Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ready... Set... EXPLODE!!

Tonight's guest blog comes from Miss Krysta Peterson, fellow natural science profe and my traveling companion for the next week. Since you already know how fabulous she is, I'll let her blog do most of the talking:

"A our natural science class sadly came to end this week, we decided we want to go out with a bang…. or rather an EXPLOSION!

Our 2-part class on volcanoes had a suspenseful start with a volcano diagram and learning, in Spanish AND English, about the various parts of a volcano. Then we swiftly transitioned into our lecture for the day with material stopping just short of discussing plate tectonics, but none the less just as invigorating! We had planned to do a worksheet and show a video but due to the awesome power outages, neither of those caught a glimpse of action on Volcanoes Day one. We ended day one with the actual building of the volcanoes! WOOHOO! Since our class is so large, we split them up into 2 groups allowing each group to make their own paper mache volcano. And naturally without fail they teamed up into boys and girls teams. As day one came to a close the volcanoes were taking shape and looked awesome!

Cotopaxi is one of Ecuador’s more famous volcanoes with its spectacular summit peeking over mountains and clouds providing views from all around Quito. Did you know that Cotopaxi has erupted 50 times since 1738?! If you were in our class Friday, you would have learned this! NO WAY! Yes way...

After some English vocabulary review, a Discovery Channel video about volcanoes, a worksheet and a lesson about the effects of volcanoes on the environment, the time had come…Explosion time! Needless to say they were a huge hit, I mean what kid doesn’t love volcano eruption day in elementary school? So, I’ll let the video and pictures do the talking from here….

The boys enjoying constructing (and sticking newspaper up their noses)

Jackie and Krysta (and more thumbs up)

Profe Krysta completes the second demonstration

Our whole class!

And FINALLY, our epic video explosion:

If you are just beside yourself with excitement and jealousy that you didn’t get to build a volcano with us, we offer free Skype dates so you too can learn how to bring the fun to your home! (*Materials not included.)

Thanks for reading and have a splendid Thanksgiving week!

Hugs and an Ecuadorian side kiss,


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Smells like Teen Spirit

Bright and early Saturday morning, before either of us usually gets up during the week, Krysta and I made our way into Quito to support one of our community's teens, Christian. His school, Colegio La Salle, is in a beautiful part of Quito, right across from the Basilica in the heart of the historical city. As we walked up to the school and into the main gates we could hear the crowd roaring and the principal trying to restore order to announce the school "teams." In Ecuador high school students choose concentrations, similar to college majors, and each of these concentrations made their own team equipped with uniforms, a mascot and cheerleaders. The teams ranged from Real Madrid to LIGA even to the New York Yankees (represent!).

As each team was announced, they paraded around the courtyard with homemade banners and lots of energy. After the parade, a couple of the seniors did a lap with a light torch, Olympics-style, to the tune of Eye of the Tiger. There was a homecoming queen-esque competition for the girls, all of whom were dressed in their best dresses and heels, looking older than me (although let's be honest, it isn't all that hard). All and all, it was great to spend some time with Christian outside of the teen center, witness so much school spirit, and be offered
chevichochos at 9a.m. about six different times by a guy wearing an "I spent a night in Paris, ask me about it" shirt.

View of Colegio La Salle from a tower in the Basilica

Other exciting weekend highlights include:
  • Spending some quality time with Seth who's been visiting Quito/Guayaquil for the past couple weeks = coaxing him into cooking for us and playing a couple rousing rounds of catchphrase in the dark during one of our blackouts.
  • Two epic scoreless soccer games from both the girls and guys soccer leagues.
  • Watching Sarah creep around the house/apartment/library/soccer fields with the video camera gathering footage for the Manna Reunion in Nicaragua next week (don't fret readers, you get to see the video too!)
Even though the power will be out tomorrow night, my dedicated central American correspondent Sarah will be at MPI Nica headquarters giving you some awesome information about our kitchen-building & cooking class project!


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Part 2: Business Spanish...

"...We had to act out the four different teaching styles in Spanish the first day (Erik and I actually did the best out of everyone, but we failed that exercise as a class pretty hard). The second day began with an 80 question oral quiz to determine what learning style we had (I’m Teórico Reflexivo, Erik is the complete opposite. This was so not-surprising it was funny). On Wednesday Erik and I had to teach a 1.5 hour exercise about business organization to a class of college students. On Friday we had to analyze a small factory and recommend efficiency upgrades. My plan beat Erik’s by a country mile (this is a sore subject with him; if he brings it up simply ask him why he created such terrible indoor plumbing problems). We were expected to give full feedback after every exercise (retroalimentación, one of my new favorite Spanish words). In short, the amount of Spanish the class demanded was challenging and tiring. I know a lot more Spanish now.

But was the class worth it? I certainly think so (did I mention my diploma?). But it brings some tangible benefits to our microfinance program. Erik and I have the basic outline to teach a 40 hour course. We are currently working on preparing a complete manual (in both English and Spanish) so PDs in the future who want to offer small business courses do not have to go through the same certification. Being able to offer the class by ourselves allows us to teach at a more accessible schedule for the community; perhaps every Saturday for two months rather than every “morning” for two weeks (which is hard to do if you are employed). Personally, my Spanish is better and I am more confident using it. If I can bumble through teaching a class to college kids I can totally bumble through a conversation with some parents at the library. Also, more trivial tasks seem less menacing to me now. To put it simply, we have the skills and information to teach an entire class that was not possible to teach before.

And our journey still isn’t done. Erik and I now have what I am referring to as “Continuing Education.” At the end of the course, one of the things our instructors stressed was getting more practice with the teaching techniques, more practice leading the class, and more projects to try. We have already been to one class and will hopefully go to one a week until at least Snowflake break.

And that’s the haps with team Microfinance.



Song of the Blog: “Jefe” by Daddy Yankee"

Thanks Chet for filling us in! Stay tuned for a more eh, regular blogging session this week (we promise, especially since we're all heading to various countries next week for dia de gracias... more on that later...)


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Part 1: Business Class... in Spanish...

(Today is Part 1 of this week's Guest Blog from Mr. Chet Polson, king of garbage take-out, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, and incessant reader of the mummy book to Selena - imagine Chet semi-yelling, "UNAAA MOMIAAAA!" roughly 50 times per day in the library and you've got a pretty good idea of the mummy book's plot. Chet recently completed a small business course, along with microfinance partner-in-crime, Erik Swanson. Here's what Chet had to say about the course... Enjoy! Look out for Part 2 tomorrow!)

Blog-writer side note: sorry for the on-and-off blogging around here... these power outages/internet failures make blog writing (and showering) a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type thing.

"It has been a while since I last checked in. Too much has gone on in the interval to fully describe, but there is one recent occurrence that sticks out when I think about everything I want to write about (other than my current attempt to grow a mustache). Erik and I (team Microfinance) are now CERTIFIED to TRAIN small business class INSTRUCTORS here in Ecuador.

Sounds pretty cool right? Well it is; I have my certificate/diploma/licensure propped up on my bookshelf. “But what is this certification? Where did it come from? Why was it more than a waste of time? Do you have any good stories from the class?”—Those are all good questions imaginary readers, so let me try to fill you in.

This was put on through CIDE (Centro de Innovación y Desarrollo Empreserial), a section of ESPE (Escuela Politécnica del Ejército), our local military polytechnic institute. Dunc and Eliah put on/attended a small business class through them last year, but due to the rather large time commitment this class wasn’t as accessible to the communities we work in as we’d like them to be. Erik and I underwent this training to become capable to teach these very same courses on our own in the community. After much discussion all around, we decided on the certification to train instructors rather than simply attending the basic small business class and taking good notes in order to seem more qualified to put on a class in the community (and also to get a better handle on the information). As an important side note, we were able to pay the fees for this class with some of the funds I have raised over my initial obligation; so thanks donors, for helping bring small business classes to Rumiloma and the surrounding area.

This class had its fair share of difficulties getting off the ground. We initially met with CIDE to talk about this in July. We were told to check back September first. After several more meetings about what course we wanted to take, costs, and students, we set a date for the second week of October. This fell through. We set a new date for the last week of October. We got final confirmation and a large supply list Friday morning before class was to begin the following Monday, which made for a busy weekend.

This class was tough, readers. The material was straightforward, but getting through the class was quite difficult. It was a 25-hour certification over the course of the week: we had class from 8am-1pm Monday-Friday. We then had to roll straight on into programs at the library (which got sequentially harder as the days went on) making for 12-hour work days (which was a "good" experience). We had to be out the door around 7:15 to complete our mile walk to the puente, fight the morning commuters on the bus, and be sitting in front of our classroom by 8am. The class was also completely taught in Spanish (Surprise!). This wasn't exactly to punish us, in fact, most of my notes are in Spanish, which is helpful, but it was certainly challenging. This course was designed for people with or actively seeking college degrees, and with only 5 people in the class total, a lot was expected of Erik and I participation-wise..."

... to be continued tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Electric Feel

As I'm sure you've noticed, our blogging has been a little haphazard throughout the last week and a half. Although we always have excuses, this one is actually legitimate (ie: not because of travel, procrastination, or forgetfulness): The Andean region of Ecuador is in the midst of the worst drought in four decades.

What does this have to do with writing the blog, you may ask? Well, when you live in a country that gets about 60% of its energy from hydroelectric power, severe droughts lead to power outages and subsequent lack of internet. At first we weren't aware of any set schedule of blackouts and would find ourselves abruptly interrupted while nuking coffee mid-morning or feeling around for toilet paper in a dark library bathroom stall. But now, thanks to some local friends, we have a website ( that gives us daily power outage updates, which Chet graciously e-mails out to our list-serve each evening. It looks like tomorrow's blackout will be taking place between 7 and 11p.m. which leaves us with a candle-lit family dinner and making flashlight puppets on the living room walls to entertain ourselves until bedtime.

Besides living by the moonlight, we've also been up to a few productive things since we've talked to you last. This past Saturday we participated in a very successful town meeting discussing both health and environmental topics with community members. Erik and I took the stage first, presenting our survey findings about installing public trash bins, cutting down on litter, and combating trash incineration. We were ecstatic at the enthusiastic response supporting these projects and numerous inquisitions about starting a public recycling program to raise money for the municipality. Sonia and Krysta also presented forum questions about whether a preventative health clinic would be something our community would both want and need. The lively discussion brought up concerns about topics ranging from increasing cancer victims in the community to parasitic water. The response was overwhelmingly in favor of such a facility and is a big step for our efforts to research and start our own preventative facility.

Keep on truckin,

ps. For an accurate depiction of what the rainy season is supposed to be like, please see any one of these entries:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Vamos a la Playa!

Thanks to back-to-back feriados on Monday and Tuesday, we had a four-day weekend last weekend (couple that with practically daily power outages and that would explain the extended blog absence). Eight of us chose to pack up and head for the coast for some much-needed R&R. (Erik had a rugby game in Quito, which they won!) The travelers hopped on a night bus from Quito to Canoa on Saturday night... and after some really great sleep in the really comfortable chairs (ha.), blaring Reggaeton music, the coldest air conditioning known to man (who knew they had AC in Ecuador?!), and a water taxi ride at 6am... we made it to Canoa. At 7:30am on Sunday.

Thankfully we had plenty of time to catch up on our lost sleep, as we spent the majority of our three days laying on the beach, napping in exquisitely-placed hammocks, eating lots of seafood, frequenting the Magnum ice cream bar shops (try 2-3 times per day...), and drinking as much ice cold Fanta as physically possible.

We headed back to Quito late Tuesday night and arrived home at about 7am on Wednesday... with plenty of time for naps and showers before opening the library and teaching English class that afternoon. :) Oh the joys of overnight buses... but definitely vale la pena.

Krysta and Haley show off the comforts of the overnight bus

Shawn loves them, too!

The beach in Canoa

More of Canoa's beach... and some of the little tienda huts that line the main road

Dinnertime at a local pizza place

The other half of the table

The beach at sunset

The girls grabbed dinner while waiting for their bus back to Quito... and consumed just a few Cokes along the way. (Did I mention there were no bathroom stops during the 7-hour trip? Painful.)

Krysta demonstrates the proper reading-on-the-overnight-bus strategy. We were THOSE gringos on the bus...

Thanks for checking in...