Sunday, October 19, 2008

First week of work

(I tried to post this yesterday, but apparently it did not work. Probably a good thing, since I neglected to run spell check on it. Let us see if I can post it today...)

Well, I survived my first week of work... Let me tell you, six hours of teaching a day is A LOT of teaching. Then, you have to figure in several hours of planning the next day´s lessons, a class full of teenagers, a case of Ecuabelly, and you have one exhausted teacher. But I think things went reasonably well. As I realized pretty early on this past week, the advantage of having had such a crappy teaching job in Prague is that there is not a lot that can faze me now. (Of course, saying that is just inviting some awful event to take place). But my schedule is excellent: 7-9, 9-11, and 2-4. (I have my Spanish class from 11-12.) That means that it is not dark when I get out of my last class, which means that I don´t need to worry about taking a taxi home.
My first two classes are going to be pretty good, I think. The second one will be a bit tricky because my students finish everything so quickly, so they are really going to keep me on my toes. My third class is mostly teenagers. We are in a small, dark room with a low ceiling and tiny windows. 2pm is when the afternoon rain starts, so everything gets really dark and we usually have nasty-sounding thunder. The teacher in the classroom right next to us has a lower-level class, so naturally they don´t have to do as much grammar as we do. They are always laughing and talking, and we can hear every word clearly. Meanwhile, my poor teens are stuck trying to learn the differences between independent and dependent clauses, and what a prepositional phrase or a direct object is. I do feel sorry for them (and, quite honestly, I´m not sure WHY they need to learn these things. But they are going to be on the first test, so I have to teach them...). I´m trying to make the class as lively and interesting as possible, but there comes a point where we need to settle down and learn at least a little bit of grammar.
After I finish my last class, I head back to the main building and spend some time checking the internet and taking care of errands (copies, research, etc). I usually head home about 5 pm, in the rain. Walking in the rain in Quito is a challenge. First, the presence of an umbrella makes it difficult to maneuver around other people with umbrellas, especially when the street narrows slightly. It also restricts your field of vision, making it more difficult to be aware of your surroundings (very important here). Also, remember that, by this time, it has been raining for about three hours--usually pretty heavy rain. Quito doesn´t really have any real drainage system to speak of, so the sidewalks are pretty much submerged. If you really look hard, you can usually find little islands of pavement (I call them islands when they are only about an inch under water, as opposed to three or more inches). Jumping from island to island takes a certain amount of concentration and skill, of course. And let´s not forget that I have a large purse with all my books on my right shoulder, which alters my center of balance slightly.
Not only are the sidewalks more or less submerged, the street is as well, especially around the curbs. That makes finding a place to step off the curb to cross the street without stepping ankle-deep in water an adventure. And, of course, you can´t stand too close to the curb while waiting to cross the street or a car or motorcycle will zip past you, spraying water all over you. While crossing the street, not only do you have to watch for cars, you have to pay attention to where you are stepping. Most of the streets contain a significant number of potholes, all filled with water. Dancing around this potholes is more than a matter of simply keeping your ankles dry--if you trip and fall in the street, you might be struck by the very car you are racing across the street to avoid.
Halfway between the school and my house is a park, which after three hours of rain contains a complex system of swift-moving rivers that I have only begun to chart. The main one, which flows directly across my path right after I cross the street, has no islands. For this particular river, the question is always: Do I bolt across as quickly as possible, or do I step across gingerly? I´ve tried both, and the final answer is that it doesn´t really matter which option you chose, you will get wet.
After a half and hour of this obstacle course, I finally make it home, where I can change out of my wet shoes and take a (occasionally) warm-ish shower (Ah, the shower. I dream of showers past. This particular shower gives me the option of a warm shower with no water pressure, or a frigid shower with okay water pressure. Add that to the fact that my hair has become mysteriously oily since I´ve been here, leading to my need to shower every single day, and you have a wholly different experience fraught with its own perils.), and prepare my lessons for the next day.
Ah, and the other excellent thing about my schedule is that it almost perfectly coincides with the two-year-old´s nap times. That means that, when I´m in the house, the kid is usually asleep. (He occasionally wakes up in the evenings, but I think I went about two or three days last week without seeing him at all).
Well, that is all the news that I have now. I´m still working on planning my classes for next week--I still have to think of some more review and practice activities my students can do. But I feel pretty good about what I´ve got now, so... I can relax a bit.
Oh, wait! I didn´t talk about my case of Ecuabelly! I was talking to a couple of teachers at the school, and they said that, when you live in Ecuador, you spend more time talking about your poop than you would have previously though possible (Thanks to my grandmother, I, of course, know just how much poop talk is possible, but out of politeness I refrained from mentioning this to them). Anyway, about an hour before my third class (remember, this is the class of teenagers), I can down with a swift (and violent) case of what is locally (and less than lovingly) referred to as Ecuabelly (I don´t think I need to explain this one to you guys). I hadn´t eaten anything different, I hadn´t chowed down on a skewer of mystery meat cooked on a filthy grill by a street vender oozing pus from open sores on his face, I hadn´t chugged down a giant glass of tap water (don´t drink the water here! If the locals won´t even touch it, you know it is bad). In fact, the main reason I chose to come to Ecuador a FULL MONTH before I was to start teaching was to give my stomach time to do its thing and then adjust to the local... eh, dietary dangers.
And yet, my stomach had other plans. Instead of giving me problems immediately (which it would have done in the past), it decided to wait until an hour before I was supposed to stand in front of a group of teenagers I had only met the day before. My stomach has an evil sense of humor. Anyway, I found myself racing from person to person in my schoo, asking in a variety of languages if anyone had anything at all for a case of Ecuabelly. Finally, someone gave me directions to a Pharmacy (which, at that point, might or might not actually be open, they said). TEN MINUTES before my class, I find myself in the (open) pharmacy (Oh, and hey--did I mention that it was hailing the entire time I was doing all this?), trying to purchase the medicinal equivalent of a cork. The pharmacist wanted to know if I was pregnant, if I had pain (and where it was). He wanted me to list what I had recently eaten (at this point, nothing. I hadn´t even bothered to eat lunch, knowing that it would have been (literally) sh*tting away my income). Finally, FIVE MINUTES before my class was supposed to start, he sold me something to STOP EVERYTHING (and something to--hopefully--kill the bugs that had started everything in the first place). I gulped it down, thanked him, and ran (through the hail) to my class of teenagers.
The following day I put myself on a diet of bread and gator aid (and you know that, if gator aid doesn´t taste like the worst substance in the world, you are pretty dehydrated). The following day, I branched out into vegetables, rice, more bread, and a bit of tofu. Yesterday, I managed some fruit juice and peanut butter and chicken (in addition to the above mentioned bread and rice). Today I braved the iffy world of cheese (a very small amount on my bread this morning. So far, nothing too dramatic has happened). At some point, I will re-introduce yogurt (which I probably need at this point, having killed off everything in my stomach with whatever it was the good pharmacist gave me in my minutes of need). I can´t wait until pizza is a possibility--I´ve really been craving it lately.
Well, hope everyone had a good week, and I will probably post more next weekend, depending on how crazy everything gets.


At 4:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was a really good update, but the Ecuabelly section was...hmm...
craptastic, but in a spectacular way. :)
It will be quoted.

At 8:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh...the poo talk. Since I've become a mother talk/smell/sight of poop doesn't even phase me anymore. Cecilia had a MAJOR blowout last week (it was a screw trying to clean her up, just throw her in the tub and change her outfit kind of blowout). Too bad I didn't notice it until after I picked her up and ended up with a handful (Damn my bad sense of smell!)

Hope your stomach recoops quickly so you can enjoy some much needed pizza.

-lil sis

At 10:14 PM, Blogger Violin Woman said...

After encountering a men's room with no changing table last week, my brother tried to take the nephew out and change his VERY POOPY diaper in the car. Little nephew, as soon as brother had unfastened the diaper, reached down and grabbed the diaper in right in the middle of the poo and flung it across the car. And you wondered why you didn't want kids. ;-)

Feel better!


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