Sunday, December 30, 2007

Cupcake in Quito


The new me is a work in progress who is stretching fearlessly into the unknown with the belief that no matter what experiences and adventures I have, whether they be good or bad, I will learn, grow, and continue. I will never settle. I will always improvise and smile because I believe 'the heart of life is good.

Since the new year is circling in, I thought I would take a moment to contemplate how my life has changed this year. Aside from the very obvious change of location, many little alterations have snuck up on me. Now, I wear dangly earrings and drink coca-cola zero. I don’t like soda but I am scared of water and vegetables currently. I prefer processed and packaged food to anything from Ecuadorian soil, which is a total 180 from my somewhat health nut former self. Although I don’t like cake anymore, I eat kilos (literally) of popcorn. I swear my current diet consists of popcorn, chocolate, coca cola zero, and beer. I drink $3 box wine and 50 cent beers. I have an unnatural fear of food due to amoebas. I know it might seem silly, but you won’t understand until you house them yourself, which I hope never happens. A little paranoia about my health is good right? Oh and my dentist would kill me if he saw the candy I eat. (Uhem, did someone say gordita?).

I no longer can tell the difference between English or Spanish. However, I can tell the difference between regional Ecuadorian Spanish (coast vs. sierra), Spain Spanish, and the Spanish of Latin America. Instead of spending hours in excel, I spend hours studying the two languages and only open excel to add to my book list or gift list. I am fashion conscious despite the four pairs of pants I rotate weekly. I will amass an enormous collection of bufandas, flats, and earrings before I leave here. And I plan to update my wardrobe the second I get home. How could you let me walk around like this for so long?!?!?

I only sit on the computer for maybe two hours a week. I walk nearly two hours a day. I fear the raccoon eyes I currently have from my sunglasses will never leave my face. I am tan, relatively speaking, in spite of the TONS of sunscreen I wear daily. I cannot remember the last time I felt clean. I dream about baths and Whole Foods. I am always cold, and I only shower when necessary because it just contributes to my constant state of freezing. And the weather determines whether or not I can do laundry. The sun at 10,000 feet at the equator is destroying the few items of clothing I do have. I also dream of dryers and bounce.

I happily discriminate against the disgusting men I encounter in the bars and on the streets, yet I will gladly accept their discrimination against me when they get up to give me their seats on the bus, usher me into a club ahead of the line, or hold the door open. A little macho is good. I currently hold the titles of “princesa, preciosa, reina, linda, guapa, amor, and nina.” For the first time in my life, I have no boy problems. (Well, except the Spanish Stalker, thanks Joel.)

I have not used my debit card in four months. Cash is king. I currently live on $150 a month. Yes a month. I count pennies and measure things in bus rides. Donuts are 25 cents. The “donut lady” and I are best friends. I don’t even like donuts. I swear she puts drugs in them. Popcorn is $1.25 for a kilo (two pounds), bus rides are a quarter, $1 is A LOT of money, 25 roses are $1, bagels are 40 cents, an entire lunch including dessert and juice is $2, DVDs are $1.50, cds are the same, and pedicures are $3 (and two hours). Warm beer doesn’t bother me anymore because it is only $1.50 for liter. And much to my utter dismay, I do not recycle anymore (my heart just started racing as I typed this.)

Tall people shock me, which is ironic considering the last boy I kissed was six foot seven. Here, I am considered tall. Quick transactions, warm water, and people arriving on time surprise me as well.

Friendships have reached entirely new levels. Ashley, “I’m so hot for you” (in a thick British accent). We all play cards as if we were 80 year old ladies in a nursing home. Canasta, skipbo, and casino rule our afternoons. While our Friday nights are muy importante, for our weekly dinners are a must. Happy hour starts at 5 and no one is allowed to disturb me in the kitchen. We LIVE for Friday nights.

I have no sense of urgency for anything. I enjoy that the stores don't open until 10 a.m. and I often can be found drinking at the cubano restaurante at right about that time. Really nice things shock me. I also go to concerts at the theater, write every single day, and frequently fight with taxi drivers. It is not uncommon to feel as if I am always getting ripped off ALL THE TIME because my skin is white. I am use to people staring at me.

I am the “old one” for the first time ever. I let my favorite student paint snowmen on my nails, attend religious events with her, curse dirty old men, fruit, and seafood. I am obsessed with the el gourmet Argentinean cooking channel. Navidad con Dolli was the highlight of last week. I am suspicious of everyone and grateful for everything, especially the emails and packages I receive. Finding ginger ale at the market was the best day of my life here. I always feel gross no matter how much soap I use. My feet are filthy and will be until May. I have seen dead dogs in trash cans on the streets, small children blow gasoline out their mouths for a quarter, and houses without roofs. I have traded my word wall for a Spanish wall. I write with markers and perfumed pens instead of shiny pencils. The only magazine I have read in four months is National Geographic in Spanish (which is HARD). I write poems all the time and send text messages like there is no tomorrow because it is only 2 cents instead of the 40 cents it costs to call (By the way, I can send them to you in the U.S. but you cannot send them to me, I don’t get them). Work is not longer “work”. I get up at 5 a.m. and eat dinner at 10 p.m. I marvel at street vendors.
“Do you think they assess the market demand?”
“You just said you needed socks…”

I am obsessed with organizing social events because I don’t want to miss out on one thing while I am here. I have the most vivid memories and flashbacks. I can’t remember what a comfortable bed feels like. I have only read two books in four months because I do not believe there are more than 100 English books in this entire country and libraries don’t exist. However, I do read children's books in Spanish for hours a day. I am determined. I have become “thrifty” in a way the author of “Nickeled and Dimed” would be so proud. I have taken advantage of the ability to purchase drugs without a prescription (worry not, only dermatological drugs. I had a prescription for the amoeba pill). I heart Pfizer.

I refuse to dance with strange people when we are out and about. I love dancing in the clubs. I also love writing on social network walls and enjoy flirting with those who “poke” me (p.s. I kind of have a crush on you). I accept chocolate from the man at the internet café I frequent. I LOVE to read the emails you all send me. I don’t care if you are telling me about the new toothpaste you just bought, I want to know. I won't take a cab home by myself. The majority of my best friends are now males. I enjoy every hip hop song I hear however infrequent. And I cannot stop singing The Killers new song, “Leave the Bourbon on the shelf…”

I guess what I have learned this year is that like a chameleon, I fit in anywhere and as much as I have always thought it was a curse, I realize for the first time, it is a blessing because it allows me to enjoy the here and now, which happens to be 10,000 feet in the Andes, latitude zero.

Don't worry, I still love cupcakes and you :)

Friday, December 28, 2007

An Ecua Christmas

This country is nearly 100% Catholic, which means they celebrate Jesus and you can actually tell your class you are having a Christmas party. There is no “season’s greetings” or “happy holidays”. Anything other than “Jesus” or “Christmas” is considered weird here. As a result (plus they are Latin), Ecuadorians celebrate the holiday on the night of the 24th. This year, I had the privilege of celebrating with my host family. Let me tell you, these people surely know how to celebrate.

We started the party at around 7 p.m. at my host mom’s family’s house. The children put on a show for baby Jesus and we all went around and said prayers (no I am not Catholic, but when in Rome…). After we praised the Lord, we had an enormous turkey dinner. Despite my initial response of “WRONG HOLIDAY FOR A BIRD PEOPLE,” it was good (where is the seafood?). Of course, the meal included rice and potatoes as well. I made the family a brownie cake covered in mints and white chocolate. We ate it with ice cream. I also made peanut butter cookies that were divine. (I spent the afternoon baking, listening to Christmas music, and drinking beer because I couldn’t find the half and half to make eggnog. Next year. It was a glorious afternoon.)

Once we were finished eating, all the children went around distributing presents to family members. I received my first bufanda, which opened the door for my future purchases (watch out Ash, I am going to catch up!). We visited for awhile until my hm’s brothers started leaving. ON the way out, one dropped off some rum and coke at the table. The grandfather caught me looking at it longingly and made my host dad (who had a shot) pour me a drink. The abuelo NEVER speaks, so you can imagine my surprise when he insisted I get a beverage. It was priceless. I love the abuelos. On a side note, I taught them the meaning of “whipped”, as two of Hmom’s brothers are totally whipped. Now they all walk around snapping their fingers and making whipping sounds. It is FANTASTIC, especially when the abuela looks at me and winks as she is doing it! Christmas Eve was no exception.

At 9:30 p.m., we headed to my host dad’s family’s house. I love this place when I am up for the visit. The entire house was decked out in old Ecuadorian lady Christmas decorations. It was fabulous. The tree was beautiful and she had Christmas music blaring in the background. The family visited until the rest of the guests arrived. Once everyone settled in, we celebrated Jesus again, sang some songs courtesy of my host dad and his sister’s guitar playing, and then everyone exchanged gifts. This is when I got a little sad. All the children were delivering presents and wishing their aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and parents merry Christmas. It was so cute and endearing. But at the same time, it made me miss my friends and family. At around midnight, the champagne was sparkling in the glasses, which were circling the room along with sugar cookies (no not the pretty frosted ones). We toasted Navidad and began our second dinner of guess what…. turkey, rice, and potatoes as well as salad and aji (I love this stuff). I brought them a brownie pie too, which we ate with peaches.

My host dad’s older sister started the music around 1 a.m. No, not Christmas music but Salsa and reggeatone. EVERYONE danced, even the grandparents. We did shots of pina coladas, and rum and coke while we danced until 5 A.M!! It was hilarious. These people seriously know how to party. The music was blaring and the shots were never ending. I couldn’t think of a crazier way to celebrate Christmas. I can’t remember the last time I spent this holiday like I did this year. I was very glad I had the opportunity to experience it. I hope you all had a lovely holiday as well.

Happy Holidays from Me to You :)








Saturday, December 15, 2007

Table for 52?

Don't mind me, I'm just hanging out with my amoebas and bronchial bacteria trying not to get robbed. Needless to say, this week has been interesting.

Part 1: "How not to get robbed."
Last Saturday around 7:15 p.m., my friend Liz and I were heading to a new restaurant a couple of blocks from her house when two very short and nervous Ecua men approached us asking "only for money" (in Spanish of course). One of the guys reached for Liz's bag and she pushed him out of the way. It all seemed to happen very slowly. I was quite proud of how we reacted to the situation though. I have to say my dojo skills did not fail me, as I did not say anything and watched both of the mens' hands for weapons. The men were my height (i.e. short) so I was not afraid of them because I noticed neither used their hands properly nor did they have anything potentially dangerous in their hands, which meant they were just punks trying to get money from gringas. As I tried to decide which male's ass to kick first and started to reach for one of their arms, Liz pushed the other out of the way. I then responded by saying we had nothing and they ended up just walking past us. Both of us stayed calm and acted in very appropriate ways. I think it helped that Liz responded differently than I did. They got scared and left. So we survived our first attempted thievery unscathed. Go us. Don't freak out. We are fine and unafraid.

Part II: "Table for 52?"
Yesterday was the first awful health day I have had here. I will spare you the details but let's just say it was not pretty. I called my Field Directors to see if they could get me into the doctor. Within an hour, I was off to his office where he impressively diagnosed me with amoebas and a bacterial respiratory infection (Thank you host family. Do you think next time you could take your violently coughing daughters to the doctor before they spread their germs to me and maybe sometime before one month of hacking persists.) Gross. Just gross. As if I want to share my small intestine with a colony of organisms, especially while bacteria inhibit my lungs. At least I now know why my stomach was growing exponentially. I have always had a well rounded bottom but never a gut before. Lovely. Luckily, a four dollar Pzifer pill is suppose to do the trick. I hope it kicks in soon because I would like to have my middle section back to myself thankyouverymuch. I bet that makes you want to kiss me now, huh????

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cool New Service



Check out this really cool new site where you can create your own cookbook. How fun!!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Friday Night Fun



On Friday nights, all the volunteers get together at one of the couple's houses. I make some food and others make dessert and we have a wonderful time. It is my favorite day of the week. One perk of living in a third world country in South America is the box Concho y Toro wine that is only $2.80. Don't knock it until you've tried it!

Monday, November 26, 2007

A day at the market



We just happened upon this very Ecua market (a.k.a. we were the only gringas there) the other day... anyone hungry?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A poem for Thanksgiving

Oh it's funny the things you miss,
aside from the very obvious,
like shiny pink Chanel lip gloss
and bright green turtle flip flops.
Skirts you cannot wear
because of perverts everywhere.
Erin's pub's gigantic mugs
followed by gentle belly rubs.

Eating garlic linguine on Kate's floor
and watching falling snow out the kitchen door.
All at once it comes flooding back
every memory hidden in that intimate stack.
Ones you forgot you even had;
the good and the bad.

You no longer mind being called Batty
because back then you weren´t such a fatty.
You give up bread despite your desire to become a French baker
because now you are an adventure taker.
Thursday nights on the couch,
your favorite candies in a secret pouch.

Your best perfume,
the beer and food you used to consume.
New items Whole Foods is pitchin',
puttering around your own kitchen.
Your best friend's laugh,
excel math,
fresh crisp fall air,
walking down the street without mustering an objectifying stare.

I remember Walt Whitman on his ceiling,
he was the only one to return the feeling.
How she held my hand
while listening to Paul Simon and his band.
I'll always be fond
of that summer night at Colby pond.
Nor will I forget your face
when I walked into our favorite place.

Oh how Laurie will never know how much it meant
that package that she sent.
Villanova Basketball,
the famous word wall.
Whiskey from her sock drawer,
not knowing what we were reading ancient love letters for.

Dinners at spooning close at Danforth,
drinking pinot on the porch.
The wonderful, loving Steele family
and how they always gave happily.

A hundred times over the stair
even though he never showed a care.
Doing dishes at 121,
basking in the New England sun.
Margaritas and 'Dirty Dancing Havana' on cold winter's nights,
the warm dim glow from recessed lights.
Happy hour with my karate friends.
The letters that she always sends.

Singing 'Sunspot Baby'
with dad is never a maybe.
The fat cat in the chair.
How he played with my hair.
The porch club,
A luxurious bathtub.

Glossy magazines and books,
innocent sultry looks.
Crayola markers and their creative powers,
admiring your glorious sunflowers.
How I miss the thrill of driving,
but here it is is like voluntarily dying.
The wonders of the Internet.
How I felt the day we first met.

Beth and my daily phone calls.
Clean and friendly bathroom stalls.
Warm water,
The Lewers's daughter.
The list goes on and on
for the plethora of thoughts will never be gone.
Getting paid,
nail polish with Sunshine at Rite Aid.
Our little trips,
stealing sips.

I feel I've lived a thousand lives,
as it all comes pouring out of the archives.
I just wanted to take a moment to say,
that I think of you ALL every day.

I will never be able to adequately express my gratitude.
I miss you and love you.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The curious incident with the shower in the afternoon...

So showering here is interesting. Ecuador doesn't exactly have anything like what we have at home: get in and turn on the water, VOILA! Constant hot water is very rare and a highly prized commodity. Cold water is used for everything. That being said, two different types of showers exist: gas and electric. My first house (by the way, we moved AND have a fridge now, woohoo!) had a gas shower. Let me attempt to explain how this worked: I would tell my host mom I wanted to shower and she would go outside and light the fire for hot water. I was hesitant to attempt this myself until one afternoon when I was desperate. I grabbed the matches from the kitchen, opened the door, and stood in front of the propane tank and pilot thingy on the wall. I stared intently for thirty seconds until I decided to be brave despite my enormously overwhelming fear of burning the house down. I flicked the switch on the gas tank, which let out a whistling and whirling noise. Ok, I think. Next, I moved the lever on the wall to one for hot water and attempted to light about five matches before I could get one to stay on fire long enough for me to light the pilot in the very small hole above the lever. (Picture a big white box. On the bottom is a lever that moves horizontally. In the middle of the white box thingy above the lever is a small hole with lots of metal coils. You have to light the fire in the hole. Not an easy task.) Everything seemed fine and I didn't burn the house down, phew. I ran upstairs to turn on the water. It was freezing. I returned to the "backyard" to check for flames. Nothing was happening and the pilot was out. I said a prayer and lit it again. Success. Another journey to the bathroom upstairs ended in another cold water discovery. I just wanted to take a freaking shower! I returned to the gas tank to investigate further. The pilot was out again so I attempted to light it again only this time, a back flash like flame busted out in my face. The little white box blew up! Luckily, I immediately put my left arm up to protect my face and quickly turned the gas tank off. The fire went out instantly. I checked my body for damage and discovered I had burned most of the hair off my left arm but managed to keep the remaining parts in tact. I even had eyebrows and eyelashes, which seemed like a miracle after the GIGANTIC flame attacked me. The wall unit appeared to be ok, but I was in no mood to try again. Needless to say, I gave up on the shower after that. I still do not have hair on half my arm. Lovely.

The shower in our new house is electric. Don't ask how it works, I have no idea other than the shower head is plugged in and we somehow manage to avoid electrocution but our showers are what I would imagine what it would feel like if someone peed on you. Highly unpleasant.

Shockingly, I never really feel clean...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Living in Quito

Getting enough quality time on the internet is nearly impossible here. Nothing is easy. Nothing at all, which I guess is my first lesson regarding living abroad. Add about three hours and $10 to everything at the very least (by the way, $10 here is like $50 at home). For these reasons, I have not been able to adequately post about my last two months in Ecuador.

I spent the majority of September in orientation for nearly 12 hours a day that included practice teaching for two hours and two hours of Spanish lessons (I am not sure class was helpful though because my Spanish is still reproachable). During this time, I made about 40 friends of which nine are still living here in Quito. The rest of the group dispersed into the provinces south and west. It was very strange to go from seeing these people everyday to seeing only three or four of them once or twice a day, if at all. We had the rare instance of having a large group of people who got along and were pretty much amazing, friendly, and exceptionally interesting. I look forward to our reunion this weekend in Cuenca for the festival.

In September, I learned how not to get robbed (with the exception of my host family's incident, I have been lucky and DILIGENT), how not to get sick, if possible, and how to survive public transportation without dying, which has proven to be the most difficult thing here. Riding the buses is what I imagine surfing would be like if you were a sardine. More than once I thought for sure I was going to die while getting on the bus. I am completely serious when I write that they barely stop, and they most definitely have no concept of 'crowded' or too many people on a bus. If I hear 'Siga' one more time..... Frequently, the buses have stopped for me but there is no room and I have to stand on the first step, like the very first step you take to get on the bus, as in hanging out the bus. I could write an entire novel about my bus experiences here during the first two weeks and it would be quite involved and humorous.

My first month included an interesting trip to a Festival in the barrio Guapulo where I listened to a Spanish Nirvana cover band in a hippie bar. I also danced salsa in front of a huge church with hundreds of Ecuas until the wee hours of the morning. I road in the Teleferiqo to the top of Mt. Pichincha and almost died from lack of oxygen 12,000 feet up. (That is another thing, it is HARD to go from sea level to 10,000 ft. in the Andes. I was huffing and puffing for weeks. The stairs still kill me.) I experienced a few clubs for 'gringos', a Cuban club with an excellent live band, and may interesting restaurants. I have to tell you the majority of the food the Ecuas eat is rice, chicken, bananas, and potatoes FOR EVERY MEAL. It is very bland. I think I have had enough to last me a lifetime.

On a more serious note about our time in September, four members of our group were kidnapped by a masked gunman carrying a machete while hiking on top of the mountain in Quito. They spent the entire day hiding from the man from whom they managed to escape. Luckily, the national police (with PERSISTENT coaxing from the U.S. Embassy) rescued them unharmed. Three French tourists and one Australian were with them, and also escaped. Needless to say, our fellow volunteers were slightly traumatized, yet, they all stayed in Ecuador. So I won't be hiking Pichincha again....

My host family is very nice. I enjoy talking to them and feel I am extremely lucky to have been placed in their home, even though they kind of abduct me and take me to tile stores, mall food courts for lunch, as well as 8 hour visits to grandma's house. It is very frustrating to live with a family in another culture, but the experience is worth it, as they are kind, generous, and especially helpful during this experience.

This month, I began teaching. I have two classes: Sufficiency I and Advanced 2. Who knew it would involve me studying English grammar for at least an hour every day. These are the two most advanced classes, so it proves slightly challenging to teach but I enjoy them for the most part. I teach four hours a day from 7 to 9 am and 6 to 8:30 pm. Classes are Monday through Friday morning. I spend most of my days planning for classes and wishing I could eat munchos, butterfingers, mac & cheese, and peanut m & ms. Having to be up early is not exactly fun, as I have to catch the bus at 6:30 a.m. then I don't get home until after 9 pm. We eat dinner at 10 p.m., which is about the time I fall into bed. Eating this late has been a very difficult adjustment. People here barely eat breakfast then wait seven hours for lunch, and another seven to eight for dinner. Needless to say, I've taken to snacking and maybe even taken emotional eating to an entirely new level. They have tasty snacks and I've come to love the mora (blackberry) anything: jugo (juice), yogurt, ice cream, etc. you name mora and I love it. I am trying desperately not to become a gordita, a.k.a. a little fatty. I haven't been able to join a gym yet so I have been practicing karate in my driveway and bedroom. People stopped to watch when I was in the driveway so I started doing exercises in the privacy of my bedroom. I look forward to finding a gym soon. I NEED to find a gym soon.

There are days when I am fine and think I will make it without a problem. On other days, I am ready to hike down the street to the airport to catch the next plane to Miami. Being a 'cultural learner' is difficult in not so obvious ways. Stay tuned, there is a great deal more to come....

Friday, October 05, 2007

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LINDSAY!!!

The Teleferiqo and La Festival de Guapulo

Friday September 7.
I have no idea how my host mom is managing without a fridge. She has managed breakfast and dinner every day without the modern appliance. It astounds me but also makes me wonder how important it is to have until I think about ice cream. That is enough to make me want a shiny fridge in the kitchen.

On this lovely Friday in September, my friends and I headed to the
Teleferiqo, which is a cable car ride up to Mt. Pichincha. Four of the other volunteers and I decided to take a bus to the attraction. It was more than strenuous to walk up the hill to find the bus. The altitude is kicking my ass. It was only 25 cents to ride to the bottom of the mountain. I still can’t get over the 25 cent bus rides. We stupidly started trekking up the hill as soon as we got off the bus. The altitude is horrendous coming from sea level. It is so daunting to deal with that I often want to just plop down where I am to take a little nap. We were huffing and puffing all the way to the guide who pointed out the FREE shuttle up to the top. Dumb Americans. We gratefully jumped onto the shuttle to the top where we paid $4 to ride the cable car to the mountain 4100 meters in the air. The ride up was slightly scary but had incredible scenery. On top, we got out and immediately added a layer because we could see our breath. Jefe, Ashley, and Ava (my friends in the group) wanted to climb the mountain. Meanwhile, Brookie and I nearly died. It was exceptionally hard without being acclimated. I was nearly crawling against my will. Silly mountain climbers. After two summits and lots of pictures, we called it good for the day and vowed to complete the trek in May.




At 9:30ish pm. Jefe and Ash arrived at my house in a taxi. We started a chain in order to be safe and to make it easier. This might be a trend. We picked up Brookie and headed to the Festival de Guapulo as our director suggested. This new barrio is directly south of the Mariscal, which is the "new city" and most touristy in Quito. The taxi driver turned right off of a busy street, which teleported us into an entirely different world. The winding, steep, and deserted roads headed straight down the hills into a valley. We transported to a place I’ll never be able to explain adequately. A description would require pictures, not words. It was a narrow one way road down surrounded by little houses squished together in true Quito fashion. The taxi driver was frustrated and stopped in front of a few small bars and a little crowd of people. We all looked at each other nervously and asked if he was positive this small bit of activity was indeed the festival about which Therese told us. He feebly said ya and declared we should get out and pay. We appreciated his patience but were slightly terrified about where he was about to leave us. Luckily we were in a group and therefore, brave enough to venture into the unknown and slightly scary streets our first weekend here. We decided to have a beer at this hippie bar near our drop off. Of course, we stood out but the artsy and cozy place reminded me of a Latino Vermont hangout. The man behind the bar arranged two benches and a table for us in the middle of the main room which was empty except for the bar, one other table and a fireplace. It was so surreal that we were drinking $1.50 beers (really quarts) in a barrio in Ecuador. We shared stories, watched a band get ready, as well as a masked man appearing as a wolf, and a girl get salsa lessons. It was simply spectacular. This little whole-in-the-wall bar had walls littered with items right out of the Sign of the Sun store. The walls were adorned with random art and it was more like being in a decrepit hippie living room than a bar. We finished our first round of beers and left the bar slightly confused about the festival. I sent Therese a message to ask where we should go. There were bands in the street and food on small stands but nothing fancier than what you’d see in Quito during the day. In the meantime, we entered a small saloon where a band was playing. It was basically a Spanish frat party. The band was playing what sounded like Nirvana. It was hard to say. They were in a small room off the bar that was filled with couches and bean bags. We were invited in. Ash and Brooke sat on the bean bags near the windows and band. Jeff and I sat on the arm of a couch next to locals who were dishing out their own version of fire water in a mug they passed around for all to sip. I ordered four beers in my best Spanish yet. The lady still wrote the check out to “the gringos”. We jammed out with the band for awhile completely enthralled with how unreal the evening was. I sat in a room in a barrio in Ecuador, South America listening to an Ecua Nirvana cover band. We could not stop commenting on how truly unbelievable it was. The room was dim and comfortable. The band was decent and I could tell Ashley and I were going to get into a lot of trouble on our adventures here. I took this opportunity to send Mr. Brownie Sundae a text about my profound experience.

Therese finally called and requested our presence at the church. We inquired with other onlookers about the festival. They gave us directions to the church which is where the festivities actually were. They also made fun of us for thinking the street party was it. They also informed us not to leave the twisting main road because the other streets were dangerous. Loaded with helpful information, we headed down the main road to the party. The cobblestone road curved and snaked down the mountain into a valley in an unfamiliar fashion. We finally reached the church at the bottom which was obviously where the festival was, as the square was packed with people and featured a live ensemble. We courageously ploughed through the crowd to locate Therese, which we miraculously did. She introduced us to the group of men with whom she was dancing. They were gruffy, shady, and not at all what I’d picture this adorable, stylish, inspirational and exciting girl to be mingling with. It was strange to see such an amazing female blatantly settling. We were let in on the secret only privy to the Quito volunteers. It was funny and slightly awkward to see her make out with the strange Argentinian man with long hair. I mean she was in charge of us… weird.

Eventually we needed beers so we went to a small store run by a little lady where we bought drinks to head back to the festivities. The music was a mix of salsa, reggaeton, and hip hop. Two crazy dudes approached us and one tried to steal Ashley’s beer. They were sketchy and talking to her when one pulled out a small street brochure from which he started snorting cocaine. Jeff uncomfortably grabbed Ashley who luckily responded well. I told her I needed to go to the bathroom so we could escape the sketch balls. Jeff convinced the nice lady who owned the little tienda to let me pee in her bathroom. She snuck me around the counter and led me to the shadiest bathroom I have ever seen. It was much worse than the one in Massachusetts where you just pee into a stainless steel hole. However, I did not care because I was slightly intoxicated and happy to be at a festival in Ecuador. I was in Guapulo dancing and drinking with new friends.

We returned to the square where we spent the rest of the evening dancing to all the different kinds of music. We witnessed a fight I thought for sure was going to end up somewhere in the middle of our vicinity because we were next to the men beating each other. However, people broke it up so we could enjoy the music. Ashley kept chatting it up with random groups of strange men. She convinced all of them to dance with her and poor blonde Brooke who took the harassment like a champ. Meanwhile, due to my major skepticism of new people, I made Jefe dance with me. It was nice to be next to a boy. It was even better to dance and to have fun. I did get tricked into salsa dancing with an Ecua man when Jefe ran off to the bathroom. My first real Latin dance turned out to be a blast.

The entire evening was super and unbelievable. We danced and talked until the band stopped playing. Then Ash’s Ecua men safely led us to a taxi and saw us off. We negotiated an overpriced $8 ride home but it didn't matter because tt was one of the best evenings ever. And despite my desire for better clothes, shoes, style, and make up after seeing the Ecua ladies, I had a lot of fun. I think our safe little drop off is going to work all year : )

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Forgotten Celebrations

First and foremost, I am back!!! Sorry for the delay. It has been crazy here. I promise to tell you all about it but first I have a few announcements:

HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY ALLIE!!! I know it was on Sept 4th. I had an ice cream for you :) I hope your day was wonderful. I miss you and love you.

CONGRATULATIONS BETHY on your engagement!! WOOHOO. I am so excited for you. This calls for my favorite quotations:

"There is nothing more noble or admirable than when two people who see eye to eye share a house as husband and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends!"

Best of luck to You and Justin. I can't wait for the wedding next fall. (I do believe I get a gold star for match-making in this instance :) )

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOANNE!! I miss you guys and the big blue house. I hope you are enjoying the fall with the little ones. Many hugs and kisses. (That was for Sept 19, I think.)

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO LINZ & ANDREW!!! May you have many many years of happiness together. I can't wait to sit down to have a drink with you when I get back. I MISS YOU GUYS! (Please see Homer quotation above.) Sept 23.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY NANA!!! I miss you and love you. Also Sept. 23.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!! Let's just say, despite that it was illegal to drink on my birthday because of the elections, I had a splendid day about which I will tell everyone later. (It was much better than last year as no police officers were involved :)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO LIZ, my new Quito friend who is originally from the South (of the U.S. that is). She rocks!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Don't Freak Out, OK??

On Wednesday night, I arrived at my host family’s house in North Quito only to find my host dad speaking to neighbors in the street. It was around 8:30 p.m. and I was a leery about him being outside, as he told me not to walk around after 9. As I approached, he grimly spoke very rapidly about something that sounded like tips. I had no idea what he was saying in English or Spanish. He went jogging up the driveway, which is NOT him so I followed. I figured out what happened when he showed me the FIVE broken locks on the back door and saw the fridge gone. Turns out, my host family was robbed. Everything electronic was gone: the tv, the computer, the cd player and the FREAKING REFRIGERATOR!!!! Yet the thieves (which apparently was what he was trying to say in English when he said ‘tips’) broke into the two gated doors, the two back doors and the upstairs door (we have a steel door between the downstairs and the bedrooms upstairs, well it is a third world country). He insisted I run upstairs to check my things. My mattress was flipped over and the covers were thrown everywhere. One of my suitcases was empty, as the clothes were dispersed on the floor where they landed. By some stroke of extreme luck, the second suitcase was locked and untouched. This big black monstrosity contained my passport, camera, zip drive, and $200 cash. It sat peacefully on the floor near the window. The thieves could take a big ass fridge full of food but somehow managed to overlook my bag. (THANK GOD!). They also managed to leave two HUGE hand prints on the window. If this was the U.S. that would have been exceptionally stupid, but this is Ecuador and it means nothing because they do not have the technology to lift the prints. I am going to find a way even if it takes me some time. I refused to let anyone touch them.

The family has two daughters who are 3 and 5. The little chica was asleep but Frances, the older one was still up and was very upset because they manage to swipe her bike from the back. Understandably, she was very upset about what happened and refused to go to bed until my HM laid down with her. They took the bike but not the DVD player or the washer, which are commodities that seem to be as important as a fridge full of food, well one would think anyway.

We assessed the rest of the damage then my HD looked at me very seriously and asked, ¨Do you like pizza¨ in his best English. I had all I could not to laugh. The three of us sat down to a nice pizza dinner with Coca Cola. It was the strangest evening I’ve had in awhile.

I had been at my host family’ amazingly fortified house (or so it seemed) for three nights before they were robbed. I just cannot get over the refrigerator thing. Really, no one saw a big ass GE leave the house???

It is going to be a very interesting year.

Worry not, we are moving to my HM´s mother´s house this weekend where we’ll have a guard. Should be fun. I promise to keep you posted. Oh and whatever you do after reading this, DO NOT TELL MY PARENTS!!

In all sincerity though, all is well.

Stay tuned, I went hiking up an ENORMOUS mountain today and have pictures I’ll post soon.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

How I barely got to Quito, Ecuador

I know you all have been patiently waiting for me to write about how I finally got here so I shall indulge you now:

Saturday September 1, I arrived at Duke to attend Nick´s wedding. I was two seconds away from getting back on a plane to Maine because I was having the most severe panic attacks I have ever had in my whole entire life. The people at Logan airport probably thought I was a nutter because I kept busting into tears while waiting for my flight to North Carolina. I arrived at the Washington Duke, put on my black dress, then left for the church with my friends. I will comment on the ceremony and the events of that evening in a later post, but let´s just say a little bit of encouragment from my friends and some alcohol made me feel better about leaving for Edcuador the next morning at 5:30 a.m.

When I arrived at Miami International Airport, I was oddly calm for the first time in more than a week. I guess the realization that this was the last step made it easier to just DIVE RIGHT IN. I found the people in my group and immediately felt better. A lovely Miss Caitlin asked me if I felt overwhelmed and wanted to just go home. She was the first peron I encountered who was in the same position as as I was, which made me feel at ease. The rest of the group convened and enjoyed a nice meeting in a small conference room. Thirty seven people from all over the U.S. finally had the opportunity to express everything they felt and feared before arriving in South America. WHAT A RELIEF!!

Then we boarded a plane and four hours later, we landed 10,000 feet in the Andes in Quito, Ecuador. Another continent appeared before our eyes.

The group of individuals accompanying me on this amazing journey is astounding. I cannot convey enough how awesome they are. I´ve already made really good friends and met my lovely host family who THANK GOD speak some English because my Spanish needs help. I hope this improves dramatically during the month of orientation.

We have spent two days learning so much information my brain already hurts but in a good way. Today, we had a bus tour of the city, witnessed our first robbery scam, saw a demonstration, and the entire city of Quito from the 'Virgin Quito,' which is located at the top of an enormous mountain. It was spectacular.

So far everything is amazing. I´m a little scared of the sketchy stuff such as not knowing as much Spanish as I should, robbery scams, Ecua men, or how to use the bus I am suppose to take to get home tonight but I have to tell you how cool it is to sit in a internet cafe, Papayanet, with my two new friends, Brooke and Katie, drinking cervezas, using the internet by candle light and listening to some pretty cool American and Spanish music. Now if I could only figure out how to use the keyboard...

OHMYGODIAMINQUITOECUADOR!!!!!!!!

I love you guys so much and miss you. I can´t wait to tell you more about how awesome it is so far :)

Monday, September 03, 2007

ohmygodiminquito!!!

ALOHA AMIGOS!!!

I am sitting in an internet cafe here in Quito, Ecuador. I cannot even believe it. I have so much to tell you I don´t know where to start. Please stay tuned for more to follow!!!!

YAY!!!! estoy aqui!!!

Monday, August 27, 2007

In the graveyard after dark…

Two Sundays ago, my favorite aunt & uncle unveiled their convertible, picked me up, and ventured into Boston for the day. Our first stop was the Museum of Science, which is one of my favorite places. When I was a brownie, we took an overnight field trip there. All I really remember from the night was the poprocks my friend Katrina and I ate once the lights were dimmed. For some reason, my parents thought it would be a good idea for me to have them. Our troop leader spent half an hour trying to figure out from where all the noise was coming, while the two of us tried desperately not to give ourselves away or to laugh. Anyway, I felt tremendous exhilaration walking through the museum and examining all the showcases, puzzles, and artifacts. The hall of electricity, the inner Earth, the dinosaurs, the human body exhibit, the chicks, the collections, just all of it fascinated me. Outside of my grown-up, gray office, boring world, an exciting universe exists. I fear adults forget that sometimes. We spent almost three hours absorbing all the information and stimuli throughout the museum before heading to dinner.

After dinner, we trekked across town to the Long Wharf where we reserved a tour for the evening. My uncle was unusually excited about this activity. I did not even think to ask what we were doing, as I assumed it was on par with what we normally do on our trips to Beantown. Very much to my chagrin, I discovered he signed us up for a ghosts and graveyard tour . I do not like scary things, not movies, stories, burglars trying to break into my house in the middle of the night or people scaring the crap out of me from the back porch while I sit at the kitchen bar doing my calculus homework. Not a fan. We jumped onto the trolley and found seats near the back. My aunt and uncle sat down, and I plopped down in a little seat in front of them. The scariest looking dude I’ve ever seen in my life lurked around the red trolley eying me with his devilish and slightly terrifying beady eyes. I immediately moved away from the opening and closer to my uncle. The sketchy man moved around the other side of the trolley. I moved toward the open end of my seat and turned to talk to my uncle because I thought it was safe until all of a sudden someone touched my shoulder. I screamed so loudly the entire city of Boston and its outlaying suburbs heard me for ten minutes straight. I almost died of a heart attack. Meanwhile, my aunt and uncle nearly pissed their pants from laughter. I told them it was not funny, and I thought this wasn’t a good idea. Of course my aunt said she knew he was coming. Hey, THANKS FOR THE HEADS UP, JERK! Needless to write, I was very jittery for the rest of the tour. Mr. Scary Dude, a.k.a Anthrax the Demon, hopped onto the trolley to give us an introduction. He started out by proclaiming some people can sense evil, looked at me, then pointed while saying, “like her, that one in the green” and smiled a very creepy smile. I could tell it was going to be a long two hours.

Anthrax turned out to be equal parts frightening and comical. We headed out to a graveyard on top of a hill, Copps, where we discovered all sorts of eerie things about the people buried there as well as the history about the graveyard. Of course, my aunt got yelled at for being a sinister distraction. She had a snide remark for a few of Anthrax’s comments. He was slightly amused yet perturbed with her. I thought for sure she was going to get us in trouble and we’d end up in a tomb somewhere under the streets of this Harbor Town. Luckily, she stopped before drastic measures were necessary.

The last stop of the tour was at the Granary Graveyard where my hero, Paul Revere, is buried. By this time, it was pitch black out and we had already “hanged” two of the people in our group, so you can imagine how unsettled I was. When the two crowds approached the graveyard, it was chained shut due to some municipal work on the street in front of the doors. Anthrax graciously got the key from the nice man standing there. He unlocked the gates, let us all in, then locked the gates again. He and his buddy went running off, screaming “Suckers!!” leaving us all there in the DARK, IN THE GRAVEYARD. Awesome. Seriously, do you want me to have a heart attack? I should have brought a flask. The group convened in the middle near Ben Franklin’s parents when a strange hairy and slightly uncanny man jumped out from behind the gravestone. That rocked. He proceeded to divulge all the details of the tombstones, the people encapsulated in them, and their families. Near the end of his diatribe, we gathered near a building at the back of the cemetery to discuss James Allen’s book about Highway men that was bound in human flesh. Mr. Hairy Tour Guide man was going on about this book and how it's covered is someone’s ass cheek when all of a sudden someone grabbed my shoulder. I immediately turned around and decked whoever it was square in the chest. He yelled "ouch" while I screamed. Everyone started laughing hysterically. Anthrax shot to the center of the crowd holding his shoulder. He pointed at me and said, “SHE HIT ME!!” I told him he was lucky it was only his shoulder and not to touch me again in the GRAVEYARD AFTER DARK! He smiled his disturbing little demon smile and took over the tour from there. Really, you want to take me on a tour of the graveyards at night? I think not. The rest of the tour was chat of the Boston Strangler, and also of the nutter woman who killed hundreds of people in a hospital and got away with it. Fascinating spine chilling I never need to know scariness. We finally arrived back to the Wharf where Anthrax let us off the trolley. My aunt walked by him first. He pointed and said in a very deep and disturbing voice, “YOU, YOU… were my favorite.” She laughed. Then I proceeded to sneak by when he bellowed, “NO YOU WERE MY FAVORITE!!!” then laughed. I just smiled and jumped off the stairs thankful to be done.

Despite how much it scared the crap out of me, I highly recommend this tour. Ask for Anthrax. He provided quality entertainment when he wasn’t scaring the bejesus out of me.

After the tour, we walked around the city for an hour in a desperate search for dessert. Unfortunately, nothing was open because the city apparently closes by 9. We retrieved the convertible and as a result of my insistence, we drove out of town with the top down. Who cares that it was only fifty degrees out; we had more important things to worry about, like finding dessert. Just outside of town on 93, we exited off the highway to grace the local Friendly's with our presence. They were closed. You would think a girl could find a brownie sundae on a lovely August evening. It was proving exceptionally difficult to find anything sweet at all. We proceeded on our quest completely determined to find a morsel-anything consisting of sugar that wasn't from McDonald's or Dunkin' Donuts. A bit further on the highway, we discovered another Friendly's only this one was open. The three of us indulged in completely gratuitous divine goodness before traveling home. I bundled in a wool blanket and huddled in the corner where I could look up and watch the stars while we cruised the highway. How awesome is the summer sky from the back of a convertible on a clear night? Spectacular.

(Let's just forget that I had to take a piping hot shower when I arrived home. It was worth it.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"GOING ONCE " ~ Ani Difranco

"going once, going twice
sold to the girl
who ignored all the advice
of all the people who knew better
she just stood there
on the front porch
waiting for her will
to come and get her

she was packed
she had a suitcase
full of noble intentions
she had a map
and a straight face
hell bent on reinvention
and she was ready
for the lonely
she was in it for
it only

going once, going twice
down the road less taken
with her diary and her WD40
and her swiss army knife
and her beer
and there was always
someone there to say
why don't you just stay
and hang your hat here

but she was packed
she had a suitcase
full of bungles and near misses
and she was swinging
through a jungle
of last calls and first kisses
and she was learning
about please
about huge humilities

then one day she looked around her
and everything up til then was showing
and she wondered: how did i get here
without even knowing where i was going?
now there's no getting out of this
and there is no going back
and it all seems so odd sometimes
and the odds all seem stacked

going once, going twice
sold to the girl
who ignored all the advice
of all the people who knew better
she just stood there
on the front porch
waiting for her will
to come and get her

she was packed
she had a suitcase

she had a map
and a straight face

she was ready
for the lonely

she was in it for
it only "

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"There is a Reason They Call me the Queen..."

Recently, I was invited to dinner at my friend Lo’s house where we would dine on her famous Thai Chicken Pizza. Before I headed to her and Mikie’s place, I went for a nice run around the bay. The local trails have a four to eight mile jaunt around the estuary where the city has a lovely path and free parking. I completed my workout and returned to my car where I was surprised to find the little white envelope illuminating the screen of my PDA. As much joy as that little icon brings to me, I DESPISE text messages. I mean they are in the top ten of things I really really do not like. I mean, right on par with Jager, Lobsters, and most girls. I realize there is a contradiction here as I do enjoy the image, so let’s just say Mr. Klein is right when he proclaims “she’s always and never the same.” I don’t like them, I just like that someone has something to say to me. Turns out, Mr. Houdini was back at stalking me via text message, which happens to be his preferred method of communication these past few weeks. I have refrained from writing about the awesome conversations because nothing ever came of them, and I was tired of having him parade around here like he deserved the spotlight.

Turns out he was dying to see me, so he wrote. I told him unless he was buying me lots and lots of ice cream, raising $3,000 for my current charitable cause (see left) or buying my car, I was busy and had NO TIME FOR HIM. For some reason, he has a very difficult time believing me when I tell him I am busy. I have refused to see him since Whit's birthday gathering at the pub. I fear I will not be able to get rid of him until I have my phone shut off in two weeks. Anyway, he was his usual arrogant self, which I ignored. I often teeter on the fine line of “ignorance is bliss” and I need to know. I chose the former for the evening, as I had a dinner date, and I prefer not knowing.

Dinner was outstanding. Lo’s pizza was the best thing I have ever eaten in my whole entire life. Better than WAWA mac & cheese, Fellini’s number 36, and even homemade donuts from the market. I could eat my friend's Thai chicken pizza every night of my life. I cannot adequately express how gloriously tasty this dish was. I am considering having it as my wedding meal should I meet someone brave enough to marry me. Not to mention as my last supper. No, I am not joking. I am dead serious here people. (Lo, you’ll cater right?)

After we finished our fabulous meal, Lo and Mikie were off to meet up with a friend of Mikie’s who was in town visiting. I thanked them tremendously for dinner, begged her to make it again, and made plans to talk later.

Once I returned to my car, I found my phone riddled with missed calls and messages. I finally responded back to him by writing, “Look, you’ve had more than nine months to hang out with me, it’s not my fault you’re feeling remorseful.” Then headed to the Hilton to shower and get ready for the evening. Of course the telephone did not stop convulsing but I am good at ignoring things, sometimes to a fault.

Around 10:30, Lo called me. I did not answer the phone because I thought it was Mr. Houdini again. I called her back to see whether or not she was still out and about. She told me she was still with Mikie and his friend, B, and B’s friends from high school. She was the only female in the crowd and requested some company. I told her I would join her at the pub shortly.

When I arrived at the bar, she greeted me by the door. I grabbed a drink and followed her over to Mikie and the boys. I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw the group of males nonchalantly standing in the corner. First up, Mr. Houdini’s roommate. Second up, Mr. Houdini’s neighbor a.k.a. his former teammate from college hoops. I looked at Laurie and asked how she ended up with these boys. She told me they were the ones who were B’s friends from high school. She had met the Js before but didn’t really know them. She never met Mr. Houdini and definitely was not privy to the boys’ status as his friends. As we were walking over to the group I felt someone pull on my skirt. I turned around to find Mr. Houdini sitting at a table. I looked at Laurie and then at him. He smiled the biggest smile I’ve ever seen and said, “I HAVE BEEN CALLING YOU ALL NIGHT.” To his defense, I’ve never seen anyone so excited to see me. Never in all of my life. He immediately reached for me and insisted I sit down. I was so shocked at his presence I could not physically sit. I told him fate would have it that tonight was his lucky night to buy me drinks and to thank Laurie who I grabbed to question. I thought she was going to drop dead when she realized he was the one and only. Apparently, he hadn’t said a word in the last two hours and no one introduced him so she did not know who he was and when I asked him, he knew even less about her. Of course this would happen to me. Ladies and gentlemen, this is exactly why I hold the title of “THE QUEEN OF COINCIDENCES”. Since Laurie is one of my bestest friends, I believe she did not take a bribe from him, and since he truly does not talk to anyone but me it seems, I believe them both. I have not met anyone who has had more twists of fate than I. We cannot seem to figure it out so anyone out there who has an idea, please share it with me and my friends. It turns out, ignoring clueless boys is not the way to go people.

What the hell are the chances the two of them would end up in the same group of people that very evening? He had been contacting me all night, even before dinner. I JUST ATE AT HER HOUSE. It's not often I'm rendered speechless...

The group enjoyed a beverages at the pub before we locomoted to the next destination. Mr. Houdini continued his enthusiasm in gallant fashion. Laurie pulled me aside and asked if I was positive this was the same person about whom I tell stories. I told her it was him in the flesh. We all walked across the street to the other bar. He happily purchased beverages for me, held my hand, and kissed me on the cheek multiple times. He kept telling me he was so happy to see me. He was making a liar of me, as Lo kept shooting baffled looks my way. The other boys in the group were friendly as usual. Eventually, Mr. Houdini and I made our way to a table, Lo and Mikie headed home, and the boys congregated outside near our corner. This is when I don’t mind him. He is charming, cute, funny, and very affectionate. He doesn’t care that his friends are watching him try to maul me. While he is a man of very few (and I mean most people probably think he’s mute) words, he’ll talk to me non-stop the entire time we are out and about. This is the reason I give him the benefit of the doubt more than I should. I cannot seem to figure out whether he’s really an ass or just socially retarded because he has no problem admitting he doesn’t deserve to see me and asks me repeatedly when I’m coming back from Ecuador, as if it matters. My inability to decipher his actions makes this situation slightly 'irresistible'. He was pleasant, the rest of the evening was comfortable, and I am pretty sure Laurie thinks I’m a big fat liar. She even called me the next day bright and early to tell me so.

I wonder if this was a sick joke sent from the heavens to teach me just to deal with people….

Friday, August 10, 2007

Meteor Madness

On August 12 (this Sunday people) from late evening to predawn the next day, The Perseid Meteor shower will peak along with a new moon allowing the possibility of seeing more than 50 meteors an hour if you're living in the Northern Hemisphere. Find a spot nearly 40 miles from city lights, grab a blanket, and engross yourself in the rare showcase.

Anyone who wants to have a picnic at the beach to enjoy the festivities is welcome to join me. Hooray!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Food for Thought

I was fumbling through a magazine recently where I came across the following article:

"Every summer my husband and I pack our suitcases, load our kids into the car, and drive from tense crowded New York City to my family's cottage in Northern New England. It's on an island, with stretches of sea and sandy beaches, rocky coasts, and pine trees. We barbecue, swim, lie around, and try to do nothing...

One night, my husband and I decided to go out for a movie date. It was a Friday night, so all the tourists who flood the island in the high season had taken over, but we didn't mind. We ate lobster rolls on the bay, sat in the theater with our popcorn, and poured out with the rest of the crowd to get our car.

The tiny main street was clogged with traffic. My husband saw a shortcut and made a left onto a quiet lane. We chitchatted about the movie; we were relaxed, distracted, and removed from the stresses of the city. And it was during this pleasurable little moment that a young woman passing by us screamed, 'This is a one-way street, you asshole!'

In the silence that followed, I felt a fury overtake me. But there is a reason my husband's nickname is the Zen Master. Before I could think of a suitable comeback, he'd stopped the car, smiled at the woman, and said 'Hi.'

She looked surprised. 'Uh, hi,' she said.

'Just so you know, I'm really not an asshole,' Jon began. 'I didn't realize this was a one way because I didn't see the sign.'

The woman's complexion, previously tan, turned crimson. 'It's on the edge of the entrance,' she said quietly. 'It's easy to miss.'

'Okay,' he said. 'Well, I'm sorry about that.'

'No worries,' she said. 'I'm sorry, too.'

'See you around, then,' my husband said. 'Take care.'

'You, too,' she said.

And we drove off.

It's too easy to sum up a person's character in one negative instant, and it doesn't put anything good out into the world. We're all in this together."

(story from the August Oprah about Hope Davis and written by Justine van der Leun.)

Imagine if we all weren't so judgmental?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

It Was Just a Hug...

Last week was not a good week. Monday rolled by normally yet under a slight lid of trash can Oscarishness I sometimes cannot avoid for unapparent reasons. Then Tuesday brought in the storm that lasted most of the week. One negative event after another rolled over me until Thursday night. Circumstances and responsibilities led me to an indoor soccer game in which my former boyfriend was playing. The hour passed awkwardly as I tried to watch my friend play while avoiding watching him. Decidedly, this is a very difficult thing to do, especially when the two of them are on the same team. At the end of the game, I sat in the stands waiting for my friend with her little brother. I thought I could exit the arena without actually having to speak to him considering we seem to have avoided talking for nearly a year and three quarters. Of course this was wishful thinking because after the game he paraded right over to our spot in the bleachers, insisted on giving me a huge hug, and plopped down next to us where he proceeded to inquire about my upcoming journey and expressed some serious concerns about my safety. I was at a loss for what to do or say. The two of us only had a handful of non-couple encounters with only one being verbal. And the hug...If you could have seen me you might have died laughing because I just sat there looking at him. He hugged me while I put one arm around his back, gave a quick pat, and quickly removed my limb. The last time a male hugged me in a manner such as his on Thursday night was in December of 2005 when he hugged me for the last time as my boyfriend. Our conversation was brief yet friendly. He smiled at me, which just made me think, 'that is him'. I know you. Don't smile at me like that. Then he hugged me again and made me promise to send him postcards. We parted ways, and it was over just like that.

All night long I ruminated on the hug. I have no clear reason why yet I could not help but acknowledge it changed me. He has changed me in so many ways I often fight the urge to call to thank him; To tell him how much I owe him for making me realize a plethora of wonderful intimate details about myself I did not see before he came into my life. His departure has made me a better person because once he was gone, I was forced to take a profound look at who I was compared to who I wanted to be. Once again, he is unaware of the invisible mark he has left. His embrace near the stands of the soccer field made me realize I never again will settle for anything less. My precious time is reserved only for the genuine and worthy. The stark realization that I was wasting enormous amounts of energy and cerebral space on males who did not deserve it astounded me. What have I been thinking? What have I been doing? It needs to stop. He reminded me the potential for another amazing relationship is there if only I would clear a path. There was a time when I was some one's girl and he took great comfort and delight in having me in his life. Reciprocity exists.

Ernest contemplation felt as if a huge hammer hit me over the head, and once again I wanted to pick up the telephone to tell him thank you but refrained, as I knew I could never offer a proper explanation. Now that I remember what it is like to be hugged, I refuse to let hedonistic, arrogant, selfish pricks take up any of my time. The shamelessly incapable, immature, indifferent, and unworthy need not apply. This girl can dance by herself and is content waiting for the one who wants to dance beside her all night long.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

HAPPY BLOG BIRTHDAY!!

Today is my blog's birthday. One year ago today, I started writing here because I was dying of boredom at work. It is astounding that a year has passed. The thought of not commanding this corner of virtual infinity seems incomprehensible. I'm making a green tea and berry cake in celebration, YAY!

The year in review:

July 2006 ~ As a result of being displaced as a vagabond, bored at work, and lacking good chat buddies, I started "For the Love Of Fireworks".

August 2006 ~ The phrase "Why not?" plagued me, which prompted the beginning of my career as a martial artist. I cannot imagine my life without the dojo or karate.

September 2006 ~ Ah, the Jersey shore with my second family (Hi Bethy and Mrs B!). Lovely times. My birthday was a disaster with the exception of the two hours I spent at the restaurant with the few friends who celebrated with me.

October 2006 ~ I ventured to the Midwest to visit Mr. Brownie Sundae for a four day weekend. I cried the entire way home. Not one soul asked me what was wrong nor did they sit in the empty seats next to me (I had three all to myself). The following day, I bought my POS car from a friend (Never do this people. NEVER EVER.) and applied to be a volunteer for World Teach.

November 2006 ~ I ate too much at Thanksgiving dinner. Kissed a boy with whom I went to high school, which prompted an unnatural series of events that remain the foundation of numerous jokes. And vowed to give up boys completely starting on Dec. 1.

December 2006 ~ While dancing by myself at a bar, I met Mr. Houdini. I had the worst Christmas I've ever had in my entire life as well as the worst New Year's Eve EVER. My aunt and uncle secured the spot of my most favorite family members as a result of their awesomeness during this month.

January 2007 ~ The farmhouse became my sanctuary. I drank lots of champagne, watched an astounding number of movies, and became addicted to Grey's Anatomy. I cut off all my hair.

February 2007 ~ My sister almost died in a car accident. Mr. Brownie Sundae and I started talking again. I had a snowball fight with a very cute boy from "The County". After seven weeks of being MIA, Mr. Houdini decided to resurface. Erin and I survived the blizzard.

March 2007 ~ I spent the majority of the month trying not to die. I passed my blue belt test despite how awful I felt, which taught me I can do pretty much anything after surviving that Saturday. The dojo was saved, Villanova played basketball, the wall was born, the Mouse Massacre began, and I saw the Celtics from a luxury box.

April 2007 ~ Hannah was born in a car the day before Easter. I gave up Mr. Brownie Sundae because he was "making a mess again". Erin celebrated her birthday in true BigStar style. Our house flooded and remained a disaster for three months. The Pillsbury Bake-off finally removed its grip from my life.

May 2007 ~ Whit celebrated her birthday. Mr. Houdini reappeared in the bar. I spent quality time with Kate in California where I saw Alé walk for the first time. My favorite aunt and uncle spent quality time with me parading around Boston. Welcome back Mr. Brownie Sundae. I was confirmed as a volunteer for World Teach Ecuador.

June 2007 ~ Lots and Lots of movies. "For the Love of Fireworks" was referenced online at the WSJ. KB came to visit me. BigStar and I fought off a burglar. Nick and Lindsey had a bridal shower. I'll refrain from commenting on my parents.

July 2007 ~ YAY HARRY POTTER AND HOGWARTS!! I got my next belt in Karate, as well as a hematoma that still looks like someone took a bat to my leg despite the three weeks that has passed. The infamous Red became my official blog friend. I quit my job! Oh and BigStar's life long dream came true.

Alas, It's been a pretty good year!

Thank you all for visiting. I certainly appreciate your two cents. May we have many more great years.

P.S. I'm looking for a creative graphic designer...I know exactly what I want if anyone has any recommendations.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

"Fashion is not a Luxury"

This week, I happened upon a very cool find: Sarah Jessica Parker has launched a line of clothing, "Bitten", featured exclusively at Steve & Barry's. She touts her creations by proclaiming "Fashion is not a Luxury" and follows up by providing sizes 2 to 22 at a price cap of $19.98. That is right, nothing costs more than $19.98. Now, I'm definitely not a fashionista, actually, I'm so far away from it I believe most males have better wardrobes, but I believe this is something about which to get excited. I might actually get pants that fit me now (I know BigStar is excited about the prospect of this).



She does make it seem like it is feasible to make yourself look presentable without all the fuss. I could support her efforts.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What the heck!?!?!

I permitted myself to leave the house on Saturday once I finished reading. My friends were out watching the local 80s cover band once again at the light up dance floor bar in town. I joined them shortly after 11. We chatted up a storm and danced for a bit until Allison asked me if I read the epilogue. I stopped dead in my tracks and almost went running out of the bar. Instead of panicking, I stayed to spend time with my friends despite my deep desire to go straight home, plop down on my bed, and finish the last bit of the book. How could I forget to read the epilogue?!?!?! I suffered through a few songs until the band played the silly "Take My Breath Away" 80s song, which prompted most individual dancers off the floor. An interesting man approached our circle and asked me to dance. I accepted against my better judgment because I desperately needed a distraction from the final chapter calling from the corner of my bed where the book rested. Small talk ensued while we shifted through a crowd. After the song ended, he excused himself. Allie pulled me aside and asked if I noticed the ring on his left finger. I looked at her and said, "He was married?" She said yes and pointed to the couple standing a few feet away from us dancing passionately. Really? Yes, the male who just asked me to dance was standing no less than 10 feet away dancing with his wife. Ok...well did I miss something? If one is married and his wife is at the bar with him and he's not trying to hide the fact that he's married, why ask me to dance? Why not dance with your wife? Honestly, I was fine dancing with my friends. It did not take long for me to leave the bar slightly baffled yet on a mission. Things like this make me think I'd rather stay home with my books.

Monday, July 23, 2007

"For the love Of Africa"

Now that I've finished the Harry Potter Series, I am at a loss for what to do with myself. It is amazing how much time one can make for something she enjoys. I decided against jumping into another book, as fiction would only overwhelm me at the moment. Luckily a pile of shiny patient magazines beckoned me from my perch on the end of my bed yesterday afternoon. The July Oprah won first place prize for most interesting so I picked it up and headed to the beach.

I found a snug spot away from high tide where I settled in to read about Sveva Gallmann. Apparently, this gorgeous and amazing TWENTY SIX year old woman lives in Kenya where she is the peacemaker for disputing tribes, leads the Four Generations Project, and spends her days on the Gallmann Africa Conservancy founded by her Italian parents. She discovered healing properties of a Kenyan plant from observing rhinos in the wild. She proved her theory while studying at Oxford. She speaks languages of which I've never heard such as Pokot and Samburu as well as Italian and English. Sveva is invited to tribal celebrations older than my country and is frequently the guest of honor. Drinking goat's blood is not above her. Miss Gallmann has undertaken the daunting task of recording and understanding the tribal traditions of the Kenyan people. She has developed a curriculum to help the new generations understand their predecessors and is a champion for treading lightly on the earth. Conserving the natural environment and habitat of Kenya is another priority of hers. Instead of continuing, I will assume you've been humbled enough already, and therefore just suggest you try to find yourself a copy of this issue to read the article. (I'd be happy to mail a copy to those who'd like just the article.)

Reading this article while sitting at a four star resort on the New England coast mourning the loss of Hogwarts made me feel like a schmuck. SHE IS OUR AGE!! I am in awe of her motivation and devotion to such an unbelievable cause. She has done more in her quarter century lifetime than some do in 100 years. stories like hers are truly astonishing. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get a life.


(picture from the GAC website)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I'm not above closing myself in a room for a day...

In 14 days, I read 4,200 pages of Harry Potter. Some would probably say the pages were more likely devoured, and maybe spending the entire day Saturday reading book 7 was a bit much, but I do not regret it. I've always been a bit of bookworm...

I unabashedly left work at 9:30 on Friday morning to run to Borders to get my bracelet for the line to pick up my copy of "The Deathly Hallows" later in the evening. It was nearly impossible to control my excitement for any portion of the day. I even did work in an attempt to distract myself. Around 5:30, I found solace in a nice nap, which helped pass two hours time. Finally, 10:30 rolled around so I could head over to the bookstore to observe the events. Allie and I spent the time reading magazines, language books, and watching the very clever high school girls parade around in "Gryffindor", "Snape is Loyal", and "The Leaky Caldron" t-shirts that made me turn an unnatural shade of green with envy. It was not long before midnight rolled around and brought our attention to the debut of the book. The lines were formed outside and we were paraded into the store by the color of our bracelets. (I will admit I ended up telling off a very drunken man who was disturbing the peace in the orange line. He did not seem to understand the difference between the colors orange and silver.) Allie and I only waited 20 minutes before we received our copies...

I hurried home where I only got through 100 pages before passing out. I did not wake up again until 10 a.m. very much to my dismay. In less than 10 hours reading, I finished the final chapter of Harry Potter. I had been evading all text messages and telephone calls from people throughout the day. Unfortunately, I was the first one of my friends to finish. I will not spoil the fun for those of you who haven't completed the novel, and instead will leave you with the option of emailing/chatting/calling me to share your thoughts on Rowling's work as you finish. I look forward to hearing what others think, and will eventually post my opinion for everyone. In the meantime, Happy Reading!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Many Thanks to my "Fan Club"

Friday night, I tested for my sixth belt in karate and for my last belt before I leave for Ecuador. I was fortunate enough to have my friends Amanda, Allie, and Lindsay join the audience. Having them there meant a great deal to me. They saw some very talented martial artists (my ukes) and were able to see where I spend the rest of my time when I am not with them. I was inspired by their presence, and made sure to put forth my very best effort. Luckily, I passed my test to earn the next belt, gave a quality performance for my "fan club" as my senseis so eloquently put it, and incurred a battle wound to commemorate the experience. I fear they may not be persuaded to join the ranks of karate martial artists after seeing the grapefruit sized hematoma on my left shin, which seems to be healing rather nicely in it's 10 inch by 5 inch plot on my leg. Next time, I'll make sure to adjust my sparring gear before I start fighting. Despite the injury, it was an amazing night.

Lindsay has some great pictures of the evening I'll share when she has the time to send them my way.

Thank you so much for taking the time to come watch ladies. I cannot express how awesome it was to have you there!

Friday, July 13, 2007

“And the award goes to..."

You might remember this incident, or maybe this one? How about the story here provided by Allie? Well, since we all love a good story, and he’s proved to make a fantastic story, Mr. Houdini has been nominated for the jackass of the year.

His performance last night sealed the nomination.

As usual on Thursday night, Amanda, Allie and I were enjoying a lovely meal at Allie’s when the topic of Mr. Houdini, which always provides great laughs, was mentioned. Honestly, I had not thought about him at all since I saw him walk into his house with another girl. I have had other things to do such as rendezvous with Harry and worrying about air pollution.

The triangle finished dinner then settled in to watch “Groomsmen”. Around 9:30, Mr. Houdini’s show began:

[Telephone lights up to reveal the little bright white envelope indicating a new text message was delivered.]

Miss Cupcake picks up her phone, with the assumption it was Mr. Brownie Sundae, with whom she had been messaging for a bit discussing the merits of Ron Weasley, and was shocked to see a telephone number she vaguely recalled as Mr. Houdini’s.

The message read:

Mr. Houdini: “Hi”

to which Miss Cupcake responded, “Hey.”

She busts out laughing to the girls, “Ah ladies, you’ll never believe who just sent me a message. He must have known we were talking about him.”

The girls, “SHUT UP!”

A few comments from the peanut gallery fly around the room, then we proceeded to watch the movie throughout which I received the following most spectacular lines of bullshit I have ever seen in my life. For your viewing pleasure, I present the show that won the award for JACKASS OF THE YEAR:

Mr. Houdini: “ ‘innocent friend who shall not be named’ wants a jager bomb? U?”

(Ladies and gentlemen this shows how well he knows me. I HATE jager. By the way, this is the first communication I’ve received since Memorial Day weekend when I stood him up.)

Miss Cupcake: “Not a fan of jager.”
MH: “What? A rendezvous at my place? Fan?"
MC: “You wish.”
MH: “Is that a no?”
MC: “It is and I’m busy.”
MH: “What’s his name?”
MC: “And hers?”
MH: “Stop playing hard to get. U want to come over and I want u to come over.”
MC: “I’m sure she can entertain you well enough.”
MH: “Alright. You’re wildest dreams will have to go unanswered for another
night.”
MC: “Oh please. What is she away for the weekend? Not cool 5 dimes.”

(“Not cool five dimes” is a phrase coined by the Lovely Miss Red, which we have turned into a daily phrase.)

[It’s 10:04, the scene fades to Miss Cupcake dropping her phone into her bag to enjoy the rest of her evening.]

At 5:00 a.m., Miss Cupcake awoke to get some juice. She noticed text messages and missed phone calls on the screen of her PDA.

At 11:58 p.m. Mr. Houdini sent: “Pick me up at local bar and we’ll call it even.”

Miss Cupcake dialed in to check her voice mail before responding to the text. It appears his audacity and ego had reached heights she did not believe were possible. Mr. Houdini’s last attempt to sway her included the words, “Alright, well played. If you want to come over, the door will be open. You know where my bedroom is.” Oh Really...Well you can imagine the reaction Miss Cupcake unleashed. Times like these make one wish she had an e-mail address, as not to waste any allotted messages on retaliating to the “dirt bag”.

Miss Cupcake answered with asperity,

“Fat chance. No where near even. Take a look outside your bedroom window. The apartment right there is Linz & Andrew’s. Last time I had dinner there, I saw you walk into your house with a girl. I’m not a moron, unlike some. I can assure you I don’t play these games. If you can’t call by day, you don’t get to play by night. And I never star as the mistress or the “friend”. Once again, your arrogance is astounding. You had your chance, you passed.” You are awful; Never ever call me again.

She would have written him nasty vicious names but none seem sufficient enough to express her utter disgust. GROSS. She also would have shared more of her thoughts on his behavior with him but didn't want to waste any more time or messages. Of course he had no retort.

And there you have it. I would now like to hand out the award of JACKASS OF THE YEAR to an ever so gracious Mr. Houdini.

Of course, the award is a sack of fire ants in your bed, which will be delivered shortly and rather easily considering your "open" door. (You might want to reconsider that.)

You can go away now Mr. Houdini.

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for coming. I hope you enjoyed the show. I can't imagine we'll have any more appearances from him at "For the Love of Fireworks".

May you all have a wonderful day!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The WOES of Erin

Today, I decided to take a few minutes out of my very busy work schedule to read some pages in my “Living and Teaching in Ecuador” guide provided by World Teach in preparation of my journey next month. Let me just tell you, this guide is not for the faint of heart. I understand why they don’t send it to you until AFTER you are confirmed. I keep reminding myself I am PAYING for this experience. I have VOLUNTEERED for this cause *cough-deep breathing-cough*…

My comprehension of developing nations is probably more evolved than most, as I am an economist. I am from northern New England, therefore can rough it with the best of them. Advice on having no expectations has been accepted and implemented: currently picturing a blank canvas. Plainly speaking, I know I’m going to be roughing it. I guess the bus just hit me when I read:

“It is possible you will not receive your pay on a regular monthly basis and conceivable you will not be paid for some months at all.” Ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking about the “stipend” volunteers get for their positions, which is used to pay the host families with whom they are staying. The program proclaims room and board are included in the “fee” and are part of package for your noble efforts. They probably should have let us know beforehand we have to pay our families even though we might not get paid. Not sure, but that seems a little bit important considering we are going to be DESTITUTE.

“Living with a host family can be a trying experience, especially if you are used to living very INDEPENDENTLY. Your host parents may want to know where you are at all times or try to regulate your social life as they would their own children.” My parents are 17 and 20 years older than I, which uncharacteristically worked to my advantage growing up. I was allotted an alarming amount of freedom I never abused. I’ve had it all my life. Not sure about relinquishing it now despite how adaptable I am.

I can handle carrying my identification card and passport around with me. I think they are safer there anyway so I can use my karate to defend them if necessary. And I will because there is no way I’m going to risk not being able to return to the good old U.S.A.

My anxiety began rising when I read we have to pay to use public bathrooms. Ten cents a visit seems ok; it’s the having to carry your own toilet paper about which I’m weary.

The swells peaked once I read the following paragraph:
“ Most people do their laundry by hand...wash it in a bin and hang it to dry...Because of air pollution, you will probably find that your clothes get very dirty, very fast...the water in the tub will turn black. Don’t worry, it’s normal.” Oh really? Maybe you missed the part where I worship the washing machine and the dryer. I MEAN WORSHIP THEM. I consider folding freshly clean laundry straight out of the dryer a hobby of mine.

I immediately picked up the telephone to call BigStar at work. She fervently answered the phone expressing how she was stressed out when I interjected with my distress about the topics previously mentioned. She gawked vehemently protesting the unpleasantness of it all. I told her the good news, “I can text message people for four cents a message” to which she retorted with exasperation, “You can send text messages but can’t wash your clothes?”

I closed the guide, feeling as though I’d had enough anguish for the morning when I asked Erin about her stress. She sheepishly said she had so much to do, she wasn’t sure how she was going to fit it all in: “Hair appointments, getting my nails done, shopping, finding someone to watch the children while I spend a week touring the country in pursuit of Kenny, oh and I have to find Irving gas stations along the way so we can use the gas card Heidi received as a gift…”

Shaking my head, I responded with, “Oh the woes of Erin..” I have a feeling she will not be accompanying Allie on the visit in February.

Well, at least text messages are only 4 cents…

What on earth have I gotten myself into??