Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cheerleading Again

So, I had actually stopped working with the cheerleading program here back in May because the head coach left in order to pursue her own career full time. I definitely missed working with the girls, but there were 6 other coaches and I just didn't know where I fit in there. However, this past week, they had some coaching changes, and the athletic director asked me if I was interested in returning as the main coach for the coed and senior all girl squads. I thought about it over the weekend and decided I'd go for it. I told Wilson that I know it will stress me out as cheerleading always does but that it would also keep me busy. I just spend too much time alone here and need something productive to do with my time.

I'm definitely having to make a few changes because there is a slight lack of commitment and dedication on one of the teams, but I think we'll get back on track soon. The coed team is going to be lots of fun, I think. I teach most of those guys, so I already have a good relationship with the kids which really helps.

And, I'm bound to learn more Spanish this way! The other coaches only speak Spanish, and many of the older girls on the all girl team only know Spanish as well. So, I try to have practices in Spanish as much as possible. (Of course, when I was frustrated the other day, I just told them I'd have to speak in English and one of my students would translate. Ha!) And I'm getting to kind of see better how the cheerleading community here in Guayaquil works.

So, Go Toros!!!!

Small Pleasures...

So, I'm really enjoying the new apartment! And we're slowly getting it furnished. After 2 weeks without a fridge, it was soooo exciting to have one again! We now have a fridge and a stove. The stoves here are all gas with a big gas tank next to it. It still kind of freaks me out to cook with flames coming up, but I'm slowly getting used to it. :o) We also have a tv and two plastic chairs--a very elegant living room. Ha!

Another exciting discovery I've made is that we have an extra room. We knew there was a random door to what looked like an attic type of room, but it turns out it's an additional room, with hardwood floors, outlets, windows, and everything. You have to climb a ladder to get up there, so we couldn't really get any furniture up there. But, maybe eventually I could make it into a dorky reading room with beanbags and pillows or something. :o)

And, it's also been really nice to just have access to go places. I can easily walk to the mall or the grocery store or whatever. I don't feel as trapped in as I did at my other apartment. I definitely think this was a great move!!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010


So, while everyone is dying in Georgia from the unbelievably high temperatures and horrible humidity, the weather has actually gotten quite nice here in Guayaquil. This is technically "winter" in South America, but here in Guayaquil I'm still wearing shorts and flip flops. But, I don't sweat as much! Ha! That's really the only difference during the middle of the day. It still gets pretty hot, but it's bearable.

But, the real difference is in the mornings and evenings. There is a wonderful breeze that cools everything down and is so nice. I've even put on a sweatshirt a few nights (of course, I'm still in shorts though).

If the weather were like this all year, it'd be great! Around November it'll start getting steamy again, but I'll certainly enjoy it for now!

My First Earthquake (and hopefully last!)

So, I have now experienced my first earthquake. I believe that technically what I felt here was a tremor, but when the walls are all shaking, I call that an earthquake!

I was getting ready for school and was just finishing my shower when Wilson came and told me to get out and come with him. He asked if I didn't feel the earthquake, but since we live near the airport, I just assumed things were rattling a little from a plane passing over. But, I wrapped a towel around me and went and stood with Wilson in the door frame of our bedroom and hallway. And it was definitely all shaking--a very weird experience! Good thing we didn't have any furniture or decorations, I guess. Ha! Wilson also grabbed my pajamas and made me put those on while we were standing there (even though I was still soaking wet) because he said that it wouldn't be so good for me to be naked if we had to get out of the building. Such a wise man. Ha!

I asked Wilson later how he knew what to do, and he said he didn't really know, just something way back in his head told him to stand under a doorway. (As my younger brother would tell you, maybe Wilson once saw the Saved by the Bell episode where Lisa Turtle and AC Slater used that strategy when there was an earthquake at Bayside.) :o)

I guess it lasted for a few minutes, and then Wilson told me to finish getting ready. When we got in the car to go to work, Wilson looked at me and said, "Were you scared?" and I said, "Yes, actually I was a little." And Wilson quickly answered, "Me, too!!!"

It turned out it was like a 7.0 earthquake or something (comparable to the one in Haiti), but it was much farther below ground so it didn't cause much damage. And it was actually closer to Quito, so we only felt a lesser version really. Some of the white boards at my school were loosened from the walls, and my friend Hannah said a vase of hers fell off the table and broke, but no real damage anywhere here. Praise the Lord!!!! Under other circumstances, I don't think it would have been that scary to me, but since we've recently seen such horrible effects of earthquakes in Haiti and in Chile, it just really kind of changes the way I view things, you know? I just pray that my first earthquake experience will also be my last one!!

Home Sweet Home Part 2

So, we moved into our new apartment a couple of weeks ago. It was a rather easy move actually because we don't have that much stuff down here--mostly just clothes and books. Ha! One of Wilson's brothers and two of his nephews came and helped us move, so I barely had to do anything. :o)

Our new apartment is an unfurnished apartment, which will save us tons of money in the future, but for a while we will have a pretty empty place. Unfurnished here in Ecuador means literally nothing--no fridge, no stove, no air conditioners, no mirrors in the bathrooms, nothing!! In each of the rooms, there's a big hole in the wall where you can install a wall unit air conditioner. Luckily, it's "winter" here, so we are just doing without an air conditioning for now. We put up a map of Guayaquil over the big hole in our bedroom b/c I got kind of freaked out that birds or something would come in there. Ha!

Our first night, we slept on the floor b/c our bed could not be delivered until the next day. These tiled floors were NOT comfortable!! Ha! But, our bed did arrive the next day, and we slept sooo good on our new king size bed!!!!

But, my two biggest fears about the apartment turned out just fine. We do indeed have hot water in both showers and enough pressure to flush our toilet paper down the toilet. (These are definitely luxuries we take for granted in the States!) :o)

And, we're really enjoying the neighborhood and area we're now in. I've walked to the mall a couple of times by myself, and last night Wilson and I walked to the mall to get dinner and just enjoy the more peaceful atmosphere. Oh, and there's this great bakery at the entrance of our neighborhood that we've gone to almost every day! Fresh, hot bread each morning! Yum!!!

So, it'll definitely take us a while to get everything we need here, but little by little I think this will be a great home for us!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Random Facts about Wilson's Studies

The medical program at the University of Guayaquil really is a great and challenging program, but the lack of resources is just amazing when we are so used to such excess in the United States, even at rather small universities. Here are a few interesting things concerning Wilson's studies in Guayaquil:
1. He has 10 classes at a time!!! So, Wilson actually takes 10 classes a week and they are year round classes, not semester long. He has 7 lecture classes and 3 labs. Obviously, the most challenging and time consuming class is anatomy, but Wilson also spends his time studying biology, biophysics, embryology, histiology, and a few more he told me in Spanish and I can't really translate (b/c I don't understand the words in Spanish or English!). Ha!
2. Students find and share REAL bones!!! Because the school doesn't have the resources to provide models of the bones and all, students just find them somehow and share. Wilson brings home these bones that a friend gave him to use to study. I still don't exactly know what it means that they "find" the bones, but I decided I might not want to know so I stopped asking! :o)
3. They have to rent cadavers!!! Again, the school has 100's of students but very few cadavers. In his lab classes, there are about 60 people crowded around one cadaver with everyone trying to see. So, Wilson and some friends get together and rent cadavers for a few dollars and go when the whole class isn't there with one of the assistants and study. Yikes! How bizarre!
4. Copyright laws clearly do not exist here!!! All of the textbooks Wilson has are copies. They buy them on the street just like you buy a Coke or an icecream. You can pay a little extra and get color copies which Wilson decided to do for a few of them so that he could see the pictures better (especially since the school has no models for them to use!) He was a little worried to spend the money, and I just laughed and told him to go for it. It was only like $30. I told him that in the States, he'd be paying $150 per book or more (not to mention he doesn't have any kind of tuition at all here!).

But, Wilson really is loving it. He studies really hard and is one of the top students in his classes. I've seen him get stressed a few times, but for the most part, he's just completely in his element. It's amazing to me that anyone could get that excited over bones, tissues, and muscles, but I guess he feels the same way about me and Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Milton. Ha! :o)

A New Place

So, Wilson and I will be moving to a new apartment this weekend. We LOVE where we live, but it's just too expensive for what we need right now. We went apartment hunting about a month ago and found a really good deal on a much bigger apartment. We actually found my dream home when we were looking--it was a house for rent in a gated community with pool, tennis courts, etc., a brand new two story house with 3 bedrooms, huge kitchen, living room, dining room, and a cute little backyard. And it was only $360 a month!!!!!!!! But, it was too far out from the city. We really couldn't live there unless we both had cars. So sad!!!!

But, we found another place in the same area but just not quite as far out. It's a pretty big 3 bedroom apartment that's kind of on the river and still in a gated community (no pool though!). It's older, but we'll be able to fix it up the way we want so that'll be nice. And, it's close to lots of shopping and restaurants that I can easily walk to. It's unfurnished, so we're having to buy some stuff a little at a time, but maybe after a year it'll feel just like home. I'm really excited about this new place. It'll take some time to get settled there and get all the stuff we need, but I think it'll be well worth it!

But, the worst part is having to leave our landlord and her family. I've become very close with them since I go over there twice a week to tutor. But, they told me I'm still always welcome to come over and hang out, especially during the week when Wilson's at class until late. And, I still have an open invitation to visit their beach house. :o)

So, here's to Year #2 in Ecuador!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Reality Bites

So, it's been a while since I've posted anything here, huh?! But, to be honest, I've kind of been in that place where all the newness and excitement has worn off and all of the reality has set in. Wilson has started classes and doesn't get home each night until around 9 or 10. And he even has classes all day on Saturday!!!! So, that leaves me alone way too much in a place where I don't have a car or too many friends. So, it's been pretty hard for me lately. I've been a bit down as I realize that we really are going to be here for another 5 years!!! Some days I just don't know if I can do that. I mean, five years without Chick-fil-a, Target, or Dr. Pepper?!! What kind of life is that?! Ha!

But, here are a few of the things that have happened over the past few months:

My 30th birthday: Well, I have said good-bye to my 20's, and it actually seems a little strange. We didn't do anything too exciting. We went to the beach for the day and just kind of relaxed a little. I had saved birthday cards from my parents and my grandmother which I opened on my actual birthday, so that was really nice. And, since I missed my cousin's wedding, the whole family sang happy birthday for me and sent it to me. I burst into tears when I saw it! (They weren't that bad of singers though!) :o) So, my 20's were definitely very good to me, and I hope the next 10 years will be filled with many happy and special moments, too.

Father's Day: We spent Father's Day with Wilson's dad at a family friend's house. Mr. Oswaldo was really glad we were there. I actually sat with him most of the time. And, in very Ecuadorian fashion, there were speeches given. (They even had a sound system and microphone when there were only about 15 of us in this guy's living room!) Three or 4 guys gave a speech about fathers, and one even read a poem. It was so hard not to laugh. They tried to get Wilson to give a few words, but he declined. I wonder if he'd be a speech-giver if he'd never moved. Hmmm... But, one of his brothers did say that they wished the best to my dad in Georgia, so that was really nice. :o)

4th of July: The school had a kind of all day party on the 3rd that we went to for a little while. It was kind of funny to celebrate July 4th with a lot of Ecuadorians. Ha! They served hamburgers, hotdogs, and corn on the cob. And they had fireworks (of course they set them off in the middle of the day so it actually felt more like warfare than celebration, but oh well.) It wasn't really anything that great, but it was a nice gesture. And an excuse for me to get out on a Saturday afternoon, so I did enjoy it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

We Got a Car, We Got a Car, We Got a Car, Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey!!!

WE GOT A CAR!!!!!! While I was in Orlando, Wilson finally got us our car. We'd been looking and talking with dealerships and banks for a while, and now we finally have a car! It's a brand new, sand-colored Nissan Almera (I don't think they make those in the States), and it's an automatic! Wilson has been in heaven now that we can take our laundry or run to the grocery store so much more easily!!! Wilson bought several salsa and bachata CD's to play, and I made a CD of the Glee songs I have on my computer. We feel like 16 year olds all over again!!!!

Of course, I have no intention of driving any time soon. As Wilson said the other day, if you don't drive like a maniac and cut people off all the time, you're considered the bad driver. (Right after he said this, his statement was confirmed as a driver cut us off and then stared us down like we were idiots for staying inbetween the lines painted on the road!) Ha! But we'll see. I'm sure I'll get the desire to drive soon enough.

But, for now, I'm just happy to no longer have to dress according to which outfit was most comfortable for walking in the heat and least likely to target me on the bus as being a rich gringa. Ha! I even wore heels with my sundress last Saturday as Wilson took me to lunch!! :o)

2nd and 3rd Jobs

So, I now have a 2nd job, and actually a 3rd job as well. :o) I have started tutoring English in the afternoons. Both of these tutoring jobs just kind of fell into my lap, but I'm really enjoying them.

On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, I tutor a 5 year old little girl named Priscilla, and she is the cutest thing in the world!!! Her mother is marrying an American guy and moving to Texas with him in August, so they want to get her as prepared as possible so she won't be too far behind when she starts school there. Mostly we just sing songs and play games. She's pretty hyper and her attention span is like 5 seconds long, but it's fun!

And then, my landlady asked me to tutor her 3 sons as well. So now on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, I walk over to their house and tutor. Her sons are ages 10, 11, and 15. They already know a good bit of English and they're excellent students, so we're able to do a lot of neat things. The youngest one, Alexander, is my little buddy. He walked me back to my apartment last Wednesday (our apartment is literally connected to their house, but he still wanted to walk me back). He shook Wilson's hand and checked out some of the new furniture his mom had recently given us. Ha!

It's actually really nice. Sometimes it's a bit overwhelming with school and tutoring, but it keeps me busy. Wilson starts back to school soon, and I need something to keep me from getting too lonely here at the house every afternoon. And, it's a nice little bit of extra money for us. Yay!

Cheerleading Worlds! Go Ecuador!

So, at the end of April, I got to go with the cheerleaders from Colegio Americano to the Cheerleading Worlds competition in Orlando (at Disney World!!). It was actually two different competitions--one on Friday that was more "international" and then the one on Saturday/Sunday that was mostly American teams with a few international teams thrown in.

On Friday, they had a parade of nations to start the competition. I felt like I was in the Olympics! Ha! I marched in proudly with my Ecuador jacket and blended right in. (Yeh right, I stuck out like a sore thumb, but I thought it was lots of fun!!!) :o) There were teams from all over--Chile, Guatamala, Scotland, Germany, Jamaica, Thailand, Japan, etc. It was really cool to see how cheerleading has spread all over. My parents were able to come down, and they seemed to enjoy it, too. They sat with a few parents from Sweden and enjoyed talking with them.

On Saturday, the competition was more a showcase of the US's top teams, and there were definitely some great squads there!!! In our division, we placed 10th as a team and 5th as a country. The top 3 teams were American, the next couple were Canadian, and a country like Ecuador just can't compete with those teams at this point. But, we were very proud of the girls because they did a GREAT job on Sunday!!!

And then, on Monday, we just enjoyed Disney. I went with most of the girls to several of the parks and road the rides/roller coasters. Definitely not my thing, but they had fun laughing at how scared I'd get. Ha!

It was really neat to go and see cheerleading from a different persective. As part of an international team, coming from a South American country, it was interesting to see how much fun cheerleading still is down here versus the insane competitive nature it's taken on in the States. Don't get me wrong, I do miss the level of competition I had from Georgia, but it's kind of refreshing to see how sweet and excited these girls are about the whole experience! Less pressure and more fun!

But boy was it hard to return! After missing 5 days of school, I had all kinds of work to do when I got back. I'm still getting caught up! Not to mention just the jolt back into reality after spending a week at Disney World! :o) But I'm so glad I went!
(This last picture is of me and the head coach, Pamela. I'm definitely squatting! Ha!)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Update on Wilson

So, Wilson is now officially in medical school and will begin his first year on May 17! Yay!

Here in Ecuador, instead of having an MCAT or something, they have what they call pre-university classes that you must take and pass in order to get into med school. It consists of various classes that are each 3 weeks long and pretty intensive. Wilson started in February and just finished last week. He had to take chemistry, biology, physics, and anatomy as well as Spanish (like a composition class) and Study Techniques. His classes were from 1:30-7 Monday through Saturday. The grades are on a 1-10 scale, and you had to make an 8 in order to pass. If you pass every class, you may register for med school. Wilson was one of the top students in every class. (In other words, he was the biggest dork! He had read the first chapter of each book before he ever went to the first class!!! Ha!) Ironically, his hardest class was Spanish! After failing the midterm, we studied together a lot for that one, and he was one of 3 in his class of 65 to pass it! (Good thing his sweet wife could help him learn all about thesis statements and argumentative essays!) And, he had the highest grade in his class in both Anatomy and Biology!

Needless to say, I am so proud of him! He works so hard and studies so much because he really enjoys all of that stuff. (Bless his heart, he always tries to tell me about what he's learning and I could seriously care less about the endocrine system or the processes of the pancreas! But I try to be nice and listen since he listens endlessly about all the novels I read.) He's also still working occasionally with various orthopedic surgeons here in Guayaquil. He even got to attend an international conference this weekend for the Ecuadorian Orthopedics Association because he's real good friends with the Vice-President of the organization. He worked with a Canadian doctor who was here for the conference and heard presentations from doctors from England, Argentina, Chile, etc. I also benefited from this because I got to go to the dinner on Thursday night with him at the Hilton Colon hotel (dress, heels, jewelry, and all!!! Yay!). We sat with the Canadian doctor, and he was really nice. He and Wilson laughed about the culture shock of doing surgeries here after being so used to the technology and resources available in the US and Canada.

So, I guess we'll be staying here for a while. Wilson really is so happy to actually be living out his dream, and I am just so excited for him. So, please continue to keep him in your prayers as he begins his first year. We know it will be tough, but Wilson is one of the hardest workers I have ever met. I pray that his passion and hard work will help him to be very successful!

Beach Trip with the Girls

Right before classes started back, I went with 3 other girls who teach at my school to the beach for the day. They all teach in the primary school, so I don't get to see them much. But, we had an absolutely wonderful, relaxing time. We met at the bus station at 8 in the morning, took a $2.50 bus to the beach, rented chairs and umbrellas for $2 each, hung out all day, had lunch at a restaurant on the beach, and then took a $2.50 bus back to Guayaquil around 6. I spent less than $20 for the whole thing. And it's all so convenient. The people who rent the umbrellas and all also sell drinks right there on the beach for you. And various vendors walk up and down the beach selling everything all day. The others bought fruit from the vendors, but I went for the icecream guy! :o)

But the sun is sooo strong!!! I had 30 spf sunscreen which I applied twice while we were there. I was only actually in the sun for about an hour the whole day--15 minutes out in the water, 1 hour back under the umbrella, 20 minutes walking around, 1 hour under the umbrella, etc.), and I still got burned!!!! One of my friends said they now make 100 spf, so maybe I'll try that next time. :o)

The girls I went with are lots of fun, too! Hannah is the one I do a Bible study with each week. She's married to an Ecuadorian named Wilson, too! Ha! Alicia is also married to an Ecuadorian guy, and they had their first child almost a year ago. This was actually her first trip by herself since the baby, so she certainly needed a little break! And Cat is from Canada and seems to be quite the traveler. She was in Mexico before moving here. She has traveled all over South America while living here and is such a cool person! We decided we should do that once a month or something! After only 2 weeks of school, I'm totally in need of a beach trip again for sure!!! :o)

I Never Thought I Was Organized Until I Moved to Ecuador...

So, I've been trying to write an update here for a few weeks, but with the start of the new school year, I've just been too busy. I returned to school for preplanning on March 22, and the students returned on April 5. And it has been a very interesting start for me. Here are a few of the highlights:

1. Schedules: I didn't actually find out what I was teaching until about 3 or 4 days before school started. I was at school a week and a half before they told anyone what classes they would teach. You'd think they'd have gotten that together before all the teachers returned. They kept telling us to hurry up and turn in our micro and macro plans for the year, but we didn't know what classes to plan for!
2. Changes: There's always a lack of communication at my school. And therefore, there are always changes that occur out of nowhere because no one gets told. For example, our schedules were changed 3 times once school started. Actually, this past Monday, I had students from one class enter my room, and I told them they didn't have my class until later in the day because the schedule had been changed Friday afternoon. They told me that it had been changed again that morning. About 10 minutes before the end of that class, I received my new schedule. Seriously? They tell the students about schedule changes before the teachers?! They also changed the lock on my classroom 3 or 4 days after the students came back and didn't tell me. It took me another 3 or 4 days to finally get someone to give me a new key. Aaahhhh!!!!!
3. Class Rosters: They don't actually give these to teachers either. After not having one for the first week, I went to ask if they had the official rosters ready or not. The secretaries looked at me like I was the strange one and said that yes, of course. Then they pointed me to a big stack of manila folders labeled by class. I just had to go through them and find mine for each of the classes I taught. Crazy me for thinking they would give them to us without us asking!
4. Students: My classes are quite overwhelming this year. I'm teaching 4 10th grade classes and 2 11th grade classes with a total of about 175 students. Grading papers is going to be a nightmare!!! The 10th grade classes are pretty tough, but I think I just need to be patient. So many of them are used to teachers who run a dictatorship, so when they come to my class they think they can go crazy. It's hard for them to learn the balance, so I've had to come down pretty hard on them. However, my 11th grade classes are really nice. They're the same students I had last year, so they already know my routine and how I do things.
5. Parents: One of my earlier posts talked about students who could take supletorios. Well, I have even still had to give additional supletorio exams this past week as students are still trying to pass from the year before. Which also means I have parents still coming to me. And since the school just lets them come whenever, they show up in my room unexpected quite often. I have had one mother come to my room everyday for the past week and a half. Then, on Thursday, she came 3 times! I actually had to get in her face and tell her to get out the last time. She still wouldn't leave, so I had to leave and go get someone to make her. I got so frustrated that I just started speaking English to her. Ha! She wouldn't stop talking and begging me to give her child a little gift of a few points (a few points for her daughter being 22 points). Yikes!
6. Heat: The heat really is getting to me. With no air conditioning in the classes and not really enough breeze from the windows or fans to keep 35 kids cool, I just drip with sweat all day. It's so gross! And it really wears me down actually. I'm sooo tired at the end of the day! But, Wilson and I are going to buy me an extra fan to just sit at my desk, so hopefully that will help!

So, all of that to say that I've had a crazy few weeks. It was definitely much easier to start the year back at Collins Hill. But, I remember that I thought it was kind of rough when I first started back in August, and I eventually got used to it and enjoyed my students. So, I just need to be patient. Wish me luck!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Home is Where the Heart Is

Well, after being in the States for 6 weeks, I'm now back in Ecuador, sweating as the fan tries to cool me down. And though I certainly loved being in Georgia again, I couldn't wait to come back home to Wilson. I actually feel like I learned a lot about the concept of "home" while I was there. When we first moved to Ecuador, I remember a conversation Wilson and I had:
Me (whining): Don't you miss being back home?
Wilson (confused): What do you mean?
Me: Don't you miss our house and your job and your friends and your car and all? You know, aren't you homesick?
Wilson (as if this was a simple answer): Well, you're my home, so since you're here, I feel at home.

Boy did I feel like a jerk! I certainly had not thought of it like that, but after being away from him and from our new home, I certainly agree with the expression "Home is where the heart is." My home is with Wilson, and so I couldn't wait to return here, even if it meant tripping over iguanas and living without air conditioning. :o)

But, I had a great time in Georgia! Eating at all my favorite places, having Christmas with my family, watching movies and dumb music videos with my brothers, going to Target with my sister-in-law, going to the Fox, having good hair days, spending the night with so many good friends, playing in the snow, having lunch with my grandmother, catching up with friends, having a surprise birthday party 3 months before my birthday (with an all-icing cake and all!), taking care of my mother after her surgery, visiting with former cheerleaders, and doing lots and lots of shopping!!!! I truly had a wonderful time!!!

And even though I will miss all of those good times, I couldn't wait to get back to my normal abnormal life. :o) I realized while I was in Georgia that I can't go back and everything be the same even if I wanted. My house has no furniture, CHHS has no positions available (nor does anyone else for that matter!), and everything's just a little different. So, I am now more excited to look ahead, to be in the present and the future instead of the past. My home is now wherever Wilson and I decide to live, and I'm very happy with that actually. (And, I think Wilson is, too. He had me a huge flower arrangement with about 14 roses waiting on me, and he's been just wonderful! I guess he's relieved and excited that I came back "home," too!) :o)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Georgia on my Mind

So, I leave for Georgia tomorrow night!!! I'm soooo excited!!! First of all, I can't wait to experience all this cold weather everyone is talking about!!! It'll be a nice change from having to shower twice a day because of all the sweat here! It's soo sticky and gross! I also won't mind having a few good hair days for a change!

But, obviously, I'm most excited about family, friends, and food! With my family, I plan to go to the Fox, finally meet my new neice, celebrate Christmas in February, watch movies with my little brother, spend the night with my grandmother, go shopping with my mom and my sister-in-law, and get Saturday morning doughnuts with my older brother and nephew. With friends, I have a baby shower to attend, 3 newly engaged girls to visit, a girls' night full of banana clips and fun, a bathtub to use (only showers down here!), gossip to catch up on, a cheerleader sleepover with my girls to watch their State video!, and lots more! And, oh the food!!!! Chick-fil-a, Zaxby's, Mexican (lots and lots of cheese dip!!!), large Dr. Peppers/Mr. Pibbs with ICE, and of course, salmon patties, mashed potatoes, and English peas!!! Yummmm!!! :o)

Of course, I do feel a little bittersweet about my visit. Wilson will not be able to come with me because he has classes. So, I will be away from him for 6 WEEKS!!!! That's such a long time! The longest we've been apart is 2 weeks and that was torture for me! And, especially now that we are so used to being together all the time, just us, I know it will be even harder. But, if I did stay here, I'd go crazy. Wilson has classes 5 hours a day, 6 days a week, plus study time, and about 1 surgery a day. friends and family have assured me that they will keep me very busy, very happy, and very well-fed! :o) I can't wait!!

Graduation 2010

Colegio Americano has 2 teachers serve as master of ceremony each year at their graduation ceremony--one Spanish speaker and one English speaker. This year, I was asked to be the English speaker. When I was first asked about it, I immediately said yes. I would get to wear a full length ball gown, get dolled up, and be on a stage! :o) I couldn't wait. Although all the students are fluent in English, many of their parents are not. Therefore, speaking the English parts of the ceremony wouldn't be that big of a deal.

However, at the first graduation meeting, I was informed that I would also be calling out the names of half of the students. Oh no!!!! Each student has 4 names: two first names, their paternal last name, and their maternal last name. Yikes! And my pronunciation of Spanish names is still sub-par!!! Not to mention the large number of Chinese students we have at the school. But, Wilson and I practiced all the names several times, and I think I did a pretty good job.

As for the dress, the school said they'd pay for me to rent one, so Wilson and I went to see about finding a dress. However, the majority of the ones I tried on were way too short. Ha! I just don't have the body of an Ecuadorian woman. :o) But, for some strange reason, I had brought a couple of my own dresses with me and decided on a bridesmaids dress I wore at a friend's wedding a few years ago. (It's amazing the random things I thought necessary to bring here to Ecuador, but surprisingly I've used most of them!) It felt great being a princess all night!

And the ceremony was really nice. A few speeches, a student band, and even a group of mothers who sang a song to their children. I was pretty nervous in the beginning and was shaking pretty bad (literally), but I relaxed as it went on. They kept making changes to our script throughout the night, and I was having to say various officials and board members names that I had not practiced. I ruined a few, but oh well. What did they expect from the girl with a Georgia accent?! :o) Overall, I had an absolutely wonderful experience!

(The first photo is of me and Geovanny, the other master of ceremonies; the second photo is of me and two of the English teachers at the school.)

A Second Chance (and a 3rd and a 4th, etc.)

Well, I survived my first school year here in Ecuador. Okay, so I sort of cheated by coming in halfway through the year but still. Actually, I had just gotten the hang of it around the time it was ending. So, hopefully that will make me more prepared and ready for next year. Although there are several educational issues here that irk me, the main one is the suplitorio.

Ecuadorian education law states that students receive a chance to pass their classes even if they don't technically pass. If they fail for the year (passing grade is 68 here), they can take a test called the suplitorio. That grade is then averaged in somehow with their yearly average. For example, if a student has a 67 for the year, they can make a 73 on the suplitorio and still pass and get credit for the class. I think this can be a good thing in some ways. They do not take the suplitorio until the beginning of the next school year, so many of them really do spend their summer studying and getting tutored. Therefore, they learn the material better before moving on. It also gives students a second chance who may have had some kind of issues during the school year that kept them from doing their best.

However, many private schools take that a little too far. For example, my school actually offers a complementario for the 3rd bimester (we have 4 bimesters instead of 2 semesters) which actually REPLACES their entire 3rd bimester average. So, the lazy student who doesn't do any essays or projects or homework the entire time can make a 75 on the test and have a 75 average instead of a 40. Also, most private schools offer multiple suplitorios. So, if a student fails the suplitorio (which often happens because they just don't know the material which is why they failed the first time), the teacher is required to give another suplitorio and another suplitorio, etc. And, rumor has it that eventually they just tell you to pass the student. Errr...I'll see how that works out when I return to school in March.

I think that part of the problem is that they don't necessarily have a way to retake a course at my school. If you fail 10th grade Language Arts, they don't have a system that allows you to retake that class while taking all other 11th grade classes like we do in the States. Actually, I could never get anyone at the school to give me a solid answer about what happens if a student really does just fail. The only answer I ever got was that the student is just given a pass (given credit anyway) but told they have to go to another school. Hmmm...that doesn't sound too good either. But, since the school doesn't want to lose money on students leaving, I think they always just tell the teachers to pass them.

...Which may be why I have students in 10th grade, who have been at this bilingual school since pre-k, who still can't speak English to me. Social promotion is huge here, but with no other system in place for repeating classes, I'm not surprised. I have a feeling I'm going to get into some disagreements when I return in March. I just can't in good conscience pass a student to the next level when I know they will just fail again. But, we'll see...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Here's to 2010!

So, Wilson and I decided to write down our New Year's goals this year. (Okay, so actually I decided it, but he was very nice to go along with it. Ha!) We've been so blessed in our lives so far, and we really look forward to what God will do in us and with us this next year. We had the usual stuff about being healthier and working harder at our jobs/school. But what I found most interesting was that both of us wrote down that we would like to be a better spouse in the next year. However, if you ask either one of us, we'll quickly tell you about how wonderful our spouse is already. And I guess that's why--we always want to keep trying to be better and make the other one a little happier. We have spent so much time together here that most couples never get to have. When we used to live in Georgia, we were both always so busy, and the time we spent together was few and far between. And, we're both aware that soon we'll be in that place again as Wilson will start school in February. But, I cannot begin to tell you how much fun we've had together, just the two of us. I was kind of down a few days ago and was even crying. Wilson's not one to just hug me and tell me everything will be alright. Instead, next thing I know, Wilson has turned on a music DVD of ours and is serenading me with the BeeGee's "How Deep is Your Love" and then with my favorite Wilson ballad, "Lady in Red." Ha! As we sat and just sang cheesy 80's love songs together, I looked at Wilson and realized how happy I am with him, no matter where we are living. It's so much fun to get to be married to your best friend and hang out with him all the time! So, I look forward to how much we will continue to grow in our relationship during this next year. (And, hopefully I'll stick to that "cut down on the Cokes" resolution, too! Ha!)

Happy New Year!

So, I really enjoyed bringing in the New Year here in Ecuador! First, we went with Wilson's friend Jose and his family to the Malecon (which is kind of like the riverwalk) to watch the fireworks off the water. It was so nice--the weather was breezy, the fireworks were great, and the company was delightful! Jose's little girl is about 4 years old, so it just kind of made it a little more exciting and fun! (That's Jose's family in the photo.)

Then, we went to Wilson's dad's house for the rest of the evening. (Yes, another night that did not end until 6 the next morning--oh my!) There was no real countdown at midnight. We just took all the anos viejos statues to the middle of the street, stuffed them full of fireworks, poured some gasoline on them, and then lit them on fire. Then, once they were burning pretty well, everyone turned to each other to say Feliz Ano and give hugs and all. I had a great time looking at all the different fires down the streets. The rest of the night, we ate, sang, danced, and talked. I had also made a video of photos of the family, and I think everyone really enjoyed watching it. The kids played with all kinds of fireworks--sparklers, bottle rockets, etc. And, we just had a really great time! So, here's to a fabulous 2010!!!

Anos Viejos

Ecuador has a really cool tradition for New Year's. They make or buy these paper mache statues and then burn them at midnight on New Year's Eve. Crazy, right?! But these statues are called anos viejos, which means "old years". The idea is that they burn the past or the old year and start fresh for the new year. I kind of like that. I mean, the thought of a lot of intoxicated Ecuadorians lighting stuff on fire at midnight makes me a little nervous, but the idea really is nice! Ha!

But what I really liked was looking at all of these statues all over the city. You can find almost any cartoon character you'd like in all different sizes. In fact, some people make these really huge ones and we got to ride around and take photos of them. Some were bigger than a 3 story building! For example, my favorite was the King Kong one. They had arranged it so that you could climb a ladder into his hand. Then, the photo looks like King Kong is grabbing you! So cool! They also have some that are different politicians here in Ecuador, and we even saw a few Obama ones, too. Ha!

But, of course, the most popular one for this year was Michael Jackson. Ha! So, when Wilson asked me which one I wanted, I quickly decided on Mikey. It certainly reminded me of Ecuador the most. So, we bought a small one. I didn't want to have to burn him, but Wilson said it's bad luck to buy one and then not burn it, and I certainly don't want bad luck, soooo...I guess Mikey will have to die twice in 2009.

Christmas Gifts

Gifts are certainly an exciting part of Christmas, and I had some very special gifts this year that I would never have expected to be so wonderful. Wilson and I decided to just go together and buy gifts after Christmas when we both had some time off from work. We've never been into spending lots of money on each other for gifts anyway, so this year we definitely stuck with the more practical gifts. I bought Wilson another pillow (he misses having lots of pillows on the bed) and a new belt since his had broken. He bought me a watch to wear with nicer clothes and a shirt to wear for New Year's. Neither of us spent more than $15, but we were both as happy as if we'd spent $150. The fun part was that we just spent some quality time walking around together and picking stuff out. I couldn't have asked for anything more.

But I also got two exciting "gifts" in the mail. My parents sent me a small package as we were trying to see if the mail was actually secure and if we could actually receive the package with more ease than we had when we first moved here. So, I got some socks, some pencils, a book, and lots of Kool-aid!!! We've actually already used 3 of the Kool-aid packets this week! Then, as a big surprise, my friend Holly sent me a care package full of letters and pictures from my former co-workers and friends at Collins Hill. I was soooo excited to sit and read them all! Afterward, I called everyone I knew to tell them how wonderful all my friends were!!! I always knew I was very blessed to work at Collins Hill, but I was certainly reminded again of that this Christmas. Thank you so much, Holly!

And, thanks to my sweet mom, I'll get to do Christmas all over again in February! Yay!