23 May

Here’s something you don’t see every day.


I tell you, we won’t miss dodging Bella’s crap. She poops on the driveway, which is also our path to get to our front door. Last night, she pooped on the roof, so I stepped in it when I was on the phone with Eileen’s parents.

The other day, after returning home, I encounter the above poop formation in the driveway. I like this one. It’s more visible, and its surface area is smaller — or rather its contact-with-ground area is smaller, thus making the chances you’ll step on it slightly less.

22 May

Oh and it’s a hollow feeling, when it comes down to dealing friends

At end service, there was a lot of talk about our re-entry into the States. People expressed their excitement and trepidation about going “home,” a concept which has now turned problematic for some of us. Some of the WorldTeach volunteers have lived in countries other than the US and Ecuador; I think for them, the talk about reverse culture shock and re-entry was a little boring and tedious, just as all the talk about teaching is sometimes boring and tedious for me. I also think that for those who grew up in a different country, culture shock and reverse culture shock are different animals.

At one point, we were assigned the task of deciding upon the top five most impacting changes of our lives and drawing a little timeline of it. I drew my timeline and then paired up with Jessie to talk about it. We had both put high school and college on our lists, the commonality being that in both situations, you are allowed an opportunity to create a different identity for yourself. You get into high school and you’re no longer so nailed down into the role you had in middle school. Similarly, in college, you now have a new opportunity to explore other facets of yourself. Many people go on with this search after college, becoming a ski bum, or traveling in Europe, or some other cliché of American soul-searching. When people go off on these missions to “find themselves” it’s seldom a spiritual journey. It’s usually an attempt to find people who accept them, or to become a person who people will accept.

We latch onto acceptance so tightly. At end-service, you could see how people pretty much sat with and conversed with friends from their site placements. Sometimes you could look around and point at different sections of the table and say, “those are the Manta people, those are the Quiteños, those are the Cuencanos, there are the Guayacos,” etc. Again, I come back to my main thesis about what living in Ecuador has taught me about the US: In the States, being cool is paramount; you have to struggle to fit in, to be popular, to be accepted. Here, people are more family oriented and so they have that acceptance automatically. Changing oneself to become popular with friends doesn’t make as much sense.

If you’ve grown up in the states, this aspect of the culture is a part of you. More so than American ideals of female beauty; more so than the “American dream” of wealth; it’s this aspect of our culture – this competitive popularity contest — that is the basis for the other cultural baggage. We are a culture which doesn’t provide people with acceptance, and so we must all vie for it. You find and stick with people who accept you because acceptance is so hard to come by.

And this is why for us Americans who have been affected by this culture of cool, the reverse culture shock of returning from a developing country (where acceptance is practically just your birthright) will be so difficult.

Let me give an example. When I went home back in December, I went to school and talked with some of my colleagues. One woman asked if I was dreaming in Spanish yet. And then practically before I could answer, another colleague of mine said, “well, when I went to Turkey, I was dreaming in this Turkish gibberish. I mean, it happens pretty fast.” Nevermind that her argument was absolutely stupid and ridiculous. Her point was to make my accomplishment seem less. She might as well have said, “oh don’t pay so much attention to him just cuz he went to a foreign country. Pay attention to me. I also went to a foreign country.”

That’s America. It’s this constant competition for acceptance.

19 May

The sink

The sink

You thought I was lying about the black sink, didn’t you? Well here’s the proof.

The Plaza internet is not working properly, so I can’t get to wiscostorm. But I can get to flickr, so here you go. Eileen and I are off to Banos for the WorldTeach “end service” meeting. We will be there today, Friday, and Saturday, returning Sat. night, I think. Tim has been busy working on two new websites, which he hopes to launch soon. Rowoars.com and ryegoose.com. You can check them out and see the rough drafts. If you know any rowers who might submit a good rowing story, please tell them to go the rowoars site and submit.

Ok. That’s all for now. Communication over the next few days will be a little “spotty,” as the Brits say. We’ll try to get to internet in Banos, but we don’t really know our schedule. Some people are leaving the country in a few weeks. Crazy. Tim’s got two months remaining as of tomorrow. Even that’s crazy.

Anyhow, now you know. The kicked-in door now complements the rest of the SECAP surroundings. It was all true.

17 May

I kicked in my first door today.

You’ve gotta understand a few things. First of all, SECAP has been in this ongoing strike since May 3rd or 4th. Since then, I have arrived at class about 9 or 10 times to find the building shut down completely. No way to enter. Then, after we were allowed to enter the building the next problem was finding staff to open the locked classrooms. Some days, such people didn’t come to SECAP; seldom did they come before 8:30 or so. Last week, Westra was having her classes in the CEC, so I could use the classroom that doesn’t have a door. This week, however, Westra’s 7:00 class beats me to that room. I’ve arrived at SECAP probably about 12 times only to find the classroom door locked and with no way to get in. We talked with Jess, the WorldTeach director, and she called up the SECAP idiots-that-be and they promised to turn over a new leaf.

Well, the new leaf turned out to be no better than the old one. Last Friday, after a half an hour of waiting, I had to search for a different room in the other SECAP building. On Monday, again after half an hour of waiting, we went to the office of one of my students. Finally, yesterday, the director gave me a key to the classroom. So when I came to SECAP this morning, I figured, “okay, nothing can stand in my way now.”

When I got to my office, however, I discovered that the door knob wouldn’t turn. I unlocked the two padlocks and tried to see if I could somehow get the knob to turn. No luck.

Ok, then. The second thing you need to understand is what I saw in the brief 15 seconds wherein I looked around myself in hopes of getting inspired by some sort of MacGyveresque plan. Instead, I saw the men’s room, with its unflushable toilet full of brown water, its black sink which hasn’t been cleaned in years, and a broken window over looking the courtyard. Kicking the door in and possibly breaking something would just be one more paint swab on a painter’s smock.

It took two kicks.

After the first one, I reconsidered. Then the sum total of SECAP’s idiocy flooded over me and kicked the door one more time. Once in the office, I learned that the knob was just plain broken. There was no unlocking it from the other side. Nothing.