I had an unrealistic or maybe just purposely blindsided idea of what my year would be like in Ecuador. I thought I would finally be able to catch up on all my sleep because I thought having a 6:00AM wakeup time was no more. Turns out, I was very wrong.
My day starts promptly at 6:00AM when I then set my alarm for three more minutes to try and soak in the comfort of my bed for just a little longer. Yes, sometimes I set another alarm for another three minutes but, it is only to build up the strength to tear off the covers and allow myself to be engrossed by the cold morning air. I then somehow get to the bathroom, always having to bring my water bottle to avoid contaminated water. Once that adventure is done, I try and gauge just how hot and cold it is going to be outside today since the weather is always both. Based on my assessment, I get dressed, usually in hiking pants, my most professional pants here, grab my glasses, and lace up my shoes. Dressed, my bag and I go to eat desayuno or breakfast.
Sitting down, I always know what breakfast is going to be. I always have a roll with either coffee or tea to dip it into and usually an egg of some sort since I have become somewhat of an egg addict since I arrived in Ecuador. While I eat, I can’t help but constantly check the time because my sister Belén either likes to be exactly on time or fashionably late to school. Due to this, I usually venture solo while still needing to speed walk. While walking I take in the gorgeous scenery around me. I never fail to notice how close the clouds always appear and how they would never be that close in New Jersey. I stare at the gorgeous Volcán Imbabura that is in perfect shot after I turn the corner at the big turquoise house and walk a little further to the blue flowers at the next corner. Reaching the end of the stretch I hope I am there early enough for the back entrance of the school to still be open, which is closer and not crowded with all the children and their parents. If I am successful in my timing, I stroll through the back first passing two fields, one cement and one grass, and all the teacher’s cars who also made it early. As I progress, I officially enter the open campus with the sixth-grade classes and snack bar on my left and the seventh grade on my right. Walking up the ramp, I finally pass the office and take one final turn to enter the most colorful class of them all and my home base, class 4B.
When I arrive, Fanny, my supervisor, is usually sitting in our corner eating a sandwich for breakfast while we wait for our first class to start. I greet her with a “good morning” and a kiss on the cheek and then walk over to Pamela, her best friend, and greet her with the same custom. Then, Fanny and I look at the schedule and I get a rundown of what the day entails. I am usually told what I need to grade, what they need to learn, and who still has not given us their notebook. Soon after, the bell rings one of two different bells that I don't think anyone likes or knows why sometimes we have one bell and sometimes we have another. My preferred bell to the bell that sounds like an air-raid siren, is a bell that for some reason sings “it’s time to change” in both Spanish and English. Regardless, it notifies us that it is in fact time to change and we walk to the first class.
When we enter the class the kids usually stand and since we are English teachers they say, “Good morning teacher” in English before sitting back down. If we have the younger kids they usually run to hug me and if it is the older ones I will still usually have someone touching my hair. Then, we put the date on the board in English for the kids to copy and will start the lesson and if there was homework, that's my cue to get out the class list. Not only do I take out the list, but I grab two pens, one blue for the list and one colorful to mark their notebooks, and her homework stamp. After changing the date on the stamp, the grading can begin as I start calling students up alphabetically. Since I have been here for a few months I pride myself on the fact that I can now say their names a lot more correct than I did to begin with. With a notebook in hand, I fix their spelling and mark what is correct, then I stamp their paper, calculate the grade, and put it on the class list. The students looking over my shoulder the whole time gives me the opportunity to then quickly explain what they did wrong before I call up the next person. With the grading done, I walk around and help with the classwork. I explain what things are in English and make sure everyone is on task, which is especially hard with the second graders and can even be hard with the high schoolers (I co-teach a wide range). With the 40-minute period coming to a close, we say goodbye to the students and head off to the next class.
In this class I start by writing on the board and Fanny always tells me to use two different colored markers. If “1” is written in red and “laptop” is written in blue, that is exactly how the students copy it. Luckily, the boards have a faint grid on them so they won’t copy my inability to write in a straight line without one present. With my board skills increasing I feel more like a teacher. Before I know it, is usually time for the break which always happens for the students from 10:00AM to 10:30AM. The whole school stops to have a snack and some of the little ones like to share even with the teachers which is very cute. Everyone rushes to the snack bar which has anything from gummies, to apples, to bowls with rice and chicken. My supervisor usually gets a bowl, especially if it is chicken ceviche which is her favorite. Sometimes we have time to enjoy the snack and our place of choice is a bench outside before the break ends and the rest of our classes begin. When the time comes, I follow the same routine as I scramble to grade everything in the time we have and still answer questions.
After, we usually have at least one free period a day and during that time, Fanny and I return to Pamela’s class where I either glue a worksheet into the second grader’s notebooks or grade more of the endless amount of papers that we have. I will try and understand what Pamela and Fanny say when they talk to each other but sometimes Pamela speaks so fast I don’t even think I would understand if she was speaking English. Fanny will usually fill me in on what was said and then we'll discuss something. Some of the most valuable information I have learned about Ecuador is from her. She tells me all about differences in Ecuador versus the United States, since she has lived in both, and I now know more than I ever thought I would about the Ecuadorian government and could not be more delighted to.
Once the final school bell rings for the end of the day, I grab my bag once again and say “ciao” to the other teachers while trying to catch my younger sister and cousin to walk home. Sometimes I can get them first but if I can’t, they usually walk so slowly I end up catching up to them. They always tell me their day is good but sometimes I get some real information about what happened during class. As we walk, my host mom usually meets us on her bike and we all put on our hats as the sun is brutal. We pass cows and always dogs, and Belén usually stops to drink something out of these orange flowers.
Curving down the windy path passing by the gigantic cross and one of the many cuy restaurants, we finally get to the pink mural which marks we are close to home. Once home, we all eat lunch together and after, Belén and I will struggle to stay awake from the already long day. Usually giving into the temptation, we pass out for half an hour just for me to wake up to my little cousin playing some game or tv show on the computer or by a rooster outside. If you asked me a year ago what I thought I would be doing right now, I would never have guessed this, but I know here is exactly where I am supposed to be.