Monday, July 17, 2017

Painting A Tall Building, Ecuador Style

"The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it."
-- Pericles

Painting tall buildings is not a job for which I will ever submit an application. Heights and I no longer get along. Perhaps Pericles would say I am not brave enough.

These four painters in Guayaquil, however, are. I hope they had a clear vision of what was before them when they accepted the work.


These guys are each hanging from a single rope, sitting on a short piece of wood, painting the side of the building, bucket of paint hanging next to them.


The building they are painting is tall!


They must be grateful at the end of each work day to put their feet back on solid ground.

Would you consider applying for this job?

Monday, July 10, 2017

A Drive Up the Andes


"I can speak to my soul only when the two of us are off exploring deserts or cities or mountains or roads."

-- Paulo Coelho


Driving through dense fog is a stressful challenge. Breaking through that fog and getting above it can make for a relaxing drive, especially in the Andes mountains. These mountains are gorgeous.
Driving above the fog in the Andes

Taking the road less traveled

The route Scott and I take from the coastal city of Guayaquil to the Andes mountain city of Cuenca is generally less foggy with fewer cars than the shorter and more popular route through El Cajas National Park.

Our drive goes from sea level to 3400 meters before we descend into Cuenca, which is at about 2500 meters. Fog has occasionally made our five hour drive take seven or more hours.

Neither of us is a big risk taker when it comes to roads. We only drive during the daytime. We leave Guayaquil by Noon so we are likely to finish the drive before 6:30 sunset. If our business takes us past Noon, we stay an additional night.

On a recent drive, the fog played with us. We began as usual, in the sunshine of Guayaquil. As we approached the mountains, a low cloud cover settled in above the banana, sugar cane and mango fields.
Banana field under the low cloud cover
The thick fog started earlier than usual - just as we began to climb the mountains, shortly after La Troncal. It portended a long day in the car. We have done this drive many times. If there is fog, it typically hangs around until the road curves to the east side of the mountains at Biblián.

Ecuador road hazards

It is not uncommon in Ecuador for cars to pass slow moving vehicles on blind curves. Not all of them use their headlights. We always watch for cars in our lane going the wrong way.

There is a risk a fresh landslide might be around the next bend. Most people who live along the road do not have cars so they walk on the shoulder of the road. Dogs, chickens, cows, sheep, horses and pigs all live along the the road. Some are tied up, some are not. It is stressful driving despite being lightly traveled by autos.

Rising above the fog

Not that far into our climb, we entered bright sunshine. What a shock! We were above the fog! We were not even to Suscal yet, where the fog sometimes begins. The blue sky was such a refreshing sight to see.
Above the thick fog

Picture perfect Andes

The rest of our drive was in perfect conditions. No landslides were in the way, people and animals stayed on the shoulder of the road and no one came close to hitting us while passing on a blind curve.

The mountains are beautiful with fluffy clouds floating above them.
Homes are sprinkled here and there along the way, as are reminders of recent landslides.
Farming is popular along this route. Planting and harvesting of crops is done by hand, often on steep slopes. Click on the photo below to increase the size and you can see the fields in the center. Fences are often made with freshly cut branches that grow roots and become trees, which make the field dividing lines living fences.
Small communities and towns each have their own stunning backdrops.
We made it to Cuenca in five hours and were relaxed when we arrived. The fog at the beginning of the mountains was a distant memory.

Do you take longer routes to avoid hazardous roads?

Monday, July 3, 2017

Never Ending Aftershocks

"Anyone else just feel an earthquake in Cuenca?"
-- Facebook post by the author, June 30, 2017, 5:32 PM

June 30, 2017, 5:29 PM
The building began swaying back and forth, as if an enormously strong wind was blowing. There was only a light breeze outside. My husband, Scott, and I were reading in our tenth floor Cuenca apartment. We looked at each other, both saying "earthquake" at the same time.

There was no panic nor even any movement toward getting up from our chairs. We knew it was too light to be a problem for us. We were concerned about those living near the epicenter, wherever that was.

I posted on Facebook asking if anyone else felt it. It was my way to simultaneously find out how far the reach was and to confirm that friends were okay. Within minutes, I heard from people in various parts of the country. Most had felt it and some had felt nothing. Thankfully, no one was reporting injuries or damage.

Scott looked at his Sismo Ecuador application. The initial report was a 6.5 earthquake near Jama on the Ecuador coast, 331 kilometers from where we were.
We were in Cuenca during earthquake, 331 kms from Jama
Scott posted the following screenshot on the Ecuador Emergency Facebook group.
Initial report four minutes after earthquake
It was eerily close to the epicenter of the massive 7.8 earthquake on April 16, 2016 - the night that forever changed our reactions to even small earthquakes. I previously wrote about our experience that night. You can read it here. That earthquake left at least 676 dead, 16,600 injured, and thousands temporarily homeless.

We are no strangers to earthquakes
Scott and I lived less than seven miles from the San Andreas fault in the San Francisco Bay area for more than 15 years. We spent years guessing at the magnitude and epicenter each time there was an earthquake. It was a contest to see who could guess the closest.

We continued that guessing game/contest when we moved to Ecuador. Scott was often correct about the magnitude and approximate distance we were from the epicenter.

After our experience last April, we still try to guess but it is no longer a contest nor are we excited if we guess correctly. We are hyper-sensitive to what might be happening near the epicenter.

Minimal damage and injuries this time
The earthquake on June 30 was eventually revised down to a 6.3. Fortunately there were only five injuries, including one man who fell off a roof. Only one house collapsed (granted, if it was your house, it would be a major issue but only one is a good result for a fairly strong earthquake). No tsunami warnings were needed.

Aftershocks since April 16, 2016: 3771
The Latin American Herald Tribune reported that this was one of 3771 aftershocks since the 7.8 earthquake last April. There is no way to know when the aftershocks will end.

I know I speak for more than just myself when I say we are ready for the earth to stop shaking.

Do you have earthquakes where you live?