Monday, January 2, 2012

The Last Day!

Here are some pictures from the last day of Galapagos. Some are from New Years Eve and from today.. just a little of everything. Today is the last day! We went to some churches today and then to the market to buy some things. We leave the house tomorrow at 8 probably and fly out at 10:50am. We get to Miami around 3 and then fly from Miami to Detroit around 7 I think. Should be home early Wednesday morning. Not wanting to come home to snow!!


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bartolome island Galapagos day 3

Here's pictures from today.. we went to Bartolome island which is pretty much barren besides volcanic ash and rock. But there were some dolphins, sharks, sea turtles, penguins, and plenty of fish to see while snorkeling.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

1st and 2nd Day in Galapagos

We left Quito at 7 am Tuesday morning.. flew out at 915 and had to stop in another city for about an hour. We got to Galapagos at about 1:00 Tuesday afternoon. The airport and getting to Puerto Arroyo was chaotic but we made here around 2ish. We went to the Charles Darwin Center and walked around town for a while. We saw some land iguanas and tortoises at the Darwin center and then a fishing market down the road from our hotel that they were just bringing in from the sea. Today (Wednesday) we took a snorkeling tour around Santa Cruz island. Got to see some blue footed boobies and sea lions up close but the current was to strong to swim with the sea lions. At another spot we swam with sea iguanas and sea turtles. Then we hiked to a small lagoon and then to Tortuga beach which was about a two hour walk there and back. It was beautiful though. Unfortunately we didnt take the digital camera today so we dont have pictures I can post.. which was a mistake so we only have pictures on the water camera. Tomorrow we go to Bartolome island to see penguins and do some more snorkeling and we'll take the camera! Here's some pictures from yesterday. (Yes Felix, I said hello to Mr. Darwin for you!)


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Last Days of School

Today was the last day of school! Yesterday was the last time I actually had any classes because today was a half day and the classes I would have taught were in the afternoon.. so I graded all morning and watched some of the Elementary christmas show.. I'll post some pictures and videos soon. It was a lot of good/frustrating experiences but I'm ready to be done and move on... do a little vacationing and then get home! 2 months was a enough time but I'm definitely coming back sometime (to vacation). Tuesday the school put on a Christmas party for the staff after school. They dont mess around.. there was a live band in the gym and a ton of food and candy. One piece of candy was a ball of white and dark chocolate with Cream of Whiskey inside it... shows how relaxed they are! And they gave us all a red scarf. Yesterday one of the sections surprised me with two posters, a powerpoint of some pictures, and a song. Never thought I'd have a song sang to me! One girl sang most of the song and then the whole class chymed in. It was about remembering people when their gone..  It was pretty cool and really nice. I should have video taped it. I guess I must have done something right with them... even though it was a struggle at times. I tried to figure out how to share the powerpoint they made on here but I can't get it to work.. if you want to see it let me know and I can email it to you.. its pretty funny.. they included the Z.W. Dux logo because a while back I showed them a quick video of Z. W. playing at Ford Field and I guess they remembered the team name.. I  was really surprised to see the logo on the first slide of the powerpoint but it was cool. The pictures of them dressed up was from Halloween.

Here's the class. The girl in the middle bending over was the one who sang. We had a lab yesterday, thats why they're all wearing white.

I'm not really sure what the plan is for tomorrow yet. I think were going to an orphanage to help out . Christmas Eve were just celebrating with the family here and having a big dinner. They couldn't find a turkey so instead were having shrimp, crab, lobster, and who knows what else.. I think it will be good though. Sunday I think were going to a relatives house for a big lunch and then picking up Ma at night. They don't really do presents.. at least not my family. Most other families do, and I think we'll exchange some small gifts but nothing to big. Usually here Christmas Eve night is when everyone gets together and then everyone heads to the beach. A lot of my students are going there and my family leaves the 26th for a week at the beach. Then the 27th its off to the Galapagos! Hope everyone has a great Christmas!

Merry Chirstmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Catching Up.. This weekend and last weekend

Havent had a chance to post much this week so I'm going to try to catch up on everything. Last weekend was the trip to the jungle.. I put some more pictures up on the link below. It was amazing. The first stop we made on Saturday was at a monkey reserve. They are monkey's that were either pets or have something wrong with them (one was missing a hand).. they raise them there until they can be let back out into the jungle a few miles away. The jungle we went to didnt have native monkeys.. which was kinda disappointing. But we got to hang out with the ones there. They love people.. they will just come up to you and you can put your hand out and they will climb up you. They also like playing with the dog thats there and they have an otter and a couple other jungle animals. Next we went to a tribal jungle village. We got our faces painted by the locals with the juice of some nut that can be cracked open. We needed it because they were having a Christmas celebration at one of the huts that we were going to attend. The celebration consisted of everyone sitting around the outside in a cirlce with people in the middle dancing and yelling and beating drums. Also women would come around constantly to people sitting around the outside and pour chicha. It was alcohol made from the yuca plant root. It did not taste good at all and I only had two sips of it just because otherwise I felt bad for not taking it. I'm really glad I only chose to drink it twice because when we got back to Quito we found out how they made it. Basically women in the village chew on the yuca root and then spit it out into a large bowl.. several women do this to make a lot. Then they let it ferment for a few days and then drink it. So your pretty much drinking several women saliva, some little bits of yuca, and the juice from the yuca.. it was more disgusting after I found out what it was. A lot of people get parasites from drinking it but I've felt fine all week. After the celebration we canoed down a river to our lodge and ate lunch. Then we went on a small hike to a waterfall, swam, and then hiked to another lodge and climbed up to a lookout point where they had some hammocks and a rope swing. The scenery was really cool. Sunday we hiked from 9 am until about 3 pm. Some of the time were weren't even on a trail.. we were literally hiking through the jungle which is not easy because of how thick it is. Our guide showed us how to make a torch, use fiber from a plant to make really strong string, and plants and insects to eat. We ate the heart of a palm tree.. which was really good, termites, lemon ants, a random leaf, and snorted a mixture of water and the juice from a leaf. The guide called it the coke tree because its best to snort the mixture like cocaine.. but its not bad for you.. its actually used for headaches and to clear your sinuses. The lodge we stayed in was pretty basic.. bunk beds with a roof overtop and four walls but everything is open. We had to sleep with mosquito nets over us which is not very comfortable because its constantly touching you. It felt a lot like camping except the bugs at night are waaayy louder!

Last week at school I had to do a lot of grading of homework and a quiz.. most classes did terrible on it because they didn't study or come in for help... which apparently is to much to ask of them.. they just want the answers pretty much. Next week we only have 4 days and Thursday is a half day. I actually probably dont have to even go Thursday since the two classes I would have to teach are in the afternoon and a half day only goes through 4th period. But I might go to the elementary christmas show since I wont have anything else to do. Thursday or Friday me and Meghan are going to help out a local church, or orphanage, or something like that since we dont have school.. still trying to figure out what we can do. Peter leaves tomorrow so were going out for dinner tonight with all the student teachers and some of their teachers. Katy leaves Thursday and I think Maggie leaves Saturday so by the end of this week everyone will be gone except me and Meghan...  she's leaving the day we leave for Galapagos... which is coming soon! (27th)

This weekend me Peter and Meghan went to her host families farm in Santa Domingo.. its about 3 hours from Quito but we didnt have to take a bus luckily.. her mom drove us after school Friday. We just hung out Friday night and had a really good dinner.. we had a pork leg made in a clay oven heated by fire. Saturday we walked around the house which has some cocao plants on it along with macadamia nut trees, lemon trees, banana trees, plantaines, bamboo, and two huge tortoises. Theres a male and female and they are both galapagos tortoises. The male is massive! They're over a 100 years old and I think Meghans host dad's (Lars) father brought them there. It was originally his farm and then Lars and his brother took over. Where the house is is a large gated community and they sell lots for houses and are developing some more land for houses to go on. Its a really nice place. Across the road is where the actual farm is.. he had 200 acres.. most of which is filled with cocao trees. He doesnt make chocolate anymore, he just sells the seeds and sells some of the plants to Europe. We cut one pod open and there are probably 25 seeds inside. If you bite into them they are really bitter and nasty because the seed has to ferment which makes the chocolate taste. But they have a white film around them that you can suck on which is reallly sweet and sour.. its basically like candy and it was really good. We drove all over the farm.. he has a bamboo forest which he plans to cut and sell soon as well as some tree's from India that are going to make him a lot of money along with some white mahgoney trees. His dad baically just planted all sorts of different things and now they are worth a lot of money. He also has some other fruit trees and more macadamia nut trees.. we got to crack open the shell and eat the fresh nut which are delicious. The farm is beautiful though and really interesting.. its like driving through the jungle. Her family is really awesome to... they are pretty much my second host family. Lars has stories about everything because he had almost every job imaginable and traveled a lot. Cathy is a teacher at school and is really nice.. she will do about anything for us.. they are a lot of fun.
Two more weeks and I'll be home!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Welcome to La Selva (the Jungle)

Here's a link to pictures and videos of the jungle this past weekend. I'll probably be able to get more up later from other people. There's a description on most of them and I'll post more on here later. Very busy lately! 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Explosion Today - Weekend

I thought I survived an Earthquake today but it wasn't one. At about 11 today I was in my classroom.. luckily with no one else, working on the computer when a huge really loud explosion went off. It was followed by the sound of shattering glass but it didn't compare to the sound of the explosion. I started walking away from the windows thinking it was an Earthquake but noticed everyone running outside to see the glass. The classroom below mine had one of its windows completely shatter and fall out onto the cement from the wave of the explosion. Apparently ammunitions.. gun powder and grenades, were accidentally lit off at a specialized police training center north of our school during a training session. After I heard everything I went outside and you could see the top of the mushroom cloud fading away and a lot of smoke. 4 people died and 10 were injured and a school closer to it had the same thing happen with some injuries. It happened probably less than 1km away. It was pretty crazy.. no one had any idea what was going on and eventually they went over the loud speaker and said that everything was fine at the school and that there wouldn't be an evacuation. 
After school we went to Mariscal to get some things at a small market and then stayed there to watch the Liga soccer game. It's a smaller local team in Ecuador and they played for the championship so everyone was going crazy at the bars. 
We also decided that we are going to the jungle this weekend! Pretty last minute but were going on a two day tour leaving tomorrow night and getting back Sunday. The elementary part of the school is having a Christmas party tomorrow afternoon and I got invited.. I guess because I'm the only student teacher in secondary and all the other ones are in elementary.. but were leaving after that and taking a  bus to Banos where we were a few weekends ago (Hopefully the volcano nearby doesn't explode!) We spend the night there and then the guides pick us up in Banos Sat. morning and take us 1.5 hours away to the edge of the jungle. We going to do some hiking mostly but its all guided and we will get to see some pretty cool things I think.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Rest of the Long Weekend

Sunday we left for Papallacta.. a really small town two hours away. We had to switch buses halfway which was nice to break it up but on the way there the bus driver let us off in the middle of nowhere pretty much. Me Peter and Meghan were the last to get off and he told us to just walk down this path. Luckily after passing some farms and houses we made it to a tar road and better yet only a minute later the other bus we needed happened to go by so we hopped in. But the bus was completely full so we had to stand the rest of the way.. which was only about 45 mins. The town is really small and pretty much is only known for their hot springs and hiking. We dropped our stuff off and then walked up the road to the really expensive resort that has a lot of hot springs at different temperatures and a spa.. its really nice. The hot springs are basically just big pools with hot water that is naturally heated from the volcano near by. Some are shallow some deep and each one is a little bit different temperature and one is really cold. It was really relaxing and the scenery is amazing. When we got back to our hostel the owner was there and said for 3 dollars each we could go to her other hostel up the road which was a lot nicer... the place we were going to stay was pretty gross. So we did that and had one big room with a fireplace and our own hot spring tub inside. They had their own pools outside as well. The town is also known for their trout.. they have a big trout farm there.. so we got that for dinner which was really good. The next morning we hiked up a trail next to our hostel. The trail started by going through a horse's pasture and ended with climbing basically straight up with the help of ropes to pull yourself up. The top ended up being on a small peak that was a cow pasture. The cows were down below us but you could see a long ways and it was really nice up there. We got home yesterday around 5 and then went to Peter's teachers house to play a card game called cuerenta (that's 40 in English). Its tradition to play it this weekend because of the fiesta de Quito. Even at school last week Thursday and Friday they set up tables for students to play and they usually gamble on the games. Also they have small buses called Chivas this weekend that are all open on the sides and usually a band is on top. Everyone just drinks, dances, yells, and sings on the bus and they just drive around the city. We didn't go on one but we seen plenty.. the people on them are crazy.
This morning I went to the mall with Alba, Juanfrancisco, and Maria because they had to get some things and we saw two places where drunk drivers from last night crashed. One person took out a stop light and another went into the metal and brick fence along the outside of a house.. some of the car parts were still there. I guess it happens every time on the night before Quito Day because everyone drinks all night.
I don't have any pictures yet from the trip to Papallacta because I need to get them from Meghan or Peter so hopefully they'll be up soon. But I got more from the baptism a few weeks ago so the whole family is in at least some of them. Also there's now a video in the bullfighting section.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bullfights and some of the Weekend

Last Wednesday night we went to the bullfights. It was cool to go to and experience but its pretty much the same thing over and over again... Someone stabs the bull and then stands in front of it as it comes at them.. and stabs it again. It is pretty crazy though and entertaining... and there's lots of blood. Once the bull comes out usually two guys on horses would stab it first to get it mad.. one time after the guy stabbed it, the bull knocked over the horse and the guy on it... it kept ramming its head into the horse but they were both fine after it stopped. There were seven fights and once their done, the matador either gets 1 or 2 of the bull's ears plus the tail depending on how well he did. Only one time the guy got two ears.. people next to us said they were not very good bullfights but I didn't know the difference it was fine.
Friday I only had two classes and each class had only half the students because most were at the bullfights that afternoon for Fiesta de Quito. I guess they were good ones and since we have a long weekend anyway the parents just pull them out early.
All this weekend people are partying for the Fiesta up until Tuesday. The streets in the town of Mariscal were completely packed Friday and Saturday night.. we went there both nights but not for very long since it was so busy. Saturday during the day we went to a big market two hours away in Otovalo. Me and Peter took the bus and then met Meghan and her host family there. Her host family is really cool. We shopped for a while and got some lunch there and then it started raining really hard and the bus station was a little ways away so all 6 of us packed into the car on the way home. It was a tight ride.. but we stopped halfway and got some food. The market is huge though.. you could get lost when your in the middle of it.. but they pretty much all sell the same or similar things. I'll post on the trip to Papallacta soon.. I forgot my camera so I have to get the pictures from Meghan or Peter soon anyway.
Pictures of bullfight:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Trip to Banos

The trip to Banos over Thanksgiving was great! Thursday night before we left we had Thanksgiving dinner at Meghan's house which was really good. There´s some pictures of it on the link. We had everything we would at home and it was all homemade and really good.. I ate a lot. We got to Banos at about 2pm and it was a 3.5 hour ride on the bus. One thing I won´t miss is traveling everywhere on buses and taxis! Banos is a relatively small town but bigger than Mindo where we went on the last trip. It´s in a valley and at the base of an active volcano, Tungurahua. Actually its so active that after we left Banos on Sunday it had a small eruption... we missed it by a few hours. It would have been cool to see but they shut the roads down around Banos so we would have been stuck which would have not been good. And today it had another larger eruption and their evacuating more people now. While we were in Banos, there was a small earthquake in Quito on Friday night so we missed that to unfortunately.. it was small but it would have been cool to experience. Also in Quito on Saturday it hailed apparently so bad that the whole city was white and people were making snowmen out of the sleet and hail. Weird weather.. yesterday it was like 75 and perfect. Anyway when we got to Banos we rented small dune bugeys and a motorcycle. I got the motorcycle and the other four were in two dune bugeys. My bike was a 1990 something Suzuki DR 350 four stroke enduro. It sounded cool but it was a piece of junk.. the handlebars were bent, the back brakes didnt really work, the tachometer didn't work, and the front wheel had a slight wobble.  We drove them along the road to different waterfalls and some small towns. The ride was awesome though, the whole time you follow a river so your in a canyon with mountains on either side. There were four tunnels we had to go through and the road winds back and forth around the mountain. We went off-roading once up a trail but there were people at the top so we went back down quickly.
Saturday we went white water rafting. It was really cool and crazy! We had a really funny guide so it made it a lot of fun. The river is a tributary of the Amazon and the stretch we took was a class 3. Some parts were pretty crazy and the guide usually aimed for rocks or the wildest rapids. Peter and Maggy fell off once but we never flipped. At some points he would let us get out and just float on our backs.. one time we went through some big rapids. The guide had a camera and we bought a CD of the pictures for 5 dollars.. some of the pictures are of the other group that went with us but they show more of the background. We started the trip by jumping off a 30 ft bridge into the river.. it felt like you were falling forever. Sunday we left at about noon and stopped at one town on the way home where they make everything out of leather and sell it. It made the trip home a lot longer so it was good to finally be back.
This week we have school all five days but this weekend is another long weekend because we get next week Monday and Tuesday off for Quito days. Quito Day is actually next week Tuesday but they start celebrating it this week. All this week there are bullfights and we are going tomorrow night. This is the first year that they can't kill the bull in front of everyone when their done so some people are upset about it. This weekend we might go to Meghan´s host dad´s farm 4 hours away. He has a chocolate farm there..he just sells the nuts and.. some other fruits.. but the farmhouse is only about an hour from the beach so we might go there to.. not really sure yet.
 Link to Pictures.. there are some more of the soccer game and some videos: