Monday, December 11, 2006

Hello ~ we have our very first visitors!

Our dear friend Susan and her boyfriend, Tom, arrived last weekend.
A little later than scheduled because it was raining and foggy when their plane was supposed to land (at 10:30 pm) and they were diverted to Guayaquil until the next morning. Apparently you need about 3 KM of visibility and there was only one. The airport is really close to our apartment and it's basically in the middle of the city.

We were so happy to see them and they brought us lots of goodies from home that I had ordered online.
They didn't seem to have much trouble adjusting to the altitude at all and just got right into life in Quito. We've already been cooking lots of great food and having cocktails on the terrace and chatting away each night.

They arrived during the Fiesta de Quito ~ which is a pretty big celebration in honor of the founding of Quito. There's lots of partying in the streets and roving party buses, called chivas andbullfights, too.

Tom has spent lots of time in Mexico and has seen a bunch of bullfights so he wanted to see a few here with the famous matadors that perform during the fiesta de Quito.

Chris and I are not so into the bullfighting (what do people have against the poor bulls, anyway?) and had already planned a trip back to El Monte lodge in Mindo (see earlier posting of the tropical cloud forest) so chris could work on setting up bee boxes for the special bees there so the lodge could have its own honey. He'll post some really cool pictures he took from this trip of some interesting insects.

We also had a mini-bullfight at school where one of the teachers I worked with put on this bull mask and ran around the field. Although our bullfight had no bloodshed ~ the Pre-K kids just tickled him with paper feathers!
Susan and Tom have been exploring the city and buying lots of cool stuff at the markets, and eating lots of Ecuadorian food ~ they're really enjoying the food.

You can check out their blog that has lots of pictures and descriptions of their adventures so far. It's
Their website is a little more high tech than ours with lots of links and stuff.

And today they headed south on a bus from Quito to explore some other towns like Banos and Riobamba. From Riobamba they are planning on taking a train ride down the nariz de Diablo (the devil's nose) where you ride on the roof of the train. Then they're heading to the coast and Guayaquil to meet some of the people Tom has worked with through Kiva ~ a microlending company that helps people start small businesses in developing countries.
And from there...who knows but they'll be back in Quito for Christmas, which we are looking forward to since we aren't able to come home for the holidays. We're planning on taking a four day trip together after christmas to an Eco-lodge called the Black Sheep Inn which is supposed to be beautiful (

Anyway, we'll post more soon ~ we hope everyone is well and happy!
xoxo, sharon and chris

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Here's our trek to 1,000,000 feet....
Okay, maybe not that high, but really, really, high...

I thought we were heading out on a kind of rigorous Saturday hike.
Little did I know we were climbing up a mountian whose summit was at 16,000 feet. And at that altitude there isn't much oxygen to breathe and it's snowing and hailing when you get to the top (oops! no one mentioned we might need some gloves!). Oh yeah, and when someone told me at the bunko game the night before that they liked the hike and there was a good 'scamble' at the end ~ I also didn't realize scramble was a code word for rock climbing. But maybe it's best that we went in without really knowing...

We met at the school at 6:40 am (Amerian time ~ when you're meeting at a party and it's 'Ecuadorian time' you're supposed to show up 30 minutes to an hour late ~ see, we're figuring things out) and headed to the Mariscal neighborhood (gringolandia) to meet our guide, Ramiro.

We all hopped into his souped up 70's style van, complete with music console on the roof and headed out toward the mountain.

We live in the 'avenue of the volcanoes' so there's lots of mountain climbing in the area. The big one is Cotopaxi which, I think, goes up to 18,000 feet and you need ice-climbing gear for that one (definitely not ready for that). Mt. Corazon is considered a good training hike for Cotopaxi.
Here's a picture of Mt. Corazon from the van ~ you can see that the summit (the big bump) has clouds surrounding the tip.

Anyway ~ it was ridiculous. We hiked straight up hill for hours, and hours and then climbed up some rocks to reach some more rocks to eventually reach the summit where it was hailing on us.

But along the way it was amazing to see the landscape change. This type of habitat is called a paramo. It's a high altitude grass and scrubland that's located above the cloud forests. It's like a big sponge that catches and releases water. And some of the plants are super spongy ~ it was really cool to walk through. Here are a couple of pictures to give you an idea of what it's like.

Some of the plants looked more like they should be underwater and part of a coral reef.

When we started out it was a beautiful sunny day ~ we were really lucky to have such great weather in the middle of the rainy season. Then, as we started to climb higher we were literally amongst the clouds. You could see them rolling in and catching up with us.

As we got higher, the landscaped changed dramatically. We left the paramo and were climbing a rocky side of the mountain and then had to do a little 'scrambling' and then climbing along lots and lots of rocks to get to the top. Our guide kept saying 'un poco mas' (just a little further) until we finally got there.

So this was an amazing challenge~I couldn't believe how hard it was for me (I was dizzy, nauseaus, etc. toward the top) and chris was plugging away and without his patience and perseverance I would have never made it to the summit. You would have thought we were climbing Everest or something. It sure felt like it.

Here we all are at the summit ready to eat our sandwiches ~ can you tell we're really cold and don't really care about eating our sandwiches. We had to hurry back down the mountain so we could get back to the van before the rain trapped us in (we were parked on a very sketchy, muddy road).

And here's a picture of chris and I on the way back down with the moutain behind us.

Oh, and here's me with the 3 litres of water we each had to carry in our backpacks and a picture of me adding my extra layers while being surrounded by clouds ~ luckily we ran out the day before and bought some wateproof pants.

Hope you enjoy all the pictures - we enjoyed getting home, taking a hot shower and crawling into bed!

More to come soon.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

the other season...

we have two new additions to our little family here in quito ~ but we'll get to that later ~ first the news...

as we live our life on the equator there are two seasons~ we have just entered the second season~ wet.

honestly, i prefer dry but as long as it's sunny and warm for a few hours each day we don't mind the rain so much.

we have learned quickly to take advantage of the dry, sunny hours of the day and will often go for a walk in the park near our house (described previously) early before the weather changes. It's a steep climb into the park (and remember the altitude) ...
here's the entrance that we walk up. then we hang a right at the water treatment area and head into the eucalyptus woods.

Chris is surprised by the lack of mushrooms~ it seems like in the wet season there should be tons of mushrooms in the park ~ especially since there is also sun and warmth, but we've seen very few mushrooms ~ just a little orange fungus coming out of a tree.

but there are rows of eucalyptus trees....

there's a great path off the main road where the sun shines through the trees and there are even a bunch of chartreuse trees..

It's a wonderful place to walk (or run) and we're going to try and take some walks in the a.m. before school this week to prepare for a pretty intense hike we agreed to go on this saturday~ we'll see how that works out... Saturday we're supposed to get up early and hike 'corazon' which is about 4 - 4 1/2 hours up to the top and then a few more hours to get back down the mountain.

there are also lots of bromeliads in the trees in the park ~ they are so incredibly cute ~ que lindo!

and there are lots of tree trunks covered in lichen ~ and chris really loves lichen. Well, here's one or two more pictures from the park and by the way, i have no idea why everything is suddenly underlined!

we love the park.
on another note ~ it's hard to believe thanksgivng is next week. especially since the weather doesn't change much here, it's hard to believe that it's getting cold up north and people are preparing for winter.

We will miss everyone greatly at Thanksgiving and miss being in eaglesmere at the cabin.

We get out of school at noon on Thanksgiving day and we will then head over to a friend's house who has a bunch of people over for Thanksgiving dinner.

And, it looks like we're going to have our first visitors here in Quito! My wonderful friend Susan Holt is coming to visit at the beginning of December with her boyfriend, Tom. They have perfect timing because we have 3 days off after the weekend they arrive and then they'll head out to explore Ecuador and come back to Quito. We'll all spend christmas together and then, hopefully, head to the black sheep inn for a few days. we are so excited for their visit!!

Okay, and now for the additions to our household here in Quito....
first, chris has been growing lots of plants from seeds and from clippings and our first zucchini blossom came out this weekend which means we will soon be eating delicous zucchini from our terrace!
we might be inspired to start growing tomato plants off the back terrace.

and for the next addition... as some of you may know we haven't had a couch of our own for a while. our friend, brenda offered us her sofa bed couch that was in her basement ~ and sofa beds are very hard to find in quito ~ they are rare and expensive. so, we had the couch picked up from her place by the reupholstry people. we started out by picking a neutral color that was not too expensive and then we threw caution to the wind (it was after school and we were both kind of hungry) and picked a swatch of beautiful pink fabric. Well, after they left with the couch we had a few doubts about whether an entire, huge couch would look good in pink ~but the couch was delivered on friday (and i have to say they barely got it up the four flights to our apartment) and it is simply beautiful. we have never owned anything like it. and not only is it pink and beautiful but it's also huge and comfortable and folds out into a bed in case we have guests.

we love it!!

anyway, that's about if for now thanks for all the comments ~ Dani thanks for all the feedback ~ keep them coming and hello to Paula ~ thanks for a hello from the 5B dayroom ~ I think about Mt. Vernon a lot and wonder how everyone is doing!
happy thanksgiving everyone ~ we have so much to be thankful for~ we will be thinking of our families and friends and we love you!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

We've had a quiet couple of weeks since halloween but we wanted to post to say hello.
Here's a picture of one of chris' birthday presents ~ it's a wall hanging from the crafts market of what else.. fish. It's actually kind of different than a lot of the stuff you see and it's really beautifully done.

I've decided it's time to start taking private spanish lessons ~ I have 'survival' spanish and can get by but I need to be able to speak a little more since basically no one in the neighborhood where we live speaks English at the stores, banks, taxis, etc. and it's such a great opportunity to learn.

I don't know if we mentioned this, but the largest park in Quito is behind our house and Chris and i go for walks there as often as we can ~ it's really magical. you walk up a huge hill to get in there and then you're in this eucalyptus tree filled park and the air is wonderful and smells so good ~ we'll post some pictures from the park soon. We've been looking for some cool fungus since it's been raining a bit but there aren't as many mushrooms as you would think in the woods.

We're thrilled to be here in ecuador and appreciate the beautiful views from our terrace each evening. It's really cool to watch the clouds come in and cover the mountains and even surround us since we're up so high.
here's a sample:
We'll post more soon and hope everyone is well and happy ~ and thanks again for all the comments posted .... oh, and T.J. was right ~ chris was a shrimp for halloween. I told him he should have carried around a jar of cocktail sauce so people would know what he was...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween everyone!
It's Halloween eve and just wanted to send out an update ~ we had our party last saturday night and it was lots of fun (lots of work too, to get everything ready). Here's a picture of the apartment. We bought over 300 roses ~ Ecuador is one of the major exporters of roses and you can buy 25 for $2.00 - $2.50.
So, Chris hung up lots of white roses and then we had tons of red roses in vases all around. We also had a million candles and kept the lights off but you can't tell from the pictures because I had to use the flash. Luckily, it didn't rain because so much of our party space is on our three terraces, which were also covered with candles and the kind that you put in the brown bags with sand on the bottom. Chris made his vegetarian chili which was a huge hit and I made about 40 corn bread muffins which weren't such a big hit for some reason.
Anyway, there were about 25 people here and some with some great costumes. There was even a bit of dancing to 80's music which always makes me happy.
We didn't get a picture of me in my costume but we had lots of packing materials from the move so I wrapped myself in the bubble wrap and I was 'fragile'.
Here's a picture of chris in his costume.....any guesses as to what he is? Just remember his history of dressing up as a squid, luna moth, lightening bug man, etc.

Then Chris' birthday was on sunday and we took it easy ~ cleaning and napping.

We're going to go out to dinner for his birthday this weekend and we actually have a four day weekend and we're staying in town. We're going to try to make it to the botanical gardens and hang around quito.

I have my last two evaluations by our principal for my student teaching tomorrow (Wed.) so wish me luck... I scheduled a massage for friday! Only $35 for 1 1/2 hours at the spa down the street ~ one of the many great things about ecuador.

We'll write more soon and hope everyone is doing great,

Sunday, October 22, 2006

2 things

thing 1 – We love the comments and we read them over and over. And the best thing (for me – because I am selfish) is that we don’t feel like I have to reply. Truly, keep them coming. And kudos to our #1 commenter, my dad! (thanks, dad – love and miss you so much) And Milde – I got the latex gloves from the sci department and we’ve already put them in the freezer – brilliant!

thing 2 – Our Skype is driving us crazy. We cannot figure out why no one can hear us when we call. Sharon has spent countless hours trying to trouble-shoot. We have bought new headphones and emailed support many many times. So if you are someone who might expect a call, please be patient. The freaky thing is that it was working beautifully (OK not beautifully, but it was working) and we can’t figure out what has changed. Just know that we are still pursuing a solution and we can’t wait to make many calls and talk to you (yes, you).

A long, long time coming…

I had been thinking about so many things I wanted to talk about on this blog the week before we left for Quito ~ because we knew the blog would happen sometime and that’s the way my brain works.

But it was such a whirlwind once we arrived. We knew where we lived and where the school was, but not much more. How do we get our hands on potable water? Crap – we don’t have hot water – have to get more propane.

Are you telling me I have to teach four different classes? Are you telling me that 2 of these classes have no curriculum? O.K.

So we have been busy and so many things have gotten buried.

The most important things I remember before I left are things that will never leave me.

I remember talking with Sharon and Susan before we left ~ two days before we left.

And I remember how truly blessed we felt.

And I remember talking about the last month before we left.

And what I realized is that if Sharon (my true love) and I, for any reason, were unable to leave for Ecuador – for any reason at all – our lives were already changed forever.

We had recently gone through the absolutely amazing experience of getting married.

And once again everyone we know wormed their way out the woodwork of their so busy lives to stand by our side and put us first.

I bumble through life trying to be good to beetles and moss and everyone we know (our whole world) ~ and once again everyone we know lifts us up and carries us on their shoulders.

Again ~ the people in my life ~ you people ~ my family and my friends ~ you continue to astonish me with your beauty and generosity ~ and you inspire me. Thank you and know that we love you and we do miss you so much.

“…joy and amazement at the beauty and grandeur of this world, of which man can form just a faint notion.” ~ Albert Einstein

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sunday, October 15
Just a quick update for the is election day in Ecuador. We're not sure who won yet but it looks like one of the frontrunners is 'a candidate of the people'. He is running on an anti-poverty ticket and has ties with the indigenous populaton here ~ probably partly inspired by the last election in Bolivia. We even heard a report about the election and the candidates today while we streamed NPR over the computer. It's been a quiet weekend - lots of things are closed and no alcohol is sold on Sat. or Sun. when there's a presidential election.

Also, last Thursday at school we had an earthquake drill. I was teaching one of the fourth grade classes all week because the teacher's wife had a baby last weekend. So, we went through the procedures and all the 'what if...' questions and during the drill and I had all the fourth graders under their desks...

Well this morning (sunday) Chris and I were at school early doing some work and we were each in our classrooms when all of a sudden the room started shaking. It was kind of like a huge truck passed by the window (although I wasn't near a street) or there was a huge wind from a major storm. After it stopped, I went out to find chris and he was headed to the bathroom ~ his room was on the first floor and he didn't know we'd just lived through our first earthquake. While we were sitting outside enjoying the sunshine (it's officially the rainy season now so you really need to enjoy the sun when it's out) there was a little more shakey-shakey. So, it was kind of exciting but definitely a very minor earthquake. Apparently when you live tucked in between active volcanoes you are also suceptible to earthquakes.

That's about it for now ~ did I mention that chris and I are reinstating his tradition of celebrating halloween by hosting a party? We have two weeks to get ready and we'll definitely post pictures of our costumes and the decorations.
hope everyone is well and very happy,
Sharon and Chris
Weekend away...
Last weekend we had a three day weekend so we decided to take a trip to the tropical cloudforest. It's about 2 - 2 1/2 hours from Quito and it was our very first trip via bus (so far we have gone on trips with other people who have cars). A few other teachers had reccommended this place - it's called El Monte Sustainable lodge in a town called Mindo that's small but growing as a destination because of the great bird-watching, butterflies, orchids and waterfalls.

So... we got up early on Sat. morning and took a taxi to the bus station ~ which was really more like a small parking lot with two buses in it. We thought there might be only one bus (at 8:00) in the morning to mindo(it's sometimes hard to pin people down on details such as price and schedules) and we knew it would be busy because of the holiday weekend. We stood in line to buy our tickets and suddenly someone shouted out "mindo!" and a bus started pulling away out of the parking lot. We saw someone hop on so we ran over to it and hopped on too. There was a young guy manning the door and he seemed to be agreeable to us jumping on the bus without tickets so we looked around and there were about 5 empty seats. As soon as I sat down a man assured me that the seat was 'occupado' as were all the others.

The guy at the door of the bus gave us and another couple some cushions so we could sit on the floor and put our feet in the stairwell (actually one person basically got to sit on the huge dashboard console of the bus). Then the bus proceeded to stop a few more times outside of Quito and about 15 more people got on the bus. So, actually, even though we were on the floor we felt lucky to not have to stand in the aisle and we were very happy that the ride was only 2+ hours and there were amazing views along the way. When we arrived in Mindo, we immediately bought two tickets to return to Quito on Monday with reserved seats.

A person from the lodge picked us up at the bus station and drove us 10-15 minutes down a dirt road. We pulled over next to another car and a white horse and saw that the way to get across the river to the lodge was by a small, hand-powered cable car.
Here's a picture of Chris and I travelling across (one at at time) with our stuff...

The lodge was really wonderful ~ they have six cabanas and they are right on the river so we didn't even need our noisemaker to sleep at night.

They had their own organic garden and served gourmet vegetarian food (and a little bit of chicken and fish if you like that sort of thing). The food was delicious ~ definitely the best we've had (except our own) since we've been in Ecuador.
There was a main lodge where you eat, family style and hammocks, chess, books and a fire at night. Chris found a book (in Spanish) on beekeeping and started talking to the owner about volunteering to come down and start a beekeeping/honey project. At this altitude there are special non-stinging bees that are supposed to make delicious honey.

We went on lots of hikes and walks ~ the price included a guide to take you around and show you all the local plants (right up chris' alley) and he took us out at 6:30 to see the birds before the noise of the day started. We also went on a great, steep uphill hike through the forest to a larger, machine powered cable car that can take you over to the next mountain to hike to a bunch of waterfalls.