Short Stories

Hannah Cho - Ecuador


March 30, 2016

September 29, 2015

After having taken several hearty naps throughout the day earlier, I am not tired and have trouble falling asleep. Then, like clockwork, at midnight by bladder calls. I lay awake in bed, arguing with myself for half an hour before I can no longer take the pressure and decide that I cannot fall asleep before I have to pee myself.

I hate using the bathroom at night. Or getting out from my bed at all after I’ve shut off the light. First off, the practice of getting snug and securing the mosquitero is tedious and annoying and one that I try to avoid. Secondly, and more importantly, every time I’ve used the bathroom at night (which has been three times), I see this giant cockroach. I make the journey to the bathroom anyway.

However, the endeavor that is the return trip proves to be just as terrifying as I had imagined. Mr. Cockroach does not disappoint, this time making an appearance on the door when I open it to leave after a brisk pee. I also note two spiders hanging precariously close to the doorframe, their webs invisible to my poor naked and glasses-less eyes, and, I’m sure, likely waiting to drop onto my face and deliver their creators to bite and eventually poison me. Marvelous.

I stand in the middle of the bathroom, frozen with horror and thinking desperately for a way to escape. The roach does not move from his spot on the door, the smaller of the two spiders rests on the top of the doorframe, and the other one has disappeared out of sight. I push the door with my hand and then bring it back quickly after the roach is startled and moves a few tiny roach feet towards the entrance. I ball up some tissue paper and fling it helplessly at the thing; this is enough motivation for the dumb insect to finally flee into the darkness of The Crack above the door, allowing me to dodge the spider hanging above and scamper back to my room.

I miss my house. I miss sleeping with my mom in the clean white sheets of her bed, the gentle sounds of the much tamer wildlife of Troy buzzing outside our window, kept at a safe distance. I miss the soft carpeting under my feet, the cool Michigan summer air, the smell of the house and its dust and years of families. I miss the clean and white and smooth and easy and smell of scented laundry detergent and minty toothpaste and disinfectant wipes from Costco we always get. I miss suburbia and its well-kept infrastructure and consumerism and white middle class American-ness.

I know I always complained about how pampered we are in Troy, but God, do I miss it.

 

December, 2015

Today, Jefferson told me that I don’t know anything. He didn’t say it defiantly though; he just bowed his head and fiddled with the little bracelet he was making and keep repeating it over and over as I asked him what he meant exactly by that and why was he saying it in the first place? I left the classroom flustered and angry.

I wanted to go home and cry.

 

December, 2015

I am on a soccer team now for the annual end of the year neighborhood futbol competition. It’s organized quite impressively, actually. Every night, people of all ages from the children to the shirtless men play half an hour games of futbol in a coordinated and well-collaborated effort. Because other family members are also playing, there are always people in the house. It’s a glorious, noisy, wonderful mess inside the house, as people are constantly eating, napping, yelling at the children, watching TV, cooking, changing clothes, showering, moving.

I score my first goal that night, and everyone in the neighborhood cheers embarrassingly loud. I can’t help but smile at the group effort to make me feel included. It feels really good.

 

February, 2016

Daeneli greeted me today. She actually she told me, albeit a bit defiantly, that she did indeed finish her homework. She shook my hand after. I didn’t mind the sassiness at all, because I was still getting over the fact that this was the first time she’d actually ever initiated anything resembling a conversation with me. She refused to speak a word during class and never participated in anything other than giggling with her very-bad-influence friend and doodling in her notebook. This interaction was following the day before when I asked her if she wanted me to help her with her English homework. I spent a good 5 minutes trying to convince her to finish it at the Centro where I could very ably help her, but she refused and I let her leave. I was very tired and sighed.

And yet here she is today, a little passively-aggressively telling me that she did, in fact, complete her English homework.

She flipped her hair, walked away, and left me smiling inside.

 

February, 2016

Ylenia drives me home after a late night at Bonuchelli. We have a nice talk about the success of the IKIAM event last Friday,  which was a documentary viewing on the abduction of two boys in Ecuador followed by a discussion coordinated by IKIAM professors.

She tells me that Tena has no culture. Ok yes, Tena does have a culture, but there is very little sense of community outside of each individual barrio. There aren’t enough news sources in Tena to let everyone know what’s going on the barrio next to them. Tena doesn’t have a newspaper. The events that Bonuchelli holds like the one last Friday are rare and hard to find.

Huh.

I want to stay in the car longer and talk but I’m tired and I’m sure she’s tired and the dogs are already beginning to bark and I don’t really know how to continue the conversation in Spanish. I need to digest and think about this tema a little bit more.

I say goodbye and a thank you, grateful to have her as my supervisor but also frustrated that I can’t express that well in Spanish.

 

March, 2016

Skyler and Kate buy me and Rose an ice cream and a bottled water each and we are thrilled. We thank both of them profusely and then go run off into the plaza of Misahualli happy as clams. The nurses haven’t been in Ecuador long enough to become as cheap as us, and it is this fact that we take great advantage of.

The sun is beginning to set and Rose and I stand outside a small tienda just enjoying our ice creams. I’ve told Rose this before, but sometimes I think that we must scare Americans sometimes when we eat. I eat so quickly now that I give myself stomachaches and gas; Rose likewise will inhale her food and pick at other people’s leftovers mercilessly. This thought once again pops into my mind as I watch Rose unabashedly slurp, suck, and lick her ice cream as it smears over her mouth as a three-year-old would. I decide to not tease her this time.

But wow. I’m so happy. I’m so content.

“Rose, today was a great [expletive] day. Free ice cream, free water, the sun is shining, we’re young, we’re smart, we’re good-looking, we’re surrounded by cool people, and we’ve got so much to look forward to in the future. Life’s great.”

Rose nods in agreement as ice cream spills onto her shirt.

 

February 2016

One night, I mercilessly chase a cockroach around my room and kill it with a chancla.

 

March 28th, 2016

Fabian and I cook a quite complicated dish, which I can only described as papa rellena. We peel and halve 20 small potatoes and leave them in a pot of water to boil. We boil peas and carrots and four eggs. I prepare the rice. We begin the mayonnaise, which ends up tasting like a delicious sour cream.

~!!Fabian’s dope mayo!!~

·
2 eggs

·
Juice of a lemon

·
Half a cuchara de sal

·
Half an onion

·
2 capfuls of vinegar if you have some (we didn’t have any)

·
Blend this together and add oil slowly until the mixture stiffens into a cream

·
Add a small handful of cilantro at the very end and let that mix together

With the mayo done, we check on the other vegetables. The rice is burning. We transfer it to another pot. We combine the peas, carrots, mayo, and tuna into a little salad. The potatoes are done and we squish them into a mash, which we use to cover the salad, which ends up looking like a giant chontacuro, but it’s delicious in the end and we serve it all fancily and pretty and I go to sleep full and happy.

 

March 29th, 2016

Abuelita is wrapped in a scarf and sweater. I can tell she’s still sick. I kiss her on the cheek anyway and she tells me to let her know when I’m leaving so she can say goodbye. I invite her to the despedida party, unsure if she will even come, but I tell her to come to the house Saturday morning so we can all leave together, and she says she will come. Her voice is small and weak.

I feel like crying as I walk away, but a drunk shirtless man, who I later find out is technically my host uncle, greets me, and he and I and his wife all walk to the rest of Las Yerbitas.

There are so many people in this huge family I never got to meet. 

 

Hannah Cho