Thursday, September 24, 2009

Island Livin'

I arrived at San Cristobal on Sunday, the 20th. We were immediately whisked away to the university which is very small but lovely and conveniently right across the street of Playa Mann, the main beach. There are sea lions lounging like old men, scruffy whiskers, scratching against rocks, coughing and sneezing a little obscenely, and of course, carelessly sleeping the day away. Blue footed boobies glide above the sea, and suddenly turn and dive into the water like torpedoes to fish. Lizards of varied size and color scoot along the sidewalks and crabs tend to hold down the black volcanic rocks along the coasts. 
My new family has welcomed me into their modest home with, again, much love. Vicente and Gladis Yepez are in their fifties. They own a speedboat tour company that is run out of the front of their house. Vicente also is on the board of tourism for the island, as he seems to be one of the town's spokespeople. He is very short and a little grey, with eyes always wrinkled in a grin. Gladis is a math and art teacher at one of the primary schools. She spends the evenings after dinner sorting craft and art supplies for her next day's classes. They have two daughters, Pamela and Danielle, who are around my age, that both work in the family tourism office. Pamela has a five year old, Paula, who became my best friend in about the first thirty seconds of meeting me. She has no front teeth and long hair and a small puppy, which she carries everywhere like a doll. Danielle has a 14-month old, named Dante. He's a very happy little boy, who's favorite game to play is throwing a basketball across the tile living room floor and running after it on his bowed legs. It should come as no surprise that everyone lives in the house. My room has an outside entrance to the house, where I have a bed, desk and chair, dresser and my own bathroom. Upon arrival, they showed me around and gave me a key to lock my door. There were beautiful fresh flowers in a vase on the dresser, and they showed me that I have two "friends" in my shower: two tiny lizards. I just tell myself that they are keeping other things out of the shower; lizards I can live with. 
Vicente also told me about their family farm in the highlands, which I will soon get to visit. I think all the fruits and vegetables eaten in the house come from the finca (farm), and the eggs come from their aunt's chickens. Yesterday morning I had juice made from beets and oranges. Sabroso!
I am taking a new class this term, Health and the Environment, along with a Spanish course and my IPSL course. I have my long class in the mornings, and then all the students each lunch in the restaurants in the community. Sometimes we have breakfast or dinner with our host families, other days we eat breakfast in the university and eat lunch at a restaurant. I've eaten lots of fresh fish, lobster tail, shrimp, fruits, plantains, rice and beans and of course, chocolate covered bananas on a stick. I am also running every morning before school, which condones my above behavior of eating EVERYTHING THAT I COME ACROSS. 
For my service work, I am dividing up my hours. I am spending about 8 hours each week volunteering with the Parque Nacional doing environmental education for kids in the community. October is Bird Month, so we have activities planned every Saturday morning. My other service work is about 6 hours each week here at the university teaching and tutoring English. I sit in on one class each week and help with group conversation and activities. The students are from the community and range in age from 17 to 42. They are very friendly and eager to learn. I am also tutoring two other students outside of class a few times each week to help them with homework, studying for tests, and pronunciation. 
It is very safe here and most everyone is very outgoing and genuine. It is such a nice change to be able to walk alone in the middle of the street at night, as opposed to Quito. I am diligently searching for a bike to rent, although I live a five-minute walk away from the university and Playa Mann. I live one house up from Playa de Oro, which is also right next to the Malecon, which is the strip along the docks.