We are in the US for this great holiday, visiting Doris, Marilyn's mother. For the past five years or so we've been able to stay in a guestroon at the independent/assisted living facility in which she lives. Those days appear to be over, however, as the facillity has recently changed their policies. No guestrooms are offered at present. C'est la vie!
Fortunately, on a visit about a year ago, one Connie Law-Marcom was curious about us and decided to introduce herself. She had heard that we were volunteering in Ecuador and wanted to hear more. One thing led to another and we stayed with her and husband Grant for a couple of nights the last time we visited and we all had a very good time together. When there was no room at the "inn", Connie and Grant graciously opened their home to us so we didn't have to stay miles and miles away at a regular hotel.
Halloween Decorations At Connie's House
Grant is off hunting with the guys right now, but we've been enjoying Connie mucho when we're not spending time with Doris. Her mother Della, who lives in the same facility as Doris, has an Hispanic heritage and her father had a Chinese heritage. She's been studying Spanish seriously for about two years now, so she and we have been speaking some Spanish while we're here. It's kind of funny. She claims that we're so good at the language, while we feel that we're still bumbling around in the dark.
Trick Or Treaters At Doris's Apartment
This afternoon there are children of the staff Trick or Treating throughout the three wings of the facility in which Doris lives. Any resident who wants to participate can just leave their apartment door open as a sign to the kids that they can Trick or Treat there. Doris is giving out juice instead of candy. This year it's a mixture of cranberry and apple juices. In the past, she often gave out cups of apple cider. She says she thinks she may have given out candy one year. She's 85, so she's been through at least 60 Halloweens on the giving end. Marilyn is helping to shepherd children through the three wings of Atria El Camino Gardens.
This morning Marilyn commented to me that this event is yet another example of how the staff help to "normalize" the lives of the residents. These people have been through many a Halloween. Instead of having to give up the shared, familiar experience simply because they're not living in their own houses anymore, the staff has found a way to keep that experience alive for those who desire it.
A Resident In Costume
This is the first Halloween we've celebrated since moving to Ecuador. It's a holiday not celebrated there. I heard last year that either the president or the government of Ecuador doesn't want the holiday to catch on because it would detract from other holidays whose dates are very close to October 31st. One is Día de Los Difuntos. It is much like Day of the Dead (Día de Los Muertos), but is celebrated on November 2nd instead of November 1st, and is not quite as festive. The other holiday celebrates the independence Cuenca, now the third largest and considered the most beautiful city in Ecuador.
I'm afraid officials may not be able to keep Halloween out of Ecuador forever, however. Television is now ubiquitous in Ecuador. Much of the programming is produced outside of Ecuador. A good percentage of that comes from the United States and is dubbed. Ecuadorean children know about Halloween and I've seen a few decorations being sold in stores. Can Trick or Treating be far behind?
I have mixed feelings about Halloween coming to Ecuador. On the one hand, I've always enjoyed the the children, the costumes, and the feeling of a night different from other nights throughout the year. On the other hand, I don't like the idea of another "homogenizing" holiday like Mother's Day, Father's Day, and Labor Day. In my opinion, holidays that celebrate specific events in a country's history are more meaningful. I could rant that Halloween has become too commercialized. But that would be disingenuous, because Ecuadorean holidays have also become heavily commercialized. Whatever happens, today I say,
I have always enjoyed your blog, since I first started reading it before I came to Ecuador. You guys have a special way of describing things that is just you....
Have a good time in the States, and we will see you later this month....
When we all go to Pusir!
Hi Glenn--hope to see you again while you are Stateside. Have seen Marilyn. Enjoy your blogs so much. Thanks.
When we went down to San Francisco in September so Marilyn could teach English at "Mis Pequeños Angelitos Del Victor Vaca" preschool for a week, we got there in three and a half hours. We thought it would take at least four hours. I noticed Ambato was only 35 kilometers more (or an hour because it's a congested stretch of highway), and I knew Baños was little more than an hour past Ambato. An adventure alert sounded in my head. "We could pick up Brayan after school one Friday at 1:00 pm and go to Baños for the weekend. We'd get there just before or just after dark," I said to Marilyn. "Let's do it," she said. We picked this weekend because the New Orleans Saints had a bye and I wouldn't have to miss watching a game. I do have my priorities, adventure or not.
When we were driving the freeway around Quito it turned out not to be so fast, taking about an hour longer than normal. At first, we thought that we hadn't beaten the Friday afternoon traffic after all because it slowed down really badly, kind of like I-10 in Houston or I-35 in Austin at 5:00 pm. Then we started seeing a little hail in the median, followed by hail on the road. "Oh, that's why the slowdown." Before we got through it, there was at least an inch of hail. In fact, it turned some hills white and we argued about whether it was granizo (hail) or nieve (snow). There were many accidents, and we saw one gas station covering caved in. Obviously, it hadn't been designed with a large amount of hail in mind.
It was clear sailing after that, however. Even one bottleneck we used to dread had been fixed. We got to Baños about 7:30 pm. The first thing we did after depositing luggage in our hotel rooms at Le Petite Auberge was walk around until we found what looked like a decent restaurant. The name was Casa Hood, and it was good! It had a coffeehouse atmosphere and a full menu.
Not ready to go to bed after we'd eaten, we walked around Baños for a bit. We had picked up a tour brochure at Casa Hood and thought we'd try to find the company and maybe make reservations for the next day. Baños has a population of 23,000 or so, so it's not very hard to walk to any part of town. It sits at the base of Tungurahua Volcano, the most active volcano in Ecuador. In fact, during the weekend we were treated to the emission of steam and ash.
We found Chebas Tour and, after talking to a representative, booked a tour for the next day. One of the reasons their brochure had drawn our attention was that it pictured a two story bus. That, and the fact the representative told us they'd be happy to put me on the top level, cinched the deal. They even said that they would pick us up at the hotel so we didn't have to walk back to the office.
The next morning, Saturday, we ate breakfast at the French restaurant on the hotel grounds. It has a slightly different name, being called Le Petit Restaurante. We don't know how authentic the food is, but the French toast, crepes, cheese, and French breads were really good. Then we brushed our teeth and walked to the street to wait for our tour bus.
This being Ecuador, they were not there at the appointed time of 10:15 am. And, Marilyn being Marilyn, she just had to call about 10:20 am to assure herself we hadn't been forgotten. They showed up about 10:30 am, picking up our group as well as other people from nearby hotels. As promised, the driver and guide carried me directly to the top. What a view! I like Billy Bob, our van, because I sit so much higher than in a sedan. But this was fantastic. We even got to look over the ubiquitous walls surrounding houses, which was probably not appreciated by homeowners! The day was absolutely gorgeous, too. Before it was over, I even shed my omnipresent Ecuadorean sweater.
The Tarabita We All Took (You Can See The River Enter The Canyon)
The first stop was the best, for me, anyways. We had the opportunity to ride a tarabita. Our English-speaking guide called it a cable car, but it's not like it's the kind of cable car that can be found in San Francisco, CA. This was more like a car on a ski lift. The cable didn't stretch up a mountain, either. Rather, it was more or less level and strung from one side of a churning river to the other. The car went back and forth high above the river. This was one thrill ride I wanted to do when offered the chance.
So they lugged me down from the top of the bus and I waited my turn. Victoria said she wasn't going to do it, but she changed her mind when told that I was going. We were asked to be the last ones because so many people had signed up for the tour. (There were actually two double decker buses because of the demand.) When our turn came, the five us climbed into the car. The operator even scrounged up a plastic chair for Victoria to sit on while we crossed the river and returned.
The view was like being in a plane without the usual aluminum body. All that surrounded us was mesh wiring with a few supports. Strong mesh wiring, but mesh wiring nonetheless. You could look down, up, and all around. Because of who I am (always looking up at people), I spent most of my time looking down, especially at the marvelously roaring river beneath us. Farther away, the river was more placid. But this tarabita was set up just before the river rushed into a steep, narrow canyon. On the return trip, they stopped the car just opposite the mouth of the canyon so people could get a good long look at the water working to widen that canyon. It may not be so spectacular in a few thousand years but, hey, we're here to enjoy it now.
Their were three more stops on the tour, all at cascadas (waterfalls). (We had taken the Cascada Tour, after all.) There were more tarabitas, but only Marilyn and Brayan took another one. They told me the others were not as accessible as the first, anyhow. At each stop, including the first, there was also zip-lining, which they call canopy here. One zip-line was one kilometer (0.6 miles) long. Naturally, I longed to do that (especially when I saw how they positioned people to fly like birds). Alas, I wasn't offered that opportunity. Even if I had been able to do it, it would have been hell getting back up the mountain. We also saw bungee-jumping and there was an opportunity to take a short stroll.
We were supposed to get back at 2:00 or 2:30 pm, but actually didn't get back until about 3:30 pm. It was a wonderful tour, especially if one is cost-conscious. It cost $6.00 per person plus activities like the tarabita, canopy, and bungee-jumping. The tarabitas cost $1.00 to $1.50, while the other things cost more. (The kilometer-long zip-line cost $15.00.)
Getting back later than we had anticipated, we went straight to eat at Casa Hood again. After that, we walked around town and purchased some decorative birds for our inside garden. We call our garden El Centro.
Marilyn and I were pretty tired, so we went to bed and read. But Brayan wanted to do what most people who go to Baños do - bathe in the hot springs. So Isabel and Victoria took him over and kept an eye on him.
On Sunday, we once again ate at Le Petit Restaurante before going to church at the Basilica. Victoria loves churches, so we wanted to make sure she had that experience. Thus, everyone got to do something that they liked.
We don't have any personal pictures to show from this adventure - any pictures included in this post are from websites. Unfortunately, while we were at mass in the crowded Basilica, someone lifted our camera from my backpack. Unless they or their family were hungry, I can't imagine a more direct path to hell than stealing in a church (though I know it happens all the time, all over the world). That's a joke, folks, before I get any nasty comments.
We took our time getting back to Otavalo. We stopped for lunch at a pretty nice restaurant along the highway and then had helados in Salcedo, a town known for its ice cream. We were all surprised and delighted with how much Victoria enjoyed herself and at how well she did. She hadn't enjoyed our family vacation in August, and for three weeks afterward we literally expected her to die.
It was a great weekend getaway. Maybe Marilyn and I need to take some more work-related trips by ourselves so we have time to think up other fun things to do involving travel.