Friday, May 25, 2012

First Weeks

Today marks six weeks since our arrival in Ecuador. We are now living in the house that we found less than two weeks after getting here. I never expected that we would find a permanent home in six weeks, much less be settling into it! As our container has yet to leave the U.S., we are borrowing a few "basics" from the Bible college for the next few weeks (beds, a table, a stove, and a fridge) until our own things arrive. We did purchase a TV the other day -- it was the only major purchase we didn't make before leaving the States. And we signed up for Internet. So, you know, we have the essentials!

We lived at the Bible college for a little over a month. We started Spanish lessons at the Galapagos Spanish School, a few minutes' walk from our apartment. Rusty went in the morning, and I went in the afternoon. We like the school, but it is a pretty good jaunt from our new place, so we may start going to another school that's closer, or even look for a private tutor to come out to the house.

Here are a few pictures of our daily life the last few weeks:

How we watch DVD's without a TV or a DVD player
How we take a bath without a bathtub
How Benjamin eats without a high chair
Our Sawyer bag filter gives us clean water for drinking and cooking.
Clean water -- about a four-day supply
Since I was at home with the boys in the mornings while Rusty was in class, I started home-schooling. Most of our curriculum is still in the U.S., but I did bring the phonics and reading program in our luggage. We are about 3 weeks in, and Alex is reading simple words, and both of the boys are singing the little jingles that we learn for each letter and sound. It's pretty exciting.

Our first day of homeschool
We had our first visitor! Okay, technically, she didn't come to visit us -- Catera was in Ecuador for 3 weeks as part of her graduate program at George Fox University in Oregon. But she spent an evening with us and we enjoyed catching up with each other and telling stories about Japan (Catera was an English teacher with the same school district in Mito, although not at the same time).

Sharing an itty-bitty couch and a bowl of popcorn with Catera

We haven't done much in the way of "touristy" things yet, but we did visit the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) one Saturday afternoon, and took the obligatory photo on the Equator! It was a neat place, and it's not too far from our house, so I'm sure we'll visit it many times, especially when we have visitors (hint, hint).

Family photo straddling the Equator
For our anniversary this year, a wonderful couple who are supporters of the work in Ecuador offered to put us up in the Hilton for the night. We left the boys with Josh and Julie and enjoyed a night away in a 5-star hotel. Our room was on the 17th floor, with a gorgeous view of the city. The picture below isn't that clear (it was a rainy morning), but the hill in the center is called the Panacillo, and to the right of that, you can see the spires of the Basillica. Quito is really a very beautiful city. Parts of it remind me so much of Portugal (probably the European influence). And then other parts of it remind me of Africa!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Eighth Month

Benjamin is now eight months old. It's taken me awhile to get this update posted because I kept forgetting to take pictures, and then, once I did, I had to find a new online photo editing site because Picnik has moved to Google+. I tried out Be Funky and found it to be very similar to Picnik. If you can't shell out the big bucks for Photo Shop (I wish!), this is a reasonable alternative.

Ben's eighth month passed in a blur of activity... we moved to Ecuador on April 12th and have been busily trying to establish ourselves here. Ben celebrated his first Easter just before we left the States; he met his Uncle Josh and Aunt Julie and a passle of cousins; and he cut his first two teeth at about the same time that he came down with roseola (aka "baby measels")! Those were a fun few days. He is so close to crawling. He can get up on all fours and even move his hands and knees, but he generally just stays in one place or even goes backwards, which he finds extremely frustrating! I still nurse him once or twice a day, but he is now bottle-fed for the most part. And of course he is eating solid foods... interestingly, he much prefers to eat what we are all eating rather than the jarred baby food. More flavor, maybe? It's fine by me as jarred baby food is rather expensive here. We are still working on his night-waking, trying to help him learn to sleep through the night. I so look forward to the day when I can count on several hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.

Just a couple of other things that I want to make sure and remember about Benjamin as a baby. For several months now, he has been what I call a "skin-grabber." He will use his little fists to grab handfuls of my skin, usually on my neck or upper arms, and squeeze. He doesn't do it to be mean, of course, but it can be quite painful, and sometimes, he actually gives me bruises or red markings on my skin. Lately, he has also taken to grabbing handfuls of his brothers' hair when they are playing together! They are quickly learning to keep their heads out of reach of his tiny hands!

The other interesting thing that Benjamin has done ever since he was a tiny baby, is sleep with his face covered up by his blankets. He likes to pull the blanket up over his face and burrow down inside it, and this is how he likes to fall asleep. At first, it really freaked me out when I would walk in and find him completely buried in the blanket, but I don't worry so much about it now that he's older.

Here are a couple of pictures of 8-month old Ben:

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Quito: Interesting Facts

  • Quito is the second highest capital city in the world (the highest being La Paz, Bolivia, which is also in South America). The city sits at a whopping 2,850 meters (about 9,350 feet) above sea level. Some people suffer from altitude sickness when they first arrive in Quito (headaches, nausea and such). We were spared any of these ill effects, but we are still surprised at how easily winded we become when climbing stairs or walking uphill! On a positive note, Rusty was excited to learn that it is easier to lose weight at high altitudes.
  • The city spreads out over 50 kilometers long, but only 8 kilometers wide because it is hemmed in by mountains.
  • Some of the mountains surrounding Quito are active volcanoes -- including the Pichinchas, twin peaks on which Ecuador won its independence in 1822. Guagua (Baby) Pichincha showered Quito in ash in 1999, but caused no other damage.
  • Quito's climate is described as perpetually "springlike." Mornings and nights can be chilly, but things can warm up dramatically in the middle of the day when the equatorial sun comes out from behind the clouds. It is said that Quito is a place where you can experience all four seasons in a single day, and we have certainly found that to be true so far! We are currently in the middle of one of the rainy seasons, which means there is typically a rain storm every day in the late afternoon.
  • Quito was the first city in the world to receive the World Heritage Site status from UNESCO (in 1978)
  • Like most major cities in third-world countries, Quito suffers from congestion, and the traffic, especially at peak times of the day, can be horrendous. In an effort to curb the problem, the city instituted a system called "Pico y Placa," which restricts certain license plate numbers from driving in the city limits during peak hours on certain days. Our day is Tuesday. We risk getting a ticket and our car impounded if we drive our car on Tuesdays!
  • Quito is one of the best cities in South America for learning Spanish, for several reasons. The Spanish spoken here is slower and clearer than the Spanish spoken in other countries. The cost of living is relatively low. And the competition among the many different Spanish schools is fierce, which drives the prices down. We are currently paying $6 per hour for private (one-on-one) Spanish lessons, a great value!
Most of these interesting facts come from our two guidebooks, Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands by Ben Westwood (Moon Handbooks), and Culture Shock! Ecuador: A Guide to Customs and Etiquette by Nicholas Crowder, both available at Amazon.