Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I keep reminding myself - tranquilo - no problema - relax. There is a way of being here that will be good for me to adapt to. And yes, I do feel pretty relaxed, and I certainly know that I am not here to save the world, as if I could. I will consider it a victory perhaps, to save myself. This past week has been one of incredible extremes - of course this country, this tiny nation, still forming in so many ways, is a place of extremes. There is a staggering amount of wealth, and an even greater amount of poverty. Sometimes it is impossible to tell one reality from another. Following an indigenous family down the street, wondering where they live, what they do, how they survive, admiring their beautiful clothing and their strange little hats with peacock feathers tucked in the bands and strings of gold and silver beads and everything else that is mysterious and ancient about them; then watch, awestruck, as they load themselves into a 4WD SUV, nearly brand new and certainly 30 thousand dollars worth of automobile. So what does that mean? Yes that I´m quick to peg a situation, but maybe also that all bets are off, maybe it means that nothing, absolutely nothing, is as it appears.
Although my Spanish is steadily improving, there is a constant disconnect between what I thought I understood and what was really meant. I talked to an Ecuadorean friend and she said that even Ecuapeople have that same problem, the same disconnects. She said it teaches one to be very patient - and indeed in this country, people are very very patient. When´s the last time anyone reading this waited in line at the bank for 2 hours, or more? Sat on a bus going no where for 30 minutes while the driver jumps off to go talk with an old amigo for a little while? Tranquilo Tranquilo Tranquilo.
Spent the night in Quito last Thursday, went out to dinner with friends from PC and some of us went to a great jazz club called El Pobre Diablo and heard some excellent music. It kind of felt like being in Manhattan, exposed beams and brick, framed posters on the wall, a few berets and ponytails here and there. It was fun.
Also fun is my work on the farm. I have negotiated about a half acre on which I can experiment with organic methods as well as non traditional crops. I have started compost piles and the construction of planting beds. Cleaned out the greenhouse and have started basil, peppers, marigolds, and lettuce. Although there are succesful organic farms in Ecuador, none of them seem to be here in the northern sector. My campañeros scoff at my chances of success, and I´m not even sure what that word means within the context of my Peace Corps experience. In my own mind, I will consider my venture successful if a few people get the idea that soil health is a rather important part of good farming.
The weather has been beautiful, last night was clear and I saw loads of stars which so far has been a rare experience, since most nights seem to be rather cloudy. Next time I post I hope to have very important information regarding the price of beer here, complete with photos and taste tests. Ciao

Monday, May 7, 2007

how wrong could I be?

Re: Candyman, as noted in entry below. I just found out, using the amazing resources of the web, that this is a version of Candyman written by Christine Aguilera and friends. Shows ya what I know.

view from the farm in Ibarra

view from the farm in Ibarra
Originally uploaded by rdlurie.
OK it's been awhile, and I have to admit I'm finding that keeping a blog updated and even remotely interesting is hard work. That said, I'll try and bring things up to date just a tad. I've been on the farm at El Milagro for almost 3 weeks now. I am settling in, bought a mattress, some planks of wood to build some furniture, and some cooking supplies (tank of gas, frying pan, can of tuna, spices) The farm provides me with fresh veggies and hens eggs. I walk down to the tienda now and again for a cold beer, and I bought a $4.80 bottle of Old Times Whiskey to help make sleep come a little easier. It's actually not too bad. I have my own quarters, but I live within earshot of the family who works the farm. Gilberto, Sussana, Jessica (11), Jefferson(9), and Jonathon(8). Everyone helps me with my Spanish, and the kids are always trying to puzzle out English.
Last week a family walked onto the farm looking for the new gringo. They had an English language photocopy of "Candyman" the nasty, double entendre filled old blues tune by Mississippi John Hurt or some such person.. / The daughter's high school class was going to perform the song, in English, at an upcoming school fair, and they needed help with phonetic pronunciations of all the lyrics. So I walked up the road to their house, and spent the next 2 hours teaching pronunciation of phrases like "he gets me so hot, makes my panties drop" or " gets me so hot, makes my cherry pop" I did not have the will, or the language skills to make any mention of the horny lyrics; but I feel like I could go home today having accomplished in full the "cultural exchange" portion of Peace Corps mission here. Next week is the performance, I hope to go.
Yesterday, Sunday, I was out preparing the first of what I hope will be many raised beds for planting. Shirt off and shorts, trying to shed a little whiteness, I was working and sweating, listening to the amplified church service out of El Milagro. A fine womans voice and some acoustic guitar, singing praises, it was certainly mellow. The service wrapped up, and within moments the speakers were blaring out the "all cumbia, all the time" station. It nearly knocked my socks off when I heard the Cumbia version of "California Dreamin" by the Mamas and Papas. I am not kidding. One of the households up the hill then started blasting Bomba music from the opposite direction, man some of these folks have some pretty powerful stereo equipment. Between the barking dogs and the radios, Ecuador can sometimes be a hard place to find some peace and quiet.