Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Meet Anna Banana


Today has not been a good day. So in an attempt to distract myself, I started deleting photos from my dad's computer to free up some space and will it to stop crashing. I came across this photo that made me smile. Isn't she cute? Gosh my friends make nice looking babies.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Genuine History Lesson for Women

This morning, I received this forward from my Sensei (yes she is a woman) and thought I would share:

"This is the story of our Grandmothers and Great-grandmothers; they lived only 90 years ago.

Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote.

And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of 'obstructing sidewalk traffic.'

(Lucy Burns)
They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

(Dora Lewis)
They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack.

Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women. Thus unfolded the'Night of Terror' on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because
they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote. For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food--all of it colorless slop--was infested with worms.

(Alice Paul)
When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my memory. Some women won't vote this year because- -why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn't matter? It's raining?

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO's new movie Iron Jawed Angels. It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women's history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was--with herself. 'One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,' she said. 'What would those women think of the way I use, or don't use, my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.' The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her 'all over again.'

HBO released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn't our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think
a little shock therapy is in order. It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn't make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: 'Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.'

Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know.

We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so
hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party - remember to vote.

History is being made."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The only woman in my family who would remember this would have been my great-great grandmother. Like most of the women in my dad's family, she was a rockstar. That woman loved baseball and had no problem using her freedom of speech by swearing at the radio when the Sox made a stupid play. She also enjoy hockey, especially the checking part. I could always count on homemade cookies and dollar bills when I went to her house. My Nana and I would take her to the IGA to get her groceries when I was a child. I can still see Nana holding her arm as they slowly and steadily went up the aisles to gather her favorite things. She died at 98 in a nursing home I swear out of boredom. I was 15. It seems to be I'm the only person I know who has enjoyed great-great grandmothers, great-grandmothers (three!!), and grandmothers. This makes me feel very lucky.

Friday, September 26, 2008

This Day Last Year in Ecuador

It is election weekend in Ecuador. Voting is mandatory and it's illegal to talk about politics or to drink the two days leading up to the vote on Sunday. My birthday was on Friday last year (Sunday this year due to the leap) and therefore fell into the 'two day' rule. It was the first time in my life I was of age to drink but it was illegal. I spent the day with Ashley, Jefe, and the other Quito volunteers exploring our new city. The crew bought brownies and Kraft mac & cheese to make for lunch. After a month of chicken and rice, I welcomed the blue box of fake cheesy goodness. I received Monopolio for a gift and we played all afternoon at Jefe's house until my host dad called to let me know they were ready for me. The party that evening included a phone call from my parents (never just dail Ecuador from your land line without talking to the appropriate people who offer you calling plans. They paid $98 for a 20 minute phone call. Yikes!), my host family, and a bunch of friends celebrating in the living room with a box of wine Brookie smuggled in and some games of Cuarenta (an Ecuadorian card game). All of my host mom's brothers attended and at one point it is possible I was pulled aside to see if I wanted to do shots of Espiritu Del Ecuador. The night was relaxed yet fun. I remember sitting with a glass of wine watching everyone play Cuarenta and thinking, "how amazing is all of this?" Then some dancing took place before everyone left for the night. There is always dancing in Ecuador, which is one thing I love about the country.

The day of the elections I went to vote with my host parents. The five of us piled into the car to drive to a school in the appropriate district according to where my hdad and hmom were born. The school was teeming with people and national guards with large rifles. I wish I'd brought my camera to capture the moment but I didn't want to stand out. Politics are very delicate in a country that has had 10 presidents in 10 years. Plus the star of the show was the rewriting of the Constitution, which was circled in gossip the President would resign if he did not receive the vote he wanted. I decided to be an observer instead. It was not so dissimilar to the way we vote only their ballots were gigantic and shaped like newspapers. Everyone was running around trying to figure out in which room to vote and where to get a ballot. Children were scurrying around everywhere either at their parent's heels or up and down the halls. I sat near a railing and took it all in....

Once the ballots were cast, we headed to the grandparent's house where we all sat at the table and might have had a few glasses of wine...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

random note

sometimes i wish i could read all this to you personally so you could hear it as i intend the words to sound....

The Reasons Why I'm breaking All My Personal Rules About Boys and Moving to Michigan...

I've been waiting to type this up and post it for weeks now but wanted to make sure most people didn't find out my current life plan via my blog. I apologize to those I haven't told yet who are reading this and finding out for the first time.

So, Miss Cupcake is moving to Michigan to be with Mr. Brownie Sundae. Turns out she adores him and he kind of likes her too. She's very excited the "who" and the "where" have been sorted out so she can focus on the "what" and the "how" and can start saving for vacations & wine.

To answer the questions about the story of Mr. Brownie Sundae and Miss Cupcake, I think it is easiest to just say it all started one night in July a little over six years ago at a diner with ... ta-dah! a brownie sundae. The in-between was complicated, messy, and is difficult to explain. Frankly, I don't know how and don't think it's important. What matters is the here and now. I said yes and am packing my bags because he makes me laugh - like the belly hurting kind of laughs - a lot. We always have fun together, and he is the only person who indulges my ridiculous questions. He can tell by the sound of my voice whether or not I will be awake all night or if I'll fall asleep the second we get off the phone. When I told him I wanted to buy the Crayola Telescoping 50-Marker Pip Squeak Tower but bought the 16 pack instead, he looked at me and very seriously asked why I didn't buy the tower. And when I got my manicure at the Swissotel Quito (for only $10!), I immediately found a computer to tell him they had Fireflies polish by OPI. His response was "oh boy did they make that for you or what?" instead of something scornful. We have egg rolls, cheesy salsa, beignets, and onion rings to prepare and devour. There are pumpkins to carve, apples to pick, candles to make, vacations to plan, movies to watch, books to read, and there is wine to drink. The list grows and grows every day in our excitement. Saying yes was easy because the thought of indefinitely finding comfort in the nook of his arm & shoulder makes me smile and because of the way he looks at me.

Sometimes you just wake up and smell the frosting. I look forward to all the fun filled adventures to follow.



"life is a b movie
it's stupid and it's strange
a directionless story
and the dialogue is lame
but in the he said she said
sometimes there's some poetry
if you turn your back long enough
and let it happen naturally
oh, yeah
hell yeah..."
~ ani difrano, 'hell yeah'

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Bad Habits Currently Invading My Life

I kind of feel like a refugee. That comment is exceptionally ignorant, but I cannot think of another way to describe how I feel. Like the only thing I have is the people in my life. I've spent the last 25 days traveling about the country spending countless hours alone during the day in my friends' houses. All of this time by myself is not good for my re-entrance into the American world. I haven't had to integrate at all yet and that scares me a little. The ample structure-less space making up my days has allowed me the unfortunate ability to develop some startling new habits I am trying to zap:

1) For awhile there last week, I was eating Cape Cod Salt and Vinegar chips for breakfast. I don't even know how to explain this.

2) I currently need a Whatchamacallit candy bar every day. Or at least something comparable. Yesterday it was french fries fried in duckfat from Duckfat. Again, unexplainable.

3) I stay up all night and sleep until 10. This is not going to help me transition into the Career World if I ever get a job.

4) I ate an entire green bean casserole today. I am very glad I made it with reduced fat cream of mushroom soup. So much for fat girl Sundays... they are now creeping into every day. I might put an end to the poor nutrition today before I hit the pavement for a run.

5) My ability to keep track of time has vanished ~ completely dissipated. I have no idea where my days go or what I do with them because I have absolutely nothing tangible to show for them. And they are passing extremely fast.

6) Reading books used to be an afternoon affair. Now it takes weeks to read one book. I would blame it on the non-fiction I am reading but it might be more fair to say I am a slacker.

7) I've developed the uncanny ability to feel two distinctive emotions opposite each other on the spectrum at the same time: genuine excitement and heartfelt sadness.

8) Whenever my bank account shows the numbers only to the right of the decimal, I just close my eyes and pretend it will get better. Somehow magically overnight, three places to the left of the decimal appear. Some would call this a blessing, but I just think it is another notch in the IOU spreadsheet.

9) I bought a magazine, Psychology Today. Don't judge or be mad. I had hours to kill and it was about personality. I couldn't help myself. But it was only that one and I totally forgot about it until I found it in my L.L. Bean back pack today. Oops.

10) I am a food nagger. Mr. Brownie Sundae and my parents are serious victims of my food nagging. I only do it because I care but tonight I realized I am a hypocrite (see one and two) and no one likes a nag. At least it is the only thing about which I nag. I think.

I know there is more but I cannot find my notebook. Besides, I think this is enough for today. I have to say though, one perk of all this traveling about the country is I get to explore everyone's iTunes. I have half a notebook full of new music to be downloaded on the computer I hope to get as soon as I get a job.

P.S. In case you were wondering, I have awesome friends.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

happy birthday nana :)
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY LINDSAY AND ANDREW!!!

(i have more to write about my favorite married couple but i'm lazy and tired so i will do it later.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

"In sickness and in health...til death do us part..."

Five years ago, one of my best friends met the love of her life. They slowly intertwined their lives together and have been inseparable since in the most wonderful fashion. Unfortunately, their lives were shaken tremendously on a cold day in January of 2006 when my friend's boyfriend had a seizure that led to the discovery of a brain tumor. Two months later they were engaged and set a date tentatively in the future because life seemed so fragile. He courageously carried on and recovered to a remarkably normal life nearly a year later. Their wedding date became final for which friends and family began planning. He spent 2007 in great health with no seizures, no extraordinary health problems, and no tumors. Everyone was counting the days in eager anticipation of their celebration, which we all had been patiently and happily awaiting. I had the privilege of witnessing the lovely marriage of my friends, Lo & Mikie, as a bridesmaid on Saturday afternoon, September 20th. This wedding was more intimate than any other I've attended. I'm assuming it's because I know both parties very well and have the honor of being his friend too. He even let me help him with one of his groom duties; something I've never gotten to do before. I think of her family as an extension of my own, as her mom is a woman I truly admire and adore and let's not forget how I have adopted Lo's grandparents because Grandma is the coolest and Grandpa is the cutest. Mikie & Lo mean a lot to me, and I could not be happier for two people.

The celebration following their sweet ceremony was grand. "The dinner, dancing, fun, and merriment" commenced without a problem. There were no disasters, dramas, or hopelessly messed up business. The day was perfect and everyone joyously celebrated the beginning of their next chapter. The bridal party had the pleasure of staying with the couple in the guest house. We all piled in and spent the remainder of the evening in delightful revere until it was time for bed.

At 7 a.m. my friend had a seizure and his wife calmly took care of business.

I do what I think needs to get done in times of crisis. My emotions head straight into the shell and my brain starts working on how to help. In this case, it lead me to the dishes. I headed straight for the kitchen to clean up the mess from the night before. In the midst of the frenzied organizing, I shared one private moment with the bride before she headed out for the hospital. In that one instant I realized what "in sickness and in health" meant. After watching Lo and my dad deal with different circumstances of partners with health issues, this promise signifies something distinctive to me. Many people stand on the altar the glorious moment they utter those words looking stunning, vibrant, and fresh yet they lack the knowledge of what it means to make a promise that big. Lo is the only one I know who did not. She knew, and she accepted it and valiantly embrace the one she loved. May we all be so lucky to find someone whose love reaches depths beyond our comprehension and into the abyss of our unknown. I do not believe she realizes what an amazing woman she is.

I now wonder if people ever consider the density of the words they exclaim on their jubilant grown up day... I have seen three people, two up close and very personally, interpret the "in sickness and in health" vows they have made. I will never forget standing in the kitchen Sunday morning watching one of my dearest friends live her promise. Nor will I ever forget the luminated solo picture of a smiling Lo on his cellphone background as I plugged it into the wall to charge. They have the best kind of love: the no matter what kind.

You'll be happy to know he's ok and she's ok and they are currently snuggled up somewhere enjoying being married. I am with Bethany in wishing them "a lifetime full of as much happiness as two people can stand."

"There is nothing more noble or admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as husband and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends."
- Homer

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Think twice before you vote for Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin, especially if you're a woman

I read Mrs. Janet's blog every day and today's post was exceptionally eye opening. It appears Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin don't believe women deserve equal pay.... check out the story HERE. If that doesn't make you think twice before casting your ballot, I'm scared.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

HAPPIEST BIRTHDAY

FELIZ COMPLEANOS ASHLEYCITA!!! I hope you have the bestest day. I am sending you Corfu and Lemon Doritos :) VIVA QUITO.

P.S. In a very thick British accent, "I'm so hot for you Ashley." May we have at least one more chiva ride together during the festivals de Quito. Have an awesome birthday!

Monday, September 15, 2008

VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA

Sunday, Amanda picked me up from the airport and we grabbed a quick lunch and headed straight to the Nickelodeon to catch Woody Allen's "Vicky Christina Barcelona". Woody Allen usually isn't my cup of tea, but Javier Bardem is. I've been a huge fan of his since I saw him in "Carne Tremula," which fueled my mission to watch most of the movies in which he's been. This one did not disappoint.


("Hello, you are delicious.")

The film is about two friends who take off to Barcelona for the summer for a nice little adventure, which involves a chance meeting with a crazy artist, Javier Bardem. Mr. Bardem does not displease at all from the second he approaches the table to lay out his proposal to the very end where he soothes the ladies. Both women get caught up in the hysterical drama of the incredibly irresistible Spaniard and his wildly gorgeous ex-wife, Penelope Cruz. As the summer plays out, their lives get more and more complicated until the surprising grand finale. You'll have to go watch to find out...

You'll laugh, shake your head, and drool a little bit. "Vicky Christina Barcelona" is quality entertainment you won't mind spending the money on. At the very least, you get to see Javi shamelessly seduce the women (you will wish you were one). And the gentlemen will admire his straight forward approach (and maybe use it). There's something for everyone!

Quotation from Whit's Fridge

While scanning the snack cupboard of my friend Whit's kitchen, I happened to notice this quotation on the fridge so I thought I'd share:

"I'd rather be a 'could-be' if I cannot be an 'are'; because a 'could-be' is a 'maybe' who is reaching for a star. I'd rather be a 'has-been' than a 'might-have-been' by far; for a 'might-have-been' has never been, but a 'has' was once an 'are.' "

~ Milton Berle, American Comedian (1908-2002)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The "Film" is still developing...

Lately, I have been kind of sad because I feel as though I am forgetting Ecuador. I spend my days alone looking for a job and a way to make my new life happen as quickly as possible and in this process the past year is eluding me. My friend Ross assures me the "film" is just taking its time to develop. I certainly hope that is the case, yet I cannot help but feel twinges of melancholy at the loss of those memories or the ease with which they have seemed to vanish. Then I had a dream Ashleycita and I were riding the Trole at midnight, which would NEVER EVER happen but it was my first dream about my trip since I've been home. I woke up feeling somewhat relieved I actually remembered the public transportation in my former city. In an effort to latch onto the fleeting feeling of Ecuador in my heart, I found two Latin radio stations on Sirius radio I happen to LOVE. I heard a song constantly played at my favorite Internet cafe in Quito and nearly started crying I was so happy. More and more strange instances have occurred this week that have helped me keep my yellow, red, and blue alive: I received two emails from former students. Joelcito sent me an email from Quito. I talked to Brookie. Sly sent pictures. I talked to Ashley who happened to be hanging out with Katie and Sarah so I was able to reminisce with those girls too. The small events posing as reminders are slowly igniting the pictures in my mind. I can see snippets of my former life, which is enough to send a cool relief breeze over my worrying mind. It's there. Somewhere.

Friday, September 12, 2008

BigStar is kind of a big deal...

Some of you might remember my friend BigStar, also known as my former roommate from many moons ago before Miss Cupcake ran off to South America. Well, we used to sit around drinking margaritas and gin & tonics discussing what we were going to do with our lives. BigStar made an unwavering declaration that she was going to meet Kenny Chesney. I was still aimlessly gathering myself but knew I was going to Ecuador. Many a nights were spent watching "My Father the Hero" and "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" in our spacious living room overlooking the Scarborough marsh as we sat patiently waiting in anticipation of what was to come. Fast forward nearly two years later and turns out not only has big star MET Kenny Chesney, but she is now running her very own famous country music blog, Country Music Is Love and interviewing opening acts on Kenny Chesney's tour bus in Indianapolis. Yup, she's kind of a big deal now. After spending many nights yammering away, I kind of thought she would be, so my congratulations to her for making it all happen just as she said :)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

My awe of all cool things artsy or sciency

If you have not traveled to or through the Detroit airport, I recommend you do just to see this very cool hallway:



The rather lengthy underpass that connects terminals is lit up with various hues and set to funky music. It is one of the coolest things I have ever seen in an airport. I am always enthralled by such displays of imagination. They also have a water fountain that looks kind of like spitting contests. I was not the only person mesmerized by the water shooting up and out, as plenty of passengers were talking pictures.

I have always been fascinated by such marvels. The Boston Museum of Science never fails to amaze me. There is something so cool about how other people think up such creative and quirky things. Another example is the New York City Waterfall Exhibit . Olafur Eliasson was commissioned to do the "art" work. The idea seems pretty neat and the pictures are kind of cool. I wish I could check it out in person.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Lessons learned from my time in Ecuador

I kept a scattered list of the things I learned during my stay in Ecuador. Most of the items are scribbled in various crayola colors on a plethora of random sheets of paper, as I tried to capture my thoughts as they happened. I managed to gather together what I think is the best of my lessons so I thought I'd share.

* During my lesson on modal verbs, I came across a Shel Silverstein poem I used in class for an exercise that left an impression:

Listen to the Mustn'ts

Listen to Mustn'ts, child, listen to the Don'ts. Listen to the Shouldn'ts, the Impossibles, the Won'ts. Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me. Anything can happen, child, Anything can be.

I discovered this idea is unique to Americans.

* Everyone has an opinion about your life and what you should do with it. They offer their opinion freely without realizing it's based on their fears, past experiences, and ideas about what would be best if they were you. Well, you are not them and do not have the same personal history riddled with whatever baggage the opinion giver carries. Few individuals are able to offer genuine support without projecting their own bias or personal reaction. (Cherish these people). Ignore the naysayers. As Shel wrote, "ignore the musn'ts." People should learn to keep their mouths shut if they cannot leave their judgments behind.

* In reality, one needs very little to get by and live a good life.

* People will always surprise you, especially when you least expect it.

* One can do anything for a short amount of time.

* While you have absolutely no control over the color of your skin, your gender, or where you were born, people will treat you like you do.

* Watching movies repeatedly is not necessarily a bad thing.

* The seasons are vital for my soul. I can be a victim of the weather.

* Walking a city is the best way to learn it.

* Freedom & privacy are perceived differently by people around the world.

* I need music & exercise every day.

* The people you love are priceless.

* I love vegetables.

* The paradox of choice is a good thing when it comes to clean veggies & fruit.

* One cannot appreciate her country fully until she's spent a significant amount of time away from it.

* It is easy to control one's emotions when one realizes they are only temporary chemical reactions.

* I am my father's daughter in more ways than I knew.

* I like futbol, manicures, CNN International, jewelry but not bracelets, and maracuya margaritas.

* I learned how to light gas stoves and to use gas & electric showers. I prefer neither but I like cold showers even less.

* I am a perfectionist scared of success as well as failure and often find comfort cloaked safely in mediocracy even though I know that is not where I belong ~ no where near it.

* Appreciate everything. APPRECIATION is underrated.

* One can make amazing friends traveling.

* One shouldn't judge or exclude until a thing has been tried, done, or seen (with the exception of weird animal food).

* Proper rain gear is ESSENTIAL. Never ever leave home without it.

* Everything passes.

* You don't have time to waste. Do what you want now.

* I am an emotional eater and drinker when I travel to far away unfamiliar lands.

* Do not say no out of fear.

* Buy diamonds made from a lab. They are better for the Earth and the countries that are ruined by the trade.

* Charity starts at home, as cliched as it might sound. I firmly believe it now.

* How others view America and its citizens is startling & enlightening.

* I sometimes sabotage things as a defense mechanism.

* I can calm myself down.

* A tablespoon of olive oil before drinking prevents a hang over and a cup of oregano tea soothes a stomachache.

* Perceptions & definitions are negotiable. Make sure to clarify as soon as possible.

* When on the road, bring more money and less stuff.

* Lastly, travel, travel, travel even if it is in your own backyard. Everyone needs a great adventure, no matter what one's definition of "great" is.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Splendid Suns Quotations

"Of all the hardships a person had to face, none was more punishing than the simple act of waiting. "

"She would scramble frantically to commit it all to memory, what happened next. Like an art owner running out of a burning museum, she would grab whatever she could - a look, a whisper, a moan - to salvage from perishing. To preserve. But time is the most unforgiving of fires and she couldn't, in the end, save it all."

~ Laila, A Thousand Splendid Suns

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

One Year Ago Today...

One year ago today, I was woken up at 5 a.m. by very drunk friends still in their party attire from the night before. They were carrying a bottle of whiskey and sporting carefree & content smiles. They stumbled into the hotel room to say their farewells, as I was an hour from departing Duke to fly from Durham to Miami to Quito, Ecuador. My hands were shaking and my stomach was in sailor's knots so tight I thought I was going to pass out every time I moved my body. They entertained me while I repacked my suitcase for the 20th time and Whit graciously accepted items I had only brought for the wedding. None of them had gone to sleep yet and most probably would have thought they were slightly obnoxious in their jubilant celebratory state, but I wholeheartedly welcomed them because if it had been any other way, I never would have left the hotel room that morning exactly one year ago today. I had no idea when I was going to see them next or what was going to happen in the next year, but I reluctantly embraced my decision and said farewell to people I would miss something fierce. I rolled my suitcase down the hall & into the elevator then into the opulent lobby. I took a good solid look around and silently walked out into the dark pre-dawn morning. A brief moment of relief overcame me when I settled into the taxi to make my way to the airport. This was it. This one event was something for which I had been patiently waiting for nearly a year. I desperately needed the change but a slight pang of worry rested uneasily on my heart, as I began to doubt what I was about to do. I kept telling myself how much I needed this trip but my efforts came across more like I was trying to convince a child broccoli tastes better than ice cream.

The flight to Miami was unremarkable except for the ever increasingly crippling anxiety, which was starting to make breathing more difficult. What was I doing? Was this escape going to make me feel any better? Why did I need this so terribly? I knew I was one of the few in the group of 40 who would be in the airport when I landed. I sheepishly looked around our designated meeting spot for some others while desperately trying not to vomit. I sat down to take it all in when I noticed a young man with curly hair who could have passed as my brother sitting with two females. One was on her computer and chatting. Her silver laptop had a sticker on it that read, "Eat more broccoli". How appropriate. I noticed the navy blue WT bag on the floor next to their luggage so I made my way over to say hello and to see if they were also part of the early bird crew. The second I introduced myself, one of the females stood up and said her name was Caitlin. She gave me the hugest bear hug, which shocked the hell out of me, then she sat me down like a concerned aunt and said, "Are you overwhelmed?" In that one instant, I was no longer alone. I took a huge deep breath and let out all the anxiety, doubt, and fear because for the first time, I was with people who were in the same game as I was. One year later, I can still see her face and hear the question that changed my entire being. I knew immediately I made the right decision and as the rest of the crew slowly poured into our conference room, I began to form friendships that would sustain me for the year to come and hopefully, for many more.

I sat next to Brookie on the plane ride to Quito. We became friends instantly, which was another relief. When we landed in Quito, the altitude hit me like a ton of bricks the second I walked down the hallway towards customs. My first of many challenges. Our directors greeted us and led us to the waiting bus. I sat with Jefe and chatted the entire way to our hotel where I bunked with Liz for the night...and that was that. The rest is history.

The speed of sound carried the time right by me. I have no idea who the nervous girl trying to escape heart break, boredom, and disappointment in search of a new life was. I know she was trying to help herself by helping others and did not make a mistake because she really did need that year. And if you asked her Sunday, Sept 2, 2007 where she'd be exactly one year later or what she'd be doing or feeling, or how her year in Quito, Ecuador was, she never would have told you the things this girl can nor could she have imagined...

Today a new group of volunteers is venturing into the unknown world of WT Ecuador. They are sitting in orientation at Hotel Embassy wondering what the hell is going to happen to them. One girl in particular will be greeted by Byron, Cristina, Wendi, and Francis who will happily accept her into their home and show her to the lovely green bedroom in the back. I was their first year long volunteer so I hope the new girl isn't tainted by anything I left behind... Tonight, she will crawl into the bed I slept in for nearly a year. She'll unpack all her belongings and put them in the drawers, the closet, and on the bookshelf. The sparkling lights of Quito will greet her in the evening and the glaring Andean sun will say good morning, as Cotopaxi winks from the south. Cristina will show her how to use the shower and how to wash her clothes. The girls will call her 'chica' until she's won them over with markers and drawings. As she sits on the end of her bed quietly thinking about her new world, I want to sit down next to her and give her a hug; let her in on the secrets of her new city and family. The places to eat, drink, dance, find solace, hide out, the telephone numbers of my friends already acquainted with the habits of Quito, and most of all, I want to tell her not to blink because sadly, it will all be over before she knows it. She might not find exactly what she came looking for, but she would have one of the most incredible years...

Some days I feel like it never happened, like I never stepped foot on the streets of Quito, as if it was all a dream I can only imagine, but fortunately, not today.