Posts tagged ‘Canoa’

some words about studying Spanish in Ecuador at Yanapuma

Yanapuma Foundation / Spanish language school & Volunteer house
Quito, Ecuador

The Mariscal district of Quito is full of Spanish schools and I chose this one back in New York because of their website and commitments to social projects around Ecuador. I wasn’t bothered by the $20 mandatory registration fee that they said goes towards these development projects, but I was disappointed when the only non-Ecuadorian director could not tell me what exactly Yanapuma was doing.

The school is organized into two sessions, the morning is from 9am-1pm and the afternoon from 2-6pm. There is a 15 minute break in between, during which students drink tea or coffee and some cheap snack provided by the school. Usually the break lasts longer than 15 minutes, because two hours is a long time to sit still and students like the opportunity to chat with other students. The layout of the building is nice.

The problem I found is that the teachers are basically freelancers who work with many other Spanish schools whenever they are needed. Also some of them live very far away. So asking for a different schedule that fit my needs better (9-11, with a 2 hour break, and then 1-3) meant that my poor teacher had to sit with nothing to do for two hours. It made me feel bad to return to the school refreshed after my walk and lunch, with an hour left until class, hoping to review the lesson on my own before continuing and see my teacher there sitting hopelessly staring into space. The first teacher I had refused to teach me once I changed the schedule to fit my needs. With the second teacher I eventually changed the schedule back to 9am-1pm because I felt sorry for her.

Also I was unhappy with how Yanapuma handled my accommodation. On their website they wrote about a volunteer house which I assumed from their description belonged to them. However the system was that they simply had “dibs” on certain rooms while other schools had “dibs” on others. I paid $270 for a month stay. A few days later I met a student who’d paid less than $200. And then another who paid $150 for a room with a private bathroom. I went to the management who refunded me part of my money and explained that Yanapuma had told her to charge me daily ($9 * 30 days) instead of monthly. So even though Yanapuma was not making any commission off me, they were not looking out for my interests. I did not like the volunteer house for other reasons as well. The shower did not always have hot water and the door to it was broken. It’s located in an area that’s extremely loud until 2-3am every morning.

Another bad thing about Yanapuma – they did not pick me up as promised from the airport.

Recommendation: If you want to study Spanish in Ecuador I recommend doing it in Baños, Otavalo or Tena. There are several language schools in these smaller cities, they’re safer than Quito and cost less with more flexible teachers who don’t have to commute long distances. And I personally prefer Baños, Otavalo and Tena to Quito (Baños for its multitude of outdoor adventures, Otavalo for it’s kind and ambitious indigenous people and Tena for its proximity to the jungle).

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July 6, 2011 at 11:13 pm 11 comments

a little update, the beach life

so a month has passed. a wonderful month, of sun and beach and fresh air and harmonious moments.

after Baeza i went to Canoa, a small coastal town a little south of the equator. it took all day to hitchhike from Quito and by the time we arrived it was dark, i was tired, and i hated my companion for standoffishly displaying all the qualities i hate within myself. a few days later we parted, although i tried to keep some kind of friendliness by visiting him and bringing him fruits. but he isolated himself and stared at me mockingly like i was a fool when we were together. here was the problem: he just wanted to be himself, which meant: passive, hostile, and distant. one of my worst qualities is a kind of verbally aggressive meanness that comes out unintentionally with people who are weak and stupid, and so relations quickly turned into a downward spiral with me finding fault with everything he said. it was an ugly situation and made me feel bad, firstly because i hate to instigate negative emotions and second, because i didn’t expect it to escalate into a complete break in the friendship. and third, because his arrival from Switzerland was long awaited, and had altered the course of my trip. had he not decided to come, i’d likely have gone to Peru through the jungle…

anyway, then Andrej came and we camped out in his tent in one of the camping grounds in Canoa, cooked delicious breakfasts in the morning, and swam all day.

a few days later we hitchhiked to Montañita, another coastal town about 250km south of Canoa and a lot more touristy. hitchhiking along the Ruta del Sol (“highway of the sun”) took us longer than expected and we spent a night camping out in Andrej’s tent on a cliff on the beach, washing ourself in the ocean under the full moon, being lulled to sleep by waves.

like most other south American coastal resort towns Montañita is full of “artesanians”, youth mostly from northern Argentina who make necklaces and bracelets out of string, metal, beads, and rocks they acquire along the way. they remind me of gypsies. always stoned, playful, and content to spend all day beside their little tables.

in Montañita i almost drowned. it happened because i felt invincible not knowing what a “tidal wave” is… the kind of wave that takes you under and pulls you far far away from where you were, into a strong current that pushes you out into the sea, into turbulent waters that want to drown you. the lifeguards who rescued me said it was the worst day of the month because of the position of the moon (it was 3 or 4 days after the full moon) and that on this day there were 5 of them instead of the usual 3 on duty. i had always thought that lifeguards were just like dolls on shelves, their purpose to evoke a placebo sense of safety. in Brooklyn, no one ever drowns. the lifeguards job is to take sun and flirt. but in Montañita…they work…. and had one of them not been using his binoculars to inspect the ocean yours truly might not be here today…

a video i took half hour later of 4 more men stuck behind the wave and several lifeguards trying to help them. it took about 20 minutes to get them to the shore…

after Montañita i went to Cuenca, which is the 3rd largest city in Ecuador and according to one Ecuadorian, the “Athens of Ecuador,” abounding with artistic activity.  the famous “Panama hat” is made here from the leaf of palm that grows in abundance. it carries the name of another country because it first became famous during the construction of the Panama canal when all the workers were wearing the hats, which were being shipped abroad through the canal from Ecuador. i’d bought one earlier… and then went into the ocean with it and watched it turn to nothing :(

after Cuenca i stopped in Guayaquil for 2 nights. Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador and i imagined it would be large beige industrial flat and barren, full of women who feed escopalomina to unsuspecting foreigners before they rob them of everything including their clothes. the drug is absorbed through the skin, so once chosen the target is defenseless. in one anecdote a woman received a hug from another who pretended to have mistook her for a friend…and several hours later she “woke up” on the street without her things and later learned her bank account had been cleared out. in another case, a man was sitting by himself in a park when an ugly woman sat next to him and started to talk. he avoided her but she insisted on using her napkin to clean up the drops of perspiration forming on the outside of his beer… and the next thing he recalled is wandering in his underwear through Guayaquil.

instead i had a very nice time in Guayaquil.. walked the 444 steps up the Malecon at night, saw the iguanas in the park, walked the streets comfortably at night. unlike Quito, which feels empty after sunset, Guayaquil is illuminated by lights and people, and feels safe and boisterous.

May 14, 2011 at 2:17 am 4 comments


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