Wednesday, April 27, 2005

more closure

so now i'm back in kingston, my birth city, looking for jobs and opportunities and basically trying to fill my days with interesting, fulfilling activities.

it's a tough haul at times. there are a few jobs out there, but fewer than a year ago when i was last looking and managed to stumble across the ecuador internship. back then i had things lined up, a few jobs seemed tailor made, like they were plucking qualifications from my resume, but now doesn't appear to be the same case. jobs are more scarce, although right now there are a flurry of internships being thrown about and so the jobs might come later. one such opportunity that i have my fingers crossed for is out of ottawa and involves organizing education campaigns and advocacy around mining and certain mining corporations. we'll see... the deadline for applications is the 30th so i'll be sitting on my thumbs till then (got mine in over a week ago).

apart from that i'm fine - a little sick of the election talk going on and don't really see any palatable way out of this mess that doesn't lead to one disaster (the conservatives) or another (the liberals). precious little has come out of the green party, although the media has a tendency to look past them at the best of times anyway. i have been impressed with jack layton over the past couple weeks. an article in the paper today echoed my feeling that he's toned down his smugness a notch or two and really worked on sounding dignified. i never did like him much but he's actually making some progress in my books. not that i'm gonna jump out and paint my lawn orange, but at least he's growing as a politician while martin shrivels and harper blimps up from his now self righteousness.

Monday, April 25, 2005

back in k-town

to anyone concerned about the lack of posting i'll try and fill you in on the past few weeks...

i did indeed make it back to canada safe and sound. i dropped in on classic kim from dal in calgary and we had a fun couple of days although i was pretty pooped after an 8 hour all-night bus ride and 9 hours of plans... calgary is an interesting city, very spread out and the train service is wonderful (although upon my return to calgary a week later the trains were down in the city centre which was a huge disappointment) but the lack of trees is very disorienting. and the bow river is only like 2 inches deep! that was pretty out of the blue. but kim showed me around and i was able to have thai and indian food for the first time in a long while (like 7 months) so i was pretty happy.

then i flew back to cranbrook for a week of debriefing with the rest of the interns. the little jaunt from calgary to cranbrook is neat - a 12 seater that barely made it high enough to get over the mountains. they made a call out that we were making our approach into cranbrook and would be on the ground in 6 minutes... that was kinda funny.

tracey met me on the ground, a few minutes late because she had forgotten about the time change (good thing i hadn't), and whisked me away to kimberley and the good ol home hostel... the place was as comfy as ever and the other interns (except for alec who came a bit later) were still sleeping, but woke up when i announced my arrival.

anyway... skipping ahead we took off for this cabin in the woods that was really quite beautiful but far from pretty much everything and required a 20 minute drive to get to the nearest phone. we did some hiking, some reading, some game playing and such, but mostly we just relaxed and did not much of anything.

i will say as well that i don't have rabies... that must come as a relief to all who were worried... i got back to calgary and phoned the people there who had not replied to my email (to the health hotline thing on their website) and they were busy so i had to wait a couple of hours to get a response which basically said that i would have to wait till monday to start treatment - that nothing was available on the weekend. they also said that i should take responsibility for my situation as rabies was life threatening, and cancel my trip to cranbrook. i told them that they had a lot of nerve telling me to wait three days and then criticizing me... the coup de grace was when they asked me to fax over the form that i had from the hospital in guayaquil that listed what vaccine i had been given down there... when i said that i didn't have a fax but could scan the slip and email it to them they put me on hold... then said that they couldn't accept that... i said ok, how about i put it on the internet and let you take it off of there... they were mystified by that, but said ok (after again putting me on hold and then having someone phone me back later on). they never did get back in touch with me.

in kimberley things were fine and i got the first of the shots i needed (because the ecuadorian shots are not recognized by canada health or the world health organization - one person, in response to an email about what i had been given, reported that i had been given vaccine that had been cultured in the brain of a lactating rat, and then put an exclamation point beside it... nice). the very first shot is the worst because they inject it into the wound site... and they have to put in a lot of stuff based upon your weight... luckily i'm not all that heavy but they still had to inject 8.2ml into my lower leg. this wasn't exactly fun, and the main incisor mark that wasn't fully healed was jabbed, and then the doctor slowly moved the needle around in a circle to inject as much as possible without taking the needle out. after that was done (they could only fit 6.2 mls in my leg - 2 had to go in my tush) i got a shot in my arm, the same shot that i've been given three more times in kingston.

ok... more news later.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

under a day

well, it looks like my ecuadorian odyssey has finally come to an end. after more than 190 days wrestling with the heat, the office confusion and politics, south american bureaucracy and sometimes overwhelming hospitality, i will be making my way back to canada in about 18 hours.

i get to spend a couple days in calgary, potentially running from health centre to health centre trying to get my rabies shots, but hopefully i'll be able to relax a bit and enjoy the mountain air. kim (kozak) - or classic - is taking me in and has promised to show me some sites, as well as expose me to some much needed culture in a concierto performance tomorrow night - sounds sweet.

after that it's a few days camping it out in the b.c. interior with the gang, purging ourselves of that guayaquil smell of sun, exhaust and decaying plastic - but also revelling in our 6 months abroad and combing over what made life here so interesting.

once that's taken care of it's another few days in kimberley b.c. back at the college of the rockies putting together final reports and giving presentations before i fly back to the hopefully warm but not too warm confines of ontario (the east as it's called in b.c. - i find that amusing...).

will probably not be able to write much until i reach kimberley (where we get the computers at the college) so this will probably be the last dispatch south of the equator. it's been a fun run and while parts of it are not as much fun as others (i'm thinking needles) overall it's been a blast.

here's a few pics till next time.

the promised restaurant in quito...

the scenery outside salinas de guaranda

the cathedral in quito - i climbed up to the top of the big clock tower... pretty scary!

the trole system in quito - very similar to the streetcars in toronto... with their own designated stops and such... super cool

me biking - just before the dog attacked!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

ingapirca and a funky car ride

had an interesting day. got my fourth shot - the guy at the clinic was all - why didn't you get it yesterday, just seconds after i explained that i had tried to get it but failed... nice to know he was listening. also told me that no hospital (after i went to the two in riobamba) have the vaccine - only health centres, and riobamba's was only open between 8 and 10 yesterday... a.m....

so i got on the cuenca bus bound for el tambo where the turn off to incapirca is. when i got off i met this couple - ecuadorian - who were also going there so we shared a bus ride through the countryside - says it's only 8 clicks but it took 20 minutes to get there. then we arrive and they run off to get some food. i make my way to the ruins and let me tell you - wow. not that the ruins are very impressive, they've mostly been ferried off by the spanish and all that remains is a central square and a bunch of foundations. but, and this is the kicker, the whole community is sitting on the remains and that just shows you how little has really been unearthed... i mean, they still rely on the same irrigation systems as 500 years ago (the incas were only around for a little over a hundred years), and you can see it slithering about the fields there. and there is this path that takes you around to see some of the more interesting features such as this rock formation that looks like an indigenous man in profile... it's pretty cool. but the surroundings are surreal... it's a mountain valley with the requisite meandering river and waterfall, and people out tilling their fields... very cool. the paths that we follow are incan paths and the foundations of some of the houses in the area look incan as well... the whole place is a living testament to the architecture.

then... i walk back to the small town where i look for a bus back to the highway and the road to cuenca. i'm told in the restaurant where i stop for juice and a tostada (grilled cheese) that there are buses every 15 minutes or so. um, apparently not during semana santa cause i waited around at least a half hour before asking a few bus drivers what was the dealio... they told me that there were no more buses - it was too late and that there may be more on monday. i could, however, rent the services of one of the drivers for a mere 6 bucks to get back to tambo (normally it's a 40 cent trip). i declined and took to flagging down cars that were leaving ingapirca... luckily this one truck stopped and allowed me to jump in back. it was loaded down with a bunch of teenagers - twenty-somethings and they seemed to be having a grand old time. a native woman joined me as far as cañar, near the main road, and we chatted a bit about what i was doing here and all.

then we hit the highway and after a bit i get cold and it starts to rain... well, the kids ask me if i would like to squeeze in... i say ok and hop in back where i find out that they're a bunch of friends from guayaquil and quito meeting up in cuenca to have some fun. we keep driving and see this church at the top of this hill in the city of babilán... they decide it'd be cool to drive up, so we do... and let me tell you, it was pretty cool. it's at the top of the hill but built into the hill so the altar is actually half rock jutting out. it's very ornate with a cemetery built into the bottom two floors. cool.

anyway, it's raining cats and dogs here right now - perhaps it just stopped actually... hmm.... maybe i'll go grab a club café.

Friday, March 25, 2005

24 hours in salinas (de guaranda)

i arrived in salinas (de guaranda - to prevent it from getting confused with the other salinas, a coastal resort near guayaquil...) after a wonderful bus ride from baños to ambato and a rather frustrating one from ambato to guaranda.

the woman who sat down beside me on the bus grew a child about five minutes into the trip and he immediately started complaining that he wanted to look out the window. so the woman asked me if i could switch seats and let him have the window and i relented even though the drive was one of the reasons i was going in the first place - my book said it was killer. anywhoo... the kid opened the window, stuck his head out, then brought his head back in, shut the window and started watching tv. in order to watch he and his grandma (i'm assuming) had to lean toward me. on tv was a wonderful video showing the funny side of bull fighting, only this was ecuadorian bullfighting where, apparently and according to the video, anyone and everyone runs around inside the bullring trying to get the bull's attention, at which point they run away or wave a cape or stick or whatever at the bull. the video added madcap music and sound effects and revelled in speeding things up or slowing things down whenever the bull did something interesting. loads of fun.

so the kid just watched the video, not once looking out the window, and then promptly fell asleep afterwards. we arrived in guaranda after two hours with him having a good 30 seconds of window time.

not that i'm bitter.

after a scramble to make the salinas bus i was chauffered through some of the most bucolic scenery i've yet seen (it seems that each day is a one-up on the bucolic meter). and then appears salinas perched on the side of a white cliff. it's not much of a town, steep as all get out and rather tumble down looking, but the views are amazing and the salt mines - these pits in white rock facing the town from across the river - are very cool. i took a walk about town with hugo, a representative of the cooperative tourism board - the entire town is overrun with cooperatives, more than 30 of them running the gammet from chocolatiers to cheese making, mushroom factories to sweater weaving. there's even a website that i'll post when i remember what it is...

so now i'm back in riobamba where i thought i'd be able to replenish my dwindling funds and get my 4th shot (think again... long story but all clinics and hospitals are either closed or don't have the vaccine - i have to hope that tomorrow at 8am is ok and that i don't turn into a werewolf overnight...).

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

rain, another shot and laundry

not much to update today - and i can't reply to any of the comments people are leaving cause they aren't leaving any! sheesh... you tell people you might have contracted rabies and you'd think a little surprise, sympathy, something would be in order.

so yesterday after the dog bit me i realized that i had to either find out if the dog had been given innoculations or get myself to a doctor. i wasn't in a lot of pain - it was bleeding pretty bad but the swelling hadn't started up just yet and i could walk fine. i made my way back to the bucket ride thing and a woman there saw my leg and ran back to her house for some antiseptic and a bandage or two. i thought this was pretty cute so i snapped a pick of my "doctora" and got back in the cage to speed my way to the other side. well, when you have a bleeding gash on your leg (left one by the way, about 6 inches below the knee) you get a lot of stares and when you tell people you've been bit by a dog they start handing out advice as if you're related and about to marry your cousin (not speaking from experience). one woman kindly told me that i needed to find the hair of a dog - preferably the dog that bit me - and burn it over my wound - that this would extricate any problems that i had. i kindly thanked her and said i'd try that.

well... here i was only 4 km from the big part of the bike ride - the pailón del diablo, a honking big waterfall that's supposed to be pretty impressive. after conferring with the yankee girls (who were kinda dumbstruck by the situation and could only offer condolensces and suggest i go back to baños - except the one who said that if i wasn't foaming at the mouth within like 20 minutes i should be fine) i decided to continue on to the waterfall, take a couple quick pics and then skedaddle back to baños.

so i raced ahead on my bike and made it to the falls in little more than 10 minutes (only to be met with a km scramble on a wet downhill path). as i mentioned they were impressive, but i've seen better. then a scramble back up the path, pausing to say hi to the people who recognized me from the dog incident and who scolded me for not going to the hospital, or burning dog fur on my leg.

a quick bike ride to the road and the second bus that goes by picks me up and i head back to baños. being the good little boy i am i make a quick call to royal bank insurance and let them know what's going on (waste of time) and then go back to the hostel to park my bag. the hospital is only four blocks away and when i arrive the doctors are having a bit of a lunch break and look a little perplexed as who should deal with me. the fact that they weren't nervous or anything made me feel better.

oh, i also discovered that it's super fun if you've been bit by a dog to tell people that you feel kind of anxious and that you're starting to act irrationally. i even made a vampire motion at one guy whose friends broke out laughing in hysterics.

so it's wednesday and raining in baños and i'm just waiting for clearer skies so that i can do some hiking and take in the landscape a bit more.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

day one of my rabies vaccination

i'll get to that in a minute.

i forgot to mention the other day in the museum (i really don't like the sound of german and there are always german people in the cybers chatting away) - every museum here has a religious art section - sometimes they're very neat and when i had a guide in the one in guayaquil she explained how you can chart the colonial progress through the little flourishes artists put in their works. well this one had a picture (another german just came in!) of jesus, bleeding at the last supper, but stomping on grapes inside a large barrel - a group of disciples were gathered about the bottom of the spigot and were drinking the wine that was been created - laced with jesus' blood. the oddest painting i have ever seen.

- this connection is horrible by the way - it seems that you pay more for bad connections because it's pretty much a standard 2 bucks the hour here (3 times what i pay in guayaquil), and it's like a 56 modem... it's taking forever to read my mail at the moment.

anyway, saw robots a couple of nights ago - a pretty funny movie and a hit with the ecuadorian crowd. the moment the one robot started doing britney spears i thought the foundation was going to cave in from the guffaws. the theatre was in a mall that's located at the edge of the largest public park i've seen in ecuador and quite possibly canada as well. it's a km and a half long, bounded by 10 story buildings and absolutely teeming with people. la carolina it's called and houses a museum, a series of futbol fields, a race track for go-karts and expanses of green grass that's much more similar to the grass back home than that you find in guayaquil.

what else...? arrived in baños yesterday in the afternoon - an incredibly beautiful spot if the town itself is not much to see... i went to about 10 different places looking for a room - they were all promising the same thing but with vastly differing prices. i chose a place with a greater ecuadorian feel to it (lack of gringos milling about) - turned down the expensive place where the american woman who showed me around reeked like alcohol.

oh! before i took off from quito i visited this (more germans!) lebanese place where i had some of the best falafel i've ever had and definitely the best tabouli.

another fun thing is that i found a skating rink in quito inside the mall... i had a lot of time to kill before the movie so i wandered about the mall and found this tiny rink overflowing with people doing awkward but energenic loops beneath banners from all the nhl teams. this is the closest i've been to hockey in almost a year.

oh yeah, the rabies.

so i rented this bike today and took off to do this trail that leads to río negro and passes by a bunch of waterfalls along the way. it's glorious - i went through one tunnel of about 100 meters in absolute darkness and though i was gonna soil myself (that's not the glorious part). the mountains are almost vertical expanses of green, trickles of waterfalls lining the banks ever few feet it seems. by this time i had met up with a group of women from the states who were visiting a friend of theirs working in quito. together we took this car acros the valley floor to the other side (i'll write more later). wow.

anyway, on the other side we walked down a bit to find this bridge but instead found a dog, and it bit me...

but i'm fine - been to the hospital, had it cleaned out and have been started on my 7 shots (not painful at all!).

my time's up!