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!