The dinner I attended in Toronto was a fundraiser for the Navdanya Institute, and a superb birthday present from my mom and dad. I drove 16 hours round trip to get to the dinner, but because of that I was able to make neat connections with an activist who I had already known about (Dr. Shiva) and another one who I am very excited about learning more about now (Maude Barlow). In fact, I wrote a 30 page essay in one of my classes this year about Dr. Shiva and her work! I'll attach it for those interested.
Let's start with some information about the event at Waterloo University today called "Dangerous Ideas: Water is Life." I'm pasting a paragraph below from the Eventbrite page so you have an idea of what the panel was discussing. Here is the livestream of the event they participated in, if you're interested in watching https://livestream.com/itmsstudio/events/7450648.
From Nestle to Standing Rock... From the threats to defund the Great Lakes water protection efforts to the threats of climate change on water recharge and quality... From dwindling fossil water in our food growing regions to regional conflicts over surface water rage... How we respond depends greatly on how we characterize water. While "Water is Life" is a rallying cry for water protectors on the front lines, understanding what it means to recognize Water as "life" impacts what course of action we take at this crucial time.With an introduction from Dr. Shiv Chopra, the internationally recognized leaders on our panel - women who've spent lifetimes in service to the interests of the people - are inspirational speakers who challenge audiences to act. Chief Leslee White-Eye and the Chippewa of the Thames are engaged in a court battle to protect their waters. Maude Barlow and the Council of Canadians continue to defend water rights on numerous fronts. Dr. Vandana Shiva's work towards Earth Democracy began with the Chipko Movement and their efforts to protect water.
This year, Dr. Shiva celebrated her organization, The Navdanya Institute, for 30 years of good work. Although I could go on for hours about why this is a great cause, I'll spare the fan-girling for Dr. Shiva herself. After learning so much about her and everything she has done for Indian farmers, seed-saving movements worldwide, and standing up to corporate greed, seeing her in person was phenomenal. For me, meeting Dr. Shiva was like meeting a celebrity, really. I aspire to shake up as many corporate meetings as she has and support grassroots movements like she is known for. It didn't feel real to meet her in person. Wow.
I also met Maude Barlow, who is an incredible individual fighting for water protection in Canada. She is so sharp! In addition to bringing to my attention some very important issues using countless statistics about water, AND touching on indigenous knowledge systems which I appreciated a ton, she was so sweet and made me feel good about the path I've chosen to take as an advocate for green change. The Council of Canadians website is a great resource for more information, as well as her many books I've recently ordered online (https://canadians.org/).
Additionally, I met Shiv Chopra, who is a whistle-blower who was working for a branch of the Canadian government when he questioned the ethics behind genetic engineering and chemical manipulation of consumer products. I need to read about him a little bit more, but I am grateful for his work banning hormones from Canadian cow milk.
I left Kingston in the early morning, arrived in Toronto at around noon, and took a nap in my hotel room until about 4. After getting ready, I drove to the event at 211 Yonge Street by parking at a nearby car garage. The event was held in the 2nd floor headquarters of an electricity provider called "Orion." They have done some good work providing electricity to indigenous communities in the Canadian North. I learned that the majority of people who were there were simply really interested in local food, sustainable agriculture, and seed saving. It was really cool to discover the same kind of people I've met from Burlington, Vermont to Peterborough, Ontario, but in the big city of Toronto. It gave me hope to see how little movements like this can actually make a big difference. I met a few people who started a seed saving program for elementary school kids, a doctor who went to Mount Allison and ended up in the public health sector in Ontario, Shiv Chopra's right hand man, and so on. We were greeted with hot coffee or tea, and then enjoyed a yummy local-organic Food-Not-Bombs-Like vegetarian meal. I also met a professor from Trent and a PhD student doing a project at Queen's about environmental science and indigenous knowledge. A member of the Ojibway tribe and professor at Trent in indigenous environmental studies told me something I'm not soon to forget... he told me that while it's great to resist corporate greed, and while resisting in itself is good to a certain degree, finding alternatives is arguably more important and also more feasible to devote one's time to in the long run.
Kingston with Camille
After going for a nice long run in St. Johnsbury, I ate with my parents and then drove 5 hours to Kingston. I learned some french verbs on the way. I met Camille's friend Jess and we all had a good time laughing as she told us about her ticks. Camille took me to go eat a burrito and it was delicious.
One of the things I'll always admire about Camille is how organized and put-together she is. She uses her time well, she knows where everything is, and her room is always tidy. What a dream! Her headspace must be much more organized than mine is. I always find that my thoughts are colorfully all over the place and that my ideas jump sporadically from one web to the next, which is not a bad thing necessarily, but it would be interesting to understand how Camille's organized nature spills over to what she thinks about. Along the same lines, her time management is beyond anything I can understand. I guess she just gets time better than I do... she has a reasonable idea of what can be done in a certain timeframe, which I do not, so doesn't miss deadlines and isn't normally stressed-out last minute. That's probably how she manages to plan to spend time to make herself look fantastic without avail. Granted, yes, I just don't have the interest in making myself look put together 24/7 like she does, I also just don't have the discipline. To take all of this to a different degree, Camille more or less knows what she wants from life. She knows the general trajectory of where she wants to be in 5 years, which I have no idea for myself.
I suppose my point with all of this is that even though she might feel uncertain about her future right now, I think she is forgetting she's already a million miles ahead of me on things she doesn't even think about. I'm not worried she'll get to where she wants to be because she is meticulously reasonable, organized, knows what she wants, and has the motivation to get there. I just wish I could convey all of this in a way that she could see it from my perspective.
Our Owl Visitor
Guess who we found sleeping on our front lawn this morning?
Visiting Grandma in Quebec City
Je me sens un peu drôle écrire en anglais quand ce paragraphe est de mon temps avec ma grand-mère, donc j'essaye pour la première fois d'écrire en français. Il y a passé beaucoup de temps depuis la dernière fois que j'ai écrit dans cette langue, donc vous devez être patients avec moi! Nous sommes partis de Vermont (ma mere et moi) le samedi matin, et on a arrivé a 2:00, plus ou moins. Ma grand-mère, elle sait "le fashion" beaucoup mieux que moi, comme vous pouvez voir. Elle était toute "matchy" avec son outfit bleu avec ses boucles d'oreilles. Elle est donc-bien-belle (I've been saying that for years without a clue how it was spelled) mais elle ne me crois pas pour une raison bizarre quand je le dis. Après avoir passé toute l'après midi dans une boulangerie charmante, nous avons aller à une communauté autochtone. On a fait un casse tête (jigsaw puzzle) dans le département de grandmaman, et après une aventure avec ma mere pour chercher la nourriture à 9:00, on a dormi tranquilles et contentes. J'aimerai parler en français autant qu'en anglais, donc je me sens bien quand je suis avec ma grand-mère et je parle avec elle.
Falling Waters Hike
The best friendships are the friendships that don't stutter with time. Even if Maddie and I don't see each other all that often, we always pick up where we left off. It's not everyone who you can do a challenging, huff-worthy hike with for 5+ hours and be able to talk the whole way through. I'm so happy to know that no matter where life takes us on our separate ways, we'll still be close enough to act like we spend every weekend together when we finally meet up after a year apart.
This hike was more challenging than we originally thought. If we had known how many uphill scrambles we would have to do from the beginning, chances are we would have chosen a different hike! Even if we complained, in the end we were both glad we did this one. Hikes are always rewarding.
I picked Maddie up in Kirby at 8:15, we got to the trailhead in Franconia Notch at 9:20, and we didn't summit until a little past 12. The entire thing was uphill, but the first half was definitely easier than the second half. I will give this river credit: the waterfalls are gorgeous. Instead of the more common 1.5 hour haul to a big final waterfall on top, like with most waterfall hikes, this one gave us at least 3 or 4 different waterfall views in the first 2 hours up. Criss-crossing was fun, but I'm sure it would be a pain when the water rises. The last hour of the climb we were beyond the river and didn't really have a view. It was all worth it when we reached the top. Wow.
When I was 7 years old I equated anyone with a beard to being a grown-up. At 11, when I realized some classmates went through the stubby neckbeard phase in middle school, I figured anyone who drove a car had a certain level of maturity. Now 21, I understand that the illusion of grown-ups having everything under control is just that: an illusion. Despite a well-mastered grown-up facade comprised of maintaining steady jobs, paying bills on time, and saying "no thanks" to mouthwatering desserts, I don't believe anyone ever reaches an age where they feel they are truly grown-up to the degree of always knowing what to do in every situation. But that's not a bad thing! Looking into the future, here are some of the things I don't think I'll ever outgrow:
They're delicious! Not only do they come in different flavours, but there is such a satisfying feeling that comes from punching the straw through the shiny aluminum opening. I'll drink to that.
It's so meditative.
3. Playing Outside
Even though I might not play kickball like I used to, I think I'll always enjoy exploring the outdoors.
Props to those who only eat three times a day at mealtimes, but I'll take my 10:00 gummy snacks, thank you very much.
Breaks are important. There's a reason we have intermissions at plays and pauses during long speeches at conferences.
6. Sugary Cereal
Perhaps not every day, but once in awhile there's nothing better than a bowl of Fruit Loops.
I could watch Looney Tunes every Sunday morning from here on out no problem.
8. Blowing Bubbles
Here, I was originally talking about blowing bubbles through a plastic bubble blower and watching them float through the air before popping. On second thought, this one has a double meaning: bubble gum bubbles.
9. Finding Shapes in Clouds
A car! An elephant! A tree!
10. Bubble Wrap
I just can't resist.
Primavera en St. Johnsbury!
Hola Familia! Perdoname por mis errores de gramática... solo quiero escribir algo algo para que tienen una idea. Finalmente tomé fotos de mi casa en Vermont para que ustedes pueden ver. Los digo la verdad, pero... no es todo el tiempo que tenemos un clima tan bonito así! Mi mami está muy feliz con sus flores--especialmente los tulipanes. Ella y mi papi los plantaron el último año para que crezcan bonitos. También tomé fotos del patio porque todo el dia hoy y ayer estábamos trabajando a preparar el patio para la pintura. Abajo tengo fotos de la vista de la calle al frente de la casa de los dos lados, y despues unas fotos de la casa mismo. Las hojas que vean son hojas de maple, pero ahora están verdes. (Voy a tomar mas fotos en otoño para que notan la diferencia.) Después de la foto con las sillas, tengo una foto de la vista de la calle de nuestro balcón. No hay mucha gente donde vivimos!
Hoy fui al "town forest" o "bosque del pueblo" para correr una media hora. Aunque no tomé fotos en el bosque (sería difícil correr con una cámara!), tomé fotos después. Las primeras lugares están a 20 minutos de mi casa caminando abajo por el río. Hay una persona pescando en el segundo foto! Foto #4 parece una cancha, y supongo que es, pero en invierno pongamos mucho agua que congela, y patinamos! Una vez patiné con la dome alli. Tomé también una foto de la casa de la vaca donde compramos helado... Yum! Tengo una foto de un puente que me gusta cruzar para llegar a las canchas de baseball. El primer edificio rojo es el centro de bienvenida, y el siguiente foto es de una calle principal. Tal vez podemos ver el cine de este punto. La foto con las columnas es un centro de arte... una vez tenía una exposición en este edificio para un proyecto de arte. El gatito en la ventana es parte de mi café favorita. "The Atheneum" es la biblioteca del pueblo, y tomé una foto de los bomberos. El letrero que dice "OPEN" es de un lugar muy popular para comprar sándwiches. De alli tomé una foto de una iglesia anglican, una con el museo de ciencias naturales (con el león), y una de la iglesia de Wilma y Mamarina! Las siguientes muestran una calle de tierra donde me gusta correr, con vistas de diferentes cosas. Los árboles con cubetes son árboles que producen miel de maple! Hay huecos abajo del metal y el agua de miel gotea en el cubete, y este agua de miel está cocinado para hacer maple. De alli hay un jardin comunitaria y paneles de energia solar. Otro camino que me gusta correr es de mi casa hasta arriba. La foto del sol con la vista yo tomé a 3 minutos en carro de mi casa hasta arriba, pero normalmente toma un poco de tiempo caminar porque es una cuesta empinada. Tomé estas fotos a las 7 de la noche... imaginase! Tenemos sol hasta las 8 mas o menos. El ultimo arbol se llama "birch" y es como papel realmente... hacían botas con este árbol hace mucho tiempo.
Ahora por lo menos tienen una idea. Solo tomé fotos de las cosas bonitas jajaja hay mucho que no es tan bonito en el pueblo, pero ustedes pueden tener este tour mejor para que piensan que todo aca es hermoso ;) (Por si acaso, Vermont es en los Estados Unidos... estamos a 45 minutos de la frontera de Canada.) Los amo mucho!
Michele loves llamas
Journey Home: 5 AM to 11 PM
Juanse was extremely kind and drove me to the airport at 5 AM with Gaby and Wilma as passengers. I really appreciated that because I could have taken a taxi, but this made things smoother, saved me $30, and was more special.
My flight left at 8:30, and I was walking around in the Panama airport at 10:20 AM. The flight to Boston left at 12:30 and arrived at about 7 PM. I quite literally slept the entire way, which shouldn't be a surprise since I'm a professional sleeper, but even I was surprised that I was tired enough for the whole trip.
My mom and dad were waiting for me at the terminal in Boston. I have the best parents ever. My dad even put a pillow in the backseat of the car because he thought I might want to sleep on the 2 and a half hour drive home. (Yikes, I slept here too). We walked in the door in St. Johnsbury Vermont at 11 PM, and I was in bed by midnight. My shower was fantastic.
I'm so lucky to be surrounded by people who love me unconditionally.
South America's Coolest Fruit
Where I live (in the North-Eastern USA & Eastern Canada), the typical fruit choices comprise of apples, pears, nectarines, and watermelons. On a lucky summer day we might splurge and get a pomegranate of course, but it's not an understatement to say the winter months cut our fruit supply short. Arguably the most welcome surprise of living in Ecuador was discovering that my fruit encyclopedia was going to double. Since Ecuador is on the equator, the climate in each region remains more-or-less stable all year, but the vast changes in altitude allow for dozens upon dozens of easily available fruit varieties. Beyond what are commonly thought of as "exotic" fruit, like papayas and mangoes, here are some of the funkiest ones I had the opportunity of enjoying. Note: The names are the ones my host family used to describe the fruit, so they're in Spanish, with translations when I could find them.
Achotillo (English: Rambutan)
Tuna (English: Prickly Pear)
Chirimoya (English: Custard Apple)
Uvilla/Aguaymanto (English: Gooseberry/Goldenberry)
Naranjilla (English: Naranjilla)
Guanabana (English: Soursop)
Guaba (English: Ice Cream Bean)
Guayaba (English: Guava)
Babaco (English: Babaco)
Granadilla (English: Granadilla)
Sapote (English: South American Matisia)
Taxo (English: Banana Passionfruit)
Pitajaya (English: Yellow Dragonfruit)
Pepinillo (English: Melon Pear)
Tomate de Arbol (English: Tamarillo)
Maracuya (English: Dragonfruit)
Horito (English: Orito)
Grosella/Baya de Ganso
Capulí (Capulin Cherry)
Uvas de la Amazonia
Cana de azucar (English: Sugar Cane)
Other fruit I didn't yet try:
A Bittersweet Goodbye
Wilma, Gaby, Andrea, and I went to a restaurant called Crepes and Waffles, aka the Trent-in-Ecuador crew’s fav lunch spot. As always, it was delicious. I learned the chain was a completely woman-run operation. In particular, they hire single moms as waitresses, which I thought was a neat idea. For dessert I had a scoop of Ferrero Rocher ice cream. It was super sweet to share my last lunch with the original host fam, and the crew I’d spent the most of my time with.
Today I went for my final run in la Parque de la Mujer. This is where I most often went/go for runs since it is the closest green space from the house. When it becomes routine to go to certain places, we don’t often take pictures of those places. I realized I’d never taken pictures of the park even though I had spent hours there, so today I snapped a bunch.
Aside: weather in Quito is crazy at this time of year. In the morning, I got a sunburn on my run, and when I got my ice cream 3 hours later it started pouring buckets out of nowhere. On Tuesday, in fact, it rained more than it had in 42 years! Everyone says this winter has been the most rainy one yet.
I performed a rap/poem as a thank you. OOOH man.
Super chill day with Emily in Centro Historico. We left in taxi at 11 planning to go to the teleferico, but since it was closed we continued to the historical center. We visited a bunch of museums and walked around, taking in all the sights and sounds and smells, and of course chatting the whole time.
Emily and Juan and I went to Cafe Democratico at about 10 PM. Tuesday is Salsa night! It was actually a lot of fun seeing the live band and watching the insanely talented dancers all around us. Even though the video quality is terrible (taken on my phone, not my camera), the sound isn't too bad. Emily and I both left wanting to take salsa lessons because it just looks so fun.
Mamarina's 80th B-Day
After getting to the bus terminal in Quito at 3 AM, we took a $10 taxi to the house, which is located 45 minutes away. I would have normally taken a trolley from the Quitumbe Terminal to the house, but the next trolley was leaving at 4:00, so we didn't want to wait an hour, and plus it's always safer to hitch a taxi ride instead of travelling by trolley when it's still dark. When we arrived at the house, Tio Nelson opened the door for us (Carol and I, since Emily continued to her house after dropping us off). I proceeded to sleep in an extra room in the downstairs apartment until about 8 AM, and then headed upstairs to eat breakfast with Wilma and the gang. Andrea hadn't gone to work yet, so it was nice catching up with her. Wilma (classic my host mom) made a fruit salad with bananas, papaya, dragonfruit, gooseberries, apple, strawberries, and grapes, and then made me a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice with homemade granola, and served yogurt and bizcochos and coffee. Nothing out of the ordinary.
I spent the majority of the day working on Dome's gift. Just in case, to try and untangle this giant family for readers, Dome is Wilma's and Hugo's niece, Gaby, Andrea, Cristian, and Carol's cousin, Mamarina's granddaughter, Elsiee's daughter, and Sara's sister. She lived with me in Peterborough this year, so I'm making her a little something before I leave to say thanks for a great 8 months.
Today Mamarina turned 80! We celebrated with cake and tea as a family. Since her real big birthday party (80+ people are going) will be celebrated next weekend, this shindig was just a small celebration. It was a fun little way to recognize how incredible it is that this woman goes on more outings, has more friends, knows more people, has more energy, and does more things than I even do now at my age.
A "Soft" Ocean and a Bumpy Ride
Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful moms in the world! I know I wouldn't be who I am today without the support of my fantastic parents. Having just one day to celebrate each of them doesn't begin to approach all the thanks they deserve for the countless times they've put my sisters and I before themselves. Sending an especially big hug to my mom today, even if we're far. (See you Thursday! xoxo)
Today I woke up to this lovely surprise:
I think we left the window open or something, because I definitely had 40+ bug bites all over my body. In the photo I'm opening both eyes equally, I swear! My eye didn't hurt at all and the swelling went down by the afternoon, so that was lucky, but we sure got some good laughs in before my face returned to normal.
After staying up until 3 AM last night (we hung out on the beach for quite a while and I took my good ol' time updating the blog), we slept until about 10 AM this morning. Sometimes sleeping in is simply the best thing ever. Also, just so I don't forget this funny detail, we 100% had an owl family living in the roof above us. They didn't bother us at all, just squawked every now and then. We packed up our room, showered, and head out searching for a meal.
My biggest mistake was not taking a photo of my ceviche before eating it. I love ceviche so much, and that's coming from somebody who isn't a diehard seafood fan. Ceviche basically consists of fresh fish, shrimp, or other seafood cooked in citrus juices, spices, tomato, and plantain chips on the side. It's so simple and yet so delicious; I can't even describe it.
We headed to a beach in Machalilla National Park called "Los Frieles" which is absolutely a must-see. To get there, we took a $1 tuk-tuk to the bus terminal, and in 10 minutes we were dropped off at the entrance of the park.
Classic Ecuadorian experience coming up. To be honest, I wouldn't normally share this because it's such an everyday normal thing, but perhaps some of you might find it amusing. We got to the gate and the guards there said they were closing early--3:30 instead of 4:30--because of Mother's day. Since the beach was 3 kilometers away, we wouldn't have time to walk there, enjoy the beach, and walk back before closing, as it was already about 2:00. A maintenance truck was heading past us at that moment, and before even asking, Carol (the Ecuadorian) climbed into the bed of the pickup and said we had plenty of time if we hitched a ride. The guards shrugged, one saying it didn't really matter if we registered or not since we were foreigners anyway (Emily, our German friend Clara, and I), and only asked for Carol's ID number. She yelled the numbers to them as we all sped away on a short bumpy ride to the beach.
It was a fairly rainy/cloudy day, but this was still a breathtaking place, even if the photos don't necessarily show it. The sand was so soft and enveloped our feet with ease, and the water was... smooth? It's funny, because the water actually felt soft, even though that's not a great word to use to describe an ocean. The temperature was perfect. For a good while, Clara and I just floated. A few times, I felt like a little kid crying with joy playing in the waves. One is never too old to enjoy the ocean.
We headed back to the hostel, picked up our stuff, showered at Clara's place, and headed to the bus station. Once there, Emily and Carol had a good laugh when I replaced words in a song about earthquakes to words describing ceviche made with cho-chos, a grain (ie. instead of terremoto, I said cevichocho). The bus left at 7 PM, and we got to Quito at 3 AM. Nobody slept well, but for me it was 100% better to travel at night than during the day. I can honestly say that these 3 days at the beach were a perfect way to spend the weekend, and an awesome last big outing before heading back home on Thursday morning.
Isla de la Plata
Today we went to Isla de la Plata! Commonly referred to as "Poor Man's Galapagos," this island is much more easily accessible than the actual Galapagos Islands, which are about 6 hours away by boat, and much more expensive to visit. This island is home to a bunch of interesting birds including the Nazca boobies, frigatebirds, waved albatrosses, tropicbirds, and peruvian pelicans, and is part of the Machalilla National Park.
HIGHLIGHT: WE SAW BLUE-FOOTED BOOBIES!!!
When we woke up we weren't too sure about how successful the trip would be since it was raining and grey, but it turned out to be awesome. After a quick breakfast downstairs, we met our tour guide outside the hotel (in Puerto Lopez, the town we were staying) at 9:30 and walked over to the dock a few blocks away. We bought our package yesterday at $35 per person, which was not a bad price for what it included. We got onto our little boat, put on our life jackets, and enjoyed an hour long boat ride to the Isla de la Plata. I fell asleep on the way there!
Islands are interesting to me because they are, by definition, surrounded by water on all sides. We couldn't see land from the island which blows my mind if only for the incomprehensibleness of multiple species inhabiting the island to the degree that they do. We pulled up to the island from the south side, and the rocks were black, so I assume they were left there from a volcanic eruption of some kind. Not sure on that one though.
To start off, we saw some lovely turtles from the boat.
The time on the island was spent hiking. It was insanely hot. By the time we finished the 3 hour loop, it looked like I had gone swimming and put my shirt over my wet bathing suit for an hour. That's how sweaty I was. It was totally worth it.
We had the choice to do one of two walking paths. I decided to do the one to see the fragatas (or fregatidaes in english) which are funny birds who puff their chests out like big red balloons to impress the ladies. We were on the island at the start of mating season, so we were lucky to see a ton of red balloon chests.
At one point in the hike we had a beautiful view of the island below and the birds flying overhead. That was really quite the scene. Once we reached the bottom again, we boarded the boat and had sandwiches for lunch. Then, we had the opportunity to go snorkeling for a bit. Since my camera doesn't go underwater, I couldn't take any pictures. I saw some cool jellyfish though! Apart from that, I've had better snorkeling experiences. The most relaxing part of the day was laying down on the front part of the boat and eating watermelon with a light sea breeze. The sun came out and we headed back to Puerto Lopez. Once we got there, we saw kids playing on the beach. We went back to the hostel and had much needed showers.
We headed back out for the sunset, and then ate the most wonderful meal at Patacon Piseo. I split a HUGE patacon pisada, which is basically a bunch of fried, flattened plantain (delicious) with shrimp and lovely typical coastal sauce. This was a Colombian restaurant, so we enjoyed colombian coffee and discussed variations in vocabulary between Colombia and Ecuador.
Swordfish Heads... Yum?
FIRST EXPERIENCE OF THE DAY (NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART): Since today was Saturday, the fishermen were bustling by the time we made our way to that part of the beach. I've rarely had such an eye-opening experience in such a short amount of time. We walked through the busy part of the beach with our guide (who mostly just wanted to see our faces, I think) for not even 4 minutes. In that short time I learned a ton.
First of all, swordfish are huge. I saw one that was at least 2 meters from tip to tail. Secondly, I'd never experienced quite the fish overload before. My senses were working overtime to understand everything. The sights were new, the smells were strong, and I had to pay attention to where I stepped. Thirdly, this whole shamole was quite upsetting because I saw with my own eyes that 1. humans absolutely overfish waters so no kidding species are dying out, 2. sharks are killed with other species of fish, which we inherently contribute to by being fish consumers, 3. I realized that by having eaten tuna from cans before, I had probably eaten shark, 4. overfishing these and other fish would not change anytime soon but continue every Saturday here because people need a livelihood, and 5. this was a tiny glimpse of a much larger phenomenon happening on a world scale. Overall though, I think I handled the situation better than Carol and Emily, who looked quite distressed. Mostly, I thought of it as an interesting cultural learning experience, so it was more fascinating than anything else for me. Lots of people were cutting up their fish right on the sand with machetes. I saw piles of fish heads and bloody sand, which was not necessarily reassuring for hygienic reasons, but interesting nonetheless. It was pretty chaotic, with people yelling here and there, seagulls flying overhead, noisy cart vendors showing off their catches, people tying up their boats, and so on. The worst part was seeing a shark head mixed in with swordfish heads. I know it's strange, but I was more upset about the one shark head than the piles of swordfish head and blood drainage, but that's probably because I've read quite a bit on shark harvesting and not much on swordfish population levels. (To see picture, click "read more" below).
While yes, I did ask myself "which country am I in again?" and noticed that the locals around me were much more nonchalant about the whole ordeal than I was, I was able to crack jokes about how delicious everything looked. Like I said, people do this because we as humans need to eat, and as somebody who eats fish, I think it's important to see this. It was like the first time I went to a meat market and was struck by how uncomfortable I was by hanging cow parts and lamb limbs. I'm a strong believer that being oblivious to the fact that eating meat means eating animals that were once living doesn't help anyone... it's neat to be reminded how shit actually goes down sometimes, even if it is striking.
In other news, EAT LOCAL!
(Only click read more if you'd like to see one of the fish parts piles I'm talking about.)
La Playa de Puerto López
We (Emily, Carol, and I) arrived in Manta at 6 AM, took another bus to Puerto Lopez at 8 AM, and arrived at 10 AM. We took a tuk-tuk from the bus station to a hostel called Hostel Machalilla (3 beds, hot showers, communal kitchen, central location, internet, aka everything we need). We had a much-needed breakfast/lunch at a cute restaurant with a view of the ocean, freshly squeezed mora juice included, and then explored the beach. After walking for about a half hour to a turtle rehabilitation reserve on the other end of the beach, we swam, tanned, and then walked back to get ice cream bars. "Coquiteros" is an Ecuadorian popsicle brand made with the freshest fruit -- the coconut ones are indescribably refreshing. We then went under a pavilion and napped for an hour with a view of the sunny ocean. This is the life.
Puerto Lopez is a small fishing village set in the province of Manabí and surrounded by Machalilla National Park. Main industries include fishing and ecotourism. I would have guessed the population was about 2,000 but Google says it's 16,000, so that number probably includes a larger area than I was thinking... the actual town is only really 2 streets and 6 blocks, tops. Either way, the beach is perfect for what we were looking for. We went to the supermarket to get food for dinner and breakfast. We met a solo traveler from Germany named Clara who hung out with us for the rest of the night. After a simple veggie soup and coffee, we enjoyed the small slice of sunset the clouds allowed us to see and then walked around the main strip.
The beachfront is lined with small bar/restaurant shacks with colorful lights. We saw a lively bunch celebrating what looked like a wedding (we later found out it was a birthday) at one of these huts. After dark, we eventually got pulled in and drank caipirinhas by the water listening to reggaeton music. They were very sweet, very strong, and very tasty. We then went to the one and only discotecha and found ourselves enjoying the sand between our toes at this relaxed bar. After half an overly sugary mojito, we went back to the beach and hung out with a group of locals we had met earlier. We met a few people from different countries and listened to their stories, which is always interesting. One guy left New York three years ago and has been living in Ecuador ever since. Neat!
Foch Lunch; Peach Arepas; Bus Cama
I just want to be clear on one thing: Wilma makes the best breakfasts ever. Breakfast in Ecuador is a bigger meal than back home, and so is lunch (but dinner is very small). The first time Wilma made ham and cheese croissants, eggs, oatmeal, freshly squeezed juice, coffee, and fruit salad with yogurt and granola for the same breakfast, I thought she was crazy. Now, it's normal. Just a heads up.
After showering and spending some quality time with Yana the dog, Emily came over from Sonya's house at about 11. Sonya was Emily's host mom when Emily lived in Quito, just like Wilma was mine. Emily, Wilma and I had some pretty interesting conversations about all the incredible things Wilma saw when she had her brain injury... About 4 years ago Wilma was in the hospital for a week because of a brain aneurysm, and her brain was on overdrive. She remembers floating through the streets of Paris as if it was real life, swimming in gorgeous underwater caves, and also seeing a poor Chinese man die in front of her eyes. The brain is so interesting. She said she felt like an art genius like Van Gogh because she could have painted the most vivid imagery.
Emily and I went to the Foch and had a cute little lunch at a place called "The Magic Bean." It was quite good! Since I knew all the touristy spots in Ecuador I got a free coffee from a tour agency in the same restaurant area, so that was fantastic. We met a girl from Germany who was working with the tour agency and she, like us, was visiting Ecuador again after living here for about a year. We're not the only ones who were pulled back by this country!
The conversations I had with Emily were fantastic. She is the kind of friend who I know I can be 100% myself with without any judgement whatsoever. I don't need to explain the reasoning behind my thoughts because she understands how I see the world, and she sees it largely the same way. Whereas it can be frustrating trying to explain certain things to people who don't see the same things I see when I, for example, drink a cup of coffee (ie. fair trade is never free, coffee beans always have a carbon footprint, corporations largely control natural resource extraction in Latin America, modern-day slavery is real, etc.), and it can probably be equally as frustrating for people to hear me go on about these things when they'd rather talk about less depressing things, friends like Emily just... I don't know... get it. Instead of being frustrated by my rants, she joins in, and then we laugh, and then move on. I'm not left with the same not-so-great taste-in-my-mouth that I'm left with when I feel like I can't explain myself, or I can't paint the picture I have in my head for somebody who doesn't have the same hyper-critical colonialism-is-everywhere lens like Emily and I do. Obviously we don't only talk about these things, but we talk about everything. I guess I'm just trying to say it's refreshing to be around somebody who I can talk to without thinking twice about what I say. Conversation just flows. I feel this way with a bunch of the friends who went on the Trent-in-Ecuador year abroad, and with people in my Trent classes too. Also just in general, Emily and I have a lot of the same interests and she is a super chill gal who has fun stories! She visited the branch of the organization she worked for in Ecuador (Mision Scalabrina) in Bogota, and told me all about it. We laughed about people thinking she was her friend's kid's mother, too. It was just a fun afternoon eating lunch, getting lost in the Foch area, and casually making our way through the artisanal market and back to Wilma's house on the bus, chatting the whole way.
Carol's mom's name is Sandra, and she is from Colombia. When we got to the house, we went to the first-floor apartment (where I lived last year) and chatted with Sandra for a while, sharing stories over canguil (popcorn), coffee, and homemade arepas (almost like tortillas?) with maple syrup and peaches.
We're going to the beach! Carol got home, and so did tio Nelson. After a frustrating 2 hours of them not deciding what to do, Emily and I rushed to her house to pack her bag for the beach, then picked up Carol, then rushed to the Quitumbe bus station. Long story short (misinformation, misunderstanding), our bus was supposed to leave at 8:45 PM, then at 10 PM, then we actually left at 11:45 PM. For this part I wasn't frustrated at all because I had fruit and biscochos. We paid an extra $5 (big spenders) for the "bed bus" with the reclinable bus seats and it was totally worth it. Somebody even brought us iced tea and vanilla cookies. I went to sleep happy.
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