Thursday, September 28, 2006


When you are getting used to being in a foreign country I find its the little things that tip the scale and set you off, allowing you to release the tension that builds up from not being able to communicate like you want to and not understanding everything going on around you. When I spent two weeks living with a family in Guatemala, it was the front door and not being able to open it and having to get the son in the family to explain it to me, and him not being willing to do it until he corrected my pronunciation of the verb abrir to his satisfaction.

In Cuenca, it was the haircut.

Despite how exciting the work that my organization does is, it remains to be come exciting for me. So there are several days when I have showed up at the office and done email all day or worse yet, waited for the one computer with internet to become free all day. Everytime I think that I have gotten settled into a project or a responsibility, it evaporates into nothing, so Monday when I got to office to find no one but the secretary there, I decided to walk up the street to get a haircut. The guy was remarkably unfriendly, and didn´t take my requests well. I jumped out of the chair as he was about to blow dry into some sort of dreadful puff on top of my head. The truth is, its not a terrible haircut, but it isn´t quite what I wanted. But I didn´t have that perspective walking back to the office. I just kept tearing up at the frustration of not being able to communicate, not knowing what on earth I was doing here. For the first time, earlier this week, I thought about what it would be like to just go home.

Now despite the fact that work has not taken off, I am lucky to be working with very sweet people. Two of the lovely young women that work in the office saw that I was upset about something and locked themselves in with me and asked me what was wrong. Without me even being very specific about what was making me upset, they guessed the gist and they promised me that I was not inutil, on the contrary I was very util, and said I should think of them like sisters and we would all go out to lunch on Wednesday. (When Wednesday came it was evident that one of them had forgotten and the other was nowhere to be found, but by then I had recovered my equanimity, and it didn´t matter so much whether we had lunch or not.)

It turns out that I am going to help give a workshop on Saturday, so that has had me feeling better all week. Plus its still beautiful here. I sit on the bus and look at the sunset behind the mountains and how the light falls on the river and I think - I live here. I live in this beautiful place.

(Yes Sarah I will get some pictures up soon)

Saturday, September 23, 2006


So as everyone knows pretty much, I had a sprained ankle that didn´t take care of back in April which hung on for weeks and weeks and made getting ready to move to South America more than an ordeal than it should have been. That turned out to be fortuitous because when I sprained my other ankle falling on some stairs a couple weeks ago, I took it easy and tried to take pretty good care of it. I went to the doctor, stayed home for a few days, cut down on walking a lot and now its definitely on the mend, although still a little delicate.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Living on 72nd Street

September 10, 2006 is a very important day because on that day 72 years ago in Elkin, NC, my mom, Doris Virginia Abernethy was born. Doris Virgina is someone whom without which I wouldn´t 1) exist or 2) be nearly so smart, interesting, and well mannered as I managed to be.

I was trying to find all the interesting things that happened 72 years ago but it turns out really, Mom coming into the world is pretty much at the top of the list, for those who know her at least.

For example, Roger Marris, home run champ for the New York Yankees, was born. He hit 61 home runs in 1961 and was the American League MVP in 1960 and 1961.

Charles Kurault, whose voice graced our home every Sunday morning was also born on this day. That´s a nice one actually.

Other interesting things that happened on other September 10´s include:
In 1929, Arnold Palmer was born. He won PGA Golfer of the Year in 1960 and 1962.

In 1608, John Smith was elected President of Jamestown colony council, VA. Well thank goodness that happened. Whew.

Anyhow, Happy Birthday, Mommy! I miss you when I am far away.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Me Talk Pretty One Day

So, all in all this week has been pretty exciting at my job. I sat in on a very well-done training on HIV Counseling and learned where all the prostibulos are in Cuenca (prostitution is legal here) . I got invited to a meeting to help plan the first Miss Gay Ecuador, and my offer to find information on domestic violence interventions for a grant proposal was eagerly accepted.

My colleagues are kind, affectionate, respectful to one another, hardworking, and principled. I want all of them to really like me, and they seem to, but the truth is they must get tired of me. I don´t understand jokes until the third telling, miss comments addressed to me, nod and smile when a substantive answer is expected, and use awkward overly formal or insufficiently respectful tones of address on a regular basis. I know I´m only in my third month here, but I miss being able to tell jokes, engage in witty repartèe, and detect 89% of what is going on around me.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Up to lots of stuff

So, on the third day with my organization, I cleared plans organize a series of workshops with a women´s group in Cuenca and got myself invited to three meetings. So work is now off to a pretty good start.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


By the way, I did go back the next day and buy a little carton of figs, and they were pretty delicious. I ate almost the entire thing though, which had a dramatic effect on my digestive system. Is this OK to talk about? I just spent the last two months hearing about 46 Peace Corps volunteers digestive tracts, so my social cues may be sort of skewed. The take home message is that if you eat fifteen figs, plan accordingly.

Viva La Revolución

My first day of official work was yesterday and my initial reaction, despite everything the Peace Corps told me about slowing down and lowering my expectations, I kind of freaked out at the end of the day. I was convinced that they were going to give me nothing to do and I would be sitting at an empty desk reading the newspaper for the next two years. I realize that this is overreacting perhaps but in a busy NGO where everyone has too much to do, it does take some wherewithal to stop what you are doing and find a job for an intern, no matter how lista they might be. So we shall see how that goes.

Today, I went with my counterpart Jorge to watch him give a workshop in Azogues, which is a smaller city down the road from Cuenca. Azogues is, according to Jorge, a socialist stronghold and there are several official posters of Che Guevara and an Avenida Che Guevara. There is also a restaurant called Che, which is dark and subversive looking, (and thus really intriguing, lest I be misunderstood.) It is outfitted with all sorts of posters and memorabilia of Che. When I commented favorably on it, Jorge allowed that it was cool, but pointed out that it did not make much sense, because they serve tacos, rather than Argentinian or Cuban food.

-But are they good tacos?, I asked and Jorge had to allow that they were, however inconsistent with the revolution chic motif they might be.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

See below

A post on immigration that I started last week is below, dated August 30. So I have been writing!