Iskay Siki, or “Two Rear Ends”

        I’ve been doing some research lately on the local culture and their language, Quechua, and came across this website with a goldmine of poems and phrases common to that tongue. Apparently people speaking Quechua can have all different kinds of siki (rear ends) as there is a something siki to describe just about every type of person. Iskay Siki literally means “two rear ends”,  ‘but it is used to refer to a “person who wants to sit down in two homes”, For example, a husband spends as much time at his parents home as with his wife, so he is undecided about which home he should be in.’— (

I think it’s possible that I am an Iskay Siki.

(Oh how the fingers twitch with all the self-deprecating jokes possible right now.)

I think it is possible that I am an Iskay Siki because our first 2 weeks or so of settling in have been… remarkably unsettling. Largely because while I want my butt here, I also want my butt in its cozy spot back home with friends I can communicate with and food I don’t worry about getting sick from, and quiet. Oh, how I miss Quiet.

I’m not trying to worry anyone, I really believe that these are growing pains of what will be a beautifully fruitful experience. But as many times as I’ve started, and deleted, and re-started this post, I’m still finding it a staggering challenge to sum up just why it has been so much more difficult than imagined.

Do I give you the part that is nearly comical in its absurdity as was the case with my most recent breakdown? It sounded something like this:

(sobbing. with hiccups.)

“I-I-I jjjussst don’t thhhink I ccan doo this.

I wwaantt the real ch chuurch bells on the other side of tttown,

nnnott the stupid electric-blared-megaphone-awful onnnes!

And I wwant the ssinging garbage trucks like in Otavalo. Not these that just bbblare Spanish

ttalk radio at us until we’re deaf!

Or, do I share the heart-hurting bits like Luke clinging so hard to my neck that it took two teachers pulling his legs to get his tear-streaked-mama-screaming self into his new classroom. As a school bonus, there was also this conversation with Vaughn:

Me: “Hey babe! How was school today?!”

Vaughn: “Um. fine.”

Me: “Can you tell me about it?”

Vaughn: “A boy grabbed me and started pulling my hair and hitting me. I kept saying No! No! No! ’cause I don’t speak Spanish and he would just hit and hit saying “Si!” My teacher stopped him and he got in big trouble.”


Vaughn: “I was pushed and kicked again today mom.”

Me: “Did Katie help you again?”

Vaughn: “She didn’t see it this time.”

Makes me think that selling all our belongings, moving our family away from the people who love us for the purpose of exposing our children to the beauty and richness of other cultures in the world is going swimmingly, no?

I could also share just the oddnesses (c’mon, it’s totally a word), the annoyances, the differences that still weigh in at Uncomfortable on the scale, as opposed to New and Exciting.

Things like the car alarms that never stop going off. The fact that while I’d resigned myself to no wine here, I was expecting good coffee, I mean they grow some of the best not an hour away! But for some reason everyone drinks powdered instant coffee and all our attempts to use some of the actual beans from nearby have resulted in a liquid tar substance that I fear really is putting hair on my chest. The spider and mosquito bites we were waking up with because of all the quaint “indoor/outdoor” space we liked so much at first glance. The fact that our apartment being the first one renovated in this former hostel means that the whole rest of the building will be under major construction while we’re here. The packs of stray dogs defecating on the sidewalks. The automobiles of all shapes and sizes that attach a giant speaker to their roof and drive around blaring public service announcements at decibels that make our roof rattle. The fact that it gets cold here and almost every home (including ours) has a fireplace, and we can see smoke coming out of them, and yet every attempt we’ve made for weeks to buy actual firewood has resulted in the blankest of stares and the shaking of heads at such a query.

So, it makes a bit of sense that part of me is ready to be sitting somewhere more comfortable and familiar. Somewhere that is not here.

And yet.

I had a dream last night that Bo and I were visiting back home and when we were supposed to load up to come back here he said we weren’t going to. We were never coming back. And I cried. And I begged. And I used every argument in the book as to why we needed to get back to the life we were living in Ecuador. We were so close to… something. Something worth pushing towards and being close to. I woke up before knowing if we stayed or went, but carried with me into the morning that ache in my chest of sadness at the thought that we had left all of this. It’s that ache that is finally helping me write this post.

As any Iskay Siki will tell you, you cannot stand forever and you cannot sit in two places at once. You have to choose.

And so I did.

I’d say we all did.

I made an appointment with the principal at Vaughn’s school, who speaks English, to talk to Vaughn’s teacher with me. I told her how I used to teach students who didn’t speak English and I know what a challenge another language in the classroom can be and how much I appreciate her taking Vaughn in this late in the school year. It meant a lot to her and now she and I are much more of a team in both the lessons she’s working on in class and the time he spends out on the playground.

Bo has talked and loved Luke right on through his school anxieties. Two days in a row now and not a tear shed. Luke even flashed Bo a thumb’s up this morning when it was time to go to class.

My handsome, brave, and powerful husband also addressed the bug issue. In style.

And a real perk of our apartment is the family we rent from could not be kinder or more willing to help. AND we have a bird’s eye view of the neighborhood and local life in all it’s brilliant colors and characters.

We are also soothing our senses with fresh roses, regularly. They are grown near here and Bo found a place in town that sells 2 dozen long-stemmed roses for $2.50. And by “long-stemmed”, I mean as tall as Luke. So he grabbed 48 flowers in all.

I’m actually considering heading back there to get more. But that would require leaving this view of Imbabura Volcano I have and getting out of my chosen seat which, for today anyway, I’m just not going to do.

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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19 thoughts on “Iskay Siki, or “Two Rear Ends”

  1. Chire`

    Jamie, I SO look forward to your post. It is really the only reason I even check this account anymore. It is by far WAY better than any book I have read lately. Mainly because I KNOW who you are. This is SO fun for me. Know you have ALL the challenges and I apprecitate being able to once again live thru you vicariously. Keep it up!!!

    • Thanks Chire! There’s a woman here from the US that is running a pizza place. She has your name and every now and then says something that reminds me of you. Love ya girl. 🙂

  2. Lindsay

    Oh how I miss you! Reading about good wine, coffee, and fireplaces just makes me think of the many chats we’ve enjoyed doing one or all of those things. Gosh it is quiet here in our little part of the world. I don’t really think about it until I’ve been somewhere else. Glad the boys are starting to do get situated in their new surrounds and hope you are too! Chad loved the picture of Bo tackling bugs, although he was sure you’d need more than two cans! Hugs and Kisses!

    P.S. Hunger Games opens this Friday. We leave early Saturday morning, so I won’t have time to see it here. My Mom said she’d see it with me in Joplin. Are there any movie theaters near you? If so, do they even show American movies…maybe with subtitles?

    • Oh Lins! What I wouldn’t give for some wine, conversation, and a working fireplace with you right now! No movie theaters close by, that i know of. May have to do a Quito trip for The Hunger Games, then we can skype about it! 🙂

  3. YaYa

    my girl, the writer 🙂

  4. Michele


    Kate and I so enjoyed reading about the latest days in the lives of the Stambaughs! Your exterminator reminds us of a certain person who used to work in our office and was known to, on occassion, create some very funny diversions! I have a feeling when you do come back to the states all the differences will become fond memories. And maybe one day you will dream in spanish!

    When we were in Costa Rica, our coffee maker, was very odd looking but worked well- not sure if you can find down there or if it would work with the local beans:

    Wishing you all well – Michele

    • Thanks Michele! We’ll try anything. 😉 And yes, everyone thinks it’s the boys that do funny costumes, and that they get it from Me. You know differently…

  5. Frank Chalfont

    You guys are on the best and worst journey of your life. Leslie and I did the same thing – just 10 days after our wedding. 27 years later we remember the challenges as exciting and rewarding. We remember the new sights and sounds that widened our perspective. We still find the oddest times to draw upon our gut wrenching moments and we NOW laugh about our challenges – Nonetheless – yes, we wanted to come back to our familiar surrounds – but NO, we thought traveling to remote beaches in Portugal would ease the feelings of missing home – Seriously, Easter service in Portuguese is enough to break someone who had spent a few weeks away from home, not 8 months like us. Well Bo and Jamie, I can tell you that the next four months were filled with life long friendships with locals that took us under their wing. The year was challenging, but Leslie and I think this was the best thing we ever did for us. We wish you the same feelings on the other side of your adventure/education. PS – Re-entry onto the the US culture is a real eye opener!

    Enjoy. Thanks for the transperancy. Try buying a lottery ticket – you already missed one of the lowest snowfall years on record!

    • Thanks for the insight Frank! We have had some special moments already stored in my heart and I look forward to what’s to come as well. Hopefully we can get together when we get back and compare notes on such unique experiences.

  6. Diana Scherr

    Jamie, this one had me laughing out loud – not AT you, of course, but feeling every little bump in the road WITH you. I understand!! What a talent you are with the pen – er, ah, keyboard, I guess. I applaud you for so honestly sharing your ups and downs, because it is, truly, a roller coaster. And yet, as you constantly remind yourselves, it will be worth it in the long run (and hopefully a whole lot sooner!). Continue to indulge in anything that sets your head straight and keep in touch with all the loved ones back home…
    Bien hecho y abrazos!!

    • I’m glad you found the laughs in there Diana! Laughing has kept us going more often than not. Hope we can all connect again in Colorado and share all the bits of Ecuador that we know so well. 😉

  7. KayLynne

    Hi Sweet Jamie!

    Love, love, love to you!!!! though from a distance, is still very alive and present! …and of course you feel Iskay Siki, as this always comes with branching out, taking a risk, living the adventure away from our comfort zones in so many areas of our lives. Our hearts long for change and adventure, they also long for rest and familiarity. We struggle with the confidence in leaping and the fear that wants us completely grounded. The only thing that comes to mind is “ponga tu siki en el regazo a tu Dios” Regardless of your location, I pray for your peace and rest. It will come sweet friend, it will come.

    P.S. I lOVE your writing – you truly are gifted, and the process of putting your words down truly brings perspective as you persevere….not to mention your wonderful heart and humor that we get to experience. Thank you!

    On a lighter note… we made our inaugural trip to the dry park in Gunnison. The girls ran and played like crazy. They had so much fun, and Carly’s face was hilarious coming down some of the slides at the giant and a bit scary park by Western. Sawyer was diving head first down them. So fun! Carly wore her Super Girl suit to music class yesterday, and today she is an Oreo cookie – couldn’t help but think how proud you guys would be! 🙂 Carly is getting her potty training down great – now, her biggest concern is if she will get a poop stain in her underoos – so funny! Sawyer is plugging away with Kindergarten, having fun and growing so big in so many ways!

    We love and miss you deeply!


    • Oh KK!! “Ponga tu siki en el regazo a tu Dios” may be the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me. 😉

      Love that the Gunny park is dry already! What a relief and gift of Spring. Can’t wait to see those girls again. Carly and her costumes, Sawyer mastering Kindergarten… it all sounds like heaven. You are so right about what our hearts want, loved getting this note from you and hearing your sweet voice in my head again. XOXO Jamie

  8. Uncle Bob

    Hey Jamie,

    While I’ve never had quite an adventure like yours – I have had enough travel related adventures to understand much of what you are feeling. Watching my wife and son leave from Sydney, Australia, headed for home while I board a plane headed for mainland China and an extended absence. My ‘siki’ wanted to be in the other plane. Or… ever taken a taxi in Moscow… – we call it hitchhiking in the US – except you are expected to pay in Moscow. How about talking to an unknown doctor in the US while my sick Siki was in a Hong Kong hotel and having him say – we are getting you to a doctor now – we will call you back with an appointment in 10 minutes, do not leave your phone. (96 hours on an airplane in 2 weeks = pneumonia). I could go on and on – cases where I was definitely Iskay siki. I always ‘powered through’ – sometimes literally forcing myself to get up and go out of whatever place I was and felt safe in (usually my hotel room). On the other hand, when I needed to – I curled up in a ball in that hotel room and hid).

    But I could also go on and on about the times that I was glad I powered through and experienced/saw/learned something new. When Steve and I accidentally walked into a “Buddhas Birthday Party” on fine day in Sol and were the hit of the party. Two tall white Lutheran’s (Steve is 6’4′) in the middle of a bunch of Korean’s was a hoot – and the food was great.

    I learned a few things (at least).

    If the train stops before your stop, everybody gets off and they come on to clean, you are on the wrong train.
    It is often nicer outside than inside.
    Beer is understood in every country I’ve been to.
    It often feels better in the morning.
    That Russian at the German Customs check feels just as uncomfortable as you did at the Russian Customs check – and he appreciates your help.
    Don’t put gas in a diesel car while driving to the airport in Denmark.
    Sometimes the best thing is to just sit down, enjoy the sun and have a nice drink of water.

    All good things to know.

    But – also – you are in a new place, new culture, caution is advised. Go with your gut – if your gut say’s no – that’s okay and you should listen to it. It is sometimes hard to tell in a strange place if that ‘gut’ is confused, so you tend to dismiss it. I would not. That does not necessarily mean “don’t do ” but it may, and it does mean keep your head up.

    I fully expect you will look back on this adventure and time as a high point – mosquitoes and all. What a brave and wonderful experience you are having, you (and your family) will be richer for it – both from the highs and lows.

    Hug the kids, kiss the husband, and enjoy

  9. Uncle Bob! Given your extensive travel life I would say you are definitely my go-to expert on the subject, and I am SO THANKFUL for all you just shared. It made me laugh and smile and “get back up”.

    I showed Bo your list of things learned and he loved all of them, particularly about the beer.

    Love you and let us know if you happen to be plane-hopping or taxi-hiking in our neck of the woods.
    xx Jamie

  10. Desse

    Reading your blog is such a treat! We are enjoying our trip to Ecuador w/o spending a dime! Have experienced some of the same feelings just on extended trips to Foreign lands with diff. food, water, language etc. etc. etc. Someone messing with my children would have me with armor on visiting the school.. You handled it well.

    Speaking of children…Cannot get over how they are growing and changing…So glad to have frequent pictures so it won’t be a surprise to me when you come home.

    Brenda and Clay have been here. She sends her love. We intended to have her comment in Spanish, but got distracted.

    Knowing who is in charge sure gives peace and contentment!

    Love, Desse

  11. Jamie, you have no idea how much this post resonates with me! 5 months in and I’m still pulled in two directions. What I wouldn’t give this morning for a consistently hot shower or cell phones that worked all the time, ha! But, the experiences are ones we’ll have for the rest of our life and we’ve met some great people along the way, yourselves included! One of these days we’ll have to grab a bottle of wine (the best Ecuador has to offer anyhow) and commiserate. 🙂

    ~ Wendy (of Trebol)

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