Monday, January 28, 2008

how on earth do they wear heels in this much mud?

Howdy folks. This post is coming to you from the small coastal town of Canoa. Being out of Quito is lovely-- big cities are interesting, but I feel that unless you have the time and knowledge to find the interesting pockets contained in them, they´re more or less the same.

I took a night bus from Quito to Bahia, a ride which was supposed to take about 8 hours, but somehow turned into almost twelve. I was listening intently to √©veryone´s conversations trying to figure out the reason for the additional four hours, but never quite got the specifics. I think the driver simply got lost. At one point we were going in circles in some unidentified town, and after we drove around a few times and turned around, all the townspeople started coming out onto their balconies to yell at us and try to point us in the right direction. Buses in Ecuador don´t necessarily have bathrooms, so you have to keep yourself dehydrated lest you unintentionally end up going 12 hours without a servicio.

Bahia was a super interesting little town, almost certainly my favorite place thus far. A few years back Bahia declared itself an ecocity and has (to some extent) dedicated itself towards sustainability. How well that ideology translates into practice is a wee bit nebulous, but there are all sorts of fun murals about how we are all a part of the solution and other such nice sentiments. The really awesome thing that comes of this sustainaility is the fact the official form of transportation is the cargo tricycle. The whole town is awash in wandering cargo tricycles. Bahia itself is pretty small: it´s located on a sort of pointy type thing that juts out into the ocean, so the whole town is only about five blocks wide. It is quite possible to find a centrally located cafe and be able to see the ocean on both your left and your right. There is a fairly large hill behind the town, and there is a gigantic looming cross perched at the top of it. You climb up a bunch of winding steps to get up to it, and then you climb the cross itself (there´s a staircase in it) and can see the entirety of the town. I have pictures but can´t load them right now, I´ll add them later.

After a night in Bahia, I took the ferry across to a little town called San Vicente and then headed for Canoa. Canoa is apparently a great town for surfing, but the waves haven´t been so great since I arrived. I got in on a beautifully warm and sunny Saturday and the beach was crazy swamped with people. Various little beachfront bars were all playing very loud reggaeton, and swimming in the ocean was like being in a very warm, loud jaccuzi. I spent my first day in Canoa sitting in a hammock drinking pina coladas, getting up from time to time to go splash around in the ocean. My plan was to continue doing that for the next few days, but it started raining like mad and now the entire town is more or less a swamp. But! It is a warm swamp, so it´s still all good. The locals have a huge variety in their footwear when it gets this muddy: a lot of people don´t wear shoes at all, and some people opt for rubber boots. But some women are wearing like 4 inch heels with little rhinestons on them, and by some miracle they are not covered in mud. It is astounding. Maybe their shoes come with little miniature hovercraft devices.

I went running along the beach at sunrise in the middle of a torrential downpour and it was pretty lovely.

I´ve been meeting lots of interesting people and am currently travelling with a freelance journalist from Norway and an aspiring author from New Jersey. I met some surfers from Utah, too, and then a bunch of people on an exchange program from U of O. I keep meeting people from Oregon, it would seem there are a lot of us wandering around down here. Small world, eh?

The spanish is coming along quite well. While still in Quito I went on a quest to find a copy of The Little Prince in spanish, but none of the bookstores had it! I settled instead on The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Reading in spanish is slow going, but I´m learning a lot. Granted, many of the words I´m looking up are not necessarily terms I expect to need, but it´s nice to have such terms as fairy, driad, nymph and witch under my belt.

Conversing in spanish is coming along nicely- yesterday I figured out I´d been confusing the words for tired and married, so it made many of the conversations I´d been having make waaaayyyy more sense. The word for tired is cansado and the word for married is casado, so I´d been wondering why people kept asking me if I was tired. And why they then would reply with such things as, It´s ok, you can have an ecuadorian husband, too.

Ok, well I think I´m going to jump back in the ocean for a bit. I´m heading south tomorrow or the day after and have yet to come up with plans, but that´s really the fun of it. Much love,


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hello folks

Hi everyone! I´ve decided the best way to let everyone know what I´m up to is to start a blog. That way those of you who don´t want to be deluged with all sorts of emails with bulky attachments can just come lookee here.

I´m currently in Quito, Ecuador staying with a very nice family while I spend a week taking Spanish classes at a local school. As most of you know, my experience with Spanish before coming here was extremely limited, meaning that I spent three weeks listening to podcasts while biking around Portland, and then another few weeks listening to podcasts while wandering around the hills of Northern California. Amazingly, between that and three days of Spanish lessons, I´m getting by pretty gosh darn well.

It´s kind of depressing that two rather half assed months of self instruction have left me with rudimentary communication skills, whereas it took me two years of studying Chinese to get to roughly the same place. But! It´s nice to be able to more or less get my point across and understand what people are saying to me. Yesterday I had an interesting conversation on Ecuadorian drinking and driving laws, and learned that it doesn´t really matter how much you drink before getting in a car, only that it´s a bad idea to drink while actually in the act of driving. And even then it´s ok if you´re a cute girl, but if you´re unattractive or happen to be a man it´s still not a problem, you just have to bribe the police.

I´ve spent most of my time in Quito wandering aimlessly around the city and finding my way to interesting parks. The city is at crazy high elevation (I have no idea as to numbers, but it´s twice as high as the highest city in Colorado) and all the buildings weave their way in and out of the hills. Here´s a picture of the view from where I´m staying:

and here´s the city from waaaay up high:

Pretty, ain´t it?

Yesterday I went to the Oswaldo Guayasamin Foundation. Guayasamin is one of my favorite artists and his style has definitely influenced my works. It was pretty amazing to see all of his paintings in person after having fallen in love with them through blurry catalog images back home. The richness of his brushstrokes and his almost sculptural application of paint simply don´t show through in photographs. That said, I´m still going to post a picture because ohmigod so awesome!
Guayasamin´s portraits have the weirdly bulging dimensionality of Lucien Freud, and his faces and angular interpretations of anatomy really remind me of Dave McKean´s ink drawings. And it´s pretty clear why he´s considered to be the Ecuadorian Picasso. There was a photograph of him sitting on top of one of Quito´s hills with a sketchbook, and it made me really happy-- I firmly believe that one of the most important parts of being an artist involves finding tall things and climbing them with your sketchbook. Anyways, enough rambling about art.

I sort of have plans for the coming weeks. Quito has been quite nice, but it´s been my training wheel city-- I needed a few days to a. realize I actually left the country and b. remember that I´m not really shy. I´m here until Friday and am then headed to the central coast where I plan to sit on the beach and eat mangoes.

Oh! Mangoes! I almost forgot! It´s the tail end of mango season here and there are a gazillion and a half types of mangoes everywhere. Most of you know about my deep and abiding love (some might go so far as to call it a problem) with mangoes, so I am more or less in heaven. My favorite kind of mango thus far is the chupa mango. It´s a small, rather yellowish mango that fits neatly in the palm of your hand. You squeeze it to loosen it up and then bite a hole in the top and suck the entire mango out through it. Soooo tasty. You all should be very proud of my restraint, I have not made myself sick by eating too many mangoes!

Speaking further of mangoes, I am thinking of starting an embroidery project to pass the time. I think I might take some article of clothing and embroider a little mango icon on it for ever mango I eat. I´m going to be spending a good chunk of time working on a super remote farm in Southern Ecuador (and probably again in Chile, near Santiago), I will need some sort of odd project to work on if I get tired of drawing. I figure that by the time I return to the states (which will be on April 22nd, I do have a return ticket out of Argentina), I will own something that is covered in orange and yellow polka dots.

Gah, this is getting super long. Many of my travel plans involve using the wonderful site, so i´m probably going to be online quite a bit considering I am on the move. So do send me emails and let me know what you are up to. And those of you who are enjoying my subscription to Star whilst I´m away, I expect emails of any breaking news in the world of celebrity gossip. I don´t know how Britney could possibly go any more crazy, but that one never ceases to amaze. I´ve been drawing nonstop and might take some time to scan (most of the internet cafes, at least in Quito, have scanners) some stuff from my sketchbook if folks have any interest in what I´ve been doodling.

One more tangent and then I swear I´m really going. I´ve been encountering a rather funny problem when I try to draw: machismo culture is such that any time I sit down on a park bench to draw something, a bunch of men come over and try to get my attention. When I ignore them they usually start posing and whistling in front of whatever it is I´m drawing and then I don´t really know what to do because if I look up to sketch then they think I´m making eye contact. This is certainly not a situation I´ve encountered before: when I was drawing in China people would come up super close to me and look at my sketchbook from a foot away, but at least they weren´t flexing their muscles for me.

Love to everyone,