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Update from Guayaquil

Guayaquil

Well, I have been in Guayaquil for a month and have only now been able to update this blog! I've been really busy, as I expected, not only with teaching but the lesson planning and writing assignment & test marking that goes with it.

I'm sharing an apartment with one of the other new teachers; it's very nice for the price we're paying for it, but it doesn't have an oven, grill, toaster or kettle! There's no washing machine either so I've done my laundry so far by hand in the stone sink in the semi-outdoors part of the flat. In my bedroom window there's no glass pane; there's just some iron bars on the outside, then a heavy plastic/glass blind that's fixed to the wall, and then on the inside there's metal mosquito netting. A lot of the windows in Guayaquil generally don't have glass panes; even a fair amount of the smaller shops (outside of the malls) mostly consist of a barred counter with most of the stock behind it. Restaurants don't have walls between the eating area and the street; instead they just have a shutter that they pull down at closing time.

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As a perk of the job we teachers get free Spanish lessons. I'm a complete beginner, but I'm enjoying it so far, although in my first lesson it quickly became apparent that I cannot roll my 'r's! I simply cannot physically do it. Ah well, I suppose I shall have to resign myself to sounding like I have a speech impediment whenever I speak Spanish for at least the immediate future, until/ if I finally get the hang of it...

I've been doing a lot of testing the last couple of weeks because three of the courses I took over when I arrived (Pre-Intermediate 2, FCE Prep 1 and Business English Pre-Intermediate 3) have come to an end. It feels so strange to be the one invigilating written tests and administering speaking tests, when I remember so clearly being the one taking exams!

For the rest of this post I'm going to copy and paste from emails I've sent home, simply because I haven't got time right now to write original material, as it were. They're about my general impressions of Guayaquil. Apologies if it seems a bit disjointed as a result.

The area I'm living in is very untouristy - not many people speak English - and is quite far out from the language school and even further from the city centre. Luckily though there are loads of very cheap buses, so I haven't had any problems getting from place to place so far apart from once in my first week when I'd forgotten exactly where to get off the bus to get to my new apartment. I got off too soon and had to wander around quite a lot after dark (which isn't something you're advised to do here) before giving up and getting a bus back to the language school, where they ordered a taxi for me. On the bus back to the language school, I was knackered and really hot and sweaty, but the bus driver waved me through without asking for the fare. When I got back off he pressed something small and white into my hand as I passed by, and as I stood on the pavement after he'd driven off, I saw it was a folded up note! I unfolded it and saw it had a picture of a heart with an arrow through it, and a phone number and some Spanish writing!

I literally did have to jump off the bus, because buses here don't often actually stop unless there are several people wanting to get on or off; usually they just slow down to let people jump on or off and then speed away as fast as they can. It only costs 25 cents to get anywhere within the city, and they let people get on or off anywhere they want, not just at designated stops. The buses are very ramshackle, but they have sliding windows so a nice breeze comes through. The driving in general here is terrible, however - it certainly always makes for an interesting if rather hair-raising journey whenever I get a bus or taxi!

Traders often jump on the bus, talk loudly and then move up and down the bus with their goods before jumping back off again. They climb around the electronic barrier that logs people as having got on and paid the fare, and the drivers all turn a blind eye to it, sometimes even holding their goods for them as they climb round! The hawkers sell things like grapes, nuts, water, bags of coconut water and ice, CDs (with CDs they take on a CD player and play music before handing copies round, going back to play more music, then going round to collect the money or the CDs if people give them back to him), flags of the local football team, sweets and many other things, though not more than a couple at any one time.

I haven't explored the city centre much so far, but one place I have been to is a square that has some resident iguanas! It was quite surreal to me at first, though they were a bit smaller than I expected. There were ones on the grass in the park in the middle of the square, and there was one on the marble base of the statue in the middle.

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I also walked up and down the Malecon, a riverside walkway with statues, palm trees, playing areas for children, viewing towers, lots of snack stalls and even a mini shopping centre.

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The other day I had a typical Ecuadorian dish for lunch - 'Bollo de Pescado' with rice and salad; this consists of some fish wrapped in mashed up verde (a type of plant) that also has some cheese in it, with a herby peanut sauce on top. Although the rice was a bit too al dente for my liking, the actual Bollo de Pescado was delicious, and the whole plate of food was only $1.75! Apparently the fish was bonito.

Last week I went to a supermarket I hadn't been to before and had a good look round. The cream comes in bags rather than pots or bottles (!), the herbs come tied in big bunches, they have several fruits and vegetables which I haven't tried yet (mamey, taxo, granadilla, pitahaya, geino orito, zapota), and they have ready-to-fry packets of empanadas.

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They have a big coffee section, but not of chocolate (they export a lot but don't really sell that much in shops apart from imported brands). The spice section is quite big too, and the shoe cleaning product section. In the fruit and veg section, the onions come loose already peeled and with the ends cut off, next to the normal bananas they have bunches of mini bananas, and they have sections containing types of loose beans for customers to shovel into bags. I was severely tempted by the yuca roots, because I know you can make lovely chips with them, but decided to leave them for another day. I also saw rolled up palm leaves, and what looked like giant spiky cactus leaves.

I've spent far too long on this post so I will write more about my teaching in my next update. I'll also be able to write about my visit to Montañita, a surfers' town on the west coast. I and the other teachers have been invited to a British Consulate party tomorrow to celebrate the Queen's birthday, so we're going to that and then going on up the coast to Montañita for the rest of the weekend. All I've seen of Ecuador so far is Guayaquil, so I'm looking forward to seeing some countryside and beaches!

Some more photos below of my room in Hostel Nucapacha, where I spent my first night in Ecuador, a statue in front of the Town Hall, and a parcel my sisters sent me.

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Posted by 3Traveller 14:08 Archived in Ecuador Tagged spanish hostel buses sisters iguanas ecuador guayaquil explorations english_teaching malecon_2000 ecuadorian_cuisine river_guayas Comments (0)

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