Monthly Archives: May 2013

Slowly embracing Ecuador …


My pitiable twenty words of Spanish … includes numbers πŸ™‚ ) …… are not nearly enough to see me through communicating in Ecuador!! I must remedy this and perhaps that will happen naturally as I move about the country! I mistakenly thought that since the year 2000, when the US$ became the legal currency in Ecuador, great strides in bilingualism would be the result …. not so! I have struggled all week ….. silly me, left my Spanish/English purse size cheat guide at home … Imagine my total delight and dismay this morning, on day six, to be greeted by my driver/guide, who spoke unbelievably good English … young Ricardo! …… after a week of communicating in some weird mixture of sign language and my pathetic Spanish … I almost cried in relief at Ricardo’s opening comment …. “Nice to meet you Mrs. Webb” …. My typical opener all week of …. “Hola, Buenos Dias, Como sta?” (communication halted about there) turned to ….. “oh my God … you speak English”?? …. Ricardo laughed … which set the tone for the rest of our day together … A delightfully cheerful companion and full of entertaining stories on the history of his country! I am constantly amazed and oh boy, so thankful for the people that cross my path in the course of my travels. At times, I am left speechless in wonder! Not only did Ricardo have excellent English, he taught beginner classes at university for a few years! Of all his friends and family, including his fiancΓ©, he stands alone as the only one, not only fluent in English but the only one who speaks it at all! … he regularly encourages them but has thus far been unsuccessful. An ambitious young man, he has enrolled in further studies to perfect his English further ..

We drove through lush green jungly terrain for a few hours to arrive in the hippy vibe small town of Mindo …. Judging by the age and gear of the scattering of tourists on the streets and cafes, most were here to set off on adventures in extreme sports and climbing expeditions …. this tiny town, set in a fairy tale moist cloud forest would appear to be the start off point … walked through a butterfly research Center, watching colourful hummingbirds and butterflies flitter about, explored the few streets that make up this charming ramshackle town, checking out a chocolate “factory” nearby … had no idea these beans were encased in a shell resembling a papaya!! … dozens of cocoa beans in one big pod …. Although reluctant at first, as I rarely enjoy a desert other than fruit, I felt it rude not to at least sample the gracious gift from the young man who took Ricardo and I through the life cycle of the cocoa bean …. It was a delicious and smooth 95% pure chocolate brownie, flavoured with a just a hint of chilli pepper … this country may yet turn me into a lover of chocolate ….

Of course I found my requisite church … A small intimate little building … only one in town as far as I could tell.

Stopped enroute back to Quito, at the purported location of the equator (Ecuador actually derived its name from the location of the equator, researched by Finnish scientists in the 1800’s who determined Ecuador to be the prime spot to measure the bulge of the equator ….. fascinating ….. who knew?…. Finnish scientists?? … really?? …. love learning these tidbits of info as I travel along πŸ™‚ … rumour has it that the actual and bulge of the (not a literal bulge :), equator “line” is a few hundred meters from this spot, in a deep ravine on land owned by the indigenous people of the region … military GPS has tagged it so …. regardless of the rumour, I enjoyed my stint, straddling the equator, watching water drain clock and counter clockwise … a harmless and fun tourist attraction!

















Quito … old town, new town


My lungs kicked in on day two in Quito! … deciding 9,500 feet above sea level was just fine (Calgary sits at slightly over 3,000) … I strapped on my trusty tevas and huffed and puffed along the cobbly streets of old town Quito, exhilarated to be exploring after a lay low day … San Francisco has nothing on this hillside city perched high in the Andes Mountains! Can’t say this is my favourite city in the world exactly but it is a great start off point for exploring parts of the very diverse geography of Ecuador … I am currently in cruise mode as I take in the lay of the land, adjusting for altitude … rushing has never been my forte at any rate … After a good solid hour of scaling cobbly uphills and downhills, I found a comfy cafe perch in the old town square, to people watch, inhaling the atmosphere of the country, enjoying a coffee, served with chocolates that were delicious!! Apparently Ecuador is known for the exceptional quality of their coffees and chocolates … will be testing that theory as I explore. I lingered even longer, later in the afternoon, at Casa Gangotena in the main old town square, enjoying the ambiance, sipping a smooth Malbec and savouring the tastiest barley mushroom risotto ever! There are magnificent cathedrals (thanks to the early Jesuit missionaries) seemingly around every corner …. I walk into some of them and sit awhile ….. something I have always enjoyed doing, whatever country I find myself in …. I enjoy the peace within …. the main Quito Basilica is an architectural marvel!! …. churches for some reason, seem to be, more often than not, on hillsides, or accessible only by walking a million stairs! Maybe the religious powers of their time, when building these churches wanted their congregation out of breath and happy to rest awhile …. πŸ™‚ It is apparent that the early Jesuits did their job well…. Catholicism is a powerful force in South America in general and certainly seems to be the case in Ecuador! …..

In 1978 Quito was declared the First UNESCO World Heritage Site, considered the largest and best preserved historic Centre in the Americas! The lovely Casa Gangotena, is a newly restored historic mansion overlooking Plaza San Francisco and has been included in the city’s cultural heritage inventory. In recent history, the wealthy Ecuador Gangotena family turned their mansion into a 31 room “Inn” ….. it was almost destroyed by fire in the early 1900’s and rebuilt and restored to it’s former glory by a team from Italy … I decided, after my amazing lunch, to book my last two nights in Quito in July, at this fabulous place! It is the large pinkish building in the square.

Did I mention I have not seen a tourist in two days?? The pictures of the town squares are virtually empty of people …. just handfuls of local folk, peddling their wares, lots of pigeons and me ….. except when school lets out and kids flood the streets …… decked out in their various school uniforms.

















Birthday celebrations


It appears May is a rather auspicious month for birthdays in our family.

O It was my sister Anja’s on May 1st

O my own and my nephew Michael’s both on May 4th

O niece Jennifer’s May 5th

O our son Tim’s May 13th, which we were thankfully also able to celebrate before I left for Ecuador!

O close family friends, but really, more like extended family, Gary Dawe May 16th and his wife Jennifer, May 20th who …. I have to report this …. I am so excited!! ….. will be adding a November birthday into our family mix! Jennifer’s dad Al, our long time good friend, and his lady Mary, were on hand for the celebrations!! Yes, a baby is on the way!! Wow … seems only yesterday, two six year old little girls were playing dress up games in our playroom in Dalhousie …. flash forward 25 years and here they are, mommy and mommy to be! Hurray …. get to cuddle and snuggle with a newborn again in six months!

O my good friends, but again, more like family to me, Linda and Court’s daughter Jennifer is
May 14th

O Teresa Gauss, my sister Maija’s mother-in-law celebrated her 90th birthday on May 14th!!!

O my sister Raija May 21st

O niece Kellie May 26th

O my Dad’s was May 28th ……

Whew!!! …. but loving all the birthday celebration dinners this month πŸ™‚ We also added Sarah’s June 25th birthday into the celebrating as I will be away.

Aliana and I head to the river to explore and throw rocks and such after dinner …. 22 month olds and restaurants …… hmmmmm, somewhat incompatible after an hour or so πŸ™‚ hence the little walk outside River Cafe! Aliana apparently dressed herself for dinner … independence, it would appear, comes early πŸ™‚ …. current favourites are pink lace leggings and tutu, gifts from her nana Overmann, enhanced further with rubber boots and favourite colourful hoodie!! ….. no such thing as an ordinary dress and shoes for our Aliana!
















Spring 2013 rolls along ….


As a young child, I kept a rather sporadic diary for a number of years …. scribbling down random thoughts here and there ….. that pattern reappears with my adult blog/journal/diary …. realizing it is over two months since my last attempt at arranging my thoughts into some form of written/typed order …. time! ….. sometimes the words, much like thoughts, amble and ramble along, helter skelter, like the ebb and flow of life itself πŸ™‚ Young Aliana continues to draw my attention and presence to Calgary …. any contemplations for dusting off my wanderlust wings has certainly taken a back seat. Being a grandparent is a whole new journey, presenting a myriad of daily delights. It has been a surprisingly easy focal shift from my global volunteering and travels. I have, quite simply, moved into the zen of grand parenting ….. a rather easy slip back into the world of the young exploring mind …. playing in snow drifts …. watching Aliana eating her first handfuls of newly fallen snow was sweet as I watched her little face break out with surprise and delight at the texture and taste …. we play almost daily in neighborhood parks ….. I am revisiting the experience of life through the eyes of a child! Never an indoor sort, I indulge and introduce my love of nature and the outdoors to Aliana. We walk the neighbourhood turf of her home, identifying birds, trees, buses, cars, trucks, planes and helicopters, playing in parks, pointing out the seasonal progression of nature …. trees with their delicate little buds, waiting for the warmth of spring to unfurl and unfold …. all these observations continue growing her vocabulary …. so quick, this progression of human development ….. sigh …… with a smile :).

Many years ago, a tradition was born, or more appropriately, it grew into a tradition, of a yearly ‘girl’s week’ with Sarah …. one year to Vancouver, a few times on high school trips to Thailand and Malaysia, where I was parent volunteer with a hundred grade 11 and 12 students (quite possible a touch of insanity surfaced volunteering for that post :)!!) or visits to my family in Kelowna and Vernon, a summer jaunt to Puerto Vallarta, where we hiked in the jungle …. another year, a heavenly Hawaiian spa week, many trips exploring Banff’s hiking trails, or Victoria’s tidal pools, or often, if money and time were a restraint, as they frequently were over the years, a day hike and picnic in our own beautiful back yard of Bragg Creek or Kananaskis! …. Brian, took our Tim on ‘guy adventures’ of their own in the same time period …. creating a bank of memories and experiences for our children.

So with that in mind, and with Sarah’s husband Rob working part time in Vancouver for the last few weeks, we catch a flight to the coast! …. Sarah and Aliana to enjoy quality time with the other leg of their little family, yet allowing us to also enjoy some ‘girl time’ during the days as Rob worked. Leaving behind a snow laden Calgary to breathe the moist west coast air was sheer heaven …. the contrast is always so striking in spring …. Vancouver is but a short hour or so flight from Calgary yet worlds away …. the greenery is everywhere!! …… trees and flowers in bloom, warm sunshine, moist air and the sea, the glorious sea!! We walk the beach along Stanley Park, the marina pathway, the eclectic and interesting downtown scenes and streets of Vancouver ….. squeezing in a birthday spa day for both Sarah and I, (I will be away for her birthday next month) at the new Fairmont Pacific Rim Willow Stream, a delicious birthday brunch at Hotel Georgia …. we make our way to Stanley Park, play on the beach with Aliana, refuel at the Tea House Cafe, savour a chilled sauvignon blanc, feast on a tasty array of appetizers ….. a fine West Coast afternoon!! ….. we lingered long, with Aliana cooperating beautifully!

Of course, a visit to the coast is never complete without a a drive to Mickey and Gordon’s home near Crescent Beach …. A quick stop and we are off to the beach, a few miles away, where Mickey, Sarah, Aliana and I stop for a delicious seaside lunch of fish and chips (we left Gordon happily tending his garden) … Mickey of course, being one of the best grandparents ever, and always prepared with fun surprises, brings along some beach toys (tupperware dishes, cookie cutters, spoons πŸ™‚ allowing for Aliana to explore the beach, digging up sand, shells and rocks! Love love love the West Coast!! A most refreshing respite from Calgary’s seemingly never ending wintry vistas …….