La Mitad-Half Full or Half Empty?

My first morning back was less hard to face than I had feared (Mondays are always a rude jolt back into reality, especially after the beach…) we started level 5 with our new teacher María (not Maria, the tilde is very important, as we learned all week) It promises to be a good class, with more focus on culture and literature, and lesson on grammar, which should be more exciting.

When I got home from my art class at 8, empanada preparation was in full swing (and had been since 5, apparently) and I was immediately pressed into service rolling out the dough (made of nothing but a bit of oil, water, and green plantains) that Gustavo was kneading, as Ximena kept adding more and more blended plantains to the already impressive amount of dough in the bowl. This went on for hours, with minor improvements in technique and efficiency along the way. Suffice it to say it was an astounding amount of empanadas, and by the time they were all made (we counted around 50) and either fried, or put away to be frozen for later, we finally finished eating some around 11!

Table full of empanadas
These are the professionally made empanadas de verde that we had last week…for comparison.
Some of the empanadas I made
These are the decidedly less even and beautiful ones I helped form…
More empanadas
So…pretty much every horizontal surface except the floor was covered with empanadas
Frying empanadas (1)
Then we had to fry them
Frying empanadas (2)
And the pile of dishes that resulted

Tuesday after class, Sarah and Tyler and I finished "Contracorriente" ("Undertow") which was a movie we had watched in Gender class the week before we left for Bahía, but hadn't finished-I highly recommend it, quite an interesting Peruvian film. Since it took longer than expected to find it on YouTube, I arrived to that very gender class quite wet (it started pouring as the credits were rolling) and a bit late…but class was about half its normal size, since the Ecuador-Bolivia soccer game was the exact hours of class, so we had class in the cafeteria, so we could get coffee to warm up from the rain, and listened to the cheers that echoed out, in order to determine when a goal was scored. We won 2-0, by the way.

A large spider on the street next to my foot
Large Spider also getting soaked in the rain as I walked home after class.

Wednesday was another rainy day:

Flooded soccer field
Remember when the soccer field was so dry and dusty it was blowing away? Now its a pond…
Lots of fog outside the window (1)
So foggy
Lots of fog outside the window (2)
More fog in the evening

After class on Thursday, I had a debriefing meeting with Rodolfo about Bahía, then set off for el Museo de la Ciudad to see the photography exposition "La Huella Invertida" ("The inverted footprint/track") with historic photos of Quito by José Domingo Laso, an early 20th century photographer. We had to write 2000 words analyzing the uses, techniques and audience, as well as the historical significance, and then choose a photo to replicate, and interpret the differences and similarities between the modern and historic photos. Ximena had told me the right bus to catch to get over there, to the historic district, so I arrived with only a liiiiitttllle wondering around the steep and slippery cobbled streets as it poured rain, being confused and asking for directions over and over… I found it eventually, feeling guilty as I dripped my way through the exposition

Historic photo by José Domingo Laso, Mujer vendiendo fruta
I chose "Mujer vendiendo fruta" ("Woman Selling Fruit")
Woman selling fruit at the market
This is the modern version of "Woman Selling Fruit" that I took to compare

I was so proud of myself for finding my way back down to the bus station, figuring out which slot to put my quarter in, and being at the correct bus stop to return to school for class at 4-I was even going to be on time! Look how grown up I am from the 15 year old Kate who got so hopelessly lost on a bus in Germany…

So I got on the bus, and everything was perfect…until it turned and I didn't know where we were going anymore. The bus then began to fill to sardine level (the question from orientation sprang to mind again: "how many people can fit on an Ecuadorian bus? the answer is always 15 more" ) such that if I had come to some stop I knew how to navigate back to school from, I seriously doubt I would have been able to un-peel myself from the window I was plastered to, and wiggle my way out anyway. So when I arrived at the end of the line, and everyone finally got off, I gave up on buses, and surrendered my 4 dollars to the very friendly (but not creepy) taxista who brought me all the way back across the city to school…only an hour late for class…

I came home to a lovely dinner of bread and colada morada, traditionally served for day of the dead. It is a thick, warm drink with herbs and pieces of fruit—deliciosa. Ximena had made enough for allll her friends:

View of the kitchen
See that absurdly large pot that you could bathe multiple children in, that is balanced precariously on the sink? It was alll full of colada morada.

After Rodolfo's class on Friday, in which we discussed the controversial figure of Bartomomé de Las Casas, I went with an art compañero to see a mural (that turned out to be decidedly underwhelming) on some government building. We had a very interesting discussion about politics (his idea is to wipe out the population of the USA and start over…I think he was kidding.) on the way over there.

Veronica (the anthropology student who is studying us, but now is a good friend) came with Sarah back to my house to hangout, and after dinner of more colada morada we chatted and never actually decided on a movie to watch. The first to drift off was Sarah, as Veronica told Tyler and I about her relationship history (its amazing how much speaking a foreign language all week wears you out) then Tyler slowly got quiet as Veronica and I continued chatting about her summer travels, and the political-economic relations and history of the Andean region and Gran-Colombia. At around 11 Veronica's mom took the sleepy heads home to bed.

Sarah and I fell alseep sideways on the bed
We really know how to party! This was Friday night before 11…

Saturday morning we (Ximena, Gustavo and I) left for Guyabamba to celebrate the baptism of Gustavo's cousin's daughter. We were a liiiitle late, so missed the actual Mass, but arrived to the beautiful rented park/garden/house place, where a lovely tent was set up on the lawn, with decorated chairs, tables and a temporary dance floor. We immediately begun the task of kissing pretty much everyone there. It really was a lovely place, a sunny day warmer than the one we had left in Quito, and the only reason you could tell we weren't at a summer wedding reception in the united states, was the tostado and chochos that were the appetizer at every table. I soon discarded my flats and enjoyed the feeling of the spongy grass-covered ground under my feet, and between my toes-a feeling I hadn't realized I had missed until then. When we got in line for lunch, and I said no to the roasted pork, I was also introduced to the mother (Gustavo's cousin) who immediately named me "prima veggie" (veggie cousin) and it stuck for the rest of the day. As soon as we were done eating, we started the dancing: meringue, salsa, traditional indigenous dances, the twist… little bit of everything. We only stopped to take a tour of the grounds, and to take some pictures (most of which Ximena later deleted, claiming she just isn't photogenic…)

View of the baptism with a dog sleeping in the shade
That was about how I felt too, after all that dancing
View of the pool (1)
The posh pool that I hungout by for a little cat nap in the sun
View of the pool (2)
When you find a lime calmly floating in the pool-fear not, I rescued the poor thing

We slipped out just as the baby's father's family broke out the whiskey and tried to give us all some. After another round of even more kisses this time (it never seems to bother anyone that to most of them I am a random stranger at their family gathering, they just kiss me anyway) we got in the car, exhausted, and headed back. After a surprisingly brief pit stop to visit some Cuban friends of Ximena's, and later to drink morocho (a thick corn drink) and eat empanadas, we arrived back home. I was actually in bed asleep by 9 pm-sometimes that's the finest luxury on a weekend.

I rose early on Sunday for a rainy day of cleaning my room/bathroom, homework (all that writing about art) and trying to ward off the Sunday blues. Just as I was lagging in my efforts in that area, Ximena brought me popcorn, which brought a big smile with it, as I had just been nostalgically longing for those rainy fall Sunday of soup and popcorn with my family…

When I first arrived, I was told that Quito's climate is like a woman's mood-it can change violently at any moment, and without much warning (Rodolfo was appalled at the sexism in inherent in the comparison, and though I agree, its interesting how I might be proving it true). My mood seems to be very changeable indeed here: one moment feeling forlorn or lonely, the next utterly contented. I go from wanting the two months I have left here to speed quickly by so I can get home to the familiar world I miss so much (although I know that the way I see it will be inevitably changed by how I have changed) and then in the next moment, it shifts the other way. As I am laughing about the absurd quantity of empanadas we are making, or feeling inspired by the fabulous article about gender I just read-the richness and wonder that comes from being able to relate my three classes about art, gender and travel narratives all together, or laughing at myself because some things never seem to change, and public transportation still trips me up, apparently…and I can't help but think there is still so much to be soaked up from this country, like the last drops of sugary juice, straight from the cane. There are so many words to be learned, places to see, discussions to have, foods to try and people to meet-how could two months be enough for it all?