Category Archives: Ecuador 2010

Posts about my times from May-Sept 2010

Photographing toddlers/babies is hard to do

Pamela’s blanket test knitting process is nearly complete but I’ve been having issues getting good photographs with my model, Pamela, and the blanket. An 18 month old just isn’t into posing and waiting patiently for me to take just the right photograph. On three occasions photo shoots were attempted and only on the 3rd attempt were the pictures decent. I’m a bit mad at myself because I kept thinking the pictures looked a bit blurry but never took the time to check my camera settings. Finally after a successful photo shoot, I had the shots but still this blurriness and so checked my camera. It turned out that I had it on MF rather than AF. I have no idea what MF or AF means but I do know that AF gives you a sharper picture. Some of the pictures came out OK though. Sadly my favorite ones came out blurry so I probably won’t be able to use them and I don’t think I could subject Pamela to yet another shoot. That might just be child abuse.

Here are what I consider the best of the batch. Feel free to comment on which you think would make the best cover photo for the pattern. I plan to include some shots of Pamela plus blanket plus some shots of the blanket alone so that more detail of the blanket can be shown.

1. I quite like this shot though it looks like I’m advertising chapstick in addition to the blanket :-).
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2. I quite like this one as well though I wish she were looking at the camera and the photo was a bit sharper.
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3. I really like this photo. I’m not quite sure why but it just seems to be a great shot of a baby and her blanket.
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4. Great shot of Pamela but blanket comes out quite blurry.
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5. Another excellent Pamela shot but not so great blanket shot.
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6. This picture is just sweet.
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7. Pamela was then put down for a nap and while the shoot was easy, the lighting wasn’t ideal.
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8. Detail picture 1.
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9. Detail picture 2.
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10. Previously posted but I thought I’d include this one as well. I like the warm tones here and maybe could crop the photo a bit.
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11. Just a shot of full blanket.
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I’d love to hear some critique on these photos: which are best, should photos be cropped, are all these crap and I should try another photo session…

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In the works: Pamela’s Blanket

Along with the Ruffle My Feathers shawl, I’ve been working on another design for the Knit Picks Independent Designer Program. On arrival in Quito and meeting my host family, I met young Pamela.

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For the last 12 years or so I’ve lived a singular life. Pretty much everyone around me has been around my age with similar lifestyles. What that has meant was little to no access to young children. I barely even remember kids exist except for when I’m at a supermarket, enjoying my shopping and I feel my shins smash into something small and squishy. I look down to see a miniature person and feel the glare of some mother a few feet away. It’s not my fault really, I’m not  conditioned to look downwards in case little feet might be running by.

Anyhow, after meeting Pamela, I decided I’d try to knit something in miniature. I’m definitely not yet ready to take on miniature clothing, sizes like 2T, 3T and the like puzzle me. But I thought, why not a baby blanket. I knit up a swatch, took pictures and submitted it to Knit Picks. Stacey was lovely and got back to me in a short time and it was a go. The only challenge being that I’d need the yarn here in Ecuador. My lovely friend Mary was up to the task and so KP mailed yarn to Mary and Mary mailed it to me. Along with my yarn I asked Mary to send me a few things: socks, new jeans, etc. Anyhow, this pushed my package over 4 lbs and thus I had to go to the main post office to pick it up. I kid you not, these are the steps (and approximately an hour of my time) it took to pick up the package:

  1. Show up with package slip plus original passport and 2 copies of passport.
  2. Take a number
  3. Number is called, show number and passport to attendant and give him/her copies of passport, pay $1.25.
  4. Wait for same number to be called at another station – this time a door. Go through door, man picks up your package and opens it and goes through it with you looking and fills out a form saying what the package contained. He then tapes it up. You think that´s it and you get your package. NO!
  5. Go sit in room with attendants at computer. Wait. Get called up and have them enter all the information about your package and also your personal information into a computer. Then you are assessed a fee based on the cost of postage. My fee was only $0.35. Had the package been a few pounds heavier it could have gone up to $60.
  6. Go and pay fee at a bank window (separate from where you paid the initial $1.25). The bank charges you $0.70 to use their services and so fee is $1.05.
  7. Take proof that you´ve paid the fee back to woman in front of computer and finally, finally receive your package.

Along with the arrival of my package came 25 summer volunteers for the program I’m working with. This meant knitting got sidetracked as I ran an orientation and dealt with the various challenges of 25 young foreigners in a foreign land. Once they were suitably oriented and sent to their sites, I was able to do some knitting but then of course I fell a bit sick. I’ve lived to tell the tale however and I have a completed baby blanket. I have yet to take the final photos with young Pamela as my model (she went off to the beach for the weekend and then I’m about to go off to the beach for the weekend but soon the final shoot will take place) but here are some preliminary photos. The pattern is nearly complete and will be sent to test knitters this evening.

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Times

I meant to be keeping up with my blog but the last few weeks have been tough. I’ve been pretty ill. After suffering some stomach ailments, I then had some respiratory issues. Who would have thought this cute little dog would cause me such problems?

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We went to visit some of my host family’s relatives in Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World – site where you can see the Equator line) and they had this pup. I wasn’t warned ahead of time of the pup so I hadn’t taken a nice concoction of meds. While we were at the house, I didn’t have any kind of reaction but later on I had a minor cough. I thought nothing of it but the cough continued for a week. I then went to the doctor who said I was having a mild allergic reaction. He prescribed an inhaler and I thought all would be well. I continued to worsen however and then did some self-medicating. I got some prednisone (prednisona here – you can pretty much ask for anything from the pharmacist and get it). Anyhow, I’d been taking prednisone and sucking on my inhaler and not getting much better. I was about to head to the doc again but it seems that this weekend I might finally have won the battle.

Mitad del Mundo

As mentioned before, I headed out on a trip with my host family to visit some of their relatives that live out near Mitad del Mundo. Their house was absolutely lovely and they cooked us the loveliest meal. This whole section will be picture heavy.

The journey: Eric and Christian and I ride in the back of the truck
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Arrival: The house and the eats

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Musical interlude: Some singing and guitar playing post dinner
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The proud parents
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Mitad del Mundo
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World Cup

As with the rest of the world, I’ve been watching the World Cup raptly. I should add with some Wimbledon watching. Actually I think I watched Wimbledon raptly with breaks for the World Cup. At the beginning of the tournament, I named The Netherlands the dark horse and thought they would win the whole thing. The final was a bit difficult for me. As an avid Arsenal fan I’ve been pretty much supporting teams on which an arsenal player plays. Wouldn’t it be my luck that the two finalists would each have an Arsenal player. In the end it wasn’t too hard though, I do love Fabregas a tad more than Van Persie and I’ve lived in Spain, specifically Barcelona, where Fabregas hails. So at the end, like the octopus, I had to choose Spain. I was sad to see The Netherlands lose though but at the end of the day, I think Spain fought harder. Except for Robben, the rest of the Dutch team seemed a bit too passive.

Wimbledon was good fun as well. The Isner v Mahut match was scintillating. Serena won the women’s match which made me happy though Roddick broke my heart yet again. It was a fun tournament though.

Somehow I need to figure out how to get US open tix.

Shawl Progress

I’m very excited about the Ruffle My Feathers shawl. I’ve had some lovely elves (otherwise known as test knitters) working on it and giving me great feedback. My mind is going a bit nuts with new ideas though my Ecuador schedule has made knitting difficult. I don’t seem to have the downtime to knit and then the commute is so bumpy that it’s just not conducive to knitting. Also, my mind isn’t at rest. It’s a weird thing. I think while I can conceive ideas, I need a certain tranquility to be able to produce them and right now, my mind isn’t tranquil. Maybe my system is finally ready to settle down somewhere. I’m enjoying my time in Ecuador but at the same time there’s a part of me that wishes I were making a life for myself back in NY or wherever I end up settling. For the first time I’m feeling like I’m wasting time. The funny thing is while I’m thinking that I should be considering a more settled life, I’m wondering how I can put together enough money for a trip to Beijing and Tokyo this Fall. 🙂

The first test knitter uploaded photos of her beautiful shawl and has been kind enough to let me gank some photos. She knit it using Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in Springtime and it’s beautiful. It screams Spring and the photography is absolutely fantastic. So here are some beautiful shawl pictures to end this post:

Rachel's Ruffle My Feathers Test

Rachels' Ruffle My Feathers Test

Rachel's Ruffle My Feathers Test

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Lost in the Clouds

View of the mountains in the cloud forests

Tuesday I got back to work and realized I had to leave on a work trip the next day. We send summer volunteers out to this region called Intag which is deep in the cloud forests of Ecuador. I needed to go and liaise with our contacts there, visit the schools and also the host families that we generally use. This region is where we send those volunteers that want a super authentic experience. There are few amenities there – no cell service, not even a bar in one of the larger villages. Wed morning I took a bus out to Otavalo and from there another bus into Intag. It was a long ride as we circled the mountains on dirt and gravel roads and of course no guard rails. There were even some mini waterfalls that fall down the mountain and those sections were even more treacherous as the stones were nice and smooth and perfect for slipping. I have survived to tell the tale however.

Road through mountainous Intag

Lacking in the conveniences of a larger city, the people more than made up for it with their friendliness. Everyone says Buenos Dias or Buenas Tarde. Everyone knows everyone and people walk around leaving their homes unlocked.

Cuellaje (pronounced Ku-ya-hey)

I met up with the lovely Cecilia Alvarez who’s our main contact in the towns of Cuellaje and La Loma; she’s a teacher at the school in La Loma and the main contact for volunteers while they’re there. I actually asked Cecilia how they came up with the name Cuellaje and she told me this lovely story.

Around early 1900s or so, a man came upon the town and bought it for a pack of cigarettes, a rifle and around $5 (my memory is failing me but that’s about the gist of it; should have written this down soon after she told me the story). He, his family and a few other people settled the town and for food they would farm and hunt. There were many birds in that region and so they would shoot the birds for meat. They started to notice that in the birds’ collars there were precious gems. The birds had been feeding from the local rivers and when as they fished, they would pick up precious gems from the river that remained in their feathers. So when the hunters shot down the birds they’d find the gems. And that’s how the town got it’s name. A necklace is called a collar (pronounced ko-yarr) and so the bird had a “collar de gemas” (ko-yar de ye-mas). “Collar de gemas” => Cuellaje. It seems that most of the residents of Cuellaje are descendants of these hunting families. The Intag region was one of the last to be settled in Ecuador so they’re still quite close to their settler history.

Anyhow, once I arrived, I was immediately taken to the school in Cuellaje to visit the head teacher and have a tour of the school. While it’s definitely a poor area, it’s obvious that the teachers care deeply about their school and are really excited to have World Teach volunteers coming. Here’s are a couple of views from inside the classroom:

Inside a Cuellaje classroom

Punctuality, Humility, Responsibility, Friendship

The school received some computers from the government and they’re excited about that.

Newly received computers

La Loma

After meeting with everyone and getting the summer contract signed, we got a local to give us a ride to La Loma to see that school and meet the host family. Only about 35 students attend that school and there are only two classrooms covering kindergarten to about 7th grade. Each grade has a desk within the classroom. There are two teachers. One teacher teachers kindergarten to around 2nd grade and the other teacher (Cecilia) covers the rest.

Here are some photos of the school.

La Loma classroom - each desk signifies a grade

La Loma student

Other La Loma students

After visiting the school, we went to meet the host family. It’s a lovely couple with two pre-teen kids. The house is nice though humble. The family grows everything they eat. This seems to be the norm in this farming community.

They grow what they eat

Fresh and tasty

They also raise mules. The host dad said he was looking forward to the volunteers arrival so that they could go riding together. I really think that the volunteer I placed there will love the location and the family. He said he wanted to be immersed in the community and have few interactions with other foreigners. I’ve given him exactly what he wanted.

Local La Loma men enjoying a chat and a cigarette

Back to Cuellaje

After the host family meeting, we were driven back to Cuellaje. I went to Cecilia’s house and had a snack and met her mother, sister and brothers.  I had some delish guava jelly that the family makes themselves. I could have drowned in it. It was so lovely. I gave Cecilia some chocolates I’d bought in Quito as a thank you for showing me around.

Cecilia then took me to a small hostel where I would spend the night. We then walked around the tiny town park a few times chatting and watching the teenagers play Ecua volley (volleyball but played on cement). I then went to my hostel, had dinner, and soon went to bed. I paid $8.50 for my hostel including dinner that night and breakfast the next morning.

Park in Cuellaje

Small but beautiful church in Cuellaje town square

Peñaherrera

The next morning I had to be on a 6:15am bus to Peñaherrera to visit another site where we’ll be sending one volunteer. There are few buses that pass though that region and so I had to get up that early to be on my way. Luckily school starts at 7am so it all worked out. There I met the rector (principal), Edgar Carrera. He spoke some English though I think my Spanish was better than his English so to make sure that certain things were understood I would switch to Spanish. The rest of the time I humored his English as he was happy to practice it. I got the contract signed and was ready to go by 8am.

Schools here are also concerned about H1N1:

H1N1 poster outside of Colegio Jose Peralta

Colegio Jose Peralta - HS in Penaherrera

Lacking buses, I had to get a ride with a guy who was heading into Apuela (a larger town not too too far away where buses pass more frequently). The driver was a friend of the principal’s so it was all safe. In that area of the country, pretty much hitchhiking is the main way to get around. There’s only one bus that goes into the area during the day and one or two buses leaving. Few people have cars and so if you need to get somewhere you have to hitchhike. I got to Apuela without incident, waited about half an hour and then got a bus to Otavalo. Then on to Quito. I was supposed to be on the trip until Friday but I managed to get everything done (it being a small town and all and everything informal) and was back in Quito by lunchtime.

Market in Apuela

While I loved the friendliness of the people, I’m a big city girl and probably wouldn’t have survived much longer than the couple of days I was there.

Ash

In other news, Tungurahua, a volcano in Baños erupted a bit and ash is all over Ecuador. Quito isn’t affected but people are walking around wearing masks in Riobamba, Ambato, and even as far south as Guayaquil.

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Gringos Go Walkabout

Gringos go walkabout

For the first time in a long time I’ve been without any kind of communication for two whole days; no cell, no internet, no nada. Today, Monday, is a ferriado (public holiday) in Ecuador and so a bunch of us gringos decided to head off for a bit of hiking in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, Quilotoa.

Quilotoa

Getting There

On Saturday morning, we all made our way to Quitumbe bus terminal in the southern part of Quito and got on a bus to Latacunga. We had a 1.5 hour wait at the terminal before taking another bus to Chugchilan. At the Latacunga terminal we met up with another two volunteers based in Ambato and then got on the bus to Chugchilan. Chugchilan is around one to 1.5 hours away from Quilotoa and we were staying at a hostel in this small village called Hostal Cloud Forest.

A snack at Latacunga Bus Terminal

The road from Latacunga to Chugchilan was well very scary. One lane highway (not necessarily paved), no guard rails and the certainty that the slightest miss-direction by the bus would have us all careening to certain death. I held my breath for a lot of the ride (3 hours) and whenever someone moved an inch or so I feared they would ruin the balance of the bus and we would be cliff diving.

Chugchilan and Hostal Cloud Forest

Hostal Cloud Forest

Miraculously we survived the perilous journey and arrived at our beautiful and very cheap hostel. $10 per person including breakfast and dinner. We had a wee snack and decided to do some walking around.I decided to venture to a small shop not far from the hostal and I bought a box of wine. In Ecuador there’s this box wine called Clos and it’s really good. It actually opened my view on the whole box wine thing. There was no Clos at this shop but there was San Pablo. I bought a box for $1. I didn’t think much of it. Clos is around $2-3 and we were in a small village. The stuff was terrible. Tasted like grape flavored Dimetapp cough medicine. I managed about two sips before calling it quits.

Horrible 'wine' and Lauren

I thought I was acclimating to the altitude but Chugchilan must be even higher than Quito. Any slight incline and I was completely out of breath. We did a short hike and then it started raining so we headed back. I was pathetic! I was panting more than a thirsty dog after a 10-mile run.

Some photos of our short hike:

Sheep

View while walking down

Faster by butt

Man vs Nature

We got back to the hostel but there was really not much to do. Someone had brought along banagrams, a game I’d never played, but enjoyable. Then I did some knitting and started listening to American Gods by Neil Gaiman. So far I’m really enjoying this book. Later than evening we had dinner, I went back to my knitting and audiobook and soon it was lights out. Small town living and all.

Around Chugchilan

Verdant views

Village view

Local

Local church

Quilotoa

The next morning we breakfasted and headed out to take a bus to Quilotoa. It was supposed to arrive at 9am but we left at 9:30am; Ecua time… This ride was even more perilous than the journey from Latacunga. Pure mountainous cliffs below and curve after curve after curve.

Road to Quilotoa

Yet again we managed to survive. And it was so worth it. Quilotoa is just beautiful! We went into a local store to get some snacks for the hike, used the facilities and chatted with the locals.

Chatting with a couple of locals

Then we headed to the lake. Look at that view!

Just Beautiful!

Our party of nine decided to separate. Four went down to the lake for a boat ride and then two went back up by horse and the other two hiked. The rest of us five decided to walk around the mountain surrounding the lake. Our hostal keeper had warned us to only walk a quarter of the circumference and then take a path back to the hostel. But not us, we decided we’d walk 75% around the lake and then walk back to the hostel.

The views were spectacular though scary at times. The path was very narrow and one misstep and you’d be off to a beautiful death. Going downhill was fine, I had no issues but there was this one section where we were going up and up and up. And me, the chubbiest of the crew as well as only arriving 3 weeks prior, I was suffering. The others were very nice and waited for me every so often. Thank goodness for Gatorade! I probably should have snacked more along the way but I could barely breathe and the thought of eating anything made me want to hurl. It was enjoyable though in a masochistic sort of way.

Views along the way:

Souvenir area before starting the hike

Closer view of the water

Feels like we were among the clouds

Wanted to take this little guy home

Majestic

Local housing

A dwelling

A Walk to Remember

A beautiful death

Tricky going down as well

25% along the way around the mountain, we started to hear thunder and saw a cloud formation coming in. With the treacherous path, we did not want to be stuck on the mountains in a lightning and thunder storm. So after much discussion, it was decided that we turn back as we were certain of what lay that way and not exactly sure when we’d find a path back to our hostel, especially as it was a 1.5 hour bus ride from Chugchilan to Quilotoa.

Almost to the peak before turning back

Clouds coming ever closer to us

At this point, I really thought that I had nothing left in the tank. But I persevered and kept walking. Luckily the first bit was downhill but then we had to climb and climb and climb. I kept asking if there was a peak in sight and the others tried to buoy my spirits along the way.

Getting Back

By the time we got back to Quilotoa proper, we’d missed the last bus. So we decided we’d look for someone to drive us back or try to hitchhike. Hitchhiking is quite common in Ecuador and in way out of the way villages like Chugchilan and Quilotoa, it’s the way people get around. Distances are ridiculously far and vehicles few and far between.

A local came up to us and offered us a ride back in his truck for $30. We negotiated it down to $25 and got in. Check it out.

Our way home

Getting in a few snacks

I was in back for a bit and on the bouncy, unpaved roads, it was not comfortable. Myself and Steph ending up moving up front with the driver while the other three suffered in back. They ended up standing the whole way because it was more comfortable than bouncing around in the back of that truck. We of course picked up some locals along the way and made it all in one piece.

Some views along the way

Quite common to see little kids carring their siblings not much bigger than them

All dressed in red

Amazing how much these woman carry on their backs

My first priority on arriving was a shower. I was dirty. I can’t remember the last time I was so dirty. Sweaty from the walking but worse, dust everywhere. My jeans were covered in grime, my fingernails black and me just gross. Luckily we had nice hot showers at the hostel and I washed myself from head to toe. I then joined the group for some rousing bananagrams while drinking a Pilsner Grande. I then headed back to my room for more Neil Gaiman. I had run out of my first skein of yarn and had to hand wind another. I managed to get 400 yards of fingering all tangled up and spent hours trying to untangle it. Thank goodness for a good audiobook.

We then had dinner and then a debate ensued. To leave Chugchilan the next day, there were only two buses, one at 3am and another at 4am. At this time it was still very dark and I think I’ve mentioned the perilous roads once or twice. So the hostal keeper suggested that we get a truck driver to take us at a later time. This truck would be a bit more comfortable than the one we took from Quilotoa to Chugchilan earlier that day but not by too much and it would be a 3-hour ride. I felt pretty strongly about taking the public bus. It was $2.50 as opposed to at least $5 on the truck and the locals took this bus every day, why differentiate myself. Two others felt the same way so the group split. Three of us would take the bus at 4am and the other six would wake up at a godly hour, breakfast and get to Latacunga by truck.

The early bus ride was slightly scary at times but not so much so. With it being so dark you couldn’t see the abyss below and so in its way comforting. We made it to Latacunga safely and then took another bus to Quito. Then a taxi ride home (fortuitously, the three of us that wanted to take the bus back lived in the same area and so shared a cab). I arrived home, dropped my things to the floor and then crashed!

A Note on Entitlement

I mentioned before that we had to take a 4am bus back to Latacunga and then back to Quito. We were all shocked and amazed that that was our main option and more than a little annoyed. I’m not one to sleep on transport, even at 4am and so I was happy to observe the goings on around me. The one thing I noticed was that as we picked up people on a freezing, mountain morning, everyone was all smiles. They seemed thrilled to have caught the bus. Usually, when I’m in NY or London, I get to the bus stop or Subway/Tube station and if my transport hasn’t arrived within 5 minutes, I’m well annoyed. And when I get on the bus or train, my thought is “about effing time”. Here are these people stuck out in the middle of nowhere and forced to leave their homes that early to make it to work on farms or sell their goods at markets and they’re so thankful and happy that they managed to get on the bus. Even if that means standing. It kind of made me realize how entitled I feel when it comes to getting transportation on my schedule. It just made me think a little about all this stupid anger that I carry simply because I feel entitled to this or that service.

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Working out

So far this year I´ve been pretty good about most of my resolutions. I´ve published over four patterns and I´ve found a job (albeit only for 4 months). However, one big goal has fallen to the wayside. That would be fitness and weight loss. Lacking a job and motivation to go out most days (despite living near the beach – in NY- with a nice long boardwalk) and having a very sedentary hobby (knitting might be a great finger workout but I can´t imagine what else), I´ve been putting on weight rather than losing. So now that I´m in Ecuador I want to change that. I especially feel like a giant here since everyone is quite petite. At 5’8″I tower above both the men and women and the extra girth isn´t helping.

So I´ve started waking up early and going walking with my host parents. They tend to walk and I´ve been walk/jogging. With the crazy altitude and the hilly terrain, I´m not up for a full jog yet but after just 3 days out I´m already improving. I´ve always loved that I´m able to get in shape supertastically quickly. I’ve also started taking salsa classes. I had my second one last night.

Wed night was a bit of a riot. I went to this pub quiz at this British pub called Reina Victoria; it was a South American Explorers event. After work, myself and Steph went over to the pub though the quiz wouldn’t occur for another 1.5 hours. There was a happy hour though, 2 for 1 drinks. I got my usual gin & tonic and Steph got a Pilsner Grande. Then we sat around for a while, ordered nachos and waited. Being Ecuador (and despite this being an event with mainly foreigners), people didn’t start arriving till around 7:30, when the quiz should have started. As we were only two, two others joined our group. One was Mark Thurber who’s a bit famous since he’s a published author. He wrote Climbing and Hiking in Ecuador. There was also Mike’s friend Ron who I kept wanting to call Rod. Anyhow, we were happily drinking, eating and soon competing. And I thought a bit of flirting occurred between Mark and myself but I wasn´t 100% sure.

Anyhow, yesterday Mark and I played some facebook scrabble. We´re both super competitive and absolutely love scrabble. Later that evening, after my salsa class, I got home and changed into PJs and was ready to finish this shawl sample I´ve been working on when I saw an email from Mark inviting me to join him and some friends dancing. I was all set for knitting and more How I Met Your Mother, so I called and said no. Then I was sitting there thinking, hmmm, stay home and knit or go out and dance. Dancing won. A good time was had by all. We started at this bar called El Pobre Diablo and then ended at Seseribo, this really cool salsa club. It´s all salsa all the time and awesome! I was indeed correct that Mark and I were flirting as I do believe that outing might be considered a first date.

Sadly due to all the dancing, I haven´t taken any photos. I promise tons of great photos from my weekend hiking trip to Quilotoa. I leave tomorrow morning. Here´s another great song, it´s Enanitos Verdes (Argentine group) singing Lamento Boliviano:

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Es mas facil llegar al sol que a tu corazon

Note: Another picture heavy post

Best Intentions

Yesterday my plan was to have no plans. A friend went on a hiking trip and while I considered joining, I really wanted to get some work done on this new design. So I wasn’t going to go out. I went out and bought a few DVDs so that I could spend the day watching movies and How I Met Your Mother. How I met your mother came out while I lived in England and I’d never even heard of it. However, due to an obsession with watching Forgetting Sarah Marshall and a huge crush on Jason Segel, I decided that I had to start watching it. I was excited to find at a DVD shop in Quito that sold the last 4 seasons ($1.50 per DVD – not originals obviously but that’s how things work over here). I got the first season and I must say that I’m in love with that show. It’s just soooo funny.

Anyhow, I had my plans fixed for the weekend but then my host mom said that her sister and husband (Sylvia and Nelson from last weekend) were coming over to take us to lunch at their house and maybe a trip to Mitad del Mundo. Mitad del Mundo is where you can go to see the equator line and there’s a museum there explaining how they figured out the equator point etc. Of course I wasn’t going to say no. So I packed up my knitting and decided I’d try to get some done in the pick up. I’m working on a shawl and had gotten lots done the night before but then realized I’d messed up a while back. Normally I’d just fudge it but since I’m writing this pattern up I had to make sure everything worked. So I frogged the whole thing, wrote up a chart of my number of stitches for each row and planned to get a lot done on Saturday.

Instead, Sylvia and Nelson plus young Pamela and their son Pablo came to pick us up and this time it would be quite a lot of us: host mom, Sandra, myself and host siblings Christian and Andrea. Pablo and Christian ended up in the back of the pickup while the rest of us sat in the cab. Later that evening, as it grew cold, Pablo and Christian joined us in the cab of the truck. So Nelson, Pablo and Christian in the front seat. Myself, Sandra, Andrea, Sylvia and Pamela in the back – not the most comfortable ride.

El Almuerzo

In the car, Sylvia admitted that she hadn’t cooked lunch but that we should head to this cevicheria, Ecuaviche, for lunch. Get ready to check out some delicious Ecua food – mainly food from the Coast. It was quite funny that I had more experience with that kind of food than the rest of my host family since I’d lived on the Coast for 2 years (2004-06). When we arrived the place was packed; I literally stood behind a family that was nearly done eating so we could get their table. Horribly rude I know but that’s how you do things here.

Anyhow, Nelson ordered all the food. First to arrive were some bowls with popcorn and chifles (green plaintain chips).

Cangill (popcorn) and Chifles (green plaintain chips)

Then came the encebollados. This is a typical Guayaquil food, especially known for relieving a hangover. It’s a sort of tomato-ey soup with a fillet of fish, yuca and lots of onions inside. Cebolla is Spanish for onion, hence, encebollado. We ate ours with crushed up chifles in it.

encebollado

While eating our encebollado, the conchas asadas arrived. They were delish. They were in this dark sauce that was just amazing.

conchas asadas

Then the camarones (shrimp) arrived and another platter with breaded shrimp and calamares. Again yum! You can see us demolishing the food. Even Pamela tries to get in on the action.

demolishing the food

hands grasping for food

After lunch, we went to heladeria (ice cream shop) next door.

Pamela enjoying her helado

Driving Around

After our big lunch, we all got back into the pick up and went to Sylvia’s and Nelson’s house. Pamela needed to be changed. Nelson showed me some family photos and gave me the tour of the house. After that we went to check out one of Nelson’s site. He’s an engineer and is currently heading the building of a school.

The Building Site

Cousins: Christian and Pablito

Then back to the car and we headed towards Mitad del Mundo. We didn’t actually enter the tourist site but instead drove around the village. Around that area, mostly indigenous people live and so it was a bit interesting. Since we were in the car, I didn’t really take any pictures but I’m sure I’ll be heading out to Mitad del Mundo again.

Karaoke

After driving around, we stopped at a Panaderia (bakery) and then headed to Sandra’s parent’s home. I hadn’t realized that the whole family would be there. At the house I met Sandra’s brother and another of her sisters along with their spouses and children. Karaoke was the activity of the evening. Ecuadorians aren’t shy when it comes to singing and everyone jumped in. Luckily I’m a karaoke whore and so was happy to join in. Sadly, they only had Spanish music so I had to jump in and sing what few songs I knew. I started with Tabaco y Chanel by Bacilos and even did a rendition of Chiquitita by Abba in Spanish. I also sang La Bamba and joined Andrea in some Guantanamera.

Andrea jammin' with her cousin to some karaoke

Sandra's dad and his son-in-law

Andrea and another cousin, Catherine

We had coffee (me tea, can’t stand coffee) and bread and empanadas. It was quite nice. The men drank cuba libres and the women had cremitas (cream liquor).

The men getting their sing and drink on: Nelson, Santiago (Sandra's brother) and Giovanni (Sandra's brother-in-law)

The evening was quite fun; the Ecuadorians love a good family get together but as with every family get together the world over, things went a bit awry. Pamela was getting tired as it was around 10pm and Sylvia was ready to go home to put her children to bed. Nelson was happily drinking cuba libres with the other men and was not ready to go home. Sylvia got mad and was like, let’s go home now. Nelson wanted to sing one more song. Somehow, things got out of control and a fight (yelling) ensued. But that’s how things go with families, no? And of course alcohol.

Blog Title

While singing karaoke, one of the young cousins started singing a song by the group Mana and I remembered I love Mana. Anyhow, my fave Mana song Rayando el Sol was on the song list and so we sang that one together. I just love that line in the song: “Es mas facil llegar al sol que a tu corazon” – translated to mean, it’s easier to reach the sun than your heart.

I did manage to get some knitting done. While hanging out singing karaoke, I happily pulled out my knitting when I was not singing.

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