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,