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.