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Dude, Where’s My Mountain?

So we had a little bit of a storm roll in the other day, I went out front to check it out – this is what I saw:

There's supposed to be a mountain to the left of the light pole...

There’s supposed to be a mountain to the left of the light pole…

 

This is what it normally looks like:

The mountain that should be there...

 

Needless to say, it was a fun storm!

 

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Weekend Outing – Vilcabamba

For Easter, Martha and I decided to visit Vilcabamba, about 4.5 hours to the South of Cuenca. Renowned for its residents’ longevity, this lush, fertile valley is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever experienced firsthand.  During our visit, we stayed at Izhcayluma (ish-guy-loom-uh) – a sprawling local resort / hostel just outside Vilcabamba proper.

Day 1:  Departure from Cuenca

Mural at La Cigale

We began our trek on Thursday afternoon, departing from a local hostel, La Cigale (Honorato Vásquez 6-28, Cuenca, just off  Calle Larga at Luis Cordero).  The owners of La Cigale have done a great job of turning their hostel and restaurant into a travel hub, with daily van service to Vilcabamba and back.  We got to La Cigale about 20 minutes before the van was scheduled to depart, so we took the opportunity to grab a light lunch off the menu before boarding the van.  The van itself was a modern, 10-passenger model – all in all pretty snazzy…  Right on time, the van driver arrived, loaded up everyone’s luggage, and we headed off to Vilcabamba!

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Just Some Random Beauty

So, the weather has been a little weird here lately as we’re finally starting to transition out of the rainy season.  In the past week, we’ve had some gorgeous days, intermixed with some afternoon thunderstorms rolling in.

Yesterday started off pretty much the same, but around mid-afternoon, a light storm began rolling in.  I decided to take a quick break from work, open my office windows, and grab a few rays of sunlight before the clouds rolled in, and this is how Nature rewarded my timing:

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Tragedy and Resilience

On the evening of Saturday, April 16, the Ecuadorean province of Esmeraldas was struck by a devastating earthquake of 7.8 magnitude, followed by hundreds of additional aftershocks.  The main quake was so powerful that we felt the shocks in Cuenca, over 350km from the epicenter.  Over the ensuing week, the tragedy has continued to unfold, with death tolls approaching 700, thousands injured, and nearly 7,000 buildings destroyed or no longer safe for habitation.  Although headway is being made, even after a week there are still some communities who are unable to receive aid due to landslides and ruined roadways.  Also, as with any mass disaster, there was some looting, but that has begun to recede after 10,000 troops were deployed to affected areas.

One of the things that has struck me most vividly during this tragedy has been the incredible amount of solidarity the Ecuadorean people have shown.  As early as minutes after the quake, citizens (i.e. not professional rescue workers) were risking their lives to help neighbors and loved ones out of the rubble.  It was just unbelievable to me how quickly people leaped into action without debate, without second thoughts, without consideration of personal safety – just “Someone needs help, let’s go help them.  Now.”

Within hours after the quake, the rest of the country had also mobilized to help – there were volunteer-staffed donation centers set up all over Cuenca, gathering resources that were then taken to the coast by people driving personal vehicles on the often-treacherous roads.  People from all walks of life have stepped up, however they can, to come to the aid of their compatriots.

During my time here, I’ve developed a healthy respect for Ecuadorean society and mores, but I now have a much deeper appreciation of their sense of community and willingness to reach out when others are in need.  It’s almost as if the seeds of recovery were being planted even as the tragedy continued to play out, along with this unspoken resolve of “We will overcome this.” – I agree.

 

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