So it has been quite a while since I last posted, mostly because I have been stateside. I originally began this blog to keep family and friends in tune with my travels abroad, and now that I am home I had no further incentive. However, it would be shames to have this page go into complete misuse. So instead, it will be true to its title and serve as a public forum for my thoughts on several themes. And so I begin with some of my most recent impressions on the main event occurring at this time, the 2012 London Olympics.
I must admit, by nature and upbringing I am a sports fan. So the idea of the Olympics, an event where the world’s greatest athletes gather in one place, is a beautiful concept. And there have been several great moments even to this point. Now, another beautiful thing I admire about the Olympics is that it brings to the forefront sports that we normally would not watch. Even if for once over every 4 years, interest is piqued in spheres we would not otherwise follow. Names are made, legends are born. And where else to begin but swimming.
The London Games and swimming. For those who remember the Beijing Games of ’08, there were only two names that everyone knew. Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps. And since those games, Phelps has been everywhere, from Subway commercials to Head and Shoulders. The average American could probably tell you nothing else about swimming except that they knew Michael Phelps. Even I fell for the hype. He was Superman in a pool. For those who follow comic books, he WAS Aquaman or Prince Namor the Submariner. Pretty much, if Phelps was in the pool, he was going to win. It did not matter what event, what stroke, what distance. It did not matter if Lochte beat him in some other races at the World Championships, these did not change perceptions. World Championships were not that important, Phelps was simply biding his time. When the London Games came around, he would simply turn things on again and dominate again. And in terms of Lochte, we simply placed him as the second best swimmer in the world. Obviously, any race where Phelps was in, Lochte would immediately be second, or would be first in the races that did not include Phelps. Let alone if they were both included on a single relay, America was going to destroy the field. But these ideas were dashed early, we were exposed to the mortality of both Phelps and Lochte. Phelps would fail to medal in an event. And Lochte would be tracked down in a relay by French Swimmer Yannick. But knocking these two off the pedestal they were held on, is not necessarily a bad thing. As has been said, it only makes us realize how phenomenal the feats in Beijing were, and how much each athlete works. They are not some superhuman swimmers who just stand heads above the world competition. They are human who labor over their craft, just as the rest of the world does. And this has given the opportunity for others to gain notice as well. For example, now I have watched a teenager Missy Franklin win a gold medal, ten minutes after swimming in the preliminaries of another event. Allison Schmitt has dominated her events. And Rebecca Soni has been remarkable. But nobody can hold a candle to the exploits of the 16 year old Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen. The girl put together a final 50m of a 400IM that was faster than male gold medal holder Ryan Lochte. And that has made people question if doping was involved. My first reaction was, absolutely. But I am willing and able to give this young swimmer the benefit of the doubt, for nobody has put these allegations after Phelps put on the show in ’08 or after Allison Schmitt shattered world records. The United States is not alone capable of putting out incredible athletes.
Now other than swimming, I will admit that I was caught up in gymnastics. And not just female, which I will approach in a second. I followed the male gymnasts as well. Mostly because of US gymnasts, Danell Leyva and John Orozco. The former, a Cuban-American from Miami and the latter a Puerto Rican American from none then the Bronx, NY. My birthplace and absolutely unbiasedly (yes I made up that word) the best city in the world. Unfortunately I watched as both struggled in both the team and individual competitions on the pommel horse. And I saw the pressure that accompanies these athletes. Yes, athletes. I have no qualms about calling a male gymnast not just an athlete, but one of the greatest athletes any sport has to offer. We all can go out on a basketball court or football field and pretend to be our favorite sports stars. But none of us can even make an attempt to pretend we are gymnasts, because what they do demands so much overall body strength, agility, flexibility and balance, that we would break ourselves attempting even the most basic of their skills. And although the United States could not medal in the team men’s final, I did see Leyva comeback to earn individual bronze. And now to the women’s side. I myself disagree with the rule that excluded Jordyn Wieber from participating in the individual finals. However, she did what she had to to earn the team Gold. I saw an almost flawless vault by McKayla and a clutch floor exercise by Aly Raisman which clinched US gold. It was truly beautiful to watch. And watching the women’s individual competition I got to witness a fight between the two US gymnasts and Russian gymnasts Komova and Mustafina. I admit that I became a fan of both Komova and Mustafina. Even though Mustafina by far has the most attitude of any gymnast on the floor at any time. The girl is feisty and does not back down from anyone. There is no doubting that she is not out there to make friends. To that girl, it is a competition. I cannot knock the girl for that, she performs and if you get a smile from her, it’s a bonus. But of course, it all comes down to Gabby Douglas, the flying squirrel, and officially now the best individual female gymnast in the world. And for those who found it necessary to comment on the girl’s hair while watching her compete, you obviously were watching for the wrong reasons. She is a world class athlete, which implies hours of work in the gym. That much work, blood, sweat and tears are not conducive to “pretty hair”. And if you haven’t noticed, none of the other gymnasts were too preoccupied with their hairstyles either. But of course, as a people, we feed into the stereotypes, concerning ourselves with the girl’s hair. Silence yourselves please, and appreciate the unbelievable show of athleticism, poise, power and composure that Douglas displayed.
Lastly, I will not drive home this last point for long. But USA Basketball beat Nigeria by a margin of over 80 pts. On a day that many other Olympic teams could not crack the 80 point mark total in an entire game. Is there really a need for more explanation, opinion or analysis? I think not. But I will say this, I am ready for Melo to come back to NY and lead the Knicks to their rightful place. And silence the Brooklyn hype on who the best team in NY is. Anyways, I have gone on for long enough. I won’t always devote this much space to only the Olympics or sports. If something else piques my interest, and inspires me to write, then I will. But until then, I must go back to work. I have reading to do. Until later my family and friends.
Don Sidney Polite Jr.
I wont be able to expound upon all my experiences since my last post because I surely forget the majority of it. But I will do my best to recap to the best of my ability. So my visits are winding down which is sad. I knew it was coming to a close once Sina y Mary Lou, las alemanas, left. It really brought to my mind that soon my time would come. Sadness ensued. But at least I got to go out with them at least like 2 nights in a row. We went out with this other American, my host brother and my host brother’s friend. Let me recap that night. So we essentially pre-gamed a little at the house, then we went to this hostel down the street where we got a few more drinks for free. Including some kind of shot with coffee which was great. We continued on to Gringolandia where we found a bar where I could magically watch the end of Game 6 of Lakers vs Denver where we closed them out. And we got 2 mojitos for $5 which was beautiful as an addition to the Lakers win. And then we played beer pong since they had a legitimate table in the bar. 2 germans, 2 americans, 2 ecuadorians, beer pong? Wonderful, except I was the only one on my team who could get a shot in, and then I had to drink for Sina. Not a good look. Afterwards we went out dancing, and let me tell you, it is sad when Ecuadorian DJ’s can spin better American music than people at Williams College, yes I am taking a shot at my own school. But seriously, they pulled out B.I.G and Tupac amongst others and it worked. They even mixed in merengue which I showed out on with some Ecuadorian lady. I still need more practice though. All in all fun night. But it was sad to see them go.
Also, apparently although my community service at the school technically ended the 18th, I was made unofficial women’s basketball coach. That’s cool. Oh and my kids had a soccer tournament against the other classes in their year, I brought Eli along to watch. My boy Josue, the one who always misbehaves went HAM on the other team. I think he scored 4 goals himself, and 1 goal for the other team as well. Final score 7-2. What else? So I also wanted to check out the salsa group at my Ecuadorian university. I can’t front, they were good. But considering they have a designated teacher/choreographer and still weren’t better than my Ritmo family, just filled me with so much pride. Jumping forward, I am going to skip to my trip to Peru, I don’t have time to draw this one out. But I almost forgot. In order to leave Ecuador to head to Peru, we had to go to Migration to get this documentation. So our program secretary/do everything for us woman Wilma told us to get there around 7:30 in the morning so we could get in at 8am. So she was there a little before 7:30 holding a spot in the line for us. Yes there was already a line. I was second to arrive after Leona, probably around 7:35. The others arrive in the next 15 minutes with Bencito getting there around 7:50-5. All chaos ensued. Ecuadorians were pissed that we as a group were essentially cutting them. They started arguing, calling us names, threatening Wilma that they would tell the police and once the doors opened a pushing fest ensued to see who would get in first. It’s funny because Bencito who got there last got the first ticket for the censo out of all of us, he just slid right in. With me behind him. New Yorkers and Bostoners pushing right back. Holla at me.
Anyways, to leave to Peru we had a 7am flight from Quito to Lima, which meant we were at the airport at about 4:45am. Not a good look. And im scared of flying. Then we jumped on the next plane about 11am to get to Cusco. Now Cuzco is at an altitude of about 3,400 meters which is mad high and means its freaking cold out there. I wasn’t expecting that. Other thing, Cuzco has a freaking ton of tourists, tons more than Quito. Which also means the people in the streets are mad more aggressive trying to sell their stuff. They jump to English real fast if you don’t respond to their Spanish. And on top of that I was offered weed. And weirdest of all, there are mad people offering massages in the streets. I’m not sure if they would give them right there, or if you had to go somewhere or they would come with you somewhere. I didn’t ask. But it was annoying. So one time when they offered me a massage for the up-teenth time, I offered the lady a massage right back. She laughed and left me alone. Also at some point I tried alpaca meat. Adventurous, but well worth it. Stuff is delicious. I washed it down with the national drink of Peru, Pisco Sour which is made with like egg white and other stuff. Kinda delicious too. The next day we had our day long meeting with indigenous students at the Ecuadorian university. At some point of the day before lunch they had a band show up as part of a cultural exchange. As soon as I saw that, I knew what was coming. I moved myself to the back corner of the room because I knew at least one of these Peruvian girls was going to try to get us to dance these traditional dances. I played myself because earlier I had already joked how the group always elects me when they need a volunteer to dance or sing. So what happened? After the 2nd song, one of these girls literally maneuvered herself around chairs and people to seek me out. Playing dumb and looking the other way didn’t work. So I danced. Albeit not great but better than most, I personally catch on fast to dancing. Afterwards, I decided to show out and pulled out my Blackberry to play some salsa, bachata, merengue and try to teach them my way of dancing. Remember, yo soy Boricua pa’ que tu lo sepas.
At some point we went to a reserve where they had condors. We took pictures with those huge freaking birds behind us. As a joke, Bonita hit the back of my head. Thinking it was the birds I nearly had a heart attack. Later that night I tried some Hookah thing, coconut flavored, not bad. Now Im going to skip around more straight to Machu Pichu. On the train ride there we met a brasileña who taught us some Brazilian card game which I think can reach spades level when I get back to school. But Machu Pichu. Place is magnificently beautiful. You walk up and there is a view, literally breathtaking. Unfortunate thing was during the tour, Eli got sick and almost fainted. So I left the tour to help carry her to the doctor’s while the others finished the tour. While she was knocked out, program director Juan and I spoke to Doctora Isabel. She was young, single, smart and looking for love to start a family. And she mentioned she preferred morenitos over blanquitos. Score one for me? I don’t know if she was flirting with me or not. But either way, time to get back to real life. The return to Quito was freaking stressful. Again we had to leave at like 7am from Cuzco to Lima. We got in at like 9:30am but the next flight was 12 hours later. 12 hours to kill. So went to this Museo del Oro, where they had a large collection of gold and silver artifacts on the bottom floor and a large collection of historical firearms and weapons on the second. Guns, swords, knives from different cultures in different periods. I also got to see the Pacific for the first time ever. Pretty sweet. We eventually got back to Quito at like 1am, but thanks to immigration I didn’t get home until 3am. But I am ready now to leave on Thursday for the beach in Mompiche. Cant wait.
As always one love and blessings to the family,
Don Sidney Polite Junior
One of the things I have been blessed with my entire life is the guidance and presence of amazing women. And not just women in general, but mothers, moms, madres, whatever you wish to call them. As they say, it takes a community to raise a child. And I was definitely raised by a community of strong, independent and loving women. So, I wish to take the time out to give homage and acknowledge the contributions of several women, mothers over the years. Some influenced me more than others, but know that your contributions are nonetheless recognized and appreciated.
I can start with Mrs. Lisa Matos. It has been years since I had last seen her or her family. But like most army wives, was able to hold down a family while her husband was gone. That in and of itself, is no small accomplishment. Especially not with 3 girls. And I must say she did a great job, doing what needed to be done for her family. And I always felt welcome amongst the family. Even one particular time, while watching Room 1408 with her daughter, I remember she made us both empanadas if I remember correctly. More than 4 years ago. But I still remember. So to you I wish a Happy Mother’s Day.
Next, I can add Mrs. Kim Bailey and her daughter Marquisha Robinson. I can hardly think where to begin. Thinking back, there is so much that both have done for me. Marquisha, my sister and friend for all intents and purposes. I must add that those ESPN pajamas have accompanied me to Cuba, and all throughout Ecuador. From the capital to the Amazon and back. And through your loss, you not only remain a good mother, but also a good person in working farther in studying. Again no small feat. And Mrs. Bailey. Momma. Working and providing for her family, always with a sense of humor that is unforgettable and unique. And always with a drive, self-motivated and proud. Which is why I must acknowledge her recent graduation. I apologize I will not be able to attend. But of all the things I can say, from offering me a place to stay, helping me visit Ann Arbor, and helping me find my way back home, the best thing I can say that I have received is trust. Something that I hope to never lose. Again Happy Mother’s Day to you both.
Next two up are my sister Natalie Ann Webster and Titi Charmaine. Titi Charmaine has always been there for as long as I can remember. The years when I lived in Long Island, the McFarlanes were a constant in the house on the weekends. And all those years playing football I could count that Titi Charmaine would be in the stands as well. Even in the rain and snow. And you want to know about encouragement? I never lacked it from Titi Charmaine. Her pride for me was equal to as if I was her son. That is something I could always feel. And I cannot help but laugh when I am with her and of course my Wondertwin. I am grandpa to her. And proud to be, grateful to be. And my sister Natalie. She knows I have always looked up to her. From March 24, 1991 until now. Even more so now. Why? Because she is on her grind with 3 kids and a husband she provides for. And all of her children are beautiful. My nephews and my niece are the most adorable kitchen on the face of the planet. And they have a mother who is just as youthful in spirit as they are. Yes my sister is a young mother. But she gets it done. She handles her own. Nani, as I used to call her when I could not pronounce it all, and Titi Charmaine, Happy Mother’s Day.
Next 2 are my grandmothers. Now my relationship with my grandmothers goes beyond the normal relationship. I did not just spend weekends with them in the summer. No, they raised me as much as my parents did growing up. Barbara Jean Polite. My grandmother on my dad’s side. She and Schomburg Plaza and the United House of Prayer. The rock and the foundation of my Faith. Yes, Faith with a capital F. The opening to another family. Going into New York Motherhouse, or any House in the kingdom I could always say I was Barbara Jean’s grandson. And I was known. And loved. My grandmother, who would never take any disrespect from anyone. I was not to be messed with, because I was Barbara Jean’s grandson. And I knew it. But a woman who despite it all, is one of the most sensitive people I know. An emotionality that I have inherited 2 generations later. Y mi otra abuela Carmen Zambrana. Que puedo decir de ella. Amo a mi abuela. Ella, una de las más orgullosas boricuas que conozco. Y por eso, por ella estoy estudiando español. Puerto Rico es una parte de mí, no porque nací en Puerto Rico, ni porque he visitado a Puerto Rico. La isla de Borinquen esta viva en mi corazón a causa de ella, yo sé y amo a la isla de Puerto Rico a través del amor de ella. Nadie tenía hambre con mi abuela. Una mujer que siempre cocinaba, no solo por su familia, sino por todos. Y también una mujer de mucha fe en Dios. Y una mujer con una de las voces más poderosas que he oído en mi vida. Pero, más que todo, ella me ama. Y por eso, quiero decir Feliz Día de la Madre, Mama. Happy Mother’s Day grandma Barbara Jean.
And last but not least, comes my own mother. Jeannette Polite. Without my mom, I would be nowhere, nobody. I say that with no hesitation or reservation. I do not know how children, anyone could ever hold contempt or disdain for their mothers. But then again, they did not have mine. You will never find a bigger momma’s boy than me, and again it is probably because nobody has a mother like mine. Nobody will ever know how much my mom has done for me, and again I probably do not give enough credit to her. Normally all goes to daddy. But today it is about my mom. My dimples are my mom’s. My smile, my mom’s. And through the years, my mom was always my best friend and guardian. Judging Amy, my lawyer, and judge. Nobody and nothing could touch or phase me, I knew no hunger or sadness or frustration in my life, mostly because of mom. I never knew what it was to worry, because my mom could take care of everything. I never knew what it was to be poor or struggling, because my mom never let me know it. If you all have ever heard the song, “If I Could” by Regina Belle, that would explain my mom. My mom, would never let me know pain. Again, my best friend. I could never lie to my mom. One because she does not deserve it, and two because she knows me better than anyone ever could. She knows every secret I hold to myself. In college, it is a rarity to go a day without my mom’s voice. If I need something done, it is my mom I turn to. Because in my eyes, there is nothing my mom cannot fix. And to this day she has never proven me wrong. And in the years of my life that should have been hard, that I should have been sad, it is not by my own effort that I succeeded. Mommy did what she had to do. My mom, who could get any job, anywhere at any time. Point blank I do not know what I would do without my mom. So today, I wish her a Happy Mother’s Day.
And to all who I did not name, you are not forgotten either. Happy Mother’s Day to all those out there. I love you all.
So I just got back from spending most of the weekend in an Afro-Ecuadorian community in El Valle de Chota. That deserves a long talk so I will attempt to mention more of what has happened since my last post and before this trip. It should only take a few seconds because I am not remembering anything memorable.
My social theory class is coming to a close soon, which is sad and exciting at the same time. However, I think my last class is Wednesday and I still lack this “protocol” which is about 1/3 of my grade. So that is pretty important that I get down sometime. What else? So Elizabeth, the other volunteer who works at the school with me has now been transferred out of my classroom. So now it is just me and Teacher Andreita. And these kids are still bad although I think they have taken an attachment to me. What makes me think so? Well I tried to leave the other day and literally got mob jumped by kids trying to pull me back into the class to a chant of “no se vaya”. But its ok, I put on that Heisman move and broke out. Also, we found this like Irish bar that has this like trivia night on Tuesdays so I hit that up with Bonita and Bencito. We honestly didn’t stand a chance though. Other teams were rolling in 13 people deep, all that knowledge in one team versus us 3 alone was unfair. And I’m still salty about one question. They asked which rapper was known for saying “Mo Money, Mo problems”. I said Diddy. The Europeans got it right with Notorious BIG. Embarrassing on my part. I will blame it on the 2 cups of whiskey I had by that point. But on to the trip.
So we left on a Friday morning at 6am. I am going to be so thrilled when these darn morning trips are over. And we arrived in the community of Concepcion a little after 11am. And the first thing I noticed? They were playing Romeo Santos’ newest CD Formula 1. Bachata in Ecuador? Of course it would be in the black community. We were going to go on a tour through the school but nobody was there. But we did get to look through the windows at the classrooms. Which was pretty sad. Windows were broken, desks were old and broken, there were holes in the walls. Forget about computers. It looked like what you see on National Geographic about schools in poor rural Africa. To kind of get my mind off that we played a pickup game of basketball. It’s a bit of a shame that nobody in my group really plays ball because they made ME look good. Which is kinda hard. We only played to 5 because it was blazing hot in this freaking valley. But by that point I had like 2 points, 3 assists, 3 steals and 3 rebounds. I felt like Rajon Rondo out there. Filling up the stat sheet.
There were a couple of chats and stuff that occurred but I will skip those too. Now remember this is an Afro-Ecuatorian town, tiny too, 400 people in the whole town. No restaurants, clubs or bars. Nothing to do. Marlon and Victor, 2 afro-ecuadorians from Quito came with us too. I know one night we (including Bencito) ended up playing in the playground at night, jumping on trampolines and riding ziplines and listening to Marlon tell Ecuadorian jokes. This is what we do in our free time. What else? So we visited what used to be a hacienda where slaves worked back in the day. Which is crazy. But now they make aguardiente there instead, and it’s owned by Afro-Ecuadorians. Now about this aguardiente. It’s a type of alcohol. But the type there? 65% alcohol. Not 65 proof. 65% alcohol. Talk about burning your throat. I tried it. Multiple times. Then a few of us emptied water bottles to fill with the aguardiente. Supposedly we were going to be giving it as a gift to the bride and groom at a wedding later that evening. Idk about all that. I bought a bottle for myself. How could I not? It was $1 for a water bottle full. That’s a bargain. But later we also stopped by a cemetery for former slaves. Which literally was just like a space in the field where you saw the marked rocks and the upraised ground where the bones lay beneath our feet. I admit that was real for me. I don’t know about everyone else but it hit me deep.
Anyways, so we attended this cultural activity where several dance groups from the community and a surrounding community performed La Bomba for us and then attempted to teach us. It was crazy to see the women dance, while maintaining a bottle on their hand. Crazy balance. Girls were talented. And some of them were fine. No matter what country you are in, colored girls are beautiful. My opinion. But afterwards we hit up this wedding. Talk about ghetto, but Ecuadorian style. It was literally held outside on a basketball court. And people mainly came in jeans or whatever. I think I saw a handful in suits. Maybe. Now I don’t know what it is about me but like one girl asked Bencito to dance and then later looked like she wanted to dance more, and everybody was like “Don, go get her”. When did I get nominated to be the designated dancer of the group? If some Ecuadorian girl wants to dance apparently it is my job to fulfill and talk to her. They make it seem like I am the ladies’ man. I am shy reserved and conservative, obvi. Anyways, later I disappeared from the group and started talking to her and her group of friends and family. I pulled the “can someone teach me how to dance to this kind of music” tactic. It worked. Ended up chilling with them for a while, and we all got plates of food and something to drink. My group? Not so much. They were on the basketball court dancing with some random drunk guy who apparently picked up Mollita at some point, aka party over. They had to come find me and tell me it was time to go. Then later Marlon tried to find a way back to the wedding, almost volunteering us to go in the back of some guy’s truck. No thanks Marlon, It’s 1 am and I am going to bed.
That next morning, Victor and I who were staying in the same house together, had our breakfast of hot milk and these tortilla things with babaco marmalade. Which was delicious. And it seemed like everyone in the family kept coming in and out of the door. It was hilarious. And at some point they started playing music, and ended up playing the song that the capoeira club did for the Ritmo show last year. They noticed I was jamming to it and asked if I knew how to dance to it. I said not the way they would. Then they said they would show me how they dance to it if I danced to it too. So Celena did her bomba dance to it, girl can dance I will give her that. I had to hold up my end of the bargain so I basically did whatever capoeira I could remember my boys Dan and Chris do back at school. I need to come back for practice. But hey, I wasn’t horrible. Anyways we had to leave and we spent the next night back in San Clemente again. Now let me say something. San Clemente does not necessarily have paved roads going up the mountain. It is mostly rocks. Uphill and around tight corners. Now it was also raining. Slippery rocks and dirt. Uphill. Big, manual bus. I am not the rocket scientist but all that does not add up favorably. Do you see where I am going with this? The next morning they called me and Bencito because they tried to drive the bus back UP and DOWN the mountain again and it got stuck so we had to come dig and push it out. Who thought that one through? It took us about an hour. And to top it off a dog decided to start playing around with me and got too rough and started using my foot as a chew toy.
However, as compensation for that we got a pretty bomb lunch where Eli and I shared steak and ribs. I ordered one and she the other. Good eating. And I came out of the trip with a hat too. So I am happy. And yes, I am rocking the super fro right now. Partly because I would not trust just any old Ecuadorian with my hair and two because I have plans that require optimum length. So let it grow. I think that is about all I wish to say for now. As always I love you all and hope to be back in the states soon.
Don Sidney Polite Junior
¿Quién seré yo? ¿Será que soy una pérdida de energía, y pensamiento? Mi cuerpo, una conglomeración de piel, de huesos, y los órganos y líquido. Casi olvidé los músculos. Pero, ¿soy nada más que todo eso? No, no puede ser. Yo mismo soy un hijo del Gran Señor también. A pesar de que tropezó en la tentación, que mi corazón está lleno de pecados, aún sigo siendo un seguidor de Jesús Cristo. Necesito a mi Redentor para salvarme, rescatar mi alma. ¿Me habré criado mal? No, no puede ser. Soy un producto, un resultado de mi sociedad. Como diría Freud, la sociedad me reprime, me oprime. Mis frustraciones, mis sentimientos vencidos y abatidos son brotes de la enajenación de la humanidad. Un ser que no tiene su existencia fuera de sí mismo, no es ser. Que diga, no puedo definirme a mí mismo. La sociedad me define. La sociedad me dice que es correcto o no. Estoy condenado por una sociedad que se volvió loca. Condenado a una locura, sin la posibilidad de salir, o escapar, por lo menos en esta vida. ¿Por qué? Porque los seres humanos no somos explicables, sino comprensibles, según el pensamiento de Dilthey. Y los fracasos de la humanidad vienen del hecho de que el Estado, la sociedad trata de definirnos y explicarnos, dividirnos en grupos, y no tratan de comprender nuestras existencias. Y por eso estamos sufriendo, padeciendo de todos los males de la vida. Algunos son exteriores, algunos han sido internalizados. Y como pensaba Nietzsche, necesitamos volver, regresar al caos para que podamos ser libres, cimarrones de la esclavitud de la vida, un sistema opresivo en que todos nacimos. Que se llama eso, “caos”, no es caos. Nietzsche no sabía lo que sé. Este caos no es nada más que el Padre Nuestro, el único que puede comprenderme. Él no trata de darme una definición. No, Él me acepta como soy. Nietzsche llama a mi gran Dios “caos”, porque Él es incomprensible, inexplicable. Su poder y existencia son inconmensurables, más que lo que nuestras mentes pueden captar o entender. Tal vez en este sentido sí sea caos. Pero, solo con Él podré ser quien soy, enterito y completamente. Anhelo su presencia, anhelo mi libertad. Deseo, le pido que Él me encierre en su aura, para que pueda dejar todo los venenos de mi mente y alma. Y solo ahí puedo existir de hecho.
So I’m back again, after my visit to the amazon. As you can tell your boy is still alive. Barely. I made it out. But let me try to recap my experiences while I remember things still. First let me explain that I am deathly terrified of spiders so this trip had me shaking. I’m not too fond of snakes either so this could’ve been a HUGE problem. But let’s start from the beginning.
We had to leave at like 5am so I had to get a cab at like 4 something in the morning. Thank you host mom for hooking me up by calling them. Anyways we get to the hotel and dude tries to charge me $5. My response? “Me parezco loco amigo?” I know bucks is nothing in general, but if you’ve been in Quito for any stretch of time, you learn that that is an exorbitant amount for a short trip. You fight over cents over here. I ended up paying $3.75. And was darn proud of it. Give me my darn $1.25. That’s like 5 bus ride fares, shoot. Anyways, along the way we jumped off the bus to go pick cocoa plants. I still have mine. And I tasted fresh cocoa wish is actually really sweet. For my latin@s out there, especially my New York latin@s its kinda like canepas. If I spelled that right. Anyways so we get there, and there is a point where the bus can’t go any farther and we actually have to jump in a canoe and go downstream to get to the lodge. Sketchy already. And what’s one of the first things I see, a damn orb weaver spider. They aren’t that small. And I look up at one of the lodge rooms and there is this huge long legged spider moving around in its web, Holy God. Not a good look. Oh and guess what? We going on a hike through the JUNGLE. What fun. But first, maracuyá con ron aka rum with passionfruit juice. I need that in my life.
Laugh all you want, I’m wearing gloves AND I’m bringing my knife with me. Homie don’t play that. Sure, they asked me what I was doing with a knife but let’s think this over again. We are in the freaking AMAZON. You really think I’m going into the rainforest without a knife. You bugging. Anyways so we have to cross the river in a boat to get to this double decker bus which would get us closer to the jungle. Along the way we see monkeys, small little black monkeys. Tamarin or something like that. And huge bright blue and other colored butterflies. Call me effeminate, I love butterflies. Lets keep in account that some of these events may be out order. Because I know at some point we went bird watching in the morning. I forgot when though. Anyways, I’m a kid so when it was time to get off the bus, instead of going down the stairs I climbed down the side, like a boss. And then we enter. Luckily it was midday and hot and most of the insects and animals were hiding out somewhere. We did see some bird that looked like a darn tree, camouflage. Like Amazonian animals need to camouflage. I know they all can kill you. Oh and its hot. And I was wearing long sleeves, why? It’s the freaking amazon which has like a billion species of insects that can venomize you or like hatch their eggs in you, no thanks. But I sweated about my body weight in sweat out there. God help me. And then people wanted to fall all over the place, so I was jumping everywhere trying to catch them all, like Pokemon. By the way, in one social theory class someone made a reference to pokemon. I have no idea why. Anyways, this first 2 hour excursion turned out to be a success. No tarantulas or anacondas.
What else did we do? So, there was the trip to see this huge tree. Like you know the sacred tree from the movie Avatar? We found it. I found it. Me, myself. Yup. And of course we formed the bandana crew and took a picture in front of it, like bosses. Oh and there was a vine nearby, so what you think I did? Yup, I climbed that thing like I was Tarzan, with a tan and a fro i.e. better. And Im not sure if this was the same day, but we decided to go swimming in the river Napo. Swimming in the Amazon? No big deal. Maybe I should tell you all now, no there were not piranha or anacondas nor those weird fish that swim into your urethra. Those all reside in agua negra, which Rio Napo is not. Otherwise, this guy wasn’t getting in the water. They gave us these life jackets and tied these rubber tubes together so we can float downstream. But you know I’m Super Don so I was like “forget this stupid tube” and jumped in the river to swim first. The others joined later. But of course I was also the one who got caught in a current in shallow water hitting rocks, my pride strikes back again. But still that was fun. Also, I think it was that night where we found out there were bats in the amazon. Someone thought they were butterflies, but really? Butterflies don’t move that fast. Oh and also I found a huge roach in the room that night. I don’t play huge bugs either, I calmly asked my boy Bencito to kill that thing. I don’t want my boot submerged in bug juice. It was that big.
Now to the indigenous healing ceremony. Thank goodness this one did not involve guinea pigs. Just really really strong tobacco. Which smelled great Im not going to lie. And this guy smacked us with this leaves. That was cool mister shaman guy. After that we had a little competition to see who could a target with this huge dart thing. I mustve been Shaka Zulu in a past life because I hit it on my first ever shot, from about 20 meters out. Just didn’t stick. Second time, hit it again and it stuck, Im a boss. Then we tried to hit a different target with a spear, I couldn’t quite get the aim right but I did get it to fly straight. Im an African warrior obvi. So was Eli since she hit the target 2/3 times with the dart. Twice sticking, once missing badly. And also we had this cooking ceremony where me prepared maita. Let me tell you, technically all you do is you kill a fish, tilapia which is out there in the amazon, and cut off the head. Then you wrap it in this leaf and put it in the fire. And it cooks that way, no descaling, deboning or adding of spices. Just later you can add lemon juice or salt if you want. And its freaking delicious. Then Maxi our guide brings out another leaf and asks a volunteer to open it. That doesn’t sound good. Know what was inside? Have you ever seen Lion King? You know those white, juicy, slimy looking worm grub things that Timon, Pumbaa and Simba eat? Yea, those things are in the Amazon. And he asks if one of us wants to eat one, live. You bugging. He shows us that you just have to bite the black crunchy head part then kinda chew the rest of the body. This is not Fear Factor, no thank you. But then they skewer them and grill them and you know what, your boy tried it. Cooked it does taste a little like bacon. So yes, I have successfully consumed an Amazonian worm thing. Later ate one live. He could do that, I wasn’t. Nope. Later on the way back we stopped in the thermal waters of Papallacta, thermal springs which felt heavenly.
I may be forgetting a few things about the trip but there is something important I wish to share. The last night there I had a dream. Sure I have plenty, but this one was one of those special dreams that I have from time to time, my family and close people will know what I mean. I dreamt about my great grandparents Sylvia and William Polite. For those who don’t know, I grew up with them, and especially Sylvie and I had a special connection. I wont go into full details but I remember crying in my dream and waking up sobbing. Covered in tears. God knows I miss them both and if I do then I know my father and grandmother must feel the same too. I just hope they know they aren’t the only ones feeling that way, I am with you guys. And if Sylvie and Willie can read this, know I miss and pray about you still.
Like always family and friends, take care and God bless.
Don Sidney Polite Jr.
So another week has passed. And what do I have to tell you all about my times and experiences in Ecuador. Another phone has come and gone. So again I am phoneless. I actually do not know what happened to it. Just bounced on me, but that’s ok. It only makes things incredibly difficult. I will explain why in a second. For the most part, the actual week was not so eventful. Oh yes so I think Tuesday I went to go get my Yellow Fever vaccine, apparently important for going into the Amazon. Fairly simple procedure. Literally I went in, they asked me to roll up my sleeve, they stuck me and then were like “Ciao”. Two seconds, in and out. I’m not complaining now, just used to slightly more interaction at a doctor’s. But hey, it is all good. That was Tuesday morning, so afterwards I just decided not to go to community service. I literally do what I want with my community service. Sure, I technically have a schedule. But the Director of that school never checks in so I come when I want, leave when I decide to, and sometimes just don’t show up without an explanation. Serves them right for sometimes leaving me with a crowd of demon children. So I suppose the taking advantage sometimes is reciprocal. But now to Wednesday, I have a new friend.
So on Wednesday like always, I have class at 9am. I was supposed to go to community service for like an hour before, but wasn’t feeling it. Nope. But anyways, so normally after class I go to the gym where this jacked Ecuadorian Freddy basically tells me what to do. He’s mad cool though. On that note, the majority of the Ecuadorians in the weight room are just screwing around in there if you ask me. Why are these grown men bench pressing like 40kgs. Not even for like mad reps or anything. And then look like they are struggling sometimes. For those who do not understand kgs, that is like 88 pounds. My baby sister can bench press that. No lie. I am quite sure of it. Granted, my baby sister is a beast. Worse yet is when I see them squatting around the same weight. I’m no muscle bound freak or anything but if you are a grown man, in your 20’s you better put more than your own body weight on the darn squat. Otherwise you are wasting time. And I was so heated because at one time there was a chick on the leg press machine that I needed and she sat there using it for like 15 minutes. With no darn weight. Infuriating. But back to the real story. I went after class to the gym like I always do, but for some reason they were telling me it closed at 11 that day. I don’t know if that’s a new thing or just that day. And it was already 10:50 or so. So I was screwed. I ended up watching some people attempt to play basketball for a few minutes before I left. And for the most part, their shots were uglier than Shawn Marion’s, except nowhere near as successful. So I left and ran into Bencito who was on his way to the gym too. I spoke to him for a second, and then this Ecuadorian girl asked me a question. I forgot what. It was just a ruse to make sure that I wasn’t from around there. She said she could tell from my bag, my beard and my accent that I wasn’t from Ecuador. And we ended up talking for a while. Made it easier that she can speak English better than I can speak Spanish. And she introduced me to like half the campus. Maybe I am exaggerating. But I know I met mad people. Now she is my new facebook friend and I have her number. And she invited me to a club to celebrate her birthday on Saturday. The same club I was drunk off my behind with my host brother and his friends. I will tell you how the second time around went shortly.
Thursday I actually decided to go to community service. And apparently we have a new teacher in the class to prepare for when Marianita gives birth which can be like any day now seems to me. This new teacher is young though, but she plays no games. I likes her. She does not let the kids call her or my other volunteer friend “señorita”, it has to be “Teacher Elizabeth” or “Teacher Andreanita”. And she also doesn’t let the kids call each other by last name which happened sometimes between the boys. One boy has a habit of taking off his shoes in class, she threw it in the garbage. She did warn him. He cried. I laughed. I’m not mean, it’s just this kid always acts like he is scared of nothing so finally somebody put him in his place. This teacher actually follows through on her disciplinary threats which is something new. I’m a fan. Also, Molita had class that night in Salesiana. The class is only once a week, we missed last week for our trip to San Clemente and we will miss next week in the Amazon. And we still had not done like any of the readings. In short, we were lost. But she got bolder than me and made friends with the girls in front of us to find out what was going on, Virginia, Eve and Maria Jose. They might end up being good resources. But anyways, I was mad that professor put us on blast by pointing out we were the Americans in the class to make a point. As if we didn’t stick out already. The black and the blonde who always sit together in the corner. Oh wells, on another note, I found my way home again at night by just jumping on another random bus. By the time I leave, I will probably own this public transport.
Friday, was interesting since we had decided to go out to celebrate my birthday. I had read a lot about this Adam’s Rib place online and such so I was like, “hey guys let’s check it out”. Problem is, I don’t have a phone. Ben doesn’t have a phone and Elisse doesn’t use her phone. So essentially half the group is phoneless. Which like I said makes planning things difficult. Worst part about it, we decided to meet at the restaurant at 7pm. Problem is, I think the place is undergoing renovation or something because I couldn’t find it when I got there around 6:45 or when I was searching for it earlier in the day. But how could I spread the news without a phone? So I was lucky to find Bonita in the main plaza around 7. She asked around and nobody knew where the place was. And we still had no idea where Bencito or Eli were. So she decided to stay in the central plaza while I went on a search mission around the blocks looking for them. I found Eli looking lost trying to find the place which apparently does not currently exist. I brought her to the central plaza where Bonita was, and then returned to my search and rescue mission for Bencito. Luckily I found him too. Wandering up the dark street like I had been earlier. Thank God we found everyone. Then we all just decided to go to this Sports Planet place. Molita joined us later in the evening. Not before texting Bonita that she had entered a taxi with a guy who seemed sketchy and for us not to worry. What???? Dark in Quito and you just entered a taxi by yourself with a sketchy driver and you want us not worry? I do not function like that. But either way it worked out and we all went home again in groups.
Now Saturday, it really is a pain trying to plan things when most of the group is essentially phoneless. Praise facebook, and Molita. Oh and racism is alive and strong. After I visited Molita to pick up readings for our Salesiana class and see her new house I was walking back home. There were two women walking a dog around 6:30ish. They saw me and immediately stopped in their tracks to cross the street. I had to laugh. If only they knew how harmless I really am. But anyways, between mad facebook messaging and Molita making calls to people’s host parents we decided we would all meet at my house to leave as one group. The original plan was to take the bus up north but my host mom called us a taxi and we all piled in, 5 of us. My 3 american friends y La Alemana, Mary. Cat kinda abused the system and charged us $10 which is nothing in the USA but a robbery out here in Quito. And we found my Ecuatoriana friend Andrea outside of the club thanks to Molita’s phone. Back at the scene of the crime where I had my almost worst alcohol related episode. We got in with Andrea’s friends Christian and Brian. It was early so the club was kinda empty. Just the people who had reservations were in at that point. But eventually people split up once it got more crowded, people found their targets and partners. Bencito got snatched up by one of Andrea’s friends. Molita had her man too. Mary went out in the crowd. And we had plenty to drink. Or at least Marie and I did. If you put a drink in front of me, I will drink it. As my friend Taida declared in Cuba, “No rum left behind”. But it was not a relapse. I had a ball. They played my music, salsa and merengue and reggaeton. And I did my fair share of dancing while making friends. Succesful night for all. I think for the most part most of us have either a number or made an Ecuadorian friend or two. Of the same and opposite sex. I applaud you my friends. We came, we saw, we conquered. Now I have to read about half a novel of Sigmund Freud in Spanish which sucks. And the days until the Amazon trip are closing fast. The place where everything I fear is bigger, badder and wilder than I have ever imagined. Spiders, boas, piranhas, jaguars and every other animal that can eat you or has dangerous venom that causes heart and respiratory failure. Or the billions of mosquitos that carry deadly diseases. Or the likely animals that have yet to be discovered. God help me. Just keep me in your thoughts and prayers please that I do not perish.
Like always, Que Dios les bendiga everyone. One Love,
Don Sidney Polite Jr.
So I was going through my computer and found a poem that I wrote back senior year of high school or so. I gave up poetry not long afterward however. But this one was titled, “To God, to Family, To Friends”.
o When my heart bursts, my tongue bleeds, my lips burn
With words laced with emotion that makes the soul churn.
I Speak to move you, touch you, hold you,
captive with lyrical chains that seek to enclose you,
Within the four walls of my mind.
A mind of dichotomy;
Pride & Doubt,
Love & Hate,
Hope & Despair,
Blinding light, deafening shadow.
Shadows that feed, breed and become the demons inside of me,
Demons that haunt, jade, create a darker shade,
Leaving me afraid of myself.
So I let my heart burst, my tongue bleed, my lips burn,
With Words laced with emotion that make the soul churn.
Opening up the gates to release,
And expose these demons to your glow,
So they can fade before the radiance of your soul.
Illuminate, brighten, shine through the darkest corners of my being,
Leaving me to be bright, happy and free.
I feel from you a fire,
Burning not of hate, pain or desire, but of kindness & love,
That gives off light and warmth and strength to rise above,
all that holds me down, just with you around.
And then this time,
When my heart bursts, my tongue bleeds, my lips burn
With words laced with emotions that make the soul churn,
They do so fully, freely, gleefully,
All thanks to what you’ve given me.
I can hardly imagine where to begin this story so I will just start from the eve of our departure. We all got out of class at 4 and I was perfectly prepared to go home, curl up and hava a tranquil evening with my E-Reader and Dracula. Besides, i had to be ready to leave from the hotel at 6am the next morning. Yo soy madrugador en Ecuador. But first I had to go out and find some kind of gift to give to the family I would be staying with out there. But while I was out there looking for something, Bencito called and asked if I would be interested in going to the Manu Chao and Calle 13 concert that night. There might be a chance I can get a ticket outside. What the heck, I’m always down for split second decisions. So after dropping stuff off at the house, I was on the bus to the stadium. I still think public transportation in Ecuador is mad wack though. Either way I found them in the crowd of people, and with the help of some Ecuadorian friends, I got a ticket for $15. Not a bad deal. And we also met up with a whole other group of gringos from Germany, Switzerland and some other countries. It really is amazing the bridges you can cross just by knowing English and Spanish. I still think those are the most useful languages to know. No bias of course. But either way, it was kind of a downpur, in an open-air stadium, which was kinda a downer. And the emergency ponchos that Mollita got for herself and I could not save us from the rain. But still, imagine, a multinacional group of friends out in this stadium jamming out to Manu Chao. Pretty sweet if you ask me.
The next morning, after arriving in sometime around midnight, (thank goodness I am slowly gaining a sense of direction), I woke up at 5am and realized, hey a bag is kind of necessary for a 3-4 day trip. Maybe you should pack one. Thank God my host mom woke up and called a taxi because flagging one down with huge bags at 5:30 in the morning can be a bit of a risk. The woman is clutch. But anyways I get there and Im actually a little early (me? early? I know, that ish cray). And like I normally do on bus or car rides, I pass out until our next stop. Our next stop happened to be for breakfast at this place called Cafe de la Vaca or algo como asi. Idk. I was more interested in the playground they had outside. Especially the semi dangerous looking zip line. Why do I call it semi dangerous? Because how it worked is you slid down on a swing seat, and then at the end of the line a tire essentially stopped your momentum at full speed. Did I do it? Absolutely. And in the process almost flipped over at the end, awesome if you ask me. And you know I played on the monkey bars after eating. Thank you daddy for upper body strength and teaching me the benefits of body weight exercises. Sometimes I miss being a kid. But anyways, eventually we arrive at San Clemente, an indigenous Andean community that lives under Mountain Imbabura. I’m going to skip ahead to the next day now to not bore you all. And to spare my fingers.
So the next day, I know Bencito and I were supposedly going to wake up at 5am to help make breakfast. But instead we shut off his phone alarm, my watch alarm and his watch alarm at different points of the hour until 6am. Oops. Also, I forgot to mention that we took a 2 hour or so hike through the mountains, woods and community. How the women walk through there with those sandal looking things is beyond me. We were struggling with boots and hiking shoes. Oh well, we’re American and we suck apparently. But back to the day. So, they began to tell us about how their parents and grandparents taught them to prepare the earth in order to plant and grow. And then they strapped this hoe or whatever to two bulls. And then asked if one of us wanted to help guide them and the actual hoe part through the earth. Do I look like I’m a farmer? I’m from the Bronx…..So I hopped into some boots and was the first to try. First time through? A bit of a fail, and tiring. But I ended up going like twice more. Third time with my bandana tied around my neck, it had gotten serious. And we also got the opportunity to milk a cow. I actually did well for my first time. Seems like I got campesino blood in my veins. Did I mention that I had 3 host sisters? Emily (16), Jessie (18) and Nallely (4). Nallely had this little doll that played a lullaby when you pushed the button. And of course I danced like a fool everytime she pushed. She laughed everytime. Not going to lie, little girl was adorable. Also other minor point, the people of the community also speak a local indigineous language called Quitchwa. So sometimes they switched between spanish and quitchwa. Made me feel like I was failing at spanish comprehension.
Fast forward to next day, so we went to the local community school. And we had to wear traditional indigenous clothing as well. Which meant the collar jewelry, blouse and long skirt for the girls and ponchos for the guys. I know we got off easy. But one remark, the blue that Bonita chose actually went really well with her eyes and skin tone. Just saying. It just so happens that a girl who participated in my study abroad program back in ‘09 is now working in the school in that community. She loved it that much. And her brother, who attends Syracuse University came to visit her (what a small world it is). But back to the school. They had this whole presentation set up where they danced these folkloric dances for us. And there was this one kid, Alfonso, boy was sick with his. It was no joke to him. But afterwards there were also games involved. One involved Bonita sticking her face in a bowl of water then trying to find a candy in flour using her teeth. That was hilarious, I hope someone posts pictures of people’s faces covered in flour. Another game they asked for 3 pairs of volunteers before letting us know what we had to do. Then they told us it was a race, the guys had to run to this boy (about 150m away) and back while carrying their girl. Oh Jesus they knew not what they were telling me. It’s a race, a competition and I am a sore loser. Real talk, aint no game, straight face, gun in my waist *Kev. Hart voice*. Ok not all that, but I was ready. I kept pace with the two on the way there, then on the turn back the sprinters adrenaline kicked in, I got those racers blinders and took off. And later paid the price, I couldn’t breathe for a while. Either Im really out of shape, the altitude is still a big difference or I went too seriously. Probably a combination of the three. Either way, Mollita and I won. Valio la pena. Now in the afternoon was the Damascal ( I know I am spelling it wrong). Which is a purification ceremony. Now we knew it would involve us sitting in a tent and sweating profusively. Thus we had bathing suits. What we didn’t know was that first they would put tobacco in our noses to help prepare our bodies or something. You should’ve seen our faces at that revelation. But it happened. This guy basically blow darted tobacco into my nose and it burned and stung. But hey, its there ceremony. Alright so the actual ceremony involved us all sitting in pitch blackness in a small tent. In the center of the tent there was a hole. In this hole they placed hot rocks, 4 sessions of 13 totalling 52. Now there is a significance for all this but I will save that for my Spanish essay tomorrow. But the 4 sessions represent the 4 elements: wind, water, earth, fire. On these hot rocks though, they would throw water to create steam essentially making an increasingly hotter sauna. And the 3rd session representing fire was almost unbearably hot. I know homeboy next to me almost fell out. But Im stubborn to the point of personal harm, so I refused to leave or even lay down close to the grown for cooler air. Stubborn pride, one of my fatal flaws. But throughout this process the guy would lead songs and explain the meaning of everything. What struck me though were the points in which we shared our thoughts, feeling, fears and doubts. Something about that darkness, that ceremony with those people promoted such an opening of hearts and minds, it was really something.
Next day was the Pacha Manka or something of the sort which involves a huge community dinner. But its more than that. First we helped prepare the food, which for me meant helping wrap the meat in these leaves. Afterwards we put the food in this huge whole in the ground with the hot rocks. Then it was covered with this blanket and then essentially buried. But again this had meaning, food comes from the earth so why not cook it in the earth? And it was incredible since all the food was either food that they grew or the meat from animals that they had. Which meant everything was remarkably fresh. But anyways after they buried the food, the dancing began. There was this band and as they played we danced (barefoot) on the dirt to almost plaster it and help keep the heat in the ground and help the food cook. I know it sounds hippy-ish but it was fun. And after two hours the food was ready. And surprisingly everything was well cooked. I was not expecting that. And I ate so much, to my heart’s content. Maybe I should mention that both of these ceremonies are associated with their new year’s which coincides with the March 21st equinox. But anyways, later we had a chat to discuss the community’s as well as the indigenous movement’s goals and ideals. While we were in San Clemente there was a march in Quito of the indigenous pueblos of Ecuador. They are all incredibly intelligent, active and political people. More than I can say about many groups in my own country. But also there was an indigenous medicinal demonstration which I volunteered for. I will skip some of the details of that practice and go straight to the diagnosis. They said I had a bad back and un resfriado close to my hip/waist region. And it is true, for my age my back is very tight and I do have a bad hip. But more importantly they said I had a weak heart associated with stress and nostalgia. And granted, that is very general. But how true it is still, how many times has my heart ached from my missing people? *sigh*. They also gave a demonstration on how they help birthing, which I also volunteered for before I knew what we were doing. Apparently Mollita and I are the proud parents of a blue eyed red haired doll. Congratulations to us.
Now to my birthday and departure. I must admit I did get emotional. I know it was only a few days but the sense of community, love and respect was there and I felt it. And they decided to give us a rainbow scarf that they knitted as a gift, a national symbol for the indigenous movement in Ecuador. And I say now that I would feel no shame in wearing it. Anywhere, anytime. Hopefully someone posts pictures of Bencito and I with our indigenous mother Teresita and our host sister Jessie. I wish her the best in the future. Now later we also stopped by El Parque del Condor, a kind of reserve for hunting birds, including the Andean condor, which is kind of a national symbol. Now that is a huge bird. I really think that thing could fly me away if it so desired. I also got to see a bald eagle fly, as part of the demonstration. It did make me feel a little patriotic to see how powerful it was. We also had lunch not too far from there. And they surprised me with a birthday chocolate cake. Best part was when they urged me to bite into the cake, even though I knew they were going to try to mush my face into it. I did it anyways, needless to say I was trying to get chocolate out my beard for like 15 minutes. But it was delicious anwyays. Last stop was Otavalo which had the market. Now that was fun being out there bargaining in another language. And it’s incredible what they can make out there almost by hand or with manual machines. The designs, the fabrics and colors and textures of everything. Truly remarkable. And I finally have my own poncho. Don’t worry, you all will see it soon. And for a pretty good deal. Although I could’ve done better, some of my friends had better luck bargaining. But all in all I am so happy and content with these past few days.
I did leave some things out but it’s really just too much to explain in writing. But it truly was an experience. One I won’t forget. With people I will not forget. I am blessed. Well family and friends, thank you for reading. Stay loved and blessed.
Don Sidney Polite Jr
First of all let me just say that Gondwana’s “Dulce Amor” and the entire album of Romeo Santos will get me through these next few months, I love those songs. But anyways, so let me tell you about my week. FLACSO classes started and to anyone who doesnt know (everyone) FLACSO is like the Ecuadorian equivalent of post grad work. So it’s pretty serious I suppose. Anyway, this past Monday was the first class, and the first time I was going out to that campus. Knowing class started at 5, and knowing that where I live is a little farther away, I left my host house at 4, you know to give myself some time. But let me tell you something, public transport here is mad wack. I asked my host mom how to get there and she said just take Ecovia (a bus) to the La Paz stop and walk down the block. But what I didnt know, was that those buses get packed tighter than the NY 4 or 2 train in rush hour. So there I was, on this damn bus, crammed next to people, my hand on some girls a$$ but if I moved Im sure she wouldve thought I was feeling her up. And you know what? There are no freaking maps, nobody on a loud speaker to say the next stop, and 50 billion people between me and the window so I cant see a thing. Im sure you know where this is going, I missed my stop. I only realized that once I got to this huge bus station and EVERYONE got off. Where the hell was I? So I get off, ask an employee where I need to go. “Just take Ecovia south” he says. Ok, all these darn buses say Ecovia on them. So I jump on one, and I literally end up going up a highway through the mountains into this little little ghost town almost. i think I saw a tumbleweed roll by, as if this was the wild west. Now I really dont know where the freak I am. Luckily I find a police station, and once I explain my situation, even they are confused how in the world I ended up out there. Buy either way, I had to jump on another bus to ride back to the huge bus station and try again. And so I do. And once I get there, I ask MORE employees where in the world I need to go. I finally do get to this La Paz stop and reach my class. At what time? 6:30. I left the house at 4. the place is really only like 20 minutes away. Shows you how far I went. Needless to say, the ride home went alot more smoothly. And my host family thought it was hilarious.
Now that was Monday. I also do community service, where I volunteer at this school with basically kindergarten kids. Idk, they are all like 5. I go there from like 7ish to 12:30 on tuesdays and thursdays. And there is girl from a different study abroad program who volunteers there too, Beth. Now its a pretty big school. Why are the 2 volunteers always with this 1 first year class? When there are about 6 different years, and 3 classes for each year? Basically about 18 different classes of different ages we can work with. Yet we both stay in this one, why? Because they aren’t children. They are gremlins. And the teacher, is pregnant and has a thing for either disappearing for long stretches of the day or just not showing up. So anyways, Tuesday. I go in, and of course its only Beth and I. However, there seems to be something going on outside of the class in the plaza, since teachers and parents seem to be setting something up. Of course, nobody comes into OUR class to let us know what is going on. So literally from the time I get there around 7:45ish or so, these gremlin things are running around the class, punching, kicking jumping, throwing, everything underneath the sun. My job? Children wrangler. I run around breaking up fights only to move on to the next fight, and return to the first fight like a minute later. Now these kids are trying to run outside the room. So I close the door, they try to open it, I stand in front of it, they try to push and pull me out of the way. Meanwhile teachers and parents are all outside the door and windows seeing this going on and choosing to do nothing. Why in the world did they abandon 2 volunteers in a class with the spawn of Beelzebub? I dont know. But this children wrangling goes on for like 2 hours until someone comes in and tells us we can let the kids go out on the plaza because there is a “Nutrition Fair” and thats why the parents are all here. Basically everyone showed up with food. Needless to say, I left and went to gorge myself after wrestling with children for 3 hours. And forget lines, I was cutting and pushing kids out the way (slight exaggeration). But it was about this time, when the kids are literally free to themselves, when this teacher decides to show up. Lord Jesus give me patience. I couldnt wait to leave.
Last thoughts for now, so Tuesday afternoon after class, Molita and I decide that maybe we should go to the FLACSO library and look for the readings we need for class on Wednesday. Why in the world is Molita’s reading in Portuguese? This is Ecuador, we should only be reading in english and spanish. Mostly spanish. So that was silly. And me? I asked 1 person, she sends me up to the 3rd floor. I go there, he says I need to see a Miss Martiz or something since she has the readings supposedly except she is left at 4 (its 5 at this time). So I need to come back tomorrow after 10am. So Wednesday I come back, remember I have class at FLACSO at 5 and im supposed to have these readings done. So I go up to the 7th floor and ask around for this Miss Martiz, and what do you know, she’s out of her office in a different class or something and nobody knows when she is coming back. Whatever. Good thing I found 2 blogs of past versions of the class where students wrote summaries and such for every lecture. That came in clutch. Either way, I am going to try AGAIN tomorrow to find this Martiz woman, or I will just live off those blogs.
Now this may come across as a huge rant session, but I assure you I am quite happy. Believe me I am. That beautiful hammock on the balcony is a wonderful companion. The sun is so strong and bright, and the host family is mad chill. I literally die laughing everytime we eat dinner. Or lunch, or breakfast together. It’s a beautiful thing. Anyway, I have sleeping to do since Friday is devoted to work, after a morning workout. Hurray. Stay happy and blessed one and all.
DJ Don Sidney