Our New Year started
with a bang - literally. Glenn was watching the Fiesta
Bowl when - KABOOM! - the new stove exploded and he
heard screaming. Marilyn and Isabel were preparing a
cake to bake. Marilyn had turned the gas on but
forgotten to push the button to ignite it. When she
realized her error after about 5 minutes, she tried to
explain it to Isabel, but Isabel didn’t really
understand what Marilyn was telling her and told
Marilyn to go ahead and light it. Marilyn didn’t say,
“No,” figuring Isabel had more experience with gas
When the oven was lit with the push-button electronic
starter, the gas exploded. Glenn felt it at the other
end of the house. The stove moved away from the wall
about three feet, though that was partly because it
was on wheels.
There was a pot of boiling water on top of the stove,
and that was flung onto Isabel. Marilyn and Isabel
were in front of the stove at the time, but the pot
happened to be directly in front of Isabel. The
boiling water was flung onto Isabel’s middle section,
dripping down one leg and onto a foot. The screaming
was Isabel experiencing the pain of that water. Isabel
got into the shower immediately, but still ended up
with first- and second-degree burns. Marilyn took her
to the hospital, along with Yolanda and Elvis
(Isabel’s oldest son), who had happened to come home
from work in Quito that afternoon. A hospital doctor
peeled off the skin that had blistered and gave her
some pain medication (in that order) while Marilyn
held her hand to help her relax. For Isabel, it was a
very painful procedure. Needless to say, she didn't
sleep much during the night.
Fortunately, Yolanda and Carrollito were visiting at
the time and were able to help a great deal.
Carrollito cleaned up while the others were at the
hospital and made certain everything was still
Marilyn told Glenn later that she had thought about
opening the oven door to let the gas escape, but
hadn’t thought about turning the burner off first. If
she had done that, there could have been a flash fire,
resulting in much more serious injury and damage.
Glenn only realized this after he had time to think.
If he had been in the kitchen and understood what was
happening, he’s not sure that he would have thought
fast enough to help.
Martes, 3 de enero, 2012
Isabel was able to eat breakfast with us in the
morning, though she was in a lot of pain. Yolanda (a
sister) and Lorena (a niece) came over while we were
eating and had breakfast with us.
Marilyn went to teach her classes, and Yolanda,
Lorena, and Elvis took Isabel back to the hospital to
have some more skin peeled off. The hospital personnel
told Isabel that she'd have to do that each day for 10
days. We were pretty glum around the house that day.
Neither Marilyn nor Glenn were impressed with the
(lack of) pain management at the hospital.
Marilyn came home early because, upon finding no one
at the Caluquí pre-school, she learned that
they were off all week and hadn’t bothered to inform
her. She decided not to go to the other pre-schools,
preferring to come back here and help Isabel. (It
turned out that they didn’t have classes either.)
When Yolanda came over that morning, she had a baby
bird in her hand that she had found. She left it on
the kitchen table when she went to the hospital with
Isabel. Later, Victoria was sitting at the table and
saw it. Having poor eyesight, she thought it was a
piece of dirt and reached to pick it up. It squirted
out of her hand and fell on the floor. Glenn later had
to back away from his desk in the office for some
reason and saw Canela, our dog, chewing on something.
It was the baby bird! He shouted at Canela and called
Marilyn, but it was too late. At lunch, someone asked
about the bird. Glenn had to tell everyone that Canela
had eaten it. That elicited a group groan.
When Isabel got back from the hospital, Glenn got her
to laugh a little. When she asked, “¿Como
estás?” he replied, “Mejor de Usted.”
(Isabel: “How are you?” Glenn: “Better than you.”)
Cesar y Luz (a brother and his wife) came to visit
Isabel about 5:00 p.m. In fact, throughout the ordeal,
there was a ton of family support.
Miércoles, 4 de enero, 2012
Oliva came over in the morning. She didn’t know about
Isabel’s burns. Patricia and Yolanda came over a
little later. Yolanda came to cook and generally
provide support for Isabel. (Brayan was not fond of
americano cooking unless she was making
pancakes, coffee cake, or a desert.) Patricia came to
provide support and help take Isabel to the hospital.
Yolanda, Oliva, and Patricia are all sisters of
Marilyn and Patricia took Isabel to the hospital at
about 1:00 p.m. for her treatment. The hospital
doctors suggested Isabel see a burn specialist in
Ibarra, primarily to make sure she was receiving the
proper treatment. They also said she may need plastic
surgery. Since none of the burns were visible with
clothes on, Isabel said she probably wouldn’t bother
with that. The hospital told her to come back later
for a prescription to see the specialist in Ibarra the
We ate lunch after that. Then, they all took Victoria
to get an X-ray of the arm she broke about a month
ago, and to see the doctor after the X-ray. He told
her that the cast would come off in three weeks.
Victoria was disappointed because she was expecting to
get the cast off that day.
They went to the hospital to get the prescription for
the specialist after taking Victoria to her doctor’s
appointment. They were told to get into line, but the
window closed for the day before they made their way
to the head of the line. They would have to go back
early the next morning.
Jueves, 5 de enero, 2012
Thursday was a good example of how public healthcare
works in Ecuador. At 6:00 a.m., Yolanda got to the
hospital to wait in line to get an appointment to see
a doctor so Isabel could get the papers she needed to
transfer to the doctor in Ibarra. Marilyn and Isabel
arrived at 8:00 a.m. to find out that Yolanda needed a
copy of our light bill that showed we were current on
our payments. (Why the electricity bill? We guess to
prove that we lived in Otavalo so Isabel could get
services at the hospital.) Marilyn drove home to get
that, while Yolanda went back to the end of the line.
About an hour later, she was first in line again, only
to find out that she was in the wrong line. (It wasn’t
as it they had signs saying which line was for what.
In fact, it was the same line they had been told to
get into the day before.) Yolanda moved to the correct
line and waited another 45 minutes. By this time, it
was about 11:00 a.m.
Yolanda got the papers she needed for Isabel to see an
internist and they all moved to another part of the
hospital to wait some more in order to get Isabel's
blood pressure, temperature, and weight taken. That
didn't take too long. Then they waited some more to
see the doctor. After about 10 minutes, it was
Isabel’s turn to go in to talk to him about being
served at the special burn unit in Ibarra. Before he
had the paperwork filled out to change hospitals, he
was called into surgery to treat a child. He told them
to wait and that he'd be back in an hour.
They decided to drive home to wait (it was only about
5 minutes away). Marilyn started working on lunch so
it wouldn't take too long when Brayan returned from
school about 1:45 p.m. They returned to the hospital
and finally got the papers to make the transfer. The
doctor suggested they arrive very early on Friday
morning at the hospital in Ibarra. They then moved
down the hall for Isabel’s curación, a process in which
a nurse removed dead skin from Isabel and re-bandaged
her wounds. After around 10 minutes or so, the nurse
appeared and they found out that Marilyn needed to
walk over to the pharmacy to get some more antibiotic
cream and antibiotic gauze. The treatments may have
been free, but Isabel had the responsibility of
purchasing her own medications and supplies.
Marilyn walked a half block to the closest pharmacy.
They had the cream, but not the gauze. Marilyn walked
another block to the next closest pharmacy. They
didn't have the gauze either. Marilyn walked 3 more
blocks to the next closest pharmacy. No gauze. But the
astute pharmacist looked up the name of the medicine
that Isabel had written for Marilyn (because Isabel
knew Marilyn’s memory of the strange word might not
last until Marilyn got the item), only to find out
that it didn't exist. She asked Marilyn what it was
for and Marilyn told her quemada (burns). She thought a few
seconds and went and got the gauze from the back.
Isabel had written down the wrong name.
The patient in front of Isabel was also waiting for
his friend to return with the same gauze. So they gave
the nurse some of what Marilyn had just bought to help
speed things along. The man was treated and Isabel
began her treatment around 12:30 p.m. It took an hour
and a half to change out her bandages, clean her
wounds, apply antibiotic cream, cover the wounds with
antibiotic gauze, and then tape down another type of
They got home around 2:10 p.m. Marilyn quickly
finished making lunch. While we were eating, Marilyn
asked Isabel what time she wanted to get to Ibarra the
next day. Isabel immediately called a relative who
worked in the hospital at Ibarra to ask what time he
thought she should get there. He said there were no
open appointments, but he'd call back in 10 minutes.
He called back and told her she had an appointment for
Saturday at 8:00 a.m.
The bandage changing was to prevent infection, which
burn patients are at risk for. It was pretty painful.
In the evening, Marilyn looked up some information
about burns. She found that there was a Rule of Nines
that was used to estimate the percent of the body that
got burned. The chest accounted for 18%. Isabel was
only burned on one side and it wasn't the whole chest,
just spots (although a couple were pretty big).
Marilyn estimated that she probably was burned on 4-5%
of her body. That was the second-degree burns. She
also had some first-degree burns, which were healing
up nicely and not bothering her at all (or causing any
When she got home, Isabel was in a lot of pain, more
so, it seemed, than the day before.
Viernes, 6 de enero, 2012
Isabel was feeling much better in the morning. We were
glad to see that after yesterday afternoon, when she
hurt so badly.
When she came back from her treatment at the hospital
she felt much better than she had the day before. On
Thursday she had had a different nurse than the one
who had helped her on Wednesday. Therefore, Marilyn
and Isabel had made sure to get to the hospital before
the nurse Isabel had had on Wednesday went off duty.
We received two emails from different staff at Global
Ministries. They were very supportive, offering to pay
any medical expenses. Thus far, because of the free
hospital care and the relatively low cost of medicines
and medical supplies, we hadn’t had any problem
covering the costs, and didn’t expect any problems.
Galo, Isabel’s half-brother and the person whom Elvis
works for, came from Quito to visit Isabel this
afternoon. Galo had never been to visit Isabel before.
We were impressed with the way the entire family
Sábado, 7 de enero, 2012
We were up early so Marilyn could get Isabel to her
doctor’s appointment at the hospital in Ibarra by 8:00
a.m. The specialist told Isabel that she only had to
have her curación
twice a week instead of each day. She liked that,
because it really hurt when they peeled that skin off.
We thought it may hurt more after three or four days,
when the skin might adhere more to the bandages. We
also worried about infection if she had it cleaned
that seldom, since she couldn’t clean underneath the
A Few Days Later…
There was no need to worry about Isabel hurting more
or maybe getting an infection. Those things didn’t
happen. After about two weeks, she was pretty much
back to normal. We made her rest as much as we could,
but she wanted to get back to work as soon as
possible. We all learned some valuable lessons. One
was to respect household appliances more. Another was
to make certain we understood each other before
proceeding – with anything.
After breakfast, we
headed for Volcán Cayambe. We had never
explored this particular area much. Running a little
late, by the time we got to Luz and Cesar’s restaurant
to pick up Maria Augusta, she was crying. She thought
we had forgotten her. When she got into Molly we
assured her that we could never forget her. She’s just
too sweet (though we didn’t tell her that part).
We didn’t go the way to Volcán Cayambe that
Marilyn and I had expected to go, which is marked by a
large sign on the Pan American highway that says
“Reserva Ecológica Cayambe-Coca”. Instead,
Isabel led us through the town of Cayambe to a road
leading up the mountain that was none-too-well marked.
It led to what was called Nevado Cayambe. At the end
of the road, inside the National Park, was something
called Refugio, a stone building at or near the snow
line. That was our destination.
A feel for the road.
A field of maiz.
The road was mostly cobblestone, but had all kinds of
potholes, so we bounced a lot. I began to wonder if my
neck could take it. Isabel, Brayan, and Maria Augusta
hit the ceiling at least a couple of times each. The
dirt stretches of the road weren’t much better. They
often had huge ruts. But the scenery was beautiful,
especially on what turned out to be a beautiful day.
We went up and up on Volcán Cayambe, the third
tallest volcano in Ecuador, until the road became
impossible for our car Molly. We parked the car at
about 13,000 ft. (estimate). Then those who could do
so hiked up to about 14,500 ft. to see the Refugio,
the end of the road. Victoria and I stayed in the car
and looked at the birds and magnificent vistas.
Actually, Victoria started hiking with the rest, but
soon had to give it up and come sit with me because of
the distance and altitude.
Our parking spot (the deep holes and ruts stopped us).
While waiting, I saw several people walk or ride back
down the road in heavy-duty 4x4s. Many looked like
they were dressed for hiking in the snow and were with
guides. I’m sure they had hiked to the top of the
After the cars that were parked near us had left, I
saw a dog coming down the mountain road. Dogs are
everywhere in Ecuador. As it got closer, I notice that
it had a really bushy tail and a wolf-like head. It
was smaller than what I would expect of a wolf,
however, so I figured it must be a dog or coyote. It
went around the back of our car, out of my sight.
Believe me, I kept a sharp lookout after that because
my window was down. I finally saw it go back up the
road and noticed that it was careful to stay to the
side, as if ready to head for cover at the first sign
of moving humans.
Refugio (click pic for more)
Meanwhile, the hikers were having a great time. Only
Isabel had been on Cayambe before, and that was so
long ago that she didn’t remember much. They found a
patch of snow not too far from the Refugio. Neither
Brayan nor Maria Augusta had ever been in snow. Of
course, they had a snowball fight.
When they came back, I asked if there were dogs at the
Refugio, still thinking about what I had seen. Marilyn
said, “No.” Since there didn’t appear to be any other
human habitation nearby, I changed my mind and decided
I must have seen a coyote, or possibly even a wolf. I
did some research later and learned that the National
Park we were in is supposed to have wolves, and that
some wolves are as small as 40 pounds. So, maybe…
Heading down the mountain, we stopped at a nice
looking flat to eat our picnic lunch. The flat was not
only attractive to us. Some horses were grazing there,
too. That was fine with us. Share and share alike,
right? Pretty soon some cows came into view. As they
moved closer, we discerned that one was a bull. They
came closer. Isabel and the children started to get
nervous. The bull was not thinking of giving the car a
wide berth, as the horses had done. He kept walking
directly towards us. He won that game of chicken. When
he stopped thirty or forty feet away and stared at us
intently, Marilyn put Molly into gear and we sidled on
down the road a bit until we felt comfortable enough
to finish eating.
New Year's Effigies
(click pic for more)
We saw a lot of effigies on the way back. People
construct them so they can burn them at midnight on
New Year's Eve. They represent the bad things that
have happened to people throughout the year. They also
represent the energy associated with those events. By
burning the effigies, the air is cleared for the New
Year (unless you're standing too close to the smoke).
The road was blocked at Juan Montalvo (a suburb of the
town of Cayambe) so people could play volleyball.
(This was New Year’s Eve, after all.) So we turned
around and picked a cross street. Isabel used to live
in Cayambe, so we were pretty sure we’d find our way
with no problem. We were stopped before we had gotten
very far. Some boys held a rope across the street to
block our passage while a young man in a woman’s dress
and a mask did a little dance, then asked for some
money before we passed on. Marilyn gave him 50 cents
and we were on our way. We had seen this custom last
year when we were walking around Otavalo on New Year’s
So, we’ve added another excursion to our repertoire
for when people come to visit. Too bad we didn’t find
it until after Roberta and Tom left because the whole
trip was truly gorgeous and fun.
I met Roberta long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far
away. Well, sometimes it feels that way to
me. Actually, I met her when I received an award
and spoke a few words at a convention in San
Francisco. She introduced herself to my mother and
myself after my little speech. We exchanged contact
information. The next year I went to visit Tom and
Roberta in Tacoma for a few days on my vacation. When
they took me up on Mt. Rainier our friendship was
sealed. I’m a sucker for mountains. Marilyn and I have
visited them once – maybe twice – I can’t remember.
Now they were coming to Ecuador for a vacation and
spending several days with us. We were excited.
I went with Marilyn to her Professores y Parientes (Teachers
and Parents) class at 3:00 p.m. and waited in the car. I
watched dogs scrounging for food and a few people
walking around. Gonzales Suarez is not nearly as
bustling or prosperous as Otavalo. At first, Marilyn
gave up at 3:05 p.m. because no students had shown.
Before I could suggest she wait another 10 minutes,
one of her students came, so she taught the class.
Nine more showed up in short order.
Blanca and Luis
At 4:00 p.m., we headed for Quito to pick up Tom and
Roberta. Their plane was not scheduled to arrive until
11:09 p.m., so we hung out with our friends Blanca and
Luis. That’s always fun because they are both so
positive. They fixed a nice dinner for us, and we all
took naps before Marilyn and I had to leave for the
We had no problem getting to the airport and parking.
It was timed to coincide with their plane landing, so
we only waited about 50 minutes for them to clear
customs. It’s kind of fun waiting for people at the
Quito airport because it reminds us of when people
used to wait for loved ones with excitement and
anticipation at the gates of US airports. This waiting
was in the main lobby, but it had the same feeling.
People had flowers, balloons, signs - you name it.
There was no trouble spotting them because I had asked
them to send a picture beforehand. Even though we had
known them for a long time (over 30 years for me), we
hadn’t seen each other in quite a few years. Tom and
Roberta had huge smiles. It was obvious that they were
excited to be on vacation in Ecuador. We got to the
Ambassador Hotel a little after 12:30 a.m., talking
excitedly in the car, and went straight to bed.
Martes, 20 de diciembre, 2011
The Ambassador Hotel’s dining room was closed, so we
ate breakfast next door. Next, we went looking for
the offices of Siona Lodge, which was the place
where Tom and Roberta wanted to have their jungle
adventure. Roberta and Tom didn’t feel comfortable
wiring the money, so decided to use a credit card
when they got here, even though it meant running the
risk of there being no vacancy when they wanted to
go. They didn’t bring the address, so we used the
address I had gotten from the Internet. There was a
different lodge (their second choice) at the address
I had. After looking around and not finding their
first choice, they decided to talk to their second
choice. Roberta did all of the negotiating and Tom
hung around with me outside. Just when it seemed
they were about to close the deal, they found the
dates they needed were not available. Back to square
I had my computer and Internet modem with me, so
Roberta and Marilyn got on the Web and found another
address a couple of blocks away. On our way over
there, we ran into Bill Grochowski, who owns
Confederate Books, a bookstore that sells used books
in English in Quito. That was a pleasant surprise.
Marilyn and I had met him while he and his family
were vacationing at the Hacienda Ally Micuy (where
we lived for eleven months) in Otavalo. Maybe
Quito’s not so big after all.
We didn’t find the Siona Lodge offices, but we found
a tour operator for Siona Lodge. It wasn’t available
(the chance they had taken), so Roberta set about
negotiating another lodge.
It took quite a bit of time to find a suitable
alternative, and the prices were higher than those
Roberta had seen on the Internet, but the deed was
eventually done. They decided that they were on
vacation and could afford to spend the extra money.
A view from the Panecillo
We then went to the Panecillo. I got us lost on the
way by trying not to go way out to the route that we
know. In some ways, it was a nice detour.
(Naturally, I would say that, since I’m the one who
got us lost!) We got down to a river at one point
and the houses were interesting. Eventually, we
found our way to the Panecillo. After all, the hill
on which it stands was visible during most of our
drive. It's just that Quito often has no direct
routes from point A to point B, and many streets
that turn out to be one way, the wrong way. Tom read
that the Panecillo was erected in 1976, which
surprised all of us. We thought it was much older.
After that, we went to the National Cathedral. We
had tried to go to Iglesia Jesús de Compania,
but couldn’t find any parking nearby. (This time I
didn’t get us lost.) Marilyn knew of an accessible
entrance on the south side that I hadn’t known
about. Though we had to go up a really steep hill to
get there, we were all glad that Marilyn had known
about it. However, it only led to the tower climb,
so I still haven’t gotten to see the inside of the
National Cathedral in person.
No, these are not
While Marilyn, Roberta, and Tom did the climb, I
waited outside on a beautiful, partly cloudy day and
drank a cup of expensive (for here) hot chocolate.
But it was good, being laced with cinnamon.
Unfortunately, as sometimes happens, I couldn’t stop
sucking through my straw fast enough one time and
burned the roof of my mouth. It hurt for five days.
Still, it wasn’t as bad as it would have been if it
had been my tongue. We were going to go around to
the other end of the Cathedral to go inside but ran
out of time because I was anxious for Tom and
Roberta to experience the drive to Otavalo in the
The weather cooperated on our drive and we saw some
great mountain scenery. We didn’t go to the family novena after we
got home because we were all bushed. However,
Marilyn did take Victoria, Isabel, and Brayan over
before we ate. Roberta went with her and met some of
the extended family.
Miércoles, 21 de diciembre, 2011
We went to an ATM after breakfast, before doing
anything else. Tom and Roberta had expected to use
a credit card for their jungle excursion, and that
turned out to not be possible because cash is king
in Ecuador, even at most stores in the big cities.
Thus, they used almost all of the cash they had
brought with them on making those arrangements. I
insisted on going this morning because, with the
holidays, there was no telling when (or how long)
the banks would be closed, or when the ATMs might
run out of money.
After the ATM stop, we took them to see San Miguel Arcangel,
one of our favorite overlooks of Ibarra.
Originally, the plan had been to take them up to Laguna Mojanda
on Fuya Fuya. However, we could all see how socked
in with clouds and fog it was up there, and I came
up with alternate plans, convincing Marilyn to
save Fuya Fuya for a better day and not try to
Roberta and Tom had read about the wood carving at
San Antonio de
Ibarra, so we stopped there for a few
minutes on the way to Ibarra. Victoria and I
stayed in the car. Tom didn’t have much interest
in shopping, so he walked around the square. But
Roberta, Marilyn, Isabel, and Brayan went into a
few of the shops.
Normally, after messing around San Miguel Arcangel
for a bit, we take the back road down to Lago Yahuarcocha.
But I had always wondered about La Estelita,
a restaurant literally up the road
which advertised the best view of Ibarra. Tom and
Roberta wondered about it, too, and suggested we
check it out. When Marilyn told me what we were
doing (because I had been in the car when the
decision was made), my first reaction was to skip
it today because it was getting close to lunchtime
and we needed to get down to Lago Yauharcocha
if we were going to eat tilapia. But, happily, I
was overruled and we ended up finding a jewel.
A view from La Estelita.
As we left San
Miguel Arcangel, a sign said that La Estelita
was three more kilometers. It seemed much more
than that, as we slowly wound our way up the
mountain on a cobblestone, sometimes dirt, road.
We found La
Estelita and decided to eat there. It’s
actually a very nice hosteria (hotel in the country,
according to Isabel) with a restaurant. Tom didn’t
want to eat there because the prices were pretty
high, and he didn’t want us to pay for it, but I
convinced him to split it.
The pool at La Estelita.
There were no other customers there when we
arrived, but a chef in white got busy as soon as
we decided to eat. The view from where we were
seated was spectacular. From high on the mountain
we overlooked the town of Ibarra, as well as the
western and northern flanks of Volcán
Imbabura. (Clouds obscured the top of the
mountain.) While waiting for the food, everyone
(except Victoria and myself) explored the
well-groomed grounds. They found a heated swimming
pool and rooms with views just as gorgeous as the
view from the restaurant. When we did eat, the
food was very good. So, we have now found another
attraction to which to take our guests.
Empty paila (pan)
when helado has been made.
After lunch, we drove back down to San Miguel Arcangel
and this time we did take the back road down to Lago Yauharcocha.
We parked and walked around part of the lake,
stopping to watch someone practicing moto-cross on
the dirt track. We gave him a few cheers, but we
doubted that he heard us. Next, we had helados at
Rosalie Suarez, a traditional stop for our guests.
They are more of a sorbet than ice cream, and the
fresh fruit makes them really good. (Another
visitor we had last year has told us that the helado she
had in Mexico this year was not nearly as good.)
Roberta and Tom also got to see how it was made.
The water was not working when we returned home,
but came back on within an hour and a half. Just
before we got to the house, I noticed that the
fire hydrant around the corner was opened fully
and I wondered about vandalism. There were three
teens nearby and no firemen.
Some of the cousins.
was at our house. Roberta and Tom enjoyed meeting
all of the extended family, and they began
remembering names and family connections much
faster than we had when we first met the extended
family. Roberta and Tom are also Catholic, so they
felt comfortable at the novena.
Jueves, 22 de diciembre, 2011
Marilyn and Roberta
The Caluquí pre-school changed Marilyn’s
English class to 7:30 a.m. today because of a
field trip to a bank (or, that’s what we
understood). Despite the early hour, Tom and
Roberta went with Marilyn. Roberta teaches a
pre-school in Tacoma for children with
disabilities, so she was interested to see what
Marilyn’s classes were like. We had breakfast
after they came back. Then they went to
Marilyn’s other two pre-schools.
After lunch, we walked to the Mercado
with Roberta, Tom, and Brayan. As we started
out, I noticed that it was clear on Fuya Fuya
and suggested we take the opportunity to go up
there now because there might not be too many
chances to go while it was clear. But no one
really wanted to change plans.
At Plaza de
Ponchos, 9-year-old Brayan kept
dropping subtle and not-so-subtle hints that he
would like one of us to buy this or that for
him. Nobody bit, however. Pobre Brayan.
When we got home, all of them, plus Isabel,
hiked to Cascada de Peguche.
was held at Pilar and Galo’s tonight.
Jorgé Luis had a new iPad that he wowed
his cousins with. I drank some liquer and people
like Tocayo and Carollito laughed and winked at
me. I think they expected me to get drunk or
something. Sorry, guys, but those days are long
Viernes, 23 de diciembre, 2011
Intrepid hikers at Laguna Mojanda
On Fuya Fuya
It was a beautiful morning so, after
breakfast, we drove to Laguna Mojanda
high on the slopes of Fuya Fuya. We even saw
snow-covered Cayambe along the way. Victoria
and I stayed in the car, but the rest went
hiking for about an hour and a half, maybe two
On the way home, we decided to drive through
downtown Otavalo to give Roberta and Tom an
idea of where things were. Roberta and Tom
then walked downtown after lunch.
Decorations at Pilar
and Tocayo's home.
The last novena
was held at Tocayo and Pilar’s house. Pilar
had really gone all out in decorating her
house and it was very festive. She had gotten
some ideas from our decorations, but taken
them whole steps further. They had even named
some of the buildings for places significant
to family members in Otavalo.
Sábado, 24 de diciembre, 2011
(Please click photo
to see more.)
Marilyn, Roberta, and Tom went to the animal
market about 8:30 a.m. I didn’t go because it
rained heavily last night and I knew it
would be muddy. They told me that I couldn’t
have gotten around anyhow, except maybe on a
road that overlooked the market.
When they got back, we had pancakes. Yolanda
was here helping Isabel prepare the chicken
ceviche for tonight’s Christmas dinner, so
she ate breakfast with us and enjoyed the
pancakes that Marilyn, and then Tom, made.
Yolanda also paid me back for scaring her
the other night by startling me while I was
writing in the office before breakfast. I’ll
have to figure out how to escalate.
Women at Lago Cuicocha
Tom and Roberta at Lago Cuicocha
Tom took Brayan’s bicycle to a bike shop to
fix the tires. After that, he, Roberta,
Marilyn, and Isabel went hiking at Lago Cuicocha
on the southern slope of Volcán
Cotacachi. Meanwhile, Brayan went
over to Tocayo and Pilar’s to play video
games with Jorgé Luis. This was the
first time he was invited to do such a thing
with his teenage male cousins, so he was
We went to mass at the main cathedral
downtown. Tonight was the “Blessing of the bebés”.
The Catholics here keep a doll representing
Baby Jesus in their homes. Victoria has hers
as part of a shrine in her bedroom, except
during the Christmas holidays. At that time,
it is part of a nativity scene. Each
Christmas Eve (at least, since we’ve been
here), she takes it to mass at the cathedral
so it can be blessed by the priest with Holy
Luis and Blanca met us at the church. They
had just arrived from Quito to spend
Christmas Eve and part of Christmas Day with
us. We were honored that they accepted our
After mass, almost the entire family came to
our house for Christmas dinner. Fireworks
were set off as soon as we got home
(probably by Tocayo). Canela, our dog, was
pretty traumatized, and she was actually
quiet for a while, despite so many people
being in our home. Isabel, Luz, y Yolanda
worked hard in the kitchen, serving the
meal. Actually, Yolanda and Isabel worked
hard on the meal for most of the day. We had
pollo, red beans and rice (which
many had requested after having them at the
here), and pork chops. I had intended to buy
some beer but forgot, so all we had to drink
were soft drinks. Eggnog didn’t even cross
Just after returning home, however, we found
time to Skype with Roberta and Tom’s family
gathered in Los Angeles. Marisa, their
daughter, looked quite a bit different from
the three-month-old baby she was when I
visited Tom and Roberta 30 years ago. She’s
Back to the party: The music we had was
intended for a novena, not a fiesta.
Blanca told Marilyn and me that people were
saying the music was sad (even though it was
Christmas music). Tocayo came to the rescue
when he went upstairs and got Elvis’s sound
system and music. The fiesta
was certainly more lively after that. There
was a whole lot of dancing and laughing. I
got to dance with Marilyn, Luz, Blanca, and
Isabel before I pooped out.
Everyone left by midnight except Yolanda,
Carrollito, Luz, and Cesar, whom we wanted
to stay. Then we all opened our presents and
went to bed happy. If we didn’t dream of
sugarplums, it was only because we had even
more pleasant visions dancing in our heads.
Domingo, 25 de diciembre, 2011
Roberta, Tom, Blanca, and Luis didn’t care
about going to Alfredo’s mass this
morning, so we stayed home with them and
had a leisurely breakfast, with TILLAMOOK
SHARP CHEDDAR CHEESE IN THE OMELET. I had
been looking forward to Tom and Roberta
delivering that cheese for a long time.
The cheese here is mostly pretty bland.
Glenn and Papa
We all walked to the fiesta
being held after the mass. Alfredo has a
beer distributorship and sponsors this
mass and fiesta each year for his
employees and family. Many family members
have worked for him at one time or
another, and some still do. It was a
beautiful day. There was a brass band
playing when we arrived. There was free
beer – always a hit. Soon, a mariachi band
began to play. They sounded pretty out of
tune, but it was fun anyhow. Next, Papa
Noél made an appearance and passed
out a gift box to each employee’s family
and gave sweets to all the children. He
also posed for photos with all the
children. (I was one of the first in
line!) Elvis got home during the fiesta.
He hadn’t been able to leave Quito last
night because the busses weren’t running
by the time he finished work.
(lunch), we left so we could get Roberta,
Tom, Luis, and Blanca on a bus to Quito.
While Blanca and Tom walked to the bus
station to wait in line, Marilyn, Luis,
Roberta, and I took a taxi to the house to
get the luggage. Marilyn then drove
Roberta and Luis back to the bus station
while I stayed home.
A few days later, after having enjoyed
their jungle excursion and returned to
Tacoma, both Tom and Roberta wrote emails
of thanks. In their own styles, they each
said that their vacation, especially
staying with us, was one of the best
they’d ever had. The “guide service” was
great, they said, but the thing that
really made it special was being able to
experience a different culture more
intimately through interacting with our
Ecuadorian family. We had hoped that would
be the case.
going to go to church today, but Marilyn
and I got up very late. We told Isabel we
wouldn’t be able to go with her, Victoria,
and Brayan. So they didn’t go either.
Isabel did take Brayan to play soccer with
classmates in Los Pinos, a new development
on the edge of Otavalo. When we got around
to eating breakfast (at about noon),
Isabel and Victoria had waited to eat with
us. That was nice, but unnecessary. We
don’t want them to faint from hunger or
some such tragedy on our accounts. Still,
it’s pleasant to know that they like to do
as many things as possible with us.
At about 4:30 p.m., some of the extended
family came over to celebrate Luz’s
birthday. Luz is one of Isabel’s
sisters-in-law. Coffee cake had been
requested, so that’s what Marilyn and
Isabel made. Everyone really enjoyed it,
except for one of the children. He asked,
“Where’s the chocolate?”
When Marilyn said she’d give our last
guests a ride home around 8:15 p.m., I went
to the office to watch the Superbowl,
which had been recording since about 6:00
p.m. I didn’t really care if the New York
Giants or the New England Patriots won – I
just wanted to see one more good game
before next August. Just after I had
watched the kickoff, the power went out.
That meant I wouldn’t get to watch the
whole game. When the power came back on, I
decided not to watch the end of the game,
preferring to wait and see if there was a
rerun the next day, as is often the case
Now, one really weird thing is that the
power hasn’t gone out here for months,
something it did quite often when we first
moved into this house about a year ago.
The other weird thing is that the power
had gone out on the last Superbowl Sunday.
That time, it went out in the afternoon
and came back on just a few minutes after
the game had started. No harm, no foul. In
fact, we built a fire in the fireplace and
all sat around enjoying it and each
other’s company. Elvis called it a, “Momentito
de familia,” or family moment
(though both he and I raced to the office
when the lights blinked back on).
This time, however, the power failure
really put a crimp in my plans. We had
already shared family time together, so I
felt no guilt in retreating to my office
to watch the game. And, really, everyone
knows that it’s the unalienable right of
each U. S. Citizen, no matter where she or
he may be, to watch the Superbowl from
beginning to end, plus the zany
commercials, live (or recorded at the very
least). I’m sad to report that Ecuador, or
at least parts of Otavalo, has in place a
conspiracy to deny basic human rights to
U. S. Citizens. Yes, my faithful readers,
this dark plot is known as the Conspiracy
Against The Superbowl, or CATS.
Please send your donations, prayers, and
well wishes to dismantle the horrific CATS
and restore my human rights. Meow!!!
birthday is tomorrow, but today is Sunday,
the only day when many people in Ecuador
don’t have to work. So everyone here, plus
Cesar, Luz, and Maria Augusta took me on a
trip for my birthday. We also had a great
picnic. Cesar and Luz brought two
daughters of one of their employees, so
there were 10 of us in Molly, our car – a
new record for us.
Time to eat!
The trip was up a road that I had wanted
to travel since I first saw it high on a
mountain overlooking Lago Yahuarcocha. We
had the picnic on the shoulder of the road
with a great view of the lake. (It was not
for those who don't like heights, as the
drop-off was really steep.) The trip and
picnic were a real team effort. Luz and
Isabel cooked the food, Marilyn baked me
the coconut cake I asked for and also
drove, and Cesar knew how to get there.
Some para-gliders came by just above our
heads while we were eating. There were two
people per parachute and it looked like
they were in very comfortable seats. I
watched them land down by the lake and it
was really gentle. So, guess who's
thinking about checking that out sometime?
It wouldn't be like George H. W. Bush, but
close. Marilyn says she may let me do
that. She refuses to let me try skydiving.
After the picnic, we all started for a
hike along the high road. I soon realized
that pushing me over the rocky road would
wear out everyone, so I decided to stop
and let everyone else go ahead. Besides, I
couldn’t enjoy the scenery while I was
being shaken to bits. (Cesar told us that
this had been the old highway to the city
of Tulcan, Ecuador on the Colombian border
before the Pan-American Highway had been
completed in this area.) Cesar decided to
stay with me. He and I didn’t talk very
much. We were each in our own worlds – I
drinking in the magnificent scenery and he
taking pictures, both close-ups of flowers
and insects, as well as of the grand
When the rest returned from an enjoyable
hike, I reasoned that, since we had had
birthday cake, it would be nice to have
ice cream, too. Therefore, we headed to
Rosalie Suarez in Ibarra for some helados.
On the way, people shouted to Marilyn, “¡Pare!
¡Pare!” (“Stop! Stop!“) Poor Brayan had
gotten sick and needed to empty his
stomach. He didn’t manage to get
completely out of the car before doing so.
Actually, he hadn’t been feeling well
before we left this morning but, of
course, he wanted to go anyway.
We stopped in front of a house in Ibarra
and the people living there were very,
very nice. They were outside and
immediately fetched some water when they
saw what the problem was. After Brayan and
the car were cleaned up, we decided that helados
today were not a good idea after all.
Somehow, the idea of turning 63 doesn’t
seem as scary with birthday gifts like
these. The trip and picnic were perfect
for me. I always like to explore the
mountains in Ecuador, especially when I
can get high enough to look almost
straight down. (Maybe I like that because
I’m always looking up at people from my