Chapter Fifty-Eight

In which Jacob goes on a retreat,
Breaks his New Year's Resolution,
Takes a trip to far-off reaches, and
Learns why Never to piss off Anita.

I really wasn't sure how to organize this post, since a lot of important things have happened to me in the past four days, so I figured I'd just go with chronological order.

This weekend, AFS had the Mid-Stay orientation. Suzanna (AFS volunteer), her niece Lady, the other AFS kids, and I all got on a bus and traveled to the Valley of Chota, the place where all the black people live. Well, not all of them, but lots and lots of black people live in Chota. Since we couldn't leave the hotel, I only got a few pictures. Sorry.

The trip started off in a rocky manner. Anita and I showed up first, ten minutes early, and sat around for a while. Then Suzanna and Lady got there, and we sat around until 8:10, waiting for the other kids. They eventually arrived, but Lotta was alone. As you may or may not remember, Lotta and Daniele are living in the same house, so it was strange for them not to arrive together, but Lotta said Daniele was sick and couldn't make it. Suzanna flipped out, and said if he didn't go, he'd be sent home. So Daniele showed.

Traveling in buses is always difficult for me. I keep trying to read my book, or sleep, but I always end up watching the scenery. Ecuador is such a beautiful place.

The hotel was a pretty nice place, with a pool, and banana trees, and stuff.

From left to right, Alexandra, Hannes, Lotta.

Well, on the first day, we had to do some stupid orientation stuff, filling out questionares about what our family was like, and how we were getting along. It was really boring, the kind of stuff I expected to be doing. AFS isn't real big on the creative aspect. This meeting was the first time in a long time that all the AFS students were together in one place. Usually one or two people, often Alexandra and/or Hannes, don't show, but this time we were all there.

Before lunch, Suzanna went around and asked us all about our families. Now, because Anita's one of the most involved volunteers in AFS, I get to hear everything that's going wrong with all the different families, so it kind of upset me when I had to listen to people telling blatant lies about how well they were doing. For example, Johannes's family is extremely upset with him, because he's never at home. His mother complains that he uses their home like a hotel, just comes home from school (if he even went that day. He's missed two days of school every week since forever.), maybe eats lunch, goes to Ibarra (he lives in San Antonio), and comes back at 9, 10 o'clock. Yet, there he was, telling us about how he's doing so well with his family, how he's got such a "special" relationship with his mom. It made me want to puke.

After lunch, we had a couple of hours free until we had to continue, so Camille and I hung out, talking about Harry Potter (I told her my awesome 19 Years Later idea), listening to her iPod, 'n' such stuff as that. Suzanna was on a tear about no one talking in Spanish, but everyone pretty much ignored her. Eventually, she just gave up.

Lady was really nice. When Camille and I had exhausted our ideas over better names for Harry's children and listened to about every song by Weird Al Yankovich, Lady came over and offered to teach us how to play "40", which we accepted. Now, 40 is a game so complicated it makes Mao look like tiddlywinks. There are maybe a hundred different rules, and it wasn't until the very end that I actually caught on. Camille, after trying and failing, gave up, and went into her room and listened to her iPod. There are some things that just don't change. But I played for a bit, and I taught her Go Fish and Egyptian Rat Screw, and we found out the they play Gin Rummy in Ecuador and in America. She was really pleasant, and open. Which was good, since I successfully alienated myself from most of the other exchange students.

At 6:00PM, we met up and we had to give presentations on different subjects. I think it was at this point that I realized I was going to break my eighth New Year's Resolution, Don't get mad at people and never talk to them again. We all talked about different topics, like I did Religion, and some other people did Social Relations and Sports. Now, this should have been a way to objectively examine the differences between our home countries and Ecuador, but instead, it degenerated into a pity fest where everyone talked about why they hated Ibarra. It was disgusting. People said things like, "Everyone in Ibarra is a hypocrite," or "Everyone in Ibarra lies." It was the worst display of stereotyping I think I've ever seen. And Alexandra and Hannes were like, "Oh, and my house is so dirty." Now, unless your house is crawling with cockroaches and taking a shower actually makes you dirtier, I think that saying your house is dirty is an incredible insult. That's just me. Apparently, it wasn't so for Alexandra or Hannes, or they just didn't care. I don't know Alexandra's family at all, but I met Hannes's sister, and she seemed pretty nice, so it upset me to hear them talk so cavalierly about how nasty their homes were.

But that wasn't what made me most upset. No, Suzanna wins the "I Pissed Jacob Off the Most" Prize. I expected Suzanna to be at least a little upset, but on the contrary, she encouraged them. Suzanna made a big deal about how she was NOT from Ibarra, that she studied in Quito in the American school, and had traveled all around Europe, and had a white, blonde-haired daughter, and in short wasn't a filthy Ecuadorian. I wanted to say, "Your daughter's about as white as I am," though of course I didn't. Now, there's a very clear reason why Suzanna's like that: Internal Racism. That's where a person emulates another group (usually Europeans) to the extent that they begin to hate or stereotype the ethnic or national group they come from. Here's my Dragonball Z example, to help you understand:

This is Goku. He's the most powerful character in the anime. No, Gohan is not more powerful than Goku, I don't care what you say. Now, Goku usually comes in two styles, Regular Saiyin and Super Saiyin. Super Saiyin's the more powerful one. See if you can pick which one of these is the Super Saiyin photo.

If you picked, European Goku, you're right! The weaker form that Goku keeps trying to change out of has black hair and black eyes. The strong form that always amazes people when he changes into it has blonde hair and blue eyes. That's what I mean by internal racism. The Japanese makers of the show are consciously or unconsciously portraying Europeans as more powerful and desirable.

This is external racism, for comparison.

Now, Internal Racism is a very sad thing, and, truth be told, I expected to see it sooner or later, with all the American influence there is here, and I sympathize with people that suffer from it. At least, I thought I did. Then I met Suzanna, and listened to her pandering to a bunch of snot-nosed brats just because they were white, and I can't bring myself to think, Well, it's not her fault. I was disgusted.

Then we had dinner, and I gobbled down my food and disappeared into my room and read my book. Throughout most of the orientation, I had been drawing, or writing my graveyard story, but after that session, I just needed to crash and lose myself into the story of the Joads. I was reading The Grapes of Wrath. Evetually, people started drifting in, and we formed a mutual ignorance, where I wasn't there for them and they weren't there for me. Lady came in and asked if I wanted to play cards, which I did. Turns out, she didn't like most of the other AFS students either. She asked why I didn't get along, and I said that it seemed to me like they had just come here like it was a trip. Which is exactly why I don't like them. The program is not so they can go to Baños and Peñas every five minutes, ditching their families and not asking for permission even. I also don't appreciate them taking potshots at America every other sentence. Suzanna was like, "Oh yeah. Europeans learn their own language and English. I know English and my language. How many languages do you know?" I was like, The only reason you're learning English is because America is so awesome. You don't see every country in the world trying to learn German, or Spanish, do you? No. You don't. So shut up, and sit down. Well, you are sitting, but stay sitting. I keep wanting to say "Hitler!" whenever Johannes tries to badmouth America, but I'm saving that for a later time.

The next day, Sunday, Lady left early in the morning to go back to Ibarra, and the rest of us stuck around to talk more. I bolted my breakfast and hid in my room again until we had to talk. I could tell Alexandra was starting to get pissed off, but I didn't care. Sunday only brought more fuel to the "I hate the other Foreign Exchange Kids" fire. Alexandra and Johannes both said flat out that the reason they came to Ecuador was as tourists. Alexandra was complaining about how her school gives homework (Gasp!), and if one of her friends came over and wanted to go out, well, she sure as hell wasn't going to stay shut up inside doing work. "I came to Ecuador to have fun, not to go to school," I think were her exact words. Johannes, in complaining that AFS never takes them anywhere, said, "I came here to get to see the country." Now, AFS is not a tourism program on the year-stay. The summer-stay, yeah, because there's no school, but not the year-long program. But more than that, it's an insult to the work Anita and the families are doing. They're not bending over backwards so a couple of rich kids can stay and live it up. They really want us to be here so we can see how people live, get to know another culture, the school system, etc., and to flat out say that doesn't matter, they only want to have fun, is like spitting in the faces of the people who work so hard for them.

Oh, and Johannes's family had the option of picking an American (me), or a German (Johannes), and they picked the German, not knowing anything about us other than our nationalities. WELL. Looks like you made the wrong choice! Sorry, but Johannes was really laughing at me and America about that, so I can only laugh on my blog about him. I'm not an America-phile, but you step on Barack Obama, them's fightin' words.

Suzanna, though, still wins. Rather than, you know, correcting them on their mistaken belief that AFS is a touristic program, Suzanna said, "Oh, that's terrible, I'll organize trips myself for you poor suffering children." Sorry, but when you can shell out three hundred bucks at the drop of a hat to go on a trip around the country, you lose any "poor suffering child" status you may have had before. I was talking with Anita about how they didn't invite me on that trip, and she said it was probably because I was living with her, and she would have put a stop to it.

Lunch, though, was where it finally hit the fan. I didn't think quick enough to ask to take my lunch in the dining room, so I had to sit out there with everyone I had been avoiding. Alexandra in particular was pretty upset. She said, "Suzanna thinks you're being very impolite by not talking." My response was a "And I care because...?" I thought it was phrased very well. I asked if it bother her that I didn't want to be around them, and she sort of huffed at me. In the words of the Immortal Dwight Schrute, "Reject a woman, and she will never forget it." It's a good thing I don't care.

So, then last night, I get back, and hey! Carlos is there! Carlos, for those of you not in the know, is Anita's son. I told him about how upset I was with the other exchange students, and that ate up some time until we had to go get Magna! Magna, not Magma. Magna is a Norwegian guy who's thirty, and he was one of Anita's first exchange students that she hosted, 12 years ago. He's back, and he found himself an Ecuadorian girlfriend! I told Magna about the other AFS kids, and he was like, "Screw 'em." He's a good guy.

On Monday, I ditched school and went to Ambato, which is the capital of Tungurahua. Yay hypocrisy!

What a beautiful place!

Anita had to go because Carlos is in some kind of trouble. He wanted out of a company, so he took his computer and desk and stuff that was his out. The other people were upset, and put out a warrant for his arrest. So, Anita had to go and sort stuff out. I also learned that it's not a good idea to make Anita angry. The phone rings, and I hear Anita say, "You say 'Let him deal with it by himself' NOW, but when this company was first getting started and you needed money, it was, 'Where's Mrs. Anita?' Well, Wars have two sides! YOU WANTED WAR, YOU'VE GOT ONE, YOU LITTLE SHIT." I've been keeping a low profile.

I haven't been in a large city in ages. It was really fun.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but is that a blue-and-grey version of the Thundercats symbol?

And now for an interim segment of


La Mama Negra is apparently a funtastic celebration held every year in Tungurahua on October 11th. Erm...

And, to round things off, a fun picture of Me, Anita, and Carlos.

Thanks for commenting, Silvia. I'm glad you like the photo. Yeah, I just ignore all my teachers now. I know what's awesome, and what's not! Thanks, Ezra, for commenting. I'm not changing my Extra-Special Racism Pic of the Month segment. That's here to stay. :-)

That's all for now. ¡Ciao!


blackgirlart said...

You are the best! Anita is REGAL! I love the pictures. Don't feel sorry for people suffering from internal racism - stay away from them! You are doing everything you need to do!

Keep painting!

Love you,

Kristina said...

Glad to see that you are enjoying Ecuador, for the most part. Reading this blog is making me look forward to foreign exchange in college. I cannot wait.

Things in Florida are the same. Yay for ignoring teachers!


silvia said...

Hi Jake!

I'm not going to defend those AFS fools. However, as somebody living in a developing country, I want to note that homesickness makes it too easy to stereotype the developing country as being inferior in every way. I make a conscious effort to try to understand the things I see that are bad, and to remember the things that I see that are good, but it's not always easy...

Victoria said...


My favorite part is the Dragon Ball Z example! I never noticed that!

Seems to me like all those AFS kids should quite drinking hater-ade and get over themselves.

p.s. Anita reminds me of my mom when she gets mad XD

Anonymous said...

You dumbass! Dragonball was a black-and-white manga. The reason GOku's hair and eyes turned those colors is because you don't have to shade them in on manga panels.

Toriyama only had one assistant. That's unusual for a manga author. To help his assistant out, he made Goku's transformation look the way it did to cut down on the shading and ink work for his assistant to do.

Also, according to the Japanese census, 98.5% of Japanese people are native Japanese. All other non-Japanese races make up only 1.5% of the population. So, "white power" style racism isn't really a thing over there. You can't just apply Western (American?) racism to every country equally. It doesn't work that way. By doing so you ignore the existence of other cultures by assuming that every country has the same racial and political issues as the US.

"Internalized racism?" More like "projecting my Western outlook onto other cultures."