December 1, 2019
Hey everyone! Welcome back to the sixth installment of my blog. This week was a busy one and I’ll be sure to tell you all about it, as well as talk about some of the differences between what I expected my experience to be like and how it’s actually going.
Monday was hard for me. I had just finished writing my blog about homesickness the night before and I couldn’t help but continue to feel a little homesick. Thanksgiving was on my mind and I couldn’t help but think about how I wasn’t going to be with my family. I was distracted in school on Monday, consumed by my thoughts about home and about my family and my dogs and my friends. However, Monday was a successful day nonetheless. Wendy and I were able to sit down and plan what we were doing for every class that week. In both first and third Baccalaureate, the verde and azul classrooms were separated by a couple days due to the sports games that took place last week. We discussed on possible ways to amend this and we ended up designing lessons that would get them back on the same pace.
Monday through Wednesday we had sports games in the middle of the day again. This time, we were ready and talked with our classes concerning the schedule ahead of time so they could know what to expect when they did have class. Both Tuesday and Wednesday turned out to be very successful and I was focused on teaching. Being so busy, I seemed to forget about my homesickness, and I think that is definitely a strategy I can use in the future.
Thursday was a seemingly normal day at first. I woke up, showered, ate breakfast, and prepared to drive to school with Gloria. All of a sudden, I got a call from a sick Wendy saying that she was not going to be able to make it to school that day. We talked for 5 minutes about the plan for every class and I had no choice but to go in with a positive attitude and teach. It went really well! All of the classes got a lot of work done and it was a successful day of teaching. I taught in Spanish in 3 classes and then did a mini-lesson in English for First Baccalaureate. Through all of the chaos, I had forgotten that it was Thanksgiving until an English teacher asked me how I felt about not being home for it. That brought all the emotions and feelings rushing back and suddenly I felt a longing to be at home, relaxing, celebrating with my family. Instead, I was at school, alone, teaching in Spanish.
However, when I got home, those feelings of loneliness and homesickness faded away immediately. Gloria and Santiago wanted to throw a little get together for Thanksgiving. We decided to invite the neighbors and some friends over for Thanksgiving dinner. I was in charge of making sure we had an equivalent of everything that an American Thanksgiving dinner would have at my house. On Wednesday night I made stuffing. When I got home from school on Thursday, I made chicken (which is way better than turkey) with Thyme, Lemon, and Peppers. We made mashed potatoes and bought bread. It took a couple hours to prepare and, by the time all 18 of us were ready to eat, it was close to 9:00pm! But it was such a great experience. I loved being with my host family, my friends, and my neighbors. It did remind me of home and in that moment, I felt like I was home.
On Friday, Wendy and I didn’t go to school. Instead, we went to do reforestation with a group of 18 students. We went to another school on the southern end of Quito and then hiked from there into the mountains. Everybody got two trees and were responsible for planting them. After about a forty minute hike into the mountains, we stopped in this field where there were holes dug out in order to plant our trees. It was absolutely amazing. It was such an informational trip. We learned all about the positive effect that reforestation can have on the environment and talked a lot about solutions for us, as humans, to cut down on our pollution.
This weekend I had the opportunity to see Gloria’s dance team perform! The gym she practices at was transformed into a ballroom, with white balloons lining the ceiling and black lights everywhere. Santiago and I arrived a little before her performance and it was incredible. She, along with 18 other women, are travelling this week for 10 days to Columbia to compete in an international competition. I am so excited for her! It is going to be a little weird, however, to not have her in the house anymore. She doesn’t get back until the day I leave. So I only have 3 days left with her being my mom.
This morning, I went with the family to a fundraiser for my neighbors’ business. A couple of weeks ago, it was broken into and a lot of product was stolen. This fundraiser was a chance for the community to give back some of what was lost. We were able to sell tickets to others and in exchange for one ticket, you got a huge bowl of food. There were hundreds of people there, all wanting to support a friend in need.
On Friday when I was walking back from reforesting with my group of four students, I was talking to them about my experience so far. They asked the usual questions, where I had been, why I wanted to come to Ecuador, what I will be doing after I go back to the States. And then one girl asked me, “What did you expect this experience to be like?” And that was a question I couldn’t answer immediately. I never really thought about what I expected Ecuador to be like. I know what I expected to get out of it. I expected to get practice speaking and teaching in Spanish, experience with classroom management strategies, learning of other teaching methods, learning about a different culture through immersion, experience living in a big city. But I couldn’t recall what I expected my time here to be like before I came here.
Upon thinking about it, I had a few. I expected to be teaching exclusively in English when I was at school. I expected CEEAL to be a lot bigger than it is. I expected Quito to be smaller and I definitely did not think I would be going out dancing at clubs every weekend. I also expected my time teaching to be set up similar to that in the States where I would observe, teach a little bit, then lead teach around week five or six. Each time an expectation was proven false, I got excited. I got excited at the fact that this was an entirely different experience from what I was expecting and that I could embrace it and learn from it. Co-teaching with Wendy every day has been wonderful. Sure we both have days where we teach an entire lesson, but we have found it works best when we both are involved in a lesson. The students gain so much when I am talking about math in English and then Wendy is able to explain further in Spanish. They learn so much by doing work and having both Wendy and I available to answer their questions. I have learned to navigate a big city and really gained an insight into how Quito is laid out. My Spanish has gotten so much better due to the fact that I am also teaching in Spanish. I am so grateful that my expectations were proven false as that helped me grow even more from this experience.
Thanks for reading this, everyone. I will be sure to write you all next Sunday informing you on how the penultimate week went for me.
Brady is a math education major, computer science minor from Erie, Colorado.