Monday, November 21, 2011

freezing busses, family, weddings, and CHOCLO

So, I returned to Quito for the wedding of my host brother Roberto....turns out that the bus from Oyacachi leaves at 4 am! Of course I slept wonderfully that night, worrying about whether I would wake up in time..I didn't really need to wake up, just GET up really. I was pretty much awake. On board the bus I though surely they would have some sort of heat...nope. Apparently busses from Oyacachi have NO HEAT whatsoever. The man next to me was wearing a face mask, like a balaclava. good move sir, good move. I was wearing one pair of pants and a thin jacket....bad.

HOWEVER, I made it to Quito and got to see my host family once again, I spent the whole day making bocaditos which are small, cute, snacks for wedding, parties etc. We made SO MANY bocaditos, literally we spent the whole day. They turned out really nice though and they were all pretty delicious. The wedding itself was beautiful and I would put up pictures except my camera cord has stopped working. The whole family was there and Ecuadorians LOVE to dance, so we danced from around 3 till 9 at night. I borrowed some high heels from a friend and my feet hurt so bad. My host mother made the cake for the wedding and it was SO GOOD, I don't know what kind it was but it may have been the most delicious cake I have every had.

I go back to the freezing land of Oyacachi this coming Wednesday to finish up my project and then on December 2nd I'm bound for Quito and the Hostal Posada del Maple to reunite with my fellow compañeros de la programa. I am pretty excited to see them as well as see my real family in the states. This whole experience has been like an amazingly long and education vacation and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

ciao y hasta pronto

(oh yea, and choclo is this delicious corn that they have here, sooooo good)

Monday, November 7, 2011

off to the Páramo

Well, my family just whisked me off to celebrate the ferriada (holidays exactly one month before fiestas de Quito) on the beautiful beaches of the province Esmereldas. We spend our days on the beach and our nights....on the beach. There was seafood, swimming, and coconuts everywhere. However, returning from this sunny, hot, costal climate I am leaving tomorrow for my ISP!!!!!!!

I am going to the reserve of Cayambe-Coca wayyyyyy up in the Andes at about 4,000m and it is going to be SO cold. I will specifically be living in Oyacachi, a small mountain village and working on a project with two Ecuadorians about the Andean tapir. Specifically the study is trying to figure out whether the Andean tapir is an efficient seed disperser in the Páramo which means we will be collecting it's feces and dissecting them to see if there are more seeds, leaves or stems. All in all it's a pretty exciting project.

I have no idea about my internet situation so I may not be blogging for a while, but you never know here. Plaza Gutierrez, the cloud forest village on top of a mountain which we had to walk an hour to get to had internet access in one building in the town so I have faith for Oyacachi which at least has road access.

I am also going a month without access to showers or laundry. The only bathing I will be doing is in natural hot springs (WOAH!) and the only washing of clothes will be by hand. hmmmm. I am also living in a tent (I have yet to purchase a pillow) and cooking all my own meals with my two advisors. It will be an experience for sure.

I am extremely sad to be leaving my host family, I will miss them A TON while I'm studying in the Páramo, but fortunately I get to return for the wedding of my host brother Robert. I am really happy to say that I love my host family, I recommend them for any student who is coming here and I will definitely miss them. I would be the happiest if they ever came to the U.S. to visit. They seem skeptical whenever I mention this however haha.
Anyways, it's been a wild ecuadorian ride and it will only continue with this adventure in Cayambe-Coca.

ciao, and can't wait to see St. Mikes campus again!

Monday, October 31, 2011

From Galapagos to final exams

we though this was supposed
to be Darwin, but were not
entirely sure. It is on the
island of San CristóbalEllen and I living the life of the sea lions NOT SEALS!!!
Snorkeling! I did not rent a wet suit...mistake

As you can probably imagine from the title of this blog, it is a bit depressing arriving from the land of constant spring break and blue footed boobies to the land of heavy traffic and final exams. Despite this inconvenient truth, my companions and I remain in high spirits through this week of exams.

You're probably all wondering why I am talking about final exams when there are the Galapagos to talk about. yea. So the Galapagos were AMAZING! I have literally never seen water so blue and sand so white in my life (though there are other colors too). The only thing the Galapagos is missing is proper trees. All it has near the coast are a few palms and inland are cactus and large bushes. As you get higher up the volcanos however there are some more respectable trees.

The landscape was that of a volcano desert, all the islands being made from volcanoes being pushed out of the water by tectonic plates and a hotspot that happens to be directly beneath the islands. But enough science, what did we do?

-snorkeled every day (with fish, rays, turtles, sea lions, sharks, you name it)
-lived with a homestay on the largest island of Isabella (they fed me SO MUCH)
- climbed the volcano Sierra Negra
-chilled on the beach
-lived on a yacht for four days
-hiked around San Cristóbal, Española, Floreana, N. Seymour and Baltra
-ate some really good food
-played soccer with the crew
-jumped off said yacht into the water
and much more

Although the yacht was my preferred part of the journey to the homestay, I still feel like I am on that boat which is unfortunate because I am not. Walking through the streets of Quito is already a challenge for me and now I have the added bonus of being seasick walking through the streets. joy. I am faring well however and seeing as it has been FIVE DAYS I expect the seasickness to go away any day now (please please please)

We also observed some Albatross in the crazy mating dance and also some blue footed boobies showing off those feet. We say nocturnal gulls (the only existing ones on the planet), giant tortoises, Darwin's finches, and laid in the sun with sea lions. It was an amazing trip and I recommend it to anyone interested in marine life and history because it is rich in both.

However, coming back to reality I have this week to make final presentations and exams count an then the 8th of November I go to Oyachachi for my ISP! I am studying the Andean Tapir there with two researchers who have been working on the project for a while now. I am really excited, but it is not going to be easy. I am living in a tent, there is no running water nor shower, I cook all my own food, and I hike all day looking for tapir chewing and poop. What a life. I think it will be tons of fun however and perhaps it will burn off some of the bread I have eaten in Quito so I can possibly start thinking about skiing at St. Mikes.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My new room in the city of Quito. I suppose it's not new is pretty small, but I like to think that means it is maybe a little bit warmer than the rest of the house. Thankfully, there is a larger than life-size picture of Jesus above my bed.
My host sister Anaí and I. She was one of two younger siblings in the Cloud Forest specifically the small andean town of Plaza Gutierrez. Those people had some serious town pride.
Xavier (one of my two academic directors) was REALLY excited about this tanager that we caught in the mist nets. wow
our accommodations in the cloud forest. I stayed in the 'birding cabin' aka: the closest to the academic directors so we could wake up super early to mist net birds! The blanket on these beds were SO HEAVY, but it was good because it was freeeeezing.

waiting for Galapagos...

It has been a solid week and a half after the Amazon trip, yet it feels like we went there ages ago. The sticky humidity, waking up to yelling monkeys, and spiders the size of your face could be a dream as of this point. These past two weeks have definitely done their work to bring us back to the reality that we are in fact in school. What with our Field Investigation Projects due, Sustainability projects up and coming, Agency visits, and ISP preparation we are all pretty swamped.

On a positive note, I went to visit el centro viejo (the old center) of Quito with my host mom and aunt this past Friday, we got to know the little section known as Rhonda which was gorgeous and reminded me a little of Burlington, VT. There were little hole-in-the-wall shops and restaurants in every inch of wall and there was always some band playing inside. We saw an indigenous dance performance, avoided hippies trying to sell us sparkly things, and ate empanadas (technically classified as street food which I am not supposed to eat, but asi es la vida).

The next day (being Saturday) almost our entire group of 23 students hoped a bus to Otavalo, a mountain town about 2 hours away in a bus. We visited the famous market there, a bustling center for tourists and gringos like ourselves. The market must have gone on for 20 blocks in length and about that in width. It was enormous! A small group of us stayed behind as well to visit a waterfall about a 20 min. walk away. It was a day well spent even if I did get a bit sunburnt.

This week has been full to say the least. With spanish ever morning and then lecture from 10:30 till 1:00 the days are pretty long. I have been trying to get some running/training in so as to ski with some sense of dignity on the St. Mikes nordic team this winter when I return. So far the outlook is bleak, but the altitude here may be working in my favor (I hope!)

Anyways, my next post will probably be after the Galapagos knowing myself and how often I blog. We are going to the well known islands this coming Tuesday (today being Wednesday) and I CAN NOT wait. We are living on a boat for half the trip and with a Galapagos family for the second half. woah. see ya on the other side.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

after the Amazon

Well, back in the city of Quito, honestly it's kind of a let down after being in the Amazon for a week, but it is wonderful to be reunited with my host family and also some sense of normality. Though I cannot possibly convey the experience of the Amazon as truly and meaningfully as I would want I am going to try.

First of all we took a plane, a boat on the Napo River, a Chiva through the forest, and another boat along the Tiputini River to get the Tiputini Estación de Biodiversidad. Needless to say it was just the anacondas and us out there.

Anyhow, we started every morning early (but not yet bright) at 5:30 with either a canopy bridge, a 40 meter bird watching tower, a float down the Tiputini or a Caminata (aka really long, slow hike to see sweet forest animals). We had breakfast at 8 so of course my stomach was eating itself by then, but we had peanut butter (!) which was a major plus.
For animals we saw:
many other amazing birds...
Capybaras (the world's largest rodent)
Tapirs (look these guys up, wow)
an anaconda strangling a caiman (this is not a lie, and a caiman is a crocodile type thing)
butterflies of all colors
and much more tat I am probably forgetting

so yea, we had electricity from 10:30am-12:00pm and 7pm-9:30pm. otherwise we had candles which actually give off a fair bit of light :)
We were at least a little bit damp ALL THE TIME because everything there is incredibly humid. There is no escaping being wet all the time, not my fav.
Also chiggers-the most annoying, tiniest bugs in the world that prefer to bite areas the sun never shines on, great.

It was an incredible experience full of ecology, lectures on everything from deforestation, soil types, army ants and carnivorous bats! I doubt I will have another chance in my lifetime to visit the Amazon and immerse myself as I did last week so I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity. Now we get to look forward to the Galapagos! I am seriously the luckiest person ever.


Katí (my name here)

Friday, September 16, 2011

one week in Quito

Well, it is friday in Quito and instead of going to spanish class I am going to my host families farm! It is about 3 hours from Quito and they have cows, chickens, crops and other cool stuff!

About class. . . my academic director gave me permission. I am also missing a 'charla' about the Andean bear, but I am not going to do my ISP about that so no big deal.

Anyways, this week flew by! We had normal class Monday, Wednesday and Friday (which means spanish in the morning and ecology or something else interesting like Ecuadorian History in the afternoon). However, on Tuesday we visited the Museo de Guayasamín. Guayasamín is an artist who paints GIANT paintings about human suffering, love, history using themes from all around the world. His paintings have a Picasso feel to them, but they are less colorful. Anyways, it was really cool.
On Thursday we went on a MINGA! to plant trees at a woman named Kathy's house. Each student was supposed to plant four trees to offset their carbon footprint for the semester. Of course, the trees they plant have to live 80 years in order to actually off set the carbon, so hopefully those baby trees will survive. I actually did not plant any trees as I am working on a sustainability project with 4 other students measuring the mortality of said trees from past semesters and deciding which ones live longest. There are Plots A-E of trees and we only got halfway through measuring Plot D, hence we will be traveling back there in two weekends.
I am adjusting to my homestay pretty well, the family is really nice and quite proper. They took me to the historic center of town last night and we bought a GIANT bowl of guayava (a type of dessert made with eggs and guava, it looks like ice cream. . .but it's not) and a smaller bowl of ice cream.
I have to take the trolle to school every day which is a new and sometimes scary experience for a rural Maine girl like me. Yesterday I basically had to shove myself onto the trolle into about 10 other people if I even wanted to get home, so I did.
Anyhow, still can't get a sweet background of my blog, I'm somewhat technology illiterate so I will keep trying.

hasta entonces,

Sunday, September 11, 2011

mi nueva familia

Well, I was out of touch for a bit because I was in fact living in the cloud forest Intag for a week (!), but I am yet again connected as my savvy new Ecuadorian family has given me their wireless password. Their house is also super chevre.

I can't really explain in words how the cloud forest affected me because it was something that I never anticipated nor imagined. I will instead sum up my activities and let you all decide how these experiences may have been.

-learned to i.d. about 10 plant species by their latin names
-mist netting (catching birds in nets and them)
-ate delicious ecuadorian food (RICE AND BEANS etc.)
-cloud forest drop off (alone time with the forest haha)
-helped build a puente (bridge)
-lived with a family from Plaza Gutierrez for three days (AMAZING)
-went on a 6 hour hike through the cloud forest
-harvested firewood and beans with my host father and brother
-danced with a farmer
-attended the 110th anniversary of Plaza Gutierrez party
-saw a crater lake from an old volcano
-bought some helado (ice cream)
-finally met my host family in Quito

and that is the very shortened version of my adventures. They have been incredible thus far and I only expect them to get more amazing as we have trips planned for the Amazon and Galápagos as well. ciao, Katí (because no one here can say Kat)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

flight cancelled

Just an update. . . .

My flight that was supposed to be leaving tomorrow morning at 11:00 am has been conveniently changed to Tuesday at 3:00 pm. haha.

Well, thank you hurricane Irene.
Despite this inconvenience, I shall maintain a positive attitude and be thankful that at least I have a little more time to work through the arduous, but intriguing Neotropical Companion. (my required reading for Ecuador)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

First post

So, I've got about 4 days until I leave for Ecuador!
I've been excited for the past year, but only now are the nervous feelings acting up.
On the plus side, my flight now leaves at 11:00 am instead of 6:00 am. That's cool.

I am crazy busy right now preparing to leave for Ecuador while at the same time squaring away visa preparations for my spring semester in Chile. difficult.

I do get to see the beautiful St. Michael's College this winter as I attempt to get a job and ski on the nordic team for the 2 months of time I will be in the U.S. it is the Latin American summer vacation.

Can't wait for the amazing experiences to come. . .