Archive for February, 2011

Ecuador: last day

Updated flight schedule:  We just got word of the change yesterday.  This is another pre-scheduled blog entry, updated in Quito…

We’re scheduled to leave Ecuador today (leave Quito 12:30 AM, lv Atlanta 7:25 AM, lv Detroit (NOT La Guardia) 9:30 AM and arrive Bangor on Delta flight 6017 at 12:16  PM Saturday (NOT 2:41).  If you’re picking somebody up, bring a warm jacket and don’t offer to take them out for fried chicken. 

They’ll tell you about chicken and rice when they see you. 

We haven’t flown across Ecuador lately.  Since we’ve been working in the northern or central part of the country we fly into Quito and then go by bus.  But when we used to work in the south of the country, instead of a 12 to 14 hour bus ride (oh, but the mountains are spectacular by bus) we’d fly for 45 minutes to the Loja airport.

Sometimes by local airline, sometimes in an Army C-130 cargo plane (Sara, the director in those days, had connections with higher-ups).  A girl would pass out earplugs at the door and we’d strap ourselves into the cargo nets. 

We have NEVER flown in a bi-plane.     

Cartoon by Rick H.  He’s also the who thinks the plane is cool.

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Ecuador: fine art

I love the paintings of Oswaldo Guayasamín, and if you’re ever in Quito make a point to visit his home, now a museum dedicated to him.

Like images of Che Guevara, many of Guayasamín’s paintings show up on T-shirts and knock-off tourist paintings.  He’s more or less an Ecuadorian Picasso, and I also love Picasso.  Your tastes may differ.

I’ll include a few of his paintings in addition to this self-portrait, so you’ll know what we’re seeing around us.  And you don’t even have to like them.











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Ecuador: they feed us cuy

[leftover cuy from previous years.  pre-recorded blogpost.]

They are a delicacy.  The Incas ate cuy (pronounced kwee because that’s what they sound like  before you kill ’em and eat ’em).  kwee kwee kwee kwee 

Poor little things. 

The poor little things are pretty tasty though.  Something like chicken.  Serve on a bed of white rice with ají sauce and tomatoes.  Don’t eat the lettuce. 

It’s not really a tourist thing because even in a lot of out-of-the-way villages you’ll see signs that read, Aquí Se Venden Cuyes (Guinea Pigs Sold Here).

Guinea Pigs…  Yes… They do taste like chicken.  And the locals feed them to us to be nice, just as we do with lobsters when midwestern relatives visit the island (What?  You’ve never seen the ocean?  Have a lobster, then). 


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Ecuador: plenty of fruit

Fresh fruit juices every morning—pineapple, orange, mango, mora, papaya, tree tomato.  And fruits we have never seen before and can’t pronounce.  Here is a tray of them, labeled, that the kitchen staff put together for us a few years ago.  Click once or twice to enlarge.

[This blogpost has been previously scheduled to provide juice for this occasion.]

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Ecuador: Presidents’ Day

They do have a president here, but I forget his name, and that’s probably a good sign.  Nothing controversial.  He’s a leftist they say, friendly with Evo Morales of Bolivia and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.  Funny how I remember their names, though.

The government here can be described as “a stable, corrupt democracy”.  “Oh, it’s like ours!” you say.  Well, maybe with a South American accent. 

During the first ten years I had come to Ecuador there were ten presidents in succession (Three of them during the first week I was here, and I swear I had nothing to do with that).  But the politics never affect our medical mission, except when the Indigenous go on strike and blockade certain roads.  We simply go on different roads or re-schedule a clinic for a different day.  So far so good.     

Rafael Correa.  Yeah, that’s his name.  He don’t bother us none. 

The largest political presence in Ecuador, except for the flag, is the image and likeness of Ernesto “Che” Guevara.  In fact, his presence is probably second only to images of the Virgin Mary or Christ on the cross. 

He’s a legend all over Latin America and his picture or drawing shows up on walls, buses, T-shirts, tourist paintings, postcards (got one on my fridge); and even the right-wing governments don’t get too worried these days.  Che was shot by the Bolivian government in 1967 after encouraging a revolution there.   I think the CIA had something to do with it.

Che was born in Argentina, became a medical doctor by training, yet abandoned that for politics.  He aided Fidel Castro in the Cuban revolution and became part of Cuba’s government, doing his best to frustrate the United States.  Til he got shot. 

Enough politics.  Happy Presidents’ Day!

(Edit while here in Ecuador:   I haven´t seen very many images of Che this year for some reason, but on the first day when we were welcomed by the director of the San Miguel hospital in his office, there was—I swear—a portrait of Che, like the one at right, over the director´s desk.  And in another clinic there was a portrait of Fidel Castro.) 

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Ecuador: Churches

[Pre-recorded for broadcast at this time.  Just like PBS]

On Sundays, those who wish may attend a church, whether católica or evangélica, or we’ll hold a service of our own at the hotel (we kinda take over places, whether hospitals or hotels.  Or schools to hold clinic). 

Often the pastor of a local church will have been working with us during the week, or providing transportation, or his church members making lunches, and we’ll have got to know some of them pretty well.  They become our patients, and we their parishoners-for-a-day.

I’m sorry I don’t have pictures of iglesias evangélicas (Protestant churches) except on slide film.  Many of these are small, often backyard or in the pastor’s house; or perhaps a rented storefront building—and not photogenic.  In farm villages, an iglesia evangélica may be a plain wood or concrete building with no more than a sign above the door, or a cross, to indicate what it is. 

The iglesias católicas, on the other hand, are often very beautiful and much older.  Even a small town may have a gorgeous building, almost always opposite the town square.  And town squares can resemble the Garden of Eden, as in the first photo from the village of Guano.



La Iglesia de San Francisco, Quito, begun construction ca. 1550

View of the old city of Quito from la Iglesia de San Francisco


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Ecuador: weekend shopping

[pre-recorded blog post yet again…]

After five days of hard work in a strange land we  try to relax.  If we’re up in the north of the country we take a day trip to Otavalo, the site of an Indigenous market.  That is, on Saturdays Otavalo IS an Indigenous market.  They close off the downtown and set up shop everywhere.  And we buy stuff.   Not very relaxing.  

Part of our fundraising comes from the sale of Ecuadorian handcrafts like sweaters, handbags, scarves, hammocks and more.  Everything is colorful and the styles change over the years. 

Here are some photos of previous years in Otavalo.  I don’t think we’ll get there this year, but there are other opportunities.

There's a baby in here somewhere.


Dr. Charlie bargaining for tablecloths

A sale has been made. Packing into the medical bags.


Leaving Otavalo. These girls come aboard the buses, sing in Quichua, and try to make one last sale (or at least tips for singing).

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