Posts Tagged ‘ecuador’


Kathryn: Guayaquil

May 20, 2010

The last two weeks I have passed the time with my lovely and welcoming Ecuadorian relatives. It has been a dream since my childhood to know the places, people and culture that my grandfather was born into and left over fifty years ago to come to the U.S., so this was an especially meaningful part of my trip to Ecuador. I stayed with my mother’s cousin Vicky, daughter of my Abuelito’s sister Maria Rosa. I met lots of cousins, aunts and uncles, but spent the majority of my time with Vicky, her husband Fernando and their three children. Andrea is 26, Vicky Sue is 20, and Fernandito is 14.

They live in a gated community in a beautiful area a few miles outside of the city. During my stay with them they showed me around Guayaquil; we went to the Cathedral, Parque de las Iguanas, El Malecon (a boardwalk lined with simple attractions like old train cars, ice cream stands, fountains, mini-monuments, etc.), and El Parque Historico.

Over the weekend they took me to a couple of beaches I wanted to visit: Salinas, Punta Blanca, and Montanita.  The sun there is extremely strong, but I used 50 SPF and didn’t burn!

I spent time with my Great Aunt Maria Rosa, who spends a lot of time putting puzzles together and is adorable.  I also went to classes with my cousin Vicky Sue who is studying jewelry design and is incredibly creative and talented.  I went to church with Vicky, who is very active at Santa Teresita, the family parish just a few blocks away.  Fernandito and I did some cooking together; we made lemon bars and chocolate chip cookies! In general I was able to relax a lot and enjoy getting to know the family and improving my Spanish through long conversations. All in all it has been a lovely stay.  I will try to do a last post in the next couple of days to close out the blog. Thank you all for reading!


Kathryn: Day trip to Otavalo

May 17, 2010

The most popular attraction in Otavalo, about two hours from Quito, is the large open market. On Saturdays it is always crawling with visitors, but my buddy Mike and I headed there last Thursday.  It was empty—so much  better for quickly making our purchases. I got a hammock and several pieces of art by a local who uses a technique in which he extracts the brown from walnuts, mixes it with water, and paints. After visiting the market we wanted to hike to a famous tree in our guidebook called El Lechero. It turned out that it was located 4 kilometers away beyond a village and several treacherous mountainy crags… which we only found out because a kind Ecuadorian offered to drive us there for FREE! Praise God. We took pictures by the tree and enjoyed the gorgeous backdrop of the inactive volcano Imbabura and a sparkling lake.  There was also a notable cow tethered by the tree and lots of fragile soil that Mike insisted we not step on because it takes years to regenerate. We tramped all over hill and dale and found our way to a random street by following some indigenous girls down a mountain path, where we hopped on a random bus that we supposed was going to the town that sends buses to Quito. It was, and we hailed the bus to Quito as it was driving away and got the seats in front with the bus driver/sitting on the steps with the guys who collect the money. Here is a link to a slideshow I made of our outing…I think it tells the story better than I do! Enjoy: SLIDESHOW


Kathryn: Semana Santa

April 16, 2010

Since over 90% of Ecuador is Catholic, Semana Santa or Holy Week has many festivities and customs observed by virtually the whole country. As with any holiday here in Ecuador, there is a special food associated with Easter. It is called Fanesca, and it is a very hearty soup made with as many beans and grains as can be found, salt cod, milk, onions, peanuts, and lots of other delicious ingredients, topped with slices of hard boiled egg, plantains, red pepper, and parsley. It is only made once a year during holy week, and I have already eaten three different, equally delicious, versions.

Another tradition that I participated in this year was the siete visitas, in which I made pilgrimages to seven churches in the historic district to offer up prayers and petitions. I was able to go with my friend Margarita, whose family is part of Opus Dei. According to its website, “Opus Dei is a Catholic institution founded by Saint Josemaría Escrivá. Its mission is to help people turn their work and daily activities into occasions for growing closer to God, for serving others, and for improving society.”

On Good Friday, I went back to the Centro Histórico with my friend Jessie and her host family to watch the famous Procesión de Jesús del Gran Poder.  In this procession, people who want to do penance for extraordinary sins or evils they have committed don purple robes with pointy headpieces and march in the procession. The special name for them is “cucuruchos.” The procession also includes many people dressed as Jesus carrying massive and very heavy crosses, often walking barefoot and sometimes with crowns of thorns. Others walk the route wrapped in barbed wire or dragging heavy chains on their ankles.  Jessie and her family and I watched in a packed crowd, underneath umbrellas to shield us from the heat. Nonetheless, a woman next to us fainted, and we dutifully shouted for CRUZ ROJA (Red Cross)! I also narrowly avoided being pickpocketed by the old man innocently standing next to me, groping into my purse.

Holy Saturday I was able to go to the beautiful chapel in the women’s house of Opus Dei once again with Margarita for the Easter Vigil.  As is the Catholic custom in many parts of the world, the ceremony began with all the lights out.  The priest then lit a candle and shared the flame with someone; each of us held a small candle. As the flame spread to each person at the service, we began singing, and the priest reminded us that Christ is the light of life.

After Mass, Margarita and I went out for dessert at TGI Fridays. We then headed over to the men’s Opus Dei house where they have an annual skit night on Holy Saturday.  In one of the performances, four elected audience members repeated a short interchange having to do with selling/buying a “duck” in different accents mandated by the Master of Ceremonies. First they each had to perform the interaction like someone from “the coast,” for example. Then as a Chilean. Then as someone “posh.” Then as Professor so-and-so that everyone knew very well, etc. All very amusing. The party continued at one of our friend’s apartments with more refreshments, music, and conversation.

On Easter Sunday I cooked some typical American dishes for my host family.  I made a green bean casserole (french fried the onions myself), bacon, scalloped potatoes, deviled eggs, and scones with lemon glaze. I also skyped with my parents and siblings back home for quite a while.


Kathryn: Spring break, Amazon style

April 4, 2010

For spring break, I threw in my lot with a group of students from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, to go on a medical mission to bring a health clinic and spiritual nourishment to pueblos in the Amazon region of Ecuador. The team also included American doctors and nurses, Ecuadorian priests, and a number of English/Spanish translators. My role was to help translate health talks and religious talks and skits for people waiting to be seen at the clinic. The week was filled with rich experiences of generosity, culture, nature, and community. My only connection with the group was that I had been in email contact with a Franciscan alum, Lily Hannon, who is currently living and working in an orphanage on the coast of Ecuador. She and her missionary partner Breanna, had planned to participate in the mission trip, and it so happened that the dates exactly aligned with my Spring break.

I wish I had time to detail all of the experiences I had, but with the limits of time and space I will recount a few highlights:

  • Ferrying or taking long, thin boats back and forth across the river that separated our hotel from the towns where we brought the clinic.
  • Playing soccer, red light green light, red rover, and duck duck goose for hours with hordes of barefoot, dirty, smiling children.
  • Sneaking off with some of the kids to see the river in a hollowed out log-boat only to fall in the river five feet from shore.
  • Getting a tour of the jungle and eating cacao, papaya, an orange avocado-like fruit, pods with fluffy melony-tasting chunks inside, and hierba luisa—a grass used to make tea.
  • Speaking about and against alcoholism to a group of young men in a village; teaching groups of children how to pray the rosary; translating and acting out the Good Samaritan.
  • Handing out first aid kits and translating messages about basic hygiene—washing hands, brushing teeth, boiling water (or setting it in the sun for six hours in a clear plastic jug).
  • Watching traditional village wedding dances and being pulled into one by a seven-year-old boy.
  • Sleeping on the concrete schoolhouse floor under mosquito netting without mattress or blanket, listening to a monsoon roar outside.
  • Going to daily mass all week and relying on that grace to come up with religious talks, songs, and skits in Spanish with almost no preparation.
  • Getting climbed on, incessantly poked and chased by kids.
  • Going back to Quito and getting my nails done with one of the other missionaries for $2. Then going with her to get her ear pierced, also for an obscenely low price.

For those of you who just want to see it, here is a slideshow of the trip!


Kathryn: Internship

March 24, 2010

After a wonderful Spring break, which I will post about next, I began my internship Monday at La Escuela de Formación Empresarial del Grupo Social. My commute to work, located in a Sector of Quito called La Floresta, is about a half-hour bus ride then a ten minute walk. Grupo Social Fondo Ecuatoriano Popularum Progressio is the name of the larger non-profit I work for, but within GSFEPP there are many businesses and outreaches. Several headquarters are located in the Quito office and “La Escuela” (EFE) is on the top (fourth) floor. I share an office with two others and have my own desk and a computer. I work Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m.– 5 p.m., and the internship will last six weeks.

The project I am working on now is updating the pages on the EFE website—quite a task. I began by cataloging areas for improvement and noting what information is lacking or out of date. Today I drafted a piece for the “current news” page that highlights the course that EFE created for the students at my University here, Fundación CIMAS. I also began creating promotional content for another section of EFE that supports Estructuras Financieras Locales (EFLs). Another project I will be working on is the organization and utilization of a vast photo archive.

In addition to my personal work, I am being completely integrated into company activities and dynamics. My compañeros consult my opinion about designs on promotional material or photo choices. Today we had a meeting to discuss a new logo; when to use it, how to use it, what it symbolizes etc. One of my coworkers is trying very hard to teach me Kichwa phrases. I take my lunch break with my coworkers and they often bring snacks or treats to share during our morning break. We are all going on a day trip on Sunday to barbecue at someone’s Rio Bamba house. Much of my personal work involves seeking information from other responsible or more-informed coworkers. They are always patient and very willing to help me find what I need. I’m really enjoying the work so far and I look forward to learning more each day.


Kathryn: Mindo

March 7, 2010

Today I went to Mindo, another cloud-forest tourist town.  Three friends and I rode a bus for about two hours getting into town in time for lunch. We decided quickly to do zip-lining and soon were riding in a truck up to the first of ten cables.  Our guides were two Mindo natives who had as much of a blast as we did (understandable when your job is zip-lining…) and obligingly told us about many of the plants we passed and their properties.  Over the course of ten cables that sent us zooming over the forest, we took turns trying the different zip-lining positions: murcielago (a bat-like position), mariposa (a butterfly-like position), and Supermon (a Superman like position).  Unfortunately we only brought one camera, so I don’t have the pictures to display, but it was very extreme and very fun.  After riding in the back of the truck into town, we ate bananas covered in chocolate sauce made from cocoa beans ground that day.  Then, we paid $2 to tour through a beautiful greenhouse/garden full of mariposas and flowers!



Kathryn: Internship — la pasantilla

March 3, 2010

Last Monday and Tuesday the six students on my track and our coordinator, Jacky, went on a trip to see potential internship sites in Latacunga and Cotopaxi. These regions of Ecuador are a little further South and fairly chilly.  It was overcast and rainy during our time, but what we saw was interesting. The goal was to find places for each of us to participate in six-week internships from mid-March to the end of April. None of the sites we visited resounded with me, and I actually found an internship in Quito that I will be doing, but I want to post some photos and short descriptions of what we saw.  The first cooperative we visited, in a town called Pukara, had a huge water reservoir they use to save water for times of drought, like right now.  When there is plenty of rain each family in the community gets water daily, but right now it is parceled out once a week.  The community has used micro-credit to start businesses in which each family cares for a shed full of cuis (guinea pigs: a common—and tasty—meal).  They also grow various edible plants with the goal of “sobrealimentacion”—providing nutritious food for all.

Don Jose in a cui shed. The guinea pigs are separated by age.

The next two sites we visited were more or less offices that provide savings and credit services for the popular sector (poor people who can’t afford traditional banking services).  The offices were in very small, empty towns and it happened to be cold and rainy.  I must admit I felt a similar distaste for working at these places as I did when visiting prospective colleges a few years ago.  The last site, however, really fascinated me.  It was a carpentry trade school for young boys from very poor families.  They boys live at the facility Monday–Friday, taking classes in the morning and having “talleres”—workshops—in the afternoon.  They also receive religious formation and recreational time as well as rotating between domestic chores and outdoor farming duty.  They produce gorgeous craftmanship—intricately carved frames, plaques, furniture, and articles for the church. The second-year boys, no more than 11 to 13-years-old, each worked at his own table covered in wood curls, creating wooden boxes with floral inlays.  The more advanced students included tables and altars fitted together cleverly without nails, all high quality.  The institution enables boys whose families can’t afford to send them to school to get an education that will provide them with job opportunities when they are done.

Although I would love to learn carpentry, this was an all-boys school so I decided to wait and hope for another internship to come along… and it did!

I will be working at GSFEPP—Grupo Social del Fondo Ecuatoriano Popularum Progressae.  It is an NGO, non-profit, ecumenical organization in Ecuador that runs many different businesses all oriented towards helping the lower-income sector.  They have a division that shows campesinos how to register their land legally, for example.  Another sub-group within FEPP helps construct clean water sources and still another is working on developing technological infrastructure.  All of these businesses operate under the same vision: that of “la economía solidaria,” an economy that centers on human beings and their needs instead of profit, keeping in mind the need for sustainability.  I will be helping develop a marketing campaign for some new service or initiative that FEPP is starting.  I don’t know a lot of the details but I should be visiting next week, so I’ll have more information soon.  I’m looking forward to having a purposeful, full-time “job” here. The pasantilla will be Monday–Friday, roughly 8 a.m–5p.m. for six weeks.  I will be staying with my host family here in Quito because it’s only a half-hour bus ride to FEPP.  I plan to continue on the soccer team as well.  I’ll post more when I know more!


Kathryn: La vida diaria

February 28, 2010

At this point my life has more or less settled into a routine.  I will attempt to inject the mundane facts with as much fascinating detail as I can.  Now that I’m more familiar with the city I can supply context that will help.  I live in the North of Quito, first of all.  All of the major streets in the city run North/South and there are several major streets and trolley lines that go from one side to the other.  Since most tourist sites are towards the center of the city, when I want to go places I generally just “travel South” by bus, trolley or taxi.

If you picture a city block like the one to the right, the street on the bottom is called Shyrris (Shee-dees) and is a busy street with restaurants, stores, banks etc. The street on the left is Rio Coca and the one at the top is Isla Seymour (Say-mor), which is my street. I live about the fourth entrance from the left on the top row.

I say entrance because almost all houses/apartments in Quito are behind locked gates that lead to driveways or patios.  Behind my entrance is a long driveway with staircases that lead to roughly six apartments, three stories on each side.  Our apartment is the bottom floor on the left.

My favorite room in the house!

Monday through Friday I have been leaving for school around 8:30 a.m. After a breakfast of yogurt, fruit salad, ham and cheese melt (on a roll), and fresh squeezed fruit juice,  I leave the house, walk around the corner and across the street to the bus stop, and take the 25 cent ten-minute ride to school.  In the morning, the six students in the Microfinance track have class together for two hours with our track coordinator, Jacqueline Campoverde, or guest speakers.  We then have a two hour lunch break.  Students either go to lunch in one of the tiny cafés nearby or purchase bread, cheese, fruit, avocado or American junk food at the stands on the road.  I usually use the rest of the time to do homework. In the afternoon, we have two hours of Spanish class.  We spend a lot of time discussing new words or phrases we’ve heard or don’t understand but also do lots of interactive exercises and games.  Recently we each read a short story in Spanish and presented it to the class.  Our teacher, Beto, is a master at making grammar fun. To reinforce the preterite perfect (I have…), we played “Never have I ever…” After Spanish, I walk or take the bus home and get ready for soccer. I am training with the women’s club team at Universidad Católica, which is a 30-45 minute bus ride in traffic. We train from 5:30 to 8:30 Monday–Thursday.  The team has been a great way to practice Spanish, get to know people and participate in my favorite sport! I get home from soccer at 9 p.m., drink coffee and eat rolls with my Mom and/or my Abuelos (who live above us), work on homework and go to bed!

The weekends are often much more relaxed. Last weekend I toured several churches in Historic Quito one day and attended a professional soccer game another day.  The soccer game (Barcelona vs. Independiente) was very lively; when the fans got upset they threw empty and full water bottles at the referee.  Soccer is taken extremely seriously here.  There is a whole section of the newspaper dedicated to disseminating the results of the weekend’s soccer games.  This weekend, I attended an Ecuadorian reggae concert featuring many of Bob Marley’s old and new hits.  The three bands that played had wonderful grooves and singers fluent in both Spanish and Caribbean sounding English.  Smoke, lights, a free poster and a hundred dredlocked fans = una fiesta.


Kathryn: Rio Bamba y Carnival

February 17, 2010

For many Latin American countries, including Ecuador, Saturday through Tuesday of this past weekend was a rowdy celebration known as Carnaval. Different countries and some individual cities have traditional ways of partying before Ash Wednesday, the day when Catholics begin forty days of fasting and penance leading up to Easter.  Customary festivities in Ecuador include parades, games, music, water fights and of course, a holiday from school! Typically, natives and tourists flock to the West—towards the beaches—to make merry day and night during Carnaval. On Saturday morning, however, I found myself  packed into a four-door sedan at full capacity rumbling South to a city called Rio Bamba. I was traveling with Muma, a friend from the Catholic University soccer team with which I have been training, her brother Carlos, two friends on their way to respective hometowns, and her adorable Schnauzer, Lila. Traffic notwithstanding, the adventure really began ten miles outside of Ambato, when the car started shaking then haltingly collapsed with a fully deflated front right tire.  After unloading the fifteen suitcases we had miraculously packed into the trunk, we discerned that we had a spare tire, a jack, and a socket wrench…but no keys with which to take off the hubcap. In the end, Muma and I hitched a ride to Ambato, borrowed a mechanics assistant, took a taxi back to our car with him, photographed him changing the tire, and deposited him back at the ferreteria (hardware store), rattling on our way.  We arrived in the afternoon to Muma’s house—a series of stacked apartments belonging to her mother, her brother Juan, and two other aunts, deceptively hidden behind the family mattress store.  We pulled up on the crowded cobblestone street and were greeted by aunts, uncles, cousins and four more dogs.  What a beginning!

That evening, Juan, Carlos, Muma, myself and two Frenchmen who were in the area drove the hour back to Ambato to watch a friend of the family who is a torrero—a bullfighter.  It was my first experience watching the elaborate art, and I admit I almost laughed the first time one of the torreros danced too close and fled behind the protective barrier, closely followed by an angry bull.  It was thrilling though to hold my breath as a more skilled torrero beckoned the beast with a flick of bright fabric and arched his back as the bull charged within inches of it. With each pass, a murmur passed through the crowd…Ooole! Ole! Then came the part I had somehow forgotten about—the ceremonious unsheathing of the sword and skewering of the bull, complete with spurts of red blood. We left after the fifth of six bulls was dragged out of the arena by a team of horses. Read the rest of this entry ?


Kathryn: Los Baños

February 2, 2010

Quitumbe, the bus terminal in the south of Quito, sends buses all over Ecuador.  For $3.50, five girls and I took a three-hour bus ride on Friday afternoon to a town called los Baños.  Named after its famous thermal baths, heated to 118 degrees by the active volcano Tungarahua, Baños subsists on tourism. The six of us contributed our share this past weekend. We stayed at Hotel Chimenea for $6.50 a night a piece. We ate stacks of fruit, yogurt and honey-covered pancakes with jugo de mora (blackberry juice) for roughly $3.00 each.  On Saturday, we contracted guides from one of dozens of adventuring agencies to give us wetsuits and take us canyoning: rappelling down 30 foot waterfalls amidst lush green foliage, $25.

With unlimited finances, we could have zip-lined through the jungle, gone bungee/bridge-jumping, rented ATVs or bikes, or tackled Class 4 rapids. Descending a fifty-foot waterfall, however, was sufficient for me.  Saturday afternoon we walked around the town a bit, sampling malcocha—Baños’ signature taffy that is pulled and twisted on pegs in a shop’s doorway—and sugar cane, which is pressed through machines to yield sugar cane juice.  Here is a video of the taffy-making process on YouTube (30 secs). We also signed up for a chiva bus tour promising a view of the volcano, complete with visible lava on a clear night. Although we saw no lava, we did hear the rumbling and had the added pleasure of riding in the chiva—a rickety open-air bus with bench seats and painted sides, lit up with lights and music, as it hurtles around mountainous curves.  On Sunday morning, I attended mass at The Basilica of the Virgin of the Holy Water.  Although the spires of the church are fluorescent blue in the night (highly reminiscent of the Disney castle), in the day, it holds almost hourly masses, typically packed with devout Baños residents.  The interior of the basilica holds several large paintings depicting miracles that have been attributed to the holy waters of los Baños.  All in all, a beautiful get-away. Now back to classes!

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