Posts Tagged With: Cotacachi

Day 248

I remember writing our Day 1 Post. I remember the awe and excitement and wonder, and nerves, at all we had just done and all the unknown that was ahead of us to do.  I remember saying that it was great. I remember that it was.

Beginnings get a lot of press. Like the first day of Spring, which we are experiencing in the Southern Hemisphere right now, beginnings are clean and open and green. They smell good. They are unmarred and easily celebrated. As they should be.

Endings though, rarely get the joy of that flip-sided coin. And that is a shame. Endings are beautiful. It is in the beginning that something becomes possible, it is in the ending that something becomes precious.

This was true of leaving Crested Butte last January. I had lunch with friends, took impromptu walks on trails I thought I knew, and initiated longer sidewalk conversations all on a moment’s notice, and devoid of the “busy” excuse I used to wear like a uniform. Anxious to get the time and love in before we left.

This was true of leaving Cotacachi, when suddenly all the oddness and quirks and messes that hours before drove us mad, took a drastic turn towards the endearing.

This was true of leaving Taganga, Buenos Aires, and even our one day in Colonia as well. Each place that we found new and exciting in the beginning really revealing their worth as we prepared our goodbyes.

Of the blogs I’ve read of other families that have done something like this, they unanimously report at the end of it that they wanted more time. It felt too short. They wish it could be longer. They were just getting the hang of things.  All of them say that – whether their stint was 3 months, 6 months, or over a year. Importantly, all of them say that in their last, or next to last, post.  We feel the same way. We want more, now that at the end of things we see without distraction the gift of what we have together.

These are the most fantastic people I hang out with. They are funny and brave. Cute and dashing. Kind and honest. They are my heroes. I knew these things about them before of course, but I know them differently now. I know them in the way I know my own skin or recognize my own voice. And I suspect that while we may feel like we are “just now getting the hang of it”, it would be truer to say that we are just now realizing how much we actually got the hang of  together and are justifiably in awe, with a splash of disbelief.

This has been amazing.

Amazing, Amazing,  Amazing.

Beauty and love and awareness and appreciation don’t always show up at first, but they unfailingly swell at the end. Daring you not to cry at the noticing.

And so through the tears and the reflection I can’t help but grin. I am so happy about this ending. I am so grateful for all the spotlight on the precious. I am so fortunate to have a lifetime experience that is wonderful enough to mourn its passing.

What happens for us after the end? After Day 248?

We wake up tomorrow in Colorado with yet another clean slate and a multitude of spring green options ahead.

We wake up on the next Day 1.  And all the joy and possibility beginnings always have.

So. Grateful.

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Parque Cóndor

With only a couple weeks left in Cotacachi, time is starting to move fast and it’s packed with huge events like the boys finishing the hardest school year I pray they ever have, Inti Raymi’s fanfare- and fear, and the Cotacachi anniversary celebration. Amidst all of it though, one thing we all agreed HAD to be done one more time before we left was a return visit to Parque Cóndor just outside of Otavalo. It is a non-profit refuge for birds of all kinds and plays host to two Andean Condors, which is the national bird of Ecuador and the BIGGEST we have ever seen! Birds that can be rehabilitated are released back into the wild, those that cannot are treated like kings in this high Andean paradise and some even treat visitors to see them in flight up close and personal during one of 2 exhibitions a day, 11:30 and 2:30 –not to be missed if you’re planning a trip up there.

It was our first visit to Parque Cóndor back in February when we were just scouting out this area that really flipped the switch in our hearts to choose this as our home for our time spent in Ecuador.  Volcán Imbabura, that we see out our window from the apartment, seems so close from there with steep green pastures and fields that defy modern agricultural practices. And from the park’s high vantage point you can look out over Lago San Pablo, into the bustling market town of Otavalo, and even, we now know, down into Cotacachi’s green valley.  It was a joy to return to this special spot and soak up its tranquillity one more time…

Categories: From Bo, From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Plans Change

One year ago life was pretty good.

It was early summer in Crested Butte. The boys were enjoying the long warm days and time with friends and family, Jamie was looking forward to her cousin’s wedding and to doing another show, I was getting in biking shape and work was as good as it had been in years. Things were all right and the plan was to keep building our lives more or less like we had been.

But, plans change.

Under the surface of our relatively steady lives, and maybe in part because of our relatively steady lives, there were the makings for some major change. In fact, within six months, we would announce that we were going to leave all that we knew: friends, family, home, work, toys, favorite activities and even our dog, to live a different life in a different land, at least for a while. There was a unique window of opportunity that might not come again to follow this dream and to be closer to each other in a new way.

We had thought hard about making this change and done what seemed like a lot of research on the logistics. The plan was to start in Ecuador, travel around, find a place we liked, live there for six months and then travel to other parts of South America for another 8-12 months. We looked at our finances and estimated that if we could live on a very lean budget (1/3 of our monthly budget in the US), that we could make our family sabbatical last for 18 months. After our “down time” in Ecuador, we hoped to visit and spend weeks and months in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. With that as the plan, we were off!

But, plans change.

In the ensuing weeks and months, we learned a few things. While Jamie and I are willing to put ourselves through some crazy stuff, we have limits when it comes to our boys. We now realize that although it’s possible to live on 1/3 of our previous US budget, it’s not preferable. We still like to eat good meat and sleep in quiet, “undank” rooms with a low chance of bug infestation. We’ve used many resources to aid us along, but there is no “Lonely Planet” type manuel of instructions that addresses our family-with-young-kids-on-a-prolonged-family-sabbatical demographic. We are writing our guidebook as we go. So yes, we have learned how to live with less, but we’ve also learned to appreciate who we are and what we want!

Usually, what we want when we are thousands of miles away from home with our young boys costs more money than we budgeted, sometimes by a lot.  In fact, on top of our newly defined culinary and lodging sensibilities, we have also determined that more than eight hours on a bus with our boys is a recipe for disaster; one of us is likely to crack, or at least throw up. Alas, the alternative of flying from country to country also turns out to be much more expensive than we’d read! The result of these lessons and other now better understood realities is that it is time to change our plans again.

We will be leaving Ecuador in a few weeks, which is about a month sooner than we’d thought, and heading to the Caribbean coast of Colombia for a few weeks. From there, we hope to make it down to Peru for some more time in the Andes and then onto Argentina for some trains, good steak and wine just as their spring arrives. It seems then that Bolivia, Chile, Brazil and Uruguay have been placed back into the some day maybe category again. After all this, roughly 6 months from now, we plan to be back in Crested Butte gearing up for a great and very snowy winter.

But, plans change.

And that’s okay with us. The point was never the plan, the point was, and remains, to follow this dream and grow closer to each other while we do. Which, as it turns out, makes for one really good plan; one that hasn’t changed.

Categories: From Bo | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

More than Language, Part 1: Quechua

June will begin our 5th month of the allotted 6 months our visa allows for us to be in Ecuador. We’ve used this time to rent an apartment, go to school, meet some locals and try to immerse ourselves in the local culture and language. What I’ve come to understand in a deeper way is that immersion in culture is not a separate undertaking from immersion in the language. You do not learn them in categories, separate from each other. Culture knowledge informs language learning and language learning illuminates culture. They are each other’s “in”. We didn’t know that part of our cultural immersion would include learning some (very) basic Quechua, but it’s been one of the best surprises we’ve had.

Quechua, some facts:

Quechua (sometimes, Kichwa), is the language spoken by the indigenous populations of South America’s Andes regions. That means it incorporates what is now Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, parts of Argentina, Northern Chile, and Southern Colombia. It was the official language of Tawantinsuyu, or as it’s called in your middle school social studies class: the Incan Empire. Given Quechua’s massive reach and extensive history, there are some large variations in pronunciation and spelling from one end of it’s territory to the other. For example, speakers in Northern Peru will understand the little differences of speakers in the neighboring provinces or two, but by the time you get to Southern Peru it’s almost a whole other language. One of the things I’ve learned is that given the variations it is called a “language family” as opposed to a “language” and, according to Wikipedia, “It is the most widely spoken language family of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, with a total of probably some 8 to 10 million speakers.”

I’m going with the version we’ve learned from Elena. Elena is a beautiful indigenous woman who has served as friend and housekeeper to Bo and me, and whom my children love more than any other person they’ve met here. She loves them even more devotedly in return. In case it’s not clear: We Treasure Elena. 🙂

These are the phonetic spellings as I tried to stick strictly to Elena’s word usage and her Quechua is verbally learned, not something she’s ever seen in written form. When I asked her how to spell these words she did her mirthy laugh that shows her eyes and hides her teeth and gave me a look that says I’m so very odd, but in an endearing kind of way.

Quechua, our two favorite bits:

1) Ali punja, Ali Chishi, Ali Tuta

One of my favorite things about both Quechua and Spanish are that they are both the language of greeters. In Quechua these consist of: Ali Punja (Good Morning), Ali Chishi (Good Afternoon), or Ali Tuta (Good Evening). A revealing fact about the Quechua greetings is that they add a term naming the person to whom they speak as being family.  When Bo opens the door for Elena in the morning he’s greeted with an “Ali Punja Tio” and if I’m there as well I receive an, “Ali Punja Tia”.  Now, if one of the boys says it, Elena responds with a purred, “Ali punja, mijo” (Good morning, dear son) and then immediately folds them up into an embrace so tight their giggles are barely heard, being so completely muffled by fabric as they are. Despite being notably pale skinned in the land of copper and tan, we’ve been given the title of uncle or aunt, even son, in her greetings. This makes us extraordinarily happy. It also reflects one of the core beliefs of this indigenous population. Lighters in the air folks, here it is:

We are all part of the same family.

I know that’s bumper sticker gold, but it’s also…wonderful…to witness and be included in, firsthand.

As was the case last week; we passed an elderly woman in indigenous dress, head tilted to her shoulder while she was resting against a warm wall in the last rays of sun (what we consider evening, they don’t switch to “tuta” until 7:00pm), and I watched Luke do a full stop, bend his head to meet her eyes, and say,

“Ali chishi, Tia.”

She straightens. Smiles.

“Ali chishi, ñaño.”

Good Afternoon, little brother.

And then his blonde head skipped back up to where Vaughn and I were waiting.

Some moments mean more than others.

They just do.

——————

2) I got another laugh/look from my Quechua coach when I asked, “Como se dice ‘gracias’ in Quechua, Elena?”

I soon came to see that that laugh/look was due to the fact that I would undoubtedly have a hard time grasping this one. First of all it’s a whole phrase that they say as one word. Quickly and jumbled with intentional slurring together of syllables and sounds. Also, “thank you” in Quechua is different from Spanish and English in that there is no direct translation for the act of giving thanks. Okay, bear with me, this is as close as I can get to Elena’s word: “Díosonlopuí“. It doesn’t mean “thanks” as we know it, it means “God will pay you”.  This really puzzled me. An American mindset is trained to think that if I did something for you – you thank me, the one who did the work.  I’ve had my boys parroting thanks to every waiter and bus driver this side of the equator.

However, once you consider that if you are in a culture where it is held that everyone you meet is part of your extended family, and family simply helps each other out as a matter of fact (not choice), then to say “thanks” to someone for doing simply what they should — doesn’t make much sense. In that light, saying ‘God will pay you’ is a better way of showing gratitude. You’re acknowledging that they did something that took extra effort on their part and the Creator of the universe Himself honors that act. Suddenly this seems a much more true and powerful form of thanks to me.

And so,

Díosonlopuí, Tia...

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

So…what is it you do with your time?

When I talk with friends and family back home, the most common question is: “So…what is it you do with your time?”  The short answer is that we spend most days working with injured jungle monkeys, writing poetry in the native Quechua language and breathing in the mist of waterfalls.  On good days we do all three at the same time.

Yea, right. The truth is the things of normal daily existence seem to take up a lot of our time. Just cooking, cleaning up, getting the boys to and from school, doing extra school lessons with the boys, grocery shopping, running errands, finding ways for the boys to burn energy and relaxing a bit can take up whole days. Some of these daily to-dos are made more challenging simply because they are done in a foreign language and culture.  For example, the idea of one-stop-shopping is so far-fetched as to be laughable. Just today I tried to buy superglue to repair one of Luke’s toys.  The quest for one simple items involved numerous half understood conversations, visiting four different stores and walking two or three miles all around town. When I reached the much discussed store, it was closed for some unknown reason.

Entertaining and educating the boys, it seems me, also takes more time than it did back home (I say it “seems to me” because I might just be realizing now how much work it took Jamie the past six years!). There is the extra time for the English and math lessons which we anticipated, but man do I miss sending them to the family room to play with their numerous toys or to the yard to run in the grass and dig in the dirt.  Here in our apartment the “family room” and “back yard” are the same thing, which is the space right next to our desk. It’s where I hooked up my Rip 60 exercise equipment so I could get…well ripped!.  Although I have only used it maybe four times in nearly two months, the boys spin and swing on it for hours on end.  Thank God for Rip 60. Here’s a short video of Luke building his core strength!

Even with these new challenges we do have more free time than we used to. A lot more. I’m not working and that frees up countless hours.  The boys are in school five mornings a week.  Also, we have a wonderful lady named Elena who comes to help around the house three mornings a week. We pay her twice the going rate, but I’m still amazed at how much we get for so little.  This extra time allows Jamie and me to split the family responsibilities and chores pretty equally.  We have settled into a nice routine where we have a date on Tuesday mornings, family adventures on Saturdays and where we take turns with the boys in the afternoon allowing focused attention on them from each parent and large chucks of open time for the other person.

With the extra time I am doing more yoga and trying to learn to meditate, but not trying too hard or that defeats the purpose…I think. I’ve taken up running, which is much less fun and more painful than biking. I read more than I used to and watch less TV.  The extent of our TV comes from the pirated $1 DVDs of recent American movies and TV shows sold out of ubiquitous little stores (which also somehow have selections of cheap Oakley sunglasses and Converse All Star shoes?). We go for long meandering walks through the countryside and these walks may be my favorite thing about where we live.

We study Spanish a lot; or maybe more accurately, I study some and then watch Jamie study Spanish more. Last, I’ve also found a surprising number of ways to stay busy without actually doing much which boils down to either spending hours on sites like reddit.com or taking naps bookended by games like tetris on my iPad.

So how do I feel about how I’m spending my time? Pretty good actually. The main reason is that I get a lot more time with Luke, Vaughn and Jamie. We’ve spent the last 88 days together. At first, it was a bit much for me to be around the boys almost all of the time, but after maybe week three or four it started to feel normal and a never-before-seen casual comfort set in. Daddy being around was no longer just for evenings and weekends.  Much of our time here is spent doing unspectacular things like riding a bus or eating a meal but what a blessing to be able to enjoy and just be in these moments with my family. Back home I was often too busy or preoccupied to simply enjoy just hanging out with my boys.

And that touches on the second reason why I’m okay with how our time is going: namely, it is a great chance to practice taking each moment as it comes. After settling into this sabbatical thing, I’m now a bit less focused than I was back home on making sure every moment is productive and aimed at some big goal. Paradoxically, when it is time for me to focus on something or respond to a surprise, I often have more energy to do it. When it is time to just chill out and have a beer at lunch I do that with a bit less guilt. Put differently, it seems I have slightly more patience with reality, whatever it happens to be, because I’m not trying to impose my will it with the same intensity.

Don’t get my wrong; I’m no zen master here (I don’t think they drink rum) and life is not a continual flow of pure bliss. This place often overwhelms me to the point that I just feel like hiding. I still want and even need a routine, to-do lists and goals to stay on track, but it is fun to see some changes showing up in how we spend our time and how we see the world. It makes me feel okay about putting my wife, children and self through all of this.

We are blessed to be able to have this unique time away to get closer to each other and practice living in the moment. Often I wonder what it will be like when we return to normal life. Then after wondering a bit, worry sneaks in as I contemplate the stress of moving back, jump-starting our careers and rebuilding our lives. But then I remind myself that those are challenges for another day, they are months and even years away, so for now I just need to figure out where to get some superglue. 

Categories: From Bo | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

¡Que Linda!

“I see her!!”

“There she is!”

“In a blue coat, see her?!”

“I do! I see her! I see her!”

And in the mass of arms and tears and glee and grandsons, just like that, YaYa came to Ecuador.

Not only was this visit the best heart-salve for all the homesickness lingering in our spirits, but it was also the first encounter we’ve had with someone from our “normal” life peeking in on us in our “sabbatical” life. That got interesting.

First, let me say that we had a blast and did and saw and toured and explored every hectare of our new home that we could squeeze into her 9 days. In addition to the daily adoration from the boys, morning coffee complete with volcano views and Bo and I showing her our favorite countryside walks, we also toured the surrounding villages with our friend Luis and saw the indigenous culture at work in heart-stoppingly amazing ways. We met an 85 year old man still making the straw mats he’s made since childhood with guinea pigs and kittens scampering around his dirt floor hut and feet that have spent the last eight decades bending to match said floor’s surface. Introduced next to a simply beautiful couple, also in their late 80’s, that still weave textiles together the way they have been since they were married. They stood on opposite sides of their wedding present, an 160 year old loom, smiled at us and each other, then with dexterity and sprite that defies their age, wove sheep’s wool into countless works of art.  We went as well to the topiary garden/cemetery of Tulcán, across the border to the stunning Colombian church at Las Lajas, and ended with the grand sights of Quito’s colonial old town. More adventures and stories than can be adequately summed up in a single post, and many that will hopefully have a post of their own later on, so for now I’ll put a slideshow of photos at the bottom for you all to see our highlight reel.

The work of this post, the sitting down to compose “My Mother’s Visit”, quickly became less about the adventures and more about the actual experience of having my mother here. In Ecuador. How she came farther away from home than she’s ever been and how her fresh eyes gave us new sight.

Previous visits to our home from my mother, or anyone, usually included coffee, wine, cards and conversations about how the boys are progressing in school, what’s new with Bo’s job, and any theatre projects I have in the works. There is a pattern that is known, a cultural road map, that guides our interactions via shared and understood mile-markers; clearly identified life signs telling you where you are in the “Grand Scheme of Things”.  Vaughn started kindergarten, Bo got a promotion, Jamie’s directing a play, Luke’s tying his shoes…all fairly standard and measurable steps of progression clearly letting us know that along the American cultural life map, YOU ARE HERE :

However, since jumping life tracks, and cultures, and professions, and schools, we’ve lost our mile markers. Shoot, they don’t even HAVE “miles” here. If we’d thought to make one, our route marker would probably look more like this:

-ish.

It would say, “You Are Here-ish”.

To be sure, our family sabbatical thus far has included joy and adventure and raucous shared laughter, but it has also included confusion, heartache, and a rather large portion of floundering.  Floundering around looking for progression points that we didn’t even realize we were looking for, until Mom came. Similar to how we know the boys have grown while we’ve been here, but mom, having not seen them for months REALLY saw the change – Bo and I knew we’d grown as a family and people as well, but couldn’t see or understand the full scope until placed in front of her qualifying gaze.

Vaughn did start kindergarten back in the states, but now he’s in a Spanish speaking school and has lost a lot of confidence in pronouncing his letters and will no longer even pretend to spell words he used to write for fun. Bo’s not working, I’m not directing, our accountants will have a no-brainer doing our income tax for this year, and no – Luke cannot tie his shoes.

The mile-markers of our native culture…don’t exist. Not only do they not exist in our life now, their opposite stance does! So, the usual catch-up conversations with my mother brought about more than a little bit of anxiety, for both of us.

But.

As my mother braved our new culture with us, her unusually green eyes and loving spirit picked up on what we’ve previously had and not really seen. Her being here showed us our new mile markers. We can now spot ourselves on this foreign map.

Mom found beautiful things at the Otavalo market at a great price, that I bargained down for her, in Spanish. Bo translated much of our guides’ information to her as well, enhancing what all of us learned through those jaunts. Her patience and attention and play time with Luke and Vaughn bolstered them from nervous about their original English skills to being proud of their new bilingual ones. She spent one-on-one time with both Bo and me, loving on us and talking with us, and telling us how proud she is of all we’ve done. And then listing off all we’ve done.

Mom ate fruit she’s never seen, trekked her blonde head through countryside that never sees blonde heads, hiked an active volcano crater, dodged feces on the sidewalks, was cheerfully mobbed by Ecuadorian children at the hot springs, yelled to be heard over the rain hitting our plastic roof, rode chicken buses over ridiculous terrain, clenched her seat and her teeth through each insane driving maneuver–and laughed with us at the errant livestock that sometimes pepper our street. Her joy in these discoveries was infectious. Her discomfort at times, relatable. Our ability to navigate her through Ecuador, illuminating.

At 3:30 am on April 21, mom quietly slipped into our Quito hotel room, kissed the boys while they slept, told Bo she couldn’t be prouder of him, hugged me with that fierce mother’s love, and left for the plane that would take her home. She left believing we had made a good choice in coming here and with such pride in us for doing something new and brave and bold. She left giving us the gift of believing the same thing.

Linda, in Spanish, means “lovely” and “elegant”.  We hear the male version, “¡Que Lindo!” at least 4 times a day as the local population walks by our startlingly beautiful boys. A descriptor of which I completely agree.

Linda also happens to be my mother’s name. Another descriptor of which, I completely agree.

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Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Iskay Siki, or “Two Rear Ends”

        I’ve been doing some research lately on the local culture and their language, Quechua, and came across this website with a goldmine of poems and phrases common to that tongue. Apparently people speaking Quechua can have all different kinds of siki (rear ends) as there is a something siki to describe just about every type of person. Iskay Siki literally means “two rear ends”,  ‘but it is used to refer to a “person who wants to sit down in two homes”, For example, a husband spends as much time at his parents home as with his wife, so he is undecided about which home he should be in.’— (http://www.andes.org/phrases.html)

I think it’s possible that I am an Iskay Siki.

(Oh how the fingers twitch with all the self-deprecating jokes possible right now.)

I think it is possible that I am an Iskay Siki because our first 2 weeks or so of settling in have been… remarkably unsettling. Largely because while I want my butt here, I also want my butt in its cozy spot back home with friends I can communicate with and food I don’t worry about getting sick from, and quiet. Oh, how I miss Quiet.

I’m not trying to worry anyone, I really believe that these are growing pains of what will be a beautifully fruitful experience. But as many times as I’ve started, and deleted, and re-started this post, I’m still finding it a staggering challenge to sum up just why it has been so much more difficult than imagined.

Do I give you the part that is nearly comical in its absurdity as was the case with my most recent breakdown? It sounded something like this:

(sobbing. with hiccups.)

“I-I-I jjjussst don’t thhhink I ccan doo this.

I wwaantt the real ch chuurch bells on the other side of tttown,

nnnott the stupid electric-blared-megaphone-awful onnnes!

And I wwant the ssinging garbage trucks like in Otavalo. Not these that just bbblare Spanish

ttalk radio at us until we’re deaf!

Or, do I share the heart-hurting bits like Luke clinging so hard to my neck that it took two teachers pulling his legs to get his tear-streaked-mama-screaming self into his new classroom. As a school bonus, there was also this conversation with Vaughn:

Me: “Hey babe! How was school today?!”

Vaughn: “Um. fine.”

Me: “Can you tell me about it?”

Vaughn: “A boy grabbed me and started pulling my hair and hitting me. I kept saying No! No! No! ’cause I don’t speak Spanish and he would just hit and hit saying “Si!” My teacher stopped him and he got in big trouble.”

NEXT DAY

Vaughn: “I was pushed and kicked again today mom.”

Me: “Did Katie help you again?”

Vaughn: “She didn’t see it this time.”

Makes me think that selling all our belongings, moving our family away from the people who love us for the purpose of exposing our children to the beauty and richness of other cultures in the world is going swimmingly, no?

I could also share just the oddnesses (c’mon, it’s totally a word), the annoyances, the differences that still weigh in at Uncomfortable on the scale, as opposed to New and Exciting.

Things like the car alarms that never stop going off. The fact that while I’d resigned myself to no wine here, I was expecting good coffee, I mean they grow some of the best not an hour away! But for some reason everyone drinks powdered instant coffee and all our attempts to use some of the actual beans from nearby have resulted in a liquid tar substance that I fear really is putting hair on my chest. The spider and mosquito bites we were waking up with because of all the quaint “indoor/outdoor” space we liked so much at first glance. The fact that our apartment being the first one renovated in this former hostel means that the whole rest of the building will be under major construction while we’re here. The packs of stray dogs defecating on the sidewalks. The automobiles of all shapes and sizes that attach a giant speaker to their roof and drive around blaring public service announcements at decibels that make our roof rattle. The fact that it gets cold here and almost every home (including ours) has a fireplace, and we can see smoke coming out of them, and yet every attempt we’ve made for weeks to buy actual firewood has resulted in the blankest of stares and the shaking of heads at such a query.

So, it makes a bit of sense that part of me is ready to be sitting somewhere more comfortable and familiar. Somewhere that is not here.

And yet.

I had a dream last night that Bo and I were visiting back home and when we were supposed to load up to come back here he said we weren’t going to. We were never coming back. And I cried. And I begged. And I used every argument in the book as to why we needed to get back to the life we were living in Ecuador. We were so close to… something. Something worth pushing towards and being close to. I woke up before knowing if we stayed or went, but carried with me into the morning that ache in my chest of sadness at the thought that we had left all of this. It’s that ache that is finally helping me write this post.

As any Iskay Siki will tell you, you cannot stand forever and you cannot sit in two places at once. You have to choose.

And so I did.

I’d say we all did.

I made an appointment with the principal at Vaughn’s school, who speaks English, to talk to Vaughn’s teacher with me. I told her how I used to teach students who didn’t speak English and I know what a challenge another language in the classroom can be and how much I appreciate her taking Vaughn in this late in the school year. It meant a lot to her and now she and I are much more of a team in both the lessons she’s working on in class and the time he spends out on the playground.

Bo has talked and loved Luke right on through his school anxieties. Two days in a row now and not a tear shed. Luke even flashed Bo a thumb’s up this morning when it was time to go to class.

My handsome, brave, and powerful husband also addressed the bug issue. In style.

And a real perk of our apartment is the family we rent from could not be kinder or more willing to help. AND we have a bird’s eye view of the neighborhood and local life in all it’s brilliant colors and characters.

We are also soothing our senses with fresh roses, regularly. They are grown near here and Bo found a place in town that sells 2 dozen long-stemmed roses for $2.50. And by “long-stemmed”, I mean as tall as Luke. So he grabbed 48 flowers in all.

I’m actually considering heading back there to get more. But that would require leaving this view of Imbabura Volcano I have and getting out of my chosen seat which, for today anyway, I’m just not going to do.

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Escape to Chachimbiro

A little shaken up by some unexpected twists and turns of our newly settled life, we decided to spend our first Saturday getting out to explore the amazing natural beauty that abounds in this area and is largely why we chose here over other spots. Having heard of the volcanic Chachimbiro hot springs about an hour away we headed to the bus station to seek it out. We were spared the bus by Bo talking to a new local acquaintance that told us his friend would drive us, wait all day, and drive us home if we wanted. Plus his friend could take us on the back roads through the countryside instead of the main highway through Ibarra. Perfect!, we thought. And it was. 🙂

Rodrigo came with his wife and children in tow as they decided to do their own family day up there. I felt a little strange having his family ride in the back of the pick-up, so the boys and I switched places with them on the way home – which we loved. Luke in fact declaring that this suddenly became the best day of his life.

Not sure what to expect having been to “The” Baños, we could not have been happier with Chachimbiro. In our opinion, it blows the famous pools at Baños completely away. It was cleaner, more fun, great slides, beautiful grounds, good food, lots of extra activities (zip line, air trolley, horseback rides), and as we were leaving Luke even spotted a man in a booth swinging taffy! So it turns out we are getting a better version of everything we liked about Baños here!

    The lovely grounds and one of the many spots the HOT water come straight out of the mountain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The DRAGON SLIDE:

We could not keep Vaughn off of it!

“Peligro Salida Personas” does not even BEGIN to describe what the exit of the dragon slide is like.

And then this happened…

Ask them to stand all the way under the shower at home and it’s a mutiny…???

Full day, heading home!

What are we doing this weekend?

Well…

Apparently, the carnival has come to Cotacachi.

Wish us luck. 😉

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Option 3: Otavalo/Cotacachi

Otavalo was not originally high on our list, simply because we thought we wanted to try on a different climate all together from what we’d known before high in the Colorado Rockies. That was silly. We are mountain people. And Otavalo’s countryside was a balm to our senses from the word go. I’ve included Cotacachi in this option because they are next door neighbors to each other and both communities somewhat bleed into the other. For example, they both host strong, and dare we say- prosperous, indigenous communities that still hold to their native dress and customs. In Otavalo, they are famous for their amazing textile work that is displayed every day in “Plaza de Poncho” but really on point during the Saturday market – an event that draws people from all over South America and the world.  Cotacachi is smaller than Otavalo, its indigenous known for their leather works as opposed to textiles. It also has  more of an expat community that could make our short stay for language learning easier, in that a network is already established for finding rentals, putting the boys in school, and taking language courses ourselves. Not only does this high Andean countryside suit our sensibilities tremendously, but Otavalo’s people are by far the friendliest we’ve met in all of Ecuador. Its streets are cleaner and its traffic is borderline easy. Cotacachi boasts the same, save the traffic- Cotacachi’s traffic is even calmer and peppered with the occasional horse or family herding sheep.  These two towns are about an 8 minute and $5 taxi ride apart or 20min. and .25 on the bus. So, they are billed here as a shared option.

Otavalo’s Main Square:

The other mothers at Otavalo’s Playground:

View over Otavalo from rooftop of our hotel.

Cotacachi Main Square

Cotacachi street:

indigenous Couple in Cotacachi’s main square on a Sunday morning:

Pros:  Beautiful countryside, friendly people, peaceful pace, just 2 hours from Quito’s international airport, good school for the boys, resources for finding a home and setting up a life.

Cons: Only things that are standard Ecuador (and I suspect standard for all developing countries anywhere). Trash, glass shards sticking up from people’s concrete fences, dangerous taxi drivers, stray dogs everywhere…

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

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