Wednesday, April 27, 2011

El Progreso

I took the bus this morning to El Progreso a small town outside around 8km from the port city I am staying in and walked around.  I wanted to see the tree house that the island is famous for but I could only see it from the outside because it was closed. I was told it opened at 9, and waited till 930 but decided to leave.  I went and did a self tour of the facilities of the islands water purification plant run by a private company that takes water by pipes from the islands fresh water lagoon and purifies and bottles the water and sells it.
Then on the way back to town is a recycling center that I had heard has a visitors center so I walked the 2 kms to the recycling center and there was a nice map of the facilities which showed a visitors center on the map.  well I didnt see it so I asked a guy and he told me yes its back on the other street.  Well I took the other road and still didnt see it. I walked the whole compound according to the map and didnt see it so I stopped a worker who was napping in the grass and asked him.  He called over some guy who was leaving on his motorcycle and I got a tour in Spanish, so I didnt understand much of it, on a motorcycle, then he gave me a ride back to town.
After I went for lunch and then walked around with friends.  I had a tortilla de yuca and a tortilla de plantanos.. a plaintain and a yuca dough fried with cheese in and on top.. yummy.  Then got a milkshake .. the milkshakes here are so addictive.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Diving in San Cristobal

puppy 2.5 months old in the house i am staying

Finally went for a local dive here.


urchins were everywhere

many tangs

lots of different star fish

only one ray

lots of turtles 
some came up very close
more tangs

lots of schools of fish

one lonely sea horse
many star fish

Monday, April 25, 2011


For Easter here, there is NO comercialism, no candy,cards, easter bunny, eggs, baskets or decorations. I almost forgot how comercial a holiday its become in the US until I was trying to explain it to a local woman who was so confused as to why we would have candy on Easter.  And was pretty appalled by the concept of the Easter bunny.  They make a special soup for Good Friday and Easter is just a holy day spend with family. 

I had Corviche de pascado, a fried plantain dumpling stuffed with fish and and some salad (which is onions and shredded lettuce) and mayo for dinner tonight. I also ordered a drink which I thought was coconut juice but was actually called morocho which is served hot and blends white corn with milk and cinnamon and that carries can have raisins and whole kernels in it but I think this one had rice.

The other night I saw I think a few humming birds and got a really close look but of course I didnt have my camera.  It was beautiful, I have never seen anything like it before.  I have seen these green hummingbirds here in Ecuador but this one was so different.  The body was small like a big bee with some bright colors and fast wings and a really really long beak almost like a string about 3 or more inches long. I tried to go back last night and get a picture but I only saw a couple this time and they didnt stay long so I could get a picture.  I hope to get a picture so someone can tell me what it is.

Well here I have so much time which I am not used to.  I dont know what to do with all my time and at first I was going nuts because as a city girl there is not much to do other than relax go to the beach or drink.  I like to go to theatre, try new things and attend lectures.  Well I went to the University and was told there were no classes I could attend, I had tried to get a diving internship but wasnt able to secure one.  So I found a friend who will help tutor me in spanish.  Its much too hot here to do much during the day so I will relax and maybe swim and sample more of the local homemade icecreams and local cuisine.  I have realized that living on a small island is not for me but I am learning to enjoy the down time. There are about 6,000 people on this island.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Playa Mann

One of the best things about this beach is that there is free wifi from the university across the street not to mention it's really close to town.  So I can sit here and check email while I watch the sun set. 

Today is good Friday so everything is closed today. I had fanesca a special soup (made with beans, grains, fish and garnished with a hard boiled egge) that is made only on Good Friday. I can't believe how fast my trip has gone by. I only have 3 weeks left. I am doing my best to eat as much ice cream and fresh fruit juices as possible!

Monday, April 18, 2011

San Cristobal

there are many sealions and crabs on this island
the sealions are so playful.  They love to do jumps in the water, people often mistake them for dolfins when the are in the water.  They love to surf the waves and play with the trash in the ocean as well as each other.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

wow.. wierd and wonderful weekend

flavored shaved ice drizzed with sweetened condensed milk.. yes please. 

so many birds

so many crabs

bad picture but another blue footed booby

another lizard

many unique cacti

 a giant land turtle

yes another bird

sierra negra volcano in isabela island

pelicans at the fish market waiting for an extra piece

The fish that the boys caught

are you sick of the many birds

Many frigates hovering above the fish market

a male turtle trying to mate with another male turtle since there are no females in this area

sea lions snuggling on the side walk

hermit crabs cover the sandy beaches in the evening

which one in this picture will be my new sailboat... i have had a few offers to be paid to be crew on some sailboats.. though they always seem to be looking for woman cook I was told by a girl that its actually not a bad job cause you dont have to do the night shifts and can sleep.  I think I need to look into this seriously

many cute baby seal lions everywhere.. you can hear them nursing as you walk the streets. 

What a wonderful weekend.  I took a boat to Santa Cruz on Thursday.  Walked around Santa Cruz exploring some amazing beaches that were deserted because all the tourists go on tours and dont have time to walk along the beach or the tour doesnt have time to stop at them.  Then I went diving the next day.  I got my dive trip scheduled the day before then was told that the company I booked with didnt have the permit to go to the marine park we were going to.  So it goes.. we went for the dive and the park police stopped us before our first dive.  The owner said we couldnt dive there cause the police said there is a problem and wouldnt explain.  A guy on the boat understood Spanish and said to us that the boat didnt have the papers to be there.. but the owner wouldnt admit it.. so we went to another dive site but we had to sit around for an extra hour while they went over papers with the police.. then we got back to the island 4 hours after we were supposed to and I missed the ferry to the next island which only leave once a day in the afternoon.  So I stayed on the island another day and took a tour which wasnt very interesting and the guide didnt speak English welll.  So I arrived in Isabela island and talked to an old man for a couple hours on the island.. or I should say he talked in spanish and I just kept saying I dont understand in Spanish.. and he just kept talking... ha ha.. then the next day I got up early and took a local bus as a friend recommended.  I asked the guy in the seat next to me about a small village and he said the boy in front of me was getting off at that stop.  well after an hour bus ride he says to me in spanish here here.. follow this boy.. i look around and say no not this stop.. but he says yes this stop so I look up and the only other non native is getting off the bus so I get off too.
the other person also happens to be my german friend.. the one that my hand slipped and lightly hit his hand and he dropped his ipod and got really mad at me.  Its sad I saw him almost every day as we were both independant travelers staying at the same hotels and doing the same off the beaten path itineraries and I would be all smiles and Holas when I saw him but wouldnt acknowledge me, which is a pity as we obviously have a similiar personality to constantly be bumping into each other in places where there are no other tourists.  But alas I find myself on an empty dirt road with him trying to ignore me so I ask where are you going.. he says to the volcano.. so I follow and stop a tourist car that tells me where the volcano is.  So change of plans I was looking for a village that my friend had recommended but obviously I had gotten off at the wrong stop.. so volcano it is.. we hike to the park with him basically trying to run ahead of me.. and we get stopped by the park officials who let us know that we need a guide but it had to be arranged in the city.  So a german tour group goes by and they say come join us.. so we did.  We went to see the volcano then the tour guide said it was ok to join the rest of the tour.  i tried to tip the guide at the end and he said its not necessary and jumped in the van before I could finish finding some money.  So then I decide to try to visit the small islands off the shore to see the penguins. I go to the dock and ask if there is a ferry the guy says one wont be leaving for an hour then says wait just go with these people they will give you a ride for free.  I look over at the group leaving and I know a girl in the group, its a german girl I had volunteered with in Banos.  So I get on the boat with them. They took us close to an island to see penguins and then went for a picnic on a beach on one of the islands.  They caught an octopus and some kinda of maybe bass that they were going to make cerviche out of.  Cerviche is the specialty here.
A crazy and unexpected day.  The next day I went and saw the land turtles mating.  I love the land turtles they are enormous and slow and look like ET.  They live to 200 years or so.  Today I went back to Santa Cruz to take the ferry back here and stopped at the turtle place there again since i had time to kill.  I went to look at the male giant land turtle area and what did I see but a male trying to mate with another male.  Then later another male trying to mate with the same male.  The guide said its mating season and they are in a pen with all males, what do you expect, they are gonna try. Ha ha.
so then I am looking for a the ferry to return back to San Cristobal but I find out that the ticket I had bought in the last island says the name of a boat that doesnt exist... i have about 5 people trying to help me find a boat cause only 3 boats leave and all at the same time.  Finally one guy comes over and says he is working as a guard on one of the boats and I think he just let me ride for free on the boat cause there was room.  Its great that people are so nice here.. that has helped me out.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Happy people, Ecuadorians

view from the cliffs

fresh water lagoon in the crater of the volcano on San Cristobal

many many lizards and iguanas

birds on top of the cliff, birds are not afraid to come very close to you

lava lizard

I really love Ecuadorians.   They are so nice and go out of their way to help you.  I cant tell you how many times I have asked an Ecuadorian for directions and they have stayed with me until they find someone who knows where I want to go or have walked me placed or made sure I have gotten on a bus OK. 
Today I went to the one of the beaches here and went for a walk up to a cliff to see the birds and their nexts in the cliffs.  Then went to the beach and on the beach an Ecuadorian lent me his snorkeling gear so I could go swim with the turtles.  It was nice to swim with them they werent afraid and let me just watch them but I have to admit the sea lions were more fun, they seem to love to play and swim in circles around you and are so fast and brush up against you and are so graceful.  On the beach the guy that got mad at me yesterday was there and he came and asked my friend to watch his stuff.  I tried to be nice and give him advice on where the turtles were and he completely ignored me.  People can be so unhappy and for no reason.  But the Ecuadorian who lent me his snorkel gear then invited me on a tour of the island.  He took me to another beautiful beach and to a volcano with a fresh water lake in the crater.  This is so very typical of the locals.  The other day I asked a girl where she got an ice cream and she took me to the shop because she didnt think I would find it on my own.  Another local offered to take me and another girl who is on the island for only a day on a tour but I didnt want to go with because they were going to do all the sites and I wanted to take my time.  But people here are so nice and helpful.   

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Unhappy people

where we went diving
seals were playing with us.. swiming circles around us
Why are people so unhappy sometime.  And on vacation at that.  I almost let a tourist get me in a bad mood today.  I was on a dive no less.. how much happier could I be.. my first dive on this trip.  I was zipping up my wetsuit (zips in the back) and some man who was sitting decide to stand at the same time my hand slipped off the zipper cause it got stuck and he dropped his old ipod.  It took me a second to turn around and I looked at him and he gave me a look of death so I said I am sorry.  Then a few minutes later he goes look you damaged it.. on the side in the corner is a dent.. I couldnt see anything and told him so and he says yeah right you dont see it cause you dont want to.. then goes off on how I should have announced I was going to be making a big motion.  I looked at him and made quite a spectacle of myself by saying quite loudly that he needs to take some responsibility cause he dropped it and he also was moving toward me standing up and it wasnt all my fault.. he  gets mad and says its all my fault and no one should make large movements without letting others around know and I retorted I dont know what you want from I said I was sorry accidents happen, I didnt do it on purpose. .. I wanted to F off but I calmed myslef down.  Its sad that he needs to blame someone else and he sat and sulked the rest of the trip.  I dont know why I let people affect me so negatively cause my heart was beating after that incident.. I also didnt sleep last night cause one of my roommates came home last night drunk and wanted to party at midnight, I was sleeping since I had to be up early for diving. She was swearing and yelling and arguing with my other roommate that she wanted a party but my other roommate wouldnt let her.  Then she comes back at 4am and is swearing and yelling and complaining again so this time I confront her.  
Alas I didnt let that put me down it was  a great day overall.  Diving was fun though I missed the hammerheads that the rest of the group got to see.  I got to swim with sea lions.  Then I moved in with a local family and I really think I will like it.  I love the house the family seems nice and the location is great. I am very excited.  They dont speak english so I am excited to try to learn a little spanish.   Alas even though there are unhappy people I am not one of them.  Island life is slow but I think I will adjust.
I am going to post some pictures in some of my older posts.

Monday, April 4, 2011

San Cristobal

I have made it to San Cristobal.  Its hot here but nice. I tried to go for a run this morning.  Way too hot.  I think I will have to try in the evening from now on.  There are sea lions everywhere the cover the rocks and come up on the walkways beaches and streets.  They are so funny, making funny sounds and movements.  big bright Red and black crabs are on the rocks.  Lots if small birds.  I took a short hike on a walkway up a hill to a lookout point.  Its a small town here really, people already recognize me and everyone is so helpful.  I asked a girl where she got an icecream and her mother made her show me by bringing me down a few streets cause its in a dive shop that doesnt have a sign that says they sell it.  Having fun though its been a little slow.  I want to do so many things and am so used to multitasking and having to do and see as much as possible that I need to learn to slow down.

Friday, April 1, 2011


So I havent wanted to be negative but I have had disappoints during this trip, but with disappointment comes learning and often appreciation.  I havent always gotten out of the trip what I have hoped for or wanted.  I knowingly chose this trip to be the way it is for many reasons.  I chose not to pay for an expensive volunteer vacation where you dont really work and often dont really help but more observe and learn and are herded around like visitor to a zoo observing locals as if they were a strange species of animal.  With this path I am more in the thick of things but also more unknowns, and also some disadvantages such as not having a translator and working with people who dont speak English or learning as much as I could if I had gone on a tour.  But I also have enjoyed living without many of the luxuries I take for granted.  After a week without hot water (not that I would have wanted it cause it was so hot and humid where I was) the hot shower (even if with only an electric hot water heater) I just took felt amazing. I havent been in a place with airconditioning here yet.. and though I normally hate it cause its too cold.. I think next time I have it I wont complain.  I forgot what its like to cook and sleep in a place that is so humid and hot and not have AC, I dont have it in Boston but Boston in not on the equator. 

I have spent a week without internet which I did not miss at all, though now that I have access I cant get off of it.  I can put vanity behind me, I look like a strange animal.  I have been bending over working in gardens and have learned that I need long shirts as there is an area between the bottom of my shirt and the top of my pants in the back that is exposed and I had a nice line where I was sunburned and have a nice row of mosquito bites on top of the red burn.  As most people know bugs love me.  I am covered in all sorts of weird bites.  Mosquitos yes, flies yes, and there is another type of fly that is small and its mouth is too small to bite so it drops a bit of sulfuric acid on the skin then drinks exposed blood.  You know when someone is bitten because you see a small bubble of blood.  Yep have some of those.  Plus the first farm I went to I had a reaction to some other unknown bug (other people had it too) that bubbles up and looks like a wart and oozes puss.  Yep I look wonderful in swimsuit, an nice red sunburnt line dotted with bites above my butt, a real nice farmers tan and all sorts of odd bites all over my body. 

While I havent learned about farming and growing vegetables like I thought I would I have learned a bit about Ecuadorian workers.  I have been told that the average worker makes around 10-15 dollars a day, though I dont know if that is true. The two farms I worked on where drastically different and neither were real farms in the sense we think of.. I enjoy working alongside the workers, though the work is often boring and I am not learning much from it.  The first farm I worked on the workers worked 730-330 with a tea break at 10 and an hour lunch at 12. The workers are all men of course.  We always made the tea for the workers, I get the impression they expect it made for them.  It always fresh from the garden made very weak with lots of sugar (and they seem to prefer brown sugar or honey).  All the workers seem to know how to do everything, fix things as well as work the land and seem ready and will to do anything, well except jobs for women, that line seems to be very distinct.  The last place I was at the workers started from around 730am and worked most of the day with some breaks and a hour lunch till around 6pm.  They really worked hard, tending to and cleaning the animals, horses, sheeps pigs and working the land, putting in drainage for a pool.  It was very different though cause there was one woman (the wife of one of the workers) who did the cleaning and cooking for all of us.  So food was provided to them which I was told was typical on farms in the country to be provided I assume because stores are not very convenient to get to.  None of the workers I have met speak a word of English. 

I really liked spending the day with them working next to them, eating with them and living next to them even if I couldnt really communicate with them I was still able to ask simple questions and they were very happy and accommodating to me and always trying to help.  The woman cooking noticed what us gringos did and didnt want and would cater the food according to what she saw us eating.  The meals were never family style and always plated. 

The places I have stayed are very different from each other, but also in very different areas of the country one, in a hot humid climate near the coast the other in near the jungle and first in the mountains.

No more farms and country for me on this trip.  I will not miss the work and the work I did was pretty easy compared to what the locals had to do.  Although the farms did not produce any vegetables like I had hoped I will miss the few edibles they did have such as fresh tea, such as the lemon grass, fresh mints, herbs, limes, lemons, mandarin oranges, and walnuts. (BTW fresh almonds are actually soft and almost juicy so they almost melt in your mouth with quite an interesting flavor that seems to disappear when dried)              

Farm out side of Guayaquil

A truck fell over in the farm with rocks.. luckily no on was hurt.
fresh walnuts from the tree

I just spent one week on a farm outside of Guayaguil. No internet access for a week.  I liked the farm though it was very hot and humid.  There were lots of animals. The baby animals were so cute.  The baby pigs, sheep and chickens.  Though the baby pigs were so cute they were always escaping the fences, it was quite humorous everyone running around trying to catch them.  Now I know what it sounds like when a pig squeals and it isnt nice.  I helped hold a baby pig probably under a week old while parasitic worms were removed from what the belly button area and the pig was screaming. The monkeys and birds were so loud.  Its neat being so close to nature.  We were sitting around talking after dinner one night and these cute little bats were flying around the kitchen ceiling and frogs were leaping around the floor.

Ok since everyone knows I like to eat.. here is more about food.  The food at the lodge for the past week, we cooked ourselves the first weekend then after there was an Ecuadorian cook.  The Ecuadorian food was interesting.  Every meal including breakfast was served with lots of white rice.  The farm was surrounded by rice fields.  Even though it was extremely hot and humid they served something hot (herbal tea, coffee or chocolate) with breakfast and dinner and a hot soup with lunch.  We had stopped at the market to purchase food on the way to the farm and large grain sack (I think said 50kilos.. of what I dont know but the large sacks that are maybe 4 or 5 ft tall)  was filled with vegetables, including a couple heads of lettuce, a few lbs of potatoes, onions, beans, garlic chard, tomatoes, broccoli and many other vegetables.. the total cost.. $12.. I was told its cheaper out there because it is the farming area and obviously the more one buys the more the discount.  Interestingly enough they dont seem to eat much vegetables but many many starches.  I have often had meals of pasta potatoes or plantains and rice and normally chicken or lentils/beans and a very small portion of salad or vegetable. They eat alot of plantains which have to be cooked and can be put in with lentils or can be fried in different ways.  We also bought fruit which it appears they dont eat, but instead make into juice.  I believe its juiced then water and sugar and some spices are often added like cinnamon.  I really liked the watermelon juice which I have only had maybe once before.  In banos my favorite was the coconut milk juices which you could get with just coconut or have added other juices.  I also tried mate a strong thick tea of sorts, while I was there which is not Ecuadorian but Argentinian.

The other travelers I have met have been interesting.  The first group I traveled with was a group of 5 boys from 1 from Canada, 2 Ireland, 1 from Germany, and 1 from Latvia but has lived in London for many years.  I got to know the Latvian boy the best as he was more interested in exploring and hking than the Irish boys (Which I know you wont believe this but they were more interested in drinking).  He was very interesting and had a goal of seeing 100 countries by the time he was 30 and he was well on his way.  Do you know how many countries there are?  192.  I think I have only seen about 20 something countries. So little of the world.
In Banos on the farm the other travelers I met were from US, England, France, Germany (another Beliner) and were from 18-24 years old.  Yikes I am old.  The two 18 year olds from England were on a gap year, which I met two girls from NY today who were also 19 and just graduated taking a year before going to College.  The person I was with on the farm the longest and got to know the best was a 21 year old college student from Washington.  We ended up traveling together for a few days after the first farm..  I had to laugh at how many people thought we were a couple.   At this last farm I was with two Czech boys and a French girl.  The days were so hot and humid I just wanted to sleep.  I have really enjoyed the other travelers I have met.     

So far English has been the international language.  This past farm none of us knew Spanish so it was challenging to communicate with the workers.  They have lots of knowledge that they want to share and are so friendly and nice but I cant understand what they are saying and has been frustrating.  I need to really work on my Spanish.  

Tomorrow starts a new day and a new adventure!  I am not sure what my plans are, I have too many ideas and likely not enough time.  As always I want to cram in as much as I can but perhaps I should focus on relaxing and learning Spanish, but alas.. I will put off the decision till I have a better feel of what my next destination is like.