Monthly Archives: March 2012

The need of mining, the emptyness of words and the lack of action

Three days ago our government signed a deal with a Chinese company for a mountain-top removal mining project. The damage will be done in the province of Zamora Chinchipe, the Amazon region of our country. The contract will last for 25 years and the main mineral extracted will be copper, although some gold and silver might be in the game too. The site is expected to produce close to 5,000 million pounds of copper. The impact of this project on the local people, environment and animals is predictable. Unfortunately we are only one of a chain of countries that sell their natural resources to China, so that they can keep producing the goods that fuel modern day society, such as consumer technology, construction materials, cheap toys, etc. I want to protest against this happening in my  own country, but by doing that I would be a hypocritical and egocentric, thinking our mountains are more valuable than those in Chile, Bolivia, Zambia, Australia, etc. I am speechless because if I wanted to speak, I would have to start by changing my actions and stop fueling this mineral-craving system. I leave you with this thought as I type on my mineral-rich Apple computer.

Below I give you the trailer:

One sick puppy

One sick puppy

Good morning world. This is going to be one of those “internet generation” updates where I tell the “entire world” about what I ate for breakfast and the color of socks I chose to wear for the day – or the “why do these youngsters think they WE WANT to know about this stuff?” theme. (looking at you Caro;)

So, as Caye mentioned yesterday, she was out of commission for most of the day yesterday. Just feeling miserable, aching, flu-ish, etc. She also mentioned that the rest of the family had all dealt with some variation on the theme over the last week or so. What she did not mention is that Yaku, the male half of our awesome puppy duo, ALSO is really sick with what seems for all he world like puppy stomach flu. This is a lot of sick to deal with for everyone involved.

To make a long story short, the great thing about humans and flu-like symptoms, is that they have good bodily control and understand why they are feeling bad. The (really) bad thing about 7 week-old puppies and flu-like symptoms is that they already don’t have virtually no control of their bowl movements… add massive and regular diarrhea, lethargy and… oh ya, no bladder control to the mix and you have last night in a nutshell. I cleaned up super-gross doggy diarrhea no less than 5 times at 1.5 hour intervals throughout the night, with the occasional digression to cleaning up pee . Caye was a total champ and despite an achy body and fever, managed to join the cleanup crew during all of the worst bits and offer moral support for the other times.

Did I mention the part about humans understanding why they are feeling miserable? Well that’s the hardest part of the whole thing, Yaku, after doing something terrible in the lawn (or on less appropriate surfaces) would just sit down, totally worn out and stare up and Caye and I with these huge “please help me… I feel terrible and have no idea why” eyes. Just sitting there, not blinking…. Ahrggg… so hard. and did I mention that I don’t even speak Dog, so I couldn’t explain it to him?

So, this morning, Caye rallied like a master (again) and hitched a ride to Ibarra with her dad and little brothers on their way to school, to take Yaku to the vet for a much needed checkup. I stayed behind to take care of an incredibly worried Yana (more confused puppy eyes) and try my hardest to get caught up on piles of work. They won’t be gone too long hopefully, but I’m definitely not going to be 100% until they’re both back within hug-range.

A photo journey of our weekend

A photo journey of our weekend

This morning, I (Caye) woke up a little sick. There has been some sort of stomach flu going around Zuleta and last week everyone in our family, except for Jax and I, were sick. I thought I was going to escape it, but this morning proved me wrong. Fortunately, I am blessed with an amazing partner who made me soup and encouraged me to work from bed or simply just watch a movie. I did both, worked and watched the amazing performance of Maryl Streep in the Iron Lady. So, for now I will simply post some photos we took this weekend, enjoy.

Icy mornings on the Mississippi and big contrasts

Icy mornings on the Mississippi and big contrasts

I’ve been reflecting a bit recently. Every couple days, I am struck with the shear contrast of our life now and our life 4 months ago. Exactly 4 months ago this Tuesday, Caye and I were finally looking at tail end of the Mississippi portion of our trip down the rivers. Life on our 28 foot sailboat was not relaxing or easy during this leg of the journey. We passed dozens of barges every day, some as long as 1,350 feet (411 meters) long and 175 feet (53 meters) wide and we had to negotiate, by VHF radio, with the captain of every single one, to make sure we would pass each other safely.

The Mississippi was also extremely fast. The current doubled our traveling speed, which was great for escaping the cold weather to the North, but was also scary, because we had half as much time to react to any dangers around the next blind curve. If for some reason we needed to go back up-river, our motor would only be able to push us into the current at about 1 mile per hour.

That trip from Wisconsin to the Gulf of Mexico feels immensely distant right now. It is so hard for me to imagine sleeping in the little 3 foot (1 meter) tall, windowless closet that was our bed, waking up to an ice-covered boat, making a huge pot of oatmeal and another huge pot of coffee to last us the next 8 hours, firing up the diesel engine, raising the muddy frozen anchors and launching into another 12+ hour day of motoring.

“Hard to imagine” isn’t actually a very descriptive phrase as I think about it. Really, it is just so seems so strange that all of that was happening only 4 months ago. We were alive, happy and very in love then – despite all of the challenges that we dealt with every day. And we are alive, happy and very in love now and we are very much still dealing with challenges every day – but they are so different. Challenges like raising puppies instead of raising stuck anchors. Finding jobs and money to allow us to travel back and forth to the US, rather than finding money for diesel fuel, safe refuge from a storm or fixing our transmission.

One thing is for sure, we are very happy and comfortable right now, but we are in no way done adventuring or sailing. If Caye and I have focused on one thing in our relationship, it is… well, I suppose it is building super-solid communication skills… But if we have focused on one other thing, it is finding comfort in uncomfortable situations. We love being in Ecuador and in Zuleta and we have a ton on our plate for the next 12-24 months. Being with family here is priceless and we will be with family in the US this summer as well. But, whenever the chance arises or we have the urge, we have every intention of pointing our faces in an unfamiliar direction and setting sail, starting to hike, taking off, paddling away, or whatever. We know where home is and will always be back, but we’ll be off adventuring whenever we can.

Here is our post from 4 months ago, the 5th of November – Fog strikes – 60 miles away from the Ohio

fog Strikes – 60

DIY wine bottle glasses

DIY wine bottle glasses

After a late Friday night conversation and YouTube video marathon with my father, Fernando, step mom, Carolina, and Jax about bottle cutting, Jax, Caro and I woke up Saturday ready to try it out ourselves. We marched to the glass recycling bins at Zuleta and picked up 20 bottles, washed them and set up our own glass cutting station. After a number of tries, many broken bottles, a bit of frustration and lots of laughing, we were almost making perfect cuts. Below, I have included a quick tutorial for anyone interested in trying it out.

DIY (upcycled) Wine Bottle Glasses:

Materials:
Wine Bottles – should have parallel sides. ie, not be at all cone-shaped
Glass Cutter
Olive Oil – or similar (To lubcricate the glass cutter)
Two Vices
A piece of flat wood
A v-shaped surface or surface with a gap big enough to spin a bottle in – we used an small, wooden chair, with missing plank
Boiling Water – from a tea kettle
Cold Water – from the tap is fine
Sink or some sort of container to pour over
Wet/dry, fine-grain sandpaper
Optional: Dremel

1. Start by selecting the wine bottles you would like to cut. Remember it does not always work perfectly, especially when you start – so make sure you pick some you do not like as much for the begin.

2. Before attempting to cut your bottles, peeling the labels off is a must. Leaving some types of bottle in a tub with hot water helps, while with others, dry is easier. Some labels peal off really quickly, while others are a 10 min process. Try taking off some the labels from the bottles you have selected, if you are planning on making many glasses, then choosing a wine that has a label that is easy to peel will safe you tons of time.

3. While your bottles are soaking, you can set up your cutting station. Secure your glass cutter to the cutting surface with one of the vices. With the other vice, secure the piece of wood parallel to your cutter. The distance between the wood and cutter will be the height of your new glasses. Everything should be set up around the v-shaped surface, so that when the bottle is set in the v or gap, it contacts the cutter along the side and the piece of wood at the bottom.

4. After setting up the station and cleaning your bottles, you can start cutting. Place your bottle in its position and push lightly toward the cutter, turning it slowly. Make sure you do not go over the same part twice or go backwards. Just nice smooth motion. You should hear a fingernails-on-chalkboard sound.

5. Once you have a line around your bottle, go to the sink and pour boiling water on the cut while spinning the bottle. Then quickly move the cut part to cold water from the faucet – keep spinning the bottle. Then move back to the hot and back to the cold. Keep going back and forth, 20+ seconds per temperature. About 3/4 of the way through the process, the cut line will become white-colored and you will hear a bit of stress-cracking sounds. In general, our bottles went back and forth about 6 times – 3 cold, 3 hot – before breaking.

6. The next step it to sand the glass where it was cut and voila, ç’est fini!

 

For a more detailed information, watch the video below. WARNING, the guy talks a lot! We also took a couple video shots that we will post in the next day or two.

A la casita

A la casita

Today, our day was mostly spent between work and going to “la casita” to check how stuff is progressing. Overall it was a great day, I am getting a handle on construction talk and Jax is helping me with concepts and trying to learn some new vocabulary. Around 4:00pm my brothers, father and step-mom joined us to explore la casita and see the concept in reality. We spent the later evening talking, making our room in my dad and step-mom’s house into a movie theater for my brothers and we drank wine and chatted.  A very pleasant evening. Here are a couple photos of the last 24 hours.

Trying to understand construction stuff…

Trying to understand construction stuff…

Well, to say the least we have been absent from the blog for the last few days. This is due to three thing; trying to navigate construction work, juggling with a very bureaucratic visa process and fitting in work wherever we can. Okay, let me start with the boring, CONSTRUCTION WORK! I cannot wrap my head around it, I have absolutely no interest on how things are built, I’d rather just deal with aesthetics. For my luck, Jax loves thinking about construction-related stuff, so I never have to deal with contractors/workers when in the US. Ecuador is a different story. Jaxon’s above average, yet not fluent Spanish d0es not allow him to communicate fluidly with the constructors! Meaning that I need to try to understand construction, translated both ways and I honestly have to say I occasionally get frustrated. Luckily my dad has been helping us a lot and between him and Jaxon, it seems like they have it all figured out. Okay, let me continue with mmm another boring thing, an extension of Jaxon’s tourist visa, so that we can later apply for another visa so that later he can obtain his citizenship or residency! We spent our whole day today in the capital going back and forth between my mom’s house and the Ministry of External Affairs. This stage might be done by Monday – we’ll see.

Well, I wont bore you anymore with our busy week, however I will say that these next few days will be more exciting because we get to see the house come together and start planing the aesthetics a bit more, we will know the result of Jaxon’s visa extension and well… hopefully finish some of our entrepreneurial projects.

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