Homework Responses

Here’s a response a student seriously submitted as part of a personal reflection section on a homework assignment:

What is one thing you want to continue doing in your relationships? I want to continue staying within the perceived cultural norms while violating others in privacy. Muahahaha. Ie, going the speed limit when there are people around, then speeding like a bat out of hell when the roads are empty.

What is one thing you want to stop doing in your relationships? I want to stop expecting women to understand what I mean when I say things and expect them to argue reasonably, because them bitches be trippin’.

What is one thing you want to start doing in your relationships? I want to be more aware of cross-culturally offensive actions. I have some asian friends in Davis, and we like to make fun of each other all the time, and I hung out with some guy elsewhere that ended up being really offended when I made an Asian joke. Oh well, that guy was a douche anyway.

Cap’n Crunch

As I was going through my random drawers last night, I found an old notebook I used to carry around. Beneath the evidence of several torn pages was one line:

Cap’n Crunch Eyebrows

I wondered aloud to Caitlin what this could possibly mean, and eventually realized I would have to look this one up on the internet. Among many similar images was this one:

The Cap’n has some magical eyebrows.

Marital Rating Scale

Caitlin and I just took this test to see how we’ve been as husband and wife  for the past 7 months. It was written in 1939, so there are obviously a few things outdated, but most of the test is still very relevant. Like how wives should make sure the seams of their hose aren’t crooked, or how husbands should give wives real movie kisses, just a “peck” on the cheek.

As it turns out, Caitlin received a score of 44 (Average), and I received a score of 76 (Very Superior). I already took my demerit for bragging, so I’m not in danger of altering the score by posting this.

Class Statistics

One of my jobs as a grad student is grading undergraduate papers and exams. An interesting part of this job is that I get access to the entire class site, including the site statistics. The following chart is the number of downloads from the class website over pretty much the entire quarter. Aside from the syllabus the only thing they can download are the required readings which have been assigned evenly throughout the quarter. I think this goes without saying, but the midterm took place on November 3.

I'm curious as to why there's a huge drop in downloads the week leading up to the exam...

Travel Update

It’s hard to find the time to write when life is so busy. Also, for the past week, every place I’ve been has internet, so I spend my time talking to Caitlin about my day rather than writing it here, since she and my mom are the most faithful readers of this (and my mom is now here with me).

Alas, now I’m in Panama, sweating it out. I’m sitting out on the porch in a rocking chair next to Waldy, who is reading a Reader’s Digest. The tree 100 feet away has tiny monkeys running around, and there’s a dirt slope down the driveway to my right that’s home to about a hundred wild tarantulas.

Today, Ken and I went downtown to look for hats and shoes, both of which Ken purchased, and I left empty handed. I suppose it’s for the best, since my current hat is fine, and I seem to look a little silly in a wide brimmed hat, the style of the country. After much walking and looking, a lot of which in an air conditioned mall, we headed back on the bus here.

There’s a large lizard that just crossed my path.

A funny tidbit about Central America: the city buses here are old US schoolbuses. Here in Panama, they repaint them entirely, and usually decorate them with crazy art that’s usually reserved for t-shirts at tacky tropical tourist shops. Sometimes they even affix shark fins or other strange objects to the roof. In short, when the US deems a schoolbus unsafe for children, they ship it here, make it look ridiculous, and let the citizens pay money to ride in them.

It’s very sticky right now. After I got up from my nap, I gave myself a spongebath, but the effects of that have long worn off. It seems that a shower is only good for as long as it takes to dry. I’m missing the Costa Rica climate.

For lunch today, Ken and I walked down the road to the home of an older couple who has the unfortunate luck of losing their children. So far, I think 6 have passed away and one has been mostly paralyzed for the past 13 years. We got to visit with them, I believe a daughter, and also their paralyzed son. It was a pretty quiet and somber visit. Lunch, however, was delicious. It was some sort of bird parts cooked with mysteriously delicious seasonings (primarily salt, but some sort of red spice as well), over rice. The meat portion was extremely small, but it was the perfect amount. Also served was a bowl of beans and some fresh lemonade.

That’s pretty much today. As for the past week, well, maybe another time.

Costa Rican Adventures

Most of the past two days can be summed up in a series of pictures, but since it takes five minutes to upload one, I guess I’ll try to write several thousand words.

All of the breakfasts I’ve had in Costa Rica have been the same, and I’m not complaining about it. The local dish is called gallo pinto, and it’s rice with a little cilantro and onion, then cooked with beans. Both times it has been served with eggs and ham, and the combination is pretty awesome.

Anyway, that’s what was served for breakfast at Francisco’s, and because of my standing around, they made me help cut up papaya and avocados. Francisco speaks very little English but has a huge personality, so it more than makes up for the language gap. It’s also funny since he has a huge sense of humor, so I often understand the words he speaks but not the sentences.

Around 10 a.m. yesterday, Ken, Alan, Manuel, and I piled into Francisco’s funky car. It has this tendency to not function at times for odd reasons. Also, the alarm likes going off.

Once we were in the car, ready to go, Manuel turns the key for the ignition, and the engine turns over and dies. After a dozen attempts, he trades places with Francisco and lets him try. Still no go. We roll down the hill in neutral and try again to no avail. Then, after opening the hood and messing with something, they announced that the alarm, for some reason, was not letting the car start. They fixed it, and we were on our way.

The cities in Costa Rica are janky in a cute way. As we traveled beyond them, the land became greener and the air warmer. We were going to the western side of the country, so before too long, we passed over the continental divide. Pretty much at that point, the temperate weather became more humid and sticky.

After a while of driving through the color green, we arrived at Doña Nelly’s, an older, very enthusiastic lady. She used to own a plantation that produced heart of palm, so her garden was very extensive. She also lived in the US for 5 years, so her English was decent enough to mix well with my Spanish. After our lunch of chicken, assorted vegetables, and the usual salad, the workers went to rest while I explored the garden.

Right outside her door, she has a cacao tree with plenty of ripe fruit. I talked to her about it, and she pulled one down to try. The chocolate comes from the large seeds inside the plant, but they’re coated in a gooey film that’s also pretty nice to eat. It has a slightly sour taste, which I have no problem with.

Among the many other interesting plants were several orchids that grow straight from the ground, a spiky palm tree (porcupalm tree), and a live cinnamon tree.

After the rest, we all headed over to Simeon’s place, which was more shacky than housey, but it was charming nonetheless. The housing situation there consisted of prefabricated houses with additional rooms tacked on as needed. Walls existed solely for privacy and not at all for insulation, which is a similar purpose for bedsheets.

The house itself was on a hill, so I got to walk down and investigate the plants and other assorted life. Before too long, it was time for our study, so 11 of us crammed into a room no bigger than 10′ x 10′ and attempted to sweat it out. Halfway through, Nelly broke out her fan and tried to cool the room down. It was a helpful experience anyway.

After the study, we all sat around like old men waiting for dinner. Apparently, most of the neighbors are relatives, so everyone was stopping by, coming in and out of the house. One little boy came over and showed us these very interesting grasshoppers that are black with red highlights.

Dinner, as many dinners have been, was arroz con pollo with sides of beans and salad. Still, pretty tasty.

After dinner, Alan entertained us with his harmonica, making me feel even more like I should expect Clint Eastwood to ride up on a horse.

Once we were all ready, we piled back in the car, this time including Heladio (Simeon’s son) and Rosme, a younger couple, about my age. Slightly crowded, we made it over to their house. Their house, while very primitive, was incredibly charming. The inside doors were simply curtains, as were some walls. The roof was entirely corrugated metal, and the one bathroom had walls only up to your eyes. A cement island in the kitchen served a dual purpose as a well, and there was a large pump and pipe coming out of it to prove it.

Since we were both fine sleeping without fans, Ken and I shared one room, the room closest to the river. It was a river that during the high season would come up nearly into the house, and year round has howler monkeys who shout their territory around 5 in the morning.

That evening, we all sat around trying to cool off, talking on the porch, sitting in a rocking chair literally made out of rebar. They had two dogs and one young cat, and they were very playful.

It was an interesting experience that I wouldn’t mind having again. With barely enough electricity for lights, there were no computers, internet, or TV. Everyone sat around keeping each other company, and we all went to bed fairly early (around 9, I believe).

One of the main reasons for going to bed early, aside from the fact that the sun sets around 6, was that Heladio has to get up early for work. Really early. Around 3:30 a.m., every day. With that in mind, we all went to bed, and the workers let me sleep in until 6. I woke up a little after 5, and thinking that I had slept in until 8 or 9 because of the light, checked Ken’s clock and went back to sleep. Of course, I also missed the howler monkeys. However, when I did get up, everyone was out on the porch looking in the trees at the toucans. Exciting wildlife sighting!

After showering under a spigot attached to the ceiling, I met Ken down by the river. I explored the area for a little bit and took lots of pictures, then we walked upstream a few hundred feet. There, we found a huge tree trunk that had gotten washed onto the rocks from further upstream. The top part had been cut into pieces and hauled away. Ken told me of a saying in Mexico that went something like, “When a tree falls, everyone chops it up for firewood,” meaning something along the lines of, “When someone makes a mistake, everyone tears them apart.” Thinking of this saying, he requested I take a photo of him with it.

When we returned to the house, we were served a breakfast of gallo pinto, had some nice chats, and then got ready for our journey back into the city.

The journey took much longer the second time around, since Manuel took us on the scenic route. I feel like I need to sit in a red room for a few hours to balance out all the green I’ve experienced.

For lunch, we landed at Isell’s, Francisco’s sister-in-law. We picked up Olga, since they are sisters, and we had a lovely meal. Isell has two young boys, the older of which was in school. Kevin was shy at first, but turned into the expected little boy he is. After our lunch of arroz con pollo, Alan entertained Kevin and the rest of us with silly stories and characters made out of his handkerchief. A talented entertainer, that Alan.

Not too long after that, we went back to Francisco’s for the second study, which will be at 6. I don’t imagine much will happen before then, so I’m going to get off the internet and relax a bit.

Photos: Honduras

I haven’t yet had the ability to upload photos, since I haven’t been using my own computer much to access the internet. Alas, I’m now on my own computer and using relatively decent internet! Also, we have about an hour and a half before we leave for the western side of Costa Rica, meaning I’ll be spending most of that time trying to upload photos! Let’s go!

Gecko on the wall. It’s true!

Here’s the guanabana, next to the guanabana drink powder.

Here’s the guanabana in the backyard. It didn’t taste extremely delicious.

Here’s the view of the meeting setup the night before:

A full stove, cooking tortillas on the spare surface:

The fuel for the stove:

Sketchy shower heating contraption:

A surprise picture with Lesvia:

The back of the truck where Ken, Reina, and I rode with the luggage to the bus station.

A quick photo of Vilma as she gets on the bus to leave forever.

Francy and I waiting several hours for our bus to Nicaragua.

This has taken a decent chunk of time. I’ll update Nicaragua and beyond later.

Entering Costa Rica

There’s a pretty big difference between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. For one, Costa Rica has far more wealth, although it’s still nothing to brag about. As a result, there were some differences in the border crossings between the two countries.

Moving through Honduras and Nicaragua, everyone must pay separate fees to enter and leave the country. There are various attempts at maintaining the appearance of security, but in reality there isn’t much going on. They make sure nobody is getting smuggled over the border, but as far as dangerous items goes, it seems they only check Mexican citizens. Leaving Nicaragua, the only two people I saw get inspected were Yolanda and Rosalba, a sister worker and a matronly friend, both holders of Mexican passports. Fortunately, neither was trying to smuggle drugs into Costa Rica.

At the border, there was a tense moment of uncertainty, since they made many announcements that in order to get into Costa Rica, all visitors needed a ticket out. This wasn’t a problem for most people in our party, but I only had a ticket out of Panama, and not only that, but it was on my phone. Fortunately, Ken pushed me through by explaining the exact truth, and the border patrol man let it slide.

After that,we all had to collect our bags to have them checked by the border security. Again, most people were pretty much ignored. I’m not sure the man even so much as glanced at my bag. I doubt he would have cared much about my dirty clothes, anyway.

Maybe an hour into Costa Rica, the women got off at what I believe was a mechanic. It definitely wasn’t an established bus terminal, but they were met by a friend anyway.

Several hours later, we arrived at San Jose and were met by Darren, a very friendly American, who then took us back to his family’s condo. Once there, we were met by Manuel (Ken’s companion) and his uncle Francisco, who took Ken, Alan, and me back to his house.

Their family is very friendly, and they have three boys around my age. I imagine they feel equally or less comfortable speaking English than I do Spanish, so there hasn’t been much conversation out of any of our mouths.

Conveniently, they do have internet here, so that’s exactly what I’m using to publish this. I even got to talk to Caitlin for a little bit, but her parents decided to lure her away with food.

Speaking of food, Olga prepared a meal of rice, some sort of cheese cream mashed potato dish, a platter of carrots, tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, squash, and broccoli, and what I believe to be pork chops with onions. It was tasty, although I’m not certain about its authenticity.

Ken hasn’t been feeling well, so after dinner, Manuel took him to a doctor. They’re still out, and Alan is asleep, so I’m sitting in the living room, listening to the washing machine clean my clothes. Hopefully, they’ll be dry by the morning!

Speaking of the morning, we’re going out to the Caribbean side of the country to visit some friends and have a study there. We’ll be staying the evening, and I’m pretty sure the internet there will be spotty at best. I’ll update once I’m back in the world.

Nicaragua

Today has been completely packed with nothing. It’s an early morning tomorrow as well, so I should try not to explain the nothing in too much detail.

I woke up at 3:57, then showered and packed up my things. Breakfast came at 4:15 and consisted of toast and a hardboiled egg. At 4:44 (as per Ken’s request), we piled into Daniel’s truck, 5 in the front and 3 of us in the back with the luggage. It was a bumpy ride, but we made it into town all right.

The world looks interesting before 6 a.m. Our bus wasn’t scheduled to leave until 9:30, so we got to see lots of the bus station and surrounding area. We said goodbye to Vilma and Brenda, as they were headed north. Daniel and Reina left us to go back to their home, so Ken, Francy, Alan and I got to wait for our bus, which finally arrived around 10:15. We got on and headed toward Nicaragua.

It was a long ride, but at least the bus was air conditioned. The worst part was that we all had to get off at the border — twice. They check everyone at the Honduras side and again at the Nicaragua side. They like to tack on extra fees for entering and leaving the country. All told, it was $10, but it can add up for a bus full.

The worst part about getting off was the heat. In the northern part of Honduras, it was pleasant at all hours. In the south, it’s really hot and humid. We got to wait for about half an hour for the border security to go through all of our documents and make sure everything was in line. Interestingly, nobody checked our bags or even our tickets, and we all managed to pass their inspection.

Even more hours of driving through Nicaragua. Maybe it was just the highway, but it seems even more rural than Honduras. Our bus landed in Managua, the first city I was awake for, and it’s really not much of a city. Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America by area, but definitely not in money.

We were met at the bus station by the workers here, and we’re all staying at a hotel next to the station. We have to get up tomorrow and be at the station at 5, so it’s a good thing it’s so close. I’m sharing a room with 4 brother workers, and it’s rather warm in here.

For dinner, we were driven to a mall not too far away and ate at the food court. I had authentic Nicaraguan fast food, and it was pretty good.

Anyway, that’s all for tonight. Everyone is heading to bed.

Last Evening in Honduras

Really, the only thing that’s happened since I last wrote was that we ate dinner, but I suppose I should actually write more than that.

After the last period of rest, Ken and I went to the internet place, since I figured I might as well try to update the world on whereabouts. I put all of my files on his flash drive, and we set out to conquer the internet. A few minutes into our walk, we saw three of the sister workers coming toward us, and we feared we might have to acknowledge them. Fortunately, a kind couple was driving in our direction, and they offered a ride. It was really silly that we accepted, since it was only half a mile or so, but Ken couldn’t resist the opportunity to have a joke about avoiding the sisters.

When we arrived at our usual internet room, there was actually a line of people waiting to use it. intrigued and only slightly frustrated, we walked around the corner and found the other internet shop. It was of similar qualities, and it served our purpose just the same. This room had three computers running, so it was a bit stuffy in there. I’m not sure if any of the people who lived/worked there had any idea, since there was a giant air conditioner mounted on the wall with no sign of being used.

I got my blogs up and running without any hitches that I could see. I was planning on including some pictures that I took, but the upload for the first one was taking so long, I decided to cancel that adventure.

As soon as we got back to the house, it started raining for a little bit, then we all sat down for dinner. Lesvia isn’t feeling well, so she wasn’t there at dinner. Other than that, it was a particularly lively meal — in more than one sense of the word. The first was that there were more bugs than normal trying to get at us and our food. The second was that everyone was taking care of these bugs in unusual ways. Brenda instructed Alan to take care of the bug on his forehead, so he slapped himself on the head. When Daniel had a particularly loud clap, nearly everyone imitated him. Yeah, maybe you just should have been there.

The meal itself was surprisingly midwestern. Ground beef and macaroni sprinkled with parmesan cheese was the main course, and there were side dishes of beets and onions, tortillas, and tomatoes. I mentioned to Ken that it tasted like convention food, to which he pointed out that it was actually special meeting food. Then he admitted that there is little difference between convention and special meetings here, so it would serve as both.

After dinner, we all helped prepare sandwiches for tomorrow, since it’s going to be a day of travel for nearly everyone. Ken, Alan, and I are off to Nicaragua, and the sisters are going somewhere else. Their bus leaves early in the morning, I think sometime between 6 and 7, and ours leaves around 9:30. Of course, there is going to be lots of traffic, so we’re only making one trip, leaving here at 4:45. This will be interesting.

It’s funny to think that I’ve only been here three days. In that time, I really feel that I’ve bonded with this little group, even through our language barriers. Just today, Brenda revealed that she knows a little English, but she suffers from the same shyness I do with Spanish. This evening, I showed her pictures of my family and the friends in China, and we taught each other a bit of our own languages.

The others don’t really speak any English, but we can still enjoy each other and communicate as necessary. We opened the guanabana since it’s finally ripe enough, and we all shared that strange fruit. It’s not something I’d choose first, but it wasn’t entirely unpleasant. The drink we had for lunch today had a very fresh taste, and this wasn’t quite/at all the same.

The large beetles that have been flying everywhere are a great source of amusement. Brenda offered Ken a present and placed one on his hand. Vilma came over and put one on my shoulder. It’s interesting to be in a culture where things like that are just part of life. Aside from the mosquitoes, none of the other insects do much harm, so there’s no reason to kill them. If you do, then you have to deal with a dead bug, so you might as well let it finds its own way out.

I guess I should try to get to sleep now. It’s about 4 hours earlier than my bedtime at home, but I’ve been getting up about that much earlier than I normally do anyway. Tomorrow will be a special case, and I hope I survive.