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)

Change of Scenery

A couple of weeks ago, I got to attend a conference in Quito for the IB diploma program for international schools. The change of scenery was really great for me! And the change in weather put a smile on my face as well! :o) Quito is in the middle part of the country and has a very high altitude. Therefore, it's much cooler and there really isn't any humidity at all. My hair looked great for a couple of days finally!!! At night actually, it was soo cold! I wore a sweater and still wished I had gloves and a hat. It was about 40 degrees!!! And the city itself is much cleaner and seemingly calmer. Wilson and I might go together some time in the next few months and see if that might be a better city for us. Who knows! (Although if we did decide that, it'd still be another year or 2 before we'd actually move or anything.)

But, as for the conference, I had a great time! It felt so good to be around educators from all over South America who are genuinely excited about teaching! I learned so much about the IB program which was helpful seeing as how I had no idea what it actually involved, but I also came away with so many great teaching ideas that I can use here or when I return to the States. Because everything has been so overwhelming here, I've struggled with a desire to work hard in an effort to be a "great" teacher while in Ecuador. It's just different, and I hit road blocks from so many different directions--the lack of resources, the lack of administrative support, the entire Ecuadorian philosophy about what constitutes a "good" education, the students' behavior, etc. But, the conference did make me a little more excited and willing to push through some of the difficulties. And, next year, the conference may be in either Miami or Buenos Aires! How cool!!! A free trip to a cool place and an opportunity to gain some more PLU's while I'm living overseas! Yay! :o)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My First Week of Classes

After substituting in the 7th grade class when I first arrived, I was terrified of teaching here. I had no idea how bad these students were going to be and how in the world I was going to discipline them. I love teaching so much, but I was scared that I wasn't going to be able to actually teach these kids. However, thank the Lord, my classes and my schedule are GREAT!!!

I'm teaching 4 classes of 10th grade students and I team-teach one 11th grade class. So, I have 2 planning periods each day, and I actually have 3 planning periods on Monday (the 11th grade class only meets 4 days a week--not sure why). And, the kids are by no means perfect, but they're normal kids. There are a few talkative or arrogant kids, but that would be the same in any 10th grade class in the States. The English levels vary, so it's tough to challenge the top kids without losing the lower kids, but I'm learning. The class sizes are pretty large with around 32 in each class, but I'm adjusting to that, too.

The hardest part for me is simply the lack of resources and technology. I was so spoiled to spend my first 7 years of teaching in such a great school, so I actually don't know how to teach without the resources I'm so used to! There's no internet access in my room. (There's also no printer for teachers to use and definitely no paper!!!) To watch a film, we have to take the students across campus to an audio-visual room that's set up like a theatre, not a classroom. The classrooms are too bright because of all the windows (needed since there's no air conditioning), so I can't use an LCD projector for powerpoints very well. And, the copies are VERY limited. But, I'm adjusting. I created my own webpage, and I have students go there and print out articles or handouts on their own. I can also upload some of the powerpoints for the students to study at home instead of during class. That has worked well so far. So, we'll see...

But, all in all, I'm pleased with the teaching part of my job. Now, if I can just learn their names!!!

Relaxing at the Beach

So, we did go to the beach two weekends ago with some of Wilson's family. The beach we went to is actually called Playas (which means beach in Spanish). I kept asking Wilson which beach and couldn't understand why he wouldn't tell me any specifics. Ha! Anyway, we took a 2 hour bus ride to the beach which was not too bad. (There were only a few chickens who rode the bus with us--but they were well-behaved, trained cock fighters. And, no, I'm not kidding!) It only cost $10 total for the two of us both ways. (Of course, the bus stations charge you for toilet paper in the bathrooms, so I guess it cost us a little more! Ha!)

But, the beach was great! The house was right on the beach and was so peaceful! It had about 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and kitchen and living room areas. We sang karaoke on Saturday night (remember their weird obsession at the wedding?) up on the roof with the ocean in the background. They had also fixed lasagna for me, and it was actually pretty good. (Of course, when Wilson's sister-in-law served it to me for breakfast, I wasn't quite as impressed. But I ate it anyway to be polite.) On Sunday, Wilson and I went walking on the beach for a while. Then, we rented chairs and an umbrella for $3 and just enjoyed the time to relax. (They also had horse rides you could take, so we plan to do that next time!) And sadly, I did get burned from our walk. I need like SPF 200 down here! :o)

But, how cool to take a weekend trip to the beach and not spend more than $20!!! And the owner of the house said he'd give us the keys any weekend we'd like. Yay! That might be a monthly habit for me and Wilson now. So, if anyone wants to visit, we have the perfect place to take you!