What’s in YOUR suitcase?

This week, over on Velvet Ashes, the theme is “suitcase”.  As global nomads, suitcases are a necessity, and it’s amazing how something so simple can get so many feelings rolling around inside of us.

Oliver, my dachshund and favorite child (he doesn’t talk back or ask for money) hates our suitcases, because he knows that it means we’re leaving.  When we pull them out, he gets nervous and goes and sits in them, hoping that we’ll take him along.  When Patrick was a baby, pulling out the suitcases made him jumpy and whiny, as though he knew that we would be going somewhere and he would be tired and confined to a carseat (we had him fly in his carseat until he was four).

Suitcases also mean new things, adventure and excitement.  Packing to go to the US for a visit, packing to go on vacation, packing to go home to Ecuador…all of these things are exciting.  When we moved here, packing our suitcases was the subject of endless debate.  What to bring, what not to bring.  Velvet Ashes asked this week for a packing list, and it got me all nostalgic, thinking about our first few times back and forth.  So, in no particular order, here are the things that I would recommend that you pack in your suitcase if you are moving to Quito, Ecuador.  This list is based on moving here from the US, since that’s where I came from.  I can’t speak for moving there from another country.

-Clothing.  Finding good quality clothing here is next to impossible, especially if you are tall or wear a larger size.  And although we do have “US” brands such as Levis, the clothing is CRAZY expensive and very limited in selection.  For children try to anticipate their growth and bring a couple of sizes up.  Again, the options are basically either very cheaply made or crazy expensive.

-Shoes.  Goes along with the clothing.  My husband wears a size 11 shoe, not terribly large by US standards.  Finding shoes for him here is ridiculously time consuming.  The last time he had to have tennis shoes, it took us three months to finally find a pair in his size, and we paid about four times the amount that we would have in the US.  And shoes for children are readily available, but either very cheaply made or very expensive.

-Electronics (computer, laptop, cell phone, e-reader):  Electronics are available in Quito, but prices are two to three times higher than they are in the US.  An unlocked cell phone can be used as you go back and forth between Ecuador and the US, and plans are ridiculously cheap.  Also included in this would be accessories such as power cords.  When the cord on my husbands’ MAC went out, we went to every MAC store in the city, only to be told that they don’t sell the power cords–just the computers.  There is currently a 35% duty on electronics (you are allowed to bring in one personal computer, phone, etc. and the duty is charged on subsequent items) but often the cost of the item plus the cost of the duty is still less than the cost of buying it in Quito.  Example:  The Apple TV unit is $99 in the US.  Add in the 35% duty at customs and you’re paying $135 to bring it in.  A new Apple TV unit in Quito?  $400.

-Toys.  We have toy stores, but they fall into one of two categories–either very expensive or very cheap.  There is no middle ground.  If you have a child who loves Legos, Transformers, Barbies, etc. you should consider bringing some with you.  Legos run an average of three times what they do in the US–that’s a lot of money for something that you’re going to step on in the middle of the night!  Selection is also pretty limited, except around Christmas.

-Car seats.  If you have a baby, you need to bring car seats with you.  They are available in Quito, but are very expensive for a reputable brand.  Other baby items such as cribs, strollers, highchairs, etc. are available and the cost is relatively reasonable.

-Medications.  Bring at least six months of any medication that you take on a regular basis.  Most medications are available in Quito, and the cost is much lower than in the US, however the brand names and dosages are not always the same.  Having a six month supply on hand will allow you time to get settled and find a doctor who can help you figure out what meds you will need, what they are called and what the dosage is. If you have small children, consider bringing Benadryl and children’s cold medicine.  Neither of these are available in Quito.

-A Magic Jack unit, or something similar.  This device hooks into your wireless and allows friends and family to call you with a US phone number.  The cost is something like $35 a year for the service, and is well worth being able to stay in contact with your loved ones, make necessary phone calls to US companies, etc.

-Craft supplies.  If you are crafty, bring your supplies with you.  There is very, very little available in Quito.  If you like to sew, bring patterns with you, as they are not used or available in Quito.  You can purchase fabric, notions and sewing supplies.  If you have a machine that is anything other than a Singer or Brother (Bernina, Pfaff, Janome, etc.) bring accessories that you think you’ll need.  None of these machines are sold in Ecuador and there is no service or support for them.

-Homeschool curriculum.  If you are a homeschooler, bring all of your curriculum with you, as there is absolutely nothing available in Quito.  There are a couple of homeschool co-ops where materials are exchanged, however you’ll need to plan on bringing the bulk of what you need.

-Your Kitchen Aid mixer.  This is the one household appliance that you need to bring with you if you own one.  They are available in Quito, but are VERY expensive.

-Sheets and towels.  There are sheets and towels available in Quito, but they are quite expensive, and not very good quality.  At present, the highest thread count sheet that you can buy is 300, and a King size set will cost you about $250.  The same goes for towels–a medium quality bath towel will cost you between $25 and $30.

-A grill.  If you can swing it, and you like to grill out, bring one with you.  The majority of grills available in Quito are poorly made and very expensive.  There are some very high quality grills available at some of the high-end decorating stores, but you’ll need to be prepared to pay thousands of dollars for them.  And if you want specialty grilling tools or spices, bring those as well as you will not be able to find them.

-Seasonal decor, other than Christmas.  Quito does not have a seasonal shift, so there are no fall decorations, etc.  You’ll find that you want to change your house, even if the weather isn’t changing with you.  Bring Halloween (if you celebrate it), Thanksgiving and Easter decorations.

What you DON’T need to bring…

Sometimes it’s helpful to know what you don’t need to bring.  Here is a list of items that are readily available in Quito:

-Kitchen supplies.  This includes dishes, baking supplies (The one exception to this is a donut pan.), cookware, kitchen utensils…all of these things are available in Quito, and there is a pretty wide selection.

-Decorative items.  If you have a favorite item, by all means pack it, but there are home dec stores with a good selection of decorative and functional items.  We have a store that is very similar to a Pier One that has a delightful selection of household decorative items.

-Small appliances.  Again, a large selection is available (see note about Kitchen Aid mixer above).

-Bedding (other than sheets).  Comforter sets, pillows and blankets are available in Quito and for the most part are very reasonable.

-Cosmetics.  Most major makeup brands are available in Quito.  They are somewhat more expensive, but not enough to justify taking up precious luggage space with products from the US.

-Christmas trees.  These are available in Quito, and the prices are usually pretty reasonable.  We also have an abundance of ornaments and other decorative items available, so just plan to bring the things that are special to you.

The grocery store is always a challenge.  While we can get some US products, such as Aunt Jemima syrup and Hershey’s products, it’s not very reliable and things have been known to disappear and reappear with no rhyme or reason.  You will most likely be able to find just about anything you want in the store, but it may be an Ecuadorian brand.  Most of us have things that we bring back because we prefer the US brands.  Ours personally are Peanut Butter M&M’s, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Hunts Ketchup, Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce, Jif peanut butter and random grilling seasonings.  For almost everything else, we have found that the Ecuadorian brands are not only acceptable, but in some cases better than what we get in the US.  So my advice would be to bring one or two of the things that you really, really like, and then take the time to get to know what’s available here.  We also have Asian grocery stores and a couple of high-end specialty stores that carry hard-to-find items.

This list is by no means complete, and I’ll call on my fellow Quitenians to add to it all of the things that they have found helpful in the comments.  And if you’re heading to Quito in the near future, let me know and I’ll try to answer your questions about our beautiful city!

The art of being OK…

The hubby is out of town again.  Patrick and I are here at home, keeping busy with crafting and taking walks and annoying the dog…

And I’m OK.

Anyone who has been following me for more than about 20 minutes knows that when Dan leaves town, he usually takes my sanity with him.  I spend the entire time he’s gone negotiating panic attacks, afraid to be at home and afraid to not be at home.  Lying awake at night listening to every tiny sound (and I live in the city–lots of tiny sounds to listen to), convinced that every creak, groan, slam of a car door and dog barking holds the possibility of terror just around the corner.

Not this time.

In the words of an old friend…it’s good.  It’s all good.

I’ve spent the last several days (even before Dan left) wondering why I wasn’t panicking.  Usually the days leading up to his departure are torture for both of us, and at some point I usually end up in tears, begging him not to go.  This time?  I didn’t really give it a whole lot of thought, other than to make sure his laundry was done so that he wasn’t going on a business trip with only ratty t-shirts and holy jeans to wear.  I didn’t lose sleep (OK, not any more than usual–sleep and I are not good friends) and there were no tears.  It wasn’t that I didn’t care, because I still don’t really LIKE it when he’s gone.  It’s just that I was…OK.  And I have finally figured it out.

I’m not scared.

I’m.  Not.  Scared.

The house that we lived in for the first 10 years that we were here was not secure.  We were robbed in 2007, and I never again felt safe.  Not a single day.  We would leave the house for whatever reason, and I would spend the entire time worrying about who was in my house.  Coming home, as we came around the corner, my heart would start to pound.  We had dogs.  We had dogs when we got robbed–it was not a deterrent.  We had chains and locks.  Bolt cutters and five minutes would have you inside the house.  Every Sunday for 7 years, I spent my time in church praying that no one got into our house.  I’m sure God was thrilled that we were having that conversation again.

When Dan would leave, and I was there alone, responsible for my children and feeling like I was completely out of control, it was nothing short of abject terror.  Panic would wash over me in waves, sometimes to the point that I couldn’t breathe.  It was worse when my big kids were still home, because then it was coupled with the guilt over not being able to reassure them that Mom was in charge and things would be OK.  Because I didn’t know if they would.  I would lie awake at night, convinced that if I went to sleep even for an instant, all hell would break loose.  I was working full time, which helped only because it forced me to get up and get the kids to school and interact, even on a limited basis.  Fortunately the girls that I worked with in the library knew what was happening and would turn themselves inside out to make sure I was “OK” while he was gone.  Unfortunately it also placed a burden on my big kids that I wish I could take back–they felt the need to “protect” me, when I should have been protecting them.  Children should not have to parent their parents.

There is nothing quite as terrifying as not being OK in your own home.  The guys who broke in took two laptop computers, my wedding ring…and any sense of security I might have had.

In August of 2014, we moved out of that house and into an apartment.  A safe, secure apartment.  And everything changed.  We are in a new place now, and it is safe.  It’s secure.  We have a guard.  We live on a street where a lot of diplomatic and embassy people live, so there are guards everywhere.

I am not afraid.

As I have pondered this these past few days, I have come to some realizations.

It wasn’t Dan’s fault.  He was not deliberately scheduling trips just to get away from me.  Which, when you think about it, is sort of a miracle, considering that I wanted nothing more than to get away from me.  He was doing his job, and I was making it about 1000x harder with my insane tears and panicking.  A couple of times, he actually considered canceling his trip (he was already wherever he was going) and coming home, because I scared him so badly.  When I think about the mental anguish that I caused him, I want to cry.

We should have moved.  I don’t know why we didn’t, except that we thought we had a “deal”.  Our rent was very low, our house was large enough for a family of six, we were three blocks from the school…and all of that was not worth the insecurity.  Our children would have been much happier in an apartment where their mother felt safe and secure and their dad could do his job.  So why did we stay there?  I don’t know.  But I do know that we shouldn’t have.  When we were robbed, we should have packed up and gotten out of there, into someplace where peace of mind was included in the lease.

It wasn’t the thought of losing things that frightened me, lest you all think I am a materialistic dingbat who is overly concerned about her stuff.  It was the knowledge that if I wasn’t safe in my house, and able to protect my children, then I wasn’t safe anywhere, and neither were they.  Living overseas, in a world that only makes sense about 10% of the time, I need security wherever I can get it.  When I was working I walked to school every day.  I knew who I “should” see along my route.  My mind got to where it registered anyone different.  Not necessarily in a panicky way, just a sort of “Oh.  Haven’t seen him before” way, and I would be a little more alert after that.

The stress that I placed on my body and my mind has probably damaged both of them irreparably, at least to some degree.  The Fibro that I live with is probably a direct result of stress.  My anxiety level usually hovers somewhere between mildly alarmed and Defcon 5, and I can snap in an instant.  My anxiety medication keeps me on a relatively even keel most of the time, but I still have moments.

I can’t change the past.  I can’t take back the years that we spent in the house.  I wish I could.  I wish I had insisted that we move.  I wish I had been able to pull it together for my children.  I wish my husband had not had the extra stress of dealing with me when he was trying to do his job well.  The fact that he did do it well, in spite of me, is a miracle on par with walking on water, I do believe.

It feels good to be OK here.  Yesterday Patrick and I walked to Subway, got a sandwich and walked home.  We didn’t hurry.  I wasn’t panicking about what we would find when we got home.  We just…went.  And came home.  It was good.  Dan is on his trip, and although I miss him, for the first time in…ever…when he comes home I won’t have to say the words “I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.”

That feels pretty good.

The Journey…

On August 23rd, we set out on a journey.  We had been talking about it for months, and I was dragging my neurotic feet. One of the problems with being me is that I don’t handle situations where I am not in control very well.  And by “not very well” I mean “not at all”.  The whole thing was terrifying to me.  After I had voiced all of the objections I could think of, and a few that I looked up on the Google for good measure, Dan very nicely told me to get in the car and hush.  And off we went.

Our first stop was in Marion, Indiana, to drop off our precious girls at college.  Two baby girls, two freshmen dorms.  An unbeIievable amount of STUFF that had cost a small fortune.  I had been both dreading and anticipating this day for months.  Dreading it because they are my baby girls, and how-in-the-world-did-we-get-here?  And anticipating it because they are TOGETHER.  And they are with their BROTHER.  And there is something sacred about that sibling relationship that makes my momma-heart sing.  We stayed close by only for a short time…it was their time to fly high and they didn’t need their momma and daddy around to clip their wings.

We moved on from there to our friends Tim and Renee, in northern Indiana.  They were our dear friends in Quito, and recently relocated to the US.  We miss them terribly, and not stopping to see them was not an option.  They purchased a darling little house, and it was wonderful to get to see them, to walk through their back yard and pick apples and pears and grapes off of their trees.  Patrick got to feed a cow.  They introduced us to what can only be described as the best doughnut on the entire planet.  BAR NONE.  I seriously had dreams about that doughnut for a couple of days afterward.

Chicago-bound.  It was on this relatively short (about 3 hours) leg of our adventure that Dan switched our GPS from the girl-voice to the guy-voice.  Because, as he so eloquently put it, “I already have one woman in the car telling me how to drive.  I don’t need two.”  Hmph.  I can take a hint, and I took that one and threw it right out the window.  Since I wasn’t doing any of the driving (and didn’t, for the ENTIRE TRIP), I figured the least I could was critique.  Which I did for 7, 282 miles.  This man of mine is a saint, in case you were wondering.

Our time in Chicago was short but sweet.  We visited with a couple who is planning to bring a Christmas team this year.  They showed us their fair city, fed us Giordano’s pizza, and took us to the top of the Hancock building where I nearly had a panic attack.  I’m so much fun to be around it’s scary.

Bison, South Dakota was our next stop.  Bison is in the top left-hand corner of the state.  It’s the only thing in the top left-hand corner of the state.  It took us two days to get there.  We had decided that we wanted to see Mt. Rushmore since we were going to be so close.  After winding through the beautiful hills, we arrived at the park and discovered that Mt. Rushmore is about a 1/2 hour attraction.  We stood and marveled at it’s size, spent about 10 minutes debating the size of George Washington’s nose (Patrick’s guess was “100 miles long”–perspective, people.) and then went into the gift shop and bought a book that told us how long it really was.  Six feet, in case you were wondering.  We were back in our car and driving away 30 minutes after we left.  It was here that we discovered that our GPS guy is an idiot.  An idiot with an ego problem, to be precise.  He got us hopelessly lost.  I swear at one point we were driving down an ATV trail.  There were signs saying “No cars”, and there we were, rolling merrily along.  Our navigational moron just kept repeating “Recalculating.  Recalculating.”  What he REALLY needed to say was “OK, folks.  I have NO IDEA where we are.  You need to stop and ask for directions.”  He didn’t, though, because of the aforementioned ego problem.  It was to be the first of many occasions where he sent us off in the wrong direction and took absolutely no responsibility what-so-ever.

We arrived in Bison Saturday evening.  I had called the pastor’s wife for directions, and she told me that there was one turn that we needed to make, and that if we missed it we would know immediately, as we could go a very long distance before we saw the light of day again.  I wondered if she was exaggerating (I am a city girl, and “long distance” to me is more than three blocks) but she was right.  We missed the turn and we knew immediately.  Have you ever seen the movie “Beetlejuice”, where they step out the front door and they are in this no-man’s-land with giant worms and stuff?  It was kind of like that, except with cows.  Once we finally arrived, we discovered that our hosts were the most lovely people.  We stayed two nights there, and had a wonderful church service on Sunday.  There are 300 people in Bison, and about 40 or so in the church…and one of the members of the church is my distant cousin.  We spent Sunday afternoon looking at pictures and catching up on “family” stuff.  It was delightful.  Patrick was enchanted with the grasshoppers, the garden in the back, and Pastor Phil’s “Happy, Happy, Happy!” shirt.  He picked carrots and watermelon, photographed endless grasshoppers and discovered the pastor’s remote-controlled helicopter.  We left feeling much loved.

After a quick, one-night stop in Colorado we headed for Las Vegas, via Park City, Utah.  Dan’s cousin Mike lives there, and we wanted to see him and meet his two precious little girls.  I’ve known Mike for 27 years, and it was SO. MUCH. FUN. to see him with those two little ones.  He took us on the “insiders” tour of Park City, including the Olympic venues and the amazing “houses and history” tour.  I was slightly disappointed by one thing–Mike lives on a golf course, and moose are frequent visitors.  He had posted a picture on Facebook of one hanging out in his yard the day before we arrived, and so I messaged him and asked him if he could order one for our visit.  He sent the moose a message requesting his presence, but apparently the guy doesn’t check his messages very often, so I got no moose.  The next day, 20 MINUTES AFTER WE LEFT, Mike sent me a picture of the MOMMA AND BABY THAT WERE STANDING IN HIS BACK YARD.  I cried.

Las Vegas was a new experience for me.  Dan was there years ago with my brother, but I had never seen it and we actually had some ER business to attend to there, so it was a good stop-off.  I made my brain very tired trying to wrap my head around all of the money that was flowing through there, and that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

We landed in Santa Maria, California on a Thursday and were able to spend a glorious three days with our friend Ruth.  She’s another Quito transplant, and one especially dear to my heart.  We got to hang out with sea lions, swim in the ocean, get a sunburn that defies description (Dan told me to put sunscreen on, but since he wasn’t listening to my driving suggestions, I didn’t feel the need to listen to his sunscreen suggestion.) and attend church with her on Sunday.  Patrick loved playing with her two little ones, and I loved being there and getting some much needed girl time.  I think Dan loved me talking to someone besides him.  On Sunday we drove down the Pacific Highway to San Juan Capistrano where we have lots of people who are dear to us.  We stayed there with Ellis and Frankie for another three days, and were able to take a boat tour around Newport Harbor (whales!), spend the day in Hollywood with Russ and Gina, and take Patrick to the San Diego Zoo (pandas!).  It was a delightful stopping point, where we were loved on like crazy.  I was able to bond with Russ and Gina’s dog, Izzy.  She’s neurotic.  We had a moment.  I offered to take her home.  Russ packed her suitcase.  Gina and Dan put the kibosh on that, for very different reasons.  Gina was afraid that their daughter would be traumatized if Russ gave her dog away.  Dan was afraid that one more neurotic woman in his life would push him over the edge.

We left there (sans Izzy) on Thursday and headed to my sister’s house in Scottsdale.  I hadn’t seen her since 2006, and I was so excited!  We spent the evening laughing and remembering and laughing some more.  We were only able to stay one night, and as we drove away I felt very sad–I needed more.  Sometimes this life we lead takes it’s toll in strange ways.

Onward to Texas.  We drove through New Mexico, where we stopped for gas at a gas station that had a tarantula walking across the parking lot like he owned the place.  I was in the car, he was 15 feet away, and I was still having a panic attack.  They need to get a grip on their wildlife.  Our destination was Kyle, Texas, which is outside of Austin.  It was here that we had what will forever remain one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life.  Texas barbeque.  It defies description.  We went from there to Abilene to see my friend Tracy, yet another Quito transplant.  It was good to catch up, to see her kids growing up (she seriously has the most polite teenage boys I’ve ever met in my life.  What gives.) and just enjoy her company.  It was from there that we hit our last stop…Carrollton, Texas.

Carrollton is the home of a bunch of people that we love dearly.  Sam and Karen were in Quito with us (see a pattern here?) and were surrogate parents/grandparents before they left.  Carol is Karen’s sister, and she and her husband Dan have become family.  They have two daughters, two sons-in-law and five grandchildren in their family.  I think we’ve been adopted–we were out somewhere and someone asked Carol if we were hers–she said yes.  I got all warm and fuzzy.  While we were there, we took Patrick to the Dallas Aquarium (manatee!), had a birthday party for him (during which he got a remote controlled “helicopper” and a “Happy, Happy, Happy! shirt!) and got to spend a couple of days up at their lake house.  It was the perfect end to an amazing trip around the country.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I really didn’t want to make this trip.  Not because of the people we were going to see, but because my mind couldn’t handle the logistics.

I am SO GLAD we made this trip.

The Lord took us all the way across His amazing creation and back.  All jesting aside, South Dakota is absolutely beautiful.  Arizona is breathtaking.  California defies description as you’re driving down the coastal highway.  He took us into the homes of amazing people who loved on us and made us feel welcome, over and over again.  But what He gave us most of all was TIME.

Dan’s job is a busy one.  There are a lot of people who need him.  Add to that my working full time and raising kiddos and all of the other stuff that just happens with life, and you find yourself without much time to connect.  We had over 100 hours in the car, just us and Patrick.  It was talking time, dreaming time, remembering time…just time.  I don’t know if we’ll ever have the chance again, but my heart is delighted that we had it this summer.

I know this has been long, but I felt like I needed to let you all know about our amazing journey.  We’ve come full circle–we’re back in Ohio for a couple of weeks–and then home to Quito.  It’s been good.  Very good.

“It seemed like all the way to tomorrow and over it to the days beyond.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Travel mercies (or how to travel internationally and not make an *#@ out of yourself)

I think I’ll just consider this blog post a public service announcement. This morning Patrick and I flew from Quito to Miami.  I am a people watcher, and a frequent international traveler, so I think I’m qualified to point out a few things that really frost my cookies.  All of the following happened at some point this morning on our journey.

-When you are visiting another country, please don’t start off a sentence with “In the United States, we…”  We probably do.  Or maybe we don’t.  That’s not the point.  The point is you aren’t IN the United States, and while this may come as a complete surprise to you, they don’t CARE how we do it in the United States.

-Don’t.  Don’t.  DON’T refer to the people of the country you’re visiting as “the natives”.  Seriously.  It makes you sound really stupid.  And it’s offensive.

-Yelling does not transcend the language barrier.  If they don’t understand English at a normal volume, they aren’t going to understand it when you’re YELLING IN THEIR FACE.  Ask someone for some translation help and save all of us a lot of embarrassment.  Which brings me to my next point…

-If you want to try and use your high school Spanish, go ahead.  Just don’t pull the old “Can you help me find the store-o where they sell the books-o?” routine.  Again.  You sound really dumb and you’re embarrassing me.  And it’s all about me.

-In the airport, you need to assume that you need ALL of your documents ALL of the time and they have to be 100% correct.  Don’t get in the boarding line and get up to the guy and go “Oh!  I had no idea I needed my passport!” and then proceed to spend 10 minutes searching through that elephant-sized carry-on that you’re bringing because you’re special, and the rest of us don’t need any carry-on space anyway.  And if they handed you a form, they want you to fill it out.  If they handed you five forms, they want you fill them out.  Don’t ask why–they don’t know.  Someone told them you needed to fill out that form, and you’re not leaving the country until you do, so just get writing.

-Don’t try and be funny when you’re waiting in line at immigration.  Assume that everyone around you speaks English, and don’t joke about bombs, or drugs, or anything else that will land you in jail in a Third World country.  Third World country jails were the prototypes for Hell, in case you’re wondering.  And please don’t do it while you’re standing by me.  I’m not going down with you, just because you think you’re hilarious.  Tell it to your cell mates.

-You are not more important than anyone else, unless you happen to be the President.  We’re ALL tired of standing in line.  We’re ALL tired of filling out paperwork.  We’ve ALL been waiting for our luggage for the last two hours.  Huffing around and yelling at the baggage guy (who seriously can’t help you anyway) is really annoying to those of us standing around you.  Be nice, people.  It doesn’t cost anything, and it keeps complete strangers from thinking you’re a Class A jerk.  Which does matter, in the long run.

-And last but not least…I can’t believe I have to say this, but I actually witnessed it this morning…DON’T put your passport in any bag that can/will be checked.  Seriously.  Airlines lose luggage like it’s a bodily function.  I KNOW you handed it to them in Quito at the gate, and we didn’t stop anywhere in between…but you need your passport to get through immigration, and you don’t get your luggage until after you go through immigration…you see where I’m going with this, right?  Your passport should never leave your possession.  Ever.  EVER.

There is an amazing, fabulous world outside the borders of the United States.  I think everyone should see as much of it as possible.  Just…don’t embarrass yourself.  Or your fellow countrymen.  Or you just might end up as the subject of one of my blog posts.