Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A glimpse of life in Lumbisi

Cooking Quimbolitos with Graciela and Matilde, my sisters! We did put some crazy ecuadorian aclohol in ours instead of milk, it was random, but delicious none the less!

Sweet view from the rooftop balcony outside my bedroom. This is what i see every morning when I wake up! When it´s clear like this you can see cotapaxi, one of the volcanos that surrounds Quito. I´ll have to take a pic of it and get it up here.

This is at my birthday party with my fam in lumbisi (from left, top row: Matilde my sister, 16; Gonzolo-my dad; Mariana-my mom, Graciela my sister, 27, Fernando Graciela´s husband, 30; row 2-- Erica my neighbor, 9; me, Fernandito Graciela´s son, 8; Luis my brother, 17; Andrecito Graciela´s son, 2; Josue my neighbor, 4)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Family Stories/ Lost in Translation (I didn’t really like that movie, but I believe I truly am lost in translation)

I love to hear family stories, just ask my dad. (I’m trying to force him to write his stories down so that they can be preserved forever—have you started yet, dad??) I think my family has wonderful stories and that we have a wonderful way of telling them, however, communication barriers, like not really understanding Spanish, can give family stories a whole new allure and edge. The following are two stories told to me this past Saturday by my ten year old sister and twelve year old brother…enjoy…

The first, as told by Alex, recorded by me…

Apparently, the family did not always live in the house I’m in. Once, long ago, when Freddy (or Alex—whichever you prefer, it is the same person. As is Grace and Steph) was in third grade my family lived next to my grandparents behind our house in a little shack or up the street in a house that was small. Anyway, getting to the exciting part of the story, one day Alex was sitting in a bed when he decided to play with fire. Accidentally he lit the bed on fire! He called to Grace to come with water but the poor girl did not understand and only came with a handful of water. LOL!!! (at this point they were both dying of laughter) Stupid, Stephanie, a handful of water won’t help the FIRE!! (This is very thrilling, I know, so I’ll give you an entered paragraph to catch your breath.)

Okay, so the next part was sort of confusing but this is the clearest rendition I got; Next a giant wind blows the door shut. Alex had already escaped the fire but Grace was stuck inside the room with the burning bed—there is smoke everywhere! Alex, young man with super strength, pulls or pushes opens the door with brute force. Grace escapes. The dad comes home and punches Alex in the nose until it bleeds. The police almost come to the house. The mother never learns of the fire.

Second, as told by Grace, recorded by me…

Once when Grace was very little, only four or five years old, she went with her brother to buy something at one of the little corner stores. But because her STUPID big brother didn’t WATCH HER like he was SUPPOSED TO (Sounds like the beginning of that time I got lost at the beach, doesn’t it, Kate? Hahaha.) and since he was walking REALLY fast and she couldn’t keep up because she was young, DOGS ATTACKED HER! (Okay, side note, i KNEW that I had REALLY good reason to be frightened of the dogs!)

Anyway, the dogs are attacking her and Alex sees this from afar—and here comes the really hilarious part—he sees her trying to keep the dogs away with a little branch! Only a few inches long!! Duh, THAT’S not going to work! So he runs to her as fast as he can with rocks and pelts them at the dogs until they leave poor Grace alone. The injured pair return home at which point the father grabs a big branch with many thorns. Freddy runs away, down the street, as fast as he can because he believes that the branch is for him, however as it turns out the father did not intend to beat Alex with the giant tree branch. (THANK GOD.) Instead, he goes outside to beat the dog. (p.s. I’m SO in favor in that that it scares me.) The same dog later bites another man. They feed the dog poison and it dies. I’m not sure whether this was a community decision or the decision of my family, either way, GOOD RIDENCE TO BAD RUBBISH. Also, the hand motions that went along with the poisoning part of the store were quite hilarious.

Unfortunately, Grace did not escape with battle wounds, two scars remain, one on her upper leg and one on her butt. (Oh, hey Kate, does THAT remind you of anything? Hahaha again.)

Not sure about you, but to me these stories seem chockfull of truth and accuracy.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A taste of lumbisí


So this is my house in Lumbisi. I live with my family on the top floor where I've got my own bedroom and even my own TV (it only gets 2 channels though).

Fernando's (my brother in law that plays guitar) sister lives on the bottom floor with her husband and daughter. Graciela and Fernando live behind us with their two little kids Fernandito and Andy.

And here are a few pics of Lumbisi:




Just a neighbor's house that lives down the street. She always says "buenos dias" when I walk by on my way to the bus.









Oh you know just a dude riding down the street on a horse. Unfortunately i don't have any pics of the cows or donkey's that accompany us regularly while walking down the street. They leave lovely presents, giant lovely presents, that kelsey had the pleasure of stepping in with flip flops.

This is all i've got for now but more will follow soon with pics of the sweet view from my rooftop balcony!



con amor,
nik

Sunday, January 25, 2009

This is Nik´s bro in law and my guitar teacher

video

My first few nights in Ecuador I fell asleep to the sound of Fernando´s guitar (my brother in law) blowing through my window along with the night breeze. This traditional Ecuadorian Folklorica song was my favorite one that he played, and here he is playing it for me at my birthday. I hope kels can learn it on guitar so we can sing it for you guys when we get home!

<3nik

Cakes wrapped in leaves, so GOOD!


I made delicious surprises with my mom the other day.

Quimbolitos. YUM. Basically yellow cake baked in leaves.

1.First you take fifteen eggs and separate the whites from the yellows. (While doing this, I picked up one egg and FREAKED OUT because there were feathers all over it and I was CERTAIN that it was a HALF CHICKEN, DEAD AND STUCK IN THE EGG AND WE WOULD BE EATING IT!! Luckily, my little sister has more sense than me and removed the feathers without spasms, laughing the whole time.)

2.Mix one pound of butter, one pound of sugar, one and a half pounds of some type of flour, a half circle of shredded cheese, milk to taste and the whipped egg whites in a big bowl. You also add the yellow parts of the eggs. After mixing and adjusting the batter with more milk and sugar, you clean some giant leaves.

3.Dump the batter into the leaves.

4.Wrap leaves like small gift.

5.Put leaves over boiling water (not in) and cover.

6.Wait twenty minutes.

7.Open your little treat.

The end result was so surprising! Seriously cupcake like. Couldn’t even tell there was cheese in it. Delicious. Delicious. Delicious. My mom told me that before milk got more expensive, she used to make them to sell from door to door or at a market. BANK.

On a side note, Nikki made quimbolitos yesterday with some sort of alcohol instead of milk. I guess that´s what you do once you turn twenty-one. Pics to come.

I think grandpas are cute

My grandpa here calls me Kelsita and I think it’s really cute. He lives behind us and whenever he sees me he says stuff I don’t understand and laughs at me. (Sometimes at my lack of understanding, sometimes because I’m so tall that I hit my head on the washline and practically behead myself—this happens wayyy too frequently.) To finish the conversation he says something about me dancing and playing the guitar. (He always sees me on my way to my weekly guitar lesson!) We laugh, he calls me Kelsita and I go on my merry way. I think he’s adorable. He’s also ridiculously agile for his apparent age—he’s helping my uncle BUILD my dad’s window workshop. I should really take some pics of it, the progress is unbelievable. The other day when I got home from school he was stomping on beans or something and I helped. I was a little concerned that we would be consuming these beans because I was stomping on them with the same flip flops that stomp around on dog crap. But hey, whatever, germs SCHMERMS. He told me it wasn’t sunny enough to dry them but that tomorrow it would be and lo and behold, he was right! The next day was really sunny.

Poo

The other day, I stepped in dog poop. Actually, that’s an understatement. It was more like I slid my foot under a plop of dog diarrhea while wearing flip flops. It was awful. I had to walk the rest of the way to the bus stop saying good morning to everyone, trying to appear normal, but it wasn’t like EVERYONE couldn’t see the ORANGE crap on my WHITE FOOT.

IT WAS SUCH A QUANTITY OF POOP I WAS WALKING AROUND WITH IT WAS RIDICULOUS.

Finally I just couldn’t stand it and wiped the majority of it on one of the minga stones. (The community here is building the roads together and there are stones on the side of the road in preparation of the next minga, it is very cool!) Anyway, I wiped the poop on one of those stones and then proceeded to purchase a big thing of water at the gringo price and dump it all over my foot. Then Nikki loaned me some anti-bac which I promptly doused all over my foot and sandal. Great way to start the day, I think.

Speaking of poop, everything they say about South American food is true. ‘Nough said? No? Let’s just say toy trumpets in the bathroom the other night. I think the dogs heard me through the hole in the wall because they started going really mad. I think the noise confused them. The other day I tried to eat cow intestine. Friendly tip, TASTES BAD. (Well it wasn’t the taste so much as it was the texture.)

More about food

The other day when I was coming home I was passed through the yard behind my house and saw this random duck. I had never seen a duck here before, only chickens and dogs. In fact, I thought for sure it was just some strange lookin’ chicken. Maybe even a chicken-dog breed, I wouldn’t put it past those crazy dogs! Seriously, though. Anyway, later that night, my mom was told me about how she tried to kill a duck earlier in the day but it got away. This was somehow the fault of my brother-in-law (look towards him and see that his eyebrows, once again, are moving up and down, up and down) though I am not sure how he was to blame. I then realized that the duck I had seen earlier had been ON THE RUN. I told her I had seen it and she was very interested in its whereabouts. Good thing it had been hours earlier that I had seen it because I am pro-live duck and anti- eating duck. Run little duck, run. Your secret whereabouts are safe with me.

The other day my mom also told me that she occasionally uses blood to flavor this one soup or something (and that she made it for the Chinese kid that stayed with them because “the Chinese will eat anything.”). It grossed me out a little—the thought of drinking animal blood—but she misunderstood and thought I was freaked out at the thought of drinking human blood. HAHA. NOPE, just blood in general doesn’t do it for me!

Also, when we got home from our trip last weekend I showed her the photos of me eating cuy. She was curious as to whether or not I liked it and I said that it was hard to eat because there were so many bones and the meat was tough. She then explained to me that the bigger the guinea pig, the tougher the meat. Therefore, it is better to eat the BABIES. I guess this is why mama guinea pigs always eat their youngins if they aren’t separated from one another while the babies are young. Too delicious to resist.

After telling me this, she showed me two frozen cuy. I get to eat them soon! Oh and Hector, though I did not try the brain, I talked to someone who did and they said it was NOT the best part and that really it just stuck to their mouth and was hard to chew and swallow.

Chewing

The main sources of food here are rice, bread and potatoes and for sure you get at LEAST two of those at every meal. Sometimes, that is all you get. To supplement this diet, I like to eat ice cream and chips. Yum, yum, yum. I miss pretzels. SO BAD.

To my family, who(m) I am sure are very curious, yes, the sound of chewing still gets to me. Once, last week, I was feeling sick and my mom wanted me to eat and I was trying to pretend that I wasn’t feeling sick. I sat down to eat and my little sister pulled her chair really close to mine. And then she started eating. Mouth wide open. The sound of sloshing Chinese noodles and chicken DIRECTLY IN MY EAR. You know I couldn’t hide my sickness after that!! That night, we watched Twilight. (Yes, that vampire movie.) Equally good in Spanish—hahahahaha.

(I am currently in my living room alone and on the television is either an info-mercial trying to get me to buy a ticket to Guayaquil or porn. I can’t tell. Whichever it is, Barack’s face just made an appearance along with a song dedicated to his face. CAN I JUST SAY I AM SO HAPPY ABOUT TUESDAY!)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Happy birthday babybear!

Nikki's 21st! Here in Ecuador there is a tradition of pushing the person's face in the cake. I knew this ahead of time and was telling Nikki, you have to put your face in it but she couldn't understand why I was saying that. Seconds later, she found out.

You're a grand ole flag...

YOU'RE A HIGH FLYIN' FLAG AND FOREVER IN PEACE MAY YOU WAVE....

On Tuesday morning at 11:30 over 200 American exchange students at USFQ gathered in the campus theatre in a show of solidarity for the most glorious day in the last 8 years of US politics. There wasn't a dry eye in the house (or more accurately, I was weeping with joy and relief as Barack's booming voice reassured us that, despite the poop left by Bush, there's still hope!) It was a great showing of American pride and for the first time in a loooong time we didn't feel completely embarrassed to be Americans. Together, over 200 gringos hailing from all over the US, from Montana and Oregon, California and Arizona, Massachusetts and good ole' PA and even Hawaii, cheered together, cried together, gave Obama a standing ovation together, and laughed maniacally together when that anti-gay preacher said Sashaaa and Maliaaaa like a crazy person. What a good birthday present, better even than the sweet party my fam threw me the night before...

Quick 0verview: Delicious chocolate cake (Que rico!) made by my neighbor, wonderful serenade of Ecuadorian folklorica and traditional happy birthday songs by my guitar playing brother in law, a bag full of delicious american snack foods and candy from Alexis and Eva, A champagne toast where I embarrassed myself pretending to speak in spanish, so many courses of delicious food, a face full of cake, wine, family, friends and a golden diadema (headband!). So Good!!

Hasta Pronto,
Nik

Monday, January 19, 2009

Birthday Morning Blues and other Musings

So today I turn the big 2-1. Thats right, legal drinking age in the land of the free [though clearly I've been legally eligible to fight wars in Iraq for the last 3 years of my life...oh logic. I could potentially have died by terrorist insurgent bombs never having sipped a beer (legally that is...)]. Anywho, as per the title, yes this has not been the very best birthday morning of my life, but surely it will be a memorable one. Last night we arrived home from our weekends journey--- which had taken us from the snow capped peak of the highest active volcano in the world, Cotapaxi, to the Quichwa tribe of Los Salasaca (where i aqcuired upwards of 75 gnarly looking bug bites)---around 9pm, only 5 hours later than our ETA of 4pm. Ecuador time, its something you just have to get used to! Anyway, that 9pm arrival felt more like 3am after our exhausting weekend travels so when I got home i could barely keep my eyes open to do the 90 pages of reading due for my Society and Gender class. Balls.

---Insert. I forgot to mention that our weekend travels took us to great altitudes and down into deep valleys. I entered the trip with a growing cold/sinus infection which I think aided the intense ear-popping I went on to experience. Now, let me tell you something. I packed tons of medicine-advil, imodium, vitamins, airborn you name it. But somehow I forgot sudafed. AND DAMN WERE MY EARS POPPING. I Think it was a product of having usch a stuffy nose but they never unpopped and I was pretty much deaf teh whole weekend. It felt like i was under water...or, remote, you might say (lolz dad). ----

When I woke up to the sound of fighting dogs this morning at 645, I was disappointed to note that not only were my ears still plugged shut, but I was sort of getting used to being deaf. This was mildly disconcerting and I pondered a trip to the Univ. Health Clinic as I rolled out of bed. I went to brush my teeth and shower quickly in hopes that I could sneak in some skimming of the reading before i got to school (thoug i find skimming to be quite ineffective when reading in Spanish). Much to my dismay I found that "la luz se fue" (the lights were out) which means, alas, NO HOT WATER! I flipped the switch on the elctronic generator anyway, hopeing somehow the water would heat up without electricity but when I turned on the water it was ICY. I am talking ARCTIC CHILL here. So, what i was hoping would be a quick shower turned into a 30 minute escapade in which i would turn the water on at a trickle for about 20 seconds to wet the body part i wanted to wash, then turn teh water off, jump around a little to regain feeling in my extremities and soap up. Then turn the icy water back on to a trickel for 10 seconds to "wash off" the soap (though i am positive a film of dried body wash remained afterwards). Somewhere in the middle of this process I realize I wont be able to dry my hair... Blast! I should've stayed dirty!

Alright, so its my birthday, i'm in another country far away with no warm water, deaf ears, no way to dry my freezing hair and I'm ill prepared for my classes. Not a good way to start the day. And the first text message I get this morning is from a friend from the Armenian Students Associaiton at PSU telling me happy bday but the ASA is falling apart without me. Shiza!

Don't feel too bad for me b/c after this the day starts to perk up:
I got coco puffs for breakfast!!! I had to eat them with boiling hot whole milk though which was kind of weird, but it was definitely an upgrade. I also got marmelada de guayaba with my bread this morning, mmmm. And my host mom gave me a big hug and besito (smooch) and said happy birthday! For the most part that cheered me up but it kind of also just made me miss my mom (hi mom!!) because nothing is like a hug and kiss from your mama, you know? So then i got misty eyed reminiscing about mom hugs and had to go pretend to arrange my bookbag in my bedroom.


Anwyay, so that's sort of where I'm at right now. Tonight the host fam has planned some birthday festivities and all the kids from Lumbisi are invited so hopefully that will be fun. I just hope we dont have to eat cuy(guinea pig), the ecuadorian delicacy we got to try this weekend with Los Salasaca! I am Pretty excited though b/c my neighbor in Lumbisi bakes delicious cakes and I think she might make one for my bday! Hooray!

Ok, now that i'm done complaining about my deafness and my cold water I'ma give you a quick list of random crap I noted last week about my life here:

1. I no longer know the difference between a Lemon and a Lime. Here they call both fruits "limon" but theyre both green and I'm very confused adn when the give me lemonada (lemonade) it is actually limeade. Shout out to Ani who I think would be very pleased with this abundance of limade, it is quite delicous.

2. On the busride (i.e. tiny van ride crammed with 20 people) this weekend our trip leader, Maria Teresa handed out some delicious banana chips that, to my delight, were marked with (U) Kosher symbol! It made me reminiss happily about all my jewish lower merion friends :)

3. Last thursday we had a power outage. I dont just mean any sort of mini power outage I'm talking about a Serious, country wide power outage. Last thursday night all of Ecuador's electricity went out because the workers had a huelga (strike). It was kind of awesome but kind of crazy. Kelsey and Zack and I were getting ready to go out to la mariscal in quito where all the discotecas are and we were walking to the bus stop around 8 at night (at least an hour after the sun set) when all the street lights and everything went black. Blackest black night ever in my life, we were just enveloped. It was so dark i couldn't see my hadn in front o fmy face and suddenly we heard teh dogs start barking! I dont know if we've made it clear to you yet in our blog but the dogs in lumbisi are CRAZY! Especially at night! They roam teh streets in packs trying to attack you so we made a run for it to the bus stop tripping and stumbling by the weak light of our cell phones. Ayayay! Needless to say I didnt end up goign out that night.

4. Ok this ones for dad. Saturday when we visited Cotapaxi, we drove in this sketch van all the way up the mountain, winding our way along skinny unpaved mountainside roads covered in snow. As the roads got steeper the van began to slip and slide nearly careening over the edge of the mountain. We were only a few hundred feet from our destination, El Refugio, where we had been planning on eating lunch but the bus driver said NO WAY and made us all get out. We then walked around in the snow and deathly high altitude with our ill prepared clothing, some friends only in sandals! It was pretty awesome though. But finally we got back in the van which backed down the snowy cliff a little ways until the driver decided to pull an Austin Powers and do a 90 point turn ON THE SIDE OF A MOUNTAIN THOUSANDS OF FEET IN TEH AIR. I pretty much was having a panic attack and gripping Alexis' leg with all of my might. I'm not sure how we made it through but somehow we did. Phew!


Alright, this post is long enough, I gotsta go get myself some almuerzo. I'll leave the telling of the rest of our weekend adventures up to Kels.


<3 Nikki

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Quick Post

Yesterday, when I couldn´t understand what my host dad was saying to me, I changed the subject to commerical space travel. Don't even ask. The conversation ended quickly after.

Also, while helping my mom prepare delicious food, she told me that I was much easier to talk to than the last person. And the last person was some Chinese boy who didn't speak ANY Spanish, so that's sort of good..I guess?

A few nights ago, the two year old took to throwing the cat at my head.

Class starts in five minutes!

Love you all,
Kelsey

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A List of Things About Ecuador

1. I bought 5 bras for 14$ yesterday.  Not only did i replenish my thieved supply worth upwards of $300, I did it for less than fifteen bucks.  Not bad Ecuador.

2. Today I purchased 4 textbooks for 21$.  WTF American bookstores that exploit poor college students.  Take a hint from USFQ. Thx. (For any middle aged women reading this --my university bookstore sells 'Life is Good' paraphernalia in case you're interested).

3. It only costs 20 cents to ride the busses around here. Nice. But seriously, I've never been so careful with my change before.  Anything upwards of $5 is pretty much out of the picture and assumed to be counterfeit.

4.  The teacher of my translation class, who gave us an exam on the first day and kicked everyone out who didn't get a certain score, is the spitting image Marlon Brando as the Godfather, cotton ball cheeks and all.  He kind of scares me.

5. A text message I just sent to Kelsey:

“I have no freaking clue what I just ate.  It looked like raw chicken skin or raw fish. I tried a tiny bit and it didn’t taste like either which freaked me out more. Then I thought it might be some type of innard like tongue or intestine and I gagged.”

 

Don’t worry, I ended up piling rice on top of the raw looking innards in hopes of making my family think that I ate them. I’m sure you’re worried that I’ll go hungry. Well don’t, I’m eating Ritz Bitz galletas (crackers) as I type! I have a secret drawer with snacks for when dinner is, um, less than palatable. Holler Kraft ®.

6. Today I walked to the ecological park just ten minutes up the mountain from Lumbisí with my dad, my 9 year old neighbor Erica and Alexis.  Despite intermittent mounds of animal poop, potentially a product of las vacas (cows) that wander around, the evening walk was quite nice. When we got to the park, my dad had us run around the “track” a few times and do some push ups. I’m pretty sure I pulled some sort of muscle.  He decided he’s going to train us for a 10k in April.  I guess I forgot to mention that my dad is a champion runner and has like 5 billion trophies all over the house.  I’m assuming that at this high altitude I’ll be running circles around you fools when I get home in June!

7.  My mom washed my sheets to day. Holler! She also washed some shirts that came back, um, different? A pink shirt now has white bleach stains and another has holes.  Oh well I guess its not much diff than doing laundry at school.

8. Windows here don’t have screens.  I like to leave mine open though to get a breeze but last night I went to bed with 5 flies on my ceiling. They were too high to kill so I just had to fall asleep knowing that flies would probably land on my face at some point without me knowing.  It was unsettling but I washed my face pretty good this morning.

9.  There was a prob with my computer battery so today I dropped it off at the “Apple” store, or the store impersonating an Apple store, and they said they’d have a new one sent from Miami in 2 weeks.  I have a weird feeling I will never get another battery for my comp. We shall see.

10.  It’s 9 and I’m pretty much two blinks away from falling asleep.  I go to bed so early here I can’t even imagine staying up past 930 so Ima go read some Other Boleyn Girl and hit the hay.

Buenas Noches!


<3>


Monday, January 12, 2009

Altitude Induced Asthma and Fruit Juice 4 lyfe!

Right now I'm sitting in Cafe Cactus across the street from my university with some friends from school moochin' the wireless and chillin.  I just had a delicious salad.  A huge salad in fact. Man was I in need of some veggies.  I'm not tryna knock the food here, god knows its better than the ground chicken popsicles we got in armenia but I don't think i've ever consumed this much starch in my life!  The three main components of every meal i've had are rice, potatoes and either bread or pasta.  But i dont want to complain  because sometimes my family likes to spice it up and serve me crackers instead. Seriously though I was dying for some vegetables in my life.  The fruit here is delish and i usually eat some for breakfast along with the fresh squoze homemade juice juice of the day made by my host mom.  I'm really into the jugo de mora (raspberry juice) and the jugo de piña (pineapple for you ignant english speakers).  There's also a bev called jugo de tomate but its not like our tomato juice.  It's sort of a light pinkish color and its sweet, like white grape juice.  They use tomates de arbol (tree tomatoes) to make the juice...there are tons of tomato trees all around our 'hood along with every other fruit you could imagine. It's actually pretty cool, every plant or bush or tree you pass in Lumbisi is growing some type of fruit or veggie.  
Yesterday, we went to el centro historico de quito and it was sick nasty.  The colonial architecture pretty much kills, as soon as i get a chance i'ma put some photos up in hrrr so you guys can check it out.  We visited some churches, we checked out el palacio del gobierno (the casa of President Correa) and we checked out the vista from parque Itchimbia.  The walk to the parque was no pleasant stroll though.  We probs ascended 20000 feet while walking, or climbing, up the nearly vertical streets of Quito.  It's like San Fran but on crack.  But man was the view awesome. It was def worth it. I'm actually pretty sure I'll be outrageously fit by the time i get back from all this walking at dangerously high altitudes.  Plus i've been utilizing my totally out of practice soccer skillz to play with the kids in Lumbisi.  Last night we played soccer with my family and some neighbors and they were really good.  Aside from altitude induced asthma, my moves weren't too bad. Our 15 year old neighbor, Romel, who is a mini Pele, gave me some props after the game which made me feel pretty good despite my wheezing gasps.  
Man i have so much more to tell but this post is getting long so ill save it for next time.  But just as a sneak prev. i went to a sweet cultural fiesta in Lumbisi this weekend where I got to work on my salsa moves.  Also, after living in Lumbisi i will never again be afraid of dogs.  Oh, and for what its worth, the 65 and sunny weather we've been having every day is a real drag compared to what i'm used to in State College.  I really miss the constant precipitation and continuously hypothermic weather.  Aight, that's it for now. Hasta Luego!!

-Nikki

I am showered!! Really showered!!!! NO MORE BUCKETS!!!!!

Tonight when I came home from trying to play soccer with Nikki’s family my dad (Freddie) and one of my uncles and aunt pairs were sitting at the table with three of the giant beers. The custom here is to have one cup and share amongst everyone (instead of everyone having their own bottle ..aka probably the reason I have a sore throat..) and when I came in, apparently it was my turn to drink. My dad told me we were celebrating the installment of the water heater for the shower which means, NO MORE BUCKETS!!!! And thusly, I happily took the cup!

!!!!!!!YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ve complained plenty about it but for those of you who don’t know, since I’ve gotten here, (until tonight!), I’ve been showering with a bucket. Basically, my mom (Matilde) would heat some water on the stove, dump it in a trashcan and give me a little bowl to shower with. This got increasingly stressful as the amount of water in the trashcan seemed to decrease with each shower… One full trashcan was definitely manageable, three-fourths trashcan I could handle.. when it got to be half a trashcan I started to freak out a bit and at ONE QUARTER trashcan, well by that point I was choosing between shampooing my hair and washing my body. (I normally just choose half of each, haha.) Thank god for the time I spent at Hair and More shampooing hair because I was able to wash my hair very efficiently. It was an experience for a week or so and I could probably have done it for the rest of the semester BUT I AM SO GLAD I DON’T HAVE TO!!!

At home I complain a LOT about our shower, well IF ONLY I HAD KNOWN THE POSSIBLITIES. I guess I prefer showering at home than showering out of a trashcan. (Yeaaa, mom and dad, you guys win!)

So yes, tonight we celebrated. What’s strange is after we all finished the three Pilsners, my dad sent the SEVEN year old Maria to go get us more beer! I was sort of disappointed when it turned out she was able to buy them… I didn’t necessarily want more to drink. But oh well, we had something to REALLY celebrate! I remember once in PA when I was with my dad at Rocky’s pizza getting dinner. I had gone with my dad to pick up the pizzas and when he tried to let me carry the bag of beer instead of the huge, hot pizza boxes, the owner nearly lost it. Well, that aspect of culture is very different here. Though it was still surprising to me when she returned with the new beers maybe it shouldn’t have been. Last night, at a party in Lumbisi for a school’s homecoming-type-thing my Aunt Pati bought a couple beers as did the parents of Zack. I was holding the cup in my hand when Mateo (FOUR YEAR OLD) took it out of my hand, poured a cup of beer and downed it! Tonight he showed up and my parents made a joke that it was because he smelled the beer, haha. (But don’t worry, he didn’t drink any tonight!) Tonight was a showering party in fact. Me, my mom, dad, brother, sister, two aunts, an uncle and one cousin all showered with the new water heater.

Twice today people asked me what my favorite food was and I had to try to explain what a pretzel was. I drew it and tried to say it was not a dinner or lunch type of food but rather a food like chips. Unfortunately, I only know chips as papas which is the same as potatoes which really just confuses everyone involved. OH WELL! I’m getting used to everyone being confused! The other day I was lucky enough to come across some pretzel sticks and while they didn’t taste exactly right, being labeled as pretzels mentally did the trick for me! ALSO the other day at Panera (which is not the same as the Panera in the USA just a coincidence) Nikki found a BRETZEL and bought it for me. Bread + Pretzel. HAHAHA. It wasn’t very delicious—more bread than pretzel.

Tonight I had crackers and jam for dinner. DELISH!

Overall, fun day. The ending was great. I didn’t realize how awesome it is to really truly feel clean. My spirit has certainly been uplifted. So much so, I don’t even mind the huge spider I just saw. Maybe it will kill the bugs I’ve taken to calling “curly bugs” (like the kind we used to play with) so that they don’t freak me out. Who knows what they really are, but loving little curly bugs they shall remain.

Kelsey

Sunday, January 11, 2009

second day in lumbisi!

These are from my second day here... just found the internet cafe!

Yesterday we went to the supermarket. I was expecting it to be very small with limited choices but it wasn’t as sparse as I was expecting. It’s called the Santa Maria and it had lesser options than in the U.S.A. but there were still choices. Maltide (my host mom) bought something wrapped up and called it chicken. As I’ve been doing my entire time here in Ecuador, I smiled and pretended to understand while really only grasping the BASIC concept—that being that whatever she had just picked up, despite the fact that it was not refrigerated nor in a familiar shape, was indeed chicken. (Sometimes grasping only the basic concept means I only realize that they’re talking about a person I don’t think I know or they’re talking about something about me. It’s been really vague here for me…) Well later that night, during dinner, she brings me a sandwich of the chicken thing. Now, I am trying to be brave when it comes to food here, but when it comes to a chicken-hotdog thing that is cold and put on white bread and is in the shape of bologna, I don’t know if I can do it. I didn’t try it last night but that was only because I couldn’t eat anything else. I had high hopes of getting in fantastic shape here but I’m being fed all the time. I feel rude saying no and they think I’m crazy because I don’t eat it all but I had just tried to eat an enormous plate of food. Its so much, I can’t even believe it. So I said, “Gracias, pero no, no tengo hambre.” (There goes the best Spanish I’ve managed while here, haha.)And we decided that I could try it tomorrow. Luckily, that did not happen. Unfortunately, carne de res was on the menu! I helped prepare dinner. (I made the salad in about the same time it took Matilde to make soup, rice and meat. It is the sad truth.) The meat smelled good but I couldn’t eat it. First of all, there was this white part on it, like a tendon or something, and once I saw it, that end of the meat was ka-put. I was trying to eat around it but the meat was very tough and I didn’t have my mutton fork *shout out Ella Enchanged, holla!* and I was struggling from mental blocks. I ate a few bites, I tried it. But it took a long time to swallow and I didn’t have water. Instead I was drinking something that reminds me of applesauce and I believe is made with oatmeal. It was good, but not exactly my idea of a beverage and not exactly the type of drink you can swish around in your mouth to help you swallow.

In other food news, I also ate a pepina and drank the fruit of a tomato that grows on trees. Both were very refreshing.

***i was served the chicken bologne the next day...at breakfast. hahahahaha.****

Los Animales

So my family has two dogs and a cat and fish. The names of the dogs are Beethoven and Pokemon (YES.). The fish don’t have names and the kitten’s name is still up in the air. They’re sometimes calling it Missy. That kitten is cute but I’m sort of scared of it. The two year old, Isaac/Martin, just throws that cat around. He picks it up, cuddles with it and punches it in its head. He slams it into things, pokes it in the eye and pets it and the damn cat never does anything in retaliation. But if I am eating, that stupid kitten won’t let me be. It doesn’t bother the others. But if I am eating or drinking immediately the kitten is by my side, meowing. When I ignore it it comes right up onto the table and eats my damn food. And sometimes I want to say, GO AHEAD YA GATITO BECAUSE I AM SO FULL BUT I HAVE TO EAT THIS. But mostly I just try to move my food. Even today while making the salad, it came over to beg me for food. Begging isn’t really the right word though. It just takes my food. Even when I say no, even when I move my food, even when I muster up enouch courage to TOUCH the cat and move it, no matter, it will find me eating or drinking and it will steal my food. That kitty’s crazay, I tell you. TOTALLY INSANE.

Other than the cat, the animals don’t live inside. (But the fish actually do, woops.) There are so many dogs in Lumbisí. Today while I was exploring, aka, went to find Nikki or Alexis’s house and got really lost, I changed my path a few times to avoid the snarling beasts. I am pretty sure they won’t attack (maybe?) in the daytime, but still they know I’m scared. I’m working on my “I’mbiggerthanyouandIalsohaveaccesstoacarthatcancrushyou” face for the animal situation here. It really isn’t my fault that I’m awkward around animals. I generally only come across friendly dogs that I know. This is very different. I know that it is normal to throw stones or hit the dogs with sticks and though I sometimes like to imagine running the dogs over, I know I never really could and I am even uncomfortable throwing stones at them.

Also about dogs, I live next door to Zack and his family has a dog or two, I’m not sure. But one of them is named Princesa and is going to have puppies in February! Well I’m not sure whether or not to be excited. This town has no need for anymore dogs, but at least I understood what they were talking about and at least I learned the phrase “Dar la luz” (to give birth) this past semester in Spanish 410! Or maybe I learned it in Spanish 412, I’m not sure, but it is in my head and I wasn’t totally lost for once. Zack’s family are cousins to my family.

***i found out pokemon belongs to zack, not me, but the name is still hilarious. also, since writing this, the two year old, martin has thrown the cat off the roof...twice. and each time shouted ´se cayo, se cayo´which means, it fell! it fell! but he actually should have shouted (according to zack who has taken on the task of protecting the cat) le tire, le tire! which means, i threw him! i threw him!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

WTF Bienvenidos al Ecuador

This post was written on January 3, but I couldn't post it til today due to lack of internet, obvs!

There was no way I could've known as I parted ways with my parents and headed toward security at Philadelphia Airport that I would later have the pleasure of witnessing the seemingly impossible transformation of what was intended to be a 4 hour and 48 minute flight to Quito from Atlanta into an 11 hour affair. Had I known that I would've been awake for 23 hours straight I might have packed some tylenol pm, or a horse tranquilizer. All seemed to be going smoothly when we arrived in Atlanta, only having experienced a 20 minute delay on the first leg of our flight.  What's more, the flight to Quito boarded on time at 5pm.  Then, with little to no fare warning, what had seemed to be a normal day took an inexplicably horrible turn for the worse.  I'll give you a play by play: 

5pm – board plane ignorant to horrors awaiting us

            530pm – pilot announces someone’s luggage has been put on the plane, but the passengers aren’t on the plane, so they must remove all the luggage to find those few pieces and then reload all the rest. (in the mean time I mention to Kelsey that I am sure my luggage will somehow be lost or harmed in this process…remember this)

            600 – pilot reassures us that it will only be a half hour more

            7pm – An hour later, Pilot congratulates us as we are ready for take off

            702 – pilot realizes we are last in a line of 049820357 planes to take off. We wait.

            730 – take off. Finally. Wtf. Original arrival time 10 30, new arrival time 12: 30.

            730-12 fly fly fly, normal normal normal, at least we’re on our way…think again

            12: final descent into Quito… BUT NO! The pilot announces there is too much fog to land. We hover above Quito until 12:30 when the pilot announces that we do not have enough gas to wait for the fog to die down so we will fly to the coastal City of Guayaquil to refuel.

1 arrive in Guayaquil to refuel

            1-3 wait around like claustrophobic idiots to fly back to Quito

            4am - arrive in Quito

            4-5 Wait in an absurdly long immigration and customs line, pick up inordinately heavy luggage, meet family who welcomes me with balloons and BIENVENIDOS posters

            5-6 drive to Lumbisí, check out the digs, pass out.

            10am – get up, open luggage, realize both zippers have been ripped of my suitcase along with the TSA lock that apparently didn’t do its job.  Seems suspicious, what’s up with the TSA ripping the lock off that they are supposed to be able to open. Oh wait, realization, it wasn’t the TSA b/c generally speaking the TSA wouldn’t steal all of my bras, my sperry topsiders and my hair straightener.

            Sort of a random assortment of stolen items but damn I loved those boat shoes and not to complain but bras are damn expensive and even though it was only 5 bras that’s like 150$ down the drain. WTF RANDOM ECUADORIAN THIEVES.

Despite that little set back, this morning I went on to drink some random beverage called AVENA that was sweet and warm and kind of tasted milky, and to “shower” with the aid of two buckets of warm water.   My mamí took me on a walk through Lumbisí along with fernandito and Andres or andy, the children of my oldest sister. I got to see the park, the church, basically the whole hood and I even saw where Kelsey, Zack and Alexis live not too far away.  The town is adorable and everyone says buenos dias when they pass you on the street, so much more friendly than los estados unidos.  We stopped and bought ice cream for los niños and I had a delicious fruit beverage of banana, organge and some other random fruit I know nothing about.

 

Long long long day and a half. Now I rest. Sorry for the dim witted post but between lack of sleep and robbery it was the best I could do.

HASTA LUEGO!