Posted by: adegraffenreid31708 | 22nd Jan, 2011

Peru!: Chachapoyas…and back to Ecuador

So, the 11 hour bus ride from hell?….not so bad.

I went to the bus station at 5:15, and it turned out they hired a driver to take us to a town 3-4 hours a way where the bus was actually leaving from. This ride?…sucked. It wasn´t the driver´s fault, or the road condition…the road just constantly weaved around mountains so often that it made ME car sick. That takes effort. By the time we finally got to the bus station I was ready to puke. Luckily, we got there with 30 minutes before the bus left.

There were only seven people on the bus. It was EMPTY. But that´s much better than a full and stinky bus, so I wasn´t arguing. Now, the bus ride was nine hours. Nine hours with no real food, water, or bathrooms (one break). Worst of all, they didn´t play a SINGLE movie. Now, I had my IPOD, but nine hours in a bus without anyone to talk to is EXTREMELY boring. Luckily, I had the view. Now, this road was more like what I was expecting when it comes to south american roads- not the worst I´ve been on (nothing so far has toped Costa Rica or Honduras), but still. The road quality itself wasn´t so bad, it was the rest of it. The road, which went both ways, was actually only the width of the bus. I´m not joking, there was maybe an inch or two on each side between the sides of the road. And this was in the Andean mountain, so of course where was mountains on one side, and a sheer drop on the other. Of course, with no guard rail, and with the bus constantly riding the edge of the cliff. This made the constant sharp mountain turns…nerve-wracking, to say the least. There were a few times I thought we were going down. Especially, when there was a truck or car coming from the opposite direction and we would have to stop, back up, and try to let it pass while staying on the road. There were times when I was like…DON´T BACK UP AROUND THE CORNER, PLEASE!!!!!!. But I lived, it was amusing…andit wasn´t NEARLY as bad as the guide-book made it out to be. But getting to Chachapoyas was a relief. Chachapoyas is a very significant area archaeologically,  dotted with ruins everywhere (and they continue to be found). Unfortunately, they´re all out of the way. There´s not a lot of tourist infrastructure, so most of the sites can only be reached by treking three days into the jungle or mountains with a guide. It´s also several hours from ANYTHING else. It´s a really nice, isolated city in the highlands.

I ended up staying in a rather nice, colonial hostal with a tour agency underneath it. So, I got a tour to Kuenap the next day.

Kuenap is a pre-Incan fortress built by the Chachapoyan indians over the course of 1,200 years. Other than Machu Pichu, it is considered to be the most significant archaeological site in Peru. It was great. It was a four-hour drive from Chachapoyas each way, which is a lot…but worth it. Unfortunately, the road is awful. They´re working on it, so we constantly had to stop and wait for workers. Also, these workers work in these 3-5 feet deep gaps in the road. So, to pass over the gaps, they put down two 2-by-6 boards, and help guide the vehicle over. I got it on video, it´s nerve-wracking. Especially when the alternative is to fall off the mountain. The cool thing about the ride, is that you get to see old settlements in the mountains that remain undisturbed because they´re so hard to get to. They´re just kind of…sprinkled around.

When you get to Kuelap, you´re looking up at this incredibly huge fortress. Some of which has been reconstructed, some not. Then, you have to walk up a path 35 minutes to get to it. The walls of the fortress are enormous. When taking a picture of the full wall and there´s a person on top, they come out as this little dot. It´s hilarious. The entrance into the fortress contains all sorts of petroglyphs of various people and gods (one of which is upside-down because the archaeologist put it back wrong…ha!). Inside, there are all these ruins of temples and homes. Even though it takes imagination, it´s still cool. You can walk through almost the entire fortress, but only 15% has actually been excavated. So, for the most part, the jungle is growing within it. The curious thing is that within the fortress are the only jungleesque plants in the area. But it was fun to watch parrots fight. In addition to birds and plants, there are Llamas…and lots of them. They mostly just roam around, but one had kicked a German tourist the week before, and the locals had tied him up.

So, the fortress was awesome. The Chachapoyans there had buried their mummies within their homes, so you could only see the excavated holes. But it was interesting to think that there were still mummies in the un-excavated homes, all around us. Even cooler. One of the main defensive walls of the fortress was also a mausoleum. The center of the wall was filled with the bones of captives and warriors. You could look into the wall and SEE the bones: skulls, femurs, etc….so. freakin. awesome…and a little creepy.

The next day, I went to the Sarcophagi of Karajía and some caves. To get to the sarcophagi, you drive two hours, then hike down another hour. They are these really unique-looking sarcophagi with mummies inside. They are the only sarcophagi crafted in that particular way anywhere in the world, it´s bizarre. Although they belong to the Chachapoyas people, who were all over the region, there are no other sarcophagi like it. They are perched high in a cliff (there used to be more, but they were destroyed by grave-robbers. You can still find the bones from broken sarcophagi in the valley). The ones that are left are the ones which are hardest to get to…which makes one wonder how people got up there in the first place. The climb back up though…reminded me how terrified I am of heights.

The caves though, were even better. Sacred caves used for both fertility rituals and human sacrifices, the hall after the first room was lined with bones. Don´t know why they´re still there, but still really cool and eery to see. The cave system was MASSIVE. Each room was a goot 20-25 meters high and wide, filled with all sorts of incredible natural formations. Of course, it was filled with water and mud, so it was slippery (which comes into play later), so I had a lot of trouble walking. Also, we only came in with six flashlights, and over time two ran out of batteries. So, it was dark and hard to see where you stepped.One of the men on the tour was indigenous, and at the back to the cave before leaving, he insisted on doing a purification offering to the spirits of the cave to prevent any bad spirits coming with us, and to honor the good spirits. This was great thing to witness and take part of, because I hadn´t seen any indigenous rituals before. He piled some different types of herbs and grasses, put us in a circle, then lit them (eventually, it took a while) on fire. Then, he slowly prayed to the spirits of each element (earth, wind, water, etc), each prayer with it´s own movement. Then, he asked people to say their own prayer. At one point, I think he asked me, but I had no idea what was going on, so we kind of all stood there awkwardly until someone else started talking, and then I realized that it was supposed to be me…oops. Then, he asked us to cleanse ourselves with rose oil. After this, the fumes from the fire really got at me. It was basically incense, which I´m kind of allergic to…so I started coughing. I felt really bad about disrupting and not being able to participate as fully, but I couldn´t breath. I hope I didn´t insult him too bad.

Afterwards, we headed out of the cave. This is where the problem started for me, from the mud. Coming down, I slipped and fell. I just laughed, and got back up because it wasn´t bad, and kept going. Unfortunately, two of the lanterns had gone out, and I really could see. Eventually, I slipped again…worse. I made a wrong step, causing my feet to go out from under me, I slammed to the ground and ended up sliding a good 20-25 feet, only stopping because I ended up feet-first in a mud puddle. With all the boulders everywhere, I felt incredibly lucky that I hadn´t hit my head or seriously injured myself (remember, it was 30 mins left to leave the cave, and hour hike back uphill, and 2-3 hour drive to the city. If I´d been hurt, I would´ve been screwed). So, I took the bruises. However, I did need help getting back up, and ended up with one the men helping me out of the cave the rest of the way (I just would´ve kept falling, and he was being nice and chivalrous). Then, we all got a good laugh about just how muddy I was. At least the day was great fun. Then, back to Chachapoyas.

Unfortunately, I didn´t have time to change for my bus, so I ended up muddy for the 10 hour horrendous night bus-ride to Chiclayo, and the 3 hour bus ride to Piura (no break in between). And, I gotta tell you, after sweaty and muddy and in a stinky bus for 13 hours…even the cold shower in Piura felt good. Incredibly sore from the cave, I spent almost the entire day in bed in the hotel because I didn´t want to walk around.

The next day, I caught a bus back to Ecuador. This time, I went through Macará, which is a much more relaxed border crossing. Also, the border stations are right across the bridge from one another, rather than two kilometers from the border like it Tumbes, so it´s a much better border crossing. The only scary moment was when the bus almost left without me. That freaked me out a bit.

Then, off to Loja. Where…I got a cold, and ended up with no energy to do much more than walk around a little. I saw a park and the center, but again I watched a lot of TV. I think my body rebelled against so much constant travelling. Bored of Loja, I took off to Cuenca. Which, I was there for two minutes and remembered why I loved it so much. I´ve already seen all the tourist stuff, so I´m just busy enjoying the city for a few days before heading back to Quito to finish things up before returning to the states Feb. 1. I got to  have lunch with Jim from TESOL, which was nice to catch up.

So, I am enjoying my last jaunt before I have to reintegrate back into the real world.

See everyone soon!

Posted by: adegraffenreid31708 | 16th Jan, 2011

Holidays in Ecuador

Hi all!

Hope everyone had a happy holidays, Christmas, and New Years…I did 🙂

Christmas Eve, met dad at the airport. There´s a restaurant looking area over customs, so I actually got to wave at him as he came in. It was great, except that he didn´t see me at first, so this old lady was laughing at me waving stupidly. But, it was all good. It was great seeing him, because I hadn´t seen any of my family in six months.  So, then we went to the hotel (getting in my opinion, completely screwed over by the taxi in the process, but w/e).

Next day, I took dad on a whirlwind tour of the Colonial Center…and, whooped both our asses. It was Christmas Eve, but LOTS of people were out still shopping (some things don´t change). It was great seeing dad´s reaction to the Colonial Center – that overwhelming look of wonder on one´s face. I´m so used to it by now, I no longer have it. I took dad to the top of the Cultural Center, which has GORGEOUS views of the city from the roof, so we got to take all sorts of pictures. Then, when to the Museo Mariscal Sucre, which is the house museum of the independence leader. It was fun, I got to show off my history knowledge a bit and show dad what the inside of a colonial-style house looks like. He loved it, which is good – cuz I love that style of house. Best Part!! Got new shoes!. No more hole-filled worn out monstosities for me any more. Soooo comfy!. But yeah, dad really enjoyed the center.

Next – whirlwind tour of the Ejido and the Banco Central Museum. As I´ve said earlier, the Museo Banco Central is the best museum in Ecuador, and going there is throughouly impressive. I was so excited to take my dad to see all the pre-colombian ceramics and gold (I was significantly less excited to show him the colonial religious art…but that´s me 🙂 ). From there, we toured the main artisenal market very quickly since we both decided that we were hungry and needed a rest, we´d get back there to shop later.

Then, we visited my apartment and grabbed some lunch. It was so much fun showing him the pirated video stores and watching his face as an airplane dropped in over head (it´s a little shocking the first few times how low they are).

Next day – presents first. Then, I further showed dad several of the 89 churches in the small colonial church center till we both got thoroughly churched out. Dad was surprised that so many people were out on Christmas, even though I was like -” this is the tourist center, of course there are people here. In the city, there won´t be as many”. So, after he declared that he couldn´t possibly see any more churches that day, I took him to the Parque Carolina – which was sooo much better because there were less beggars, more families, and more GREEN. It was also dad´s first Trolley ride – heh. Everyone who´s been here knows what that´s like. So, we walked all around the massive park and went to the botanical garden. It was lovely. So much more fun with dad, because we could run around and take pictures together.

Next day we picked up the car for the more exciting parts of the week. We got a nice car, but we would very quickly regret that it didn´t have four-wheel-drive, since we needed it for the parks.

So, we drove up to Cayambe, trying to get to the Cayambe-Coca reserve and the Hacienda we were going to stay at. Cayambe-Coca effort: disaster. Ended up down this LONG cobblestone road with no road signs to tell as where to go. Then, a fork in the road – cobblestone in both directions. It was killing the car and dad´s patience, so we turned back. But, it wasn´t a whole loss because we ended up watching this Ecuadorian town party/folkloric dance in this little town. Also, I got to watch dad be mesmerized by the Andes. It´s so great travelling with someone who appreciates mountains as much as I do.

Then, we packed it up and went to the Hacienda Guachala, the oldest functioning hacienda in Ecuador, dating from the 1580s. I completely and entirely recommend it. It´s not that expensive, only around $45 a night. I got there and turned into a giddy little history geek. I stole dad´s camera and ran around the place for an hour taking pictures of EVERYTHING – the architecture, the animals, the plants, the room. The place is gorgeous. Each room is set up traditionally, including with its own wood-burning fireplace which we delighted in lighting each night. Also, it has horses, two (non functioning) churches, a restaurant, a game room, a semi-indoor pool room with hammocks, and gardens. The buildings are still original except for some restorations, and it´s a little run down. Around the entire Hacienda are signs talking about the history of the place. In other words – I loved it. It was perfect. Dad and I hiked around it, played pool, and relaxed in hammocks. In a centuries old hacienda. Perfect.

Next day, we tried to get to Cayambe-Coca again from a different route. Long story short: it ended with us stuck by the side of the road, in a ditch, in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Yeah…that worked well. Luckily, some very helpful Ecuadorian farmers had run out of gas in the exact same area. They agreed to get our car wheel out of the ditch and onto the road, if we agreed to let them siphon off gas from our tank. Which…of course we did. It became this big production with their entire male section working to lift our car out of the hole. Then, taking turns sticking a plastic tube into the gas tank and sucking out gas. Even dad got some gas out. It was disgusting, and getting the gas out didn´t work at all. We got maybe a few tablespoons. So, we gave them some money as thanks and went on our way. We were very disappointed about not making it all the way to Cayambe-Coca. Instead, we went to Otavalo and saw CONDORS at the Condor reserve (we failed again at getting to the lagunas…it was very disappointing). But still – CONDORS. The park was actually closed, but the owner let us in anyway. Equally as cool as the condors was that we got to see a fully grown Bald Eagle REALLY close. It made up for our failures in my view.

Leaving the hacienda, we made our way to Papallacta. Papallacta is the best and most famous hot springs in Ecuador. Getting there, however, is on a road taking you over the highest pass in Ecuador and around stunning mountain scenery. We were constantly stopping to take pictures, because the Andes are truly magnificent and impressive. Dad was enthralled, it was great.

Once in Papallacta, we realized that there was ANOTHER entrance to Cayambe-Coca. And apparently not having learned from our mistakes, we decided to go up the incredibly steep dirt road to try once again to visit the national park. Third time was the charm (barely)…but partly because there was absolutely no way to turn around once going up.Again, the scenery was stunning. So, we got up there and decided to take a hike through the tops of the mountains to visit various lakes (at over 3,000 meters high). I was incredibly impressed with dad´s acclimatization. He didn´t have all that many problems that high up, even though he´d only been in Ecuador a few days. So, we went on an incredible hike through the tops of the Andes and saw all sorts of lakes, vegetation, and a few waterfalls. We had also stupidly forgotten to put on sun block and got incredibly burned. Then, we gratefully headed down to soak in the hotsprings. With 25 pools at varying temperatures, it was the perfect way to complete the day…if only we´d left it there.

Then, we took the road down to Cotopaxi. Started well: gorgeous scenery, insane drivers, etc. Then, it started to downpour as soon as it got dark, blinding us. Worse was the Ecuadorian driver – who is, on average, a maniac. Constantly, drivers were flashing high beams or trying to run us off the road. Dad and I nearly went out of our minds. We ended up in a rather nice hostal (after much frustration, danger, and food frenzy on my part) and spent the night.

The next day, it was too cloudy to see Cotopaxi, so we decided to go to the Laguna Quilatoa which is a lake inside the crater of an inactive volcano. You actually walk down into the volcano to get to the lake, it´s amazing. So, we started on the drive, not knowing just how long it would take us. Around two and a half hours later, down the fabulously scenic highway, about the time we decided we´d passed it, we finally saw a sign for Quilatoa. We got up there and looked down from the crater rim to the lake, and it was absolutely stunning. It takes your breath away for a second. We also looked at the dirt trail down into the crater, and decided that it didn´t look so bad/long (ha!!) and started down it. The trail is basically compact sand. At the top, there are lots of incredible rock formations and stuff to hold on to, but it changes as it goes down. Near the top, I asked dad about taking horses or mules back up to the top, as is tradition. His answer: “horses kind of make me nervous, I´m not sure I want to. We can make it back up”. As we got farther and farther down and realized what a monumental task coming back up the steep and deceptively long trail was going to be, we passed a group of people coming up on horseback. Their guide, a little boy, asked us if we wanted horses. Dad´s immediate answer: “Yes.” Ha!!!! The best part of the trail was this segment that was all sand. Instead of walking down, we surfed down. It was great fun. And a little scary because of how steep it was. Eventually, we got to the bottom – but it started to rain. So, we got ourselves a set of mules and came back up. I was so happy we did that, it was so much fun – even if the poor mules were dead tired. Then, we returned and got a much better hotel.

Next day – Cotopaxi. We tried driving into the park ourselves. We were met with an Ecuadorian New Years tradition – that is, children dressing up as various tricksters and demons, and holding up cars on the road. You must pay, or you shall not pass. Unless you´re dad and I, at which point we drive through the attempts to block the road and continue on our merry way. It´s very cute though, they try to guard with toy guns, have masks, and hoot at you. Unfortunately, we came to an un-wade-able river and had to turn back.

But, that worked out for the best because we hired a wonderful one-armed guide with a four-wheel drive truck to take us up. So, we got to climb to the first refuge anyway. Unfortunately, it was so cloudy that dad was never able to see the entirety of Cotopaxi – which, at 5897  meters is the highest active volcano in the world. Anyway, we needed that four-wheel drive. The road in is long and bumpy. As you get higher up, it gets colder. We realized that we were dramatically under-dressed in our sweat shirts and tennis shoes (we ended up not being too cold because of the walking). Completely cool and wild moment – on the drive we got to see a wild condor flying. It´s incredibly rare. Our guide says he sees them maybe once or twice a year, and he goes into the park three to four times a week.

We got to the parking structure (4300 meters), left the car and started climbing to the refuge (4810 meters – which, btw is PRETTY FREEKIN HIGH). We decided to take the zig-zag trail up because it gives you more time to acculturate and it´s easier. Even I was having acculturation issues, because it was the highest I´ve ever been in my entire life. We started by stopping every 5-10 minutes to catch our breath and acculturate. We all started out good. In the Cotopaxi climb, the snow starts almost at the bottom, so you end up walked in several feet of snow for over an hour. Luckily, the snow is mostly compact from so many people walking on it, but if you take a wrong step, you end up sinking about two feet. Guess how many wrong steps I took?? – Yeah, a lot. The biggest fear is the height and slipping. We are incredibly high. You slip and slide – you slide FAR. Possibly, too far. Then, you either have to make your way blindly down over untouched ice and snow. Or, you have to walk back up the cliff. Pity if you slide and fall over a rock ledge – no joke. So, guess what I did? THat´s right – I slipped and fell. I started to slide down (as was my fear), but luckily our magnificent one-armed guide grabbed that pack I was wearing and pulled me back up. Now that´s service. I had taken the pack because poor dad was having trouble. Altitude and no exercise caught up with him, and even though we were walking slowly and carefully, the climb just about killed him. I was personally so proud of both of us, but especially myself – despite the altitude, the snow, and the incline, I was zooming up the volcano like it was no problem. It was awesome. At one point while dad was resting, I walked further ahead just in time to see the clouds part in an absolutely breathtaking, incredible display of Cotopaxi´s snow-covered cliffs, and a fantastic look-out over the other corner of the volcano. I was laughing, it was so magnificent. Unfortunately, by the time dad got there, the clouds had moved in again and he couldn´t see it. But I got pictures. From there, the refuge wasn´t far. Seeing the refuge was such a relief, because poor dad was just about gone. The scariest part of the entire climb was actually the last little bit to the refuge, because it was so steep and so icy. The refuge is basically a ski lodge, and that hot tea was well deserved. We were so greatful for our guide, without whom, we NEVER would have made it up. As it was, it took us over an hour and a half.  So, we rested a while, and then quickly surfed down the sandy down-ward trail in a hail-storm in about 20 minutes, shouting encouragement at the poor fools still climbing up. Then, we took a lovely (an exhausted) ride out of the park and headed back up to Quito for dad´s last day (New Year´s Eve).

After thouroughly getting lost driving into Quito causing dad and i nearly to kill each other (not entirely my fault!! there´s no full map of quito!), we settled into the Hilton for New Years. So comfortable, I never wanted to leave. New Years Eve was WILD. Amazonas, even early in the day, was completely insane. It just slowly built up with people and music all day. But before that, we met up with my friend Ruth to sight-see. We took dad to the gothic Basillica and the gold-lined Campañia (both, fabulous) before heading back to the artisenal market to shop. I must say, Ruth is the best haggler I´ve ever met. I want her with me, always. She got some incredibly low prices.

Best part of the market? Outside were a group of men dressed like Roman Centurions, complete with swords, spears, and shields, blocking cars (and jumping on them) for money ala the kids in Cotopaxi. the incredibly funny part was when a cop car came through with its lights on. THE MEN ATTACKED THE COP CAR. That, takes balls – especially in Ecuador. The cop was either incredibly patient or had an amazing sense of humor, because he kept on driving even when one of the men jumped up, BACK-KICKED the COP CAR while STABBING IT WITH A SPEAR. It. Was. Hilarious.

So, New Years is treated here with like a cross between Halloween and new years. All the new years festivities, plus dressing up in costumes, playing pranks, and burning things. As my friend Kevin says, it seriously seems like Riots, Revolutions, or the Zombie Apocalypse. The next day – complete and absolute disaster area outside. Anyway, dad and I went out on Amazonas to see the concerts and wave through the crowds of people. We were greeted with all sorts of people dressed up as all sorts of crazy things – demons, kiss, vampires, monkeys, soldiers, many many death masks. Also, we got to see several año viejos (human effigies of the old year) being beaten and burned. In the craziness, we got surrounded by a crowd of shouting children, who were distracting us to steal dad´s cigarrettes. Brats. At least they didn´t get any money. To get the idea of the crowd, dad and i ran into a cop brigade (in cars) trying to get down Amazonas about three to four blocks before the end of the mariscal. Walking slowly, we walked to the end of the Mariscal, turned around and came back. It took us about forty minutes when we finally caught up to the line of cop cars again, and they were only about 2/3 down the Mariscal because of all the people. We reached the Hilton before them. That´s slow. Beat, dad and I went back to the hotel to rest until midnight. From our hotel-room window, we saw at least five different fire-works displays going on at the same time. Coming outside at midnight, we got to continue to see fireworks every-where, along with watching all sorts of people burning their año viejos. The Hilton workers came out and burned their own año viejo, dressed in a hilton uniform. It was incredible. I love New Years here…I want to burn effigies. Absolute and complete insanity.

Unfortunately, the next day my dad had to go home. It was sad. I wished I could´ve stayed longer (screw work!!)

I had a great time showing dad around Ecuador, and I think he loved it too.

Posted by: adegraffenreid31708 | 12th Jan, 2011

Peru!…Trujillo and Cajamarca

I arrived in Trujillo aroun 4pm (should{ve been there at noon according to the guide book…yeah). The guide book warned me that decent cheap hostals are incredibly hard to find in Trujillo…and yeah, try impossible. I went to 5 different places before settling on a place for 40 soles. Now, I{m used to bad, somewhat dirty rooms – but I have my limits. Rooms where I{m afraid to use the bathroom or sleep in the bed…not my style. It needs to be cleaned SOMETIME in the last century. The place I got was pretty nice, other than the manager who proceeded to grill me about where my husband was and making all sorts of remarks about a woman{s place in society…then proceded to tell me how beautiful I was. I was like, go screw yourself.

Then, I went to dinner because I{d been on the bus for lunch. Walking around after dinner (it was all of 5pm), I was not only inundated by car horns and whistles, but some idiot followed me around for 3 minutes blaring a religious CD all about how proper Christian women should behave. That{s when I reached the end of my rope…hence, angry facebook status.

But, I did buy a tour for all day the next day to go to all the archaeological stuff that I wanted to see in the same day – 30 soles. So cheap!

The next day, off on the tour with the other Peruvians. It was really an awesome day. First, we went to Huaca de La Luna and Huaca del Sol. You can{t actually go up to Huaca del Sol because of ongoing excavations, but we got to see AMAZING panoramic views of the pyramid. Besides, Huaca la Lunca was so much better because you actually go inside it. ALso, the excavations are ongoing, so each year tourists can view more and more of the site. The site is actually five pyramids built on top of each other over hundreds of years, so as you go in, you actually get to see several layers of the pyramid. You can only see layers 3, 4, and 5 because to excavate further with the current technology runs the risk of completely destroying the top three layers which archaeologists aren{t currently willing to do.

The pyramid is incredible. You walk in, and immediately see friezes, still perfectly in tact and brightly colored as they were when first painted because they have been preserved by the younger layers of the pyramid (the 5th layer has been mostly destroyed by rain. Now, the pyramid itself is semi-protected from the elements as best as possible.). These friezes are HUGE and incredibly detailed. Also, you get to see the tool marks on the adobe bricks made by the workers who built the pyramids. Furthermore, you get to walk through and see individual rooms of the pyramid. However, the best part is walking to the front of the pyramid.

Walking around to the front of La Luna, I again was shocked to silence by the incredible site in front of me. The outside friezes of the pyramid were intact, and MASSIVE. They covered the entire outside wall of the pyramid, and the ramp leading up to the enterance. There were various frieze patterns representing different things, each in a row on top of one another. Each frieze was a goot 7-8 feet tall, and the entire wall was over 20 meters tall. It was truly incredible, and absolutely made Trujillo worth it.

That afternoon, we went to another Huaca, not as well preserved, but still with various visible friezes. Then, we went to one of the palaces of Chan Chan. Now Chan Chan needs imagination, because it{s almost been completely melted away, but this palace is the best preserved. Now, Chan Chan is an expansive city of adobe, the largest adobe city in the world, and we went to ONE of its palaces. To give you a hint of the scope of chan chan, we spent over an hour walking through the one palace, and saw only about a THIRD of it. Also, when driving on the road going through chan chan, it takes about 10 minutes to drive through the middle, and that{s just what is left of the city. It. Is. Huge.

Even decaying, the palace was impressive. It is easy to imagine how it used to be a five story building standing over 15 meters high. There are several plazas in the palace, each incredibly huge, meant to hold thousands of people for religious services. Walking through the palace is like walking through a labrynth, without a guide I would have been completely lost. The palace includes several plazas, burial chambers, expansive trade chambers, and its own beautiful lake to provide ceremonial water to the inhabitants, not to mention much more. It was so freaking cool.

After that, I decided to move on to the sierra the next day, I{d basically seen what I wanted to see, and the treatment I{d been receiving from citizens along the coast was sending me to the end of my rope, and I was nearly prepared to just pack up and go back to Ecuador where people aren{t so predatory ALL THE TIME.

Next morning, hoped on a bus to Cajamarca, going right back to the mountains I vastly prefer. Again, the bus ride was over an hour longer than the book said, but I suspected that. Best part though was right across the street was a bus company going to Chachapoyas, the next place I wanted to go. The guide book said there were no buses there, and I would have to go eight-ten hours to chiclayo, then 12-14 hours back to Chachapoyas to get there and I was considering skipping it, but there were tickets going there directly. So, I settled for the 11-12 hour bus ride (during the day) to get there. The book says the ride{s supposed to be stunning, hopefully It is and will keep me occupied, or 11 hours on a bus may drive me completely out of my mind.

Then, got a hotel and a tour the next day to Cumbe Mayo.

So, I as I went off to my tour of Cumbe Mayo (an amazing rock forrest and over 1,000 year-old aquaduct system with petroglyphs and religious caves), I went into my purse to get my camera to take a panoramic picture of the city and realized that I had left my camera in my hostal room. I feel like SUCH an idiot. I went somewhere INCREDIBLE – and have no pictures to show people how awe-inspiring it is. I´m still pissed at myself.

So, anyway, got there and we were surrounded on all sides by the Cumbe Mayo, which are these incredible rock-faces that just come-out of the fields and stand over 20-30 meters in the air. They´re incredible. Then, we walked to the Sanctuary of Cumbe Mayo (the poor people from the coast on vacation were suffering horribly from the altitude). It´s really cool because there is a cave that is completely filled with all sorts of petroglyphs representing all sorts of mysterious things. They believe that they are to worrship the god of water. There is then a path THROUGH the stone sanctuary used for myseterious religious services. The path itself was a little trecherous. You start by climbing up steep rocks and into the cave through a rock-path that is only about a foot or so wide, and that is as tall as the rest of the rockface. So, not only do you have to watch your step while climbing up steep and slippery rocks, but you have to do it sideways and squeezing. Then, as you enter the rock-sanctuary, you are plunged into complete darkness. No head-lamps, no nothing – they take you on the path the same way their ancestors did – in the dark. Of course, you´re still climbing and walking through an incredibly confined space, now with no way to see in front of you. It was an awesome experience – but the poor little girl several people in front of me got so scared she started crying.

Coming through, you are immersed in light, and come out into an absolutely stunning view of the Peruvian countryside, littered with these incredible rock forests. Unfortunately, the worst part of the tour is that you see how the local farmers exploit their children. All the children position themselves in various parts of the two-hour long trail to beg for money. Additionally, the parents have the children pose for pictures with various animals, traditional clothing, and farm equipment to charge people to take photographs. It´s just very sad that the locals have to use their children to try and get a few extra soles from tourists.

The rest of the tour is stunning, you get to walk through the rock-forests, climb the enormous boulders, and see the incredible archaeological feat that is ancient aquaducts, using perfect 45% and 90% angles, even within the rocks themselves. Also, there are an incredible number of petroglyphs all over the park, some remarkably preserved.

So pissed about the camera.

So, I spent the rest of the day walking around the city, which I really like. It´s the first city in Peru so far where I´ve actually really liked the city and not just the archaeology. Also, the people are so much different than on the coast – more polite, nicer, less predatory. I went a full 30 minutes in Cajamarca without being hissed or honked at. It´s been an incredible relief – i´m feeling much less like killing someone now that I´m here.

One cool thing, though, I went to the Ransom House, which is the only Incan building left in Cajamarca. It is the building where the Incan Emperor Athaualpa was held hostage while his people put together the infamous ransom for Francisco Pizarro. Also, I walked in the city´s main square, which is where the Emperor was burned alive at the stake by Pizarro´s men.

Today, I{m just relaxing and sight-seeing in the city. I didn{t want to go on another tour today, and am kind of worn down from all the travelling. Also, I feel far more comfortable in this city, still hissing and declarations and such, but it{s far less bad than along the coast. So, I{m not feeling the need to immediately escape the city. So, I{m just going to enjoy it here till tomorrow morning.

11 hours. On a bus. Im kind of dreading it already….I may just lose my mind.

Hope you{re all well!

So, advice on Peru.

1) It´s far more expensive than Ecuador, plan accordingly.

2) Patience with the buses. They´re nice, really nice with VAST amounts of leg room in comparison to Ecuadorian long-distance buses. But, times in the guide book should be elongated for about 1-2 hours, don´t be surprised.

3) Bathrooms – this is important. In Ecuador, typically you always have toilet paper (or, they sell it to you. Also, except along the southern coast.) and the toilet flushes. Don´t expect that in Peru. At all. The typical toilet has no paper or anything available, ALWAYS bring tissues with you. Also, the toilet most likely will not flush. There is either a bucket of water sitting outside for you to pour in to flush manually, or the attendants hand you a bucket of water to use. You´ve been warned.

4) Machismo. Ladies, it is so much worse in Peru than in Ecuador. It´s incredibly awful. Although, I´ve been told that it´s the worst along the northern coast, so I may have a skewed perspective. But, after a few days I was about ready to either abandon ship and head back to Ecuador or cut out the next sexist asshole´s toungue. Be prepared. The sierra is shapping up must better, though.

5) Taxis, et all. The vast majority of people seem to work for the sole purpose of getting a commission somewhere. Keep that in mind at all times.Don´t trust them. Have a hotel in mind when you get it in. As in the rest of Latin America, ask a price BEFORE getting in. Also, be prepared for ENDLESS numbers of taxis honking at you. They seem to think that just because you are walking down the street, you need a taxi (even if you´re walking in the opposite direction of traffic). It gets pretty bad, I had about 20 or so taxis honking at me every minute for days. Tour agencies are the same way. It can send you to your wits end. The number of people trying to get something from you is ENDLESS.

But, the sites are stunning.

6) Mototaxis. These are fabulous, they{re so much fun. Basically, a motorcycle attached to a little pull-along covered seat in the back. They{re cheap, friendly, and you get to ride along amused while bouncing around in the back seat. It{s great.

Posted by: adegraffenreid31708 | 7th Jan, 2011

Peru!: Border Crossing and Chiclayo

Guayaquil was interesting. I took my first night bus…which I was terrified of (too many horror stories). But..8 hours in bus should be done when trying to sleep, else thirst and pee becomes an issue.

So, standing at the bus station at 9:30pm, when two men walk up and i ask myself “why the hell are two men riding to Guayaquil dressed like Jedis??”.

Turns out…two monks, ala Friar Tuck. Complete with brown robes, wood crosses, barefoot, and hair shaved into a halo. They{d just walked up in a warmer cloak, hood pulled over their head, head bowed, hands clasped infront so that you couldn{t see them under the sleeves. No joke – Jedi. I did not think monks still dressed like that. It was so hard not to stare. Even better – they sat right next to me. Even better, both in front and behind me were families with young children. Talk about a nice cusion of security. There was NO ONE going to disturb me with two monks and a bunch of moms and kids, ha! So…not so bad my night trip. Didn{t sleep much, but still.

Arrived 5:30 am. WHich, considering Guayaquil is the most dangerous city in Ecuador and it was still dark out, I found myself a nice seat in the deluxe bus station (more of an airport and mall) until 7:30 when it was safer to be running around. Unfortunately, I didn{t do much that day between the exhaustion and the pain of the blisters on my feet. To top my day off, my desert at the end of the day was moldy. I was so pissed.

Next day, I managed the Malecon 2000 (massive boardwalk), Barrio las Piñas, and the Cementary. Las Piñas is a really cool place. It{s a historical neighborhood, on top of which is the fort from which Guayaquil used to defend itself from Pirates. The barrio goes along up a 444 flight of stairs – which is not easy with blisters, heat, humidity, and a scorching sun, i must say. All along are these beautiful antique buildings, and at the top is the reconstructed fort, with cannons and a light house (didn{t go up it. Took one look at the 70 more steps and was like…yeah, no).

Then, cemetary. The guard didn{t want to let me in. He made me promise not to take any pictures, and then collected my censo just to make sure. Unfortunately, all the really cool stuff was inside. It{s basically like the cemetary in Montmartre or New Orleans…only, very ecuadorian. The coolest was the Mauseleum/Shrine to Elloy Alfaro. True to my word, I took no pictures while inside the cemetary. So, of course the moment I was outside the gate and had my censo back, I took many (which turned out pretty well). So, tired, sore, I went back to my hostal for the evening.

Thus begins my Whirlwind Peruvian adventure…

Decided to take the easy, secure way into Peru  – by taking a CIFA bus straight through from Guayaquil to Tumbes, Peru and stops at both border checkpoints (which are several kilometers from the border). No fus, no taxis, no one trying to cheat me.  Only problem? 7 hours in a bus. During the day. No food. No water. No AC. No bathrooms. 85 Degrees…and humid. Basically, awful. They didn´t even put on a silly dubbed movie! I seriously thought I was going to cook inside that oven. Also, there´s not much to look at – Guayaquil to the frontera is basically ALL bannana haciendas, it´s very repetitive.

But, I survived. Border was relatively easy, just a stamp and along your way. The only real hassle (doing it the CIFA way), is all the people trying to get you to buy tours or illegally exchange money. Which, I ignored. THe border itself is rather anticlimatic – it´s a tiny little bridge over a dry, concrete water. On both sides, city. The only reason you know you´ve stepped into a different country is the sign saying “welcome to peru”.

So, on to Tumbes. Stepping off the bus in Tumbes, you are immediately overcome by everyone and their uncle trying to sell you something, be it a taxi ride, tour, etc. I immediately had a taxi driver come up to offer me a ride to another bus to Chiclayo (where I wanted to go). I was like “Sorry dude, don´t do commission scams, cya later, i´ll walk.” He was all “but it´s so dangerous!!!!!” This woman who was sitting next to me nearly fell for the whole “it´s so dangerous” bit, but I was like “Listen, he works for a commission. He´s cornering and scamming you. Look at the street, it´s not all that dangerous. Trust me, walk down a block and find an honest cab driver”. So, we did. I actually rode in one of these cool little motor-taxis, with a cab in the back. So much fun.

So, found a bus leaving for Chiclayo (wanted to get all 15 hours of bus travel over with in a single 24hr period, instead of spending two days of daylight in a bus), leaving at 8:30. THen, I proceded to eat my only meal for the next 25 hours (not that I knew…it was so gross). And, got on my night bus. More of the same – hot, sweaty, no movie. Also, this witch in front of me kept leaning back so far she was practically breaking my legs. Also, we got borded by customs police FOUR TIMES in the eight hour bus ride. FOUR TIMES. At least this time, there were no guns involved, but still…little ridiculous. Unfortunately, we arrived in Chiclayo at 4:30 AM, which meant I was at the mercy of sceaming cab drivers )at least I knew it). He kept trying to drive me places that were 100soles or so, and i was like “20 soles! 20 soles!”. He was like, “no hay! No hay! Solo a lo menos 50soles!.” I was like, BS, i know there are places cheaper, I was so pissed off at hischeating ass. Eventually, i walked out of the cab, and was like, saw a place back there. Then, I walked away with him screaming at me about how dangerous it was (which…yeah. But after 20 mins of his crap, I´d had enough. I wont knowingly be led along. Besides, there was absolutely NO ONE on the street, and would I really be backpacking through Ecuador and Peru ALONE if I weren{t a little nuts?). I had to settle for 35soles, which..yeah. But, i needed sleep and i wasn´t about to go wandering around alone in Peru at 5am..not that stupid.

Next morning, woke up, showered (HOT WATER!!), and went to see if 1) there was a tour to a ruin because getting to an out of the way ruin alone is frightening; and 2) find a new hotel. Found the tour office first. They{re all “oh, yeah! Tour of the day leaving in 15 minutes to the Pyramids of Sipan, the Temple Museum, and the Brunning Museum! Gets back at 6! 40 soles only for all day!” Which, although I only wanted to go to the first two, 40 soles for a full-day tour is not so bad, and it was with a group in spanish. So, left my bags in the tour office (a respectible one, found in the guide-book. My stuff was fin), changed some money, skipped breakfast, and was driven out to meet the rest of the group.

It ended up being this large group of Hispanics – all Argentinean, Peruvian, and Bolivian. Which was great. They were so funny amongst themselves, and many took me under because they were so fascinated by my cajones at travelling alone through Peru. I laughed so much with them. At first though, I was in a car with only three other Peruvians, two women and a little girl – with some of the most irritating voices I have ever heard in my life (this may be added to the fact that I hadn{t eaten in almost 15 hours…). I was about ready to strangle them.

Well, we started out in the site museum (entrances were extra) of Sipan (a major Pyramid structure in Peru – think Indiana Jones levels of awesomeness. Tomb robbers, amazing unexpected discoveries, an entire economy dependent on tourism, continuing excavations…). Whereby, in the museum, some silly child dropped her hat down into an exhibit a meter and a half down. At which point, idiot parent decides not to take the reasonable options of telling the tour guide or telling a museum employee, but instead decides to climb down into the exhibit to get said hat. Predictably, this ended badly – with about $250 soles worth of damaged glass and exhibit. Idiot.

Then…PYRAMIDS. These are some of the richest tombs ever found in Peru. We got to look down into the old excavations and the current excavations. Unfortunately, we only got to see the smaller pyramid. The two bigger pyramids are currently under excavation and can{t be walked on. A really cool thing about these pyramids, is that they{re adobe. With thousands of years of changing climate, the pyramids have deteriorated and now look like mountains. Unless you know that they{re Huacas (pyramids), or look exceptionally closely to see the remaining adobe bricks, they look just like the enormous rock formations in the south-west. Which, incidently, is why the tombs are relatively undisturbed, because the Spaniards walked right by them not realizing the treasure trove right next to them. Cool, huh?

So, then we went to lunch – which was at a restaurant far too expensive for me to eat at (each plate was 30 soles…about 15-20 bucks…not gunna happen), so skipped lunch and ate a handful of the popcorn (served like bread). Then, the museum of all the grave goods discovered in the Sipan. AMAZING. OMG, it is impossible to describe how enormous and incredibly intricate the goods were. It was astounding. If only cameras were allowed inside – i mean, really. It was incredible.

However, by the time we finished, the Brunning museum was no longer admitting people. Which worked out for me because the others decided instead to visit the larger pyramid complex at Tucume. Which was the other archaeological site in Chiclayo I wanted to see. So, I got everything I wanted to see over with in a single day…nice. Unfortunately, it closed as we got there, but they let us sneak around to the back (we couldnt{ see the museum). My van decided to see the inside of one tomb, which the other van got to walk around the outside of the other pyramids. I thought seeing the inside was better (I could take pictures of the outside from far away). The inside was stunning. There were incredible carved-out, thousand year old reliefs made out of adobe that still survived. And they were so intact that you could still see the story that they were trying to tell. I was soooo happy. Then, we got in the van, and told more jokes in Spanish all the way back to Chiclayo. It was great.

On a cool personal note – there{s adds EVERYWHERE for Keiko Fuerte 2011….so cool to see history I{ve studied impacting the present (Keiko{s father is Alberto Fujimori, President and Dictator of Peru from 1990-2000, currently in prison for either war crimes or tax evasion…can{t remember. Still…cool).

So, tomorrow I{m off early to Trujillo. I may still get to see Lima, since I{ve saved so much time so far :).

Till next time! Yes, I will write about holidays with dad…eventually. This was just on my mind first 🙂

Posted by: adegraffenreid31708 | 15th Dec, 2010

Vacations in Equador: Monkeys and Machine Guns

So, the rest of my vacation: Pretty great.

I decided I didn’t like Tena or Misahualli, and moved on to Puyo. Misahualli I was in for about….20 minutes. I stepped off the bus, and immediately was hounded by men from 10 different tour companies wanting business, and a good 20 or so different men started catcalling me. I was like….um…no. And went back to Tena on the net bus.

Puyo was great, though. There was soooo much to do, but most of it was well outside of town, so I didn’t do most of it. The nice thing about Puyo is that they have this Pedestrian Walkway by the river where they’ve allowed the natural Amazonian fauna to grown back, allowing tourists to see a beautiful view of the river. It’s all done up and touristy, but does give a little bitty taste of the Amazon. It’s great, because you get to walk over these ricketty old bridges, etc. But the best part of the path is that it goes to an ethno-botanical park called Omare which is run by an American biologist and his Shuar wife. They are absolutely wonderful people who lead people on tours through the park, explaining aspects of Shuar, Huarani, Kichua, and other indigenous cultures. They built the park themselves, and in the last 16 years have turned what was cow pastures back into its native rain forest. So, as they lead you through the park, they point out various  medicinal and ceremonial plants and explain exactly how the indigenous tribe used them. It was amazing learning about the various native jungle cultures of Ecuador. My guide even explained to me the basis behind the Shuar shrunken heads. Fascinating. Absolutely worth it.

The best part of Puyo was the monkeys. I went to a monkey rescue place where you could hang out, and play with the monkeys….WAYYYYYYYY back on a dirt road outside Puyo. In fact, you couldn’t help but play with the monkeys…the second that they saw you, they were climbing your leg to sit on your head. At first: terrifying and amusing. Then: so much fun. The only problem is when they don’t want to let go  – they pull hair….hard. THe funniest part was that it was almost eactly like being back teaching kindergarten. I mean, you had whiny, needy children climbing all over you, begging for attention, and WANTING TO PLAYYYYYYYY. I walked out of there like I walked out of my job every day: tired, dirty, and with my hair all messed up. Some of the monkeys were so sweet. Many of them had disabilities that prevented them from ever being released – such as two monkeys who were born with no bones in their forearms. But the monkeys ADORED us all. Even better, the reserve backed up on the Amaon forest, so I actually got to walk in it with two other tourists. The funniest bit was, this other female tourist had a monkey on her head that wouldn’t get off. So, she hiked the entire trail, with a monkey on her head looking every bit the wide-eyed little child discovering a new world. It was fabulous. I even made new friends with a vacationing Ecuadorian couple, who may invite dad and I to watch the burning of the old year with them. 🙂

Then…banos. Now, I know that the Volcano is erupting – but it had been erupting for a week, the threat was gone,..so I went anyway. And, I got to watch the volcano erupting at night from the overlook in a Chiva – sooooooooo much fun. They even gave us canelasso…and this time I was prepared. The first time I’d tried that particular drink, I was in Quito and bought it because it was a traditional drink that smelled like apple cider. I knew I was in trouble when the woman asked if I wanted it strong or weak. So, she made it half water, half canelasso. I tasted it and was like….”OMFG. THIS is WEAK??!!”. I think the weak one was still about 2/3 alcohol…oh my god. So, this time…didn’t get it with alcohol..it was tasty.

Then, I went off to Ambato, a Sierra town 2.5 hours south of Quito. It’s smaller and nice. My favorite part was the Quintas…old country estates on the edge of town. A single enterance fee covers two Quintas and their gardens. Remember the movie the Secret Garden?? Think that – only Bigger and tropical. It. Was. Fabulous. I spent hours getting lost touring the gardens and the houses. It seemed like the paths for the gardens never ended. And the homes themselves were GORGEOUS. I was like – why can’t I live here????!!! Just, stunning.

I also met some interesting people. I must say, the absolute best come-ons I’ve heard in Ecuador were from this man I met in Ambato. To strike up a conversation with me, he honestly said (in Spanish): “You are a Gift to Ecuador!! Ecuador SHINES with you in it!!!.” I laughed. It was so ridiculously funny, I had to. But then I talked to him. Hey – he was nice, and polite – and complemented my rather than hissed at me. He deserved it (even if I did refuse to give him my phone number). He even asked my permission to sit next to me on the park bench. Then, when I told him I was leaving Ecuador in February, he was stricked and like “The soul of Ecuador will suffer because you are no longer with us!!” Hahahahah.  So. Freaking. Funny.

And, I got to have traditional LLapingachos in the central market…yum. They’re potato and cheese pancakes served with an egg and avocado. Also there…fresh juice. I mean, seriously fresh juice. The women are surrounded by fruit from local farms, which they use to make jugs of juice with fresh water. When you order a juice, they use a ladle to pour the juice into huge beer cups. It is delicious…a wonderful and cheap lunch or breakfast.

Then, I headed back to Quito. Now, this is the most terrifying part of my trip, if you’ve read my facebook status.

So, we were about 30 minutes south of Quito on the Panamericana, on the bus heading to Quito when we saw a platoon of 20-30ish soldiers and police blocking the road. THey pulled over every bus and car, including ours, and most of them were holding automatic weapons. When our bus stopped, one of the gun-totting soldiers got on the bus and said something along the lines of “Everyone get off the bus. Have your ID cards ready. Bring your bags. Now.” So, when machine-gun-totting soldiers tell you to do something, you do it – immediately. So, we all got off the bus, where we saw the other bus passengers being searched. THe soldiers instructed the women to go to one side, the men to go to the other.  Then, they lined the men up, with their hands against the bus, where they hand-searched their bangs, and patted them down. They also searched the bus. In the mean time, us women were all being guarded by soldiers with machine-guns…pointed at us. Then, they turned to us. The female police officer checked our IDs, searched our bags, and patted us down. As each woman was searched, she was then allowed back on the bus. During this time, the machine-gun guys had moved on to guarding the buses lined up behind ours. The men were kept guarded, standing along side the bus. Then, they were allowed to board the bus, and we went on our way. I don’t know why it happened, I was concerned in the moment that the military and police had decided to strike and take over the roads….again. But, they hadn’t. The nearest we can figure was that it was a random drug/weapons/security inspection that happens every once and a while. Whatever the reason, having your bus boarded and searched by the military, and being held by men with guns was frightening. And not something that I want to repeat. But, hey to new experiences.

So, not quite the way I wanted to end my overall wonderful vacation. But, I’m safe, I had fun, and I have plenty of stories to tell.

Till next time…

Posted by: adegraffenreid31708 | 7th Dec, 2010

Caverns of Jumandy

Day 1:

Made a fantastic journey – first, to the little town of Antidona (which I didn{t see much of), andthen to the magnificent caverns of Jumandy.

First – the bus ride. I ment a charming old man (it seems just about everyone I meet is a charming old man…but they{re so nice, seem to be just tickled pink that I speak Spanish, and have lots of useful information.) So, after chatting a while, he kindly directed me to where the next bus left that would take me to the caverns.

Now, entering the cavern complex, it looks just like any over-touristed pool complex, with pools and waterslides all powered by the cavern water. But hidden away, there are 12,000 year old petroglyphs. And, a little farther than that, the caves. So, I went to the cave enterance, and there was sitting there this kindly indigeonous guide who was absolutely proud to talk about the “caves of his ancestors”, and perfectly willing to take me in – for five bucks (totally, absolutely, and COMPLETELY worth it, btw).

Now, he warned me that I would get COMPLETELY wet. I was like, fine – clothes dry. He did take pitty on me and allow me to borrow a pair of boots. Now, I heard  completely wet…the meaning of which didn{t really sink in…

The enterance of the caverns – awesome. Unlike caves I{ve been to in the states, this was real freaking caving. Not the wimpy kind with indoor lights and passages. No, we{re talking boots, and mud, and water, and head lamps. Even with the head lamps, you couldn{t really see that far in front of you – maybe two feet. Anyway, the enterance was not at all man-altered. It was jungle, then cave. Inside the cave, there was water and the river running everywhere – even at the beginning. So, you could be in three inches of water, then a foot. Super. Freaking. Cool.

The real surprise came about five minutes inside the cave. Why? My guide (who was absolutely patient and fabulous, btw – really pleased that I spoke Spanish, since he only spoke Spanish and Kichwa) looked at me and said, “give my your purse, so it doesn{t get wet in the Lagoon.” I was like “huh???”. Then, he lifted our bags over his head, grabbed a rope, and DOVE INTO THE LAGOON. Now, I hadn{t actually seen the lagoon because it was so dark before he did this. This lagoon was massive – half a swimming pool long. At the other end, this really awesome waterfall you had to climb up. So, seeing not other way, I dove in after him – fully clothed. It. Was. Great. Terrifying, but great. I mean this cave, it{s the largest cave system in the area, if not in Ecuador. It{s just FULL of bats, and really awesome-looking cave spiders, and stalagtites, and stuff.

So, after the cave, we kept on walking. He was kind enough to take pictures of me that I{ll put up when I have time and am back in Quito. We climbed up, out of the water, to a section of cave leading to an indigenous temple. During the conquest, the natives lived in the temple for 50 years, barricading themselves behind traps. Some, of which, still exist, and can be seen in the cave.

The temple itself was a long passage filled with floor-to-ceiling stalagtites/stalagmites which had joined in the middle. It was absolutely magestic. Then, we continued on to see more waterfalls and lagoons.

Then, sadly, but amazingly – the end. The end of the cave system was a steep climb up wet rocks which slowly led to the light, right up into the jungle. I had to just stop and STARE at it. It was absolutely beautiful to see the fauna slowly drift into the caves. Coming out of the caves, was just walking out into the light. It. Was. Stunning. Then it was a short walk through the selva back to the enterance. I am so glad that I did it, even if I{m now absolutely soaked and caked in mud from head to toe. Hey, beind dirty is a sign of a good day, a good job, or a good story.

Next, I am off to a wildlife sanctuary called, no joke, The Island. Jokes now, please.

So yeah, I am coming back completely broke, but happy.

I{ll update with pictures later.

Oh, yesterday, I forgot to talk about the waterfalls. OMG, you have never seen so many waterfalls in one place. there was a sign on the bus ride from quito calling the province “the route of the water”. They weren{t joking. I counted a good 50 waterfalls on the route to Tena. Big ones, small ones, trickles, magestic streams, right next to the road, barely visible in the mountains. It was incredible. I love being in a country with such abundant beauty. Not that the states doesn{t have some of the most magestic views I{ve ever seen…you just generally have to work a lot harder to see them. 😉

So, yeah, moved hotels. This one, the door locks and the light turns on. Massive improvement.

Now, off to try and air dry.

Posted by: adegraffenreid31708 | 6th Dec, 2010

Fiestas de Quito and Bull Fights

Two posts in a week, I know…but this all merrited a post.

So, I am enjoying my dose of freedom.

Fiestas de Quito has been around! Which means…lots of dancing chivas. I didn´t part take as much as I´d like, but everything was either too difficult to get to by bus, or too late at night for me to get safely home.

But, I went to the parades…that was fun. WHOLE lot of people dancing about in traditional costumes, men on stilts, bands, etc. I lasted two hours, yes TWO HOURS. Then, I´d had enough…yet, the parade was going strong. It was amazing….I have NO idea how long it lasted for…but now, I´m done. I´ll post pics when I´m back in town.

Better-BULL FIGHT. Yes, I went and saw a bull fight…six of them, actually. Had to do it once. Having seen it, gotta say…not my thing. I always liked up until they actually killed the bull. But then it was just disturbing…seeing the bull slowly die, blood spilling out of it, its throat being slit, being dragged off by horses leaving a trail of blood behind it….really gross. But watching the matadors and the others go at it was really cool. This one guy, who won, got close enough several times to kiss its head or even just stare it down. He would just rest the sword on the bull´s head, and then turn his back and walk away. It was neat. This other guy was fighting it out ohn a horse. It was awesome, cause he and the horse were doing all sorts of cool tricks, like taunting the bull, and flipping back wards and stuff. Although, there was one terrifying minute where the bull gored the horse, causing the matador to fall off. The third guy—not so good. The bull caused his sword to go flying through the air twice – cool to look at, but not guy. One of the bulls even got close to boaring his way out of the ring, causing people to flee. It was lots of fun…save the killing.

So, now I´m on vacation in Tena. Here, with my light-weight long sleeved shirts…the liars. All sorts of people told me ALL about the mosquitoes, and how chilly it can get in the highland oriente, so I must bring lightweight-longsleeved shirts. Yeah…not a mosquito in sight, and it is swealtering. Oh, well. At least, technically, I´m in the Amazon..heheh….even though I haven´t seen much forrest here.

What makes it worth it though was the drive. Oh. My. God. What a drive. There were times, we´d turn a corner and I would be immediately placed into absolute shock and awe so much that tears came in to my eyes and I just laughed at the wonder of it all. It is astounding, and impossible to describe the magnificent wonder of seeing a seemingly unlimmited, beautiful expanse of pristine untouched GREEN. Just, mountains, valleys, farther than the eye could see of completely untouched jungle. It was…..I am still in awe of the meer memory. I tried, I did, to take pictures in an attempt to capture it. I got…three, but not so good. The bus, of course, was hurtling down the mountain road faster than superman could probably fly, sending me and my stuff in every single direction. Literally, every time we hit some thing I launched six inches into the air…not. joking. It was fun. 🙂 But, between holding my stuff, trying to stay upright and in a seet, and trying not to hit my head, taking a picture was…borderline impossible.

So, now I´m in Tena. Staying at the only hotel less than $10/night with rooms. Now, my light doesn´t work, and I can´t exactly figure out how to lock the door from the outside yet – only from the inside. But, it has a fan and a tv and a nice bed…so, tomorrow is another, adventure-filled day.

can´t wait.

Posted by: adegraffenreid31708 | 2nd Dec, 2010

Freedom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

…not, you know, to overstate things.

Sorry, I know I’ve been neglectful, but the only thing that’s been going on has been work. And there was no way I was going to use this as a public bitch-out session while I was still working there.

But, good news…I quit. Took me long enough. I’m sorry, but I work environment like that, where the stress caused paralysis in two people, put at least two others in the hospital with gastritis, caused another to get an ulcer, and made me physically ill to my stomach for two months was just not for me. And really, the admin should take not: when 10 people quit within 3 months, and four more have turned in their letters…..THERE”S A PROBLEM!!!!!

I still feel like censoring myself about my problems with the job, so I won’t get too in detail. But, I grew tired of the administration constantly lying to us, turning colleagues against each other for their own ends, and ignoring our pleas for assistance, better communication, and change. Not to mention the absolute hypocrisy of their fundamentalist Christian beliefs. I mean, really  – when I turned in my letter to the Director, this is what she said to me, “Well, we’re just going to tell the parents that you’re leaving because your mother is sick (lie). And, that’s what you should tell them too, to protect your integrity and the integrity of your students,”….then, she gave me a bible. Seriously. I was so…shocked. But, with everything, I should have expected it.

Then, after I’m done, they tell me I have nothing left I need to do for them, they call me back – when I no longer work for them all “Oh! You forgot to do this, this, and this.” I’m like, “No, because you specifically told me I didn’t need to do any of that. Several times. I even asked if you were sure.” Making me go the 45 min bus ride out there to work for 10 minutes, then 45 minutes back. I’m not even going to answer their calls anymore.

Although, my poor kids. When I introduced the new teacher, saying that she was going to teach them, they were like, “But, teacher Alexy. YOU’RE our teacher.” I melted, it was so sad. Then, the kids were very clingy to me for the rest of the time I was their teacher. Although, it was a little sad to leave the kids (cause they’re wonderful), I still danced my way out of there. Heh. My colleague jokingly asked me “Oh, do you need a tissue?? You sure??” And I was like…haha…no.

So, enough of that. I’ll tell the rest of the horrendous details of my job in person, because a public forum is not really the place.

So, in other news. I am free – until I return to the US on February 1st. That means….travelling!!!! First stop – the orient, aka the Amazon, baby. It’s going to be freaking awesome.

But before then, it’s Fiestas de Quito. So, until December 6th, it is a party in Quito. So, Saturday – parades. Sunday, Bull Fighting. It’s gonna be great.

The Bull Fights go on all week, so around the Plaza de Toros is INSANE. Cops, horses, drunk people, some protesters. Constantly busy.  I’ve never been to a bull fight before, so I am really looking forward to it…even though I don’t know if I’ll like it. It’s a whole group of us going :). I have gotten some slack about going from my former colleagues…animal rights stuff. I was like, “leave me alone! Never been!! Gotta go once!!

OOOO…tried Cuy today. There’s a traditional food festival going on for the Fiestas de Quito. I was walking through it and saw Cuys roasting. Usually, cuy is really expensive: 15 to 20 bucks for a plate. But, here, it was a little bit of cuy with chochos, papas, and salad for $5 – so I just HAD to try it. Although, from where I was sitting, I could see the roasting cuy facing me, their little teeth mocking me. So, I tried it. Don’t think I will again though, not because I thought it was gross…just because, I didn’t really like it all that much. But hey, soooo worth the experience.

So, last weekend was interesting. Last sunday, no one was permitted to leave their homes from 7am to 5pm for the national census. The only thing that kept me sane (because, it was a nice, sunny day for only the 2nd time in TWO WEEKS), was that I was helping grade my colleagure’s WWI history tests. OMG was it depressing. As I was grading these papers, I could feel myself crushing the souls of the little students with how bad they were. We’re talking like, 10 students out of 80 getting above a 70%. The problem is, suddenly, history this year is taught in English at ISM. But, the students do not actually speak English at a level where they can take science, computer, or history in English. So, they don’t understand…and fail…miserably.

Although, some things amused me:

Question: What were some of the teachnological advancements leading up to WWI?

Student Answer: Fire…………….FTW!!

Student ANswer: Bigger weapons, Better weapons, Badder weapons

Sorry, the entry will be longer and better – once I have interesting travel stories 🙂

Posted by: adegraffenreid31708 | 3rd Nov, 2010

Work and Mindo

Hi all,

So, work is…work. I am SOOO not a kindergarten teacher on sooo very many levels. I need adults. Which is not to say that I don’t like the kids – they’re wonderful. They’re so cute, even when they’re trying to pull things on me.

So, stories from the playground:

The two most constant complaints: “teacher Aley, _____ doesn’t want to be my friend.” Me: “Then find someone better to play with.”

“teacher Aley, ____ is looking at me.” Me: “then turn around and face the board. Then she won’t be looking at you and you’ll be paying attention.”

“Teacher, I love you.” “Sweethart, I love you too, even more. Eat your lunch/do your work/sit.”

One of my kids: “Homework, again. Aww….I don’t like homework. I am going to tell me mommy to tell you not give me any more homework.” Me: “Ok. Good luck with that.”

oh, and Diego the Escape Artist..continues to escape from Cristine…hee. Although, he has friends now and looks happy.

So, we last minute had to do a program for the parents about Dia de los Difuntos (as in, 3 days…yeah). So, we work hard, prepare. A lot of parents show up and LOVE it because the kids are all dressed up as Spaniards and indigenous. One kid was even dressed up magnificently as a monk. Cutest. Thing. Ever. The whole, making of the Colada Morada and Guaguas de Pan (traditional food) goes GREAT. Then, Christine announces the kids are going to dance. So, IN THE MIDDLE of the program, the assistant director grabs the microphone from Christine to scold her that the kids shouldn’t dance because death is sad and shouldn’t be celebrated, AS THE KIDS ARE LINING UP, delaying the music. It was so unprofessional looking. Then, as the kids bow, she grabbed the microphone again to lecture the parents about how the dead are dead therefore they don’t actually need flowers, food, or to be celebrated and we should all spend the day of the dead holidays concentrating and celebrating the living.

All of us were shocked at how she completely insulted the entire holiday she forced us to do a parent’s program on in the first place. Additionally, we were like, “ok, fundamentalist lady. We get that you don’t like the indigenous roots of the holiday, but even ALL CHRISTIANS celebrate the dead with wakes and flowers. WTF.” We were all so upset by her hijacking what we’d worked so hard on and demeaning it – especially since it was her idea to do it in the first place.

Whatever. The continued adventures of working in a fundamentalist school. At least they give out turkeys as a Christmas bonus.

So, with a five day holiday, my friend Ruth and I took off to the Mindo Cloud forest reserve.

Saturday bright and early we caught a bus, but had to sit separately because it was so full. When I got off the bus two hours later, Ruth came off with a guy all, “Hey, this is Philipp, our body guard.” Me, “???????”. Apparently she had sat beside Philipp on the bus and they got talking and befriended each other. She found out he was traveling alone, having just come from Germany to start a volunteer job in a school and then later in a hospital to help his education in medicine. So, in two hours she convinced him to be our body guard for the weekend because we were two women traveling alone. Me, hearing this, was still about “??????”.

So, with our new friend, we went off in search of a hostel (because of the feriado, everything was booked). We ended in this beautiful wooden hostel a little out of the way. Only problem: there was only one room, with three beds. The hostel owner was like, “the three of you can share.” and ruth was like, “great.”

Me, on the other hand was thinking…”Ruth. You’ve known this guy for TWO HOURS. I’ve known him for about TEN MINUTES…and you want to share a room with him??!!”. But hey, it was a room and it was 6 dollars a night…and he was really nice. We got lucky. Not only was he nice, but he was a perfect gentleman and friend the whole time. Traveling: you meet all sorts of interesting people. Lol.

So, we all headed up to try and find the butterfly garden. On the map it looked close….not so much. It took us a good hour or more to walk there. But on the way, we got to see the countryside and the river and climb rocks. It was great fun. The butterfly garden itself was beautiful. Hundreds of butterflies flying around our heads. You could even pick them up by dipping your fingers in banana juice.

From there, we decided to walk to the waterfall trails. Also, on the map…looked close. Ha! A three and a half (at least) kilometer hike up a mountain. But that was ok. Because I LOVE cloud forests and the views were fabulous. Not to mention, great company. It was up a dirt road, so all the plants were brown with road dust. When we got about one kilometer up to where the canopy tour was we were…tired. Moreso, when they told us it was at least 2 more kilometers up. Bear in mind, it was almost noon. We’d had lunch at 6am, didn’t have food or much water with us, and had been hiking since 10am. So, tired and hungry. So, we flagged down a camioneta (pick up truck), hopped in the back, and rode the last 2 (ha! two longest km ever!) km up to the waterfall trail.

Got there. Then we found out we had to cross in a cable car (open metal case on a cable) between the two mountains in order to GET to the trail to the waterfalls. At which point, the entire hike to all the falls was about 1.5 hours each way in the jungle. So, we got in the car. I couldn’t believe I actually did it considering how afraid I am of height…and we were a LONG way up. It wasn’t too bad. I actually had fun crossing, even though my hear was pounding. And the view was just…WOW.

So, we hiked through the tropical cloud forest to the waterfalls (we were so tired and hungry, we made it to two…of about 6 or 7). It felt great to go hiking again. And the trails were cool (since they were through the forrest)…full of obstacles, steep, sometimes dangerous, and BEAUTIFUL. To get to the falls, we would have to cross these rickety wooden suspension bridges, with boards moving. Now, suspension bridges…they bounce, they swing…and sometimes you feel like you’re either going to be tipped over, or, the old boards are going to break and you’re going to fall through. Again, great fun. SOOOO worth it. The falls were amazing. At one point, we took a short cut through the river because the choices were 1) go wayyy around and up the very steep path, or, 2) go across the river, hold onto a rope, and climb up a sheer rock to the path. We went with option 2. Using the rope to climb a rock – super fun. And we all cheered each other on to do it.

Doing so led us to the second waterfall. But to get the best look at it, we took our shoes off, rolled up our pants, and walked up the stream. It gave us a MAGNIFICENT view of the falls and cavern that you couldn’t see from the trail. I don’t have a picture of it because I didn’t want to risk my camera. But, WOW was it amazing. And standing under falls in the middle of a cloud forest….worth. everything.

Then, we continued on until we decided to turn back because it was 2pm and we didn’t want to get caught on the trails during afternoon showers.

Speaking of meeting people. We kept meeting these three men on the trail – two Koreans? and an Ecuadorian who were hiking together. The funny thing was: every time was saw them, this one Korean guy kept adding something “indigenous” to his wardrobe. First, he put a stick on his head like a radio antenna. Then, he added a leaf and stick headdress. Then, he made a bow out of a fallen limb. It was hysterical. We kept joking that by the time he got out of the forest, we was going to be in full regalia and speaking Kichwa.

When we got back to the village (in the back of another camioneta), it was 4pm. And, we got food. At which point we got screwed over by the owners of the restaurant even though we had an ECUADORIAN in the group. Now, both RUth and I swear she never mentioned anything about certain dishes costing more than others. She said: two dollars for everything. And yet, when the bill came, both Ruth and Phillip suddenly had to pay four dollars. Oh, and the soup costs more. We were all so shocked. But they paid it anyway.

Then, we went back to our hostel and sat in our hammocks to read (we were tired. we’d walked a good 20+ kilometers. Most of it uphill). Lovely. Beautiful view of the mountains, with hummingbirds flying around us. It was so peaceful. The net morning, I woke up 6:30 and read in the hammocks to the view of misty mountains, singing birds, and flying hummingbirds. I never wanted to leave.

That night, we headed out to (dead) bars. We ended up teaching each other silly camp games from our childhoods. I got them addicted to the cup game. It was so funny, and fun. And, except for on incident with a very large spider on my sweater, relaxing.

Net day, bright and early…tubing. Again, couldn’t believe I’d gotten talked into doing anything resembling going down rapids – in a tube. But again, super fun. They tied all these tubes together, which we sat on and hung onto ropes. Two guides went with us to guide the tube raft. Oh my god was it fun, and frightening. There’s nothing like holding on for dear life while hanging, stuck upside down on a rock with rapid water coming over you waiting for guides to free you. And going down rapids backwards….just about sent me into a panic attack. But still, we all had a great time going down the cloud forest river, seeing the flora (and one bird, which I swear was mocking us) and bouncing all around. We got so wet. Poor Ruth spent most of the trip going backwards. I felt so sorry for her…until I realized that it meant I spent most of the time going forwards (love you Ruth!!!) :).  We all were sooo sore from tubing, we spent the rest of the day relaxing around the town.

Then, Ruth and I took off (Philipp stayed another day) to go to her grandparents’ house. We took a bus to Quito (which arrived at la Ofelia station about 7:30), then the Metro (not like our metro, basically a fancy bus line) to la Marin station, then a bus WAYYYY to the south of Quito to a barrio in basically the countryside. The bus left us on the side of the road, in the dark. So, we grabbed a cab the rest of the way to her grandparent’s. They, along with Ruth’s aunt and uncle, live really in the countryside. It was a great way to see how the majority of Ecuadorians live.

Ruth’s family is great, so very nice and welcoming. Going in, Ruth whispered to me, “Just so you know, they’ve never seen a Gringo before,” which was a useful tip. It was great. Some of Ruth’s littler cousins just kept looking at me, until we got more comfortable together. I got to talk with them a little (both Ruth and I were basically dead tired from the day). They gave us soup to eat, and Colada Morada to drink. Colada Morada is a traditional drink for Dia de los Difuntos. It’s a deep purple drink made from all sorts of spices and fruits. When I’d tried it at work, it was disgusting. Ruth’s family’s Colada Morada was absolutely delicious. I ended up having it for both dinner and breakfast. I got to try several new things there. Also, for breakfast, we had Guaguas (bread, decorate to look like babies – wawas in Kichua – and filled with marmalade or chocolate…delicious) and colada morada. Then, I went out to walk the countryside with Ruth and her cousins. It was really great to meet and spend time with Ruth’s family and to experience traditional ecuadorian living.

So, I had a great vacation….can’t believe I have to go to work tomorrow. I want to go back to Mindo. Seriously, the bus ride back was an AMAZING tour of the Sierra. Completely reminded me why I wanted to come to Ecuador in the first place. Astoundingly magnificent is the only way to describe it.

Oh, and pics are on facebook (if you have access).

Write again soon! Hopefully, sooner this time.

Posted by: adegraffenreid31708 | 1st Oct, 2010

Ecuadorian Political Crisis…an observer´s perspective

Hello all!!

By now, you have all heard about the “situation” I found myself in yesterday…the military and police in Quito revolting in all.

So: Here´s how my day went….

Started out absolutely great.  Thursdays I basically teach all day, so I was in with the kindergarteners. And, for once, it was really great. They were responsive, learning, having fun, and I wasn´t stressed out of my mind. Also, it was sunny and beautiful outside.

Then…recess happened. One of the teachers pulled my aside and said, sweetly “the police and military have taken control of the airports and highways and have tried to kill the president. We may have to evacuate the school.”Which was a lovely aside to get in the middle of the day…as you may imagine.

Then, I went on break because another teacher had my kids. So, I went to the library to find out just what was going on, because people were wayyy too busy and running around to tell me anything. THere, I ran into Lewis (my Australian colleague) who was working. In an amusing moment to the day, he asked me to call DHL to check on his girlfriend´s international package to see if he could pick it up that afternoon (because I speak spanish and he doesn´t). I was like….”Lewis…do you have any idea of what is going on??” He didn´t, so i told him and was like, “I´ll check on your package…but you prob. won’t be able to pick it up today”.

Then, returned to my class. In a way that was very reminiscent of 9/11, when I got back to the preschool yard the teachers were all running around half panicked trying to get in contact with loved ones because the situation was escalating and no one was sure what was going on since our school is in the middle of no where Calderon. We just couldn´t conduct classes because we were preparing to evacuate the school and parents were arriving. So, we just gave the kids busy work as people tried to get in contact with other people.

My colleague eventually got in contact with her sons who work in the government after several tries, and they were like “we can’t leave our building or talk, there are men with guns barricading us inside”, so we knew the situation was getting worse, especially as we got news that it was taking two and a half hours to get from inside quito to calderon (normally max 40 mins). Then, the hoard of parents descended on the school, sending it into organized chaos because no one could write down the names of students and track them down fast enough. We ended up running out of the official dissmissal slips very quickly, and they were writting permissions on pieces of scrap paper. Teachers and staff were running around everywhere trying to get students.

Of course, I had my own class. Who, as they are all 5, needed to be kept calm and not scared. Which meant keeping the door closed and them in their seats and not allowing them out into the chaos. Difficult, when several of them have to peel and they just was recess. It definitely dawned on them when students started being pulled out of class, and they all picked up the panicked and scared vibe from the teacher. Eventually, in the entire preschool, a few kids caved and started crying. But we got them calmed down.

Through this, I was worried about getting home because I live on the opposite end of the airport, which, according to reports, was under seige, and I didn´t want to get in the middle of it. When the teacher´s bus finally arrived, I and everyone else was told by our supervisors that we were to get on the bus or risk not being able to get back at all. That, and we were all told that we were to get home and stay there, not to leave at all.

So, worried and a little panicked, we all got onto the teacher´s bus to leave. The driver turned the radio on to the news and took a completely different route initially. So, we were listening to the news broadcast saying that the president was being held in the hospital by police, who were threatening over the radio to kill him if he didn´t give in to their demands. This, while we were watching the street.The road going in to Quito proper was basically empty. Coming out was a different matter all together. It was a complete traffic jam. There was also a small exodus of people trying to walk out of the city. However, we saw nothing that was being described on the news: no fires, no violence, no protest…just an evacuation. Actually, otherwise, most people seemed to be going about their lives.

Then, we passed the airport…..and, nothing. It was highly anticlimactic. We didn´t see any vehicles or signs that anything was wrong other than the eerie fact that all the planes were grounded and there was no one there. It just appeared to be empty.

The bus dropped me off at my stop, right next to the northern most troley station. And…nothing again. It was, to me, weird. People were just going about their lives. The troley and buses were all still running and everyone was very calm. Outside and within my appartment complex, there were kids playing outside and riding their bikes. The only sign that there was a extreme political crisis underway was that almost every store was closed (for fear of looters).

Still. I locked myself in my apartment for the night and forseeable future and turned on the news. WHich was, of course, uninformative and horrendous. The thing about Ecua news is this: It{s aweful. It´s state sponsored/run. Which means, of course, you need to be very very skeptical of anything it says. The only thing on the news was the crisis, of course, discussing the violence and that the president had been kidnapped and was being held at the hospital. Then, almost all that they would show was the pro-Corea/government rallys in front of the presidential palace and the rally in front of the hospital with smoke coming out of it. With no real information. CNN en Español was better, except that it played everything as if the world was coming to an end. So, information was limited. The news tidbit I found most amusing was that a rescue mission for Correa had been planned, but that he hadn´t signed off on it yet. I was like, really, you are the one signing YOUR OWN rescue, from INSIDE the place you’re being held hostage. You’re able to do that???? Those have to be the most inept hostage takers ever, if you can actively plan your escape IN FRONT OF THEM. So….grain of salt.

I spent the evening watching the news and trying to reassure the fam back home that i was in a safe place with no plans to get out. When one of my roomates got home, we talked about what he’d seen before he ran off to the mountains till things calmed down. After he had left school, he went to the center to see what was happening, and witnessed the violence. When he saw people being beaten for trying to take pictures near the demonstrations, he got smart and made plans to leave the city with some friends.

Late, I watched the “rescue” of Correa on EcuaTV. It was quite the spectacular. The images were frightening, men with guns, and reporters talking about bombs and gunshots and the absolute gun battle. And it was a gun battle, people died and were wounded. But it felt…off. But again, that’s my skepticism of state-sponsored tv which has full blown 15minute pro-government propaganda infomercials playing every day. Then, I watched Correa´s victory speech from the presidential palace and went to bed.

So, you would think that after a day full of protests, burning tires, violence, police/military take overs, border closures, presidential kidnapping/rescue, and emergency heads of state meetings that the day after would be…chaotic. Yeah…no. Life as normal just about. Basically, people going about their lives as if nothing happened…because, it just happens every few years. I called the embassy like a good girl this morning, and they seemed thoroughly bored by the entire situation and were basically like “yeah, you´re fine. The city is perfectly fine and safe now.” I was like…seriously?? After all that, going on until practically midnight. You’re telling me that by 9am the next day it´s all good…and, yes, it is.

So, one day, police and military strike (and it was a strike, not a coup. Coup was not even really part of it until after the media said it). Next day…yeah, whatever.

I love this continent.

So, we´ll just have to see how the consequences unfold.
And, hey, i got a vacation day.

Next time: talking about the adventures of teaching kinder.

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