One year ago we moved to San Cristóbal in the Galapagos Islands. I can’t believe it has been that long. Of course, we’ve only lived on the island for about 7 of those twelve months, because 5 months of that were spent trying to figure out residency rules, etc., and also a month-long trip home (Oregon) for Christmas. So maybe that’s why it doesn’t quite feel like it’s been a year. Anyways, to celebrate our anniversary I thought I’d share some pictures of one of my favorite Galapagos cohabitants.
I thought maybe it was time to do another little feature on this crazy beautiful island that I live on. One of the most conspicuous elements of our island are the sea lions. They are everywhere. Sleeping, fighting, barking and belching. They overrun the playground, occupy most of the benches, block pedestrian bridges and lounge in the streets. As you can imagine, they create quite a bit of trouble for the residents here, but they also add to the magic of the place, in their own way. Here’s a quick look at them.
Have a great weekend!
It is the cold, dry season (technically winter, if you want to give it a name) in Ecuador. Everything is brown and bland and a little sad looking. On the long bus ride to the shopping center, we pass acres of parched, barren land that only a few months ago had been green and fertile from the generous rain. It’s an “add water and watch if grow” type of place. So it’s no surprise that in the few parts were people try to cultivate the land, they meet with fairly easy success. That’s how a little farm came to be, cropping up in the two-year lapse between our second and third trip to Ecuador. They carved out a spot of land in the relative middle of nowhere, bordered on one side by a narrow road that happens to be the short-cut route the taxies take between Libertad and Ancón. So we would pass it regularly after our weekly shopping trips. They had horses! For Isabella, it was the best part of the shopping excursion, that brief glimpse of living, breathing horses.
So can you imagine our excitement when abuela found out, quite by accident, that the little ranch belonged to the family of one of her former students? It was totally meant to be. Only a few days after the discovery, we made a short jaunt to the finca (farm) to check it out up close.
It did not disappoint. A personal play structure. Puppies (multiple!). And a gigantic dog. Two dozen baby chickens. Geese. More chickens. A cabybara (world’s biggest rodent; they’re raising it to eat—creepy and cool at the same time).
And horses of course.
When we first arrived, this little colt was tied at the ankle to a post, but she wasn’t too interested in that. A couple of kicks and she was free.
The owners were very welcoming. They showed us all around there lovely farm. There was a mother hen with forty chicks! They were kind of funny looking chickens, too, with bald heads and a big ruff collar of feathers around their necks.
There were some geese.
The girls got to pet the horses. Isabella was gentle and soft with the colt. Sofia gave the colt one good smack and it took off running, stepping on the handler’s foot in the process.
The mother horse was very obliging. My toddler was thrilled beyond expression with her private riding session, and she acts like an old pro. Is it too early to start training her for the equestrian event in the Olympics? How cool would it be, she could win Ecuador’s 2nd gold medal, in anything, ever!
I’m so grateful for kind strangers! Thanks for make these little girls’ (and their mami’s) day!
Here’s how life has been since I wrote last. Sick, whale watching, sick, sick, a little less sick, shopping (this is an almost all day chore), finally feeling better. And then I woke up bright and early Wednesday morning with nary a sniffle, with every intention of getting a good chunk of blogging done, when the power went caput. Three hours later, the power is back, but the internet was out almost the whole day. Since I don’t speak the same language as the computer guys (literally) there wasn’t much for me to do except wait for someone to come and help with it.
But now, did you catch that whale watching part in there. So awesome. It almost didn’t happen, too. My sweet little girl threw up her breakfast en route to the beach, and then the tour was pushed back and hour, and then it was delayed another 45 minutes as we all waited on the handicapped boat for a new battery to be brought out and installed. But all of that was forgotten once, after a mere 5 minute boat ride, we arrived at the watery stage of 4 whale performers.
The girls loved it though, besides feeling a little cranky for missing a nap.
The pictures are completely inadequate compared to the experience. These pictures have a little of the Loch Ness monster aesthetic going on, sorry. In fact, I wish a little that I could have just watched without worrying about catching it on film. There were four whales surfacing for air, and then raising their tails out of the water.
One whale even jumped out of the water; I was, unluckily, looking away at just the wrong moment, so I missed it, but I caught the big splash.
And then there as a whale doing rolls and splashing with its front flippers. But the most thrilling part for me was seeing a whale underneath the water swimming right under the front of the boat and then surfaced a few meters off.
And hearing them making their whale sounds. That was pretty great, too. Of course, the girls were beyond cranky after it was all over, but overall, I loved it and would definitely do it again.
Have you ever been whale watching? How did it go?
As I may have mentioned more than once, we are living on the island of San Cristóbal in the Galapagos Islands. It is one of four populated islands in the archipelago, and it is not the most populated. That honor goes to Santa Cruz, which I had heard had a bustling port city of no small size. Joel and I visited Santa Cruz four years ago, but most of the memories I had about the size and situation of the island were effaced by my recent experiences in San Cristobal. Well, this last weekend, we returned to that island, and I was surprised by how much I actually remembered, and how much had changed. It is a very busy city compared to our sleepy San Cristóbal. I was positively homesick for our island after passing a sleepless night in listening to trucks and scooters passing noisily by our hostel window, to the congregating of dozens of dogs holding a midnight meeting in the street, and to a few boistrous tourist and townspeople staggering in the dark back to their dwellings.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, I should say that our primary purpose for traveling to Santa Cruz was to attend our church. Unfortunately, there is not a congregation located on our island, so we have been on our own for the last few months. We finally got up the courage to try the two-hour boat ride to Santa Cruz, where the local congregation meets.
Early Saturday morning, we set out on the Osprey, a fairly spacious vessel, with the group of British kids from the Hacienda Tranquila, who had booked passage on the same boat. Everything started out great. Isabella and Sofia were riveted to the windows for the first 45 minutes of the voyage. But their enthusiasms soon began to wane, and was then altogether replaced by a general malaise. Then all at once, sea sickness set in, and the poor little girls took turns, in close succession, of necessitating the application of a plastic bag and gobs of toilet paper to their aid.
Anyways, we were very glad to be back on dry land. We had not arranged lodgings for the night in advance, but that is no major problem on the island since there is always someone eager to fill up their rooms. We hadn’t even left the dock before finding a person to conduct us to a nice little apartment that they rented out to tourists. We changed into our swimsuits, slathered on the sunscreen, and took off in the direction of the Darwin Research center, home of Lonesome George.
Along the way, we there were plenty of fun things to see. Like a bridge through the mangroves.
And a fresh fish market with all the usual fish stalkers.
A friendly sea lion.
And a surly booby. It’s not the blue-footed variety, and when I went to google it so I could perhaps look up the name of the correct variety, I got half way through typing the word before I realized that might not be the best thing to carelessly look up on the internet.
As we got closer to the center, we ran into some more iguanas and some fun little lizards. They must be cousins of the ones who live on our islands, because they have red patches in the same place, but it’s a different shade of red.
This was my favorite iguana. He just had a unique personality.
Almost as soon as we walked inside the center, we saw these big guys waiting for us.
Unlike our visit to the galapaguera on San Cristóbal, there are giant tortoises to spare at the Darwin Center in Santa Cruz.
And no less exciting were the giant land iguanas with flaming orange skin.
Lonesome George was napping in a cave, so we didn’t get to see him. We’ll just have to try for our next trip.
And there is also a small beach conveniently located there, for a cool dip after all that walking in the sun. The best part were the baby iguanas.
For dinner, we went to the same restaurant that Joel and I went to four years ago, and we ordered the pizza again. It was much better than I expected, probably because I didn’t make the mistake this time of ordering salchicha, which I mistakenly thought was sausage. Hot dogs cut up and sprinkled on a pizza is a thing that should never be. I also got a plate of fish, and I just wanted to show you this lime, which was green on the outside and orange on the inside.
After dinner, we went to the park, which was packed with children, doing all sorts of crazy fun activities that are banned from US playgrounds. I wish I had taken a picture of the rope basket swing that had a swing-span of 15 feet and was reaching almost the level of the swing’s pole at its peak height. There was also a little slide shaped like an elephant, and Isabella and Sofia were going nuts sliding down the trunk of that thing. It made me feel a little sad about the dilapidated state of the parks we have here on San Cristóbal.
We woke up early Sunday morning (earlier than I would have liked, but my girlies just don’t know how to savor a good sleepy Sunday morning) and got ready for church.
The church building is nice, and air conditioned, and the people were very welcoming. All in all it was an excellent experience. If it wasn’t for the girls throwing up the whole way there, I think we would try to come at least monthly. But I just don’t know if we can do that to them every month.
After church we had a little time to wander around and then we made our way back to the dock. I just snapped a few more pictures before it was time to go.
The boat ride home was super crowded and hot, but the girls slept most of the way and there wasn’t any throwing up, so we’ll call it a success. I was certainly glad to be back home. Santa Cruz is a lovely island with many charming spots, but I’m so glad we’re living on San Cristóbal.
Okay, I have to start by saying that I am major arachnophobe. I’m getting a little more comfortable with them here, since they are EVERYWHERE, but only if they are at a distance. There are some monster big ones that make me shudder. The web-spinning spiders here are quite fascinating, though. I think their delicate patterns are quite lovely, actually.
Have a wonderful Wednesday!
So I promise to get back to more creative-minded once things have settled down a little bit and I actually have a work-space again. For now, my big suitcase of craft supplies is wrapped in several layers of plastic wrap (it’s what they do to prevent theft-en-route down here), and I know that if I tear into it, even if just to retrieve my drawing pencils, it would be like unleashing Pandora’s box in this tiny temporary living space, and I just can’t do that to my sweet patient husband.
That’s the long way of telling you that I’ve only got more photos to share with you today. We’ve been taking a lot of walks before Joel goes to work. The sun and, coincidentally, my children rise early (before six) every morning, so we’ve found ourselves with several free hours to enjoy before the real labors of the day begin. Fortunately, we have several lovely beaches within walking distance.
Here’s a little peak at a bright and early Galapagos morning.
Down the hill to the beach.
And back up the hill to home.
Just a brief disclaimer: This post contains pictures of a dead bird. As far as I know, the bird died of natural causes. I do not think any of the following pictures are disturbing or graphic, but if you do, please excuse them. My intent is simply to share a little piece of beauty that I happened upon by chance.
At my in-laws home in Ancón, Ecuador, we see many different kinds of creatures, but my favorite has always been the blue birds that come to share a bite or two of the bananas or plantains that hang in bunches outside the back door. They are smaller and more streamline than the blue birds in the states, and their shade of blue, to me, is more exquisite than their northern cousins. It’s always a brief source of joy to see them flitting about the yard, their blue wings dazzling in the bright equatorial sunlight.
So imagine my surprise when, one Sunday afternoon, I stepped outside and found one of these little birds lying motionless on the ground. At first I didn’t know what to do. It was whole, and seemed unhurt, so I couldn’t understand why it was not flying away. I gently scooped it up in a plastic bag and inspected it more closely. It was surely dead, but besides a small trickle of blood near that beak, I couldn’t see any indication of fatal trauma. My mother-in-law suggested that it had probably gotten confused and flown into the brilliantly white-washed walls of their cinder-block home, and I think this explanation is probably correct.
In any case, I was fascinated with the tiny, pristine creature. I instantly thought of the beautiful watercolors of birds wings by Albrecht Dürer, particularly this one. I wanted to make some paintings of this little fellow, but as you may have deduced from my lack of blog activity, my life has been in constant flux the last month, and pulling out my watercolors was nowhere near feasible. So I did the next best thing. I photographed the heck out of this lovely little bird, hoping to capture just a glimpse of the startling beauty that I found in it. Some pictures come close, but I think the dazzling iridescent blue was too illusive for my camera’s eye. Regardless of the shortcomings of these photos, I thought I would share a my in-depth photographic observations with you. Enjoy.
Okay, so I realize there are probably zero people who are interested in seeing that many pictures of a dead bird. So if, somehow, you made it to the end of this post, lucky you! Just leave a comment, and I’ll chose a winner to receive their very own dead blue bird in the mail. Nope, sorry, I’m totally kidding. That definitely crosses the line into creepy. Don’t worry, after I was done photographing him, I laid this little guy to rest under the mango tree in the back yard. It’s peaceful there, and he’ll always have plenty of shade. Rest in peace, beautiful bird.
Christmas and New Years flew by in a blur, and now I’m battling a nasty stomach bug, so I’m not feeling up to much. I just thought I would share a few little things with you. First, Christmas. It was small, on my part, very small. I whipped up a couple of little felt lovelies for my daughters. With life and our future living situation still up in the air, and living out of suitcases for the last month, I didn’t want to add too much to the toy load, but I did want to give them a little something to make this Christmas special. First, my older daughter is OBSESSED with horses.
So a little felt horse finger puppet was an easy choice.
My younger daughter’s tastes are a little more simple, so I went with a nice little felt ball. It’s fun to chew on and to throw.
With the year before me a complete unknown, I decided to ground myself with a few goals (resolutions) that I want to make happen. I even wrote them down, in a nice little word-collage, but of course, I forgot to photograph it, and now it’s dark, so I decided to let the post go without a picture. My goals are mostly small, but after all, it’s the “small” things that make life wonderful.
Anyways, I hope you all have a wonderful week. Hopefully I’ll be feeling up to posting something for real next week!