Monthly Archives: February 2012

Sketching our new barn/apartment

Sketching our new barn/apartment

At 1pm today, we handed over 5 pages of “architectural drawings” to our general contractor (or maestro here), Fernando. The drawings are far from professional, but they should be plenty to go on. In fact, Fernando appears to have the skills, experience and confidence to do the whole project with no more than a quick, “we’ll need a bathroom here, a new ceiling, let’s add a wall here, etc.”

Needless, to say, with such skilled workers at hand, I did the obvious thing and burned two days creating to-scale 3D drawings in Google SketchUp. To be fair, I really do enjoy architecture-y work and have a solid background in designing secret underground lairs with on my dad’s drafting table with his fancy pencils and see-through paper. That said, the reality is that creating drawings that are even close to useful for contractors takes a great deal of time, patience and experience – I might even go as far as to say, that there is a good reason that most people hire trained professionals.

In any case, the model is done and with only two hiccups in the process. The first was the total uselessness of Sketchup’s tool for adding dimension text alongside the drawing and the resulting need for us to write, with pencil, all of the dimensions on the printed drawings. The second was a very short bit of couples tension when I missed our first deadline for turning in the drawings to the Maestro Fernando, after spending around 14 hours days straight working in Sketchup and saying, “Yep, just about done. Just a couple more minutes…” approximately 100 times. We ended up with smiles thanks to Caye’s ample supply of patience and my tongue-in-cheek insistence that “a lot of people would pay someone thousands of dollars for this kind of work..”

So, tomorrow the work will begin with a thorough cleaning of decades of dirt, smoke, dust, cobwebs, etc. We’ll have lots of before, during and after photos. In the mean time, here is a short video I made to show-off the joy of Sketchup and a couple of perspectives from the final version.

To learn a bit about SketchUp or download the free program (mac or pc), check out: http://sketchup.google.com/

Arquitectura Sustentable – Sustainable Architecture

Arquitectura Sustentable – Sustainable Architecture

From now on I will attempt to write each post in Spanish and English. Our Latin American audience is growing, our life is mostly in Spanish and it is getting harder to only express myself in English, plus I need to practice my Spanish writing.

As we start the process of remodeling our old barn house, we are getting excited about exploring what sustainable practices we can integrate. Both Jax and I are firm believers that the world wont be able to sustain us much longer if we keep up our current path, plus we prefer to live an environmentally conscious life anyway, for the little adventures it entails. Okay having said that, this is where we stand at the moment. We have an early 20th century barn/shed with a small apartment in one section that my extended family is willing to rent to us as our temporary home in our farm, Hacienda Zuleta, in Ecuador. The barn/apartment is in okay condition inside, not definitely not comfortable/livable by even our pretty low standards, but it is workable with a small budget.

The following are the projects that we need to accomplish to be able to move into the house. Add a bathroom space and fixtures, kitchen fixtures and counters, create a ceiling for the kitchen, add a heat source for the apartment (a small masonry heater), fix various roof leaks, open three windows, add a ceiling in the attic-bedroom, paint the whole house (inside and out), repair and extend the patio roof and open large internal window that connects the living-room with the kitchen. All these projects will begin next week.

How are we trying to make this house sustainable?

We will add a vegetable garden, make a composting toilet, paint the walls with lime and clay based paints, maybe try to make some electricity with micro-hydro in the backyard stream, heat our water with solar-hydronic panels,  furnish the house with mostly salvaged and borrowed goods, use re-purposed car-part crates for the kitchen ceiling and lots more. In the following months we will post questions, solutions, tutorials and our thoughts on the process.

Español:

Desde ahora comenzare a escribir la mayoría de las posts en Español y Ingles. Hemos llegado a esta conclusión por tres razones, una porque la cantidad de lectores Latino Americanos está creciendo, nuestra vida es mayormente en Español y porque tengo que practicar mi (Caye) escritura en Español.

Mientras comenzamos el proceso de remodelar nuestra pequeña casa vieja de hacienda, queremos tomar en cuenta arquitectura y practicas sustentables. Jaxon y yo, somos creyentes que el mundo no podrá aguantarnos por mucho más tiempo si conservamos nuestras practicas medio ambientales actuales, aparte los dos disfrutamos lo que involucra tener este estilo de vida. Eso dicho, les contare en donde nos encontramos ahora. Mi familia nos ha permitido remodelar una casa vieja que es parte de un establo en nuestra hacienda, Zuleta – Ecuador. Las condiciones de la misma son regulares, es decir que no nos podemos mudar a ella sin hacer algunos arreglos.

Los siguientes proyectos son los que tenemos que terminar antes de poder mudarnos. Aumentar un baño y cocina, poner tablones que separen las tejas del techo y la cocina, aumentar una fuente de calor – Masonry, aumentar un techo interno al cuarto/altillo, tapar varias goteras, tapar huecos en el altillo, pintar toda la casa, agrandar el techo exterior y abrir una gran ventana que conecta la sala y la cocina. Todos estos proyectos están en proceso de construcción.

Como vamos hacer esta casa sustentable?

Primero comenzaremos con aumentar un huerto, un escusado compost, pintar las paredes con cal y pinturas a base de arcilla, buscar fuentes de energía renovables como el agua, viento y sol y amoblar la casa con muebles usados. Hablaremos de estos y mas proyectos en los siguientes meses.

Meet Sunshine Stories – a surfer, traveling couple

Meet Sunshine Stories – a surfer, traveling couple

As I sit surrounded by a beautiful Andean mountain scene, next to a fire place, I think about Surkha, the ocean, surfing and it all reminds me of Sunshine Stories, a blog about a surfing and traveling couple from Sweden. For the last few months, Petter and Linn have been our inspiration, as we’ve started the process of temporary settling down down in Ecuador. This couple is traveling Central and North America in search of waves, good people and local food.

Linn and Petter are in their early 20′s and since the first week they were together, they started traveling the world, improving their photography and learning to surf. Three years later, they have visited 17 countries, gotten sponsorships for their traveling and surfing and are a daily inspiration for photography. Right now they are in Mexico, in the months to come, they will keep traveling in Central America. Currently they are looking for surfers and locals from the different Central American countries to show them around. If you know of someone or you would like to meet this cool couple, contact them through their blog, Sunshine Stories.

Below are some of our favorite photos from their site. In the future maybe we’ll trade a couple of guest posts and you’ll be able to hear a bit more about Linn and Petter.

Moving to Zuleta…

Moving to Zuleta…

I am sitting on my sister’s high school bean bag. Yaku, one of our new pups, is curled up behind my neck sleeping, while Yana, our other puppy, sleeps on my chest – we have two exhausted dogs. Our last few days have been hectic, but we have finally made it to our home for the next one or two years – Zuleta. Yesterday, we traveled from Quito to Zuleta – after having a wonderful Carnaval holiday with my mom and sister. The trip was for the most part uneventful, with the exception of Yana’s general dislike of car rides. After a long day of packing and driving, the pups slept the whole night. Jax and I worked until midnight and slept the rest of the night. Today, we had one goal in mind, finding a place to live. My dad and his wife, Car, were incredibly helpful with this and proposed a couple of places, all of which were great but one that won our heart.

Before lunch we took the pups to an extremely nice vet in Ibarra to get them vaccine shots and a check-up. The doctor fell in love with them and informed us that they are in very good health and that he thinks there dad is a Husky – we’re not too sure about that. As the sunset came, Jax and I worked on measuring our potential new home while Yana and Yaku spent an afternoon playing with my brothers.

 

The exploring has begun… Useful Wedding Websites

The exploring has begun… Useful Wedding Websites

As many of you know, Jax and I are engaged and are planing our wedding for summer 2013. Before this week I had put very little thought on the idea of our wedding day and even less to the idea of a honeymoon. Jax and I have been living together for the last three years and a half and have been traveling to cool places since the beginning of our time together. However, with Jaxon’s parents visiting Ecuador last month, the conversation kicked off.

So yesterday, after some work, I decided to start looking around the web for ideas. Not to my surprise, I found great resources online that I wanted to share with you. Below are a few of the sites and some quick descriptions/thoughts on each one:

Green Wedding Shoes

This website focuses on green weddings, although I have yet to see an actual  green-green ceremony. However, if you are into alternative weddings, such as beach, backyard, handmade, green and rustic ceremonies then you will find lots of “Real Wedding” photos to look at and get inspired. My favorite favorite menu items are “Real Wedding” followed by “DIY”.

 

 

Delightfully Engaged

Delightfully Engaged, is a great resource for inspiration, photos, honeymoon ideas and relationship advice. Although a little less alternative, this website has the best menu I have seen so far. It divides inspiration ideas by color, season and style, making the site very searchable, for people like us who have an idea of what we want and are looking for photo-inspirations. My favorite menu items are “Wedding by Style” followed by “Wedding Basics”.

Bridesmaid.com

Bridesmaid is a very cute and simple website. Although most of the things featured are not our style, I loved their simple blog format where posts can be scanned through and inspirations can be furthered explored. My favorite idea found in this website was a DIY cupcake bar, where the basic chocolate and vanilla cupcakes are baked and the guests can choose the toppings.

Wedding Cupcake Bar

 

 

Emmaline Bride

This website is the queen of DIY. I spent approximately way too much time browsing their pages, for a first exploration session. If you are into doing things yourself, like I am, then bookmark this website for sure. My favorite menu items were “DIY”, “Real Weddings” and “Local”.


Bayside Bride

Okay, this website is the upscale version of most of the ones I have mentioned above, however the photos are great!!! And you know me… I LOVE photos. It offers very pretty tutorials on how to do wedding stuff, such as sewing napkins – by this they literally mean cutting the fabric, ironing the sides and stitching them so that the threats do not come apart. Even though their DIYs are as simple as they get, they are also the prettiest of all. My favorite menu items are, “Real Weddings” and “DIY”.

Wedding Gawker

I will conclude this series of websites with one of the most broad of them all. Wedding Gawker, chooses wedding-related themes from other websites and posts them with a related photo, a sentence about the article and a link back to the original site. In this page you will find countless resources for wedding ideas, inspirations, DIY, stories, etc.

 

If you are hungry for more websites, here is a link to an article by Bride Magazine, of the “50 Wedding Website You Can’t Live Without

And the honeymoon… Well I will leave with one website, yes there are more… But the wedding planning has to begin before we start thinking about a honeymoon.

Jet Fete

  Yes, almost all the places advertise on this website are beautiful, luxurious and way out of our budget! But hey, maybe by the time we get married we will be able to afford a luxurious cabin in Fiji or a cruise through the Amazon River. Explore this site at your own risk – for it hosts beautiful places around the world, most of which range between $100-$1000 a night.

 

Finally, I will leave you with this info-graphic. For those of you outside the US, this graph might be less relevant, yet you could still  estimate how much people spend on a wedding in your country and compare it to the most consumerist country in the world.

If you have any other wedding-related website/photos ideas, send us a link and we will check it out.

Meet Yaku and Yana – our puppies

Meet Yaku and Yana – our puppies

Meet our two new puppies. They are siblings, born to the same mother and we suspect the same father as well. They can best be described as, 50% Golden Retriever, 50% who knows what, they are 10 weeks and 1 day old and adorable. Jax and I swore to not have any more pets after our hedgehog Mochila, we even mentioned this on the blog a number of times, but one look at these puppies and I was sold. Jaxon was not so sure (he is more focused than me), Morgan’s puppy eyes made him think it might be a good idea and a long conversation about our priorities plus some puppy time convinced him all the way. Is it a good decision? Who knows, but we are willing to try it out.

Meet Yaku, which is water in Quechua. He is male, born in Hacienda San Jose – Amaguaña. He is golden with dark brown stripes, has bright blue eyes and sleeps whenever he is petted. He enjoys taking any toy, bone or leaf away from his sister.

Meet Yana, which means loved one in Quechua. She is a female, also born in Hacienda San Jose – Amaguaña. She is dark brown with golden stripes (the opposite of her brother), has a white nose and bright blue eyes. She is a guard dog and is always alert and ready for action with every sound. She likes hiding every toy she gets.

What about all those projects?

What about all those projects?

Two days ago we dropped off Morgan and Jena at the airport for their flight back to the states. We were sad to see them go, but very excited for them, that they get to settle down for a little while, put down some roots and get some stuff done. They have a new dog, grad school around the corner, art openings and so many other exciting things going on. They will be in WI for a couple weeks I think, then Minnesota, then WI, then MN, etc. We had a fantastic last 10 days them and are already looking forward to our next group trip.

So, over the last couple months, you’ve heard us mention many times that we are “about to launch a new business”, or “we’ve been working really hard on this new project”, or “we have 5+ potential business opportunities in Ecuador”, etc. Well, today I’m going to break down and at least give a bit more information, because we are getting tired of all this non-committal. And of course, because we are actually giddy about the opportunities and jobs that we are doing.

Here’s the summary then. First off, we have been working on and off for months on a very large website of information, news and tips for tourists traveling to Ecuador. That site will go live in less than two weeks and we are putting in long days getting it ready and have a team of great folks working with us from all over the world – USA, Guatamala, India, England, Israel and more. Coders, editors, graphic designers, data manipulators, etc. Fun stuff.

We also are continuing to work in web development, design and hosting. For the most part, we are saying no to all new client work that comes up, as our ongoing jobs in site management, marketing and support are keeping us more than busy and building sites from scratch is big work. Our plan is to maintain, but not grow this business for the time-being.

Another web business that we are involved in is essentially a web security firm, focused on “unhacking” WordPress-based sites. We have a neat team for this project too, including a bad-ass Department of Defense net-security agent.

In Zuleta, where we will mostly be living in Ecuador, we are going to be working on many projects. We will continue to work with the Hacienda’s marketing initiatives, while exploring some very neat ideas of integrating technology into the Hacienda experience. We also will be working with projects related to renewable energy, community tourism and entrepreneurship, and maybe, just maybe, the brewing of delicious, moderately alcoholic beverages. There is also the possibility that Caye will get involved in maternal healthcare in the village of Zuleta. This is her big passion and we are both hoping that she can find opportunities working with mothers and babies or creating films on the same subject.

In Quito, we will be working with Caye’s mom’s store, Folklore Olga Fisch, an incredible boutique of locally made art. We do marketing work with them and will be involved in launching a fun new line of products. Caye is also working on creating an independent line of Ecuadorian-themed baby cloths and accessories (have I ever mentioned that Caye LOVES baby products? Seriously… just try walking with her through the baby isle in Whole Foods – hours!). This line may or may not be in cahoots with the fruit photos we posted a while back, a series of posters/pamphlets and our tourism website – that all remains to be seen.

So, that’s that. I know what you are probably thinking… “how will you ever be able to fight off the boredom?” I know! We’re thinking exactly the same thing… That’s actually precisely why we’re planning on getting two puppies… just kidding… no, actually not. I’m being totally serious.

Today, Correa, Ecuador’s president, is 40 million dollars richer

Today, Correa, Ecuador’s president, is 40 million dollars richer

If you have been around Latin American new’s sources at all today, you might already know that our dearest president, Rafael Correa, just won a 40 million dollar legal case against the Ecuadorian newspaper, El Universo. What did the newspaper do? Well, on October 6 2011, they published an opinion piece by Emilio Palacio, in which he called the president a liar.

It was September 30th and I was walking through Beloit’s hallways. All of a sudden a heard my politics professor calling me, “Caya, Caya” (how I am regularly called in the US). I turned around to find out that the BBC had just published a BREAKING NEWS piece stating that Ecuador had gone into civil war. Not knowing how to respond to the news, I hurried to the library to check other news sources. Within minutes I found international news outlets claiming that people were dying in our streets and that the policemen had kidnapped the president. I called my mom, no answer, I called my sister, no answer, so I called all my Ecuadorian friends at Beloit – “did you hear? Apparently Correa has been kidnapped”. We all got together outside the library. We were not too nervous, for most of us had participated in political protests before and Ecuador is infamous for not letting any president complete their term. Hoping everything was okay, my day continued.

At around 4:00pm I got a call from my mom, “are you okay?” I asked in a panicked voice. “Yes, why?” “Well, the BBC, CNN, NPR are all saying that Ecuador’s president has been kidnapped, that people are dying and that we are in the middle of civil war”. A silence followed my statement, “well other than the civil war, it is mostly all true” she replied. The conversation that followed was hard to believe. As good Ecuadorians, the police force was protesting outside a hospital. They were unhappy because the government had changed their monthly stipend. The protest was calm and did not include the majority of the police force, probably because not all were unhappy with the stipend change. Anyway, against logic and the advice of his party, Correa decided to go to the scene to see what was happening. This is when it got intense, at least in the news. The protesters got angry and excited that the president was there and as with most crowds the ran towards him, some to get his autograph others to tell him how unhappy they were. His guards reacted by throwing pepper spray, which in turn, suffocated the president who needed to be taken to the hospital were the protesters were located.

The director of the hospital asked him to leave and go to another hospital, to avoid the crowd coming in. The president did not wish to go to any of the other of the three hospitals that surrounded the Police hospital, where he was. Next scene: The president was in the window saying that he has been kidnapped. Confused by his statement, people outside started screaming, his guards fired shots and for the first time in 50 years people died in what began as a peaceful protest.

Fast forward one week, Palacio wrote an opinion piece insulting the president for lying to the country and the international community, claiming that he has a totalitarian personality that would only hurt Ecuador in the long run. A month and a half later Correa sued the newspaper that Palacio writes for, for 40 million dollars. Paying this amount would take approximately 666 years for an average Ecuadorian.

Conclusion, after some corruption, the president of a “populist, democratic” nation has managed to win a big sum of money, has increased fear among the population of the country he “loves” and has punched “liberty of expression” in the face.

PS: After yesterday’s decision was made, the mother of the owner of the newspaper died of a heart attack. Not too blame Correa, but it is very unfortunate.

I love this country, I really do and I hoped with all my heart that Correa was that leader that we needed to take Ecuador to the next level. Unfortunately, it appears that this well-intentioned man got too drunk with power and is falling into the same holes as his predecessors.

The image below were taken from Google, if you own any of them and do not wish to have them published, just let me know. (Hoping not to get sued…)

 

Sidetracked in Ecuador

Sidetracked in Ecuador

Jax and I are known by our families and friends as an indecisive and unpredictable couple, as free spirits that follow the wind’s path. In reality, we plan a lot, I would even say that we have done so much in our three years of relationship because we meticulously lay out our days, goals, aspirations and realities in ink and pursue them until a black line lays on top of each word or sentence. Of course, as you’ve read on this blog, not everything always goes according to plan.

For some of you, it may come as a surprise that in the last week we came to the conclusion that Ecuador will be our home for 1 to 2 years – for others, it may not. Although traveling and exploring the world is our fuel, we have decided to camp out in the mountains for sometime – in Zuleta . This decision arose from the wish to have a certain guarantee that in life we will be able to dedicate ourselves to all of our passions, even those that don’t generate income (like all of mine). For this, we need to focus on building some economic sustainability soonish. While ashore, we have been invited to work in or start various projects and have initiated a few more of our own. So, now the time has come to make sure we finish them and make the most out of our experiences.

So, you might be wondering what is going to happen to the blog and the boat? Well, answering that at it’s fullest would make this post completely too long! So I’ll just say, the blog will continue to grow, as we continue to explore this beautiful country, start close to 5 businesses/projects and meet interesting people. Surkha’s fate is as of yet undecided. The question is, should we keep her in hurricane-zone Alabama or sell her together with all our months of hard work in a market that does not favor boat sellers. We will probably opt to do the first and keep her in a protected storage hoping for the best. In any case we will be taking a trip to the US before hurricane season to figure it all out.

Driving up 9000ft in 9 hours, Quito and fondue

Driving up 9000ft in 9 hours, Quito and fondue

It’s been six days since we checked in last. Our sunburns no longer hurt, but we are definitely still peeling. We ended up spending 3 days and 2 nights in the Mandala eco-lodge in Puerto Lopez. It was a stunningly relaxing place with little cabins buried in a huge and dense garden of tall Ecuadorian plants. The couple that own the place were great and total characters. Both in there 50s or 60s, the woman is Swiss-German and the man is Italian. There common language is Spanish, although they are proficient in 4+ others, each. Who knows what it takes to get two European folks to settle down in Ecuador, create a beach-front eco-lodge and stick with it for 15 years. Whatever the special sauce is, it definitely requires a lot of personality. The Italian guy was 6ft tall, had a bit of a paunch, wore clothes a few sizes too large, talked in a booming voice to all the guests as he made rounds in the common spaces, had all of his greying hair braided up into cornrows and was never to be seen without his accompanying gang of 5 huge Great Danes. Super nice. Super strange.

After a very intentional and well-executed days of relaxing and recovering, we packed up the car Friday morning and headed back up into the Andes. It was a 9 hour drive and we ascended more than 9000ft, from driving at sea-level, on the beach, to the chilly, cloud-surrounded outskirts of Quito. The brisk and lighter air of the mountains was refreshing to breath and felt like a million miniature unicorns sneezing 0n my badly scorched and peeling skin.

From arriving back to Quito, until today, we have largely focused on working during the day, exploring nearby parts of the city with Morgan and Jena, cooking and baking as a group and just generally trying to make the most out of our last few days together with our wonderful friends. Today, we baked two loaves of sourdough bread in the house’s wood-fired bread/pizza oven. Tonight we will turn that bread into the vehicle for moving liquid-hot cheese from a fondue pot to our mouths.

Montañita

Montañita

We arrived to Montañita Sunday evening. After close to 10 hours of driving, we were glad to see Morgan, Jena, firm ground and lots of restaurant options. Montañita is a surfer town, situated in Manabi Province. A glance at this town makes you realize the unsustainable dream that makes this place like no other in Ecuador – surf all day, party all night. We arrived to a cute small motel the first night, where Morgan and Jena had been staying for one night. Realizing that the price was too high for a room without an Ocean view – $20 per person – we decided to pack up the next day and go hotel hunting.

After some exploring, we ended up with a comfortable cabin in front of the ocean for only $15 per person – the Montañita Community’s Hotel. Our two next days followed a similar pattern – eat breakfast, surf, surf, sun block, surf, surf, sun block, surf, swim, surf, dinner and some cocktails in town.

The first day the sun was not as intense, so by the next morning we all felt fine. However, the second day the sun was OUT and in Ecuador that means an intense amount of UV light. Morgan and Jaxon were exposed to it the most, for they surfed more than Jena and I. However, Morgan decided the sun was too intense at about 3:00pm and went to seek some protection. Jaxon on the other hand, against the advice of the three of us did not get out of the water until sunset – reason why he can barely move today.

After some intense “tanning” we left Montañita this morning, seeking some peace and shade. We are now in Puerto Lopez in very nice eco-lodge called Mandala and plan on going to Isla de la Plata tomorrow – poor people’s Galapagos – for some sight seeing.

Photographing for The Nature Conservacy +

Photographing for The Nature Conservacy +

Our last few days can be summed up as “lots of driving”. Starting Monday of last week, we began our see-a-doctor marathon, that can be translated to seeing 5 doctors in 2 days. Nothing is really wrong with us, well I can see nothing wrong with me, my appointments were geared more towards general check-ups and preventive medicine. Jaxon on the other hand, had to experience some painful hours at the mercy of our very nice dentist and later, found out, via catscan, what his nose looks like inside or doesn’t – for very little air goes through those cavities. I am glad that we are in a country where medicine is affordable, even though we don’t need anything too extreme.

After our medical extravaganza, we took off to Zuleta, where we worked and discussed life for a couple of days. Then we crossed the province to go to my aunt Marga and uncle Jorge’s house. There, we spent lots of hours discussing politics, life, photography and as always, eating amazing food made by my aunt. Our main reason for the visit was to see my cousin Gabriela, who is working with The Nature Conservancy to create a magazine and asked us to accompany her as photographers to a presentation by the Cofan Tribe, from the North Eastern Ecuadorian Amazon – Sucumbios Province. The experience was interesting and we took close to 2,500 photos all of which very officially and legally now belong to Nature Conservancy, non of which we can use for anything – including the blog.

Tomorrow, we take off to the beach to meet our amazing friends Morgan and Jena. The week will be spent surfing, eating and chillaxing in Montañita. Kind of like Florida, only that there will be less rules about dogs and lots of younger people.

 

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