Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Whats Been Happening?

Since Carnaval, things have been pretty busy with starting my volunteer placements, being sick and finally getting settled into a routine hence a bit of a delayed blog post!

So where to start...?

On Wednesday 1st March we began the work which we came to Ecuador for. This was both exciting and daunting but I was ready to get stuck into it. My morning placement is at a Daycare called 'Perpetuo Socorro' and I begin work at 8am. This meant that I got up at 6.30am and left the house at 7.30am for the 30 minute walk to work. Thankfully, my host family had shown me the way to both of my placements the day before so getting lost wasn't an issue despite my doubts. When we arrived we were asked which class/age group of children we would like to help with. The options were: Classroom 1 - 12 to 18 months old; Classroom 2 - 18 months to 24 months old; Classroom 5 - 24 months to 36 months old. I chose the oldest kids in Classroom 5 who are super duper adorable and are between 2 and 3 years old.

I went to the classroom and met my mentor/co-teachers Sonia and Yessenia and began to meet the kids as they arrrived between 8-8.30am. Alhough there was only 12 children on this day (normally 22) due to Carnaval and many kids becoming sick due to the water fights.

The morning was pretty full on but I enjoyed it a lot and knew that this was going to be a really good placement.

(I will do a full in depth blog post of what I exactly I do on a daily basis at both placements soon)

Work finished at 12.30pm when all the kids had eaten lunch and gone for a nap and I walked the 30 minute walk home where I had some lunch before leaving with my host dad to my afternoon placement which is a High School called 'Remigio Romero.'

I was under the impression that my placement started at 2.30pm and finished at 5pm but discovered that I could arrive slightly later than 2.30pm due to class times. However, I also discovered that classes at the school don't finish until 6.40pm! So I agreed with the teacher to stay until the second to last class ended at 6pm, that way I avoid walking home in the dark. I was also under the impression that I would be teaching classes by myself at a primary school but alas the school is actually a high school in the afternoons and I am only assisting the english teacher (thank goodness). I met my mentor teacher who is super lovely and she put me straight to work helping her mark students work. I also got to meet a few of her/our classes and I got a good vibe from all of them (Even with the flirtatious over the top comments from many of the male students as is the culture here) ☺

I finished up work and walked home, getting home at about 6.30pm. Overall, it was as good as a first day at a new 'job' can go and I thoroughly enjoy what I am doing. Although both of my placements are a 30 minute walk from where I'm leaving this means that every day I walk an average of 2 hours which equates to approximately 11,000 steps per day and ups to 880,000 steps for the whole time I'm here 😛

Friday 03 March - 18th BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS!
Friday was my 18th birthday and was the first birthday where I was in a different country without my family and friends around me but nevertheless it was still a wonderful birthday and I can't thank the other volunteers (and now good friends), my host family and the other people around me enough.

In the morning my host parents surprised me with a wee gift of moisturiser and body spray which was lovely. At my morning placement it just happened to be the day they were celebrating all the February birthdays that had been. So a few of the classes joined together and the February birthday kids were given party hats and snacks were passed around. There was also a cake which all the kids blew out the candles on and my co-teachers also brought me my own candles and made it a bit special which was cool! There was also lots of dancing. At my afternoon placement it was pretty low key, although there was one student who remembered that I'd said it was my birthday on Friday and the class sung me Happy Birthday in both English and Spanish! It definitely put a smile on my face.

After work I rushed home and put on a dress and some jewellery and met up with the other volunteers in town. We went to a bar/restaurant called 'La Cigale' which is apparently good for birthdays and where all the young people go. It was a really good night. I had a few cocktails and even got a free one since it was my birthday and the others paid for my meal which was super lovely of them! ❤

The birthday celebrations carried over to Saturday when Abuela and her friend visiting from Manta came over and we had family lunch together which Natacha had made. It was really lovely and afterwards, around late afternoon I went into town with a few of the others and we got Milkshakes and chilled in the park before getting pizza for dinner at an extremely yummy pizza place.

On Sunday, my host mum and dad had other commitments so they dropped me at Abuela's and I had lunch there and spent the afternon/evening hanging out with Natacha's sister and niece who is similar age to me and we watched a few movies in spanish (definitely a good way to practise!)

Monday - Friday (6th to 10th March) = Sick, Sick, Sick
Unfortunately I woke up on Monday with what I thought was a pretty awful cold. I stayed home from work and tried to rest as much as possible hoping it would just get better. On Tuesday afternoon I felt marginally better so I forced myself to go to work but on Wednesday morning I woke up feeling absolutely awful and with an incredibly sore throat! So off to the doctor I went. This was the first time I fully felt I had to 'adult' and I managed to organise an appointment, get in a taxi and find my way to the doctors and back whilst feeling absolutely miserable. I discovered that I had a sinus infection and a throat infection and was put on a decongestant and a 5 day course of antibiotics and was told not to go back to work that week.

Saturday 11th March
Today a few of us decided to visit the Pumapungo museum and ruins. Unfortunately the main floor of the museum was closed for maintenance but we were still able to walk around the ruins of buildings which are believed to be part of the old Incan city of Tomebamba. At the bottom of the park there was also a few cages with some very bright and colourful birds in. When it started to rain we we took refuge under the cover of the Belgian Waffle bar. The waffles were extremely delicious and are apparently the 'best in Cuenca.' After filling up on some delicious waffles we explored some more and found a spot to sit with some hammocks and played cards for a while. Alas, we were caught in quite a big rain storm and huddled for warmth before making a dash back to the museum for cover and to decide what to do next. We decided to head to the mall and we just chilled for the afternoon/evening and got a few bits and pieces from the supermarket.

Sunday 12th March
Today we attempted to go inside the New Cathedral but somehow couldn't time it right it with the services going on so we got some lunch at a cafe (I had a hot dog and coconut milkshake which I would highly recommend) and sat outside the church for a bit before heading to a supermarket and sitting another park for a while.

Monday 13th March
Today was Anushka's birthday and after work we went round to her house for a small birthday celebration. Her host parents are super lovely and they organised party snacks and even dessert and cake for Anushka! It was a lovely night and exactly how you'd want to spend your birthday in a foreign country with a family that is not your own. Happy belated 18th Birthday Anushka 😉

Nothing much happened for the rest of the week and despite being back at work, the sickness was lingering.

Thursday 16th March - Photo Shoot for Cuenca Tourism
Today something a bit unexpected happened and 5 of us were chosen to be 'tourism models' for Cuenca in an annual tourism competition between a few cities in Ecuador. We spent the day taking awfully cheesy and typical 'tourist' photos but on the bright side it did mean we got to see a few cool places including Cajas National Park and climbing to the the top of the New Cathedral!

Saturday 18th March - Time to treat ourselves!
Today a few things happened. In the morning I met with one of my co-teachers from Perpetuo Socorro and together we went to hire costumes for a dance performance we were doing with the kids on Monday. The dress was a traditional dress for a dance which originated in Colombia called 'La Pollera Colorada' and is a type of the popular Colombian 'Cumbia.' Once I'd hired my dress I jumped in a taxi and met with the others to go on our little day excursion.

We headed to Baños, a small town 20 minutes out of Cuenca well known for it's thermal springs rich in minrerals. We headed to a thermal spa called 'Piedra de Agua' (and got a discount since Bethyn's host sister works there) and were taken around the different thermal pools and treatments. This started with a freezing cold shower and then 15 minutes in the steam room which we then repated again. After this, we were taken to the mud pools. The first mud pool was the 'blue' mud pool and we hopped in the water and used our little terracotta pots containing mineral-rich mud to lather the mud all over our bodies and let it dry before rinsing it off in the volcanic showers. After the 'blue' mud pool we hopped in the 'red' mud pool which was supposed to have slightly different properties to the 'blue' one. Admittedly, the red mud looked pretty hilarious especially on my own pale body but nevertheless it was a good laugh and my skin truly felt incredible afterwards!

Once we'd rinsed off the 'red' mud we were taken down to these steam boxes where only your head is visible and you sit in the steam for 10 minutes. This too looked pretty hilarious with just a bunch of heads visible above these wooden boxes but the health benefits were so good. Finally, we were taken to the underground 'contrast' pools where we sat in the 40℃ pool for 10 minutes and then got in the freezing cold pool for 1 minute. We repeated this and then we were finished our lovely, calming and healing thermal spa experience. We got changed and returned our robes and towels before calling a couple of taxis and heading in search of food. We ended up going to a burger place called 'Chill & Grill' where we had some mighty fine burgers which were so good and reasonably priced too! I had a BBQ Burger and Maracuya (passionfruit) juice for just $7.80. Overall, it was a lovely day and truthfully my skin had/has never felt better and that's coming from someone who continuously suffers from eczema and dry skin.

Monday 20th March
This morning we had the dance performance at the daycare and all the parents came to watch. Here are some pictures of the kids and myself in our costumes.

Tuesday 21st and Wednesday 22nd March - Sickness upon Sickness
On Tuesday the sore throat that had been lingering was still there and I'd been having chills and hot flushes during the night as well as coughing heaps so I returned to the doctor who told me my throat infection had devloped into strep throat and he prescribed me more antibiotics among a few other things and sent me on my way.

On Wednesday things took a different turn and I found myself at the doctors again only this time for a different and more serious reason... At lunch time I had my first taste of Ceviche (a popular dish here in Ecuador especially on the coast) and although I don't like prawns/shrimp I ate the Ceviche anyway out of politeness. However as I was to discover in just a few hours time, this was a mistake!

About 20 minutes after I'd eaten lunch I had the weirdest and most painful sore stomach I'd had in my life. Thinking I may just have a stomach bug, I grabbed my things and walked to my afternoon placement. When I arrived I was coughing excessively but still didn't think too much of it due to the coughing I'd had with my strep throat. Shortly after though I realised the coughing was not normal and I was struggling to breath. At this point the back of my neck and head began to tingle where hives were starting to appear and it began to sink in that I was likely having an allergic reaction. I told my mentor teacher what I thought was happening and she took me to the school doctor on site who told me she thought I was having an allergic reaction to the prawns/shrimp and gave me an antihistamine tablet and sent me on my way. I knew I wasn't too well so I left my placement early and walked home. However by the time I was home things were deteriorating and I immediately called the doctor and jumped in the taxi (not before an extremely brief call to mum back home who talked sense into me and advised me to call the doctor).

By the time I arrived my whole neck was covered in hives and my face was swollen and hives were also beginning to appear on my hands and arms. The doctor rushed off to the pharmacy to buy the medication I needed and he returned as quick as he could to give me a strong Cortisone injection which essentiallly 'saved my life.' He monitored me over the next 2 hours and upon seeing the dramatic improvement he needed to see, he dropped me home and I went to bed to sleep off the day's stress. Thankfully in the end everything was ok but I now know not to eat prawns/shrimp and that I have a severe allergic reaction to them. It was definitely not an experience you want to have in a foreign country thats for sure! I think I've had my fair share of sickness now Ecuador!

Anyway, sorry for the extremely delayed and lengthy blog post but hopefully that's mostly caught you up on what's been happening here in the crazy world of Ecuador.
Hope you're all well ☺

Also a very special congratulations to my Grandparents in England who on Thursday (30th March) will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary! Love you both very much ❤❤❤
Georgia xx

Sunday, 5 March 2017


On Thursday 23rd February we arrived in Cuenca at 3.30pm after a 9 hour bus trip down from Quito. We were greeted by our host families and taken to our new homes. In my host family there is just myself and my two host parents as all 2 of their children are studying overseas and their daughter is currently in the UK with Lattitude. I have my own room to myself with a double bed and my house is rather lovely and super clean and tidy. Below is a picture of me with my host parents.

On Friday we went with the local Lattitude representative Kika and visited our volunteer placements (I'll do another blog post on everyday life and volunteering). However, things were not as they would normally be when we visited the placements due to the beginning of Carnaval celebrations (a lot of foam and water to say the least).

Saturday 25-02-17
Today was the first day of full on Carnaval craziness!! Everyone's families had Carnaval plans and there was not a moment of rest or calmness in sight. My family left at about 10am and we picked up Abuela (grandma) and a visiting aunty from Manta and drove to one of the family member's house's. The house was in a slightly more rural location and the first thing that I saw when we arrived was a large truck from which they carried an entire (dead) pig with nothing but the hair removed, over to a marquee set up with a table for food (see photo below...).

The entire family greeted me and everyone else with the traditional Ecuadorian kiss on the cheek and then they got stuck right in to eating the pig skin. It wasn't long after this that the hose and the foam came out. It is a tradition in Cuenca especially, to throw water at each other for Carnaval and there is certainly no one who is spared! I was drenched within half an hour of being there and meeting all these new people. It was rather overwhelming to say the least but definitely a lot of fun!

Once the family had eaten all of the pig skin, the pig was cut up and put into a giant pot (seen in the picture) to be cooked up for lunch. We spent the next few hours being continually  drenched with water and flour (which dries into your hair and doesn't come out for days) and foam and oats and trying to keep warm. Eventually when it was just too cold I got changed into some dry clothes and hung out with some of the cousins watching movies and staying inside.

Eventually the pig was ready and we had a traditional Ecuadorian meal under the marquees setup outside - although I didn't eat much due to still recovering my stomach bug. Most of the men were incredibly drunk and there was a lot of music and dancing. Finally, around 9 or 10pm at night we headed home. I felt very shattered and overwhelmed but in hindsight it had been a fun day.

Sunday 26-02-17
This morning the family all came to the house and we all left at about 11am to head to another place called Yunguilla about 2 hours out of Ecuador for more Carnaval celebrations. I would say the house we went to was the equivalent of a Kiwi Batch just without the sea views and more mountain valley views. Thankfully today we didn't get too wet and it was my choice to join in the foam fight with the children there. We had Ceviche for lunch (more like a steak of fish marinated in a garlic-like coating) and spent most of the day inside avoiding the cold and mist outside. I played card games with the other girls there and it was just a nice chill day. In the late afternoon, Abuela made a delicious bread which she had also made the day before. Fresh out of the oven the bread was super delicious and had cheese in the middle.

Eventually by about 10pm we left to head home. Again, I was incredibly tired but I was thankful the day wasn't so full on and really enjoyed becoming a part of my new family. The drive into and out of Yunguilla involved some steep and muddy dirt roads and also some interesting driving which can only be described as Ecuadorian.

Monday 27-02-17
Today we were going to yet another place for even more Carnaval celebrations! We left at about 10aam for a place called Paute. Another semi-rural place where we went to another member of the family's holiday house. When we arrived the music was setup and another pig, this time already cooked was brought in for eating. They call pig/pork 'Chancho' here in Cuenca. This time I actually ate some of it as I was feeling better. It tasted nice but I did seriously consider becoming vegetarian when they just got their hands right into the pig and pulled out the parts they wanted. After lunch the hose and foam came out and there was no choice in it, you were going to get wet whether you wanted to or not! We were all drenched again and covered in foam, although thankfully this time there was no flour...

Once we'd had some fun and were soaking wet we danced to keep warm which I enjoyed. After a while they then decided to commence some other sort of tradition where they hit individuals with plants and dance around you whilst another person spits water at you... not entirely sure what this symbolised but it happened nevertheless.

Most of the day and evening was spent dancing which I joined in on and thoroughly enjoyed and even got the family to accept me as one of them when I joined in on their dancing antics. Eventually by about 10pm our family decided to leave and we gave up the dancing and headed back home rather tired from the busy day.

Thankfully on Tuesday we just had a chill day with no more crazy Carnaval celebrations and my family walked with me to each of my placements so I would know where I was going on Wednesday when I would start my placements.

The three crazy days of Carnaval were a lot of fun but definitely full on and overwhelming and I struggled with homesickness a lot. I also miss having siblings weirdly enough as here with my family I am an only child. Guess it's things like this that make you appreciate what you have and as they say "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."
Georgia xx