Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ecuador Officials Linked to Colombia Rebels

So, Correa's government is linked to the FARC. As the article below says, Correa, himself has not been linked, nor has any current government officials. Now, how likely is it, that the commission investigating this was truly independent? They were appointed by Correa himself.

Time notes that this may very well be the first signs of Ecuador's descent into a "Narco Democracy"

Ecuador Officials Linked to Colombia Rebels

Friday, December 11, 2009

Andres Hidalgo


Andres is a friend of mine living in Quito. We rented an apartment from him, and ended up becoming great friends with his whole family. The Hidalgo clan brought us a lot of joy in Ecuador, and if you are going to be spending some time in South America, I highly recommend that you get away from the hostel scene and try to go live with a family.

Andres, sadly, was robbed outside of our old apartment today. I sure hope he didn't have his camera on him, because the guy takes some amazing photos.

Check out his flickr galleries, and get in touch if you like his work, maybe he needs to sell some of it in order to recoup his recent robbery expenses. The photo at the top of this link is one he took of Erin and I after a crazy trip we took with his brother to Quillatoa.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/27957891@N05/sets/72157622094885847/detail/

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lazy

Well, here I am in Turkey, with a Turkish blog current and up and running, and I'm getting double the number of hits on my old Ecuadorian Blog. It's strange, yet, it impels me to continue to post something over here.

Today, I'm feeling lazy, and I'm just going to link you to an interesting blog going on right now, http://where-is-g.blogspot.com/

I met the creator of this blog, Justin Kleiter, 5 years ago in Nicaragua. We were both from Colorado, and an instant friendship budded. Since then we've kept in touch a bunch, and right now he is riding his dirt bike to the tip of South America. Pretty cool. Check out his adventures.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Measure of a Country

This post is from my blog that I will, I promise, one day be moving fully to. www.nargileistan.blogspot.com

As I'm still getting lots of hits here at www.esteecuador.blogspot.com, I've decided to write a few posts that apply to both blogs. Additionally, when moving from one country to the other, it's inevitable that comparisons (justified, or not) will be made.

Which brings me to this months dual post, and the conclusion, that, the measure of a country can really be found, in it's barbers.

Really.

It's something we all need. Whether it be a simple, try-to-make-it-look-like-I-have-hair cut like I get. Or, whether it's a full blown Paris Hilton coiffure; we all have to go in and get a trim every once in while, just to keep down the Chewbaca waiting to explode off the tops of our heads.

So, when you move to a foreign country, one thing you usually find yourself doing in the first month, is thinking, "Okay, self, that hair is looking a bit like the fur on that street dog outside. Now where can I go and get a decent cut, without it looking like the guy used a fucking chainsaw."

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_j44IAHS9e-c/SSuf2na4u4I/AAAAAAAAARU/K0kXnf9uyQY/s400/PedroMartinez.jpg

In Ecuador, the answer to that question, was Tijeras Locas, or Crazy Scissors. Great haircut, my friend, Brett, said. The only thing is, well, most of the stylists are, umm, Colombian transvestites. I was aghast when he told me that this was the place to go get a haircut. I thought, okay, this is some sort of weird teacher-hazing thing. He assured me it wasn't, and told me to go down and look how popular it was--with both sexes.

Indeed, I walked down to Amazonas Avenue and easily found the store, there are two within a block of each other they are so popular, and sure enough, it was full. I had to wait twenty minutes. Inside I went through the standard game of charades, showing how long I wanted my hair, and my stylist ran his/her hands through my hair nodding patiently. She/he seemed very concerned, and proceeded to carefully cut every single hair on my head. Now, I know I don't have much hair left, but because of the methodical nature of his/her style, I was at the barber for an hour! These girls new something about hair!

I subsequently returned to Tijeras Locas many times over my two years in Quito. Once I took the opportunity to get a shave, and not only did they shave my beard, but they trimmed my ear hair, nose hair, and eyebrows! The cost? Five dollars. I don't know anyone I can pay five dollars to, who will go anywhere near my nose. Now, I realize my introductory photo that I stole off the internet is pretty blatant, but I'm here to tell you, that there were times when both my wife and I had a hard time convincing ourselves that my barber was really a man from afar. But, the minute they throw that cape around you, and the scissors come within two inches of your nose, one look at the hands, and you realize--man hands, definitely, man hands.

Of course, the barbers here in Turkey also know their stuff (On the subject of stuff, in Turkey, you can also be fairly sure that, their stuff--is, well the type of stuff that you would assume it to be. That is to say, there are no Tijeras Locas here). But, that doesn't mean they don't do a bang-up job. Here in Turkey, the land of black mustaches and hair as thick as motor oil, hair management is a huge priority. According to squidoo.com, the job of hair-cutter is taken so seriously that foreigners are not allowed to do it, and men spend months apprenticing and training for the job.

First, you step in to the salon and drink some chai tea, waiting for a spot to become open. Once you are at the chair, the stylist spends 20 minutes or so shaping the edges of your hair with various combs and clippers. When it comes to the actual cut, you'll think Edward Scissorhands has sprung to life, as the man continuously moves his chopping scissors around your head with the flair of a crazed violinist. Next comes the shave, with plenty of hot shaving cream brushed on, and a straight razor perfect finish. After bending forwards to the sink, and getting a wash, the barber comes around for the final polish. Tweezing nose hairs and any other protruding strays, he slowly builds to the climax of the cut....the flaming cotton ball. Before you can say otherwise, the barber dips a cotton ball into denatured alcohol, lights it, and dabs it into your ears, singing the offending hairs from existence.

Cost? Ten dollars. Trip to the bathroom to clean your pants? Free.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Two Years

Well, here we are at the two year anniversary of this blog. On October 31, 2007, I started tracking the numbers of visitors to esteeucador with clustermaps. Since then, the site has been visited 5,567 times. Now, that's pretty cool. The map for this year looks like this:


That's a bunch of dots, in a ton of diverse places. I'm flattered. I have to say that the word probably got out because of the Ecuador Reporter, and I would like to thank Tom and Kathleen for their support of "The Blue Footed Booby."

As I've said before, this blog will be slowing down in the next months. I'm living in Turkey now, and it seemed best to start a new blog about my experiences in the Middle East. We thought about calling it este-pavo, but I settled on nargileistan. Nargile is the Turkish name for the ever-present water pipes here in Turkey. And, istan, I believe, means country of men with beards. Anyway, it works. Please visit, bookmark, or subscribe to the new blog. www.nargileistan.blogspot.com

Maybe one day the list of visitors to that blog can look as cool as the people who have visited this one:

United States (US)1,382
Ecuador (EC)342
Australia (AU)58
Canada (CA)56
United Kingdom (GB)54
Turkey (TR)50
Colombia (CO)40
Venezuela (VE)37
Germany (DE)30
Italy (IT)24
Peru (PE)23
Spain (ES)17
Netherlands (NL)16
Malaysia (MY)14
Thailand (TH)12
Philippines (PH)11
Saudi Arabia (SA)11
Bolivia (BO)10
Panama (PA)10
Korea, Republic of (KR)10
Bulgaria (BG)9
Indonesia (ID)9
Mexico (MX)9
Honduras (HN)9
France (FR)9
Iran, Islamic Republic of (IR)9
Pakistan (PK)8
Romania (RO)8
China (CN)8
Chile (CL)8
United Arab Emirates (AE)8
Dominican Republic (DO)8
Belgium (BE)7
Japan (JP)7
India (IN)7
Vietnam (VN)7
Norway (NO)6
Argentina (AR)6
New Zealand (NZ)5
Kuwait (KW)5
Brazil (BR)5
Georgia (GE)5
South Africa (ZA)5
Finland (FI)4
Uruguay (UY)4
Greece (GR)4
Trinidad and Tobago (TT)4
Russian Federation (RU)4
Nicaragua (NI)4
Bhutan (BT)4
Costa Rica (CR)4
Sweden (SE)4
Poland (PL)3
Austria (AT)3
Brunei Darussalam (BN)3
Sri Lanka (LK)3
Hong Kong (HK)3
Oman (OM)3
Algeria (DZ)3
Switzerland (CH)3
Serbia (RS)2
Montenegro (ME)2
Slovakia (SK)2
Qatar (QA)2
Lithuania (LT)2
Jamaica (JM)2
Netherlands Antilles (AN)2
Jordan (JO)2
Hungary (HU)2
Morocco (MA)2
Portugal (PT)2
Cyprus (CY)2
Mongolia (MN)1
Estonia (EE)1
Denmark (DK)1
Ukraine (UA)1
Czech Republic (CZ)1
Ireland (IE)1
Israel (IL)1
Guatemala (GT)1
Puerto Rico (PR)1
Cayman Islands (KY)1
Senegal (SN)1
Madagascar (MG)1
Zambia (ZM)1
Singapore (SG)1
Togo (TG)1
Namibia (NA)1
Egypt (EG)1
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BA)1
Croatia (HR)1
Europe (EU)1
Albania (AL)1
Syrian Arab Republic (SY)1
Lebanon (LB)1
Malta (MT)1
Liechtenstein (LI)1

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The last BFB article

Here is a reprint of the last article I wrote for the Ecuador Reporter. Does anyone know if it is still being printed in Quito? I hope so.

Also, I still have WAY more people checking this blog, than checking my new blog about Turkey. Maybe more folks are traveling to Ecuador, but, eventually, this page will stop getting updates and everything will shift to

www.nargileistan.blogspot.com


Until then,

The BFB…slows it down

I’ve been in Ecuador for two years now. In those two years, I’ve been to Otavalo once, I’ve never been to a beach besides Canoa, and I’ve never set foot in the jungle. I leave Ecuador in 25 days and have no regrets about any of this.

There are many tourists who come to Ecuador for two weeks and manage to see more than what I have seen in two years. But do they really? I remember a course I took in college, called “Traveling the world, from Gulliver to Kerouac.” In it, we studied travel, travel literature, and our own travel habits. One of the more salient points of the course was that travelers move with purpose; they have a specific destination or goal in mind for their escapades. Travelers also move slower, and spend more time getting to know the areas and communities they visit. It’s actually a movement now in the travel community—slow travel. The philosophy revolves around less use of the guidebook and passport, and more use of language and observation.

Three years ago my wife and I decided to embrace this philosophy in a six week trip to Nicaragua. Instead of spending our six weeks collecting passport stamps in Central America, we opted to stay in one town for our entire trip. In San Juan Del Sur we fell into a routine. Every morning we would catch a dawn patrol of surfing with our new friends. In the afternoons we would take Spanish lessons. Every night we would go to the same restaurants where we would sit and get to know the owners and locals—marveling at their stories and their sentiments. When the ocean swells were low we volunteered at the local library, taking books to kids who lived deep in the Nicaraguan jungle. On our last night, we danced till sunrise in the local club. It seemed that we knew everyone there. We may not have seen every corner of Nicaragua, but the corner we did see was one to remember.

As I look back at my time here in Ecuador, I realize that I have been lucky enough to travel through it slowly. As a climber, I was immediately enveloped into a community from the first day I arrived. Through my climbing community, I’ve traveled through Ecuador. We’ve stayed at flea-ridden cheap hotels, we’ve summited snowy mountains, and we’ve soaked in hot springs after a long day of climbing. I’ve hosted Polish-climber students from Yale at my house, I’ve traveled to Colombia and stayed with friends of friends at the foot of an amazing three-mile cliff, and I’ve learned every single filthy word in the Spanish language from the “juevons” at the local climbing gym. These are the experiences I will take from Ecuador; not the time I got an indigenous woman in Otavalo to drop her price 50 cents on an alpaca blanket or the time I took my photo on the equator.

Of course, divorcing yourself from Lonely Planet and buying a climbing harness isn’t necessary to travel slowly. The first step is to take a hard look at your vacation itinerary. Will you be spending more time on busses than in towns and villages? Where are you staying when you travel? Are you staying in a hostel with a bunch of other gringos surfing facebook—or are you staying with a family in a homestay or couch-surfing with a local? Finally, and most importantly, what’s the purpose for your trip? Finding purpose is often what tips the scales from tourist to traveler. The ultimate slow-travelers I met in Ecuador are a group of mountain bikers who are sloooowwwwlllly (without ever using paved roads) mountain biking from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. Their purpose is to travel the length of two continents under their own power, and on their own schedule; reaping the intrinsic rewards of slow travel along the way. It would be nice if we could all take three years off and slowly ride down the continents, but it doesn’t matter if your purpose is a mission trip or a mountain bike adventure. The key is to have one, and then follow it passionately…and slowly.

This is the BFB’s last column for the Ecuador Reporter. He is moving to Turkey where he hopes to find his purpose in whirling dervishes and hookah pipes. His blog is at www.esteecuador.blogspot.com


Saturday, October 10, 2009

The BFB, plays Ecuadorian Frogger

I missed posting a few BFB articles, so here is one that never made it to the blog. Check it out, and don't forget that I am eventually only going to be posting on my new Turkey blog, www.nargileistan.blogspot.com

The BFB, plays Ecuadorian Frogger

Running in Quito is a bit like playing Frogger. Frogger, if you recall, was one of the first popular video games from the 80’s in which you had to maneuver your frog across a busy street without meeting an untimely, and very flat, death. Luckily, I don’t have to date myself by accepting credit for this moniker; my friend Andrew coined it as I took him on a running tour of the streets of Quito last year. Narrowly avoiding a collision with a lane changing taxi, Andrew yelled out, “Shit, this is like playing Ecuadorian Frogger!”

To be sure, running in the streets of Quito is not for the faint of heart. The lack of oxygen makes any endurance sport at 10,000 feet difficult. The smog quadruples it. The cars speed, shift lanes, and seem to be of the general viewpoint that any piece of pavement is a driving space reserved for their exclusive use. Street dogs rejoice in chasing runners, and men revel in hissing at female ones. So why do it? For the challenge. For the authenticity. For the bitter-sweet taste of adventure that running in the suburbs lacks.

Quito is rugged, gritty, dirty, and yet it’s surrounded by majestic Andean mountains. Running in the city puts you in touch with the smells, the sounds--the potholes, and the pollution. And, when you start looking at the features of the city less as obstacles, and more as a jungle gym, endless opportunities come to light. Run through the narrow streets and squares of old town. Try your hand at the steep stairs of Guapulo. Join in the collective fun of running through Parque Carolina as you stop to bounce off some sculptures, crank out a few pull-ups, or join in the weekend morning outdoor group-aerobics class. If you need some motivation, check out the 5,000 hit-popular YouTube video, Quito Soul, where my friends Brett and Bennett demonstrate their free-style running skills. Ecuador isn’t meant to be seen from a taxi or a tour bus, it’s meant to be seen from the pavement and from the tops of mountains.

I know running through lanes of moving traffic isn’t for everybody, and my wife would reprimand me if I made it seem like that was your only option for enjoying a run in Quito. Up above the Batan Alto neighborhood is the relatively safe, quiet, and beautiful Parque Metropolitano. In Metropolitano you can run through miles of dirt trails hinged by groves of Eucaliptus trees. The park is up out of the valley, and so the pollution isn’t quite as much of a challenge. Usually the only dogs you encounter are monitored by owners, and there are still lots of jungle gyms, sculptures, and exercise stations to cross train with as you run.

Finally, Ecuador hosts some excellent road races. It’s a different experience running a race in Quito; nobody lines up by pace, water is passed out in plastic bags instead of cups, and race packets come with items like hot-dog coupons and bottles of ketchup instead of Powerbars; but the races are well organized, safe, and fun. Coming up in June is the popular Ultimas Noticias 15K, which runs through Old Town and ends with half a lap around the Olympic Stadium. Then, in October is the Ruta de las Iglesias, which runs at night through the beautifully lit-up churches. Finally, in November, my favorite race is the half-marathon to the middle of the world, where the finish line is literally, the equator. Just look both ways before you cross it.

Info Box:

Running Website:

Race Information/Registration: http://www.vidactiva.com.ec

Running Stores:

Yes! You can get GU, Powerbars, Gait Analysis, Sports Bras, Polar Watches, and more:

Silvio Guerra Sports. Centro Comercial Caracol Locales 9, 10, and 11 (Across from Tony Roma’s on Amazonas and Nacionas Unidas) - Phone (02) 2258 027

Podium Sports Store. Luxemburgo N34-340 y Poturgal, Edf. Braganza T (Near Mr. Bagel): (02) 3331509

Running Safety:

Try not to run alone

Always tell someone where you are going, and when you plan on returning

Do not run at dawn, dusk, or night in the parks

Don’t run with an i-pod

Carry Pepper Spray (available at Kiwi) for dogs, and other “pests”

Don’t repeat your running routes/times…thieves look for patterns

In Metropolitano, try to stay on the main trails unless it is a weekend

Pack a little TP, and a dollar coin for some water at the end of your run

The BFB is training for the return of Brett and Bennett to Quito this June, keep an eye out on the streets for some frogger action, and check out www.esteecuador.blogspot.com for their excellent videos.

Friday, September 25, 2009

WTF?

Where have I been? Good question. At the end of June, Erin and I left Ecuador. It was the end of our contract with Colegio Americano, and it was time to return to Boulder.

The ending of our time in Ecuador was harsh. We were robbed, and a colleague at our school passed away. It was a crazy June, and I don't feel comfortable writing about the events on the blog just yet. Maybe one day.

But, thanks to my good friend, Tibi, we had a cleansing (limpia) by a local Amazonian Jungle woman, and our luck has turned. I don't know if it was the cigarette smoke she blew on me, or the eggs and peppers she rubbed on us and then cooked, or, maybe, the local fire-water she spit on us; but our hard patch in Ecuador was followed by an excellent Colorado summer, and now we are loving our life in Turkey!

I'll be back to esteecuador to post some of the adventures that composed our spring, but, I've also started a new blog at
www.nargileistan.blogspot.com

Keep your eyes on both, because there was lots of good stuff I didn't get around to writing about in Ecuador, and Turkey is a whole new ballgame/blog-game!

Thanks for your patience while I processed, but I'm back, good as new!

Tim

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Classic--sneaking over the wall to the girls school


This is great. I've been watching these boys for the past week as they have been flirting with the girls at this girls school next door to us. Today they took it a step forward: they jumped the wall and stormed the grounds. Check them out in the bottom left corner, I think they would do well on the "wall" activity on most ropes courses.


Posted by Picasa

Garage Sale

Hello Friends,
We've posted our little collection of for sale items on flickr. It's a real mix of items, from the practical (cleaning supplies) to the frivolous (art, framed posters). Not that I'm calling art frivolous--just sayin' Anyways, we can work out payment to be sent to our home in Boulder this summer, and we can leave the items in our current apartment over the summer for you. One of the new teachers will be living here next year, and she will be happy to distribute your items to you. Everything is priced at 50% off and is one or two years old. Figure in the 12% sales tax, and the constant upward momentum of prices in Ecuador, and that's checking in at 65% off. So, check out the flickr page, and let us know what we can put your name on!


http://www.flickr.com/photos/38521515@N05/sets/72157618445885250/

Cheers,
Tim and Erin


A few of the items we are selling:
  • Sheets
  • Towels, etc.
  • Pillows
  • Art/Photos
  • Plants
  • Table Lamp
  • Nice skillet
  • Nice griddle
  • Baking pan
  • Baskets for fruit etc.
  • Cork Message Boards
  • Coffee Thermos
  • Collander
  • Cleaning Supplies
  • Vases
  • Umbrella
  • Bathroom toothbrush, soap dispenser, etc. set
  • Grab-bag of DVD's

Monday, May 18, 2009

Table Tree

Table Tree, I'm not sure what kind of Bonsai he is, but he's doing well

Home and Gardens

See the plane?
National Soccer Stadium

Home Alone




Posted by Picasa

Home

The bedroom
The Desk
The Shitter

Saturday, May 16, 2009

What Would Darwin Do?

He wouldn't pay for over-priced cruises in the Galapagos when you can do it on your own.

Over spring break we managed to squeeze in two really great trips. One was to Bogota, where we met up with some friends from Venezuela for a week of rock climbing. More on that later. Our second trip was to those little islands of biological diversity, the Galapagos. The Galapagos, of course, is one of those places you must go if you spend any amount of time in Ecuador. The problems is, they are incredibly expensive. It's a $400 dollar flight from Quito, a $100 entry-fee to the islands, and then anywhere from $800 to $3000 dollars for a cruise around the islands. Pretty inaccessible for the likes of us. In fact, most of the folks on those cruises are retirees who are busy ticking off their "I always wanted to see ________" list.

But here's a fact nobody in Quito (at least the tour vendors) will tell you.

You don't have to go on a tour to see the Galapagos.

Erin and I spent five days on two islands and saw everything we could possibly want to see. Granted, it wasn't in the perfect wilderness setting that a boat can take you to, and we did miss some of the more esoteric fauna, but for about $70 a night in hotels, $40 a day in meals, and $40 a day in local tours, we were able to:
  • Swim with sea lions
  • Play with baby sea lions
  • Saw those silly flightless Penguin-birds
  • Swim with marine turtles
  • Mountain bike to secluded coves, beaches, and old prisons
  • Swim with 10+ sharks
  • Relax on white-sand beaches
  • Swim with eagle rays
  • Observe blue footed boobys
  • Enjoy happy hours at sunset
  • Ride a horse up to one of the biggest volcanic craters on the earth
  • See a Galapagos hawk
The issue with the Galapagos is that, often, you are charged a premium price for, well to be frank, Ecuadorian quality service. I love Ecuador, but not when I'm paying $13 for a plate of six breaded shrimp and rice. Of course, this problem is the same whether you are on a boat, or, doing it on your own on land--so why pay for the boat? Unless you can afford a premium boat, my advice is to just do the Galapagos as cheap as you can, then you won't be frustrated with the inevitable service hick-ups along the way.

An example:

Some friends paid for a first class boat tour, and found their rooms to smell of Gasoline every night, and the boat broke down several times along the way. Kind of frustrating at $200/day.

We paid to be taken out to a local snorkeling spot on Isabela by a local operator. They drove us to the dock, put us on a boat, and then took us around to a free snorkeling spot that we had walked to the previous day! We protested, and they finally took us to a better spot in the bay that we could not walk to (where we saw the baby sea lion), but it took a fight to get there. Upon the return, the operator did not send a truck to pick us up. We had to walk back to town. When I arrived and protested, the owner looked at me like I was crazy for wanting a ride back--she said, "we never send a car to pick you back up, you're soaking wet stupid gringo." Yeah, like the back of their pick-up would be hurt by my wet ass.

The point is, both trips are frustrating, but ours cost $10.

So, if you are interested in doing it on your own, here is our itinerary, complete with phone numbers and suggested guide-free activities.

http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=plR-sWt7EqMly9yDmFqTgaQ

And, though the LCD on my viewfinder-less "waterproof-shockproof-freezeproof" camera decided to cease functioning on our first day in the islands, here are my best attempts at photography without being able to see what I'm composing. It's kind of a monster slide show, at 60 photos, but that's down from the 500 we took.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Quito Soul

I think I´ve posted these videos before, but, Brett and Bennett are returning to Quito this June, and I mentioned them in my last BFB article...so here´s a re-release of the famous Quito Soul videos.




Monday, May 4, 2009

Caldo de Pata, Foot Soup

Crazy spring here in Ecuador.

Between flying back to the states for job fairs, finding work in Turkey, flying back to Ecuador to teach, flying back to the states for weddings, coming back to Ecuador for spring break, flying to Colombia for rock climbing, coming back for a night, and flying to the Galapagos to swim with sea lions and sharks; I'm exhausted! This weekend I think I'll try to summit Cotopaxi again just to get a little break from everything.

Last month my editor for the Ecuador Reporter either skipped town, or absentmindedly neglected to get his visa renewed before leaving for Canada. Depends on who you talk to, and how much money he owed them. Regardless, the paper is now in a bit of a flux, but they have continued publishing, just not online.

So, here's the simple text version of the latest BFB column. Next month will be my last column. Que pena!

The BFB…makes caldo de pata (foot soup)

Pata, or foot, makes a damn fine soup here in Ecuador. I was once slurping away greedily at a chicken soup served to me for lunch, marveling at its flavor when I spooned up a foot. I suppose the nails of the foot add flavor, not unlike the black eyed-peas and hog jaw that’s a tradition for those who live in the Southern U.S. However, the caldo de pata I’m talking about this month doesn’t come in a soup bowl, it comes in a swimming pool.
Living in a country nestled among active volcanoes, Ecuadorians are able to enjoy the silver lining to the constant threat of eruptions: an abundance of hot springs. These hot springs provide a place to relax, a place to absorb healthy minerals, a place (of course) to do your laundry, and a place to make your own gigantic batch of communal foot soup. As with so many things in life, the hot springs of Ecuador run the gamut, from pure opulence, to pure caldo de pata. The choice is yours.
The most well-known hot springs in the country are in the town that gives them away with its name, Bath. In Banos, the town revolves around hot tub culture. Hotels offer spa packages. Vendors sell swimsuits and blow-up floaties instead of alpaca scarves and blankets. Men offer to take Polaroids of you and your novia as you exit the springs, sucking in your Pilsner-gut. Best of all, the hot springs are as cheap as they come. Unfortunately, they are as caldo de pata as they come too. The pools are emptied every day, but their popularity should probably justify emptying them every hour. Get there early unless you want to spend most of your soaking time avoiding the floating back-hair from the guy in the Speedo next to you.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, is the posh Termas De Papallacta. This fancy resort, found an hour and a half outside of Quito, trades some “authenticity,” for a less “soupy” experience. The hot springs are as well tended as the gardens that surround them, and though the price is nearly triple that of Banos, the selection of pools, temperatures, and cleanliness trumps the price hike for most. If you really want to splurge, you can pay extra for the spa, where waterfalls, jets, and complimentary towels will make you feel as if you won the lottery. Of course, if Antisana peaks its snow covered face out from the jungle above the springs, you won’t need the spa to make you feel like the luckiest person on earth.
Finally, in-between the two on the pata scale, but winning big on the “off the beaten path” scale is Oyacachi. Oyacachi may be my favorite of the hot springs. It’s the little town that could; and does! Oyacachi is nestled in the remote valleys between Papallacta and Cayambe. Getting there requires an hour of travel on dirt roads, but the remoteness is what makes these springs so great. The springs themselves are surprisingly well made, and well kept. The sculpted rock walkways, waterfalls, and lilly gardens remind me of Pappallacta, but the price reminds me of Banos. The termas are run by the townspeople, who obviously see the hot springs as a means for the town as a whole to benefit. Artisans sell their woodcarvings, and lunch-spots have sprung up around the entrance to the springs. If you’re looking for luxury though, this is not your place. There is only one basic hotel in town, and the single restaurant serves trout and chicken, fried or roasted. But for those of us who prefer camping to down comforters, and fresh trout to chicken cordon-blue; then Oyacachi is our place. And try the chicken soup, just, try to ignore the floating foot.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mid-Spring Break

It's 10 PM and we're getting ready for an early flight out to the Galapagos tomorrow morning. I couldn't resist staying up just for a bit to post these recent tibdbits about Ecuador that have cropped up in the news.

First, our favorite local chocolate was profiled on NBC. Funny, I just stuck a bar of it in a wedding present for my cousin...


Next, and this is a bit late in the "news" cycle, but Guapulo (our former neighborhood) has had a string of bad luck. First, while we were in Washington at a wedding, a military plane flew into the neighborhood. Sadly, seven people died, but it fortunately narrowly missed many of our friends who live not a football field away from the crash site. Wow.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7954186.stm

Then, a week later, a retaining wall that was quickly built in response to the rapidly disintegrating hillsides of Guapulo collapsed one block in-between our friends houses and the airplane crash.

Shit, I'm kinda glad we got out of there!

Here's a friend of ours bravely standing with her child where a street (and I believe a couple of cars) used to exist. Our friends John and Tasha used to live in the building in the background, a sobering picture for them, I'm sure. Thankfully, nothing more than some civil engineers egos were harmed during this particular catastrophe.


Finally, as I said, tomorrow we are off to the Galapagos. Having just returned from the VERY safe and secure feeling oasis of Colombia (seriously, fantastic country--more later on it), I wasn't super keen to return to what has felt to be an increasingly insecure Quito. But, I knew we were doing a quick turnaround to the idyllic islands of the Galapagos. With scenes of swimming with dolphins, tanning with sea lions, laying on safe and sunny beaches, and relishing fresh seafood every night, I googled the Galapagos to check on the weather and what not. This, is what I found.


Damn it. I can't win.

Well, except for that little victory by UNC last week....


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Photographer Friends

Probably one of the most enjoyable experience of living overseas, is meeting those people who have chosen to bust out of the box of routine that is so easy to live in while residing in the states. I've met hangliding pilots building houses, Colorado kayayers buying bars, English prep-school kids starting newspapers, and, maybe most interesting, three amazing photogaphers.



Our friends Karla and Ivan http://tothetip.wordpress.com/ are currently traveling to the tip of South American on a photographic odyssey. They used to be our neighbors in Guapalo, that was, when they weren't traveling the globe working for any number of magazines on assignment.



And our friend Caroline Bennett http://bop.nppa.org/2009/still_photography/winners/index.php?cat=UES&place=2nd just won an award from the National Press Photographers association for here story on children being raised in Mexican prisons by their incarcerated mothers. Caroline recently took my students on a field trip to the World Press Photo Exhibit. It was a great experience for them to spend some time digesting press photography with a true professional.



Inspiring.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Iron Maiden, not only are they alive, but they are in Quito!

Yes, even in Quito, the tradition of painting some rocks white and spelling out the name of your favorite team, artist, religious figure is popular....

To celebrate IRON MAIDEN's first-ever appearance in Ecuador, several local IRON MAIDEN fans have created a sign spelling out the word "MAIDEN" and placed it in the Pichincha mountain, just above the country's capital, Quito. Check out a photo below.

IRON MAIDEN will play at the 30,000-capacity Aucas Stadium in Quito, Ecuador on Tuesday, March 10.

Loaded up with a full complement of band, crew and twelve tons of stage set and equipment, the band's customized Boeing 757, christened Ed Force One by the fans and flown again by Astraeus Airlines captain and MAIDEN vocalist Bruce Dickinson, is once again circumnavigating 80,000 km around the planet for concerts in 20 cities in 13 countries, making it a staggering 39 countries in total visited on this tour, playing to almost two million fans.



Friday, March 6, 2009

A Touch of Class...

Last night, my Spanish teacher invited us to a performance by the Ecuadorian Symphony. Our friends, Graham and Tia, accompanied us downtown to the Centro Historico. The unique thing about this particular concert, was that it was held in the most famous church here in Quito, La Compania. La Compania is universally known as being the 'church of gold,' and that made quite a backdrop to the concert. It´s said that the church is covered in some 7 tons of gold leaf....

http://static.panoramio.com/photos/original/89933.jpg

On another classy note, I recently reached a milestone in 'adult' life. I´ve bought a tuxedo. You see, my cousin is having a black-tie wedding in two weeks in Washington D.C. I checked in on rental prices ($100-$200 depending if you want something nice or something a senior in high-school did god-knows what it the previous prom weekend), and then I checked in on a custom tailor here in Quito. For $200 bucks, I took him a photo of a Calvin-Klein tux, he took all my measurements, we discussed some custom options, and now I´m a tuxedo owner. If you´re traveling in Quito, don´t miss the chance to have some custom tailored clothes made for prices that define class in my book...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Postscript to the BFB article below

So, I actually wrote the article pasted below before attending this year's Carnaval Death-Fest. Here are a couple of addendums that happened after this year's festivities:


  • First, Carnival is spelled Carnaval in Spanish, woops. Should have caught that before the paper went to press. Screw it, it's an English paper.
  • Next, if the police catch you after you have sprayed them with water, they DO actually throw you in jail. Just ask Franz at the Surf Shack in Canoa.
  • A 20 lb. Mahi Mahi that will feed 30 people costs 30 dollars.
  • Phosphorescence in the ocean at night is one of the most FUCKING COOL THINGS you will ever see.
  • Pina Coladas are best made with fresh coconuts, fresh pineapples, and copious amounts of rum. The rum does not have to be fresh.


  • A dixie-horn attached to an F250 Lariatt Edition with dual-exhaust headers attracts plenty of attention as it is driven through the countryside of Ecuador.
  • And, when hiring a launch to take 20 gallons of diesel out to a stranded yacht from Panama, it's best if said F250 has a winch with which to pull the boat down to the beach during low tide.
  • I will GREATLY miss my friends in Canoa when we move to Turkey
  • It is much more styleee to arrive at your beach house after being picked up (by said missed friends) in a de-roofed 1974 Land Rover driven on the beach, than by taxi on the road.
  • I like Yonder Mountain String Band at loud volumes much more than I like Reggaton at loud volumes.
  • Plane tickets for Carnaval should be bought well-in-advance
  • And, below, the movies I promised in the article...
Pyrotechnic Prowess at the Fiestas De Guapalo:

video

Roof-top Chiva action during the Fiestas De Quito:

video

As I said, for fear of legal repercussions, there are no movies of squirting police officers with water, but here's a photo of the infamous "espuma" or foam of Carnaval.

The BFB...avoids catastrophe

Dangerous situations are not hard to find in Ecuador. From landing on a runway shrouded in fog, to sleeping in a hostel below an active volcano, to snorkeling in the shark-infested waters of Isabela Island; there is no shortage of precarious situations for one to enjoy. But for the best in near-death and dismemberment jubilation, nothing beats a good Ecuadorian fiesta.


The foundation of the Ecuadorian fiesta lies in two things: alcohol and an agent of death….though in some cases, the alcohol is, of course, that agent. I’m pretty sure there is a certification agency that checks to make sure that both are present at anything claiming the label of “fiesta.”


Take, for instance, the Fiestas De Guapalo. These fiestas occur in a tiny barrio down the backside of the hill behind Hotel Quito every September after the sugar-cane crop is harvested. The sugar provides Guapalenos with their drink du-jour for the fiesta, cane-lazo. Cane-lazo is a type of hot mulled-sugar-cane-liquor-cider. Between the price tag of 5 bucks a bottle, the heat, and the sugar, the stuff goes right to your head. The bands that play concerts during the fiesta encourage the drinking. That way they can take breaks in the middle of their songs without the audience realizing that the whole time, they’ve just been pantomiming to a CD. The cane-lazo also fuels the fun when the fireworks come out. Whether it’s the burning paper-mache bull bucking through the crowd, or the three-story bamboo rocket launcher showering the crowd with napalm; you hardly notice the smell of burning skin and hair over the rich aroma of the cane-lazo. I’m not convinced that the fireworks really count as an agent of death, but, at the last fiestas, as the stray rockets whizzed by my head, I was glad I had a bottle of cane-lazo in my hand…I’m pretty sure it could put out a small hair or clothing fire.



















Of course, if explosives won’t do the trick, there’s always velocity. During the Fiestas De Quito, it is commonplace, after drinking copious amounts of Pilsner and watching bulls die, to jump on a chiva. The chiva, in its simplicity, is a beautiful agent of death. All you have to do is take a bus too old to be considered safe for transport, rip off the doors, slap a dance-floor on the roof, hire a band, and strap on a tank of more cane-lazo. Then you charge two bucks a head, pack the bus full of drunk patrons, fire up the band, and drive around the city looking for low-hanging wires and overpasses. You can see the fun directions in which this is heading. Occasionally the chiva may stop to pick up additional passengers, to allow its passengers to dance in random town squares, or, maybe, to pick up someone who has fallen off the roof.


Decapitation by telephone line happens so quick though, where’s the fun in that? Better to drink so heavily and with such zeal that you black-out, do something incredibly stupid, and end up in an Ecuadorian jail. That’s probably the kind of place which would have you wishing for the rapid exit of a swan dive off the back of a moving bus. Carnival, of course, is perhaps your best opportunity to land yourself in jail. That preamble to lent, when the Catholic world lets its hair down before 40 days of devout reflection, is the penultimate in hedonism. Here in Ecuador, Carnival is celebrated throughout the country with a variety of local traditions and pageantry. There are two universals though; alcohol and the throwing of water on others. I know, I know, it seems harmless enough, but when the two mix, it’s amazing what can escalate. Water turns to squirt guns, squirt guns evolve into water balloons, water balloons get lobbed at passer-bys…and then, before you know it, your friend has tossed a water balloon in to the vehicle of a policeman, where it promptly exploded, soaking his crotch, and probably ruining whatever was in his pockets, but you don’t care because you’re cowering in a corner praying to God that he can’t tell which drunk Carnivalian threw it because you REALLY do not want to go to jail in Ecuador.


So, from everyone here at the Ecuador Reporter, we hope you had a great Carnival fiesta.


The Blue Footed Booby has posted videos of near-death fiesta experiences (except for the water balloon—that evidence has been destroyed) on his blog, www.esteecuador.blogspot.com

Friday, February 20, 2009

I´m back

I have been neglecting this blog since December, and I´m sorry for that. A good blogger is a regular blogger, and I aim to return to that. My wife and I have been searching for a new job, in a new country, and that has been all-consuming. We´ve now made a decision, and come August I will be starting a new blog with insights and tongue-in-cheek wit about...Turkey! I can´t wait to see what comes out of my mouth from the land of hookah´s, flying carpets, belly-dancers, and genies. That, and there´s lots of non-stereotypes that I might choose to comment on as well:)

For now, my concentration is back to Ecuador...at least until the summer.

Here´s an amusing graphic, I hope you aren´t trying to get from the beach to the mountains, because, well, you can´t. All of the roads have been closed by landslides and sinkholes.