Saturday, January 26, 2008

More Galapablog to Follow

Only about 1/3 - 1/2 of my journal has been posted. After we set up our new desk, (have to get some relatives to cart away the roll-top desk) I'll get back on this project.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

22 July 1989 -- Riobamba, Ecuador

Dear Spence,

Today I'm in Riobamba, a city in the Andes Mtns. This is a market day, but I didn't really come for the market -- it's just that I have to go somewhere, since I'm stuck in this Republico de Bananas for maybe 12 or 13 more days (I wanted to stay maybe five or six extra days.) Oh well, I'll make the best of it. (and this really isn't a banana republic. I was just having a bad attitude when i wrote that sentence.)

I'm getting over a cold. It's cold in my hotel. (I don't think there's any heat in this country -- well, you don't really need it in most places -- it's almost like spring here all year long.) There are only 2 seasons in Ecuador -- wet and dry. Fortunately, this is the dry season. I'd hate to be on some of the roads I've been on if it were raining.

Just went to the market. People have spread things all over the streets -- in addition, there are a couple of markets under big roofs. People are selling anything imaginable. (Of course, I'm sure you'll get to see similar markets in Korea.) Things I saw: frozen fish, fresh fish, dried fish, 50 different kinds of potatoes, fruits you've never seen before, baked pigs (including head), baked guinea pigs (minus the fur -- including the head). I saw about ten of them on a rotisserie -- each speared individually. (note, tried some later, tastes kinda like chicken.)

There are hundreds (at least) of highlands Indians in their traditional garb -- almost all wear a hat, and different groups usually wear different hats.

The people here are so tiny! Kellee and Catherine would be giants here.

What else did I see at the market? Bulk bags of flour, corn, beans, rice, etc. People stack their tomatoes and mandarinos in pyramids. A stack of 6 or 7 tomatoes or mandarinos is about 12 cents. The tomatoes look yummy -- very red and rip, but you should peel them before you eat them because you don't know what was used for fertilizer. There are lots of leeks, chilies, spices, salt, bars of laundry soap, plastic housegoods, etc. -- all very colorful.

What I saw at the Museum of Religious Art:

1. Baby Jesus doll house and tea party.

2. Baby Jesus doll house with Glinda the good witch.

3. Another baby Jesus doll house with little tin soldiers -- the soldiers are wearing blue pants, red shirts, black hats with blue feathers. Green uniforms with yellow shirts, black and yellow hat with black crest. Turkish (?) soldiers? Colonial Siglos XVIII-XIX. Urna (means glass case in Spanish).

4. Baby Jesus tearing his heart out. Grim! All right, he's not tearing his heart out -- he's opening up his chest with his fingers and you can see inside where his heart is. When I first saw this, it looked like he was tearing his heart out. This was an undated statue -- perhaps 18th century.

OK--I suppose i should explain all of that. #1, 2, & 3 were called "Urnas" -- meaning glass case. In each was a diapered baby Jesus near the back, in the center of the case. On the surrounding tiers were various objects -- tin soldiers fighting (I took a surreptitious picture of that for you.)

One display had (among other things) 2 or three figures whose costume, hair and crown, and faces resembled Glinda the good witch from the Wizard of Oz movie. One had (among other things, about 8 miniature tea sets. I called that one "Baby Jesus's Tea Party". When our group went to the Banco Central Museum in Quito, we saw one painting which I dubbed, "Our Lady of the Christmas Tree." Like every other painting was "Our Lady of this or that", and in this one, she was clothed in a green triangular tent dress that had what looked to be ornaments and a halo or two. I mean, it really looked like a Christmas tree.

I'm sitting in the entryway courtyard of the museum. By far the most aesthetically pleasing place I've seen in Riobamba (except for the churches and the restaurant I ate in last night). The courtyard floor, however, is puzzling. It's an appealing mosaic of stone and concrete blocks, trimmed with what appears to be some sort of vertebrae. (cattle? sheep? llama?) Puzzling. I'm just taking refuge before I go out on the streets again. Like the public bathrooms seem to be on every other corner, and if you don't step carefully, you may hit some vomit. I feel relatively safe here -- I just keep my bag close by my side and I've hardly been bothered or anything. I'm not certain if Latin American men understand women traveling alone -- I've gotten some strange looks and comments -- but then, hey-- to an Ecuadorian, I probably look strange.

When I got here, I figured that I'd lessen my chances of getting intestinally ill by not eating very much. Then I got ill for 24 hours anyway and lost everything in my system, and then I didn't feel like eating anyway. The people I stay with in Guayaquil leave stuff (meat and fish and soup) out on the stove all of the time, so i tell them that I've already eaten if they're serving something I've seen left out. Now I eat breakfast (bread w/butter, fresh & delicious juice, and cafe con leche -- a cup of hot milk in which you add instant (or concentrated liquid) coffee and sugar. Then I may have a snack of fruit or break, and then I don't eat until dinner. The altitude may be affecting my appetite -- I don't seem to have one. Or hell, maybe I have hepatitis, or amoebic dysentery, or malaria. The incubation period for malaria is 2 weeks and it's almost been 2 weeks since Marilyn, Emily and I were devoured by mosquitoes along the Guayas River. Great, that's all I need. Stuck in Ecuador with malaria.

Looking out the doorway of this courtyard, I can see the corner with the street names "Argentinos" and "Juan Larea". Underneath Argentinos is a smaller street sign (Longitudinal 7) and under Larea is (transversal 5) Neat! It's nice to know exactly where you are -- remember, no matter where you go, there you are!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

20 Julio 1989: Quito, Ecuador

(This part of the journal is taken from letters written to Spencer. I have tastefully edited out all of the mushy stuff.)

Well, I may be stuck in Ecuador for an extra week or two! We were finished with the Galapagos on the 18th. Everyone else in our group was heading back to the States on the 19th. Some left earlier and they were able to make reservations 3 or 4 days before they wanted to leave. I left myself at least a week and a half, but the airline is full until August 4th, and I'm on the waiting list for that! Fortunately, it's very cheap to live here - $5 a night for a rather nice hotel, clean with hot water. Other not-so-nice places are about a dollar a night in case I have to go into starvation mode. A large plate of arroz con pollo is about 68 cents, and it's enough to last you for two meals. Mineral water is 6 cents, a cola is 8 cents. I'm at a Pizza Hut, of all places, right now, and everything was less than $1.50 (but it didn't taste anything like an American pizza, since they use local cheeses and ingredients.) The worst thing is the taxis. You really must watch out for them. The one who picked me up at the airport here was really outrageous, and I didn't feel like getting the fare reduced much even though I'm pretty proficient at that. "No tengo mucho dinero!" "Vamos a Policia!"

A man in the Pizza Hut just gave a little child selling lottery tickets a slice of pizza. (The same man also had one of the little boys shine his shoes, much to the chagrin of the Pizza Hut management.) Ecuador is nominally socialist, but free enterprise is thriving here. I've never seen so many people sell so many things. One of our waitresses is dressed in traditional Indian garb: black skirt, beautiful lacy white blouse with red embroidery, strands of gold bead around her neck, and long black hair in a braid down her back. (The gold beads are glass Christmas tree strands from Czechoslovakia.)

I've spent the past 2 days wandering up and down the (quite steep and hilly) streets of Quito, and then I'll duck into one of the churches and catch mass. It's not that I'm so religious, but the 20 minute break is refreshing and it's a nice way to view the churches. Not all of the gold in the New World made it back to Spain. One church, La Compania, is supposed to have been gilded on the inside with 7 tons of gold. It certainly looks like it -- almost every inch seems to be covered in gold leaf.

Can you believe that I was in Quito and went to the Pizza Hut?! (I don't even go to it in the states.) At least I didn't go to Kentucky Fried Pollo! There's a theater next door. That Police something movie with Leslie Nielsen is playing Should i go see that or go to La Casa de Cultura? I wonder if the movie loses anything in Spanish? Well, if I'm going to La Casa, I should do it now, because most museums close between 12 and 3. (p.s. I eventually went to the movie and it was in English with Spanish subtitles.)

14 - 18 July -- Galapagos

This was written in Quito a day or so after the Galapagos trip.

Well, my Galapagos journal didn't get too far off the ground. it's not that we didn't have time to write, but whenever I tried to read or write I'd get motion sickness -- not too bad, but enough to avoid those activities while I was on the ship -- and when we were on the islands we were too busy hiking around and looking at stuff to write about it.

Things started out a bit rocky. You load all of your luggage, cameras, etc. and yourself on little boats called "pangas" which take you to the ship which will then take you around to most of the isles. As my panga was unloading, we looked back towards the shore just in time to see a panga overturn! All of the people on the boat were rescued, but when they got to the ship, we found out that they'd lost most of their luggage. We turned the deck into a drying station -- clothes, cameras, binoculars, etc., and everyone donated clothing for our poor comrades. There was a mother and (grown) son whose luggage had been lost in Quito, so they had to buy new clothing there (a bit hard, since they are pretty tall), and now they've lost everything again. This is a bit selfish, but I'm so glad I didn't lose you, my little journal, at the bottom of the ocean!

I had a most fantastic time and I was happy with our accommodations, even though some members of our party were knocking it -- good grief, we weren't paying for first class. We got a pretty good deal for this, especially when you consider that the airfare to the Galapagos and back to Guayaquil is $375! (this is in the late 1980's, too.)

Highlights of Galapagos - seeing the sea lions and their pups lounge on the beaches and rocks. One very young (less than 1 month old) pup chased an iguana across the sand -- it was so funny! (This was at Rabida?) Earlier, the pup came up to our group and did cute sea lion things. We saw so many sea lions that some of us were sick of "cute" by the end of the trip. I also liked the marine iguanas (we didn't see too many land iguanas.) You would look at some rocks and all of a sudden you would see an iguana and then soon you'd realize that the entire rock was covered with iguanas! I didn't go snorkeling because I still had the cold from the beach trip, but those who went said that it was terrific -- the sea lions would play with you and you could see schools of technicolor fish.

One day we saw a herd (school?) (a LOT!) of dolphins. They were far away at first, but then they came quite close to the boat. The crew said that they love to play in the wake of the boat. I know I'm anthropomorphizing (sp?) but they really look like they're smiling and having fun. Of course, the sea lians and the marine iguanas seem to me to be smiling also.. We saw some teeny penguins -- I'm afraid that my photos will just show their white bellies against the rocks.

Birds: Pink flamingos -- they are really white, but turn pink by eating some sort of teeny pink shrimp-like crustacean. i really loved watching them fly, and they had the most magnificent landing with their long legs. it seemed like they just start walking on the water when they land. We say frigate birds with bright red throats, and of course there were the blue-footed boobies with the fluffiest white babies. Too much cute again! One woman in the other group stepped too close to a booby nesting on an egg and got scratched or bitten or something. Flightless cormorants, lots of finches, etc. This was truly sensory overload of nature.

I should have been writing each afternoon and evening. We'd to to one island inthe morning, have lunch about 1:00 on board and reach another island about 3:30 or 4:00 where we'd hike around until dusk. We ran into a few other groups -- in fact, one group accidently took our snorkeling gear and flip-flop shoes that were left near their gear. Fortunately, we got back to the landing site just as they were leaving and they and they haded everything back. The young man who ran their panga just loaded up everything that was in sight.

We spent a short afternoon in Puerta Ayorha (sp?) looking at giant (and some not so giant) tortoises. We walked into town past the T-shirt shops. I was looking for books but could only find T-shirts, post cards, etc. Coming back onto our ship that evening was very harrowing! At one moment the panga and the gangplank would be even, and then at the next moment, the panga would drop down ten feet! Then a big wave would swell up and w would be level with the gangplank again. You had to stand on teh edge of the panga until the guides said, "JUMP!" and then you'd hope that the boat and the plank would stay level until you got on the plank. When it was my turn, i jumped, but then the boat dropped and I had one leg on the plank and one in mid air! It's a wonder we didn't have any amputations.

We did a lot of hiking each day on everything from lava beds to sand mountains. Most of the time the temperature was perfect -- there were only a couple of times when the sun was too bright and it was too hot.

Friday, November 18, 2005

12 July 1989 Trip to Salinas

Eduardo picks us up for the trip to Salinas. It takes about 2 1/2 hours and we pass through a town called Progresso (an ironic name) which really grosses Tom out. OK -- it is pretty grimy, but I guess I've passed the point of being grossed out. I'm getting grossed out hearing people getting grossed out -- especially when we have 2 Ecuadorians in the van. (nb, later I find out Eduardo is from Chile). Anyway, Salinas was fine. I slept a lot because I had a cold. The next day we went to Playas (why -- I'll never know.) I would have liked to have stayed there -- it's less developed -- no high-rises, no Miami atmosphere, but i said that I'd go wherever the group wanted to go and they wanted to go to Salinas and I said fine with me. So I'm not sure why we went to Playas the next day.

We gave Eduardo a thank you gift for driving us around in such good spirits. We've really put him through the mill (he was the driver the first day when I got sick -- he bought me a bottle of agua mineral so that I'd have something to throw up -- how sweet)! He's from Chile. He has also lived in Buenos Aires. He's here because the economic situation in Ecuador is better than that in Chile -- can you believe that?! I thought things were bad here with 30% unemployment among those who want to work! Eduardo has some sort of business -- house painting or house plastering. When he drops us off at lunch, he goes to check out his workers. We gave him a $40 tip - almost the monthly minimum wage here -- plus he's earned some money from the school for driving us around.

Eduardo has a 4 year old daughter (Irene, I think). If he could live anywhere, he said he'd live in Buenos Aires. The owner of the van -- Filoberto is also from Chile. He works with Al for Brookdale, and Al says that he is super. He drove us to Ingapirca and Cuenca. When we were renegotiating the cost of the van for our trip to Salinas, he said that he'd rent the van to us for a dollar -- meaning that he'd take whatever we thought was fair. He said it should be less than what we would pay him for a trip to Riobamba, because Riobamba is in the mountains, and there would be more wear and tear on the van.

11 July 1989 Iguana Park Restaurant

Last day of the seminars. Lecture by Bob Milbury (sp?) on finance -- i.e. it would have been a good idea to invest money in Ecuador over the past year @ 34% interest as the currency remained fairly stable (around 500 sucres/dollar). (However, it has shot up to 591 sucres/dollar as of July 19 -- 537 when we arrived.)

I can't remember what we did in the pm. Oh, yes -- downtown with Martha, Tom, Emily, Ellen and Francisco (some of my favorite people). We wanted to go to some museums and 2 bookstores, but everything closes down between 12 and 3 pm, so we went to a restaurant overlooking the iguana park and had a magnificent buffet for less than $5.00 (about the most we've paid for a meal, but it was very elegant, very artistic food.) There were men in chef's hats serving nicely arranged food -- you could almost forget you were in Guayaquil. If one lived here, could one ever forget one was in Guayaquil? One of the guides in the Galapagos told me that once a whole section of Guayaquil (a nice section at that) was almost totally without water for 3 or 4 months. Well, after going to bookstores, we were too tired to do museums so we went home.

Al and Lupe had a party at their home in the evening. The apartment was packed -- all of the "Reality" participants and their Ecuadorian host families, the Service Learning students, many of the lecturers, many people connected with Laica University and Brookdale, plus many others. Men in suits offered us colas or whisky (just like at the 4th of July at Laica celebration). We had live music and all of the Guayaquinos and/or Manabis sang either the Guayaquil "fight" song or a beautiful song about the province of Manabi. Once again, the food was grand -- everyone was drooling over the Flan de Coco. Actually, a group of us spent so much time discussing our change of plans for the next two days that we missed most of the food! Al thought that we might want to change our plans to travel to Riobamba because of the food strike scheduled for Wednesday. So -- we decided to go to Salinas, the Miami Beach of Ecuador. It's cold, so bring a sweater!

10 July 1989 Land Migration & Children International

I miss the best lecture of the series -- Ann Miles on land migration. After I finally get there, we go to lunch and then go to visit Children International -- a sponsorship program ($12/month per child provides vaccinations, some food, education, etc.) which is directed in Ecuador by Victor Mariduena. This was pretty impressive -- a new program in Ecuador with pretty low administrative costs. We also visited a barrio.

Not too long before our visit it had been razed by the city, but the people came back and rebuilt it. We saw the school (see my pictures). Children International provided a metal roof for the school -- the material -- the community provided the labor. About 60% of Guayaquil lives in barrios such as these.

8 - 9 July 1989

I get "Vomito!" (as Esperanza puts it) and other things in other directions. One nice thing -- the room I was sharing had TWO bathrooms, so I told my roommates to not go in that one. They were so sweet to me -- we didn't have much bottled water, but they gave me all of theirs.

So -- I don't do anything Sunday -- except slither back to Guayaquil. At least I wasn't feeling physically ill with nausea or cramps -- just Vomito!

8 July 1989 -- Otavallo Markets

We get in the van for a trip to the markets in Otavallo. Ellen asks our driver (a student who attends college in Riobamba) if we have enough gas. He says, "Yes, we have enough to get there and back". (about 3 hours each way.) Exactly one block later we ran out of gas!

There is just no way I can describe the ride to Otavallo. It was so beautiful -- I've never seen anything like it n the mountains of Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico or California.

The market at Otavallo was nice. I've heard it said (by someone in our group) that it is too "touristy". Sure, there were a lot of tourists, but would it have been better had there been no tourists there? No one to buy these peoples' handicrafts? My philosophy -- I don't mind the tourists being there if that means that these people are being able to earn a living. I'd rather have a few tourists there than have these people living in even worse poverty.

There were also many (very tiny) older people begging. I gave them all of my 10 and 20 sucre notes and when I was in a cafe, the proprietress poured a leftover cola into one old woman's bowl and I gave her my leftover cheese puffs. There is such a wide gap between the beautiful, spacious haciendas and the beggars in the streets -- but of course, we have this to some extent in our country.

We went to eat at a German restaurant and then had drinks at the "Top of the World" restaurant which overlooks Quito by night. It is one of those places where, if you are a "have" you can escape the world of the "have-nots" -- but how can you really forget what you've seen?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

7 July 1989 -- Quito

(This was written at 2 different times, so it's a bit scrambled.)

Lecture today -- Robert Mix on "Ethnic Diversity and the Use of Human Resources." Mix's best lecture to date. We sort of rebelled and turned it into a question and answer period.

Depart for Quito today-- a magnificent & scary landing!

Quito --
This city is such a jewel. Everyone says that, but it really is. It is such a change from Guayaquil. Guayaquil's infrastructure has been pushed to the limits because of its population growth. The roads are poor, there is garbage in the streets and everywhere, much of the housing is substandard, the utilities rate a paragraph all on their own -- many people don't have gas lines to their homes and the water pressure is poor, (when you can get water at all) and it is recommended that you boil the water for 20 minutes before you drink it. (I wouldn't even drink it then -- go for the bottled water.) The major redeeming quality of Guayaquil is the lovely people, especially the families that most of us are staying with.

But I'm not here to write about Guayaquil -- back to Quito. It was cloudy most of the flight to Quito. We finally broke through the clouds and began our descent into the valley. Such a sight! Quito seems to be a long city with block houses. We were finally picked up at the airport by a car and a pick-up truck. They wanted to relay us to the hotel in the 2 vehicles, but we said, "No, we are all going to ride in the back of the pick-up truck!" So, we were traveling just like everyone else here!

Then we went to the Banco Central Museum -- lots of Pre-Inca and Incan stuff and many religious art pieces that were made by the Indians without any formal training in art.

Then we drove to "La Virgen de Quito en el Panecillo," a statue that overlooks the city from a hill that looks like a mound of bread (hence the Panecillo), and took pictures. Panoramic view of Quito -- blue sky, clouds, mountains -- my words just don't do justice to the view.

Next stop the leather shops, then out to eat. We ran out of gas in our van! Transportation in Ecuador is such an experience!

6 July 1989

Lecture today -- Archaeology of Ecuador with Olaf Holm, Director, Banco Central Museum.

Went to lunch with Ellen and Paul today. Ellen and I both had fruit salad and a beer. Paul found that very strange. Visited the archaeology museum, but we couldn't stay too long as they were doing some work on the building as had to turn off the electricity at 4:30.

In the evening, we went to Laica University where some of us lectured to the classes. It seems pretty lax here. . . Ellen said that she went to her 7:00 class and they were still taking attendance at 7:15.

5 July (not too much to write about today)

4 July 1989 - Orphanage, Changing Money, Buying Stamps, & We are "Distinguished" guests

Mr. M. as a speaker again. The man is a repository of knowledge on the Colorado Indians of Ecuador, but he has a hard time communicating that. Paul is staying with him and he says that he is consumed with his studies. He wants to get as much about the Colorado Indians recorded and verified as possible before they are all gone. The first half hour of his presentation was quite good -- he was interesting, made eye contact and even told a joke -- something about a dock in Esmeralda that was used for contraband in the 18th century and is still being used for contraband.

Then the planes started flying over, the siren started blaring to announce the end of classes, and the boy's gym class started a rousing game of basketball outside our classroom. Mr. M. started reading from his monograph, and I just couldn't keep up through all of that.

Ellen and I went home for lunch and went to the bank to change our cash to sucres. (Remember yesterday -- this bank said they would change cash but not traveler's checks.) Anyway, when our turn in line came, they said -- yes, we change dollars, but we only change so many per day, and so we can't change any for you this afternoon. So. . . we still didn't get to change any.

In the late afternoon, we went to FANN, an adoption agency with about 15 abandoned children. FANN places children both within Ecuador and in other countries. Due to the bureaucracy and new government regulations, they have not placed one child since November! The facility was very nice, the children were clean, well fed, and well cared for, but of course they aren't going to get the kind of care that they could in a home. I think at least half of us had tears in our eyes. I took a picture of one little boy and I picked him up and held him for several minutes. Most children that age would let you pick them up for a few minutes, but then they would squirm and want to be put down so they could explore. This child did not squirm one bit, and he did not want to be put down -- he would have stayed in my arms all day. The same with another child who had badly crossed eyes. They said that his eyes would hurt his chances of being adopted even though it probably wouldn't take much to correct the problem. They said that it was really hard to place children with physical problems in Ecuador because it is too expensive for most Ecuadorians to pay for operations and medical care.

After this we went to the docks, but no ships were in. So, we went to a cambio where we could change our traveler's checks. There is supposed to be a big devaluation of the sucre very soon, so I probably shouldn't have changed so much, but it's such a hassle to get everything coordinated to do this that I just wanted to get it over for the week.

We then got stamps. Another experience -- 6 gringos getting 20 stamps each from the little vendors outside the post office and depleting their supplies. It costs 180 sucres to mail a postcard out of the country. I suppose that you want to know how much that is in $. Well, divide it by 537 (537 sucres per $ -- in 1979 or so it was 5 sucres per $1. In 1984, it was 56 sucres per $1. In two days here it has risen 10 sucres. (By the time I left Ecuador, it was 596 sucres/$1.) Talk about economic problems. It's like trying to stick your fingers in 100 places on a dike to try to fix the economy. (O.K., see the rest of the notes from Walter's lecture. He's the top economist in the country and the editor of the Ecuadorian version of Business Week -- if I can find the notes, I'll add them here.)

Then we went to Laica University for what was supposed to be a little 4th of July party. Well, first of all, we are one hour late. Then we are ushered into the President's office where we are introduced to the President of the University and we all pose with her for pictures. Then we go up to the auditorium and sit down. Then we are ushered up to the stage where the dignitaries of the event are sitting. The auditorium is packed with students from English classes and the air conditioner is broken. We are introduced as "distinguished guests." I've never been a "distinguished guest" before. We were a mess! We'd been running around all day in 34 degrees centigrade. (If you want that in Fahrenheit, multiply by 2 and add 30!) None of us were really dressed the part of "distinguished guest" either.

The program was quite nice, especially the music. First a pianist and violinist, then a folklore group with the flutes and the little teeny guitar and a regular guitar and drums. They were so, so good! They played just a few notes and the students all started clapping their hands in time. Then they played another song and one of the group sang along. This sounds corny, but he really sounded like an angel. They started to leave, but the students demanded an encore, so they did another wonderful folk tune.

Then we were led to another building where there was a reception. They served cokes and whiskey with water. I guess I'm not a whiskey person. They also had nice food. I think that most of us felt out of place because the Ecuadorians were really dressed up and we looked like tourists. But, as usual, the Ecuadorians were so gracious.

3 July 1989

Heard an interesting lecture by Jorge Marcos on the emergence of Ecuador.

The interruptions during the lecture were a riot. First they set up a tape recorder (BEHIND Mr. Marcos) without a tape. Then they got a tape (while he was speaking). Later, 2 men brought in a blackboard and set it up. Then one man came in and looked at a large rolled-up map in the corner. Then he left the room. Then he came back in and unrolled it a bit. Then he left again. Then he came in, took the map up (over the movie screen), then he left and slammed the door. Then a jet flew overhead (we're next to the airport), then some children started their phys. ed. class in the courtyard outside our classroom: "unos, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho!"

Then Eduardo took us to our homes and Esperanza fed us fried plantain, fresh juice, soup with corn on the cob and yucca in it, rice, mashed potatoes, a radish and tomato salad marinated in lemon juice and a chicken breast. All excellent, but I couldn't eat all of it and she thought that there was something wrong with me or the food. We go through this every day!

We get up around 6 a.m. Esperanza and her stepson Ivan leave then to do the school bus route. At 8:00 we have breakfast -- cafe con leche, bread, fresh fruit juice (a different kind each day) fruit (today fried banana), etc. At 8:15 or 8:07 or 8:36 or 8:30 or 8:48, the van comes to pick me up for the conferences.

After Marcos' lecture, Ellen and I tried to exchange some traveler's checks at 3 banks near our houses. The first said they'd change cash but not traveler's checks. The second said they don't change either one. The third said they'd change cash or traveler's checks, but only if we had an account there. (At this point we almost considered opening an account, but decided that it would take more time to open an account than we had time left in the country.)

In the afternoon, we went shopping for handcrafted items with Lupe. I got a very nice panama hat (a misnomer, because they are made here in Ecuador.) Lupe dropped some of us off at a very nice restaurant by a river. It was closed, but she knocked on the door and asked them if we could at least have drinks until they opened (this was 6:30 -- they open at 8:00 p.m.) and they said "OK!" We sat on a terrace by the river and relaxed. We had a surprise, because one of our exchange students at Brookdale from Ecuador (Carmen) walked in -- small world!

We then had dinner. I wasn't hungry, so I had some soup and a potato dish. For 8 of us -- 2 drinks each, meals, coffee, tip, etc., the bill came to approximately $100. This was a very nice place and the service was quite good. It is just so strange to go from extreme luxury to abject poverty in just a few blocks. The restaurant people called us a cab -- it was strange to have a relatively uneventful taxi ride for once. We told him our addresses and he found the main roads, and we were able to direct him to our houses. Ellen told me that when she got home, the bill came to 1200 sucres. I had given her 700. The cab driver couldn't change a 5000 sucre bill (no one can!) so she had to borrow the money from her family.

The restaurant had an armed guard outside. Quite a few houses have an armed and uniformed guard outside. My question is -- from what or whom are they being guarded?

Friday, November 04, 2005

1 July 1989 Hostel Uzhupud

. . . After we left Ingapirca, we started out for our inn/hotel/resort. We drove back through a village (several blond children there) and got on a road to take us to the main highway. After 10 minutes on the highway, we pulled over and Al came back and asked Filloberto a question about the road. It seems that a taxi driver at Ingapirca had suggested that we take another road, but for some reason Al got on this road anyway and now he's worried because there is no traffic. The road wasn't that bad -- better than some jeep roads I've been on in Colorado, but we didn't know what lay ahead. Well, we soon found out. First of all, Filloberto said that he had about 10 minutes of gas left. Then we came to a questionable bridge over a fairly swift mountain river. We all decided to get out and walk across -- even the driver! Well, the van made it across, but barely.

We came around a bend, and there was an Indian with a horse and we asked him how far something was (a gasoline station, perhaps?) Tom pointed out the fantastic chaps (black llama skin) he was wearing -- then I noticed that he was rebelting them! He probably hadn't seen a car on that road for several hours/days/weeks. We finally came to a tiny village and asked if they had gasoline. "No hay aqui." We finally made it into Canaris and were able to find petrol. The scenery on the way home was of course fantastic. The Andes seem so much more expansive than the Rockies -- and of course, in the Rockies we don't have giant ferns and banana trees like you find on the foothills of the Andes.

Our hotel was fabulous. It was a Spanish style building set along a river in a beautiful valley about an hour out of Cuenca. They had hundreds of flowers and many flowering trees -- several with different varieties of flowers grafted onto the trees. There was a parrot in a cage on the patio that said, "Hello! Hola!" Everyone was very nice to us, and the food was quite good. This was a nice break from hot, sticky Guayaquil.

On the way back to Guayaquil we see bamboo power lines and bamboo TV antennae poles. We stopped at a gas station in a little town to get gas and use the bathroom. I never made it to the bathroom because evidently it was pretty bad. (No water perhaps? I was afraid to ask.) Instead we bought colas and mineral water for 8 cents each. Then we stopped at a market across the street from the cemetery and bought baskets of flowers for our families. We had done a lot of shopping in Cuenca and felt that we should get something for our families, too. Esperanza really liked the flowers. I want to return to Cuenca -- we only spent an hour or so there.

As I am writing this in my journal, (Guayaquil, 7:30 a.m.) a man is walking down the street yelling "pepinos! pepinos!" (cucumbers!) Some days a truck goes up and down the street with a loudspeaker -- "camarones, camarones!" (shrimp) The marketing strategies here are fascinating.

1 July 1989 Ingapirca

Off early to Ingapirca and Hostel Uzhupud. We got a late start (of course. everything is late here) and gassed up and stopped every few minutes to take pictures of the most amazing things -- cacao beans drying on the street (pinkish mooshy things), a wild cat skin, little children, invasion settlements, etc.

It took us several hours to drive to Ingapirca. The Andes Mountains are incredible/amazing. What is even more amazing is how people can live at such high altitudes and do such hard, hard work. The houses (of the Indians) are much nicer than the ones we saw around Daule. Many had electricity. All of the Indians wear hats -- even the 3 or 4 year olds. Different groups of Indians wear different hats. Many speak at least a little Spanish. Around here the native language is one of the many dialects of Quechua, the language that the Incas brought to this area.

We had to stop to check out something on one of the vehicles earlier in the day and we just happened to stop by a group of 6 - 8 Indians standing across the road. One woman was holding a bandaged, bloody hand and another woman was arguing with a man and then a man (the same man?) hit the woman (the one with the cut hand) on the side and back of the head with the back side of his machete!!! One of the other men stopped him. A little girl -- about 8 years old was crying -- it must have been so frightening for her.

We saw many banana groves, eucalyptus trees, giant ferns, corn, etc. on the sides of the hills. The bananas were grown very high up -- well, at a higher altitude than I expected.

The people here have such a hard life, yet I'm not so sure that if I were to have been born here that I would want a life in an industrial place -- especially Guayaquil. i think I would prefer the mountain life -- or at least life in one of the villages in the high mountain valleys. I'm not trying to romanticize it, but if I were to be poor, I think that I'd rather be poor in a mountain village than in a city.

The Indian (I'm not sure if they're Incan or Canari, or what -- have to find that out) women dress in a (usually) black skirt that usually has a colorful trim, what appears to be several layers of blouses, topped off with a colorful sweater, leggings and the ever present hat.

when we got to Ingapirca, we walked by a little house where some people had purchased corn on the cob. The people selling it said that they didn't have any ready for sale but that they would have some cooked by the time we returned from the ruins. They gave us some cheese samples that they had made.

The Ingapirca ruins have two main parts. The first part is Canari -- approximately 3000 years old. The Canaris worshipped the moon god. The Incas came to this area in the 15th century and worshipped the sun god, but tolerated the Canaris god until the Canaris were totally conquered.

We also hiked up to the virgin baths (where we all got revirginated!) and saw the most beautiful 360 degree view of the valley. I hope my pictures come out, but they won't do this place justice -- this will just have to be one of those views that stays in your memory forever.

People have been farming here for centuries, and the human mark is definitely on the land, but it is so much more pleasing to the eye than a factory or an oil slick, or a toxic waste site, or a tire cemetery, etc.

A lovely 14 year old posed for pictures (for sucres). She also asked for a pencil for school, so we gave her three -- one was Emily's Dallas Cowboys pencil. Her little brother asked for money for books for school.

We saw several llamas and 2 or 3 colts or whatever it is you call baby llamas.

An old woman was walking around spinning wool by hand. She wanted money for her picture, too. We saw several women walking around and spinning wool at the same time. Later I was to see other women walking around while weaving hats. No wasted time here.

We also saw men plowing their fields with oxen, as well as sheep with unbobbed tails, lots of dogs, people carrying huge bundles on their backs, little children about 4 or 5 carrying the baby of the family.

Next. . . The Hostel Uzhupud

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Day 2 or 3 -- The Taxi Ride from Hell

Today we were to visit a water project, so Eduardo picked us up in the van. The fun started when Al and Filloberto (the other car driver) took us to the cambio to change our money. We met an art student from Oregon who is studying in Guayaquil. We then drove for about 2 blocks and our van started making these horrid noises, so we stopped for a while& then started and the horrid noise was still there so the driver removed the hub caps (?!) and drove off, but that made it sound even worse and they decided that the axle was broken, so Al hailed a cab and put six of us in it and told the driver to take us to the Daule Peripa Damn (that's how it's spelled on our itinerary!) and we were to meet the rest of the group there. Well, as we were driving out of town, I saw a sign that said Daule and it pointed one way, and there was another sign that said Vaya la Playa and we went that way and I thought, maybe that's wrong, but what do I know, and we drove for quite a while and we found this irrigation project but they just laughed when we said "Daule" -- "No, that's on the other side of Guayaquil."

By the way, this was a genuine "mambo taxi" in the tradition of the Spanish film, "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown", complete with fringe on the dashboard, packets of tissue, a carved Madonna and child, the innards of a clock, a child's shoe, and salsa or mambo music blaring from the radio.

And the way people drive here! I'm surprised I haven't seen more wrecks. There may be two lanes on a particular road (judging by size as there are no lines painted) but there are 3 lanes of autos driving. Very heavy use of the horns, but it's usually not a "mean" honk, it's a "watch out, I want to be in your space" sort of honk. Several times I've observed autos pulling up to a red light, stopping and then driving through the intersection. Sort of like how we have "right turn on red" here, only it's "go straight on red!" I've also been told that, "A stop sign is 'only a suggestion'"!

Well, our Mambo Taxi driver wanted us to come to some sort of financial arrangement in the midst of all this. We said, "No, you take us to Al & then you and Al can figure it out." So -- we head in the direction of Daule. And we drive and we drive. We cross the Rio Daule. Aha -- the dam must be near! We see some massive power lines -- aha -- the dam can't be too far -- look! there are the power lines! Ellen smells water. Aha -- we must be close to the dam if we can smell water! We drive through the town of Daule -- through streets that drop off 10 inches. We sort of slide over the drop offs. Aha -- if we're in the town of Daule, then the dam can't be too far away!

Most of the little towns we drive through have a gigantic speed bump at either end at which you must come to a complete stop in order to prevent serious damage to your vehicle. As you are stopping, vendors try to sell you fruit, chocolate, papers, bread, etc. Many of the houses are on stilts and appear to be one room and without running water. Many do have electricity -- when we finally return to Guayaquil that evening we can see the glow of televisions in the little homes. Most of the people seem to be fairly well nourished and many are dressed quite well. In front of one rather squalid shack, I saw a lovely child of about 6 or 7 wearing the prettiest red lace dress. This would not be a cheap dress in the U.S., and I'm sure it's not inexpensive here.

Burning seems to be the dominant method of waste removal here. Along with the exhaust fumes from the car, my lungs were burning.

We kept asking our driver when we'd get to the dam. He'd ask people: "it's not far -- 15 minutes" . . . "just past the next crossroads" . . . "1 hour" . . . "just around 2 bends" -- all given in that order. Thinking back, many of these people probably haven't been very far from home, so their conception of distance may not be that accurate. Also, I found that sometimes people wanted to be helpful, and instead of saying that they didn't know where something was, they would say that it wasn't far, or just ahead, etc.

Finally we decided -- "enough is enough". We stopped at a roadside stand and ordered 6 Pepsis which came to about 240 sucres. (just a few cents) I made the mistake of offering too large a bill (5000 sucres) and then a 1000 sucre bill, which she couldn't change either. Approximately 540 sucres = $1. They also have pesetas (cents), but you can't buy anything for one sucre, so it's sort of ridiculous to have 1/100th of something that isn't worth very much to begin with.

We negotiated a ridiculous price (I don't even want to mention it) for our ride back. (It was twice the minimum monthly wage here.) Did I tell you that the car kept popping out of gear -- he had to drive with his hand on the shifting mechanism on the steering column. We stopped for gas in a little village. There was no pump -- the people brought the gas out in a container and put it in with an old hose.

We saw rice paddies and people drying rice by the side of the road. We even saw people drying rice ON the road. Also -- banana plantations and lots of donkeys and chickens and cattle in the main streets of the towns.

O.K., back to the Mambo Taxi ride. He let us out and we had a nice dinner at the Gran Hotel Guyaquil. Then we went to get a taxi to go to our homes. The first one was like a British "Mini" car. Tom (6'8") couldn't even fit in the back sideways, so he sat in front. The taxi driver's seat was a lawn chair. Before we got in, we asked him if he knew how to find all of our addresses. He said, "yes", so we got in. We hadn't driven half a block before he stopped another cab and asked him where F.A.E. was!

Once again we drove around and around, looking for Manzana trece y cuatro. Once he stopped to ask directions in the right lane of a busy street and the cab died and he had to get out and push-start it. It took us 45 minutes to find Tom and Emily's apartment. Ellen said, "We're finding Esperanza's house and she's taking me home!" No argument from me. We asked one man and he asked the driver, "Do they speak English?" (Ellen is quite fluent in Spanish.) The driver said, "Yes," and the man said (in English) "BE CAREFUL!" Not reassuring. We asked some people if they knew where our block was and they thought a moment and said, (honestly, I believe) "No". Well, it turned out that they were on the corner of Esperanza's block. No one knows where anything is exactly because there's no apparent logic to the way the manzanas are plotted. A lot of people don't know the names of the streets (and the names aren't always posted.)

Later we found out that the first place that we went to was the right place. The person we were supposed to meet wasn't at the dam yet, and the people we spoke to really didn't know what was going on. So we went on that long, strange expensive taxi ride for nothing! (In retrospect, it was a lot of fun in a way.)