Goals & Plans

Wow, it’s 2018!  ¡Feliz Año! It’s always hard for me to believe how quickly the year went by, and it’s difficult every January for me to face the new year. At least this year in Quito I don’t have to deal with a cold, harsh winter. It’s been raining here more than usual, and it’s been a little chilly, but we have sunny days too.

Anyway, my husband came to visit me from December 27th – January 3rd, and it was good to spend time together. He tried some Ecuadorian food and met my host family, I showed him north and south Quito and where I work, we watched Star Wars in English, we visited Baños for a day, we toured la Capilla del Hombre (Guayasamín’s house and museum, which I highly recommend), and we spent time together in the Foch.

Every day with him was so precious, and it was difficult for us to say good-bye to each other. I’m glad that he brought me clothing, toiletries, Gardetto’s, and candy to help me get through the next six months! My parents sent me a package in September, and I still haven’t received it, and at this point, I don’t know if I will. It’s frustrating that the mailing system isn’t like the one in the States.

When I return to the States in August, we’re planning on having a Holi-Jo-Sy-day-Palooza (still working on the name), where we’ll celebrate several holidays and our 1-year marriage anniversary with food, candy, movies, frozen yogurt, and cake.

We loved the views of the mountains in Baños.

A picture of us in front of the Basílica del Voto Nacional.

I rode the swing “at the edge of the world.”

Here’s us in front of Capilla del Hombre.

I didn’t do a lot of traveling over the holiday break, but I hope to do more before I leave the first week of August. I’m planning on going to Cuenca for Carnaval in February with my friend, and I’m looking into going to the Amazon in March and the Galapagos Islands end of May (my birthday!). I’d like to go on more weekend trips to places like Ibarra, Ambato, Riobamba, and other cities, but I suppose we’ll see.

This past weekend I went to the hot springs in Papallacta with a few people, and although it was a bit cold and rainy, we enjoyed relaxing in the warm, mineral water that comes directly from a volcano. This upcoming weekend I’m going to Baños again for WorldTeach’s mid-conference, but it’s for professional reasons.

I also started my second cycle of teaching here on Tuesday, January 16th, and I have the same schedule and English levels as the last cycle. The students seem good so far, and I’m going to do my best to keep up with my goals for teaching this cycle, which include more activities, more speaking & listening activities, more feedback, and as always, more preparation.

I’m still practicing yoga three times a week and practicing Spanish at language exchange clubs and with Ecuadorian friends, and I noticed that while my vocabulary has improved from flashcards and asking questions, I still have trouble with some grammar concepts and listening. I’m going to keep trying though, and I urge all of you to stick to your goals no matter what time of the year it is! 🙂

Thank you for reading!

Disclaimer: The ideas and thoughts expressed within this blog are my own and are not the views or opinions of WorldTeach.

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Pushing Forward

“If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.”

Well, here we are — 3 months. I have never lived abroad for this long nor have I ever written a blog on Christmas Day, but life is full of firsts. They say that people hit a wall after 3 months, and I think I’m about at that point in terms of feeling a bit overwhelmed with the culture, a bit discouraged with learning Spanish, and a bit worn out from teaching. I saw the quote above the other day, and it’s so powerful to me. I have to remember to reevaluate my goals and motivations for being here, continue to be grateful and curious, and keep working hard and having fun.

A ver…what have I done this last month? I finished my first cycle here of teaching English, watched “Justice League” in English with Spanish subtitles in theaters with my friend, visited Otavalo, made eggnog with my friend, and celebrated Christmas with my host family. I’m proud that I finished my first cycle of teaching, and I hope that the next cycle will be even better now that I have learned the ropes around here. I enjoyed getting to know the students better and coordinating games with them to help them improve their English. What I learned the most is that I need to incorporate more worksheets/activities/explanations outside of the textbook.

Here’s my classroom:

teaching, classroom

Another experience I had one weekend was watching a movie in English with Spanish subtitles in theatres. I think this theatre blew me away with how similar it is to America, and the mall was even blowing fake snow and had a slide.

I also went to Otavalo with my friend and bought gifts for my family, which my husband will take back to my family (the mail isn’t reliable). Otavalo is a pretty small town with a huge world market of craft goods. I enjoyed being surrounded by beautiful colors.


For the first time in my life, I made homemade eggnog with my friend, and it was a lot of fun! Eggnog isn’t really a thing here, so I wanted to make it myself because I didn’t want to miss out on drinking it during the holiday season. My friend was reading the recipe in Spanish while I was reading it in English while we were making it, and we worked really well together. The eggnog was sweet, rich, thick, and overall not bad.

Lastly, I spent Christmas with my host family. For Christmas Eve, we visited my host mom’s relatives and ate dinner with them, listened to music, and prayed a bit for a tradition called “Novena.” Novena is where they pray every night for nine days before Christmas. The host family gave me a warm alpaca blanket, which was funny because I coincidentally gave them an alpaca blanket as well! After the party last night, I wasn’t feeling too well today, but they invited me out with them, and I couldn’t say no. We ate lunch and ice cream and then watched Star Wars in Spanish, which didn’t have subtitles, so I didn’t understand much, but I liked the movie.

It’s also been tough not having my husband here every day with me and not spending the holiday with him (and my family in South Dakota). A long-distance marriage isn’t ideal, but at least it’s temporary. I’m excited for him to arrive in a couple days, and he’ll be here for a week. 🙂 People think we’re crazy, but teaching abroad in South America has been a dream of mine for a long time, and the timing was finally right for it, so I’m not going to give up.

I’m determined to learn more and teach those who want to learn.

Thank you for reading!

Disclaimer: The ideas and thoughts expressed within this blog are my own and are not the views or opinions of WorldTeach.

Being Grateful Abroad

Hola readers, ¿cómo están? I’ve now been here for a little over two months! I still feel surprised every morning when I realize that I’m in Quito, Ecuador. Every day brings new challenges, opportunities, and experiences (both good and bad). Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m flowing like water — I feel like I’m flowing like sludge.  I’ve had moments where I asked myself what the heck I’m doing here. When the washer machine is too hard on my clothes, when the weather is hot and cold like the Katy Perry song, when I feel alone here, I wonder. Being grateful is something I have to practice every day. I have to appreciate what’s going right in my life and that what I’m doing here is meaningful and vale la pena (worth the effort).

I started teaching English here on October 24th. I teach two classes that are different levels in the morning to young adults (mostly college students). Not only is it difficult to teach so early in the morning, but it’s also difficult to teach two different levels! Needless to say, I’m always busy. While I’ve had a bit of experience with teaching, it’s nothing like this. I have to remind myself that they’re not going to understand every nook and cranny of what I say every day. I need to draw, act it out, point at things, and talk slowly as much as possible to ensure that they’re understanding the material.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed teaching English so far. While lesson planning never stops and explaining grammar has its moments of difficulty, the best part is when we’re doing an activity and they don’t even realize that they’re using the new vocabulary or grammar. I’m starting to get the hang of some stuff, but like always, there’s room for improvement 😉 I teach in this colonial house:

The biggest thing I’ve struggled with yet enjoyed a bit so far is the holiday season here. I miss fall holidays in America very much! Thankfully, our group of WorldTeach volunteers celebrated Halloween on the 28th in a fun place. I also celebrated myself by watching all of Season 2 of Stranger Things in like two days, but that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, I got November 2nd and 3rd off from teaching because they celebrate Día de los Difuntos here. The family gave me bread that looked like a child with icing on it (called guagua) and some purple sweet liquid called “colada morada.” Um, yum. It represents the body and blood of Christ. Looked a little like this (found online):

 

During those two days off, I traveled to a beach on the coast of Ecuador called “Estero del Platano.” This trip tried my patience, but overall, it was relaxing. I took a 6.5 hour bus ride to Atacames, grabbed some lunch and groceries, and then we took a taxi to a small town called Galera. Uh oh, wrong place. Now what? I rechecked the title of the airbnb house, and it said “Estero del platano.” I thought, “Where’s that?” We asked the taxi driver, and he took us there. This was a pueblo straight up 100%. Not a grocery store in sight. The beach had 0 cell phone service or Internet connection, so I was completely disconnected.

We just happened to see two other volunteers walking along the road when we arrived too. Thankfully, they escorted us to the airbnb house. The house had four bedrooms, four bathrooms, and 10 beds total. The kitchen had everything we needed to cook our meals for the next three days. While not texting my husband was hard, I did enjoy relaxing on the beach. I spent a few hours in the warm ocean water playing with the waves. I got stung by a jellyfish or something, which freaked me out, but I turned out fine.

Here’s the house we stayed in:

Hermosa Casa en frente de Estero del Platano

Here’s me in the water:

Here’s my friend Adriene and I at the beach:

 

Later in November, I went to the historical district of Quito again and visited the Basílica del Voto Nacional. The cathedral displayed glass mosaics illuminating the inside of the church, and I climbed the stairs to the top to see the extensive views of the pastel-colored houses of the city.

As far as Thanksgiving goes…haha, what Thanksgiving? They don’t celebrate that here. That whole week tried my emotions. I ate fish alone that Thursday. Wow, great fun. It was the first Thanksgiving without my husband or family. Thankfully, yes thankfully, the group of volunteers will have our very own “Friendsgiving” with Thanksgiving dishes next weekend.

Back to being grateful: What am I thankful for? I’m thankful for my hospitable host family, wonderful new Ecuadorian friends, language exchange clubs, practicing yoga, motivated students, affordable and tasty lunches, beautiful green parks here, a nearby cafe, fun day or weekend trips, living within walking distance of my job, palm trees and no snow here, learning more Spanish every day, having all the necessities, and good health. Most of all, I’m thankful to be living abroad even with all of its challenges.

Thank you for reading!

Disclaimer: The ideas and thoughts expressed within this blog are my own and are not the views or opinions of WorldTeach.

 

A Quirky Young Lady’s First Impressions of Quito

The view of dotted lights painting the city of Quito at night? Well, nothing compares to a welcome like that.

A month…okay…roughly 4 weeks have gone by since my Quito arrival. After a tearful goodbye with my husband, taking a red-eye flight from Denver to NYC, a flight from NYC to Fort Lauderdale, and a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Quito, (breathes in), you can only imagine how tired I was when I arrived at 10:30 p.m. at night. After we landed, nearly everyone on the plane started clapping. I knew right away I was in a different country because Americans don’t usually clap on a plane unless the plane ride was bumpy and frightening along the way!

I met up with several volunteers in the airport after customs, and we waited for our shuttle ride drivers. After waiting for other volunteers and the drivers, the drivers walked us over to the two cars. Somehow the drivers packed about 11 people’s bags into/onto (literally on top of) two different cars and drove us to the hostel, which was 45 minutes away. My first impressions of Quito were that the people are welcoming and the city has a mixture of rundown and developed buildings (many are colorful). I nearly shouted hallelujah after seeing a shower and bed at the hostel at 1 a.m.  After a much needed night’s sleep, several volunteers and I explored Quito a bit the next day.

First of all, you have to be careful walking around here because the taxis, cars, buses, and bicyclists are on a mission to get to their destination (pedestrians don’t have the right-of-way). Trees and metal rods jut out of sidewalks, and some sidewalks have square holes in the ground (#justcitystuff).  Vendors and kiosks line the street with odds and ends and goods and more goods. We walked around the famous Foch area and had a bite to eat.

Foch sign Foch area

During the day, the ladies from the first hostel moved over to a different hostel. It had a lovely terrace area, and we played a few card games.

Later that evening, everyone met up (38 volunteers total), and we played a spider web yarn game with the group. We then ate traditional food at a swanky restaurant. I tried ceviche and goat for the first time, and I was impressed with its deliciousness. I also learned that it’s not recommended to drink tap water here, but that’s okay, because the variety of fruit juices are endless (guanoabana for the win), and 2 liters of bottled water is like 60 cents. (It’ okay to use the tap water for brushing your teeth and washing your face.)

goat

We started orientation the next day in CEC, and that evening, the son and mom of my host family came to pick me up and another volunteer. The mom gave us a warm welcome, and after her brother-in-law dropped off our bags at the house, he came back and picked us all up. We live only four blocks away from CEC, so we lucked out in that regard. The host family house has an upstairs and downstairs. The other volunteer and I each have our own bedroom, and we share a bathroom (the host family doesn’t use this bathroom). They also have a washer and clothesline in their patio area.

The next two and a half weeks were filled with orientation activities, from diversity and safety sessions to teaching and culture sessions. I also took 10 Spanish group lessons as well. I’m pretty sure you don’t want me to go in too much detail about orientation, but it was all important stuff we needed to know to have a successful year abroad here teaching English in Quito.

On the weekends of those two and a half weeks, we went on several trips.

First, we went to TeleferiQo, where a cable car transported us on the east side of Pichincha Volcano. It took us up from around 10,000 feet to about 13,000 feet. A few of us hiked up the volcano for a couple of hours. Some made it up to the top, and I was pretty close, but I was cold and hungry, and I wasn’t prepared to climb rocks. The views were stunning though.

Teleferiqo

Teleferiqo

Another trip we took was to Mindo. Here, I zip lined on 10 different lines, swung on a Tarzan swing, and tasted the best coffee of my life after learning how it’s made right there.

Group view

Front

I also checked out Mitad del Mundo with our volunteer group. Here, half my body was on the northern hemisphere, and half my body was on the southern hemisphere. I also balanced an egg on the equator, and I earned a certificate!

Ecuador latitude line

Egg balance

They called me the “eggmaster.”

Egg certificate

Last weekend, I toured the historical center of Quito with an Ecuadorian. We visited a glorious church with golden walls and sculptures (no pics allowed), a cultural museum, and El Panecillo.

Cultural art bell church

El Panecillo

El Panecillo

In the meantime, I’ve been meeting some great Ecuadorians at language exchange clubs, spending time with my host family here and there, practicing some yoga, shopping, and relaxing and studying Spanish as much as I can. I earned a Spanish minor in college over four years ago, so I’m having to relearn some stuff while practicing the best I can.

I’m not going to deny that I haven’t experienced my fair share of challenges along the way. Mostly with struggling with Spanish, missing my husband and family dearly, trying to eat foods without milk/cheese because I’m lactose intolerant, accidentally bonking my head on one of my favorite restaurant’s low ceiling and bleeding a bit (the restaurant painted it red after that haha), trying to practice yoga, being brave to walk outside or ride the buses alone, remembering to throw toilet paper in the trash (plumbing can’t handle it), praying that when I get into the shower it will be warm with full water pressure, and feeling confident with lesson planning and teaching.

What I’ve loved most so far? The host family and Ecuadorians are kind and happy, there’s cute dogs everywhere, the parks are beautiful, supportive WorldTeach directors, other friendly volunteers, the culture revolves around family and friends, not individualism and capitalism, the 25 cent bus rides, endless cultural activities and sites, the mountain views are glorious, the places to shop are endless, there’s plentiful places to eat $2.50-$4 almuerzos (lunches) with soup, rice, meat, juice, and more that will fill you up to your heart’s delight. I grew up in suburbs nearly my whole life, and nothing compares to city living in another country.

I start teaching next Tuesday, and I’m looking forward to working with young adults and professionals. My contributions could open up more opportunities in their careers. While Ecuador has plenty of teachers who can speak English, this particular college is in need of sophisticated native English speakers who can teach those at an advanced and academic level.

I’m also looking forward to getting into a routine, meeting other Ecuadorian teachers, and doing more writing and exploring on the side. Who knows what the next nine months will bring?

I welcome questions. Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: The ideas and thoughts expressed within this blog are my own and are not the views or opinions of WorldTeach.

Life Update

Hey all, I can’t believe it’s already been a couple months since I last wrote a blog! I meant to write a few a week, but I got a second part-time job, and I’ve been so busy lately. This time last year I was getting ready to defend my thesis for my master’s thesis! Oh, how things change. Anyway, I’ve been planning a lot for my wedding in June. Just a few details left…picking out the songs has been one of the hardest parts!

I updated our website with our engagement photos, story of how we met, details of the event, and of course, our registry. We’re doing a nontraditional registry called a honeyfund because we would both like to go to the east coast. My fiancé is originally from there, and I’ve always wanted to go there. We’re flying into NYC, driving up through Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, and driving down through New Hampshire and Vermont back to Boston to fly back to Denver.

 

Right now I’m working part-time as a junior content manager at GoAbroad.com, and the contract ends the end of this month. It’s been great practicing my writing and editing muscles and learning about SEO. Here’s my lovely profile. I also started working as a caregiver for HomeInstead a couple months ago, and it’s taught me a lot about patience and compassion.

Other than that, I’ve been riding my bike and doing yoga as much as I can every week. My fiancé and I are still keeping up with our plant-based diet. Lately, we’ve been trying out quinoa apple salads, beet burgers, and veggie soups. Some days are harder than others to keep up with it, and we splurge every now and then on junk food. We’ve heard the first year to transitioning to it is the hardest, but we’re keeping on! I notice I feel a lot better and don’t get as many headaches from it as well.

I still definitely need to cut out more sugar!

My neighbor also let me borrow a book called The Name of the Wind and its sequel Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. I read both of them. They’re about an orphan boy who learns how to be an arcanist (a wizard) in a supernatural world. If you like Harry Potter, I’m pretty sure you would like these books, too. The third one should come out soon, and I’m excited to read it!

I probably won’t have much time to read in the next few months with planning a wedding, honeymoon, and working. This month is also filled with family birthdays including mine (yay #26). Well, I suppose aging is a privilege as my grandpa liked to say.

Thank you for reading!

5 Favorite Vegan Desserts

If you’re like me, you have a sweet tooth the size of the Big Rock Candy Mountain. I just can’t get enough of baking and trying new desserts along the way, so it’s always fun to try creating vegan desserts. You might think that all vegan foods are disgusting, especially vegan desserts. While they don’t have eggs or dairy products in them, it doesn’t mean they’re always healthy, but sometimes, they sure do turn out delicious thanks to the sugar.

Chocolate fountain

A chocolate fountain of yum.

 

Here are my five favorite vegan desserts to spark fireworks in your tastebuds:

  1. Vegan Brownies (Gimme Some Oven)

Chocolate brownie

Honestly, this my top favorite brownie recipe of all time. Never did I imagine that eating a dessert that has an avocado in it would taste good, but it makes the dessert so soft and moist in a good way. Plus, the chocolate flavor is hard to miss.

2. Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Swirl Frosting (One Green Planet)

Chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting.

Did I mention that I like chocolate? If you add peanut butter to it, then you’ve just won me over fo’ life! Treat yo’ self! Don’t forget to spray the cupcake liners with this one, and add a little extra almond milk to the frosting recipes. Otherwise, you have yourself a winner.

3. Chocolate Chip Cookies (Vegan Housewives)

Vegan Chocolate Cookies

You might think no eggs, no dairy, no food delight, but you gotta try this recipe. It’ll blow your mind with its delicious chocolateliness and a hint of coconut that will melt in your mouth. Are you noticing a theme with the chocolate?

4. Vegan Chocolate Brownie Ice cream (Minimalist Baker)

Bowl of chocolate ice cream.

If I ever see one more vegan ice cream recipe made with bananas, I’m going to throw up. As much as I like bananas, I don’t want that overwhelming flavor. BUT WITH THESE, NO BANANAS! This is so delicious…tasty tasty.

5. Vegan Puppy Chow (Snapguide) 
screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-6-25-18-pm

I’m just going to stick to the chocolate theme while we’re at it. While some might consider puppy chow a snack, I think of it as a dessert because I can’t stop eating them once my hand is in the bowl! These are so good! BTW: Carob chips are a chocolate alternative.

All right, there you have it. My five favorite vegan desserts so far. For someone like me who is lactose intolerant, you have no idea how thrilled I am to find recipes that don’t have dairy products! With all of these desserts, I should get back to doing some yoga.

What are your favorite vegan desserts?

Thanks for reading!

What Death Teaches Us

Unless someone we know/know of passes away (interesting euphemism), we don’t think about the fact that one day, we’ll cease to exist on Earth anymore. We all continue to live our lives, run errands, go to work, do the chores, and relax and have fun when we can. While death is a taboo topic (probably religious undertones to it), I still think we need to acknowledge what death teaches us.

Hourglass in black and white.

We have a limited amount of time in our lives.

All of us make several choices a day, and we have a lot of freedom with those choices. Unfortunately, we cannot make the choice to live forever (maybe in the future with robots and downloading our conscious), and it’s a scary thought. Sometimes at night when I’m lying in bed, chills run down my spine and the hairs on my arms raise just thinking about the fact that one day, I will not get to experience life anymore.

(Side note: For those of us who have depression that might think of death often as an escape sometimes, which is a permanent solution to a temporary problem — medication and counseling are helpful in diminishing these thoughts — let death teach you to embrace life.)

So, what does death teach us? It teaches us to notice the small things and be grateful for them, like the warmth of the sun on your face or the splashes of rain, the wind breezing through your hair, and the feel of grass underneath your toes. It teaches us to savor the hops in beer and the taste of your partner’s lips with a kiss. It teaches us to appreciate the sound of a child’s laughter, the touch of soft fur on a puppy, and the feeling you get when your food at a restaurant arrives.

Death also teaches us to dig deep into ourselves to consider what we desire most in our life. If your dreams are to build a career, have a good life with a soulmate, or to exercise until you’re fit, then you know you’ll have to face many fears and obstacles along the way, but do it anyway. If some of your friends and family don’t support you, do it anyway. If you think you just can’t go on or you keep procrastinating, take a breather, stop with the excuses, and do it anyway. (Granted that these things are good and legal.)

No one said life was going to be easy. No one said there aren’t going to be @$$holes who try to get in your way. While you cannot “live life to the fullest every day,” you can certainly appreciate the small things, work inch by inch towards your goals and dreams, embrace new opportunities to try new things, travel and meet people, and realize that you will fall and fail sometimes, but you only get this life (that we know of). Screw being in a rut or being paralyzed by fear. Screw the haters and naysayers. It’s better to celebrate the small victories along the way and keep trying, then to give up or do nothing.

What positive things has death taught you?

Thank you for reading!