A Travellerspoint blog

Thunderstorm and Earth Quake!

I realize I already wrote an entry today however, I wanted to share something rather exciting that happened today! Early this morning Ecuador experienced an earthquake, I was uninformed and completely oblivious to this until my papa told me at lunch today. Apparently earthquakes are common in Ecuador however, thunderstorms are not, however we were also the recipient of one of those as well today! I had mentioned in my previous entry that it was especially warm today, by 1:30 PM clouds had moved and we began to hear thunder while eating lunch. My mama was startled, she reported that thunderstorms are rare. I one the other hand, was thrilled. It hailed, there was beautiful lightening, and loud booms of thunder...I was reminded of Midwest humidity and the storms that often result. It was great, two weather phenomonens in a 12 hour span!

Posted by A Burrows 14:14 Comments (2)

Takin´ it to the Streets

Today has been the warmest day since my arrival, it is close to 90 degrees and the sun seems especially bright and warm!
I wanted to share the experience I had while walking on the street three blocks from my home this morning. I came upon a group of over 5,000 people marching and protesting for the implementation of a new constitution, one that would more closely reflect the political ideologies of the current, newly-elected president Rafael Correa, a leftist radical that won the election by a 30% margin in early January. The current constitution reflects the ideals and pursuits of the former Ecuadorian president, Alfredo Palacio, a conservative. Anyway, it was really quite interesting to witness this. I am not accostumed to witnessing citizens as poltically galvanized in the States as they are in Latin America. Unlike the in United States, countries such as Chile, Argentina, and Ecuador it is a legal mandate to vote, as a result the citizenry is much more active, aware, and involved in the political process. With this being said however, I should indicate that my host family appears to be pretty politically neutral, they rarely watch the news and choose not to engage in political discussions, much to my shagrin. In fact, this morning while I was watching the news, there was a feature on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. My mama asked me, "do want the woman or the negro to win?"...
I was slightly taken aback.
When attempting to discuss Ecuadorian politics with my family, they appear to know little about the corruption of certain previous politicians...
Anyway, just thought I would take a minute to share...

Posted by A Burrows 09:39 Comments (0)

Week of Carnaval...wet, wet,wet...

This past weekend was a ball! Friday the 9th marked the 21st birthday of group member of our´s and friend, Jennifer. She is originally from Albany, NY and is an education major, she has become a good friend of mine. To celebrate we spent Friday evening at Baños de Cuenca. Baños are a set of hot springs surrounded by the hostel in which we stayed for an inexpensive 14.00. This stay also included relaxing in the steam showers, a wonderful birthday dinner, breakfast in bed, and dancing at a nearby discoteque! It was so enjoyable and so beautiful. it located near downtown...15 minute cab ride from my home. We returned Saturday afternoon. Gualeceo and Chordeleg, two neighboring villages about 45 minutes north of Cuenca were the destinations of our Sunday day trip. On the way to Gauleceo we stopped briefly to look at the aftermath of a devastating landslide that took place in the mid 1990´s. Although it took place over ten years ago, it is apparent that nature is still slowly reconstructing itself. The landslide was caused by a number of reasons: the region immediately north of Cuenca is a gold and silver mining area, such industry can be really hard on land, making it very loose and vulnerable to nature´s toll, excessive rainfall that year, additionally that land being histoircally volcanic made it especially unstable.
We proceeded to a small village, specifically to a home owned by a family of weavers whose specialty was the creation of clothing products such as sweaters, scarves, and belts... beautiful hand woven materials, realy, really impressive we were also able to see a five-minute demonstration. I purchased three items as gifts. We then went to Gualeceo, a larger town of 30,000 people with a large open-air market. On Sundays, most families do not spend time preparing meals and therefore will go and purchase all their food for that particular day fresh. This market was massive and included and area designated for fresh fruit, vegetables, wheat, rice, and mote (large white corn used as a condiment in almost all helpings of soup). These products could be found on the bottom floor, on the top floor one could find the meat market...oh my jeepers, how does one even begin to describe this. Okay, so I reached the top level, I look to my immediate right and I see the full body or shall I say carcass of a pig. There were rows upon rows, upon rows of these pig carcasses. At each station were women preparing meals or dishes from each pig. I can´t wait to share photos...as there were also stations in which butchers were presenting their finest beef products. Dead cow carcasses, legs, ears, feet all in tact and clearly distinguishable as to what it was one was looking at.
If any of you are aware of the book the Jungle, written by Sinclair in the 1920´s it was this relived in more vivd form. I have never wanted so deperately to revert to vegetarianism, unfortunately that has to wait until my return in May. We left the market and went to Chordeleg, a neighboring town famous for its silver and gold distributors, I purchased a few gifts. We spent an hour there and quite frankly there was nothing much more notable than that...it has just evolved into a tourist destination or at least a destination for those in search of quality silver, gold, and other gems.
We returned to Gualeceo for lunch and then headed back to Cuenca.
I spent the evening studying for my first Spanish test...AGH!!! I am reluctant to even write about it...it was upsetting...intense and long...more so than any exam I have ever had the pleasure of taking in college!
So today, Moday, marks the week of Carnaval, a Catholic-realted tradition. As mentioned in my previous entry Carnaval is a four-day national holiday that falls over February 17th-20th. Although Carnaval festivities take place all throughout the month February, the week leading up to Carnaval is especially intense and wet. I cannot tell you them number of times I have had to run from small children carrying water balloons or children equipped with small water guns. Yesterday, infact, while on my way home from our day trip was pelted with a water balloon by an on-coming car. It was painful! Of course those types of circumstances are nearly unpreventable as they are quite sneaky...it seriously left a welt on left part of my chest.
Fortunately, the location to where we are travelling, Baños Ambatos only throw perfume and flowers to celebrate Carnaval. We depart early Saturday morning by bus and will return to Cuenca on Tuesday.
Here´s some more information on Carnaval:
-Carnaval is an indigenous tradition, it originated long before the arrival of Catholicism and the Spaniards
-Carnaval was originally called Pawka Raim, to honor "Mother Earth"
-The throwing of water symbolizes the celebration of the abundance of water, crops, the purity of Mother Earth
-By throwing a water balloon one is really sharing the happiness of Earth´s productivity
-Four days of feasting on the abundance of crops before the Lenten fast...Ash Wednesday is the day immeidately following the end of Carnaval.
Also this week is El Dia de San Valentine, Valentine´s Day, in Ecuador however, it honored more often as El Dia de Amistad, The Day of Friendship, it is not as romantically focused here and it is overshadowed by the excitement of Carnaval. It simply is not as huge of a deal here however, we are exchanging cards and small messages between our group of friends. In is customary to present a small gesture to your parents as well.
Until next time...

Posted by A Burrows 09:09 Comments (0)

Cuenca Factoids

I thought I´d share information outside of my personal experience, enclosed is a few interesting facts about Cuenca that I have acquired since my arrival.
-Cuenca was virtually cut off from the rest of Ecuador geographically until 1950´s at which point roads were constructed, however ,to this day there are fewer than ten roads that stem from Cuenca that are paved.
-Cuenca´s primary industry is the weaving of Panama hats, like the women from Principal whose community´s livlihood is based in this practice...such hats are worngfully referred to as Panama hats because it from Panama where the original intermediary, corrupt middle men originated and historically took all profits from Ecuadaorian making and manufacturing these hats
-Cuenca was founded long before the arrival of the Spanish and long before the Incas although there is plenty Incan historical architectural influence, Cuenca was actually founded by the Cañari people, a group of indigenous individuals who originally named Cuenca, Guadpondeleg.
-Most business establishments close between the hours of 1:00-3:00 to observe the lunch period and take a "siesta". This meal is the largest of the day and is typically shared with not only one´s nuclear family but also members of the extended are invited to join in the daily feasting
-Most business establishments are closed on Sundays as well, as Ecuador like the rest of Latin America is fervently Catholic and Sundays are spent resting and observing and attending at times multiple church services
-My host parents like many others have a small shrine to the Virgin Mary in their bedroom, equppied with candles, several portraits of her, two Bibles, and incense. They pray before her each after dinner.
-Cuenca is the third largest city in Ecuador with 350,000 inhabitants, Guayaquil is the largest city and Quito, the capital is the second largest.

Posted by A Burrows 09:42 Comments (0)

Carnaval, Classes for next session, Los Baños

I apologize for the most recent blog entry. After reading it over today I found it to be rather negative in nature. I did not intend to vent about any frustrations.
On a more pleasant note, plans have been finalized for Carnaval. Carnaval is a four-day national holiday. This year it falls on February 17th-20th. Carnaval was originally established as a four-day feasting period before Ash Wednesday, similar to Madri Gras in the States. To celebrate, I along will 11 other group members are going to Baños Ambatos. A resort region 4 hours north of Cuenca, equipped with natural hot spring, rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping, and hiking. We will be there from Saturday until Tuesday. On Sunday of Carnaval Ambatos hosts a parade with entails getting very wet and very flowered. Flowers and water are the two primary elements featured in this parade. I am really, really excited for our trip!
Although classes just began I just chose classes into which I will be enrolling next session. I will be taking a Latin American history course and a Spanish Grammatics course as well. Both of which will be taught in Spanish and will be apparently be much more intensive then my current classes.
On Friday the 9th a group member and friend of mine is turning 21. To celebrate her birthday we, as a group are going to the Baños de Cuenca, similar to the Baños Ambatos, Baños de Cuenca is also an outdoor get-away with natural hot springs, pools, and free food! We are really excited and looking forward to this inexpensive trip outside of Cuenca!
I unfortunately have to cut this short as I have to head to Vanessa´s house. I tutor her from 5:00-6:00 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday...it is going so well, she is so, so kind, and so eager to learn, it´s a great deal!

Posted by A Burrows 13:36 Comments (1)

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