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Hilary: life in Cotacachi

November 22, 2011

Many weeks have passed here in Cotacachi.  I have spent a lot of time with family, friends and students.  I have exactly three weeks left in Ecuador, one full week here in Cotacachi and two more in Quito.  My English classes have been getting better with every class and with every name I remember of my students.  I have enjoyed classes with sixth, eighth and ninth grades the most, but have also had fun moments with the three year olds and the younger grades as well.  I have been trying to keep track of my monographia that I need to write as my final project in Ecuador but as usual have easily filled my time with good people and great experiences.  I am in the middle of an interview process with students, parents and teacher about the value of education and about the English language in schools in Ecuador, specifically in San Pedro.  Along with my research project I am hoping to leave the school my materials, summary of what I have done, and had hoped to do as well as suggestions for the future.

Ok, so what have I actually been doing?  I helped our students prepare the national anthem to sing for the inauguration of an ambassador of Ecuador who is from Cotacachi; I’ve been spending a lot of time with my mom going to the gym, going to dance sessions after the gym; making cookies with my host-sister; traveling to Otavalo with co-teachers for beers; spending time with friends in Ibarra, going on dancing on the weekends with my host-brother Santi; planning classes; avoiding young men; missing my friends and family at home; getting sick from bad water; and learning Kichwa.

Yesterday I climbed Imbabura (volcano) with my host-dad, host-sister Jhose, and younger host-brother Gabriel.  I was expecting it to be a bit tough since I am pretty out of climbing shape, but it turned out a lot harder than expected.  It took us a full six and a half hours to ascend and descend!  Gabriel basically ran all of the way up, my host-dad was completely fine at whatever pace, I was hanging in there, but Jhose, who is 13, had never hiked like this before and therefore took frequent brakes and drank a lot of water.  I put sunblock on my face once every two hours and still got sun-burned, the sun is so strong here!

So I have an obsession with mangos, but it’s finally Mango season here in Ecuador and I couldn’t be happier because the mangos couldn’t be sweeter!  Also, I love eating watermelon in November, especially when it is refreshing, sweet and not snowing outside!

This past week all of the teachers in the area of Cotacachi in rural school such as San Pedro were obligated to take a course to enhance their teaching and knowledge about social issues.  The issue of the week was sex, gender and sensitivity to how we as teachers express gender preference in the classroom.  Well none of the information was new to me, but the answers, comments and questions asked during the past week were culturally shocking to me.  Some of my “favorites” were: menstruation is a sickness, when girls are pregnant or menstruating they are dirty and will cause many problems, women automatically love their homes, the Spanish language isn’t sexist, our wives aren’t able to think in terms of money, I don’t let my wife go out with her friends because other men look at her, well the bible says women are supposed to be obedient and always obey the owner… and so on.  Well I did my best to add in my point of view and upbringing calmly and with patience, but there were definitely times when I either couldn’t say anything at all or I would almost jump out of my chair with frustration.  Anyway, by the end of the week some new ideas were considered about gender and sex and some minds were opened to the possibilities of equality and respect.

I’m sure there is more, but once again, I need to go write a paper!

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