Wednesday, August 10, 2011
One never knows what a day will bring...and in my final weeks in South America what surfaced was a spur-of-the-moment idea among my family here and I to head to Colombia for my "last hurrah!"
Please enjoy my humble attempt to share this amazing experience with you. As usual, the blog will be replete with images and few words (a good balance I think). First two photos before leaving Ecuador:
A common scene...wife braiding husband's hair (Otavalan Indians)
German, Adelaida and I all dressed up, at the high school graduation party of a friend
We four went by bus from Otavalo, Ecuador to Pasto, Colombia where we spent the night July 30. The next morning we continued to the village of San Agustin via Mocoa, a city in the deparamento (like a state) of Putumayo, an exquisite land of lush landscape, rivers, waterfalls, thick with the clouds of rainforests. These photos don't even BEGIN to capture the beauty and grandeur!!!!!!
See the tiny church through the window of the "buseta" (mini-van masquerading as a bus)?
Corn, a most important crop!
"We came from Mother Earth and from Her we live. We are all her guardians."
Photos in the village of Sibundoy, where we ate lunch --
And the journey through the Colombian rainforest continues --
German and I enjoying the moment during a stop to fix the transmission!
One of the three mountain passes we crossed!!!
"SLOW -- NARROW ROAD"
"DANGER -- ROCK SLIDES" It's hard to describe this road/path cut into the side of the mountain with streams crossing it, hairpin curves, flooding which causes mud and rock slides, room for only one vechice often, etc.
Santiago, our able driver
Adelaida on the water-covered road with a lovely leaf
Oops! Luckily one of the passengers noticed that a suitcase fell off the roof rack....
Sunday night, July 31, upon our arrival to San Agustin, Adelaida had glorious dreams of water in all forms.
Here we are at "EL BATAN," a heritage house about 200 years old, with a museum inside where we stayed during our visit in San Agustin. The owner, a family friend of German and Adelaida, has owned this exquisite property for almost 30 years --
Samples of "batanes"displayed on the property, formed from rock, and used to grind nuts, seeds, coffee, grains, you-name-it!
More photos of El Batan, "la finca" (the farm) --
Dining room, that we never used. We either hung out and ate in the kitchen or outdoors in the glorious gardens
Adelaida is upstairs in the main house, spinning yarn. Mary, the owner, is a master spinner, weaver (note the looms in the photo, and knitter and has many heirloom pieces
Mary, the owner, is always on the move, maintaining and improving the property
A patio between buildings...the stairs go to the lovely upstairs room where Amrita and I slept
Photos of the great kitchen follow --
Amrita enjoying a cup of homemade soy milk
Since Mary's intention is to preserve the integrity of the original finca, the kitchen has a dirt floor and cuyes (guinea pigs) to keep the floor clean (they are also considered a delicacy in native cuisine)!
Adelaida, peeking over the side of the hammock
Fidelio, Mary's faithful helper, can be seen in the background
The orchid is Colombia's national flower. Mary has many varieties and this one especially appealed to me
Exquisite window detail
One of the many animal members of El Batan family
Heading to another friend's small finca
Coffee, an important crop in Huila, San Agustin's departamento
Getting closer to David's finca
We're arrived! David is an American from Oregon who loves Colombia and has lived here for many years. He recently bought this finca, where he lives with Marta, his Colombian wife
Lunch prep -- yucca (a potato-like tuber) and chachafrutos (like a huge bean), both delicious...yucca can be found in specialty grocers but chachafruto is unknown in the USA
Harvesting oranges on David's property
Que lujo -an electric orange juice extractor...now to enjoy the fruits of our labor!
After lots of activity, an afternoon siesta
Back to life...Amrita and I in a guadua grove on David's property. Guadua is a type of bamboo used to make beautiful furniture and houses
These exquisite orchids welcomed us at the entrance of David's finca
Images and reflections on the road back to El Batan
Fidelio pounding off the coffee shells preparing to roast the beans
Skipping ahead several steps, Adelaida (an expert in the process) roasted the beans over the wood fire
Ahhhhhh...nothing like cafe colombiano! (Can you smell it???!!!)
Below are a few scenes in San Agustin, a very interesting village, with great archeological treasures associated with it (it is a United Nations World Heritage site)
Adelaida chatting with a young traveler from Chile. I bought one of the wonderful bracelets this "artesana" makes from recycled material
On another day Adelaida, Amrita and I visited an amazing woman in her finca. Margarita has worked in TV, theater, journalism and now as an artesana, making wonderful jewelry and other items from seeds, nuts and other things from nature and adding macrame or woven wire to her exquisite creations. She is married to an Italian man and travels there for several months each year. I have an offer to stay in her finca during her absence next year --
Our final week in Colombia is at Adelaida's family home. We left German and Amrita behind and spent the day getting from San Agustin to Cali, a major city of Colombia, departmento Valle. A very few photos of Adelaida's family and the environs of Cali follow --
Sadly, Colombia continues to be associated with guerilla activity. Truly I have had no sense of fear or stress at all here. These are young professional military men, who were on the bus with us for a ways. Their role is to maintain the peace in the jungle regions
Adelaida's brother William. We were celebrating his 44th birthday with him. He teaches Spanish literature in a Cali high school and would love to visit the USA (oh, and he's single and quite handsome as you can see!)
Adelaida's mom, back and center, brother Luis (50 yo) ton the right, William and Adelaida, left . Valentina manages the home with three bachelor sons and Luis is an electronics technician with an internet locale in the front of the house and also offers computer maintenance and repair.
With 42-year old Norbey, placing flowers on the grave of Valentina's mother
Adelaida's dear friend Frances, whose 18-year old son Daniel spent a week with us in Ecuador. He is out to explore South America and is currently on the coast of Ecuador working with some friends of Adelaida and German
The neighborhood where Adelaida's family lives
San Antonio, a Cali neighborhood Adelaida lived in while attending university --
Overlook of Cali from la Loma de San Antonio
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Well, this has been a most interesting time here in the province of Imbabura, northern Ecuador in the foothills of the Andes...the first time I have experienced a "staycation." Instead of adventuring all over Ecuador and South America visiting new places, I have been enjoying simply being "in family" (at the home of Adelaida, German, and Amrita) with all that implies -- the warmth, love, mutual support, challenges, and difficulties of family.
In my remaining month, we may yet make a trip over to the Pacific Coast of Ecuador (Esmeraldas, Same, Mompiche) or into a nearby rainforest region (Intag, known for its coffee and for unique womens' cooperatives doing wonderful work), OR to San Agustin. Colombia -- all areas which are lovely and familiar to me from prior years of travel there.
I have not during this summer had any "revelations from on-high," any firm answers to what is next, or clear insights to light my way into the next chapter. Some known quantities are that I can complete the BA in Spanish in the next two semesters, finishing in May. And an interesting project-level job using my Spanish skills may be available to me upon my return to AR, and/or the option of substitute teaching, to help resolve my $ deficiency.
Back to "A Day-in-the-Life," I thought reporting some of the daily experiences here in Otavalo, in Cotacachi, and out in the country between the two towns where we live, via photos would be enjoyable for my friends here-and-there, so here they are --
My 13-year old god son (I was made "madrina" for his baptism), Santiago, recently completed confirmation in the Catholic Church. He has a "madrina" for this as well. Here are some photos of that event:
Approaching La Iglesia El Jordan
God mother Alexandra (who traveled from her home in France to be with Santiago) with Santiago after the confirmation
Alexandra's friend Sophie (who traveled with her), Santiago's mother Rosa, Alexandra, Santiago's sister-in-law, and Santiago, holding his new nephew.
At the altar in El Jordan
We made humitas last week at Fanny's house in Cotacachi. What a process, beginning with a type of mature corn, choclo maduro, 1) we peeled it off the cob, 2) ground the kernals, 3) made a mixture of the ground corn with eggs, cheese, oil, baking powder, water, 4) filled saved corn husks with the mixture, and 5) steamed them over a wood fire...very labor-intensive and VERY delicious! (In terms of cuisine, both Ecuador and Colombia are what I would call "corn cultures," using different types of it in many different dishes.) A favorite Colombian dish is arepas, a type of pancake formed from just the ground corn and cooked in a little oil as one would a pancake. We had them at home yesterday (German and Adelaida are originally from Colombia) with huevos pericos (scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions). Back to the humitas, here are some photos:
Some of the friends who came together -- dear Adelaida, god daughter Amrita barely visible, Fanny the hostess-with-the-mostest, Micaela (we're going to her high school graduation "bash" this Saturday)
Sandra, Micaela's mom and an old friend, having fun sporting make-believe earrings of hot peppers
A fuzzy photo of the discarded corncobs and husks
The corn kernals removed from the cobs, ready to be ground
Grinding the corn
Adding the ingredients to the corn mixture in the kitchen
Amrita, Fanny and Micaela busy filling the husks
A tray of humitas ready to steam
Watching Fanny placing humitas in the pot to steam
The pot over the fire with the humitas steaming. We sat outside the barn to peel the corn, and get it ready for steaming, then went into the kitchen to eat
Humitas wouldn't be complete without good coffee! Fanny making cafe destilado with a simple devise for making great coffee bien cargado (it's an oval cloth sewn at the top around a wire, with the ground coffee placed in the cloth and the hot water poured through it)
Some of us in the kitchen at the table enjoying the fruit of our labors
A humita, the red color on top of it being aji (red pepper sauce)
And finally, a few photos "at home" and other miscellany --
On a walk with Adelaida and Amrita on a lovely day
Amrita with her sweet little kitty, Tigre
The path from the road leading to the porch, which goes around the entire house
Their rambling rustic wood-and-brick home; my bedroom is on the second floor behind the colorful Tibetan prayer flags
A view of the kitchen through the brick arch
Frontroom in foreground with fireplace, kitchen in background
Plantanos verdes (green cooking bananas) hanging in the kitchen
In the yard with Adelaida and Sandra's parents, visiting from Quito
More visitors, Colombian friends, on a several thousand mile trip through South America
Mother and daughter (Amrita and Adelaida) walking to the school on graduation day
German, Amrita's dad, arriving to the Baha'i School on graduation day
Adelaida, Amrita's mom, who taught at the school
Adelaida and Lucia, another teacher who Adelaida had great respect and admiration for
Amrita returning to her seat after receiving special recognition from her teacher for being the best student in the sixth grade
German climbing the 50-year old beautiful avocado tree (at Fanny's house) to harvest fruit from it
Sandra left "holding the bag" (to put the harvested avos in)
A lovely sillouette of Adelaida, also up in the avo tree harvesting the fruit
Amrita, with an avo to add to the bag
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Greetings to all my SparkFriends far-and-near!
My arrival to "mi otra casa" has filled me with many amazing thoughts and soul-considerations. I have two months left in this investigation of the spirit, with the intention of seeing everything with "new eyes" like the beginner's mind that Suzuki Roshi speaks of in "Zen Mind Beginner's Mind." The thing that makes this trip challenging is that I wasn't able to leave my monkey-mind behind and thus the lessons continue unabated! But in many ways I have the feeling of coming home, of a comfort and rhythm of life that is fortifying and life-affirming.
Internet access is not easy here, not to mention creating a blog, but I've been thinking since arriving of sharing the traditional Incan celebration of Inti Raymi, the arrival of summer, here in Ecuador. The celebration is very strong in all of the Andean countries, especially Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
My 11-year old god daughter Amrita attends a wonderful private school, founded by the Baha'i faith, that teaches exquisite values along with "book learning." The rest of this blog will consist of photos from the school's celebration of Inti Raymi, an amazing event including a parade throughout central Otavalo with music and dancing and great joy.
This sculpture of the indigenous Otavalan Indians dancing greets you as you enter Otavalo
This is the motto of the Bahai school -- "Consider children as precious gems of inestimable value. Only education can uncover these treasures and allow humanity to benefit from them."
The following are photos as the students, from kindergarten through high school prepare for the parade through Otavalo
Me Cristina, originally from the Pacific coast of Ecuador, and her darling son, Manu
The blonde, Valerie, is young Baha'i woman from Alaska doing a year of service, teaching English in the school
Now the parade:
The musicians gather as the parade begins
A friend, Rocio, who teaches primary grades at the school; she was finishing her certification in the university when I was last here
Adelaida, who teaches in the high school, in the circle dance
My god daughter Amrita, in traditional indigeous costume
Another photo of Amrita, who at 11 years old is taller than her parents!
Unfortunately I didn't "score" a photo of German, my friend and Amrita's father. I will though to share!
Sending love and LIGHT from Ecuador!
Friday, June 03, 2011
I began this blog this morning because Piglet's Song arrived in my Inbox from Joe Riley and I had an immediate urge to share it. SparkPeople is more than a wellness site for me. It is the source of true and important friends, and I come here for the give-and-take of this unique brand of friendship. But as I started to post the poem, I felt an inner urging to do some journaling around the context of sharing Piglet. I believe I am an incarnation of Piglet, a little person with a big heart. Right now my heart is broken because of circumstances of my life. But I have developed many resources for living with stress and anxiety (no pills though) over the years, and I'm digging deep into the reservoir to help me through this period.
For instance, I was up this morning at 6:30am and left the house about 7:30am for a forty five-minute bike ride to a friend's house and back, in order to clear my mind and enjoy the beauty of the day before the heat and humidity becomes insufferable. It's going to be another hot day in the mid-south, with a high of 95 degrees (101 heat index)...a good time to head to "la tierra de la primavera eterna," the land of the eternal springtime.
I'm seriously counting down now for my departure for Ecuador, Wednesday morning at 6:30am. Today I've gathered my two pieces of luggage which will be checked, as well as my carry-on in the front room to organize, finalize and weigh (checked pieces 50 lbs. max, carry-on, 40 lbs. max). This season of my life, and especially the last few months, has been trying on many levels. I'm aware that I must NOT have expectations for what this journey will offer me, though it's important to have an open heart, ready to accept and enjoy whatever the universe sends my way.
This is just another chapter in my varied and eventful life, one that has taken me to sojourns from Los Angeles to San Francisco, Hawaii, the Mediterranean, Paris, Mexico, and South America, and additional travel through North Africa and much of Europe. From social work to staff and organization development in my first 25 career years, I began working for myself and found that, amazingly enough, I had a penchant for developing ideas that could translate to a living income during the last 20 years of work. These years finished with the master knitters' cooperative in Ecuador that ran from 1997-2008. I have owned houses and Jaguars, lived decadently and stoically, been a Bible-thumping Christian (for a minute), a progressive Protestant, a Unitarian, and now a humble seeker on the Eastern mystical path. I now strive for balance within a simple life of owning little and continuously striving to throw off the physical and spiritual shackles that slow me down on the Path of Self-realization.
I'm very fortunate to number many of you among my friends and truly do not take our unique friendship for granted. I hope you have a joyful and prosperous summer. If circumstances allow, I will try to occasionally send blogs and photos from South America. Using internet cafes for online service definitely limites my options though.
Please enjoy a magical lavender rose, multiplying for each one of you!
Let's find a Way today,
that can take us to tomorrow.
We'll follow that Way,
A Way like flowing water.
Let's leave behind,
the things that do not matter.
And we'll turn our lives,
to a more important chapter.
Let's take the time and try to find,
what real life has to offer.
And maybe then we'll find again,
what we had long forgotten.
Like a friend, true 'til the end,
it will help us onward.
The sun is high, the road is wide,
and it starts where we are standing.
No one knows how far it goes,
for the road is never-ending.
It goes away,
beyond what we have thought of.
It flows away,
Away like flowing water.
~ Benjamin Hoff ~
(The Te of Piglet)
Ten years after his 1982 work The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff was pressed to write a follow up of his Western inquiry into Taoism. He did this by writing The Te of Piglet, published in 1992. It is still in print, with a paperback edition issued by Penguin USA in 1993.
Hoff explicitly states in the introduction that this second book is not a sequel to his first book, but rather a companion. The book is based around two topics, the concept of Te, the Chinese word meaning 'power' or 'virtue', and Piglet of the Winnie the Pooh books.
In his first book, he brought out the essential tenets and perspectives of Taoism, in terms accessible to Westerners. In his second book, he elucidates the Taoist concept of 'Virtue -- of the small'; though, he also uses it as an opportunity to elaborate on his introduction to Taoism. It is written with many embedded stories from the A. A. Milne Winnie the Pooh books, both for entertainment and because they serve as tools for explaining Taoism.
In The Te of Piglet, Piglet is shown to possess great power-- a common interpretation of the word Te, which more commonly means Virtue-- not only because he is small, but also because he has a great heart or, to use a Taoist term, Tz'u.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
My purveyor of fine poetry, Joe Riley, Panhala.net, sent this, and he says it so well, I won't try to improve upon it:
"For nearly ten years now, the United States has been at war in one form or another. Hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens have served with honor despite the hardships, and thousands have made the ultimate sacrifice. All around us are those who have served who carry scars in the heart as well as the body. No matter what our individual political views, let us honor all who have served and pray for the day when they will have to sacrifice no more."
From a cemetery near Omaha Beach, Normandy, France
I THINK CONTINUALLY OF THOSE
I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul's history
Through corridors of light where the hours are suns,
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the spirit clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.
What is precious is never to forget
The delight of the blood drawn from ancient springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth;
Never to deny its pleasure in the simple morning light,
Nor its grave evening demand for love;
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.
Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields
See how these names are fÃªted by the waving grass,
And by the streamers of white cloud,
And whispers of wind in the listening sky;
The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire's center.
Born of the sun, they traveled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honor.
~ Stephen Spender ~
The music is acoustic guitar, "The Gift of Life" by Bruce BecVar:
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