Wednesday, November 27, 2013

tea in macas

so the month of rain has arrived in macas. aside from making it a little difficult to hear my little students answer questions (they live on a top floor which is only covered by a tin roof, you can imagine what that sounds like), or being challenged as to the best time to do laundry, i'm actually enjoying this. having a nice dramatic thunder storm roll through every day is definitely an interesting change from hot, humid and sunny.

not to mention that everything becomes even more intensely green, if that's at all possible.

ecuador is starting to show her face a little more to me, or maybe i am showing mine. either way, we don't always agree. i think she's sometimes too pushy, and she retorts by saying, well don't be so passive then. still, we'll work things out. (not sure why ecuador is a she... i guess its the matriarchal vibe, despite all that machismo)
i'm a teeny bit resentful, but can already tell that living here will teach me to develop that extra oomph that you just don't need back in good old mannerly (and it's true, apologetic) Canada. this will probably serve me well in future life.
assertiveness training 101. while remaining friendly, of course.

one of the beautiful things however (as i've probably already mentioned) is the kind of hospitality that is shown here. it has nothing to do with great table settings or spending days cooking a feast, or having the best wine. it's more about offering what you have. a simple glass of water, juice, a little fruit or a cheese sandwich. something to make some else's day a little easier, and making them feel like a part of your family for a while, no matter who they are. it's one of my favorite things about this culture, and i hope is something that i can bring with me wherever i go, and shake off the western (or is it northern?) perfectionism and accompanying anxiety attached to 'having guests'.

today was a lovely day to be on the receiving end.  i got to taste some freshly smoked meat (right from the front yard, mmmmmmmmm) and drink tea made from the leaves of a local tree. i also got sent home with a bag of bananas and cinnamon and a little recipe for breakfast (cook sliced banana in milk with a stick of cinnamon, just for a couple mins. a nice relaxing food to start the day). amidst all these generous gifts i managed to squeak out that i would one day make some beef stew with beer and try to return the favor. but there's no way to win... you just have to accept it with gratitude.

ecuador is probably packed with more surprises. some good, some unsettling. is this an appropriate time to say 'life is like a box of chocolates'?
more things to get used to and decide whether to roll into my personal life vocabulary or leave to the side and just accept it as a part of someone else's.

still a long road ahead. one step at a time.

peace out.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

comfort zones

the past two weeks have been all about ditching english, leaving the comfort of my apartment behind, and getting out into this new world in which i find myself.

some days it's not easy. especially when i've woken up again from vivid dreams of all the places i've lived in the past, and for a moment, don't know where i am. i'm used to this sensation happening for the first few days of being in a new place, while the senses adjust. but not every morning for a month and a half. it's a little disconcerting.

and i have to admit, other than shopping excursions, meetings, service and the odd fiesta (which seem to happen quite regularly here) i have been spending a lot of time cocooning again. the thing is, i really enjoy spending a day just puttering, cooking a few things for the week while listening to vinyl cafe, or catching up on my favorite british tv shows. the problem is that it's not at all related to what's happening outside my front door. so everytime i leave the house, or try to speak a few words with my landlady, it's like a little shock.

 i think it's natural, when all around  is new, to perhaps more stubbornly revert to familiar things. but i have been learning the value of letting go of them
for a while (at least, spending so much time there), and just enjoying what's in the here and now. allowing a few roots to grow.

one day this came in the form of hanging out at someone's house for a couple hours, waiting for lunch to finish cooking, listening to the little familial interactions, watching spanish tv. aside from learning how to make a pretty delicious dish (a soup of little balls of grated plantain, cheese, onion, butter and salt, chucked into a veg stock and boiled until thick and creamy, yumm!) it was getting a glimpse of everyday life here. everyday life for people who's families live all in one building, who's kids run freely in and out of the house to play in the yard or streets, who always have a few pots of something boiling on the stove, and are always happy to share at least a glass of freshly blended juice.

today it was an impromptu tour of the city given by a friend whose culture has a great knowledge and appreciation of nature. she took me to all the parks in the city and attempted in spanish to explain things about the trees...(of which i understood about 20%... enough to know which fruit grows where and appreciate the variety). we talked to the warden of the biggest park, who generously pulled down a few pods of guava for us to eat (google ecuadorian guava, super cool), and i filled my water bottle with seeds to grow later. we walked past all the main buildings, and she explained what happened in each of them and all the city fiestas. today i felt like i finally had a grasp of this place, and found a few special corners that i could make my own. and most importantly i felt that i am not just passing through, but am really here to stay awhile.

so macas... here goes. the next phase of our relationship.

(and here's hoping that my somewhat unhappy relationship with mosquitos will come to an end... apparently after a while they tire of new blood. it had better be true.)

finally, here is a picture of the elusive volcano sangay, who is surrounded most days by cloud. but if you get up early enough, or keep an eye out on an extra clear day, you can catch a glimpse of her.