Sunday, October 3, 2010

Quito and the Guayasamin School - Ecuador

Sometimes it’s hard to just travel and have so much fun all the time, so I decided to enroll in a Spanish school in Quito, Ecuador. Well, that and the fact that I was tired of piecing together nouns and verbs in such nonsensical ways and getting blank stares from old and young alike when I tried to explain something in detail, beyond “Where is the bus station?” or “How much for a dorm room?” After about 5 minutes of searching, I found the Guayasamin School, a charming little place in the heart of Mariscal, a super touristy part of town. While I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of being among all the visitors while trying to study, at least the area has some nice cafes, restaurants and bookstores. The school is named for Oswaldo Guayasamin, an incredible artist of Quechua Indian decent, whose museum and art work is a bit somber at times, but then again so is the life of many indigenous people throughout the world. His pieces depict the cruelty of men and also the greatness of mankind.

After my first day of private lessons I was exhausted from 4 hours of straight Spanish, and realized how little I knew of some important aspects of the language. For example, I had no idea how to make a verb past tense until that day – so now, I don’t have to say the verb and then motion over my shoulder to imply “in the past” anymore! The other students were as diverse as you can imagine, all ages from all places.

I opted to do the home stay for a complete week of immersion, so after class on Monday my new Ecuadorian host father, Fausto, came to pick me up. So comical and enjoyable! At the house I met his wife, Annie, an extremely compassionate and nurturing woman. She can speak English but almost never did, except to translate the occasional word here and there for us if need be. Annie and Fausto’s mothers live there, as well as their son, while their daughters are working abroad at the moment. I had my own private room and bathroom in their spacious home, and immediately we all sat down for a nice hot lunch. A siesta was in order after such an overwhelming day, so I slept the rainy afternoon away until dinner time, when we all joined back at the table once again. Another student from a different school was staying there as well, Lisa from California. The dinner conversation was always in Spanish, but was as easy going as it was gratifying. We would stumble over Spanish words and Annie was always there with her patient manner to help us.

This continued for the progression of my week in Quito – only the second day we were joined by David and Deborah from Switzerland, making us four Spanish students in the house. We would wake around 7:00 and take breakfast at 7:45; coffee or tea, fruit, fresh hot bread and some cheese on the side. Then we’d go our separate ways for school until 12:30, and most of the days we had things to do in the afternoon so wouldn’t regroup until dinner time. With the Guayasamin School we had planned activities such as a salsa class, a cooking class, and a trip up the teleferico to overlook the city. The rest of the time I would wander around, trying new and cheap restaurants, exploring the beautifully antiquated part of the city known as “Old Town”, reading in cafes when it rained and attempting to speak Spanish as much as possible in every situation.

The week of classes was over before I knew it, and I really hated to leave! I feel like in one short week I learned a lot, and I know if I would have (or could have) stayed longer I really would have benefited from it even more. On Friday, we cut loose and had a couple drinks at a very ambient and artsy bar near the house, and on Saturday, David, Deborah and I took a trip up north to Otavalo for the day. On Sunday was the Mitad del Mundo, and on Monday morning had to say goodbye to my new friends and my new family in Ecuador. I loved my home stay with Annie and Fausto so much; the conversations around the dinner table that would last for hours were informing, interesting and funny! I know that they really cared about our well-being and our positive experiences in Ecuador and elsewhere in the world. I found it very charming that three generations lived under one roof and they all collectively earned and saved money together as a family to help assist each other in times of need. I couldn’t have asked for a better host family or a better home stay experience! Annie and Fausto open their home to people who desire to learn Spanish and have total absorption in Ecuadorian life (the best way to learn). If you are at all interested in studying in a foreign country – consider Ecuador! It is inexpensive and extremely beautiful… Quito is a mountainous city (nearly 9,000 feet) with so many things to do in and around this lively capital. If you are interested in more information, please contact me and I will put you in touch with them.

outside area for studying

my room

the kitchen


Christopher Paul said...

I was directed here by Yelena S. who is also in Ecuador. This does sound like an experience. The siestas sound so lovely. The rain, the study yard, reading. I'll read on.

Post a Comment

Design by Wordpress Theme | Bloggerized by Free Blogger Templates | free samples without surveys