Taita Imbabura

5 Apr

On Sunday, I did indeed wake up early to go play basket with Robert, Shyri, and César (I mostly watched all the goings-on from the sideline). We got huge bowls of cevichochos afterwards for 50 centavos. Later, Luzmila, Humberto, Roberto, Shyri, César, Itumi, and I went on an adventure to see a big volcanic rock. It was a bus ride and a climb to get there and completely worth the effort. Humberto explained to me, as we were standing on top of the rock and looking below at the entire valley, how the eucalyptus trees had grown so you couldn’t see that this ceremony site had direct connections with others inbetween Taita Imbabura and Mama Cotacachi (these rocks were here because Imbabura and Cotacachi fought at one point and tried to throw rocks at each other). The rock is especially powerful at sunset and sunrise.

We ate a lunch of fruits, orange juice, bread, cheese, homemade marmelade, and chochlo at the base of the rock. Itumi led the way when we had finished and were climbing up higher to get a better view and see a natural spring. We stopped to take a rest, and moments after Luzmila said, “Oh, here comes the rain,” it started pouring. Imbabura did not want visitors at the moment, and we retreated down the mountain, sliding more than stepping at times. Then it started hailing. Pobrecito Itumi was only wearing a tshirt and I tried as best as I could to be a sheild for him (he now has a bad cough because he didn’t take his mom’s advise and bring his chompa). Luzmila and Humberto descended barefoot because their traditional slippershoes are not meant for mountain climbing in a downpour.

When we got to the bottom, we looked back and saw that Imbabura was now drenched in sun and seemed inviting (we made jokes about turning around for try number two). When we got back to the house, we downed cups of té de anise, ate pancitos, and waited for our turn in the lukewarm shower.

Later (after more comida- sopa de espinaca, chochlo, higo con queso), I went to a friends house to do yoga, and then we went to a sauna/turkish bath. It made me wish for the beach. After we had sweated out all of our toxins, we ate humitas con colada morada en la plaza de los ponchos, and then made vino hervido (with organge zest). It was a great weekend (and I completely put off all homework).

There’s a group of us going to the sauna again after yoga today. I’m thinking less and less that I need to return to the states to take Statistics this summer so I can in turn start my two-semester Sociology Honors Thesis Project. Mi compañera de casa posted a fantastic link to my facebook page about summer yoga teacher training in Argentina… I mean, the plane tickets to South America from the U.S. are expensive and I’m already here… it’s the economically smart choice to make, right?

(this slideshow includes a few pictures from the Pachamanca)

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mucho amor a todos mis queridos,


3 Apr

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Semana de Vacaciones- Viaje por carretera

28 Mar

I didn’t go to Colombia- we (Lucy, Toby, and I) found out the day before our we were supposed to leave (while I was getting a mani/pedicure with Kelly) that we would be expelled from the program if we went because, as I am very aware of now, there is a U.S. State Department travel warning for Colombia. If we had wanted to go, we would’ve needed to create a petition that would’ve been approved by a board of senior-level University officials only for strictly academic purposes. Our proposal would’ve been denied, without a doubt.

This is despite the fact there is an MSID program in Kenya, which also has a travel warning, and LAC programs in Mexico which ALSO has a travel warning. Cartagena and Medellin are two of the safest cities in Latin America. The University responded that because students are in those countries with experienced/qualified staff, they’re exempt from this blanket policy. (Toby did his senior thesis on violence in Mexico… fourteen people were killed in a drug-related shootout last year). We had asked staff here before we bought our tickets if we were allowed to travel to Colombia and were told there wasn’t a problem with that- so because of the miscommunication between CIMAS and U of M staff, we were assured that we will be getting our money refunded. Also, as soon as this program ends we are allowed to travel to Colombia because we are no longer under the U of M’s protection… talk about international politics. Venting done.


Anyway, we were not hindered in enjoying ourselves for our week of spring break. Option number two: road trip! (public “Thank you!” to Lucy and Toby for arranging the details). We had a map, a plan to make it to the coast and follow El Ruta Del Sol, and a rough idea of what we wanted to do, but for the most part, we kept the itinerary open and worked with our (surprisingly few) wrong turns. The thing about traveling in Ecuador is that you mostly know (despite the lack of road signs) when you’re on a main road- they’re the ones that are mostly maintained and, for the most part, paved. Our maps could have been more user-friendly, but luckily the people wherever we stopped to ask directions were as helpful as they could be and were extremely amable in any case (the drunk man on the side of the road, who almost fell over when we slowed our car near him, was the least effective).

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Día Uno, Domingo, 13/3/2011: Quito to Bahía de Caraquez. We drove for most of the day- through all kinds of towns and landscapes. We made a pit stop to buy music- out of the three cds we got, only the Reggae Hits was a sucess and became the soundtrack for the rest of the journey (“All she wants is a baby!”).We arrived in sleepy Bahía de Caraquez as the sun was setting. The ciudad is on a penninsula and the colors surrounding us were fantastic. I think I had a long moment of ecstasy in anticipation of the week and the beaches. We picked La Herradura Hotel and found a Mexican restaurant to eat at. Burritos and cerveza after a long day in the car.

Día Dos, Lunes, 14/3/2011: Bahía de Caraquez to Puerto Cayo. Consulting Lonely Planet and our maps, we decided at breakfast where we were headed. (Btw, breakfast was an amazing Bolón de Verde con Maní y Café con leche- que rico!). We drove for a second and then decided we should take a right turn and drive a block to stop at the beach in San Clementi. I tried to take a quick beach run, but the beach wasn’t long enough to run for more than a couple minutes in each direction, so I joined Lucy and Toby in the waves. We drove (and stopped when we wanted) along La Ruta del Sol, which runs near the ocean for long stretches of time, occasionally dipping inland to take passes through mountains. We ended up finding a “family cabin” to stay in (at a reduced price- everything is a negotiation) outside of Puerto Cayo. We bought some pasta and veggies, cut up the pineapple we bought from a road stand, opened the red wine first, and looked out on the ocean from our porch table as we ate. After we had finished and cleaned up, we took a night beach walk… and ended up going skinny-dipping. A feeling of freedom, if I’ve ever felt one.

Día Tres, Martes, 15/3/2011: Puerto Cayo to Frauilles Beach to Puerto Lopez. From Puerto Cayo we headed straight to “the most pristine beach in Ecuador.” Fraullies Beach National Park Area is an arid land area (complete with cacti, lizards, and poisonous trees) that opens up to a white sand beach and a crystal blue bay area, bordered by rocky outcroppings on the edges. I spent a fair amount of time walking and taking pictures as Lucy and Toby spent a fair amount of time being cute and couple-y. We met three people (two Germans- Christian and Sabina- and an Ecuadorian home on vacation from studying in Germany- Byron) who we met up later with for lunch in Puerto Lopez. As we were hanging out in a hammocks at a beach-side cabaña, Christian came hobbling up to us from the water. He was stung by a manta ray on his big toe and apparently it was really painful. Within a couple minutes he was being doctored-up by a couple middle-aged women who had were owners of hostals and other cabañas and had treated ray stings before. Once Christian was stable, Byron and I decided to take a day-ending dip in the ocean. We didn’t encounter any rays, but I was stung all over both my legs by aguamala (jellyfish). I had red, itchy welts in funny patterns for the rest of the week (I was relieved from the itches once I learned about the power of vinegar). We spent the night in Hostal del Sol… where the music didn’t stop until 2am and I attempted to sleep on the top bunk of a stuff dormitory.

Día Quatro, Miercoles, 16/3/2011: Puerto Lopez to Isla de Plata to Montañita. We got up early and spent most of the day on our Isla de Plata adventure. The boat ride there took 1 hr, 15 minutes. We saw dolphins!! They are amazing animals and I wish I knew what it felt like to play like they do. My pictures are thanks to a German who stuck out his hand and demanded a camera when los delfines were on his side of the boat. The island, now dubbed “The Poor Man’s Galapagos” (because there are a few bird species that are the same) used to be someone’s private land in which he attempted to run a tourist business. When he abandoned the project, the island was turned into a national park (around 1979). The Blue Footed Boobies we saw have grown up seeing humans, and because of this, we would walk a few feet away from them and they would just watch us go by. They also can’t walk on land very well, hence “boobies,” but are fantastic swimmers who dive at crazy speeds and for this reason, do not have nostrils. The babies are cotton balls with big (not-blue-yet) feet. The frigot birds weren’t in mating season, but apparently when they are, “they look like a party of red balloons in the tree,” said the guide.When we got to the boat, there was a big turtle eating watermelon thrown to him by the fishermen. A couple of people went snorkeling, but there was aguamala so I decided to watch the beautiful fish from the boat.

When we got back to land, we headed straight to Montañita with an Australian named Stacy we met on the boat. We picked a hostel on the corner of Calle de los Coctelles… we knew we weren’t going to get much sleep. The other street near us was full of street performers. I think everyone who has dreadlocks in Ecuador lives in Montañita- it’s a party/surf/beach/artisan mood. We had ourselves a fun night of talking, dancing, and music.

Día Cinco, Jueves, 17/3/2011: Montañita. Had a late breakfast at a vegetarian restaurant… with REAL coffee. Lucy and I had two little mugs each. Although I was reluctant at first, we all took a surf lesson. Our instructor Adany, who recruited us on the street, is on the Montañita longboard team (which has gained international attention for it’s recent accomplishments). Montañita is the best place to surf in Ecaudor, says everyone. I had success for a first lesson. I’m seriously considering of spending my last week of travel hanging out and renting a board for the day. (Ah! I don’t want to think about the end of my time here!) We went to dinner with Adany later (who was honestly a little weird outside of surfing), browsed the talented vendors’ work, and then I headed to our newer-quieter hostal and crashed.

Día Seis, Viernes, 18/3/2011: Montañita to Zumbahua. I went for a beach run in the morning- It was one of those runs that not only is interesting and fun during, but that carries over for an extended period of time after… which was good because we had a long day of driving to come. We got lost in Guayquil for over an hour and I feel like I got an unfair bad vibe from the city. Once we got into the mountains, we realized that the actual distance on the map did not take into account elevation, periodic and unannounced road construction, clouds, one-lane wooden bridges with approaching construction trucks, one-restaurant towns speed bumps, and, ultimately, night… so it took us longer than expected to find a place to sleep at. We ended up in Zumbahua (at 13.000ft), which we discovered later, reading from our guide book in our hostel room, has a fantastic Saturday market. Lechoso! Because of the English/Spanish/Quechua language barriers, explaining we didn’t want meat with our dinner please was more difficult than usual.

Día siete, Sábado, 19/3/2011: Zumbahua to Quito. We went to the market- bought shigras bags, alpaca sweaters, really sweet cornbread, humitas, cevichochos, pan de sal, pan con chocolate, red bananas, and other fruits. The market is for the people in the surrounding communities, and not touristy, which made it fun to compare to the Otavalo market. We saw animals in the backs of trucks, being walked on the side of the road, and on tops of buses on the way to Lago Quilotoa. The locals say that the lake has no bottom- it’s color is aqua bluegreen and I guess the alkaline in the water makes it hot. You can walk down to the lake, rent a canoe, and take a horse-ride up… but we didn’t do either of them. Concerns of time, energy, and elevation (coming from the coast, It was definitely a bit more strenuous to move here) led us a quarter of the way down to take a moment of pause. Quito was surprisingly easy to find, and we took one last celebration lunch in La Mariscal before heading back to our respective houses.

Domingo, 20/3/2011: Packed my room up, spent forever uploading photos to this site, went for a last run in El Parque Metropolitano, and almost finished my take-home Spanish exam. I got ready to go to Otavalo… which I will have updates about soon, ojalá. This may be the longest blog post I have ever accomplished.

Saludos y amor, k

Instantes- Jorge Luis Borges

10 Mar

My spanish professor gave this poem to us as un regalo on our last day of class yesterday. Me encanta.


Si pudiera vivir nuevamente mi vida,
en la próxima trataría de cometer más errores.
No intentaría ser tan perfecto, me relajaría más.
Sería más tonto de lo que he sido,
de hecho tomaría muy pocas cosas con seriedad.
Sería menos higiénico.
Correría más riesgos,
haría más viajes,
contemplaría más atardeceres,
subiría más montañas, nadaría más ríos.
Iría a más lugares adonde nunca he ido,
comería más helados y menos habas,
tendría más problemas reales y menos imaginarios. 

Yo fui una de esas personas que vivió sensata
y prolíficamente cada minuto de su vida;
claro que tuve momentos de alegría.
Pero si pudiera volver atrás trataría
de tener solamente buenos momentos.

Por si no lo saben, de eso está hecha la vida,
sólo de momentos; no te pierdas el ahora.

Yo era uno de esos que nunca
iban a ninguna parte sin un termómetro,
una bolsa de agua caliente,
un paraguas y un paracaídas;
si pudiera volver a vivir, viajaría más liviano.

Si pudiera volver a vivir
comenzaría a andar descalzo a principios
de la primavera
y seguiría descalzo hasta concluir el otoño.
Daría más vueltas en calesita,
contemplaría más amaneceres,
y jugaría con más niños,
si tuviera otra vez vida por delante.

Pero ya ven, tengo 85 años…
y sé que me estoy muriendo.

Backstreet Boys en Quito!

9 Mar

Went to the Backstreet Boys concert last night at El Coliseo Rumiñahui!! I didn`t plan on going until a few hours before the start when a friend called to see if I would buy her ticket because she was sick. It brought back so many childhood memories; most of them involve singing into fake microphones with friends when we were in our tweens. Appropriately, the majority of the fans at the concert were of my generation and the one before me. I was surprised by the number of people in attendance. The amount paid for general admission seats alone was $127,000.

Whenever the Boys sang a song from their new album (which apparently they have…), there was only a handful of people who were able to sing along. I lost track of the number of outfit changes they had… my favorite was the outfit that consisted of a swacket with a big, sparkly, red “B” on the back, jeans, and bright red chucks. They said they first got together 18 years ago- this was their first time in Quito.

There are some great pictures from the night which I will of course be sharing when I have the chance.


¡Feliz Carnaval! (pues… después de las fiestas)

8 Mar

I spent the last four days on the beach in celebration of Carnaval. We (Toby, Lucy, Ethan, Kelly B, Allie, Raquel, Karen, and I) rented an apartment in Tonsupa from one of Toby’s relatives located two blocks from the beach. A woman named Juana came every morning to cook and clean for us- we didn’t know how to interact with her because she seemed used to following orders and we didn’t know the protocol. She made a kick-ass shrimp dish for us one night.

Most of the time we hung out on the beach, taking turns playing in the waves and guarding our sandals and towels. On Saturday, six of us went parasailing! I thought it would’ve been more thrilling than relaxing, but was surprised at how calm I felt drifting across the ocean above everything. That night we occupied the corner of a beach-side bar and danced until 2am. Our professional-dancer friend from CIMAS and his friend met up with us as well… dancing with Latin men who know how to lead is soooo much easier than with my sometimes-clumsy American friends. Fun fact- el mar es el baño para todos (y pienso que es más higiénico que los baños en la mayoría de los bars).

The accents on the coast are so much different than in Quito. The US Embassy sends people specifically to Quito to learn Spanish because the people here tend to speak a very clear and slower-paced Spanish. On the coast, where the pace of life is slow but the energy is fantastic, people trail off the ends of their words and speak much faster. I’m constantly amazed at the diversity of this little country that, in size (but not in land area because of the mountains), is slightly smaller than the state of Nevada. I hope I have a chance to visit the Amazon and some of the places closer to the borders while I’m here.

Our bus left Tonsupa at 11:15pm and I arrived at my house around 7am. Unfortunately, I am sick from the change in temperatures and altitude between the coast and Quito. It’s currently 57 degrees here and I’m wearing pants, long socks, tank top, long-sleeve shirt, swacket, my alpaca shawl, and my hair is down… and my toes are still chilly. My entire body is sore- I’m not sure how much is due to sunburn or sitting on an uncomfortable bus for six hours. It’s nice having a mom who takes care of you at times like this (Mom in the States- I know you would do the same, or more, if you had the chance).


If anyone has suggestions for my spring break trip to Cartehena and Medellín (in Colombia), I would love to hear them! The only advice I’ve received (except from my host family) is this wonderful email from my Dad (who still pretends not to like horses):

Talked to [past soccer coach who is Colombian] at church today and told him you were going to Medellin for
spring break.  He said to try and get to see some horses; it is a very big horse
area, especially Paso Finos.



I regret that I didn’t bring my camera on this journey. I’ll try to post some of the pictures my friends took when they’re uploaded en el facebook. Since I haven’t had any new photos to share recently, I’ll sign off with this one (he’s three weeks old already!):




muchismo amor!


Todo es sobre la comida

1 Mar

This makes almost two weeks with my new host family. How time passes quickly. My family is indigenous, large in numbers, and full of love. Here it comes bullet-point style:

-Luzmila is my mom, Humberto/Imbaya (as he’s more commonly referred to in house) is my dad, Shyri is my 25 yr old brother, his 10 month old daughter is Ishanti, Maiya is my 20 yr old sister (she usually is in Quito though), Itumi is my kick-ass 12 yr old brother who calls me ñaña. Abuela and Abuelo also live in the house (parents of Luzmila)- they have 11 children total. I’ve met Estela, Roberto, Batí, César, Sarah, and Mita. So the people who are most frequently in the house are Abuela, Abuelo, Luzmila, Roberto, Batí, Erika (3 yr old daughter of Batí), Itumi, and me! The house fills up on the weekends (and then Luzmila comments about how empty it is when everyone leaves). Imbaya’s parents live in Peguche, which is close, and there’s an organic family chakra (farm) there so I think he spends a lot of time at that location. There’s another family chakra towards the other side of town, but I haven’t visited it yet. There’s also a garden, chickens, 5 pet ducks (of Itumi), 2 rabbits, 1 dog, and lots of cuy at this house.

– Last Friday I went to a paña with Imbaya, Maiya, Batí, Erika, and two family friends. My interpretation of it is comparable to an indigenous discotheque. We descended into a basement pub, complete with fireplace and woven wall-hangings, where there was an incredibly talented, young band playing traditional music. A pitcher of hueyusca was ordered- enough to wet my tongue went straight to my head. I understand why they serve it in dixie cups. My family started the dancing and pulled me out with them. I shuffled around looking like an awkward gringa and later went to join friends salsa dancing in another location. My dad and the family friends didn’t get home until 5am apparently.

-Last weekend I attended my first wedding! I went to two of the three days of celebration. Saturday was the evangelical celebration in a church. I don’t have any weddings to compare it to, but I’m sure this celebration was much more casual than the typical wedding in the United States. The pastor opened the occasion by saying something close to, “In other parts, they have to marry men with men and women with women. Gracias a Dios that we marry men with women in this community.” The offensiveness continued as he preached about sex before marriage, “bastard children,” promiscuity, the problems of “this generation,” and generally took a “better than you sinners” manner in addressing the wedding attendees. I looked back at one point and noticed half the older indigenous women taking a siesta. The bride and groom had to be coaxed to kiss- it was a quick peck on the lips and lots of blushing. When the ceremony was done, Luzmila and I ran out of the church and met up with Shryi, Maiya, and family-friend Lucretia to have lunch and buy food for the pachamanca later in the day.

– La Pachamanca, <http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pachamanca&gt;: A basic definition of a pachamanca: cooking food in a hole in the ground with hot rocks. There was pollo (en ojas), papas, piña, banana, choclo, camote, habas, and maybe more that I’m forgetting. So the rocks heated in a big fire while we prepared the food. When everything was ready, the hole was lined first with rocks, then with the tougher vegetables, pollo, and fruits. It was covered with a water-soaked sheet, splashed with more water, and then covered in the land removed from the hole. We all found a flower, made a wish, and stuck the flower on top of the pachamanca (In complete honesty- this part was extremely powerful to me and I worked at not crying). After an hour, the food was ready, more people had arrived, and we dissembled the hole. There was so much food and though it was prepared so simply, the flavors were incredibly rich. Pachamama gave her power to our pachamanca.

– Sunday was the indigenous wedding ceremony. I wore an anaco and traditional Otavaleño dress- at one point, Batí, Mita, and Abuela were all working on securing the double-layered skirt around me. My family has pictures and we have plans to share them. As soon as we arrived (which was earlier than we needed to), we were offered food and relatives roaming with sodas and fermented (nonalcoholic) corn drinks pushed the communal cup at us. When the families had arrived, we all walked to a natural spring flowing from the side of a hill. The process is roughly this- the bride, groom, parents of each, godparents of each, and other family members pair up and one pair after the other complete the cleansing ceremony. Added to a bowl of cold water are flower petals and ortiga (comparable to stinging nettle). One person rubs the water/flowers/ortiga over the face, hands/arms, and feet/legs of the other person, then they switch turns- some people also chose to take swigs from an apparently extremely strong liquor in a length of sugar cane (my dad told me it is only for experts). At this ceremony, they flung the water on the crowd once each pair was finished- my mom later told me that “they weren’t in agreement” with this part of it because it detracts from the significance of the event. Ortiga promotes blood flow and in this ceremony cleanses the pair of their old life and provides a fresh place to start from. The ortiga stings, but it is supposed to give good luck, purify, and clear bad energy (it’s also used, in much greater quantities, in the indigenous’system of dealing with out-of-line community members, ex: thieves). Once this part was complete, everyone walked back to the house and was fed soup, a mixture of rice/habas/frijoles/potatoes, a plato fuerte, and a sweet colada. I ate around the chicken in the soup and didn’t have much space for more food after. When everyone was finished, the dancing commenced (my family kept telling me that there were “poca gente” at this wedding and that it’s better when there’s a live band and not just a DJ). I left shortly after people started dancing. The cake wasn’t cut until late in the day and my family got sent home with leftovers- I ate a big piece for breakfast the next morning (along with té de anise and a tortilla de espinaca).

I spent the evening with a friend watching the sun set over Otavalo from a high point in the city, sharing a chocolate brownie and fruit salad (topped with helado de paila and crema). Era casi perfecta- falta una botella de vino y mi cámera.


This past week flew by!! I figured out, with the help of my tutor, my question of investigation for my internship (and the theme of my 25 page page paper, in spanish, due at the end). I’ll elaborate more on that later. I watched the neighbor cow be milked by hand and enjoyed hot chocolate from her milk the next morning for breakfast, and colada con avena the following morning. I played fútbol with Roberto, Itumi, and Shyri one afternoon- I was so clumsy in comparison to the others, but they were encouraging anyway. The lights went out in the whole city for several hours two nights this week- one time was during the Shavasana of a yoga class taught by my compañera, Regina, at CEMOPLAF. The other time was when Luzmila, Abuela, Roberto, Itumi, Shyri, and I were de-graining half a fifty pound bag of choclo (corn) by hand. We continued by candlelight. I wonder how many times the family has sat on milk crates in the kitchen, preparing food together for the next day. I helped grind the choclo to make humitas on Thursday. Mmm, humitas asadas son ricas!

A friend from Quito came to visit last night/today. We walked all over Otavalo and to La Cascada Peguche today. There’s a tunnel at the top of the waterfall that leads to a little, rocky lookout spot onto the river before it falls. We spent the afternoon there hanging out with Pachamama.

There are plans to wake up at 6:30am tomorrow morning to go play basketball and soccer. Apparently the fields fill up quick and we can “beat the crowds” if we get there early. Haha. Later they’re going to introduce me to some of the lakes in the area. I’m excited.


An unorganized apology/disclaimer of sorts: It’s been difficult to share true reflections on my experiences here. There is always something to do, always people to talk with, always new things I’m discovering but don’t realize until I’ve talked with someone who hasn’t yet. I don’t like/want/need to spend a lot of time on my computer when I could be hanging out with my family. Also, some things are expressed better, or with a truer sentiment, in Spanish (instead of in English). I’m falling more in love with the language and can only hope that when I return to the States I will find a way to retain the speaking ability/confidence I’ve gained here. I don’t want to think about going back to Minnesota/Wisconsin, as much as I love them; I feel at home here and there is still SOOO much I have yet to explore. I have three families- not including my family of friends and companions in Mpls and from this program. Tengo ganas para viajar todo de Sudamérica y decir ‘fuck it’ a mi último año de la universidad. My current incentive to stay in Mpls is that my bro-ha (my biological one, Brian) will be going to the U of M next year (whoop whoop!!)- someone’s got to show him the ropes, and I have some personal-experience suggestions to help him avoid life frustrations (not that I expect him to listen).

Amor por todo mi buena gente, k

(p.s: also, these posts are extremely unedited and tend to be stream-of-con

los fines de semanas

28 Feb

Story from last weekend: We (a group of 8 ) were at a club/bar on Saturday (2/19) night where we were dancing and celebrating the birthdays of Toby and me. We were enjoying ourselves and looking like an obvious group of gringos who can’t latin dance when a male and female stripper appeared on the stage in front of the club. They each twirled around solo for a while and then started pulling people from the audience to, um, entertain. In several minutes, all layers expect the skimpy undies (the woman was wearing several pairs to start…I don’t understand) came off. And THEN, my wonderful friends Geoff and Toby decided to push me all the way up to the stage; Toby promised to go with me as he was dragging me towards the front, but decided to change his mind as soon as I was pulled up on stage. After a minute, the terminator-like man listened to my “No, no quiero estar aquí.” He gave me a hand off the stage, and I went back to my friends and punched Geoff and Toby in the arms. We left soon after.


The most recent past weekend: I went to Otavalo to visit my future internship site at El Centro Médico de Orientación y Planificación Familiar (CEMOPLAF: http://www.cemoplaf.org/qs_desc.htm). I had a fantastic welcome and think I’ll have a great time there. I’ll be working on sexual health and family planning education projects, or, like Regina (the Peace Corps volunteer from Beaver Damn, WI) told me, “Whatever you want to help out with, really.” I’m excited to start my internship and am waiting to hear who my new host family will be. My mom in Quito has been making sad faces about me leaving for a week now- I feel the same, but will be close enough to visit easily. Regina and I had lunch at a family restaurant; I managed to eat a fish served whole without swallowing too many bones. We walked to Regina’s host family’s house and, again, I was graciously accepted. As we snacked on cheese, potatoes, and popcorn, Lesli, the ten-year-old host sister, asked me if I liked cuy (remember, cuy=guinea pig). She explained that she loved cuy- as animals and to eat- and suggested I try it sometime, even though I don’t eat meat. I think she’s probably right…

As I waited for friends to arrive in Otavalo, I hung out at a restaurant overlooking La Plaza de los Ponchos and had a two hour conversation with a thirty-year-old woman from Switzerland. She quit her job to travel, has been exploring South America since October, and just extended her return ticket until this next October. She’s never been to Norway or Sweden.

Raquel, Julio, and I went out Friday night and met up with Julio’s Colombian friend and his two compañeros. We danced most of the night and the Colombians continued the music with their maraca, guitar, and drum as we danced back to the house.

Woke up on Saturday and decided the best way to cure our headaches was to go to a restaurant that overlooked the market square, and have mexican food, coffee, and cerveza. We wandered around the market afterwards and then went back to the house. After my nap, Raquel and I took the bus home to Quito.

It was my sister’s b-day on Saturday (18- which is the legal age here) and the restuarant was set up as a discoteca. White covers over the chairs set along the walls, balloons, tables of snack food, beautiful chocolate cake, chocolate fountain with fruit, live DJ, funky lights, and confetti… oh, and a bartender. They arrived in a chiva (an open-sided party bus that takes a tour of the city while encouraging dancing, drinking, and cheering). My mom danced up to me, gave me a huge hug, and told me that they played drinking games on the chiva (she had a plastic cup on a cotton string around her neck). There were about forty people in attendance (some arriving, the relatives leaving after a while). One joven made it her objective to teach my friend Becca to dance… it didn’t work all that well. Many couples (sixteen to eighteen-year olds) were dancing quite closely and taking periodic breaks to make out in the small plaza in front of the restaurant; my parents would simply point, smile, and occasionally make a tour of the dance floor to monitor the goings-on. Especially in the context of dancing, signs of affection by body contact are widely accepted in this culture (it still takes me by surprise when I see couples unabashedly making out at bus stops or in the mall).


Updates: A group of people and I are going to the beach town Atacames for Carnival- maybe I’ll finally get some color from this Ecuadorian sun. Also, I’m going to Colombia for spring break- Cartagena first, Medellín second.

I have a list of “topics to reflect on” and hope to elaborate on cultural themes instead of just the details of my travels here in following posts. It’s difficult to keep track of everything when it seems that all I do/see/hear is new.

I had my first case of homesickness today- I thought I was going to be able to avoid it completely. I got most of it out of my system. Thank Pachamama for skype and friends who are always online : )  At the same time that my heart hurts for not having seen my family, friends, and roommates in six weeks, I feel that four months in another culture/place/country is no time at all to understand it. There’s still so many places I want to travel, so many people to meet, so much to discover, and I’ve already been here for a month and a half. The idea, first, of leaving Ecuador, and second, of staying in the states for an entire summer and academic year once I return seems impossible.

Amor, amor,



24 Feb

This morning we gave presentations on the group essays we wrote for our tracks. Both groups in our track chose themes about globalization/development and it`s relation to the concept of  “interculturalidad” between Western and Indigenous medicine in Ecuador. When we finished with the presentation part of the class, we had a debriefing with our professor. She asked us to share our experiences in relation to the different conceptions of health and medicine we`ve encountered here. She wanted us to share our feelings, not the theoretical and analytical points we wrote about  in our papers. She complimented us for our work, but said she was interested in how we reacted internally, for example, during the limpia con cuy.

I can`t remember being asked for my personal feelings from any educator in a long time. Our professor made it be okay to feel skeptical of these new systems of knowledge and ways of promoting health, after all, we`ve only just been exposed to this new cosmovision. I have had frustrations with the capitalist, Western system prior to this adventure but if I am truly honest with myself, I don`t completely accept indigenous medicine at this point. I want to. It`s difficult to change my idea of health care from one of experts and evidence to one that encompasses the total well-being of an individual in their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

Our professor shared an example of how uterine cancer can be caused by poor relations with the woman`s partner. That to treat the cancer, the woman needs help resolving whatever negative aspects exist in her relationship. Herbs and forms of  body cleaning can help, but the woman won`t be completely well unless her mental/emotional health is improved.

I like to be hugged when I don`t feel well. Someone told me that older women who live alone or in nursing homes get their hair done weekly just to be touched. That seems tragic to me.

abrazos y amor,


(**If you would like a postcard, let me know!)

(no quiero escribir mis ensayos)

22 Feb

I am turning into a Quiteño- it is currently 55 degrees F and I am freezing. It has literally been raining every day for the past two weeks, with periods of midday sun, typically. I am not complaining though, as I have been made aware of the fact that there are feet of snow in the Midwest. Speaking of the the Midwest…

I want to say, “WTF!?” to Scott Walker  and, “Muchas gracias!” to everyone who has been protesting and speaking out against the proposed budget bill in Wisconsin. My mom here tells me how important education is at least twice a week- that it’s the key to change and that the niños are our future. I think this holds true across languages and countries. We need educators to realize these goals.



Amor y mejores deseos a mi estado,