8:30 am – I wake up and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast with some guayusa. Coffee isn’t popular in Ecuador and my home doesn’t have a working coffee machine, so the guayusa caffeinated tea is the next best option. I hear roosters in the distance and can see the snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano shining under the morning rays of sun outside my window.
9:30 am – I am assigned to the organizational position of house manager. I coordinate the repairs for the house and clean for 1-2 hours daily. I’ve had to push myself to use specialized new vocabulary to talk about electricity, drains, water supplies, etc. with repairmen in Spanish.
12:30 pm – I print my lesson plans for my English classes the next day and put them in my teaching binder.
1:00 pm – I start my bus route to the Manna Project. The fare is 30 cents, so I’ve started to use dimes, nickels, and pennies for the first time in my life. The center is only three miles away, but takes 45 minutes to get to by bus. My first bus drops me off in the center of the Conocoto, the nearest town. In Conocoto, I run to the grocery store to pick up ingredients for my kids cooking class. I am given a weekly budget of $7, enough to make a meal for 8-12 kids in Ecuador. At the grocery store checkout, the cashier has to verify that my $20 bill is real and has trouble making change for it.
1:30 pm – I catch the second bus to the center. Some days, the bus is stiflingly hot and I typically have to stand holding my heavy backpack and grocery bags. The bus continues to move as people get on and off. Peddlers board the bus to try to sell everything imaginable – chocolate, avocadoes, sunglasses, chips, markers, candy, stickers, notebooks, CDs, and backpacks. Beggars also often board the bus announcing sad stories about their families while they ask for money in the aisle.
2:00 pm – I arrive at the Manna Project ready for my afternoon programs. The regular kids are already waiting outside the door for it to open. I start my first shift as the GAL – General Activity Leader. I set the kids up with arts and crafts materials, play board games with them, do puzzles, and play foosball and basketball.
3:30 pm – I take all of the kids outside for my physical activity hour. We play tag games, have obstacle and running competitions, and play soccer.
4:30 pm – Me and the kids head to the kitchen for my cooking class. The cooking class usually has about ten participants, between 4-13 years old. Even the four year olds can handle the knives under my supervision. The last few weeks, we have made vegetable pizzas and egg and potato frittata.
6:00 pm – I go home to cook dinner for my housemates. Every girl is assigned a night to cook and do dishes. I’m always exhausted and starving by the time I get home and feel like crashing into bed. I put on music in the kitchen to find a little energy to cook.
7:30 pm – Dinner is served.
9:00 pm – I finish the dishes, shower, and check my emails from home. Before bed, I watch Netflix for an hour. Even though I’m tired, I just can’t give up my television time. I love watching my favorite show in Spanish to improve my language skills in my limited free time at night.
11:30 pm – Sleep
Life in Ecuador is busy and exhausting, but I know all of my energy is being channeled toward very deserving people and programs in the community. Cheers to five more months to go serving in Ecuador!