Semana 4: Fútbol, la escuela, y el fin de Los Chillos

Wow! Ya se fue febrero… February is already gone, and how quickly it went! This also means that I am now finished with my Spanish classes, and soon with my homestay in the Valle de los Chillos.

This last week has been filled with a number of things, including the more mundane final exam and a paper, but also, the opportunity to go a soccer game, a day spent teaching at a local public school, and a big goodbye party/lunch for all of us, and the families. Also, I finally got around the cooking for my host family, and whipped up an Andean version of our mac ‘n cheese recipe– as in, substituting local cheese, and realizing how long water takes to boil here…

-Fútbol: Last Sunday, my host brother, his girlfriend, and I went to La Liga vs. Quito Deportivo– the rival teams. According to my brother, a Liga fan for life, these games are never pretty, and although Liga is the best team, they always play poorly against Quito. Indeed, the only two goals in the game were PKs, so the tied game wasn’t the most exciting. But, that certainly excludes the crowd. As I mentioned to a few people already, it was pretty amazing to be a sporting event where half of the fans were for one team, and the other half for the other. Imagine one half of the stadium blue/red, and the other all white, with a line of yellow in between, representing the fluorescent vests of the police officers separating the two crowds. Then, competing songs, chants, middle fingers, groans, and you’ve basically got the gist of the stadium. The singing never stopped. When it started to pour rain, vendors magically appeared bearing ponchos and other forms of plastic bags so the diehard fans could cover themselves (my brother), while his girlfriend and I took shelter in one the entrances.

A soccer game was an experience I had been looking forward to the whole time I’ve been here, and it certainly lived up to my expectations. I didn’t bring my camera with me as I didn’t bring anything with me except for the money to buy my ticket, as recommended by my family. Next time, however, I think I’ll bring my raincoat just in case, and the camera as well. It’s worth a few photos!

La Escuelita: The big event of the week, for Spanish class, was our “salida” to a public school about 20 minutes away. Each of us chose a grade to teach for the day along with a partner or two, and had to plan out the whole day (well, the morning, as that’s when kids are at school), mostly according to some themes they were learning, but also whatever we felt like incorporating. My friend Abbey and I chose to take on seventh grade, the oldest kids at this primary school. In the end, it turned out there were only nine kids in seventh grade, so it was quite the small classroom– although we ended up teaching in the “comedor,” cafeteria, because 6th and 7th grade share a classroom.

I was a little nervous while planning for this day, as we really had no idea what to expect, whether we could teach these kids anything, whether they would be excited about learning, if they knew any English already, if the teacher would be there, etc. However, when we arrived at 7:30 AM, my nerves immediately went away, as kids ran up to us, asking our names, holding our hands, wanting to play already. It brought me right back to teaching in Nicaragua, and suddenly I found how much I missed this interactive part of being in another country, going into communities with some intention to do good. Luckily, that’s what I’ll be doing all of April, and this trip to the school made me realize how wonderful it would be to do my ISP (Independent Study Project) in some form or another in a school as well!

It was a very gratifying experience, although some of our plans fell flat, or the kids tried to take advantage of us naive gringos– but I loved it. Abbey and I had a few successes in our lesson plans. One, this song, our new obsession, we definitely were more into it than the students, although one girl told me after school that it was her favorite part:

Perhaps the most successful part was our poetry section, although there was some groaning about the concept of poetry at first… Until there was the announcement of some competition/games. I had written each line of Jose Martí’s “Cultivo una rosa blanca” on strips of paper, and had them work in three groups to try to order the lines. Then, we used the structure of the poem, and some key words, for them to write their own poem, which some (the girls) really enjoyed, and others (most of the boys) took the chance to goof off. Whichever, there ended up being some really excellent poems, which Abbey and I were very proud to read, as they proudly came to show us their work.

“Cultivo una rosa blanca
en junio como enero
para el amigo sincero
que me da su mano franca.

Y para el cruel que me arranca
el corazón con que vivo,
cardo ni ortiga cultivo;
cultivo la rosa blanca.”

–Jose Martí

La Despedida: Yesterday, we had our despedida party. Actually, it was a lunch, but it definitely had a party sort of atmosphere. All the families and students got together at Grant’s awesome house, with a huge backyard, an Ecua-volley court, and soccer goals. Promptly, my host dad convinced me I should organize a ecua volley tournament (3 a side volleyball, played with a soccer ball), and then he took over on the mic to get everyone moving. My team had some struggles, but it was so much fun to watch the games, everyone playing, with some surprisingly skilled players in the group! As in, I was very proud of my host dad.

Then, we ate lunch, some traditional fare of chicken, corn, potatoes, and a cucumber- radish-green pepper salad. Then, for dessert, higas, which are (I think) figs soaked in a molasses like substance and then served with cheese. So good!  Afterwards, there were a few speeches, some music, singing, and then the DJ came back on, and the dance party started! Really, it was more like battling for the flat space, as mostly women danced on one side of the volleyball court, and the guys tried to keep playing on the other side… But, it was a great time all around.

Pictures to come!

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