Advice, Ecuador, Love, Teaching, Travel

agradecida: blood, snow, sorrow

Dear mother earth, heavenly father and the ultimate universe,

Last Friday, I walked out of my apartment to blood. A man ran down the street clutching his arm yelling after a taxi. His eyes were glazed, his striped shirt matted to his sweat soaked skin.  Instinct kicked in. My friend called the police while I ran after him into the video rental store. Red raindrops covered the white linoleum floor. In broken Spanish,  I told him to wash the cut, put pressure on it, call his family.  High on adrenaline and worry, we listened to Mauricio’s story. A customer came to rent a DVD. At the counter, he took out a knife and pistol. Video stores don’t keep much cash, so Mauricio did not comply. In the scuffle, he was sliced deep before the robber ran off into a taxi( clearly in on the deal).

Moments earlier, I had messaged my friend that I didn’t want to walk to Foch and preferred to get a ride if possible. So I was meant to be there, at that exact moment, to see the blood. It is not the first time nor will it be the last.

In these pivotal moments when a fellow human lost faith in humanity, in the minuscule seconds that followed, precious to shaping future beliefs, I am grateful for good.

1. Blood

I am grateful for blood. If I did not know about blood,  I would not know the complexity of love. I would not know the sound of diamond sharp scissors slicing the air when thrown, rivlets of red escaping skin, metallic smell of fear permeating pores. I remember the shattered child carried out by her grandfather. I remember listening to dad scold mom for her temper. The irony. If I did not know of blood, I would have never found my purpose in healing through Lovingkindness.

2. Snow

I am grateful for snow. I remember the barefooted girl who had never been kissed, running away from home, into the whiteness. Comforted by cold, for the goosebumps were far kinder than the madness of fists, kicks, words inflicted onto 100% my body for a 75% percentile PSAT number. 75, the numbers engraved into my scars, fearing tests of aptitude, even years later. If I did not know of snow, then I wouldn’t understand my students. The paralysis, the amygdala freeze, the somber eyes, the exhaustion you hid from your teachers, because you were really glad to be out of the house, up until the moment when the hard work does nothing against the unrealistic demand of perfection.

So I make sure my students know, that the four walls covered in posters of future civilizations and dream islands, serve as far more than just four walls. With me, they are safe.

3. Sorrow

I am grateful for sorrow. When you have to say goodbye to anyone you love, it’s hard to escape the  nagging feeling you could’ve, should’ve,  would’ve done something different. The questions that keep you up at night: am I the fool? How could I let this happen? You search for pieces of an invisible puzzle.

If I did not know of sorrow, I would not know of acceptance.

The freedom of letting go. The astute talent to just breathe. He broke your heart. She broke your heart. You broke each other. You loved each other once. You may never talk to each other again. Till choice comes to the rescue. The choice to change. To grow. The gift of transformation. You have another turn in this roulette of life. YOU, lucky soul, are still in the game with blood in your veins. So play with integrity.

I am grateful for sorrow. 7 years ago, on Christmas Eve,  I learned of unconditional love. In an utterly private moment, which I had no right or intention to witness, I stumbled upon the spiritual. I watched the gentle hands of a husband washing the greying coiff of his best friend, mother of his children, love of his life, four days before death swept away her suffering. Sorrow taught me unconditional love.

Once you know, you’ll never settle for less. Nunca.

writinginsoysauce

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Advice, Mental Health, Teaching, Travel

Fiesta De Quito: The crying woman

Dear Friends,

One month from today, I will be 29 years old. Allow me to reflect, process, regurgitate what little and lot this year has brought in 3 stages…

1. Joy

For their final oral exam, my students created TV shows. The highlight was The Kyong Show: imagine late night meets Jerry Springer. The romantic entanglements of a stepford wife,  basketball player husband, a scruffy pool boy. And a magician. All forced to resolve their problems over beer(water) pong…

Wandering into a fusion jazz bar, getting the last seats, savoring a splendid piece of chocolate cake, served with a boule of helado (ice cream). Soft rain and patio lights…

Flamenco dancers, one gringa in cherry red, one quiteno in blanco, strong jaws, slick black coifs, such fierce tapping you feel it in your blood…

Riding a bike in public. I’m an obsessive soul cycler, but it’s a different ballgame meandering through traffic. Momentum is key. Pedal when turning for more control. Shoulders forward in a perfect triangle, so when you hit a bump, your netherparts don’t get left behind. Freedom racing through the park…

Taking my first solo 9 hour bus trip in South America, reaching my destination, narrowly avoiding a pack of wild dogs, kissing starlight by midnight…

The ocean retains memory, my mompiche soul sistah said, it touches all life. Bubbles, effervescent elation, splashing like a newborn. Letting go…

2. Pain 

In a dimly lit street by an ivy wall(Plaza Teatro), while all of Quito dances, a small crowd gathers around a crying woman. A man in an official looking uniform, conspicuously rigid, eyes withdrawn, tapes an eviction notice to her door. The air is pungent: it smells of macaroons…

The crying woman reminds me that we are ephemeral. Impermanent. Amidst all joy exists acute pain.  I know this well. It’s been too recent since parting ways with friends and lovers. The hurt is raw. Yet the scars will make me stronger…

It’s taken me 6 years to let myself miss Mary Lynne, the mom, sister, best friend who showed me unconditional love. To let myself weep. To feel the enormity of grief…

It’s been 1 year since I’ve talked to my dad. It took 27 years to admit I’ve been emotionally and physically abused since I hit puberty. It’s going to be a lifelong journey to heal. To discover what it means to love and be loved. To relearn a concept sin dolores…

Pain is relative, and mine pales amongst the horrific pasts endured by so many kindred spirits. But it’s a smidegon of proof that to see the light, one must face their darkness…

 

I’m going to therapy soon and I could not be more ready. I’ve always wanted to go.  It’s a profession and a calling that interests me mucho. Thankfully, mental health is less of a stigma in South America. Plus it’s far more affordable, I’m talking $25/hour vs $2 grand, an arm and a leg. I’m a big believer that although a broken bone is visibly bad, a broken psyche is far worse, especially if unaddressed. It’s impossible to heal others if you can’t heal yourself. Someday, could I listen to stories and help guide someone back onto their path ? Nothing would fulfill me more.

My soul died in advertising. In all corporate life. Teaching, however, is rewarding. On Fridays, we mix Spanish and English to discuss deeper issues like spirituality, family, psychology, gender equality, sexism, racism, homosexuality. I’d love to teach in Colombia next, South Korea, then Thailand. Maybe UAE. It’s a loosey goosey 5 year vision, just how I like it.

Know thyself is priority #1. Giving myself and others time to do what’s needed, time to understand what’s best. Time exposes or promotes us all, they say.

I am proud to be the crying woman. In many ways, we all are.  Call me sentimental but I’ll take tears any day over feeling nothing at all.

My deepest love,

writinginsoysauce

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Advice, Philosophy, Teaching, Travel

(No Name): 2 months in Ecuador and 7 How To’s

I’m falling in love with Ecuador. Like most special delights in life, it’s the unplanned and unexpected that make up a myriad of defining moments.

1. How to teach English

After a grammar exercise about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it quickly became clear that my high school students had no clue about Mark Twain nor slavery. Another asked me, one on one, if being gay is natural. I tell my students one thing: to always keep asking.  Never take my opinion for law.

Allow for distractions, the mind needs to breathe.

I’m aiming to get TEFL certified with the university this February in order  to continue a worldwide journey. Imagine this chinita in Columbia, South Korea, Thailand, UAE…wowsers!

2. How to travel successfully by bus

Do not rely on the Internet for timetables or routes. Ask at least 3 people on site including ticket sellers, taxi drivers, bus staff pitching to potential customers.  Do as the locals do.

No one sits in assigned seats. Be prepared to see people arguing over your seat and to find another one.

In order to meet friends at Quilotoa, my host dad crowd sourced to find out that there’s no direct bus from Riobamba to Latacunga. I needed to get off at some random, no name stop, then take a taxi to the main station. Alone and amidst a hailstorm.

My nerves were calmed only after sitting next to a nice lady named Faviola who happened to be going to the same place. We split a cab even steven. Yeats said it best: Be Not Inhospitable To Strangers Lest They Be Angels In Disguise.

By sensational serendipity, I arrived at the exact same time as my crew from Quito, despite departing hours apart and from different cities.

3. How to make the most of…

Otavalo: Use the buddy system to bargain. It’s cheaper to buy 2. Take your time browsing and getting price quotes before dropping your cash. Smile.

Go to the birds of prey show at Condor Park. Notice which beasts value freedom over food. Search for the heart shaped crater embedded into the side of the mountain.

Riobamba: Eat hornado de chancho (slow roasted pork with orgasmic thick, crispy skin). It will help you forget that on the 3 hour car ride there, you awoke from your nap to the symphonic chords of  a 10 year old puking profusely into a plastic bag.

Funda.

Quilotoa: Camp for free at crater lake. Bring tons of sweaters, snacks, water, tp. Warm yourself with Puntas(moonshine baby).

In ink black darkness, we climbed down a steep, winding sand-rock filled trail armed with 2 measly, Ecua phone flashlights. The 1 hour hike uphill in scorching heat is a doozie. PLEASE SKIP riding the donkeys/horses: their legs are far more fragile than yours. It’s tempting, I know.

Once you get uptop, reward yourself with grilled goat. Indulge in rich, meaty papas(potatoes)for days. Demolish another table’s full plate of leftovers.

I befriended a stray black lab mix who later summoned her 5 member pack of protectors (will work for food). Slept like a baby through a vicious dog fight. I’ve got 99 problems but No Name ain’t one.

Find big sticks if you venture into the surrounding wilderness. The dogs are trained to aggressively guard the indigenous lands. Good news? You’ll hear them coming. Bad news? Our friend’s pant leg got nipped twice and I had to fend off rabies-r-us while it transformed my branch into a twig…with its mouth.

Adventure.

4. How to live with ever present danger

At night, four of my friends( both guy and girl together, local looking and gringo) have been robbed. Two of them at knifepoint. Scary, though the awareness these events are commonplace oddly comforts. Take a cab to your door if you live in prime-time petty crime neighborhoods like Foch.

If and when it happens, let go of whatever possessions you have.

Keep money in your bra. Always bring a friend to keep watch at the ATM.

Past 6 pm, I walk in a black, over-sized hoodie, hands stuffed in pockets(pseudo concealed weapon), ninja jaunt on, at an effin’ speedy pace. Better to be feared and/or too fast of a moving target.

If I outlasted Dorchester, MA…

5. How to learn any language

My host dad, in Spanish, asked me to keep the door unlocked for their return.

Except he had 2 moto helmets so I assumed there was an errand requiring me to get on a bike. To which I replied: muy frio (it’s too cold).

Read intent through the lens of body language, trust the vocabulary to expand after. Embrace the awkward because people will laugh. Laughter helps you learn.

6. How to survive a nightmare

I’ve met my favorite kind of people: survivors.

One spoke of nightmares: the kind that come when the brains of a 21 year old girl meet the concrete streets of Quito. Split seconds earlier, he’d asked his friend to slow down the motorcycle. It was all too late and far too fast for the boy high on adrenaline and the pretty young thang gripping tightly to his jacket. The friend lived, if that’s what you call it. Fate in the form of accident stole the show.

Another, an indigo child destined to change the world, sat with me on a grassy knoll of an unknown park next to a gaggle women in thick turquoise sweaters and prairie skirts. As they smoked their caramel cocoa cigarettes, she told me about how her boyfriend died, high on coke, his heart stopped. No, wait, that was another story. Hers killed himself.

Why must the best people be cursed with desolation? She cried and I felt her pain as my own for we have all loved someone who feels nothingness.

7. How pain begets joy

I said goodbye to a mosaic of circumstance, however difficult, for the possibility of a true-to-present self.

To find a real shot at the perfectly imperfect, you must continue learning: not the way you’d imagine through unaffordable degrees, but the school of life.

Travel, my friends.

The world is far too lonely. Give love to others, so they see less of your skin and more of your soul.

Let go of money to gain, whenever you can afford it. I used to make over 70k. Now I make less than $400 a month. You’d think it’d be more stressful with less money but it’s quite the opposite.

Relinquish the need for others to approve of your happiness and you’ll be one step closer. (Yes, I’m talking to you “be a lawyer-doctor-hedge fund manager or else” tiger parents.)

Help, however you can, in conversation or human touch, for richness comes in numerous forms.

Reach the eternal fountain of youth the instant you stop searching.

Love from E,

writinginsoysauce

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Advice, Ecuador, Travel

My first week in Ecuador: the good, the bad, the what the eff?!

Hola amigos! I’m bed-ridden with a blah case of food poisoning. But I’m alive! Here’s to surviving my first week in Quito, Ecuador.

The good…

1. Your morning companions may include three mud-brown, shaggy, white-faced llamas brunching in a soccer field. Olé, Olé, Olé!

2. The air is crisp. The streets are cleaner than New York. 360 degree views of volcanic majesty. Come night, find yourself enveloped in a blanket of stars. Thousands of flickering lights emanate from densely packed homes. Lift your fingertips towards the heavens.

3.  Ecuadorean President Correa and I share the same hood. NBD.

4. Many of the middle class families have maids. I don’t have to do dishes Mon-Fri. There is a god.

5. On our first Sunday in Quito, a rare supermoon caressed a lunar eclipse. Atop the 8th floor rooftop, we marveled. Children laughed. Couples kissed. Gushing.

I’ll be 46 the next time such a splendid sighting graces the sky. The 2033 countdown begins!

The bad…

1. I have not been pick pocketed(yet), but 2 of our teachers weren’t so lucky. Strange men in a car tried to pick up one of our other male cohorts. Hold your bag the way you hug a body pillow: tightly, eyes forward, resting b&tch face on. Don’t carry more than $15 on you at a time. Don’t walk alone at night.

2. Scopolamine (originated from trees in Colombia)is date rape drug that turns you into a slave zombie. Its properties make you highly open to suggestion. You don’t remember a thing. If asked, you’ll help a thief rob your own house.  Watch your drink like a hawk.

3. Any amount of drug possession can lead to a minimum of 7 years in jail. They don’t feed you so meals must be brought by family and friends. Orange Is The New Black now sounds like Disneyland.

The what the eff?!

1. Unlike this idiot, be picky about what you eat. Avoid raw veggies, unpeeled fruits, which may or may not be washed properly, no matter how appetizing. Diarrhea is a universal language. Ecuadorean remedy? Oregano seeped in boiling water. Stay tuned for results.

2. Pain tolerance varies culturally. It’s low here. The two adorable host daughters (Marty y Lucy, 9 and 6 ) bumped heads on the trampoline and lost it. I’ve seen some epic tantrums at the YMCA but this was stage 5.  Should their ice cream ever fall off the cone, I’m booking it to the nearest bunker.

3. I have seen a total of three asian people. Estoy dodo bird.

No aguafiestas(Debbie downers) here! Have an incredible semana!

-writinginsoysauce

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