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.