Monthly Archives: February 2012

Option 2: Quito

Quito is Massive,

and therefore, wasn’t originally on our list. However, to get just about anywhere in Ecuador to anywhere else, you often go through Quito — so we had some time to check it out and there’s a lot more to it than it’s overwhelming size. It has an amazingly well preserved Old Town that is a top Unesco World Heritage site. And around the Old Town area there are lovely little side streets that look a lot like what we pictured living in an “old colonial neighborhood”  for this sabbatical might look like.  Not that we have to match what we saw in our heads before even getting here, but nothing in Ecuador really looks like what we’d pictured, so it’s simply worth noting.

Plus, there are hospitals (I haven’t documented them all on this blog, but suffice it to say — Luke has continued to keep that criteria at the top of the list), every kind of high quality school, parks, playgrounds, museums and all the other Big City perks that are fun for the whole family.

 

Pros: Great Old Town, Lots to do, Good Schools, Good Hospitals, Likely Easier to find a rental, Main Airport — easy to get to us and for us to travel away

Cons: Seriously overwhelming in size, Crazy Dangerous streets due to unsafe driving and non-pedestrian culture, dangerous after dark, can be dangerous before dark, high crime, outside of old town… not much chance for any kind of peace.

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The Point, And Option 1

Okay, despite what it may seem at this juncture, there really is a point to this intensive and surprisingly exhausting wander of Ecuador that we are in the midst of right now. We have a 6 month tourist visa for this country and so the thought was to spend the first month touring around the places we were interested in, find the one we like the best and settle there for the remaining 5 months for some intensive Spanish language study and cultural immersion in a single community.  Both experiences more adequately arming us for a successful and enjoyable second half to this sabbatical – traveling South America at large.

We’re about halfway through the exploring and I thought it’d be fun to post each option on here, with the pros and cons and photos,  and at the end of it all we’ll do a poll where you all can vote on what you’d do in our shoes!  🙂

OPTION 1:  BAHIA DE CARAQUEZ  (needs an accent over the first “i” and the second “a” in Caraquez — can’t figure that out on my keyboard yet)

Bahia, as they call it in these parts, is probably our only hope for beach living in Ecuador as the other towns along the coast are either too ‘Miami Beach’ or too small and remote for the things like schools and hospitals and internet that we need. Bahia prides itself on being Ecuador’s leader in terms of having eco-friendly policies in place. There are more bike taxi’s than the yellow variety, it is cleaner over all, it’s large enough to have a number of modern amenities, but small enough that the traffic and noise are acutally bearable. We even ran into a few expats with young children there that seemed happy and really enjoying their life there. But the best thing about Bahia, by far, is its sunsets. Here is the view from our hotel room door:

All beaches are known for their sunsets, I know, but what is unique and special about Bahia’s is that the whole community values them, together. There is a nightly gathering along the boardwalk, people on bikes, 4 wheelers, trucks, foot… friends and strangers, and Each Night they commune together to watch some of God’s truly amazing handiwork…

A custom we were happy to partake in:

Being built on a large river delta, Bahia does not have the long stretch of beach one thinks of when considering coastal living (except when the tide is out and then people have picnics and parties galore on the exposed sand), but it is a short and inexpensive taxi ride to Canoa where one can do all the typical beachy things to the fullest. On our visit there the boys, as usual, attracted a lot of attention with their cute little blonde selves. This family just perched themselves right next to the boys and began playing:

They then had their littlest member take a picture next to them…

And then buried them both in sand…

The Pros:

Ocean access, sunset ritual, not as hot or buggy as other parts of coast, lovely temperatures in morning and evening, near big beach scene, clean(er), love the green mountains coming directly down to the water, and expats with young children that seemed to be doing great

The Cons:

Built on the delta and the river water makes playing in the nearest waves a decidedly muddy experience, it’s still too hot and muggy for us to be out in most of the daytime hours, couldn’t find any info on a good school, no historical center or cathedral or square, no large green space or playground that most other towns seem to have, not too appealing to us in terms of the overall “look” of the buildings and grounds.

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

Everyday Roller Coaster

I’ve had Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” stuck in my head.

Everyday it’s a-gettin’ closer
Goin’ faster than a roller coaster…

Everyday seems a little longer
Every way love’s a little stronger
Come what may

Everyday here has had its ups and its downs and many of the days have had more downs that I was expecting.  But now, nearly three weeks into this adventure, the days are getting a bit easier and we’re feeling a little stronger.

A major reason for our improved perspective is our new location: Otavalo.  We should do a post on Bahia and Quito, but we’re more excited by Otavalo. As we traveled out of Quito the other day and started to see massive flower farms, it put a smile on our faces.  Continuing towards Otavalo, the mountains started to get greener and the trees taller.  We came over a ridge top and saw this:

Jamie and I both looked at this, then looked at each other and took a deep breath and a deep sigh of relief.

Once in Otavalo, we settled into our historic, clean, cool and cheap hostal and we took another deep breath and shared a drink.  Amazingly, Luke did not interupt the moment with any sort of bodily injury.  After some more breathing and smiling, we went for a walk through the market and this little city connected with us again.  Latin American markets are amazing.  Colors, smells, varity and life hit you from all directions.  This was the best one yet.  And the nice ladies were so impressed that these niños were only six and four years old.  Muy grande!

The rest of the evening and the following days have been just as charming: beautiful friendly people most of whom are indigenous, clean town, slower traffic, less honking, cheaper everything, huge mountains and an amazing climate which is sort of like Crested Butte in July all year with warmer nights.  The beach, Cuenca and the big cities of Guayaquil and Quito seem to be out of the running (another post maybe). We’re going to give Banos, Loja and Vilcabamba their chances, but Otavalo is the current leader.

While our new locale is helping, we’re also getting in the new rhythm.  Disconnecting for a week plus from the outside world including no internet, TV or other media was good for me.  Jamie and I started forgetting what day of the week it was and just focusing on what was right in front of us…good, bad or otherwise.  After we moved into our fifth hotel, the boys stopped asking when we’re going back to Crested Butte and have started asking, what are we going to do today. The answer to their new question almost always involves amazingly fun and equally unsafe playgrounds.

Jamie and I are starting to carve out little bits of time so one of us can go for a walk or work on researching where to settle down.  We’re also getting little mini-dates like last night when we left the boys in the room watching Spy Kids 3 on the Mac and we had a few mojitos at the restaurant just below our room. Speaking of mojitos, good rum is cheap here.  So are flowers.  These babies cost $9 and I overpaid because I didn’t want to walk a few blocks to the actual flower market:

Now, that I’ve let you know that we’re okay and doing a bit better, let’s keep in mind that this is still a roller coaster.  After being pretty hard on Jamie about losing our camera, I managed to lose our other good camera along with the boys’ coats, hats and sunglasses (I already left my hat and good sunglasses on a beach in Canoa).  Yeasterday, Luke caught a wicked cold that seems to be spreading among the four of us.  More than all of this, we’re all suffering from what seems to be culture shock.

I’ve heard and read a bit about culture shock, but I thought we were vaccinated for this ailment since we were so excited about this big adventure and since Jamie and I have traveled enough to know that different is often fun and sometimes even good.  What I did not appreciate was the fact that we’re not “traveling.”  We are looking for our new home (even if for only 6 months).  When every element of your day, from the taste of your coffee or simple lack of coffee in the early morning hours to the sounds you fall asleep to are different, it is stressful but part of the joy of traveling.  However, when these little and almost constant differences combine with the fact that this trip has no end in sight and that they are your new life, it hits you in the gut.  When you realize all this strange stuff and interesting people are now your stuff and your people…your new life, that is when the culture shock kicks in.

The trick is that you don’t know that it is culture shock.  You’re just tired, edgy and longing for the familiar.  As we longed for what we we’re used to, much of it was around the basics, like food, so when we heard about this GREAT pizza place in Guayaquil and ordered a large pepperoni and got this strange and massive collection of lunchmeat, bad cheese and half “oven cooked” dough, we were not impressed.

While we were all gropping in the tropical Ecuadorian heat with our unnamed culture shock in a search for a new home we also had the pleasure of doing it with two massive bags, two large bags, three backpacks and a purse full of stuff for when we find this home.  I felt like a settler moving west with all we owned, not needing much in any moment, but bring it all for that some day when we find home.  I needed an ox to pull all of the stuff!  This combined with the boys understandable need for daily stimulation, play, edible and familiar foods and we’ve been getting our asses kicked.

So that’s my take on the other part of this roller coaster.  Would I ride the last few weeks again? Maybe. Am I happy to see us rally after all of that and be more engaged and more connected? Yes.

P.S. The backpack with the other camera and coats was returned to the restaurant the day after I left it there. Let the roller coaster continue!

Categories: From Bo | Tags: , , , , , | 13 Comments

And the “What the *$%# did we get ourselves into?!”

Which is a fair question at this point we think. We had so much fun in Guayaquil, and we didn’t expect to because people always say awful things about Guayaquil — wait a minute…

is that the secret? Our expectations sometimes set us up for failure? I don’t know to be honest. But I suspect that’s part of the answer anyway. I read somewhere that the best way to explore a new culture is without any expectations at all because then you can take it all in and enjoy the discovery of something new, as it is.

Hmmm. Maybe something to be working towards for our little clan.

But beyond that, what ARE we doing here? WHY are we doing it? You can’t get into the process of this family sabbatical business and not ask these kinds of questions from time to time. I was, Bo has been too, and we both are knocked breathless with love for the two little souls that willingly (if not always cheerfully) follow where we lead, wherever we lead.

–wait a minute…

That’s it.

The four letter word that describes what we got ourselves into is LOVE.

We are investing in the better “me” and the better “us” we believe is on the other side of this wall. I am doing this because I look around me at the three men in my life and know that I couldn’t love any others more. Know, that if I had the whole world of children and husbands to pick from I’d choose these 3 every time. Know that they are worth this.

Know that they believe I am too.

It is not the heat and the bugs and the financial loss that is defining these first few weeks for us. It is the laughter and the waves and the breeze when it comes that tells us what we are doing is right.

It is not the whining or the crying or the arguing that represents us right now either.

It is the reconciling.

It is the investing.

In love.

Happy Early Valentine’s Day to One and All.

Next stop Quito — where hopefully a new camera can be found.  😉

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Bad…

Bo and I have been wondering just how honest to be about this last stretch we’ve been through. Totally, we decided. Read on if you dare…

 

Bo said had we known what we were headed into we would have named our blog “Sweaty Gringos” because

IT IS WAY TOO HOT AND HUMID FOR OUR WHITE, HIGH ROCKY MOUNTAIN LIVING, GRINGO SELVES.

And… there are LOTS OF BUGS. BUGS THAT BITE ON US AND SUCK OUR BLOOD.

The mosquito nets were wonderful at night, but there are all those other pesky hours of the day to contend with…

Also, Luke took his accident-prone streak to new heights. Here. In Ayampe, Ecuador. Where we were completely without medical aid anywhere remotely nearby – or the language skills to ask for it, particularly when I’m panicked and even English leaves my head.  Imagine his white little back- now picture it completely covered in bloody scrapes and bruised from top to bottom, with the deepest bruise forming directly over his right kidney, and you will have a small idea of what we have been looking at for the last week and how I almost called this whole thing off within the first 72 hours. He fell down the stairs. Hard. He did it LITERALLY the MOMENT Bo and I got our bags unpacked in the cabin, sat together in the hammocks on the front porch, looked at each other and sighed and said, ” Okay, we can do thi–” CRASH!!!!

My guard was then up permanently. Which isn’t good for my mood or cortisone levels.  Not that it did any good. Two nights later we hiked down to a surf bar and Luke hopped onto the hammock, swung all the way around and landed on his head. On concrete. There is a bump. And… another night with him in my bed, Bo on the kid bed, Vaughn alone upstairs, all of us under nets and still waking up bitten, and me startling awake several times a night to check his breathing and pulse.

Also, there was wifi in town, but not where we were staying. Not the worst thing in the world, unless you were planning on using this beach time to strategize and plan roughly the next 6 months of your life of travel in parts unknown. So a hike to town was required for everything, and it was HOT, almost paralyzingly so for the boys, and it took at least 20-30 minutes of dedicated cohercing and carrying on Bo’s and my part to even make it in that time. And making it on time was important because you have to use the restaurants if you want to use the wi-fi, and once ordered, food comes….maybe, eventually, when they get around to it.  And the boys are antsy and hot and hungry and cranky. And I’m trying to hard to find us a next stop to take in a place a bit larger, with a hospital, on super slow internet, nearly connecting with one when… SILENCE.

The electricity gets shut off every afternoon.

They say for two hours.

It is not two hours.

It is 4.

Sometimes 7.

In the hottest part of the day…

AND. NEXT…

So, despite the beauty and seclusion and difficult internet connections… we do move on sooner rather than later and head to Bahia de Caraquez. A city on the coast we are excited about because it is billed as Ecuador’s “EcoCiudad” an idea we both are energized by. It takes a 4 hour bus ride, which was actually a blast, that landed us in Manta in the pouring rain, where we caught a taxi to Bahia (the “H” is not pronounced by the way). And it was the Worst Taxi Driver ever. A total crook. Got lost at least a dozen times, charged us too much for filling his car up with gas (but how can I argue when we have two children and all our luggage and don’t want to be left in the middle of nowhere?), is such a horrible driver the kids and I are over-the-top car sick when we finally arrive (more than 2 hours later), pay another taxi driver he flagged over to lead us to the hotel, pay him, he grabs another 5 out of Bo’s hand saying he needed it for lunch, jumps back in his car and peels off. The hotel we are staying it is nice. $100/ night nice (not in the budget!) — but we were so ready to come up for air for a bit we forked over the dough, were glad to see the back end of that taxi and stepped out onto the beachside deck for some late lunch. Bo takes the boys to see the waves, I notice it would make a wonderful photo, smile to myself and, again, think “Okay, now we are good. Now we can do thi–”

No Camera.

Had to have been left in the taxi during our hasty  and car-sick exit. I’d used it to take photos of the pretty countryside and either left it on my wrist or tried to put it in my bag and missed… I don’t know. But it’s gone. And I crumpled.

Now, you married folk out there. Take all the info I’ve just given you. Oppressive heat, real language barrier for simple tasks, injured child, all of us covered in red swollen and itchy lumps, hunger headaches, no sense of peace for more than a week, everything new and different and foreign, our luggage soaked through from being on top of the bus through a rain storm, AND losing several hundred dollars of equipment at the first city transistion…. If you had to guess, how would you say the two heads of household are getting along these days?

You’d be right.

And that’s the bad.

 

 

 

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Good…

Ayampe, and Finca Punta Ayampe, was small and beautiful and remote and safe. And we had some fun family time seeing lots of new and unusual things. Check it out:

Thank goodness for the signs, or we’d NEVER find it.

Our Cabin is the farthest on the left as you look at this picture:

The boys hiking up to the main “house” for breakfast. Pretty sure they are playing Peter Pan here, which is highly appropriate:

 

Bo’s and my view for our coffee nook at the main house:

 

 

Endless beach full of interesting things…

 

 

And Happy Boys…

 

 

And Sweet Messages… 🙂

 

 

The Good.

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Day 1

We’re Here!!!

Hola from Ecuador! I would definitely classify our Day 1 as a true success. To be sure, there has been a good deal of travel exhaustion that required a late morning start and mid-day nap for mommy, a quick jump into foods with familiar names and very unfamiliar tastes, and there is a real learning curve in our future on how to live in a hotel – out of suitcases-in one room- and not go crazy with the mess and space and organization issues. (Although, Bo really did an amazing job of fitting a TON of stuff into a decidedly NOT TON of space.)  All of that for another post however, this is about today as our official Day 1, and as far as Day 1’s go, today was….

Great.

 

Luke, having slept the most on all the plane rides, was up first and eager to check out the new view…

Missing the church completely and single-mindedly riveted on the trees below that make up Iguana Park, we knew where to begin. Iguana Park  is right across from our hotel and was an instant favorite with the boys. It was an amazing amount of iguanas in a beautiful green park, and while we walked along the rain-puddled cobblestones with the boys racing and laughing and chasing I serenely thought, “This is such a good start!” Then I heard a loud splash, like that of taking a several gallon bucket and tossing it on to a car for washing, and, turning to locate the sound, I saw a huge stream of water falling from the back end of an iguana high in the trees above our heads. That’s about when I realized that we weren’t walking along “rain-puddled cobblestones” and laughing hysterically thought, “No, this is a great start!” 😉 It was such a hit with the boys, we actually stopped back by there a couple different times throughout the day. Here are some favorite shots those visits:

After having more fun than makes sense at Iguana Park, we headed down to the Malecon 2000, a gorgeous and expansive boardwalk just 3 blocks from our hotel. We’ll be taking another trip down there tomorrow as there was just more to see than could be done in an afternoon. Being very attuned to our Rocky Mountain temperatures, we quickly melted in the humidity of Guayaquil and so the first stop on the Malecon was for helado:

 

then found several playgrounds…

 

 

 

A TRAIN!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And my personal favorite… zipping our children up inside large plastic balls and rolling them out onto the water!

 

 

 

 

We then had a serious talk about how to cross the street. Crested Butte children are brilliant at a lot of things. This is not one of them.

 

 

 

 

But probably the best lesson from our Day 1 is this: the world is an unbelievably friendly place when you are traveling with two darling boys wearing capes…

 

 

 

So there you have it! And now I have to include a picture of me as that is how my mother knows I’m okay. 😉

Our DAY 1 is under our belts and already our Day 2 beckons with promises of more iguanas, surprise play stops, and even a possible pirate ship. See you all soon! 🙂

 

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , | 17 Comments

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