Saturday, June 28, 2008

galapagos, here we come

Leaving for the galapagos in the morning. Don't expect any posts until we come back. If you're lucky, maybe Amanda will get around to posting some pictures of the trip on our return. Or maybe she'll get around to posting some pictures of her machu pichu trip.
Who knows.

random observation

I watched some delivery guys deliver a washer and dryer to the apartment building across the street this morning. This is how they do it here: Three guys show up with the truck. Two guys open up the back of the truck and pull out the washer machine. They pick up the washer machine (by hand) and put the washer machine on the back of the third guy, standing on the street. The third guy carries the washer machine, on his back, into the building. I assume he then carries the washer machine either up the stairs in the building. Repeat for dryer.
It must really suck to be that third guy.
Speaking of random delivery issues, as I've said before, everything is delivered here. You get the water bottles delivered, propane tank refills delivered. There are people to bring you just about anything you can imagine. Even the little tienda two blocks away, the place that sells the $1 liter bottles of beer (80 cents after the 20 cent deposit) will deliver whatever you want, in whatever quantity, at any time. But here's the catch - most restaurants will deliver, but nobody's figured out the take out menu thing yet. So you can order a delivery, but you've got to guess what they have available.
Strange way of doing things. I think most of the whole restaurant issue is based on the fact that restaurants here get a ton of advertising revenue from their menus. Most decent restaurants have menus that run into mini booklet form, and they're full of stuff besides menu options - adverts for everything from beer commercials to real estate developments in the suburbs.
Again, strange way of doing things.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Liga Plays Tonight

Championship game (one of 2) played tonight, here in Quito for the Copa de Libertadores.  We're going to try and watch it at a restaurant (sometimes, not having a tv is kind of a bummer).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

busy schedule

Things have been busy, busy, busy.
Went to Banos this weekend.  Fun town, full of hippie tourists and local tourists, all attracted to the huge industry of activities that have grown up around the once sole highlight of heated pools.  Banos is close to Tungurahua, and active volcano.  Sadly, we didn't see any lava flowing or ash spewing.  I guess that's a mixed blessing.
We spent the weekend hiking around the area, and going white water rafting - good times, all in all.  Banos is right on the edge of the mountains, the gate to the Amazon, and one can rent a bicycle and bike down to the nearest Amazon town, Puyo, for five bucks.  I want to do that next time, it's an amazing winding road down the mountain sides.
Now, aside from the usual day to day activities, we're also trying to get ready for our trip to the Galapagos next week.  This mostly involves running around town to used bookstores, trying to scrounge the desperately needed beach reading.  So far, we've had mixed luck. 
The day after we get back from the Galapagos, Ethan and I are off to Florida for a week of visiting the grandparents.  Then up to Baltimore (and DC) and then to Denver, then back to DC, then back home.  Fun times.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I always knew Ecuador was a banana republic - I just had no idea that it was the largest - I had thought that was Costa Rica.
An interesting article on bananas and how, someday, they won't be in your breakfast cereal.

My only note- I think it's noteworthy that the author fails to mention that the CIA, and US military (at tax payers expense) did a lot more than "help arrange" the overthrow of a democratically elected (and democrat) president in Guatemala.
Thanks, US tax payer, for the cheap bananas.

quick update

A's back from Peru a day late, but none the worse for wear.
E's been here for over a week now. We've been hanging out and enjoying the city. Now that the family's whole again, the expectation is for a wide range of adventures and exploits to begin, any day now.
In the meantime, I'm spending my time on the computer and on conference calls, Amanda's doing the chocolate thing, and Ethan's either reading or playing his game cube.
I know, it sounds like fun.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

construction workers

I can't tell if this would be a fun job or not. Dangerous, sure. But it might beat sitting in an office and staring at a computer all day.
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construction update

It's been a long time since I posted any pictures of the construction progress. Couple more floors.

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The Sinuous Road Ends

They should put these signs on the top of wedding cakes...
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Monday, June 16, 2008

bah humbug

I'm busy, I tell you. That's my only excuse. The piles of dime store paperbacks I've gone through, and the stacks of knock off DVDs we've watched are not to blame.
Seriously. Busy. Blog or watch "Fool's Gold"? Is that really a choice?
Anyway, on to serious stuff. Who wants to pitch in and buy some Southland property?

And when did it become Southland, anyway?

Nass and I tried to watch Southland Tales (my introduction to the term). Weird movie. unwatchably weird. This is not a recommendation, by any means, but I do have the tape, if you want to borrow it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

close up of pichincha

Same picture, just cropped, with Picasa highlights.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Last week, it was cold enough that Pichincha was covered in snow. Taken a few blocks from home.

Gas Prices

That's in US Dollars. For a gallon.

On Arrival

In light of the upcoming visits, and in preparation for those who may be planning on visiting (hint, hint), here's a little background on what you can expect when coming to Quito.
First thing to know - the baggage claim tickets that you are given when you check your bags are important and necessary. As opposed to most airports, the police here check your baggage claim tickets against the baggage that you have when you leave the airport. Do not throw those little tabs away (the airline usually puts them on the boarding pass sleeve)!
Secondly, as a suggestion, if your height, personal philosophy, or need to get up and go to the bathroom during the flight does not preclude it, get a window seat. The views on arrival, as the plane banks around the valley, are pretty amazing, especially for people who haven't been around serious mountain ranges in the past. Even at night, the views can be spectacular.
When landing, remind yourself that the airport is smack dab in the middle of the city. You might think that the plane is trying to land in the middle of a neighborhood, plowing through a swath of unsuspecting houses. Don't worry, it's been years since a pilot's missed the runway. Okay. You've landed successfully. This is good. The country's progress, development and efforts to be modern is quickly evident. You now get those snaking gate things that come out to the plane, and you don't have to debark onto the tarmac and walk across the airstrip to the airport building. This is progress. The downside is that you have to walk, a lot, to get where yolu are going. Just follow everyone else, and gird yourself for a hike.
The first stop on arrival is immigration. You stand in a long, winding bank line until a number is called. Just be patient. When you get to an immigration person, answer "yes" to the question "is this your first visit to Ecuador". This is your first visit, always. This is your first visit, even if you are an Ecuadorian who travels on a weekly basis. It is always your first visit. Not that there's anything wrong with visiting Ecuador before, it's just an easy answer. "Si", to everything. If possible, look kind of dumb and lost at this point. I think that helps.
So now you're in the country, officially. Up to this point, things have been fairly ordered and mundane and just like any other flight arrival experience. That's all about to end.
Baggage claim is just past customs. It's a mad house. Although they have the baggage carousels, they don't always work. And even when they do work, that doesn't stop people (airport staff, fellow passengers, random military dudes) from pulling bags that aren't theirs off the carousels and putting them on the ground. Bags, boxes, cellophane wrapped packages and all kinds of things are stacked haphazardly all over the place, or have fallen off the carousel. This is liberally
mixed with the horde of people who have disembarked from your plane and every other flight from the day, all milling about and pushing carts, and trying to organize the seventeen monster suitcases of fruit loops, boxes of plasma tvs and pet carrier cases that they brought on their flights. Keep in mind that latins have little regard for personal space or right of way, and fend for yourself the best that you can.
Assuming that you are able, eventually, to track down and secure your bags, the next step is to go through customs. Typically there is a single operating customs line, even though there's a full battalion of customs guys standing around. There is no concept of a line in this country - just a press of people all trying to get to that single customs person at the same time. A liberal use of elbows, bag swinging, toe stepping and a wide stance (heh, heh) might help. Then again, it might not. At some point in this debacle, someone is going to ask for your customs form. This request has nothing to do with actually going through the customs line. Roll with it, and hand over the form you filled out on the plane.
Again, assuming you've made it through customs at some point (and haven't had to pay any "import tax" for any of your items), you'll go through some automatic doors and come into the reception area. Every single relative, however distant, of every single person on your flight is going to be standing there, waiting. Hordes of humanity will be looking at you. Although there are gates and a marked lane to get by, the 35 family members of the person who came through the doors before you will all be standing directly between you and the exit, hugging, kissing, talking and generally standing around and getting in the way.
At the worst possible moment, while you are struggling to get through that morass of people, a new, and final, official will demand your baggage claim tickets. Hopefully you haven't thrown them away by now, or lost them in your purse, backpack, computer bag or carry on, because that guy will make you go through everything to find them before you're allowed to leave.
Now you're in country. If I'm picking you up, I'll tend to stand by the doors to the outside, as much on the fringe of the madness as my psyche will allow. The upside is that I tend to be about three feet taller than the general population, so I should be fairly easy to spot in the crowd. I'll get you safely home from there.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

party invite

In case you wanted to know what you're missing - the invitation for our birthday party this friday.

No, that isn't me. Or Dan.

El Monte in Mindo

here's a link to the eco lodge where we stayed in Mindo, El Monte.

I stole a picture off their web site of the ferrying mechanism one has to use to get across the river to the lodge from the road (called a terebitha around these parts).
No, that's not me. No, I don't know who it is.

education in pictures

i finally figured out why it was taking me an hour or so to load pictures from our trips on the blog. They're all over 4 MB! Who knew that pictures would take up that much space.
I guess I need to work on cutting down the image size first, and make my life easier.

I know

I know exactly what you're thinking.  You get to work in the morning, sit down at your cube, or in your office, or even in the study, at home, if you're lucky enough to have a setup like me, and you take the first couple sips of coffee and start making plans for the day as you fire up the computer.  Your first stop, of course, is this blog, and your met with what can only be the biggest disappointment of the day -- no update.  I know what it's like.  I too, am a blog reader, or used to be, and I know what it's like not to have that update on the page.  Not to be able to spend some idle time living vicariously through other people's experiences.  Not to be able to get that input of an adventure or two, not to see a fun picture, not to learn an interesting, if utterly useless, piece of information.  It puts a pall on the day.  Like a gray sky and a light drizzle in the early morning, it makes you want to go back to bed and pretend that the world took a break until later.
I could bore you with a long list of excuses about busy, about work, about being out of town.  I could complain that the damn internet connection makes it almost impossible to get pictures loaded onto the site.  I could say lots of things, none of which would change the fact that I just haven't taken the time to update the blog.  Thankfully, Amanda's picked up some of the slack, and is starting to post pictures of our weekend trips and such, which is fun.  What's she's left out is all the background - the car crashes, the brushes with altitude sickness, the wide horses and the flying dutchmen.  I'm thinking that she's expecting me to fill in the gaps, and I'm newly resolved (resolutions being a big part of birthdays, which mine is approaching) to do just that.  Maybe I don't need to block out an hour or two every day to fill in the gaps.  Maybe it should only take a minute or two.  Who knows?  We'll try this out. 
Plus, I'm going to try and update the blog from email.  Never tried that before.
Last weekend we spent a day or two in Banos, one of my favorite weekend getaways from Quito. Here are some pics from the hike and our stay there.
We recently headed to Mindo for a little relaxation and hiking in the cloud forest. Here are a couple shots of El Monte a beautiful eco lodge where we stayed in Mindo. The only way to get to the lodge is to ride a little zip-line like basket that takes you across the river to the lodge's property.