Posts Tagged ‘host family’

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Tyler: Intercambios

December 31, 2011

Here are some more pictures of our house. The house is kind of small but it is really comfortable. It is one of the better looking houses that are around here I think. Last night we had “pizza of Mexico”. Gloria likes to make food with the colors of Mexico and they are always delicious.

The past two days have just been filled with a lot of class stuff. I’m beginning to find it hard to write in English actually. Sometimes I will just type in Spanish or have been saying things in weird ways in English haha I guess I’m learning Spanish! Class actually doesn’t seem like its 5 hours at all. It always goes by really quickly. The teachers are a lot of fun and laid back. It’s like we learn a lot of different things but we always just hang out and talk a lot. Today our teacher told us to we were going to play a game. He told us to go buy some chocolate at the store that is at the school and then come back to class. After that he had us eat it and that was the entire extent of the game! After we just talked for about 30 minutes. We can tell that the teachers here just want us to do well without being intimidated or anything since it is a class.

Yesterday we also had our first intercambio. The guy that I meet with is really cool! His name it Pablo and he owns a bird breeding company for pet stores. He sells his birds to a pet store that is all over Mexico. During these intercambios, we talk for about an hour in Spanish and then we talk for an hour in English. We talked about a ton of things like music, where we have visited, places we want to visit, the differences of living in the states and Mexico, and just a bunch of other things. I will be meeting with him again on Tuesday. The only conflict is that is also the day that they have a trip to an orphanage…my roommate and I are going to try to get our intercambios changed so we can do both. 

I don’t really have much more to say…I am having a great trip so far. I can tell my Spanish is getting a lot better. Last night we went out and we made a lot of friends that live here. It was really cool being able to talk to them in Spanish! Of course our Spanish is still pretty broken but it’s getting better!

After class today we just came back to the house and ate lunch. After lunch we all slept for like 2 hours and then explored a little bit. We have our first test coming up so we just did homework and studied a little bit after dinner. I’m going to get some sleep tonight so I can do well on the test!!! Aaaaand have energy for tomorrow night!

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Tyler: Class and Homestay

December 30, 2011

Morning in Cuernevaca

Yes, this is what I woke up to the first morning.

The guys that I am living with are great. We all bring a lot of different things to our household. The woman that we are staying with, Gloria, spoils us so much. We were talking with some other people that are here with us and it seems like their host families are nothing compared to how great Gloria is to us. Every meal we are treated like we are kings. She was explaining to us that when we are in Mexico with her, we will be getting authentic food. The food so far has been incredible. For lunch today, we had baked peppers that were stuffed with meat and for dinner we had these baked variations of tacos. I have become slightly addicted to Salsa Verde. It is a slightly spicier salsa but not too spicy. It is perfect for everything! This is a picture of our room.

Room in Cuernavaca

Pretty exciting picture but I thought it was worth uploading quick. I will get some more pictures of our house up soon. We have just been so busy that we are kind of always on the go.

We started our classes yesterday. They were not kidding when they were saying the classes are really intensive and fast. The schedule for classes is from 9-10:50 am we have one professor and then there is a 20 minute break. After the breaking, we have different professor from 11:10- 1pm. Then we finally end with grammar practice from 1-2 pm. Then we are free to leave. So far the mornings can get a little long. During those hours, the only time I hear any English is when we are on breaks. All of the professors are from Cuernavaca and most only speak Spanish. They know a couple of words in English but at times it can be really hard to figure out how to say something in Spanish. Every night we have homework. Tonight was a little bit longer than it was last night. All of the homework probably took us about an hour and a half but that is including a journal entry that we only have to do once a week that is due tomorrow. At the end of each week we have a test on the material that we just learned and then there is also a final as well. We are also doing something called a “intercambio” where throughout the 3 weeks, we will be meeting with someone that lived in Mexico and just speak with them in Spanish/English. Some of the people who we could have are professions like doctors and lawyers that want to be able to practice their English and then we are able to practice our Spanish with them. The school is awesome. It is more like a resort than an actual school. Our classrooms are outside either under a canopy or just outside in general. There is a swimming pool there too…no big deal.

School in Cuernevaca

 

We are always on the go. These past two days we have had to go back to the school for meetings and other things in the afternoon. It has been kind of a pain but it should be over soon. We went and explored the nightlife here a little bit last night. It’s amazing how nice everyone is here. We definitely stick out though…everywhere we go there are people just looking at us. Cuernavaca seems really safe though! I mean, it’s hard not to feel safe with you see police with huge guns riding in the back of trucks right? The language barrier can be really interesting. Tonight we stopped at this little cafe close to our house and out of the 10 of us there, no one could really figure out what our waitress was saying. Luckily a guy that was there knew English and came to help us out. It seems like everyone is more than willing to help anyone that needs help here which I think is awesome.

I think that’s all I’ve got for today. It’s weird, I have been getting way more sleep here than I usually get. I’m really enjoying it! I’ll try to post tomorrow but we have a really busy day and I think that we are checking out the city tomorrow night. 

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Sara: Christmas in Bolivia

December 28, 2011

I hope everyone had an awesome Christmas and are looking forward to the New Year! I spent my Christmas in Santa Cruz with my host family and extended host family. Here they open presents and do Christmas at midnight, 12a on the 25th. It was pretty cool to be part of another culture’s Christmas, but I definitely missed home a ton! 

I am finally back in Cochabamba now though finishing my last 2 weeks abroad. The trip back here was awful, 11 hour bus ride in the sweltering heat, although I can’t believe how fast this has all gone by!

I am super happy to be back in Cochabamba though, I really love my volunteer position here, I am working with the elderly and mostly I just hang out and hold their hands while they talk to me. Today I learned that Bolivianos (the currency) are used ALL OVER the world, including on the moon!  I hear some of the wildest things, usually we talk about where I am from and how long my hair is and that I should never cut it (at the center they specialize in Alzheimer’s and dementia) so we talk about the same thing every day. I love the old people though and the staff are great too!

I also am having a great time teaching English to the 13-year-old girl here named Sophie.  I am also thinking about visiting an orphanage here for a day too where I would just hang out and play games, helping the staff there.  I still have to talk to my supervisor here and get that set up for next week sometime.

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Tyler: Day one: longest day of my life

December 26, 2011

Today was for sure one of the longest days of my life. First of all, I pretty much decided last night that I just wasn’t going to sleep before leaving for the airport because I knew I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep anyways. I was actually quite impressed with how fast I got into the actual airport. I left my house at 3:50 am and was in the actual airport, past security and everything right at 5:00 am. Being 2 hours early for my flight, I just kind of hung around and ate breakfast. The first flight I was stuck with the dreaded middle seat, it wasn’t the worst thing ever but it really ruined my plan to sleep on the plane. After I got off that plane, the entire group that was coming to Cuernavaca met up outside of the terminal because they didn’t print the gate number on our layover tickets. We got that all squared away and then began to actually talking and we all ate lunch together (airport food is way too expensive). 

Our flight from Dallas, Texas to Mexico City then took forever to actually get boarded and we ended up taking off like 20 minutes after we were supposed to. After going through customs in Mexico City, we were supposed to meet someone in the food court that would have a U of M sign with them. They were the representative that was going to take us to the bus to get us to Cuernavaca. The only problem was no one could find me! We waited for about 30 minutes and finally we decided to give the program a call with a toll-free number they gave us for problems like this. This is where my Spanish skills were put to the test. I offered to make the phone call. When I finally figured out how to use one of their weird pay phone things, I got a hold of someone that is a part of a program and the first thing I asked was if they spoke Spanish. The reply was, “no hablo inglés”. This is when it got interesting….after talking to the guy for about 5 minutes, he told me to call him back in 10 minutes if the representative didn’t show up. Then about right when I got back to the rest of the group that was waiting for this guy, he finally comes out of nowhere! I wish I could say I saved the day but I think that the guy who I talked to on the phone called him when he was taking down our names. I was just a little short. 

After finally meeting up with this guy after waiting for 45 minutes, we began our bus ride to Cuernavaca. The ride literally felt like it took days. Everyone was extremely tired by this point and mostly sleeping. The ride to Cuernavaca was incredible though! We kind of drove up this mountain and then back down the other side of it. The view from the top of the mountain looked awesome. It was like we were above the clouds. I wish I would have gotten some pictures of it but the camera was in my luggage in the bottom of the bus. 

After arriving to the school that we will be taking classes at (which is awesome btw), we meet up with our host mother. It is 3 guys and I staying with this 5 foot 3 little Mexican woman. She is great! She is so talkative and has a lot of energy. She also speaks a good amount of English which is good for us! We got the tour of the house and were taught how to use the keys to lock up when we come in at night. Tonight she made us chicken fajitas and this soup that was delicious (no idea what it was). 

I am insanely tired since I have now officially been up for 36 hours straight. Tomorrow we have to be at the school at 8 am for some info session thing and then we have our first day of class from 9am-2pm. It shall be interesting! I will post pics tomorrow of our house here and the school that we will be studying at. Now it’s time for bed!

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Doug: Goodbye study abroad… hello Zanzibar

December 20, 2011

Mambo vipi wote!

So once again I slacked big time in updating my blog over the past month. But here’s to giving you a snap shot of the last month:

My time living on the Kenyan coast wrapped up really well. My internship at the Wema Centre slowed down in the final week—since my students went home for holiday break. Saturday, November 26 was a highlight because this was the day that dozens of students, parents and teachers gathered for Wema’s graduation ceremony on the front lawn. My Kindergarten 3 (KG3) class was graduating, as well as a number of older students on the vocational training classes. Now imagine your typical boring graduation ceremony—and now think of the complete opposite, and that was Wema’s graduation. Instead of boring speeches, there were student performances, an acrobat performance, dance groups and skits. It was quite the event.

American ‘cooked’ dinner for my host fam

My time with my host family on the coast also came to a nice close. Some of the great highlights were cooking an ‘American’ meal for my family with my friend Amber (which consisted of chicken parm out of a box, apples with peanut butter, Caesar salad, and ice cream with candy—as American as you can get since the grocery store didn’t have mac n cheese), and then also taking my host mom and my two sisters out to eat at a restaurant in Mombasa. I really clicked with this family and it was pretty hard to say good-bye; but, nevertheless, on Sunday morning December 4, I hopped on the back of a pikipiki (motorbike) with my two bags, and set off for the bus station. From there it was another 8 hour bus ride back to Nairobi.

The following few days were kinda a blur. All 26 students from my program came back from their respective internships at NGO’s, hospitals, and schools in towns and cities all over Kenya. During this time we stayed at a guesthouse outside Nairobi. It was the same exact one that I had stayed in upon my initial arrival in Kenya; but this time it was like culture shock: running water? Toilets and showers? Consistent electricity? And WIFI?? It was a strange feeling to feel too comfortable after my 6 weeks on the brutally hot coast. We had our final exams (no one really studied for these too much) and had final wrap up discussions.

But the most unforgettable one was when all of us were required to present in groups on our respective internships at development NGO’s, and particularly what was shocking and surprising. What started as initially a slightly boring forum, turned very emotional quite quickly as the brutal realities and injustices we had experienced became clear: a street boy who returned to the streets only to fall back into glue-sniffing addiction, under-stocked and under-staffed hospitals which couldn’t properly do surgeries because they didn’t have rubber gloves, a teenager at a school reading at a kindergarten level, women treated like crap and abused by men, or forced to go into prostitution to feed their kids—the list goes on and on. But as we moved past the tears and the gravity of the situation, it suddenly became clear that each of us had changed since we first came to Kenya. Our eyes had been opened, even in the slightest way, to some of the cruelest effects that poverty has on the lives of individuals—individuals not unlike you and me—who are simply trying to live their lives. People talked about fears over transitioning back to the US and how to even begin to explain these experiences to friends and family back at home.

6 days after our program ended I boarded a 14 hour bus ride for one final trip in East Africa with some friends before going home. The trip was supposed to be just Sunday through Friday, with one night in Dar es Salaam and several on the island of Zanzibar just off the Tanzanian coast. Our bus, complete with cardboard pasted over the missing back windows, barreled down the highway bound for Dar at disconcerting speeds, the engine sounding like it was about to burst at any moment. But, alas, we made it safely to Dar. I even was able to find a street called Ohio Street in downtown Dar! Dar is so unbelievably different than Nairobi—so much less overpopulation, pollution and traffic; not to mention it’s directly on the Indian Ocean.

We took a ferry (after bargaining for the real ticket price of course)  over to the main port of Stone Town on Zanzibar. We spent our first 24 hours on Zanzibar exploring the city’s back alley ways and mosque architecture, night time water-front market, and embarking upon an incredibly touristy spice tour of Zanzibar (no shame—they actually took us through the woods and cut down cinnamon and nutmeg and other spices from trees, it was kinda awesome).

Beach at Jambiani–East Coast of Zanzibar

We then spent 2 nights on the east coast at a $15/night hostel called Teddy’s—one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in my life. And then it was up to the north coast for a night.

Sunset at Kendwa–on the North coast

All in all the trip to Zanzibar was absolutely amazing. From the crystal white beaches to swimming in bright blue oceans, combined with its old history and culture, this island was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been—and I’ve got a pretty bad sunburn on my back to show for it.

Awesome nighttime market in Stone Town

My time here in Kenya is finally coming to a close, and I shall soon do one final Kenya post. Over and out my friends.

Zanzibar livin’

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Sara: Last day in Quito

December 8, 2011

So these are my last days in Quito and Ecuador.  I moved back from Otavalo last Saturday and had the opportunity to meet my dad’s boss (the one from the U. S.) and he gave me a bunch of goodies from my parents which was awesome!

But, here in Quito I have finished my paper, turned out to be a total of 40 pages and I get to present everything I have learned from my internship on Friday, which should just be super fun. Then I fly out of Quito at 8pm on Saturday, I will be spending the night in the Peru airport for a 10-hour layover and then off to Bolivia on Sunday morning.  Once in Bolivia I will have to get a visa and another plane ticket to Cochabamba where my volunteering will take place.

I can’t believe this has all gone by so fast, but yet I have one more part of my journey to complete! I hope everything is going well back at home and I miss everyone tons, also I attached a few pictures of my last days here just for fun! 

Taxilago on our way back to Quito Last night in Otavalo The hummingbirds for the festival Me and my host family in Quito 

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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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