« October 2006 | Main | December 2006 »

November 25, 2006

First week in Quito, Ecuador

Our first week in Quito (for the second time). This time we are not making any plans to get on a plane to return home, but to get on a bus and then a canoe to go into the jungle.

Landing in Quito was a little emotional for me. The first time could not be truly appreciated. I was quite distracted by the uncertainty and fear that seemed to preoccupy my every thought. When leaving a short 6 days later we had no idea when or even if returning was in our future. Of course we kept telling ourselves that we would return, but the reality was, this no longer seemed to be in our hands. As the airplane wheels hit the pavement, the previous experience and emotional upheaval came rushing back and then I was instantaneously overcome with positive emotions of gratitude for being able to continue where we left off. Everything I observed upon landing seemed to be for the first time, but with a greater appreciation.

For the first few days we were constantly reminded of the change in altitude in Quito. Physically, I had a constant minor headache that was easily ignored. Then there is being out of breath if even attempting to walk a little faster than a relaxed pace or going up a flight of stairs. No problem, we're in no real hurry we just stroll to where we are going. Finally the excessive fatigue from the change in altitude forced us to return to our kindergarten days of taking naps. Never underestimate the power of a siesta.

Every morning at 4am there is a rooster that feels this would be a good time for everyone to wake up. Normally this would be the bane of my existence waking me up and keeping me up. Being so fatigued from the change in altitude makes it so that I hear my little friend at 4am and simply roll over and go back to sleep.

The daily Spanish classes have been a great experience. I learned to speak French when I was in elementary school. I don't remember it being this challenging. Aren't we supposed to get smarter with age?

Since we are staying with an Ecuadorian family, all conversations are in Spanish. While at times it gets fatiguing to have to pay such close attention to try to understand the most basic sentences, being immersed is really improving our ability to speak Spanish. I will admit there are times when my head hurts and not from the change in altitude but from concentrating so hard. So sometimes I take the easy route and pretend I am listening and am grateful that Paul really is paying attention. I think there are times when he does the same. We are definitely noticing a change on a daily basis. I'm quite certain that I butcher most every sentence. I'm just happy to get an entire thought across AND have it understood.

Having lived in San Diego for the last nine years, we became quite accustomed to leaving our rain jackets in the closet. Actually, Paul didn't even own one until we started planning and buying our gear for this trip! In Quito, if you ask a local man he will tell you that the weather is like a woman, never predictable and crazy. Of course, if you ask a local woman, she will say the same but compare it to an Ecuadorian man. The only thing predictable about the weather here is that you know it will rain, you just don't know when. One moment it is a perfect clear day and the next moment it is pouring rain.

I haven't quite figured out the bus system yet. Here's what I do know, buses barely stop for you to get on or off. They cost a quarter and you pay when you get off. There is always a constant stream of buses going down the streets billowing out black exhaust. I have no idea if there are any predefined stops. There is always a guy hanging out the door saying something which remains a mystery to me. There are 3 different colors of buses; I don't know what the difference is between them.

Thankfully if not walking to our destination, taking a taxi is a really cheap. Interestingly the cost of going from A to B will change from daytime to nighttime. All cab drivers at night have tried to rip us off by telling us the wrong price when getting to our destination. We now know how far we can get for a dollar of two, so Paul will firmly tell the cab driver what the price should be. We are always met with resistance and the cab driver will insist that the price is... Paul will put the proper amount in the cab driver's hand and wish him a good evening. It seems to be a ritual now and would probably seem as if a part of the true experience was missing if this was not the end to our evenings.

Our first week in Quito for the second time has been great, definitely much better than the first time!! We are very excited to leave it all behind and venture into the jungle for the next two weeks where we will continue our Spanish lessons and explore a part of the world that we have only dreamt of.

November 20, 2006

Journey back to South America

Getting to South America was an adventure in itself... We flew from Montreal to Chicago to Miami to Quito, which is big all on its own. Add in the fact that it's Thanksgiving weekend (the most heavily traveled days in the US), and that they kept announcing that the government raised the alert level to orange, the second highest terrorist threat level right behind imminent attack: Quick, run and hide!

Nonetheless, we arrived in Quito and were met by a lovely mom and son who would take us to our host family. Unfortunately, they also had to meet another arriving traveler whose flight was delayed for an hour and a half. So despite having already traveled for 16 hours, the extra wait at the airport made it nearly 18 hours door to door.

Surprisingly, I slept for most of the day. I didn't realize how much I had been pushing myself the last week. It was great to feel awake again without coffee. But I digress...

Arriving at our host family's house last night, we were greeted by a cheerily wide-smiling woman Maria Ines and her husband Jaime, both in her sixties who took us in, showed us around their house and to our room.

Safe, alone and able to "turn off" at last, we fell into bed, unceremoniously looked at each other: "We made it!", and despite sleeping all day, proceeded to pass out from exhaustion. There's something to be said about suddenly finding yourself 2850m / 9350ft up, with no acclimatization. There's the headache, which is only minor, the way you start panting out of breath at the slightest exertion, and the incredible exhaustion felt the first few days at altitude.

Waking after seven hours of ultra-deep sleep, we washed up, unpacked and proceeded downstairs, where Maria Ines served breakfast of fresh Ecuadorian bread (half way between country "levain" bread and croissant), home made jam, butter and papaya with coffee/tea. Delicious!

She pointed us in the right direction, and we walked twenty minutes to the school, engrossed by all the newness around us.

We signed up for three weeks of Spanish school, each with our own teacher, 1 on 1 for 4 hours a day. The first week we're in Quito, and then we take a 10 hour bus ride east into the Amazon basin followed by a five hour canoe ride into the jungle and continue for two more weeks there. I've always dreamt of the jungle, it's almost palpable now.

The Spanish classes are great, tailored to our skill and learning speed. Even though it was our first day, we barely heard or spoke any English. Nice.

After class, we walked back to the house where we were fed cream of broccoli soup (everything is home made), chicken, rice and tomato salad, and finished with what's probably the tastiest fruit we've ever had, "babaco", a long and narrow melon-like fruit with the sweetness of pineapple and the consistency of ripe mango. Wow!

Our bodies cried out for yet more sleep, and we had our first siesta, and here I lay, tapping away on TyTN, lying on the bed watching the rain and occasional lightning out the window as Joanne studies her notes from this morning's class.

November 17, 2006

OQO on eBay

Photo: OQO on Ebay
Photo: OQO Ebay closeup
My trusty laptop, OQO is going up for sale on eBay! Sad to see it go, but glad to be traveling even lighter with just my HTC TyTN.

We're leaving Sunday!

November 14, 2006

Chef Rico

Photo: CIMG4307-1024
Over the weekend, our friends Deb and Rich cooked us up a feast!

November 13, 2006

Posting by phone

I've been hacking away at Movable Type, the publishing platform we're using to manage our blog, and added the capability to post our entries by email.

We're carrying an HTC TyTN Windows Mobile phone / PDA with us, and using it to type up our entries in its email application. We send these emails via either the mobile phone network or WiFi network to the blog server and get converted into entries.

Any photos we want in the entry are simply included as attachments to the email. The server stores them, generates thumbnails and web-sized versions and stores them, ready for your enjoyment.

This has been the first post using this system from mobile phone. Finally, mobile blogging! moblogging!

Final Week in Montreal!

We're getting ready to leave this Sunday back to South America! Hello
Ecuadorian jungle!

November 5, 2006

Photos from Montreal

Photo: Freshly roasted coffee (2006/10/21 10:49)
Photo: Photo taken 2006/10/21 at 15:26 [CIMG3960]
Photo: Erika and her godparents (2006/10/22 10:08)
Photo: Joanne basking in Mt Tremblant Village (2006/10/25)
Photo: Joanne micro forest (2006/10/26 04:35)
Photo: Paul and Darby cutting wood (2006/10/26 11:10)
Photo: Paul Joanne and Michael after LEntrecote St Jean (2006/10/26 14:58)
Photo: Cheers to Paul Birthday (2006/10/28 11:18)
Photo: Ashley irresitable smile (2006/10/28 12:31)
Photo: October 2006 Photos
Photo: October 2006 Photos
Photo: October 2006 Photos
Photo: October 2006 Photos
Photo: October 2006 Photos
Photo: October 2006 Photos
Photo: October 2006 Photos
Photo: October 2006 Photos
Photo: October 2006 Photos
Photo: October 2006 Photos
Photo: October 2006 Photos
Photo: October 2006 Photos
Photo: October 2006 Photos
Photo: October 2006 Photos
Photo: October 2006 Photos
Photo: October 2006 Photos
Photo: Montreal Photos
Photo: Montreal Photos
Photo: Montreal Photos
Photo: Montreal Photos
Photo: Montreal Photos
Photo: Montreal Photos

Picnic on Mont Royal

Photo: Picnic on Mont Royal
Photo: Picnic on Mont Royal
There's nothing like a picnic at freezing temperatures to invigorate you before a run.

November 4, 2006

Double Slit Experiment

The infamous double slit experiment in Physics is one of those things that energized me when I saw it.

It shows how matter sometimes behaves like a particle and other times like a wave. Strangely, it's whether you're looking or not that makes the difference....

When you're not looking, they behave like a wave and appear to be everywhere at once - infinite positions in superposition. The instant you look, the wave collapses into a single location and reality is formed.

Think about this for a moment. The act of observing causes reality to be constructed. If you're not observing, all there is is potential.

See for yourself, click play:

Your act of observing causes the universe to manifest potentiality into reality. Better yet, you can choose to observe or not, or what to observe; in effect you manifest the reality around you through your choices.


I've always been curious. As a child, I would barrage my parents with "Why". Why is the sky blue? Why does the shape of the moon change? Why are there mountains in some places but not others? Whatever their answer, it satisfied only briefly before the next "why?". It was apparently incessant.

Not much has changed. I still wonder why things are the way they are. I also wonder why things are at all.

Thankfully, I'm not the only curious one. Groups of people who seek to understand "why things are the way they are" call themselves physicists, while others who ask "why things are" call themselves philosophers. Between them, they've accumulated tremendous bodies of knowledge in Physics and Philosophy. There's already much more there than a single human could grasp in a lifetime, yet both are still in their infancy. The more we dig, the more interesting things we find, and the more we realize how little we really know.

As I follow my curious tendencies, I often come across information that enthralls me. It energizes my curiosity and fuels my next move. I'd like to share some of the fascinating knowledge that I connect with along the way, and perhaps on occasion share an original thought, hoping to spark in you the fascination of discovery.