dónde fue el semestre?

7 May

So… guess I’ve fallen behind on the updates lately. It’s the whole “living in the moment” initiative. The past two weeks has been a rollercoaster ride of mized emotions about having to leave and getting to return to the states. There have been many, “We’ll see eachother in the states soon,” “What’s your skype name?” “Lets take a road trip to reunite in Chicago!” and, “Of course I’m going to come back! When? Um… as soon as possible?”


I left Otavalo last Sunday… with much difficulty and a few tears. Eight people from my family (which was not even everyone who was home) walked me to the bus station and helped carry my bags- they joked about me smuggling cuyes to Quito. I almost gave Erika (the three-year-old) a heart attack when I pretended that I was going to take her with me… she’s very sensitive. When Regina arrived, we got on the bus and headed towards Quito

This past week I stayed in the house and spent many hours working, and procrasting, on my final report. I got it done finally… several hours before it was due. It’s 40 pages of Spanish, 2 pages of English, and 2 pages of photos if anyone cares to see it : )

MY PARENTS (from the States) ARRIVE IN QUITO TONIGHT! I’m a bit nervous that they’ll get themselves into trouble not knowing or understanding ANY spanish, but hopefully I’ll be able to keep them from straying too far. We don’t have any set plans for travels besides to visit Quito and Otavalo- vamos a ver que pasará : )

After my parents leave, I’m travelling with my friend Julio to Colombia… in bus. We’ll see how far we can get until we have to start the return trip to Quito.

Itumi decided to help me out with picture-taking a few times, the following photos are his handiwork:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I am sending warm wishes and sincere gratitude to all mothers and mother figures! My appreciation for moms grows every day as I continue to discover just how much they extend themselves for those in their care. I hope that my mom(s) know how much they mean to me and that I love them.

Saludos, La Kelly


from weeks in the past…

2 May
It’s been a busy past couple of weeks.  May 7-15th my parents (my biological set) visited me and we had a week full of activities and exploring. The night that I dropped them off at the Quito airport, I headed back to Otavalo so Julio and I could leave for our adventure to Colombia early on Monday (May 16th). We returned to Otavalo on the 24th, and the next evening I was in River Falls, WI, USA.
Brief re-caps:
Week with Parents: (I copy/pasted the summary email my mom sent out to her friends… )
“I am writing a “blog” type email to give you a brief summary of our Ecuador trip.  Thank you to all of you, who in some way, made it possible for Dave and I to take this trip.  In a way, it was a trip of a lifetime, because we had Kelly there as our tour guide and interpreter.  This gave us a whole different experience than if we had gone with a tour group or through a tour guide.  The whole trip went smoothly.  I’ll give you a short itinerary of what we did:
Saturday, May 7th, 2011 – arrived in Quito, late, around 11:00 p.m.
Sunday – walked around “Old Town” Quito in the morning; took a cable car up to Pachincha area in the afternoon and hiked around for a few hours; met Kelly’s Quito family in the evening
Monday – visited Cimas, Kelly’s school in Quito and met the staff; visited the Botanical Gardens in Quito; had lunch at the Family’s restaurant; then took a 2 hour bus ride through the mountain range (for only  $2.00/person) to Otavalo
Tuesday – walked around Otavalo and visited the markets and bargained for a few things; learned the phrase “Quánto cuesta?”, which means “How much is this?”; met Kelly’s Otavalo family, and saw their  “chakras”, which is their farm plots, and then got fed by Luzmila, the Mom.  She’s a great cook, along with Abuela (“Grandma”).
Wednesday – met with Kelly’s Otavalo family and hiked to the sacred tree, El Lechero.  We took the “back route”, which was basically straight up – very challenging in the thin air for we sea dwellers; then hiked  to Parque Condor and saw the demonstration they put on.  It was fascinating.  Kelly was able to hold a Kestrel.  The condors are huge! Then we hiked to the waterfall, Cascada Peguche.  But we  stopped, en route, for a picnic lunch that Luzmila had packed and that Humberto hauled the whole time.  It included 2 different large pots of various beans and other preparations that Luzmilla had made,  complete with silverware, ceramic plates and a liter of homemade fruit juice.  It tasted wonderful.  The waterfall was impressive, to say the least.
Thursday – went to Cotacahi, a nearby town, which is known for their leather work.  Bargained some more for various items; visited the nearby lake, Laguna Cuicocha, which was also stunning.  We didn’t do  the 4 hour hike around the lake, but hiked for over 1 hour.  We had stunning views from there, because we were so high up.   Note, we also ate some fruit from a street vendor, and did not wash it first.   Returned back to Otavalo, and Tami attempted to attend a yoga class with Kelly, but had started to feel ill and ended up with a bad case of Gastritis.  We won’t go into details here.
Friday – we were originally going to travel and stay overnight at the Intag area, but because Tami was still recovering, we just hung around Otavalo for that day.
Saturday – visited several more nearby towns, including Ibarra (not too much there) and the nearby lake.  We thought we’d see a bull fight that was being advertised, but when we got to it, we told the taxi  driver to take us back to town.  There were about 5 people there and it was not the glamourous image you might imagine.  We then went to San Antonio, which is known for their wood working and saw  some beautiful wood carvings.  Note, we did not eat anymore unwashed fruit. We returned to Otavalo and enjoyed the building excitement of the city on the weekend.  There are always people in the  sidewalks, which are safe to walk around on at night.
Sunday – met Jose at 10:00 a.m. and he took us straight up to Laguna Mojanda, about 40 minutes outside of Otavalo.  He is also one of the cooks at the hotel we stayed at, and makes a fabulous brick oven  pizza!  The brick and stone road up there was mostly good, but had been washed out in spots due to the rainy season.  It was supposed to be a 2 hour “easy” hike around 2 of the 3 lakes up there, but  we were feeling good, so we thought we’d go see the 3rd lake.  Well, the hike ended up being 4 hours and quite challenging.  Plus, we encountered about every weather condition possible – beautiful  sunshine, fog, hail, rain with thunder and lightening.  When you’re up in the Andes, you never know what to expect with the weather, and we got it all in just 4 hours!”

Week in Colombia:

Lunes, 16/5: Left at 4:00am to catch a bus to the border town of Tulcán. Taxi to the border. Went through Ecuadorian and Colombian customs. Taxi to the bus station in Ipiales. Bus to Pasto- Popayan- Cali. After two hours of waiting in the bus station, we took our last bus to Armenia, then a taxi to the house of couch-surfing friend Juanita (who had left keys with the guard so we could enter her house at 4:30am on Tuesday without disturbing anyone). It was, almost literally twenty-four hours in buses through all kinds of countryside and road conditions, occasionally interrupted by security checks from Colombian police and military officials.

Martes, 17/5: Ate my first arepa for breakfast, along with a wonderful cup of Colombian coffee. Juanita walked us around the town and helped us get our bearings. I tried a typically Colombian fruit called chataduro, served with honey… it tasted like dry, poorly prepared yucca and Julio and Juanita were amused by the face I made as I gave it a “second-try bite” (to no avail). Armenia is a city of 200.000 in a hot climate and the three of us were all sweating and wanting to change our shirts to something with less fabric by the time we returned from our stroll. Juanita had to go to work, but gave us instructions of how to get to a coffee plantation and foundation to preserve the coffee culture called Recuca. We were dropped off at the end of a banana tree-lined dirt road and we walked for a kilometer until we saw the well-kept orange-trimmed building indicating home-base for Recuca. We learned about coffee culture and how the coffee berries were traditionally harvested and processed. I had the best cup of coffee I think I will ever have.

Miércoles,  18/5: Went to a small mountain village called Salento and explored. We took a Willyx to Valle de Cocora to hike for a few hours. When we got back to Armenia, we made a fantastic dinner of pasta with shrimp and a cream sauce, salad with balsamic and olive oil, and a white wine. It was very well received.

Jueves, 19/5: Left Armenia to head to a coastal town where a bunch of rivers meet and flow into the ocean… and then we slept through our bus stop. So we changed plans and went to Cali, the salsa capital of the world, instead. We met up with a group of couch-surfers celebrating birthdays at a salsa club called Tin Tin Deo that evening. Surprisingly, we held our own and were able to dance without embarassing ourselves… but WOW! there were some fantastic dancers!!

Viernes, 20/5: Went to the Zoológico de Cali, a modern art museum (which wasn’t spectacular), and hung out at a bar to drink a few beers before the dancing started.

Sábado, 21/5: Managed to wake up very early to catch a bus to Popayan which would then take us to San Augustin. Spent the majority of the day on the bus- half of those hours we bumped along a dirt road, occasionally stopping for security checkpoints or slowing down to pass army tanks. Arrived in San Augustin around 3:30pm, found a hotel, met up with couch-surfing friend Steven to get to know the town a bit better. Had a crazy night of dancing.

Domingo, 22/5: Spent the day in a Jeep touring rocks carved by the ancient civilization of San Augustin and seeing the beautiful natural landmarks in the area. I have so many pictures of stones now. Because it was raining in the evening, we stayed in and painted with a plant called Achote (which the Ecuadorian Tsachila indigenous population uses to dye their hair).

Lunes, 23/5: Went to El Parque Arqueológico de San Augustin. Had a great morning walking around and taking pictures despite the heat. We caught a bus around 3pm for Popayan and started our return trip to Otavalo.

Martes 24/5: Made it to Otavalo at 10:30am… after a long night on the most uncomfortable bus I’ve ever had the chance to experience. Showered and felt like a new person. Picked up chinese food and watched the news. Went to bed early.

Miercoles 25/5: Julio drove me to the airport. I had finally controlled my tears when my Otavaleño family called me to wish me safe travels. I spent the rest of the day in airports and planes. Woke Emily up around 11pm when the dogs and I jumped on her.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(apologies for the unorganized mess of photos… ask if you have specific questions 🙂

Mucho amor… sending from stateside now,

la kelly


27 Apr

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

solamente una semana más en Otavalo :(

24 Apr

Some pictures from the week. Many are of Cotacachi. I see her out my window every day and get really excited when there aren’t clouds covering her peak. In the indigenous cosmovision, all parts of nature have a gender (i.e. Mama Cotacachi, Taita/Papa Imbabura). The most wise and respected Yachaks of the community are the ones who assign gender to the grand landmarks. The genders can change or be more masculine/feminine depending on time, weather, and current characteristics of the natural feature.

I rode a horse in el Parque Carolina across from my house yesterday. Wow, les extraño mis caballitos! It was great.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve been called “jovencita” (joven= young, cita= an affectioante, diminutive add-on that is used a lot here) several times, by different people, once I disclose my age. I wonder if it’s true. The typical age guess for me has been about 24. It’s one of those things I won’t be able to recognize until I’m past this life-stage, right? Like when I was in fifth grade and thought whatever little click I was part of “ruled the school,” and then came sixth grade all of a sudden and we got our egos checked.

Luzmila, Humberto, Maiya, Itumi, and I took an adventure to el Lago San Pablo today. It was beautiful. The local communities used to supplement their diets with fish from the lake, but then an invasive species was introduced that ate all/most of the fish inidgenous to the lake (colonialization happens in waterlife too!). This fishy lives in the very bottom of the lake, so is hard to catch. There are also problems of polution and receeding water. Despite this, the lake is gorgeous and gave me peace. We took a motorboat tour of half the lake; Itumi pointed our every duck to me, “Miraaa Kelly. Un pato allá, y allá, y aquí…”

We went on a walk after eating fruit and bread on the dock. We were trying to get to El Lechero, but we ended up above la Cascada Peguche. I didn’t know that San Pablo supplies the waterfall before this; I have a better idea of the geography now : )

Most of the soccer fields can also double for swimming pools. Hay demasiada lluvia en este momento.

Itumi, enthralled by feeding the ducks. "Mis hijos, mis hijos," he kept saying.

Maiya and Itumi

Lago San Pablo

Boat tour over half the lake

Would like to mention that there is a pair of adirondack chairs suspended on posts above the water... don't think this picture shows them.

Totora- it grows in quantities around this lake and many local women earn a living (well...hopefully) from constructing tortora mats. Most indigenous families use these mats under mattresses, as doormats, and/or as beds.

Taita Imbabura (can you see the heart?)

El corazón de Imbabura

Estimado Peguche: Te encanto. Mejores deseos, K

Now to continue working on my beast of a paper…

hasta nos hablamos otra vez, amor K

fanesca al máximo

21 Apr

Wed 20/4/2011:  So much rain lately- every single day, usually in the afternoon and night. The quantity is abnormal and is hindering the harvesting of plants and is turning the canchas de fútbol into swimming pools.

-Hojas de wabo are supposed to relieve stomach pains. So is penca. There’s a Wabo tree in one of the family’s chakras. Penca is all over the place (especially in medians and along fence lines), but there are two types… I think the little kind is the one you’re supposed to use.

-I tried another family’s humitas, but they ain’t got game compared to Abuela’s.

-After Adam, Regina, and I did some yoga, we hung out with Rosita and Leslie (Regina’s host mom and sister). We made jokes about the mayor (Adam’s host dad), how Leslie always says, “mentiroso!”, and about how, instead of proving my public speaking skills in spanish, I only agree to hold the “how to properly put a condom on” demonstration penis.

-Came home, helped fry roscillas- made babies, balls, circles, and pretzels out of the dough.

-The family shared pictures with me… which you can view below! Proof in image that I’m here and participating : )

Today I may go to the mayor of Cotacachi’s family’s Fanesca fest. Explanation: Regina and I were interviewing a doctor when the sister of the mayor of Cotacachi, Toa, came in and preceded to urge us to come to the festivities on Thursday because it would be a good cultural experience. My family is making fanesca as well.

mucho amor!  que le vaya bonito!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

21 Apr

revisión de los eventos pasados:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

empieza semana santa

19 Apr

Jueves (14/4): Completed a couple of interviews with people. A friend made a chinese soup with shrimp for lunch. My tutor and I tried to meet in Ibarra to talk about my paper, but we couldn’t find each other and the cafe we agreed to meet at was closed and buses took longer than normal. It was three hours and an entire 90 centavos needlessly spent on buses (round trip, mind you).

Viernes (15/4): Did more interviews. Had a meeting with Emilia from CIMAS to talk about how my internship is going and what I’m doing. I had a hard time explaining that last part because I don’t necessarily have a set schedule, but I end up doing a lot of little, varied things that make the days fly by. I got a bit overwhelmed in realizing that a) this paper is going to take a lot of time to write/complete, b) I only have two weeks left in Otavalo and, c) I only have 4 weeks left in Ecuador. Emilia was very complimentary of my project though and said it’s something that’s never been looked-into before.

There was a going-away party for several Ecuadorian friends (and friends of friends)- two people are going to Venezuela (separate cities though) and two are headed to Chicago for nine months (will probably take a Chicago trip to visit once I’m back in Mpls- how is it that I already feel antsy for having to stay there for a while?). I left the activity at 4am, which, I found out later, is when things started happening. It’s probably a good thing that there will be less people to hang out with in these last couple weeks… I hope it will help reduce my procrastination.

Sábado (16/4): Transcribed interviews for a while; it takes so long to do, especially when there are words in spanish I don’t recognize or screaming babies in the background who make it difficult to hear. Had fanesca at the family of a friend’s house. Here’s how wiki translated some information about la fanesca: ”

“The fanesca is a soup typical Ecuadorian cuisine , is traditionally served during the period of Easter (or even a week before). This is a soup that is served hot. Tradition from Spain. Its preparation brings the whole family several days before getting down to work to peel the beans and let the soup more delicate, so are taking away the grain, grain husks. The fanesca is all a celebration that marks the Ecuadorian culture, is about teamwork, sharing and enjoy the cooperation of all members of the family, the Andean tradition, the wisdom of the elderly, children’s hands and the time of the grandmothers. Cooked in milk and cod. This exquisite dish blends indigenous tradition of Spanish culture. In honor of the twelve apostles, has 12 ingredients, including grains are typically Andean such as: corn , quinoa , lupines , beans , peas ,lentils , peanuts and beans . It tastes very special and delicious. Its scent back to the grandmother’s home preparations.”

Anyway, it was quite good and I was easily welcomed into the family affair. Out of necessity, I’m getting better at denying seconds and thirds.

After a nap, a friend and I hung out in the Plaza de los Ponchos for a couple hours- people-watching, making up movie-scripts about stray groups of dogs, and playing a second of hot lava monster. We joined others to play Jenga at a pub, then braved the rain to go dancing. There ended up being a huge fight- evidence of which remained in blood splatters on cars. When they let started letting people in/out of the bar again, the energy was tense and we witnessed the beginings of more conflicts. Maybe the full moon had influence.

Domingo (17/4): Went with Humberto to the start of a soccer tournament in Iluman (I think?) called “Llullu Muru Raymi Pascuas La Bolsa,” which I assume is Quechua. It’s an indigenous tourney for kids/young adults, and like all indigenous festivities here, food was not lacking. During the comencement ceremony, the madrinas (which translates to “godmother” but has different significance in this situation as most of the girls were under 18 years old) of each team and the madrinas of the tourney in general were recognized and the organizers and other women of the community presented their gifts of food (chicken and potatoes or a quantity of cooked grains). Once all the grains were dumped onto a sheet in the middle of the field, tended by several women and circled by hungry dogs, it was an unorganized rush to grab handfuls of the communal snack. Humberto didn’t have a bag with him, so we ate out of his cupped fleece jacket as we walked to Peguche to meet up with Luzmila, Shryi, Ishanti, and Itumi at the church.

So it was palm Sunday, right? Did you know that there is a species of little birds who live in the special type of palm-sunday tree whose numbers are endangered because of the desforestation of this plant? It’s true. Which is why it’s not allowed to use that type of plant anymore- any leaf will do. Luzmila brought the tops of two stalks of corn and we carried the now-blessed bundle with us back to the soccer fields to watch a game or two. Shyri had been upset that this was the first tournament he hadn’t played in in nine years, but he ended up meeting up with friends who let him join. From everything I hear, he’s a great jugador and is always participating in some tournament or pick0up game.

Lunes (18/4): Worked on transcribing. Conducted two really interesting interviews- one with a holistically-minded gynocologist and the other with Luzmila. Found out that before pharmacists sell anti-conception or birth-control methods to women, they ask whether they are married or not; this helps explain why the pregnancy-rate of teenagers is one of the highest in South America (also, 94% of sexually-active young people know about birth control methods, yet only 42% use them). Men are not questioned about their marital status. Oh machismo- it manifests in so many ways. From a liberal, feminist, equal-rights perspective it’s interesting to live in this culture that degrades and highly values women at the same time. I don’t always know how to deal with it.

Went to Regina’s house to have fanesca with her host family. Every family has their own special way of making it and each claim that their grandma’s is the best. (I preferred the first type- it had peanut butter. PB always wins).

Martes (19/4): More f-ing transcribing. Practiced to a new Dave Farmar yoga podcast! Helped grind chochlo to make a colada. Will be meeting up with a friend to hang out before she returns to the states.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Also, did I ever post a picture of me wearing the anaco? I have proof…


(I'm staying in Cesar's room- he told me once that he likes the indigenous from my country and has dreams to meet and marry one... explanations for the wall decoration)

At the wedding. One friend of Humberto's told me I should always wear the anaco. I think I look like I'm 12.

Erika and I took pictures with Photo Booth today. She’s been in a surprisingly friendly mood compared to the usual blank face she gives me when I try to chat with her.


una semana de actividades

13 Apr

Lunes (4/4) y Martes(5/4): yoga y sauna

Jueves (7/4): yoga, dance party

Viernes (8/4): yoga, salsa class! more dancing after a snack break

Sábado (9/4): went to Quito, hung out with Carlos and Patrice (mis padres Quiteños) as they ran around the restuarant serving people, met up with a friend, hung out for band practice (metalrock band… five hours of electric guitar= tired ears), ate homemade bolas de verde con cafecito, went to a karaoke parlor (didn’t get a chance to sing though), more dancing (ahh! new people to dance with and different styles to learn)

Domingo (10/4): trip to Quisapincha with friend and his family- bought fantastic bread and helado, went leather-jacket shopping (I contributed my opinions on the fit/style). The trip home took twice as long because everyone was returning to Quito on the Panamericana.

Lunes (11/4): Went to a community with Dra. Miriam and la Rosita to give medicine to kids with parasite infections. Made pan with Luzmila, Abuela, and Shyri- Luzmila kneaded the dough for at least 4o minutes, I held the bowl (which was as big as if I imaginary hug a tree in front of me). We let the dough rest for a while, then we all sat on milk crates around the pan of hot oil and fried the whole batch for a final product called roscillas fritas.

Martes (12/4): Desayuno- colada de uvilla, roscillas, huevo/frijole/chochlo fritada, té de anise. Went to a charla with Mariana y Regina- I held the synthetic penis as Regina demonstrated the proper way to put on and remove a condom. Registered for summer classes: Basic Social Stats and Summer Dance Intensive (!!!). Went back to the community. Yoga. Ate hummus con pan pita y ensalada with Regina, talked to a man a hot dog stand, went home and watched fútbol with my brothers. Long-overdue skype date with Caitlin.

Miércoles (13/4): Desayuno- chocolate caliente, roscillas, tortilla de huevo/espinaca/zanahoria, jugo de tomate de árbol. Learned a lot from Luzmila as she told me about how/when/why the chakras are planted as they are and the importance of growing complimentary plants together. Started my interviews for my research project (sometimes I forget I’m here because of an academic program…)


Goals: live in the moment, listen with sincerity, act out of love

besitos, k


7 Apr

Breakfasts at my house are not always what I expect “breakfast food” to be (and there’s always so much of it! I’m full until 3pm):

Lunes: pastel, té de anise, huevos

Martes: colada, pan, jugo de manzana, tortilla de espinaca/huevo/cebolla/queso

Miércoles: pescado frito (trout or carp caught fresh from a nearby lake by an indigenous women’s group), arroz, tomate/cebolla, pan, colada morada

Jueves: arroz con leche, pan con mermelada, huevos fritos, jugo de tomate de árbol,

más fotos del fin de semana

6 Apr

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Oh, también, I might be going to Berlin at the end of summer. Help me find good ticket deals?