Journals from Semester abroad in Quito, Ecuador
2008-03-29 Time flies when you can't have as much fun as you expected
Hm, I can't remember if I included this entry here when I sent it as an e-mail a couple weeks ago (on March 14th), but it doesn't show up on the list... And then just now I think I pressed enter and sent a blank entry. Whoops! Anyway, here it is:
Hello everyone, sorry it's been so long. Since it's been a while since I sent anything, I'm probably going to write a lot, and some of this update will include excerpts from e-mail responses to friends and relatives that might be interesting for everyone else, too. For example, Jen asked me a while ago about classes, and whether I had recommendations for next semester's exchange students. Here's what I've got:
As for classes, I like all of them (and all of the professors), which is amazing. I have heard that the Ecuadorian literature class is to be avoided, however, because of an unnecessarily direct and demanding professor. But as for my classes, here's the rundown:
Nutricin 100, with Maria Carmen de Orozco and then (when she had to go on a trip) Gabriela Davalos
Since almost all of you Linfield ladies on this e-mail list have pretty advanced Spanish, I really recommend taking a basic-level class that might count as an LC, because most exchange students don't do it. I'm the only exchange student in the class, and it's a lot of fun getting that perspective. First of all, it's more...real. It's an actual Ecuadorian class geared towards Ecuadorians, with Ecuadorian perspectives on food and nutrition. Second, Ecuadorian students (especially the freshmen you generally find in 100 level classes) are generally more willing to talk to exchange students who are on their own and not in groups, because there isn't that automatic tendency to have exchange students sit in little groups and Ecuadorian students sit in other little groups.
Gnero y Sociedad, with Anglica Ordoez
Because this class focuses on Ecuadorian gender relations, it's pretty popular with exchange students. I'd say the class is about half and half, which actually isn't bad because we get into some pretty passionate arguments about gender issues what with all the different perspectives. Though we occasionally watch videos in English in class, we read A LOT, and almost all in Spanish, but I think it's worth it; it's a fun class. People really get into the discussions, so the class goes by quickly.
Traduccin, with Gustavo Fierro
We're all exchange students in this class, but it's the top Spanish class offered for foreigners. The professor only accepted six of the twenty or so students who showed up the first day. El profe is very direct (if you're wrong, he's not going to say, "Well, almost..." he'll just say, "Nope, wrong" and move on to the next person), but he's funny and under the directness is a very nice guy. It's a hard class because the translations take a long time to do well, but I'm learning a lot and it's always entertaining.
Yoga, with I-don't-remember-how-to-spell-his-name-because-it's-French
I think I've mentioned before how beautiful the setting is for this class: a wooden pagoda surrounded by trees, next to a little lagoon. The class itself is hard (at least for me, because I'm really not as flexible as I used to be), but it's interesting because the professor really believes in what he teaches. He's very philosophical about all of it, and though I must admit I don't entirely buy into all of it, it is certainly an intriguing new perspective. Again, the class is about half exchange students, but because yoga is a quiet sort of activity it doesn't really make much difference.
Bilingismo y la Educacion Bilinge, with Jean Michel Mosquera (spelling?)
He's not actually French, he's an Ecuadorian who grew up in New York, so I'm not sure how he ended up with that name...But anyway, this is by far my favorite class. The professor is funny, energetic, and creative, and speaks mostly in Spanish but occasionally in Spanglish because the readings are in English. All of the students are girls (11 Ecuadorians, one Oregonian girl, and me), and maybe because they all study education and are taught to be nurturing, they've been the most welcoming students I've met at la USFQ. They all sent me comforting e-mails when I had to go back to Seattle because of the accident, and I met my friend Jamela in that class. As for the class itself, it is an intriguing mix of psychology, education, and linguistics. Though I love the subject material, since Oscar's accident it has gone from my favorite class to my most painful class because it has so very much to do with the future that I no longer have So sometimes that class makes me cry, but most days I still like it.
On to regular update topics. How are things going here? Well, I'm realizing that half of my semester has somehow escaped me, and I haven't really done anything here. Unfortunately, we are STILL waiting on the state of Alaska and the Honduran consulate, so my life is still on hold. Every week they tell me I'll be off to Honduras within a few days, and every week they put it off longer. So I can't go anywhere, I can't plan anything, and Im stuck in Quito. Quito is a nice city, but I would love to have the chance to be a regular exchange student, travel a bit, see nearby towns, go to the coast, see the beach But I can't. And it's been six weeks and two days since the accident! I can't imagine how difficult it must be for Oscar's poor family in Honduras; at least those of us in Seattle were able to have a funeral, and get a bit of closure.
Anyway, I really do enjoy being in Ecuador, and am just now starting to feel like I'm really here. I've been here physically for almost two and a half months, but I don't think I'll fully be here mentally until we can finally do the burial and I get back to Ecuador to finish off the semester. And by then, I'll have less than two months left I'm just starting now to learn my way around Quito by bus, make friends, and occasionally go out dancing or to friends' houses, and I feel like I'm so far behind everyone else. I started out with a linguistic advantage, but with everything that's happened, it seems everyone else has really been more able to experience a semester fully in Ecuador. Although I have heard far too many exchange students say, in ENGLISH, "I just want to go live in isolation, in a Spanish-speaking town somewhere, and just speak no English." That's actually a direct quote from a girl I overheard on the bus; I wrote it down after she said it because it struck me as so ironic that she had said it in English. That happens a lot. The other day another girl was complaining to me, in English, about how Ecuadorians always talk to her in English and she never gets the opportunity to practice her Spanish. If she really wanted to practice, why didn't she tell me all that in Spanish?
Anyway, with everything that has happened, I would love to stay here for another semester and try to have a more normal study abroad experience. Unfortunately, since I'm going to Japan senior year and I have to fit in all of my requirements for my major, I really don't think I'll be able to
On an entirely different note, here are a few entertaining signs and new vocab words:
1) "Not to throw away garbage for the window" (these bus companies really need some new translators)
2) "GORDOS! Adelgace ya! Llmenos 2-287389" ("FAT PEOPLE! Get thin now! Call us 2-287389")
3) Me saca el aire = it tires me out (as in a class that is really hard)
4) tenaz = difficult (as in an exam)
5) vers = goes at the beginning of an explanation, and is used A LOT. Literally means "you'll see." Hondurans might say, "Fjate que" which is similar, but not quite the same.
6) ojo con eso (or just ojo) = careful about that/pay attention to that.
7) iiiiiiiiiichi = the Ecuadorian version of "ooooooh" as in "oooooooh, he likes you!"
8) cola = soda in general, not just Coke-related
9) sorbete = a straw, which Mexicans would call popote and Hondurans would call pajilla.
10) pupos/guayos = soccer cleats, which Hondurans (and I think Mexicans) call tacos. Here, tacos refer to high heels, and (rarely) food. Ecuadorians don't really eat tacos, actually; the other day I went to eat Mexican food with an Ecuadorian friend of mine and he needed clarification on which was a taco, which was a burrito, and what you called that mushy green stuff you put on them (guacamole!).
11) tortilla = an omelette or a potato patty. Very rarely means what we think of as tortillas, which when referred to here are called tortillas mexicanas (almost no one eats them outside of Mexican restaurants, and even there you don't always get them. When you do, they're different and rather uncooperative and crumbly.).
12) parar bola = pay attention (ella no le para bola = she doesn't pay any attention to him, as in he flirts with her and she ignores it. Practicing not parar-ing bola is a good thing to do before you try taking a bus or a taxi around here I'll tell you about that in a minute.)
13) esfero = pen (instead of pluma or bolgrafo. It comes from Quichua)
14) palta = what people in southern Ecuador call avocados. (palta comes from Quichua, while aguacate (what most of Latin America calls avocados) comes from Nahuatl)
Hm, it's starting to look like you guys might have to read this in more than one sitting. Just a few more stories
It's been raining like crazy here this whole semester, and everyone has runny noses and is covered in coats, gloves, hats, and scarves. Of course, it's really around 50 degrees Fahrenheit out most days, but for them it's freezing! We did get down to 42 the other day, though, which here is unheard of. Brrr
Unfortunately I found out the hard way that the front steps of the university get very slippery when wet. On Monday it started pouring just when I got out of class, so a hundred or so students were clustered under the main entrance overhang, debating whether to venture out into the rain. Being the Seattle girl that I am (and as Oscar always said, "I'm not made of sugar, I won't melt"), I marched right out into it. Sadly, I slipped on the top step and went bump bump bump bump bump bump bump (I think there were seven steps) down to the bottom. My pants got soaked, my phone and bus money went flying, and I badly bruised my poor butt. I couldn't sit normally for three days, and it's still a little uncomfortable Terribly embarrassing, and in front of so very many amused, dignified, stylish and unhelpful Ecuadorians!
Luckily, Thursday was a bit more entertaining. I woke up early, got quite a bit of homework done, and then took the bus to la USFQ to work on a project with some girls from my bilingualism class. They played some of my favorite music on the bus (Que slo por un beeesoooo) and I was singing away, so I arrived in a very good mood. We managed to finish the whole project (which we didn't expect to do) and by about 4 pm I was on another bus on the way back up to Quito. Unfortunately, since I was talking to another girl when we hopped on, I didn't look at who was working on the bus before I picked it.
Quick explanation: every bus has a driver and a helper. The helper is the one who yells out at every stop where the bus is going so that people will get on, and collects the 25 cent fee from everyone. They are usually guys in their teens or early twenties, and they are usually flirts even if you do your very best not to pay them any attention. This particular one, on Thursday, remembered me from a couple of other bus rides. He had winked at me and tried to flirt on those other rides, too, so when I realized he was the one working the bus on Thursday I knew I was in for it. When I got on the bus he said, "Hoooola, linda" (Heeey, pretty girl), and I said a short Hola and scooted past. He kept smiling over at me the whole ride, and when he came by to collect everyone's 25 cents, he didn't let me pay! He said I was too pretty to have to pay, which I found funny considering that day my hair was all frizzy, I was wearing baggy pants and a sweatshirt, and I had obviously made no effort to look nice. My friend almost died laughing, I turned so red. I tried to get him to let me pay, but he wouldn't. On his way back up to the front of the bus, he leaned down and said in a funny sort of accent "Eres presshiosa" ("you're pretty", but he said presshiosa, not preciosa. Weird). It didn't seem to faze him much that I did my absolute best to ignore him, though I couldn't avoid bursting out laughing as soon as I got off the bus. Esos chicos goodness gracious.
And to finish off the e-mail, here's a poem I found, liked, and translated for my clase de traduccin. The English version is mine, so it may not be quite as eloquent as the original, but here it is:
Amor mo, si muero y t no mueres,
no demos al dolor ms territorio:
amor mo, si mueres y no muero,
no hay extensin como la que vivimos.
Polvo en el trigo, arena en las arenas
el tiempo, el agua errante, el viento vago
nos llev como grano navegante.
Pudimos no encontrarnos en el tiempo.
Esta pradera en que nos encontramos,
oh pequeo infinito! devolvemos.
Pero este amor, amor, no ha terminado,
y as como no tuvo nacimiento
no tiene muerte, es como un largo ro,
slo cambia de tierras y de labios.
My love, if I die and you do not,
let us not give more territory to pain:
my love, if you die and I do not,
there is no time like the one we lived.
Dust in the wheat, sand in the sands,
Time, wandering water, the lazy wind
took us like sailing seeds.
We could have not found each other in time.
We give back this meadow
oh small infinity! in which we find ourselves.
But this love, love, has not ended,
and just as it had no birth
it has no death, it is like a long river,
it only changes lands and lips.
Yeah, that one made me cry when I had to read it out loud in class