Monday, January 25, 2010

What Next?

Contemplating Pichincha

I sat quietly this morning, watching the clouds lift over Pichincha, and tried to feel comfortable not moving and not having any plans. Maya and I woke up at 6, fell easily into the rhythm of a school morning, and waited only a few minutes for the bus, which did not forget to pick her up (which was my fear). The day spread before me with all sorts of possibilities until 3:30, when I had to pick Maya up and escort her to her various Monday evening activities.

I have a little less that six more months in Ecuador. Our half year in Quito has passed quickly, and somehow it feels that we have little time left, and so much more to see and experience. Eric will be in the jungle for much of the next several months, so I will have space and time to explore on my own. I have friends visiting over the next months, and am starting to think of places to show them. I have yet to visit Baños or Mindo, which are close by; it is Carnaval the second week of February, and I am told that Ambato is the place to visit during that time, so I will have to organize a few nights there. I must return to southern Ecuador to see Loja and Vilcabamba, and venture out to the coast to the 'Ruta del Sol'. I want to climb to the top of Cotopaxi, see Cimboazo close up, wander through the jungle in Cuyabeno. I will join Eric whenever I can on his forays into the jungle. We still talk about taking a boat down the Napo from Tena to? as far as we can go.

I am wondering if we need more time here, too much to see and do. We are on a tight budget too, so I must be innovative and take some risks to make all these adventures happen.

Guapulo and the Valley of Tumbaco in the Distance

Meanwhile in Quito, there is much I have not seen. I started today with the church of Guapulo, which according to my guidebook has a museum attached, with opening hours from Monday to Friday. The church is located at the bottom of a ravine, on the road that Francisco de Orellana took on his way to the Oriente and his ultimate discovery of the Amazon River. There is a bust of Orellana at the top of the very steep road down to the sanctuary, and another full size statue in front of the church at the bottom. I took a taxi to the church, because the area has been reported unsafe. There is a university (SEK) located in what was once the convent attached to the church, so several young students were sunning themselves on benches in front of the college entrance.

The front of the church is neoclassical and imposing. I entered the vestibule and found both the church and the museum closed, so I asked the guard watching the church when I could enter. His initial reaction was that the complex was closed to visitors, but then he told me to wait until the museum employee returned. I peeked into the church and saw carvings and paintings and Moorish designs. When the employee finally came, he informed me that the church and museum were closed. I pointed out my guidebook information, but he elaborated about the lack of employees and could not tell me if or when the church and museum would reopen for visitors. He did not sound hopeful. I asked if I could enter the church and he agreed to give me five minutes (but no camera allowed).


The church is quite simple in form and is not overly baroque in its decorations. The pulpit is spectacularly carved and the main altar imposing but not overdone. Miguel de Santiago, a famous Quiteño artist, painted several canvasses on the main altar. The church is dedicated to 'Our Lady of Guadalupe'. I wanted to stay longer, but I was urged out into the sunlight.

Frescos in the Vestibule

No taxis were about, so I decided, probably unwisely, since I have been told over and over again how unsafe this area is, to climb up to the top. It was not as exhausting as I expected, and with each turn in the road, I had an incredible view of the valley and the church. I was so inspired, I walked most of the way home to our apartment.

Francisco de Orellana

Amparo came by to teach Spanish, but we went through all my Galapagos photos, and in no time, I had to rush to pick up Maya on time. Am I avoiding learning more Spanish? I have noticed that the language comes to me so much easier now. I understand more and can participate somewhat in conversations. I almost feel that I am thinking and perhaps even dreaming in Spanish. I cannot speak French or Italian anymore, only Spanish comes out of my mouth. (it is embarrassing when I try to talk to my daughter in Italy!) I must take every opportunity to talk and read and participate in Spanish every day. When I visited Isabel at her home today, there was no hesitation, words just poured out of my mouth when speaking with her or Mario. He commented that I appear more and more like a local and that felt like a compliment.

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