Monday, July 31, 2017

Tree Stump Art

"We have those in Houston now, too." 
-- My Mom when I told her about the chainsaw tree stump art in Cuenca

Many years ago, when my husband and I cut down a tree in our California backyard, we left the tree stump about 6 feet tall. Scott built a bird feeder on top of the stump. I planted flowers at the base. Birds enjoyed the feeder year round. It never occurred to either of us to take a chainsaw to the stump to create something beautiful.

Tree stump art was not a thing back then. Most people we knew struggled with removing unwanted stumps. We were glad to find something useful to do with ours. In recent years, people have been turning stumps into works of art.

City Park in Houston, Minnesota

During a recent visit to my hometown of Houston, Minnesota, Mom and I stopped to look at the tree stump art in the city park. It was something I had also seen in Parque de la Madre in Cuenca, Ecuador. Art is now found where trees once stood. The trees in both parks had to be removed due to disease. The parks kept the stump tall enough to transform it into beautiful chainsaw carved works of art.

Houston (population 978) is home to the International Owl Center, the only one of it's kind in North America. It advances the survival of wild owl populations through education and research. Around town, various owl themes can be found. In spring 2017, artist Molly Wiste carved four owls into one trunk in the city park. The level of detail in each owl is impressive.

Tree stump owl art, Houston City Park

Parque de la Madre in Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuenca's (population 400,000) Parque de la Madre (Mother's Park) celebrates (surprise!) mothers. The carvings in this park began in 2015. Several artists were commissioned to create four pieces each. You will not be surprised to learn that much of the tree stump art is shaped like women.

Pregnant woman, Parque de la Madre

Friday, July 28, 2017

Orphanage Teens Learn to Express Themselves Through DJing #WATWB

Welcome to July's installment of the We Are The World Blogfest, where we share positive stories on the last Friday of each month. The basic rules are:
  • Keep the post below 500 words. 
  • Link to a human news story that shows love, humanity, and brotherhood and share an excerpt.
  • No story is too big or small as long as it goes beyond religion and politics.
Thank you to this month's WATWB co-hosts:  Simon FalkRoshan RadhakrishnanInderpreet Uppal, Damyanti Biswas and Sylvia Stein. 

I previously wrote a couple of times about the Olon Orphanage (here and here). It is one of the happiest places I know. I love spending time there.

I was thrilled to see this story in the Huffington Post. Cynthia Cherish Malaran (DJ CherishTheLuv), a breast cancer survivor, recently spent three weeks in Ecuador. She was introduced to the orphanage by Erwin Musper, who works tirelessly to improve lives at the orphanage.

Cynthia came to teach young girls how to DJ. From the article:
“Actually, I taught these young teens how to express themselves creatively and loudly, under the guise of DJing. These girls have been traumatized. Silenced. Teaching them how to express themselves gives them the green light to ask for what they want. To say ‘no!’ To ask for a raise at work. It can change their life. Even save their life. I went there thinking I had something to teach them. But actually, they taught me… I came back a few days ago,” Cynthia reports, “and I was looking at all these sad, unhappy faces here in our awesome New York City, and I was so confused. I came back and realized we have everything. We have everything and yet, we’re not happy. The girls at the orphanage have the bare minimum, yet they are so happy. Why? Because they have each other.”


Cynthia teaching DJ techniques
Image from Huffington Post

Monday, July 24, 2017

Inca Ruins in the City

"Everything has crumbled and in ruins but you can still appreciate how grand it was."
-- Pedro Cieza de León, 1547, chronicler of the Spanish conquest, speaking about Tomebamba

Northern Inca Capital

The Inca conquered the Cañari people in 1470 and established the city-state of Tomebamba (Large Plateau) high in the Andes mountains. Emperor Huayna Capac (ruled 1493-1525) selected Tomebamba, where he was born, to be the Inca northern capital.

It was a short lived capital. A civil war between Incan brothers in the 1520s led to it's destruction. When the Spanish arrived in 1532, it was already in ruins. They established the modern day city of Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca, burying most of the ruins under new buildings.

Pumapungo Archaeological Park

Today, the remains of the old capital are in the historic center of Cuenca, Ecuador's third largest city. Visit Pumapungo (Puma Gate) Archaeological Park, located near the Tomebamba river, to stroll among Inca ruins in the middle of a city.

The features include footprints of buildings, a pool, ovens, gardens, terraces, canals, and a mausoleum.

Acllas (also called Chosen Women, Virgins of the Sun, and Wives of the Inca)

On top of the terraced hill are footprints of acllawasi (house of the chosen women) buildings where sequestered young women lived and learned. The acllas were selected when they were between ages 8 and 10. Families whose girls were selected saw their own social status rise. During their 4 years in the acllawasi the girls learned to produce luxury items like fine woven cloths, to prepare ritual foods, and other skills to service the social elite.

Once trained, some of the acllas were given as wives to warriors who distinguished themselves in battle. Others were concubines for the emperor and a few lived out their lives in the acllawasi. Those deemed most perfect were selected for human sacrifice during religious rites.

Footprints of acllawasi

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.


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.



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.

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