I Moved to Quito, Ecuador

I Moved to Quito, Ecuador

Landing in Quito, Ecuador

Maybe there was a part of me that was on autopilot. Not only was I numb to the fear of such a foreign place, but it hadn’t yet hit me that I wasn’t going to university next year like all my friends. No, I was doing something better, I was going on an adventure; the world was Peter Pan and I was Wendy. I was still just a teenager floating around, apathetic. I still surprise myself at how quickly I adjusted to life in Ecuador, how normal it became. Yet, I had just entered a country that would later feel like a prison to me.

I Moved to Quito, Ecuador

I remember the first thing that freaked me out. It was the middle of the night when our plane touched down on the runway at the airport in Quito, Ecuador. As we were landing I looked out the window and saw houses right next to the runway. Not only that, but they all went upward towards the sky. They were stacked on top of each other with light coming out of the windows that made them look like a UFO hovering in the air.

After handing my passport to a customs official with the mustache of Saddam Hussein and the smile of Vladimir Putin, I walked into the baggage claim area. Everything was brown and clearly this place had not been updated since the 1970’s. I waited in line at a small podium to get a luggage cart, but where was the woman behind it? She was out retrieving them from all over the airport to give us for 1$ each. This airport in Ecuador clearly didn’t depend on technology to get them through the day and would still continue to function in spite of an impending apocalypse.

I Moved to Quito, Ecuador

I begrudgingly grabbed my suitcase from a pile in the corner. Apparently suitcases had to be moved quickly since there were so many flights and only 2 carousels. With my parents, I walked through the doors towards the arrivals area. On the left, hundreds of people were all lined up waiting for their loved ones and to the right were dozens of men sticking their heads out of various windows offering every type of taxi and tour service. They yelled at us, desperately trying to get our attention like paparazzi.

It was loud and chaotic, much like Ecuador itself, and everything was moving quickly around me. In a movie, this would be the scene where the room is spinning around me and I look on with a bewildered expression on my face, except I didn’t have that lovely Hollywood editing. Where was Colin Firth to welcome me?

I Moved to Quito, Ecuador

 

White People are a Hot Commodity

I heard loud voices meshing together with the intensity and sound of an oncoming freight train. We walked outside to a row of white vans that gave no indication as to what they were for. I looked at my parents and saw them both frantically looking around with wide eyes. It’s never comforting to see that, even after you’ve grown up and realized your parents don’t actually have their shit together any more than you do.

Three men came up to us all yelling, “taxi, taxi!” Clearly white people where a hot commodity here. In South America it’s assumed that we all have fat wallets and make it rain wherever we go. We put our suitcases in the back of one of the white vans, (don’t they tell children to stay away from those?) and slowly and loudly told the driver “Hotel Quito” like we were the kind of assholes who talk to immigrants in the U.S. like they are idiots. As in, “Welcome to our country!”

 

I Moved to Quito, Ecuador

We took off at warp speed, driving up winding hills that were so foggy you couldn’t see the city below. I was relieved when we finally arrived to our hotel, which was thankfully fairly Western looking. However, the actual rooms were very basic and my mom almost had a nervous breakdown when she realized there was no coffee pot in the room, and no Starbucks in the entire country of Ecuador. I believe this was the epiphany it took for her to realize we were no longer in the states.

I knew so little about South America or traveling in general, that it never occurred to me they wouldn’t have all my favorite foods like pop tarts and Wonka candy; had I known this I would have stocked up. In the years to come, I would frequently stock up on my favorite American candy whenever we visited the U.S. I even had 9 boxes of my candy stolen from my suitcase from baggage handlers when they used a pen to put a hole through the material in the pocket. They didn’t even steal my jewelry!

I Moved to Quito, Ecuador

Guapalo

On our first day in Quito I got a map from the front desk and we made our way down to an area called “Guapalo” where my dad had seen an apartment online before we left the U.S. The place was 500$ a month (now that I look back on this I realize we were being conned big time. Places like this I learned, normally went for about 100$ a month.) The directions down there were laughable. There were no numbers or street signs, just directions like “take a right at the red house.” Was I supposed to know the difference between 3 houses, all in differing shades of maroon?

When we finally found the apartment, an old woman took us down some very steep stairs leading to the edge of a ledge. The apartment was built so it was attached to the side of the mountain. It was very long with a couple of bedrooms and a basic kitchen, however living there would have felt more like camping. “Rustic” would have been the most polite term for it.

I Moved to Quito, Ecuador

We left immediately, and consulted a realtor who then took us to the most expensive area of the city. We rented an apartment there and ended up staying for exactly two months before we found a place that was actually at a standard rental price for the country.

So, after handing envelopes of cash literally under the table (seriously, they actually stick their hand under the table to collect it) to the corrupt government officials who would give us our visas, we were settled in for the moment.

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I Moved to Louisiana

I Moved to Louisiana

What’s Gumbo?

Louisiana. Land of bayous, Mardi Gras, and gumbo, or so I was told (Can someone please explain to me what the fuck gumbo is?)

We had rented a green SUV to drive all the way from Maine. I spent most of the time listening to Eminem songs on my laptop, so happy to leave everyone and everything behind. We arrived right after a hurricane. Every hotel was booked and all we could find was one room left at the Motel 6. It was like walking into a strip club in Thailand and realizing all the women have dicks; horrifying. The toilet hadn’t been flushed, the sheets were dirty, and there were fleas in the carpet and bed bugs in the blankets. We were in the bad part of the city where you could hear gun shots, and loud mouth people on the balcony. There were drug dealers on the street down below in the parking lot.

My dad was starting his new job the next day. When we dropped him off in the morning, he walked in carrying his coffee and a donut in a brown paper bag. He reminded me of a child, carrying his lunch, wide eyed and nervous, going to his first day of school.

I Moved to Louisiana

 

Light Blue, Navy Blue, or Hunter Green

My first day of school in Louisiana was a blur of khaki pants, southern accents, and dyed blonde hair. I had never worn a uniform in Maine and I was going through my “I want to be a fashion designer” phase. I felt like someone had put me in Guantanamo and the school manual was my personal version of water boarding.

Months later I would rebel against the dress code by wearing a striped polo from American Eagle. I sat in the office waiting for my punishment when in walked the Vice Principal. She was a short, round woman with more than a passing resemblance to Miss Piggy (Kermit would have been all up on her, I’ll put it that way). She stood over me, moved her glasses down her nose and stared at me like I was the shit she had just stepped in at the Fourth of July picnic. She told me I needed to change and I politely, yet sarcastically, told her I was technically wearing a polo with blue in it. In a voice that reminded me of that teacher from Charlie Brown she responded, “that polo is not light blue, navy blue, or hunter green.”

I spent the rest of the day in office detention. I was told to write an essay entitled “The Benefits of School Uniforms.” With an evil smirk on my face, I wrote an essay that said things like:

“Uniforms are a good thing because they force students to conform to the same levels of stupidity.”

“Are you aware Louisiana is one of the last states in every educational rating in the U.S.? Print that on your uniforms you idiotic crocodile chasers.”

I went to American Eagle to buy khaki and blue pants, and I bought a knee-length blue skirt at Target. On my last day of school in Louisiana, 8 months later, I would pull this skirt up around my stomach to make it look short. I matched it with a plaid purple shirt on top of my blue uniform polo. Over my shirt I wore a rainbow colored blazer from J.Crew and paired the ensemble with black heels. It was my last “fuck you, stare at my middle finger” to the administration.

My first day of school outfit was very different. I had never worn a uniform before and I conformed to every rule, including wearing socks with my ballet flats in 90 degree weather. I had my polo tucked into my skirt and a white cardigan. Basically, I looked like I was raised by the mom on “Leave it to Beaver.”

I Moved to Louisiana

 

Am I Breaking the Dress Code?

My first class was chemistry, and my teacher looked like “Daggett” from “The Angry Beavers” cartoon. I’m surprised she hadn’t built a dam around her desk. She wore these sneakers that had springs on the heel so she would bounce when she wrote something on the board. One day when we had a substitute some students from previous classes drew a cartoon of our teacher on the board and everyone continued adding to it during each period. I personally added little spirals on the bottom of her shoes to look like the springs, and a quote that said, “I go bird watching bitches.”

Another disliked class I was required to take was economics but since most people in my grade did it the year before I was in a class full of freshman. This was a group of boys who were so dumb they probably couldn’t point out the dicks on their own bodies. One particular day in this class, I had layered a beige tank top over my blue polo. My teacher pulled me aside and told me it looked like I was wearing a bra over my shirt. My only response was, “Well, am I breaking the dress code?”

I Moved to Louisiana

Hunter

Louisiana was really where I got to spread my dating wings, or when I grew devil horns, depending on how you look at it.

When I first arrived, I decided to check Facebook and look through the list of people who went to my school. I thought I could send them some messages, befriend them. I started talking to a boy named Hunter; he had shiny braces, but a nice face, and he was obsessed with Oakley sunglasses. Before we had even talked face to face, we were talking on the phone at midnight. Being 16 I was trying to initiate one of those all night, emotional conversations in which he tells me about how his dog died when he was eight and how it has affected him his whole life.

I asked him if he wanted to play twenty questions. I learned his favorite board game was Monopoly and he really liked Olive Garden. Then, it was his turn to ask the question: “What are you wearing?” He was trying to have phone sex. I played back everything I had ever watched Sammantha do on Sex and the City and said something along the lines of “Nothing” in my sexiest voice. I ended the call right away, and immediately broke into a sweat.
The next day I went to meet him face to face in the main square of school.

“Hi!”
“Hi.”
“How are you?”
“Good, you?”
“Good.”

I Moved to Louisiana

Cinema Head

I continued to stand there awkwardly while all his friends stared at me with judgmental teenage eyes. The bell rang and I quickly walked away, thinking I had blown it. He texted me later that night, a huge surprise, but then I’m sure his friends from the football team told him to ask me out, thinking he might get laid. We met up at the movie theater at the mall, and went to see “Four Christmases” with Reese Witherspoon. It was an empty movie theater except for a group of senior citizens on a trip from their living facility who were sat in the front row. We went to sit in the very back row, and I wondered how it would be to kiss a guy with braces.

I didn’t have to wait for long; he stuck his tongue down my throat by the second movie preview. Fortunately, there was no difference in kissing a guy with braces. Unfortunately, he was a wet kisser, I felt like I had just taken a field trip to the water park. He pulled back with a grin on his face. He started unbuttoning his jeans. “Can you give me a blow job?” he asked. I wish I could say that at 16 I was already a profoundly wise feminist who would rather pee in a public toilet at Warped Tour than get on my knees in front of this guy, but I had not yet learned enough. I got down there and gave my first ever blow job, right there in the movie theater while Vince Vaughn gave comedic commentary in the background.

 

Jarret

Jarret walked into my economics class late, and the teacher introduced him as a new student. He was tall, exactly my type, and took the seat directly behind me. For the last fifteen minutes of class we were broken up into groups to talk about things that were frequently bought together (like peanut butter and jelly) which gave me the perfect excuse to chat with him. After class he quickly left and before I could change my mind I wrote down my phone number on a piece of paper. My heart racing, I spotted him outside with a blank look on his face. I confidently gave him the paper and he asked me what it was. “My phone number” I said, and strutted away with a fake confidence that left my legs shaking when I was out of his sight.

Later that day he texted me while I was on the school bus home; we made plans to go to the movies with my friend Heaven and her boyfriend. That night, I arrived to the movie theater to see him sitting and waiting for me. We sat awkwardly for a minute, before he said in his best Bob Barker voice, “So, tell me about Europe!”

I was graciously saved by my friend and her boyfriend coming in. We all took our seats, and the second the lights went off Heaven and her boyfriend commenced a lip smacking session that would rival a video clip on YouPorn. Later that night we went back to my house and decided to get in the hot tub. Heaven’s boyfriend went home, complaining of a headache, so it was just the three of us. I tried to give her one of those looks that said, “get the fuck out of here so we can be alone” but she ignored it. She then commenced to take off all her clothes and get in the hot tub, since she didn’t have a bathing suit.

She sidled up to Jarret to chat with him, letting out a high pitched giggle every few minutes. I stared at them open mouthed, completely dumbfounded by what I was seeing. I decided to call it a night and walk back to my apartment. On the way I was accosted by some woman yelling at me about sleeping with her husband (Jarret was not yet married as far as I knew). She was clearly high, and waving a hot cigarette around dangerously close to my face. I pointed behind her and told her I thought her husband was coming, and when she turned around I pulled one of those moves you only see in movies, ducking under her arm and sprinting towards my door. “Come back here you little whore!” she yelled. I blamed the bizarre happenings of the night on the full moon, and when I arrived home, told my parents the movie was great.

 

Ryan

I met Ryan in the computer room of the apartment complex we lived in. I was with Heaven who was staying the night at my house and we were talking about what to get her boyfriend for his birthday; she suggested a pimp cup. Fortunately she missed the horrified look on my face because Ryan inserted himself into our conversation. I was listening to the Fray and he asked me to turn the volume up.

We conversed about music for a few minutes and he asked if we wanted to go sit by the pool. We went out and sat on some patio furniture while Heaven stripped down to her bra and underwear and jumped in the pool to get his attention.

“So, what is your favorite band?” He asked.

“Nirvana,” I lied.

He was 21, I was 17, which left things in a state of limbo. Ryan was the first guy I liked for his personality, but not the first who seemed a little sad. I liked him because he was different from the immature guys at school; we talked about music, and books. I promised I would give him a book he had been wanting to read if he gave me his “The Fray” CD.
I went over to his house one night to give him a book, and I met his roommate Cody. When I walked in Ryan was doing dishes, and I sat at the kitchen table, holding the Twilight book I had brought him close to my chest. Cody eventually left for the night, giving me a knowing look, and I went to sit on the couch.

Ryan came to sit next to me, at a far enough distance away that we wouldn’t be touching. The tension in the air was thick as we both stared at an old episode of Saturday Night Live. I wondered what it would be like to kiss him, to have him touch me, to see what he looked like naked. I looked at him from the corner of my eye, and I knew he would never cross that line. I told him I should get home, and he jumped up from the couch like his pants were on fire to walk me to the door. “Text me when you get home, so I know you got there safe,” he told me.

I knew it could never work out, but oh, how I wanted him. I texted him a few days later, and he told me how much he was hating Louisiana and that he planned to leave that night. It was a spur of the moment decision. We decided to meet up later that night to say goodbye. He pulled up in his much beloved BMW and gave me his CD case to look through. I picked out The Fray, and in return gave him the next Twilight book. I so badly wanted to kiss him, but instead gave him a hug. When he asked for one more hug before I got out, I thought maybe he would, but no. I watched from the street as he drove away into the night.

I Moved to Louisiana

Nathan

I met Nathan, and his friends at the hot tub; it was shared by the whole complex and there were always tons of people from the university hanging out. I was sitting there after school, reading a book and minding my own business when they all hopped in leaving me feeling more than a little awkward. They were all conversing with each other when his friend Dustin asked me what I was reading. “Nothing important,” I said as I threw my book into a nearby bush, happy someone in this achingly dull town town had finally talked to me. My most recent lunches were spent in the front of the school where nobody would notice me eating alone. Over the next couple of weeks I would meet them at the hot tub, and they would text me as late as midnight on a school night to come hang out. My eyes were left burning in study hall the next day.

I went to Nathan’s house one night and we were sat on opposite sides of the couch with a lot of teenage hormones in the air. My pink Razr cellphone vibrated with a text message; it was from Nathan:

“I don’t bite.”

I texted him back, “I do.”

I cuddled up next to him in a spooning position until I realized I was being poked in the back. I heard a raspy, sweaty voice in my ear, “want to play with my joy stick?”

I wondered if he had been reading Askmen.com. I cringed, then turned around and tried to put my most flirtatious smile on.

I kissed him. Unfortunately, he had one of those stabby lizard tongues. I grabbed his hand and pulled him to the bedroom just to get his pointy little tongue out of my throat. I gave him a handjob (fortunately it only required 30 seconds of an actual job) and he collapsed on top of me in a sweaty heap. I struggled my way out from under him and walked back to my apartment.

I never did hear from him again but I did see his brand new, red truck sitting out in front of his apartment one day. I made a quick trip to one of those stores in the mall that sold funny, novelty type things. I bought a bumper sticker that said, “I watch Gay porn” and attached it to his car under the cover of darkness that night.

I Moved to Louisiana

Bunny Boiler

Another “hot tub friend” texted me the next day and told me he was making steak at his place and would I like to come eat it with him. Pass up steak? Yeah, right. When I got there he told me he was preparing this as an anniversary dinner for him and his girlfriend but they just had a huge, Jerry Springer blowout fight and decided to break up. So, her loss was my stomach’s gain. We were sitting down to eat when the door burst open and in walked a frazzled, bleach blonde girlfriend who looked like she was ready to boil my bunny on the stove, and feed it to Jack Nicholson.

While they proceeded to argue about the skank he invited over to make her jealous, I slipped out the door, steak in my hand like a sandwich. I walked home hoping I wasn’t just the catalyst for some kind of kinky, hate/make up sex.
When I got home I laid on my bed, and stared out at the sunset and humid landscape. Smacking my face to kill a mosquito, I realized I was ready to move on to somewhere different.

Check out my previous personal essay: My House Was the Money Pit 

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My House Was the Money Pit

My House Was the Money Pit

Two Pillars Make a House

The house I grew up in was a giant, awe-inspiring white house with 2 pillars in the front that cast a long shadow onto the street below. It had a long row of blue steps tilting in various directions and not safe enough to walk on. In the U.S. these are the kind of stairs people like to fall and “break their necks” on so they can sue you. A tree with purple leaves sat in the side yard with perfect climbing branches. I used to go up there and read when I wanted some privacy to be with my teenage thoughts, or to drop dirt on the heads of passersby.

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I Grew Up in a Small Town

i grew up in a small town

Growing Up in a Small Town

I like to see if anything has changed, if I have changed. I have this daydream about going back there and seeing everyone I went to high school with. These were people who made me feel uncomfortable on a daily basis, always calling me “the quiet girl.” I walk into our 10 year reunion and everyone gasps; they are shocked at how good looking, smart, and worldly I’ve become. As we stand around the punch bowl and stale cookies I talk like I’m Indiana Jane, and amaze the crowd that has now formed, with stories of my foreign adventures. While growing up in a small town, it’s the big fantasy.

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