Stringing my Life Together: Purishpa takini, takishpa purini.

Los Angelespi Ña Tikramurkani…
2010/08/13, 09:52
Filed under: Ecuador, Fieldwork, food, Kichwa, Los Angeles, Moving, Otavalo, Research, Thoughts, Travel

My apologies friends and family for not updating this (practically at all) while in Ecuador. Not having a laptop, the long hours of classes, and making it home in time for the meals and before the buses stopped running really made it difficult to sit down and write a quality entry. The night of my last post I went to a party in the community…ate too much, drank a bit, and learned how well the indígenas can party and dance. Unfortunately, the next morning I woke up with an allergic reaction to bug bites, most likely from the pitikunka that were at the part of the village where the party was (pitikunka look like a cross between an ant and a flea).The next day I watched Spain’s glorious win in the World Cup finals, and won 3 litres of soda from a bet made with Segundo, Patricio’s brother, who was rooting for Holland.

Despite my failure to update while abroad, I do, however, plan to post pictures soon, and with those, short snippets to go along and catch you all up!

In the end, the program was a success and the host family was more than I could have ever hoped for. I left Ecuador being able to spend the majority of the last few days speaking Kichwa with Patricio (my teacher…though it would be about simple topics, such as about my family, buying fruit, etc. Technical conversations get to be pretty tough, especially since so much of the vocabulary has to be interpreted on your own to express ideas or things that historically weren’t a part of the culture). My reading and writing, and to some extent my listening, improved a great deal due to Patricio and I spending hours analyzing grammar, morphemes, and occasionally…well, frequently… wanting to rip our hair out.

Leaving was definitely the hardest part. The last day was spent at the Equatorial line with the family, balancing eggs on nails and other crazy experiments. Four of us were able to balance the egg!!

Certified Music Teacher and Egg Balancer!

When I got back, we had some hearty kinwa (quinua) soup followed by the cinnamon bundt cake I made the night before. Later, the sisters tried to teach me how to put the anaku on, though I was a absolutely terrible at it! (My homework while in the states is to figure out putting the anaku on, and also keep practicing the flute pieces and sanjuanes/sanjuanitos they taught me). We then spent the evening drinking to toast the trip, our friendship, and my despedida (licor de azaray, I think, though I can’t remember the name of the fruit very well).  This was followed by a long night of playing Screw Your Neighbor (see this website, though my family has a few house rules we play by, such as the King as a blocker, and playing on your honor…my grandma Polly will be so proud!), listening to the songs I recorded with Lauro (brother-in-law of Patricio) and some of Lauro’s sister’s family. When most of the family had to go home or go to sleep, there were hugs made that left tears left on each others’ shoulders. At 2:15am, I left Otavalo by taxi with Patricio’s parents and Segundo. We had some coffee at the airport before saying goodbye. It was the first time I cried at an airport.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of what I came back with, but basically I couldn’t help myself and purchased a few instruments and did most of my Christmas shopping in Ecuador. The trip back had an added charango in my backpack and a giant box with the gifts, most of my clothes, and a drum 🙂 Incredibly nerve-wrecking, but thankfully American Airlines did not let me down.

I’m realizing that my travels and studies are making life really complicated, but in a good way, since I now have family (or friends close enough to call family) all over the place. Though, no matter where I go, I am missing someone and someplace; the jokes, the hugs, the soccer, the smells, the food, the music. What really gets to me is realizing how hard it is for other people to travel and be able to visit me here in the states, whether in Los Angeles or in New York. Ever read the non-immigrant tourist visa requirements? Damn. I wish it were easier to have my friends and family make it here to visit from Mexico or Ecuador for example, and to be able to share my life with them as they have so generously shared theirs with me.

Back in Los Angeles, the apartment hunt is on. It appears I found the almost perfect apartment (perfect except for being INCREDIBLY small!!!) It is going to be totally worth it though. Time is being spent reminiscing about Ecuador, unpacking, mariachi rehearsals, and catching up with the handful of friends who are still in town for the summer. I will hopefully squeeze in a trip to NY, and then head back for year three of graduate study…officially a PhD student now 🙂

Ashta kashkaman!


Ishkay punchakarinllami… (Only two more days…)
2010/06/26, 00:40
Filed under: Ecuador, Los Angeles, Soccer/Fútbol, Thoughts, Travel

That’s right. Two more days until I hop on a plane and go farther south than I have ever been before. This last week has been enjoyable but exhausting working for the summer camp.

On Monday, we were late for our field trip to Lomita due to the 405-S being extremely backed up (even more than its usual congestion at rush hour). The culprit? A boat. A boat was stranded on the highway. It must have fallen off someone’s trailer. I swear, life in Los Angeles is completely surreal. Only in California do these kinds of things seem to happen! The other field trips were great, and the students have been working hard for the concert tomorrow. I’m excited for it, but a little worried about making sure things run smoothly. Last year we got caught in traffic in Westwood following the announcement that Michael Jackson’s body arrived to campus.

In my free time before the camp has begun each morning, and during lunch time, I have been watching the World Cup. Donovan’s goal was definitely a high point so far, and like many of those in that youtube “viral” video, I was elated, cheering and jumping up and down when it happened. I almost fell over, sending my computer chair in the office back into some filing cabinets.

So I still haven’t been able to begin packing due to the camp schedule and my exhaustion; however, I have been a pro at packing for an entire semester (for Spain and for Potsdam) the night before. My goal is to at least get half of it done tomorrow. We’ll see about that…

World Cup & Grunions!
2010/06/16, 13:54
Filed under: Los Angeles, Thoughts, Travel | Tags: , , , ,

Wow, it’s 5:41am and I have been up for an hour. Normally, if I see this time of day, it’s because I am just nodding off to sleep. Today, however, I am wide awake, watching the Honduras vs. Chile game and anxiously awaiting breakfast with my cousin and watching Spain vs. Switzerland (Spain is my favorite for the 2010 World Cup). Chile is playing well, and although I’m not necessarily rooting for Chile or Honduras, I am happy to see that Chile has a strong presence on the field and had a fantastic goal. Beautiful. Some exciting shots on goal too. Honduras has an amazing goalie!

Aside from the World Cup, I finally went to a grunion run with a group of friends and my cousin on Monday night. “Grunions,” you say, “what the hell is a grunion?!” Well. Let me tell you! Basically, they are a small, skinny, wriggly fish that only lives on the Pacific coast of North America. Supposedly their name comes from the Spanish verb, “gruñir (to grunt),” although the aquarium staff wasn’t sure as to why they were given that name. The reason why all sorts of beaches and aquariums have these “grunion runs,” as they’re called, is because their spawning habits are unique and unlike any other fish species known to man. Basically, at certain points in the spring and summer months, in accordance with the moon cycle (near a full moon, or just after a new moon), and the tides (just as the high tide begins to recede), these fish wash up ashore. Once on the beach, the females use their tails to dig a vertical hole in the sand. Two inches beneath the sand, they lay their eggs, but only if a male is nearby to release its “milt” along her side to fertilize the eggs. Once they do this, they let themselves wash away with one of the next waves. The eggs will hatch several days later, but only once the waves expose the eggs and swirls them around, activating or “awakening” the baby fish and causing it to hatch out of their egg.

The crazy part of this whole ordeal is how all these people go with their kids (in California, if you are 15 and under, you do not need a fishing license to catch fish), wait along the shore, and will be released by the aquarium staff to go see or catch the fish with their bare hands (only on special occasions when it’s okay to catch the fish). Everyone essentially goes nuts and runs down, rushing the fish, and frantically grabbing at the fish as they are bombarded with ocean waves.

By far, one of the highlights of the entire experience was the 1950s film made by a UCLA Zoologist that was shown during the orientation and informational presentation about grunions. That and the zany questions asked by all the little kids. Overall, a great experience.

A lot of easterners cringe when I tell them I am living in Los Angeles, and plenty of people complain about how they believe the city is ugly, fake, etc. Granted, there’s definitely a plastic element to the city, but what I have come to really love about living here are opportunities, like the grunion run, that are interesting, relatively cheap, and something completely different than what you can see anywhere else in the world.

Another thing on my list of what I love about Los Angeles, for the very same reasons, is mariachi karaoke with a live trio/band (of all women, no less! Check out Trio Ellas here and here).

So, the Spain vs. Switzerland game is only 40 minutes away. I leave you with some pictures from the Cabrillo grunion run and aquarium.

Shuk pachakamanmi 😉 Chunka ishkay punchalla Otavalokamanmi purinata charini.

Countdown to Otavalo: 12 days.

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Some of these pictures were taken by M. Iyanaga.

2009/06/10, 15:08
Filed under: Los Angeles, Moving, Research, Thoughts

Why would anyone start using a jackhammer at 8am for the last few days, consistently? Ugh, go figure, it’s finals time, I’m pulling 24 hour days, skipping meals, and somewhere on my street a jackhammer has to be used for several hours at a time (beginning at 8am). I’m counting down the days that I will not have to live in this apartment anymore.

My Nikon was delivered, which I will pick up following a shower and breakfast 🙂 Yay!!

Sooooo close to finishing finals….must….make….it….before….I collapse! (or go crazy)

2009/01/23, 08:59
Filed under: Los Angeles, Music, Thoughts

Today was quite the adventure, and a very long day…and one of those days when you can’t just seem to be punctual enough for buses!

I start the day off by sleeping in until 8:15am.  *#&$*&@$!  I’m supposed to catch the Culver City bus down to the downtown bus to get to China town by 8:49am.  I somehow make it out by quarter of…having shoveled cheerios into my mouth in about 5 minutes flat.

Bus #1 passes by me as I am running (with all of my heavy books and crap) down the street.  I could have caught it, but some guy walked out in front of me at the newsstand, cutting me off, making me miss the crosswalk just to watch the bus drive away.

Double *#&$*&@$!

So I catch the Santa Monica Blue Bus, which after paying twice as much for a transfer, I realized it doesn’t go as far south as I need it to.  I hop off, and walk down a few blocks.  I see the city bus at the light.  Crap.  I had to race across the street and to the bus stop.  I made it.  Though it would probably have been worth it to wait until the next Culver City Bus (which passed me as I was about 2 blocks from where I was headed).

Whoops. It was the 33 and not the 333. It stopped somewhere in the middle of downtown (Main/6th)…and I had to haul butt up to Chinatown to meet Morit (I did 1.5 miles in about 30 min…and that’s including time waiting at lights to cross…having to cross twice when sidewalks were closed…and carrying several pounds of books and my lunch). I could have taken the 333, but then I would have spent the change I needed to get back to school.


I somehow arrived at César Chavez and Broadway as Morit’s bus was pulling up.  We go…try to find Chinese dresses for the New Year’s event we’re performing in this weekend.  After searching some shops and taking advice from some locals, we find a place that’s a) not too expensive and b) has our sizes.  We proceed to grab a bite to eat and head back to UCLA.

Bus #3…Passed us.  We went running down César Chavez/Sunset….but it left before we could manage to get there. Triple *#&$*&@$!

Bus #4 comes and we got to campus at 2:30pm.  Ugh, at the end of class (Quadruple *#&$*&@$). The coin machine on the bus wasn’t working and I didn’t have to pay to get back west after all.  Go figure, I could have used that to take another bus to avoid walking for 1.5 miles.  Hah. Oh well. I guess that gave me some exercise to substitute for not doing Yoga this week. :/

I was a little miffed at myself for missing class, but overall the day was quite an adventure. I really didn’t mind walking so much, and I was excited because today it was cloudy and it RAINED!!  I miss the rain and the air felt so much cleaner.  Plus the partly-cloudiness creates this depth to the sky that is aesthetically appealing to me.  Morit and I had a lot of fun in Chinatown and gabbing all day, plus we both found outfits for under $20.  Mission accomplished.

I’m really enjoying Chinese Ensemble…I had never known much about Chinese music before, but Ching Yi and Morit play in it, so when ChingYi told me to join, I figured…Why not!?  So here I am, playing erhu and cymbals.  The music from rehearsal today is still in my head 🙂  I also realize how much I love the wide range of timbral effects and the wonderfully delicate sound that it has (well….except for my cymbals!).

Anways, there’s SOO much to do in the next few  days.  Saturday, I will perform with the mariachi group (my first time! About 8 of the 10 songs are memorized) downtown, and the Chinese ensemble for the Chinese New Year (Happy year of the Ox!), going straight from one to the other, and having to juggle between three instruments and three outfits.  🙂

Later, I have pictures to post from Chinatown and when Tara and I went hiking Monday in the Santa Monica Mountains…

Staying up late…
2009/01/17, 08:22
Filed under: Thoughts, Travel


Anyways, yes, I am 24 years old today (Jan 16th….when I started the post).  It’s crazy…17,18,19 years old…they all seem so recent…and I don’t feel much different than I did even in high school.  I refuse to think I am old.  The day went pretty well…plenty of birthday wishes…class…Erhu lesson (which I’m enjoying!)…some cheesecake and coffee with ChingYi…dinner and time with Tara.

Tomorrow is the party, so maybe I’ll have some pictures.

And on another note…Gio and I were discussing over the phone the other day a memory of Berlin, and he brought up a good point.  Think of all the people (especially when you travel) who you see (but not meet), and without them knowing it, they become a huge part of your experience in a place…even influence your entire impression of somewhere (which is not always bad, but in the following case, neutral)…


Gio and I arrived in Berlin during our backpacking trip.  It was between 8:30am and 9am, and these two cops came up to us, walking over all jolly-like and teasingly went…”Are you LOST!?”  We weren’t really lost, but just adjusting to the area after a night on the Eurrail (the 5 euro sleeping arrangements…sitting on uncomfortable as hell seats for several hours).  With the help of the cops, we figured out the time cards for travel by train (there arent turnstyles there, at least in 2006), found our local train and headed towards our hostel.  I was never really sure if the police approached us because we looked completely lost, or because we stuck out like sore thumbs there.  Here we were, both of us below 5’7″ (me, barely 5’4″), tanned, dark hair, in a land of what seemed like giants.  This observation was magnified on the train when we sat down and realized we barely came to the shoulders of the Germans next to us.  At one of the stops, a man stepped on the train, DUCKING underneath the door to step in.  Clearly he was larger than the average German, but as I tend to tell the story….”He ducked down to crouch into the train car, and his head was the size of my abdomen!!  His voice was as deep as James Earl Jones’, and he had a gigantic can of beer in his hand!”  That is barely an exaggeration!

It was complete culture shock for us… if I did not speak in Spain, France, or Italy, nobody ever questioned where I was from, but now I stood out just by being short and morena.  I felt like I was ten years old again!!  Everyone kept staring at us on the trains and around town…not to be rude…but in a curious way, as if thinking…”where the heck are they from!?”  Most realized Gio was Ecuadorian and kept chit chat to 2006 world cup predictions.

But that man on the train continues to be included in our stories whenever we talk about our trip.  Even three years later.

I guess a parallel would be in this picture…I didn’t notice anything in particular when the picture was taken, but afterward, you can’t help but think about the girl in the fantastic, multiple-shades-of-green outfit!!  It looks like I inserted her, and she’s a female version of Where’s Waldo(ette).  I assure you though, there weren’t any computer tricks involved in this one.


2009/01/07, 07:51
Filed under: Los Angeles, Moving, Thoughts

Classes started today…I have to admit that I’m a bit jealous of my friends still on the semester system, but at least this quarter seems bearable and interesting (not that last quarter wasn’t, but the adjustment was pretty tough).

The trip back west went pretty well yesterday.  Took the obnoxiously early flight from JFK – LAX (I forgot that American Airlines charges for checked bags…even just for one…and in my half-asleep stupor I was pretty annoyed, but other than that things were fine).  I sat next to a woman who was friendly, we talked for a minute, and then we both went to reading books and taking naps.  Talk about a great person to sit with!!  I wish all rides were as smooth and had as considerate people as that one.  Granted, most of the plane slept the entire way.

It was tough to leave family, friends, and especially Gio at the airport.  I have to admit, long distance relationships are tough, but it has been worth every minute of it.  Luckily, Gio was able to catch an earlier flight home as stand-by for  $0.10 (the difference in taxes or something…payable in cash only!! 🙂   )  Unfortunately, his bag was sent to Aruba instead of Austin!

So anyways, when I landed in LAX, it was a weird sensation.  The weather here is BEAUTIFUL… it felt like the day in the spring time in NY…typically around Easter time, when it’s the FIRST day that the weather is just undeniably fantastic.  At a place like Potsdam, it’s the first day you look around and see EVERYONE has an excuse to be outside in the sun.  Playing sports.  Reading.  Walking.  Talking.  Practicing their instruments.  Eating.  Lounging around in the quads.  The first day you feel like life suddenly blossomed.  Or the first time you notice that the buds on the trees actually became leaves!  Then I realized that people who are from places like Los Angeles and have never lived in a 4-seasons region just don’t get that feeling or experience, and I’m really glad I do!  The last two days I’ve had an extra spring in my step 🙂

Okay, and to end this post, I will share my New Year’s Resolutions.

a) Try my best to adhere to a consistent, healthy sleep schedule. In bed between 10:30pm-12am (which gives me 24 minutes!)  I spent all last year teaching going to bed anywhere from 12am – 5am.  None of my other teaching friends did this.  Yes, I know I was crazy.  The miracle is, I never drank coffee or became a coffee drinker…and I made it through every day off sheer adrenaline and whatever else.  Granted, I spent many of my lunch periods napping.  Weeks of mid-terms and finals might require some fudging of this, but hopefully not!

b) Consistently practice Yoga again…perhaps even join a class at UCLA.  This is contingent with resolution a, and my hope is to wake up between 7am and 9am to practice yoga before classes.  This will give me the exercise I’ve always enjoyed, keep my endorphines up, and reduce stress.

c) Complete more of my reading and school work at school/in the library. Less distractions.  More of a relaxing vibe at home.  Enough said.

and finally…

d) Volunteer at the Lange Foundation down the street. I am severely deprived of animals (seeing as how I’ve never NOT had a pet in my life, and I really miss being around animals.  Heck, when I don’t think anyone is looking, I stare at and talk to the squirrels on campus sometimes!)  I also am worried about adopting a pet due to limited funds and uncertainty of where I’ll have an apartment next year.  I would be completely devastated if I had to give up a pet due to something as much of a nuisance as strict landlords.  I hope they’ll understand I’m a graduate student and not mind that it might be only a few hours a week and the availability changes frequently with the quarter system.