November is here!

I would like to direct your attention to the pretty little powder-blue box to the right (is that powder blue?  I have about as much color vocabulary as a Y chromosome).

It is my word-count widget for NaNoWriMo!  I’m so excited, for multiple reasons.  First this is my first November participating in NaNoWriMo, and second because I figured out the html stuff I needed to post that box without having to write to the WordPress gurus in tears asking how on earth to do it!

So, what is NaNoWriMo?  It’s very simple.  November is National Novel Writing Month.  Which once I think about it, is deceptive, because this really is an INTERNATIONAL thing.  Anyway, it’s kind of a fun event where people decide that they’re going to write a novel.  The rules are simple.  Between November 1 and November 30, you need to write at least 50,000 words, the average length of a novel.  That’s pretty much it.  The official website claims that the focus is on quantity, not quality, which basically means that you’re going to be writing a lot of unrefined garbage (a word I prefer to use instead of the colorful “c” word that they use on the site).  You aren’t allowed to start before November 1.  You may storyline, character sketch, brainstorm, but no writing of actual text!  I will be spending today doing some character sketching in preparation for tomorrow.

Keep your eye on the box and it will update you on my wordcount each day.  Here’s hoping!

Critters

Ecuador is known for being very biodiverse (I don’t think that’s a word).  What I mean to say is that it has a large biodiversity, i.e., lots of creatures. Besides the typical ants that infiltrated my room at N/J’s (for whatever reason, they liked hanging out by the electrical outlets  o_O) we have some interesting inhabitants that I was not anticipating, and I will share them now with you…

I think I need to come up with a name for this dude.  I always she him (her?) among multiple other iguanas ON CAMPUS.  It would be kind of cool except that I tend to not see them until I practically step on one.  Of course everyone then laughs at me because they think I’m some sort of scaredy-cat.

These guys are kind of spiffy… except that they’re INSIDE.  And they’re fast, so you can’t even catch one to put him outside where he belongs.  I could barely snap this picture, because every time my camera made a noise he went scurrying.  Thank goodness I never found him in my room, I think I would have flipped.

Yeah, he was on the other side of the glass, because I would NOT have put my hand that close to him otherwise.  I’ve never seen such a huge grasshopper.  And they tell me they get bigger.  Worse was when Jorge started telling me about the other bugs that pop up starting around November.  They have Jerusalem crickets.  Oh. My. Gosh.  I’m going to die.  If you don’t know what a Jerusalem cricket is, go Google it, and you will know why it is the creature of my darkest nightmares.

Next up, we have night-creatures…

Sorry about the quality.  What you’re looking at here is the aftermath of what happened the last Thursday night at N/J’s.  I was sitting in my room listening to music, and I hear shouting and a BANG.  It didn’t concern me, because the previous night there had been fireworks, and I figured it was the same thing, but suddenly Alejandra came running into my room screaming, “Someone’s been shot!”

Yeah, that’s a person lying in the back of that truck.  The security guards for the community came rushing over, picked him up, put him in the back of the truck and drove him to the hospital.  I think he’s okay, but I never heard more of it after that.  I would assume we would have heard if he had died.

So, biodiversity… right…

Settling in for good?

Here’s to kindness.  I’ve been at Isabel and Rodrigo’s house for 2 days now, and Isabel has offered to let me stay “a lo largo”, that is, long term.  I actually accepted.  I think it might work out.  I’m close to campus, they live in an area where they don’t have to lock their door (and even if they do lock it, the housekeeper is there to let me in), the room I’ve been given is nice and big with a desk, I actually have a CLOSET here (I only had drawers at N/J’s)…

The new room

It may actually work out, and maybe I’ll even be able to cheer Isabel up a bit to show her sweet side, instead of her rich mom side.

Religion is going to be a hot topic here.  Isabel is always asking me about it, telling me how I should witness to my students and what not.  I smile and thank her, but honestly I’m worried more about how I’m going to witness to HER.

I’m currently on hour 5 of planning for today’s class.  I am worried about not having enough material for class, but figure that I’m giving them a project to work on between now and tomorrow, and the homework they do counts for their seminar hours, so they don’t have room to complain.  They WILL get their hours, one way or another!!!

Taking it as it comes

Well, I moved out of N/J’s house yesterday.  It was a little last minute.  On Sabbath Isabel and Rodrigo turned to me and said, “When are you coming over?”  I had initially contemplated the following week, but when I realized that this week was my workshop I told them maybe this would be a better week.  So yesterday I packed EVERYTHING and schlepped it over to their house, and here I am.  It’s a very different sensation.  For starters, they are wealthy.  I am not.  There seems to be a certain protocol for rich families in this country.  Rodrigo seems pretty down-to-earth.  He makes me laugh, really kick-back.  Isabel, while very hospitable, gives me the impression of one of those stuck up rich moms where nothing is too good for her little ones and the house has to be JUST SO.  She seems bored with the travails of the common folk.  Last night she comes in and instead of saying, “We’re going to read the devotional,” she says, “Come on in, we’re going to read something about God.”  I kid you not.

Isabelita, the daughter, strikes me.  I’m not sure as what, I’m still trying to figure that one out.  She seems like she fits the role of the stereotypical wild teen.  Yesterday when I arrived she was with a group of her girlfriends, listening to loud music, giggling and often screaming.  One of her friend’s laughs sounded liking a whining puppy.  No joke.  She also seems to be bored by the commoners.  Last night while Rodrigo was reading the devotional he ended with, “So remember, that every day we must die to self and then be raised up to new life.”  And she seriously said, “Okay, Dad, you say that every day.”  I hope I can be a good witness with that kind of attitude running around.

But it’s very comfortable, and they are very welcoming.  At this point, anything that happens is just a new experience.  I’m taking the role of a fly on the wall, just watching to see how it turns out.  This doesn’t mean that I’m not still looking around to see what I can see as far as housing is concerned.

The university is LITERALLY across the street, so I was able to walk to my workshop.  Last night, first night of the workshop, went SO WELL.  There are 17 people signed up, but something like 3 didn’t show up.  But then another 5 people showed up who aren’t on the list, so it was cozy in the classroom.  The workshop is “Vocalization for Professionals”, so last night we talked about the voice itself, how it is produced, the breathing mechanism, did some exercises, and for a while I was like, man, how am I going to fill up 4-5 hours a day?  I had a unit prepared on vocal disorders, when it suddenly occurred to me, why not make THEM do it?  So I had them break up in groups, gave each group a different vocal disorder, and had them each do a presentation on it.  Worked great and filled up 2 hours.  The funniest was some of the pictures they chose.  I told them I wanted to see pictures of the disorders, so when the group covering Laryngitis got up with their picture of this infected larynx, everyone was like EEEEEEWWW!!! and we all had a good laugh.  I think it was a great hit.

And the coolest part was that I had SUCH A GOOD TIME!!!  Other than the fact that I think the students enjoyed it, it was so energizing to be up there explaining stuff, motivating them, giving demonstrations… a demonstration I wish that I would have planned ahead for is one for demonstrating the breathing mechanism.  I had an empty water bottle and had them visualize that it was a person (making an off-handed commend that in this case it was a woman because it had curves, to which everyone laughed).  Had I planned ahead, I would have bought a bag of balloons and stuck one inside the mouth of the bottle and started blowing.  Once the lungs inflate to the ribcage, the ribcage only expands so much, so where do the lungs expand?  They expand DOWNWARD.  So I had them visualize that since I didn’t have the balloon, and used that to introduce the proper way to breathe with the diaphragm.  It turned out really well even without the balloon.

I still have a couple of things to prepare for tonight, but I’m anticipating (read: praying for) a similar result.  Praise God it’s shaping up!

light and dark

Light:  Moving day is drawing closer, and though I have yet to find a place, I am narrowing down possibilities and am confident that God will bring along the best option.

Dark:  I think I’m growing allergic to ice cream down here.  The last few times I’ve had any it has made me terribly sick to my stomach.  Boo.

outlook

I’m slowly becoming convicted that life is all how you look at it.  I could have blown my top over all this stuff with Jorge, but I haven’t, even though I think I truly have reason to.  Last night I was let into the house and said as I was shutting the door, “Good evening, everyone.”

“Hi,” Victoria responded.  Jorge and Alejandra said nothing.  I walked to my room to set my stuff down, and Nora invited me to join them for hot chocolate.  As I sat at the table, Jorge said, “And why didn’t you greet me when you came in?”

I blinked. “I did!”  I squeeled, mostly because he had his scolding tone.

“Don’t raise your voice.”

I tried to laugh it off and grit my teeth.

“When you come inside, you need to look directly at me and say, ‘Good evening, how are you?’ and smile nicely.”

I laughed, this time because it was ridiculous.  “I did say good evening, and Victoria was the only one that responded.”

“No, you can’t just say ‘Good evening’ briefly and stare at the floor and scuttle off to your room.  That’s poor manners, or at least it is for us in Ecuador.”

Well machismo is poor manners including in Ecuador, I don’t care what the common practice is, I thought as I sat, but didn’t answer.  I think Isee what’s happening.  He’s trying to reestablish his role as the master of the house.  Hey, it’s your house, no need to feel threatened.  Trust me, because the sooner I get out the better.

I’ve decided that he’s not worth any more stress.  Once I’m gone he’s not my problem anymore, and putting it in that perspective has saved me all sorts of anxiety.

Plus, to make my day better, I got a call in my office from the director of the school of languages asking me if I can teach a beginner’s-level English class next bimester, which means extra income.  And the class doesn’t conflict with the Italian class that I want to audit.  Praise God!  Now all I have to do is hang in there for my living situation and see what God cooks up.

I spent part of this morning making phone calls to the different contacts that Andrea had given me.  Only one so far is for sure available, but the price is a little steep.  Another I have yet to hear back from.  All the rest were already filled.  I’m waiting to hear from Monica about a friend that lives halfway between Nora and Jorge’s place and the university, which means I’d cut my distance in half, and it’s less than a block from the mall, for those days when I just can’t take the heat any longer, and I could walk to get my groceries.  The one I’m kind of holding out for is the one I’m waiting for a response from, because it is literally across the street from the university.  I’m leaving it in God’s hands, knowing that something will pop up.

Strange twists of fate

How does one know when God has been working on them?  When their reactions are different.  I only think of a little while ago when I flipped out about my situation, ready to go home, ready to blow up at someone.  But my reaction recently has been much more calm, because now I see that God is taking care of me, and I’m trusting in faith that He will carry me through it.

What is this situation?  One that is making me move from Nora and Jorge’s house in a very short timeframe, without being totally sure where I’ll move into.

Up until about 3 weeks ago I had possession of one of the 2 sets of keys to the house.  One morning I had to leave before Nora came back, and she had to ask the landlady to let her in. Apparently this landlady is a pain in the pompis and when I returned Nora asked to borrow my keys, and never gave them back.  Now whenever I have to get into the house I have to phone Nora, which costs me credit on my phone, and she throws me the key from the window.

One evening last week I got home, and they were out.  I tried phoning, but Nora wouldn’t answer.  I decided to go to Francia’s house, since I hadn’t seen her in a couple of weeks.  She wasn’t home, but Cielo and Raul were, so we sat around having tea, chatting, and eventually Francia came home and joined us.

At about 10:30 my phone rang.  Nora called to tell me that they were home and that I could come back.

“Finish your tea,” Cielo insisted, which I gladly did, and before I knew it, a half an hour had passed.  I received another call.  “Holá?” I answered.

“Ragazza, where are you?” Jorge said briskly.

“I’m still at Francia’s house, having some tea and chatting.”

“Nora already called you and told you we were back!  We’ve been waiting for you at the window for the past half an hour and you still haven’t come.  You need to decide if you’re going to stay there or come back here!”

I blinked for a moment. “Of course I’m going back there.”

“Then you need to come now, I don’t want you lying and saying you’ll be right here and stay over there.” His voice rose and his words came out faster.

“I’m not lying!” I said, growing a bit more defensive.

“Well neither am I! If you’re not back here right now, I’m closing the door and not coming back down to let you in!”

“Okay! I’m coming right now!” If I had known how to say “Don’t get your knickers in a twist” in Spanish, I was just upset enough to have said it. I hung up and turned to Francia.  “I’m sorry, I have to go.”

“What was that?” she said, surprised.

“Jorge’s threatening that he’ll lock me out if I don’t come back right now.”

Francia just sat there staring. I took a deep breath and stopped myself before I could say anything truly destructive, and smiled at her. “Thank you so much.  It’s been nice to see you.”

“Of course. Anytime,” she smiled back and walked me out.

Two blocks is not far, but far enough to let your mind take a few twists and turns. I decided that I was going to confront Jorge and tell him that his reaction had been out of line, that I was not his wife nor one of his daughters that he could treat me like that, that I was going to demand another set of keys and pay for them if I had to. But I think the Lord intervened before I got to the house and said “In your anger do not sin.  Take a breath, we’ll work this out.”

Jorge was at the lower door waiting when I arrived. I said kurtly, “Buenas noches,” and kept walking.

Buenas noches, ¿cómo te va?” was his response, in what was actually a very friendly manner. This burned me even more, because he had once again established himself as the dictator of the house, with all the women doing his bidding.

I spent much time in prayer that evening, asking God to help me to relax and to know how to talk to Jorge, and most of the morning thinking about who I could talk to about the situation, and finally realized that Andrea was used to solving problems like this.  Andrea is the secretary who helps the international students with housing, among other things. It was because of her that I had the pleasure of staying in Francia’s house for the time that I did. I popped up in the foreign studies office and was relieved to find that Andrea was the only one there.  She looked up at me.  “Hi, long time.  How are you?”

“I’m fine, all things considered.  I need help.”  I explained the whole situation, and worked to keep the tears from falling, not because I was sad, but because I was mad and offended.  After hearing the whole thing, Andrea’s face softened.  “What’s your financial situation right now?”

“I’m broke. I spent my last few cents to go to Quito for that conference. I’m teaching that workshop at the end of this month and a speech class next bimester, and then I’ll have money, but until then I’ve got maybe $20 to my name.”

“Well, I can tell you this much:  You can’t stay there. That’s not a safe situation. I’m not saying the family is terrible, but you can’t be left in a situation where you’re treated like that just because someone is having a bad day. Plus, you’re not a young undergrad like the rest of these students, you need your independence, and if we can find you an apartment to share with someone it will be more suited to your living style. We’re here to help. If worse comes to worse, you can stay at my house for a few days until we find a better situation, or Monica lives nearby and she will help, but we’ll find something. I’ll look around with some of my contacts to see what kind of places they have to rent. Have you talked to the family yet?”

“I’m going to do it tonight.”

“Good, because right now the important thing is that you need to get out of there. Tell them that you’ll be out by the end of the month, that gives you two weeks for everyone to get used to the situation, and for us to look around.”

Andrea was my goddess at that moment.  I rehearsed with her how I would talk to Nora and Jorge, and she told me to let her know soon how much I thought I could afford in rent, and she would know what to look for. I walked back to my office with my head held a bit higher.

Of course by that evening, that security had turned into concern over whether I was actually going to be able to go through with it. I swallowed back the tightness in my chest as doubt crept in, and an internal dialogue began forming. “They’re going to react bad. They’re going to be upset and blame the situation on you.”

“Nora won’t. Nora’s reasonable. She’ll listen.”

“Why are you risking this situation? I mean, you aren’t even paying rent! You won’t find any other situations like that.”

“Rent is a small price to pay for being in a situation where I’m comfortable and safe and not having to tread softly under someone else’s rules.”

“The situation really wasn’t that bad. You’re over-reacting.”

This is the one that made me stop. Was I? I frequently over-react. I get upset over little things, or too upset over problems that could easily be fixed. “Maybe I am over-reacting,” I thought.

But at that moment something happened. The scene started playing in my mind. I thought about what kind of an impression Francia might have got of Jorge, and how it potentially damaged his character. I thought about the fact that I had been threatened, whether or not he truly would have followed through with it. I thought about what kind of a situation I could have been placed in if he had followed through, where would I have slept, how I would have got back into the house the next day to get ready for work, and how the situation could have escalated. I thought about all the times when he had blown his top with his girls, and I shuddered the thought that he would treat me like that, and I wasn’t even his daughter. I thought about the previous week when he had scolded me about having to take me to the airport, and I realized that if nothing was done, if I allowed myself to be walked on, this could become a pattern.

“No,” I told my antagonistic side, “I am not over-reacting. The situation really is that bad.” And the other side finally shut up.

I spoke with Nora the first chance I got, and while of course she tried to defend Jorge she also understood where I was coming from, and I set my moving day for the last of the month.

I’m still not sure where I’ll be at this point, but Andrea and Monica have helped give me suggestions.  There are a couple of options right here near the university, and there are other ones in the city center.  Whatever happens, I know at least God will put me in a situation where I’m safe and comfortable, and that’s what’s important.

Quito

It finally came, and then it went.  I don’t remember mentioning this before, so I’ll say it now.  A couple of weeks ago Jess invited me to go with him and a few of the T/I students to Quito to interpret at a conference on migration.  I had SUCH A GOOD TIME, but the whole trip was over way too fast.  I’ve decided that I like Quito a lot more than Guayaquil.  I didn’t feel as unsafe there, the weather was beautiful, and the people are more relaxed, as opposed to here where it feels like everyone is up in your business 24/7.

I was a little nervous before leaving because I was staying with a couple about my age in their home.  I met the husband, German, at that silly women’s retreat that I made the mistake of going to, and we had a good time chatting a bit.  Then he popped up a few weeks later to speak at our church.  I mentioned that I would be in Quito, and he offered to let me stay with him and his wife.  Before going, Nora warned me that the people in Quito are super conservative and orderly, and German and his wife Estefanía would be even more so because they were newlyweds (just married in July).  Therefore she insisted that I was to keep all of my belongings neat and orderly at all times, and under no circumstances was I to wear dress pants to church.  It had to be a dress.  I suddenly felt very nervous at the prospect of treading so carefully.

Imagine my relief when I met Estefanía.  She lived in the States for something like 14 years, did high school and college in the States, spoke English like a native, and we ended up becoming friends and having some good conversation.  She also lived in South Korea teaching English for 2 years, so I was able to pick her brain a little about teaching and how I will be able to teach English in the future.  She also was telling me a bit about her time there, and she’s almost got me convinced that I want to give it a go when I finish my MA.  Plus when I asked about the dress pants she laughed and said that was ridiculous.

I also discovered that she and German are super relaxed.  I actually got excited one morning when I walked into the bathroom and saw that one of them had left a t-shirt and a pair of socks on the floor.  They let me have free reign of the kitchen, so I could prepare myself breakfast in the morning.  Besides the fact that they are both super fun to be around.  I had a ball with them, and I think God has answered my prayer for finding me good Christian friends in this country, even though they’re in another city.

Thursday evening I got off work and rushed to the house, got my stuff, and told Jorge that I was ready to go.  “Go where?” he asked.  I panicked.  “The airport!!”  We got in the car, and halfway down the road he said, “Why did you wait to tell me you had to go to the airport until just now?”

I slowly turned my head to him, my eyes wide, and abandoned all composure.  “I asked you DAYS ago!”

“This is the first I’ve heard of it.”

“I asked you the same day I bought the ticket!  I asked, I have to go to Quito to interpret at this conference, could you please take me to the airport, and you said you could!”  Really there was no reason to recount all of that to him, but it made me feel slightly better as I told it to him in a tone akin to that of a cartoon character.

“Really?”

“YES!”

“Oh, I don’t remember,” and he laughed.

I fumed. I saw nothing funny.

“Even so, you should have reminded me the day before.  I could have decided to go somewhere this evening.  THEN who would have taken you to the airport?”  He laughed again, knowing that he had once again established his status as the only man in the house, and thereby, his superiority.

I set my jaw and muttered.  “Bueno, perdóneme.

“No, no, it’s fine.  I’m just saying.”

And I said nothing more, turned off my attention and retreated to my happy place.

I got to the airport and boarded my plane, feeling something that must very similar to freedom, being away from work, from the stress of living in someone else’s house, doing something different.  I arrived in Quito and Estefanía was there waiting for me.  She drove me to their apartment, which is ina little suburb of Quito called, I kid you not, Cumbayá.  Yeah, as in, let’s all hold hands around the campfire and sing, “Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya…”  Which would have been cool if I hadn’t got the song stuck in my head for most of the weekend.

The next morning German took me to the bus stop, and I took one bus from Cumbayá to Quito proper, and from there I took the Ecovía to the Casa de la Cultura.  I met up with everyone and we got registered.

At the registration booth

The interpreting coordinator, I think, was doing the best she could, but she is NOT an interpreter and didn’t understand our needs.  Jess had sent her a sheet a couple weeks ago explaining our schedule.  For example, I wouldn’t be available on Saturday, and Lisette wouldn’t be there until Monday.  She ignored this TOTALLY, signed Lisette up to interpret Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and didn’t sign me up for anything at all.  Thankfully it was solved by just giving me her spots, with the exception of Saturday.  Jess insisted that those interpreting in the morning team up with someone interpreting in the afternoon, so that all of us were with a partner.  That ended up working really nice because it meant that no one had to interpret alone for 3 hours straight.

Catalina, my interpreting partner for the first day, in the "booth"

The first morning was rough, but that afternoon, Catalina and I ROCKED.  The speaker was very well-organized, spoke at a good pace, and had a powerpoint so we had numbers right in front of us to read off of.  I even got to do a little bit of simultaneous into Spanish, which I actually like more than interpreting into English.

Saturday I went to church with German and Estefanía and her cousin Nicole, who was from the States but lives and studies in Denmark.  After church we had lunch at their grandpa’s house, and that afternoon we went back to the house and Nicole said she wanted to sit by the pool.  I ended up hanging with her with our feet in the water, because lo and behold, it was WARM.  That evening they had a party to celebrate Estefanía’s brother’s birthday.  I went to bed at about 11 because I knew I had to interpret in the morning.

Sunday went okay, but not as well as Friday afternoon had been.  I ended up with Mafer and Jess in a workshop on Palestine, and Jess monitored me and Mafer.  I think in general it went well, except for one little slip on my part, which we don’t go into, but Jess was cool about it and just told me to let it go.

Mafer and me in the booth

Monday was the day that I felt I did the worst, because we were doing chuchotage, or “whisper” interpreting, where we sit behind the people who needed interpreting and speak the interpretation as quietly as possible to them.  The trick is that it’s not really “whispering” because whispering for long periods like that is bad for your voice.  Jess had taken off with his parents to sightsee a little, and left the 6 of us on our own, and at the moment that it was my turn, some guy got up and started reading some legal document at breakneck speed, and between the pace and the legalese, I couldn’t keep up, so I ended up doing POOR.  Like REALLY POOR.  It’s a good thing I wasn’t getting paid or graded for my performance that day.  But even so, I was still beaming about Friday, so it didn’t get me too down.

Our group with our "diplomas" for having been at the conference. A note: the girl on the far left with long hair was kind of an intruder in our group. I really don't know where she came from.

I REALLY didn’t want to come back to Guayaquil after all of that.  I had a blast, and would do it all over again.  But Tuesday finally came, and I had to leave.  Estefanía took me with her to work (she and her brother run a vegetarian restaurant), gave me lunch, and let me hang out and see how things were run, and when it was time to go I got a taxi to the airport.  Estefanía told me that she and German would be coming to Guayaquil sometime in the next month, and that she would call me so that we could get together, which I’m happy for, because I would hate to think this would be the last time I would see her, after having made a friend.

But now it’s back to work.  I have syllabi to write before the end of next week. Yikes…

Headed down the foodie trail, brb…

I think I have an eating disorder.  Okay, maybe not that bad.  But I definitely have been having a hard time down here.  I’m always hungry, or at least think I am.  Thankfully I’m not gaining any weight (I think?) but food is always on my mind.  This is how I’ve generally been.  When I was younger my mother, true to form, would guilt trip me about my eating habits by quoting Proverbs 23:2 – “And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.”  Which would only make me feel worse and make me want to eat. Now that I’m down here there are so many wonderful foods that I just don’t get to eat very much because it isn’t easy to get to the grocery store, or the ingredients are of terrible quality (I was warned under no uncertain terms early on that butter here is not for human consumption unless it is imported from Argentina).  Besides that I haven’t started teaching yet and have not a lot of money.

The food situation here has been funny.  I’ve been trying to understand what Jorge’s problem is.  Last week Nora went to visit her brother in Manabí for a couple of days, and Jorge seemed irked that I wasn’t helping with meals, when in reality it was because I’m not home from about 8 in the morning until 9 at night.  So the day that Nora came back, Jorge came home with humitas.  I was so excited.  I haven’t had humitas since I was still at Francia’s house.  Then I counted how many were in the bag.  Only 4.  I was a little disappointed, because I knew that those 4 were for Jorge, Nora and the 2 girls.  I was actually sitting at the computer in the living room when they sat at the table to eat them, and I left.  We have a word for that in Italian: bruta figura.  We have a word for it in English too: rude.  So I got off the computer and went into my room so that they didn’t have to feel bad. The next evening the same thing happened.  Not with humitas.  I actually don’t know what it was they were eating, it looked like some sort of onion soup, but Jorge only fixed 4 of whatever it was.  This time it was on principle that I felt offended, because I wasn’t particularly interested in what they were serving.  On Saturday Irene took us for pizza, and while we were all starving (I was ready to eat a whole one by myself) we each only got 2 (thin) slices of pizza.  Except for Jorge who had 4 pieces.  I assume it’s because he’s the man in the family (?).  Last night it was with some orejitas (a pastry).  On our way to Irene’s house to go swimming he bought some orejitas and had Victoria take orders for everyone of what kind of popsicle they wanted, but he didn’t tell her what kind he wanted, and came out saying, “Where’s mine?”

“You didn’t ask for one,” she said.

“Fine, whoever got a popsicle doesn’t get an orejita.”

We all assumed he was lying, because he had bought four orejitas and two macaroons and he was the only one who hadn’t got a popsicle (why it was so hard to walk back into the store and buy one is beyond me).  Until later that evening I ate a half of an orejita, and he reminded me that whoever got a popsicle didn’t get an orejita.  I just kind of sat there blinking.  You mean you were serious?  Wha..??

I thought maybe it was because he thought I was eating too much, but the more I thought about it I only thought, “But I’m NEVER at home, and any food I take for lunch is food that I’ve bought myself.”  So this morning I started thinking, maybe I can cut down on how much I eat.  If I can just trick myself into thinking that food is not as delicious as it really is, that it’s like medicine, something I only have to eat when I’m hungry in order to stave off that symptom.”  This proved to be an exercise in futility.

As I was at work this morning, I started looking at the I Can Has Cheezburger blog, and found the post on a cupcake with a marzipan cheeseburger in the middle and I just about died it was so cute.  So of course I had to follow the link to see just how such an adorable confection could be made.  I was lead to the Bake It In A Cake blog, where I found all sorts of delightfully cute and yummy-looking cakes.  It gave complete instructions on how to make the marzipan cheeseburger, including a red marzipan slice of tomato with red food coloring, but I have been well informed that red food coloring is a health no-no.  So I started searching for substitutes for red food coloring, and got sidetracked when I realized that much drama had been going on here in Ecuador (see previous post) and I hadn’t blogged about it yet.

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Over to WordPress, and on the front page there is a Fresh Pressed on a Change-Your-Life Caramel Apple. Of course I had to see!  While checking it out I noticed on this bloggers blogroll that there is a site called Sweet and Crumby, which just sounded too delectable to pass up.  Another detour, and I find so many wonderful desserts that I’m afraid I’m going to get diabetes just by looking.  On this site I found a link to a recipe for an Ugly Duckling Salad that sounded similar to a salad they serve at Checkers in Calistoga, but with a pistachio dressing instead of poppyseed like they serve in Napa Valley.  Wonderful detour, saved the recipe.

Back to Sweet and Crumby (who, btw, is now on my blogroll) to find a recipe for zucchini cake, a tomato tart… hmm, that reminds me that I haven’t checked on Ruthie’s blog in a while, I’ll go say hi.  OOOH, Ruthy has been making pupusas!  Over to google to search for pupusa recipes.  While I’m at it, I’m going to look for a humitas recipe so when I go home I can make my OWN humitas and not have to go search for someone to make them for me, so pppptt.  Real mature, right?

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By now I have no idea where to get back to where I came from, and I stumbled upon the Try It You Might Like It blog (which is eerily similar to something my mother used to say to me whenever she wanted me to try a new food) and a recipe for cinnamon swirl pancakes, which led me to what may be one of the most aesthetically pleasing food blogs I’ve seen yet: Naturally Ella (another addition to the blogroll). Here I found a recipe for sweet potato falafels, which got me super excited.  Back to Ruthie’s blog to tell her about it.  Hey wait, I never found that pupusas recipe.  Search on google, and I find a link to 101 cookbooks.  This blog rocks my socks.  It also now rocks my blogroll.

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After saving probably around thirty recipes from all of the aforementioned blogs, I suddenly look at the clock and see that it is almost lunchtime.  I pack up and walk out of the office to my peanut butter sandwich with a banana, and sigh.  One day, my friends, one day…

Civil unrest in Ecuador… and then back to normal

First of all, thank you to all of you who prayed for our safety this last week.  I think this is definitely one of the stranger experiences I’ve lived while abroad.  We’re fine, and life is back to normal at least in Samborondón.  So I thought I’d fill you all in on exactly what happened. And for those of you who DIDN’T hear about the chaos, this will fill you in on all the “wonderful” things I’m experiencing down here…

I showed up to work on Thursday morning totally unaware of anything happening.  At 10:30 I left the library to go to a practice session for our group going to Quito for interpreting at a conference, and but before I passed by Monica’s office to ask a question.  But when I got there the office was totally empty.  I thought it was strange because at least the secretary is always there at that hour, but I just decided to drop by later.  I went to the classroom where we were to meet and sat around waiting, and nobody was showing up.  I assumed that it was the typical Ecuadorian lateness, and continued waiting, until Mafe showed up and said, “I don’t think anyone is going to be showing up,” and proceeded to tell me that something was up.

The police in the entire country were on strike and had blocked both bridges going into Samborondón because President Correa had signed a bill the previous day taking away police bonuses and limiting promotions to public servants.  Since there was no police vigilance in the city people were outside ransacking, breaking into shops, robbing homes, and taking whatever they wanted, and the police weren’t doing anything.  The school shuttles had stopped running, so people couldn’t leave or arrive to campus, and she pointed out that half of the student population had set up camp in the campus deli, which has a television, to keep up on what was going on.

It was already obvious that this day was going to be “special”.  I went back to the library, where my coworkers had also just found out about what was happening.  Nora called me shortly thereafter telling me that the school had called and told them to come pick up the girls because they were sending everyone home, and she wanted me to get on the next school bus to get to the apartment, but I told her that the buses weren’t running.  I assured her that we were safe here, since security is high on campus and you need a key card to get through the iron gates, we had food and water, and everything was calm.  In reality I think that we were probably in the safest place possible.

Everyone just kind of hung out doing their work, checking the news, then Lena came in and said that HR had told everyone to get home whatever way they could.  I ended up catching a ride with Rosana, whose sister came to pick her up, and got home about noon.

The rest of the day we all stayed glued to the news, locked inside.  Images started circulating on the TV and internet of the president getting defensive and shouting at the protesters, “You want to kill me?  Here!  Here I am!” which, needless to say but I will, seemed a little over-the-top.  The protesters started throwing tear gas at the president, and he ended up being taken to the hospital for asphyxiation.  Contradicting reports started coming in, some saying that the president was being held captive in the hospital while others said that he was being well-guarded.  Assault and robbery continued throughout Quito and Guayaquil.  I got word from a friend who lives in Guayaquil proper that her neighbor’s apartment had been broken into and cleared out.

Eventually I grew weary of all the craziness, so I took a nap, and by the time I woke up the order had gone out to block all news networks BUT the government-run network.  I got online and started checking the U.S. outlets, but only NPR and CNN had anything.  Everywhere else it was like nothing was going on.  We were able to watch the government-run network cover the meeting of the representatives of the OAS, who basically all condemned the “coup d’état”.  At this, Victoria got angry, and didn’t understand how everyone could support someone like Correa, and I explained that there was also the fact that they were trying to protect democracy and civil order, regardless of how the country’s personal feelings were toward Correa himself.

As background, the general consensus among almost everyone I spoke with, including Nora and Jorge, is that Correa is not that great a president, and just a little loopy.  Nora mentioned that there was a psychologist on the news just after he was elected who commented that he is not mentally stable enough to run a country.  Jorge was saying that they were going to put up signs in solidarity with the police forces.  Correa is buddies with Hugo Chavez and people say that he has sent the country a few steps back economically.  In fact I vaguely remember Prof. Fehlandt at MIIS mentioning to me before I left that Correa was trying to go down the same road as Chavez.  One comment I saw on NPR by an Ecuadorian said, “Before Correa we were poor, now with Correa we’re homeless.”  Of course Chavez came out and started telling the world that the U.S. was behind this whole thing, which is basically what he does anytime that there’s any type of crisis in Latin America.

Somewhere around this time I managed to call my dad, who hadn’t heard anything in the first place, so hadn’t been worried at all.  Though I did get an e-mail the next day from my aunt on behalf of my grandma asking to make sure I was OK.

It was announced that in Quito there would be a curfew, and the military would be cracking down on the population.  They basically took away the citizens’ right to assemble, which meant that church services could not gather and classes were suspended.  The rest of the afternoon we all stayed glued to the TV, until maybe 8 p.m. when it was announced that the block would be taken off of the news networks in order to cover the “rescue” of President Correa by the military, which is still supporting the president.

It was a pretty scary thing to watch.  The journalists were pretty much plastered to the ground, finding any angle they could while the sound of rubber bullets and not-so-rubber bullets sounded in the background.  At one point the military flooded the hospital and 3 cars drove in, how among so much fire I’m still not sure.  In one of those cars President Correa was taken out and the military swarmed around the cars as they drove out.

The gunfire really picked up at that point, and suddenly you could see a person stumble and fly over a small embankment and just lay there.  For a moment he struggled, then just lay there.  It seemed like forever before anyone showed up to help him, and they started swarming around him, picked him up and carried him to the hospital.

The president was taken back to the presidential palace, and made a short emotional speech from the top balcony to all his supporters who had gathered in the plaza.

At this point I went to bed, and woke up the next morning to hear the normal movement of cars outside, plus some miscellaneous helicopter sounds that aren’t usually there.  Jorge was able to go out and buy groceries like normal, we decided that we would still have vespers that evening and church the following day, and since then life has basically gone back to normal.  The conference in Quito where I’ll be interpreting hasn’t been moved or canceled, and I’m going to buy my plane ticket today to get there.  Reports have been popping up that this has all been a big publicity stunt by Correa, whose approval ratings have plummeted.  It is especially pointed out that he was never held captive, and doctors from the hospital have pointed out that he had his security detail around him at all times, besides the fact that he was in the military hospital and the military was still in support of him.

So yeah, we’re ok and life is back to normal…