Published: July 24th 2011July 22nd 2011
Why the long wait, you ask? Certainly, some irritatingly persistent internet issues and a stretch of pure laziness had something to do with it. But, in a sign that we may be becoming more well-balanced, the narcissism necessary for a constant chronicling everyday life seems to have taken a vacation.
It's not that we haven't done anything fun in the past month. As June turned to July, we had a visit from Mark Zanatta, one of our oldest friends. Given his duties as a husband, father, and bulwark of the Chicago restaurant economy, he was only able to get away for a prolonged 4th of July weekend (or as it's known to him, the Canada Day weekend). Since he was only here for four days, we decided it wasn't worth taking the time to explore elsewhere in Ecuador, and just gave him a solid dose of Cuenca. We did all the normal things we've chronicled with our earlier visitors. We showed him the churches and squares of the Old Town. We spent some time drinking and watching futbol at the Inca Lounge
. We went to Guajibamba
for cuy... this also served as a farewell dinner for
the Walkers, who picked up stakes after running into some visa trouble. We had Saturday brunch at the California Kitchen
. We went to the hot spring of Banos. We had a few drinks at Chipotle. We paid our respects at the statue of the great Jefferson Perez
And, unsurprisingly for anybody who knows Zanatta, we found a heretofore undiscovered great restaurant, definitely the best we've found since leaving Chicago. Of course, since it's only rated the #1 thing to do in Cuenca by both TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet, how were we supposed to know about Tiestos
? The fact that we needed reservations (unheard of here) was a tip-off, and the meal exceeded expectations. We were greeted by the burly chef/owner, who told us we were getting surf and turf... shrimp for three and steak for two. Yes, that adds up to five people, but as he pointed out, we're huge bastards. First came out bread with a collection of sauces and spreads, then came out the meat and seafood sizzling on platters, awash in sauce. The chef came sat to talk, chastising us for not having come sooner. We have to agree... sorry
DuRochers and TWs... we blew that one.
After Z left on the Fourth of July (or, as it's known here, Monday), we... well, that's kind of a blur. Not the whirlwind kind of blur, the daily grind kind of blur. We had gotten assurances that our visa would be extended through October, so that pressure was gone. We were able to secure our friend's Mac and Hannah's apartment above the California Kitchen for August (they're heading back to England to give birth), so another short-term solution was found. We were heading to the end of our job at the Asian-American School... we would miss some of the kids, but were ready to move on. Except for starting to look around for new jobs teaching English, there wasn't a whole lot to be done. Adding to the malaise was that Cuenca was experiencing the worst month of weather we've yet seen. It wasn't as rainy as the past... we started to miss the excitement of the heavy storms. Instead it was just sort of blah, overcast and chilly and drizzly. Not exactly motivating weather.
The finishing up of our jobs also kept us busy. The last week of regular
school featured two nights of parent conferences... it's always fun to put a parent with a child (oh, no wonder she's so chill... oh, no wonder he's such a douchebag). On Friday, there was a big celebration called Asian Night. All the kids performed different stereotypical aspects of Asian culture, up to and including spreading their eyes to appear "Asian". While this is perfectly normal here with absolutely no maliciousness intended, let's just say it made us a bit uncomfortable. At first, we were expected to get costumes and perform a number with the children, as did all the other teachers. When we expressed our discomfort, however, we were allowed to bow out gracefully and babysit the kids as they waited for their turn to perform. Fun was had by all, although the fact that this was the only Asian thing during an entire year of classes at the Asian-American School was a bit odd.
The next two weeks were "summer school", really more of a summer camp. Because there were no real classes, we both taught Art, the doubling of our forces making things go pretty quickly. Some kids left, most stayed for the two weeks, and some
others joined for the first time. As we ran out the string, we were able to get in our share of playing and recess time.
And this Friday, we were done. Overall, it was a good experience, but that isn't to say we weren't ready to move on. We were able to ease into our South American life with money and an apartment; our boss and fellow teachers were all very nice and helpful (well, except for one); there was something every day that made the experience worthwhile. But, neither of us found our calling in teaching 2- to 6-year-olds. We bid adieu to our students, some with giddy smiles, some with wistfulness.
So what now? Well, we have an apartment, and a visa through October. Chris will be taking intensive Spanish, and Justin will be looking for a job teaching English to some older students, either at a University or a local English school. So we have about three months to figure it out. Nothing in our contact from home suggests this is the time to rush back to the U.S. A job would mean a visa, which means we'll probably be here through the New Year,
at least. No job means Peru in November. Either way, we're excited to see what's next.
There are more photos below