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 is just a place we stopped on the way to some other beautiful destination


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. 


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 :)