Sunday, June 29, 2008
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
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 (www.mannaproject.org), 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 way...it 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
Friday, June 20, 2008
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?
Back in a week! Hasta luego.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
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.
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
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 OK...my 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 soon....so sorry....
Note to those who will travel...bring cough drops...I cannot find ANY!
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
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
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. :)
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 tries...you 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...
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
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 expensive...so 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
Friday, June 13, 2008
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.
- 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
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?
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
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.
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.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
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!
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.