19 Oct

Tense days

Eileen’s started her teaching, so things are a little tense. She’s actually not having the quasi-nervous breakdowns she was having during the practice teaching, but it also doesn’t sound like she’s been as happy with her classes. Her morning one (7-9) is looking good, and it’s my prediction that she’ll be pretty happy with that one. The afternoon one (2-4) is a little smaller (six students, maybe) and the students are younger and a little more apathetic. I’ll let her tell the stories to come, but there’s an update.

As for my classes, all’s going well. My night class is turning out to be a lot of fun. There’s one woman who is clearly bored because she’s so far ahead of everyone, but she’s really the only one. Everyone else is pretty enthusiastic, and a really good class dynamic is developing.

My morning class, which is made up of 15 policemen and five “civilians,” as I’ve taken to calling them, hit a rough spot yesterday. I passed back tests and made a show of reiterating the no cheating policy. I caught five of them doing some minor cheating. Two of them in particular were pretty upset with me. And so the whole class yesterday was a little tense. They kept saying “no quality,” which I took to mean, “how can you say we cheated; our tests aren’t even the same?” But no matter how many times I said, “I caught you talking during the test when you thought my back was turned,” they maintained their innocence. It was an odd situation: the occasional smart-assed “no copie” would erupt from one of their mouths as I was copying questions to the white board or some such thing, but they didn’t tune out entirely. They pretty much kept actively participating during the class. I didn’t know what to make of it; I felt like some of my power was sapped because I couldn’t ream them out in English or Spanish like I can do with smart-assed Madison teenagers who justly deserve my wrath.

Anyhow, one of them actually came up after class, shook my hand and said “I’m sorry.” But then this morning, at the 7:30 start time, the two complaining cheaters weren’t there. The nice one showed up at 8:00, out of breath and clearly running late. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

In the meantime, I looked at two new gyms yesterday and today. Both of them were closed for good.

18 Oct

Bus stories

We gringos simply don’t know some things about the busses here in Quito – things that every native Quiteno seems to know. There is a bus sense that we lack.

In the beginning, I got around by looking at the plackards displayed in the lower portion of the busses’ windshields. They would list the more prominent places along their routes: Colon, Plaza Artigas, 12 de Octubre, Catolica, Trebol, Marin, and so on. If you know the city, you can kinda then visualize the route. You know that this bus going to Colon, Plaza Artigas, 12 de Octubre, and so on is going to take you to La Mariscal also. But the problem is, no bus says “La Mariscal,” so you can spend a lot of time looking for a sign that doesn’t exist. The other problem is that sometimes, the plackards vary, or they forget to turn them around to display the places they are going to rather than the places they are coming from. And another major problem is that many of the plackards are too small to read from half a block away, so you don’t see “Colon” until the bus passes you.

Just this past week, though, I was waiting for a bus after class, and one of my students was at the same “bus stop.” Once we discovered we were going to the same neighborhood, she said, “Entonces, coges el 15 de Agosto?” (so, you want to catch the 15 de Agosto bus?). I looked at her dumbly and nodded, which is what you do when you don’t understand. Eventually, she pointed to a bus that was a block away and said, “aqui esta.” When it was stopping in front of us, I noticed that indeed, it was the one I wanted. I also noticed that there was a huge sign at the top of the windshield that read “Bus Tipo 15 de Agosto.” The sign was so big, in fact, that you could read it from a block away.

Thus armed with my new knowledge, I informed Eileen about this little trick. So then a few days ago, she was at a bus stop where people were mysteriously lined up (such order is rare in Quito). She spotted her 15 de Agosto bus and tried to flag it down. She even began running after it and caught up, but the money collector guy shook his hand at her and said, “no.” She screamed “por que?” to which he responded with something like, “estoyhablandoelcastellanodemasiadorapidoparati.” So she walked back to whence she came and received an explanation from a kind woman: “Don’t worry, sweetie, it’s turning around. It’s at the end of its route. There will be another one coming soon.” And sure enough, another one came soon; everyone boarded it in a very civilized manner, rare for a place where you have to literally run and jump on to and off of the busses half the time.

Speaking of which, yesterday, I was attempting to catch the famous 15 de Agosto. I was crossing the street just as it rounded the corner and I put out my arm and whistled (an imitation of native Quitenos which has actually worked for me a few times). He didn’t stop. I finished crossing the road, ran, and jumped on to the still moving bus, which then came to a stop. The driver got out and did some miscellaneous maintainence work on the bus, which I couldn’t really see. We sat there for ten minutes, and then started creeping along at 10 miles per hour.

By friend Bill, who has been equally delighted by his occasional athletic bus mounts, ran and jumped onto a moving bus the other day. The driver looked at him and said (in Spanish), “this isn’t the one you want.” And upon looking back, Bill noticed the passengers were all children in their school uniforms. He had jumped on to a school bus.

My bus sense is getting better, but there is so much we don’t know. I have repeatedly jumped off of moving busses only to then have my momentum bring me face to face with passengers calmly exiting the very bus I leapt from.

Hopefully, it will get better.

15 Oct


Most of the gyms in Quito are primarily for weight lifting. They have a mix of free weights and Nautilus, or whatever those damn machines are called, and I don’t know what it is – perhaps the overabundance of mirrors, or the poor lighting, or the wall-to-wall rubber flooring, or the late 80s look of the equipment – but these gyms seem lifted straight out of New Jersey. It really wouldn’t surprise me to see a couple of Lenny and Squiggy look-alikes come walking out of one of these places.

This past week, Eileen and I were searching for an acceptable gym. After peaking through the doors of a few of them, we caught on to the fact that aerobic workout machines are hard to come by. I checked out the Hilton Colon earlier this week to see what sort of facilities a fancy-schmancy hotel would have. They’re definitely better (membership includes unlimited access to hot tub, Turkish baths, and other such extravagances), but they’re also pretty spendy, as they say. I had pretty much ruled out high-class establishments until someone recommended we look at the Hotel Quito, a high society place with one of the best views in Quito. There’s an L-shaped pool out back and a huge chess board with toddler-sized pieces. The gym is small, but pretty classy, and membership is only about $35 per month. Not bad. But they didn’t have any good stationary bikes; and of course, there were no elliptical machines and no rowing machine (the holy grail of this whole quest). But it gave us hope that other such spendy sites might have affordable gyms.

So I ventured to the Plaza de las Americas, whose high speed wireless internet and Cinnabon restaurant are indications of its upper crust clientele. Excellent gym; cheapest membership option: $165 for three months. Oh, and no rowing machine.

We had one more overpriced institution to check out: the Swisshotel, a conveniently located place with a wonderful bakery we had just discovered – they have 30-cent chocolate croissants that are one of the best pastries we’ve had yet in Quito (not a tough competition to win, but these things are seriously good). Anyhow, we looked at the Swisshotel’s facilities today. They’re stunning. Membership includes weightroom, aerobic equipment, Jacuzzi, Turkish baths, sauna, pool, massage waterfalls, relaxation rooms, racquetball courts, and probably some other things I’m forgetting. But of course, the price is over $100 a month. Ouch! The worst part: they have a rowing machine!

12 Oct

comin home for christmas

We bought our tickets home for Christmas yesterday. We´ll be back from December 18th to January 1st. Tickets during the holiday season stink for prices, but we´re excited to see all of you again in a few months. Not much new here.

A few weeks ago Tim was walking down the street and saw a guy riding a motorcycle. No big deal, except that sitting in front of him with his legs hanging over the seat and arms resting casually on the handle bars was a yellow labordor. It seemed to say “this is easy. I´ve done this before.” I wish I had been there with a camera. I also wish that the motorcycle dog was owned by our landlords instead of the little yippy poodle they have. It had puppies about a month ago and they were cute and all, but nothing like Tember. And sadly two days ago our landlords sold the puppies. So Bella, the dog, cried (barked) all night for her lost babies. It was sad, but we were more sad that we couldn´t sleep. I hope she forgets soon.