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!