Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Good Bye, Ecuador! Two Weeks of Things I'll Miss: Day 4 - Fireworks

As I watched this week's fireworks display from my living room window, I thought of the Ecuadorian flag.  The frequency of fireworks in my neighborhood alone is enough to honorarily re-purpose the yellow, red, and blue of the flag into the tri-color of a burning flame.  This nation is a nation of pyrotechnics.  Birthdays, holidays, and festivals all require explosives.  While my weekly fireworks shows are probably the result of birthdays (always a big to-do here), the most famous displays in Ecuador occur during January. 

In the weeks leading up to New Year's Eve, cartoon characters, political figures, and celebrities mingle in the streets as papier-mâché figures known as año viejos.  They can be as small as a kleenex box or as large as a house. Businesses keep small change jars, and customers contribute money for fireworks.

Then on New Year's Eve, these "old years" are strapped to cars and buses, driven around the city, and finally toasted and exploded in bacchanalian 
fiestas across the nation.  It's similar to Las Fallas in Spain, but without a lot of safety precautions.  This year, I'm saying good-bye to the old year by leaving Ecuador, but this is one tradition I hope to take with me. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Good Bye, Ecuador! Two Weeks of Things I'll Miss: Day 3 - Dollar Coins

In the States, I used to hate dollar coins.  They were either:

  1. Given as tips by old people who thought they were novel
  2. Refused as a legitimate currency at vending machines
  3. Less flat and easy to shove in your pocket or wallet
Back then, I preferred twenties.  Of course, now that I live in Ecuador, land of the fifty cent coke, the eighty cent popsicle, and the $1.00 pound of peaches, I covet Sacajaweas.  Ecuador switched from the Sucre to U.S. dollars in the 2000s to have a more stable currency.  It's awesome for travelers from the States, except for one thing:  Twenty dollar bills have become a liability. It's difficult to break them.  So, you carry only fives, and you hoard your dollar coins, refusing to make change even for friends. 

You may be wondering, "Won't these be in the States when you return?  What's all the fuss about?"  Unfortunately, as NPR reported in June, dollar coins are costly to make, rarely used and, therefore, soon to be discontinued in the States.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Good Bye, Ecuador! Two Weeks of Things I'll Miss: Day 2 - Being "The Miss"

"Meess!"  I hear from across the room.  "Xavier is molesting me!"  It's times like these when I realize the importance of being an ESL teacher.  "Then tell Xavier to stop bothering you," I correct.  In honor of my students, the things they have taught me, the way they have made me laugh, and even the way they have driven me up the wall:  a few moments of mistranslations. 
  • "Miss, I need a SHEET! ...of paper!"  (trying to say "shit")
  • "I want world piss."  (peace)  
  • "My vactions fucked."  (sucked)  
  • "Do you have a buff?"  (BFF)
  • "Can I eat chips today, pleeeeeassee?  I'm so angry."  (hungry)
  • "What does swayga mean?"  (swagger, or swaggah a la M.I.A.)
  • "Miss, feel my squares."  (a six-pack, cuadras in Spanish) 
  • "It's a poopy!!"  (puppy)
  • "I need to have a sangria!" (indenting your paragraph in Spanish)

A few of my students during World Culture Week.  Please note the ninth grade Hitler.*

*The student meant no offense by this costume.  They are encouraged to include famous historical figures in their presentations.  Maybe Einstein would have been a better choice though.

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    Good Bye, Ecuador! Two Weeks of Things I'll Miss: Day 1 - The Musical Garbage Truck

    I'm leaving Ecuador in February :(  Over the next fifteen days, I'll be posting my scrapbook of things I'll miss in Ecuador.  Here's number one:

    I love thoughtful incentives for social change, hence, the musical garbage truck:  a Pavlovian reminder to set the trash out at appropriate hours.  No rats, no litter, happy streets, random dance-offs.