Journal Entry 4

Journal Entry 4

9/10/13

So, going by the time on my nook(as I do not yet have a cellphone), I woke up today at 4am. I really am hoping this is incorrect, seeing as I spent most of the night awake.

Just looked at the clock during breakfast (which was fried food AGAIN). It said 6:48. Which means I must have woken up at 6. This comes as a relief. Not much of one, but still.

My sister spent much of this morning trying to get me to take a shower. I do not like showering out of a bucket with smelly water, so I will do it as little as possible. Plus, the fan kept me cool last night (I even had to use the sheet as a really thin blanket), so I don’t smell bad. Then again considering the water, I don’t exactly smell good. Also, it’s been 3 days or so since the bus, and I still do not feel well. MY stomach keeps cramping, and I’ve thrown up twice. Once in the shower, and once last night.

Today I have to go to Changuinola to buy a school uniform. Oh joy.

In the past hour, 6 planes have gone overhead. That, or one plane has just been flying in big circles. Until today, I had not heard any planes. Ok, so the planes are little biplanes. I don’t know how many there are.

Just got back from shopping in Changuinola. I got a phone. To be more exact, I got a fucking expensive hunk of plastic masquerading as a phone. The mom pressured me into buying the $85 phone as opposed to the $35 one. She said the one I wanted was bad. It was less expensive. That was the only difference I could see. I also got a uniform, for a grand total of $60. The others all had to get theirs made for them, mine came in the store. Yay for me. Note the sarcasm. I also wasn’t permitted to buy the shoes I wanted and was instead made to buy flats that will fall of my feet when I walk. The only difference between those and the ones I wanted, was that the ones I wanted had a strap to keep them on my feet.

I also met the grandmother today. She seemed nice, as she napped in her hammock, yapping on her cellphone. She had an adorable chihuahua. Note to self: See if I can resell cellphone back in the states…or burn it. We can draw crosses on it, and stick it in a microwave. Also, I need to get out of Guabito. More for the safety of the civilians, and the sanity of the army. Also, for the sake of my insanity. Seriously Maddy, I think I’m losing it. That, and about 5 pounds already. I cannot eat the food.

At least I got to see the others today. Turns out Pheobe doesn’t even have internet, while Lotta has free access to it, and Wow has both a working shower, toilet, and internet. This sucks. I have the urge to run through the house wearing one of my bras on my head and waving tampons around, screaming “I am the Earth-born devil-child!” I just need to check with Maddy on the translation of this…

Journal Entry 3

Journal Entry 3

9/9/13

I really don’t know that I can do this. The bed might be the final straw. It’s very uncomfortable and the springs keep poking me. I just want to go home and see my family, use my own shower, wash my hair, use a flushing toilet. I really don’t want to be here. I want my own room back, and some place I don’t feel like I’m melting. Somewhere where washing your hands after using the restroom is common. That would be nice.

I wonder… if I copy the data from the internet key, all the files, and put them on my computer, would I be connected to the internet? I’ll have to remember to ask dad. That and how long I really have to wait before I can come home. I did not foresee this potential future, and now that it is a reality, I can’t stand it.

If I end up being forced to stay here, I need to somehow let my non-English speaking liaison know that I need school credits.

So I spent more of the day outside with Nataly and the neighbor kids. We painted our nails, talked about boyfriends(or lack thereof) and tossed a ball around. I wanted to kill someone, preferably the person who had the brilliant idea of placing me in this pathetic excuse for a town. Then came pictures. Many pictures. Of me. I wanted to die… Later, we wandered over to the neighbor kid’s house. And grabbed brown bananas that looked as if they had been on the floor for quite a while. And had ants on them.

During this time, I discovered that Panamanian girls can be surprisingly perverted. It was either the five year old deepthroating a banana, pictures of the four of us deepthroating bananas, or the many pictures in which the girls kept making ‘sexy poses’ and trying to convince me to “be sexy!” Like I said…well, interesting.

We went to the store today and bought popsicles. Nice thing about Panama is that everything is very inexpensive. Ice cream bars are 45 cents.

Unfortunately, the shower water (or should I say bucket-water) has already done sad things to my hair. And I’ve only been able to wash my hair once. It’s dry, and my scalp is itchy. Also, the water smells bad. On impulse I tried drinking some. It tasted to bad, I spat it back out. And threw up. Yes Maddy, I am aware I have impulse control issues. Bad Lillie, no impulse.

On the bright side (yeah, right) it seems the Panamanian Police/Army is gender equal. A lady soldier followed us home from the store.

Well, I think that’s all for tonight.

Mom, Dad, Aaron, I really miss you.

Journal Entry 2

Journal Entry 2

9/8/13

Ok, traveling by bus sucks. Although, mostly the secund bus sucked. It was small, hot, and the guy sitting next to me kept sleeping on my shoulder. But anyway, I am now at my host family.

So, I now have a younger sister, Nataly, who is lying on her bed across from me. She is very nice, and surprisingly patient. My Spanish is not good at all, but she waits for me to find the word I am looking for in my dictionary. I also have two older brothers. Juan Carlo is the oldest one (I was told he is a police officer) and Juan Diego (who seems to attend College in Panama City, but might also have just been visiting. And college might just mean High School) is the older one.

The Mom and Dad are very nice and Patient as well. It’s just surprising.

I share a room with Nataly and another girl named Eizabeth(?). From what I can understand, Elizabeth is from an Indian Reserve. Apparently Panama has reserves…I haven’t met Elizabeth yet, but hope to soon.

The room is pretty dim, but seems to have pink walls with a floral wallpaper strip. My bed has a Hello Kitty blanket. There is a hole in the ceiling where small gekos dart in and out of.

Now. Something I really did not consider when I chose Panama as my exchange country, was the facilities. Let’s start with the toilet. It does not flush. You use the bucket that doubles as a shower to flush the toilet. I know that I am spoiled. And American. But this is somewhat ridiculous. As in, I don’t know that I will be able to take this. I still feel like puking from the bus ride. That was a very unpleasant experience.

Internet. When I read the AFS information about my host family, it said I would have my own room, and internet till 10pm. However, internet is a memory stick you plug into the computer, and is shared among two families. Also, it costs $30 a month. I need to find a way to buy my own “internet stick” and cellphone.

Spanish is surprisingly easy to remember. There are so many words I do not know or can’t remember, but I have been remembering a lot of them. And I can communicate in very basic Spanish to my family. I repeat, very basic Spanish… But still, at least it’s something. I’m actually having a hard time writing in English, I keep thinking random words in Spanish.

There was some sort of checkpoint on the road from Changuinola to Guabito. Dudes in camo holding rifles. It was kinda surprising. Pocket-pon will understand my paranoia here.

I managed to talk to my family on skype today, but they couldn’t hear me. I really really really really miss them. And internet. And running water. And 60 degree weather. It’s too flipping hot. I want to take a shower. A real shower, out of a faucet, not out of a bucket.

I made a deal with the others. When we all meet up again in 6 months time, we will be able to speak Spanish to each other. More importantly, we will be able to understand each other. And it will be nice.

And my pen just inked me. I have a blue hand. And my sister and the neighbor girl who watched me sleep are laughing at me… I’m going to go to bed soon. I know I am homesick, and that this is supposed to happen. But it’s one thing to expect it, and a whole other to experience it. I just need to work through this and I will be fine. I hope I will because this…It will be fun.

Journal Entry Number 1

Journal Entry Number 1

9/7/13

Ok, to save time, space, originality, and creativity, I am not going to bore anyone (myself) with a precise description of the plane ride. Suffice it to say, I was nicknamed Kitty by Pheobe, who reminds me of one of those stately and mature cats. The ones who sit on the windowsill and watch life beyond the glass. The cat does not possess that life, but creates her own, all the while keeping in mind the various forms life takes. Although, Pheobe’s abrupt panic/excitement regarding our first view of Panama (which involved much movement and a camera) momentarily transformed that stately cat into the one who jumps to the opposite side of the glass and hurls herself into life on the other side.

When we finally landed, we had to wait in line to get through customs. Which involved much motioning and unhappy looking customs people. And I swear, it was so not my fault, but we were detained by customs. A…unpleasant looking woman came and began interrogating Madeline, in Spanish, about something. But with no Spanish to speak of, or rather with, we couldn’t do much more than gesture outside. The customs official then demanded our passports and took us back behind customs and motioned to us to sit in a circle. Then forgot about us. About 30 minutes later, another, nicer looking customs official came over. She could speak some English, which was a big relief. After she heard us out, she called over the other customs woman, and asked for our passports. The first woman seemed to have forgotten that she took our passports, but eventually returned them, and we were on our way.

There were five of us American “ambassadors”. Right now though, Pheobe and I are the only ones going to Changuinola. Joining us are Grit and Wow (unsure about the spelling) from Thailand, and Lotta from Germany.

Lotta is a lot of fun. She and another German named Viola were two of the first people I bonded to in Panama. Lotta is confident and likes to laugh (note: Maddy, she would make a fantastic addition, along with Viola and some of the others).

Grit is interesting. Unlike the usual Thai students, he is more outgoing and confident. He seems to have developed a sense of attachment to Wow, who is significantly less confident. She seems very unsure of herself and her surroundings in general. Grit looks out for her, especially after the van ride this morning(discuss Panama City Drivers later) when the driver pulled a stop very suddenly and her head hit the window opener. She was ok, but was later nearly sideswiped by a bus side-view mirror when the bus beside us pulled out. Both Grit and Lotta seem to be able to keep up or at least deal with my insanity.

Pheobe. She is from Tuscon Arizona, and as mentioned previously, nicknamed me Kitty. She is very likable, but has a killer writer-mode. Interrupt her and you are dead. Yes Pocket-pon, writer dead. Her pen will remove your guts and force-feed them to you. Scary. But like I said, she is very likable. She writes in a diary too, although I think we both refer to this as a journal. She also has a blog, the name of which I do not yet know.

Lastly, we have our AFS chapter leader. She is…interesting…I nicknamed her Mama Duck. And we are the ducklings. Running out in front of a bus and yelling at us (in Spanish) to hurry up may have had something to do with it. However, some things concern me. She made Pheobe go with her on a “food run” after the others and I got back from ours. Pheobe and Wow had stayed behind to guard our bags. Pheobe not only wasn’t able to buy food, but she had to carry Mama Duck’s bags when she went shopping. Lotta and I took Pheobe food hunting when she got back. We passed Mama Duck, who at this time had been joined by her daughter, who I call Chane, like from that anime (insert name later). She sorta joked with us, in Spanish the whole time, about us getting her food. At least, we though it was joking. Until we got back and learned she was serious. Mama Duck asked for food, and Pheobe gave her the pizza she had just bought. Mama Duck looked at it, then at us, like “Is this all you have to offer?” Then began eating. Later, she took some of Pheobe’s whipped cream from her milkshake. But she also had all of us give her .50 cents. She is supposed to be our chapter leader, but she can’t even speak any English, uses us to get food and money, and laughs at our fail attempts to speak Spanish. I’ll give her the last one, but I know that there is something in the AFS rules about how if you feel you are being used, you need to tell your AFS Liaison immediately. Well, what do you do if your liaison is the one doing it, and she doesn’t speak English anyways? She is mostly picking on Pheobe. One theory we tossed around was that because she is a friend of Pheobe’s host mother, like a sister to her, maybe this is how the family dynamic works. But it still doesn’t seem right. I want to do something about it, but I can’t even think what. I have no cellphone, and no internet access right now. I’ll tell mom about it and hope that she can help. Because, what if we have a crisis before we can speak Spanish? What use is it to have n AFS liaison who can’t understand us, and doesn’t even try?

Anyways, right now we are all on a bus. A blue one! An antennae bus! With comfy seats. And a toilet. With no toilet paper. Just like all the rest stops along the way to Changuinola. It’s a double-decker, which apparently originated from Germany. The word double-decker that is, not the bus. I have no clue where it came from. I already feel as if my Spanish is improving. Not by much, but it’s easier to recall words.

We left at 7pm. And we won’t get to Changuinola till 6am. This is Hell. Not my Hell, somebody’s Hell for me. At least Pocket-pon understands me. I should stop writing now so everyone can sleep, my light might be keeping them awake.

Ok, back. So, mini-crisis involving me not being able to find my bus ticket…I put it in the cellphone pocket of my backpack and promptly forgot about it. In my defense, I was half asleep. It was an honest mistake anyone…ok, really only I could make. It was somewhere safe, meaning I forgo about it.

Just found out the other four go to the same school. Which I do not go to. This officially sucks.

I really am wishing I had gone to Spain.

DOMA

Gay marriage, or as most people call it, marriage, isn’t a threat to straight marriage; human biology and economic uncertainty are. Ban hormones and restore, say, the tax rates of the 1950′s. And maybe take a serious look at your life decisions if you feel threatened by gay marriage. Perhaps your inner fabulous is trying to tell you something about what kind of marriage you should really be in.

p.s. — Don’t ban hormones. That would be even stupider than DOMA.

p.p.s — I misused that semicolon in the first sentence, didn’t I?

Feeling Blue

The Getty has a special installation that I would like to see. Too bad my grandfather and I have a lifetime ban. It’s been forty years — do you think they’ll remember me? Or does Getty security age photographs to make sure those disruptive small children do not return decades later as potentially disruptive adults? I’ve grown a bit since I was four . . .

Why I Will Not Be Shopping At Sears

Sears is an interesting company. They delivered a brand new dryer on Friday, complete with rusted gouges on the body. Most companies would send undamaged merchandise, or offer to repair the damage. Sears, bold pioneers that they are, have chosen instead to offer to send me a bottle of touch-up paint and their thanks for choosing Sears. I am not sure that the business strategy of instilling ill-will in their customers is such a wise one, but to each their own.

Thanks, Sears

Edge of BRAND NEW Kenmore dryer, including gouges and rust.

Were this the first problem with Sears, I might be willing to chalk it up to a lousy customer service person. However, as this is just the latest in a string of problems with Sears, and the washer and dryer they were to have delivered on March 1, I have to consider that Sears is not a company that I would trust purchasing anything from again. Ever. I purchased a Kenmore stackable washer and dryer, and stacking kit, on February 10, 2012. Because my gas supply is propane (LPG), I had to purchase the LPG conversion kit as well, and agreed to a $119.99 dryer installation fee so that the installer could convert the dryer from natural gas to LPG. To be sure, I confirmed at the time of order that the installer would indeed be converting the dryer from natural gas to LPG.

I should have realized as soon as I received my receipt that there was going to be a problem: The dryer, with its installation on top of the washer, was scheduled for delivery and installation on February 13, and the washer, stacking kit and LPG conversion kit were scheduled for delivery on February 14. How they planned on installing the conversion kit before it arrived, or planned on stacking the dryer on top of the not-yet-arrived washer was beyond me. This was shortly after I placed my order, and after checking with my contractor and discovering that we should probably wait a few weeks before having the washer and dryer delivered, I called Sears back to reschedule the delivery for a time that was more convenient for the contractor, March 1. I also suggested that since the dryer was to be converted to LPG and stacked on top of the washer, perhaps the dryer could be delivered AFTER the washer. This, Sears informed me, would be fine.

Both Sears delivery service and Sears installation service called me on February 29. The washer and accessories were scheduled to be delivered around noon the following day, the dryer to be delivered and installed a little before then. I mentioned to the installer that the washer would not be delivered until after the dryer and he decided that he would wait for the washer to be delivered first. I also reminded him that the dryer needed to be converted to LPG. This was the first he had heard of this, and was beyond what he normally does for installation. Because of this, he said he needed to call Sears and would call me back shortly. The washer and accessories were delivered March 1. The dryer was not. Neither was the call back from the installer.

I called the handy Sears installation number a day or two later, and after a little over an hour talking with various people and receiving many apologies, I was told that the dryer would be delivered, most likely on Monday, March 5, and yes, they knew I needed it converted to LPG. The installer would take care of that. Rather than have me continue to hold, I was told at that time I would be called back shortly for an estimated delivery time. Like the call back from the installer, the installation service people failed to actually call me back. The installer himself did call me, however, on Monday evening to let me know he would be delivering and installing the dryer the next morning, March 6.

March 6 passed, without a delivery or installation person in site. March 7 passed, without a delivery or installation person in site. March 8 passed, without a delivery or installation person in site. While no delivery or installation person was in site, he at least made it to the phone on March 8: The engine in his truck had apparently blown, and he could not make the delivery on March 6. He would, however, be delivering my dryer in the morning, March 9. Yay!

The dryer was delivered, March 9. At this point, the installer stated that he does not perform LPG conversions, and because the dryer cannot be hooked up, he could not install it. He filled out the paperwork and noted that because the dryer was not converted, he could not install it. I signed it so we could get a refund started on the installation fee. All of which begs the question: Why was I not originally told that the Sears installation person could not perform the installation of the conversion kit? Had Sears mentioned something in the several calls previously where it was discussed, I would have not purchased the $119.99 dryer installation and would not have been annoyed by their inability to perform the installation service that I had paid for. I would have instead contacted my propane supplier, Sequoia Gas, and paid to have them perform the conversion, which is a service they offer.

This entire experience has left me with a rather disinclined to recommend Sears to anyone I know who might be making an appliance purchase, as at present I have a dryer that is not installed, cannot be used until I pay another company to perform the conversion that Sears was supposed to take care of, cost me $119.99 over list price, and wondering whether it would be better to contact the Better Business Bureau and Ripoff Reports. I have contacted Sears, both about the conversion and installation issue and the rust issue. For the rust, they are shipping out some appliance touch-up paint so that I can hide the rust for a while. For the installation and conversion, they are supposed to get back to me in the next few days to discuss what happened and hopefully refund the installation fee. If it is refunded, I will accept that I have a rusty dryer and cannot trust Sears to stand behind their products. If it is not, I will send a letter to my credit card company to dispute the charges and contact both the Better Business Bureau and Ripoff Report. If, by some miracle, Sears realizes that perhaps customers would rather receive undamaged merchandise when they buy something new and either send someone out to fix the rust and scratch issue or replace the dryer as well as refund my installation fee, I will consider shopping at Sears again and updating this to reflect the suddenly improved customer service. I won’t hold my breath for this last option, however.

0710111316

The Glass

It’s said to be a metaphor
for how you see the world
how is your life?- full of joy?
or is it full of sorrow?

A simple glass,
half full
or half empty
determines who you are.

If you treat it as a simile
your life (or are we talking me?)
is like that simple glass there
and beverage floating free.

Is it full of sorrow?
Are you consumed with pain?
Is there no tomorrow?
Or are you right as rain?

Now me, I love the sunshine
and all the simple things
My life is generally happiness
and the kiss of butterfly wings.

Some days though I start to realize
there is both pleasure and pain
it’s not a glass, half full or empty
but just two side of one thin coin
their differences rarely plain.

As I stare into this empty glass
what I really need to know is
while you’ve kept me talking here
who’s been drinking my damned beer?