Weekend Activities

6 Oct

Teaching a night class is hard enough. Teaching a night class on Friday night is even harder. Of the few students that actually showed up, they were all pretty rowdy and anxious to get out. Starting Friday I had to initiate a system of punishment in the form of fines. I got the idea from my host mother who told me that it’s pretty common in Ecuadorian schools.

Anytime someone is on their phone, talking while someone else is speaking, or speaking in Spanish, I fine them 10 cents. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but the students are not happy about it. They moan and whine, and I’m hoping they get their acts together soon. Mainly because the money is going towards extra photocopies for homework, which means I’ll have more to grade.

Of course, just as I’d taken money from someone, my phone started to vibrate and all of the students yelled that I had to pay 1o cents. I told them that I didn’t answer the phone and only had it on for a clock. The person who was calling was actually my field director who was in town for the weekend.

After class and dinner, a few of us met up at Cafecito, a cool little hostel/cafe/bar where not only tourists hang out, but actual, real-live Ecuadorians. We grabbed a couple of drinks and then headed over to a salsa bar. We must not have gotten there until midnight, because before I knew it, it was 2:30 a.m. The club had this weird policy where you were handed a sheet and every drink you ordered was tallied off, and you would pay, along with the cover, before you left. It seems to me that it’s in a bars best interest to collect the money as soon as possible.

I must have had more to drink than I realized because on Saturday I was feeling pretty tired and hungover. I took it easy for the most part, the only activity before lunch being a trip to a local store to finally buy a new watch. I knew I didn’t want to pay more than $10, and was working on my best haggling techniques. The man in the shop could only offer me two used pieces of junk for $10, the next cheapest thing being $15. And that was another piece of junk.

I pulled out all of the tricks. “No sea malito,” which is essential for haggling in the Sierra. I told him that my watch was stolen in a bus robbery, that I was a volunteer that made very little money, and that I was in Cuenca to help. After about ten minutes he finally caved and told me anything from a particular row was $10. So after all I got the price I wanted, and now have a newish, kind of shiny silver piece of junk watch. I’m pretty sure it’s made from scrap parts because one side of the watch says “Citizen” and the front says “70 China Army.”

I tried to grade some homework assignments too, but it was agonizing. Going over the same worksheets in remedial English is draining, and after 3 I had to take a nap. After that I only got through 3 more.

On Saturday night my host sister Chio was organizing a city tour and a trip to Turi, a spot on a hill that gives a view of the entire city. I thought we were just jumping on a city bus and heading up and back, but it turns out we were going in a privately rented city bus turned party bus. The guests were from different parts of the country, and they’d been in town for the Microsoft function at the university that Chio was hosting.

As I got on the bus I tried to hand someone 25 cents, until I realized that it was all for a party. The guys in the back were going crazy and having a great time, and we got a brief explanation of what we were seeing as we headed up to Turi. The view was nice, and I’ll definitely have to head back during the day. After the tour we wound up going to a couple of different bars. The first one was the size of someone’s basement with a couple of people dancing. It was cowboy themed, and I was the only gringo in the place. Everyone stared at me, but it was OK. Someone handed me some very strong, hot tea with alcohol, and I only took a few sips because it was so strong.

After that we headed to another bar where we were lead upstairs and a live singer gave a shout out to a Colombian guest of honor, Willy, for his birthday. The nice thing about being the only gringo in the group is that when you walk into a bar or club, everyone looks at you, but differently. There’s a look of question, as to why this gringo would be with so many locals. Obviously, you aren’t a common tourist, and there’s more to you that they’d like to know about.

Some of the people you’re with even open up and talk to you. Willy was very interested in talking, and we had some good conversation. He invited me to stay at his place in Bogota whenever I want. After a long enough day I called it quits and was going to get ready to head to Cajas National Park on Sunday.

When I woke up, however, I found out that the trip was canceled because the bus driver was sick. A compromise was to go to Banos, a local thermal spa with some hiking. I was told we’d be back by 4, which was good because I had to get to work on my lesson plans for the next day. First we headed to a mall where we had lunch. I finally got to try some Ceviche, a popular dish in Ecuador. It was good, with shrimp, mussels, and a bunch of other stuff I couldn’t identify. It also came with banana chips, yucca, and popcorn.

By the time we left the mall an hour and a half later, it was getting late. We got on a bus and I was surprised to see that we got off at another, bigger mall. Apparently we were going to bowl, but the lanes were full, so we went to an arcade where I watched some people play Dance Dance Revolution. I was tired and just wanted to get back to work, but we stayed for a long time before heading back over to the bowling alley.

I’m not good at bowling, but I was in the lead for most of the game until finally at the end I was beaten by one of the people we were with. I was pretty disappointed, and I never care how I end up in bowling. I think I just wanted to win one for America.

By the time we left the mall it was already 7, and there was obviously no way we were going to Banos. The other guys wanted to go see a movie, but I had to leave to get to work. So all in all, it was a pretty interesting weekend, though I never made it to Cajas or Banos. But with a year to get things done, there’s no rush, and it’s better to just take it slow and let things develop.

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