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.