Monday, November 05, 2007

All Soul's Day

We spent a nice All Soul's Day holiday in Ambato, which they call Finados there (come to think of it, I have no idea why or even what finados is!). The kids LOVE going to Ambato, and although we planned on returning Saturday (luckily we didn't, as the annual Mama Negra event in Latacunga was going on full force and it would have meant MAJOR traffic jam), Agustin begged us to let him "please stay one more day". As he usually gets his way (well, spoiling my kids with something like spending one more day on vacation is fun!), we agreed to stay.

He was reluctant on Sunday to go home, but we managed to get him back to Quito, where, two minutes after he walked into the house, he turned around and said, "OK, let's go back to Ambato now!"

Nicolas, on the other hand, had a hard time sleeping there. He wanted his bed back home, I guess, and would make frightened faces at the ceiling, as if he were seeing ghosts or something. He had to be put to bed in his grandma's arms, and once asleep didn't have any problems. Last night you could see the relief in his eyes when we put him into his own bed again. While Agustin has never had a problem sleeping in strange beds or bonding with people easily, Nicolas is a different story. We have decided to go back to Ambato the weekend before Christmas, to pick up my father in law before he goes on vacation, and therefore have an excuse to get Nicolas used to sleeping outside of the house.

Happily, I got a lot of reading done over the long weekend. I finished two books, The Sleeping Doll by Jeffrey Deaver
(not a big fan, not sure why I continue reading his stuff, I guess it is just escape reading and something I can get through quickly while kids are screaming and pinching and hitting each other, and not have to worry about losing my place),

and The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant,
a book I had wanted to read forever and which completely surprised me in the end.

I also started Naked by David Sedaris, and, as expected, it had me snorting (laughing snorting!) as I read.

Everyone was looking at me like I was nuts, but that guy is just hilarious! Too much!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

We missed Halloween, since, for some reason quite unknown to me, the neighborhood decided to celebrate it on Sunday afternoon. I didn't realize my mistake (silly me, thinking the trick-or-treating would take place today) until the doorbell started ringing nonstop at 6 pm on Sunday afternoon. I had to play the evil witch and pretend like no one was home since there was no candy in the house (and that is true - NO candy. Note to self: need to get to supermarket). Anyhow, last night I carved a green pumpkin (it was orange on the inside) into a cyclops face. Agustin was quite frightened and then offended this morning when he saw his jack o' lantern had only one eye. He told me to get another eye on him or throw the whole thing out because he wanted it gone when he got home this afternoon. And that pumpkin took me all night! Sure hope he has a change of heart when he sees it all lit up...

So Buzz Lightyear and Mickey Mouse will probably not go out tonight. But no fear, we got the cute pictures and, if that's not enough, look at the resemblance here... Now, can you tell who's who?

Saturday they got a little taste of a Halloween party at the Harvest Festival. Here we are with some others from playgroup.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Women in Power Meeting

Another successful meeting at the Ecuadorian Ambassador's Residence. I was (partly) responsible for organizing it and getting one of the panel members (executive director of a foundation here in Quito) to come. One of the panelists was the former Vice-President of Ecuador, Rosalia Arteaga (who, by the way, should have also been the President when Abdala was kicked out), another was the U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, and the other was the dean of students of a bilingual high school here. All the panelists were women and spoke about women in leadership roles.

A common thread that went among all four panelists was the fact that, as women, we need to believe in ourselves, remain truthful to our values/beliefs and families, accept people as they are and understand their strengths/weaknesses to better use them to our advantage, and focus on our work as professionals and role models rather than get caught up in the battle of the sexes. It was a very enlightening and enriching talk, and I was able to converse with some great people. The moderator did a wonderful job and everything came together so smoothly that you never would have imagined some of us were pulling our hair out to pull it off!

You don't know how hard it is to put together a meeting of this magnitude (and we only had 30 guests!) until you are part of the planning committee, so it is no wonder that some people sort of "take it for granted" and make trouble where there should be none. We almost found ourselves in a riot as some ladies got real upset that we are no longer going to email out the newsletter, but rather let them go to the web site and check it out (they seemed to think we were excluding them and playing favorites or taking away some inherent right they have to get the newsletter directly to their inbox). It is just a little embarrassing when older ladies, who are supposedly in it for their contribution to Ecuadorian society and charities, get into a shouting match at the Ambassador's personal residence over a newsletter...

Well, from what I've heard this has not been the first time and I doubt it will be the last...

Monday, October 08, 2007

Off to School!

Bright and early this morning, Agustin wanted to show off his uniform to his family back in Minnesota...

And then, he wanted to do a little pirouette...

And we can't forget little brother!

Doing Homework Together

Sitting down with Tin to help with homework is nice. When he cooperates. Last Friday his English teacher didn't send homework, but I don't know what will happen this week! As we sit and paint, color, draw, trace, cut and glue, baby brother looks on, apparently counting down the days until he can sit and paint, color, draw, trace, cut and glue with us!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Homework for Babies

OK, he's not a baby. But he's three, only two or three years away from baby-dom. He's a boy. He's his father's son (short attention span). And he gets homework every day!
At first the assignments were fun.
Scribble on a piece of paper with different colored pencils.

Scrunch up paper and glue it above the line.

Complete the drawings.

Paint all over the page.

Cut out things that are yellow and paste them to the page.

But little by little they are getting harder and longer.
Color the smaller circles blue and decorate the large circle however you want.

But the worst has been the English homework - it is only sent on Fridays but last Friday it was so long (about 8 pages - 2 parts of the body on each page - Agustin had to cut out the parts of the body and glue them under the corresponding word). Of course, he can't read, so who do you think gets stuck doing his homework?

Actually, I don't really do his homework. Most Ecuadorian parents do - which, obviously, makes no sense at all, although when faced with battling your 3-year-old to sit down for an hour and cut out miniature eyes from magazines and glue them onto a piece of paper, or just doing it yourself in five minutes - the choice doesn't always seem so black and white.

So, I am the mean mom who makes him do his own homework, the way he interprets it. Which means sometimes he goes out of the lines. Sometimes he glues things over the words. Sometimes his lines are far from straight.

So I get notes from his teacher: "I said to tear the paper and glue it, not rip it."

Was it a problem with my translation of trozar? Maybe not - after asking various people what trozar meant, I got such a variety of interpretations that I no longer knew what the teacher meant. He only got one star on that assignment, presumably because I didn't do it for him.

More than once people have hinted that maybe, if I want him to get good grades and be a good student, I should do the homework myself.

I can't even dignify that statement with an answer!

Back to School

I know, I know. It's a little late for a back to school post (although before the Ecuadorian School Curriculum Reform, schools would have been starting this week), but I have been so busy and haven't had any time to post at all. Also, it isn't technically a back to school post, since this is actually Agustin's first year in school (preschool). I still feel pretty strongly about the fact that he is only three until end of November, and thus, in my opinion, not ready for the vigor of Ecuadorian preschool, which is more like a kindergarten/1st grade mix, but what can a lowly parent do? Every teacher and administrator knows more than I (and me being a teacher myself!) and so, we can do nothing more than abide by the system, perhaps gritting our teeth a little along the way.

But more on how Agustin's doing later. The real question is: how are the parents taking it?
I must admit, it is exciting to see my little baby boy in shiny new shoes and uniform, marching off to school with a backpack slung across his shoulders. It is also heart-wrenching. He is so BIG! When I look at him with the eyes of a stranger I see an older boy, not a little recently-potty-trained and even more-recently-taken-off-the-bottle three-year-old boy.

It is fun to see and hear about all the different things he learned in school, and sad, also, knowing that his horizons are broadening and we (his parents) are no longer the only source of information he has. While it is a relief, at times, to know that someone else needs to take responsibility for things like teaching him numbers and letters and how they work, it is also disconcerting, especially when he corrects me (my Spanish, my knowledge of the difference between rip and tear, the way I taught him how to hold the pencil - wrong, of course). And the nerve of the teacher, which is cultural but also hard for me to stomach - sending home notes telling me that he needs his nails cut (and for pete's sake, they weren't really that long, either! We've had much longer!), or admonishing me for not getting him to complete his homework assignment ("He works so well in class and is so motivated, I wonder what his problem could be at home?"). (On a side note he does complete his assignments, but tires easily, which I happened to mention to the teacher, suggesting that perhaps they were a bit too long?)

Anyhoo, back to the beginning. We got his school supply list the first day of school, and was I ever in for a shocker! It seems that school supply lists in Ecuador are quite the science, since mine looked like a calculus formula or another language. Here, for example, is an excerpt (and following in parentheses a loose translation):
  • 1 caja de pinturas 12 colores PAX CROMO MEGA 5.5 mm lápiz gigante
  • 2 frascos de témpera grande: 473 ml. 16 oz. Azul-amarillo
  • 2 lápices triplux delgados, 1 borrador de queso
  • 1 tabla pegada fomix de 30x20 cm y 1 punzón punta metálica
  • 1 marcador de tiza líquida PAPER MATE EXPO (rojo)
  • 1 sacapuntas de caja doble orificio para normal y triangular
  • 1 diario escolar
  • 1 pliego de cartón corrugated (morado)
  • 1 cuaderno parvulario grande de 50 hojas anillado
  • 1 juego didáctico para 5 años, bloques lógicos 48-50 figuras
  • 20 cartulinas muresco o iris de colores tamaño INEN

  • (1 box of paints, 12 colors, PAX CROMO MEGA 5.5 mm gigantic pencil)
  • (2 bottles of big tempera paints 473 ml 16 oz blue-yellow)
  • (2 thin triplux pencils, 1 "cheese" eraser)
  • (1 30x20 cm table glued fomix and 1 metal-tipped "stabber")
  • (1 PAPER MATE EXPO liquid chalk marker - red)
  • (1 double-holed box pencil sharpener for normal and triangular pencils)
  • (1 school diary)
  • (1 large posterboard of corrugated cardboard, purple)
  • (1 large preschool notebook, spiral-bound, 50 pages)
  • (1 didactic game for 5-year-olds, "Logical Blocks, 48-50 pieces")
  • (20 cardstock A4 papers (Muresco or iris), various colors)

Well, things would have been easier if I had know that "paints" can also mean "colored pencils", a "cheese" eraser is a soft white one, PAX CROMO MEGA and Muresco/Iris are brand names, and there are certain kinds of pencils that are considered normal and others that are considered triangular (although honestly they both look the same to me). But these are the things I will learn, I guess. The list, by the way, goes on and on for a page more, including, among other things, 12 rolls of toilet paper, a towel (no size specification, although the original was sent back two weeks later with a note that we needed one slightly larger), baby soap, band-aids, cotton balls, colored Popsicle sticks, masking tape, glitter and regular glue, a 20-piece puzzle, various types and qualities of colored paper, fine markers, modeling clay, 2 used magazines for cutting up pictures, scissors, a bag of confetti, a hard-covered two-ringed folder... I could go on but you get the picture. (Notice that I'm not even counting the textbooks for class.)

Exciting! Imagine - those of you who know me can easily: I get to go on a shopping spree buying all kinds of stationery items - papers, markers, pens, pencils, glitter, glue, etc. I was thrilled, and not at all daunted by the size of the list...


I get to the store. Now, remember, it is the first day of class. All 6 million Ecuadorian students have entered class on the same day, receiving lists of various pages of supplies that need to be bought, not by next week but by tomorrow. Hence the mad dash to the stores.

I saw the line of cars, stopping traffic, outside of the store. But still I persisted on. I mean, really, when do I ever have "permission" to go crazy buying tons of things I wouldn't normally need? I needed this excuse to shop, so I took Agustin's hand and went in with him (he was also very excited too, by the way).

No carts. We waited at the cash registers for the first available and only waited a few minutes. Not bad so far.

Well, imagine a store the size of your local gas station, a store in which close to 300 people and their kids have walked into, a store that has in reserve probably 50 shopping carts of which every single one is used... it was CROWDED. To make it worse, as I didn't know what the bleep I was looking for exactly, I would inch my way to an aisle, and after 10 minutes make it there, painstakingly read the itsy-bitsy fine print on the mylars, only to realize that no, no mention of a triangular pencil. We spent about 1 1/2 hours doing this. Occasionally a worker would whiz by and be able to help for a fleeting second, but they were being bombarded by every other parent in the store and also clearly stretched to the limits.

All the while, Andres and the baby were out in the car. He finally decided to make an appearance, to my relief, and help out with some of the language barrier situations I mentioned above. It still took us another half an hour to determine that we had gotten most of what we could (some things were already out of stock) and then I got in line.

The line of the century.

This line stretched to the back of the store, weaving in and out of desperate shoppers and crying children. This line moved one cart-length approximately every 10-15 minutes. This line took us almost 2 hours to get through. Utterly exhausting.

Agustin was so good during the whole thing. He barely complained and remained in good spirits. I was a little more than irked, as you can imagine, but the closer we got to the register, the better I felt, knowing that soon we'd be going home. It got dark, Andres and the baby were sent outside to peer in through a large window at our progress as the store employees, tired and wondering when the stream of people may stop, decided to close the store 2 hours early.

We got home around 7:30 pm. I thought that my four-hour ordeal was nearing its close, but I was soooooo wrong. Next came the part that was really labor-intensive: putting Agustin's name on every notebook, bag, marker, pencil, piece of chalk, etc. And if you think I'm exaggerating...

Let's just say I'm not.

I was up until half past midnight, labelling all of his things in the Ecuadorian way. We had three plastic bags full of his supplies, all labelled (hopefully) correctly and organized for the teacher. We still had some things to get (every school-aged child in the country must be asked to bring cotton balls, because we couldn't find any in any of the pharmacies we went to), but for the most part we were finished. And I was exhausted.

It was going to be a long year...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Welcome Back

We are back home and getting back into things. Lots of work coming up - TEFL starting in September, two workshops for Thomson Heinle for Monday and Tuesday (that they just asked me to do today), the kickoff of the CEC Summer Reading Program on Wednesday, check signing on Thursday, a luncheon on Friday, an art exhibition at the end of September and jazz concert at end of October for Damas NyB, the Christmas Bazaar mid-November... Well, I've got a lot coming up. Which is fun. Until I find a great book and want to rest for a spat. Then it makes things seem reeeeeaaaaaaal tedious.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Coming to a MN Lake near you

Oh, the quiet and relaxation I will be experiencing in less than three days... sitting on the deck, watching the bats swoop down over our heads at the gnats waiting to eat us alive, swatting at mosquitoes, running after Nicolas as he attempts to dive kamikaze-style into the lake, catching Tin as he jumps Scooby-doo style into my arms after he hears a "scary dinosaur" in the woods behind the cabin... I can't wait to be in MN!

Oh the fun we will have! Cabin visits, baby showers for my sister Amy, playdates with friends I haven't seen in a LONG time, treks to the library (working on those biceps in order to carry away piles of books), shopping, shopping and more shopping (our true obsession - how lucky am I to get a husband who likes to shop more than me!), walks around the lake, sunlight until 8 or 9 pm, battling the mice in my grandma's basement, taking long drives around the state. We've got trips to Duluth, Two Harbors, Pine City, Mille Lacs, Stillwater (not really a "trip" per se), Hinckley (oh yeah, cha-ching!), downtown Mpls, and possibly Red Wing, planned.

We are arriving on Delta on Friday morning at 10 am, and I cannot wait for the heat to melt me! Won't be long now...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

This is what it is all about

I am flattered and excited. Recently I put up an article on Suite 101 about making Chicha de Avena. Now, most of you are probably wondering - what is chicha de avena? It's a fruity oatmeal drink, something quite popular here in Ecuador, and something I love myself. But if asked if it was something people would be looking for on the web, I wouldn't have really thought so. I myself, of course, have tried to find something, but never have.
Well, as the most wonderful creative writing teacher and one of the nicest, best people I know, Deborah Keenan once told me that, if you can't find it, then your obligation is to write it. (I've butchered what she said, of course. My writing is still rusty, and having two small boys at home isn't helping. But that was the essence.) Of course I believed her, but I'd never had the opportunity to experience it in action. Well, wasn't it my pleasant surprise to find Francesca, who, on her vegan blog, was very happy to (finally) find a chicha de avena recipe (with pineapple! my personal favorite, too) on the web. And wasn't I happy to see Deborah's advice become reality. So, watch out world, here I come, writing all the things I've wanted to read myself but have never been able to find! (Uh-oh, head for the hills!)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lunch with the Ambassador

OK, so it technically wasn't lunch, but on Tuesday we did have a meeting with the damas group at the Ambassador's residency in Quito, and it was quite a nice time. Ambassador Linda Jewel seems like an amazing person, and Ecuador, in my opinion, is very luckly to have her, especially during the presidency of Correa, which, at times, is a bit inflammatory. At the meeting she spoke about relations between the two countries and gave a lot of insight into how the U.S. plans to handle issues in Ecuador in the next couple years. After the last ambassador, I would say this is a wonderful, pleasant change.

And the house! It is a gorgeous, colonial mansion, so amazing! The grounds alone are remarkable, and the art within lovely and beautiful (part of the ART in Embassies program, I was to find out). Anyhow, it was a great day - informative, interesting, and great for networking. I met some important people from the Embassy, connected with some new friends, and even met (for the first time) a woman who happens to be "related" to me (through my husband). It was nice to see all the "damas" again, and I am so glad I went. No meetings now for the next two months, but I plan to try and remian active in the organization, regardless.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Library Day

Today is library day, which makes me very happy. So far, since finding the lovely damas library, I have checked out and read the following books:
  • Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson. A quick read, similar to those British chick lit books but maybe not as good as something by Jennifer Weiner, for example. Still, light reading and enjoyable, although not really my type.
  • The Book of Salt by Monique Troung. I couldn't finish this book, and actually did not enjoy it at all. Every time I felt like something was going to happen, the plot would thin out and leave me hanging. I did not like the second person voice at all, and felt like the narrator was too educated and insightful, almost pompous at times (under the guise of a humble cook), for who he was supposed to be, which made him completely flat in my opinion. The prose has some potential, although it felt like the author (this is her first book) was trying to hard to impress and would therefore forget about her plot and her characters. A little too verbose. Anyhow, NOT a recommendation, although I may check out something by her in the future. I don't know, I just expected more...
  • The Other Boelyn Girl by Philippa Greggory. I have read another book by Greggory, and enjoyed it (The Constant Princess). Her books remind me of when I was young and would read historical romance - I always loved getting wrapped up in a story from the past. I guess I like them because English royalty has always confounded me, and by putting the kings and queens into "real" characters, I feel like I understand it better. I feel like I am learning as I read. It is a long book and I haven't finished it yet, but it is interesting and well written.
  • Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult. I've read My Sister's Keeper, and enjoyed it. I like the suprise endings, and Picoult's writing is basically flawless. She can really move a plot along, although I did not understand the reason for giving background on the main character, Jack St. Bride. Anyhow, Picoult is good escape reading, and reminds me of why I love to read in the first place! I can finish a book of hers in a few days, a big plus for someone who can barely get reading time in.
  • The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd. I have been looking forward to reading something by Kidd for years. The librarian told me he has The Secret Life of Bees, which I have heard is better than The Mermaid's Chair, but I am glad I at least got to read something by her. Not my favorite book, but a quick read and different plot. I liked the descriptions of the settings.
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. WONDERFUL. This is a great book. It says "A Memoir in Books" on the front, and that is a good description. I would recommend this book to anyone. Not my usual choice of book, but even better than I had imagined!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Kids' Videos

I haven't been real good about adding cute videos I find online to this blog, but I thought this one was just too good to pass up. I know a lot of mothers use YouTube for entertaining their little ones, and oh! the things you can find on that site. Anyway, this was cute. I can imagine my Agustin really enjoying it. He loves anything animal-related.

Friday, May 18, 2007

An Invitation to a Barbecue

After months and even years of having no social life whatsoever, I am proud to announce that I have been invited to a barbecue at a friend's house, for tomorrow afternoon - the kids are invited too!

Sad, but true. And I am nervous, I won't lie, even though the people are very friendly and nice and the kids behave well with the other kids and everyone seems to get along... but imagine, after 12 years of almost no contact in a social setting with English speakers, I will be on my own for maintaining small talk (no Andres). Scary thought. If anyone has some suggestions, I'd be happy to hear them now!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thursday playgroup

Today is Playgroup and I am looking forward to it. I love that my kids can get together with other kids - all of whom speak English - and just chill out. I remember my parents getting together with their friends on Friday and Saturday nights, and we kids spending time with their kids playing games and with other people's toys (always a fun thing!), so I hope this is something that will stick around and they will remember fondly.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Lasagna Recipe

So, a little birdie told me that this weekend my mother made lasagna for Mother's Day and had the family over. Mmmmm, lasagna (said á la Homer Simpson). So, I got the craving and decided to make lasagna last night. I used a recipe from my Taste of Home magazine, but it just didn't turn out as I had hoped (I had to use provolone cheese instead of mozarella, but I don't think it was that, really). Does anyone have a great lasagna recipe to share with me?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Update on Agustin's School

Well, as most of you may or may not know, Agustin, 3, started preschool a few weeks ago. We put him in a place that was near the house, but after a few unfortunate incidents (luckily not involving him but other kids his age), we decided to find somewhere that was a bit more organized and not so impromptu. We found a beautiful school only a few minutes by car from the house, and immediately enrolled him. At first it was hard for him to make the transition. He missed his other school, his other friends, his other teacher. He didn't seem to hate the new school, but was sad and wouldn't talk - not one word the whole morning (very strange for him, let me say - he's not one to be quiet for long!). He was picking up on a lot of things, however - learning a few shapes (in Spanish) and some songs (unintelligible for the most part), but not really making friends as I understand. The teachers were impressed with his motor skills - he took up the scissors and color crayons and all right away (he practices with Mommy). But socially, not doing so good.

Well, last Friday he had a bit of a stomachache the night before and so we decided to keep him home since he seemed constipated (sorry if that is too much information for anyone - just normal Mommy-talk, I guess). Then, we stayed an extra day in Ambato this weekend and didn't get home until early Monday morning - so Tin missed two days of class. Today his grandmother brought him and all he did was cry!

After a few minutes of crying, the school decided to put him into the daycare program (in a separate area) of the school, with the other 3-year-olds, and he was so happy! He talked the whole morning, played with the other kids, made a friend (Martin) and said goodbye and see you tomorrow when he left. I am relieved, because it looks like they were pushing him too hard - while maybe not too advanced per se, perhaps a little over his head in a certain way. Anyhow, this way he will be with these new kids until next school year, when they will, together, enter preschool. I am much more comfortable with this - maybe this new school was too organized! Obviously, the kids had already been in the school for the entire school year, and Agustin was entering late, so was behind. It seems like he knew that. Also, this school made him work and play hard, and he would come home every day so crabby and so exhausted that we would end up fighting the whole night with him. I think he was just being pushed too hard.

So, that's the latest news in the Life of Agustin!

Hello again... Is it me you're looking for?

I am so ashamed - so long and I haven't written anything! I've been busy with a few translations, my CEC blog, writing for suite (a silly little hobby, perhaps, but very enjoyable), and work. Oh, and the two kids, but that's a given, isn't it?

May seems to be a busy month in Ecuador in the field of education. I've got a lot on my plate, but very fun and exciting stuff, which is nice for a change. Lots of workshops and seminars. I got to meet the author of the series English in Mind, Herbert Puchta, in an exclusive workshop for program coordinators at the Hilton Colon, and what a nice guy! And with so much to say about teaching teenagers - I will be able to use a lot of his ideas for upcoming workshops (teaching teenagers is always a big request with our instructors).

This month was also the AGM (Annual General Meeting for you non-Brits!) for the CRADLE Project, which I do consulting work for. We are also in the long process of revising the Our World Through English textbooks (Books 5 and 6 are the last ones on our agenda) and as I am in charge of writing the Grammar Pages, I have a lot to do there. Just editing the student's and teacher's book is a lot of work too, something that I need to get started on if we are to have them ready by September.

I was approached by the representative of Thomson Learning here in Ecuador and asked to possible be their educational consultant (perhaps not the right name?) - anyhow, what I would do is prepare workshops for English teachers on how to use their textbooks - and then travel around the country (at least the Sierra region) to give the workshops and answer questions about the books. Now wouldn't that be fun! I haven't heard back yet, so I don't know how that will work out.

Lastly, I have been busy with some longer translations. Once I get into them, I have a blast with them too - although since I have to work on the computer I quickly develop an aversion to the internet and blogging since I am working nonstop and at breakneck speed. Anyway, the translation was due today and it is finished after three weeks of wrestling with it. Let me just say, the internet is an amazing thing - can you believe that before I had to try to look for technical and field-related words by searching texts and dicitonaries? Now all I do is google the phrase and I can instantly determine whether I have the right phrase or not. What an amazing tool!

I joined the Damas, finally! And I now have access to an awesome library. I can't believe it took me twelve years here to figure it all out - can you believe what I've been missing!?

Well, I am just excited this month about work and stuff I am involved in. Some of it is dreary and upsetting (like when you have problems with teachers and students, some of which can get ugly), but on the whole, May is an exiciting time for teachers here in Ecuador, and it has also stopped raining all day - which can bring a smile to anyone's face. Now we just get a rainy afternoon - but blue skies in the morning! Woohoo!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Kisses for the Easter Bunny

Most three-year-olds incessantly ask "Why?" to everything. Why is the sky blue? Why is Minnesota far away? Why are dinosaurs dead? Well, you get the picture. My three-year-old, however, has not caught onto the "why" line of questioning. For him everything is "¿Dónde?" (where?).

Easter Sunday was a little rainy, and we had to conduct our Easter egg hunt indoors. Nicolas woke up first, found some eggs, had a good time throwing them around, and quickly lost interest.
Agustin woke up later and had a great time looking for his basket and eggs. Everything he pulled out of his basket was brandished before the camera so that we could record it for posteriority: what the Easter bunny brought Easter 2007.

After the excitement died down and candy had been eaten, Agustin settled down to watch a movie. Suddenly, he turned and asked me, "Mommy, dónde?"

"Dónde what, honey?"

"Dónde is the Easter bunny?"

I didn't know the answer. "I don't know where he is. Why?"

"Because I want to give him a BIG kiss!"

Monday, April 09, 2007

New monitor

Went to breakfast, came back, and the technician had changed my monitor to one of those new, flat screened monitors, like 17 inches or something. Wow, everything is gigantic, and I don't have to squint anymore to read what's on my screen. And no more glare! Last week I felt like I was going blind, but now maybe I'll get my sight back!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Back to the Grind

Back from Seattle and enjoying the craziness of being "Mommy" again. TESOL was amazing - before I went I thought it was a bit pricey for a teachers' convention (registration alone is something like $300), but after experiencing it firsthand, I have come to realize that it is actually a heck of a deal. Over 1000 workshops and presentations, poster sessions, the electronic village, publishers' booths, discounted books, freebies, etc. make it worth the money. But probably the best thing about the convention are the networking opportunities - having so many people with similar passions congregated in one place is phenomenal. Speaking with, meeting, and sharing ideas and stories with the authors of web sites, books, and newsletters was an awesome experience. Highlights of my time there were hearing Betty Azar speak, meeting the author of the TOEFL iBT preparatory books, and attending a workshop by Randall of Randall's Listening Cyber Lab. What a cool place to see and meet the people "in the know" of your profession!

It was also great seeing Dad and spending some "quiet time" with him. Just sitting back and relaxing our way through a conversation - a luxury when you've got a pre-schooler and a toddler!

Getting home was nice, too - connecting with the kids again and receiving their hugs and kisses - there are no words to describe that kind of satisfaction and contentment.

And the excitement of getting back to blogging after a short break... Well, I haven't been the most reliable at posting, but now, with my new PDA, I am expecting it to be a bit easier - for example, I am pecking this out while tucked under my covers here on a Saturday night at 9 pm as I wait for the inevitable rounds of crying, sleeping, and waking to begin. (That, my friends, is another post altogether, one titled "Why don't manufacturers come out with sleeping pills for babies?") Of course, this still won't get published until Monday morning when I come into work, but at least it is already typed and easy to transfer to my blog once I get Internet access. Maybe you'll be seeing more of me!

Monday, March 12, 2007

First Birthday

I will have to try and get some pictures up of Nicolas and his first birthday. We had a small party and he received some cute gifts. Of course, big brother monopolized the gifts and is having trouble using the word "yours" and not "mine" with them, but after the novelty wears off I suppose it will be easier. It is so hard to teach kids to share. I need some of your advice. Do I take the toy away and give it to the other one? Do I take it away and give it to no one? Do I force big brother to play with little brother and possibly get pushed or something else if little brother plays with the "wrong" toy?

In the meantime, I am enjoying the fact that the two are actually old enough to fight. I don't like seeing them grow up so fast, but it is fun watching them interact like little people.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Being a woman means being

invisible. It happens to me on a daily basis, mostly at work. I am the Academic Coordinator, responsible for the curriculum, teacher training, screening new teachers and deciding in the hiring process, creating materials, writing exams, and fielding students’ academic complaints. The sub-coordinator, who works beneath me on a mostly administrative level, is a man. When people come (especially men but also women, for that matter), they ask for him. They don’t believe me when I tell them that I, actually, am the one they want to speak with. They look at me suspiciously and then say, “Yes, very well, but I would feel more comfortable if I spoke to HIM (insert sub-coordinator’s name) directly.” And I am promptly ignored.

Today a gentleman came in looking for a job. I was with the sub-coordinator, and as I tried to help him with his questions, I noticed that he was not paying attention to me. Whenever I answered a question, he would look at the sub-coordinator and then respond. I would say it again, and he wouldn’t even acknowledge my presence. This often happens with Ecuadorians, although they are not always so rude as to not even LOOK at me as I speak. This gentleman, however, was from South Africa. Are men from South Africa known to be like this? I don’t want to generalize, but maybe there is something cultural that I am unaware of.

Whatever the excuse, it really annoys me. About a two years ago I refused to wear the uniform anymore because I was treated with such bias - like a “lowly” secretary, or someone that people could yell at and treat badly. (Of course I quickly learned that secretaries are anything but “lowly” having to put up with so much arrogance from others.) I would get a look as if to say “silly girl”, and a “A ver, mijita…” or “A ver, niña…” when I try to help them. They’d call me “little girl” or “little daughter” (already sexist terms), using a patronizing tone, as if I were someone of no consequence. Once I stopped wearing the uniform , the snide, rude, sexist remarks stopped.

It is bad enough that this happens with students and prospective teachers, but it also happens within the organization. It has been two years since we switched directors, and since then I have requested various times that I be put on the list of coordinators (a very important list in which all the important information such as meeting dates, etc. is communicated), to no avail. I remain off-list and yet am responsible for knowing the things which have been communicated through the list. How? Through ESP I guess, since I have asked over 6 times that my name be added to the list, and it never has. (I am the only female on the list, needless to say.)

This university is definitely an all-boys’ club. No room here for those bothersome women. And what are women anyway, but maids, secretaries, someone to go run off a copy or fetch a cup of coffee for you. Certainly not a peer. Definitely not someone with a higher position.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Women and Sleep

This seems to be a common theme today. I've seen two posts about it already, without even looking for it. Blogging baby had this to say about the subject, and one of the funniest blogs I read, The Sarcastic Journalist, had this to say.
What do I have to say? I have to say, I can relate. I am so tired all the time. I feel like I haven't had a decent night's sleep since Agustin was born. Even if I go to sleep at 8 pm, I am woken numerous times during the night. Often I have to sleep with one of them in order to get any sleep myself. I have tried letting the little one cry himself to sleep, and he does sometimes, but anyways my sleep is interrupted. When I do get a full night's sleep (once in a blue moon, like once every three months), I am so unused to it that I sleep like a brick and don't feel rested at all. Any advice out there?

More pics

Cool Slideshows

Another blog in the blogosphere

I've been largely absent on my blog lately. I've been really busy at work, which is the only place I can post blogs from, since Blogger doesn't like Safari much. I've also been working on the CEC blog, which I've created for CEC students but which could be used for English students in general. Here's the link. Check it out and leave a comment. It is a team blog, but so far (as you can see), I am the only one posting anything. I'm having a ball with it though as I learn how to embed youtube videos (easy) and other widgets like that cool Hangman game. Plus, I "get" to read books frm our library and post reviews, which gives me an excuse to read. And anything that gives me an excuse to blog, of course. Blogging rocks.

Nicolas recently had his one-year birthday. We will be celebrating this weekend, but we did have cake and a few presents on the real day. Here is the birthday boy now.

and another one:

and we can't forget his big brother...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Amazing Race in Ecuador!

For Amazing Race fans (not saying who that may be, although some of you out there actually know me!), the reality TV show has finally made it to Ecuador. I missed most of the episode, but there may be a bit left in Ecuador next week.

Walking, walking, ... GONE!

The baby is starting to walk. It won't be long now. He can take up to six or seven baby steps himself before he decides to get down and crawl, but he lets go a bit more every day. He loves crawling up the stairs, too, and has recently began doing so upright. And he recognizes things. "Where's the music?" and he points to the stereo mounted on the wall. "Where's mommy?" and he points to me. "Where's ñaño (brother)?" and we get an earful of gibberish, hand gestures included. makes you really wonder what it is that he is saying.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Can you guess where I'm from?

I just took a quiz called What American Accent Do You Have? Of course, they were able to nail it on the head. I was really happy to see the question: Do you think bag sounds like vague? questions, since we Minnesotans get a lot of grief for our alleged mispronunciation of all words like tag, bag, and flag (to the point where I've had Californians ask me to spell the word because they cannot for the life of themselves understand where I've just put my paper and pens).

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Midland

The South

The West

The Northeast

North Central



What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Kind of fun!

Just took this one, too.

You are 79% Minnesotan

You are urban Minnesotan, or at least from the suburbs, and you know your stuff pretty well! Great job!

How Minnesotan are you?
Make Your Own Quiz

I suppose I got the speed limits wrong, maybe some of the highways, too.

Monday, February 05, 2007

It worked!

Wow, the experiment worked. I am going to be trying to put up videos and everything. This should be fun!!! Now I just have to update the photos and also my sidebar! I've been reluctant because it took me so long to figure out and then I tried changing it and it didn't work well. Let's try again!

Edit: Notice my new voice mail widget! I don't know how it works yet, so if you do, please send me a voice mail!

Testing what I've Learned

I've been involved in some online workshops about using technology (blogs, internet, wikis, etc.) in the classroom, and I've come across so many great ideas. Over the next few days, I'll be experimenting with them and posting them somewhere so I don't forget! Here is the first experiment: a photo cube! how cool is that?
Cool Slideshows

Thursday, February 01, 2007

At work and liking it

I have to admit - I like to be at work. I am there now (and have been since early this morning), dreaming away my time on the internet, reading inspiring articles about teaching, catching up on what's new in the field, preparing classes and workshops, etc. etc. But I love the time I get here. Since I've had kids, I've been divided. Half of me wanting to go home, and half of me wanting to stay, just 15 more minutes, so I can get that "me" time.

On another note, my favorite author once said that having children turns your brain to porridge. Boy do I agree. In class I find that my lucid moments are further and further between as I try to think of such difficult words and phrases such as "I appreciate the observation you made", "perceptive", and - oh, what's that word - practice. Seriously. I can NOT think of words. I just go blank on the silliest thing. My mind stops working and, although I know exactly what I want to say, nothing comes out in the form of language. I can do the gestures, I can mimic my idea, but I can't get the simplest words out. So, what am I going to do about it? I'd appreciate comments. In the meantime I will start a word journal, copying down other people's thoughts and expressions until I somehow get over the bump. I blame it on the kids and hope that once they are a bit bigger my mind will become my own. But I don't know if that's fair. Can it really be their fault?

Can it be true?

I think we've done it - I think we conquered potty training. I can't claim victory yet - at night we are still in diapers. But during the day, we are accident free. I am soooooo psyched. I feel like this is bigger for me than it is for that cute little three-year-old. And it happened just like the books say. When he was ready. He was ready, and ta-da. There has been no going back.

Going now to do a little happy-dance.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Heat Wave

Funny how everything is relative. This month a "heat wave" was reported for Quito, with five days of record-setting temperatures in the city. I believe the high was 75 degrees. The weather has been lovely, needless to say. It has been humid for Quito, which means even though it may be 50 degrees it feels like a cool coastal morning. Mornings by our house are foggy and heavy, but the smell of the air! So fresh, so summer-like, almost like a living thing.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Back for the New Year

It's been awhile since I've written. I was back in MN for Christmas and the New Year, and it felt good to be back on my "turf". There was almost no snow and it wasn't very cold (I hear that's changing as I write), but it did snow for Christmas and New Year's, so we got our taste of it.

Things at work are hectic as usual. It always takes some time to get back into the routine after a long vacation. I'll be posting some pictures from our vacation later this week. In the meantime I am still trying to catch up with e-mails and planning our school cycle. Andres and I are trying to get things together for TESOL Seattle, and if that works out then we will be going in March. I would love to attend and just hope the university realizes what an opportunity this would be for our program. Andres will be presenting on Teaching English for FTA's or some other academic-sounding topic, so I'd love to go and see what he has to say about global English, too. (Don't think that just because we are married and live together we actually talk - those days are gone. Now our conversations consist of screaming over a kid's crying or playing or whining or... well, you get the picture. There is little "real" conversation, and much less work-related stuff, going on in our house at the moment).

With the new year I wanted to bring in some resolutions. I've always got more to do, more I want to do, I should say. But I still haven't been able to narrow them down yet. They say that you should only choose one or two do-able resolutions, and so I have spent the last two and a half weeks trying to decide which ones seem the most do-able. Of course, at this rate, my 2007 resolutions will quickly become my 2008 resolutions, so I guess I just need to commit. At the top of my list are (not necessarily do-able, however):

1. get in shape and lose weight/become healthier (I mean, really, it wouldn't be a new year without this one, right?)
2. actually sit down and write, whether it be my blog, work-stuff, a new blog (you know I can't resist!) or just a journal, but I want to exercise my writing hand more.
3. start a blog on Ecuador. Hopefully it would be enough to get me back to those feelings of awe that I had with the country pre-kids, pre-EPN, pre-stressed-out life with mortgage and debts and visa worries. Not ignoring the daily grind, but finding the joy in it.
4. and I guess I could always be a happier person, try to make more friends and keep in touch more with the ones I've got. Maybe try and reach out more at a social level with the Americans who live here and work for us.
5. oh, and I can't forget my work-related goals. Broaden my teacher training experience through other universities and establish contact with other programs, in and out of Ecuador. Start a teacher newsletter, student blog, increase usage and exposure of our wiki, etc. etc.

Now if THAT isn't enough to just sigh and want to give up and wait for 2008, I don't know what is!