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Boy and his llama on the streets of Cusco

Street art makes me happy and a stroll through Quito’s La Floresta neighborhood a few weeks back didn’t disappoint.  Enjoy.

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Prior to this whole JS0 thing I had never had roommates, lived on campus in a dorm or ever shared a living space with anyone other than a girlfriend or my family ever before. Moving into an apartment in Quito and living with 4 other strangers under one roof was an adventure in and of itself.  I loved the experience and got to meet some pretty amazing people that I will never forget.  Here is a little bit on my friend Laurene. She is an interesting person and I’m sure you will love her just as much as we all do.

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“Man Trip!” is what we found ourselves triumphantly proclaiming all during our 2 day long weekend getaway into the jungles of Tena a few weeks back.  (more…)

I’ve done some pretty crazy things in my life, mostly in the last year (swim with sharks, teach English to Korean kindergartners, jump from moving trains, drink milk a day after the expiration date, etc).  I have a predilection  towards finding myself in situations where I hear that little voice in my head saying “Freddie, what are you thinking? What are you trying to prove?” and this I have learned is just my mind’s way of alerting me to the fact that I am about to have a great story to tell if I survive. Just the other night I almost plummeted to my death into a raging river but luckily just landed on a muddy ledge. God, thanks for that one.  Why would I attempt to hike a mountain in the dark with no flashlight while wearing Chuck Taylors you ask?  Two words. Inti Raymi. This summer solstice festival is a huge deal for the indigenous people in Otavalo that have been celebrating this holiest of holy festivals since their Incan forefathers ruled the Andean region centuries ago.  They celebrate this event once a year with a riot of folk music, a fermented drink called Chicha, house parties and bathing in the waterfall at midnight on this special night- the waters are supposed to give one the necessary energy and vitality to dance all night honoring the Sun God for the following 5 nights.

Traveling around Ecuador the past few months I have been treated to some pretty impressive sights, think snow capped volcanoes, waking in a tent atop the Andes mountains, wild orchids growing in cloud forests, deserted beaches, pristine colonial architecture, guinea pigs roasting on a spit, but the reason that I risked life and limb to get the Peguche Waterfalls precisely at midnight, was just what my subconscious was trying to tell me all along with its repeated warnings that  clearly went unheeded.  After a slippery hour long hike in relative darkness, only couple of flashlights and the big beautiful moon served to illuminate our pilgrimage  over the handful of bridges that consisted of nothing more than some logs and boards haphazardly placed along the way.  The “bridges” went over river rapids, over drainage ditches and irrigation canals and ranged anywhere  from 15- to 20 feet in length.  I don’t know how we did it in the dark, I still don’t know how the fear didn’t throw me off balance, but the support of my friends and constant prayers to God saying  “God, if I can survive this, I will NEVER do this again!” , helped me make it across every time.  It felt like we were in the Ecuadorean version of “Stand by Me” .  Then after an hour of wandering lost in the woods we finally heard the roar of the waterfalls.

We found the trail that took us to the waterfall and were greeted with a huge crowd of revelers in basking in the moonlight, some in various states on undress as they took the chilly plunge into the waters, some watched, bands of musicians provided the perfect score as the shadows from the fires set up around the area danced in unison with us all. The sight, sounds and energy of the night were more than my limited vocabulary can capture in this blog post but I can assure that the Sun God smiled down upon us that night at Peguche Waterfall.

If you were to ask me about believing in the unknown, ghosts, UFO´s, bigfoots and the like I would have to say I am as skeptical as they come. I also wouldn`t consider myself much of a superstitious person, in fact I´d say I´m relatively normal when it comes to those things. (more…)

Last Friday started out as most of my days do, waking up around 9 am, fixing some breakfast and deciding what to do with my life.  (more…)

Otavalo, is a city in the Imbabura province just 2 hours North from Quito by bus.  The city is known throughout the country for being very indigenous and faithful to its Incan heritage, the men sport long hair kept in pony tails topped off with a fedora hat and peacock feather, while the women wear white blouses with colorful skirts and long strings of beads around their necks. (more…)