Yes. It Gets Worse.

So, this New Year's Eve, I managed to answer one of the questions I've had about Ecuador since I got here: namely, how much racism is there in Ecuador? And it got answered in the most horrible way. I could never have imagined, but Stephen King says God punishes us for what we can't imagine.

But I'll get to that later. First, let me set this up by saying that every year on New Year's Eve, there's a big party in Atuntaqui where Anita works with loads of people, so Anita suggested I go and take pictures! Yay for not charging my batteries. But I still got pictures. (pix or it didnt happen kthnx) She says it's a lot of fun, and they burn an effigy of the old year, and it's a lot of fun. She said the "fun" part a lot. I should have known. She also mentioned that men dress up as women, again, with the "fun," and I thought Senior Crossdress Day at Spruce Creek. No. No. Much worse. So, I show up, and there's a lot of people there, like LOTS of people. So everyone's just chilling, waiting for the parade to start, and I go and stand out on the side, trying to find a good vantage point, right? And I do.

I think this might be supposed to be the president, Rafael Correa, but I don't know. Correa doesn't have a mustache...
That's the effigy they're going to burn. One of many. They like burning things, here.

That's what happens what someone reads 'The Raven' and doesn't realize it's supposed to be scary. Even so, I see that thing in my nightmares.
And then this bird shows up, and I say, "WTF, mate?" for the first time that evening. The first of many. But I can handle the bird. It gets worse.

'The thing I had killed in the cave, it was, or had once been, A MAN!!!' - H.P. Lovecraft's 'The Beast in the Cave'

If you're wondering what that is, you're not alone. It took me a while before I realized that that was a man, dressed up as a woman, complete with facemask. Apparently his chin was too rugged to be taken for a woman's. Or something like that. But it gets worse... I was going along fine, until I saw this:

I think the guy looks better with this on than with it off, though.
Yes. Yes it is. Yes. And it gets worse. Much, much worse.

He kept trying to hand people a styrofoam watermelon with a straw in it to get them to drink. One guy actually did. WTF, mate?
If you can't tell, that's a cart of watermelons. Because blackface just isn't insulting enough. Or maybe the guy thought you wouldn't be able to tell it was blackface without them. I dunno. But it gets worse...

I actually like the Chinese food here more than the Chinese food in America. You wouldn't think it'd be different, but it is.
That's a guy dressed up to be Chinese. There were about thirty guys like this, and some kids too! He's selling ladybugs and stuff on a stick. Other people had rats. Yes, at least there was Equal Opportunity racism. Some of the young girls had Chinese dresses on, and looked pretty nice, but then there were these guys... Urgh. But it gets worse...

He started doing pelvic thrusts. Unfortunately, my camera doesn't do video, so you don't get to suffer like I did.
If you can't tell, That's a man. Your argument is invalid. Yes. It is a man, in panties and a see-through teddy, I think it's called. But it gets worse...

At least they weren't singing old-timey Negro Spirituals. I might have had to choke a bitch.
And here I thought only one guy was gonna do blackface. I was wrong. That is a couple of black guys chopping and processing sugar cane. Three, actually. There's also a whiteface guy (some Ecuadorian guy with a white guy mask) carrying a whip. I thought I had the picture, but I can't find it. But it gets worse...

I didn't even upload the picture of the guy impersonating a black woman with the American flag bandana, giant breasts and an even larger butt.
I'm going to let this picture speak for itself. But it doesn't get any worse than this.

Thankfully, he didn't have the presence of mind to put yellow or brown stains on the diaper. Or maybe he did and I couldn't see it. Either way, Thank you.
At least, that's what I thought before the guy in the diaper started riding his bike around. But it gets worse...

Incidentally, I learned the term 'nido de pajaro' which means 'bird's nest' in a conversation about Chinese food. Unrelated.
That's a guy dressed up as an Asian woman lip-synching to American music. In honor (is that the right word?) of the Olympics this year, there was a serious Olympic theme. The singer was perched on top of a mock Bird's Nest, the Chinese stadium. But it gets worse...

It says 1000kg on the side of the barbell. Why they don't just say MEGAGRAM is beyond me.
Okay, this one isn't much worse than the other one. It's a continuation on the theme, with the STRONGMAN. There were two of these guys. But it gets worse...

I'm not sure if he's supposed to be Mohammad Ali, Joe Fraiser, or Rocky Balboa, but either way, he still looks like he could beat any of the other guys up.
That's the American member of the faux-boxing match they set up at points along the route. The American guy was the most bloody and beaten up, but he was also the most buff. So, okay. The other guys ganged up on him... *Tear* But it gets worse...

There was music playing, but it wasn't bagpipes. Unfortunately.
Hey, it's the Scottish Bagpipe Brigade! If you check out that guy on the left, you'll see he stumbled into the wrong stereotype when they were setting up, got a bagpipe, and doesn't quite know why he's out there. He's lost, and he needs help. But it gets worse...

I'm going to Hell for laughing at this. And you're all coming with me.

Yes. That is the Pope. With naked women, on his hat. He was also riding a motorcycle. All in all, the most badass depiction of the Pope I've ever seen."
But it gets worse...

Why he's wearing a mask, I don't know.
That's the front of the cowboy.

Maybe he didn't want his mom to know he ruined his best pair of pants.
And that's the back.

Okay, it gets better from here.

It takes guts to ride out into the middle of a crowd wearing nothing but a thong. I sure couldn't do it.
As a special reward for anyone who could sit through all that (I couldn't. I left and nearly missed this part.), they included a float with four actual FEMALE models, all of whom were wearing nothing but body paint. Yes, it was all worth it.

The girl hopes she doesn't see someone she knows, because she'd be morally obligated to kill them. The grandmother hopes she does for the same reason.
As a side note, because I know my mom wants to know, there were other black people there, and I think they were just as disgusted as I was. I didn't see any Chinese people, though.



So, I was going to use the Friday Monday post to talk about more reasons I dislike my school, like the Inspector that looks like Hitler (Okay, I know I need photographic evidence to prove that point, but I don't have that yet. I will, I promise.), but then I went and had one of the most interesting Christmases ever, so I'm going to talk about that instead. You'd probably be more interested in that anyway.

Because it's the Caroling season, I'm going to do this post in the form of a parody of a popular Christmastime Song: The 12 Days of Christmas.

12 people dining: There were 12 people at Christmas dinner besides me and Anita, divided into two groups: People whose Name I know: Carlos, Marco, Grace (Marco's wife), Marco Alejandro (Marco's son), Salomé (Marco's daughter), Victor (Grace's brother), and People whose Name I don't Know: Victor's wife, Grace's two parents, the housekeeper, and 2 other people whose relation I don't know. Yeah. It gets kinda awkward when you don't know someone's name but it's too late to ask politely what it is. That happened to me all the time at MITES.

11 hours driving: Anita and I had planned out (by that, I mean that Anita had planned and I had sort of nodded in agreement) that we were going to take a bus from Ibarra to Aloag, meet up there with Carlos, Anita's 30-year-old son, and drive from Aloag to Santo Domingo, to spend Christmas with Anita's other son, Marcos. Leg One of the journey worked out fine. We got up at 5AM and took the 6AM bus to Quito, where we would transfer to an Aloag bus. Anita fought with the bus driver because he wasn't leaving, and spent maybe half an hour complaining to the woman across the aisle about it, but that wasn't all bad. We got to Quito and transferred to the Aloag bus and got to Aloag just fine. Then things got bad. Real bad. Anita went to cash a check in the bank for 5000 big ones, because she just sold her car on Tuesday. Money's not in the guy's bank account. She and Carlos FLIP OUT. Not in the ninja kinda way, but the "Oh my God, someone just stole my car and I'm out nine thousand dollars" kinda way. I was just sort of sitting there. So Carlos makes the decision that we're going to drive all the way back to Ibarra and find this guy, and beat the crap out of him. Well, I inferred the last part from his tone. To make matters worse, both of the guy's cell phone numbers were out of service. It was bad. So, half-way back, the guy calls and says the money's there, it was just getting transferred from one account to another. So, long story short, we drive 3 hours to Otavalo, and sort everything in fifteen minutes. Cue the 5 hour drive to Santo Domingo. Fun fun fun.

10 dogs half-eaten: One of the things I had asked myself a lot about living in Ibarra is why there aren't more dead dogs in the road, with the combination of awful driving skills and stray dogs. The answer: Because they're all out on the highway. Seriously, ten dogs, in various states of decay, often with a flock of buzzards. Nasty stuff.

9 pounds of candy: Both Grace and one of the people I don't know handed out bags of candy, somewhere in the range of nine pounds worth in total among all of us (Yes, I just made it nine so it would fit with the song. No, I don't care.). There were animal crackers, and cookies, and Tootsie Roll knock-offs, but surprisingly little chocolate. The animal crackers here are really good, way better than American ones, and for some reason they're sold in giant 30lbs. bags. Weird. So, anyway, Anita and I ate a lot of candy, and we both got stomachaches from it.

8 pigs a-hanging: One of the strange things I saw while we were driving to and from Santo Domingo was a lot of stores selling "fritadas," which are hunks of fried pig meat, served on a plate, which is a current contender for most manly food ever against beef jerky. But, the way the people sell it is they have a pig hanging up, a dead, bloodless pig, and they cut bits from it when you need. It's kind of disgusting. I mean really. There're flies and stuff on it.

7 movie sellers: I also saw a lot of DVD sellers. It's depressing, since my computer died and now I can't watch DVDs. One of the two connectors inside the computer between the battery and the power cord burned out, and so the computer will only charge when it's not on. When it is on, it uses power faster that it gains it from the power cord, and died in about half an hour. Plus, the screen got messed up for some reason, and now it displays everything so bright all the light colors get washed out. It's very frustrating.

6 hours swimming: So, on Christmas Day, the whole family went out to a water park just outside of Santo Domingo. It was kinda tame, just two slides and a kiddie pool, but Salomé and Marco Alejandro had fun. Victor took Marco Alejandro down one of the slides, inching his way down as slowly as possible, but Marco still bawled the whole way down. I didn't have swim trunks, and I didn't feel much like swimming anyway, so I sat and read my H.P. Lovecraft book again. I went over to the bar and found a bottle of Inca Kola, which is this bright yellow soda that's native to Peru. Jesse told me about it, and said it was totally nasty, so I had to try some. It was pretty nasty. But hey, whatevs. I had a pretty good time alternating throwing candy wrappers at Carlos and playing "ataque de hormigas" with Marco Alejandro. The kid is so funny. He goes up to people and says, "Are you brave?" And if they say yes, he goes "ANT ATTACK!!!" and starts tickling them. After thirty times of this, most people got kinda annoyed and started saying "No." That kinda threw him off, and he didn't really know what to do, so he went and kept trying until someone said they were brave. He also liked being spun around, so I did that too, and got really dizzy. It was all right, although there weren't any cute girls to look at.

5 different cities: So in the course of my cross-country EcuaTour, I got to see five cities: Ibarra, Aloag, Quito, Otavalo, and Santo Domingo. I had seen Otavalo and Quito once before, and of course I live in Ibarra, but the other ones were new, and I did get to see more of Quito than I had before. It was nice.

4 unique climes: Through the trip, I got to see four different settings: Misty Santo Domingo, Clear Santo Domingo, mountains, and the city. Misty Santo Domingo was what we saw once we reached the Eastern part of Ecuador where it's really warm and humid. It was the most beautiful place I've ever seen. There are trees, EVERYWHERE, on the mountains. Every square inch had a tree growing out of it, and all different sorts. Of course, I forgot my camera, so no pictures for you. You'll just have to take my word for it. I don't know why it was misty, but there was a strong cloud cover over everything, so it was all eldritch and mysterious. Maybe I've been reading too much H.P. Lovecraft, but I kept imagining this giant monster clawing his way up over the ridge of the mountain. Clear Santo Domingo was what we saw on the way back from Santo Domingo, when all the clouds were gone. I got a good look at the forest, and it was still beautiful, although I really prefer the Misty version. There are a bunch of tiny tin shacks along the road, and I decided that when I'm a rich and famous author, I'm going to buy a plot of land on one of the mountains there and spend my time writing. I'm gonna get water and electricity and internet pumped in first, of course, but other than that, solitude. I'ma pull a Henry David Thoreau. The mountain region was what we saw right outside of Otavalo and most of the way down to Quito. Geography: Ibarra is north of Otavalo is north of Quito is west of Santo Domingo. This was also a very beautiful area, with tall mountain regions and deep valleys. The mountains were mainly brown, because not very many green plants grow there, and no trees at all. We passed by several rock quarries. The houses here are almost all made out of concrete mixed with this one rock mined from the mountains, and that's what they were digging for. There were also long buildings where Anita told me they keep chickens. It was an interesting ride. Lastly, the city. Quito is a giant city, and it took us forever to ride all the way through it. The southern part, which is the only part I really remember, is what looks like the result of some giant kid playing with blocks. The houses are stacked up and strewn about with no clear pattern or order, and they're all square and brightly colored. No sloped roofs or anything. Totally cube-like. Anita told me that's where the poor people from the other provinces come to find work in Quito, because the rent's cheap. The place was enormous.

3 bad artists: Carlos, before the mad dash back to Otavalo, bought a CD of "American Pop Ballads" from a kid selling CDs out of a bag, most of which had naked women on them. Yes. It was exactly as bad as it sounds. The whole way down, and the whole way back, I listened to Britney Speares, 'Nsync, and the Backstreet Boys. Someone needs to teach Ecuador what good American music is, but that task is too monumental for me. Some of the songs, like "Ops [sic] I did it again" were on the CD two or three times, but luckily I could hit the next button surruptitiously when this happened, and Carlos didn't notice.

2 complaing kids: Salomé and Marco Alejandro are nice kids, but sometimes... On Christmas, after we had come back from the water park and eaten dinner and all that, I was kicked back in my room writing, and Salomé comes in and asks if I want to watch TV. No, she tells me we're watching TV. At first, I thought the "we" was maybe her and Marco Alejandro, or her and her dad, but no. It was her and myself. So, I get up and go and lie down in Marco and Grace's room to watch TV with Salomé, and we're chilling there, everything's fine. And then Marco Alejandro sees us, and he comes in to watch TV too. And by "watch TV," I mean, kick me in the testicles. He thought it would be a great joke to jump on top of me while I'm lying down and knee me in the stomach. So, I'm like, "Hey, we're watching TV here." I don't know if he didn't understand, or if he just ignored me, but he kept going. I stand up next to the bed, and he starts kicking me in the groin. Finally, I get pretty annoyed, and just push him over so he falls backwards onto the bed. He thought that was the funnest thing in the world, so he keeps coming back, and I keep pushing him over. Then Salomé wanted to join in the falling over fun, and she tries to kick me in the groin too! Now, Marco Alejandro is 4, and weighs all of fifty pounds. Salomé is 10, and weighs maybe double that. Needless to say, I failed pretty hard trying to push back a rushing Salomé and almost fell backwards, cracking my head against the wall. Eventually, I lured them away by going downstairs really fast and hiding outside.

And a green Ecuadorian Cup: As part of the holiday festivities, we had a Secret Santa. I got Marco Alejandro as my gift-recipient, and so I bought him a bunch of cars and motorcycles. He liked 'em. He got me a green cup with parrots on it and a yellow (!) bobblehead turtle, both of which said "Ecuador" on them. I dunno whether Anita told them yellow was my favorite color, or what, but it's pretty nice. I'll upload some photos when I care enough have time. I'm working like a beast on FLVS (ten assignments uploaded yesterday for English!).

Thanks, Tom, for commenting. I do say it here, but I say it in English, so no one understands anyway. Thank you also to Ben and Kristina for commenting. Yes. Guinea pig is disgusting. I know. I ate it.

Also, I'm writing a poem about my time here in Ecuador, creating new stanzas as I go along. Here's the first one, and a new one's up at the top of the page.

On Sunday I walked with my head in a cloud,
My head in a cloud and my feet on the ground.
Above the stones, the silence was loud,
Except for the groans, I heard every sound.
And as I looked from Icy height,
I thought that I would die of fright.
For everything is far away
The wispy ring is dark and gray.

On Tuesday, I rode from the North to the South,
The North to the South with my heart in my mouth.
The green rose up and flew away,
The gray sunk down, and down it stays.
The chill swept in and gnawed my bones,
Until the yellow's colored tones
Held me fast and made me warm,
While insects buzzed in frightful swarm.

Ciao, y'all, and Feliz Navidad. Or Feliz Kwanzaa, if you're into that. Feliz fiestas.


ECRS (That's Eckers)

So, tomorrow being Christmas Eve and me taking a four-hour bus ride to be with my host mom's grandchildren, I thought I might not have time to post. And, since I am committed to posting, I'm doing it today!

I thought I'd take some time and, since I talked about Virtual School two posts ago, tell you a little bit about ECuadorian Regular School (ECRS). I have X classes, where X is a number larger than Y, where Y is the number of classes I had in the United States, which is seven. I will list them in order.

Artistic Anatomy: I don't like this class. My teacher is a man (YAisI), whose name I don't remember. He's very very full of himself, in that he knows exactly the best way everything should be, and you have to defer to his judgement, regardless of whether his judgement conflicts with what he told you the last time you showed him your drawing. Basically, he shows us a picture of a bone, a pelvis, a hand, a foot, etc., and we have to draw it. But we have to draw it in the exact manner in which he says, regardless of whether his instructions conflict with the picture of the bone you have in front of you. Then he tells you to do things after you've already spent a long time doing them the opposite way, because that's what he told you. Like one time, I was drawing the skull, and he says, Great, go over it in pen. So I go over it in pen, and bring it back, and he says, Oh, the shape's wrong. Fix it. I can't, I just went over it in pen, like you told me to. Fine, do you want to do it over? Do over the picture of the skull I've been working on for the past three days because I can't fix something because you told me to go over it in pen? Yes. No. 10/20. I hate you. And he's so forceful in everything he says, but he's wrong half the time. He told us about how the first vertebra that connects our spine to our skull is called "Atlas," after Atlas, the guy from Greek mythology, which I can understand. However, he tells us that it's called thus because Atlas held up the Earth, causing earthquakes when he sneezed. I'm like, No, you're wrong. I didn't say that, of course. I learned my lesson from Literature class.

'This is kinda heavy.' -- Atlas
Literature: This class is in between on the Hate-Love scale. Some of the things are okay, some aren't. My teacher's a woman, whose name I don't remember either. In this class, we started out talking about the different genrés of Literature, lyrical, epic, so on and so forth, which was okay. Then we talked about El Cantar de Mío Cid, the first work of literature written in Spanish. It's like the way The Canterbury Tales is for us. We didn't actually read Mío Cid, because it's really really long, but we talked about it. What I don't like is the way, when something displeases her, she needs to take up a whole class telling us how displeased she is. She spent a whole class once telling us about how much better the other 4th course is than us because they made posters for a project when posters weren't required. Keep in mind that we've only had this class maybe eight times all year. Yeah. Luckily, most of the anger is directed at people she thinks can understand her, so usually I just sit there while she rants. Except this one time, when she was talking about the Greeks. The school here is even more Europhillic than my school back in the States, even the World History class that was two seconds of Egypt, two seconds of China, and the rest about Europe. So, my teacher was telling us that the Greeks invented literature, and I'm like, No. You're wrong. Except I actually said it, and tried to explain to her that there were loads of stories written long before the Greek or even European civilizations had writing. She didn't believe, and sort of mumbled into the next topic.

Sculpture: I like this class a lot. It's my favorite class. Here, the teacher tells us to make some kind of sculpture, and then we make it, and he walks around and offers suggestions, or helps if you ask for it. Which is the way art should be taught, I think. He presents ideas and then we incorporate them into the work. His name is the only one I remember, because on the first day of class he said, "I'm going to tell you right now that my name is Mr. Carlos Torres, because I've had students before that don't remember my name." All the teachers here go by "Licen," which is short for "Licenciado," which means "Teacher." Our last project was making a bas-relief of a fruit bowl. I thought mine came out pretty well. Interesting fact: I finish before everyone else, because I don't talk while I work.

Painting: I hate this class. I loathe this class. The teacher is a man much in the same vein as that of Artistic Anatomy. Usually, he just ignores me. I mean, he'll go around to every person in the room and give them suggestions, and pointedly walk around me to get to other people. Although, I actually prefer this to him "helping" me. Case in Point: I was working on my final exam, in which we had to paint a vase and a flower, and I was doing fine. He comes over and says, "You're doing it wrong," grabs my paper, erases the whole thing, and blocks it out the way he thought it should be. Of course, he did this standing at a different angle from me, Plus I suck at painting, which doesn't inspire any goodwill towards the class. But I used to suck at guitar, and I didn't hate that. I'm better now at that, by the way. Which brings me to my second point. I'm not getting any better at painting. I suck just as much at painting now as I did when I started. This class is a stupid, boring, pointless waste of my time, is what I'm getting at.

Tecnical Drawing: This class is all right in my book. I don't really get what we're supposed to do. All the rules for doing everything were made a couple of years ago, when I wasn't here, so I spent the first two months not understanding anything. In this class, the teacher (a man) puts a picture up on the board and we copy it exactly. Each picture is a line, a plane, or a letter, projected onto another plane. It is the most boring, mindless class ever, but it relies entirely on math, so I'm incredibly good at it. The homework takes literally four hours to do, though, so the class loses points on that. Overall, I am glad when this class comes up, because the teacher's nice, the classwork's easy, and no one gets yelled at.

Mathematics: If ever there was a time I felt like jumping out a window, it'd be this class. The teacher's a really nice guy, and when we started he knew I'd had way more math than he was teaching, so he tried to get me out of the class. The principal said no, because I'm there to experience the culture, and so I have all the same classes as they do. Period. So, every Thursday, I'm there, for an hour and twenty minutes, learning how to factor polynomials. First, this is tenth grade. They should be past factoring polynomials by now, but this is an art school, so I forgive that. But the teacher is teaching the subject entirely wrong. I'm not a math teacher, but my dad is, so I have some knowledge on this. The teacher taught several specific examples of "When the polynomial looks like this, you have to do this to get the right answer." There was no attempt to teach the theory behind factoring polynomials, which is how to multiply them together first. If you said to one of these kids multiply (x+2)(2x-3), they couldn't do it. So, I spend this class getting perfect grades and finishing first, which isn't all that bad when everyone else is better than me in almost every other subject.

Artistic Drawing: This is my other favorite class, and also the only other one whose teacher I remember, Mr. Lopez. Here, much like in Sculpture, the teacher tells us to draw something, gives us a model, and we draw it. Awesome. One of the things I've noticed here is that no one else besides me draws from imagination. We get an assignment to draw a landscape, and everyone rushes around trying to find newspaper clippings with pictures of a mountain. They draw them perfectly, but in the end, they're just copies. Now, the sixth course students don't have this problem, from what I've seen, so I guess they learn somewhere between now and then, but it was just strange seeing it happen every time. Which reminds me of one of the things that annoys me most about this school. All the kids here, all of them, even the ones who aren't in my class, have this inner compulsion to go around to look over people's shoulders at their work and critique them, just to make sure that their art is better than your art. This pisses me off so much. Now, when people do it, I just stare at them rudely until they go away. So far, only one person (not in my class) has asked if I mind being watched while I draw. One of the things I learned about this class is that I love doing perspective pieces. Any time we get a free assignment, now, I draw something that has to do with perspective, whether that's the main focus of the piece or not. It's really cool, and if I had a scanner, I'd upload some of my work.

History of Art: I used to hate this class. It was, and still is, in my opinion, a boring waste of time. We spent each class reading from the text book while the teacher threw in his own comments about how he missed the good ol' times when women knew their place. Plus, he was old, ugly, and smelled bad. But then we didn't have his class for two months through a freak of scheduling, and somewhere in there he broke his foot, and now he's not anymore! We have a new guy, who seems much more interesting, and at least doesn't smell like the way I think dead mice taste. We've only had him for one class, so I dunno how he'll turn out, but I figure he can't be worse than the last guy. Right? Right???

Social Sciences: This class is okay, I guess. We have a woman teacher. We don't actually do that much, but when we do stuff, the teacher compliments me really heavily because she doesn't expect anything from me. Like, I wrote a brief description of the physical features of Ecuador, and she just glowed over it, even though it wasn't entirely correct. It helps that I was the only one who actually did the assignment, though. This is also the class that forced me to learn the 22 provinces of Ecuador and their capitals, which I now know better than anyone else in my class. I always end up embarassing the other students too ("You're not even Ecuadorian, and you know them better than I do..." "Yes... Jacob: 1, the World: 0.").

Gym: I hate this class too. We have to wear a special uniform. My first day, the gym teacher made us do all this stuff on the parallel bars, and on the chin-up bars, not making the girls do anything, of course, because they're too delicate. And then he's like, Okay, now climb up that thirty-foot arch, shimmy over to the other side, and come back down. So, most of the students climbed up, went hand over hand for ten feet while dangling thirty feet up, and then came back down. I say most, because I and a few other safety-conscious (read, unathletic) students decided not to take part in this particular activity. And there's one kid, Jorge Vinueza, who's a little on the chubby side, and the gym teacher thinks it's a big laugh to call him "Gordito," or "Fatso" in English. What a jerk. I hate that class.

2-D Composition: This class is nice. The teacher's a woman who spent a year in the U.S. as a foreign exchange student, much like me here in Ecuador. She speaks English, but of course she didn't tell me that until after I spent forever trying to ask her a complicated question in Spanish. On the whole, though, she's pretty nice. We spend the class looking at different works of art and seeing how they work, the elements and principles and whatnot. Fun stuff. She did think very highly of Jackson Pollock, though, and that's a strike against her.


English: This class is another mind-numbingly dull hour and twenty minutes. Since I already know English, I get to go down to the library and pass the time reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and translating the vocab from Spanish to English. Lately, though, the teacher's been asking me to "help" with her daughter's English homework, in which I basically work through one of the English workbooks. Sara's supposed to do the other one, but she decided she didn't feel like it, so she just spends the class reading Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I've decided that I'm just going to avoid the other foreign exchange kids as much as possible. Not all of them, but a few act like they came here on vacation, skipping school, ignoring family requests, that kind of thing, and I just don't want to be around them anymore. Not all of them, but a few.

Computation: I own this class. Mainly because I'm the only one who uses a computer on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. I got a 19/20 average. Yeah. We go to the computer class, and the teacher explains about files, and emailing, and stuff, and I try not to get caught playing Hearts. It's fun.

So, that's all for the classes. There's more stuff I could talk about, but I don't feel like it right now. Maybe for Friday.

Thanks, Tom, for commenting. And thank you, Keri, for commenting as well. As to your comment, no, I can't do that. My English teacher put a little countdown timer on the front page saying "X days, Y hours, Z minutes, α seconds until January Fifth! GET EVERYTHING DONE BY THEN OR DIE." AP Classes get special privileges, like the right to deny me of everything that is good and wholesome in my life, in the name of being on a pace of their choosing.




One of the hardest challenges I faced on coming to Ecuador was dealing with the change in food. Not only the viruses and bacteria and all that (I did get sick from an unboiled juice, if you remember), but from everything about the food.

I'll start with a statement on when food is eaten. Basically, they don't have dinner here. In the morning, you eat a small bit, maybe a bowl of cereal, some bread. After I get home from school, around 1:30, 2:00, we eat lunch, which is the biggest meal of the day. And in the afternoon? It really depends on the family. Because my host mother works in a pizzería, she's out of the house all evening, from 3:30 to 10:00. So, I don't usually eat dinner. If I need a snack, I'll grab a piece of bread, or maybe a bag of chips from the nearest convenience store (it's no 7-11, but it'll do). If I'm really starving, and I'm usually not, I'll go up two blocks to the nearest Chinese place and order a "mixto especial," which I'll get to in a minute. Anita (my host mother) has been getting on my case lately that I don't eat enough, so the housekeeper, Rosita, usually offers me rice or a hard-boiled egg or something. I have lost about ten pounds since I got here, but I'm at a healthy, stable weight now, so that's good. My Body Mass Index is in the normal range, at least. But that's not where I'm going with this. What I wanted to point out is that in Ecuador, Lunch is the most important meal of the day, not Dinner, like in the United States. People here have a very hard time understanding that when I tell them. People don't get that school goes from 7:30 to 3, or thereabouts, so kids don't get home in time for lunch, and parents are almost always working at that time, so no lunch there either. Here, family is very, very important, and eating lunch with the family is the most common expression of that fact. This is actually where most of the other AFS kids are having problems with their families. They come home and then go right out with their friends, not eating with the family. One mother said that she felt like the kid was just using her house as a hotel. The issue is that that's not being related to the students, and so they're not modifying their behavior at all. But it's not my place to say anything, so I don't. I just hope the other American kid doesn't get sent home. I like having someone else here who understands how important it is to go to KFC every once in a while.

The content of each course is different as well. Breakfast, for me, is always one of two things: juice, hot chocolate, and bread, or juice and cereal. Sometimes Anita'll mix things up with chopped fruit, but not usually. Lunch always consists of two things, if Rosita cooks, and she usually does. The first course, "sopa," is a soup of some kind, which can be chicken soup, noodle soup (my favorite), soup with potatoes, soup with yuca (my least favorite. I mean, it's Yuck-a soup.), cream of peas, cream of carrot, rice, baby rice, or some combination thereof. Noodle soups are few and far between, but that only makes them all the better when I get one. It's like winning on a scratch-off lotto ticket, not very often, not very much, but it always gives you a nice feeling inside. The second course is "seca," or the dry plate. This usually consists of three things: rice, a vegatable, and meat. The rice is white, and plain, and it never changes. The vegatable is usually some variation of potatoes, though once in a while I get peas (which I hate), carrots (which I also hate), corn (which I like), chocla (which I love), and on very rare occasions, french fries. Choclas are what I think of as bucktooth corn. It's a type of corn that's incredibly messed up, not neat and ordered like normal corn, but sort of scattered all over the cob. It's very tasty. The meat is usually chicken, though sometime's is porkchops or beef. Ever since I stopped eating when I heard it was cow liver, Anita's been trying to slip stuff by me, getting me to eat it by not saying what it is. She's been successful too. I ate cow tongue, which she insists is a delicacy, and cow liver. The second time around on the cow liver, I thought it just tasted bad because it was fried. Let me get this straight though: I always eat what's in front of me, except I just couldn't do it that one time with the cow liver. I ate freaking cow stomach soup, knowing full well what it was, because I didn't want to offend my host (I was over at a friend's house). I am good at this. Sometimes, when I win the dry-plate lotto, I'll get pasta, which is served with a tomato sauce and no rice or veggies. Anita likes having pasta with wine, so she'll usually get a red wine to go with it. The best lunch I've had here though, was Noodle soup and a dry-plate with rice, pork-chop, and French Fries. Awesome socks.

Going out to eat is a mixed bag. Occasionally, you get guinea pig.

Yes, the animal that we keep as pets. Or rabbit. I haven't had rabbit yet, but I expect that's coming. There are your normal restaurants, like chicken, and of course my mom owns a pizzería, but then there's Chinese food. Oh. Mah. Gourd. You'd think that Chinese food would be the same wherever you go, but it's not. Here, it is the best thing I have ever eaten. Okay, not really, but it's really really good. I order a "mixto especial," which is half taularin and half chaulafan. Taularin is noodles and sauce with thirty kinds of meat and shrimp, and onions and peppers with this awesome sauce on it. Chaulafan is rice with veggies and shrimp and chicken. It is so amazingly incredibly good. I love it. I could eat Chinese food every day, but I couldn't afford it. Oh, speaking of affordability: full-sized meal, about one pound of this mixto especial stuff, $3.10. Bottle of Coca-Cola? $0.50. Yeah. It's that good. Almost more than I can eat, $3.60. Awesome. Socks.

So, thank you to Tom and the anonymous person for posting. I'm getting more traffic now that I'm hyperlinking to my blog off the MIT admissions page. I looked up LaTeX, but I couldn't actually find the program, so, I'm sticking with MathType for now. Tom, I'm not getting a big head, I promise. But I am getting big hair! So, peace out for now, everybody.




So, I figured that maybe I could take a little time out of my busy schedule to fulfill my promise of updating my blog every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. So here it is.

In order to graduate from the Florida school system, I have to have one more English credit, a gym credit, and a health credit. Of course, when we started planning on my coming to Ecuador and leaving the IB system, which exempted me from these requirements, no one told us this, and so now I'm stuck having to get them from the Florida Virtual Schools system. Fun fun fun. Basically, my class list as of right now is Advanced Placement English Language and Composition, Gym, and Advanced Placement Calculus AB, which I'm taking for fun. On to the fun stuff. I'll go in order.

Advanced Placement English Language and Composition (APELC): This class is an über-fun example of how the inefficiency of the Florida School System kills everything that is good and sweet in my life. APELC is a "traditional pace" class, meaning it has two semesters of eighteen weeks each, or about four months, with the first semester ending on January Fifth, and the second semester ending in May, on the day of the APELC exam. This, by synthesis of knowledge, means that the first semester begins, for a student to be "on pace," as my teacher likes to say, in September. So when did I get placed into the class, even though my request was filled at the right time? The end of October. Meaning that I'm running at a seven-week defecit before I even start. And do I get extra time to make up for the time that was never given to me in the first place? No. I have to be finished by January Fifth, and for every two weeks behind I am, they knock off a letter grade. So, by doing just what is expected of me, and acing every assignment, I get a D. But, luckily, I am totally awesome (see below post about getting into MIT Early Admission), so this doesn't present much of a problem for me. Case In Point: since Wednesday, I've done twelve assignments, or roughly 15% of the semester, when the weekly requirement is four assignments. I intend to have twenty assignments done by Sunday. When I told my APELC teacher that (we talked, since I had an oral assessment on The Great Gatsby and some excerpts from Henry David Thoreau), she was like, "How did you do that?" Same response to me saying that I read The Great Gatsby in one night (which I did). Sometimes, when people come into contact with so much awesomeness, it burns out their eyes. But there is no charge for awesomeness. Or for handsomeness. My mom says I shouldn't get a big head, but I say that if there's anything worth getting a big head about this early in my life, it's probably getting into MIT early. But the class isn't all bad. I enjoy doing some of the assignments, like writing about how I'm declaring independence from the tyrrany of Florida Virtual Schools, and I did enjoy reading The Killer Angels, but some of the work is just annoying. The teacher's nice enough, though, Ms. Wasser. She, and my other teachers, tend to cut me some slack since I'm in Ecuador.

Gym: Whenever I tell people I'm taking Gym online, I usually get the same question: "How exactly do you take gym online?" Answer: I'm not really sure. I'm learning about flexing right now. Most of it is telling the teacher, Coach Lofgren, or Logfren, or Longfriend, or something, what you did to exercise. I'm thinking of just making it up. He wouldn't know. (Just kidding, Mom.) The Coach is a really nice guy. I got pretty behind in my other two classes, and so I asked him if I could get some time to catch up in those classes, and he rolled the clock back on my course to week one. Which is good, because apparently, the administrators are going through and ejecting anyone who's three weeks behind or hasn't turned in an assignment for three weeks. Without saying anything to us about it. Yeah. The Florida School System is garbage (day).

Advanced Placement Calculus AB (APCAB): So, because my mom thought that it'd be fun for me to take Calculus, I get a do-over on derivatives and integrals. I took the International Baccalaureate Calculus Standard Level (IBCSL), which covers almost exactly the same topics as APCAB, so I get a nice re-introduction to topics I learned a year ago. However, since APCAB does include more information than IBCSL, like trapezoidial sums that were a major part of the APCAB test last year, I can't go on to Advanced Placement Calculus BC, the second part of the two part class. And, since I took the APCAB test last year and scored a three out of five, I guess there's no harm in taking the APCAB test again, but better prepared. One of the most awesome things about this class is that it gives me access to a program called MathType. For anyone who has ever tried doing math homework in Microsoft Word (MSW), you know what I mean when I say typing equations into MSW is horrificly difficult. Microsoft fixed this somewhat with MSW 2007, but it's still garbage (day). MathType is the answer to everything I ever wanted in doing math on the computer. It's got a wonderful system for putting in every mathematical symbol one could possibly want, all correctly spaced and italicized and everything. With every assignment, there are a few extra problems that have to be typed up/scanned and turned in online, and writing them is the most enjoyable experience of my whole FLVS career. Maybe one day, my infaturation with this program will die out, but that day is a long ways away. Also on the plus side, since I know this stuff already, it's not that hard to turn out ten, twenty assignments to catch up to where I need to be. This class is taught by Irene Payne. I wonder if her father was in the military, where he may or may not have worked his way up to the rank of Major (pun).

I take a shotgun approach to FLVS, which is where I leave everything off for a while, then do thirty assignments for one single class in a row without stopping, switch to the next class and do thirty assignments, and so on and so forth, until I'm caught up all the way. This is probably the wrong way to do it, but that's probably not going to change until next semester, when I'm all caught up in APELC and APCAB and can work at a reasonable pace.

So, that's about all I have to say about FLVS for now. The above picture of the Help button is the fourth result from Google Image search for "FLVS". The first result is some really weird looking blonde teacher, and the ninth one is an advertisement for an "OLD SCHOOL PARTY" called Love Injection, featuring a black woman in an afro wig dancing. Yeah, the seventies were weird. Why do we want to go back? Why?

Thanks to Ahana Datta and my mother for commenting, even though I don't know you. Ahana, that is. Yes, I know you, Mom. And no, it's not surprising that I don't have many comments on my blog. After I took a month-long hiatus to write my novel, people stopped coming. I'm glad that other people are taking an intrest though that don't know me.

Also, I Really Love Acronymns, and I usually say them as though they were words, rather than saying the letters (like Ap-Cab and Ay-Pelk).




Received at 9:01PM, December 15, 2008:

Dear Jacob,

On behalf of the Admissions Committee, it is my pleasure to offer you admission to the MIT Class of 2013. You stood out as one of the most talented and promising students in one of the most competitive applicant pools in the history of the Institute. Your commitment to personal excellence and principled goals has convinced us that you will both contribute to our diverse community and thrive within our academic environment. We think that you and MIT are a great match.

You have until May 1, 2009 to let us know if you’ll call MIT home for the next four years. Until then, we look forward to building our relationship with you and helping you to get to know us better. Over the next several months, we’ll be in touch via phone, email, and web.

Because there’s no better way to get a taste of life at MIT than to spend some time here, I hope very much that you will attend our Campus Preview Weekend (CPW) for admitted freshmen, held on campus from April 16-19, 2009. You’ll attend classes, share meals and conversations with current students, and experience all the ways in which people spend their time and live their passions at MIT. (And most importantly, you’ll get to meet your future classmates!) Look for a new CPW portlet in your MyMIT account in January, which will contain schedule and registration information.

And now for the requisite fine print – I must remind you that this offer of admission is contingent upon your completing the school year with flying colors. (Because you’ve been admitted early, there will be many temptations throughout the rest of the year to keep you from your schoolwork. Please don’t let that happen!)

I hope you’ll agree with us that MIT is the perfect place to prepare for your future. As a member of our community, you’ll join builders, scholars, entrepreneurs, and humanitarians. Together, you will make all the difference in a world that desperately needs you.

Many congratulations, best wishes for a wonderful holiday season, and welcome to MIT! Now stop reading this and go celebrate. :-)


Stuart Schmill
Dean of Admissions

Received at 9:02PM, December 15, 2008:

Several strange looks from the other patrons of the internet café as I jumped into the air, screaming and yelling, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" and dancing to "You're the Best Around" from the Karate Kid.

About 5,000 people applied early action to MIT, and about 500 were accepted. And about 15-20 of those were from MITES.

Jacob "'13" Austin-Breneman


It Can Be Moar Photo Teims Now Plz?

Yeah, I figured that since everyone stopped reading my blog after the month-long absence to write my novel, it's the perfect time to post pictures!

For this particular occasion, my class was participating in an AIDS day parade, in which we made a sign and walked for about half an hour before attending a decent concert and getting out 2 hours early.
So, from left to right, the girls shown here are Valeria, Blanca Tuqueres, Blanca Piñan, and Carina Arroyo, who I accidentally called "Cariña" because it sounded like that. Hilarity ensued, I assure you. ("Cariña" means "dearie" or "sweetheart" in my official capacity as person who translates things for me.)

This is Richard Aldaz. I think. He gets annoyed because when I come around to collect money (I'm class treasurer) I'm never really sure it's him or not. You'd think I know by now, but this kind of thing happens a lot. I'm not good with names.

This is Ricardo Castillo and MaiTé Charlar. Her real name is María Teresa, which took me a while to figure out. These two are seriously involved in school politics and stuff like that, Ricardo being on the student government board, and the both of them getting called out of class every day for mysterious projects. Ricardo's the guy I usually play pick-up football (It's not soccer, you Americans) and basketball with.

On the left is Sarah, the Norwegian girl who also goes to my school, and on the right, Andrea Guevarra. Sarah takes a really lax view towards school, attending it, doing assignments, taking tests, respecting teachers, that kind of thing. She's actually on the plane coming back to Ecuador right now, because she went back to Norway to attend her grandfather's funeral. Andrea is a really nice girl, and NO, Jesse, she is not my girlfriend, nor are any of there girls pictured here, nor anyone in the world right now.

The shortie on the left is Edwin Stalin (Yes, his second name is really Stalin, and we actually call him by that name rather than Edwin) Castillo (No relation to Ricardo) and the woman on the left is the person from the school who got us into the parade. I don't know what her name is, because kids here call all the teachers "Licen" which is short for "Licenciado," but I do know that she's a doctor, because she got really ticked off at Edwin when he called her Licen and not Doctora. And if you're wondering who that handsome, short-haired guy in the middle is, IT'S ME!!! OMGWTFBBQ? Yeah, my hair's growing back! I figure in June it'll be long enough for the Inspector to make me cut it again! Fun Fact: Stalin rides the bus an hour and a half each way to school. Don't ask me why.

As you may remember, the guy on the left's Ricardo, but the other guy is Diego Rivilla. He's another mini-bigwig in the world of high school politics, not to mention being an absolutely fantastic artist. Next Friday, we're going to make a sculpture out of flowers that he designed.

That's the sign we designed and painted, and by "we," I mean the teachers designed it and told us we had to use their idea, even though we came up with some good ones. It ended up saying, even though it's rolled up now, "Valora tu Vida, Protégete de SIDA-VIH" which means "Value your life, protect yourself from HIV-AIDS." My personal favorite was "¡No Tengas Sexo!" but Diego shot that one down with the quickness. The kid holding the sign here is Renan Cobo, who is quite possibly the most annoying kid I've ever met. He whistles really badly all the time, flicks lights on and off, opens and shuts windows and doors, and moves desks around. It's annoying, and sometimes I just go "Shut UP, Cobo!" But of course he doesn't understand.

This is what we painted on everyone's face. I think our school was more prepared than any of the other ones. Our sign was definitely the best. The administrators highjacked our Artistic Drawing class and made us work on it. Apparently, if it involves art, our school has to be the best. Or else.
This smiling kid here is Alexander Ramos, another good friend of mine, getting his face painted. Diego looks sternly at him, reminding him not to move. Alex doesn't like football, but rather basketball.

And here's a pretty decent shot of my class. The faces are small, but from Left to Right, it's Richard Aldaz, Blanca Tuqueres, Edwin Cuasque (A cool dude), Carina Arroyo, Alexander Ramos, Jorge Vinueza, Mishel Armas, Alex Tituano, Alex Maldonado (We've got three Alexs and two Blancas), José Romero, Ricardo Castillo, Diego Rivilla, and Edwin Stalin Castillo.
So yeah, after the parade, we went to a concert that had some interesting musicians, including an indigenous group that played pipes and drums. Then a really bad rap group came on, and the Doctor ushered us out.
SO, my computer's dead, something with the battery... *tear* "But Jacob, HOW ARE YOU POSTING ON THE INTERNET IF UR COMPUTERS DEAD??? OMGWTFBBQ." I'm at an internet café, which seems to be a really hard concept for people to grasp, because almost every time I tell someone about my computer, I get the OMGWTFBBQ response. Oh well. I find out Monday whether I got accepted, rejected, or deferred to MIT! I'll post on here the result! Unless I got rejected, in which case I'll be giving myself a lobotomy, Mr. Cheney and the Ice Pick style.
Peace out.


A History of Ecuador, Part I

So, I've decided that I'm going to start posting interesting things about the history of Ecuador as people tell me them, with minimal fact checking because that means work, and I'm up to my ears in Florida Virtual Schools as is. Besides, this is about how people interpret history, not how "facts" or "books" "say" that "history" "is." Without further ado,

The History of Ecuador, Part I
As told by Anita Yepez.

Back in the distant past of the 1990s, Ecuador used a form of currency called Sucres. Sucres were doing okay for a while, but then the economy imploded and the value of Sucres went up to around 2,500 Sucres to one dollar. As you can imagine, this was pretty bad, even with the lower cost of goods and services relative to the United States. So, the president of 1999 decided that things weren't going to get better, so he instituted a radical change to make the Dollar the official currency of Ecuador, doing away with Sucres. Now, I didn't ask, but it must have been really crazy for a while, with people having to exchange Sucres for dollars and some people accepting Sucres while others didn't, and no one really understanding what was going on. I imagine something similar must have happened in Europe with the switch to Euros, but in Europe, 40% of the economy isn't made up by informal trading (Meaning a man on the street selling corn, or a woman at a booth selling chickens). But, the switch was made, and there was no going back.

However, the change included some inherent problems. For example, Anita's mother, who was and still is retired, was earning a pension of about 250,000 Sucres a month. When everything switched over, that pension went down to 100 dollars a month. There are a few places where you can live comfortably off of 100 dollars a month, I suppose, but Ecuador isn't one of them, not if you've got a house and bills. Now, you might be saying, "But it was the same amount of money before, why didn't it work?" And I'm asking myself that too. But what I think is that people had a sort of natural control on inflation, after a certain point, and kept prices down to a not un-reasonable level. That is to say, when the switch was made to dollars, lower prices were upped a bit because there was a new cushion for what was acceptable. Keep in mind that I'm not an economist, and I have no idea if what I'm saying is even remotely right. But whatever. Anyways, things like that, that were on a fixed level, were insufficient, and for a few months, my host grandmother lived off of 100 dollars a month. Eventually, things got straightened out and things were okay. And it was a very good thing that Ecuador switched to dollars, according to Anita, because inflation was incredibly rampant, and it was just going to get worse from there.

And a little bit of money-related bonus not-quite-history information: The Sports Minister of Ecuador just absconded with several million dollars' worth of government funds. How does the Sports Minister get access unguarded to that kind of money? Also, you may be wondering how exactly an informal economy works. Well, basically, much of if not most of the business transactions here take place in some form that is not taxed by the government, for one reason or another, whether it be a guy on the street with clothespins and batteries or a fruit vendor in Otavalo's giant farmer's market. So, the government raises the sales tax to 12% to cover the difference. Can you imagine buying a car with 12% sales tax? It's insane. You get small benefits in buying a pound and a half of strawberries for fifty cents, but trying to buy a house? It's murder. Things work differently here.

So, I finished my novel, and I'm buried under work from my online classes. So, I'm not really sure how often I'm going to be posting. I haven't written in my diary, and I'm not sure when I'm going to start that up again. In January, I should be in a better situation. Oh, and I'm entering a novel-writing contest in February, sponsored by Penguin Books in which the winner gets a $25,000 publishing contract against royalties, so if you read my novel and have feedback for me, please send it to me. I'd love to hear it. Ciao.