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Archive for February, 2013

This family comes from a long line of weavers in a town slightly north of Otavalo. Their grandparents were slaves on the land they now own. This family of nine (exclude me and Christian, a nephew) lives in a 3 room house built of adobe-style earth. The house is surrounded by pure beauty; fields full of corn, beans, quinoa, potatoes and gorgeous views of Andean mountain ranges and the valleys below.

We sat down to a special dinner of potato soup (a regional classic) along with cuy (another classic), corn on the cob & fresh cheese, This was our first cuy (guinea pig) of the trip, so it was an extra special day.

We shared stories and asked the kids questions about their interests and hobbies. Eventually, the discussion, all in spanish, focused on lifestyle differences.

In the end we each want some of what others have. This truth holds as well in our town as it does in Otavalo.

What did we want? The centuries-old commitment to family and community; blocks and blocks of small stores rather than many fewer mega stores; and, a stress free lifestyle. People in Ecuador are so kind!

What did they want? More stuff, more money to buy physical ‘comforts’. But they don’t understand the costs of their desires. And there’s no way to describe the costs.

As Latin America gains economic footing, i hope their economic growth is appropriately integrated with their centuries-old commitment to family and community.

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Heard on the Street

Under a typical North American motto when planting roots in Ecuador, “we’re enriching the local communities we develop”, Cotacachi (north of Oatavalo) appears to be an attractive nesting grounds for retirees from USA and Canada (AmCans). While we walked the streets, the following occurred:

First, we passed near a cafe where we heard Andean music. An American dressed in a traditional local ‘costume’ came out and waved us in. Seated around a group of Andean musicians was a flock of AmCans. The entire cafe was directed at AmCans from the english menu to the posted signs to the types of entertainment. Besides Andean music with English interludes of explanations related to costumes and songs, the cafe also offered week-end movies in English. Alone, this marketing to tourists wouldn’t be so bad, but there’s more.

As our walk around town continued we bumped in to an Australian couple we had met the day before in Oatavalo. The purpose of their visit to Cotacachi? They are looking for a property in town to convert to a 4 story affair with studios and suites for AmCan retirees in transition. They’re modeling their dream, their gold rush, after the AmCan rooting in San Miguel de Allende.

Finally, we overheard a conversation at our final cafe stop of the day (a great source for WiFi). A young South Dakotan man was going on about his father, a recent transplant to the area, who had created a greenhouse business. Greenhouses in Ecuador provide protection to 75% of the roses sold in the US on Valentines Day. The flower business in Ecuador employs over 75,000 folks. More Americans are creating businesses in Ecuador. Could be good, but can we be sensitive to their culture and perspective on business and how business should support families and life in Ecuador?

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Hike day

After a week in Quito’s city life and a week of spanish lessons, we were rewarded with a strenuous hike out of Otavalo and up (800 feet over 4 miles) to a condor (and other raptors) reserve. During this hike our bodies tasted the unique flavors of Ecuadorian weather; light rain, warm sun, cool cloudiness and wind.

After a couple hours of watching raptor trainers exercise hawks and eagles and a walk through the reserve filled with caged owls, hawks and eagles (many varieties) we headed down the cobbled stone road to find an ancient healing gum tree, El Lechero.

Looking down the hill we easily spotted ‘the tree’. We verified the correct route with a charming young girl washing clothes on a stone just off the road. The tree is absolutely inspiring; by it’s age, it’s weathered look, and it’s position on the hill. The tree is known for it’s healing powers. Our healing rituals were observed by young couples necking, an Otavalan father and son and a cadre of young dirt bike cyclists preparing to scream down the 800 foot over 4 mile ride down the mountain. I guess rituals under healing trees are given a little extra flavor when witnessed, though our witnesses were unaware of our healing.

The hike, the tree and the freedom in our lives all gave us their healing powers today. Our traveling life feels fine.20130225-091653.jpg

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OTAVALO SPANISH LESSONS

We have spanish classes daily for 4 hours and then study and practice our spanish, live, with Oatavalean folks in cafes, restaurants, in the plaza and in stores for another few hours. All the while watching these beautiful mountains off in the distance.

There’s something special about the Andes mountains; so green and lush and so high. The skies are gorgeous.

Can’t wait to do some hiking this week-end.

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DAY 2 IN QUITO

DAY 2 IN QUITO. ok, seriously. What’s not to like about Ecuador. Just for starters, here are a few of the foodie ‘good things’ highlights.

1. Best chocolate produced ‘in the world’
2. Coffee
3. Cheeses
4. Organic farms; fruit and veggies
5. Herb farms; teas and medicinals
6. Seafood

The biodiversity of the country is totally incredible. One hour from Quito in any direction and you’ll find a different environment full of a different version of richness and beauty.

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Day 9:Quito

After a mineral bath at Papallacta we took a walk that the spa. On the way we passed a very healthy organic farm.

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DAY 4. FRANNY REUNITES WITH SONIA
Franny has been talking about Sonia (with me and our daughters) for nearly 40 years. Sonia is a high school friend and an exchange student from Quito.

In all these years, they never spoke. . . until recently. Franny, with the help of another high school friend, found Sonia via the internet.

We spent the evening with Sonia; all in Spanish and all catching up.

I love the ways we all touch each other . . . . hugs around the world.

Sonia is a weaver and operates a company that works with indigenous weavers of Ecuador to bring their products to market.

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