy exotic fruits and take in the array of animals. My friend Yan and I went with Omar (the handsome, charismatic tour guide) to go eat breakfast. The breakfast, although local, wasn’t very good to me. If seemed strange drinking warm juice and eating rice with a fried egg on top for breakfast. At some point on my way to the van I seemed to have stepped in a mountain pile of poop. I had to scrape it off with a stick, beat my shoe against the pavement, and then wash it off.

IMG_1697

Back in the van we took in the magnificent Cuhilee (kichvas?) indiginous women wearing high heels. I asked if there was a special occasion but was told that no, this is daily uniform. Another hour on the bus and Omar is talking, telling us about the cultures of Ecuador, taking a fruit from each person that bought something at the market, and explaining what it was. As we got closer and closer to Quilotoa, we could feel the air pressure from the high altitudes. Some parts along the way reminded me of Cienfuegos, Cuba. Once we reached the loop the landscapes were insanely beautiful. So much lush green everywhere. Omar pointed out hidden huts that some indigenous farmers lived in. You could barely even see their entrance, they were so small, built into the mountain.

So anyways we arrive. We walk towards the entrance, and my breath is taken away. We entered through some cave looking thing and I just was not even prepared for the view I would be seeing. Quilotoa was surreal. The view was insane. Words cannot express. I believe this was the most beautiful view I have ever witnessed in my life. It was almost like a motion picture. Yan and I took a ton of photos, then began to make the trek down to the lake where she could canoe.

*I took a lot of photos that day. Please bear them all thanks. 🙂

IMG_0550

Warning! Bring your hiking shoes!

IMG_0570

My feet were not prepared for this. There was mostly a dirt road with many rocks leading down to the water. That and dodging all of the tired looking horses who had humans on their backs on their way up the mountain. I will say that I felt very very sad for these horses. I tried to make some people feel bad by saying out loud to my friend how strained they looked. I of course was a hypocrite because by the time we got down the hill….there was no way we wanted to walk back up again. Plus we only had 20 minutes before everyone met at the van and it took us an hour to even get down the hill. So Yan canoed in the beautiful broken-in volcano and I watched. It only cost $3 to canoe but I could not swim and there was nothing shallow about that lake. I’m almost positive it had no bottom. After we chose our horses back up the hill. We felt very conflicted but comfort and ‘the experience’ won out. The ride was only $10 dollars and ‘the experience’ was so freaking cool and scary at the same time. Yan is convinced that the main reason I didn’t want to ride the horses was because I was scared of them.

So we got back to the bus- late. Everyone, I assume, was especially annoyed with me because I arrived last to the bus – I went to the bathroom. I should have apologized profusely to everyone but my pride and shame got the best of me so I quietly took my seat and pretended to be bothered.

Next we had lunch, which was terrible, at a near bye restaurant (it came with the tour). After that we stopped at another beautiful mountain cliff thingy and took pictures there. I tried my best to to be brave while taking photos on the cliff. Unfortunately, they all came out lame because I wasn’t gonna risk my life to go to the edge and have the wind push me off.  Finally, we made our final stop before heading home- the indigenous huts. Skinny looking dogs went out to greet us and some people in our group had brought candy bags for the kids.

On hour way up the mountain earlier in the day Omar had told us that many of the indigenous people in the mountains slept in a room full of “hundreds” of guinea pigs (and other animals) surrounding them to keep them warm, since it was so cold up there.

Little did I know that this was legit. I just did not really conceive the thought. As I walked up to the huts I saw cages but no, as I made my way into the hut….I quickly made my way back out. I literally saw guinea pigs (let’s just call them rats shall we?) in the entrance of the hut…just chillin. Nope, I took pics of my surrounding and got back into the van with the other non-risk takers. Thanks to the big heart of a stranger, I got actual pictures of inside the hut.

So Yan and I get back to la Foch around 6:30/7 p.m. We are tired and hungry, so we walk to a restaurant called “Achiote” that Omar had recommended. According to him, this was more authentic Ecuadorian food than “Mama Clorinda”.

Thirty minutes in, recovering from their horrendously bad service, my “Locro de Papas” arrives. Hands down the greatest soup of all time. It was amazing and has forever changed my life. Rich, creamy goodness in every cheesy avocado scoop. You have got to go there and try it! Be careful. Locro de papas is not made equal across Ecuador. You get what you pay for. If you’re spending $3 expect watery soup with some potatoes in it. If you’re spending upwards of that (especially in a tourist restaurant) you should be getting good quality. My soup only cost about $7. Changed my life.

Locro de papas

Best soup ever

So there you have it. My trip to Quilotoa. I strongly recommend that if you are visiting Ecuador you do not miss this opportunity. The company Gina booked me through was called Ecosportour. Definitely tell Omar I said hi. He’s just so cool. Great guy.

IMG_0610

Creepy pic of me 🙂

Sorry I write so much 😦 I have a weakness for details.

 

Week 1 in Quito, Ecuador

*Disclaimer: This post has been documented in real time. How I felt in those moments on those specific days. These incidents occurred 2 months previously. My feelings and opinions may have changed and previous issues may have been resolved. I may even have been misinformed of specific occurrences. However, I still believe it to be beneficial to document my progression of experiences and how I’ve evolved.

*I am volunteering in Quito, Ecuador for 2 months with IVHQ’s Volunteer Connection Ecuador.

January 3, 2017

So I arrived last night to my “homestay” at around 12 a.m. The lights in Quito are so beautiful at night time. It was about a 30 minute taxi ride to my homestay. My driver was reckless though. He had me freaking out because he was reading the navigation from his phone 80% of the time without looking at the street. I woke up to 5 volunteers on my floor in total and realized I got the worst room (in comparison). I plan on switching into another room within the next two weeks when two girls leave. So far everyone here is pretty cool. People seem to be around my age-23- and there is one guy who is much older and pretty chill. Went to orientation, it was super long but very informative. I met two other girls teaching English. They gave us 6 schools to choose from. I also bought 30 Spanish lessons. This is what I am looking forward to much. I honestly can’t wait! Quito is more modern than I expected, kind of reminds me of a fusion between Cuba and Japan. Maybe the fact that I’m from NYC and everything here looks smaller (like japan), but also feels Cuban. It’s so weird going into stores and seeing excess after Cuba. The malls are huge. I had a meal with three other volunteers and the price was only $3 including soup, pineapple, fresh juice, chicken, rice, veggies. We also stopped by the gym that is also close to the office and it costs only $2 daily with an initial $5 sign up fee. The host families don’t really know much about us. Breakfast was sad. It was only bread, jam, fruit, milk and tea. We were all pretty disappointed.

*Notes

January 4, 2017

Had a freaking freezing shower that traumatized me.

Super cold showers! I don’t believe that I will be showering much while I’m here. There is literally no hot water. When my house mates were discussing this fact, I just thought they were over-exaggerating but NO- the water is BRIC, I literally only washed my private parts. No- this cannot stand. So earlier in the day I arrived at the center to get dropped to school. I spoke in Spanish-with Francisco my driver- the entire ride. The town was rural and the kids spoke good English and loved me being there. They were so enthused to learn. After only about 4 hours of work. My housemate Yan and I had “Platano con Queso”. I was so excited to try it because I had read it on a list of “Top 10 things to eat in Ecuador.” It was trash though. The woman I bought it from had the platanos out all day. They were basically cold and hard, with no sweetness at all. When she put cheese on it (the cheese tasted sour by the way), it didn’t even melt (like the pictures online 😦 ). After, I had my first Spanish lesson, which was really boring but we did talk a little. I want more conversation but I am still not sure if I like my professor. After my lessons I had Tres Leches which only cost a $1.50, then went to the gym. The second I got outside after the gym it was pouring. Did I mention that it is raining season and Quito has bipolar weather?Not only was it pouring but I got lost and panicked. I almost stopped at the police station for help. When I got home I looked for meetups in Quito to attend but there didn’t seem to be that many. Two other girls in my house are planning to go to Banos for the weekend but I’m not sure if I am ready to go anywhere yet. I’d like to explore Quito more. The older guy in my house got sick from food poisoning and he had vaccinations. Now this is giving me Cuba flashbacks because I made sure to get vaccinations this time as well.

First Day Volunteering

Yan and I

January 5,2017

The day felt like less work. I had a Spanish lesson that was ok and reduced my hours to 20. Later I read Alexinwanderland’s  negative review of Quito which made me feel…a little sad. I had also read another popular blog post about hating Quito before I even arrived. But it was still the cheaper option, a smaller country and I knew someone who loved it so I trusted my gut. I guess I’m just feeling FOMO for not choosing the more popular Peru or Columbia. So far nothing really special about Quito. Now I’m just second guessing if I should have stuck with Peru, but I really like the people I’m with although the food is just okay. So anyways, I spent the night creating a presentation about New York for my class the next day. The teacher I work with, Monica, recommended I do one.

*Alex also had a very positive review about Mindo, Ecuador, which excited me a lot to take a visit.

January 6,2017

My presentation went amazing. I put a lot of work into it and my students loved it. I showed it to almost every class I went into. The presentation showed life in NYC, my family, friends, etc. The kids went crazy when I showed them the food options in New York. The literally gasped at every picture. When they saw Central Park they shouted out, “Madagascar!” They’re so cute! Plus they gave me candy. At one point I sat in the PowerPoint class, and Monica (the teacher) used my presentation as inspiration for them to learn PowerPoint. The third day of Spanish lessons was much more conversational(I mentioned the lack of conversation to Gina’s assistant as to why I lowered my hours). After lessons, Yan and I were deciding if we should choose Quilotoa or Cotopaxi mountain. In my heart I was leaning towards Quilotoa because Cotopaxi is super cold, but Yan is only here for two weeks so I let her decide. We chose Quilotoa – YES! And booked through Gina. That night (Friday), Yan and I took a taxi to la Mariscal to meet up with two other girls. We had difficulty finding them and when we all met up we were all a little annoyed with each other. There was confusion as a result of them not having wifi, and us thinking they stood us up when in reality they were standing outside waiting for us but we never saw them. We ate at Mama Clorinda which had good reviews online. I got to retry actual ‘delicious’ Platano con Queso which was around $3 (the street one was 60 cents). I loved it. After that, all four of us split one Cuy (for $33.60). This is literally one of the main reason I came to this country. I saw so many videos on Youtube and it looked so delicious. The taste was very interesting however. It was salty with hard skin but also very greasy. I’d definitely try it again but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it. After Mama Clorinda, the girls and I went to the square to chill. I absolutely love the vibe of La Foch. It’s so cool. They had drinks and I ordered a dessert called platano con dulce y helado. It was so freaking delicious! Honestly though, the highlight of the night was one of the other girls (or should I say woman as she is a high school counselor)  was so fascinating. She is one of the most independent people I have ever met. How can someone be so confident? Seriously, goals. This is why I travel, to meet inspiring people like her. 

January 7, 2017

Saturday: Took the day off, went to gym, the day was so hot then got cold by 4p.m. I went into a small family looking restaurant,  the guy asked where I was  from. Unfortunately, I didn’t seem ‘Ecuadorian’, this is very disappointing as I was hoping to blend in. I told him I was from New York and his energy changed. The meal was only 2 dollars, but it wasn’t very good and the place just felt dirty. Another guy in the place kept staring at me. I think he overheard me telling the other man where I was from.

Why I am traveling to Ecuador

In several days I  will be traveling to Quito, Ecuador to stay for several weeks. During my time there I will be volunteering teaching English through a very popular organization. I am super excited to be able to have this travel opportunity. I could have chosen anywhere, but I chose here. This is why:

  1. Ecuador is Cheap- I would have preferred to travel to Peru but the flight there and other expenses would have cost me an extra 2k. Ecuador, however, is extremely cheap compared to many of the other options I was looking at.
  2. Reach Spanish fluency- this is the main reason I am even traveling to Latin America. I was considering backpacking Thailand this time around but I have been trying to be fluent in Spanish for over a year and a half now (intensively), so this would be the perfect opportunity to be more conversationally fluent. I am at B2 level in Spanish and some people would say that I am “basically fluent”. However I still have to think a lot about how I translate some words. I want Spanish to roll off of my tongue naturally. I am sort of there but not really. I can still put ‘fluent’ on my resume without it being a lie though. They just have to talk to me slowly.
  3. Delay Adult-hood a little longer- I graduated university several months ago. I’d like to travel a bit more before I settle in my first “real job”. After this trip, I am most likely not traveling (abroad) for at least another year.
  4. Personal growth sweet spot- Travel has been one most impactful things that I have done in terms of self-growth since my first study abroad in Japan. Travel makes me super vulnerable and very aware of the person I am. I have experienced all types of emotions abroad. I saw parts of me that I didn’t like and need to work on and I also realized that really and truly the world does not revolve around me. Not vibing with everyone or not having everyone instantly want to be my friend has been a major eye opener. I am not trying to be everybody’s friend but from this experience I have learned so much. Solitude has brought me much wisdom and each trip that I take feels like a personal asset has brought more value to my life.
  5. IVHQ one on one Spanish lessons– I believe out of all the affordable countries, Ecuador was the only one with one on one language lessons for super cheap.
  6. Cuy- Ecuador’s national dish, the Guinea pig. I’m super hype to try this.

Viaje conmigo!