Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dude, we got a car

Not sure why it's taken me so long to get this out, but we bought a car on Friday. Got ourselves a 4 door, 6 cylinder, 4wd Gran Vitara. It's a teeny little SUV - no moon or sun roof, no AC, but it is an automatic (A's requirement) and does have low mileage.
It's a 2002 that costs about the same as a brand new SUV costs in the U.S., but what are you going to do?
We just got around to getting insurance today, which means we can take it out of the garage for the first time since we bought it (and some of us know how important it is to have insurance in this country). Now, all that's left is multiple inspections (municipality and police), registration and title work, and then we're good to go.
I'd include a link of a picture of the Isuzu, but I can't find anything that isn't a short term seller's ad, not that I've looked all that much.
As with so many things, cars are a little weird here - Isuzu's are branded as Chevrolet's in this country. They're all the same. As far as I can tell, part of the import process on arrival is to rip the Isuzu logo off the hood and slap on a Chevy plus.

Upside is that we can now pick people up at the airport when they arrive. Dropping them off when they are set to leave will be dependent on behavior, and flight times.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Construction Update

There haven't been one of these for a while.

Liga plays America tonight,-Liga-looking-to-make-history

First game of semi-finals is tonight, in Mexico. I'm hoping to scalp some tickets for the game here in early June.
Notice how all the recent posts are about soccer? I don't know what's happening to me. Must be the water

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Futbol - LDU vs. San Lorenzo

Thursday afternoon, on a lark, we headed down to Liga's stadium (la casa blanca), where LDU, better known as Liga, were playing a qualifying match against San Lorenzo (from Argentina). We headed out with some new friends "a la brava" (which basically means we didn't have any tickets and were hoping to find something there). We did end up getting tickets, we did go inside, and we did have a good time (and "our" team, LDU, did win).
The stadium was relatively small, at least in comparison to NFL stadiums - there were a little over 40,000 people. What the crowd lacked in size, however, it more than made up for in energy and rowdiness. It wasn't nearly as bad as the stories you hear about the hooligans and the general pandemonium and poor behavior in european stadiums -- there were women and children at this game, it was sort of like a family event, but there was the fireworks, the chants, the drumming, the jumping up and down, the jeers and taunts.
It's hard to explain how big a deal this game was for Ecuador, and for most latins, in general. Latin America has the Copa de Libertadores - the professional league championships here that mirror the Champions League in Europe. This is a "world series" for all the winners of all the professional leagues across all of South America. LDU, by winning in the game that we attended, goes to the quarterfinals of this series, where they play Mexico's America team. The winner of this Copa, at least as far as I understand, will then play in another championship in Tokyo this summer against the Champion League winner (Manchester U) and the winners of other league championship, to eventually determine the world champion league for the year.
And then it all starts over again.
So, we got tickets, we had a good time, and I think that we'll go to the Americas game (when they play here again) in a couple of weeks. There aren't any seats in the stadium, just benches of concrete, and it's all general seating, by section. The key, as I've realized, is that you have to find a seat that minimizes the number of fences between you and the field of play, since multiple fences can obstruct the view. And there are fences - tall, barbed wire encrusted fences, around everything - all the sections are individually wrapped and the field is surrounded by high fencing. The North and South sections are where all the hoopla is happening, that's the center of all the flag waving, stomping, screaming and pyrotechnics. The West and East sections are more family oriented (we were in the West). Here's the weird thing - I don't know if it's an innate thing, or a skill/custom learned from years of watching football, or if there's some manual somewhere, but everyone in our section stands up and sits down at the same time, based on what's happening in the game. It's like everyone knows when they should sit, and when something exciting is going to happen on the field. So, there we are, amongst 10,000 people, who are all standing up and sitting down at the same time. Kind of like being in church. Which, in a sense, I guess is what a stadium is.
This has to be the most linked post ever.
Results of the scavenger hunt:

Jay and his new toy:

Birthday present

I've been pretty bad about updating the blog recently. I blame it on the travel, personally.
I returned to Quito late on Tuesday night, and A (with E's help from afar) had put together a treasure hunt for my birthday present. One clue led to the next, and eventually, I discovered the "table of doom".
Right now, it's set up in the "dining room", next to the dining room table. At some point in the near future, it's going to have to replace the dining room table to make enough room for true ball control. I'm kind of looking forward to eating at the ping pong table - we'll have the place settings at each end, throw the salt and pepper over the net, switch sides between courses -- it'll add a whole new dimension to dinner.

Now we have another reason for people to come visit.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Quick pics from our hike this weekend in Antisana. Antisana is 5,800 meter volcano, we hiked around on the paramao surrounding Antisana at 4,000 meters.

Approaching Antisana

Antisana - just emerging from the clouds

We are super lucky with the weather and the clouds part so we get a clear view of Antisana for most of the day

Jay and our guide hiking up the trail

The hacienda at Antisana found this motherless baby dear and are nursing it back to health

Our paramo picnic

Quito Bonsai

Jay got this awesome bonsai for the apartment the other day. We have no idea what it is, but it has these amazingly explosive flowers that just popped out of nowhere...

Apartment Views

More pics from the apartment

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Exit Tax

Word to the wise for those of you planning on visiting Ecuador. There is a $40.80 exit tax that is charged by the government for providing you with the service of letting you leave. You have to pay sometime between checking your bags and going through the aduana/immigration.
They only accept cash and, no, I don't know who's idea it was to add 80 cents to the tax. I assume that ATM charges are ridiculously expensive at the airport, too.

Fig Tree

Our bonsai fig tree is soaking up the sun and making figs. Fun

Monday, May 5, 2008

construction - missed a week

I missed a week of construction development while I was in CA. Looks like the last floor has been set and the iron based latticework for the next floor is well underway. I keep forgetting to take a picture of laundry days on the weekends - when the construction guys string up lines between the posts and hang all their clothes. Notice the stairway used to get up to the top floor. So much for safety standards...

Sunday, May 4, 2008

rain, rain go away

I'm sitting in a coffee shop in downtown mariscal, the area of the city where all the cheap hostals, divvy bars, hipster nightclubs are located and, by dint of these, all the hippified foreign backpackers hang out. It doesn't take a rock scientist to realize that this is a great place to set down your internet enabled, open all night coffee shop, 'cause the only thing all these foreigners need more than their steady dose caffeine and 2 for 1 happy hour drink specials is access to their gmail accounts and mindless chatting with their friends back home. But, if that's the no-brainer, then what's the rationale for only playing music made before 1990? Did something happen to music over the last 20 years that I'm not aware of? I've got nothing against Bon Jovi, Depeche Mode, REM, or even Def Leppard, for pete's sake, as generic background music, but what's with the exclusivity? It's not like you can't get newer music on the cheap at the stalls around town. Is it a nostalgia thing? Are we trying to resurrect the spirit of an easier time of yore somehow? To tell the truth, it might actually be working for me, personally. After my fifth espresso in fewer hours, I'm getting that uneasy feeling that I've forgotten to do my homework, or else I'm horribly past my curfew and have to get home soon.
And get home I would, if it wasn't raining so much. It was a deluge this afternoon, much like yesterday. Yesterday, I made a major miscalculation and tried to get home before the rain, and ended up wading through water running fast and furious, at least a foot deep in the streets. It was coming down in buckets, and being plowed up in sheets by passing cars and buses. So, today, I thought, in all my cleverness, that I'd wait it out before venturing home, and it just doesn't stop. It pours, then it drizzles. Then it pours again. So much for the dry and crisp autumnal Quito that we've all come to love and expect.
So, what, you may ask, am I doing in an internet cafe when I have a fat data pipe just waiting to help me connect to the interweb at home? Fancy you should ask. I discovered late Friday afternoon that our internet connection had been disconnected because someone had "forgotten" to pay the cable bill. Originally, I chalked up the connection problems to the weather, figuring that some cable or satelite had been deep sixed in the monsoon we've been experiencing. But then, I was finally able to talk to a support tech, who related, in as near a translation as I can manage, that I was experiencing a common ID-10T issue. Gotta love those. I love the fact that they turn off the connection on a Friday afternoon when, to reconnect, one has to go to the office, in person, which is only open Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 (with an hour and a half siesta). Hence me, sitting here, downloading my emails and uploading my comments and generally being a dirty, hippified foreigner. I would have been finished ages ago if the rain hadn't started. At least I can watch the 99 red balloons go by while I wait.
Despite the rain yesterday, we still had our first big dinner party in our new apartment. Lots of people came over to enjoy A's wonderful cooking (my one comment: those organic chickens are not only small, they are damn hard to "carve" what with their lack of fat, or breast meat) and a friendly game of Settlers of Catan. Aside from the cooking planning and prepartion, A's been busy redecorating the house with her rather psychadelic lilies - pictures she's modified in photoshop or picasa or something to supersaturate the images with all kinds of colors that didn't exist in the original. Turns out that she'd contacted a former classmate of mine to print the images for her. Since I was already soaked from my walk home, I was delegated with the task of going to pick up the prints from Lorena's house. Typical of Ecuadorean customs, Lorena lives in an apartment building that houses most of her extended family. Her brother, Sebastian, lives downstairs, his movie posters covering the hallway. Her mom's upstairs. I had these weird flashbacks of random parties held in the building 20 years ago as I was walking up the stairs to see her again for the first time in as many years. And then, in passing, a vivid memory of the terrorizing effect of watching the movie "Gothic" all by my lonesome way up in the penthouse aparment one night so long ago.
But I digress. The memories do come at the most unexpected times, but the focus is on the present, and our current activities. We have our first guest staying at the house for a few days. An ex-colleague of A's is in town for a conference later this week and came down early to see the sights. I'm not counting him as a true visitor, since he didn't necessarily come down because we're here, so Nass's status remains unchanged, for now.
Speaking of travel, it looks like I'll be back in the DC area at least 2 more times before the end of the month. The travel is getting a little crazy, especially when the fact that I didn't have more than two or three work meetings during the previous year is factored in. I'm hoping the travel requirements tail off in the summer so I can enjoy being here some more and flying in coach for 5 or more hours at a time a little less.
We still don't have a car. That's pretty high on our to do list so we can start traveling around the countryside over all those as yet nonexistant free weekends. We're still on the fence about moving to an unfurnished apartment, but we're getting used to the place we're living in now. Plus, A's been pretty good about filling up our previously furnished place with additional "must haves" of our own which, in some sort of twisted irony, will make moving that much more difficult in the near future.
Not much else to report of note. California was work; work that was made more frustrating, if possible, by someone's brilliant decision to hold the meetings in a hotel right on the beach. The conference room had a panoramic view of the ocean, with its surf and occasional dolphin sightings, and the beach, with its unique mix of sun, sand, bikinis, and volleyball. What am I saying? It was a great place to have a meeting, just not very productive.
The flight back, leaving LAX at 2 am, was not fun. I still haven't learned how to sleep sitting up, a skill that I will probably hone over the many flights that seem to be cropping up. The 3 rowdy drunken surfer dudes heading down to panama made the waiting area entertaining. They were far less entertaining when they were sitting next to me on the flight, however. I was a little nervous about being on the aisle, stuck between the groaning and moaning and head holding on one side and the beckoning port-a-potty down the aisle on the other, but the flight went without incident, thank the munificent lord.
Anyhoo - the rain is abating, for the nonce, and I'm off, 'cause I'm a cowboy, and on a steel horse I ride, and I'm wanted... somewhere else.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Wonder of the Uvilla

One of the great things we have discoved down here is the uvilla, which is a "Golden Berry" or a "Cape Gooseberry" in English. They are my new favorite fruit. It's a bright orange sweet tart fruit about the size of a marble that emerges from the paper lantern-like pod you see in this image. Sadly, they aren't available fresh in the US except at the occasional farmer's market...but you can find dried Golden Berries in our chocolate - one of our most popular products is Dark Chocolate Covered Goldenberries (shameless plug for our products).