Well folks, I have arrived in Quito, Ecuador! I was happy to find that this year´s trip would begin just as last year´s did: me being dumped alone into a foreign airport, only to anxiously look for a sign sporting my name. And there it was, a sign, and the man holding it, Roque. He would become the first of many to exhibit patience with my pre-elementary level Spanish. I can´t image how many non yes/no questions I´ve answered with ¨sí¨. I can usually recognize my misuse of this simple word by the confused (more like contorted) looks on their faces. Upon arrival to my homestay, apparently my answer of ¨sí¨ meant that I did not want breakfast. Oops. Another key question has been ¨Cómo se dice ___ en Español?¨ (How do you say ___ in Spanish?)
Speaking of my homestay, ´tis excellent! I live with a family of 4 - Susana and Julio, and their two 30-something sons, Efraín and Edwin. There are also two volunteers from Cornell University, Bree and Alex. It´s quite amazing how the presence of just a handful of English speakers can feel less like a conversation than a refugee camp for non-fluent speakers. The food has been pretty basic so far, some pasta & rice with either chicken or beef, and maybe some beans or veggies. However, what has truly knocked my socks off (though I don´t wear any to begin with) is the fresh fruit juice Susana makes for every meal. She has made us papaya, passion, mora berry and strawberry juice. ¡Más por favor! (slurp)
As for the language, whoa Nelly! The 7 years of Spanish I took in high school and college doesn´t get me very far. However, I think it provides a good foundation upon which I can build during my 20-hour Spanish lessons that started today. They run from 2pm - 5pm, Tuesdays through Fridays. And let me say that 3 hours of one-on-one language lessons was intense! Imagine attending a class in which you were expected to answer every single question the teacher asked - no relying on other students! The teacher, María, is extremely helpful (and patient!), and I know that this time will pay serious dividends if I wish to return home unmamed.
Yesterday was my first day working as a volunteer. At 9am, all 15ish volunteers boarded a bus bound for the Chillogallo markets a bit north of where we live. Here our job was to gather children who are working with their parents as vendors in the market, and organize activities for them. We played fútbol, painted, played with Legos, and read books. I find the language barrier in this setting is better described as a Great Wall. Because, as it turns out, 3-year-olds don´t adjust the speed (or articulation) of their speech based on the country of origen of whoever´s lap their sitting on.
Well that is all for now. This post has taken me much longer than expected considering I had to install the USB drivers myself to connect to my camera in this internet cafe. Not too technical...unless everything is in Spanish. Next time I hope to tell you about the rainforest I´ll be exploring this weekend. ¡Hasta pronto!