Back in 2005, I read this article about fanesca and Cuenca by Calvin Trillin, little knowing would one day live here. (My fellow gringa-in-Ecuador blogger Muerta de Risa also referenced this article last year around this time and I looked but I couldn´t find the post.) Anyhow, the article is funny and describes in loving detail many aspects of Cuenca that have come to be familiar to me. Trillin also bemoans his grasp of the Spanish language in a manner in which I really identify with. He says of his placement exam in the spanish school where he signed up for classes: "I’ve spent some time since then contemplating the possibility that I might be too old for the subjunctive." Amen to that. I prefer that my teacher never teach me the subjuntive if I can avoid it.
Apart from his adventures learning the language the article details a week of eating as much fanesca as he possibly can during Semana Santa. Fanesca is the traditional fish stew that is served during Holy Week and an especially big thing in Cuenca. I ate it this year in the domestic violence shelter where I give workshops. Jocelyn, mod in her white boots and her pink sweatshirt helped me celebrate it. Thus a short photo essay dedicated to our lunch together.
I found myself responsible for two cats and many plants belonging to friends who have been out of the country for awhile. The cats were easy, they came in when I came in, ate, lounged while I check my internet and went on their way when it was time for me to go. They are outdoor cats, and I have forgotten how lovely it is to be able to put a cat outside and know it will come home. The plants were another matter. I inherited the housesitting responsibilities from another friend who did not check the list of instructions and forgot an entire balcony of plants, which when I arrived were disturbingly brown. I did follow the instructions left by my friend Maria but still fear I may have overwatered them in my zeal to correct the problem. My anxiety about killing the plants of Maria (I cannot find the apostrophe on this computer) is made worse by the conversation she had where she announced she was going to hire someone she knew to come in and care for them, because she knew the person would understand the plants, know how to take care of the plants, and love for the plants. How I ended up with the responsibility is a bit mysterious, I am praying that she will not be too distraught.
It is not to worry anyone (read: Mom) but I have been depressed. My usual evening or so of angst having something to do with my period stretched into four days last week of not wanting to do much of anything. This was compounded by a series of events that led to me being entirely exasperated with my habits of dating, or not dating, not paying attention to people when they notice me, not following up on interest that I get from people, then bemoaning the lack of interest I get from people, and on top of it all devoting all my attention and energy to people who have no intention of dating me, and knowing its not optimal but at the same time being convinced that people I already know, people I already care for, are way more appealing than any stranger.
I spent a lot of time this week wondering why I am so screwed up. It freaking sucks.
I was walking at dusk yesterday with my friend Carolina and we saw two people snuggling in the street. One sees that all the time here, but it was notable because it was a elderly gentleman and a señora of at least sixty five years. To my eye they were from the campo or at least the outskirts of Cuenca, the woman was wearing the traditional skirt that campesina women wear and the gentleman had was dressed conservatively and humbly. They were completely and helplessly in love, the woman gazing up into his eyes while he caressed her neck. It was a moment worthy of Amelie.
It was really exciting when my Dad came and got me out of sixth grade to go down the the courthouse plaza and see Geraldine Ferraro speaking as a vice-presidential candidate. But lordie that memory sure has been eclipsed by her making an ass out of herself, saying that Obama is only having the success he is having because he is black.
Kevin Drum says it better than me:
"Implicit in Ferraro's statement is the idea that if Obama were a charismatic young white guy, there's no way he'd be getting any attention. And that's just plain crackers. Charismatic young John F. Kennedy won the presidency in 1960. His brother, charismatic young Robert F. Kennedy, attracted huge support in 1968 and might have become president as well if he hadn't been assassinated. Charismatic young Gary Hart nearly stole the 1984 Democratic nomination from Walter Mondale. And charismatic young Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992."
And then when people get angry at here, its racism. Yeah. Awesome.
Had a good meeting with my group yesterday, who one day woke up with the collective capacity to facilitate a meeting and delegate tasks, where before, they simply either couldn´t. I was really proud of them. The ones with the strong personalities, showed signs of reigning themselves in when they were spilling over. After weeks of really wondering what was going to happen with this process I have been involved in, I feel much more confident. I suppose I should enjoy it before the next wrinkle crops up.
Much to my mother´s chagrin and despite her best efforts, I have a foul mouth. And some of the richest Peace Corps Goal 2 type of cultural exchange has involved explaining the finer points of profanity in English to friends here. Over the weekend I told someone I thought they were a dick. "Such a dick" was actually the exact phrase employed. Of course I apologized profusely for it later. But at the time that I said it, in English, I had to stop and explain why I was saying it and what I meant. It always diminishes that effect of a casually muttered insult in the heat of the moment when you need to do that. And, I continued, no it isn´t sexual and it has nothing to do with sucking, that relates to an entirely different profanity, which I don´t use as a matter of course because I think its, well, offensive.
The Urban Dictionary defines "dick" as "an abrasive man." But I would cast it more broadly, suggesting that the word dick, when not referring to the male organ or to Richard really means more "mean" more than "abrasive." The Free Dictionary agrees with me, providing the definition, "A person, especially a man, regarded as mean or contemptible." This definition leaves open the possibility that a woman can also be a dick, which was what the poor friend in question decided after I explained that my insult was something like pendejo. "You too," he announced.