The preceding days of school
10.01.2008 - 14.01.2008 21 °C
Well, since it has been a while since I last update this, I will try to get you back up to speed. Thursday night I arrived in Cuenca in good spirits, but the following morning I woke up to a sore jaw from a long night of grinding my teeth, a reminder of how nervous I am about the coming days. Friday morning was spent cooped up in a room taking a Spanish placement exam. This was, however, not just an ordinary computer administered exam, in fact to make it even more unique of an experience I sat down next to Marty, the professor joining our trip as the Lewis and Clark faculty representative. It was an interesting experience watching him, among others, squirm at the various tests of our knowledge of Spanish. In no way do I intend to say that I did even remotely well, but I came into the test with a mindset that anything I don't feel comfortable with would not truly exhibit my base of Spanish. And I am beginning to learn a lot about the flaws in my previous tactics of getting around learning the language. Afterwards, I spent most of my time at home settling my nerves. At night, I needed a drink so to relax myself and resist the temptations of another night grinding my teeth. I had an Ecuadorian brew which is nothing to write home about called Pilsener or something like that. The bar is your typical German tourist bar that is by no means a local joint. That was not what I am looking for at this point in my time in Cuenca, I was looking more for a reprieve from the total uneasiness of speaking entirely in Spanish. My host family is very congenial, though. My brother had a hernia on friday though, trying to lift something too heavy. He was absent for nearly three days before I saw him again. He is learning English in order to become a teacher here. Teaching, apparently is a good profession and is paid well in comparison to many of the jobs in this country, however, some statistic I heard said that 95% of the country's population earns less than $7500 dollars per year. On Saturday, I got to experience the town of Cuenca more in a tour. There were two parades running through town, both of which seemed to be insignificant, but they had a parade nevertheless. One was an anniversary for a high school where all the alumni marched in their graduation year and the other was a celebration of January 6th I believe, which seemed odd to have a parade on the 12th, but it is a day similar to Halloween in the States. There have been constant pops from fireworks nearly every day. At first I thought it was because of this holiday but now I am thinking otherwise. And yes, fireworks in the city limits are illegal. In addition to the fireworks, there is a tradition of throwing water balloons at unsuspecting people. This is supposed to be a Carnival tradition but it has spread to a year round thing apparently. I saw on my tour the grandeous cathedral stationed in the center of town and also a Panama hat factory, but the tour was really nothing more than walking through the streets on a Saturday. That afternoon I sought to find notebooks for my class and the entire city had closed down by 3pm. So rejected, I got offered to spend the day with my host mom, Eulalia, on what happened to be a date with her boyfriend. I was the unintelligible third party. We went far from Cuenca into the higher points of the hoyas that are sandwiched between the parallel mountain ranges of the Andes. There we stopped at a plaza of a small town of which I did not figure out the name. At every tienda surrounding the plaza was a jewelry shop filled to the brim with silver jewelry. Here is one of the largest silver mines in South America and you can buy unbelievably cheap jewelry of high quality because of the intense competition in town. On Sunday, I slept in and woke up to my host sisters heading north to pick up my host brother in order to bring him back home to Cuenca. I meet more and more family it seems, everyday. On Saturday afternoon, I went into the higher country to celebrate the birthday of Eulalia's father. There were probably forty or more relatives packed into the small farm house. Too many conversations to keep track of, and far to rapid Spanish being spoken, so I spent most of my time sitting down and soaking in the festivities by my keen sense of sight. On Sunday, I met more family, Wellington's, my host brother's, inlaws. But now, I settle in. I have classes every weekday. Spanish is every morning followed by anthropology in on Monday and Wednesday and biodiversity on Tuesday and Thursday. I also have a night class for Salsa on Monday and Wednesday. The classtime is very laid back but the outside work is much more rigorous. It will keep my time more structured, instead of slipping away on weekdays to far away places. I'll keep you better up to date on my personal experiences as I go, but that is where I stand today.