Monday, June 15, 2009

Final thoughts

Last night in the apartment in Otavalo:
Rosie: I’m excited to be going home, but I think I’ll miss everybody here, cuz they have corner stores and stuff. I think I’ll miss Ecuador a little bit because the people are so friendly and cheerful. Worst thing: first day of school. Best thing: learning Spanish

Althea: I’m excited to be going to home to see everybody and to talk to people, but I really like it here because everyone is so friendly. I think this is a really good place to live. I’m kind of glad this trip is over; it’s been kind of like standing in the way of planning. Everything is kind of wide open right now.The worst thing was the first day of school; the most horrible thing in the world (At the end of the day, I didn’t even know we had had math class!)

Paul: Wow. I think the dominant feeling is that my pompoms are very tired. I feel the kids’ loneliness very strongly and I try to cheer them on. Oh boy will it be nice for them to have some other folks to be with and talk to. A truckload of great memories and fantastic moments and projects and experiences, and plenty of hard dang work. Looking forward to sifting through it all stateside.

Just had an exhilarating day driving around the valley distributing our possessions to friends, many of whom helped us do so. Like a community workday of emptying an apartment. Hugs to all. Signing off, home Wed. P

Friday, June 12, 2009


Our first kichwa blog post. Just before catching the bus to Quito for World Cup, KD and I were honored to be godparents at the confirmation of our friends' (Julio and Maria) son. Padrino in Spanish, Achitaita and Achimama in Kichwa (which they primarily speak). Catholic mass, the whole deal. Super cool thing to get to see, can't wait for Sunday: we've been invited to eat cuy (guinea pig) at their home, we plan to arrive with briefcase/shoulder bag for son Jefferson and our refrigerator for mom and dad. Fun!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Gol ! ! !

Well, quite a day yesterday. We arose at 5:30 to go be "confirmation godparents" for a friend's 15 year-old, caught an 8:30 bus to Quito, enjoyed lunch with friends - and then braved steady rain to watch Ecuador beat Argentina in World Cup soccer! Only the 3 tiny Guyana countries don't field teams, so 10 teams from South America are in heated competition for the 5 invites to South Africa next year. And since it's a given that Brasil will get one, it's 9 for 4.

We stomped on them. I took my iPod recorder in and captured a bunch of songs and chants. I missed when we 40,000 were calling the bad ref a "son of a prostitute," and when we all chanted "Cry, Maradona, Cry," taunting the legendary Argentine player and now coach, but I caught plenty for a multimedia presentation.

The girls loved it, I'm so pleased and proud. South American World Cup soccer is on the Die Happy list, and we've done it!! Hooray!

I loved the soccer so much! I didn't like the rain very much, but we had some plastic, so we stayed dry (mostly). I thought that the enthusiasm from the audience was the funnest. They all had songs that they sang, and chants for the refs when they 'did something wrong'. It's a lot better than watching it on TV, that's for sure! If Ecuador makes it to South Africa, I'll do anything to watch it! Now that we've been to a big sporting event down here, I think I'm ready to go home. I'm definatley going to miss all the friends we made down here, but I think that it will be nice to be home with all the American stuff and people. I really don't want to forget my Spanish, so I'll practice anytime I get.
C U Soon!

I thought the soccer yrsterday was awesome for two reasons. It was a once in a life time expirence and because WE WON!!!!! When we made the second goal that won the game people were screaming and hugging each other like they just won became the president of the united states! it was crazy and it was so so so fun. When we were walking home some gils were standing on there roof and the were screaming ECUADOR, ECUADOR. I loved it. I will never forget that soccer game or this experience in Ecuador. But i am so excited to get home and see everybody and everything.
See you soon,

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Winding down

Well, it's coming right down to it. We fly from Quito June 17 and have half a week of winding down to do up here, so the days are few. Thanks all for reading and commenting, looking forward to seeing the US of A and many of you very soon. Great opportunity, many wonderful and difficult times, super glad we did it.

Hasta pronto. P

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Oh dear, our longest absence from the blog, I think. All fine, just very mobile and somewhat remote. Not much Wifi in our lives.

Returned from Machu to Cusco, left Peru, arrived The Islands early last week. 5 days on a luxury boat racing to keep up with downloading all the pictures. Stunning, spectacular wildlife, just what I'd pondered it might be. Wow, what a place! A crucible and a cathedral at once; more on that someday soon. Hundreds of pictures from lots of different islands and bays. Rosie saw her first sea turtle yesterday, Al (and K and I) our first shark. Iguanas, cormorant, flamingo, penguin, boobie, rays, friggin' remarkable.

On San Cristobal island, back to Santa Cruz in the morning. Back to Otavalo May 30.

Hugs. P

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Inca trails

The hardcore way to arrive at Machu Picchu is to hike 4 days along the ancient walking route of the Incas; it seems like an awesome idea. Our personal semi-heroic trail to the monument consisted of managing children, keeping up the strawberry yogurt supply, locating lodging in skanky villages and busy cities, you parents get the idea. We made it up there yesterday, and it was stunning. No sunrise due to foggy am, but rounding the corner of a stone pathway and seeing the whole complex emerging from the dawn mist – tears in my eyes. Pick the most stunning Andean col, then apply formidable engineering and artistic vision. On some levels, I’m a fan of those Inca folks.

Today we’re back down towards civilization in a little village that has been continuously occupied since the 1200’s. It’s a bit touristed these days, but I had a lovely couple hours hoofing along some hillsides, often walking on paths that showed evidence of ancient terracing from the 1400’s. I found myself pondering a bit about regime change. As I looked down into the valley at the small peasant patches of corn, barley, potatoes, quinoa and stone irrigation channels, I wondered how much it mattered whether the boss in Lima (or Cusco) was Pucaran, or Incan, or Catholic, or Fujimori. In many ways, and we’ve had a lovely opportunity to see some up close, the folks in the villages are still just raising the cattle and the children, planting the crops, gathering the firewood, wearing the hats (I’m deep into the “Hats of the Andes” photojournal). The government always demands some of your harvest or money, sometimes the power struggle rages through your own neighborhood. The Inca ruins are a ton like the Roman ruins 1700 years later. Would they have caught up without transatlantic interference? Bolivar liberated in 1820; does the 300 year interval determine how it is now? Most of the folks in this village, and my friends in Otavalo, are indigenous folks small-farming along. Will the new norm elsewhere start looking more like this?

Someone has estimated at the time of the Catholic invasion, the Incas had 19 years of food stockpiled in stone storehouses. Then a bitter civil war broke out between the two sons of the emperor (Huascar and Atahualpa), which weakened the kingdom significantly for the convenience of Pizarro and the boys. This fascinates me. The Incas had convinced the populace from Chile to Columbia that overproduction, stone hauling, and supporting The Man was vitally important. But it turns out that they were quickly brought down by internal and external strife. Keeping your eye on the ball can lead to other problems; may we all remember the importance of noticing lots of elements of life. The bee will bump up against the window until it falls down tired; the fly will buzz around chaotically and locate the other exit.

Hugs. Thanks for helping me journal. P

Inca capital

I was excited about a number of stops on our Peru trip, but I had only a vague sense that Cusco was, not in fact the liquor (that’s pisco) but the launching point for Machu Picchu. I’m now a fan! It reminds me of Florence and Kyoto – the sort of place where they’re running a city inside a museum. Not huge like Quito, but tons of beautiful and old architecture. This was the capital of the Inca Empire, and it feels like it. Many of the buildings have Inca walls incorporated into them. And there is lots of the magnificent thing – car-free areas! The narrow narrow streets like Philadelphia and Charleston and lots of Europe. It’s lovely here.

See photos of us crossing the pass from the Titicaca drainage into the Cusco (and Amazon) drainage (a cute baby alpaca and our cute baby gringa) and enjoying the town before heading off to the The Wonder. P

Sunday, May 3, 2009


And then we headed (in a bit of first class bus luxury – photo) from Arequipa to Puno and Lake Titicaca. The highest big lake in the world, at 12,500 it’s a breathtaker on all levels. Much too much to show here, but see some funs shots of our host mom where we overnighted on one of the islands (with the girls’ hats her mom handknit), the mind-bending floating islands where folks have lived on reed rafts for hundreds of years, awesome. And onshore, we ended up staying in the storeroom of a friendly restaurant. See some fun shots of cultural intercambio (ukulele and juggling lessons, recording the kids singing and playing it back for them on the iPod, renting the neighborhood foozball table, lovely.

Back now to civilization – hot bath, internet, TV, coffee, soft beds, central heating. All well. P

Wildlife on land and wing

The condor is a big deal down here, figuring in folklore and religion. In Colca Canyon, we saw tons, up close. Even with our point and shoot, we caught a little action. On the way over, we passed through vicuña country; they’re a cousin of the alpaca and llama – and mighty cute. And this spectacular shepherd ambled over the hill at like 12,000 feet tending the flock. With baby. Amazing.


Just back out of the woods on a great adventure. The last 3 nights have been in the upstairs storeroom of a restaurant and a guest house of a local family on an island in the Lake. Wow, what a spectacular thing to get to see. I´ve been fascinated by this place for the past, well, 35 years or so and am so pleased we all got to see the floating islands and local folks. Stunning. Dang wifi won´t work here, so pix will have to wait. But I wanted our legions of fans to know we hadn´t wandered too far off on a Paddington hunt. Tomorrow to Cuzco as we make our way to Machu Pichu.

Hugs. P

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Colca Canyon

Outside of Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru (after Lima, a coastal monster at 8 million), is the deepest canyon in the world. It drops 10,000 feet from the snowy Andes to a deep gorge. We went. See photo of us in front of the tallest mountain I've ever seen (Ampato is 21,000 feet). We're standing - roadside, just off the tour bus - at 16,500. So that's a mile higher than the summit of Mt. Hood right there on the asphalt (well, it's gravel).

Very fun. All well. P

Sunday, April 26, 2009

In Country

Just arrived in Lima after a long day on the road - taxi to Quito, fly to Guayaquil, hang out at the mall (where we picked up Lonely Planet Peru and a few select English titles for las chicas), fly to Lima. We´re in at a cozy youth hostel, heading further south to Arequipa tomorrow. Photos of the pile o´ baggage soon. All well, 5 weeks on the road. P

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Obama Summit

Their headline, not mine. The perspective from this side of the Caribbean has changed in just 3 months. The Summit of the Americas opened today with every nation in our hemisphere but Cuba in attendance. 34 in all. The organization was founded in 1994 for “democratically elected leaders” only and has transitioned in theme from primarily economic to political. The summit opened with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez leading a charge to broaden the topics of debate to include the U.S.’s obligation to help countries suffering under the economic crisis and to rough us up a little over the Cuban embargo.

My favorite news and opinion source is El Comercio, a business-oriented daily from Quito. Friday, when the summit opened, they led with “Latin America waits for a response from the U.S.” By Sunday, the editorials started off with, “The Obama Summit” and “A New Era in the Americas.” The text of the main article included the description of our President, “a man who seems to listen carefully to every word his colleagues say and to communicate with every word he says the distance that he wants to place between himself and the belligerent policies of his predecessor.” As Garrison Keillor wrote in November, “Now when we travel we don’t have to pretend to be Canadian.”

Also heartening to see the published picture of President Obama arriving at the summit in Trinidad and Tobago. He was welcomed by a full dress phalynx of their military, all looking a lot like him.

The US Embassy is renegotiating a new drug enforcement agreement with Ecuador. The last one went up in a puff of smoke after some high-level police officers in the special investigation unit let US officials (who were funding the unit) review their computer files, some classified. The episode ended up with two US diplomats getting expelled and the firing of the long-term chief of the drug enforcement unit, Manuel Silva. So, how much of that was the computer deal and how much was the fact that Silva had just busted a former sub-cabinet minister, a close colleague of Correa’s chancellor, for cooperating with the FARC’s drug-running business? Sometimes it seems that the President here, Rafael Correa, is so busy being leftist-populist with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega that he’s willing to ally with some pretty shady characters. Meanwhile, Columbia’s President Uribe, an unabashed U.S. ally, has gotten a constitutional amendment passed to allow him yet another term in office. Can be hard to tell who’s got the white hat on around here. - Kristen

Peru !

With just 2 months left here, we’re looking at the list of things we don’t want to miss. High on this list are Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. And so we’re off to the southern neighbor country (get a map) on the 26th. This leaves us with just 3 Sundays in country (important to Paul, who has been invited to be a godfather) and a bunch of miles to cover (Quito-Guyaquil-Lima-Arequipa-Puno-Cuzco-Lima-Guayaquil) followed by a jaunt to the Galapagos where Kristen has landed a week’s medical gig.

Looking forward, will be missing here. Back on May 31. Hugs. P

Pig !

KD scored another soccer tourney, and the team (including the only 3 white folks in the tournament) came in second. Second prize was a pig. See photos of the night awards ceremony, as well as dancing at the pig roast the next weekend. I got to watch the slaughter Sunday am for the noon roast (no aged meat here!), and even hold the flame thrower (if you burn off the fur, you can eat the skin). And our friends dressed KD in the indigenous garb, including the cool hair wrap. P


I was downtown visiting the mayor and noticed a fellow eating breakfast in the park next to his well laden bike. I asked about his trip (boat from Europe to Colombia via Martinique, down the Panamerican) and then invited him to stay with us for a bit. Jarek (Poland) introduced us to Andy (Scotland) and we had a biker party going. Andy had, incredibly, a mandolin stashed in his saddle bags, so we had some fun music – and dancing - as well (see photo of lots of strings in the apartment – Althea’s guitar, Ro’s uke, Andy’s mando, my banjo and charango. 31 strings!) Lovely fellows, great adventures, fun to play host sometimes. Happy trails, boys. P

Mexican Food

Our friend Maria (she and her son Elvis – the 12 yearold hiking guide - have appeared previously here) came to dinner with her boys. We, incredibly, fed them their first-ever tortillas. Questions like “What is tacos?” were an unexpected bonus topic. Folks here eat piles of corn (they have more words for corn than Eskimos for snow), but not corn as tortillas. Why is that? Maria has invited us to be “confirmation godparents” (padrino in Spanish, achitaita in Kichwa) for Jhon (sic) the #3 son. Looking forward to meeting the bishop!


Just a little ways from here is a river valley with a much warmer climate, some altitude related, some just some sort of microclimate. Went for a weekend jaunt with gringo friends Kent and Lauren. It’s super nice for all of us, especially A and R, to speak English with somebody who’s not us. Thanks K and L for spending time with us!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The (other) beautiful game

In one of the great "intercambio" crosscultural moments of our time here, I recently had a chance to introduce two high schoolers to ping pong. These fellows are both on high school scholarships (free education here mostly ends at 7th grade) and they accompanied some visiting donors on the afternoon excursion. We had returned the visiting gringos to their luxury hotel after I tourguided them to an instrumentmaker's workshop and a local museum and waterfall. We had some time before dinner, so I taught these soccer jocks some hand-eye coordination. First time for either of them. I'm not sure that after the 90 minute practice session I could have beaten them.

Lovely. P

Cross culture

Just three eclectic images of different living down here:

Enjoying our friend Vicente's music, girls hanging out with his mom, a neighbor pausing in the back of someone's truck to play the pan pipes (flauta de Pan). Entertaining.

All well, thanks for all the kind words. P

Good Friday

6:30 I’m barely up before the day starts with a phone call, invitation from Julio et famille to join them for fanesca at midday

9:30 Mary and Rayneda arrive, a mother and daughter Paul had met a few days earlier and invited over. R entertains me with stories of her adventures on a 2-month rotation at a family medicine residency here in Ecuador

9:35 Paul arrives home with Yarik, a bicyclist he’s met at the park and invited over. Yarik, originally from Poland, is riding his bike south to Argentina, after departing Geneva 5 months ago and sailing the Atlantic to get started.

11:30 We get off the bus in Iluman and start noticing the steady flow of people up and down the road, carrying small, lidded pots by the handle. The day warms and the sun starts to come out. According to our host, on Good Friday nearly every family cooks fanesca, a thick soup with 13 ingredients, not counting the garnishes, “Then we share.”

2:00 Oops, realize on the way down the hill that I’ve left my change bag with keys at their house. Kids and Paul head into town for Spanish class. The bag found, mama Maria and I visit while daughter Gladys runs down the street to see if our soccer game has, indeed, been changed to 2pm. I got a “no importa” to my concern that blue jeans and leather boots wasn’t what I’d planned to wear for the game. The afternoon has the feel of a mild Thanksgiving afternoon, no one with anything to do but enjoy the day and each other.
Fanesca has turned out to be one of the tastiest food items in Ecuador. Our hostess was up at 3am to stew squash, beans, favas, lentils, corn, chochos… and then on top goes tomato, onions, cheese, egg, parsley, and salted fish. Unfortunately for us foodies, it’s a once-a-year event, although Maria did tell me that the “whities” (mestizos) in Otavalo cook fanesca on the Thursday of holy week. That explains our invitation yesterday where we ate our first fanesca with the family of one of Althea’s teachers. Turns out having a diversity of friends can truly double your fun, or at least your diet.

4:00 The scary team from Cotacatchi no-shows for the soccer match. After a surprisingly short 30 minute wait, we win 1-0 after the ref has us kick off and dribble down the field to score. Assembled women, men, boys and girls, gringos, mestizos and indigenas play a 30-person game on the muddy field. The crowd goes wild.

6:30 Muddy players Kristen, Kent, Lauren and Yarik haul home, having collected another South American cyclist, this time Andy from Scotland. We’re certainly pretty messy, but given the sloshing pots (and one bucket) of fanesca already on the bus, not the only offenders. Upon seeing our instrument collection, Andy retrieves from his bike the mandolin he’s been hauling since he “bought it off an old guy in Cuenca” several months back. Lasagna, bread, bananas flambé, YouCam, “Wild Irish Thyme,” and stories from the road fill the rest of the night.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cross referenceº

Our buddy Kent has a blog, and he has written a bit about us. Fun. See it here

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


We experienced our first of these, and dang it’s no fun. Anna Taft, founder and director of The Tandana Foundation, had been in country for the past 5 weeks but now isn’t. She has been our best contact down here; many of our subsequent projects and contacts have flowed from her work and introductions. We’ve all 4 enjoyed her a whole bunch and are sad to see her go back to Ohio (and Mali and Colorado and Quebec). Thanks, Anita, for all your greatness.

Music program

Both girls have experienced an uptick in their music education this season. The teacher is a wonderful fellow and has gotten Rosie going on recorder (flauta) and Al on guitar. At the recent performance, Al scored a last-minute cameo as backup singer on an English song (You’re Beautiful), plus she was the only student who figured out the chords (rather than just individual notes) to “Titanic” (think Leonardo and Kate, not Pete Seeger). And some students played a piano powered by blowing into a tube while playing. Do we have these in the US? They’re called pianitos here.

And Ro dazzled on the recorder and voice. Notice the gringo parents missed the memo on the Mariachi costume rental, but the rendition of “Cielito lindo” (the “aye-yai-yai-yai” song) was awesome. All very proud and pleased. And a lovely program overall. Nice job, Lucho.

And there has been some great spillover action on ukulele and guitar. Many hours sitting around the apartment learning songs on the instruments. Roll On Columbia, All God’s Critters, Circle Game, Cut the Cake (The Birthday Song), super fun. See priceless photo of Ro arriving in her new Andean hat with her uke in the gig bag. P

Latest Comments