Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Warts and all

This is ridiculously Peace Corp-ish post.

I have a wart. On the bottom of my foot. I think its a plantar wart, the one caused by a virus. It bears a striking resemblance to one I had when I was a child which just went away on its own. But sometime during the early 00´s (how does one read that, the early naught´s?) I developed another one. And it was here to stay. I had my fancy upper west side podiatrist freeze it off, over two sessions, for which I am sure he billed my insurance company handsomely. So you all don´t think I´m an absolute lunatic, I won´t share how much pleasure I derived from having something frozen off and then dug out of my foot with a scalpel. Well, oops, I kind of gave it away there. My foot was baby soft for maybe six weeks and then its started to come back and it was even bigger and more crater like than ever.

I had come to peace with the wart. I even kind of liked it. It was always there tucked away on the bottom of my foot, not on my hands or anything where anyone could actually see it. It doesn´t hurt. It doesn´t intefere with the ever important task of walking, like my flat arches or my strained tendons do.

The thing is last week I noticed it was growing. There were a couple little baby warts around it, and it seems to have an adjoining friend. I already know the futility of hi tech solutions, so I was open to other suggestions. In the Peace Corps they tell us to strangle it. Cover it with duct tape so the virus can´t breathe, they say. Because all the health care protocols of the Peace Corps is centralized through a medical office in Washington DC that oversees medical officers for every post, this means that young americans all over the world are wrapping their feet in duct tape and running out to give talks on cow castration or self esteem. One wart I could deal with, but multiple ones enter into the realm of gross. So yesterday I wrapped a huge piece of duct tape around my foot and ran out to give a workshop on parenting.

I´ll refrain from keeping you posted.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

That email you should never send

Yesterday just seemed to be the day. I wrote that email to my ex that I had been thinking maybe I should send. You know that email. The one where you say all the stuff you miss about him, all the stuff you are still mad about, all the things that remind you of him (he is also from South America although, mercifully, not from Ecuador.) And then I hit send.

And I immediately regretted it. Silence had seemed so safe and so comfortable. The thing is that silence is a lot of freaking work. You have to steel yourself to stay angry, stew to sustain your righteous indignation, and hold yourself apart to remove yourself from their sphere. And I guess yesterday it just seemed like it didn´t vale la pena.

And when I sent it, I remembered the pain, the anxiety, and the thrill of those months. It´s funny how you miss that pain of being in love with someone, and when you open the door to that person who made you so sad, the pain feels good, the way it feels good to worry an infected hangnail. It´s good to remember someone can make you feel that way. Instead of the vicarious, muted feeling of watching friends in love, when you yourself are solita.

UPDATED: One other thing I should add is that I received a kind and thoughtful response from the young man in question. It was definitely the right thing. I have to give credit where credit is due.

Weigh in

Hanging in there at 65 kg. No less, but no more either. Started counting calories yesterday again, which worked fine until about 2 pm when I went to the post office. There I found that Erik sent me a package with the best cookies in the world. And everything went to hell. Fortunately they are almost gone.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Vuelve corazon a mi lado

Today was cloudy and cold (relatively speaking) and I spent that day in the house, drinking endless pots of coffee, listening to Mana and preparing a workshop on sexually transmitted disease. I took a nap at mid-day. It was luxurious til the sun came out and then I got cabin fever and wondered where my friends were.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Just happy

Its a beautiful day, kind of like spring, if we had it here, which we really don´t. I had the nicest vibe going today, lots of work to do (including a workshop on HIV with pregnant mothers that I can´t quite get nailed down.) My friend Andy, who I love so dearly, visiting from the States. I have been introducing him to new friends from here and we have been drinking the bourbon he brought me and talking our heads off. When you see yourself through your friends´ eyes you suddenly become aware of the sense of peace and well-being that you give off when you are happy somewhere. And because we are both doing well, he in a PhD program with a high powered job and I living in Latin America, we have fallen into this comfortable little rhythm during his visit here, which is much too short. It is easy to be together, and it hasn´t always been like that.

Don´t freak out, Mom and Dad. After having lunch with him, I walked along the river from the center back to my office and thought to myself: what if I never went home?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Feliz Dia

I got a text message from a co-worker at 8:30 saying Happy Day (in Spanish) and had to stop and think what on earth my he was talking about. It is International Women´s Day (IWD), observed in Ecuador by men (in the non-profit world at least) wishing women a good day, in honor of us being women. It bears saying that this isn´t the first time I´ve found myself in another country, observing the holiday. 13 years ago today I was a college student in Northern Ireland and I helped plan an event, which I vaguely remember involving a Tai Chi demonstration and little sandwiches. (The highlight of that was that I got to go out and illegally flypaste our posters all over Derry, Northern Ireland, with my punkie friend Leah, on whom I had a tremendous crush.) Anyhow, today I started wondering today why on no one in the states ever seems to remember March 8, at least outside of explicitely feminist places like the offices of NOW or NARAL.

Wikipedia had some insight:

"Started as a political event, the holiday blended in the culture of many countries (primarily Russia and the countries of former Soviet bloc). In some celebrations, the day lost its political flavour, and became simply an occasion for men to express their sympathy and love to the women around them - somewhat similar to Western Mother's Day and St Valentine's Day mixed together. In others, however, the political and human rights theme as designated by the United Nations runs strong, and political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner....The first IWD was observed on 28 February 1909 in the United States following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America."

So, it´s a holiday started by American socialists, and was often celebrated in conjunction with commemorations of events important to American labor like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911. No wonder it doesn´t get any play in the mass media. Leaving aside the fact that the United States seems to be oblivious of a) its own social history and b) the global observance of women´s rights and talents, here are how IWD is observed throughout the world. Again from Wikipedia...

"In Italy, to celebrate the day, men give yellow mimosas to women. [1] [2]

In the UK, women take their work colleagues out to lunch.[citation needed]

In Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, the custom of giving women flowers still prevails. Women usually get gifts from their employers too.[citation needed]

In India, IWD holds a lot of significance. One can see a lot of celebrations going on on this day. This portrays the power of women in the modern era and how vital their role is in the society.[citation needed]

In 1975, which had been designated as International Women’s Year, the United Nations gave official sanction to and began sponsoring International Women's Day."

So, here is my suggestion, if there is a woman in your life, especially one who has been doing cool stuff for other women, in whatever form or political ideology that might take, do something nice to acknowledge that. We can all use a little encouragement these days.

Happy Women´s Day, Comrades.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Nasty, Brutish, and Short

So two things happened this weekend that were hard, although in both cases I found myself in the uncomfortable position of helpless spectator. One, the shelter for women in domestic violence situacions where I have just starting giving workshops on family relations and communication had a suicide in the facility. The details were bad (it was a young woman coming from a situation of extraordinary violence, a child who lived in the house found her, she had only been in the house a few days.) It was one of the those situations where there is nothing you can do but go to the service or give people hugs and try to stand in solidarity in the face of the reminder that people do horrible things to one another. The universe is a destructive and dangerous place. People who get lost and are damaged by something brutal beyond our imagining and must come to the conclusion that the pain of living is greater that the fear of dying.

Second, and this is somewhat my own doing, but on the same day, I found myself hopelessly involved in a nasty breakup of two friends here. One person not speaking to the other, one person being summarily thrown out, it was the really unpleasant time in which the relationship ends and the only way to manage the change is to be mean. I say its my own doing simply because sometimes when you are living in another country, you (OK, I) seek to develop the intimacy you lack in your family and friends by making yourself indispensable to those around you. Being a rock for one person, providing the focal point for a couple when there is a conversation that neither of them wants to have, you (OK, I) distract myself from my own demons. And then I realize that what I must avoid at all costs is to be alone in the same room with the two of them, if possible ever again. It´s terrible to have love come to an end, and in some ways even more unpleasant to watch.

Friday, March 02, 2007


I swore I wouldn´t check the scale on random days and torture and discourage myself with the fluctuations, but today I couldn´t help it. So a report is in order. I clocked in at exactly 65 kilograms, which is 143.3 lbs. Meaning that I lost 6.6 lbs. Which is certainly progress, albeit slow. Considering that I have 7.7 more to go. And of course the lower you drop, the less you can eat and still lose weight, at least according to what Weight Watchers said.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Radio Free

I was invited to speak on the radio this week about HIV in the province of Azuay. This is all well and good, I´ve been through media trainings, have a general idea how to craft a five point message and stick to it. The problem of course was that I was asked to speak in Spanish. It was a pretty favorable set up from the beginning, my friend was the host of the program, I knew what I was talking about.

It went fine. But I still choked on couple questions. There were a couple monents where I got this panicked look in my eyes that made my friend rephrase the question so he was sure I understood what he was asking. There were a few moments in which I couldn´t think of anything to say at all, but having my five point message helped because even if I couldn´t think of the answer for a question, I could always plug in something else that I wanted to say. The host swore up and down that he was happy with it, and my the family that I lived with during the fall sent me a text message to say that they thought it went well.

It highlights for me though, how slow a process this is, learning and mastering another language. You spend years and years studying, practicing, plunging yourself in to another context where you have to sink or swim, and still you reach points where your language capacity does not suffice. I still say stuff that doesn´t make any since on a regular basis because I am simply imprecise, I plug in the wrong pronouns or pronounce something funny, (in a language which has perhaps the most straighforward rules of pronunciation of all.)