I begin writing this post from an office at Universidad Técnica de Manabí in Portoviejo. I’m here on a site visit, which is one of my varied responsibilities with WorldTeach. On Sunday I flew to Manta, a port city that lies on Ecuador’s pacific coast, and from there took a bus 45 minutes inland to PortoV (as it’s name is often abbreviated by WT volunteers). While here on this site visit, I’m visiting two volunteers – observing their classes, meeting with our contact at the university, checking in with the volunteers’ host families, and taking the volunteers out to dinner. I’ve also had the chance to interview a couple of new families who are interested in being hosts for WorldTeach volunteers.
This is now my third site visit in my first seven weeks working with WorldTeach. I’ve already been to Esmeraldas and Ambato – my old stomping grounds. These site visits are a great experience – I’m able to see various parts of the country, and traveling keeps this job really interesting. It’s a blast to meet with volunteers, see what their teaching sites are like, and give them ideas to help improve their teaching. At the same time, going on these trips can be tiring, but it’s definitely worth it.
Catedral Metropolitano de Portoveiejo
Inside Portoviejo’s cathedral
A representation of one of my favorite saints – San Martin de Porres
Apart from site visits, my WorldTeach schedule in Quito has been full as well. After two busy weeks of training in May, I’ve also helped lead a couple of conferences. First, we had a three-day End-of-Service conference for the September 2012 volunteers who will be leaving the country soon. And just recently we wrapped up a more extensive five-day orientation for this year’s summer volunteers, who will be in country for eight weeks. Both conferences were very busy, but ran smoothly, and they were great ways to get to know volunteers and help facilitate a positive experience for them here in Ecuador. This schedule is definitely tiring, but I’ll take it any day over just sitting at a desk in an office every day.
I’m finishing up this post while sitting in the waiting area at the small Manta airport. I came back to Manta yesterday and was able to see a few volunteers here. First, I checked in with the two summer volunteers who have hardly been here a week, and are living and teaching at a local Catholic parish here in the city. Then in the evening I met up with a September 2012 volunteer who is just about to wrap up her time teaching at Universidad Laica Eloy Alfaro de Manabí. Though it was a brief visit to this city, it was nice to check in with the volunteers who are here.
This morning I awoke about half an hour before my alarm to sun shining through the window of my hostel room and the sound of early morning traffic in the street below. After laying on my bit-too-firm bed for a few minutes, I got up and decided to head out in search of some grub. I wandered down to the nearby Tarqui beach, which I’d been to once before, and where I knew I could find some breakfast.
As I neared the sand I caught the acrid fishy smell that is common to coastal cities such as Manta, and knew I was headed in the right direction – towards the local fish market. Every morning on the east end of the beach, you can find local fishermen pulling their boats and haul onto the shore, and subsequently cleaning their catch right there on the beach. Up on a concrete slab above the sand sits the fish market – an open air pavilion full of stands where vendors hawk everything from tuna and sea bass to octopus and shellfish. I knew this wasn’t a common place for tourists to wander, because the vendors were even trying to get the passing blue-eyed gringo to purchase something.
Early morning fishermen selling their catch
The Manta fish market
A couple of patient pelicans on the roof of the fish market
As fresh as it gets
Breakfast of champions
Impressive building skills
Looking towards downtown Manta, with the blue-roofed fish market on the left
After snapping some photos, I sat down at a little stall at the edge of the market to eat some breakfast – a bowl of encebollado and freshly made tamarind juice. Encebollado is possibly my favorite breakfast food in this country – a tomato broth loaded with yucca, tuna, onions, and cilanto – and in today’s version fresh shrimp as well. I walked away satisfied and full, and with just $3.85 missing from my pocket. I continued walking down to the boatyard, where workers were getting an early start building wooden fishing boats right there on the beach.
I slowly made my way back to my hostel, with a great experience in mind as I make my way back to the Sierra and life in Quito.