Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Popcorn, anyone?

Well my lack of posting since my return has been highly correlated to my lack of doing anything of interest... i've been half-heartedly pursuing the items on my to do list (Get: job, phone, car, um, life), eating large quantities of thanksgivingy food, steadfastedly ignoring the giant pile of my worldly possessions cluttering up my floor, and enjoying the odd outing (eg having a real chicago beer on tap in a real chicago pub, no more Pilsener for me!).

But never fear, I will soon be back to being a productive citizen, as I just got a job! Yes, starting tomorrow I will be serving up popcorn at Madly Pop'n, for $8 an hour. And proudly so. It sure as hell beats commuting to Oakbrook to work in an overpriced chain clothing store, which I was starting to resign myself to as the only employment possibility. While this job may not exactly take me to new heights in my career, at least MP is a local fixture, family owned, I can work regular hours (the day shift, while all their other employees are down the street attending high school...) and probably get lots of free popcorn!

PS - Correa wins!! I was afraid to call it when the papers first did, but now the official word is out! Correa is a bit of an unknown and had been spouting some extra leftist stuff like getting rid of Congress, but at least he's not a military guy (like lucio and all the other coup leaders turned victims), he was trained as an economist (at U of I!), and, most importantly, he's not an evil banana prince! So I'm feeling vaguely positive about ecuador's future (which, relative to my normal attitude, is like screaming it from the rooftops!) and I hope Rebecca and John and all my other favorite ecuadorian political experts will keep me updated on the latest.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Back from Washington

Okay, my exceedingly ambitious goal is to make this a nice long juicy update. The fact of the matter is that I'll probably fall asleep in about 100 words or so. But I have to pick up R at work in two and a half hours, and I've got nothing to do until then but sit here and listen to my new Nic Jones cd's (M&R, you'll be pleased to note that not one, not two, but THREE years after you first played me Nic at Young People's '03, I've finally gotten around to procuring "Unearthed" and "In Search Of" from Neil Pearson's excellent Fish Records... I'd been putting it off because of the cost and the overseas shipping, but I just splurged on a totally unnecessary but god-it's-environmentally-friendly organic hemp shower curtain for us, and there's just no way you can even pretend to be a thrifty human being with a beast like that hanging in your bathroom... so I bit the bullet and bought me some Nic) so I might as well get crackin on some semblance of a post.

Starting at today and working backwards, we took a classic red-eye home from Seattle last night... think of the stupidest hour you can possibly imagine to fly out of a city, and the stupidest hour you can possibly imagine to land in another one, and you can probably re-create our itinerary to a disturbing degree of accuracy. That's right - 11:45pm departure, 6:15am arrival. Now mind you, we weren't doing anything fantastic like flying overseas and landing in, say, Vienna at 6:15 in the morning. We were flying home. From a weekend in the contiguous United States. How depressing.

We got home at 7:30, squeezed in a 3-hour nap, and then it was up again and back to work. I'd put in some extra hours at NARAL on Wednesday, so I was able to roll into the office at noon today and get out of there by 2:00. At the preschool I was on total muscle memory, taking kids to go potty, feeding them snack, and breaking up wrestling matches like a pro while managing not to actually pay attention to anything. My gem of a co-teacher took pity on me and told me to leave early (it's our standard procedure when one or the other of us looks more dead than alive)... and yet in spite of working a grand total of 4.5 hours today, I still managed to be exhausted enough to come home and send out an important email announcement to over 450 people in which I spelled "funeral" f-u-n-d-e-r. ("Funder"??? What the deuce is "funder"??? That's not even close!!!)

So Thanksgiving. In spite of poorly-planned flight reservations, it was a pretty terrific long weekend. In the process of finding God and becoming a grandfather, R's dad has somehow mellowed into a really enjoyable person (still far from garrulous, but now closer to "stoic" than "scary"... how can you be frightened of a man who brings home a box of Krispy Kremes for the family on his way home from a solo hike, calls up his daughter-in-law on his days off to ask if she wants help with the babies, and pauses in the middle of his $5.99 Extreme Grand Slam breakfast platter from Denny's to shake his head and remark wonderingly "I don't know how they make money off of this"?), and his mother is still as fabulously eccentric as ever. On Thursday Charlie & Melissa and the twins came over and we had a standard Thanksgiving dinner... I was sorry not to get any of the Korean sides R had promised we'd have, but Melissa (who can be a very forcible person when she wants to be...) insisted upon good ol' American fare.

NB: The indomitable Mrs. Lee did manage to slip in a giant platter of, um, reddish jello containing chopped vegetables and shrimp which terrified us all, Americans and Koreans alike.

On Friday R&I did a short hike and then visited the nephs at Charlie & Melissa's house. Whoa. They live in a CRAZY awful brand-shiny-new sprawling rich-people's housing development (Remember Breckenridge, Cita? It's back, in Issaquah form!), the kind of place in which they've already gotten two letters of complaint from the Homeowner's Association about the state of their front lawn (which, literally, might not be big enough for me to lie down in comfortably), there are always cars driving around but somehow never any people, and the whole mess is planted square in the middle of vast empty fields in which you can already see the spectres of more identical million-dollar houses that will most assuredly be there the next time we visit them. C&M paid $750,000 for their place. What a terrifying thought.

On Saturday R&I met up with Sandy and her parents and trucked down to the Tacoma Museum of Glass. It's a neat museum, and they have live glassblowing demonstrations going on all day, which was very cool. After dropping the three of them back at the ferry, we made a brief stop to tour the amazing Seattle library. (A quick search of their homepage for pictures yielded the following mission statement, which has absolutely no bearing on my story whatsoever but is a little too amazing not to include: "Our mission is to become the best public library in the world by being so tuned in to the people we serve and so supportive of each other's efforts that we are able to provide highly responsive service.") What a job they've done... it's definitely more of a museum than a library. I don't expect any of you will want to scroll through their whole 70-image slideshow (the real thing is way better anyhow), but if you want to get an idea, you can go here.

On Sunday we went to church, hit up the aforementioned Denny's, dropped off R's dad at work, did some packing, and then brought takeout over to C&M's to spend some last quality time with the fam. It snowed on and off throughout the day, with a fair amount of it sticking to the ground and trees in Issaquah, which made the whole ridiculous development look even more picture-perfect than usual. I MISS SNOW!!!! Austin is at 70 degrees and 80% humidity at the moment... stupid Texas.

And for those of you who've made it thus far, allow me to take a moment to reward you with photos.

Well, that post killed two hours, no prob. Now I'm off to pick up Richard, call Rebecca, and then fall promptly into bed.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Happy Black Friday!

(Hey look B, I changed the blog title as per your reminder! I hope you approve.)

So as noted in the previous comments, I'm back! Shockingly my flight got in promptly and I was through customs by 1 am thanksgiving morning! 2 highlights of my trip
- the "aero chips" handed out on taca were probably the best i've eaten in south america! yuca chips with vinegar and hot sauce - yumm!
- making a super nice otavaleña friend who came on the same 3 flights as me, so i didn't have to say goodbye to ecuador until i hit O'hare.

Yesterday after sleeping in we had the usual thanksgiving with the bridges, which was a rather surreal but taaasty welcome home. and I managed not to painfully overeat for the first year ever i think!

Today I mostly hibernated, not having much desire to brave any type of commercial setting. The women in line behind me checking into our flight in Quito were headed to LA to shop the post thanksgiving sales, armed with a thick stack of printed sales ads from the internet and several empty suitcases. Good luck to them. I started my holiday shopping in march and finished last saturday, the majority of it in various otavalo trips. So all i have to worry about is cards and wrapping! Good thing because hanukkah is early this year, starting mid-december.

I did manage to accomplish:
- deposting large amounts of cash in my bank account!
- eating a real diner lunch of pancakes, eggs, and hash browns.
- eating corn pudding leftover
- boring my parents with massive ammounts of pictures, which will eventually be sorted through and posted for all to see
- going to the gym! I was confused at my inability to get in a good work out, until I got off the eliptical machine and realized i was in fact bright red and jelly legged, I just wasnt out of breath due to spending the last year hiking (whether uphill to my house or braving volcanos...) at high altitude! just like those olympic athletes.
- which involved driving for the first time in over 8 months!! I admit to being a bit rusty at reversing and parking (and putting my seatbelt on...) and did go somewhat out of my way to avoid a left turn onto a busy street.
- applying online to borders, which is hiring seasonal cashiers for the local store. It involved 37 pages of ridiculous personality questions, ranging from "do you usually take charge in a group" to "are people often mean to you" to "do you get etremely angry when criminals go free?" to "did you ever seriously consider quitting high school?" congratulations nancy and lauren, due to being excellent people who will hopefully say nice things about me (and for whom i had phone numbers at hand) you get to be my personal references! If that job doesn't work out, my mom might be able to hook me up at chicos, or i can temp. We shall see.

General impressions of being back: Everything here is so CLEAN and ORDERLY, I feel like I'm in some kind of model city exhibit! Where are all the uneven sidewalks, grafitied cement walls, honking cars and lack of any respect for traffic laws, street vendors, begging children??? Why is my orange juice not fresh? How come I can magically cook and shower without moving a gas can, flipping a switch, or lighting a match?? Why is everyone speaking english? What is the point of "Deal no deal"??

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Blogging from less afar...

Wow, I'm back in central time! Or whatever they call it here. I'm at the airport in costa rica, which puts the quito airport to SHAME with its free wifi and yummy chocolate samples. So as you can see I successfully made the first leg of my trip, but will not jinx myself again by assuming a safe and timely arrival. But with luck its just two more connections until Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Still blogging from afar...

So um yeah, I think I jinxed myself with that last post, as I ended up missing my flight yesterday!! Mostly my fault because i was late, but I was still there with an hour to spare and the airline people were NOT lifting a finger to help me. And the next flight isn't until wednesday!! I was quite upset yesterday at the airport, since I was standing there with my life all packed up and my goodbyes said, but now that i've moved back in (suprise roommies! im sleeping on your couch for another few nights!) im enjoying just being able to relax here, instead of all the running around i was doing the last few days. Really i wouldn't be doing anything different at home, and I'll still be back in time for thanksgiving. So save up all those safe travel thoughts a couple more days!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

To tide you over...

Ooh ooh, as we anxiously await Rebecca's hotly-anticipated return to the land of her birth, let's take a stroll down memory lane by revisiting her first Ecuadorian post. My how time flies!

Ya me voy!!!!

In exactly 3 hours my flight is scheduled to depart from Quito. After a stop in Guayaquil, a transfer in Costa Rica, and another stop in Guatemala, I'll be back in chicago before I know it! Off for one last almuerzo before heading to the airport. Que triiiste!

Saturday, November 18, 2006


A quick update in pictures: highlights from the past two weeks including Bill's hot-sauce-tasting party, a visit to the Dallas Museum of Art Sculpture Garden, and a group field trip to see "Madama Butterfly."

I had a wonderful sick day yesterday (you know you're too busy when getting ill is the best thing that's happened to you in a long time), and have a busy agenda for this weekend which includes laundry, napping, and maybe taking a shower at some point. On Sunday evening we're heading back to Bill and Quincy's for the first in a series of rehearsals to learn selected choruses from Handel's "Messiah"... Bill's roped us all in to attending one of those audience participation sing-it-yourself "Messiah" performances in December, which promises to be either fabulous or a complete disaster. I haven't sung choral music in 3 years, so it may take some wrangling to get my lazy Sacred Harp voice back in Handel condition. We shall see.

Okay, off and away. Happy weekend! Get ready to phone Rebecca more cheaply than you've been able to for a year just as soon as she lands stateside!!!!



Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A sunny memory

Well I'm all full of good karma now from my vegetarian almuerzo at the Govinda here. Finally had time to stop by after choir, and got to dine with my hare krishna choir buddy and her friend who you may remember from the fotos of our party, in the orange pants? Apparently just breathing the air in the temple and eating the food brings me closer to the spiritual world. They're super nice and unlike most quiteños, really interested in philosophy, politics, the larger world, etc. I got an earful about the hare krishna way, but only because i was actually really interested in hearing it - they aren't preachy at all (ive known jennie for almost a year and haven't gotten a single speech), while they're very devoted and so happy to share their way, they're also very open minded and able to actually have a dialogue about all kinds of things. A lovely community they have here with the temple/restuarant, and it is as they say a nice refuge from the hectic life outside.

More positive energy: My dad just emailed me a foto to cheer me up from all the gray weather (tanto Quito como Chicago), so I'm putting it up for all to see. It's from our stay on la Isla del Sol on the bolivian side of titicaca. We spent the afternoon hangin out on the deck of our hostal, drinking zumo de naranja, playing gin rummy, and taking in that VIEW.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Bulldog train, she my ball and chain...

1. Forgot my keys this morning, got home 45 minutes before Richard was due back from work tonight, managed with little to no difficulty to remove screen and climb in through kitchen window. In all honesty, it was almost easier to enter this way than through the front door. Should I be concerned about this?

2. Not to become one of Those People Who Post Pictures of Babies Who Aren't Theirs, but I invite you all to click here for what would be a much scarier picture if Richard's younger nephew actually had teeth.

3. Is anyone else as excited as we are at the prospect of an America-bound Rebecca?

T minus 6 days

And here I am waiting for a different flight, here in manta! alandaluz was gorgeous and sooo relaxing... i did nothing except sit and read/do crosswords, walk on the beach and eat good food. Oh except i also saw a shark! actually there were 3, but i only saw one. I was walking down to the beach when i saw a couple of local guys start gesturing wildly to the only guy surfing, and he ran out of the water and then they all ran up the lifeguardy watch tower and started pointing at the water. so i immediately thought shark, and sure enough they said "tres tiburones!" and i could see one fin out there. apparently its quite rare to see sharks in that area, they weren't sure what brought them out. that was certainly the most beach excitement, mostly it was completely deserted and it was nice enough the first afternoon to sit out and read, and the following days I took lots of long solitary walks by the shore. No swimming - forget sharks, those waves are SERIOUS... even just barely dipping my toes in I would sometimes get caught by a giant wave that would soak me and you could really feel the undertow!
the only downside of my trip was the permananent cloud cover never broke until today when I got back to Manta, so I got to enjoy a dreary beach and now a hot city. As for manta, lets just say i found the one nice internet cafe which turned out to be full of gringos and cockroaches, so im going to go off to dinner and hope for better luck at the restaurant.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Beach news and other excitement

Yes, I am using the internet at 10:30 pm friday night and intend to go to bed shortly after. I'm not particularly interested in partying with hippy tourists or sketchy locals. I had another full day yesterday - got to have dinner at crepes y waffles and hang out with john and jorge! and then an early flight, so I'm looking forward to curling up under the mosquito netting. I spoiled myself with a roundtrip flight to manta... instead of a 13 hour overnight bus ride, I walked into the airport at 6:30, got on my 7:00 flight, and was on a bus headed down the coast by 8:00, and hit Montañita at high noon. So what did YOU do today... well I took a nice walk on a beach, and did a crossword in my hammock! It's still not high season here, so it was overcast all day, but at least not cold and rainy like quito so im not complaining. montañita is ok, the beach isn't good for just hanging out - it's the place to be for surfing, and probably for meeting random travelers were i at all interested in either of those activities, but i'm mostly excited about heading to alandaluz tomorrow!
Excitement #1: My hippy culinary school finally posted the dates for the spring/summer program, so I officially have a reason to go back to the states, which is greatly needed at the moment! Assuming no probs with my application, I will be donning my chef hat March 27th!
Excitement #2: The great girls I hung out with in Vilcabamba (ok, ok, you can meet cool people traveling, i admit it) emailed me that they had finally updated their website through their stay there. I checked it out and they sure don't fool around with their updates! They have a super comprehensive description of our time, complete with surprisingly extensive mention of yours truly, and a link to tons of pictures! Yes, that is me cooking :)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

So. many. bananas.

Well, apparently my not voting and sequestering myself for the entirety of election day on a long-distance bus in a far-off country is the secret to democratic election success! who knew? Well you know you're really a pathetic excuse for an informed citizen when you get your election news the day after in the free quito public transit newspaper, and the headline reads "Gringos votan." Well, some of them did anyway. I had meant to vote and would have been able to get an absentee ballot sent to me but then I ended up traveling without an address to receive it at. Maybe 2008 will see me actually voting in my place of residence for candidates i know anything about! Or, I might be in Bolivia. Before I start planning my future how about i update you on the last few days.
My bus trip was quite uneventful, which is exactly what i was hoping for in taking a direct bus and not switching buses/companies, etc. Though shockingly (please note HEAVY sarcasm) it did not reach quito in 22 hours, but rather 29, and had left an hour late from trujillo at midnight exactly on monday night. Which put me in to Quito not Tuesday evening but Wednesday morning at 5 am. Good times with 2 nights and a full day on the same bus, with the same people. Some of my compañeros were seriously putting my journey to shame... that bus goes direct from SANTIAGO all the way to CARACAS!!!!! yuck. (check your maps.) At least expensive long-distance bus equals no skechy people stealing from me. (I'm happy to say i got through the whole trip without any loss or theft! I rock!) Though it was definitely not luxurious like the overnight bus i took from piura-lima, with bus attendants and food service and everything. Our greasy bus assistant guy in a wifebeater would have us stop somewhere random for a meal, with no set time to leave. So at some point 30 min-2 hours later most people would end up back on board and the bus would pull out. No head count, no roster checking. WIthout fail either someone woudl come running after the bus or someone would yell out "Falta!" and we'd stop to let the straggler on. That's one thing on a local bus, but i'm shocked no one ended up 2 countries behind their luggage! At least its always nice to travel on reserved buses where they don't stop every 2 minutes to let campesinos, school kids, chickens, etc. We went the stupid way, up the coast to guayaquil stopping at the horrible big border crossing instead of the better alternative i took going south. Most border crossings you exit one country, walk a nominal distance and enter the next. But in this case there's a bizarre no-man's land that took a good hour to drive across in between the borders! So if you aren't set up on a fancy bus like me, you end up easy prey for thieves, greedy taxi drivers, etc. Our excessive stopover in huaquillas actually didn't bother me to much because i was much too happy being back in ecuador! Just seeing pilsener, all the other ecuadorian products on display, made me way too happy. And i got sweet cheese empanadas for the first time in a month! and i got cell reception so as to send bored text messages to my roommates! After the border we proceeded to pass bananas for about the next 12 hours (no exaggerating... ecuador isn't the world largest exporter for nothing. i tried to estimate how many of those bananas belong to noboa. apparently he's attracting more ecuadorian voters by the day because his people spun some stuff about a giant lead in "the polls" and the commmon sentiment here is "no one wants to vote for a loser." great logic.) We did get 3 extensive police stops, every time we had to get out, show ID, have the luggage checked etc. Stupid drug trafficking route. It prob didn't help that our bus passes through both peru and colombia. I was only subjected to 2 horrible action movies (a chicano prison gang flic, complete with serveral dozen graffic deaths by file, comb, etc, and i can finally put a second tally next to the Seagal movie "Belly of the Beast!"), and the only movie i couldn't sit through and resorted to sleeping with headphones on, was Garfield 2.
My apartment was a sight for sore eyes, but after atrophying for 30 hours the last thing I wanted to do yesterday was sleep, so I set out to officially enjoy my trimphant return to ecuador. A partial list of my acheivements yesterday:
-all my favorite foods: almuerzo in my favorite spot, with my beloved cookies, pan de yuca and yogurt, dinner with becky at the pizza place, pilsener!
- singing with my choir! I felt sooo much better after singing again. That will be the hardest thing to leave in quito, after my fellow Rebeccas. They have lots of christmas concerts coming up, and a big christmas dinner, so of course everyone was trying to convinve me to stay. EVeryone was real happy to see me, and it was just liek old times - I felt like a musical genius all over again for remembering the christmas songs from last year and sight reading the new ones before eugenio even got aroudn to our part. Theres lots of new faces, which is great, and seem like cool people so im sorry not to get the chance to get to know them.
-visited the experiment, always get a nice homecoming there, even saw my little edison!, picked up my outstanding $6.50 (for the one hour i taught in september)
-went out with friends to a benefit for the womens prison - had some drinks and watched some salsa dancing.
-rolled into bed at midnight after watching another episode of the oc

Today I haven't been as ambitious, but I did write this epic blog entry. And I bought a plane ticket to the beach for tomorrow, so I am all set for some much deserved R and R in the sun. Traveling is hard work!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A short one

ELECTION RESULTS: Very, very good. (Texas managed to elect itself another less-than-exciting slate of statewide Repubs, but it's not like we didn't see that one coming. And in the meantime, the news from elsewhere just keeps getting better and better. I see Deval will indeed be the next governor of Mass... don't know much about him, but he gets HRC's stamp of approval, so that's good enough for me!)

KATIE'S RECENT BLOGGING ABILITIES: Very, very poor. (My apologies. Life has been coming a little nonstop at me for the past couple of weeks. But in the meantime, please feel free to distract yourself by admiring the absurd cuteness of R's newborn nephews.)

Consider yourselves updated on the most salient aspects of my life. Exciting new acquisitions include an organic hemp shower curtain (hippiiiiiie...) and two flasks of homemade hot sauce from Bill. Every year Bill grows his own hot peppers, processes them into different varieties of hot sauce, and then invites all his friends over to rank them from wussiest to most lethal. This year there were 17 varieties and I'm proud to report that I tried almost all of them up to and including the second-hottest sauce. (I just couldn't steel myself to try the chocolate habanero, whose evilness was summed up at various points throughout the evening as being not unlike a powerful train, an army of small angry men with clubs attacking one from the inside, and/or a throat full of rusty fish hooks. Er, check please.)

Now back to Rebecca's regularly scheduled travelogue.



Monday, November 06, 2006

I was only 22 hours from Quito...

(Uh, yeah I hope y'all appreciate Burt Bacharach as much as I apparently do. The unlikely tv i watched on bolivian/peruvian cable tv has included excellent documentaries on 2pac and Tin Pan alley in the 60s.)
I am in fact in a much better mood, trujillo is lovely, the people are friendly, i rented a hotel for the day (which felt very sketchy) so I've even managed to shower and watch the latest installment of ER (by latest i mean whatever random season they've been rerunning and i've been watching avidly.) I'm about to get on a bus DIRECT TO QUITO, which they promise will only take 22 hours. (you can get it direct from lima even, but i opted to see a new city and not spend 30 hours direct on the same bus. even though this way i don't think i beat richard's record of longest bus trip!!) Retrospective updates forthcoming once I am safely back on my home turf.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Just sayin hi

So I'm a little grouchy and not in the mood to really post, especially as i already wrote an elaborate post last night that got erased, but it's been a while and i'm killing time waiting for a night bus to trujillo, so i thought i'd say howdy! I don't even have any boring articles to link to. There's really not very much point to this post except perhaps it is slightly therepeutic to ramble. it would be much more therepeutic to go to a singing, or at least sing with my choir in quito or something, i'm gettin real antsy at this point - i haven't sung in any context for a couple of months, which is not good for the soul. Assuming after my night bus I am less grouchy (ummm... yeah... don't hold your breath...) I will try to post actual content tomorrow! love to you all.