Saturday, June 29, 2013

Vicarious journey

So much going on here I can't keep up, much less post to this blog! It has been an emotionally exhausting week. Thursday was the day my son Andy had oral surgery—15 teeth removed, bone grafts and 12 titanium screws set in his jaw. He has been very forthcoming on Facebook, so I don't think he will mind this disclosure. Poor guy. He had beautiful teeth. He had no health insurance and developed gum disease that went undetected until his teeth started falling out. Heartbreaking. When he looked into dental implants here in Portland we all nearly had heart attacks when we learned the cost. Then our daughter, Emily, suggested that he go to Ecuador for the work. She could go along to translate and be his support team, along with her wonderful Ecuadorean sister-in-law, Ana. Emily lived in Ecuador for a number of years and has in-laws there willing to do the research and find a good, reliable clinic. The cost is about half what it is here. Sad, no? I could rant about American healthcare for awhile, but I won't and, at least for now, it is what it is. Ecuador was a good option.

They are still there for the next week until the stitches all come out. Meanwhile they are enjoying the opportunity to be there. When Emily was living in Ecuador, Ray and I made at least five trips to see her and the country. We immediately fell in love with Ecuador. Seeing the photos from this trip has made me sad and happy and nostalgic for this beautiful place. Andy said I could share some of his photos.

Ecuador is the inspiration for a lot of the artwork I have been doing. One cannot help but be struck by the layers of history and the enduring influence of the Spanish on the culture. It is a land of huge contrast between rich and poor, grand and humble, strikingly illustrated by the architecture. The Spanish influence, especially of the Catholic Church, dominates every city and village.

The cathedrals are massive. Even the village churches are beautiful and richly appointed. And surrounding them are the humble homes and businesses of the residents.

In the big cities, like Quito, there are very modern areas that feel like cities in the US.

 Some neighborhoods are an interesting mix of traditional and modern—well, semi-modern. How goofy and "mid-century" are these staggered windows? And right next to a lovely colonial building in the Old City in Quito.

And yet, the mixture is endearing in some way. And fascinating. In Cuenca, one of the cities pictured above, there are areas behind the modern buildings where there are ruins of the Incan city that once occupied the same city space.

On our first trip to Ecuador I was humbled by how little I knew of South America in general, much less one little country within the continent. "How," I wondered, "could so many people live here and I could know so little about them?"  Quito is immense, with a population of more than 2 million people. It sprawls along the slopes of the volcano Pichincha and through the valleys of the Andean highlands.

Another view taken from atop Pichincha. There is a cable car that takes you to the top (elevation: 15,413 ft).  Mind you, this is an active volcano. When I took the trip to the top I could see and smell the sulfurous fumes wafting out of the mouth up the path above where we were.

It has been a hard week, wondering and worrying about my children, especially Andy, and wishing I was there with them. We'll be staying close to home this summer, but this week I have been on a vicarious journey. Thanks for all the great pictures, Andy. Be well. Be safe. Give your sister a hug for me.


  1. Anonymous5:55 AM

    It's a wonderful thing that your family could find such a positive solution to your son's critical problem. Not only has the dental problem been addressed, your adult children are having an extended adventure together by themselves. I see that as quite a blessing, or a 'win-win' if you will.

  2. Really glad your son is doing so well. That was quite extensive to say the least. I really enjoyed this post. Very informative. I am often struck by how oblivious we North Americans can be about the rest of the world in general. Thanks for enlightening us about one lovely spot.

  3. You are certainly not the only one who has little knowledge of South America. I know next to nothing. So thanks to you and Andy for the photos and the education. I was struck by how clean everything is. No trash at all anywhere.

    I will pray for Andy's quick and uneventful healing. That can't be pleasant.