A Travellerspoint blog


The preceding days of school

overcast 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.

Posted by kearlkozby 09:10 Archived in Ecuador Tagged educational Comments (1)

Cuenca, The City of Four Rivers

Home at last

sunny 29 °C

Last night I arrived into Cuenca where I will be stationed for three months for school. I say last night because AeroGal, my airlines decided that a three and a half hour delay was acceptable when confronted with moderate rain. I spent most of my time in the airport getting my fill of cribbage and gin. I have to admit I felt I had amnesia because I could not remember for the life of me how to play cribbage until it was far too late. The flight to Cuenca, when it finally did leave, was no longer than my flight from San Antonio to Houston, a light thirty five minute flight over the Andean highlands. I had this misconception that fertile valleys stretch across the entirety between the two parallel mountain ranges, but there is far more geologic formations than that. I overheard while eavesdropping, which I am getting quite good at, that a drive from Quito to Cuenca is more like a twelve hour odessy. So scratch that out as an idea in the future. But from the sky, it was a little more smooth, even though the turbulance was horrendous. From my side of the plane I was able to see the perfect conical shape of Cotopaxi, one of two volcanoes in the world with such perfect shape, the other being Fuji. Supposedly I would be living in the booneys farthest from the school, so there were plenty of jokes pertaining to the distance of my walk that lies ahead of me five days a week. We landed at el aeropuerto de Cuenca, if you can even call it an airport. I think I was expecting more out of the third most important city in Ecuador. I had a lot of misperceptions about this trip. The plane stopped alongside the side of the airport next to the baggage claim. A terminal did not exist. The baggage claim was equally pequeño. As there was only one plane on the ground within hundreds of miles, there was just one baggage claim track that seemed absolutely absurd. Moving along, I met my host family in mi escuela which is a villa in the heart of "downtown" Cuenca. I met my host family in spurts, actually to be more accurate, I met them basically one at a time on their own. Leslie, who is the daughter of Eulalia, my host mother, is a calm genuine Cuencan who I have not figured out precisely her occupation. Her husband, Wellington, has been the most readily accessible family member to talk with because he is learning English in order to become a teacher. He however, has been laid up since he left last night with a hernia in his stomach, but is supposively in better health. My host mother I met late a night when she arrived back home at around nine. She is a teacher of math at a local high school. Today we had our Spanish placement test which I can't place whether it went over well or not, but I am not too worried. I have no vocabulary for verbs I have become quite well aware of. Tonight, because we only have a tour tomorrow and it is the weekend, I am having a night on the town, well sort of. I plan to go and see a movie and perhaps go to a local bar one of the host families recommended. I feel quite at home here. A huge sigh of relief.

Posted by kearlkozby 11:15 Archived in Ecuador Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Last Night in Quito

Leaving "Gringoland"

rain 21 °C
View Crossing the Equator on kearlkozby's travel map.

So far this trip has managed to satisfy my hunger of bland and general tourism. That is about as far as it goes. Housed in the "Gringoland" district of Quito, there is nothing much to see by foot but a couple of sour faces from taxi drivers and occationally the large group of tourists exhibiting the meager Spanish they know, something I can truly relate to. But this is not really any test of Spanish for every sign, menu and service provider displays its grammatically incorrect English, just enough to get me food from the ethnic resturants I've been endulging upon. It doesn't seem fair at this moment of my life to pocket enough money to give me three meals and be able to last in the "richest" areas of Ecuador. To give you some idea, it cost eight soiled dollar bills for a three person meal in the heart of the tourist mecca.

At any rate, we have been customary tourists upto this point. Nothing but sightseeing and travelling in the littered streets of Quito in our rented bus. The streets can only be characterized as Russian Roulette. Honking is pushed as much as the gas pedal, and that usually gives the right for drivers here the right away to speed through pedestrian crosswalks. Yesterday was highlighted with a travel across the north valley of Quito and back over the equator. What I recall seeing as located in the heart of urbanization was similar to your Walmart, clearcut and built next to Boring, Oregon. I can't really put into words the fallacy of the monumental construction to mark the "precise" location of the equator. Afterwards, we travelled back across town to the central hill that divides the upper, old Quito, from the new and much more delapadated side of town. I was unable to capture the true grandeur of the view from atop the hill. Housing and construction crept up the steep slopes of the towering mountains surrounding the city and the pollution shielded the view of the three gigantic volcanic peaks neighboring the city of Quito. At the crest of the hill stands the third largest statue in the world, following the Statue of Liberty and the mammoth of a statue overlooking Rio in Brazil. The statue is the Virgin of Quito, or Virgin Guadalupe. The would have been the highlight of my exhausting day but I happened to see what is heralded as the greatest church in the Americas called the La Compania. The interior was blanketed in gold leaf, making the experience like finding the golden city. Yesterday was capped off with a little rain and some passing philosophy about life on the patio atop our hostel.

Today was an investigation of the most famous artist of Ecuador, Oswaldo Guayasamin. We chugged along the steep hills to reach his museum. This box like ediface was fabulously decorated in his artwork. I failed to purchase anything from the gift shop but I hope to return on this trip. We returned from the trip with much more energy, only to have it sucked out in a stuffy meeting room to discuss the history of Ecuador's politics. I did give me a fantastic lead on my hopeful senior thesis however. The lecturer, Yuri Guerra, who works with an ecological foundation located here in Quito. I am excited about this lead in order to learn more about the ITT proposal. The proposal seeks to earn money from the international community for the protection and restraint from continued oil exploration in Yasuni National Park.

I have a bit of an upset stomach about tomorrow, or perhaps the strong curry from my Indian food tonight. Tomorrow I meet my host family whom I will be staying with for the next three months. I am all but ready.

Enter language immersion.

Posted by kearlkozby 17:42 Archived in Ecuador Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

In Quito

Arrived safely

sunny 26 °C
View Crossing the Equator on kearlkozby's travel map.

Just letting everyone know that I arrived safely in Quito last night, but I am still a little tipsy from exhaustion and the altitude. Upon arriving in the Quito airport, we met with Narcisa who is our coordinator, after a good hour and a half of waiting in the customs lines. Narcisa is a wonderful person who will be fantastic for moral support. I am looking forward to the stay in Cuenca, and there is lots of enthusiasm about the host families and staying in Cuenca. Exploration of the blocks around our hotel is on top of my list. I've been staying with the guys of our trip in a single room of four beds, so I am getting to know them better. My host family is actually the furthest from the classes in the heart of Cuenca, about a thirty minute walk according to Narcisa. The Cordovas, my host family, have adopted a child which was the missing link that I could not understand in their letter. I am very interested in getting to meet and know them more. I will be on my way to Cuenca on Thursday and classes begin the following Monday. Things will start getting much more rapid from here on out. But until then, I think I will embrace the comfort of long sleeps and the company of fellow students. All the best to everyone who continue to enjoy their breaks before the wave of work before them.

Posted by kearlkozby 09:38 Archived in Ecuador Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Getting A Little Bit Nervous

Where did the time go?

sunny -17 °C

I don't think I saw the time in front of me ticking away. It's down to twelve hours before my first flight off towards Houston. In twenty-four hours I will be in another country starting a new life that I have never before experienced. I did finally get my packing wrapped up, but now that I am

Posted by kearlkozby 21:14 Archived in USA Tagged preparation Comments (0)

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