Monday, March 26, 2007

First week: Ecuador

Well I arrived in Quito, Ecuador last Tuesday night. It was nice to have my first stop along the route be a familiar one...

I spent the first day walking around the city and absorbing it anew - the people, the architecture, ways of being. Everything is a blend of indigenous/colonial and traditional/modern. For instance, I took a rather modern trolley to the colonial part of the city - paved all in cobbelstones, narrow walkways, and filled with traditionaly dressed indigenous people selling just about everything. The trip there, however, was incredibly slow and erratic due to a large protest for workers´rights, socialism (iconic images of Che covered signs and banners), and an end to capitalist control which stopped traffic and clogged the narrow arteries of the old town. For US citizens in general and me in particular, this constant blend of traditional values and historical infrastructure with modernity is always striking, no matter where I travel. I rarely feel this sense of deep historial roots and influences in the US. I am not sure whether it is absent from the US landscape, reserved for museums, hidden in dusty trunks full of ancestral keepsakes, or simply that I am unaware of these influences as I go about my daily life. This is something to ponder, and to understand what it might imply for our nation and world...

I coincidentally bumbped into a gentleman who was on the same flight as I on Thursday, and we spent the day doing some tourist visits. We went to the Vivarium (snakes and reptiles), botanical gardens, and despite the rainy weather we took a gondola (built about 2 years ago) to near the top of Pichincha, the formidable Volcano looming over Quito. Later that night we met with a woman from the U.K. for dinner and drinks. Friday I met-up with Luis, my former boyfriend, and had a great time catching up. (I have no pictures to show you from Quito - my camera´s memory card erased itself!)

Saturday I headed for Mindo, a 2 1/2 hour winding bus ride NW of Quito. Mindo is absolutely breathtaking. It is a cloud forest filled with spectacular waterfalls, humming birds, butterflies, birds, and rich green vegetation. I spent the first evening dealing with my first (and probably not the last) bout of sickness. No details needed. The next morning I dragged myself out of bed, ate a couple of crackers, and hailed a pick-up heading up the main road to the center of the forest. Once there I met two lovely people, Jose Andres and Moira. Moira is a high school Italian teacher in Quito, and Jose Andres is from Costa Rica and traveling like I am. We took the tarabita (I am at a loss for this word in english, but see the picture below) across the river, where we could hike through muddy winding paths to many different waterfalls. After two hours we arrived at the final waterfall, and played in the water, chatted, listened to music, relaxed, and soaked up the beauty of nature surrounding us.

To see more pictures of Mindo, go to the link below. (This one SHOULD work)
Today I fly to Bogota, Colombia where I will meet up with two friends, Andy and Zac.
Thanks for reading! I will try to have fun adventures so that I can write something interesting and meaningful for you.

Friday, March 23, 2007

San Diego!

Allow me to backtrack to the week before I arrived in Ecuador. (March 15-20) I had the luck of staying with Natasha, my good friend whom I met here in Ecuador. She was a gracious hostess! She wouldn´t even let me sleep on the floor or the couch, despite my three (count ´em three) attempts in accordance with the norwegian ¨courtesy¨ I was taught, to trade places.

Now for those of you who don´t know Natasha, she is a New Yorker at heart, a delightfully opinionated woman, a most wonderful maker of organic healthy foods, and an exercise MACHINE. I went with her to her daily yoga classes (well, 3 times - that´s all I could muster). The 90 minute classes are made up of 26 often excruciating poses, which are done twice and held for too long while sweating bullets in a 100 degree room. I loved it! (Jan, you can probably identify with this. Although I did not fall over and hit the wall, ever). It whipped me into a little shape, but my left hand is still numb from crossing some nerves in my neck. ? In addition to yoga, we enjoyed an afternoon of wine tasting, some time on the cloudy beach (but I still managed to get a very uneven sunburn), a stop at a bluegrass festival, seeing a photography exhibit of work by Annie Leibovitz, grossology, and other lovely adventures.

It so happened that Liz (the lady!) was in San Diego on a visit as well. She was fun as always to hang out with. I got to see many of her old haunts from middle/high school years. Brilliant.

Start Here

Well folks, I am in South America at the beginning of a three-month aimless excursion through Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina (in no particular order). I decided to create a blog as a substitute for the mass emails I never ever get around to sending. This way, if you want to know what I´m doing, well then I´m sure you will make the effort to look! And if you don´t, then it probably isn´t that important to you anyway. It works out well for all of us, eh? PLUS, I´ve observed that blogs seamlessly integrate multiple forms of media and expression of self... Can´t beat that!