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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)

Teaching idea

Guayaquil


View Teaching and Travelling Abroad on 3Traveller's travel map.

It's very early in the morning here in Guayaquil, and I am up at this hour because in an hour's time I'm going to get a bus to the terminal and then see about getting a ticket to Cuenca. I was advised to get there as early as possible because it's a holiday weekend. Tomorrow it's All Souls' Day (Day of the Dead) and on Sunday it's the Independence of Cuenca. In order to fill up the time until I leave, I've decided to write about a teaching activity I did recently.

We had a teacher training session yesterday where we were told about dictoglosses/text reconstruction and how to use them. After that we were all supposed to share an activity that we'd done in the last couple of weeks that we thought had gone particularly well, but as it happened there was only enough time for a couple of us to do it. I was asked to share mine, so here's what I did (originally I did this with my Intermediate 1 class). It was about question tags ("You know Dave, don't you? She likes chicken, doesn't she?")

1. Give the class a specified time in which they have to interview as many of their classmates as possible. Try to ensure they ask questions that result in neither very similar kinds of answers nor answers they are likely to know already (there are different ways of ensuring this). Emphasise to them that they have to try to memorise what their classmates tell them, but they must not write anything down!

(At first glance, this activity may not seem to have a connection with the rest of the lesson, unless you work it in as a kind of icebreaker... but all is revealed in time!)

2. Proceed with the rest of the lesson as normal. This could be from a coursebook, with its own context, or your own thing. I set the context as 'at a party' in my lesson, but any social situation where you come across acquaintances and new people would also be good. Then when you get to the freer practice stage at the end...

3. Give students three or four minutes to jot down quickly what information they think they remember their classmates giving them at the start of the lesson.

4. Students have to get up and mingle as if they are at a party/ other social situation, checking with their classmates if they remembered correctly. "You work for _____, don't you?" for example, or "Your brother's a sailor, isn't he?" Encourage students to continue the mini-conversations further, not just asking and answering the questions, in order to sound more natural.

5. Feedback - who remembered the most information correctly?

Just seen the time - I have to go and pack! I was advised to get to the terminal no later than 7am or there'd already be long queues, so I'd better get going!

Posted by 3Traveller 07:37 Archived in Ecuador Tagged ecuador guayaquil english_teaching Comments (0)

Independence of Guayaquil (and other celebrations)

Guayaquil

I went into town on Wednesday morning to see what I could of the 9th October Independence of Guayaquil procession. The bus journey took a very long time because of all the traffic, but even though I missed the military part of the procession, I caught the latter stages which consisted of schoolchildren twirling batons, waving Guayaquil flags and playing drums, trumpets and portable steel glockenspiels (though not all at the same time...) It was very colourful and musical - the sound of the glockenspiels reminded me of Caribbean steel pans.

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I started off watching it on Avenida 9 Octubre, the main street in Guayaquil, but then walked along to the Malecon and saw some of it there before returning the way I'd come.

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I could only stay for about an hour because I had to get back to work, but I was really glad I'd made the effort to come.

I did a bit of food shopping earlier today at the supermarket and noticed they had some (undressed) artificial Christmas trees on display - the first sign of Christmas I've seen here. I suppose in the UK there's Hallowe'en stuff everywhere. Here, apparently a couple of years ago the government banned Hallowe'en for being an US import and not a native Ecuadorian festival. They celebrate All Souls' Day, 2nd November, as The Day of the Dead, but officially at any rate they don't celebrate Hallowe'en.

I was told this by the students in the pre-advanced conversation class I had for the past four Monday mornings but has now finished. (The conversation classes come in blocks of four). I enjoyed that class a lot, despite it being between 7-9 am on Monday mornings, because there was a great atmosphere, everybody got on extremely well and there were some very interesting discusssions about such things as the high levels of corruption they feel is present in the government and Ecuadorian society in general; the problems with drugs which they think has only become a major issue since Correa came into power; the All Souls' Day, Christmas, New Year and Carnival celebrations in Ecuador and other countries; the popular meaning (in Ecuador) of different colours of flowers, which led on somehow to the importance of love and positivity; whether people's destinies are fixed from birth or fluid; and freedom of speech and where the line is.

Posted by 3Traveller 04:51 Archived in Ecuador Tagged buses ecuador procession guayaquil english_teaching malecon_2000 avenida_9_de_octubre traditional_customs Comments (0)

Sushi, cocktails and a beautiful view

Guayaquil

This is about a great night out I had last night with some of the other teachers.

It started at Restaurante Sushi Isao in Urdesa district.

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When we arrived we were given a free mixture of tuna, raw carrot, one or two unidentifiable raw vegetables and a delicious white sauce. We asked what was in the sauce but were told that the recipe was a secret! Four of us then shared a boat platter - it came piled with 54 lovely pieces of sushi. It was only $46! I tried various different kinds with different seafood - tuna, salmon, eel, another type of fish of which I didn't find out the name, and crabstick. The eel was brown and had a sweetish yet savoury sauce on it. One type of sushi came cased in a very light tempura batter, (which worked very well) and most of the nori roll types (with the seaweed casing) had a chunk or two of avocado in the middle as well as fish and a white type of sauce. I don't know whether it's common or not to have avocado in sushi in Japan - if not then I suppose this was the Ecuadorian touch.

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After Isao we got a taxi to Las Peñas district and had a couple of cocktails at a small but very colourful karaoke bar at the foot of the long steps up Cerro Santa Ana. The inside walls were painted orange and blue and had framed photos of Guayaquil from the turn of the 20th century hanging on them.

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At bars in Guayaquil, or the ones I've been to at any rate, there's always waiter service; you don't go up to the bar yourself. The karaoke microphone was passed around from table to table, but none of our group had a go. They were all Latin American songs. I had an 'Alexander' cocktail, one of the most delicious cocktails I've ever had in my life - brandy, coffee liqueur, condensed milk and crushed ice, with a cocktail cherry.

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After that I had a White Russian, which was also nice but tasted slightly bland having come just after the incredibly tastebud-grabbing Alexander cocktail.

E had told me about a famous bohemian bar next door with a live band, so I was keen to go there next. E and I went while the others carried on up Cerro Santa Ana (to a bar where they were to meet up with W and a friend of his). However, when we tried to enter we were told we had to pay $5 entry fee, so since I only had about $8 on me and I wanted to save it for another drink or two, plus E didn't want to pay it either, we caught up with the others instead.

The bar we were in now was also very small, tiny in fact, and being further up the hill, had an amazing view of the city lights below. The others stuck to beers, but I fancied another cocktail. The only cocktails the guy had came from bottles of pre-mixed stuff, but I had a piña colada anyway. I swear there was no pineapple juice in it at all, and there was no ice. It was so thick and gloopy that I didn't actually like it very much. But the atmosphere and view made up for it!

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Some of us carried on to the top of the hill to see the views over the whole city at night, but the entrance to the plaza was gated off. The security guard behind it told us it gets locked at midnight. I took one or two photos anyway but couldn't get high enough to get views in every direction.

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We went home after this - I arrived back at 2.40 am, so had a nice lie-in this morning before catching a bus to Urdesa to take up D & A's invitation to swim in their pool. It was typically hot, at least 32-33 degrees, so it was wonderful to get in the water.

Posted by 3Traveller 04:14 Archived in Ecuador Tagged night cocktails ecuador guayaquil cerro_santa_ana las_peñas sushi_isao Comments (0)

Isla Santay

Half-day trip from Guayaquil

A group of us teachers and other staff went on a trip to Isla Santay today. The River Guayas is so wide next to Guayaquil that there is space for the three-mile-long Isla Santay in the middle of it.

The day started for us at the Malecon, where some of us had some candyfloss before the boat was ready to depart (boat ticket and tour: $8 each).

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Once we arrived we were shown around the only village by a local boy who gave us a commentary in Spanish. There are 56 houses, all built for the occupants two or three years ago as part of a government project. Before they got these wooden houses, raised up on concrete stilts/ columns, the people lived in little huts which got flooded every year in the rainy season. A recycling centre, visitor centre and little building for tourists to sleep in are currently being built.

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After walking through the little village he took us a few minutes further to a small enclosure where there were some crocodiles, the only ones on the island. They were brought over in 2001.

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As we walked through the forest I noticed lots of little holes in the earth - apparently they are made by crabs burrowing down. Once they get big they are widely eaten by the villagers and also by an animal which might be a type of small bear or crab-eating raccoon - we saw some of their footprints in the mud when we went over a bridge.

It felt surreal to be in an environment so different to Guayaquil yet so geographically close. It was a really nice change to go from walking through the bustle and noise and dust of the big city to being in a a forest/mangrove with the smell of grass and damp earth and the sounds of cicadas and birdsong around us.

After coming back from the crocodile enclosure we were taken to the visitors' communal eating room, a separate hut with no walls. The price of our tour ($8) also included lunch. I had 'seco de pollo' or chicken stew; very tasty it was too.

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After lunch everybody else from the boat went back, but our group asked if we could look round more of the island, by ourselves. This request they appeared to find highly unusual, and it turned out we couldn't go by ourselves because the whole island is a Protected Area or something similar, so someone had to be with us in case we did any damage.

We didn't go all that far in the end - our guide took us to the local school, which involved a trek of about 15-20 minutes. We all got our shoes extremely muddy.

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When we emerged from the trees we were in a clearing with a path of wooden planks leading to the edge of the river at one end and the school building at the other.

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The classrooms were all locked (it's a school holiday at present) but we had a look around the communal areas. On one wall there was a display of children's work about the national flag, and on the front wall of the school there were hanging flowerpots made from plastic bottle halves. The playground was an area of grass with some tyres half-buried into the ground and a tyre swing. We all got bitten a lot by mosquitoes.

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After looking round the school, instead of walking back through the forest we walked to the river edge and our guide shouted until the people working on the jetty further around the coast heard him. He got one of them to come round in a motorised wooden kayak to pick us up and take us round to the main boat! We were quite precariously balanced to say the least - with six of us in there the sides tilted back and forth a lot and at one point the whole thing nearly overturned. It was fun though!

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Once we got back to the Malecon some of us went into a nearby Sweet & Coffee branch for a cold drink and pudding. Sweet & Coffee is an Ecuadorian version of Starbucks or Costa. I had a mocha frappelatte and a delicious 'queso de leche', which is quite a lot like creme caramel, only the texture is slightly more solid and the sauce is based on honey rather than caramel. Despite the name, it didn't taste of cheese to me at all. I've had this in Brazil as well.

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At one point while we were eating and drinking, I turned my head and noticed a clown trying to get in though the glass entrance! She had the full wig, makeup and clothes on and was pleading with the employee at the door to let her in. He gently refused though and the clown disappeared. I think her intention had been to beg from us and the door employee had realised this - either that or clown discrimination is alive and well in Guayaquil...! I think she must have wandered up from the Malecon, because there are often children's entertainers there at weekends.

Posted by 3Traveller 03:15 Archived in Ecuador Tagged guayaquil malecon_2000 isla_santay ecuadorian_cuisine river_trip river_guayas Comments (0)

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