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


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.



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 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.



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????




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?

Friday, October 14, 2005

Ecuadorian miscellany

On the subject of incompetent local criminals... according to my Dad´s last email: "Excitement monday nite on the block. Everyother car on our side of the block had its drivers side window shot out with bb gun. My car was skipped!!!!! The Wed Journal said they caught the four kids later that nite. two bb guns under the seat." And while I´m sharing local (aka Oak Park) news, my dad also reports that: "Edy's (the ice cream store that has the honor of being my first employer) is closed, will reopen as "Fire and Ice", a bakery, ice creamery, and sandwich parlor." Movin on up indeed... Thus marks the fall of downtown Oak Park´s only ice cream store for the common man... only classy creameries from here on out. They´ve already got a Ben and Jerry´s and Katie´s nemesis Coldstone Creamery.

OK, so no one cares about Oak Park except my parents who were the bearers of such news in the first place. And I promised only intriguing travelogue about Quito from here on out. Let´s see what fascinating facts about Ecuador I can come up with...

1) They have a weird fascination with oatmeal here. It´s like what soy is in the US, oatmeal is here. They´re particularly into making drinks out of it. There are a bunch of brands that you can buy in the supermarket, or you can make your own. Don´t worry, it´s not all gross and chunky. Oatmeal... flour, I guess it would be called, is commonly sold here. In what must be a legacy of good old capitalist colonialism, there is a "traditional" fruity oatmeal drink called "Quaker". And it´s in all the beauty products of course. Although camomille (manzanilla) is even more omnipresent in that line of products.

2) Speaking of which, as hard as it is to find women´s jeans minus the spandex, it may be even harder to find toilet paper without perfume. (It´s as bad as laundry products in the US) OK, I get that the toilet paper here is gonna hang out in the garbage for awhile, instead of going out to sea. But I´d really prefer to toss some baking soda in my trashcan instead of applying the perfume directly upon use, thank you very much.

3) Most disturbing trivia. Maximum prison sentence for drug charges? 22 years. Maximum prison sentence for murder? 16 years.

Alright, it´s Friday, and I´m out of here. Plans for the weekend include:
1) Unpacking
2) Laundry for the first time. This will involve frequenting one of the many full service laundry places, since my house is only equipped with a good old fashioned outdoor washing thingy (and the requisite black housekeeper, whose services my rent does not cover.) Which I would be more than willing to get down and dirty with, except that I have no idea how on earth to use one, and would most likely only cause flooding and embarassment for myself. And apparently laundromats do not exist here. In general, I´m a little overwhelmed by the full-service culture. For example, yesterday I bought a little desk lamp at a glorified dollar store. When I went to pay, it turns out I was supposed to go over to the service counter first so they could break out the lamp and give it a trial run. Apparently this is standard. Who knew?
3) Finally seeing a movie. Hopefully I can find one with subtitles rather than dubbing.


So the First National Bank on Front Street was robbed on Wednesday. I knew in my heart of hearts that I should be properly dismayed by that by that fact, rather than finding it quaint and hilarious, but really now... how could news like that NOT make you feel like you're in the middle of the Wild West? It was the talk of the town for the next 24 hours - definitely the most exciting thing to happen in days - until the thief was caught, well, the following morning. C and I were putting up posters yesterday for the sock monkey class that the museum is sponsoring, and were held hostage in the used bookshop for 15 minutes by a kindly whitehaired lady who desperately wanted to gossip about the robbery and laughed uproariously at the notion of anyone attempting to make off with stolen goods in Juneau, where all they have to do is shut down the airport and you've got NOWHERE to go. "No need for the bankers to play hero," she chuckled. "They know it's just a matter of time before they get their money back." The whole scenario went something like this: an unarmed man in black with a duffel bag entered the First National Bank, handed the teller a note informing her that he's robbing the bank, and made off with some cash. Runs back to his apartment building, where police later find the bag. Is behind bars less than a day later. How delightful. I love Juneau.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Putting the imperative form to good use

(Good thing I just reviewed commands with my spanish teacher... I´m getting more mileage out of "ven aca" "hagan una cola" etc than I ever thought possible.)

So, remember Homeroom? It´s back, in Ecuadorian form. I started my volunteering today at the tutoring center of CENIT. AH, being thrown into an unfamiliar mass of kids with ZERO training or introduction, with a bunch of well-meaning 20 somethings who similarly don´t know what they´re doing. Is it disturbing to anyone else that this felt comforting? Back in my element. Basically we chase around some kids, make them do their homework, and then play with them. Really, they´re much better behaved than the Homeroom kids in that they generally actually do their homework, probably mostly because they´re a bit younger (6-9 vs 7-12) and because their homework is insanely easy. Also, our session is in the morning, for the kids that attend school in the afternoon, so they aren´t tired of being in school all day. (In Quito, kids generally attend school in the morning or afternoon, but not both. Not quite half a day, but shorter days.) Besides not being any help whatsoever for the little boy who had a writing worksheet where he had to provide the vocabulary word for a picture, it´s shockingly easy to help these kids in a foreign language. I even got to help this little boy (with the world´s worst spech impediment, since he was missing several front teeth) read the story of "Pinocho". Beyond the scholastic part of the morning, my one pathetic year of soccer seems to have imparted me enough skill to competently kick around a ball with a couple of 6 year old boys in a futbol crazy country. Check me out.

The other volunteers working with me are really nice, particularly one Irish girl. It´s definitely a mix of nationalities but we all speak English... it was superweird to speak English for more than a couple of sentences at a time. Only one of the 5 or 6 of us working in this particular program has been there longer than a couple days... but he´s been there 2 months and still doesn´t know all the names of the 15 kids! Fortunately, they were all deighted at my overqualification and want me to give them some guidance, so I won´t be totally out of line when I insist on implementing some changes. Most importantly we actually need to keep track of the kids... as in have a list of their names and take attendance when they come, and make sure we have all of them when we leave. (We walk over to another site for the session.) As it is now, the kids just run wild (by which I mean run in and out of streets, stores, etc, in a superbusy part of the city) eventually getting to the site. Particularly, when leaving, they run off without telling anyone, and the volunteers don´t even know when or which kids have gone. I don´t care what country or program I´m in, I´m not being responsible for kids and not having some minimal way of keeping track of them. So basically the volunteers just run the program, there´s a coordinator person but she just sort of assigns people and deals with scheduling and stuff and isn´t onsite. And there´s a ¨"teacher" who comes too, but she seems to just sort of pick one student to work with and otherwise she´s totally useless. And I certainly understand how it goes with places like this - take understaffed, underqualified, and mix in tons of turnover, hence everyone is just trying to keep their head above water. I´m not saying I´m some fabulous tutoring program consultant who can guarantee magical results, but I´m going to try to institute SOME type of order. Again, I´ll keep you updated.

Unrelated pop culture highlights of the past 24 hours:
1) Watching the commentary on the first episode of the Lost DVD, and finding out that everyone calls Matthew Fox "Foxy." Maybe you aren´t as amused as I am. Or maybe you are a Party of 5 nerd and you already knew that.
2) Not being able to keep myself from stopping and watching several songs when I walked past some electronics store that was showing Nirvana unplugged in NY on a giant screen tv. Blissful sigh... particularly satisfying after I realized the other day that I did not bring said classic recording with me.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Vacation´s over

OK... so following up on the many conversations I had yesterday...

1) After exclaiming over the lack of rain for a number of days that I had even lost count of, before I left the comfort of the internet/phone place it had started pouring like nobody´s business. And today it decided to continue catching up on lost time, with an unexpected early thunderstorm that happily coincided with my long bus commute. Go rainy season. My teacher was saying how thunder and lightning is more intense since we´re at such a high altitude, which I never thought about but makes a lot of sense. It´s so crazy to be inside in the middle of a crowded mall and hear a giant thunderclap like it´s right next to you.

2) Again, I had to go on about all my free time and how I´m just taking it easy here. Well, today I checked out CENIT, the center where I want to volunteer. Starting tomorrow I´m going to volunteer from 9:45 - 12:15, plus there´s extra meetings and stuff sometimes during the week. On top of which, it´s a 45 minute commute now since I just moved north and the center is all the way south, and I either have to walk a decent way to the other bus line, or transfer at some point. So it goes.

3) As if that weren´t enough of my precious time, I think that whole waiting for awhile before I look for a job thing just went out the window. My landlady is really on me to teach english to her daughter and some friends. That´s how in demand english teachers are here... people seek you out. Pretty much whenever you tell anyone that you want to teach english here they ask you if you would give individual lessons, because they know so-and-so who would be interested. I wasn´t really planning on it, but I can´t exactly turn down an easy job like teaching this girl and her friends... it would be like one hour a week or something, for her and maybe 3 friends, and they would each pay me like $3 an hour. As someone who suddenly seems to exist solely to spend money, that would be pretty sweet. Of course, now I´m kicking myself for not stocking up on more English teaching material, since I thought I could use what the school I end up working for has and build on that. But it ought to be fine, I think these girls want more practice speaking and whatnot and won´t be too sad at the lack of grammar exercises. Well, we´ll see if this actually comes together.

OK, I´m supertired for some reason so I´m going to go home, heat up some leftovers, and break out the dvds. Tomorrow I´m back to being a working girl! Except without the actual being paid thing... what´s up with this volunteering business...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

La bandera Tricolor

Well, I fully intended to blog yesterday since I had more to write about from the previous 24 hours than from the rest of my time here. Except I wasn´t taking into account that yesterday was the world cup qualifying game for the soccer team. Everything was pretty much closed, except little stores that had a tv going and everyone was just watching "el partido". I, not being particularly invested in the outcome of the game, innocently took a little trip to the mall. Well, the mall is right next to "el estadio olimpico" and it turns out this little match was being played right there. So there was this huge crazy street party outside all day, with all the streets blocked off and half the city there decked out in their yellow, red and blue. Mostly bright yellow jerseys. Craziness. If you want more than my word for it, you can read about all the festivities in El Comercio. "Los interiores y los exteriores del estadio Olímpico Atahualpa se tiñeron de amarillo, ayer..."

OK, back to my life. On Friday I reaped the rewards of finally getting over my irrational fear of making local phone calls. I called the place I want to volunteer at, since they never answered my email, and I´m going down to check it out on Monday morning. Then, I called to inquire about an ad for student housing. 10 minutes later the woman was picking me up to go see it. Whoa full service landlording. And yesterday morning I moved in. I don´t really want to live with a family, I´d much rather be on my own, since I just always feel kind of awkward being stuck into a family. Especially because I chose not to pay to take meals with them, which means I´m always sort of poking around the kitchen in between their big family meals. But this is a pretty good compromise until I can find a good apartment... I just agreed to one month here. Antioneta, the woman who is renting me a room, has this big gorgeous house in a nice area of the city, really convenient to the bus line, and she generally has 2-3 students living there, but it´s just me right now. Actually just me and 3 teenagers... her daughter and two sons. Which is rather amusing. Fortunately they´re cool and are always playing a huge variety of interesting music, none of this lame spanish pop stuff. As I said the house itself is beautiful with tons of wood everywhere and big comfortable rooms. The one downside is rather unavoidable. Nowhere has hot water here, except in the shower. And as I learned this morning, to get a hot shower, I get to go outside and not only turn on a switch, but use a match to light the heater. Good times.

What else have I been doing... oh yes, on Friday my language school had a party. So I actually socialized with other people. It was fun... I thought it would be awkward since I don´t know anyone, but they sat us down at tables and taught us an Ecuadoriant card game, while they cooked the food, and then we ate. I was talking with this really enjoyable Japanese couple. I´ve only met one other American student there, everyone else appears to be German or assorted other nationalities. So automatically Spanish is the natural language to communicate in, which is cool.

I think I´ve generally caught you up on my slightly more interesting life. I did take a few pictures before leaving the hostel, and they certainly aren´t insanely beautiful glacial scenes, but I hope to put them up eventually.

OK, I better get going, I actually have a full schedule for today! I want to catch a movie, get some groceries, then it´s unpacking and homework.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

New photos

I added a new Tracy Arm photo album... click HERE! or follow the link that was so kindly provided for me over on the righthand side of this page. They're mostly for Stu's benefit, but the rest of you can look, too. All photos courtesy of Christina (she took over 100 shots, so if you want to see the remaining 80% of her photos, feel free to email her...).

Thursday, October 06, 2005

On chifas and being really uncool

So, at the risk of sounding like Katie, I´m going to rave about the abnormal lack of rain here! It didn´t rain AT ALL yesterday, which was amazing enough, and it looks like it might not rain today! I don´t even know what to do with myself. Yesterday I ate at a "chifa" for the first time (aka a chinese restaurant, of which for some reason there are more per capita than anywhere outside of china. Seriously, about 3 or 4 per block.) I chose this particular chifa since it was called "tofu" and presumably carried said food item on their menu. However, as soon as I ordered a tasty sounding tofu dish, I was informed that they were out of tofu. Of course. I settled for fried veggie rice, the boring vegetarian chinese staple. The fact that it cost $1.80 for the world´s largest portion did console me a bit. I think I´m going to take the bus now to the giant walmarty supermarket place (natalia, it´s just like that one we went to in mexico. possibly exactly the same.) where they have GRANOLA BARS! and CRANBERRY JUICE! and SOYMILK! Yeah, I´m all about enjoying the cuisine here, but a girl´s gotta have some comfort food.

Hmm... who´s surprised that my post so far is solely culinarily based. Um, I really haven´t done anything particularly interesting since Sunday when I discovered one of the giant MALLS and acquired some ecuadorian clothing. I kind of just hang out at the park and read (I found this fabulous children´s book by an ecuadorian writer called "La biblioteca secreta de La Escondida" about these girls who discover a magical library in their grandparents estate. If it ever gets translated into English I´m sure you would eat it up KT!) or hang out at the hostel and watch bad spanish tv or my dvds. My spanish teacher clearly thinks I am INCREDIBLY LAME because she always asks me what I did yesterday and whatnot, expecting me to go out with people or visit some of the interesting sites in town, and that´s all I have to say for myself. Heh... welcome to my life. Again with the needing to find a place to live and get this volunteering business set up. I think I´m going to have to break down and tackle the local telephone system. At least I´m not a stereotypical stupid American traveler. Actually I haven´t come across many, more Germans and such, but my lovely tranquil hostel has suddenly been invaded by these two american guys who are superloud and rude at all hours of the night and always yelling to each other things like "Dude, did you just lock us out?" Cue frat boy laughter.

Off to procure granola bars and pray that my neighbors are on their way to drag the american name through the mud of another country.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Another day, another rainstorm

Well, another day of spanish class under my belt. I´m thinking particuarly of my fellow estudiantes - dad and lauren. I´m still looking for an apartment... I´ve seen some places advertised to share with other english teaching types, but they´re all right in the center of the city and I would just prefer not to live there. It´s so easy to get around if you´re near the central bus lines, and probably cheaper further out anyway. Tomorrow I´m going to get in touch with an organization I want to volunteer with, CENIT. They run a bunch of outreach programs to help young working girls, including a drop in tutoring program. It´s really sad how many tiny little kids you see selling gum or whatever on the street. I´m talking like 3, 4 years old. It will be nice to be able to help out with something I am actually qualified to do (ahem, overqualified). And a good way to get hooked up with a regular community here, before I break down and actually find a job.

In other news, my spanish teacher says that yes it rains a lot during the rainy season, but to have this many huge thunderstorms is really rare, and she blames it on all the climate changes. Sigh. As long as we don´t have any hurricanes I´ll be happy.

On Saturday in Cleveland they dedicated Peter´s Garden. Weird to be all the way down here. Of course I could have waited a few days and gone, but somehow I just didn´t want to be there with all his family and friends who I never really knew. I did get a chance to stop by and see it a few weeks ago on my way back to Chicago. It was really weird and surreal to be there... I didn´t really feel the connection with Peter, and there wasn´t any plaque up or anything yet. You think it will be these meaningful occasions and places when the loss hits you, but really it happens when you least expect it, at the most random times. The garden was really beautiful and peaceful though, I could hear the windchimes and there were birds and the sundial is very cool and very peter. And it´s really huge... different areas to sit and stuff, plus just a ton of newly landscaped area. Instead of the old asphalt that covered the area before. And there was a really nice moment where this little girl came running through and was super excited about playing in the garden, and I was so strongly reminded of the point of the whole thing, which is to give young people a beautiful place, and to celebrate life. Anyway, sorry for the rambling... I just didn´t want the occasion to slide without mention. I took lots of pictures but never got around to putting them up, but you can see lots from the actual event (and more rambling) at Derek´s blog. I´m sure he wouldn´t mind me putting up the link. I enjoy his joke that "if peter were here right now, he'd probably organize a counter-garden or something, thinking we were making too big a deal of all this."

OK, out to brave the rain again... I try to time my indoor time properly but it does just keep on raining doesn´t it...

Monday, October 03, 2005

One fish, two fish

It's the second beautiful sunny autumn day in a row here, which is definitely the scariest thing I've seen in Juneau in several weeks. When the sun is out, you actually notice the gold and red leaves tucked in among all those brown ones, and the dry breeziness can almost convince you that you're someplace where autumn actually happens and is worth noticing. R's boss Scott took us fishing yesterday; we drove 15 miles out the road through some gold-colored fog hanging over the city, and launched the boat in the most idyllic little harbor you've ever seen. It's this tiny cove in the middle of absolutely nothing but trees, with some little piney islands hemming it in. The air was very cold and very clear, a ubiquitous eagle was flying overhead, and the mountaintops in the distance were dusted with new snow... it's very weird to watch winter happening miles above your head.

So. Fishing! R and I were utterly and hilariously clueless... highlights of our "helping" included standing on the dock staring blankly ahead, each holding a piece of rope tied to the boat while we waited for further instructions; and standing on the shore of some island staring blankly ahead, each holding a piece of rope tied to the boat while Scott crouched on the sand and cleaned our fish. We caught 3 coho, and Scott graciously let us each reel one in. (R's was the giant male, so he got all the glory. Bah.) Apparently, salmon fishing involves reeling in the little critter, trapping it in the net when it's right up next to the boat, and bonking it on the head with a big wooden club until it stops thrashing! Who knew? The only thing that was missing were little twinkling stars and tweeting birds around the unconscious fishie's head.

It stayed perfect and sunny all day, but it was a little cold and choppy out on the water, so after stopping at aforementioned beach so Scott could clean the fish and I could relieve myself in the woods (whoever made girls so ill-equipped to pee off the bow of a boat into the ocean deserves to be severely reprimanded), we headed back to the mainland. Back at his house, Scott fileted the fish and gave us the giant monster one to take home... we returned with literally a garbage bag of wild Alaska salmon. Unfortunately, we couldn't eat it that evening because we had a potluck to go to, but we plan on gorging ourselves stupid for the rest of the week.

Man, an entire entry devoted to fishing... I must be a real Alaskan. Who knew I would ever find myself chatting with friends regularly about fishing, outdoor gear, and camping? And, perhaps the scariest part, FINDING IT INTERESTING???? I'd better hurry back to the flatlands where I belong, or I may have to start talking about skiing, come December. And that's just not a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

(Wow, the New England convention! I echo those sentiments; how can it be that time already??? If I were going to be here longer, I might have to suck it up and actually start a sing. I've made my home page on the computers I use at work, which has put me sorely in need of comforting communities and rituals of late...)

Hope you're all doing well! I'm sending lots of cold, rainy love in all of your directions!

Spanish lessons and tight jeans

Wow, New England convention and fall. How weird that life continues without me around. (Um, self-centered much?)

Sorry for the dead air there, I was very lazy over the weekend and didn´t make it to the internet place. (Yes, I have internet in my hostel, but you have to like get the person and have them start it up, and again with the laziness. I prefer this one place in the center where it´s never crowded and doesn´t have sketchy guys standing outside trying to get you to use it. Just the one guy who appears to work here 24/7 and is probably amused by the large quantity of time I tend to spend here. Although right now I´m feeling my personal space slightly invaded by the 6 businessmen crowding around the computer next to me... not sure what's going on there.)

So, what have I been up to? I started taking Spanish lessons, which is going well. It´s weird to be a student again. Yeah, I know I just took that course this summer but it was all about us teaching and reflecting, not so much actually being a regular old student. Again, I´m totally amazed at all the Spanish I have managed to pull up... I´m pretty much fine with all the grammar and I can easily carry on a conversation with my teacher, or whoever, as long as it´s one on one. It´s the more complicated situations, like trying to figure out what´s going on when a group is talking amongst themselves, that are tough. Plus it would be nice to speak more accurately, and with a better accent and such. Wait for it...

What else is up here in Quito? More walking... fortunately my hips have adjusted to this form of transport. For the first couple days I was really feeling like Watson, except without the pain pills! It´s not like I´ve never walked before... Must be something about hilly towns that my poor midwestern joints can´t handle... remember park city KT?? I´ve also been enjoying a bit of shopping... I really enjoy the fashion here, it´s very pants and sweater centered. The only fashion crisis I´ve encountered is that there doesn´t seem to be a single pair of jeans in the entire country undiluted by spandex. Seriously. These people wear their jeans TIGHT. And severely low riding. I´ll keep you updated on my denim quest. And one more fashion commentary - Quiteños dress for the situation, not the weather. Since the weather is pretty much always the same. Over the weekend, despite the exact same sunny skies followed by thunderstorms, the young folk were out in force with their cute little skirts and such. Very amusing.

Alright, next step is to actually find a place to live, and eventually a job. I´m totally on it, I swear.