The Circus and the Muses

Is this blog ever updated? Not so much. We’re getting ready for the trip in October. We have tickets out of Cuenca to Quito for the first leg of the journey, but ayaiyaiyai. What’s happening with the airport here is a mystery dressed in clown pants-with-a-missing-shoe.

First they closed the airport, when that one plane skid off the runway. Only time that had happened in the 10 years or so since the airport opened.

Then they re-opened, just to close it abruptly on any day it was raining sufficiently. No one ever knew what “sufficiently” meant, exactly. But there were rumors you could see a guy with a stick walking around poking the runway that may have been part of their occult reconnaissance.

After months and studies and estimates, they decided what had to be done and who to do it. Resurfaced the runaway and completed it within a month. Paid a million dollars. Finished right on schedule (the second schedule, that is)  Yay!

Then no airplanes came. At least from Quito. Some smaller ones are flying back and forth from Guayaquil. The Cuenca Mayor is mad, the airlines say the runaway is still slippery, worse even. And the Mayor has smelly feet. Or something. My Spanish is lacking. The government wheels into action, the EC equivalent of the FAA claims the runaway has been inspected, approved and ready to roll. What’s your deal TAME airlines? TAME releases a statement on their web site about  “we must implement mandatory technical procedures designed to ensure flight safety, thereby safeguarding the integrity of our passengers, crew and aircraft.” What does that mean?? Nobody knows. At least I don’t. It probably has something to do with a guy and a stick. And it wouldn’t matter except I have these two tickets, with a chain of connecting flights…

Probably any sane person would have rescheduled the flights by now. But I have confidence in the system here. Things tend to happen just in time. So I’m waiting until the end of the week, maybe the beginning of next week and see what can be cobbled together, if necessary, in the form of short hops or buses to Guayaquil and transits to Quito to make the red-eye to Houston.

Besides that, I wrote my first short story in Spanish. Very short, like 175 words. I had some help from lang-8.com, a nifty service where you help edit other peoples stuff in your native language and others in turn help edit yours in theirs. We’ve got a Photo/Story contest coming up in school, and the teacher was kind of puzzled when I asked her if I could write my story ON the photo (that image above is the final result 🙂

Well, back to important tasks, these 4 sugar skulls aren’t going to draw themselves…

BTW, that serious looking dude in the picture is national poet, Remigio Crespo Toral, from Cuenca and that’s his muses in the background. I thought I’d give it voice…the story in English:

They are behind me again, aren’t they? Sometimes, when I don’t know what to write, I hear them talking as they pass. Stories from outside of this world. Stories I don’t understand. But sometimes, I catch a word or two. Sometimes an idea. And these must be from another place. Because they grow so quickly. Some people call me an author. But I think, in reality, I’m just a open field. When I am lucky, on the whispers of inspiration, floats a tiny seed. And I am just a gardener. I water it. Care for it. Try to tell the flowers from the weeds. And sometimes, a miracle unfolds. But what I bring to market, is only the flower. Not the roots. The roots are the flower underground, reaching toward a deeper sun. And the flower is divided, between what is for us and what is for something greater. Something hidden. Something that nurtures all appearances. At least, that’s what I think they are saying. This time. Perhaps I will remember. Perhaps I will write it down and see what grows.

A Report on my 80% Today

Today is a holiday in Ecuador. Independence day from the Spaniards, rather than the English. Tomorrow we’re going to a friend’s for tea. We met her in Spanish class and it should be entertaining. She’s Iranian. A fearless speaker, mixing English and Spanish in an animated stream that almost makes sense and leads to some bizarre and funny tangents of conversation. Often the teacher had to tell her that a word was English, not Spanish, and I completely understand. I’m trying to shovel Japanese in my head for our October trip, in the midst of Spanish lessons, and I know I’ll be mixing up the two. The brain is a funny thing.

I tried chochos the other day. A type of bean native to Ecuador and Peru, hailed as the next superfood. Better protein and nutrient profiles than soybean. Only drawback is it takes a few days to cook. Luckily they sell it precooked. It’s about the size and texture of a garbanzo bean, might be interesting to try making hummus with it.

Nothing too exciting going on, culturally anyway. I figure about 80% or more of my daily experience would probably be the same, even if we lived in Mongolia. Today, for example, I’m deep into the exploration of neural nets and tinkering with building my own for both experimentation and a couple of projects. I also have a sandbox setup for hackery and am surfing topologies of the network geography down here, mapping activity that invisibly overlays and shimmers atop the pre-digital physical and cultural landscapes. With a casual intent on updating my skills, perhaps towards a consulting gig in cyber-security. I have experimental oscillators and virtual instruments running, riffing a spectrum of novel sounds. I’m not sure what our neighbors think of some of the extraterrestrial vibrations occasionally pulsing through the walls. But I enjoy shaping and sculpting sound waves like blocks of wood or granite exploring what’s beneath. And finally, working on a little light particle project, shepherding the tiny scintillating flocks into simulations of fireflies across a darkened glade. With a dab of cricket song I sampled in Fort Collins out the bedroom window and a geometric sigil glowing in the stars to channel helpful energy from those viewing the piece into increasing the fireflies chances of survival in our light polluted environments.

So anyway, more of a picture maybe of what’s going on 🙂 Be well my friends and family. Here’s a metta meditation I’ve sent to each and all of you at one time or another. And will continue to do so

may you be safe
may you be happy
may you be healthy
may you live with ease

May 40th

The last two days we’ve headed out for “supermaxi” for supplies and got rained out both times about half way. Today we made it a bit further before seeking refuge. We tried waiting it out, but it wasn’t letting up and we ended up heading back again. A consolation was passing by a little hole in the wall bakery I discovered by accident a few weeks ago; one that makes a really good bread-pudding-cake thingy. So it wasn’t a complete wash. And, as usual, we had some plan b places to grab lunch or coffee along the way for such contingencies.

May is known for raining a lot around here; they even have a saying that it rains a ton in April but in May you have to wear your ponchos/socks until the 40th (hasta el 40 de mayo no te quites el sayo) So you would think you’d see more rain jackets, umbrellas and such, but less than half the people we met walking about had anything like that. About half of the other half were milling in doorways and under eaves, some of them we saw on the way back too, so they were prepared to wait it out for an hour or more. The other half of that half were just winging it.

And we started Spanish classes again, yay! Two hours this morning, and every day hence for a couple of weeks before we head to Colorado. The expression of the day:

Siga no mas

I understood all the words individually, heard it before even, but its meaning wasn’t clear until today. Word by word it means “continue no more.” A little different interpretation is “continue only”, that is, continue and nothing more. Its usage is closer to the English phrase “go for it!” So if someone wants a bite of your sandwich, you can say “siga no mas” … or if you want to say “please go ahead” to someone you bump into while you’re both trying to squeeze out the door: siga no mas. You go head. So yeah, now I’ll be thinking of ways to slip it into conversations, it seems like a very useful phrase, so siga no mas, until we meet again. 

¡Spanish Class!

First day of formal classes. Yikes!

  • the class is two doors down from our apartment
  •  it starts at 8:30am!
  • very good teacher, excellent school
  • it’s 4 hours a day, from 8:30 to 12:30, 5 days a week for a month
  • we get a 20 minute break every day
  • our class size is two: miko and me
  • I get a breather when it’s miko’s turn
  • I don’t know how much longer I can string out “I like beer” conversationally
  • we’re learning new words at an alarming rate, I may be able to talk about ham sandwiches soon

Phones and Software

Didn’t plan to do this so soon, but ended up getting my phone setup for Ecuador. A sim card, voice and data pay as you go plan, total out of pocket: $35. Technically I think you need a cedula, a national id, to get a local number, but the guy used some one else’s they had on file. Kind of cool to be able to use google maps on the go now to keep from getting lost. And give a local number to people. And call places to make reservations and such that won’t be able to understand me.

Walked by this little software tienda…didn’t check the prices on the Windows 8.1, MathLab, AutoDesk, Adobe and other pricey packages. They are probably around $5 and most likely are torrent downloads burned to DVD 🙂

I think my game plan for learning Spanish is going to consist of a four prong strategy:

  1. Platiquemos, which is the updated FSI program that is for people really serious about drilling spanish into their brain. One quote from a language forum kind of sums up the consensus: “Great observations about FSI. I’ll add one more… I have not seen anyone who has finished FSI and says they do not speak Spanish reasonably well. You never see people who have finished it recommending against it”
  2. Combined with the “Telenovela” method. Which is basically just tackling a movie, song or other media and parsing it until it’s completely understood, skimming the new vocabulary and grammatically structures to anki where it will be retained. This way the topic is actually something personally interesting and gives you something to talk about with others a little more exciting that “I think I lost my pen under the table.”
  3. Finishing up the Pimsleur program. I’m on Level 3, I’ve got about 25 lessons + 15 more in level 3.5 to go.
  4. And, of course, the daily immersion and attempts to communicate provided by daily encounters…i.e. today’s new vocabulary:
    desbloquear (as in, the phone is unlocked, it’s cool)
    llave (what the sales lady keep asking me to do when my phone locked her out)
    crema de afeitar (shaving cream…long story)