Week 1 at site.

Why am I writing this when the week is not over yet? Well techically this week has been an odd one, work was, and is actually already over.

I arrived on Monday and learnt that there were no classes on Monday nor Tuesday. However, the students and the teachers were there. So? Turned out those two days were cancelled because the teachers were grading and handing out the grades to the kids. So I hung around in the teachers´room, had lunch with teachers, while feeling like I was really bugging my teachers because they were grading/studying for a computer exam/for the TOEFL. However I did help 3 of them with one reading task for some application. Instead of asking me at the same time, the three of them came separately with the same questions. Oh well.

I did plan a meeting with the teachers for Tuesday. 11am, no no, noone has anything at that time, we´ll be in the English teachers´room.
Comes 11, 11:10am. Two are missing. We call them. One picks up and says she´s in class til 11:35. The other picks up after quite a few calls and says the same. 11:35 comes, the second late teacher is not coming, we start. I explain the different co-teaching models, and how I organized my schedule and why. I sensed a bit of surprise at the idea that, well, we were going to work together and it would require initially a lot of planning, and no, I was not going to teach their course. But I´m hoping the message got into the heads?

One teacher is really gung-ho about speaking English, so that´s great. I think I found an adopted counterpart. She´s a female, older than me, and actually invites me to stuff and follows with her words. So on Tuesday night, when she called at 7pm offered to pick me up to go to Bailoterapia, one side of me, cold and tired and who had not eaten, just wanted to say no, but the other part remembered to not say “no” to invites from Ecuadorians.
So I did go, and it was pretty awesome (visitors from abroad, I am TAKING YOU to Bailoterapia, you will have no choice, so now you´re warned)
X. picked me up qt 8:10pm (it was supposed to start at 8pm, so nothing rare here) , I meat her 14 year old daughter and her 2 nieces as well, and we drove to the Coliseo. Well, the parking lot kind of place behind the coliseo. There was a wooden platform, and boom boxes blastering loud fun music. I was introduced to Jean-Charles (Spanish version, just cracks me up that the entrenador is called JC), over dynamic young dude. Bailoterapia is a mixed of dance and aerobics, and you basically follows the entrenador showing you the moves (which go from salsa steps to punching the air and kicking to the rythmn of Lady Gaga and moulte raggeaton, very very very loud… on an empty parking lot). It was quite hilarious, and I guess what? I think I may make this regular with X. and the fam. Why ? Cuz it’s a cheap (1 dol, and they give you water) fun way to integrate !
JC is the chistoso entrenador, he talks A LOT, commenting on people´s moves and he would be all sweating jumping around saying ” bienvenida a nuestra amiga que esta integrando ! ” waving at me. Anyone stopping to drink? ” la chica en rojo, vamos nos ! ”
X. goes 4 times a week, I think I´ll keep it at one or 2.
So, yeah, X. looks like my adopted counterpart because she invites me to stuff and wants to speak English, but also, and most importantly, she saved my butt at the first school party….

Yesterday was “el dia del maestro”. So no class, of course. Instead all day long program.
It started (well, I was told to be there at 7 and it started at 7:45) by a few speeches about the fundaction of Cuenca (1500 something), then we all went to the Coliseo closer to downtown. 30 schools had been invited by the gvt for a sport equipment giving out campain. The Minister of Sports was there, the mayor of town, local governor, and about 10 000 escuela y colegio kids. The sport minister was the best Ecuadorian Goale, “la manos del Ecuador” so he was quite the hit with the kids who all wanted to take photos with him. The event, which lasted about 2 hours, mainly consisted in students demonstrating how to use the equipment (???) with random routines: two five year old had a roller skating routine, a teenage girl did a part of black swan on roller skate, a bunch of kids biked around the stadium, and loooong speeches. My school´s students decided they had had enough and all decided to leave 30 minutes before everyone else. Seriously. No other school left, they did. My teachers attempted at stopping them, to no avail. So, discipline tips are going to be needed. Oh, I´ll miss thou Chinese university students and times where the biggest discipline issue was a kid in the back of the class silently texting and the only way you could tell was because he had his head down on his knees…..

After this we headed back to school, the students went back home. A lunch was set up in the empty computer room to celebrate Teachers´day. I liked the passion fruit sauce with th esmoked meat kind of dish. Then my worst fear became reality.
Singing and dancing started. First with the older teacher, traditional songs, then this teenage girl dressed to kill but kind of slutty came in this room full of teachers and starting singing / dancing / moving her bootie. One table started drinking Zhumir, local liquor. This one drunken dude insited to dance with all the female teachers and he smelled so much of alcohol that I just plain refused, another teacher “saved” me by asking me to dance. Here in Ecuador you don´t look at people in the eyes when you dance or they think you´re interested.
So the combination “I hate dancing + I have to make the conscious effort of NOT looking in the eyes” is pretty awful for me. So this guy whom I had kind of guessed is the Don Juan type “saved” me from the drunk one. The expression de Charybde en Scylla (however you spell that, don´t remember my Greek courses) would be quite fitting here. He asked :
-where I live (thank you vague all made answer and no house number)
-if I live alone  (thank you host family)
-if I could give him my phone number (“I don´t have a phone” while praying that he couldn´t actually see the shape of my phone in my pocket)

So now you can understand how X. saved me. This dancing thing was about to go til 5 or 6 or 7 or 8pm, but at 3:30pm, she grabbed me and said ” we´re going, NOW” at the end of this one song.
She drove me home and explained that the drunk guy is depressed, that he´s never like that but that it´s not rude to refuse to dance when people are trashed (I was unsure) and that the Don Juan guy is a multiple time divorce and that no, she will not tell him I have a phone. Pfiou!

Awckward moment: Somehow I told this older teacher during the course of this one conversation that I swam in the past and that my friend R. is a PCV in the town where he lives. Next day, he comes up to me and says he´s met R. and one Saturday he´ll come and pick me up and we´ll go swim all day with R. Huh…. Yes but NO.
I said my challenge for him is to find a ping pong table instead.

Things I learnt this week:
-a student killed himself two weeks ago. He was a good student, quiet, depressed. Had an internship in a factory, he had been missing for a few days so the factory called the school, and they found out.
-there have been three suicides in this school in about 20 years.
-I talked to a physics teacher and DOBE people who explained the DOBE works more on orientation and post issue than prevention.

Weird realization: during the school party, and the sports equipment thingy, I kept thingy that when I was in China, most of the cultural integration events had this conclusion “only in China…”
Well, turns out that weird shows and drunken annoying teachers happen equally here, and having experienced the whole thing in China, the whole honey moon phase where you find it funny cuz exotic and new and because you´re learning might wash off pretty fast to get into the “oh god, please not another banquet” phase for the next two years…

What else? I think I will see my fellow PCVs in town way more than I did in China, because it´ll be harder to integrate at school because we just can´t hang out with students like I did in China, and also because we actually teach all exactly the same thing. And (minor detail haha) they´re cool people, of course.

Challenge for next week: find some alpaca sleepers because I´m FREEZING.
Cuenca weather: you wake up, freezing, makes you want to NEVER get out of bed.
You go to school (10 min bus ride for me), it gets warmer.
Depending on the school room you´re in : you freeze or you sweat.
Then the sun comes out and you burn.
Evenings: freezing.

On the house side, I finally have a mini-fridge and a cocinera (the cable to the tank goes through the window, now covered with a “Coral” plastic bag, down to the ground floor about 6 meters below), so I can cook! Woop woop !

That is all. Today I´m going to Gualaceo (thanks X. for the ride!) and will meet up with a couple of PCVs who are in this town about 1 hour away from here.

Random things that won´t surprise you if you know me:
I bought multiple baby cacti and this makes my life complete.

And a grand-ma alpaca poncho. Sweet !

Abrazos !


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