FTJ: 8-24-08

Today, after breakfast, I said goodbye to all the people who, like Jacobi and Victoria, were going places other than Otavalo or Ibarra. Eight of us packed into a van and we drove off. It was me, two German guys, two Finnish girls, a Norwegian girl, an American girl, and a guy whose nationality I didn't know. (Hindsight: It was one Finnish girl and one Swiss girl, not two Finnish girls, and the guy is Italian.)

Daniele. He's Italian, and doesn't speak much English.

From left to right, Alex, Norwegian, Camille, American, and Johanes, German.

From left to right, Hannes, German, Lotta, Finnish, and me, American.

We started driving, and I got to see Quito for the first time, as it had been night previously. One of the things I noticed was that there were stray dogs everywhere, just randomly walking around. I asked about it later, and learned that people just leave their dogs outside during the day and bring them back in at night. I also saw three types of people: mestizos, who are the typical Ecuadorians, mixtures in varying fractions of natives and Europeans, the indigenous population, which is much darker in color than the mestizos. They wear pretty much the same things as other Ecuadorians, except some of the women wear the traditional clothing, with the Clint Eastwood-type ponchos. There were also black people, who looked the same as they do in the States. The natives and the blacks were about the same in darkness, maybe the natives a little bit lighter, but you can tell right away a black person from an indigenous one. There is something about their facial featurews that I can't quite express. I'll think about it and get back to you. (NOTE: Wikipedia states that Ecuador is about 65% mestizo, 25% indigenous, 7% white, and 3% black.)

On the way there, the Swiss girl sat next to the driver, a Mestizo from Quito. She could talk a little Spanish, a very small amount, so occasionally she would ask me to translate something for her. It was really funny, because I would go to say something, and Sra. Cabrera's (NOTE: My old Spanish teacher.) face would pop into my head saying the vocab word I needed. I started counting the number of times I used a vocab word from Sra. Cabrera's class, but I stopped after a couple of minutes when I lost count. One of the things that stuck in my head, because Sra. Cabrera kept listing all the different vocab words that changed from country to country, was that he explained that "montañas" are small mountains, while "nevadas," presumably from "nevado" or snow, are the really tall mountains. The next time I see Sra. Cabrera, I'm going to tell her that and give her a big hug. Her teaching has been so incredibly useful. (NOTE: Any of you taking Sra. Cabrera's class, could you please convey that to her? Thanks.) All the Ecuadorians I've met have been impressed with my Spanish, and I am way more prepared than any of the other AFS students. It took me 10 minutes to explain to the other people in the van why you can't say "¿Cómo estás Ud.?" Sra. Cabrera's amazing.

So, we arrived in Ibarra at 10:45 AM, or 10H45 as they say here. We pulled into a hotel and met the AFS liason for Ibarra. Almost immediately, cars started pulling up with people's families. As in the custom, I kissed every girl on the cheek, which was kind of weird. But hey, that's what they do here. I didn't see my family, but one of the women came up to me and said I was going with her. I didn't understand what was going on until I got an email from my mom, saying that the family I was going to stay with, their son couldn't get a visa to do AFS in the States, so they didn't have room for me. I'm staying with the AFS coordinator in Ibarra until they find a family for me. The other thing that came out of the initial meeting was that many high schools here are trade schools, and that I should go to the art school. I dunno about all that, but I emailed my real mom, and I'll talk more about it with my intermediate family.

My intermediate family, by the way, consists of the AFS coordinator, Anita, her babysitter, Rosalita, and her babysitter's daughter, Carolina, who is 13. I'm so terrible with names. I've met a bunch of aunts and uncles and I can't recall their names. I figure I can get by all right with Señor and Señora. (NOTE: Anita's children are all grown up now, but Rosalita does house work and the such.)

After seeing my room, we went out to the market, the supermarket, that is. They sell a bunch of the American products, like Pepsi, but they sell them in strange packages. The soda comes in 3 and 1.25 liter bottles, and the cigarettes come in boxes with warnings on the side in 20pt. font saying "Fumar Mata" and "Fumar causa cáncer," "smoking kills" and "smoking causes cancer" respectively. None of the "surgeon general warning" bull we see in the States. After going to the market, we drove to Tontaquil, which is the best way I know how to spell it from how it's pronounced. I don0t know enough Spanish yet to always tell the difference between names and words, so it took me a while to realize Tontaquil was city, not some weird verb I hadn't heard before. (NOTE: It's either Contachi or Atuntaqui. Those are two towns right next to each other, and I still haven't figured out which is which.)

People here are nuts when it comes to driving. They honk their horns for everything, and yell "pendejo" out the window (NOTE: Thanks for clarification, Mom.) They go around people driving the speed limit without hesitation, even if cars are coming the other way. I'm not gonna lie, it scares me a lot. I don't think AFS needs to forbid me from driving; I'm not getting behind the wheel of a car no way no how.

We went to the Pizzeria that my host mother runs and stayed there for several hours. I watched some of Indiana Jones in Spanish, which was weird. I also read the newspaper, which made me really happy because it was in Spanish and I could understand it. Obama choosing Joe Biden for VP was a big story in the "World" section of the newspaper. Also, the guy that won a silver medal for Ecuador in walking, Jefferson Perez, is a national hero. The Ecuadorians are so proud of him. I think that's the only medal Ecuador won. (Hindsight: It is, for this Olympics. Perez also won Ecuador their first gold medal back in '96. Also, walking is a sport. Yeah.) It's a real change from America, where we win a medal in, like, everything, but the only guy I know is Michael Phelps.

We also went to the top of one of the shorter mountains, where they have a statue of San Miguel el Archangel, the patron saint of Ibarra.

It was really cool. I paid 25 cents to go up inside the statue, and I got these really awesome pictures of the city and the mountains.


  • There are tons if little kids. I swear, they're just walking around with their parents, riding bikes. The Ecuadorians are always out walking around, talking and stuff. Ibarra is a small town, so everybody knows everybody else. It reminds me of home.

  • There are loads of shops, everywhere. I think I mentioned this before, but it's true. There are shops everywhere, where you can buy anything. I've seen a couple of underwear shops, several supermarkets, lots of internet places, some DVD stores, etc., and every shop has a booth where you can buy a phone cards. I'm going to buy a cell phone someday soon, I think, to really stick it to my parents. It's cheap, something like 8 cents a minute.

  • There's grafitti on lots of walls, especially one phrase: Por la revolución y el socialismo, victorioso congreso PCMLE, and a drawing of a sickle and hammer. If I have my camera in the car sometime when we're driving by, I'll snap a picture. There's also a lot of graffiti saying "Vota No" and "Vota Sí." I'm not sure what they mean, but apparently, the President is trying to enact some changes in the Constitution, and pretty much half the country is for it, and half the country against it. There have been commercials on TV and the radio and in the newspaper on both sides. Like I said, I don't know that much about it. I'll look it up later.

  • Also, my notebook is falling apart. I need to buy tape.

  • While in Cotachi, as it is (NOTE: NOT) spelled, I went to one of the internet cafés. The keyboards are so weird. They don't have apostrophes or quotation marks. I used the accent key, which is in the same place and looks about the same. (Hindsight: I "found" 'em!) It also has the ç, ñ, and ¡ keys, It has the at sign on the 2 like normal, but it uses some weird shift key that I haven't figured out yet.

  • Following the advice of my host mother, I will soon be writing in Spanish. ¡Que bueno!

301 días más.

For those of you who read this whole long post, thanks. I appreciate it. Leave me a comment so I know who's paying attention. Thanks. Also, I wrote in my journal in Spanish, but I'll translate to English when I post here. The grammar and vocab will be a little juvenille, of course, but get over it. Also, when I get off my lazy butt, I'll post some pictures. Peace.


FTJ: 8-23-08

So, after getting off the plane, we took a bus from Quito to some oter place, I don't remember the name, with some girls from Iceland and Japan. And the hills! We drove up and down and up and down! It was insane! Most people didn't understand why it was so amazing, but us from Florida understand. Probably some from Kansas, too. (NOTE: In Florida, there are no hills. At all. Were the sea level to rise 20 feet, all of Florida would be underwater.) We slept in these cabins that have several beds, and I thought back to what Jesse said abot bed bugs and fleas, and I slept above the covers.

It's kind of cold here, like 60 degrees. It's sweatshirt weather.

When I came out in the morning, I looked around and saw mountains.

Mountains are everywhere. They get fog because clouds drift into the city. Seriously. At first, I couldn't tell there were mountains on the horizon because clouds were in the way. We are really high up right now. It's pretty crazy, and I'm supposed to go even higher into the mountains, 12000 ft. in Otavalo. (Hindsight: It's not 12000 ft. up. It's even lower than Quito. I don't know where I got that ridiculous number.) So far I haven't had any trouble breathing so far, so that's promising.

I'm actually not sure if I'm going to Otavalo or not. The stuff I received from AFS definitly said Otavalo, but I haven't met anyone else here out of sixty six people going there.

I talked to one of the AFS women, and she said that there is no Otavalo chapter of AFS, so I'm just going with the Ibarra group, and all my activities will be with them. She also said that Otavalo is an amazing city, so I'm really looking forward to it. It's supposed to be the market capital of Ecuador. Well it's sweet, whatever it is.

This morning, I went to the camp store to buy a bottle of water. It cost 30 cents, but the smallest bill I had was a $10, so I had to use that. It was really embarassing, because the woman at the counter almost didn't have change for it. On the plus side, I did get some sweet Ecuadorian coins. They use the coins and bills here the same as American money. (Hindsight: There are no Ecuadorian bills equivalent to the dollar, only coins.) It's really cool and convenient.

So, there was a really long preseentation in which all the countries gave a presentation on their culture and what they thought about Ecuador. There were people from Norway, France, Sweden, Germany, Japan, Italy, Denmark and Belgium. There were three girls from Finland, and they were very pale, very blonde, and very blue eyed. We also had to do some cultural talent. The Americans did a pyramid, which I guess is more Egyptian, but whatever.

So I figured out that I'm leaving on June 23rd. So...

>251 days left (very approx.)

(Hindsight: It was actually 302.)


FTJ: 8/22/08

I´m wondering about pens. I´ve gone through two pens already, and I had to hunt around for another pen. I managed to snag two pens from the AFS people, which I deftly slipped into my man-bag. This one looks like it´s running out of ink, though, so I´m gonna see if I can snag another pen or two before I leave for the airport. So, I brought the application my host family sent in to AFS, which turned out to be a good thing. I needed to write the address on these yellow tags that I then put on everything I own, even my Man-Bag. The AFS people said that it helps with getting through security, because the people at the airport know the AFS program. It helps grease the wheels, apparently. I´ve met a bunch of people here, most of whom I´m sure I´ll never see again. A couple of people from Alaska, which I though was pretty funny, going from Alaska to Panama. We had more orientation discussion, which talked about how men are very, very dominant in South America, and we also had an ice breaker. In this ice breaker, we spent a half-hour talking with another exchange student, Victoria, in my case.

She´s a girl from Minnesota (as you can probably tell from the picture) and she´s going to Southern Ecuador. She´s got six brothers and sisters, and two of them have gone overseas with AFS. There´s a real family bond that exists with AFS, in that lots of people, having a child that goes, will send their other children too.

I´m sitting in the meeting room in the hotel, waiting until it´s time to go to the airpot. I tried getting into other people´s conversations, but it didn´t really happen. I should probably try harder to do that, but I don´t really care that much (::emohand::). I took out my 4x4 Rubik´s Cube and started solving it. People were interested in that, so I´m glad I brought it. Good ice breaker. I figuring that I´m going to be snatching quick moments here and there writing stuff down in this notebook.

So, after waiting for a while, we got on a bus and went to the Miami airport. It was fairly uneventful, and I realized halfway through that this was the last time I would see America for 251 days (Approx.). The thought wasn´t an unhappy one, or an exciting one, or a scary one. I had no feeling on the subject at all.

We made it through security in a fairly uneventful manner. We had our own line, which expedited the process somewhat.

That's Jacobi, on the right.

When we got to the gate, there was some confusion and we had to go to another gate. We sat down to wait (our plane was delayed 1.2 hours) and I began to teach Victoria how to solve a Rubik´s Cube. Right now, it is 10:20PM, and we will be shortly getting into Quito. David Letterman´s on TV doing some crazy thing with animals, I dunno. I learned that we´re going to be having a 2-4 day orientation meeting when we get to Quito, for which I am totally stoked. (NOTE: I found the apostrophe key!) It'll be like having a vacation! Where we can't leave the hotel. And we have to listen to boring orientation stuff. But hey, a couple more days in a swanky Ecuadorian Hotel with my friends is a pretty sweet deal to me. I wonder if they'll have internet. (Hindsight: HAHAHAHAHA! You fool!)

251 Days to go: (Approx.) (Including today)

From the Journal: 21-8-08

Today, my parents dropped me off at the Embassy Suites near the airport in Miami. I didn´t cry, although I think my dad was tearing up.

The people at the counter for AFS gave me a nametag and an ID badge, and I gave them my passport in return. I think they matched it up with my plane ticket for tomorrow, I dunno. After that, I went into one of the big lounges where there was like, 40 other kids sitting there, all white. That kind of threw me off for a moment, but I found a seat and gradually started talking to the other kids. They were pretty interesting; as I somehow always do, I managed to join up with the very loud, very strange people. I´m like that, I sort of gravitate towards them. Seriously, when the person was announcing the places that people were going to, my table was the only table that clapped. The only one. Every country. I sort of just sat there, because I was writing in my journal (NOT A DIARY) and I realized that I´m going to need more than one of these. I hope i can find more in Otavalo. I really like it. It fits into my man-bag perfectly. So, we did some boring orientation stuff, talked about gestures, sexual harassment, that kind of thing. We also had to preform a skit/song/picture/whatever about AFS, the mission, how to get sent home, etc. Our skit was about an AFS student who eats monkey brains, gets sick, and has to go to a hospital. Hitchhiking, he gets picked up by another AFS student who is smoking a joint while driving. They then pick up a pregnant AFS student and an AFS Liason, who busts them all. It was about the ways an AFS student can be sent home. Then, one of the girls played Taps on the harmonica, while another one read out the AFS mission. It was fun. After that, we went back to our rooms. I did see Kito-Jacobi Ford Rose again. I first met her when I went to the orientation specific to Florida a couple of months ago. She was the only other black person, and also the only other person to be going to Ecuador from Florida. I thought it would just be the two of us going, but there are actually twelve of us! (Hindsight: 15, actually) So that´s nice.We´re not going to any of the same places, though. I´ve only met one person who´s going to the North besides me, but we´ll meet more exchange students when we get to Quito, from all over the world. That will be cool.

After I got back to my room, I watched The Office on my computer until 12PM (Hindsight: 12AM, stupid.)

252 Days to go: Approx.


Got here

So, I got in fine to Ecuador. It´s really cool here, with loads of mountains and stray dogs and random stores. Yeah, I´m staying with the AFS coordinator in Ibarra until they find a family for me, so that´s going to be okay. She´s a really nice woman. I got to meet all the other AFS kids who are here for a year, a bunch from Germany, Finland, Europe in general. It was pretty cool. However, I stayed at a campground for Saturday and Sunday, and I suffered severely from the lack of internet. I could tell Obama made his VP pick, and I didn´t know who it was... But Biden´s a sweet pick. I´m writing to you from an internet café, which are EVERYWHERE. It´s crazy! There are so many little shops and things, It´s nuts. And it´s so cheap, too! 70 cents/hour. The only problem is that it´s a Spanish keyboard, so all the non-letter keys are in the wrong place. On the plus side, I get ñ ç and ¿ keys. That´s cool. I´m understanding and speaking Spanish passably, but people have to be talking directly to me. I can´t listen to two people talking and really understand. People here are so friendly! We went to this fish place to eat, and we sat next to this other family, and we just started talking. There was one woman who was from New Zealand, and she said to be careful about being in Ecuador, because she came for one year too, but is still here 12 years later!

So, I´m going to try to enter in my dia journal entries, but I don´t know if I´ll have the time. Also, sorry if the apostrophes don´t show up on your computer. The accent key is in the same place as the apostrophe key on an English keyboard, so I hit it when I use apostrophes, and I don´t feel like finding the apostrophe, and it looks the same to me anyway. So deal with it! I would do a smiley face, but I can´t find the colon key.

Also also, I found out that the program ends June 23rd, which is more than 251 days away, so I´m going to be changing the name of the blog. When I care enough to count all those extra days.

>251 days left (very approx.).


Pre-Departure Business

Well, after talking about it for years, it seems the time has finally come to leave the States for a whole 'nother country. For those of you unfamiliar with my trip, let me give you some information:
  • I am leaving for Ecuador on August 22nd, and my return airline ticket is for May 1st, hence the 251 days. However, I may decide to stay extra time in South America, hence the "Approx."
  • I will be living in Otavalo, in the Imbabura Province of Ecuador, with a family consisting of a father, a mother, and two sons, one a year older and one a year younger than I.
  • I am traveling to Ecuador through a program called the American Field Service, or AFS. My brother went to South Africa through this program, and it went okay for him.
  • I will be taking my computer and digital camera with me, meaning I will be able to write and photograph pretty easily. I do not know whether I will have Internet continuously or if I will have to use an Internet Café, but either way, I will not be online often, if at all.
  • I do not know Spanish. I have taken Spanish for five years in school, but, as everyone knows, this is a poor facsimile of true fluency. Learning Spanish was one of my main purposes in choosing a Latin American country for my year abroad. Full immersion should have me fluent in Spanish by December (approx.).
  • I will be applying to colleges, with lots of help from my parents, via the Internet. My dream school is MIT, and I am applying early action, so I will know by December.
  • I will not be attending my high school graduation back in the States as a graduating student. I should have enough credits to graduate, though, so there will be no problems there.
I can't think of anything else at the moment. If you have any questions, email me at Jacob.Austin.Breneman@gmail.com. That's Jacob.Austin.Breneman@gmail.com.

Tune in next time for more of my exciting adventures in Ecuador. Same Bat Time. Same Bat Channel. Well, actually, it'll probably be a different Bat Time. Same Bat Time Zone, at least.