Thursday, June 29, 2006


When you are adjusting to a new place, especially when its foreign and strange, you are often so precoccupied with the details that you can´t really turn your attention to everything going on around you. The little questions and preoccupations of getting settled take away from the larger ability to soak up every thing happening around you.

Today is the festival of San Pedro here and indigenous groups from cities surrounding Cayambe have come to dance in a parade and attend the fiesta. I´m sitting in the internet cafe listening to Andean music playing outside and watching the groups go by in their brightly colored outfits. (Yes, I realize the this is the place where normal, enterprising North Americans would post a beautiful photo, but I´m a dinosaur apparently and didn´t bother with a digital camera. Whatever.)

The PC volunteers in Cayambe move through the city like a big amoeba with lots of little parts floating through the city. When the little amoebas run into each other, they become a large one, moving together tables in restaurants, congregating on the corners, comparing notes.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Sunday, June 25, 2006


OK, so I made it through staging in DC, a thousand super excited volunteers meeting us at the airport, a night in Quito at a youth hostel with everyone dropping and sucking down bottles of water to help deal with the elevation, and out arrival and two solid days of meetings at a training center in Cayambe. Yesterday, our small group facilitator-spanish instructor took us to our host families for the duration of our training. Cayambe is beautiful, surrounded by green sloping mountains, and crowned by the a snow covered volcanoe. I´m in training with rural health volunteers who went off to more remote villages, but since I am in the Jovenes y Familias, we are city based. My host family is two parents with one six year old daughter and the parents are close to my age, so that will be nice I think. I felt pretty schlubby yesterday showing up in hiking boots and wrinkled pants, when my host ¨mother¨ was so elegant, and I was happy to unpack and have access to more of my luggage and clothes. I have what would not be considered a typical Peace Corps set-up, it´s a huge bedroom with a private bath and lots of light and space.

Today is the Ecuador-England game, and one of our Peace Corps tareas is to watch it with our family. Pfft. As if I would do anything else.

There´s lots more to say of course, how the arrival event, rather ominously named I think, felt sort of like this elaborate long term camp, how wierd it feels to be here now with all the little details of moving away from New York dogging me to the day before I left the country and now to be here, with limited email access and limited ability to do anything about anything that goes wrong, how good it feels to be here, living in South America, doing this thing that I have been wanting to do forever.

The other thing to mention is that my spanish sucks. It´s a great disappointment given the number of years I have devoted to learning it, but it has to be said. They did a little interview with us and places us in groups, and I was sort of miffed to have been placed in Intermedio Medio, which is exactly in the middle. But a couple hours with my host family verified for me that even though I might attempt a fancy pluscaimperfecto construction and pull it off from time to time, basic past tense conjugations still sometime confound me. Damn it all. I guess that is why I am here.

There are internet cafes here in town, so I´ll definitely get in to check on them every few days. Stay tuned for updates.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Business Casual

The Peace Corps is making a push to make their volunteers dress better so we have had lots of lectures about collared t-shirts and the perils of jeans when we get off the airplane in Quito. I'm surrounded by a sea of freshly scrubbed young adults with alarmingly large piles of luggage. We go to the airport in just a few minutes.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Batten down the hatches

My apartment seems to have been sublet, my cat is deposited in my parents' home, and I've gotten through orientation in a Crystal City, Virginia hotel. We are off to Ecuador tomorrow.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Mad Feline

So one of the major narrative lines of the last few months has been where my cat George was going to go to when I go to Ecuador. When my parents offered to take him as a solution of last resort, I don't think that they actually realized that last resorts were what we were going to be dealing with, but that is in fact what happened. This all sounds well and good on the face of it, but over the years, George has proved to be, how do you say it...terrifying. He is often sweet and cuddly, but there are times when you would swear that you were in a Stephen King movie where the force of darkness have taken over in the shape of my 20 lb. black cat. I usually throw him in the other room and after a little while he goes back to being a normal animal, but it made him a sort of tough sell. Who wants a cat who will only jump on you and scratch you once and awhile?

So, I wasn't so jazzed about my parents dealing with this, but there you are. All other takers and options had exhausted themselves so I called up Mom and Dad to see if they were serious about their offer. It turns out they weren't really, but the nice thing about parents is that it often doesn't matter once the offer has been put on the table.

In this way it came to pass that I was in La Guardia airport with a gigantic backpack and a pet carrier that weighed almost as much. Everything was going fine so far, I had checked him in and paid the pet fee, and was working my way through security. Says the security agent to me, "Put the carrier on the x-ray machine belt and take him out to carry him through the checkpoint."

Is she kidding, I think to myself?

"Are you kidding?" I say.

I can't take him out, I explain. He'll get away and go running through the airport on a busy Friday afternoon. His hair will get all puffy and he'll scratch whoever tries to pick him up. It will be madness and people will be very angry with me. Security agents particularly.

"Speak to the supervisor," she says.

The supervisor is a nice guy who explains that there is no way the cat's bag is going on the plane unless it goes through the x-ray machine. I can send George on the little belt, but they don't recommend it. He offers to help though and takes the bag through for me, while big George, suddenly not so big anymore, clings to me with all four claws as we go through security without so much as a beep.

Monday, June 12, 2006


The apartment is starting to have the empty house feeling. Taking the rug out was the really dramatic step. I also cleared the refrigerator out of any food that I might not be able to eat in the next four days. Decontructing my home and pulling my roots out of the ground is lonely work. And I haven't even left the country.

Sweet sorrow

Leaving somewhere you have loved isn't really sweet or sorrowful, it's jittery and irritating. You have a thousand things to do before you go. Bunches of little tasks that if you somehow omit will have grave consequences for your credit, or your proprietary lease, or at least your good name among your friends. I've had several very lovely goodbye celebrations, some greatly vaunted and some more low-key. Tonight was the goodbye event for the bulk of my friends and lots of people had stuff going on and didn't make it. In some ways it was a relief that it stayed small though and the time that I did have with folks was balanced and intimate. I drank too much Hoegaarden and went looking for dessert in a bakery that was just there a few months ago. Now its a sushi place. A sign that it is time to get going?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

FIFA Madness

The truth is that I love the World Cup. I don't understand the rules, but having travelled through Ireland, Holland, Italy, and Mexico during two tournaments makes me realize that the excitement is irresistable. It's so much fun, and way better than the Olympics because people all over the world get crazy about football.

Pigeon Toes provides and on the ground view of Ecuador after they won a game on the first day or the tournament. Hopefully they will stay in the game long enough for me to get there.


I have a wierd attachment to stuff. There is nothing like packing up your apartment to remind you of the irrational habits we have when it comes to our personal possessions. I am guilty of keeping little things around, not because I am thrifty or want to avoid waste, but because items that touched someone's hands mean that the person is not so far away from you, even if they have passed on, or moved on. The washcloth that I am taking to Ecuador was purchased for me at the Bodyshop at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota by my first girlfriend in 1992. I haven't heard from her since 1994, but I still have this thoughtful little thing she bought for me. It has dolphins on it.

So on one hand, I am a little bit of a pack rat. I keep many things around for way too long. Everyone once awhile, I am vindicated when something that I have kept stuck in a box somewhere comes in handy in practical way. The big padlock my father and I bought to move to New York in 1998 sat in my tool box unused for eight years until I produced it to lock my handy storage space in this building, saving, marvel of marvels, a trip to the hardware store. Because I am a packrat, however, I obsess about finding the right home for the most mundane items, and its not just because if people take things away then I have less to carry to the Goodwill store. I want things to have the right home, and to be of use to the right person. People come to my apartment and find they can't leave empty handed. Lately, friends have been departing under duress with salad bowls, spice racks, the microwave, the toaster oven. One neighbor furnished her daughter's kitchen with the stuff I was getting rid of. Whether her daughter actually wants it or not remains to be seen.

Another friend actually wanted my shower curtains and I threw in a couple towels into the bargain. One of the towels was the sky blue one that my grandmother gave me soon after I moved into my first apartment in 1996. It's an everyday item, but I look at it and remember the bathroom in her house in Hickory, North Carolina, which is no longer standing. How it smelled, how the wood paneling in that room looked, how the door scraped against the dropped ceiling when you opened it all the way. I dropped it into box with everything else I was sending her, and let go of that palpable link to my grandmother. It is a bath towel after all.

By way of my neighbor, I also sent the drill to my ex-boyfriend that he purchased jointly with me in a fit of generosity during the long August afternoon when he helped me put up the closet shelves in this apartment. That was 2004. He's recently married now, so I suppose it functions as a sort of quasi wedding present, although really it's half his, so its not much of a gift. Call it a palpable link to me. A drill. A practical reminder of what turned out to be a hopelessly impractical relationship.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Boxes upon boxes

I'm surrounded by piles of things, boxes stacked in the closet, old clothes to be given away thrown behind the bed, my luggage with an assortment of things tossed in so I won't forget to pack them are occupying the bulk of my living room floor. Files that must be left with my family and my lawyer need to be organized.

I run from excitement to panic in one afternoon, hell in one hour.