Thursday, May 1, 2008

my jungle book

i am back from the jungle. it was by far my favourite trip of the whole semester. even cooler than the galapagos islands, in my opinion.

view of mount tungurahua from the plane

the huaorani tribe

sarah and i are so primitive

so much joy...

i have almost all of my things packed up. tomorrow is my last day here in ecuador. i have a few errands to run and lots of goodbyes. it feels surreal. i wish i had more to say, but i really don't want to think too hard about it right now. i feel some reverse culture shock coming on.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

21st birthday and jungle adventures

on my birthday, i woke up to ten dozen flowers in my room with a note that said "happy birthday. love, blake" im not totally sure who helped him sneak that one, but it was so incredible. i couldnt even see my desk because it was entirely covered in flowers.

also, blake bought us two tickets to go see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra this summer.

Anyway, the whole gang jumped in the van and we headed off to the jungle. I spent about four hours of my birthday in the car, but the scenery in ecuador makes all car rides a privilege, so i didnt mind.

we arrived at the jungle sometime before dusk. we are staying in Shell, Ecuador, which is famous because it is where the American missionary Jim Elliott and his other missionary friends lived (and got speared to death). in fact, we are staying next door to the house they lived in.

at night, we all went out for dinner, and i had a cake and whatnot. the day was not super eventful, but i enjoyed myself and i did a lot of reflecting on the past year. Being 20 years old was so much fun. it was without a doubt the best year of my life. here are some reasons:

-i had michelle, annie, and jami as roommates
-i started dating blake, who changed my life and whom i love so much.
-i was able to travel to scotland to be in my best friend's wedding.
-i also had the opportunity to go to ireland, england, germany, france, italy, and the czech republic.
-i started my junior year
-i came to ecaudor, where i've been able to experience incredible things. standing on top of one of the worlds tallest mountains, riding a boat on a lake inside a volcano crater, seeing some of the most impressive waterfalls in south america, meeting tiny quichua villages hidden up in the andes mountains, swimming with sharks in the galapagos islands, football games, building deep friendships, finally making my bed, dancing and throwing spears with the huaroni tribe, canoing and rafting in the amazon, flying little planes over the amazonian rainforest, learning a ton of spanish and latin american politics, and learning a lot more about myself.

so. being 20 was pretty incredible. im excited about this next year of my life. so far, its looking pretty good.

the day after my birthday was the best day of my life. i mean that really honestly. it is no exaggeration. it really was the single greatest day of my life.

we flew five-passenger cessna airplanes over the amazonian rain forest. sarah, alex, ben, and tommy flew in the plane with me. it was one of the most beautiful things i've ever seen. i can't even explain how vast it was. it was just the thickest, greenest, most beautiful, vibrant part of the earth i could ever imagine. we landed on a small clearing of land at a huaorani village. you may have heard of the huaorani tribe. they are famous for being featured in the movie "End of the Spear", which is a true story about five missionaries who were speared to death by the huaorani in the 1950's. obviously, they don't spear people to death anymore.

the huaorani people were the most beautiful people i've ever met. most of them couldnt speak spanish, so we communicated with smiles and dances and laughter. we hiked through the jungle to get to their hut. we were greeted by the women who gave us all a grass headband and painted our faces with the inside of a really strange bright orange fruit. we had a spear throwing competition, which was nearly impossible for us. then we did blow darts. sarah and i actually hit the target, which was awesome. we then went inside the hut and the women started to dance for us. they invited me and sarah to dance. then the men joined, including tommy, alex, and ben. when we were all singing and dancing in their hut, i felt so much joy filling up my whole entire body. i was close to tears. it was just the single most incredible experience of my life.

after the singing and dancing, everyone pushed ben and this huaorani girl together. apparently, they got married. we didnt know he was getting married, but afterwards, our pilot explained what had just happened. then, they proceeded to wed sarah and a 12 year old boy. alex even got married. fortunately, tommy and i weasled our ways out of that.

anyway, the huaorani are the most beautiful people in the world to me and the only reason they were ever called "savages" is because they refuse to let their culture and their land be taken advantage of. i commend them. as we were flying back over the rainforest and i was sickened by the bits of deforestation and oil refineries, i knew that if it weren't for the huaorani, the entire region would be deforested.

so that was the best day of my life.

tomorrow looks pretty promising as well. we are hiking and then canoing and then trekking through the jungle to get to a Shuar tribe. I don't know much about the Shuar tribe, but they are probably as cool as the Huaorani.

the day after that, we are doing some "extreme rafting". i dont know what the "extreme" part entails, but it sounds life-threatening, which i classify as fun.

the day after that, we are biking around Mount Tungurahua, a huge active volcano. that should be fun, considering active volcanoes are equally as threatening as "extreme rafting.

then, we head home to quito to pack up and say goodbye to Ecuador. i will be home on saturday wow.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

on friday we had gringo day. we went to our professor's house and cooked up a storm of deliciousness. the menu? barbeque chicken sandwiches (courtesy of me and conrad), fries (alex and ben), mac & cheese (sarah and ashley), and coooooooookies!!!!(the rest of the girls) oh it was so tastey and fun. i love our group. i could never have asked for more amazing friends to learn, laugh, and travel with. bff.

anyway, i just got back from staying with an awesome ecuadorian family. everything was great. i cooked loads of food, ate a LOT of food, danced a LOT, talked a lot of politics, and played a LOT of futbol, of course.

also, i learned how to make peruvian food! its pretty similar to ecuadorian food; loads of chicken, rice and potatoes.

anyway, when we got back on campus, we all reunited in lucy's house to talk about our experiences. have i ever mentioned that lucy is one of my favourite people in the world?? she is one of the NILI leaders and she has become my mom away from home. she is probably one of the greatest people i have ever met. im going to cry like a baby when i have to say bye to her.

the semester is aaaalmost over. ?!?!?!?! i am freaking out a little bit. i have a lot of mixed feelings, of course. i am convinced ecuador is the most beautiful country in the world and i really don't want to leave.... but i am so ready to be with my family and friends back home. and i am so so so so sick of missing blake. ugh. i need to focus though. i still have three essays to write, a final exam, and a trip to the amazon. there are still lessons to be learned. its not over yet.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

otavalo revisited.

we went to otavalo again. it is north of quito, across the equator, and about two hours away. it is famous for having one of the biggest artesian markets in the world. we stayed in the most beautiful adobe lodge hostel that was hidden up in the mountains. there were lots of puppies there. in fact, we had a puppy party. on saturday, we went to the market. i bought some beautiful little things.

i am not good with words. here are some photos...

in ibarra
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our room in the hostel.
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this fabric is worn as a skirt by the Tsachila tribe. so many colours!!!
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nativity set

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my box!

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i love sarah! we are going to live together this summer!

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i'll be home in SIXTEEN DAYS. better get ready! i am going to squeeeeeeze all of youuuuuuuuuuuuuu!!! especially blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaake!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i'm gonna see my best friend/boyfriend BLAAAAKE! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo i'm gonna hug my parents and miss ecuador with sarah and get my photos developed and patronize my roommates and speak english and tell stories and flush toilet paper and annoy my brothers and be tanner than all of you and eat burrito loco too but NOT eat rice!!!!! and love blake!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

so so so much has happened since i last updated. i am really horrible at this blogging thing. plus, my computer no longer works and the internet here is not reliable at all. i dont feel like writing a long coherent collection of detailed paragraphs... so i'll just be lazy and use bullet points.

  • we spent a week in Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador. it was an eight hour drive to the coast. Guayaquil was pretty cool, but Quito is waaaaaay cooler. it was terribly humid there and i was so happy to leave at the end of the week.
  • my pet chicken died. a huge black dog attacked her. he didn't eat her; he just chomped on her jugular vein once or twice and let her die slowly. anyway, we ate her for dinner that night.
  • on friday, our group was given complete control over a local school. each of us was in charge of three classes. I taught a craft/music class and two art classes. I loved it so much. The kids were so beautiful and we had so much fun together.
  • Tomorrow, I am going to the Supreme Court of Justice to interview a Lawyer. I am really nervous/excited.
  • Our Latin American Issues class is super intense. Every single day i get so so worked up and angry and i really struggle not to cry. It is hard to wrap my mind around the injustice and corruption in Latin America because it is just so immensely overwhelming. The machismo and the abused women, the racism towards the indigenous, the countless homeless children, the lack of jobs, the oil industry, the depletion of the rainforests, drug trafficking, the lack of essential human rights. Even more frustrating is that i cannot fix it all. It just runs through my head all day and i get more and more worked up. It consumes me and i dont know what to do to release it.
  • we are going to the AMAZON on my 21st birthday!! we are staying for a week. We are going to stay in an awesome little hostel, fly Cessna planes over the jungle, ride bikes, hang out with a tribe, trek, canoe down the amazon, white water raft. it is going to be incredible.
  • i have twenty four days left. I don't want to leeeeeave. I think you all should just come here.
i leave you with some photos....

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Friday, March 21, 2008

good friday in quito.

we spent the day in Colonial Quito to observe the Good Friday parade. It was disturbing, to say the very least. "Los Cucuruchos" dress in purple clothing that resembles Ku Klux Klan robes and they walk in the streets to show penitence. i think it was initially disturbing because of the KKK stigma that surrounds the type of garb they were dressed in. some carried huge crosses. Some were bleeding because some of the crosses were made of cacti. Some whipped themselves. Some were wearing sharp thorn crowns and were gushing blood down their foreheads.

procession of the cucuruchos video

tomorrow morning, we are leaving for quayaquil. it is the biggest city in ecuador. it is in the coast and they tell us its going to be hot, hot, hot times five. i will be back in one week.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

mitad del semestre/ our new pet

the semester is half way over. i have so many mixed feelings. i miss my family, blake, my roommates, and my friends so so so much. however, i cannot imagine what it will be like to leave ecuador. this country and its people are so beautiful and they have changed my life immensely. it is really hard for me to put it inwords. i doubt i will ever be able to. so i won't try.

on thursday we went to the basilica, which is stunning. i will get photos developed soon.

on friday, we went to the market to buy the groceries for the cafeteria. we were each assigned to pick up three different things. i was assigned to buy six avocados, 1 pound of peas, and six maracuyas. prices were a bit higher because of something to do with holy week, but regardless, everything was incredibly cheap. i also bought 1 pound of grapes for eighty cents and one pound of ecuadorean coffee beans for one dollar.

also, ben, conrad, alex and i decided we needed a pet. so, we bought a hen for four dollars. we named her Frida Kahlo. the other names considered were whoopi goldberg, luzita, nilita, niliana, and so on... Although she lacks the signature unibrow, she definitely looks like a frida. we put her in what used to be a rabbit house, but we felt it was a bit too small. so today, alex and i made a palace for her. she has a courtyard and a place for shade. we feed her our leftover rice. she is surprisingly tame and docile. we like to take her for walks. the latinos threaten to eat her the day that we go back to the states. over my dead body.