This Thursday, our friends Morgan and Jena (tiger in our car) arrived to Ecuador to see us and travel throughout South America. The day after, we took off to Zuleta, my family’s farm, for the festivities and here we are. We have spent the day riding bikes throughout the farm, showing Morgan and Jena, everything we have told them about for years. Tonight, is the big new years party, which I will tell you all about later, right now life is hectic as you can imagine. (Sorry for any spelling mistakes, Jax is not around to proof-read)
Monthly Archives: December 2011
The last few days have been spent in Zuleta, working, cooking with Caro and my dad, playing with my brothers and deciding what business we will start next that will actually give us money. Well I should say, Jax is deciding the business and I am helping with execution.
As I mentioned in an earlier post we forgot the camera charger, so we decided to try the emergency camera charging method that we did in Colombia – connecting our LP-E5 (Canon battery) to a 9V battery with two paper clips. Once again it worked, slowly charging the battery up to two bars. Currently the battery is still charging, after having taken and imported some photos, but we will post a tutorial soon.
We forgot the camera charger!! Yep, we did it again and Jax, for the second time, will attempt to charge our Cannon battery with a 9v battery and two paper clips! If it works, a tutorial will follow. For now, I leave you with a short video that we worked in Florida, reminding us now, of the beautiful ocean – our home.
Since I was a little girl, the 24th of December has been spent with my mom’s side of the family, Anhalzer – Valdivieso, and the 25th with my dad’s side, the Plaza (and not very often with the Polanco family). This year was no exception, although only some Anhalzers celebrated together on the 24th because we had already had our big get together. On the 25th, Jax met the rest of my family, the Plazas. In Ecuador, well Latin America, and a lot of the world, families are big, because familial connections are maintained through frequent encounter and bonds are created from early stages in life. Jax, always used to get confused when I used aunt or uncle for one of my parents second cousins or the siblings, first and second cousins of my grandparents. On the 25th, he got a chance to see how close we all are and what a big part of my life they have all been.
Les quiero a todos!
This year my mom’s side of the family decided to do Christmas a little earlier, because one of my uncles and his family are flying to Chile to spend Christmas there, hiking/trekking. After my Anhalzer get together at noon. We had the Plaza, my dad’s extended family, cocktail competition/pre-Christmas get-together. For this event, each family makes a cocktail, then we all try it and three elected judges decide the best cocktail. There are prizes for the top 3 cocktails – it is a great family bonding time and a lot of fun!
At around 12pm, after the cocktail event, my cousins Manuela, Mani, Diego, my sister Bernarda, Jax and I went out to party at Tavu again. There we met the majority of my friends and many many other people I had not seen for years! We had such a wonderful time dancing, talking and drinking with so many people. Jax, is doing great by the way! He is an excellent dancer and people adore him. We have been congratulated on our blog by almost everybody we have seen. So, if we have seen you at Tavu the last couple nights and you said something nice about the blog, thanks!
Wednesday night was my friends get together for Christmas. Every year we do a gift exchange. I have been absent from the last two, so I was glad I could make it to this one. Since I was very young, I have been fortunate in having a really cool and close groups of friends. Even though we are close, I had not seen many of them for nearly 3 years. The Christmas party went great, we talked about each others lives some, but mostly about nothing and everything, just as if we had finished a day at school. It is hard to believe that we all have our own life now, different friends, sleep in the same bed with men that the others have never met and live our life without the need to call and inform each other about our day. The gift exchange went great. We played Dirty Santa and Secret Santa, all planned by my friend Delia. My friend Belen had me as her secret friend and she gave me the best gift ever, a mug with mangolandia’s logo on it and a phrase, let your dreams set sail.
After dinner, Jax joined us and we went out to party at Tavu, a disco. There, we drank two bottles of Nectar, Agua Ardiente, between the 10 of us and talked and danced until 3:30am. Jax got to spend more time with my friends and was able to communicate great with his Spanish. He also met many other people that I know who were partying that day and got a peek of sociedad Quito, its charms and small size.
Our last few days have been hectic. Between working and trying to effectively navigate social life, we have neglected the blog. Lots has happened, but of course not all is worth mentioning.
Some of the highlights have been, giving out sandwiches and cookies to homeless children in the street at night. A tradition that my family has kept for various Christmases since I was young. This activity is not only a great opportunity for generosity, but it also brings much meditation about the idea of this holiday. It might come as no surprise to many readers, that Santa’s gifting, on Christmas eve, is not a celebrated part of this holiday for a the majority of Christians around the world.
This morning, Jax and I chatted with two of the women who work at my house, about this time a of the year. Both come from a humble background and they told us about Christmas back in their rural home-towns. There, Christmas was not celebrated with gifts. Rather a good year was measured by the amount of protein contained in the soup, offered after Christmas mass. I asked them if they were going to raise their children believing in Santa Claus and their answers were different, yet very similar. One, who has children, said she thought the holiday only highlighted socioeconomic differences in the country – those who can afford to enchant their children with this fairytale and those who can’t. The other said that if she had the money, she would. It makes me wonder how I would like to raise my children. Believing that there is a man who brings gifts to those who are good (but only those who are good AND wealthy) or finding some other way to celebrate, while acknowledging life’s socioeconomic complexities.
Another highlight, was my sister’s gift to my mom for Christmas, which was a late night visit by a Mariachi band. I will include a video below after dinner with my friends.
Photo note: We would absolutely love to offer you more photos of Quito, its people and places. Unfortunately, due to a combination of open borders, big social gaps and animosity between social classes (fomented by our President Correa), Quito is relatively insecure at the moment. Stories of muggings are common and we do not wish to expose ourselves by carrying the camera while walking in the city. Hopefully, we can find a way to “camouflage” it and start exploring more.
This post is for you beautiful family! You are all in our minds so often and we have not yet sat down to write a post of how much you guys mean to us and are in our hearts.
Today, Jaxon’s grandma passed away, Laura Klein, a beautiful woman and a very strong soul! She lived her life surrounded by caring family and she passed the same way. Laura’s husband Paul passed away last year and it is comforting to know that they are together again and watching over their proud and strong family as we cope and move forward together. Two days ago, we found out that Monte, Jaxon’s cousin Sparrow’s husband, passed away unexpectedly due to a sudden heart attack. Our hearts dropped when we heard the news. A young man, with a young baby and wonderful wife, we were and are speechless. Life’s path is often incomprehensible and it’s unexpected events can be incredibly harsh, reminding us that we should live every day to its fullest, something that Sparrow and Monte embodied.
Familia Klein, we love you and my family sends their condolences. Please do not worry about Jaxon, I’ll hug him and keep him smiling and together we will pull through.
Thank you for being a wonderful family.
So, here is the deal, I consider myself incredibly lucky, I have four parents and five siblings – granted they are not all blood related, but regardless, they are all loved. When I was eight, my parents got divorced, at that point I had one older sister and two parents. As life unfolded, my parents remarried and reunited with other people. My dad, Fernando, married Carolina, who is my wonderful step-mom and they had Manuel, 7, and Antonio, 3. My mom, Margara, united with Ivan, who has Camila, 28 and Juanita, 26. Anyway, from being a family of four, I now have two sets of very different families, making life very exciting. Below you will meet Juanita, who arrived two days ago, and my dad’s side of the family.
Yesteray my aunt Elsa Maria, a teacher and an amazing children’s story writer, came to pick up Jaxon and I and we drove to Hacienda Zuleta, where my dad’s side of the family lives. Since May, I had not seen my dad and family and Jax and I had been waiting with anticipation, especially to see mis pequeños! After a very warm greeting, our day started to unfold, chatting mango eating, (Mangos sent by my mom’s brother Xavier and family) walking and greeting everyone in Zuleta that we had not seen in a year and half – last time we were here.
Today, we’re hoping to walk around the Condor rehabilitation center, the spectacle bear sanctuary and eat more Mangos.
Things are starting to come together now, we have kind of created a work space for us in mom’s office – which has helped productivity, we have talked with most of the people we want to see and scheduled trips and different activities with friends. Yesterday, Jax was able to work a full office day plus, from 8:00 am to well beyond 1:00 am. His work is flowing, which is great, even though we are making some changes to the company. On the other hand, I am no longer in charge of the boat, so I have picked up some jobs, designing websites, writing stories, translating texts and hope to be writing for other publications soon – so expect some deeper words on mangolandia, as we start exploring social issues in Ecuador.
Other than working, we have gotten in lots of family time and yesterday, for the first time, we got to see some of my friends who I had not seen in a very long time. I have to admit that after seeing them and hearing all about the cool things they are doing here, not only for themselves, but things that in the long run will help Ecuador, the thought of staying here longer crossed my mind multiple times. Jax and I often wonder what weighs more in our life, the desire for adventure, to learn from different cultures around the world and document them with our camera, pens and minds or the security of social capital and local community. Here, my support network lies almost intact because most of my friends have yet to graduate from college, but soon they will all be doing their own thing and missing out on their development might mean losing our connection to some extent. In Wisconsin, we are surrounded by love and friend/family support, which due to the tight community that Jaxon’s parents have created, is less likely dissolve. Anyway, what is 5 to 7 years in the life of a person? In the last 5 months, I have graduated from college, we bought a sailboat, moved on to it and sailed it from the Great Lakes to Alabama. It seems like a person can do a lot in a small amount of time. Well my friends, I wont worry you with our thoughts anymore. We are positive that things will just flow and the right decision will come as the next few months unroll.
At this point in my life, I have spent around 14 weeks in Ecuador – all in the last 3 years. Flying in last night, it all felt familiar, friendly and yes, even a bit like some kind of home. There is still a huge amount I am not familiar with here, my Spanish is mediocre at best and I’m sure I could not find my way from the airport to Caye’s house unaided, but in our final approach, I did know exactly when to look out of the airplane’s window to see Quito’s “skyline” – millions of lights overflowing the valley sides and washing South through the geographic cut like glow warms caught in ocean swell. Ecuador does not feel that new now. Arriving does not make me nervous and I don’t look twice at the funny shaped fruit – even though I still don’t know any their names. Contrary to continent-wide custom, I am still “that gringo” that insists on actually using the rear seat-belts, but I no longer grip door handles or flex every muscle in my body as we dodge through Quito’s relentless traffic.
Being here is not being “at home”. It is still traveling. But being here also is not being abroad – it is very much not like my time in Japan and I assume, not much like Asia or Africa. The massive shared European influence throughout the Americas is something that so many folks tend to underplay, while expounding differences between Latin America and the US, the Caribbean and South America, Brazil and everyone else, the US and Mexico, etc. Christmas makes this all the more obvious. I am not a Christian, but I am a sucker for holiday traditions and imagery and so much of that familiar Christmas culture is in deed, “all around”. My Spanish skills are lacking, but I understand new words in Spanish every day – just because they are similar to their English counterparts. Being here is not that foreign, it is comfortable, there is shared history here. My country has many things to learn from Ecuador, the opposite is true as well and more than that, we, the two continents, could really benefit from spending some more time thinking about us and less about them.
Today, Bernarda, Caye and I went out for coffee, did a major grocery shopping trip, ate a very Ecuadorian lunch of seafood soup and rice with Caye’s dad, worked hard on our computers and talked about business ideas, next steps and life’s endless capacity to be both incredible and deafeningly sad, all at the same time. We began decorating the Christmas tree, but only got as far as me adding 5 strands of lights to the bottom half of the tree. Then spending 3o minutes trying to “program” them to not flash, twinkle, fade or any other such nonsense. To ensure that the mood was sufficiently holiday-y, we followed up the tree extravaganza with cookie making. All in all, a very pleasant day.
I’m home! It is 3:36 am and I am laying in bed – in my room. As if time had not flown by, I am wearing my old pajamas, composed of my ex-boyfriend’s shirt and red pants, they do not match – but tonight, I do not care. Today, I saw my dad’s smile as he waited for Jax and I to exit the terminal, I smelled my mom’s perfume as I hugged her – making me realize how much I missed her touch, I walked my house and raced up the kitchen stairs and chugged a big glass of water from our big blue blown-glass glasses! It was all a wonderful treat, but two things inspired me to write these few words even though my eyelids are giving up.
- My sister’s words, as I observed her neatly organizing her closet. We exchanged thoughts about art, life, sociology, trips, love, books and weird diseases – all of which were synonymous for I missed you.
- Next to me, my man sleeps, reminding me that even though my pajamas portray me as a high schooler, I am in my bed as a woman. One who has the love of her life resting by her side. One that has lived outside of her home enough to notice that this particular smell is home.
I am home, estoy en mi casa y estoy feliz! The next weeks will be very exciting, as Jax and I take advantage of every moment in this beautiful country. We have lots of plans, tons of people to see, many Ecuadorian calories to gain, lots of Spanish to speak and much love to spread.
From the very first day Jax and I started our trip down the Little Calumet River, we were blown away by the beauty yet coldness of the industrial sites that occupied the river shores. All throughout our journey South, from Chicago to Mobile, factories reminded us that we were on a ride down North America’s backbone. Nature played a minimal role, as huge dredging machines maintained the 9ft controlled depth, as if it were assumed that no wildlife lived there. Young, mostly undernourished, trees covered the shore of the rivers and we did not see many fish, deer or alligators feasting in the mucky water. Yet, fisherman were plentiful, resting on their boats – I wondered if they knew not to be fooled by the trees nearby, for we were all in an industrial water slide.
Click on the photo to see more:
Happy free wallpaper Monday! Below you will find your sailing wallpaper downloadable to use in your computer/smartphone. We have edited the photos in two sizes – one for widescreen monitors and one for more squareish monitors (16:9 and 4:3 for those who care about this type of thing). If you don’t know how to change your computer’s wallpaper, this might just be your time to learn. We’ve posted quick and dead easy instructions for downloading the wallpapers and setting them as your desktop background (Mac + PC versions) here: Free Sailing Wallpaper/Backgrounds Have a great day!
Jaxon + Caye
Right click below. Then click “save target/image/link as:”