Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The beginning of Spanish School in Cuenca

I am back in San Clemente! It was a great month in Cuenca! I studied, partied, traveled, met new friends, learned to cook and took salsa lessons. Wow! It was quite a trip! I met people from all over the world and learned of their stories, very interesting! But one thing I learned is no matter how hard I try, I will never be Ecuadorian J But, THAT’S OK! I learn something new about this culture everyday and that’s priceless.

A traditional meal of Motepillo (large corn kernals boiled with queso, egg, green onion and aji) very delicious, very filling!

I had decided early on going to Spanish School was a necessity. I remember bits and pieces from high school and college, but it had been almost 6 years since then. I definitely needed to brush up on my skills. I decided after enjoying our trip to Cuenca so much I would rather go to school there. A week after my decision I was on the bus to Cuenca, which took a total of about 10 hours to get there (6 by car). The bus ride was quite an experience, especially since it was my first one by myself. As I said before the Guayaquil bus terminal is bigger and nicer than the airport here. The ride was smooth except for the police man who was kind enough to show me my gate and was also so kind as to hit on me. He asked for my digits and I thought eh what the heck, I don’t have to answer his call and I will probably never see him again….WRONG! (update: on the way back to San Clemente, after not answering his calls for 3 weeks, guess who I saw in the bus terminal again…HIM!!! It was quite amusing…and he made sure I got on the correct bus once again and then called me to make sure I arrived safely in San Clemente.)

The first day of Spanish School was EXHAUSTING! My brain literally hurt. 4 hours starting at 8am with a private tutor, who only spoke Spanish…I was beginning to rethink the whole idea! I swear my eyes just had this blank stare about them and my drool was collecting on the floor. I felt dumb. But by the 3rd day I seemed to be picking up a lot of the words she said and after the first week I started talking more in response to her. I started meeting all these new people too with different stories from all over the world.

Bre , a teacher from Boston pursuing her dream of going to the Galapogas.

Felicity and Mark traveling all over South America for a year from Australia.

Another couple from England doing the same thing.

A family from Wisconsin taking a sabbatical from work to enjoy another culture.

Holly and Andy a couple from Washington DC, teaching English for 6 months and learning Spanish for work back in the states.

A girl studying abroad from Norway for a few months.

The list grew. People from all ages came and went. We all got together a few times at the local pub after salsa class at night to learn about each other. We compared cultures and reasons for leaving our countries and why we had come to Ecuador. I realized we all had something in common. We lived for adventure and weren’t scared of risks. It’s not every day you come across people who have hiked up mountains 12,000ft above sea level, or jumped off cliffs or woke up to insects the size of your head clinging to the outside of your mosquito net in the Amazon. So riding a bus throughout three countries in South America is a piece of cake.

The group saying wishing Felicity and Mark good travels.

And right from the start Mateo, my boyfriend, was a hit! I would invite him to hang out with the tourists or gringos and they would ask him every question in the book! But he was great and he even enjoyed hanging out with us too.

The first 2 weeks I stayed with a host family in Cuenca while attending the school. The house was fairly huge that I stayed in and there were 3 brothers, 2 already married and out of the house. The mom was very welcoming and I had a nice bedroom, but it just wasn’t for me. After living on my own for over 5 years I really wanted to stay on my own. My friend Bre was staying in a hostal for $6 a night so I transferred there and saved over $50 a week! The hostal overlooked the river, I shared a bathroom, kitchen and living space with 2 other people. It was great!

During the first week of class, one hour was dedicated to going out in the city and doing some sort of activity. This particular day I visited the local Shaman. For $2 every Wednesday and Thursday the Shaman from the mountains would come into town and do this ritual on people. It was quite the ordeal. First they make you close your eyes and smell this concoction of herbs and flowers, then they started beating you with it and saying these weird things! After, this lady took this black charcoal looking stuff and made an X above my belly button and then on my forehead. Then, she took a swig of what looked like alcohol and spit it all over my back and then my front!!! The finale was when she rolled an egg all over my body, cracked it and then read my fortune. She said I didn’t have too many evil spirits in me!!! PHEW, I was worried!

The Market with all handmade items.

My friend Bre and I ventured to a few places together, but our first outing was to see an Argentina Jazz concert. It was very interesting! The cool thing is that there is a whole book of free concerts, movies and arts festivals throughout every month in Cuenca. This was during the first week of Spanish class so we couldn’t really understand what the guy was saying, BUT he was making the audience crack up. He would play his saxophone for like 5 minutes hard core and then the piano and guitar would take over and the guy would leave the stage. He would come back after like 10 minutes and take a swig of his water, then stamp out the beats with his head and feet. This process went on the whole time, he would sometimes switch back and forth between the saxophone and the oboe. The music was great!

Look forward to my next entry about Bre and I hiking the Cajas up 12,000ft above sea level through rain, sleet, wind and freezing cold!!! Always an adventure here in Ecuador!!!

Te Amo,

T.I.E moment. This was walking through the center of town. A guy with three goats just hanging out with his goats tied to the lamp post. Goat milk anyone?

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