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Ecuador Bound

Ecuador Bound
by Aurelia Guest

As I cleared security in the Miami airport, a cocktail of conflicting emotions overwhelmed me. There I was, about to embark on the biggest adventure of my life so far, and all I could think was “How am I going to do this?”. As I stepped onto the plane, I could feel dozens of pairs of eyes watching me. I was clearly out of place on this large jet. Most of the passengers were native Ecuadorians returning to their home country. I stowed my carry on and gratefully slid into my window seat as the plane slowly filled up around me. Tired, excited, and nervous, I resorted to the activity that had occupied my thoughts for the the last three weeks; imagining what it would be like. Would it live up to my expectation? Would I get along with my family? Would I understand anything anyone said to me? My thoughts wandered back to eight hours earlier when I had hugged my family goodbye for what would be the last time in nine months. My dad had kissed my forehead and said “Gunna miss ya darling. Give ‘em hell.”
My mom hugged me for far too long and recited the same speech I had been hearing since I first made the decision to spend a year abroad. “Be so careful and don’t go out at night and try your best in school but don’t worry too much about your grades. Just have fun and I’m sure they’ll love you as much as we do. Take every opportunity, but for the love of God, no drugs.”
“No promises.” I had joked dryly, trying to lighten the mood.
“Bring me back a monkey.” My brother demanded as he hugged me reluctantly. He and I are very close, but we’ve never been all that affectionate.
“Sure thing Hank.” I had answered. “See you next year little bro.”
planeI was shaken from my thoughts by the arrival of my seat mates: a short, dark-haired man in his early twenties who I assumed to be from Ecuador, and a pretty, professional-looking American woman speaking flawless Spanish. I surreptitiously tried to follow their conversation as a test of my rudimentary Spanish skills, but I couldn’t catch more than a few scattered phrases. I took out my book and settled in for the four hour flight to Quito. Soon I felt the slow rumbling of the jet beneath me. As we advanced down the runway I closed my book and started fixedly out the window, determined to commit my last view of my home country to memory. Not long after we took off, the city and sand gave way to endless water.
“Goodbye United States.” I whispered to myself.
A feeling of panic suddenly took hold of me. I was convinced I had made a mistake. What had I been thinking? I’d never lived away from home for more than two weeks, and now I was going to a different continent for the next nine months. I wouldn’t see my family, my friends, my pets. There would be nothing familiar to grab onto when I felt homesick. I couldn’t help second guessing myself.
A couple hours passed and the anticipation of my arrival mounted. I mustered the courage to order a coke in Spanish from the flight attendant, and sipped it while staring at the glittering expanse of ocean beneath me. Suddenly, my seat mate turned to me and asked “Como te llamas?”
After struggling through a few sentences of broken Spanish, he took pity on me and we switched to English. His name was Jose.
“I’ve been living in America for the last five years and I’m going home to visit my family. They live in Cuenca, have you heard of it?”
Of course I had, Cuenca is one of the biggest cities in Ecuador, situated in the Andes in the southern region of the country. We talked for a bit about my coming year as an exchange student and my new home town of Cotacachi before Jose asked me “Are you nervous?”
Relieved to have someone to confide in, even if it was this complete stranger,  I answered with a laugh “Absolutely terrified.”
At this point, the young woman in the next seat introduced herself as Emily, a representative from Washington going to Quito to work with a volunteer exchange program that was offering English classes to children in Ecuador.
“You’re going to love it, don’t worry. It’s going to be such a fantastic experience. What you’re doing is amazing; I wish I’d done something like that when I was in high school.”
“Thanks.” I smiled gratefully.
Not long after, I realized it had gotten dark, and I could see the lights of a huge city not too far off.
“Quito” murmured Jose.
I pressed my face eagerly against the small window and stared in awe as the plane dropped lower. The mountains were magnificent. Dark, imposing, and breathtakingly beautiful, they seemed to go on forever. We finally touched down and my stomach tightened. What if there was no one to greet me? I had been told that a representative from the program named Graciela Albuja would be waiting for me, but the paranoid notion that the dates had somehow gotten mixed up nagged me. I disembarked with the rest of the passengers and ended up in line behind Emily.
“You know where you’re going?” she asked.
“Sort of.” I responded nervously.
“I’ll help you through customs.” she said. “When you go up to the window, give him your visa and your passport. And don’t worry; you’re going to have an amazing year.
“Thank you so much Emily, it was really nice to meet you.” I said as we parted ways.
I stepped up to the window and prepared myself for my first mandatory Spanish interaction.
“Cuanto tiempo va a quedarse aquí en Ecuador usted?” the official asked.
Understanding that he was asking how long I was going to be in the country, I responded “Nueve meses.”
“Bienvenidos a Ecuador, siga por favor.”
And I was through. I grabbed my bags from luggage claim and struggled fantastically to make my way to baggage check. Why did I think it was necessary to pack so much? Half my suitcase was filled with books and other items that in my frantic and sleep-deprived state I had rationalized were completely necessary to my survival during the next nine months. That’s what I get for packing the night before.
rae1After clearing security, I stepped through the automatic doors into the waiting area. A cool blast of air from the open doors hit my forehead and I took a deep breath. Again, I could feel the stares of the other airport goers following me. Who was this light-skinned redheaded girl all alone? I was acutely aware of being taller than 90% of the people around me. I tried to look like I knew where I was going as I floundered about, utterly lost. Where was Graciela? I could feel my heart speed up and I willed myself to stay calm.
“She’s here.” I told myself. “She has to be.”
But as I looked about and continued to find nothing, I could feel myself starting to panic.
“I’m alone in a foreign country and the most useful things I know how to say in their language is ‘where is the bathroom?’ “
I couldn’t decide whether the best course of action was to laugh, cry, or collapse in a heap on top of my luggage. Suddenly, a tiny figure waving a sign caught my eye.
“Aurelia Guest” it said.
My face broke out in a relieved smile and I walked over to the girl in her mid-twenties who couldn’t have been more than 4’10″.
“Bienvenidos Aurelia!” she said as she gave me a hug. “How was your flight?”
“Good thanks. Are you Graciela?”
“No, I’m Diana, you’re going to meet Graciela on Saturday.
We talked for a while and she told me that after we met the other four exchange students we’d be going to the hostel where we were staying for the next three days. The Germans arrived soon after, pulling their bags and staring about with varying degress of confusion on their faces. We then made the hour long trip to the hostel. During the car ride we talked about our trips, our homes, and especially our families; biological and host. Antonia, a tall blonde, was excited by everything and didn’t even bat an eye when we thought the van was going to break down. The other two girls, Auguste and Elisabeth, were timid, but once we started talking they proved to be very sweet. Benji, the only boy, had about a thousand questions for me about the United States. I discovered that Elisabeth would be staying in the same city as me, while Benji, Antonia, and Auguste would be staying in a town called Riobamba. When we arrived, we ate and made our way upstairs. The day was catching up to all of us and we couldn’t hide our exhaustion.
“Get some sleep you guys, see you tomorrow at 7:00 for breakfast.” said Diana.
We all mumbled our good nights and shuffled into our rooms. I collapsed onto my bed, thinking excitedly about all my adventures ahead. My first night in my new home country. Looking back on that first night I realize I had no idea. Not a single clue what I had gotten myself into. If I had known how hard the next few weeks would be; how different, exciting, rewarding, and frustrating, I might not have fallen asleep so quickly. But as it was, I was oblivious, and drifted easily into an exhausted, dreamless sleep. My last thought before unconsciousness was “What was I worried about? I made the right choice.”

Ode to a Tree

Ode to a Tree
by Kira Metcalf

Ode to a Tree

There upon the ground
you stand
tall and proud.
You are my strength.

treeUpon your trunk
across barky spans of limb,
I stretch my hands
touch you in greeting.

Lush leaves of green
smile down at me.
Dripping drops of dew
upon the forest floor.

Wind whistles through your arms
that are reaching,
ever reaching,
toward the sun.

As seasons come
and seasons go
your leaves transform
green, red, yellow, and orange.

In your extended arms
I lose myself.
Leaves of love surround me
blowing kisses in the wind.

To the Moon and Back

To the Moon and Back
by Vivien Fierberg

The car ride was about five hours.  Looking back, I think I cried for about half of it.  I’d spent the morning avoiding the gaze of my dogs, who always seemed to know when I was upset when even I couldn’t tell.  In the end, I think I smiled at them before I left, but I wasn’t able to say goodbye.  My parents and I loaded up the car and I waved goodbye to my beautiful farm, surrounded by the forest where I had explored as a child.  I was only leaving for the school year, but it felt like a lifetime.  We drove mostly in silence, but occasionally talked about some of the details of my new school.
It was mostly a day school but there were about 250 boarders who lived on campus.  This year I would be joining them.  I remember closing my eyes and hoping that I would like my roommate and that I would make friends quickly.  I had expected this move to feel a lot more like going somewhere great, but instead I felt like I was leaving the town that had been my home for six years.  We stayed at a hotel that night, only about 10 miles away from my new school.  In the morning I would move in and meet the people I would be living with for the next nine months.  I don’t remember sleeping much that night.  A part of me didn’t even want the morning to come.
At about 10am the next morning I pulled up to Cranbrook for the first time.  The buildings were old and definitely more beautiful than most schools.  We walked into the main building where a group of girls and their families rushed around with bags and boxes.  We walked down a flight of stairs and through two sets of glass doors.  A woman greeted me with excitement.  “Hi!  Welcome to Kingswood!  You must be new.  I’m Mrs. Stevenson, I work in the dorm office.  Those front tables have a folder with your room number and key.  Nina will help you.” She smiled a practiced, sculpted smile, the opposite of reassuring.  I walked over to the girl with the name tag that said “Nina, 11th Grade”, but before I could ask her for help she spun around and rushed off to take pictures of the incoming boarders for school records.  pinkpolkaMy parents were about as flustered as I was.  My dad approached a woman to ask for help but quickly learned that she spoke absolutely no English, not an uncommon event, I would soon learn.  Finally I managed to get the attention of another girl, about my age, who handed me an envelope with my room number and key.  My dad grabbed my pink polka-dot suitcase and we walked up two flights of stairs and down a long hallway to the room that would be my home.

My first thoughts were that it was small and hot.  My second thoughts were equally enthusiastic.  Though we had arrived only minutes past the time the doors opened, the girl who would be my roommate had already chosen a bed and the nicer desk.  She wore sporty shorts and a plain t-shirt and her hair was pulled into a high pony tail, slightly to one side of her head.  I smiled at her awkwardly, although I was already annoyed at her choice in desks. “Hey.  I’m Keiko,” she said, without emotion.
I answered with my name and walked back to the car with my parents to retrieve the rest of my luggage.  When I reentered the room Keiko’s dad, brother, and his girlfriend were helping her unpack. I opened the bag which contained my 60 bottles of nail polish.  Excitedly, her dad told me how Keiko and her sister also loved to paint their nails.  “Cool.” I said, without emotion.
Both of our parents stayed for a few hours, helping us set up our room, but eventually staff came and asked them to leave.  We tearfully hugged goodbye.  I was already questioning the sanity of my decision to come to such a foreign place.  Keiko and I went to dinner and ate in silence.  We went back to the room and unpacked in silence.  We went to class the next day in silence.  We did our homework in silence.  We didn’t talk to each other for almost a week.
Friday we went to town to get food for our room.  Even though we didn’t talk much I was happy to have one friend to get out of the dorms with.  I grabbed a box of Frosted Flakes.  Keiko told me that she wasn’t allowed to eat them at home, and neither was I.  She winked at me and smiled for one of the first times.  In a sarcastic voice she grinned and said, “Look, we’re bonding already.”  I guess I didn’t know then how true that was.

danceSaturday was the first dance of the year, and all of the students were talking about it.  Keiko and I got ready with a group of girls in the dorms.  One of these girls was Natalie.  She seemed shy and quiet, not the kind of girl I would usually befriend.  When we entered the dance, the headmistress asked to smell our breath, and Keiko and Natalie glanced at me, laughing at how ridiculous this was.  We walked into the dimly lit auditorium where throngs of students danced to loud music.  The bass pumped heavily and Keiko grabbed my hand and pulled me into the middle of the mass.  We danced and laughed all night.  It was the beginning to an amazing year with the girls who would become my sisters.
Keiko was a lot more popular than I was.  She was the captain of the hockey team, much to the annoyance to the seniors, had a popular brother, and by the third week had already gotten in with a huge friend group.  With all of this, I don’t remember one time that she ever chose that over me.  She invited me to all of her friends’ parties and never left my side.  She even had a little party for me when I won the embarrassing title of Gardening Club President.  The excited smile on her face when I made varsity soccer was almost comical, considering the numerous state championships she had won in hockey.  Every night before bed she asked me what I wished would happen tomorrow, just to keep me looking forward to something.  I can honestly tell you that she was better than me at almost everything, except Spanish, and she never stopped telling me how jealous she was of that, even though Yale had wanted her since freshman year.
When I told her I had decided not to come back to Cranbrook the next year, she cried, and that was the only cruel thing she had ever done to me.  In coming home to my real family, I realized that I would be leaving another one behind.  Keiko– my roommate and sister, Natalie– my best friend, and Nina– the junior and the girl who had seemed to ignore me that first move in day, but had become a mentor to me, and I to her, some days.
At the end of the year, Keiko came to the varsity soccer banquet with me, even though she wasn’t on the team.  Our parents were there, my dad waiting to take me back to Leland, and her dad, waiting to take her back to San Jose.  I sat there, usually bored by my coach’s banter, now praying for it to last a little longer.  In the end, I think I smiled at her before I left, but I wasn’t able to say goodbye.  The car ride was about 5 hours.  Looking back, I think I cried for about half of it.

My Fishing Spot

My Fishing Spot
by Anna Hagstrom

fishislandThere is something very calming about waking up to watch the sunrise on your own little island and fishing until the sun goes back down. The peace and serenity that comes with being lost in your own thoughts and in the beauty of the world around you is one that cannot be beat.

Up in Canada there is a little town named Wawa. Thirty miles north of that town is Lake Kabenung. The lake has over fifty little islands in it. Our island is almost completely circular and is about two miles in circumference. It is filled with trees covering every inch of the island except where our tiny green cabin is. At the far side of the island is my fishing spot. It’s filled with walleye, largemouth bass and carp. In the early mornings I go out to watch the sunrise from the east while I fish. The smoothness of the water makes it look like glass, and light that bounces off the water gives off astonishing colors. I can hear the sound of the waves calmly lapping up against the little bay, feel the rough fishing pole worn from age in my hands, and see the stunning sunrise streaked with pinks, purples, and blues filling the sky, that always takes me breath away, in my fishing spot.

The bay is about 100 feet wide with a gradual incline from the shore to the water but once the shore hits the water there is an immediate drop off. The water is too cold to go swimming but it is perfect for dipping your feet in on a hot summer’s day. On the far side of the bay there are trees packed tightly together but on my fishing side there is small clearing with a perfect rock for sitting on. The rock has a dent in it that is just the right size to sit in as a makeshift chair.

When fishing, time seems to disappear before the blink of an eye. I fish from morning to night, keeping a few of the larger catches for dinner while throwing most of them back into the smooth glistening lake. It amazes me how much time I can spend sitting in the little bay without boredom ever sneaking up on me, never getting tired of the wonderful feeling of being lost in my thoughts and the beauty of the world around me. This is a sharp contrast to my everyday life which is a dull continuous routine from school to work.

As the evening sun sets every night with brilliant shades of orange and pink, I think to myself “What a beautiful world we live in.  Why didn’t I see this before?”

Aimee

Aimee
by Kati Kattelus

Low-PonytailI walk up the worn wooden steps to the door of the Stockdale home. I open the door and see Aimee Stockdale frantically wiping off the kitchen counter. She always makes her five children clean the house before my arrival. Her dirty blonde hair is looped in a low pony tail and she’s sporting cuffed jeans and an old t-shirt. Her jeans are cuffed because of her short stature. She greets me by saying, “Hi Kati” with rolling eyes indicating that she’s embarrassed by the state the house is in. I take off my shoes by the door and try to secretly help pick things up because I know Aimee will tell me to stop if she catches me. She uses her stern voice, which sometimes comes through clenched teeth, and says to her youngest son Xander, “If you’re just sitting there on the couch your room must be clean. Should I go check it?” I hide my smile as I watch Xander sprint to his room.
Aimee sprawls onto the sofa with a big sigh and shuts her eyes for a brief moment. I go down the stairs into the theatre room to sit next to Sam on the couch. A few minutes after I sit down I hear Aimee’s footsteps. She swings open the door and in one swift movement lands between Sam and me, separating us in the quickest way possible. She then says to Sam, “Awful close, aren’t you?.” At first her protective action offends me because I feel like I might have done something wrong, but then I realize it’s more of a motherly instinct and that I personally have nothing to do with it. Though sometimes it seems like she doesn’t like me, I’ll always remember when I heard her say, ” It’s a long distance between Sam and Kati but I can see why Sam knows its worth it.”

Where I’m From

Where I’m From
by Randy DeLaFuente

I am from the soils of many places,
from fights and get togethers.
I am from the schools of haters.
(quiet and peaceful)
It felt like isolation,
the punch and duck
whose words I felt as if they were mine.

I’m from the drama of love,
the dances of celebrations.
I’m from the metiche’s and the ass whoopins,
from the ice cream and the games.
I’m from the he can hit him back
and the wanna dance with me. ;)

I’m from the bailé esta kumbia,
rice and beans and apple juice
from the tree my uncle planted before leaving.

randy

Acceptable in the Eighties

Another offering from our inventive Film Studies class ….

Acceptable in the Eighties from LPS on Vimeo.

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