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 :)