Monday, November 22, 2010

Utility Bills In Ecuador

Now that I've officially been in the apartment for over a month, it's time for the utility bills to start showing up.

I realized when they did that I'm getting a little local in my ways. Here's the low down:

Gas Bill $2

Water Bill: $6.26

Electric Bill: $47.36

Gas, fine. The stove, dryer, and water heater run on gas.

Water, fine. You know how I feel about hot showers in Cuenca. This is not negotiable.

Electric . . . whoa, whoa, whoa. . . . what is making the electric bill so stinking high? That's ridiculous! I fussed about that for ages. $48 bucks for electricity? For just one month? It's not like I even have heat to be running! That's highway robbery, that's what that is. Huff, huff, whine, whine, whine.

Then I remembered what I used to pay in the states for a month of electricity in November.

Then I just shut up and paid. Although I am turning off the lights relentlessly now and giving my refrigerator nasty looks.

It's little things like the bills that remind me that I'm starting to localize in my approach to prices and expenses more and more each day that I'm here. For example, a $3 cab fare is now pretty steep, and $25 for a nice dinner is eating pretty high on the hog. I spent $8.46 at the office supply store and felt like I got ripped off . . . buying a ream of printer paper, a binder, four sheets of art paper, and an envelope.

And yet I find $64 for unlimited high speed wireless completely reasonable . . . readers, what's the breakdown for you?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sweeney Todd In Spanish Kind Of Sucks

Many, many moons ago when I was studying in Spain, I had the opportunity to go see the musical "Rent" in Madrid. This proved to be a traumatic experience on a number of levels, which ended with me riding around the subway for a couple of hours until my brain could calm down through the use of the soothing mantra of "Proxima Parada. . . " It was Spanish being used the right way, and not Spanish being horribly manipulated into a phrasal line that only had room for a fixed number of English syllables.

So you'd think I would have learned my lesson about musicals in translation waaaaaaaayyyyyy back in the day. But I still like red wine mixed with flat Coca-cola, too, so apparently some things just don't stick.

Which brings us to Sweeney Todd.

I like Sweeney Todd. For those not familiar with the show, the basic point is there's a man who's been wronged and returns to London as a barber with a plan to set things right. Only he goes a little crazy, and starts killing his clients. He happens to live above a meat pie shop . . . and well, it's really good anyway.

These are my favorite Sweeney Todd songs, as interpreted by the cast of the movie - Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and yeah, the barber is the man occasionally known as Borat.

Pirelli's Miracle Elixer:

The Shaving Contest:

A Little Priest:

Notice how each of these rely on rhyme and rhythm in English. Just for future reference.

So, KW and I were going to have a girl's night out. We discussed movies, but there wasn't anything worth turning up at the theater for and then we heard that Sweeney Todd was going to be on - for free - at the big Banco Central theater. Spanish tenors, full cast, etc.

And I foolishly thought it would be in English. So we went, waited in line, and got seats in the back of the house. As the lights came up and the orchestra began, I could tell I was excited.

Silly, silly me.

The barbaro brutal de Fleet Street, Sweeney Todd, is not that good in Spanish if what you really like is the way the songs go . . . in English. Still, they tried to put on a good show and it was very well attended. The line of people outside at intermission waiting to get in eased the conscience of cutting out after the first act, but it just wasn't right in the other language.

At least I can have the videos as comfort . . . !

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Buying Medicine In Cuenca Ecuador

Medicine is one of those things that you never really consider until you actually need to get some. I've referenced picking up headache medicine before, but never really delved into the on-the-ground medical scene here for the basics. Here's how it goes:

1. I sit at home, feeling cruddy for one reason or another. Eventually, I work up the guts to head to a pharmacy.

2. On the way, I try and remember anything - anything at all - about words in Spanish that I know about the disease or ailment I have. Yeah, I could look stuff up at home, but I only tend to think of that when I'm at the store.

3. At the pharmacy, I stare at the display cases. In smaller shops, these are usually arranged as two front glass display cases with the pharmacist manning the cash register on top. Unknown rows stretch behind the counter, full of stuff I don't know about. In larger shops, it's more like the states, where there are aisles for me to roam, hoping that what I need will jump out at me before I have to figure out how to ask for it.

4. I start being shadowed/watched like a hawk by the pharmacist. They're terrified I'm going to ask them something. Gringa face = English questions = maybe she'll find what she wants and leave.

5. We start talking. One of us will bite the bullet. They'll either ask me what I need or I'll ask if they have something. There will be an instant wave of relief when Spanish comes out of my mouth on their part.

6. Confusion sets in. I am asking for something that is not a painkiller. Note to the class: Whatever the word is for antihistamine, it is not antihistamine said with Spanish vowels. Nice try, no dice. On the other hand, allergies are alergias. Bwahahahaha, I win!

7. Pantomine and/or extraneous hand gestures are used by both sides. Welcome back to the first grade.

8. A recommendation is made. I have no idea what I'm about to take, but I'm confident that we are on the same page in terms of what it is supposed to do.

9. Prices are discussed. Generic = generico, which I actually know. There is not a generico for what I want. Prices are quotes by the box (caja) and by the pill. I don't know the word for pill, but cada uno is each one, so whatever. I will take four to try.

10. The pharmacist goes to the mystery rows of goodies, opens the box of pills, whips out a scissors, and cuts me off four pills. Money changes hands, and I leave.

A little ridiculous? Well, most of that is me. Some of the pharmacies here are really also clinics, and the people manning the counter are actual doctors. Thus, the concept of a drop in clinic is not really prevalent around here, since you can just walk into pharmacies. Also, medicines have very different prices here than in the states. My allergy stuff was expensive at $1.50 a pill, but wow, did it work fast and last all day, too. Nexium you can over the counter, and a generic pack of 20 is like $6. If you have the technical name of something, or the active ingredient (see also: people actually planning ahead) you can match meds even if the names are different. I've heard glaucoma drops are very cheap here, and if you all need anything checked on, I'm more than willing to ask. My local pharmacist already thinks I'm an idiot ;-)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I'm The Teacher, Dammit

Yesterday leaving class, I hopped in a cab. It was 11 am, and a beautiful day was ahead of me. Of work. Whatever, it was nice out and I was looking forward to a ride home with the windows down.

Little did I know the third degree that was about to result. I mean, I'm used to chatting with the local taxistas, but sheesh was I ever getting a cross examination! Where was I going? Why? Weren't there more classes in the afternoon? How many hours of class had I already done?

Eventually, he asked what I studied. I said, "I'm the International Relations teacher."

OOOOOOOHHHHHHHH. Well, didn't that change things. Apparently, my taxi driver is the unofficial director of his own one man truancy squad, and had thought I was a lazy student skipping out on my afternoon classes. He was totally apologetic about grilling me.

In some ways, I get where he's coming from. Skipping is a problem, and the university actually has attendance policies that fail you if you miss too much class. The kicker was when he said I looked too young to be a teacher.

My students said this to me today too, when one of them asked how old I was. They don't believe I'm 30 on my way to 31.

On one hand, completely fine and awesome. I blend in on campus walking around, and who wants to look like an old lady? On the other hand, well, I AM A TEACHER HERE. I'm not a student, and sometimes I need to be teacher-y about things and its frustrating when administrators and others think you're just another enrollee. I got the hairy eye in the teacher's lounge the other day until I started grading some stuff, and when I hand out grades I want to be viewed as an authority and not the "big sister" or a peer.

So . . . in a completely odd train of thought . . . I'm trying to think about how to come across as older. It's like my freshman year of college all over again, and it feels a little weird. We'll just see how it goes . . .

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Halloween & Other Happenings

By insistent and repeated demand, I have Halloween wear:


Maid Marian & The Friar: Note The Authentic Footwear

So . . . that happened. Halloween was actually a fairly early night. Something about semi-frozen tangerine jello shots and forgetting to schedule dinner into the festivities, if I recall correctly. Not to worry - the fun was hardly over. Waking up the next day, it was the beginning of Cuenca Days.

Cuenca Days is not the official name of the holiday, but it's what it feels like. The whole town is pretty much off work for 4 or 5 days depending on your job, and every night there is a major fireworks show. One night I saw five shows as each barrio (neighborhood) expressed its civic pride and one-up-manship for the year. It was like the 4th of July, Groundhog Day edition.

I attempted to take a little time off work and check things out. They had some massive Arts-In-The-Park kind of stuff, but I ended up being fairly *yawn* about it all. I was expecting . . . more/different? Not the same kinds of things in every booth. I did the street and the park shows, as well as a seriously underwhelming taste event at La Esquina de Las Artes, but I didn't come home with anything other than sore feet.

Sadly, class resumed. For the newbies, I am teaching Saturday mornings as well as four days during the week. It's not like its a heavy load, I'm just a bit out of practice with teaching! The class during the week is International Relations, and I have to study as much as they do to keep up. I laughed at myself Thursday night, finishing up my stuff for Friday's class - definitely university days all over again.

This week, now that the holidays are over, work is crazy! I have a ton of projects to finish up - far more than there are hours in a day for working. Not so good. It's nice to be wanted by the clients, but I'm struggling to keep up now that I have to play educated profesora part-time. Getting through this week should be interesting, and I'll be glad to update when it's over and I can breathe again!