12 October 2006


Elections and Murder in Class

Elections are fast approaching here in Ecuador, where most presidents can't hold out through the full 4 year term. Most times, presidents get elected on the platform of positive change, only to get ousted 6 months to 2 years later because they've stolen the whole treasury! There are about 13 candidates this time around, including: Cynthia, the only woman running for president, who is capitalizing on her gender. She's ultra conservative and is heading the Social Christian party; it's no surprise that she's buddy-buddy with Bush. There's a guy who recently came out of the jungle (a white man), who's platform rests on the karmic necessity of the world to get in line with the universe...whatever the hell that means! Another crazy candidate is an extremely wealthy man named Noboa, who can barely speak Spanish because of the after-effects of all the drugs he took when he was younger. He's just the face of the party, which is actually spear-headed by Noboa's young, cunning wife. We've got another guy, who is backed by an ex-president nick-named "El Loco" (Crazy), who got kicked out of office after 6 months of ridiculous behavior (creating his own milk brand, giving his addresses in the form of rock concerts, etc.). There are a bunch of candidates who's platforms are "eliminate poverty and racism" without any explanation as to how they're going to do that. These people talk about not paying the external debt to the U.S. because doing so only hurts Ecuador. I'm not sure they realize that not paying would be worse! And, of course, we have the "worker's party" represented by one of the richest men in Ecuador...oh the irony and disillusionment!! The only viable candidate is Correa, a handsome young guy who's well-educated and talks about the need to compromise more and quit bending over backwards for the U.S. and the rich elite of the country. Whenever the other candidates are invited on talk-shows to explain their strategies, they just start bashing Correa instead of actually talking about their plans. The talk-show hosts usually cut them off and point out the fact that they're not doing anything to help themselves. This has, unsurprisingly, given Correa a huge boost...that and the fact that he's handsome, because here that's one of the most important things!

Machala is the capital of El Oro province with about 250,000 people, and yet it seems forgotten by the politicians. There are about 6 bus lines, all of which run the same routes in the middle of the city, which just SO aptly reflects the organizational mentality of this place, I'm sorry to say. There are 2 types of bus: the 18cent bus and the 25cent bus. They say that the 25cent buses are newer and are for those who can afford the pricier things. For some reason, tho, robbers ride the 18cent bus...I don't get it: if you have the choice to rob a rich person or a poor person, wouldn't you go for the richer person? Lucky for me, the buses don't go near my house; I either walk or pay $1 for a cab. Anyways, things really need to start changing in the self-proclaimed Banana Capital of the World and hopefully whoever gets voted in will see the need to have more than 2 cities in Ecuador that attract tourists. So this Sunday should be interesting. Hopefully it'll all go smoothly and we won't have strikes...although if we do, I won't have to work!

Speaking of work...I had my first class on Tuesday night with my intermediate class. Let me tell you that I didn't get my books until Tuesday afternoon, because of the wonderful organizational skills of the Language Institute! When I asked the director for my class list, so I could at least know how many students I'd have, she scoffed that it wasn't ready because, "oh, these people wait until the last minute to get anything done." I was really tempted to hand her a mirror while she said that. I asked her to give me an estimate and she said about 20 or 25. Well, at 6:30 when I got my class list, there were 4 names! Nine people actually showed up, but when you plan for 2.5 hours of teaching 20-25 people and only 9 show up, your lesson plan might as well explode into flames. The problem was made worse by the fact that these students had never had a native English teacher and therefore couldn't (or refused) to understand anything I said. I had to speak so slowly that I forgot what I was saying mid-sentence! On top of that, they were nowhere ready for the lessons the textbook had laid out, and now I have to catch them up and teach them 8 units in 32 classes...oh man! So my first day was really hellish and I was ready to go home and cry myself to sleep (not really, but it probably would've felt good) until the other volunteer, John, suggested that we grab a bite at this little, family-run restaurant across the street and we just bitched and moaned for an hour. Turns out his class was painful too...and in the end we realized that things could only get better. We've decided that the restaurant is now our "local" place and they love us there! I went home and watched an episode of "Friends," which I actually brought to show the students but we'll have to see about that...and went to sleep. I have 2 classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays, 5-7 pm of Level 1 and 7-9pm of Level 7 (out of 8). It's hard to be 110% on the ball for 4 hours straight, but last night went SO well!! I only have 4 people in my level 1: three guys who are best buddies and a young woman who seems to be a pool-shark. They're a fun bunch who keep class funny and exciting. I'll just have to come up with a million activities...my level 7 class is comprised of 28 crazy, lively, loud, and full of life people and I love it!! The large class makes for a lot more student-oriented exercises and talking time. One anecdote: I was going over the rules in English and whenever they had a hard time understanding and I couldn't find a better way to explain a word, I wrote it in Spanish on the board (I refuse to speak Spanish, but when it comes to things like rules that are really important for them to understand, I'll write the word on the board so that they at least get it). Anyways, I was going over the attendance policy, which says they can miss up to 8 classes, but 9 or more means they get a failing grade. They didn't quite understand that so I wrote the word "fallecimiento" on the board. "Fallar" means to fail, so I just sort of guessed at the noun. Turns out "fallecimiento" means death! I had accidently told them that if they missed 9 or more classes, they would die!!! Half of the class gasped in horror while the other class burst into giggles. I had to clarify that no, I wouldn't be killing anyone for missing too many classes, and had to apologize for my odd Spanish. They seem like an exciting and lively group, and I'm excited to work with them. I have the intermediate class tonight and I can only hope that things will go better...

Hilarious, Mel! I love it - "Miss 9 classes and ... death!" - show them who's boss!

Good to hear you have class-size variety - very good for the experience I bet. Sounds like you'll be having a good time, so keep up the blog-postings - you'll thank yourself later when you're looking for the next experience and have these entries to reflect on.
double hilarious! hope you're taking 'writer's notes' - great material for a phantasmagorical book.

going to send you an article on Correa if I can find it. shame to think he's the only viable candidate. but hey, if you can rob the Treasury in 6 months, why stick around any longer?
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