Haley Smith
Haley Smith
Ecuador, 2018
From July -September 2018, I will be interning with Sinamune, an organization in Quito, Ecuador that provides music education and other services to individuals with special needs. I will be assisting with music classes, performances, and more. I am excited to experience the Ecuadorian culture and learn from these incredible individuals! Read More About Haley →

Week 4, La Más Mejor! (Part 1)

Monday, July 30th

Today was a great day! It started out at Sinamune rehearsing with the orchestra. After that, they told me I would do music therapy sessions one-on-one. As a reminder, our program coordinator Diana had a meeting today with some people from La Casa de La Cultura del Núcleo Pichincha (the cultural sector of the provincial government). Apparently the meeting went well, because she messaged us to say they wanted to meet with us this afternoon and take some pictures for the promotional material.

We met Diana at her office and then took a taxi to the historic center, where La Casa de La Cultura is located. The official people were still in a meeting, so they sent us to take pictures. We thought it would be a quick snap of our faces for a poster or something, but oh no. This was a legit photo/video shoot. The three of us were freaking out because we hadn’t know this was going to happen, so we had not dressed for the occasion and we all thought our hair looked terrible. No matter. For the next hour, they took photos and videos of us, first on a patio, and then up a ladder onto the roof of the building! It was beautiful; you could see all of Quito stretched out before you. They had Cosette play her flute and move around on the roof. Then they had a synthesizer for me to (pretend to) play, and then instructed me to sing something and do a lot of gestures (lol). Then they had Paige dance on top of this cement block and she almost fell off the roof! We were all pretty awkward haha but the whole situation was so strange and unexpected.

After the photo shoot, we met with the directors of La Casa de La Cultura. They were very friendly and we talked about what classes we would offer and what our schedules would be. The plan was for us each to teach 2 2-hour classes every day. I would be teaching choir, Cosette would be teaching flute, and Paige would be teaching dance.

We were still waiting to hear whether or not Sinamune would have enough students to offer camp to in the mornings or not. Diana said they would let us know tomorrow.

Well, this all seems very promising, so I hope everything works out well!

Addendum: Today was the first day in three weeks that I didn’t bring my rain jacket with me and of course today was the first day in three weeks that it rained here in Quito! Just thought everyone should know.

Tuesday, July 31st

Today was the last official day of Sinamune summer programs. First, the orchestra played for tourists and then we loaded up the buses to head to… the discoteca! At 10:00 am!

They had rented out a discoteca for Sinamune at some public park complex, and we danced for three hours. It was so much fun and so entertaining. All of the students had the best time. Some of them can really dance, and they were all so into it. One boy in particular, a 13-year-old named Israel, was so excited he could hardly contain himself. The whole bus ride he couldn’t sit still, and then when we got there he was enamored with the mirrors that covered the entire perimeter of the circular room. He also kept running to the bathroom every 5 minutes to slick his hair down with water! He would come back dripping wet, and then would dance in the mirror and watch himself! He kept wanting to dance with Cosette and he wouldn’t leave her alone! He told her that he had a girlfriend who was also named Cosette. We couldn’t stop laughing. Another man, Eduardo, was running around the room yelling “ESTOY BORRACHO!!!” (“I’M DRUNK!!!”) Of course, he wasn’t; all they had had to drink was cranberry juice, but I think he truly thought he was drunk. It was a wild time!

After that we went to Spanish lessons. Then I came home, showered and went straight to bed. Dancing for three hours is not for the faint of heart!




Week 3: Part 2

Thanks to all for their prayers and words of encouragement and support the past few days. They have definitely helped a lot, and I am feeling a lot better and optimistic that something wonderful is bound to work out!


Thursday, July 26th

Today at Sinamune I did “music therapy.” I was supposed to have sessions with six students, but only three came. I was actually able to work on some stuff with them though, because they had pretty extreme language deficits, so I used my few translated Spanish songs to work on language. The problem is though that I am not the person who should be modeling the Spanish language, because I speak with quite an accent. However, I didn’t know what else to do.

After Spanish classes, I went home with Cosette, Meghan, and Paige to Diana’s house for a farewell pizza party. Zach leaves tonight, Katie leaves tomorrow, and Meghan leaves Monday. It was nice to see everyone and spend time with them before they left. Also, Diana gave us a little bit of an update on the August situation. Because Sinamune started advertising the community music classes at the last minute, they don’t know what the turnout will be like. But Diana has a meeting Monday with some people at La Casa de La Cultura, which is a cultural organization in Quito run by the government. She said we might teach at their camps. So at least something is in the works, but I still have no idea what we are going to do exactly.

Friday, July 27th

Yesterday, Sinamune told us not to come today because there would be no rehearsal, no students, and nothing to do. I still had to go to Spanish lessons though.

In the evening, Cosette, Meghan, and I went to La Casa de La Música to hear La Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Ecuador. It was magnificent! It was over two hours of music, and it only cost $10. It was a great way to end a frustrating week.

Saturday, July 28th

Today I slept in until very late and then met Paige for coffee. Quito is very quiet on the weekends! Afterwards I came home, read for a while, and went to bed.

Sunday, July 29th

Today was a nice relaxing day. I slept in until 9:00 am and then went to mass with Pilar at La Iglesia de La Dolorosa. It was a beautiful church. She cooked a delicious lunch at home and her daughter and son-in-law came over to eat with us. I spent the rest of the day writing emails and catching up on things.


I can’t wait to find out what the plan for August is, either tomorrow or the next day hopefully!

Week 3: Part 1

Monday, July 23rd

Today I woke up with a terrible headache, so I called in sick to Sinamune and stayed home to rest. I fell back asleep even though I had gone to bed at 8 pm the night before and ended up sleeping for 18 hours straight! I felt so, so tired. The other girls told me that they felt like the altitude really hit them the third week and they all had headaches and were exhausted, so probably that’s what it is. Hopefully by the end of this week I will be completely acclimated and settled in! Fortunately (or unfortunately), I didn’t miss anything at Sinamune because apparently no students came!

Tuesday, July 24th

Today I went to Sinamune, rehearsed with the orchestra, and then played in the performance for tourists. After that, we went on an excursion to the historic center of Quito. We went to El Museo Cultural Metropolitano. It was an hour bus ride there, and then some more waiting to enter the museum. The actual time spent at the museum was only about 30 minutes, but it was interesting. I learned some about Quito’s history, but I spent most of the time helping to manage the students and making sure they didn’t touch anything or fall into any exhibits. I’m not sure how much they got out of it, but I know our tour guide was amused because some of them kept asking the same questions over and over. One boy asked (about the historical wax statues) “Are they dead?” After we finished the tour, we had to wait 45 minutes for the rest of the group. Then we had to wait 45 minutes in the sidewalk for the buses. This turned out to be quite interesting because we happened to be waiting on a street where a woman was screaming and stripping naked, yelling at three police officers that were trying to calm her down. I have no idea what was going on. There was no way to get away from the scene or to cover all the students’ eyes. I’ll let you imagine the reactions of a bunch of adolescent and adult males with special needs upon seeing this crazy naked woman. As I said before, never a dull moment!

Cosette, Meghan, Paige, and I didn’t ride the bus back to Sinamune with the students because Spanish lessons were close by and it didn’t make sense to go all the way back and then return to the area for Spanish. I stopped by my empanada place for lunch and then headed to Spanish.

Right now we are doing a lot of conversation to help me practice speaking and also reviewing certain grammar things, currently preterite versus imperfect. I forgot how confusing preterite versus imperfect could be!

Oh, and after Spanish lessons, Cosette, Meghan, Paige, and I all had a salsa dancing lesson! It was a lot of fun but also difficult. I felt like a dead fish flopping around and I’m sure I looked like it too. Paige was of course a natural what with all her dance experience, but the rest of us were on the struggle bus! I don’t know if we are ready for the salsatecas yet…

Wednesday, July 25th

I have to be honest and say that this has been a bit of a rough week. I am growing increasingly frustrated with the program and everything I thought it would be that it isn’t. All of us interns were told there would be summer music camps and classes in July and that Sinamune would be on break for two weeks in August, during which time we would go to another music program. Well, to begin with, there are not summer music camps or classes. The students only attend Sinamune two days per week in the summer and when they do, they go on excursions. The other days are filled with painting rooms, moving desks, and glorified babysitting. Any music lessons or classes that happen are run by us and they are sporadic at best.

Also, we found out recently that Sinamune is actually on summer vacation for the ENTIRE month of August, five weeks. No matter, we thought, it would be interesting to experience another program. However, we have just found out that there is no other program that they had planned for us to go to, and now they are talking about just having us teach music lessons to people in the surrounding neighborhood for the entire month of August. We all feel misled and frustrated. Diana did tell us about a music school by her house that we might be able to work with. However, Cosette and Meghan went there on Monday and they said all they did was join a jazz improv group that lasts for two weeks. There doesn’t seem to be much going on there.

Anyway, to elaborate on my frustration, here is how today went. We arrived at Sinamune for orchestra rehearsal and waited an hour, only to find out there was no orchestra rehearsal! Then we went downstairs to ask for further instructions and they had us move a bunch of desks from the third floor to the second floor. Then some of the teachers were working on organizing their rooms, and we were just in the way with nothing to do, so we retreated down the hallway to the small rooms used for practicing.

I forgot if I mentioned Kevin yet, but he plays violin in the orchestra and teaches lessons as well at Sinamune. He is in high school and wants to go to college for music. Last week he and I talked about doing an exchange where he will teach me violin lessons and I will teach him English lessons. There was nothing else to do, so we had our first violin/English lesson. My goodness, I forgot how miserable it is to be a beginner learning an instrument. We worked the whole time on bow grip exercises and who knew it could be so difficult?!

After that, I practiced piano for two hours while Meghan practiced violin and Cosette practiced flute. Paige practiced Spanish. Finally, it was time to leave.

I rode the bus to a coffee shop near the other girls’ houses because I was supposed to go to the other music school with them today. (We would have Spanish Friday instead of today.) When it was time to leave, I walked 30 minutes to their house so we could walk over together. After I arrived, Diana called and told us that classes were actually cancelled at the other school because the professor was sick. Honestly, I’m not even surprised anymore.

There is no bus from their house to mine, so I had to walk 45 minutes home. Fortunately, it was a pretty day and I got to see some of the city. I am realizing though that I could NEVER live in a city permanently. It is a nice experience for three months, but the smells and sounds are just too much sometimes.

Well, who knows what tomorrow will bring? The disorganization and lack of planning is incredibly frustrating, but at the very least I’m going to improve my piano-playing and Spanish a great deal while I’m here…

Thanks to all for their continued thoughts and prayers.

Weekend Trip to Baños!

Friday, July 20th

We went to Sinamune this morning and had orchestra rehearsal. However, no students were coming and after waiting an hour doing nothing, Zach, Paige, and I asked if they had anything for us to do the rest of the day. They said no, and let us go ahead and leave for Baños.

This was a good thing because we ended up getting very lost on the Quito bus system trying to find our way to the Southern terminal Quitumbe, where we would get a bus to Baños. 2.5 hours and four buses later we still hadn’t made it to Quitumbe, so we made the decision to split a taxi. Fortunately, taxis are very affordable, and we easily made it in the taxi. (PSA: Just because the bus says QUITUMBE on top does NOT mean that it goes to Quitumbe.)

We bought our bus tickets to Baños and settled in for the 3.5 hour ride. It was scenic and not too long. Upon arrival, I contacted our AirBnB hosts, Mayra and Manuel. They met us to show us the apartment and they were the sweetest old couple. They had lived in Baños their whole lives and were very proud of their town. Mayra made us jugo de babaco (another new fruit), which was delicious! Then they offered to take us on a tour of their town. They drove us around in their truck to the beautiful viewpoint on the top of the hill and also showed us the baths in the city.

The others were arriving in Baños throughout the evening, so we waited and met them. Katie arrived from Quito, Sarah and Jane arrived from the coast, and Jonah and Emily arrived from Riobamba. It was great to see some old friends and to meet some new ones.

Saturday July 21st

Unfortunately, it rained almost all day today. Paige and I found some great coffee shops, but we didn’t get to do all of the outdoor stuff we had intended because of the weather. At least, though, we all went on a tour to Casa del Arbol, where we rode “the swing at the end of the world.” It was exhilarating and made the trip worth it.

Sunday, July 22nd

Paige came with me to mass this morning at the Basilica de la Virgen de Agua Santa. It was a beautiful basilica and service. After that, we got crepes for breakfast and were ready to head home. We were soaking wet and exhausted and still had the bus ride to Quitumbe and then from Quitumbe to our houses. Katie came home with us.

The way back was much easier and we found the right bus from Quitumbe to go home. Baños was a beautiful little town, and I’m sad that the weather was so miserable. Apparently they were having record low temperatures this weekend, and there were a lot of mudslides there this weekend that were all over the Ecuadorian national news. I would love to go back sometime and truly get to experience all the town has to offer. For now though, I am happy to be snug and warm in my bed in Quito.


Pictures to come soon! I am working on figuring out how to upload them, haha.

Week 2

Monday, July 16th

Well, the confusion continues. Today I arrived at Sinamune and there were no students. They said the students weren’t coming today. However, there was orchestra rehearsal. Apparently there is another girl who plays piano sometimes and she has the partituras but she wasn’t there today, so I just listened and watched again. I tried to write down a few chords to make some lead sheets for some of the songs but there were so many and they were so fast that I didn’t accomplish much. (Aural Skills IV failed me – but also I almost failed Aural Skills IV.) They told me that they would give me the sheet music tomorrow. We shall see.

After the rehearsal, they told Cosette, Meghan, and I that we would teach 45-minute private lessons to the three little girls there for summer camp (flute, violin, and piano, respectively). We were quite amused that they thought a 5-year-old was going to sit through three 45-minute instrument lessons. However, I went to the piano room and Rosita brought me the first girl. Except at the same time, Sandra arrived with one of the Sinamune students. Rosita said that I was teaching piano and Sandra said of course not because I was going to do “music therapy” sessions with some of the Sinamune students. Apparently there was some sort of miscommunication. Ultimately, Rosita took the piano girl away and remade the lesson schedule for the three little girls, and they told me I would do “music therapy.” They brought me the first student, along with his mother, and left me to it. I still don’t know what kind of black magic they think music therapy is, but I was pretty stressed. I had never met this student; I didn’t know his diagnosis, much less his name! I explained to the mother that nobody told me that I was even doing this today, that I wasn’t a licensed music therapist yet, and that I was not told anything about the objectives for her son. She was understanding and patient. But, I made up some activities, because we weren’t just going to sit there for 30 minutes! I sang a hello song in Spanish, we did some instrument exploration, musical conversations with drums, and then a game with drums and guitar. All things considered, it was pretty successful. Then came three more students in succession, each with very different abilities and needs. I made it up as I went and somehow finished all four sessions. I don’t know how to explain to them that music therapy is not what they think it is without delegitimizing the excellent work they are doing, especially with the language barrier…

Also, I asked Rosita if there was any sort of schedule for the rest of the week. She showed us a schedule for the whole month of July! It showed which days students came and which days they didn’t, which days were which excursions to where, which days the orchestra rehearsed and which days they performed for tourists. This would have been so helpful to have from the start! Oh well, at least we have it now!

After Sinamune, Paige and I took the bus into the city center to get lunch and find a coffee shop to work on our laptops. We found the BEST empanada place for lunch, called “Los Empanadas del Negro.” They sell empanadas for only 50 cents each, and huge cups of fresh-squeezed juice for $1. The best part was they had about 12 different fruits to choose from! (Most places just offer one specific fruit every day.) I ordered a strawberry juice and watched them make it with fresh strawberries on the spot. It was so delicious. We will definitely be coming back.

Next, we found a coffee shop called Quito Coffee and Art. It was a quiet and cozy place and we got a lot of work done. When I returned home to my house, I ate dinner and warm brownies that Pilar had prepared. Hasta mañana!

Tuesday, July 17th

Thanks to the schedule I asked to see yesterday, I knew that today we were going to “Happy Farm.” However, first I had orchestra rehearsal and then a performance for tourists. Except unfortunately the girl who was supposed to bring the partituras forgot them. So I just listened to the rehearsal again, until her sister dropped them off right before the performance. I was not about to sight read fifteen pieces on the spot and mess up the performance, but I also didn’t have time to get off the stage, so I just turned my keyboard off and marked the whole time, lol. Most of the songs aren’t too difficult, other than the fact that they play everything at rocket-on-steroids tempo. I can sight-read basic piano music slowly, but it is going to take me a while to get everything up to tempo. Now I have a notebook filled with about one hundred pages of piano music to learn; thank goodness my host family has a piano at home! I almost feel like I’m back in college again!

After the performance, we loaded up the buses for Happy Farm! It was about an hour outside Quito. It was a farm for children with various activities, and the students had the best time. There was a lemonade making station, seed-planting station, petting zoo, horse-riding, duck-feeding, playgrounds, and a trampoline. When we got there, all the students stormed the trampoline, and they had a hard time understanding that there could only be four at a time. Cosette and I were somehow put in charge of the trampoline while we waited to eat a picnic lunch of salchichas and papas fritas.

After lunch, we split into groups to go to the different parts of the farm. My group went first to the lemonade station. We started cutting lemons in half to juice them, and next thing I knew half of the students were just eating the lemon halves plain all by themselves, without showing any sign they were sour! I was astounded and at first I thought maybe they weren’t lemons, but I asked a teacher and she said they were. She said they are delicious plain and everybody grows up eating them so they don’t think they are sour. She offered me one and I tried to take a bite and almost choked, it was so sour! Fortunately, there was sugar to add, which helped a lot.

We were running late at the farm so one of the teachers who had driven there instead of taking the bus kindly drove us back to Quito early and dropped us off near the Spanish school so we wouldn’t be late. This week I have a different Spanish teacher, named Arturo, but he is very nice as well.

After Spanish, I stopped by the grocery store on the way home and the nicest thing happened. I was checking out with only a few items, and the cashier had already started to ring them up. The couple behind me interrupted and asked if I had a discount card (of course I didn’t). They told the cashier to use theirs. The cashier said that he would have to get the manager to cancel the transaction and do it over again using the card. The couple said it was no problem and they didn’t mind waiting. They did this even though they didn’t have to and they had to wait longer at a busy time of night. It was such a little thing, but when you are in a foreign country, the smallest acts of kindness from strangers go such a long way. It warmed my heart and was the highlight of my whole day.

Wednesday, July 18th

Today I arrived at Sinamune and rehearsed with the orchestra. There was no performance for tourists today, so we went down to the second level to await instructions. Finally someone told us that we would be teaching lessons today. I taught my student A piano again, which went well. Then they told me I was going to do “music therapy” and I had about four different students back-to-back. I managed to come up with a translation of Down on Grampa’s Farm as well as Rainbow Round Me, and all of the students seemed to love them. I wasn’t sure if they would like them because they are children’s songs and almost all the students are adults, but because of their developmental level they seemed to enjoy learning them. It also helped me gauge where they were at cognitively. When we were leaving Sinamune, they told us that we didn’t have to come tomorrow because there was no orchestra rehearsal and the students weren’t coming, so I have the day off tomorrow.

After Sinamune, I went to Spanish and then home. Buenas noches!

Thursday, July 19th

Since I did not have to go to Sinamune today, I slept in until 10:00! A little while later, I had lunch cooked by Anita (who is the housekeeper). It was delicious as usual. After lunch, I headed over to the Mariscal area where the Spanish school is located to find a coffee shop to work on my blog. I searched for a coffee shop in the area on Maps.Me and found one close by called Isveglio. I walked to where it was located on the map and there was a nice coffee shop there but it was actually called Serendipity. It was a fancy coffee shop with US-like drinks (and US-like prices unfortunately). It was a little pricy, but it reminded me of some of my Nashville coffee shops. I ordered an iced Nutella latte, which was delicious. The server was very friendly and after my latte was almost gone, he came over and told me that the manager would like to offer me another drink for free! He asked what I would like, and I said anything was fine. He brought me over a fancy layered iced coffee drink and told me it was called “café dulce.” It was delicious; I think it may have been some sort of latte made with sweetened condensed milk. He was very patient with my Spanish, which is always helpful. I told him that the café was very close to my Spanish classes and I would definitely be back. He said they would look forward to seeing me.

I walked to Spanish class, then took the bus home, had dinner, and went to bed. I think I am finally starting to settle in here. Tomorrow I will go to Sinamune and then afterwards I am going to Baños for the weekend with some of the other volunteers. Hasta luego!

First Week: Part 3

Friday, July 13th

Today we arrived at Sinamune and loaded up the buses to go to who knows where! I immediately fell asleep, which was impressive, because one of the students in the seat right behind me yelled for the entire bus ride. When I woke up, we were arriving at a place called Cuicocha. It was a beautiful location in the mountains with a gorgeous lagoon. We each had two students that we were assigned to keep track of during the excursion. My students were L and A, both adults with Down’s Syndrome. They were both easygoing. When we got to Cuicocha, everybody shared some salchichas and papas fritas (hot dogs and french fries). Then the teachers and volunteers helped everybody get into life jackets, because we would be taking a little trip around the lake in a small boat called a “lancha.” My group was in the first lancha. It was a bit of a wild ride, because the boat went fast and cold water was splashing on everyone. Poor A started crying because she was scared and she wanted me to hold her hand and hug her the whole time. I held onto her and assured her that she was safe. Poor thing!

The lancha took us through a tiny little passageway that was a tunnel made out of tall reeds. On the other side, we found ourselves in an even more beautiful part of the lake with mountains stretching to the sky all around us. I only got a few pictures because I was holding onto A, but the pictures don’t even begin to capture the beauty of the lake and mountains.

After Cuicocha, we got back on the bus and drove some more. I fell asleep again. This time, when I woke up, we were in a small town called Ibarra. We went to a restaurant for lunch, and ascended to the second floor, where there was a private party room set up for us! (There were about sixty of us total.) In the banquet room they also had a DJ and a singer! We ate a delicious typical Ecuadorian lunch, starting with soup and a glass of fresh juice, followed by a main plate with meat, rice, and vegetables, with ice cream and fruits for dessert. As people finished eating, they started to get up and dance. Eventually everyone was up dancing and singing, and some of the students would try to lean into the singer’s microphone and sing, and she would hold it out for them to do it. Then they would yell “Te quiero!” to her. It was so funny! We all had a wonderful time. As far as unexpected adventures go, it was a very good one.

After lunch, we boarded the bus and rode three hours back to Sinamune. And here is where my bus luck runs out. We got back about 6:30, so it was already getting dark. This would be the first time I took the bus from Sinamune back to my house, and I knew I needed to take the Catar bus. Meghan, who had lived in my house for a week, told me that I needed to go to the stop further down the road in front of the blue wall, and get on a Catar bus that turned from the left, not one that went straight. I went and waited by the wall for 20 minutes, by which point three Catar buses had come by straight. At that point, I thought maybe they just didn’t turn this time of night, so I got on the next one, because I thought it said the things it was supposed to say in the front (Carcelén Amazonas – but apparently it didn’t say Amazonas – I was tired). I kept an eye on my map during the ride, and it seemed to be going the right way, until about fifteen minutes later when the bus abruptly pulled into a large bus terminal. My bus on the way to Sinamune had never stopped at a bus terminal, but I thought maybe it was just different on the way back. Until the bus stopped and EVERYONE got off. Uh oh. I waited a couple minutes, but there was no one else getting on the bus and it didn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Finally, I went to ask the bus drive if he could help me figure out which bus to take, but he didn’t know any of the landmarks or streets near my house that I told him. Or maybe he did’t understand me. Finally, I thought to show him on the map, and then he told me I could take such and such bus and pointed toward it. I didn’t quite understand him, but I got off the bus and headed in the direction he pointed. I found a map with some bus routes on it but it didn’t’ make any sense and didn’t have any stops I recognized. I was starting to get a little worried, because the terminal was busy and loud and dark, I didn’t know where I was going, and I had been warned about how common theft is in buses and terminals. I also didn’t want to accidentally get on the wrong bus and end up somewhere I didn’t want to be at night. I walked toward the bus I thought I needed, and found a nice looking lady to ask if it went where I thought it did. I showed her my house on the map on my phone, and she assured me I was in the right place. She made sure I got on the right bus, same as her, and then wished me luck.

Thank goodness for Maps.Me! I just watched the map until the bus got as close as I thought it would get to my house. My house was still several blocks east, but it was definitely walkable. I walked about a mile until I got close, and then I discovered a place called Petit Crepe right around the corner from my house! I felt like Hansel and Gretel lost in the woods discovering the unexpected gingerbread house! (Except fortunately there was no villain inside the crepe place.)

I went in and got a strawberry nutella crepe and a fresh strawberry smoothie. It felt like I was at home at The Perch in Nashville! A sign on the wall said “Al mal tiempo buenos crepes” which basically translates as if you’re having a bad time, the best thing to do is eat crepes. Never has that been more true!

After that, I walked the one block home safely and went straight to bed. Better bus luck next time!

Saturday, July 14th

Even though I went to bed at 9 pm last night, I still slept until 12:00 noon today! I was so tired, but I felt much better after all that rest.

I needed to buy a few things I forgot to bring, namely sunglasses and a coat, so I asked Katie if she wanted to go to the mall with me. She did, so we took the bus (successfully!) to Quicentro, the biggest shopping mall in Quito.

Wow! It was even bigger and fancier than The Mall at Green Hills in Nashville if you can believe that! There was a Sweet and Coffee inside, so we got coffee, and wandered around for a couple hours. I found an excellent warm blue coat that was on sale for a great price! I also found a cheap pair of sunglasses. The mall also had an entire grocery store in it, which was convenient because we needed to buy a few things.

Overall, it was a nice relaxing day, but I also got a good bit accomplished.

Sunday, July 15th

This morning I went to mass with my host parents. We went at 7:30 am to their church, which is called La Iglesia de la Inmaculada. Of course, the content and sequence of the mass was just the same as in the US or anywhere, but there were some cultural differences that I noticed. In the United States, during the congregation’s responses, everyone says it together and usually not very enthusiastically. In this church, everyone says it at their own pace, some slow and some fast, but all very loudly and enthusiastically. Also, every single person sings the hymns, even though there are no hymnbooks. They also don’t have missals, but there is a small printout with the readings and responses for the day. Also, there are kneelers, but some people remain standing instead of kneeling when it is time to kneel. When it was time to receive Communion, there was no sort of organized method, pew by pew. Everyone just sort of rushed forward in a clump. Partly this was because only half the church received Communion, apparently because they take the Eucharist very seriously and will not receive it if they have not been to Confession the past week or recently. It was a relatively small church; it probably held about 150 people, and it was simple yet beautiful. My host parents said we will go to a different church next week so that I can experience some different churches and masses in Quito.

After mass, we had a delicious breakfast of fruit and scrambled eggs with ham. Then I took a short nap and then did some laundry. They have a washing machine, but they also have a clothesline where you hang everything to dry! My host mother thinks it’s ridiculous that I am excited about a clothesline, but that’s where we’re at.

I had a nice restful day and I am as prepared as I’ll ever be for another week of confusion and new adventures.


Well, if you made it this far, congratulations, and thanks for reading my lengthy blogs! There are just so many wonderful things to tell about and I don’t want to leave a single detail out!

First Week: Part 2

Wednesday, July 11th

Today I arrived at Sinamune and one of the ladies in the office confirmed that I played piano; I said yes. She told me that I would play in the orchestra and she took me up three flights of stairs to the performance hall where the orchestra was rehearsing. Out of breath, she introduced me to Maestro Edgar Palacios, the founder of Sinamune and director of the orchestra. She told him I played piano and he said, “Great, she will play with us!” I asked if they had sheet music, but the primary pianist is blind, so she did not have sheet music. Maestro Palacios told us to go back to the office, where they would find and make me copies of “las partituras.” So, we went back down three flights of stairs to ask for the partituras in the office. They had no idea where they were. So back up three flights of stairs to ask where they were. Maestro Palacios told the lady where to look and we returned to the office one more time. However, still nobody could find them, so she told me to just watch the rehearsal today and they would find the partituras for me to play tomorrow. By this last time up the three flights of stairs, I was very out of breath and gladly sat down in the audience to observe the rehearsal.

I am glad that I had the opportunity to do this, because I got to observe the hour-long rehearsal and then watch one of the performances the orchestra and dancers present to tourists. It was a beautiful performance and I was very impressed. The orchestra consists of Maestro Palacios on trumpet, two violins, two flutes, a clarinet, and several percussionists. Most of those players are local Ecuadorians or teachers at the school. A couple are students. Also, Cosette plays one of the flutes and Meghan plays one of the violins. There is also a small percussion section made up of students from Sinamune who play tambourine and shaker. In addition, there are several dancers and a few singers, who are all students at Sinamune. It was a joy to watch, and the tourists enjoyed it immensely. I cannot wait to play with the orchestra!

After the performance, I followed Meghan and Cosette back down to the second level. (Sinamune is four stories, the first level is offices and a shop, the second and third levels are classrooms, and the fourth level is the performance hall.) They said after performances they just come down here to wait to be told what to do next. Well, it turned out that we would be teaching lessons today; they gave us a schedule of students and showed us our rooms.

Let me just say that teaching adaptive piano lessons is difficult enough when you and your students speak the same language. It is markedly more difficult when you speak a different language. And it became even more difficult when I discovered that Ecuador does not use the same system of music theory as in the United States…

My first student, A, came in. I think she has Cerebral Palsy or Spina Bifida because she has difficulty walking and moving her hands, but I couldn’t say for sure because nobody gives us any information. I spoke to her a little bit first about her background at Sinamune and with piano. She told me she has been playing for three years, and then she played Bach’s Prelude in C for me from memory. She did well with all the notes and rhythms, but because of her limited finger mobility she has difficulty sustaining notes after playing them, as well as playing legato. Perfect! Something to work on! She had never used the pedal, so we gave it a try. It was difficult with her leg, but she started to get the hang of it, and I think it will be a great physical exercise for leg mobility. It was great because it helped her make the notes sound as they should even though she couldn’t hold them down. Next, I tried to gage her music-reading ability. This is when I discovered that in Ecuador, they use fixed do and they only use solfege for music reading for all instruments. C is always Do, D is always Re, E is always Mi, no matter what key you’re in. Sharps are called sostenidos and flats are called bemoles. Thus, they call it Do sostenido, or Re bemol. To me, this seems very complicated and counterintuitive, but of course it works well for them because it is what they are accustomed to.

Next, I had another student named S. He was more cognitively impaired and also only had vision in one eye. He has difficulty speaking, so it was hard to understand him, but he told me that when he was a child he fell off the third floor of a building and had a traumatic brain injury. He can play several melodies with his right hand, so we worked on those and learned a few new ones.

The third student I was supposed to teach was not there, so one of the teachers introduced me to three little girls who were there for summer camp. From what I understand, Sinamune also offers a summer camp for typically developing peers, but almost no one signed up. These three girls were 5, 10, and 12. The teacher left me with them and said “Do some music therapy!” I immediately thought: “Oh dear, they definitely don’t know what music therapy is.” But I didn’t have the opportunity to explain at that moment, so I just played guitar and we sang together. At this moment it also occurred to me that I didn’t know any songs in Spanish, I was hoping I would get to observe some teachers first and learn some songs. Nope. So I did my best to translate the children’s songs I know in English into Spanish there in the moment, with a bit of help from the girls. Then I taught them some of the English words, because they were already learning English in school.

After that, Cosette, Meghan, Paige, and I went to Spanish lessons. Then I went home for dinner and went to bed at 8:30 pm. I don’t know if it’s the altitude or the longs days or both, but I am so tired!

Moral of today: I have no idea what is happening or what I’m supposed to be doing, but I’m getting a lot better at improvising and making things up as I go along. Hasta mañana!

Thursday, July 12th

Today, it was rather empty at Sinamune because the orchestra was off playing for Congress and for some reason the rest of the students weren’t attending today, as is sometimes the case. Since I didn’t have the partituras and hadn’t rehearsed with them yet, I didn’t get to go unfortunately. At this point, I had no idea where Paige was.

For the morning, they gave me the three little girls for two hours to “do music therapy.” Ha ha. Instead I played guitar, sang with them, did some Orff games, and then started teaching them piano when I ran out of things to do. They are very sweet girls, and their vocabulary is about the same level as mine in Spanish, so we got along nicely.

After that, I went down to the office and they told me that some Sinamune students were coming for music therapy in an hour or so. I asked if I could walk down the street to get some coffee until then. I found a typical little Ecuadorian restaurant, got some coffee, and then headed back. I waited for another hour, before asking again if any students were coming. They told me that actually none of them were coming, so I could go ahead and leave. I was honestly a bit confused and frustrated, but I’m trying to just go with the flow.

I went ahead and headed to Spanish early, found a good place to get an empanada and some fresh juice, and then went to Spanish. Paige was there! I asked her where she had been, and she said they sent her to another school today! Then Cosette and Meghan arrived and told us how incredible it had been to play for Congress. They even got to watch them vote on a bill about eliminating pollution!

After Spanish, I went home, ate dinner, and went to bed. Apparently tomorrow we are going on some excursion with Sinamune, but nobody really knows where. Originally we heard we were going to a town close to the border with Colombia, but apparently that is like six hours away so it couldn’t be a day trip. Long story short, we don’t know where we are going, but we’ll find out tomorrow! Stay posted!

First Week: Part 1

I have finished my first week at Sinamune, and overall I have to say it was very confusing. There were a lot of great moments, but I never knew what was going to happen next. Technically, they are in their summer vacation program, so I think that might have something to do with the confusion/disorganization. Also, of course there is the cultural difference which contributes to confusion. However, this was (sometimes) mitigated by the fact that Cosette, one of the other volunteers is bilingual in Spanish because she grew up speaking it. Anyway, here is what the day-to-day was like this past week.

Monday, July 9th

Diana picked me up from the volunteer house and took me to Sinamune. We arrived and I reconnected with the other volunteers there, Paige, Cosette, Megan, and Zach. The strange thing was that none of the actual students were there… I think they either had the day off or were on an excursion, I’m not sure which. So the teachers and volunteers were planning and getting organized. They told me that I was going to do a piano proficiency evaluation so that I could teach piano, but that never happened. Next thing I knew, they had given Cosette and I smocks and a can of paint and two brushed and instructed us to please paint an entire room. It was nice because I got to talk to Cosette and get to know her better. She said the past week (her first week at Sinamune) had been just as sporadic, with a lot of doing random things. Thus, we painted the room. It took us a few hours, but it looked much better after!

By that time, it was 1:00. Our usual hours at Sinamune are 8:00-1:00 M-F, unless there is an excursion or special performance (which apparently there often is). On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday we all go to Spanish lessons from 3:00-5:00. But since today was Monday and we were finished painting, it was time to go. The others took the bus home, and my host family picked me up to show me how to take the bus. I thought they were actually going to take me on the bus to show me the way, but they just pointed and told me which bus to take. Hopefully that will be sufficient. (Spoiler Alert: It won’t.)

We got home and they showed me my room. There house is very nice and the best part is they have a piano! It is a beautiful old player piano, that is over 100 years old! I can’t wait to play it. However, I was so tired that I took a nap before dinner. I fell asleep for 3 hours! Then I came down for dinner and got to know my host family a little bit. They are an older couple with four children and eight grandchildren. The wife is named Pilar and the husband is named Vicente. They are very friendly. Pilar’s father Bolivar also lives with them (he is 91).They also speak a good bit of English, and it turns out that in high school they both studied abroad in the US for a year, and Pilar in Atlanta! What a small world!

Despite my 3-hour nap I was still very tired and went to bed at 8:30. (Blame it on the altitude!) Oh, I forgot to mention when I woke up from my name, the entire house was in a panic because Bolivar had wandered out of the house, forgotten where he was, and was missing for three hours; Pilar and all the children were searching and finally some police officers found him. Everybody was very upset and I felt so sad for them. Pilar said that she has taken Bolivar to the doctor about his memory, and they say it’s just normal old age. I’m not sure though, because even in the house he doesn’t remember where he is and he thinks Pilar is his wife not his daughter.

Tuesday, July 10th

Today I successfully took the bus to Sinamune and got off at the right spot all by myself! I felt very successful. When I arrived at Sinaume, there were students! Hurray! Apparently every morning the orchestra rehearses and does a performance for tourists. While this happened, Zach and I went outside to the field in the back with the other students and teachers (about 30 students probably). We played soccer and did relay races. Contrary to what I expected, most of the students at Sinamune are adults. They range from 13 years to 48 years old. Because in the name of the foundation it says “for children” I assumed they would be younger, but most of them are grown adults. Their disabilities are varied; many have Down’s Syndrome or Autism, a few are blind, several have physical disabilities.

After playing in the field for two and a half hours, they said we were going on an excursion! They loaded up two buses with all of the students, teachers, and volunteers, and we went to a park in the north of the city. Upon arriving at the park, we had a picnic of sandwiches for lunch. After lunch, we wandered around the park a bit before settling into a soccer field for more games and more soccer. (Public Service Announcement: I am terrible at soccer, don’t ask me to play on your team unless you want to lose.)

After a couple hours at the park, we went back to Sinamune and the students went home. I went with Cosette, Meghan, and Paige to Spanish lessons. They showed me which bus to take and we rode the bus about an hour from the north of Quito where Sinamune is to the city center where Spanish lessons are.

Our Spanish school is called Banana Spanish School. We have one-on-one Spanish lessons Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 3:00-5:00. I thought this was just for the first two weeks, but turns out it will be for the entire three months I’m here! At least I am going to get very good at Spanish… My teacher, Jimena, is very nice. I took an evaluation exam and then we talked pretty much the whole time – in Spanish. I learned two things. 1: I can successfully have a two-hour conversation in Spanish. 2: Two hours is way to long for a one-on-one Spanish lesson.

After Spanish, I walked to the bus stop with the other girls. Cosette and Paige live together with a couple and Meghan lives across the street with Diana and her family. They are not in my area of town though, so they take a different bus. I somehow got myself on the right bus and used the Maps.Me app that Diana showed us to get off in the right place. A miracle! (Another spoiler alert: my bus luck will soon run out.)

When I got home, Bolivar was outside between the front door and the gate, and there was a man I hadn’t met standing at the door and a car running in the driveway! Turns out it was Hugo, the son-in-law of Pilar and Vicente, who had been watching Bolivar. Hugo had to leave, but Bolivar was also trying to escape. Hugo was trying to coax Bolivar back inside with the promise of coffee. I tried to help, saying I was going to eat dinner and wouldn’t Bolivar please sit down and have a cup of coffee with me. We finally got him inside and I heated up dinner while Hugo made coffee. Then Hugo left. All was well until he finished the coffee. He asked me if I was going upstairs. Suspicious, I answered no, that I was going to make coffee. He stood there watching me, asking when I was going to make my coffee. So I said maybe later and went to practice piano because the piano is right by the door so I could keep an eye on him. Once I was out of his sight, he headed for the door again. I asked him where he was going and he said that he deserved to be free and asked for keys and asked me to open the gate. For his safety, I had to lie and say that I didn’t have keys and I didn’t know how to open the gate. I also said it was getting dark and it wasn’t good for anyone to go out, but he wouldn’t listen. He was so pitiful, but I knew he wasn’t allowed to go out. I watched him/played piano while for almost 30 minutes, he went back and forth from the kitchen to the gate, trying to open it. The button for the gate is in the kitchen, but he doesn’t remember where it is. Whenever I stopped playing, he would come and tell me to keep practicing (so I wouldn’t know he was trying to leave.) I knew he wasn’t going to be able to get out, and he wouldn’t listen to me, so I didn’t know what else to do but to let him keep trying. Fortunately, Pilar and Vicente arrived home after 30 minutes, and Pilar was able to reason with him. I told her how he kept trying to trick me and she thought it was amusing and thanked me for keeping him from going. Never a dull moment here!

Chicken Feet and Intelligent Alpacas

Well, I have safely arrived in Quito and made it through my first week! However, I can’t believe it has only been a week; I feel like I’ve been here for a month, so much has happened!

Here is a summary about each of my first few days. I will also post a photo gallery!

Thursday, July 5th

I arrived in Quito at about 10:30 pm and went through Immigration and Customs without a problem. A friendly man sent by my program named Arturo picked me up and drove me the 45 minutes from the airport to my hostel for the night. I arrived a day earlier than the other volunteers (because flights were over a $100 cheaper to do that!). It was called Hostal Arupo, which is the name of a traditional tree found in Ecuador.

Friday, July 6th

When I woke up Friday, I ate a delicious breakfast in the hostel and then remembered I had no idea what I was supposed to do or where I was supposed to go, since I had arrived a day early and was alone. Fortunately I was able to get in touch with my program coordinator here in Quito name Diana. She told me that someone would pick me up at 3:00 and then I would ride to the airport to pick up another volunteer, and then we would both be taken to the volunteer house in the far north of the city. I had to check out of the hostel at 12:00, but they stored my luggage so I had three hours to explore Quito on my own.

My hostel was in the Mariscal district of Quito, which is about a mile and a half from the historic center of Quito. I had no idea where I was going, but I had read on Trip Advisor about a place called “The English Bookshop” where a friendly expat named Mark sold excellent used books and gave excellent advice. After some wandering, I found the bookshop. I met Mark, who was very friendly. He explained that he was originally from near London but has lived in Ecuador for the past 31 years. The book shop was cozy and had a brilliant selection, and I will definitely be going back. Before I left, I asked Mark if he knew a good local restaurant for lunch, and not only did he give me a great recommendation, but he walked me down the block to the restaurant and introduced me to the owner!

There I had my first Ecuadorian lunch. It was both delicious, and a bit mysterious. In my soup there were huge chunks of chicken, including what I correctly identified as whole chicken feet. I had no idea how to eat it!

After lunch, I went back to the hostel, where the driver, a friendly man named Franklin picked me up. We talked in Spanish the whole drive to the airport, and I was surprised how much I remembered and how quickly it was coming back to me after not having used it for 4 years. (It also helped that Franklin spoke very slowly and clearly for my sake.)

At the airport, we picked up the other volunteer, named Jonah. Then Franklin drove us to the volunteer house in the north of Quito and showed us our rooms. Then he kindly walked us down the road to find something to eat for dinner. We went to an Ecuadorian pizza chain called Pizza Hornero, and Jonah and I got a cheese pizza to share back at the house. Then Franklin left for the airport to pick up two more volunteers. He left the keys with us and told me and Jonah that we would need to let him and the other two in when they got back around midnight.

Saturday, July 7th

On Saturday the four of us woke up at the volunteer house at 8:00. Our program coordinator Diana would be picking us up at 8:30 for breakfast and then a tour of historic Quito.

Diana works for a company called EcuaExplorer, which is the in-country program that partners with various coordinating organizations from around the world. My organization was Performing Arts Abroad and I would be working in Quito, but the other three volunteers were doing different things.

Jonah would be going to Riobamba for medical work, Sarah would be going to the coast to work with sea turtles, and Lauren would be going to the Galápagos Islands for conservation work. But for the weekend, we were basically a family.

Diana arrived at 8:00 to make breakfast for us. We had some delicious fruit, toast, and an egg casserole. Next, she drove the four of us to the historic center of Quito, where she took us on a tour. It turns out that she is also an officially licensed Historic Quito Tour Guide! We saw learned about the history of Quito, tasted delicious food, and visited stunning buildings and churches.

After that, we went to the Museo del Intiñan, which is the “mitad del mundo,”or middle of the world! It is the local museum that is actually in the right place, unlike the big tourist monument a few hundred meters away. Diana left us because it was only a short walk to the volunteer house. Our guide Niko was fabulous and told us about the indigenouse populations and how they discovered that Ecuador was in the middle of the world thousands of years before technology using the sun and stars. He also showed us some cool science experiments that changed based on whether they were performed on the equator line or not on it. And, we all took a picture in the exact middle of the world!

After that, we went first to the grocery store, then returned to the volunteer house. Then we decided to go into Quito for the evening, since it would be the only opportunity for the other three to explore Quito at night, as they would be in other places.

We took an Uber into the city to the Mariscal District, which has many bars and restaurants. We ate at a beach-themed restaurant called Azuca, where in the section we sat the entire floor was sand! I had a delicious shrimp ceviche, which is a cold seafood dish that is typical in the coast of Ecuador. After dinner we went to a discoteca to do some salsa dancing (or at least attempted to). Everyone else in the discoteca was Ecuadorian and they did some impressive salsa dancing. We couldn’t keep up, but it was fun(ny) to try. We got some strange looks, so I think we at least provided some entertainment for the locals. It was a fun day and night getting to know Quito!

Sunday, July 8th

Today we woke up early because a bus would be picking us up at 6:30 am to go to the Quilotoa Lagoon and Crater. First, the bus picked us up, driven by a friendly man named Gonzalo, and then it picked up Diana and four other volunteers who had arrived the week before. I was excited to meet them, because all four of them were also at Sinamune.

We picked up the others, named Zach, Cosette, and Megan. (Unfortunately the fourth, Paige, was sick.) Zach is from the US and is about to start his senior year of high school; he came to work with Sinamune because he wanted to do something that he had never done before. Cosette and Meghan are both music majors in Wisconsin. Cosette is double majoring in Flute Performance and French, while Meghan is double majoring in Violin Performance and Religious Studies. They both just finished their fourth year and have one more year remaining because of their double majors. (I found some kindred spirits!) Paige is from the Bahamas but goes to school in Texas where she studies dance.

The bus ride to Quilotoa is about three hours, but we stopped a couple times on the way there. First, we stopped at a local indigenous market, where Diana introduced us to many of the typical fruits of Ecuador and bought some for us to try. I never knew there were so many delicious fruits that I didn’t even know existed! I’ll have to do a whole other blog post about the fruits because they were so interesting to see and to taste.

Next, we stopped at the Cañón del Toachi. Diana called it “The Grand Canyon of Ecuador.” It was beautiful, and there were many precarious ledges to balance on and take pictures.

Finally, after a bit more driving we arrived at Quilotoa. The lagoon was formed by the collapse of the nearby Quiltotoa Volcano. It is at almost 13,000 feet. The way it works is that you arrive at the top and then descend down into the crater and then back up. It is only 1.7 km down and then back up, but it is so steep that it seems much farther! It was a difficult hike, but a lot of fun. There is also the choice to take a horse back up for $10, but I preferred to walk. Honestly, I almost think that the way down was more difficult because of trying to balance and not slip and fall! The way up was more strenuous but less precarious. I also took a picture with the most adorable alpaca wearing glasses! He looked so intelligent!

After finishing, we all went to a nearby restaurant for lunch. I am learning that the traditional Ecuadorian lunch is a glass of fresh-squeezed juice, a soup of some kind, and then a main plate with a meat, and rice and beans or something similar. The lunch was delicious. After lunch we got back on the bus and drove the 3 hours to Quito. First the bus dropped off Diana and the other volunteers and then it continued another 30 minutes north to drop us off at the volunteer house.

By this time, we were all hungry for dinner. So the four of us (Jonah, Sarah, Lauren, and I) went wandering around down the street. We happened upon a pizza place called Pizzeria Pancho that smelled and looked delicious, so we went in. The server welcomed us eagerly and sat us down. He was very patient with our slow Spanish. We ordered cups of the fresh-squeezed juice of the day and a large cheese pizza to share. It was so yummy and rivaled most pizzas I’ve had in the US! When we finished our meal, something unexpected happened. Our server came to our table and asked if he could please take a picture of us because his boss wanted him to. We were confused and asked why. He told us that we were the very first gringos to eat at their restaurant, and they wanted to take a picture of us to put on the wall! (The volunteer house, despite its proximity to the Middle of the World Monument, is located in a very local area of Quito.) We thought it was so funny! The others told me I have to go back to see if they actually put the picture on the wall. I will definitely go back because the pizza was so good and the server so friendly.

So far, I am loving Quito, but I am sad that the first friends I made are leaving for elsewhere in the country tomorrow morning. We were all talking to each other about how crazy it is that you can get to know people so well in just two days, but that is the magic of traveling with strangers. They all leave early tomorrow morning and then Diana will pick me up at 8:00 to take me to Sinamune for my first day! I can’t wait! Hasta mañana!


Thanks to all for their prayers and thoughts! And thank you for reading. I am working on finishing writing about this past week at Sinamune; I will post it soon! There is just so much to share and I don’t want to leave anything out. This week has been much busier than expected and I have been going to bed very early because I have to wake up early. Also, I am adjusting to the altitude. In reality it hasn’t bothered me at all (other than the tiredness which could just be from traveling), but Diana told us that we could blame all our problems on the altitude haha!

Ready, Set, Quito!

Less than a month until I leave for Ecuador!!! I am so excited I can hardly focus on everything I need to get done. In the next two weeks, I am moving out of my apartment and putting everything into storage, but I also have to figure out what to pack for Ecuador and not accidentally mix it up with the stuff going in storage.

Since this is my first Lumos blog entry, I will share a bit about my travel. I will be interning for three months with an organization in Quito, Ecuador called SINAMUNE, which stands for Sistema Nacional de Música para Niños Especiales, or in English, National Foundation of Music for Children with Special Needs.

From what I understand, Sinamune does a bit of everything. They provide music education services to children and adults with disabilities. They have an orchestra and offer music lessons. They also offer classes on activities of daily living, art, dancing, and more. According to some of the info I have received, they were originally funded by the Ecuadorian government, but the government dropped that funding, so the organization is now entirely self-sufficient. One of the primary ways they fund their programs is through presenting concerts for the local community and visiting tourists, for which they sell tickets and accept donations.

During my first few weeks I will be observing and assisting with a little bit of everything, and then as part of my internship I will have the opportunity to design and implement some of my own lessons and classes.

One thing I am quite excited about is the opportunity to practice and use Spanish. I actually started out at Belmont as a double major in Music Education and Spanish (before dropping the Spanish major to add a Music Therapy major). I had studied Spanish since 4th grade and I took Advanced Spanish language courses during my first year at Belmont, so I used to speak pretty well. However, since then I have not had many opportunities to practice. I love the Spanish language and I hope to be able to use it effectively to communicate with Spanish-speaking students and clients I will undoubtedly encounter throughout my career.

People have asked me if I’m worried about the Spanish component with my program, but I have been doing lots to prepare. I find that since I used to know Spanish well, it comes back pretty quickly when I am using it daily. I have been listening to Spanish radio, reading Spanish books, and watching Spanish movies. (Fun Fact: Most movies on Netflix have multiple language options, and Coco is definitely better in Spanish!) Additionally, I will have one-on-one Spanish language lessons weekly in Ecuador, so that will certainly help!

Another component of the program I have less experience with is the orchestra. I actually played viola in orchestra at school in 4th grade, but that is the extent of my orchestral experience. However, my cousin kindly lent me her violin, and I am taking a few lessons with a friend before I leave. Today I learned how to play a C major scale! I am excited to experience the orchestra at Sinamune.

Today I also got my typhoid vaccine, so I am all set on that front. However, I will have to go somewhere else to get my yellow fever vaccine because there is a national shortage and there are none left in Nashville! Apparently, we have had to import the French version of the vaccine. Who would have thought?! The nearest location with some left is Chattanooga, but fortunately I will be home in Atlanta and can get one there before I leave.

Here is a link to the Sinamune website! Everything is in Spanish, but if you scroll down to the bottom of the page, there are some videos, which you will enjoy immensely whether or not you speak Spanish, music being a universal language and all. 🙂 https://voluntariosecuador.wixsite.com/sinamune

Well, that’s all for now! I’m off to keep packing and perhaps watch Coco again. 🙂 ¡Adios!