This will likely be the final blog of our Ecuador travel seminar... We fly home tomorrow, that is, except for Ron Gettinger who stays for a few extra days of independent research. After my blog entry of last night we all went out to Cafe Hood, a wonderful bar and restaurant serving tasty food to tourists with sensitive stomachs. While there, a local Andean band strolled in and started entertaining us. Please look carefully at the following photo of one of the band members. This young woman is playing two instruments at once. You tend to see this kind of thing, say for a drummer, who might keep the beat on a bass drum, while also playing pan pipes. But, I've never seen anyone playing the chorango plus pan pipes at the same time! The chorango is the 10 string instrument that produces the high-pitched guitar sound familiar to fans of Andean music. Her hand is strumming the chorango just as fast as possible, yet she is able to also play the pan pipes that are wedged into the crook of her arm.
Our morning started in Banos where once again it was cloudy, but with very little rain for a change. You may recall that I mentioned a few blogs back a landslide that we encountered on the way into town. We learned that this was the result of an eruption of nearby Volcano Tungurahau within the past few months. Here is the view of what's left of a welcome sign on the outskirts of town and the devastation around it. Clean up continues and we waited in a single lane of traffic to get back out of town while bulldozers cleared away debris.
We had our farewell dinner this afternoon at an upscale restaurant, Mulata de Tal. Wonderful meals were had by all. Here is a photo of some of the impressive art displayed on the walls.
After dinner, Ron, Tina, Kathy, and I took a taxi to the historical center of Quito, while the students relaxed at our hotel--we're back at La Casa Sol, by the way. Here is a photo taken from atop the National Palace looking out over Plaza Grande. The statue to Tina's left is a monument to Ecuador's independence from Spain in the early 1800s.
We arrived quite late in the afternoon at the palace, but were able to take a guided tour. Among the more interesting things we saw was a room full of presidential portraits and gifts from around the world to the current president, Rafael Correa, including one, interestingly enough, from George Bush, and even one from Harry Reid, majority leader of the US Senate. I say that the one from Bush is interesting because Correa is another in a growing string of left-wing presidents throughout Latin America. In fact, he is quite vehemently anti-US. The following photo is of a gift from the "mothers of the disappeared" in Argentina. It is quite different from all the other gifts, such as Bush's silver cup or a set of silver spurs from Chile.
This tapestry says, "Aparicion con vida de desparacidos. Madres de Plaza de Mayo." This translates approximately to "appearance with life from the disappeared ones," The Madres de Plaza de Mayo are the mothers of those sons and husbands disappeared during the reign of the generals in the 1970s and 1980s in Argentina, The mothers have kept a constant vigil in the central plaza of Argentina demanding information about their missing loved ones. A photo (not shown) shows one of the Madres making a presentation of the tapestry, in person, to President Correa.
Shown below is your faithful blogger assuming momentarily the chair of the office of the President of Ecuador at his cabinet table.
I'll close with my favorite photo from the rainforest. Enjoy!
Today was an amazing day of travel, in spite of more dismal weather--rainy and chilly. We headed east toward Puyo (with the ultimate destination being a botanical park in the Amazonian rainforest) and stopped along the way at a cable car crossing of the Rio Pastanza. In the following photo (l to r), Toa and Sioui (our two guides), along with Kathy, Katy, and Tina are preparing to cross the river.
The crossing allowed a relatively close-up view of an incredible waterfall pictured below. As I suggested yesterday, it is very difficult for a photo to capture the raw power of this river, especially at this juncture. Keep in mind that this river is one of many that all feed into the Amazon River. Ron Gettinger told me that many of the others have a heavier flow than the Pastanza, so it is easy to imagine why the Amazon is such a large and powerful river.
We made a stop at another waterfall along the Rio Pastanza--Pailon del Diablo. Here is a photo of Rachel enjoying the power of the falls.
In Puyo, we enjoyed the rainforest from the vantage point of the Parque Ethnobotánico Omaere. It was everything you would expect and more. Here is Tina next to a couple of Melatomastaceai trees. Check out the root structure!
In this next photo our guide has identified a low-growing plant that has at the base of its leaves, little pockets, which, when broken open contained ants that had a lemon flavor, and were--hold your breath for this--edible. In the photo, Jessica and Justine are being brave and trying this rainforest delicacy.
The following gorgeous plant is a Costus. Its stem has medicinal properties that can be of benefit to an upset stomach. As you can see, its flower has a very pleasing effect on the eyes.
Here is a photo of Jessica feeding a green parrot a piece of apple.
Finally, here is a partial group photo (Jessica, Justine, Rachel, Tina, and Jenn) at the restaurant of the Hostal El Jardin. I must say that I had one the tastiest meals I have ever had there, along with the best cappuccino I have ever encountered.
Tomorrow, we drive back to Quito and fly out early Sunday morning.
We arrived safely in the town of Banos after 8 hours on the road, including a 45 minute stop for food to take with us at one of the largest and most upscale shopping malls most of us have ever seen in the capital city Quito. Banos is to the south of Otavalo and Quito and we crossed the equator along the way. It was another gloomy day of clouds and rain so we couldn't see the peaks of any of the 14,000 ft. plus volcanos along the way. A relatively small volcano had erupted just outside of Banos only four months ago and the landscape was a barren lava field for a stretch on the way into town.
There is an impressive river (Rio Pastanzas) that forms the northern boundary of the town. Over the ages it has cut a deep and jagged canyon with just enough of a valley for a town like Banos to reside. With all the rain the country has recently experienced, including today's rains, it is quite dirty and rushing along in a fury. The photo below has difficulty conveying all of the grandeur of this river--for example the roar of the water as you get close--but there it is nevertheless. We crossed the main bridge (from l to r) and then returned by way of a trail that took us across the foot bridge you can see in the bottom half of the photo.
Here I am on the foot bridge. You can see a small waterfall on the left bank to my right. There are waterfalls or cascades all around this area. A visit to one of the more prominent ones is on tomorrow's itinerary.
The photo below is of Ron hamming it up next to one of the "scary" clown trash receptacles that seem to be everywhere in Ecuador. There is apparently a serious campaign to keep litter off the streets. To me this is quite refreshing after all of my travels to Guatemala where one has to look awfully hard to find a trash can, and where trash is spread everywhere.
I'll close with a photo of some of the beautiful orange flowers that lined portions of the river hiking trail.
|This will be the final entry posted from Otavalo. For those of you familiar with our itinerary, be apprised that our final three days have changed. Tomorrow, we head south to Banos and Puyo. We will be able to experience both mountains and cascades, as well as the rainforest. I hope to be able to locate an internet cafe and continue posting blogs. If, by some chance there are none, then I will try to locate one on our final night (Sat.) in Quito. We fly home on Sunday.|
We had our last class on indigenous health care today. We learned more about the Latino-dominated health care system in Ecuador that, because of prejudices that go back all the way to the conquest, discriminates ruthlessly against the indigenous and their own system of community healers. The Ecuadorian Ministry of Health, for example, has a code that makes the practice of medicine without Western-style schooling and a license issued by the Ministry to be illegal. In the past, this has led to the persecution of indigenous healers. In 1999, however, a new Ecuadorian constitution was adopted that specifically protected indigenous traditions. It did NOT specifically overturn the Health Ministry's code, but it gave indigenous healers a bit more latitude to practice. It is in this more liberal environment that people like Mario Incayawar are promoting the concept of collaboration between indigenous healers and Western-style doctors. This sounds wonderful in theory, but in practice, there is a lot of hesitancy on the part of the officially recognized medical community to collaborate. They would prefer that the indigenous healers simply become assimilated into more Western ways of practicing medicine. This is a standoff that will require lots of tact and patience to be resolved.
This afternoon we had a visit to the Museo de Textiles. There were exhibitions of wool yarn making, weaving (both pre and post colonial techniques), and reed basket making. Unfortunately, photos of the exhibitors were not allowed. Here is our group assembled around some of the yarn making equipment.
You will have to take my word on the fact that the following photo is Justine wearing a Quichua festival mask.
Sandwiched between the textile museum visit and our evening dinner and entertainment (to be described below) a couple of us took a hike back to the cascades just for exercise. It turned out to be another gloomy, rainy day--June is supposed to be one of the warmer, sunnier months. It is no consolation during our two-week stay to be told how unusual the weather is. As evidence of how gloomy, check out the following photo de los tres perros. Normally, street dogs like this don't let you get so close, but these guys were trying to stay dry and warm.
Being our last night, we were treated to a special meal and special entertainment. Ever since our arrival, we have been hearing about the important place of guinea pigs (Cuy, pronounced kwee) in the Quichua world. They are used in traditional healing practices, both for diagnostics, and for the actual act of healing. They are also considered to be a culinary delicacy. Cuy is served for auspicious occasions primarily. Tonight was one such auspicious occasion. Here is a photo of Tina finally getting to sink her teeth into a bite of Cuy. The fact it was deep fried apparently added to her eagerness. You go Tina!
We were treated to an hour or so of traditional Andean music by a local band called Folklor Latinamericano. At first, we were sitting around like dolts just listening politely, but the hotel manager would have none of this and stepped in and escorted Kathy to the dance floor to get the rest of us moving. You will note that one of the musicians is playing a violin. We were told that this instrument is not typical of most Andean bands, but is an Otavalo tradition. Actually, none of the stringed instruments are traditional Andean, rather, they were introduced by the Spanish. Instruments like the flute, drum, and pan-pipes pre-date the conquest.
Toward the end of the evening, we were introduced to our chef and food servers, who then joined us on the dance floor. In the following photo, Rachel, one of our taller students was ironically paired with the shortest of the food servers.
Once these guys got in on the act, the entire group eventually got up on the dance floor. At one point we had a conga line that circled the room and included the band. Here is a photo of a portion of the conga line.
I will leave you with a photo that captures some of the silliness that erupted at the table as we waited on the band to arrive. It kind of captures the demeanor of our group. These are carved rose petals, by the way.
We continued our classroom discussions of indigenous vs. Western healing techniques today with Mario. Much time was spent on the topic of placebo effects. They were differentiated from the concept of "meaning effects," though the two are closely related. As an example, if you gave someone an inert red pill and told them that it would provide a boost of energy, the pill itself would be referred to as a placebo, but the patient might behave as if he/she were actually more energetic because of the meaning associated with perhaps the color of the pill and the suggestive power of the administering physician.
As I said in my previous blogs on this topic, most Quichua people would go to a Western style physician to treat something like a broken arm or a case of meningitis. For mental disorders, though, they might likely see a Quichua healer for reasons discussed in previous blogs. For something like chronic pain, a Quichua person might also choose to visit a traditional healer. The healer's collection of ministrations might only include things such as I have already mentioned; things like incantations, a mist of alcohol, or blowing smoke. However, if the patient is comfortable with the ambience, has confidence in the healer, and has faith in the entire process, then, through the meaning effect, or placebo effect if you prefer, pain-reducing endorphins may be released, leading to a beneficial outcome for the patient, just as if the healer had administered a dose of morphine.
Our afternoon was free and Jessica, Kathy, Ron, and I went on a hike to the Cascades de Peguché. This turned out to be a seriously cool afternoon. Getting there was a challenge at times, as Jessica exhibits in her stream crossing in the following photo.
The power of the cascades or falls was impressive. Here is a photo of Ron, Jessica, and me in front of them.
We discovered that the falls continued upstream beyond what you see in the above photo. We discovered a smaller, but deeper falls, along with a series of caves or tunnels. Here is a photo of Kathy peering out of one of the caves.
Rather than return the way we came, we kept exploring further and finally made our way to the Parque Condor, not far from El Lechero, the rubber tree that was shown a few blogs back. The Parque Condor is a bird sanctuary where birds of prey can be nursed back to health. We saw the national bird, the condor, with a wingspan of around six feet. The following photo is my best effort to capture the wingspan of the male. He would fly to one part of the enclosure and pose with his wings out while I raced over to get the shot. However, by the time I got there, he would have closed them usually. In the photo, the male is chasing a female.
The timing of our arrival at the park was perfect--4:30PM. Every day at that time (also at 11:30 am) several of the birds are allowed out of their cages and allowed to fly around the site and the nearby hillsides, under the watchful gaze of their trainers. Here is a picture of the Dutch proprietor with one of the raptors.