Published: May 19th 2012May 19th 2012
It’s impossible not to feel the salt air in all corners of Bahia de Caraquez. The lively little town occupies a peninsula on Ecuador’s west coast, surrounded by the River Chone on one side, the Pacific Ocean on the other, and the estuary where the two meet at the very tip. From the doorstep of our house, for example, sand, warm water and jutting mountains are just a few blocks away in all three directions, and views to both bodies of water line the horizon as I walk down the central street. I can’t believe my own luck that fate twisted our lives this way, and deposited us here at the sunny edge of South America.
I say fate because it really seemed to be destiny that brought Keiron and I here at this very moment. A few weeks after we decided that it would be best to abandon the capital for now and spend a few months here, I landed a teaching job just two blocks from the house. To give you an idea, only about 30,000 people live here in Bahia, with four private schools including the one that I now call mine. The
English Teacher position at that school, Unidad Educativa Genesis, was the first listing that came up when I searched for positions in the entire country of Ecuador.
I started at Genesis last Wednesday, the day after our arrival. Of course with this schedule the first few days were a little overwhelming – a school full of new faces, a house in need of some TLC and a new town to unlock. But as I write this a week later, the house is completely cleaned and repainted, thanks mostly to the whip cracking of Keiron’s grandmother, and I officially have four classes of kiddos.
On my first day of work, the school’s director took me out into the nearby countryside to see a community school that the Genesis Foundation helps with supplies and materials. It consisted of just two open rooms and a bathroom for all grades, haphazardly set in the midst of rolling hills over which the students walk to class. Before Genesis, it was just one room – no bathroom - and I was told that most of the students there will only attend school until sixth
grade, at which point they´ll begin working on family farms. To see that group of bright little faces learning to count with corn kernels was really enough to melt my heart.
As for my own students, I now have first, third, fourth and sixth grade classes – but they are all a year younger than those grades would be in the States because there is no kindergarten in Ecuador.
Needless to say, the students are adorable, and because it’s such a small town, I’ve already started to see students and parents around the center of Bahia, or el centro.
That’s where the movement is – street food, surfers, shoppers, motorcycles, bikes and music. Always music. In the words of one American retiree we ran into at a restaurant, this city was built just to make noise.
After having lived in Miami, though, and spending time in the Dominican Republic, Bahia doesn’t seem like too far of a stretch to call home. I don’t feel overwhelmed by disorientation like I did in Japan (and there overwhelmed was a positive adjective), but rather like I’m visiting
an old friend. There was the small matter of violent illness (just a standard adjusting-to-the-food issue) this past weekend, which barred Keiron and I from exploring, but I have high hopes for all of the adventures that await us here on the south side of the equator.
There are more photos below