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General Teaching Projects in Ecuador by Alexander DiMauro

Volunteer in the classroom with his students

Travelling to the Galapagos was the first time ever that I left the United States alone. I could not have selected a more epic location! After a grueling 15 hours sleeping in the Guayaquil airport (I kept waking up every hour after having nightmares that I overslept and missed my flight!) I finally found myself on the beautiful island that is San Cristobal.

My arrival in Ecuador

On my arrival, I was greeted by two lovely Projects Abroad staff members, who would be the same two people to see me off at the airport, one month later. I quickly came to realize just how small San Cristobal is, when a taxi showed up and we were at my host family’s house within five minutes. Met with a hug and kiss from my host mother, I knew that this place was going to feel like home.

Students singing in the classroom

After being given a couple hours to rest and fight off the jetlag (which never really seemed to go away), I was again greeted by a Projects Abroad staff member who showed me where I would be working. I was introduced to the other staff, and given a walking tour of the entire area. The staff concluded my first day by accompanying me to a local café where I would meet the rest of the volunteers with whom I would be working. After discovering my passion for surfing and sushi, one of the staff members graciously let me use her surfboard for a week (which I somehow managed to keep intact, amidst all the rocks and sea lions); she again was nice enough to invite me over to her family’s house for a birthday party. We had so much sushi! The companionship I received from the staff was unprecedented, and the laughter and positive energy they brought to the work environment was remarkable.

Social night out to see the band casi libro performing at iguana rock bar

My Teaching placement

After meeting with my supervisor, I became acquainted with my work schedule and responsibilities. I was pleased to discover that my schedule would change after a week or so, allowing me to dip my feet into a couple different schools.

My first job was teaching English at the Projects Abroad office; I taught three classes there in the afternoon, alongside another volunteer. We worked diligently together, and kept trying to come up with creative ways to seize the students’ attention. We were even able to get a guitar from the music school and play some English songs with them. In the beginner class, we played “Mary had a Little Lamb” and “Happy Birthday,” and in the more advanced class, we played some of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.” In fact, playing music for the kids actually sparked a big interest in several volunteers and we ended up finding a local bar that allowed us to perform for them! We had a blast, but I still do not know if they regret letting us play there…

Volunteer with his host family in Ecuador

After working at the office for a week, I was given the opportunity to move to a local school right across from the beach, Playa Man. Here I worked in the mornings, alongside Tony, the English teacher at the school. We taught about seven classes a day ranging from first to fifth grade. I learned so much teaching with Tony because I was able to observe a lot, and seeing his passion and energy, as well as the enthusiasm he instilled in the kids was truly inspiring. My biggest and only regret from teaching at this school was getting the song “Baby Shark” stuck in my head, as it came to haunt me during one of my surfing excursions. I had such a great experience at the office and at the school, that I ended up working at both for my last two weeks. I would work at the school in the mornings and at the Projects Abroad office in the afternoons. I was drained and exhausted at the end of each day but I felt fulfilled.

My host family

Volunteer saying goodbye to the Projects Abroad staff

I could not have asked for a better host family. My host mother, Carmen, was always present and made me feel right at home. She made an outstanding ceviche, threw a surprise party for my birthday, and prepared fresh juice everyday which was precisely what I needed to get rejuvenated. She has a selfless attitude and was always offering to help. Along with Carmen, there were three kids: Diego, Naomi, and Kevin. Kevin worked at the airport most days, while Diego and Naomi went to school. It was not rare that I would bump into them on the streets and catch them walking home from school, as it was such a small town. I took Diego to one of the volunteer group’s soccer games and instantly regretted it because he proceeded to dance around me on field with the ball. He is truly a great kid and constantly taught me silly jokes he learned at school from his fellow classmates. I taught him and Naomi how to play a little guitar, but when I tried to teach them knitting it didn’t work out the same way! Carmen told me that I have to return some day. It is heartening to know that I will always have a place to stay there and still call home.

Alexander DiMauro

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