Journals from Semester abroad in Quito, Ecuador
2008-01-16 Schedule changes, domestic help, and observations
I found a Japanese person! I had heard about a few, but today I finally met a girl in my yoga class who apparently speaks Japanese. The yoga professor, who is French, teaches in Spanish, and speaks English, Chinese, and apparently Japanese, read her name off the list and asked, "Nihongo ga dekimasu ka?" (Can you speak Japanese?) and she said yes! I was sitting on the other side of the room, but I couldn't help it and I said, "Soo desu ka?" (Really?) and she smiled. She mouthed (in Japanese) "You speak Japanese?" and I mouthed back "a little!" But we didn't get a chance to talk because yoga is a quiet sort of thing, and because I had another class that I had to rush to directly afterwards. I'll have to go early on Wednesday and see if I can talk to her.
Speaking of going early on Wednesday...They switched up my schedule, and I still have the same classes but now all five of them are on Mondays and Wednesdays, two are on Fridays, and none are on Tuesdays or Thursdays. What a weird schedule. So now I leave at 6am M/W and get back around 5pm, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays I'm pretty much just chillin'. It's an unusual way of going about things, but so far I kind of like it. It's nice to get some relaxing alone time during the day while everyone else is at work or school, and I can do homework, send e-mails, make phone calls, etc. Plus I can listen to all my random music and dance around, and only the maid sees me.
She's very sweet and very short (if she stood up very straight the top of her head might reach my shoulder), and it has been interesting for me to get used to the family dynamic of having domestic help. She's about the same age as the mom (late fifties, though all those years of work show in wrinkles), so everyone talks to her using "usted." Her name is Rosa, most of us call her Rosita, and la mama almost always calls her "Rosita linda". I can't quite get used to everyone being so sweet to her all the time as if she were a member of the family, but not batting an eye as she cooks, cleans, does our laundry and washes our dishes. I keep accidentally washing my dishes, and when I get halfway through Rosita notices and says, "No, no, Lily, just leave it there, I'll do it." But she's so busy, I feel bad. Plus, since Rosa just started working here the day I arrived, la mama told me I should probably keep my door locked while Rosa is here just in case. So whenever I come back to the house and I have to unlock my door, or when Rosa wants to clean my room and I just sit on the bed and read to look busy while I'm really just there because I'm not supposed to leave her in my room alone, I feel awkward. I don't want to insult her, but I also want to keep an eye on my things just in case. (Sorry, I know the sentence before last was a terrible run-on.) This morning was a little less awkward, though, because we were the only two in the house so we talked a bit. When she came in to sweep and tidy my room, I was reading the book Katelyn gave me for Christmas (La Sombra del Viento, which by the way I love and recommend to everyone; there is a version in English called The Shadow of the Wind). I shook my head at one part in the book, and she asked me what it was about. So I started talking about the main character's terrible luck with women, and describing some of the twists and turns, and she thought it was hilarious. Then we started talking about music, and I played some bachata for her because she hadn't heard of it. It was fun, in spite of slight awkwardness because she was cleaning my room while all this was going on and I didn't really know what to do with myself.
On to other stories. Last night my boyfriend Oscar, who is a fisherman, finally got a chance to call from Alaska, because I guess they had finished the first trip out in the boat. I hadn't heard from him in two weeks, so it was nice to know that he was ok. He called at 7pm Alaska time, but it was 11pm here, so I was already asleep. Danilo, the oldest brother, has the bedroom closest to the phone, so he answered. Apparently when he walked over to my room to wake me up, I was very thoroughly asleep. He knocked and said, "Lily? Lily, you have a phone call." And I answered, "Wha--wassup?" So he repeated, "You have a phone call, I think it's your boyfriend." I said, "Oh, yeah, ok..." So he started walking back towards the living room, until he realized that I hadn't actually gotten up. He came back and woke me up one more time ("Lily, you have a phone call!") and I guess it finally sunk in and I rolled out of bed. Poor Oscar; I answered the phone and he said, "What happened? It costs a fortune to call you from here, I can't wait all night for you to answer!" Since I had no idea that it had taken Danilo three or four tries to wake me up (I only remembered the last one), I was a little confused, but still happy to hear from him. Danilo razzed me about it in the morning...
Anyway, Oscar says hi to his familia and his "American family." He sounded just as sad as tired as he always does when he calls from Alaska, which hurts to hear, but at least now I know that he hasn't fallen off to boat or anything. He says he'll call back in about two weeks. We only got to talk for five or ten minutes, because they didn't give him much time, but it was nice to hear his voice. I do hate hanging up the phone, though...I cry every time. Today I called his family in Seattle to let them know that he was all right.
On a completely different note, by the way, Professor Gmez, your suggestion of always carrying a little notebook has been very helpful. I always have it either in my backpack or my purse, and Carla thinks it's kind of funny that I pull it out in the middle of conversations to write things down, but it has helped a lot both with vocabulary and remembering all the little things I want to include in e-mails. Let me see, where did I put it, I forgot what I was going to write next...
Got it. Ugh, the other day I saw a sparkly pink delivery truck with a huge picture of a Barbie on the side that said in Spanish, "Barbie: What you want to be today." Goodness gracious, poor little Ecuadorian girls trying to be six feet tall, blonde, and skinny as a stick. And people wonder where girls' self-esteem problems come from. Oh, and speaking of beauty ideals, I have seen at least six or seven students at USFQ with bandages covering the skin that is recovering from their recent nose jobs. And oddly enough, I think most of them have been guys. USFQ students have money, and are very fashionable. I'm starting to think that large sunglasses might be a requirement for admission. And, just like any school in any country, the upperclassmen have their cliques and mostly keep to themselves. I have met several very nice, friendly freshmen, however, so overall I don't think Ecuadorian students here are any more unfriendly than students in any other country. I had heard from other exchange students that the girls here are mean because they see us as competition for their boys, but I haven't run into that at all. Of course, that could be because the first question everyone asks is how I learned so much Spanish, and Oscar is always a part of the answer, so they know they don't have to worry about me.
Everyone is puzzled by my accent, because they can't figure out where it's from. Carla's friend Beln loved listening to me talk, and kept saying how funny my accent was. She was pretty sure it was a Mexican accent, but other people have mostly said Central America (which would make more sense). On the bright side, no one has said it sounds American, and that's really the most important part anyway! I'm working on figuring out Ecuadorian vocabulary, but I'm not sure how much I want my accent/vocab to adapt because I'm going to have to switch back in May. Hmm...
A few new vocab words:
guagua: kid (what Hondurans would call cipote or cipotn, though in Colombia apparently cipote means stupid)
que mensa: how stupid/that was dumb of me
farrear: to party (funny story on this one: a girl asked me if I liked to "farrear," and I didn't even know what the word meant. She didn't explain it, she just said, "Apparently not.")
culchupa: someone who says they're very religious but is really a hypocrite. This is apparently the stereotype the people who live on the Coast have about people in Quito.
no seas malito/a: do me a favor (rather than "don't be bad")
Also, one correction: slippers are "pantuflas," not "panchuflas," the grandma just has an unusual accent. I need to keep that in mind when I learn words from her... Actually, her accent isn't really that unusual, it seems to be generational. I can't quite convey it in an e-mail, but I've heard a lot of older people speaking like her. The "r" is very different, almost Argentinian.
I love reading the graffiti around here--it is often very informative. For example, the other day I saw a wall that said, "Por favor no bote basura. No sea puerco." In English that would be "Please don't litter. Don't be a pig," but very respectfully, since they used "usted."
Hm, I wrote a ton again. I guess I'm sort of writing this as an English diary, and not just updates, so that might explain it...Whoops. Sorry to waste paper, Mom, since I'm pretty sure you're printing these out and saving them (actually, I really hope you are, I'd like to re-read them sometime).
Off to eat lunch, ciao!