Saturday, February 28, 2009

Illness and Injury

Hola! This is going to be quick, as the internet is extra slow today and I´m a bit cranky.
Its been a very long week, one that I would not like to relive. Ever.
In a nutshell, three people in our group are out of comission for a few weeks. One split her head open on some stairs and had to get a minor surgery. One received a bad burn from a motorcycle and can´t walk. And the other has a severe sinus infection and migraines (sp?) and is in a lot of pain. If you´re still curious how these things happened when I got home, I´ll tell you the whole story...but on a later date.
We´ve come to the end of our time in Puerto Lopez. Its been a strange combination of really good and really bad here, though the community has been wonderful, it is an extremely poor, hot, and dirty town and it is very difficult to live here. We did in fact finish the kitchen we had been building and the town threw us a lunch yesterday. It was some of the most delicious food I´ve eaten here. We´ve developed good relationships with a lot of the townspeople, especially the children. Just yesterday I met a little girl named Maria who played soccer with us and followed me around speaking spanish too quickly for me to understand. We have a local hang out in town and have gotten to know the owners of a few good restaurants. In terms of food, John and I have been running to the fish market pretty often so that we can use the small barbecue pit we have outside our house. Its really fun to haggle with the guys in the fish and meat markets. Pedro, a local we´ve gotten close with, taught us how to cook the best tuna I´ve ever had in my life. Richard and I cooked a few meals for the group and I got to gutt an entire chicken that still had the neck and feet on it. So satisfying!
Tonight is our last night here and at about four tomorrow morning we head into Peru. I´m excited, but the bus ride is supposed to be about 15 hours with some uncomfortable bus changes inbetween. Anyway, I´ve got to head back to try to cram all of my belongings into my pack. Wish me luck!
Love love love and bugs

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Blue Footed boobies!

I´m back! This will just be a quick one but I´m attempting to upload a photo right now, so hopefully it will work.
Today we hired a boat and went fishing for about 7 hours. It was a wonderful day, we sailed around the islands off the coast of Puerto Lopez and fished out at sea. Though we only caught one fish, we spent the day laying out on the boat, chatting, and pushing each other in. The sea here is really beautiful, though a bit violent. And will you believe it, I didn´t get sunburned! Mom, aren´t you proud? When we got back to shore, my friend John marched around town with the fish above his head screaming ¨Vente Dollares! Just for you, un bonita pescado!¨ We gutted it when we got home and examined its insides- so amazing- and at the moment John has it on a spit and is grilling it for us for dinner.
The rest of the week and the weekend has been good. We worked most of the day Saturday and then went out about town Saturday night. This weekend is a big festival where people from all over come into town to crack eggs over each others heads and dump buckets of water on each other. Its a very strange festival and I am unhappy to say that I was attacked by three guys with eggs last night. A bunch of us headed back early to take showers only to find out that the water had run out, so John and I took baths in a big barrel of rain water outside our house.

Anyway, I miss you all! xoxoxox
Love and bugs

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oh, hi

I wish I had more time to work on this blog and make it presentable, come up with creative titles and make you sit on the edge of your seat as you read this. Alas, I am in an internet cafe slower than an old lady in a hover-round with about six people in line behind me. Its time for an update, though.
We are currently in a small town on the coast of ecuador called Puerto Lopez. Its a wonderful town, more like a village really, filled with curious little kids, dirt roads, and shabby huts. After being stranded in Quito for an extra day, we started our journey here on a private bus. The trip was originally supposed to take only about 8 hours and in the end took about 17 because of a series of landslides that occurred on almost every road leading out of Quito. About seven hours into our trip we hit another road crippled by a landslide and somehow ended up on a single land dirt road, driving through a series of banana farms. I can´t tell you how terrifying this journey was, but I will say that at one point everyone had to get off the bus and push it up a particlarly steep and muddy hill.
Arriving in Puerto lopez, it turns out that not only are we staying in a house built by previous members of Venture Co, but we´re sleeping five to a room the size of a closet on a concrete floor in heat I can´t even describe. I woke up last night with a friendly little cockroach sitting on my shoulder which I quickly flung against the wall and crushed. I was awake ever after.
Richard and I have been running in the mornings, which is good for me as I have already gained about 7 lbs with my excellent diet of meat, potatoes, rice and ice cream.
We started our first project yesterday, which has been really wonderful so far. We´re building a small kitchen for a local school and inbetween we´ve been playing soccer with the local kids and heading to the beach every day for swims. The work is hard, though and I am getting more tired by the day. The combination of cockroad guard at night and trench digger during the day is exhausting.
All for now.
Love and bugs bugs bugs
PS Dad, that last comment was AMAZING.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My knees are on fire, we´re stuck in Quito, I miss you

First of all, gushers are amazing. No one on the trip seems to realize the incredible deliciousness that comes in a pack of gushers but if you are in the states, I strongly suggest you go out and buy a box and let me know how quickly they go.
We spent the weekend in a tiny village called Tena in the jungle. Can I tell you that I love the jungle? I do. The bus ride was beautiful, and terrifying. (Dad, remember the roads in Greece? Imagine switchbacks made out of rocks held together by chicken wire) We traveled through some beautiful towns and mountain ranges with exotic plants and birds buzzing about, waterfalls pouring out of unsuspecting places and dense fog covering everything but five feet of road in front of us. Tena is a great town, very poor, but I liked it about ten times as much as Quito. The houses are small and colorful with woven hay and aluminum roofs. Hummingbirds fly around the town like mosquitos and there is almost no criminal behavior. When we got in, we got caught in one of the biggest thunderstorms I´ve ever been in and were soaked to the bone.
We spent the evening in a pool hall with a bunch of locals. When we first walked in, a bunch of men surrounded our pool table and stared us down for about half an hour. Surprisingly, I´m a pretty good pool player, though, as are the guys I was with and they nodded and wandered away. It was strange, though, as the men in the pool hall get drunk, they start to tie their shirts up like belly shirts and walk around showing off their respective beer bellies.
My favorite food so far has been street food called pinchos, which is basically a scewer of meat, potatoes, and some kind of zucchini. I can´t resist one whenever I walk past a stand and in turn have been eating about six meals a day. (Mom, you would love them!)
On sunday morning we got up early and piled into a bunch of trucks and headed to the river for some white water rafting! We treaded through the jungle to get to the river... if I could tread through the jungle every day for the rest of my life I would. It was one of the greatest days I´ve had on the trip so far. We headed down the river, taking turns hitting the rapids and played tricks on each other to knock everyone off the boat. At one point I got to ride on the front through a particularly rough patch- it was fabulous. Our guide was hilarious and spent the entire time trying to either flip our boat or push me off. I got him in the end, though and he let me play guide for a while until I made us miss some particularly exciting rapids because I was busy spinning the boat. The only downside was that I got my knees very badly burned and can barely walk.
We spent last night heading back to Quito and found out that we´re stuck here for another day because of a bunch of landslides on the main roads heading out of Quito.
All for now. I love you, and love the comments still.
love and bugs

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Yo necesito pagar la cuenta de la correa!

So the week´s been good, with the exception of a little sickness and the fact that I can´t walk up or down stairs.
We visited the equator yesterday. I was able to successfully stand an egg on its end (for which i got a signed certificate) and I was able to hit a target with a blow dart gun. The equator is really beautiful and sits next to one of the largest ecological reserves in the world. And honestly, I was more intrigued by the ecological reserve than the equator. The reserve is inside a volcano where there are over 200 hummingbird species and hundreds of different exotic plants. People live in there to tend to the plants and birds. How amazing is that. I've been imagining an advanced and successful society of old ladies, herding sheep and knitting and drinking chicha on the front porch of their little volcanic homes.
The equator itself is pretty touristy, but I met a bunch of people from Boston (yay mese and julia!). The best part of the tour was when the guide brought us over to the preserved animal and human head display. Sound weird? It was. Apparently in ancient times
I´m getting closer to a number of people on the trip and I´ve been having a lot of fun. We had Salsa classes tonight and apparently I´m a natural?? Alejandro, the son of the hostel owner, grabbed me about half way through the lesson and started spinning me and twirling me like mad. I had a great time, though I have no idea what he said to me at the end of it all. I´m pretty sure it was positive though.
So a few days ago I got a package in the mail. And during one of my lessons Myriam and I went to the post office to pick it up. When we got there I signed a bunch of papers and gave them multiple copies of my passport and Myriam and I sat and waited. We waited for about twenty minutes until an armed officer came out and called the name Sara Blair Patterson. I figured he was talking to me so I followed him into a small office. He then pulled out a razor blade, held up my package and slit it open. He asked me if I knew what was in it and I said I didn´t so he turned the package upside down and out came thirty packs of gushers. I have never laughed so hard in my life, but obviously he wasn´t in on the joke. So then he put everything back in the package, retaped it and put it in a separte bin. I couldn´t figure out why they weren´t giving me the package so I got up and started to walk over to the bin but he stopped me and told me that I had to pay a tax on the package. The problem is that the officers at the post office can´t be trusted with money so I was to go to the Bank of Ecuador to pay the tax. Two days later, I get to the bank and its closed but Jossie and I sneak in the back entrance at which time another armed guard stops me and asks me what I´m doing there. I try to explain in my broken spanish that I need to pay the tax so I can get my package (by the way I only had two days to pay) and he leaves us in a private area of the bank. He then comes out and tells us that we can´t pay the tax there and sends us to another bank near the airport. Big mistake as it is closed and there was no back entrance to sneak into. Anyway, at the end of all of this Jossie and I decide to try a local bank and I walk in and talk to another guard who points to a window that is reserved specifically for mail tax. Gah!! I pay the tax and Jossie and I book it back to the other side of town only to get my package minutes before the office closes and minutes before my package disappears forever. We left the post office and ate gushers all the way home. They were the most delicious gushers I had ever eaten in my entire life. And Erin, I will be your valentine, I will!

We have our Spanish final exam tomorrow, which will just assess where everyone is at the end of the past two weeks of lessons. Saturday we head to the small town of Tena to do some white water rafting and jungle exploration. I hope they give me a machete. After that we head to Puerto Lopez to start our first project.

I love you all.

love and bugs,

Monday, February 9, 2009

Never ever ever again

Never again will I attempt to climb a volcano, especially when that volcano is actually a glacier, with an incline of about 40 degrees, at 20 below, with severe altitude sickness, only a liter of water, and plastic boots that give you a new blister every three minutes.
I don´t even want to tell you the story so I won´t go through it, I will just say that I did not make it to the top of the volcano even though I climbed for six hours. I did sleep for twelve hours when I got home, though and feel as if I could sleep for about four more days.
Otherwise, I´m alive!
love love love

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Updates, updates, updates

Hola! Como estas? Bien? Mal? Mas o menos?
I am well, though I´m starting to realize how long three months actually is.
I´ve had spanish lessons every morning this week and am improving greatly, though I now think in a weird mixture of Spanish and English with a British accent. Myriam, my teacher, is absolutely wonderful. Ella con paciencia. We spend about two hours in the morning learning new vocabulary and having conversations and after a short break we usually have a field trip around Quito. Yesterday we went to the local market, which is incredible. They have everything from whole roasted pigs (which let me tell you are about 5 ft long) to cow tongues and brains (lenguas y cessa de baca). They sell traditional Ecuadorian chocolate in the raw meat section (weird placement choice?). And my favorite, there is every kind of fruit you can possibly think of there. I tried a few new ones, one of which was one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted. Its similar to a kiwi, except grows from a rare cactus on the coast of Ecuador and has a thick, spiy skin. Myriam and I wandered the market and I was able to hold a full conversation with her. Very exciting.
In the afternoons I usually take everyone on an adventure I find in my guide book. Yesterday was exciting, we rode a sky tram to the top of a local volcano and hiked up to the top. We took tons of pictures, all involving us jumping from large rocks to make it look as if we were floating easily in the clouds. At the bottom of the sky tram is a very strange amusement park that was completely empty except for us. We rode go-carts. Simply so that we could say we did it on the side of a volcano.
Other than that, its Spanish, spanish, spanish, but we have a seriously exciting weekend ahead of us. We are climbing the tallest active volcano in the entire world. Its a tough climb, though and about four people have already opted out. Apparently we will be outfitted in full winter gear, including ice picks and crampons, and we start the hike at one in the morning. The plan is to arrive by sunrise because the top of the volcano is all glacier, and is difficult to climb once the ice starts to melt.
Thats all for now. Thanks for all the comments, you guys, its really wonderful to hear from you all!
Love and bugs,

PS. Abigail- if you read this, I went to the supermarket yesterday like you told me in my journal. It was fabulous and I´ve been there three times since.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Theft, Otavalo, and back again

Hi again!
I am back in Quito after an incredible weekend in a tiny town north of here called Otavalo. I don't have that much time but I just wanted to give you all a quick update.
Only a day after everyone arrived for the trip, we hopped on a bus to Otavalo. One of the most important things you need to know about the bus ride from Quito to Otavalo is that it is one of the main routes for theft. Most people traveling from one to the next are either tourists or indigenous people heading into the market, and for the most part tourists are carrying lots of cash to spend on hand made goods. Before leaving, our guide warned us about theft, though with a slight note of unconcern. We boarded the bus, stuffed our bags underneath our seats, and attempted to take naps/listen to our i-pods. The ride itself is only about three hours, but when we got off the bus one of the girls on our trip noticed that her passport was missing. She looked down to find two huge slashes in the bottom of her backpack through which someone had stolen her passport, money, credit cards, camera, and medicine. You know that feeling of violation that hits you after your car has been broken into? Now multiply that by ten and this is what she was feeling. The good thing is that all can be replaced, except the cash. We were pretty shaken up at the end of it all. When we got to the hostel I sewed up her bag and embroidered a little flower on it so it didn't look so terrible. Soon after, we set out to explore the town.

Otavalo is a small town where not much happens. It is quaint and extremely busy,and home of one of the most incredible markets in South America. They sell everything there from raw chickens with the feet still on to beautiful hand made tapestries. We spent hours wandering the market. I bought a hand made shirt, some headbands and a replica of the necklaces the indigenous people wear. I wish I could describe the vibrancy of the people and the market itself but there really are no words. There is lots of interesting food, as well, including fried fish, bags of potatoes and meat, and fruits of all kind. I was feeling particularly adventurous and ate a huge fried fish, fins and all (Mom you would have loved it!). One of the main street foods is beef and potatoes, which is given to you in a little plastic bag and you eat it with a tiny spoon, like the ones they give you at paciugo. So delicious. So unhygienic.
There are lots of old women who wander around the market, decked out in full indigenous garb, who beg for money. If you can imagine someone wandering into joanna's fabric, buying samples of all the cloth from the ethnic section and draping themselves in it, that is how the women dress. Their necks are adorned with ten rows of golden beads, which they make and sell to the tourists. Apparently their families force them to head to the market every day to earn money for the family because they are ¨useless at home¨. They're all pretty cute and I had a hard time not giving them money. One woman followed me around the market after I gave her twenty cents.

We got back to Quito last night and started our Spanish lessons this morning. Im a bit overwhelmed with everything we need to learn, but my tutor is very sweet and patient with me (although I caught her chuckling with one of the other professors and looking my direction so she may only be sweet because she doesnt speak any English.) Either way, I'm excited.

I'm anxious to start moving around the country, though, and am already a little bit bored with Quito. Its a big city, pretty polluted, and we are confined to the hostel for food so there isn't much exploration in our meals. But I still have another three or four months. I am in no hurry.

Anyway, I am happy to report that the trip has been excellent so far and I already feel my Spanish improving, if slowly.

More later. Miss you tons.
Love and bugs,