Digging a Hole

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Death by WalMart

I'm sure many other people will comment on the ugliness and symbolism of a Wal-Mart employee getting crushed to death by rampaging shoppers. There is a lot to say about our treatment of workers, mob mentality, and the absolute necessity of owning a flat screen TV, but to me, the most shocking part of the tale is the lack of oversight in WalMart's public relations department.
Commenting on the death and injuries that occurred in the stampede in which people were crushed and trampled WalMart said (I shit you not): "[The company's] thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those impacted."
Not the best choice of words...

Don't Drink the Water

Oh, werd?
I learned a LOT in Ecuador including but not limited to the facts that antibiotics are really important, piranhas don't eat people, and ... um.... Spanish.
One of the most interesting themes of our trip was development in a global communications world. I'm sure lots of people who study South America, actually speak Spanish, and pronounce Chile CHEE-lay (rather than "brr... it's Chile in here") can better expound on Ecuador's development patterns than me, but I'm going to try anyway.
1) We saw a lot of weird stuff for sale from street vendors such as individual sneakers (as in, not in pairs), plastic bags of coconut milk, lottery tickets, artificial Christmas trees, and roasted guinea pig. (Actually, the last one isn't true. I had to make a conscious effort *not* to see roasted guinea pig because I had a pet for eight years, but if you want to see a roasted guinea pig for sale, they are amply available.) The absolute weirdest, though, was the man walking down the street with an armload of television rabbit ears. They all were different shapes and sizes and were obviously used. At first, Eric and I thought he must be insane, that is until we saw a second rabbit ear - hawker. Eat your heart out Best Buy.
2) Internet cafes are absolutely everywhere as is WiFi access. A typical cafe features half western (northern?) backpackers and half local kids playing Worlds of Warcraft. At the same time though, the actual buildings that the internet cafes are housed in are literally collapsing. In Montanita, a stray dog kicked my cable and briefly disconnected me while napping under my chair. It appears from my cursory observations that information and information technology are racing past other infrastructure development.
3) That other infrastructure is just present enough to lull you into a false sense of security. When you turn on the stove, you get a flame. Simple, right? That is until you notice the hose coming from the stove and running out the window to a propane tank in the backyard. Then, you start to notice the guys on tricycle carts who deliver the propane tanks to homes and businesses.
4) The same goes for water. If you turn on the tap, deceptively delicious-looking clear water comes out. But where does it come from? Well, if you walk out onto the balcony of your hostel (past the hammocks), you can find your building's giant plastic water tank. Eric even opened ours to look inside. While there is nothing visibly floating, this water is pure poison to North Americans not accustomed to salmonella and dysentery. Also, these critters are incredibly resistant to alcohol, so no matter how many mojitos, pina coladas, or games of flip-cup there are prior to bacterial exposure, you will pee out your butt. (And likely get a nasty hangover for trying.)
5) Ecuador has many many vehicles on the road such as buses, trucks, mopeds, propane tricycles, etc.... but not a whole lot of driving laws. There are theoretical lanes, but Ecuadorians have noticed that they can often create a new lane just by driving a little bit closer together, so why not, right? There is a designated bus lane in some cities which is set aside by a small curb-sized barrier. Luckily, buses can drive *over* this impediment whenever they feel like driving in the car lanes. Finally, pedestrians have the right of way unless there is a car coming. In those instances, pedestrians have the right to scramble in all directions before they become hood ornaments.
My overall impression of Ecuador was productive chaos. There is what appears to be old school local capitalism with no chain stores - just thousands of small storefronts or street hawkers selling everything you need. Bargaining is expected; although, you feel like a bit of a punkass haggling over a three dollar taxi ride, so we just stopped by the end of the trip. Bus drivers will drive loops around a downtown with their co-drivers hanging out the door, yelling the bus's destination, until the bus is full enough to make a good profit. There is construction everywhere, but a lot of it is pretty shoddy. The buildings are almost entirely made from concrete with the main concrete posts made on-site rather than prefabricated. Many buildings still have steel rods sticking haphazardly out their tops after construction is completed.
Most young Ecuadorians were dressed like Americans or Europeans. The middle class all have cell phones in the cities. Nintendo Wiis were for sale in electronics stores (next to the rabbit-ears guy). With global branding and advertising and easy internet access, everyone can see what the rest of the world has, and shopping patterns are easier and quicker to change than basic infrastructure, but the western culture shift makes the shocks of the infrastructure shortcomings even more jarring. After playing rounds of flip cup, dancing to "Jump Around" by a bonfire, and swapping Facebook pages with international friends, a dysentery hangover is the last thing you expect to wake up with, but it reminds you of how lucky we are to have critter-free water here. In American water, we just have carcinogens that will slowly alter your cells until you meet a slow cancerous demise. (Yay!)
Oh, and I saw a sloth.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

President Obama

Blog going on hiatus while I wander the world.
See y'all shortly before Thanksgiving!
Maybe I'll throw in tidbits from travel before then....

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Oh werd?
Calling all fake Americans!
...Especially the fake Americans that live near Real Americans...
If you live in Ohio, you should probably just smash your voting machine, so they are forced to use paper ballots. Just an idea...

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Obligatory Conference Post

I decided that instead of describing conference fun, I would just post this one photo of a BPA-free Nalgene bottle containing Yuengling. Now stay up for 36 hours straight, and it's just like being there.


Oh, werd?
So, I am very excited that Ben's blog ( http://bsom.blogspot.com ) has made note of my blog coming out of hibernation. My dad's blog is linking me now as well. Perhaps you saw my Facebook message noting that I am blogging again. Now is, of course, the best time to take another long hiatus.
I am going to Ecuador for three weeks on Wednesday, so I might not update much until Thanksgiving, but don't despair dear readers (all 4 or 5 of you including my dad!), my blog will return, with cool tropical parasites, Thanksgiving weekend.
One cool tropical parasite it will NOT return with is malaria. That is because, as of yesterday, I am taking mefloquine hydrochloride. This will not kill malaria eggs, but it will kill baby malarias (?) once they hatch in my bloodstream. I have to take it until Christmas (it's almost Christmas!!!).
I like to read the directions of strange medications, so I found the following interesting side effects:
-"severe anxiety"
-"mild bad dreams"
-"hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there, for example)" (I love the explanation.)
-"feelings that people are against them"
Halloween is a funny time to take hallucinogenic medications. Also, I'm not sure if my "feelings that people are against me" are due to the mefloquine tablet or the fact that we canvassed a hardline rightwing neighborhood the past two evenings.
KPd: We are working on farmland preservation.
Rightwing Neighborhood: Barack Obama is a terrorist.
KPd: Uh... back to farms...
RWN: Did you know that Yasir Arafat is one of Obama's advisers?
KPd: He's dead. Happy Halloween?
My extremely unscientific poll of likely rightwing crazy people concludes that Republicans, like tourists traveling to South America, have strong feelings that people are against them. The mood in red towns is a paranoid angry vibe stirred up by two months of Sarah Palin telling them that the elite media is hiding Barack Obama's secret plan to use their taxes to destroy Israel and outlaw Christianity. I spend a lot of time diffusing this anger and talking people down.
KPd: Yay farms!
Rightwing Lady: Yay farms!
KPd: Yay Green Acres program!
RWL: You are a radical. Please leave.
(30 seconds later, door reopens)
RWL: Can I ask you a question? Are you pro-choice?
KPd: (sensing correct answer and wanting to continue curious conversation) I'm a Christian environmentalist.
RWL: Oh! I didn't know there was such thing! I'm sorry I yelled at you. It's this election. I feel like the country is against people like me. Can we hug it out?
Okay, so I fudged the truth and let her assume that I am anti-choice, but it was worth it for the hug. Republicans need more hugs right now. They have feelings that people are against them.
They likely also have severe anxiety and bad dreams. Many of them, looking at the polls, may also hope they are experiencing hallucinations.
Happy voting everyone!