Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ducks in an Apartment Building, by Quinn

We continue to have experiences that remind us that we are not in Kansas anymore... Or Helena, or Indianapolis, or Bozeman, or anywhere else familiar for that matter.

Last week, Kellton and Astoria came home from school with two baby ducks.  Dana thought it was quite funny to just set the box on the table and have me open it without explanation...  I have to admit the ranch kid in me just about lost it.  What was my wife doing buying ducks as pets?  Doesn't she know... well, the smell, the odds of survival, the smell, we live in an apartment building, did I mention the smell?  OK, so it was actually homework from the kids' school and we only had to have them for two days, but she still loves to tell people of the look on my face when I first opened the box.  And yes, for only two days, I can admit they were very cute.  OK, and my kids are pretty stinkin' cute with them!

For two days and nights, we fed and watered them, and kept them in our shower.  Kellton and Astoria kept a vigilant watch on them, and those ducks generally tried to make themselves at home in our shower.  I couldn't help but wonder what kind of reception they would receive if they escaped though.  Imagine a couple of ducks wandering through the halls of our apartment building, cheeping fairly innocuously, but leaving behind messy reminders of their passing, that probably wouldn't be so well received.  And then it occurred to me:  I'm a duck!

As I wander around the city of Cochabamba, I generally stick out like a duck in an apartment building.  I try to communicate to the best of my ability, and for the most part, people are very accepting of my 'cheeping' and making noises that obviously aren't local!  And my communication continues to improve.  That's not the problem.  What am I leaving behind?  Hopefully the reminders and legacy I leave behind don't stink and require a lot of cleanup on the part of others.  (Yes, cleaning the shower required bleach, and leaving the bathroom window open for several days to air it out.)  The tough thing about trying to operate in such a way that it is building others up, and not creating more problems, is that time is required just to understand the culture, the business environment, the local laws and expectations; and figuring out what aspects of my former education and experience need to be discarded in order to appropriately apply other aspects.  This means that things don't happen on MY timetable.  It is often difficult to feel like I am 'accomplishing' anything, when much of my job is to observe, learn more language, and observe some more.

Speaking of time tables:  Dana & I were both a little shocked to be told that winter break may be moved up because it is so cold here.  First off, I haven't stopped wearing short-sleeve shirts and have only worn my coat once, because it was raining.  So "because it was so cold" seemed a bit different from a snow-day back in Helena.  But secondly...  you can just change the dates of the school vacations?  Don't people plan around that?  How are we supposed to plan for our language school classes, when we don't know where the kids will be?  When we have tried to express our surprise to others about this, they have just laughed and replied that "everyone knows" the vacation schedule is never the actual schedule...  Yep, still working my mind around that one.

In the meantime, I can only hope that being a duck means I am half as cute as this...