Monday, October 1, 2018

Water Wise

Living in Santa Marianita, Ecuador we do not have municipal water. Well, we do but it does not work the
same as in Cambridge, ON or even in Manta, the nearest city to us! Where we are living we have a
cistern. What is a cistern you ask? Well, quite simply it is a box that holds water. (Sidenote: I remember
the first time I learned about the word and origins of cisterns. I was traveling in Turkey and visited the
famous Basilica Cistern.) So, here in Santa Marianita we have a cistern. :)

Since we are spending this year traveling with a desire to learn and explore we felt that having a cistern
was the best way to teach ourselves the true meaning of water conservation. Now while living on a
beach with the ocean crashing into us everyday you would think that we would not be concerned with
water, but while there is SO much of it to look at all the time, clean fresh water is not the same as the

So began our mission of measuring our water consumption. Back at home we get our water bill that tells
us our water consumption but here we can SEE our water source decreasing from the cistern throughout
the day as we shower, wash dishes, do laundry, wash our hands, flush toilets etc. How lucky are we to
have this learning opportunity right here!!! So began the mission to understand how much water we use
and how to use it most effectively.

How do we conserve water showering and washing hair? Do you realize how much water it takes to
wash your hair? The time it takes when your hair is long and full of sand from the beach? When we are
ready for our shower we get a few large bowls ready and catch the first water that is still cold into one
large bucket.
Turn water off.
We take that bucket of water and dump it over our head to get our hair nice and wet and then we lather
the soap in and scrub all the sand and salt out of our hair. We turn the water back on but keep the
buckets at our feet at the base of the shower to catch any other excess water. We can use that water to
dump over our hair again to get the majority of the soap, then rinse the rest with water from the shower.
Turn water off.
Now is the time for the hair conditioner. We comb conditioner through our hair while the water is off and
use some of the water that has been caught in buckets to lather our body. When ready to rinse hair and
body we turn water back on always using the buckets to catch excess water. This last bit of water can
then be used post shower to water the plants! Through this process we are able to have a DYI mini grey
water system.

Washing dishes? We have a very similar procedure where we catch water and use that to water our
garden. (Our gardening experience will be a blog post soon too!) In essence we are using our own

We took things one step further and decided to mark the cistern with levels so we could have a better
visual measure of how much water we consumed through our daily activities. These is especially helpful
since we recognize that if there water is being consumed wastefully and too quickly we will not have
enough for a hot shower.

Now, do not misunderstand me water is not scarce! When water is needed, like this morning, I simply
text the truck to deliver and fill the cistern back up! It costs $25 each time we get a water delivery.
However, we are not just flushing our water away down drains but learning how to take small steps to be
better water stewards.

Peace, smiles and fresh water!
Amy xo

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Teaching Totally Techless ...

A few weeks ago I went to a local school in a small village called Pacoche. To get to Pacoche we have
to leave the beach and head south. We veer off a little bit away from the water too. We drive through
semi-arid terrain with some bushes and vegetation till we arrive at this small school. I went to visit the
school with my family so we could offer to volunteer in the classes teaching English.

THE DRIVE - photo credit screen snapped from Google Maps - it was too tricky to snap while moving! 

OUR RIDE - not the exact one but we do travel by 'camionetta' to get there and back.
 - photo credit screen snapped from Google Maps 

MORE SCENIC ROUTE - photo credit screen snapped from Google Maps 

I immediately loved the feel of the school. We were taken out to visit the school by a friend who has a connection to the school. The school has two classrooms. One class has 15 students who would are ages 4 to 6. The other classroom has 22 students ages 7-12.

LOVE this place of inspired LEARNING! 

They were agreeable with the idea that I would be able to come in for a couple days a week and on each
day teach one hour of English to each class. I could see from just looking around that there were no
computers in the classroom. I wasn't really expecting to see them so I wasn't overly surprised. But as I
was leaving that first day I inquired with the Director of the school (who is also one of the teachers there)
if they had Wi-Fi? Again, I was not at all surprised when they told me that along with no computers there
was not even access to the internet.  I would be left to my own creative skills to teach the students some
English a few days a week. I left that day already planning how I was going to make this possible.
English is part of the Ecuadorian curriculum but there are not very many English speakers who are able
to teach the classes. Each student does have a beautiful English workbook in their desk and the teacher
guide comes with a CD but there is no CD player in the school.
Plus, I am not really a workbook kinda gal! :)

Now, not all schools in Ecuador are tech-free. There are many private schools also within the area that
I've also had the pleasure of visiting and speaking with the staff and students. You can take me out of
Canada but you cannot take me out of school! :)

Part of my educator experience has never encompassed being formally trained in English as a Second
Language. However, in our global world and in many of my experiences teaching I have encountered
tudents who are English language learners. Also, some of my favourite teaching experiences were
teaching French as a second language.

So, along with my family, I went back into the classroom the following week with all the skills and
strategies I had from my previous experiences and also my desire to teach students through authentic
and game-based learning, focusing specifically on oral interaction with the ultimate goal of being to be
able to communicate in a different language.

Off to School - But really just going because they love snack and recess! 

Although this school has no tech available to access as a tool for deeper learning these students are a
pure joy to interact with and learn with. It is definitely a shared experience. While I am helping them learn
English I am simultaneously improving my Spanish the same time. (Sidenote: My journey learning
Spanish will be a whole other blog post coming soon!). As in most second language classrooms some
students a little hesitant to participate and speak but all were actively engaged in all the activities. The
students in the younger classroom enjoyed learning to count by playing dice games and learning some
of the names of the family members through it interactive song “Baby Shark”. They enjoyed learning the
days of the week by singing songs. We are all working towards specific goals to use dates, times and
greetings to be able to interact with each other. The older classroom is more active and less shy. As with
every classroom you have  a range or personalities. The student who is eager to participate, the one who
just giggles, the one who shouts out in excitement, the one who cannot sit still, the one who is ultra
attentive, etc. And, like most first days of a foreign language class even the student who just hides
under the desk.

#NoTech #NoFilter #NoMakeup

One thing I love is to notice the pure nature of kids. They love to play! Not unlike any school I have been
in, but when the recess bell rings off they RUN! They run to their favourite spot in the school yard to play.
Football, soccer, basketball, dodgeball, hand clapping rhyming games - they kids just love to play and our
two girls are no exception. They love going to school as long as we can stay for recess so they can play
with their “friends”.

Where Kids Play Free #FreeRangeKids #RecessRocks

I feel joyful and blessed that this small community has welcomed to me and my family into this school.
We are proud guests. I will happily return next week and the week after to build the English language
skills of these #EcuadorAwesome students.

Peace, smiles and learning from me to you!
Amy :)

Friday, September 14, 2018

Peace, smiles and sandy feet!

Well, we arrived a month ago and have settled into beach life in Santa Marianita, Ecuador. Some things are the same as life in Canada. We have a home to clean, meals to prepare and laundry piles up here too! However, some things are very different. If you have never lived for an extended period of time on a beach you may not realize that the beach makes it way inside the house. Also, the stretch of beach we are living on is known for it's excellent wind for kite surfing so add wind to the beach and the sand can fly!

Santa Marianita - Ecuador

Also, since our children our not in school, we are homeschooling so the beach becomes the source of many inquires. How do the tides work? Why is sand different colours? How do whales migrate? All these and more as we explore the learning that the beach effortlessly provides for us.

The beach has also become our entertainment. Our ears have become attuned to the sound of the Pinguino Ice Cream bike as he rides up and down the beach selling delicious cool treats for $1 or $2. The innovative bike that makes slushies on the beach intrigues us. The swings made from old kite surfing belts.

The beach also offers friendship. Kids naturally gravitate to each other especially when you are building a sand castle. The adults often gravitate towards each other over a cup of coffee in the morning or 'happy hour' later in the day.

We are genuinely appreciative that we get to experience this together as a family. We are living on the same property as our friend who moved down here years ago to build this place of escape and solitude yet is also comes with community and a deeper connection.

Life at the beach comes with the beauty of the water. The ocean is majestic and all powerful. The ocean is always at work, never resting. A continuous connection to the moon and the sun. Flowing in and out as a constant force.

As the sun sets on another beach day from us to you -

Peace, smiles and sandy feet.

Amy :)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Not Back to School

Well, with the beginning of the school year again I have been sitting and sifting through various Twitter, Facebook and Instagram posts. These posts are filled with joy, excitement and anxiety too. I wanted to be part of the action too. So I posted.
Our First Day Not Back to School 

Apart from the two years I had at home with our children every September I usually go back to school. But, this year is a bit different than most. This year my husband and I decided that we would not go back to school. We did not make this decision flippantly. It was not spur of the moment. We decided after many conversations about what makes us happy and what we want to do in our lives together. One thing we both wanted to do was travel. We wanted to go past just a vacation and spent time exploring somewhere else in the world together, with our girls as a family. So five years ago I applied for a deferred salary leave with my employer. Basically, my awesome job allowed for an arrangement where a portion of my salary was withheld to be paid back to me at a later date. Today is that day. So as many of my friends and colleagues went back to school this week, I did not.  Instead, I watched them on social media as I simultaneously watched the whales in the pacific ocean from the balcony of 'mi casa'. You see, I am currently living in Santa Marianita, Ecuador. After many years of talking about travel we settled on a quiet beach known in Ecuador for it's tranquility, seafood and kite surfing.

Kite Surfing

Why did we decide to live abroad and travel rather than just take a holiday? Well, before my husband and I were married we both spent time living outside of Canada. He lived in Australia and travelled through parts of South East Asia. I had lived in Egypt and travelled to some other countries as well. We both agreed that in our hearts and soul we wanted to experience that again and we wanted to do it together with our girls. We also recognized that this was our dream and not that of our children so we try to be extra patient with them as we all adjust to our new experiences.
Nuestra Casa
View from the beach of our home for now

Now landing on a quiet beach in Ecuador was not just a random close your eyes and pick a spot on the map game type decision. We spent many hours over the years discussing possibilities like Senegal, Thailand, Italy, Portugal, and Malaysia. We wanted to be near the water, I wanted to learn a new language and we wanted to feel safe. We also needed to be able to afford living abroad on one salary with expenses back home in Canada still. But mostly we came here because we had a good friend who had been living here already and he gave us rave reviews. Oddly enough, once we decided for sure that Ecuador would be our home for a short while many of our friends and other people we talked to had stories about the wonders they had experienced here as well. So that was it. While Canada went back to school. We went to Ecuador.

You should also know that I love education. Like, I really love school. Teaching kids, being alongside the learning, working with other teachers, planning, building culture and even the fire drills. I love it all. I was excited to be away but I wanted to be in school at the same time. So as I watched the flurry of posts I felt a pang of nostalgia. I went for a run on the beach wishing I was there, going back to school but yet so genuinely happy I am here.

I live to be inspired and it does not matter where in the world I am. I did not just start living an inspired life when I got on a plane. I life it daily. Looking at the world and the people around me with an open curiousity and a seeking to understand more. I am inspired daily at work with students and colleagues. I am inspired by my family and our conversations, commitment to each other and even our conflicts. I am inspired by books I read, songs I listen to and things I see. I try to live with a purposeful passion to just be inspired by all things, even the smallest stuff.

So this week I will not go back to school in the familiar formal setting that I usually long for and crave in September, but I will be going back to learning. Learning daily from the people and the world around me. Oh and yes, my Spanish tutor comes today so learning a new language will keep me on my toes for now too.
Learning Spanish