Thursday, February 25, 2010


And just because it's funny as heck...

We've been having thunderstorms the last few days, and after several consecutive peals Baby Girl spontaneously sang out,

"Thun-der" (*bang, bang*), la la la la la la la la" (can you find the tune with those la las?).

We've been listening to songs from Supernatural episodes, and I guess BG took a shine to ACDC. Makes a mother proud...

Carnival of Tedium

Last week was Carnival, which in our village meant that anytime you left the house you risked being pelted with water balloons, sprayed with foam, or covered in colored ashes (I fortunately managed to avoid the egg fights that I had been warned about). Daycare was also closed, so BG was with us the whole week, which was both wonderful and not, as I've expressed before.

While the world outside was celebrating, here, inside my lab, was a carnival of tedium (and by lab, i mean our dining room table, and occasionally part of the kitchen counter). The last few weeks I've been offering up the top layers of my epidermis as sacrifice to the archaeology gods, spending several hours on most days washing bags (and bags...) of artifacts.

As I spent longer excavating that I originally planned, it means that I'm not going to be able to fully analyze everything I dug up (I know, bad archaeologist, bad, bad). So, I'm triaging, washing and analyzing first those areas of the site which (I think) will be critical to the themes in my dissertation. I've also got one of my friends/workers helping me out, so she'll keep washing while I start analyzing. My goal is to get everything washed and nicely organized, including picking out possible museum pieces, before I leave. That way at least everything will be in good condition for when I come back, whenever that might be. Fortunately, a lot of the Manteno stuff got washed while Taylor was still here, so it might actually be possible to get everything washed. The biggest limiting factor right now is lack of drying space, which I might be able to remedy if I work up the courage to organize our loft a bit, which I've currently given over to the spiders (and who knows what else).

We've almost finished washing all the levels from our deep pit through the midden. Once that's all washed I'll sit down to draw, measure, record, and photograph everything. While the tedium of this might not be any better than the washing, it will mean that you, my loyal followers, will soon be able to see some of the 3000 to 5000 year-old artifacts that are currently sitting in boxes around the house!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Incredible Jumping Bean

Yesterday, Baby Girl jumped properly for the first time ever. Both feet, off the floor, at the same time!!!! She’s still a bit unsteady on the landing, but it’s so cool to see. After she did it the first time, and realized what she had done (and we clapped and cheered like fools), she’s been doing it constantly. So neat seeing these little accomplishments!

And Thoughts Turn to Home...

So I know this is still three months off (OMG, only three months left, excuse me while I have a panic attack) and I still have TONS of stuff to get done here, including essentially all the artifact analysis, but with the New Year, and my parent’s visit I’ve been thinking more and more about when we get home – where we’re going to live, what we’re going to need to get life up and running, the horrible crushing experience of moving all of our stuff from storage into an apartment yet again. It also hasn’t helped that life here has been somewhat complicated – we had nearly a month with no garbage pick-up, it’s gotten quite hot and sunny so we’re worried about frying every time we leave the house, daycare was shut down for a month so getting work done was impossible, and our roof is leaking horribly every time it rains. I know that this too shall pass, but any “stay focused and finish your work” vibes that you guys can send my way would be much appreciated!

Family Travails...uh, Travels :)

My parents arrived in Ecuador on January 20 for their long-awaited visit. They missed my birthday by a day, but hey, better than by a month! We spent the night after their flight in Guayaquil, and then jumped on a bus to Riobamba the next morning.

We had hoped to ride the train down the Nariz del Diablo on Friday, but found out before we left that they were all sold out for the month. No matter, we headed to Riobamba anyway where I got to enjoy pizza and beer for my birthday (a nice change from the chicken/tuna and rice diet we have at home), and then got to visit with another woman from our department who is doing her research down here too.

The hotel we stayed at had colonial charm and probably colonial comfort as well. The pillows were lumpy and the beds were small, but otherwise things were basically clean. The elevation in Riobamba hit me hard (I guess after Cuenca I’m more susceptible, and my cold was hanging on in my lungs), I was dehydrated after the journey, and I think I was having an allergic reaction to the ash that Tungurahua was spewing. I woke up in the morning with a migraine, and spent the whole time sniffling and with watering eyes. I don’t think Riobamba made my return-to list, but maybe I should, just to see if all of that was a fluke.

Tungurahua spewing

We left Riobamba the next day and took a bus to Guaranda. Though BG and I were passed out for most of the ride I did get to see some views of Chimborazo, though the summit was covered in clouds.

Guaranda was small and charming, and I was feeling enough better that we I enjoyed the little walk around the town. Near our hotel were the Parque Bolivar and the cathedral, as well as some nicely refurbished colonial buildings. Our main reason for going to Guaranda was as a jumping-off point for a visit to Salinas de Guaranda – home to cheese, chocolate, and salami. Salinas was very charming, and we got to try all kinds of goodies (including some fabulous soy-flour cookies), and buy some for our continued travels. We also gave in and bought some fabulous sheep and alpalca wool sweaters (which we promptly sent home with my parents, and look forward to wearing in about 8 months time).

From Salinas we headed back to Guaranda and caught a bus going to Ambato, transfer point for our final destination of Baños. The road to Ambato goes over 12,000 feet in some points, and you could feel how thin the oxygen was. Since I have a tendency to fall asleep in any moving vehicle, I can’t say for sure, but I think I passed out from oxygen deprivation.

We switched buses in Ambato and made it to Baños around 7pm. The hotel we stayed in, La Casa Verde, was fantastic! It’s outside of downtown Baños (which was perfect for us-less noise), but still just a short taxi ride away from everything. It’s right along the river too, so there are stunning views. It’s run by an Aussie/NZ couple with a little boy just a month older than BG. They’ve set it up to be eco-friendly, and actually do more than lip service to the concept. The rooms are big, bright, and airy, and the water pressure in the showers is amazing. The breakfasts that they provide are huge, with fresh fruit, homemade yogurt, and fresh baked bread (made by the owners), among other things. I haven’t plugged a business like this on here before, but seriously, if you go to Baños, stay with these guy!

We spent a good portion of our time in Baños just chilling out in the hotel. After all our bus travels I think we needed it. We finally got geared up to go into the town around lunchtime on our first day. We ate at an amazing restaurant, the Swiss Bistro, where I had steak tenderloin in a mustard sauce. Sooooo yummy! We wandered around the town and did the tourist thing, bought some stuff, and then picked up a few pizzas to take back to the hotel for dinner. The Italian restaurant where we got them was run by a Guayaquileño, Fernando, who ended up in Baños via Miami. He was able to talk to my family in English, and he and I chatted in Spanish. He paid me one of the biggest compliments when he told me my Spanish was so good he thought I was a Latina, and said that my coastal accent felt like home to him. We commiserated over the odd, mushy Spanish that many people in the area spoke (incomprehensible to me at times). He and his wife fussed over BG and loved her hair. Fernando just about melted when BG gave him the usual goodbye peck on the cheek. Good luck to him and his wife as they attempt to expand their family!

Our second day in Baños we headed east out of town to the Manto de la Novia waterfall. We took a cable car across the river, which was quite exciting, and then hiked a little backed down to the river and crossed on a suspension bridge. BG rode in the kid carrier on Steve’s back, and was passed out for most of the hike, but woke up in time for our accent of the cliff via a second cable car.

The Manto and it's cable car.

Steve and I holding BG in the swaying cable car

We hopped on another bus and traveled a few more km to Rio Verde and the Pailon del Diablo. That was quite the experience! After a nice little hike on a well maintained trail we got up close and personal with the waterfall. The owners of the property had constructed viewing balconies that got you within about 100ft of the roiling water under the falls. Steve and I left BG with her Nana and Thor and followed a path that scrambled over rocks and through a cave to get right behind the waterfall. We got soaked, but it was very cool!

Dennis (Thor) at the Pailon

Mom (Nana) and BG bonding during our trip to the falls.

Unfortunately that was it for our time in Baños. We caught a bus the next morning heading (eventually) to Guayaquil. We got in to our hotel in time for dinner, and then spent a relaxing night in. The next morning saw us on yet another bus (I’ve lost count at this point, really) to get us out on the coast and show my parents where we live. My mom had some real issues that first night, adjusting to the heat and humidity. They’ll take mountains and snow over beach and sun any day. Because of that we didn’t do a whole heck of a lot, but I did get to show them my site on Thursday. It was great being able to share that with them, and show them what I do, and I think they got a kick out of it too.

On Friday I took Mom to a friend’s shop where she picked up a few handmade crafts, and then we headed into Montañita for lunch and too see them off to Guayaquil. We almost ran into trouble, as the direct bus was entirely sold out for the day, but when one came in at 3pm there were a few open seats, so they were on their way. They got home on Saturday, with relatively little excitement.

Saying goodbye was hard, but the visit was so much fun. BG got some good quality time with her grandparents, and I got to see Mom and Dennis. In some ways I hadn’t realized how much I missed them until they were here, but it reminded me how much I enjoy spending time with them. Hopefully, when all is said and done, we can end up a little closer to home, but who knows how many years away that is!

New Year's Eve

We were back in the village for New Year’s Eve, and one of the families that have adopted us invited us to celebrate New Year’s Eve with them. The tradition in Ecuador is that each family builds a Viejo, a mannequin that represents the Old Year. Sometime these are personifications of actual people (someone the family has had bad dealings with), but mostly it’s just a general representation of the Old Year. Most are men, but there were also Bart Simpsons and even Sid, from Ice Age. At midnight the families drag their Viejos out into the street and set them on fire, burning away all the bad of the Old Year and bringing good luck in the New Year (at least that’s the hope; one friend remarked to me that they’d needed to burn more than one Viejo to bring them any luck).

Here’s the Viejo of our friends, before and after the burning. This was one of the more elaborate presentations that we saw in the village. Our friend dedicated it to his new son in-law and his first grandchild, which will be born in May.

It was quite a site, seeing spots of fire all up and down the road in the village. There were about two dozen in all, so not every house had one, but generally each extended family prepared a Viejo. The site of the burning bodies was a bit disturbing to us, and Baby Girl had a few restless nights afterwards, but I don’t know if that was connected. Many of the Viejos had little fireworks hidden inside them, and people were setting off bottle rockets. Each time one went off BG would point up into the sky and shout “BOOM”. I think that was the highlight of her night.