Monday, October 16, 2017

International Aid Tents - From Post-Earthquake Tent City to Traveling Circus

"Sometimes by not knowing the truth we make incorrect judgments about situations"
-- Sunday Adelaja

What happened to tents from Ecuador's post-earthquake tent cities? 


After the April 16, 2016 devastating 7.8 Ecuador earthquake, international aid organizations raced to Ecuador, assisting those who lost everything. Aid organizations set up tent camps where families who lost their homes lived, some for a few weeks, some for many months, a few for more than a year.

As Ecuador recovered from the earthquake, families, one by one, vacated the tents and moved into new homes.

A second life with the circus


When the circus came to Puerto Lopez recently, performers set up their own tent housing behind the big tent. Two of the tents looked familiar. On closer inspection, they were from the tent camps like those my friend Pastor Gary Vance visited after the earthquake.

Tent behind circus big top in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

Monday, October 9, 2017

Wasp Nest Removal - Not A Recommend Method

"Remove the nest at night time. Wasps are more docile during this time so are less likely to sting"
-- Pretty much every 'Wasp Nest Removal' guide, like this one

Two young girls had an unhappy meeting with wasps and had no interest in more encounters. It was up to us to remove the threat on the lot next door. While clearing brush, buzzing around us increased, letting us know we were closing in on the nest. It's size impressed us once we found it.

Active wasp nest in tree

I suggested we return at dusk to remove and burn the nest. I was voted down. Paul decided he and Scott would remove it right now.

In the middle of the day.

When the wasps are most active.

Monday, October 2, 2017

39,000 Volunteers Clean Ecuador Beaches, Rivers, and Ocean Floors

"Think globally, act locally."
-- Origins of the phrase are disputed according to Wikipedia

Ecuador Environmental Protection

In 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to provide constitutional protection for the environment. This does not mean that garbage is always deposited in a receptacle nor that all packaging is biodegradable. What it does mean, among many other things, is that students learn about the negative impact plastic in oceans and rivers have on the planet.

Rings on beverage cans can kill marine life.
From Manabi Province Environment Ministry Tweet

Since 2010, Ecuador's Environment Ministry has been leading a September cleanup as part of International Beach Cleaning Day, promoted by the International Ocean Conservancy Organization. Volunteers take action when others leave garbage behind. It is often easier to begin taking action when you are surrounded by friends doing the same. The Environment Ministry hosted Accion por el Planeta beach cleanup day on September 30, 2017. (Note the September 16 international day this year was during Ecuador school holidays. Ecuador waited until school resumed before hosting their day.)

Act Locally

At the Puerto Lopez meeting point, volunteers congregated, obtained motivational words on why we were here, obtained supplies, then dispersed and began cleaning the beach.

Volunteers, primarily high school students, cleaning Puerto Lopez beach
September 30, 2017

Friday, September 29, 2017

Messages of Solidarity from Ecuador to Mexico After Earthquakes #WATWB

“The healing power of even the most microscopic exchange with someone who knows in a flash precisely what you're talking about because she experienced that thing too cannot be overestimated.” 


Welcome to September's installment of the We are the World Blogfest, where we share positive news on the last Friday of each month. Thank you to this month's WATWB co-hosts: Michelle Wallace, Shilpa Garg, Andrea Michaels, Peter Nena, and Emerald Barnes.

Once your life has been turned upside down by a natural disaster and you have recovered, you are in a unique position to assist those who have theirs turned upside down by a similar one.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Puerto Lopez Canton Celebrates Anniversary With A Parade

For me, a day spent monitoring the passing parade is a day well-spent. 
-- Garry Trudeau

Happy 23rd Birthday Puerto Lopez Canton

Manteño civilization artifacts are often unearthed when digging ground for new cisterns or homes in Puerto Lopez. The town has been around for a long time. Although people have lived here for many years, Puerto Lopez Canton was created 23 years ago (a canton is comprised of several neighboring towns and villages, much like a county in the United States).

The canton celebrated on August 31 with an anniversary parade in their canton seat, the town of Puerto Lopez. Main street is closed, anyone not participating lines the sidewalks and the parade participants make their way through town.


Welcome Back, Parade

The 2016 parade was cancelled following the April 16 7.8 earthquake. Many people in towns north of Puerto Lopez were still living in tents. (I wrote about the night of the earthquake here and some of those in tents here.) People in town who had lost their homes were still living with friends or relatives. Puerto Lopez skipped a huge celebration out of respect.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Baby Llama at the Inca Ruins

"Mama Llama's always near, even if she's not right here."
-- Anna Dewdney, Llama Lama Red Pajama

Llamas and Inca Ruins

A baby llama (a cria) running around Inca ruins adds lively entertainment to a leisurely stroll through history.

Cria at the Inca Ruins

The terraces in Cuenca's Pumapungo Inca ruins (which I wrote about here) are filled in with grass. Llamas tethered to the ground are moved around the grounds to keep the grass short. Like most baby animals, crias stay close to their mother so they are not tethered. They are able to run and bounce around, learning about the world around them and making friends. On this day, llamas mowed the grass on a large terrace above the gardens.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Puerto Lopez Boat Maintenance

Spring tides result in high waters that are higher than average, low waters that are lower than average, 'slack water' time that is shorter than average, and stronger tidal currents than average.

Disclaimer

I am not a boater nor do play one on TV. My father lives on a boat in California's San Francisco Bay. When I lived there, he wanted to teach me boating but I was never interested in more than riding along. To any boaters reading this, please bear with me as I may use terms incorrectly. Perhaps you will get a nice laugh while you read how a layperson writes about boats.

Puerto Lopez, Ecuador boat maintenance

Puerto Lopez fishermen and tour boat operators perform minor hull maintenance during extreme low tides in a shallow area on the south end of the beach. Spring tides, when the low tide is lowest just after a full or new moon, provide the best time to do this maintenance. That ensures the most possible time for maintenance before the water rises again. The first days after full or new moons are when we see the most boat maintenance.

Painting a shrimp boat hull

Southern Puerto Lopez 

I spent a few days after the last full moon watching the tides and the boat maintenance at the south end of the Puerto Lopez bay. It was interesting to see the dry docking process during the receding tide, then the subsequent float while the tide returned.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Liebster Award

Wow! I received a blog award! What an honor to be nominated by author and editor Nick Wilford from Speculative Author - Making the impossible reality. Thank you Nick! I enjoy his blog, where he shares thoughts and information for authors and potential authors as well as his own writing journey. Nick is a professionally trained freelance editor and proofreader with a background in journalism. You can find more information about these services here.


Liebster Award

"Liebster" is a German word meaning beloved or dearest. It is an online recognition in form of virtual award which started in 2011 passed on by bloggers to fellow bloggers for enjoying and valuing their work. The idea is to recognize the effort and give credit.

Monday, August 28, 2017

River Laundry

It turns out that a husband who does the laundry, it's very romantic when you're older. And it's hard to believe when you're younger. But it's absolutely true. 

Machine or River

Do you wash your laundry in a machine or a nearby river? If I were a betting woman, I would bet you use a washing machine. I do, too, as do most people in Ecuador. Some, though, wash laundry the old fashioned way - in a river.

Washing laundry in the Tomebamba River
Cuenca, Ecuador

Friday, August 25, 2017

DoMinga - Volunteers Cleaning Beaches #WATWB

Welcome to August's installment of the We Are The World Blogfest, when we share positive news on the last Friday of each month. Thank you to this month's WATWB co-hosts: Simon FalkRoshan RadhakrishnanInderpreet Uppal, Lynn HallbrooksEric Lahti, and Mary J Giese

This month I am writing about a weekly Puerto Lopez, Ecuador beach cleanup effort. I have no article to link to so I will just tell you about it.

Where plastic bags thrown on the ground go

Dead or dying whales, dolphins and sea turtles periodically wash up on shore, stomachs full of plastic. A plastic bag tossed out a car window miles from shore flows into the ocean, carried by rivers and wind. That plastic bag, along with other garbage, threatens to become a death sentence when sea creatures eat it.

There are already an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Containing the plastic before it makes it to the ocean is the best way to prevent that number from growing.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Rice Fields - Beauty, Predators and Allies

Planting rice is not a joke
Just bending all day long
You can't even stand still
You can't even sit down.
-- Traditional Filipino Folk Song

Rice is a staple in Ecuadorian meals. It is generally served with your main meal regardless of what the entree is. A typical meal might include soup, chicken, rice, green salad, potato salad, and juice. The other side dishes vary but rice is always included. On separate occasions, I have served chili and spaghetti to guests and been asked if there was any rice (I had not made any). When eating out, I have been served a side of rice with my spaghetti so I suppose I should have known.

Since so much rice is eaten, a lot is grown. People in rice growing areas sell huge bags on the side of the road so you do not have travel to a market to make a purchase, just pull over for a few moments.

Rice for sale along the side of the road - prices in US dollars

Monday, August 14, 2017

Imagination, Moats And Drawbridges

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere. 
--Albert Einstein

When you were young did you dream of living in a castle with a moat and a drawbridge? Maybe you imagined you were a prince or a princess and your dog was your pet dragon, guarding your drawbridge.

Some kids in Ecuador's rice country have bridges over aqueducts leading to their homes. Parents build the bridge to get from A to B.


Imagination turns the bamboo walkway into a drawbridge (albeit one that does not raise) over a moat protecting the family castle.

Monday, August 7, 2017

When The Rooster Crows

“Where the rooster crows there is a village.” 
-- African Proverb

I spent most of my life thinking roosters only crowed at dawn. I was wrong. I had not lived among roosters before moving to Ecuador. These roosters are truly free range. They and their hens live in the open, without fences or cages, in every village.

Roosters, hens and chicks run around the neighborhood like dogs and cats during the day. They return home each night to sleep.

In Ecuador, roosters crow at any time of the day or night. This curious habit made me wonder what makes roosters crow.

Hey Mister Rooster - Why do you crow day and night?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Tree Stump Art

"We have those in Houston now, too." 
-- My Mom when I told her about the chainsaw tree stump art in Cuenca

Many years ago, when my husband and I cut down a tree in our California backyard, we left the tree stump about 6 feet tall. Scott built a bird feeder on top of the stump. I planted flowers at the base. Birds enjoyed the feeder year round. It never occurred to either of us to take a chainsaw to the stump to create something beautiful.

Tree stump art was not a thing back then. Most people we knew struggled with removing unwanted stumps. We were glad to find something useful to do with ours. In recent years, people have been turning stumps into works of art.

City Park in Houston, Minnesota

During a recent visit to my hometown of Houston, Minnesota, Mom and I stopped to look at the tree stump art in the city park. It was something I had also seen in Parque de la Madre in Cuenca, Ecuador. Art is now found where trees once stood. The trees in both parks had to be removed due to disease. The parks kept the stump tall enough to transform it into beautiful chainsaw carved works of art.

Houston (population 978) is home to the International Owl Center, the only one of it's kind in North America. It advances the survival of wild owl populations through education and research. Around town, various owl themes can be found. In spring 2017, artist Molly Wiste carved four owls into one trunk in the city park. The level of detail in each owl is impressive.

Tree stump owl art, Houston City Park

Parque de la Madre in Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuenca's (population 400,000) Parque de la Madre (Mother's Park) celebrates (surprise!) mothers. The carvings in this park began in 2015. Several artists were commissioned to create four pieces each. You will not be surprised to learn that much of the tree stump art is shaped like women.

Pregnant woman, Parque de la Madre

Friday, July 28, 2017

Orphanage Teens Learn to Express Themselves Through DJing #WATWB

Welcome to July's installment of the We Are The World Blogfest, where we share positive stories on the last Friday of each month. The basic rules are:
  • Keep the post below 500 words. 
  • Link to a human news story that shows love, humanity, and brotherhood and share an excerpt.
  • No story is too big or small as long as it goes beyond religion and politics.
Thank you to this month's WATWB co-hosts:  Simon FalkRoshan RadhakrishnanInderpreet Uppal, Damyanti Biswas and Sylvia Stein. 

I previously wrote a couple of times about the Olon Orphanage (here and here). It is one of the happiest places I know. I love spending time there.

I was thrilled to see this story in the Huffington Post. Cynthia Cherish Malaran (DJ CherishTheLuv), a breast cancer survivor, recently spent three weeks in Ecuador. She was introduced to the orphanage by Erwin Musper, who works tirelessly to improve lives at the orphanage.

Cynthia came to teach young girls how to DJ. From the article:
“Actually, I taught these young teens how to express themselves creatively and loudly, under the guise of DJing. These girls have been traumatized. Silenced. Teaching them how to express themselves gives them the green light to ask for what they want. To say ‘no!’ To ask for a raise at work. It can change their life. Even save their life. I went there thinking I had something to teach them. But actually, they taught me… I came back a few days ago,” Cynthia reports, “and I was looking at all these sad, unhappy faces here in our awesome New York City, and I was so confused. I came back and realized we have everything. We have everything and yet, we’re not happy. The girls at the orphanage have the bare minimum, yet they are so happy. Why? Because they have each other.”


Cynthia teaching DJ techniques
Image from Huffington Post

Later in the article:
“I packed my portable Pioneer mixer, thinking ‘OK, I’m going to gift these kids ME,’” Cynthia laughs. ... And then you realize it’s you who has the deficits, and they gift you so much knowledge, understanding, eye-opening love. I think in the past 2.5 weeks, I’ve gotten hugged more than in the past two years.”

Cynthia shares how teaching the girls– products of rape, abuse, neglect, subject to silencing– how to express themselves was profound in so many ways. “I don’t speak Spanish; they don’t speak much English, but music is the universal language, and rhythm transcends words. The kids had never heard a song sped up or slowed down before, they were totally shocked! I didn’t want to teach them how to be a DJ, but how to express, how to experiment, how to feel free.”

Cynthia with some of her DJ students
Photo from Huffington Post
Cynthia and Erwin made a wonderful 30 minute video about the orphanage. You can view it here.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Inca Ruins in the City

"Everything has crumbled and in ruins but you can still appreciate how grand it was."
-- Pedro Cieza de León, 1547, chronicler of the Spanish conquest, speaking about Tomebamba

Northern Inca Capital

The Inca conquered the Cañari people in 1470 and established the city-state of Tomebamba (Large Plateau) high in the Andes mountains. Emperor Huayna Capac (ruled 1493-1525) selected Tomebamba, where he was born, to be the Inca northern capital.

It was a short lived capital. A civil war between Incan brothers in the 1520s led to it's destruction. When the Spanish arrived in 1532, it was already in ruins. They established the modern day city of Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca, burying most of the ruins under new buildings.

Pumapungo Archaeological Park

Today, the remains of the old capital are in the historic center of Cuenca, Ecuador's third largest city. Visit Pumapungo (Puma Gate) Archaeological Park, located near the Tomebamba river, to stroll among Inca ruins in the middle of a city.

The features include footprints of buildings, a pool, ovens, gardens, terraces, canals, and a mausoleum.

Acllas (also called Chosen Women, Virgins of the Sun, and Wives of the Inca)

On top of the terraced hill are footprints of acllawasi (house of the chosen women) buildings where sequestered young women lived and learned. The acllas were selected when they were between ages 8 and 10. Families whose girls were selected saw their own social status rise. During their 4 years in the acllawasi the girls learned to produce luxury items like fine woven cloths, to prepare ritual foods, and other skills to service the social elite.

Once trained, some of the acllas were given as wives to warriors who distinguished themselves in battle. Others were concubines for the emperor and a few lived out their lives in the acllawasi. Those deemed most perfect were selected for human sacrifice during religious rites.

Footprints of acllawasi
Next to the acllawasi remnants are two huge ovens. One can imagine wood burning in the middle layer with food on the top layer. At the bottom right of the photo below is a door leading to the outside, where ash could be emptied and wood inserted.

Looking into an Inca oven

Pool, Terraces, and Gardens

The artificial pool at the foot of the terraced hill is spring fed and canals carried water from the pool to the gardens.

Terraces behind the pool
The pool and the gardens are some distance from one another. A long canal leads from the edge of the pool to the gardens.

Canal from pool to gardens
At the other end of the canal, the gardens are shaped like a large cloverleaf. Gardeners today keep the gardens alive with vegetables that were grown in Inca times.

View of terraces from gardens

View of gardens from terraces

Mausoleum 

While walking up the hill from the garden, a locked gate is in the middle of a terrace wall. A tunnel leads to a room high enough for humans to stand and more than 30 meters (100 feet) long. It was a mausoleum where mummies were held for worship and veneration.

Tunnel leading to mausoleum

Admission

A great aspect of this park is that admission is free. Since it is in the middle of the city, residents can walk to the park or take a city bus. I have seen groups of teenagers, couples and families walking around. It is popular to hang out on the grass, enjoying the surroundings. Everyone seems to be respectful of the rules to stay off the stone walls.

Did you know there are Inca ruins in Ecuador?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Painting A Tall Building, Ecuador Style

"The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it."
-- Pericles

Painting tall buildings is not a job for which I will ever submit an application. Heights and I no longer get along. Perhaps Pericles would say I am not brave enough.

These four painters in Guayaquil, however, are. I hope they had a clear vision of what was before them when they accepted the work.


These guys are each hanging from a single rope, sitting on a short piece of wood, painting the side of the building, bucket of paint hanging next to them.


The building they are painting is tall!


They must be grateful at the end of each work day to put their feet back on solid ground.

Would you consider applying for this job?

Monday, July 10, 2017

A Drive Up the Andes


"I can speak to my soul only when the two of us are off exploring deserts or cities or mountains or roads."

-- Paulo Coelho

Driving through dense fog is a stressful challenge. Breaking through that fog and getting above it can make for a relaxing drive, especially in the Andes mountains. These mountains are gorgeous.
Driving above the fog in the Andes

Taking the road less traveled

The route Scott and I take from the coastal city of Guayaquil to the Andes mountain city of Cuenca is generally less foggy with fewer cars than the shorter and more popular route through El Cajas National Park.

Our drive goes from sea level to 3400 meters before we descend into Cuenca, which is at about 2500 meters. Fog has occasionally made our five hour drive take seven or more hours.

Neither of us is a big risk taker when it comes to roads. We only drive during the daytime. We leave Guayaquil by Noon so we are likely to finish the drive before 6:30 sunset. If our business takes us past Noon, we stay an additional night.

On a recent drive, the fog played with us. We began as usual, in the sunshine of Guayaquil. As we approached the mountains, a low cloud cover settled in above the banana, sugar cane and mango fields.
Banana field under the low cloud cover
The thick fog started earlier than usual - just as we began to climb the mountains, shortly after La Troncal. It portended a long day in the car. We have done this drive many times. If there is fog, it typically hangs around until the road curves to the east side of the mountains at Biblián.

Ecuador road hazards

It is not uncommon in Ecuador for cars to pass slow moving vehicles on blind curves. Not all of them use their headlights. We always watch for cars in our lane going the wrong way.

There is a risk a fresh landslide might be around the next bend. Most people who live along the road do not have cars so they walk on the shoulder of the road. Dogs, chickens, cows, sheep, horses and pigs all live along the the road. Some are tied up, some are not. It is stressful driving despite being lightly traveled by autos.

Rising above the fog

Not that far into our climb, we entered bright sunshine. What a shock! We were above the fog! We were not even to Suscal yet, where the fog sometimes begins. The blue sky was such a refreshing sight to see.
Above the thick fog

Picture perfect Andes

The rest of our drive was in perfect conditions. No landslides were in the way, people and animals stayed on the shoulder of the road and no one came close to hitting us while passing on a blind curve.

The mountains are beautiful with fluffy clouds floating above them.
Homes are sprinkled here and there along the way, as are reminders of recent landslides.
Farming is popular along this route. Planting and harvesting of crops is done by hand, often on steep slopes. Click on the photo below to increase the size and you can see the fields in the center. Fences are often made with freshly cut branches that grow roots and become trees, which make the field dividing lines living fences.
Small communities and towns each have their own stunning backdrops.
We made it to Cuenca in five hours and were relaxed when we arrived. The fog at the beginning of the mountains was a distant memory.

Do you take longer routes to avoid hazardous roads?

Monday, July 3, 2017

Never Ending Aftershocks

"Anyone else just feel an earthquake in Cuenca?"
-- Facebook post by the author, June 30, 2017, 5:32 PM

June 30, 2017, 5:29 PM
The building began swaying back and forth, as if an enormously strong wind was blowing. There was only a light breeze outside. My husband, Scott, and I were reading in our tenth floor Cuenca apartment. We looked at each other, both saying "earthquake" at the same time.

There was no panic nor even any movement toward getting up from our chairs. We knew it was too light to be a problem for us. We were concerned about those living near the epicenter, wherever that was.

I posted on Facebook asking if anyone else felt it. It was my way to simultaneously find out how far the reach was and to confirm that friends were okay. Within minutes, I heard from people in various parts of the country. Most had felt it and some had felt nothing. Thankfully, no one was reporting injuries or damage.

Scott looked at his Sismo Ecuador application. The initial report was a 6.5 earthquake near Jama on the Ecuador coast, 331 kilometers from where we were.
We were in Cuenca during earthquake, 331 kms from Jama
Scott posted the following screenshot on the Ecuador Emergency Facebook group.
Initial report four minutes after earthquake
It was eerily close to the epicenter of the massive 7.8 earthquake on April 16, 2016 - the night that forever changed our reactions to even small earthquakes. I previously wrote about our experience that night. You can read it here. That earthquake left at least 676 dead, 16,600 injured, and thousands temporarily homeless.

We are no strangers to earthquakes
Scott and I lived less than seven miles from the San Andreas fault in the San Francisco Bay area for more than 15 years. We spent years guessing at the magnitude and epicenter each time there was an earthquake. It was a contest to see who could guess the closest.

We continued that guessing game/contest when we moved to Ecuador. Scott was often correct about the magnitude and approximate distance we were from the epicenter.

After our experience last April, we still try to guess but it is no longer a contest nor are we excited if we guess correctly. We are hyper-sensitive to what might be happening near the epicenter.

Minimal damage and injuries this time
The earthquake on June 30 was eventually revised down to a 6.3. Fortunately there were only five injuries, including one man who fell off a roof. Only one house collapsed (granted, if it was your house, it would be a major issue but only one is a good result for a fairly strong earthquake). No tsunami warnings were needed.

Aftershocks since April 16, 2016: 3771
The Latin American Herald Tribune reported that this was one of 3771 aftershocks since the 7.8 earthquake last April. There is no way to know when the aftershocks will end.

I know I speak for more than just myself when I say we are ready for the earth to stop shaking.

Do you have earthquakes where you live?

Friday, June 30, 2017

3D Technology Helping Animals in Cuenca, Ecuador #WATWB

Welcome to June's installment of the We Are The World Blogfest, where we share positive stories on the last Friday of each month. The basic rules are:
  • Keep the post below 500 words. 
  • Link to a human news story that shows love, humanity, and brotherhood and share an excerpt.
  • No story is too big or small as long as it goes beyond religion and politics.
Thank you to this month's WATWB hosts: Belinda Witzenhausen,  Lynn Hallbrooks,  Michelle WallaceSylvia McGrath, and Sylvia Stein.

I have selected a story found in the Cuenca Dispatch about veterinarian Johnny Uday and electronics engineer and robotics expert Gabriel Delgado, who have brought 3D imaging to injured animals in Cuenca, Ecuador. I may be stretching the rules since this is more of an animal news story but I am an animal lover and I am human, hence, human news story.

Imagine being a bird with a broken beak and trying to break down foods before eating them. I am amazed that a prosthetic beak can be printed using 3D technology.

In addition to prosthetic parts, they are providing cast-like exoskeletons on injured limbs to allow body parts to heal properly.
Prosthetic Beak
From Cuenca Dispatch, Issue 45
From the article:
Animals in Cuenca who have suffered bone fractures or have lost body parts, can now count on a new opportunity to have a normal life. The Ideo company is now fabricating prosthesis or shell-like exoskeletons for missing or damaged animal body parts. Veterinarian Johnny Uday is responsible for bringing Ideo's products to Ecuador. After finishing his post-graduate studies in Australia, where he was first introduced to the technology, he wanted to introduce it here to Cuenca. 

“I started to look for someone who could help me materialize this idea”, he says. Uday found Gabriel Delgado, an electronics engineer and robotic expert who specializes in 3D printing. Uday and Delgado have been working together since last December to create the first prototypes for trial use here in Cuenca. So far, they have managed to help two dogs, a bird and a disabled cat by designing pieces of body-parts to give them an easier life.
From Cuenca Dispatch, Issue 45
Before creating one of these unique prosthetics for any animal, Uday does a complete evaluation of the animal to verify its over all condition, and to judge whether the animal will accept the prosthetics. Some animals simply won't allow their owners to put a prosthetic on them.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Community Theater in Cuenca

"You Know You've Worked in Community Theatre if... 

...your living room sofa spends more time on stage than you do. 

...you have your own secret family recipe for stage blood. 

...you've ever appeared on stage wearing your own clothes."

The majority of my time in Ecuador has been in small coastal towns with no movie theaters.  My husband and I decided to spend the first half of 2017 in the Andes mountains. We chose the city of Cuenca, Ecuador's third largest city.  We were looking forward to going to a movie or two while in the big city.

We found something that we enjoy so much more - live theater! Azuay Community Theater (ACT) performs several plays per year. According to their Facebook page, the ACT mission is:

"To enrich, educate and entertain our bi-lingual, cross-cultural community by providing Azuay residents and others the opportunity both to attend and to participate in a variety of quality theatrical performances within the city of Cuenca or other locations as may be selected by the Executive Committee"

We have attended three of their shows this year. The productions include experienced actors and directors with impressive resumes as well as rookies. They have all done a great job and I have enjoyed each show.

There is a new auditorium in Cuenca, at the Abraham Lincoln Ecuadorian-North American Cultural Center, where the most recent show was performed. Photography is not allowed during the show so I took this shot before Menopause The Musical began.

These are the shows we have seen.

Broadway Bound
Neil Simon's semi-autobiographical play about two brothers working to become comedians in New York while living with their parents, whose marriage is on the rocks. Their comedy show hits a little too close to home when the parents see themselves in the show.
From Azuay Community Theater Facebook page

Seven
This acclaimed documentary celebrates seven remarkable women who are changing the world. Each of the women overcame adversity to become leaders. Six have won Vital Voices' Global Leadership Awards. Admirably, the Cuenca performance was a fundraiser for a local women's shelter during International Women's Month. It is hard to watch this riveting show without teary eyes and I loved it.
From Azuay Community Theater Facebook page

Menopause The Musical
This musical follows four women while shopping in Macy's while singing about hot flashes, chocolate cravings, body changes, and other menopausal symptoms. If you are a woman who has or hopes to one day go through menopause (or if you know one), I recommend this hilarious show.
From Azuay Community Theater Facebook page


We are looking forward to returning to our small town lives on the coast but we are enjoying the theater while we are in Cuenca. I am impressed by the quality and variety of their productions. Well done to everyone involved!

Do you have a local community theater?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Quito Layover Tour

Planning

I recently had a twelve hour layover in Quito, Ecuador's capital and second largest city. My initial plans were to read while at the Quito airport and not much else. My imagination had this layover seeming to last a very long twelve hours.

Instead of staying at the airport, I decided to go on a six hour tour with Tours Around Quito. With my flight arriving around Noon, the tour would take me right up to a few minutes before the 6:30 sunset.

Quito Airport Arrival

Gustavo Tupiza, who owns Tours Around Quito with his wife, Elizabeth, picked me up from the airport and we headed straight to the historic district, Centro Histórico.

It happened to be May 24, a national holiday, and the day of the presidential inauguration. We had to get into and out of the historic area before it closed to vehicle traffic at 4:00 for inauguration festivities. After parking, we began our walking tour on Calle la Ronda, a street that comes alive at night.
La Ronda Street in Quito
The cobblestone streets and pedestrian walkways meander between buildings constructed over several centuries.

Independence Square

Our first stop was Independence Square, where the presidential palace, Carondelet Palace, is located. Setup was underway for the festivities beginning in a few hours. Many folks had already staked out seating for the evening activities.
Independence Square with the presidential palace in background
Inset: Police patrols on foot and Segways
It struck me that, while there was a visible police presence, no one entering the area was searched nor funneled through metal detectors. I have never attended a presidential inauguration celebration in the US but I imagine that the attendees area all searched on their way into the area.

La Iglesía de la Compañía de Jesús

Gustavo explained that next we were going a short walk away to visit one of his childhood churches. The church exterior was stone with a massive wooden, gold inlaid door. Entering the church, The Church of the Society of Jesus in English, I paid a guest entrance fee and was told no photography of any kind was allowed inside.
La Iglesía de la Compañía de Jesús exterior
Inset: Entrance door
Shockingly beautiful, most of the interior of the church is made of gold. There are large original paintings on every interior pillar. Click here and here to see photos of the interior.

Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco

A few blocks away, the buildings of the Church, Convent, and Plaza of St. Francis cover three hectares and took nearly 150 years to complete, beginning in 1534. The plaza on this day was frequented by families feeding pigeons and friends chatting.
Church and Convent of St. Francis from the plaza
Again, no photography was allowed inside the church but you can click here for a photo. The church houses a 30 cm wooden sculpture of the beloved Virgin of Quito (1734) in the vestibule.

Virgin of Quito Statue

We left the historic district and drove up El Panecillo Hill to the base of the worlds largest replica of the Virgin of Quito, which can be seen from city.
Virgin of Quito Statue on El Panecillo hill overlooking Quito
(Click on photo to enlarge)
She overlooks the city and from her vantage point, you can clearly see where the historical district ends and the financial district begins. The buildings in the financial district are taller and newer.
View of Quito from the base of the statue
Historic district in foreground, financial district behind

Middle of the World Monument

Our next stops were devoted to the equator.

In 1936, a monument was built on the equator to celebrate the "middle of the world." The current 100 foot high monument replaced the original in 1979. What the builders did not know then was that when GPS technology was developed and used, the actual equator was a few hundred feet from the monument.
Middle of the World Monument

Intiñan Museum

If you want to visit the actual equator, head to the nearby Intiñan Museum, a privately owned park where 0 degrees latitude, 0 minutes, 0 seconds is found with a well calibrated GPS device. There, you can balance an egg on a nail, attempt to walk a straight line with the north and south hemispheres pulling you in each direction, and a few other activities that are fun for kids and adults alike.
Balancing an egg on a nail at the equator
Intiñan's exhibits include reproductions of some Amazon region vegetation and homes, an explanation of the head shrinking practice (with an actual shrunken head on display) and a solar museum.

Recommendation

I highly recommend Tours Around Quito. Gustavo is fully bilingual and provides day trips as well as muti-day tours around Ecuador. Making my tour even better was Gustavo's narration throughout the day. He is a history buff and loves sharing his knowledge with clients.

This was the perfect way to spend the time during my layover.

Have you ever taken a guided tour?