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.

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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!


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

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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.


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.