Otavalo Stories and Tips

Week 54 - Limp Bodies (Ecuador)

Laguna Quilotoa Photo, Ecuador, South America

Before the week started, I was hopeful that this would be the best and easiest yet teaching. Sadly, the feelings of joy and happiness at helping the underprivileged and needy didn’t really materialize. I have never been a quitter before, but if it wasn’t for the fact that full-time employment is just not enticing me at the moment, then I think my stint as a primary school teacher might be coming to an end!

Children can be a handful at the best of times, but when you are given classes full of energetic children, most of them with severe behavioral problems through the abuse they suffer, then you know you’re going to be in for a tough ride. Add in the fact that the children I teach know almost no English, and I have to speak in nothing but English to them, then it is a recipe for disaster. Indeed, even my harshest words, angriest faces, and meanest voices have no effect on the mayhem caused. It definitely makes for some interesting lessons.

One such interesting lesson saw me apprehend a rather naughty 6 year old, who was running amok in my lesson, jumping on tables and, I can only assume, trying to electrocute himself by sticking his fingers in the electrical sockets. Of course I quickly pulled him away and gave him a very stern lecture (not that he understood any of my English!) and sat him down in his seat. It was at this point I learnt for the first time, a truly amazing skill that young children here have, the ability to make their bodies go limp. This 6 year old decided this was the perfect moment to show me this. As I sat him down, his body went limp, allowing himself to fall off his chair and smack his head on the concrete floor. I have never heard such a high shrieked wailing sound in all my life upon this happening, which lasted for a good 15 minutes. To make matters even worse the rest of the class looked at me with utter disgust as though it was my fault. For once though, this seemed to calm the class down, and they followed my instructions with absolutely no complaints.

If teaching wasn’t hard enough, to have a couple of confrontations with a fellow teacher certainly didn’t help matters. Both confrontations were over the other teacher deciding she was far superior to me (better and more experienced yes!) and over-ruling the disciplinary actions I had taken against her children. I’m happy to say though all issues have been resolved now, although it is still debated who was correct!

On the bright side though, the students have found my ‘messy Mohican’ hairstyle very interesting and entertaining and at one point in the last week I had seven young boys copying my hairstyle, which I have to admit was rather good for morale and confidence. As most thrills in my life, it was short lived and my new found popularity diminished before it had even begun as a new school rule of no ‘messy Mohican’ hairstyles was imposed by the management. So far I have managed to escape from the ban, although the children, through their despair have nicknamed me ‘father chicken’ and ‘rooster’. I haven’t yet decided if I am a fan of these or not!

After watching almost every Ecuadorian man eye up my girlfriend since arriving here, I feel it is about time I should discuss the appalling behavior and attitudes of the male gender here. Obviously this isn’t everyone, but I would have to say that it is the majority of men in the area where I am living. It seems perfectly normal here for men to beat, punch, kick, hit, and use any other kind of physical abuse to their poor defenseless spouses. My girlfriend was asked by her fellow workers if I ever hit her. They seemed totally flabbergasted when she replied no, as though it couldn’t possibly be so.

Cheating on your girlfriend or wife is also seen as a highly macho thing to do amongst the men here. The more macho you are, the more women you have on the go. It is so inbred in to the culture here, that even if a girl finds out or suspects it, the man normally is forgiven or let off. This is probably the reason why many women here are very paranoid and clingy to their other half! I’m happy to say that just the one woman is enough for me, and I don’t really think my personality really fits in with this macho behavior.

To make me think even less of the men here, they also like to make a ‘sissing’ sound to white women as they pass by. This is the same sound that they also make to scare away dogs. In this culture, such noises seem to be totally acceptable and are made by virtually all men of ‘love-making’ age. What animals!

There is very little else to report this week. It was my girlfriends turn to have her body taken over by a nasty little parasite. Even the locals seem to get this every 3 months or so, so it seems I should be expecting my next parasite invasion just in time for Christmas. There was also another Mama Negra Fiesta in the nearby town of Latacunga, but this time I decided to stay well away from the festivities and free alcohol. I was also planning a trip to the Amazonian jungle town of Puyo, a 4-hour drive away in the next couple of weeks, but as there were a couple of American tourists kidnapped there a few days a go, I might put it off for a while!

That’s all for now. This coming weekend I am travelling deep into the depths of the Andean Mountains in search of the infamous Laguna Quilotoa, a lake in an extinct volcano crater, which has been coined as one of the most beautiful lakes in Ecuador. A tourist died there a couple of weeks back, when she fell down the steep sides of the crater while taking a picture. I don’t expect the same to happen to me though!

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