My first week in Ecuador has been and gone, and so far it’s been an interesting affair. I have to admit that the thought of spending another year here is a little daunting, but I expect that to change as I settle in more.
For those of you who are unaware, the next year of my life will be spent living on a rose plantation near the town of Latacunga in the central Sierra region of the country, working as an English teacher in an English immersion school, set up by the rose plantation for the children of their workers.
Upon arrival in the capital Quito, I was met by one of the company directors and whisked away for the 2 hour journey to the rose plantation. Two hours later I found myself still in Quito as my bank card was rejected by all but one of the banks. Typical! This did allow the opportunity to see more of the capital and learn some of the interesting scams that Colombian refugees are using. The most recent is the handing out of flyers to the public, which contain an intoxicating substance. The body of the person is then found, if lucky, a few days later dumped at the side of the road minus their eyes and kidneys. I’m not quite sure of the authenticity of this story, but it could help explain the busy black market trade of human organs.
After finally making it to my new home, passing one volcano after another and being shown all the best places to buy whole cooked guinea pigs, I have to say that I am mightily impressed with both the facilities and location. The school boasts that it is ‘the best public school in Ecuador’, and from what I have seen so far, I have no reason to argue this statement. Everything is outstanding. Every morning I have the pleasure of waking to alpacas grazing in the garden and Cotopaxi Volcano, the highest active volcano in the world, formidably looming on the horizon. As I am only 8 km from Cotopaxi Volcano, I was a little concerned about my welfare but I have been reliably informed that my house is in the ‘safe zone’. I’m not quite sure about this though considering both the nearest towns have been destroyed by eruptions on numerous occasions! I suppose if I am that concerned I could always visit one of the many witches practising witchcraft and black magic in the local area!!
The never relenting ferocious winds and freezing cold temperatures I have been experiencing is something that is giving me a little worry, especially after only packing one pair of trousers and jumper. What’s even more worrying is the skin damage that the high altitude and strong winds cause, which is more than evident on the people of this region. As I am not really blessed with boyish good looks I don’t think I will be looking too different after my time here!
The children I will be teaching are aged between 6-10 years and I have had the luxury of meeting many of them in my first week, even though school doesn’t start until September. There is still summer school and on my first day I managed to stumble to school with a bad case of food poisoning. When I say stumble, school is only a 2 minute walk from where I am living. Upon arrival at the school I was greeted by a number of teachers and was told that the children were excited and eager to see me. I was then expecting to be led to a classroom of bright-eyed children. Instead I was led straight to the showers, where I was bombarded with wet, naked, and jumping little children. This was certainly something not in the job description.
With my face distorted from expressing looks of confusion, shock and horror, as I tried to shake the clinging wet children from each of my legs, on of the teachers explained why the children shower at the school. It is to check for signs of any physical abuse, which is a far too common occurrence in this part of the world. This message was drilled home when, after being stalked by a seven year old girl for three days solid, I enquired to why she was being so affectionate. The answer I received was a little disturbing. This little girl suffers from physical, mental and emotional abuse at the hands of her parents, on a very frequent basis. If this wasn’t bad enough, she was also raped by her 16 year old cousin, who luckily is now in jail. How this girl manages to love and smile is beyond me. It’s a hard fact to swallow that allowing such a thing to happen is better than taking them away from their parents into a state led institution. This is certainly one stalker I don’t mind showering with love and affection.
On a brighter note, my first week did include an embarrassing moment of the highest order. While minding my own business, eating a jam sandwich, a 10 year old boy came up to me and asked if I like dancing. I tried to explain to him, that although I thoroughly enjoy throwing my arms wildly in the air, my dancing does not constitute as good in any sense of the word. This did not deter the young child from declaring, ‘I will teach you salsa’. Under normal circumstances I would never even think of dancing unless under the influence, but as I was eager to impress I thought, ‘Why the hell not’. I don’t think this was the best decision of my life.
As I was being instructed to spin around, my left arm flapping in the air, who would walk through the door but non other than the Ecuadorian Minister of Education, followed by an entourage of similarly important looking people. From the small amount of Spanish I know, I did understand that a visitor was coming but I wasn’t quite expecting someone of that magnitude!
Expecting them to enquire what the fu** is this fluffy-head Gringo doing, I was very surprised to see their face light up with my hands-on, one-to-one approach. Even so, I have put any more salsa lessons on hold for the foreseeable future.
If you are thinking this boy is showing the stereotypical signs for a future life in drag, then let me tell you after partaking in a football session later in the week, this is the biggest psychopath of a ten year old I have come across. In the space of fifteen minutes he managed to take out the opposition seven times with two-footed lunges. Of these seven fouls, five resulted in fights, all of which he was winning by the time they were separated. To add insult to injury he also accidentally head-butted one of his own team-mates, splitting their lip. It was a good job I was working with two other teachers, as I think things could have got out of control if I was by myself!!
During the football session I also learnt that for some reason the children don’t understand the football phrase ‘one-two’. So to get my message across I ran around for the entire time shouting ‘to me, to you’, sounding like one of the bloody Chuckle Brothers. Luckily outside of Rotherham (yes, sadly I do know where they come from!), the Chuckle Brothers don’t have much authority, so I wasn’t mocked endlessly by the children.
I think on that note I will end! Good bye from me and goodbye from him!!