Friday, December 18, 2009

La mesa de Deciembre

Hola Amigos y familia! Sorry that I haven't posted at all in December! This has been a busy, busy month! For Quito days at school we had a fun assembly and my students went to watch the pre-k kids perform a mock bullfight. It was cute. They all hugged the bull in the endinstead of killing it. But tons of bullfights take place for Quito days, also tons of crazy parties and drinking. But don't worry because over the Quito day weekend (the first weekend in December) I left the crazy city full of drunks and went on a super fun trip to Papallacta and El Oriente.

Papallacta is about a 2 hour drive south of Quito. There they have thermal pools that are heated by volcanoes. I got my first ever massage, a hot rock massage! And then spent a few hours in our private hot pool outside the beautiful cabin that we rented for the night. The next morning we went in the hot pools again, then we took off for a 5-hour drive to el oriente (East of Quito where the Rainforest is). As we drove the temperature got warmer and more humid.
This was our cabin in Papallacta: In el oriente we stayed in this cute place called French Amazonia that was right on the edge of the Rainforest. The place was beautiful and very tropical-looking:
We spent two nights there. On Friday night we had a bonfire with chicken hotdogs, haha. And on Saturday we embarked on an all-day canoe trip down a tributary of the Amazon. Our tour guides were super fun. We stopped to visit with a few families who were panning for gold. I even got to try panning for gold myself. These families spend all day in the sun panning for barely a gram of gold to sell in town. While the rest of the family worked hard, their baby was just sitting on the edge of the river chewing on rocks, haha. I thought he was absolutely adorable so I have some good pictures of him.

Our next stop was a "museum" which really was a walk through the edge of the rainforest where our tour guide showed us some of the tress the the Waorani tribe use for medicines, paint, etc. And he showed us some cool artifacts from the tribe. If we would have walked 2-3 days into the rainforest from where we were standing we would have found this tribe. (The tribe in "End of The Spear") I even tried their alcohol, held one of their spears, put some of their medicine from a tree on my bugbites, painted our tour guide's face with paint from a tree and shot a blow gun!
Me with the spear in the "museo":
After that we went to an animal conservation - run entirely by volunteers. Here they take in jungle animals that have prevously been kept as pets or sold on the black market. They try to ween them off of bein taken care of by people in order to get them back into the rainforest as wild animals, where they belong. I saw lots of beautiful rainforest animals. Including this precious monkey that was like 1 foot away from us haha. She had been set back into the wild but because she lived so long as a "pet" she found it hard to venture far from the animal conservation. Here she is, I think her name was Cornelia:

Lastly, we ate lunch at a restaurant on the river and then headed home. On that Sunday we drove 8 hours from El Oriente back to Quito. The weeks after Quito days were when I taught my students full-time. I loved it and it was busy!

We've had a holiday concert, holiday party, lots of practices for the concert, and more! At our holiday party we made Christmas ornaments and cookies. Yesterday was the last day of school. My students made me a cute book where they all wrote a thank you note and drew a picture. It was sweet. I was sadder to leave than I thought I'd be! But I'm leaving with great recommendations and memories. My students asked me at least 20x during the day if I could stay longer, or said things along the lines of, "PLEASE DON'T GO, MISS KREESTI" One of the little girls even recommended that I find an Ecuadorian man and get married so that I can stay here forever. HAha.
Here is all of fourth-grade (minus like 8 kids who left early for Christmas vacation) on the last day of school yesterday.

Also, when I got home from school yesterday at about 12:00 because we had a half day, I went and took a nap on the roof in the sun and I got a pretty good sunburn! I'm definetely going to miss the Quito weather as I travel into cold and snow storms. I'm taking off for Los Estados Unidos esta noche and I'll be home tomorrow! Woo hoo! Thanks for following my blog while I've been away. This is my last entry! I'm sure I'll update all of you with more detail at home! Love you.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving weekend

On Wednesay we had a Thanksgiving lunch at school. All the parents brought in various dishes and we had a full-fledged Thanksgiving feast! On Thursday school was over at 12:00 for Thanksgiving! I was picked up by my student's family and we drove to the U.S. Embassy Marine House! I helped them cook a few last dishes and then we ate a hugggggge, delicious, American Thanksgiving dinner there in the Marine house! There were 2 military families with kids and grandparents, and 4 single marines that joined us. It was a good time! Not quite the same as being with family, but still fun! I got to know a girl in the marines who I ended up hanging out with on Saturday night! She doesn't have many female friends in the marines, as you can imagine!

On Friday I went to Alliance and Julie, Melissa and I went to Quicentro Mall in downtown Quit0! We ate lunch at Crepes and Waffles in the mall which was delicccccccious. Very classy restaurant. Then we walked around the mall a bit and gawked at the high prices for clothes and shoes. After that we trekked up the street to a quaint, high-quality ice cream store that Julie really wanted to check out. And on the walk back we stopped to get KFC and Taco Bell to eat later, hah! To get home I had to wait like 30 minutes for a taxi because traffic was terrible! And the Quito Days festivities have begun which mean the city is full of people, even more people than normal.

Early Saturday morning I went with Donna nad her two friends, Myscha and Dave to Otovalo, yet again! But my goal this time was to take lots of pictures! I was successful and you can see some of the results on facebook. On the way to Otovalo we stopped at the REAL, Scientific Equator! We checked it with the GPS and they actually had a working sun dial too. Then we went to the Otovalo animal market where the farmers come to sell and buy both living and dead animals. There were lots of chickens, cows and pigs mostly. It was kind of sad to see the animals smacked around and caged up. But then I saw pigs eatting corn and grass freely and I remembered that these farm animals are treated way more humanely than most of the meat produced in the U.S. These animals are fed fresh grass, corn and wheat and for the most part have open grass and fields to graze in. So at the end of the morning I decided that I don't need to be a vegetarian in Ecuador. I considered it for a moment when we first walked into the animal market and the stench of meat overwhelmed my nostrils.

Anyways, from the animal market we drove to Otovalo Mercado. There we perused around for a little while and I did some more shopping for Navidad while simultaneously chatting and photographing some of the kind, indigenous vendors. I really saw the improvement of my Spanish in the fact that I could carry on social conversations for more than 5 minutes and understand everything. I was even translating for Donna's friends sometimes! That felt good! After this market we went to the Hacienda for lunch which was delic and then drove to a Volcanic lake to take some pictures. Then we headed back.

On Saturday night I went to see new moon with a the only female marine in Ecuador that I met on Thursday! She convinced one of the other male marines to come along too. Though he was embarrassed to admit that he was going to see such a chick flick. They have a driver at the embassy just for the marines so we were driven all around by a personal driver! We went to Tony Roma's for dinner before the movie and then hung out for awhile afterwards. It was lots of fun!

Today I went to EFC with Julie and then we went to this realllly good pizza place after church for lunch! Now I'm just blogging, uploaded pictures and am hanging out and going to bed early! This week we only have 4 days of school. And on Thursday afternoon I leave for el ORIENTE! Woohoo! Well that's all for now! I'm getting excited to be home for Christmas. Songs about cold, wintery weather are hard to listen to here while it's 70 and sunny :)

Love you all

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mi fin de semana LOCA (my crazy weekend)

This weekend was pretty crazy but fun! On Friday morning the stern, British Lower school principal came to observe me teach a writing lesson. I was pretty intimidated and nervous to say the least, primarily due to the fact that she has been an administrator of highly prestigious and academically rigorous International schools for a long time. Basically, she knows her stuff. But everything went unbelievably well! Her comments were incredibly encouraging. In fact, it was definetely all God, as teaching always is, because on Thursday I had felt like I needed to be improve my classroom management and discipline with this group of kids. And one of the things that Ms. Patricia said after she observed me teach was that I have excellent classroom management! We are weak, but He is strong. Probably the best compliment I could receive considering this is an area I feel like I am continually working to improve in.

Saturday morning I woke up early and took a taxi to Alliance. Julie, Melissa, Barbie, Christy, one of the teacher's at Alliance and I took the bus to Otovalo. What an experience that was! I thought our bus was going to fall off the edge of the twisty, turvy mountain roads at least twice. (Sorry Ma) Haha but it was definetely a good cultural experience. I bought a lot of Christmas presents there :) The Otovalan people are kind and gentle. Bargaining with them and walking through their market is nothing like the Zambian market. They are pushy at times but they don't pull you in by the arm and refuse to let you go until you buy something like at Victoria Falls. The Andean culture is just beautiful. Check out facebook for pictures of the people in the next few days so you can understand what I mean. They work so hard and are quite thrifty. Barbie and I found LIGA Jerseys for only $10! They are the Quito futbol team who will be playing in the South American Finals this week! So we were excited to find jerseys.

After a long, successful day of shopping, we traveled back to Quito by bus. When we got back around 5 I had to rush to get a taxi back to my apartment and get ready for a dinner party on Saturday night. I took a cab with a couple who live up the street from me to this dinner party put on by my co-worker, whose husband is the DCM (works right underneath the ambassador). When the cab pulled up the house I couldn't believe my eyes. There were three guards out front, kind of like bouncers, who had to check to be sure our names were on the list before you could enter the house. They stood out front for the entire night in order to watch the cars of the guests. This house was literally a mansion. The entry-way had marble floors and white pillars. A few men wearing all white suits walked around serving appetizers on silver trays. When I walked into the living room, everyone had a drink in their hand and were standing around chatting in a huge room with a fireplace. Everyone there was at least 27, most were over 30. There must have been at least 30 people in the room socializing. It was truely a scene from a movie.

Finally, they moved us into the dining room for our real appetizer and meal. I had a great time talking with some co-workers from the school that wre sitting around me. Including the vice principal of the school who may have had one too many drinks!

On Sunday morning I went to Dios es Fiel, a Spanish church, with Barbie and Christy. Loved the upbeat worship that really led the congregation to recognize who God is and what he has done for us. But not only recognizing who He is but thanking him for that and celebrating it! The sermon was preached by a guest speaker in English and translated into Spanish. After church, the director of Alliance and his wife had the Alliance student teachers and I over for lunch. They were incredibly kind and hospitable. Very encouraging to talk with. Then I got home and Donna had a dinner party with 4 of her close friends, the director of Cotopaxi and his house guest. I had a good time again socializing with people who are much older, and very different than I. The topics of conversation ranged from sailing, to alcohol, to teaching, to world travel experiences, to war, to teaching, to alcohol and back to teaching. Haha it was good fun though.

Today I taught all day and it went well! I taught a fun, hands-on science lesson which the students really enjoyed but took a lot of preparation and clean-up work for me! On Wednesday of this week we will have a big, Thanksgiving lunch at school! THen on Thursday we get out of school at 12:00 and later in the afternoon I am going to my student's house for another Thanksgiving dinner with a large number of single marines who they also invited over! But it will be a classic, American Thanksgiving and that will be nice.

I let the guard borrow my ipod yesterday and today because he looks so bored just sitting by the gate waiting for someone to walk by and say Hi. He was listening to an alarm clock radio yesterday when Igot home so I offered him the pod just to borrow until he left work at 6. My housemate thinks he's going to steal it or something, I think he is trustworthy. In fact, I think we might be friends. He told me today that he really likes listening to Maroon 5, Jessica Simpson and the Backstreet Boys haha!

Hoping to do some travel over our 3-day Thanksgiving break! But these are my adventures over the past week. I'm starting to really love the Ecuadorian culture and I think my Spanish is starting to improve. :)

Love you!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ramblings on the past week

There is mucho that happens in a week thus it is hard for me to explain in one, poorly-written blog entry. SO my blogs usually end up becoming a bunch of surfacey ramblings. For that I appologize, there is a lot more going on with me internally - spiritually and emotionally. But those things for the most part you'll have to ask me about personally :) I will add little snippets in here though for the reading pleasure of those who care.

The amount of teaching time that I am taking on is increasing significantly. On Friday I had the students to myself because my cooperating teacher took a personal day. This week, I am teaching full-time! However, the students have tons of exciting Holiday events coming up in the next 4 weeks so teaching full-time does not actually mean 4 solid weeks of instructional time. It means teaching a few subjects a day and then herding the kids to their various concerts, music classes, spanish classes, assembly rehearsals, surprise dog shows, etc.

Yep, your read correctly, my students went to a dog show on Monday morning put on by the Quito National Policia themselves! I wish I had taken a picture or two!

On Saturday I went shopping and found some CHEAP DVDs which was great. My housemate and I watched Benjamin Button on Saturday night. On Sunday I spent time with Barbie, Julie, Melissa and the other kids at Alliance going to church, and then haniging at the dorm! The Lord spoke so directly through the pastor at EFC to my heart and encouraged and challenged me in many exciting ways.

On Sunday afternoon I also started reading Heavenly Man, the story of Christian Brother Yun in China and his life of persecution for his faith in Jesus. Seriously, read this book ONLY if you are willing to have God shake your faith to the core and are willing to be lead to pray scary prayers of committment to the Lord. This critic says it best, "An inspirational and heroic story of a radical Christian in the house churches of China. This book is like reading a modern-day version of the book of Acts. Prepare to be deeply encouraged as well as rudely awakened. An absolute must for the sleeping churches of the West." - Rev. Dr. Mark Stibbe. I'm not even half-way through and I'm already telling you to read it if you have time!

Soooo then on Sunday night the girls and I took a taxi to my apartment where my housemate made us an incredible dinner! Including mora (blackberry) smoothies as an appetizer, home-made rolls, chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli, salad and homemade cheesecake! It was fun to have them here and to all get to talk and laugh together, including my housemate!

Tomorrow morning my students and I are going on a field trip to a water treatment facility in Quito to compliment their unit on water that we are currently in the midst of. On Friday, the principal of the lower school will be coming to observe me teaching at 8:30 AM. If you think of it, pray for me then! These observations are important because they kind of make or break a future reference on my resume.

This coming weekend we have a holiday bazaar at the school. Many indigenous crafty men and women are invited to come from Otovalo to sell their crafts. Also, Iwas invited to a dinner party on Saturday night by my fellow fourth-grade teacher via a white invitation in an official United States of America envelope. Her husband is the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the U.S.A. BIG DEAL. Basically they are incredddibly rich and protected people whose home I get to enter and dine in! Woot!

I will leave you with this:
"Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" - Isaiah 30:20-21

Thanks for reading! Love you all! : )
Mees Kreestee

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mas de mi vida ...

Well it has been a little while! Sorry for the delay, but thanks for your faithful reading! This past weekend I spent Saturday afternoon through Sunday afternoon at Alliance with Julie, Melissa and Barbie! I watched multiple American football games on Saturday afternoon between many different International School teams. The championship game was the Alliance faculty team (the team Barbie was on) vs. the Cotopaxi team (the school that I am currently student teaching in) QUE EMOCIONADO! Translation = how exciting! Annnd Alliance won! I also saw one of my fourth grade students at the game which was exciting.

We went out to dinner at a food court with the dorm kids at Alliance and then there was yet another rolling black out, which meant no electricity from about 6pm - 10pm. Apparently Quito has predominantly hydroelectricity and since it hasn't rained much there is a shortage.. Thus they have issued rolling black outs throughout the city. Different parts of the city have no electricity for varying amounts of time. However the part of the city that I live in is also the part of the city that the President of Ecuador lives in... thus our apartment has only had one, half-hour power outage! hah! It looks like it might rain now though which is great news! On Sunday I went to church at EFC with the girls!

This week at school I am teaching math every day, as well as Language Arts. Mr. Paul is continually encouraging and affirming of my gifts. He continues to supply me with excellent tips, lesson ideas and activities. I'm really enjoying the students! I am loving the opportunity that I have to teach more creatively and with inquiry-based activities (which is not always the case in the inner-city, American public schools). I really love the students' accents which make the pronounciation of my name sound like, "Mees Kreestee" or just affectionately, "Meees!" Prec. There was a diagnosed case of H1N1 in 4th grade today so pray that I stay healthy while I'm here!

Last night I went to the mall with my housemate and we ate at a TGIF. I also found out yesterday that over our 3-day weekend for Quito Day, the first weekend in December, I will be going to the Oriente with my housemate and her two friends who are coming to visit. P.S. the Oriente is the Eastern part of Ecuador which includes the RAINFOREST! We will take a motorized canoe down the river - which I think might be the AMAZON, visit an animal refuge, visit the natural hot springs (aka a SPA in the rainforest) and maybe do some hiking in Banos on the way back to Quito! I am very excited for this adventure! The best news is that all of this adventure, including hostel stays and meals = about $100 USD. Nice, eh?

I can say with confidence that I am here in this country, in this school and in this specific classroom for a reason. I believe that God is orchestrating this whole experience for HIS glory. I am learning to just trust God with every part of my experience here. He is providing the friendship that I need in him and secondly in the people that he has put around me here. The kind, warm teachers and parents of my students, my friends at Alliance, my housemate, even the guards at our apartment and at the school have been such blessings. Not to mention my incredible family and friends back in the States who I am keeping in close touch with. But above all of this Jesus is supplying for my every need.

Isaiah 46:4-5 has been a continual encouragement: "Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. To whom will you compare me or count me equal? To whom will you liken me that we may be compared?"

I am very excited to see my family and friends in December :) But I also truely want to get the most out of this experience and to live in the present rather than the past or the future. And I the present is ripe with lessons to learn, world to explore, fruit to bear and friends to make! Pray that I continue to obedient to the Lord in every thing that I say and do.

Thanks for your support! Miss you all!

Mucho amor,

Saturday, October 31, 2009

To the country, the city, the country and back again!

I'm going to backtrack to fill you in on my fun, 4-day weekend! We had off school on Monday for The Day of the Dead and off on Tuesday for Cuenca Independence day! Que fantastico!

We had a GREAT Halloween party at school on Thursday and I went to a bookclub with my housemate. On Friday at school I drank Colada Morada and the traditional bread dolls to celebrate the Day of the Dead in the traditional, indigenous manner.
On Saturday my housemate Donna, her friend Konna and I went to Otovalo. First we drove 3 hours, because of traffic, up the beautiful, winding mountain roads. I enjoyed talking with them and staring out the window at the incredible mountains and active volcanoes all around me.
We met up with Conna's friend, Margarita who embroiders more intricately than anything I've ever seen. We bought some things from her. Then we ate lunch at a 300 year old Hacienda! I'm running out of words to describe the beautiful things that I see here, but the hacienda was old, romantic, exotic and rustic! It had jungle-like gardens in the back yard with a peacock walking around and Ecuadorian men who serenaded us with music when we first walked in.
Margarita (who apparently doesn't like to smile for pictures) and I!

Then we went to the market in Otovalo which is where the indigenous people group in the area, the Cotovalianos, sell their goods and crafts. I bought some beautiful scarves and ran out of money quickly. It felt like I left the 20th century and entered the 1800's. The women still wear traditional dress, grow their own crops, live in small communities along the mountains. They literally dress, eat and function from day to day in the way typical of the 1800's in America. This isn't the first time I've mingled with South-American Native groups, but is still so mind-boggling to me.

On Sunday I went to Alliance Academy and met up with Julie and Melissa, and the Evans family to go to church. We went to EFC and then out to lunch to a restaurant called "Aladdin's", complete with copyrighted pictures of the Disney movie on their menu. After lunch, the Evans family took Julie, Melissa and I to the school's property in the country for the night. When we got there we explored the farms, fields and hills around us. What a view.

The next day we went to La Mitad del Mundo! The middle of the earth! We took touristy pictures with the Equator, ate a delicious Ecuadorian lunch, shopped and watched some Ecuadorian "day of the dead" dancing! On the way back we stopped at the Evans family's favorite fruit ice cream store... which turned out to actually be a SORBET store! It was sooo good. And cheap.
Today I taught math for the first time in this classroom. And it went well - Paul had 3 pages of positive and a little critical feedback to give me when I finished which is super helpful. He told me today that I am a natural, which is encouraging!.. to say the least!
I still love it here, but am realizing that I definetely miss my first-graders in Indy. And I really miss all of my friends and family. I think the Lord is slowly but surely showing me where my passion really lies and how he wants to use me to serve him. I'm not sure what my future looks like right now, but I absolutely feel peace about where I am and where the Lord is taking me. Thank you so much for your prayers, they are absolutely felt. The Lord is sustaining me, supplying my needs and teaching me more and mroe about him! I'm excited about the rest of the adventures in store for me here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Buenos Tardes mis amigos y familia! Today was my second day at La Academia Cotopaxi. The teacher that I am working with is PHENOMENAL. He loves the students, teaches the way that they need to learn and is hilarious. He makes both me and the students laugh throughout the day and has been incredibly accomodating and welcoming. I already have a large handful of resources and great, new lesson ideas. I know that I will leave this placement a much more prepared teacher. I'll start teaching next week!

The school is gorgeous. I will take pictures of it later this week or next. There is a large cage of chirping birds in the courtyard in the center of the campus and all the hallways are more like a large patio that extends in a circle connecting the classrooms. Our classroom is huge with large windows, wooden floors and a general warm feeling about it.

I am currently enthralled with my 16 intelligent, witty, sweet fourth grade students. It's incredible that I can reason with them and have adult-like conversations! All but like 3 or 4 are Ecuadorian or are originally from a Spanish-speaking country, which means that all but these 3 or 4 speak Spanish as their first language. We have one beautiful little girl from Spain who came this year without a word of English. She is learning quickly and part of my TESOL Practicum is working with her in both a push-in and pull-out setting.

All of these children come from families with some major money. Several of them are driven to and from school by a chauffeur and a few even have a body guard who escorts them into and out of the school. Their parents have jobs such as ambassadors to Ecuador, special agents, and several of their parents work in the petroleum business.

I am getting an interesting perspective on education in the world. This school has American, Canadian and a few Ecuadorian teachers. Each have come from a different background in education and have quite the variety of perspectives and understandings. They are all very friendly and helpful. Today after school I walked to a little organic food store down the street to buy a few things and made a delicious dinner.

I am looking forward to maybe getting to spend some time this weekend with Julie and maybe Barbie too at Alliance Academy. Everyone that I work and/or live with here is 35 or older and has lived in at least 2 other countries. I'm feeling the desire to spend time with some people my own age who have had similiar life experiences! Praise the Lord that Julie and Barbie are just 15 minutes away! OK And here are just a few pics of my home in Quito : )

This is on our apartment's rooftop patio: This is my room :): View from my window! You should see it at night... unbelievable. The whole mountain is covered in little lights

Ok now you have a little picture of what it is like here. I love you all. Hasta luego!