Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I am signing off on my blog for awhile.
I am reaching out for something new... the beauty and complexities of flight.
My hopes are great, I aim to have my private pilots license by my 35th birthday.
Thanks for reading, and in doing so listening.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

the ending

I have struggled with this post since we got home. There are so many things to say about our trip, that it has been difficult to sort thorough all the experiences and their meanings. It has been quite emotional in nature, and so, I have needed to give it a lot of "breathing room".
Finally, I am ready to share the following outline:
I thought and dreamed about returning for years. There was pain in leaving at age 17. 17 years later, the trip was becoming a reality.
I dove into the logistical elements in December and worked on those (technically) until we left in mid-February.
I tried not to create expectations about the trip, wanting to make it an open experience.
The adventure began, as did the emotion-filled first week. My hidden, private expectations sneaked out. Disappointment ensued.
The places were unrecognizably beautiful and ugly (sometimes at the same time).
The people were welcoming and warm (as long as the kids were behaving in an appropriate way, and rarely when they were not).
Staying in one of my childhood homes (that seemed unchanged) and visiting my school was both comforting and foreign.
I didn't go to any of the churches that I'd known as a kid. I was challenged enough without those experiences.
Anxiety filled my heart, along with all the elemental tasks of traveling and caring for Marshall, Stewart and Nigel.
Sadness covered me. Loss and grief put me to sleep at night.
Stress pushed me forward.
The mountains and sky seemed to call to me. Looking up was invigorating.
Excitement and happiness were put on (as is my habit) in order to cope. There were authentic moments of these too, but they were fleeting.
I became future-focused as I anticipated Mike's arrival and my subsequent "rescue" from the stress (it was short-lived relief).
Anxiety reappeared as I became busy with the logistics of caring for my family (and translating) as we traveled.
Loosing Stewart in the jungle was one of the scariest things I've ever experienced. (He was missing for 5 -10 minutes, maybe).
I loved watching the hummingbirds.
I loved watching the kids play with Mike in the water.
Although the beach was beautiful, I felt was very sad and tired and I couldn't wait to get back to the mountains.
I had my first (and only) panic-attack in a late-night, 7-hour bus ride. I couldn't find my breath.
Quito was mine, but now it is not. A fond memory, one belonging to my childhood.
My favorite place was Lago San Pablo, where there was room (mountains, water and sky).
I felt proud of getting around the way we did.
I had so many great conversations with new people.
I was annoyed by how the culture treated children. It seemed as though they were annoyances to be segregated or manipulated "performers". (I am equally annoyed by similar thinking in our culture).
I loved the colors of the indigenous clothing, sometimes earthy and sometimes vibrant.
On my last day, I scrambled to see two people that I loved, Rebeca Susana and Rosa. Those were happy moments.

Upon returning, I felt giddy to be in my home at last. I needed rest.
I am thankful that I was able to share this voyage with my children (who were amazing and LOVED it) and Mike.

Writing this and now reading over it is painful.
This is crazy. This is real. This is the end.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

termas papallacta

The thermal hot springs of Papallacta provided a wonderful recollection of childhood vacations. Papallacta is located to the east of Quito, less than 2 hours away. We spent Sunday night at the "Termas Papallacta" resort and despite it's cost it was worth it. They have piped the hot springs water (87 to 110 degrees) into waist deep pools that are immediately in front of the cabins. The pools in our courtyard area were very hot, hot and ice cold. The cool mountain air forces you into the wonderful pools in which you cannot remain because it gets too hot, so we moved around alot, enjoying the views from all angles.
As a kid, this resort was nonexistant, but the hotsprings public area was. This is what I remember, but has been kept up nicely, and improved now to have a nice restaurant, changing areas and whirlpool jets in some of the pools. I was glad that someone had the idea to develop the natural resource so that it could be visited comfortably by tourists and others. I was saddened to think of the local people, who used to bathe in the springs along the roadside. The natural springs that flowed there arent' there any longer (water piped to the resort) and neither are the people. It clearly would be cost prohibitive to many. What remains unclear is whether there is a place for the townspeople to enjoy.

Friday, March 20, 2009

risk and La Ronda

Mike took the kids to Peguche waterfalls on Saturday morning, allowing me to peruse the Otavalo Indian market alone. I had taken the kids to Peguche, but had not allowed them to cross the rapids on the fallen tree bridge. I had too many fears about losing one of the kids in the river. I was glad they were able to experience it with their dad, who was not scared of the risks, but allowed them to take it on.
Later, we left Otavalo, and returned to Quito. After getting the kids to sleep we went to dinner at La Ronda, a touristy restaurant, styled after a well-known street. The food is typical Ecuadorian, accompanied by live music (panflute, guitars and drums). As a kid, I had been there many times when we had visitors in town. This time, I enjoyed Fanesca (a 10 grain and legume soup with a fish stock base. I had never had it, but had read an article about it and had been asking people where I could find it (only served one time a year, right before Easter, so I was lucky to have it).

minga at the lake

We took Mike to Lago San Pablo on cloudy Thursday and Friday. Before the rains came in, we were able to take a boat ride around the edge of the lake. We were able to watch a minga (community work crew) on the northwest side of the lake come together to put in some water pipelines so they could have water coming to their homes. There were people of all ages digging up the ground. There were more than a hundred working together with their hands and some primitive equipment, without the government helping. In talking with some of the hotel staff, we learned that sometimes the province will lend the equipment to the people of the community, but that mostly, improvement is left to the people of rural communities.
Mike had cabin fever and went hiking in the rain. He witnessed some women with babies tied to their bags carrying buckets of water up the mountain to their homes. He had just been thinking how good the hike was going and felt humbled.
Despite the rains, we had an enjoyable time in our cabin with our fireplace lit, eating popcorn and watching Space Chimps.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Atacames finally

We rode all day, but finally arrived in Atacames (a well-known beach in the northwestern part of the country). We were the only guests at "La Marimba", which was at the southernmost part of the beach.
The ceviche de camaron (my other favorite Ecuadorian food) was best at our hotel, but we found some other great seafood at "Paco Foco" in town.
We walked to town a couple of times and then enjoyed the open-air motorcycle taxi ride back, usually with loud music.
The beach was heavily littered, because of the heavy rains that overfilled the rivers and washed the trash out to sea. We observed men in the low surf every day, looking through the trash for money or usable items.
The hotels pool was the kid's delight.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Stewart gets lost in a cloud

Today Mike took Marshall and Stewart on several hikes while Nigel napped. On one such adventure, Stewart had to be returned for a bathroom stop. Nigel awoke and while I was readying him to go out, Stewart left.
He went missing. I was calling his name, but the jungle does weird thing to sounds, and he didn't hear me. I started up the mountain, thinking he had probably gone back to the path he had been on. Finally, I heard him scream twice. I called to him again, running and panting with Nigel clinging to me. There was no answer this time. I saw to the left of the path what looked like a well or a pit, and my mind leaped forward to the worst case scenario. In one minutes' time I imagined having to leave the forest without him. I was panicked.
Anita, from the hotel, raced along side me, and headed up the path. I couldn't breathe and had to stop. I kept thinking that I was failing. I knew he was out there, but I could'nt go any further. My body wouldn't let me. I yelled out again. This time I heard Anita shout that she had him. My mind raced, I still hadn't heard him. Was he ok?
She came in to view, and there was Stewart, crying but fine. He was terrified! I held him for the longest time.
Later, he told me that he had gone back to the path to catch up with Mike and Marshall. It was amazing that he had covered that distance in a matter of minutes.
We talked about it for along time afterwards.
The jungle is beautiful, but it is vast and like an interwoven maze and scary with little independents like my middle son, Stewart.