"Every planet has its own weird customs. About a year before we met, I spent six weeks on a moon where the principal form of recreation was juggling geese. My hand to God. Baby geese - goslings! They were juggled."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

House hunting

So the adventure began at the community president's house. I already knew I wouldn't live there; I wanted to live alone. But I humored him and let myself be walked upstairs. Except someone...his mother-in-law, mother, whatever, didn't seem to want me there at all and was way less than friendly. The president seemed annoyed with her too. We walked up the cement stairs, slick and wet with moss, to the second floor where we paused. The president started to point out a couple other houses in the area when something warm hit my face. The naive part of my brain immediately thought someone had just tossed a bit of hot water off the roof but the truth surfaced just after - a bird had shat on my face. The president laughed in disbelief and I stood with mouth agape, hoping he would offer something...a towel...anything... but he didn't and I wiped off the crap with my sleeve.

We didn't even see his upstairs room which is fine. We walked up the road just a couple houses down to a white house lacking a gate. The president asked the woman coming out if we could have a look at her free room but she refused because they don't have a bathroom. Hmm.

I took a walk by myself as the sunlight faded up the road towards the park to see a brand-new house that someone told me was unoccupied. I was fairly sure which house it was, but I couldn't recall if it was before or after the park office. So I walked well beyond it to what is pretty much the end of the community, and turned around and walked back in the dark. Sure enough, it was the house I was thinking of. It's far from the 'center' of town but still in a cluster of homes. Unfortunately it is a bit of a large house...two stories, just built, freshly painted with new windows and a door incoming next week, fridge, cooking range...apparently it's all set and ready to go. Except it's got no one to live in it. I guess the story is it belongs to a family living in the States and they sent money to Ecuador to build it. When they're coming back, I have no idea but I have to find out. As far as options go, this one is sounding like the best. And I'll be honest, it would be really, really nice to have tile floors.


As I sit here on my bed writing this entry, a meeting for the community's women workers is beginning. They're a part of my counterpart's project I'm helping him to execute, and my job is to collect all the names, dates of birth (just the day and month) and identification numbers which will be used to assign them to a specific species of Andean plant that they are responsible to care for.

So my host just visited me about 15 times bringing me identification cards to copy down. But this time she didn't come up; two other women did, knocking shyly on my door. Come in, come in, I said, it's ok. They entered with more of my coaxing, unsure if it was remotely ok for them to be in my space. One handed me her information written on a piece of thick paper and the other toyed with all my knitting projects laying around (I'm one of those impatient, indecisive knitters). They first saw a pair of long mittens - my first ever, actually - and wandered over to my half-knit sweater. You have to teach us how to make these things, the older woman told me. About two times a month, she added. I said, "Great! Whenever you like," which I thought to myself is always the prevailing issue here...getting people to commit and agree on a time. Then I handed them the ball of "yarn" made from a plastic bag and said I could show them how to make it and crochet with it. The older woman jumped on it and said, "Yes! Like make a shoulder bag!" Exactly.

At that point they saw my kitten curled up in her favorite place ever...in my lap...and cooed over her, laughing at the name Misi. I'm not a Quichua speaker so Misi doesn't sound stupid, but I imagine if I ever met a cat named Cat in the U.S., I would wonder. They asked what I planned to do with her when I left to visit home. Another volunteer said she'd take care of her, so that's no problem. Then they asked about my rabbit. Well...I haven't got a clue. Eat her! they said in unison. The image of Moo's super soft black and white pelt hanging on the wire clothesline popped into my head and I felt a little ill.


So now it's a few days later. My counterpart in the park found me (reluctantly) an unoccupied house that's up the road from the office...which means it's super far from what is essentially the center of town. But it's in a really gorgeous, quiet area and apparently it's got everything I'd need. I haven't seen inside yet and progress on that is going slowly. So slowly that I didn't find a house before 20 November when I pay the rent for the following month.

But now I'm confused again. Maria is being friendly again and with greater frequency is allowing me to choose if I want to eat what she makes. Not frequent enough though. And it's true; I enjoy a lot of things here that I would have to do without or spend a lot of money on in another house... mainly things like a bed and covers. Since I live in a cold place, I'd need to buy piles of blankets and those wool and fleece blankets are super expensive here.

What to do...?!

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