**Warning…… this is a rambling exposition.
This (the title) is a great question, sparked by one of Macy’s classmates during a Skype chat with the whole class the other day; which, by the way, was really lovely to witness. One of the kids asked, “Macy, so…like…what do you do all day?” Brilliant.
I noticed I have felt less driven to write a blog entry the last while, and I suppose it’s because the kids are writing about the “exciting things”, and I default to “what’s left”? Life is becoming normalized here for us in a way…and…isn’t that what we were going for? Situating ourselves in one place so that we can carve out a shortened version of a simple, normal, daily life in a totally different culture?
Suddenly I hear a shrieking voice inside my head berating me, “Emily… have you become complacent?!?!? NORMAL?!!? Seriously?? You are wasting your precious time here falling into some safe bubble! What’s wrong with you?! You’re throwing this once in a life time opportunity away!!!!!!” Next, an extended “uh-oh” sinking-type feeling, and then the storm passes with only slight collateral damage that I’d like to believe I transform into motivation. Eventually, I step back, take a breath, attempt to access my rational brain, and remind myself that what we are doing is pretty incredible. There simply has to be an ongoing “balancing and rebalancing” of some form of adventure with basic living. The question then becomes, what is our basic living like here?
….mostly……except…. that although I had ridiculous hopes and visions of my kids turning into complete angels, I still have to parent. What?!? I still have to deal with brother-sister asinine fighting…..absent-minded crossing of the streets…..enforce manners… …squash “attitudes”……nag about cleaning…etc..etc. Also, just quickly – folks who are able to homeschool their children and remain a sane and somewhat effective parent are freakishly amazing. This could never be something I do regularly. Wow.
**Kids sitting nicely, doing homework. Hmmmm….suspicious….
**Jasper washing the dishes. Rubber gloves a must as the hot water BURNS!!
What has fallen into the backdrop of our “normalized life here” is the buzzing noise, including the incessant cock-a-doodle-doo of the rooster next door and the traffic hum-drum right outside our door amongst other cacophony. We have also inserted white noise into our sleeping routines, which has helped. So, I must admit that we sleep in every day. (insert shame-faced emoji here). For instance, it is currently 8:50am and the kids are not up yet. Granted, they went to bed late….but…….
I enjoy waking up early (relatively speaking 😉 ) and coming downstairs to have my coffee and either study some of my Spanish or write in my journal. Eventually everyone makes their way downstairs, Myles usually first, and we have breakfast. Breakfast can be Cornflakes, toast and peanut butter (which is not popular here and incredibly expensive), yogurt and fruit, or a personal favourite of the kids’ – a plate of quail eggs!
After breakfast and cleaning ourselves up, we jump into homework and studying Spanish. Luis, who is from Spain and has lived in Cuenca for 9 years, comes every Tuesday and Thursday to spend 45 minutes with each kid and an hour with me! It’s incredibly helpful and I appreciate his informal way of teaching. Sometimes on those days, as I’m last to have my lesson, Myles and the kids will take off right after their their lessson to go swimming. Once I’m done mine, I find any excuse to go walking around. I’ll head to the market (which I still LOVE, but has become “normal”) or the grocery store, or the other day I walked over half an hour to find a store that had rain ponchos. We all reconvene at the house where I hopefully will have begun some creation of dinner….simple, or a few notches above simple. Then it’s just hanging out. Being on the equator, the sun is essentially gone by around 7pm all year round; so although the temperature is fine (jeans are perfect and a sweater is necessary), the day feels “done” by then. We haven’t any toys or games to entertain us, and there’s only so much you can do as a family inside at night, so admittedly we sometimes sit around the computer and watch something on Netflix. For those of you who know our family, tv is a privilege, especially during the weekdays, so the kids are pretty amped when they get to watch something and stay up until 9:30pm!!
**The market…….just one, small section of it.
**There are 3 rush hour times throughout the weekdays….morning, lunch, and after work. Here’s one of them. The streets are narrow and in our area are most often one-way…so the traffic can line up!!
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays Jasper has his soccer at 3pm, so we do the “schooling thing” in the morning, and then head out around 2:15pm to walk to his soccer. Macy was initially more keen on going to soccer when the family of adorable and very dirty puppies were there, but since they were stolen (yes, stolen), the lure of watching the 9 rabbits stuffed into a make-shift metal cage and the chickens and roosters wandering all around has faded. Often she and I will walk there (20 minutes) with Myles and Jasper, watch for a bit, and then head off to the market or some such thing.
**This is the bench seating area where we watch Jasper’s soccer from. Thankfully there is the cover overhead as it often dumps rain! The chickens and roosters run the show here though, and they wander all over….including almost stepping across our feet on a regular basis.
**One of Macy’s little puppy friends. The location is similar to a junk yard, so if you look closely, you’ll notice the puppy’s toy is some part of an old car.
Weekends? Well, no regularity…but thus far we find some small or medium-sized adventure….be it the zoo, a hike, or simply walking around to explore the city somewhere.
If it isn’t yet obvious, we walk everywhere. I deeply appreciate that part. I am not exercising in any way, shape or form….so I’m grateful for the walking. Once in a while we take a taxi, but not often. Really though, walking affords the opportunity to really observe and take in the nuances of the culture. I absolutely love walking along inconspicuous streets and witnessing daily life unlike anything we see back home. I often wish I could take pictures to capture things, but that feels gross and like these people are a zoo exhibit. So I don’t.
***This is a big and beautiful cemetery I came across one day on one of my walks.
**This is one of the outside walls to the cemetery. This paintings are at least 10-12ft high, and I am guessing they are images of important people….possibly buried here??
**Just an incredibly hard-working woman pushing her cart of goods….maybe heading home for the day. Not an easy living.
What do I cook? Wellllllll, not ever having been known as a fanciful cook, I still keep things mostly simple. I have ventured into making some nice meals, even an Ecuadorian arroz con pollo, (rice with chicken….whoopee); but I love leftovers, and some nights it’s sandwiches. I can get almost everything I need from the grocery stores, so that’s great. The fruits and vegetables are most enjoyable and cost-friendly to purchase from the market just 9 minutes from our house…..e.g., 3 lovely red peppers for a dollar, 3 or 4 avocados for a dollar, a big bag of tomatoes for a dollar….you get the point. Sometimes we go out for a meal and my favourites are the ones where it entails cheap, local cuisine. We have had a few nice meals at “fancier” places with more western gastronomic choices, but they are expensive when you are on a budget and often filled with expats or other gringos. Obviously we somewhat fit into that category, but my skin crawls a bit when we are surrounded by these folks and being swallowed up by an Ecuadorian attempt to set the expat mind at ease by creating a North American experience. That isn’t why we are here.
**Arroz con pollo. Fancy.
**Loads of graffiti all around. I like this one in particular….a creative embellishment of a boring door.
If you’ve managed to stomach my rambling – thanks! I have so, so many more things I can ramble on about, but perhaps I’ll leave those for another day.