Remembering last summer…
“You want to have everything clean before serving tea,” says my great-aunt Anna as she brushes crumbs from her kitchen tablecloth and sets out the tea stand. She moves slowly, using her cane as she shuffles to the refrigerator to pull out the cream. She’s 98 years old – maybe the only person I know who’s more than twice my age. She’s the only person on this planet allowed to pinch my cheeks. I ask if I can help her with anything, but she shakes her head and keeps pulling dishes out of her cupboard.
In the wake of Valentine’s Day earlier this month, I thought I’d say this: No need to panic, people – chocolate is not going extinct. Earlier this year, Business Insider published the horrific headline: Chocolate is on track to go extinct in 40 years. This juicy click-bait flooded Facebook news feeds, and probably sent many people on post-Christmas chocolate-feeding-frenzies I have to admit, at first glance, that headline sent a chill down my spine and spasms of pre-chocolate-withdrawl pain through my head – even as my conscious mind was forming the words ‘This is bogus!’. I remembered my experiences making chocolate in Ecuador, and what I’ve learned since, and started digging to back up my suspicions. (It didn’t take long, Snopes has already done the work.)
This is what chocolate (well, cocoa) looks like in it’s ‘natural’ state – right off the tree. The cocoa beans are covered in a slimy, tangy white coating that’s not all that different from a lot of tropical fruits that grow in pods with many seeds and have tangy centers.
I’ve been called a tea snob. Yes, I’m one of those people who buys organic fair-trade loose-leaf tea in fancy, boutique tea shops. It’s my weakness (along with chocolate). You can imagine how excited I was when I heard about the Lake Agnes Tea House above Lake Louise. Combine hiking, fabulous views, with a break for tea and biscuits, and it sounds like a recipe for a perfect day.
We saved the Lake Louise area until a bit later in our week in Canada, and I was glad for that. This is probably the most popular place in Banff, and it’s one of the few spots in the wide-open Canadian Rockies where you might encounter a sea of people.
Tourists milling about on the edge of Lake Louise – everyone trying to catch the splendor.
Someone tell me, when did corn mazes and pumpkin patches become a THING?
View of a recently snow-dusted Long’s Peak, from the corn maze at Anderson Farms, Erie, CO.
I always associate an overabundance of sweets with the Christmas holidays, but in Cuenca, the holiday of sweet abundance is in June, coinciding with the religious celebration of Corpus Christi. For one week, vendors line the streets surrounding the New Cathedral in central Cuenca, tables laden with cookies and candies of every color and flavor imaginable. Just walking down the sidewalk is enough to give you a sugar high and make your teeth ache. I feel like I’ve stepped into my favorite childhood board game, Candyland, or like I’m touring Willy Wonka’s factory. Continue reading
There’s no place like home. I decided to start my series of mini-blog posts about favorite spots in Cuenca in the place where I spend the most time – especially now that I’m preparing lectures and lab assignments.
The view from my room, looking east toward the hills.
The past two weeks have been about trying to settle in, finding a routine, and feeling comfortable living in a city. To that end, I spent last weekend playing tourist. It’s a strange thing to go from pure cultural immersion, to taking the double-decker bus along with a group of other North Americans past my jogging path by the river. It’s like I’m moving between worlds. The world of tourist, and the world of inhabitant.
Plaza de las Artesanias (Plaza of Handicrafts) in Cuenca.
(Caution: Vegetarians may want to skip this post!) Where can you buy tomatoes, papayas, onions, a new pair of sneakers, a can of spray foam for Carnaval, and a live chicken all in one go? That would be Cuenca’s largest local marketplace, Feria Libre!
I’ve spent my first three days in Quito mainly going from one appointment to the next, learning to negotiate taxis and buses, trying to figure out where to eat, or resting my aching feet. But I’ve also gathered a few random insights I thought I’d share here – like how to cross the street, how to get a big meal, and how much fun it is to sit around and chat with people (sorry, still no touristy photos – just a foodie photo!)
A late night arrival in a new country means some major disorientation on Day 1. Combine that with the fact that shadows point south, not north, and my head starts to spin. After one day in Quito, I’m happy to spend an evening hibernating in my room and processing what I know is a little bit of culture shock.
Morning sunlight in the courtyard outside the bedroom at my Quito B&B.
And if you’re wondering why I have only one photo to show you after a full day in the city…well, one of my ways of adjusting is to leave the camera at the B&B in order to keep a low profile until I get a better feel for a place. It’s bad enough that I occasionally have to stop and look at the map I keep folded in my pocket. I can’t help looking like a foreigner. But I can avoid looking like a clueless foreigner.