It has been a wonderful first week abroad, FILLED with Spanish. I arrived July 1, was picked up from the airport by a mystery man, and taken to my host family. I was greeted with hugs and kisses from my host mother, who was so happy to receive me. I met the whole family and was invited to join them in watching a bootleg copy of The Avengers in Spanish. I felt mildly overwhelmed, but mostly content to finally arrive in this incredible city after months of dreaming about it. I couldn´t have asked for a kinder family. I used to think there were 3 kids, but now I think there might be 4. (I know this sounds ridiculous.) I was originally introduced to three – two girls and a boy, all around the age of 18. Then, a couple days later, while we were eating dinner, another girl walked out of the kitchen (how she got in there, I have no idea). The mom explained that she works during the night and sleeps all day, but it remains unclear to me if she´s a daughter or a friend of the family. My Spanish is improving rapidly, and I could ask quesitons about this, but how embarrassing!
Speaking of Spanish, I am absolutely loving learning a third language! It´s so much easier than learning the second (which, for me, was French). I´ve been doing Rosetta Stone for a little over a year, some months more seriously than others, but I´ve never taken a Spanish class or even had a conversation in Spanish with a real live person until now. I must say, it has been a sort of out-of-body experience. I listen to my teacher talk, I understand everything she´s saying, I respond (slowly) with words I didn´t even know I knew, and I am totally shocked by myself. Of course, not all Spanish attempts have been a success. I often switch over to French without noticing, and I even said “es gut” once. I have no idea where that came from.
School, in short, is awesome. I take 6 hours of one-on-one tutoring a day, which everyone things I´m crazy for, including my teachers. Jenny teaches me each morning for 4 hours, with a 30-minute break. Then I have another 30-minute break, during which I usually grab lunch. Then 2 more hours, either with Patricia or Edith. It´s exhausting, there´s no question about that, but as most of you know, I love to talk, so talking for 6 hours a day is mostly fun for me. I do feel bad for Jenny, my primary teacher. By the end of this month she will know everything about me! When you talk to someone for 4 hours a day every day, you basically cover every topic. Yesterday, I told her about the Reformation for an hour because she had never heard of Martin Luther; now that´s evangelism! The notes I take in my notebook are very telling, and rather hilarious. Perhaps my favorite sequence is:
una mascota = a pet
cuy = guinea pig
probar = to taste (try)
No, I have not yet tasted guinea pig, but it looks like it´s in my near future. My school offers lots of cool activities after classes (I´m done each day at 3pm). So far I´ve learned to salsa, gone on a walking tour of the old city at night, and this weekend I´m going on a trip with the school to a town called Mindo. If I´m understanding correctly (which is always a big If), my weekend will be filled with hiking, tubing, ziplining, eating the best pizza in Ecuador, and jumping off of waterfalls. I can´t wait! The other awesome thing about school is that you don´t have to stay in the classroom with your teacher; you could ask to go somewhere. So the other day, my teacher and I went on a mission to find a piano so I can practice. (In the process, I tried to tell her I like adventures, but I accidentally said I like affairs. Oops.) Seems like a pretty easy mission, right? WRONG. Pianos are near impossible to find here. In the process of looking, however, I got to visit the offices for the Quito Symphony Orchestra, so that´s cool. I´m hoping to attend a concert tonight. The piano search was a failure, which I found incredibly shocking.
Which brings me to my final paragraph. Lots of things about Ecuador have surprised me…mostly because I had never been to South America and did a crappy job researching before my trip. I hope to share some of these things throughout my month here…I´ll only give a few major examples for now. I basically expected everything to be similar to Senegal, which is ridiculous, but that´s the most different place I´ve ever experienced. Like Senegal, Ecuador is on the Westernmost point of the continent, but I was surprised to learn that the West Coast of South America is further east than the east coast of North America! In fact, I´m an hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time. Another assumption that I made along with everyone else is that since Ecuador is by the Equator, it would be really hot. Nope! Quito is a 2-mile high city, so because of the altitude, it´s quite cold at night and beautiful during the day – no humidity, no bugs. Also related to the Equator, the sun rises and sets at 6 every day, all year round. For me, this has meant waking up early and going to bed early. It has been a good routine so far, and I´m looking forward to the next 3 weeks. I have lots more about family life and culture to say, so stay tuned, and feel free to leave a comment and let me know if you have any specific questions! Peace for now…