Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween Update

A little while ago the doorbell rang.

“The cable guy, finally!” (As Andres says, the bill knows how to reach us, but when it comes to installation, suddenly the company has no idea where we live!)

The doorbell rings again. A very insistent cable guy.

Open the door. It looks as if a tornado has hit. Jack is rolled over, face down, leaking candle wax all over the stoop as if he were bleeding to death. Candles slowly sputter out on the cfement step. Our solar lights which line the walkway have been knocked over and kicked around. Tufts of grass are pulled up and thrown around the sidewalk leading to the street.

Vandals, you say. Actually, no. Just over zealous trick or treaters!

Yes, there were about twenty kids swarming the door, begging for candy. they had no idea what to say, and only a few were dressed up (I saw a witch, a cat, and a big ugly monster) but there they were! Of course I had to dig around for candy. Luckily I found a bad of Safety Pops, which just happened to be from Halloween last year, but the kids got SOOOO excited to see a different kind of candy that they went crazy! So, Amy, I got to be that house too! How exciting.

So now we know for next year that we will go trick-or-treating. Tin is already talking about it. (It’s going to be a long year...)

PS I will add pictures to the previous post tomorrow at work. For some reason I still can’t add pictures from home. Bummer. Oh, and the cable people finally did make it. And we got cable in our room! Uh oh, I can see now that going to bed early is going to become a thing of the past, and it will get harder and harder to wake up at 5 am...


I’ve never missed being away from the Halloween celebrations back home - until I had kids. Now I think of how they’re missing a magical day - a day to be whatever you want to be, a day to dream, to feel a part of a larger whole, to become part of a community, and - let’s not forget - a day to get sick on candy!

It may seem like a romanticized view of Halloween, but Halloween is that day. A community sharing and participating, a city-wide, country-wide celebration, a day to be someone or something else, and to create. I feel bad sometimes that I’m not giving that to my kids, as part of their cultural heritage. Of course there are many Ecuadorian holidays, but I want them to experience both.

So last night we carved a pumpkin and roasted pumpkin seeds. The pumpkin was grown in Grandma Susy’s pumpkin patch in Calderon, from seeds bought in the U.S. last summer. It didn’t get very big, but the kids didn’t mind (know). They had a blast. Tin even helped poke out the design with a nail. We put “Jack” out on the stoop to get comments from the neighbors - some criticism, some compliments, but who really cares anymore?

After our pumpkin carving experience there was a firework show that could be seen from our house. I still have no idea why there were fireworks, but when Tin heard the noise he asked me where it was coming from. It was foggy out at that precise moment, and, not seeing the firework display, I told him I honestly did not know.

But he did.

“They’re dinosaurs,” he announced. “They’re stomping around with their big feet. Boom. Boom. Boom” He walked around the house like a dinosaur for a few minutes.

“Do you like dinosaurs?” I asked, expecting an emphatic yes!

“No,” he said, wrinkling his nose in disgust. “They have big toes. Yuck.”

Well. So dinosaurs have big yucky toes, do they? Hmmmm.

(On another note, tonight we get a cable connection in our bedroom. Yay! Happy Halloween to us. Hello, Jay Leno, Desperate Housewives, Big Love and the news! Goodbye soccer and Mexican telenovelas!)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Arghh!!!... or The Idiocy Behind Bureaucracy

I don't know why certain things about living in Ecuador bother me so much. For instance, the long lines everywhere (having to get up at 4 a.m. to get "a place" in a line), the ridiculous rules and horrible inadequacy and inefficiency of virtually every sector - public or private, Ecuadorians' acceptance of that's just how things "are". Well, I am tired of getting in an outrage about the way people are treated, about the DUMB things that you're told when you are trying to do some paperwork, about the fact that SEVEN months after my son is born he is STILL not registered in the book of birth certificates and therefore we are STRUGGLING to get his passport ready for our trip, tired of worrying about the fact that my mother-in-law is losing her land, losing her retirement, losing her job basically because the doctor says she is absolutely NOT allowed to work and the silly government offices will not respect her doctor's orders. And I am most definitely tired of being in an outrage and then told that I shouldn't be. Why do people tell me these things? Isn't it to make me feel outraged? And, if not, then I refuse to get outraged anymore.

So, basically I will just accept my lot. Granted, once Nicholas's paperwork is out of the way, we will have far fewer things to do. Once I get my foreigner censo, which will now be good for like four years or something, I will have less to worry about. And once I get my ID updated, I will not have to worry again until it is time for my driver's license. Of course, all the paperwork seems to come at the same time.

In the meantime, I will be taking some days off of work in order to get all these chores done - as well as waking up at the crack of dawn and standing in line for eight hours only to be told to come back tomorrow cuz the system is down or they are no longer attending. Worse thing is, we have to go through this all at the U.S. embassy to get Nicholas's passport, and it is no better there. You'd think they were run by a bunch of Ecuadorians. Anyway, that's my rant for the day, and - hopefully I will be able to keep my word for it for a long time from now.

By the way, anyone know if standing in line burns calories?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Disappointment at the Polls

What can I say? Eleven years here and I've yet to see a sound decision at the polls. Noboa or Correa? The answer is clear, in my opinion. But HOW could Noboa and GILMAR GUTIERREZ get more votes than Roldos, and for that matter, Cynthia? I think it is time to get rid of the mandatory vote - get rid of the populism, stop letting (making) illiterate people vote, educating people to vote for the candidate who best represents your interests, not the one who gives you two pieces of bread and a baggie of rice. Some say that that shows just how poor the country is... I don't agree. I think it just shows how ignorant the population is, which is another reason to chuck the mandatory vote, also.

Sigh. Here we go again. I doubt Correa will last, and I predict that Noboa will go no longer than three months (He is barely literate himself, in fact, and shows all the signs of brain damage). Of course, I could always be pleasantly surprised.

I’ll Always Hear the Rooster

There’s nothing like a rooster to wake you up in the morning.

Yes, a rooster has gotten loose in our neighborhood.

He’s living in the park behind our house. I suppose he belongs to someone in one of the housing complexes to our north, so I doubt he will be homeless for long. But, in the meantime, he’s made a place for himself up against our back wall.

Roosters are strange animals. Contrary to popular belief, they do not only crow at the crack of dawn. Actual, they crow all day and all night long. I guess they are actually trying to claim their territory by scaring off predators.

In our old apartment there used to be a rooster belonging to the family behind us. After seven years of its crowing (or that of its successors – I doubt that that rooster was allowed to live so long, I’m sure he made it into a soup along the way) I got accustomed to it. And early this morning, when I heard our new neighbor’s fierce crows, I felt oddly at peace.

They are a cultural phenomenon. Ecuadorians don’t seem to notice them at all. The other day I was in class observing one of our teachers when, to make small talk, she asked the students if the rooster outside the building bothered anyone during class. Now, our school is located in the business and tourist district, and the traffic, especially the bus traffic, is noisy and annoying. The class was at the top of the eighth floor, yet she had heard a rooster at some point that morning, and the noise it had made had registered somewhere in the back of her mind.

I didn’t know what was sadder – the fact that there was a rooster in the city, or the fact that this teacher had never had the chance to actually hear a rooster in “real life”, despite being from a small town in the U.S.

The students never noticed it, they said, and even seemed skeptical of its existence. All I could think of was the fact that, inadvertently, she had set herself apart from the others – made herself instantly foreign.

I myself proudly agreed with the students. I had not heard the rooster. I am becoming more and more Ecuadorianized.

Yet I will never fully be Ecuadorian. Last night's intruder woke me from a sound sleep, and I doubt DH even registered his cries. I will, without fail, always hear the rooster. The difference is, now I will welcome his noise.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Picture Time: The Best of Brothers

Picture Time: Agustin

And the other king of the house...

Tin and "his" daddy.

Playing with Grandma Chris's present.

Tin's vehicles, courtesy of Daddy.

Picture Time: Nicolas

Here are some of the pictures of Nicolas that I promised to get up over the weekend. Enjoy!

My little jailbird.

Very drooly.

Just chilling.

Cutie pie.

Yeah for shopping

Well, as my previous post Mission Impossible stated, I had some trouble this weekend getting online and blogging. I had all the good intentions in the world, but life got in the way. One of the big pieces of news I had for everyone out there is that we will be arriving in MSP on December 16, in the morning (on the new Delta flight out of Quito). Yes, we finally bought the tickets (our return is Saturday, Jan. 6). And I am SO excited to be going back home, to see everyone and to do some major Christmas shopping! WOOHOO! By the way, Bati will also be coming, but one day after us (Dec. 17 am). He wants us to pick him up from the airport and go directly to the Mall of America. No goofing off on his part, you see. Gotta get the serious stuff out of the way, haha!

In the meantime, I just HAD to go shopping this weekend. I bought a new Christmas tree, since last year the stand on our old one went kaput - and no one could help me find a new stand. Actually, we eventually found one, but it is too flimsy for our big ol' tree. So I am going to be getting rid of the old and coming in with the new this Christmas - even though we will really only be in our house for a few weeks during the season. (I also got an advent calendar, which should be fun to do with the kids.)

I also decided to "splurge" on a new purse. My old ones are so old that I can't wait a couple more months before we go back to get one. I like the one I found, but I will definitely be purse shopping this winter.

On the Nightstand

I have been reading a lot more lately than I had been. Partly it is Amy’s fault, since she was getting through a couple books a week, and made me feel that old nostalgia. I remember looking forward to summer so that I could read twelve, fourteen, twenty books a week. I was insatiable. I loved it. There are no real regrets - I feel I got my fair share of play in, too. But going to the library and bringing home bags full of books - knowing that I actually had the time to get through them all - was icing on the cake.

So, I have started to make an effort to get more reading done. I still have a good ten books or so in my English collection that I haven’t read (lots more in my Spanish collection), and quite a few more I could stand to read again, so it shouldn’t be too hard. One thing that has changed greatly from summer days as a kid, however, is that my self-diagnosed, not ocmpletely-joking-about-it, attention deficit disroder has kicked in and I can no longer keep my mind on one book at a time. So, at any given time, I’m reading 3-4 books at a time.

Right now it is Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. This is a book I ahve been looking forward to reading for probably the last two years or so, and which I was so excited to find in a used bookstore here in Quito. I have been hoarding it since I bought it about a month ago, but now is the time. I am only a few pages into it, but I feel a little shiver of excitement go up my spine every time I look at its cover. (At this point I am sure even Amy is thinking, YIKES! She’s losing it.)

I am still reading Mosaico. In fact, I’ve only gotten through a few chapters since last time I blogged about this book. I am beginning to think that the problem is in the translation, however, and not the book itself. I just can’t get into it - it feels very flat and repetitive. And that’s too bad, but always the problem when translation comes into play, especially on books that are not best sellers or classics.

I am also reading Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund. It is not at all the kind of book I thought it would be, and is not an easy read. Yet, I find myself unable to put it down. It has some sort of magnetic pull, and the voice, which was annoying at first, has started to grow on me. When I am not reading it, for some reason I miss the characters. This doesn’t usually happen to me with this kind of book, so, without actually realizing yet, I’ve already gottten halfway through it.

And just finished is A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian. A crazy title for a great book. This, on the other hand, was an easy read, but not because it was not worthwhile or mere fluff. It was simply good writing, a great storyline that moved things along, and wonderful, funny characters. Really enjoyable. Too bad about the title, perhaps. When I first heard about this book I had no desire to read it. Then, I found it in the book shop here and decided to go for it, since I had heard so much about it. Definitely a book you could gobble up in one night on the couch sipping coffee.

The last book I am into right now is Mr. Murder by Dean Koontz. Yes, quite a change of genre and voice. It is my car book, however, and car books are very important to have. These are books that you keep under the seat of your car in the event that you get stuck somewhere in line and need a good book to entertain you. It can’t be anything too deep, because you could get pulled away from it at a moment’s notice, and it has to be something not too hard to follow since you may not get back to it for weeks at a time. This used to be my purse book, but since Agustin was born, it has become my car book, since I often get stuck in the car at malls, restaurants, home, etc. while we wait for him to wake up fmr his car nap. So a car book is vital at these moments.

It is an old book, a murder/mystery, and one which I think I may have read when I was younger. I chose it because I liked Koontz’s books when I was a teenager, and I wanted to explore that old fascination I remember having for them. I have been pleasantly surprised with the book so far - Koontz’s writing is sound and actually not bad, and the characters feel less flat than a lot of the other characters you see in that genre. So, a good car book that looks like it will be a good read. (Unlike my previous car books, Meg by Steve Alten and The Millionaire by David Baldacci - both of which have characters that are so predicatable and cliched that they distract you from the plots, which are also predicatable and cliched, but oh well. A car book is a car book.)

I found my library card and got online. My wish list is at 32, but I have thought of a couple more I’d like to put on there. I am sure I’ll end up buying many of them, since I will never get through them all. But I love getting online and dreaming my way through the library’s web site. And that’s Ramsey County.... Hennepin County is even cooler and better.

Next big purchase will be a PDA so I can buy ebooks online and download them instantly. It’s not my favorite way to read, but it is easy to keep up with the new stuff that’s out there, and I don’t have to buy a bookshelf to accomodate them (nor dust them, which is a big plus)!

I guess it’s time to end this post - I’ve been interrupted four times by screaming kids with nightmares/tummyaches/hunger pains, etc.
(Note: This was written the night of my frustration. I am uploading it a few days later.)

Mission Impossible

As you can see, I was unable to blog much this three-day weekend. The kids make it a lost cause during the day, and the baby must be going through a growth spurt because he hasn't slept well, napping or otherwise, in the past three days. I am back at work, and although we expect to be crazy busy this week with registrations, I will attempt to blog again.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Giving up

OK, I give up. Aside from the fact that my browser keeps quitting when I try to upload a picture (and I have a ton), and the snoring from next door that's grating on my nerves, the kids have woken up three times each, and it is only 10:30. Usually the first time they wake up isn't until 3 am or so. I swear, it's like they both know that Mommy is doing something she's been meaning to do for quite some time. Unfortunately, every time they start whining in their sleep, I have to turn off my Internet connection, since I pay for Internet per minute, as well as the phone line, per minute (like long distance). So I can't very well go off to a kid's room and leave the internet on since I don't know how long it will be. What a pain!

Maybe I'll get something else done tonight.

Don't count on it.

Goggles and Garth

Here is Agustin last night wearing his goggles as we danced to Garth Brooks. He really likes any kind of music, which is fun. The only music he doesn't enjoy is music that is "too slow" because it is "too sad."

Get that man a snoring mask!

As I sit here fighting with my internet browser and its incapacity to work with blogger for uploading pictures, I can hear my neighbor snoring through the walls. Very annoying. WAY too loud. Someone help that man and his family...

Guilt in the Form of a Blog

We all have guilty pleasures - something that we know we shouldn’t be doing but that gives us so much satisfaction we do it anyways. One of my guilty pleasures has been blogging. What could be more of a waste of time? I sit at work, and instead of getting semi-important things done (I am not so bad that I ignore the important stuff, at least not yet) I read blogs, search for new blogs, and, if the writing bug has bit, write on my own blogs (yes, plural!). If it isn’t in the urgent box, it probably won’t get done, since Kari is blogging.

Of course Andres thinks I’m crazy. I don’t really care. Other people may think I’m a geek or weird. Doesn’t bother me. I know there are better things to do with my time, but I can drown out that nagging voice at the back of my head. Truth be told, I like blogging. I love blogging. Something I never thought I’d say.

It is a wee bit like having a novel at your fingertips. Maybe if I had access to libraries, Amazon.com (without the horrendous shipping fees, of course), b&n, etc., I would be less inclined to spend my time reading bits and blurbs on the Internet. But since I don’t have this, blogging keeps me updated, makes me feel like I am not so far away, keeps me in the thick of things, so to speak. When I blog and read blogs, I don’t feel so bad about being here. I don’t feel so isolated. And that is an amazing feeling.

Still, with blogging comes many forms of guilt. Aside from just being a guilty pleasure, the onus it brings is at times unbearable. I use the blog to keep my family up to date on me, my kids, my life. But when I don’t blog I feel guilty. I am letting them down. I am reading about the lives of other people, people I don’t even know (I hear Andres’s voice again... 'crazy crazy crazy') instead of keeping my family on top of things. For example, my sister asks for my blog address so she has something to read at work. Since then I may have written what? A whole paragraph?

Shame Shame Shame.

So, if you feel that I am on a blogging frenzy this weekend, it is because I am. I’m making up for lost time. I promise to try to be better.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Plays on words

You know your kid's growing up when he starts getting jokes meant for your husband.

The other day the three of us (Kas was sleeping) were sitting around folding laundry. Tin was "helping" me pair socks. Of course, he was doing more throwing the socks around than matching them, so I asked him how many socks he was matching and how many he was throwing. He answered the second question: "Two."

Looking at Andres, I rolled my eyes and muttered, "Too many." To which Tin let out a guffaw.

"Too many! Too many!" he said, giggling. Then he came up to me and planted a big wet kiss on my cheek. "Mommy, you're silly! Too many..." And he sighed and shook his head from side to side, as if to say, what am I going to do with her?

Understanding puns? Oh no, that kid is no longer my little baby...

Unluckiest person in the world

Sometimes I think that the unluckiest person in the world is my mother-in-law. Not only does she have this crazy disease, polymyalgia rheumatica, she now is having problems getting permission at work to get the rest she needs. Even though the doctor has said she should not return to work (she works at a night school and the cold is really bad for her), because it is a public school, she can only get 7 days at a time (the doctor gave her a month, and then said she'll probably need three months in total to get back to "normal"). At work they gave her the permission, but to get it "legalized" (what is it with Ecuadorians and their love for LEGALIZING EVERYTHING?) she has to go back to the State Department of Education and get it stamped. There, they tell her they can only sign permission for 7-14 days. She goes back to the doctor to get him to rewrite the permission in increments of 2 weeks, and now she is told that they can't do it because it is "past its time." So, three months before she is eligible for retirement, it looks like she will be fired because of this crazy mess. Which means her retirement will be seriously compromised.

All of this is just unnecessary and crazy paperwork, since she was granted permission for the last two weeks - but not the first two (so, the dr. says I have this disease on Sept. 4, but I can't get permission to be sick from Sept. 4 to Sept. 17, but I can get permission from Sept. 17 to Oct. 4?). Also, she has a substitute in her place who she is paying out of her paycheck, so what, really is the big deal? I don't get it and never will, I guess.

On top of this mess, she has decided to try selling her family lot in Calderon. She finally found someone who wants to buy it, ASAP, and when she went to sell it she finds out that the city government has ordered that the lot is only good in order to build schools, public hospitals, or parks on. Not even houses can be built on the property, which contradicts everything since HER house is already built on the property. (Not the first time, by the way, that she has had problems with land in Calderon. She once owned another lot that she had bought herself, and it was taken by the authorities to build the new highway through.)

Needless to say, it really sucks. She is looking for a lawyer (of course the one she was recommended to use is out of the country until December) who might be able to help her, but in the end she will either lose the land or have to bribe and pay off who knows how many officials. And the worse part is that all of this was caused by her neighbors, who under good Ecuadorian philosophy believe that everything yours is mine, and that no one should have anything more than what I have (even though I don't work or do anything in order to get it). They think that my mother-in-law is rich because of the land (which she inherited) and so they wanted her to pay for paving the road that runs around her land. My mother-in-law is a schoolteacher, however, and while not dirt poor is by no means equipped with enough income to finance a city road. They got angry when she refused, and went to the city government and cried and complained that they needed a hospital, and then got the officials to "donate" my mother-in-law's land.

Now, I have nothing against building hospitals for low income families, lahdee lahdee, but the way people go about things is so corrupt that it makes you want to just cry, close your eyes, and give up once and for all on this country.