Friday, December 2, 2011

Woah. It's been awhile.

I'm so embarrassed. I had such good intentions for this little blog of mine. The thing about blogs though, is that you need reliable internet, and that is something I definitely do not have here. I have honestly wanted to post at least 10 times since my last post, but the lovely internet just hasn't felt like working. Anyway, enough with the excuses. Here I am today with an update! I guess we'll start with the biggie...

I have decided to leave Cuenca. It was not an easy decision, but I know that it is the right decision. I do not in any way regret coming here this fall. It is something that I have wanted to do for years, and now I won't have to live in regret for not trying. I have learned a lot in the last few months; about myself as a person and teacher. I know this experience has shaped my future in ways that I don't even realize at this point.

So, what am I going to do then? Great question. I will be volunteering at an organization called Camino Seguro, (Safe Passage), in Guatemala City, Guatemala. I plan on being there for six weeks. I am purchasing a one-way ticket, because I do not want to hold myself to any obligation; if I am enjoying my experience, I might stay longer. If I'm ready to go home, I'll go home. I am thrilled to experience Guatemala. Many of my students in Postville are from Guatemala, so I am excited to learn more about their culture. It will definitely be exciting to share pictures and talk about the adventure when I return in the spring.

As for the little things, I've been trying lots of new things- new forms of exercise, new foods, new places. I look forward to sharing my new perspectives and experiences with my friends and family when I get home on December 19th!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Whose Experience Is This?

“... Living in a foreign country is one of those things that everyone should try at least once. My understanding was that it completed a person, sanding down the rough provincial edges and transforming you into a citizen of the world. What I find appealing in life abroad was the inevitable sense of helplessness it would inspire. Equally exciting would be the work involved in overcoming that helplessness. There would be a goal involved, and I like having goals.” 
 David Sedaris, author of Me Talk Pretty One Day

A goal involved; yes, a goal. 

My first goal in moving to Ecuador for the year was to improve my Spanish fluency and comprehension.  My second goal was to continue improving myself as an educator. This year was going to give me the opportunity to enjoy two of my biggest passions: teaching and the Spanish language. How could it get more perfect than that?

What is interesting about things that seem "perfect" is that there are always hiccups along the way. I have been struggling for the past week with another opportunity to explore my two biggest passions, (aka the hiccup). It is called Fundación Mariposas Amarillas. It is a "small Colombian grassroots organization committed to supporting disadvantaged children and families around Santa Marta, Colombia." For more information on this inspiring place, check out the link:

But Megan, why would you want to leave Cuenca, Ecuador? It is a place that has given you immense joy and made you feel complete, (as David Sedaris puts it). True, Cuenca is a city that has done just those things for me in the past. Right now, however, I am lacking passion and purpose here. For example, I spend at least 95% of my day speaking English. How will that help my fluency and comprehension in Spanish? The answer is, it won't. When my friend brought the idea of Fundación Mariposas Amarillas to my attention, I immediately felt a spark in my heart again- the spark I've been lacking. I feel an urge in the pit of my stomach to explore new worlds- to feel that helplessness and then overcome it. I didn't realize it until recently, but Cuenca has become a safety net for me. Yes, I return to visit wonderful people I've met throughout my years here, but I've also chosen to return because it's a place I know. A part of me can't help but feel like I'm cheating myself out of something more extraordinary than that. 

But... I'm scared. I'm scared of letting people down- of quitting. I've never quit anything before in my life. It's not the "Kailhofer Way" of living and being. What will the school do? How will they find another teacher? Will my coworkers hate me for leaving? What about my family and friends here? Will they be disappointed? Will people assume that I'm just a "grass is always greener" person? Colombia is a "scary" place according to every website in the world. Should I trust all the incredible people I've met this year that have told me it's the best place they've ever traveled to or should I ignore the opportunity out of fear? How will I afford to volunteer instead of getting paid? The list goes on...

Notice, however, that not one of those questions asks, will this make me happy? Is this what I need to do? Will this experience help me reach my goals? I feel like I spend so much time worrying about the thoughts of other people. Taking this year off was the first time I've ever really done something that was wholeheartedly for me. I left the happiest time of my life in the States to live abroad and pursue those goals of mine. Shouldn't I make it the best I can possibly make it? And maybe this time around the best place for me isn't Cuenca...?

I don't know. What do you think?

Oh wait! No! I need to figure this one out. Ugh. Wish me luck, please!

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Cooperating" Teacher

On Tuesday, a group of girls from the lovely state of Wisconsin joined us to do their student teaching practicum at CEDEI School. My student teacher is a doll. She is smart, has already connected with the kiddos, and she is Packers' fan! BONUS! :)

I can't lie though, I'm a tad nervous. We were told that this experience is meant to be more of a "co-teaching" experience, but I still can't help but feel pressure to be the awesome cooperating teacher that I was blessed with in my student teaching practicum. My student teaching experience in Postville was incredible, and I hope that I can provide Kelsey with a great experience as well. I just don't want her to walk away feeling disappointed; I want her to learn from me the way I learned from my phenomenal cooperating teachers.

On another note, I will be home in 66 days, and I canNOT wait! I have a document on my desktop entitled "Home Sweet Home" with a list of the places I want to go, the people I want to see, and the food I want to eat. I promise that I am enjoying every single day that I am here, but it is definitely a comfort to think of the beautiful people I will be seeing soon! :)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

To Market

Before I even begin to write about the incredible fruits, vegetables, and dairy purchased at the market today, I need to write about how I was able to afford this amazing food.

I am not going to go into deep detail about my financial situation right now, but I will say this: ATMs  are an absolute pain while traveling. Yes, they make it "convenient" to withdraw money from the States, but it is expensive. My financial... issue, we'll say...  all started because I had to take out money from my account in the US in order to pay rent, because our landlord makes his tenants pay for three months at a time. (Don't ask me why, and yes, we are planning to move out in December if possible.) Needless to say, I did not have that money lying around, so I had to use an ATM. The interchange fees, ATM fees, and banking fees ended up costing me $20. Now I realize that $20 may not seem like a lot of money, but when you see how much food I purchased today for $15, you will see how vital that $20 could have been to my life. Anyway, I will not be getting paid until Monday, (and even that is not a guarantee), so I was left with just enough money to pay for the bus to get myself to and from school all week and go to Bailoterapia twice. My roommate, (Tina), and I have been living on rice, pasta, bread, and eggs since the end of last week. That's not exactly a healthy person's dream scenario; it's just what was left in our home to make.

Here comes the part where we were able to go to the market:

Tina and I were incredibly hungry yesterday at school. Our stomachs were growling, but again, we had no money and therefore couldn't do anything about it. One of our coworkers, (a 62 year-old amazing man who recently moved here with his wife), overheard us talking. He was a personal trainer for years in the States and lives a very healthy lifestyle, so he was definitely bothered by the lack of fruits, vegetables, and protein in our diet. At school this morning, he walked into the teacher's lounge, handed me a $20 bill and said, "Please go to the market and get yourself some good food." I was overcome with gratitude. We will obviously be paying him back after we get paid next week, but he did not give it to us expecting to receive anything in return. Generosity truly is spirit.

*Side note: I realize that we were in no way, shape or form starving, but this was an incredible gift to receive, and so I needed to share. We are so fortunate to have such a great crew of people to work with.*

So... here is what we were able to purchase!

10 Eggs
2 Cauliflower
12 Onions, (2 red, 10 white)
3 Avocados
6 Peppers
6 Tomatoes
12 Bananas
Mandarin Oranges

All of this for a grand total of $15.
(We plan on using the remaining $5 to purchase bread, cereal, and yogurt.)

Thank you, Ken for bringing healthy food back into our lives and tummies! :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Let's Get Physical!

I am in love...

with BAILOTERAPIA, (dance therapy)! 

My friend Lisa is an avid bailoterapia attendee and she invited me to join. The emphasis of the class changes everyday, (salsa, kickboxing, etc). Today's emphasis was abs and lower back. I am definitely feeling the burn! :) The class was outside in the middle of the park. I paid a whopping 50 cents for a great one-hour workout. I plan on going every Monday and Tuesday night after my Spanish class- SO fun! It was nice to be outside and hear Spanish. You would think that with being in Ecuador I would be speaking in Spanish all the time, but I've been doing way too much talking in English lately. This will be a great way for me to expose myself to español AND get myself in shape.

As some of you know, I used to be a Turbo Kick instructor. I have been missing it like crazy. I remembered the music but forgot the instructions in Wisconsin. :( Because my mom is AMAZING, she sent me the rounds so I can do them here! I am super excited to start classes here! It most likely won't be anything formal, but it does my heart good to know that I'll still be pumpin' it in Ecuador.

Last but not least, running... Oh how I have such a love/hate relationship with running. At this point, I'm feeling a bit more hatred due to the altitude. I can't believe it is still affecting me. I've been here almost six weeks, and it still takes my breath away. I am, however, incredibly excited to run like a gazelle when I return to the States. Dug Road Trail in Decorah won't know what happened to me! :)

And now the day is coming to a close. I'm happy to put an "X" on that Lazy Log of mine! It's simply a calendar that I put an "X" in on days that I work out, but it's a great motivator; (thank you, Andrew Peterson). If I see a few days in a row with blank squares, I know it's time to get myself in gear! I am lucky to have so many great opportunities to get physical. Now to fit in yoga... :)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Long Time No Post

It has been two weeks since I've last written a post. I forgot how beautifully tired you get those first few weeks of teaching. I've been teaching, sleeping, and eating the last two weeks. (Suuuuuper exciting, I know.) I've been happy though, and that is what is most important.

I'm already falling in love with my kiddos. I can tell that leaving them in July will not be easy for me. One student in particular, Juan David, has stolen my heart. He is a blind student in my tercero de básica class who is easily the sweetest child I have ever met. His classmates take such good care of him. It is a beautiful thing to behold. It has been challenging to make accommodations for him, but his willingness to learn and his patient demeanor inspire me. I am so looking forward to working with him even more as I will now be tutoring him in math as well! :)

I started Spanish classes today, (finally!!!!). I know my confidence will grow immensely. I'm beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to learn from a great teacher! :)

Outside of school, things have been going pretty well. I moved out of my host family's home and into an apartment with a coworker. It was a difficult decision, but with making $400 a month, I couldn't spend $300 to live there another month. I already miss them like crazy, but I am fortunate to have an awesome roommate to help with the transition. :) My family dropped me off saying I will always be a part of their family and the doors are always open for me. They are incredible. I am so lucky to have them in my life.

I will hopefully get a chance to post pictures from my host sister-in-law's baby shower soon! The internet was out at our apartment all weekend, so my goal of catching up in blog world didn't happen. As for now though, I need to prepare for tomorrow. :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

First Day of School! :)

Today was my first official day with kiddos! I cannot tell you how good it feels to be teaching again. It is a part of me that has been missing; I feel much more complete after today! :)

In Ecuador, there is no "kindergarten;" school starts with what is called "primero de básica." I will be teaching segundo, tercero, and cuarto de básica, (1st -3rd grade). I will be teaching math, English, and reading for segundo de básica and English and reading for both tercero and cuarto de básica. Today, I spent my entire day with segundo de básica. There are a total of six sweethearts in this room, and I am incredibly excited to work with such a small group! The opportunities seem endless. :) Tomorrow starts my normal schedule in which I will be moving from room to room. I am so looking forward to meeting my other students.

For now, I must be on my way; I've got school work to do! (YAY!!!!)