Thursday, October 28, 2010

Renting A Halloween Costume In Ecuador

I giggled all the way home.

This Saturday there is a costume party at Inca Lounge, and you don't have to pay a cover if you have a costume. Admittedly, the cover is only $5, so it's not like there a high barrier to cross there, but it's Halloween and hey, who really needs that big of an excuse?

So where do you get a costume in an adult size in a totally Catholic country for Halloween?

MASKERADE, the costume rental shop.

Only I didn't know that it was a rental place when I went in. I was planning to buy something (cheap) and wear that. Except once we (BWH & I) got inside the shop and I got to reading the signs, I realized that we could rent this stuff.

How much? Sheesh, what are these details you speak of?

We took a number, 80. They were currently on 42. The place was packed! It's set up as a long counter, with all of the costumes behind the counter in big rows. You look through a book and pick out a costume and then tell them about it so they can go get your Spiderman suit or whatever. Then you take it and go try it on and go from there.

The place was teeming with kids in various kinds of costumes and some office workers doing the adult costume thing. Adult costume things here are different - they tend to be religious themed, or historical. Like monks and nuns and Robin Hood. So Ben has a Franciscan monk costume, and I have some sort of tacky medieval Maid Marian suit. I'm pretty sure the gold streamers are supposed to go in my hair and they offered me a crown, but its a long sleeved thing that goes to the floor and what do I really want with a crown?

Anyway, for the grand total of $16.60 plus a $10 deposit, we got our costumes, due back Sunday. It took about 2 hours, and in the big picture, if you had told me 6 months ago that I would be able to walk into a costume shop and fearlessly rent a costume in another language, I would have laughed you out of town. Now, well, Maid Marian will be making her appearance on Saturday night!

Monday, October 18, 2010

If You Love Your Apartment, Don't Clean It

Well my friends, the big day arrived at last and this weekend I moved into my new apartment. I also watched the Texas-Nebraska game, but we're not speaking of that.

Was the wait worth it? On most counts, yes, yes, yes. I am so excited for this place. I have a fabulous view out the kitchen and brand new bathrooms. Despite all the construction mess there was when I first saw it, my apartment in Cuenca has turned out beautifully. Check out these before and after pictures:

The Bathroom:


The Bedroom:


The Kitchen:


On the other hand, despite the construction guys promising to clean, there is dust everywhere. And random spots. The guys did a construction clean, not a my-mother-in-law-is-coming-over level clean. Being opposed to fine layers of white dust on everything I own, I swore to thoroughly clean the whole place as I moved it.

I've finished the bathroom in the master bedroom and one of the closets. Umm . . . .

It all started when I had to go to the bathroom. I was peacefully sweeping in the living room, and I had the urge. I went to the bathroom and flipped the lid up to discover spots on the seat, along with one dusty fingerprint. Not cool. Fortunately, with just a few quick squirts of bathroom cleaner that could be all covered.

The next thing I knew, I was bent over the toilet scrubbing a spot off the back of the S-bend on the base. I don't know what came over me in there, but I wiped down the walls, did the floor inch by inch by hand, scrubbed out the hinges on the doors, and polished that faucet like five times. Something clearly snapped.

And something else snapped . . . because I found about 16 things wrong in there. Tiny, tiny things that you would really only notice if, say, you were on your knees scrubbing out the corners with the tip of your finger. Since I am a product of my raising, I have a list of places to hit with a grouter, wood pen, and WD-40. Just for the bathroom.

Had I not gone all Mr. Clean in there, I would have never seen those things. Lesson learned. If you love your apartment at first, don't clean it anytime soon!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Baby Snatching? Seriously?

So I'm out to dinner last night, talking with the lovely JO and updating her about the University professorship situation. I'd gone in to the class on Wednesday to observe, to start preparing to teach October 25th. This is when the current professor is officially scheduled to start her maternity leave.

Anyway, after the class the professor and I are talking. We arrange to drive into town to have lunch, and she has to pull a giant kiddie pool out of the front seat of her pick-up truck so that I can sit. Not being entirely sure why an 8 & 9/10th's months pregnant lady is messing around with a kiddie pool, I ask her about it. Apparently it's for the delivery . . . she has a mid-wife and is doing the whole thing at home in the water birth style.

Now I know home birth is becoming more popular, even in the states, but this throws me for a loop. I was telling JO about it, because why not? It's interesting and different.

She comes back with an even more interesting and different take. Apparently, having babies at home is common in Ecuador because THEN NO ONE STEALS THE BABY AT THE HOSPITAL.

Yeah, exactly. Hospital baby snatchings are common? She shrugs, which can mean anything from "oh yes, totally" to "honestly, it is so easy to pull your leg." I ask her why, and she says that some people who can't have babies buy babies, and thus there is a market for babies, and people just want to serve that market.

For a minute I have a flashback to China, where I knew of a woman who went to the south of the country, headed out to the sticks, and picked up a lovely baby girl for $250. She was frustrated, as a single woman, with the hurdles in the adoption process. The twist? PEOPLE TOLD HER SHE OVERPAID.

I didn't have it in me to ask what a baby would run here. The last thing I need is to discover how affordable it is to buy a baby down here and then turn up back home with a matched set of big-eyed insta-grandkids. I can hear myself now:

"Mom, Dad, I was only going to get one but then I found out they were on SALE."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Visiting My Someday Home

Today I went to visit my apartment again. I say visit, because I don't get to live there yet. It's been mine since mid-August, but it's not finished.

Ah, the joys of renting pre-construction. . . no, no joy actually.

Lemme 'splain. No, is too much. Let me sum up.

inigo montoya


Ahem. So I found my lovely, lovely, lovely apartment with the fabulous view of the downtown skyline with the assistance of the wonderful Michael Berger at CuencaCondos. He's a friend (Hi Mike!) and he'd been with me through the stove thief adventures to know what I was in the market to rent.

One day when I was avoiding the apartment hunt drama and attempting to get some actual work done (I have those days. Sometimes.) I got THE CALL. It was Mike, wanting to know what I was doing right then.


"Because if you don't come take one of these places, I'm never speaking to you about apartments again," he said. Really, can you resist that kind of threat? I couldn't. I shut the computer and let him pick me up to take me to Luciano's apartments.

Conveniently for me the picker-outer, the building was still under construction. I got to wander through every unit and indulge my oooh-what's-that instincts to the max. Eventually I settled on a three bedroom, two bath unit on the third floor. It looked like a cement box, with windows, but the rooms were mapped out and the bathrooms were tiled. There was a kid who looked about 14 years old assembling the closet/cabinets for the bedrooms, but he seemed to know what he was doing.

I took it on faith, for $375.

It was supposed to be done with my life moved into it by October 1st.

Ahem. Check your calendars, people. I'm supposed to be doing a lot more than visiting this apartment right now!

I've watched the toilets go in. I've watched the kitchen counters get built. I've learned about the finer details of putting in granite countertops and the joys of floating hardwood floors. I've very narrowly avoided having a mauve living room (Me: "Do these pinkish thumb marks on the wall mean this is the color it's going to be?" Luciano: "Yes" Me: "NO!"), and didn't visit in time to stop from having a wheat/gold accent wall in the master bedroom. I can live with the wall.

Anytime, really. I'm ready to live with the wall!

I do have scads of pictures of the place at various stages of done - when I actually get in there I hope to have the time to post them up for sharing. Now I just use them as comfort, to verify that progress is being made and that someday - SOON - I am going to get to live in this place.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Helium Homepage Featured Writer Today

Just got a note that one of my articles for Helium, "How to follow your favorite football team online" is being featured on their homepage today. It's way down at the bottom, but still there. Yay for publicity!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Reactions In Cuenca To Ecuador's Police Strike

This morning, I taught my regular Saturday morning class at the Abraham Lincoln school (quick recap - to be a professor, I have to also be a private school teacher. Follow that logic? Me neither. Welcome to Ecuador). I was looking forward to it today because it was a chance to do a good survey of local reactions to this week's police strike in Ecuador.

The teachers at the school are a mix of Cuenca locals and foreigners. My students come from middle and upper class families, and they're the equivalent of sophomores in high school. My class is all girls and very sweet. They can giggle in two languages.

Anyway, our lesson today was on gangsters and heroes (I just follow the book, people) and we had to make sentences expressing who is a hero and why. Soldiers are heroes, because they save Ecuador from the police. This earned a number of solemn nods from around the class. Soldiers are also cuter than the police, which earned laughs.

The girls then confessed to having spent the day of the police strike in Ecuador mostly glued to the television with their families. Those who have relatives in Quito or Guayaquil checked in throughout the day by email and cell phone to keep tabs on the public unrest in Ecuador. Many of my Cuencana students do have family on the coast, and so checking in - especially after the roads closed - was important. All the public schools in the country were closed Friday, which the students dismissed as "boring" since exams are coming up and they had to study anyway.

Among the local teachers in Cuenca, the mood was cautious relief. Several confessed to having been truly frightened. "I'm not easily scared," said one, "but that really shook me up." Correa, after all, is supposed to be different, and not susceptible to the coup d'etats that took out a number of his predecessors.

One of the long-time foreign teachers expressed ambivalence about the whole situation. "This is my fourth coup," he said, shrugging. I didn't ask if it was his fourth coup in Ecuador, but dang. Can you imagine?

In terms of the mood on the street, there are a number of stores that should be open that are still closed today (Saturday) but no real sense of emergency. People seem to be a little shaken that it happened, but mostly relieved that it's over. Speculation about the political outcomes is rampant among expats, but the locals just shrug and say, "Who knows what will happen?"

I'm with the locals. It's Ecuador. Who knows what will happen?