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.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Time for another blog but I don't have a whole lot to say.  Peace Corps denied my request to stay in the Sierra region, where the temperature is tolerable, so needless to say, I am in Guayaquil where the temperature is not tolerable...or just tolerable...horrible....torible....maybe that is a new word for "tolerably hot."  I am living in a very nice apt. which is attached to the house of a very nice family.  Actually, it was their home but they are carving it up into apts and turning it in to a rental property with about 8 units....so it was a big house.  I have an air conditioner in my apt so it can be pretty pleasant in there. 

I have been to my school 4 days and today starting working with a few teachers.  It is going to be a lot of  fun when I am actually teaching and not thinking about the sweat that is rolling down my back, my legs, my face and god knows where else.  Today I introduced myself and said all the usual things about my kids, grandkids, pets, etc and then I said , " Ecuador is very popular in my country, the US..my friends are very jealous that I got to come here."  And you would just die if you could see the smiles that came across the students' little faces.  That made them so proud.  I felt that was the least I could do for the sweet things...sitting their sweating their guts out for 7 hours a day.  At least I get a break once in a while and can sit for a few minutes in one of the air conditioned work rooms....where, honestly, not much work gets done.

Anyhow, some of the things here are ok, the family that owns my apt. is just wonderful.  Their adult daughter, Adela, lives here too in the main house.  Apparently, she is divorced and is a school psychologist.  Very nice....34 I think.  She speaks a lot of English but when she gets going with a story or is mad, its all Spanish and very fast.  So, at least that is good exposure for me.

Most of the volunteers are very young and I really don't do anything with them since so much of it involves drinking late at night and into the early hours of the morning.  I'm an early to bed, early to rise kinda person...always was.

But, I have met one volunteer in the health section, a nurse, Becky, who is 46 and  also doesn't quite fit in with the younger vols .  She was also evacuated after the terremoto so I met her in Quito when we were all living in the hostel.  Knowing she was in Guayaquil,  I called her after I got down here.  She and I went to a park/street fair/zoo/benefit concert last sunday in a place called Parque Historico and it turned out to be real nice.  She was funny, after we had been there a while, she said, " don't get used to this and think this is normal for Guayaquil...this is the nicest park I have been to in the whole city. "  That does not bode well......

Anyway, we did have a nice walk around, some nice bus rides getting there and afterwards she showed me a little around the downtown where she lives.  She moved out of her host home after 6 months and lives in a sort of high rise in a very dreary apt. but she loves it.  She has a bike and rides around downtown on Sundays.  There is a boardwalk, they call it a 'malecon" near her house which runs along the largest river that runs thru Guayaquil so she likes being near it for walking, etc.

I'll post some pictures below of the park/zoo place we went.

Sooooooo, thats about it.   Pretty dull so far.  Hot and dull...now that sounds great, right ?  The best thing and the main reason I am not just packing my bags and leaving, is that parts of my family,  not sure who will really show up, are planning to come down and go to the Galapagos Islands as a group.  That is enough to keep me tolerating this torible weather until they come.  Of all the things in the world to see, long before I knew about Peace Corps in Ecuador, I wanted to see the Galapagos..did not even know they belonged to Ecuador.  So, fate..I guess.  So, here are some photos from  last Sunday at the park/zoo/street fair/ earthquake benefit.


The first animals we ran into in Parque Historico were these two toed sloths ( there is another "variety" with three toes....the things you learn at a zoo/park/farmers market.  Anyhow, just as we entered,  one of them was  oozing out of that tubular thing which is guess is their home.  He/she was sloooooowwwwwly making her way out to the rope.



She got to the rope, and into a comfortable position and fell sound asleep.  It was very cute.  Don't know if you can see her eyes, but she really looks asleep. 

Braile was provided at all the written signs..very progressive I thought.

All the walkways through the park are like this...very nice, clean etc. Pretty good for a developing country.


I know, I hate caged birds too.  But, boy are they beautiful.  Lot of good it does them in the zoo.





This shows the street fair aspect.  They had invited small businesses from the province that got hit the worst by the earthquake, Manabi, to sell some of their wares.  I bought some coffee, my friend bought some beer.  Those old fashioned buildings behind the umbrellas are just that.  They were located in downtown Guayaquil, built by some rich,  old Spaniards in the 1800s so when it came time for the city fathers to build high rises, they actully dismantled these old houses and moved them out to the city outskirts and put them in the Parque Historico.  Also, pretty progressive.  Quito has a famous Historic District where the buildings are made of cement and plaster, etc. so are being restored in place.   These houses in Guayaquil were made of wood, in the costal tradition, and were somewhat easier to move, I am sure.  I just think its really great that they preserved these...I am sure it was not cheap.  I guess this country had  a lot of money to spend on such things when the price of oil was high but now that it has gotten so low, the country is suffering. 

There were a lot of iguanas all over the park...ALL over the park.  This one had a loose neck skin  problem not unlike mine. 

Same iguaa

After we left the Historic Parque, we rode the bus back downtown.  On the way to her apt. we went through an/the Iguana Park where there are untold numbers of iguanas.  The city feeds them and apparently they don't leave the park as it is surrounded by city streets and I did n't see any squashed iguanas.



There are four iguanas in this picture..can you find them ??  They were everywhere.