Wednesday, August 31, 2011

JOY in the journey

Confession: the last two days have not been so hot, (literally and figuratively). The following sentence is bound to make anyone who knows me well chuckle like there is no tomorrow. I like things to be organized. Okay, maybe this is more accurate: I NEED things to be organized. So far, my experience with my new job has been anything but organized. The anal retentive person inside me has been screaming and crying all at the same time. I have been at the brink of tears the last two mornings thinking about Cora B. Darling and how I could be in Postville working in my beautiful classroom, teaching alongside my incredible coworkers who I miss *SO* much, giving and receiving hugs from some of the most wonderful children this world has known, living my organized life. (I know. “The grass is always greener” thoughts are dangerous.) The worst part is, though, no one else seems too bothered by this chaos. “Welcome to CEDEI School,” they say. I knew that this year was going to be different. I guess I just wasn't prepared for how different it was going to be. 

Plain and simple: this girl is homesick. 

At this point then, you’re probably wondering why I entitled this post “JOY in the journey.” The thing is, I chose Cuenca to pursue my dream of being bilingual because it is a city I love. This city has managed to dig me out of some devastating times in my life. This place is where I have felt immense JOY, and right now, I am allowing myself to lose sight of that. Please believe that I am trying to be positive. I am trying to put these frustrations into perspective. I cannot expect this year to be like every other Cuenca experience. The circumstances are different; I’m not just hanging out, taking Spanish classes for four hours a day. MY circumstances are different; I’m not running away from anything this time. I made the decision to leave a perfectly wonderful life in order to live without regret and attain a goal. Five weeks is not the same as one year. I must learn to be patient and do my best to focus on JOYful things like: I love yous, impromptu conversations with the lovely Lindsey Bulger, kindness from Cat, Karen, and Paulina, helado, Lida’s sarcasm, español, and the beautiful little girl I got to chat with yesterday while I was waiting in the panadería. 

Before coming to Cuenca this time around, I purchased a necklace that reads: “The joy is in the journey.” I bought it to remind myself of what this adventure is all about, and while I might not believe it right now, know that I desperately want to believe it.

This is a JOURNEY. I need to focus on putting JOY into it;
 (whether it’s organized or not).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sunday Funday: Fútbol Style

So, I may have made the mistake of calling American football “REAL” football in front of a Cuencano. (In Spanish, soccer = fútbol.) He told me I was out of my mind, and thus, I went to see what a soccer game in Cuenca is all about.

Below are a couple of pictures of the stadium. How beautiful is a stadium with the Andes Mountains towering behind it?

Some advice from my family before going to the game: 
A) “You HAVE to buy a red Cuenca shirt.” (Apparently you’re a terrible person if you go without one.) “It will be $4 or $5. Do NOT pay any more than that!” (PS I love advice like that!) B) “You should buy the tickets the day before. The cost will double the day of.” C) “You have to get there early!” My friend Andy and I thought getting there at 11:15 for an 11:30 game would be fine. We were put in our place that morning when I was rushed into the shower and out the door to make it there on time!

Some advice from me if you ever plan on going to a soccer game in Cuenca: 
A) Get the shirt. It’s worth it. B) Definitely get the tickets the day before, but splurge on the seats in rowdy section, (photo of this section below). This will be happening before I return to the States. C) Get there early? Pssssh. I feel like we could have arrived at 11:25 and been just fine. We would have been ten minutes late for the game, but that’s not a big deal. (Who knew anything started early in Cuenca?!?) D) An added bonus: Do NOT make fun of the girl who pours your beer. You think she’s doing a terrible job because there is an enormous amount of foam on top, so the next time you try it and your entire cup is foam. Yeah. She’s better than you, and the beer is not Miller Lite. It’s different; deal. E) Added bonus number two: Soak up every comment from the stands. Learning new “vocabulary” is always a good time. ;)

Below is a picture of Andy and I sporting our red Cuenca shirts. Cuenca beat Quito 2:1! I recommend a game to anyone who visits. It’s bound to be an experience no matter what. (PS American football is still “REAL” football in case anyone asks…)

City Tour: Saturday, August 27th

Yes, it is cheesy and super touristy to go on a city tour, especially when it is a city you have visited four times. However, it was a great way to spend a Saturday morning: taking photos, telling stories, enjoying the beautiful city I call home. (We also thought we’d get a little sun sitting on the top of a double-decker bus, but alas, you’ll see the sky in the pictures.) Welcome to Cuenca! 

Below are pictures of the new cathedral in the center of the city. The old cathedral is on the opposite side of the square. (Please take the terms new and old lightly. They are both “old” buildings.) Apparently, the intention was to paint the entire cathedral the color of the domes, (white and blue), but during the waiting time of construction and development, the citizens decided they liked it better this way, so it stuck. See; I learned something new!

The picture below is of the oldest high school in Cuenca. Unfortunately, this incredibly beautiful building has a sad story: what was once the highest respected school in the city is no longer an institute of prestige. It broke my heart to hear that it is now the least respected school in the city. (No, I do not plan on living in Cuenca for the rest of my life in order to restore this school and building. Yes, the thought immediately crossed my mind.) 

The next few pictures aren’t necessarily of any real significance or importance according to the tour guide, but I think they are beautiful. 

Below is a picture of the end of our tour! The three of us are at Turi, the lookout of the city. I have been here before, but it takes my breath away every time. Have I mentioned that I love this city?

Friday, August 26, 2011

So, what do you eat there?

A favorite question of mine…

Well, this might not be what everyone in Cuenca eats, but this is what my family eats, and thus, what I eat! J

First and foremost: PAN. Oh, the bread here is amazing. We eat bread for breakfast and supper along with coffee. I’m a carbaholic anyway, so being able to enjoy delicious bread TWICE a day is basically like being in my version of heaven. My favorite “treat” is Pan de Coco, (coconut bread). It is beyond yummy. No, I do not eat this kind everyday. (I wish!) We go to a panadería, (bakery), every night to buy bread. Here is a picture from my favorite panadería:

Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, (which I LOVE; it feels much healthier than going to bed with a big meal in your tummy). We always have some kind of juice, (my favorite being MORA- raspberry). I actually just helped make orange juice the other day! There is something so delightful about making the juice using REAL fruit versus buying it in a bottle from the store. We have soup everyday. It’s basically water with veggies in it; bland, but filling. Cilantro is often a main ingredient. (I apologize if you consider cilantro to offset the “bland” comment. ha.) Of course in the middle of the table you’ll find MOTE- huge kernels of corn. My family puts this in their soup and rice. It’s tasty and helps soak up some of the liquid in the soup. The main dish then is ALWAYS rice, accompanied by either meat, potatoes, beans, or a combination of all three. Lida, (my host mom), is a great cook, (like my real Madre!), so I am quite lucky! She is continuously telling me to eat more, therefore do not worry about me- I will definitely not go hungry living in her house.

Fresh fruit = amazing. The markets are full of incredible, delicious fruit. I posted a picture of this winner on Facebook the other day: CHIRIMOYA. It is mouth-watering goodness. You should probably fly here just to eat it. Seriously.

Ice cream?!?! Did someone say ice cream?!?! Yes. Ice cream is my favorite food in the world, and thus, a favorite of mine here as well. If ice cream had all the nutrition you needed and still tasted just as yummy, it is all I would eat. NOT kidding. We unfortunately do not have this in the house like I would back in Iowa, (probably better for the waistline anyway…). So, I go out on the town for HELADO, (that means ice cream to help my non-Spanish speaking friends). In this lovely city, a single-scoop of ice cream served on a sugar cone will cost you a whopping 95 cents. (It used to be 50 cents. Apparently inflation happens here, too. ha) Will I be spending all of my money on ice cream? Possibly… My favorite flavor yet again is MORA. (Do you remember what that means? J)

There are many more delicious things to eat, and I’m sure I’ll be filling this blog with more pictures and postings of them! ¡Buen provecho! 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I'm here!

It's no longer a dream; I am here in Cuenca, Ecuador, (aka the home of my heart). Look at this place: how could you not be in love?

It is a gorgeous city with beautiful people. I am living with an incredible family, (the family I have now lived with three times), for the first few months I am here. Kind is the best word I can use to describe this family. They are beyond good to me. Here is a picture of us from 2009:

I will be teaching at CEDEI School for the year. Training starts Monday, August 29th, and kiddos come on Monday, September 5th. I am SO excited to get started!