Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Poops

Returning to the scatalogical origins of this blog, I have to report that I have come down with a case of the poops. Last night, I was doubly disgusted since I thought I was pooping blood. Turns out that the beets I had for dinner were probably the culprits there. Still, this morning I woke up very dizzy and spent most the day napping. After that, I finished Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, then debated whether I felt less dizzy standing up and walking slowly or lying down.

As I´m here at an internet cafe, I decided that I should walk around a bit. The room I´m staying in got a little crammped and the air felt a little stagnant, what with the musty smell of constant pooping and all. I noticed, finally though, that the air up here isn´t just thin, but it´s pretty polluted down near the city center and I was lucky to have taken walks during Christmas when no one was driving. The air here in Guápulo is a slight improvement, though there are a good number of cars that pass through here. Especially conspicuous are rows of cars from a nearby driving school that have their students practice stickshift hill driving here. And these are nasty-ass hills too, nothing like the ones in Providence that Brian had me drive a couple years back.

The past couple days I´d been taking the bus to parts far and wide. And by ¨far and wide¨I mean the closest supermarket (20 minutes away) and a pretty good bookstore near the U. Católica. Today I wanted to go to the Céntro Histórico here and see a couple of the big churches, but, well, let´s say that one can only hold it for so long.

In any case, I´m also hit with a case of the lonelies. Christmas didn´t do me in, but being sick really has. I was hoping I could get AIM Express to work on this comp, but to no avail, and very few internet cafés have Skype, preferring Windows Messenger or YM. If any of ya´ll want to pick up WM or YM for my sake, I will repay your used hard drive space with some artesania when I get back.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Oh Gosh, I Have to Pee

Just so ya´ll know, a Christmas post is coming -- I just had it typed up on my laptop and didn´t bring it with me today.

Anyway, I took the bus today from Guápulo to around FLACSO. Not counting the time it took to wait for the bus, it took a little more than 30 minutes to arrive at a corner somewhat close to the campus. So, for all intents and purposes, it´s really takes about the same amount of time to walk down as it does to take the bus. However, I´m significantly less tired, but I do have to pee. Unlike what the Ecuador guide book says, you actually pay when you get off the bus, not when you get on, FYI.

I´m going to try an alternate route back, using the Ecovia bus. I did, however, tell myself that I would do some ¨work¨related shopping for books today, as well as for a SIM card for a loaner phone I have and a radio or something to produce some useful ambient noise in my room. Also, I desperately need some change -- coins, that is -- since most transactions I´ve enaged in require much smaller bills than a $20 and there seems to be a very, very active $10 counterfeiting ring.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Not down with the sickness

So I finally made it to Quito after making it to Cleveland and barely making my flight to Houston. Most of the trip down here I played with a baby by trading post-it notes with her. It was as enthralling for her as it was for me, seriously. Otherwise, I had fun with my acetazolamide tinglyness in my heels: that carbonic anhydrase inhibitor and its little games. Actually right now my forefeet are tingling. It's like my spider sense, but for things I had done in the past, namely, taking an acetazolamide.

Anyway, we got in really late -- around 11:20 -- or rather I didn´t get out of customs and luggage until then, and by then, my tita had left the airport. So, I wandered around pretty frustratedly as I called both my tita and back home, until finally I just hailed a cab and stayed the night in a hotel. As it turned out, the cabbie -- who was pretty nice otherwise -- gave me a counterfeit $10 bill. Remind me to buy a bill-checking pen.

I did finally meet up with my tita and we went to the supermarket first before heading to her house. When we got there, the Supermaxi was full of people buying food for Christmas -- a lot of freakin' food. Of course, that meant we had to wait in line for about 30 minutes until we reached a checkout stand. With all those people jockeying for position in line, it led to a couple flare-ups about where certain lines began, whether or not someone should tell the disabled person in front of them to "apurate" (the answer is "no"), etc. Of course, this didn´t happen to me, though I'm not sure if that'd necessarily be bad (in two-minute retrospect, yes).

Anyhoo, my tita's house is in Guápulo, a relatively out-of-the-way place up in the hills of Quito. Years before, she told me, it was full of artsy-types, and there are still a few around who do leatherwork, neat light sconces, and offer drum circles for people from ages 13 to 100 (that's what the sign said), but mostly it's cobblestone streets with no inherent logic to their layout. I walked around a bit, and I would call Guápulo "Valparaiso on methamphetamines," since it seems all you can do is either go up (hard) or down (also hard, on my knees, specifically). Still, I took lots of neat pictures because it has some great views of what Quito will eventually absorb into its ambit, but for now are wooded hills. Also, there's a pretty church just up the street from my tita's place.

Today, I took a taxi to FLACSO to sign my contract. Relatively uneventful trip, of course, until I found out I had a counterfeit $10. Oh, and then, I tried to take the stairs down from the 8th floor of the FLACSO main building. I got down three floors before I saw a sign, and since I was walking and reading it, it only dawned on me after a GIGANTIC ALARM (like fire alarm, but in an echo chamber) went off that if I took another step a gigantic alarm would go off. So I ran back up the stairs and luckily the alarm only went off for 10 or so seconds before it stopped. I see that FLACSO does not encourage heart health -- can't use the stairs and you'll get a heart attack if you do. But otherwise, the people were very, very nice and I got that task squared away before Christmas.

I'm still exploring options for places to stay, but without a map and a cellphone, I can't really do as much as I'd like. My tita is offering a room at her house, which she only rents to foreigners, though the problem is getting from Guápulo to downtown Quito requires a lot of patience since the buses don't like to come very often and the nearest major artery is a 20 minute walk uphill. I could continue to hail taxis, but they'll only come up if tourists want to see the church, so what happens when it rains?

And so here I am, somewhere in Quito, hoping to do some errands before I head back for almuerzo. I still need said map of this place and as it seems increasingly necessary, a cellphone as well. So far, my plan to not look like a backpacker has worked well enough that backpackers are asking me for directions. I wonder if anyone notices when I say "es que no soy de aquí".

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Let's Get There First

As much as I love Providence, I would not mind 50 degree weather with rain about now, which is what Quito is experiencing "atm." When I called Tita Marives earlier this week to tell her I'd be arriving much later than expected, she assumed it was because of the weather in Quito, but rather (or "sino que") it was the weather here in the less-than-tropical-and-worthy-of-understatement in iced-over Providence.

Tomorrow's flight itinerary gets me around the U.S. before another major winter storm pulls across the midwest and into Providence -- PVD to Cleveland, from Cleveland to Houston (where it's 70 degrees), and then from Houston to Quito in the far back corner of a very full plane. Just in case, I'm packing a change of clothes into my carryon since it seems that my luck is running low this week. If I do get stranded anywhere, please, forces of the universe, let it be in Houston.

In other news, I'm still sorta looking for a place to stay in Quito after my time with Tita Marives is over. It is within reason for me to pay "Providence" prices which would get me a palatial home, but I could aim low and pocket the extra money to make up for the ticket, or for a rainy day (which I guess will be nearly every day while I'm there). Still, the mitigating factor is that I can look at the classified ads in El Comercio as much as I want, but I'll never figure out where anything is without a decent map of the city. It looks like I'll be making a trip to the South American Explorers base in Quito to check out my options, too. Also, remind me to buy an umbrella with serious stability.

It looks like I'll have some guests while I'm there: my mom and Tita Beck are planning to visit me and Patrick wants to come too. From what I'm reading about Quito itself, apparently one can quickly exhaust the available things to do, but everything is new again when you bring guests around. And hopefully by the time I come, I'm not still floored by altitude sickness, which in Chile I recall them calling it "la puna." Whatever it is in Ecuadorian Spanish, I believe it will similarly describe a sucky condition.

But, I just need to get there first. Solo necesito llegar. I think. Well, at least I understand myself.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Stuckness

There are those moments when you wonder if you should be doing something else besides blogging; imagine that the past few weeks were a bunch of those moments strung together into what regular people call "days" and arrayed into "weeks." If you really scrutinize my life between leaving Las Vegas and being here in Providence, there's been more psychic weight over what I should be doing versus what I have been doing. If marriage marks the beginning of someone becoming a productive and reproductive member of society, clearly me not being married suggests why I've done nothing and have fathered no children.

Today though, I tried to fly out of Providence and head, ultimately, to Quito, to begin leg #2 of my fieldwork. I was a bit anxious (and still am) about my Spanish, for while it's more than passable in conversation, it's not articulate enough (I guess I'd be the one being articulate) for academic discussions. Still, getting on the plane was the first step to allaying those fears, but as things usually go with this blog, I didn't get on the plane -- a winter storm cancelled all the flights leaving from Providence up to mine. Even then, if I had got to Atlanta to make my connection to Quito, the flight there was overbooked by 17 people, meaning since I travel on standby (and for peanuts), that I probably wouldn't have gotten on or even been able to have waited it out in a reasonable maount of time: flights to Quito from the ATL are overbooked up until Christmas day.

So, my friend Chris, who was nice enough to pick me up this morning, was nice enough to come back for me and we had brunch. My friend Jen, whom I guess I enjoy frustrating since I do it even unintentionally, exasperatedly suggested to me that I just pay for a new ticket to Quito, and after talking to my mom and checking out travelocity, I managed to get a $750 ticket from Providence (and Cleveland and Houston) to Quito on Tuesday. So, I'll get there after all.

Until then, I'm stuck here in Providence where I've forgotten what day of the week it is (it's Sunday, ed.) Last night, I made dinner and bought flowers to Jen and her roommate Coralia for putting up with me/ up for the past, well, three weeks, I guess, while I've played grasshopper to their ants and played City of Heroes and Geometry Wars while they've been alphabetizing bibliographies and studying for biostats. As last nights with friends go, it was nice, quiet, and if I may add, tasty what with my brie-and-apple chicken kicking palate ass. And you know it's serious when I juxtapose two totally different body parts like that, e.g. leg eyes or gut nails.

I guess I want to say I'm frustrated that I haven't left yet, but I'm satisfied that I haven't left since I'm nervous about doing research in a place where I don't have my family networks working their magic and that I can basically be a social parasite for free, just like Rizal poked fun of in the introduction to the Noli. I'm sure that once I get to Quito, things will be better than I expect and that somehow I'll collect all that I need to collect and more and I'll make some great friends and, if Muriel and Joan have their way, meet a nice girl and settle down.