Sunday, August 29, 2010

Death traps and hamburgers

It's 9:30pm, Sat night and I've just survived a risk-taking drive home from the factory, trip to local hotel just for good coffee here and tackled the local "Hyper" grocery store on a weekend.  All of that in itself is a huge achievement.

As for the drive, I have no words.  It's rainy season here so each day invites an occasional downpour.  There are literally gushing gutters, vertically spitting fountains at cars trying to pass through.  The unlit, winding roads through the mountains are dangerous enough--without the glistening, wet concrete hiding the deep potholes.  To add to the confusion, roads are unfinished, let alone randomly blocked off with rocks.  Yes, rocks!  So those of us with SUVs would be able to pass by, assuming it's just the standard rockfall, not an actual ROAD BLOCK.  So next thing I know, I'm driving down the wrong side of the road with no signs or detour markers leading me back to the right side of the road.  Fortunately, there was a window to move over between the median, finally reaching safety.  With darkness blanketing your view, most cars drive with their brights on, even facing you head-on in your lane, without turning their brights off.  Lovely.  Blinking my lights doesn't make a difference.  They press by, seconds away from you, and then maybe will consider turning them off.  But it's too late, you're already blinded...either by brights or blackness.  Not to mention, the deathwish of several as they drive this death trap with no lights on.  But hey, at least they are required by law to carry reflective triangles IN their car, forget about actual safety WHILE driving.  In addition, you have your daring pedestrians who like to wait till the last minute to then dash in front of your car, as you wind around a sharp turn with no visibility.  Needless to say, it's a huge sigh of relief AND a miracle any time I arrive somewhere unharmed and without leaving a wake of incidents. 

So while arriving back into the city, I was ready for a late-night meal...something familiar, comforting after my death ride.  I pull up to the McD's drive-thru.  Mind you, Chris has warned me that drive-thru is the greatest language challenge, other than speaking on the phone.  So I decide to keep it simple, stick to "Combo numero cuatro".  After straining my neck and voice, repeating myself several times, I decide to pull around and speak directly to someone at the window.  I receive my change and pull to the next window.  While patiently waiting for several minutes, I notice it has taken a little TOO long.  The one time I actually double-check the receipt, I see that they charged me for FOUR meals and that's why it is taking so long.  I then waved the guy over to the window and tried to explain that I only wanted the ONE combo.  He understood that but then we had difficulty communicating the details of getting my change back. I told him I paid but couldn't remember how to say the amount but said, "Tiene mi papel" because I forgot the word for RECEIPT.  Too funny.  So as he went back and forth to the other window, his co-workers kept coming to the window, trying to speak with me in Spanish.  Of course, I think they are trying to help so I keep repeating the same conversation but later I realize they are flirting and asking me what I think of their co-worker.  Through my laughter in the whole ordeal, I say to the flirting one, "Silencio" because that was the only vocab I had to even joke on that matter.  NICE.  Finally, I got my change, my meal and made me way home.

I never expected just getting into my car and going through drive-thru would be such an adventure.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Day in the Life of Me...Sam

I used to think it was great being "the best friend". All I have to do is sleep, eat, sleep, stretch and wait for something exciting to happen. It's a pretty quiet life here...not much that goes on, passing these guarded walls. But I'm the first to know if there is any action out there and I'll let you know.

I get the whole car to myself, or at least I've made that call, so there's lots of space for me. The best part is that I have seen a lot of this place--from the country, to the city, to the factory. I try to make new friends at each location but not everyone is as friendly as I am. I often hear shouts of my name wherever I go but I can't tell if that's excitement or anger. Eh, who cares? I can just play stupid and pretend I can't tell the difference.

Every now and then I try to help out around the house, clean up the shoes, take out the trash, vacuum the floor of any excess food and take my own baths in puddles. Hey, I'm just trying to relieve added stress. However, I don't think it's appreciated. No one celebrates these grand achievements. There are no rewards. In fact, just the opposite. The other day, I was greeting some new friends at the house and all of a sudden this white circle came at me, whirring. I couldn't identify this mystery but I dodged that one. I escaped into the hallway but it came after me, spinning and whirring. I crouched down, determined to fight back and cried out. Eventually, it subsided.

See? I'm still the boss here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The price you pay...

So I've never been one to stick to New Year's resolutions or exercise plans but since living here, I've seen the necessity for routine. Without it, I've found I can easily go stir-crazy. However, with constant travel and changing schedules, it's difficult to implement and follow-through on a consistent plan. This week, after being out of town earlier this month, I decided to resume the workout plan and pull out my elliptical. In my enthusiasm, with one pull, using my entire body weight, I jerked the machine across the room, while my hand went flying, hitting the door frame with a thud. Now, any other day that I workout, I usually put on the gear, my shoes, removing my watch and any other jewelry. However, this day, I decided to be efficient and move my equipment into the one room with A/C, right as I returned from work, before I would have time to sit down and distract myself from the idea of working out. So as I look down at my hand, I see my sapphire is missing from my ring. I panicked as I desperately searched the speckled concrete floor for the blue stone. As I muttered a hopeful few prayerful words, I saw it sitting in the middle of the floor. Ahhhh, the price you pay to save a few bucks for a gym membership!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Spend the day in a hammock

Today reading through Real Simple and came across article by Paul Bloom: 10 Ways to Find More Pleasure Every Day. And why not, right? I've included his list here and thought I'd add some of my own too!
  1. Play that song you love so much. Repeat.
  2. Seek out the Sommelier. (Learn more about the wine you love.)
  3. Don't buy boxed sets of dvds. (Takes the fun out of opening each dvd.)
  4. Keep your child's baby shoes in your desk at work.
  5. Read or watch something that takes your breath away.
  6. Look outside
  7. Pet a dog.
  8. Grin and bear it.
  9. Give.
  10. Make the bath as hot as you can stand it.

And a few others....

  • Listen to a new band.
  • Drive in a new place.
  • Try a new restuarant.
  • Eat dinner by candlelight.
  • Read a book recommended by a friend.
  • Hug a friend.
  • Call home.
  • Eat your favorite snack.
  • Stand outside in the rain.
  • Write a thank you note.

Doing more than talk...

It's been a stretching experience, these last 6 months, more than I expected. As I re-enter to life here, I have a new energy, a new life, a new attitude. First of all, leaving and being among friends reminded me to not take for granted the friends I have. It also was a challenge for me to grow in be a better listener, slow to speak, slow to frustration, to speak life and encouragement to those around me. I don't usually adminster such self-control but I do hope to in the future.

I want to thank my friends, family and husband for encouraging me thus far. Today is the first day to begin to put all my talk and dreaming into reality. After several dinners and chats with friends in LA, I'm putting those into action. Keeping my dreams and intentions to myself thus far hasn't moved me very far but now I have people to answer to! And my husband is having me share my creative plan with him TODAY so that I have goals to start working towards.

Thank you all for being part of the journey!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Good to be home

It's hard to believe how fast time flies. I've already been here for over 6 months and just returned from an amazing time with family and friends in the States. It's amazing how encouraging time with true community can truly energize you.

Arriving back home yesterday, I was welcomed by the usual chaos, taxis driving at 10 miles an hour on the main road or driving head-on into my lane as I turn down my street, or the resourcefulness of motorcycle passengers toting a tv as they catch a ride. But today, I jumped in to the routine of volunteering, chatting with the cashier at "Wal-Mart", having my language session and organizing time with friends here. It's starting to feel like home.