Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I'm heeeeeeeeeere!

I'm currently listening to dan katie and richard play with a noisemaking monkey, so i must be at the mahoneys!! I got in at about 1:30, thanks to the time change and sporadic snow. And immediately found myself on the receiving end of a frightening amount of hugging. Pretty great to be back, even if richard DID already RUIN fake christmas, by exchanging all his presents before i got here - despite the fact that he arrived a mere hour or two before me!!! see if he gets his christmas presents (that i bought in APRIL) now!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Happy Boxing Day!

I've worked my last shifts, survived christmas, packed up the car, and in just a few short minutes, I will be on the open road on my way to FAKE CHRISTMAS WITH THE MAHONEYS AND RICHARD! Best holiday ever! Like any good end of year publication, I must make lists:

Best 2 products used at madly popn
- booger tape (yes, this is the professional industry name for that sticky tape stuff that comes on packages and you can peel off and squish up in a little ball. we use it to stick gift cards on tins.)
- pacman (a round cardboard with a cutout, so if you screw up part of a 3 way fill tin you can pour it out without disturbing the other 2/3 contents)

Best 2 things I was nerdily excited about on the last day of work at borders
- Getting a $20 donation (in front of my boss to boot) for first book, where we've been collecting donations all month. I've collected hundreds of $s of donations just in a few weeks, which is really cool - first book is great, i've donated to them in the past and almost applied for a job with them, and its nice to offset the excessive consumption. If I could count the number of customers who dropped $200, $300, even $500 without blinking an eye...
-Getting some colombian customers, a woman with her older mother who didn't speak any english, so i got to chat with them in spanish! (also in front of my boss actually. borders loves me.)

Best 2 things about my mini vacation with Becky:
- The drive from o'hare to madison from 2-5 am. I'd worked both popcorn and borders, and becky had worked the morning in quito and then had the same flight i had 3 weeks earlier that makes 4 stops in 3 countries and gets in at 1 am.
- The extreme americana factor. I love how super wisconsin becky is, and i finally got a chance to see her in her natural habitat! We stayed at her grandparents' house in madison. Becky and her 2 siblings all want to U Wisconsin at madison, where they were FIFTH GENERATION. Her GREAT GRANDMOTHER was a professor there. Her whole family is Badgers crazy. Her grandparents are fabulous, super jolly people, who speak with a nice touch of the fargoesque accent. Becky and I had planned to check out state st and other favorite places in madison, but it was rainy and we went to the mall instead! Good american fun. I also learned that she used to work at both walmart and "the racetrack." (she's from a small town.) We had dinner with the grandparents (steak and potatoes!) and then we all watched greys anatomy. (Best part - becky's grandfather watched with an old school radio pressed to his ear, listening to the packers game!)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Since my father has been after me to come clean to my faithful readers...

Okay okay, here's how the story ended: I stayed up packing until 4am, set my alarm for 5:45, slept soundly through it, was awakened by Richard's "Oh shit!" when he magically opened his eyes for no good reason at 7:50, arrived at the airport at 8:30, caught the next flight to Bradley (via Baltimore this time, rather than Chicago) two and a half hours after my original flight had left, and somehow managed to arrive at my final destination twenty minutes before I'd been originally scheduled to. Riddle me THAT!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

And the countdown begins...

Do you recognize this scene? It's 10:00pm/11:00pm/midnight. In less than 12 hours Katie heads for the airport/has a 10-page paper due/is leaving the country. Katie has not started packing/studying/cleaning out her refrigerator. Instead, she is blogging/re-reading Midnight Hour Encores/playing Yahtzee/watching awful tv/lounging on Rebecca's bed. Really my life is one giant Mad Lib: fun at the time, but oh so lame in retrospect. (6-Months-From-Now-Katie: "WHY did I somehow think it was a good idea to stay up until 3am the night before I flew to Massachusetts? HOW did I somehow turn 45 minutes of packing into a 7-hour ordeal?")

So yes, in theory I'll be on the east coast in 18 hours, god willing and the creek don't rise. It had better snow while I'm up there, or at least be cold enough to freeze one's nose hairs so I can tell all my sweaty Texas friends about it when I get back.

And please indulge me in a moment of boasting about the most awesome present ever that Richard gave me last night: a beautiful 1930's Smith Corona in perfect working condition. Look at me, I'm Zelda Fitzgerald! What's more, apparently there's an appliance store specializing in old manual typewriters just a few blocks away, so when I inadvertantly break it for the first time (wait for it...) I can just walk it down to Mr. Wizard's Electronics.

Okay, I've finally got that mildly panicked nausea that usually leads to at least a limited burst of productivity. Happy travels to myself, and I'll see lots of you soon!



Monday, December 18, 2006

Hey, isn't that just your old car with new rims?

So I did buy a car today! And yes, as you can see, my new car is EXACTLY the same as my previous car. A 1999 "champagne" Honda Accord. Which I actually find rather creepy, but didn't quite feel that was sufficient grounds to pass on the best car i found. Other than the rims (of which i actually found the originals in the trunk, so I could change them back if I gave a shit about rims and/or wanted to take fake pictures of road trip 2005) the only radical changes are the addition of a CD player and the disappearance of a few (ahem, twenty) thousand miles. Can't wait to burn some rubber off those brand new tires to come see YOU!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Baruch ata adonai...

(sing along folks!)

so happy hanukkah! i celebrated the first night on friday by closing at borders (5-12:30... fun fun fun!) Tonight I only worked one job, which felt like a vacation, so I had time to light candles with my parents. I already got 2 out of the 4 things on my wish list - a new computer battery and the Awake my Soul DVD! Can't wait til I have time to break those out. Since I may or may not be around for Christmas, and I'm working most nights this week, we're having the big Chrismukkah (damn you and your addictive O.C. DVDs Rebecca!) extravaganza tomorrow night. Latkes and hastily wrapped presents coming up!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Who's gonna build your wall?

Just heard a highly entertaining country song on my dad's XM radio... Tom Russell's "Who's gonna build your wall?" A nice change of pace from a genre that usually leans strongly towards flag waving (from Toby Keith's contraversial song - "And you'll be sorry that / you messed with / The U.S. of A. / 'Cause we'll put a boot in your ass / It's the American way" to even Johnny Cash's "It's a Ragged Old Flag").

Now the government wants to build a barrier like ol' berlin, 8 feet tall
But if Uncle Sam sends the illegals home
Who's gonna build the wall
Who's gonna build your wall, boys
Who's gonna mow your lawn
Who's gonna cook your Mexican food
When your Mexican maid is gone

Listen to the song
Read a great article about it
Listen to same article in podcast form with clips from the song
Check out Tom Russell's blog, where he writes about the inspiration for the song

Monday, December 11, 2006

My double identity - popcorn by day, books by night!

So as if my life wasn't boring enough before, I just got a second job! Apparently I have what it takes to be a seasonal cashier, because Borders did finally call back. I'm already set to work 6 days this week, closing 3 of them (until 12:30 am!) So expect my blogging to decrease even more over the next couple of weeks (which at this point i think means my older posts are going to start disappearing!) Working for a place like Borders (500+ stores, new ones opening every day, 50,000 employees!) is quite a shock to the system after a year in Ecuador, bastion of inefficiency, and more recently my sting in family popcornland (where i've been working for over a week and still haven't filled out any paperwork). I've already had 8 hours of training, (paid fortunately)! But as giant corporations with the goal to conquer the world go, Borders is pretty cool. They're all about treating both customers and employees super well. We get all kinds of perks and if you stick with the company they will really help you out with anything you need. Like the godfather, except with a 401k. And they like hiring interesting, eclectic people, and encourage you to chat with the customers and whatnot. (it's only slightly creepy that this is all laid out in the manual, and it's all in the interest of the bottom line...)

Upside of two jobs: Lots o car money! I've checked out a few accords, and hopefully on my day off on wednesday i'll be able to go see a couple of them out. If I weren't planning on leaving town soon, I wouldn't be in such a hurry... I'm quite enjoying my private car service! (My dad, probably not so much...)

Downside of two jobs: It's going to seriously cut into my new favorite pastime... indulging in piracy, American style! Instead of buying bootlegs from nice shiny unregulated stores, I can download them from the privacy of my own home! Veronica Mars, Season 3, how sweet it is...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Plein de pain

Between us, R & I just killed about 2/3 of a huge loaf of artisan bread that he pulled out of the oven a little over an hour ago. We spent that hour on the couch watching "Daily Show" clips online and dipping said bread in olive oil. I feel extremely fat and very content.

I starting to get cranky that none of my regularly-checked blogs have been updated lately, but had to admit that I too was guilty as charged. So here I am. Hmm, what's new of late? My most recent brush with fame (not to be confused with "brushes" with fame, or brushes with "fame," both of which I've had an abundance of) came this afternoon, when I attended a NARAL intern lunch hosted by Liz Carpenter. Because I am a hopeless ignoramus, everything I actually know about Liz Carpenter (LBJ's executive assistant, Lady Bird's press secretary, co-founder of National Women's Political Caucus, at the forefront of the Women's Movement... okay, duly impressed) I learned from Wikipedia. Last night. She gets around in a motorized scooter these days, and she had to cut the lunch short because she was stressed out about finishing up a commencement speech she delievered this evening (yes, that's right; the woman who, according to the Dave Barry quote on the back of her latest book, "knows more about speechwriting than any other living human," was freaking out about penning a few vapid inspirational paragraphs for college kids... what a gal), but it was a good time nonetheless. Apparently she has a group of 8 friends (all in their 70's and 80's, I think) and every Thursday they meet at somebody's house and bring a "covered dish" for a potluck dinner and spend the night gathered around a piano singing. I love it.

Last night a group of us assistant preschool teachers (now THERE'S a sexy-sounding demographic...) went out for drinks to bid farewell to TC, my favorite pot-dealing, droopy-pantsed, aspiring-realtor, boy-you'd-peg-as-least-likely-to-work-with-small-children-if-you-had-to-pick-him-out-of-a-lineup assistant teacher from the classroom next door. My co-teacher Noelle and I have been mourning this moment ever since we found out about his resignation the Monday before last. There's no one who can keep us entertained like TC during otherwise endless 50-minute sessions on the playground, and he's just a joy to watch with the kids... they all adore him, and he keeps all the badass 4-year-old boys in line. We're all hoping for a male replacement; there's just too damn much estrogen in that school otherwise. We already lost two other full-time male teachers this summer, and another one is going down to only part-time starting in January. Nothing beats 25-year-old boys taking care of preschoolers... cuteness factor is off the charts, every time.

Apropos of nothing at all, I'm almost done with Wuthering Heights and I've gotta say, I'm pretty disappointed with it. Too many unlikeable people and cruel revenge schemes; not enough unrequited love and pining. Jane Eyre may be equally goofy, but at least it's got all the mushy love scenes between goodhearted people you could ask for. I know we're supposed to sympathize with Heathcliff, the diamond in the rough who's been crushed by life and love - but damn, that gentleman is just plain MEAN.

Tomorrow we have our last potluck and sing-it-yourself "Messiah" rehearsal at Bill & Quincy's before the performance on Saturday. Not quite as stressful as most of the other dress rehearsals I've participated in - seeing as how we're the ones who are in fact dishing out $16.50 for the distinct honor and privilege of getting to sit in the audience and mumble along with the Actual Choir onstage who will most likely drown us out to begin with - but it should be a fun. B&Q are offering up chicken soup and chocolate-walnut pie, and I'm still debating my contribution. Previous "Messiah" potluck offerings include 1.) gingerbread, 2.) peanut chutney with apple slices, and 3.) crepes with sauteed veggie filling (crepes were definitely sub-par due to experimentations with whole grains, but they served the dual function of dinner and dessert, since Quincy had some Nutella and I brought bananas, so I guess they made up for it).

Lastly, do any of you want anything from Texas before I head for the great white north in 11 days? Speak now or forever hold your peace!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sweet sweet space heater...

So in a cruel twist on last June's bitter defeat, when we stoically resisted running the a/c for as long as humanly possible before collapsing in a sweaty puddle on the floor with just enough strength left to reach out and hit the "On" switch, I finally caved and turned on the heat (which ironically is produced by our air-conditioning unit) this evening. Sure sure, my nor'eastern friends, chuckle all you want at 30-degree nights and 65-degree days... but when you're living in a poorly-insulated shack with no curtains to keep out the cold at night, no windows big enough to let the sun in during the day, and a chilly concrete floor, you start to look suspiciously like a Yankee, all the time. When I put some sweet potatoes in to bake this evening and found myself completely unwilling to shut the oven door, I decided it was time to spring for some heat.

On another house-related note, our landlord showed up at our doorstep the other day to hand over our "holiday rebate": five twenties in an old jury duty envelope. He may be the awkwardest man on the block, but damn, is he a good landlord. We toyed with the idea of dinner at Uchi but ended up storing our newfound fortune in a drawer, as the first of (er, hopefully) many contributions toward the mythical IRA's that we would open if ever we had more than $46 between us. Lucky for me I live with such an egghead, or it would never have occurred to me to make such a corporate-sounding move... but the infallible logic of his argument ("If you save money now, you'll have it later") eventually wore me down and now I'm sold. Our new year's resolution is to set aside $40 each every week, which will probably last all of three weeks.

Okay, time to go eat said sweet potatoes. Stay warm, y'all!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

I think the popcorn smell has permeated my brain...

Wait, did I suggest in my last post that getting a job would make my life MORE blogworthy? Let's see, my schedule from Tuesday through Saturday pretty has not seen much variation... working 6+ hours a day and coming home to a hot shower to wash off that good old popcorn smell and then indulge in my own personal veronica mars marathon. (Before jumping into the season 2 dvds I had to rewatch the 1st season dvds first and get myself reinvested in who was at veronica's door?!) This is not to say that I haven't been enjoying myself (merely that I am boring)! My job rocks... quick survey... how many of you can say your boss' job title is "Master Popper"?? When I showed up for my first day, it was like I had walked into an episode of Unwrapped on the Food network (ps, i think my boss is even more perky than the host of that show, if such a thing is possible.). I got the full tour of the backroom where the boys keep the poppers going nonstop and the basement where the gals put together the giant corporate orders (everything is nicely gender segregated, not that i'm complaining that I don't have the dirty hard manual labor job... i'll deal with my feminist guilt some other time.) I get to do a little bit of everything on the girly side of the equation, mostly out front helping customs where we get the rare walk in, or in back filling internet/phone orders. And sampling the product. God, good thing I've never been the low-carb type... 30 flavors of popcorn just covering every surface, plus all kinds of other snack foods... today I spent all morning heatsealing bag after bag of pistachios and chocolate covered pretzels... oops, i think this bag is too full, guess i'll have to take another bite for the team..
ok see, it's like i said, I've been trying to spare you from suffering through too many popcorn filled posts. Moving on...

Besides popcorn and VM, the big news lately is:
-SNOW! The first few days back here were just to spoil me... 60s and sunny, making it better weather than thunderstorm happy quito right now. The snow hit Thursday overnight and now everything looks like a christmas card. Of course, with our nice heated houses and door to door car service, it's hard to work up to a good snit about chicago winters.
-Natalia! I had my weekend early, when I hit the town on Thursday night with the girls. The high powered/salaried lawyer generously offered to take out her poor day laboring friend for a belated bday dinner. We hit up Sushi Samba, which is upscale but chic japanese/south american fusion. You know it was tasty, and I tried not to faint at the prices for our caipirinhas and choclo. And I got to catch up with Lillian, who in the time I haven't seen her started and completed the Ny teaching fellows program and is back in Chicago teaching at a charter school... she's probably the only person ever to enjoy teaching 7th grade and instead of complaining about her students, say they are "cute." And I met my first ecuadorian since being back - the restroom attendant at the restaurant. She voted for Noboa.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Popcorn, anyone?

Well my lack of posting since my return has been highly correlated to my lack of doing anything of interest... i've been half-heartedly pursuing the items on my to do list (Get: job, phone, car, um, life), eating large quantities of thanksgivingy food, steadfastedly ignoring the giant pile of my worldly possessions cluttering up my floor, and enjoying the odd outing (eg having a real chicago beer on tap in a real chicago pub, no more Pilsener for me!).

But never fear, I will soon be back to being a productive citizen, as I just got a job! Yes, starting tomorrow I will be serving up popcorn at Madly Pop'n, for $8 an hour. And proudly so. It sure as hell beats commuting to Oakbrook to work in an overpriced chain clothing store, which I was starting to resign myself to as the only employment possibility. While this job may not exactly take me to new heights in my career, at least MP is a local fixture, family owned, I can work regular hours (the day shift, while all their other employees are down the street attending high school...) and probably get lots of free popcorn!

PS - Correa wins!! I was afraid to call it when the papers first did, but now the official word is out! Correa is a bit of an unknown and had been spouting some extra leftist stuff like getting rid of Congress, but at least he's not a military guy (like lucio and all the other coup leaders turned victims), he was trained as an economist (at U of I!), and, most importantly, he's not an evil banana prince! So I'm feeling vaguely positive about ecuador's future (which, relative to my normal attitude, is like screaming it from the rooftops!) and I hope Rebecca and John and all my other favorite ecuadorian political experts will keep me updated on the latest.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Back from Washington

Okay, my exceedingly ambitious goal is to make this a nice long juicy update. The fact of the matter is that I'll probably fall asleep in about 100 words or so. But I have to pick up R at work in two and a half hours, and I've got nothing to do until then but sit here and listen to my new Nic Jones cd's (M&R, you'll be pleased to note that not one, not two, but THREE years after you first played me Nic at Young People's '03, I've finally gotten around to procuring "Unearthed" and "In Search Of" from Neil Pearson's excellent Fish Records... I'd been putting it off because of the cost and the overseas shipping, but I just splurged on a totally unnecessary but god-it's-environmentally-friendly organic hemp shower curtain for us, and there's just no way you can even pretend to be a thrifty human being with a beast like that hanging in your bathroom... so I bit the bullet and bought me some Nic) so I might as well get crackin on some semblance of a post.

Starting at today and working backwards, we took a classic red-eye home from Seattle last night... think of the stupidest hour you can possibly imagine to fly out of a city, and the stupidest hour you can possibly imagine to land in another one, and you can probably re-create our itinerary to a disturbing degree of accuracy. That's right - 11:45pm departure, 6:15am arrival. Now mind you, we weren't doing anything fantastic like flying overseas and landing in, say, Vienna at 6:15 in the morning. We were flying home. From a weekend in the contiguous United States. How depressing.

We got home at 7:30, squeezed in a 3-hour nap, and then it was up again and back to work. I'd put in some extra hours at NARAL on Wednesday, so I was able to roll into the office at noon today and get out of there by 2:00. At the preschool I was on total muscle memory, taking kids to go potty, feeding them snack, and breaking up wrestling matches like a pro while managing not to actually pay attention to anything. My gem of a co-teacher took pity on me and told me to leave early (it's our standard procedure when one or the other of us looks more dead than alive)... and yet in spite of working a grand total of 4.5 hours today, I still managed to be exhausted enough to come home and send out an important email announcement to over 450 people in which I spelled "funeral" f-u-n-d-e-r. ("Funder"??? What the deuce is "funder"??? That's not even close!!!)

So Thanksgiving. In spite of poorly-planned flight reservations, it was a pretty terrific long weekend. In the process of finding God and becoming a grandfather, R's dad has somehow mellowed into a really enjoyable person (still far from garrulous, but now closer to "stoic" than "scary"... how can you be frightened of a man who brings home a box of Krispy Kremes for the family on his way home from a solo hike, calls up his daughter-in-law on his days off to ask if she wants help with the babies, and pauses in the middle of his $5.99 Extreme Grand Slam breakfast platter from Denny's to shake his head and remark wonderingly "I don't know how they make money off of this"?), and his mother is still as fabulously eccentric as ever. On Thursday Charlie & Melissa and the twins came over and we had a standard Thanksgiving dinner... I was sorry not to get any of the Korean sides R had promised we'd have, but Melissa (who can be a very forcible person when she wants to be...) insisted upon good ol' American fare.

NB: The indomitable Mrs. Lee did manage to slip in a giant platter of, um, reddish jello containing chopped vegetables and shrimp which terrified us all, Americans and Koreans alike.

On Friday R&I did a short hike and then visited the nephs at Charlie & Melissa's house. Whoa. They live in a CRAZY awful brand-shiny-new sprawling rich-people's housing development (Remember Breckenridge, Cita? It's back, in Issaquah form!), the kind of place in which they've already gotten two letters of complaint from the Homeowner's Association about the state of their front lawn (which, literally, might not be big enough for me to lie down in comfortably), there are always cars driving around but somehow never any people, and the whole mess is planted square in the middle of vast empty fields in which you can already see the spectres of more identical million-dollar houses that will most assuredly be there the next time we visit them. C&M paid $750,000 for their place. What a terrifying thought.

On Saturday R&I met up with Sandy and her parents and trucked down to the Tacoma Museum of Glass. It's a neat museum, and they have live glassblowing demonstrations going on all day, which was very cool. After dropping the three of them back at the ferry, we made a brief stop to tour the amazing Seattle library. (A quick search of their homepage for pictures yielded the following mission statement, which has absolutely no bearing on my story whatsoever but is a little too amazing not to include: "Our mission is to become the best public library in the world by being so tuned in to the people we serve and so supportive of each other's efforts that we are able to provide highly responsive service.") What a job they've done... it's definitely more of a museum than a library. I don't expect any of you will want to scroll through their whole 70-image slideshow (the real thing is way better anyhow), but if you want to get an idea, you can go here.

On Sunday we went to church, hit up the aforementioned Denny's, dropped off R's dad at work, did some packing, and then brought takeout over to C&M's to spend some last quality time with the fam. It snowed on and off throughout the day, with a fair amount of it sticking to the ground and trees in Issaquah, which made the whole ridiculous development look even more picture-perfect than usual. I MISS SNOW!!!! Austin is at 70 degrees and 80% humidity at the moment... stupid Texas.

And for those of you who've made it thus far, allow me to take a moment to reward you with photos.

Well, that post killed two hours, no prob. Now I'm off to pick up Richard, call Rebecca, and then fall promptly into bed.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Happy Black Friday!

(Hey look B, I changed the blog title as per your reminder! I hope you approve.)

So as noted in the previous comments, I'm back! Shockingly my flight got in promptly and I was through customs by 1 am thanksgiving morning! 2 highlights of my trip
- the "aero chips" handed out on taca were probably the best i've eaten in south america! yuca chips with vinegar and hot sauce - yumm!
- making a super nice otavaleña friend who came on the same 3 flights as me, so i didn't have to say goodbye to ecuador until i hit O'hare.

Yesterday after sleeping in we had the usual thanksgiving with the bridges, which was a rather surreal but taaasty welcome home. and I managed not to painfully overeat for the first year ever i think!

Today I mostly hibernated, not having much desire to brave any type of commercial setting. The women in line behind me checking into our flight in Quito were headed to LA to shop the post thanksgiving sales, armed with a thick stack of printed sales ads from the internet and several empty suitcases. Good luck to them. I started my holiday shopping in march and finished last saturday, the majority of it in various otavalo trips. So all i have to worry about is cards and wrapping! Good thing because hanukkah is early this year, starting mid-december.

I did manage to accomplish:
- deposting large amounts of cash in my bank account!
- eating a real diner lunch of pancakes, eggs, and hash browns.
- eating corn pudding leftover
- boring my parents with massive ammounts of pictures, which will eventually be sorted through and posted for all to see
- going to the gym! I was confused at my inability to get in a good work out, until I got off the eliptical machine and realized i was in fact bright red and jelly legged, I just wasnt out of breath due to spending the last year hiking (whether uphill to my house or braving volcanos...) at high altitude! just like those olympic athletes.
- which involved driving for the first time in over 8 months!! I admit to being a bit rusty at reversing and parking (and putting my seatbelt on...) and did go somewhat out of my way to avoid a left turn onto a busy street.
- applying online to borders, which is hiring seasonal cashiers for the local store. It involved 37 pages of ridiculous personality questions, ranging from "do you usually take charge in a group" to "are people often mean to you" to "do you get etremely angry when criminals go free?" to "did you ever seriously consider quitting high school?" congratulations nancy and lauren, due to being excellent people who will hopefully say nice things about me (and for whom i had phone numbers at hand) you get to be my personal references! If that job doesn't work out, my mom might be able to hook me up at chicos, or i can temp. We shall see.

General impressions of being back: Everything here is so CLEAN and ORDERLY, I feel like I'm in some kind of model city exhibit! Where are all the uneven sidewalks, grafitied cement walls, honking cars and lack of any respect for traffic laws, street vendors, begging children??? Why is my orange juice not fresh? How come I can magically cook and shower without moving a gas can, flipping a switch, or lighting a match?? Why is everyone speaking english? What is the point of "Deal no deal"??

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Blogging from less afar...

Wow, I'm back in central time! Or whatever they call it here. I'm at the airport in costa rica, which puts the quito airport to SHAME with its free wifi and yummy chocolate samples. So as you can see I successfully made the first leg of my trip, but will not jinx myself again by assuming a safe and timely arrival. But with luck its just two more connections until Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Still blogging from afar...

So um yeah, I think I jinxed myself with that last post, as I ended up missing my flight yesterday!! Mostly my fault because i was late, but I was still there with an hour to spare and the airline people were NOT lifting a finger to help me. And the next flight isn't until wednesday!! I was quite upset yesterday at the airport, since I was standing there with my life all packed up and my goodbyes said, but now that i've moved back in (suprise roommies! im sleeping on your couch for another few nights!) im enjoying just being able to relax here, instead of all the running around i was doing the last few days. Really i wouldn't be doing anything different at home, and I'll still be back in time for thanksgiving. So save up all those safe travel thoughts a couple more days!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

To tide you over...

Ooh ooh, as we anxiously await Rebecca's hotly-anticipated return to the land of her birth, let's take a stroll down memory lane by revisiting her first Ecuadorian post. My how time flies!

Ya me voy!!!!

In exactly 3 hours my flight is scheduled to depart from Quito. After a stop in Guayaquil, a transfer in Costa Rica, and another stop in Guatemala, I'll be back in chicago before I know it! Off for one last almuerzo before heading to the airport. Que triiiste!

Saturday, November 18, 2006


A quick update in pictures: highlights from the past two weeks including Bill's hot-sauce-tasting party, a visit to the Dallas Museum of Art Sculpture Garden, and a group field trip to see "Madama Butterfly."

I had a wonderful sick day yesterday (you know you're too busy when getting ill is the best thing that's happened to you in a long time), and have a busy agenda for this weekend which includes laundry, napping, and maybe taking a shower at some point. On Sunday evening we're heading back to Bill and Quincy's for the first in a series of rehearsals to learn selected choruses from Handel's "Messiah"... Bill's roped us all in to attending one of those audience participation sing-it-yourself "Messiah" performances in December, which promises to be either fabulous or a complete disaster. I haven't sung choral music in 3 years, so it may take some wrangling to get my lazy Sacred Harp voice back in Handel condition. We shall see.

Okay, off and away. Happy weekend! Get ready to phone Rebecca more cheaply than you've been able to for a year just as soon as she lands stateside!!!!



Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A sunny memory

Well I'm all full of good karma now from my vegetarian almuerzo at the Govinda here. Finally had time to stop by after choir, and got to dine with my hare krishna choir buddy and her friend who you may remember from the fotos of our party, in the orange pants? Apparently just breathing the air in the temple and eating the food brings me closer to the spiritual world. They're super nice and unlike most quiteños, really interested in philosophy, politics, the larger world, etc. I got an earful about the hare krishna way, but only because i was actually really interested in hearing it - they aren't preachy at all (ive known jennie for almost a year and haven't gotten a single speech), while they're very devoted and so happy to share their way, they're also very open minded and able to actually have a dialogue about all kinds of things. A lovely community they have here with the temple/restuarant, and it is as they say a nice refuge from the hectic life outside.

More positive energy: My dad just emailed me a foto to cheer me up from all the gray weather (tanto Quito como Chicago), so I'm putting it up for all to see. It's from our stay on la Isla del Sol on the bolivian side of titicaca. We spent the afternoon hangin out on the deck of our hostal, drinking zumo de naranja, playing gin rummy, and taking in that VIEW.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Bulldog train, she my ball and chain...

1. Forgot my keys this morning, got home 45 minutes before Richard was due back from work tonight, managed with little to no difficulty to remove screen and climb in through kitchen window. In all honesty, it was almost easier to enter this way than through the front door. Should I be concerned about this?

2. Not to become one of Those People Who Post Pictures of Babies Who Aren't Theirs, but I invite you all to click here for what would be a much scarier picture if Richard's younger nephew actually had teeth.

3. Is anyone else as excited as we are at the prospect of an America-bound Rebecca?

T minus 6 days

And here I am waiting for a different flight, here in manta! alandaluz was gorgeous and sooo relaxing... i did nothing except sit and read/do crosswords, walk on the beach and eat good food. Oh except i also saw a shark! actually there were 3, but i only saw one. I was walking down to the beach when i saw a couple of local guys start gesturing wildly to the only guy surfing, and he ran out of the water and then they all ran up the lifeguardy watch tower and started pointing at the water. so i immediately thought shark, and sure enough they said "tres tiburones!" and i could see one fin out there. apparently its quite rare to see sharks in that area, they weren't sure what brought them out. that was certainly the most beach excitement, mostly it was completely deserted and it was nice enough the first afternoon to sit out and read, and the following days I took lots of long solitary walks by the shore. No swimming - forget sharks, those waves are SERIOUS... even just barely dipping my toes in I would sometimes get caught by a giant wave that would soak me and you could really feel the undertow!
the only downside of my trip was the permananent cloud cover never broke until today when I got back to Manta, so I got to enjoy a dreary beach and now a hot city. As for manta, lets just say i found the one nice internet cafe which turned out to be full of gringos and cockroaches, so im going to go off to dinner and hope for better luck at the restaurant.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Beach news and other excitement

Yes, I am using the internet at 10:30 pm friday night and intend to go to bed shortly after. I'm not particularly interested in partying with hippy tourists or sketchy locals. I had another full day yesterday - got to have dinner at crepes y waffles and hang out with john and jorge! and then an early flight, so I'm looking forward to curling up under the mosquito netting. I spoiled myself with a roundtrip flight to manta... instead of a 13 hour overnight bus ride, I walked into the airport at 6:30, got on my 7:00 flight, and was on a bus headed down the coast by 8:00, and hit Montañita at high noon. So what did YOU do today... well I took a nice walk on a beach, and did a crossword in my hammock! It's still not high season here, so it was overcast all day, but at least not cold and rainy like quito so im not complaining. montañita is ok, the beach isn't good for just hanging out - it's the place to be for surfing, and probably for meeting random travelers were i at all interested in either of those activities, but i'm mostly excited about heading to alandaluz tomorrow!
Excitement #1: My hippy culinary school finally posted the dates for the spring/summer program, so I officially have a reason to go back to the states, which is greatly needed at the moment! Assuming no probs with my application, I will be donning my chef hat March 27th!
Excitement #2: The great girls I hung out with in Vilcabamba (ok, ok, you can meet cool people traveling, i admit it) emailed me that they had finally updated their website through their stay there. I checked it out and they sure don't fool around with their updates! They have a super comprehensive description of our time, complete with surprisingly extensive mention of yours truly, and a link to tons of pictures! Yes, that is me cooking :)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

So. many. bananas.

Well, apparently my not voting and sequestering myself for the entirety of election day on a long-distance bus in a far-off country is the secret to democratic election success! who knew? Well you know you're really a pathetic excuse for an informed citizen when you get your election news the day after in the free quito public transit newspaper, and the headline reads "Gringos votan." Well, some of them did anyway. I had meant to vote and would have been able to get an absentee ballot sent to me but then I ended up traveling without an address to receive it at. Maybe 2008 will see me actually voting in my place of residence for candidates i know anything about! Or, I might be in Bolivia. Before I start planning my future how about i update you on the last few days.
My bus trip was quite uneventful, which is exactly what i was hoping for in taking a direct bus and not switching buses/companies, etc. Though shockingly (please note HEAVY sarcasm) it did not reach quito in 22 hours, but rather 29, and had left an hour late from trujillo at midnight exactly on monday night. Which put me in to Quito not Tuesday evening but Wednesday morning at 5 am. Good times with 2 nights and a full day on the same bus, with the same people. Some of my compañeros were seriously putting my journey to shame... that bus goes direct from SANTIAGO all the way to CARACAS!!!!! yuck. (check your maps.) At least expensive long-distance bus equals no skechy people stealing from me. (I'm happy to say i got through the whole trip without any loss or theft! I rock!) Though it was definitely not luxurious like the overnight bus i took from piura-lima, with bus attendants and food service and everything. Our greasy bus assistant guy in a wifebeater would have us stop somewhere random for a meal, with no set time to leave. So at some point 30 min-2 hours later most people would end up back on board and the bus would pull out. No head count, no roster checking. WIthout fail either someone woudl come running after the bus or someone would yell out "Falta!" and we'd stop to let the straggler on. That's one thing on a local bus, but i'm shocked no one ended up 2 countries behind their luggage! At least its always nice to travel on reserved buses where they don't stop every 2 minutes to let campesinos, school kids, chickens, etc. We went the stupid way, up the coast to guayaquil stopping at the horrible big border crossing instead of the better alternative i took going south. Most border crossings you exit one country, walk a nominal distance and enter the next. But in this case there's a bizarre no-man's land that took a good hour to drive across in between the borders! So if you aren't set up on a fancy bus like me, you end up easy prey for thieves, greedy taxi drivers, etc. Our excessive stopover in huaquillas actually didn't bother me to much because i was much too happy being back in ecuador! Just seeing pilsener, all the other ecuadorian products on display, made me way too happy. And i got sweet cheese empanadas for the first time in a month! and i got cell reception so as to send bored text messages to my roommates! After the border we proceeded to pass bananas for about the next 12 hours (no exaggerating... ecuador isn't the world largest exporter for nothing. i tried to estimate how many of those bananas belong to noboa. apparently he's attracting more ecuadorian voters by the day because his people spun some stuff about a giant lead in "the polls" and the commmon sentiment here is "no one wants to vote for a loser." great logic.) We did get 3 extensive police stops, every time we had to get out, show ID, have the luggage checked etc. Stupid drug trafficking route. It prob didn't help that our bus passes through both peru and colombia. I was only subjected to 2 horrible action movies (a chicano prison gang flic, complete with serveral dozen graffic deaths by file, comb, etc, and i can finally put a second tally next to the Seagal movie "Belly of the Beast!"), and the only movie i couldn't sit through and resorted to sleeping with headphones on, was Garfield 2.
My apartment was a sight for sore eyes, but after atrophying for 30 hours the last thing I wanted to do yesterday was sleep, so I set out to officially enjoy my trimphant return to ecuador. A partial list of my acheivements yesterday:
-all my favorite foods: almuerzo in my favorite spot, with my beloved cookies, pan de yuca and yogurt, dinner with becky at the pizza place, pilsener!
- singing with my choir! I felt sooo much better after singing again. That will be the hardest thing to leave in quito, after my fellow Rebeccas. They have lots of christmas concerts coming up, and a big christmas dinner, so of course everyone was trying to convinve me to stay. EVeryone was real happy to see me, and it was just liek old times - I felt like a musical genius all over again for remembering the christmas songs from last year and sight reading the new ones before eugenio even got aroudn to our part. Theres lots of new faces, which is great, and seem like cool people so im sorry not to get the chance to get to know them.
-visited the experiment, always get a nice homecoming there, even saw my little edison!, picked up my outstanding $6.50 (for the one hour i taught in september)
-went out with friends to a benefit for the womens prison - had some drinks and watched some salsa dancing.
-rolled into bed at midnight after watching another episode of the oc

Today I haven't been as ambitious, but I did write this epic blog entry. And I bought a plane ticket to the beach for tomorrow, so I am all set for some much deserved R and R in the sun. Traveling is hard work!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A short one

ELECTION RESULTS: Very, very good. (Texas managed to elect itself another less-than-exciting slate of statewide Repubs, but it's not like we didn't see that one coming. And in the meantime, the news from elsewhere just keeps getting better and better. I see Deval will indeed be the next governor of Mass... don't know much about him, but he gets HRC's stamp of approval, so that's good enough for me!)

KATIE'S RECENT BLOGGING ABILITIES: Very, very poor. (My apologies. Life has been coming a little nonstop at me for the past couple of weeks. But in the meantime, please feel free to distract yourself by admiring the absurd cuteness of R's newborn nephews.)

Consider yourselves updated on the most salient aspects of my life. Exciting new acquisitions include an organic hemp shower curtain (hippiiiiiie...) and two flasks of homemade hot sauce from Bill. Every year Bill grows his own hot peppers, processes them into different varieties of hot sauce, and then invites all his friends over to rank them from wussiest to most lethal. This year there were 17 varieties and I'm proud to report that I tried almost all of them up to and including the second-hottest sauce. (I just couldn't steel myself to try the chocolate habanero, whose evilness was summed up at various points throughout the evening as being not unlike a powerful train, an army of small angry men with clubs attacking one from the inside, and/or a throat full of rusty fish hooks. Er, check please.)

Now back to Rebecca's regularly scheduled travelogue.



Monday, November 06, 2006

I was only 22 hours from Quito...

(Uh, yeah I hope y'all appreciate Burt Bacharach as much as I apparently do. The unlikely tv i watched on bolivian/peruvian cable tv has included excellent documentaries on 2pac and Tin Pan alley in the 60s.)
I am in fact in a much better mood, trujillo is lovely, the people are friendly, i rented a hotel for the day (which felt very sketchy) so I've even managed to shower and watch the latest installment of ER (by latest i mean whatever random season they've been rerunning and i've been watching avidly.) I'm about to get on a bus DIRECT TO QUITO, which they promise will only take 22 hours. (you can get it direct from lima even, but i opted to see a new city and not spend 30 hours direct on the same bus. even though this way i don't think i beat richard's record of longest bus trip!!) Retrospective updates forthcoming once I am safely back on my home turf.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Just sayin hi

So I'm a little grouchy and not in the mood to really post, especially as i already wrote an elaborate post last night that got erased, but it's been a while and i'm killing time waiting for a night bus to trujillo, so i thought i'd say howdy! I don't even have any boring articles to link to. There's really not very much point to this post except perhaps it is slightly therepeutic to ramble. it would be much more therepeutic to go to a singing, or at least sing with my choir in quito or something, i'm gettin real antsy at this point - i haven't sung in any context for a couple of months, which is not good for the soul. Assuming after my night bus I am less grouchy (ummm... yeah... don't hold your breath...) I will try to post actual content tomorrow! love to you all.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween in... Peru??

Really weird to see lots of trick or treating kids and halloween decorations everywhere, and zero day of the dead. it's not as widespread as in the us, and its really just some young people and businesses who have embraced it more recently, so it just feels quite fake, and I miss Ecuador where right now everyone is feasting on guaguas de pan and colada morada.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The big T

Well it's been awhile since I was treated to the gorgeous view of Lake Titicaca, which is just so big and blue I really wanted to eat it up. The lake is, of course, the highest (navigable) one in the world. We first visited on the Bolivian side from Copacabana, which is an improbably chilly beach resort town filled with gringos and weekending bolivian families alike. We spent a night out on the Isla del Sol, the biggest island in the lake, densely populated with farming families and hostals. But it definitely feels different from the mainland, there's little electricity on the island and outside of the major town the traffic changes from backpackers to locals herding llamas, sheep, cows, pigs, donkeys. We had an absolutely breathtaking view from our hostal (LOTS of pictures coming someday!), which made the steep hike up from the port worth it. We mostly took it easy, though we did take a boat to the northern end of the island and hiked back, which was pretty incredible because you walk along the spine of the island and have the view from both sides.
After a night back in Copacabana we bid a fond farewell to Bolivia and headed back to the Peruvian side of the lake. While Puno wasn't as bad as I'd heard, it is as my dad says - "a waste of good farmland." It certainly doesn't take advantage of the lake as Copacabana does, you hardly see it except if you head down to the pitiful port. Which we did, since we spent another night on the island of Taquile. Unlike the isla del sol, this island is small and traditional. The locals still wear a very unique and conspicuous traditional dress, with the men in red hats that they weave themselves, and the women in a very different type of skirt than the mainlanders. Taquile is firmly on the "gringo trail" (one of my least favorite terms by the way, right up there with "francophone".), with a dozen tour companies running daily trips there. But we chose to take the local boat and spend the night with a local family, so that all our money went to the residents and not the tour companies. This was a great decision, and easily done, if you ever head this way. For the most part the local men are extremely friendly and welcoming, while the women are painfully shy and accomodating, and they all go about their business (which as far as i could see consisted of drop-spinning wool and weaving and chewing coca while walking around the island) and ignore the tourists, unless you ask them for lodging. This was another place where I felt that the locals were positive about using tourism to strengthen and showcase their way of life, rather than corrupt it. As opposed to the isla del sol, there were no kids begging for sweets or money for photos.
The only downside of my time there was that my iron stomach finally gave way! 12 months in south america and no parasites, no stomach infections, etc. Well God knows what I finally got, because I hadn't eaten anything weird from a market or raw, even though i do those things on a regular basis. I had eaten soup and cooked veggies in a nice tourist restaurant in puno. Whatever, something didn't agree with me and after the boat ride and another steep hike up to the town, I was NOT feeling well. So I ended up sleeping all the rest of the day, and trying to avoid the worst outhouse I've ever seen. Which meant i missed out on the town meeting and dinner with the family, of which my dad has many stories and pictures. The next day I felt better and was able to walk around the island to see some of the pre-inca ruins, and take the boat back to puno. Then I felt crappy again in Puno, and I was ok for the next few days but had ZERO apapetite (i could eat, like, a piece of bread and be full all day) so not a lot of energy either, which takes a lot of the fun out of traveling!
The upside of my illness was fun with local remedies. Ernesto, our host on Taquile, had immediately marched me to the nearest restaurant and announced I would drink "mate mixto" (coca and the ubiquitous local herb muña, which is quite tasty) while my dad dined on kingfish. The next night in Puno, while my dad ate a big curry dinner, I had rice and soda water, which apparently worried the proprietress. (now keep in mind this was no local eatery, but another upscale tourist restaurant.) On my way to the bathroom, she asked if i was allright, and then on the way out she cornered me with her own remedy - coca leaves soaked in pisco! She applied one to each cheek and one to the forehead, which would apparently serve to suck out my tension. I politely thanked her and tried to remove them before reentering the main dining room, full of gringos, but no, i was to leave them on. Sooo, I ended up as a funny travel story to all my fellow diners, and with a face full of pisco (as previously mentioned.) And thankfully, thus ended our stay in Puno.
And she lived to visit machu picchu, and even eat a whole sandwich!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Que viva la inmigración!

Well we are back in Puno again killing time with the internet, but I'm not feeling as long-winded as usual, partly because i have pisco all over my face and would enjoy a shower (long story involving a local remedy...)

But here is a fascinating article i came across while googlenewsing the other day. Apparently Latino immigrants in the US will send home remittances of a record $45+ billion this year. But even more notably...

IDB officials noted that the immigration benefits weren't a one-way street: About 90
percent, or about $460 billion, of the income generated by Latin American-born
migrants stays in the United States. Bendixen warned that if the United States shut
its doors to Hispanic immigrants, as Congress is attempting to do, the U.S. economy
would be "close to collapse."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Catching up on a rainy day

Wow finally a fast connection that lets me into blogger, and plenty of time to kill! We've just crossed back into Peru and are staying in Puno, which has no particular attraction except being the port on lake titicaca from which we can visit an island tomorrow, and it's pouring, so we aren't budging from this internet anytime soon. So let's catch up, shall we?

So thinking back to the jungle, we started off in Rurrenabaque, the touristy jungle town that's the jumping off point to tours. We did NOT enjoy our first night there, as we were treated to a live band playing ON OUR ROOF (technically part of the military building next door) from 11pm to 3am, when mercifully the town cuts off the electricity. Now normally I am patient with noise, but they were ON OUR ROOF, so it felt like being inside a speaker. It was admitedly, nominally better than the dance party our downstairs neighbors threw a few weeks back during which they cranked the volume louder than any club i've heard, and 90% of the time played THREE SONGS. (The shakira hips song, the horrible reggaton "na na na" song, and a normally enjoyable spanish pop song "una gota de tu voz". over. and over. and over. all night.) But we had to start our 5 hour canoe ride at 8 am the next day, so we were NOT happy. Actually, the canoe ride was lovely. I'd take a 10 hour canoe ride over a 10 hour bus ride any day. Smooth ride, cool breeze, and great scenery. We saw a pair of macaws (they only mate once, and for life, and can live to 60 or more!) and other cool birds whose names i certainly do not remember. One of the guys helping to navigate (there was a motor, but also a pilot with a pole and this other guy helping to push our way through the shallows.) provided excitement by catching a fish, later losing his hat in the water so that we had to come back and rescue it, and finally wading off to a random point on the share, fish in hand.
During our stay at Chalalan we took a bunch of hikes (they have a great system of trails around the lake), took nightly canoe rides around the lake (both before dinner and after) to see all the wildlife, and hiked up to a mirador (lookout point) where you can see to the border of the parque nacional madidi. The one rainy day was our last full day, and we had already seen all kinds of things, so there was no pressure to go out and suffer in the rain like the other people who had a shorter stay. So I got to lay in the hammock and finally read up on peru and relax. The last night we had a "traditional feast" which mostly involved a traditional fish wrapped in leaves, and a salad bar. That was followed by a performace by the local musicians and a coca chewing ceremony. I wasn't too exited for that because it sounded super forced and touristy (they do it every time a group is leaving, which means every few days!) but it wasn't at all. After the performance, we were all still hanging out and chatting, everyone kept adding to their coca wad, and our guides picked up their own instruments and joined the musicians in jamming for about another hour.
The next day we reluctantly returned to Rurre, which meant another lovely canoe ride. Although we dislike Rurre (hot, mosquitoes, a million tourists, higher prices because everything is imported from the main cities.)and did not want to stay the extra day there (our flight was delayed, as usually happens because it is in the jungle and it gets muddy) we found a lovely little restaurant and a really nice bar that played excellent music (morcheeba, and no regeton!) and had a pool table.
The next morning we got out on the first flight, thankfully, and spent another lovely day in La Paz. We found a lovely hotel, did some artesania shopping (which we had put off so as not to drag our purchases around bolivia), had good food, and mailed more postcards.
The next day we did a day trip to Tiahuanacu, the ruins of the capital of the Pre-inca cvilization of the same name. It was actually around for about 3,000 years, which only the egyptians can match! It's funny to look at timelines of south american indigenous civilizations, because they all stetch out over thousands of years, and the incas barely fit on the chart at the end with 200ish years. some cool stuff, which will be much more interesting when i post the pictures. TO do it you really have to go with a guide, which meant going on an organized tour from the city - ick. But fortunately it was not completely overrun with backpacking europeans, we talked mostly with a lovely and typically effusive argentinian couple and a friendly bolivian woman who had been there before and was more interested in chatting with me about evo.
After the ruins we had a financial adventure that severely cut into our shopping time... my dad had had his debit card retained by an evil ATM machine at the airport the previous day. (not his fault, the machine was just confused.) which was fun - no one on site to do anything, as the designated spanish speaker i got to call the number and explain the sit. The atm guy said all we would have to do is go to a central office in the city the next day. OK, so it's the next evening, we finally find the bulding, and the office on the 11th floor, and the card isn't there. Apparently its still at the bank, but we can't go to the bank, it has to be sent to this central agency. Logically. Luckily they took pity on us and sent a messenger and we didn't have to wait tooo long. And we still got all kinds of goodies that i will try not to keep for myself, but rather bestow upon you lucky people as presents for the upcoming holiday season.
Long story short we did get out of la paz friday morning, atm cards and presents in tow. As this post is running on and the rain is slowing and our stomachs rumbling, I will leave our story in Copacabana. Up next: the gorgeous lake Titicaca! (i'll preempt linda's "hehe, titicaca!")

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Dynamic duo

So we just got back from one of R's co-worker's birthday parties, for which everyone was instructed to attend with their respective boyfriend/girlfriend/best friend and dress up as their favorite dynamic duo. Since R and I are costumally-challenged, we decided to go with an excellent suggestion proposed to us by another one of his co-workers. More on that soon; for now, you can follow this link for some photodocumentation.

P.S. All costume components courtesy of Goodwill, except for my silver medal, which was originally a beer cap.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Mmmm.... black spider monkey...

AKA, Chalalán part I

You don't get a lot of conservationist guides who can tell you the names of animals (and plants) in 4 languages (quechua, spanish, english, and latin) AND how they taste. We just came back from Chalalán, which was a splurge for bolivia (but not really expensive compared to say, hotels in chicago or new york) but which will probably be the best part of our trip. Lots of places in south america say they are eco-lodges or do community based tourism, but Chalalán is the only one that is completely owned and operated by an indigenous community. To keep people from leaving their community, they turned to tourism, and actually started out doing "adventure tourism" where they would basically hack down the jungle and hunt as much big game as possible. Then there's a whole long convoluted story in there involving an israeli guy who got lost and helped by them and wrote a book and came back and tried to help THEM and then tried to buy their land and got kicked out, but somehow they came out of it with a vision of a real ecolodge. We heard a LOT about how "their dream became reality" and how grateful they are, but thats no exaggeration. With international help they put together a beautiful lodge in pristine primary forest around a lovely lake, got a whole national park declared (the park madidi - check out this page for mindblowing statistics about one of the world's most diverse protected areas!) and eventually assumed sole ownership and direction of the lodge! Right now 10% of the money goes to the booking agency, 45% goes directly to their community where it funds schools, etc, and 45% goes back to the lodge where it also pays a lot of salaries (80% or something of the population works with the lodge in some way.).
But you don't feel like you are there out of charity or anything, and they don't put on a "native" act for you. They've just seriously got their shit together and are justly proud of it. The guides are reeeally well educated and speak english well (im seriously considering coming back as a volunteer teacher!) and I was seriously impressed by how full their perspective is. Because they were brought up as hunters, you get all kinds of stories about which vines they use as poison to fish with, or how wild peccaries sometimes taste too strongly of the wild garlic, or how to get the monkeys they've killed down from tall trees. But they've also really embraced conservation and understand that its the future of their community. And because of their work with their guests they have a really broad and international perspective on things. I had some involved conversations with our guide, Sergio, comparing things in the US, ecuador, and here, and talking about things like linguistic diversity, nationalization, international aid, etc. And yet the exposure to international culture isn't tempting to him... he can't wait to get back to his community without electricity and spend his days off hunting and eating monkeys etc!(they still hunt even the endangered species in designated areas).
And then there's the actual nature of it, which is what holds up the whole endeavor. In a lot of protected places anywhere in the world, the area is so small or has already been hunted down so that there are hardly any large mammals. And if they are there they've probably been reintroduced (aka buffalo in yellowstone). And yeah, the insects and plants are all incredible and diverse, but honestly I'm no biologist and i want to see cool stuff! Here you have really undisturbed primary forest so we got to see 4 kinds of monkeys, 3 of which were really common, swinging around in the trees right above us, (red holwer monkeys, brown cappucino monkeys, and yellow squirrel monkeys!) and one that was a bit shy and we had to track down. (black spider monkeys.) The howler monkeys wake up at 5 am and make a really loud guttural noise for a while, and then go back to sleep. hence, so do the people. (well, wake up. we don't make the noise. anyway.) also a tapir (the largest mammal in south america), 2 caimans (alligators, that live in the lake you can swim in. not aggressive, or so they say.) and all kinds of amazing birds including macaws (red and green, red and blue, and yellow and blue.)
SO thats chalalán in a nutshell, tomorrow i'll put in some about exactly how we spent our days but im worn out from reading all your emails and rambling on so about community ecotourism!
FYI it's looking like Correa (leftist) vs Naboa (banana prince) in a runoff election in november. I guess Correa's got my vote! Also, Lucio Gutierrez came in 4th with 15% of the vote. you know, the president who got thrown out of office and fled the country last year. gotta love democracy, ecuador style.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Notes from mid-October

Oooh, who knew? Apparently I've been working for the Commies! There are loads of people who refuse to align themselves with World Can't Wait because of its founder... who knew? I thought the only people who hated Communists were McCarthyism holdovers and people who'd actually had to suffer through an entire game of Class Struggle. I completely and totally appreciate the issues people have with World Can't Wait's founders, but until another group whose sole mission is to drive out the Bush regime comes my way, I guess I'll stick with the faulty one I've got. Besides, who would be the webmaster of our local chapter if I quit? (That's right. I said "webmaster." You know an organization is desperate when...) Actually, we just had a really good meeting last Friday... about 10 new very enthusiastic folks showed up, claiming (we should have made them sign a contract) that they were interested in taking on - get this - some responsibility for the local chapter. We'll see how that goes... at any rate the 3-4 of us who've been running things blindly for the past 6 months are sure as shootin' not going to devote as much time to this group as we've had to lately.

In other news, I'm about to embark on a whirlwind two weeks which will included some or all of the following: three concerts, two sings, a costume birthday part at a roller-skating rink, Jenna coming to town, the Southwest Texas Sacred Harp Convention, a public screening of a shapenote documentary, day-tripping to Dallas, a retirement gala for the Executive Director of the Women's Health & Family Planning of Texas organization, and an evening of signmaking for a WCW protest. My pajama-time is going to be severely diminished. Ideally my week consists of 6 days on which I grudgingly get dressed and 1 pajama day; we call that the Golden Ratio. Fortunately I got in a good run of it yesterday while I could. It was the kind of dark, drizzly day that we never get down here, perfect for reading and writing letters and baking sweet potato bread and cleaning the house and cooking an Actual Dinner (not to be confused with the frozen-meat-free-soy-free chicken nuggets which are posing as tonight's meal).

R & I are going up to stay with his parents in Seattle for Thanksgiving, a visit which will hopefully involve two brand-new babies - not, rest assured, our own, nor his parents' (though the comic possibilities of THAT one are endless), but the twin boys due any day now by way of R's brother and sister-in-law, who just moved from Rhode Island back to Washington. Which I suppose sort of makes me an aunt (though not in the eyes of God), and gives us an eagerly-anticipated excuse to buy adorable presents.

My frozen nuggets are calling to me, so I'll bid you all adieu, and try very hard not to wait 2 weeks before posting again...



Friday, October 13, 2006

Disappearing into the jungle...

Well, Bolivia is definitely keeping us entertained. After Potosi we spent a day in Sucre, the other capital city. My dad's plans to see the dinosaur tracks in the local cement factory were thwarted by our inability to track down the temptingly corny "dinobus", but instead we went to this really excellent textile museum. As opposed to most of the museums we went to in La Paz the next day, it had been updated since 1986 and didn't just have a "50 letter or less" plaque next to each display. For about 10 years they have sponsored a project in two indigenous communities (Jalq'a and tarabuco) to support/revive traditional weaving. They have an extremely comprehensive display of both the modern weavings of both communities and artifacts going back thousands of years. They include TONS of info analyzing it along historical/anthropological lines as well as an artistic perspective. I'll stop raving until I can put up some pretty pictures to accompany my boring text :)
We didn't like sucre as much as la paz or even potosi, and were glad we had only planned to stay one day. It was nice enough, but we couldn't find the lovely cafes of the other towns and besides that museum and the dinosaurs, not much to do. But the next day we found to our dismay that the transit strike had spread to other major cities, including sucre! After a few panicky minutes, we finally found a taxi with another guy also flying back to la paz that morning, and had an entertaining ride to the airport that involved much backing down streets after discovering they were blocked. Ironically, when we got back to la paz we found that they had resolved their own strike there!
We really only spent yesterday afternoon in la paz killing time before leaving for our jungle trip this morning. We went to the afore mentioned random museums, the highlight of which were the graphically bloody battle displays in the history museum - and the instrument museum! Unlike the trip Richard and I took to the instrument museum in London, it did not feature historic european instruments (although there was a harmonium!). Instead it was the charango (a local small guitar) hall of fame, as well as home to all kinds of modern improvised instruments which will eventually show up in my pictures. Then last night we caught a showing at the cheap local theater (a genuine old theater with balcony and ushers and everything!) of the fabulous movie "Quién mató a la llamita blanca?", which turned out to be a darkly hilarious Bolivian Bonnie and Clyde drug trafficking caper. (you can watch the trailer at that link!) Reminded me a lot of Que tan lejos, with its hometown appeal and familiar footage of spots in la paz and around the country, but with lots more incisive social commentary.
This morning I mailed a bunch of postcards... so many of you lucky readers should be recieving a taste of bolivia in 6-8 months. I love that the stamps are all of Evo Morales, the current outspoken indigenous coca loving president.
That brings me to the jungle! We took a VERY small plane to Rurrenbaque (where we landed on a grass strip...) and were met by our ever helpful guide from Chalalan, the supposedly incredible ecolodge we are going to spend 3 days at. Since it involves a 5-7 hour canoe ride up the river, we are spending the night in town first. I keep thinking i'm at the ecuadorian coast, it's exactly the same weather, palm trees, outdoor restaurants, stores selling flip flops and sunscreen. But starting tomorrow we will be in the middle of primary forest listening to the calls of howler monkeys! (Maybe i'll be able to give you some tips when i get back kt!)
I'm very psyched, but you'll have to wait a while until we get back into civilization to get an update!! (the 17th for those keeping track...) I'm upset that i'll be out of the loop during the ecuadorian presedential election on the 15th... if you can't wait to find out who will be featured in the upcoming runoff you can check out the el comercio.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

So high!

Helloooooooo to all you losers at sea level! (look how loud I have to yell!) I'm writing from Potosi, Bolivia, the highest city in the world. I wanted to write this post from the highest internet cafe in the world (apparently their 3rd floor spot edged them in for that record.) but sadly it has closed. So i'll have to settle for this lame almost-highest spot. Just spent a couple of lovely days in La Paz, my favorite place so far. Reminds me of Quito but much more accessible, cleaner, more culture, etc. At least in the center... we passed all the shanty towns on the bus, but of course that kind of poverty and stratification isn't unique in south america. We meant to go see a cool pre-incan ruin outside the city yesterday, but the city bus drivers had other plans. Apparently they were upset with new city regulations and went on strike. But they didn't just not work... they used their buses to block the streets all over town! So no traffic anywhere in the city! ("No hay movilazion" was the phrase of the day.) It was actually a blessing in disguise, because it's a very walkable city and it was a gorgeous day, and no bus fumes! Only downside was that random things weren't open, since some people couldn't make it to work. We heard various theories that the strike wouldn't even last the day, to at most a 48 hour strike. We decided to play it safe and get the hell out of dodge, which turned out to be a good idea because i just checked the local paper and the headline is "Drivers shut down La Paz and declare an indefinite strike."
So we overnighted it to Potosi, which in addition to being the highest city you may also remember from your European history textbook (by which i mean I remember it from AP Euro because i'm a big history nerd) as home to a gigantic silver mine which was the biggest factor in making spain grossly rich lo those many centuries. potosi was actually the richest city in the world, and the second largest in population for a time. What stuns me is that the mines are still functional!!! Miners still go to work in horrible conditions, at least not as slaves anymore. We didn't do a mine tour because it sounded extremely intense (and i really feel it's common sense to decline any trip in which you are encouraged to bring dynamite as presents!) but we did tour the Casa de Monedas, where they minted silver from the 1500s to 1953. It's really well restored but with amazing original machinery and everything, including the oldest technology - giant wooden machines that were powered by horses (who had about a lifespan of 20-60 days in this altitude and cold.) They also have ridiculously elaborate silver pieces on display. A definite lesson in how much suffering powered so much wealth. (Apparently the spanish have a saying "vale un potosi")
From here we're off to sucre for a day where we plan to see dinosaur tracks and buy chocolate, and then it's off to the jungle!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Another day, another country

So here I am in La Paz, the highest world capital! Bolivia and La Paz are all about the highest everything... golf course, airport, lo que sea. Yesterday we flew to Juliaca and took a bus to Puno, which is on Lake Titicaca. What a world away from miraflores... it was relieving to see the familiar sights of indigenas tilling the land, mercados, and street vendors. We also ate some particularly good food and filled up on coca tea, coca granola bars, etc. (Coca helps with the altitude, which my dad is still adjusting to... puno isn't quite as high as la paz, but higher than quito and we had flown in from coastal lima!) Then today we made the trek to la paz. Just one bus ticket, but it was quite an undertaking as it involved crossing the border, switching buses in copacabana, getting held up in several small villages (and in la paz!) by parades of dancing indigenas (a festival day of some sort), and crossing lake titicaca (people on boats, our bus had its own little ferry). So far I am enjoying Peru and Bolivia, particularly the existance of nightlife, and the food (i'm eating my weight in quinoa!). I am not enjoying the tourist lifestyle... in ecuador even the most touristed destinations usually involve busses full of locals, and few english speaking ecuadorians. Here we have been surrounded by gringos constantly, particularly on the busses, and I'm very frustrated at not understanding the locals half the time because it turns out they are trying to speak english to me. La Paz seems more promising on this count, we are staying in a cute area near the university and have not seen so many tourists. Tomorrow I'm psyched for the coca museum and markets!
Oh, also, I'm impressed with: " ofrecido en: Quechua"

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Made it to Lima

Made it to Lima after enjoying the bus cama, complete with dinner, breakfast, bus stewardesses, and no Jean Claude Van Damme flics. Spent the afternoon checking out Miraflores, which is the chic neighborhood of Lima that seems to be the only place worthwhile place to stay in the city. And it is NICE. Meaning they have some UPSCALE shit around here. I thought quicentro and the hilton colon was something. no no. This is like American upscale. They have a Whole Foods look alike, malls with serious style, chic cafes, and even flat sidewalks! I didn't trip even once today! It's a little overwhelming. I did magane to find the one pair of pants in South America that don't have the EVIL fit (aka skin tight and loooriding). Also down the street I found the joys of the other side of shopping here... big bins of factory direct old navy abercrombie etc clothes ("made in peru") for .75 to $3. Not too shabby. Also ate lunch at a vegetarian place (pachamanca, a traditional dish dating back to incan times, apparently as an offering to the earth, and still common today. it was kind of like seco.). Tomorrow we're flying down to the border and then going overland to La Paz! So a whole other country coming up. Still no idea of our overall itinerary. Good times.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Saludos desde Piura, Peru!

I made it to Peru! My two days back in Quito were filled with watching way too much OC (damn you LA Rebecca!!) and too little time packing, but I managed to get everything together (and if anything, i UNDERpacked! My brand new chimbo "north face" backpack won't even cinch tight enough! But I'm hoping to fill that all extra space up with goodies from Peru and Bolivia!) and leave for my 7:15 flight to cuenca. Boy am I converted to flying domestically in ecuador. (Even if I was thwarted from going all the way to loja, as starting the 2nd they are fixing the runways and cancelled all flights for 2 months. grr) Instead of a 12+ hour bumpy busride with chickens etc down the panamericana, for $50 I was leaving the airport in cuenca less than 2 hours after leaving my apartment in quito. With an incredible aerial view of cotpaxi (you can see the crater!) to boot. Then when I inquired at the info desk at the aiport about the bus terminal, a nice woman said "te traigo" and so i followed her out, thinking she was going to indicate how to get a bus or walk. Instead she gave me a ride in her car and didn't let me pay her! So then I got a bus to loja (my 4th time in the terminal in a week), and fortunately managed to make it in time for the 1 pm bus direct to piura, which takes you across the border so there's minimal immigration fus and no transferring. So just one plane, two buses, and 14 hours later, and there i was in peru! I met a swiss girl also traveling solita on the bus and with the same plans to travel to lima tonight on cama bus (a luxury nonexistant in ecuador), so we've been hanging out and ive been enjoying her guide book complete with map, unlike mine which has 2 sentences on piura. We're killing time until the night bus, so I've been indulging in catching up on blog updates at jennas blog, rosies blog, and veganlunchbox! As for Peru I'm much more exciting about traveling now that I've gotten here and switched to soles and chatted with people. Before I was really reluctant to leave the safety net of my residency, Ecuadorian spanish, dollars, etc. I can understand people and people understand me, though the hotel clerk laughed at me when i said "chevere"... he said it was very "limeña", not ecuadorian however, so that bodes well. Tomorrow I should get into Lima at 8 am and then meet up with my dad at his hostal, and then we can really plan our trip! Tengo ganas de conocer todo de Bolivia y Peru!

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Well folks, after another night bus, at 7 am I finally returned to my hometown of Quito after my 2 weeks down the sierra and a whirlwhind 24 hour trip to Guayaquil. I successfully read up on peru/bolivia and practiced travelling light, got to know more of my country of residence, and had some excellent encounters. In list form:

Grand total, 2 weeks door to door from my apartment: $211.60 (mas o menos)

Cities visited: Banos, Riobamba, Cuenca, San Juan, Loja, Vilcabamba, Guayaquil

Buses taken: lost track after 20

Best lodging:
Rumi WIlco EcoLodge - A lovely spot just outside of Vilcabamba where I broke my solitude to hike/cook/debate with a couple of excellent American gals (named what else but Rebecca and Katie!)

Honorable mention: The free stay squished in with excellent company at the compadre's apartment in Guayaquil!

Worst lodging:
Loja - a lovely town with nice parks, easy buses, and pretty churches, but it has the worst and most overpriced hostals I've seen in Ecuador. The first night I had to put up with an ugly dark cement room with flourescent lights and no shower curtain, on top of which I was awakened by people banging on my door thinking it was a bathroom, and a furry rodent scurrying hither and thither at 4 am!!! After putting up with lots of excuses (my favorite was the rodent wasnt a mouse but a hamster belonging to a kid) I eventually got half my money back, and moved on to another more expensive place with nice staff but equally unattractive rooms. (but no hamsters.)

Best views
1) The postcard view of vilcabamba and the surrounding from the ridge hike at rumiwilco, tied with the view of the night sky at night from rumi wilco.
2) View of Loja from the easily acessible Parque Argelia
3) View of Guayaquil from the restored lighthouse at the top of Cerro Santa Ana

Worst view: The nonexistant view of Banos, since the pouring rain and lingering clouds prevented me from doing the hike up the hill behind the city.

Best food:
1) The meals we cooked at Rumi Wilco and the compadre's apartment.
2) Fried humitas in Loja
3) Yogurt Persa which gives the Youca chain a run for its money in the pan de yuca department
4) The first mango of the season!
5) The excellent fruit salad at the chain of vegeterian restaurants in Cuenca.
honorable mention: the beet candy I ate in San Juan!

Best random encounters
3) Running into Raul (eyepatch) on the Malecon in Guayaquil!
2) Missing the bus station in Ambato TWICE (two consecutive bus drivers forgot to "avisarme")
1) Meeting Jesus from "Que Tan Lejos" on the street in Cuenca!!! (Shout out for this excellent Ecuadorian movie coming soon.)

I have lovely pictures of my trip that have a slight possibility of getting posted before I myself come back to the US. BUT, thanks to an insanely fast internet connection at the Plaza today I was able to upload tons more pictures! Which means I am completely caught up on pictures except imbabura and my most recent travels! I'm very pleasantly surprised and impressed with myself and I hope you are too. Siga no mas, walk with me down memory lane as:
Natalia and I travel to the coast and to cuenca
We bid John farewell with a chiva
and send Adela off and celebrate my birthday!

Nouvelle Mexique

Okay... at last and finally and about time, here are the rest of my New Mexico pictures. Lots of Alexa and Eric and Jossi, mainly for the benefit of those who know them. I also snuck in a few from R's backpacking trip in the Guadalupe Mountains. All in all, it was a lovely short weekend vacation... the drive out was by turns beautiful, ugly, and just plain boring, so it provided for plenty of variety. As far as cities go where just driving through it was enough for all of us to decide that you couldn't pay us enough to go back there... Lubbock might have to take the prize. Booming metropolis with the best name: Muleshoe, Texas. Our favorite store: Barricades Unlimited, which appeared to be filled to the brim with orange cones and contruction dividers. Least compelling billboard: "COVENANT HEALTH: THE ONLY PEDIATRIC TRAUMA WARD IN THE AREA." (Wow, if it's the only one, it MUST be good...)

We got into Albuquerque in time for David Ivey's singing school, and then drove up to Santa Fe to spend the night with Eric's delightful parents. Saturday we sang (I'll spare the non-singers a dull description of the sing; ask me if you want a rundown) and then skipped the evening social and went back to Santa Fe, where Eric gave us a private tour of downtown and treated us to tasty Mexican food. It was a great evening, in spite of the almost unbearable preciousness of downtown Santa Fe: galleries, upscale boutiques, and trendy restaurants as far as the eye can see, all done up in adobe pueblo-style architecture. The weather was chilly and perfect, and the view of the mountains couldn't be beat. After dark, we did a 5-minute hike up to the top of a local hill with a sweeping vista of the lit-up city. Then we went home for hot chocolate.

More singing on Sunday, another amazing potluck spread (New Mexico had one of the best dinners on the grounds I've ever seen, with things like giant pans of salmon and agave-sweetened iced tea and crock pots fun of chicken-chili stew...), and then the three of us with Eric & Jossi went to a cafe for coffee, extended de-briefing, and goodbyes. Alexa and I got dropped off at the airport, and twelve hours later I was back at work again.

So there you have it. Nothing else exciting coming up until R & I fly to Seattle to spend Thanksgiving with his parents. (I'm sure THAT will entail at least a post unto itself...) Autumn seems to be concert season in Austin, or at least the time of year when they book everyone we want to see, so we've been doing a fair bit of that lately. Good news: The weather is cooling a little. Bad news: We just paid off, between the two of us, $28 in library fines. (Probably enough to have purchased ALL the damn books, plus the DVD.) All in all, things are going pretty well here. My months of World Can't Wait work are culminating in a big (by which I mean, hopefully not pitifully small) rally/media event on Thursday evening... I'll let you know if we pull that one off. If you're interested in attending an anti-Bush rally near you on that day, click here for a complete list of locations and events. There are currently over 150 events planned in cities across the U.S. and southern Canada, which is pretty exciting.

Okay, R's off at work (a peculiar 6-9pm schedule today) and I'm getting hungry again, so I think I'll continue the theme of eating and sleeping that has made up our ENTIRE weekend and go fix me some dinner. Later!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Another teaser

[Re-attempt on Friday morning, after Blogger refused to let me post this last night...]

Follow this link for exactly one picture from our trip to New Mexico that I'm not too tired to post tonight. R came home a day early and brought his camera with him, so here's yet one more teaser of things to follow: R and me, fellow Austinite Alexa, and the fabulous Eric and Jossi at the Albuquerque Balloon Museum, possibly the best venue at which I've ever attended a Sacred Harp convention. (Eric said it was only his second-best; apparently he once sang at a creationist dinosaur museum. I'm still a little agog at the concept of THAT.) We sang in a second-floor gallery/meeting room with a wall of windows overlooking the mountains and the field where all the hot air balloons are launched at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (which R and I randomly know all about because one of my Juneau co-workers made a short documentary about it which we saw a screening of last winter) every October. Too bad we missed the Fiesta by a week or two... but we got to see balloons aplenty inside the museum, which was a wacky jumble of balloons and balloon lore. The best part, though? It was 35 degrees in Santa Fe both mornings when we woke up there. 35 degrees. Richard had to SCRAPE THE WINDSHIELD before we left on Sunday. Haven't done THAT in a while...

Okay, this is already longer than I intended. More soon.

Stomach fun and LOTS of buses

Sorry if I disappeared for a few days there, though from the lack of concerned emails no one seems to have noticed. I was hanging out on a lovely ecolodge in vilcabamba with no cell reception and no chance to use the internet in town until today. I actually spent an extra day here since I woke up yesterday with stomach problems and couldnt really leave my bed, let alone get on a multi hour bus to machala. But, if you have to be sick at least do it somewhere where you can enjoy a lovely mountain view from your hammock while nursing yourself back to health with freshly squeezed orange juice from the tree next to you and tea from freshly picked mint. Now I'm pushing all the way on to guayaquil where hopefully I will meet up with rebecca and co and see elizabeth run a marathon tomorrow! Then an overnight bus back to quito where its peru prep time, and hopefully time to upload more pictures and make a last round of phone calls to some lucky people.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

1:02 a.m., back from New Mexico

I have to drag myself out of bed in five and a half hours, so this is just a teaser before my real post tomorrow. R & Alexa & I had a fabulous weekend at the Rocky Mountain Sacred Harp Convention in Albuquerque this weekend... now I'm newly home and R is driving around southwestern New Mexico somewhere in preparation for a few days of backpacking in the Guadalupe Mountains. Photos forthcoming when R and his camera get back to Austin, and I promise a real update tomorrow. In the meantime, happy Rosh Hashana, happy Equinox, and I'll be back in 24 hours...



Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Traveling solita / another picture bonanza!

So after an excellent week in Quito during which I got all my supplies for peru, had a lovely birthday, met our new roommate Andrew, and saw a fabulous (ecuadorian??!!) movie, I'm back on the road! I finally made it to Baños, where of course it poured the whole time. The damn rainy season is back in Quito... it POURED on sunday just as I was getting ready to go to the bus station, and the encore took over my whole day in Baños. I wasn't even planning on doing anything dramatic like bungee jumping or renting cuadrones, i just wanted a little hike around the city! Oh well, it was pretty enough, though I could have done without the high concentration of backpacking gringos and the locals trying to convince me to take a tour to the volcano. Tonight I'm making an unscheduled stop in Riobamba, cuz I was having bus hassles and didn't want to push on all the way to cuenca tonight. I actually like the city a lot, the downtown area is actually the historic area too, and they have some lovely parks. Not to mention that I had to tear myself away from the Warner channel to go next door to use the internet.

But, thanks to their high speed, I finally updated some more pictures!! There's a whole bunch of new CUTIE pictures of Blanca... Becky says I'm going to be one of THOSE parents, who follow their kids around with cameras and insist everyone else see the slideshow. (Aren't all parents like that??) But seriously, Blanca, who we were afraid would be even more traumatized after a second move, LOVED moving. Not as much the part where we had to shut her in the carrying case. But the part where she gets to explore a whole new world, and the part where people keep moving in and out and we keep unpacking and redecorating, so the scenery keeps changing. She's had a ball climbing in cabinets, boxes, closets, and most especially up the curtains. And she's gotten a lot more affectionate, climbing up in our laps, and she even let me brush her for half an hour on my birthday! (she's gotten, well, a lot less blanca, but was refusing to let us brush her...)
Also there are pictures of the big party we had, and Natalia's time chillin in Quito (including climbing rucu pichinca)!! Up next, if I ever have the time... traveling with Natalia, John's chiva, climbing Imbabura, and all my recent solo traveling!! Phew, this camera sure is getting a workout...

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Thanks for all the lovely birthday wishes everyone! The fact that my inbox was literally full is probably largely due to katie's bday shoutouts, so thanks doubly to her :) I had a nice tranquilo day, just went out to dinner with friends. It was nice to see everyone since I've been traveling though. And Rebecca N really went above and beyond, in providing the birthday hat, lovely flowers, and party favors! I'm definitely holding those of you made empty promises of bday celebration when I get back in a few months to it! Here's a picture of yours truly on my special day... that will have to tide you over until then. Or at least until I post more pictures and juicy travel stories (um, not a guarantee) tomorrow.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The long-awaited Picture Bonanza!!

Item of business A#1... must keep up the consecutive posts talking about Katie's hair! Seriously though, is it too cute or what??

As for me, I'm finally home in Quito with my very own bedroom and everything, at least for this week! I got back on Friday night just in time for all my business and traveling to catch up with me in the form of a nice big cold. And also for Adela's despedida! Since then I have consumed vast amounts of tea and chocolate and watched massive amounts of Friends. Filling you in on my travels will just have to wait until my next post, since I just exhausted all my time and energy updating lots o photos! I FINALLY finished the section from my parents' visit in, ahem, April. There's also another album chock full o summer fun... everything from the mundial to belated jewish holidays! Please enjoy, and I'll try to get caught up with pics of Natalia's visit this week.

I am otherwise hoping to spend this week teaching a few classes, getting ready for Peru, and turning 24!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Oh nooooooo...

So about an hour ago, I wrote a lengthy post all about the most recent variation of my haircut, the hippie fashion show we went to last night, the gospel brunch we're going to tomorrow, and my hilarious exploits doing phone canvassing for World Can't Wait. Then I stopped in the middle to check my email, forgot about my half-a-post, closed the blogging window, and put the computer to sleep. D'oh. So you'll have to make do with following this link to my newest haircut. I promise you'll never have to look at shots of my head again. Not a guarantee.

In the meantime, I hope you've all put Rebecca's birthday cards into the mail!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


One more self-indulgent post to admit that I finally washed my hair, and here's a full frontal view.

In other news, Richard drank a glass of beef stock yesterday.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Don't give the girl your scissors

After hours of updating the website of the Austin chapter of World Can't Wait (inspired tonight by the fact that methane and carbon levels in the atmosphere are higher than they've ever been in the past 800,000 years), I'm tired and cranky and determined to cheer myself up with a little self-indulgent posting. I've got that irritated feeling that can only come from knowing you just spent 90 minutes doing what a computer nerd could have accomplished in less than five, so in order to distract myself, I invite you all to CLICK HERE to see my new haircut! I picked up the scissors yesterday afternoon and began hacking (Richard was taking a nap so he couldn't stay my hand by anxiously reminding me how much he hates change), and once I'd gotten too short to make a proper ponytail, I figured I'd better keep going high enough to get all the hair off my neck, because ain't no way you can wear your hair down in that Texas summer sun. I sweat enough as it is; I don't need the extra help... So now I have short hair, and I haven't washed it yet so I have no idea what it will look like after I do; I'm hoping it's more Amelie than Ronald McDonald, but due to its charming multiple-personality disorder (straight today, curly tomorrow...), there's really no telling.

In other news, and as if I didn't already have enough links in this post, I can't recommend highly enough that you all go here to watch the first 7 minutes of "Awake My Soul," which, having seen only the first 7 minutes of, I can safely pronounce will be a KICKASS documentary.

Hoo boy, I get to wake up in 5 hours. Time to hit the proverbial hay. xoxo