Wednesday, July 23, 2008


129 Steiss St, Glen Carbon, Illinois 62034

This is the address to my church where we will be hosting a little fiesta post-Ecuador for my friends, family and interested persons.  If you are are on Main Street in Glen Carbon, heading west, go past the covered bridge, past the Casey's gas station and then turn right on the first road after Casey's. At the end of the road is a church, Lifepoint, and parking space for all. :)

If you have immediate questions or concerns, send me an e-mail or place a response to this post.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Home & Fiesta

Hey Everyone,

I made it home safe with only sore ribs, almost another problem with my flight and was home even earlier than originally expected. It is good to be home and I appreciate so much those of you who have read this blog during my time in Ecuador. I hope to return for more time doing adventures and less in the classroom as the country is diverse and amazing.

On that note, we are having a get together for a little review of my trip and time hanging out together this Friday night. Because there may be more people than would fit inside of my house, we will have the party at Lifepoint Church in Glen Carbon, IL. If you have been reading this, you are welcome to come and join us. Although there will not be a formal meal, we will have some finger foods and some drinks, but if you want to bring your own favorite soda, feel free to do so. We will meet at 7pm Friday evening (the 25th of July I think) at the church. If anything changes, I will update the blog. :)

Hope to see you all very soon! -Sam-

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Sorry to have not written much, er at all, this week. My injury in the canyoning experience was a little more intense than I had thought. Or perhaps I simply aggrevated it by my actions on Tuesday.

I have wanted to summit or at least hike up a mountain while I was here and had not had the opportunity due to my intense studies. SO, on Tuesday my professor and I went to the top of the TeleferiQo and then hiked up towards Mount Pichincha for about 3 hours or so. We arrived at the rock base of the final section but the weather was bad (rain and ice) and I didn´t think that I would have the strength with my ribs hurting to crawl up the rocks and summit the mountain. So...about 50 meters shy of the top we stopped, ate and returned. Next time, I will make it to the top....and I did reach a new high altitude for hiking - 4700 meters.

On the way back down the mountain I slipped in the NOW mud from the storms and think that that aggrevated the whole rib thing. The teacher thinks that I had cracked them, but I am still not sure if they are just really bruised or worse. Nonetheless, today I began to feel better and hope that this is a trend. I have my final class tomorrow, my final presentation tomorrow, and have to pack and ....I wish that I had more time here.

That being said, I have done so many CHEVRE things here and hope and wish to come back for more time in activities other than simply studying. It is a beautiful country, relatively inexpensive and wow....the views can be amazing!

I do miss everyone at home too and will try to plan a time where those who desire to see or hear about my trip can do so. I am sorry that I haven´t posted any pictures recently. BUT the reason is that the thieves stole my camera cable and that makes the whole picture thing kinda tough. I hope that I can fix it in the future after I return to the States. Hasta luego.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Canyoning - I survived, but not unharmed

So today was the day of the infamous canyoning. We basically repelled down a small 20 foot waterfall, then a larger 30 footer with water drenching us as we descended. The third was the most difficult because although small the water was very powerful. I had some confidence by then and was bouncing my way down when the water took my feet out from under me, the rope then pulled me toward the canyon wall under the waterfall and a rock jabbed me in my chest - upper left side for me. I then basically fell the last 5 feet into the water below. The rock in the chest hurt a little and I think that I may have slightly bruised a rib or strained a tendon or muscle between the ribs. In reality, it is not that serious but it was one of my two injuries today.

The other was rope burn on my right hand and finally led to slight bleeding. It was SO worth a little cut. I thought I was going to pee my pants as I, with a fear of heights, stood on the edge of the canyon/waterfall looking down 45 135 feet. The guide told me to stand on this piece of plastic, then to go to my knees, and finally slide down. It was then that I truly repelled as I went straight down 6-8 feet from the wall of the canyon, waterfall on both sides of me, and I controlled my descent with the rope. It was SO incredible and I still cannot believe that I did it. Marty from Texas, and his son Hunter, convinced me to come with them after rafting yesterday, and I am so glad that I did this instead of horseback riding a trail. What a rush!

As I am going to so be leaving Baños, I will sum it up. It is a small, safe, beautiful city in the mountains, under an active volcano, and is essentially the gateway to adventure sports and the rainforest. The weather had been poor but today better and I think usually the weather is usually pretty incredible here. More tropical and less rain...normally. :)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

White Water Rafting

I went white water rafting towards the jungle today! Class 3-4 for those of you in the know. We left at 9am and I got to know a group of people...2 Swedes, 2 Texans, 2 Canadians, and a fellow St. Louisian. It was amazing and so fun. The water was freezing and we all wore wetsuits to prevent any issues. At times, I heard loud noises and then realized that it was the rocks moving under the water from the strong force of the water. We never flipped over but there were a few times that I thought that we was crazy!

I am enjoying my time away from the city and when I return, I want to come to visit and stay in Baños for a while. The hostal that I am staying in is clean, cheap ($7 per night) and safe. This whole town feels safe and secure. A nice change from the events of this past week. Baños is a great hub for activities: hiking, mountaineering, cascade viewing, rafting, jungle tours, repelling down a canyon (tomorrow´s activity for me), biking, and hot natural pools of water. The city is at the base of a huge volcano, active and unable to be appreciated from the base. BUT there are tours to the opposing mountain for views of the eruptions at night. is safe.

I return tomorrow to Quito if I survive the canyoning experience. My time here has become short and I wish that I could have done more stuff the first weeks here. The people you meet from within and outside of this country here are nice and interesting. I have met SO many people here volunteering as medical missionaries or on medical projects. It is actually QUITE incredible. It has been a fun and interesting adventure.

Friday, July 11, 2008


I arrived safely in Baños and it is relaxing, but has a night life as well. I have been the subject of an interview in English for some college students, eaten lasagna, found my hotel, decided to go white water rafting, and am enjoying being away from Quito after a long and difficult week. I will try to take some pictures tomorrow, but I arrived at night and only know that way up in the darkness I see the light of a restaurant...the mountain/volcano is HUGE! I may try a horse ride on mountain Sunday morning. I wish now that I could study here... :)

Hasta mañana.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Grand Theft...House?

Sorry for the blogging silence this week. I have been busy studying and recovering from the trip to the beautiful laguna. Plus it has been a sad day and 1/2.

Thursday at around 1pm - 2pm during the afternoon while I was at school (at lunch actually) the house in which I am staying was robbed, the iron gate door and wooden entry door broken, and unfortunately, my laptop was taken. Apparently I was kinda lucky as they got to my room last, having already stolen the computer of Marisol, her digital camera, new cellular phone and a lot of money she had saved/stashed away. Their rooms were a disaster as if the thieves were looking for jewelry. Somehow they only took my computer even though the digital camera was right next to it on the desk and my credit card and passport were in a cubby in the open on the other side of the room. I was really upset but the good news is that all are alive, unhurt and for my part, it was only a computer and not my passport, gifts, or other things that I have here.

The story generally is that the thieves broke into the house while the family was grocery shopping. The mother in law of Sr. Gutierrez lives in a apartment kind to the side and back and came home and stopped in the house to find the robbers inside. She is like about 90 years old. The theives told her that they were friends of the Sr. G. and tried to get her actively involved in one of young Alex´s toys to distract her. Instead, she told them that they were robbers and they shortly later fled the house. When I arrived the whole family was already inside and the Abuelita was shaking from fear of the whole experience. I gave her my warm coat to warm her up and held her and talked to her until she had calmed down. It felt good doing something in this crappy situation. Sr. G. told me that it was the first time this had ever happened, although we have heard that these things can and do happen sometimes. The neighborhood is relatively nice, so two bad people (guy and girl) must have targeted the home or a group of homes. (There was a robbery a week ago, close by)

Normally this stuff doesn´t happen except in the cities and even then it is rare. There are so many cool things to do here and I don´t want this to dampen my enthusiasm for the program here, the country, nor anyone that may want to visit. In reality it could have happened in the US just as easily, but the police in the US are much more vigilant and aggressive than the ones here. Unfortunately.

So...I am taking a mini-vacation to Baños. Check the link attached or type
Only the weekend, but I think that I need it...BAD! :) Also, my journey here is nearing its end. I wish that I had more time for travel and fun, but I have learned alot, and I do miss everyone at home. Hasta luego.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Laguna Quilotoa - July 6

On Sunday, I went to the crater lake called Laguna Quilotoa. It was a 4 hour trip to the lake through the western mountains and really poor indigenous villiages. I went with 2 guides and a man named Alex from Mexico City. Alex had spent 4 years on a mission (catholic) in Bolivia, where he learned the language of the indigenous people, Quechua. So he speakes Spanish, English, Quechua. I found him to be interesting and admirable. He and I shared a kayak, with a hole or more than one, and we both left the laguna with wet bums. I also realized that his tradition with ¨ron¨ really makes sense before climbing. ¡Salud!

The laguna is about the same altitude as Quito, but we had to descend about 500 meters from the summit down to the lake. There is lots of sand and dust going down....and oh yea, it is still there when you ascend. Think walking on the beach only going a sharp degree. In between thinking that my heart was going to explode, I realized again why I hate the stair step machines at the gym. This experience was kinda the same...only worse. The top of the summit has a group of indigenous people selling warm clothes because it is cold up there. BUT when you descend it was a sunny day and I was sweating near the lake. It is a great business tactic...really!

Nothing lives in this lake and it is full of salts. The sheep like it alot though, for the salt in the water. There are kids that take donkeys up and down many times each day, carrying gringos like me up the summit. However, some girls were riding when we were descending and they told us that the donkeys were not comfortable and they wished they had walked...these girls were obviously deranged in the head. I wished so many times for the donkey. :) Apparently the indigenous people drive their sheep, goats and llamas down to the lake and back up every day. These young girls were in better shape than about anyone I know. Keep in mind too that I have been walking miles and miles everyday since I arrived...this climb was tough and I have reconsidered my thoughts about climbing a real mountain. I am not in the shape for that!!!

All in all it was an amazing day. We ate at a nice restaurant, I tried habas which are really good as chips and had an intersting dish of a thin steak, with two eggs over easy on top, rice (of course), avacado, slice of tomato, and papas fritas (steak fries). While it went down smooth with

Coke Zero (plug), I had a mocachino (insert real coffee like a latte) after dinner and wow, I was in heaven. Unfortunately, the family that I live with is TOO nice and started making me dinner as soon as I arrived. When I realized what was going on I tried to get out of it, but was only able to reduce the meal by one bowl of soup. I guess I may have gained a pound through over eating yesterday. :)

Finally the picture of the mountain sticking out is the mountain La Corazón (Heart) and gets it name from the shape wish is kind of like a heart. There is an expression of a person who is hard hearted that they are like the rock of La Corazón. I hear that it is easy to summit, but I think that I will wait until next time. :)

Friday, July 4, 2008

More pictures - Mountains above Quito

All of these pictures are from above Quito. It is beautiful but cold. I wish the day had been started nice and went downhill fast. Therefore, there are a bunch of clouds but if you look close you can see the Volcano Cotapaxi peeking through the clouds in one of the pictures. I wish that I could have rode a small horse in the mountains, but as is normal during the school day, we simply did not have enough time. :(

4th of July

So for the 4th I had to read in spanish part of the declaration of independence. It was pretty tough as the words were somewhat unfamiliar and my pronouncation has been a bit weak lately. But Silvana told me that this happens to everybody, that you feel like you are having a huge step back and then shortly after your learning just explodes...lets hope the second half is better than the first.

I was a chef today. I grilled on a rather rustic, half-baked grill in a flower bed on the 7th floor patio hamburgers and we had chips and a nice cake. The cake was beautifully decorated by a student here who just finished her 6th month and is done at the school. We had a nice party and ate too much...the American tradition, right? I also decided to take a Sunday day trip to a laguna to the south and west. I am kinda excited to be out of the house...I get stir crazy and tired of constantly studying.

I also am shocked that I only have 2 weeks left here in Quito. Time flies and I feel like this is kinda like a home for me. I do miss everyone and many of the US things like driving and my own pillow. I hope everyone is having a fun 4th of July!!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

LIGA LIGA! & TeleferiQo - Gondola Lift

So last night I went to the futbol game, championship game of the University here in Quito versus a university in Brasil. It was a crazy game, long, and the room was once again smoke filled with the nervous tension of the situation which I didn´t fully aprehend until later. Ecuador has NEVER had a futbol (soccer) champion in their history. So I am sitting next to men in their 60´s wishing, hoping, for a victory. Although the referees tried to steal a victory from the LIGA, in the penalty kicks at the end, they pulled it out and won.

Imagine my surpise to see tears on their faces and hugs for all present. It was a point of national pride for this small South American country. Finally they had overcome and are champions of South America. Now they will face (England?) for the championship of the world. On the ride home Sr. Gutierrez kept honking the horn along with everyone else and every street seemed to have people on it at 12am and all were screaming, waving banners, and were so full of excitement and emotion. It was really really incredible! I am so happy for these Ecuatorians.
The picture above is from today...where I am tired but got to finally ascend the lift to the mountains above the city of Quito and WOW the views are amazing! We were at around 4400 meters of altitude which is fairly high. It was cold, colder than I expected on this relatively sunfilled day, and windy, THAT was expected. The weird things was to see airplanes lifting off and turning and YEA, they were still lower than us. I also realized that the altitude sucks the energy out of you when you are hiking up. I think we only ascended another 2-300 feet from the top of the lift but WOW....I feel old. :(
This has been one of the most chevere things that I have done so far. I loved it....and wish that I had the time and stamina to continue to the volcano. They finally caught the criminal that was causing problems so is safe to hike up here long as you don´t take a big jump! interesting thing that I didn´t know...Quito is 70km long. That is a big city!
I will load more pictures soon as this place doesn´t work well with big pictures. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Quito, Studies, More Pics, 4th

Well...I am back in Quito and have had generally beautiful, rain-free days since I have been back. This is an important week at the school as several students are returning to the states and there are not many more than 6-7 students here. At any rate, we are having a 4th of July party and I will miss not being with my friends and family for the event. I have tried to explain the beauty of the fireworks in front of the Arch over the Mississippi, but I am not sure I conveyed it well.

My spanish is improving I think, but when I was talking to another student here, granted she has been here for 6 months, I really felt like I am far away from true fluency...but I guess that is the difficult question. I am able to communicate with virtually anyone here as long as it relates to things I know about or concepts that are normal to staying/living in another country. I have good days and bad days as well and I think that I need to refocus so that I can get a lot out of these last few weeks. I guess like always, the key is to practice, practice, practice...

OH YEA...since it is the 4th of July, guess who has to read the Declaration of Independence in Spanish for

We went to the Guyasamin museum today which was kinda cool, and I think I appreciate his works more. There was one which at first glance was very strange but once I understood it, very profound. It was a painting of a face in the shape of a volcano with its mouth as the crater, the head on its side sort of, and it represented the volcanic eruptions of people who gossip. Interesting, no?

Tomorrow night is important because Ecuador plays Brasil for the South American Cup or something like is about national pride and they normally are the bottom of the barrel team in South America. As you can imagin, everyone will be watching the soccer (futbol) game and I have come to enjoy watching the team as they have been regarded always as underdogs, but have played really well recently. ¡Ecuador! ¡Ecuador! Its the time of futbol and cuba libres...

Finally I am putting a few more pictures on from my trip to the Selva, aka rainforest. The one at the bottom is of the first part of the canyons... Studying indoors for all day leaves little opportunity for new pictures, but I will do my best!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Whole again - mercado

So it is Sunday and I think that I am finally reaclimatized to the altitude here in Quito. It was no problem really when I arrived but we descended about 8000 feet to the rainforest and then reascended that amount in 5 screws with your system a lot. I didn´t eat or drink enough the first day back and kinda felt sick to my stomach Friday and then Saturday morning.

So both of my friends that were studying Spanish are gone back to the states, but before they left the three of us went to an open air indigenous people market in a park here in Quito. Many of the people are from Otavalo, a city known for its native market, and the people love to haggle. I bought a few items but honestly, it was simply overwhelming. There is SO MUCH stuff, all hand made, all relatively cheap, and it is good to take a limited amount of money when you go. The good news is that I got to pratice my spanish and asked lots of questions about where the goods were made, how long they took to make, who made them and I was understood fairly well I think. Better towards the end as I had an hour´s worth of intesive bartering practice. :)

I am convinced that salespeople are the same the world around and even more when making the sale is their entire livelyhood. Ever time you asked about something, the response was - this costs (for example) $8......but I will give it to you for $7. Or I will give a discount for buying multiple things. Or...¿Cuánto?, which means - how much do you want to pay for it. I bartered one item from $10 to $6. It was kind of intense during the negociations, but after all smiles - both sides. I love the indigenous people because they work hard, barter hard, and are friendly to me. Probably because I will buy somthing, but many Ecuadorians are more closed until you have an opportunity to get to know them.

I also found the indigenous market that is open everyday and it is more crazy and harder to look at the stuff. Let me tell you something about the goods...I saw leaves (from trees) that essentially had images tatooed into them and were beautiful. I saw art work made from different types of leaves with different textures and I was just amazed. There are products of jade, clay, wood, algodon, and alpaca. Often an item will take a day to a week to make...especially the medium sized rugs or wall hangings. The paintings are pretty spectacular as well, and many copies of the works of the painter/muralist Guyasamin are everywhere....and quite good too. There are so many cool things to look at and touch and I will try to bring my camera next time to give you an idea of the breadth of goods.

I am going to try and get in contact with my new friend Jamela (see the pictures 2 posts ago) as she apparently went white water rafting, and this left her in the hospital overnight in Tena. I know nothing right now other than though she is safe, she has to miss her trip to the Galapagos. I am so sorry for her. :(

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Picture Explanation

The first picture on yesterday´s post is of Cocoa. The base for chocolate. You can take the white slimy things and suck on them (I found them to be bland) but if you dry out the inside seed it is the cocoa. We did lots of cool stuff at the first camp like seeing a tree that bleeds when cut and is supposed to help with wounds and indigestion. We sucked on cocoa seeds and slept under mosquito nets. The camp was very rustic and did not have electricity, but we used flashlights and candles and stayed up late playing a new card game called Cuarenta (40).

The second, third and fifth pictures are from the second camp, which was a lot more modern with electricity, warm showers and even a small bar. It had an amazing view over looking the river Chico (in Spanish, different in Quechua) - pic 2. I went with Nikki, who is from Minnesota, and our teacher Silvana. We met lots of people from all over the world, some teaching English as a second language in Ecuador (there is a need, but I think it is more of a volunteer thing for the most part), another small group which are trying to help Ecuador community by community (, others on vacation after college for a year from England and from Germany. These people started in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and followed the coast around to Chile and then north through Peru and Bolivia and now Ecuador. We also met other students from the US studying Spanish and even a lady on a medical mission to a city south of Quito. In the picture (#3) it is Nikki, my fellow student, myself, and then Jamela (medical mission) and her friend Justin, who is taking some time to travel and has quit his job in New York. These two were a lot of fun and interesting to talk with. We are tenatively planning to go out to eat tonight in Quito.

The other picture is with Silvana the teacher, me, a different student named Nikki and then my fellow student Nikki. We were at an indian villiage giving books and crayons and toothbrushes to them and then we had the opportunity to buy some hand-made necklaces. It was interesting, but the children were very shy and quickly ran back to the other side of the villiage.

I put a picture of the first Tarantula that I encountered while studying on day 2 at the second camp. While we saw only 3 the whole trip they made life interesting and a little scary for us as there was a gap at the bottom of our doors in which a tarantula could easily enter. Thank goodness for thick towels. :) We placed them under the doors the final night after spotting 2 above the outside of the doors to our rooms. Oh....and the last picture is as close as I got to wrestling an anaconda...the guides found a small boa in the jungle and brought it up to the lodge for show and tell....and to put around our necks. Don´t worry....they are not poisonous....simply want to squeeze. :)

I had an amazing time and climbed up a three level waterfall, swam in a laguna, went down an incredibly strong natural waterslide, ascended a canyon with my feet on one side and my back on the other and then I went STRAIGHT UP! I also walked through an old rainforest, a newer rainforest, and squeezed between some huge rocks that had been cut away by the water.

By the rained at least three times a day and was constantly moist. Thankfully, since we were close to the mountains it was not super hot and stayed in the 70´s most of the time. My clothing took about 5 days to air dry and even then they were kinda damp from the humidity. I recommend simply bringing a mixture of old short and long sleeve t-shirts and then donating them to the garbage can. I had a shirt that was incredibly stinky after my swim in the river during a floating trip towards the Napo river...the Napo is the primary artery to the Amazon.

The wierd thing is that the rainforest is about 8000 feet lower than Quito and I think that yesterday I was struggling to adjust back to the altitude. I didn´t eat much and didn´t drink enough water, but today feel much better. Just need to keep adjusting. :) I will post more soon.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Anaconda Trip - Pictures

Here are the pictures:

I will write more in the morning hopefully as I am feeling a bit tired and worn down from a fun, but long week in the jungle. I really didn´t get enough sleep last night and look forward to hitting the sack. I am going to put a few pictures up (I hope) and will post more tomorrow. The good news is that I survived and had an amazing adventure. :)

I´m Alive

Hey everyone...more soon, BUT I am alive, had a great time, am really dirty, hungry and don´t have enough money with me for anything more than going home. I promise to write later and hopefully upload some pictures. :)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pictures Update...Gone for a Week

Since I am leaving SUPER early in the morning for the Amazon and will not return for a week. I am sorry that I cannot post while I am there but the Anaconda´s rule everything, even the internet and they are quite selfish with it. Therefore, I will be taking pictures and writing my thoughts so that I can pass them on to you when I return.

Here is a picture of me and Alexito.

Alex can wear on me some days but I think that he is a good kid over all. He and I got to be friends over the pictures in my computer of me and my family and then we played the hide the object game while riding in the car the other day. So...I guess we became friends and he gave me a cold. What a trade! :) The good news is that I am like 95% healthy I think and hope that a decent night´s sleep will cure the rest.

To give you an idea of the snake skin on the wall...the little one is the Boa and the big one that will not fit in the frame is the Anaconda. Please believe me when I tell you that it extended at least another 3-5 feet on either side of the frame. This was at the Mitad del Mundo, the Ecuador location, and I unfortunately had too little time to really enjoy everything about the place. I guess it is normal to want to spend more time in a place like this, but as always we want to see everything and simply go...go...GO!

So, for those of you that think that I have a poor taste in clothing, I give you this guy...he is a character in their fesitval of the Sun, which begins tomorrow on the Solstice. He represents the devil, but something else as well. There is a syncritism of the indian religions and Catholicism. The former gods of the sun, moon, and other natural things, have found a connection to a certain Catholic saint and therefore, both are kind of celebrated at the same time.

Anyway, this guy really wanted me to take his picture and his girlfriend tried to get out of the picture. How would you like to date the devil? :)

The next picture is the from the top of that mountain the day I got really cold and really sick. As you can see the weather was not good, but the mural was kinda cool and is fairly normal for the Ecuadorian artists that I have seen (non-indian artists that is). There is a strong connection in their culture between the pre-Spanish peoples and the repression that has occurred in different ways ever since. The two hands are breaking the chains of repression and you have the sun, which represents the importance of the sun now and before with their chief god being, Inti - the sun god. You can see the intermingling of the two religions with the cross and the church on the right. This whole thing was painted on a huge wall about 20´ by 60´ if not more.

The final picture is of a huge head....NOT MINE! :) and me. This was in the church/school/nunnery that I visited and in which the guide didn´t really want to help me much. I really do not know what it means, but there are little faces on the head in different colors and the chain with the rock coming out of the mouth. Any ideas?

So I hope that you all keep me in your prayers as I don´t think that I am in good enough shape to win against the anacondas, and I didn´t buy the blowgun that I saw today...

Back in a week! Hasta luego.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My favorite bread...Pan Guayasin

Here is a pìcture of my favorite bread from the local (to the school) Panadería.


Pictures - San Diego & Graveyard

This is a cross in the cementerio (cementary) near to the church of San Diego. It is crazy that they bury many of the people above ground in these structures and each one has the name and often flowers as well. The bigger buildings are for the rich or more important people here. When we arrived a funeral procession was happening and I tried to catch a picture. Later (as has happened often) I found out that I wasn´t supposed to take pictures here.

Picture Catchup Time

The middle of the Mitad del Mundo. The Ecuator. Crazy stuff here. You cannot walk in a straight line with your eyes closed (of course, sober) on the ecuator. You can (I couldn´t) balance an egg on its head. You can see an old sundial style clock. You can KIND OF see the burning of cardboard style paper by a powerful overhead sun through this glass ball. I saw the smoke and the paper just burn (no waiting...)

I also saw an Anaconda and wrestled him to death. OK OK ...he was already dead and under glass when I got to him...but he needs to look out. :) There was a huge snake skin on the wall...too large for the frame (anaconda again) that had to be more than 40 feet wide. YIKES!

I talked to my dad about this but the water that swirls in our drains and toliets at home in a certain swirling direction, does the opposite below the ecuator...the CRAZY thing is that on the ecuator, water does not simply goes through. Here is a picture.

FYI: I updated a new post that I started 4-5 days ago and it has a new picture on it. :) For your viewing pleasure...

85% For a Day

So after another crappy night, last night, with chills and a temperature, I had a pretty good day. I felt a sore throat this morning and that has pretty much continued but the weakness has diminshed greatly and I went out on a shopping excursion today...for me, but also for the indian children of the Amazon.

I bought books and crayons in Spanish because they do not have much of anything like that. I bought about 15 books and 2 boxes of crayons for them. I think that they will like them and it was kinda cool to see the Viajes de Gulivar (Gullivar´s Travels) and the Blancanieve (Snow White). I also found a bunch of hiking and mountaineering stores. Aparently, we were in the Gringo District because all of the American travelers and businessmen go through here. While many things were of similar prices there were also a bunch of things for a lot less.

Tomorrow, I have to give my speech, take a test and then I think we get more or less the afternoon off. Finally. :) Just for the record, while I thought that the Amazon trip was purely for interest and fun, not so. I have 1/2 day classes each day (including Sunday) and so it will be more learning...both a good thing and a frustrating one. I keep feeling like my head is going to explode with all of the language rules and exceptions and situations that I need to learn. It was funny to hear the niño Alex use the subjunctive/imperative tense at around 4 years of age. ¡No te vayas! ¡No te vayas! Abra la puerta. Abra la puerta. A tantrum by a young boy used to getting his way when he screams a lot.

The weather has been quite nice today. I hope that tomorrow continues the trend. I will try to upload pictures but I don´t think that it will work from here...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The raining Futbol day

Right now, Ecuador and Colombia are tied 0-0 and the game is in Quito, not too far from where I live. I was thankful that the trolley-bus was not too full because I felt horrible when I was coming home. I don´t feel too much better now, but I needed to write and get out of the house for a bit.

I found some Halls!! I am so happy because I thought this country had not menthol tablets for soothing sore throats. How wrong was I? I mean, I should have known, if you have Coke Zero, you must have about everything. I have been taking pills from my emergency pack that are for sore throat fever, muscle soreness, etc. but it seems like they take a while to work. On the other hand I saw aspirin today too but the aspirin may have codine and as much as I might want to try this, Ecuador is not the country to try new medicines. ;)

I got a message from the American government about a danger that can happen on the mountain path to the closest volcano to Quito. I was planning on summiting it, but now am having second thoughts. It will not be this week either way and therefore I have time to think and find out if the ladrones are still causing problems. Que lastima!

I have to give a speech in Spanish (of course) on Friday about the Quitus people who lived here before the Incas and Spanish. I need to write it tonight and practice tomorrow. I really hope that a second full night of sleep with make my mind function well. I did wake up thinking is Spanish, which is not that unusual when all you do is speak it. Well, another tie for Ecuador who had way more chances to score and should have won with 3 or 4 goals. What a strange game?

I am in the internet cafe that hates my pictures but I don´t feel strong and don´t want to walk more. I promise you that there is no way to gain a lot of weight here unless you stay indoors, because I walk everywhere...even when we take busses I still get in miles each day. I hope that it pays off and I can have that girlish figure that I really want - ;)

Today we went to the Cima (Apex) de Libertad (uh...Liberty) where there is a museum of the history of the independence of Ecuador and Quito. It has an amazing view, higher than anywhere else that I have been but the clouds came in with a good sized storm and boom....cold, wet, & tired. Our guide reluctantly walked us around but he was like some military guy and didn´t even know the date for their independence (he was within 2 years). Thankfully, I had my current teacher Laura and she knows tons about everything. She essentially gave me a tour after the tour in Spanish that I can understand. The other guy slurred his words and seemed uncertain....hmmm....wonder why?

At any rate we jumped back on the bus and went back across the city to the school. Today I learned so forms for common expressions and had to practice them. It was pretty difficult. We also talked about intonation and she told me that sinafelas and enlaces are used mainly in poetic type literature. She said is would be too difficult to understand each other otherwise...For me, it cleared up a lot. She also cleared up the idea that while there are normal intonations for sentences and questions, circumstances and the individual will use different forms for the language. (If you don´t understand this part, its Spanish Ed major friends will understand)

So because the city is surrounded by mountains the pollution at times can get bad...I mean, where can the wind blow it....into another mountain? Anyway, the storm I think is helping because it feels like a cool, mountain air day now and very fresh. I am happy with the the fresh air, and wish that I could enjoy it more. I will get pictures up sorry....

Buenas noches.

Still weak...

So, this morning after laying in bed for about 12 hours, I felt much improved. But this afternoon, I started feeling bad, I have a temperature and our excursion was to the top of a mountain and arainstorm has come in to the city. In other words, I am cold and weak....I need medicine and sleep. I will post later if I feel up to it, but I am frustrated with the inability to upload pictures at the internet cafe near my house.

Note to those who will travel...bring cough drops...I cannot find ANY!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Well...I think that I am officially under the weather. My head hurts and is warm and my throat still is bothering me. I think that Alex gave me his was in the throat as well and I think the smoke filled room perhaps contributed to the whole thing. Ah well...I just need to be well by Saturday morning...7am.

We leave for the Anaconda wrestling tournament Sat and return the following Friday PM. I will try once again to post some pictures for everyone...I am going to bed.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Santo Diego - Pics

This is the Tuesday, NOPE...Thursday picture try.

Anaconda Wrestling

I meant to post this earlier...

I leave for the Amazon this Saturday to wrestle anacondas, see beautiful waterfalls, give gifts to Indian children, get really wet...and dirty, and learn about a crazy, hot, wonderful place outside of my previous experience. Keep me in your prayers!!

I am also open to any anaconda wrestling advice. Feel free to give me yours thoughts and techniques. :)

Iglesia de Santo Diego

So today I have a new teacher for this week, named Laura.

This afternoon we went to the church of Santo Domingo, which houses nuns, a primary school & a secondary school. The church is under restoration and there are murals that simply cannot be fixed, but all in all there were many beautiful pictures and staues throughout this church. Unfortunately, no pictures can be taken inside and thus all I have is from outside. One interesting thing inside the church is that there is a hidden passageway to the right of the altar in the main chapel area and to get there you have to push a huge stone looking thing which has to wigh a ton, but is easily moved. Ingenuity at its finest...makes me wonder if we could create something like that now.

I dont think that I mentioned before how many things are made of volcanic rock here but there are many volcanoes, some active, in Ecuador and the rock is smooth and hard and great for floors. Many old churches and govt. buildings have this kind of stone for the floor and at times the walls or other things. In the church today, I found out that parts of it date to the 1500´s while other parts the 1700´s and 1800´s respectively. Of course I am hearing all of this in Spanish so it could have been finished last year. ;)

There are many people online and I think this is the reason that my pictures will not upload...a few more tries and then you will have to wait...sorry. Well....after 4 will have to wait.

One other thing that I was going to post a picture on is the graveyards, mainly above ground and there are thousands...I have few pictures and will TRY to get them uploaded...

Food, Folks and Fun

Yesterday afternoon, we watched the futbol (soccer) game with the brother in law of Sr. Gutierrez and Ecuador was the huge underdog. With some luck and perserverance they were winning 1-0, much to the delight of everyone with less than a minute to go. Well...actually, the game was over, but in soccer they add time for ïnteruptions¨and for this reason, there was still time left when Argentina kicked a tying GOOOOOAAAAAL! But in soccer, there are not tie-breakers apparently and th game ended. Which was really sucky because it was a huge deal to everyone here in Quito.

Unfortunately, I was in the room with 4 other men with an average age of 65 and all but myself and Sr. G were smoking....a lot....because of nerves. So last night my throat hurt and today as well. I just found some medicine in my emergency pack and I hope that it helps. It stinks to have a scratchy throat, but it has definitely reinforced my belief in not smoking.

Apparently, Rum and Coke is the drink of choice when watching a Soccer game with older guys. It was wierd because after lunch all of the girls went to another room to watch the television while the rest of us guys were in the living room. We watched the game on a 20-24 inch television, tube. What a different experience from home!

At any rate, I did not take my camera to the house, but it was fairly large, having three stories, a living room (with a huge painting of a winged, naked woman?), a dining room, a kitchen, at least 4 bedrooms, a tv room, a sitting/computer room, and two bathrooms on the main level. Pretty stinkin´huge. Keep in mind that the rooms are way smaller than most of ours in the US.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Quick Post

So - today we are going to watch Ecuador vs. Argentina in an important soccer match. Ecuador is presumed to lose, but wouldn´t it be cool to see them win. I hope so...never-the-less, I have to cheer with fervor. :)

Yesterday, we went to a mall, or centro comercial, and it was almost identical to the US. The music was modern, in English and popular in the US right now. The stores had everything and more that a US mall would have. AND just as I need to avoid spending too much time there because the prices are so similar.

Last night I found out that I had a problem of communication. The daughter of Sr. Gutierrez is both married and the boy is her son. I thought that it was the son of his son that lives in New York. Everyone had a good laugh and then we looked at each others pictures... I think the rest of the family is beginning to warm up to this crazy foreigner. Until later, buenos dias!

Saturday, June 14, 2008


This was the day that the Gutierrez family took me to a point with an amazing view of the city of Quito. Unfortunately, there were many clouds that obscured an amazing scene. Here are some pictures of the day.

1. Sr. Gutierrez at his home.

2. Sam, Alex and Marisol with Quito behind us.

3. Statue of the Virgin (Mary).

I finally found a location with internet that would accept my here are the events of the day so far. I am kinda tired as I stayed up watching a movie in my room, Tombstone, and have been running all morning. Tomorrow PM I am going with the Gutierrez family to his brother in laws house to watch the Ecuador vs. Argentina soccer game. It is an exciting day, but Ecuador is expected to get crushed. None-the-less, I will be cheering ECUADOR! ECUADOR!...only partly because I might not make home otherwise ;)

I also was able to take a short video of the panoramic view of the city from the Panecilla and it is just amazing how much you can see! Unfortunately it is way too large of a file and so I will not be posting it.

Friday, June 13, 2008


Well...its finally the weekend. Wow...I have only been here 3 days but it seems like a week. Pehaps because I only have 5 of 6 weeks left. But, I am enjoying myself and learning what it means to watch your belongings and be careful of yoru surroundings. I stick out like a sore thumb. BIG, WHITE, TALL...I am surrounded by an average height of 5 ft. 2 inches with dark hair, brown skin, and dark eyes. And everyone in the city seems to be cautious of the others, especially at night. I really need to make a friend to hang out with so that I can feel a little more secure when I leave.

My host family is nice, but I seem to always eat alone. I guess I am like a renter. I am not sure where the family goes, but they seem to be back around 8:30pm usually. Reina, the live-in cook is always there and at least that is nice. She yells at me SAMUEL, ALMUERZO....or CENAR. Anyway, it is good and I am becoming a local...a big, tall, white local. :)

Tonight I ate pork, I think, with home-fried potato chips, rice, 1/2 an avocado, a glass of pineapple juice (the regular), and a bowl of some sort of green broth that tasted like chicken broth. Every dinner has a bowl of soup and every breakfast a bowl of fresh (peeled) fruit. I am quite full, but I have not had a normal cup of coffee since I arrived and I am going to go next door and try a coffee shop.

I am sorry, this computer will not let me load my pictures. tomorrow then.

Tim Russert

This is unrelated to my trip, but I always enjoyed Tim Russert and thought he was fairly balanced. I am saddened by his death and will miss seeing him on the television. I think that there is not a single political interviewer on television that can fill his shoes. :(

Middle of the World

This morning I went to the Mitad del Mundo...middle of the world, where the ecuatorial line runs through Ecuador and nearest to Quito. I saw some interesting things:

- An egg that can stand on its end.
- Water that goes down a pipe from a sink, without swirling.
- An Quechua kitchen and home.
- A guy dressed up in some crazy outfit and it was stinkin´ hot there.
- A bunch of animal heads on walls and doors.

I also learned that my Spanish must be improving because I understood a spanish speaking guide, fairly well...and let me tell you, the dude was like super-speedy-talking guy. I also just finished my first authentic Ecuadorian meal, chicken, rice, and beans. Not sure what else there was in it...and not sure that I want to know. :) I then bought more of my favorite bread and finally, an inexpensive but nice watch. I never know the hour here unless I am in my room at the house.

My climbing and hiking friends: I found out that there is a trolley up the mountain near the school and I will try to get up there in the next week. Pictures to be posted, claro!

So far I have been very safe but the more that I am out with teachers or talking with Sr. Gutierrez, the more I feel the need to be cautious with my backpack and myself. No incidents and I hope none to come, but the key is to be cautious with yourself and your stuff. I will post pictures later...

OH, I took pìctures today of the live Cuy animals. :)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dia 2 - Pic Otra

This is the large cathedral in Quito, but was only finished in the 1980´s. It is beautiful inside and the floorplan is in the shape of the cross. The day was again beautiful with lots of sunshine and beautiful vistas. I learned that Ecuadorians often go to church out of obligation but that there is a growing Protestant population here. I am hoping to find a protestant church to attend this weekend and to see how their services compare to ours in the US.

Dia 2 - Pic

Pictures from Dia 1

This is an older church right next to the school. In fact, I took the picture from the terrace on the roof of the 7 story school. I find it beautiful and the Andes mountains are to the left...these pictures take forever to load so I am going to be mindful of which ones to put online.

What do you think?

Day 2, por la manana

I am about to leave on an excursion to the old district of the city. I promise to take pictures, and tonight I will go to the local internet cafe and publish the new ones here.

Today I have freedom. I have keys to the house and a map of the city. When I am done with the tour I plan to take advantage of the time and will write and contact home. With the problems of the trip, I burned up my calling cards and so will need to use Skype or get another card. I am well and have managed to handle the altitude, the food, and the language better than I expected.

Hoy, hace mucho sol. This means that today is sunny. And beautiful. I keep looking across the city at the Andes and feel the drive to climb...but not today. The weather is warmer than I expected because it has not rained. As a result, I think that I am a shirt or two shy of warm weather, not T-shirt clothing. Perhaps I will find a roperia and solve this problem.

Muchas gracias para su apoyo. Hasta luego.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My first day...

So, for those of you interested in studying Spanish...if the first day is any indication, this is the place for you. I have not spoken a complete English sentence in 30 hours. My morning was dictated by an instructor named Norma. She has been teaching for a long time at the language school and this puts her in the upper middle class at the minimum.

OK...some things are crazy here. The gasoline is less than $2.00 per gallon. The bread items that I got for lunch were $0.40 and $0.15 cents respectively. The bottled water was little more. AND the bread was SO good. AND I spoke to the vender to buy it.... in Spanish.
My hiking friends will definitely appreciate the pcitures that I hope to post tomorrow. THis city of 2 million people is nestled in between both sides of the Andes mountains in a valley....the valley is at an elevation of 9000 ft!!!

I spent the afternoon with Norda, a different instructor, at an art museum, bought a picture/poster (future spanish class), and walked. Oh...did I mention that I walked...A LOT! I promise that if I weigh more when I return than when I left, you have my full consent to kick the snot out of me. I probably put in 4 miles today at least....and this was up...and down...doging cars...

NEW TOPIC: Ecuadorian roads are like a crack induced version of Frogger. Every care decides that two lanes are better than one and continuously sway between them...dodging people, cars, dogs, busses, and me (yea I realize that I am a person, but it is more dramatic this way). Seriously strange is the fact that 1) there are stoplights and 2) rarely are they obeyed. I was in my host family´s car tongiht and we decided that the red was an irudescent color of green....zoom....straight on through.

In spite of the weather declaring rain, the sun came out and I think that I am a little pink. It heated up into the mid 80s for sure and I felt toasty. But the sun went down and the temp dropped about 20 degrees. Very strange but very cool... (yea...pardon the pun)

A last note: to those that have sent e-mails and posts, funny or interesting, THANK YOU. It makes home easier to remember and helps me enjoy my down time. Hasta manana.


So for all of you that are wondering. I made it!!!

The hosting family is nice and the weather has become beautiful on this first day of learning Spanish. I am homesick and yet excited about the trip. The Andes mountains are everywhere, beautiful, and I so want to go and climb them. I will try to get some pictures fromt he terrace this PM and post them as able.

BTW...take headache medicine when you are trying to learn or improve Spanish through the immersion method.

Paz afuera!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Passport ARRIVAL!

So FedEx was way late due to weather, but I could care less now. My passport is in hand!!!!

I am leaving on the 3:40pm to Quito and will try to write later as able. A quick thank you to everyone who has helped me with/ through this situation. I will post as soon as I can.

Voy a Ecuador!

The Troubles Continue

So it is now June 10th, and I am still in Miami.  American Airlines told me that they would have my passport on a flight from St. Louis to Miami and I waited patiently, anxiously, for the passport to arrive.  This was the second time that my hopes were dashed waiting for the promises, broken promises, of the AA people.  It seemed so simple.

Thankfully my dad is gracious and kind.  He drove over immediately, picked up my passport physically, probably broke some land speed records trying to get to FEDEX and now I have been tracking a passport that is soon to arrive.  

My recommendations are:

- NEVER lose your passport.  It is TOO expensive to replace quickly and TOO difficult to deal with airlines, especially when they are fighting rising gas costs and understaffing.

- When in troubles, spend the extra $10-15 for a business-oriented hotel, like my plug for the Wyndham.  They have been helpful, friendly, the rooms are clean & contain nice amenities.  I slept well, was provided some much needed tolietries (mine are in Ecuador right now) and have been able to get answers to questions that I have had from flight times to how Fedex works at this hotel. (

- When stuck dealing with airport problems, drink water more than soda or coffee, except in the morning as the coffee will help.  :) You will feel better and your body won't freak out too much.

Monday, June 9, 2008 people in our nation don't have maps...

With a nod to the information that I learned from Miss South Carolina, I wanted to keep everyone informed of US geography and where I am right now.  Hopefully I will leave this hispanic culture for another soon. 

The Troubles

For all of you fans of my travels, it would be important to give you an update.

The Spanish language is spoken much faster MIAMI!  

Unfortunately, I lost my passport, it was found in St. Louis, supposed to be sent here this morning, but the right guy was not reached.  Red Roof Inns are not that nice I found out. :(
Now I am assured that the passport will arrive tonight, but unfortunately, the flight to Quito 
leaves before that.  

SO another day in Miami, learning the language, checking out the customs, trying the food. :)

My plan now that I have had sleep is to find a good breakfast, with strong coffee, and work on the internet and on my left over class work.  God knows I have the time now.  I will try to update everyone later.  

Sunday, June 8, 2008

First Stage...

My cut and paste option is not working so I will just say that:

I am in Miami, Florida.

Starbucks can only overcome no sleep for so long and then the body succumbs to tiredness.

I hear more Spanish spoken in this airport than English.

Approximately 2 hours to flight take off to Quito!!! 

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Map

32 Hours 'til Launch

32 Hours and Counting Down...

These last three weeks have been a whirlwind.  For those that do not know, I have been taking to intensive education classes back to back 4-5 days for 2 weeks.  I have learned a lot and been challenged to be a better teacher, but shoot, can we do this next time over at least 1 month...per class. :)

So here I am, counting down the hours until I take my American Airlines flight to Ecuador, or Endor, or South of the Border...WAY SOUTH!  I am excited, but nervous.  This trip will be challenging, eye-opening, lonely (at times), extended, and holds risks, some of which I only realized in the last month.  BUT I feel the anticipation of doing something new and challenging, of being the bearer of stories from exotic lands that most will never see.

I have not been very faithful in writing in this blog, but as the internet access allows, I plan to at least write regularly while I am away and will post pictures as I can.  I appreciate your support and would love to hear from all of my friends from here in the States.  So please drop me a note and keep me in your prayers.  


Friday, May 23, 2008


So while I am in reality taking a trip to Ecuador, some of my comedic friends believe that I am indeed going to a galaxy far, far away...
It made me laugh but I doubt seriously that I will run into any Ewoks in Ecuador.

Hawn & Friends

Last weekend I went to Hawn State Park in Missouri and did a late day Saturday hike in to camp at the southernmost point on the south loop. For various reasons, I went alone but I really needed the getaway from work, school, and home just to experience nature and relax. The weekend did not go as planned but worked out well in the end.

Hiking in beautiful weather with no adverse weather conditions shown on the radar or on television... who would have expected that it would rain all night.

Hiking on beautiful, well-maintained trails...who would have expected to be attacked by a family of ticks. (none attached...just on the clothes)

Hiking alone....who would have expected to spend 1.5 hours talking to new friends.

I met some really nice guys who do adventure racing. Check out their site:

I will put up some pictures soon!

School Craziness

So if taking one summer class is not enough, I found out that I may not get into a fall class and need to take a 2 week intensive summer course...while I am taking a three week intensive education course...AND preparing for my trip to Ecuador. I think that I may be biting off more than I can chew, but that seems to be normal right now.

The good news is that I have continued to do well in school, achieving high marks in my classes, and am still on track to graduate (again) this coming May '09. Here is to hoping that Ecuador may be a little vacation and not just a study trip...

Thank goodness I went backcountry camping last week.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Friday, April 4, 2008

Trip 1: Quito, Ecuador

My first trip will be this summer to Quito, Ecuador, as a part of my Spanish program at SIUE and in order for me to increase my oral competence of the Spanish language. I am excited about the learning and the 6 weeks I will spend in the mountain city near the Ecuator.