Thursday, November 18, 2010
`(Here I will soon write about our trek from Cuenca, Ecuador to Lima, Peru. )
In Lima, I will leave Kiley and travel on to La Paz, Bolivia, on me own. I suppose it´ll be my responsibility to keep the blog going from there on out. But, Ki, I welcome you to write about what comes up at home! Everything from the dishes dear Deanna whips up for you upon your return to the terrific words your grandma pours out. Always a joy to hear about your family and I´m sure I´ll need it especially around Christmas when I may be sleeping under a decidious tree all alone.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Life in Cuenca has been real. So real that I'm considering staying here a bit longer. I'll inform you all more once I hear back from some job prospects.
Maria headed to the jungle yesterday to do some job shadowing of a doctor there. I'm here in Cuenca relaxing for the weekend. Soon I will go the the mall with my local friends Silvana and Maria Pilar. Not much to do in Cuenca on a Sunday so that's usually where the people go. Maybe we'll see a movie- who knows.
Not much new to report. I just wanted to check in and let you know that everything is going well. Mom, you would be proud- I'm going to church tonight with my friend Kler.
Love to all.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
I'm glad Maria has been keeping you all entertained on our blog because I definitely have beenfailing to do so. Honestly, I think it is because I don't feel like I am traveling in Cuenca, therefore I forget that people might want to know what I am doing even in my home away from home.
It has been so wonderful to be able to spend time with my friends from here. Some days it feels like there aren't enough hours in a day to see everyone that I want to spend time with. This week I'm going to try to be better about going up to Tania's house (Friend that just had the baby) because being down in the center is just so convenient to spend time with everyone else without having to travel by bus.
Usually every afternoon I go have lunch with my friend Sandrita and new friend Blanca. Blanca also now works with Sandrita at CEDEI, so when 1:00 p.m. roles around there's a little party on Calle Larga (Long St.). Maria has been helping teach English at a school so she has not been attending these wonderful dining events. Maybe this week though, as she told me tonight that she probably won't be going anymore.
I have been spending a lot of time writing and reading while here in Cuenca. My friend Prisi and I are doing a daily writing assignments where she writes in English and I write in Spanish. We then swap notebooks and correct each other's errors. Every day we write about a different topic of life. Yesterday's theme was, "What is love? Not who, but what?" Last night I spent the night at her house and it was so beautiful to realize that we were still talking in bed at 4:00 a.m., in Spanish, about life, while I'm now living in Ecuador. Sometimes I forget that I'm speaking in Spanish all the time here. So refreshing and challenging at the same time.
After Prisi dropped me off at the hostel my friend Soledad (Where Maria and I stayed our first week in Cuenca) came over and we made Ceviche for lunch. It's a typical dish here that is made with blended tomato juice with onions (mine without onions), lime, some greens, and our choice of meat was shrimp. This afternoon I then went to the movies with my friend Kler (Claire). Maria opted not to go since we had no idea what any of the movies were. We ended up watching a horrible French movie that was all French with Spanish subtitles. We survived it by making jokes about how horrible it was. Long story short- vampire girl, outcast boy, killer father, ...vampire girl kills the bullies that pick on outcast boy. Most of the movie we spent throwing popcorn at each other and trying to ignore the guy two seats down from me that kept staring at us like a piece of meat, with no shame.
Tomorrow I plan to go up to Tania's. Tuesday we will go with a friend Silvana to a few neighboring towns to help her with some research she is doing for her thesis. Wednesday night I'm going to the Cuenca soccer game with Kler; I'm guessing Maria will join too. Thursday afternoons are with Prisi, and who knows about Friday. Time flies when you're having fun, right?
Hope you all are well.
Written/copied by: Maria
The process of creating a shrunken head begins with removing the skull from the head. An incision is made on the back of the neck and all the skin and flesh is removed from the cranium. Red seeds are placed underneath the eyelids and the eyelids are sewn shut. The mouth is held together with three palm pins. Fat from the flesh of the head is removed. It is here that a wooden ball is placed in order to keep form. The flesh is then boiled in water that has been steeped with a number of herbs containing tannins. It is then dried with hot rocks and sand, while molding it to retain its human feature. The skin is then rubbed down with charcoal ash. Decorative beads are added to the head.
In the headshrinking tradition, it is believed that coating the skin in ash keeps the muisak, or avenging soul, from seeping out.
Shrunken heads are known for their mandibular prognathism, facial distortion and shrinkage of the lateral sides of the forehead; these are artifacts of the shrinking process.
Among the Shuar and Achuar, the reduction of the heads was followed by a series of feasts centered on important rituals.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
The students at the bilingual school of azuay learn quechua, spanish and english. We're having a little fiesta this friday and I was unsure exactly what was the cause for celebration. It ended up being something like they're graduating to the next level. In the picture you can see a hazing of sorts held for the youngin's. A girl is getting a face-full of this whipped egg white and sugar goo for which the name escapes me. They almost dragged me in there, too, but I hid in a corner and shoot my head, "no, gracias." You would have laughed. Pobrecita Maria had no clue what was going on. They managed to get me down there to eat a piece of gum (part of the ceremony) and some of that goo stuff with an itty bitty spoon. it was an eating contest among the teachers. if you know anything about me, you would guess i would have been all about winning that, but i was afraid of the goo. raw eggs! so i ate a little bit to be polite and then, "oh, me! oh, my! it's just too much! teehee. teehee. help me! Look at how cute i am I could never get all that down~" so, basically, it worked. i probably seemed pretty boring from then on out.
For many reasons, I've decided to stop attending the school after two days of trial. Boy, do they need some help. But I'm not the one for it. Not only do they not have computers or internet, but a curriculum hardly exists. For heaven's sake, I've never taught in my life and I was not expecting it when they threw me in a box with 24 fourth graders. "You're late, maria. you're class is starting." Great, well, why didn't you tell me sooner??? wait, my class? what? (I guess the next question would be) where? but i should have just refused. Instead, ya know what thoughts were going through my head???: "Shit, I can't let the children down. I have to do something! These teachers must know what they're talking about. Maybe it won't be that bad. Here I go." and it took me a little while to get the black aluminum door slid open while the children were ooooing and awwwwing. i was a bonafied spectacle. how dare they. The children didn't know a lick of english and they behaved as they should when a show-and-tell gringa stumbles into their quarters. Nothing to write on the blackboard with. No text available for me to reference. TWO HOURS OF NOTHING. well, i did manage to take a tally of how many of them had parents in the united states. Concentrated in chicago and new york, 80% had at least one parent in the us of a: holy cow.
So i've left them to their devices. We'll see how long it'll be before I revisit this teaching thing, but for now I'm going to spend the rest of my precious time in Ecuador being selfish.
Monday, October 11, 2010
We visited just about every lower-end hostal Cuenca has to offer: 9 maybe. That is to say, all of them were nice enough, but our first venture at Hostal Macondo in the end took the cake. Of course, could have avoided the trouble if we had known, but I did enjoy roaming around pretending like we had direction. At least, I felt like I got some hard-learning done. It's best not to look "wandering" here. Hard when I'm consumed with wander-lust like all the other travelers but by slipping into a shop to orientate a bit with the map I can pull it off in the street with feeling just a tinge of dishonesty and of something hot burning under me. Another red flag: walking or even resting in public with a tour book or map in front of your face. I recall passing several big city maps near neat parks/museums/etc. and walking at least ten feet away from them holding my breath like they were roadkill or such. "Oh, but they're here to help me!" I'd think.
Hostal Macondo is an old colonial building from the inside. You can never tell what you'll find behind doors here as, with little exception, they all look like a hole in a cement wall from the front... with occasional shattered multi-colored glass trimming to prevent city monkeys from traipsing. Wood floors inside and white walls punctuated with some colorful art they nailed up the other day. One is going for $2,500 and it doesn't appeal to me.
The staff are all used to putting up with gringos so they are quick to pick up on my sincere attempts to communicate and relate or just smile in gratitude. There's Silvana, 28, who we're most chummy with, two other front desk ladies and the Night Guy. Lady 1 is pretty and quiet and smiles softly, often. Lady 2 works here the most and crunches up her nose a lot when she pushes up her glasses with three of her thin fingers. She seems to always be at something be it writing in this rainbow little kiddy notebook that has scratched on the front in perm. marker: "treasure" or maybe it says "treasurer." or else shes running, literally running around the hostal (ecuadorians dont run often, they just walk fast and decisively like ants with orders) helping out with cleaning, or kitchen duty and then back to the front door when the "dingdong" asks her to buzz a guest in. The other day I saw her picking up little leaves that had tumbled into the courtyard, folding them up into little square packets of brown carbon and putting them into a clenched left hand so they were almost completely hidden and then she was off presumably to throw them away. I haven't met any of the real cleaning ladies who dress in grey with baseball caps- Typically behind-the-scenes-ultra-helpful and i can't help but want to say: ya know, you don't really need to make my bed every morning...I'm here for a month, after all. But they keep alluding me, the four of them tag-teaming my bed. I felt even worse this morning when they picked up my tepid breakfast coffee and milk and washed it for me when i definitely planned to finish and wash it after the jitters subsided from the first even if it was cold by then. And then there's the lead breakfast lady who's always so sweet and considerate when I'm reading in the cafeteria on cold damp mornings and she needs to clean. I'll get up and move out of her way, but we always end up dancing the polite, "no, you, " dance and smiling, "gracias a Uds."
Free internet here. although slow and there's only one sticky-keyed computer available, it seems everyone but Ki and I and the front desker's have a laptop for use of the wifi so it works OK. The included breakfast is soft bread from a local bakery of two types: sugary cinnamon swirled or sesame seed white. Two cute little butter balls and home-made marmalade to go with our toast, cream or hot milk with coffee, cocoa, tea (and hot water), and a freshly-prepared daily juice. Today was papaya which i dont like much, but yesterday was blackberry yum. And then there's a plate of fresh mozzarella to pick over. Today was a particularly rough morning so I ordered two huevos fritos (fried eggs) for $1 extra.
Our room is gigantic: ceilings maybe 12 feet up there and it's gotta be about 15' by 15' on the sides. I don't know how it worked out, but there are five beds in there and we're paying only for a room with two so Ki and I have each assumed a second bed to splay out our pack's innards. I guess we've offered to move if a family ever comes in and needs the space, but for now I'm enjoying the stretch room. Only 2 complaints: the smoking guests congregate near our door and the smoke gets stuck just inside our door sometimes. and everyone has to clomp past our echo-y chamber on the wooden floors to get to to the courtyard and this really bothers at least Kiley.
The courtyard is simple and lovely. orchids, vines, lilies (Cala), papyrus fronds, grass and tables, a giant fake parrot cage around a palm tree with swinging wooden birdies with four foot tails. a hammock (which ill muster up enough courage to use soon... it's just so OUT THERE and other people have rooms that look out AT IT.) If i look carefully at the grass, i feel at home because there are clover flowers there just like un-herbicided lawns at home which is strange for me to think about because I don't really like lawns all that much but i like seeing the clovers.
a I guess we haven't met any of the guests, but im starting to know who's here for the long-term. There's the short round lady and her tall bald husband who are always working on theirlaptops, speaking american english and nuzzling each other. The Norwegian girls who can't speak espanish, but are always asking for more beer and smoking in front of our room. So far, all of the europeans have been stuck in the back of the hostal together as if there was some kind of segregation going on because i know they didn't all come together. then there's the smug professor with the deep voice who never has company and carries around thesame NYT magazine everywhere and yesterday brought 5 musical instruments up into his padwhich is the big one up the stairs overlooking the courtyard. I did talk to him once. he's guiding a group of students from wisconsin whitewater? to teach english in the same school (CEDEI) in which i will be taking quechua classes (starting today at 5!) He said none of them speak spanish and then I felt smug, too.
That's about it on the hostal. A comfy place. I just finished 660 pages of great literature: All the Kings Men and recommend it to anyone who thinks about politics or wants to. Thankfully, for 1$ you can exchange books or rent them from what other guests have left in this locked-up cupboard near where the Norwegians smoke or where i read when they aren't there. I'm eye-ing "The Omnibus of Science Fiction," but wondering if I would get anything out of one more go at the likely self-proclaimed Almighty Vonnegut.
Our address if you have to send anything that's worth sending but not worth your arm because someone might steal it:
Attn: Maria or Kiley
Calle Tarqui 11-64 y Lamar
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Made it to Kiley`s old stomping grounds. There are several dozen people i need to meet so i`ve begun a list. i love lists.
it`s much cleaner than quito.
we are thankfully very near the school where i will be studying. staying with Soledad, a beautiful dama of 26 years who has offered us space and teaches at CEDEI, the school.
everyone is so glad to be reunited with Ki (as is Ki). I feel welcome with all these warm souls.
I was gifted a doughnut by Paulina, a Kifriend who works in the bakery across from CEDEI. Doughnuts are really geasy here.
It`s chilly. I need to get something warm to wear for this month.
I think there are many opportunities lurking in these cobbled streets.
Friday, October 1, 2010
As you can probably tell, Maria and I go to the internet cafes at the same time, therefore you are going to most likely get two new posts at a time. As Maria explained below, we made it to Baños de Ambato finally this evening after a long afternoon of travel. As she sits across the room next to the gringo and deaf man, I´m stuck in the back corner next to the bathroom. Now, when I say next to, I mean literally that if I roll my chair back about two feet and push the door open I can go from my chair to the ¨thrown¨. Which is fine, except for when Maria´s computer neighbors come over here behind me and use the facilities with the door half open. Not kidding. Okay, only one man did, BUT STILL. Don´t worry, I threw a gringa glare backwards and he shut the door. Okay, enough.
Tomorrow we will spend the day here exploring this little town that is full of tourists and natural hot springs. I was here last year and it is a really relaxing place, even without going in the water. After tomorrow we will decide when we are heading to Riobamba, to catch the afternoon mountain train ride. From there we will head to Cuenca.
All is well.
Written by: Maria
Cancled the trip to Otavalo. a market town, kiley has already visited and i dont want to carry anything more. it would have just been to see the largest market in ecuador where most of the crafts are made by the vendors and you can watch small and large animal trades. i can imagine it... farmers market plus the cow palace.
We made it to baños instead. SAFE. and mostly pooped. today began with a trip to the gyasamin museums, both. it smelled so nice in there. a foreign floral scent. his work was straightforward and that was probably the reason he became a minority- a rich artist. ill add a quote from the artist later. ____________ so we started our way to baños at 12:50 this afternoon from Quito... road some city buses with our packs (a big thing. the past two days have been focused a lot on how we, or me mostly, can go incognito SEE PICTURE BELOW) and with a little trust found the bus terminal. squeaky clean space ship like terminal.
got in after dark. the sun sets at 630 in this andean valley. we are both glad to be out of the city. maybe more than glad.
to my left, a gringo. to my right, a deaf man signing away to a friend over skype. he´s excited right now, i can tell. baños is known for its hot springs and hippies so i can wash away some worries. more to come on baños soon.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
It is interesting to me how one big city is just a big city no matter where one is. As we walk down the streets of Quito, there are the regular sounds and sites of a city- cement, noise, smog, and bus exhaust. As exciting as it is to be part of the busseling groups of people that flock down the streets, I cant help but look forward to the quiet streets of Cuenca. Now when I say quiet, I mean quieter. Cuenca is a city of 400,000 people, but has the feeling of a small town. I long to see familiar, smiling faces upon our arrival.
Tomorrow it is our plan to head to Otavalo, which is a city that has large markets in a very small town. When I was there last year the town was without electricity, so we will see what happens this time.
Anything can happen in Ecuador, especially this week...
I'm beginning to grasp why i came back here. it was asked before i left and i never gave a satisfactory response. kind of generating a list:
1 the energy and beauty of the people and land inspires
2 the knowledge and information garnered here is overwhelming but i especially appreciate how it manifests in resilience in difficult circumstances
3 its a challenge
thats a start
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Well, I almost began to write in spanish. not because i wanted to. oh, no. Im frazzled with the pressure to find the words. i think i was scowling too much at the blank screen to get started and so in that time realized- hey, i can write in english. beyond that. past kileys superb patience sprinkled with bouts of chuckles as i embarrass myself. 3 as long as you keep your mouth shut, theres nothing to be embarrassed about. ya know? 3 I QUOTE.
so far, ive learned
1)to watch both where im going- traffic, people, DIRECTION - and the sidewalk. be it dog poop or potholes, quitos got plenty and i think im getting better
2) walk with grace. that kind of goes with 1), but its more for the impression you give to others. no more midwest or even american courtesy. a women slides through a crowd in stilletos. ( i have boots )
3) dont yell in english or get excited. dilute my outward curiousity and emotions. save it for the journal. ive already been laughed at simply for opening my eyes and mouth too wide to point at a purty church. and this bystander wasnt just letting out a chortle. she held her aching sides and she scarfed down a fried desert.
day one. climbed to the top of the basilica. picture to come!
where no one with vertigo could follow...
Well, we arrived safe and sound last night in Quito, Ecuador. A friend of ours, Malory Hendrickson, from Luther, is living in Quito so we are staying with her and her boyfriend. Our flight landed later than expected because there was a lot of fog, which is pretty regular in Quito. By the time we got out to the car with our bags and everything it was almost midnight. After arriving to their apartment it was time for bed, but it was hard for Maria and me to get to sleep because there were so many emotions of excitement and uncertainty! However, it was a great feeling to wake up in Ecuador once again (for me)! We were ready this morning to take on the city and so far so good. Our bellies are full from a good lunch and our cameras are collecting photos. I will let Maria explain the day more from her perspective as a first time visitor to Quito. To me, it is simply a part of Ecuador, and it feels so good to be back to a home away from home.
All for now,
Did we have any flight troubles? No.
Do we have all our luggage? Yes.
Do I have my cell phone up and running? Yes. My NEW number, 011 593 98 979 611
Parents, do you have to worry? No, all is well and we feel safe. ;)
Monday, September 27, 2010
FLIGHT to ECUADOR:
Sept. 27th arrive in Chicago. 28th 10:50 depart O'Hare, Houston 2:25-5:40, arrive Quito, Ecuador 10:59 p.m..
Sept. 29th-Oct. 1st Quito at Malory Hendrickson's.
NORTH OF QUITO:
Oct. 1st-2nd Otavalo, Ecuador: market day, animal trades, arts: hostel El Rocio
Oct. 2nd-3rd Volcan Cotopaxi: hiking, horseback rides / jaunt through QUITO again'
SOUTH OF QUITO:
Oct. 4th Banos/Ambato
Oct. 5th Riobamba: La nariz de diablo / travel to Cuenca 6-7 hours on bus
CUENCA: Oct. 6th-Oct. 31st: Maria takes class, Salinas weekend, Kiley with ~la familia Uyaguari~
POST CUENCA, TRAVEL TO BOLIVIA:
Oct. 31st leave CUENCA to Guayaquil or Machala (depends on bus route): 15 hours of bus: ew
Nov. 1st Lima, Peru : find bus- 15.5 hours to next town
Nov. 2nd- 3rd Arequipa
Nov. 4th Puno
Nov. 5th Copacobana, Bolivia BORDER CROSSING : HI hostel Inca Pacha del Sol then on to La Paz...
From here on out, there will be too many variables to put anything in writing. During the month of October, expect this post to be updated with plans for Bolivia and our remaining time in SA.
Tentative: depart Bolivia Nov. 20th for Lima, Peru / Kiley departs SA Nov. 22nd from Lima.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
My last full day in Decorah, IA, USA: Senimental. Rolled off the white
and blue stripped couch 8:14, forgetting that I lugged out the
belgian-made carpet the night before. The dry bottle of cheap-o Swan
Reisling read, "the joy of filling out the 6th page of your passport." At 4.99, it was ultimately the cheesey aptness of that line that sold it to me last night. I even scanned past my go-to: Wildberry winery Ole Made Lena Blush. The town was empty last night. Went to Amanda Hamp's dance performance at the Art House. Rose Milligan, Hannah McCarger, Kimi Henderson(? new to me) and Alex Lange. Go move dance! Below the apartment there's usually some volunteer in the Clay Studio, the latest limb of the Decorah Art movement, but not this weekend. Even Kiley was fine just relaxing at home in WI on this, her birthday weekend. I carved her a spoon the night before because I HAD to have it done for THE DAY. By this morning my carving "whoopsie" had scabbed over well enough for me to jump on my bike for an early dash around Decorah- another one of those "last" events that have characterized this week.
While wheeling around, took pictures for a scrapbook of my years in Decorah to bring to South America. Lots of stimilating encounters in familiar spots I've neglected. My weird old drawing instructor, "Coach," was painting Dunnings' Spring on an IKEA chair for some raffle and excitedly told me about his new studio/gallery downtown. Harvey Refsal brought me into the bowels of the Vesterheim (Norwegian Museum). Just about as warm as they come, he's apparently some kind of super-star spoon carver in the world and he sold me some rare spoon-carving knife from Mora, Sweden, repeating twice, "I don't mean to take business away from the Folk Store out front. They're great and I support them, but I have the same knives here for less." On my fourth spoon now. I was told to hide away my first spoon so i don't ruin it. the second was for David Sliwa's birthday-the partner of Perry-O with whom I've been interning this summer. Sliwa Meadow Farm has taught me a lot, but after celebrating the 44th annivesary with the two at Magpie dancing to Pine Wilson and Flora V-M? Balcan tunes, i think observing the intense love and gratitude they have for eachother has influenced me most profoundly. Into the third spoon I scratched, "BEAN," my nickname for Kiley. Pulverized a coffee bean and ground it in for color. I think she's expecting a leather journal, but that'll come. Right now the Kitty I found at the Sliwas is using the leather coat rescued from the Depot to cut up for the cover. I'm hesitant to write about what Kiley plans to do, but she has expressed interest in writing a book about her time in Africa next year (peace corps) and I would be so Honored to supply her with a medium on which to write. No hurry yet on that- phew. If anyone else wants to write a book, let me know. The fourth spoon, by the way, is in the making. Buckthorn chopped from Luther's woodlands.
Otherwise, as usual, I'm taking the time to write when I'm the most pressed for time. P R O C R A S T I N A T I O N is me. I revel in it. I wonder if there are any types of jobs that need that type of person. Would need to be supremely dynamic. And if such a vocation did exist, would the constant state of change then become just another routine? and I would lose my golden niche- this thread of anticipation and nefarious action that pulls me in unpredictable directions. Dangerously close to chaos, eh? Jobs. That's something else to think about. Need to give an exiting interview at the coop but none of the management seems to care much about them. FINALLY a chance to say what I've felt so strongly all summer to those with influence and it might be lost if i don't insist. Fear is ubiquitious there- "I could never say that. I don't want to step on/over Mattias." Mattias is the deli manager. I doubt he'll ever read this, but just in case: I do hope he leaves and gets his own restaurant- he's a geat cook but clearly needs help with managing people. More than once I've heard, "You should feel lucky to have this job. There are lots of other people who would love to have it." Sounds like a union-buster to me. That's all on that. THIS IS ABOUT SA: maybe I'll volunteer with a union organizing force there. I might shadow a midwife despite mom's warning that it may be unethical to learn from them considering, "They don't use the most modern (Western) practices and materials available. You may have to watch them kill a child." I hear her and understand her concern. They won't do it the same, guaranteed. I also know that means I will learn what I can't in the states. I can only hope that they will take care in all they do. And that's all I can say on that for now. Definitely volunteering on organic farms in Bolivia. Political unrest is making the connecting part difficult, but I'm encouraged by past WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) that the arrangements are best made while in SA. things like dates and deadlines aren't terribly prevalent there... let alone the fact that farms aren't exactly hotspots for wireless networks so communication will be molasses sticky.
Off to my "last" townie frisbee match. Hope everyone is there. I probably won't get too into the sappy-ness unless Charlie Langton starts me off. I just want to see everyone one more time and smile, PLAY HARD.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
New development: Kiley and I are planning to dye our hair dark brown/black. Apparently, we'll need to bring our own dye packs because they don't sell anything but blonde bleaches on that side of the hemisphere. Can't do much about the ghostly white skin or bluesy iris twins i sport, but i feel it'll still make a difference. cosmetic defense~ gringas incognito!
One more thing. Thought we could go from Colombia to Brazil. Not looking good- the footprint book (tour book from here on out) says there are absolutely no permanent (or even seasonal dirt) roads between Bogota and the western Amazon of Brazil. Besides, Colombian borders are known to be... well... wilder than I may ever want to know.