Monday, September 12, 2011

First day of school!

Hello everyone. I'm going to have to be careful to manage the length of this blog post because there's so much to write about that's happened this week. First, I'll put in a quick word about food.

I've continued to eat really well in Ecuador. I've also been enjoying a variety of fresh foods. Today, we bought ten oranges ($1) from a guy selling oranges to people in their cars. When we got home, Miguel (my host dad), made fresh orange juice for us to enjoy with dinner. Earlier this week, we enjoyed fresh chicken. No, we didn't get chicken that was two days old or something from the market. Instead, earlier this week, the Pachecos bought a live chicken and on Wednesday night, after days of debate over who would kill the chicken and how they would kill it, Dori's younger sister killed it! Dori wanted me to understand that this wasn't uncommon, and that they had paid extra to have one of the best chickens in Ecuador. I admit that I totally enjoyed the chicken we had in the following meals. Another cool thing we did this week was make tamales. First, we ground up corn (see pictures). Then, using the infamous chicken, we had chicken tamales.

On Friday I had my first day of school. On Thursday, the other exchange student from my program (Tom, from Germany) went up to the school with our host families to register and buy our uniforms. When I walked into school uniform shop, the man who supplies families with uniforms started worrying. He was sure they wouldn't have clothes big enough for me! As it turned out, there was only one pair of pants that the school couldn't supply for me. Instead, the school gave me some fabric to take to a tailor. Yesterday, I picked up my new pants from the tailor and they fit me well.

Friday, I got up early (5:30 a.m.) to catch the bus for my school. The uniform is pretty easy, but I still managed to mess it up. I wore the wrong socks, and I also managed to wear the wrong tie. Dori caught the wrong tie before I left the house, but by the time I had realized I had the wrong socks it was too late. In addition, the fly crappy pants that the school gave me completely broke midway through the day! Fortunately, I had a really long white shirt that practically hung to me knees, so I don't think anyone else noticed.

Other than my uniform issues, the first day of school went really well. I got to the school at 6:55, thinking that I was only just in time for the beginning of school at 7. However, I realized later that the school day doesn't start until around 7:30. While I waited for the school day to start, I chatted with the other exchange students in my class. Surprisingly, my class of ten students has four exchange students: two Icelandic kids, a girl from Switzerland, and me.

Ecuadorian (and apparently a lot of international) schools have a system where students stay in the same classroom all day while teachers rotate in and out. This works nicely, except on Friday, we only met with two teachers. Apparently we're going to have eight classes a day this week, but on Friday we had lots of time to chat and play card games. I taught them all how to play the wonderful card game of Spoons. The classes we did have were interesting. First, we had a class on Kichwa, the Ecuadorian indigenous language. I can now introduce myself in Kichwa and say how old I am! The other class we had was ecology. Both of these classes promise to be really interesting. I also feel comfortable in the classroom with my new classmates.

This coming week, I've got a full week of school; with the exception of Wednesday, when exchange students from Xplorer (four Americans and four Germans) have an Xplorer event. We all have to register with the Ecuadorian census of foreigners living in Ecuador and then we're visiting our embassies to receive a security briefing (this sounds interesting but will probably be boring). I'm excited about this meet up because when we last met up with the staff from Xplorer, they told us about a possible trip to the Galapagos Islands in December!

I continue to be more comfortable in Spanish. I can always get a point across, it's just with a bit of an accent and with some of the incorrect words. But everyone has been patient with me as I learn. I love getting all of your emails. Keep sending them! I'm sorry if I respond slowly. Nonetheless, I like the opportunity to hear from you all. Thanks for reading!

This is the corn grinder we used to make the tamales.

Here's a photo of me grinding up the corn, assisted by Dori's younger sister from Spain. She's also the one who finally killed the chicken!

Here's a photo of me in my uniform.


  1. So, how do you say "My name is Jimmy" in Kichwa? Inquiring minds want to know!!

    Alas, that yellow cardigan is probably not going to be a keeper. I'll dig up Rita Ann Higgins' poem, "Cardigan Wearers are Subversive." You'll soon appreciate it. Thanks for the wonderfully detailed blog.

  2. Hi Jimmy, this is Sean.
    Your post was kind of hard for me to understand because I was wondering what "fly crappy pants" meant.
    On another note, Tarren dropped off a picture of you, him, and Nick in 2001. I couldn't put it up on facebook, so I'll try to email it to you. We miss you here. Because your gone, mom is only yelling at me. Seamus is giving me a lot more affection. He's sleeping with me.

  3. I added myself as a follower again. I've got this issue with not remembering how to log in using the last follower address I created. I may just create a new one each time.

    Your blogs are a blast to read. We're missing you enough to check repeatedly to make certain there's nothing new from the last time we checked 90 minutes ago.

  4. Hi Jimmy, your blog is so interesting and I love the photo of you in your uniform. It seems strange to see you in long pants and a sweater as well! I golfed with your Grandma McDonough last night and you were the subject of our conversation. We are both thinking of you and enjoying all we hear of your stay in Ecuador. Love you, Grandma & Grandpa Steele

  5. I don't think yellow is your color, Jimmy. I hope you got those "fly crappy" pants fixed. Did you have to take them to the tailor?

    Being a vegetarian, I was appalled by the chicken story. ;) After grinding your own corn, you'll appreciate store-bought cornmeal when you return from the hinterlands.

    I hope you get to go to the Galapagos Islands in December. I'm sure that will be a lot of fun. You might step on a grain of sand stepped on by Darwin. There's a free copy of Darwin's The Voyage of the Beagle, in the iBooks store, which you can download to your iPad. You might like to read Chapter XVII (p. 771), "Galapagos Archipelago," before your visit.

    I doubt that anyone thinks your posts are too long. It sounds like you're having a good time.

  6. Ok, here's an excerpt from Galway poet Rita Ann Higgins' poem, "People Who Wear Cardigans Are Subversive" (Rita Ann gave you a cuddly Irish toy back in 1994, when you were a 'dear wee lad'):

    People who wear cardigans are subversive.

    I know a man who swore
    'All popes are good.'
    He was a C wearer.

    They are more likely
    to call their children strange names.
    I knew one with a sly neck
    who had a habit of saying
    out of the corner of his mouth
    'J.C.B. Kellogg and Dry Bread
    your tea is ready.'
    He was a seven day a week C wearer.
    Cravat merchants
    with skull rings at the gullet,
    devil worshippers,
    Claddagh ringers,
    duffle coaters, bin lidders.
    People who wear cardigans are subversive.

  7. Sorry about the madly written sentence, guys. I meant to write that the zipper on my pants broke while I was at school.

    Also, to say "My name is Jimmy" in Kichwa: "Nuka Jimmy mi kami." Alas, it seems like the Kichwa class was a one-off thing - it looks like I won't be taking that class anymore.

  8. The typing problems continue. I meant "badly" not "madly." Maybe I'm going a bit mad