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!