Back to High School

Trevor Porter - Ecuador


October 28, 2011

My brother’s high school I visited was not at all what I was used to, and the most similar aspect of the school day was that teachers taught and students studied. My brother told me that school started at 7.  But this was Ecuador time, and people didn’t start arriving, even the teacher, until much later, maybe around 8. The first class I sat through was tourism. In the United States I’m pretty sure this isn’t taught at ANY school, so it was interesting to hear what the teacher had to say (even though I didn’t understand everything).

The class went till about 10, and I’m pretty sure the teacher talked about what to pay attention to when the students leave for a 6 week stint to volunteer at different organizations throughout the Napo province, after they graduate. Or it might have been about what is important to an organization involved with tourism…..Either way, Human Resources, Finances, what services are offered, who do the services appeal to; all aspects that the students could observe or be involved in were discussed. Afterwards was Math class. Thankfully (for me at least) this class was the shortest. When my brother and I finished a small lunch of yucca, rice, and chicken, it was time for English class.

As soon as the teacher arrived, everyone is the class stood and rehearsed a daily routine for them, “Good morning teacher”, “How are you” asks the teacher, “Good thank you”, say the students. Finally, the teacher gave permission for them all to sit, and class began. The teacher came up to me and we had a quick conversation in English. He wanted me to introduce myself and tell them about the places I’d been to. So, I did as he said, but unfortunately, none of the students understood, save a small few. Then I repeated what I had said in Spanish, and was able to convey my point, save one. The teacher told me one thing, and it was that he was confused by the fact that none of the students wanted to see the world, or travel. He also mentioned that all they wanted to do was be guides and stay in the Amazon. Well, I thought, I didn’t see any problems with this at all, but apparently the teacher thought it wasn’t the best thing for his students.

I’ve been thinking about this issue for a while, and so far I’ve been able to think of a few reasons why this might be. One, the Amazon is an amazing place, and so far, I’ve been able to see or do something new almost every day. Two, it’s what they are taught. In school, their longest class was about tourism, so naturally, it’s what they know most about. I’m not entirely sure but it seems like most of their knowledge about other countries and cultures comes from the internet, music, and movies. I don’t think they are actually taught much about the world outside Ecuador (I missed their history class so this might contribute to my lack of knowledge). Third, their background. Most of the people I’ve met here say they are interested in studying tourism in college, and I know one person who is, my Aunt. A major source of income for many families here seems to be tourism, and this is certainly true where I am stationed.

My family has lived at the Cavernas de Jumandi for many, many years, and it’s what they know. Also, beyond the caverns are their farms of cacoa, platano, yucca, and other crops. The people here have lived this way for a long time, and change is hard, and may even be true to say they don’t want to change. They are happy with their lives, and if this is so, why should they change?

Trevor Porter