Taking it Slow

fia at sunset fia smile isa goggles isa playing pepe stroller

It’s been a little over a week since we got back to the island, and the time has flown by. Each day feels very full of life, but I don’t have very many significant activities to report. Most of my accomplishments fall into a list like “cut husbands hair, organized two drawers in studio desk, went through kids clothes and removed all the clothes that don’t fit.” Silly little things, but it feels good to get them done. Each afternoon we’ve gone to the beach or the park. Sometimes we buy some fresh-baked bread from the panadería (bread store) to snack on. I really enjoy the slow pace of things here. Besides Joel’s work, we really have no other time commitments besides the ones we make for ourselves. We walk everywhere. We can get up early and go to the beach at sunrise or stop by the giant tortoise in residence at the visitor’s center down the street from Joel’s work. We can let the girls go swimming at sunset.

I’m most excited about starting up my reading program again with my four-year-old. She’s learned a bunch of individual words, and is moving to sentences and soon books! So excited about this for her. I’m also really excited to get deep into some projects I’ve been wanting to work on for a while, and I can’t wait to share those with you. Plus, did I mention that I recently took a couture dress making class online over our Christmas vacation (thank you, high-speed internet)? It’s got me all revved up and ready to try some clothing construction. Maybe, if I can clear off my desk enough to get to my sewing machine.

Anyways, the bottom line is, life is good here, and I have good things in store for the blog. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend!

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A Typical Saturday

This post could have also been titled “what I look like before 7 AM,” but you get the idea.

First things first, we head to the market.  On the way there, we pass by a beautiful house, with a fun garden that includes poinsettia trees (did you know those little plants you buy at Christmas grow up to be trees?) and pineapples.

Here’s the market. It’s a quaint little crumbling, dilapidated spot in the center of town, and it’s where we buy 80% of our food each week.

I buy most of my food from this lady. She’s like the “no soup for you” guy (I’m not really into Seinfeld, but I do know that reference), but she’s straightforward, and I don’t feel like I’m being gutted. The prices are the same for everyone, even a gringa like me.

I love my little girl’s face in these next three pictures. She’s so good at posing for pictures.

This man was chopping up some freshly slaughtered goats. His friends were making fun of him while I was taking the pictures, saying that he never knew how to do anything, but now he has a woman so he had to learn to butcher goats.

He works outside of the butcher place though. Here’s what the legit butcher shop looks like (it’s really just a corner of the market, too.

This was the first women I bought anything from at the market. She seemed the most approachable, and since my Spanish isn’t great, I was a little nervous about the whole thing. She is sweet and always has a handful of grapes for my girls when we come.

That’s it for the market. Now we’re headed for a real store.

This is one of the bigger “grocery” stores on the island. It’s a little smaller than your standard 7-Eleven.

It’s one of those magical places where you can find nutella, canned beans, maraschino cherries, and baby food all in one place.

After grabbing a few nonperishable, include several liters of milk in a box (that you don’t have to refrigerate until it is opened, is that pasteurized) it’s time to head for home. All of this happens before 8 am, every Saturday. It’s a fun little ritual that we’ve gotten used to.

Have a great weekend!

Give Me US Red Tape Any Day

(I feel like I’m issuing a lot of warnings about my posts lately, but here’a another one. This post has no pictures and entirely too many exclamation points and use of all caps, but I feel it’s warranted, so I’m ask for your forgiveness before hand. Also, I should mention that I mostly wrote this post to save time talking about unpleasant things when I skype with my mom later. So feel free to skip this if you want.)

I’m not complaining, because that would just be ridiculous given how blessed I am, but there are a few things that I would like to get off my chest. Maybe someone out there understands this particular trial I am going to and could leave a sweet little note of encouragement (woudja, please?).

I think I might have mentioned once or twice that I married an extremely attractive South American man, my dear Joel, (I joke sometimes that he was my mail order husband). We were young and in love, and didn’t have a clue about the international reprecussions of our romance. Shortly after we were married, we became familiar with the long and expensive process of naturalizing Joel. We had it relatively easy, since Joel was already in the country legally on a student visa, so it was “just” a matter of applying for temporary residency, then permanent residency, then citizenship. The process took exactly four years after we were married to be completed, and when it was all over, we thought we had gotten through the worst of it. (Ha, I kind of smile when I think how bent out of shape I got about driving our two young girls an hour in our own, air-conditioned, child-safety-seat car to attend an interview and the naturalization ceremony. Those were the days!)

During all this process, we had visited Ecuador a few times, but the thought never occurred to us to doing any naturalizing in that country; there didn’t seem to be any need. And even when we got a job offer we couldn’t pass up in Ecuador, we foolishly thought that the university that hired us would take care of all the paperwork to allow us to legally live here (since they do that in the states, right?). Well, we are definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Besides the last  7 months of wasted effort and hoping, relying on others to do stuff for us, we’ve had one month of pure torture trying to move the paperwork along ourselves. In this country, nothing can be done remotely, you have to go to the government offices in person, even to just ask questions about applications. And there are only two government offices in the country that do the really important stuff that we need to do, one in Quito, and one in Guayaquil. We’re closer to Guayaquil, so that was our poison of choice. It’s a three hour taxi-bus-taxi ride to the government building(s) we have to go to, or an expensive 2 1/2 hour straight taxi ride. For the first visa we applied for, we had to be there between 8:30 and 10:30 in the morning to get a ticket to apply or ask questions at that office, though if you wait til 10:00, your risking it, because they only hand out 100 tickets a day, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. You do the math. It meant leaving early with two motion-sick little girls. I had the choice between making them fast the whole morning so they were less likely to throw up a lot, or feed them and risk a big explosion. The first time we had to go, I went with the first option, with the result that my older girl threw up a bunch of stomach fluid, but was okay after that, just hungry. Of course, there is no eating allowed in the building we were at, so I tried to give them snacks outside the building, not wandering too far so as not to miss our crucial turn to go up and talk to the powers that be. Of course, this is not allowed, either, because something about feeding small children (it’s not like I was even nursing, for pete sake!) in front of a government building is horrifying to the full-of-themselves security guards, who rudely told me to move a long, as if I were a vagrant or a street walker.

But after all, the first visa went relatively smoothly. Of course, I had to go back a few days later to pay for it and pick it up. Which meant the bus ride (I was by myself this time), getting a number, turning over my visa, making some corrections to the paperwork at a nearby cyber spot, then waiting 4 hours to pick up the visa, then another bus ride home. That 12 hour day trip was the easy part.

You see, yesterday, I had to take my girls with me again to Guayaquil (in a taxi) to apply for the second visa. Before my sweet husband had to return to the island, he had made 4 trips to Guayaquil to ask questions and collect minor documents from other agencies to make sure that all our paperwork and documents were in order to apply for the second visa. But after I got the first visa, I went to the second visa office (different offices in the same building, thank goodness) to ask. They looked through all my documents and said “everything is in order, except this one thing that isn’t on the list of requirements but we need it anyways, and yes, you do have that document, but it is too old, we need it within thirty days of that document being issued, and you got it several months ago, and no it doesn’t say on the document that it is only valid for thirty days, and it doesn’t say anywhere else that it is only valid for thirty days, and  no they don’t tell you when you get the document that it is only valid for 30 days, and of course in your husband’s four other trips to ask questions at this office we never even mentioned that other document or that it needs to be less than 30 days old, but that’s the way it goes, sister.” Okay, maybe they didn’t call me sister. But you get the idea.

So I knew I was going to have to get this other document, which is at another government office in Guayaquil on the opposite side of town. So yesterday, we went there first so we could get the document. My little girl, who had been so brave, threw up in that parking lot. When we got to that office, they said that they were closed for cleaning that morning, but would be open later in the afternoon, and we could come back then. So we set off for the other building, with the faint hope that there was a satalite office there which gave out the same documents (essentially a travel record of your comings and goings in the country). When we got there the woman working at the small desk was just leaving to go to the other office to set up a temporary room to work in there. She told us to go back to the other office. And then she left. No joke.

So, we decided to just try applying for the visa without that document, at least for the girls’ visas, since we had a valid copy of the travel record for the girls and we were at the visa building anyways, So we got a number, waited, and then went up to ask. It started out okay; they started perusing our documents, and it looked like we might even be able to take that all-important visa picture for which I had dragged my girls up there for (that’s the only reason they have to be there, to get their photo taken!). But no, another fail. Besides saying that we needed a copy of my husband’s travel record for the girls’ applications (of course, this is mentioned no where on the list of requirements), they noticed that the translation of our marriage license, which the university lawyer had provided for us, was incomplete. What was missing? All of the information. The guy had just translated things like “name,” “address,” “occupation,” but had failed fill in the actual information, so it appeared like a blank document. Of course, they had not mentioned this problem in the other 5 times we had asked if we had everything we needed.They told us now we had to get the thing re-translated! (Are you getting a sense of my exasperation, here?) Since we were missing those two things, we could not apply for the visa. They wouldn’t accept what we had to save on file, or take the dang picture, which means I have to bring my girls AGAIN to go through this torture.

But the fun didn’t stop there. We decided that since we were in the city, we might as well get that travel document after all. I needed one for me, and one for Joel. Joel had sent me a scanned copy of his ID with a letter and signature authorizing me to get his travel record for him, since he’s in the Galapagos right now.

We went back across town to the other building (through scary, big-city crazy-driver traffic). The people at that office had told us they would be up and running at 1:30, and we got there a little before that. What we saw was not very encouraging. A long line had formed outside the gated building, broken into small chunks wherever there was a bit of shade on that narrow sidewalk next to one of the busiest streets in the country. Fortunately, we got one of the last bits of shade, and stood there, and then sat there (on the ground, no benches), for at least a half an hour without an inch of progress as buses and cars passed us, spewing exhaust in our face at intervals. Then, all of a sudden there was a mad rush on the gate keeper’s office, apparently they were handing out numbers and letting people go inside. In Ecuador, no one has respect for a line. It didn’t matter if there were single women with small children waiting for an hour before you, people just shove their way in, and this was no exception. When the dust cleared, we ended up with number 11 (which wasn’t saying much, since it took another half and hour for them to work up through number 4).

When it was finally our turn, we got up to the desk only to hear from the same woman who had sent me away at the other place 4 hours ago that I could not get my husband’s travel record because I didn’t have a notarized copy of the ID and letter; clearly I had forged his signature and had nefarious intentions for his precious travel record. So in the end, I just got mine. And after they print your travel record for you and you pay for it, they make you go get a copy of it to give back to them (now, if that isn’t the height of insanity, I don’t know what is). So you go to this little shrewd woman inhabiting one corner of the government building—she’s not employed by the government, but she sure is kept in business by them—and you pay A DOLLAR to get ONE copy of your record that they just printed for you so you can give it back to them.

You can bet we high-tailed it out of there as soon as we could after that, because we couldn’t take another moment of the craziness. Two and a half hours later, we arrived home, and about 15 minutes after that, my sweet little girl threw up all the food she had eaten as soon as she had gotten home, all over the bathroom floor.

After 10 hours of emotional and physical torture, we have very little to show for it except the anticipation that we get to do the whole thing over again next week.

No, I’m not complaining. I mean, I know it could be much worse. While waiting in that last office, we met a family that had traveled from Cuenca, four hours of windy, narrow mountain roads, with two little kids. And I know there are countries with an even worse government infrastructure than Ecuador (a frightening thought!). But it is nice to let off a little steam. So thanks for listening.

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!

Whale Watching

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?

That day has come

Picture this. It’s an early Saturday morning in June, and you should still be in bed. The grass is still wet with the dew accumulated from the night before, but the temperature is already rising and you know it’s going to be a hot one. Your driving slowly down the main road of your neighborhood, scanning the rows of houses you know so well. Then you spot it, a neon sign with big, clownish letters beckoning you hither: Yard Sale! it screams in black and pink. You pull over, crack the windows, and lock your car. You might be a while.

At first you try to act casual. Nothing excites you or draws your attention. The proprietors of this one-day shanty shop are seated in sun-weathered lawn chairs next to a child selling some nondescript beverage for 100 times its fair market value. Milling among the card tables filled with the purged wares of a household tightening its belt you find a thousand typical nick-knacks and everyday junk you’ve seen a hundred times before. Scanning the rest of the lot, you soon realize there’s nothing there for you. Disappointed, you get back in your car, and head for home.

But on a whim, you take an alternate route home, and there, on the very next corner, jackpot: an estate sale. Yes, you feel a touch of shame at rejoicing in your luck at happening upon a dearly departed’s treasure trove of stuff. But this feeling is soon overcome, and you abandon any attempts at appearing indifferent as you skip merrily up to the mounds like a kid about to enter the proverbial candy shop. One, two, three little thises and thats end up in your hand, you can’t even say how, and become a permanent fixture there. One way or another, they are going to have to come home with you. After a quarter-of-an-hour’s earnest perusal among the bric-a-brac of a bygone era, you emerge triumphant with half a dozen things that you didn’t know you needed but now cannot live without. You are about to cut yourself off, make your purchases, and head for home, when all of a sudden, you see it. The find of all yard sale finds. It’s huge, it’s old, and you’re sure it is (or should be, if the poor sellers knew any better) expensive. It has all the original pieces and accessories: every needful thing to render it fully functional. It comes with some extra this and the deceased’s carefully stockpiled that to complement its use. Oh, you know it’s just perfect. Not in a thousand yards sales will you find  another specimen to equal this one’s merits. You hardly dare approach it, and yet you find yourself unavoidably drawn to it. Closer, closer, until you can almost read the asking price, written in pencil on a small post-it note. You take a deep breath, draw a little closer, and now you can read it. It is just as you expected: much, much less than an item of that condition would go normally go for. You soon find that you cannot tear yourself away, and go on standing in front of it, looking it up and down, all over, a dozen times. You pace around it, then glance over to the sellers, to see if they’re taking note of your interest. They’re not. They seem not to notice you at all. Then you cast your eyes over the whole sale, to see if there are any other greedy customers ready to swoop in and make off with your find. But there are only a handful of other shoppers there, and none seem to recognize the merits of your prize. Yes, it is your prize. You know it. It would be your crowning success for yard sale seasons to come. You begin to finger through the box of accessories, and wonder if the sellers will accept a check, since, under-priced as it is, it still exceeds your stash of ones, fives, and tens you brought along for the purpose. You are about to go inquire, when suddenly, you stop short. You hesitate. You doubt. It is too much money. It is too big. Honestly, you really have no idea what you would do with it. That voice, be it that of your rational spend-thrift spouse, or your own inner conscience, is resounding in your brain. You turn your back to the piece, and slowly, willfully, you walk away. Downcast, you quickly complete your petty purchases, get in your car, and drive off. It’s only when the car has gone several lengths that you allow yourself to look back. You can see it still in your rear-view mirror, glistening in the now-risen June sun like the gem it is. As you turn the corner and cast one last look of longing on your abandoned find, you know, deep down, that someday you will regret it. Maybe next week, maybe ten years from now, you will say to yourself, “I wish I had bought that such and such after all.” Your foot half hovers over the break, but you do not stop. You leave it behind.

For me, it was a loom. A big, beautiful, solid-wood, hand-crafted floor loom. I took one look at it and knew it was special. At the time, I couldn’t tell a warp from a weft, we were living in my grandparents basement, still going to school, and trying to save money for a house. I couldn’t use it, afford it, or find space for it. But still , I was sorely tempted. Oh, how I was tempted. But in the end, I, too, turned my back on it and drove away. Now, nearly three years later, that day has come. The day I say to myself, I wish I had bought that loom.

Remember how I said I bought a little yarn in Otavalo. Well, I meant a whole lot of yarn, 14 pounds of it (which, if you didn’t know, is about 2-4 sheeps’ worth, depending on the breed). I bought it because I could, with only a vague idea of how I would dispense with it all. And then the idea of the loom crossed my mind. Oh, that would have been perfect. Just perfect. (Never mind that I would have had no way of transporting it several thousand miles to our new location. It’s just perfect in my mind.)

(These next three pictures really belong on my family blog, but oh well, I’m giving you an extra dose of adorable.)

I really wish I had bought more of the natural colors. They were the softest and best quality. If I go again, I’ll skip the colors and buy mostly white, grey and black. Lesson learned.

If you had all this yarn (100% wool, single-ply, and fairly soft), what would you do with it?

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!

Some things

Some things are going on around here. First, I should say that I’m writing this from the continent. We’re taking a vacation from the Galapagos. Ha! Actually, part of the residency hoops we have to jump through is that once you are ready to apply for temporary residency on the island, you must leave the island and then come back. Don’t get me started on all the ridiculous rules they have in place to deter anyone who has the audacity to try to move there. Our 90 days in Galapagos were going to be up next Saturday, but due to some last-minute scrambling to get my husband’s residency application done, we found out Wednesday afternoon that we would all be leaving the country the following morning. Prepping a house for and extended absence, in addition to packing for that absence, in less than 24 hours is not something that I would wish on anyone, but we managed somehow. (Since we still don’t have a washing machine, and there was not enough time to get it done at the laundromat, we had to bring two suitcases full of dirty clothes as part of our managing somehow.)

So we will be on the continent at least until the first of July. Hopefully, fingers crossed, we can get all the paperwork taken care of so that we can go back to the island together, but if not, I may be staying with my girls here while my husband goes back. If you are familiar with Ecuadorian geography, we are currently in the peninsula, but we will be heading up to Quito, the capital, next week for some work training.

In other news, we’ve had a few small milestones that have gone by almost imperceptibly. The biggest one for me is that for the first time in over four years I am not nursing or pregnant. For those of you (ahem, my parents) who may be tempted to gloss over that line and only catch the buzzword, let me emphasize the NOT. I love my babies, and I loved nursing them and was so grateful that I was able to do so, but after four years straight of my body being in charge of nourishing another being in addition to myself, it does feel a little freeing to be back to just me again.

The other little milestone we slid past last week was our six-month mark in Ecuador. That’s big! Over the last 6 months we have slowly but surely been adjusting to life in Ecuador, and now, it truly feels like we are at home here. I’m glad, too. Of course, I still have a long way, mainly in the speaking-Spanish aspect, to go before the other people here accept me as part of the community.

So for the next three weeks I’ll be busy keeping the girls entertained while my husband has to run all over the place getting documents processed and filing out applications. I brought along a little stitching to keep myself entertained, and I think I’m going to hunker down and play around with some new stitches, which I’ve been wanting to do for a while now.

So, it just occurred to me that it’s summertime for all my friends north of the Equator.  (Technically, we just entered “winter” down here. With the length of the day remaining constant, and the temperature fluctuating only a few degrees up and down, my perception of seasons is all out of whack.) Does anyone have any fun summer plans? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear about that.

Have a great Monday!

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.

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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.