Saturday, December 22, 2012
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
For those of you that can't keep up with what we're up to (don't worry, I can't either - it takes me a minute to remember where I am when I wake up every morning), we are now in Ecuador for three months to be managers of a nature reserve. That means that we take care of the cabin, trails, water system, etc for the reserve, as well as doing publicity around town and keeping up the blog (lastangaras.wordpress.net); taking care of visitors, hiking in materials, fuel, and food (serious job, here - it's 3 km up the road from town, and then 2 km down a muddy trail - so even if we get a ride to the trailhead, we still have to haul stuff in the last 2 km); doing some data collection for bird research; feeding hummingbirds; etc etc etc. For this work, we get free lodging, a food stipend, and the chance to live and work in a cloud forest in a quiet, beautiful cabin. Not a terribly bad deal, really.
We made it on December 5th, with no big hitches, to Las Tangaras Nature Reserve in Mindo, Ecuador, as planned. We met the last managers of the Reserve, Micah and Jaime and their three-year-old son, Never (who called Jeff "grandpa" - hah!), as planned. They took off on the 7th, as planned. Then, not as planned, the bridge broke.
|Hey - I don't think it's supposed to hang like that...|
|In the US, this would be a duct tape and chewing gum fix. Here, those aren't available, so it's rope and wire.|
|Welcome! And caution!|
But hey, our cabin and the reserve are worth the trip. Why I don't have a picture of the outside yet, I don't know, but here's the inside:
|The downstairs, with the kitchen in the background.|
|The upstairs, looking into the area where guests sleep.|
We feed the hummingbirds daily, and record the species we see come by:
|Yah know, honey, you could sit down while eating...|
|My, what a long tail you have...|
|Sorry, dude, for putting that window in your way.|
But so far, no casualties.
We have already had a couple friends visit! Jeff's friend from junior high, Nathan, and his girlfriend, Sarah, came to Ecuador and made time to come all the way to Mindo for a couple nights. Whoo hoooo! Nathan kind of giggled when we asked if he wanted to take a machete along to help us do some trail maintenance while we hiked a bit:
|Boys and their big knives. Sheesh.|
|Jeff shows off his jungle skillz.|
|Bring it on!|
And now I must get off the internet so we can get back to the reserve before dark. Slip sliding away!
Monday, December 3, 2012
But when we arrived in Nicaragua, settled in on Ometepe, met some of the folks we'd be working with, I could settle in. It was right - it was why I came. The relaxed culture, the friendliness, the shared joy in everyday life and in meeting new people - all are things I have learned to appreciate.
We finished our work on Ometepe and were off again, and the feeling came back. We were heading back to El Jocote, and it had the potential to be very awkward. We're not going to be working, we're only going for a day and a half, and we're just going to be visiting from house to house - to say what? Hello? We remember you, but we're too busy to stay long?
When we took off from Managua, I was still feeling like I'd rather go back to bed. We got to Teustepe, the bus change place, and had a little lunch at the grill in the park. It was delicious, and served with a smile, but nothing out of the ordinary. We bought some bottled water for ourselves, and a pineapple and two liters of cooking oil for our hosts. We boarded the truck that's replaced the bus for the low travel season, and an old lady smiled happily at us. We bumped along, with people laughing and joking with each other, many many stops, and an average speed of less than 10 mph, and my spirits were rising.
We arrived in El Espino, the final destination for the bus, and got our bags on for the half hour walk ahead. We saw a horse and rider that we recognize at the turnoff to El Jocote – it was Franklin, the son of one of the farmers who works most with AsoFenix. Seeing him lifted my mood from happy to excited, and grateful when he said he was there just to meet us and to carry our bags. He kept his horse walking slowly to match our pace, and we asked him about how things had been going in El Jocote in the last six months. Unsurprisingly, not much had changed.
The big news, that we already knew, was that Franklin's grandfather (and, really, father/grandfather of probably more than half of El Jocote's citizens), Juan Valerio, died three months ago. He had been not only an important part of the community, but a wonderful person for us to know as well. Every time we saw him, he had a huge smile and encouraging words about how much we were appreciated in the community. His death from cancer in his early 70s was a painful blow to everyone, and it was evident that it's still felt strongly. By chance, we were there on the three month anniversary of his death, and attended a service of the rosary with his family and friends. I think they appreciated our presence; I certainly appreciated feeling a part of the community again.
We spent most of our day and a half there visiting from house to house, showing pictures of our time away, eating silly amounts of corn-based foods (my stomach took a full two days to recover), and enjoying the company of very happy folks.
|Pictures of my new nephew and our tortilla making endevors in the US were the biggest hits.|
|Mi hijo, Jose Ines.|
|Baby Escarlin is twice the size she was when we last saw her!|
|Not two weeks old, and without a name as yet, but already the center of attention!|
|Angelito in awe.|
|Julissa and Jeff juggling together.|
|The magic of digital cameras.|
|The best cook in the village! With 14 kids, plus grands and great-grands, she's had lots of practice.|
|Doña Inés and some of her troop of kids invite us into their garden, which they have expanded since we left in April.|
|Angela is working hard to restore her soil, and is having fun with a variety of vegetables and even flowers.|
|Santos has a good contender here!|
We even saw some chickens that we remembered from before!
|Topheavy's a mama again!|
|To my girls, Estel and Julissa: Thanks, ladies. You've made my year.|
|Horse poop is a big part of the Pan-American Highway and all other parts of this metropolis.|