30 Apr

Latin pun

Suffered a brief bout of stomach bugs on Thursday. Thursday night was ugly. I’ve now thrown up six times in Ecuador. As I was throwing up early Friday morning, I was thinking, “okay, this really isn’t so bad.” You kinda learn how to control the heaves. And you almost always feel much better after the second session.

I haven’t really had any colds down here. Certainly no sinus infections. The net quantity of sickness has been the same, really. It’s just the quality that’s different.

Other news: Will leaves for Buenos Aires next Thursday. We are astounded to realize that in three months, we’ll be home. Tim has begun having teaching-high-school nightmares.

I really wanted to make a pun of some latin phrase, substituting “vomitas” for one of the words, but I don’t know enough latin.

That’s all for now.

28 Apr

Secap strike

So. My police came back to class yesterday. There were eleven of them, which brought my class total to 27, and my percent of students who don’t understand me to 41%. I made sure to make the class a little more difficult than usual to scare some of them off, and I certainly succeeded. After class, they came up to me and asked what they could do. “We were completely lost,” they said. “Maybe you can give an extra hour-long class every day for the next month in the police station,” they suggested. I think my face betrayed my reluctance. “What are our alternatives?” they asked.

And before I could really answer, they asked me to come to the station to talk to the Major about the options.

Uh. . .

“No, it’s best if you talk to him, Tim.” Ok, but . . . “He’ll listen to you.” Yeah, um . . . “You have time, don’t you?” Uh. . .

And so I went. A summary of the whole situation would be boring. For reasons I don’t understand, the Major wouldn’t allow the group to be divided, meaning I couldn’t just take the four competent students and send the other seven to a lower level. So the question was whether all of them should enter my class and struggle, or if they should enter Westra’s lower level class and be okay. The remaining question was whether or not SECAP would give a certificate of completion to the students who didn’t pass all the levels. Such a question would not be asked at the vast majority of educational institutions in the States – especially by policemen.

(An interesting aside: one of my policemen was showing me all the nifty toys on his policeman’s utility belt – bullet clips, cell phone, baton, toothbrush and toothpaste even – and the only thing missing was the pepper spray, which, he explained, had been stolen at the police station!)

This afternoon, I rushed to get the grades ready to take down to SECAP for a meeting with the director, Ernesto Gonzalez. I would ask him myself whether or not the police could get a certificate of completion having missed a month and failed others. When I arrived, however, the gates were locked, and a sign was posted claiming that classes were “suspended” for the time being. It gave no information about why. The guard wasn’t helpful, and he wouldn’t let me through the gate to talk to the director. In fact, he said the director was gone.

I didn’t leave right away. I hung out and text messaged one of the police and Jess, the WorldTeach director, to try to figure out what was going on. As I was waiting for a response, I saw the SECAP custodian coming toward me. I said hi and asked if any police had come to talk to Ernesto today. Yeah, he said. Is Ernesto gone? I asked. No, he’s in the office.


I half-asked the custodian and half-asked the guard (again) if I could go to the office to talk to Ernesto. This time, he let me through.

I interrupted a card game to ask Ernesto what had come of the meeting with the police. They’ll wait a month and enter Westra’s class, he said.

On my way home, I heard from Jess. At the north SECAP, they were basically staging a coup. They shut down operations and demanded that the national director, Fernando Alban, step down. They said they would then elect one of their own as the national director. It was more or less a miniature version of how Lucio was ousted.

It’s funny. This morning, I was in the bathroom standing at the urinal. I had made the conscious decision not to close the door. I see about five men every day peeing on walls in Quito, so just being at a urinal, I figured I was exceeding the city’s standards. I looked around the bathroom at the dark yellow pool of stagnant water in the toilet that doesn’t flush; the sparse wads of toilet paper in the rusting garbage can; and the thin, ripped and stained carpet.

Recently, they’ve posted signs in all the classrooms that say “Señor participante, ponga la basura en su lugar.” Literally, this means, “put garbage in its place.” It works on so many levels — the trash being the president of the country, the national director of SECAP, failing students, or wads of toilet paper.

25 Apr


I met several students of mine at the park this past Saturday. We hung out and talked for a while; and then a Canadian woman showed up, asking my students if this is where the “forajidos” were going to meet. My students knew nothing about it, but since they’re all leftists who very stongly opposed Lucio, they were interested. It turned out that this Canadian woman was a radio journalist and she was putting together a piece for the CBC (Canada’s equivalent of BBC or NPR) about the role of a radio station in Quito called Radio La Luna and of the word “forajido” in precipitating the events of last Wednesday.

She interviewed one of my students, Ruth, who is a lawyer and thus has a lot to say. Ruth is very articulate, intelligent, and well-travelled. She also claims she can see the future. In fact, she told us that on September 8th, 2001, she called the US Embassy and told them that two planes were going to crash into the twin towers in NYC.

I know. I don’t believe her either. But otherwise, she makes a lot of sense.

Anyhow, at 3:00, the forajidos showed up. They were a group of people trying to organize some proposals for the government — true revolutionaries. The Canadian began interviewing one of them just as we were leaving. Her radio segment is due on Wednesday. If we find a link to it, we’ll post it.

24 Apr

The Latest

Lucio has left the building. (And the country). BBC reports the latest. We are still fine. Things here are pretty calm, but they could heat up soon. We’ll keep you posted.

23 Apr

Random heart-warming stories from the overthrow of the president

Cab driver:

One of the teachers I work with lives with a host family in the far north of Quito. On Wednesday after her 9-11am class was finished, she hurriedly left school hoping to still be able to catch a bus home. Her busses weren’t running, but she flagged a cab and the cabbie offered to take her home for three dollars, an excellent deal. So she got in the cab. The driver was an older gentleman whose wife was accompanying him in the front seat. The cab passed by plenty of protests and took lots of detours. At one point the teacher had no idea where she was or if she would get home. The cabby kept reassuring her that they would get her home safe. When she finally arrived at her door (I think she said about 3 hours later), she handed him a 5 and he still tried to give her the two dollars in change (tipping cabs isn’t customary here). She told him to keep it and thanked him for everything.

Police shaking hands with protestors:

Wednesday Tim, Will, and I were glued to the television especially in the early afternoon. After Lucio was declared fallen, we watched the police continue to hold back protestors and then receive the orders to step back. They stopped shooting tear gas and rubber bullets and stood to the side of the road while hundreds of protestors streamed passed. We were amazed to see quite a few protestors walk up to police, not to taunt them, but to extend a handshake. There was absolutely no visible animosity between the people who not 5 minutes ago were in battle with one another. It looked like teams after a soccer game, “good game.” What’s incredible is that the protestors even after what must have been an emotional ordeal, knew that the police were following orders and that in reality most of them have very similar opinions about the government.