June 30, 2010

The Last Blog

So here it is. After six long months in Ecuador, my last post. Right now, I am sitting in the Houston airport waiting for my connection to Portland.
So I guess I will start by saying that the last few days with CIMAS went off without a hitch. I rocked my Spanish final, so with that I was happy, and our paper and presentation seemed to turn out well. I wouldn’t say that it was stellar by any means, but definitely decent. So we’ll see how much arguing needs to happen after final grades come out.

I said goodbye to my family (well, all but Alejandra, and she didn’t seem too concerned with saying goodbye, seeing as Marco told her that I was leaving in the morning last night and she said, “Ok, I’m going upstairs.” Thanks for all the love Alejandra. Other than that, the other family members seemed genuinely sad about my approaching departure, and made me assure them that I would write.

As far as today goes, I almost didn’t get to leave Quito again, despite having all the correct documentation this time. I got to the airport late because Marco and Sandra forgot to wake up, so we left at about 4:30 in the morning. When I got to the airport, I found out that Continental’s systems were down and they couldn’t check anyone in (unless you had already checked in online the previous day, which I tried to do but just got a bunch of error messages). So I waited in line for about an hour, and finally got checked in at about 5:30. So we have a half an hour until it’s time to board and I haven’t gone through customs or security. Awesome. So by the time I get to the gate, it is about 6:05, and people are getting on the plane. I went through the usual search and pat down that the Quito airport does at the entrance to the gate without problem, and I was walking toward the plane when I heard a security guard behind me say “Ma’am, you need to come with me.” Awesome. Now what?
So myself and another little old lady went with this security guard and on the way to this mystery location, he told us that our bags were going to be searched for narcotics. I then told him that that was fine with me, he had my consent, but that I didn’t want to miss the plane (which is now leaving in 20 minutes) and was going back to the gate. He said no, that to search the bag I needed to be present. So we walked down all these back hallways that are clearly not for passengers and end up out on the tarmac with the national police and our two bags. So the police officer opened up my bag and started digging through it (even though it was meticulously packed and I knew that the stuff was not going to fit back in after he unpacked it). He was particularly interested in the rain sticks I got for all the kids, at one point really fixating on one in particular to the point that I thought he was going to take just one (leaving me with five cousins and four gifts). So after he tore up all my stuff, they called in the dogs (meanwhile the clock is ticking down, it’s about 6:15), and I had to stand by as the drug dog sniffed and pawed and got all up in my luggage. Again, awesome. So at this point I am getting frantic because I know that I will have to go through security again and there are only 10 minutes until this plane leaves. So I tell the officer that I need to go, and ask him if he is satisfied with the search (because neither he nor the dog could find anything, shocker). He finally says yes and I hastily shove the suitcase back together so that I can get back on the plane. I then went back into the airport, back through security (even though I was with a security guard and the police the WHOLE time), and got to the gate. I got immediately on the plane and literally sat down and we took off. It was literally with minutes to spare. The flight was relatively uneventful, I sat next to a smart little 12yr old boy who was pretty cool, and other than that there is nothing entertaining to speak of. Right now, I am sitting at Houston-Bush awaiting my 6:30 flight which is still hours away. But hopefully this flight again will be pleasant (I again have a window seat, which is nice), and I can end this adventure on a positive note.

Overall, the experience in Ecuador was a positive one, though the experience with CIMAS was not. At all. I think that in going to Ecuador, not only did I mature, but also I have more confidence in my abilities, and bonus, can speak Spanish. It is a shame that CIMAS was so awful, but still, now that it is over, I am glad that I went. Peace out Ecuador--thanks for everything.

March 14, 2010

Saying Goodbye to the Jensens

I spent my last Saturday here with Marlo and her family, and I couldn't have asked for a better day. She called me on Friday and asked me if I would like to go to the park with them for a picnic the next day, and so of course I said yes. I got up and had breakfast with my family and then headed over to their house. When I got there, she was all packed up but told me that she was thinking of baking some cookies to take with us. So of course I encouraged her to make them (because her chocolate chip cookies are awesome), and she did. She also told me that the 10lb bag of chocolate chips that I brought her were almost gone. Wow. So she made some cookies and we went to La Parque Carolina for lunch. The kids brought their bikes and rollerblades, and so after we got done eating we walked around the park for a little while. After the picnic we went back to their house and hung out for a while, and she invited me to have dinner with them. And of course I accepted because I knew that anything she made would be a thousand times more delicious than anything we might have at my house, and of course I was correct. She made steak gorgonzola and a salad. It was fantastic. After that, I asked if I could use their Vonage phone to call home, and though my mom and Dana weren't there, I did get to talk to my dad, which was nice. After that I said my goodbyes to the family and headed home. It was sad to say goodbye, but the next time they are in Washington, we have plans to get together.

And so now I will be spending this day working on my portion of our 30 page essay, and after that I only have three days left. I am pretty much all packed up, so all I have to do is finish this program and I will be all done!

March 11, 2010

A Funny Story

So since nothing seems to be going right, I am going to share the one bright part of my day today. In Spanish, we were having a conversation about "If you could be any animal, which would you be?" So we all started out naming real animals until one girl's response was that she would be a unicorn. So then everyone decided that they wanted to change their answers based on the fact that we could invent animals. So I jokingly said that I would be a liger (from Napolean Dynamite) and the only guy in the class told me that those were real. He then (and remember that this is all in Spanish, a language that we are not very good at) that depending on the sex of the mother, a combination between a lion and a tiger could be a tion or a liger. So I asked him if he meant to say "species," but he continued assuredly that the sex of the mother was the determinant. At this point we were all laughing, and he assumed it was because we though that ligers weren't real, when really it was because the SEX of the mother is always feminine. So we then asked him what happens if the mother was a little masculine, and he finally understood.

It was really funny and yet another example of how in trying to use a new language, there are always mishaps.

March 10, 2010

Coming Home

So after much thought and consideration, I have decided that I am indeed going to come home and quit CIMAS. This is the worst program I have ever had the misfortune of being a part of, and I have decided I do not have the patience, emotional capacity, or will to continue. I have sorted out all of the details with my advisors, and though my decision makes Dr. Suarez very angry, I believe it will make me happy-or at least I won't be this unhappy anymore. And if I had any doubt remaining about my decision, I just found out that my grandma has cancer which would have made the decision for me anyways.

Unfortunately I do not really have anything to tell from the last few days as I have spent the majority of them sleeping. I usually come home from school, sleep until dinner, eat dinner, go to bed, and sleep until I have to go to school again. I can only think to chalk it up to unhappiness, and hopefully this will pass with my return to the US. I have completed almost every assignment with CIMAS, the only things I have left to do are the 30 page paper and presentation and the Spanish final exam...and then I am done. Thank goodness.

I changed my ticket from June 6th to March 18th, and my plane is scheduled to land in Portland at 9:07 next Thursday. I cannot wait to be back and put this behind me. All my love to my family, I cannot wait to see you all next week.

March 7, 2010

The Week From Hell

This was the most god-awful week of my life. It started on Monday when we basically had a free day to work on our essays. It was this day that I started feeling sick, so since we didn’t have school I just went home and slept all day. And through dinner. And through the night. So I fell asleep at about 11AM, and I didn’t wake up until 7AM the following morning.
Tuesday morning was dedicated to presentations, and since mine was the only individual presentation (all the rest were groups), I was a little nervous and went first. It went well, everyone liked it….and then Dr. Suarez decided to comment (keep in mind he’s the grader). He said, “Though your topic was interesting, it has nothing to do with this program.” UMMM, thanks?? The theme for these presentations was “Current Health Issues in Ecuador” and I wrote about the lack of sexual education in public schools and the consequences in the public sector. How is that off topic? But the rest of the class agreed and they verbalized that, so I felt better. However, I was still a little worried about my grade in the class, so I went after to talk to him, and he basically told me that since I was so out in right field with my theme, I would be receiving a not very favorable grade, but that it was not a problem because maybe I could do better on the final. Ummm, not ok Dr. Suarez. So I sent an email explaining this to my advisor in the US, and she revealed that they have been getting nothing but complaints about CIMAS from this year, and that I just needed to keep a copy of all my work and the grades, and we could sort it out when I got back.

Also in this email, I was so frustrated that I asked what would happen if I came home early. I am so frustrated with CIMAS that even though I came here specifically for this internship, I would turn it down just to not be affiliated with this awful program anymore. Basically I found out that since I was not a full time student (because I wouldn’t complete the year) I would be on academic probation for the following year. However, this is only for financial aid purposes, and would not show on my transcripts or anything; only the finaid department would monitor my academic progress during next year. At this point, I think I will stay, but we have a 30 page paper coming up and if they pull the same bullshit with the final paper that they have with the previous three, I think I will have to leave because during my internship, I will also have to write a 30 page thesis, and I can’t have a bunch of bad grades sitting on my WSU transcripts, nor do I want to have to fight to have them changed. So we will see what happens, but I am not ruling out the option of coming home in March instead of June.
I hate this program; the only thing that is making it better is that everyone else hates it too and that WSU knows about the issues.
After this black Tuesday, Wednesday came. And it was no better. But that day the problem was Spanish, not Public Health. I have told my Spanish teacher on three separate occasions that I am in the wrong Spanish class and that I should be moved down. But she insisted that it was fine and that it was a correct placement. Well, we got a big packet of papers back (including the midterm) and she said that because my grade was so much lower than everyone else in the class, I would have to retake the midterm to try and recuperate some points, as well as redo all the other assignments that I clearly didn’t understand. She also said that I was clearly in the wrong class, but now it’s too late to change it. DUH! I told you that, and additionally I got a 25% on the placement exam we took. Who thought it was a good idea to put me in the highest level class??!? So I have been redoing assignments in hopes of a better grade…we’ll see how it turns out. But I cannot win here, so I have pretty much given up as far as CIMAS goes. I hate this program and cannot wait to evaluate it.
So after that awesome few days, Thursday afternoon finally rolled around. I was waiting for my driver, and some of the other students came out of the building talking about going to Cuenca for the weekend. I asked what they were going to do there, and they told me that they were going to go to Ingapirca, the Incan ruins in Ecuador. They also invited me to go, and considering how my week went, I decided that a little time away would be nice. So I left two hours later for Cuenca!
We got there on Friday morning after taking an overnight bus, checked into the hostel, and slept until 10. After that we got on another bus and went to Ingapirca, which was really cool. That was the one thing that I didn’t get to do last quarter that I still really wanted to see, so I’m glad we went. It was awesome and I had a good time. After that we came back to Cuenca and had dinner, and then just went to bed because everyone was tired from not sleeping the night before.
On Saturday, we just spent the day walking around the city. We ate at two really awesome restaurants and played a card game called “Presidents and Assholes” about a million times. It was again a really relaxed day and I had a lot of fun with the group I went with.

Saturday night we left and took a night bus home, arriving at about 6 this morning. I have been sleeping most of the day, and now I have a bunch of homework to do. Tomorrow we start week 9 with CIMAS, and I hope it just goes quickly. I dread going every day, so I hope that this week and the next just fly by and I won’t have to deal with Public Health anymore.

March 1, 2010


Yesterday, I called Kelsey to see if she wanted to go do something because I was bored. We decided to go to the park and just spend some time in the sun. When 3:00 rolled around, it was no longer sunny, and therefore we decided not to go to the park. So the plan instead was to go see "Couple's Retreat" at the movie theater. So I picked her up in a cab and we went to the theater...only to find the huge metal gates that go over the doors pulled down and taped over. So out taxi driver helpfully says, "It looks closed." What was your first clue, taxi driver??

So we knew of another theater relatively close by, and we asked him to take us there. He did, but when we got to the ticket box, not only did they not have Couple's Retreat, they didn't have any other movies that looked entertaining (or that we hadn't already seen). So we left...but on out way out, we walked past a bingo parlor, and the temptation was just to great. So we went in and sat ourselves between the old ladies and played some bingo. It was hard because they were calling the numbers in Spanish and they were keeping pretty good pace, but it was fun nevertheless.

After that I came home and took a nap and then went back to Kelsey's to call home. And that was the rest of my day. Today I got up and went to CIMAS for an hour because we had to make our groups for the final essay, and then the rest of the day was a free day to work on our essays for tomorrow (but mine's already done, so I just had a free day).

For the final essay, we have a group of five, and the topic is "Autonomy." Unfortuantey, I have no idea what that even means, much less how to write five pages (my portion) on "The Autonomy of Healthcare." Great. I would like to point out that this was NOT my idea.

So tomorrow we have presentations and tonight I am going to chat with Di Adra and Tiffany (my real cousins) as they watch a show about the weird food in Ecuador. And that's pretty much all for now...

February 28, 2010

I Thought March Would Never Come...

So yesterday morning there was a huge earthquake in Chile. It registered an 8.8, with aftershocks all day in Peru and Argentina at 6.7. An 8.8 is 1000 times stronger than the earthquake in Haiti, the aftershocks were of similar size. Because of the earthquake, the entire Pacific Basin was put on tsunami warning, which is the highest level of threat for tsunami, so we basically spent the day wondering if a tsunami was going to hit Ecuador.

Luckily, I live in the highlands, so even had there been a tsunami, we wouldn't have been affected. But it was a big deal here, and everyone was talking about it. The news was on EVERY TV, and that's rare because people don't really seem to care about the news here.

Yesterday, I walked down to my old neighborhood to go to the bank and buy some movies. I am on a quest to find "Song of the South," because since you cannot buy it in the US, I am determined to buy it here so I can watch it. But alas, the video stores didn't have it. One of them is looking into getting it for me, so I'll know next Thursday. I really hope they can get it!

After that, I came home and was bored. We are supposed to be writing an essay this weekend, due on Tuesday, but everyone decided to travel. I asked EVERYONE before they left if they wanted to be in a group with me, and no one seemed that interested, so since no one else is going to start until Monday anyways, I decided to do it myself. This means that I also have to present by myself, but hey, at least then I can make all the decisions. So yesterday evening I sat down and wrote my essay and did my powerpoint, so now I am ready for Tuesday. The only problem is that on Monday, we have an hour lecture at 9 on possible essay topics, then free time until 2 when we have Spanish. The free time is supposed to be to work on the essays, but since mine is done I am going to have to figure out something to do with the rest of the day. But that's fine, it's better to be bored than be at CIMAS.

Last night my mom had a dinner party for her friends and hired a chef to come over and cook. We had filet mignon and potatoes and rice (of course) and chocolate cake for dessert. It was FANTASTIC. Today, I am going over to Kelsey's to call home and that's it...I have no other plans. But I think I might go out an try and find something, because I really don't want to sit around here all day.

February 25, 2010

Happy 100 Day!

And the double digit countdown begins...

So this was week seven at CIMAS, and for the most part the first two days were pretty normal. Suprisingly, they did not cancel one single lecture this week, so that was a plus. In Spanish, we watched "The House of Spirits" by Isabel Allende (she wrote the book, we watched the movie, but same thing). It was actually REALLY good, not to mention it had an all-star cast: Antonio Banderas, Glenn Close, Winona Ryder, and  Meryl Streep. I liked it.

On Wednesday, we took a trip to Pedro Moncayo to visit a flower farm. We had been prepped about flower farms and how bad they are for the environment and how they use chemicals that cause cancer in the workers...basically how they are really shitty places. So when we got there, the owner comes to give us a tour, and he is spewing a TON of bullshit about how "they don't use harsh chemicals and they properly treat waste water and they check all the ages of the workers" and such, but when we started the tour, EVERYTHING we saw said the exact opposite. All of the people working in this place looked about 14, and at one point when the tour got up ahead of me I asked one of the girls how old she was....after about a 15 second hesitation, she said, "18." Good answer, but not the truth. After that, we kept walking and we went into the greenhouses. The owner made a point to say that after they are sprayed with pesticides, no one without a complete protective getup is allowed in the houses for at least four hours. As soon as he finishes, a man walkes up to us, picks up a huge jug of drinking water, and proceedes to walk directly into the next greenhouse where the other guy is ACTIVELY spraying pesticides. How embarrassing.

So after that we went to a hospital, and they too were in the BS game, because they told us that they "had no numbers or statistics on the prevalence of cancer in the community" and that "cancer is not really a problem here." Ummm, I beg to differ! Cancer from pesticides in the water supply is a HUGE problem in that province. So overall it was a really interesting trip, but not very informative because no one would tell us the real scoop.

Today we had another trip to Tumbaco, and this time we just visited a farm. Not horribly interesting, and nothing to do with public health, but we did get to go out and pick our own veggies and make a salad for lunch, so the extra veggies I got in my diet today were good. Also, it was a short trip so even though I was bored all the time, I only suffered for four hours. (And I do mean suffered: there were NO bathrooms where we went and we had to hold it all day....actually not all day, they stopped in the morning at the tour guides house and we got to pee in his bucket toilet. You do your business, and then pour sawdust on top of that, and then someone else goes on top of that....)

Tonight, I was invited to Kelsey's house for tacos. When I got there, Kelsey was still at the store, so I was chatting with her family. Her mom came in and said, "You look really *something*." When I said I didn't understand the word, she repeated it and when I still didn't get it, her eight year old son (who is learning English in school) said "Wide! It means wide." So I made a sort of frown at being called fat, and then the mom, who was still trying to explain in Spanish said, "Flaca...el opuesto de gordo." So in reality she was commenting that I looked thinner, which was a nice thing. I then informed Diego that "thin" was the word he was looking for, and that "wide" was the opposite. So we all had a good laugh.

The tacos were delicious, and we ended up just hanging out and talking until almost 11. It was really fun, and a good way to celebrate 100 day. As of tomorrow, we are looking at only two digits in the countdown! Can't wait to celebrate 1 day!!!

February 21, 2010

My Family

So this family now is officially driving me crazy. I guess because now they are comfortable with me they can let all their neuroses loose.

My parents are fine, except for the fact that they just let the kids (Christian especially) walk all over them. For example, since Christian STILL can't eat solid foods (more on that later), he makes himself essentially glorified milkshakes every day. Yesterday, while we were eating dinner, he made his milkshake and left the blender on for literally more than three minutes while he went and did something else. My mom turned it off and he came running into the kitchen and basically scolded her for messing with his milkshake, and when she took it off the base to pour it in a cup for him he grabbed it out of her hands and put it back on the blender, despite the fact that Marco and Sandra were both telling him not to. So instead of doing something about his blatent disobedience, they just shook their heads and continued eating. And it's like that always...the kids NEVER get punished even when they are so disrespectful it's embarrasing to be there.

Andrea is just a lot more immature than I had originally thought, but that is kind of a running theme here. All people act a lot younger than their actual age, so I guess I can let it go. However, she is on a diet....and I have no idea who this nutritionist is that she is seeing, but this diet is AWFUL. The nutritionist told her that she should drink at least 10% fat milk and drink these godawful herb-blended concoctions and eat things like tuna packaged in oil...I don't get it. It's bizarre and disgusting and not really very nutritious at all...but it's her life so whatever.

Alejandra just got a job at a meat factory, so now she thinks she knows everything about food. Tonight, she said that she liked margerine better than butter because it's healthier. And I told her that it depends on how you look at it, because butter is animal fat, which is less healthy, but margerine is filled with chemicals and coloring to make the plant oils solid. And she proceeded to tell me that margerine is not hydroginated and and all sorts of other facts that from a chemical or health standpoint are not even close to true. But whatever...again she can think whatever she wants. It's just really hard to talk to her now that she knows everything....

And Christian...oh my goodness Christian...he is the absolute worst in the whole family. He has NO manners whatsoever, and it is sickening to sit next to him at the dinner table. For example, today he decided that honey on his fish would be really good. So he proceeded to dip his spoon in the honey, spread it on the fish, and then redip the spoon in the honey for the next bite. So now there is no viable honey to use at breakfast because it has the unmistakeable flavor of fish. Awesome. Also, he is STILL playing the patient from his mouth surgery. Now don't get me wrong, I have never had mouth surgery, but I have had braces and teeth extracted and I happen to know that almost 10 days after a procedure, your mouth is healed. Because the mouth heals REALLY FAST. Even if he had leg surgery the wound would be well on it's way to healed...but no. He still only eats liquid food that ironically does not include anything good for you, but does have tons of sugar. Weird right? And on that note, if I hear Alejandra or Andrea say, "Come on Christian, you need to eat! You need the strength!" I am going to puke. He will not starve, he will eat when he's hungry (or when someone decides that this liquid sugar diet is bullshit) and he appears to have enough strength to play soccer with his friends, so I think he's fine.

So now that's off my chest....and I feel better. I am not necessarily looking forward to moving to a new family because I have known how it could be, and really I have it pretty good here. I am however looking forward to those "we just met and we are going to act on our best behavior" weeks.

February 19, 2010

Week 6

So this week at CIMAS (because of Carnaval) was a two day week. But it might as well have been a week off, because CIMAS is stupid and we didn't do anything anyways. Allow me to explain...

So On Wednesday, when we got there, we had a lecture as planned, except that she went over by 45 minutes, thus taking out 1.5 hour lecture to way over two. Because of this, we didn't get out scheduled break, which turned out to be not such a catastrophe after all. You see, Dr. Suarez and his lovely wife decided to take an additional day at the beach for their vacation, and because of this, the scheduled "course evaluations" could not happen. So we had three hours of free time, and then Spanish. Now if you'll remember, this was the day that we were "compromising" for last week's lack of activities and beginning five minutes early. And that probably would have happened, except now CIMAS employs cooks to cook us lunch every day, and they didn't even get there until almost 2:00, when Spanish is supposed to start. So we were all almost a half hour late to Spanish because we had already paid for lunch and I at least wasn't about to forefit 1.50.

So that was Wednesday, and Thursday wasn't any better. We were supposed to visit SOLCA, the local cancer hospital, but then they announced (after we all got to CIMAS an hour early for this trip) that we couldn't go for health safety reasons. Ok, fair enough. So they told us that instead, the man from SOLCA who would have showed us around was coming to CIMAS in 15 minutes to give us a lecture instead. Again, ok, fine. So we waited. And waited. And waited. And when 11:00 rolls around (keep in mind we got there at 8:00), we colectively decide that he's probably not coming. So we again had free time until 2:00 Spanish. So for those of you who are keeping track, we were there from 8:00am until 4:00pm, and the only thing we did ALL DAY was Spanish. We did take a midterm in Spanish though, so at least it wasn't a total wash.

Today Kelsey and I went to the artesenal market in Quito so that I could begin my search for the alpaca chaps that Robert and Bob want so badly. Unfortunately, there were no chaps, but I did get some of the coolest shoes I have ever seen in my life, and I also got a Panama hat for my dad. So it wasn't a complete waste of time.

Afterward, I had dinner at Kelsey's house because my family went out somewhere. It was nice, Kelsey's family is similar to mine, and they are really nice people. After that they called me a cab and I came home (though not before being asked to go on a date with the taxi driver, which I politely declined). So now I am just hanging out, I have no plans for tomorrow or Sunday except to call home, so it should be a pretty relaxed weekend (like always!).

February 16, 2010

Back To The Grind

So here I sit, enjoying the last few minutes of my holiday. Today, I woke up, had breakfast, and continued to read in the last book that I have, and it occured to me that there was no better day or time to go visit my friend Bill down at Confederate Books. So I did. I am now the proud owner of four new books, and that should last me about two weeks, so I am pretty satisfied.

On the way to the bookstore, I had who is possibly the most jolly taxi driver in the world. He kept saying "Buenos dias" and "It's a wonderful day!! (but in Spanish of course). He was funny. After I got done, I had the craziest taxi driver ever. He kept muttering my street name under his breath like he couldn't remember, and when I told him I could tell him where to turn, he said something about me having a lot of friends here.

In other news, I am thrilled to go back to school, because my family is DRIVING ME UP THE WALL. Alejandra is always all over her boyfriend and vice versa, and it's like "No one wants to watch you guys kiss and fool around while we're eating." Christian is milking this mouth surgery thing for all its worth (by the way, Christian, apparently no one told you but the mouth heals the quickest of any part in the whole body, so here at post op almost SIX days, you are FINE) and does stuff like soak all his food in his drink before he eats it. Like the bread with breakfast in his juice, his HAMBURGER in his HOT CHOCOLATE today at dinner...it's disgusting. Not to mention he is a SLOB when he eats and has no table manners whatsoever. Andrea and Christian also got into a hitting fight today when she asked him to pass the lettuce and he ignored her. She hit him in the face and he pinched her in the arm and then they argued like four year olds for a few minutes...I mean, how old are you????? (Answer: She is 22 and he is 14). Ridiculous.

I am ready to get out of this house! So despite the fact that I usually hate every minute at CIMAS and regard it as a waste of time, at least there I am surrounded by grown-ups who don't pinch each other. Uggg...

February 15, 2010

Valentines Day

So seeing as yesterday was Valentines Day and I am single and away from everyone I know, I didn't really have high hopes for the day. And I was right.

I woke up and read because I didn't feel like having breakfast. When I went down for some water at 11, my family had just woken up and was eating breakfast. So I ate anyways, way later than I expected. After breakfast, I came back upstairs and read until lunch. And then at lunch was where all the fun started.

My grandparents came over for lunch and it was pretty normal until my mom started giving out the drink (a papaya batido, which is papaya blended with whole milk). I told her I didn't want any because batidos in general are gross, and they know I don't like papaya. So of course, my grandpa has to throw in his two cents. He asks me why I don't want any, and I tell him it's because I don't like papaya. He then proceedes on a 15 minute ramble about how I should be more opened minded, I should try all the things that Sandra makes, my sense of taste is obviously not very well developed, and that if I don't like papaya I must not like fruit. So then the grandparents band together to list EVERY FRUIT THEY CAN THINK OF and ask me if I like each one. So we go through ten minutes of that, and they come to the conclusion that the American does like fruit, just not papaya. Duh. And then again, my crazy grandpa has to throw back in that my taste for it would develop, "just like the people who like wine". Crazy knows no cultural bounds.

During this hell of a lunch, I also asked my sister Andrea if she wanted to go to the movies that night with me. She said sure, we could go see the 9:40 showing of Valentines Day, and that she was going to see her boyfriend for a few hours but she would come back to the house and we would go. Ok, perfect. So the rest of the afternoon was pretty uneventful, I read more in my book (and am going to have to buy more soon because this is the last one I have) and we had dinner (just the family this time). My mom told me that her and Marco were going to a friend's house for a late dessert, but to have fun at the movie and she would see me tomorrow.

So when it was time to leave for the movie, I came down and found Andrea, who told me that all the movies were sold out. Ummm actually no, I just checked online and there are tons of seats. So then I asked her to call a cab for us and she tells me that she can't go. When I ask why, the conversation goes like this:

"No one is here with Christian."
"Alejandra is upstairs."
"Yeah, but she is not down here."
"So what, Christian can stay by himself."
"No, my mom said that I needed to stay and watch him."

Ok, so let me clear a few things up. Yes, Christian had surgery on his mouth on Friday. But that does not mean he's laid up by any means. He has been in the hallway hammering and painting on this junk project for three days now. He can eat, talk, and take his own pills. Not to mention he is 14, and Alejandra is in the house. Christian does not need taking care of. At all.

So she wasn't going. But at that point, I was so annoyed with the whole family that I decided she wasn't going to ruin my night and I went alone.

The movie was good, but in retrospect, Valentines Day is not a good pick for a movie alone on Valentines Day. I should have seen Percy Jackson. But oh well.

When I got home, I came up and read a little bit more, and then went to bed. Today is basically the same, I am going to hang out and get my homework done before we go back to school on Wednesday. It's been a pretty tame Carnaval holiday, but I am plowing through the books, so I am not to disappointed.

February 13, 2010

The Beginning Of Carnaval

This weekend is a five day weekend for Carnaval. Yesterday I did absolutely nothing, in part because my brother had mouth surgery and my family just wanted to stay home and in part because I am lazy and reading all day usually sounds more appealing than going out. So that's what I did. I sat and read all day long.

Today was a bit more lively, I went to see Marlo and her family. It was really fun. We went out for ice cream and she made me lunch. Like always, it's nothing to eventful, but I really like talking to them and being in a household that is "normal" with normal things and food...

After that, I went to Supermaxi to get some food for my apartment, because with Christian recovering from surgery, my mom has not really been cooking much. And so after last night of tea and crackers for dinner, I decided I would get some food so I wasn't hungry if that happened again.

Tomorrow, I again have no plans, but seeing as Alice and Wonderland is out, I might take myself on a Valentines day date and go see it.

February 11, 2010

Week 5

On Tuesday we had our presentations. Well, sort of. CIMAS, despite the fact that there were eight presentations to be given (more or less 15 minutes a piece, plus five for questions) scheduled a lecture in the morning. So at 11, we finally began to present. Which means that we went WAY over into our lunch time (so what else is new) and had a whopping 35 minutes to go get lunch.

Our presentation was pretty rag-tag in my opinion, but I happened to be watching when the professor graded it and he gave us a 95%. So I'm certainly not complaining. We haven't recieved that score officially, and who knows. I wouldn't put it past CIMAS or Dr. Suarez to knock off a few points just because. But assuming that is our real score, I am happy, and I can only hope that our paper is returned with just as favorable results.

On Tuesday night while at dinner with my family, I mentioned that I had heard that the Cranberries (a British band popular in the 90's [famous song: Linger]) were coming to Quito the following night for on their reunion tour. My sister then told me that her and her boyfriend were actually going, and to my excitement she told me that if I had the money to pay for aticket ($25), I too could go. And so I was super excited because on Wednesday night, I was going to the Cranberries concert.

This week was also the week that we have to cook "traditional Ecuadorian food" for lunch for CIMAS. The actual lunch was Thursday, but my mom said we needed to go to the market in the morning before school on Wednesday. So I got up and we went to the market to buy the ingredients for Ceviche (a cold, tomato-based soup) with shrimp. After that, I went to CIMAS, and it was a pretty normal day. One thing that did happen though (and this is so typically CIMAS): Our Spanish professor has us for two hours each afternoon. On Wednesday, I guess she didn't plan very well and ran out of activities for us. So she announced we could leave a half an hour early because we were finished, but that the next time we have class, we will be staying for an extra half hour to make up the time. Ummm, no lady, we won't be. For one, that's not how it works, ESPECIALLY if YOU are the one who doesn't plan enough activities, and two, I have a driver that leaves at 4:00, and I am not going to pay for a taxi home (because you can't take a bus to my house from CIMAS) just because you didn't do your job. So we "compromised" and will be starting class five minutes earliler next week to compensate. Whatever...

Afterr school I went home and took a nap because I was tired from my early market morning. At 6:30, my sister and I and her boyfriend left for the concert. It was really cool. It took place in the Plaza del Toros, so basically it's a big, round, open air stadiu. It also happens to be about a block from the airport, and since there is no such thing as closed airspaces here, the planes fly over so close that you can basically count the bolts in the wings. It's like on the 205 bridge, except closer. Much closer.

The concert itself was really fun. I only know two songs (but in this I was the minority: everyone, even people who don't speak English, sang every word to every song) but still I really enjoyed it. It was a really nice night and the concert was really good. Afterwards, we walked to the car (my sister's boyfriend's cousin's car). He was supposed to take us home (it was already midnight, and I had to get up early to actually cook the ceviche in the morning), but decided that he was hungry and that we needed to go to Burger King. They all ate, and finally after 2:00AM, I got home. I set my alarm for 4:00 because I needed to shower because I smelled like an ashtray from the concert, and then my mom and I were going to cook. But of course, being as tired as I was, I slept through my alarm. When I did wake up a little after 6, all I had time to do was wash my face and brush my teeth because I knew we had to start cooking or it wouldn't be finished by the time my driver came.

All in all it worked out, we made the ceviche and I got to school. Today was really easy, we only had a seminar and then ate the lunch that everyone brought. It was good, and I am proud to report that the ceviche was completely gone by the end.

After school I was exhausted, so I took a nap. When I got up, I went to check my email, but for whatever reason my computer wouldn't let me log in. So I used safe mode and ran a repair, and after that it worked. After that, I cleaned my whole apartement (kitchenette, bathroom and other both bedrooms) and had dinner. Now I am going to go start a new book in celebration of the five day weekend that starts tomorrow for Carnaval! This weekend I have no set plans except to see Marlo and her family at some point, so we'll see what happens!!

February 9, 2010

CIMAS, Essays, Baking, Oh My!

So on Monday when we went into school, even though we DIDN"T HAVE CLASS, Dr. Suarez decided that we were going to have a lecture anyways because everyone seemed so "frustrated". No shit, Dr. Suarez, you think you can put us through this stupid program and no one will be frustrated??? So he sat us down and announced that he was confused why we were all so mad about the rearrangement of the schedule.

Ummm newsflash: that's not why anyone is mad.

So basically after an hour of our time (that we were supposed to have for writing our essays), we finally got to work. We had Spanish from 2-4 in the afternoon, and basically the rest of the day was devoted to essay writing.

When I got home, we had dinner, but the new studnet Natasha wasn't there. I asked where she was, and they said she went to the hospital because her stomach hurt. Based on the fact that my mom and Andrea hadn't really felt well either, and also that my aunt and uncle (basically all the people who went to Natasha's orientation on Saturday) had thrown up, we determined that it must have been the food. I only had a hamburger, everyone else had hot dogs....and so the mystery is solved. Everyone had food poisioning from the hot dogs at the American World Teach coordinator's house. Bullet dodged for me. Phew.

Today I got up and went to Ida's house because that was where we were going to work on our essay. It took us six hours, but finally we are done. Our presentation is tomorrow and fingers crossed that this one turns out better than the last.

Kelsey told us today that she talked to her dad at home and he told her that he didn't even care if he had to pay for an extra quarter of classes at UW, this program seemed so stupid to him that he thought she should come home. And I agree. If I wasn't stuck here because of the quarter/semester conversion, I too would quit, take the incomplete and come home. We are absolutely wasting our time here with this program, and I plan to write a detailled email to Kate (the WSU abroad advisor) on why she should NEVER recommend this program to other students.

Now I am at Kelsey's house baking a peach cobbler because it is peach season here. We used a Paula Dean recipe that was really weird (you put the topping on the bottom and it rises while it bakes), but so far so good, and it smells good too. As of today, there are 116 more days, and I am praying that they continue to go fast, because I am at the end of my bullshit-taking rope.

February 7, 2010

Best. Day. Ever. Part Two.

After we got back on Friday, I went home and unpacked, only to find that my Steri-pen, my MOST PRIZED POSESSION, was gone. I thought and thought and thought, but could not think of anyplace it could be. My only hope was that it was maybe in Kelsey's bag since she was my roomie and maybe somehow got misplaced. But she too had unpacked, and said that it was not in her stuff.

And so I was sad, but life moves on even without water sanitizers, and so we went out for sushi. This time it was Kelsey, Jessica and I, and we had a good time. Afterwards, we decided that dessert was on the menu, and so we went to Crepes and Waffles for ice cream. Again, delicious. Everyone else went out after that, but I went home because I really don't care to hang out with anyone else from this program anyways.

When I got home, I went into the kitchen and there was a woman standing at the sink....I said hello and then immeadiately went to my sister's room to get the scoop. And so...I now have a new roommate. Her name is Natasha, she is from London, and she is a little weird. But whatever. She only is living with us for three weeks and then she is moving to Ibarra to teach English.

On Saturday, we went to Natasha's welcome barbeque. It was alright, but I was definitely ready to get out of there by about the fifteenth minute. When I got home, I just hung out for the rest of the day because I knew that on Sunday we would have to work on our essay all day.

Which brings me to Sunday, which was the best and worse day yet. I got up in the morning and packed my stuff to go to Kelsey's to work on the essay. These six hours were nothing but frustration because they want us to write scholarly essays on information that we do not have and do not have access to. The Ministry of Health in Ecuador doesn't even publish the statistics on Malaria for each year, and so how we are even supposed to begin an essay on Malaria and Ecuadorian culture is beyond me. Did I mention that there are no public libraries here???

So after hours of struggles, we finally (hopefully) have a topic that is feasable, and will finish the essay tomorrow and present on Tuesday.

And then to back this day up a little bit: When I got to Kelsey's, I used her internet to Skype home because I could not get a good connection at the internet cafe I had previously been at. While talking to my mom (real mom) and telling her about my Steri-pen woes, Kelsey decided to take one more look in her bag....and lo and behold! My Steri-pen!! I knew I couldn't have lost or left it on our trip because I DON'T lose things. But it's back and for this I am happy.

Ok. So to then fast forward, while we were working on our essay, Kelsey's secret other student that lives in the house with her came in and said if we were interested, the American Embassy was holding a Superbowl party and we could go with him if we wanted. Ummm, is that even a question??

So at 6:00 (because the game started here at 6:30) we headed up to the Embassy. And it was AMAZING. They had pizza and beer and chips and salsa and guacamole and chocolate chip cookies....it was just like being at home. Everyone there was American...it was so fun. And to top it all off, my Saints won. Could it have been a better Superbowl? Probably not.

Afterwards, we just came home and now I am going to bed because I have to be at CIMAS at 9AM tomorrow to work on our essay, even though we don't have class. This is week 5 here, and the time so far has seemed like it has gone fast. Hopefully this will continue. Until then, 118 days left....

February 5, 2010

Welcome to the Jungle: Round Two

So today we got back from field trip #2 to Santo Domingo de los Tsachillas. Which is in the jungle. Again.

This time, we left on Monday. When we got to our hotel, we were pleasently suprised at how nice it was. There was no air conditioning, so it was really hot and humid, but the rooms were really nice and we had a maid service. After we checked in, we had lunch and then free time for two hours. Kelsey (my roommate for this trip) and I watched Dr. Phil in English, and then went to the afternoon conference that was scheduled. The two hour conference took 30 minutes and the guy told us the most straightforward information on Malaria that it wasn't even worth going to. After that, we had more free time, so we watched the movie Crossroads (with Britney Spears from back in the day) and then went to dinner. Dinner was edible (as was the rest of the food we ate for the week), but not great. And they had cantaloupe juice. GROSS.

The second day, we got up and had breakfast and then left for some plantations. We learned how they grow pineapples and cacao, and the guy let me hybrid a cacao tree! After those, we went to a palm plantation and learned how they farm hearts of palm, but the guy who gave the lecture was really rude. One of the girls sneezed while he was talking and he said to her "If you don't want to listen, then you can just leave." Jeez, excuse you for sneezing....

It was fun and all, but had NOTHING to do with public health. In fact, there was not one mention of "public health" the whole day. After the plantations, we went to go for a "nature walk", which I knew was going to be a strenuous hike in the jungle. So this time I was prepared. We walked for a while, and then the guy turns to the mountain (like straight up, 90 degrees) and says we are going to climb. So we do, using the vines to reverse repel up the side of this mountain. At some point, I grabbed something thorny to avoid falling back down the cliff, and now I have infected slivers that I can't get out. But anyways...we all made it to the top, and then continued to hike. Other highlights of this so-called nature walk were the crossing of the bamboo bridge (two sticks of bamboo suspended 30 feet over a river with a rope to hold on to) and the wading chest deep through another. It sucked, but at least this time I was prepared.

After that half the group was positively jolly and the other half was pissed about what we had just done, so when we got back to the hotel, some people went to their rooms and some of us went swimming. The hotel had a little pool and it was fun enough for a little while. After that, we had dinner and then free time for the rest of the night.

On Wednesday, we went and visited a hospital, which was awful because it was PACKED with actual sick people and here we are invading everyone's privacy and taking up a LOT of space. After that, we were told that the guy who was lecturing us in the afternoon cancelled, so we had free time all afternoon. I watched the Northern Trust Open (golf), and Kelsey read. That night, we had dinner and then just went to bed.

The following morning (Thursday) we went and visited some small clinics and a hostel (which again has nothing to do with public health) and then went to a Malaria lab, which was actually interesting because for the first time in the whole week they gave us some information that was not blatently obvious. And as you may have already guessed, we then had the rest of the day off.

Today, we woke up, ate breakfast, and returned to Quito. So as you can tell it was the stupidest trip ever where I learned more from Dr. Phil on Munchausens by Proxy than I did about public health. It was a waste of time and money. CIMAS is stupid.

Now I am home, and besides unpacking, I have nothing to do today but attend to my mosquito bites. I just wasted a week, but this weekend will be busy because I have an essay to write, and we are going to try and watch the superbowl somewhere on Sunday. But I think that's it for the week long trip...hopefully we don't have any more of them.

January 31, 2010

The Weekend

So this weekend, I have done absolutely nothing. Saturday morning I woke up, ate breakfast, and then hung out for the rest of the day. I really didn't feel well, which is why I didn't go to Tara's party, but that's fine with me, I wasn't too thrilled with the idea in the first place.

Today, I woke up and felt TERRIBLE. Luckily, my family has not yet suggested oregano tea, so I haven't had to force that down yet.

Today, I am just doing homework and getting things ready for tomorrow, becuase we have another trip. This time it is to Santo Domingo de los Tschillas, meaning more indigenous villages. Awesome. I cannnot wait.

And then today I found out that the milk that my family drinks has a whopping 11% fat content. Whole milk my ass, that is whipping cream. So when people wonder how I am sick all the time but am not really losing weight, that's how. Ugh...

January 30, 2010

My First Free Friday

So I woke up yesterday morning only to find that our toilet won't flush. And of course, no one is home, so I scour the house for a plunger. There isn't one. When my mom finally gets back, she goes and gets it (out ot this little cubboard at the bottom of the stairwell (read: not in any of the apartments), and I get to work. What a gross job...but I did it, and now I can add "Plunged a toilet" to my resume of skills.

After that, no one but my mom and I were home for lunch, so we ate together and then went and got ice cream. She was showing me around the neighborhood, and mentioned that there was a salon that did pedicures, so after we got home, I went back and got a pedicure.

And eww. Worst pedicure ever. There is polish ALL over my toes, and after the lady finished with the towel on my feet, she washed her hair and used the same towel for her head. So I can only imagine how many other people have used that towel since its last cleaning. Never again.

After that, I pretty much just spent the day hanging out and being lazy. It was nice, especially after the awful Thursday I had. At dinner, my mom mentioned that my sister went to the pharmacy, and I told her that I too needed to go to the pharmacy. So we ate dinner (my mom, me, Alejandra and her boyfriend), and after dinner, he looked at me and said "So are you ready??" Apparently, my mom had told me that they were going to the pharmacy after dinner, and now I was going. Which was nice, because I didn't have soap or facewash or shampoo. So we went to the Fyebecca (a big chain pharmacy store) and I got all the things I needed. When I got home, I started to not feel very well, so I took a shower and then went to bed.

This morning still I don't feel very well, and I am supposed to go to a housewarming party for Tara tonight. I don't know if I will though because for one, I don't want to spend the taxi money, and for two, I don't want to go if I feel sick. So we'll see.

On another random note, I had an email this morning from a Jessica with the subject "Ecuador Blog". I opened it, and apparently this woman Jessica stumbled upon my blog, and thought it was really interesting because she too (in 1997) was a CIMAS student. She basically said that nothing changes and my experiences are really similar to hers. How weird!

And now I am sitting doing nothing...I should go do something but nothing sounds fun. Tomorrow I am going to go for a walk on 10 de Agosto and hang out in the Mariscal area of town. We have a trip all next week, and so if nothing big happens this weekend, I am not going to be too disappointed.

January 28, 2010

Quite the Day...

Today started out as possibly the worst day yet. Nothing SUPER major happened, but it was kind of one of those "the-straw-that-broke-the-camel's-back" sort of things.

This morning, we had a lecture that was only marginally boring, and then during our break, they passed back our essays. We only got an 83%. Everyone else got at least a 91%. So we got the lowest grade, which I think is bull because we wrote a good research paper. So we took the paper to Dr. Suarez to discuss, and the gist of what he said was "We were more looking for an anylitical essay, not so much the research-fact based paper." WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL US BEFORE WE WROTE THE RESEARCH PAPER THEN???? I am really done with CIMAS at this point. The people they hire (read-the people we PAY for) don't show up for lectures, and then they pull stuff like this. I can write an analitical essay, but don't tell me that we just have to write any essay on any topic that we want. Duh. Oh, and my favorite part of this whole discussion??? We lost points because our citations were "wrong". So we asked him how we should have done it (they were MLA to begin with), and he gave us a huge list of things to do for next time, and then finished with "In general, we just use MLA." Good. So do we. So why did we lose points again??? Ugh.

Then lunch was gross. It was some sort of tiny little chicken wings with huge chunks of yuca and yep, you guessed it, white rice.

Then, we had a trip to the supermarket to buy fruit for our presentations (we were all assigned a fruit to research). This part of the day went relatively smoothly. But when got back to CIMAS and was ready to leave, my driver wasn't there. So I asked the other girls where she was, and they told me that they had left 15 minutes before.

My driver specifically told me 4:30 today, but I guess they decided that since everyone but me was ready at 4:15, they would just leave. So in addition to paying for the driver,  I had to pay for a cab also. Duh. On Monday, I absolutely intend on making her reimburse me for the $1.50 cab ride, and meanwhile my mom is looking for another driver.

When I got home, my mom asked me if I wanted to go look at her sister's possible new house. Of course I had nothing better to do, so I agreed. We went and toured the model home and also the one she wanted to live in, and it was really nice. The houses were really modern and it was a really cool setup- like every bedroom had it's own private bathroom. But you can definitely tell that the craftmanship here is not as good because there were things like stairs that didn't line up exactly and railing that had weird, unfinished edges...but still it was a beautiful house, brand new, for $150,000. I thought that they should buy it, and they are going to go into negociations tomorrow.

After that, we went to their actual house for tea and croissants, which was fun. Their house right now is in the richest neighborhood in all of Quito (and therefore all of Ecuador). It is a private neighborhood, and it is really pretty and safe.

After tea, they took us home, but they took us the long way to show me around El Centro Historico. It was really nice of them, and it was a fun drive.

Oh...and they have a 1.5 year old, and of course as is custom, she just played in the backseat and on the floor of the car this whole time. Not a carseat in sight....

After the drive we came to my house and I think they're downstairs chatting still, but I am going to bed, so I said goodnight. Tomorrow I have no plans but to sleep in...and we'll see what happens from there. I am really running out of soap and shampoo and almost everything else though, so possibly a trip to the pharmacy is in order.