Saturday, October 28, 2006

At long last...Pictures

Here is the house where I was living till last week. Sorry its sideways, I´ll work on getting it right side up, right now I´m working with a disk where the pictures are burned so I can´t edit it to change the orientation. Hush, there is nothing wrong with my advantix!

Sideways again, but the hallway outside of my room until last week.

This is the view from the river of the historic district

This is from a little bit outside of the historic district viewing the mountains to the west.

This is from the Parque Paraiso.


I am going to be Samantha from Sex and the City for Halloween. That´s Tuesday and true to form I started looking for a costume today. I found a wig that I could rent reasonably ($12) and its closer to my actual hair color than to the bombshell blond I was going for but in the end that may look marginally less ridiculous. The wig certainly has thicker, bouncier locks than mine does when its long. Still I am afraid that instead of resembling Samantha I would resemble Claudia in a wig. The HBO homepage provides some advice:

Samantha's high-power lifestyle demands a wardrobe ready to make a statement at every occasion. For work, she gravitates towards body-accentuating suits in bold colors and at night she turns up the volume with racy ensembles that show off her bombshell figure and personality.

I found one skirt that might work, but the drapey yet elegant top I had in mind that would suddently transform me from slouchy Peace Corps volunteer into an elegant socialite was nowhere to be found. Another key thing seemed to be shoes, which for a size ten woman in Ecuador, is no small task. I dipped into savings to buy classic black pumps, rationalizing that a) they were good quality and I would wear them anytime I needed dress shoes for a very good while and b) they were 50% off so while they are high priced for a PCV, were I to find them in New York, they would be a steal.

If the whole thing isn´t too embarrasing, I will try to post some pictures.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Election Madness

OK, so some people might wonder whether since there was a presidential election here this month, whether I might have paid attention to it or have any observations on it. For that type of thing I direct you over to Jordan´s page, especially here and here for excellent gringo analysis on what came to pass and what people say that it might mean.

Election Madness

OK, so some people might wonder whether since there was a presidential election here this month, whether I might have paid attention to it or have any observations on it. For that type of thing I direct you over to Jordan´s page, especially here and here for excellent gringo analysis or what came to pass and what people say that it might mean.

Some Nice Person´s Picture # 2

Here is Ingapirca. The motorcross bike racing was off to the left.

Some Nice Person´s Picture # 1

This is Santa Ana and Las Peñas in Guayaquil. The pastel colored houses are part of a tourist development where they installed nice sidewalks and matching signs in all the businesses. The walk takes you up to the lighthouse from where you can see the whole hot hazy city. You can see to the left the unrefurbished part of the neighborhood which is more like the real Guayaquil.

G-Town and Other Adventures

I just spent half an hour writing a witty entry about all the cool stuff I got to do when my friend Leigh was here in town studying spanish . And then I got all fancy and tried to load some pictures from the internet of places that we went (yes I realize that is cheesy and no I haven´t developed any of my film digitally yet) and then I lost my whole entry. Jokes and all.

So, I´ll try this again, but if its not funny or interesting, just remember, the first draft was better. And it´s lost forever.

The first weekend we went out to Ingapirca to see Cañari and Incan ruins. There was a motorcross bicycle race going on across the valley in the actual town of Ingapirca, so while we were hearing from our tour guide about the daily life under the Incas, the sounds of Don Omar and Daddy Yankee were wafting over into the archeological site. The next day we went to the thermal baths that are outside of Cuenca. There are several places which offer access to thermal baths for a few dollars, but on the recommendation of Marty, a backpacker that was living for awhile in my house, we managed to pick the wrong place where none of the Cuencanos actually go. The dressing room hadn´t been changed since it was built in what looked like 1966. The water was lovely though and I haven´t gotten athlete´s foot yet, although Leigh did cut two fingers on the rocky bottom of the pool.

The next weekend we hopped on a plane and went to Guayaquil. It was the first time I had been to the coast and being in a hot, chaotic, gritty city was really welcome after Cuenca´s preciousness. (I mean I love it, but after awhile you´re just like, yeah, beautiful churches, beautiful mountains, got it. The truth is that I really like big cities, even ones that are slightly rough around the edges.) Leigh and I got locked in a stairwell for forty minutes and nearly got sunstroke walking up and down the Malecon 2000, which is the big fancy waterfront development that is impossibly nicer than much of anything else in the city, but we ate some good ceviche with patacones (green plaintains that are mashed and fried) and menestras (beans and rice) and pollo asado or grilled chicken. We also saw a big green iguana in the park.

I took the bus back from Guayaquil to Cuenca and went through vivid green rice fields and banana plantations, that eventually gave way to brown tree covered hills that precede the Andes. At sunset we were going through a little town, where the front doors of houses opened up onto the highway we were on, more or less and you could see people sitting outside, enjoying Sunday evening. I had one of those moments I periodically have where I feel this peace, this happiness at being here, away from the States, learning new stuff, meeting different kinds of people. The whole world is interesting and beautiful in its own way, just waiting for you to go and learn about it. And here I am.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The tagline say "Real Estate", so...

So i just moved in to my new apartment and out of the house/hostel where I was living before. I had a sad farewell with Doña Cecilia and the family that lives in the house, but living on my own, where a bunch of gringo Peace Corps volunteers aren´t constantly popping up and wanting me to go eat pizza with them, should help out with my Spanish and the ever challenging issue of cultural integration.

So, the apartment: First the good things. It´s down the road from where I work. It has big windows on three sides of the house. It has a big open kitchen and wood floors. It has the built in closets they have here, which saves me having to buy a bureau. It has a balcony. They installed an electric shower, which is way better than ancient, potentially leaky gas powered shower that that was there before, its adjacent to an Olympic swimming pool and a wine store, and I have a guest room. The downsides: It´s on a four lane street, which is a main thoroughfair for buses. It has lots of cheesy eighties touches, like a wooden banister and rather silly tile. It has an ugly bathrom. It has low ceilings. It was when I was weighing this particular desventaja that my friend Julie burst out laughing and told me I was such a New Yorker.

Well, yes.

I remembered that in los Estados Unidos I had mad high ceiling and no room for more than four people at any given time, so I can invite everyone over to my low ceilinged apartment and we can kind of crouch while we knosh over some elaborate spread on the open counter.

Yeah, this is what the Peace Corps is all about. Sacrifice.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Yep, things are as I left them

I am proud to say Starpower is my friend. That girl is funny. I quote

I was so heartened to read the Washington Post article, Three Retired Officers Demand Rumsfeld's Resignation, that, if I were to have published the story in The Starpower Times, I'd have called it Three Retired Officers Starpower Would Kiss on the Mouth. I'd even put up a picture (if they'd let me kiss them, that is). As well as an interactive flowchart of Rumsfeld's ceremonious firing, execution, and speedy descent to his homeland, Hell, to be re-seated at the left hand of Satan.


The day before we swore in, our Country Director told us that the next person who lost their cell phone, or had it robbed from them, might be sent home the make an example to other volunteers on carelessness. Last Friday, I was really pleased to realize that on the way home from the Supermaxi, I had left my phone in a taxi. There was just no other explanation and nothing to be done. When I called my phone, no one picked up, and I just had to resign myself to the fact that it was gone and I was going to have to go through the costly and painful process of replacing it through the Peace Corps. On Sunday I got a message from another volunteer, saying that someone had called them from my cell phone and wanted to return it to me. I should call my phone at noon the next day and be prepared to meet the person in front of the Supermaxi the next day in the afternoon. I immediately started to run a 102 degree temperature. The next day I could barely walk 3 blocks to the bank. The family I lived with went into action and promised to call my phone and go and collect it from whomever might have it. But no one answered when we called and it seemed like my phone might be within my grasp, but not to be returned. I rallied for long enough to go to the Supermaxi on the off chance that that cab driver in whose cab I left it was a) the person who had it and b) waiting in front of the store.

And so it was. The minute we got to the store the lone taxi in front of the stand looked awfully familiar. He had my cell phone and the pen I had been using in the cab and he returned both to me. He did not know how to use it so that was why he never answered it, but his daughter had called someone in my address book. So for a $15 reward, I lucked out big time.

I retired home happily to run another high fever and sing Fleetword Mac songs while curled up in my sleeping bag on the couch. Much better now, though. No fever and walking without a limp.


Today was election day in Ecuador and they are watching the results in the internet cafe. Well now they are watching a Tommy Lee Jones vehicle. Will be interesting to see the news tomorrow.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


So this week was a week of irritants, albeit slight, but they kind of added up. I antagonized the secretary where I work, launched breathlessly in the most respectful spanish into introductions with physicians and public officials only to be rebuffed in my request for time and information, lost expensive stuff in taxis, and had my spanish insulted to my face. All in a week´s work here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


This week is off to a good start. Stuff to do in the office. My ankle is noticeably better. Other highlights, or things worth mentioning at least, include

5. Cheap pirated DVD´s - You can get pretty much anything you want for $2 or less. I´ve been saving this indulgence for a raining day, but have my sights set on watching the Big Lebowski 15 times during the next year.

4. Election Fever - The Ecuadorian presidential election is in less than three weeks and there are huge posters everywhere you go. Campaign posters are never quite as slick here as they are in the states and I often feel sorry for some of the people who have patently frightening pictures of themselves plastered all over buildings. Also there are truck all over blasting popular pop music draped in the colors of one party or another.

3. Tortillas - Not like Mexican tortillas and not like the little potato pancakes that also have this name here. They are sort of like savory pancakes and you eat them with morocho which is like a sweet milk and rice drink.

2. Flowers - They grow them here and Cuenca has a beautiful little flower market just off the main park in the center. I bought flowers for the family I live with, a ginormous bunch of alstromeria for $2. Once I get my own place I am looking forward to getting flowers every week.

1. Nickname - Growing up I hated most inversions of my name, Claudette, Claudine, and especially Claude. I since mellowed to them and now I kind of like them. I have special Ecua nicknames here, which first I tolerated and now have come to appreciate. My host family in Cayambe called me Claudie, and folks here, the call me Clau. It makes me feel all cute.

UPDATED TO ADD: To be clear, I am still very opposed to Claude.