365 days of Duolingo

duo streak

Hey you all. This is a short post. Just thought i’d stop in here to document how I’ve made it past 365 days of Duolingo language practice. Having a streak keeps me consistently practicing a language every day, especially the higher it gets. I love Duolingo. I really wish this existed back when I was in high school, but who cares about then. I’m doing it now. Duolingo is the perfect intro to European languages. I’ve finished the Spanish and Esperanto tree, and now I have about 20 bubbles left for French. I don’t stop at Duolingo. I use other resources to move from A2/B1 up(Yabla,podcasts, books, fluencia). Duolingo has been expanding their features as well. I’ve been doing the Duolingo stories to review my Spanish. The stories are short, sweet and engaging. You’ll learn a lot from them. Definitely give it a shot! It’s amazing. *If you are learning Japanese/Korean/Chinese I recommend the Lingodeer app.

Add me on Duolingo if you need an accountability buddy: https://www.duolingo.com/purplewater


Quito, Ecuador (Week 3) 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. 

This week was very short so I am only showing a few pictures. I had the Monday off from school because of a holiday. The coming weekend will be a whole other post.

1/16- Day off. Nothing really significant

1/17- Came into class and received this lovely picture. I was always receiving drawing from my students. They spelled my name ten different ways.


My kids at recess. I was so shocked by the fact that they played Chess for fun. They’re so cute!

After School, the lunch below is soup with fresh Guanabana juice. I think I either payed 50 cents more for the popcorn or it was on the house. Lunch cost $1.50. After lunch, I went to my Spanish lessons. The picture below is during conversation exchange. My teacher would show be a picture and I would have to discuss what was going on. After a while, this method got very boring. I wish we could discuss certain topics that had a lot to be said about it.

After lessons, I had a great conversation with a cool new girl and other volunteers. I discovered that we have the best WiFi situation (at Susanna’s) than 2 other accommodations. They literally had none. I reserved a hostel in Mindo at Casa de Cecilia’s for Friday night because last bus leaving early. Gina gave us all feedback forms. They do this every two weeks. I was very impressed when I realized this. It’s a great way to understand what is going on in the program. And it was a chance for our complaints or opinions, to be heard.  Here was my feedback below:

Dessert. The dessert shop is literally a 3 minute walk from the Volunteer Connection Ecuador office in Quito. Facing the street from the building, make a left and cross the street, then you’ve arrived. I’m just taking advantage of the amazingly cheap desserts. This only cost about 75 cents.



My breakfast. I don’t know where that empanada came from though. I usually bought my own cereal for breakfast every morning. For breakfast, we got bread and jam (which I took for lunch, it’s sooo good) and tea.


My breakfast

I found a library at the school I teach at. I also had a cheese empenada, it was horrendous.

Two days after I gave in my feedback form, Gina got back to me with the option to move out of Susanna’s house. I was actually shocked at the request because I made critical suggestions, I didn’t hate where I lived, I just thought things could be improved. I felt really bad for saying negative things about her.  She is a sweet woman, we all get lazy sometimes. Anyways, yea, I let that be known that Susanna is pretty cool. Plus, she tailored my skirt for me and refused to take my money. I honestly don’t expect her to be a perfect host mother considering the high turn over of volunteers. Plus her house was nice.


Feedback from Gina

So Wednesday afternoon I watched other volunteers take a Salsa and Reggaeton class. I believe it cost them $7 each. I didn’t bother because I can already dance but I enjoyed watching. I was extremely happy that a cool new set of volunteers arrived that week too.

This is the delicious dinner that night that Susana surprised us with. I definitely had seconds.



That evening I finally posted on my blog but realized that there is no longer a travel journal for IVHQ volunteers. Now it seems sketchy. 


I took two pictures on my morning commute to school with Francisco. The ride was usually about 40 minutes. The third picture is from one of my kids (I got these almost every day) and the last was dinner that night.

 Today, no one was looking forward to their language lessons. My other advanced roommates’ situation seems a bit worse than mines. I also received my extra Spanish lessons refund. After lessons, I bought candy for my kids to give out the next day. I went to the super market alone. The streets are so dangerous, I found out a new volunteer got robbed today, so now I’m feeling paranoid.  Battled dilemma of staying at my school longer or not. Went to gym for leg day. Studied Hacer y Decir. Looking to take Verbling classes. Studied my Esperanto.


My students huddled around Monica to view their grades (I think). The picture of the page below is me checking my bus schedule to Mindo the next morning. It’s only 2 hours away thankfully. The food pic was my AMAZING lunch. It cost $2.50/$3 with soup and fresh juice. It was shrimp fried rice. I believe this was my favorite meal I’ve had at that restaurant. I basically go there every day for lunch. It’s a block from the office. Anyways, that afternoon in the office-around closing time- a new volunteer was literally freaking out because she locked her entire backpacking bag in the language room. She was crying and begging Gina to help her and said she’ll pay money to get her stuff out because she was going to Banos that evening. However her tears fell on dry shoulders as the man who had the only key to the language room went home for the day and Gina didn’t want to bother him (but they did call him twice with no answer). I really felt sooo bad for her as she had all of her credit cards, money, clothes, etcetera in there for the weekend. She basically had to rely on her housemates which kind of sucks. It’s a good thing good people exist.


Next post? MINDO!

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?


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.


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!

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.


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. 🙂


Warning! Bring your hiking shoes!


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.


Creepy pic of me 🙂

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