November 10, 2019
Hey everyone! I just reached the end of my third week in Ecuador and am here to tell you all about it. Over the course of this week, I finally started to settle in. My Spanish is getting better, I’m starting to get to know the students and faculty, and I have finally gotten into a (pseudo) routine.
School this week was… busy. Although we only had a four day week, every day was long and taxing. On Tuesday, my mentor teacher Wendy and I had a full day of teaching and then, for our last two periods, there was a student panel on possible ways to enhance CEEAL as a school. It was incredible to see my students be so passionate about a topic. I was impressed by how much thought and time they put in to analyzing and buffing out each of their ideas. It was an amazing panel and the perfect way to end the school day.
During extras on Tuesday, I discovered that I will be taking on a more serious coaching position for basketball for the next few weeks. There was need for another soccer team and there was some rearranging of schedules and, boom, I, Brady Tobin, am a coach of the school’s basketball team. This is really funny because I legit do not have any experience with basketball. For those who have ever seen me play or heard me talk about it, you know exactly why this situation is laughable. But, through relying on the help of student leaders and the other coach, Dadiel, I feel as if I can still be beneficial and help these students improve their skills as ballers.
Wednesday through Friday were also long days. Wendy and I always had something to do and we never felt like we were completely caught up with all of our responsibilities. However, through teamwork, we got everything done. These days were especially crazy because, next week, our homeroom class (Primero Bachillerato Azul) will be out in the real world doing practicums in fields they are considering working in later in life. Wednesday involved a lot of planning while Thursday and Friday were spent sending students out for orientations. On Friday, Wendy was out with half of our homeroom for close to the entire day; which left me in charge of teaching. It went really well! Our students worked hard in every class and we really got some valuable learning out of the day. The best part of this week, even though we were so busy, was that our classes went very well! Sure, there are a couple pieces we have to work on next week, however for the most part, all of our classes were calm and learning-oriented.
On Wednesday and Friday, I ran with the distance team during extras and, just like that, I was home again. It feels so great to knock out a workout and push others to work to better themselves and I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to do it while I am in Ecuador. I can actually provide useful pieces of coaching advice to the track and field team and it feels great to contribute. After we finished our workout on Friday, we were able to watch the male-identifying Bachillerato soccer game. It was a perfect end to a successful week. Next Saturday, we have a sports championship day. I think I am going to try to run the adult’s 5k just for fun. I haven’t been able to run much while I’ve been in Ecuador (besides the 4 miles a week I run with the distance team) so I am out of running shape and being at 9,000 feet in elevation doesn’t help either. But, I am just going to have fun with it and do it for the experience.
Despite not being able to run as much as I would like to during my stay, I have joined a gym. One of my first couple of days here, Gloria asked if I wanted to join her to go to her gym where she has dance practice, I agreed (thinking there would be a treadmill) and decided to sign up for a membership. Yes, donors, this is what your generous donations are going towards: a gym membership. To elaborate, your money is going towards the chance for a student to maintain his sanity by being able to keep some of his routine and identity from his life in the States while having his life-changing experience teaching in another country. The transition from the US to Ecuador has been one that has been enjoyable for me. However, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some setbacks.
One thought that I have been contemplating for the past couple weeks is how I have been able to maintain my identity, how it’s changed since I’ve been here, and how it’s been perceived by others around me. My identity is comprised of many things, of course, but I feel like a few main components have been altered since I’ve been here. For those who know me, a good portion of my identity lies in the way that I communicate with others. For those who don’t know me, I talk a lot. In English, I am able to make plays on words, I am able to pronounce words in the ways I want to pronounce them, and I am able to tell descriptive stories. In Spanish, I don’t have the ability to do that yet. My demeanor has not changed, but the confidence and intelligence I am able to display through my use of the English language has been somewhat lost.
Not having running be a major part of my life has been something that has been in transition for a while, but it is different here, because at the moment, it cannot be part of my identity. My identity as a teacher has also changed. I did not start the year with these students and I am not able to use the extent of my vocabulary to help teach them, so I have to rely on other ways to help them learn. Another important thing to me is my relationships with others. Surrounding myself with others is something that I can still do here, but I cannot create the same connections with them as I could in my native language. As I keep improving my Spanish, I am sure this will change. But for now, I have to do two things: I have to find and express my identity through a path other than language, and I have to develop a routine that includes parts of my identity. I have been able to do the first through many other forms of communication. Through smiling, hand gestures, drawing, running, and mathematics, I have been able to communicate my identity in small portions. Through joining this gym and working out there 4 to 5 times a week, I have been able to have some time to myself; to mull over thoughts, to listen to my music, and to decompress after a long day of being someone who I don’t know very well.
This weekend was very relaxing. On Saturday, I slept in, went to the gym, watched a movie with Santiago, Gloria, and Adrian, and just relaxed. On Sunday, we went on a long walk with Luna. It was great to get some fresh air and to just spend time with my host family. After we enjoyed a late breakfast at home, Santiago, Adrian, and I went to ride the teleferico (cable car) up to Pichincha, an active stratovolcano. After a beautiful ride in the cable car, we hiked for a bit. There is a long trail (all above 4,000 meters in elevation) that goes by three volcanoes. We only went on the trail for about 2 kilometers, but it was breathtaking (and a little cloudy!). It was a great weekend and I feel prepared to take on the week ahead of me. See you next week!
Brady is a math education major, computer science minor from Erie, Colorado.