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December 26, 2009

One of the coolest gifts ever...



My mom asked me for my favorite coin from my trip abroad.  I gave her a 500 Peso coin from Colombia.

And this is what she returned to me... A necklace.  There is a beautiful tree on the other side. It's right-side up. But I prefer the upside-down 500 Pesos side  :)

The gift is amazing because it symbolizes six weeks in Colombia and an amazing adventure in South America. And my mum even traveled in Ecuador with me for a week! I am so grateful to wear this gorgeous memento.
Thank you, Mom.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

December 2, 2009

spanish & me & life purpose

My cousin Claire and I -


What is my place in this world?
I keep asking myself. I do not know. But I have learned to find purpose in every day, and in every encounter with others.

Yesterday I was driving to a friend's house and there was a serious auto accident in a major intersection a few yards in front of me. I called 911.
The scene was chaos. At least 50 cars were watching as glass and plastic spewed, liquids streamed, and smoke billowed. Several others tried to help, but did not speak Spanish. It was a frenzy.

Several people spoke to the driver of the car whose car seriously damaged. She was still sitting in the driver's seat, smoke pluming out the rear door, and liquids spilling out all over the street. She was clearly in shock, and sort of gesticulating that she was ok.
And then I realized she may speak Spanish. Estas bien? Te duele algo? Puedes parar? I placed my hand on her shoulder and did my meager best to reassure her.
She did respond to this. Mi garganta, she said. Her neck was deeply burned and bruised by her seat belt. Thank God that her airbag deployed or she would have been in much more substantial trouble.
The 911 operator told me that she needed to stay seated in the car to minimize potential personal injury, that help was on the way. And as I told this to the young lady, my hand rubbing her back, a fire engine blared through an intersection just a block away. I smiled at her and quietly stepped away as the rescue men took my place.

I walked away from the situation feeling nothing particularly special. I just asked a lady if she was ok. Yet I must look back and consider that what happened was indeed substantial; I cannot imagine being paralyzed in fear after a major accident and not being able to communicate with anyone. Dreadful.

What is my life purpose? I have no concrete answer. But I do choose to be me, Rose, in every moment, no matter how chaotic or simplistic, elegant or raw that moment is.

I am grateful for the opportunity to affect her life, even for just five minutes. I feel validated. And all I did was speak Spanish.

October 30, 2009

Chuchaqui: Definition and Application in Ecuador

Your Spanish lesson of the day: (This word is not true Spanish. It is assumed to have Kichwa roots)

Chuchaqui. Hangover.

Chuchaqui seco. Dry hangover, aka massive headache, desire to vomit, but not having drank anything with your buddies the night before.

This lesson was composed for Sean Manning, my probably drunk former coworker.
:)


Note: Shot glass is from Colombia.
Note: Rose drinks so often she grows crocus bulbs and places cuttings of fragrant daphne in the shot glass.
Note: Rose will gladly match shots if you're buying.


An Ecuadorian Anecdote:
I was in Banos, Ecuador
(Yes, like "bathroom." But it means "bath" because of the natural water springs.)
I played billiards with a bunch of friends in an open-air bar. My cheap mojito was so bad I sent it back twice. The first time because there was no lime or alcohol. Right. At least it had the mint. That night I only drank 1.5 drinks. Must not drink a lot when in foreign country with only men around and not knowing any of their last names. Right. (Two from the Ecuadorian air force and one from Manta, the city's police chief)


The next day I had chuchaqui.
After nibbling at breakfast at David's mom's house, I told the guys I felt ill. My head pounded. My stomach hurt profoundly. And I could barely sit up at the table where I was the special guest. After breakfast, they went to run an errand and I turned and walked half a block to my hotel. I didn't make it. Thankfully there was a nice guy on the street who gave me tissues and water while I was leaning over the street gutter and emptying my stomach...

I felt better and spent the rest of the day white water rafting on the edge of the jungle. Glorious. And I loved every wave!

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October 23, 2009

Round 4: Vegetable Oil

Grandma hid the vegetable oil.

The bad news is that I found the vegetable oil in the coffee cupboard.
The good news is that I found the vegetable oil.

Now where are those enchiladas?

Round 3: The best part

The best part of my day is just before lunch.

I have set out all their favorite and specific foods, brought grandma a spoon for her sandwich (flat handled, of course,) and am silently sighing in relief after they approved my meal.

As I walk out of the room, Grandpa extends his gnarly, pale hand and Grandma's weathered hand covered in purple veins slides into his.
Silence.
Both of their heads bow, and both are completely focused.

"Father, we thank you for this beautiful Oregon day. It's rainy, but we know we need the rain, too. Thank you for protecting us, for Teresa and I's health, and for Your love..."


I stand in reverence. My eyes fill with tears. This picture of commitment and love to both one another and to God quiets me. It is an example of precisely what I wish in my marriage, both the first day I marry and 50 years later.

GrammyGramps, I love and respect you.
Thank you for allowing me to be part of your lives.

October 22, 2009

Round 2: The good life with GrammyGramps


The beautiful sunset in Salem, Oregon. Note the red dogwood tree turning colors in the background. I've not seen an oak tree and acorns in a great deal of time. And may God truly bless America. The Oregon countryside is magnificent.


My routine: I wake up, check on Grandma and Grandpa, start coffee, open all curtains, get the paper, and start the rounds. Clean the house as much as possible before they wake up. Answer the phone and talk to all kinds of nurses and doctors. Try to remember and pronounce Sodalol. Beta blocker, now 1/2 pill twice daily. Empty urine bucket. Check on Grandma again. Watch her turn up the heat to 74. Wait until she goes to another room. Turn the heat down to 70. Repeat throughout day. Help Grandpa stand. Listen to him tell me he has done his exercises... When I am almost certain he has not. Walk to bathroom if he is not lightheaded. Help him sit on his roller chair so he can go through his morning routine. Wait for the copper bell to ring when he is ready to get up. The rest of the day continues on as this. I am so proud of myself... I swept, mopped, and emptied the garbage cans in addition to making all our meals and snacks.


---

I just said goodnight to Grandma.

"I don't think we have another niece as kind and thoughtful as you are."

I laughed to myself. Maybe they don't have another niece, but I am certain they have plenty of children and grandchildren!

---


My diet in Eucador: Three servings of rice, two servings of plantains, and soup with some meat on the side.


My diet at GrammyGramps: Fruit. Veggies. Turkey breast, nuts, yogart, milk, and wheat bread. Oh, wait. And four servings of chocolate. Thanks to all my aunts and uncles for their generous donations to my chocolate supply! It's fun to share this passion with my grandma!

October 21, 2009

Round 1: Hide-and-Seek with Grandma (She's 83)

My aunts and uncles told me that taking care of Grandma and Grandpa would be like babysitting children.

There's truth in this. But rather than saying "I'm big enough!" Grandma says "I know how to do that." They still fall asleep everywhere, want the pink pillow instead of the white one (why does it matter? you are sleeping on it!), and need their cereal in a very specific way. Grandpa likes his half cheerio, half anything else, with blueberries that are partially thawed or with bananas, and always with raisins. Not too much milk. The small white bowl with the smaller spoon. And always always serve Grandma's cereal with the flat handled tea spoon, and with a knife. Because... you never know.


Anyhow. I digressed. Hide-and-Seek. What a lovely childhood game! Fun memories of hiding behind big pine and oak trees on warm summer days make me smile. And Grandma wants to play! But... Not with me.

I was thawing some frozen chicken enchiladas yesterday evening when Grandma started "helping." She wanted to serve and microwave. No biggie. I left and sat down about 15' outside of the kitchen. I got up about five minutes later to check on her and, like magic... no enchiladas! Wow!

Wouldn't you know, but if you play Hide-and-Seek with the enchiladas Grandma hid, and you look in all the kitchen drawers (16) and cupboards (25), you might not find the chicken enchiladas. And if you yell "ALLIE ALLIE OXEN-FREE!!!" just like when you were a kid so all your friends would come running out into the sunshine from their hiding spot... The enchiladas do not come running.


This has been Report #1 from Rose Barker, granddaughter of my lovely and delightful grandparents Teresa and Dick. :)

October 18, 2009

Safely arrived home... Time to adjust!

Amigos y familia,

Greetings from my cozy home in Salem, Oregon!

(( Espanol: Pegar este texto en www.translate.google.com y encontrarias una traduccion ma o menos suficiente para comprender. Abrazos! ))


I safely arrived home on October 13. I went directly from being stung by an electric eel in the jungle of Ecuador to ummmm a rather uneventful home in the US. Culture shock is strong. I am confused and overwhelmed by the immense waste in all aspects of our lives. I do not know how to process all the giant white people; I am used to peering over the heads of all the short tan people! I miss their good manners and graciousness. Americans are unconscious of how abrupt and judgmental we allow ourselves to be. Road rules. They exist here, and people follow them. Note to self. And where is all the rice and plantains??? I need my arroz y platanos!

All said and done, I am emotionally rather unpredictable. I saw Mt. Hood for the first time and burst into tears. “That’s my mountain!” I thought, remembering all the times I gazed at Cotopaxi in Ecuador and longed for familiarity. And today I saw a collage of photographs of all the relatives on my mom Margo’s side of the family. I froze, overwhelmed, and silently began to cry as I scanned their faces. I hope we celebrate Christmas together this year.

It is good to be home. My patience is deep (I had no control over many aspects of slow life in Ecuador.) I enjoy doing the dishes (ok, I no longer curl my toes at the thought.) I always fold my clothing six times (this way it fit on my handmade shelves in Ecuador.) And I have no appreciation for canned and frozen processed foods (we ate home cooked meals all day every day.)

I started in on my new "job" right away - I am blessed to have the opportunity to care for my grandparents. My grandma Teresa has dementia and needs a bit of help. And my grandpa Dick, who has always done wonderfully with Grandma, recently had a knee surgery and also needs assistance. I will be with them Sunday evening to Friday evening with two short breaks during the week. That’s right, folks, my 110 hour workweek begins only days after returning home tanned from the Ecuadorian jungle. Here’s to a new adventure of measuring Grandma’s milk, helping with knee rehab exercises, and thankfully recouping a bit of finances spent wandering Ecuador.


I have only written about a third of the adventures I experienced. My strategy is to spend a bit of time each day writing and editing photographs. You will likely hear more adventures after my trip than during! Keep posted on the blog.


See you SOON! I look forward to telling adventurous, boring, happy, and painful tales!

October 17, 2009

My Favorite Things

Raindrops on Roses and whiskers on kittens

Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens

Brown paper packages tied up with string

These are a few of my favorite things



I sit on the tip of an old wood canoe and glide down the Cuyabeno River in the jungle of Ecuador. This classic Sound of Music song naturally and unconsciously slips out of my mouth. The gorgeous 40’ tiny leafed trees are literally engulfed by ivy-like vines. Many trees look like some sort of formidable monster that will start walking toward you and eat you at any moment. But the giant Ceibo trees, majestic and white trunked, usually host brightly colored parrots on their uppermost branches. We hear crawing and have learned to crane our necks up and spot them immediately. It is raw and authentic; I am watching different species of parrots and toucans and all other kinds of birds in their true home, not in someone’s cramped cage on their back porch in Salem.



The best part about the jungle was not looking at anything at all. It was holding still and listening. The chorus of birds is explosive, melodic, entrancing. It is one of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard in my life. And every few hours some species of the birds would finish their shift, a new species join the chorus, and the song entirely changed its tune.


And as I sat on the dock late at night and stared over the river and up at the stars, the magic of the moment washed over me.



One week later I sit on my patio in Oregon on my salvage rocking chair.

I am in Salem, Oregon on a gorgeous autumn morning. I hear the leaves rustle together on the giant oak tree next door. The weather is a crisp 60 and the air smells so delicious. Of wetness and earth, an inexplicable primitive smell that touches my being.


I’ve not seen a tree changing color in a year. And the morning sun pierces through the brilliant red and yellow leaves as though the glowing tree is a gem, a gift from God. The colors all around me are rich hues of mahogany, brass, emerald, and goldenrod. And, although not exactly exotic, I smile as I watch the squirrels dance on the top of the fence and the bluebirds hop around looking for their breakfast.


…These are a few of my favorite things.

It is good to be home.



Praise GOD!!! $2,000 gift from the Pharmaceutical Company

Thank God, praise God, relief, burden lifted.

I prayed and trusted God would take care of my medication issue when I returned home from Ecuador, and this He did.

I am immensely grateful to Glaxo Smith-Kline.
Why am I thankful for a pharmaceutical company?

I have no health insurance. I have been in the US for almost three weeks, and my very expensive medication was quickly depleting. In Ecuador it costs $90.

I applied and was approved to receive free medication through Glaxo Smith-Kline.

There are tears in my eyes -
This will save me over $1,800 this year.

A CouchSurfer, Matthew from Portland, encouraged me to apply.
Thank God once again for Couchsurfing.


If you need assistance with GSK medication, I encourage you to contact them at
http://www.bridgestoaccess.com/about/program_description.html

Many blessings,
Miss Rose

October 15, 2009

My Digits...

Howdy!
Today I left the house once. To go to Cingular.
I now have a real U.S. cell phone number. My phone is pretty cool: It is so old it doesn't even have a camera! Imagine that.
When my family came to pick me up from the airport, they were all taking pics with their cell phones. That is certainly a change from when I left the US in 2008.

Anyhow, I am glad to give the number to you, but would not like to blog it publicly.
I would appreciate it if you contact me by sending me an email.

rosebark.gmail.com

Love you!
Miss Rose

October 14, 2009

In the USA and Safe!

Hi!

Yesterday I awoke near the Amazon. I traveled all day. Last night I arrived in Quito, packed, and slept one hour. Today I traveled for 23 hours.

I was gratefully picked up from the Portland airport this evening by many family and friends, and am now finally home in Salem.

Hugs, tears, smiles, and stories are plentiful.


Time to sleep for a looooong time.

loverose

October 8, 2009

Anxious

I feel antsy. Alone. Overwhelmed.

I am headed to a remote part of the Ecuadorian Amazon rain forest tomorrow, but am absolutely unphased.

I am returning to the USA in five days, and am... uncomfortable.

Please keep me in your prayers!

Hair trim

Today I went to Calle Amazonas and had my hair trimmed.
It was a... unique experience.

"Honey, can I help you?" The Spanish question was asked...
A man in tight fitting jeans and shirt with over-jelled hair stuck out one hip to the side. I smirked to myself.

How is it that there are so many worldwide standards? Why is it that so many male stylists are gay? How does this come about? Why do Ecuadorians and Americans equally eat popcorn while watching a movie?

Anyhow. My hair was plagued by split ends. He trimmed it. In TEN MINUTES. I have never had my hair cut in less than 40 minutes.

The cut looks fine. A little block-ish, but I suppose that's what you get when you pay $2.50. I tipped $0.50. And felt pretty good about that.

He paused during the cut to greet some people walking by on the street. He returned a bit happier. "Those are my gay friends," he said. He paused, trimmed a bit of hair, and announced "I'm gay."

"I never imagined," I replied. The entire staff of the salon burst into laughter.

October 7, 2009

Food. I miss it.

It's interesting how food shapes us, and how we come to depend on it. Back in the States, I used to be proud of myself if I cooked once a week. Costco's frozen three cheese spinach raviolis and Italian meatballs, Foster Farm's chicken corn dogs, and great amounts of fresh fruit were my staples. Now I eat home cooked food at my friend's houses or chicken or fish with any variety of watery soup every day for less than $2.

At first I CRAVED many foods. I seemed obsessed with the day I would return to the States and gobble down my favorites. Now I am fairly neutral. I no longer feel like I need them. It would be lovely, but I am completely content and distracted by eating the fresh fruits and random food inventions of Ecuador. Either way...

Foods I miss:

- Mom's applesauce, peaches, pears, cinnamon rolls, cookies, and stews. Enough said. Last Christmas my breakfast sucked. I miss her Christmas breakfast...
- Dad's breakfasts. People here seem to think an American Continental Breakfast consists of two slices of plain toast, two soft-boiled eggs, and fresh juice. This does not count. Dad's huge pancakes with local Marion berry syrup, turkey bacon, eggs cooked in the bacon grease, and a glass of orange juice (concentrated frozen) always is amazing.

- Great Harvest 9-grain, honey wheat, and Dakota bread. The wheat or grain bread, "integral," is awful here. It is bitter and leaves a nasty aftertaste. 3-cheese garlic, cinnamon chip... Now where is my pink bread card?
- Stew. The soup here is tasty, but largely broth. I like it thick. Mum?

- Skittles. Starbursts. I've not seen them in almost a year. Do they exist?
- My favorite Harry and David truffles. Ghirardelli caramel filled dark chocolate squares. Twix, Snickers, etc. Thank GOD my mom brought me loads and loads of Twix and Snickers and a bag of H&D. I don't know if I would have survived without them.

- Cheddar cheese.
- Krispy Kremes.
- S'mores. Anyone up for a bonfire?
-Andes Mints.
- Black berries and Marion berries. The Ecuadorian version, Mora, is... Icky. I rarely enjoy its juice, ice cream, and other food products.

- Grahm crakers.
- Sausage.
- Peaches.
- Elephant ears. The dough, cinnamon, sugar kind you find at the fair.
- Pretzles
-Mexican food. A real burrito would be SO welcome right now.

Winco Bulk is my best friend.
- PEANUTS. The variety in Ecuador, well, sucks. They are bitter and dry. I cannot see any reason to eat them.
- Cranberries. They do not exist here.


Just some ideas for coming-home gifts. :)

October 5, 2009

Why LAN Airlines Sucks

EN ESPANOL


They are dishonest. They mislead you. They do not offer customer service. They do not complete what they commit.

I purchased a round-trip ticket from Medellin to Quito in July. I only flew the first leg. Their website clearly states that they will refund airport taxes for any flights not taken.

I have been to four different offices in two countries a total of 12 times. I have made multiple phone calls. I have written emails.

The Medellin office said the Manta office would help. Manta said that I could call the Refunds department, but that they would not help. In July, Anthony Valensuela promised me $74.64 as a refund. I asked him if he needed to double check with his supervisor, Leslie. He said he was certain of the refund, and to call him if there is any issue.

I received $13.64.
Back in Quito in the office on Orellana, Maria Alexandra Echeverria said she would resolve the issue. She called his boss Leslie. Leslie would not help. Maria Alexandra told me to email the refund team. I did so. Supposedly they respond in 72 hours. I wrote them in August. They never replied. Know what's funny? I sent them another email last night with this text. In 46 minutes LAN Chile logged onto my blog. 46 minutes. After two months of waiting for a reply. Right.

Maria Alexandra then conveniently went on vacation.

In September I returned to Quito. I asked to speak to the manager. I spoke to Juan Carlos Barreiro. He said he would email Refunds and ask for help. I returned to the office yet again over a week later. He said they emailed him the night before... Asking for my personal information (He neglected to include my plane ticket number. Genius.)

I asked him about his power as a manager. He informed me he was not a manager after all. I was being pawned off yet again.

He promised to call or email me with his response. I agreed, and let him know that if he did not, I would create this blog. He neither called nor emailed.

I returned to the office today, October 7. The manager Aida Morales informed me that I would not be refunded. She made plenty of excuses, and took no responsibility for customer service ignoring my emails, the office staff lying about Juan Carlos' status as a manager, and Juan Carlos not contacting when he said he would.

Is this blog vengeance? I do not know. But is it acceptable that a company make a promise and force their customer to literally make a dozen office visits, phone calls, etc for them to... NOT make good on their word? No.

It has been more than three months since LAN stated they would refund my funds.

Travel wisely.


----
See the two comments posted below. Read the second.

Interestingly, although LAN never took the time to reply to my many (polite!) emails, they did take the time to hire Altius. The comment posted on October 27 from "." is from LAN - They pay Altius to save their image from monsters like me.

Good grief. Here's to ethics and great client service. One point for you, LAN!

(Let's see how long it takes for Altius to retract their comment...)
Within 12 hours of emailing Altius on their behavior, I received 14 hits on my site from LAN all over the world. Including offices specific to those named in the blog. I wonder how much of their money I have wasted on their salaries alone???




This blog is viewed over 400 times weekly.
This specific story will be directly emailed to 1,500 people, many of whom regularly travel in South America.

(The following is intended to allow LAN customers to google LAN and find my blog. Internationals find the blog every day through Google.)

LAN Airlines airline Chile South America www.lan.com lan.com Peru Argentina Ecuador Venezuela Colombia Brazil fly plane airplane customer service awful bad unhappy refund tax taxes return boss supervisor unfair lie lied misrepresent misrepresented no responsibility unhelpful help helpful vuelos promociones servicios estado de tu vuelo informaciones informacion international internacional nonstop ida y vuelta oneworldTM oneworld LAN alliance: LAN Airlines LAN Peru LAN Ecuador LAN Argentina world's leading quality global airline alliance providing the most extensive network to and within every major city in South America departure city arrival city lanvacations lan vacations special offers check-in reservations and services multi-ciudades destino destination fecha de regreso return date e-ticket re
serve check in check-in lancargo 1-866- I FLY LAN 1-866-435-9526 customer_service@bo.lan.com Mesa de ayuda LAN.com 1 866 435 9526 Sugerencias y Reclamos,gerencia@bo.lan.com, www.aerolinias.lan.com, verificar reserva lan ecuador

Please pray with me -

Good evening!
Yesterday my family contacted me with both good and bad news. I ask for your prayer.

The very bad news is that my elderly grandparents (on my Mom's side) are in a difficult state. Grandma has dementia. Grandpa, who is 88, has been caring for her.
On October 8 Grandpa is having knee surgery. (Reason #1 to pray... Grandpa's health)

Grandma will need someone in the house 24/7. She is fairly independent, but still needs someone present. (Reason #2 to pray... Grandma's health)

My family has asked me to consider living with my Grandma several days out of the week while Grandpa is in the hospital. This is wonderful - I can serve and love my Grandparents, and will likewise fill a much needed role in my family. Everyone will feel better knowing that someone who truly loves Grandma will be caring for her.

I will also be blessed because I will return to Oregon with a job. I was concerned about how I would get along without a steady income, especially considering how greatly my savings have been affected by my trip to Ecuador. ($2,000 in student loans, $1,100 in medication, and $1,200 in the plane ticket and vaccinations... Not including all my living expenses in the last 10 months.)

Reason #3 to pray: Tomorrow I will decide what schedule I will commit to. I am a bit concerned about being cooped up in a house with one other person knowing that she is quirky and a bit unpredictable. Thankfully my family is attempting to get internet for the house - which will be my saving grace. Likewise, most evenings a family member will come to the house and visit for dinner so I can have some time away.

Thank you for your prayers.
Love you!!!
Miss Rose

---

Update: On 10/6 I decided to commit to a five day per week schedule with Grandma. My family is delighted. I am at peace. I will only be able to see you Friday nights - Sunday afternoons, but I am certain all will work out well. Thankfully my family will come every few days to give me a few hours off. A time and a season -

Another 3 min update

I arrived in Quito safely. I went straight to bed, woke up at 10pm, and went salsa dancing with my friend David. It was lovely.

Yesterday I ate the best Sushi in Ecuador. Toured the old city. And ate (fake) cheesecake in a restaurant overlooking the entire Quiteno valley. Beautiful.

Today I will go to the market with Kim and her boyfriend Ted. Kim is the photography editor for Audubon Magazine.
http://audubonmagazine.org/features0709/photoEssay.html
Ted is a nature researcher.
Both are smiley and quite intelligent. I am blessed to know them.

On Wednesday I may or may not fly over the Amazon. David is in the airforce. His plane is in maintenance. Hopefully we will catch a ride in a cargo or passenger plane to Coca, Ecuador to avoid an eight hour bus ride. And then we will travel together for four or five days. I am SO blessed to travel with him - He spent six weeks in a survival course in the jungle, and is quite equipped to care for me in the event of anything unexpected.

Eight more days!
Love,
Miss Rose

October 2, 2009

Concluding my Trip

Howdy, all!
Good news and bad news. The good news is that I am coming home.
The bad news is that my 10 months of vacations are ending. Sigh.

I am well. Tired. I was up until 4am last night packing my bag. I will carry about 80 pounds of stuff back to the states - many books, 40 cds and dvds, and little gifts. How wonderful!

Today I leave Manta. I have had many tears in the last few days. Yesterday was my last trip to Santa Marianita, which is a secluded beach where I feel at "home."

I am headed to Quito today. I will spend the next days with friends. I will visit an airforce base. Hopefully on Tuesday my friend will take me flying over the Amazon. YAY!

Then... I will go to the Amazon! Right now I am looking for a reliable travel partner. Please pray for this.

I will be returning home late on Tuesday the 13th. I will try and plan a coming home party on Saturday the 17th. Hopefully at a coffee house or something similar. I hope to see you!


Buenas. Please read the post before this one which describes how I feel about the end of my trip.

Love you lots!
R

October 1, 2009

Macas

This weekend I planned to go to Macas, a small city in the Amazon. My highschool girlfriend, Amy Quiring, is teaching English there.

And I didn't go.

Now all newspapers and news stations are covered in news: There are massive riots as natives clash ...
Will finish later.

September 28, 2009

What to expect of me when I return. What I like about Ecuador... And detest.

- I am thin. Skinny? I eat a lot. Don't worry. And I have acne.

- I detest it when people do not follow through on their word. If you need to cancel on me, call as soon as possible. If you will be late, call me as soon as possible.

- PLEASE do not cuss around me. PLEASE do not use coarse or sexual humor. I want to fully eradicate this from my life. PLEASE help me in this when I slip up.

- I have a tan. HAHAHA. I went to four beaches in the last three days. HAHAHA. And I intentionally did not wear much sunscreen. Because I want to return to the mucky Oregon October weather much more tan than you. And, yes, you can easily note my bikini tan line.


What I will miss in Ecuador:

- My amazing friends
- The endless generosity of so many Ecuadorians.
- The amazing beach and sunshine
- Salsa music on the bus. Salsa music in the grocery store. Salsa music anywhere on the street. In taxi cabs. At friend's houses. Salsa music.
- Unimaginably strange, cheap, and amazing fruits
- Walking on the beach and paying $1 for a man to use a machette to open the tip of a coconut, drain the coconut water, hand it to you in a bag with a straw, open the entire coconut, scoop out the meat, and hand it to you in another bag. Nothing beats this.
- $1.75 for juice, soup, rice, banana, and meat. Too much food to eat.
- Eating home-made, fresh food every single day. I believe I ate frozen or prepackaged food less than ten times in the last year. I used to make effort to eat homemade food at least once per week back in the States...
- Canelazo. It is sort of like a hot hard apple cider. But different. And delish!
- Condensed milk on many foods and sweets. Delish as well!

- People here are so easy going. It is obvious to see that Americans are SO easily offended. After spending much time here, I have learned to exist peacefully. I have done many things and tolerated many people and activities I personally have not wanted to do, but was not agitated as I once would have been in the States. I am not looking forward to returning to the crabby Americans that you have to tip-toe around to be certain you will not deeply offend or hurt. If you are reading this blog, you are probably one of the people I am referring to. No offense. :)

- Regular, reliable bus system for $0.25
- Running across freeways. I really enjoy that.
- Internet cafés readily available
- Breathing the moist, warm sea air
- No road rules
- Everyone with gorgeous nutty chocolate brown eyes. I hope to marry someone with such eyes. I believe it will be quite startling to walk down a street and go to church and be in public places and note more than 1% of the population does not have dark hair and dark skin and is an entire headlength shorter than you.
- Not living with mirrors
- Having zero responsibilities, obligations, and schedule. Amazing. I have not been this free since before Kinder garden.
- So little responsibility that I feel free to keep my house meticulous, hand wash the dishes, and complete daily chores without complaint


What I will not miss in Ecuador:

- Watching men piss on walls.
- All of the microscopic ants that infest my bathroom garbage can. We don't flush toilet paper. Which means that they eat my poop and then walk around in my house. Yum.
- The volumes of rotting garbage on the sides of the roads.
- Crass men whistling, hissing, yelling, "I love you baby," "Whasss you name?" "Hello," etc.
- Seeing shiny things on the ground and thinking they are coins. They are beer caps. When I return home, they will be Susan Bs.

- Trying to pay for a cab or recharge my phone with a $5 bill and being told they do not have change. Good grief! (Ecuadorians are not the brightest businessmen.)
- Manjar. It is basically a really awful concept of caramel. When I return I will buy caramel in bulk from Winco and will buy caramel apples. Yum.
- Wheat / grain bread. It is always bitter, icky, and has a bad aftertaste. Can you say Great Harvest Dakota or 9-grain??? Yum.
- Bathrooms not even having a knob for hot water. Cold showers suck.
- Obscene amounts of smog pouring out of busses.
- Car alarms. Car alarms. Car alarms.
- No road rules.

- Horrible fashion sense. No one seems to realize or care that they are 10-15 years behind the rest of the world. But this does, in a sense, make them less vain. They even have a brand of jeans for women called Bottoms Up! Disgusting. I don't want to see rolls of fat splurging over one's jeans, nor every lump on one's thighs. Yuck. At least the men comb their hair.
- Constantly worrying that someone will attack you. Not wearing earrings on the bus or marketplace for fear of appearing "rich." Impossibility to bring my camera into many public places.
- Frequent, consistent buses. $0.25. Cheap, but dangerous. Don't ever pull out your cell phone, wear earrings, etc.
- Half of the keyboards are English. Half are Spanish. And the computer may be set to input the keyboard in the opposite language. Meaning the " symbol is Shift + 2 or is Shift + the key by your pinkie finger. And your : is either your pinkie finger or somewhere else on the keyboard, interchangeable with the ñ key. It will be lovely to have one keyboard and not constantly look down for symbols as I type. (Assuming the keyboard input is equal to the symbols on the keys.) Hrummmph.



Love!

September 26, 2009

Ecuadorkitesurf.com

Headed to Manta or Santa Marianita, Ecuador to learn to kitesurf?

I encourage you to read this first. I had an extremely negative experience, and feel like I flushed $300 down the toilet. Kitesurfing school review comin' up...

GREAT instructor and school:
Wladimir (Vlad) Paternina & Nicole
Humboldt Kites School
http://www.humboldtkites.com/
wpacalima@gmail.com
091 272509 (cel in Ecuador)
011 593 91 272509 (from the USA)

I strongly recommend this school because of their fairness of price, quality of teaching, and high level of professionalism. And they have a pimp VW bus, too. :)

---

My experience at Robert Bedoya and Ecuador Kitesurf was a complete disappointment.

He is, certainly, an excellent kiteboarder.
However, his caliber of teaching and professionalism lack greatly.

Unfortunately his lessons include no overview, no handouts, and no concrete information. I need verbal explanation. He prefers to reach over me and fly the kite himself, trying to have me "feel" the kite, without explaining what I am to be doing.
I asked about the emergency pull cord many times. Four times on the beach he pulled it; never did he offer me to do so myself. This seems a poor way to introduce a new student to water emergencies.
Iit was not until I was six hours into the course that I found he speaks English. It would have been tremendously helpful to have kitesurfing's technical information shared with me in his native tongue.
At this point I spent 20 minutes speaking with his partner, Alice. I learned a great deal because she understood my questions and could directly answer them. Rob is, again, an excellent boarder, but seems too advanced to know how to explain the basics to beginners.
I went home and watched videos on YouTube for an hour. I learned more then than in my entire six hours on the beach with Rob. I learned about angling the board, surfing with the wind, handling, etc.

My fourth class was with a different instructor, Danilo. He and Rob use different Spanish terms; one says release while the other says hold for the exact same movement. It was difficult to adapt. Either way, Danilo was much better at communicating in Spanish and directly answering my questions.
Last, often my helmet was so big that I had to keep adjusting it with my hand. The harnesses were likewise very large and uncomfortable. It became difficult to concentrate in the water when my harness was literally held on by my armpits and chest.

Regarding professionalism, I was astounded that he constantly interrupted my lessons. Rob would wave over onlookers and spend time explaining kitesurfing while I was on the beach with a kite in hand... waiting for him. This happened multiple times each lesson. I was paying $30 per hour for this?
On two occasions I came to class and he did not even greet me - he just handed me the gear and walked off to hang with his kitesurfing friends or work with another student.

I felt like all Rob wanted was my money.

Last, it took me SEVEN months to receive my IKO certification card. I finished lessons in February. I asked for my card then, and for the next seven months via phone, text, at his business, and via email. There was always an excuse - he forgot the cards, he ran out of cards, he was waiting for the cards, he was out of town. Should he not be required to always have them on hand? Did he have seven months of students not receiving the cards? In the end I paid for a taxi to go to his home and pick it up from his fill-in instructor. Before I came, I was told, "Why bother? It's not like you are going to kitesurf again." What type of teacher and professional says this?

The only positive piece of my experience was Rob's employee Alice. She was so empathetic and helpful. She answered my questions, encouraged me, and helped me out. I felt like I had a friend. My experience would have been a complete flop without her.

(I also loved the other students - I still am in touch with two... over a year later!)
Also - If you choose to go to Rob's school, you HAVE to go to the restaraunt next door. Maresol is owned by a huge family. Try the special rice plate - Maresol. It's enough for two, and it's amazing. Eli, the manager, is one of my good friends. Tell him Rose says HI!

Cheers,
Miss Rose
----

Villa Kite "Kite Hostel" Santa Marianita Manabí manta ecuador murcielago aQuanautica ecuadorkitesurf.com www.ecuadorkitesurf.com robert bedoya rob bedoya
Ruta Del Sol IKO Certified kitesurf
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September 24, 2009

Updates. Current, and a LOT of them.

Last night I dreamed about my cousins Megan and Amy. My uncle John. And my grandma. To be more specific, we were all fixing her leaky faucet. I have no idea what any of this means.

My laptop is ALL the way dead. My monitor does not turn on. It is now in a friend's closet in Quito. SAD. I miss my BFF. And I left my memory stick in an internet cafe in Quito. I have little mode to post my photos in my blog. Sad. Sorry!

Today I ran across a freeway. Today I read about all the secuestros (kidnappings) in the city. Today I left my garbage sack of toilet paper waste on the side of a freeway under a palm tree. I left my house 15 minutes ago. Today I woke up in Guayaquil.

I miss my dad. Last night I went to a cafe that overlooks the entire river delta of Guayaquil. Last night in that cafe I danced salsa. The cafe is named Artur.

While I was in Quito I "happened" to remember to check in on my finances. There was a pending debit of $1.13. I called the company. They said thieves commonly use their website to verify that a DBC works and the account has funds. DREAD in my blood.
The scary part? My DBC is locked in a closet at all times. The last time I used it was for an ATM withdrawl one month ago. I have no idea how it was compromised.
I worked in bank finances for four years. I knew exactly the potential of disaster this could cause. And I knew that I am in a foreign country, and the potential of having no way to work with my bank because my finances were severely messed up was... very possible.
So I contaccted my bank, Chase (Formerly WAMU), shut down the accounts connected to the account in question, changed my debit cards, and had them leave notes on my account.
***** THANKS to Julie on the Center Street branch who worked with me for 40 minutes. When I come back to Salem, I am making her cookies :)******

Today I woke up with a cold. I stayed in bed until 11:30. I needed to do so. I hope I don't have Gripe (the swine flu)... But I know that my chances of contracting it are much much higher in Salem, Oregon than in Ecuador! Boooo for sore throats...

September 22, 2009

Guayaquil

I am in Guayaquil and super fine...
Been in Baños for three days. Went rafting.
Went to Cuenca for four days. Went to super old ruins and to thermal baths (baños :)

Now in Guayaquil couchsurfing and headed to a Cuban theater show.

Life is good!


See you in a few weeks...
loverose

September 17, 2009

Googling rosebark + xyz

Turns out my blog is well cached.
I googled "rosebark" with various other pairings, including Manta or Ecuador or Salem, and google spat out various blogs of mine. Sort of scary to see how easy it is to find me. And one was about the deodorant from Mark! Good grief. Of all the things for the internet to care about.

And on StatCounter I see that someone found my blog by doing a google search for fire pits, one of which I built and blogged about waaaaay back on December 27. http://rosebark.blogspot.com/2008/12/20-steps-to-build-friggin-awesome-fire.html I hope I helped someone's back yard look much cooler.

September 16, 2009

It's 2:38 am. God.


It's 2:38 am on Sunday, September 12, in San Agustin, Ecuador.


I sit in my bed, back errect, covered in blankets, and wearing my brown wool beanie.

I cannot sleep. My back hurts so very bad. I lay in bed playing Sudoku on my cell phone, tears streaming back down both cheeks to my ears.

And I finally get out of bed into the cold bedroom. My feet danced quickly as I ran to grab my iPod without losing too much body heat. I take a second pain pill and then another pill to help me sleep. I am too overtired from too many sleepless nights to go without a sleep aid again. When I do not sleep enough, my fibermyalgia flares up in my joints big time.

I am back in bed, now with music. The first song is lively, delicious Salsa. I choose to skip it; I need something tranquil to induce sleep.

And the next song is acoustic. Delicate.
"You are so beautiful."

This love song to God meant much more to me today than it would have two weeks ago. These things, the beauty of God, the enormity of God, the complexity of God, these have been circulating in my mind. Not because I want to be "holy," nor that I am deliberately meditating on these concepts. I simply want to know.

I want to know why it is that God is eternal. Why He is beautiful. Why He cares.

But I want to know how I know these things, and not "because the Bible tells me so."

More fundamentally, my question is: Do I know these things?


I am beyond tired of Christian-ese, the jargon, the repetition. I know the songs, in both English and Spanish. They kindly repeat Bible verses, which has greatly aided me as I am rather dreadful in memorization. I know the words, the phrases. But what do they mean?

My mom came to visit me in May. We had an amazing time running around the coast of Ecuador and visiting an Andean village. I loved speaking with her. This time is so precious to me and we have a much deeper relationship now.

But something else happened. I would tell mom about an issue I was having. About faith, or feeling lonely, or some other facet of life normal for any person to have difficulty with. Not to mention living with no friends from home for six months!

And Mom's answers were the lovely, trite memorized responses.

The words she said are in the Bible. It's like when we Christians face any situation we whip out a band-aid: A Bible verse or a quote from our pastor.

But what if I don't know what she said? What if I have heard the phrases so often, what if I have simply repeated these phrases as my own salve to soothe my human wounds... But without actually treating the root problem?

I have treated my anxiety with words for too long. "For I have not given you a spirit of fear...' Yet my anxiety returns three minutes later, or never leaves me for a moment.
Repetition of these words has been ineffectual.

After a few attempts of beginning to share my heart with Mom, I realized I only spoke two or three sentences after she paused me and gave me the "solution." I eventually broke down in tears. I needed my Mom, a friend, a hug, empathy. Someone to listen. And I received yet
another Bible verse, or "truth" of God.

But where is the reality of her words??? It all seemed so shallow.

What must I do to encounter God?

I must know the answer already. I have attended too many church services, gone on too many mission trips... I even produced a DVD on Christianity ( www.projectdigno.org )
I know the answer is inside of me. Not in a humanistic way, but in that I have experienced Him before, and our relationship "worked."

I do not expect to conceptualize God. To fully experience any of His attributes.

(Right now my iPod plays "Change me on the inside... There's only one way I can finally break free.")

And this has been my prayer - that I be changed from the inside. Recently my journal has been full of this desire. HOW can I know about God? Man cannot tell me. I must experience Him.

There is no other way. Because, frankly, I don't believe what a man tells me about God. How
would man ever know when he can only recount his experience.

We humans have given God so many names, categories, descriptions, and analogies. I loved one portion of the book "Mister God This is Anna." Anna said that Holy, Perfect, Just, and Beautiful are not descriptions of God.

Rather, it is exactly the opposite. Man's words can never describe God. We lack any capacity to ever comprehend Him, much less describe Him. Our words will never be sufficient to describe His magnitude, His fullness.

And so, God describes Holy. God describes Perfect. God describes Just and Beautiful. We can never know what Perfect or Holy mean without knowing God. He is the point of reference.

I want to know God.

I am reading a book called Crazy Love by Francis Chan. My mentor Doug Comstock gave it to me when we shared breakfast just before I left the States. He knew I am going through a change in how I approach God. The jargon, the packaged view of God... I cannot accept this.

And now I slowly read the pages about God's attributes. My short letter now returns to its start: The book speaks of God's attributes. About how He knows everything, how He is completely powerful, how He is eternal. I don't know how to process these.

(I pause to read just in my bed. My back is still killing me.)

And so as I remind the staff members at San Agustin how to say "Good morning!" or "Thank you!", my mind continues to consider these thoughts. I am so glad that they gnaw at me. So glad that my being is driven to find some sort of change for the better.

Right now my life is simple. I have absolutely no commitments. None. Good grief - I am at a five-star hacienda, eating amazing food, breathing pure air, far from human's noise, and in the sunshine. And yet I am still anxious, still breathing shallow, and my mind is still racing. I am not at peace.

It could be a side effect of a medication. And yes, I absolutely need to take this specific medication.
One CouchSurfer talked with me about how our whole selves need to be cared for... And that perhaps because I was / am not having sex my person is unable to be in stasis. Interesting thought.

Other than these, I can think of absolutely no other reason my body is in such a poor state other than my spirit's unrest.

"For I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and of a sound mind."
God, make this my reality.

(My iPod plays "Jesus, I will hold nothing back from You.")

It is 3:22.

God, make You my reality.

September 15, 2009

Physical location

I am currently in Baños. Then Quito, back down to Cuenca, Loja, and then up the Ruta del Sol... To give my despedida a Manta. I believe after that I will head to the Amazon jungle. I will gladly keep you posted on my adventures!

Right now I am traveling with three friends. Two are FIA pilots and one is a police chief. I'm in good hands.

And one of the FIA gents wants to take me flying over the Amazon! COOL!!!

September 14, 2009

My chocolates...

I helped heal a man with cancer. Bob and Amy are vegan and visiting from Florida. They asked me to join them for dessert... Because I made blackberry, coconut, and strawberry chocolates. Bob should not have sugar, nor should he have stress. My mantra is "everything in moderation except chocolate." He ate my chocolates and an amazing cake. "It's more important to control my stress. Your chocolate does that."

September 12, 2009

Cowgirl.


And that horse ride?
It was SO windy. My horse, Megan, was often spooked by the dust clouds. The girls were a lot of fun. My saddle hurt, my butt hurt, and I learned why I really ought to have worn a bra. Trotting sucks. :)


We had an AMAZING view... Straight up!


There was a rainbow halo around the entire sun. It stayed this way for at least one hour.



The sunset over Cotopaxi was marvelous.

This little piggy went weeeeee weeeeeee weeee all the way home...

Remember how I said that I watched a pig be butchered???
This is the non-graphic version of that story.


Here is our Oinkey. (Name changed for protection of el chancho.)


Rose (author) decided to stop eating pork months ago when she saw the garbage dumps on the coast... The pigs actually eat garbage. From the dump. Literally.



The staff each chose about 10 pounds of meat for their families.
Oinkey was organically fed on the food scraps of the tourists.
This is literally the most expensive pig ever...
One bowl of potato and cheese soup, locro, served at the Hacienda costs $15.
And the pig ate the left-overs.



They grilled all the entrails while butchering the pig. Everyone was eating out of the pot.
Eeeeeeesh. I eat about everything when I travel. Except head, testicles, entrails, and feet. I've got to draw the line somewhere.



And so I had some of our piggy for dinner one evening. It was fabulous. Seriously.

September 10, 2009

I just finished horseback riding in the countryside with three of our guests. You've got to see our chaps. HOTTIES! Hopefully I will post a photo soon... Next I will create a list of horsie terms in English for Patricio, the horse handler.

Last night I played RISK for the first time. I was thinking about Derek Conn the entire time... How many church camping trips were consumed by RISK? ;) I lost both games. I consumed premium rum, a grilled cheese and salmon sandwich, and layed my head on the table frequently. I was up until 4. And I slept through my early morning English class with the kitchen staff. Ooops. Don't worry... We caught up later!

To lunch -

September 9, 2009

Breakfast & English Class

PLEASE do leave comments!
NOTE: Photos take forever. Yesterday I spent ONE hour to post the photos for that blog. I hate not having posted photos for so long, but it is difficult to justify spending time on uploading.





Today my breakfast consisted of fresh honey (we just found a hive. There was about 5x the amount of combs that you see in this box...), fresh yogurt (made on site from our cows) and fresh granola (also on site.)
Beat that.





Later we had English class. They are SO attentive. I feel emotional when I teach - they hang on every word and syllable I speak. They desperately want to know English. I am a part of their life experience.



(?), Alexandra, (?), Monica (cook), (?), Cute Me (maestra), Patricio (horse handler), Rodrigo (gardener), Hugo (handyman), Elsa (chef), Victor (chef), Monica (maid).

September 8, 2009

Today: San Agustine de Callo, la Hacienda





A cold August 20, 2009

I scratch my forehead thinking, "How did I ever end up here?"

The fire snaps and crackles. My left foot is tucked under my bum as I sit on a cashmere blanket draped over a leather couch. Photographs of nature and the former president comfortably rest on the walls as the three foot wicker basket of firewood leans so far back you'd like to put out your hand to catch it.

Something new is here, something fresh, something palatable. It is unavoidable, consuming, enchanting.

Bach plays. My head is light. My eyes lose their focus yet again - last night I went to bed at this early hour, and my body is asking the same of me tonight. I am thankful for the white down bedspread which engulfs the king sized bed, soon engulfing my chilly body.

I am at an hacienda - San Agustine de Callo. I dine in an Incan palace masterfully built in the 1400s. The walls are beautiful heavy stones perfectly fitting with one another. It is owned by Mignon, from the family of two former Ecuadorian presidents. She is colorful, brazen, and looks about 20 years younger than her 75 years of age.

http://www.incahacienda.com/

Pablo invited me to come visit him in Quito for a few days before he spends a month shooting a story in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sure, of course! I thought. I figure that I can't go wrong traveling with someone who knows Ecuador and its beauty so intimately.

Mignon! says David Brown, the Archeologist. Mignon wants you to come to San Agustine and visit. Dr. David Brown (see prior post) has actually spent months on archaeological digs located literally in the buildings of San Agustine and in the surrounding fields. These Incan ruins are some of the most historically important in Ecuador.

(The courtyard)

I hopped in Pablo's four wheeler and we headed an hour south of Quito. San Agustine is in the foothills of Cotopaxi, a deeply culturally significant mountain in Ecuador. We pull off the side of the highway into a sketchy road stop with a few tourist shops and vendors selling bags of fresh mandarins for $1. After 15 minutes of a deeply rutted, dusty road, we arrive at a stunning hacienda. Lunch is served in one of the Incan rooms, almost tomb-like except for the afternoon sun pouring through the window and cascading around a bouquet of 30 roses. Lunch was amazing.

Mingon offered me any of five rooms. The first was breathtaking and I chose it without considering staying in the others. Outside the window is Mount Tunguragua. My bed is a California King. I have a large sitting area with antique desks and furniture, a bathroom almost as big as my apartment in Manta, and large fireplaces in all three rooms. I later learned that the regular rate for staying in this suite is $400. Imaginase! Did I mention the dozens of red roses at the head of my bed?

My room: http://incahacienda.com/page_content.asp?id_page=17


Shortly thereafter began dinner. And how we eat! Gourmet, home-made delicacies of meats, juices, soups, and deserts. Fresh juice and fine wine.
The specialty of the house is locro, a cheese and potato based soup. Its appearance is deceptively plain. It is both the Hacienda's specialty and a typical regional dish.

Elsa is our wait staff. She stands quietly in the corner waiting for the opportunity to offer another glass of wine or serve the next fantastic plate. I think Elsa has the best "seat" in the house - There are so many wonderful and interesting people who pass through San Agustine.

The most brilliant part of this experience was the candlelight illuminating the dark, rough Inca walls. Its raw elegance set the evening's tone.

Mignon is enchanted with Pablo. She asks of his books and projects. We speak of politics, of plans, and of the potential in promoting San Agustine. The hacienda offers her a unique opportunity. She is able to invite ambassadors, famous musicians, ministers, etc to the hacienda. They are delighted to stay in this wonderful place free, and she is delighted to have their company.

When I arrived back to my room after dinner, all three fireplaces are lit, my bedspread is turned, and a chocolate covered strawberry rests on one of my four pillows.

I slept well.



My favorite staff member is Daniella. She is WOW. She is a professional flamenca, (Flamenca dancer), loves bull fighting, and sings Blues Clues. Quite often she forgets something. She pauses, leans over and places her head in her hands, and says, O shit!!! She makes me laugh all the time. She constantly bursts into song. She helps me remember to be young, to be free. I know I forget all the time. Here she is dancing again...


The grounds include an Incan room converted into a chapel, dozens of horses, a huge vegetable garden, flower gardens, water fountains, and immensely generous and helpful staff. There are innumerous antiques, and innumerous boquets of roses.

My feet are tired. From doing nothing, I suppose. We toured a flower farm with German, the owner, and his son and daughter in law. Their primary export is broccoli starts. They move millions of plants per week. I unfortunately did not tour their roses - I believe they grow about 60 varieties.

I was blessed to stay two nights in the opulent room, and one night in a more modest room... Read on.



September 7, 2009

I have returned to San Agustine alone.

I'm here to help in the garden and teach a little bit of English. I will not be staying in a room valued at $400, nor will I be eating in the Inca dining room, but I am quite well taken care of.

My room contains three single beds, one wood chair, and a pitcher of drinking water. And that's just about enough for me!


The good thing: I walk into the kitchen at ANY given moment and eat whatever I want. I have no idea how expensive my dinner was today: A grilled sandwich with smoked salmon and some yummy cheese with sweet peppers and grilled veggies. Greek olives, Tres Leches cake, chocolo, and whatever else I found. Good stuff.

(Any random light snack)



(Rose and Cotopaxi)

Today I went on a mountain bike ride into the town of San Agustine. I slung my camera around my shoulder and pumped up and down sandy roads, which is a lot of work.


(Citizens of San Agustine on their way home from work)

Cotopaxi was brilliant. This is the mountain so many Ecuadorians identify with, respect, know, and are comforted by. I took photos of the mountain in the background of a stream, of Indians in traditional wear, of a cow after having just given birth, of two drunks sharing a bottle, of a straw hut, and of the 13 year-old girl I chatted with... Who knew the younger drunk. His name was Chachichi or something similarly weird. She says he drinks all the time.

(my new friend)

(our drunk friends)

I am in a large common area full of old portraits, of pillows tossed on the floor, antique desks and tables, and photography books of all kinds. Behind me is a portrait of Mignon by Guayasamin (1968). Guayasamin is one of the most celebrated artists in Ecuador.


Spetember 8, 2009

Today I drank hot chocolate with milk fresh from a cow. Today I taught English to staff at a five-star hacienda. Today I watched a pig be slaughtered. Today I ate too much salmon. Today I laughed. Today I listened to a friend tell me her boy stories. Today I considered who God is.
Today... I have not yet finished.

BEAT THAT.

On that Pig:

It was actually... sort of mundane. The only part I didn't like was the pig's scream. it was horrible. They just stuck a knife in it for about five minutes and it died. I also saw them torching the hair off and cutting its belly. But I didnt see the innards or anything else because I was too busy preparing for English class :)

Later I walked down to where they were butchering and everyone was taking slabs of the pig home. YEEEccccckkkkk.

I have some really cool videos. Yee haw!



And on all this: Nothing in the world is perfect. There is some tension between some staff members, It is really cold, and I have gas.

God is still good :)