Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dear Cuenca: I miss you

Dear Cuenca,

I liked you a lot. You are home to many cool people. Also I enjoyed your not so ancient history (note: Cathedral finished cerca de 1930)and flower market that was just 2 short blocks from the hostel. Your Spanish school was really great and I enjoyed my cultural lessons everyday. 6 hours a day was just the right amount to not make me crazy but also make me learn. I also liked your small quaint streets.

There are somethings that I wont miss about you... Like the scrambled eggs Hostel Castallana served EVERYDAY. The receptionist at the hostel who glared at me every time I walked past her. And last but not least, the lady who sold lottery tickets right under my window.

The view of the street from our hostel room.

Also, one thing I never tried, but wanted to was one of these guys:

But you only sell them by the whole cuy (guinea pig) and some members of this group did not want to try cuy.

All in all, I think you are a pretty great city and hope that you are well without me (though I don't really see how that is possible). Please tell your friend the Amazon that I am looking forward to getting to know them this weekend.

Warmest Regards,

The now, almost conversational in Spanish,
Amelia Wegener

Today we are back in Quito, which I like, but not as much as Cuenca. Tomorrow we are headed to the amazon jungle for the weekend and then it is back to the States for us (for a month!). Also I finally got my plane tickets to the DR. turns out it is super hard to get there from SLC, I am flying on a red eye to atlanta which should be pretty fun.

Also completely unrelated, some people are idiots. I just have to say that to the world. There are very few people who I can't stand, so chances are pretty good that you aren't on the list. But seriously. idiots.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Amelia Wegener: Wild Stallion Tamer

Okay.. Not really. But, we did go horseback riding in the countryside today. It is one of the prettiest places I have been and it was nice because there was no noise/cars.

Also, unlike a lot of tours on horses, it was just us and the guides. Also my guide happened to love galloping (which I found out today, so do I!) So we got to gallop through the green countryside. It was pretty amazing. I think that I am going to be sore for weeks, but I guess thats the price you pay right?

I might have accidentally fallen in love with my horse. Whoops.

Also we got to wear these huge mud/rain boots, which made me wish I lived in a rainy city so I could rationalize buying a pair of rain boots. But it did start pouring mid ride and they kindly provided ponchos for us to wear.
What is the first movie to pop into your head?

The guide (Juan) and I both thought it looked a little Lord of the Rings-esq. Regardless, it was a lovely day, and only rained for a couple of minutes.
Well... Thats all for now.

Friday, May 7, 2010

No, I am not catholic.

I am not apologizing for not blogging in forever because it drives me nuts when people do that. I hope that you don't mind but I am going to blog a little more about Ecuador because there is one specific thing that I have been wanting to talk about.
So, I said I had a very unique experience, and I can finally upload the pictures to tell about it.
So we were going to spanish school, and in the evenings they offer cultural classes. We decided to go to the one about the Chamanismos because we knew very little (or some of us, nothing) about it. So we went and learned about the healers in the amazon tribes, called chamanismos. They would diagnose and heal the people in the tribe. They especially were used in "cleaning" of people (mostly children) who had caught bad air.

Our teacher actually had some practice in this sort of cleansing, though she is not a Chamanismo, she is a corendera (women who still practice the cleansing) So at the end of learning about it, she demonstrated on me.

The cleaning consists of using a beautiful bouquet of natural plants.

First, she breaks the plants just enough to release the smell and the person inhales 3 times to help them relax. Then the bouquet is used to hit (for lack of a better word) the patient with bad air, all over the body.

Next they take an egg and rub it all over the body. It is seen as a life, and it is absorbling the bad air out of you. The egg is then cracked in a glass of water to show the condition of the person's spirit. Don't even worry that mine was tranquil. Yeah, what can I say?

After that, they take this water/flower/alcohol mixture and spit it all over you (gratefully for me, I just put flower extract on my hands and ran it through my hair and we called it good)

Finally, to finish up they draw 3 crosses made of ash and water on your forehead, back and stomach. Sorry for the inappropriate-ness, I had to capture the full experience.

Don't worry, we asked and its not dark magic and I am not catholic now (at least not to my knowledge).

I actually really loved getting to expericence this and learn about a whole new culture and way of thinking. Big shout out to the little boy who let me take his picture for this blog. His mom said that he loves to be cleansed and everytime they are in the city he asks to go there.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Why my major ruins traveling

Okay, maybe a bit of a hyperbole but seriously. I might be a little obsessed with dietetics, and it may have taken over my life this past year. Still under debate. But I wouldn't change my major for anything. So this is where we come to the problem of it ruining my travels. One word: Food Safety.

I mean I am all about trying new foods. As long as that food hasn't been in the 'danger zone' (41-135 degrees F) for more than 4 hours. I also would prefer if the food was made in a sanitary environment and that the employees washed their hands for 20 seconds with hot water after touching their hair/face or going to the bathroom. I really don't think that is too much to ask.

But apparently it is. In one of my Spanish classes I had to explain what food safety was. I don't know if I could really drive the point home in my broken Spanish.

But every time I sit down to eat I have to think "don't think about how this was made or how long its been sitting out, or how it is probably not the safest thing to be eating, just eat it." And it usually tastes just fine, and so far only a few upset stomachs.

Also a fun little Ecuadorian trend; they don't ask you if you would like potatoes, fries, or rice- because your meal comes with all 3. So when I come back 10 lbs heavier, please don't ask why.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday in Ecuador

I promise not to blog everyday if it is boring but, I don't have a ton of time during the week because of classes and stuff.

So today, less adventurous but still fun, we went and visited some ruins called Ingapirca. It was really cool, apparently right before the Spanish came, many of the Incan rulers moved to Ecuador. In the Incan culture they believed that their leader was God.
This is the religious center of the ruins.

A view of some of the ruins:

On the way we stopped at this cathedral that had literally been built into the side of the mountain. It was huge and looked over this valley.

Notice that they have arches, but they are filled with the stone from the mountain.

Also, we drove by this enormous statue(we didn't get too close to it), that is a 2 hour hike to get to, of a virgin. The people go and pray to her and recieve inspiration. This statue was so big, hard to describe but really cool.

I don't know why but I love looking at any type of religious art, I feel like you can learn so much about how a culture sees the world by studying how they worship. I think it is something that I can feel an immediate connection with the people.

Tomorrow its back to school to continue learning spanish. We'll be here for another week and a half and then we are going to the Amazon for a few days.
From Cuenca, with no hot water.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Take it easy, Alright?

I have not heard anyone say that as many times as our guide did today. He must have learned his English in Jamaica or something.

Today, we went to a national park here in Ecuador. We signed up with a group and didn't really think much of it... see a couple of lakes and ride around in a van, no sweat.

Well actually... the tour that the agency we signed up with didn't really mention the 4 hour hike that was the main part of the tour. This was actually a pleasant surprise but needless to say a surprise. So we take off.. Not really knowing what to expect. About half way in, I would say, we have to go up this steep slippery mud hill. Yeah, I might have fallen. Several times. But the good news is that Ecuadorian mud is oily (whatever that means) and so it might not come out of my clothes. Please observe: our pants. (I changed jackets by then so you don't get to see the wonderful mud there)

We went through this forest that they sometimes call the Grimm’s Brother forest because it looks straight out of a fairytale. The trees, translated were called paper trees, and their bark was similar to that of an onion skin. Super weird but pretty cool.

The views on the hike were incredible. The hike was pretty agressive, but we enjoyed it. And the nice british man found my mom the walking stick viewed above.

I also decided that I am going to marry a super funny British man. We were with a group and there was a couple there from Liverpool. My mom was joking that since we are from the west in the United States, we talk like cowboys. He immediately piped up and said ‘that’s okay I talk like a pirate.’ So funny because it was true. You might have had to have been there though.

Also while we’re on the subject of foreign people lets discuss something (and by discuss, I mean let me talk about) How come it isn’t more common in the United States to take off a couple of years and travel the world? We’ve met a couple of people from other countries who are doing that and I hear it is a pretty common thing to do. I mean… it seems like an excellent idea to me.

Oh and the internet is working. so life it pretty good.