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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Best of the Season!



Our small nod to the season,
Sending love and happiness to all of our family and friends. Know that we're thinking about you and are celebrating with you even from a distance. Merry Christmas! 

It's hard to believe, but Christmas is almost here and another year is ready to close. The decorations are popping up everywhere here and we've even put up a few ourselves.

It's been a tough year, at least from the world's perspective. Hate has reared its ugly head and fear has blossomed, but perhaps at this time, we can pause and reflect on the good of man, of our kindness  and generosity of spirit.

For Christians, it's a time to reflect on the message of love that was brought to the world by the Son of God. For Jews, Hanukkah is the celebration of light, which for me is always a symbol of hope. Eid (already well passed and celebrated by our Muslim brethren) heralds the end of the most religious time of year; Ramadan and is a celebration of gratefulness to God. Other traditions follow a similar pattern, like Kwanzaa and Saturnalia (or dare I say...Festivus, Daniel O'Keefe and Seinfeld fans?), Diwali, Bohdi Day, Sadeh, and, of course, Yule.

All these suggest, at least to me, that we celebrate lightness over darkness, practice gratitude and are not really all that different. What we do exactly, might vary, but underneath we all want the same thing, more or less.

So without regret, I wish you all happy holidays, not because I want to take Christ out of Christmas (nothing irritates me more than 'X-mas"), but because I also want to embrace your belief system is and while I'm most likely to say Merry Christmas, it's just my way of saying "I wish you well and hope that whatever your God is called (or not, as the case may be) that you live in light and have a blessed and joyous season." 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Trip to Ecuador - Part 3 Food!

Food is always an interesting and subjective subject. One man's manna is another's swill - so to speak.

There are certain truths that exist in Ecuador. It isn't one of those countries blessed with an adventuresome palate. The indigenous population has never felt the need to augment their basic food supply with tons of spice or over the top flavour. Now, that isn't to say that there isn't good food here. Sure, their favourite "spice" is salt, but Ecuadorian chefs are masters at soup and fried chicken. (You heard it here first!) 
Pasta with Kale and Peppers
On the coast there's tons of seafood; especially corvina (a catch all phrase for a bass like fish that comes in many sizes. Ceviche is sold here, but by law, the fish needs to be cooked and cannot be just cured in citric acid, so it doesn't have the same texture as Peruvian ceviche. 


Cuy is a food for celebrating here and can be quite pricey. Word of warning: the guinea pig is often served with its head...the incisors can be quite off putting, as are the little burnt ears and blackened paws. Besides that, if you get it from the right place, it's quite delicious.

Play find the head!
Chancho...or better known as roasted pig...is another treat. Often served with a mashed potato/cheese pancake and a salad of onion, lettuce and carrot, this dish is pretty awesome. The crisp skin and slow cooked meat is hard to beat. (Cuy is cooked the same way and you get the same crispy skin.)

Beef is a tough one here...literally. While you can get decent (and even excellent) beef, more frequently it is pretty tough. Why, you might ask? Because they don't age the meat usually. That old joke about cutting the horns off and running it through the frying pan...well that actually happens here (kind of). Aging is a critical step in breaking down the meat fiber and if the beef isn't cooked low and slow or under pressure, it resembles old shoe leather. That being said, I've had some pretty amazing steak here, but the chef's know what they're doing or import meat from places that do.

There is also a wealth of fruits and vegetables. Where the vegetables get to, besides in the soup, is a bit of a mystery to me. The traditional style almuerzos (two/three course lunches) usually only have a mild nod to rabbit food. The fruit usually winds up in juice, which is almost always super tasty, as well. 
Vegetarian Almuerzo Option

Of course, the capital, Quito, has a really good range of foods, if you're willing to splurge a little to get them. (That's a relative phrase here, as you can get a fairly solid almuerzo for $2.50.) Cuenca's food scene is eternally developing and more restaurants are opening that focus on flavour and quality ingredients as opposed to  cheap and fast. This is a good thing, but the Cuencano palate is generally geared towards blander foods, so the restaurateurs have their challenges.

All this being said, don't be afraid to go out and try bollos (stuffed and fried plantain balls), maduros (ripe plantain with fresh cheese), empanadas, ceviche and skewers of meat fried street side. A must is to try salchipapas - hot dogs on fries usually with all sorts of toppings like ketchup, mayonnaise, salad and other things - it's the snack of champions here

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Trip to Ecuador - Part 2 Climate

Climate! What to pack? What's it going to be like? Aigh! 
 
Okay, so let's not panic. While Ecuador is close to the equator (hence it's name) not everywhere is hot. For a trip that traverses the three climactic zones, layering is going to be key. 

The Coast is more casual and you will see more shorts, flips flops, sandals and tank tops. Why? Because it's hot, sticky and everything is damp, especially during the rainy season. (February to early April - but that's only a rough guide line.) It runs in the low to high 30's (Celsius) and occasionally can hit the 40's.

The Andes are cooler, you might need a light jacket at night, or if you're wandering around the Volcanoes or highlands, you could need gloves, knit hat and scarf. (It kind of depends where you come from and the time of year.) In Cuenca and Quito, we get by fine with just a light jacket or sweater, even during the cooler season in July. I've never had to use gloves, scarf or toque (that's a knit beanie for US readers). However, I've been up in the Cajas and have needed all three - oh, and I'm Canadian, so I have a certain innate tolerance for cold.

Here's my strategy: I have a light weight rain shell, that can protect me from unexpected downpours (which are remarkably frequent over a good part of the country), a sweater/exercise jacket and then my shirt of choice. This usually does me for any and all temperatures here. On the coast, I stuck to the same process, but usually only needed one extra layer if it was raining. An umbrella is also an excellent idea.
Trusty athletic jacket and rain shell.
In the Andean cities it is fairly unusual to see shorts on anyone (except children and teenage girls). You do see tank tops and skirts, but men almost always wear pants. Shoes are a big deal here, but most locals expect foreigners to go for comfort and not style. Nice restaurants can have very well dressed people (suits and ties) but there will also be people dressed more casually and you probably won't be denied service because of dress.
Andean Wilderness Trekking Gear
If you're heading to the Amazon you're going to want decent travel/trekking clothes; light weight, water repellent, with long sleeves and pant legs. (That keeps the bugs out.) You'll also want a good hat, bug spray and really good sunscreen. A bathing suit is recommended so you can frolic with the piranhas (not kidding), and other river fauna. Oh, and be prepared for mud...lots of it...the suck your boots off your feet kind of quagmire that only happens in places that are constantly wet.

I want to make a point of discussing sunscreen...it is a must. (Many people say the same for hats, but I only haul mine out on the very hottest of days, but I have tons of hair, so that affects my selection process.) The rays of the sun here are strong...really strong. 16 degrees here feels like 23 and 23 feels like you're heading towards 30. It's not something to mess with. I can stay out for most of the day in ambient sunlight in Vancouver and not burn, but here it only takes 15 minutes for me to turn as red as a lobster. Even the locals use sunscreen or cover themselves up and use umbrellas to protect themselves. This applies to anywhere in the country and anyplace even near the equator.
Footwear will depend on what you like to do on your holidays Hiking shoes (good tread, good support and breathable) are recommended so you can be comfortable and trek around easily. They can take you from city streets, to the national parks and the rocky shores of the Galapagos. They also tend to be water proof, which is a bonus for wandering in the mud of the Amazon. You might want to bring rubber flip flops if you plan on staying in hostels and for going to places like visiting towns with natural hots springs like Banos de Imbarra, Banos de Cuenca etc, plus they're great for the beaches on the coast. Whatever shoes you choose to bring make sure they have rubber soles with good grip; this will prevent you from sliding over the wet tiles that often pave the sidewalks in the cities - this is a million dollar tip and will save you from sitting on your fanny in the middle of the street because of a little rain shower. (It;s embarrassing and I speak from experience.)

If you have any questions about Ecuador, please let me know. Further installments to come.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Planning a Trip to Ecuador? Part 1

As many of you know, we love to travel. We've switched roles over the years, with Ron now doing most of the planning and me worrying about how to pay for, but there's something exciting about a new adventure.
The Cajas as seen from our guestroom window
So what do you need to know if you're planning a trip to Ecuador? Lots of things...more things that one little blog post can handle, but some general information might come in handy.

The Basics
Climactic Zones
I'll only gloss over the three climate zones: the coast (hot and humid, but with a breeze near the ocean), the Andes (Spring-like and high altitudes) and the Amazon (hot, humid and wet). The Galapagos is famous for its unusual and diverse fauna and is also mostly hot and humid, with refreshing oceans breezes.

Currency (monetary & electric...see what I did there?)
The currency used in Ecuador is the US dollar; US coins are also accepted, but Ecuador also has their own coins as well.

Voltage is the same as the US and Canada (110-115) and adapters aren't required for US and Canadian travelers. 
Taken in late November...there's always something blooming.
Major cities:
The largest is Guayaquil (a little over 2.5 million), the business centre of Ecuador. The city has little to offer tourists, outside of the Malecon, the Iguana park and Santa Ana. (Oh, and a pretty nifty cemetery that's HUGE, but hard to get in to.) It is HOT in Guayaquil, with no cooling breezes off the ocean as it is located up the river basin. You need to shell out a lot of money to get a hotel with a pool and there aren't many restaurants in El Centro that are opened at night, except in the hotels.

Quito is the capital and a beautiful, but busy, city with a population of around 2.5 million. There is lots to see and do in Quito, but as it's at 9,200 feet (-ish) be prepared for some adjustment time. Altitude sickness ranges from shortness of breath and headaches to embolisms and death in the most extreme cases. Most hotels are prepared for such possibilities and have bottles of oxygen ready and waiting, as well as doctors only a phone call away.

The best advice we ever got about adapting to altitude are these three simple things:
    1. Take it easy on the first day...no hikes, hill climbing or strenuous activity - LAY LOW
    2. Stick to clear liquids for the 12 hours, avoid heavy/rich food for the 1st 24 hours.
           (This may be hard there's a lot of food to tempt you but try to persevere.)
    3.  No alcohol for 24 hours. 

Side note: we used this strategy in Cusco and it worked like a darn!)

Cuenca is the smaller sibling of the two big cities. It has a population of about 600,000. It is at 8,400ft, so altitude can still be a problem. It is like Quito for architecture, but smaller and less frenetic.
A local parade...

...passing along our street...


Getting Around
In between these three major cities is a wealth of  smaller cities, towns and villages, broken up by soaring vistas of the Andes with the snow capped volcanoes, rolling tundra and cloud forest. The coast offers endless stretches of agriculture: bananas, rice, papaya, cacao, sugar cane plus the diverse and plentiful beaches. There are the lush humid jungles of the Amazon offering a cornucopia of wildlife and plants, and home of many indigenous tribes that live as they have for hundreds of years.

Important tip 1:
If you look at a map of Ecuador, it doesn't seem very big, but because the Andes run through the centre of the country, it takes a long time to drive most places. The average drive time between Guayaquil and Cuenca is 4 hours; Quito and Cuenca is 10 hours. Routes to get to the coast usually run from larger city to larger city, so you may need to take a circuitous route to get where you want to go. Flying from city to city is (fairly) affordable and saves a lot of time if you are trying to pack a lot of things in to a short visit. 

Flying is most efficient (between larger centres), but can have problems with luggage restrictions, delays due to volcanoes and other issues and, of course is a bit more expensive.

Bus travel is inexpensive, but  some travelers warn about pick pocketing. (We haven't experienced that yet, but know people who have.) It's a great way to see the countryside and can be entertaining with all the vendors that hop and off the buses.It is also a long journey, as previously mentioned, so if you're on a quick trip flying might be best.

Private driver/Group Tours both have their benefits, you usually see more, can stop at places of interest and many people fee safer than on the buses. There is a premium for private service (example it cost us $200 to drive 7 hours to the coast, one way, but there were four of us which made it less expensive than flying.) There are many different types of group tours: ones that focus on resettling in Ecuador, ones that do big city tours and others that give you a taste of the various regions, artistry etc. There's something for everyone.

Trains are available in parts of the country, but aren't relied upon as standard transport. You can take multi or single day trips to various locations and get a similar experience to taking the bus, in that you get a good taste of the countryside.

There are also trekking, biking and hiking companies that will show you around specific areas. 

Stay tuned for part two: Climate - what do I need to pack?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

This is Ecuador - The Oven Saga Cont'd.

I've been finding it really hard to concentrate after the attacks in Paris, Beirut, Syria, Mali etc, as well as the natural disaster. The wave of fear that has stuck usually logical and kind people is saddening. With all that I haven't had much time to celebrate the fact that our oven is now working.
No Oven Required
It feels a bit like a MasterCard commercial.

Part: $280
Shipping: $180
Import taxes and handling: $67 (usd)
Installation and further repair: $135 (usd)
Working oven: Priceless

This is part of life on another continent. On the same day that oven was up and running, our cable box went on the fritz and seemingly died. (Sigh.) However, after arranging to get a "tecnico" out the next day, we woke up and the darn thing was up and running. This is a perfect example that encapsulates what it is to be in Ecuador. Like any place, it isn't perfect, but you get out of it what you put in to it. Of course, this isn't always my forte. I'm a worrier and can't seem to help but imagine the worst case scenario for any problem. I like to think that this prepares me for bad outcomes, but it drives my poor husband crazy. He's more of a "don't worry about it until you actually know it's something you need to deal with" kind of guy. It doesn't matter where I'm living...I was the same back home, but it can make for extra stress, especially if you're trying to function in a second language.
Not my kitchen, but only slightly less useful...
The folks at TVCable don't seem to understand that speaking a bit slower might resolve the situation more quickly. I've also come to realize that Ecuadorians don't phrase things the same way. For example, I'm an English tutor to a 17 year old girl and her mother (inexplicably) wants me to help the daughter with a large Spanish writing project; a book about the young girl's life. (This is a school assignment.) So the mother wanted to know how much I would charge to help with the book, but she didn't ask me "How much will you charge to help with the book?" She asked (in Spanish or to be more PC: Castellano) "How much will the book cost?" I don't know how much it would cost to print up a book or buy the supplies to hand write it, so I replied "I don't know." I can now see why they had perplexed looks on their faces, but it took me overnight to understand what it was they were actually asking.
Something pretty to look at for when
we don't have cable or internet
Another example is speaking with TVCable. The account is under my husband's name, so of course they want to know who I am...I'm obviously not Ronaldo. They don't say "who are you?" or "who am I speaking with?" No, that would be to easy; they say something akin to "with whom do I have the pleasure of meeting?" Now, in English that doesn't seem so bad, but when it's cast at me in rapid fire Spanish, I usually miss this gist. I've called them enough now, that I pretty well have the drill down and I'm slowly getting to understand what it is they're saying, but as the title of this blog entry says "This is Ecuador."
How we feel now that the oven works!
Living abroad is a bit like a baseball game...long stretches of boredom interspersed with moments of excitement and sheer terror. So if you're considering it keep in mind: the quirkiness and unexpectedness; it's all part of the adventure.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sea of Tranquility

So, I thought that it might be a good idea to start mediating. Something that I've always liked the idea of, but have never been able to achieve. (You know that scene in "Eat, Pray, Love" where she has to mediate for an hour or two and is already crazy in the second minute...that's me.)



I'm one of those people...my mind is constantly busy. If I was solving world problems, I wouldn't feel so bad about it, but it's mostly just drivel, interspersed with the odd moment of inspiration. Being a writer, I spend a lot of time just making stuff up in my head. Anyhow, due to a series of  unfortunate events, I've been feeling stressed out. (I know, what could possibly be stressful in my life? It's all relative...seriously.) Now, after all the horribleness and discord, it seems even more important.

Ron was out, I chose a nice relaxing piece of music that I used to use when I did yoga and positioned myself on the sofa, cross legged. I told myself that I could make it at least five minutes. I admit that it was a struggle. My mind is preprogrammed to roam. I realized that I could actually hold a quasi-mantra in my head and still think of things in behind it. I'd kill the rambling and refocus on breathing. It was hard work in a way. (I occasionally caught myself saying "shut up, stupid!" and that's not a healthy thought process, so I switched it to "not right now". It seemed to work.)

Now, I have no problem sitting still. Those who know me well, know that I'm notoriously lazy and can loaf around all day with little difficulty, but I have yet to achieve the same thing mentally. Sure, I had to shift my foot a couple of times to prevent developing pins and needles, but besides that I was still. I pushed through to the end of the song and then realized that it was 17  minutes long. I'd done it: passed the 5 minute mark and then tripled it. I'd managed to rein in my thoughts, sometimes for more than 30 seconds and I actually did feel calmer.
So what did I learn? Like anything, finding that moment of peace, no matter how fleeting isn't going to be easy. I'll need to work at it (especially since our oven still isn't working and needs to have all the thermostats tested...sigh), but it is possible - I hope. Here's to tranquility...in maybe five to eight months. 
However long it takes, let us find peace.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Lest We Forget

I come from a military family, so Remembrance Day is an important day to me. I feel it in my heart and soul. Thousands of people have fought  to keep Canada the welcoming, inclusive country that I know and love and I'm glad to say that it looks like we might have that back now.

This is a quick note to say thank you to all of those who have served our country, protected our freedoms. Thank you to those of you who paid the ultimate price for the privileges I have enjoyed in my life. Thank you to those that have come back forever changed by what you saw and did in the name of Canada; your sacrifice has not gone unnoticed and I am grateful for it. 

Thank you to my two nephews who served, my father and all the way back to Charles Michel de Salaberry, who served in the war of 1812. As I said, I'm part of a military family. Thank you to the families who were left behind and had to worry and wonder about our military personnel being safe, or coming home.

I remember everyday, but today, at 11:11 specifically, I'll be thinking about all of you.
 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

When Things Go Wrong...And They Will

Okay, so most people traveling the globe will be reluctant to tell you about the down side. The unexpected illness from food you're not used to, the miscommunications due to lack of linguistic skills, stores not having the things you are desperate for, wearing the same clothes for days on end as you try and get to where ever you're going. I guess you get the drift.
Disasters happen...get used to it
Things do go wrong. We know this, but we keep it on the down low, at least most of the time. The people we keep it from know that we do, but don't ask. They're as infatuated with the fairy tale as we are.

So what do you do when things go wrong while you're abroad? The first thing to do is take a deep breath. Case in point: our oven.

We have an oven that we bought in Canada, specifically for our apartment here. We uncrated it at the end of January, which makes it about 10 months old now. It's a self-cleaning oven, so one would think that it should...you know...self-clean. We ran the cleaning cycle for the first time at the end of August in preparation for our home exchange. Well, the thing hadn't even run the full cycle when the display went black and the "safety" lock seized up and nothing could be done. We did a bit of internet research (what did we do before the internet?) and discovered that this isn't unusual for modern ovens. (Surprise, surprise!) We did as was recommended and replaced the thermal fuse. The door unlocked, the display came up, the interior fan ran...we were in business. Thinking that all was well, we headed back home for a nice long visit.

On our return, I went to bake some chicken...no heat. There were still lights, displays, the fan was still running, but not a lick of heat. Sigh...the mother board was fried.(Special note: there is a board to run the display panel and a main control board.) Whirlpool would not do anything as our warranty was void because we'd taken the unit out of the country. (That's a whole other story, unto itself, but know that Whirlpool will not take responsibility for design flaws, known or otherwise.)

So what do you do? The part cost us $280 (including shipping within Canada). Then we had to get it here... that's another $190. We'll see how long it actually takes, but it was sent from Vancouver on the 3rd of November and is supposedly going to arrive on the 11th. (Yup, that's right...$290 for a delivery that takes more than a week. Oh, and we'll likely need to pay duty on the part as well. Working over? Priceless. Don't mistake me there was plenty of blue language between the discovery, Whirlpool's inability to admit that there was a problem with the design and actually ordering the part.

What's the lesson in this? Obviously, if you're abroad, things can be more expensive...anything that involves something back home can cost dearly, so you have to be prepared for it. A contingency fund is a necessary thing, so is a good sense of humour and patience...patience...patience. (Did I mention patience?) 

No road is completely smooth, there are pot holes, construction zones, dead ends and just getting lost. You can try and be as prepared as possible, but nothing is perfect, so paste on a smile and take care of business.

We're still waiting on the part and have confirmed that there is $25USD in duty outstanding. Fingers crossed that all goes well. Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Festival de Cuenca - with photos

Are you ready to party? Do you like music, art, dance, food and general festivities? Then Festival de Cuenca is for you. It's a celebration of Cuenca's independence from the Spanish and the party goes on for over a week.
Throw Pillows
People come from all over South America to show their wares and concerts are also a huge draw. One of the headliners this year is Enrique Iglesias who will likely fill the futbol (soccer) stadium.
Embassy of Japan Cultural Display
The upside of all this pandemonium? Most of it's free. (Okay, not Enrique...but there will be concerts in most of the parks throughout the city that don't cost a dime.)

When we first arrived we thought it was all about the artisan stalls along the river, but no, it's so much more. Programs for the events are notoriously hard to come by, but the city is finally offering an online version and we managed to get our hands on a hard copy this year. We've already missed about a week of events - maybe next year we'll get our stuff together and be more prepared.

Check out the agenda for this year's festivities: http://issuu.com/municipiocuenca/docs/agenda_cuenca_eventos_2015/1

We're looking forward to checking out all the art work and maybe taking in a few concerts. Get out there, enjoy everything that the city has to offer and don't forget your sunscreen!
Pottery

Wool Work

Wood Work

Ceramics
PS The bars are allowed to be open until 4am over the holiday weekend, so it could be some wild times! 
Embrodery

Knitting

Painting

Decorative Accessories

Clothes and More

Dolls

Puzzles

Papier Mache

Sunday, October 25, 2015

In Support of Refugees

Looking towards distance shores.
 This has been a hot button topic, especially throughout the Canadian election. (Way to go, Canada! Thanks for voting for hope, tolerance and decency, btw!) With millions of displaced people around the globe, some first world countries are resorting to scare tactics and prejudice to keep refugees out. (Canada included, but I'm hoping that will change very quickly.)

Considering that Canada and the United States are primarily countries built on the backs of immigrants, I find it odd that so many people would be against accepting Syrian (and other) refugees into our countries. But you might call me biased, as my life was fundamentally impacted by refugees. 
We came from somewhere else, too, right?
There was a time in my life when I chose not to utilize the support of my family. It was in those crazy, confusing teen aged years and I was broken and scared and felt that I didn't really have anywhere to go. I had a best friend, who just happened to be a refugee from Chile. Her family had fled the Pinochet regime. They'd come to Canada for a new, safe life. The details of their story are theirs alone to tell, but Canada welcomed them and because of that (and their own generous nature), they were here for me.

They took me in, looked after me when I got dreadfully sick and showed me a different way of life.  They are very well educated, deep thinking and feeling people that had a life completely different to my own and they changed the way I viewed the world. They had a large part in making me what I am today and for that and their many kindnesses, I thank them.

Kindness isn't a weakness, it's a special type of bravery that can open you to hurt and betrayal, but it also says you care and want to understand and that's powerful as well as worth the risk. So, I say: open the doors, lend a helping hand to those that have suffered the horrors of war, crushing repression, hunger and fear. Let them enhance our society, let us enhance their lives and do what is good, right and decent. It is the Canadian way. We all have a story and we all need hope.
Roots are important as is acceptance.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Rock the House! Seismically Speaking

Holy earthquakes, Batman! Yup, we're living in a seismic zone. Sure, we don't get as many tremblers as California and it doesn't seem like anyone here is waiting on the BIG ONE, like they are in Vancouver, but the ground does move.

We've experienced this on a number of occasions, but chalked it up to our imaginations, but there was no imagining the shaking that woke us up at 5:06am on Thursday, the 15th of October. A painting fell off one wall and our heavy wooden Buddha clattered against another. By the time I'd done what you're supposed to (stand in a doorway, preferably away from windows) the tremor had already stopped.

It's all good. In the grand scheme of things it wasn't really that big of a deal. No damage was done, no lives lost and no injuries - at least that we've heard of - and the wine glasses are all safe and upright. (Phew!)
Lataguna releasing ash in February 2014
It was a good reminder that every place has it's little inconveniences: earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, drought, forest fires, flooding etc. It's also a good reminder that we need to have an emergency preparedness kit. (Even in Vancouver we were never really very good at that.)
Cotopaxi spewing early this month. Courtesy of MSN Photo of the day
If you're thinking about coming to Ecuador, you should know that there are also volcanoes - active volcanoes. Cotopaxi is actually one of the world's largest volcanoes and it's rumbling and spewing threateningly. (This might also account for the earthquake we had.) Closer by there's also Latacunga that has been spewing ash and generally being disruptive (excuse the slight pun) to the people who live nearby.  

PS We're up over 30,000 hits and 65 countries. So hello out there world, glad to meet you!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

When is enough, enough? A Rant

I know, I know, I've been extra preachy lately, but what I see going on in my own country and around the world is so disheartening that I feel moved to comment, complain or even rant.

So what's my latest pet peeve? This gun thing. I don't get it. When will Americans (and I mean people from the USA) finally come to their senses about guns? Yes, I understand that the right to bear arms in written into the Constitution as an amendment, but other amendments have been changed, cancelled or re-amended. (Hello prohibition...I'm talking about you!)
I also realize that "people kill people", but dammit, it's a whole lot easier with a semi-automatic AR-15, if you know what I mean. Why for the love of God, would someone need an assault riffle except to go out and murder people?

Look, I'm from Canada.We have people there that own guns, too: the hunters, the farmers and of course a good selection of whack jobs that can't be trusted with a butter knife, let alone something that sends projectiles towards "targets" at around 1200 kmh (720 mph?). Of course, deaths in Canada by gun is a fifth of the United States, but we have this little thing called gun control.Sure, we're the sweet, polite neighbours to the North, but we (not I) do like our guns. We just don't go around shooting them at people with quite the same exuberance as our Southern neighbours do. 

You can say it's none of my business, that because I'm not from the US, I couldn't possibly understand the deeply ingrained desire to protect this "right", but it is my business. Your guns are finding their way up into Canada and killing my people. I also have loved ones in the US who could easily fall victim to some crazed lunatic wielding a gun, or worse...someone who feels it's their right to shoot someone on sight, because the gun owner "feels threatened". The Stand Fast rule is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard and we're in the middle of an election campaign, so that says a lot.
http://pandawhale.com/post/67753/gun-violence-in-america-in-17-maps-and-charts

The statistics support a more...shall we say...measured approach to firearms.  You are more likely to be shot by your own gun than you are by any other firearm. (Go ahead, search the net and find the stats.)

Why is it so acceptable to have (on average) 85 Americans shot PER DAY? Are their lives less valuable than an amendment that was written to overthrow  a government that imposed a law designed to bend the masses to the will of the crown? News Flash: There is no crown anymore in the US, you have a little something (you like to claim as inventing) called DEMOCRACY that protects you from the very thing the 2nd amendment was put in place for. You can amend the law, that's why it's called an AMENDMENT. 

When are you going to say "Enough"; enough deaths, mass shootings, enough money going to the NRA to fund their deadly agenda? How many toddlers have to shoot their parents (accidentally) or children kill their friends/siblings/gun instructors before you realize that it isn't worth it? That it doesn't work and that you are creating a state of terror that completely out does the reason for having the 2nd amendment. (Remember when people didn't feel safe because they were likely to get shot if they did something the autocrats didn't like...well guess what, that's exactly what's happening again, but it's a problem of your own making and can be easily solved...)

I'm not saying don't have guns at all (although it's not a terrible idea), I'm saying make sure that the people who have them aren't psychotic, depressed, manic, uneducated about their responsibilities of gun ownership and/or generally murderous. And for the love of God, nobody...and I mean absolutely not one single person, needs assault rifles, automatic weapons, grenade launchers etc. It's ridiculous. This should be an age of enlightenment and you're back in the wild west or the dark ages. Shake your heads, pull up your big boy/girl pants and do something about it! 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Another Year and Lessons Learned

I can't believe that another year "down South" has passed. Time is one of the things that made us take a huge leap of faith and follow what our guts told us was right. Life is remarkably short and we are happy that we're spending our days building experiences as opposed to putting it off until the "time was right".


A few posts ago, I pondered about being able to go home again. I mustn't really understand what home means, at least in the more traditional sense. What I do know, is that home isn't necessarily something I'm looking for or particularly attached to. My home is where we land and I don't specifically need to be surrounded with the familiar. That's not to say that I don't like to have my stuff. It's nice to have, but we've lived without it. I've learned that you don't have to be physically close to someone to love them, worry about them, support them or be useful to them. Love is a powerful and strange force that can reach over amazing distances.


The other thing that's become clear to me is that the world is an amazing place with so much to discover that it's hard to decide where to go next. I want to meet the people that inhabit this globe, experience their way of living, taste their food, find similarities and embrace the differences.


Our life certainly isn't for everyone, but if you are curious, there's really no harm in trying it. The worst thing that could happen (hopefully) is that you go back home, knowing it's not for you. Our attitude is that if all else fails, we can go home again - wherever that is!