How Many Times Can I Mention My Dad in One Post?

Well, I was just thinking today about my father, who is undoubtedly the most amazing man in the history of everything, serving as the inspiration for every single amazing thing I do in my life (which is a lot of stuff), and I thought, Hey, maybe I should do a blog post about him!

Oh, and, you know, other, less important stuff like photographs of my teachers and the
orphanage home for children that I work at.

So, I've done a couple of posts about the orphanage home for children I work at, but so far I've been too afraid of the nuns to take pictures. But, since I know my dad would like to see pictures of the kids and stuff, so I bit the bullet and asked for permission. Which they gave. No biggie.

This is Erika! Now, all the kids at the orphanage home for children (I'm trying to change that word in my mind, but it's hard) love me, but some of them try to pretend like they don't in order to get my attention. Erika's not one of those. She also gets really upset easily, and is a favorite target of Sor. Linda (I figured out her name. 'Sor.' is a title, which I don't know what it stands for yet, and her name is Linda. [not kidding] I didn't get a picture of her.) She's pictured here next to a map of Ecuador, which still includes land ceded to Peru in a war back in the 1990s. She's also wearing red, which is not green, which is my dad's favorite color.

The brown-skinned girl in the back is Dominik, the girl not looking at the camera, Nicole, and the girl getting the bunny ears, some weird girl not in my study group whose name I don't know who follows me around because I give her candy. Dominik is hilarious. When she found out I was taking pictures, she tried to get into every one. And nearly succeeded. Also liked to try and put her finger on the lens. Kind of annoying. Nicole is the other girl like Erika who follows me around and grabs my arm and tries to get me to sit next to her even when she's not doing homework. I tell you, this volunteering business is a dangerous game. I'm reminded of that time when my dad worked in Mexico at a clinic with just women. That little girl is too young to be in the room where I am. The other American guy, Robert, works with their group.

The girl on the left is Anahí, and the one in the middle is María. You already met Dominik. Anahí is really energetic, always bouncing around. María is a 20-year-old German girl who lives at the orphanage full-time, volunteering and giving English lessons and stuff. She's taller that most people here, like my dad would be if he lived in Ecuador.

The girl on the right is Silvia, who managed to get her eyes closed in every picture I took of her, and the girl on the left is *gasp* Dominik! Silvia's a really nice girl, the only fully black one in my study group. I'm not sure whether Dominik is mulatto or (more likely) mestizo, but the black people here are really, really dark. Silvia is the hardest working and (coincidentally) the smartest girl in my study group. She's in the same grade as Erika (who's also really smart but doesn't want to put any effort in) and Amelia (who wasn't there that day, so I don't have a picture of her), but does her work about two or three times as fast as them. You know who's also a hard worker? My dad.

This is Anahí, holding up Friday's snack of Bread and Yogurt. That brownish blur is Dominik, trying to jump into the camera. Took me about 4 shots to actually get this much.

This is Silvia's little sister. She's like that other little girl above in two ways: One, I don't know her name. Two, she only talks to me to ask for candy.

This is a little kid whose name I don't know (noticing a pattern here?). Although this is a girl's home for children, some of the girls have brother who come to visit and hang out. Just little kids, though. Haven't seen any older guys.

Sometimes the kids try to trip me up by asking if I know their names. Luckily, they just started a few weeks ago, right after I had finally learned each of their names.

So, Thursday night, I headed out to the Earthly Terminal (that's what it's called) for my teachers' show!

This is my Drawing teacher, one Sr. López. He's a nice guy, really soft-spoken. He had some interesting stuff, as you can see here in this really dark picture. There's another painting that I didn't upload where the main figure is a naked black woman. She's got the curly hair and everything. I didn't ask him about it. Probably should have. Maybe he's married to a black woman, like my dad.

This is my 2-D Composition teacher, la Sra. María Elena. She's one of the two teachers I have who teaches art the way I think it should be done, focusing on conveying information about techniques and different thought processes rather than making a painting you can sell in Otavalo for $50. She's also the only teacher who has shown an awareness of the existence of abstract art, though she does like Jackson Pollock, which is a strike against her. I like this painting the best out of all of them, though I think I may be alone. When I showed Diego (who didn't go to the show, but went with me to the terminal on Saturday for another reason), he said, "You like this?" I asked Sra. Elena about the painting, and she said that it's figurative of the idealism of femininity. She told me she's reading now a book about how all the leaders of the ancient past were women, and then men used their sexual powers and tricks and stuff like that to gain control (not exaggerating here). She's pretty feminist, which is a bit refreshing in a place where my old history of art teacher once spent twenty minutes explaining that the woman's place was in the kitchen. You know who else supports women's rights? My dad.

This is my sculpture teacher's painting. His name is Carlos Torres. I didn't realize that he painted, but apparently, he does! And, he also paints naked women, unsurprisingly. Nice guy. Like my dad.

This is my painting teacher, Rivadellera or something like that. I think I've complained enough about my painting teacher in other posts that I don't need to do it here. But the painting's nice, if a bit typical of the paintings with the subject matter and exaggerated hands (Jesse and Silvia know what I'm talking about. Hey, you know who my brother's father is? My dad.).

Other prestigious figures who showed up include:

My Social Studies teacher, the second from the left.

My school's principal, the guy in the center there.

My Literature teacher.

The school Inspector, the guy in the middle.

This man, who I think was a retired teacher, who can only be correctly described as Eyebrow Man. I didn't notice why my Weirdar was going off until I took a closer look.


MaiTe, Mishel, Valeria and I were the only people who went to the show from our class. It was shameful. Speaking of shameful, I just learned the word for shameful! Vergonzoso! I was tired of saying "It's a shame."

That's, from the right, Mishel, MaiTé, Valeria and some girl I don't know.

Then some cowboys started dancing, and the thing was over.

So, last post was pretty big on comments! I had 6 comments on that post, the most I've ever had on a single post. The previous record was five, held by Food, FTJ: 8-28-08, and The Things People Say. I'm not sure what the big draw was, since there were no cooked pets, pictures of other AFS kids, or hilarious lolcats (the Soylent Milk one I thought was so-so). Let's get down to business, then.

Thanks for commenting, Dad. I had forgotten how important you are in shaping my life, so I mentioned you twelve times in this post. I'll get the other eight soon. Thanks for commenting, Tom. I like my dad too. Hey Anonymous! Why don't you go write a poem and not attribute it to yourself? Or, like, go give valuable information to the police without giving away your own identity! Or, maybe not be a moron! That's a thought. (Disclosure: If you're actually someone I know who just didn't put a name, I'm only kidding. If you're not, I mean every word.) Thanks for commenting, Jesse. Yeah, I think "home for children" is the best way to describe it. There's no school there. María told me yesterday that some of the kids were beaten by their parents, so it could be that too. To throw another wrinkle into defining it, though, one of the girls, Joanna, just stays there until 6 or so to do homework, then goes home with her mother. And it's not that my blog is popular enough to pick up trolls, it's that it's AWESOME enough. Also, it may not be a troll. Trolls usually have annoying usernames like "coolman87324" or "xXsexygrlXx213", and speak without proper grammar. Thanks for commenting, Mom. You got the wrong kind of troll there. You're thinking of this kind of troll. Jesse meant this kind. Thanks for commenting, Ben. I come back to the US on June 18th, and will be going (relatively) north either in July, if I go to Maryland for the summer, or in August, for college.

Speaking of college, Harvard just got back to me, saying I was accepted, and giving me $51,200/$52,700 in financial aid! They also said specifically that my parents (this means you, Dad) don't have to pay anything! So that's good.

Well, that's all for now.



In a Handbasket

I thought I'd take a little time today to talk about one of the biggest parts of my life here in Ecuador, volunteering at a local orphanage. At least, I thought it was an orphanage, and then I found out they spend holidays with their mothers. But, until someone gives me a better name for it, it's gonna be "The Orphanage next to the San Francisco church."

It's a pretty nice building, actually. It's square, and has a large open courtyard in the center. There are a couple of places for having masses and that on either side, but I don't have many occasions to go into them. There are two floors, with most of the bedrooms being on the top floor along the east and north walls. The place where I usually hang out is the study. There are three studies in a row on the top floor facing the street, the south wall. I'm in the last one on the right. There's also another courtyard where we eat snacks, and a playground with really old swings and slides, and an open pool that scared the crap out of me the first time I saw it since it's deep, empty and right next to where the kids play.

But you guys don't really care about that. You want to know about what I actually do! What? You don't care? Well, I don't care about you guys either! Okay, yes I do. I'm sorry. But anyways, I work with the girls on their English homework. Oh yeah, it's an all-girls orphanage, kind of a sister institution to the all-boys orphanage a couple blocks away. I work with girls aged seven to about twelve. Because everyone here is really short the average height here is less than I'm used to, I have a problem with telling people's age during the teen years, since I usually go by height as the determining factor. So twelve is just a guess. Some of the high school girls from other studies try hitting on me, but I just ignore them, because the best way to make a girl interested in you is to totally ignore her.

One of the nice things about being in Ecuador is that for what seems like the first time, I'm living further away than my mom can reach.

I love you, Mom.

Yes, I know I'm not going to be living in Ecuador forever, and that I have to come home sometime.

Yes, I know that you control how much money I have.

I love you soooooo much.

Anyways, I help the girls with their English homework. The quality of the education in English here is terrible. Usually, I try not to make judgments on that, but it really is. For several reasons, most outside of the control of the teachers and the students. The kids aren't taught on a daily basis (in my school, it's three periods a week), the teachers aren't native speakers, and so fail pretty hard on nuanced (and sometimes not-so-nuanced) grammar and pronunciation. But sometimes I wonder, because these kids take English from first grade, and half of them don't know pronouns or even what "the" is. Now, I'm not there enough time to do some serious teaching that would be useful, and they're not old enough that it would stick anyway, and this German woman who's staying there is doing a good job of that as it is, so I just try and make sure they get their assignments done right. Which can be difficult, since half the time the textbooks mess something up, or the teacher himself puts something down wrong on the test (This actually happens frequently. And the girls tell me that he gets mad when I correct him, and makes vague suggestions that I should talk to him so he can show me up. Or maybe it's just the febrile minds of ten-year-olds.). It's funny seeing the exact same assignments I had to do (there is, there are) in Spanish class four years ago crop up again, but in English.

The group I work with is ten girls, Anita, Amelia, Joanna, Katerine, Dominik, Erika, Anahí, Nicole, Silvia and one little girl whose face I can picture in my mind but whose name is just not there. I've almost got them all, though. There's also a nun who stays in the room most of the time. I think her name's Soycatalina. Or it may be Soylinda. Or maybe Soylentgreen.

All the nuns, it seems, are named Soy-something. I don't understand it yet. They're all really old, except one. I take Bible stories more seriously from them, because I figure they were around to see most of them happen. Now, my friend's mother Heidi has long told me horror stories about the nuns at the Catholic school she attended, so I was somewhat prepared for the way the nuns would be, but I wasn't really prepared. A couple of months ago, Soylinda, or whatever her name is, took ten minutes out of her busy schedule to yell at one of the girls for eating an apple, because she wasn't sharing with the rest of the group. Now, it's an apple. And the girl's all of eleven years old. There's no need for that kind of reaction. See, this nun, she was a prayer. And one day, she goes off cra-a-a-zier than usual. So Erika gets the sharp wit to defend herself. And Soylinda doesn't like that. Not. One. Bit. So she calls Erika an "empty-headed clown" and starts yelling about how she don't get no respect (I only wish I were kidding), and how she hates hypocrisy. Erika tells Soylinda to shut up and leaves. One of the funny things about Spanish is that you can say things inherently insulting, like "shut up," but using the formal form of the verb. I don't even know what it was about. At least she didn't start hitting the girl. I dunno what I would have done then.

That's about all I can think of with respect to the orphanage. I'm gonna get some pictures of it, probably next week, for your viewing pleasure. Stay tuned.

Thanks for commenting, Mom. I don't know why people are scared of cats and not dogs. Probably the same reason why Camille and I walk around ladders when everyone else here goes right under them. And it's true that nobody is afraid of the dogs. Kids'll go up and pet them. Thanks Jesse, for commenting as well. Carlos mentioned off-hand that Jesus wasn't a Jew, he was a "Galileo." Assuming he wasn't referring to the famous astronomer, I have no idea what that could mean. Thank you also to Diana, for commenting and following my blog. I was intrigued by your comment about being in Chile, so I looked at your blog "A Temporary Santiaguina," but there's only the one post...

That's pretty much all for now! Oh, also, I'm sick of car alarms and politics. But that's another story, and shall be told, another time.



The Things People Say


I'm gonna warn you up front, this post is going to be highly subjective, insomuchas I didn't ask people what they meant (you'll understand once you read), and it all comes through my American Lens. So, if you're the kind of person who gets upset at that sort of thing (I'm not pointing any fingers), then you may want to skip down to the bottom. It's just that things have sort of come to a head, for me, with this topic, and I like using this blog to talk about things that I can't really talk about here.

Like racism and anti-Semitism. So, the Channel (a TV station named just that) was showing a movie, one you may be familiar with. The Passion of the Christ, with Mel Gibson. And so, not being so much of a fan of whips tearing flesh off of bones, I left. Then, yesterday, Anita's son Carlos shows up, and he and Rosita start talking about the movie. Carlos specifically mentioned the whip-flesh-tearing as one of the reasons he liked the movie so much (It was so real!), and even made the sound with his mouth. I nearly laughed, but I held it in. Somehow, the topic got around to how awful the Romans were treating Jesus, and how awful it was. And then it was, Oh, and the Jews were awful too, spitting on him and no sé qué, no sé cuánto. Rosita wondered aloud why people don't blame the Jews for the crucifixtion, and Carlos said that after what happened in WWII, you can't blame Jews for anything.


I, of course, remained characteristically silent throughout the entire conversation, but then Carlos says to me, "You know how Jews are in the US, right, Jacob? They have all the money." I just sort of mumbled something, and the conversation moved on. I mean, how am I supposed to respond to that? I feel a little more sympathetic towards Hannes now (not much more, though). I could have said, "I have family members who are Jewish, friends who are Jewish, and they're not exactly rolling in dough. And I don't like it when you denounce an entire group of people, the vast majority of whom you've never met and don't know anything about." But what would that have accomplished? Not going to change Carlos's mind on anything. It's just going to put him more on edge around me then he already is (A guy under twenty thirty forty who doesn't like going out every night until 2 o'clock in the morning? What the hell is wrong with him?). It's like my Mom says, Sometimes you have to pick your battles.

But this brings up other questions to my mind. Whenever there's a discussion of crime, it's the Columbians who are entering into the country illegally. The guys who kidnapped Camille's host grandmother? The Columbian gang. The guys who broke into the house? Some Columbian hoodlums. The person who controls all the assaults in Yacucalle? That one black guy. Okay, so it's not all Columbians, but whenever the high crime rates are mentioned, it's usually Columbians who are responsible. And this is coming at me from various sources, Anita, Rosita, people on the radio, people on the TV. The scary thing is, is that I get the feeling that I've heard this all before. In the US. It's the same kind of thing as people saying the Hispanic immigrants are stealing our jobs. It's xenophobia, scapegoating. I mean, yeah, there are some Columbian criminals, like the drug cartels, just like there are immigrants who come to the US for less-than-honorable reasons. But there are far more immigrants who come to Ecuador, who come to the US, to support their family, to earn a living. And there are Ecuadorian criminals and American criminals too. It's just kind of upseting when people denounce the way Americans treat immigrants in one breath and then rant about those "Columbian thieves" the next. But, whatever. I should know by now to accept human frailty when I see it and be grateful for those acts of human kindness that there are, few as those may be.

On an unrelated note, I went and hung out with Rodrigo yesterday. We went and played basketball, and soundly got our asses handed to us by a girl and her friends. Thankfully, it was just the one girl on their side, so it wasn't so embarrassing. Still, it was like, 20-13. After that, we went and played guitar for a bit. Rodrigo's teaching me what he calls "punteado", which is playing just one string at a time. I dunno what it's called in English (I'm developing an artistic vocabulary of words I only know how to say in Spanish, like "esfumear"). He's also teaching me scales. Music is really cool. After that, he told me about how he went to the beach in Montañitas, and met this one English girl there, and he wanted to write her a love song in English. I suggested that we translate a love song he had already written, so we set about doing that. It actually turned out pretty cool. We're going to record it later today, and I'll see if I can find some way of uploading it to this page (any suggestions for music hosting?). Then we went to the internet, and Rodrigo got worried when he read an email from his German girlfriend saying that's she's going to be here in two months... Ah, the pitfalls of love.

So, that's about all. I'm planning on doing a post about the politics here, but that's another story, for another time. Sorry for the lack of Photoshopped pictures in this post. They take a long time, and I couldn't really think of one. To make up for it, here's a lolcat someone else made:

Yeah, mom, that other lolcat picture was one I got off the internet and added my own caption to. There aren't really any cats here. I think people are scared of them (not kidding). Thanks for commenting. You too, Kris.

Oh yeah, and I updated my self-portrait page, so crazy go nuts.



Why I'm Online at 10AM

It's Holy Week!

all terms translated directly from Spanish

If you're like me, then you only had a vague idea of what this term means (something to do with Jesus, probably) before actually asking somebody. You were just happy when you got Spring Break, and if it happened to coincide with Easter, then hey, okay. Things are a little different here. Holy Week started last Sunday (I think), with Branch Sunday (called Palm Sunday in other parts of the world).

Sunday morning started out with me wondering why Anita was making me get up so early. Usually she lets me lie in bed until whenever I feel like (never later than 8:30, because I'm incapable of sleeping past 7:30), but Sunday was different. I also wondered why she was well dressed and carrying branches.

It was only later that it struck me that HEY, maybe this has something to do with Branch Sunday and Easter! Upon arriving at this thrilling epiphany, I ran upstairs to change into a Florida shirt and black non-jeans that were slightly more presentable than the torn brown pants and t-shirt I was wearing. Then we went to church, arriving a fashionable half-hour late, which Anita swears was due to one of the singers telling her 11 instead of 10:30. We rushed in past the people selling pre-made branches to those churchgoers who had forgotten to get some.

Church here lasts only one hour, so in a surprisingly short amount of time, people were crowding up around the Father with their branches, and he was throwing Holy Water on them.

It was kinda like in a concert, where everyone holds lighters.

Then we went home and had a giant bowl of Fanesca with Anita's mother and notably without any other members of Anita's family. Anita was kind of upset, because usually the whole family comes to her house on Branch Sunday to eat Fanesca, and all of a sudden "No one liked Fanesca." Now, Fanesca is a mashed-up paste kind of thing made of cream, potatoes, beans, peas, weird green things in shells that I think are vegetables, fried balls of dough, fried bananas, cheese, boiled eggs, and melloco. Now, most of the stuff in here is pretty nasty, like the cheese, the green vegetable-fascimiles, the melloco, but somehow it works out to taste pretty good. But then I had to eat it for lunch and dinner on Friday and Monday because Anita made a lot of it. Trust me, you realize why they only make Fanesca here during Holy Week.

Things were pretty quiet for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and then things kicked right back up with Holy Thursday. I found on Wednesday night that Holy Thursday and Holy Friday meant we couldn't eat meat. You know what that means. Moar Fanesca.

So, the horror ends on Saturday, and we get Easter, and then I have to go back to school. Ewwwww.

Oh, and Anita's daughter's pregnant.

That's all for now. And Jesse, two points. I understand that Boston is negligibly further from Florida than Providence. I was being sarcastic. I'm taking this fact about as seriously as I am the one about H.P. Lovecraft (that is to say, not at all). Also I was technically correct. The best kind of correct. ;) Thanks for commenting.




Places I Want to Go when I Get Back to the States:
  1. The Video Game arcade (The only DDR they have here is the knock-off brand with diagonal arrows)
  2. The ocean (I'm in the mountains. It's cold. And not wet.)
  3. Barnes & Nobles (I'll have like, thirty back issues of manga to go through)
Food I Want to Eat when I Get Back to the States:
  1. Chicken wings (Homemade, if possible, from McKenna's if not)
  2. Barbecue Ribs (Homemade)
  3. Calzone (From Pepino's, only option)
  4. Pizza (Also from Pepino's)
  5. Slurpee (Volcano kind, which is Cherry-flavored on the bottom, Coca-Cola-flavored in the middle, and Cherry again on top)
  6. Beef Jerky (You'd be amazed the things you miss when you're not in America for seven months)
  7. Ice cream (First from Dairy Queen, then from the supermarket [Panda Paaaaaws], then from the Banana Split Republic)
Wait. Okay, Panda Paws ice cream is THIS:


Everyone seems to misunderstand that when I say what my favorite ice cream is. Also, I love Photoshop. Also also, pandas are sooooo cute.

TV Shows I Want to Watch when I Get Back to the States:
  1. Fringe (Tylor recommended it to me. Apparently, it's like a global version of The X-Files. Sounds good to me.)
  2. The Office (I've been keeping up with this on Wikipedia, but Steve Carell just isn't the same in text form...)
  3. I'm sure there were more, but I can't remember. Making that panda picture made me lose my train of thought.
Okay, that's all for now. Thanks for commenting, Kris. Yes, I don't understand MIT sometimes either. Thank you too, Tylor. I wouldn't buy them if I had a consistent source of internet in my home, but I don't so I do. Plus, they're really for my mom, who I know would prefer the DVDs. Speaking of which, I did buy the last two seasons of X-Files, so I've got them all now. They were pretty good, actually. I forgot. Thanks also to Vicky. I liked Brown too when I went to visit. It's a hard choice. A couple of things to take into consideration for me is that Boston is further from Florida (and my parents) than Providence, but H.P. Lovecraft liked Providence more than Boston...

Rejected alt-text for that panda picture:
  • The panda's saying, 'Why do you hate me, God?'
  • I refrained from putting tears in the panda's eyes because then I would have started crying.
  • I'm going to Hell for this picture.
  • Ben Stiller knows how I feel.
  • Their blood is actually made of candy!
  • Somewhere, someone took that picture specifically so I could Photoshop it like this. I mean, c'mon!