Saturday, September 15, 2012

I feel like my life right now is totally revolving around work and school! Whew, it’s exhausting getting back into the work/school routine. I’m really, really enjoying it though! I’ve been at this teaching thing for several years now, so I need to work to keep things fresh and new! I never want to be the type of teacher that just pulls out a lesson of the file cabinet that she’s been using year after year…the kids’ excitement, curiosity and love of learning make my job both challenging and fun. One thing I’m doing to keep my practices fresh and new is using my SMART board much more this year. I try to use it for everything! It’s a whole world out there because I can create my own lessons plus there’s a teacher exchange where teachers from around the world can post lessons and we can all use each others ideas. The kids LOVE to manipulate it and it immediately ups the “coolness” of whatever content I’m teaching…you think place value in math is boring?? Think again when you use a SMART board to manipulate numbers. It’s actually really fun (well, if you are 7 years old, it is J) I’ve also been doing lots of hands on science experiments-our science unit right now is weather, so the kids built their own weather stations in order to record the weather each day (rain gauge, wind gauge and thermometers) They made wind wheels and had a blast experimenting with placement of the wheels, wind directions and running, skipping, jumping with them. Ahhhh to be a kid…

But of course, school/work isn’t the only thing going on! I’m enjoying my yoga classes again and running with friends and meeting new folks. I think I wrote about the weather last week…but the skies have been just gorgeous! Bright blue skies all day long. I’m taking advantage of all the outside time I can while it lasts…I also remember all too clearly the cold rainy days of winter in Quito. Summer can last as long as possible, as far as I’m concerned!

I hope you all are well!

Love, Rachel

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Back to School and Forest Fires

Hi Blog Readers

Whew! First week of school-DONE! The kids are great, but as always, out of the school routines after being away from school for a few months. The first few weeks of school are all about getting to know each other, establishing routines, etc. I’ve got 13 students from all over the world! We have representation from the USA, Argentina, Italy, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia. Quite a little U.N. So school is going well…

In other news…

The weather here has been so dry! There are forest fires burning up in the mountains around Quito. You can see the towers of smoke, helicopters flying over to put out the fires. I don’t think they were intentionally set, I think it’s just that there has been zero rain for months and months and the earth is parched (as is my skin!!!-if there was ever a place for Lubriderm lotion marketing, Quito in August and September would be the place!)

Que mas…life is good, I’m enjoying teaching and hanging out with friends and going for some good runs.

Let me know what you’re up to!

Love, Rachelita (as my uncle Catfish has grown fond of calling me J)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Happy New School Year!

Happy New Year! (For teachers, September is a NEW YEAR) After a break…I’m back to weekly blogging. You guys hold me accountable, please! Sometimes I feel that the ordinary details of my life aren’t really very interesting…however, I know that these ordinary details aren’t so ordinary to you guys in the big US of A (hopefully you understand).

For example, I’ve written that I live in a fairly affluent part of Quito. I don’t have a problem with this, I love it! It’s safe and there are restaurants and clean streets, etc. However, because there is wealth, there are also beggars on the streets, a lot more lately! I hope it does NOT become ordinary for me to walk past them and not notice, although I’m afraid that it is becoming ordinary. I try and give leftover food to the beggars, so that nothing goes to waste, but obviously this is not going to lift them out of poverty…

Tomorrow is the first day of school! Even though I’ve been teaching now for several years, there is still so much anticipation, can I really do this again? Will they like me? What if I get a child who is totally uncontrollable? (That’s never happened…but) And then there’s the anxiety dreams. Last night I dreamt that my second grade class was made up of 15 year old lacrosse boys, you know the types, too cool for school… I had planned my 7 year old songs and games and stories. They were TOTALLY unimpressed with me!

I did meet a few students on Friday…they were all so sweet and cute and eager to meet their new teacher. The families were very nice as well. I’m sure it will be fine! It’s just the what ifs!

SO far, I’ve got 13 students which is a GREAT class size…I’ll write more about the class once I actually get to know them!

In other news…but dear aunt and uncle, Chris and Janaki have been here in Ecuador for several months, traveling and getting to know the country. Janaki returns home, but Chris will be here for a while, volunteering in a village near Otavalo. I’d like to visit him on weekends I have free…life at my school is NOT the real Ecuador, so I need to get back into the rural villages. J I might help with some medical translation too, we’ll see how that pans out.

The weather here has been beautiful! We are definitely into summer…bright blue skies, exquisite views of the volcanos.

Hope everyone is doing well! I love you, Rachel

Monday, June 18, 2012

Yes, we are STILL in school! The funny thing about there being no significant weather changes is that the kids’ behavior is not so raucous as I’m used to at the end of the year. Sure, kids are still anxious to be on break, but I feel that with the noticeable shift from Winter to Spring to Summer, bad behavior is through the roof (at least in my experiences!) So I have 9 and a half days (but who’s counting) with my little munchkins. When I lose my patience (as all of us do, some days especially at the end of the year) I remind myself that I want my kiddos to remember Ms. Rachel in a good way, right? No, certainly they will, I’m only joking J We’ve got some fun projects to keep them hooked till the bitter end. Meanwhile, I’m expected to pack up my classroom, while keeping the kids in their routines. I anticipate lots of movies those last few days as I have to return all the library books and pack up all the centers and manipulatives…as well as donate all the old school supplies.

In other news, I’m counting down the days for my parents and aunt and uncle to see my favorite spots. SO very excited for that.

I’m blogging from El Monte (one of the places we’ll hit in a few weeks) with a bunch of teachers from Cotopaxi. We all do yoga after school on Thursdays, so we’re doing an intense weekend of yoga, hiking, hot tubbing. Not a bad way to end the school year, huh?

And to all the daddies…happy father’s day! Especially to mine J Love, Rach

Sunday, June 3, 2012

An Afternoon Lunch

Hi! Just a quick update from me. Last weekend I was invited to the country home of one of my students. It’s about an hour outside of Quito…lots of families have their country homes, a place to escape the city on the weekends. This family, from Lebanon has a beautiful (palace is one way to describe it!) home- way over the top-a pool, sauna, outdoor grill, pizza oven, outdoor seating all overlooking the Andes.

Claudine, the wife, loves to cook and entertain, so she went all out to prepare the best foods of her country. We started with a salad course, hummus, handmade pita, empanadas, fresh fruit. Then was the meat course-marinated chicken and lamb on the grill with a lemon and garlic. The seasonings were perfect…Then a huge platter of rice with almonds, lamb, pistachios. When we thought that was enough…she brings out three desserts. Layers of crepes with fresh peaches and cream, pistachio flan and chocolate cookies and finally Arabic coffee! A feast indeed…

 Along with me, was the director of our school and his wife, another Lebanese couple and an Ecuadorian couple. I think there were about 10 of us in all. It was an interesting mix of Spanish, English, and Arabic (Spanish being the unifying language…although not really the mother tongue of any of us!). The conversation didn’t get too deep. I asked about the violence in their part of the world, with Syria being in the news so much and Lebanon being so close. According to the family, Lebanon is peaceful and they are planning to spend the summer months there. Of course, it’s their country and they speak of it as a paradise. I believe the man is a cloth merchant…he’s been here for years and years, but like immigrants everywhere longs for his country and maintains his traditions. They did speak about the times during the war when they had run through the streets to avoid getting shot. That’s when he decided to leave and come to Ecuador to sell his cloth. Actually, I learned that there is a small population of Lebanese here…mostly merchants, business people and that Ecuador has had two presidents of Lebanese descent. All this was to illustrate that “Lebanese are the most successful people where ever in the world they go.”

I felt blessed to have been invited by this wonderful family for a great afternoon of conversation and delicious food.

Monday, May 28, 2012

I guess it’s officially the start of summer in the US with Memorial Day and all. It’s feeling very summer like here in Quito too! Although we don’t have marked seasons like countries in the Northern Hemisphere, the weather does change…now we’re entering into “verano” where we have bright blue Quito skies, cool nights, intense sun. You don’t really sweat because the air is cool and dry, but the sun beating down on you can get intense. Quitenos always wear hats (a habit I’ve gotten into) when they’re outside in the summer. I did a long run over the weekend, I started when it was still a cool morning, but by the time I finished the sun was so strong and just relentlessly beating down on me! The juice stand at the end of the run was perfect! Fresh squeezed orange juice with carrot juice too.

We had Friday off due to the Batalla de Pichincha holiday, so I went to my favorite little town of Banos. Ecuadorians really take advantage of long weekends, the bus terminal was full! Normally you can just show up, hop on the bus and go. This time, I had to wait and hour and a half for the next empty bus. But once I got there it was well worth it. Good hikes, good weather, nice people watching, great massage, good conversations with new friends.

PARQUE CAROLINA-I’ve written about this place many times…part of living in a concrete jungle is having green space. I am very fortunate to live just blocks from a HUGE public park. It’s my refuge when I need to lie in the grass, listen to the birds, stare up at the trees, go for a run without worrying about traffic. During the work week, the park’s a great place to go, but the weekend is THE place for people watching (one of my favorite pastimes). Just a few highlights:

-AEROBICS-So most Ecuadorians are not big exercisers, taking the tranquilo route most times. Weekends there’s aerobics in the park. Mostly “Jane Fonda” type moves, although lately they’ve been adding in Zumba. I’m not much of an aerobics person, I find it kind of boring, but I love to watch! Young women doing the moves, old men doing the moves, little kids doing the moves. The man leading the moves dressed in a  skintight bright turquoise unitard. It reminds me of a bad comedy movie.

-FOOD STANDS-All this exercise is sure to work up an appetite…and the park’s the best place to get good, cheap, food. Really anything you could ever want is there! Healthy stuff like fresh fruit stands, watermelon, mango, papaya, pineapple, fresh squeezed fruit juices, whole coconuts for coconut water. Then there’s the fried meat, mixed with lupine beans, plantains, and potatoes that’s another favorite. There are also ice creams, cotton candy, even giant hot dogs. Really, if you search for a food at the park, you can find it.

-STREET DANCING-If you are a foreigner, it’s easy to stereotype Ecuadorians, but just like in any country, there are so many sub-cultures. One of them is this small street-dancing street culture. It’s mostly 13-14 year old boys doing these incredible moves, I can’t even describe. Some are robotic, but then they flow. They meet up in the park with their boom box and have these informal competition with other street crews. It’s quite amazing to watch them.
-FAMILY SOCCER GAMES-Soccer is by far the most popular sport here. Although there are tennis, basketball, volleyball courts, the grassy areas are just flooded with families playing pick-up games of soccer. (Then there are the more organized teams with jerseys). I love that everyone plays the game. For folks that by just looking at them seem very non-athletic, they’ve got the moves! I love watching the indigenous women in their sandals and straight skirts making goals J

Saturday, May 19, 2012

planting trees

It’s mid-May…this school year has flown by, although I still have 6 weeks left. We don’t end till the very end of June. I will be ready when it comes, but for now, just trying to finish off the school year strong!

I took my 2nd graders on a tree planting field trip last week. It was awesome!!! My students are wonderful, I love, them, I really do! But they live such different lives than what I’m used to. It’s so fun to expose them to different ideas, the natural world and to tell them that, “No, Ms. Rachel didn’t have a nanny, driver, body guard or maid and somehow she still survived!” Anyway…our tree planting field trip came out of some great discussions with the kids. Our last unit of inquiry was how we can be local contributors to our world. The kids researched famous world changers…then we made some applications to their lives…anyway. We had a bake sale to raise money for a charity. Then we had to decide what to do with the funds. Some said, “lets give it to the poor kids” OK, well so we give them money, they eat for a month…then what? Then we talked about saving the earth and making a sustainable change…planting trees benefits everyone. They kind of got it, I think! Even if they didn’t, I’m planting some seeds of ideas that they will think about and remember!

On our trip, we traveled about an hour outside of Quito to a deforested area that is being re-forested with native species plants. The holes were already dug for us, (thank goodness!) but the kids got to put in the fertilizer, dirt, mix it all around, put in the seedlings, dump dirt and fill the hole. A city kids’ dream come true!!! I heard all sorts of comments like…there’s so many bugs here, oooh cool, look at this plant, wow, we’re on the top of the world here! that pig stinks! It really was the first time that some of these kids had been out of the city! We will return next year and see the progress of the trees. Great day with the kids.

Love you all! Rachel