Monday, August 16, 2010

Why I'm a seriously big fan of the southern hemisphere

It's got New Zealand and Ecuador.

For those of you who haven't heard, my trip to Ecuador was splendiferous. I haven't written about it because it seems almost sacred. The little moments that made it so amazing are impossible to describe in words (though Sarah did a good job of it...). We did so much in such a short time that it seems like I've been gone for months.

Several things happened that haven't happened for a long long time. I laughed so hard my stomach hurt, I laughed so hard I wet my pants, and I declared one perfect day so wonderful that I would live it over and over - which is a fairly drastic thing to say (especially since I believe that was mystery-orange spaghetti day.)

Now on to some of the good times that are making me bliss out thinking of them now.

Meeting DJ Jason Somebody at the Colombia airport. He may not be famous yet, but I've added him to my "in case he ever makes it, then I can sell this on ebay" photo collection. My hope is that at the very least I make strangers feel special (or suspicious).

The first of about 400 guys we saw peeing in public. Often as we hopped on and off buses we would be in danger of walking straight into someone's line of fire.

Our first night in Ecuador included two new friends, Chinese food, and fire works welcoming us to Quito.

By day 2 I had already given up on trying not to get sick (didn't take long to crack). Not only did I stop rinsing my toothbrush with bottled water, I embraced the parasites by eating a cup of bus fruit smothered in pink whipped mystery-foam. Strangely, Sarah and Danika got sick by consuming chips in a sealed bag.

Our first time riding seatbeltless in the back of a truck was thrilling but despite doing this hundreds of times on our trip I must admit I never tired of it.

After hiking to our first rainforest lodge (appropriately named Shangrila) and discovering it was an enchanting tree house on a cliff overlooking the most beautiful view I have ever viewed, we put on our soon-to-be-ubiquitous rubber boots and went for a rainforest hike (I use the word rainforest too much because it sounds so cool). We tramped through streams and crawled through bat-infested caves and I became reacquainted with my love of bouldering. Btw, the bats were little fuzzy guys that I thought were cute but made Danika want a gun.

That night was our initiation into hammock culture. I state, for the record, that someday I too will have an open air room full of these cocoons of joy. They are good for the soul. I know my mom will say that is sacrilegious but something inside me took a deep breath and filled will peace whenever I was wombing it up in the hammocks. What else could it be?

You know what else is good for the soul? Sunrises. Sunsets are usually my favorite and are also much more conveniently available at a time when I'm awake, but the beginning of The Best Day Ever caused some reevaluation of sunrises. Sarah has a sweet video of our astonishment (I encourage everyone to get invited to her exclusive blog)at every cloud and ray of sun moving across the rainbow horizon and slowly lighting up the jungle below. Stunning.

The day continued with singing and princess waving from the back of another truck, visiting an indigenous village, little girl scarfing a thumb-sized grub, warrior paint and tubing in the river. Our charming guide Roberto tied our inner tubes together and reassured us that there were no piranhas in the warm water as we floated downstream. He told jokes and stories that we didn't get and delighted us by crooning a Spanish song as he navigated through some white water. Danika managed to work on her tan and avoid the water entirely by performing some intriguing gymnastic moves.

That night we did a little salsa to some truly terrible music and Christian went vampiric on Danika.

The next day we moved on to our second lodge, which was much more rustic, and to our second guide, Jingaro, who was much less professional and much more interesting. I just spent 15 minutes trying to determine the veracity of his claim that he was in the Sydney Olympics in 2000 for shalom kayaking. I still don't know. Though he would have been 15 at the time (and the cut off is 16) who keeps birth certificates in the jungle? Maybe he was really born in both Alaska and Japan...

After donning more face paint we were ready to tackle the cascadas (waterfalls). This was pretty exciting since by this point we had all begun to realize that Jingaro was not terribly concerned with safety, insurance, law suits... We sloggy boots we hiked up and down mountains while discussing philosophy, religion, future travel plans and teaching tips(!) with the professor who had joined us and with our crazy guide (who pretended not to speak English but turned out to be fluent).

Teaching Tip 1: Get straight into the material on Day 1. Ask an intriguing question and discuss.

Teaching Tip 2: Cold call. Make sure everyone knows that they are expected to participate. This will keep them awake and engaged. (Todd also told us about one time when he sent all his students who hadn't done the reading home. Too bad I can't do that with high school kids.)

After a quick lunch and hammock nap (our guide overslept and we were all late) we were not looking forward to walking several miles to the lagoon where we going to swim. So naturally we were thrilled by the alternative that presented itself - clinging to a bare-chested Ecuadorian on the back of his motorcycle! (very Motorcycle Diaries of us). Though it took me about half an hour longer than anyone else I am proud to say I did jump off the super high rock! (Rock is higher than it appears in pictures or in anyone elses' memory).

That evening was one of my favorites. Memories of playing Would You Rather in a semi-lucid state by candlelight warm my heart.

To be continued...

Despite the dip in fun that life has taken since my return, high adventure isn't that far off. I have currently have a cockatoo perched on my head.


Danika said...

you should be delighted to know that I laughed out loud several times reading this post. :)

Smoxie said...

as did i! LOVED it! keep up the good work--can't wait to hear about the parts we weren't there for.