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 week....today 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.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hello everyone!
Well I wanted to give some updates on events of the last few weeks. Two weekends ago I went on a girls' weekend trip with 8 other teachers. We headed north to a town about 2 hours from here that has what is, I think, Ecuador's largest indigenous market. There's also a town 10 minutes from there that sells all leather goods (jackets, shoes, bags, etc.) ~ it seems like the towns here like to have a theme and sell all the same things.... leather, woodworking, livestock, etc. Anyway, we had a great time shopping, eating and drinking and there was even a little hiking. Here's a picture of the group at dinner.

And here's a picture of the market in Otavalo. It's really huge on Saturdays and you have to do a lot of bargaining (in Spanish, of course) because they always start by quoting you the gringo price. There are a ton of ponchos ~ I've actually bought three ponchos because they're more than just a fashionable item here, they really keep you warm in the mornings before the sun heats everything up. I tried to get chris to wear one but he's sticking to his fleece, for now anyway. They have alpaca blankets and sweaters, bags, rugs, jewelry and lots of other fun stuff (lots of great gifts....)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

got clouds?