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Journals from Semester abroad in Quito, Ecuador

2008-01-17 Flip-flop troubles and funky grammar

Well, that was a bit embarrassing... I didn't have class today, but the International Programs office wanted to talk to me about the next steps in the visa process (yes, I'm already here, and yes, there is plenty more paperwork to do), so I took the bus down to Cumbay around 10:30 this morning. The bus ride went just fine. In fact, I bought a pirated CD with 161 songs on it by Ricardo Arjona for a grand total of $1, so I was in a pretty good mood, but when I got off the bus, across from the Universidad and an hour from my house, my left flip flop gave out completely. The strap came right off, and I was left in the middle of a busy street with one shoe. Since I only had about five minutes before I was supposed to be in a meeting, I had to go anyway, so I crossed the street, walked past a bunch of stores, and went to school. Unfortunately, the building for International Programs is at the exact opposite end of the university from the entrance, so I had to walk past hundreds of very stylish Ecuadorians holding my left flip-flop in my hand and looking very silly. I wasn't all that annoyed though; I was mostly just laughing at myself. When I got to the office, the four people who work there immediately asked, "What happened? Are you ok?" I laughed and said I was fine, that after the meeting I was going to cross the street and go to Payless to by some new ones, but they all bustled about finding staplers and masking tape and various other creative attempts at flip-flop fixing, none of which worked. Eventually we just gave up, and I had my five-minute meeting. I met the program director (Franco) for the first time, and he seems like a very nice, energetic guy. Apparently he is also in a famous Ecuadorian heavy metal band, though he doesn't at all look it. He's a clean cut Oregon study abroad program director. Hm. Anyway, we talked for a little while, and he said, "Your Spanish is good! And you're not...Latina?" I smiled, and said no. "And you don't have any Hispanic roots?" I laughed and said, "Nope, but I've got a Hispanic boyfriend..." He laughed too, and said that was just about as good for learning Spanish anyway. After the meeting I left to go buy some new flip-flops. It worked out well, because Payless was having a sale and I got a nice pair for $5, which for here is cheap. Clothes here are so expensive! Everything is imported, and most of the most popular clothes are American brands, so things are actually more expensive here than in the U.S. I'm glad I came stocked with my suitcase full of Value Village finds! Food, on the other hand, is wonderfully cheap. One restaurant near the Universidad charges you $2.70 for a plate of rice, chicken, and salad, which comes with popcorn (Ecuadorian version of pre-meal chips and salsa, I guess), juice, soup, and a dessert!! Amazing. I'm pretty fond of the $0.50 mango ice cream cones, too... : ) But I'm making up for it with exercise in the morning on Tue/Thu/Fri, and yoga on Mon/Wed. That's my justification for giving in so often to the temptation of cheap ice cream. Unfortunately, yesterday in my yoga class I found out that the Japanese girl really doesn't speak that much Japanese. Her dad is from Japan, and she used to go back during the summers, but she's forgotten a lot. So sad...I'll have to find someone else to practice with. Ooh, that reminds me, I need to review a chapter today...Better write that on my hand, just a sec. In my nutrition class yesterday I learned that American children never learn the food pyramid very well, and that if asked about vegetables we start talking about candy, but that ironically Ecuador bases its food pyramid off of ours, because we have good experts even if we don't pay any attention to them. It was sort of entertaining to hear the speech, as the only American in a class full of Ecuadorians. When Carla and I got out of class at four, we went to pick up her mom from the dentist, because she broke her false front tooth on a sandwich the other day (apparently this sort of thing happens to a lot of moms...). They were still working on her, though, and since the dentist is Carla's cousin's wife, we went to the dentist's house to watch her kids while she finished up because the dad had to leave for a business meeting. The kids were adorable, two boys aged 3 and 5, and the three year old was very impressed to find out that my mom's cousin was in the Spiderman movies. Apparently he likes Spiderman so much that he named the dog Spider, which I find terribly confusing. My host family is very well connected, partly because they're related to so many doctors. They know dentists and specialists all over the place, and apparently my host brother's fiance has a sister in the National Assembly that is currently rewriting the Constitution. So of course they all razz her and complain about the recent tax increases, and she rolls her eyes because she isn't even in that particular committee. There is plenty of political commentary written on the walls, too. Today I saw "corrupta prensa mentirosa" (corrupt, lying press), "Vota todo 3 para que te roben otra vez" (Vote for the president's party so they'll rob you again, only it sounds better in Spanish cuz it rhymes), and the oh-so-observant "De cada 10 ecuatorianos que ven TV... 5 son la mitad" (Of every 10 Ecuadorians who watch TV... five are half). I'm not quite sure what that last one was trying to say, but it caught my eye. I also saw a grocery store, I think it was, called "SuperPaco." Katelyn dear, you really must shop there. Oh, and I saw a newspaper headline (over the shoulder of a guy sitting a few rows in front of me on the bus) that confused me very much: "Hams asesino a un joven Quiteo." Since I've seen a lot of signs on doors here that spell "pull" in Spanish with an H instead of a J ("Hale" not "Jale"), I thought maybe they had just mispelled "Jams", and I read the headline as "I would never kill a young person from Quito." And I thought, oh, well, that's good, I'm glad. But I thought it was a funny sort of headline, so I asked my host sister about it. She said that actually "Hams" was a terrorist group in Colombia, so the headline was just missing an accent on "asesin" and actually said "Hams killed a young person from Quito." What a difference an accent makes! OK, enough of the dorky grammar analysis. But I can't resist throwing in a few vocab words I've picked up in the last couple days... 1) Full. Yes, the English word "full," pronounced more or less like "fool," but meaning anything from "there's no room left" to "really busy." Everyone from little kids to my host mom uses it. So, you may have eaten a big lunch and now you have a "full" stomach, or you may be studying and working two jobs, so you're also "full." 2) "Dame pasando"/"dame viendo" etc. is a way of asking favors, which is an odd sort of grammar that apparently comes from Quichua, the local indigenous language. Literally those two phrases would mean "give me passing" and "give me looking" but they use it to mean "pass me that thing" and "check for me." The first time I heard some one say "psame viendo" (pass me looking) this picture popped into my head of me walking past them, turning my head as I went to keep staring. Strange grammar. 3) la funda = la bolsa (bag) 4) (un carro) de marchas = stick shift (most cars here are) 5) manjar = dulce de leche (a caramely sort of thing that is delicious and you can put on bread. Or, more accurately, you can use bread as a handy excuse to eat manjar.) All righty, I should go do a bit of homework before dinner. Ciao, folks! Lily

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