Thursday, August 31, 2006

Learning to Manipulate...

Two-year-olds can be so much fun. Not only do they write on walls, pee on carpet, and bring rocks and dirt into the house by the truckloads, but they also begin to learn the fine art of manipulation.

I was downstairs doing the dishes yesterday morning when suddenly I heard screaming coming from the TV room two floors up.

"Agustin! Are you OK?" (You should have seen how fast I ran up those stairs. Who says I'm not in shape?)

"Mom! I wanna pee in the potty chair. MOM! I WANNA PEE IN THE POTTY CHAIR!" Then a realization - yes, of course, he's wearing his big boy pants and he WANTS TO PEE IN THE POTTY CHAIR! Run faster. Almost trip. Keep going. Reach the top.

"Tin! What did you say?"

Staring at the ceiling, playing dumb. "What?"

"What did you say? You want to go potty in the potty chair? Let's go!" (I'm real excited by now. See? I'm thinking. No need to train him. He's figuring it out on his own!)

Blank stare. I ask again, "What did you say?"

Innocent voice (a bit meek): "Come play with me in the tent!"


And that's not all. That very same morning we were downstairs having breakfast. Tin finished and wanted to go upstairs. I looked at his little brother (6-months-old) and asked, "OK, Kas, your brother wants to go upstairs. What do you say? Do we go upstairs?"

Suddenly a small voice, three octaves higher, exclaims from the stairwell. "Yes, mommy, I wanna go upstairs, please." Tin, doing a great Kas impression.

You gotta love it. He's growing up. And, yes, mother, I DO realize that all this will not seem so cute thirteen years from now. But in the meantime, I am so enjoying watching him become his own little person...

books! books! books!

Yahoo! I found another bookstore here in Quito, and really close to work! (Bookstore with books in English, that is.) Most are used, but there is a really big selection and there are actually some pretty recent books. I saw Atonement by Ian McEwan and some Anita Shreve, Barbara Kingsolver, among many. I am so excited, because I got Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. How exciting! I spent less than $20, too. He also had a huge nonfiction section and Stephen King section. I am not normally a King reader, but once in awhile I just want something quick and scary to read, and his older books are unavailable around here. There were a lot of best sellers, for those who like those kinds of books. And the best thing is that the owner seemed really nice! It's called The English Bookstore and it's on the corner of Calama and 6 de diciembre. Prices range from like $5 to $14.

My really truly FAVORITE bookstore in Quito, however, is Anna's Books on Eloy Alfaro and (almost) 6 de diciembre, in Edificio Sinai. It is the BEST place for books, most new (she now has a gently used section - awesome!), and a great selection of magazines. She always has deals going on, and gets new stock constantly. You can find almost any of the contemporary fiction books there. Only problem is that prices are a bit high - up to $22 for a paperback. But her selection is so great and current that you just gotta pay the price to keep her in business. (I was never one to complain about an expensive book, either.) I could get lost in her shelves for hours.

The one place I do NOT like is the other used bookstore that has been around forever. The owner is a rude, gross American (no offense to other rude, gross Americans). The selection isn't too bad, but I would really rather not hear about the best place for prostitutes in town, nor how much fun it is to shoot the poor Mexicans crossing the borders. I can do without that. I would feel like a felon every time I walked in there.

And what a relief not to have to search the shelves of Libri Mundi. They have beautiful books, but whoever is in charge of ordering needs to get online and find out what people (of course, people like ME!) want to read. I do not need 5 different copies of the Kama Sutra (husband can disagree) nor care to have a $30 version of Crime and Punishment or Shakepeare's sonnets. I don't want to read about every drug addict in the free world and their argument about why they are intellectual for getting high. It can be mentally draining trying to find a book that is actually worth reading the back cover there.

So, keep on coming you book store owners! I want more more more!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


[I love it! Andres is getting the blogging bug! Here's a little something from him that he asked me to publish... too bad there is truth to it!]

I have recently had to experience one of the wonders of development. My workplace, a public institution, decided to follow the book of industrialized countries and downsized its personnel under the lame excuse that Ecuadorian Public organizations are stuffed with employees. I am not going to provide any facts, data or information in order to prove that downsizing is absurd in a public institution since I am just blogging and all I want is to vent. I am just going to ignore all the believers of the private sector who fancy that a citizen needs to pay for the air he or she breathes, and instead I am going write on how this decision has affected my family and me.
As I fortunately belong to the board of this institution, the government decided not to eliminate my job but to cut down my salary. As a good Ecuadorian, I tried to see a solution to the problem without stressing myself to the point of justifying the action of the U.S. Postal workers during the 80´s and 90´s. After talking to my family, we all decided that we would do what people do in the “developed countries”: find a part time job bussing dishes in a restaurant or passing out flyers downtown. In other words, find a “Mc Job” in order to use all the knowledge acquired throughout my 21 years of formal education, my co-authored books and my extensive travelling. Perhaps, my family and I thought I could even apply abroad and find a better job. People in the First World must be dying to hire a Third World countryman to become the CEO of one of its trusts.
As a result of this illusion, I spent several hours searching for the perfect job in a developed country that would not require me to have a work permit, a visa, or even a political point of view. The answer was obvious…

Then my family and I got together and decided to be more austere. Cut down our expenses: no trips to see the in-laws, no Christmas shopping, no shopping at all as a matter of fact, no eating out, and not even turning on extra lights at home. This will have some consequences but if we want to survive as a modern and developed family we need to put up with the fact that my children will not see their grandparents and aunts; that Christmas will be, again, a strictly and only religious merry celebration and that shopping will be saved for when daddy’s public company gives him his salary back.

As a last resort, we thought of opening a free web page and asking for contributions for this poor Third World country family who has almost lost its income. I learned how to blog, and how to open a web user account. However, I did not learn how to make people feel pity for me and my family. The blog account and the web page are up, but no cent has been donated. It’s ok., though; only few fools believed in the Trickle Down theory.

The fact is that I, as well as my family, will need to reshape our expending habits thanks to a reduction in my salary. Please read this blog in case I don’t see you this summer, fall, winter or fall due to our family austerity.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Getting Around

Originally uploaded by kalymiller.

I love going from the mountains down to the coast. Not only do things start warming up, but you can almost feel like you're in another country. Sometimes it is because of the extreme poverty you see. Other times it is because of little things like vocabulary or dialect. But one of my favorite differences between the coast and the sierra is the transportation. Here you can see a bunch of people riding on an open ranchera - the people inside ride with no doors or windows to avoid heat stroke. What I loved best about the ranchera, however, was the piglet riding along. Someone's pet? Someone's supper? Someone's next paycheck? Either way, he was having a blast as the warm coastal air howled around him...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Disposable Cars

I have been largely absent these past few days, and not for lack of things to say. For those of you who know me, you’ve probably heard about our little situation last weekend. I was at work on Saturday, working in the office on a translation, when there was a problem upstairs. I ran upstairs with the other coordinator, making sure to lock the door behind me. I came back about two minutes later, and there was a guy (looked like a thug!) standing by the door, text messaging someone. I tried to open the door, and he started asking me questions about registration. I told him that they could answer his questions upstairs, but he continued pestering me. Meanwhile, I noticed there was someone in the office, trying to open the lock and get out. I stepped back and two guys came running out of the office. I yelled after them to ask what they needed, and they said that the “Teacher” already helped them. Well, there was no “Teacher” around on a Saturday, so I ran after them, calling for the guard (who, of course, came fifteen minutes later: “Do you need something?”… : | ). Meanwhile, the lookout guy started running down to where the cars are parked. I followed him, and he ran back upstairs and out the door. I never caught up with the other two. I think they had another guy waiting in the parking ramp, because later the guard noticed that someone had gotten out of the elevator on the fourth floor (no English classes there!) and stuffed an empty yogurt container in the door, so it (the elevator) wouldn’t move.

Eventually, I got back to the office to see what they had taken. They had gone through all of our bags and purses (things were not out of order but we noticed because all of the zippers were left open) and not taken anything – no money, no credit cards, no documents, no car radios, no cell phones. The only thing that was missing was our car key. [The landlady later told us that she had seen some guys downstairs checking out the cars that morning, and had kicked them out of the building. They came back, obviously, and right at the time that our Saturday students were leaving, so everyone thought they were students.]

To get to the point, our key is an electronic key with a remote control, and opens the doors and turns off the alarm automatically. Which means the thieves can now open our car and steal it. Well, for the past week we’ve been talking to the car company and other mechanics, and basically what we’ve been told is that we cannot change the micro chip of the car, which controls the remote. Which means that, for about $1000, we can change the key and all the locks, but the thieves will always be able to get into our car because they have the remote control, and that cannot be changed. In other words, they may not be able to take the car immediately, but with time they can hotwire it and take it anyways.

Not such a good system.

We’ve asked for advice from at least ten “experts,” and what they have all told us that the only real option we have is to sell the car. This month we make the last payment on it, and we are also waiting to get our contracts renewed, so not a good time for us to be buying a new car.

I don’t know what we should do. Actually, I guess I do, but I didn’t want to be forced into buying a new car. But what’s worse: save some money right now but be worried about leaving our car at work (since the thieves obviously know where to find it) and possibly have it stolen, or sell it, get what we can and use that money to buy a new car?

Sigh. As my grandma would say… It’s always something!

Friday, August 04, 2006


Originally uploaded by kalymiller.

The other night my father-in-law gave us a copy of a homemade video that some of his friends near Ambato took the day the Tungurahua began exploding. It was impressive. I was really glad to see it, since I hadn't seen any of the images on TV when it was happening (having two little kids means that all you see on television are Barney and Elmo). The explosion was much bigger than I imagined. If I can figure it out, I will try to put a clip up on the blog. Until then, here is what the volcano looked like about four months before it exploded. It is now about 200 meters shorter, and isn't so cone-shaped. (It has actually been somewhat active for the past seven years, so has been slowly reshaping itself over that time.) This picture was taken on the way down to BaƱos. We happened to witness quite a few ash clouds that day.