Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The beauty of wireless

Quick rebecca trivia quiz.., what's my favorite sound in the whole wide world? I bet katie and richard can answer it... that's right..,. the sound of new email showing up in my inbox!! I just got to hear that sound for the first time in 3 months!! Thanks to the wireless internet at this fancy mall. It's superfast, free, and a 5 minute bus ride from home. I'm in heaven. In addition to downloading email I was able to easily upload the 50 pictures I've been meaning to post from all the holidays this month, so you can check those out. The first album goes all the way back to the fiestas de quito, and the second is a christmas pictorial.
I promised to give you the details of what turned out to be a Very British Christmas.,.. all the American teachers here are either home or their families are visiting, which left me and 4 brits. (Becky, from Wisconsin stopped by for a bit as well.) Upon reflection I realized this was my first christmas without my family, and it actually turned out to be superfun! It was really nice to put it all together ourselves. Jennie and I cooked for a few days beforehand, and brought over our bounty along with our microwave, dishes, and silverware to the bachelor pad. The boys actually cleaned up the place impressively and even cooked up some chicken and veggies. What is a very british christmas you ask? Well, apparently it involves the queen's annual speech (the only thing missing from our celebration), way too much food, lots of games (charades, etc), and watching movies on the bbc. To substitute that last part, Matt put together a traditional line up which included James Bond and Monty Python. Check out the pictures for our christmas crowns. All of this went on for about 12 hours, at which point us girls had had enough of the worlds MOST uncomfortable couches, and could not stomach one more movie or one more calorie.
In other holiday news, I've been lighting my incredibly makeshift menorah, and plan to make latkes for the gang sometime this week. Everyone is extremely unemployed this week... I have zero classes, jennie has 3 hours, etc. Jennie and I are actually taking off to spend a night in Mindo tomorrow, which is just an hour outside of Quito but has lovely scenery, a butterfly preserve, clean air, hammocks, etc... just the recipe for relaxing and avoiding dirty dirty quito. For once I think my traveling plans will not actually fall through. Then it's back to quito for new years, and hopefully a january of nonstop teaching to compensate for the last few months of nonstop cancellations and holidays.
Well, I'm going to head home to watch the millionth dvd of the week... gotta love pirated dvds for $1-$2...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

¡Feliz Navidad!

This is the most surreal christmas eve ever. I've been out of the country for christmas several times, but all were with my family, and we always had a tree and everything at home earlier. At least we've had a bit of a cold snap the past week... you should have seen everyone freaking out when it hit 8 degrees centrigade during the day. (about 45 degrees farenheit... ha!) There's no sign that today is a big holiday... everything seems to be open and people are walking around going about their usual business, albeit with a lot of santa hats. this is especially bizzarre because in ecuador they have the big celebration today, on christmas eve. Jennie and I (3rd roommate sara is back in st. louis for christmas) have been doing our best to get into the holiday spirit, budget style... we've got an ecuadorian tack worthy christmas shrine in the unused portion of our living room, complete with a paper tree that i made and stuck on the wall. There's a paltry amount of presents under, thanks to our generous friends and family! We've also been wearing out the cheesy free christmas carol cd one of jennie's friends got in the newspaper at home and sent her. Thursday I had TWO christmas parties... a hilariously bad christmas pageant style event at cenit, and my first real office christmas party, at the experiment... exactly what you would expect, a posh sit down dinner that degenerated pretty quickly into drunken dancing to bad 80s music. It was pretty fabulous. Tomorrow we're celebrating at the boys (there's 3 guys from the experiment who live together, just as the 3 of us girls do) apartment since they have a real tree and we already hosted thanksgiving. Of course, since bill is also back in the us and matt and giles are pretty high up on the bachelor scale (aka they use the entire apartment as an ash try, and the last time i checked their fridge literally contained one beer and a bowl with remnants of old rice), jennie and i will be picking up the slack in terms of cooking, and bringing our microwave and dishes and everything. oh well. I'll have a post-christmas update with pictures for you soon I hope! I have 3 hours of class next week (if he doesn't cancel) and no choir and no cenit, ... my bank account is sad, but my schedule is free at least. I hope you all have wonderful american christmasses full of snow and family and friends and football and whatnot. Love to everyone.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Ya se despertaron los pobres pastores...

Uh, excuse the fragments of spanish christmas carols running through my head...So you may have noticed from my comments and emails that I didn't exactly go away this weekend. Turns out the choir trip was canceled at the last minute... some problem with the university, who knows. No one I mentioned this to here was surprised... this is ecuador after all. they don't even take attendance in schools and the government doesn't announce official holidays until several days before... forget planning in advance!

I did a) buy a toaster oven for $18 just in time to make muffins with cooked tops! yay for broilers! b) get all my packages and holiday cards shipped, with the exception of those whose addresses I am still waiting on. Not without further hassle though. This is what I get for procrastination I guess. SO I was all prepared this time, had my tape and scissors and got the forms right away. But then when they checked my packages they tried to tell me I wasn't allowed to send food to the us! This was very confusing, as I sent almost the exact same food items in the package i sent last week, and they didn't say a word, except to act surprised that we wouldn't have such products in the us. plus they tried to tell me this is a US regulation, not an ecuadorian one, and i've never heard of that. people send (packaged, sealed!) food to the us all the time. SO since food was the bulk of my package to my family, i took issue with them and was advised to check with the "customs experts" (aka jose and pedro, et al.) After some consultation with each other (jose, what do you think?) they said sure no problem! At which point the boss walks over and starts lecturing all of us on the "new regulations" from the us. according to him, on thursday (if only i had my act together to send all my packages when i went last wednesday! ay!) they had a meeting with interpol (and since when are they in charge of us shipping regulations??) and food is no longer kosher to ship into the US. I really don't buy that for a minute, especially after searching online just now and finding nothing. Plus, the US postal service never opens packages to search them. After arguing with them for a while and declining their encouragement to send it through an expensive private shipper, they agreed that it was my own risk to send it knowing that it may be taken out by us customs. OK fine, no problem. Of course the boss gets all pissy that none of us really seem to care about his new regulations, and tells me i'm going to have to sign a special form. fine. whatever. just send my damn package. meanwhile i go over to actually to so at the window, and since the woman there is clueless about this latest conversation she lets me send it with no problem, and i only put "regalos" down on the customs form. If it hadn't taken so long to ship the package itself, I would have been long gone before the boss came back with his form for me to sign. Not that I'm too worried... it was this little slip of paper with a note written in pencil saying something in spanish along the lines of "i admit that i am sending illegal food." And exactly how much attention do you think the us postal system will pay to a handwritten note in spanish clipped onto the customs form? Exactly. So mom, dad, i'm assuming your illegal foodstuffs will reach you safely. please enjoy it with extra forbidden pleasure.

B's comment did in fact make me extra super jealous... I want to hang out and sing with kt!!!!!!!! but it inspired me to buy my chicago-hartford plane ticket... I will officially be an east coaster again from march 6-14. 2, count em, 2 tuesdays plus convention! i think i'll make my own version of an advent calendar to count down the days...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

As my days in Juneau are winding down, I feel like I should be reflecting on What I Learned or What I Did During My Alaska Vacation. But instead I'll just tell you about what R and I have been up to for the past couple of weeks, since I clearly don't have anywhere near enough perspective to figure out what I learned. (Well, okay, I know I learned a FEW things, such as facts about salmon and hi-tech outerwear. And I can say "frog" and "shark" in Tlingit. And don't even get me started on hard rock mining...).

We've had a few things that have nicely come full circle to close our time here. Like way back in July, we were invited to dinner by this couple who went to college with a guy R worked with last year; R's friend gave us their phone number, and we called them up soon after we arrived. Then we proceeded to neither see nor hear from nor contact these people for the next five months. But suddenly out of the blue in early December, I bumped into the girl at my yoga class. So we started chatting, and made a date for the four of us to go see "SantaLand Diaries" (very mediocre performance, which did nothing to improve my David Sedaris ambivalence, though I certainly don't hold him responsible for the loud, in-your-face actor with the unfortunate Gene Wilder hair) at the Island Pub. Also, we had a museum farewell potluck for R and myself at the home of one of my co-workers - whose house is pretty much the first place we went in Juneau, since she invited us to her 4th of July party 2 days after we arrived. And so forth.

It doesn't feel very holiday-y to me here, probably because it's been so warm (high 30's to 40's for the past week or two... don't you wish you were in cozy Southeast Alaska right now?). I'm never going to survive December in Texas. (More to the point, I'm never going to survive JULY in Texas!!!!!) The city's been rather festive lately, though, with such offerings as $25 helicopter rides over the Valley to look at everyone's Christmas lights. (I'm half-tempted. Sssh, don't tell.) We've also managed to fit in numerous movies since "Walk the Line," as we've discovered that our new favorite thing to do is sit around and eat popcorn.

Which brings me to today! I can't quite grasp that this will be my last weekend here... if you want an Alaska souvenir, you're running out of time to demand one! I think I'll be able to wax much more eloquent on Juneau once I've left, so I won't try now. But if any of you flatlanders are ever thinking about visiting Southeast Alaska, YOU SHOULD! and I can give you plenty of reasons why.

Looking forward to seeing you all...

Love,

K

Braving the Ecuadorian Postal System

Ah the post office. You think it's bad in the US? Try sending a package in ecuador. Yesterday I attempted said task for the first time, and expecting problems I allotted one hour, not including travel time. But, lo and behold, they managed to exceed even my low expectations and it took even longer and made me late for work!!! good lord! There wasn't even a line... I kind of felt like I was in a video game. I just kept going up to the window and getting another task, which really in theory could all be done at the same time, but because of the rules of the game I had to accomplish the first task to even get the instructions for the second task. And instead of, say, getting 10 points in between each task, I had to wait in line behind another 5 people.

So, I get to what is supposedly the central post office, and inside it looks like a slightly larger version of the wesleyan mail center. One window for receiving packages (you have to pick up packages from the post office here), one window for sending, and a bunch of PO boxes. I walk up with my two packages, and before I can do anything else I have to have them searched for contraband. They have an elaborate list of things you can't send out of ecuador, but I can only imagine they're mainly looking for drugs. After waiting about 10 minutes for the "customs expert", aka the random guy who is qualified to poke around in your box and nod his approval, some other girl comes over and does that highly scientific task. THEN at my second trip to the window the woman finally got around to weighing my packages and informing me that for some reason it's almost twice as expensive to send them separately than to combine them in a larger box and send the same thing. Since they were both going to the same place, I took her up on her offer of a spare box. (she was about 500 times nicer than postal workers in the us, but also about 500 times more inefficient.) Of course, this meant that a) I had to pick off every trace of a sticker. At least I didn't have to cover it in brown paper like in italy. b) I had to repackage everything. Do they have package tape I can use? No, even though they are required to open your package and search it, they don't have tape for you to reseal it. I have to go across the street and buy tape at a package store, even though I already have some at home. (At least now I have it in both clear and package color.) Then, since they don't have any scissors either, I have to mangle 50% of the pieces of tape I tear off to cover the ratty old box. Then when I finally have all the stuff together, I take another trip to the window, wait my turn, and am presented with customs forms to fill out. Because she couldn't have given those to me 45 minutes ago when I came in. After about 3 trips to the window to verify that my forms are correct, it's time to send my package, yay! Oh wait. Despite the fact that I asked her about 3 times for a marker to write the address on the package, and was informed each time that she could do that later (I swear I understood her correctly.), she appeared surprised that I didn't have the address written on the package already! OK, find some paper, fill out the address, wrestle some more with the tape to attach it. Now it's really time to send my package! Right??? No, she has some important business to attend to, checking in packages, and we'll just have to wait. Of course, she's misplaced a package, and as her job is probably on the line, she has to find it RIGHT NOW. Wait for it. OK, now I've paid my money, and am waiting for my receipt and the assurance that the package is really ready to go. She just has to put the postage on. Oh wait, this is my favorite part. She can't just print off a postage sticker for $30.60, no she has to stick on real stamps. And she only has TWENTY-FIVE CENT STAMPS!!!!!!!!! So she starts tearing off strips of 4 each, and plasters the box with them. At this point I'm late for work and getting really antsy. So. Many. Stamps. You are going to laugh so much at the state of the package once you get it, between the uncooperative tape and the 5 million stamps.

Finally, my package is officially on its way and, just 1 hour and 15 minutes later I find myself FREE TO GO! Wow. I'm sure it took you that long just to read my description, and I probably left out half the steps. Fortunately I will know what to expect when I send my next packages tomorrow, and I will bring my own tape and request the forms right away. But I do take comfort (oddly) in the fact that it's not just me not knowing the ropes. Most of the 50 or so customers who were helped in my presence also had hassles... like the poor man who tried to send 3 letters and was waiting for half an hour for change for $10 (the ecuadorian black hole of change is another rant for another day) before he finally gave up. And the woman who was sending sand to Belgium, and had to consult with 3 or 4 "customs experts" on the legal status of this, by which I mean the postal lady would be like "hey jose, can you send sand to belgium?" At which point Jose would saunter in from somewhere, poke around in the bag, and eventually conclude, "uh, I don't know... Where's Pedro? Let's ask Pedro." Wait 5 minutes. "Hey Pedro, can you send sand to Belgium?" At which point Pedro would also poke around for awhile before admitting that he has no clue either. And so on. It was kind of funny, except until I started losing my mind.

In conclusion, Ecuador is a country of contrast. By which I mean inefficiency with a smile. You're lucky I love you all!

In non-postal news, I'm finally going to get out of this dirty city and do some traveling! I'm going to the Oriente tomorrow with my choir. All I know is that I am meeting them at 11:30 am and that this trip will involve some singing and bathing in hot springs. I don't know if we are actually going to the rainforest itself, but yes, mom, I will take pictures. I imagine I won't be reachable internet-wise, but I will have my cell phone. (001-593-9-474-8420)

Hopefully I will get the rest of my packages and christmas/hanukkah/secular winter holiday cards in the mail before I leave, barring further bushels of red tape. If not, well, they'll get there eventually and until then you can just feel my holiday spirit permeating this blog. Or something.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Sunrise: 8:39 a.m. Sunset: 3:06 p.m.

Bah, maybe I should just give up all pretenses of actually keeping up one-half of this blog. I don't seem to be very good at it. I was doing some Rebecca-style consecutive posting there for a while, but we all knew it couldn't last...

I don't have time to post much now, but I promise at least one lengthy post in the next day or two. This weekend, I'll probably be too busy packing or putting off packing to make it to a computer. That's right, folks, in one week exactly (ooh, down to the minute, in fact) I'll be sitting my butt down in Helen Hills Hills Chapel! I'm so, so excited.

R and I have had a shockingly full social platter lately, which has made a pleasant change from our past 5 months of hermitage. I promise stories soon. In the meantime, I hope you're all well, and I'll see lots of you soon (hip hip hooray)!!

Love,

K

Monday, December 12, 2005

Back to being a choir nerd!!

Just had my first rehearsal with the choir at theUniversidad Tecnológica América (UNITA). Going there this morning I was a bit nervous, particularly since I wasn't sure exactly which choir I would be singing with or where to go. (Eugenio directed 2 choirs at the festival and neglected to tell me which one he meant, and just gave me an intersection and a time.) Fortunately there was a big sign for UNITA visible at the intersection, and I managed to go in at exactly the same time as Eugenio. The choir itself is pretty small, maybe 20 people tops if everyone was there. They're all really nice college aged kids who don't seem to look at me like the weird foreigner. I chatted with them easily and had no trouble understanding any of the directions or anything. In fact, as for the singing part I more than held my own... they all seem to be good singers, and I don't think they do it for credit, but they aren't particularly on top of technique or sight reading or anything. We had less than an hour to practice before they had to leave to give a little concert, and we were locked out of our room at the beginning. (As you can imagine, a university with technology in the name doesn't exactly give tons of priority to its choir). We pretty much read through 2 relatively easy SATB (actually here, it would be SCTB...I'm a "contralto"!) christmas songs (in spanish), and though I think they had practiced them before I was easily doing as well or better than them by the 2nd or 3rd time through. And I'm pretty rusty at the whole choral thing at this point. I've really been missing it, even with all the sacred harp singing. I'll admit that I got really emotional just doing the warm ups. Anyway, I'm feeling good, the choir is good but not so good or so big that I don't feel like I'm contributing. And, most importantly, the director is really professional and nice and doesn't seem too crazy or anything, which is a rare combination in that line of work. AND, I think I am probably going on their random trip to the Oriente (the eastern rainforesty area of Ecuador) this weekend! Yay choir trips!

Since I have no classes today (my new evening class is already on a business trip in Mexico) I'm off to plan for tomorrow and to finish putting together my holiday packages and christmas cards for y'all! Due to popular demand, I've posted my mailing address here over on the right sidebar. Hint hint :)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Grr

As you can tell from the title, I'm a bit grouchy at the moment. I just finished my last day at CENIT, which unfortunately was ruined by Srta. Useless. It's her brilliant idea to have parties for departing volunteers. Which usually is quite nice... we have food and dancing and all the kids get up to say nice things about the volunteers. Unfortunately, right now it's just me and Susan (plus someone else returning next week), and we both finished today. So since S.U. would never think to actually contribute in any way, it was up to us to provide the refreshments. Which was fine. I baked cupcakes with frosting and sprinkles! And the kids were sufficiently impressed. But back to the horribleness... S.U was poking around forever and by the time she decided to not even come and to leave susan and me to our own devices, the kids were incredibly late. Plus it was just one of those days they were a little crazy and had tons of homework. So basically Susan and I spent the whole day running around desperately trying to help all 20+ kids, and had only a few minutes to squeeze in a "party", which basically involved us yelling at all of them to sit down and shut up so we could start. Sadly reminiscent of understaffed days at Homeroom, which was NOT how I wanted to end my tenure here. Fortunately, since I don't teach on Fridays I'm going to keep coming down here once a week! They can use the help, sporadic as it is, and I really love working here. I wish I could be doing this as a paying gig and volunteering teaching the english. (Oh wait... that sounds suspiciously like what I was already doing with my life! But it's a much more stress-free kind of set up here...) Anyway, it will be awesome to still get to see the kids, speak Spanish, have a free almuerzo, and come down to this different world of Quito regularly.

Some of you loyal blog readers may remember me posting about Paul (Natalia's ex-step father) appearing on Prison Break. My mom sent me this link to the article in our local newspaper, which in the tradition of local newspapers everywhere published a novel about every fascinating detail of our local boy's day in the sun. Complete with a picture of Paul looking suitably distinguished. Excellent.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Party's over

Well, today is an official holiday here in Quito, hence the luxury of blogging in the middle of the day. Last day of the fiestas de quito, meaning the end of my 4 day weekend. Boooo. I spent most of the last 3 days in bed watching dvds (i discovered the the bootleg dvds they sell down here, of which sara has a massive stash, seem to work in my computer, despite the supposed difference in region. which is very exciting.) and reading. Which was lovely and relaxing, particularly after a long day on friday. Long in the best way, but still, I can only handle so much social excitement before I shut down and go into hermit mode.

For lack of anything else to post about, here's the story of Rebecca's Busy Friday:

I don't teach any english classes on fridays, so my only work commitment was cenit. At which we had a big party to celebrate quito and an awesome volunteer who was leaving. Good times... lots of sugar and junk food, and the lots of dancing to the traditional songs of quito... cute pictures forthcoming. Then we got back to cenit early enough that we beat the other volunteers and I got to hoard one of the precious 2 internetted computers for a long time and blog and download to my heart's content. then, since there was no lunch at cenit, I got to indulge in a vegetarian almuerzo on my way back north.

There's a nice vegetarian restaurant just two blocks from my house, but one of the most wonderful luxuries for me is to stop off in the Old Town and walk past the FIVE, count em, FIVE vegetarian restaurants within a 3 block radius, inspect each of their daily lunch menus, and actually DECIDE which one I want to eat. And then get a 2 course meal and juice plus desert for 2 dollars. Mmmmm.

With a very satisfied belly I then set off on my next task, to pick up expensive coffee and chocolate for christmas presents, at which place i got a free TO DIE FOR hot chocolate. Then, with my bag smelling like heaven, off to claim my first PAYCHECK! And then, even better, CASH my paycheck! Not the most sizable since I didn't have that many hours this first month, and I've already blown most of it on rent and groceries, but fortunately the novelty of actually MAKING money in a foreign land compensates nicely.

Normally on a friday night it would be pajama time for me already, but on this night I headed straight out for my personal highlight of the fiesta de quito season... the all-city choral concert! I probably would have checked it out anyway, since it's free, but I had a more specific agenda. After weeks of phone tag I finally got in touch with the director of a choir here, who welcomed me heartily to sing in his choir and also to attend this festival, which it turned out he actually organized, to talk with him in person. So there I was at 7 pm in the theater of the Universidad Central, after picking my way through a campus full of hoards of students deeply engaged in spirited drinking and bonfire burnings, to get an introduction the quito choral scene. And what an introduction it was... since this was the final night, all the choirs participating (more than 20!!) showed up the sing one song each. Fortunately they had Oscar-caliber turnover time, with each choir on and off as quickly as possible, while some woman read really deep comments about music like "Music is what makes the heart beat" etc. Not that I minded the turnover... it's been so long that I have been to/in a choral concert (a whole year i think! that's not allowed.) that I appreciated every second of the familiar logistics of shuffling on/off stage, getting a pitch from the director, adjusting the awful outfits, etc. The choirs ranged from painfully inexperieced children's choirs to high school choirs, to an endless parade of college choirs, to professional adult choirs. With some random additions such as the professional 5 voice a cappella group who put on a real show. A few of them were good enough and smart enough to sing fun, rousing songs, that they were rewarded with calls of "Otra!!" from the crowd. Including the choir from what appeared to be a special music high school, who stole a page from Sister Act II and sang a modern and gospelly version of Gloria. (And whose tenor soloist gave Matthias a run for his money and instantly stole my heart.) Anyway, I managed to catch up with my buddy and future choir director, Eugenio Auz, and confirm that I get to show up for choir starting next Monday. Exciting!! His choir was the only one that performed a gospelly hymn in english, which is also exciting.

So, having indulged in wholesome entertainment it was time to switch to something else entirely. One of the beloved english teachers left, and the whole experiment gang met up for tapas in the mariscal. All you can eat and drink for $10. They had some crazy live salsa going on, and we had a good view of all the chivas going by. Of course, to drink $10 worth of wine in ecuador takes a while, and the gang was determined to do it and it was 1 am by the time we left. By which time I had consumed enough wine myself that it sounded like a fun idea to go out dancing somewhere else. So I very surreally proceeded to have a typical night out in the mariscal with all the gringos and the tiny children to try and steal from drunken tourist in the wee hours of the morning. And it was surprisingly fun. Everything was packed due to the holiday weekend and they had good music going on. I mostly hung out with Becky, who has an Ecuadorian boyfriend and is solidly uninterested in dancing with sketchy guys. We were on the front lines of a a scandalous office romance moment, at which point we decided we had definitely gotten our cover's worth out of the evening, and that it was time to call it a night and pass on the gossip.

And arriving home at 3:30 am free from any taxi scandals, thus ended my long day.

The end. Clearly that was enough excitement to last me for a long time, and I had no interest in going to the bull fight AGAIN today with Sara and Bill. The beautiful weather has finally broken, and the rainy overcast days yesterday and today matched nicely with my desire to veg out.

If you care, here are my weekend movie ratings:
New Charlie and the Cholocate Factory: thumbs down. Just the same story as the old one but weirder in an uncreative way. And I really did not dig the Willa Wonka as Michael Jackson direction. What a waste of Johnny Depp.
The Interpreter: Thumbs up. Surprisingly engrossing plot and hey, it's nicole kidman! Why don't you take off those glasses...

OK, I've killed enough time rambling. And I even have to prepare for my classes tomorrow. Ick! Looking forward to those Christmas holidays...

Friday, December 02, 2005

Thanksgiving flashback

Here I am at CENIT with the sounds of the fiestas de quito floating around me. I'll have some pictures soon of everything in the city decorated with blue and red, apparently the colors of quito. Despite having La Vida Quiteña stuck in my head, I promised a thankgiving update. Complete with pictures! Please feel free to ignore the excessive amount of text I will certainly devote to food worship.

Actually, before I even got around to the 6 hours of cooking and a similar amount of time spent eating, my Thanksgiving Day (Observed) began around 4:30 am. When I awoke to the sound of someone leaning pretty heavily on our buzzer. For about half an hour. Once I established that all roommates had returned from their serious night on the town (which they hadn’t when I went to bed at 2) and were safely ensconced in their respective rooms, I decided it best not to answer the door and convinced myself it must be the buzzer for another apartment,. Which was a good thing because in the morning I found out the full story, which involved a very drunken Tasha and Jennie on a scandalous taxi ride home (as this blog is generally family friendly, I’ll leave out the details, but let’s just say that no one will ever be able to say “taxi driver” without someone making a crack at Jennie’s expense) and ended in an irate driver ringing our bell to get his fare. I can only shake my head. Fortunately, I had known better than to go anywhere near this disaster waiting to happen, once I heard that it was Tasha’s last weekend night out before heading back to the US. The upside is that while my roommates are normal 20something girls in that they do enjoy a good night out, this particularly debaucorous evening was enough out of the ordinary for them that it wasted no time in becoming legendary (unlike my terrible roommates in Italy, who as a rule stayed out all night every night and didn’t know how they got home, and on the rare occasion they remembered pieces of the previous evening’s events the stories typically involved such things as going home with “the Italian Hugh Hephner.”).

So once we all rolled out of bed at some hour possibly still resembling the morning we headed into some serious cooking. The 4 of us girls, with only slight manly assistance from Bill and Matt later on (eg taking out the trash and picking up the chicken), cooked and washed up and cooked some more non-stop for about 6 hours. We must have used every single dish and utensil we own 4 or 5 times over before we ever got around to eating. And we own a respectable amount of cookware. Miracle of miracles, the Little Stove that Could didn’t give up after spending the entire day with the oven on “max” and all burners going. And we didn’t even have to change the gas can. And I only had to make 3 trips to the convenience store across the street... In the end we managed to turn out, from scratch, a thanksgiving with all the trimmings for 13 people... something I certainly have never even tried to do in the US! Makes you appreciate your ancestors toiling over hot wood stoves and whatnot, or at least appreciate the practicality of the potluck. And then... we celebrated that thanksgiving tradition of repeatedly testing the point of satiety, in between swearing off eating ever again. And then we ate desert. Eventually our guests rolled themselves out the door and we declared the day a success. Good, old-fashioned American excess.

The menu:
Appetizers: Garlic bread and more deviled eggs than I thought possible.
The main course: 5 roast chickens (the only things purchased, from the chicken place across the street... we can only ask so much of our plucky oven.)
The good stuff: Potatoes 3 ways (mashed with leeks, roasted, and fried.), Sweet potatoes, 2 kinds of stuffing, gravy, veggie/cheese casserole, broccoli and rice, sweet potatoes, corn muffins, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie. Plus, to my delight, a vegetarian guest brought some quality veggie fake-sausage things.

Reaping the benefits of hosting: Our big feast was on Sunday... I don’t think that any of us 4 girls, or Bill who eats 3 times as much as we do, cooked a single thing for lunch or dinner until Thursday. There’s nothing like eating Thanksgiving all week.... and there’s REALLY nothing better than getting thanksgiving all week here in Quito.

OK, you get it, thanksgiving is good for the taste buds. I swear I’ll stop talking about the food. It was really fun to have everyone over too... As jarring as the change was from spending my first month in Ecuador speaking only spanish at work and home to living and working smack in the middle of the english teaching community, I am really amazed and appreciative that I just waltzed into this ready-made community of american/british english teachers. And I always enjoy parties when a) they’re at my own house and b) they involve lots of food. Also, the cooking marathon was excellent bonding for us roomies... there’s that whole timeless sisterhood thing there... OK, enough non-culinary reflecting. Go look at my pictures of all the yummy food.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

More new photos

Hi ladies and gentlemen. I added 8 more photos to the end of my "Autumn in Juneau" album, all taken during my dad's visit in September. Click here to be transported there.

Love,

K

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Now testing the emergency complaint system

(I apologize for the interruption of your regularly scheduled blogging. A Thanksgiving post will resume shortly.)

OK, I have had it up to here (theoretically indicating a spot well above my head) with the copying fascism here. It is literally impossible to just go somewhere and make your own damn copies. (Or wash your own clothes, or serve your own food at a salad bar, or pump your own gas, or do ANYTHING yourself.) Yes, there are plenty of copy places for relatively cheap, but you still have to go in, talk to someone, and explain how you want your copies (enlargement, cropping, dark/light, front back, etc etc etc) and wait for them to figure it out. Why do I even need to make copies you ask? I have to make copies every single day for my various classes. Why can't I make work-related copies at my place of employment you ask? Well, I can if I want to a) use the really old copier that has about 2 settings and makes illegible copies no matter how much toner you add. No to mention that it is sitting on Juan Carlos' desk and that you are in his way the whole time you use it. At least he's super goodnatured and always chats with me and remembers to ask me stuff like how our thanksgiving went. Or b) Fill out a detailed copy request form, get it signed by my boss, and wait a day for the part-time woman to make the copies. Which is incredibly typical of Ecuador.

But, ok, I can adjust. BUT today I got a call from my BOSS (at the behest of part-time woman)asking "Do you really need 20 copies of such and such page?" !!!!!!!!!! For the love of god. This is the first time I've even requested copies, since usually such bureacracy does not mesh with my lesson planning timing. (And in my defense, I'm not just lazy, it's just usually counterproductive to plan much in advance for one on one or small groups, since you really want to adapt your lessons around how it went the day before)And yes, my biggest class is 5 people, so no, I don't need to hand out 20 pages tomorrow. But it is a reference page with much useful information on it and I didn't feel it necessary to wait a week and find the book again and fill out another form the next time I want to use it!!! Cultural differences be damned! Are they trying to save paper? That argument goes out the window since they don't make any attempt to recycle anything in the whole country. Trying to save money? How about the salary they have to pay part-time woman, all the fancy carbon copy forms they have to have printed up, and all the phone calls to check if I really need that many copies. But that's how it is here... all those jobs that we replace with some combination of technology/efficiency/self-service at the first opportunity in the US, here there are more than enough people willing to work for as little as it takes. Vending machines? No need... there are thousands of men, women, and children who make their living combing the streets, buses, etc selling every refreshment you could ever want. And so it goes.

I swear, I'm going to spend my time in the US doing nothing but making my own copies and using free internet at the library, washing my own clothes in a laundromat, and serving myself heaping plates at Old Country Buffet. Just because I can.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Double feature!

Once again, both Katie and I have decided to grace the blog with a new post on the very same afternoon. (That's right, keep scrolling for more alaskan weather reports and holiday excitement.)

I have exciting news!

1) We are currently preparing to host our Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. The menu includes roast chicken, veggie casseroles, mashed potatoes, apple pie, cherry pie, and probably some other stuff I don't remember. And, thanks to me, sweet potatoes that I bought at the market yesterday (se llaman camotes, if you were wondering), and the traditional can shaped cranberry sauce. Mmm. By the way, when I say "we" are preparing, I meant Jennie and I both went shopping today. Sara, Tasha, and other assorted friends went to the bull fight today! The festivals of Quito have been going on for a week or so and end up on the 6th of December in huge parties with fireworks and whatnot. Like the 4th of July. The bull fights at the Plaza de Toros are a tradition for these weeks... I declined the offer to attend quite heartily, as you can imagine. Though, I have been amused by another tradition for the Quito festival, which are chivas. Chivas are basically these big open buses that people rent out, and basically they drive around the city blasting loud music while the people hang off the side and drink. Just another in the long list of Ecuadorian customs that would be so incredibly illegal in the US.

2) I also celebrated the harvest in my own special ecuadorian way yesterday... it's hardly possibly to buy fruit in small quantities. At the market they mostly sell you preset batches of fruit for $1. And as I mentioned before, $1 buys a lot of fruit here and it all ripens at once. So yesterday I had to face my bag of tomates de arbol (see my picture for reference.) They are more of a pain to process than other fruit becuase they have all these tiny little seeds like tomatoes, but they're harder and you don't really want to eat them. So fortunately we have an awesome blender to rely on. A couple hours later and I had not only a very full stomach, but also a pint of juice, but a liter of blended yogurt and a jar of makeshift tomato de arbol/mango chutney to go with my indian food. Pumpkin pie has got nothing on that.

3) Ok ok, now for the ACTUAL BIG NEWS!! I officially bought a ticket back to the US in march! Ostensibly to arrange a work visa, so they can't complain that I'm taking a vacation at a non-vacation time. Coming into Chicago March 2nd and flying back here March 21. With a nice trip out east in the middle, which will hopefully squeeze in two tuesdays in addition to wmshc :) I'm enjoying Quito, but I can't wait to see all of you and eat fabulous organic food that won't give me tropical diseases and breathe non-polluted air.

4)In response to those generous souls who have inquired as to what I might desire in a holiday care package... All I'm craving is:
- organic/natural granola bars (kashi and trader joe's are my favorite brands... just no raisins please!)
- music! I didn't bring all my cds, so my supply is a bit limited, and the big ricky martin posters at the tiny little cd store chain here don't exactly bode well.
- if you're feeling really indulgent, you could pick up some tv show dvds for me, since my buffy and lost dvds have served me well but I'm wearing them a bit thin.

5) One last announcement. As promised, here is my house phone number: (593) 2-243-4437. It's easier to get me on my cell phone (593) 9-474-8420 but it might be cheaper to call a landline. Llamame!

And it burns burns burns / the ring of fire

We went to see "Walk the Line" last night which was SO GREAT. So great. I've been vaguely obsessing - is my wont - about the movie since yesterday. I was prepared to be highly skeptical about Joaquin and Reese doing their own vocals, but oh my gosh, they were unbelievable. Such wonderful singing, such wonderful acting, such a good good movie!!! If you miss out on it down in Quito, Cita, we definitely have to watch it in March. So great!

Oh right, and happy Thanksgiving. We had giant delicious Thanksgiving dinner with Alysia and her boyfriend and her housemate and his girlfriend and her brother and his wife (So. Many. Couples.) and got the weather forecast from Alysia's boyfriend, who works for the weather service; he promised us sun and snow this weekend, and damned if he wasn't right. Yes, my friends, after ten days and 15+ inches of rain, the skies have temporarily cleared and my coat has temporarily stopped being wet and smelling like mold. Mmmmm. For that, among many other things, I am thankful.

Public Market is this weekend, which is a giant holiday market wherein crafty people from as far away as Anchorage come and set up booths in Centennial Hall, and there's strings of lights and food vendors and piped-in carols and homemade soaps and knitted hats and a bazillion different people selling beaded earrings, and in short it's just like every other holiday market everywhere, but no less enjoyable for the fact. Tonight we're going to see Alysia in the annual burlesque show, which promises to be good times with more partial nudity than ever before. And then tomorrow I get ANOTHER day off. How delightful!

I hope everyone spent Thanksgiving with people they love, and I'm getting very excited to see lots of you in three weeks and two days!

Love,

K

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Hey! It's my favorite American holiday!!

But I'm in Quito. Right. Well, I don't get to share my thanksgiving with the bridges or the mahoneys, but fortunately it can still involve lots of eating. I made my morning class tell me what they were thankful for, and i fed them cranberry juice. The thing I was thankful for was that my crazy new student didn't show. Oh wait, what's that I used to tell the Homeroom kids non-stop? Your positive thing doesn't count if it's something negative about someone else? Oh well, scew them. Ok ok, I'm thankful for all of you wonderful people out there who love me and put up with my rambling :) And mangoes, and shapenote singing, and buffy. And other wonderful things that don't spring to mind at the moment. My evening class (for this guy who is the president of a pharmaceutical company here, and when I go I get all ushered through a million doors and offered beverages and such) canceled, which means a) that I still get paid since he canceled at the last minute, and b) I can kill time in this internet place and talk at all of you. I'm across the street from the indian place I am meeting my roommates and the rest of the english teaching gang for dinner. Not the most traditional thanksgiving, but it's really a goodbye dinner for the roommate who is going back to nevada with her fiance tomorrow. Poor Angie, she's missing thanksgiving at home, but leaving before our big dinner, which is scheduled for sunday. We figured it would be a good idea to push it back to a day when we weren't working all day and could actually cook. I did have a pumpkin muffin this morning, courtesy of Sara and her baking-from-a-mix frenzies. And ironically I think I ate some turkey for lunch. There was definitely something in the soup at cenit.

And now I'm off to eat curry! Special thanksgivingy love to everyone.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

marketing and etc

So the market in Otavalo was pretty fabulous. Definitely one of the most chill and authentic markets I've ever seen. Only a smattering of tacky touristy stuff. The Otavalenos have been producing artesania (traditional handicrafts) since before the Spanish came and forced them to do it for slave labor, and now it's a more liberating way to share their culture and (mostly) make some cash. The cool part is that it's not just a lot of crap they're selling that they picked up somewhere, you can see them all wearing the clothing and hair ties, belts, using the blankets etc. And you can see them knitting and weaving and such as well. Also, what a polite crowd. I mean they will be persistant if you are shopping at their stall, but never once was anyone anything but superpolite and no one would dream of giving you a hard time if you move on to the next stall. And almost everything is really nice quality and supercheap. I mean, alpaca coats and handwoven blankets that would cost a fortune the second they were imported to the us. It's very textile heavy, so keep that in mind when you get your holiday packages :)

Sara and her cousin Tasha are good at the touristy overloading on pictures, which nicely compensated for my practical strategy of not bringing my camera. So hopefully I can grab some pictures from them and share the absolutely breathtaking scenery we bussed through, and the cute kids at the market. We had absolutely perfect, gorgeous, sunny, weather all day. Which is more than I can say for the bus rides. It's incredibly cheap and easy to travel in Quito and around Ecuador by bus... it's 25 cents anywhere locally, and aprox. $1 per hour of distance outside Quito. And to travel outside the city you don't even have to go to a bus station or buy a ticket... You just go to a main road and hop on a bus that says your destination. The trade off is that the buses are horribly unreliable. First off, they stop every two second whenever anyone wasnts to get on or off, and they travel these curcuitious routes, and get held up in traffic and whatnot. This is why the Trole and Ecovia, with their fixed stops and designated lanes, are a godsend in Quito. Not to mention, the last three buses I've been on have all had to stop and kick off the passengers, for some unknown reason. The first one was a local bus, and the driver at one point hopped a curb and hit some people (not badly from what I could see) and either didn't notice or didn't care. Then a few minutes later we pulled over and they kicked us off and only gave us our money back after a lot of complaints. Then both the bus to Otavalo and from Otavalo stopped on the side of the dusty highway, presumably with mechanical problems, and sheparded us onto another bus (of course more crappy and without the enjoyable movie from the first bus).

More soon on my crazy new student, my gringa roommates, and hopefully a confirmation of a plane ticket to chicago!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Hard rain's a-gonna fall

So by the end of the day we will have gotten 2-3 inches of rain. JUST TODAY. That's NOT EVEN TAKING INTO CONSIDERATION the fact that it's been pouring buckets mercilessly since Friday. FRIDAY.

Fortunately, I've thus far managed to avoid drowning by coming home after work last Friday, putting on my pajamas, and not emerging from either house or pajamas until this morning. On the up side, I started and finished three books this weekend. On the down side, it's depressing as all hell. We've been told that this is the time of year, after it gets dark all day but before it actually starts snowing, when everyone in Juneau goes insane and stir-crazy. Now there's a shocker.

Goals for this afternoon: buy myself waterproof shoes that don't involve 10 minutes of lacing and unlacing every time I want to put on my rain pants, try to talk Richard out of going to the planetarium because it involves too much walking in the rain, get sushi at Seong's because it involves almost as much walking in the rain but it's SUSHI so who cares, make it to the bus without getting washed out to sea, get from the bus stop to our front door with the same objective, put on dry clothes, figure out how I can never go outside again.

Grumble.

Friday, November 18, 2005

1 word: mangoes

So, my blogging frequency has slowed a bit since I've been busy with what is becoming the same old same old... lots of commuting between english jobs and cenit. The apartment is working out really well, all my roommates are really chill and enjoyable. And they just keep coming... we're up to 7 people now. Sara, her two cousins, 2 other roommates, me, and 2 boyfriends. one cousin and boyfriend were on vacation until yesterday, and they're leaving after a week. So they'll probably be crashing in one half of the common room, which is clearly meant to be a dining room but is currently occupied only by the ironing board. The crush of people is partly my fault, as I moved in a bit early, before other roomates are leaving, but they were happy to oblige and I have my own room and everything. And then once people leave I get to move up the medium room, which has a closet and fancier plugs so that I can actually purchase electronic equipment such as a tv. Very exciting.

Because the schedule at cenit got switched around a bit, I usually go directly to the market to meet the kids rather than meeting at cenit first. This is very exciting because I actually have a chance to poke around and purchase produce. Which I haven't done very much of because most of my shopping is done at Supermaxi (Yes, someone really should have warned the owners of the biggest supermarket here that he's probably infringing on the trademark of a feminine hygiene product, but so it goes.) and I can't bring myself to purchase more produce than bananas and onions since there is so much beatiful bounty at the markets. Plus I would much prefer to patronize the nice women at the market where I work. Yesterday I finally arrived early enough to haul home a huge bag of mangos and avocados home with me. Each for a dollar. Oh my lord. I'm so glad I came around to the loving mango side of things, because boy am I in the right place. And the avocados were like butter. Swoon.

Speaking of markets, tomorrow I'm heading off to Otavalo (finally) with Sara, who is a very experienced shopper judging from the amount of stuff in the apartment, which is exciting. I can't believe I'm buying christmas present already! Of course they've been decorating for xmas since halloween, or earlier, since they don't have a thanksgiving timed holiday to pretend to wait for. And as for that wonderful all-american holiday, the benefit of living with a bunch of midwesterners (plus jenny, from bristol, uk) is that we are going to host our very own big thanksgiving bash. I'll make sure to bring the cranberry sauce. yum. I'm sure some pictures will result from that, so I can reward your sucking up mom.

Un buen fin de semana a todos!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

It still feels slightly odd to be here at the museum after dark, like I'm in the middle of the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler or something. Since most of my time here is spent with the outside darker than the inside - not even counting the times the sun ISN'T actually up, like after 3:30pm, or when I work evening receptions - you'd think I'd be used to it by now, but no. Now I have a little time before I go meet R at the shop, so I thought instead of wandering the cold stormy streets of my adopted homeland, I'd stay here and kill time the best way I know how: by blogging! Except all I can really think of to write about was the excellent tuna-salad sandwich that I got at Rainbow Foods this afternoon. R and I have had some weird upset stomachs this week, which have made us cast a wary eye at the copious amounts of expired dairy that we so ebulliantly bought last weekend ("99 cents for organic milk???? Do you think we can finish off two half-gallons before it expires tomorrow? That sounds like a challenge to me!!!!"), but which haven't stopped us from actually consuming said dairy. I've been getting through the past few days on mainly fruit and rice cakes (after which I tend to eat a rich dinner, drink a glass of expired milk, and start the whole process all over again in the morning), but today that wily tuna sandwich caught my eye. And it was worth every penny - well, I'm in Alaska where everything costs twice as much, so it didn't FEEL like it was worth every penny I actually had to cough up - but I was willing to forgive them, just this once. (Okay, let's be honest, we always forgive Rainbow because they're the only natural grocery store in Juneau and we love them.)

Okay, must stop discussing tuna sandwich. I'll tell you instead about the 9-week-old PUPPY that I'm going to meet and play with as soon as R gets off work!!! He was bought to replace Cobalt, our poor little dog-sitting charge who passed away in September, and apparently he's completely different from Cobalt - a totally outgoing, good-natured, roll-with-the-punches kind of pup - which is probably a good thing in the long run. R and I might be left alone with him for an hour (Ellen said we could stay with him if we wanted while she puts in an appearance at somebody's birthday party, yay!), which hopefully is not enough time for him to develop a mysterious/lethal infection, which is what happened the last time she left us alone with her dog. Heh.

My library books are starting to be due after the last day of my internship in December, which makes me feel much closer to leaving than anything else. In honor of my impending departure, I'll start a Things I Miss About The Lower 48 list (I figure there'll be plenty of time for the Things I Miss About Juneau list later). In no particular order:

1. Fresh herbs (And, really, any produce that doesn't crawl onto your doorstep to die within minutes of purchasing it. Do you people know how lucky you are that your bananas have a "yellow" stage in between "bright green" and "dark brown"??? Or that you might conceivably get to witness a point in your scallions' life cycle when they still stand up by themselves???)
2. Shape note singing
3. Live music not performed by locals with more earnest enthusiasm than talent, bless their tone-deaf little hearts
4. Inter-library loan
5. Autumn (well, a little late for that, but a girl can still dream)

Hmmm, that's all I can think of for the moment. I'll add to this list as I remember more. Now I'm off to meet R and go play with Ziggy! Have a good night!

Love,

K

Monday, November 14, 2005

New Juneau photos

No time to post, since R & I have to run off to Astronomy Club (don't ask), but I uploaded a new photo album ("Autumn in Juneau")... just click here!

More soon.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Listmania: aka Book orgy, and Movies I´m itching to see

Yesterday was heavenly... I finally have a place of my own, and though there are 5 of us living there at the moment, everyone was either out of town or out all day. So I did what I do best... grocery shop, cook, eat, and read. I haven't been reading that much since I've been here... I've been more in DVD mode. But yesterday I read enough books in one day to justify actually making a list. (scary?)
1) Finished rereading Harry Potter 6. I think I enjoyed rereading it more than any of the other HP books... no irritating plot holes, and lots of unresolved intrigue to ponder for future books. Counting the days til it comes out in Spanish!
2) The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing. It was on the bookshelf in the apartment, and I know there's a movie coming out soon. Definitely dug the book... it's a total chick book but not dumbed down. It's kind of what I wanted Bridget Jones' Diary to be. But I don't have high hopes for the movie... the strength is definitely the smart writing, and it's more a collection of vignettes, not really plot based.
3) The Kite Runner, which probably everyone in the world has already read but I have been avoiding since it seemed pretty heavy. But again, there it was on the bookshelf. I don't think there would be so much fuss about it if Afghanistan wasn't such a hot topic these days. I definitely appreciated that is a really beatiful account of the afghani experience that's unrelated to all the sensationalism after 9/11. But, man, do the Afghanis have a depressing history or what! Reminded me of Angela's Ashes, exept mostly without the humor.

More pop culture goodness:
Movies actually coming to quito in the next month or so!!
1) Harry Potter
2) The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

Movies that are so not ever coming to Quito. Grrrr...
1) Serenity
2) Walk the Line
3) Brokeback Mountain

Bootlegs anyone?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Not to draw attention away from R's excellent update

But I just wanted to say a quick hi before jetting off for my luxurious 3-day weekend (who loves veterans and their accompanying holidays?), during which I will attempt to not lay eyes on a computer if at all possible. Lots of stories about awful local concerts (okay, I like folk music and sing Sacred Harp - clearly my tolerance for musical imperfection is vastly higher than a majority of the population's - but Richard and I had to WALK OUT of this sucker, if that gives you any indication of its lousiness) and hiking up to Spaulding Meadows and whopping snowstorms and idiotic mistakes that result in my having to manually alter over 3,000 electronic records (aren't they supposed to stupid-proof computer programs for boobs like me?)...

...but you'll just have to hold your breath until next week.

In the meantime, if anyone wants to find me a job in Austin, it would be greatly appreciated.

Love,

K

P.S. Oh, and I was going to credit Betty Biedrzycki, the mythical housecleaner from my mother's childhood who came up with the subject line of my previous post as it was passed on to me by my mom (oral history in action!) - but I didn't find out how to spell her name in time to credit her with the rhyme. Consider the situation rectified.

Cheesy e-card music and bad italian pop

Is what I am currently listening to. Thanks respectively to the woman at the computer next to me, and the kind people at the internet place. Also I am currently amused by something that just caught my eye on google news, the first line of an article from the guardian: "Exactly one year after Americans re-elected George Bush, the president came face to face with his own toxicity."

OK, all internet randomness aside, I actually have lots to report, now that I have survived my first week of official english-teachingness. Ok, so it´s a 3 day week, but definitely a Loooooong 3 days... On top of being sick, it has involved getting up before 6, and dragging myself, all of my teaching materials, a change of clothes, etc, ALL over the city on various forms of public transportation and on foot, while teaching 2 classes, volunteering at cenit, (plus attending a variety of meetings and lining up a new apartment) and home maybe by 7 or 8 pm (well after dark). Then trying to juggle sharing the daugher's tiny room with the niece, picking out my least rumpled nice clothing from my luggage which is living in the sons' room, and trying to get in the bathroom and/or kitchen in between the 8 other people and 2 dogs that currently call the place home. Good thing I'm getting the hell out tomorrow afternoon! I am officially moving in with 2 other teachers from EIL... one girl is from st. louis, the other is british. The place isn't particularly nice judged by the standards of my current abode, (most especially the kitchen... the oven settings literally consist of min - max) but a place of one's own is certainly nothing to sneeze at. And I will have my own nicely sized room, it has 2.5 baths, a washing machine, and it's in a complex with a guard and whatnot. And the resources of 2 roommates who have been living my life here for months... Sara, the fellow midwesterner, actually even taught one of my classes before me. She's filling me in on all the best bus routes and I'm already planning on accompanying her to the market in Otavalo next weekend, and as she's been there 3 times she can hook me up with all the best deals. Excellent. Come christmas/hanukkah time you too will reap the benefits. Yes, you.

I'm definitely digging EIL... everyone is super nice, they have a FABULOUS library of resources, a kitchen that makes me swoon, and my boss is a solid guy. He's kind of the most uptight and anal person you've ever met, except then you turn around and he's either swearing and smoking or wearing a paper hat and chasing his 4 year old student singing a song about the zoo. And he totally gives it to you straight, plus gives you all the support and/or flexibility you want, all of which is fabulously refreshing after a year of being at the beck and call of mr. micromanager "best wishes for a healthy and happy new year" boss.

As for the actual classes, it's been a little weird so far because I had no idea what to expect. I'm actually very comfortable with my 7 am class for the 4 business people, since it's about the same size and almost the same level as the class I taught in Northampton. But again weird, because I'm picking up from where Sara left off a month ago when they canceled classes, though now they changed their mind. I was warned from the start by justin (boss) that its a problematic class... they haven't really progressed, largely from lack of attendence, and tried to blame Sara. And I got the behind the scenes gossip from Sara that the teacher before her (who was actually her boyfriend... ah a new little incestuous community for me to join!) basically just spoke spanish and hung out with them, so so they loved him and hated her when she actually tried to teach them and they didn´t know anything. Anyway, so I have all this baggage, and a textbook that they supposedly have gotten to a certain point in, except that they clearly didn't actually learn the material since half of them can't even use the past tense, which was like a whole book ago. I can handle partially teaching from a textbook, but it's a bit challenging under the circumstances and when they're supposed to take a test after so many units. I saw the test and there's no way they would ever pass unless I specifically taught only the random specific points it covers. That was great... first day on the job and I'd already run into the classic selling-out challenge for teachers. But crisis averted after a nice chat with justin in which he basically told me, between us, screw the tests and teach what they need to know to progress and see that progress. So I'm only selling out in the aspect that the company, Perforec, which I took to just be one of those generic-corporately-named companies which one wouldn't know or care what type of work actually goes on behind the paper pushing, turns out to actually be a serious petroleum drilling company. Yay being a foreigner willingly supporting possibly the most evil force in Ecuador (and I have the Perforec pen and keychain to prove it!). The "petroleros" think a good time is making a pretty penny out of large scale destruction of ecuador's land, which has the lovely side effects of forcing the indigenous population out, and polluting what remains of the natural resources. I guess at least they have good benefits for their employeees... heh.

My other class is working two afternoons with this 7-year old girl. I'm totally afloat with that one... it's weird because I've worked so extensively with kids, and I've done the english teaching, but I have no clue what to do with the two put together. Kids understand so little of what you're saying, so you really have to be super on top of engaging them in a variety of activities and refining the language that you use. My learning curve is really big on that one... or small... or whatever is bad. So far we've colored a lot and played a few games, loosely related to reviewing colors and animals. Which is fine because she's a bit shy so we are just getting to know each other. But if I actually want her to learn anything I'm really going to have to dig deep and prepare a lot. But definitely a good skill to hone, so I'm not complaining.

OK if you've bothered to read this far I'll get to the good part. So far I'm only teaching these two classes for a grand total of 6.5 hours a week (not counting planning time). At 6.50 an hour plus a generous compensation for traveling offsite, if my math is currect, this earns me almost a whopping $50 a week. But at $200 a month that's already twice my rent! And everything else is so cheap here that I could easily subsist on that much, as long as I don't travel. Which of course I do plan to do, but if I can get some more hours I won't even be dipping into my savings! Which is good news for my plans to do some more extensive south american traveling after I've had it with Ecuador, following by trading up to the other end of the spectrum of the cost of living as a poor culinary student in Santa Cruz.

So, check out my life working out! And I even have some contacts for choirs in Quito that I might be able to join! Once I go home and get some sleep, I may actually be excited by this. Prize to you for finishing all my excruciatingly fascinating ruminations on my week. I can probably russle up some cute KT stories of my own...

Monday, November 07, 2005

no snow, but lots of non-weather-related changes

So after a few days of absolutely nothing going on, my life is kicking into high gear. I didn't actually make it to Otavalo yesterday, since I should have known better that my friend Stephanie wouldn't make it up in time to meet me at 8. Which was probably for the best, since I was sicker than I thought. (Just a stupid cold... i havent had any digestive problems yet, as it were.) So after waiting for 45 min on a street corner I gave up, bought some Robitussin, and confined myself to bed for 24 hours. After rising from my sickbed this morning, I had kind of a rude awakening. My landlady, after telling me yesterday no problem I could stay another week while apartment searching, says, oh by the way these people are moving in so you need to move your stuff out and you can share this other tiny room with my niece. Great. So I hurridly packed up all my crap and rushed out to meet with my new boss.

That's right, I think a new job deserves a new paragraph... I offically have accomplished my long-awaited goal of being an english teacher in ecaudor! on friday i got the call that there´s a place for me at EIL (Experiemnt in International LIving), or "the experiment". The one and only place I applied. I got a short tour and intro today, and believe it or not I agreed to start my first class tomorrow at 7 am. That's right folks, whoever thought we'd see the day! (The schedule actually works out really well because I can fit it in before my volunteering at CENIT, so won´t have to change to the afternoon and work with new kids and volunteers. And the sun is shining brightly and dogs are barking up a storm around the neighborhood by 6 am, so the whole morning thing seems more natual here.) The class is 3 days a week on site at this company, teaching 4 of their employees. I just got the textbook an hour ago, and I have no idea what I'm going to do with them. My brain is still not functioning on higher levels very well. Then on Wednesday I'm going to start my second class, working with a 7 year old girl. There is nothing if not variety to the teaching here... should be anything if boring. Aside from the overwhelmingness of the actual teaching part of the teaching job, let´s focus on the exciting aspects:

1) I will make, after taxes, $6.50 an hour. Which, by Ecuadorian standards is about as good as it gets. To give you an idea of the value, here is what I could buy with an hours wage. 26 rides on the bus or 4 full course lunches at a restaurant.

2) It will probably work out after all to live with a couple of the other teachers there. Given my current living situation, I cannot move in fast enough. All the other teachers that I met seemed really nice, and apparently they all live in the area and hang out together.

So, good changes, but lots at once. And hopefully after jumping into the class tomorrow I will feel less overwhelmed. Heh.

Also, congrats to Katie for her internship!!! As evidenced by the above description of my life here after more than a month, you are already waaaay ahead of me on the planning process. Hopefully you will stay in austin long enough for me to come check it out :)

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Snow snow beautiful snow / Slip on a snowflake and down you go (that one's for you, Mom)

Juneau solar statistics: Current sunrise, 7:24 a.m. (half an hour before I go to work). Current sunset, 3:58 (half an hour before I leave work). And six more weeks to go before the shortest day of the year...

After weeks of creeping downward from the peaks, the snow finally made it all the way down the mountains. When I left the house this morning at 11, everything was furred in up to an inch of lovely white snow - which, thanks to our good friend Southeast Alaska precipitation, was icy and crusty enough to actually stick to everything, instead of plopping off by noon the way normal snow would. Covered in thin snow, the mountains are all different shades of black and white and grey, and look like somebody clicked them from "Color" to "Black & White."

I got the internship at the Austin Children's Museum, which means that I'll be doing educational workshops and scout sleepovers on Friday nights and Saturdays until June, and then after that I get to continue on with them, working at some of their 30 (?!) children's summer camps as an actual Paid Employee (please be suitably impressed). I'm pretty excited about that. However, now that I've managed to book up all my free time in Austin, I'd better find something to actually fill the remainder of my weeks there...

That's all the news from these shores! Until next time...

Friday, November 04, 2005

¡Mas fotos!

So I figured that I had better a) actually post the pictures of my house before I move out (assuming I can find an apt before monday, meanwhile I'm going out of town for the weekend... heh) and b) take advantage of this free time, since I have yet another day off from CENIT and will probably start working soon. If mr. director guy gets back to me ever... i hate how everything just stopped for the holidays and I have shit to do but sit around and wait for people to call me.

Anyway, enjoy the pics!

Also, I realized why my mom's attempt to call my cell phone didn't work. When you call internationally and the city code begins with a 0, you omit it. Hence my number dialed from the USA should be 011-593-9-474-8420. Hopefully I can get my voice mail up and working this afternoon... for some reason it isn't working and I have to go to the service place. Then tomorrow it's off to Otavalo to the market!!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Dinero

Ah... the sweet smell of money. Or the potential for getting money, as it were. I picked up my ATM card today, thanks to my gracious mother for sending it super-speedily. Which #1 proves that my system for getting mail and even packages actually works. (hint hint) and #2 means that I can follow through on my plan, just hatched over coffee, to head to the market town of Otavalo with my British friend Stephanie this weekend. We've both been kicking our heels in the deserted city... everything's shut up for the holidays this week and everyone has gone away on vacation. Including the family i'm living with... they just up and left without telling me! I woke up yesterday and everyone was gone and their bedroom doors were all padlocked. Not that I'm complaining... I definitely have taken the opportunity to cook elaborate meals while singing along to my wmshc recordings. I just think it's a bit odd, particularly as they have a dog who they seem to have just abandoned in the yard. I've been feeding him some scraps, so I guess he won't starve. My apartment search has stalled a bit due to the holidays... the Indiana girls didn't pan out, since they don't actually have an opening until December. I found some other good listings, but haven't heard back since I imagine everyone is out of town. Sigh. Meanwhile my month with the fam runs out on Monday. Of course I won't be put out on the street, there's 5 million hostels, and stephanie said I can crash with her as well. I just want to be settled already. OK, I'm getting kicked out of the SAE club with free internet, since they're closing early because, what else,... the holidays! I'm going to buy something chocolatey to fill my constant craving, ever since I got to quito. My fellow volunteers agree that they all share this craving... something in the mountain air? most likely the pollution. Anyway, I'm calling it reserach, working on trying out all the chocolatey products so that I can send the best ones to y'all. My favorite right now is a Nabisco product called ChocoSoda... soda crackers covered in milk chocolate. Mmm, salty and sweet. OK I'm really kicked out. Chocolatey love to you all.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

tell the repo man / and the stars above...

Yesterday I was supposed to meet R after work, and he made the grievous mistake of agreeing to meet me at the downtown library. Since I get out an hour before him, this left me more than ample time to check out five books (I was only prevented from choosing more by forcibly walking over to the video section). Which, added to the stack of unread library books that I checked out of the Douglas Library last weekend, brings me up to a grand total of ten. And that's not even counting the five unread books that I either brought from home or bought at the used bookstore here. And the sick part is, I'm only posting right now because I have an hour to kill before yoga and I'm pretty sure that if I left work early I'd go back to the library and check out MORE books. I think I'm addicted to picking out books. Now, don't get me wrong, reading them isn't that bad either... but MAN do I love picking out books. I think I need help.

Tomorrow morning at 7am (stupid time difference... this never used to happen when I only deigned to associate with people in Eastern Standard Time) I have a phone interview with the Austin Children's Museum. Don't get too excited - it's for an unpaid internship on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons. But the fact that I'm applying for slave labor makes me very mellow about the whole thing; the most stressful part of the whole operation will be making sure I've actually been awake for long enough to produce coherent sounds by the time they call. But it involves leading educational workshops for kiddies and Girl Scout sleepover groups and such, which sounds hugely fun. And I felt like I needed some little thing to anchor me to Austin, so that I actually go... I was worried that I'd get all discouraged about finding a job and an apartment amongst the huge influx of Katrina refugees, and that I'd just take the easy way out and not go. And I WANT to go. I'm just not that good at having blind faith in everything working out. So if I get this position, then I'll be obligated to move to Austin, and once I'm there I'll be obligated to find work and a place to live, and that makes me feel better. Somehow.

I have a few more miscellaneous pictures that Christina took that I'll get around to putting online one of these days. In the meantime, happy Halloween, and dia de los muertos, and so forth. I'm a little bit in shock that I only have 6 more weeks here. Yikes!

Love,

KT

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween, El día del Escudo Nacional, and the Blog Centennial!

That´s right, it´s a big milestone for our little blog! The 100th entry! (We won´t analyze what percentage I´ve written, because it will quickly become clear how much more I tend to ramble and how much less of a life I have than KT).

Less devoted fans of this blog may be more excited that is today is Halloween (celebrated here a bit since they have absorbed american culture, but no one trick or treats or anything. More important holidays coming up this week.) and El día del Escudo Nacional, which apparently has something to do with the Ecuadorian national seal? Actually, I´m curious, so let me look it up. OK, here we go... here´s a lovely little interactive picture, and you can click on the parts of the seal and it will tell you what they signify. For example "The condor is a symbol of power." Great.

Well, speaking of holidays, I get almost a whole week off starting wednesday. As in the rest of Latin America, El Dia de La Muerte (Day of the dead), Nov 2, is the most important holiday around this time. They don´t do the sugar skulls or bring food to the cemetary like in mexico, but they do have traditional parties, and leading up the the day there are signs EVERYWHERE offering colada morada (a deep purple fruity beverage) and guaguas de pan (bread shaped like little people, which kids traditionally decorate. kind of like gingerbread cookies.)

The core group of volunteers that I hang out with invited me to go to the beach with them, but since I am really lame and don´t like the beach I was torn between actually having a life/friends and not spending a lot of money to not enjoy myself. As it turns out, I lost my wallet on friday (or had it stolen? it was in my purse, inside my bag, along with my passport and cell phone, both of which are still here. but I don´t know when I could have misplaced it... oh well, it´s a mystery.) Not a real disaster, just meant I had to cancel all my credit cards and I have no way of getting more money until my new atm card arrives, courtesy of my mom´s last minute trip to the bank before she skipped town. (Thanks mom!!) As it turns out, I may just go away for the weekend somewhere closer with a girl who has to work through the week. So that could be fun. (RE: the wallet. For those of you have been following the career of my wallet/purse, you know that this is far from the first time they have been lost/stolen. BUT in my defense a) I am in a country full of pickpockets and b) this seems to mark the first time that they have not come back to me. I´ve had the same purse and wallet for 7 years. So I´ve really been living on borrowed time. I´m most upset about the fact that I won´t have kt and richard peeking out at me from the thorne´s photobooth picture!)

In other life news, I seem to actually be having one. As evidenced by the above mention of friends. Also, I met today with the director of english at the EIL (The Experiment in International Living) which went really well... he was mostly interested in hearing about my experience with the SIT TESOL certificate, since they are going to start offering that here in Quito. Long story short, my resume is "being sent to the financial department" and it sounds like I will have a real job lined up. They just need someone part time to start, until a full time job opens up. Which is PERFECT for me since I´m still working at CENIT through the beginning of December, and then hopefully devoting some time to visitors and traveling around the christmas holidays. This is one of the better institutes in town, and my first choice of workplace, so go me. The only thing is, my tourist visa will run out after 6 months. So the director guy actually says, if you´re looking for an excuse to visit the US before then, we could easily arrange a work visa from there. Um, can anyone think of a good excuse to visit the US in early March? Anyone?? (That´s a rhetorical question by the way.) So I´m not promising anything, but I am checking airfare more seriously...

Also, I have some leads on apartments. I may end up living with two other midwestern girls teaching at EIL... i mean, i´m really getting some cross-cultural immersion here. They might be from INDIANA or something.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Time to put an end to this lard madness

To recap:

Joe Juneau and Richard Harris brought 20 pounds of lard with them, for which they paid $4.00 in 1880 money. Which, for those of you who are wondering, is worth $79.21 in 2005 money. Don't you wish you got to create educational activities based on an 1880 grubstake list?

First prize for closest guess goes to Jenna, second prize to my mother, third to Stu. Winners will all be rewarded handsomely, though not - I'm sorry to say - with guns. Or gun racks.

(Really, Stu, do you think your daughter would EVER deign to speak to me again if I provided you with a deer-foot gun rack to hang in her room?)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

LARD

Okay, everyone who was more than 10 pounds of lard off gets eliminated. That leaves Stu, Jenna, and my mother (who submitted a guess of 25 via email) in the running.

And Dan: Nice reasoning, but bear in mind that Juneau and Harris weren't preparing for a grueling semester of college, just a leisurely jaunt through uninhabited wilderness. 300 pounds is way overshooting it. Even if they did have a mule and a Native guide to carry it for them. Geez.

So I got an email from Kathryn in Austin today reminding me that with thousands of Katrina refugees pouring into the city, my odds of finding shelter and employment are perhaps less stellar than they were 3 months ago. Hmmm. That certainly puts a damper on my half-baked plans.

And, finally, I would just like to share with you all that I went with the curator today to the home of an aging art dealer to look at a painting he wants to sell to our museum. His wall decorations included, but were not limited to, the following: an enormous stuffed caribou head, a gun rack including a gun holder made of pair of deer legs protruding from the wall, and a coconut that his son mailed to him when he was stationed in the South Pacific. Where am I again? Oh right, Alaska.

Love,

K

Pictures AND a phone number!

In an effort to one-up Katie´s unprecedented BACK TO BACK posting. I´ve finally put up pictures of Quito! Bear with me... there´s really just a lot of the same thing... a few pictures of my hostel, the view from my hostel, and a whole load of kids running around. It was easier to upload most of them than really go through and pare them down. I figure I better start taking advantage of the UNLIMITED storage space that came with my Fotki upgrade. Now that I´ve got the system down for transferring and uploading pictures, I promise to post them more frequently.

Also, I bought a cell phone! It is the second cheapest and hence second crappiest cell phone it was possible to purchase, but I don´t really intend on using it very much. It´s not horribly expensive to call the US (15 cents a min) but that´s twice as much as I can pay elsewhere. It´s mostly to have a phone number to give people, particularly prospective employers. But, please feel free to call me anytime! The number is:
09-474-8420 (preceded by the country code: 593)

Check it out, I´m now fully contactable by civilized standards... mailing address, phone, and email. Which actually is an exciting milestone is that it means I was able to complete my updated resume, and hence print it and hand off copies to language institutes! Really, it´s not just talk anymore! I have the file open as we speak! Wish me luck.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

...so long now I've been out / in the rain and snow...

Okay, mesdames et messieurs, get ready for a big ol' update that will hopefully tide you over for another two weeks, or whenever the heck I get around to posting again - whichever comes first.

C left this morning; R stayed over last night after we ate tasty hot-oil fondue dinner and fresh-baked Silverbow cookies at the home of the museum curator and her husband, and we watched C pack and played one last round of Nerts for old times' sake. Then we went to sleep a little too late and woke up a little too early. At least R and I got to stay in bed until 4:15 since we were just the chauffeurs; C was only allowed a tantalizing 2-hour nap before popping right out of bed again and getting ready for the 18-hour journey home. (At least she wasn't driving to Delaware, eh Cita?) We drove her to the airport through the black blustery morning and then came back... and went promptly to bed. I suppose we could have stayed awake and carped the diem - but when the wind's trying to pull your house out of the ground and you know the sun won't be up for another 2 hours, there just isn't the incentive that there might be. Go figure.

What else have we done lately? I've actually been to a bunch of concerts... like starving men scraping their empty plates with their teeth, R and I devote our Alaskan lives to trying to squeeze as much music out of the void as possible (incidentally, going to Musi-Cal and running a search under "Juneau, AK" followed closely by a search under "Austin, TX" has become my new favorite get-excited-about-moving-to-Texas activity). We just went to see a fiddle-guitar duo from - of all places - outside Boston; very New England contra-dancey, and totally wonderful. (Probably more so in this context than in any other, but I'm not complaining.) I toyed with the idea of sticking around to talk to them and figure out what percentage of acquaintances we have in common, but I decided I spend enough of my time tracing the incestuous lineages of the northeastern folk scene, and I let it go. We also went to a performance by the Juneau Bach Society, which was equally wonderful in a squeaky-violin-flat-soloist-wrong-note-on-the-organ sort of small town classical music way. The best part about concerts in churches around here is that they always have receptions with tasty homemade snacks and tea in paper cups afterwards. Mmmmm. And, just to make my cultural concert-going experience complete, I also went with C to see a free performance by this very young, hip Yup'ik band from near Anchorage. We were sitting in front of these two teenage girls who were RABIDLY in love with them and kept squealing and singing along quietly with all their songs. Totally cute.

Other than that, life is fairly uneventful. Darkness update: sunrise is now at 7:50 am (and quickly getting later), sunset is at 5:30 pm (and quickly getting earlier). Sunset is kind of nice, because you tend to feel like it's 10:00 at night, and then get pleasantly surprised when you discover it's only 6. And it makes for very cozy soup-eating and movie-watching evenings. But it doesn't usually get too light even between 7:50 and 5:30 because of the low heavy clouds, and I suspect that by Thanksgiving, I'll be dying to photosynthesize.

Okay, I'll close with a pop quiz: How many pounds of lard did Joe Juneau and Richard Harris bring along with them on their fateful gold-finding expedition in 1880? (I have no idea how long they were planning to be gone for - er, that's probably a fact I should be familiar with, eh? - but they brought 5 bars of soap and 2 jars of pickles, if that's any indication.) Whoever guesses closest will win a special Alaska-themed prize.

Love,

K

Friday, October 21, 2005

I still post!!! I promise!!!

Hi, it's me, I'm still alive in Alaska, I still remember my Blogger password, and please don't let the fact that R and I post at a 7:1 ratio ever give you cause you doubt either of the above!!! C is deserting me and flying out of Juneau tomorrow morning (so sad!), so I will henceforth be computerless at my abode - which may affect my posting frequency (though at my current rate, I really can't imagine how that would be possible...), but means my phone will NEVER be busy, so I highly encourage and command all of you to encourage my Luddite tendencies by contacting me the old-fashioned way, just like cavemen did in the good old days. [Editor's note: Yes, CLEARLY I know telephones did not exist in 5000 BC.] [Editor's note: No, CLEARLY I have no idea when cavemen actually lived. 1000 BC? 1 million BC? Lucky for me I left college with the ability to conjugate most irregular French verbs, so I did get something out of 17 years of schooling.] In conclusion, I'll post soon. I swear.

Turning to local elections, I think we're all glad that Bob Doll won a seat on the Juneau Assembly. Because really, with a name like that, who needs a campaign slogan????

Love,

K

Remolachas!!!

Today was a good day. Ever since I saw Jenna´s post the other day I´ve been really craving beets, and guess what was for lunch today! My overexcitement was met with strange looks from the other volunteers, but I just smiled and took an extra generous portion on their behalf.

Although beets ARE enough to make my day, it also helps that we had a party with the kids this morning. (A goodbye party for a volunteer.) I used to dread throwing parties at Homeroom because it was so much work to plan and clean, and treats always seems to bring out the worst feelings of entitlement in the kids, and the dancing and whatnot always gets out of hand. Wow, but was this a wonderful contrast. The kids were just delighted at getting cake and junk food, and their dancing was so innocent. Nice to see kids actually acting like kids. I took a whole load of pictures on behalf of CENIT, so now I actually have some pictures to show you!

Another thing that improved my day greatly was that I got a chance to talk more in depth with a few of the other CENIT volunteers. I´m starting to feel like I actually have some friends! What do you know! The problem here being that everyone is nice enough, but most people are with programs or living with friends or something. But there were a couple new girls who started today, both British, who are also here on their own. We traded info and talked about traveling somewhere together over a weekend. Also, a nice German girl and I bonded over our horror stories of Ecuadorian men. (Don´t worry, it´s actually not bad. A million times better than Italy. I only get the odd comment here or there. But yesterday I had my first real issue... there was this guy leaving CENIT at the same time as me, and I couldn´t really ignore him without being overly rude, since he is also working there or something. Unfortunately, apparently giving the time of day to an Ecuadorian guy givs them the right to stalk you. We both went to the train station and got on the same train. Fine. But then he followed me even when I tried to shake him by stopping to go to the store, and then getting on another train! He wants me to call him and give him English lessons. Right. Oh well, still beats the incessant catcalls and harassment in Italy.)

The one thing I could have done without today: Walking past a guy in the market carring a HUGE severed head of some kind... bull maybe? I didn´t exactly scrutinize it.

Plans for the weekend:
a) Vegetarian food festival!!!
b) Fix up my resume
c) get a cell phone, so that I have contact info for prospective employers.
d) Pictures!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

CENITness and an ADDRESS!!

Two random highlights of working at CENIT:
1) Passing the guy who hangs out on the busy street corner with his goats.
2) Getting spoken to in German as often as English, as there are more German volunteers than English speaking ones.

Not so much a highlight, but today was just one of those days. The kids were all a bit off the wall for some reason. And then there was Alex. This kid is always somewhat of a troublemaker, but I´ve never seen him do anything serious. Even in all my years at Homeroom, I don´t think I ever saw a kid throw a fit like this. Yes, there were all those fun times that I´ve had to physically hold down kids so they don´t beat the hell out of another kid. But there was always some actual instigation or build up. I didn´t see at first, but apparently what happened was Alex thought some kid took his pencil, when another volunteer was right there and saw nothing. So Alex decides to completely lose it and start yelling and crying and kicking and screaming, and three of us had to hold him down and drag him outside. He wasn´t even angry at the other kid really, he was just throwing a fit at the world. He kept screaming that he wanted to go home to his grandma, who he lives with, and we were happy to oblige but he wouldn´t even let us put his shoes back on, he was just screaming and kicking and totally gone. Gooood times. One of the other volunteers didn´t get why he was so upset about the pencil, and was surprised when I concluded that obviously it was not really about the pencil and he has some serious issues. OK then... There´s another kid who I think must have some serious learning issues. He had this homework the other day where all he had to do was copy the letter O. Not even cursivey or anything, just a circle. And he literally couldn´t do it. He was kind of making these illegible scribbles all over the page, and he was clearly trying. Srta Useless is supposed to follow up on this stuff, but she has a lot of other stuff going on and I doubt there are really the right resources to deal with it anyway. Sigh.

Anyway, CENIT aside, I have a mailing address! I remembered that I can get mail at the South American Explorers Club. This is the easiest thing, especially if I want to receive packages. So, send away! You may want to give me a heads up, so that I know to check. Address it like so:

South American Explorers Club
Rebecca Edwards
Apartado 17-21-431
Eloy Alfaro
Quito, Ecuador

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The most unfortunate name award goes to...

So, the subject everyone is asking about... toilet paper! Oh wait, sorry, I mean CENIT. Things are going well... all of us volunteers who started last week are pretty on top of things, which is good since Moon (the one volunteer who had been around for a while) is on a new project (turns out he really doesn´t like kids that much, which I pretty much picked up on from our first conversation, and was just helping out where he was needed... good riddance) and Srta. Useless Teacher Woman is out this week. Well, the one thing she´s good for is that she´s actually a native spanish speaker, so she can pick up on exactly whats going on in all those wonderful juveline arguments. Us volunteers have a bit of trouble with discipline (well, largely becuase there is no disciplinary system and no consequences for anything, but I digress...) since most of that goes over our head, and all we can do is yell at everyone and/or take away the contested object, if one exists. After our weekly meeting last thursday, I implemented an attendance system, aka we wríte down everyones name in a notebook and we call roll before we leave for the program.

Oh, by the way, because I know you really want to hear the long version of the meeting... Srta. Useless Teacher Woman apparently decided she´s actually in charge of something, or maybe just that she needed to piss me off royally. Since she proceeded to give a giant extended lecture to all of us volunteers about the need for ruling with an iron fist and such, during which I had a hard time sitting still and not screaming at her because it was the first week for like 90% of us and this was the first time a) she had ever talked to me and b) I ever heard of there actually BEING any rules, not to mention which I don´t see her making a habit of laying down the law. Anyway, afterwards she asked for any questions and suggestions, and probably since everyone else was properly cowed by her gratuitous display of power, I was the only one to pipe up with about 3 suggestions. Most importantly the attendance issue. And, with an inexplicable attitude makeover, she was all about it, as apparently I´m the first person in the history of this program to think of keeping track of the damn kids?? What the hell has been going on there, I´d like to know. ANYWAY, sorry for the ranting. Letting it go now. But you know it´s bad when I´M the organized one.

As for the actual kids in the program, now that I´ve been there a bit over a week I´m finally getting a better idea of who they are. It´s particularly hard here because not all the same kids come everyday, and the overwhelming impression is that ther are just a million tiny little brown boys with the same haircut in the same school uniform running around. (I know the few girls better since they like to draw pictures with me, or at least gawk at my incredibly talent at drawing trees and flowers. Ah... working with young children, the only way anyone could ever possibly appreciate my artistic ability.) But, I´m learning. They don´t quite have anything on the Homeroom kids, but I present to you the Top 4 Worst First Names. (Yes they are all first names. I swear.)

4) Narceza (someone´s mom clearly hasn´t brushed up on her greek mythology lately)
3) Edison
2) Wellington
1) Stalin (!!!!!)

Monday, October 17, 2005

A spoon and hangers

I guess I must be living here since that was the extent of my shopping list today. The hangers for obvious reasons, since I finally unpacked and am about to pick up my laundry. The spoon is for my lunches. Since I pushed back my Spanish classes a bit later in the afternoon, I´ve been able to "almorzar" (I love how spanish prefers the specific "to breakfast", "to lunch", and "to sup", as it were.) at CENIT. While it´s not exactly a 5 course meal, the free lunch for the kids is infinitely healthier than anything in US schools. They always have rice, some variation on a hearty beany vegetably soup (i benefit greatly from their lack of funds, as the soup is always vegetarian), and some type of cold vegetably thing that may or may not contain meat (friday was carrot salad, today was something shrimpy.) With fresh juice for desert. And the food is really good. The part that reveals the poverty of the place is that there are never enough spoons. There are generally enough dishes to go around, although the kitchen staff are constantly collecting them and rewashing them... the plates are never dry. I´m guessing they used to have enough spoons but they got stolen or something? Anyway, the volunteers get to eat there for free but we wait until the kids are served and then serve ourselves in the kitchen. (And wash our own dishes.) So there are NEVER any spoons for us. So, genius that I am, I am going to bring my own spoon. (I made it myself... out of a larger spoon...)

OK, enough about me and my spoon. I should start paying attention to the news... my mom says there was crazy flooding in New England? Everyone ok? Any fun stories?