Saturday, December 21, 2013


We have been home from Ecuador for a week today, but I still close my eyes and see Ecuador and I still don't feel fully here and settled. It takes me awhile to come down from a trip like that.

On the last day we were there we went to the equator. There is a big monument and museum that is on the equator and commemorates the first Geodesic Mission of the French Academy of Sciences. We have been there and taken our picture straddling the line marked to show the location of the equator. But, guess what? Modern GPS measurements have shown that the equator is actually several hundred feet away. Oops. So this time we went to a different equator. This location is a smaller, but much more interesting attraction where we were shown a variety of "proofs" of the unique nature of the equator. For example, supposedly an egg will balance on the head of a nail right on the equator due to the equalization of the centrifugal pull of the poles.

Ray was able to balance the egg right there on the equator, but we have no idea whether the same thing is possible anywhere. There was also a demonstration of how water emptying out of a little basin into a bucket swirls in a clockwise direction south of the equator and a counter clockwise direction north and does not swirl, but drains straight down over the equator.

It seemed a fitting way to end our stay in Ecuador. That night we went out for a wonderful dinner at a beautiful old Hacienda overlooking the lights of Quito.

We think this was our 6th trip to Ecuador, but it had been 7 years since we were last there. We saw a lot of change since that last visit. Prices are higher, for one—but it is still a very affordable place to visit. The biggest changes were infrastructure improvements. The roads are vastly improved. A new, modern airport has replaced the old one. All the messy overhead wiring in Quito is being put underground and new sidewalks are replacing the terrible, dangerous old broken pavement all over the city. Things look cleaner. New construction is going on everywhere and a subway system is under construction in Quito. The buses are cleaner and newer. We were less excited to see more and bigger malls, American franchises like McDonalds and KFC and thousands more cars and jammed up traffic. But nothing is changeless, and life moves forward for us all. Life, perhaps, is better for the average Ecuadorean than it was 7 years ago. Thankfully, there is a spirit that has not changed. The people of Ecuador continue to project pride in their culture, their art, their history. It is a warm and colorful and generous culture and that treasures family above everything. You are greeted with a kiss on the cheek and a hug and great affection each time you meet.

Travel to such a different culture awakens awareness. Details matter. Life on the street is a visual feast. I always feel nearly overwhelmed by the visual stimulation. This past week has been a gradual, and often melancholy process of letting go and moving back into my own life. I sometimes feel I should try to understand and make some logical sense of the experience, but it is impossible. It exists in fragments and images, now memory. I wasn't sure I really wanted to go back to Ecuador—why not see someplace new? But we went for practical reasons and found new vision and renewed beauty. This one will stay with me for a long time.

And as for that practical purpose that took us back to Ecuador—our son Andy's dental work—it was an unqualified success. The Dr. was excellent. The work is beautiful. We are really pleased, especially Andy.

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