Quito gets another chance

I’m not a big city girl. Have I mentioned that before? I’m clearly out of my comfort zone in places where it takes more than 10 minutes to escape to something that resembles countryside. But I think I have something to learn from cities, about how people live en masse. With a net increase of about 200,000 people on this planet every day, living in cities is becoming difficult to avoid. This year, it was time to give Quito another chance.

Stepping out of your comfort zone is the theme of the first in our series of student blog posts on about our trip to Ecuador. UNCO meteorology student, Emily Ireland, explores this idea as she writes about her experiences in the Amazon. You can find her post on our Earth & Atmospheric Science blog site.

The Amazon is certainly a physical challenge for me, but I always feel at home in a forest – whichever forest that might be. Cities, however, have a way of getting to me like fingernails dragging along a chalkboard. Maybe they don’t so much push the edges of my comfort zone as rub raw the nerves that line the edge of that comfort zone.

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The rooftops of Quito blanket the slopes of Volcán Pinchincha. View from El Panecillo, the bread-loaf shaped hill in the middle of the city, looking north over the colonial center.

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Ecuador: with my students

There are moments in your life when you think, “This is exactly where I’m meant to be right now.” That came into my mind early on in my 11-day journey through northern Ecuador with 17 students. Arriving in Ecuador for the second time in my life, I felt just as much fear and anticipation as I did the first time – but of a much different quality. Two and half years ago, when I arrived for the start of my Fulbright grant, I was simply terrified and totally alone in the middle of the night in a new country. This time, I was certainly not alone, and not unfamiliar with the country – but I felt responsible for the well-being of so many people.

My anxiety was compounded by the fact that our driver was not there waiting for us  when we emerged from customs around midnight at the Quito airport. But things got much easier after that initial flurry of phone calls, texts, and inquiries around the airport, and the bus pulled up at the curb for us about 45 minutes later to take us into the city.

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Spectacular day for great views in the Andes. Las Ilinizas: two snow-capped volcanic peaks south of Quito. Photo taken from the Pan-American highway.

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Coming soon: The Return to Ecuador

I’ve been craving humitas lately – those soft, cheesy, sweet cornmeal cakes steamed in a corn husk. I miss eating popcorn and tostado (corn nuts) with my soup. The popcorn here in the States – even the stuff I buy at the Farmer’s Market – just can’t compare with Ecuadorian popcorn. And I’d love to have a chirimoya. I saw them in Whole Foods market one day, shipped from somewhere in the tropics. I would have to shell out about $8 for a taste – as it should be – you pay for every bit of petroleum used to get that thing up here, to a place where no one has heard of a chirimoya. I wonder if Whole Foods made any profit on those. (Aren’t you tempted to google ‘chirimoya’ now?)

It’s been nearly two years since I returned home from Ecuador. Maybe it’s time for a visit?

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Humita, wrapped in a corn husk, and an Ecuadorian tamale – usually served with coffee or hot chocolate.

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Cuenca’s Gringolandia: A place to escape Trumpamerica? (Or whatever America you want to escape)

Will it be Canada or Cuenca? I have to admit, this is a post I’ve been working on since shortly after I arrived in Ecuador – more than a year and a half ago – well before Trump announced his intentions. But I figured this was a good time to publish this. US citizens have been on a roller coaster ride this fall, and spate of nervous jokes (on both sides of the political spectrum) about fleeing the country if Trump became president has not abated. (And I know there are some out there who will flee a Clinton presidency.) So, would it be Canada or Cuenca? I’m not going to say much about Canada – although, I do realize it’s hard to resist a country run by a prime minister who cuddles panda bears.

This post is about what life is like for North Americans who have already fled to Ecuador. If you arrived at this page because you’re considering retiring – or perhaps, fleeing – to Cuenca, maybe it’ll give you a bit of perspective about life as a North American in Ecuador.

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Typical abode for expat North Americans in the heart of Cuenca’s Gringolandia.

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Transform Black Friday into Opt-Outdoors-Day – who’s on board?

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The Poudre River in Fort Collins, the day before Thanksgiving (or, rather, the day before Black Friday craziness begins)…Also the day before snow.

A couple of weeks ago the major outdoor retail chain, REI, announced that they would close their doors for Thanksgiving AND Black Friday, pay their employees, and encourage everyone to go out and enjoy the great outdoors. I think this is awesome, and I applaud this move. In fact, it makes me want to do all my Christmas shopping at REI, so maybe that was the point. But how many people really care?

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Galapagos Part 3: Every shade of blue

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A juvenile sea lion awaits us on the dock of South Plaza’s Island, a small islet near the larger Isla Santa Cruz.

The Galapagos will always appear in shades of blue in my mind. While the drier island landscapes are painted in red and orange, or draped by lush, low forest canopies of green and yellow, those are simply accents against a pale blue sky, and deeper blue ocean. As the world here in the Northern Hemisphere gradually turns gold and red with autumn and a new school year is ramping up (well, ok, it’s been ramping up, and at this point, is going full speed ahead), I wanted to share one last set of Galapagos photos – shades of blue, some lush green forests, and quirky animals. Warm thoughts  and images to carry us through frigid days ahead (those of us who are winter-bound, anyway!) Continue reading

Galapagos Part 2: Bartolomé and North Seymour Islands

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The colorful volcanic landscape of Isla Bartolomé in the Galapagos. The tall spire at the other end of the bay is ‘Pinnacle Rock’.

Imagine cruising into a tiny, protected bay, where the water laps gently on the rocks. Your vision is saturated with shades of blue, from the sky and the water, and shades of red, brown, grey and purple of volcanic cinder cone – you begin to feel like you’re on another planet. This is the small islet of Bartolomé in the Galapagos.

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