Wednesday, August 24, 2011


People-watching is a favorite activity of mine, odd behavior is a specialty, and odd behavior bordering on the philanthropic is even more amazing.  For example, once in Spain, I turned a corner down a disturbingly dark alley only to hear "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" coming from the depths. As I crossed the shadows and cobble stones, what I found was even more surprising: a man with a ukelele had rigged strings to his fingers and arms so that his music was accompanied by a tiny mannequin with his own tiny ukelele.  It was hokey, but unexpected.   A pleasant surprise after a day getting lost in the city.

In Guayaquil last week, I was a little angered with a car that had stopped suddenly in a busy crosswalk as pedestrians were trying to rush through.  "Typical Guayaco driver," I thought as everyone had sped up to avoid getting hit. But, as I looked back to give the driver an angry look, a tiny, old nun stepped out of the car with a large, plastic bag.  She reached the pedestrian island, scooped into her bag, and rained cat food down on the pigeons in the vegetation.  The nun smiled with delight, watched a moment as the pigeon's ate, then hobbled back to the car. It was over as quickly as it had begun.  She drove off and everything went back to normal, all just a part of the daily routine.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Virgencita, Help me

I don't offer a lot of glimpses into the minds of my students here, but this time I'm making an exception.  My kids handed in their final notebooks last week, and there is a particular brand of notebooks they have that cracks me up.  Here's a sampling of some of the messages the children tried to stick in my head before I gave them their final grades:

"Ave Maria, give me a shot."  I especially like the worried face next to it.

"Little Virgin, I swear that I studied but give me a hand."

One that I somehow failed to photograph offered a rubric of ways to grade the student.  The options included:  buena, buenissima, and buenisisisisisisima.  There's more of the less religious/grade-concerned types below.  Apologies for quality as they were taken with my webcam while I was at school.

An included folder/bed complete with sheep and pillows.  "The 5-star hotel for your loose papers"  The chameleon says things about the types of papers that may rest there.

"Official lunch planner"

This notebook says such wonderful things about school as: "Lunch is the best moment of the day!"  Beneath this is a menu suggesting various comidas tipicas for the student: "Monday:  cheese empanada with sugar, Tuesday:  salchipapa (french fries and hot dog bits) with mayonnaise, ketchup, and cola, etc., etc."

They're super-cute, spunky, and quirky, a little snapshot into the "verdadera bombacitas" in my classes.  And, yes, the ninth-grade girl inside me wants a few. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Vacation Accomplished

Four to five meter-high waves greeted any beach-goers during the 10 de agosto holiday weekend, and as always, I forgot my camera to record it.  Amidst whale-watching, sun-drenched private beaches, amazing seafood, and a tiny little earthquake on Sunday, there is a lot to record in Ecuador...if you can remember your camera.  Unfortunately, all I've got is my words, and if there's one thing I learned from reading "Moby Dick," it's that reading about whales is way uncool.  Seeing them in person, however, is amazing, and I highly recommend it.  And, hey, if you've got $6,000.00 or so to spend on a vacation, might I recommend building your own beach home in Puerto Lopez?  Yes, that's a real price for beach property.  Yes, you should retire here.  Or maybe with all these recessions in the first world, Ecuador should have a new slogan for tourists:  "Why not live here?"

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I need a vacation

When you're practically traveling for a living, it might seem selfish to say this, but I need a vacation.  My school, which typically has a 10 to 12 week bimester, is now running on week 13 of a 14 week bimester.  The students are used to being on vacation by now, and they seem ready to burst.  As they have been fond of reminding me this week, it is like "everyday I'm shuffling."  In between reminders to sit, stop singing, and talk in an inside voice, my inside voice is praying for the weekend.  Until then, I'll be dreaming of things like this:

Sunday, August 7, 2011

If it were my home...

I just heard about the amazing website If It Were My Home.  For anyone who has ever lived abroad, this is the perfect website to email to friends and family members when they ask what it's like to live in a developing or third world country.  If you're like me, your stories never seem to have the same impact that they have on you.  Numbers are harder to argue with.

If I tell you that the average person in Ecuador makes $7,000.00 a year, and then I tell you that a dvd costs between thirteen and eighteen dollars here, then suddenly you understand why there's an industry for fifty cent pirated dvds.  While these numbers don't cover everything, it's an inventive way to see the world with new eyes.