Saturday, August 16, 2008

Machala, Machala

Machala (Ecuador)
After months of waiting and desperate anticipation, I finally found out last night where I'll be living and teaching in Ecuador. The first month will be spent in Quito for orientation, but after that initial phase, I'll be moving south to the small city of Machala. The city has a population of about 216,000 inhabitants according to Wikipedia, though a former volunteer has said it is the fourth largest city with 280,000 people living in the area.

Machala is the capital of the El Oro region of Ecuador, and is known as the "Banana Capital of the World," because of its main economic staple, the banana. It is also located close to Puerto Bolivar, one of the biggest ports in South America.

The city is about 2 hours north of Peru, and further south than Guayaquil, which leads me to believe that it's going to be a long bus ride from Quito. I am also going to be in the coast, which means the temperature can be hotter and the risk of Malaria will be higher. I've read that there are many differences between the Sierra and the Coast, so I'll be looking forward to seeing the difference after orientation.

I'm not sure how I'll adjust to the smaller city life, but then again I currently live in the suburbs, so living in a city has got to be some sort of improvement. The city has gone under some reconstruction in the last few years, and based off of some videos I've seen on it, the city sort of reminds me of Miami. You can find a link to a video of the city at the bottom of the post. It's funny that half of the clips are just the same fountains over and over again.

Instead of teaching at a university, it looks like I'll be teaching for the quasi-governmental organization called SECAP, or Servicio Ecuatoriano CapacitaciĆ³n Profesional. This organization has branches throughout the country and provides vocational education and other services. I'll be teaching 20 hours a week, Monday through Friday. With two classes a day, two hours each, I'll also have to spend extra time grading work and working on lesson plans. This is going to be a lot of work because I've never had a teaching job before. Classes will run for 3 months, followed by a one week vacation and another week of preparations for the next semester.

I don't know the family I'll be living with yet, but I do know that there are two other Americans from my program who will be in the city as well, though they are teaching at the university. This city is not very popular with tourists, so I should get a more authentic experience and stand out as a foreigner. Hopefully, that means the locals will want to open up to me, rather than ignore me.

Though I don't know anything about Machala, I'm excited to finally know where I'll be next month, as well as the challenge that awaits me as I figure out how to live in another culture and adjust. Of course, I can't guarantee right now how much Internet access I will have, and though orientation will be full of long, 12 hour days, I will use every spare opportunity to keep writing and blogging about the experience, so check back frequently for more details.

I've also just purchased a Canon Rebel XTi DSLR. This is my first DSLR, and I'm hoping to take some excellent photos in Ecuador and throughout my other travels. I'll be posting pictures whenever I can of the things I see and do. My "older" digital camera also has video functions, so whenever I can, I'll be taking short videos of the areas and posting them on the blog as well.

Stay tuned...

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