Photo Drop

It is always a pleasure to go back home, speak my native language, savor the flavors I grew up with and admire the mountains. This time around it was very hard to leave, yet I felt content to have found so many of my loved ones smiling about their lives.

My mom and her husband Tommy laugh as they correct each other about insignificant details about je ne sais quoi, no one wins, they laugh, hold hands and move on. Their life just flows, adorned with smiles, orchids, tangerine trees and love.

Manuel and Antonio, my adorable little brothers, spend their summer playing together. Arguments come up and instead of dwelling on insignificant details, like they used to, they move on and continue to play. They are becoming friends and an incredible company to each other.

My dad sits in a gorgeous, two century year-old and recently renovated watermill / guesthouse that he and his wife Caro have been working on for two years. All four of his kids play with his granddaughter on the floor, while he sits back with Caro in his arms. His constant smile tells the whole story.

My beautiful sister, Bernarda, kisses her boyfriend in front of my grandma – she is in love. A ping pong table welcomes you when you enter their apartment, she has obviously found her soulmate.

My friends have started new jobs, most of them love what they are doing. Some wish they could retire in the next month, yet no one seemed to be terribly unhappy with their situation. They have each other, weekends for out-of-town trips and a lot of laughing material that could cheer up even the bitterest of souls.

This trip we also got to see many of my cousins, who I had not seen in ages. They too, seemed to be pretty at peace with their life.

As we travelled around Ecuador, I held in my hand a very precious book that had been in my reading list for over 2 years, but which I had not gotten around to buying – Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn.

This book narrates the stories of victims to some of the biggest gender-related injustices in the world, child prostitution and trafficking, honor killings, child marriage, Female Genital Cutting and infanticide. As I soaked in Kristof and Wudunn’s stories, I looked at my country with different eyes. I smiled as I saw women out and about, working, going to the market, handling money, dressed like they want and although there is much to do in Ecuador towards gender equality, I was glad to reflect on the fact that we are not doing too bad – in relation to many countries.

(Mami, no te tome ninguna foto con Milushkin… 🙁 q tontera! )

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A week in the wilderness

“I don’t think anyone will believe me” was my brother Antonio’s response when his mom asked him if he’ll tell his friends he met his niece this week, “I am just too young”. This week we spent it in Andean paradise, surrounded by absolutely wonderful company – my two younger brothers, Manuel (9) and Antonio (6), my dad and stepmom, Fernando and Carolina, and for a few days my sister and her boyfriend, Bernarda and Juan Pablo. It is not common for my dad to have all of his kids in one place, but Mila brought us all together for some hiking, Monopoly playing, pizza making and lots of laughing.

The last seven days we were enjoying Caro’s delicious carrot cake and company, watching my dad and Mila fall in love, building yet another trebuchet with my brothers and making our baby girl into a true adventurer in the Andes. Many memories come tied to these mountains, but the biggest and most important one is of time shared with our family. I am happy to say that we leave with the same sensation of fulfillment and happiness of the time spent together.

The next two days will be spent saying goodbye to our family and friends in Quito. Introducing Mila to yet another family group and trying to grasp all the excitement that awaits us home.

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Courtesy of my brother Manuel:



In between paradises

There was silence in the car, I was sitting next to Jaxon who was steering us through the Andes while we talked about life. For the first time since we first crossed from Florida to Wisconsin, Mila dreamed away in her car seat. 40 minutes of snoozing passed and we got worried, for she was breaking a record. I turned around and double checked that she was breathing, anxiously the father awaited a postive response, “she is babe”, we both sighed and melted away in our conversation. 1 hour and 20 minutes passed and she was still quiet, “Jax I think we should stop the car and make sure she is breathing”. We stopped the car and I poked her – she moved, we looked at each other with huge smiles and held hands the rest of the way to Zuleta.

The last two days have been spent absorbing as much as we can of this Andean paradise. We left Cumbaya, from my mom and Tommy’s gorgeously designed and decorated home to my dad and Caro’s small paradise in the middle of an amphitheater of native beauty. Mila has been quite literarily laughing out loud with el GRANDpa (my dad) and Jaxon has spent hours playing and building stuff with my brothers.

Less than a year has gone by since we packed La Casita, yet with a baby and two moves under our belt it feels like years have flown by. We are endlessly thankful to have so much joy and beauty in our life.

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Our Daughter Speaks Whale

It all started two weeks ago, when baby Mila spoiled us by moving so much. We got used to her flutters joining us for family time at night. Last week, her movements decreased to just a few flutters a day. So, Jax and I were laying in bed one night thinking how we could get her to move. We know that as off a number of weeks ago she can hear activity/voices outside the womb and feel our touch. We tried some pokes, but felt bad that maybe we were poking her in the eye. All of a sudden Jax says “Maybe she only speaks whale” (Finding Nemo reference – watch the clip below if you have no idea what I am talking about). Within a couple seconds Jax was speaking whale to Mila and indeed to our surprise she started to move.

We repeated did this for a couple of days and it worked almost every time! So we decided to put some whale music for her to hear and she has reacted to it every time!! We think that it is probably because whale sounds are such low frequency that the sound travels better through the amniotic fluid. Regardless of the reason, we are delighted to have found a way to communicate with her! Making whales my favorite animals – again.

These past days have been busy. We have been packing, celebrating my dad and Caro’s 10th year anniversary and trying to finish taxes on time! Tomorrow we say goodbye to Zuleta and head to Quito to spend a couple days with my mom and sister before heading out of Ecuador. Saint Augustine here we come! Lots of posts to are on their way!

Below, a clip from Pixar’s “Finding Nemo”, an awesome whale I found online – would love to give someone the credit, but I could not find its source, some photos of my belly, some of the wonderful gifts Mila has received from my mom, sis and grandma and Jax and my long exposure experiment.


Preparing to leave and Mila

It is hard to explain everything that is going through our minds at the moment. Our business is headed towards stability – yet it is not quite there, we are about to move to a new town that we have never been to, with our two dogs, we need to find a home and furnish it and prepare ourselves for the birth of our first child, Mila. Although each of these things carry their own emotional weight, the addition of all of them has brought a huge amount of excitement into our lives. Actually, the word excitement does not quite encompass the mix bag of feelings that we have flowing through our systems at the moment.

We have spent this weekend trying to figure out the logistics of our travels, which is not an easy task. We need to find a temporary furnished home that accepts dogs to stay temporarily while we scout the area for a year-long rental and then move into the new house with nothing else than a bag of clothes and our computers… and figure out from there. That’s the short version, to avoid boring you with all of the logistics.

What we have chosen to do right before Mila’s birth is not an easy task. That said, we’ve weighed many many options carefully and it is without a doubt our best and I don’t think we would have it any other way. The thought of what we have ahead does not scare us, but rather fills our life with the excitement of planning and overcoming difficulties, which as always, bonds us even more. During this whole process, I have felt so fortunate to have the spouse I have, so supportive, understanding and more than anything, having someone who I get along so well with. It feels like as long as we are together, we could take on the world.

While I sit and write these words, Jax is looking at kiteboarding videos and looking for more potential rental solutions. Yesterday, we browsed the local Craigslist for furniture and we were very pleasantly surprised when we found a very active list with more than 100 local postings a day. Our nights have been spent talking and psychologically preparing for Mila, as we play with her in my belly. She now moves constantly and she feels just as active as she looked in the ultrasounds. She also responds to our touch and voices, which has made our love for her become almost infinite even though, we have yet to hold her – which we can hardly wait for.

We have also been in touch with a midwife that we like a lot and although we have yet to meet her face to face, having someone who we know is available for August is such a reassuring check off our list. We have been discussing our birthing plan and I have been re-educating myself on all things birth, which reminds me of how much I love being a woman and how, as soon as we are a little bit more economically stable, I will dedicate myself to empowering other women during childbirth and beyond.

And so, those are some of my thoughts for the day. We will now proceed to enjoy our last two weeks and a half in this amazing country.


Looking back and looking forward

Yesterday’s night, Jax and I decided to go for a late night walk. A full moon was shinning, our stomachs were full with soup and a Mila and the dogs were anxious to explore the night. As soon as we stepped out of La Casita, it dawned on us that this particular late night walk might be one of our last living here. Instead of being overwhelmed with mixed emotions, we ended up remembering and reliving parts of our trip down the river in Surkha. Soon enough, 30 minutes had passed and neither one of us could stop talking about all our memories. Some very scary, while others so magical we will never be able to forget. Now, more than a year after our Surkha adventure, we are about to say goodbye to a year and a half living in the Andes.

Our purpose for this year was not only visiting my family, but also being able to create a sustainable business. We have achieved both these goals and now we move to a historic city in the USA to birth our baby girl, Mila. We will be close to the ocean and it will not be long until we are sailing again, for we both crave it. Great waves will soon surround us and we will be able to improve our surfing. I am so thankful for our life, although not always easy, we are happy with how we’ve keep it unfolding in beautiful ways. Below some photos of our trip down the river.

Today my cousin Nacho came visit with a friend from Colombia, Juana. We have been having a great time with them!


Parents visit and more nature

My parents spent two weeks visiting Caye and I here in Ecuador – ending 1 week ago. The trip was great and very laid back. There was a lot of time for our families to just do “normal” things together, rather than lots of touring and touristing. It can be a bit tricky getting these less intense family times in when it takes intercontinental travel for either of our families to visit the other – so we were super pleased that this went so well and love that my parents are such easygoing and fun guests.

Unfortunately something has had to give as our “all work, all the time” lifestyle combined with the pregnancy – and that thing has been photography/writing. Long story short, we have very few photos from my parents’ trip. Most of the below are from a great weekend trip to Mindo with them and a hike we took with Caye’s family this last weekend.


The plan, Mila & Photos

It is hard to know where to start this post. I have not been writing in Mangolandia for a while and knowing what to say and what is irrelevant becomes harder. Our absence started right after we hired Pablo, our company’s CTO and things got really busy at work. That followed by an awful morning sickness, lots of traveling and a growing company left me with no time for photos or writing. Now, things have calmed down a bit – in a way.

My pregnancy has progressed beautifully and as of two days ago we are pretty sure we are having a baby girl, Mila, which has us delighted. Our company Invento Media (http://www.inventomedia.com/) is growing, fast, steady and is keeping us very busy and happy. Other than that we have decided on our next home and birthing spot. It will be Saint Augustine, Florida, USA. While researching our next home, we had a number of things in mind. It needed to be near the ocean, have great sailing, surfing, be warm, be socially progressive, have some of the “arts” around, be safe, affordable and be “near” both of our families. Right off the bat we had narrowed down our possibilities a lot by being so picky, so we were very surprised when we found a place that fit all of our specifications so well.

Saint Augustine, is the the oldest continually inhabited city in the United States, it was originally Spanish and is home to Seventeenth century forts and tons of great history. The intercoastal waterway divides Anastasia Island from the mainland and it is known for its great surfing, kite boarding, sailing and beautiful beaches. Best of all, it costs almost exactly the same to fly to there from Wisconsin and from Ecuador and although we wont be really near either family, this is a useful middle ground. We have already heard great things about the local farmers markets, CSA and microbrewery. We have contacted a possible midwife and are looking forward to getting to know the city better. Deciding on a completely unknown place for both of us as a birthing spot was not easy at all – at all. Both of our other two options offered countless benefits, such as having the most incredible midwife receive our baby in Wisconsin, already having a place to live in Ecuador and having lots of family support in both, but having waves, our own clean/modern home and being central to both families won our hearts.

So that is it for today, just some thoughts on our current state. I will be posting more again soon. There are a couple of questions from readers I have not answered, such as why we make the decisions we make and how we got started. I also want to post a meditating post on our company and how it has evolved and finally some traveling plans.

Below some photos from, well… since I stopped posting.


What does it feel like to be pregnant? (1st Trimester)

I promised myself I would not blog until the Inventando’s website (our company) was up. In the last few months our business has transformed and with it all my attempts to put a public face to it. I was very very close to having a functional page published and BOOOM remodel, rethink, redo x3…  Although all these changes have meant more work, I am actually happy about it because we are headed in wonderful directions.

Now, my part of the site is done and I am waiting on two people to finish theirs so the page can go live. So, today I decided to write a little about my feelings, pregnancy and this first trimester before the second trimester takes over my thoughts.

Have these initial months of pregnancy been what I expected? Going back to my earliest memories I wanted to be a mom, with the whole bundle – pregnancy, dipers, baby, breast feeding etc. I always thought that when I was pregnant my life would change and I would feel an intimate connection with my child. Just the thought of the person I love and I creating something that no one else can was as romantic to me as the thought of finding true love.

Well, 14 weeks have passed and that sense of connection and romanticism has yet to grow. This first trimester has been… well let me describe it this way, I have yet to download photos from our holiday vacation in Wisconsin because the thought of even looking at them makes me nauseas. I spent 10 weeks of my life so sick to my stomach, tired, cold, hot, hungry and uncomfortable that I have spent the following 2 unconvincing Jaxon that we should ever have another biological child. That is how bad my “morning” sickness was and somedays, still is.

On the bright side, the thought of this child has made Jaxon and I take our health very seriously. We have always been fit and have tried to eat healthy, but now we are being very intentional about it. We take beautiful 2 hour hikes up and down 600 feet of switch-backs every day, I start and end my days with a muscle toning routine that will help me during labor and keeps me in as much control as I can over my body. I can no longer look at baby photos, for I do not want to create any expectation of how ours might look. People around us are already dreaming of the big blue eyed, tanned, blonde wavy-haired baby that will emerge from what would be the “perfect” mix of Jax and I, but I try not to think about it too much, for me this baby has yet to have a face and however it turns out will be perfect.

We have also decided where we are going after Ecuador and although the baby’s birth place is still undecided we have boiled it down to two options. Baby names are on the table, well just two really – Mila if it is a girl and Luca if it is a boy, unless the baby’s face screams another identity. I am starting to feel M/L move lately, my belly has grown, I can no longer wear my old pants and I have put on 6 pounds.

Below my belly and some baby clothes I found on Pinterest for our soon to be very stylish baby… soon, more photos to come!



Visa problems… might not be able to come back!

Many of you might remember all the run-around that we had to do to get Jax a visa to stay in Ecuador. The main problems we had were bureaucracy-related. So after months and months of paperwork and visits to various ministries, we finally finished all the processes and called an early victory! A month later we were informed that his visa had been accepted! (visa – check) A couple weeks later (about a month ago), we came back to the capital pick up the visa and they informed us that there were no “especies” – the plastic “cards” that ID cards are printed on – and that we should return in 3 weeks. This has been a reoccurring theme in my life in Ecuador, it seems like our system never has “especies”. So, we walked out thinking, “well we’ll get the visa before going to the States”.

Today, we walked in to the ministry and explained our status and our upcoming trip. “Well, now we do have “especies”, so just leave the passport here and we’ll get the Visa taken care of” said the woman behind the desk. “Leave his passport here?”, I said. “Maybe you are missing the part where we are leaving in three days – how long do we need to leave it?”. “Just three weeks” she said nonchalantly… Well, damn….. So, we asked her if we could just FedEx the passport, from the states, to my mom here in Quito, to drop off and get Visa’ed. “That would be just fine of course” said our friendly attendant. Jaxon then asked, “Will her mom be able to pick it up here also?”. “No, of course not. You have to pick it up in person….” Ohhhh…. now we get it… he can send his passport from the US to Ecuador to get a visa, at which point it will be stuck in the ministry until he comes to pick it up, which he will never be able to do – because he will have neither passport or visa to travel back with…. nice.

Okay, so we stand right now, Jax cannot return to Ecuador after this trip. Fingers crossed that the Ecuadorian Consul in Chicago is better than our entire External Affairs Ministry! Theoretically they will be able to give us a provisional visa there, but it will require an entire new application process.

Work is still crazy – the reason why we haven’t been around much. Plus starting to blog again is hard! But I am sure all the amazing photographic opportunities in the States will bring us back to our old selves.

Now, an assortment of photos…


And we are back!

Yes!! It is now December and not only is Inventando running smoothly, but I get to blog again and most importantly I get to take lots of photos. I missed my camera dearly this month and I am ready to start capturing my days with it again.

Exciting things:

Our mini business has become a mid-sized one and it is beginning to run smoothly. There is still lots to do, but we are currently in a very good place. My days have been spent designing close to two websites daily and Jaxon is finishing the business organization and doing sales. We have hired Holly as our project manager, she is an amazing girl from California who has lived in Chile for 6 years. Pablo has been upgraded to General Manager. We have a strong marketing team, led by Pablo’s wife Maricela. Jon, who we have now worked with for three years continues to code along side of three other main programmers. The Inventando website is still not done so nothing to show you guys yet, hopefully by Christmas I’ll be able to post it.

In 8 days we are flying to Wisconsin to spend a month there. The blog will be covered with photos of snow, delicious christmas food and wonderful people.

So before I continue to bombard you with more photos, I’ll post some of my most recent work.


Mumbling out loud, thanksgiving

Last year our Thanksgiving meal was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at 1:00 am, we were exhausted after sailing only 100 miles in 14 hours. The reason for our delay, Zachary the Pirate .

This time around, we were sitting in La Casita in the middle of the Andes. Chris, Sue, Jax and I had planned a small evening event. We did not have very high expectations for the food or anything, but wanted to get together. At around 5:00pm Jax and I stepped out of work and started getting ready for our meal. Sue and Chris arrived shortly after, with a big surprise, my brother Antonio. I never though of inviting my family over! But Susana and Chris had and I loved the idea. So we starting preparing the meal and soon after Caro, Manuel and my dad showed up. The house was packed and spirits high. We made, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, squash/ginger soup, green beans, tiramisu and even pumpkin pie. What an amazing dinner and what a joy to have shared it with my family and friends in such a distant place in the world. Pablo and Mary are considering moving to Zuleta before heading to Germany in May, wouldn’t that be awesome!

I have been missing sailing a lot lately and cannot wait until we move aboard again, but the same time could not be happier about our current state. Life has been so generous with us and I actually think that we will leave Ecuador having had fulfilled most of the things we came here for. Plans are constantly changing around here, starting a family is on the table, moving to an island in the Caribbean for a little while has been discussed. Who knows, it is all a mystery to us, for now we will just flow…


A week that changed our lives…

For the last seven days we have been working 18+ hours per day, have barely left our couch and have dropped 5 pounds each – all of these things we have done before. What makes this week one like no other is very hard, yet simple, to explain. The easy part to explain can be summed up with two words, Jax and Pablo, the hard part to explain is their bizarre interactions. Now, I am not the kind of person who believes too much outside the physical world. Or to better describe it, I’m not someone who is looking for extraordinary explanations to life, I just kind of live and let things happen. Now, Jax and Pablo, that is extraordinary. This week I have witnessed my soon-to-be-husband find his business doppelgänger.

The way they think, talk, act and even make jokes is extremely similar and complementary, yet they are two different people, from different cultures/countries, with a 10 year gap. Maricela, his wife, and I can tell, these two have just found each other and that it was “in an extremely weird way” meant to happen. For the last seven days we have chatted and talked, the four of us, for more than 120 hours.

Even though the relationship is young, very young, there is a bond that we can all feel – which makes this week stand out, and I am positive it will stay that way. Inventando, our business, is about to take off and another one is soon to start (and with Jax and Pablo around I am sure it will not stop there). Jax and I try to make life as simple as possible, we avoid all drama, live like we want to and do what seems right – fortunately, our pack of two is blessed with an entrepreneur and we can keep sustaining ourselves.

This week, life simplified.


Will be back soon… got to work

Almost a year ago we moved to Ecuador with two goals in mind:

1. To be closer to my family for a while.

2. Dedicate a sufficient amount of time to our business in order to have it running well by December and be sustainable by May – when we leave Ecuador.

In only 32 days we are leaving the country for the holidays and our goal had always been to reach flying altitude by then. We are still ascending, but we are now very close to cruising-mode, reason why I will be retiring from Mangolandia for a number of weeks. It is possible that I will not be able to hold myself back from posting a bunch of photos, but do not expect a lot of posts until December.

After three failed project managers. Yesterday was a turning point in our life, we hired an incredible CTO (Chief Technical Officer) for Inventando. The newest member is beyond our wildest dreams. As me, he fell in love with Jaxon’s entrepreneur spirit, loved our company and its potential and although he is very overqualified for our little business he jumped right in and accepted to work with us. Jax has been in meetings pretty much since yesterday 2:00pm and it does not seem like it will end anytime soon. My tasks have also multiplied!

Wish us luck, if it all goes well you will be reading a lot more about traveling in Mangolandia! Wouldn’t that be cool! A travel blog that actually talks about traveling!!


We are home!!

After a week of traveling, we have arrived home. In little over a month, we will be leaving La Casita to go visit Jaxon’s parents for the holidays. We have lots to do until then! During our week away from home, we missed Yaku and Yana a lot, I wonder how we are going to do without them for the month of December.

Our weeks with Emma and John were great. I am so thankful to be surrounded by such special friends.Thank you for visiting us guys! Hopefully we can make it to Galapagos, while they are still there.

Anyway, just some thoughts – I have a lot of those… Sometimes I wonder what I should actually post! Oh well.