Fun with University Students

This morning I was invited to be a “guest teacher” at the University of Manabì in Portoviejo by a friend of mine, Maria Jose.  The class wanted me to go over common sayings and expressions or idioms that we use in North America but the translation isn’t always literal and aren’t typically found in traditional English textbooks.  I found it interesting even explaining some of the idioms due to differences in culture, they may not use phrases or words similar even in Spanish.  For example the word “creep” in particular was difficult.  One definition is to crawl but I was trying to explain to them how someone may refer (in a derogatory manner) to someone who was bothering them, stalking them or staring at them in an uncomfortable way.   Another fun word that I was having trouble explaining was “sweet”.  Of course there’s the meaning of “dulce” in Spanish meaning a candy or other sweet food.  There’s also the “preciosa” word meaning that the object they are referring to is very delightful.  But then there’s just the word “sweet” meaning something similar to cool!  Other terms I explained were phrases like:  “What’s up?, I’m kidding, Pig out, Hang out, For Real, Feeling Blue, Couch potato” and a few others.  It was overall, a fun activity and the college students are eager to learn and seemed excited to have a native English speaker to work with them!

Maria Jose and I

In addition, they helped me too!  They taught me a few phrases that we wouldn’t normally know and really can’t be translated literally either.  “Como dos gotas de agua” means that two people are very similar and share the same characteristics. Though the expression, “every cloud has a silver lining” is a rather old saying where I’m from, they use it frequently here and in Spanish it is “No hay mal que por bien no venga”.   “Mi pana” means a very close friend or brother.  I child referred to as “malcriado” means they are lazy and expect their parents to do everything for them.  I learned that it is more cool to say “Simòn” or “Posi” instead of just “si” for yes!   Last but not least, the word used I believe exclusively here in Ecuador for “What?” normally translated in Spanish as “Que?” or “Como?” is “Mande?”  I’m told that if a child says “que” to their parents or teachers, it is a sign of disrespect.  They may say that to a peer, but never a person in authority.

We also spoke today about a few cultural differences with being late and how that is considered quite rude where I come from, but here is absolutely no problem.  In some cases, I’ve been told it’s almost strange to come on time. For example, if a party starts at 6PM, you never go at 6PM.  It is more common to show up at 6:30, 7 or even 8.

Overall, today was a lot of fun!  Getting to understand and know a different culture is fascinating and can also help to break down misunderstandings for future.



The Holidays are upon us again.  As with the first Thanksgiving and Christmas here without family, we try to continue as best we can with new traditions.  This year we had some friends and neighbors over for a Thanksgiving feast complete with all the fixings.  I bought a 22 pound bird from Supermaxi and cooked it in a bag.  Absolutely delicious!  Partly because it had been so long since we have had turkey I’m sure.   I also made a butternut squash pie since I had no pumpkin to work with.  I have to say (as did everyone else) it tasted just as good if not better.

I’m working on making cut out cookies to give to the children at church as well as guards and other neighbors.  The cookie baking takes place over a couple different weekends and I refrigerator them. Cookies Of course, I have Christmas music playing in the background.  This Saturday along with Lissette and a few other moms/kids from church, we will decorate them.  They will be distributed the next day (Sunday the 17th) for our annual Christmas festivities at the church.  The children will also receive toys and treats!  It will be a fun time for all.

This year we have Christmas lights AND a small artificial tree!

That makes 3 trees we have as Dave made a driftwood tree last year and I also won a  tree in a drawing which was homemade by our friend Frank!  The tree is a metal structure with netting and has painted shells all over.  It’s beautiful and looks even more beautiful lit up on my 3rd floor terrace at night!  Tree on roofSo even though it’s a different kind of festive since we are a warm climate away from family…it’s still festive and we make the best of it.  I must admit that I definitely don’t miss the commercialization from back home.  All the shopping…..The bustling of people, the Christmas music playing non stop and the smells perfumes and colognes lingering in the air from customers testing.   There is some of that here, but not nearly to the same level.  Not even close. I never was a big shopper at Christmas (love to online shop though) so being here during the holidays is really a breath of fresh air in that respect.  But I do miss the snow (just for that day) and the warmth of a fireplace.  And most important, we both miss the family.

Aside from the holidays, our schedules seem to be getting more and more filled with wonderful things.  Our weekends are very busy with the children’s church activities.  Some Saturdays (we try to do every other Saturday) we visit local families.  Sundays of course is busy with the church and then often our own time together as adults after the children leave.  Yesterday we spent several hours of planning ahead for next year’s schedule putting together a calendar of events in addition to the regular Sunday activities.   We have recently been requested to have a Bible Study on Tuesdays with the staff  from Gran Oasis Hotel.  This is open to the public, but for now it’s an intimate group of about 15-20 of us.  Cristian gives a message, we have some songs and prayer time.  It’s a precious time for all and though we aren’t fluent in the language, we have a strong bond with these wonderful folks.

I have also taken on another private student whom I teach English to.  Elkin is a 12-year-old boy who has a desire to learn and learns very fast.  ElkinI’m amazed at his desire and dedication as he diligently writes down the new words and phrases he is learning and trys hard with his pronunciation.  He reminds me in some ways of my own son when he was that age so it is such a pleasure for me to interact with him.  With one of my students, we work especially hard on pronunciation.  His goal is to learn the words without a Latin American accent….this is especially hard, but he is doing fantastic!

On Mondays and Wednesdays I also have a new teaching opportunity with GAD (Gobierno Autónomo Descentralizado) which is a government agency that assists with local needs.  They have put together an English program from students from the area and have asked for the expats to help teach.  There were several time slots as well as locations to fill and I have Crucita library along with my friend Tina on Monday and Wednesday mornings.  The other regular teacher from Ecuador who teaches English is a young student intern from the University in Portoviejo.  Though she speaks English, she is still learning and working on pronunciation,  so Tina and I make it a point to have basic conversations with her before and after class so she can practice!  Any time a student can practice with a North American, they love it!  And anytime I can practice speaking with an Ecuadorian who is willing to take time to help me, I love it!  So it’s a win win.

As of the last week and a half to two weeks, I’ve noticed a shift in the weather here.  I believe the humidity is starting to creep in.  It’s still beautiful at night and in the evenings, but depending on the day, it can start getting pretty warm. I told Dave we may need to break out the fans soon as they have been put away over the last 6 months or so.  Remembering back from last year, the really hot weather comes mid January through about April or May.  Last year was quite stifling especially at night when trying to sleep without air conditioning.  This year we are prepared however as we have an A/C unit now in our bedroom!  Perhaps the change in weather has also brought about the huge amount of turtles laying eggs the beach!  Two nights ago, the guards alerted us to a huge tortuga laying eggs.  Dave went out to take a look and she was enormous!  However the next morning, the eggs couldn’t be located to mark off the area.  Many other nests from other turtles have been spotted though and are marked off waiting for the big day when the little fellows make there way back to the ocean.