Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Return to . . . Oceanside

I'll be true to the title of my weblog and give a Palmdale/Antelope Valley update shortly. 

Oceanside, if you didn't already know, was where I attended and graduated from high school at Oceanside High School, which back in those pre - El Camino HS (I *still* think Rancho del Oro HS would have been a better name) days had two campuses: East and West.  That's how bad the overcrowding of OHS was at that time over 40 years ago.  The school for my Freshman year was on double sessions to accommodate the numbers present at the time.  After that, the East and West Campus operating plan went into effect.  You simply couldn't get us all into one location since we were a large graduating class, as were the classes  surrounding ours.

One of us on our 40th year Reunion Committee contacted the OHS student registrar, and they confirmed the number of students graduating as 587.  My UCCS university graduating class, small compared to other campuses in the system, had around 850 by comparison.  Anyways, for a high school, our graduating class was quite large.

Definitely over 200 people showed up to the "main event" Reunion dinner on Saturday night - I believe Bill Saylor, cochairman for the Reunion, said it was maybe 235.  Fire code allowed 250 into the Elks Lodge in Oceanside, and there were plenty of off duty area police officers ready to enforce the fire code if needed.  None had to, thankfully.  That number includes both alums and spouses, etc. so imagine if we had a turnout larger than this!  Arvli Ward and Bill Saylor, co-chairs, were anticipating 200 or a bit more.  So we had a nicely packed out room/venue that at times got a bit crowded. . . and noisy!  I couldn't believe how much noise we generated both at the Icebreaker Friday evening, and at the Saturday evening reunion.  When you add the DJ and the music being played, it was louder than I perhaps anticipated.  Really had to get in someone's ear to communicate at times.

On to the people I got to see: like everyone else, I saw far more than I got to communicate with.  I had the fortuitous opportunity to express my sadness - at the time over 40 years ago - to a (then) 14 year old girl who was (ahem) violated by a US Marine just outside of campus.  She kept the baby, btw, and would darn socks for the child while taking classes on the East Campus.  I told her I was glad to see that the site of the violation done to her was torn down, and remains an empty lot to this day.  The boy, now a man, is doing well, she says.  Good to hear.  Kinda a "Forrest Gump" story quality to this situation, too.  I'll leave it at that.

Dan D'Andrea, AFS cultural exchange student to Guatamala in our high school days, endearingly graced my wife and I's table.  Dan is an effortless easygoing communicator, and relates well to this day to all kinds of people.  He came complete with his green OHS Letterman's sweater.  I don't remember what sport he ever played in, fwiw.  Great smile, great hugger, and a great friend.  Remember to get your Facebook account and "friend" me and so many other classmates, Dan!  I know you were in China when the whole Social Media thing grew the way it did, and China's government has worked to limit that kind of conversation.  You're in Denmark now. . . no worries!  Come join your Pirate Mateys in Facebookland!  Tons of memories and photos past and present at the Facebook page entitled "OHS Class of 1975."  Yours Truly included.

My wife was seated next to (alum spouse) Elizabeth Creencia, who came with my friend Jessie Creencia.  Those two ladies hit it off wonderfully.  Jessie and I barely got to converse - the room was that loud and our seating positions were not close to one another.  They both profess Jesus Christ, however, and are interested in our work in Ecuador.  Jessie looks well all these years later.

I was seated next to Judy Ross Mildon, who has spent years teaching music to her students.  I've done the same, though not to high school students (elementary was pretty much my music class gig) and not for as long a time.  Judy was - in high school - one of the well put together ladies on campus, and today she still looks quite well.  And yes, encouraging students through music is a wonderful thing!  I can't tell you how many times I have sung a song in a *non* music class I have taught just to relieve the monotony and to refocus my students.

It may have been Michael "Andy" Alonzo who did it - not sure - but I was nudged at one point towards the table in back of me to visit with Dennis Kelly.  Dennis, after all these intervening years, remembered a detail about me I have suffered with my whole life: Pigeon toedness when walking.  This is but one indication of Nonverbal Learning Disorder, or NLD, by the way.  I was finally properly diagnosed by UCLA trained psychologists/neurologists at age 40, who gave a very well worded description of my condition, but never gave it a name other than "PDD/NOS" (Pervasive Developmental Disorder/Not Otherwise Specified).  There's a whole bevy of things different about me due to my NLD, which came about due to oxygen deprivation to the brain as I was being (prematurely) born and underweight.  Dennis was very circumspect, and honoring towards me in remembering and bringing up that detail of my life.  Now that I am out of the workforce and retired to Ecuador, I think I don't have anything else to lose anymore.  But yes, *I* get to make the public announcement - here for the first time in a non NLD webpage.  Thanks to Dennis and his high school friends for being genuinely caring about me - even then so long ago. You are valued and loved, friend.          

Saturday, August 22, 2015

We're Back! (to Palmdale and SoCal, that is)

We have safely arrived in the United States and California again after a seven month absence. 

People - including US Customs and Border Patrol/Homeland Security folks - spoke English to us as if that were normal - one sign we had arrived.  Another was that the directional signs at the ATL airport were in English first, then Espan~ol.  We had been to this same airport in January, and we kinda recognized it.  ATL is so big I forgot you have to take their circular tram system to get to your next gate!  Thankfully, my wife knew what to do.  I may not be a smart man, but I know a smart woman!  (smile)  Actually, I knew, but her brain cells work faster than mine in that kind of situation where there are new things to deal with and so she got to the right answer sooner than me.  I help her too when she goes and begins something that is less than desirable, so hey - it's a working marriage!

People looked happier at ATL than LAX for some reason.  Just an observation. 

Enterprise Rent a Car in Culver City (hundreds of dollars cheaper than renting from them at LAX, btw) was very helpful.  They got us a Nissan Sentra from another nearby location versus giving us a six cylinder Chevrolet Impala.  Drove us there, too.  Better gas mileage with the Sentra, of course.  A newer model than what the taxistas drive in Cuenca and Quito, with more overall room.  We began our journey at our Cuenca condo by being picked up by a chofer driving a Nissan Sentra, so we can make a valid comparison.

I was a bit concerned that after seven months of not driving, I might not be used to the LA traffic - at rush hour, to add to the challenge - and that I could make a driving mistake that would lead to an accident.  I didn't cause an accident, thank God, but I was involved in a very minor one.

I was driving on Sepulveda Blvd. in the Sepulveda Pass area uphill northbound, and a young lady ever so lightly touched my rear bumper.  I parked the car in the lane, and fumbled to find the four way flashers before getting out and see what had been done to the car(s). 

"I didn't see you - I wasn't looking, and then we hit!  So sorry!" she exclaimed, with obvious shock to what she had done.  I, having endured delays via Delta Airlines all the previous evening, the morning, afternoon. . . all the way to a 45 minute delay debarking at Terminal 6 at LAX after arriving four hours and twenty minutes late, was already in great need of rest and sleep.  I examined the lower rear fender areas. . . no obvious damage.  No damage to the Sentra's rear bumper, either except for paint missing from where her front license plate touched my bumper.  A line now existed from the middle of the bumper to a point below the tail light on the bumper - probably caused by the bumper mismatch.  But thankfully, no body damage except missing paint. 

"I really didn't see you.  I'm so very sorry!" she reiterated, with more feeling.  "Please, I didn't mean it!  I didn't see you.  It was my fault!" she remorsefully exclaimed, fearing for something worse for her. 

At this point, my wife came out and saw the verbal exchange that was being played out right in the middle of Sepulveda Blvd., while frustrated drivers were bypassing the scene of the minor bumpa de bump bump.

"OK, you didn't see me.  You didn't mean it," I repeated her words back to her. "I didn't mean it, really, sir!" she wailed back to me.  "I really didn't see it!  Could you. . . "

"Tell you what," I replied ever so calmly after sizing up the situation and offering a breath prayer to the Lord.  "You can go.  Just please drive very carefully, alright?"

The now very nervous, frightened, and terrified young woman let that reply register in her brain.  Then she left to get in her car, waiting for me to start mine and begin driving again.

So much forgiveness needed to be given one to another in this world, especially in sue-happy California.  I was glad to have done my share that Wednesday.  Hopefully Enterprise won't ding me too hard financially on the minor scrape up that occurred.  It's in God's - and Enterprise's - hands.         

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Did I Say Visas Obtained? And now. . . "Plan C"

"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," my former high school Spanish I teacher John Rossbach used to say quite a bit in class.  Well, after all the anticipation leading up to last Friday's office visit at Coloaustro abogados to finally receive the long awaited pensionado Visas . . . nothing.

Merci had a long telephone conversation with Joseph Guznay, our Visa Facilitator in Quito, and she glumly but matter of factly announced "your Visas aren't ready.  Carolyn's is done, but yours still has to be processed."  

I was ready for that kind of statement based on the low key demeanor Merci showed me when I arrived at the sixth floor office.  No direct smile on greeting me was a bad sign.  Oh, well!  What do we do now that travel plans are set and we would be financially inconvenienced by making a change at this point? 

Go ahead as planned, with a twist, it turns out.  "It's really all about trust at this point," Merci confided to me.  "Well, Coloaustro and you personally aren't at fault for Ministario's not delivering the Visas on time as previously agreed to," I countered.  "Tell you what: I'm ready to pay Coloaustro as we had agreed.  We don't know how much Joseph had to pay the Notary in Quito for the Social Security letter I had.  Why don't I pay what I know is owed now and at least be fair to you about it?"

Merci readily agreed, though she told me I didn't have to pay then if that was my choice.  I reiterated to her it was only fair to pay the abogados now.  I received a receipt - not a factura as this was a record of what was entrusted to Coloaustro, not a final payment - for what I paid, and we then discussed what we needed to do in order to allow for us to travel as planned, both leaving Ecuador and returning back to Ecuador and our home in Cuenca.  

First off, the US Passports, presently in Ministario's hands in Quito, need to be sent to Coloaustro in Cuenca ASAP.  That request is already in motion as I type this.  Then we need to come to Coloaustro to receive them once again - we cannot board an international flight without them.  Once safely in the United States, we need to promptly send them by air courier (Merci recommends DHL as they have had no problems losing important documents such as passports and Visas using their service) to Joseph in Quito.  I now have his office address.  Once Ministario actually finally really does have both Visas processed and placed in our US Passports, it's time for yet another courier service - Coloaustro's regular provider - to send them to Merci at Coloaustro abogados in Cuenca.  Merci will then ensure they are sent to our US address we have specified (where we get any important physical mail).  Hopefully - hopefully - all of this will get done before our scheduled flight home to Ecuador via LAX and IAH in Houston.  If not. . . "Houston, we have a problem!" 

It really is a time of confidence in the Ministario de Relaciones Exteriores y Movilidad Humana.  These folks . . . actually one woman official in particular have the ability to either get the job done in a reliable, timely way, or simply *really* muck up the travel plans, causing us to have to delay our return flight to Ecuador (never mind the change of airline ticket fees involved).     

Lessee. . . if we *don't* trust them, we're back to "Plan B."  If we do, we execute "Plan A."  Call this chicken or the egg routine - because that's what it is, actually - "Plan C."  We trust them because. . . we don't have any choice in the matter *and* we insist on taking our long scheduled and planned for trip.  I am not gonna miss seeing my High School classmates.  Haven't had the opportunity to attend a class reunion since the 10th, and as this is the 40th, no telling who will still be alive and able to come to any succeeding class reunion.  Including me.  I'm a mere mortal, too.  We've lost some classmates of late, some very recently, including one who had already purchased his ticket and planned to attend the reunion!  The opportunity is now.  I will go even if I have to stay there 'til December due to Ministario's gross ineptitude.  

It's "Plan C" folks.  Only life in Ecuador would hatch such a thing. . . but hey, there it is.  "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans," was a line sung by Richard Dreyfus in Mr. Holland's Opus.  A good definition for this particular moment, and apparently as good as it gets.