Friday, January 7, 2011

Helicopters Over The Homefront

My taxi couldn't get me all the way home today, thanks to the police.

Pulling up to my intersection, the taxi driver helpfully pointed out the helicopter circling low overhead, cameras focused. Cop cars filled the streets, and uniformed patrolmen were milling about filling out forms, doing interviews, and up the block, loading something into a truck.

I paid my fare somewhat nervously and hustled it up the block, where I could see the entire staff of the copy shop that's on the first floor of my building huddled on the corner. Those girls are sharp about watching what's up, so after some hey, how are you's we cut right to the chase: Why is there a helicopter and half the Cuenca police force here?

They didn't know. We stood collectively for a minute weighing our options, and then a pair ran across the street toward the action in a swift move of bravery. Not about to get shown up by chicas half my weight, I followed.

More cops, lots of rubberneckers. This something a little different about Ecuador. In the States, we have rubberneckers, but we're a little more subtle about it. Little old ladies flick back their curtains or motorists drop it down about 5 mph. In Ecuador, people stop what they're doing and walk right up to the action. Motorists park and get out for a better view. There is no shame in staring, pointing, or openly gossiping about what's happening at a volume audible for 50 feet in every direction.

The cook from the restaurant across the street eventually gave me the scoop. Apparently all the action had to do with car part. Banned car parts, probably (I was missing a word in there) and lots of car parts for which this particular shop owner ***gasp*** had no receipts.

Y'all, I didn't even know there was an auto shop in this particular building, and I walk by there an average of four times a day. The catch is that what faces the street is just a wall with a big door and not really much of a sign. I've never really seen much for in and out on any of the shops on that block, even, so I thought the interior was empty.

Or pack floor to ceiling with hot car parts. You know, whatever fits in a building that looks like it was rescued from Spain circa 1750. Apparently the locals knew there was some kind of car place in there, but not that there were ***gasp*** no receipts!!!! for any of those parts.

The receipts are a big deal here, because the local SRI (our IRS) doesn't mess around. They will shut your business down until you are straight with them, and they'd sent their SWAT team folks down with the cops. It was kind of fun to watch them do their thing, actually, because they seemed a lot more active than any IRS folks I've ever seen (okay, imagined. I've never seen one and don't want to).

I went back in the house when the second wave came in along with the press because it was lunchtime. It was also much more comfortable for me to watch the whole thing from my windows. I may be getting more Ecuadorian every day, but I'm still not a dyed-in-the-wool rubbernecker. Maybe next year ....

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pants From The Past

One of the fun things about moving abroad is coming back to visit your closet in America. Suitcase weight limits keep going down (when I went to Japan, it was 75 lbs, and now you get 50 lbs with some places pushing for 30) so you have to be really careful about what you're packing. Since I tend to do things like pack George Foreman grills into my luggage (no, really, I did that) it means I'm often short on clothes.

The bonus of staying in Ecuador is that this time when I went home, I just brought a few things to wear with the rest of my suitcase for bringing things back. Really important things. Really, really important things, like the 4 lbs of pretzel M&M's I got for Christmas, copious amounts of orange scented Arbonne goods, and pants.

Ah, pants.

The particular pair of pants inspiring this post entered my life circa 2007. This means they are Ann Taylor pants, since 95% of my wardrobe in those days came from Ann Taylor. Something about working in HR for a risk management department may have been prompting that. They are dress pants, and I thought they might be good for the need-to-look-older while teaching thing. Also as a break from the three other pairs of pants I have in EC, which are all jeans.

The issue was that I was a bit sickish over the holidays, and I didn't do a lot of the closet review and room cleaning that I had originally planned. Instead, I just admired my closet for most of the break, and then threw a few things in at the last minute without trying them on.

This morning, I needed the pants, and I was just hoping against hope that they fit.

And they did. It was awesome! I practically skipped to class, and refused to put off by the lack of taxis on my way or the ennui of my students when faced with the history of the World Bank Group. It'll be on the test, kids, and did you know my pants fit? Bwahahahahaha . . . ahem.

Old pants that fit, people, is my happiness for today. What's yours?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Limping Into 2011

I'm back in Ecuador at last, and it definitely feels good to be back in t-shirt land! What I'm not getting used to just yet is the fact that the calendar has turned over.

Was it just me, or was 2010 a total whirlwind? It seemed like a lot of different changes all came through at once, and I just wasn't quite keeping up. True, some of these choices, like taking on the teaching at the University of Azuay and that whole moving to Ecuador thing, were entirely my own decision. And maybe I should have skipped out on some more of the weddings and family things that I did, but really, that wouldn't have been right, either.

So what does 2011 hold? I feel a bit like I'm limping into the new year after an intense Christmas trip home that included a heavy dose of the holiday crud. What a bummer that turned out to be! Made this big trip home for the holidays and then was congested, aching, and miserable the first few days. I blame Miami - that many people going through customs at one time just spells major germ spread.

Still, I've recovered a bit, which means I'm supposed to be jumping into 2011. The trouble is that I'm kind of denying it's arrived. Maybe if I pretend it's still December . . . no, actually, that doesn't work either. It's just that the idea of a laundry list of resolutions when I still have things on my to-do list feels wrong on lots of levels.

As a result, I'm resolving not to resolve. I don't want a temporary burst of things to do . . . if I'm going to be changing my life, let's go big or go home and really commit to something. So now I'm just waiting for that perfect inspiration to strike . . . .