Thursday, May 26, 2011

Spring Things

This is one of my absolute most favorite things about spring - lilacs.  I grew up with huge lilac bushes in my grandmother's front yard and came to love the beautiful flowers and especially the fragrance.  To me it really is the "symbol" of spring.  My lilac bushes at our house are doing well, but the flowers don't come on till late June and they're not quite this lush and beautiful yet.  I'm here in Billings and the lilacs here are in full bloom EVERYWHERE!  I stole these off a bush over by the car wash - they won't miss them - I hope!  They're so very beautiful.  Walt tells how his mother always cut armloads of lilacs and took them to the cemetary on Memorial Day for all the family graves.  There will be plenty for this year.  Gorgeous.

Monday, May 16, 2011

More To Come From Ecuador

I just was going back through my Ecuador images and still have some that I want very much to share, but don't have time right now.  The internet connection here is somewhat slow and unreliable (I never know when I'm going to be timed out in the middle of a post - yes, it has happened) so I've been reluctant to spend much time doing more.  And besides I head home tomorrow and then fly to Kansas on Thursday to attend Allie's graduation!!!  Can hardly wait.  Walt will be flying back on Thursday for that also, then back to Ecuador on Monday!  Can't miss this graduation.  So I guess the rest of these photos will have to wait till I get back home.  They should still be just as good!  Or not!!!  Stay tuned!

Quito, Ecuador At Night

Colonial Quito is one of those U.N. protected World Heritage Sites (or something like that!) and truly unique and beautiful.  Our friends, Terry and Luis Hernandez (friends of 20 years - amazing!) are part owners of a restaurant that sits high on the side of Vulcan Pichincha and overlooks the old city.  It is an astonishing experience to sit at the window and watch the lights of the city come on.  So beautiful.  I'm a wannabe photographer to begin with and had no tripod for this experiment so the images are marginable at best, but I had fun.  (Next time I'm traveling with a tripod!)

 The focus of this image is the cathedral that is part of the old city.  It's a little hard to see, but pops right out if you click on the image to see it full size.
 The very bright (ugly) light in the middle of this image is the Cathredal San Francisco and square which is really quite beautiful.  Not sure why they've added this distracting light.  The hill in the background is called "The Panecillo" and means little loaf of bread.  On top of this hill is a statue called The Winged Virgin and is claimed to be the only winged virgin statue in the world.  Pretty impressive - as is the drive up to it!!!
 These are the two main arteries through the old town to south Quito which is quite extensive.  The city has about 3 million population.
 This is a backed-off image of San Francisco, the Panecillo and south.
 High on the right of this image is a bright light that illuminates the monument to the independence of Ecuador.  When Walt was here as the Defense Attache he made a pilgrimmage up there with all the other military attaches every year to the annual celebration of the independence.
 Walt and our friend, Terry.  (Luis was still at work when we were up on the roof taking pictures.) 
(Walt and I.)  If you want to check out this fabulous restaurant, you can go to and take a look at their website.  The genesis of the restaurant is rather interesting.  Several mayors ago, the mayor had a brilliant idea to run a cable car from Colonial Quito up the side of Vulcan Pichincha in order to give folks a birdseye view of the old city.  So a cable car station was built and the next mayor stopped work on the project.  Several years ago Luis "discovered" the dilapidated and derelict structure and had a vision for a restaurant there.  He and his sister have done major renovations and turned it into a first class, upscale, elegant restaurant.  One of its kind in Quito.  Definitely worth a visit for the view and the food is superb!  Besides. . .we know the proprietor and his wife!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Life Along The Road

On Sunday Walt and I headed out from Quito to go to Coca, an oil field town out in the Oriente on the eastern edge of civilization - seriously.  It is in the Amazon River Basin and there is little between Coca and the Atlantic Ocean - except for a few Auca (Huaroani) jungle tribes - but that is another story!  Walt's been there also!

NOTE:  All of these photos are taken from a moving (read careening very fast) vehicle up or down and around a mountain and it's raining.  Therefore the quality of the images is often blurry at best.  But my purpose in this is to tell the story of how these people live in the campo (countryside) of the Oriente.  Which is, literally, along the road.

 We left Quito which sits at about 10,000 ft elevation, climbed up over the cordillera (top of the Andes) where the road is at 12,800 ft elevation (Walt's watch tells the elevation) and then down to 700 feet at Coca.  In this image we are nearing the highest and the terrain is called the Alto Plano - high plains.  The vegetation is totally different and awesomely beautiful.  You can see the raindrops on the windshield.
 Remember, you can click on these images if you want to see them full size.
 Pickups in Ecuador rarely travel empty - they are either loaded down with stuff or people.  Walt and I wonder if the drivers charge their "passengers" but we don't know that.  This image is taken high in the Alto Plano and it is obviously quite cold at this elevation in the back of an open pickup.
 These folks have it a little better as they have some cover from the rushing cold air.
 An Alto Plano cow pasture.
 This is typical of the houses at these high elevations - much better, tighter construction than down in the jungle.
 The major highways from Quito down into the Oriente are all finished, but they all had bailey bridges given to Ecuador by the U.S. in order to travel to the oil fields when the original gravel roads were built.  When Walt and I lived here in '92 to '95 the roads were all still all gravel and took eight hours to get from Quito to Lago Agrio - it was exhausting.  It's amazing now to be able to get from Quito to Coca in four hours.  WOW.  These bridges are now being replaced by permanent structures.
 Waiting for transportation (?) to take a bunch of bananas somewhere.
 This is good!  These folks have slaughtered a pig and are using the water coming off the side of the mountain to wash it up.  If you look closely at it, you can see the pig in the tub!
 Water, water everywhere.  It rains constantly in the rain forest (!) and all that water has to go somewhere (eventually to the Amazon River).  As we drive along we can see water coming off the mountains everywhere.  These falls are rather spectacular in that they're not so hidden by the forest.
 Beast of burden.  Whatever they have to do in order to move goods along the road.  This horse looks in pretty good shape - some don't look nearly so well cared for.
 Another place along the road where the water is rushing down off the mountain and some enterprising folks have attached a hose (?) and use it then to wash their trucks - and whatever else.  There's no such thing as a truck wash - this is it.  Remember, this is a third world country and we are out in the campo.  The sign says you can wash your cars and trucks. 
 Here is one place where the pipeline is visible.  All the roads down to the oil fields are built along the pipelines - duh.
 The people who live here are very poor and few have cars.  They walk everywhere to which they cannot find some other mode of transportation.  Not too many are overweight.  Along the road.
 Because there is so much rain and moisture there are constant mudslides.  I have no clue how many we passed along the road on this trip down and back up.
 I know there must be serious accidents and deaths along the road - the people are always on them.
 This is one of the bailey bridges that has not yet been replaced.  They are single lane so if there is oncoming traffic one must sit and wait.
 Lots of cows along the road.  Much milk and meat.
 Another mode of transportation - an empty truck.  (The windshield is wet of course.)
 A house - along the road.  You can see how close it is - and it is a sheer dropoff behind the house.
 I guess this must be the sidewalk.  Chickens run loose everywhere along the road.

 This little girl looks quite pathetic.

 You can see the little riding toy this child is on.
 We're still pretty high and it is rainy and wet so both these boys have pulled their hands up inside their shirts.
 Another bailey being replaced.
 I love this picture with the squiggly sign and then the wooden gate leading to wooden steps going up the hillside to a house.
 Going somewhere - along the road.
 Virtually every house has some kind of shelter built in front of it along the road because they are always waiting for some kind of transportation and it is frequently raining.  This little shelter is quite well done with a bench and even has shelves for whatever kind of produce they put out to sell - could be anything.  The land is quite productive.
 These folks look like they are doing nothing but sitting here socializing.
 Big smile from this lady and little girl.  My camera is large and it is obvious as we drive along that I am taking pictures.
 These shelters seem to be frequently used for visiting.  This was on a Sunday so many of the little villages had futbol (soccer) games going on.  Everybody goes to these games.
 Another beast of burden.  This man is carrying probably 50 lbs of potatoes on his head.  Wow.  The woman is carrying the machete!  It is not at all unusual to see people walking along carrying their machetes.
 Another opportunity at a tumbling stream to stop and wash the truck.
Just waiting - along the road.  They have bundled up huge bean pods that a certain tree produces.  Not at all sure what they do with them.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Saturday Market in the Neighborhood

Every Saturday morning the vendors start coming into the neighborhood from the Campo (countryside) about 5 blocks from where Walt lives to set up and to sell their produce  It's quite an extensive market and very colorful and alive with activity and sound.  I could have taken a thousand images, but I try to be sensitive to these people and I am well aware that they really don't like to have their pictures taken.  I am fascinated by the people, their faces, their dress, their work and especially the children.  But I try not to intrude too much - and I am VERY obvious with my western dress and my big camera with big lens.  But I hope to share some of what we see when we go out like this.  And remember you can always click on the images to see them full size.  Look at their faces.

 A view of the shoulder of Vulcan (volcano) Pichincha between the buildings of Walt's apartment compound as we began our walk over to the market.
 Graffitti is everywhere and some of it is quite beautiful and creative.  (Notice the car!)
 I know these grapes taste just as juicy and delicious as they look!
 I am so often so tempted to eat on the street as some of the offerings look so delicious - but I don't cause I've been violently ill from eating in restaurants that are supposedly much more trustworthy.  But doesn't this look good!  A meat mixture with llapingachos (potato pancakes stuffed with cheese) and eggs.  YUM!
 A fruit called mora - kinda like blackberries.
 The "vendors" always have such neat looking, carefully arranged presentations of their produce.  This woman is shelling beans as she waits for customers.
 Looking for the best and the ripest!
 A young woman from Otavalo in her native dress.  Otavalo is a VERY famous market - anyone who comes to Ecuador absolutely makes a trip up to shop at the Otavalo market.
 Saturday was the day before Mother's Day, so there were many floral offerings for mom.
 A truck full of plaintain up from the Oriente or the Coast along with some bananas by the truck.  Plaintain is more of a vegetable than a fruit like bananas.
 Can't remember what these are called and I've never tried them, but they're colorful and interesting looking!
 Pineapple.  You can't believe how delicious they are.  Pineapples, mangoes, papaya are my most favorite fruits here.  Along with one called grenadilla, which is a very odd fruit, but excellent.  (Kinda like really tasty snot!!!)
 Cute little boy.  Couldn't resist including this picture of the fruit as it is coming off the trucks - just because he's such a cutie.  I was very careful to not take pictures of the children - as much as I would have loved to photograph ALL of them.  They are adorable.
 This little boy was working on something.  His dad was nearby, but not looking when I snapped this.
 I also liked this old woman sitting here in the display.
 And the meat market.
 And the fresh chickens!!!
 I am fascinated by the fish vendors - can'at imagine how they actually manage to stack slippery, slimy fish so perfectly.  It's a mystery.
 And the crabs fresh caught.  They're still quite cold, but get very active as they warm up. . . .
 Rather blurry, but I was glad to surrepticiously snap this group sitting shucking corn.
 Don't ask.  This is a tub of pigs' heads and I have no clue what they do with them - and I don't want to know.
 Hmmm.  A typical Latina from the city.
 A phone booth!  We don't see many of these in the States anymore.  And although most all of the country has cell coverage and we see them everywhere, they are still quite expensive for the poorer people, so there is still much use of public phones.
Roasted corn.  Yummy.  They use it as a condiment for ceviche and soup, but it is also excellent as a snack and we often buy it just to munch on it.