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,


Bear said...

Yay! So good to hear from you! Have a blast.

claire said...

Tessa, your adventures sound absoultly delious and amazing. i hope you have taken more pictures than the few tantalizing ones you posted. keep writing! Your presence and enthusiam is missed muchly.

Terry said...

Hi Tessa, I'm a friend of Reva Basch, who sent me a link to your blog. My daughter lived in Ecuador for a number of years and married an Ecuadorean and we have been there many times. I hope you will get to Otavalo and Peguche--great weaving studio in Peguche. Also Cuenca is not to be missed in the central highlands. Beautiful city. I am also crazy about Guyasamin! We put together a blog of our last trip to Ecuador. It is at

Have fun and travel safe!

Caitl said...

Hola hola hola, camaron sin cola...

gretska said...

how did you plan out your travel sched? i am thinking about going to central and south america next spring and need help setting up an itinerary or where to stay really. i am subscribing to your blog, so hit me up with any interesting tips or ideas