Wednesday, August 30, 2006

transitions, again...

Once again my life is going in all kinds of directions at once! Natalia left tuesday morning after an awesome trip... we climbed a volcano, saw boobies, took an excessive amount of busses, had our run in with the police, met some amazing people, and gave natalia her very own despedida! I have so many excellent pictures from my fabulous new camera, which hopefully sometime in the next century i will have time to upload. It's lovely to be back in Quito in my own bed and such, except that we're moving tomorrow!!!! we finally started packing last night, and are checking out movers. we're just moving up the street, but we have to take all our furniture and fridge and oven and all, since in this country unfurnished REALLY means unfurnished. Other coming and goings: As soon as natalia left, becky finally came back after 6 (?) weeks in the states!! It was great to catch up with her and get her delivery of cheese curds and trashy celebrity magazines. And tomorrow, John is leaving! For his despedida tonight, we rented a chiva! That is, I rented a chiva because i am mostly unemployed and the chiva place is actually next to our house. (To refresh your memories, the chiva is a weird ecuadorian tradition... an open bus with a "banda del pueblo" playing traditional music while driving around quito drinking and hanging off the bus. Apparently it comes with two "coordinators", whose jobs are clearly to keep people from falling off.) Otherwise I am teaching a few classes, having dinner with adela's extended ecuadorian family, catching up with my choir, trying to get my security deposit back for once in my life, and planning my further travels! I definitely owe some of you email once things have calmed down a bit. I'm definitely thinking of you all, and good luck especially to everyone who is going back to school - students and teachers!

And about Tungurahua relief, I have talked to Gabriel who is in Quito right now, and he told me he is not actively coordinating any relief effort this time because the scale is so large, and because he is personally affected and has to deal with that. I've seen 3 places here collecting donations, two of which are the south american explorers club and the us embassy. the only local organization is my cell phone company, who sent me a text saying they will match my dollar donation. Especially with the anniversary of katrina, it's really sad to see the contrast between the responses of ecuador and the us. Criticize the government response in either case all you want, but in the US people really went above and beyond to collect donations. Here there just is no culture of charity, even in disasters. If you want to give money, the red cross is probably your best bet.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Not to detract from R's volcano relief post...

Whoa. I don't have anything NEAR as important or interesting as Rebecca to write about. However, I just wanted to take a moment give the FDA's 3-ridiculous-years-in-the-making approval of Plan B/Emergency Contraception for over-the-counter sales the resounding "Woohoo!" it so richly deserves. I would also like to kick the FDA in the pants for not approving it 2 years and 11 months ago, and for making the age limit 18+. But hey, we'll take what we can get. Especially in Texas...

"Little Miss Sunshine" was indeed awesome. Also thoroughly enjoyable was the documentary "The Real Dirt on Farmer John", the story of an organic farmer outside of Chicago (Edwardses, do you know about this guy? Angelic Organics?) that was screened at the Wildflower Center yesterday evening. Even more enjoyable than the movie was the catering by Whole Foods. Even more enjoyable than the catering... well, okay, let's be honest, nothing topped that.

Less enjoyable than anything mentioned in the previous paragraph is the fact that I'm still on the computer. So I'm off.

Hope you're all well!



Tungurahua relief

We're hoping to join my friends this weekend in the manglares (the mangroves in the northwest, near the border of colombia), so we're catching a night bus back to quito. Fortunately the highway is all cleared up and we should be able to get through directly... we'll see what kind of view we can get of the damage at night. I finally remembered to look up John's friend Gabriel's blog and put the link up for y'all. He's an american turned campesino... he speaks quicha and raises cuy with his indigenous wife. They live in the salasaca community which is super close to the volcano... he has incredible video of the first eruption. After that one, back in july, when the goverment didn't do anything productive, his community and others (despte not being much better off) stepped in to help the victims whose lands were destroyed or who lost their crops and livestock. He and John also went above and beyond, raising money from friends and fam in the us, and singehandedly brought truckloads of food to the victims - the only aid a lot of those people recieved. Now his community is in the same shape, and those other communities are even worse off, and the government's help mostly consists of building houses that most likely aren't in good farming land and/or are also in volcano danger zones. I've heard talk of international aid, but who knows how that will filter down. The point is, you should definitely check out his blog for some first hand descriptions of the conditions and his and john's previous aid effors - or at least scroll down to see the photos. Also, since at least my dad has expressed interest, if you have a desire to donate some money please let me know and i will coordinate with gabriel.
Google news: "tungurahua"

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Miercoles en cuenca

So we did make it to cuenca without incident, and have established that baños is pretty inaccessibly, but we can definitely get to quito via santo domingo. it looks like im destined never to get to baños.... i can´t believe even my dad went there and i never have! oh well. at least i have been to quilotoa twice already, so i dont mind passing that up this time. we might go to the manglares (mangroves) with my quito people, depending on if natalia can handle some mud and remote traveling :) Otherwise who knows.

So we spent yesterday in salinas, for the sole reason that it had an atm and was on our way. I'd always heard its just a resort town for rich guayaquileños, but the area we stayed in was not too expensive and really chill. Our hostal was cute, and we happened upon a bar on the next block where we ended up spending about 10 hours playing cards with the son and daughter of the chilean owner, and consuming excellent food and drink, and listening to cool music (the chilean girl was delighted that we like lauryn hill... ecuadorians definitely don't have a reputation for eclectic musical tastes...). We've definitely met some great people so far.
For now we are missing the warm weather on the coast, but cuenca is lovely and just as colonial and clean as promised. When we got in at 11 pm last night after another marathon day of buses, the hostal lady even promised it was safe to walk around at night! how novel! we haven't done much so far, today we will probably wander, see some churches, maybe check out the free museum. and cook a dinner for once at our hostal. yum!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I had a bittersweet parting with my old friend/nemesis today: my under-21 vertically oriented driver's license that I got two months before my 21st birthday - when I would have been eligible for a proper grownup horizontal license - which has been proudly proclaiming my inability to legally consume alcohol (unless you looked at it closely) for the past three years, and was set to do so until I turned 26. However, as of my lunch break this afternoon, I am now the proud (well, that adjective might be a trifle strong) owner of a Texas driver's license. It's actually a creepy national ID card - all the states are set to phase them in by 2008, I hear - that I had to provide fingerprints for and everything. AND I registered to vote here, so I can do my part in November to help keep Travis County the ineffectual blue dot in the middle of this crimson state that everyone expects it to be.

I forgot to go to yoga tonight, and our local library is closed for a week while they re-pave the parking lot (thus effectively ruining what is usually our most exciting weekly outing), so R and I are heading out soon to see "Little Miss Sunshine." He just saw it last week, and he's insisting on seeing it again with me. If that isn't a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is.

Okay, I'm being given the evil eye for making us late. Over and out.

Monday, August 21, 2006

tungurahua again

So since i haven't gotten any urgent calls or emails from my parents, i'm guessing the latest eruption of tungurahua hasn't gotten a lot of press outside the country. I heard that it went again, but since it was on Aug 17 and that was the day natalia and i started our travels, and we've been way over on the coast, i hadn't heard the details. The first one back in july just affected the local area, not even Baños becuase it blew the other way. But this time lots of people evacuated, and the ash has spread really far and shut down transportation basically between cuenca and quito as far as i can tell. This obviously screws over our "up the sierra" itinerary, but hopefully we can still get to cuenca and maybe over to tena and back to quito that way. We'll see what happens. In the meantime you can type "tungurahua" into google news and get your own updates. Wish me luck...

Friday, August 18, 2006

From 14,000 feet to the sea...

Wow, when kt has posted 2 in a row, i know i've been neglectful! I can't even remember my last post. The short version of my life recently, hopefully soon to be updated with all the exciting details and pictures!...

- There was a vocal music festival here, and my choir hosted performances/chats with a couple of the groups, so I was treated to an intimate show from a dominican a capella group (really nice christian boys) and an outstanding venezueal group... i was so impressed with them that i dragged rebecca adela and john to their big show at the teatro sucre. One of the best concerts i've ever seen.... i was soooo sad they didn't have cd for sale. It's this old guy who plays the best maracas ever, and a bunch of his sons and son in laws that sing traditional venezuelan music.
- We had a really fun party that was an excuse to invite people from my choir, and ended up being an assortment of friends and colleagues, mostly ecuadorian, someone brought their guitar, we were all dancing and singing.... definitely a good memory of our apartment before we move out.
- I finished teaching!! Yikes!! I had my last class on Tuesday with little Edison... we finished making our little book of animals that he got to write the names for, and i gave him a little lion puppet, and his family tracked me and heather (who teaches his older sister) down later that night at the pizzeria to give us expensive presents and invite us to their house for dinner. Crazy rich ecuadorians!
- Natalia came!!!! Apparently i'm a huge idiot and got her arrival date wrong, so i was a bit surprised when she called me a day "early" from the airport. Even with that extra day, we pushed back our travels a day because we were having such a good time in quito with all my friends and buying stuff at the market and climbing rucu pichincha! We didn't quite make the summit mostly because of time contstraints, but it was fabulous to finally make it up the volcano on which i basically live. On a clear day I'm goig to do the summit, I swear. We got some amazing views and pictures out of it. Then just a few hours later we got on a 10 hour night bus to the coast, and here we are in puerto lopez! That's one of the incredibly things about ecuador... volcanoes and beach in the same day. Tomorrow we are excited to go whalewatching and see boobies, and then on sunday to a spotless white sand beach. Then we plan to head over to cuenca and up the sierra, and maybe meet up with rebecca and adela in quilotoa!

Try to keep you updated. Love to all.

Monday, August 14, 2006

P.S. to previous post

I uploaded another photo: a sneaky shot of our house taken from the upstairs window of the (still) unfinished duplex next door. At least that big ol' ugly building proved useful for one thing. I somehow managed to not include our landlord's house in the shot, despite the fact that it sits about 6 inches from ours on the right side of the photo. I also appreciate the fact that from this distance, you can't tell that I've all but killed the hanging plant by the front door. Poor guy is on the verge of joining most of his brethren in that big garden in the sky, where they can comiserate on the perils of having an owner like me. I'm doing my damndest to keep him alive till October, in the hopes that he might just be doing a little hibernating...

Bad News / Good News: Latest Installment

Bad news: Rebecca & I now seem to post so infrequently that we probably lost half our readership once we gave them enough time to realize that they could be doing much more interesting things than checking this blog.

Good news: Ye faithful readers who are left can check out my first ever Amazon customer book review (scroll down until you see 1 star - I'd have given it less if they'd let me). I finally fulfilled an 8-month-old goal of finishing Plenty Good Room - a perfectly well-meaning first novel about a social worker who's forced to confront her own past when she becomes the foster parent of a 14-year-old girl who's been living on the streets - solely for the purpose of giving it the scathing review it so richly deserves. I went to high school with FOURTEEN YEAR OLDS who could write better than this lady, honest to god. Now don't get me wrong, I can read and enjoy a crappy, crappy novel as much as the next A.N. Roquelaure fan, but sweet Jesus, this novel was so poorly written it made me ANGRY. I literally resented every minute I was subjected to her awful prose... I struggled to finish it because there's nothing more unsatisfying than not finishing a book, even a wretched one, but I had to return it with 1/3 unread when we left Juneau. Last week, I finally steeled myself to request it from the library. I finished the damn thing this evening, wrote up the most pretentious Amazon review I could possibly muster, and refuse to ever think of this novel again.

Bad news: In a brilliant maneuver, I stowed away my passport and social security card somewhere for safekeeping last January, and have not seen either of them since. Tucked in a forgotten pocket of one of my purses here in Austin? Buried at the bottom of a drawer back in Haydenville? Safely in the possession of someone who's used them to steal my identity and rack up 6 months of bad credit? I don't have a clue. The vague necessity of procuring a Texas drivers' license inspired me to visit the Social Security office this morning and apply for a replacement card. (The prospect of forking over more than $100 for another passport to replace my 3-year-old potentially missing one? Not so appealing.) Fortunately, the kind gentleman at the Social Security office was able to print me out a receipt that will placate the folks at the DMV even before my new card arrives.

More bad news: I still find myself unable to get a driver's license, since Texas requires 349587345987 pieces of identification before they'll deign to proclaim you a resident of their fine land, and I can currently only show them 2.

Good news: Salmon was wicked on sale at Central Market yesterday, so we were able to bring home a whole fish to feast upon this week. Ah, almost brings us back to our glory days of carrying home a garbage bag of freshly-clubbled wild Alaska coho. Almost.

Stay cool, y'all!



Sunday, August 06, 2006

More despedidas, this time with kites!

Like Katie, I also enjoyed the great outdoors today! Our jaunt was much less ambitious, seeing as how we stayed out late last night. (Yesterday in honor of Berry's last night in Quito, we had a lovely dinner at a vaguely Greek restaurant with an amazing view of the city, experienced some car trouble, and eventually made it to a bar in the mariscal where we were set upon by several packs of 15-18 year olds. One of whom pulled out his ID to prove he was actually 18. The best story is Elizabeth, one of the FARO bosses where Rebecca and Berry work, who is well into her 30s... she correctly identified the fact that these were some little rich boys, and asked one to buy her a drink. He declined, explaining that his mom only gave him 5 dollars for his evening out. Aww...) Anyway, so we got a bit of a late start today. We did eventually make it to our picnic in La Parque Carolina, where we basked in the sun with the standard weekend crowd of ecuadorian families playing soccer and flying kites. We feasted on my pasta salad, mandarinas, chochos, and ice cream, and then got a kite of our own! Perfect kite flying weather, sunny but with a steady wind. Good times had by all. Pictures of Rebecca flying her very first kite forthcoming.

Now I am at the Plaza de las American with Berry, who is about to pick up friends from the airport and get straight on a night bus to the jungle! I on the other hand will be heading home to finish cleaning my room (which I began on fri night but was rudely interrupted by john and jorge who dragged me out for a drink.) and prep for my last week of classes!!!

Oh boatman come put off your boat / Put off your boat for golden money

Bill's 17-year-old nephew was in town last week so he & Quincy rented a pontoon boat yesterday and invited us all to spend the afternoon with them on Lake Travis. Water-related activities are A Big Thing in central Texas, as they're the only way to make the heat palatable should you find the courage to venture into the terrifying, terrifying outdoors. (All of Austin's lakes are atually dammed-up parts of the Colorado River... they may be the temperature of bathwater, but we take what we can get!) There were 10 of us plus B&Q's friend Craig who generously volunteered his sober services as our designated boat driver. So here's how you spend an afternoon on Lake Travis:

1. Show up with a cooler of beer/sangria/cider and a flotation device (boogie boards, styrofoam "noodles," and inflatable Spiderman rafts purchased at H-E-B on the way out to Lake Travis are all acceptable options).

2. Your designated driver will putt-putt the boat across the lake and drop anchor in a cove. (Make sure to leave enough time at the end of this step for everyone to wait warily to see if the hilarious chunk of metal that passes as an anchor is actually touching bottom and holding the boat in place, or if the waves are slowly carrying it closer and closer to the perilously rocky cliffs at the edge of the lake. Feel free to leave poor sweating Craig in the boat as you all go swimming so he can move the boat should the anchor prove unseaworthy.)

3. Grab a flotation device, leap into the water, and paddle around with an alcoholic beverage for half an hour. (Discard beverage if your can/bottle goes underwater, since you DEFINITELY don't want to imbibe whatever lurks in Lake Travis' tepid waters...)

4. Re-enter boat, eat salty decadent snacks, pull up anchor, head to a different part of the lake, repeat steps 1-3.

We were out there from 11:30-3:30 and truly the hottest part of the afternoon was walking from the dock to the car afterwards. It's amazing what a little tepid water can do. Afterwards we went to B&Q's for Bill's required "wind-down" - he's a big fan of the post-event gathering at which everyone can sit around lazily and discuss the day's happenings. We played some dominoes and read some New York Times, then went home and put our sunburned selves to bed.

I would also like to take this opportunity to point out that R & I have made it halfway through our first southern summer and are (mostly) none the worse for wear. Richard's plans to look for a summer job in Juneau next year and my countdown until I can move back to someplace where it snows has nothing to do with living in Texas... really... We can tough it out. Please save us from this burning wasteland. We're doing just fine.

Okay, off to make the most of my Sunday, which will involve some combination of cleaning the house and going swimming with Noelle. Enjoy the rest of your weekends!

Friday, August 04, 2006

In which I heroicly chase down a pickpocketer...

OK, by "heroicly" i may mean "selfishly" and by "chase" i may mean "follow slowly because he was an old man", but stay with me people!

So I started my week off properly with getting my wallet stolen on the ecovia on sunday. This was particularly disturbing becuase for once i had a significant amount of cash with me as i was on my way to quicentro to do some shopping. But, never fear, i got it back! Here's the story... so I get and the ecovia is crowded, which is always dangerous. After a while a little old man got on, and proceded to lean on me. Which was slightly suspicious, but not very much so becuase it's pretty common for little old people to lean on you in a crowded trole/ecovia,and because if anyone is ever so blatantly in position to rob you i'm more suspicious that they are the distraction and really someone else is behind you rifling through your bag. But he also had a sweatshirt covering his arm, and was leaning on me right where i had my wallet. So as soon as he started to get off I checked my pocket, and sure enough, my wallet was gone!! Fortunately i was able to push my way off out of the closing door and fortunately his "i'm a little old man with a limp" thing wasn't an act, so I easily caught up to him in the station. Where my survival insticts had totally kicked in and i just started screaming at him because how dare he just rob me right to my face?? In the middle of which he basically just dropped the wallet and took off. He didn't even have time to take anything out. Dispite sort of coming to my own rescue and whatnot, I was still really really upset, i think mostly because it was so blatant and there's nothing you can do in this country, except shout "fuera!!" and watch him limp down the street. And sort of feel bad for him since clearly his family isn't providing for him, and he's really not a very good pickpocket. It certainly never occurred to me waste my time calling the police. Anyway, I hope that's the one brush i get with crime in ecuador (my camera notwithstanding...).

This week has continued to be action packed, mostly in the fun way and not the "i hate ecuador" kind of way. Still working nonstop all week, though thankfully my early morning student has left for the US, so i don't start work until 9:30 amd all my classes are at the experiment. This hasn't resulted in more sleep as much as it has resulted in me going out every night after work. Monday was Crepes y Waffles (where we did eat both crepes Y waffles, thank you very much.) Tuesday was a trip to Western Bar in honor of Rebecca and her friend's one day in quito during their travels. Actually, for me and john and jorge it was more like three vistits to western bar. First we drove to the one nearby that we always go to. After parking and finding so gringas inside, we realized rebecca had in fact specified the wetsern bar on eloy alfaro. After driving down there and parking, again, we again discovered no gringas. To which the helpful waiter supplied the information that there are in fact FOUR locations and we were at Eloy alfaro y Shyris, and probably wanted Eloy Alfaro y Portugal. OK, so back into the car to portugal, where we find no sign of the bar. Several calls to rebecca later, and we finally made it. Someday I'll have to visit the 4th location to complete the western bar erpic. Wednesday night Berry and I met up with her ecuadorian friend at ocho y medio, which is a really hip cafe/theater that has a variety of movie series. (currently including "classics of latin american cinema" and "spike lee".) That was another adventure in which despite our having an address and a map, our taxi driver informed us that he couldn't take us to the location, only to a nearby street. Once we approached howvere, he got more ambitious and we drove around for a while alternately consulting the map and unsuspecting passerbys. When we arrived we found the only two movies playing were "el coronel que no tiene quien le escribe" (the description: a colonel waits for his pension but the townspeople know it will never come.) or "lesbianas de buenos aires". After much discussion, we settled on el colonel, which turned out to be an adaptation of a gabriel garcia marquez story, and was beautifully shot. (Probably the only movie i've ever seen where EVERY SINGLE scene was a oner, that is a shot without any cuts. See, i did learn something from that debacle of a film class! My parents didn't completely waste their money on my expensive university education...)

Last night i finally stayed in, which was key becuase i had a chance to clean up and wash dishes before the arrival of our latest roommate. Don't know how long this one's staying, but she's another FARO intern.

Today's highlights included a class, a yummy vegetarian almuerzo at justin's fav restaurant, and paying the rent and phone bill. And will soon include my last spanish class for the forseeable future. My homework was about spanish probverbs, so i will leave you with this piece of wisdom:

"De tal palo, tal astilla" (As the stick is, so is the splinter. aka "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree")