Saturday, April 30, 2011

Notes on Reliability

I have always thought of myself as a reliable person. I work hard, I try to never be late, if I make a promise I will do everything I can to keep it. I am loyal and faithful and if I love you, watch out, 'cause you're really gonna get it.

I am constantly heartbroken, however, when the world is not as reliable. I am fully aware of my control issues, thank you very much, but this is a little more specific. When people give their word, I have expectations. Actually, I have extremely high expectations, since your commitment to other people is the most important thing in life, I'm pretty sure.

So anyway, when people let me down, I fall hard. And it takes everything I've got and then some to forgive that person (if I ever do, I'm also aware of my trust issues, thanks).

So, last night was the Earth Day program that I had been planning for a month. It turned out great, mainly because there were a lot of great people helping me out. However, it was truly a blessing that it wasn't a total flop.

The Municipio (basically the City Hall) totally bailed on me last minute. As in, all the help and materials they promised me for the program (giant screen for the Environmental Education presentation and movie, tables and tents, and general volunteers) were instead used in a different program in the main park. A political program, which was encouraging people to vote a certain way next week by offering dancers flown in from the mainland, free booze, and singing. This was the mayor's doing, using public materials for his political agenda.

Secondly, many of the volunteers and anticipated performers bailed, too. There was supposed to be a band (they weren't around), there were supposed to be a small show of giant puppets made from recycled materials (not ready yet), and the Queen of San Cristobal, one of the English students, was supposed to make an appearance and give a short introduction to the program's festivities. Apparently she had better things to do...

So there we were, a small group of gringas and a few locals, reorganizing the schedule, using the two tables (three more were later scrounged up) that were supposed to be eight, hanging hand-painted signs, offering face painting and recycled material arts, and waiting for everyone else to show up.

Luckily, once the few of us donned our costumes made from recycled materials, a few kids happened by and the spirits were soaring.

One little boy, (the little brother of one of my students) was the very first to come. He rode up on his little skate-scooter, his mom following behind him. He was the poster-child for enthusiasm, wanting to know everything about everything that was going on; he got his face painted, participated in the art station, played cardboard frisbee, rode his scooter all over the place, and was surely one of the last to leave almost three hours later.

Vicente, my soon-to-be father-in-law, a natural leader and joker, was happy to take the microphone (when one showed up) and between reggae songs, did the announcements.

After about an hour of arts and general silliness, the bike contest began. Police cones were arranged and around fifteen kids on bikes and skateboards and little scooters participated again and again until the winners were selected. They received adorable books about bike safety, written and donated by the Charles Darwin Foundation. We also awarded them each t-shirts, as we had ample gifts that had been donated from the local agencies and businesses.

A while later, the kids who were in costume took the stage and described their costumes. There was a girl in cardboard mini skirt with matching vest, a boy with karate pants and shirt made from trash bags, two robots, and "organic trash" a boy with a mask and wearing a trash sack. All very original costumes which had obviously been labored on with great care. All were winners, so they also were awarded t-shirts.

Next there was a local naturalist guide who had created a special presentation about the history and importance of Earth Day. Without the screen, we just projected it on the wall and it turned out great.

Finally we had the adult costume contest. This was a very difficult contest, as there were seven of us women who had very eclectic costumes. There were three who had truly gotten into the spirit of a festival and used only recycled materials, while a few others (myself included) had less impressive costumes.

After strutting around on the stage, begging for applause and describing the materials we had used, the winners were picked. Because I had mandated all my students to come, the applause I received put me into third place. I bowed out of the prizes, however, because I felt like the other participants deserved the prizes, while my prize was that everything had finally fallen into place.

Finally we had a local musician sing a new song he had written and played guitar. After that, we thanked everyone for coming, dispersed leftover materials and cleaned up.

My English teacher cohorts and I went out for a celebratory ceviche dinner, after which all but one fell fast asleep.

I am pleased with how the event turned out. Again, it went great, considering how terrible it was destined to turn out. This whole time, they were my ideas of the minga and festival. Everyone was skeptical, few were interested in helping at all. But in the last few days, everything came together.

Nothing could have happened if my very important support group hadn't of believed in me and my ideas for a cultural event, a celebration of the Earth, not just Galapagos. A positive way to celebrate our place in the natural world, instead of so much negativity and accusations like the local population is used to.

At the end of the day, I know that it was my friends and family in this beautiful place that I am able to count on, to support me, to help me, to listen and understand me, to try to play along with whatever random activities I come up with and thrust upon them. It is these people who have shown me a new side of Reliability.

Lean on me, and lean I did. BIG LOVE!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Earth Day!

So Earth Day is quickly approaching, and for someone like me, a Natural Resource Recreation and Tourism degree holder living in Galapagos, this is like the Super Bowl.

I'm organizing a minga (community clean-up day) and festival. I've invited everyone I know. I've approached institutions, agencies, and small businesses to ask for support and donation of materials. I've asked the local and international student groups for help. I've created promotional materials like fliers and Facebook events and will soon be making a spot for the local TV station. All this in my second language, virtually single-handedly.

Not to say that I don't have support. But the cultural differences still astound me, especially coming from a pretty progressive college town. This ain't no Fort Collins.

People are hesitant to commit, hell, they are hesitant to seem interested at times. Politics play a heavy role, and so it's very complicated as to how I can involve which groups and schools and agencies and I must hold formal meetings in the Municipio (City Hall) for everything. Yes, there I sit, with my paper scraps scribbled full of ideas and my Spanish - English dictionary right there on the table. (Somehow, I have been taken somewhat seriously so far, which is nothing short of a miracle.)

What really strikes me is how unresponsive the students have been: both local and international. Again, coming from my niche in a Colorado town, this is the biggest challenge: trying to get the faces of Galapagos, these young leaders who are studying Conservation and Tourism Administration and Evolutionary Biology and the like to be active.

For the festival, I'm offering tables (manned by my English students, of course) for recycled art workshops for kids of all ages. I've been busy all weekend, trying out new ideas and testing the feasibility of making a bank decorated like a whale out of a soda bottle and some paint, for example.

I've also asked the local guides association to put on a short presentation about any topic they wish, keeping in the theme of Earth Day and sustainability and the uniqueness of Galapagos. I've petitioned local musicians to play and I'm searching for the right movie to project on a huge screen (that is if there is no rain)!

The main event is the parade and contest of costumes made from trash and recyclable materials. Prizes will be given away for the best and most creative costumes worn by all ages of participants. I've also been brainstorming my own costume and burning my fingertips with hot glue guns (and yes, I've already stapled my finger once) throwing together these concoctions of beer caps, plastic bags, plastic cups, and milk cartons.

My hope is that the events will be well-received; that everyone can take home something amidst all the hub-bub. A message about sustainability, new ideas for old materials, a new piece of knowledge about this beautiful place, the fun of a festival shared by friends, family, and total strangers, all in this thing together.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bear with Me

So things are getting interesting. Namely, I'm on the brink. The most direct story is: I am changing my life.

I've never really dealt with anything, never confronted my demons, never sat through the pain of something. Maybe it's me, or maybe it's my generation of ADDers, or maybe it's my culture of onward and upward (as quickly as possible), or maybe it's something else. Or maybe it's all of it all crammed into the same messy package. Whatever, it's not important.

During my life, whenever I've fallen on hard times, I've usually skirted the issues. I mean, the real issues.

I've quit hobbies and activities and challenges and jobs and projects whenever I encounter an obstacle. I walk away from people instead of dealing with the hurt, or the real intimacy. I switch schools. I move away. I cut things out of my life like a trim of fat from a steak. And it leaves jagged edges, and it bleeds, but I generally ignore such trauma and fill my focus with something else, but equal to what I just left behind.

So it's happened that in this place, the place that I am the happiest I've ever been in my life (both geographically and emotionally speaking) that all this dusty, spooky shit from my past, is seriously blasting and bubbling out in every direction. Like a fireworks display that's out of control: they zip up and down and left and right and straight into that pile of dry leaves and, you get it...

So I've realized that I must finally sit still (like an adult and everything), and deal with my self.

And it's happening because the timing is right. I'm on a tiny island, in the middle of the world, my obligations are slight and effortless, my safety net is secure and tender...

My mind is relaxed and, let's face it, bored enough, to finally decide it's time to drag out the old boxes of photos and relive each joyful, beautiful, lonely, hateful, depressed, tear-jerking moment of it all.


I promise I'm not losing my mind. Or maybe I am. But whatever. This is happening. And while I know some things are better left alone (and just move on with your life, why don't cha'?), I'm sorry, but I'll be knocking down all these comfortable spider webs and seriously cleaning house.

"First you decide what you've got to do, and then you go out and do it. And maybe the most that we can do, is just to see each other through it."

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mi Cariño

Can I just rant about my man? My lover? My best friend?

He lets me speak for myself, and that especially includes trying to express myself with shaky pronunciation and complex grammar.

His usual response to any idea of mine: "It's OK; If you want it, just do it."

He tells me he'll wait for me, wherever I need to go, whatever I feel compelled to do. He asks me to just enjoy the time that I want to stay here with him, and leave when I need to.

He never makes pressure on me for any reason.

He cooks for me. He brings me treats and take out.

He puts up with the scorching sun, while I bask like a crab, brushing sand off my cheek and shoulders.

He always lets me go out with the girls, or alone, if that's what I want.

He sings love songs to me, along with the radio.

He rubs my back better than I can rub his.

He is genuinely interested in my life, and the lives of my family and friends.

He kindly stays out of my way when I am upset or angry, witnessing that he has three sisters and he knows...

He laughs at nearly everything and can make me laugh almost always.

He holds me when I can't laugh, and wipes tears away from my eyes.

He welcomes me into his family and with his friends.

He tells me that he's proud to be with me, that he loves the way that I am...

I am so lucky and grateful to experience this love, to have the opportunity to feel such love for another. Thank you, baby.