Thursday, November 2, 2017

Day of the dead in Ecuador

Day of the Dead in Ecuador is known as Día de los difuntos. On November 2nd, All Souls Day is celebrated in Ecuador and over the Andean region, with unique manifestations of religious cultures. Throughout the country people visit the memorial parks to honor their departed. Indigenous communities massively visit cemeteries keeping an old pagan tradition of taking along the favorite food dishes to share with their loved ones by their graves.

They eat quietly and slowly in a solemn ceremony, sharing food among the families. Some of them circulate around the cemetery exchanging foods. They give food as a reward for those who pray for their departed.

The ancient belief is that the soul visits its relatives during these days and should have plenty of food to be fed and be able to continue further on its journey to the afterlife. The typical food for All Souls Day is "guaguas de pan”, (pronounced wa wa de pan)  accompanied by a beverage called "colada morada". These foods have a remote origin in the Incas, who offered their gods their bodies and blood in sacrifice ceremonies. "Guaguas de pan" is bread baked in the shaped of child figurines decorated with pastry - colorful frosting. "Guagua" is the Quichua word for "child". "Colada morada" is a drink ofa variety of berries with other exotic fruits and spices that give this beverage its purplish color.

Now day's families take advantage of the day which is to visit the grave site and a mass is generally offered for those family members now gone out of respect.   The colada and guaguas are enjoyed in a much more festive atmosphere!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Black Sheep Inn and Lake Quilatoa

We had a 3 day weekend and it was my first chance to really get out of Quito and visit parts of Ecuador. I rented a car because of my friends I’m the only one who could drive a stick shift (thanks mom and dad!).  Quick aside - I was so glad that I had had the opportunity to drive a couple of different types of stick shift cars. When I rented the car the company showed me how to/where to put gas, open the trunk, use the radio, etc. The one thing the didn’t show me was how to put the car in reverse. I’ve driven cars where reverse is on the far right. I’ve driven cars where it was on the left, where you had to push a button to put the car in reverse. I got the car home to my parking garage and I realised I had no idea how to put the Chevy Aveo into reverse. I spent 20 min trying to get the care in reverse, slowly inching towards a wall. I finally remembered I had the power of Google on my phone.  Thank you Google for showing me where the tiny ring was that I had to pull up on while putting the car in reverse.

We left mid morning for our 3 hour drive. It was mostly uneventful. We caravanned, which made the drive easy. I didn’t have to navigate. The only issue is that at altitude the little Chevy Aveo had even less power and climbing hills was frustratingly slow.

We stayed in Chucchilán in the Andes at the Black Sheep Inn. (3200 meters, 10,500 feet elevation) It was an eco hotel. Our room had 4 beds and a bathroom with a compost toilet.  The room was heated by a wood stove. We had beautiful views of the mountains from our room.  The food was included. It was all vegetarian fare. The food was good and all local. The bread was homemade and the cheese came from the local cheese factory.

There were lots of options for how to spend our time. One group went hiking while I went horseback riding with my friend Alli and her son. We left the in and went through the high paramó  (3500 meters, 11,500 feet elevation & above) is an exposed alpine grassland, mostly above the tree line.). Our guide was fantastic. He pointed out what we were seeing in the area and the mountain ranges. From the Paramo we descended to the jungle and cloud forest. We stopped to eat our lunch here. The Inn packed us a lunch. It was really cool to watch the clouds roll in. We then took a short walk through the forest where our guide pointed out trees, edible and hallucinogenic berries, orchids, and birds. We then road home. We spent some time cantering and trotting, which at this point into the ride (hour 3) was a bit tough. The descent back to the Inn was steep.  The horses were fun to ride, but they competed for who would be in front. My horse pouted when she lost the lead and decided to stay way in the back.

When we got back I had a massage. While not the best massage in the world, it was really nice. I think it’s the only reason I was able to walk without pain the next day. It was pretty amazing. It rained and then hailed when we got back. It was cold enough that the hail stayed on the ground until the next day.

We left on Monday and headed towards Lake Quilatoa. A volcanic crater lake located at 3800 meters (12,400 feet) between the towns of Zumbahua and Chugchilán. It was beautiful. We had really gorgeous weather.

(Pictures from the trip)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

I moved to Quito, Ecuador

I moved to Quito, Ecuador. Living and teaching abroad is a wonderful adventure. While I was sad to leave the island life of the Caribbean, I am excited to be in a Spanish speaking country. When I decided I wanted to live and teach internationally my goal was to do it in a Spanish speaking country.
Quito at night


The city has a lot to offer I feel like I can get almost everything here (cheese is an exception- how is there no good cheese???): food, microbreweries, entertainment, parks... I live near parque la carolina (Carolina park). It has a bunch of walking/running/biking paths and is full of people exercising and doing park things.  I’m about 45 minutes walking from work. I would be willing to walk home as it's downhill. But going to work up hill is not high on my list. The school provides a bus for staff. It picks me up about 3 blocks from my home. It is very convenient and with the crazy traffic, it’s nice to be in the hands of the school to get me to work on time.
 Cascarrabias across the street from my building
has great food and beer

Walking to parque la carolina from my home. 
The altitude is a real pain. Walking up a few stairs can leave you breathless. They say after a few weeks you acclimate, I’m still waiting for that to happen. It gets better, but breathlessness is a fact of life. Also it is super dry, even when it rains. A humidifier has helped at night.

I thought I would be cold all the time, but I’m enjoying the weather. Central heat and air conditioning don’t seem to exist here. It can get really cold in buildings at work, especially in rooms where that don’t face the sun. Dressing in layers are key. I carry an umbrella and extra sweater with me most times.