Reality

We are in the coastal town of Bahia de Caraquez, which is known as an eco town. Also, someone who works for Planet Drum Foundation, a group I’ve worked with, manages a sustainability project here. But this town was severely hit by an earthquake 2 years ago, there is still rubble. This is life in the developing world.We wonder if this impacted on eco projects. We will be here a few days, I will connect with my contact person. We will also hike. Feliz ano nuevo!

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Bussing across Ecuador

The bus ride from Banos to Cuenca took us through high Andes canyons, past crashing rivers, through farm land bordered by high peaks and through some beautiful towns. It also took us through some dust filled towns and a congested, polluted  city that screamed Poverty! People with broken teeth leaned against buildings, apparently  with nothing to do. This of course is the legacy of imperialism and colonialism. The world’s contradictions smack you in the face in the developing world. Some say beauty is a bourgeois luxury that is irrelevant to oppressed people. Others say it is essential to them, that it is their strength and survival, and they appreciate it more than we comfortable ones do. I am with the second opinion, although this may be a naive First World hope. I will explore this question more on this trip and beyond. I know that awareness of life’s bittersweetness sings for me, I have reason to believe it is useful for all. But I must work on this.

We are in Cuenca, a lovely town in the southern Andes. More to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WE MISS ECUADOR!

It is very odd being back in the States, where I-phones are everywhere (they are in Ecuador of course, but not in such mass numbers), where we are not running to a new town every three days, where the Andes are gone, where we have a total fool for a leader (more on that later), and much more. Strange. Happily, we like Chico, Ca. more than we did Oakland, and good projects and events are approaching. Still we miss Ecuador.

Ecuador does not claim to be a tropical paradise the way countries that appeal more to U.S. tourism do. It is, rather, a complex, spectacularly beautiful, and sad country. The contradictions are everywhere. I asked in another post how beauty and tragedy can coexist. I have never  found a satisfactory  answer.

Years ago, Kate and I visited friends of hers in Milwaukee and went to a Unitarian service with them. A big poster in the sanctuary said something very close to “There are no answers, only questions.” This summed up my thinking beforehand and gave me something to quote since then. One insight I like from Buddhism  (although I can’t claim to be a Buddhist) is that all life is suffering; accept that and you can see that it is much more in addition. Life is bittersweet, that’s how it is, but I don’t think anyone really  knows why.

Ecuador is bittersweet, and a place we would like to return to, we barely scratched the surface. Of course we have many places we’d like to return to and life is short, but we’ll see. If we do go back to Ecuador or somewhere else in South America,   we may need to find something like a project where we can have a base to work from and people to connect with more. One issue is my Spanish boiled down to what Kate calls “Survival Spanish.” Well, I survived. Kate did better than I did, she has more experience with Spanish, although she says I did better than I think. Maybe, but we did feel isolated and lonely sometimes. We did find people to talk with, but more would have been better. We will see what the future holds.

So here we are, back from the Developing World and Trump talks about s**thole countries. I find this deeply offensive.  Kate and I have traveled in other third world countries and found them all to be complex. beautiful, and sad, like Ecuador. What does Trump really know? It’s scary, I’ve thought for a long time that U.S. society and culture were in decline; Trump and company are taking us into a tailspin, and I do not know where this will go. It is hard to see how the world’s response will effect us as people who love world travel – this is certainly a first world problem, there are more important issues of course. All these topics are for future thoughts and posts.

I do have projects out the wazoo, but I must continue to blog on travel and other topics. Discipline, PGB! And I will pull some photos together and put them here when I can, most likely with other Ecuador thoughts. For now – hasta tardes! Viva Ecuador!!

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BOO HOO!!!

THIS IS OUR LAST DAY IN ECUADOR. AND, OH YEAH, I AM USING AN UNFAMILIAR KEYBOARD AT AN INTERNET CAFE AND CANNOT GET IT TO GO TO LOWER CASE, SORRY. WE LEAVE FOR SAN FRANCISCO ON A FLIGHT TONIGHT.

TODAY WE WENT HIGH IN THE ANDES OUTSIDE OF QUITO WITH A GUIDE WHO SHOWED US COUNTLESS BIRDS. THE HUMMINGBIRDS WERE ASTOUNDING, AND EVERY IMAGINABLE COLOR. OTHERS WERE ALSO LIKE BITS OF THE RAINBOW. THE MOUNTAINS WERE ALSO ASTONISHING, HIGH PEAKS, INCLUDING SOME OF THE VOLCANIC CONES COVERED IN CLOUDS. I WILL WORK ON GETTING SOME PIX ON THE BLOG IN THE NEAR FUTURE.

WE ALSO HAD A DISCUSSION WITH OUR GUIDE ABOUT POLITICAL CORRUPTION IN ECUADOR. HE SAID THE LAST PRESIDENT, CORREAS, (I HOPE I AM SPELLING HIS NAME RIGHT, I WILL CORRECT IT LATER) HAD A WONDERFUL PLATFORM, SUPPORTING NATURE AND THE POOR. HE FUNDED IT BY TAKING LOANS FROM CHINA, WHICH ARE REQUIRING ECUADOR TO SUPPLY CHINA WITH OIL. ALSO, HE CREATED A LARGE GOVERNMENT TO SUPPORT HIS PROGRAMS, AND SOME OF HIS COLLEAGUES WERE DISHONEST, INCLUDING HIS VICE PRESIDENT, WHO WAS INVOLVED IN SOME SCAMS AND IS NOW IN PRISON. IT IS NOT CLEAR WHERE MONEY FOR PROGRAMS WILL COME FROM NOW THAT THE DEBT IS SO LARGE. THERE IS A LOT MORE, I WILL TRY TO MAKE COMMENTS LATER.

THE RIDE BACK INTO QUITO WAS VERY EYE OPENING, MASSIVE TRAFFIC, BAD AIR, PEOPLE WALKIND IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD TRYING TO SELL DRIVERS FRUIT, WATER, SELFIE STICKS, AND MORE. THERE ARE PROGRAMS TO ALLEVIATE POVERTY BUT POVERTY IS DEFINETELY HERE.

I COULD GO ON, BUT WE HAVE TO PACK. WE ARE COMING HOME TO GOOD THINGS IN OUR LIVES, BUT WE ARE SAD – ECUADOR IS COMPLEX AND VERY BEAUTIFUL, WE WILL MISS IT A LOT. I WILL BE POSTING MORE THOUGHTS FROM HOME, PROBABLY AFTER A FEW DAYS. HASTA LLUEGO, ECUADOR.

 

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What kind of place is Quito?

Quito is the highest national capital, 9000 feet,sorrounded by volcanoes. Some of its pastel colored neighborhoods cling to mountain sides. It is a place of traffic that rarely stops for pedestrians, and a city with polluted air. It is a city of buildings that date to colonial times- tan and pale yellow row buildings, three to four stories tall, with balconies on the second stories. Quito is a poverty city, with prostitutes who emerge in Old Town in early evening while homeless people sleep on the square and massive numbers of cops watch for robbers. It is a city of demonstrations, including one we observed in old Town today, although our Spanish was  too weak to unsderstand the point. It is a place of chocolate and cafes au lait. There are innumerable churches, including one in Old Town whose sanctuary is dsecorated with seven tons of gold.It is a river of people flowing everywhere while thunder plays kettle drums in the mountains. It is a place of art galleries, street musicians, anda beggars. Quito is bittersweet.

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Back in Quito

The pad was acting weird again last night so I didn’t post then. It has regained its sanity. We had a gorgeous bus ride from Mindo to Quito yesterday, it passed through Andes covered with cloud forests. We wanted to get out and hike!

Quito is a beautiful city. It is set in the mountains at 9000 feet-thed highest capital in the world! Many peaks are visible from here,and there are colorful neighborhoods high on the slopes.

Today we took a city tour that led us to a an active crater where people farm on the bottom. It is spectacular. When I asked the guide why people choose to live there he laughed in a perplexed way, and mentioned that the soil is rich. People raise many crops,especially potatoes, and cattle graze. I would call it living on the edge though.

We also visited Mitad del Mundo, a place that celebrates the equator. You can stand with one for on each side of a yellow line that represents the equator- that only thing is that the actual equator is about 50 meters to the north. It sounds likes people thought this was the actual equator until more accurate measurements were made. It is touristy, but interesting- there are historic, scientific, and cultural exhibits. We had wonderful Columbian potato soup with avocado and a nut salad for dinner, followed by the best chocolate I have ever eaten. Hasta lleugo, mas manana.

 

 

 

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It is raining!!

The pad I am using was going nuts last night, so there was no post then.We are in Mindo, a peaceful and beautiful town in the Andes cloud forests north of Quito. We had an astounding hike today. This cloud forest is made of leaves of all shapes, especially ovals, diamonds, triangles, hearts. It abounds in bromeliads, plants that grow where organic matter has gathered on trees’ branches. Yellow, crimson, and white flowers show up where you don’t expect them, along with white and yellow mushrooms. The world here is made from bird songs and calls- “Tree tree tree tree”, ” oldmcDONald”, “doyourREsearch”, and more. You wouldn’t believe how many butterflies, including some with clear wings to make it hard for birds to see them. An armadillo scurried past us, and I am fairly sure I spotted a quickly moving monkey.

We also took an evening hike in a preserve  that protects amphibians. Frogs were on the backs of large leaves, in holes, on tree trunks, and their calls were thunderous – especially the ones that sound like chickens. Yes they do! We will return to Quito tomorrow for the trip’s end Jan.  10. We planned to have much of the day here, leaving mid afternoon, but it is raining! Aarghh! It is nice in the cabin tonight, with loud frogs around us.

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A day of composting and discussion

Today we worked with  Clay, who works with Planet Drum Foundation to raise trees for food, to prevent erosion, and to create habitat. We built a compost pile with Clay and others.We talked about the difficulty of hope in today’s world. He said the earthquake was devastating, but confirmed that there is corruption in government and useless projects here. We shared a question of how Yanqui idealists are seen in the rest of the world. I mentioned Rural Community Tourism, which is a project of Costa Ricans, and said local efforts are effective. He talked about how Ecuador tries to make sure everybody can survive, but is in debt to Chinese oil and mining interests for these funds, and that drilling and mining in the Amazon are bad news. A sad but real conversation, there was a lot more, of course. I will try to leave you and me with a sense of hope.

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Great day

Today we visited Isla de Corazon, a mangrove swamp that is administered and protected by a local community. They fish, raise shrimp, gather oysters and protect the mangrove forest, which shields the coast from storms and is a habitat for many critters. We saw frigate birds, pelicans, egrets, herons, ibises, cormorants, and more, and many of each species. Beautiful place! I have never seen a pelican in a tree, but there they were!

Our hostel manager, who is something of a libertarian and conspiracy theorist expat from the U. S. claims the rubble, etc. Were more a result of government boondoggles than the earthquake. I am skeptical, but we will learn more tomorrow.

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