Monday, January 29, 2007

The Weight

As everyone remembers, I sprained both my ankles this year and in the midst of that moved to Ecuador where people eat a lot of rice, potatoes and grilled meat. They sell lard in the grocery store here, with a little pig graphic smiling at the señoras. So per the traditional pattern for female peace corps volunteers, as well as according to all normal logic, I put on some of the weight that I once lost. One of the pictures in the book that Jessica brought me showed a picture of me taken on Halloween 2003 when I was at the very smallest I have ever been. If I remember my weight watchers records correctly I was probably 136 lbs. Hanging out in my bikini for a couple weeks reminded me that I do dislike how I look and how much I want to get back to that. And I live down the street from a gym that costs $10 a month, with all the fresh fruits and veggies I could imagine, for dirt cheap. I have nothing but a good setup for it.

So. I tell myself. I do remember everything I did to lose weight. I know how to do it all again. I know how to get into the mindset where to decline certain foods, to put something aside feels like a pleasure and not like something painful. I don´t have that much control over my work, how the Peace Corps treats me, whether I get projects off the ground or a bunch of other things going, but I do have control of what I eat. I bought a scale and filled my fridge with veggies and fruits. Saturday I started counting calories and made juice and drank it. I sat in a restaurant last night and refrained from eating until I got home because the only food they have left was plates of rice, beef, and fried eggs. I have to get back to where you break down the larger task to these tiny little decisions and over time they add up to this big, big change in your life.

Weigh in is Monday morning. I´ll start with counting calories this for a week. And hopefully then another. If it goes well. I´ll try to stick with it for three months and see where I am. I was pleased to find today that I am at 68 kg, which is 149.9 lbs, meaning I only gained about 10 lbs. Which is far from the end of the world.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

JB and Me


So I did not write for a long time because I was travelling with my friend Jessica who came to see me here in Ecuador. We went to the Galapagos and the beach and the subtropical cloud forest. Lots happened which I will run down quickly below. Yay Jessica!

Saturday, January 13. I go to Guayaquil to meet Jessica´s flight. The bus comes through the fog on the far side of Cajas National Park and the transitional zone opens green and lush at the foot of the Andes.

Sunday, January 14. I turn 34 years old and it doesn´t really bother me. We catch a ride to the airport with my friend Dara´s neighbor´s brother and then end up having to leave the airport to find the TAME airline cargo office to get the tickets to the cruise, where they promptly try to send us back to the airport without our cruise tickets and I wonder how normal tourists who weren´t acclimated to the Spanish would actually get to the islands.

We get to the boat and are all excited about our little bunk beds and tiny shower. There are twelve of us on the boat. For my birthday, Jessica give me a picture book of fotos that everyone contributed that she made on Snapfish (Thanks everyone!) and I get a little choked up. We go snorkling and explore Black Turtle Cove in the dinghy at sunset.

Monday, January 15. At dawn I peek out my porthole and see the red sands of Rabida Islands. We see sea lizards and boobies, blue footed and otherwise. We go snorkling again and I think that I might get sick in the water from all the sun and walking. But I see a little shark and a Galapagos penguin. Jessica and I play cuarenta, the ecuadorian card game, with the crew members and I finally think I understand the basic rules.

Tuesday January 16. We go to Darwin Bay and see more boobies, frigatebirds, sea lions. I tried to snorkle, but my gear was screwy and the visibility was bad I sat on the beach and watched the sea lions. We play more cuarenta.

Wednesday, January 17. We see turtles, turtles, turtles, more turtles at the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora. I remember why I don´t like tours, since it all becomes very impersonal and silly delivering us to the hotel and then to dinner. I´m sad that all the excitement of the boat is over and they play Keane in the restaurant and it makes me feel worse. We want to go out dancing, but neither of us can keep our eyes open.

Thursday, January 18. We see craters made by lava flow on the way to the airport. Jessica and I stand on Baltra island waiting for the bus to leave and take out last pictures of the island. We kill time eating patacones in the airport. Then there is the airport and the bus station and we find ourselves on a bus to Bahia de Carraquez, where we have to catch a boat to San Vicente, to catch a cab to our final destination, Canoa. It all works out perfectly though and at eleven pm we are seated at the bar drinking caipirinhas a block from the beach. I dance with the bartender to salsa esmereldeña but we are too sleepy to stay out late.

Friday January 19. Canoa is perfect. We sit on the beach, it never rains. The hotel is cheap and charming. I eat seafood encocado for every meal I can. The hotel offered a free cocktails for every bag of trash we pick up and I go out and try to collect trash, but the bag they had in mind is a giant plastic rice sack. I only fill up a third of it and the bartender laughs at me when I ask if it is enough for a free drink. It´s turns out to not be enough. We play cuarenta with the guys from the hotel and go out dancing with them, but Friday isn´t the big night in Canoa and we go home early. We sit at the hotel and play bau, Jessica´s game from Tanzania, which makes everyone want to talk to us. I think about how maybe I should figure out how long it will take the get to the Peace Corps meeting at which I am expected on Monday

Saturday, January 20. Canoa is still perfect. We sit on the beach for another entire day. University students that are trying to learn English come to our little tent and give us interviews so they can practice their English and take our pictures. At dinner, I start asking about how to get to Mindo. There is no bus directly there, naturally, but we can go to Pedernales, and catch a bus to Santo Domingo de los Colorados. From there we can catch another bus to Mindo. The dreadful realization that we have to leave the next day dawns on us. Jessica and I sit at our table feeling very sad. We played cuarenta again, but don´t go out for the big night in Canoa. We are mourning the end of the beach.

Sunday, January 21. We leave Canoa. Each leg of the trip takes more time than we expected. In Santo Domingo, it starts to rain. Really hard. The bus is like a sauna and the aisles are filled with people. We are seated by a window that doesn´t open. Eventually we get out of the hottest part of the coast. A guy leans over and starts asking us trivia questions about spicy food and seahorses. We have out own giant tortoise trivia, fresh from the Charles Darwin Research Station.

UPDATED: Picking up with the same post...

Monday, January 22. We started out at a room at the hotel in Mindo which we thought was kind of bad, but when we get moved into our official room, its in the shed where they used to have frogs on display behind the swimming pool. I am in the Peace Corps, so feel that I shouldn´t really complain but I feel bad for Jessica who is on here vacation. She is a trooper and meets all my Peace Corps pals. We go to a bar and dance a lot and get in late, but somehow I get up in time to shower and eat before my presentation.

Tuesday, January 23. I give a presentation on doing education on homophobia with adolescents. I haven´t technically done much of this, so my credentials were kind of dubious, but it is pretty well received and people like my picture of the gay penguins in Central Park.

Wednesday, January 24. I finish my meeting and we head to Quito to catch a bus home. We wanted to fly, but the Quito-Cuenca flight was too expensive for even Jessica with a real job and everything to justify. We have dinner with Jordan and Risa and Angie in El Mariscal and then desert at Cafecito and the catch our bus at eleven. At three pm we wake up next to a rock outcropping because a semi has jack-knifed in the road and the bus sits there for the next three hours. Jessica thinks we are getting robbed, but I managed to sleep through most of the dark, still wee hours. Despite the delay, we get into Cuenca by eleven and have time to explore the city. Jessica thinks Cuenca is just as beautiful as I said it was.

Thursday, January 25. We go to the thermal springs in Baños and chat with yet another pair of Ecuadorians. Jessica is keeping a list of guys she turned down and she estimates this takes her up to five. (Or was it more? She had one more than me.) We get manicures and run to the grocery store and Jmy friends Julio and Pablo come over for drinks. We drink lots of wine and dance a little.

Friday, January 26. I make an appearance at my office which is mercifully short. We go to Gualeceo and Chordeleg, near Cuenca and we both find loads of beautiful jewelry, although Jessica buys way more than I do. We both fall asleep on the bus back into Cuenca and when we get into a cab in the bus station, the streets are wet and shiny and the sun has come out. I have that wierd after-nap feeling you get when you live with someone or spend a lot of time with them, like where you are or what you are doing isn´t really your life per se, rather the backdrop for the movie about your friendship. Like here we are together in the cab in Cuenca which we just add to all the other memories of New York, Boston, and wherever else we may find ourselves hanging out some day. Before we go to sleep, we play bau and it makes me wish we were still at the beach.

Saturday, January 27. Jessica has an 11:30 flight from Guayaquil, so I get up early to get her on a bus there. The bus leaves promptly at 5:05 and I go home and sleep more before going to work.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Nothing Changes on New Year´s Day

New Year´s Day in Cuenca is stunning, clear skies, big fluffy clouds, the hills are blue, the trees are a sparkling green. All this notwithstanding, I woke up this morning and realized that in fourteen days I will turn 34. Getting older has never been what bothered me, but this year, wow. It sucks. Despite all of the lovely things about being here, the list of things I have accomplished is dangerously short. I´m going back to work tomorrow with a list of ambitious projects in hand and no particular idea about how to make any of them real, except for the ones that involve me showing up and sort of helping out.