Saturday, December 27, 2008

macarena, goat milk, booze, change and travel

Hey guys, I hope everyone had a super great Christmas.

Mine was pretty mellow, went to a family dinner on the 24th which was uneventful except that at one point, the Macarena came on the stereo and every single person in the room knew how to dance it. From grandparents to toddlers, it was hysterical. Lucky for me, I happened to be outside smoking and got to watch through the window.

On the way to the internet I passed the goat lady and realized that I haven´t written about her yet. There is a woman who comes into town with 3-4 goats on a rope and takes up residence on a corner a few times a week and you just take your own pitcher or cup or jar or whatever and ask for some milk. $.25 or $1.00 or whatever, and she milks the goat into your cup. I haven´t been brave enough to try it yet, but I love seeing her. It´s not like we´re in the country, we´re in the middle of the capitol city of this country. I keep not having my camera when I pass her, but eventually I will and then I will take photos and post them for you.

Where I live is a mixed residence. Phil and Ruby have one small apartment style with a tiny living room and bedroom and bathroom. The kitchen is more out in the common area. I have a room with a bathroom and there is another apartment where Ruby´s daughter lives with her husband and two kids. They shower in Ruby and Phil´s bathroom even though they have their own and I could never quite figure out why. I was told they can´t shower in theirs and so I thought it was broken or something but Ruby told me the other day it´s because it is so full of booze that no one can get into the bathroom at their house. That cracked me up. Gaby works for the police force and does most of the organizing of their big events, including those for the president, etc, so vendors are always sending her presents. Many of them, apparently, bottles of booze. But so many that you can´t use your own shower? Pretty funny.

I don´t know about other South American countries, but in Ecuador, you can hardly ever use big bills to pay for things. And by big bills I mean $10 and above. There is this constant game being played about having change. Some days you play really well and come home with a pocket of small bills and change. They are really big on dollar coins here. Sometimes you play too well and at the end of the day have like $17 in change so then you try to get rid of it, cause your pants will fall down with so much change, but then you suddenly find yourself with only 2 $10´s and a $20 but you need to go use the internet and it wont cost more than $.60 and you can´t pay for that with a $10 so you have to go find something expensive enough to change a $10 to buy. It is a pretty entertaining game. I got stuck the other day cause I put my hand in my pocket to assess my change situation and felt a pocket full of change and so left the house to run some errands. But I had forgotten that part of the change I had received the day prior was $.20 in pennies so I didn´t actually have hardly any money with me at all and had to promise to pay later and went home for money, but only had $10´s and had to go all over trying to get it changed to go pay my $.37 bill. Instead of starting each day with a "til", which would make sense, each day is started with $0.00 and money is accumulated from there. One time Geoff and Mark and I were at the post office and bought $18.75 worth of postage and I gave him a $20 and he had to go all over to get change to give us the $1.25 and was annoyed that we didn´t have correct change. It is all in all a pretty fun game.

So there are some thoughts I´ve written down in my notebook to share with you all.

Right now my energy is in figuring the best way to get to Cusco, Peru from Quito, Ecuador. Last week there were $99 flight specials to Lima but it looks like those are done so it is looking like a bus journey. There is an international bus that will go from Quito to Lima which is 36 hours but looks like a pretty safe border crossing and secure for luggage and such. It´s meant to be a big and comfortable bus that doesn´t stop for everyone on the highway the way that other busses do. So probably I´ll end up with that one, though 36 hours on a bus is an awful lot. I´m also looking into domestic flights within Peru to get me from the border to Cusco. Cause even after I make it to Lima, it is a many many hour bus ride from Lima to Cusco. Although it is through the Andes so I´m sure it will be beautiful. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

The place I´m looking at volunteering is
if you want to check it out. It looks super great and all the stories I´ve read on the internet about people who have worked there are all amazing. So, it is looking like that is the next step in my journey.

Love you all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

spell checker doesn´t work - sorry.

So the doctor I went and saw yesterday was really interesting. First we visited for about an hour - he´s a trained therapist of one sort or another. It is really interesting to talk with a counselor in a language that is not your own. It makes it impossible to hide in nuance and sublties. It is much different to just admit to something in simple words than couch it in maybe´s and kind of´s. It is also interesting to be somewhere that my reputation for being solid and strong and having my shit together isn´t with me. He told me that my body was strong (even though i was there for a broken back!?!) but my heart and soul and emotions are not. That I have been hiding behind pretending to be strong but in reality I am not. It´s hard to own that stuff, you know? My ego wants to say "NO! I am not sensitive and emotional and a crybaby and weak. You just don´t know me!" But I have to let higher self take over and admit that maybe that isn´t who I once was, but it certainly is who I am right now.

For six years, live your life and do your work, but in the seventh, go into solitude or among strangers, so that your friends, by knowing who you are, don´t prevent you from being whom you´ve become.

I keep coming back to this. That I had to leave for a reason, and that is because it was too easy to not do the real work when I had people surrounding me that I could always call and would be a wonderful distraction. I would always have such a great time and be filled with real love that I thought it was what I was supposed to be doing. And I do truly miss that. I miss having friends soooo much. Having someone to call and go have a beer or see some music. That has been the hardest adjustment. I have to remember that I did that really well for a lot of years. I lived that life to it´s fullest and am so grateful for the chance. I don´t want to live that forever, I have other things to do and so I am going to have to do the work to get to another place in my life. The Doctor said in many ways that I am full of fear. I hate that. The vehemence with which I hate it leads me to understand that it is touching a very raw nerve and something to finally really really look at.

After kicking my ass verbally and mentally for a while, he took me into the treatment room and put a million injections of something that I have no idea what it was, but it tasted foul. He put a few in my apendectomy scar, one in my belly button and some in my lower abdomen so that I can come to terms with deciding not to be a mama. I´m not sure about that, but his take on my very simplified version of events was that because the first time I decided I didn´t want to be a mom was from watching so many births as a child and deciding by the time I was eight that I wasn´t going to do that, that I am afraid of pain. This may be true, but I don´t accept it as a whole or complete reason for deciding not to have my own kids. Anyway, some shots there. A shot into each of my wisdom teeth sockets, a few shots into my root canal and some shots into my back. Jeez!

He also gave me some sort of potion for nerves that I had to take five times yesterday and five times today and three times before I see him again tomorrow at 11:00. I refuse to accept that I am full of fear if I make it back to his dang office tomorrow, knowing that all those shots are coming.

He also said that I know what I want and that I have good work to do in the world, we just need to get past this stuff so that I can go on and do it to the full potential that I am able. I agree, the work is hard, but not as hard as not doing it.

I know, why trust this quack? Why let him inject me full of stuff I don´t know what it is? Well, for one, cause, why not? But also because he has been Ruby´s family doctor for 27 years and they all trust him very very much. So when your options are laying in bed or going to the doctor, you go to the doctor. And I think that this more wholistic approach is a pretty healthy one. And he had lots of humor and called me on some shit that I think I´ve been waiting a long time for someone to call me on. So, where it goes from here, I don´t know, but I thought I´d share with you all what is really going on in my life. And, like I say in my byline, this blog is to remind me of what I am up to and it feels like this is really important stuff to be up to.

Love you, happy holidays to you. Stay warm in Portland.

Monday, December 22, 2008


I was watching local Ecuador news last night and the blizzards in Oregon and Washington made news here. I was impressed. I got some photos from Geoff. Wow. I wish I could be there on the one hand, but I´m glad to be in flip flops on the other.

Sorry it´s been so long since I´ve written, I´ve been laid up in bed with a back ache. I sneezed on Friday morning, and nothing has been the same since. I really could not get out of bed for a couple of days and accepted all the weird injections and pills they made me take. I can at least get out of bed now, but things are still pretty bad. I´m going to a doctor this afternoon, though I´m not sure what the doctor will be able to do for me. For now I am just doing what they tell me. I spend a lot of time in bed watching Ecuadorian TV which is probably actually helping my spanish. Especially things like the Flintstones overdubbed. And Knightrider. I´ve watched my share of Knightrider over the last couple of days.

Sadly, because of my back, we missed the big fun party in Riobamba - no music and dancing for me. The universe reminding me that it doesn´t much matter what my plans are, I will do as I need to from minute to minute. Also a good reminder about mindfulness. When you have to stop and really think about shifting in your chair, it slows everything down a few steps. I appreciate the reminder, but am tired of the pain and Ecuadorian TV.

Love you all much, stay warm in all the snow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

language skills

I have been really enjoying becoming more and more comfortable with Spanish. I´ve been teasing Ruby though, that while my Spanish is a little better, my Spanglish is impeccable! Because Phil is from the states but has lived here for a few years and Ruby lived there for years, primarily some crazy form of Spanglish is spoken by all of us. I think that I probably speak more Spanish than either of them as I try to practice.

Some of the words really get me to thinking. For example, the word for "should" and the word for "must" is the same word, "deber". How would it be to live in a language/culture that makes no distinction between the two? How often I get trapped in what I "should" do. What if that didn´t exist? What if when I felt that way, it was only about "musts" and I didn´t have to fight with myself about it because it was just something that "must" be done?

There is no word for "starve", you just die of hunger. So there is no way to convey "starved for information" or "starved for affection" or any of the other ways you would use the word starved.

In many ways, Spanish is a much more simple language, as there are so many less words to choose from. But, you can do so much with each word. This language is ruled by prefixes and suffixes so that each root word becomes infinitely usable and useful. Phil and I were talking yesterday about how useable Spanish is once you get the hang of it. I am glad to have it coming back to me but I will admit to being a little lazy because we can always switch over to English. I need (must? should?) to be looking up words and making a list of them.

I just bought Carlos Castenedo´s first book in Spanish and plan to work my way through that with a notebook and the Spanish/English dictionary.

I am working on my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification still. It is much harder than I expected it to be and I find it difficult to be motivated to do a chapter a day. It is my goal, but it seems to be coming out a little closer to 2 chapters every 3-4 days. Better (should? must?) get on that so that I can start to get some money coming in for teaching instead of just hemmoraging my savings account.

Christmas in a Catholic country is really different and interesting. Yesterday begain the daily "Novenas" which are get togethers at a different person´s house each night before Christmas for prayers and food and communing. Even without participating in the our fathers and hail marys, I am enjoying the traditions and rituals of it all. On Friday we go to Riobamba for some big Christmas party that I haven´t quite been able to get a mental image of yet. I think it involves praying and eating and dancing and drinking. Sounds good to me. I can´t wait to get my Salsa feet back on. I love that dance.

Stay warm, thinking of you all where it´s sooo cold. love you.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


So Christmas is coming. It sure doesn´t feel like it when the weather is warm and sunny. Today we went out and bought some things to make the nativity scene and will do that this afternoon. Very few people have christmas trees, many more make some sort of scene. Mostly buildings with snow, which makes me laugh. I look forward to seeing what we will do this afternoon.

Ruby´s sister died last month and yesterday we had a mass for her. That was interesting. I hadn´t been to mass since I lived in Mexico, and it was enjoyable. In Mexico, they were always in Latin and so I loved them because it was the one time a week that no one else understood the language either. This one was in Spanish and I was able to catch parts of it. It seemed much less formal than the ones I was used to in Mexico, also much much shorter. After mass, a pile of people came over to the house to visit and eat. They were there all afternoon and we drank some bottles of wine and I used all of my skills to try to understand a big group of half drunk people all talking at the same time, telling stories about people I don´t know. I have to admit that I didn´t catch much of it. I suspect I wouldn´t have done much better in English though. It was fun to meet more of the family and start to piece together who everyone is. Extended families run so far here, it´s hard to keep track of who is who and how they all fit together.
I will be spending Christmas with this family and there are 36 people getting together for Christmas dinner, so I expect more of the same bewilderment. It is enjoyable, I have always looked forward to holidays with different families - seeing different customs and ways of relating. It sounds like there are many things happening between now and then, lost of masses for the baby jesus and get togethers of different sorts that we will be attending, but I can´t figure out what they all are, I just get ready to go when I´m told. I think that everyone will get tired of seeing my one party frock, but it´s what I have, so they will have to live with it.
I have been loving seeing different party invites and information about what people are doing for Christmas at home come acrosss my email inbox. It´s been just long enough that Oregon is starting to feel like a different and strange world. When it´s not making me lonely, it is a fun experience. I saw an email that it is snowing there, and as I run around in my t-shirt feeling warm, I can´t decide if I wish I were there for the snow, or if I am glad to be here where it is warm. Both I guess.

bug bites suck! well, bugs suck, then the bites swell up and itch like hell. By the time this one was done, my whole wrist was red and swollen all the way to the left side of the inside and I couldn´t wear my watch at all. OWWWW! Thank goodness the swelling went down cause I didn´t want to go to the medico for an injection. They give injections for everything here and no one seems to know what is in them. Headaches, cough, tired, bug bites, everything. same injection.

It´s meals like these that remind me what a white-bre(a)d, supermarket girl I am. I don´t even know where to start eating this fish. I worked it out, but it wasn´t pretty and I´m pretty sure I was laughed at.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

finally some new photos!

I don´t know who made this stencile, but they should probably be getting commision, I haven´t been to a town yet that it wasn´t somewhere.

I knew that Bromeads grow everywhere, but this seems a little excessive, even for here.

This is a stream I sat by for a while today. A couple of hours I bet, it was sure nice. Had a little feeling of home if I didn´t look up and see the crazy jungle foliage and didn´t think about it being warm on my feet instead of snow runoff. Amazing what running water can do for a person´s soul.

This bull is HUGE. And, he´s tied up with a little rope over his horns, which is typical here. I usually see it as I´m going by on the bus so I was glad for the chance to take a photo this time. I left as he was starting to get interested in what I was.

I am in Mindo right now, which is just a sweet little cloud forest town and went to the butterfly farm that Ruby´s family runs. It was really neat to see so many types of butterflies. I learned something today though. When you are going to visit a butterfly farm, don´t put bug spray on. In retrospect, it seems like the kind of thing a person (me) might have thought through. Too bad it only seems to work on the butterflies and not on the mosquitos.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

more soon!

I have spent over an hour trying to upload four images! arrrrggghhh! I will come back and try later today again, I haven´t abandoned here. Just thinking and meditating and trying to figure what comes next and what it looks like and how it feels and what is based in reality and what is based in fear and lonliness and, then, are those things real? See? Nobody wants to hear these circles spin. So I will post photos for you. Now that I have a new camera and finally found a cord for it to talk to the computer.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


It´s interesting to watch it happen before your very eyes.

Ecuador is cutting ties with the US and Colombia and Brazil. Refusing to pay debts, not renewing airspace rights, opening up ocean passage rights to Russia. President Correa just got back from Iran today, solidifying relationships there, Iran has promised high tech tools to Ecuador, including talks of a nuclear reactor in the Galapagos and lots and lots of arms dealing. The rational being that Iran wants a strong ally in South America, with good positioning at the US. It´s a pretty key location, which is why the US has tried to maintiain ownerships of the airspace and water rights. Headed the way of Venezuela and Bolivia, both of which are having huge internal wars. US citizens are no longer allowed to cross the border into Bolivia and just a couple of weeks ago, the US emptied the embassies and pulled all the peace corps volunteers out of there.

Ecuador has changed the visa laws, allowing US citizens to spend only 90 days at a time and no more than 180 days per year in Ecuador, with at least 6 months in between. They have put incredible taxes on non profit organizations here with backing from the US so that they are not being able to make it anymore and are having to pull out. Why would you punish your poorest populations in order to choose political allies. It´s all so crazy and doesn´t make any sense.

I happen to have someone around in my daily life that works very high up in the anti-narcotics division of the governement and we talk about this stuff pretty often. She thinks that civil war is on the way and feeling more inevitable with Correa making such strong ties with Iran. That Correa does things like give the poorest population $30 and then they think he´s a hero and will follow him anywhere and clearly he has their best interests at heart and the upper class doesn´t like him and thinks that he promises things that he can´t deliver but it keeps him popular.

It will be interesting to see what happens, I sure hope that nothing comes of all this talk. This country is really beautiful and the people are sweet and even the poorest people are making it because there is so much food grown here that no one goes hungry. It would be a shame for them all to die from bullets.

Hard to know what is real and what is rumor, but most of the news bulletins I´m receiving back up the info I´m hearing. What a crazy world.

Friday, December 5, 2008

a day in the life.

I can tell I´m aclimating to Ecuador because I am finding less to write about. Things that struck me as really odd just a couple of weeks ago, seem really normal now.
I´m back in Quito and it is so noisy and full of people and cars and cold and the altitude has gotten to me this time. What a difference! It´s nice to see Phil and Ruby and we went out and had some breakfast this morning, then wandered around til i found the ipod store but they had just closed so I headed back home in time for delicous fish lunch.
I´m headed out on a Chiva tonight with a friend I met in Canoa. Chivas are open air busses with music blaring and drinking and driving all around the city causing general chaos. Sounds a little like burning man, so that will be fun. It´s nice to have someone here to meet up with and go out together.
I´ve sent an email off to the woman in Canoa and I look forward to hearing back from her to see if it might work out to head there. If not, it has given me much better idea of what it is like to go spend time in a smaller town and try to get something working out.
The migs are flying overhead for the festivals, which seems to happen for most festivals, though Cuenca was the most impressive probably. A pair would buzz the city every 7 minutes or so all day. At first here, I thought it was lightening.
Well, I´m off to pick up some laundry and watch a movie with Phil before heading out. Hope all is great with you.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

surf´s up!

maaaan, i got out of bed in a funky mood yesterday, feeling so much better today!

headed out of Canoa, on the way to Quito, stopped in Santo Domingo for the night.

Canoa was for the most part, really fantastic. I think my favorite part was meeting so many people. What a treat to be somewhere long enough that you have people to say hi to and stop and visit with walking down the street in the morning to go get some fruit.

The hostal I stayed at is called Coco Loco and it is across the sand street from the beach so we could hear the ocean at night while falling asleep which was lovely. It´s owned by a woman named Elizabeth who grew up in Oregon but owned a restaurant in Alaska and her boyfriend of many years, Mauricio (Mao) who is from Mexico and their son, Mini Mao. They were so welcoming and wonderful, it really felt like family straight away and created that atmosphere in the hostal so that you find yourself wandering around with people you just met and feeling like oldest friends. It was the first time I found that in Ecuador and in the hostals I´ve been staying at, so it was such a treat. This week kicked off high season so it was stilll pretty sleepy and everyone wasn´t tired of tourists yet.

We had a potluck barbeque last night with lobsters and prawn and fish and meat and chicken and salads and stuffed potatoes and homemade apple sauce and lots of other stuff to make a feast and we all had such a great time.

I´m feeling like while I don´t want to get stuck being a five year beach bum, it would be awfully nice to go and be a six week beach bum. And have something to do. Work in the hostal and do massage and maybe the bar and volunteer at the school and have a room to unpack my things. Just live somewhere for a while. And it would be really great there. So, I´m going to take the weekend to think it over, and attend the festivals of Quito and spend a little time with Phil and Ruby and visit with Elizabether more and probably head down there until it´s time for me to leave Ecuador.

I bought a camera off of a fellow traveler who decided to upgrade so hopefully I´ll have some more pictures up. Too bad that none of them are of Canoa because it is so beautiful there. Two paved roads in the whole town and no ATM. Just right.

Hope you all are having a great day as well. love.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

another day in paradise.

I pulled this out of an email I sent someone today because I think that it´s a pretty good summation of where I´m at right now. But the beach is still beautiful.

Yes, I feel like I´m just on some random vacation. I am getting bored with it, even though sitting on exotic warm beautiful beaches is great, I am mostly discontent. I feel a little like I just need to get through December in Ecuador and then move on to Colombia and find somewhere to live and get a job and my own somewhere to sleep and cook which will make me feel better. It´s interesting to learn that a person can get tired of a vacation. Maybe it´s because the intention was not to go on vacation.

I am not in love with Ecuador. I´ve been trying, but it´s like dating someone that´s perfect in resume, or on paper, but there´s no spark there. And sometimes you just keep trying because you think you ought to fall in love with them? But eventually you just have to break up. I don´t know if that analogy works, but probably close enough for you to understand.

Here I am in Canoa, total paradise. The owner of the hostal has offered a work trade and one of the bar owners asked if I would stay and work for him and the only massage therapist just left town, leaving behind clients eager to pay. I´m kind of being handed a life in a town where people keep saying they will leave "tomorrow" for years at a time. Jobs that people fight for are just being offered and the more that the path opens up to me to stay here, the more clear I am about the fact that I would not be happy being a beach bum for the next five years. Even though it sounds like paradise to so many people, I just think there´s something kind of sad about this supertan, know everyone in town, where´s the next drink, dude how were the waves today, did you hear who snogged who last night, kind of life. But it helps to focus me on what I don´t want. I think that when you head out with zero plan, it must take a while to weed out a bunch of the options so that you can get closer to the heart of the desire.

Monday, December 1, 2008

hey all you smart people!

So, all you smart people. Have one of you invented a virtual reality player and recorder yet? It would be so much better if I could just send the experiences themselves sometimes. Last night was the 401st anniversary of Canoa and the whole town was out dancing in the streets until dawn. Okay, I left at dawn, and there were still plenty plenty of people dancing their asses off. It was so so so fun. It´s been nice to be here for a week and meeting people. I might have a chance to work at the hostel to trade for lodging so I´m going to talk with her more about that today and see what else I might be able to make happen. There are more people trying to make a living than there are people with money to spend, so you have to kind of get lucky. But, I usually have pretty good luck, so maybe I can make something happen. And then I could volunteer at the local school. Thinking as I´m typing. Hard to leave small beach towns full of nice people.
love you all.
and, really, get on the virtual reality machine. much better than photos.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


new post below "fiestas de Canoa" - because I wrote it yesterday, it published below this morning´s.

Fiestas de Canoa

Well, another beautiful day on the beach. Today begins "Las fiestas de Canoa". This morning there was a surf competition followed by a run - 5-10K depending on your class. Except they forgot to not organize them for the same time so the runners had to wait until the end of the surf competion and so began running close to 11:00 and it is SO HOT! Bummer for them.
Tonight is a big dance and tomorrow is a parade and then another dance. Fun. I didn´t even know that I would be here for the party.
I have a more interesting post to put up later, but I need to make some phone calls first.
love you all, hope your long weekend is being super great.
I´m going swimming. In the ocean. The warm ocean. And probably get a sunburn cause my sunscreen will wear off.

Friday, November 28, 2008

why this post doesn´t have PICS!

first, don´t worry, I am fine. fine.

I got robbed at gunpoint on the beach yesterday. I´m feeling better today than I did yesterday, but it´s pretty freaky.

note: robbery was on thanksgiving, i wanted to wait to send this until i had talked to my folks in person so as to not scare them via the internet.

Another girl and I decided to walk down the beach to the next town - about 12km - we had all day and figured a good day for a walk. So we took off at about 10am and walked and walked and walked and walked. And swam in the ocean and took cool pictures and generally enjoyed ourselves shell picking and visiting.

Then something caught my eye and when I turned to look a man was coming out of the bushes with some sort of wrap covering his face and my heart dropped, "uh-oh". He was motioning for us to come over but we just kept walking until he pulled up his shirt and pulled a gun out of his waist-band and then we just did what he said. He took our money and our cameras and started to jog away down the beach the direction we were going. Then we were just still in shock and started walking the same way and he turned around and pulled the gun out again and pointed it at us and told us to stay there. Then he ran off into the bushes and we waited for about 10 minutes and then started walking again.

We were about 2/3 - 3/4 of the way to the next town and it seemed better to go ahead and go there than to go back the miles and miles we had already come. Then we were so scared. And felt so stupid for walking along an abandoned beach, even in the middle of the day - the robbery happened at about 1:00 in the afternoon. Traveling 101 man, don´t walk along an abandoned beach in the third world. Finishing that walk was the worst. We were super scared and then your mind reels in a hundred scenarios, you know? I wont write all the scenarios here, better to let them fade away I think. And we talked about all the details we could remember so that we wouldn´t lose them later. How tall he was, what color clothing, what the gun looked like, the color of his eyes. (A little taller than me, dark skin but not black, dark eyes, light orange shirt, knee length army green shorts, tennis shoes, no tattoos that we could see, more modern looking gun - a gun as opposed to a pistol which you see more of here, but I don´t know guns well enough to say.) It´s really hard to remember to notice such things during such a surreal experience. Later we thought to be glad that no one panicked and all went smoothly.

Then we still had to get on the bus back to Canoa where the hostal is and there is this experience, (which still isn´t done) of looking at men that fit the description and wondering "Was it you?" "You?" which feels really awful. When we got back to the hostal and told them, they were pretty freaked out too. They said people walk that stretch of beach all the time and they´ve never heard of that happening in years of living here. Leaving your backpack on the beach while you go swimming at night? Sure, it´s going to get stolen, but guns? during the day? no way. They would have told us that it was absolutely safe for us to walk to the next town on the beach during the height of day. Then I didn´t feel quite so stupid anymore, but still, traveling 101.

I´m very grateful that we weren´t hurt and that all he took was money and cameras.

As a little time goes on, one of the hardest things to have lost is the level of trusting myself to not be dumb and not get dead. Today I´m smarter than I was yesterday and all things considered, the lesson was a cheap one.

note: My faith and trust in myself is coming back so I think it was just hiding for a minute, not gone all together. But for about an hour after, I was headed straight back to Quito and the airport and heading back to Portland. I seem to be over that.

I wasn´t sure whether to post this experience here, but I believe that secrets have power and if I didn´t tell anyone, then it would become/remain a huge EVENT in my mind instead of part of a day that was otherwise wonderful. The hostal had an amazing potluck Thanksgiving dinner and some of us went to the bar after and danced and had a generally great time, though just now I have quite a hangover. And today was a little cooler and beautiful and I am so glad to be at the beach. So so so glad.

So no pictures for a while, I´m glad that the last ones here for now are of the beach and smiling me.

note: so so so much love to each of you on this long weekend, I hope that it is treating each of you beautifully.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

eve of day of giving thanks



happy thanksgiving everyone. I am sincerely grateful for each of you.

Monday, November 24, 2008


this is a jagur. and they are very big and would like to eat your finger for a snack. perhaps you could just reach through and give him a little scratch?

this spider is as big as my hand stretched out. and there seems to be more security around the spider than around the jaguar. probably getting bitten by it is a bad idea.

Hi! I am an alpaca. I´m super cute and I make really soft yarn. Would you like to take me home?

I am not so cute. Okay, well, I am actually pretty cute. This is a huge raptor called "Aguila Monera" which means monkey catcher. And you can see him thinking that you are not so different from a monkey and perhaps you should just come a wee bit closer for a little look. This bird has about an eight foot wingspan, but in the area next door, is a South American Condor which is nearly extint and has a wingspan of almost fourteen feet. That bird is so big, it´s hard to even comprehend it. wow. I´m glad to have gotten to see it, for it is almost gone from this world.

more pics below!

more pis.

This is one tigrillo, a small tiger. yep, really that close, you are very much able to stick your fingers, or if you´re a small child, your arm in that cage. There are signs that say "these animals can kill you, be careful." Don´t get dead!

We went to the zoo yesterday, it was really good. I was enchanted with the huge turtles! They are really something, and you can pet them if they happen to walk close enough to the edge, which some of them did. Makes me think I have to figure out a way to afford to go to the Galapagos.

You know how in the supermarket you can get samples of food on Saturdays? Well, much to my delight, in this supermarket, you can have samples of rum and coke! My favorite thing about shopping is now free booze. Of course, the bottle only cost $6.63, but still...

Me on the roof at night. I head up there to smoke sometimes, and to look out over the city and think about the world. It is one of my favorite places. It was the same in Mexico. On my ranch, we will have roofs to climb up on and hang out. And hammocks on the roof.

Wheelchairs, South American style!

Most wheelchairs are normal, these are just at the arboretum, but they cracked me up.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Some things I like about Ecuador

1. Public transportation (bus in the city) is $0.25 and they really have it figured out. The amount of people moved around is just astounding, and you never wait more than two or three minutes for the next one to come. This is primarily the north/south routes which are trolley busses running on electric lines. But the whole city is very long and narrow, running north and south so you don´t often need to use one of the other busses. You do have to watch for your stuff, just today a thwarted someone trying to get into my bag and he looked at me with reproach as my paying attention had cost him time and effort to earn his income!
2. Mixed use housing. Almost every house has some sort of store or restaurant on the main level and living up above. Usually the same families live and work in each.
3. Breastfeeding children is accepted and normal and the smallest deal ever. There are ladies all over with their boobs hanging out, no modesty shawls to be seen!
4. You can take your clothes to the laundromat and they wash, dry, fold and iron if necessary for about $0.35/lb. This, for me, is a dream come true.
5. Long distance busses are comfortable and cost only about $1.00/hour to go anywhere in the country. They run many many times a day and are incredibly convenient. You still have to keep an eye on your stuff though, as the robbers think you must be rich and should share your belongings. They will take them from the rack above you if not locked down, they will even crawl under the seats to cut open your backpack if between your knees! It´s not that hard to keep an eye out, part of paying attention. (knock on wood).
6. Comida tipica, which is an appetizer of popcorn, chicken with rice and beans and salad and maybe fried bananas and a glass of fresh juice almost never costs more than $2.00.
7. Learning to cross the street. Or get on the bus. Or buy something. The part of me that is a turn-taker, and not in a hurry, and "go ahead, then" is getting some schooling! You never get anywhere without some sort of pushing or being so forward that it feels rude to this nicely mannered American, used to orderly lines and cross walks. It´s fun to learn to go for it!
8. The street signs. I´ve been taking pictures, so notice them. They are so communicative. My favorite, I haven´t been able to get a picture of yet because I´ve only seen them on the highway while driving by on the bus, is of two cars crashing, head on. That´s it. Not be careful, or Don´t Crash, or Warning, or anything. It looks a little like "And this is where you´re supposed to crash."
9. This morning I bought two beautiful big ripe mangos and a big bag of ripe strawberries for $1.20, gringo price.
10. DVDs are a dollar and there´s a store on every block.

Tie these up in brown paper packages with string, they are some of my favorite things.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

volunteering isn't as easy as one might think!

So I had an appointment today with a volunteer coordinator and they want $200 plus $14/day to find somewhere for me to volunteer. Payable in advance, non-refundable if I don't like it. Minimum commitment six weeks. That's close to $800.00. sheesh. it's cheaper than that to live and not work! I wish it weren't so hard to find something that didn't feel like a rip off.

So, I am just going to head out into the world on Monday I've decided. I was going to leave earlier this week but Ruby wanted me to stay and see if any of the volunteer stuff would come through because they are friends of hers. It will be difficult to explain to her that I don't want this help from her friend. I am going to head down to the coast and see what I can find for myself down there. At the least, there are many hostels that you can work at and stay and eat for free, so that would be pretty good. I can last as long as my money, so anything I can do to extend it, extends the trip.

I have also been trying to figure out exactly what's going on with the new visa laws and nobody seems to be able to help. Even in the same immigration office, there are different stories about what is going on and nobody knows.
So one or none of these things may be true.
1. I can renew my tourist visa for another three months if I want to.
2. I can not renew my tourist visa and I have to leave the country for six months before coming back.
3. I can not renew my tourist visa and I have to leave the country for a year before coming back.

I can live with number two, and I'm going to proceed as though it were true, and leave here in January so that I can come back in July and take a flight home for a visit, but if number three is true, then I wont be able to use that ticket back because you can only change it for up to a year from when you flew the first time, which would be October 21, and obviously not a year out of the country. There must be a way to get back into the country to take a plane flight, but so far, no answers.

Any of the really good looking volunteer options require a minimum commitment of three months, which is impossible given the three month visa thing, but they haven't changed their rules yet, so I think that pretty soon, they are going to be very hard up for volunteers. Who knows what will happen?

Mostly I am really enjoying this journey and I'm glad to be in this country and my Spanish is improving considerably, but today I am frustrated. Regardless of how the visa laws go, I will leave Quito on Monday so that I don't feel like I'm still waiting around for something to happen. It's not like I didn't know that Latin American countries work this way, and didn't expect to be frustrated in this manner, but that doesn't take away the frustration!

I got a cell phone yesterday. That was a fun process, and took most of the afternoon, but I was pleased that I was able to conduct such business in Spanish and negotiate. Good for me! Although it will really only be good for me for receiving calls from the US and calling locally as calls to the US are $.49 per minute, non-negotiable, but it's useful to have anyway. And there are 'cabinas' on every block (places that you can call - usually about $.10 per minute) that I use to call the US, so that's pretty good.

Deciding where to go next is fun. Which country??? I am thinking of Colombia as I keep hearing only wonderful things about it if you stay out of the parts of the country they tell you to stay out of. I have no problem with this, I don' t need to get dead. Fun to start that research.

Okay, love to you all! mj.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

not much.

sorry it´s been a couple of days. but right now i need to go call a very important birthday someone before the calling place closes and so still am not going to post. Tomorrow I have an appointment with the volunteer coordinator for Ecuador so hopefully tomorrow afternoonll have exciting things to report. love!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Eat delicious chocolate!

Keep an eye out - Ecudorian chocolate is delicious and so far the only I could find of it in the US was Lindor´s - which was great, but if you buy this stuff, it will support the village directly that is trying to figure out a way to have/make a sustainable living. It´s hard here, to not just give away your raw product to out-of-country businesses, so I applaud these efforts.


Premium Kallari Chocolate Bars From Ecuador Establish Revolutionary Business Model in Chocolate Industry

Kallari Chocolate bar sales launched in the U.S. in November 2008 at Whole Foods stores.

Last update: 3:20 p.m. EST Nov. 17, 2008

BRIDGEWATER, N.J., Nov 17, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Kallari Chocolate bars -- offering "sustainable pleasure for palate and planet" -- hit US shelves at Whole Foods stores in November 2008. Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert called Kallari Chocolate "one of the best chocolates I have tasted." New York Times reporter Jill Santopietro recently compared eight organic, Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance certified chocolate bars and rated Kallari Chocolate highest. The chocolate bars are made by the Kallari Association, a cooperative of over 850 Quichua families in Napo Province in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

- 100 percent of profits from sales of the chocolate bars are returned to the Kallari Association. -

Recognizing that most of the profit is to be made from sales of chocolate bars, not the cacao beans, the Quichua people created a cooperative where they would have more control over revenues. The Kallari Association, with its self- reliant governance and innovative economic model, is nothing short of revolutionary in the global chocolate industry. Cacao production provides the Quichua people with a viable income so they have the economic resources to resist logging their forests or succumb to the short-term riches offered by petroleum extraction.
Over the last year, Kallari has been mentored by an American businessman, Stephen McDonnell, Founder and CEO of Applegate Farms in Bridgewater, NJ, a leading producer of natural and organic deli meats and cheeses. McDonnell provided start-up funds and business expertise, including working with Whole Foods Market to showcase this product in their Specialty departments. McDonnell has been inspired by the work of Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Prize Winner and founder of the Grameen Bank, who is known for his work with microloans that help to "create economic and social development from below."

- Cacao Nacional de Arriba -

The cacao beans for Kallari Chocolate are a blend of several varietals, with the main flavor attributed to the Cacao Nacional de Arriba bean. In 2004, these rare beans were singled out by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity as a Presidia heirloom varietal. Kallari Chocolate bars are currently available in 75% and 85%-cacao content. For more information, visit Members of the media may request product samples by contacting Eleanor Bertino Public Relations,

SOURCE Kallari Chocolate

Copyright (C) 2008 PR Newswire. All rights reserved

Monday, November 17, 2008

sugar, motorcycles and cuy

Did I mention the love affair with sugar? This was served to me the other night. They brought the sugar in case I needed it I guess. Almost always, ice cream? here is some sugar, just in case. How this whole country doesn't have diabetes is beyond me. Minus the extra sugar, this was a delicious treat. Well, about half of it was. The other half was a waste altogether.

One of my favorite things. Almost every appliance store has motorcycles for sale. I am so curious about what the connection might be. A way to take home your washing machine? I don't know. One of these days I will go inside and ask someone why in the world a motorcycle is considered an appliance.
See those tiny feet? Wonder what that is?

National delicacy of Ecuador - Cuy. Translation: Guinea Pig. I know. I did try it today though. I am so glad Ruby was not looking at my face as I used all the power I had to get it down. It was rejected by my tongue and body very much. I hated the flavor, nevermind the mental image of it. I tried cow tongue yesterday and I actually liked the flavor, just not the consistency or the mental image, so I'm pretty sure I just hated the flavor of this. Disgusting. But, I tried it, so good for me. Phil has lived here three years and wont go anywhere near it. Wont even be in the kitchen when it's cooked. Maybe with a jar of sugar............

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday, sunday, sunday

A beautiful morning in Quito. Really stunning. I´m going to head out for a walk in a little bit to see if I can see some mountains from a higher vantage point. They really hide.

We were going to head to Mindo last night or today to see if Ruby´s friend needs some help in his hotel in exchange for room and board, but she called him last night and he doesn´t, unfortunately. That´s okay, there are still some more places to try and I think that in the next couple of days I will just pack up and head out to Guayaquil and the coast and see what I can rustle up. I didn´t want to work in a hotel or something like that at first, but now I just want to be settled somewhere for a little while and not have to repack everyday and have something to do everyday, even if it´s hostal registration. Funny how your "what I want" list changes as time goes by.

Yesterday, Phil and I took a walk to look at the US embassy - it is HUGE and looks like a fortress, the security is very, umm, prominent. And I guess that it goes for at least a few floors undergroung. More secure than the presidential palace. Kind of strange looking in the middle of a bunch of pretty mellow stuff.

On the walk we stopped for a drink called Avena, which he said is made from oatmeal, but it tasted exactly like liquid tapioca without the tapioca balls. It was delicious. I definitely limit my sweets here as it would be easy to eat nothing but, all day long. The food leaves a little to be desired as far as flavor goes - not a country that believes in hot sauce or spice. I don´t even love hot sauce, but usually I wish there were something on the table to liven it up a bit. But, they sure do believe in sugar. I got a desert the other night, it was kind of a chocolate brownie with ice cream and when they brought it to me, they also brought the jar of sugar. You know, just in case. I guess. Even so, my clothes are fitting looser and looser already, so I guess eating good food and excersize does work. huh. who knew. ;-)

So, I think I´ll head back to the house and get out the guidebook and see what kind of thing looks good to do today. I have more photos but forgot the cord so I´ll get some more up soon.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Slide Show

I finally got images loaded and put them into a slide show on the left margin. If you click one of them as they go by, it will take you to the picasa page and you can see a larger slide show. I will work on getting comments onto them, but for now, that took a few hours so I'm going to do some other things now.

Big, Dumb, Dogs

So, as expected, I´m feeling better today, that´s nice. I just got an email from the woman from Sweden and we are going to meet up later for a beer or some dinner and I look forward to that. I went walking for about four hours yesterday which was really great. I went to the Natural Science Museum and that was good. I got some great photos but forgot my camera cord so I will post some later.
I found a wonderful little restaurant where I had dinner last night and breakfast this morning. The woman who owns it says something loving every time she talks to you. Cariño, dulce, mi amor, princessa, and she means it. And she is so smiley and I told her she looks like she should be a salsa teacher because of the way she moves and she laughed and said that she is. So I am going to try to take a salsa class or two from her. I have been wanting to go dancing, but I want to go with a girlfriend or two. I´ve been invited dancing by a few men, but it is so easy to get yourself in a situation you didn´t mean to be in. Especially if they want to pick you up in their car and then you are kind of trapped. Much better to go with girlfriends and be able to spin away at the end of a dance with a smile and a wink. I am hoping that if I can take classes from her that I will find some lady friends to go out with. I will have to dig my dress out of my luggage - no salsa dancing in overalls and tennis shoes!
Oh, there goes another car alarm. When Geoff was here we would call them Gringo alerts, sure that it was tourists in rental cars, but the longer I am here, the more sure I am that Ecuadorians just delight in their car alarms. I´m pretty sure they set them off on purpose every time they go to the car and stand and listen, in love with all the pretty noises. Seriously, there is always always at least one going off. This would make sense since they are also in love with car horns. They honk all the time, for no reason at all, just to hear their cars make noise I think. "Hey! Here I am, I have a car! And it makes noise! Cool!" I have, in fact, seen public service announcements on TV about not honking all the time - good luck with that campaign. Sometimes it grates, but I´m starting to be able to just put it into the background flavor of the country and it is starting to just make me smile.
One of the volcanoes close to the city started erupting the day after Geoff left - good timing as it closed the airport for a bunch of days and people were stuck. I´ve been trying to see it, but the skys are so cloudy that so far, no luck. It´s interesting how matter-of-course it is, nobody seems all that concerned by it. I guess when you live in Volcano row, you become accustomed to them. I am still going to try to go see if I can see it belching though.
I tried buying food to cook for myself the other day and just gave up. It is so much less expensive to just eat in a restaurant (depending on which ones of course). For example, this morning for breakfast I had two scrambled eggs, two pieces of toast with fresh, homemade jam, coffee with milk, and a huge glass of fresh squeezed pineapple juice for $2.50. How is that even possible? But, I like it.
All right, I´m going to head out and find a different hostel for tonight. So far I haven´t found any that I´m totally in love with so I may as well keep moving around every couple of night so at least the scenery changes. Except, the one I stayed at the last couple of nights has a dog named Bruno that I spent a lot of time loving on last night and this morning. I´m pretty sure my improved mood has a lot to do with that dog. He is a yellow lab / sharpee ( i don´t know how to spell that) mix and is just as big and dumb and loving as dogs come. Because dogs aren´t vaccinated for rabies down here, and are mostly used as guard dogs, you have to be really careful about approaching and petting them, so Bruno is the first dog I´ve been able to really love on since I got here. Animals really are amazing for improving spirits.
Love you all!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Gas is subsidised here so no matter what happens, it stays at these prices. Even so, I would never drive in this country. They are crazy. Also, not one of them can parallel park. Every single time, there is someone outside of the car to help them and they go forward and back at least a dozen times. That is my next million dollar idea, parallel parking classes in Ecuador.

One of the promotions that we´ve seen a couple of times is to hire an artist to paint photos with the bar or the liquor or whatever in it and then they give them away through some sort of raffel system or something to the patrons. Interesting idea.

This is scaffolding. No thanks!

This is one of my favorite photos. They often use broken bottles as security on top of the concrete walls. In many ways it is really beautiful and much nicer than the razor wire they use other places. And a much better use of something there is already plenty of instead of buying something new. And very effective.

new post just below!

big catch up!

I am sitting in a hotel room in Quito, a total splurge, but boy is it worth it. I realized
that all of my packing solutions were wrong so I bought a new backpack and am moving
everything around and this is much better. The hotel is next to where my suitcases are
being stored, so that is easier than moving all of it across town and back.

I got the chance to meet Amanda's dad Phil and step mom Ruby who live here and they are
delightful. Ruby of course has many friends and family and is helping me to find some
potential volunteer opportunities so I am excited to see what might come of that. Most
volunteer opportunities here are ones that you need to pay for. Usually $10-15 per day to
cover your room and board, but I think that's kind of silly (especially since a hostel room costs less than that and you don´t have to work also) and so does Ruby so that's why
she's helping me find something where at least I don't have to pay to work. It was
really nice to have lunch at their house. One gets tired of eating out every single meal.
It's not so bad with friends, but when you are alone, it gets old more quickly. Ruby's
daughter also works in the government so she is trying to help figure out what the story
is with the visa change, hopefully it will work to have the option of six months in
Ecuador. Phil took me out for ice cream and coffee and a great visit for the afternoon
about the state of the world and such. It was very enjoyable and I look forward to being
friends with this family. Thanks for sharing, Amanda!

Saturday night I ended up sharing a hostel room with a very nice woman from Sweden named
Carolina and we went to dinner together and then went exploring on Sunday. We went to a
place called Teleferiqo which are cars that go a few thousand feet up a mountain and then
you can take a little walk up further for fantastic views of the city. Of course at that
altitude, a small walk feels like a big fat hike. Geoff and Mark went up there when they
were here and did, in fact, take the pretty hard core hike that is an option. Good for
them. Dang. It's about 12500 feet and the sun is so strong and you can't breathe and you
are immediately dehydrated, no matter how much water you've had or drink while you're up
there. But it sure was beautiful.

After the Teleferiqo, we went to the market and just walked around Quito all afternoon and
it was very nice. It was grand to meet my first friend in that fashion. She does volunteer
work a few hours from Quito to the North so I am going to try to go visit them there before
she leaves.

Today I went to the South American Explorer's Club where I am a member and where my
suitcases have been stored so far. It's a great place with a library and computers and
lots of information and full of friendly people. I met a couple of Oregonians there,which
was fun. I got to swap out books which I'm pretty excited about. Of course, I have TV here
in the hotel, although only one channel. But, it has had some movies on and I got to watch
Spiderman 2 which I hadn't seen yet and enjoyed. I am grateful to Spiderman because
“Maryjane” in unpronounceable and inexplicable in the Spanish language and MJ is no
better – it comes out Angi, which is nice and all, but just not my name. So now I can say
“Maryjane, like in Spiderman” and they understand and can kind of say it, it was nice to
finally figure that out. To be able to have my name back. I was afraid I was going to be
Angi for the foreseeable future.

Wow. It just started pouring rain. After a beautiful and clear day. Small treasures though,
usually it rains in the afternoon. One thing that Geoff and I discovered here was that
there is no moon in Ecuador. So far I haven't seen it. Also the stars are very shy. It's
so cloudy most of time. Even if it's clear in the city, the mountains trap the clouds.
There is a huge mountain close to Quito called Cotopaxi but so far I have not caught sight
of it. People talk about seeing it as though it is some great treat because it comes out
so rarely. The same was true of the volcano in Baños, no sight of it. Pretty funny to be
in the Andes and unable to see the mountains. That is why it is so dangerous to climb here.
The mountains are so clouded in usually and the weather can change super super fast.
Although I guess that when you can get the chance for a clear day, the view is worth the

I am starting to feel more comfortable in this city. At first it just felt to big and
prickly and impossible to navigate. But, now that I've been here for a while on my own,
I'm getting pretty comfortable. The public transport is highly used and run alllll the
time and are super cheap. The pickpockets are out in force though,so you have to really
keep an eye on your stuff. I am comfortable if I only have my day bag, but with my whole
backpack I usually take a taxi because you just can't keep track of something on your
back and the busses are too full to take it off and put it in front of you. Luckily,
taxis here are amazingly cheap and rarely have I paid more than a dollar or two for
anywhere I needed to go.

Love to you all. I very much enjoy seeing any comments - it encourages me to write more, so thanks.

Next day. Tuesday (I think)
So. Maybe mixed CDs was a bad idea. I've been listening to Cordelia's and I keep having to
stop and cry. It sure makes me miss you. Some days I just want my life back. I am hoping
that once I get a mission, somewhere to volunteer and be busy every day and have people around that it will become more clear to me why I am here. I am pretty lonely in this city by myself.

I suspect that I am having the reaction I was expecting when Geoff left, just delayed. The wondering again what on earth I am doing. The vision is lost, or at least really fuzzy right now. Wondering why I wouldn't just be content with a great life. I have to remember that there are reasons I decided to do this, it's just harder and harder to be clear about them. I always thought that it was easier for the person that left than for the people left behind but now I am remembering the other side of it. That the hole that is left behind is easily mended by day to day life but when you are missing home, there is nothing for it. I haven't even been gone for very long, I've been on vacation longer than this and never been so melancholy, it must be projecting the length of the time gone. But, I have decided that I will be home next summer for a visit.

And, God Gave Rock And Roll to me just now, so I am also going to be done with this little pity session and go find a beer and a friend. After I go wash my red, splotchy face. Much love to each of you. em.

And Wednesday morning posting this: I do feel better today. Still a little off, but I´m on my way for a long walk around the city and I think that will help. Always better to get up and moving.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I wrote a nice long update last night on my computer and put it onto a thumbdrive to put on line today but it´s written in Open Office which is not loaded on this machine so I will have to go back to the hostel and copy it over into a text document so that I can open it and copy/paste. I have faith that this learning curve will even out as I play with these things more.
I´ve had a great couple of days in Quito, getting the hang of the city and getting settled into how it goes. Starting this weekend I´m going to go spend a few days or a week with Amanda´s family and that will be nice. I will hope to use that time to get my TEFL finished up so that at least if I choose to do some English teaching it will be more of an option.
At first I kind of hated this city, but now that I´m getting the hang of it, I´m liking it better and better. It´s still hard to get the hang of the Spanish keyboards as just enough is different to make it interesting, but it´s good.
For now I will throw a couple of pictures up to keep you all entertained. love.

1. more ways to get dead.

2. remember the decorated cows in Portland a few years ago? Well, they have decorated bulls on display right now. There are probably 30 or so.

3. Even in Ecuador, they love Texas. There are a number of restaurants and hotels that reference Texas, which makes me happy.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Well, here I am. It is hard to post from the computer at the hostel because the keyboard is sticky and some letters don´t like to go and some letters type three or four random letters with each keystroke. And then each time I hit the back key to correct something, it thinks I am trying to close the page. Oh, the things we take for granted, like keyboards that work.
I went yesterday to meet Amanda´s dad.
Also it thinks that I want to leave the page with each lower case "a" that is typed and goes to all caps each time I hit the shift key. yikes!
that´s it. I´m going to go try to find an internet shop. I´d rather pay the $.80 an hour if I can find one.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


So here we are back in Quito. Geoff leaves super duper early in the morning tomorrow and then I will have to come up with some sort of plan. The SAE, which will be my main resource will not be open again until Monday so I'll just find a hostel that I like and hunker down a little for the weekend. Maybe I'll move over the mariscol which is in new town but the other district where there are lots of hostels and things to do. That will also be closer to Amanda's folks and we're going to try to get together tomorrow.

I will be trying to figure out if I can change my plane ticket, and looking for some volunteer opportunities, and finishing up my TEFL (teaching english) certificate and figuring out if the new law that says I can stay in Ecuador for only three months then have to leave the country for six months is being enforced or not.

So, still lots of things to figure out, but I have a much better idea about how it all seems to work and some areas that I really loved and some areas that I will pull teeth before I go back to, which was the point of having Mark and Geoff on vacation with me.

All in all, I am pleased so far with my leap. The Spanish is coming back pretty well, although as I use it more and more, my English is suffering. As my brain is doing more and more of "I don´t know the name for it, but it is a machine that you put paper in and it puts words with ink¨ instead of "typewriter" then I find myself working that way in English as well. Sometimes I flat can´t figure out what I´m trying to say in either language and it´s pretty entertaining.

Love you all, I´ll write again soon.


do you see the logs? holding up the next floor? this is how concrete is held up in order to dry.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


oops. wrong order again. there´s a post after the photos. one of these days i will figure out a more graceful way to do this. love you!

prayer flags

drying laundry looks like tibetan prayer flags to me.
"please, let tomorrow be at least no harder than today. also, please don´t rain for a few hours"

this one´s for skip

chicken costume.

I don´t know.

I don´t know what this means either.


Oh man, it´s amazing what a comfortable, bedbug-free bed in a clean hotel room will do for your spirits!

We are now in Riobamba, we got in last night. We chose to stay in a hotel so we could get cable TV and watch the elections and I´m so glad we did. We were actually next door eating dinner when the prediction came in, but the restaurant had TV so we saw it there. Fun to know that in the future when we remember where we were when Obama was elected, that it was in Riobamba, Ecuador.

We are in much better spirits today which is nice. Geoff leaves on Saturday morning super early and then I´ll get to decide what to do with myself. I would like to spend as much time volunteering as I can in order to learn as much as possible about the pitfalls of philanthropy and the best practices that are out there. The place we stayed in the jungle has a great volunteer program so I might try to head there for a month or so. I will also do more researching once I´m back in Quito and no longer on vacation with Geoff.

It´s looking like the three month visa is pretty strict right now, though it may shift with Obama´s win. Many people have said that if Barack wins, the US and Ecuador can be friends again, if McCain, then no. It´s very hard to tell what´s real, so I will probably have to get a bigger pack and go through my things and send much of it home. I kept thinking I could pack as much as I wanted because I was moving here, but it´s looking more and more like I will be moving around. That´s cool, aside from costing a small fortune, it is a lesson worth learning.

There was a parade in Riobamba this morning that was pretty odd. Section after section of professionals - mechanics, hair cutters, artisans, secretaries, all the schools. Not sure what it was all about but it took about 45 minutes and we watched the whole thing. Figured that if they were going to the trouble of having a parade to welcome us to town, the least we could do was watch it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

lethargic apothecary

So after this morning´s post, Geoff and I found an apothecary and I asked them for something to help with my bug bites (my bed has bedbugs and I am COVERED in bites) and he went into the back and brought some little bottle of liquid and I paid him $2.50. I was expecting Calomine lotion or something and was sure I needed a MUCH bigger bottle than that, but so far it seems to be working great. Bites I put it on hours and hours ago still don´t itch again. I will try to go back and get another bottle for future use and also some sort of repellent. I have no idea what it is, but it totally rocks.

It´s cold and rainy here today and we´re having a hard time shaking the milaise. First we tried coffee, then booze, and then coffee again, but I think today may just be like this all day. Thankfully we have big fat books to read, so we go from cafe to bar and back, reading and ignoring each other. No wonder people think we are married. We aren´t mad at eachother, just trying not to talk as we´re both in sour moods for no reason.

Cuenca seems like it would be a great town to live in, if you had a house you could go home to and put in a movie and make some food and such, but after a few days of walking alllll day and seeing all the stuff we can find, we´re deciding it´s not great for an extended visit. Of course, neither of us are real big on nightclubs which seems to be what is on most offer here. We head out tomorrow I think it will do us both good to have a new town and a new hostel that we don´t hate.

Somedays are like this. Even in Australia. Or Ecuador.

Love to you all. We´ve tried to post to the video blog, but can´t get it to upload in any of the internet shops we´ve been in. We´ll keep trying.

On a little brighter note, we had a great time wandering around the other night. The street performers are fun and doing good fire and juggling shows. Drunkards love the US and especially Portland. We´ve run into more Oregonians here than from any other state in the US. Nice to have the comradery.

Tomorrow we´ll be headed to Riobamba and decide whether to do the Devil´s Nose train which is meant to be great when the weather is good, but starting at 6am is cold and wet and you can´t see anything according to the people we´ve talked to, so we´ll just wait and see how that goes.

I am tempted to not post this less than super excited note, but it will be good to remember that everyday isn´t a super duper one. I´m glad to at least have good company, even if we are ignoring each other.


I am far too busy scratching bug bites to post right now.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Geoff{s efforts

Geoff wrote a great update and since it{s all the things i would say, i{m just going to cheat and copy it here. Also, the apostrophe key doesn{t work on this machine and it{s driving me crazy. We did go out last night and didn{t make it home until about 430am. Good thing we ran out of money or we might still not be home. A great time was had by all.

Just a quick update from Cuenca (koo-en-ka).
After a grueling bus ride from Banos via Ambato (roughly translated, This means ¨Ecuador´s Angry Armpit¨) Mj and I made it to Cuenca in the South Central highlands of Ecuador. In Ambato we said goodbye to Marcus as he needed to get back to Quito for his flight home, and we continued on. And on. And on. About 11 total hours of sitting in a bus in fact. Not surprisingly, our bodies were cramped and sore from the travel. Once we did get into Cuenca, and hopped a taxi to our hostel we found that they had lost our reservations. Seeing as it is a 3 day holiday here, there weren´t any other options really, and they ended up making us up a room in what was essentially a concrete box next to the laundry. We are seasoned 3rd world travelers, but even this was a bit much. However, things being what they were, we took the room with the promise that things would change the next day. The night turned out to be enjoyable however, as we walked around and watched the celebrations happening in the streets. One such included the lighting of large firework towers right in the middle of the street. Gotta love the 3rd world. No barriers, no cops telling people to back off. No firetrucks at the ready. Just lighting the fuse on the 20 foot tower and stepping back. Goes with the general rule of thumb here: ¨Don´t Get Dead.¨
After waking up in the unpadded cell today, we toured the city by foot, viewed some of the celebrations, markets and old colonial buildings. This city is hundreds of years old, and many of the buildings reflect that. Truly a beautiful place to visit. In between visits back to the hostel to see if there would in fact be a new room for us (various reasons why it didn´t just happen) Mj and I had a wonderful day exploring. Most exciting was that we were able to find a book store which sold English books. Books are worth their weight in gold down here (and are priced accordingly). Already Mj and I have nearly finished the first of the books we bought, and will be consuming the rest over the next few days I´m sure. It´s nice to quench that thirst, especially on vacation.
Tomorrow and the next day will be more local exploration, coffee shops to read books in, and general settling. We were planning on travelling on Tuesday, but may stay and extra night to watch election results with some other Americans we have met in the last 24 hours, seeing as Cuenca is a fairly large city we may be able to find a bar with the results on the TV. We´ll see.
Love to all, G

Saturday, November 1, 2008

this country is great.

See these homemade fireworks?

imagine that bottle rocket fight....

that is all.


So day of the dead is coming up here and everyone has been very industrius cleaning the cemetaries. Repainting and redecorating and fresh flowers and all sorts of things. We went to the cemetary in Baños and spent some time there. Mostly there are above ground - almost like apartment buildings for the dead - hard to quite explain. Mostly the empty slots are empty, waiting for someone to come along and get dead in order to move into them. I didn't mind this too much, but it was when they were just full of crap that it seemed more odd.

great graffiti

So one of the things we´ve noticed here is the graffiti. Most of it is politcal which is interesting. Much of it has had to do with the election of a new constitution a few weeks ago which gives universal health care and guaranteed public education along with giving the environment human rights. Many graffitis have just said SI! -meaning vote yes. "vote with your five senses" - one of my favorites was "god will always forgive you, we will forgive you sometimes, but nature will never forgive you. don't litter."
One article I read interviewed someone who does graffiti and he was saying that when you want to share your ideas, it's really the only way. You could publish a magazine that no one would read, or you could buy airtime which no one would listen to, or you can put your poetry on a wall for everyone to see all the time. It is definitely a different attitude.

and some are just super fun, like the photo here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


So I just uploaded some photos but the only way i could figure out how to put comments on each of them for now was to do seperate posts. So check them out but there is also a new written post after all of them. Or before them. Depending on how you´re looking at it.

Don´t forget to check out Mark´s video blog which is much more entertaining.

I love South America

Most trash cans are differently painted versions of this. I guess they figure you are more likely to throw away your trash if you get to throw it at a clown´s head.

surfing the rio napo

This is the raft that Geoff built.
We named it Haji and rode it down the river with Cesar.

hunting with blow darts

WHOA! I hit it! We´ll have dinner tonight.

monkeys are fun

At the Amazoonica there are a few monkeys that hang out with the staff and other humans, these are them. There are also piles and piles and piles of packs of monkeys that run through the trees. These guys are wooly monkeys. There were also spider monkeys, squirrel monkeys and tamarinds running around wild. That was super fun.