"Not all those who wander are lost." – J.R.R. Tolkien


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!

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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…

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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!!!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.


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