Thursday, October 21, 2010


We’ve made it!!! We are back in Ecuador, currently in Quito. We met with our immigration attorney, Gabriela Espinosa on Monday to turn over our passports so that they can be stamped with our residency visas. We were supposed to go today to get our Censos and Cedulas started, but we received a call from Gabriela’s office informing us that the immigration office is closed today and so we will be going tomorrow instead.
In the meantime, we have been enjoying the sites around Quito while we wait to get to the government offices.
On Monday afternoon, we took the cable car up to the top of Pichincha mountain, which is on the outskirts of Quito. It is 12,000+ feet high. The view from there of Quito is incredible. It was a cloudy day, so the picture is a bit hazy, but you can get the idea that Quito is quite big.
On Tuesday, we took a long day and went to Otavalo, Peguche, San Pablo Lake, Cotacachi, and Cuicochi Lake . We had a wonderful guide, Marco, who has been studying English intensely for just three months, and he speaks very well already. We have had some wonderful days with Marco, starting with the afternoon to Pichincha.
Otovalo Market:
Humming bird roof church in Oavalo. Ecuador has about 130 species of hummingbirds, representing about 30% of all hummingbird species in the world.
I was cold and wanted to buy a poncho while we were in Oltavalo. But, we didn’t bring much money with us because we did not intend to buy anything. Our suitcases are already full, and we don’t have any more room to carry anything. I didn’t get my poncho though, because we saw these paintings on feathers that were so beautiful and we had to have them. This is the artist, Luis, with the birds we bought. We later discovered some of these in some storefront widows by different artists, so it’s probably a common art form here. But, Luis’s were much better executed than the ones in the window.
Cotacachi, known for its leather goods. Get a load of how pretty these streets are.
San Pablo Lake with the beautiful mountain rising above the clouds. I think this is Cotapaxi volcano, but I’m not certain. Anyway, it was a beautiful sight!
This is another mountain on the shores of Lake San Pablo.
We next went to Peguche waterfalls. Stunning!
Our final stop on Tuesday was to Cuicocha Lake. Cui (cuy) means guinea pig in Kechua. The two humped dome in the middle of this volcanic lake (evidently there is still an active volcano under the lake), looks like a guinea pig. Hence, guinea pig lake. The lake is 600 feet deep, and sits in a collapsed volcanic dome.
And here is our wonderful guide, Marco, at Cuicacha Lake. This is not the best picture of Marco – he’s quite handsome. But you can get an idea of his delightful personality from this picture.
Imbabura volcano. Elevation, 15,000+ feet.
On Wednesday, we went to the Equator. It was a fascinating visit. Here, is the actual middle of the world.
World explorers discover the true equator and straddle the line with one foot in each hemisphere.
The equator was thought to be approximately 200 yards further south, but recent GIS technology discovered its exact location in this spot. We were shown some amazing experiments here at the equator. You all know about water switching from swirling counterclockwise down a drain in the northern hemisphere to clockwise down the drain in the southern hemisphere. Well, at the equator, it drops straight down. We were shown the straight drop, and then moving just a few feet on either side of the equator, we watched the water change its swirl. It has to do with the centrifugal force of the spinning earth.
Also, you can balance an egg on its end on the head of a nail at the equator because right on the line, there is no force pulling the egg in either direction, and gravity (going straight down) allows you to balance it. I balanced the egg on the nail, and got a certificate of achievement. Ha! Ha!
Another experiment had us stand on the equator line and hold our hands straight out with thumbs up and try to “walk the line” toe-to-toe with our eyes closed. You can’t do it. The centrifugal force pulls you from each side. I actually could feel the force just by lifting my arms out, even before closing my eyes or trying to walk. It’s amazing that there are such pronounced effects right on the equatorial line.
 And here's the best part.  At the equator, you weight approximately 1 kilo less.  That's approximately 2.2 pounds!  
Balancing an egg at the equator:
This is the “fauxquator.” This is where they used to think the equator was located before they were able to use sophisticated military GIS technology to locate the exact spot. All of those experiments won’t work here.
Llama at the equator. “Look at me. Yes, yes, I’m so beautiful. Don’t you wish you had my eyelashes.”
After the stop at the equator, we took a trip up to Pululahua volcano crater. It is now fertile farmland.
Then it was time for lunch. We begged Marco to take us to a favorite restaurant of his. Someplace he loves to go, where most tourists would not visit. Marco doesn’t like the Ecuadorean delicacy so we weren’t expecting to eat any of these for lunch.
Instead, he took us here, where we had the most wonderful ceviche!!! Just fabulous!! And not another tourist in sight. Just a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant with amazing food.
And finally, here is the view from our hotel window.
Tomorrow, to the government offices with one of our attorney’s staff to get our Censos and Cedulas. Wish us luck. We are expecting (and have been told by our attorney to expect) to wait five or six hours there. We'll be taking some books to read.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Six, five, four, three, two ......

We are six days away from heading to Ecuador and currently living like college students. The furniture is all gone except for one stuffed chair that a friend is taking on Thursday, and our table and chairs we are eating on. Our bed is now a pallet on the floor made from the feather top we had on our mattress along with a few pillows. It's not too uncomfortable, but it's a bit harder for those of us who are not of college age to get in and out of it than a bed that's not flat on the floor.

Our small patio table and chairs that was on our balcony until a few days ago is serving as our dining room. Small but serviceable. It doubles as a second computer table when not in use for food. Unfortunately, we've been eating out more during this last, stressful month, and our waistlines reflect it.

Gil has been furiously scanning documents into a computer. Note the glass top table that now has a cardboard box as its base.

We took some time off yesterday from doing the tedious tasks that are left to complete, and had some fun. Gil's son, David, is here from Santa Monica for a last visit with us before we take off. It was Fleet Week here in San Francisco this past week, and Fleet Week finishes off with shows by the Navy's Blue Angels. From our apartment, you can see all the boats on the Bay that come out to watch the Angels fly. For those of you who have heard us say we'd like a place with a view in Cuenca, now you can see why. This is what we are used to.

We went up on the roof of our apartment building to watch the Angels fly. The Angels' lead plane - this big, beautiful caribou - is flying past Coit Tower. Once we see him flying back away from the Bay like this, we know the Angels are not far behind.

Those amazing fly-boys (don't think there are any fly-girls, yet, but if so, my apologies to them) making their first pass by Coit Tower.

This is kind of small (we don't have a telephoto lens), but these guys are wingtip to wingtip.

They swoop in and out between the buildings too. We've heard that San Francisco is the only place where they are allowed to fly over and through the city. Mostly they are over airfields. When Deborah used to work in a downtown high rise, they'd fly right past her window at eye level, and she could see the guys in the cockpits! It also appears from the roof of our building that there is one move in which two of them fly under the Golden Gate Bridge. They used to do that regularly as part of their program, but for awhile, they weren't allowed to do so. Now it looks like they are doing it again. Talk about precision flying.

Up on the roof, it felt like we could actually reach up and touch them.

This is one of our favorite moves. It is so pretty. Especially on a beautiful, clear day like this. October is the best weather month in San Francisco; warm and clear. There have been only a couple of times when the Angels have had to cancel their show due to fog, because there is a lot less fog in October. Last year was one of those times. We were very happy that this year was clear so we could enjoy the thrill of seeing them again.

Since we are not likely to be here again for the Blue Angels, we were very pleased that Fleet Week happened before we left.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Two Weeks to Go!!

It's hard to believe, but we are just two weeks away from heading back to Ecuador. We'll spend one week in Quito to get our visas squared away, and then onto Cuenca.

It has been a whirlwind trying to get everything done before we could return. There were many days when it looked like we just weren't going to manage it, but our list of "to-do's" is finally starting to be a list of "done's."

Today, the piano was moved out!!!! That was a big relief. It is now going to have a new home with our lovely friends. Our sofa bed went to our wonderful housekeeper and that moved out today too.

The Salvation Army, which truly has been a salvation for us, is coming on Monday to take the rest of the furniture. We are essentially going to be camping out in our apartment for a couple of weeks. We're keeping something to sleep on, a few pots and pans and dishes and linens, but most everything else will be gone.

It's been very interesting reading everyone's blogs the last couple of days regarding the turmoil in Quito and Guayaquil. The news we were getting here about the problems in Ecuador made it look like a full blown armed revolution was taking place all over the country and there was general societal breakdown. While we knew better and never for a moment thought that was what was happening, it sure caused our friends and families some stomach churning. No amount of telling them that this would pass in a couple of days and not to worry would do the trick.

The news reports about Ecuador reminded me of when I was living on the east coast of the US at the time of the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco. Watching the reports about the earthquake led us all to believe that San Francisco had been leveled. When I arrived in San Francisco three weeks later for a job interview, I was shocked, shocked I tell you, that I couldn't see any evidence of earthquake damage. (I didn't go down to the Marina district where most of the damage was, but remember, on the east coast we'd been led to believe the earthquake had flattened the entire city.)

Anyway, we referred our worried loved ones to the blog postings of several of our new friends in Cuenca, and they all settled down. So we want to send a hardy THANK YOU to all of you there who have provided a dose of sanity and calmness.

We'll be seeing you in Cuenca on October 23rd, and we can't wait.