Final Goodbyes & Re-entry Adjustments

I have completed my 10 1/2 months teaching English abroad in Quito, Ecuador, and I’m now back in the States! I’m proud that I finished my service. Since the last blog I’ve posted, I attended my cohort’s WorldTeach end-of-year conference, where we had many reflection activities, and I said goodbye to the Ambato volunteers. The conference was during my 1st wedding anniversary, so it was difficult not to spend the day with my husband.

The following week was the 4th of July, but I had to teach on that Wednesday because it’s not a holiday in Ecuador, so Adriene and I went out to lunch together. On that weekend, she hosted a grill out at her place, and we had the opportunity to eat grilled hamburgers and hot dogs.

Grilling out with our Ecuadorian friends!

We enjoyed relaxing and hanging out, and our Ecuadorian friends also enjoyed watching a World Cup game. I continued teaching English throughout July, and I had awesome students. We had a lot of laughs together, and it was difficult to say goodbye to them on their last day.

I also said goodbye to my other Ecuadorian friends at some other get-togethers and meet-ups, and I said goodbye to my host mom’s niece, Katy, and to my host family. I think it was hardest saying goodbye to Isabel because we have a lot in common and we practiced a lot with each other and to Adriene because I don’t know the next time I’ll see her in the States.

Our Ecuadorian friend, Karina, made us a cake with the American flag!

After all the goodbyes, I packed up, and I flew to Florida to visit my friend, Ariel. I felt discombobulated a bit because everything was in English, and I didn’t have to throw toilet paper in the trash anymore. I also felt more at ease walking around safely. What I also noticed on the plane and in restaurants that I’m no longer in a sharing, affectionate culture. Ariel and I ate at some great places, and we relaxed on the beach.

After getting sunburned on the beaches of Florida, I returned to Colorado a couple of days later and reunited with my husband and our dog. We have been spending time together this week, and we tried our wedding cake that was in the freezer, and it tasted almost exactly the same. Brings back memories!

I’m grateful that I made awesome friends, lived with a good host family, improved my Spanish, gained international experience abroad, taught some amazing students, completed my service, and returned home safely. I would like to continue working in international education, so I’m now considering my options. Have you ever taught English abroad? What it was it like for you when you returned home? What are you doing now?

Thanks for reading!

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

Going the Whole Nine Yards

Since it’s my ninth month here (and penultimate month), I saw it fit to use the idiom “going the whole nine yards” as the title of this blog. My parents and brother came to Ecuador to visit me during the last week of May, which also included my 27th birthday. They also brought me my favorite snacks: Girl Scout cookies, chocolate peanut butter bars, Cheez It snack mixes, and Gardetto’s! Nothing like American salt and sugar.

On Sunday, May 27th, we walked around the artesian markets near the Foch, and I think my mom had a field day with all of the available trinkets. I also showed them around the historical district with all of the churches and old buildings. My family couldn’t believe how cheap the food and transportation is in Ecuador compared to the United States.

We went to Mitad Del Mundo on Monday, and we visited the monument and the museum nearby. We took a picture where half of us were in the Northern Hemisphere and the other half were in the Southern Hemisphere.

Mitad del Mundo

We’re on the equator!

We also walked around the exhibits about the history of the founding of the equator, and we took this fun family photo:

We went backwards in age. Notice my womanly face on a man’s body.

The next day we went to TeleferiQo to see the views from the Pichinca Volcano. We also met a couple from California, and the young lady also taught abroad in Japan for a few years. Anyway, I think the altitude affected my family because they were a bit winded.

Here we are at the TeleferiQo!

That afternoon we went to Quito’s Botanical Gardens, and we saw all kinds of native plants of Ecuador as well as a garden of Bonsai trees. Some of the trees were so small, and they were about the same age as me.

Botanical Gardens Entrance

Botanical Gardens Entrance


Botanical Gardens Ecuador

My brother lookin’ a little prickly.

On Wednesday we went to Otavalo, which was the highlight of the week. We took a two-hour bus ride there. We walked around the markets, and my mom had me haggle a bit for some pillowcases and coin purses. I also bought myself an alpaca sweater. Afterwards, we ate lunch and I got some delicious famous pie and ice cream from “The Pie Shop.”

We then took a taxi to the Otavalo Waterfalls, and there was a fun suspension bridge there as well. I enjoyed the greenery and nature because it’s a nice change from the concrete jungle of Quito’s noise and pollution.

Here are my parents in front of the Otavalo waterfalls.

Here is my dad and brother in front of a “do not enter: danger” sign.

That Thursday was my 27th birthday! We went to the artisanal markets that morning, and my mom bought me a red day dress. I showed them where I teach and the WorldTeach office, and we walked to El Mirador del Guápulo.

Here is my brother and me at El Mirador del Guápulo.

We then took a short taxi ride to Zao, which serves an Oriental cuisine. I ate some delicious ceviche and coconut sushi, and my parents and brother ate fried rice and spicy pad thai noodles, and I ate these leftovers for like 2 or 3 days after they left. Yum! I also received a free cake. 🙂

I got some cake and ate it too.

We later went to the Panecillo to see the angel statue in the historical center, and we experienced a downpour, so we moseyed around the statue for about an hour or two. We then came back to our hotel and ate ice cream at Crepes & Waffles. I was thankful that I could spend my birthday with my family in Ecuador.

El Panecillo

El Panecillo

On Friday, we went to Cumbaya and saw “Deadpool 2,” and we tearfully said our goodbyes later that afternoon. I enjoyed staying in a hotel for a week with a comfy bed, hot shower, and extravagant breakfast options. I think my family enjoyed being in Quito, but I think the safety concerns and Spanish language barrier was tough for all of us (I needed to translate a few times). We shared some good meals and had some good times. I hope I see them all again soon.

I was sad to see them go, but that night, my host family and I celebrated my birthday with cake and pizza! My host dad told me it was good to see me smile that evening.

My host family celebrated my birthday with me!

I started my fourth and final cycle of teaching the first week of June. My first class has only 10 students and the second has 21, so it’s a bit of a challenge to accommodate, but we have had a few laughs so far, so I think they’re a good bunch of students.

Other than that, I’ve gotten back in my routine of studying Spanish and practicing yoga during my free time. I also have my end-of-year conference with WorldTeach this weekend. Out of 38 volunteers that started here, we’re down to about 17 people! Anyway, I’m not sure if I will go on any more trips before I leave on August 1st because we don’t have any holidays during this last cycle, but it’s my last month here and I hope I can go on one last weekend getaway.

I’m proud of myself for coming this far with all of the challenges I’ve faced and difficulties I’ve endured. I’m looking forward to coming home to my husband and dog and the American life again. I’m sure there’s a few things I’ll miss here, but I’m going to do my best to soak up the good parts of Ecuador and enjoy my last 40ish days here.

Thanks for reading!

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

Magic 8 Ball

The months are flying by like a hungry hummingbird, and I’ve now been in Quito for eight months total (cray cray). I’m not sure what challenges and joys the last two months will bring, but I hope my remaining time here ends well. I’m also trying to figure out what I’ll do in terms of a job after I get back to the States, but I’m considering international education/travel & tourism administration or communications. Magic 8 ball, what does my future hold?

I recently bought a plane ticket to Orlando for August 1st to see my friend before I fly to Denver to rejoin my husband. My third cycle here will end this week and then I will begin my final cycle in June, and I’ve enjoyed having some very motivated students in my class. My cohort of 38 members has now dwindled down to around 20 total, and we’ll have our end-of-year conference on June 23-24.  Who will remain? Only time will tell…

Anyway, I had a few exciting social events this past month. The end of April started off with me visiting an ice cream place called “Dulce Placer” (sweet pleasure), and I practiced my Spanish a bit with mah Ecua-friends.

Enjoying some ice cream!

We also had two days of vacation at the end of April to celebrate Labor Day. Hooray for foreign holidays! During this weekend, Adriene and I went to the movie theatre to see Avengers, but they ran out of tickets, so we got a taste of America at TGIF’s.

The rain didn’t let up much that weekend, but I went to Quilotoa, a giant crater that was formed by the collapse of the volcano, with my friend Adriene and her two friends. Quilotoa is 2 miles wide, and it takes about a half hour to walk all the way down and 2 hours to walk up, as the descent is 918 feet. We didn’t walk all the way down because of the rainy weather, which left the paths quite muddy.


Quilota Ecuador

Adriene and I enjoying the views.


A wider shot of the turquoise crater.

The next night, my friend Karina invited me to see a ballet called “Carmina Burana.” The ballerinas were literally on-point with their dancing and acting. The ballet included Latin music with a pre-Renaissance feeling to it. Carmina Burana was mostly about the trials and tribulations of love with love triumphing in the end. I enjoyed the ballet, but I was drenched after walking in Quito’s downpour on my walk to the theatre. Note to self: Wear a rain jacket AND bring a giant umbrella from now on.

Carmina Burana ticket


Carmina Burana with friends

We’re at the theatre!


Carmina Burana curtain call

Carmina Burana curtain call.

I also did eventually see “Avengers: Infinity War” with my friend Paulina, and we enjoyed lots of nachos and popcorn. We didn’t, however, enjoy the ending of that movie. Other than that, I have continued to practice Spanish with my host mom’s niece, Katy, and Isabel, another English teacher from Quito. Isabel and I have enjoyed eating wings and ice cream as we discuss the grammar mysteries of our native languages. I also wrote a blog post filled with Spanish resources if you’re interested in learning (more) Spanish.

I also finally got my health insurance reimbursement, but I have not received my package (*sigh*). My parents and brother will be here next week, so I’m hoping we have fun times together. May is filled with Mother’s Day, my mom’s birthday, my brother’s birthday, and my birthday, so I suppose we’ll celebrate all those holidays when they’re here with Quito explorations and maybe some out-of-town excursions.

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.

Recognizing Growth

Lucky number 7? I’ve now lived in Quito for 7 months, and I went through a bit of rough patch with recovering from being sick/losing my voice. I started my third cycle the end of March with barely being able to whisper! Fortunately, we had Thursday and Friday off from classes, so I spent that time resting at home. On Sunday, I celebrated Easter with my friend Adriene, and I enjoyed the traditional meal of fanesca. Fanesca is made with 12 grains!

Fanesca – photo from Karina Gordillo

My friend from Ecuador graciously cooked Fanesca and brought me a dish, and it was delicious! Her birthday was also during the first week of April, so we celebrated it at a restaurant eating pizza.

Karina’s birthday photo

¿Qué más? I have been continuing studying and practicing Spanish. I have started writing about 100 words of Spanish every morning and used the 365 days of prompts to help me. I feel lucky that I have friends here who can help me improve my Spanish! I also continue to attend language exchange clubs.

Quito Sunday Language Exchange

During the second week of April, I recorded a video of me giving a tour of my host family’s house, and I also took several photos of food that I eat and other activities I do during a normal week. You can see them on Instagram at @storiesbysydney. Unfortunately, in the middle of the week, my smartphone was stuck in a restarting loop, so I had to buy a new smartphone. I continued taking photos during the week.

Friday, April 13th was teachers’ day here in Ecuador, and my students surprised me with a cake! I loved that the cake had a picture of my face on it. 🙂

Teachers’ Day cake

My class 🙂

I endured a couple rough patches, but despite these, I started to recognize the topic of growth. I had a conversation about personal and professional growth with two different people without me bringing up the topic. I then realized – wow – when I arrived here, I could barely speak Spanish, I wasn’t confident with teaching, and I struggled with going out of my comfort zone.

Little by little, day by day, month by month — the progress is real. My Spanish level has increased from upper beginner to upper intermediate (according to a few online tests). I can basically watch shows in Spanish and read in Spanish without too many problems (provided the vocabulary isn’t too technical). The fact that students evaluated me well the end of last cycle and surprised me with a cake this cycle also shows my growth in teaching.

I’ll continue to make mistakes and deal with hiccups, which are facts of life, but it’s important to continue putting your best foot forward, recognize the progress you’ve made, and balance your hard work with enjoyable activities.

P.S. I think my package is coming next month. *crosses fingers*

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.

Ups & Downs of Traveling

Hi, there! Oh, how the months are flying by! I finished my second cycle of teaching here in Quito on March 14th, which went swimmingly well and better than my first cycle of teaching. My students were overall motivated and engaged in class, and it was difficult to say goodbye to such buena gente. It looks like with this next cycle, which starts tomorrow, I will be teaching the same level for two classes, still in the mornings, but in a different building without technology, which will be challenging. I still continue to practice yoga and study/practice Spanish weekly, and I’ve started language exchanging with an English teacher from Quito.

I had a week and a half off for break, and during this time, I was ambitious with my travels. I spontaneously signed up for 3 days/2 nights in Cuyabeno in the Amazon. I took a private bus at night from Quito to Lago Agrio, which took 7 hours, and I threw up along the way with bad motion sickness and didn’t get much sleep. When I got there, I waited for the guide for a few hours, and I chatted with people from Germany and Denmark. The guide came, and I took a bus for another two hours to a small pueblo, and then I took a motorized canoe for another two hours to the lodge.

Here’s the cabins where I stayed in the Amazon.

The lodge didn’t have hot water or cell phone reception, and it used solar panels for electricity, which was limited. I didn’t have any electricity in my cabin, but I could charge my phone near the kitchen during the day. My group had 11 people (including me) with people from the States, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, and Ecuador. We ate lunch, which was a delicious fish, and then the guide later took us to a lake, and we saw dolphins! We also saw lots of birds and monkeys along the way. It’s very difficult to get snaps of these elusive animals!

The next day, we observed toucans and other birds early in the morning, and then we went on a three hour hike in the jungle, and we saw different types of medicinal plants and frogs and lizards. We also tried ants that tasted like lemons. Later that day, we got into an actual small canoe, and we paddled around a lake that had trees inundated in the water, and we saw a lovely sunset.

Here’s me in a hole in a tree.

Here’s me holding a piranha!

On the last day, we had an early morning motorized canoe ride and saw more birds and monkeys along the way. After that, I went home again via the canoe and buses again. I forgot my coat (later got it back from a friend’s friend) and left with sunburns and bug bites, but I enjoyed seeing the animals and plants, meeting people from all over the world, and eating authentic food.

A lovely heron.

After I got back to Quito, I slept through the night, and then I took a 10-hour day bus to Cuenca. I arrived that night, and I stayed with a friend’s friend (who is now my friend) and her stepmom, two half-siblings, and two cousins. The next day, we took a bus to the ruins of Ingapirca, and it felt surreal seeing these man-made structures from over a thousand years ago.

First looks at the ruins.

Here’s me at the ruins.

Here’s me at the “Face of the Inca.”

The next day, we went to Pumapungo Museum, which was FREE, and we saw lots of lovely paintings done by Cuencan painters from a long time ago, and we saw interesting artifacts about different ethnicities in Ecuador. I also saw an exhibit about the different types of money that Ecuador had throughout its history. We also walked through the garden next to the museum, and it had llamas and a huge cage with lots of different types of birds (toucans mostly). We then walked throughout the city and saw lots of beautiful cathedrals.

The museum had llamas in the garden!

I’m taking a picture of the New Cathedral of Cuenca.

Here’s me inside of the New Cathedral of Cuenca.

Here’s me at the Old Cathedral of Cuenca.

Here’s me in the middle of the sign at night.

On the last day, we went to a place with a beautiful view of the city, and it had lots of adventurous activities like ziplinines and a swing. I rode the swing, which was thrilling and terrifying, but I’m glad that I did it! That night, I took the 10-hour bus ride home to Quito.

Here’s me at the Mirador de Turi — the best view of Cuenca.

Here’s me swinging at the Mirador de Turi.

After I got back to Quito, my health took a turn for the worse. I was exhausted and dehydrated, and my cold got worse. I also was suffering from bad stomach issues, so I ended up having to see a doctor yesterday to get everything sorted out. I should’ve done a lot of things during my travels to prevent this, such as, eating better food, taking probiotics, drinking more water, and stretching and exercising periodically on my bus rides. However, above all, I’m proud of myself for traveling alone to these places and experiencing more of the beauty of Ecuador!

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.

Midpoint Reflection

Have you ever ran some type of race, and when you reached the halfway point, you either wanted to stay consistent, push harder, slow down, or give up? I’m now at the midpoint of my 10-month service here in Quito, Ecuador, and I’ve been reflecting on how far I’ve come and how I want to proceed.

Reflecting on this past month, I went to Baños for our cohort’s mid-service conference, took a trip to Pasochoa (an extinct volcano) and hiked with some new friends, attended a Super Bowl party and ate some wings, and visited Amaguaña for the Carnaval. I also had some coffee with friends and ate a delicious cake for Valentine’s Day, and that weekend, I baked some brownies with my friends as they made delicious aji and lentil hamburgers, and I visited a vegan festival and tried a soy hot dog.

The mid-service in Baños was a pretty fun time despite the 4-hour trip to get there from Quito. We reflected on our time here and our goals, we discussed teaching strategies, and we received alpaca blankets as gifts. Can you find me in the picture? I chose a white blanket because my dog will get his white hair all over it when I get home to the States (haha).

WorldTeach Ecuador

WorldTeach Ecuador September Cohort wearing alpaca blankets.

The following weekend, I hiked most of Pasochoa with a couple new friends, and we discussed life and its challenges as well as other journeys we have endured. I enjoyed being surrounded by fresh air and nature; however, I don’t hike very often, so I nearly passed out from the altitude, but I didn’t have to sit during the hike, which counts as an achievement for me.

Rockin’ my hiking hat with two new buds.

I went to Amaguaña (an hour southeast of Quito) for Carnaval, which was February 10-13, but I was only there on Sunday, the 11th. I went with my friend, her boyfriend, and my friend’s roommate. From a parade full of dancing to concerts filled with music, I enjoyed partying and eating tasty foods. I can’t count the number of times that I got sprayed with foam, smashed with eggs, thrown at with flour and black colors, but I think I’ll never forget my hair feeling stale.

I was covered in black colored dust, eggs, flour, and foam.

I couldn’t help but laugh!

I met a lot of new people this past month, and I enjoyed taking time away from working and studying Spanish. Lately I have questioned if my Spanish and teaching has improved because it’s hard to tell. I have felt frustrated sometimes with these goals, and I know I have to keep moving forward. Thankfully, I have felt more comfortable with teaching this cycle, and it’s a relief to have a better grasp on the material. Sometimes it’s good to take a break and enjoy other things though to recenter yourself and not get burned out.

Enjoying some cake to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

It’s shocking that it’s been five months, and I have five more to go! I was disappointed that I didn’t go to Cuenca for Carnaval, but I’m hoping I can go there during the March break. I also found out my family will come to visit me over my 27th birthday during the last week of May, so I’m looking forward to that. I suppose plans change and evolve over time because life has different plans for you. It’s a challenge to stay grateful and positive sometimes, especially when after 5 months, the mail service here says you can’t have your package…

Each day comes with new challenges and duties, and sometimes I have to be patient and roll with it. It’s hard though to think about what my life will be like after Ecuador when I return to the States! I’m trying to take it day by day and live in the present.

Thank you for reading my monthly journal of my time in Ecuador!

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

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.