Currently viewing the category: "Ecuador"

Dear diary,

First of all, I want to make an official apologize to each and everyone who has not received an email in ages. I would like to blame it on working and traveling.

We are now on our very final week here and we still have tons of things to do. I have I even surprised myself with the results. It is actually a lot of fun and the dull days a month ago are since long time forgotten.

When I left you the last time, Calle was on his way and we were planning on climbing Cotopaxi. Unfortunately, Calle injured his rib while playing in the waves in Venezuela making this impossible 🙁 Instead we spend the time enjoying life here in Quito. Eating nice dinners and such. We even had a parmiddag (!) (eng. dinner for two couples…?) enjoying Vannesa’s world famous BBQ wings.

After making the must-do trip to Otavalo to buy souvenires we went down south in Ecuador. Basically we did a re-run of the trips I have done before. Starting in Puerto Lopez to see the whales (still not jumping in front of my camera) and continued to a cute little beach town called Montanita where we played in the waves (yup, Calle never learns).

We took our second night bus to Banos, where I was during my third week, where we actually got to climb a bit. There is a volcano there that puffs out smoke once in a while which you can see if you climb a hill and if it’s not cloudy. Which it was. We got a nice view of the village though.

Leaving Banos for Riobamba took us 5 hours instead of the usual one hour because of some stupid road reconstruction. Sooo much busriding! Riobamba is famous for a train where you sit on the roof. It’s not the one I took before but a little bit nicer. The first few hours, the entertainment was basically watching the farmer kids run up to the train waving for the tourists. This was probably really cute when it started some time ago but now they wave basically only for the tourists to throw lollipops at them. I might be cynical but it wouldn’t surprise me if their parents run back and sell them to the next train with tourists. However…the train ride was at times marvellous, riding (on the roof) up on mountains with steeps for about 100 meters below you once in a while!

After Riobamba we came back to Quito for a day. I came in to the office but started to feel worse and worse. At 17 I went home, slept for one hour. Got up, had a diarrea with the power of five Ecuadorian waterfalls and threw up a couple of times. At 21 we left for Amazonas. Again with a night bus. I was starting to feel a little bit better then but it was not a very pleasant ride. So…10 hours away from Quito we changed bus and went up the dirt roads for 4 hours more. There we took a canoe for 3 more hours into the heart of Amazonas…or maybe the stomach of Amazonas. It was a wet part of the jungle.

The jungle turned out to be amazing especially for kids like Calle and me. We quickly found a tarantula hole in the ground and started to lure it out by filling the hole with water. A technique I learned in Costa Rica (thanks Felipe!). The second tarantula was brought to us during dinner. Appearantly, it fell from the roof down on the head of the chef! We looked at it. We didn’t eat it :). Together with some exciting stories from the guide we were ready to go to bed for our first night after carefully looking for tarantulas on the walls and boas in the bathroom (it really could happen!).

The following days we went around the rivers looking at monkeys (Pippi Långstrump-monkeys), pink dolphins and birds. One night we went out in the forest part of the jungle to see predators that normally hide during the days. We encountered magnificent fist-sized spiders. We saw one catch a moth in its web, tying the net around it (while still alive) and then finally make the bite. Absolutely amazing! We also found some 10-15 cm large crickets (sw. syrsor) and glowing worms.

Another night we went out with the canoe to search for anacondas. Unfortunately we never found one but we found a boa up in a tree which the guide brought down to us to hold.

During the days, we took hikes and saw other cool stuff in the forest. Milk producing trees, flammable trees, lemon tasting ants (sw. Mowgli: Eta myror!?) which were really, really tasty!, 5cm ants and so on. Other days we went out with the canoes paddling and looking for I don’t know what. It actually was not as many animals there as it might seem like but the nature, especially out on the rivers, was amazing.

The number one cool thing in the jungle however was to fish piranhas. We did this from our canoes that always had a small puddle of water in them because they were leaking. The fishing technique to get piranhas is to put some piece of pork meat on a hook and use a small…fishing stick?…fish stick…piece of wood with a string tied to one end. Then you splash the stick in the water as hard as you can to excite the piranhas. When you feel a jerk you pull and hopefully catch one. This is where the fun part starts. You have no net to put it in. The only thing you can do is throw the meat-eating fish into your small, shake canoe. There it can swim around in the puddle biting off the toes until you catch it with your hands. The problem with this fish is that its head is so hard it is impossible to kill it by smashing it against…well, there is nothing to smash it against in these small canoes. The way to kill this bity little creature is to literally bite his head. You bite it just over its eyes, feel the head bone crunch, bite a little bit more. After a while it stops screaming and moving… Thats how you fish piranhas! Me and Märta caught two really big ones which we had for lunch later.

I, of course, planned the return so well so that I was sick on my way back to Quito as well. While writing this now I am coughing all the time.

Well, this might just as well be the last entry of this diary. I am coming back to Sweden August 20th and the presentation of the thesis is scheduled for September 5th at 13.00. You are all very welcome of course! The last week we are probably going to work a lot so don’t expect any emails or calls.

Puss

Christoffer

ps. I have put up a lot of pictures. They are really good so please take the time to look at them.
ps2. Please write a comment, it would be nice to see which ones that has actually been reading my BS during these months!

 

Dear diary,

I haven´t really been writing for a while now. To be perfectly honest, not much happened for quite a while worth writing about. Marta, Yolanda and me have been working on the equipment quite a lot. It turned out that we mixed up two lasers and as soon as we found out, we were able to do some real experiments. This week we bought a ton of exotic fruit to measure on, some showed promising results. Other showed better to be eaten than measured. Since we received a rather rare scholarship for research on apples we are probably going to do research on apples, but also on bananas and avocados. Basically, we are going to investigate folk wisdom about fruits. Like if avocados ripen faster if they are put together with an apple etc.

Enough about that! My life goes on as normal here after a period of darkness where I was really homesick and tired of working. Vannesa and I are still doing great even though she has left me now. For a week she will be travelling around Ecuador as a part of her studies in tourism.

I am also getting some well-needed breaks from Quito. I am normally doing some excursion each weekend. One day we went up with the newly built teleferico (sw. linbana). I don´t know what it is called in english but it took us up to 4000 meter, that is 1200 meter above Quito, to enjoy the view. It was truly amazing, the view of the nearby volcano Cotopaxi in the sunset was breathtaking!

Another excursion, not nearly as exciting though was to fulfill my need of gokarting. There is one (1) track in Quito and it is not fully built yet. The other one is at Central de Mundo (the track almost crosses the hemisphere line). It took us three hours to get there, after asking people who gave us contradictive answers about the direction all the time. It is a little bit like that here, it seems like they rather answer you wrong or make a wild guess than not tell you anything. Once we arrived, it turned out there was a gokart track there but only for competitors…no one bothered to mention that little detail!

Well, finally after three weeks of longing and literally a dozen change of plans, me and my room mates finally went to Puerto Lopez which is on the Ecuatorian coast. It is known for having tons (stupid expression, I know) of hump back whales there in July mating and playing. Thus, whale porn lovers from all over the world come to watch them jump and such. There is also an island called Isla de la plata there which is known as the poor mans Galapagos since it has some of the animals from Galapagos there.

The first day we went on a tour to see the whales and the island (May Anita and Vannesa have never been to Galapagos). The whales were kind of a dissapointment, we saw two backs of the whales for about a minute and that was it. The island was more or less a reminder of how marvellous Galapagos was. So, when we came back in the evening we were kind of disappointed. Twelve hours of bumpy busride for two backs that just as well could have been a fat, dark-blue dolphin! Therefore we ordered a new trip the next day with a local fisherman (named Winston Churchill for some peculiar reason) who recently started whale tours.

We started out really optimistic but after one hour and still no whales we were ready to go home. But then someone discovered a whale at a distance, it was jumping and splashing as much as it could. When we came closer he and his whaless, whaleadonna, whaleita or whatever you would name her were finished with their…ritual. They posed a bit for us for about ten minutes and left. Happy with this we continued to a reef, snorkled some and then started fishing. The last time I was fishing was probably somewhere around the time when a mullet was cool and not retro-cool so I was really excited. I caught 3-4 fishes in 20 minutes only using a nylon string and a hook with bait. Finally, the fisherman invited us to his house to eat the fishes we caught.

A really nice and relaxing weekend was unfortunately ended with a horrible bus-ride back to Quito with cockroaches running around on the seats, sellers coming on the bus selling CHOOOOOOOOOOOOCLOS, CHIIIIIIIIIIICLES, PAAAAAAN etc. Hmm, yes dear sir. Thank you for waking me up when I finally had fallen asleep. I’d be delighted to have some meat dish that have been kept warm all day just for the sole pleasure of giving me some more trouble with my stomach…not.

There are now less than a month until my departure and I am awaiting visits (sw. storframmande) from Venezuela. Calle and Johanna are coming to visit me tomorrow. Calle and I had a plan with our mutual visits, to dive deep and climb high. The first we did in Venezuela. On Saturday, we are fulfilling the other when we are going to climb the highest active volcano in the world. Cotopaxi. It is also one of the most beautifuls mountains in the world I guess (see the pictures). The guide told me that only 40% of the climbers reach the top. I almost drewled when I heard that, a real challenge!! Then we are going to Amazonas next weekend. I think Calle wants a rematch with the anacondas after they almost made him invalid in Los llanos (a highly recommended episode to read on this website by the way, search for user Caldaman).

If…when, we become one of the fortunate 40 % I will let you know all about it here. If not, you will have my resignation as a mountain climber on your desk monday morning.

Over and up

Christoffer

 

Dear diary,

Considering how little happening here right now it’s actually happening quite a lot. There have been some minor adventurous happenings here the last week. I’m not talking about the project (it wouldn’t really be sorted under the category adventurous).

First of all, I went to see the now almost legendary 2-0 win against Argentina. It was truly amazing, we were one hour late and got there two hours before the game and the stadium was practically full. Even people who had tickets couldn’t get in! We warmed up with some cold beer in the strong sunshine. Then we watched Ecuador crush Argentina in with a brilliant second half. Both beautiful goals shot in the goal closest to us allowing us to see it nearby. I even got one of these goals on video as well (again)!

The day after we went out on a train ride. The type of train where you sit on the roof enjoying the view from there. It was really cool but felt a bit unsafe but, hey!, all the Ecuadorians were doing it so it can’t be that bad! Well, we enjoyed the ride and went on a small hike to see a volcano. It was too cloudy to see it though so we just enjoyed the hike. On the way back it was raining a bit so we decided to stay inside the train and it turned out to be a pretty good idea. Halfway through the trip our cart derailed! It became very bumpy, I bounced half a meter in my seat! It was actually the second derailing this trip. Obviously it happens quite frequently because they were rather swift in getting the train back on track again. I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if I would have been on the roof!

It has been some nature catastrophes here these weeks as well. Well, not really catastrophes…maybe minor natural dysfunctions would be more correct. One of the volcanoes around Quito (there are three I think) erupted and threw out ashes. I believe the same day was very foggy, maybe it was because of the ashes. I would like to think of it as that. The day before yesterday we had an earthquake as well. I was sound asleep and didn’t even wake up. I was really sad that I missed it. First missing the tornadoes in Kansas and now this! I’m keeping my fingers crossed for another one (I am so going to get that back at me!).

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night of voices arguing on the street outside of our apartment. A little bit later we heard two gunshots (?) and more angry voices. A couple of minutes later it was silent. I wanted to look out and see what was happening but Vannesa strictly ordered me not to. Probably a good idea. Curiosity killed the cat as you all now. Hmmm…I just realized I should have sent out Harry to look.

Last weekend I had to escape all the terror going on in Quito. I went with two of my room mates (Linda from Switzerland and May-Anita from Norway) to a small little cute town called Mindo. It’s up in a cloud-forest, pretty much like the one I was living in in Costa Rica. We went river rafting with old tractor tire tubes (bilringar). It was more cold than fun actually. Then we biked for an hour up the mountain (upward slope ALL the way) to visit a waterfall. They had arranged a little swimming retreat there with a stone water slide ending two meters above the water and a jump zone around the waterfall. You could climb down half the waterfall and jump from a rock there at 6 meters or you could jump straight into the whirlpool from a board 12 meters above. That is the point-of-jumping-for-real-men-with-hair-on-their-chest. It was truly awesome and I screamed like a tiny-little-baby-girl-with-pacifier all the way down. Then my room mates did the same to my big surprise. After that we realized the last bus was about to leave in less than an hour. I can’t say that I complained when we had to bike downhill a dirt track as fast as possible. Adrenaline as well!

Yet another catastrophe that occurred the other day was the loss of internet in our office. This happens very often but it is normally back on its feet within a day. The problem this time, and this is very Ecuador in my opinion, is that the server is in another building. This building is at this moment occupied by students who wants to change something in their curriculum. They are occupying the building until their demands go through. Until then, they won’t let anyone in. Not even the computer guys that needs to fix the always-crashing server. Thus, internet is not working.

The only thing that would be more Ecuador would be if I would need an important paper in order to use internet on my computer. And a bunch of keys together with that. They have Important Papers and keys for everything. Just to enter my office for an example, I need to use four different keys. Everyone looks the same and they all have the same property, they barely fit the lock so you have to jerk the key in the lock for a minute in order to open the door. If I want to enter the school on a Saturday (which I normally don’t) I need a…you guessed it, an important paper.

This all seem like near-death…sorry, near-kind-of-sort-of-almost-close-to-death-experiences but the worst of them all is still to come. Tam-da-tam-da-daaaam. The project. It is really killing me. Slowly. We are hardly making any progress at all and I come home from work every day frustrated and feeling stupid. I am starting to get serious feelings of homesickness and I am planning to murder the stupid diode lasers in a dark alley since they won’t behave.

Kram

Christoffer

ps. Today I went to the school and guess what? OUR students were striking as well and taken control of our building. It took a while and some important people before I could get in…

 

Dear diary,

As you probably understood from my exile from this diary for a couple of weeks I have been working. For those who did not understand my last entry the equipment has finally arrived and with it came someone called O.Vertime. Pretty much at the same time Vannesa arrived.

Vannesa is my sambo. Juntivo in my Spanish. Live-together-wither in English. Something I don’t really like with writing in English on this diary is the lack of words there are in English. Only twice as many as in Swedish. Spanish has about three times as many but still lacks words like kullerbytta. Sometimes I feel the need to invent new words in Spanish that they just haven’t thought about yet. Or synonyms. La agua esta boilando is just far better than the Spanish word for boil that I can never remember anyway.

I have taught Vannesa some Swedish but it never really seems to stick. Except for the bad ones and the ones resembling Spanish (kom igen då (come on then!) = comiendo (eating)). Since she doesn’t speak any English and our conversations in Swedish would probably be quite offensive and boring we speak Spanish…and German. Vannesa is not only my Spanish teacher and live-together-wither, she is also my girlfriend since quite a long time back actually. Since before Galapagos actually…I even adopted Harry (the kitten) so we are quite a little family.

Harry doesn’t seem to have adopted me though. He is as two-sided as a flat milk carton. Once in a while he snucks up on my chest while I am watching X-men 2 on TV for the 23rd time and the day after he attacks me when I am at the weakest. He mostly comes in the mornings. Mostly. I am sending this fellow to a boarding school!

After I started working on the equipment and got a family everything turned into routine more or less. I wake up at the same time as Marta comes to work. Fall asleep again. Get up. Eat breakf….AAAARGGGHH!…damn cat!…eat breakfast. Go to work. Feel like Frogger crossing the streets. Actually I take the bus for one and a half minute in order to save time. You have to hop on and off while the bus is running. Arrive to work. I’m late. Have a look at the always-bothering-equipment for a while and decide this is not a day when I’m supposed to push my luck . Continue to write our report (50 pages already). We eat lunch for about 2$ and go back to work. Our co-worker Yolanda (I call her Tjolanta Gladfot) tries to explain something in rapid, unarticulate Spanish (kinda like my Swedish). I sound interested and explain that I haven’t realized that yet. At 20.00 I am home again. I look in the fridge only to find out that the eggs I bought the other day have NOT come alive, fed themselves fat, started a fight chopping themselves up in filets, falling into marinade just ready for me to fry. No, they have not! I go for the cornflakes again. After waiting for about a decade Vannesa comes home from school and my day starts.

The Sundays are better. It’s my only real day of liberty (we work most Saturdays). Then I wake up to religious processions just outside my window. MARIIIIIIIIAAA. MI FLOOOOOOR! MARRRRIIIIIIIA. MI AMOOOOOOORR. At 7 o clock. Then the guy comes to sell El COOOOOOOOMERCIO. The newspaper. Finally, when I decide not even to buy fruit from the guy who explains how good they are with his megaphone I can fall asleep again. That is if Harry hasn’t misunderstood my toe as a prey he needs to sneak up upon and attack. There just MUST be boarding schools for cats!

I went to football the other day. La Liga (from Ecuador) against River Plate. River Plate!! Liga won with 2-1. I have one of the goals on videoclip. I also have a picture when the other side of the arena caught fire because of the fireworks sent out by the fans. No one really seem to bother though.

Once in a while I break the routines. I went up to a park nearby my house one day and it’s just amazing! On top of a great hill with all of Quito just lying around and below you, framed by all the mountains. In the far north a volcano painted pink by the sunset.

The experience was so nice I decided to buy jogging shoes and spend the mornings there. A very intelligent decision indeed. 6.30 the next morning without breakfast, I run up the first uphill in the fresh ice-cold air. My lungs eager to work after 3 months of no usage at all. The oxygen at 2800 meters altitude fills my lungs. I realize my mistake very, very soon and return to the apartment at 6.38, sneak back into my bad, shaking, whispering: Nevermore, nevermore…

 
 

Hola amigos!

It has been an adventerous week here in Quito. As I told you last time there are political problems here in Quito but I have not seen any of it at all.

It started with us receiving bad news about the equipment, it was delayed for at least one more week so we decided to leave Quito for a while. We planned to leave on Wednesday because a huge strike was planned on Tuesday and we were worried it would cause us problems. They were nice enough to change the day of the strike to Wednesday though. Since strikers normally get up later we took an early flight out of Quito to Galapagos.

So, when the strike shut down Quito we were shutting our eyes by a white beach smelling the warm cerise ocean. When the president introduced martial law (sw. undantagstilsstand) we were introduced to 2-month old sea lions. When the police were shooting tear gas at demonstrators we were shooting pictures of dolphins jumping around the boat and when the the president fled from the mob by helicopter from the presidential palace we left on a 8 day cruise in the paradise islands of Galapagos. No reason to be worried for us that is.

We started our trip with two days on the biggest island with scuba diving and relaxing on beaches. Scuba diving in Galapagos means scuba diving with sea lions, GIANT manta rays (sw. rocka) and huge schools of fish (sw. fiskstim). The beaches were white caribbean style, long and almost empty. Amazing is not enough.

The third day we joined with the boat Amigo which would be our home for the next 8 days. It was me, Marta and 14 others and just to make matters better, they were all really nice. For a good description of the people check out Martas travel diary (username martacassel). We hung out most of the time with an awesome Norwegian girl, Lise, who recently arrived from a couple of months in Guatemala.

The boat went from one island to another and we normally visited an island in the morning, snorkled in the afternoon and maybe saw another island in the afternoon. While waiting for the dinner we were sitting on the roof of the boat watching the sunset and most of the nights we digested the fairly good food on the roof watching the stars.

The islands themselves were filled with animals who gladly posed for the camera. They were so unafraid of people they even approached you to check you out! I guess if the sea lions had cameras the would flock around the tourists in order to take pictures of us.

The coolest animals were the sea lions, the swam up close to you while snorkling, they had cute little babies that came up to you and sniffed your legs (one liked it so much it took a little bite), they had a growling sound that was just hilarious. It sounded somewhere between Hebrew, Fidde being hung-over and a drunk Djurgarden-fan…to give you a picture.

There were also a bird called blue footed boobie (!). Just the name would be enough but they had feet the color of this website, they crash-dove into the water from 20 metres, they performed the most silly little mating dance there is. Everything just in front of you.

I could go on forever about sharks, dolphins, iguanas, mocking birds, flamingos etc but I won´t. This trip was really one of the most amazing, most relaxing and probably most expensive I have done. It was just all of it, the proximity to the animals, the people on the boat and so on…

Well, I have to admit it as well. I´d actually would have liked to be in Quito this week as well. It´s not every day you get to experience martial law, presidents being overthrown etc!

Lastly, some terrible news. The equipment could just as well been in Galapagos as far as we are concerned. A really stupid mistake has mismatched the figures in the important list (remember?) and of some stupid reason the only place there is actually democracy in this country right now is at the customs so you can´t even bribe anyone.

If worst comes to worst we have to either come back to Sw…I can´t even put myself to write that…or change the project entirely. I´m not nearly as worried as I should probably be though. Mom, did you put valium in my havregrynsgrot when I was a kid??

To be continued…

My phone numbers by the way: -Cell: +593 96110821
-Home: +593 22 527547

 

Beloved diary,

I am really sad. I just got news about the equipment. It has obviously been delayed for an additional week for some sort of tax-form-stupidity! This even happened on the “International day of customs”! There actually is one and it was yesterday, the very same day it was supposed to be delivered! It didn’t help us much though appearantly. Since it seems like I am going to stay in Quito for an additional week doing really nothing I just might tell you a little bit about it.

Quito is a rather crowded city built in a couple of valleys just south of the equator. It is the second largest city in Ecuador and the capital, some guide books say it is the most beautiful capital in South America and since I haven’t seen any other (so far) I can only agree. The surrounding mountains are astonishing!

We went to a couple of viewing points last week and it’s too bad you couldn’t come with me because it was really nice. There is a large hill in the middle of the city with a huge statue of Virgin Mary (sent from France of course, like all big statues of chicks) from where you can overlook the entire city. In the middle there is the cathedral where you can climb all the way up the towers. In fact, the security precautions are not really heavy so you can actually climb out of the tower 150 meters up! I did that of course, just for the sake of it.

I believe the city is at about 2 800 meters altitude. It became rather obvious to me when I landed here, not only because of the sunburn. The little ball in my roll-on-deodorant literally popped up in my face when I opened it (change of pressure) and my sunscreener exploded in my bag. Almost the best thing is that the milk never boils over! I haven’t felt any altitude sickness though. It’s kind of hard walking the stairs sometimes but it would be unfair to blame that on the altitude 🙂

There are hardly any cafés with tables outside. It took a while until I realized why. I believe I mentioned the traffic here, right? It’s not very nice sipping your café en lecce when a 2000 kg bus rushing by you at 50 km/h leaving a big black cloud of pollution around you. The other reason for not sitting by the streets even on calm streets is that every five minutes beggar kids come up to you wanting to polish your shoes, sell chewing gums or just ask you for money. It might sound cute but it’s really not. Last night we actually did give some of our left-over kebab to a ‘starving’ kid, she immedately asked for the kebab sauce as well. I mean, eating a kebab without sauce would not be thought of! They all run around the streets rather happy and playing until they see a gringo and all of the worlds problems suddenly fall over them when they encounter you to ask for money.

A funny fact almost related to this is that there is a huge lack of change here. Ecuadorians are using the US-dollar but the real hard currency are the one-dollar-bills. If you pay with a 10-dollar bill they look at you as if you are crazy and look deeply into their register as if that would produce change. It’s not just that 10 dollars are a lot of money, it’s just that there seem to be more large dollar bills in the commerce than smaller dollar bills.

Another more pleasant feature of the streets are the ‘indigenas’, the indian population. They are the poorest part of the population and most of them seem to live from selling things on the streets (I’m just gonna ignore the fact that their kids are the beggars for now). They are often standing at highly trafficked streets, at red-lights and often with a kid strapped to their back in some sort of blanket tied as a holder for the kid. Sometimes you even see kids with kids on their backs. Yesterday I saw a five-year-old with a baby on her back! Anyway, these indigenas (especially the women) are still wearing their original clothing with beautiful dresses and very characteristic hats. Kind of the one Al Capone used to wear.

Another street occurance but not a very common one happened to us the other day. We sat on one of the few outdoor cafes when two men approached us with a video camera. They wanted to interview us, in Spanish, about the architecture or something. To be perfectly honest we never really understood what they meant and I think they never really understood what we answered. I don’t know how, when and if it will ever be shown on Ecuadorian TV but all I know is that I won’t appear like a Nobel Prize winner.

Right now, the people of Quito are very upset because of the political situation. There are smaller demonstrations and fights with the police every other day. It’s not because of our delayed equipment as you might have thought. It is because the former president, who had to flee to Panama because of the rage of the people, is coming back. He actually wouldn’t be able to come back, he has some sort of verdict on him that would put him straight to prison. However his buddy, the current president, did a little trick and fired all the judges of the supreme court and put his buddies in there so they could relieve the former president’s verdict. Dirty politics that is. On Tuesday it’s going to be a big strike. We’ll see what happens then.

Had a really nice last week by the way, did some shopping, went to some hot springs, had a dinner at TGI Fridays that costed 5 times more than a normal dinner, went out with one of room mates and spent the whole week writing on our thesis.

 

Kära vänner,

I am really happy. Things have really started to go my way now (even if it didn’t really go someone elses way before either). One reason is that I finally have been to the very equator line and seen what happens to water there. Does it whirl clockwise, counter-clockwise or does it just stop? Stay with me and I will let you know.

I have also just managed my way through the Mythical Third Week. As you faithful readers of this diary (my first one that is) already know the Third Week is always the worst. The first week is normally overwhelmed with impressions and things to take care of, the second week is when you start exploring the city and get to know the place and the third week is when you normally encounter the first problems and get the first strike of homesickness.

I have had my fair share of homesickness this week, especially since it is Easter. Although the worst was probably when I was sitting at a cafe yesterday and suddenly they were playing a melody I knew really well. It was the same melody as we have on a little “speldosa” (help me with translating this please) in the bathroom on our countryhouse on Ã…land. I know 90 % of you wont have an idea what I am talking about but the rest of you will probably understand how emotional this was.

However, the best thing with this week was that I found somewhere to live. I was on my way over to a pretty skanky hostel to pay $120 a month for a room with very spartaneous cooking abilities. On the way over I found a note about an apartment and at the apartment I found my new home (for $90 a month!)! So, right now I am living in the Beverly Hills of Quito with a 150 degree view over the old town (I will put up pictures soon) and together with Maryann from Florida, Linda from Switzerland, Vanessa from Ecuador and Harry from Ecuador. Maryann is a 40 something American that has given up hope about America and moved down to Ecuador for good to sell handicrafts. Linda works at a travel agency and has promised to give me a good price for a jungle trip. Vanessa also works at a travel agency and has promised to give me a good price for Merida, Venezuela that is the very location of my good friends Calle & Johanna. Harry is a four weeks old adorable kitten that is called Gary by i t’s owner Vanessa. I told her pets are supposed to be named Harry or Ludvig von Lederhosen and rebaptized him. Yesterday, me and my new room mates had a easter dinner, lit up a fire in the fire stove, drank some red wine and stayed up a little bit too late. Really nice!

The social part has been the worst part of the trip so far. Märta and I have been hanging out very much without friction but we haven’t met that many other people. So when we were hanging out at a internet cafe the other day I found a note saying “Buscamos Suecos (We are looking for Swedes)”. It was an Equatorian guy and a French girl living in Quito that wanted to get to know some Swedes and Swedish since they were moving to Stockholm in August. We found another Swede at the internet cafe pretty much by accident and brought her as well for a couple of coffee with them. Kind of a bizarre afternoon but we were in desperate need of company, and needless to say it was really nice.

The least nice thing that occurred this week was to find out that my Beverly Hills has it’s backside. Yesterday I was harrassed by two guys at the bus station that came up to me and obviously wanted to rob me. It was at broad daylight! I finally managed to get rid of them by taking a bus (in which they followed me in) and then a taxi. It wasn’t really scary but very discomforting.

This Saturday I was at the nothern hemisphere (sw. norra halvklotet) and looked at a marvellous crater there with our other professor Edy. The crater is the only habitated crater in the world and I guess the Equatorians are just a little bit tougher than me! Then we went down to the equatorian line (sw. ekvatorn), or actually the ecuatorian lines. They haven’t really agreed which line is the correct one. It was kind of cool though. We saw a fake presentation of the Coreolis effect, that is the force that makes the water whirl in different directions in the different hemispheres. Just on the very exact ecuator line the water just fell straight down without a whirl! It looked really weird… I will show you video evidence when I get back home.

Over and ut, chokladstrut!

 

Dear amigos,

I am writing to you as a newborn Quiteño. That is, I have gotten accustomed to the city, my lungs have gotten to the pollution and my tongue is getting accustomed to Spanish. My eyes can’t seem to get accustomed to the surroundings here though. The Andes (sw. Anderna) are really beautiful and they surround the entire city.

As I wrote before my hostmom Sonia aka ‘Morsan’ (eng. the mom) is taking really good care of me. This week she took me, Marta and her cousin Mercedes aka ‘Mercan’ (who drove a 4WD Toyota) down the country.

We started by going to Baños (spanish for bathrooms) through Ecuador. I know now that it’s just a big scam that Lord Of The Ring was shot in New Zealand. We saw it all and soon you will have photo evidence. The mountains. The waterfalls. The hobbits (the indian people are really short, I haven’t checked their feet for hair though). It must have been shot here!

The cool thing about travelling with Equatorians is that you do a lot of things you probably wouldn’t have done otherwise. The bad thing about travelling with Equatorians is that you do things you normally are too smart to do otherwise. The first thing they did when we arrived to Baños was running to the first little stand where they sold fried pig skin…mmm…This led me and Marta to start the Official Ecuatorian Food Scale. Fried Pork Skin landed on a strong 1 (out of 10). Our road snack Ovenbaked Greasy Cornthingy in Leaf was a 4.

An interesting thing with the Equatorian cities is that they all have a specialty. We drove through a cone-shaped-icecream-town, a jeans-selling-town and some meat-thingy-town. When I say they have a specialty I mean that every second store sell it and it can’t be found elsewhere. It’s weird.

Baños specialty was adventure trips. The only adventure trip we did was around the blocks a couple of times though. The next day was better though. Mercan & Morsan showed to be kind of adventurous. We took an impulse stop and took a cabin over a valley. 100 meters up in a small little cabin run by a diesel engine. It was truly awesome!

We went on to visit a friend of Mercan who lived in Puyo (pronounced Poo-Jo, the seeming relation to bathrooms is unintended). Puyo is in the outskirts of Amazonas and where the last house ends, the jungle begins. Mercans friends’s boyfriend knew an indian village about 2 hours into the forest so we went there to check it out. They weren’t too happy to see us and there were spider webs everywhere that had about 50 seven cm spiders in webs that were about 2×2 meters…Soooo, we left.

We went on a little bit to something that seemed like a small resort. After riding a ridiculously unstable boat I finally got my soul cleansed. We went in one by one in a hut and got our evil spirits perished by a shaman. He rubbed holy cologne with a sacred stone over my entire body while humming some ancient hymn, just for the price of $5! I think I am going to be a shaman when I grow up (with a specialization on female evil spirits).

We were invited to some of our new friends at the Engineering school to a barbeque on Saturday. They had 7 different types of meat that took about an eternity and a half to prepare. I think the meat would have needed a shaman as well to get rid of the evil bacterias. Yesterday, I was lying in my bed all day except for an occasional visit to the sacred bathroom to flush out some evil bacterias. If it wasn’t the meat it just could have been the chicken heart we had the day before (2 out of 10), another greasy cornthingy (3) or the sugar cane (sw. sockerror) (5, tastes like wood).

Not all Ecuatorian food is…interesting. Some is really good, especially the juices. It’s a party for my tastebuds everytime I try maracuya (like passion fruit), naranjilla (like orange juice with lemon) or juice from guanabana (just plain heavenly).

Oh, and I have finally gotten my cell phone to be somewhat close to working. Call (593 to Ecuador) 96110821 and hope for the best.

 

Dear friends,

I actually started my trip in Malmö by having a really nice last night out with my sister, funded by my lovely parents. We were able to stay in a really nice hotel and eat good food and best of all just lie in the hotel room, eating chips and candy and just do nothing. No trip could have started better, especially after the really stressy and tiring (you really write it like that!?) last week.

I met up with Märta at Copenhagen airport and strangely enough we also met up with our office room mate, Magnus. For you who I have mentioned this too, he is the guy writing to our supervisor Sune to tell him about that “people (i.e. us) should turn down the blinds in the office when they are having laptops in the room”. I believe the customary thing to do in these situations is to leave a note or just tell us. Anyway, he is kind of…interesting.

We were a bit surprised too see this guy on the airport and even more surprised to see that he was going on the same plane as us to Amsterdam! He said he was going to Holland to visit a friend there… When we went off the plane he said he had something very important to tell us. Both I and Märta got really scared then. He is not the type of guy you want “important news” from. I thought he was coming with us to Quito of some unknown terrifying reason. Märta thought he would give us a hard time for something yet not known. However, it turned out that he had lied to us about where he was going. He was transferring to another place in Amsterdam but did not tell where. I and Märta used probably one hour of our stay at the airport conspiring on where and why he would have gone.

Quito welcomed us after about 24 hours of traveling with nice spring like weather. Our supervisor here, Cesar, welcomed us equally well. What didn’t welcome us as well was the proximity to the sun. We had one (1) cup of coffee outside before my forehead started frying as bacon and I have gone through a transformation from the Canadian flag to a 100 year old woman in my skin in just three days!

After that devastating cup of coffee we have had two days of just preparing, finding Spanish schools and homestays and such. The best thing though was to just lie in the hammocks in our supervisor’s garden one morning, listening to birds and looking at mountains!

Now, we are pretty much up and running. I habla lots of Espanjoule in a Spanish school and live with a nice lady who plays cards for money on Wednesdays with her lady friends (my type of lady!). I have also started smoking more or less involuntarely (everyone here does). It’s like a 24 hour habit here. My favorite brand so far is Local Bus unfiltered. Old Car with Broken Exhaust is another favorite. That is, the pollution is REALLY bad here!