Monday, September 14, 2009

Settling In

We learned last night that the grocery stores near our apartment were all closed early on Sundays, so that we could not shop at 8:30 in the evening, but that all the food establishments in the nearby mall (Quicentro) were open. There was a huge party happening at TGIFridays (same as the one in the USA) and young people were pouring in and out of the mall. Maya was asleep in the truck by then, and so Eric dashed in and found some very serviceable food at 'El Espanol',, which is a chain with outlets all over Quito, and serves coffee, sandwiches, salads and has a deli section where cheese and meats are offered; more than enough choices for our disparate tastes. It was reassuring to know that a half block away, we could find sustenance, even later on a Sunday night.

Once we arrived at our apartment building, we discovered that the Landcruiser would not fit in our garage. This was not something we had expected, since we plan to keep the truck for most of the year, and we cannot leave it on the street. The apartment security guard agreed to watch it until the morning. Eric and Tom met today to try to figure out how to manage this glitch, and found that two people hanging from the sides of the truck were able to reduce the height just enough to get into the garage. They decided to buy a few hundred pound bags of sand to weigh the vehicle down so that it would fit. Eric was very proud of his solution.

Later in the day, when I came home to find Eric preparing dinner in our tiny kitchen, he asked me if I could think of anything that was missing in the kitchen. I had no clue what he wanted me to guess, so when I 'gave up', I learned that in our rush to choose an apartment, we had both failed to note that there was no oven in the kitchen! Eric had bought a chicken with the intent to cook it this evening, only to discover that he could not without an oven! I have been worried about how small the kitchen is; now it makes more sense. I recall however, that ovens are not used much in Ecuadorian cuisine. Isabel never cooked in the oven in the month that we stayed with her, except to store food between meals. She used her stovetop, the microwave, and once used a small countertop toaster-oven. I guess that is next on our list of purchases.

Meanwhile, the apartment looks better with a fresh coat of paint, except in my bedroom where the carpet was painted too. The plumber came today to fix the shower and the dryer, and tomorrow a new, more secure lock will be installed along with a peephole (extra security). We are feeling more at home in our little space, and are trying to decide whether we want to buy the new table that we liked in San Antonio de Ibarra. It is big and will take over our living space, but will also enable us to invite guests over for dinner.

I started my Spanish class today. I will be studying four hours daily for the next few weeks. The four hours today went by quickly; somehow I am able to babble for hours in Spanish, and I expect I am learning through the process of simply talking. I chose the school quite arbitrarily. It was close to the Echovia stop near Catolica University, so I can visit Eric for lunch or coffee, it is small and the students look content and busy, it was neither the least expensive or the most costly, and the hours are right for me. There are dozens of language schools in Quito, because the Spanish spoken here is considered clear, accentless and more neutral than in other South American countries, or even other parts of Ecuador. In addition to the four hours of Spanish daily, there are salsa lessons on Tuesdays, a cooking class on Thursdays, and outings on Wednesday in the city, and further afield on Saturdays.

Maya is settling into school, and was happy when I picked her up. She had another audition with the Fundacion Orquestra Sinfonica Juvenil de Ecuador. We arrived at the audition location in time, but as feels usual here in Ecuador, no one could direct me to the conductor or the audition location, we were not on the list to be heard, and Maya and I stood in the middle of a hallway with all sorts of people walking back and forth, quite oblivious to our plight. Luckily I saw a young man and asked him where Felipe Lus....I could not quite remember or pronounce the name of the person Maya was to audition for. Luckily I had approached the conductor himself (who was young and casually attired and did not appear to be anyone of importance); he was able to speak English (he studied at Boston University), and despite not expecting to hear Maya, and not having time for her, he pulled her in to a soundproof room and heard her play. She had done poorly on her theory audition, but played beautifully for Felipe, so she was asked to join his orchestra, and since we are here for only a year, Maya would not be required to take the four hours of music theory that the children take weekly. The FOSJE is a foundation which takes children at age four or five and intensely teaches them an instrument at no cost to the child. The children study music 11-12 hours weekly at the foundation, and are expected to practice an equal amount, with the intent to ultimately choose a music career. FOSJE has a relationship with 'La Systema' in Venezuela, and musicians from both Venezuela and Julliard come regularly to work with the students.

So Maya has too many choices now; to play with the National Conservatory or for the FOSJE orchestra, added to her ballet class three times a week. I am not sure my plan to ramp down the pressure on her while we are here in Ecuador is happening!

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