11.29.2007

At the Middle of the World

I realized that I forgot to post pictures of our trip to the Equator. We went on Monday, Veteran's Day, so the crowds were small since it was a normal workday for the locals. This was Ronnie's second trip to the equator, here in Ecuador, and he's also been to the equator on the other side of the world, in Africa.
In Ecuador, there are two different attractions for the equator. The first is a large monument constructed between 1979 and 1982. It was constructed to mark the site where French researchers first located the equator. Well, back then, they didn't have the sophisticated GPS equipment used today so they were a bit off...by about 240 meters. The monument is still frequently visited (you may have see Al Roker broadcast from it a few weeks back on The Today Show) and is great for pictures:

This is the view from the top of the monument.

After we visited the first monument, we stopped for lunch. The food was great, but the view was better:

After lunch, we went to the second site...the REAL equator. Here, they let you perform experiments which are only possible ON the equator.

Ronnie brought his GPS from the office and it wasn't programmed correctly, so it still showed us being just a few feet off.

They say balancing an egg on the head of a nail is possible on the equator...it didn't work for me, but I'm blaming it on the wind! During Ronnie's first visit, he balanced the egg and even has a certificate to prove it.

11.18.2007

Happy Birthday Marines!

Last night, Ronnie and I attended the Marine Corps Ball celebrating the 232nd birthday of the Marine Corps. The Ball took place at Parque Itchimbia. The building was mainly a glass structure with panoramic views of the entire city. It was a beautiful, clear night so the views were spectacular. Enjoy the pictures:Ronnie with his Marine buddies: Hector, Andy and Daniel.

This is Bridget and Santiago. Santiago works at the Embassy and before Quito, they were living in Miami. They attended our wedding, so you may recognize them.

Ron and his coworker, Dave.

This is Sara, Bridget, Rachel and I. Sara and Rachel's husband work at the Embassy. Rachel and I get together often for lunch, to get our nails done or go shopping. We're both the newest arrivals; she and her husband arrived a week before I did. She will be leaving in a few weeks to go home to Oklahoma where she will stay until their baby is born.

Ron's friend Jack.

Ron dancing with Liz. (Liz is the one who invited us to Hakuna Matata.)
Ron and his friend Paul. Paul is married to Sara (see above.)
We forgot to get a picture earlier in the night, but this is what my hair looked like from the back. A cut, blow dry and style only cost me $17!

11.16.2007

Another Quake!

Last night I was in bed doing a Sudoku puzzle and Ronnie was on the floor doing exercises for his back. We heard a plane fly by (and it was probably a big plane because it was pretty loud). I noticed that the windows rattled a bit so I thought to myself that the plane must have been low. Just a second later I felt that dizziness again and I sat up in bed and said, "the building is moving!" Ronnie sat up from the floor and felt it too...another earthquake. We quickly made our way to the front doorway and stood there while the building kept moving. It was still pretty mild, but it lasted longer than the one earlier this month. I didn't like it at all and was trying my best not to completely freak out. I think in total, the swaying lasted about 25 seconds. Once it stopped, I wanted to get outside. We walked down the 9 flights of stairs and sat out front for a short bit. Once we felt more comfortable we headed back up to the apartment. I was still a little nervous about taking the elevator for fear of getting trapped if another one hit, so we walked up. That was pretty much it for the night, but neither of us slept well. Throughout the night, every little sound and movement woke me up. I think every time Ronnie shifted in his sleep, I thought the building was coming down!

This morning I woke up to check the news to see if this earthquake registered. (My dad sent me this website for the U.S. Geological Survey after the last one. They track earthquakes around the world, but the one we felt earlier this month never showed up.) I checked this morning and sure enough, there was one listed. It was a 6.7 magnitude on the border of Peru and Ecuador. The epicenter was about 150 miles SSE of us. Here's the site: Earthquakes and here's an article about it: Powerful Quake on Peru/Ecuador Border

I'm really starting to not like these...and I don't like how frequently they've occurred since I've been here! Anyway, I suggest you all come visit soon while we still have this beautiful view. We may move to a one story house if we get one bad enough to scare us! :)

11.06.2007

Welcome to the Jungle

This past weekend, Ronnie and I took a 4- hour trip to the jungle with some friends from the Embassy. There were 8 of us traveling in 3 cars. (Liz, her husband Adam, their 2 kids and Liz's parents who were in country from Texas.) We left Friday morning at 9 a.m. and returned on Sunday. The drive itself was very "off road", some of it was paved, but the roads had lots of turns through the mountains. We definitely broke in the SUV on the non-paved roads, but it held up well. We stayed at nice resort named "Hakuna Matata". It is way off the beaten path in the middle of nowhere. A couple from Belgium own it and have been running it for at least 7 years. The food was fantastic and the staff was so friendly. It was a great weekend! Here are some pictures:

Our caravan of cars on the way down:
We passed these waterfalls.
Before we actually reached the resort, we had to drive over the most scary bridge. Even Ronnie agreed that it was the scariest bridge he's ever driven over. It was basically a bunch of wood boards suspended over a a creek by metal cables. It was definitely a bit frightening. This is what the bridge looked like as we approached it:We finally reached the resort.
Our cabin was small, but very cozy. There was no A/C, but as hot as it was during the day,the nights were very comfortable.


The pool:

There was a creek near the resort that we had lots of fun playing in:




On Saturday we woke up early, had breakfast, then met our guide for a full-day tour of the jungle. We hopped in a van and headed south. Our guide was REALLY knowledgeable on just about everything in the jungle. He pointed out all kinds of birds that he'd see way before anyone else, he knew about the customs, the culture and the people of the region. He himself, is from one of the small villages we passed. Our first stop was to a small shopping area. There are a few hotels in the small area and many years ago the owners had a pair of monkeys. Well, they escaped, mated and now there are about 65 monkey's living in the trees. They were so funny!



After stopping to see the monkeys, we drove a little further then got into a canoe. The canoe took us down river for about 10 minutes.

We parked the canoe along a grassy area, put on our rubber boots and went for a short hike. Our guide, Octavio, took us to a village. He showed us the how the schools and living areas were constructed built by the local people. The locals didn't speak Spanish, the spoke 'quechua', the language of the Inca Empire. It is the most widely spoken language of the indigenous people of the America's. Volleyball seems to pretty popular in Ecuador...even in the jungle, however, it seems they play a little differently and as short as the locals are, the nets are set much higher than in the States.
We were invited into a home where they served us a sample of 'chicha', a fermented corn drink. It wasn't very tasty, and after watching it being prepared I didn't expect to like it. I was brave enough to take a second sampling so we could get this picture.

After our hike we stopped for lunch. We had chicken, fish, onion soup, rice, plantains and beans. It was actually pretty good.

The second part of our tour took us to a museum set up by some of the local people. They mainly had items on display, such as, tools they used to fish and replicas of various traps used for hunting. We each got to try using a blow dart:

After the museum, we went to an animal rescue shelter. Veterinarian students from Sweden travel to the jungle for three months at a time to volunteer. They had all kinds of animals, toucans, turtles, monkeys...





On Sunday morning, before heading back to Quito, we saw these horses waiting near the creek. The rest of our group was going horseback riding, but because Ronnie's back has been bothering him we opted not to this time.
While on our tour through the jungle, we saw some beautiful butterflies. This one was resting near the creek at the resort.

The night before we left, it rained quite a bit. Because of the rain, some of the rods had been washed out with small mudslides. This is one of them where trees and debris covered part of the road.
Some other road obstacles we came across. (Ronnie said we had to wait for them to moooooove.)

We had a great weekend and made it home safely. Once we unloaded the car, we settled in to make lunch and watch football. Not long after Ronnie sat on the couch with his sandwich and I turned on the computer to start loading pictures, we both felt a little light headed and woozy. We then realized it wasn't us that was woozy, it was the building. We were experiencing a minor earthquake. I yelled for Ronnie as we both met at the front door. The swaying only lasted about 5-10 seconds, but was still pretty creepy. Hopefully we won' feel them any worse than that!
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