Saturday, December 20, 2014

20 Hours of Life.

Yesterday was seriously one of the best days ever. The 20 hours I was awake was jam-packed with surprises, new experiences, and savory moments. Want the run down?  Well, if you insist...

1- First, Pato and I decided to wake up at 5am and drive to go see the sunrise out in the country (no pictures sorry).  We brought our thermo, had our hot tea, boiled eggs, bread, and fruit all while listening to the birds chirp and watching the sunrise over the mountain top. 

2- Next, since it was still really early, 8am by now, we decided to go to the beach 20 minutes away and watch the fishermen bring in the morning's catch from the ocean.  Being from the Midwest, I have discovered that I am plain ole ignorant in any and all things regarding seafood. We saw them unraveling Hake from the nets, chucking the the pesky little crabs back into the ocean, cleaning out conger eels' heads & pelicans/sea gulls going bonkers watching all of it.  It really was quite a scene!  I am determined in the next few months to do a photo shoot there. 

3- After the beach shores, we jutted inland once more to finish our Christmas shopping at a local outlet mall. Normally, I don't really enjoy shopping like most of the female gender, but I loved this time for two reasons.  (1)  I had the most scrumptious cup of COFFEE for the first time in over a year. I never drink caffeine anymore, so you can imagine what Pato had to put up with for the rest of the day. (2) We ended up conversing with two store clerks for almost 30 minutes about cultural stereotypes and misconceptions between the Chilean culture and the American.  We clarified about how American movies really export a horribly poor image of my nation, how Chileans are total classicists, how Chileans are much more open and affectionate in public arenas, how most Americans perceive Chile, and the like.  It was beyond satisfying... and hilarious!

4- By this time, it's almost 2pm, so we went to eat and a quaint little restaurant, then we returned to our apartment.   We organized a bit and waited for some close friends to arrive for "once" (in my humble opinion, Chilean version of British tea time). Our guests arrived at 4pm; I introduced them to some homemade cinnamon rolls from the US of A.  Who doesn't like cinnamon rolls?  Total success.  So after the pre-game for three hours, we left for the rockin' party at church for young adult group on Fridays.  However, in the middle of the service, we determined that we simply had not had enough time together.  I absolutely LOVE Latino culture because there is no "start time" or "end time" determined for outings (some can last 7-8 hours if everyone has the time). So as soon as church ended, we decided to continue with the after-party yet again back at the apartment for some more laughs and numerous rounds of Dutch Blitz. If you are not familiar with Pennsylvanian Dutch ways,  I have attached a link for the curious George out there who wants to know: <> Everyone left after midnight, and we obviously sawed some serious logs around 1am.

Even though I've been involved with Spanish & the Latino culture for over 15 years now, there have still been some intense cultural transitions, more so right at first. It's one thing to study abroad in a country or live with a short-term goal/mentality, but to really create your LIFE in another country is a different ball game. BUT there are always days that are pure treasures. Gold nuggets really. 

Yesterday was one of them.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Marriage Newbie.

I've only been married a mere five months, but I've arrived at one conclusion: almost all the advice you hear before marriage will suddenly sprout wings and fly out the window after those wedding bells chime.  You realize you aren't as cool, patient, or selfless as you once thought.  You realize that men really are from Mars; it's not just a book title! Marriage is sticky, complicated, wonderful, mind-blowing, fun, never predictable....  All those characteristics ON STEROIDS when you're making the transition in another hemisphere of the world.

I've always savored a good challenge, and an international relationship is the best in its game. Sometimes I react differently because I'm an American, and then other times just because I'm purely female (always a toss up between the two).  However, my husband was specially created for my insanity, naiveté, need-for-adventure, and cultural confusion. Sometimes I just look at him, and I think to myself: "How, or better yet WHY, does he put up with this crazy, skinny, white chick?"

Above all, readers, please don't listen to those embittered or pessimistic couples out there for counsel. Sorry, but I believe that the honeymoon can last more than just one month (it has so far); please let me live in my dream world.  I believe that the first year of marriage the couple must discover HOW TO communicate, the glue in the marriage bond, but it doesn't have to be as horrible, hard, and discouraging as everyone makes it out to be.  It depends on the individuals.

So, everyone asks me, "How is married life?" And honestly every time I answer the same:
"It's insane to create a new life with someone else, especially when that's compiled with cultural transitions here in Chile.  But you know what? I absolutely love it! I love doing life with my husband." Marriage is as awesome as the two make it to be. 

Each season has such a beauty to it, treasures that might never be experienced again when a new chapter is written. So enjoy the season you are in!  Find the beauty!  ......In the meantime, I am going to go take a nap with my hubs and listen to his Harley-Davidson-Motorcycle-like snores.

Friday, April 4, 2014

66 Memories in Ecuador

To commemorate my 1.5 years here in Ecuador, I thought I would write a list of my 66 most memorable moments here.

(1)   Enjoyed teaching English more than I ever thought possible.
(2)  Visited Cajas National Park almost 10 times.
(3)  Entertained nine visitors here in Cuenca.
(4)  Gained friends off the street from Switzerland, Holland, Chile, Colombia & California.
(5)  Enjoyed my favorite New Year’s to date in Santo Domingo.
(6)  Witnessed how a Panama Hat is made, from beginning to end.
(7)  Tried guinea pig (twice).
(8)  Suffered from the worst case of parasites and amoebas.
(9)  Spent one hour trying to crack open three crabs with a wooden hammer (just embarrassing).
(10)  Sassed more vulgar men in public than I thought I ever would.
(11)   Experienced most intense parent-teacher conference (to date).
(12)  Found a tarantula in my first room here in Cuenca.
(13)  Had a tarantula crawl on my face in the Amazon (on purpose).
(14)  Learned to detect when there’s a urine stain on the sidewalk.  (and the smell assists)
(15)  Stood three feet away from wild macaws.
(16)  Saw over ten breathtaking waterfalls all over the country.
(17)  Illegally played with monkeys.
(18)  Explored natural regimens for a sundry of physical ailments, ranging from popping garlic cloves for horrendous colds to eating papaya seeds for two weeks straight to kill my parasites.
(19)   Got to see an ocelot like one foot away (in a fenced property).
(20)  Learned the basics of the Salsa de rueda (or Casino).
(21)   Lied way too much about my marital status to the taxi drivers (e.g., “Why yes, I am happily married to the most gorgeous man on earth!”)
(22)  One hour nightly walk in the Amazon, trying not to think about the bullet ants waiting to attack.
(23)   On that nightly walk, however, had a fun rainforest frog on my hand. (not poisonous)
(24)   Agreed to let Ecuadorians take pictures with me merely due to the fact that I am a token gringa. (Not exaggerating at all here)
(25)   Made chocolate from cocoa beans with a native tribe in Misahuallí.
(26)   Chased, tortured, pet too many llamas. Llamas, llamas, llamas.
(27)   Hosted dance parties in our apartment into the wee hours.
(28)   Lived a pyromaniac’s dream with the highly unsafe, firework “castles.”
(29)   Became addicted to the coastal patacones.
(30)   Weaved a basket from the straw root itself.
(31)    Traumatized initially by the open-air market and ended up making amazing friendships by the end of the year.
(32)   Got food poisoning from my own mushroom soup (long story).
(33)   Stood in awe at hearing the rumbles of the Tungurahua volcano (a top favorite).
(34)   Had drunk-like symptoms on two pills of Dramamine in Isla de la Plata.
(35)   Heard the slightly disturbing mating calls of the blue-footed booby.
(36)   Chased crabs like a 4-year old in Puerto López.
(37)    Avoided kids like the plague during Carnival, who would try to spray me with foam or throw water balloons.
(38)  Swam above 4-5 foot sea turtles in the wild. Majestic.
(39)  Had a sea lion play with me for 10 minutes, blowing bubbles in my face the whole time.
(40)  Investigated zero, first, second, third and mixed conditional tenses for two hours in order to teach that lesson correctly.
(41)  Used boat loads of cumin in muffins instead of cinnamon.  In my defense, the bottles looked the same!
(42)  Beautiful times with my dear Colombian friend for the first three months.
(43)    Taught at least 50 Ecuadorians how to make hand turkeys for Thanksgiving.
(44)   Saw algae glow at nighttime in Máncora, Perú.
(45)   Learned to surf and cut up my foot really bad on the rocks.
(46)    Discussed with taxi drivers the profound differences of dating a Latino versus an American.
(47)   Attended my first quinceañera party (celebrating a girl turning 15-years old).
(48)  Attended first concert ever in Latin America:  Jesús Adrián Romero.
(49)   Attended second concert in Guayaquil:  Rojo.
(50)  Asked if I was from Spain probably about 20 times. ¿Vale?
(51)   Participated in a promotional, tourism video of Cuenca.
(52)    Rappelled off of an immense waterfall.
(53)   Left out of breath countless times after walking up about 50 stairs at 8,000 feet of altitude.
(54)   Paraglided with my dad in Paute.
(55)   Named the rat upstairs “Boris” (only heard not seen, a true enigma).
(56)   Overwhelmed by the beauty of the  Lava Tunnels at Isla Santa Cruz.
(57)   Performed an interpretive dance while my two friends sang karaoke to “I Will Survive” in a very public place in Guayaquil.   Attracted a MASSIVE crowd and received donations.
(58)    Performed reggeatón in front of hundreds of Cuencanos. Won a CD!
(59)    Blessed to see an enormous double rainbow over the Andes mountain range.
(60)   Danced in the rain and jumped in puddles on a public street while the locals just stared.
(61)    Learned how to make good soups from scratch (broth and all).
(62)   Scared people with my hysterical laughter (wheezing, crying, lack of breathing overall) at least 10 times.
(63)   Having the best roommates EVER.  Hands down.  Wow!
(64)   Learned to play basic, classical guitar.
(65)   Woke up to the river and mountains every day.
(66)   Fell further in love with South America and its people.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Taking Notes from a Child

Whenever I first arrived to Cuenca, I was beyond intimidated by the open-air market scene, to the point where I didn't go at all the first three months.  Everything moves fast. It's huge. Everyone's in your face trying to sell produce. My Spanish would have to be on steroids. I simply didn't understand the inner workings. Finally, I mustered up the courage to visit one of the local markets with my close Colombian friend here.  Man, by the end, we were both ready to throw a peach at someone.  Just rude.  However, my experience since November 2013, has been a night-and-day difference.

There is another open-air market close to my apartment, and I forced myself to give it a round two. The friendly, helpful vendors there have officially won me over.   In the past nine months, I have developed some really unique relationships with the ladies here that I will always treasure as part of my experience here in Ecuador.  

I just got back from Chile about a month ago, and I brought a few special chocolates back for my friends at the market.  There is one lady in particular (Norma) and her 8-year-old daughter (Raquel) who have stolen a piece of my heart, and rightfully so.  The majority of my time is with Norma because Raquel is obviously in school during the day. Honestly, between almost two hour conversations with Norma & her always giving me free potatoes, haba beans, peas & inviting me to have some juice with her -- she is one of the most generous, open-hearted people I know here in Ecuador.  Today's trip to the market was no exception.

I arrived and was greeted with hugs.  I mean, come on, that's enough right there.  Afterwards, I was told that Raquel wanted to tell me something.  And this is how it went: "Isa, thank you so much for the chocolates.  The white chocolate was by far my favorite.  You are so sweet for thinking of me and my mom."  That right there melted my heart.  She had obviously practiced this "thank you" based on her little hands folded in front of her and her sweet but rehearsed tone of voice. She continued with, "I would like next week to invite you and your friends to some ice cream and a walk along the river."  The mom followed up with explaining to me that she wanted to use her allowance that she gets on a weekly basis to treat us to a delicious afternoon of ice cream.  I didn't know how to respond verbally to the generosity of this amazing 8-year-old.  All I could do was hug her and say that we would love to.

I am definitely taking some notes about sincere generosity from this beautiful child.
I feel most days that I am more blessed than being a blessing. 

"You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give."