What would you do, if anything, on finding a community longing for education; but, with no school to facilitate their getting it?
My friend, a wonderful lady who dedicates her life to helping people, animals and the environment found herself in such a situation where she lives in the Intag Valley of Ecuador. Here, poverty dictates that youth leave school after grade six to work the fields, etc; to help the family survive. There has been no local school, teachers or government support to help them further. Grace became aware of the strong desire for more education. And, people were willing to commit individually, as community, physically and with all the energy possible; but, without help, they could not make their dream come true.
What did Amazing Grace do? She mobilized the community, government and charities. She created and led a project that included funding projects such as raising and selling pigs, construction, etc. I asked her to tell the story and this is what she wrote.
" Tracy Wilson from The United States and myself, Grace Lush, from Canada have been working over the last 3 years to make this adult education school happen.
Isn't that an amazing story? I should clarify that Grace does all such things and has a wonderful, happy time as well. She has a ready smile and the love of everyone who meets her. How could one not want such a friend?
I've collected a few photos from Grace's school project to show you. ( Photos provide by Grace)
Grace is the Project Administrator of Touch The Jungle in the Intag Valley of Ecuador.
I invite you to learn more about Grace and Touch the Jungle. There is always more to be done and support needed. Will you be ready to help her when she has need?
To read my previous blog entries on the adventures of Grace, go to my blog index and scroll down to Grace.
Lloa is a small, remote village, South of the Pichincha Volcano, which is the Western boundary of the Ecuador Capital, Quito. Like all cities, towns and villages it was built around a church and a central park.
I treasure opportunities to visit such rural areas because there is a purity in their life and struggle.
A local greeted me as I got out of the car and, with much enthusiasm, promoted the fine dining at a near-by restaurant. - Keep in mind that what is fine dining varies in interpretation.
As I circled the park, looking for photo opportunities, I saw an old woman sitting on the sidewalk beside what looked to be a small pile of straw. A younger lady sat on a bench in front of her, and a dog slept nearby. I went and sat on the bench to converse, curious as to what the two were doing.
The two were clearly very poor indigenous people.
The old woman had a ready smile. There was life in her eyes. Her hands were large for a woman, almost as if swollen from years of hard, manual labour. She explained, as she demonstrated, how she took handfuls of wheat and rubbed them against a brick to separate the wheat from the chaff. Then, she picked out each, individual grain that she used for her daily meal or sold if she had a surplus. The younger woman, apparently her daughter, sat with her but contributed little to her mother’s effort.
Imagine spending day after day sitting on the sidewalk picking grains of wheat in order to live. The senior woman was a dear sole who seemed to not think of hardship; but, just got on with her chore. Her congeniality graced her, and I treasured my moments with her.
It took only a few more minutes to walk through the rest of the town before heading on my way. In several places, the sidewalk was appropriated by residents to dry various food grains in the sun. Doing this is common. I’ve seen piles of grain spread on the flat roof of a house and on the side of paved highways around the countryside. Several places also sold raw milk in whatever containers they could find.
It was a good day !
There is much beauty and history to appreciate in the Ecuador sierra – high in the Andes Mountains; the Northern frontier of the Inca Empire; a new world jewel of old Spanish colonialism; and the place closest to the sun than any other on earth. While Ecuador has Amazon Jungle, coastal plains and beaches and, not to forget, the Galapagos Islands, the sierra is where I call home and feel most comfortable.
Recently, my lady and I drove North from Quito past the well-known towns of Otavalo and Cotacachi to the city of Ibarra. For those not familiar with Ecuador, the sierra North of Quito is hot and dry; while to the South there is abundant greenery and temperate climate.
Our plan was to take the train from Ibarra to Salinas and back. (Be careful - There are several towns in Ecuador named Salinas.) Called the Tren de la Independencia (the Independence train); its’ name honours a historic struggle for the country’s freedom and the abolition of the slavery of the early colonial years.
Visitors to Ecuador will notice numerous train routes being promoted as the country re-establishes a railway system that had been allowed to die. The current government has recognized the important role in history that the railway played and the opportunity to contribute further in the tourism program. Riding these rail lines is promoted to provide comfort and spectacular scenery. This was to be the second railway route that I was to travel on. The first was the Nariz de Diablo, further South. I enjoyed that ride and will seek opportunities to explore the other routes when I can.
The old railway station in the centre of Ibarra has been completely renovated and is now a clean, modern facility that any community in the world would be proud to call its own. It serves only the Tren de la Independencia. There are no commuter or freight services.
In demand, tickets must be purchased in advance and picked up at the station no less than an hour before departure. They are inexpensive, and two can take a ride for about $ 40 USD.
Next to the train station is a large mixed, product and produce, market typical in Latin American rural areas. As the train moved slowly out of the station, I took photos of a local character dressed in old, clear plastic sheets and a woman offering goats for sale on the sidewalk. Along the route, security guards riding motorcycles appeared as if by magic to assure safety at railway crossings.
The inside of the car that we rode in was new, clean, comfortable and air-conditioned. A friendly, always smiling, young attendant provided ongoing descriptive and historical dialog in both Spanish and English. A light snack was provided on-route.
The mountainous countryside is arid with lots of sand, few trees, scrub plants, large canyons, bridges high over river gorges and six tunnels through mountain rock. The ride took just over one hour.
Salinas is a small, hot, dry, poor town of 2000 residents in the middle of no-where. They are descendants of colonial slaves, brought from Africa to work cotton and sugar fields. No cotton is produced there today. Sugarcane is the major industry and employer of the town. The railway now employs about 100.
Waiting for our arrival was a local dance group. Bare footed; they shuffled while music pumped loudly through speakers. Colourful dress recalled their heritage. The heat was obviously affecting them; but, one young lady held her head high with pride and gave us her best. During the show, passengers sat on steps in the shade of the station and on chairs under a white canopy. The scorching sun and mosquitoes prompted some to plaster themselves with lotion. Fortunately, mosquitos don't like my blood and I was almost unaware of their presence.
After the dances, tourists were divided into groups to walk through town to a museum, a church, a store where local women sold confections, and to dine at the local restaurant. Construction was rudimentary cement block with little enhancement, indicative of the poverty of the place. Plant life was unseen, with the exception of in the characteristic Spanish colonial park in front of the church. Painted murals on buildings along our path depicted the history of the town and served as decorative art to enjoy.
Though there wasn’t much to see, I appreciated witnessing people making the best of living in a place where I would only want to quickly pass through. The community was doing its best to better its’ situation; was welcoming; and anxious to be the best hosts that they could be. I, particularly, enjoyed the visit to the confection store and speaking with the staff. The museum was room filled with photos of black heroes from around the world who fought for emancipation and respect, with what I thought was, disappointingly, relatively little local content.
After about three hours and sunburn, (I had misplaced my hat) we re-boarded the train for the ride back. Enthusiasm evident on the ride to Salina had faded. Passengers were tired, quiet and, apparently content.
In summary, it was an modestly interesting adventure and I am happy that I took the time to discover the route of the Independence Train.
I love to share my pursuit of life's adventures with my readers. This blog is different. Some writer, anonymous to me, wrote a script that Abbott and Costello would use to have people rolling in the aisles. It is likely that only those over 50 years old will fully appreciate it; ESPECIALLY if they hear the voices of Abbott and Costello as they read. I send a huge THANKS to the author. You have brightened my day.
You have to be old enough to remember Abbott and Costello and too oldto REALLY understand computers, to fully appreciate this.For those of us who sometimes get flustered by our computers, please read on...
Below is an introduction to Solo Trekker 4 U, the initiative of an intelligent lady determined to level the playing field to give solos the break that they deserve.
Read the following introduction from the founder Elizabeth Avery.
" From my days in middle school, I began to have a great and growing curiosity about distant lands. My appetite was further whetted by foreign language classes and exchange programs on two different continents. As a result, after graduation I tried, if possible, to see a different country every year. Although it was much later in my career that international travel coincided with business opportunities, my yearning for particularly remote destinations catapulted me off the beaten path from the Pacific Islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki to Montenegro on the Albanian border.
Subsequent business trips to southern Africa were easily combined with vacations in 5 countries. Later Latin America, Australia and Europe afforded me the opportunity to combine business with pleasure.
I have typically traveled alone and experienced the premium charged single travelers for business or leisure and more limited easy access to top quality. However, my defining moment as a solo traveler came about in China in 2009. I joined a 5 star river cruise and tour only to discover that pairs traveling together had access to a $2,500 rate for early booking for 2-for-the-price of-1. I had paid approximately $7,500 or “1-for-the-price- of-2 (or 3)”?
Worst yet, as a solo traveler even at the best resorts there could be challenges. One Christmas Eve as a guest in another 5 star hotel, I found that even having requested ahead, I was initially told there was no space for me in the dining room. The alternative? It was suggested that I have the $200/person Christmas Eve dinner in their bar. Similarly, at a great US ski resort as a guest in that hotel, they could not find a spot for me for Sat. night dinner in the main restaurant.
After traveling to 57 countries and all 50 US states, I concluded there had to be a better way for solos looking to explore the world. At first blush, the easy solution offered is generally to travel with a friend or family member. However, the reality in today’s world is that virtually everyone has competing job or family obligations. In addition, just because I am elated with my booking a “Cambodian Christmas” for 2014, my friends would rather explore certain places in Europe where I have been already.
Coming from the private equity investment banking sector, I spent a year researching the issue. In Dec. 2012, I launched www.SoloTrekker4U.com providing unlimited free access to our community website, to those traveling alone and seeking to connect with well-priced 4-5 star travel. From great airfare deals, camel treks in Morocco to Madagascar or art history sojourns in Europe, there is something for everyone.
What is often misunderstood is that solo travelers are actually a broader group than singles. Family members and married couples may pursue separate interests, hobbies or sports from African safaris to Milan Fashion Week without realizing that they, too, are solo travelers! In addition, entrepreneurs and small business employees generally also travel alone and pay approximately 24% more than corporate groups. In the most extreme cases, leisure tours can cost solos up to 100% more in single supplements.
Our goal is to build out our membership to create bargaining power for solos to level the playing field. Solos dust off your bucket list and get on the move! A whole world awaits you. Please join us today since the more solo travelers come together the stronger our collective purchasing power to get the best deals and more competitive prices! "
I think that this is a GREAT INITIATIVE and encourage each of you to visit the site and join in to temper the discrimination against solo travellers.
Better yet, tell all your friends, partnered or single, to join and spread the word. You will be doing some of them favour.
Tuesday of this week, a new Hilton hotel had its’ official opening in downtown, Halifax, Canada. According to my son who represented me, it was a grand event. Almost a dozen of my photos, enlarged beyond anything I had seen before, decorate the walls in the lobby area. One other, a Halifax local photographer shares hotel wall-space with me. I salute him. The hotel manager reports that, since the “soft” opening in June of this year, guests report, in person and online, that their hotel stay was enriched by the photography. One lady, who I met when visiting the hotel in July, told me that she had been biking around the province, Nova Scotia, and the pictures fully represent what she had seen. That, I believe, is what the Hilton hotel management wished to achieve.
Guests at the opening were given commemorative books which included my photography.- I look forward to seeing my copy the next time I am back in Canada.
Let me say that I am very pleased with the hotel’s treatment and presentation of my photos and recommend that anyone visiting Halifax, Nova Scotia, consider staying at the Hampton Inn by Hilton, superbly located in the centre of the city, surrounded by all of the great tourist sites that the city has to offer.
For those who may wish to see a few of my Nova Scotia photos, not necessarily those in the hotel, see below.
To discover more about the Hampton Inn by Hilton, go to
“Grab your camera and get over here!”
Those were the cryptic words of my friend, Leslie.
Shortly thereafter I arrived at his Quito, Ecuador home in the suburb of Tumbaco, camera in hand. Leslie was waiting outside to ensure that I did not disturb the hummingbird nest in a small tree by his front door.
It was impossible to take photos without approaching the nest and parting a few branches. The mother flew to a nearby perch and watched as we admired the nest and the two eggs lying within. You probably know that a hummingbird is a very small bird, and its nest and eggs are very tiny.
The mother came to trust Leslie’s comings and goings, and his curiosity; eventually not flying away at his or my presence.
Not long after my first visit, the eggs hatched and two chicks made their appearance. You can see the white, bald, head of one. Do you see the second?
The chicks grew rapidly, and their feathers blended into the nest, making them hard to see. Look closely and you will see the beaks sticking up over the side of the nest.
Only days later, one, then the other disappeared to live their own lives.
Leslie’s hummingbird had such confidence in him that she returned some weeks after her first brood left the nest, to lay more eggs and repeat the cycle.
There are over 200 species of hummingbirds in Ecuador and watching any one of them is a joyous occasion. Here are some photos of hummingbirds at the guava tree adjacent to my terrace.
Thanks to the unknown author of this meaningful poem.
He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion (Club),
Telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.
And 'tho sometimes to his neighbours
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew where of he spoke.
But we'll hear his tales no longer,
For ol' Joe has passed away,
And the world's a little poorer
For a Veteran died today.
He won't be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.
He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won't note his passing,
'Tho a Veteran died today.
When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Veteran
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?
The politician's stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.
While the ordinary Veteran,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.
It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.
Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever-waffling stand?
Or would you want a Veteran
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Veteran,
Who would fight until the end.
He was just a common Veteran,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his likes again.
For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Veteran's part,
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.
If we cannot do him honor
While he's here to hear the praise,
Then at least let's give him homage
At the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline
In the paper that might say:
"OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING,
A VETERAN DIED TODAY."
Despite recent positive changes in the law, the judicial system continues to fail women, in favor of men with money and influence.
1. A retired foreign diplomat living in Ecuador; once jailed for deliberately not meeting commercial obligations with a business partner.
2. A previously successful Ecuadorian businesswoman who, under pressure from her husband, the retired diplomat, sold her business and put all the money received into the matrimonial home.
3. IN The Ecuador judicial system.
Ecuador law now says that property acquired during the period of cohabitation is to be divided 50/50 on the disillusionment of the relationship.
The couple lived together and married for a total of 10 years before separation and divorce.
They built a house and bought several properties while together. He ensured that all properties, including those which his wife invested heavily, were in his name.
For 20 years, he has collected rent on the former matrimonial home, valued well over 1 million dollars and has never give his ex-wife a penny. So far, she has not asked for her share, aiming to accept less in order to settle. Settling is, however, farthest from the ex-diplomate's mind. He wants to take everything and make her suffer as long as he can.
Government officials responsible for ensuring the protection of women refuse to get involved while the case is before the courts. This satisfies the ex-husband who wants to keep it in the courts till the woman abandons all claims due to fiscal and emotional exhaustion.
They gave birth to a daughter, now in university.
Following separation, the ex-diplomat claimed poverty and no income. He said that he lived on handouts from his family in Europe in an effort to avoid paying child support for the daughter. Fellow former diplomats from the same country, one of whom knew the ex-husband personally, state that he assuredly has a pension from his working life from which he should have paid child support.
In testimony before Ecuadorian judicial officials, the ex-diplomat claims that his ex-wife contributed no money to the construction of the family home and various properties. This is despite a document bearing his signature acknowledging the money that she had invested; and, related construction records and receipts in her name. The woman had sold her successful business to invest in the matrimonial home.
He continues to try to hide other properties purchased during the period of matrimony.
He forged the signature of his estranged wife on a mortgage from Banco Pacifico when she refused to sign.
In a business transaction requiring his wife's signature, he lied and claimed that she had died.
The ex-wife has, to date, only claimed 50% of the value of the matrimonial home and nothing of the other properties.
Two justices have ruled in favor of the ex-wife receiving 50% of the value of the matrimonial home. Two others have ruled in her favour regarding her ownership of a separate property; but, the ex-husband continues to take actions to stall her being able to sell the property. His aim is to prevent her from obtaining funds to pay impatient lawyers and force settlement. Mediation has failed. The ex-husband presses demands for household articles that he remembers from 20 years ago of which the ex-wife has not seen for that length of time.
After each judgment in favor of the wife, the ex-husband launched appeals. The apparent strategy of the ex-husband appears to be to exhaust his ex-wife emotionally and financially; knowing that she has no income other than personal loans based on the expectation of payback when the case is finally resolved. The pattern of his domination and attempt to control the ex-wife that characterize the union continues 12 years after their separation.
The documents before the court now fill three volumes.
The third justice appointed, withdrew from the case without explanation.
Lawyers for the wife eventually withdraw, impatient at not getting resolution that would allow the payment of their fees.
The lawyer for the ex-husband is a prominent lawyer who appears to intimidate other lawyers and justices.
What is a woman in Ecuador to do? She has borrowed heavily from friends to raise her daughter.
The macho cultural bias continues to work against them in the workings of the judicial system.
Not once has a justice official taken the ex-husband to task for the litany of lies, or forgery, provable by documents in the court’s possession, that he has used to prolong the case. Contempt of court appears to be accepted. It seems that justices dealing with matrimonial cases don't report criminal behaviour when discovered.
Money and influence corrupt the application of well-intentioned laws.
The foregoing, as manifested in this case, amounts to judicially abducted spousal abuse; a flagrant assault on this and, by extension, all Ecuadorian women. I am 100 pecent confident that the President of Ecuador would be angered by this failure of the system.
Where are the lawyers with the courage and principals to come forward to defend women and justice?
I challenge all Ecuadorian lawyers to step forward. Contact me directly via firstname.lastname@example.org ; and, I will connect you with the Ecuadorian lady.
Excitement, anxiety and hope are felt as plays from around the world gather to compete to determine which country team will be the 2014 world champions. No, it is not the world series, played only by American teams; nor, is it the Super Bowl. It is the only, truly world sport – Football / futbol – that is actually played with the feet. In North America, it is called soccer.
Regional playoffs have been going on for months, and the best teams are in Brazil for a month of excitement, sometimes verging on hysteria.
My lady is a football fanatic who devotedly follows her favorite team in the domestic league. There is no player whom she does not know. When an Ecuador team plays a team from another country, all life stops, the Ecuador colours are raised, and life is by the TV. Now, as the World Cup, championship games get underway, there is nothing on our schedule but football. When I mistakenly suggested that we do something else, like a quick trip to the coast for whale watching, I was sure that the sky turned black, lightening flashed and God was coming to take me. Oooops
So, until 13 July 2014, my life will be fully immersed in football. Be clear that this is the case in virtually every household in Latin America and many other countries.
We have purchased VIP seats in a modern, giant screen theatre where we will sit comfortably in a reclining chair, drink beer/ wine, fill ourselves with popcorn and the like, to watch the Ecuadorian team at its fighting best – we hope. To be even more descriptive, we will sit in our VIP seats until pandemonium breaks out, which I believe will begin a few seconds after the opening whistle. On the big screen, players will be bigger than life, the game play broadcasters defining; and my lady and every other fanatic in that theatre will be launching themselves skyward every few seconds, the screams of normal rocket engines replaced by human screams of agony and ecstasy.
Today, in last minute preparation, the maid and handy-man, supervised by my lady, set up an additional TV so that there would be no place in the house where games would not be front and centre.
Dutifully, I sat to watch the opening ceremonies, highlighted by the great looks and performance of Jenifer Lopez. That was not hard at all.
Following that, my lady was entranced, eyes glued to the TV while Brazil and Croatia played the opening game.
That word penetrated eardrums four times as the tournament favorite, Brazil, trounced the Croatian team 3 to 1. Frankly, they will have to play better than that if they do, indeed, aspire to the championship. Their play was mediocre at best.
So ended the opening game. The Home crowd was satisfied, and my life is set up for the next month. Now, all is getting primed for the first Ecuador game on Sunday.
I am excited !!!!