One Year

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. from a distancecloser

 

iguana close up

 

walking away 2

 

walking away

profileHave a great day!

 

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Sea Lions

 

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!

 

 

 

A Longer Explore

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.

Pelicans young

and old.



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.

A Long Explore

(If you recognize where the title came from, double parents-of-toddlers points to you.)

The long explore. We did a taxi tour this last weekend as a fun little send-off for my brother-in-law, David, who has been staying with us since we moved here and helped tons with cleaning, moving, and toddler wrangling. The boat tours in Galapagos can get pretty expensive, but this taxi tour was a reasonable price, and it was per-trip, not per-person, so it worked out great. Also, we could schedule the tour for as long or as short as we wanted, at any time we wanted, so it meant we could do it after naps.

The island is a longish oval shape, nothing exciting like Isabela, which is shaped, seriously, just like a sea horse (look it up). You can drive from one side to the other, short-wise. You can stop any taxi on the street, and say, I want to go to the Galapaguera (tortoise breeding center) and they will take you on a tour. It’s actually a three-part tour, starting at a caldera lake, then the breeding center, finished up with a swim at a lovely (though a bit rough) beach. The tour lasted 5 hours, so I’m breaking it up a bit here. The majority of my pictures were from El Junco, the caldera lake. It was amazing to see the island from those views. I loved it.

We took a taxi to the base of the Junco caldera, then walked up to the top.

These windmills were on an adjacent hill, part of the green efforts of the islands.

Here you can see the other end of the island and the ocean just faintly visible.

Panorama of El Junco (be sure to click on the image to see it larger). I’m a little addicted to the Panorama generating feature in Photoshop. So cool.

That’s a Frigate Bird. There were a bunch circling El Junco.

Okay, does this image give anyone else and Anne of Green Gables (or of Avon Lee, don’t remember which) vibe? The whole time we were looking over the opposite coast, I kept thinking of that.

We stood and gazed at the view for a good little bit. Groups of people came and went while we were standing there. Lovely. Breathtaking. You know, the standard descriptions for the sublime.

Isabella kept saying she wanted to go down to where the horses where on the other side of El Junco. She kept calling to them, too, and neighing.

Then we turned around and headed back up.

And then back down.

The view looking down from El Junco.

Both of the girls were tired by the time we headed back. But this was only the first third of our tour.

The next stop on our tour was the Galapaguera, which is a turtle breeding center (quick fact: galapagos is the Spanish word for the giant tortoises with saddle-back shells, so that’s how the islands got their name).

We saw only three of the really big tortoises for the whole walk. This fact was made up for by the interesting scenery and of course the dozens of little baby giant tortoises that we got to see.

Our third and final stop was Puerto Chino. It was a beautiful white beach bordered on both sides with black volcanic rock and lush greenery.

And beautiful white sand.

Teeny tiny crab. Even crustaceans are cute when they’re super small.

It ended up being a very full, fun day. What an adventure! Hopefully there will be many more to come.

Good Morning Galapagos II

Another early Galapagos morning. We went out to take some pictures of the new Galapagos Science Center (my husband’s workplace).

And of course we got a little distracted by the beach.

And these sun-bathing iguanas.

 

And I can’t get over how spectacular the clouds are here. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen any quite like them.

And the morning wouldn’t be complete without encountering several dozen spiders with their work of the night before on display.

 

The trick is trying not to walk into one of their webs unawares. There are few things more unsettling than walking into a spider web. If you don’t know, just try it.

Well, here’s to another beautiful day.

 

Water, Water Everywhere…

Living on an island makes this expression come alive for me.

It’s sometimes a surreal experience to think of my life 4 months ago in Payson. Life is very different here, to say the least, but it’s incredible how little by little I have come to view things here as the new normal. For example, I had a brief visit back to the states in February, and I couldn’t get over the miracle of turning on the faucet and water coming on every. single. time. Even if someone is taking a shower, running the dishwasher, using the washing machine, and watering the lawn all at once, you’re still going to get water from your tap, and maybe even warm water!

Water is something I’ve come to appreciate so much more since living in Ecuador, and especially since moving to San Cristóbal. It’s funny to think how I used to get bent out of shape when my showers got a little cold because someone had turned on the washing machine before I was done, or how I use to gripe about the hard water residue left on my dishes after running the dishwasher. Ha, I don’t have any of those worries now, because there is never any hot water to begin with, and no dishwasher, either.

In Ancon (on the mainland of Ecuador) we experienced occasional water shortages during the day when only the garden hose had enough pressure to give us water. But this last weekend we had not a drop of running water for almost three days. That was rough, not being able to wash your hands, do dishes, or, ahem, flush the toilet. Yeah, pretty gross. But we bought some bottled water, collected some from a rain storm (but it was, of course, our driest weekend yet, so it wasn’t much) and just stunk, I mean stuck it out.

Do you know how grateful I was to have this coming out of my tap! (The one on the right is our dear Galapagos water, the left is bottled water.)

Anyways, this water-less weekend also happened to be Easter weekend (yes, I know I’m behind in posting). I did not feel like cooking since I hadn’t been able to shower or wash dishes. But it was Easter, so I had to make something. So an idea came to mind: Deep-fried. Cheese. Sugar.

I have done quite a bit of frying lately since it is a fairly convenient way to produce food fast here. (And fortunately, I average at least a mile and a half of walking here and there every day, so it’s not terribly terrible for me to eat fried food). So empanadas fit the bill for our Easter feast. Well, feast may be an overstatement, given that the Easter feasts here usually here usually involve a terribly complicated meal that revolves around a fish soup called fanesca. My husband has lovingly suggested that I hold off on trying to make it until I feel really confident. It’s my Mount Everest of cooking. So yes, these empanadas were more like an Easter snack.

But still good. I loosely followed this recipe, but found myself on a Sunday morning without butter or orange juice, so I just improvised. I Used oil instead of butter, but halved the quantity and added more water to make the dough the right consistency. And added a splash of lime juice. It still worked and really, when can you go wrong with dough-wrapped deep-fried cheese topped with a generous helping of crystalline sugar? Answer: Never. (Okay, I do acknowledge people with food allergies and dietary restrictions, but you get the point.)

Dad, if you’re reading this, these pictures are just for you. I’ll have to make you some when we visit for Christmas.

So, on the actual holiday front, we didn’t have baskets, or eggs in any form. No bunnies or fake grass, chicks or peeps (though, there will probably never be peeps at any Easter celebration I’m in charge of). We just talked about the Savior and the Resurrection, tried to make it meaningful for the girls, and yup, that was it. Simple and sweet. So overall a pretty good holiday, after all.

Good Morning, Galapagos

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.

Finally!

We’re here. We’re really here. It seems like a small miracle, and really, it is! Relocating to Galapagos takes a lot more work than I had initially thought. I had not thought it would be easy, but I had not anticipated it being quite this hard. The hardest part was being away from my sweet husband for 4 solid weeks. But now that it’s over, all I can feel is gratitude that it is over, and we are officially starting a new chapter in our lives. This island is beautiful. We moved here right at the tail end of the rainy season, which means everything is at its greenest and most lush. In many ways San Cristóbal is very different from the other two Galapagos Islands I visited with my husband three years ago, but there are also many similarities. The cactus trees, black volcanic rocks, and crystal blue water are all reassuringly familiar to me.

I’ll be sharing many, many pictures in the future. I didn’t want to photo bomb you with a picture of everything there is to see here, because (1) I haven’t seen it all yet, and (2) I’m going to be here for a while, so there’s no need to rush. We’re taking it slow right now. I think our average daily pace could be described as a mosey.

Yesterday during nap time I headed out to take a few pictures at Playa Mann, a beach that is literally a 2-minute walk from our (temporary) front door. It’s small, and lovely, and very peaceful.

Really, I’m just getting used to my new camera (more, perhaps, on that later), so these pictures aren’t anything stellar. I was standing a while just at the water’s edge, and one of the particularly big waves brought this little guy right up to my feet.

It startled me at first, since a charging sea lion can be trouble, but he was fun to watch and photograph, you know, after my heart started beating again.

We still have lots to do to get settled in, but I think we’re going to like it here. A lot.

The story of a whim and a shot in the dark with surprisingly good aim

So, some of you out there might be wondering how this crazy journey that is currently our life came to be. Well, let me draw you a diagram.

In case that’s a little hard to follow, here’s the story. (Warning, kind of long, possibly boring, feel free to skip this unless you need some help falling asleep.) My dear sweet husband (whom I’m missing terribly whilst I’m in the states packing up our home) graduated from college in April. Before graduation and after graduation, he was very active in his job seeking. Lots of applications, lots of interviews, even a nice trip to Dallas, and a half offer of an internship. But after several months, there was still no job. While all this job hunting was happening, my dear sweetheart was also getting ready and applying for grad school, which was also another dream of his.

Fast forward three months, and we’re still applying and interviewing, and nothing has come through yet. It will still be a month before we hear back from grad schools, which could potentially take us to Michigan or New Jersey, or leave us in Utah. Around this time, my husband’s brother, who is attending university in Quito, Ecuador, happened to mention a position that he had heard about through his school for a computer specialist in the Galapagos Islands. I can clearly remember the moment when Joel (cute sweet husband) told me about the job. I thought yeah, sure, we’re trying for anything at this point, and wow, that would be really amazing if that ever happened. I also clearly thought, yeah right. There’s no way.

Ha. I’m here now eating my words. It took a long time to come through, though. The application process began in September. There were two interviews in October, and unexpectedly, the people seemed really interested in my husband (not that he’s not amazing, because he is, I just didn’t think there would be any way that we would end up there). We were planning on spending a month in Ecuador for Christmas, and with the real possibility of the job, we thought we had better get our home in order in case the call came to move down there. However, we had also been accepted to a really great grad program in New Jersey, which would begin in January, and that would be a potential move as well. The date was fixed for December 3, but before that we were leaving to visit my family in Oregon for Thanksgiving. We thought for sure we’d hear back about the Galapagos job before then. But the days went on and nothing. Complete radio silence. Not even an e-mail reply to say they were still deliberating. Excitement waned. Expectation turned into doubt. As the time approached for us to leave the country, we still didn’t have any idea where we would be at the end of December.

Two weeks before Christmas, Joel sent out one final e-mail. The gist of it was “if we don’t hear back from you this week, we’ll take it as a “no.” The week passed. No word either way. So on Monday we were planning to buy our return tickets home, fill out our FAFSA, and try to scramble to get things ready to go to New Jersey. Tuesday morning, unexpectedly, an e-mail came. A brief apology for the lack of response. Apparently the main person in charge of hiring for the position had been in the Amazon (like, the rainforest) for the last month, which explained the lack of response. They said they still wanted to hire Joel, and they would be calling that week to make an offer.

After a little more waiting, the call finally came. All the suspended hopes that I hadn’t even dared to whisper to myself finally came through. We were really doing this. We were really going to move to a little island in the pacific with the main inhabitants consisting of giant tortoises and marine iguanas. Seriously.

I’ve mentioned previously that we’ve been to the Galapagos before. It was one of those amazing trips that you can’t really believe even happened. My husband and I both fell in love with the place, and we decided that we must return some day (though our guess was that it would be for something like our 40th wedding anniversary or something). It’s so utterly beautiful that there aren’t words to describe it. And we’re going to be living there. We’re going to be raising our kids there (yikes!). I’m going to have to buy some more swimsuits!

Of course, it won’t be all easy breezy. There is, of course, the little matter of moving our family from the states to a little island in the Pacific. Besides the fact that the whole group of islands is a national park (like living in Yellowstone) so we have to get special permits and what-not just to stay there. And I’m going to have to get Ecuadorian citizenship. And all that lot. Plus there’s the isolation of living on a teeny tiny island and all that entails.

But overall, I am super excited. All the time we were waiting and worrying and thinking that it was a lost cause, I was praying and secretly at peace; after my husband’s second interview, I knew that we would end up there.  I just knew it. And even though it took a lot longer than we thought it would to finally come through, I would secretly tell myself the whole time, just be patient, this is the right thing for your family, and it will happen. So now that the time is here, and we really are doing this, I am mostly at peace about the whole thing, despite all the little hurdles we still have to overcome.

I hope to be settled down with our new life-as-usual by March, but we’ll see. It’s going to be a crazy ride for the next month or so, so be patient with me. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all of this, it’s good things come to those who wait.

Have a wonderful Tuesday!