Ecuador Stories and Tips

Week 47 - Psychiatric Concerns (Ecuador)

My House Photo, Cotopaxi, Ecuador

In a week that has been plagued by stomach cramps, the biggest highlight had to be the birthday celebrations of one of the directors of the rose plantation. As part of the celebrations my school had to design a huge birthday card around the main theme of flowers. I’m not quite sure how I drew a flower at the age of seven, but I’m sure it wasn’t quite as disturbing as some of the images witnessed here. At least half the flowers drawings looked more like male genitalia than flowers. Another boy decided to interpret flowers as the perfect opportunity to draw a guy with his blown off, with red paint splattered all over the page. There are definite psychiatric concerns there! I wish I had seen the directors face upon opening the card and finding it covered in cocks and blood!

I suppose such disturbing images can be explained by the fact that Power Rangers is the number one children’s show and whenever given the chance the children are practising one move or another. During one play session an innocent looking wide-eyed young lad came up to me arms outstretched. As I picked him up and swung him in the air he asked me, ‘You like Power Rangers?’ I lied and said yes. He then let out a little smirk and punched me in the face. I was not amused and dropped him on his head. Actually I lie, I wanted to, the cheeky bugger, but I decided against it! He got his comeuppance a couple of hours later when another child volleyed a football into his face, giving him a nose bleed. I know that it is both evil and wrong of me, but as the blood started to flow from his nose, I felt my sore left cheek and let out a wry little smile. I wish I was back teaching in Poland!!

Also part of birthday celebrations was what I can only imagine a sacrifice to appease the Gods would have been like when Jesus was roaming the Earth. With mist still lying over the surrounding fields I joined a few of the children on an early morning extra-curricular activity of pig slaughtering. As soon as the director arrived, the killing started. I had the chance of seeing a pig killed in Costa Rica but decided against it, and if I knew how gory it was going to be this time, I would have done the same. I was expecting the killing to be over before it started but I was well off the mark. First they hit the poor pig pretty hard over the head a few times with a mallet, until it loses its balance (and some of its skull) and falls to the ground. After this they start to strangle it with a leather belt. Obviously knowing what is happening the pig, as can be expected is not best amused and puts up a struggle until the end, letting out a few blood curdling noises in the process. Only then is the head severed over a bucket so none of the blood goes to waste. Lovely!! I still ate pork for dinner that day though, the crackling especially was delicious!!

Although I have been here for less than two weeks I’m starting to understand and get to know the students. Some of them are adorable, while others have severe learning and behavioural problems. A few burst into tears for absolutely no reason, which I’m sure isn’t the best of signs. After freezing myself wearing shorts I decided this week to wear my only pair of jeans this week. As I reached the school, four separate children came up to me to enquire why I was wearing women’s jeans. If this wasn’t bad enough each time I frequent the local markets more people refer to me as ‘senorita’ than ‘senor’. I really don’t understand these female remarks all the time, especially as I am sporting a rather hideous ginger beard. The children also amused themselves over my sunburn as well, as one evening after school I decided to take a walk to a nearby village with my girlfriend. As I forgot to apply sun tan lotion I returned home a couple of hours later with a face like a baboon’s ass.

From the little I have seen of the area so far, I have to say that virtually everyone is warm and friendly, although like anywhere in the world you do get a few people who try and make life as difficult as possible. If your Spanish pronunciation is not perfect then some people refuse to understand what you are saying. It would be the same as saying ‘Good Moaning’ instead of ‘Good Morning’ and somebody saying they don’t understand at all what you are saying. Maybe they just didn’t like me and was using this as an excuse to get rid of me!

One thing that has surprised me about Ecuador is the cheapness of everything, even having American dollars as their national currency. The UN states that those living in absolute poverty live on less than $1 a day. Here that could happily feed you three good meals in Ecuador. If wasn’t cheap enough then alcohol is even better. Bottles of wine and vodka are around $1 a bottle and beer even cheaper! You really can’t complain.

Another thing that has surprised me is the way the government tries to fight dangerous driving. Although there are your usual posters and advertising campaigns, the government has come up with the ingenious plan of putting the mutilated, sometimes limbless (and headless) bodies of the deceased on the front page of the newspapers and on the daily news. Some news programmes even carry sections dedicated to road crashes and the unfortunate lifeless victims. It doesn’t really make for enjoyable viewing and I’m not sure if it’s actually having much effect on the safety of driving either, after the few bus journeys I have enjoyed!

I always seem to talk about the radio or music wherever I go, and I am afraid Ecuador will be the same. I am happy to say that for a whole week listening to various Evangelical Propaganda Stations I have finally come across a decent radio station playing nothing but indie and rock. As per usual Robbie Williams is extremely popular but it’s nice to hear other home-grown favourites like Keane, Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys and Starsailor. I have also fallen in love with the music of Julieto Venegos, a Latin American version of KT Tunstall, who I am now a big fan of. I’m sure some of you would rather stick your hand in a blender than take a listen though!

Other than this, all is going well. I have a feeling I may have been slightly duped when believing this was an English Immersion School. At the present moment in time, I am the only person that speaks English to the children! I suppose I really can’t complain seeing that I get free roses from the rose plantation almost everyday.

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