Sunday, July 24, 2016

Update.

Upon PC's orders and on their tab, I flew out of Guayaquil at 11 pm on the 11th,  got to my home of record ( a term of art in the PC), my sister's home in Annapolis, MD,  early on July 12 and on July 22 received an email from PC ....."Congratulations...you have been legally cleared to continue your PC service..."  or equally cheery words to that effect.  I apologize to all you tax payers for wasting your money flying me home and then back but......  The good news is that on July 14, I flew ( on my own dime) out to Utah and had the pleasure of seeing my son and his band ( FY5, if you want to see them on You Tube or Facebook) at three gigs in the Park City area with the added pleasure of spending time with my son and his dear wife, Wren, my sweet daughter and son in law, and their unbelievable 3 daughters ( my three granddaughters).  I returned to my sister's in Annapolis on the 18th and had a few days there to enjoy her and her wonderful family, including her beautiful grandchildren.  So, it was not all bad but one more glitch in this PC experience. 

I am looking forward to getting back to Guayaquil only to see the students and teachers at the school where I am working and the host family that has welcomed me so generously.  It is an awfully hot and dusty city....I found a gym with a rowing machine which I have been using but its not air conditioned so I get in and get out as fast as I can.  Not good....

I am also glad to be back while it is still whale watching season on our coast so I'll be going over there in the next few weeks.

My sister has agreed to keep my cat for me for a month but when I come back for my 53rd high school reunion at the end of August, I have to find him a home or  take him back to Ecuador with me.  Highly unlikely, the latter, so I hope to find a home for him, at least for a few months.  I plan to take him with me eventually when I return to Colorado but I don't know exactly when that will be.

That will do it for now,   I owe some good people some responses to emails and many thanks for all your supportive and positive comments during this debacle.  This was better than the earthquake but not as memorable. :)   Our country director told us there have been over 1000 "replicas" aftershocks, since April 16..wow.  And there were two new smaller new earthquakes on the coast, north of my city, right before I left.  That is on my mind a lot...helps me make decisions.

Some photos from Utah. 
Starting on the your left, my son in law and Amanda, Nicole and Liza.  In the blue t shirt is a friend of Rich's from high school who now lives in Park City with his daughter and wife.


At the festival in Wallsburg, Utah, Rich with Liza and Wren

A little jam on the porch in Peoa.  Katy's first jam with Rich and Wren and Greene's neighbors, Jack and Carrie.


Grand girls and their friends in Peoa.  Nalu, the new pup, is looking on.

At Wallsburg with Tec and Rich behind Liza.


Charlie, Maggie and Olivia.....cousin time at Granma Sue's

Two more cousins, Evan and Lucy with their dads and uncle Steve trying to get a kiss. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Hello all.

I am writing this on Ramelle's 91st birthday....congrats from all over the world...job well done, They still remember you down here.

I was informed on Friday that my "legal" clearance has not come thru the FBI labyrinth so I have to leave the country by July 15. I am flying out Tuesday, July 12...for reasons that will become apparent in future blog posts.  I guess there is a terrorist with the same last name that they have me confused with. 

Anyhoooooo, I spent most of this morning with the invaluable help of my host mother, Mariana, getting Gringo cleared through the vetarnarian process.  Now we have his record of vaccinations and his document of good health.  We have to pay a small fee on Monday and then schlepp him and his paperwork to an office of the Minister of Agriculture to get his final documents which will get him through immigration on Tuesday.  I told Peace Corps to get me a ticket on a plane that would accept a pet in the cabin sooooo I hope they were able to do so cause he is packed and ready to go. 

Peace Corps is going to continue to pay the rent for my living quarters here so that I can return to them if the clearance comes through in the magical 60 days they have allotted me.  I guess they have to put some sort of time limit on it...I really do understand and I am not too unhappy about getting a free trip home and a vacation of up to two months...so...

If my clearance does not come thru,  Peace Corps will ship the belongings that I leave behind to me in the US.  They will terminate my service as "interrupted service" which is what they give volunteers who have to be evacuated due to civil unrest or disease in their countries.  So, it does not carry any stigma which is good because I might want to do another short term as an English teacher in Europe or Asia, somewhere...like the Republic of Georgia ( where wine was first developed back in the Roman times).

Anyhow, that's my news and now some photos.  I have to say how sad I am about the incidents that have occurred in the US in this past week...Sure takes the pride out of being from there and it makes Peace Corps' work even more important;  sending people around the world to show the other side of the US...the other side from what the world sees on CNN.  The racism, hate and guns are our reality but good, generous, hardworking young people ( with a few abuelitas thrown in)  are our reality too and Peace Corps is one avenue through which that message can get around. 

OK, starting off with a cat picture....he likes my clothes hamper  and looks so innocent down there. 
Good news on this cat picture too.  This little black creature is the school cat.  She recently gave birth to 4 tiny creatures in the bottom part of one of those blue plastic school desks which were pictured in an earlier post.  Anyhow, I was teaching the class and this young man got a sort of scared look on his face and I asked him what was wrong and he told me about the mother cat and her kittens who were living in the bottom part of his desk.  He said the custodian would "botar" the kittens if he found them...botar means "throw out" to any of you unenlightened out there...  So, I ran across the street ( where everyone goes at least 60 mph in a school zone) got a cardboard box and we positioned it so she could transfer her kittens to the box.  She did.  Then....the box disappeared....I presumed the mean old janitor had "botared" it but no.......I found the mother cat in the teacher's work room a few days later, getting some love from two teachers who said she had her 4 kittens, was a good mother etc.   So, we are going to get her spayed as soon as she is old enough and her kittens too as soon as they are old enough.  The teacher in the picture, an art teacher, has a "fundacion" next door to her house who does it for free but she said she did not have a way to get the cats to the fundacion.  As it turns out, my host mother is a cat LOVER and has a cat carrier and a car soooo, the two of them are going to change lives !!!!!.  Isn't that just the best news.

Couldn't pass this up....an Obama/Biden sticker on this Ecuador car.  Love it !!!!




Not sure what this occasion was but the school band showed up and these twirlers went to work.  I took some video too but don't know how to post video on this blog.  It was very sweet.

The school decided to open up this classroom for a biology lab...it has some nice looking equipment in it....but it was very dusty and dirty so they got the 8th graders to clean it out...not sure how that fits in the national curriculum but....anyhow, to make things worse...they divided up the labor so the girls were mopping the floors and the boys, as pictured below, were making frames for the posters.  And the worst part is, a couple of women teachers appear to be in charge and made these decisions.  I swear, I did not say a word...just took these photos and smiled.



Have to tell another little story.  I work in the English class that is part of the International Bacalaureat Program at our school.  The students had to read an article as homework and then in class they were supposed to discuss the story individually with either the teacher or me.  So, this sweet girl was taking her turn, sat down with me and started to tell me about the article .  She started referring to the author as "he" and I said, "oh how do you know the person who wrote this was a man ?   She scanned the article, gave it some thought, glanced up at me and said, "he or she" a few times, giggled and then started using "they."  I think I raised her consciousness....I hope I did.

After a hard day's work.....      

   My next post will be from the US....probably.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

 
Hello all,

Not much new here but I have a few photos to post.  I did learn recently that I have not "legally" cleared to be a PC volunteer ( I am assured it is just a "glitch") in the FBI's system...but..... Anyhow, I have until July 16 to clear, if I don't clear by then, I' ll be sent to my home of record ( Sue's ) for up to 60 days on Administrative leave  If I don't clear in that period of time, I'll be administratively separated from the PC by "interrupted service" which means I am separated through no fault of my own, rather due to an administrative " error.   I'm told there are a number of us serving all over the world in similar straits and that all of us are on hold.  We'll see what turns up.

Meantime, I made reservations to go over to the coast for a weekend to see the whales and take a boat out to a little island, aka the poor man's galapagos, for a day trip.




They had a showcase at school of things kids made out of recycled materials.  They were trying to put this tent up for what seemed like hours...finally, they figured out a system.  They were having a ball.     











Now, this skirt was really cute. Made of newspaper...ofcourse, she was really cute too



Where did this cat picture come from ?????

Some of their little recycling projects...cute.  They put so much enthusiasm into everything they do...its so cute, they go all out with their posters and presentations. 



There is an area of the city, San Inbordon, I think, that is just gated communities, one after the other....they call them "urbanizaciones."  aka urbanizations....town centers sort of.  The following pictures  are from one of them which  is set up more like a "restaurant row" around a lot of water features, palm trees ,etc.  It was lovely the night we were there but the folks I was with, Adela and Edith, said that for many months of the year it is too hot, even in the evening , to sit outside.  We had a beautiful evening, breeze, no mosquitos...really beautiful.  This particular urbanizacion is called Plaza de los lagos..lots of little lakes and ponds in the walking and shopping and eating area.  Had some deeeelicious chocolate ice cream.






On Father's Day, the family included me in their Father's day dinner.  This is one of the grandsons, Bruno, who speaks great English,  with the family boxer, Patsy.  They love her.

This is one daughter, Evelyn and her youngest, Dominica....who is almost 3 and so so cute. 

The family.....Amelia, 7/8 with Patsy, Adela who lives here where I live and is a school psychologist, brother Victor Hugo and father, Victor Hugo, youngest grandson, Marcello and wife of Victor Hugo, Mariana..who is wonderful..so generous and kind to me.  In the back is Evelyn with Dominica, her husband Alvaro, and Alexandra who is the mother of Marcello and Bruno.  A very very nice family.

Young Victor Hugo and Dominica....trying to figure it all out.

How did that cat picture get in there ?????







Mariana and her buddy, Edith, took me to the beach Playas with them for the day.  Had a good fish dinner in this little place...it was right on the beach.

I think I am getting better at this selfie thing...still have to find a way to do it without showing so much skin.  I guess I could wear a shirt.

After lunch, the tradition appears to be relaxing in a hammock before heading back out to the beach.  We indulged.

Red Crab....not red lobster. 

Hard Music Cafe.....not Hard Rock Cafe.  Incidentally, there are no copyright laws down here or at least they are not enforced...so everybody copies whatever the want , in terms of school materials and other things.         


  I have had a lot of fun experiences in the classroom...the kids are really great.

For instance, I was explaining the meaning of some of our idioms..the one in question was , " Go for it"    Somehow, I told the story of how the Spanish speaking community,began using the phrase,Si,se puede" in Obama's campaign and how it caught on and how they were my first Spanish words....and it basically meant, "go for it, you can do it..."  They loved that.  I have also taught them the meaning of e.g.  They had seen it a lot and but did not know what it meant. They also did not know the word Spanglish...so we had a big discussion around that.  Lots of fun things....hopefully some serious grammar too. But, I am focusing on making it fun....for them and for me too.  

Thats it for now.
Thanks for paying your taxes.
If you have any connections at the FBI, try to get them to clear me.  I feel like I'm on the "no fly" list...
Love, me

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

I want to share this photo before I forget.  This girl had her birthday and I saw her walking out of class with this half eaten cake.   She allowed me to take this photo of her....on the little sticks are pictures of her with her friends and family.  How sweet.


Gringo won't let me use my laptop with out his assistance.

He just loves to be held

He also loves to sleep in my clothes hamper.    Too much fur in this little place already.   

     Wren takes the best pictures of Rich and sends them to  me.... from their gig in Pagosa, Colorado.  Thank you, sweet Wren.. 


Tuesday, June 14, 2016


First of all, have to say something about the horror in Orlando...I can't say anything that has not been said better by others.  Just how very sad for those families, young people, and the world in general....wonder where it will all end. We have a young volunteer whose parents are first generation Afghanistani  and Muslim.  She wrote a beautiful piece on our Whats App chat about how sad she is for the people who have suffered from the Orlando and other horrors of this type and how this type of tragedy should help us all to be more sympathetic toward the refugees who are fleeing their countries to escape from that same type of oppression and violence.  I have asked her for permission to republish her comments so maybe I'll be able to do that later.

I have been making some arrangements to come back East for my 53rd high school reunion...Surrattsville High School. Its scheduled for the end of August.  We'll have two weeks of training in Quito prior to my reunion so I'll miss school for about 3 weeks.  Seems pretty awful but I guess they will do just fine without me....they have gotten along just fine all these years without me so it puts my value into perspective.  :)


Gonna post some more photos from my unimportant life.  This past weekend, another volunteer, Becky, and I were planning to go over to a nearby beach, Playas, just for the day, on the bus, very low profile.  When I asked my host family sister, Adela, for some ideas for the day, she told me she was going to drive over herself and would be happy to take us and furthermore, she was staying overnight in a family property and that there was plenty of room for us if we wanted to stay.  So.....we accepted her offer and I have posted some photos below.  It was a very pleasant surprise.

I'll start with this one because it was taken by Becky and posted on Facebook and is pretty good of me, if I do say so myself.  I guess I look pretty white !!!!  Adela is young and very pretty so it is easy for her to look good in pics.  This was taken on the beach in Playas.  




A view of the beach...its pretty undeveloped...those are the only two condo type structures along the whole beach.  You can see the fishing boats pulled up - they are commercial boats that go out during the week. 
This is Becky and Adela paying for our lunch.  This little place is called a "waco" which is Spanish for hole, comparable to our  "hole in the wall."  And the food was delicious. 

Becky and Adela headed for the water.....until Becky saw all the "medusas" aka jellyfish.


This is a view of the property where we stayed.  Its a family compound, several houses owned  by different members of the family with full time caretakers with this pool area in the center.   It was really lovely and the beach was great. 

Another view of the pool area

I am not sure what they do with these craft...sort of look like windsurfers but the logs look so heavy.  We did not see any in the water.  They were housed with the fishing boats that were pulled up on shore so maybe they fish off of these.  We were there on Sunday so no one was out fishing..just lots of families in the water.


Another little place ( a waco) where we had a coffee after dinner Saturday night.

Another view of the compound... we stayed in the little house to the right.

 I spend the week in school and enjoy that part of the assignment a lot.  The students are so thrilled to hear me speak English..its so funny.  One girl held up her phone the other day with the camera pointed at me and said , "Habla en ingles"....so I did a little talking for her...hammed it up a little, and she just squealed with delight and ran off.

There is one teacher  I will not be able to work with.  She is almost always late, or does not show up at all and Friday she actually bullied a little kid to tears...it was awful, so awful, I had to leave.  I was going to talk to her today but I got the flu and stayed home.  I'll let her know how i feel tomorrow...and I am going to try to say something to the little boy......he was so sad and it was so mean spirited.

I learned a couple new Spanish words over the weekend.  To supplement her income, Adela sells Colombian underwear.  We started talking about the different styles....and the word "mata pasiones"  came up.  That is what they call the granny briefs, mata pasiones.    Mata means kill so you can easily figure out the rest.  They have some fun words.

We have a small group of students in our IB program, International Baccalaureate.  They wear these Harry Potter style dusters as they move about the campus.  Also, I think all their classrooms are air conditioned.    Don't really have a feel for the program yet, have not worked with them at all...will do so later.  I think there is some jealously among the other students.

These kids were assembled on the concrete slab for a program the other day and this cop shows up...he rode his motorcycle down the steps and just parked there for a minute or two and watched the program   Other than me, No one seemed to notice..can you imagine that happening in one of our schools ?  The police have a huge presence.....no privately owned weapons allowed in the country.  Not sure how I feel about that............


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Going to just go with photos this time.  I've been working at school and by far the best part of this assignment is the school day.  The kids are very interesting....and interested.   Hoping for some good results. 
These are the students sitting outside ....earthquake evacuation drill.  Notice the uniforms.  The girls wear saddle oxfords...so cute.

Just another photo of the students at the earthquake drill.

They assemble every Monday morning on this big space for announcements, flag ceremony, school song etc. Its a large concrete area in the middle with classrooms all around .  This is also where they have their PE classes....and displays of posters celebrating 24 of October, the Battle of Pichincha...when they finally drove out the Spaniards.  Lots of their schools and roads are named after important historical dates....its a good thing.  Our school is Colegio ( high school) 28 de octubre and for a long time I thought that was the date of the battle of Pichincha but I learned today that the battle was on the 24th of May of some year and the 28th of octubre wasa totally different important day...it was some big protest against the catholic church running the country but no one in the teacher's work room could remember any details.  I think I'll google that. 

Funny story.   We have a work room with air conditioning.  There are two units and they are both going full blast when I go in but everyone is complaining about how cold it is.  So, I asked a couple teachers if we could change the temperature setting and they just nodded, smiling vacantly that they did not know where the remote control was.  So, I suggested we just unplug one of them...They were scared to death but I did it.   I checked the room later , no one had replugged it in and the temperature in there was just right.  So weird, how they just accept stuff.    In my travels, I have decided that is what makes we Americans so envied by so many, we just do what seems right...without out worrying about who might not like it.  I had a similar experience in Bulgaria with an umbrella on a table in an outdoor restaurant.  People were sitting in the sun, just baking, and waiting for someone else to raise the umbrella....I said, Lets just do it, so we did and my counter part , Tsveta, said, " That was so American !"  Funny. 

Another shot of the Monday morning assembly.....classroom buildings up in the back.  Its actually a pretty nice campus.

My cat...Gringo.  He is so so sweet and knows how to cool off.  More pictures later. I am told he arrived here the same day I did so they decided he was mine and named him Gringo.  We had him castrated as he was fighting with the other two castrated male cats who live here.  He is still fighting them...hope they make friends






This is Gringo sleeping in my suitcase.  I have not totally unpacked....but will, eventually, I guess.

This is our youngest group.  They are called the Octavos...8th graders but they are really the age of 7th graders...their numbering system is different from what I am used to.  They were having a party celebrating the Dia del Nino..day of the child...any excuse to have a party and cancel class !!!!  Sad....the class cancelling part.

Gringo looking for something under my bed.  He loves this laid out position....cools his stomach, I guess.

Obviously, I am still learning how to take a selfie without looking like I am taking a selfie.   I was going to delete this, hating myself in it, but its good of the other three and shows the pedestrian and bicycle bridge to Isla Santay.  This island is in the river Daule which runs thru Guayaquil and  has been designated as a protected area so only the families who were living there in the 50s are allowed to live on the island.  No cars are allowed so everyone has to walk or ride bikes across this bridge from the city of Guayaquil.  The gal in the orange is Adela from the family I am renting from, very nice and takes us lots of places, Leslie and Tim are other volunteers in my group.  They are also based in another school in Guayaquil.


The young kids from the 50 families have an elementary school but the older kids go into town.

The cocodrilos are a big draw...and there are lots of them.  notice the English translation...."ride"

Tim and Leslie on one of the paths, some of the paths are on land but most are over swampy areas.  Its a mangrove swamp, by and large.
Time and Leslie on the path.  Its really very beautiful.  We walked for about 5 hours but it was at a very leisurely pace. 
Gringo

an old saab  i found parked along the road...interesting, at least to the Gilsons



This is Becky, the other volunteer who is over 40...tho she is just over 40, unlike me who is.....over much more.  She and I went for a stroll on this Malecon along the river.  It must have been a huge construction project.  I am told that prior to this malecon being built in 2000, it was just an ugly, smelly river shore line.  On the opposite side from the river is the main financial district and commercial district so this was a big big improvement and it is well used by the people. 

more of the malecon....lots of young families


They have these on the malecon....I want to try it.  looked like a lot of fun.  Gotta find out the weight limit.

This is the malecon and shows the office buildings and condos that overlook the malecon now but 16 years ago I guess they overlooked some horrible river shores.  
One of the more beautiful buildings in the city.
This is another pedestrian mall walkway among some government buildings.  Quito is the capital city but Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador and the main port on the Pacific.
A fountain on the pedestrian mall among the government buildings.
This is the atrium of the school of arts building which is right on the malecon overlooking the river.  They must have been so pleased when the ciity   cleaned up the river side and put in the malecon in 2000.
This is just to show the price of turkey breast.....$16 a pound and its not organic even......

Another part of the malecon.....in the distance, you can see the lighthouse where we visited last weekend...climbed 500 steps to get there but beautiful views and all along the stairs are bars and stores...very charming.  Don't have any photos of it but will go again and get some.







And finally, the girls in their saddle oxfords.   Isn't that just so cute !!!!  The blue things are molded plastic desks..not bad but the fat kids have an issue.  Actually, I have not seen a kid too fat to sit in one...don't know what they would do....hmmmmm, I may have some work to do :)No one is allowed to put anything on the walls.....crazy.  They don't want to have to paint.