Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Finals Week / Grunge Lives On

The past few weeks have been full of the Southern Hemisphere School Time Blues:  grading papers, filling out paperwork, telling students they are failing, and reading all of your Northern Hemisphere friends' Facebook posts about the glorious end of their August to May school year.  It's not all bad, of course, but it is exhausing!  One of the few things I have to look forward to after these long days is a calm jog in the park.  The weather is finally cooling down here, the sun stays hidden behind the clouds, and there is a breeze after five o' clock.  It's perfect for attempts to improve your distance running.

In the middle of last week's jog, I'm celebrating all of these things when I hear a guitar banging from across the park.  "Raaaape meeeee!  Raaaape meeeee!  Raaaaaaape meeeee!" blares out from the cement music dome a quarter kilometer away.  I imagine I hear the hard thud of several iguanas falling from their trees in shock.

What is this delightful chorus?  Just another Ecuadorian teenage band playing all of the hits from the '90s.  I'm not sure whether this could be considered a cultural phenomenon or not, but you know how all of those high school kids fell in love with Weezer a generation after "Buddy Holly"?  It's like that.  You can't go to any rock club or concert here without hearing some cover of Nirvana's "Rape Me" or  Radiohead's "Creep."  Sure, some people branch out to include some "Black Hole Sun" in their repertoire, but it's a novel concept.  

Why?  I don't have any answers to that question; I only find it worth documenting.  After a long day of listening to my students' love for Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift, I also find it strangely endearing that  there are still some kids out there who think "Pablo Honey" is a modern classic.  Maybe MTV played a role in its resurgence, but for now I'm going to enjoy my ignorance of that.  Rock on, music dome screamers.  May your parents never know the true meaning of "rape me."

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Search for Ham Chips Continues

Even though I'm not stateside, something pushed me to search for the availability of Spain's ham chips in the U.S.  No luck unless I want to pay a 20.00 shipping fee, but I did find "The 2011 Report on Bacon-flavored Chips."  It gives me hope that one day the world will be a more ham/bacon chip-filled place.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ley Seca

Over the weekend, Ecuador had a voting day.  "Woo hoo!" I'm sure you're thinking, "Just what I wanted to read about: more politics!"  And I feel you, okay?  But as much as politics can be painful, it can also be crazily entertaining. 

On Saturday, while the citizens of Ecuador were legally required to vote (more on that later), I headed to the beach while everyone else headed to the polls.  (It doesn't seem fair, does it?  Then again, I might have to choose between Donald Trump and Obama soon.  Them's the breaks).  Here, polling places are decided by your canton and your last name.  Therefore, if you live in Los Ceibos and your name starts with S then you vote in a different place than your neighbor whose last name starts with C.  At your voting place, everyone lines up and the glorious buggies, bikes, and carts of merchants line up next to you to wait out the heat and the voting process.  When it's your turn to vote, you receive a giant ballot form (about the size of a place mat in case you are blind, according to my voting friends) and you vote.  If you don't want to vote, then you scribble through the whole ballot and turn it back in.  When you finish, you get a certificate to prove you've voted.  This is how they determine if everyone has voted.  Typically, within the next week, if you want to perform certain functions, like going to the bank, then you have to show your voting certificate.  If you haven't voted, then you're out of luck.  Within a few days, the votes will be tallied, and it's all over.

The reason this post is titled "Ley Seca" is because part of the voting laws require that the country remains alcohol-free during the voting period.  No doubt it's a good law to have in place if you require everyone to vote, but it's also like when you tell a child not to put that rock in their nose.  The next thing you know, the kid has the rock in their nose.  In the case of ley seca, I'm not normally a person who drinks more than once a month, but as soon as the law is enacted, I've got to go out and buy a bottle of wine.  I might not even drink it then, but I have to have it just in case.  All of which makes me wonder, "do the dry laws actually encourage more drinking?"

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Anaconda Salesman

"Do you want to see my snake?" the man says (in Spanish, of course).  I am on my way home from the corner tienda where I just bought bananas.  I pause.  I think briefly about whether this is a nasty pick up line in Spanish, as it might be in English.  The man notices the expression on my face.  He holds up his gallon water bottle and points.  "It's for sale!"  I look inside. There, floating among some pieces of lettuce, is a thin, eight-inch long snake with brown spots.  ...Bizarre...  "It's an anaconda from the Amazon," he says.  I have no interest.  I smile at him, admiring his belief that anyone in Guayaquil would ever want to own a snake.   

It's a crazy reminder than in a place where you can sell almost anything on the streets, almost anything will be sold on the streets.  A teacher at my school was once offered a baby three-toed sloth.  Another time, a parent offered her a Galapagos tortoise.  On some street corners, there are men who carry handfuls of "purebred" puppies.  Adorable?  Yes.  Legal?  Probably not.  Fortunately, on my street corner, illegal sales don't happen often (that I know of), but I do see virtually every other type of salesman. 

Below is a sampling of everything I can ever remember seeing for sale in coolers, bike carts, and truck beds.  I call it my "Oye!" list; all I have to do is give a little shout and a wave and it's waiting for me curbside.  Read it and weep!

The "oye!" list (so far):
water, gas, produce, humitas, morocho, lottery tickets, newspapers, cleaning supplies, grilled plantains, kebabs, choclo, popcorn, clothes, fish, shrimp, sour mango, candy, umbrellas, junk pick-up, repair services, blow-up penguins, beach towels, ostrich-shaped pencils, knock-off jewelry, leggings, sunglasses, phone cards, cds, dvds, magazines, and at least 7 types of ice cream (yes, I'm counting...).

After this, riding my bike to 7-11 won't ever feel as fun and convenient as it did before.  Oh, and it definitely won't compare to having a conversation with the local anaconda salesman.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

In lieu of race photos...

Seeing as I ran a 5k this weekend....seeing as I felt a little transformed by the experience...and then seeing these photos of a bizarre fascination I had while on vacation, I give you:  A Caterpillar's Journey into Butterflydome, a.k.a. I can't find the right set-up to install my 5k photos.

A caterpillar's pre-butterfly regimen is tough.  Forget about all of the leaf-eating marathons you see on tv.   Imagine "The Biggest Loser" of the animal world.  It's gaining 200 pounds and then having to crawl miles away to live in some barren, leaf-free space.  This guy here is making the journey.  Let's follow along.

Step one:  The Cranky, Slow, Leaking Poison phase.  Don't f*ck with him, man.  He's on a journey.

Step two: the crawl.  (I've condensed the three hours into two shots.  The classic underachiever, this guy decided he'd crawled enough for one day and secured himself in pretty much the way you see in photo two, except sideways.  I didn't get it.  Let's hope it's not a death sentence.)

Picking up with a higher-acheiving brother in another corner: step three, the whole-body-shaking, moon-boot crunches phase.  It looked painful.

Step four and five:  going fetal.  Curl position becomes permanent and things get a little softer around the edges.  The caterpillar head is gone, and something new appears.  It starts to look a little like the pattern of veins a butterfly has on its wings.  I can't be sure if that's just what a cocoon looks like though.

As for the final most exciting step?  I have no photodocumentation of this.  Sorry for being such a tease, BUT in my defense, I'm definitely not the only one.  A good google search of butterfly/caterpillar species in Ecuador, left me with an hour and a half of wasted time.  On the positive side, Tulane's entomology website had one more hit than it had two years ago, but that's beside the point.  It seems it's pretty tough to get photos of the caterpillar growth cycle from start to finish.  All of which begs the question, "Whyy?"  Years ago, "Reading Rainbow" taught me that documenting and raising caterpillars to cocoondom and later butterflyhood was like the thing to do in Kindergarten.  What's happened since then?  I took these shots from the patio of my hostel while I was on vacation.  It was easy.  We're talking about caterpillars here.  They don't move fast.  I've got to give you something though, so in lieu of the final photo, I encourage you to find Kristen Schaal's 2009 Comedy Central stand-up during which she tells the tale of Clarence the Caterpillar.  Pure gold.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Post-race Wrap-up

I finished the race yesterday!  The times haven't been posted online yet, but I think I finished in under 30 minutes.  It was harder than I thought it was going to be; however, I can definitely see myself running more races in the future.  I'll try to post photos later this week.