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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Finding Gratitude in a Demon-Haunted World

Carl Sagan wrote about the importance of understanding science (the habit of rational thought) in preserving our democracy, and said that “if we don’t practice these tough habits of thought, we cannot hope to solve the truly serious problems that face us – and we risk becoming a nation of suckers, a world of suckers, up for grabs by the next charlatan who saunters along” (from The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, 1996).

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I was hoping for a photo here that would appear a bit scarier…But maybe these clownish jack-o-lanterns are perfectly appropriate.

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Earth as 1989 Planet of the Year – We’ve come so far. Not.

(Alternative title: How I became a climate scientist). I’m back! After a long hiatus (also known as ‘spring semester’), I’m getting ready to publish a few posts that have been in the works for some time. This post, in fact, has probably been ‘in the works’ for more than 25 years.

I recently gave a talk to a group of faculty at my university. I was asked to speak about my work, but also share a bit about how I got into climate science in the first place. I started with this cover from Time Magazine – January 1989.

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The cover of Time Magazine: January 2, 1989

This was the magazine cover that changed my life. Continue reading

Favorite Spots in Cuenca #5 – Quinta Balzay

For those of you wondering about my silence on this blog lately, I should let you know that I landed safely back in Colorado last weekend – I’m HOME! But I still have a lot to say about Ecuador, and many blog posts in the works, so stay tuned! Today I want to share a bit about another of my favorite places in Cuenca.

I’m one of those lucky people who, mostly, enjoys my job. Given how much time I spend working, that’s a good thing. So, for this installment of ‘Favorite Spots in Cuenca’, I felt I had to mention the place in Cuenca where I spent the most time (other than the house where I lived): The Quinta Balzay, a satellite campus of the University of Cuenca.2015_0721i Continue reading

Oh, wait…What did I just say?

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Learning to communicate effectively in another language is like putting together pieces of a mosaic. There are so many little details to consider – sometimes you’re able to see the beauty in the big picture, but you may not understand exactly what it all means. (Photo from the Quito Basilica – Feb 2015)

“I have already lost my meal,” I say as the waitress walks up to the table. I don’t realize what I’ve said until she looks at me a little funny. Of course, I really meant to say, “I have already ordered my meal,” but the Spanish verbs for ‘to lose’ (perder) and for ‘to ask for, or, to order’ (pedir) are too close in my head, and I constantly mix them up. If you’ve spent any amount of time trying to communicate in another language, you’ve certainly had moments of enlightenment where you realize exactly how silly you probably just sounded.

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Life and times on the slopes of the Andes

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If you’ve been following this blog, on thing you might notice here is the BLUE SKY. While I do post pictures of Cuenca with blue skies, those photos were taken in rare moments. You will also notice the color of the vegetation turns brown further down the slope – that is the desert at the base of this immense valley.

Living in the Andes has forced me to rethink everything I know about what drives weather and shapes climate. I come from a country where it’s always winter in December – no matter where you are. In Ecuador, people will change their minds about what season it is depending on what’s happening right outside their window. Also, there is such wide variation in ‘season’ and climate from one valley to the next, from the east slope of the Andes to the west. Two hours in a car, descending thousands of feet, can take you from a cool, cloudy mountain climate to a desert. Last week I visited the Yunguilla valley – an hour away from Cuenca – but another world entirely.

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