Cuenca English

This Ecuador story is the third in a series outlining Super Spanish teacher Rick Brown’s trip to Cuenca.

Please note that there is a photo below of a roasted pig on a spit.  A similar image of a roasted  pig in a previous article upset a couple of readers so if looking at roasted pig upsets you… stop reading now.  Also a note of warning, the photo shows some rotisserie chicken.  During the years Merri and I took thousands of people on tour in Ecuador, rarely did anyone fall ill, except when they ate rotisserie chicken.

Here is Rick’s note:

Not For the Necessarily Squeamish.

My meeting with one of the “Directadoras of the Special Olympics del Azuay” was an absolute turning point in my ability to live here in Cuenca. Prior to the point when I met Nelly Sarmiento  I had begun to wonder whether or not I seriously had a future here.

She has selflessly taken my sorry posterior under her wing and is guiding me through the ins and outs of living in a foreign culture and understanding the various aspects of how people live and think in the Ecuadorian culture. Make no mistake Ecuador has a distinct and vibrant culture that is all its own and well worth getting to know.

An interesting point is that she speaks almost no English and I speak “a little Spanish”. This for some reason does not seem to make a heck of a lot of difference. When we first met at a gathering she was as uncomfortable as I was with the crowd and we decided to get while the getting was good. Later when we stopped for a coffee I was able to sit quietly with her and make out some of her story.

She is a lovely woman of about 53 years and is divorced with a daughter and a dog. (People seem to adore dogs here but there are many strays on the streets that are in need of good homes.  If you decide to come here please consider adopting one or two dogs if possible).

Nelly has worked for and on behalf of handicapped people for the last 25 years. It’s a difficult job but she gets a lot of satisfaction from helping as best she can. The director’s position does not pay very much and she supplements her income by directly working with handicapped children almost every afternoon and on Saturday mornings.

I believe she bills about $10 per hour for her time and probably collects about half of what she bills. People with handicapped children are fairly cash strapped here in Ecuador and apparently the government is not offering much, if any, assistance to them here.  She still helps the kids even if she is not paid regularly. Her eyes light up when she talks about “her kids”.

I’m not sure exactly why but she has taken a liking to me and we spend some of her free time touring around Cuenca and the surrounding towns.

This is where the “Chancho” comes in. Chancho is an Ecuadorian tradition. It is a whole pig BBQ’d on a spit and is served at the roadside. For those who don’t like to see the animal it can be a bit of a shock as there it is in all its glory. It is, however, from the several times I’ve now had it an absolute taste delight! Very crispy and flavorful indeed and something you really need to try if you are a fan of pork. I prefer mine well done and they are always ready to oblige.

ecuador food

Apparently they don’t see many Gringos at the stands and I have had several of the people who run the operations strike up conversations with me. It seems almost everyone has a relative living in the states and is eager to exercise their English with me. It’s a real treat to establish communication and find out a bit about their lives.

Next week, following the Premier de Mayo weekend, I will be beginning a stint of assisting at a local high school with English conversation. It’s a very popular subject in school here. The teachers seem to be well skilled in tenses and structure of the English language but are Spanish speaking by birth.

Where I come in will be working with 14 and 15 year old kids tuning their ears to native spoken English and assisting with some staff education in English. It should be fun!


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