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The Last Ice Merchant of Chimborazo

The Last Ice Merchant of Chimborazo

This is an incredible documentary capturing a dying craft, an ice merchant who harvests ice from Mount Chimborazo.

Photoessay on Ecuador from the Washington Post

Photoessay on Ecuador from the Washington Post

Some great photos of Cotopaxi and other mountains in the Washington Post. Did any of you climb it during your time there? I did with my good friend Mark Thurber and RPCV Edward Marshall. We camped on the glacier, set out for the summit in the middle of the night, crossed crevasses that were straddled by ladders. I was ill-equipped for the summit with a mag-lite taped to my hat, but we made it. I’ll scan some photos for our next newsletter. In the meantime, enjoy some of these.

 

Here Comes the Summer

Here Comes the Summer

Apologies for the radio silence from Friends of Ecuador. Ben Bellows has moved from Kenya to Zambia where he works with Population International. I’ve been finishing up the end of the semester here in Austin at the University of Texas. Send us any interesting content if you have news about Ecuador, Peace Corps, or a combination thereof.

I recently caught up with RPCV Nate Brown from my group Omnibus 77. We served from 1997-1999 (in some cases like Nate’s a little longer). He reminded me that we’re now around 18 years since we served in Ecuador which is just crazy to think about. My cohort is now firmly middle-aged on the whole, most of us now in our 40s, settled down with families, kids, mortgages. I hope there is still some adventure out there and a sense of purpose.

I’m hearing some chatter on Facebook about our group trying to get a reunion together. Are any other Omnibus groups reuniting? Anyone making trips to Ecuador?

What do you miss most about your Peace Corps experience?

Two Videos on Ecuador – One to Make You Laugh and One to Make You Cry

Two Videos on Ecuador – One to Make You Laugh and One to Make You Cry

Here is a post from my other blog which includes some information for non-Ecuador experts.

From 1997 to 1999, I served in the Peace Corps in the Andean country of Ecuador. Ecuador is rich with contrasts. With the Galapagos, the Andes, and parts of the Amazon, the country possesses stunning natural beauty. The people have an incredible generosity of spirit, yet the country is riven by racial and regional differences. Until recently, high oil prices papered over some of these differences, but the president, Rafael Correa, is a left wing populist in the tradition of Hugo Chavez. He has taken to castigating his domestic on-line critics through television naming and shaming efforts that are unbecoming for a head of state. John Oliver has a wildly funny take-down of Correa’s pompous self-importance, which prompted a vigorous response from Correa (some calling it an “international incident”) and another round of humor from Oliver. The original video is hilarious and worth a watch (I’m not sure if embedding worked on this video so here is the link here though I think clicking on the screenshot below will work). Read More »

Ecuador tries to encourage its diaspora to return

Ecuador tries to encourage its diaspora to return

The Christian Science Monitor reports that Ecuador is trying to encourage its diaspora to return home:

There are almost 100,000 Ecuadoreans residing in Italy, and Spain and the United States are home to nearly 500,000 Ecuadoreans each. But pushed by the ongoing economic weakness in Europe and unemployment in the US, and pulled by booming social spending in Ecuador, a growing number of migrants are returning to their home country.

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For those considering retiring in Ecuador…

For those considering retiring in Ecuador…

Here is link to an article on where to find organic produce and health food in Ecuador.

The author writes: Read More »

NYTIMES travel story on Cuenca

NYTIMES travel story on Cuenca

Here is a travel story from the New York Times on the author’s drive down to Cuenca. The whole thing is a worth a read. Excerpts below:

Two and a half hours and still no sign of llamas. We should have been winding our way through lush forests and mountain lakes instead of the never-ending banana plantations we continued to see outside our rented four-wheel drive. It was time to turn our dying iPhone’s navigation system back on and confirm the inevitable. Somewhere between sprawling Guayaquil and the quaint cobblestone streets of Cuenca my husband and I had made a wrong turn. And now, on the second leg of our Ecuadorean road trip, with my mother consoling our hungry 4-year-old in the back seat, we had a decision to make: Do we turn back and take the well-trodden route through Cajas National Park we had originally planned to drive, or push onward, not knowing what the road conditions might be ahead, how long our journey would take or if our daughter would nap along the way?

On our nine-day trip in July we focused on three of these offerings — beaches, mountains and colonial charm. The plan was to head north along the Pacific coast, then head east into the Andean highlands for high-altitude trails before spending time with family in the beautiful colonial city of Cuenca, where my mother was born. (We ended up doing it all, but not in that order, given our detour.)

We started out on a Saturday heading westward from Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, and then north along the coastal highway promoted variously as La Ruta del Sol (Route of the Sun) or Spondylus Route, named for a spiny shell that was once used as currency by indigenous groups. The route is Ecuador’s equivalent of California’s Pacific Coast Highway except with speed bumps, stray dogs, donkeys and far fewer cars, extending almost the entire coastline from the Peruvian border to Esmeraldas in the north. Along the way it passes through fishing villages, resorts, tropical dry forest and deserted golden beaches.

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Driving in Ecuador is not for the faint of heart. While the roads we took were well maintained and the speed limit was often respected, plenty of drivers ignore some basic rules of the road — like slowing down and forming lines along blind, mountainous hairpin curves lined with signs that read “PELIGROSO!” (Dangerous!)

When stuck behind a slow-moving truck on such a stretch, it is not uncommon for the car behind you to attempt to pass. As that car speeds up, the driver in the vehicle behind it will often decide to pass both you and the other car. Then a third car will inevitably race ahead. Watching this maneuver, you will pray. If those prayers are answered, a tractor-trailer will not come barreling down the other side of the highway at that moment. If it does, you will be forced to slam on the brakes and allow those three passing cars to somehow fit into one lane in front of you lest you all fall off the cliff.

Then there are the unexpected encounters with animals. Among the many that sent us swerving and slamming on the brakes were stray dogs, horses, donkeys, a horned cow and the proverbial chicken crossing the road.

By the time we reached Cuenca, roughly 8,000 feet above sea level, we were ready to ditch the car. Thankfully, its historic center — a Unesco World Heritage site filled with terra-cotta-tile roofs, domed churches, plazas, tempting bakeries and cobblestone streets, all set above the grassy banks of the Tomebamba river — is a perfect place for strolling.

When we arrived around 4 p.m., most restaurants were closed for lunch and not yet open for dinner. So we hauled our starving child to Raymipampa, which serves uninspiring Ecuadorean fare in a superb location: facing Parque Abdón Calderón, the city’s central square.

After a satisfying meal of grilled trout, we climbed back into the car. The road climbed higher toward Cajas National Park. Pines and eucalyptus gave way to high grassland, scrubby bushes and gnarly trees clinging to a jagged mountain landscape dotted with lakes. Pulling through the gated park entrance my daughter suddenly gasped, “a llama!”

Standing regally on the side of the road, its fluffy gray head held high, the llama batted its long eyelashes at us. Wild llamas, reintroduced to the park in the 1980s, are perfectly suited to the area’s fickle weather. We had been warned to dress in layers and were glad we had bundled up with wool hats and scarves when we stepped onto a hiking trail off the main road.

Cajas, which spans about 110 square miles and ranges in altitude between 9,500 and 14,400 feet, is roughly twice the elevation of Denver. We huffed and puffed up a gentle slope alongside a glassy lake. Signs offered not-so gentle reminders to “walk slowly” to avoid altitude sickness and avoid long treks “if you suffer of hear problems.” The ground was a spongy carpet of succulent plants. Gnarly quinoa trees, or Polylepis, also known as paper trees for their flaky bark, were entwined in tangled groves.

In the cold, quiet wilderness of the Andean páramo the heat and golden sands of the Ecuadorean coast seemed a million miles away. But here we were at the end of our trip, winking at llamas high in the Andes. To think that only days before, we had been waving to humpback whales.

 

Ecuador plays valiantly but leaves World Cup after the first round

Ecuador plays valiantly but leaves World Cup after the first round

Ecuador opened up their group stage with a heartbreaking loss to Switzerland who broke a 1-1 tie in the waning minutes of the game to win the game. Ecuador rebounded in their second game to defeat Honduras. However, the team was held to a scoreless draw in their third game against group winner France, after going down to ten men when team leader Antonio Valencia was given a red card, somewhat unfairly, for a reckless challenge. Of the 7 South American teams playing the World Cup, Ecuador was the only one not to make it to the round of 16, but they showed flashes of excellent play and were just a little bit unlucky (on top of the horrible luck in qualifying play when their top scorer died of a heart attack during a game).

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Ecuador gets ready for the World Cup, coming up in June

Ecuador gets ready for the World Cup, coming up in June

Ecuador is getting ready to play in the World Cup and players are highly motivated after star player Christian Benitez died suddenly last year from a heart attack. It will have to rely on the prowess of Luis Antonio Valencia who plays for Manchester United (pictured above). Read More »

A referendum on oil drilling in Yasuni?

A referendum on oil drilling in Yasuni?

Activists have been collecting signatures to try to force a referendum on drilling in Yasuni National Park. In excess of 700,000 signatures were collected, more than what was required, but the process for validating the signatures is now mired in controversy, according to a special report to Mongabay, a pro-conservation website.

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