Archive for the ‘Hilary in Ecuador’ Category


Hilary: 6 months has come to an end

December 30, 2011

So I am back in the United States after a twelve hour plane journey from Quito to Chicago I was picked up from the airport by the lovely Kendal Ann (Cupcake) and my mom.  I found my self stuttering with English and thanking the people that got me through customs in Spanish.  It is always great to come home, but weird at the same time.  I had a really wonderful experience abroad.  I am most proud of my language improvement and my academic work,  this study abroad program has advantages and disadvantages but i know that my monograph with serve me very well for future research proposals and grants.  I will miss saying ‘buen provecho’ and ‘que te vaya bien!’  I will be practicing my Spanish every chance that I get and I will hopefully stay in contact with the wonderful friends that I made.

Reflecting on my experiences I am bringing back a better sense of what sharing is, the knowledge that money really doesn’t matter (this one is hard to find in the states and in my perspective needs a lot of reflection), and i recognize that time moves quickly wherever you are so go with your gut and enjoy yourself.

I am still standing on both feet trying to find my balance in life; balancing the spiritual with the physical and mental, the spiced with the bland, peace with chaos, and work with play.

I missed all of my friends and family dearly, I can’t wait to truly reconnect and put my changing link back into my growing circle.


Hilary: 7 days left!

December 6, 2011

Yes, 7 days left of my 6 months abroad!  I am currently back in Quito taking a break from writing my final term project.  Last week was a whirlwind of feelings, celebrations, and fun.  There was a big celebration at school on Friday to send me off.  I was showered in flowers, dancing, and many thanks.  I had a great experience teaching at Nazacota Puento and learned a lot about teaching in rural areas.  I know that my experience has helped me identify a lot of my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher, and shown me that i have a critical but hopeful view of education.

On Thursday I held a meeting with all of the teachers in the school to talk about my experience at the school as a student teacher, and to share my point of view.  We talked about working as a team, using and reusing resources, sharing their successes and challenges as teachers, working better with the families of the students, and how to better the quality of education with the tools that they have.

I am writing my term thesis on the quality of education in rural ecuador and how pedagogy affects quality of education.  I am also commenting on how in general there is inequality in education as far as quality and how this inequality reflects the inequality seen in society as far as living circumstances and the valorization of life.


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!


Hilary: Internship in Cotacachi

November 4, 2011

I have been living in Cotacachi for about a week now and it has been wonderful.  My new family is welcoming, loving and a lot of fun.  I live with a family of five, six total counting me.  Mom-Marcia, Dad-Victor, Brother-Santiago 19, Sister-Jose 13, and Brother-Gabriel 11.  Marcia and I go everywhere together; work, home, the gym, and we even go out together!  So far the hardest adjustment has been getting used to turning on the water outside to use the bathroom, or just knowing that the water isn’t there at all. 

Cotacachi is a small little city north of Quito, it is super safe and very peaceful. It seems like everyone knows each other and everyone is very friendly and open.  This morning Victor and I went for a run, then to the Sunday market to buy fresh produce for the week, then Jose and I went to a soccer game to watch our team lose 4-1.  Soccer is really big in this area; I think there are 5 or 6 teams just within Cotacachi itself. The teams are made up of cousins and friends anywhere from 15 years old to about 40. 

My Spanish has improved a lot, my family tells me I’m speaking perfectly and that I am one of the best students they have had yet.  I feel confident in school and at home, the only person I am having trouble understanding is Victor (my father here) because he talks faster than anyone I have ever met!  Although I don’t have very much trouble with the language barrier I am having trouble with Kichwa.  Kichwa is the indigenous language of the area, and all of my students and half of my co-teachers are fluent in both Kichwa and Spanish.

I am having fun teaching English here, all of the students are eager to learn and very intelligent.  What concerns me is the quality of the English program here.  At the end of my internship I need to write a monographia about my experience here.  As a concerned educator I want to help develop the English program here and work with the teachers and materials they have to better prepare their students for university here in Ecuador.  I have a lot of work to do and about 3.5 weeks to do it!  Soooo here I go!

Not much else is going on, I’ll try to upload some pictures soon, I have to remember to take some first though!


Hilary: Looking forward…and backward

October 23, 2011

Today I find myself in the middle of the last Saturday in Quito before I start a six-week internship on Monday!  I have enjoyed my time in here, but I am ready to say chau, hasta luego!  For I know it will be all too soon when I am back in Quito on a Saturday preparing for my flight home.

On Monday, I am moving to Cotocachi, north of Quito by about 2 hours and about 20 minutes away from one of the world’s biggest artisan markets in Otovalo.  I will be living in Cotocachi and working in a school called, Nascota Puento, in San Pedro (about 15 minutes by bus).  I will be living with Marcia Tapia, a very experienced and influencial teacher at the school.  For the six weeks, I will be teaching English and helping the English staff plan a better English program.

My goals for this program are for the English curriculum to be: relevant to the students, the families, and the community; for the English to be of a high quality (yes vague, but I don’t feel I’m qualified to extrapolate); for the classes to be interactive, dynamic, and sequential; and for the program to be open, flexible, and adaptive for the future.

It’s been real Quito; my favorite things to do:

  • Going to the teleferico and climbing pichincha
  • Going running in the Carolina (big park)
  • Dancing to live music (rare, but it happens)
  • Shout out to the salsa club Mayo 68, excellent music, great dancers, safe and friendly place!  It is in the Mariscal, but its all locals!
  • Eating breakfast at the Colombian pan store just down the street
  • Listening to the music on the buses
  • Watching free Andean dance shows
  • Getting serenaded by guitar trios
  • Drinking candelasos in la ronda (A candelaso is a hot drink kind of like a cider with sugar cane alcohol)
  • Running into people who recognize my dreads but never my name
  • Watching telenovelas with my host-mom in her bed when I don’t want to go out
  • Only paying 25 cents to go all the way across the city
  • Walking through the Artisan markets
  • Meeting Mari at the supermaxi in Cumbaya
  • Forgetting how to speak/write in English

Hilary: Beautiful sunset

October 14, 2011

I am sitting in my room writing an analysis about a short story called “la vuelta” or “the return,” it is a very abstract story and I need to write my final Spanish paper on it…  Its about 9 pages long and has a lot of colloquial language… goodness!  Anyway, so I was trying to finish this paper, and was longingly looking outside at the mountains that surround this valley city and saw this amazing sunset!


It passed within about five minutes, as I type this now the lights of the city keep the sky bright instead of the sun.  Today was an amazing day in Quito, the weather held off, no rain, just sun and a little wind to keep the heat off of our heads.  As I spend more time inside observing classes, schools, and teaching methods I long more and more to be outside listening and learning away from the politically charged classroom.

I have been missing music so much here!  I can’t wait to get back home and sing and play the piano and guitar and just listen to music!  I am so lucky at Lawrence with everything we have there, its amazing how much music has become a strong part of my life since going there.  Tonight I am going to see an Ecuadorian guitar trio, classic and Andean folk music, should be wonderful!!

My Quiteñan lifestyle is ending in about a week!  The time has gone so fast its incredible!  I have two months left!  In the next two months I will be creating and teaching a six week English program, living in Cotocachi, writing a monograph about my experience, visiting Cuenca over a 5 day break, spending a bunch of time in the northern Andean highlands taking day trips to lagoons and lakes and hopefully getting a lot more exercise than I have been here in Quito, and a lot more!

Over the past weekend I visited what is known as the “Poor Man’s Galapagos” or Puerto Lopez and Isla de la Plata.  It was a great weekend!  I went with two girlfriends and we had so much fun bumming around the town, getting to know the local scene, eating delicious ceviche, and seeing amazing sights, like whales, blue-footed boobies, and sea turtles!!  There were many proposals from locals for marriage and so much more, I think next time I go to the coast I will wear a burke and not speak!  I made the mistake of getting up to dance for a few seconds, and then the whole town flocked to the bar, asking to dance and so much more.  I am actually shielding phone calls right now; Ecuadorian men are so persistent!  I just wanted a boat ride; really, you don’t need to come to Quito and visit me, I promise I don’t want to see you again!  Or to solve my problem I will just say that I am married.


I need to get back to finishing this paper now; I hope you are all healthy and happy, and enjoying being where you are.  Enjoy the people you are with and the nature you are surrounded by.


Hilary: Supposed to be writing a paper

October 2, 2011

Yes.. I am procrastinating, those who know me know how hard this is for me!  Anyway, I’m supposed to be writing a report about the educational trip we took within the education track this past week… but I just got back from spending a night and two days with one of my professors in his small farming community and would rather write about that.

My professor Luis lives in Pacilqui (i think thats how it is spelled), in the province of Malchinquí (I know thats how it is spelled) in a community of about 500 people. It feels like a big family everyone knows each other and has known each other for all of their lives, there were so many inside jokes!  I was feeling some major culture shock not understanding everything that was going on and very foreign to the routines that the family had.  We didn’t do that much work on the farm; watered some newly planted trees, cut some Alfalfa for the cuyes, fed the pigs, toured the community, watched a game of equivolley (volleyball with three people and different rules), and this morning went to a meeting with the Alcalde (it was kind of a town hall meeting with the president of the community, assembly members, and representative for the area listening to the critics and needs of the community), and then left that meeting early to see the community soccer team beat another community 7-3 to advance to the next level in a tournament!

I think what struck me the most was the reciprocity between everyone, the amount of respect, and how safe the community is.  Reciprocity is a concept nationwide within indigenous, rural, and even some urban communities.  The idea is that everyone is equal and when someone needs a hand, food, or water they receive it knowing that their turn will come to give back, and they do so.  These actions are given and received without a concern or worry because they are all apart of a community together and work for what is best for their community in all manners.  

Ok.. sorry for the incomplete thoughts, i’ll get back to you with more!  Now I need to stop procrastinating and write this other report!  I hope you are all happy, healthy, and living your lives!


Hilary: It’s been a while

September 26, 2011

It has been a while!!  I have been busy and been traveling!  Since the new program started I have read many articles about Ecuador, globalization, westernization, the Andean cosmovision, education, the new constitution, and so much more.  I wrote a group paper, and spent great time with amazing people.

As a big group of gringos we travel to communities who are working to sustain their indigenous cultures, cultivate their land, offer everything and more to their youth, and contribute to the world or larger community market.  First we visited a rose plantation, which is communally owned and is on its way to being organic.  (It takes a long time to de-contaminate the soil!)  The roses are beautiful, but for me it was a little sad because, well as one of the workers put it.. “we send the best and most beautiful roses to the United States and keep the others for ourselves.”  This community is struggling right now to sustain their communal plantation and sometimes the full time workers do not receive a salary for the month.  But all the same this community needs the work and income to sustain their lives.  I would love to see us use our amazing technology of the world to know about these kinds of cooperatives and what companies work with them to sell flowers in the United States. With a system of transparency that shows where products come from, how, and in what conditions we could really transform the way international business is run!

The next community we visited was called Cariaku.  This community has made amazing strides in terms of investing in their own communal interests and sharing their lives outer communities in Ecuador.  They sell the milk of their cows to outer communities, but the food they cultivate they keep for themselves.  Cariaku has a very unique community structure, which includes and assembly at the top and many representatives that link the local government to other communities in the surrounding area, the province, and the nation.  They also have eco-tourism, this involves the youth in the community to care for the nature, welcome tourists and get involved in sustaining the local culture. 

I have had some great weekends in Quito exploring the city; riding the teleferico, running in the parks, spending time with friends, practicing, writing a huge paper, dancing in clubs, finding live music, and seeing shows of amazing Andean dance!  This past weekend I had a wonderful surprise and was visited by an amazing person who I met on the coast.  I can’t wait for my next opportunity to be able to travel, share stories, spend time, and stop thinking about graduation!!

My classes the past few weeks have been ok.  I am not learning as much as I would like to in class, and most of the other students talk in English… meh.  I am at one of those low points in the study abroad curve where things aren’t exactly as I would like, but with each weekend and time with people outside of the city my experience gets better.  


Hilary: 24 new people!

September 8, 2011

The semester has started!  And along with it came 24 wonderful amazing new people!  We are now a strong group of 26 women and 3 young men.  That’s a lot of estrogen!!  As I walked into the auditorium this past Tuesday which is usually empty, I was confronted with 24 new people and a collective anxious and proud energy.  As the week went on I kept switching from staying in the background and watching quietly, to interacting and telling jokes and stories in English and Spanish.  This past weekend we all had a retreat in Los Bancos (a small pueblo just outside of Mindo, about 2.5 hours northwest of Quito).  This was a magical place.  The hotel was beautiful and set in a forest reserve.  I can’t begin to describe all of the flora and fauna that I encountered.  If I only leave with one concept when I leave Ecuador, for now I want it to be diversity.  Diversity of nature, animals, insects, plants, land, and finally diversity of peoples.  Over the weekend I learned the names of all of my new compañeros, learned about their lives here and in the states and started some beautiful friendships!

There are 4 different “tracks” in my study abroad program.  The first 3 weeks in CIMAS is a general program to learn about development and politics in Ecuador.  After these 3 weeks we will be split up into our prospective tracks.  These tracks are education, social services, public health, and environmental studies.  I am in the track of education. It is one of the smaller tracks—only 5 of us!  But I am looking forward to the opportunity to work closely with these 5 people!

Now to backtrack a bit… Last weekend the 5 of us from the pre-session took a tour of the northwest coast!  We visited Atacames and Mompiche in the province of Esmereldas and then traveled to Canoa in Manabí.  The ocean is so tranquil and calming!  I had a great time getting to know other travelers from all over South America!  From Colombia, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Guatemala.  We had great campfires on the beach with guitars, drums, accordions, flutes, singing, dancing, and great conversation. If anyone is in Canoa, please stop by the Hostal Iguana, wonderful people with buena onda (good spirit).  

This past week we had an amazing lecture by Doc Haliday, an ethnomusicologist who has been living in Quito for the last 6 years. He gave a lecture about embracing a new culture and letting go of inhibitions and habits from the U.S. I was loving it. He was describing the process I went through in India and in Guatemala to accept, grow, change, and learn different ways of interacting with the world and then he challenged us to spread our knowledge and what we learn, how we change so that the eyes of the world’s peoples can be opened as well. I am so fortunate to be able to be on this study abroad program, and in Ecuador no less. I am hoping to take advantage of all of the opportunities I have to grow and learn, and then to share with you and anyone who I bump into along the way!

One of the main things that I am learning about here is rights for the land and nature. Right now Ecuador has one of the most progressive constitutions in history. It has mandates protecting the land and the indigenous peoples and cultures who live with the land. This constitution clearly respects that we need the land to live and that if we take advantage of it we will suffer because it provides life for us. (In a nutshell, that is the point of view..)

Another idea that we have spent a lot of time talking about here is energy, the energy of the earth, of people, and the energy of the universe.  This is based of of Incan beliefs of the balance between north, south, east, and west; and also the balance between the four elements, wood, fire, air, and water.  We need all of these to live and to create an equal balance in our lives.  One of our guides was explaining the “myth” of 2012.  It is not that the world is going to die—it is that our poles are shifting, and that is creating off-balance in the land.  In 2012 they don’t have an exact prediction of how many degrees the poles will shift, but it is expected that they will.  He talked about the last tsunami/earthquake that hit Japan as an example of a repercussion of this shift. After this little talk, he took some volunteers to measure the size of their personal energy.  He used to metal sticks that cross when they encounter an energy field or force.  We were standing on the equator at this point and so he could show us the force between north and west/east.  He picked me and discovered that my “energy field” is actually quite large.  So cool to see it!

I am continuing to love my time in Ecuador and am ready and open to keep learning.  I hope you are all learning something too. Continue on your journeys, stay happy and healthy!


Hilary: A whole month gone

August 23, 2011

One month down and one semester to go!

Tomorrow I finish my first month of classes in Ecuador!  I can’t believe how fast this is going!  I have a final exam tomorrow and then need to finish reading that huge packet of articles over our 5-day weekend.  I am going to find a conservatory to practice voice on Thursday and then going to have a fantastic workout at the gym and get my censo (id card for residents who are non-Ecuadorian).

Below is a picture of the lunch I eat almost everyday: Ingredients: fresh bread, fresh cheese, kale, avocado, grapes, and a clementine. Cost: $3.50/week. 

Fun food facts for Ecuador! You can buy 25 mandarin oranges for $1, 4 or 5 avocados for $1, 2 big loaves of bread or 8 small loaves of bread for $1, almuerzo normal (classic lunch which consists of a delicious creamy soup, followed by rice and meat, and juice) for $1.50.  You can buy a beer for $2 but they only have Club and Pilsener… not my favs, but I’ll take a Club thanks! Things that are expensive here: chocolate, any alcoholic drink besides beer (unless its ladies night!) granola… don’t think I’ve tried to buy much else!  Oh they don’t have chocolate chips here!!  Soo.. if you want to send me something, send me chocolate chips so I can bake chocolate chip cookies with my sisters! (My Ecuadorian sisters, yes dad, they aren’t my real sisters)

Bueno, todo es muy bien aquí y estoy súper feliz y emocionada por este semestre!  Shout out to the LU Spanish faculty: Muchísimas gracias por todo su trabajo y apoyo en LU, con nuestras clases estaba preparaba para el tiempo aquí y estoy feliz que tuve la oportunidad practicar hablando durante clase junto con la gramática! 

This weekend I’m going to the provinces of Esmereldas and Manabí (aka the beach!) we are going to rent a car and drive the coast!  I am excited to have this adventure because once the semester starts I will have 4 classes, 5 days a week and lots of homework.. ah school, yay for my last year!! 

In the past month I have written several papers, the most interesting one is about an Ecuadorian Indigenous Woman named Transito Amaguaña (1909-2009) she died a month before her 100th birthday!  She has been recognized just this past year for her work fighting for indigenous and women’s rights. She was one of the first women in Ecuador to step forward and commit her life to human rights and she had many successes. Her testimony has been printed (in Spanish) for all to read. Her story is super interesting and it is a great book to go along with the testimony of Rigoberta Menchu (from Guatemala).

Spanish gets harder and easier depending on the day, but I finally figured out subjuntivo. Goodness, seriously we spent a week on it and I finally get it!!  (well really only the beginning, but at least it makes sense now!)  I hope that all who are able take advantage of studying abroad and learning a new language. It opens up so many possibilities in linguistics and in life! 

Something random that I just figured out today (just a side note, thought it would make you all laugh):  I am used to editing my papers on actual paper so I actually read the mistakes I am making out-loud and see them, I think my brain thinks that the computer words aren’t actually real…  Anyway, I need to adjust to my idea about saving paper and to not having a printer!  Hence, I have a new mindset with editing papers on the computer.  The words I type are real AND I read to the computer instead of to the paper!  Wow, sometimes I can really trick myself!

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