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.


ben said...


M. said...

Sounds like you're having fun. When you finally take a picture of that communist thing, don't forget to send it to Chris. ...You should post in spanish, that would be cool.

<3 M.

Tom said...

Eep... I'm going to need translations...

blackgirlart said...

Jacob this is SO cool - your writing makes me feel like I can see what is going on!! Keep it up!
And its "Pendejo" - a bad bad word :)

love you lots,
your mom

ps you should email Sra Cabrera

blackgirlart said...

Jacob: Proud of you! Your Dad. Keep writing. I Miss you. Hope says 'arf'.