Inspiration: Knobbly Tree

The park in Quito is quite lovely, with many old, interesting trees in lots of varieties, from palm trees to pine trees. This one stood out to me, though, and demanded some closer inspection.


The more I look at these pictures, the more it becomes like cloud gazing for me. Can you spot the face?

Have a great Monday!

Otavalo

As part of our whirlwind visit to Quito, we decided to take a day trip to Otavalo, a town famous through the country for its Saturday market. Otavalo is home to a large population of indigenous people, and they make an amazing array of handicrafts, particularly woven textiles. If I ever got a chance, I would love to visit where they actually make the stuff, because it is pretty amazing.

Joel and I visited Otavalo 4 years ago on my first visit to Ecuador, and I was pretty impressed then. I knew I wanted to go, but we weren’t sure if we’d be able to fit it in. It’s a 2 hour bus ride from Quito, so it’s a big time commitment just to get there and back, and we were on the fence about whether it would be worth it to make the girls go through that (have I mentioned that they throw up pretty much without fail every time we ride a bus?), but in the end it was definitely worth it.

After getting off the bus, this was the first thing that caught our eye. I think those are green onions sticking out of its ears. What, you’ve never seen a restaurant with a complete roasted beast dressed to greet you at the entrance?

The next thing the girls saw were these little guys. Always an attention grabber.

And then I saw this. (Even in Spanish, you know a 30%-off sign when you see it.)

And then this. I know this may not look like much, but for someone who has been completely starved for craft shopping in the last 4 months, this was a sight for sore eyes, even though I didn’t buy anything.

The market is HUGE. It spills out of ever shop and fills the streets with booths selling piles and piles of handmade goodness. It’s so completely overwhelming, especially when you think of how many hours went into all the handmade wares for sale. Thinking of just the hours weaving is dizzying. I didn’t photograph even 1/100th of what there was, since I was carrying a squawking toddler most of the time, but you can kind of get an idea of how big it was.

We walked.

And walked. I wanted to find piles of yarn for sale, as I had seen when we came 4 years ago, but was out of luck. I did find one shop selling yarn in the end, but the selection was pretty limited, so it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.

Ah, the textiles. The textiles.

Our first time in Otavalo, I was pretty moderate with my purchases, but this time, I didn’t hold back. The girls each got a traditional Otavalan dress, an alpaca sweater (so soft and cute) and a new drum.

The drums were as effective as cow bells for keeping the girls from getting lost in the crowd. And they helped keep the girls’ spirits up while we trekked along. I highly recommend them. 

Stacks of Panama hats with an array of hand-woven hat bands. Bonus trivia: Panama hats actually originated in Ecuador, but received their misnomer because they were shipped to the States through the Panama Canal.

We ate at the same little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that Joel and I ate at 4 years ago. A little harder with 2 kids, but still delicious. We had fritada, which is absolutely what you must eat when you go to Otavalo. I don’t know the name of the restaurant (sorry) but just look for a window with a woman laboring over a huge wok-looking thing filled with potatoes, chunks of pork, and other delectables sizzling in hot pig fat. Mmm.

I took a few pictures of the girls on the bus ride home. They were just too adorable in those sweaters.

Thanks for the good time, Otavalo. ‘Til we meet again.

Quito

It’s the kind of place that makes me feel like I must carry a camera and a concealed weapon with me wherever I go. We’ve been here five days now, and it slowly, so slowly, I’m adjusting to city life. The way I figure it, I’ll be at peace with the incessant bustling, beeping, tumultuous clamor of it all by the time we have to board our plane on Saturday.

Here’s a little background for those of you unfamiliar with this part of the world. Quito is the capital of Ecuador, and nestled snuggly in the Andes mountains at an altitude of 9360 ft, it’s the second highest national capital in the world, and technically, the world’s highest capital, La Paz, Bolivia, isn’t really the constitutional capital, but that’s just quibbling, really. Quito, despite being located almost smack dab on the Equator, is fairly cool, at least this time of year. It warms up during the day, but can be very chilly at night. I packed all our warm clothes, but that’s not saying much since the island life has left us with hardly a long sleeve between us. Though I had inured myself to the life of cold showers, here in Quito, warm water is a must. Thank goodness our hotel has a water heater (even if it is fairly unreliable one).

Quito has a population of 2.1 million (to put that into perspective, the population of San Cristóbal is about 6000, or about .006 million, and the population of the state of Utah, where we were living before coming to South America, is 2.8 million). During the day there are people milling about everywhere. It is definitely the most affluent area that I’ve been to in Ecuador, and the mall here makes me feel like I’m back home in the states (most everything is written in English there). Actually, I feel painfully under-dressed walking around there, since my only warm clothes are a hoodie and jeans. The city has its share of mendicants and other unfortuantes hawking everything from dinner mints and the daily newspaper, to mops, lawn ornaments, and clothing. They’re seated on street corners, meandering through parks, and often strolling between lanes of traffic.

Do I like Quito? Yes, I think I must say I do, if only because of the abundance of things here that we have been without for 3 months. Clear, reliably running water? Yes, please! Carpets?! My little girl threw herself down on the floor and crawled around for a good ten minutes when we first got to the hotel room. But the real show stopper was the produce section at the grocery store. I had to hold myself back, since we’re only going to be here two weeks. But seriously, plump, juicy blackberries for $0.90 a pint, how could I resist? Leeks, spinach, lettuce, celery: I never would have thought of these as luxuries until now. And beyond the variety I had to choose from, the quality was far superior to what we find in our open-air market in San Cristóbal.

But do I miss the island. Definitely yes. I know my husband was worried that once we got off the island, we might not want to go back, considering the hardships that we have to deal with there. But I miss it. I miss the home we’ve made there for ourselves. I miss the lush beauty that I’ve come to expect at every corner. I miss the gargling, burping, brawling sea lions. I miss watching the tide rise and fall, and feeling the ocean breeze, and knowing that I’m a part of it all. I’m excited to get back. There are some small home renovations and some new furniture that await us there. There are a few more residency roadblocks to overcome before we can go back, but hopefully, we’ll be home before too long.

Have a wonderful day, in whatever part of the world you call home!