Sunday, June 24, 2007

In Which Claudia Goes on a Long Journey and Falls Off a Horse and Leaves her Camera Under a Tree and Finds it Again

This spring, I did some workshops with a group of jovenes in a community outside of Cuenca called Sayausí. Last week, I was invited to go with the priest from there and a couple of teenagers to go visit a remote community in the mountains, out of the reach of telephone service, running water or anything outside of the most basic electricity. There was a wedding and a baptism, and a meeting to talk about building a road. We went on horseback, which was interesting considering that I once went on a trail ride in, um 1994. Despite one or two moments where I was cantoring across a meadow in which I felt like I was in Lord of the Rings, riding the horse without any idea what I was doing was hard. And coming back, going down steep slippery rocks, the horse jumped and I leaned forward and over I went, right over his head. Fortunately I clung to his neck and didn´t hit anything. When I got back to the road, I had to make a pit stop in the woods to use the bathroom (bear with me here, its relevant to the storyline) which I did in a hurry because we were trying to leave. I had to rush back to my office to check in on a taller I planned, where I discovered that my much beloved camera was not with me. It took me a second to piece it all together, but I knew that it had fallen off my belt loop in the middle of Cajas National Park when I was squatted under a tree. So this morning, I bribed my friend Pablo, with a promise of pancakes after, to go out into the mountains. A quick trip by bus out there and back again. I didn´t want to think about how irresponsible and horrible I was going to feel if the camera wasn´t there. But it had to be. It took us two hours to find a bus out to Cajas, every second I was looking up at the clouds hanging over the mountains and imagining little water droplets condensing inside the plastic bag that held my camera. It was ridiculous taking a forty minute bus ride out in the wilderness to look for a camera under one particular tree. But we got a bus and it dropped us off right in front of the tree in question.

And there it was, lying right where I left it. It worked and everything. If it sounds too incredible to believe, I should mention that Cajas is a spooky often deserted place, and there are millions of corners in which things that fall could sit undisturbed for all time. Pablo and I rode back to Cuenca in a pickup truck and watched the mist covered hills go by, and give way first to high green slopes and then the hustle of Sayausí.

Now, I´m leaving out the real part, which was the visit to the community. The women cooking dusk til dawn for all the people that rode in for the fiesta, the smell of smoke from the wood fire on the floor. The incredible succession of food I was offered because I was a guest who came with the padrecito, the aguitas of cinammon and herbs that they gave us to warm us up, the grinding poverty that the community lives in, the stunning rugged land, the problem posed by a toilet unconnected to any sort of plumbing that at least 15 people had used. I want to say more, but I´m processing everything I saw, everything that everyone said to me, the people who were extraordinarily warm, the ones who were more guarded, how much of an outsider I felt, how much of a gringo I felt. How I ate chicken, beef, rice, yucca, guinea pig, potatoes, eggs, habas, everything fresh, everything made from scratch.

So more when I can.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Tony, Tony, Tony

The Sopranos is coming to an end shortly and I´m not going to see it, but will wait til I can buy the entire season, and spend one sordid, darkened weekend, soaking it all up.

The actor gave an interview on the end of the saga.

"Nursing coffee from a foam cup, he shares nearly an hour in agreeable give-and-take, only drawing the line when one too many questions delves into his acting technique: "Oh, please! Who gives a (crap)!" he scoffs. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be abrupt.""

What a freaking nice guy. A friend of mine who shared my passion for the New Jersey family once found herself in an elevator with James Gandolfini on the west side of Manhattan. She commented favorable on his banter with a third person in the elevator. Obviously part of the appeal of the character is the nice guy warring with the bad man, inside.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

How I´m Feeling

For so many months I had nothing to do, and I was busy running around finding places I could plug in, and within a series of weeks all of that work came to fruition and I found myself resolutely overcomitted. It´s good, but not sustainable, for me, or for the folks I working with.
I tried to do the human knot in my jovenes group saturday and couldn´t help them get out of it. We spent like ten minutes standing there looking confused, them totally unenthused and finally I was like, do you kids want to do something else?

I found out afterwards there´s a solution to the human knot, a technique to helping people solve it, in the one manual we have that I didn´t think to consult. When they issued me my duct tape the U. S. Peace Corps forgot to mention the solution to the human knot.

(The Peace Corps doesn´t really issue us duct tape. I had to buy mine.)

I´m happy to have stuff to do, but now worried about not doing it well enough, not being so focused on one thing because I am doing too much, not doing things sustainably, having everyone depend on me too much. Losing patience with people and demotivating them instead of motivating them. That kind of thing.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Go Tarheels!

From the New Hampshire Democratic Primary Presidential Debate Transcript

John Edwards:

"But what this global war on terror bumper sticker -- political slogan, that's all it is, all it's ever been -- was intended to do was for George Bush to use it to justify everything he does: the ongoing war in Iraq, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, spying on Americans, torture. None of those things are OK. They are not the United States of America."

I don´t know man. I like Obama, but if Edwards keeps saying stuff like that, he´s gonna get my vote.

Just saying.


I started working out three weeks ago. I re-joined the gym in my neighborhood and have been alternating shoulders/back, pecs, and legs. I´m often the only woman in the gym. And we are in Latin America where, even more than in the States, the gym is a male environ. This leads to lots of interactions that I take way more personally than I should. Why is the trainer having me work out with little four lb pink weights, for example? Or why is that man trying to help me unload these weights when its perfectly obvious I can do it myself? Why did that guy saludar a my male friend and not saludar a me. There is an art to being nice to girls who are (trying to) pump iron that walks the delicate line between being helpful to someone who may only have a vague idea what they are doing, and being a paternalistic jerk. But after one particular work out, where I didn´t feel good at all afterwards, and I hated everyone in the gym, I sternly told myself, like my shrink used to say, "well you just have to keep going until it gets more comfortable."

Did I go this morning, when I was awake at 6:45? No I did not. But I have hopes for tomorrow.