Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Day

So, obviously we slept through most of Christmas day since we didn't get home until around 6:30am. And, for the rest of the day, we just spent it together. No gifts or anything, just time together. We woke up around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and I made us French toast. We didn't have any syrup, so we just used condensed milk. It was delicious!!! Then, we watched 3 House episodes together. I had really wanted to go look at lights the night before, but we didn't have time. So, around 7pm, we went for a walk around the neighborhood. It felt like we were in Florida, especially with all the palm trees in the neighborhood. I was so happy to take pictures finally in our neighborhood. I've wanted some pictures of the houses here because they are absolutely gorgeous! And, I have laughed at how many people have decorated with snowmen when Frosty would definitely have melted already! After our little walk, we came back and watched about 3 more movies before going to bed. It was a completely uneventful yet absolutely wonderful day!!

Christmas in Ecuador

So, my first Christmas in's the play by play.

First, we went to Christmas Eve Mass. They actually had a mass here in our neighborhood outside at the park that's right on the river. It was so nice and so peaceful. Obviously, it was a little difficult for me as I couldn't understand everything that was being said and because I don't know all of the Catholic traditions, but it still felt right to be at a Christmas Eve church service.

Then, we went over to our landlord's house and visited for a while. They really are wonderful people. We got to meet all of their family, I had some hot chocolate, and Senor Noritz gave us a really nice book of Guayaquil as a gift. I had taken them a plate of treats that had Rice Krispie treats, ritz crackers with peanut butter dipped in chocolate, and Oreos, and everyone loved them! :o) Elizabeth and I took lots of pictures together because she likes to do so, too. Lots of fun!

Finally, we ended up at Wilson's brother David's house. Here, people celebrate Christmas more like New Year's. We didn't get to David's house until around 11pm and didn't eat dinner until around 12:30am! At midnight, everyone stopped and toasted and hugged each other saying Feliz Navidad. There was talking, eating, drinking, laughing, dancing, and singing. They gave out a gift to each child that was there, and we also had gifts for Wilson's dad. And we partied until we saw the sunrise around 6 in the morning. (I was definitely ready to go home by then!)

On the way home, I must admit I started crying a good bit. I was tired and that made the homesickness a little worse, I'm sure. As my older brother told me, change sucks sometimes, and it's hard when other people don't do Christmas the "right" way like your family always did it. But, regardless of how you do Christmas, the important thing is that you do so with your spouse. (Who knew Bryan Trice had such good brotherly advice, right?!) :o) But it's true. I certainly miss being with my family, and I have been so spoiled at holidays because we never had to share with Wilson's family like most couples do. I always got to be with my family, and now it's Wilson's turn. Christmas with family is what's most important, and we had that here in Ecuador. And, my mom has already reassured me that we'll be having Christmas again in February when I visit, so I'll just get the best of both worlds this year! Feliz Navidad!!!!

American Christmas Party

My friend Hannah, who teaches primary at Colegio Americano, decided to host a Christmas party at her house for the Americans on the 19th. She asked us to each bring something that reminded us of Christmas back home, and she would provide the turkey. I brought a jello salad because I don't have an oven and couldn't find ingredients for many of the things I would normally cook. We also stopped at a bakery and picked up some fresh bread--delicious!! Everything was so nice! We had mashed potatoes, broccoli salad, deviled eggs, and everything! And it was a nice group as several of the Americans there had Ecuadorian spouses. We had a really good time together.

We also did a white elephant gift exchange. We were supposed to just take something random we had at our house and wrap it up. Well, we haven't been here very long, so we haven't accumulated too much that we don't actually need. I did have an extra copy of a SAT vocabulary cartoons book, so I brought it. Unfortunately, everyone else brought nice presents like photo albums and lotion and Christmas decorations. Poor Hannah's husband! He got my gift. He's Ecuadorian as well and was a little distraught that he only got a book of English vocabulary. Ha! Oh well. We still had fun all the same! We also decided that maybe in the future we could just have get togethers for game nights. Yay!

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

One of the things I've really liked about the holiday season here is that nativity scenes are much more popular than Santas or snowmen or whatever (although you do still see a lot of that, too). Because of Ecuador's Catholic background, nativity scenes are everywhere! And it's been so interesting to see all the different kinds. Even the malls focus more on the nativity than on the secular aspects. For example, at one mall, the Santa area is off to the side and is much less the focus than the huge nativity scene in the middle. And one shopping center had a moving nativity scene where the characters and the animals would rotate their heads and arms and all. Really cool! I wish I could have taken more photos, but I couldn't always take my camera with me. Hopefully, next year I'll get more photos, but here are a few that I did get.

Holiday Work Party

The school had their annual Christmas party for the faculty after the students left on the 23rd. We had been told the party would be from 1:30-7, and I thought that there was no way I would want to be at a work party for that long. But boy was I wrong!!! I stayed until the very end and was even a little sad that it was over! Ha!

This year's party actually had a theme--80's! Ha! But, really, they didn't actually do that much with the theme other than decorate really cute and play some great music at the very beginning! They told us that we could dress as our favorite 80's person, but I decided I still didn't know everyone well enough to come as my best Cyndi Lauper impersonation. (I also don't really have anything but my "normal" clothes here in Ecuador--all my costumey stuff is still back in the States!) There were a few people who may have been dressed up, but they may also have just been dressed in their own tacky way. It's sometimes hard to tell down here. :o)

But, they had food and all (which was okay), and then they started the dancing! About 85% of the staff was up dancing, and it was so much fun! We danced to merengue, salsa, reggaeton, and then some good older stuff like YMCA, In the Navy, and of course some Michael Jackson. :o) They also had a karaoke contest which was absolutely hilarious! And they gave away door prizes throughout the night. The last prize was a really nice flat screen tv, and it was nice because one of the guys on the custodial staff got it and was really excited!

At the end of the night, I was a little concerned about how I was going to get home because Wilson was at work and the taxi company wasn't answering my call. But, then, one of the Ecuadorian teachers I'm friends with came and found me to see if I was riding on the school bus or not. Yay! After the party, the teacher school bus took us home!!!! Ha! Such good times indeed! :o)

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful...

But not in the same way! It is so stinkin hot down here!!!! December, January, and February are the hottest months here in Ecuador, and I have sure felt it! And so it just didn't feel like Christmas! I was wearing shorts and flip flops, I wasn't buying gifts for anyone, and I wasn't eating lots of Christmas goodies. And, I wasn't able to be around all of my family. But, Wilson and I tried to make the most of the weather. We went in our summer clothes and took pictures at the mall. The first time we went, Santa was on break, and we didn't have time to wait for him to return. But, we went back again on Christmas Eve, and we were able to get our photo with Santa! When we were in line, I looked at Wilson and just started laughing. I told him that I guess one good thing about being in Ecuador is that I can get him to do things he would never do in the States--he would certainly NEVER have gone to the mall for a photo with Santa with me before! Ha! But, it was fun, and we enjoyed our little photo shoots. Good memories for the future!

My Students

Although there are a lot of things I don't really like about my school, teaching is still enjoyable because of the kids. Of course they frustrate me and make me angry at times, which just means they're normal 10th grade students. They were pretty unwilling to work before Christmas, but that's just because it's the end of the year for them. They will come back for a week of review and end of year stuff in January, and then they start their finals. (which means I'm almost done, too!) :o)

We had school until the 23rd, so they had a few Christmas activities for the kids. On the 22nd, the school hosted a neighboring elementary school that's in one of the poorer neighborhoods. They had games and food and presents for the kids. It was really pretty cool! And, on the 23rd, the kids just hung out basically and then had a sort of Christmas presentation. A few of the other American teachers and I have noticed that every school presentation turns into a form of a talent show, and this one was no different. They had hip hop routines and student band performances and everything. Again, completely unorganized, but the kids seemed to be happy!

Cheerleading Competition

So, the school asked me to be a judge for the competition they were hosting. They were flying in 2 other girls from Texas, but they wanted me to help out as well. The talent overall is pretty much equal to teams in the US; the only really noticeable difference is that everything here is so unorganized. Over half the teams that were supposed to come didn't even show up because they didn't have enough girls show up that morning. And many of the routines reflect that same lack of organization.

But at least no one tried to hurt us! Last year, there were a lot of angry parents and they were throwing watermelons and stuff at the judges. Luckily, they took us inside to the director's office until all the parents and coaches left. So, overall I really enjoyed it!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Feliz Dia de Pavo!

I was not expecting Thanksgiving to be that big of a deal because obviously they don't celebrate it here. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the little bit of celebration we had at my school.

First, they had a flag football game for the American teachers vs. the American Consulate. I was supposed to play, but since I never made it to a practice and the sun was at its strongest, I decided to just sit it out in the shade! :o) They also had a soccer game between the Ecuadorian teachers and the Ecuadorians who work at the Consulate. Lots of fun for the teachers and students alike. (And, of course, we won!)

Secondly, the students went home at 12:30, and the school had a luncheon for the teachers at 1. The picky eater in me didn't really like the food, but I certainly liked the idea of it. Ha! The auditorium was decorated so nice, and the strawberry cheesecake was quite tasty!

But, the best part of the day for me was the skit performed by some of the elementary students at the school. They had such elaborate costumes as they reenacted the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and the Indians. They also sang songs after the skit. Soooo cute!!!!

So, at the end of the day, I certainly had much to thank God for. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Four Years Strong...

Well, Wilson and I celebrated our 4 year anniversary on November 19. Sometimes it seems like such a long time, but most of the time it seems to have just flown right by! I can't really go places without Wilson, so I just made him a homemade card with some scrapbook paper I had here at the apartment. But, he was wonderful! He bought me TWO Hallmark cards and even wrote personal messages in both! (For those of you who know me, you know how big a deal that is to me!!!) :o) He also brought me this huge flower arrangement of roses and 2 beautiful sunflowers in the middle. It's great because flowers are so incredibly cheap here, so I get to feel extra special at a 1/4 of the cost! Ha! :o)

Then, we went to eat at my favorite restaurant. (It's the only place where I'll actually clean my plate here!) Afterward, we went down to the Malecon, which is the kind of river walk part of Guayaquil. We went for a boat ride along the river at night, and it was so lovely! The weather was perfect, the music was fun, and the company was wonderful! I couldn't have asked for a better date!
Obviously, such a big move like this has been difficult on both of us and on our relationship at times, but it helps to know that in good times and bad, we're in it together. Wilson is a WONDERFUL husband and has certainly earned the love and respect I have for him!

Lights Out!

Because of lack of rain here in Ecuador, the hydro-electric power plant is low on water. So...the government started just cutting power in various areas here in the city each day. In the beginning the times were not very consistent. However, now most people know that their power will go out at certain times each day--for example, from 8-10am and from 4-6pm. We're pretty lucky in that our house doesn't get affected by this. We're not exactly sure why, but we aren't complaining (especially because many people here also don't have water when the power goes out.).

One of the first days they started cutting power, one of Wilson's friends was scheduled to do a surgery. The hospital had talked to the power company and was told that the power would not be cut during the times of the surgery. (Unfortunately, not all the hospitals or smaller clinics have generators.) So, they started the surgery, had the guy under anesthesia, and then, oops, the power went out. They had to wake him back up and tell him to come back the next day!!! Thank goodness they hadn't already started cutting!!!!

It also makes traffic a mess. Since power goes out in most places from 4-6pm, the traffic is at its heaviest when all the lights go out. Really good planning, huh? And, sometimes there are policeman directing traffic, and sometimes there are not. Oh my!

From what we've heard, they might even continue this until March!!!! So crazy!!!

Noche de Gala

So, Colegio Americano has a huge talent show each year for the students. I had no idea it was such a big deal when I first heard about it, but I certainly learned later that the Noche de Gala was THE event of the year. (My first hint should have been that the students were allowed to miss class 2-3 days a week for about a month or two to practice.)

Anyway, the event was incredible. It was held at a local theatre, and it lasted 4 hours!!!!! One of the numbers was a full version play of Midsummer Night's Dream. There were hip hop routines, traditional Indian dances, Whitney Houston songs, violin Disney medlies, and band after band after band. (I really think that at least half of the students at my school are in a band.) And the cheerleaders even did their routine (on the stage floor--no mats!)

I was really quite impressed. My only complaint was that teachers were required to stay backstage and chaperone the students. I really wanted to watch though, so I snuck up to the balcony and watched as much as I could. The principal yelled at everyone the following day though for not being good chaperones. Oh well. :o) I'm glad I could tell my students I saw them perform.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Answered Prayers

So, Wilson got a job working as a surgical assistant!!!! It all just kind of happened out of nowhere. He went to a couple of hospitals on a Tuesday to see if he could get some work, and one of them told him to come on Thursday and they'd try him out. It was only going to be a two week unpaid clinical for them to see if they could find a position for him. But, on that first day, he met an orthopedic surgeon who immediately took a liking to Wilson. So, the next day, Dr. Naula hired Wilson. And, he's also introducing Wilson to all kinds of big surgeons here who have all told Wilson that they are more than happy to help him when he starts med school.

Now, Wilson feels much happier and excited as he gets to be in surgery again as well as meet some great surgeons. And, we're in a much better place financially. We're even starting to think that a car might be in our future!!!! (The surgeon even offered to basically cosign on a loan since we don't really have any credit here.) Praise Jesus!

And, although this has been great professionally, it's also been nice socially. One Friday night the surgeon took us out to dinner with his wife and last weekend he invited us to his house for a party. His wife is Canadian, so it's nice that we can talk. The party was lots of fun, and everyone was really nice with us. I'm learning to hold my own when it comes to socializing in Spanish. And, even when I don't understand, I just smile a lot and nod my head and no one knows the difference. Ha! :o)

My First Photo Shoot

So, it's a shame I had to come all the way down here for someone to appreciate my true beauty as a pale redhead! The school has photographers come in periodically and do photo shoots for all the PR stuff (school website, brochures, billboards, etc.), and typical of Ecuador, they like to have the "lighter" people in the pictures. So, they asked me, my friend Willa from Holland, and 2 of the younger American guys to be in the photo shoot. They brought in people to do our hair and makeup and everything!!! (They even made the guys wear makeup. Ha!)

Ironically, the photo was of the 4 of us in front of flags from different countries even though we were not really a diverse group. In fact, only about 5% of the school is even made up of gringos at all! (Though 95% of the publicity photos are of gringos!)

But, oh well. I enjoyed it anyway. The makeup was definitely too much for me as I'm not really into large amounts of eyeliner, but I had a blast! I even made Wilson take me out for dinner afterward. Ha!

Jackson's Festival

So, Michael Jackson is certainly well-loved here in Ecuador--to the point of obsession actually. And so, I wasn't even that shocked when the theme for the school carnival was "Jackson's Festival." Every year Colegio Americano has what they call their Kermesse. Basically, it's what we would consider a big fall carnival (though "fall" doesn't actually exist here). Everyone acted like it was a big deal, but I had no idea until I arrived how big a deal it really is! There were all kinds of games and foods and entertainment! They turned the auditorium into a discoteca and put a huge stage out on the basketball court. They had bingo with prizes like two tickets to the Galapagos or even a new car. (Unfortunately, we did not win!) Wilson and I really did have a nice time there. Of course, the only problem was that it was sooo hot and the sun was so strong that we didn't really stay too long. But, we stayed long enough for me to have a delicious snow cone and some cotton candy! :o)

Monday, October 5, 2009

I Love the Fair!!!

So, I was feeling a little bummed because I was going to miss the Perry Fair, but as it turns out, there is a fair here during October as well! It's in a small town outside of Guayaquil only 10 minutes from where we live. So, we went last night and had a great time! I just love going to fairs, and the one here did not disappoint! Here are some of the highlights:

1. Carnies: My brother Bryan and I had laughed earlier about what carnies here must be like. I mean, if the fair workers in the States are that sketchy, how much worse must they be in a 3rd world country? But, it was quite the opposite! The carnies were pretty decent and clean cut here. Wilson took his photo with one of them as proof. :o)

2. Food: I had 2 things of cotton candy and the Ecuatorian version of funnel cake! Delicious! :o) They didn't have as much variety of meats on a stick like you'd see in Perry, but they still had plenty. (Of course, most of those vendors are found any day of the week on the streets!)

3. Vendors: They had all kinds of neat stuff for sale--from jewelry to clothing to furniture! They had all kinds of cute artistic decorations for children's rooms that were just precious! I bought a dress for my new neice and two pair of shoes for me! (The shoes were 2 for $9!) :o)

4. People: Although going to the fair in the States brings out some of the strangest and weirdest looking people, the fair here had some of the prettiest people I've seen since moving here. Mainly because most of the vendors and advertisers had women with fake everything walking around to get attention for the businesses. But trust me--you will not see those women on the streets of Guayaquil! I have no idea where they came from! Again, Wilson so graciously volunteered to have his photo made with them. Ha!

We are the Toros, the Mighty, Mighty Toros!

The cheerleaders had a big competition this past weekend and won! And, by winning, they earned a bid to go to the Worlds Competition in Orlando in April! How cool! They actually didn't do their best, but they were hands down the winners. They have a lot of talent. What they really lack is just the clean precision that most American teams have. Hopefully, the coach will let me work with the girls once a week on that so that they'll be ready to compete in the States. It's actually been pretty hard to get the girls motivated because they don't have much competition down here. It's hard to want more than mediocrity if you don't really need it. But, I think that now they have something more exciting to work toward!

And, on a humorous note, there is actually no age limit for the international open division. It's just 14 and up. We have several girls in their 20's on the team and even one 25 year old. The coach told me that I was welcome to cheer with the girls if I wanted. Ha! Although there is a small part of me that would love to compete again, just to see if I could, I would not be caught dead wearing a short little cheerleading skirt or that crazy blue eye shadow! Ha!

So, if the girls can raise the money, we'll be coming to Orlando in April! Yay!

(By the way, these photos are from a performance they did at the baseball game. I couldn't take my camera to the competition because I had to ride several buses that day and didn't want it to get stolen. Bummer!)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dr. Fix-It

So, Wilson really can't wait to be a surgeon. Yesterday, I come home to find that Wilson has a gash in his leg because the mop broke and stabbed him while he was cleaning. So, he decided he needed stitches and would just do it himself. No, I promise I'm not making this up--see pictures below for proof.

He flushed out the wound and shaved the area around it. Then, he sat down on our bed to begin. We didn't have any alcohol or peroxide, so he just sprayed cologne all over the wound. (Now, everytime he wears that particular cologne, I'm going to get sick to my stomach. Luckily, he has about 5 others. Ha!) Then, he took the package of needle and stitches that he had. Yes, my husband has these supplies. Weird, I know. He had leftovers from when one of the surgeons back in Gwinnett was teaching him stitching techniques and he used to practice on pig's feet in our living room. Again, yes, I know this is weird! Anyway, back to the story. Wilson just started stitching up his leg. He had no anesthesia; he just toughed it out. Meanwhile, I stared at the wall, telling him over and over again, "This is NOT normal. Normal people do NOT do this!"

And, well, five stitches later, Wilson's wound is closed up and looking great. Unbelievable!!!! And this is just part of the madness that is my life here in Ecuador. :o)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Thank God for the Internet

So, I never would have thought that I'd become such a fan of the internet, but it has become my lifeline in so many ways while I've been here in Ecuador. I use email and Facebook regularly to keep up with family and friends, I try to keep this blog in order to share stories about my experiences, and I even have a class website since I don't have as many resources to hand to my students physically. But, the internet has also given me the opportunity to strengthen and sustain me spiritually!

Finding a church here has been quite difficult. There aren't many non-Catholic churches to begin with, and obviously they're all in Spanish. Since my Spanish is still not too strong, I just haven't really been that inspired to go sit through a 2 hour service that I won't understand too much. Hopefully, as my Spanish improves, God will lead us to find a place to worship while we're here. In the meantime, I've been listening to Andy Stanley's sermons each week on NorthPointTV online. I had always heard great things about him, but I'm just now seeing why. His messages are so interesting and so relevant. He has such a gift for explaining Scripture, and I am benefitting from his messages so much already. He has been talking recently about the certainty of God in uncertain times (mostly in reference to America's economic issues), but Wow! does that not apply to me!!!

Also, Beth Moore has a couple of online studies as well. So, I've signed up for one on the fruit of the Spirit. She takes the approach of living a full and abundant life even when your situation or circumstances are beyond you. Again, this takes on such a greater relevance to me than I would have ever expected! With the study, I'm able to download her videos and everything! And, I'm hoping that one of the American girls who rides my bus in the afternoons might do this with me. She mentioned that she loves Beth Moore, too!

So, though I've always avoided technology as much as possible in the past, I'm certainly seeing how beautiful it really is! :o) It has truly been a blessing from God in my life right now and has allowed me to continue to find strength and encouragement when I've needed it most!

The Wheels on the Bus Go 'Round and 'Round

So, as I've mentioned before, buying a car is just not an option for us right now. Cars do not depreciate here, so even a used car is way out of our price range. For example, we have found 2 different 2005 Ford Explorers similar to the one Wilson used to have. We could only sell his for $4500 before leaving, but the ones we found here were both over $20,000!!!! Unbelievable, right? A new car might cost $18,000 and 5 years later would still sell for about $17,000 regardless of the mileage. So, though we desperately want a car here, we're just having to put that one on the back burner for a while.

In the meantime, we ride a lot of buses. I get picked up for school and brought home each day on a school bus for teachers. It's pretty nice and drops me off right in front of my neighborhood. And, it actually comes to a complete stop for me to step on or off of it. Public buses are a different story! They usually just slow down a little and expect you to just jump on more or less. (Of course, in their defense, they do usually stop for women with babies or elderly people.) It only costs 25 cents to ride which is pretty great! Money's pretty tight for us since we still own our house in the States, so we can't really afford to take taxis too often (even though they're really cheap, too, in comparison to the US). But, with the buses, I have to be very careful. I can't take anything with me because there's a stronger possibility of being robbed if I have a bag or something that could be snatched. This is one of the reasons I don't have too many photos to share anymore. And, as a general rule of thumb, we don't take buses at night--just a little too risky. If we're out after dark, we take a taxi home most of the time. Wilson doesn't have to be so careful when he's by himself because he blends in, but I'm just a big, white, redheaded, American target! I love being the center of attention in most situations, but on a public bus in Ecuador, it's a bit uncomfortable, you know? :o)

So, if you know anyone who wants to buy or rent a house in Winder, let me know! I'd be more than happy to say goodbye to my bus riding days! :o)

Just Say No to Drugs

Because there is no real internet access at school, messages are brought to teachers by a man who works with the maintenance department. It's so hard for me to communicate with him because he mumbles and doesn't speak very clearly, which is very difficult when you can't understand the language too well to begin with. He's kind of like the Spanish version of Boomhauer from King of the Hill. :o)

Anyway, he comes to my room last week and gives me a plastic bag with 5 pills in it. I was so confused. He handed me a memo with a lot of fine print Spanish as well. I just went ahead and signed that I received it but could not understand why I was being given pills. Had the school been infected with something and I needed to take them immediately? Did I take them for 5 days or what? Needless to say, I did not take them and decided I couldn't wait to tell Wilson that they were just handing out random pills at my school! Another American teacher and I were joking about it. He laughed that a school in the States that did this would have newsreporters all over it!!! And, as it turned out, they were some kind of anti-parasite pill that the school had ordered for something else and just decided to share the leftovers with the teachers. You were only supposed to take one--the other 4 were for family members. The American guy told me I should go to the administration and say that I wasn't feeling too well even though I took all five pills! Ha! They might have given me a full week paid vacation to keep quiet on that one! Ha!

Of course, what's a bit sad is that the Ecuadorian teachers probably just took them without even questioning it. There is a lot of blind following of leadership in this country--no one really questions things for themselves. The other dorky English teachers and I compared this to Brave New World, where the government gives out soma to keep everyone as mindless, happy drones. We, of course, refused! :o)