Posts Tagged ‘goals’

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I like to set goals before moving to a new country.  Spending 5 months in Brazil this year was no different.  Here’s a review of how I did:

1.  Take forró dance lessons.  I did!  I found a school near my apartment and had classes every Tuesday and Thursday night.  This was basically my only dancing outlet and I was sooooo thankful for it!  (And now back to my regularly-scheduled bachata and salsa obsession…)

(This video is from the June Festivals, before I had taken a single class.  One of the university employees offered to show me how to dance forro on the spot and I did NOT know what I was doing.  I got much better after I actually learned the basic steps – ha!)

2.  Visit Lençóis Maranhenses National Park.  I did!  Read about it here.

3.  See Iguassu Falls.  Yep!  Read about it here.

4.  Visit The Pantanal.  Check!  And I saw a few jaguars too!

5.  Enjoy some beach time.  So many beaches.  I went to Sao Luis, Jericoacoara (probably my favorite), Natal/Galinhos, and Joao Pessoa/Pipa.  Northeastern Brazil is known for having great beaches, and they did not disappoint.


6.  See Carol.  Hooray!  When I was in Brasilia for the Braz-TESOL conference, I got to meet up with my friend from grad school.  So fun to catch up with her!

7.  Try cashew fruit.  Not only did I get to try cashew fruits, I also had cashew nuts, cashew juice, and cajuina (like a cider, similar to how apple cider is a stronger version of apple juice).


I think this is the first time that I accomplished all of my goals for a country!  What’s next??


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Goals: Brazil Edition

I’m about to move to Teresina, Brazil to spend 5 months training English teachers there through the State Department’s English Language Specialist program.  I like to set goals each time I move to a new country, so here’s the Brazilian version:

1.  Take forró dance lessons.  Forró is both a style of music and type of dance, especially popular in the Northeast of Brazil (where I’ll be) since it’s from that region.  I’ve looked up some videos and it reminds me a little of cumbia, which I can dance a bit.  I’m really excited to try it!  Here’s an example of some basic moves, and here’s one of more advanced dancers.

2.  Visit Lençóis Maranhenses National Park.  I first learned about this park in the listening and speaking class I taught this past year, as our textbook included a page about this natural area.  It’s 580 square miles of white sand dunes, which develop lagoons during the rainy season.  It looks spectacular, and is in the state next to where I’ll be living. Sounds like a weekend trip in the making!
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3.  See Iguaczu Falls.  They’re giant waterfalls on the border between Brazil and Argentina.  Eric’s going to need to renew his tourist visa sometime in August, so that seems like a good reason to cross the border into Argentina and back, enjoying some waterfall views at the same time.

4.  Visit The Pantanal.  This is a large tropical wetland in southwestern Brazil, and a great place to see wildlife since it’s a much more open landscape than rain forests.  Sign me up!

5.  Enjoy some beach time.  My city, Teresina, is not on the coast.  Sadly, it’s about 5 hours from the coast, but go to the coast I will.  How can you go to Brazil and not visit one of their famously awesome beaches?

6.  See Carol.  One of my friends from grad school is Brazilian, and now lives in Brasilia, so I hope we can meet up.  I haven’t seen her for 7 or 8 years!

7.  Try cashew fruit.  Cashew trees are native to Northeastern Brazil, and produce a fruit in addition to nuts.  Who knew?  I guess it makes a tasty juice, so I’m looking forward to trying it.

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I made a list of 13 goals before I moved to Ecuador.  Let’s check my progress, shall we?

  1. Really improve my Spanish.  Fail.  I mean, it IS better than when I first arrived (when I had a jumble of Turkish, French, and Indonesian tumbling out of my mouth).  My fluency, vocabulary, and grammar have improved, and I’ve picked up some Ecuadorian features of Spanish.  But honestly, I haven’t studied or practiced as much as I should have.  For my job, I almost always use English since I work with English teachers.  And most of my friends, including the Ecuadorians, speak English.  Obviously I get by, but my Spanish can still use a lot of improvement.  Que bestia.
  2. Learn a few words of Quechua.  Technically I guess I accomplished this – I know 4 words:
    guagua = baby
    chuchaqui = hungover
    yaguar = blood
    cocha = lake
    Why these 4?  Because they’re commonly used among Spanish speakers or for location names.  I had been thinking more along the lines of “hello,” “please,” “thank you,” etc.  Oh well.

    This family speaks Quechua. I do not.

  3. Become a better salsa dancer.  I’m proud of this one.  HUUUUUGE win!  I took classes at a dance school for 2 months, then hired a private instructor for my remaining 8 months.  I usually went out dancing at least once a week (sometimes more).  In fact, I’ve become a regular at TWO salsatecas!  I LOVE that the bouncers greet me and let me in free now.  I LOVE that I can show up at any salsa club and know or at least recognize other regulars.  I LOVE when a new guy asks me to dance, assuming I’ll be bad like most gringas, and then realizes I know what I’m doing and starts doing more complicated figures with me (and says something like “You dance well!”).  I LOVE when I’m dancing really well with a partner and a little crowd watches us (cuz that has happened – more than once!).  I ABSOLUTELY LOVE that I have worked myself into the salsa community. 
  4. Visit the Galapagos Islands.  Did I ever!  I spent 2 weeks on the islands (visiting 6 of them) – partly for work and partly for fun.  This was a life goal – accomplished.
  5. Take more people pictures.  A work in progress…
  6. Go snorkeling.  Did this in the Galapagos.
  7. Go hiking.  I went on a few hikes around Quito, and in Mindo and Cajas National Park.  But I’d like to do more hiking in the future.
  8. Eat lots of Ecuadorian food.  Check, definitely.  This one was easy because I like most Ecuadorian dishes I’ve tried.  I’ve eaten several bowls of locro de papas (cream of potato soup).  I’ve enjoyed more batidos (fruit shakes) than I can possibly count.  I’ve had all sorts of ceviche (it’s much better on the coast than in the highlands).  And I ate cuy (guinea pig) twice.  I know a ton of traditional dishes, have learned about many exotic fruits that don’t even have English names, and recognize most offerings on restaurant menus.  I know my way around Ecuadorian food.
  9. Learn to cook some Ecuadorian dishes.  Check.  I took an empanada cooking class, and I got an Ecuadorian cookbook when I attended a second cooking class organized by the Embassy. 
  10. Visit local markets. Yep.  Went to the big one in Otavalo twice.  And went to local markets in Quito several times. 
  11. Travel to Cuenca.  Double check.  I spent a weekend there for fun, and later spent a week there for work.
  12. Not get malaria.  Not a problem living at 9000 feet, but I also managed not to contract any tropical diseases when I went to the coast or Amazon regions.  Whew.
  13. Have some gosh-darn visitors.  Señor Adam visited for a month, and Señorita Maura joined us for 2 weeks.  And mi hermana Carolyn came for 2 weeks.  Win, win, win!

Inspired by a post some Peace Corps Volunteers in Ecuador wrote, here are a few other statistics to recap my first 10 months in Ecuador:

Workshops given:  57

Volcanoes seen: 11.5
Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, Ruminahui, Tungurahua, Illiniza Norte, Illiniza Sur, El Corazon, El Altar, Cayambe, Imbabura, Pichincha, Cotocachi (well, part of it)

Chimborazo Volcano, the tallest in Ecuador

Provinces visited:  13/24
(Esmeraldas, Imbabura, Pichincha, Manabi, Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Chimborazo, Bolivar, Guayas, Santa Elena, Galapagos, Azuay, Napo).  Granted, some of the provinces I didn’t visit are kind of off-limits to Americans due to FARC activity, drug trafficking, and other not-so-pleasant border issues.  But I hope to visit more provinces in my second year.

Dance clubs visited in Quito: 15ish (there was a lot of dancing these past 10 months)

Hearing loss sustained from all that dance club time:  What?

Books read:  20
Morning runs in Parque Carolina: about 2-3 per week

Illnesses: 5 or 6 head colds plus some sort of upper respiratory thing that had me coughing for a month (this is way more than usual for me.  I suspect Quito’s pollution and the custom of greeting people with a kiss on the cheek were contributing factors).  A few cases of upset tummy (about normal when traveling/living abroad).

Earthquakes felt:  3 (one in February, and two in October)

Number of men seen urinating in public:  Unfortunately, this is a weekly occurrence – I lost count way back in February.

Crime victimizations:  2 cell phones pick-pocketed on the bus (one in May and one in October) and 1 jacket stolen at a dance club (although I was stupid to set it down on a speaker instead of using the coat check).  I guess this would also be the appropriate place to note my friend Adam’s “comically non-violent” mugging when he visited, although I wasn’t with him at the time.

Cost of pirated DVDs: $1.25 – $1.50

Average taxi ride cost: $1.50 – $2.00 during the day (when taxi meters are in use), about $3 at night (when I have to negotiate with the driver)

Cost of a local bus ride:  $0.25

Average high temperature in Quito: about 68 degrees F, year-round!

Average low temperature in Quito:  about 50 degrees F, year-round!

Blog posts written about Ecuador:  27 counting this one

Number of times I felt lucky to live and work in Ecuador: nearly every day!

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Turkey Recap

Before my arrival in Turkey, I made a list of goals I wanted to accomplish while living and working in Ankara.  I thought I would have at least a year to work on these goals, but instead only had about 4 months, what with my impending move to Ecuador.  Nevertheless, I think I made pretty good progress on my Turkish conquests:

Try lots of Turkish foods. Definitely, check.  And yes, this included dollops of dondurma (Turkish ice cream), bits of baklava , plentiful peynirler (cheeses), meals of manti (Turkish ravioli),  and countless kebabs (döner kebab, Urfa kebab, cağ kebab, and işkender kebab – by far my fave).  One of the strangest things I ate?  Kokoreç, a sandwich filled with grilled lamb intestines (I loved it!).  One of the best things I ate?  Stuffed mussels off the street in Istanbul.

Learn how to cook some Turkish dishes. I learned 5, plus some friends gave me a Turkish cookbook as a going away gift.  I think this counts as a win.

See the Whirling Dervishes. Check.

Learn enough Turkish to converse/meet my daily needs. This was not as good as I had hoped.  I mean, I was able to get around and eat and buy things, and I often used basic Turkish to do this.  But I also relied heavily on body language, and the occasional passerby who helped to translate.

Take more people pictures. This remains an ongoing goal.

Drink Turkish coffee and get my fortune told. Check!

Go to a Turkish bath. Check.

Learn more about Turkish history.  My knowledge of world history stinks (which I still largely blame on having Mr. Bagley for World Studies in high school).  And while I’ve never been that crazy about history, I do find it more meaningful when I am actually visiting a place.  Walking through ancient Roman ruins and Byzantine cave monasteries helped bring these ancient empires to life.  And I learned about more recent history as well.  Like when Mustafa Kemal became the first president of the new Turkish Republic in 1929 and made all sorts of progressive changes.

"How happy to say 'I am a Turk'" - Ataturk

He basically said “Alright everyone, we’re gonna turn this country around.  First, we’ve gotta be more careful about mixing religion and politics.  And we’re going to stop using the Islamic Sunday-Thursday work week and switch to the Monday-Friday work week that the rest of the world uses.  And this Arabic script really isn’t working so much for writing Turkish, so let’s start using the Latin alphabet.  And while we’re at it, literacy in this country stinks so I’m going to open all sorts of adult ed schools to help you all learn to read and write Turkish.  Also, we’re moving the capital to Ankara.  And we’re gonna start using the metric system.  And it would be nice if you all wear more western styles of dress.  Oh, and women can now vote.”  They call him Ataturk (father of Turks) for good reason.  All in all, I’m no expert, but I do know more about Turkish history now than when I first arrived.

Go to an oil wrestling match. Fail, but not for lack of trying!  I asked tons of Turks about this, and most of them thought I was crazy for wanting to go to such a low-brow event, or pooh-poohed it as something only found in rural areas.  But it turns out this is a spring/summer sport, so it just wasn’t happening during my fall semester here.  Rats.


See as much of the country as possible. I did not make it to Mt. Nemrut, Ephesus or Troy.  But I did spend a long weekend in  Pamukkale, including a day trip to Aphrodesius.  I accompanied some friends on a day trip to Beypazari, visited the Lake Abant region for a lovely winter weekend getaway, and took an overnight trip to Safranbolu.  And I spent 2 holidays touring 2 top spots on my list:

Visit Istanbul. Checkizzle.

Visit Cappadocia (and ride in a hot air balloon). Check and check.


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