Monday, July 30, 2007

Ecuadorian Adventures

So far, the time Dave and I have spent in Ecuador has been a complete whirlwind. We arrived in Guayaquil at 2:00 am on Thursday morning. The director, Robert, had his driver take us to our new apartment (see pictures in previous post) and let us sleep in until 10:00 in the morning. By 10:30, Paulino had picked Dave and I up and we were off to take a tour of Puerto Azul, the school, meet my new principal, and finally join Rob and his family for dinner at his beautiful home. His wife, who is from Brazil, made us the most incredible South American dishes of coconut fish, rice, and lasagna. She also served us home-made coconut and chocolate chip ice cream. All of the newbies, which total six, spent the evening talking, laughing, and hearing about the unique aspects of Ecuadorian living.

Friday, we had an informational meeting at the school. Besides getting the necessary school information, we talked with various people from the school and community. It turns out that we will have a doctor on site at school who will be able to take care of most things for us, including prescriptions, vaccinations, and general checkups. It is a bit of a relief to know there is someone who is qualified, kind, professional, and can speak English so close by!

Belinda and Rob also took us on our first shopping excursion in the nearby mall outside of Puerto Azul. We went to the Super Maxi, a store that closely resembles a Super Target, and we were able to buy our household items (such as the ever needed paper towel, toilet paper, and bottled water) and groceries. Dave and I managed to make our purchases without too much difficulty. We only got a bit hung up when they asked us for the price of one of the items. We both just stared blankly until it clicked that she had tried to ring up the strainer about five times.

That night, our co-workers and fellow newbies invited us over for dinner and a swim. It was so much fun to get to know Sarah and Mark, share some concerns about living in a third-world country, and share the excitement of discovering a new place. Ecuador is their first over-seas teaching experience as well. We are so thankful to have met people who are experiencing the same feelings, doubts, and awe that we are.

Saturday was another fun-filled day. We took a bus tour of Guayaquil, traveled to an artisan market, and went to another mall in order to get any items we didn't pick up the day before. Dave and I discovered that electronics are valued very much here (thirty dollars for an alarm clock!) and that it doesn't matter what part of the world you are in, shopping just isn't for us. We were exhausted by the time we finished and we hadn't even made it to get groceries yet!

That evening, Rob, his family and Belinda and her family, took us to dinner in one of Guayaquil's fancier districts. We ate at an Italian place (of all things to eat in Ecuador!) that had a huge fish tank built into the ceiling. The food was amazing and it was definitely a place we want to take any and all visitors (hint, hint).

What we learned about eating out in Ecuador:
* If you want the entire place to yourself, go to the restaurant at 6:30. Most people don't eat dinner until 9:00, which is when I typically go to bed.
* You need to specify if you want your aqua con gas or sin gas. You don't want to order club soda by mistake.
* Portions are huge, don't be afraid to share.
* Don't expect your check until you ask the waiter for it. You don't just eat and run in Ecuador, you take your time and enjoy the meal. The waiters don't want you to feel rushed so they wait for your signal that the meal is over.
* Beware the bottomless refills. The waiters would fill our glasses without us realizing it! I had to go the bathroom all night!

Finally, on Sunday Rob and his daughter took us to one of the nearby beaches. On the way, we passed through all sorts of small towns and villages. Wild pigs and dogs ran through the streets, butchers cut meat outside of their shops, and soccer games were being played on every barren patch of land that could be found. We definitely had a taste of the vast differences between the very rich and the very poor of Ecuador.

The beach we went to was in Playas (meaning beach) and Rob showed us a very nice, clean hotel that is right on the water. He told us that you can book a room for about $46 a night, there is an on-site restaurant, pool, and beach access. It was beautiful. We spent the day playing in the amazingly warm ocean, Jessica taught me how to use the boogie boards, we watched countless games of soccer break out, and we got to see a group of fishermen bring in their catch.

Dave and I came home to venture our first solo taxi ride. We made it to the Mega Maxi in record time and we were finally able to buy our groceries. Yes, there are many things we bought that we can't understand the directions, but that is all part of the adventure, right? Tonight, Dave attempted to make pancakes and, with the help of our trusty Spanish/English dictionary, he did a great job!

We really are enjoying our time here and know that there are going to be many challenges, but also many joys. We can't wait until you come visit and see how beautiful our new home really is!