Sunday, February 28, 2010

The day after yesterday

Those of you who understand Spanish: I updated in that language over here:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Know thyself

So, one week has passed in Colima. Twenty more of those to go. 

Someone wrote on my Facebook wall yesterday: "Bethany, you should be used to moving new places by now. Don't worry; things will get better." And I wrote back something that I feel and have felt very strongly this past week: Yeah, I'm used to moving. It's the staying part that is proving difficult. 

The first day here was fine: I flew in to a strange airport; found my way to public transport; travelled three hours by road to a second strange city; found my way to my lodgings and went to sleep. The next day: I found my way to the University; found each office I needed to know about; explored the campus and the surrounding areas; ate adventurously and went to sleep. It was Day Three when the loneliness began to weigh on my, and by Day Four, I was so desperate for an escape I looked into plane tickets out of here. 

The food here is pretty good. Cheap, interesting, flavourful. But I can't enjoy it because: eating alone really sucks.

It sucks more when you are consistently eating alone at the same place, just because you finally figured out which words on their menu don't mean stir-fried cow brain, and you begin to read your own self-pity in the familiar faces of the person serving you your usual order. Eating, because it happens alone, has become a chore. 

Going to class is another, more burdensome, chore. Lectures start late because the prof or students don't care to be in class on time, and there is never a notice if a class has been cancelled or moved. The model of learning often involves forced participation by way of the students taking turns regurgitating last nights readings. This way, the prof ensures that everyone did them, and that those who didn't at least hear the regurgitations of them and can get the basic idea. The profs expect us not to do the readings, and so they do not prepare a lecture that is any addition to them. They can afford them selves that luxury, because attendance is obligatory.

Yes, that's right. I missed the first week of classes because I wanted to attend the graduating class of 2010's convocation ceremony, in Ecuador. Nobody told me this when I asked if I could arrive a week late, but I need to attend 80% of classes any given month in any class I am in at the University of Colima, or I lose the right to take the midterm. Thus, I fail it. Thus, I started out by pre-emptively failing midterms, because I missed the first week across the board, and also missed some classes the second week because I didn't know my schedule yet (the University of Colima does not have an online Academic Calendar or Academic Timetable, you have to do all that in person, by yourself because they do not have academic advisors). 

It's basically academic hell, especially when I think back fondly to friendly University of King's College, and all the work Kelly Porter in the Journalism office, Tara Buksaitis in the Registrar's, and Sharlene Salter in Student Accounts did on my behalf last year so that I would be able to stay in school and not go broke or crazy. I want to send them a fruit basket and ask them to take me back. 

And look: 

I started this blog entry to talk about the pretty things:
the weather, 
and going to the pool with a fellow ex-pat of multiple countries, 
and the parade of riders on horseback that held up traffic in the downtown yesterday, 

and the Valentines Day vendors who clogged up the sidewalks while the horses clogged up the streets,

and the flowers, fountains and fruits all around.
 But I couldn't, because all those things were just a distraction from the dominating narrative: the unbearableness of Being -- right now -- Alone. 

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Two for two

By 5 a.m. in Toronto, Gordon had made it through customs and was ready for his first flight.

By 9 a.m., he was airborne. And squooshed.

After one landing and another take off, he was ready to enjoy the trip. But by then, it was almost over.

We were landing in Mexico. And so we did. And three hours later, we were home.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


Well, I'm back. During my last week in Ecuador, I had so little internet access there was a day I didn't even get a chance to check my email. My only alternative on some days was to borrow a friends smartphone to glance briefly at my Gmail before going back to real life. 

So it shouldn't be a surprise that I'm writing a summary blog entry about my entire visit, instead of a series of short ones.  

I spend only two out of thirty-three nights in Ecuador at the beach. One time, in a tent on the sand. The other, in Dale and Janet Horst's guest bedroom. It was hard to get away from Guayaquil, mostly because if I went to the beach, I wanted to do it in company of people I loved. And I got lucky, because both times, I did. And I met up with some loved ones, there, too:

Old Kuma is riddled with ticks, but still standing. It might have been my last goodbye from this former Horne.

The beach is always good to my soul. I spent time with Raul, Karen, Daniel and Heather Moore that time there, and felt the foundation of our long friendships under my feet, even though it had been three years since I'd spend time with Karen, and a year and a half for the rest. That reassuring feeling keeps me going back to a place that is harder and harder to call home. Going back reminds the hold it has over me, though. And who I am, because of that.

I also spent a lot of January with the kids from the graduating class of 2010. Five of them finished at the same inner-city public high-school, and I went to their convocation ceremony. I have known some of them for twelve years, since they started at our school in Guayaquil. I cried. How could I not have? Freddy: the middle child of eleven offspring. His mom was in a literacy program a few years ago and I do not know how much progress she made, and his dad works construction. In his numerous family, Freddy is the first to graduate from high school. 

Rebecca: she was adopted as a baby, but only found out a few years ago that her mom is not her real mom. But out of all her immediate and extended family, she, too, is the first to finish high school, and she did so with an 18.55 (out of 20) average. 

Jennifer: the only daughter in a family of 6, the day she was going to accept her diploma on that stage her father had told her he didn't care about her goals in life or what she made of it. She is also the first in her family to graduate from high school, as neither of her parents nor her older brothers did. 

Francisca: After her fathers death this year, an older sister is the only person with any sort of income in Francisca's household. But "Panchita" is so driven to succeed, she has already found a full time job to do during the day while she continues on to university studies, night school. She'll be getting up at 5:30 to get to work by 7, then after getting off at 3 she will travel to her classes which will start at 4 p.m. and go, on some days, until 10. I sure wouldn't study if that was what my life was going to look like.

Francisca asked me to be her graduation godmother (Photo by Nikki Horne). 

I also spent some time during the month with old friends from high school, and news friends from the internet. It was a good month, somewhat tinted by being away from Paul and feeling out of touch with him. It is an old life, my life in Guayaquil: there are so many parts to it. It was easy to feel 16 again, 18, 21 and even 8 or 9, when I climbed up a mango tree for the fruit. I am, however, 24 now. Next time I go back, I will have to have a job waiting or a project to work on. This time, my project was a scholarship application process for the graduates, and a freelance story I never finished researching (the story itself isn't really done happening,yet). But I feel strongly that I want to go back for more than social visits, in the future.