Sunday, January 11, 2009


Guayasamin is an Ecuadorian artist who was born in 1919 and died in 1999. I have seen some of his works at a small museum in DC and have encountered lots and lots of copies  of his paintings in the markets in Quito and Otovalo, However I was unprepared for the emotional impact of his original work at the Capilla del Hombre. He grew up poor and his paintings capture the misery and anguish of the disadvantaged.  So much pain. Erika, the girl I am staying with, was in tears. She was thinking of next year when she will be studying in Syracuse, New York, and will be away from her family and all that is familiar. Her mother was in tears too, anticipating her very lonely house next year, when both Erika and her sister will be studying in the States. I found myself just feeling the sadness of the paintings and of the people I was with. Maya was oblivious and was just eager to eat.

We ate Japanese food. It was the first time my host, Isabel, ate with chopsticks and she did not struggle at all. It was also the first time she ate Japanese food, which was genuine and good and the desserts were outrageous. I thought that every dessert had sake in it, but later learned that the name of the restaurant was Sake and that the desserts were just specialties of the restaurant. Maya indulged of course, and I had tastes of everything.

I had wanted to go up the mountain on the Teleferico ( I have wanted to each time I have been in Quito but there has always been an obstacle to going). This time clouds were collecting over the southern part of the valley and the top of the Teleferico was bathed in grey cotton and threatening rain, so after our delicious lunch, we opted to walk Erika's big dog. I will have to ask for the name of the breed. It is large and furry and sweet and she is planning to bring it to Syracuse with her. She is worried about discrimination when she lives in the United States and I have nor been particularly reassuring.

Dinner was not organized.  Everyone just rummaged through the fridge and chose what they wanted.  We sat together; Isabel, Erika, Maya, Erika's sister and brother (Mario) and an exchange student named Alison who is from Columbia, MD and goes to the U of Maryland ( she is studying Spanish, Persian and Russian, WOW). Another student is named Roberto, is also from Maryland and is genetically Ecuadorian, but grew up adopted in an Irish Mexican home and does not speak Spanish or know his family of origin. I think he is here for significant psychological reasons. It is stunning to look at him; he looks absolutely native, but then he speaks and it is clear that he is the boy next door. He was out tonight with a friend from the States who is working for a church helping disadvantaged people. I believe that is what he wants to do for a living when he finishes his genetics degree next year. 

I am glad that Isabel joined us today and I think she really enjoyed herself. She apparently does not like to go out and remains in the home  mostly working, both as a mother and housewife     ( although she and her husband have been separated for ten years, they still work at he same business together) and at her company selling materials for security business. Her office is in   the house. She is overly generous and wants to please us so much. Of course she also adores Maya. I think if I leave Maya with her for a week or two, Maya will be speaking Spanish in no time.

We have an early wake up call to get to the Einstein school for testing. Maya is asleep, I am organizing my bags so that we take only jungle clothes to the forest, which is the second part of the Johns Hopkins' course. We will be joining the students when they return for the Galapagos tomorrow and will be participating in their program from now on. I love the forest and look forward to this part of the trip. The 'selva' is a magical place.

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