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The Devil I Know

PlanningIn 2012 I began speculating about what Ecuador would be like. After two years of calling Ecuador home, I realize there are a few aspects of the U.S. that will take some time to adjust to when I get back next week. This time I know what to anticipate:

People tend to be tired and stressed in the U.S. I seem to remember that many Americans are one broken glass, flat tire, or cutter-in-line from losing their cool. I’ve been there myself. Being tired and stressed is like a merit badge indicating that an American is working hard. Here that state of mind doesn’t exist. Very little falls into the “it’s OK to snap” category. Working too hard is frowned on because it means you’re neglecting the people around you. After 27 months of living in Azogues, it’s only logical to me that work should not come first in my priorities.

Planning is very important. At home in Colorado even small outings often require some amount of anticipation. Here I have been kidnapped for entire days on the pretext of “going and coming right back.” Perhaps a more telling comparison: Weddings in the U.S. often take a year to plan and execute. In contrast, couples in Ecuador will announce, organize, and wed in less than a month, often in a week or two. Invitations may even be hand delivered by the bride and groom the day before the wedding. I’ve come to appreciate that the focus here is on the present, not the future. When I get home, I will shoot for a middle ground on this one.

Buying. U.S. advertisers have our number. It’s a science and consumers are the white mice. Buying is how we cope with stress, and recreation when we are bored. Americans have 24/7 access to purchase almost anything. In Ecuador, access to goods and exposure to advertising is much more limited. Maybe it’s for that reason that Ecuadorians in my community tend to buy food and replace things when they’re worn out, unless it’s an event and that always requires a new dress, and maybe shoes. My landlord brings suitcases of clothes back from the U.S. to sell. We try on dresses in her bedroom and she lets us pay in installments. With the limited exposure to U.S.-style consumerism, I believe I’ll find the wave of advertising and accessibility of products to be especially difficult to resist.

Anyhow, these are the three big ones that I believe I’ll have to wrestle with right out of the gate. Although in the case of these differences, I will try to avoid readjusting completely.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2015 in Ecuador, Peace corps, readjustment

 

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Legendary Mountaineer Reinhold Messner’s Advice to the Next Generation

“In the end there is not a happy life, but a successful period if you act.” There’s a lot of great advice on the art of true adventure in this short video. Video: Legendary Mountaineer Reinhold Messner’s Advice to the Next Generation.

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2015 in climbing

 

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(Almost) RPCV

checklist

The day finally arrived with little fanfare besides a quick drum roll on the desk of our financial officer before she put the last signature on my check-out list. I’m officially a returned volunteer, technically. My flight won’t leave until April, so I have about a month to pack and say goodbye to everyone.

Luck was on my side and I found an apartment in Denver with a fellow RPCV who served in Paraguay. She’s sure to be familiar with some of my challenges with reintegration, e.g.: Spanglish, my use of confusing Ecuadorian hand gestures to communicate, inability to choose one of the fifty varieties of ________ at the store, or over informing her about where I’m going and when I’ll be back. I feel very fortunate to have landed back in the state that I love, sooner than I thought I would.

So, four short weeks of goodbyes and packing until my feet hit the ground in the U.S. I can’t wait to give some long overdue hugs to the people I love.

packing

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2015 in Ecuador, Peace corps, travel, volunteer

 

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<3: The Collection

abuga heart

Kibo Hart

trash heart

jungle hearts

cement heart

Ceiling heart

toast heart

construction heart

unsuspecting cow heart

grass heart

Hair heart

garden heart

rain hole heart

plant hearts

hand made heart

giant rose pedal heart

stone heart

#2 trash heart

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2015 in Ecuador, Peace corps, travel

 

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Oh, These Sights

Cotopaxi

Last Friday, I finally returned to Cotopaxi accompanied by a talented guide named Jamie. It was beautiful from start to finish. It snowed, but there was no wind. The moon was bright so I could see some sights while we climbed. It was a nine-hour round trip starting at 12AM. These are a few photos of the climb.

Headed to the top

Cotopaxi glacier

 

Cotopaxi

He patiently explained when I asked questions like: But what do I do if you fall into a crevasse?

Additionally, Jamie’s a lawyer, speaks four languages, and does fair job with armchair psychology and palm-reading.

Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi

The end

 

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2015 in climbing, Ecuador, hiking, Peace corps, travel

 

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Polychronic Fin

Somehow, I find myself seeing the light at the end of the tunnel/staring down the barrel of the close of my Peace Corps service. This implys poking and prodding of my body by the medical team to determine my fitness for release back into the wild, and a cacophony of paperwork requiring signatures from every Tom, Dick, and Maria in the Quito central office, a mere twelve-hour bus ride from my site. All this after climbing Aconcagua- the most intense three weeks, ever; maybe setting a world record, I fell into and back out of love in less than a month. Oxygen deprivation is a very funny thing.

After two birthdays in Ecuador, I’d imagined I would compile a somewhat eloquent summary of lessons learned and wisdom acquired, though I was misguided. If anything, now my work and wisdom fall more proportionately on the scale of meaning, a very large scale with more work to be done and more wisdom to be acquired. It seems appropriate to relate this sentiment to mountain climbing.

Team America +2

At 2AM on our last night in Mendoza, two British gents and I sat at a table in an empty plaza drinking copious amounts of Los Andes Beer. Strangers at the beginning of this trek, we sat as friends eking out the last moments of this incredible time we’d shared, knowing that in all likelihood we wouldn’t cross paths again…Apparently, New Zealand and the UK are the ends of the Earth. We considered the challenge of describing the experience to others when we got home. A photo may depict the view from the summit, but it won’t communicate how I redefined my physical and mental limits, and, ultimately, failed to find them, or the summit. The value of my time as a PCV is similarly challenging to summarize, even to myself.

The self-congratulations of climbing up and over a 6,900 meter peak are short-lived and now I wonder how I could have been more successful, did I give it all that I could have? I wonder the same things about my service here in Ecuador. It’s natural to forget the obstacles while counting the tangible outcomes, well aware that some meaningful outcomes, like my friendship with the Ulloas, are intangible. All I’ve gathered from mountain climbing or Peace Corps is that, in the best of scenarios, one summit leads to another. The goal isn’t necessarily the top, but to keep learning and pushing the bar higher, and that is good enough.

 

 

 

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You Wear Heels to Tango

to tango

My fascination with Spanish didn’t start as a love of language, but with a crush on a literature professor named Juan Dabove. He was not especially charismatic, nor particularly attractive, but he was from Argentina and lacked not of masculinity.

We spent a year and a half discussing the Dirty War in Argentina and Borges, Bioy Casares, and Luisa Valenzuela, among others. I tried to imagine the pampas and Buenas Aires in 1976. I pretended to understand the stories; He pretended my critiques were insightful. I watched The Motorcycle Diaries every day, sometimes twice a day, one summer simply because the main character Ernesto hailed from Argentina.

In 48 hours, I’ll leave for Mendoza. While I was sitting in Dabove’s class, I figured that I’d get to Argentina at some point, but I wouldn’t have considered that it would roll out this way. I thought I’d go for wine and tango, maybe a bicycle ride around Buenas Aires.

Gear

I can’t decide if I’ll be seeing a lot or a little of Argentina, after all. Unlike Kilimanjaro, I’m going for the views this time because the summit doesn’t last very long. And, I’m bringing my shoes if I do find wine and tango.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2014 in aconcacua, climbing, education, literature, travel

 

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