I moved into my new family’s home on Sunday night and am considering a trip on Sunday up the volcano(Cotopaxi)..we would go up 14000+ feet…drive part way and hike some…not a difficult hike but still quite high right now for me…
So far, no altitude problems, I think walking to school up and down hills has helped me adjust..and ,oh, my classroom was on the sixth floor…no elevator!
I start my new school on Monday. After my first day of my new school, Maria(my old teacher) is taking me to lunch(still no English…only Spanish) in Ciudad Antigua. She wanted to see how I did in my new school and I’m sure to check out the competition also! (:
This next program will have us traveling all over Ecuador…we start here in Quito for a few days and then we fly to a village outside the Oriente(the Amazon) and take a canoe for about 2-3 hours into the Amazon where we will stay  for 4 1/2 days, studying for 4 hours in the AM and going on trips/activities in the PM(all in Spanish…no English)…With this program I will study in a small class of other students from around the world…after the Amazon we go to the Pacific Coast, then Isla De la Plata(the poor mans Galapagos) and then Guiyicuil(sp) and Cuenca…we will finish up at a Spa (and I’m sure I will need it)..then I will spend a week trekking in the Andes and relaxing….
I have received so many emails asking me about the security here, I thought I would respond a little…let’s just say that Quito is rampant with petty theft like purse snatching and pickpocketing but violent crime is quite rare…it is very common to see armed guards in very heavy Flak jackets guarding all types of stores like pharmacies, Super Markets etc..and most products are behind glass…I will say, It makes me feel safer to have an armed guard standing by as I go to the ATM!(wouldn’t that be nice to have an armed guard at every ATM in the US)…Most all of the houses etc are behind very big walls and locked gates…and then you go through a few more locks to get into the house…but having said that, if you just stay aware of your surroundings you will be fine…don’t wear jewelry and don’t wear a camera on your shoulder etc…
I just started my new school this morning…happy 4th of July!…This school, the Simon Bolivar School, is much larger and much more organized than my one last week(although I really enjoyed my school last week)…this school has at least 25 students from various countries and most are adult professionals like doctors, lawyers, professors etc..there are a few families and a few young college students but most(thank God) are closer to my age and as old as 85 years…The group I will be traveling with is a small( 7 students) group. There are 2 girls who are college students(one from Wisconsin, the other from England), one man in his late 40’s from Texas(he knows absolutely no Spanish), a man in his late 30’s from Switzerland and then there are 2 more men coming in. I will be studying with one of the men who is arriving tomorrow…he is 63 and I’m not sure of his nationality…Of the 25 students studying in Quito, the school has 25-28 teachers..a good student to teacher ratio!…My teacher is an Ecuadorian who has 2 masters…all the teachers have at least a masters degree…and my teacher is great…his name is Cristobal and he, as with my teacher last week, understands English a little but won’t speak it…he is very into the idea of teaching me just as much about the culture of Ecuador as  the language. Today for our last hour of class, we walked to the local Artists market to go shopping…you can buy a handwoven table cloth with 6 napkins for 8.00…or a beautiful Alpaca sweater(Llama’s wool) for 10.00….I see a lot of shopping in my future! While we were walking to the market we passed 6 Policia and Cristobal told me they call them the “Uniformed Mafia”…he says they are quite corrupt…
While we are traveling on the coast etc, Cristobal says that if we want to have class at the museum or the beach or a village, it is up to us…he is very flexible and most of all he understands my complete disgust for irregular verbs!!! he laughed when he saw my notebook from last week…he couldn’t believe they were able to teach so much…I’m not sure how much stuck with me…but I can say that today I did all my assignments without having to think in English and had no problem with the regular verbs…but he promises to focus more on conversation..I need a lot of help with pronunciation!!!
My new family is in a higher economic strata as my family last week…their gate is automatic and I have cable TV in my room…which is good because one of my homework assignments is to watch a show on TV tonight and report back tomorrow about it…although still no consistent hot water!…The family is not as personal as the family I lived with last week, but they are very nice and helpful…Laura is not the gourmet cook as Juana but the food is still great…this school has so many after class activities that it would have been hard spending much time at home anyway…tonight there is a class on Spanish idioms(Slang) and tomorrow is Salsa…which I may brave…and then tomorrow night is a night tour of the old city all lit up and dinner out…Wednesday my travel group goes to the Cotopaxi Volcano and then Wed. night is cooking lessons…We leave Thursday for the Amazon…
one last question a few of you have asked…about dogs and cats…there are quite a few dogs but not as many as you might expect…most are used as very serious guards dogs and some are just wild…but I have yet to see ONE cat…strange…but no cats…
Oh last word on transportation…i have finally mastered the system and I must say it is quite easy…even the jumping on and off the buses(so far no broken bones!!!)…but I still try to walk most places(with all this great food, if I don’t I will be Gordo by the time I return)…Orlando could benefit from looking at the system they have here…it’s a combination of a Metro(bus that’s very eco friendly and has it’s own designated lane), trolley(on cable) and buses..all are linked and cost .25 to use all three together(even if you are changing)…and they are fast…There still are too many of the older buses but as soon as they can get a few more metros up, they will phase out the older buses and then they hope it will cut the pollution…but it no worse than LA and actually, I think this city is still cleaner than most big cities  in the  US…i am returning to Quito on July 21 and 22 but for the most part my time in Quito is almost over…now it it onto the Amazonas, Coast, Cuenca…
Hasta Luego

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