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Showing posts from 2015

Stop-over in Riobamba

Next stop:  Riobamba, a 2 hour busride from Alausi.  The countryside out the window was beautiful, rolling green hills, cows, and steeper green mountains in the background.  Below are pictures of Chimborazo Volcano. And this is Al Altar volcano, extinct since prehistoric times.  There's a lake at the top.  This was taken out of my hotel window.  (Excuse the power lines.) First, I wanted to rappel down Hotel Zeus, which was right near my hotel.  So I went and asked.  They said they need a minimum of 5 people before they'll set it up.  Nobody else in town was interested so I didn't get to go.  This is how high it was!  I asked if I could go in and take pictures from the top floor and they said yes so I ordered a beer.  Five minutes later they said there's a private event so I can't go.  I chugged the beer and went onward. The next day, I decided to go try to find the religious art museum.  It supposedly has some art piece that's pure gold, inl

Christmas and the El Nariz del Diablo: The Devil's Nose

On Christmas Eve, I took a bus from Loja to Cuenca and stayed at Hotal Yakumama.  I arrived in time to catch the end of the Pase del Nino parade, which is the longest parade in South America (normally taking 8 hours).  There were a million Jesus in the manger floats (which consisted of the back of a trucks with a manger scene).  There were a lot of wise men and people in traditional dress.  All very festive. Back at the hostel, I inquired about a Christmas Eve event.  Unfortunately, the lounge was to close at 8:00, as did most restaurants and bars, and everyone staying at the hostel had evidently found somewhere else to go.  I was basically all alone in my top bunk.  Netflix is my friend, fortunately. The next morning, I went to Alausi, two hours north of Cuenca by bus.  I had read that sometimes the bus will drop you on the highway and I was nervous about carrying all my luggage.  When the bus did drop me on the highway and I couldn't find a taxi, the 1/4 mile downhil

Wrapping up 3 Months of Teaching English in Ecuador

The Christmas Party at my school was quite the event.   The party was to start at 7:30 so we had decided to show up fashionably late, at 8:15.  The doors were just then unlocked at 8:15.  The place was decorated beautifully.  There were speeches, a prince/princess contest, and more speeches.  We sat at our tables patiently. Although the school throws a great party,  there was nothing to eat or drink for 3 hours!  Not even water.  Just before dinner was served at 10:45, we got a glass of wine.  Dinner was fine and I thought we were going home.  But then they brought out the Johnny Walker Red.  We all grabbed one glass, then another, and the whole party changed from a subdued, well-behaved, polite party to a fiendish, crazed, dancing party. We raged on until I think it was 1:30 in the morning?  Suddenly I found myself being whizzed away in a car driven by one of the partygoers. On the way, we stopped in one of those secret places where you can buy booze through

One More Night in Vilcabamba

Since I love Hostal Izhcayluma so much, I decided to make one more trip to Vilcabamba.  The hostal is just beautiful.  It's hard to believe that you can get a dorm room for $8.50 a night.  My bed is the one on the left.  There's also an upstairs with 3 more beds. I was praying for sun and not rain (like last time) and after some big clouds blew away, it was beautiful.  Pool time. The dog was chasing a lime, jumping in the pool, then rolling on the grass  The restaurant has the best view.  Breakfast buffet is $3.95 and includes really good granola, fresh fruit, yogurt, juice, 3 kinds of toast, and all the coffee you can drink.  The view is amazing.  And the two resident labs are so friendly. I highly recommend this place if you're ever in southern Ecuador.

Chased by a Tortoise in the Land of Butterflies and Waterfalls

This is made of beer bottles! Last weekend, I went to Zamora, an interesting little town about an hour and a half from Loja by bus.  Zamora is at the junction of the rainforest and the Andes mountains, with an altitude about 4,000 feet.  It's home to Podocarpus National Park, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world.  It's a birders paradise; there's also lots of other wildlife.    On the busride over the mountain, the landscape changed quickly from trees to ferns and palm trees, with waterfalls everywhere.  From the bus window alone, I saw about 20 waterfalls, some huge, some little trickles.   Getting off the bus, you immediately feel the humidity.  The temperature itself is not that different than Loja (when it's cloudy anyway), but the minute you start moving, you sweat.  When the sun comes out, the temperature increases by about 10 degrees instantly.   The first place I went to in town was the Tzanka Animal Rehab Center.  I paid the $2

Can we Say Inappropriate?

Another branch of my language school is requiring senior students to perform in a highly inappropriate play.  The brother of the manager of the school seems to have the illusion that he's a world-famous TV director and producer.  He wrote this ridiculous play in Spanish because he doesn't speak a word of English.   And yes, he is paid for the script by the school. The play is about a dysfunctional family.  There is spousal abuse, arguments and yelling.  The 13-year old in the class gets held by the neck and threatened by the father figure.   The father figure carouses with other women and brags about it. Evidently, at the end, the father figure kills his wife, chops her up into pieces and serves her for dinner.  Maybe this is to someone he suspected was sleeping with her?  Because he says, "you ate her in real life, now you eat her again."    Can the machismo be any more overdone? And here's the kicker:  the guy who is to play the father figure is the direct

The Problem with Language Schools Overseas

OK, I feel the need to vent.  Teaching in a language school in another country and culture is an extremely frustrating process. The main reason for this is that the schools are in the business for the money.  Management at the school I'm at does not care one iota if students learn English or not.  As long as they're paying the monthly fee, they will continue to pass students to the next level year after year. For example, my Teens 5 kids have been in the teens program for 5 semesters, or 2.5 years.  Many went to the Children's program for up to 4.5 years before that.  90% of my students don't speak English.  They don't understand basic greetings like, "How was your weekend?  Did we already do this page?  Where were you last week?"  I am presented with a classroom of blank faces every single time I ask a simple question. The tests are set up to include all these extra points for things like class participation, homework, and "online activities&q

Remembering Montanita #2: The Wildlife

I had never expected to encounter so much wildlife in a beach party town in Ecuador.  But it was all around us.  Partly because we were down a dirt road a little ways out of town and the area used to be full of farms. First we have Little Burrito, from the previous post and his mom.  There were about 5 donkeys in the area. These are the street dogs that were probably attacking Burrito.  They were friendly enough with humans though.  A few of the breeds used to herd us into town, walking alongside and slightly behind, making sure the herd of humans stayed together.  Whenever one dog went into another's territory, there was barking and posturing, then they'd either make friends or fight.  We saw a few dogfights that were not pleasant.  A horse lived behind my room and I would hear him neighing sometimes, but they normally took him elsewhere to graze. There were chickens EVERYWHERE, and the one behind our cabanas started at 3:15 every morning.  He would

Remembering Montanita #1: Our Little Burrito

Burrito and his mommy When we all arrived in Montanita and got settled in our little cabanas, within a few days we heard of the baby donkey in the area.  He was the cutest, sweetest little guy ever and we immediately fell in love with him.  He had some kind of nasty gash on his side and it hurt him.  He was holding his leg up so it wouldn't touch the ground.  It looked like it may have been from the street dogs.  So our horse breeder compadre, Sarah, and Steven took some soap and water and a rag and scissors to clean up the wound and trim off all the extra hair.     After the cleanup - I love this picture! Burrito was the talk of many an evening at the long dinner table.  We were all very concerned and even considered bringing him into Casa Cacique to keep him safe. Then he disappeared for awhile and we feared the worst.  We were worried that the dogs got him for good.  But one day, Misha, Lisa and I ventured on a little exercise walk the other way down the dirt

Cuenca Independence Day Trip

It was a four-day weekend here in Ecuador -- Day of the Dead and Independence Day for Cuenca so we had Monday and Tuesday off.  Two other teachers I work with and I took the "buseta" which is a van from Loja to Cuenca on Saturday.  It's $12 and takes just over 3 hours, vs. the bus which costs $7.50 and takes us over 4 hours. We booked La Querencia Hotel which is way on the uphill side of town, about as far as Rio Tombebamba (which is where all the action is) as you can get.  It was a cute little place, $17 a night including breakfast. The best part was "Uncle and Aunt", the couple who ran the place.  They were adorably hospitable in an Aunt/Uncle kind of way.  Breakfast was eggs how you like them, yogurt with fruit, bread, and coffee. The first night, we went to dinner and ended up here at Wunderbar.  The bartender told us there would be a $2 happy hour on Sunday so we decided to go there in the afternoon.  But when we got there, alas, it wa