Thursday, December 31, 2009

Kathy and David visit Ecuador

We had the pleasure of having Steve's cousin Kathy and her husband David spend Christmas with us. it was a really wonderful visit! We spent one day on the beach in Montanita, which we had previously avoided like the plague. But, on a weekday, it's really not too bad. The gringo quotient was at a minimum, and the beach was empty enough to enjoy it. The water was a lovely temperature and the sandy beach was so nice! BG threw sand around, tried to bury Steve, and giggle insanely when the waves would splash against us.

The next day we walked about half an hour past my site (about 2km from the village) and were regaled with the calls of a troupe of howler monkeys. How cool is that? It was a great little hike, even though BG didn't want to be in the kid carrier and insisted that Mommy carry her for the whole hike. I was quite sore afterward, but it was worth it!

On Wednesday we set out to spend Christmas in Cuenca! BG did great on the bus rides (3 hrs and 5hrs) and only threw up a little bit on the first ride, so it was not nearly as traumatic as it could have been. The bus ride up and over the mountains to Cuenca was absolutely stunning! It went from lush tropical mountain sides, to an environment quite reminiscent of where we lived in Wales. Beautiful!

On Christmas Eve day, Cuenca hosts the elaborate Pasado del Nino, a parade incorporating nativity scenes, reenactments of moments of Jesus' life, people decked out in their finest indigenous dress, and displaying the bounty of their year. It started around 10am and continued until 5pm, a constant stream of people. One of the best things is that the parade route ran just a block from our hotel, so we could go out and check it out, and then pop back for BG's nap, etc., and still see most of it!

Cuenca is an absolutely beautiful city, and I highly recommend visiting it if you get the chance. Unlike Guayaquil, or even Quito, the urban sprawl and slums are somewhat minimal, so the overall impression is of a clean and prosperous city. This isn't to say that poverty doesn't exist, or isn't prevalent in the nearby indigenous villages, but overall, it's a really nice place. It was a nice treat just to be able to walk around and discover neat places and things, without being on a strict schedule. We managed to get in a little shopping and a lot of good meals and company! We even visited a "Panama" hat workshop, where Dave bought his very own. BG had a great time trying on and stacking the hats!

We gave up on our plan of visiting Ingapirca on the 26th, and just came home instead, parting wasy with Kathy and David as they continued their travels towards Quito.With my cold that's been hanging on the altitude really got to me, and I had a lot of trouble breathing. Add on hauling around a 25lber who refused to be touched by anyone but Mommy, and I was pooped. We had a close call of almost loosing BG's travel tent (including her blankie and doggie!) but managed to retrieve a lost bag, get lunch, and get on our next bus home all within a 45 minute stop over at Guayaquil's bus terminal. It's nice to be home, but the heat and humidity have increased in our absence, and after the cool and dry weather of Cuenca, I am suffering!


We kind of wrapped up excavations last Friday (at least until the rainy season is over - not that it's started yet). We also had our first casualty. I thought Marshalltowns were better than this!

Looks like we might have a river cobble house floor, so I really want to get a few more weeks of digging in, maybe in March?

Godmother by Accident

I went to a wedding (almost two weeks ago now!) for one of my occasional workers. He and his wife had been legally married by the State for at least ten years (I think), but were being remarried by the Catholic church so that their daughter could take part in First Communion. I showed up at the church for the ceremony as our family representative, and a good thing that I was feeling up to it! Alfredo, my worker, was short his best man/godfather, who, as mayor of Santa Elena Province, was stuck in the capital town meeting with Rafael Correa, the country's president. So I guess one gringa equals an alcalde?
Left to Right: Alfredo, Me, Cecilia, and Otto

The party afterward was a blast, especially since I actually know people now. I actually had fun dancing, even to the cumbia! Otto, the intended godfather, arrived sometime around 1am. I stayed as long as I could (about 2:30am) but had to leave so I could wake up to get the house in order for our guests who were coming the next day.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

For Fun...

...because sometimes I get a little time for that.

Last weekend I went on a hike with some international students from UEES. I took them out to the site and let them dig around a bit, and then we went hiking up to the natural pools that the river carved out of rock. Here's the path right before we dropped down to the pools.

Isn't it pretty?

You Give Me Fever

As Baby Girl succumbs to yet another illness – this time fever, green snot, and the runs – it’s interesting (and frustrating) to reflect on the way that viruses and sickness is perceived here.

Apparently, the concept of a virus that spreads from person to person through contact doesn’t exist to these people. Instead, one falls sick because of cambio de clima (weather change) or mal de ojo (sort of an imbalance of the humors, which can be caused intentionally or unintentionally by really negative or positive energy directed at a person; a.k.a. the evil eye. A reasonable description of the phenomenon can be found here).

What this means for us, in a practical sense, is that no one sees any reason to keep their sick kids home from daycare, because illness can’t be passed on. Instead they send them on in so that they can infect all the (temporarily) healthy children that are there. Every day that I drop BG off I cringe at the multitude of green snot faces that greet us at the door.

So it seems that BG gets a week of good health, followed by a week of not-so-good health. Mostly we’ve been lucky and the bad weeks are just the sniffles. Sometimes it’s worse. Being that she is La Gringita, everyone constantly wants to touch her. And if you say “don’t touch, she’s sick” (which I’ve started doing with increasing frequency and diminishing tact, to avoid them passing something on to her and actually making her sick) they stroke her and murmur “poor thing” while suggesting that she’s afflicted by one of the ailments. BUT YOU’RE STILL TOUCHING HER AND MAKING HER SICK!!!!

I just hope that all this sickness means that once we get back home she’ll have an immunity level somewhere in the stratosphere and stay relatively healthy even while those around her succumb to the seasonal ailments that go around every year. Here’s hoping.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

If you're reading this...

leave a comment, drop me a line, let me know I'm not just sending my thoughts out there into the ether or talking to myself.

Just saying.

Big Girl Bed!

Yes, folks, that's right. Shortly after the 2 year mark, BG has made the transition to a real bed! And not because we're having another and need to free up the crib for that one :P

These six months that we've been in Ecuador (SIX months, can you believe it?!?!) she's been sleeping in a PeaPod Plus. It's worked great for us because it's compact enough to travel with. Like, actually compact. Not compact like they say a Pack-and-Play is but then it still takes up half the boot of your car. We can fold it up and strap it to a backpack and off we go! Also, since it's basically just a personal tent for a baby, it has screening, and thus mosquito netting, built right in. However, since she's been using it continuously for six months, it's begun to develop a bit of a funk. And since it's a whole integrated thing, it's a little hard to clean properly.

With BG getting sick frequently, and coughing
often in her sleep, Steve thought maybe the tent wasn't the best sleeping environment for her anymore. Since there's an unused twin bed laying around the house, we decided to move that down next to ours and give the whole "big girl bed" thing a whirl. And let me tell you, I am so lucky to have such a flexible and easy going daughter (this year here would probably not be possible if she wasn't). She moaned a little the first night, but since then has slept as well as she did in her tent. The fact that the mosquito netting is wrapped under the mattress probably helps keep her from getting up for a wander in the middle of the night, which I am definitely cool with! It's so sweet to see her asleep in it, though, since at most she takes up a quarter of the whole space.

Just another sign that our little girl is growing up!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

And....we're back!

Wow, I've neglected this blog for far too long! It's been quite a busy month and a half, filled with visits from the in-laws, rubbernecking with politicians, stomach viruses, and dissertation related paranoia.

We met Steve's parents when their flight arriv
ed in Guayaquil on November 1. We came right back out to Dos Mangas to celebrate Dia de los Santos. I wish I had a photograph of the crowds in the bus station who were traveling for the holiday. It was an absolute madhouse, with people stacked back to back. I think I really impressed Dad/Gene by the way I was able to get us right up to the ticket counter.

We spent a lovely day on the 2nd walking through Dos Mangas and stopping at friends houses and getting food foisted upon us. To celebrate
the day of the dead, families prepare tons of foods, particularly the favorites of those who have passed, and lay it all out on a table. Then, while the family goes off to visit the grave site, the dead come and "eat" their food. Then the family comes back and people start circulating from house to house, eating up all the goodies. We got to try a few new delicacies that day! We also wandered down to the futbol field (soccer, for most of you) and watched a pretty good game in which Dos Mangas tied 4-4 with the near-by town of Olon.

One of the tables, all laid out.

That was pretty much the end of our adventures while Steve's parents were visiting. Mom/Norma picked up a bug while they were in Miami and then passed it on to Dad and eventually Baby Girl and me (though I definitely got a mild version of it). Mom and Dad spent a lot of time resting and bonding with their granddaughter. It was so great to see how much she loves her Oma and Opa. We even got to celebrate her 2nd birthday together, albeit a few days early.

Yes, that's right folks, my Baby Girl is now
2 years old! I may have to start referring to her as Big Girl, but BG will still work. The tantrums have also started, but so has all the extra fun!

On the 14th, Dos Mangas inaugurated a new Interpretation Center for the tourists who come for the hikes to the waterfall, etc. I put together a little display about the archaeological project and they hung that up there too. The Center was sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism, and the Minister of Tourism herself, Veronica Sion, came for the inauguration. She didn't know that there was any archaeology in the area, and was really excited about integrating it into the other tourism offerings. To the community's benefit she pledge her support for building a museum to house and display the artifacts once the excavations are over. It was really cool to meet her, get to talk a little bit, be mentioned in a speech by a big-wig, get interview
ed a few times, and get lecture requests. We'll see what all comes with it, and I'm still looking for her speech on You Tube, but it was a really exciting day!

Me and Veronica Sion at the inauguration.

About a week after BG got over her illness (which required breathing treatments and antibiotics) she started vomiting, to the point where she'd even puke up sips of water. I also came down with perpetual nausea (I think I would have felt better if I'd just puked) and Steve had to deal with all kinds of digestive issues. Back to the doctor for more meds, and now everyone's better again, though BG is still puking on bus rides, which may mean she suffers from motion sickness (and let me tell you, a freaked out toddler puking on a bus is no fun at all, particularly when you can't get her to aim in the bag and she'd sitting on your lap).

Work at the site is drawing rapidly to a close, and I'm really not feeling confident about what I've been able to excavate. The much-desired house is still elusive, and I don't see us being able to find and excavation one completely in the next week. All I need is one (two would be better), just one, to be able to compare it to other sites! Instead of a house we've found two more burials this week. How many dead people are there?!?!!? I suppose I'll just keep plugging along, and hopefully it will all work out.

Things to look forward to: a Christmas visit by Steve's cousin Kathy and her husband David, and a trip to Cuenca for the Christmas Eve parade. And, mostly likely in time for my birthday, the long awaited visit by my parents!

And, I promise I'll update more frequently!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

River Watch

Each day as I hike to and from the site I follow the main road that is criss-crossed by the meandering river. Each day I watch the incremental changes as once isolated puddles start to meld together and once dry crossings become muddy and the outright wet. The past few weeks we've had near constant rain, and the river that was once confined to a few low areas up the valley is now running across the road in and out of town.

Dos Mangas (two sleves/arms) is so named because it's located where the rivers Culebra and Colin join to form the larger Manglaralto river. Though now a seasonal river, some of the older residents have told me that as recently as 50 years ago the river was permanent, an deep enough that comuneros would sail rafts laden with paja (a plant fiber used for roofing and the famous "Panama" hats) down to the coast.

Bundles of cut paja.

As the river rises, and my hike to the site become a slog through calf-deep mud, I watch the river with excitement and trepidation. Excitement to see what the valley looked like in it's recent history, when it was lusher and wetter. To be able to catch crayfish out of the river and eat ripening fruit right from the forest. Excitement especially to imagine what it would have been like for the people who populated my site and lived along the Rio Culebra. Trepidation because the only way in and out of the village is across the river. There is no bridge. When the water gets too deep you're basically stuck. Trepidation because in previous years the river, when it runs, comes all at once, and has taken houses with it.

The river road, in the dry season.

They say that there'll likely be an El Nino event this year. With the way it's been raining (unseasonably heavy, according to my workers) I wouldn't be surprised.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

El Levantamiento de 2009, Part 2

So while we were out of the country more drama ensued (see my previous entry here). The community, with the help of the Ministry of Tourism, had some lovely signs made that were posted at the trail heads to the waterfalls and natural pools that they take tourists to. Well, the resident malos came by with machetes and destroyed the signs. That prompted the community to vote, in the absence of any official decision from the provincial government, to declare Bonnie and Clyde persona non grata within the community. When we got back to Dos Mangas we drove under a banner hung at the entrance to the community saying as much.

Last week the police accompanied B&C to move their stuff out of their houses, but lo an behold, discovered an illegal arsenal which could out gun the local police force, as well as all kinds of black market or smuggled machinery, motorcycles, etc. and that was only what was at two of their three houses, not to mention what could be hidden out on their land. It was big enough news to appear in the main coastal newspaper, El Universo. There’s all kinds of speculation within the community that they were smuggling the guns for FARC, and also that they were drug runners too, what with Montañita being right up the road. I’m just extremely glad that the time I was up there filming with some comuneros that we had a bunch of armed police with us! The two are now under house arrest and facing some serious jail time, which of course won’t be anything new for one of them.

Seriously, what is with the dead people?

I either have the best or the worst luck. It seems like no matter where we put an excavation unit, or for what purpose, we keep ending up with skeletons! We’re trying to dig a pit through to sterile (non-cultural) soil to document the time periods of the site. All I want is pottery to match up to some other sites. So of course we find another burial. The very edge of it skims the unit that we’re working in, but of course it’s the edge that contains an entire (though fractured) vessel, which is now sticking out of the wall. Previous experience has told me that things like that left in the wall of an excavation unit won’t stay there for long, so we’re having to open an adjacent unit to do this thing right and get that person out of there.

Mapping Buen Suceso

I spent the first four days back at work with my guys mapping the site. This had been postponed because when we first came to Ecuador, back in June, my telescoping level ended up left in a corner behind the front door when we went to the airport. Even though it was shipped via FedEx on June 10, it has STILL not cleared customs here in Ecuador! So, when we were home this time I bought a second one and didn’t let that sucker out of my sight!

So it took a long time, and it was tedious, but here are the fruits of our labor:

Two Weeks in Two Paragraphs or Less

Our visit back to the States was absolutely wonderful. We were so lucky to be able to get together with so many family and friends. First was my cousin Andrea’s wedding. She made for the most gorgeous bride, and her new husband Kyle is a great addition to the family. All of the cousins were together and we got some pretty nice pictures of everyone. Then, we were off to North Dakota to visit Steve’s grandmother. She had not yet met Baby Girl, and our visit ended up being kind of an early 95th birthday present. Steve’s parents were in ND as well, so we had a really nice visit. We returned to Wisconsin to spend some more time with my parents, and had a great ladies’ day out at the Zoo with my mom and aunts. We breezed through our university town, visited with advisors and drank with friends, and scanned a whole heck of a lot of books so that we’d have PDFs with us in Ecuador. We got back to my parents on Thursday morning and then left for the airport 24 hours later – and we didn’t forget anything this time!

All the cousins together for the wedding.

Baby Girl and Nana at the zoo.

It was incredibly nice to be back, as much for the conveniences as for being around family. I’m really hoping that our extended travels will be fewer and far between, and that maybe we can find our way to get jobs and settle down close to family. I can do the independent adventuring spirit thing just fine, but when it comes down to it I’m happiest near my family.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Home Sweet Home!

Home at last, even if it is just for two weeks!

It's the little things, like being able to rinse your toothbrush in the water from the tap, or flush toilet paper instead of having to throw it in the bin. And having TV and fast internet.

My parents are having a blast playing with Baby Girl, and I'm enjoying just a short break from the toil of fieldwork.

And today my husband and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary with a low-key day and some quality ice cream.

Steve's lost 20 lbs since we went to Ecuador, and I've lost 10. We're going to try not to gain it all back while we're home and partaking of all the yummy yummyness that there is here.

Saturday my cousin Andrea gets married. Monday we fly to North Dakota to visit Steve's grandma. The following Monday we try to catch up with old friends and advisors at school. It's a break from the toil, but by no means a vacation.

I just hope that I'm still willing to return to Ecuador when it's time to head back. So tempting to return to the easy life....

Friday, August 28, 2009

Murphy's Law for Archaeologists...

...dictates that on your last day of excavation before an extended break, when you decide to go ahead and excavate just one more level, you will invariably find something that either a) completely changes your interpretation of the entire site, or b) will be impossible for you to excavate completely and properly in the time left to you.

Today was our last day of excavation for the next three weeks while the family and I return to the States for a visit. So of course we found another burial. This one seems to be largely intact and includes ribs and a pelvis! Unfortunately, the legs and head are going into two other units which would have to be excavated before this guy can be rem
oved. I'm sure you can understand my hesitation about leaving any bones lying around the site, but it can't be avoided. Hopefully our lids on the units will keep people away and this individual will still be waiting for my trowel when I get back!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What I did this week....

This is the burial that we came across in one of our excavation units. Don't know if it's male or female because the pelvis is missing, and can't estimate age because the skull with teeth weren't intact. This poor person's been through a lot though. The entire lower half of the body is missing (possibly cut by a large pit that was dug later), and there was a lot of compaction and fracturing of the bones. All that remains is part of the skull, an arm and hand, and several fractured ribs. There is also an animal burrow that runs underneath the body, and in the wall of this burrow we found a femur and several finger or toe bones, which may belong to the same individual.

Early Valdivia burial with shell inside the skull cavity (upper left of photo).

One interesting thing to note is the shell located inside the cranium (or where the cranium would have been if not for the actions of our neighborhood looter). It's impossible to know for sure, due to the damage done to the skull, but it's possible that this shell was inserted into the individual's mouth prior to burial.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Family Feud!

So, I think I am officially feuding with one of the families here in Dos Mangas. The mother totally ripped us of to prepare food for us, the daughter stole my cell phone, and the grandfather tried to forcibly yank a skull out of the ground where we are excavating (all he managed to do was break it into a zillion pieces, which he left, and then grabbed some teeth).

Seriously, what is it with these people?!?!?! I would be so happy if I never had to deal with any of them again, but in a village of 1000 people related in all kinds of ways, that's not too likely. But if anyone else from this same family tries to pull any more stuff like this I'm going to completely flip out on them!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I went to Ecuador and all I found was a lousy Valdivia village…

So the last few weeks have found your intrepid adventurer embroiled in a bit of personal turmoil. If you will remember, I came here to carry out research on frontier identities of the late pre-Hispanic Manteño culture (800-1532 AD). Despite some tantalizing surface evidence of a reasonable sized Manteño occupation in this valley, most of our excavations turned up very little sub-surface evidence of this habitation. It’s been quite demoralizing because what seemed so clear back home – both in terms of excavation locations and research questions – became a lot less so when I got here. I suppose it’s to be expected, but it’s disheartening nonetheless.

Salvation (and possibly damnation) came in the form of my field assistant, Luis, who was also my guide when I was here back in 2006 for the survey. My assistants were well aware of my increasing despondency and fear that I’d never make a dissertation out of what we’d been uncovering. He took me out to a field where we surveyed in 2006, but the vegetation is much less dense this year. Quite visible on the surface now, but hidden then, was a quantity of artifacts to die for. I seriously wanted to weep, and not only because here, at last, could be the kind of reasonably contained site that would be great for a project, but also because few of the ceramics I turned over with my toe were Manteño. Most were from the preceding Guangala culture, but others pre-dated even that.

I consulted the two most intellectually important women in my life – my current and former advisors – to ask their opinions of whether to pursue this new site. The answer was the same; go where the artifacts are, the significance will become clear. Part of me doesn’t like that, because I worked long and hard to come up with a research question that would get funded (the ultimate test, right?), but also because I sincerely am deeply interested in both the Manteño period and processes of identity formation and negotiation. But, as work was wrapping up in a third unproductive location, I decided to take their advice, and began work at the new site this past Monday.

From the start it’s been heady. We are uncovering so many remains it is ridiculous. In the week we’ve been there I think we’ve managed to match the quantity of artifacts that we recovered in the past month, if not the past two. In four randomly placed test pits we’ve got a trash pit, post holes of two different structures, and a human burial. And as fantastic as that is, it’s all Valdivia!!!!!! Now, I know some of you will say, so what? Well, Valdivia is the oldest ceramic culture in coastal Ecuador, dating as far back as 3500 BC. Yes, that’s right, I went out to dig Manteño and ended with something nearly 5000 years earlier. It’s like going out to buy a bicycle and coming home with a velocipede – cool, but not quite what you had in mind. I’ve just never really been that
in to Valdivia, what with it being so early, and so Valdivia-y. Also, the vast majority of my training in Ecuadorian archaeology has focused on the Manteño period, so I’m in uncharted territory here.

The new site, on a rain drenched day, in 360 view.

Looking on the bright side, though, it looks as if I might have a tidy little elliptical-shaped village on my hands, with several other similar sites in the region that I can compare it to (like Loma Alta – just 12km away – and Real Alto, for those of you in the know). Now, however, I’ve really got to dig in, figuratively and literally, so that I’m up on the scholarship and don’t miss anything, and also so I can start working out the good research questions. I just wish I’d seen the site three years ago. I don’t know if it would have completely changed my research question, or if I would have chosen another place to work. At the very least it would have given me a chance to get used to the idea. At the moment I’m really glad that my assistants’ knowledge of English is somewhat limited, because my vocabulary has gotten quite colorful over the last few days, and I wouldn’t want them to think any less of me.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Mound, a flood, and the Levantamiento (not necessarily in that order)

So, I’m realizing to my horror that it’s been nearly a month since I’ve updated the blog. A lot has been happening, not the least of which was Baby Girl baptizing my computer with a cup of tea. Between taking it apart to mop up the tea and let everything dry, and then waiting until I could get to Libertad to buy a new keyboard (the one casualty of the whole affair) I lost nearly two weeks of computer usage. But, we’re up and running again, so all is well in the world.

The community has been embroiled in a fairly interesting and lengthy political demonstration for the last few weeks to assert their control of community lands and access to different resources on community property. This has mainly consisted of blocking the main road going in and out of town, and setting up a 24 hour guard to monitor the traffic going in and out of town. It all started when someone who leases community lands decided that they’d go and fence off the road that the community uses to take tourists to some very pretty cascading pools of water, effectively declaring both that portion of the road and the pools to be private property. These same leasees also waved guns at community members as they went along this road, for trespassing on their “property”. The community set up the blockade to prevent these people from moving freely to and from the land that they are leasing.

As you might imagine, the police and local and provincial governments got involved in this dispute, which still does not have a resolution. The leasees claim that the community is trying to kick them off the land (and there is some claim on their part that they bought this land, though that is impossible because the whole territory belongs to the community), while the community contends that the leasees are trying to develop tourism privately and thus deprive the community of an important source of revenue. You might be able to guess where my sympathies lie. I got invited along by community members on one of the inspections by the provincial government because I could record video with my camera. The rhetoric each side was using was really interesting – “cultural patrimony” versus “my property” – and it was also pretty clear that the Inspector (the third one to check out the situation) was fairly well in the pocket of the leasees. There is certainly a lot at stake in the outcome of this dispute; not only the livelihood of community members but their physical safety as well. In the course of the dispute it was revealed that one of the leasees was released from jail just a few years ago after serving 13 years for robbery and double homicide. And most of the problems started after he arrived on the scene.

Last weekend Steve and I became godparents to a newly married couple in the village. It’s not the same as becoming godparents to an infant – more like a cross between being godparents and the best man/matron of honor – which made it all the odder that we didn’t really know these people that well. It was one of those things, though, where I felt like I couldn’t say no, like the act of asking obligated us. Steve was still sick, so put in a brief appearance with Baby Girl and then took her home to sleep. I on the other hand had to stay and drink until the wee hours of the morning, and even then I chickened out and headed home around 3. I just don’t have the stamina for it like I used to.

On Thursday we closed up excavations at the mound. I was actually quite disappointed in how things turned out. The mound appears to be a natural hill that was modified to have a platform on top. The surface is covered in artifacts, but we found virtually no sub-surface features. I was particularly keen to find a structure on the top of the mound, but alas, no joy. There was also very little evidence for use of the flat space around the mound. We did test pits every 5m to recover evidence of different use areas or house floors, but got very little for our efforts. It’s definitely made me question my interpretation a bit more, but I don’t have any new answers.

I feel like the community might be getting a bit disappointed, because they want me to find things that they can use to start a museum, but so far it’s just been the usual ceramic fragments (though my friend Alex reminded me that the spindle whorls, copper bell, and copper tweezers that we found up at the cistern are pretty good by coastal Ecuador standards). Hopefully they have patience with me, and all of our hard work will turn up something interesting and also let us tell the story of life at Dos Mangas back in the day.

The house situation is still at a standstill. We found another place in the community that is REALLY nice, even by general North American standards (hot water and a bathtub – HEAVEN!) but we just can’t afford what the owner wants for monthly rent (like, twice as much(. Right now it’s a bit of a poker game…do we come up a bit, spending money out of savings, and hope that he realizes that he can either rent to us at a lower price and make some money or have an empty house and make no money. We’ll keep you all up to date as thing progress.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Beyond Frustruating!

So let me start by saying that we are on week five without a fridge. That basically sums up where everything comes from. This has gone from annoying and inconvenient to dangerous to my daughter's health. She's lost a kilo (for you non-metric people out there, about 2 pounds) since we came here, and I attribute it directly to not being able to store any food in the house because we don't have a fridge. No milk, yogurt, or cheese. No fruits or vegetables that you can't eat in a day or two because if you don't the flys or ants will get at it. No making food and keeping the left overs, lots of waste, etc. And to this date our landlord has only made a half hearted attempt to get it fixed despite my constant nagging, but then was surprised when he asked me for the rent today and I asked him for the fridge. And now he's gone and left for Puerto Rico for a month, which leaves us where exactly?

Then comes along Porta (the telecommunications company) and their lousy website and even lousier customer service. We got a pre-pay internet thing for the house, which costs dearly, but we decided that for our research and our sanity, we need it. Well, the website messes up and ends up eating $17 of our dollars, but the online Porta people refuse to acknowledge any fault or refund our money, and our only recourse is to travel 2 hours each way to the nearest customer service center to file a complaint and try to get our money back, which seems like it wouldn't happen anyway. Thanks so much!

Also, the supposed caretakers of this house when the landlord is gone (the same ones that were ripping me off to cook for us) stole my telephone and also the landlord's camera and cash. There's no proof, but they're the only ones who had access. And so the question remains, why the hell is he allowing them to keep living in the house (for free) on his property instead of kicking them and their six bark-all-night dogs to the curb?

I'm so ready to go postal on people that it's not even funny.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Oh yeah, the archaeology

So I guess I'm a little behind on updating about my project. We're entering the fourth week of the project now, which I find really hard to believe. We started working at what we've called the cistern, a depression on the top of a hill that was supposedly filled with water and used as part of a Manteno irrigation system.
Now, after a few weeks of digging a trench into the side of the thing, I am pretty confident that it never held water, or at least never intentionally. It looks as if it was a natural depression that was dug out and used as a trash pit, possibly for a single event, like a feast. The analysis is on-going, of course, but we're hauling bags of ceramics out of each level, and tons of big charcoal fragments for dating, and finding some cool things like copper bells and tweezers, spindle whorls, a human hand, and the first obsidian blade for the site.

We also began some work at the platform mound by digging test pits every 5m in the surrounding area. Differences in soil types will tell us if there was any surface preparation (possibly for a plaza) and also give us a sense of the usage intensity across that space. So far the deposits are the same across 50-100m and give no indication of a prepared floor. Artifacts are few in number, but there do appear to be some hot spots. Once we wrap up things at the "cistern" (which will be tomorrow if the powers-that-be cooperate), we'll head down to the m
ound to finish test pitting and begin excavations of the mound itself.

The "laboratory" (my living room) is quickly filling up with bags of artifacts that need to be washed, labeled, and photographed. Lab work is much trickier when you have a toddler who wants to look at all the pieces too. Hopefully we can work out some kind of storage solution within the next few days, or at least a way to cordon off that space.

My helper (aka Taylor) leaves for home on Sunday, so I'm trying to make the most of the time that we have!
Taylor holding the first piece of ceramic that she found at the site!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Overdue Update

Things have been pretty crazy down here lately, and we've spent a lot more time getting to know the staff at the hospital at Manglaralto than I'm really happy with.

Last week I went in because of a high fever and body aches, and people in the village were concerned about Dengue. The doctor who did the exam on Thursday gave an initial diagnosis of Dengue, but wanted me to come back on Friday when the lab was open. Taylor was with me and spoke with the doctor about the stomach problems she was having and was given some rehydration drink mix and sent home. We came back on Friday morning for my blood draw (I will say, that was one of the best blood draws I've ever had), but had to wait until the afternoon for the results, so since Baby Girl had been suffering from a cough an
d an on-and-off fever for about a week, we brought her in to be seen too. Generally good news all around, I don't have Dengue (just a virus) and Baby Girl's lungs were clear. They gave us an antibiotic for her since her throat was irritated and swollen, and some paracetemol for the fever.

On Wednesday Taylor went back to the hospital by herself because of continuing stomach issues. The doctor that time wanted to do an HIV test, because of course a young, single gringa staying anywhere near Montanita must be doing drugs and having unprotected sex. Didn't even want a fecal culture done.

On Thursday Taylor started getting a rash around her hairline, and by Friday morning it was covering her entire body. We went in to the hospital, saw yet a different doctor, who gave her a cortisone injection and told her to start taking her Cipro
for the stomach problems and keep taking Benadryl for the rash. She's doing much better overall, but yesterday her lip started to swell randomly, which makes us wonder if she's having a reaction to the Cipro.

Around this time Baby Girl's illness really started going into high gear. Her fever was basically constant and she became really lethargic and didn't want to eat or drink anything, so we started giving her the antibiotic and the parecetemol. Basically she was just sleeping all day and definitely not being herself. Last night this came to a head when we realized she only had one wet diaper the entire day and that even with the paracetemol her underarm temperature was 38.7 (101.7). So we wandered the village looking for someone with a car who wasn't at the epic 5 hour comuna meeting and could take us to the Emergency room at the hospital.

Just before we left I gave her a dose of Motrin, so by the time we got there her fever was starting to come down and she was a little more alert (as alert as she could be at 11 at night). There was a different doctor there that time, who said Baby Girl didn't need an antibiotic, as the red throat was just from the nasal drainage. And as far as the fever goes, we learned two things: 1) the last doctor we saw gave us the incorrect dosage for the Tylenol they gave us, so she was only getting a quarter of the dose she should have been, so no wonder it wasn't working, and 2) never give anyone anything other than Tylenol when they have a fever because of the incidence of Dengue Fever in the area. Other medicines can cause complications like intern
al bleeding and nasty things.

The doctor was concerned about her lack of eating and drinking, but not concerned enough to want to do an IV just then. She sent us home with some rehydration stuff and told us to make her drink for 4 hours, and if at the end of that she didn't pee, then to bring her back. Well, we tried, but there's only so much you can stick down a baby's throat when she's already upset and sad and tired. So we did our best but then everyone passed out.

Today she's doing much better. The correct dose of Tylenol is actually keeping the fever down and she's been eating and drinking an ok amount today. We've had several wet diapers, so I'm feeling much happier today than yesterday, even if Baby
Girl isn't back to her old self yet.

In other news, we have internet! We went to Libertad yesterday to the Porta store to buy the equipment, and are doing a pay-as-you-go thing, so that we can have internet access in the house when we need it. I'm sure the grandparents will appreciate being able to do video Skype with Baby Girl too!
Baby Girl playing with the broom on the porch, one of her favorite pasttimes.

Baby Girl got pig tails for the first time last week! Her hair is finally getting long enough to do stuff with, but Taylor says she looks like she has a mullet because it's still so short in the front. She also started at Ecuadorian day care last week, which solves one of our concerns. It seems like it will be a good situation once she's healthy enough to go back (and to those who are concerned, she was sick first).

We also solved our other stress issue by firing our cook who was really over charging us. We're back to eating at the restaurant in town for the time being, but we have a few leads for someone who can cook for us. We've also been without a refrigerator since about our third day here, which makes it really hard to fend for ourselves, but it's looking like it should be fixed and back in the house by the end of this week, just in time for Taylor to go back home . Now if we can just get rid of the flies that seem to have invaded the house and fix the voltage problems that are plaguing us, we'll be all set!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Celebration Weekend

We went to Agua Blanca this past weekend, where I used to work, to celebrate the solstice, Steve´s Birthday, and Father´s Day. It was really nice being able to see old friends and also to introduce the family to the place where I spent so much time.

For the first time ever, the community arranged a huge solstice celebration this year on Saturday. They had a shaman come in who did a sweat lodge and ceremony the night before the solstice, with the idea of waking up an watching the sun rise up on the site at the building that aligns with the summer solstice. There was a guy there who does an outdoor/adventuring program who really seemed to be calling the shots in terms of staging the ceremony, and that was quite weird. The whole thing was very new agey and American Indian-esque, but people kept claiming that they were reviving practices that died out 500 years ago when the Spanish came. As an archaeologist, I was quite put out by that, and the fact that people were camping on top of the ruins. But the thing that bothered me the most was the fact that the community members seemed to be incidental to the whole thing.

The sweat tent where the ceremony took place, and the sacred precinct outside of it. Don Isidro is adding more hot stones (abuelos) to the sauna inside.

Your intrepid explorer, emerging from the tent after three rounds (I couldn´t take the super heated sulphur water any more) and being interviewed by one of the many camera crews that were swarming the ceremony.

On Sunday we did the tour of the site and I think Taylor and Steve were impressed. It was also good for me to see it and remind myself how different the materials at Dos Mangas are. After touring the site we relaxed in the laguna, and Steve and Baby Girl had a ton of fun splashing around. I think it was the highlight of his Father´s Day.

I promise to post pictures soon! Internet speeds can be prohibitively slow, and I don´t have my flash drive with me to add more, but I´m hoping to get a little more internet time this weekend.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


This post is a little less up beat than the ones in the past have been. The good news is that we made it to Dos Mangas safe and sound. The bad news was that Baby Girl either ate something that didn´t agree with her or got car sick and spewed all over the both of us halfway into the bus ride here. I had no idea her stomach could hold that much! It definitely ranks up there among one of the least pleasant experiences of motherhood, which maybe just means I´ve been very lucky so far.

The house here is really nice, and situated on a large parcel of land planted with tons of fruit trees. There are bunches of different birds that fly from tree to tree, and it´s really nice to sit out in the hammock and watch them all. Inside, the house is probably more spacious than our grad student apartment was, but it´s very empty. I wasn´t anticipating having to buy dishes or pillows or things like that, and I´m finding it a little frustruating that we not only have to put a lot of money into temporary accomodations, but also that I´m having to spend time on it instead of doing archaeology. I really shouldn´t complain though, because the setting is beautiful, we have people cooking dinner for us and keeping the place clean, and even helping to look after Baby Girl. I guess I just had kind of high expectations, and am trying to bring those back down to earth. I´ll post pics soon, both of the house itself and of our nocturnal housemate (....).

This evening I´ll speak with the town council to receive permission from them to do the archaeological project. Apparently one of the reasons why there´s never been any archaeology conducted here is because the town council has always blocked it in the past. It sounds like that´s due to the fact that people wanted to take the artifacts out of the village, and since with my project everything will stay here, hopefully there won´t be any issues. The town also seems very keen on building a site museum, and since my work would generate the objects for it, I´m hoping they will tolerate me (hopefully do more than that, I´d really like the community to be partners in this.

We won´t start excavations until after we´ve received permission from the community, but we´ll start detailed mapping of different areas of the site tomorrow (Monday). It´ll be pretty old school, but it should do the job. I´m really looking forward to getting to work!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What a week!

Packing for Ecuador was quite the experience. We didn't really start until Sunday afternoon, and had to be on a shuttle to the airport at 6:30 Monday morning. We literally stayed up all night packing, and finally decided around 5 am that there was just no way to fit all of our things into 4 duffel bags, so we gave in and paid for an extra bag. With all the stuff we had and the exhaustion of getting no sleep we managed to only forget one critical piece of equipment, the telescoping level. Fortunately FedEx delivers to Guayaquil, so I should have it some time next week.

We arrived in Guayaquil on Monday night, and after an extremely long wait to get through customs and immigration at the airport we finally made it to our hotel around 11:30 at night (if you're counting, that's 17 hours of travel). Mario (the owner of the house we're renting) and Luis (my guide in 2006) from Dos Mangas met us at the airport and took a bunch of our bags back to the village. It's going to be so nice not to have to haul around a bunch of luggage when we take a bus out to the site!

On tap for this week was registering our visas and getting Ecuadorian ID cards, getting the permit approval for my project, and hopefully showing the family around Guayaquil a little bit in the process, all before we head out to the site on Friday. Even though we got off to a rocky start, we made it! We picked up our registered visas this morning (Thursday), then went to get the ID card, and came back to get the permit proposal. I'm giddy over the fact that it all worked out! Tomorrow we'll get to sleep in and then catch a bus out to the site in the early afternoon. I can't wait to get there and get everything in place to start mapping and excavations on Monday!

In between all of our errands we spent a lot of time walking the Malecon along the Guayas river. I was actually really impressed with all of the gardens and public architecture. Even Baby Girl enjoyed it! We stopped in one of the bars along the Malecon to watch the Ecuador-Argentina football game (soccer, to you Americans), and got there in time to see Ecuador score its two goals and win the game!

I'm looking forward to getting out to the coast and hopefully in to some cooler weather. Guayaquil has been either blazing hot and humid, or overcast and really humid. I can't wait for the garua and the cool coastal breezes!!!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I would like to thank the academy...

The Sisterhood, actually. On Friday I spoke at the state-wide convention of the organization that is funding my fieldwork, a philanthropic organization of women. It was absolutely amazing to stand up at that podium and see all of those faces looking back at me. It really brought home the enormity, not only of the fact that I got a grant, but that these women have such faith in me and in my work. I realy felt like a celebrity, so many people were coming up asking to take my picture and telling me how much they enjoyed my speech. I've already been invited back to present on my work at next year's meeting. It was just so touching that they are concerned about me and my family, and not just performance targets. It's definitely one of the up sides of getting a non-traditional grant for fieldwork.

The speech was part of our frantic wrap-up getting things ready for Ecuador. On Thursday night we had friends over for a final goodbye, and then I was out the door by 11 am Friday morning to make it up for my talk. The apartment still had a bunch of boxes left to be packed and put into storage, so Steve stayed behind to take care of that, and then made it up to my parent's in time to take Baby Girl to the zoo on Saturday afternoon. So much fun!

In the next installment: departure for and arrival in Ecuador!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Peapod Part 2

I am now a firm believer in the wonders of the Peapod. We went ahead and upgraded to the Peapod Plus, which is longer, taller, and unfortunately heavier (though at 6.5 it's really not too bad for our intented use). Baby Girl loves it! We opened it up and she crawled right in! She's spent the last few naps and nights sleeping in it, and I think it's a huge success. For a toddler, the Peapod Plus is definitely the way to go!

In other news, this time next week we'll be waking up in Guayaquil. We're still frantically packing up the apartment to put our things into storage, and haven't even started to pack what we're actually going to take to Ecuador. Aaaaaahhhhhhhh!

Friday, May 22, 2009

We have visas!!!!

We drove up to Chicago on Wednesday to get our visas from the Ecuadorian consulate. I was a bundle of nerves, worried that I would have forgotten or overlooked something, or that roadblocks would be thrown in front us us once we got to the consulate. To some extent my fears were justified...they needed 4 passport photos for each of us, not 2, and the fees were $60 higher than what we had been told, but fortunately we had brought extra cash with us, and there was a CVS right around the corner that took care of us in no time.

We got in at 11:30am, went for lunch at 12:45, toured Millennium Park, got more photos taken, and walked out of the consulate office with our visas at 3:15pm. All in all, not too bad. I'm just so relieved that we got it taken care of and that it was pretty painless. Now we just have to worry about registering the visas once we get to Guayaquil...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Kiddie Accomodations

Since Baby Girl just turned 18 months and is not yet bed ready, we were confronted with a bit of a problem when it comes to a sleep solution for her in Ecuador. Fitting a pack-and-play in with all our other gear into just four pieces of luggage really didn't seem feasible, and while friends in Ecuador graciously offered to have a crib ready for us, we'd still be without a portable sleep option. We plan to do weekend trips to other sites and to visit friends, and if the three of us had to share a bed then none of us would get any sleep. Finally, with the bug situation mosquito netting is a must, and I'm not certain that Baby Girl would be able to resist thrusting it aside.

The solution? The PeaPod, by Kidco. It's basically a kid tent, so the mosquito netting is integrated into the structure of the "crib". There's a self inflating mattress that zips into the bottom, so Baby Girl will be up off the floor and nicely padded. At 4.5 pounds it's not a super light weight option, but certainly light enough to strap to a backpack for the short bouts of walking that we might need to do to get to villages. It also folds down to a 14" circle that aids in the portablility. All in all it seems like an ideal solution, so we got one and set it up in the living room for Baby Girl's approval.

The verdict? Tepid at best. We have now learned that Baby Girl is not a fan of enclosed spaces. At 47" it's long enough for her to sleep comfortably (I even wedged myself into it), but it's not quite high enough for her to sit easily upright, and I think she really dislikes being scrunched up against the roof of the tent, but who could blame her. We'll leave it set up in the living room, full of toys, so that she can get accustomed to it, and hopefully she'll soon recognize it as her new sleeping space (which may be helped by the fact that we're moving her crib into storage this weekend). I still have hope for the PeaPod, but only time will tell.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Making Progress!

So, in the past week we've bought our tickets, got vaccinations, bought excavation equipment and other trip supplies, and begun the culling/packing process. I can't believe that we only have another month left in this country! On the one hand I feel like there's a lot of time left, but I know there's soooo much to be done. The semester's nearly over, and so's my job, so I'll have a little more time on my hands to hang out with Baby Girl and get stuff done.

On the to-do list this week: write the permit proposal, buy travel insurance, and treat myself to a 90-minute massage. I think I deserve it :)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Atlanta, GA

I just spent the last few days at the Society for American Archaeology's annual conference in Atlanta, GA. It was a great time visiting with old friends, meeting with new collegues, and listening to other people's cool research. It's definitely pumped me up even more for the field work, which is now just a little over a month away! It's coming so fast and there's still a lot to be done, like write the permit proposal, buy supplies, and put all of our worldly belongings in storage. I guess I better get cracking!

I've gotten some more great news in the last few days, and the best at this point is the fact that my youngest cousin, a college freshman, is going to come down with us for at least a few weeks and help out on the dig. I can't wait to introduce her (not to mention my husband and daughter) to the country that I've fallen in love with!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Yay for fewer complications!

So apparently there is a new process for receiving an Ecuadorian visa for Intercultural Exchange that no longer includes proof of HIV-negative status. I was not looking forward to poking the munchkin and it means fewer doctors appointments for us. We'll have the munchkin's passport by the end of the week and can then apply for the Ecuadorian visa as soon as I get the letters from my affiliated university in Ecuador. Happy days!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Destination Dos Mangas

The field site is located on that lands of the Comuna of Dos Mangas, located in a river valley in Guayas Province. The elevation is low, and the vegetation is lush. Fresh seafood, fruits and veggies every day...Heaven!

The Comuna has about 1000 residents who farm, raise animals, make tourist handicrafts, or work in the larger towns nearby. The Comuna gets a steady stream of eco-tourists and are looking to expand their tourism offerings.

The site dates to the Manteno phase (AD 800-1532). They were contemporaries of the Inca but maintained their autonomy even while neighboring regions were conquered. There are other remains, visible in eroded areas, that testify to human habitation of the valley since the Valdivia phase (3500-1400 BC).

The site is located within a frontier region between two Manteno political/ethnic groups. I won't bore you with the details, but the project will look at political organization and social identity in the ancient community at the site, and the ways in which the people there negotiated their participation in either or both political/ethnic groups.

Diggin' It

I've set up this blog to chronicle the adventures, trials, and tribulations that I encounter in the course of a year of archaeological field work in Ecuador. It'll be a good way of keeping in touch with family when we're out of the country too!

I've just received word that I'll actually have the money to do this, and the feelings of joy and relief are quickly being replaced by an understanding of all the things that need to be done before my family and I can actually depart for Ecuador (at a date still to be determined).

Today the adventure is passport renewal, in person, in Chicago, because we need things to move fast. Joy.