July 29, 2009

What's a shopping cart?

asked my student, Michelle. She saw the term in the reading. The question prompted a discussion on where they do and don't exist. They certainly don't exist here on Isabela. Luis said he used one once in Guayaquil, a city on the coast.

This reminded me of all the things I haven't used in months, including:

-a shopping cart
-a shopping basket
-a debit card
-a credit card
-shoes not for running
-a cell phone
-a wallet
-ID of any kind
-a library card
-a jacket
-a paper coffee cup
-a plastic utensil
-a bike helmet
-a seatbelt
-a bus pass
-an umbrella
-a doorbell
-an elevator
-an escalator
-a last name
-a title
-a stapler
-air conditioning
-a heater
-a coffee maker
-a duvet
-a TV

July 27, 2009

We've adopted!

His name is Pañuelito (little napkin)

Here's his happy mom, Heather

and his happy aunt, Mary

and his extended family

On the whole, the adoption process has been a good one. Pañuelito is an excellent walker and inspires love in everyone, including the neighbourhood girls, who haven't left the property in two weeks except to eat and sleep. Niko and his friend from the mainland even built him a doggy cabaña in the backyard, so filled with love were they.

But his presence has also brought us into contact with the dark side of Isabela. First, there was the woman that showed up claiming Pañuelito was hers. We discovered that the grandmother next door, who had sold Heather the dog for $20, had in fact gotten it from a gang of puppy-stealing delinquents. Fortunately, the doggy cabaña and our faces convinced the original owner that Pañuelito was in a good home, so she left him free of charge. The grandmother eventually refunded the ill-gotten money. This is also the grandmother that poisoned Niko's cat, it is said.

Then there are the neighbourhood girls--in particular, the twins and Melisa. Over the last two weeks, we have gotten rather close. Heather lets them bathe the puppy and take him for walks, and I give them painting and drawing supplies. We even have a muralla de arte (art wall) covered with their creations. In return, they tell us about life, which for them includes motherless upbringings, drunken relatives, fights, and a general lack of attention (this would be the island's dark side). The littlest one, Melisa, pretends she can't hear us when we say it's time to go.

In short, we adopted more than we thought.

July 25, 2009

Oh, and by the way

I'm moving to Morocco this fall.

It's been a dream to go live there, and not just because I fell for a guy from Casablanca in Istanbul last year. Since we're on the subject, though, I'll mention he had the longest eyelashes I've ever seen and spoke Turkish with such a gorgeous accent that I never skipped class. There are other reasons, though.

-A teaching job and an apartment within walking distance.

-Proximity to Spain, Portugal, and Turkey.

-If I were a country, I, too, would want to be a mix of European, Arab, Mediterranean, and European style.

-Opportunity to learn Arabic and re-learn French.

-Mint tea, couscous, and spices.

-The Sahara.

I'm looking forward to living in a Muslim country again. Catholic church bells aren't the same as prayer calls, and I miss the hospitality, especially around Ramadan and Eid. My city is Tetouan, which you'll find in the top right of the country. It's home to 320,000 mint tea drinkers and Wikipedia promises orchards of orange, almond, pomegranate, and cypress.

What do you think?

July 22, 2009

Words Parker uses that I don't

I collected these on a post-it a while ago and forgot about them.

I've said my peace.

July 17, 2009


It's a funny day. Overcast with clouds and a mild caña hangover, too little sleep, but I don't sleep in here, no matter what.

Isabela is different than San Cristóbal. It's smaller and friendlier, so I feel like I know everyone. I biked home from class the other day--my classroom is out in the middle of a lava field, next to the gas station--and on the way passed all the reminders that I have been here long enough to develop familiarity. There was the yellow dog that always barks at me, the couple that makes out under the street light, the heavy woman walking home, the ten guys that are always sitting around a table waiting for someone to buy beer, my neighbour Reuben--drunk, waving a cigarette and shouting MAH-REE!, Pancho the water delivery man who flags me down to ask if we need another bottle tonight, the surfers that hang out next door, and the two men in wife-beaters who are apparently stay-at-home dads, because they are always sitting on the stoop with one or two small childen playing next to them in the dirt. Oh, and then there's the place itself--the clouded pink sunsets on the volcano, the silty flamingo pond, the palm trees and curling purple flowers in empty lots lining the beach...

I get home and think that I could stay.

Then I wake up and find an email titled Hi and Wedding Ceremony. It's from my Turkish language partner and friend, an amazing, beautiful, smart girl that met me every week at the Vancouver Public library to laugh about the un-translatable degil mi? in Turkish, and English's absurd dependency on the word get. And to talk about culture and relationships and our attempts to steer our lives with decisions. It seems this beautiful young woman has just made one of these life-steering decisions. She wants to invite me and my family to her wedding in Turkey.

And just like that I know Galapagos is an episode, and I won't stay.

It's been months now and I feel like my identity here is as washed out as a watercolour. I used to be an oil painting! Here I'm mellow, I'm patient, I'm happy...but I rarely talk about Saudi, Nepal, Turkey, Romania...the places I've been, the people I've met, the encounters that changed my understanding of what it is to be a human living on Earth. I don't know if this old identity--the one that is linked to my dear Turkish friend and the memory I have of her taking me home so that her mother can read my fortune in a coffee cup--is waiting for me at the airport baggage claim, or if this Galapagos sense of myself is going to linger.

Like I say, it's a funny day.

July 15, 2009

La violinista

"third wheel" in Spanish. 

Isn't that funny? You, me and la violinista.

July 14, 2009

Love is in the air

The Humboldt Current is chilling the tides, bringing us into the "cold and dry" season (relatively cold and dry, mind you), but romances are heating up anyway, at least for my island companions. The upside, in addition to chisme (gossip) and smiles around the household, is an expanding vocabulary.

pelado/pelad boyfriend/girlfriend, actually means a peeling (e.g. carrot peeling)
vacilar to go out with/hook up with
me exitas you turn me on

Oh, and some English has jumped the language fence. "Full," for example, and "sexy." Which leads me to my favourite expression of the week:

full sexy pronounced FOOL SAKE-SEE

July 13, 2009

Bad at cards?

Sometimes we sit in the living room and play Grand Deux. Ben wins by strategy, I win by ambition, and Heather wins by luck. Evan frequently loses. For him, I memorized this saying:

Desgraciado en el juego, afortunado en amores.

Unlucky in games, lucky in love.

He scoffed, but recent developments with Maria Teresa suggest it's true.

July 11, 2009

Wakala! Ick!

Other faves from Spanish:

muelle pier (it's the pronunciation that I love: mu-o-yay)
lenteja lentil
rico delicious
por que why/because
ojalla  God-willing (comes from Arabic--Allah, duh)
chuta fuck/shit (stress and hold the "oo" sound: chUta)
claro of course/clearly
que pasa? what's happening?
no tengo nada I don't have anything
quien sabe? who knows?
chao/ciao  bye

July 7, 2009


Heather is my housemate and the teacher for Level 1. A student asked her why we add "wo" to men to make women. Why, indeed? Heather explained that "wo" comes from the Hebrew "superior to." The students nodded.

July 6, 2009

Happy Birthday, Kath!

It's been another hard year without you around.

And I can't wait to see you when you get back from Turkey!

p.s. you always looked good in a tiara.

July 4, 2009

Transcend evil, my friends

I just finished the novel Jitterbug Perfume, about immortality and scent. I didn't love it, but there were a few great nuggets to weigh in the palm of the mind. Thanks, Tom Robbins.

Whatever else his long, unprecedented life might have been, it had been fun. Fun! If others should find that appraisal shallow, frivolous, so be it. To him, it seemed now to largely have been some form of play. And he vowed that in the future he would strive to keep that sense of play more in mind, for he'd grown convinced that play--more the piety, more than charity or vigilance--was what allowed human beings to transcend evil.


it is better to be small, colorful, sexy, careless, and peaceful, like the flowers, than large, conservative, repressed, fearful, and aggressive, like the thunder lizards;

Testicular solvency

Nadie, hasta este momento, ha tenido la solvencia testicular de ponerme una demanda penal,

says Fabricio Correa, brother of Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa. The bad brother is under investigation for money laundering and dirty accounting, etc. The usual. I just love that he said this in a press conference. Translation:

No one, until now, has had the balls to call me out!

Oh, the things you can say. In Canadian parliament, there are quite a few things you cannot say, as I discovered by watching CPAC and then calling the House of Commons.

July 1, 2009

Wonderful Tonight

One of the best things about teaching is making your students do what you want, like listen to Eric Clapton. To my surprise and delight, some of the older ones even sang along. We all joined in for the hugely sappy ending:

And then I tell her, as I turn out the light,
I say, "My darling, you were wonderful tonight.
Oh, my darling, you were wonderful tonight."

*Note the tell/say contrast, depending on the presence of an object pronoun. Yeah, baby.