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.

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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 fiancĂ© 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 fiancĂ© 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!

9 Yoga Poses for Traveling in Cars, Airports, and Planes

While traveling to new places can be exciting and adventurous, it takes a toll on your body and mind. From the stress of making your flight on time to the frustration of being cramped in a small seat,  you’ll feel the aches and pains from your head down to your toes. The good news is, however, that you can still practice yoga poses on the way to your destination.

Colorful person doing a tree pose.

You can do yoga just about anywhere.

Mats and candles? Not needed. As you’re going, get the blood flowing with these yoga stretches:

Cars/Buses: You might need to sit down for these poses. Well, actually, you probably don’t have much of a choice (haha). Sitting down for long periods of time tightens your entire body and slows down your body’s circulation. While in your seat, repeat some of these poses —

  • Seated cat/cow: With your hands on your knees, breathe in as you look up and then breathe out as you arch your back and look down between your legs. It’s all about using your core here. You might hear your back crack a couple of times, which feels oh so good.
  • Lotus pose: Not recommended if you have knee issues, but highly recommended to stretch your hips and inner thighs. You can do half-lotus, where you’ll place your right foot onto your left thigh, take about 10 breaths, and repeat. You could also do full lotus, where you’ll sit with your right foot onto your left thigh and your left foot onto your right thigh at the same time. Let your hands rest on your knees as you straighten your back for 10 breaths.
  • Eagle pose: To circulate the blood more and to stretch your shoulders and back muscles, try this pose. Bend your arms to a 90 degree angle. Place your right elbow under your left elbow, interlock them, and try to press your palms together. Make sure your shoulders are reaching away from your ears and your elbows are parallel to the floor. Place your right leg over your left leg, hook your right foot on your left leg’s calf, and squeeze. Inhale, take a few breaths, and switch.

Airports: Even though airports are crawling with crowds, you still have the freedom to practice yoga poses by your gate in an open area. Bonus: You can practice standing poses. No need to be embarrassed, as you’ll never see most of these people again.

  • Halfway lift: A great pose to stretch your hamstrings and to alleviate anxiety/depression and digestion. As you’re standing with both feet on the floor, reach to touch your toes. Then inhale as you rest your hands onto your calves or thighs in a halfway position, straighten your back, and exhale as you reach to your toes again.
  • Mountain pose: Stand with your arms at your sides, palms facing outward. With your feet flat on the floor, slightly apart, press your weight evenly on the balls and arches of your feet. Use your thigh muscles to engage your knees slightly upward, lengthen your tailbone with a neutral pelvis, and move your shoulders away from your ears to broaden your collarbones. Get tall from your feet to the crown of your head. Soften your face muscles and stay here for several breaths.
  • Seated forward bend: Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Make sure your hips and buttocks both even on the floor. Inhale and lean forward using the hip joints, and reach to grab your feet with your head raised. Inhale to lengthen the torso more and exhale to reach forward more.

Airplanes: Similar to cars and buses, you don’t have much room to stretch, but you can still lean your seat back and practice a couple of poses.

  • Neck, ankle, wrist/hand rolls: Sit straight up with your shoulders down and back, and roll your neck side to side a couple of times then roll your neck to the right side with your right arm over your head reaching for the left ear and your left hand on your shoulder for about 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side. For the ankles, roll your ankles clockwise and counterclockwise several times. Point your toes outward and then flexing inward for a couple of breaths. Repeat this with your wrists and hands.
  • Twisted chair pose: This is a great pose for lubricating the spine, and twists are always great for digestion. While sitting, inhale your hands into a prayer position. Keep your knees side by side and twist from the spine as you exhale your right elbow onto your left knee. Now exhale your left elbow onto your right knee.
  • Anterior/posterior shoulder stretch: With both feet on the floor, lean forward as you grab the chair behind you. Keep extending as you move forward and hold for about 10 breaths. With your feet on the floor, reach your arms outward and interlace your fingers with your palm inward. Round your back as you drop your head to look down and hold for about 10 breaths.

Lather, rinse, repeat. When you arrive at your accommodation, you can do a couple of child poses and bridge poses in your hotel room to loosen you up even more. Throw in a few planks and other balancing poses if you’re up for it. If you have the time and there’s an exercise room nearby, you’re in luck to do a lengthier yoga routine!

What are your favorite poses to do while you’re on the move?

Thank you for reading!

Holiday Fun in Frankfurt, Germany

Germany has always been a country that I’ve wanted to visit (ever since 8th grade when I took German for a year). Well, the stars must have aligned because a month before Christmas, I found out that Jody (fiancĂ©) and his colleague David were going to Frankfurt for work, and I could come along. After figuring out all the logistics, having some discussions, and experiencing a roller coaster of emotions, I was going to tag along for some fun and exploration!

Frankfurt buildings across the river.

Frankfurt buildings across the river from our hotel.

We flew out of Denver airport on Christmas Eve, had a quick layover in Houston, and departed on an international flight to Frankfurt. After 10 long hours of flying and an 8 hour time change, we arrived on Christmas Day. The airport looked like a ghost town. I got my passport stamped (yay!), and we rented a small Volvo (stick shift). After wrangling 8 suitcases into this tiny car, we were off. David did all of the driving, and yes, the speed limits were high. The traffic lights were on the same side as your car, so you had to look up to see when the light changed.

The first thing I noticed about Frankfurt was that it had several cool skyscrapers, and the weather was chilly and cloudy (felt like Seattle). We arrived to Hotel InterContinental, where we checked in our bags and longed for a nap.

Frankfurt buildings

Frankfurt view from our hotel room.

InterContinental Hotel

Our hotel room at InterContinental.

After taking a short nap and messaging my mom on Facebook that we had arrived (I turned off cellular data from my phone for the whole week and only used WiFi), our stomachs rumbled for some food. We chatted with the concierge about places we could eat on Christmas Day, as our German was limited to zilch, and everything was closed on Christmas. Then success! He found us a place to eat at Druckwasserwerk. We drove to the restaurant on some cobblestoned streets and parked. We walked in, where you can’t miss the lovely circular light on the ceiling.

Druckwasserwerk restaurant ceiling.

Druckwasserwerk restaurant ceiling.

We ordered a few drinks (mineral water) and looked at the menu for about 10-15 minutes. Everything was fancier than we expected! I ordered creamy pasta pockets with small tomatoes. Restaurant service in Germany is different from restaurant service in America. The server took our orders, delivered our orders, and asked if we wanted more drinks. This is customary, but we flagged her down to get the check and leave. In Germany, it’s about enjoying the food and conversation! 🙂

The next day, everything was still closed except for the museums. We walked across the passenger bridge to the museum district.

Frankfurt passenger bridge

A quick selfie on the Frankfurt passenger bridge.

We spent 2 hours in the Städel Museum, which includes works by Monet, Frida Kahlo, and Andy Warhol. We looked at works all the way from the early 14th century to modern day.

Städel Museum

The front of the Städel Museum.

We then walked around Frankfurt for awhile to check stuff out. Oh, everything gets dark at around 4 p.m., so daylight was pretty limited. Lots of building had pretty lights though.

Jody and Sydney in front of a Frankfurt fountain.

A quick pic in front of a lighted waterfall structure.

On Tuesday, we walked along the Main river and walked over to Römerberg, where we saw landmark sites.

We saw Eschenheimer Turm from where we were standing.

Eschenheimer Turm

Eschenheimer Turm

We saw historical buildings.

Römerberg buildings

Römerberg area

We also saw a humongous decorated Christmas tree!

Römerberg Christmas tree

Römerberg Christmas tree

Jody worked Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday night from midnight to 5 a.m., so we only had a short amount of time in the afternoons and evenings those days to go sightseeing. As I only had WiFi, I didn’t want to risk traveling alone and getting lost, and I didn’t want Jody to miss out on anything.

On Wednesday, we toured the Goethe House, which was Johann Wolfgang Goethe grew up. The house had three floors with a large staircase and several paintings of his family. I kind of felt like I was eavesdropping into someone else’s life (haha). I just love history, so it was fascinating learning about his life and how he grew up.

Goethe house

Goethe House

Later that night, we  went to Koblenz and walked around the Ehrenbreitstein fortress. The fortress was built in 1000 A.D.! You could feel its ancient vibes with its hidden passageways and small jail cells.

Ehrenbreitstein Fortress

Ehrenbreitstein Fortress

On Thursday, we shopped in the mall and walked around Römerberg to buy souvenirs for our friends and family. On Friday, we walked around some, but it was getting chilly, and snowflakes started to tickle our faces.

On New Year’s Eve, we went to a small pub called Klimperkasten in Westerburg, Germany, and we drank and played darts with some of Jody’s German colleagues and their friends. Everyone was fun and friendly, and we had some intellectual discussions about American ways and German ways. Then the clock struck midnight, we toasted 2017, we drank and talked some more, and then we drove back to Frankfurt.

Sydney and Jody toasting with champagne.

Cheers to 2017!

On New Year’s Day, we flew back to America (on different international flights). It was a long day of traveling, as I only slept a couple hours the previous night, and I didn’t sleep much on the plane. I was grateful to arrive in D.C. and then fly to Denver. Frankfurt just can’t beat Colorado’s tap water.

The Frankfurt trip was filled with fun, laughter, enjoyment, and confusion, and it was an international experience I will never forget. Despite the jet lag and German language barriers, it was all worth it. Our hotel was comfy, the beer was tasty, the people in Frankfurt were friendly, and the sights were beautiful. If you ever get a chance to visit Deutschland, do it!

Danke for reading!

Have you been to Germany? What was your experience like?

The Great San Francisco Adventure

Charmed was one of my favorite shows when I was growing up, and ever since I’ve watched that show, I’ve wanted to travel to San Francisco. Now that I live in Las Vegas, the opportunity to go to San Francisco presented itself with open arms. With low gas prices and cool fall weather, my boyfriend and I drove 10 hours to the Golden Gate City (okay, my boyfriend did all of the driving). We stayed at Pacific Heights Inn for the three-day stay. The affordable hotel is located about four or five blocks from the piers, and we were fairly satisfied with its amenities.

coittower

We arrived in San Francisco in the late afternoon on a Wednesday, and the Coit Tower was closing in two hours, so we had to book it to the lookout. We climbed up several steep streets, and we arrived with an hour to spare. I was huffing and puffing – I really need to get in shape! We rode the tiny elevator up to the 13th floor to the top ($8 per adult). We could see all of the major landmarks of San Francisco – the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz and more.

bed

Thursday met us with clouds and fog, and we walked to Pier 33 to take the ferry to Alcatraz ($30 per adult). Alcatraz resembled a creepy movie with old buildings and outdated amenities. We listened to real prisoners and guards that were at Alcatraz on the audio tour at the cell house. The jail cells looked like small dorms with a basic bed, sink and toilet.

sealions

After the Alcatraz tours, we walked around Pier 39, viewed the sea lions, and we had a bite to eat at Bubba Gump’s Restaurant, and afterwards, shopped around. We went to a shop called Out of the Box, and I attempted to solve several puzzle devices. We walked along the piers and Ghirardelli Square and later that evening, we walked to Pier 15/17 to the Exploratorium ($15 per adult). The Exploratorium building occupied an entire pier, and inside were hundreds of mini stations where you can experiment and learn about different sciences. In the evening, we went to a surf and turf restaurant, and I had some delicious clam chowder.

goldengate

tree

mosaicsteps

The next day we went to Marin Headlands and took pictures together with the Golden Gate Bridge. Afterwards, we went to Golden Gate Park and walked around the beautiful Botanical Gardens, and I saw some rare and exotic plants and even redwood trees as well. We made a quick stop to the Mosaic Steps then we went to the Cliff House and Sutro Baths, and we had lunch at a historical restaurant called Louis’. The food tasted good, but unfortunately, they only accept cash and their ATM did not work with Wells Fargo cards, so I waited awhile for my boyfriend to obtain cash. After that fiasco, we had a quick nap and went to a Swedish restaurant to have some type of meat fondue.

lombardstreet

I felt sad to leave San Francisco on Saturday, but I felt happy to experience an amazing city with my boyfriend. Before we left, we stopped at Lombard Street, and we snapped several photos of the crazy, eight hairpin turns. We then drove to the Ord area near Seaside, CA, because I was born there. The old army post had dilapidated buildings with wooden boards covering the windows, and even though I was glad to have the opportunity to see my birthplace, I was sad that the area was no longer alive with daily hustle and bustle. We drove on Highway 1 next to the coast to see the gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean. The drive was a bit terrifying with its twists and turns, but it was exciting and interesting. We turned off the highway to make our way back to Sin City.