Oasis

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.

And even a capybara, the world’s largest rodent. I guess they caught is somewhere, and are fattening it up to eat if. Hmm. Very interesting. 

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!

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.

Inspiration: Spiders

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!

 

Inspiration: On the Wings of a Bird

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.