Sorry for the delayed post! I’ve been fighting the flu for the past couple days. Having a fever in a tropical climate is weird. Fortunately, one of the school moms is a doctor and made a house call to get me started on antibiotics. So now, my head is clear enough to concentrate and write words in a sensible order once again.

This was my first week to teach at the school in the morning and do afternoon church activities. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with the lesson planning and learning everyone’s names that I haven’t taken pictures or thought to have someone take them for me. Last Sunday Samuel led the worship time at Samborondon church with Paola and me as back-up vocals. I thought about handing my camera to someone to take pictures, but it seemed awkward. “Hey, so I’m going to sing up front and could you, like, take pictures of this cool thing I’m doing for you guys and, you know, Jesus?”

I realize that if I’m to include pictures of what I’m doing here, I’ll have to get over that. We can’t all own a selfie stick. But for now, I’ve decided this week to cop out and do a Q & A blog.

My friend Johanna suggested I include a map of Samborondon, to be able to visualize where things are.

Map Samborondon

Black Arrow: Jose and Lupe’s house
Red Arrow: school/church
Green Arrow (hehe… get it? Green Arrow?): yogurt and pan de yucca place, next door to the bank with an atm where my debit card works!
Blue Arrow: River boardwalk with basketball courts and soccer fields
The road that goes out of town on the bottom left, is the road we take 30 min to Guayaquil.

Q: Does the water flush the opposite way in the toilet? (from my brother, Matt)

A: I don’t know what way the toilet flushes where you are. I went to flush the toilet just now and the water swirled counter-clockwise.

Q: How do you like the way of living there? (Tami)

A: The way of living here is simpler, less planned, and more spontaneous. Sometimes my introverted self is jarred a bit because most things are last minute which doesn’t allow one to prepare. The flip side is that you go along with the flow of life and don’t stress. When something doesn’t work out, say “It wasn’t meant to be”, and move on.

I do enjoy all the walking I get to do. It’s about 20 min from the house to the school/church where I spend most of my time.

Ecuadorians are warm, generous and extroverted. It seems odd to them that you would ever have to or want to say “no”. In fact, if you ask them to do something, they’ll likely say yes, whether or not they plan to do it. This makes it hard to plan ahead.

Q: How many Galapagos tortoises do you have? (Russ)

A: Zero. It’s illegal as they are protected as a national treasure. Though, Adrian (Jose and Lupe’s son) has a couple little turtles in training; along with chickens, and ducks, and rabbits, and parakeets.

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Q: What luxury do you miss the most? (Tami)

A: Quiet, which I never thought of as a luxury. Mother’s Day weekend was noisy starting Saturday night and all through the night with serenades and mariachis and parties. People have huge speakers they put in their windows or even outside their front doors to blast outward at the neighborhood. I was able to sleep when I closed the window facing the loudest music, turned the fan on max, took a Benadryl, and plugged my ears with my ear buds piping classical music from my ipod.

Sunday, we went to a mall for lunch in Guayaquil. Of course, it was crowded and they had a special musical guest singing in the food court. I knew I was the odd woman out, when our group moved tables closer to the stage and the blaring speakers. The singer was good, but I didn’t need to be within an arm length from the stage. Stalin (yes, that’s his real name) had me pose with her poster.

singer

Q: How good are the mangoes in Ecuador? (Michael)

A: I hear they are really good. It’s not mango season right now, so I haven’t had any. I’m told they also eat them green with lemon and salt.

Q: Do you have an iguana that rides on your shoulder yet? (Karen)

A: Ew, gross. No. I’ve only seen iguanas in the parks in Guayaquil and I’m glad they keep them there away from me.

Q: Do you get to pet the llamas? (Rita)

A: Alas, I’ve yet to see a llama. They probably stay away from the coast in the cool mountains where their warm coat is a blessing instead of a curse.

Q: What of your fears have you overcome? (Jim)

A: Hm, there are several. I didn’t know if I’d survive the heat without air conditioning. I have. In fact, I’ve adapted more quickly to the heat than Samuel and Paola who have air conditioning in their home. I still sweat , um, I mean, “glisten” like a tall glass of iced tea on a sweltering day – literal drops of water roll down my arms. But, it’s not icky anymore. And the days I have spent in air conditioning, my legs swell up with retained water.

I was afraid of how I would be perceived as a single woman in my mid to late thirties. My first day here, I met Lupe’s three single sisters who are in their mid to late thirties. They are active in the church and teach at the school. I’ve heard a couple people say they are glad I’m not married because if I was I probably wouldn’t be here. Also, I’ve heard several voice their conviction that I’ll find my soulmate in Ecuador. I think they say that just to get a laugh out of me.

I wasn’t sure how I’d get along with elementary school kids. I was trained to teach high school. Turns out the younger kids are better behaved. Huh. And they’re not too cool to enjoy action songs.

Q: If your host family doesn’t have a car, how do you get around?

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A: I walk, mostly. Or if I’m running late or the sun is too bright, I take a “trici-moto” which is a motorcycle converted into a taxi cab, of sorts. To get to Guayaquil, I take the bus. If there’s a group of us going, like on Mother’s Day we went to the mall, we pile into Yessenia’s (Lupe’s sister) van.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Picking a favorite is hard because I’ve really enjoyed all the food I’ve had, except for the eggs. I really like “pan de yuca” (yucca bread) and fruit blended yogurt (see last week’s post here). And a few days ago, Jose made cheese-stuffed yucca pancakes. Yummy!

yucca tortillas

The preparation requires squeezing out the starchy liquid from the fibrous pulp, as Jose demonstrates.

yuca extraction

The next day Lupe made “colada” with the starchy liquid, mixing it with milk, sugar and cinnamon. It was really good!

Another favorite is the fresh made juice we eat with lunch. Toss in a blender: a couple handfuls of fruit, ice and some water. Blend and voila!

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On the day pictured above, Lupe outdid herself for lunch. It required, not one, but two plates. Clockwise from top left: tomato and onion salad, strawberry juice, rice with bean and cheese “menestra”, shredded carrots, handmade potato chips, steak with fried onion, and sausages.

Q: Is there a food Ecuador is known for?
A: They eat rice with just about every meal. They also have many ways of cooking plantains.

Q: What is your least favorite food, besides eggs?
A: Probably, banana milk. It’s not bad, but not my favorite.

Q: Do Ecuadoreans observe a “siesta”?
A: Not officially. Here in Samborondon, people get a long enough lunch break to make it home to eat. The rice field laborers start at sunrise and are done by lunchtime which is 1:00 PM. Elementary and state run high schools are also done by then. Some businesses close. After lunch it’s common for people to take a “descanso” (rest), but I’ve yet to hear someone call it a siesta. Things start winding up again around 3 or 4.

Q: What are your most unexpected blessings?
1. The midday “descanso” (see above) coincides with the hottest part of the day, so it’s a very welcome break.
2. Brand new friends who went out of their way to make my birthday special. See last week’s post.
3. Chilean friends who are also adjusting to the climate and culture, who have me over and spoil me with Chilean food.

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Last bits

The knitting workshop started this past Tuesday afternoon. It was initially for women in the community, but Roddy really wanted to come. Of course, I said any guy who wanted to learn was welcome.

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I’ve never taught a knitting class before and two of the students are left-handed, so we’re all learning together.

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On Thursday, we had our first “adult” English class. The only requirement is that they no longer be in elementary school. So the students range in ages from 13 to 30.

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We started out in the fifth grade classroom, but soon it started raining hard on the zinc roofing. No matter how loud I spoke the rain drowned me out. So we moved to the second grade classroom that has a better roof. The school benches are smaller, though.

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Ecuadorians are diligent note-takers. We’ll see how diligent they are with practicing at home.

Well, that’s all for now.

Peace,
Erin

P.S.  Some have asked how they can give towards my trip.  You can give directly to IberoAmerican Ministries online here. Just select “E. Shead – Ecuador” from the drop-down list (names are listed alphabetically by last name).

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