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Guayaquil

Today was very exciting for me because my sisters and brothers-in-law arrived in Guayaquil! They had arrived in Ecuador on Tuesday the 8th in Quito and had spent the rest of that day and all of the 9th resting in the hostel and exploring the city before catching a local flight to Guayaquil this morning. I met them at the airport and we took a taxi to Urdesa, where their hostel is. (Credit to Kate for the following photos of me.)

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It felt so surreal, but lovely, for me to have them with me!

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After they had dumped their stuff and we'd cooled off in front of the fans for a bit, we caught a bus into town. This was a novel experience for them because the Selectivo buses in Guayaquil are very different to any bus in the UK. Mostly very ramshackle both on the outside and inside; streetsellers hop on and off with all kinds of goods; the fare is only 25 cents; the doors are nearly always kept open while the bus is moving; the aisle is usually very narrow; and the bus will stop anywhere (apart from on bridges/overpasses) for people to get on or off. The destinations are usually written on stickers stuck on the front windscreen.

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Our first destination was 'La Barca Azul', a restaurant I've been to a few times that sells a lot of 'Platos Tipicos' (traditional dishes) and is very untouristy. Emma, Kate and I had seco de chivo (goat stew), Mark had Ecuadorian ceviche and Andrew had seafood rice.

Then we walked down part of the Malecón, the rejuvenated waterfront by the River Guayas. Some of us climbed up one of the lookout towers next to the river and we also passed by the Moorish Tower.

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Then we turned right and carried on to Iguana Square, a park within the square in front of the cathedral. Even though I have seen iguanas many times now, they still look quite a novelty to me. They look so prehistoric that their presence in the city centre seems incongruous. We enjoyed wandering round spotting iguanas on the grass, on the paths and in the branches of one of the trees.

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After iguana- and turtle-watching for a while we carried on into the cathedral. Due to Lent, nearly all of the statues and paintings were covered with purple drapes. One of the only ones that wasn't was a big statue of Jesus carrying the cross and wearing the crown of thorns. Most of the cathedral was quite dark, with the exception of a spectacular, tiny chapel with beautiful stained glass and natural light, which we looked into but didn't actually enter because lots of people were inside it praying.

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After this we needed to get another bus, this time to my workplace. On our way to the right place to get it from we spotted a couple of parrots sitting on a ledge at the top of the front of the Town Hall!

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The bus took us back along the Malecón and past Cerro Santa Ana.

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There were only a couple of hours until my evening class. I really enjoyed showing them round the place, introducing them to my colleagues (both teaching and admin) and then introducing them to some of my students and including them in the first part of my lesson! We were working on past simple & past continuous within the context of childhood memories.

They took a taxi at 7.30 (that I had asked reception to order for them) back to their hostel. The plan is for them to come back to the language school tomorrow morning at 11.30 am, just as I get back from my Spanish lesson. Then we'll go straight on to the bus terminal together so I can help them get their tickets to Playas, where they're going for the day. I wish I could come too, because I've never been to Playas, but I have a conversation class between 7-9am, my Spanish lesson between 9.30-11am and an upper-intermediate class between 4-8pm.

Posted by 3Traveller 04:55 Archived in Ecuador Tagged airport cathedral buses sisters iguanas ceviche ecuador guayaquil explorations english_teaching malecon_2000 guayaquil_metropolitan_cathedra ecuadorian_cuisine Comments (0)

Birthday celebrations

Guayaquil

31/1/14

The only class I had today was this morning, between 7-9 am; a B2 conversation class. I felt touched because one of my students gave me a special birthday cupcake. It was really big and the sponge and icing were both bright red. As soon as she'd given me it and I'd thanked her, all four of them broke out with 'Happy Birthday To You' - then the moment they finished that they carried on into the Spanish version, 'Cumpleaños Feliz'. I don't know what they do in Spain, but in Ecuador when native speakers sing 'Happy Birthday' in English, they stretch out 'ir' in 'birthday' to 'irrrrrrr'.

We did some work on fluency and some on small talk, and seeing as it was my birthday, we finished with a few snacks I'd brought in. The idea was to create a bit of a party atmosphere and provide an opportunity for small talk practice in a freer, authentic and more relaxed situation. It seemed to go down well.

Some birthday post arrived for me at the language school after my conversation class had finished. I stayed online at work for a couple of hours then took my post back to the flat, had some tuna mayo & iceberg lettuce rolls for lunch and then went back online and spoke to my nearest & dearest on Google Video chat. I had a lovely chat with Dave, and Emma, Kate and I opened our presents to each other on video. I saw our birthday cake being lit and heard 'Happy Birthday' sung to us. Mum had sent me an indoor sparkler so I lit that while on video as well. It was lovely to see everyone!

Friday night isn't the best time for us teachers to go out here because on any given week the majority of us have to be at work by 8 am on Saturday morning for class, so I saved my Guayaquil birthday celebration for the next day.

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In the evening we went to Sushi Isao, the same sushi place we went to last October, because I remembered it being very good. Apparently it's the only sushi place in Guayaquil that is actually owned by a Japanese and has Japanese chefs - there are quite a few sushi places here but they aren't as genuine.

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There were about 10 of us there. One or two ordered individual things but most of us shared two 'boats', which have 54 pieces of sushi in each one. Last time they did actually come in a boat-shaped dish but this time they were only on normal platters. The others refused to let me pay for my share of the bill!

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Before that we had a drink or two at a bar nearby called 'El Manantial'. We sat at a long table outside the front and the waiters brought us drinks. I think I've mentioned this before, but in Guayaquil people don't seem to go up to the bar to order drinks at all; ordering through waiters seems to be the done thing. I had an 'Alexander' cocktail which in Ecuador is made with brandy, Creme de Cacao, condensed milk and crushed ice, but elsewhere is usually made with gin instead of brandy and cream instead of condensed milk. They love their condensed milk here.

After the sushi we went to a sports bar. Most of the others shared something I've also seen in Brazil - a great tall container filled with beer that has a tap for you to self-dispense beer from. I had two caipirinha cocktails because they had a 2-for-1 offer. I thought something fruity would be a nice contrast to the sushi and the Alexander cocktail I'd had before.

Some people went home after that but five of us carried on back to El Manantial where we had a last drink. I had another - you guessed it - Alexander cocktail. When the place closed at 2 am I went back by taxi.

Posted by 3Traveller 03:54 Archived in Ecuador Tagged night sisters dave cocktails mum ecuador guayaquil english_teaching sushi_isao birthday_celebration Comments (0)

Departure eve

London and St Albans


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I went back to London this morning, this time to Wimbledon to collect my CELTA folder. I finished the CELTA course near the end of March last year and we were told then that six months afterwards we could come back and collect our folders if we wanted them. So in September I emailed to ask if I could come and collect mine at Christmas. The college has two sites and unfortunately the site from where I had to collect my folder wasn't the one where I actually did the course, which was a shame. I would have really liked to have gone back there for a look round. Technically I could have walked to the other site, but I couldn't hang around at all in London because my flight is due to leave Heathrow very early tomorrow morning and I hadn't packed yet. There were two other things I had to do in St Albans as well.

On the way home from St Albans station I stopped at the cemetery and said hello/goodbye to Dad and also my grandparents, who are buried very close by.

Once I got back I finished off a project I had been working on for the past few days... sticking down letters and cards Dad's patients had written about and/or to him and given to the surgery when Dad retired last summer. I stuck them in the same special hardback notebook his colleagues at the surgery had all written messages in at his retirement party. A notice had gone up at the surgery asking patients for anecdotes involving Dad. Months later they were still receiving them, from irregular patients who had come in and seen the notice for the first time. The surgery had passed them all onto Dad and after reading them he had tucked them into the notebook but not stuck them down... something I'm sure he was intending to do but never got round to due to chemotherapy cycles. So I did the sticking down for him. I felt very touched and proud reading them, though very sad as well of course.

Posted by 3Traveller 11:52 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london united_kingdom dad english_teaching st_albans Comments (0)

Christmas is coming...

Guayaquil

So Christmas is creeping up quite quickly now, but I have to say that it feels a little bit peculiar being here in hot and sticky Guayaquil at this time of year when it is so alien to what I'm used to in the UK. Last Sunday I went to a Thanksgiving party two American colleagues of mine held at their condo and it felt surreal to be swimming in their pool in 30-32 degrees on 1st December, knowing that in the UK it was freezing cold!

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The party was great, by the way. Company was typically amusing and the pool, weather, food and drink were all lovely. I brought fresh green beans as my contribution, fried with chopped red onion and leek in herby butter. Roast chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes, mini empanadas, shrimp ceviche, massive shrimps barbecued in their shells and sweetcorn made up the rest of the savoury dishes; there was lemon meringue pie and chocolate cake for dessert.

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Last week I took a few photos of what I see on a typical day here in Guayaquil. I haven't included here any of the school, but here are three of Alborada Sexta, where I'm living - my street, the main street where I catch the bus, and a local hole-in-the-wall empanada counter;

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There are a couple of others from my typical day - the place opposite where I get off the bus, and the outdoor food court where I often get lunch.

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I began teaching three new classes three weeks ago, due to several teachers' timetables being moved about at the same time. My five-hour Saturday intermediate 1 class of public-school English teachers has been replaced in my timetable by a four-hour Friday upper-intermediate 4 class of public-school English teachers; in the evening I now have a pre-advanced 1 class instead of the intermediate 1 class I had before; from Tuesday to Thursday I now have a pre-intermediate 3 class between 4-6pm. Four of the students in the latter class are also English teachers. The Ecuadorian government recently said that all Ecuadorian public school English teachers have to attain B2 standard by a certain time next year, so that's why we're teaching so many teachers.

With the exception of a pre-advanced conversation class I had once a week for a month, in my first six months I was almost exclusively teaching pre-intermediate and intermediate 1 classes. I do enjoy teaching those levels but it's good to be getting experience of different levels now too.

I'd had my intermediate 1 evening class right from when I first arrived here in May. They were pre-intermediate 1 then. I was a bit sad to lose that class because I enjoyed the rapport and observing the dynamics between different students. I felt really touched in the last lesson I had with them but also a bit embarrassed because they were saying some really nice things and for a few seconds I didn't know how to react. Then, a few days later when their next course began, I happened to be passing through reception when two of my now -ex-students stopped me and gave me a present which they said all of their class had contributed towards. It was a wooden painted model boat and a doll from Esmeraldas province made from a coconut husk. They said that they got me those because they remembered me showing them a little llama keyring handmade from twisted reeds that I bought from a market in Cuenca and guessed that I liked handicrafts. I had not expected this at all so it was a really lovely surprise!

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When I got back to my flat after work that night I put them on my bookcase. Now they have been joined by a little Christmas display, courtesy of an amazing parcel I received from Emma and Kate the other day! This was the contents (sorry to make another list of food, but I want to record this for posterity, so here goes!);

An Advent calendar card
A Christmas book ('Why was the Partridge in the Pear Tree? The History of Christmas Carols')
Two glass snowflakes that unfortunately got broken in transit
Three robin decorations
Strawberry milkshake poppets
Revels
Strawberry bonbons
Two Chocolate Orange bars
A bag of rum balls
Treacle toffees
A mini box of Quality Streets
A white chocolate Lion bar
Sweet peanuts
Two boxes of candy sticks
Candy cane
Chocolate coins
Two Dairy Milk mousse snowmen
Two 'Merryteaser' chocolate reindeer
Chocolate Father Christmas
Smarties chocolate penguin
Lindor Chocolate Moment
Milkybar chocolate penguin
Bag of 'Popping Puds'
Tube of strawberry Millions (a bit like Dweebs, but chewier and softer)
Dairy Milk Chocos (like Rolos)

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I've just put the card, robins, snowflakes, candy cane and chocolate coins in the display. The book will join them once I've finished reading it! I'll eat the candy cane and chocolate coins on the day I fly back to the UK (the 20th). Everything else will probably have been eaten by then!

Posted by 3Traveller 15:31 Archived in Ecuador Tagged parties christmas sisters barbecue ecuador guayaquil english_teaching ecuadorian_cuisine Comments (0)

Return to Guayaquil

Cuenca and Guayaquil

I set off for the bus station at the crack of dawn... OK maybe not the true crack of dawn, but it was pretty early; 7am. The school day clearly starts early in Cuenca, for when I went past a school, children and parents were already streaming through the gate. On the road leading to the bus station I passed by the woman with the wicker baskets of chickens - this time she had a basket of live guinea pigs as well. Not sold as pets, I assume, but for food...

At the bus station I bought two chocolate ring doughnuts to keep me going on the four-hour journey. At the first village we came to after leaving the mountains a man got on with a straw platter piled high with empanadas and other similar snacks; he walked up and down for a while before being dropped off on the road out of town. I remember this happening in August as well. I was feeling quite peckish but decided to give them a miss, because I didn't know how long they'd been out for.

I arrived back at Guayaquil bus terminal at midday and hopped straight on a bus to my part of town; once I got in I couldn't rest for as long as I would have liked, though, because I was teaching that evening and needed to prep. I had my 2-hour Intermediate 1 class at 6 and then immediately after that a two-hour one-to-one IELTS class.

Posted by 3Traveller 13:39 Archived in Ecuador Tagged buses andes ecuador cuenca guayaquil english_teaching unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine Comments (0)

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