Saturday, August 2, 2008

Home in Dallas!

After 18 hours of traveling, with a combined 5 hours of sleep between the two of us, we are finally home! Thank you to Amy for picking us up after a busy week covering for me in work!

Back in the ATL and sleepy!

We're back stateside and very tired. Our journey home began when we
left our hotel at 6 p.m. last night, and we are now waiting for the
last leg of our trip to Dallas at the gate in Atlanta's airport (6:30
a.m.). If everything goes as planned, we expect to pull up to the
house around noon today. Many thanks again to Amy for kindly
chauffeuring us to and from the airport!

After a night of re-routing to Guayaquil, Ecuador due to the country's
rigid emigration standards (I still am not entirely sure the purpose
behind that little detour); then checking and rechecking our bags;
packing and unpacking our carry-ons (no one seems to believe our
ceramics really ARE just ceramics); and clearing customs, Brad and I
are both ready for some SERIOUS naps. Brad's getting a head start as
we wait for our next flight (see below).

Apologies if this post comes across as a little grumpy... Those who
know me well understand that I don't handle sleeplessness very
graciously. I'm SO happy to be safely back in the States after a
fascinating and rewarding trip!

Look forward to catching up with you about what's been going on in
your life since we left, and giving you a bit more detail about Brad's
and my whirlwind Ecuadorian adventure. :-)

A well-deserved nap in Atlanta

Friday, August 1, 2008

At Quito Airport: 14 hrs travel ahead!

Museum Guayasamin

Thoughts from Middle Earth

Let's start with the good. Ecuador has some of the most breathtaking natural beauty I have ever seen - from the Andes mountains, the western Amazon,  beaches and volcanoes - and I feel we only scratched the surface. And, unlike most Latin American cultures, things tend to consistently run on time. This is due to a nationwide campaign begun several years ago to accomplish exactly that: "improve punctuality." This campaign is consistent with much of the direction Ecuador is heading - a more technology- and business-friendly culture.

Though decades further advanced in agriculture, public transportation and technology, Ecuador seems to lack the pride of ownership, the artistry, and the soul I saw in Central America. At first glance, a poor neighborhood is a poor neighborhood - but a closer look at the attention to detail in construction, how structures are maintained, the creativity (or lack thereof) that was poured into a project with limited means, you see the potential for healthy growth and sustainability. Sadly, I did not see this in Ecuador.

I would estimate that over 20 percent of existing structures are unfinished, abandoned or in extreme disrepair. Zac said this may be attributed to the "remittance economy," where over 10 percent of the nationals work overseas in Europe and send relatively large amounts of money home. With such great and sudden "wealth," it appears many of the locals are at a loss for how to manage and invest this money. I believe this may be the cause of many of the new, nicer unfinished homes - which almost appear abandoned - but when I saw how haphazardly cinderblock buildings are being slapped together, I see an infrastructure that is growing, albeit poorly...

The people, however, are easy to love. They are mostly genuine, hardworking and eager to help - and endure my broken Spanish. Most of the technology coming from overseas is being adopted readily, especially in the large cities. In the rural areas, it's hit or miss. Zac told a story of when the first lawnmower came to Mindo. Today, most grass cutting, landscaping, edging, etc is done with a machete - so when the young man Zac was with saw the lawnmower, he was absolutely amazed. For almost five minutes he raved about how cool the lawnmower was - just "mowing" over the weeds like they were nothing. Then, after a short silence watching the lawnmower work, he turned to Zac and said, "But Zac - wouldn't it just be easier to use a machete?" Now I understand why Zac refers to Ecuador as a "beautiful and hilarious" country.

In America, if we knew Ecuador had a weed problem - we would ship them tractors and lawnmowers, take pictures and leave. We're a generous people. But, is seems mostly with material things. To bring about real changes in areas that WANT to develop (a key factor), the skilled have to live with the unskilled. Some of the lasting change we saw in Mindo came from a German master carpenter who apprenticed many young men. The result? Quality structures and furniture are still being built and maintained today.

I'm not sure we fell in love with Ecuador the way we have loved traveling in other countries. Maybe it was the breakneck pace, the sickness or just the areas we saw - mostly Central/Northern Ecuador - but I am certain that traveling in Ecuador is not for the faint of heart. However, we do hope to come back one day to tour the Galapagos or hike the Andes. However, Ecuador would not be the first place I invested internationally.

Brad Gaultney
[Sent from my Phone]

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Quito Construction

Real bathroom, real hot water

A relaxing end

Very nice

Top Floor Suite

Last Night: Hilton Quito



Parque Central

Loudest hotel... Ever.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lataconga at Night

Latacunga Colonial Streets



Little boy

Quilotoa Volcano Lagoon

Shops in Quilotoa

Sugarcane for sale

El Choncho Muerto

Banos Taffy: An Acquired Taste

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Beautiful Wife-Nurse

Recovering this morning

Ecuadorian Diet Plan

Since being married, I've gained a few unwanted pounds due to my
wife's excellent cooking and baking skills. Therefore, I have devised
a new type of "Diet" while in Ecuador.

1) Choose a local restaurant that is understaffed.
2) After waiting 40 minutes for drink orders, politely ask the
waitress (singular) if you could see a menu.
3) Wait 10 more minutes to place food order.
4) Get under her skin by asking where the bathroom is (all in Spanish)
5) Eat the food.
6) Wait.

In 24 hours, you will be back to your fighting weight.

That's right, I got sick again. I'm not saying the food was
sabotauged, but it was strange to get sick at such a nice (looking)
restaurant. Regardless, I was certainly "unplugged" by the the
"Chicken Plug." (See Below)

My sweet and smart wife managed to buy the correct medicine from a
spanish only pharmacy - so I was only sick for about 8 hours - but
still feel week. She has been very caring and sweet.

Therefore, we have scratched the Diablo del Naiz train ride to stay in
Banos another night to recover. It's a nice town, so no great loss.
We're weighing several options for the next few days.

Brad Gaultney
[Sent from my Phone]

Waiting on fateful meal

And she'll have the pinecone chicken...

I'd like a chicken plug, please

Hot Wife outside Thermal Baths

Hotel in Banos

Hair of the Virgin Waterfall

Road to Banos

Monday, July 28, 2008

Not us!

Bird's Eye View of Quito


We want to thank Zac for being an excellent host. It was very
encouraging to see the work that God is doing with Zac in the remote
town of Mindo - which was very "charming," as Katie put it.

Many of the buildings and their furnishings were examples of fine
carpentry, as many years ago a master German carpenter apprenticed
several men in the village.

The catholic school Zac works with was founded by a "rogue nun" who
saw the plight of the orphans and took action, along with a wealthy
American businessman. This is a living example of the verse in the
bible (book of James), which says "true religion" is caring for the
orphans and widows - the helpless and neglected.

Now, we are headed to Banos, which has an active volcano and
hotsprings. It should be very relaxing and enjoyable.

Also, we are yet to find a wifi signal - which is what we need to make
cheap international calls. Hopefully, we'll find one soon.

Finally, thanks to Michael for updating our map (on the right) as we
travel - as there are some limits to what we can do on the go, even on
the iPhone.

From Katie: gracias a mi madre for the bug balm. I have yet to get
bitten, even though I see those little blood suckers swarming all the

Brad Gaultney
[Sent from my Phone]

Crazy bus driver rear-ending bus in front of us

Rio Mindo

Muy contento

Zac's "chicas"

BraD and Zac at Tilapia Farm

Zac's Pueblo

Sunday, July 27, 2008

View from car

The road to Mindo

So far, the trip has been very relaxing -even though we both felt
slight effects of the altitude for part of the first day.

We've been surprised by how well maintained the roads are - and how
extensive the public transport. We have spent several hours a day on
buses and taxis - which will not change as we begin to head south
tomorrow. Despite all the time on the road, the scenery is
breathtaking and the poverty in some areas is eyeopening. Right now,
we are driving through an orchid preserve and will be in Mindo in
under an hour. Thank God for safe travels so far.

Brad Gaultney
[Sent from my Phone]

The long, winding road to Mindo

Otavalo church at night

Fish dinner - "headed" to Mindo

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Catholic church in Otavalo

Beautiful wife in Otavalo

Bus to Otavalo

Oops, that's jelly not salsa on eggs!

In Quito: hotel Eugenia very nice!

Friday, July 25, 2008

An adventure already...

I would say that third world travel is always hard, but we haven't
left the States yet.

Beginning at 5:45 this morning, we (I) almost forgot our passports,
until Amy (our gracious driver) joked about "at least remembering the
essentials" and we realized they were still in the house. Then, the
auto kiosk at DFW couldn't find our records... So we waited in line to
check our bags... and it wasn't until we were in the security line
that Katie noticed they gave us someone else's tickets. Our luggage
had already zipped away, so we're praying they end up in Quito. With
correct tickets in hand, we flew to Atlanta and waited 6 hours (with a
40 minute delay). About 1 hour into our flight, they announced we had
to divert to Orlando to fix the water pump in the plane... Now, we're
on the ground awaiting updates...

Anyway, I'm not planning on sending detailed accounts of our trip each
day - mostly pictures - but I thought I'd send an update on the
'interesting' start to our trip. I'll update once we land in Quito or
are checking in to our hotel in Orlando!

Brad Gaultney
[Sent from my Phone]

Atlanta: "I be leader"

Thursday, July 24, 2008

KEG's pack

Brad's pack

Preparing to leave: KEG's travel ring

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tracking Map

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tentative Itinerary

Ecuador Map