Vamos al colegio: First day of school!

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Cultural lesson of the day: there are no bus stops (or routes for that matter) in Ecuador. Nonetheless, we somehow made it to the high school (Colegio Celleri) where CEPAIPA is located and were greeted by a very familiar sight: the CEPAIPA wall! We were way too ecstatic and so, to Steve’s joy, the photoshoot began. Jefferson, the director of CEPAIPA who works closely with Dr. Alexandra, met us and gave us a tour of CEPAIPA, including the main room, the beginnings of our lab, and some office space. It was a great feeling not only seeing the actual fruits of our labor for the first time but also seeing how excited and appreciative they were.

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Word soon spread that we were here so the kids trickled in with curious, yet friendly eyes. We introduced ourselves to all the kids we hadn’t met yet as well as one of the youth coordinators, Zaboo. An Ecuadorian rule for greeting and parting: hugs and kisses for everyone! Jefferson explained GlobeMed to the kids, emphasizing why we had come and what our partnership meant. We then went to all the classrooms to meet the kids of the school. There was quite the excitement in all of the classrooms, made no less by the scorching heat. The kids were very receptive, clapping for us and treating us almost like celebrities. They were very entertained by the fact that the one who could speak Spanish was in fact Asian and that there were two Nicole’s. Jefferson’s introductions were quite flattering, especially when he repeatedly referred to Steve as a professional dancer (due to his interpretation of “Gangnam Style” the previous night) and the rest of us as theater majors. By the third classroom, we were more than ready to get out of the stuffy classrooms for some ”fresh” air. One step out and Nicole Uno (Giddens) was slammed in the face with a soccer ball kicked from two stories below in the courtyard. Zaboo confirmed that indeed Nicole Uno was the intended target to try to get our attention. Once we decided that Nicole Uno was still alive, we went to the principal’s office to meet some of the administrators so that Jefferson could explain our partnership…and why there were four ”gringos” walking around their campus.

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Followed by the four-foot-tall paparazzi, we then headed to the basketball courts and lunch area for some much needed snacks. We sat down for lunch and chatted and goofed around. Superstar Steve continued to impress the kids with his b-ball skills and Korean writing. Another cultural lesson: Ecuadorians’ concept of vegetarianism is eating chocolate cake or anything chocolate at all. After lunch, Superstar Steve was at in once again as the girls fought over him to take pictures. The heat was getting to us again, so we went into CEPAIPA (one of the only places with AC at the school!) and decided to play Pictionary, a game we thought would be without a language barrier. Little did we know we all would argue over the rules for 30 minutes. In the end, the CEPAIPA kids learnt that, despite us being professional singers and dancers according to Jefferson, we surely were not artists (as proof by Nicole Uno’s Batman drawing below).  Before we knew it, the school day was over and the kids all hugged and kissed us good-bye.

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After grabbing a bite at the mall, we headed to La Libertad beach to cool down. Superstar Steve seemed tired from all of the attention as he fell soundly asleep on the rocks. We later met up with Dr. Alexandra, Armando, and another Peace Corps volunteer, Peter, for some fun and exotic Ecuadorian barbeque. We made one more stop at the Salinas beach before heading home after a long day.

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