It’s been a hot minute since I’ve updated here. Honestly I haven’t felt too motivated to share what’s been happening but I have to remember that everyday here truly is an adventure…even if it seems completely mundane to me. As my time winds down, I plan to fill my readers (if there are any left) in on all the cultural nuances and other interesting tidbits I’ve picked up throughout my time in Ecuador. Let me know if you’re dying to know about anything in specific.

I thought I’d post about today since I feel as though, in terms of work, its one of the most successful and complete days I’ve had. Keep in mind that my idea of a success has drastically changed as I’ve adapted and well, its taken me a year and half to build up to the point of actually having a semi-full day of work where people actually come to the things planned and things happen as I envision them in my head. That being said, I’m still in Ecuador which means little to no consistency in terms of scheduling. Next Tuesday could very well and probably will end up a complete disaster. “Vamos a ver” as they say in this corner of the world.

6 am – Wake Up

Because I live in a concrete igloo, I keep myself wrapped in my fleece airline blanket while I get ready. I look at my clothes and decide if I want to be “fancy” and wear my one pair of black slacks instead of my rapidly approaching unacceptable-to-leave-the-house-in jeans. I look out my window to see if the local volcano is covered in clouds or if its going to be a sunny day to determine whether full on scarf, gloves, and fleece coat are necessary or a simple cardigan will do. I NEVER leave the house without at least one extra layer. I gather the books/materials I will need for the day…a mix of high school English textbooks, TOEFL books, sign in sheets, flashcards, etc.

6:45 am – Juice Time

I head outside and downstairs into the kitchen where my host mom is finishing up the Ecuadorian morning ritual of blending a mix of fruit, sugar, water, and milk to form a small whiskey glass of deliciousness. We chit chat a few minutes over juice and bread.

7 am – Leave for School

7:05 am – Arrive at School/Saludos

I walk through the school gates prepared to say “Buenos días” and kiss about 74935874 people (more like 15-20 people) on the cheek in the following 5 minutes. Round 1 happens between the front gate and the teacher’s lounge (about 5-7 male teachers and various staff). Round 2 is inside the teacher’s lounge where on a daily basis, no less than 10 female teachers are putting on mascara, curling their hair, etc. in the last five minutes before the bell rings for first hour. I walk to the back wall where the teacher’s lockers are and lock up my load of books for the day.

7:10 am – 1st hour Bell

I start searching for my first hour teacher if I haven’t already greeted them.

7:15 am – Walk to First Hour…today with the segundos (juniors in the U.S.)

7:20 am – Enter Classroom/Greet Students

Upon any teacher/authority figure entering an Ecuadorian classroom, the students automatically stand up next to their desk. I would love to see if there’s any variation for the non-English classes but the standard procedure for English class is as follows:

Teacher: “Good morning students.”

Students (in unison): “Good morning teacher.”

Teacher: “How are you today?”

Students: “Very well, thank you. And you?”

Teacher: “Very well, thank you. Sit down.

Students: “Thank you teacher.”

Despite my attempts at introducing, “How’s it going?” “What’s up?” or “I’m fine,” ANY variation from the above is completely not understood and will get you looks of utter shock and confusion.

7:25 am – 1st hour actually starts

I hang out, meandering through the desks while the teacher talks unless I have a specific activity planned. When the students are assigned to do something, I continue meandering, trying to gauge the amount of copying happening and what the students really need help with. I’ve learned to pick my battles.

7:50 am – 1st hour ends/2nd hour begins

7:55 am – Individual TOEFL Prep…today it was a review of 20 Campus Vocab. words for the Listening section and practice with skimming and scanning for the Reading section

8:30 am – 2nd hour ends/3rd hour begins (see above)

9:10 am – 3rd hour ends/4th hour begins

The first three hours have been with the same teacher either in class with the segundos or working on TOEFL. Now I’m on to the terceros (seniors) for an hour of Catherine-centered conversation in English because that’s what the teacher wants. I try to get the too-cool-for-school terceros talking by making a fool of myself. I proceed to explain random things like Indie music, how many years American high schools are and the fact that Americans only have one last name. This last bit was completely shocking for everyone present, including the English teacher. Yay for cultural awareness!

9:50 am – Recreo (break time) begins

Depending on how social I’m feeling, I hang out on the patio and attempt some Spanish small talk with random teachers/students as we bake in the Ecuadorian sun for 30 minutes. More than likely, I leave school to pick up some bread or run home for a bit.

10:20 am – Recreo ends/5th hour begins

Freeeedom! I do some last minute TOEFL or English club planning over a cup of hot tea in the teacher’s lounge. I also get a visit from the mail lady in town to deliver a package from Peace Corps HQ in Quito, a postcard, and a lovely letter from my hermana. I will never again live in a place with mail service that includes a personal phone call or a personal visit to my place of work. She knows WAYYYYY too much about me and where I am/what I do.

11 am – Individual TOEFL Prep (6th hour)

A different teacher but more campus vocabulary. I attempt to explain what a dean and grading curve are as well as the semantic differences between career, major, and degree in Spanish and English. Fuuuuuun.

11:40 am – 6th hours ends/7th hours begins

Run home for a quick snack and to buy candy for the English club.

12:20 pm – 7th hour ends/English club for decimos (9th grade) begins

I try to rally students while the decimo teacher bribes them to come. I end up with 8…again my idea of success has changed drastically. We play a name game, a spelling game, and vowel bingo. I reward the winners with candy, hoping they’ll come back next week for more.

1 pm – English club ends


2:30 pm – English club for bachilleratos (10th-12th grade) begins (see above)

3:10 pm – English club ends

Run home to grab materials for private English class

4 pm – Private English class with 3 kids in town at their house

We have a basic conversation about what they did today, how to pronounce the -ed ending for the past tense, and walk around town writing down new vocabulary words. We greet all the neighbors as we pass by and talk about the difference between a door and a gate and the fact that there is way too much trash in the street. I am “paid,” despite my insistence on not paying me, in tea, bread, eggs for breakfast tomorrow, and a ride home in an actual car.

6:45 pm – Arrive home

Throw my bags on the ground immediately upon entering my room and fall into bed.

7:45 pm – Cafecito (tea time with the host family) 

I wrap up in my trusty fleece airline blanket once again to go sit in the kitchen downstairs for the nightly ritual of fresh herbal tea and talk about the day. But tonight, with the extra flare of a blackberry cheesecake I made last night. This is the 3rd cup of tea for the day and I am DONE with Spanish and small talk until tomorrow morning when I will greet the 74935874 people I greet on a daily basis.

8:30 pm – Back upstairs/shower time

So that’s a peek at what I did today. Again, most days aren’t nearly this exciting so don’t be thinking I’m explaining Indie music and dean’s lists on a daily basis.