Saturday, December 26, 2009

Amazon, here I come.

Leaving tonight on a bus to Cuyabeno, where anacondas, crocodiles, pink dolphins and piranhas await. I'll tell you all about it when I get back...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

CMT Birthday

Hello all. Saturday was the celebration of the 45th year of the CMT. The day begins with a pancake breakfast and includes tons of games, prizes, music, and dancing. The volunteers (and other staff members) are in charge of running the games, so I got to just show up and enjoy. Here is the evidence of a fantastic day.

Drenching the volunteers with water was by far the most popular game.

Noé (on the left) sat with me during mass. I was pretty much cradling him the whole time. Meanwhile, he decided to start plucking hairs right out of my head in order to scrutinize them more closely. Why is your hair orange? Pluck away, Noé. In my eyes you can do no wrong.

Angie's a drama queen.

Lenin: so cheeky.

And then there's precious Christian.

I only have one more full week of classes left and then it's vacation time! I'm planning on spending a lot of time at the CMT and we're also looking into a trip to the jungle. I'll keep you posted.

much love,

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Colada Morada, Guaguas de pan, y Vaca Verde

It's a beautiful sunny day in Quito. Unfortunately the lack of rain means that the biggest dam and energy supplier in Ecuador is not working, so we've been having planned blackouts this month. These will probably last through December--I'm glad I don't teach in the evenings because everyone has been using candles in their classrooms. Being at home with a blackout isn't so bad because we have a gas stove and a fireplace. It's actually kind of cozy and it makes me want to go to bed early...which is good for me.

Anywho, life is moving along and the culinary adventures are keeping me entertained. For instance, October/November is the era of Colada Morada and Guaguas de pan. That's the colada on the left--it's made with blackberries, blueberries (actually, something called mortiños, which are like a small hard blueberry) pineapple and strawberries all boiled together with herbs and spices, many of which can only be found here in the Andes. It's like a thick warm cider with bits of fruit floating around in it. It's fantastic, and you have to eat it with a frosted bread treat called a guagua (pronounced means little one or baby and is shaped like a little person) that sometimes has jelly or cheese just never know. Anyway, it's an Ecuadorian tradition to partake in colada and guaguas in the fall season, though I wish people made it all year.

We had a two-day vacation earlier this month and Elsa decided that Will and I needed to see the Presidential Palace in the historic center of Quito. For some reason we took a lot of "arms spread out" pictures.

In front of the mosaic by Guayasamin, probably the most famous and well-loved visual artist of Ecuador.

There's Will allllll the way at the end. See him?

Overlooking the Plaza Grande.

Yesterday I went to my Spanish conversation professor's house to make more colada and lima bean hamburgers (or Vaca Verde, as she tells her kids). The electricity went out and we couldn't finish the colada (step 5 is "blend everything together in a blender") but the hamburguesas de vaca verde were actually pretty good. All you have to do is crush the lima beans, mix them with an egg, salt, pepper, mustard, garlic and whatever else you want, then throw them in a pan.

mmmmm, green cow.

She's a great teacher--only four of us go to class regularly and we usually just sit around and chat. Her husband is from India and yesterday they were telling me how to make shahi paneer (one of my favorites). They even gave me some tumeric to get me started. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Speaking of food, in my intermediate class we learned sequence adverbs (first, then, next, after that, and finally). So guess how they can get 2 extra credit bringing food to class tomorrow with a recipe explaining the steps. Smart, right? There are only 7 students in that class so it should be a nice little gathering.

I'm already finished with the 4th week of an eight-week cycle and I can't believe it. I still haven't been paid, so I haven't been able to do much traveling. But I'm pretty sure that by the time my month-long vacation rolls around in December/January that I'll have enough funds to go to the beach and the jungle. Interested in joining me? All visitors are welcome.

That's all for today. Take care, guaguas.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Working girl

Wow, it's been a long time since I've written. These days all my energy goes into working, planning, and making delicious dinners. I started on October 20th and I really wanted to get a blog post in there but it just didn't happen. The main reason for this lack of updating is that my day starts pretty early. I have to be in the classroom ready to go by 7am, so I've been getting up around 5:30. Hopefully I'll figure out a way to sleep in a little more, but cooking breakfast without a toaster is like camping, and the coffee just takes too long. I teach two-hour classes until 11am, then I am a sub from 2-4. I've been taking a Spanish class for an hour during my mid-day break, and that involves sitting around and chatting. It's good for me because I speak a lot less Spanish these days--I'm supposed to teach my classes in pure English and although I live with two Latinas, we often speak English at home. I should make them speak Spanish to me (even though I really can't understand Sara, la puertorriqueña). By the way, here's a photo of my rommates, Will, Sara, and Elsa.

Classes...My first class is the Academic 2 level, almost at the end of the road and only a few levels before the proficiency exam. I've been so busy and worn out mostly because of this class. The students are great--they pay attention, they want to be there, and they make the job easier. But I've been having to learn the grammar before I teach it to them because it's so complicated sometimes. And I really feel for them with some of this stuff (e.g., prepositions. what a mess). They have their first exam on Wednesday and I think they've been well-prepared, but it took a lot of work on my part. I have to teach at least one new grammar point every day, sometimes two. That's a lot for a student's brain to handle. We have a textbook but it was written by some folks who were/are coordinators of the institution, and although it has some pretty good materials included, the book itself is hard to use. I've been searching online for better explanations of the grammar and even if I think I've got it all covered, a student will ask a question that didn't even occur to me. I've explained to them that I never want to confuse them, so if I need some time to think about it (like, 24hrs) then I'll get back to them the next day, and they're pretty appreciative of that. I've told them that being a native speaker means my brain can't always retrieve all the possibilities of the use of one word or expression, and they get it.

Anyway, they're good students, my age if not older (though none are older than 27) and they laugh at my jokes. It's especially hilarious if I throw in some lingo here are there (like chuchaqui...Quichwa for hung over). They also love it when Brad Pitt shows up in my examples...Brad Pitt is hotter than most? Or hottest of them all?...hottest of them all, very good. I'm not even a huge fan, but being a teacher means sacrificing your dignity sometimes.

After my Academic 2 class comes Intermediate 1, the first level after the basic levels. This one is tough too, mostly because I still have to teach in English, but they really don't understand a lot of what I say. So I have to consciously tone it down while making it challenging enough for them to improve their listening skills. These students are just younger than me, 17 to 22 years old. For this class, I only have to teach two grammar points a week. But that means coming up with enough games and activities that they don't get bored. Sometimes a two-hour class flies by, and other times it crawls very slowly. That's my biggest challenge with these guys--keeping them interested, somewhat entertained, and learning at the same time.

All in all, the work is good. It's hard to get up so early, and the first week was really tough because I found out what levels I would be teaching the day before classes started. I was hoping not to get the Academic levels (because I knew the planning was hard) and I really didn't want the 7am class. That's exactly what I got, but it's not so bad.

We have this Monday and Tuesday off for a national holiday (fundación de Cuenca) but they didn't pay me for this month (another story) so I don't think I have the funds to go anywhere. Maybe I'll go to Mindo for a day--it'd be nice to get out of the city, and Mindo is so lush and beautiful.

Ahhh, I may sound melancholic but life is indeed good. I'm planning on seeing the volunteers from the CMT tonight for a little Halloween fun, and it looks like I'm doing free aerobics in the park tomorrow morning. I miss everyone, especially my ladies who have taken up craft night.

love you tons,

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Proust Questionnaire and other things

View of the sunset from my house. Same time, same place, every day, all year. That's the equator for ya.

The Proust Questionnaire compares your answers to 20 questions to the answers of 100 celebrities. Unsurprisingly, I scored most like Yoko Ono and Hugh Hefner.

The beach was great--I'm bad at pulling out the camera to take pictures so if I get ahold of some I'll post them.

I start teaching on Tuesday. At a meeting on Monday I'll get my schedule and find out which level I'll be teaching. I was really gung-ho at the end of the TEFL course about 2 weeks ago, but now I'm just waiting for it (it refers to the job, the challenges, the fun) to happen.

I'm nervous about the work, and about the fact that I don't know what I'll be teaching until the day before class starts, so I can't even get any planning done in these quiet vacation days. Any suggestions for day 1 activities? Getting-to-know you stuff could be good, but day 1 is the shyest day for most students, so I don't think I'll do a "stand up and tell us about yourself" game. That doesn't even sound like a game. I have to remind myself that I enjoyed the teaching practicum, so I'll most likely enjoy having my own classes--I've just been doing so much waiting around, reading books, interneting (I only visit about 4 websites regularly, so that doesn't take up much time) and I've lost that excited momentum you get when everything is new. And I've been watching more Will and Grace than I ever did before, so...yeah, things are slow.

Luckily I'm going to Cayambe this weekend to visit Marcia (who works at the CMT) and her husband Rigo. Audrey (center volunteer working on year #2) and I have decided to bring cards and games, make dinner and enjoy this small town where the cemetery is the most interesting attraction. Going out to visit people like this is a lesson in forcing yourself to relax a bit and not worry about what task needs to be done by what time, etc. You have to be comfortable with silences and not having an agenda, which is why games are usually helpful for activity-accustomed gringas like Audrey and myself. We're spending the night, which is a first for both of us. I'm looking forward to it because Marcia is wonderful and Rigo is hilarious--the type of funny that only happens if you listen closely, because he doesn't say much. I have some photos to give them of my last visit about a year ago (a year!) and I hope they're pleased.

Well, I think I'll go back to my new book (I traded at a book swap in a bar at the beach). Haven't been in the mood to watch movies lately, but a friend loaned me District 9 and I'd like to return it to him, so maybe I'll do that too. Again, send me suggestions for the first day or 2 of classes. Thanks!


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Vacation from....?

At the last minute I've decided to join some CMT folks on a trip to Canoa. It'll be one last trip during my vacation before work starts, though I'm actually looking forward to working.

Oh, did you know that October is Vegetarian Awareness Month? I didn't until about 10 minutes ago. Also, when things get rough, I always try to:

See you after the beach.

love, Mare

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I have always wondered about this and now it's been cleared up

GOOD Magazine told me What Happens When Non-recyclables End Up in the Blue Bin. So if you were wondering, now you can know too.

Tired, have a presentation tomorrow and a big-ass portfolio to put together for Friday. But after that I'm official. Trying to get office work so I don't have to just sit around for two weeks until my actual job starts. If they have nothing for me I'll pop in at the CMT and do what I can. Oh, I went to Cotocollao (where I lived last year) to see everybody and it was wonderful. I'll tell you more about it later but it involves slicing hot dogs. G'night.


Monday, September 21, 2009

I like making worksheets

But it takes a lot of work... and sheets.

All is well. I've visited La Marín a number of times--it's been great to see everyone but oddly enough, the laaaaast kid I expected to be excited to see me has been elated every time. She pleads with me to join her group asks me questions about my life ( care about my life?). So now I know the joys of visiting the center and getting a total ego boost from the same people who once brought me to my most humble levels. I have yet to visit the Cotocollao campus and I know I'm going to get a load of chiding from those folks (you've been here two and a half weeks and you haven't come to see us?!?!)

Still adjusting to a less-busy life, though my outside of class work does take a bit of time and effort.

Oh, a funny thing. I kept hearing the neighbors screaming at each other. Screaming, the kind of noise that people in the U.S. call in as domestic disturbances. I even talked to a classmate about it in an activity called "Tell me about your neighborhood." The woman's voice sounded so shrill and pissed-off, and she was the one getting most of the shouting in while the man would only get in a few phrases here and there.

This was happening in the mornings and evenings on a few separate days, so I assumed it had been going on for a while. I finally asked roommate Will about it and he said, "Does it sound like a woman who's about to kill somebody?" Yeah, it does kinda sound like that. "The neighbors have a parrot."

I have a friend who knows how Ecuadorians love their birds. Not really, I've just seen more than one pet bird being transported on long-distance bus rides. Anyway, the neighbors have a parrot, which is good because it means they aren't fighting, but bad because it means this is probably going to be a normal quirk of the neighborhood.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The view this morning

Nice. Today is QuitoFest (free music in a huge park) and the weather is perfect. Last night I met the new center volunteers (though I already knew three of them from LMU) and had a loud and loving reunion with the three volunteers from last year who are staying at the center again this year.

Meeting the new volunteers has confirmed that time has moved on, and though I loved being at the CMT I was almost too close to it to realize what was happening. By the time the year was up I had to pinch myself...wait, did that really just happen? Did I really do this? And now that I see the new volunteers one thing has become clear: that everything stood still for 11 months while I put aside the things that I thought made me Marian. I became an alternate version of myself, resembling me but removed from all those clues that would have previously reminded me, "oh yes, that is what Marian would do. She's still here." Now I feel almost as if I disappeared for a year only to find that time didn't wait for me to get back. Does that make sense? Don't worry, this is not an existential crisis. I'm just trying to share with you what goes on in my head as I prepare myself to participate in this new life.

And the new life looks like this. I live in an apartment with roommates and I cook dinner and do dishes, take the bus to and from work, I am alone sometimes, I go out to see friends and my bosses expect things of me (gasp!) just like any normal person. The truth is that this doesn't look much different from how my life has been in recent years. What's missing are my CMT kids. I don't want you to think I'm sad or that I regret not staying at the CMT. There were a lot of reasons not to stay there, but I miss my kids. I'm excited to try this new life as a teacher at a university, a certified this or that--I'm looking forward to it but it will not be the same. So I'll just have to get used to this and remain happy, thankful, engaged in the day to dayness of things.

Wow, that was a lot of thinking for a picture of the view from my apartment. Now it's time for another cup of coffee before I get ready for free music in the park. Much love,


Monday, September 7, 2009

Capítulo 2 begins's weird to be back. I have to re-familiarize myself with Quito, speaking Spanish, and being "different." It's also strange to be in this city but not be at the CMT. I keep hoping that I'll run into one of my kids on the street and we'll have this wonderful surprise reunion. But I'm neither living nor working near the two CMT locations, so I doubt my dream reunion will come true.

Today I attended my first TEFL/TESL class. The course lasts for 4 weeks and in that time I have a number of observation hours, teaching hours, lesson plans and other assignments to complete. Each day I'll be in class for 4 hours, so the rest of my time can be dedicated to the assignments and planning, but I'm still a little nervous. What if my lessons suck? What if I stumble over my words? What if I lose control of the classroom? I am not looking forward to walking into someone's classroom and teaching their students while being observed by the authorities.

To distract myself from my worries I unpacked all my stuff and arranged it in my room. And then I took pictures in order to give you a little tour, so here goes...

First, the view from the outside. You'll notice the coat rack outside my door with my stuff on it.

Once inside you don't have to go far to find the head of the bed...

...or the foot of the bed.

Here is the door to the bathroom along with the foot of the bed.

And here we have the closet/shelves.

Looking outside the room (from the bed) more clothes are hanging on the door to the kitchen. Tim Gunn would be proud because I really made it work.

There you have it. It's been great to see my friends and enjoy some good ceviche, and I'm sure my nerves about the TEFL course will loosen up once the ball gets rolling. More photos of the apartment to come, so stay tuned.

Oh and thank you for a wonderful 2 months at home. You guys are the best.

love, Marian

Monday, August 24, 2009

Well I'm not quite there yet, but I didn't want you to forget about me

Hi, this is Marian and on Saturday I'll head to LA for one last week of fun before I go back to Ecuador for one more year of fun. I mean work.

Anyway, this is how I feel:

via, whatever that means

Monday, July 13, 2009


Ahhhh...I've been here a little over a week, enjoying a few things I missed:

Lake Tahoe


Roasted Vegetables

Exchange Students

and of course The Family (photo unavailable) including my nephew, Jonah.

I miss my kids in Quito but I know I'll see them again, and that made leaving Ecuador much easier. I just realized I never posted the photos of the trip to the Miranda house on Fathers' day. Unfortunately, Papa Miranda was asleep the whole time because he'd worked the night shift. The bubbles I had brought were the main attraction of the day and a fantastic time was had by all.

Until next time,

Saturday, June 27, 2009

El Futuro

I'm leaving Quito in one week exactly. I'm sad to leave, but my feelings are tempered by relief at a few things:
  • I don't really have to say goodbye for long because I'm coming back in two months.
  • I'm going home, and that's a relief.
  • I get to eat all the food I've been craving...feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, dark leafy greens, good varieties of food (Indian, Mediterranean , Mexican...mmmm).
Wait a minute...coming back in two months? Yes, I got a job teaching English at the Centro de Educación Continua, a department of a well-known university in Quito, la Escuela Politecnica Nacional. Whenever I tell my Ecuadorian colleauges I got a job there they raise their eyebrows as if to say "wow I didn't know you were that smart," or something like that.

For the first month (September) I'll take a course to get my TEFL/TESL certificate (Teaching English as a Foriegn/Second Language) which should be transferrable around the world, including Pleasant Hill, CA (that's for you, mom and dad).

Then in mid-October I'll start teaching. I should have three classes a day, probably of a lower level because I'll be a new teacher. I'm not sure how the work will be, if I'll like it, if it'll be hard. But I wasn't sure about coming here to the Working Boys Center and I'd say it worked out pretty well. Amazingly, actually, so I've decided to relax and just let things happen to me (some advice offered me to a good Irish friend by the name of Ed).

I have an apartment set up with some friends: Sara, Elsa, and Will (a Puerto Rican, Ecuadorian, and a dude from Davis, CA). My room was once the "servant's quarters" so it's comically small. The head and foot of the bed each touch the walls, and to get to the bathroom you have to jump over the bed. Like whenever Mel Gibson and Danny Glover had to jump over the hoods of cars in Lethal Weapon--it's just like that.

But the fact that it has it's own bathroom is really nice, and the place is in a good area, has a washer and dryer, it's close to work and close to all other kinds of action in Quito.

So all is set to return to Quito, for how long I'm not sure. I guess until I'm ready to come home.

It's been difficult, up and down, fantastic, frightening, and quite grounding. I feel pretty removed from home, which was probably a good thing given the time, energy, and attention the kids here need. I've said it before and it's still true: I'm in love with my students. And though the love seems simple, I'm leaving the center with complicated feelings about child work, poverty, consumerism, education, and international volunteerism. And I've learned a lot about who I am, who I'm not, and what I can and can't do.

So that's that. My time at the center is nearly over and I'm happy about how things went. I'm ready to leave and will be ready to come back, and I feel so lucky that I get to live abroad like this. Hopefully I'll see most of you at home but if I don't, check back in September to hear about my Adventures in Ecuador, Capítulo 2.

love, Marian

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mini Bum

More bowling, a favorite among the kids. At first my second-graders were timid about it, gently rolling the ball down the lane until it came to rest just before the pins. "You have to put more force into it!" I told them. Pretty soon they were throwing it like MEN, little Incredible Hulks. They cheered for each other, they were patient when it wasn't their turn...they were just great (this is the class that amazed me with their gratitude during the Pizza Party). Unfortunately one boy didn't show up, and I learned later that his mom needed him to stay home to take care of a younger sibling (the kid is only eight years old and is on baby-sitting duty). I was distressed about that because we've been looking forward to this, so I'll try to make it up to him somehow.

Anyway, below is the evidence of a great time.

Here's Noé and the "power throw"

Billy was pretty nervous about this one

Winner for Best Smile: Elvis

What a goof.

Mr. Serious trying not to show excitement.

That's visiting former-volunteer Colleen in the back.

Someone else's camera has a picture of all of us together..will add that soon.

And another thing. When I told another group of boys what the name of this candy (one of them was selling it) translates to they went wild. They told me I could have a "tracero pequeño" whenever I want. ha ha...

love, M

Monday, June 1, 2009

Just for kicks

Here are some photos of late.

First up, making drums in Music class

Next, First Communion mass with the lovely Miranda girls (a few of us are going over to their house for Fathers' Day at the special request of Papa Miranda)

love, Mare