Friday, September 25, 2015

Start of School in Ecuador

The girls are attending a local Ecuadorian preschool.  One of our goals for our 13 months in Ecuador was for the girls to learn how to speak fluent Spanish.  The best way to accomplish this, we thought, was through a local Spanish speaking school.

The school they are attending
The school is a couple of blocks from the house, which allows a nice walk there in the morning and when returning before lunch.  It couldn’t be in a better location.  On the days when I walk them to school by myself I greet the welcoming teacher with a “Buenos días” and a smile, and then get out of the way as quickly as possible before someone asks me a question that I hadn’t rehearsed the answer to.  They all know that I am the new gringo in town, but they don’t know how little Spanish I am able to speak.  I don’t want them to confuse my speaking abilities with Rachel’s and initiate an impromptu conversation.  Let’s just say my fluency is a little lacking.  Or as Rachel would put it, “pathetic.”  

The girls are doing great.  When they get home from school they talk about sharing snacks with their new friends, like Maria who shared her rice and José Pinto who gave them some of his patacones, fried slices of plantains. Anaiah likes the toys so much that she has been stuffing them into her book bag to bring home.  She is our little collector.  The girls also have informed us of the important life lessons they have learned so far like “don’t eat soap”, “no standing on the tables”, and “no eating the play-doh.”  Hopefully, the rigor increases. 

Ecuadorian institutions love uniforms, and schools are no different.  The girls have three different uniforms that they wear during the week, along with a smock for arts and crafts.  

smock for arts and crafts
Tuesday and Thursday's
The athletic outfit is worn twice and they can wear what they wish on Fridays.  On top of their love of uniforms, they also have an admiration for embroidering their uniforms.  Each uniform is required to have their names embroidered on the front.  Notice the Ecuadorian spelling of the names; First name, Dad's last name, Mom's last name.  Rachel was all excited to get her maiden name some action.

I am thinking of getting my name embroidered, Matthew Downing Hyatt on all of my white t-shirts which has pretty much become the only thing that I wear, so that I can fit in with the locals.  

Here is a song they sing at school to start each day.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What's All the Talk About?

“What do you think is going to happen?” is the most common question asked around town these days.  Everyone knows what the question is addressing without having to name it.  They aren’t talking about the weather or the futbol team or the economy or the recent political unrest.  It is more pressing and obvious. 
They are asking about the massive, 19,393 feet, Cotopaxi Volcano that looms large and has been puffing white smoke and ash from its center since August 14th.  The snow around the mouth of the volcano is melting from the activity, and people's nerves are on edge. 

Alangasi, the town where we are living, is located in the Valle de los Chillos, outside of Quito.  This valley was formed from numerous lava flows spewed from Cotopaxi over the centuries.  From the house where we are living, we have a direct view of this symmetrical snowcapped volcano that is also one of the world’s largest active volcanoes.  This is the culprit that has sent coatings of ash upon the property over the last five weeks. 

view near property

If Cotopaxi erupts much of the valley will again be demolished with fast moving lava.  This is obviously not a comforting thought to consider for anyone living within its path.  The last major volcanic eruption of 1877 had disastrous lava flows that traveled for more than 60 miles, meeting the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Amazon River to the east.  Thankfully, Alangasi is one of the few safe zones within the valley.  So while much around us will be demolished, Alangasi should not be directly crushed.  This has helped ease some of the worry, but we will still be affected if it erupts and have our emergency supplies just in case, such as: water, baby food, canned goods, masks, goggles, candles, and tape to secure any openings of the house from outside ash.  

Cotopoxi before current eruptions

An aspect that makes this more disconcerting is the lack of available information and the rumors that are spreading like wildfire.  President Correa has been increasing his censorship upon freedom of speech, and this has included speech about the activity of Cotopaxi.  He is the only person that can allow official information about the volcano’s activity to be distributed, and he has placed the province on code yellow alert – whatever that means.  All other announcements are either deleted or ignored.  Despite the censorship efforts, rumors continue to abound.  A friend recently told us that she heard from a government worker that the volcano was going to erupt within two weeks.  That was three weeks ago.  Everyone has their theory and has heard inside information from someone.

The lava will either continue to raise and overflow from the volcano rim or Cotopaxi will return to sleep.  No one knows.  But one thing is for sure, it has definitely made things interesting while living here.     

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Lettuce Bath

Lack of sleep will make you think and do crazy things.  

Babies are cute and cuddly and have this euphoric smell that is impossible to replicate.  But their sleeping patterns are erratic at best, and can’t communicate to explain why that is the case.

Sleep.  Yes, lack of sleep is the worst of all baby dilemmas.  I can take the whining.  I can handle the crying.  I can manage holding the baby for all hours of the day.  I can attempt to give them all the attention that they require.  But I can’t withstand the lack of sleep.

Matthew, yes this cute adorable face . . . .

had difficulty sleeping when transitioning from his serene Philadelphia nursery to the dog barking, rooster crowing Ecuadorian nursery that was separated from our bedroom by a curtain (since replaced with a door).  And yes – I used serene to describe Philadelphia.  But like I said, lack of sleep will make you think and do crazy things.  

He didn’t sleep for the first month or two after arriving in Ecuador.  So I cursed the nocturnal barking dogs that ran up and down the streets at all hours.  I cursed the roosters that didn’t wait till sunrise to start their crowing.  I cursed the curtain that didn’t block his or our noise.  I cursed anything I thought was the culprit for his sleeping difficulties.  And I did this as I strollered him up and down the driveway, trying with little success to get him to fall asleep.

It made me feel better to try and blame the new surroundings as the culprit for the sleeplessness.  But we had no clue the source.  We needed some help. 

So we called a local pediatrician for some expert advice.  The first piece of guidance was to give him a lettuce bath.  A lettuce bath.  The doctor told us to boil lettuce in a pot of water, allow it to cool, and then give Matthew a bath in that water.  This was the solution to sleepless nights. 

Donde estas?

The doctor said it with such conviction that we began to believe we had stumbled on a secret cure to baby sleeplessness.   We would be millionaires.  We tried it, and tried it, and tried, and tried it . . . to no avail.

More sleepless nights followed.

Until we finally got to the root of the problem.  It wasn’t the barking dogs or the crowing roosters or the changing of rooms or the lack of lettuce in his baths.  It was acid reflux.  But even that wasn’t an easy fix.  Nothing in Ecuador is easy.  Pediatricians can’t prescribe acid reflux medicine, so we had to go to one of two gastro specialists in Quito, the capitol city.  The gastro specialist prescribed the medicine, but only one pharmacist carried it.  And the medicine was in pill form that had to be opened up and dissolved in water.

Now, he is sleeping during his naps and at night.  He still wakes up from time to time.  He is a baby, not a machine.  But it is not the type of crying and screaming that can’t be soothed.  It’s not the type of crying that keeps us up all night attempting to rock him back to sleep with no success.  

His sleep has increased and so has ours.  And now, I can’t blame my inclination to think and do crazy things on my lack of sleep.