Thursday, June 11, 2009

KeZley part 2...

It became immediately clear uppon arrivein in Ecuador that Kelsey is not a very common name here. Not only that, but also that nearly all spanish speakers across the board, regardless of whether they are indigenous folk from ecuador or bilingual tango show hostesses in Buenos Aires, can not for the life of them pronounce her name. Her family lovingly referred to her as kesley (pronounced kezley, like elvis presley) the entire semester, the customs men at the post office in ecuador laughed bluntly in her faced and asked if that was seriously her name, but the icing on the cake occurred last night at our tango show.

So last night, we attended our first tango show in Buenos Aires after it was recommended to us by a New Zealandish...New Zealander...New Zealandian??...New Zealandic!!! comrad at our Hostel. He RAVED about the show, telling us they were ¨like, real professionals¨(pronounced profishonells) and that it was the best steak he had in all of Buenos aires, and the Tango musicians and singers were just.... FANTASTIC!!! We took his word for it and were presented with something between a strip show and the dance fighting scenes from West Side STory...the whole time i whistled ¨when you´re a jet you´re a jet all the way¨ in kelsey´s ear. Speaking of Kelsey....


So, in order to schedule the tango show kelsey called to make a reservation... now in her words a recounting of what happened:

¨i call the place, talk to the lady, get the information and hang up.
then nik is like, she told you the wrong time, call back and make sure its right.

okay, i´lll call back.

i call back and the lady is like OH GOOD i forgot to tell you about this promotion with your hostel, you get the whole meal for 180 pesos (originally we were just going to get drinks and desserrt) so i´m like COOLIO that´ll work just fine. and she´s like can you tell me your name again? and so we go through the whole process of trying to get her to understand that KELSEY is a NAME. but like everyone else in latin america, she doesn´t believe it for a second. so then i get off the phone, and am fairly confident that she has an idea of what my name is and that we do in fact have reservations.

but then nikki still isn´t convinced that the time the lady told me was right. so i call back AGAIN. in like a five minute period. but it is a good thing i call back because the lady is like OH GOOD YOU CALLED BACK AGAIN. i forgot to get your full name. (which was her way of saying, i still have no freakin clue what the hell your name is. why isn´t your name REAL??)

so i start to tell her my last name is stewart. and she´s like how do you spell it, and i´say S-T-E- and she´s like no your first name. so i change to K-E and nik is like NO THE NEXT LETTER IS W!!! hahahaha. but finally i spell it out, k-e-l-s AS IN SUSIE...etc. etc.

a few hours later we finally arrive and go to check in, and what is my name written down as on the reservation??


KELFLY.¨


hahahahahahahahah




Also, another quick and trivial happening that just occurred. We were just taking the elvator down in our Hostel to head over to this internet cafe and when we stepped aboard the 60 year old door man of the hostel was standing in the elevator car. I walked in, the doors closed, and immediately i had the sensation i was being suffocated. Initially confused, i quickly realized the waning oxygen was the result of a growing abundance of cigarette smoking filling the elevator and sneaking up my virgin nostrils. hahahaha. Anyway, i look furtively using my peripherals and see the door man holding a marlboro, sucking on it idiotically with his old chapped lips. Horrified i instantly started shooting dagger eyes of death at kelsey and then down at the cigaretted hand. She began to laugh. Then the man dropped his cigarette after hot boxing the ´vator and put it out on the ground. Then i burst out laughing until i realized i shouldn´t waste what little oxygen i had left.... Moral of the story, WHO THE HELL SMOKES A CIGARETTE IN AN ELEVATOR.. A SMALL ENCLOSED METAL BOX. WHO FREAKING DOES THAT?? IS IT EVEN LEGAL? I´m inclined to complain and say what the hell is wrong with the whole rest of the world why do they all smoke, but i realize the real problem is the GODDAMN TOBACCO INDUSTRY...YOU FUCKERS HOT BOXED MY ELEVATOR IN BUENOS AIRES. TAX THOSE CIGARRETTES, TAX ÉM ALL DAY CONGRESS!!!


ok ok we´re getting a little loopy down here. Tonight or tomorrow night we´re trying to go to this greek restaurant where they break plates and stuff. i´m hoping for a rousing rendition of mizerlou on the bizouki!

WE GET HOME IN T-5 DAYS!!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Buenos Aires is a black hole....

...it sucks you into this ridiculous partying lifestyle where everyone starts drinking at 2am and stays out being mental until 9am and then they sleep until 18:00 when they roll out of bed and start all over again. The first three days we were here we saw nothing because we slept all day and then just went out with Bob and Anna Frank. Today we finally got up early, at noon, and saw a city of dead people where i sang that marly and marley song from a christmas carol and tried to get Kelsey to sing ¨DONT CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA¨in front of Evita´s grave, but she wouldn´t. Then we saw a giant flower. We were really impressed. Then kelsey ate plastic again because she cant resist buying lollipops made out of that candy apple candy, or mojjjie apples or whatever, and she asked the guy selling them to take the wrapper off but instead he just held it over a flame until it was melted on and all the plastic chemicals were inside the lollipop. Delishish. THen we saw a tree with these big pod things hanging in it, kelsey got one down by yanking on a braNch. Michelle Branch. Then she tried chucking it at the ground to see what was inside, but it didnt break open. Then i tried and it hit a car. Then we left. Tonight we are trying to see an ESPECTACULO!!! A tango show at Señor Tango where Bill and Hillary and Selma and Sting all saw shows. Hope we can get in looking like hobos (we always sleep too late to do our laundry). Luckily tomorrow night we head to Iguazu falls to see the coolest waterfalls in the world. It will hopefully break up the cycle. Peace and Love. (when you sneeze 3 times in spanish speaking countries they say Salud, Amor y Dinero for each sneeze respectively...health, love, MONEY)

Friday, June 5, 2009

B.A. Update

here in argentina.

today we went to la boca, the colorful famous houses!

i accidentally ate a lot of plastic.

we really like being in a city. its quite the change from peru and ecuador. especially taxis.. we even had one that had a GPS system. last night we went out and met up with a few friends Nik has here studying abroad plus some of their friends. The scene was crazy and really crowded and we discovered something new..

THE MORE SOUTH THE MORE CREEPER.

You think guys in Ecuador are bad. And I already complained about the men in Peru. BUT the men in Argentina take the icing off the cake. Or top the cake. Or whatever that saying is. They are crazy and really forward and in your face.

MEN STOP IT. LEARN SOMETHING ABOUT MANNERS.

It has been very surprising..for some reason we thought they'd be more tame down here.

Oh also hilarious, we went to this vegetarian restaurant today and everything was gray/brown and tasted the same. Once Nik tried to ask what something was and the response she got was "de verdura" or of vegetable..well DUH! It was really reminiscent of a church fellowship meal, just without the weird meats and without my mama's delicious addition to the meal, baked ziti. YUM. (If you're reading this mom, I really want some of that baked ziti when I get home :-) ) The restaurant just looked like a soup kitchen. Thanks for the suggestion, Lonely Planet..hahaha.

We come home so soon and we can't believe our trip is almost over!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

i love a shower in holland

Hola!

Back in Lima and staying at the Flying Dog Hostel, which is very clean and quite nice. (WAYY better than the last spot we stayed here..) We went dorm style rooms and were lucky enough to get a bunk bed without reservation ahead of time! And once the toilet flooded and left an inch of water outside the door which Nik splashed through without hesitation. HAHA. Then a man ¨cleaned it up¨with a mop and bucket and there was still an inch of water next to my bed, which is where we accidentally dumped a pile of chips. Gross. Soggy chips. There´re still there right now.

To celebrate we went out and got a few drinks with three other people from our hostel...two 23yr olds from Holland and one roughly 45(?give or take 3yrs?)yr old from Florida. It was really fun and we learned two games, one called Hello bishop, which I will try to bring back to EEUU.

A few highlights of the night..

*After introducing themselves to us, Nik and I almost simultaneously turn to each other to get secret clarification of one of their names...IS THAT BOY´S NAME...HAM?? (it was not.)
*One of the boys kept addressing us as ¨girl.¨ I´m not sure why, but I found it hilarious every time... It´s your turn girl! or You have to drink girl!
* The word for burp in dutch is the same as the word for farmer. (knowledge points)
*Long conversation about showers in Holland. Not gonna go into it but I´m now under the impression that families and friends shower TOGETHER in Holland. All the time.

Other than that we´ve spent most of our time in Lima planning the next part of our trip and doing nothing. We walked a long way today and I ate a hotdog for lunch. I think our old travelling companions would be proud at how far we walked in place of getting a taxi. It is cold and I´m concerned for BA, since it is winter there and I have no winter clothing.

Also, one more thing about LIMA. THE MEN HERE SUCK AND ARE GROSS. We are sick of the kissy sounds and gross greetings. GET A LIFE YOU IDIOT MEN. plus YOU´RE OLD so why do you even BOTHER??

We miss you all and are excited to come back and see you though this next part of our trip should be extra fun...tango lessons, world wonders and cheap pizza (or so I´ve heard.)

This post was more boring than I meant it to be..oh well, it was at the very least informative.
Neat-o Burrito,
Kelsey

Sunday, May 31, 2009

pHOTO jOURNAL



SUCCESS!!! MACHU PICCHUUUUU!


Martin! The porter/chef who cooked us gourmet meals along the trail!



Kelsey´s hilarious makeshift blister remedy.


Truck on fire at the bus terminal in Chimbote, Peru...ghetto



Allie, Mikhail, Pierce and Peter At the beach in Mancora, stop number 1 on the whirlwind journey

Less Money, Mo´ Problems in Peru

So WE DID IT!!! WE SURVIVED THE INCA TRAIL and have some neat Apus Peru (our trekking company) tshirts, some massive blisters, and atrophying calf muscles to show for it :) Those of you that thought our two out of shape butts would never make it were almost right, but still..WRONG! To be honest, yeah it was a challenge, but totally not impossible considering we had 9 tiny peruvian men carring all of our crap (over 100lbs per porter) plus they would sprint past us to all of our camp sites where they´d set up a fancy dinner tent and cook us gourmet meals, ballin.
Highlights Include:
-The name of our guide: Big Willy
-Big Willy´s magic potions which involved rubbing something that smelled like teatree oil all over kelsey´s altitude sick head. greasy. and then clapping alot and making her smell his hands.
- Pooping in little holes in the ground.
- Unbelievably beautiful, clear starry nights
- The porters getting a little too close for comfort when thanking us for the generous tips (accidental boob squeeze?)
- Porters baked cake for mikhail´s birthday...how do you even do that in the woods
- Making friends (or enemies) through song: being recognized by the other 800 people hiking along the trail as the girls who sing (everything from motown medleys to showtunes) to keep themselves from jumping off the cliffs.
-abSURD blisters: a few days before hiking the inca trail we hiked a mountain in Huaraz national park to practice and acclimate. Unfortunately all it did for Kels was give her MASSIVE MOON CRATER BLISTERS on the backs of her ankles due to the new hiking boots
- Kelséy´s makeshift attempt to fix the blister problem by wearing one venus (4$ ecuadorian style chuck taylor) and one hiking shoe


The Ancient City was all we expected it to be and more, though our sheer exhaustion after the four day hike led to a midday machu picchu nap and yoga session. We also saw many bird spirits.

Since then we saw the floating islands of Lake Titicaca, man made islands constructed of reeds where entire communities have lived for hundreds of years, originally started as a way of evading Incan and Spanish conquerers...ingenious!
We´ve spent the last few days in the lovely little colonial city of Arequipa, Peru, catching our breath and trying to plan the next leg of our trip: some charms of the city--delicious alpaca steaks and lovely christmas themed tablecloths at our cozy hostal. Also, they sell candy (mojjjey???) covered skewered strawberries here, like apples at a church bazaar but better!

Last night we decided to nurture our culture craving souls with a seemingly highly regarded and well advertised argentinian ballet that turned out to be a live, amateur, soft core porn. GREAT. It would have been less awkward if i hadn´t graciously offered to buy an extra ticket for a lonesome 31 yr old civil rights lawyer who had just arrived in the city and was also staying in our hostal......

So now, our friends have gone, and the two of us broke college students are trying to figure out how the heck to get all the way to buenos aires without having to live on teh streets when we get there... suggestions would be GREATLY APPRECIATED.

off to lima to hitchhike back down south,


CATCH YOU ON THE FLIP SIDE!!!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

a sleepy time in cusco

hello all!

so TOMORROW at 6am we start the inca trail! craziness...but other than that we´ve been trying to relax here in cusco. here´s a brief update of our trip

1. we decided to fly into cusco and what a good decision..turns out people were protesting so intensely (the govt wants to privatize water but the farmers disagree) that roads were blocked. the guys we´re travelling with met girls who had to walk 35km into cusco because their bus was overtaken by protesters who kicked everyone off and then stole their toothpaste in order to write on the side of the bus. interesting.

2. at the beginning of the flight, when they were giving annoucements, nikki was doing something funny that caused me to laugh. the laugh came out as a sort of snort-cough which sounded kind of gross. the two people in front of me turned around and glared and i had no idea why. turns out, i cough-laughed right after the swine flu announcement. i felt like a jerk.

3. we´ve been feeling pretty under-the-weather since being here and actually spent the entire day sleeping yesterday. luckilly, we´re in a really nice hostel that is clean and is a charity that helps orphans in peru. doubly good. let´s just hope that nik´s crazy stomach pains go away. i called my parents for advice and it seems like it is NOT apendicitis due to the quiz my mom gave me for it. we actually slept about 34 hours alltogether.

4. today we went shopping and it was quite nice. i bought my nana the cutest hat that i hope she will wear. if she doesn´t want it, i will gladly take it.

5. with ease we´ve been finding veggie restaurants for allie, hooray!

we love you, please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we embark on the next leg of our trip...mountain climbing with no pants!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

updizzle.

Not too easy to keep this thang updated without internet. This is the first time i´ve had internet since the start of our adventure (kels had a sec for a s hort post a few nights ago). I´ll try to give you a short play by play of what weve done so far:

2 days in mancora, sweet beach in northern peru, where we mostly just layed around getting sunburned. Pierce was very excited when he found us a 5$ hostal on the beach, what a GREAT DEAL!!! What he didnt realize was that kelsey´s bed was infested by ants, there would be a cockroach in our toilet or, my personal favorite, that ocean water was pumped directly into our shower--how refreshing!! Actually my hair turned into one giant dreadlock from that. it was sort of gross. we did find a nice vegitarian restaurant where i hastily orded the hummus which, obviously, could never live up to moms but was a nice latino-style attempt. From there we took a bus to Chimbote, and from Chimbote a connecting bus to Huaraz. This portion of travel was the most treaturous and the biggest mishap of the trip yet. Here they have busses they refer to as ¨bus camas¨(cama in spanish means bed). They advertise luxurious leather seats that recline completely and charge a pretty penny. Knowing the trip would be at least 14 hours (it turned out to be 24) we coughed up the dough only to find out we´d been SCAMMED. Not a BUS CAMA AT ALL. BUS TRASH CAN IS MORE LIKE IT. lowest ceilings ever, the seats not only didnt recline into beds, they pretty much leaned forward. Also, no windows, it was suffocating. We arrived inChimbote in the am around 6 to see a giant 18 wheeler on fire in the bus terminal. Next we bussed to national park Huaraz which took about 10 hours and a bus filled with crates of chickens. I can confidently say that These were the most death defying switchback mountain roads i´ve seen yet in south america. Barreling down A one lane unpaved dirt road teetering over an ominous gorge was enough to make me want to poop my pants, but i did see some amazing views and have some cool pics ill try to load when i get a chance. Along the way we stopped at a shack stuck to the side of a mountain for ´lunch´. Allie, our vegetarian friend, asked for a platter without meat. No problem, the indigenous lady promised us, and promptly gave her a heaping helping of cua cua, a stew made of cow innards and potatos. YUM.

After that we finally got to huaraz where we st ayed in a beautiful hostal with nice hot baths and comfy beds. After a good nights sleep we did a crazy hike up to mt. churup to see lake churup at an altitude of around 13 to 14,000 ft. The atltiude was tough but we took breaks and ate snacks until after a few hours we came to a treacherous mountain scaling portion that required 10000% arm strength that, to be frank, i just aint got. Us three girls decided to wait while the boys hap hazardly, sans ropes or safety nets, attempted the climb when, of course, it started to hail and thunder. Obviously us three decided to make a break for it and turned around. Even though we never saw the lake we did see the snowy peak from the hike and it was really beauitful. Overall it was about 7 or 8 hours of hiking. I´ve never been so exhausted or full of achies but it was a good day. Since then we got a real bus cama and came to Lima where we are now. Something awkward happened though in the bus station where, in order to board, they forced us to give our fignerprints. Some warning thing went off in my head and i imagined my parents telling me some lawyer stuff about why it was a bad idea and i freaked out at the woman and told her i wouldn´t do it. she grabbed my hand jabbed it in the inkpad and with only a moment left to think, i smeared my print messily across the paper, grabbed my ticket and sprinted away. Thinking back i´m lucky i didnt end up in a Peruvian jail, i realize i didnt follow my moms advice: KALP (KEEP A LOW PROFILE). Dont worry mom, i wont let you down in the future! That´s it for now, tomorrow we fly to Cuzco where we´ll be for two days before we finally start the four day hike to Machu Picchu on friday!! Til then,
Nik

Sunday, May 17, 2009

24 hour travel

hey people,

just wanted to keep you updated real quick on our one month adventure... today after HONEST TO GOD 24 HOURS OF STRAIGHT TRAVEL we landed in huaraz, peru. we´re staying at a really nice hostel and got upgraded for FREE to this bangarang room. also we had delicious indian food for dinner tonight.

tomorrow i´ll try to post photos of the ridiculously awesome views we had on the last 8hour or rather, 12 hour portion of our trip.

tomorrow we´re off to see a lake, a 3 hour hike in order to practice for the big mama of all hikes, MP!! tomorrow evening a bus to lima.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

the monster, PARTIN


he does things like this on his own without prompting. he knows how to capture hearts.

i think my parents could relate to this photo

sometimes i give him a taste of his own medicine


in my house lives an adorable little two year old named martin. sometimes we call him isaac. and SOMETIMES we call him partin, because he can't pronounce m-sounds and instead says m's as p's. its hilarious and he's cute. he is slightly disastrous. sometimes we make him dance for water, Martin--dance and we'll give you water! hahaha. and he does and its cute.

and once when i came out of my room in the morning he was eating butter out of the container with a fork. his mom was horrified when i told her.

dogs suck it.


so all you people (mom and dad) who would laugh when i complained about the dogs and made jokes about there being a cat outside on the street!! just take a look at our friend daissy's dog bite :-((( she almost made it out alive, the dog attacked one day before her departure! we miss you daissy and we hope you don't have rabies.

secondly, AMAZING NEWS... we heard that there is now a mandate in lumbisi and all dogs with owners have to put collars on them because soon enough the dogs found withOUT collars will be KILLED! i shouldn't be so glad about that but i am. nikki's mom told her that they put meat with poison in the streets and the dogs eat it and die and then there are a bunch of dead dogs all over the street. which is gross. but really sort of nice at the same time..CHISTE!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Piccccaaazzzz



Parade in Riobamba during spring break!



Fat baby!!



service trip to bring toothbrushes to the kids in Huasalata

And then it was over…

So Thursday is our final day in Ecuador: fastest 4 months of my life. I know we’ve been MIA for the last like 5 weeks, sorry to disappoint, we’ve been caught up in a chaotic whirlwind attempt to fill every second of every day with worthwhile last minute sites and experiences while simultaneously trying our darndest not to fail all of our final projects and exams. Speaking of school, here’s something that will probably come of no surprise to those of you who read/recall my post about our fieldtrip with the Plantas Medicinales class (medicinal plants) and the leathery-faced, chain smoking, lunatic teacher:

Two weeks ago this teacher planned a mandatory field trip to the Columbian border. For those of you that don’t know what that means, let me spell it out for you: F-A-R-C. That’s right, FARC territory. For those of you still in the dark, las fuerzas armadas revolucionarias de Colombia are famous worldwide for their knack at political kidnappings, terrorist actions, involvement in drug trafficking, etc. You may recall the front-page photos released of withered former Colombian Presidential Candidate Ingrid Betancour after her 7-year stay with the FARC. Rather unpleasant to say the least. What’s more, there are upwards of 20 known and well-documented FARC bases on the Ecuadorian side of the border, and in the last 5 years the kidnappings and deaths of a decent number of Americans have been recorded in that area. That being said, it seems a given that a bunch of American abroad students should at least attempt to avoid meandering through the area. Something about the way our professor joked about bringing our passports just incase we come across the FARC gave me a tip off we probably shouldn’t be going there, and after checking with the International Student Office and the US Embassy, of course, I was right. Not only were we prohibited from attending the field trip (not that I wanted to get stuck with this lunatic again anyway) but the US embassy assured us that if we took our chances and got kidnapped by the FARC they’d simply say ‘I toldja’ so and leave us to die. I know what you’re thinking, any teacher in their right mind, completely aware that they have international students in their class, would NEVER plan a trip to the middle of ****ing FARC territory. Right?......WRONG, BITCH THIS IS ECUADOR. I think you can see where this is going…

1. Lunatic teacher gets pissed at us because he has already fronted the $$$$ for the bus to take us to the middle of the jungle, and us 4 international students wouldn’t be going so he’s out 80$.
2. When we ask if we can do a make up assignment, he berates us and our program coordinator, essentially telling us we’re morons and don’t deserve to live and that we are automatically going to be docked 10% of our final grade for not going.
3. Dean of Undergraduate students spends nearly an hour on the phone attempting to explain why it is unacceptable to force American students into FARC territory and persuading Prof. Imadickwad to give us a fair make-up assignment. Dean does not neglect to mention that even Ecuadorian students should not be going to FARC territory and that this is a major liability for the university and if anything happens he’s in deep you know what.
4. Prof proceeds to give us the silent treatment in class except to explain the completely outrageous assignment he claims is comparable to what the other students will be doing.
5. We are sick of the b/s and, with excessive difficulty and unnecessary fines, proceed to drop the class completely.
6. (Meanwhile, the professor cancelled the bus b/c not enough students were going to pay for it, and he has the students drive to the jungle in their own cars)
7. Day of the trip; MASSIVE CAR ACCIDENT. One of the student cars got in a terrible accident and flipped over multiple times. Now: Professor has a neck brace and so does one other student, the third student has a severe back injury and is still in the hospital hooked up to some machine that is lifting her head to decompress her spinal chord. GREAT IDEA PROFESSOR MORON.

SO this is what happens when you take a Medicinal Plants class with a total mental case.

Aside from that occurrence we’ve been preparing for the next leg of our trip: Adventures of Nikki And Kelsey—the mysteries of Machu Picchu, why Evo Morales charges Americans $100 to enter Bolivia, and How Argentina got its Groove Back.


The upcoming entries may be short, but we’ll try to keep you up to date on the crazy happenings. As it were, this Thursday we are leaving on a massive whirlwind, intracontinental trip through South America. First stop: the Inca Trail!! (A 4 day hike from Cuzco, Peru to Machu Picchu, the worlds largest and oldest and sickest Inca ruin.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ay, Qué Tiempo!

Sorry to leave you guys hanging for so long, unfortunately we spent the last few weeks out of touch with western civilization, oh you know, just canoeing around the amazon, strolling along cobblestone streets of Cuenca, basking under the midday ecuadorian coastal sun and riding a crap load of busses (and, consequently, downing the Bonine). We covered some serious ground since you've last heard from us, so i'll try to make this post as short and sweet as possible.

Chapter 1: The Amazon
Would you care to hear the epiphany I had while canoeing down the meandering Napo river through Haorani territory of the Ecuadorian amazon? Squatted low in the hollowed out log, gazing up at the dense foliage I had a distinct feeling of familiarity. Deja vu? A dream perhaps? No, I realized at that moment that the lazy river of Walt Disney World's Typhoon Lagoon was a total rip off of the Amazon! You know I felt right at home though, i felt like around the next bend i might see Mickey or Goofey waving as we floated by. It was a pleasant momentary daydream until we arrived at camp, drenched from the waterlogged boat and already covered in bug bites. Moments later, the second boat of classmates showed up with a tree monkey they had captured. They tied it to a pole and it stayed there screaming the whole weekend. Aayaya! For the most part the weekend was relatively enjoyable, we had a chance to get to know the everday happenings of a Haorani family, which mostly involved trecking waist deep through dense mud of the Amazon in search of food. We ate mostly normal stuff, a lot of yuca, some fish, soups, platanos (plantains), etc. All cooked in delicious brown river water!! (More to come regarding this issue...) One day we hiked through the mucky, merky dense mud of the Amazon (so eloquently referred to by Laura as "Mother Nature's Vagina") in search of a good fishing spot. On our trek it poured like i've never known rain to pour before, i got stung by a wasp in the forehead (which later resulted in my eyes swelling shut in a more comical than not sort of way), we snacked on cacao seeds picked straight from the tree (the fruit that chocolate is made from), we got lost, and finally after hours of rubbing our ankels raw in muddy wet rainboots we arrived at the river, only to be informed by our naked Haorani guide that we couldn't fish because the rain had flooded the river. GREAT. so we walked back with our honorable war wounds, half starved. That is sort of a good overview of what the weekend was like. We also spent alot of time swimming in the brown river, baking on the banks, getting rained on, getting bug bites, and eating yuca. One night the Haorani even did a mock wedding ceremony which was pretty sweet, some of our classmates broke out their guitars and kept us entertained as well. I'd say the lowlight was the final day when the river was too low to canoe back to the road and so we hiked, in our travel home clothing, waist deep, through rivers, mud, and the freaking amazon rain forest! It was mostly a disaster. My boots were filled with river water, my feet stank by the end, i was disgusting and muddy and sweaty and i have never seen a group of people with worse hair. Honestly. Three days without bathing in the Amazon does something crazy to your hair. In the end, despite the nasty treks, bug bites, soaking wet clothing, etc. I was pretty gald i'd done it. I mean how many people can say they hiked through the freaking Amazon? Not too many.

Now back to cooking with the river water: one by one the gringos went down like flies. One classmate started puking before we even left. Two others on the bus ride home. And the rest of the gringos (sans Kelsey and I, though I have no clue how we were saved) were hospitalized with relentless vomiting, explosive diarrhea and dehydration. That's right, when I showed up at school on monday I was one of two gringos in our class who wasn't in the hospital. Hollllerrrrr.


Ok, Chapter 2 will be spring break, i'll give you a quick preview and post about that later this week:
Mindo-zip lining and tubing
Cuenca - Pretty churches
Ingapirca - incan Ruins
Beach---BEACH!!!
Riobamba - Awesome cultural festivals to celebrate una batalla de independencia.

k thats all for now <3 <3 <3
nik

Amazon up close and personal



Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Let it Rain

So mom and Al have been here in Ecuador visiting for the last week. I think they're enjoying it so far--I've done my best to give them an authentic taste of Ecuadorian culture. From stuffy, closed-window, puppy-stank bus rides on windy mountain roads, to goat stew, to HACE (high altitude cerebral edema) they've pretty much experienced it all. But now I just want to share with you a short anecdote about our time together...

TeleferiQo

A few years ago, a massive ski lift was installed up to the towering peak of Mt. Pichincha, an 8 minute ride for which they overcharge unsuspecting tourists. Of course we couldn't miss it so we hopped into a precariously swinging pod and slowly scaled the mountainside. WIth only one or two heart stopping glitches that left our pod swinging out of control thousands of meters in the air, we reached the top. It was a relatively unimpressive sight due to the afternoon's low clouds. In fact, we were so high up we were walking around in clouds, so dense that i could barely see two feet in front of my face. But this is neither here nor there....

One thing about Ecuador (and the greater part of South America) that Americans find particularly difficult to adjust to is the bathroom situation. Unfortunately we don't have high powered flushers here, and as a result you just can't flush the TP. Instead, there's a trash can in each stall where you, um, toss the used hygienic tissue. That being said, at fancy hotels like the JW Marriott you don't have to worry about being put out of your tiny little American comfort zone, which makes it even harder for JW Marriott guests to remember not to flush the TP when outside of their luxurious first-world-in-the-third-world-hotel. I assume you've guessed where this is going by now, but if not let me go on. So, after an only slightly HACE inducing ride up the teleferiQo, Mom decided to use the ladies room at the small oxygen bar/eatery located at the summit. Giggling guiltily as she leaves the bathroom, she confesses she accidentally flushed a small piece of TP. I told her not to worry, that a small piece shouldn't matter, but as the words left my mouth i was interrupted by the sound of pouring water, almost like rain. We turned around to witness a steady stream of water leaking through the bathroom ceiling, and as we watched the steady stream turned to a torrential tsunami, and after about twenty seconds, the bulging ceiling burst under the pressure and exploded to the ground, a river flooding out the door. We took one look at each other and made a break for the ski lift back down.

Not gonna lie, that turn of events made for the best entertainment of the afternoon. Thanks mom.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Wheels on the Bus (Ecua-version)

Verse One: The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round...

Well, at least they mostly go round and round. Nik already covered the hilarity and cow poop that ensues when you get a flat tire in Ecuador (loved the plantas trip) but also important to note is that sometimes the wheels are going round and round but they're not taking you anywhere.. Since all the busses are stick-shift, they stall and spin and practically roll down the Lumbisi hills everyday. Mostly, the busses impress me because they manage to go round and round really dangerous curves and cliffs. Gutsy, Ecua-bus, very gutsy.

Verse Two: The vendor on the bus goes BON ICE, BON ICE, BON ICE...

Mmm. Delicious. I love the Bon Ice sellers. Its super normal for vendors of all sorts to hop on and off the bus at redlights or stops. These poeple sell the afore mentioned Bon Ice but also delicious fruit, lollipops (yeah 3 for a dollar say WHA?), Ecuadorian snacks and the ocassional cure-all or religious jewelry. These last guys come on the bus, hand out their merchandise and then shout about it for awhile. The first few times I thought these vendors were just people giving things out for free and that I was getting ignored because I am a gringa, WHY DON'T I GET A FREE TOY TOO??!! but then, after I calmed down a bit, I realized his hand outs were just meant to tempt the buyer. Because after you hold that Jesus necklace in your sweaty hands, you have just GOT to buy it! Its like the DEB slogan, want it, need it, got to have it! (unless you shop on the OTHER side of DEB of course in which case the slogan is Its not a size, its an attitude!..why do i know these things.)

Verse Three: The windows on the bus go open and shut, open and shut, open and shut….

Unspoken war.

War, my friends, between the gringos and Ecuadorians. (And sometimes between the gringos and the bus itself since the windows are often jammed and LOCKED shut.) One cultural difference I’ve noticed, Ecuadorians do not appreciate or want the refreshing breeze that a bus windows offer. They prefer stagnant, humid, recycled air. The first thing that ANY true gringo does when boarding the bus is to run around like a crackhead opening every possible window because it doesn’t matter if it is 85 degrees and sunny, as soon as the bus is full, you can count on the Ecuadorians to promptly shut the windows, cut off the oxygen supply and then breathe hot breaths all over the place. WHY, you ask? I DON’T KNOW. I’m reminiscent of all those times we’d ride to the pool in the little red car with the windows up (in order to get there as hot as possible) only to arrive at the exact moment adult swim was starting. Its like I’m constantly ready for a cool, dip in the pool but I can’t because I’m eight and its freaking adult swim.

Verse Four: The driver on the bus shouts “Suba! Suba! Suba!”
Basically this is the dealio. There’s two guys in charge of each bus. One man drives and the other one shouts. That’s it.

Monday, March 23, 2009


this isn´t even a place we visited..we just stopped to take pics along the side of the road because everything is so gorgeous in ecuador

here´s a picture of the scary spider that lives in my shower and that i have yet to be able to kill!

beautiful waterfall

little cute puppy... an Ecuadorian dog that I don´t dislike!?

here´s a music man!


this isn´t even a place we visited..it is just a place we stopped on the way to some other beautiful destination

Photossssss



Spices at Otavalo!




Kelsey ill/sleeping on the bus lololz.





Alexis bought a Puppy at Otavalo! We named him Poncho. He was being starved and abused, she just had to buy him. now we will have a dog that's our friend in lumbisi!




Kelsey and Me at la cascada de Peguche!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Disclaimer: Read this blog at your own risk

I would like to make a general disclaimer for this blog that applies to all past and forthcoming posts:
Crazy, Dangerous, Embarrassing and Unfortunate occurrences make better stories!
We are story tellers, selective story tellers at that. We're not using this blog as a diary, or an account of all mundane daily activities. We're mostly keeping this blog to entertain you all, and nothing makes a good story like a crazy field trip, a mugging, rabid dog attacks etc. The point I'm trying to make is, we've had wonderful experiences in Ecuador. It's beautiful here and our time here has, for the most part, been incredible. You just happen to get the stories that make for the best entertainment. That being said, I'll leave you with a softy so we can stop being told by various related and unrelated parents that we should come home:


Last sunday morning I got up at 730am to go for a hike with my dad and my brother. My dad is a tiny indigenous man, probably about 5 feet tall, who builds houses, grows corn, and runs all the time. My brother is studying engineering. He's kind of a goof, not particularly athletic, but he's super nice and really smart. We walked up the path that goes into the mountains of Lumbisi in the chilly morning air. On our way we passed women heading home after collecting beans from 430am, we saw kids walking herds of cattle up into the hills to graze and we greeted and were greeted by everyone we passed. As we hiked up, my dad pointed out to me medicinal plants that can be used to heal sore throats, injured backs, poor eyesight, and more. As we ascended the mountain he showed me the view of the city: we could see my university and all the nearby towns. He pointed out Cotopaxi and Tunguragua, the two snowcapped volcano peaks that surround Quito. He told me stories about farmers in Lumbisí finding ancient Incan artifacts, pottery, agricultural tools and even from time to time bodies encased in gold, buried beneath their corn fields. He even showed me a few pots that he had found that we have around our home. He explained that when the spanish conquerers came, the Incan tribes buried all of their belongings in the fields and fled, hoping to return someday. When we reached the top, we took a rest together, my brother and i panting while my dad jogged in place. We walked back down, stopping at the community cemetery where my dad pointed out the graves of my mother's parents. His own father had been buried in Quito because, when he died in the hospital, the authorities buried the body without consulting the family as to where they wanted him buried. My mom's mom passed away when she was 3, and her father when she was only a little bit older. After about an hour of getting to know Lumbisi and my family a little better, we went home where my mom had breakfast ready on the table. It was an awesome way to start the day and one of my favorite experiences i've had with my family in Lumbisi.


(k. i know that was kind of sissy. just had to throw it in there for all of the worrisome adults following this blog. no worries though, next weekend we're going to the Amazon with a CRAZY anthropology teacher, so i've got high hopes for stories chock full of malaria, drowning, insect consumption, pooping in a pit and more!)

Monday, March 16, 2009

representin' like you knew we would



You know it.
Penn State around the world: location-top of Mt. Pichincha in Quito, Ecuador



Us and our friend Daissy at the top of Pichincha. We took the teleferiQo up here, kind of like a ski lift on crack.



at lake Papallacta. It was super bonito here; a little higher up in the mountains we went swimming in the hot springs where the water is naturally heated by a nearby active volcano, holler. It was actually ballz hot in that water, shiza.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It´s Electric, boogie-oogie-oogie!



Every morning I wake up, generally to the pleasant sound of rabid barking dogs or periodically to my bedroom ceiling crumbling down upon my tranquil face while my dad hammers away on the roof. I get up, brush my teeth, and hop in the shower. The shower, let me explain, has an electric water heater. And, on the wall of our bathroom, there is a switch that I generally flip while i brush my teeth, to get the electric generator going and warm up the water. This switch has a rubber cover on it, and the electric switchboard has a plastic case to keep wet individuals from electrocuting themselves. Thus far, this has worked quite well for me. However, the plastic casing has been getting loose, and falling off. And this morning when I walked into the bathroom it was gone completely. Instead, on the wall was the metal generator complete with metal coils, wires, screws, all glimmering brilliantly in the morning sun pouring through the windows. As i brushed my teeth and daintily grabbed the rubber cover of the switch a conversation with my mother rang in my ears: ¨Electric showers? You´re going to electrocute yourself! Make sure you know how to use it¨ she´d warned, after reading about the elctric water heaters used in most of ecuador. So i was careful, i made sure to avoid touching the metal and i hopped in. Now, this rarely happens, but periodically the shower water is too hot. I repeat, 99% of the time, i am freezing my butt off, but today that electric heater was really doing its job. So much so that half way through the shower I had to turn it off because the water was scalding my body and there is only one nob to turn the water on and off, nothing to control temperature. So, carefully, i reach for the rubber casing. Slowly i begin to flip the switch into the off position, taking care not to touch the metal plate. But, ALAS, a ROGUE DROPLET of water hanging from my thumb reached its watery limbs as far as it could and clung to a metal coil miliseconds before I could pull my hand away, and suddenly VOLTS OF ELECTREICITY COURSED THROUGH MY NAKED ARM AND BODY AND I FLEW AGAINST THE WALL OF THE SHOWER.

That´s right. I was electrecuted while showering this morning.

After my heart started beating at a normal pace again, i toweled off, walked back to my room and got dressed. Just another morning in Lumbisi, Ecuador.

<3 nik

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

2 quick notes

1. At home I love a little dippy egg (over easy/over medium) with a piece of toast. YUM. Here, I still get the dippable egg but instead of a crunchy piece of bread to dip in it, I get rice. Or sometimes when I'm lucky, potatoes. It is not as good.

2. Last night, after a failed attempt to go see a fútbol game, we decided to stay out for a bit longer--hey now, it costs money to get into Quito, so once we're there, we stay. Anyway, we're out for a little while whatever, whatever and we head home. Now, going home at night is always a challenge. First we have to argue with about 13 cab drivers to find someone who isn't trying to rip us off. Then we have to pray that they will actually drive us all the way TO lumbisi and THEN to our houses. *insert: I'm super excited because the road behind my house was just built so it's much more likely they'll drive me! IT IS SO EXCITING to have that road!! Poor Nik, she still hasn't got one, but when she does, it'll be better than mine because it will be in the front of her house. * So last night we find a really good taxi, driven by Sr. Milton and we head home. The last challenge (and in my opinion, SCARIEST) is facing the dogs.

My friend Eva had some french fries and gave me a few to ward off any dogs I may encounter on my way to the door. In order to get to my house I always have to walk through the back of my yard where there are anywhere from 1-7plus dogs waiting to attack. Because my parents in the states "remember" and "care" about me, they've taken absolutely no action in buying me the dog keep away thing I asked for. THANKS, I can tell you are really concerned for my well being. Well, anyway, last night it seemed fairly safe. And I am walking by Krusty, the stupid little puppy that belongs to my crazy Aunt Patty or cousin or someone and he starts barking. I've learned that while that dog isn't dangerous, he tends to wake up the other dogs, but for some reason or another, nothing was happening and I felt like I would get in my house FINE. So I start eating the french fries, why not, right?

WRONG MOVE, STEWART! As soon as I do, MY dog starts barking and charging at me and I'm terrrrrrrified! and trying to say his name in a soothing way, but these dogs are CRAZY and don't respond to normal things like that! So you know what I did? I took the chewed, mushy french fry OUT of my mouth and throw it at him. It shut him up, but was a little ridiculous. Message of the story? I want my high pitch thing to scare the dogs.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Field Trip Of DEATH.

When perusing the course catalogue for USFQ at the beginning of the semester, Medicinal Plants caught my eye. I thought it sounded like an interesting class, maybe even  one that would count toward my unfulfilled lab science requirement. Either way, i had high hopes for Medicinal Plants; maybe sort of cosmic, maybe moderately spiritual, but relaxing at least and hopefully not too difficult. I had grand aspirations of learning a thing or two about the immensely diverse flora of Ecuador, maybe even coming home with a few tricks up my sleeve: an infusion of manzanilla for a stomach ache? Tea of flor de iso for a cough, perhaps? Alas, how was I to know that not only would my hopes and dreams for Plantas Medicinales fall flat on their pathetic faces, but rather that i would be dragged down to the river of Hades along with them. 

This past weekend I had my first salida del campo (field trip) with Medicinal Plants, led by the one and only Zak Vlastimil, lovingly dubbed "Vlasti" by the Ecuadorian students. Let me just tell you a few things about Profe. Vlasti: he is a leather-faced, yellow-toothed, gaunt, wrinkled, chain smoking lunatic. He carries a machete in one hand, a lighter in the other, and normally has a marlboro hanging off his chapped bottom lip. (Our friend Laura immediately dropped the class after realizing his stark resemblance to the stereotypical sexual predator.)  Don't get me wrong, he's a nice enough guy i suppose, but i'm just trying to paint the picture for you. 
Bear with me a moment: you know how they say people tend to look like their dogs? This might be a stretch, but if our field trip could be personified, it would reincarnate as this crazy, emphysematic botanist. Let me explain:
1. Our ghetto ass bus, complete with ample thunder cats stickers and playboy bunny decals (though no bathroom), looked like it may or may not have been in Hiroshima when the A-bomb was dropped. 
2. The destination of our field trip was unknown. It's not that Vlasti didn't know where we were going, just that it didn't have a NAME. That's right, we were going to a location so remote, so deep in the forbidden forest, that no one had bothered to name it. 
3. After 2 or 3 hours of nauseating  bus ride, driving along one-lane mountain "roads" continually threatening of crumbling beneath us into deadly mudslides, we came to a strike. No mudslide, a strike. 7 workers who were pissed off that threw a log in the middle of the road and lit it on fire. So we proceeded to attempt an 80 point turn, the back wheel threatening to slip off the muddy cliff and, though my eyes were squeezed shut in fear, the image of us crashing down the cliff to our deaths in the unforgiving rapids below played repeatedly in my mind's eye!
4. Right, so we turn around, backtrack the 3 hours and drive another 6 into the darkness of night when one of the tires of the hiroshima bus explodes. We get off the bus to let the bus driver figure out how to fix it, sans jack, only to find that the ground outside wasn't ground at all but pure COW POOP. right. so now there's cow poop in my hiking boots and i'm standing outside at midnight in some unknown region of ecuador.
5. Fastforward, finally show up at this god forsaken place: 3 shacks in the middle of the woods without electricity and only a trickle of running water. Know what they had plenty of though? NATURAL GAS. Some freaking pipe was leaking gas into our shack that we shared with our class of 20 all night and i was sure the chain smoker was going to blow us all up. Lord.
6. Day 2: We are forced to cross a coursing river (with all the force of a great typhoon) 50 feet below on a PIPE WITH A 6 INCH DIAMETER.  Jesus lord. Get me a freaking bridge. Vlasti flew across like he does this in his spare time, while kels and i were inching across, shaking with terror, one mile an hour, picturing our untimely demise. 
7. We get to the other side to find our classmates cringing in pain, coughing up blood. Vlasti thought it would be a funny joke to feed them some plant that practically killed them. GOOD.
8. Drive home: long, miserable, and the lack of bathroom on the bus proved it self continually problematic. Thanks, God, for inventing Immodium. 

Ok, ok, long story short worst field trip ever; yet, at the same time, it was totally, authentically Ecuador. Somehow my constant mantra of "this is a law suit waiting to happen" didn't hold the same weight here as it does at home. Moral of the story-plantas medicinales = death by plants. 


<3>

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Picca picca picca

my neighbors skinning a sheep, AY!


 

happy bday kels! love the cake face tradition!

Monday, March 2, 2009

My neighbors hung a lamb from a tree and skinned it...

We spent this past weekend in Lumbisí with our families taking in the indigenous culture and basking in the sun of Ecuador's eternal spring.  Tranquil as it sounds, life in Lumbisí is not all sunshine and daisies. In fact, my weekend was peppered with excitement: after a morning of de-graining and grinding corn kernels to make "humitas," little corn cakes wrapped and cooked in the husks, I stepped outside to witness my neighbors skinning a lamb hung from a tree. ¡Guácala! (Gross!)  Not sure if this is more humane or not, but my neighbors assured me that they didn't kill the lamb but rather that it strangled itself on the leash they had it attached to. NORMAL.  Saturday night at Kelsey's birthday party thrown by her fam we drank (ecuador's finest beer: Pilsener, the flavor of which could be closely equated with rotten toilet water or something of the like) we danced, and we smashed the cumpleañera's face into the cake as is the local tradition. Sunday, we attended one of the finest sporting spectacles I've witnessed in my day. Lumbisí's annual campeonato, championship, was this weekend and the Men's and Women's basketball teams from my Sector were in the finals. These teams are made up of little indigenous people age 18-45 and the tumult of chaos that took place may have out-spectacled my 8th grade Main Line Girls Basketball Assoc. championship game in which, despite holding the competition to a mere 13 points, we lost 13-8. GOOD.    If i ever have enough bandwith to upload the videos i shot at the Lumbisí games  you'll have the pleasure of witnessing a hilarious show of some of the finest basketball skillz since AI, complete with ample ball kicking and bricks ricocheting off the backboard at every foul shot. The highlights were probably the delicious sandia (watermelon) and the home made helado (ice cream). 

Also, the sun was so freaking strong at the game on saturday my face practically burned off. 

Next time, I'll write about the bullshit redtape we went through to claim a package from Ecuador's Customs agents. Ohhhh Ecuadorian socialist government, you are annoying sometimes, even more annoying than the waiting at the DMV or Post Office in America for hateful hateful government workers. 

love~!!!!R@ Py359QWPET nik :)


Thursday, February 26, 2009

a little birthday night

so, here's a post about the nighttime portion of my birthday. it will not be long.

1. a girl in our program, ella, gave me a lapdance and it was hilarious. it included a little motorboat action, a banana and she took off her top.

2. watermelon margarita, SO GOOD.

3. so we were dancing and these guys come up to dance with us...

a.) alexis is dancing with this guy and he bites her neck, she was like geeze umz, so she comes to dance near me and some others when we realize, HER NECK WAS BLEEDING. crazy!
b.) guy from the same group, but different guy is dancing with me when he goes to kiss me and OUCH it was more like BITING OFF MY LIPS. and i was like OUCH that hurt! and then he tried again and I was like seriously you have got to stop, and in translated spanish said, "that gives my lips pain. you need to stop or my lips will soon have blood. the kiss is hard." and then i left to go dance with some other girlfriends.

weirdos at the beach, stop making us bleed. honestly, my lip was swollen the next day.

pretty sure there is a class in this SECRET comp lab, so maybe if i ever get internet again, i'll post more later.

oh and really really quick, in our one class the teacher just got a new job and they always say he is working at the ministry.

obviously that means he is a wizard.

two gross things

my little sister and little brother chew loudly with their mouths open. they like to sit on either side of me. it is like surround sound torture. i'm not sure how, but this happens even with soup.

speaking of things that gross me out an inordinate amount...

over the vacation, all my pieces in ceramics got moldy. BARF. my prof tried to tell me "oh, mold is really good for clay." i still used little tools to pick up and move my bottle models.

more about my 21st (!!!) birthday

this post will cover the day part of my birthday: Isla de la Plata

Nik already mentioned that we went and hiked Isla de la Plata and that it was ridiculously exhausting and I'm pretty sure that I was delirious because i could only think of the following, "slow and steady wins the race" LIE. and also, "when the going gets tough, the tough gets going." and I thought that one through so much I didn't even know what it meant at the end. I was also having imaginary conversations (in my head, mostly) with the birds that went like this:

"well, deeeeerrr, I'm a birrrdyy." and then it would say, "and whooooo are yooouuu????" and then again, "deerrrrrrr, buuurddyyy." so maybe i was suffering from heat stroke, but you should have seen those bird eyes, they spoke to ya'.

and THEN ...

AND THEN!!!

we met people. from the u.s. who were working on the island. what was their job?

KILLING CATS!!!

lololololHA|HAHAHHAAlolol. okay, who the heck's JOB is it to CAPTURE LITTLE KITTENS and then MATAR them! that's all i'm saying, quite possibly, the highlight of the hike.

we also went snorkeling and even though visbality wasn't the best, it was wonderfully refreshing. i got to swim really close to a school of fish and snorkel with my mouth over a ?water pipe? that was probably never washed. the water was ridiculously blue and it was awesome.

also to note, zack made us all delicious breakfast and when we got back to puerto lopez, they surprised me with birthday s'mores annnddd birthday pretzels!! the least stale ones i've had. delicious.

yay birthday day. it was the first time my birthday hasn't been cold!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

PhotoJournalTyme.


Blue footed boobie at isla de la plata!!! (pato azul)



Nos gusta farrear!

So we made it back alive from Montañita, but not without our fair share of noteworthy (and by noteworthy i mean mental) happenings. Here is a quick overview:

1. Held up at knife point in Quito on the way to the bus station to Montañita. TERRIFYING. Only pat's phone got stolen b/c a car came up and started honking. Needless to say never again will we choose to walk two blocks rather than taxi. never again.

2. After 9 hour bus ride to Guayaquil and 3 hour bus ride from Guayaquil to Montañita we arrive move into our sweet hostel, the only downfall of which was the rank raw sewage smell suffocating all those on or around the first floor. (luckily our room was upstairs and since we reserved rooms in advance we got the best one with our own private bathroom that functioned normally for at least the first 48 hours of our trip).

3. SURF LESSON: if you do not have much balance on land, you probably have less in water.  If you can't swim, you will probably swallow gallons of salt water. Also, who even knew that surfing required SO MUCH ARM STRENGTH.  Despite all of these unknown facts that would have been nice to know in advance, we attempted and even succeeded at one or two surfing attempts. Not without significant war wounds, including bruises, cuts, Kelsey's minor concussion after being smacked in the head with her board, and a blow to our pride after an hour and a half of failed attempts. 

4.  There is nothing more delicious than a fresh fruit smoothie made for you by a street vendor after 3 hours of sleep. 

5.  THe party never stopped.  It would start around 8pm and we would stumble in between 3 and 5am, but couldn't sleep because it literally NEVER STOPPED.  It was so loud outside! Complete with beach front clubs, lots of bonfires, delicious beverage and food stands lining the streets and non stop music and dancing.  There were hundreds of people filling the streets where dreadlock-headed hippies would play the bongos and their female counterparts would do ribbon dancing to the tropical beats. Once or twice the power went out, and the entire town that had been pumping to various reggaeton tunes would be enveloped in darkness and silenced for a split second and then erupt into screams as we were doused in water and carnaval espuma in the dark!

5. a) a quick note about the food stands.  They all sold this DELICOUS grilled choclo (corn on the cob) smothered in some type of mystery sauce and cheese and it was sooooo good. I ate alot of it. 

6. And we were constantly covered in sand.  I will tell you, my anal organizational tendencies received a smack in the face by montañita's lifestyle choices.  Constant sand in my bed, constant muddy sand all over our bathroom, periodic water shortages which prevented showering, etc. (Of course, kelsey found all the cleaning supplies within the first day and we would sneak them out of the janitors closet to clean our room when no one was around.)

7. We celebrated kelsey's bday at Isla de la plata (a.k.a. 'poor man's galapagos'), a short day trip from montañita. We endured an unbelievably challenging hike in sweltering heat where we saw like 3 blue footed boobies and my ears burned and blistered like i've never seen. We also went snorkeling in some of the bluest water in Ecuador which was pretty awesome.

8.  After 5 days of this craziness and a total of about 15 hours of sleep in all that time we made our way back to Lumbisi safe and sound, though not without various bumps in the road such as booking a direct bus that stopped every 10 minutes, and realizing that all transport out of montañita was completely full. 

Either way, it was sooooo good to be at the beach for 5 days and I just wanna go back!


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Grapes here have giant seeds and Chavez is taking over the world!

So its been quite a while since our last post, a testament tof how busy/overwhelming/depressingly rainy it's been lately.  Ok so over the weekend it rained freaking cats and dogs, which resulted in power outages etc.  What's more? Ridiculous derrumbes! Huge amounts of mudslides that look crazy, apparently this is really normal and happens all the time and no one thinks anything of the fact that the main thoroughfares of Ecuador are completely impassable between the coast and the sierra. 

Mudslides in ecuador!!! hope we don't die!

 We'll have to see where this leads us for Carnaval! That's right, Carnaval is coming up and the ecuadorian tradition is to douse unsuspecting passersby with buckets of water, silly string/foam stuff and water balloons.  Kelsey even got caught by some high schoolers and covered in paint. GOOD! Anywho, so this carnaval we're planning on heading down the Coast to Montañita, a sweet surfer beach with perfect weather, a surf competition and one endless party. Plus, so much sun!   
This is the hostel where we are staying (stayed) in montañita complete with lots of hammocks and hot tubs. so good!


Ok so i wrote this last week (Feb 17th) but just had to post it before i updated you on carnaval

  

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

free cake

really quick: today when nik and I went to help teach english in a school in cumbaya all the kids had had to bake CAKES for homework! (there was a pumpkin pie recipe in their english book) so anyway, for a few hours we got to look at delicious fruit covered cakes as well as EAT delicious fruit covered cakes, free of charge, delish!

second: all the bus stops and random places around town have people walking around in crazy uniforms selling a delicious treat called ¨bon-ice¨which is basically an ice-pop that only costs ten cents. very refreshing, very cheap. i´m all about the bon-ice.

third: carnival is coming up! woo!

fourth: the other day our university was giving out free beer. at like ten a.m.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Pics from the first weekend trip

Nikki tries some cuy. YUM YUM in the TUM TUM.
we stayed here, it was built all by the guy who owned it and it was super cool

waterfall at baños

little babies everywhere

nikki at cotopaxi, in the snow!

here´s what my dad would have done for a living had he grown up in ecuador


really pretty, don´t deny it. look at them there mountains.






Shower Sex (yeah, you want to read it now.)

So my little brother, Martín (2 yrs) is sick. He’s been very grumpy and cry-y all day long and eventually I caught on that it was because he was sick. I think I also caught on last night when he was vomiting in the kitchen sink. ANYWAY. I feel for him, he’s super cute and no one likes a sicky baby.

Last night my dad’s cousin was in a car accident. The car FLIPPED on the road and was upside down and the roads to Lumbisí are so twisty-turny—thank god that he wasn’t hurt at all and didn’t even go to the hospital. Well, getting to the point of the story:

Since the whole family was up at three a.m. due to the accident, all the little kidney beans put themselves WILLINGLY to bed (without even saying goodnight) at seven-thirty. (Normal bedtime here nine or nine-thirty—and weekdays that goes for me as well!) I’m busy at this nice new desk they bought two weeks ago, drowning in a sea of confusion for my Themes of Latin America class when I notice that BOTH parents are preparing to shower and in fact BOTH parents ARE showering at the SAME TIME.

It’s cool that they want to take advantage of the rare moment of tranquility and freedom in this house. They’ve normally got a lot on their plate.

I mean, it’s cool AND it’s weird, because the shower room isn’t in a separate part of the house. I guess that’s why the dad kept turning up the television volume after I kept sneaking to try and turn it down whenever the room was empty… ANYWAY.

So I’m just ignoring the fact that I have to pee and I’m ignoring the fact that I’m pretty sure the parents are getting a little freaky-deaky in the shower, splish-splashin’ and all that shit when LO and BEHOLD little Martín starts screaming his lungs off.

I can’t ignore a sick baby! So I try my best to comfort him but when you’re two years old and sick all you want is your mom. In fact, I’m 20 and when I was sick last weekend I still only wanted my mom, so what’s that mean? It means: the kid isn’t going to stop fussing regardless of what I do for him. So what, you ask?

I HAD TO KNOCK ON THE DOOR WHILE MY PARENTS WERE SHOWERING TOGETHER AND INTERUPT WHATEVER WAS GOING ON IN THERE.

WAS THAT WAS SUPER AWKWARD?

YES!!
In fact, noone even answered right away. I actually took Isaac to the kitchen to try and get him either a cool washrag since he was burning up or some water, since he normally likes that. I had to wait for the parents to be ready and then the mom opened the door and called for him. And I had to bring him to her, while she was in a towel and the dad was still in the shower because Martín had settled a little bit in my arms and certainly wouldn’t have adjusted well to be set on the floor to walk to her.

SO ECUADORIAN!

No, wait, I’m wrong—that wasn’t stereotypical Ecuador that was just stereotypical my a veces stupid life.

A few minutes after the mom got dressed in the bathroom and came out with Martín the dad came out and sat on the couch, breathing hard with a hint of disappoint. It was weird.

Sorry this was long, gonna stop thinking about it now,
Kelsey

Friday, February 6, 2009

Bugbites and Beaches

Here is a quick update on our actual lives, a minor digression from our continually uninformative yet comical anecdotes:

1. Last weekend we went with our program to Esmeraldas, the northern coast of ecaudor. On Friday we went to a finca (farm) in the bosque tropical (tropical rainforest) on the Coast. We had to walk a little ways through rainforest to get to the farm, which was a little house with a completely open air first floor. They had a kitchen with stove and refrig and everything but no walls it was really awesome. We made chocolate from cocoa beans and smeared our faces with red berries that the indig folks use to block out the sun. Don't know why I didn't see it coming but apparently it rains a buttload in the rainforest. obvs. So there were torrential downpours that never stopped and we had to sprint back through the forrest to the bus. Clearly we were all soaked so the whole crew stripped down and used the bus as a drying rack while we drove to Tonsupa, a beach in Esmeraldas. Unfortunately nothing dried out cause the rain never stopped and we all just started to feel moldy.
2. Dude, you know when we do our own traveling we'll be staying in freaking ghetto hostels but you'd think when we go with the program they'd get us a place that isn't FLEA INFESTED. right so alexis, kelsey and I share a bed, and at 2 am we wake up to kstew puking her guts out. As if that isn't bad enough we all realize, or I realize for that matter, that i have hundreds, thousands of bug bites all over my body! we proceed to shower ourselves in bugspray and attempt to go back to sleep, but when I woke up in the morning I couldn't ignore the fact that I looked like a total leper or like i had scabies or something. Gross.
3. Saturday we go Estiro del Tigre, a super poor coastal village where we brought milk to the children and helped with some manual labor and mostly just felt sad about how totally hopeless the situation is for these super cute kids. Later we checked out Atacames, the main beach in Esmeraldas, a kitschy, more likely than not prostitute-infested, touristy, grimy and yet all at once lively and enjoyable nugget of ecuadorian culture. Tried ceviche there, i mean i know its like the national food of all coastal areas in south america but, just being honest here, not a fan.
4. Needless to say i wore long pants, long sleeves, and bug spray to bed saturday night despite the suffocatingly humid coastal heat. Alas, what more could I have expected upon waking up in the morning--a face covered in disgusting bug bites. Don't worry though, Sunday was definitely my fav. day of the trip. We went on a boat ride around the manglares (mangroves) on la isla del muisne, tasted some of the most delicious pineapple ever to grace the earth, road in some shady kramer-style rickshaws, burned on the beach and returned home safely.... Oh wait, did i say safely? What I meant was, there were torrential downpours that caused severe mudslides along the narrow, winding, clifftop roads where we were driving that broke the main bridge back to Quito forcing us to reroute and adding 5 hours to our trip. We got home at like 2am. AWESOME.

No matter how sarcastic and evil I sound in this post I want you to know that it was actually really sick and totally authentically ecuador--bug bites included. Kels is better, my bug bites are shrinking and all is well for now!!!!

<3 nik

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

squatting

I've refound the art of squatting over a toilet. Back at home, somewhere along the line, I lost the precious skill, but for some reason, here in Ecuador, it's all come back to me--sort of like riding a bike I guess. Why has squatting once again become a prominent part of my life? One can never be sure. Maybe it's because I'm no longer peeing in cozy 269 or comfy 1018 with the people near and dear to me. Or (more likely!) maybe it's because in Ecuador toilets don't come with TOILET SEATS. I'm not really sure WHY but the tradition here seems to be

1. install toilets
2. promptly remove the toilet seat

and then an optional step three which is

3. check to see if there is toilet paper and\or soap in the bathroom, if there is, remove that also

And I'm not talking about the shady bathrooms we have to use on our trips all over the country. I'm talking about USFQ, people. THE UNIVERSITY. NO TOILET SEATS. And thusly squatting has returned. Full force squatting, 24/7. Long live the upper-thigh muscles.

Peeing like a champ,
Kelsey

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A glimpse of life in Lumbisi

Cooking Quimbolitos with Graciela and Matilde, my sisters! We did put some crazy ecuadorian aclohol in ours instead of milk, it was random, but delicious none the less!

Sweet view from the rooftop balcony outside my bedroom. This is what i see every morning when I wake up! When it´s clear like this you can see cotapaxi, one of the volcanos that surrounds Quito. I´ll have to take a pic of it and get it up here.

This is at my birthday party with my fam in lumbisi (from left, top row: Matilde my sister, 16; Gonzolo-my dad; Mariana-my mom, Graciela my sister, 27, Fernando Graciela´s husband, 30; row 2-- Erica my neighbor, 9; me, Fernandito Graciela´s son, 8; Luis my brother, 17; Andrecito Graciela´s son, 2; Josue my neighbor, 4)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Family Stories/ Lost in Translation (I didn’t really like that movie, but I believe I truly am lost in translation)

I love to hear family stories, just ask my dad. (I’m trying to force him to write his stories down so that they can be preserved forever—have you started yet, dad??) I think my family has wonderful stories and that we have a wonderful way of telling them, however, communication barriers, like not really understanding Spanish, can give family stories a whole new allure and edge. The following are two stories told to me this past Saturday by my ten year old sister and twelve year old brother…enjoy…

The first, as told by Alex, recorded by me…

Apparently, the family did not always live in the house I’m in. Once, long ago, when Freddy (or Alex—whichever you prefer, it is the same person. As is Grace and Steph) was in third grade my family lived next to my grandparents behind our house in a little shack or up the street in a house that was small. Anyway, getting to the exciting part of the story, one day Alex was sitting in a bed when he decided to play with fire. Accidentally he lit the bed on fire! He called to Grace to come with water but the poor girl did not understand and only came with a handful of water. LOL!!! (at this point they were both dying of laughter) Stupid, Stephanie, a handful of water won’t help the FIRE!! (This is very thrilling, I know, so I’ll give you an entered paragraph to catch your breath.)

Okay, so the next part was sort of confusing but this is the clearest rendition I got; Next a giant wind blows the door shut. Alex had already escaped the fire but Grace was stuck inside the room with the burning bed—there is smoke everywhere! Alex, young man with super strength, pulls or pushes opens the door with brute force. Grace escapes. The dad comes home and punches Alex in the nose until it bleeds. The police almost come to the house. The mother never learns of the fire.

Second, as told by Grace, recorded by me…

Once when Grace was very little, only four or five years old, she went with her brother to buy something at one of the little corner stores. But because her STUPID big brother didn’t WATCH HER like he was SUPPOSED TO (Sounds like the beginning of that time I got lost at the beach, doesn’t it, Kate? Hahaha.) and since he was walking REALLY fast and she couldn’t keep up because she was young, DOGS ATTACKED HER! (Okay, side note, i KNEW that I had REALLY good reason to be frightened of the dogs!)

Anyway, the dogs are attacking her and Alex sees this from afar—and here comes the really hilarious part—he sees her trying to keep the dogs away with a little branch! Only a few inches long!! Duh, THAT’S not going to work! So he runs to her as fast as he can with rocks and pelts them at the dogs until they leave poor Grace alone. The injured pair return home at which point the father grabs a big branch with many thorns. Freddy runs away, down the street, as fast as he can because he believes that the branch is for him, however as it turns out the father did not intend to beat Alex with the giant tree branch. (THANK GOD.) Instead, he goes outside to beat the dog. (p.s. I’m SO in favor in that that it scares me.) The same dog later bites another man. They feed the dog poison and it dies. I’m not sure whether this was a community decision or the decision of my family, either way, GOOD RIDENCE TO BAD RUBBISH. Also, the hand motions that went along with the poisoning part of the store were quite hilarious.

Unfortunately, Grace did not escape with battle wounds, two scars remain, one on her upper leg and one on her butt. (Oh, hey Kate, does THAT remind you of anything? Hahaha again.)

Not sure about you, but to me these stories seem chockfull of truth and accuracy.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A taste of lumbisí


So this is my house in Lumbisi. I live with my family on the top floor where I've got my own bedroom and even my own TV (it only gets 2 channels though).

Fernando's (my brother in law that plays guitar) sister lives on the bottom floor with her husband and daughter. Graciela and Fernando live behind us with their two little kids Fernandito and Andy.

And here are a few pics of Lumbisi:




Just a neighbor's house that lives down the street. She always says "buenos dias" when I walk by on my way to the bus.









Oh you know just a dude riding down the street on a horse. Unfortunately i don't have any pics of the cows or donkey's that accompany us regularly while walking down the street. They leave lovely presents, giant lovely presents, that kelsey had the pleasure of stepping in with flip flops.

This is all i've got for now but more will follow soon with pics of the sweet view from my rooftop balcony!



con amor,
nik

Sunday, January 25, 2009

This is Nik´s bro in law and my guitar teacher

video

My first few nights in Ecuador I fell asleep to the sound of Fernando´s guitar (my brother in law) blowing through my window along with the night breeze. This traditional Ecuadorian Folklorica song was my favorite one that he played, and here he is playing it for me at my birthday. I hope kels can learn it on guitar so we can sing it for you guys when we get home!

<3nik