Well, my first few weeks here have been interesting and variable. First I visited my family in the jungle near Tena. They have recently suffered bad flooding and lost a bit of the cocao crop but now the waters have subsided and the main thing - the tilapia (a poular and delicious fish) have survived. The house was about 2 feet deep in river at one point and lots of my dad´s old books were ruined but apart from that they are recovering ok. I enjoyed my time there apart from the 2 tarantulas that were in my room in the week! I guess the rain drove them in.
The journey down here to Loja took two days but was lovely in many ways. We travelled along through Banos and up to the Via Panamericana. From Ambato you can still see the plume of ash from the volcano Tungurahua which has been errupting on and off since May. It´s near Banos but from the high roads you get a spectacular view.
My apartment is basic but the view from the balcony is gorgeous. Loja is situated on the east side of the Andean foothills, bordering on the Podocarpus national park which I have yet to explore. The mountains opposite provide a fantastic backdrop to my view over town and when the sun sets behind us every night the clouds rolling in from the oriente turn a lovely shade of pink. If it´s rainy over there, which it often is as it´s winter now, we are rewarded with a rainbow arching over the whole town. Shame is, I´ve got to move down town next week. I´m really disappointed about that.
The school is ok, I haven´t had the hours I wanted so far but that´s not entirely their falt: I came early to replace a teacher who hasn´t left yet, as she keeps changing her mind. I took on a private student (throughy the school), but she is really unreliable and this week has been particularly bad wage wise. I get $4 / hour, which is fine by local standards but obviously my weekly wage depends on students turning up. Next week and for the summer (winter? its not cold, it´s really just the rainy season) there should be plenty of work through other teachers leaving and then there´s summer camp. There is a certain amount of disorganisation in the school and sometimes it´s exasperating but I´m getting used to it and just take what comes my way. When the new terms start in September everything should be much more predictable; I did know what I was letting myself in for before I came so I´m happy really: at least I´m skint here and not in Bristol!
Loja is the oldest town in Ecuador, although it´s only in the town centre you´d know it. The centre is fullm of lovely old collonial Spanish buildings and plazas. It´s a small town but there are bars with live music and the people are mostly friendly. The food is good - there are markets with great fresh fruit, veg and meat and many restaurants with good, cheap meals. No good beer though, you have to get used to Pilsener!
I´ll post some photos. Anyone coming here - any chance of you bringing teabags??? Tetley would do nicely.