I'm back at the National Archive, going through juicios de primera instancia (first-level court cases). Read, reject, read, notes, read photos. Lots of reading. Lots of photos. The ANH now requires that researchers wear masks and gloves--not comfortable, but a livable price for getting to troll through old documents.
Meanwhile, I discovered that the SD card I started using for documents, which I thought was empty, actually had a few pictures left on it. I think they were from July 2011 after I returned from my last trip to Quito. The best of them is this set of notes that Anya left on my desk one day:
For those of you who can't read Anya's 6-year-old writing, it says: "Can I have a snack? Can I? Well?"
What's sitting on your SD card that you want to savor?
In a corner of the apartment, next to the kitchen and beside the dining room, there is a small room with a computer and a love seat. It's the smallest room in the house. I've claimed it as my office space while I am here, but I found it curious that there was such a tiny little room here. For a split second, I thought--was it storage space? And then I realized that the bathroom next door to it is the only one in the apartment that is small and plain--all the others are spacious and fancy. And then it came to me, though not as quickly as it ought to have given that I've lived in Ecuador many times: it's potentially the room for the live-in maid. Since the condo owner uses this apartment only for vacation and rents it out to tourists most of the time, it's not used that way. But most houses, and many large apartments, have tiny little accommodations like this for a maid. There is a long history of domestic servitude here, as there is in most areas of the world, and it is not a pretty one. A maid's employer might have called her "part of the family," but gave her little more than a closet to sleep in. She was kept close at hand not out of love, but out of convenience: she was on call virtually all hours. This is one of the groups I am most interested in finding in the archives on this trip, for this book on domesticity, if I can, in order to bring these usually anonymous people to life. Although one can find such stories in other world regions, I suppose I notice and feel it here the most in Ecuador because I am always in a position of such privilege here. This is in contrast with my blue-collar upbringing in the U.S. One of my grandmothers, in fact, was a maid before she married (late, in her 30s). Rooms like this remind me of how conflictive (and contradictory) my current life situation is. What spaces or circumstances make you face the contradictions in your life?
(Because I'm so close to the sun..) We arrived late on Tuesday (and to the apartment on Wednesday, as Sam insistently pointed out). It was a long day with a lot of luggage, a lot of waiting, a lot of crankiness on all our parts by the end of it all.
Everyone thinks it's "exciting" to go and settle down in a new country. And sometimes it will be--but it's not this week. There's a lot of boring stuff that has to be done: groceries to buy, meetings to go to (I am in process of getting set up at the Fulbright Commission), evaluations the kids had to take to get into school, etc. Plus, 9,000 feet of altitude takes its toll for the first few days--really, it takes about 2 weeks until one feels, truly, like oneself again. I woke up on Wednesday morning with my typical "Quito headache" caused by travel exhaustion and high altitude.
But, there are up sides. The apartment is great. It's huge and has everything we need in order to work and live comfortably, and it's in a really good location--though one that I need to get to know better. The views area also spectacular--when there's no fog:
I think we'll be comfortable here. Even though it's way too fancy for our style:
I haven't gotten to the archives yet--too much bureaucratic crap to get done, and too tired still. But, I hope to jump in on Monday or Tuesday next week. I did get out to a book presentation/panel last night for a new book of Nela Martinez Espinosa's lettters with her first husband--a source that I have been dying to work with for this new project. So, while I hope to return to the Martinez-Meriguet archive, even if I can't get in, I have something to work with now! I also got to spend time with Ximena, and touch base with colleagues with whom I need to talk.
In short: I suppose that even though I still have zero idea of how to talk to "Important People," and even though the kids are still a bit sluggish and bored, we're off to a pretty good start.
I must be in an irreverent mood, or maybe it's just due to spending a lovely afternoon in Cambridge with a cat lover (thanks for meeting up with me, Heidi!)...but suddenly, it occurred to me to write out the 10 commandments as a cat would create them.
1. I am the cat, thy master. Thou shalt have no other cats before me.
2. Thou shalt not worship the book on thy lap; instead, thou must let the cat sit there and gaze upon its splendor.
3. Thou shalt not take the cat's name in vain (by yelling at it).
4. Thou shalt remember the sunny spots in the house and keep them available to the cat.
5. Honor thy cat by feeding her/him tunafish.
6. Thou shalt not squirt water.
7. Thou shalt not pet strange cats.
8. Thou shalt not let the cat food bowl go empty.
9. Thou shalt not close doors going into interesting places.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's dog. Dogs art evil and must be shunned.
Yeah, this whole getting ready for the five-month trip thing is clearly getting to me...
Not sure what I love more...the absolutely beautiful painting that my sister Chris gave to me (she painted it herself! Such talent--it will be perfect in Maine), or this image of my mother helping Anya learn to knit.
So many gifts, all around me, if I'm just willing to see them...