Posts Tagged With: Quito

¡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:


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.


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

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 Plan-less Plan

We have been overwhelmed by the support we’ve gotten once our adventure went public- thank you! We’ve also been fielding a lot of  understandable questions that we’re going to try and address in these next few posts. I’m taking on the, “Where are you going and how long will you be there?” query.

Well, we are largely “wingin’ it” on this little trek of ours, and doing so on purpose.  For us, the first step in making room in our brains for new thoughts and ideas requires loosening our vice-like grip on the control we’ve previously  strived for and letting our route be guided more by Curiosity than Schedule. So our plan-less plan shakes out more like an outline than anything else. An outline written in pencil. Very light pencil.  This is how I can best describe what it looks like, today…

We are going to South America. For those of you, like me, for whom it is difficult to pull any concrete information about South America from the recesses of a middle school geography memory, here is a map of this remarkable place on the Earth:

Ecuador, our starting place, is the small one along the Pacific coast, north of Peru and south of Colombia. It is a tiny country in a big continent with an unbelievable amount of biodiversity and an indigenous population that still lives and dresses and eats fairly closely to how they’ve always done. Without a doubt pink Dora backpacks, Chinese plastic pez dispensers, and KFC are making a strong stand in Ecuador, but, for now, there is still a local level of authenticity above and beyond what we’ve seen in some of the other countries we’ve visited. That is one of the main reasons we are so excited about starting our journey there.

We fly into Guayaquil just before midnight on Feb 1, where we will spend a couple of days checking out Iguana Park, the Malecon 2000, and Santa Ana Hill. Then we are being picked up at our hotel by the friendly people from Finca Punta Ayampe where we are staying for a couple weeks of pure take-a-deep-breath-holy-cow-what-did-we-just-do-let’s-go-play-with-the-boys-on-the-beach downtime. AND THEN….



That’s all I got as far as any actual plans go.

That would make this the super-light pencil section of this post: we are thinking of traveling up the coast a bit for a stay in Canoa where there is an intensive language school at a hostel on the beach.  Ecuador has loads of wonderful langauge schools, but if one of the choices is on a beach… yeah, that’s what we thought too. After giving our spanish skills a much needed shot in the arm, we will continue on a winding route up the coast, working inland and then meandering our way south through the Andes Mountains.  The places we think we’d like to stop include Quito, Banos, Otavalo, Cuenca, Zaruma, and Loja. I’m so looking forward to that, but almost more so for all the places along the way that we don’t even know yet we want to stop and see.  If we find a community we love and want to stay and immerse ourselves in, we stay- if not, we keep going. And we’ll be doing that for as long as our fincances allow, our best budget-guided guess being in the ball park of 18 months.

Not the clearest answers to the Where and How Long questions, but the most truthful ones I can provide at this point. I promise to provide more details when we get… somewhere,

at … somepoint.


Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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