Monday, May 29, 2017

Cuenca's Seven Acre Market - Feria Libre

"Wherever possible, I like to use home-grown or locally produced ingredients."
-- Mary Berry

Cuenca is a UNESCO World Heritage Trust Site for its beautiful historic buildings. Ecuador's third largest city, Cuenca is 2500 meters (8200 feet) high in the Andes mountains. With tourists focused on architecture, it is easy for them to miss what could be a highlight of their trip.

In my opinion, the Feria Libre seven acre market is a must see. People travel from miles around to buy and sell goods. It even has it's own bus terminal. Buyers know this is where they will find the lowest prices. Entrepreneurs rent space knowing good products will move quickly.

While it is open every day, Saturdays and Wednesdays are the busiest. More people come those days, knowing the most products are available. Vibrant colors and numerous aromas fill the senses from all around.

The produce sections encompass areas surrounding the building exterior as well as large areas within them.
Neatly arranged produce at an indoor vendor
The vibrant produce colors are eye-catching in every display.
Vibrant colors at an outdoor vendor
Some vendors specialize in one product, like this potato vendor...
Potato vendor
And this banana vendor.
Most have a wide variety.
Produce everywhere
Interspersed throughout the market are flower vendors.
Local woman buying flowers
There are beef, pork, and poultry areas. All kinds of sausages are for sale. Fresh fish from local streams and seafood driven up from the coast are available. We were surprised that the seafood was priced almost the same as on the coast.
Fresh fish and seafood
An outdoor section hosts live animals for sale. They include chickens, guinea pigs, crabs, bunnies, puppies, kittens and parrots. The chickens pictured below lay colorful eggs (inset), which the vendor had for sale as well.
Chickens and their eggs, both for sale
Live crabs from the coast are sold near the outdoor live animal area, not the indoor seafood area.
Live crabs for sale
I almost don't want to tell you that guinea pigs are not pets in Ecuador. They are food. I have not tried them. The puppies, kittens, and parrots ARE pets.
Guinea pigs for sale
Back inside, many bulk products are for sale including spices, beans, grains, and corns. Cooking oils, honey, flour, sugars, coffee, and chocolate.
Various corns and beans
Several types of homemade pastas are available.
Bulk pasta
Another huge section has household goods, clothing, and shoes. Haircuts are also provided near this area.
Clothing, cookware, plastics, shoes
Woven baskets, fans, and shopping bags are mixed with wooden utensils and pottery since this vendor sells them all.
It is not easy keeping baskets neatly displayed
If one needs some nourishment, there are food counters with a variety of soups, juices and quick foods.
Food counter
Near the main entrance / exit, many vendors call out the price for the items they are currently carrying. Heard on this day: "five avocados, one dollar" and "three tomatoes, fifty cents."

Tomato vendor in center of photo
Exit into the parking lot and find vendors selling baskets of items that you might have missed inside.
Feria Libre parking lot vendors
Many people come to Cuenca for the historic architecture. I recommend a trip to Feria Libre as well.

Is there a local market near you where entrepreneurs sell their products?

Friday, May 26, 2017

#WATWB - Clean Drinking Water

This is my first post for the We Are The World Blogfest, which occurs on the last Friday of every month.

I chose a story I wrote about a man providing clean drinking water to thousands in coastal Ecuador.

A few weeks after the April 16, 2016 7.8 Ecuador earthquake, Tennessee pastor Gary Vance arrived in Puerto Lopez. He had a suitcase full of water filters and a plan - provide clean drinking water for those who needed it.
Installed water filter post-earthquake, Ecuador
Photo courtesy of Gary Vance
Gary has made six trips to Ecuador since the earthquake, spent 88 days in country, delivered 1000 filters, and documented over 5000 people who have gained filtered water.

Update since the original story
Gary is now Ecuador on his seventh trip since the earthquake. This time, he brought two scientists from the University of North Alabama. They are testing water for any dangerous compounds to ensure that the installed filters are working as expected.
Dr. Amanda Coffman and her husband Derrick in Ecuador testing water
Photo courtesy of Gary Vance
Gary is proof that one man can make a huge difference in people's lives!  I encourage you to visit his Tears2Water charity to learn more. Like Tears2Water on Facebook for real-time updates and additional photos.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

We Are The World Blogfest

I will be participating in the We Are The World Blogfest on the last Friday of each month.

What is the #WATWB?
Social media and news in recent times has been filled with hate and negativity. Just as you cannot fight darkness, only light lamps, Hate and Negativity cannot be fought. You need to bring Love and Positivity forward instead.

If you’re tired of negativity and strife on blogs and social media, check out the We Are the World Blogfest!

I bring to you the We Are the World Blogfest, along with these fabulous co-hosts:
Belinda Witzenhausen, Carol Walsh, Chrissie Parker, Damyanti Biswas, Eric Lahti, Kate Powell, Lynn Hallbrooks, Mary Giese, Michelle Wallace, Peter Nena, Roshan Radhakrishnan, Simon Falk, Susan Scott, Sylvia Stein, Sylvia McGrath , Inderpreet Kaur Uppal

“We Are the World Blogfest” seeks to promote positive news. There are many cases of love and light out there, stories that show compassion and the resilience of the human spirit. Sharing these stories increases our awareness of hope in our increasingly dark world.

We will link to charities supported by the co-hosts, and you could choose to donate to some of them or add links to local charities you support, so we could all chip in to a good cause if we like.

Let us flood social media with peace and love, and “In Darkness, Be Light.” The first post for We Are The World Blogfest was on the 31st March 2017.

1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible.
2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love, humanity, and brotherhood. Something like this news, about a man who only fosters terminally ill children.
3. Join us on the last Friday of each month in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.
4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.
5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.
6. To signup, add your link in WE ARE THE WORLD Linky List below.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Rain in the Classroom

"We get rained on while sitting at our desks."
-- Augustine, high school student in Puerto Lopez

A friend asked if we could help a Puerto Lopez student, Augustine, with his leaky classroom roof.

Augustine gave us a school tour and explained the issue - students unlucky enough to sit under holes in the roof get wet during rains. They remove their books so they don't ruin them. Government funding was not available because the school was slated to be replaced.
Roof in need of repair
I wondered how could anyone learn in that environment.
Augustine and his classmates had been working on the roof issue for some time. They lobbied their parents. Each family contributed $3 toward the cause and could afford no more. The students bought new roofing material, planning to patch the roof themselves.
Roofing material on the floor waiting for an installation expert
They had no roofing expertise. None of their families had construction experience. These were fishing families. If it were a leaking boat or damaged fishing net, they might be the right people. But this was neither.

The students spent a Saturday trying to figure out how to fix the roof. They stood on the roof and stood on the ground. They held up the material and set it back down. Finally, they went home. They were stuck.

The students viewed Augustine as their leader because he was the oldest. By far. As a 24 year old 10th grader, he was their adult representative as well as their classmate. The school trusted him enough that he had keys to the school gate and the classroom.

After he completed 9th grade, Augustine's father fell ill. Augustine quit school to take his father's place as the family's primary wage earner. Years later when he was healthy, the father insisted the son finish his education.

It was now Augustine's responsibility to find someone to help with the roof. He talked to several construction experts. The lowest quote he obtained was for two roofers working two full days. He dreaded telling his classmates they couldn't afford the roof repairs.

He mentioned his frustration to our mutual friend, who recruited us and two other couples to help. We hired Angel, a construction expert we knew who said it would take no more than one day as long as Augustine helped.
Angel and Augustine on the classroom roof
Angel, Augustine, my husband and I spent a morning repairing the roof. We used the materials Augustine and his classmates had purchased. Once the materials were installed, some cracks remained in the old roofing material. Angel ran to town and bought silicone caulk and a caulking gun.
Angel on plank demonstrating how to caulk
Angel demonstrated how to caulk, then Augustine sealed cracks to prevent new leaks.
Augustine perfecting his caulking technique
The total bill for us and the other couples was $27. That's $9 per couple to provide students a dry classroom.

Augustine was thankful that Angel allowed him to be his shadow. Angel was thankful that Augustine was willing to learn anything that involved heights and wobbly planks. We and the other couples who hired Angel were thankful that Augustine mentioned this issue to our friend.

Everyone involved was proud of Augustine and impressed that he was getting his education and setting a great example.

How does this classroom differ from the ones you had?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Guayaquil's Historic Park Wildlife

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”
-- Gary Snyder

Free attractions abound in Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city. I highlighted three in an earlier post. One of my favorites is a historical park full of plants and animals.

Parque Histórico (Historic Park) is a relaxing retreat in the big city. The park has three distinct areas - wildlife, historic architecture, and traditional lifestyle. Today I focus only on wildlife.

The park's plants and animals are all native to Ecuador. Some animals injured in the wild find homes here.

Meandering through the park, pausing frequently to listen to the birds is a relaxing way to spend a morning or afternoon. Raised walkways provide incredible proximity for visitors.
Visitors are close to nature on raised walkways
Parque Histórico

Let's meet some residents!

Fourty-seven species of parrots have been recorded in Ecuador. In Parque Histórico, there are a large number of parrots.

Injured birds are caged while rehabbing. 
Caged Parrots not ready for wild
Parque Histórico
When released, the birds frequently stay inside the park since the conditions are ideal for them.
Parrots free to roam anywhere
Many stay in Parque Histórico

Man made birdbaths ensure water is available
Parque Histórico

Carnivorous animals are not allowed to go anywhere they want in the park. Medium sized spotted cats, ocelots are found throughout Central and South America.

Ocelots in the park are in a huge metal enclosure made to look like tree branches. I was lucky that one of them walked in front of me.
Ocelot walking in enclosure
Parque Histórico

Collared Peccary
In tropical and subtropical Americas, the collared peccary eat cactus, vegetables and fruits. They sleep in burrows, caves and under logs or tree roots.
Collared Peccary
Parque Histórico

Spectacled Caiman
A gray-green small to medium sized crocodile, the spectacled caiman is found in Central and northern South American wetlands and rivers. The ones in the park hang out in a man made pond.
Spectacled Caiman
Parque Histórico

Harpy Eagle
The largest and most powerful raptor in the Americas is the harpy eagle with a wingspan up to 224 cm (7 ft 4 in). They are threatened by humans destroying their natural habitat in low lying rainforests.

Multiple countries have breeding and monitoring programs in an effort to increase the population.

The first South American captive-born harpy eagle was in Parque Histórico May 6, 2002. They only reproduce once every couple of years and have one baby at a time. Re population is slow work with this bird!
This harpy eagle, by it's nest, is more than two feet tall
Parque Histórico

Thanks for taking this tour with me. There are many other animals in the park who did not make an appearance today, including spider monkeys, sloths, ducks, and deer. 

Is there a captive breeding program near you for endangered animals?

Monday, May 8, 2017

A to Z Reflections 2017 #AtoZChallenge

I survived the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge and earned a badge!

It is tradition for participants to post reflections after the Challenge. Here are mine.

How it started

In the last week of March, author Donna B. McNicol asked if any of her friends were participating. I said yes! I had been wanting to get into blogging and figured this was a great opportunity. Why not sign up and learn as I go?


I wrote about Ecuador since I live in a country that is not well known globally.


On April 1, I had a list with a topic for each letter of the alphabet. I knew what I would write about each day. Until I began each post. It turned out that I had little to say about some topics. Others needed more research and time than I could do in a day. For some I had no photo to accompany the post.

The list I had on April 1 and the 26 posts I published had only 5 words in common. I have a bunch of almost done, half done, and hardly begun drafts. Some of those will morph into future posts.

By the numbers - April

  • 26 posts in 30 days
  • 4821 visitors
  • On average, 14.65 people commented daily
  • I read and commented on about 490 A to Z posts 

Lessons Learned

  • My photos are a hot mess. I spent hours seeking ones that would fit each post. Late in the month, I searched for photos prior to beginning a post.
  • April is a great time to begin blogging, if you can keep up with the pace. 
  • April is not a great time for in depth posts. Some of my topics deserve more detail than I could cover in a short time. I wrote some anyway and will expand on topics in later posts.
  • Learn from others. I made adjustments based on blogs I read during the month.
  • There is little time for anything else in April. If you participate in the A to Z Challenge, clear your schedule for the month. Alternately, write posts ahead of time. Then April can be spent reading and commenting on others' posts and responding to comments on your posts. 
  • Use a blog link in your signature when commenting on other's blogs. It is the easiest way to find blogs for reciprocal visits. 

Where I go from here

I plan to publish a new post each Monday. They will be similar to my April posts. I also signed up for a blogfest... I still need to figure out blogfests. Ignorance did not stop me from the A to Z so I'll learn as I go!
  • We Are The World Blogfest - The last Friday of each month, we will promote stories showing love, humanity, and brotherhood from around the world :) 

Thank you

26 Posts in 30 Days
  1. Adventure - My life is one!
  2. Boobies - beautiful and bountiful on Ecuador´s coast! Blue-footed boobies, that is
  3. Currency - Coins over bills
  4. Digging up Manteño history
  5. Earthquake - The night a 7.8 shook Ecuador
  6. Fireworks - Any time is the right time
  7. Guayaquil - Iguana Park and other free attractions
  8. Humpback Whales
  9. Iguanas at our bedroom window
  10. Jama Bridge Jumping
  11. Kinder Eggs - Contraband
  12. Latitude Zero
  13. Monkey on my head
  14. Nurturing Owl Parents
  15. Olon Orphanage
  16. Post-Earthquake makeshift camps
  17. Quick stories - Rare Frog, Heated Toilet, Happy Snake
  18. Reinventing a 2.4 km beach front boardwalk
  19. Sunsets near the equator
  20. Tide Pools in Puerto Lopez
  21. Underwater Endangered Testudines (a.k.a. Sea Turtles)
  22. Vegetable Ivory - Tagua
  23. Water. Clean Drinking Water
  24. Xanthophobia, Xenoepist, Xyzlacatosis
  25. Yuletide at the Olon Orphanage
  26. Zoo - I live in one!