Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Guayaquil, the Pearl of the Pacific (although not even on the Pacific)

I spent last week in Guayaquil, at the Catholic University, leading training for their teachers: Collaborative & Cooperative Learning and the Flipped Classroom.

  • Meeting new teachers. My two groups were pretty nice. Smaller than usual (only about 8-12, depending on attendance), which actually gets more difficult as I have to talk and interact more (rather than just guiding them to help each other), but nicer in the sense that I got to know them a bit better than I do when there are so many.
    First collaborative activity - understanding critical load
  • The weather! In Quito we are (slowly) transitioning into summer and warmer days (a bit), but I LOVED the weather in Guayaquil this week. Not too hot (well, there were a couple days, but it wasn’t horrible) and not cold at all. Short sleeves the whole time and beautiful and breezy at night. The only sad thing is that the hotel doesn’t have an outdoor area to enjoy the night weather.
    Orchids at the Guayaquil airport

    Loved checking out the flowers while I waited for my luggage.

    There's even a small pond with fish.
  • Some time to read. I just finished “Educated” by Tara Westover and it was. so. good. Most nights I actually fell asleep while reading, but just to have that time, nothing else to do (like laundry, cleaning, getting things ready for the next day, etc), was really nice.
  • Getting out for a couple of walks midday. Of course I chose the sunniest and hottest days (Monday-Wednesday), but I was happy with myself for getting in some movement and seeing the city a bit. Only problem (there’s always a problem in my book, lol) is that in downtown you have to pretty much stop at every light and wait to cross the street, so it wasn’t a very “fluid” walk.
    The estero salado. Probably the hottest day and the day I went the furthest.
    Love this little park right on the edge of downtown, by the water. 

    Second walk. Remembered my hat this time.

    Tried to find shade wherever I could.
  • Facetiming with the boys every night. Of course this is actually a bit hard as well, since when I don’t see them I don’t miss them as much (a little like “out of sight, out of mind”), and when I do see them I feel sorry for myself that I’m not with them. But I loved the fact that they actually wanted to see me at night (especially Nico, Agus was a little more nonchalant about it).

Low points:

  • Teaching in Spanish. Feeling so NOT fluent in the language. Not knowing the “classroom language” needed to manage the class, organize the students, transition from topic to topic, etc.
  • Trying to get used to the Guayaquileño accent. This one is hard. It’s always amazing to me how isolated we are from the Coast, and vice versa. In such a tiny little country the differences seem so large. And the differences aren’t only language. It’s almost like going to a different country. Definitely a bit cool, but also somewhat unsettling.
    Morning group (I forgot to get pictures of the afternoon group).
  • Working nine hours a day. Originally it was going to be two, four-hour sessions, but at the last minute they changed it to two, four-and-a-half hour sessions. Hard on my feet, harder on my mind, and by the end of the day I can barely get a decent word out in Spanish.
    One of the views of campus, of the tall building that sits on the hill overlooking the estero.
  • Only having 2.5 hours between sessions. The hotel is nearby, so I either take a taxi back for lunch, or a teacher drives me. But because of traffic, it can take up to a half hour. That’s there and back, leaving me only with 1.5 hours to get food, eat, try to rest and/or see something of the city before I’m back to the room.
  • Not having windows in my room. It can be depressing to be between those four walls all morning and all evening, not having any look into what’s going on outside…
    Really hard to get people to class on time.
  • Changes at the hotel where I usually stay. The most notable was that the hotel restaurant was no longer open for lunch, nor was it open on Friday night. So I had to eat lunch out most days (which the university pays for if eaten in the hotel, but how can I do that if they aren’t open?), which cuts into my wallet and rest time, not to mention isn’t very friendly since I am downtown and there isn’t a whole lot of trustworthy places to eat nearby. I mostly had lunches from the take out at El Oro Verde hotel – very good, pretty healthy, but expensive!
    Hotel lobby, waiting for my taxis. I spent a lot of time here, waiting, waiting, waiting.
  • The other change was in the hotel menu. They had pared it down to about 1/6 of what it used to be. Now there were almost no shrimp dishes (my go-to) besides ceviche, and only two beef dishes and two chicken dishes. A pasta (fettuccini alfredo) and a salad (Caesar drowning in dressing – delicious but NOT good for me). A couple of sandwiches. No appetizers. Nothing small if you just wanted a light dinner. It would normally not be such a big deal, but when you’re in the same hotel for an entire week, it gets quite monotonous. Well, I did not go hungry (not in the least), but it would have been nice to have a few more options.
    Chicken in mushroom sauce. This was on the last day and probably the best dish on the menu. They used to have a much better, more delicious selection.

    Ceviche. Good, but not like most Ecuadorian ceviche. The smallest thing on the menu for a light dinner. Also nice in the heat.

    I do not like meat that looks like that.

Not a whole lot goes on while I’m away (even though I wrote a lot!). The days pretty much blend one into the other, and sometimes I would walk into one of the classes, for example the afternoon class, and feel like I hadn’t even left. Surreal.

Monday, May 21, 2018

This weekend...

This weekend was relatively quiet. The boys just finished exam week (hello Bloque 6 - you are the last of the school year!) so there was no homework. On Saturday the kids got much needed haircuts. They go to the barbershop and it takes them about a total of 20 minutes, from wait to finish, but you'd think we were asking them to give up a kidney the way they protested!

There was some cleaning and picking up and trying to get the house organized after a busy week.

There was crocheting on the couch while listening to podcasts.

There was some (just a little) watching of the royal wedding (Prince Harry married an American, Meghan Markle).

There was playing board games on Saturday night (Smallworld) and getting excited to find some new favorites this summer in MN.

There were a lot of requests to play Minecraft (Nico got a screen recording app he is really excited about - he wants to become a YouTuber famous for his Minecraft tutorials and videos and has been monitoring his "likes" very closely - apparently it is not ok to just have "likes" from your family). Andrés flipped out quite a few times because of those requests. He seems to think his screen time when he was little (which was a LOT) was somehow better than the screen time of kids nowadays (I tend to disagree). This is making for a lot of arguments in our house at the moment. I agree that screen time needs to be monitored, but we can't get over the fact that nowadays so much of daily life is on our phone: text-messaging to keep in touch with family and friends, reading ebooks/magazines, watching the news, reading the paper and news articles, watching videos to learn a new craft or art or basically just about anything your heart desires, listening to music and reading the lyrics of your favorite song, etc. Only a small portion of our phone use is even about gaming. It's difficult (not impossible) to reconcile all of this so-called "screen time", but there is no way you can compare today's screen time with the screen time of the past (TV - which was so much more passive). Minecraft, their game of choice, is a platform that is so rich in terms of creativity, imagination, collaboration, and problem solving, that it is difficult for me to see it as a mere "video game" anymore. I've played Minecraft, and it is seriously all of those things above, and fun to boot. In addition, there is no getting over the fact that Minecraft is basically digital Legos, so it is no wonder my kids love it so much, when they've loved Legos their whole lives.

Speaking of Legos, I spent my Sunday in Lego hell. The kids haven't been playing with their physical Legos much anymore, and they are all over the place, so I've been working (slowly) on getting the sets organized and the Legos put somewhere for later. I'm not sure what "later" will entail - selling them? giving them away? saving them for grandkids? The only thing I know is that we probably have over $3000 in Lego sets and I am very reluctant to put them away forever (or give them away to nonfamily for free), but super excited to fix up the kids' rooms so that they are more in tune with what they need as teens/preteens. However, picking apart and sorting teeny tiny Lego pieces for over eight hours is not a lot of fun. My thumb, back, legs, butt, and fingers were killing me by the end of the day, and a few times I broke down and just started crying from the sheer pain. My fingernails were destroyed and my fingers started bleeding at the end of the day. I won't lie that part of me was also crying because I felt so sad that this stage in our life was drawing to a close. The boys are so big, not really "boys" anymore, and it's fun but also sad. I just get too darn emotional!

The boys eventually came in to help, but here was the problem: Nico got so excited seeing his Legos again and all the "cool pieces" in the sets I was taking apart, that he decided to open up and mix all the bags I have been carefully putting together. I went from telling him no way, to letting him open some bags, to just letting him do whatever (with the promise that he would somehow keep them picked up and contained). We brought the card table down from upstairs and put it in his room so he would have space to build, and soon he came up with a really cool airplane, all from his own imagination.

So, the Legos got picked up (somewhat) and then messed up again, but what can I say? The fact is I am happy he is playing with and getting excited about them again (he gets excited about a lot of stuff - love that kid) and how could I possibly say no to playing with his own toys!? Yet, I can't help but want to cry again, thinking of all the work I put into getting those things organized and the fact that now they are not.

Sigh. #legomom LOL

Friday, May 18, 2018

Hills and stairs

A walk (uphill) to a nice new bakery near work (sort of near - about 1 mile away). I got some German seed bread and walnut cookies and Andrés got a cinnamon roll. It's fun to find new places around town since we don't get out much.

I appreciate getting my daily walk in early in the morning, and not having to worry about it when I get home (especially on a Friday night), but the uphills and stairs kill me!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Ice cream for all

Sunny afternoons call for ice cream! I do not usually partake in the pleasures of ice cream when the family does, mostly because it is usually not hot enough for me to want some (not because I don't love it!). Andrés is really the one who loves ice cream the most, and Agus likes it (although lately he has been very nonchalant about food in general - not really sure what that is about, since he used to get really excited about it), and Nico has informed us that he DOES NOT LIKE ICE CREAM AND NEVER HAS. Ha. 

Anyhow, it was one of those rare occasions where we all agreed that ice cream sounded good. We made a quick stop at the tienda and all decided on ice cream sandwiches! (Andrés wanted the new Barcelona one, which is with rum raisin ice cream, but the rest of us wanted vainilla).

It is Bloque 5 exam week, which usually means cramming  studying, but since the kids both participated in the Multiple Intelligences week at school, some of those activities were doubled and used as test grades. So tonight we had a rare night off from homework and studying.

Nico used it to find a screen recording app for his laptop.

He is really psyched to become a "YouTuber" who gives Minecraft tutorials. He has become a bit obsessed with these videos. It started with paulsoaresjr and now he likes to watch others (whose names I do not know but should probably find out). Now he is inspired to create his own. Today he found a free app that lets him record himself through his web cam as well as his screen and he was very excited to show me the results. (And it was quite good!)

"Chicken jumbalaya" for supper. We had most of the ingredients. Nico was a fan, Agus was not (doesn't like those creamy soupy chicken sauces). I have to say, Agus tried more ingredients on his (green pepper, onion, almonds, pineapple, cheese - all yes, celery - a not-so-much) than Nico (cherries and almonds and cheese).

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Memory Lane

I took a little trip down memory lane this afternoon. I decided to clean out the little junk drawers in our kitchen table and came across these flashcards.

I remember sitting here not that long ago and, before meals or between courses, or sometimes even during the meal itself, using these flashcards to quiz the boys, as they learned addition, subtraction, and their multiplication tables. Packing them up to throw out/give away made me

  1. sad - how can this time already be over? it went by so quick! 
  2. and happy - they learned their numbers! 

On a different note, the weather here has been the pits. Cloudy, rainy, and cold (if it rains in Quito, it's cold!). Every other day, however, it seems we get a glimpse of the sun, so the "season" is starting to change. We'll be paying attention because with the change of season there are usually small tremors and quakes that start up, then a big one to shake it up a bit. That's when everyone knows the weather has flipped over to summer.

Something that has really enjoyed the cool temps and constant drizzle is my carnations. They haven't been blooming well and I thought either the plant was dead or past its prime, but today I saw them and they're thriving. Tons of buds on them too.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Take a deep breath

It was strange today not to be taking pictures of every little thing. I always feel a little lost after a project like this. I wanted to take more pictures but then kept stopping myself (I don't know why?). It's not like I can't take as many pictures a day as I like (although I do have the bad habit or never erasing them off my phone).

Today was quiet. I had an appointment with my lung doctor, and everything looks clean and good. My nose is still a little stopped up, but apparently that's the "model" I received. I have to finish a round of nebulizations this week and then he said I don't need to come back unless I feel asthma-like symptoms again. He kept me on a few pills for a month more, but took away most of them (yay! I was getting tired of paying $200+ a month in only his prescription!) and kept me on a nasal spray. Let's hope this does the trick! I need to get my breath back so I can exercise, lose weight, and in general live.

I also had an appointment with my gynecologist and things look okay so he won't see me back until September. This whole pre-cancer thing has been quite a journey, but I guess (I know) I should be grateful that modern medicine has taken us to the point that they can better prevent fatal diseases in the future. I know my pocketbook will be grateful.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Week in the Life | Sunday (Words + Photos)

And here we are - at the finish line!

It was a lot of fun to participate in Week in the Life 2018 and I am so glad I took the time to get posts up on my blog. Hopefully, this will make the album easier, but even if I don't end up putting together a physical album, I will always have these memories.

And super fun to see comments from Jennie! Thanks for putting up with these looooong posts, Jen! :)

Today was Mother's Day. This is a super big deal in Ecuador and through past experiences we have come to the conclusion that it is almost never worth it to go anywhere on this day. The few times we "break" our rule, we find ourselves in some situation that is stressful and not at all the way I'd like to spend my day.

I'm not one to make a huge deal out of these kinds of days anyways, but we definitely had to celebrate Andrés's mom, so we decided to stay home and make lunch for everyone at our house.

Finally had a day to sleep in a bit. Although Andrés ended up waking the kids up around 7:30 to make me breakfast.

The boys made me pancakes, bacon, juice, and coffee. Andrés recorded them and it was fun to see them working together to get everything just right. Nico, who has always been more interested in cooking than his brother, helped Agustín along. Agus took it in stride, even when he burned himself flipping the pancakes (they were delicious!). I loved seeing (on the video) how Nico put his fractions to use (he "hates fractions" - his words): he needed 3/4 cup milk, and got out the 1/4 cup and the 1/2 cup. Agus asked him why he was doing it that way and he proceeded to explain to him that it was the same as using the 1/4 cup three times.

Originally breakfast was going to be in bed, but how was I going to be upstairs eating with everyone else downstairs at the table? So, Nico came and got me and we had a delicious pancake breakfast together.

After breakfast I worked on rolling yarn and Agus got some homework done. Next week they start bloque exams, but they both conveniently forgot their books, so they "couldn't study".

Nico went upstairs to play with Legos. It just isn't the same anymore, however, with Agus not interested in Legos anymore and having to play by himself, so his play was a bit lackluster. I asked if he wanted me to play with him but he said no.

These kids have some seriously cool Legos. What do we do with them all? I would hate to sell them or give them away, but they take up a lot of space. I need a basement. Or a storage unit. So many toys to get rid of that I just can't bring myself to throw out or give away. I can't believe we're at that age that I have to start thinking about this. Where has the time gone!

I finally got around to taking my shower. Every weekend I say I'm going to get up earlier and get my shower taken earlier, but I never do. Today I was going to go for my walk first, before everyone came over, but it started to rain so I decided to help Andrés with lunch instead.

On the menu: roasted chicken and boiled potatoes with a peanut sauce (much like the gallinas de Pinllo everyone loves). I was in charge of the peanut sauce.

I also tried this South Beach Diet salad. Cucumbers, mint, feta (had to use ricotta, which here has the same consistency), and avocado. The mint was too strong and the ricotta too bland. Nobody liked it much, although once I took out the mint I liked it a bit better. It was definitely healthier than the rest of the meal!

Bati came and snapped this picture. So funny. Love these SnapChat filters on the kids - they always look so angelic.

Excited to see what's going on back home. It looks so nice outside - what a change from last month! Love this picture of my nieces and nephews together. Can't wait to get one (or two, or three, or...) with all of the cousins. We are so ready for our vacation!

Receiving my gifts. Agus had to give me kisses three times so that we could get this picture. Haha. Agus's gift was two large glass mixing bowls. Nice!

From Nico I got a beautiful tablecloth. Obviously Andrés bought the gifts. I don't think the boys even knew what they were giving me. So funny.

Selfie time.

Even got Agus to get a selfie with me.

Talking, catching up on family gossip.

After lunch we went upstairs to see that morning's video of the boys making me breakfast. It was long.

Meanwhile, Bati needed to go grocery shopping. He asked the boys to go but two days in a row was too much for them and they said a resounding NO! Until I reminded them about something we had talked about yesterday (not always loving what you're doing but doing it anyway if it makes someone else happy). Wow! That reminder actually worked and both boys immediately got up and got their shoes on to keep Bati company at the store.

Agus now sits in the front seat. That's a huge milestone for this generation.

At the store Bati picked up a brownie mix, which Andrés made for the cafecito. Once everyone went home we gave the boys a little more to eat and then we cleaned up, did dishes, etc. while the boys took their evening showers and got uniforms and lunches ready for tomorrow.

As I waited for Nico to get out of the shower so that we could do our nightly reading, I started on my second square for my multi-colored blanket. It's going to be a loud one!

After reading and "peluche talk" I felt bad about not having gone for my walk (it rained the whole day). Thought about getting on the treadmill but it was past 10 pm, so did some arm exercises instead. Then read until about 11:15.

And just like that, Week in the Life is over! Once again, I'm so happy I took the time to do this and hope to buy the kit that goes with it so I can also make a physical album. But I'm also excited because I got back on my blog this week and would love to keep at it. (With much shorter posts, of course!)

Hope you had a good week!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Week in the Life | Saturday (Words + Photos)

Happy to be starting the weekend, even if this weekend will be busy-ish in the mornings and there won't be much sleeping in.

I tried to get up at 6, but simply couldn't get myself out of bed until 6:30. I don't know why it's so hard to wake up in the morning. It doesn't seem to matter how many hours of sleep I get. Thyroid? Sinusitis? Allergies? Who knows.

These two took their showers at 7 and then came down for a quick breakfast.

Of course, as usual, Andrés teases Nico that he's going to make him eggs for breakfast. Nico has recently informed us that he does not like eggs, AND NEVER HAS, thank you very much. I don't blame him as I was never a big egg fan myself when I was younger (strangely enough, I like them now).

Eggs with salsa for Andrés and I, PopTarts ("tostadas americanas" according to Shushú = American toast) for Agus, cereal for Nico. I also had some crackers with this almond butter I got from Trader Joe's in Chicago. This stuff is seriously delish.

On our way out the door. All of the guys prefer to pose for pictures rather than have me get candid shots (my personal preference). I have to be sneaky and turn off the volume on my phone and then take the shot, pretending I'm on Facebook or something.

I don't always fool them. Agus obviously doesn't trust what I'm up to.

Getting in the car. Until recently, Nico would always try to get in on the same side as Agustín. He still sometimes does, to the annoyance of his brother, who does not appreciate being climbed over by a huge twelve-year-old.

Nico notices that I'm taking pictures and decides to sabotage my efforts. This is really funny to him. To me too.

Looks like it might be sunny. It's 8 a.m. and we'll be outside the whole morning, so I really hope it's warm enough for no socks.

15 minutes later we are at the school. We send the kids ahead of us so they can get into their classrooms and do what they need to do.

Love how Agustín turns around and gives me the peace sign. I think sometimes the whole Week in the Life, Project Life, Day in the Life etc. projects seem silly to them. But they're so much fun looking back on. How lucky are we to live in this day and age where documenting the little (and big) things in our lives is so easy!

Taking a look at the stage before we go down and the kids get there. Today the school is celebrating Family Day (a combination of Mother's Day, Father's Day, and Kids' Day - celebrated here on June 1st). There will be lots of dancing and singing performances.

Love that the boys sat next to each other. Love that Agustín pays such close attention to the performances, while all the other students talk and chitchat. Love that he complained afterwards that he couldn't hear his classmate's, Maria Emilia's, poetry reading because the kids were too loud and no one paid attention. He was always attentive and respectful like that.

I imagine it is so annoying to listen to me go on and on about how cold I always am. But it's just the worst and knowing we only have one life to live I always second guess where I've chosen to. I really need to live in a tropical climate.

Nico was in the choir with 4th, 5th, and 6th (his) grade. I don't know if you could call this a choir. They sang a song from Sin Bandera: "Que me alcance la vida". Super depressing and sad song for a Family Day celebration but we practiced it all last night and he finally knew the words. Just in time!

Back at home we took out the recycling. Nico turned this boring task into a game by throwing the containers into the corresponding bins, like shooting baskets.

Nico's shoes "exploded" last week, so we took a new pair off his shelf. This is how we do it - buy 1-2 pairs per size while in the States and then we have them ready to go when they need new shoes. A new pair of shoes here (brand name) costs about $250 or more. So, we'll keep bringing them on our trips. It saves a lot of money in the long run. Soccer kids really go through shoes.

We went out for Mother's Day today. Tomorrow will be too crazy and busy. The boys wanted to go to Chili's. They've never liked Chili's much but now they do. Go figure.

Bottomless tostada chips for the win.

Agus wanted to try something new this time, so he got the chicken strips with country gravy. He likes this type of dish - gravy and biscuits or gravy on fried chicken. Andrés got a Philly cheeseteak sandwich, but he didn't love it.

Nico and I shared a dish (an adult size is still too big for him, and I don't need the extra calories). Nico chose Honey Chipotle Crispy Chicken Crispers - sauce on the side. He wanted the corn but gave me some of the fries and half the chicken. It was more than enough for the both of us and really delish. Loved leaving the restaurant without feeling so stuffed and full.

A quick trip to the grocery store to pick up some groceries for tomorrow's lunch. Oh, these kids were NOT happy at all. They whined and complained the entire time, but they did smile for the photo. They do not like grocery shopping, and I can't blame them because I never did at that age, either, and still don't (much).

Got home and the sun was shining so I made the decision - without thinking about it much (or I would talk myself out of it) - to take my walk. I really want to work up to three miles a day. Right now I'm at three kilometers (about 1.8 miles) and it takes me like 45 minutes (so out of shape!) so I need to build up stamina a bit more. But so happy I'm making this a habit.

Not a lot of beauty on the walk - but saw these pretty wildflowers and had to get a picture.

Back home I rested a bit, did some light cleaning and prep for tomorrow (was feeling quite sore - feet and knees especially) and then started on a new blanket. I'm following the Moogly 2018 CAL and decided not to buy new yarn for it. I'm going to use up all the bits and pieces of yarn that I have. It will definitely be colorful and may not work color-wise but I don't want to buy more yarn until I've used up my stash.

Andrés wanted me to get a picture of him opening his Hickory Farms set - which we decided to have for supper (a "tablita" of ham and cheese as they say here). Getting the daily meals on the table would never happen if it weren't for Andrés. I'm too lazy and it overwhelms me to constantly come up with things people want, then make sure I have the ingredients and then actually make it. I'd rather be crocheting.

After supper Andrés didn't want the kids on their devices so he pulled out Pokeno. Agustín put some music on in the background (his playlist, although he quickly noticed Hannah had updated hers) and we divided up the chips. Nico wasn't too happy (he is obsessed with Minecraft and resents anything that takes his attention away from it, which means this type of activity is very healthy for him), but as we played, he warmed up a bit more.

Agus beat us all! "That's why" Nico doesn't like to play, he quickly informed us, because he "never wins."

Once again, the nightly routine: PJs, brush teeth, read Harry Potter with Nico while Agus plays on his phone or listens to music, then "peluche talk" and bed. Tonight after the kids went to bed I made Andrés and I a gin and tonic (which turned out so good) and he turned on the TV. The only thing playing was an old movie ("Land of the Lost") - which was so bad and horrible and...well, I've "seen" this movie a few times and it doesn't impress me - it actually makes me feel like the human race is on its way to extinction. Needless to say, I fell asleep in the middle and that was it for me!

One more day of Week in the Life!