Friday, August 21, 2009

Nothin´ much

Well it is great to be back in Ecuador, despite the fact that every minute or so I am asking myself “what in the hell are you doing here?” . I don’t pay much attention though, because I have asked myself that very same question at least 10 thousand times in my life. For some reason I kind of like finding myself in places and situations that are a little out of my comfort zone . . . it keeps me on my toes.
Not that I don`t like the comfort zone – I do. Usually wherever I happen to be living at any given time constitutes my comfort zone – a place where I can be alone, a place where I can cook some good food, and a place where I can read a good book, listen to some music, take a nap or get a good night of sleep. What else is there, really?
So, no matter how overwhelming it may be “outside” all I have to do is make it back to the cave –and then it`s all good. My cave at the moment is still here in Ambuqui, but I am busy looking for a new place in Ibarra. When I leave here, I will miss it, maybe as much as any home I have ever had. But my future in Ecuador, if I have one, is not here.

I am kind of dismayed at how tethered to technology, specifically my laptop, I have become. I find I can no longer write with pen in hand – my script is virtually illegible, and if I try to edit on the fly, which is so easy on a computer, my large notebook resembles an ink blot. I do try to keep a tiny little notebook with me, only in case any “great ideas” pop into my head (almost never) and anyway the few times it may have happened I always forget about the genius entry until well after the fact.
I mention this because, after hemming and hawing over buying a cheap new laptop in the US to bring back with me I decided against it – I really like(d) my used Dell Latitude – it did everything I needed and more, seemed rugged, and it was a nice size, not too big, not too small. Just right. Plus I had put some pretty cool stickers on it, ones I was unlikely to find again. “EL AGUA NO ES YAPA! CUIDALA!” and “AMERICA LATINA Y CARIBE SIN HAMBRE”, not to mention the coveted “PEACE CORPS SINCE 1961”. Oh well, asi es la vida, no?
So, the last night I am in the US, the backlight bulb for the screen on my laptop burns out. The screen is totally black. It had been blinking for several days, but I just figured it was the ghost in the machine acting up as it does once in a while, so I did not worry about it. My good ol Dell was indestructible, I thought, but not above throwing a scare into me from time to time. Normally, after toying with me for a few days she (of course she’s a she!) got back to normal. I rushed off to Best Buy 5 minutes before they closed and the Geek Squad said forget it – 3 to 4 hundred dollar repair, and of course it didn`t matter because I was leaving the next day. “May as well buy a new one” - hmm, never heard THAT before, right? Nor did I have time to carouse various computer repair shops to see if I could find a working screen (because I was leaving the next day).
The next day arrives and my brother and nephew cart me off to the airport. I imagine they were glad to see me go because I had been sleeping on the couch and otherwise disrupting their lives for several weeks. But I did almost complete the bathroom remodel I had promised my brother in exchange for the couch and the use of his truck. They drop me off at the curb and I am left alone with too much luggage and three hours to wait until my flight. Once inside I decide to do some repacking, and stupidly take my laptop (which I am hoping my trusty tecnico Carlos in Ibarra can repair) out of my carry on pack and place into an already bursting at the seams suitcase. You already know (probably) that by the time I got off 3 airplanes, one airport shuttle, a train, a taxi, and 4 busses, my screen was shattered. My problem had grown exponentially, as they say.
Now for the good news - the brainy part of the machine is still functioning, and my tecnico Carlos in Ibarra says that once I quit being a skinflint and buy a new laptop he will be able to transfer everything from the Dell to whatever else I end up with; and my friend Miguel hooked me up with an old Samsung “SyncMaster 450b” monitor which enables me for now to use what`s left of the computer and to put out drivel like this. Of course the SyncMaster 450b is monstrous and takes up my entire desk , but hey, I`m not complaining. It keeps me indoors for awhile and out of trouble – and well within my comfort zone.

I returned to Ecuador on a 6 month visa, which I had to buy at the consulate in Washington D.C. I had hoped to avoid spending the 230 bucks, but at the eleventh hour learned that the free 3 month tourist visa was totally non-extendable. In other words, if I hope to stay and apply for residency then I had to have the 6 month 12-IX visa. There are several ways to gain residency, or at least a long term visa, once one has the 12-IX. Through work, volunteer positions, marriage(!) or investment, just to mention a few. For retirees with a demonstrable pension it is relatively straightforward to gain a residency visa – unfortunately, much as I`d like to be, I am neither retired nor can I demonstrate a sufficient pension.
So my task for the next few months is to figure out how to earn a living here, to improve my Spanish, and to decide if I am indeed ready to become an expat. I sure hope I am.
Tia and I had a great journey earlier this summer through Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. Next visit here I will try to recount some of that as well as a little bit about my 2 months in the US. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

4 months . . .

. . . since my last post? I hope to remedy that by posting frequently in the next days and weeks. I went to the consulate in Washington to pick up my visa today and am flying back to Ecuador this coming Saturday, August 15. In the months since finishing my Peace Corps service and leaving Ecuador I have traveled way too much, spent way too much money, gained way too much weight, and had an awful lot of fun catching up with old and new friends and spending some time with my kids.

If any of my handful of readers are still out there, I hope all is well with you. This post will be sort of a re-introduction, I promise more will be coming. I miss writing here, and I especially miss having the TIME to write. One thing, though - for those of you who occasionally comment, if you would like me to comment back to you please leave an email address . . . I don`t think I can do this through the blog. Thanks . . .