John Tobin

Ecuador

Hometown: Sanford, Florida
School: Seminole High School - Sanford
Sponsor District: District 6980
Sponsor Club: Sanford, Florida
Host District: District 4400
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Portoviejo Solidario

 

My Bio


Hi! My name's John Tobin, and I'll be spending the next year of my life in Ecuador! I still can't believe that I'm going to be in Ecuador this time next year. Just four months ago Scott came into my fourth period and told us about RYE. I immediately knew that this was something I wanted to do. I went home that day and told my parents all about the program and they were completely on board with me. Now, after many emails and a nerve-wracking interview I'm here writing my bio for the RYE page! I was born in Daytona Beach and moved to Sanford when I was thirteen. I'm now seventeen years old and a senior at Seminole High School. I live with my mom, dad, little brother, and two dogs. I also have two older sisters that have graduated college and are out of the house. I currently work at a movie theatre and have been for about a year. I also play the electric guitar and I'm in the jazz band at my school. Music is a big part of my life and has been since I was in the third grade. I can't go a day without listening to music, and my favorite bands are Sublime, Led-Zeppelin, and The Arctic Monkeys. Spanish is my favorite class in school and I want to become fluent in the language so I was ecstatic when I learned that I'd be going to Ecuador. I've been wanting to travel the world since I was very little and South America has always been on top of my list so I could not be more excited to begin this amazing experience. I'd like to take this time to thank The Rotary for presenting me with this once in a lifetime opportunity!

My host brother and I at the airport!

My host brother and I at the airport!

Fritada Serrana in Quito!

Fritada Serrana in Quito!

A sick mural in Quito!

A sick mural in Quito!

My first pool party!

My first pool party!

The best ceviche is Ecuadorian ceviche!

The best ceviche is Ecuadorian ceviche!

First day of school!

First day of school!

Moritz from Germany and me!

Moritz from Germany and me!

Free time after exams!

Free time after exams!

All the kids from the coast in Salinas!

All the kids from the coast in Salinas!

Agua de Coco!

Agua de Coco!

The End!

The End!

The bridge in Bahia

The bridge in Bahia

All the kids from the coast in Salinas!

All the kids from the coast in Salinas!

Cooking some Cuy

Cooking some Cuy

On our way to the Amazon!

On our way to the Amazon!

Burning dolls at midnight

Burning dolls at midnight

Baños!

Baños!

My first time eating Cuy!

My first time eating Cuy!

The huge bridge in the Amazon

The huge bridge in the Amazon

Native Amazonian kids!

Native Amazonian kids!

The giant tree-house

The giant tree-house

Journals: John - Ecuador

  • John, outbound to Ecuador

    Hey everyone! I'm back with another journal all about my ventures here in Ecuador!! So in my last journal I mentioned that I'd be taking a trip to the Amazon Rainforest with Rotary. Well I did, and it was amazing!!! It started off bright and early at 4:30 AM when I woke up to get ready for my flight to the capital: Quito. Rotary divided all the kids in Ecuador into 4 groups based on your location in the country and each group went to the Amazon on a different set of dates. In my group there was about 44 kids.

    After arriving in Quito we took another plane to a small town called Coca and we took a 2 hour boat ride to get to our lodge in the jungle. Our lodge was amazing it was right in the heart of the jungle and you could see monkeys from your room and walking around the lodge every day! Each day started off very early in the morning with breakfast being between 6 or 7 in the morning. We would then break off into our groups with our designated guide.

    We did so many things! We walked through the jungle seeing all forms of wildlife like monkeys, snakes, spiders, huge ants, and birds! We went piranha fishing and we swam in a lake with piranhas and gators! We also went up into a huge treehouse that had an amazing 360 degree view of jungle as far as you could see! There was also a bridge that we walked in and was about 200-300 feet off the ground! Not going to lie, it was pretty scary being that high up on this bridge but at the same time it was one of the most amazing things I've ever done for sure! The view was breathtaking and we went up when the sun was making its way down and the sky was a beautiful orange!

    So after my amazing trip in the Amazon I came back to Portoviejo! This was just about the time of Christmas! Christmas here is really different from the U.S. First of all we open presents on the 24th at midnight and not on the morning of the 25th. And right before you open presents you eat a huge dinner. Yah, I had to wait until midnight to eat dinner! Another thing that struck me as very odd was the lack of Christmas trees! Nobody here puts up trees! No one in my family had one up and only one or two of my friends' families had one up. Here it's more about the religious aspect of Christmas and they take it very serious. Although my house had no tree, the house became covered in religious Christmas knick knacks literally overnight!

    Anyway! The day after Christmas I set off for my 5 day school trip! We left at 10 PM on a bus headed for a city called Baños! About 8 hours later we had arrived! Baños is in the Sierra which is where all the mountains are, the elevation is very high and it was pretty cold. Baños is a city known for extreme sports such as white water rafting, bungee jumping, and paragliding! I got to bungee jump and it was one of the most intense things I have ever done! It was an awesome rush and I'd love to do it again!

    Another thing I got to try was Cuy! Cuy is a food eaten in the Sierra in cities such as Quito, Baños, and Cuenca. For those of you who don't know what Cuy is you might know it by Guinea Pig! Yep, that's right I ate Guinea Pig and as you might guess it didn't taste very good! It wasn't absolutely disgusting but it's definitely not something I'd pay 20 dollars for again. My friend from Germany split a whole Cuy with me so it was 10 dollars each.

    Also on my class trip I got to ride a zip line over a large ravine, not sitting but with my stomach and face, face down so I was forced to stare down at the river 200 feet below me both ways there and back, don't get me wrong it was a lot of fun and a really nice sight but staring at the ground while being attached to just a cable gets a little scary. Nonetheless it was an awesome trip and I had lots of fun with all the kids in my grade.

    After an exhausting bus ride back to Portoviejo we arrived on the 31st just in time to celebrate New Year's the Ecuadorian way! Here in Ecuador they celebrate New Year's just a little differently than we do back home.. Here you make life size dolls out paper and stuff them with paper, you paint them and give them a face and everything then at midnight you and all your friends throw them all into a big pile and light them on fire! And also men will dress up like women and beg for money in the streets saying that the doll is their husband and they need money to pay to stop their burning. They're all over the city and run up to your car at self-made road blocks and at red lights it was really fun!

    I've had a great 4 months so far here in Ecuador and I'm more than ready to see what this New Year has in store for me! In the next month or so I'll be going to the Galapagos so I'll be sure to write a lot and take lots of pictures to share with you guys! Thanks for reading!


  • John, outbound to Ecuador

    I can't believe it's already been over 2 months since I left my entire life in Florida! It feels like I literally just wrote my first journal and here I am writing number 2! I'm currently in school but since I really don't do anything here I figured it's time to stop procrastinating and get to writing!

    So last time when I finished up I was just a few days away from my trip to Salinas with Rotary. We had our language camp for four days and it was an absolute blast! We stayed at an amazing beach resort with so many things to do! The typical day started with our breakfast buffet from 7-8, after that we had Spanish classes for 4 hours then we had lunch and had a break until about 4 or 5 and we would have 2 more hours of classes. During our breaks we had so many things to do! There was volleyball, soccer, swimming in the pool or ocean, Jacuzzi, kayaking, water polo, tennis, and basketball! My favorite part was the food though, every meal we ate was a buffet with so many different choices ranging from French fries and burgers to Italian food and of course traditional Ecuadorian dishes.

    When I returned home it was much like in the U.S after a vacation it's so bittersweet because you're finally back home in your own bed but then again you have to go back to school which means no more games and fun but school. When I got back from Salinas it was a Thursday so I had to go to school on Friday and then we had a 2 week vacation so it actually wasn't too bad going back to school that one day. Plus it was a half day so I was only there for about 3 hours. The next two weeks consisted of sleeping in, going out with friends, and more sleeping. Needless to say it was a great 2 weeks! So after a great 2 week vacation I went back to school but not for long! Rotary had a another trip planned for us in a small city called Bahia so after a 2 weeks break and then about 3 days in school I left for Bahia for a week!

    Bahia was awesome! This time it was all 150 kids in Ecuador and not just the kids from the coastal cities. We had the whole hotel to ourselves and it was great! Everyday all of us would walk to the beach with a police escort. I found it pretty funny because a bunch of gringos already stick out like a sore thumb but a bunch of gringos with a police escort.. We were the spectacle of the whole town! Anyway we would all go to the beach and spend hours playing volleyball or swimming or playing soccer it was awesome! One of the longest bridges in Ecuador is in Bahia and it goes from Bahia to San Vincente an even smaller town. Our third day there we all walked across this insanely long bridge when the sun was setting and it was perfect the sky was an amazing purple pink and it was absolutely breathtaking. When I see things like that in this amazing country I can't help but think, "Wow, I'm here for a whole year!"

    Our second to last day in Bahia we participated in a parade about an hour away from Bahia in my home of Portoviejo! When you're a gringo in South America people stare at you all the time especially when there's 150 of us. At first I liked everyone looking and noticing my "gringo-ness" but after a while you kind of get tired of it and this parade every eye was on us literally EVERY SINGLE PERSON watched us. It's a thing you just kind of have to get used to living here.

    So finally I came back to Portoviejo and started the cycle again of waking up every day at 6 and going to school. But everyday there's something different whether it's something that happens at school or something I do after school and every day I learn more and more about myself and about the language and about my new home. I'm the happiest I've ever been and making this decision to pack up and leave for a year is already turning out to be the absolute best decision I have ever made by far!

    Anyway it's almost lunch time so I've got to wrap it up, next month I'm going to the Amazon for 4 days and I'm so excited we're taking a raft up river for about 2 hours to our "hotel". I'll be sure to take lots of pictures to share in my next journals and on Facebook! Anyway, it's time for me to go eat some Pan de Almidon (one of the best Ecuadorian baked goods) it's similar to Pan de Yucca if anyone knows what that is. Well, peace out reader check back in next month!

  • John, outbound to Ecuador

    One month down, eleven to go!

    Well I’m finally here in my new home, Portoviejo, Ecuador! It’s been a little over 3 weeks since I got here and it’s really just starting to hit me that I’ll be here for a whole year of my life. I’m absolutely loving everything about this amazing country, the food, the culture, the language, and not to mention the nicest people on the planet!

    Anyway, let me back up a bit to my first few days here. On August 23rd I woke up bright and early at around 7 AM (Yes that’s bright and early for me.) I hadn’t gotten any sleep the night before because I was up doing last minute packing and I mean who would be able to sleep the night before something like this!? So even though I was only running on 3 hours of sleep I was wide awake and ready to go! We left the house at about 8:30 and on the way to the airport my mom was reading the check in rules for American Airlines when she reads that if a bag is heavier than 70 pounds we’d have to bring in to their cargo department to check it in, this was not a good start to the morning at all considering my 1 duffel bag was easily 90 pounds! We then sped to Walmart and got a new suitcase and continued to the airport I divided all my things into my two bags and they checked in fine, what a relief! We walked to security and I said goodbye to my parents and brother and gave them all one last hug for a year.

    My adventure finally had begun, I had been waiting for this day for nearly 11 months and it as finally here! I got through security and boarded my 11:50 AM flight to Miami. An hour later I arrived in Miami and immediately found a map to find my way to my gate. I got to my gate and started watching a TV show on my computer, when I looked up I saw someone I had never seen before but had so much in common with. I saw the blue blazer and immediately had a new friend! I went up to this girl in my blazer and she immediately started talking to me. We were talking for about 30 minutes when another exchange student showed up! About 2 hours later there were 7 of us sitting in a circle.

    We boarded the plane to Guayaquil at about 5 PM and 4 and a half hours later I arrived!!! Walking through customs was amazing, I had finally made it! We all got our bags and walked out to crowds of families with signs welcoming their new students. At first I was worried because I didn’t see the familiar faces I had skyped with but I kept walking and I saw them with a sign that read, “Bienvenido A Ecuador Jhon Te Queremos.” I thought they accidentally spelled my name wrong but that’s actually just how Hispanics spell John.

    We drove 3 hours northwest and we arrived in Portoviejo at around 1 in the morning. I was so tired due to my night before and not sleeping at all on the planes! I’m not going to lie, my first few days here I was miserable. I couldn’t eat anything without feeling like I was going to puke everywhere! All the food was so good too, I’ve always loved Latin food but I couldn’t stomach anything! When I feel sick I just want to be in my home and in my bed so I really thought I had made one of the worst decisions ever!

    After about three days I was finally able to eat without getting sick, my only problem now was eating all my food which was a serious struggle! The meals here are so big! First you have a big bowl of soup, then you get a plate with a big portion of rice, meat, and a vegetable. And depending on what you’re eating you’ll get a fried egg or bread too.

    When I first got here my host mom told me I could wait 2 weeks to start school so I could get to know the city and I was all for it! So my first 2 weeks were very relaxed and a bit boring at times. But I got to go to the capital Quito for a day with my brother and his girlfriend so she could get a Visa to go live in France. Quito was amazing! We got on a bus at 10 PM and arrived in Quito at 5 AM. Then we went to hostel and slept for a few hours. After our nap we went to the French embassy and waited about an hour while Veronica got her Visa, then we spent the rest of the day admiring the historic center of Quito!

    In the Sierras or the highlands here in Ecuador they eat what the natives call “Cuy” you all reading this back home know Cuy as Guinea Pig. Yah you read that right, Guinea Pig! Ever since I found out they eat Guinea Pig here I’ve wanted to try it. Yah, you read that right too. We looked for Guinea Pig and asked locals where we could find it but unfortunately they were no help. There’s a trip with Rotary around the country and I’ll be able to try it then for sure considering we’ll be going to Cuenca where Cuy is much more popular!

    So other than my day trip to Quito I hadn’t been doing too much except playing lots of soccer with my host brother considering I didn’t really know anyone, but then my brothers’ girlfriend introduced me to her friends’ daughter who’s 16. She invited me to a pool party and this is where I got my first taste of what school would be like. This is also where I realized I wasn’t as good at Spanish as I thought I was. These kids realized I was a “Gringo” and within seconds I was surrounded with them all rapidly asking me different questions at once in Spanish.

    They all take English class in school but in the equivalent of their senior year they’re still learning basics, I mean like things you learn in a Spanish 1 class. So they couldn’t really translate when I didn’t understand they would just kept saying the word or sentence over and over I guess expecting me to understand eventually. I took 4 years of Spanish in high school and I always did well and I can speak Spanish pretty well but I still have a lot of trouble communicating and I really wish I had done more practicing. They all talk very fast here and at first I could barely understand what was going on, but now if I listen closely to people I can catch the general gist of the conversation.

    So after 2 weeks of sleeping till 11 and hanging out I finally started school on September 8th. I go to Miguel Iturralde Colegio Militar. And yes that means it’s a military school. Every morning we stand in formation and listen to the “Inspectors” talk and march when they tell us to march. All the other kids have 4 different uniforms that they wear, I have no idea when they’re supposed to wear each one because I just wear the P.E uniform every day.

    My first day I was pretty nervous, I knew there was another kid with Rotary at the school from Germany so that helped and then I got into my class and he was there too! I was so relieved to have a friend in the class! But at my school I would’ve had friends regardless because literally everyone wants to talk to me and give me high fives and everyone is just so nice.  I love going to school so much. Moritz; the other exchange student and I are literally like celebrities and it’s pretty cool! We play a lot of soccer at school too, they have basketball hoops, and volleyball nets but no one ever plays. It’s just soccer, soccer, and more soccer.

    I’ve only been at the school for a week and I’ve already made so many friends and it’s just great! It’s also really great practice to hear nothing but Spanish all day. That’s another thing, everyone at school likes to be able to help us learn Spanish. One thing that really gets on my nerves though, is people tell me how to say something and I forget literally 5 minutes later! I’ve talked to other exchange students and that’s pretty common so I’m not alone!

    Anyways, overall this is already the best year of my life and I know I’ve made an amazing decision participating in this program. This Sunday I’m going to a 4 day Spanish camp with all the exchange students from the coast so I’ll have lots more to talk about in my next journal complete with pictures. Thanks for reading I hope you enjoyed and I hope it wasn’t too excessive! Stay tuned!


RSS Feed