At 6:21 my eyelids flicker open. My alarm, set for 7:45 am, is at this point a hopeful dream. The rays of sun streaming in through my thin lilac fairy curtains push me out of sleep and into wakefulness long before I am ready to leave my subconscious. The sound of the news comes into my room slightly muffled. I lie in bed for a few minutes, enjoying the peacefulness that can only be found in the early morning in a city. 9 minutes later, my host family leaves to take the children to school. I have a precious 45 minutes of silence.
I roll out of bed, realizing that once again I won’t be able to drift back to sleep after all. I really should go to bed earlier, I think for the third time in a week. My sock-clad feet pad to the kitchen. Caffeine comes first. I find the small pot with the chipped red handle and fill it with cold water from the refrigerator, enough for coffee and avena. I go back to my room and check in with friends and family on my laptop. The apartment is so quiet I hear the water boiling several minutes later from my room. Spoonful of sugar, smaller spoonful of instant Colombian coffee with the same label as the Costco coffee my dad used to drink while I was growing up. I pour out the water, add some whole milk, microwave it. I dump the oats into the pan and wait for them to cook, glancing out the window and taking a moment to appreciate the beauty of the mountains surrounding the city. I am lucky to live in the sierra, I think as I add brown sugar and milk to my breakfast. My host “parents” enter the apartment as I am leaving the kitchen. Buenos días and Good mornings exchanged, I head back to my room.
I open Duolingo on my kindle and practice for 15 minutes. I check Instagram. I poke around online for a bit until eventually I start planning for my day. I have two classes to lesson plan for, and I start by opening my Intermediate textbook and typing up some notes. I take a break for a quick and hot shower, and resume planning. I finish earlier than I anticipate; I should really exercise, but how I loathe working out in the mornings. Instead, I pick up my kindle and a blanket and head to the living room. Sitting on the tan L-shaped couch, I gently tug the curtains partway open, letting in the gentle morning light and yet another lovely view of the city. I see the dog down below on a rooftop terrace and feel a pang for a pet that I know I can’t have for at least a couple of years. Remembering that I came here to read, I flip open my kindle and am transported to Missouri in the 1960s. But then the sleepiness kicks in, and I burrow down until I’m lying on my side. I close my eyes to the sound of Anita preparing lunch in the kitchen and the radio announcers chatting about the upcoming soccer game.
30 minutes later, my alarm sounds. Eli, ven a comer, Anita calls. Te acompaño, she says, sitting down as she brings me a bowl of soup. I can identify potatoes and cilantro and a small chunk of beef. There are also unfamiliar yellow objects that look like squash. Es un tuber, Anita explains, but I have already forgotten its name. We chat over lunch about the latest family drama involving her in-laws and the time she saw Aventura on their last tour. We are by ourselves; the children are at school, and Vlady is at work. This is one of my favorite parts of the day.
I wash my plates and hurriedly pack my bag. I am perennially late, and I want to make the 12:05 bus today. Chau, Anita. Lindo día! I say as I rush out the door. Cuídate, Eli, I hear as the door closes behind me. I put my earphones in as I wait for the elevator to arrive from the fourth floor. Today I am feeling Stromae. I need the extra energy. A bus honks at me angrily for crossing the busy street without the pedestrian signal, but it pays off because I make it to the unmarked street corner where I flag down the bus mere moments before its arrival. Quarter in hand, I step on the bus and my foot is barely off the ground before it zooms off. Making my way down the bus, I spot a rare aisle seat open. Grateful to not have to crawl over someone and say Perdón, puedo sentarme allí?, I take the seat and watch out the windows on my ride to work. Sometimes it takes 15, sometimes 30, but today it takes 20 minutes. I jump out and walk the 12 minute walk to the teacher’s lounge. With 25 minutes left until class begins, I relax a little before heading to room 107.
It’s a fun day in Intermediate 1. I have a game planned. We go over use and formation of the present perfect and the simple past, and then we play a game. What do we win? the students ask. I write the word gloat on the board, but they don’t remember that I taught them this word 3 weeks ago. I explain that they will have the ability to say that they beat the other team, and that is what they “win”. They are still competitive despite my no-prize policy. Intrinsic motivation, as they taught us in training, is the best motivation. Motivation must come from within the student himself/herself.
At 2:55, I dismiss class and pack my belongings. Leaving the building, I realize it is raining again. Welcome to rainy season in Ecuador. Rain comes almost predictably somewhere between 2 and 5 pm most days. I dig out my goretex rain jacket and my umbrella from the bottom of my backpack beneath the overhang, zipping up before making the 15 minute walk to the other campus.
I stop by Skull Donuts for my afternoon snack. Mostly I get yogurts with various toppings from different tiendas, but today I treat myself to an empanada de manzana. It is November, and I am thinking of fall. I remember my dad’s homemade apple bread and my mom’s apple pies and pretend the empanada is just as good. I get to Araucaria a few minutes later and catch up with the teachers seated there. The lounge is lively today, with about 8 teachers chatting and planning lessons. I settle in next to Lauren and we briefly catch each other up on our last 24 hours, laughing about her purchase of an ABBA and a Beatles CD, the only English ones she could find. At 3:58, I leave the lounge and climb the two flights of stairs. I greet my four Academic 2 students already in the classroom and praise their punctuality. I try to think of these punctual students and different cultural valuations of timeliness when 3 students arrive more than 20 minutes late into my lesson on unequal comparatives. Heavy rain starts to come in through the open window, and I walk over to close it. Se cayó un aguacero, I comment, and the class laughs and parrots back to me a saying I use often with them: Only English, teacher! Later, I circle the class as they write riddles using these comparatives and others we learned earlier this week. Students chatter as they create their own riddles while I check their statements for accuracy. Just like yesterday, we race to complete the material we must cover by the end of the class period.
Class ends moments before six, and a chorus of Bye, teacher comes to me from the door way. Bye Carolina, bye Sara, bye Erik, bye Yadira until the last one leaves. I still can’t get them to call me Elizabeth, but it doesn’t bother me any more. I leave class tired but happy, making the 10 minute trek to the bus stop humming to myself.
I’ve come to like the ride home. Today, I don’t put in earphones; I just absorb the world around me. The sky quickly darkens and I arrive home at 6:40. Guiliana and Anita are at the table, working on math problems together. We exchange hellos and how are yous and I retreat to my room to put down my bag, take off my watch, and put on my pajamas. To the kitchen I go to make my evening cup of coffee, a welcome warmth after the cool evening air. I read until dinner time. Tonight, it’s leftovers from lunch: rice, and chicken cooked in tomato sauce with carrots and peas. One of my favorites. I savor the vegetables like the rare treasure they are, and then slowly drink the tropical fruit tea Anita has prepared. Anita tells me about the time her cousin made gusanos (worms), and Anita tried them grilled. Guiliana tells me about her cousin eating fish eggs, and Anita summarizes because Guili speaks so quickly that most of the time I miss half of what she says. We laugh at the stories.
I clear the table. Tonight, I wash the dinner dishes. I go back to my room and chat with friends and read some more. By 9:30 pm, I’m thinking about sleep. By 10, I can’t keep my eyes open anymore, so I brush my teeth, rearrange my four blankets, turn off my light, and drift off to sleep.
** This post was inspired by the fact that my friends and family back home don’t really know what my day-to-day life looks like. This is a portrait of a very typical day for me, based on a real day in November.