Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New Faces

Guayasamin Language School

Spanish school is an entirely new experience this week. Fourteen of the students I had spent the last few weeks talking, dancing, cooking, and partying with (almost everyone I knew) have left for further travels, and those who remain are all unknown to me. Most of the current students have started yesterday or today.

I am amazed at how connected one can feel in such a short while. I would say hello to several students when I arrived in the morning, sit and have tea at breaktime, there was always alot of discussion and sharing during cooking classes and while on our outings. I felt awed and impressed with so many of the young people, all who were spending from three to fourteen months either traveling through South America or throughout the world, or volunteering at various projects in Ecuador or in other countries. I wondered how they managed to pay for such grand voyages, and what it was like to be on the road for months and months with a backpack and one pair of shoes. Many started in Quito with a few weeks of Spanish instruction and staying with a host family, and the idea of learning the language before visiting the countries made sense. Most were taking a 'gap year' between college and further studies, or college and work, or had decided to work for a year to save money and then travel and see the world. I remember traveling to Europe and the Middle East at that age, but never for more than a summer, and never without a job waiting for me. Such boldness, such a sense of adventure!

Nighttime Walk in Centro Historico

There were a few exceptions. Jennifer is married and has a husband at home. She is in her sixties with grown children, and had decided that she wanted to see the Galapagos, and chose to work in a school in the Galapagos after learning some Spanish, and to stay for several months. Her husband had no interest in joining her. Sandy from South Carolina had also left her husband at home and wanted to do something on her own for the first time in her life, and had chosen to come to Ecuador to make those first steps out of her comfort zone. She loved dancing and was an inspiration at salsa classes.

Carlos (Charles at home in England) is in his forties and had been traveling throughout the world for two years. He would not tell me what his circumstances were, but it appeared that he had come into some money and had chosen to voyage as far afield and as much as possible. He was very secretive about the source of his income, and did not respond when pressed.

There were young people from England, Australia, Canada, United States, Austria, Switzerland. Most were just beginning their adventure, and were off to the Galapagos or Peru. A few were going home after many months on the road. A social worker was returning home to New York after a year away, adding Spanish to his repertoire, eager to use another language at his new job. Naomi was returning to medical school at the university in Tasmania, another young woman had finished medical school and was starting an OBGYN residency in London.

Kate had studied French and German at university in England and had worked in a design firm for a year to save enough for her year off, had no idea what she would do for a career on her return, but had many months of travel ahead of her before she had to make a decision. She convinced me to go to Ladies' Night at the Bungalow bar, where we could drink as much as we wanted gratis until the men were allowed in at 10:00 PM. It was the first night out for me on my own and I felt free and exhilirated and entirely comfortable with a group of nine 20-somethings, almost forgetting my advanced age! Kate left me her wonderful dictionary (she could not carry all her Spanish workbooks in her small backpack all over South America), which I will treasure!

Kate and Theo

It is unusual that I am staying for the next cycle of traveling students. Quito is my home, and I am not just passing through. I imagine I will meet several groups of students as they visit for their one or two or three weeks. Amber was also an exception: she had studied at this Spanish school for four weeks and had been at another school prior to that for ten weeks. She is looking for a guiding job in one of the jungle lodges. I wonder when I will be ready to stop my lessons. My Spanish classes are becoming more and more challenging: the more I know, the more there is to learn.

Amber and Carlos

Today, Luis, the director of the school, asked me to walk the students to our salsa lesson. This is my third one, so I am more seasoned, and I know the location of the dance school. I have learned that each lesson is the same, with an introduction to a few basic steps of salsa, merengue, and a third dance which I have yet to understand the name, wherein one thrusts out ones' hip with each step. My impression is that the lesson is designed to pique ones interest, so that we will be repeat visitors.

The outing this week is the Capilla del Hombre, so we are back to the beginning of the cycle. I look forward to cooking llapingachos again, so I do not object to be repeating the schedule. I have much more Spanish to learn, and I look forward to hearing the stories of the current group of travelers.

Pichincha in the Morning

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