Rainbow Mountain

While the Rainbow Mountain in Peru doesn’t compare to the Danxia Landform Geological Park in China they are still stunning. At 17,060 feet I think this was the highest place we went to…and we hiked almost an hour from the parking lot to get there! Slow but steady, no problems, thankfully.

Some people get up in the middle of the night and ride to the base of the mountain and hike up it. We chose to ride to the nearest parking area to the mountain which is about 3 hours from Cusco. As we rode to the park, we passed a roadside stand that the bus stopped at and a few people bought snacks.

The colors come from goethite or oxidized limonite (a brownish coloration), the bright yellow color may be due to iron sulphide, and  chlorite or copper make the green color.

Some people had gathered rocks and made a couple of carens to celebrate their getting to the mountain or perhaps for more spiritual reasons.

It is windy and cold that high (and rain threatened not far away) but the indigenous man and woman we saw wore sandals with no socks. When I asked the man about it, he said he didn’t have the time or money to go to town to get better shoes and socks.

The woman who ran the rest room by the parking lot (complete with water!), told me she had on 6 or 7 layers of clothes, including 3 skirts, a slip, and leggings. The skirt was a heavier, coarser material than I had expected. I won’t say she was warm but she didn’t seem unduly uncomfortable.A few people chose to go to the nearby higher formation but Dan and I passed on that. Not a lot higher but maybe another 100 feet or so.

 

Education Plus Nicaragua Needs Help

I’m way behind on posting because we have not had good internet but this post needs to be done in any case. It isn’t about our recent activities, it is about Education Plus Nicaragua which we visited back in May last year.

I didn’t give this organization enough mention in my May 15, 2017 posting. We visited the school and talked at length with a couple of staff members and met some of the kids. The children love going there each day, if for no other reason that they get a decent meal. But most of them appreciate the supplemental education that they get as well.

I received this email today and feel compelled to post it and ask anyone who reads this to consider giving $5, $10, $25, or more one time or on an ongoing basis. I can just about count the monthly contributions that I do regularly on one hand and this is one of them.

“Dear friends and family,

Where to even begin.

Last week, political protests erupted all across Nicaragua, leaving more than 30 dead so far.  Protesters are sick of what they view as their corrupt and inept government, and government forces have met peaceful protests with guns and mortars.  New laws were announced increasing income taxes, higher taxes on social security payments, and decreased medical coverage.  At the same time social security is almost insolvent, its funds having allegedly been used by the main political party, the Sandinistas, to purchase luxury housing and private businesses for themselves.  Censorship has kicked up – news channels that are not pro-government have been shut down, and things only seem to be getting worse.  “President” Daniel Ortega has announced he will be rescinding the social security reforms, but the number of protesters is still growing, with some police forces disobeying orders and joining the side of the people. Businesses in the capital are on strike today, demanding the release of political prisoners and an end to censorship and violent repression.

While the social security reforms were the main trigger of the protests, this really has been a long time coming.  Several other issues have caused the protest, including the government’s inept handling of a recent natural disaster in the Indio Maiz region, and because the people are sick of a public education system that says it averages 25 children per classroom but actually averages 50 or more.  Now, a common protest against non-profits such as Education Plus is: “why are you educating that children?  That should be the government’s job.  If you provide the education, then the government has no incentive to do their job.  Therefore, you are actually contributing to the problem.”

Well, in Nicaragua, the endemic corruption is so bad that even if there were more funding for the school system, little would find its way to the children.  More fundamentally, the current government does not want its people educated.  University students are a main faction of the protesters.   The government knows that with education comes greater awareness and a decrease in the sense of powerlessness.  Uneducated people are poorer – so the government can buy their votes cheaply in election years by going around giving out sacks of food and cheap building materials to repair homes.  Additionally, it is the poor and illiterate who are the easiest to manipulate.  We have firsthand accounts of the police going into our community of Pantanal and paying men 200 cord (about 6 USD) to attack peaceful protesters.

This is not the e-mail I wanted to be writing.  But big things are going on right now in Nicaragua, and I want to let you all know that with Education Plus, things will be business as usual as much as possible.  While public schools are closed for now, our doors will be open.  Our employees do not want to stay at home, in fact, they say they feel safer at Casa de los Sueños.  We have arranged transportation so they can get to and from work safely.  If the power is cut across the country as is rumored (in order to prevent communications of what is going on to the outside world), we will keep our doors open.  We will cook with wood and teach in dark but still enthusiastic classrooms.  We will remain a safe place for the children to come and be children throughout the crisis. 

If we start to argue about “government responsibility”, it is the children who will lose.  It falls to us who actually have the economic power to make a difference, to educate the children who will be the future leaders of their country.   As Cardinal Obispo Silvio Baez recently told a gathering of university students at the Metropolitan Cathedral, “The students of Nicaragua are its moral reserve.”

To make a donation to help us continue feeding the children during the crisis, please click on the button below:

Click Here to Help us Feed the Children During the Crisis

Thank you for standing with us during these heartbreaking times.

With hope and gratitude,

Monica, Jim, the staff, volunteers and children of Education Plus

Monica Loveley
Executive Director
Education Plus Nicaragua
www.eduplusnicaragua.org
www.facebook.com/eduplusnicaragua

 

General Thoughts About Ecuador

Snow capped mountain in the background, cactus in the foreground

I enjoyed Ecuador quite a bit. People are friendly and open. The scenery is gorgeous. Life is easier as an American there because they use the US coins.

Locals preparing beans for sale

I enjoyed seeing the various indigenous people in their native clothes. The food was tastier than Colombia (which is very bland) and very inexpensive.

Dan’s favorite city was Loja. I enjoyed Ibarra because we spent time talking with our neighbor and host more than some other places. This allowed me to get a better feel for life in Ecuador. Quito was fun because of the Equator activities.

Generally museums are free or extremely inexpensive.

If you go to Latin America, be sure to spend time here. Plan ahead more and go to the Galapagos Islands if you can. It is expensive, about $3000-40000 for 2 people for 5 days. Maybe some day…

 

Guayaquil

Guayquil has a beautiful boardwalk with a ferris wheel

Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador with over 2.69 million people. We were happy to stay with Tracey McGuiness who is aunt of our niece, Bonnie’s step children. We had briefly met her at Bonnie’s wedding several years ago, or I should say Dan had.

Tracey was raised in the United States and Ecuador so her English is top notch. She showed us around town and we enjoyed being with her.

We had a big laugh because when her daughters heard that we were staying with her they were very concerned since she didn’t really know us. “They might be serial killers!” Fortunately they were more comfortable with us once we met.

One evening we went to an ice cream shop that uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the liquid ice cream. The making of your order is half the fun and it was tasty as well. We had kiwi and else in ours, don’t remember what. See Dan enjoying his.

In the parking lot of the ice cream store was a barrier in the handicapped parking space. We had seen something similar in Costa Rica and asked Tracey about it since we could talk in English and really hear the explanation. It seems that they expect the driver to be able bodied and move the barrier when they pull up. She didn’t know what happened if the driver was the disabled person. Interesting way of looking at things. Not practical but interesting.

We only spent 2 nights in Guayaquil before we flew to Peru and a short overnight on the return flight. We hope that Tracey will allow us to return the favor and visit us in Durango someday.

Shiripuno Women

The Shiripuno women decided that while their men go off and do whatever they do during the day to work that they (the women) should be paid for what they do anyway. With this in mind, they developed a simple program where they show how they make some food with yucca and sweet potato, do a little native dance, look at an incredible rock, and then hopefully sell some trinkets. Sounds hokey and the young German tourists who were at the lodge and leaving that day made it sound pretty lame.

In reality we enjoyed it. Yes, it is touristy but it was still interesting. We learned some things about this culture listening to the Spanish speaking woman who ran the event and talking with our English speaking guide from the Lodge.

Indigenous woman and daughter and tourist who got into the act

Unmarried girls and women wear blue outfits like you see in the above picture. Married women wear blue and red outfits. The more traditional outfit is seen in this picture but we saw a woman in blue pants and a red top to indicate she was married as well. All unmarried women, of any age seemed to wear the outfit this little girl is wearing.

First they made a couple of things, one a fermented drink and the other something with sweet potatoes. Note how they shredded the sweet potato…you will see this is tool is from the root of a tree in the jungle walk post.

The little girls of the village participated in the making of yucca and sweet potato  dishes and the dancing. They were so cute in their outfits and helping their mom.

I loved watching them imitate their mom.

The rock! This is an incredibly interesting rock. In the lower right (as you look at it) of the rock is a little “door”. While it is solid, the tone is distinctly different when you hit this area with a rock than if you hit just a foot or so away. Empty sounding like it is an entrance.

A number of different animal shapes can be discerned on the rock: serpent, puma, bear, and others. What can you see? (Hint: Serpent, Alligator, Tortoise, Piranha, Toad, Cougar(Puma), Charapo (noidea what this is), Boa, Dolphin, Capybara, Monkey)

 

There is an area to the left of the rock (as you face it) that again has a hollow sound when you hit it with a rock. They call this the window. It isn’t really easy to scale the front of the rock but there are stairs built partway up the back. Dan went up the front and I stayed down and took his picture.

And there was a parrot in the rafters of the exhibit area that chimed in while they were singing and dancing. What fun!

What a handsome guy!

Our guide took a part of a flower that I would call part of the bird of paradise family but it really isn’t. He put it on our noses. Funny looking beak!

He also opened a seed pod from this plant and used a stem to break up the inside into a paint and painted our hands much like the indigenous women/children who spoke with us.

The handmade jewelry items for sale were pretty typical of what we have seen in other places although there were dried leaves for tea and spears/knives as well.

Trinkets, turtle heads bob up and down
Dried leaves for tea
Toy knives
Toy drums
Toy spears
Toy knives

This is a village of about 50 families, about 250 people. The kids do go to school from age 5-12. They are working to get more education but it is hard since that is usually in town and these very rural folks are very poor. Sometimes they have relatives with whom the youngsters can live for more education and the family sends money as they can for this.

While it is humid here, it isn’t as hot as I expected for being in the Amazons. The river we heard the night before is a tributary to the Amazon River but that is many miles away. There are fewer bugs here than I expected as well. I’m not getting eaten alive, here at least…hurray!

All in all, after much trepidation, I am enjoying myself in the jungle. It isn’t as hot, buggy, and filled with bugs as I expected.

OK, I wrote that above sentence and then almost immediately the mosquitoes and bugs found me! I should never have written it and tempted fate. I ended up with over 50 bites, mostly on my arms but even under my clothing and in my hair. UGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Guayllabamba

Guayllabamba Fruit on tree, compliments of OLX Ecuador

Guayllabamba is a large, ugly, sweet fruit that is ugly on the outside and delicious on the inside. We stopped in a small town on the way back from Quisato and bought one from a vendor. The guide knew which one to pick and we didn’t buy from the first vendor because they weren’t ripe. Each fruit cost $2 which seemed high but they are not common and he said that was a fair price.

You can tear the fruit open and inside is a lot of white “meat” with large seeds in each section. You don’t eat the seeds but the meat is very tasty.

First Thoughts on Ecuador

We’ve been in Ecuador for a couple of weeks now, almost a week of that without much internet for different reasons. We now have very good internet so I am pushing to get caught up. Below are some first thoughts about this country:

  • Going from Colombia to Ecuador was extremely easy except for the long  lines (apparently related to masses of people immigrating from Venezuela-fortunately being “mayores” (seniors) we went to a relatively short line). They don’t inspect your luggage when you enter the country…in fact you are required to leave it outside the building when you get your passport stamped. Since we didn’t want to pay a stranger to watch our things, we took turns standing in line while the other person waited with the luggage. It meant an extra 45 minutes or an hour but Dan got lucky and they opened a new line so he got through faster than he would have otherwise.
  • They use US dollars/coins in Ecuador, especially one dollar coins (presidential series usually). We knew that going in but had disposed of all of our American money back in Panama so we didn’t have any. And we had little Colombian money because we didn’t want to change it at the boarder but that was actually a mistake. From now on, we will make sure that we have enough cash from the exiting country to cover any taxes, initial buses/taxis, getting new cell phone chips/service, and a meal. We had trouble with the first ATMs in the bus station and didn’t have enough cash. That meant going to the local internet cafe which wouldn’t let me use my laptop where I have a secure banking browser so that I could log in and make sure that my main debit/credit cards knew I was in Ecuador. (The problem probably was the first ATM machine and not that the banks didn’t know we were here but that reminds us to be sure to keep that up to date BEFORE we go to the next country.)
  • This lady in the foreground is almost next to Dan but you can see she is MUCH shorter. Theory is that because of the thinner air at the high altitudes the people developed shorter to lessen the body’s oxygen needs.

    I love being in the Andes because I am not the short person here. We have seen many, many Andean men and women several inches shorter than me. I try to stand discreetly by them to savor a feeling I seldom have in the States.

  • Paved street in the foreground, cobblestones on side street.

    Because earthquakes are common here (and probably other reasons as well), pavement is not used much, especially outside the large cities. Instead they use paving stones which can be removed and reused if road work is necessary. On less traveled streets in small towns/cities, they often use cobble stones instead of the pavers.

  • People are generally very nice. We enjoyed the hospitality of our new friends in Ibarra, our first stay in Ecuador. Clarita and Alfonso went out of their way several times to help us. Since he is a forensic pathologist, he wrote me prescriptions for X Rays on my arthritic thumbs (I want a second opinion on my options) and lab tests.
  • Hand washing clothes can get them much cleaner than using a washing machine. I don’t do a good job hand washing but we paid the neighbor $1.50 for 12 pieces and my socks and white hoodie haven’t looked that good since they were new. She even turned the socks inside out and washed them on both sides.
  • I could tell we were in the big city of Quito (capitol, population over 1,600,000) when I heard long car horns express their discontent with whatever was happening with traffic. In smaller cities, horns are used a lot but they are one or two short taps to say thanks or to warn oncoming traffic.
  • Prices are generally good although much better if you go to the market. Even in the large grocery stores, you can get 3 large beautiful red bell peppers for about $1.65. In Ibarra, we got 3 avocados for $1, a package of fresh basil for under $1, and I saw 2 pineapples for $1! The bus in Quito was $0.12 cents each for seniors.
  • Stoves have ovens in this country. I don’t remember seeing a single oven in Colombian homes.
  • Many tour and store hours are posted in 24 hour time (1600, no 4:00) although I do see both.
  • Use of commas and decimals in pricing and numbers seems mixed. Often, but not always even on the same sign, you will see a comma where we would put a decimal point.

Women’s Group in Ibarra

Our hostess in Ibarra was Clarita. She is French by birth and a retired nurse.  She speaks Spanish quite well and of course French. Her English is about the equivalent of our Spanish…more than minimal but not great.

She and a friend of hers (Justine) who is also French decided to start a women’s group in Clarita’s neighborhood. The first meeting had 11 women (including Clarita and Justine I think) and the second had 5 plus Clarita, Justine, and myself. Although it was disappointing to have such a drop in attendance, at least 2 people were ill and one out of town.

Those who attended were probably 40’s-70’s but I’m guessing. The meeting started with some very gentle movement exercises like rotating our arms or legs while standing. We spent about 5 minutes doing this.

This night’s topic which was diabetes. Diabetes is the number one killer in Ecuador and looking at people as we walk around town, it isn’t surprising that 1 in 4 have it. (In the States it is just under 10% by one CDC statistic I saw.)

The typical diet is heavy on starch and fruit. At breakfast, our Ecuadorian neighbor made for us ($2.50 each) included Perico (scrambled eggs with finely chopped green onion and tomato), rice, French fries, or hominy, a plate of chopped apples, papaya, and bananas, a large glass of fresh juice, and hot chocolate. Every day we had to tell her to give us less food because the servings were too large.

Lunches typically are a bowl of soup, a meat (usually stewed), rice, French fries, fried plantains, and a small salad with a large glass of juice.  I don’t know how different dinners are but servings are always large.

We watched a video on diabetes in Ecuador (in Spanish of course). During the discussion afterwards, the two older ladies didn’t say much but the other two had a lot of input. I could understand some of the discussion and much of the video. We also tasted a pudding type dessert made of pureed avocados, bananas, and I don’t recall what else. It was sweet and pleasant tasting. At the end of the meeting we had hot tea made of cinnamon which was very tasty. The entire meeting was 2 hours.

The fact that anyone shows up is a wonder. One of the women gets up at 3:30 every morning to make food for her family before she goes to work for 10-12 hours! The other two younger ones work as well. Not sure about the 2 older ladies but I am sure that they have to take care of their homes and cook.

I really admire what Clarita and Justine are doing. A real grassroots effort to make significant changes for the local Ecuadorians. It is a small group but if even 3 or 4 women start making changes and teach their children/grandchildren to make changes, it will have a huge impact.

The group is not solely devoted to nutrition. They are planning to plant flowers and I saw two small avocado trees that they have already planted. Clarita’s husband, Alfonso, is a forensic pathologist and is going to talk about violence in the home in an upcoming meeting. I wish the group all the best!

Earning a Living in Central and South America

Jewelry and food are very common items sold on the streets.

Earning a living in Latin  America can be very tough. Work is hard and long hours and pay very low. Retirement payments are extremely low, as low as $50 per month in Ecuador.

Many people earn their living by selling things. On streets, in the plazas, boarding buses briefly, and walking between lanes of traffic. You can buy almost anything from shoe laces and plain shoe inserts (I am not talking the Dr. Scholl gel inserts, I’m talking plain inserts like you take out of your shoes if you put in the Dr. Scholl inserts), sun glasses, all kinds of fresh or cooked foods, toys, corn kernels for pigeons, bubble blowers, shoe shines, candy or cigarettes, and the list is endless.

Compliments of AlpacaMall

In Ecuador I saw a man with no shoes because his feet were clubbed or deformed, walking on his knees, selling the Andean ponchos. I didn’t take a picture of him but here is the type of poncho I mean.

I saw another man who sat on a skateboard and went up and down between lanes of traffic selling something. Brave soul.

We generally don’t buy from the vendors because we don’t know how the food is handled but lots of people do buy there. I guess prices are good and they are convenient. Below are pictures from Colombia and Ecuador but you could find similar pictures in any of the countries we have been in so far and I suspect most of the ones we plan to visit in the future.

To the left of the red car is vendor sitting on a skate board.

A Willingness To Try New Things

I receive an email each morning from the Daily Word. It is a brief thought for the day. Here is today’s Daily Word:

Willingness
A willingness to try new things brings freshness to my life.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

There is great wisdom in the conventional saying, “You won’t know unless you try.” Countless opportunities appear in a lifetime, but without willingness to try new things, those experiences will be left undiscovered.

When I stretch myself to try something new, I discover adventures, communities, foods, or interests I wouldn’t have ever known. Deep joy may result from my willing action to do something unfamiliar. Even if I decide that what I’ve tried is not for me, I gain experience and knowledge in the process of expanding beyond my usual activities.

Today I purposely choose to do something new. With a willing heart and an open mind, I experience the freshness of life.

Our travels are about our willingness to try new things. Sometimes it is a bit scary, mostly exciting. I’ve been trying a few new foods. We try to find a new fruit or vegetable when we go to the market. It is a conundrum for me because I want to do this but I am hesitant. We have bought some fruits and tried them. Most of them haven’t been very interesting to me.

I plan to post some examples with our thoughts soon. Stay tuned…