Orientation – that’s a wrap

Everyone survived orientation. Admittedly they scared the crap out of us the first couple of days. I like to think it was for our own good, but I think they got some entertainment out of it too (hey, why not I probably would have done the same). Some days felt exceedingly long. However, I am amazed at how much information the field directors were able to squeeze into 10 days.

We got to do fun things like tour Quito, the Guayasamin Museum and take a salsa dancing lesson. We also managed learn a lot about things like culture, ESL students, lesson planning, health and safety. I did like that instead of long lectures by the same people everyday, they mixed it up with guest speakers and interactive sessions that illustrated games to play with students. Who doesn’t like playing with balloons and spit balls?

Friday, after finishing orientation we had a little free time before a group dinner. Most of us checked email, then headed out to happy hour. There are some really good happy hour specials in Quito. Then we went a group dinner with field directors. Pizza, wine, beer and good company. It was a great way to wrap up a long ten days. Orientation felt long but was practical. I guess the real test will be when we are in the classroom. Thanks Kate, Tara and Lee!


A Tour of Quito

Today, we took a tour of the city and then were turned loose. On the tour we stopped at El Panecillo to see the Virgen de Quito. After the official tour ended we ate lunch then we split up to see different parts of the city.  A group of us went to the Basilica of the National Vow, La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús and Centro Historico. The Basilica was incredible. You could climb all the way to the top for an amazing view of the city. It was a great to finally get to spend sometime exploring the city.

Walking to dinner was interesting because the streets were mostly empty. People weren’t joking when they said nobody goes out on Sundays.

Orientation Day 2: Health and Teaching

Today was “Health Day.” A nurse, who spent something like 20 years working as a nurse for the Peace Corps, came to talk to us about trying to stay healthy in Ecuador. Well getting sick sounds inevitable, I hope following he precautions help.

That was followed up by a brief talk about what our insurance will and will not cover. It sounds like mostly the latter. Then we played Jeopardy to review it all. How can you not love categories like Poop, Puke & Piss and Diseases you might get in Ecuador?

For lunch we were broken into groups and went with a current year-long volunteer living in Quito. It was the same soup, rice and chicken. The volunteer we ate with had just been robbed twice the week before, but still loves it here. I guess that is promising.

In the afternoon, we covered some class room management techniques. Then we had an awesome session about teaching in the target language. Ellah, a WorldTeach volunteer since 2010 I believe, came in speaking nothing but Hebrew. First, we learned to say “What is your name?” and  “My name is…” Then we added he and she. After that she had us all stand up and file into three lines. We played a little game like Simon Says learning left, right, forward and back. Then had to guide two people through a maze of tables. It was incredible. Especially, since we are likely walking into classes where our students speak little to no English and I speak little to no Spanish.

Orientation Day 1: Safety

Today started with a little breakfast at the hotel. Eating was optional, but not what you ate. A server brought juice, jam and bread to the table, followed by a hard-boiled egg. If you were looking for something else, then you need to go somewhere else.

Orientation started promptly at 9 am. As soon as we sat down we received a 10 page Spanish test that we had an hour to take. There was some multiple choice, fill in the blank and an essay. Fortunately, it was just a placement test for when we start Spanish classes next week.

The Spanish test was followed by a safety talk from a Special Agent from the U.S. Embassy. It was enlightening to say the least. Ecuador’s crime rating is critical. A fun little statistic he was nice enough to share was that 90% of students visiting the country get robbed. The good news is that after these  safety seminars started  that number dropped by 70%. Or at least I am telling myself this is good news.

We finally got to leave the hotel for lunch. We were broken into groups based on the area of the country we will be living. Then we walked a few blocks to a little restaurant where everyone was served the same thing; soup, chicken, rice, and pasta salad. We talked about the Intag region where we will be staying. As we were leaving there was a man playing the guitar and singing America’s Horse with No Name in Spanish. It was great.

In the afternoon, we covered more on “Surviving in Ecuador.” There were personal stories and stories of past volunteers to supplement the lengthy handout. I know they are trying to make sure we understand what we will face and how to best protect ourselves, but I am seriously wondering what I have gotten into.