Thursday, December 30, 2010
Today we went back to SALEM to spend some more time with the kids (see yesterday's post for info about SALEM). The photo above was taken in the Parque Central de Mindo (basically the center of town).
One of the town merchants, Susan and Luis Alban, the owners of CasKaffeSu, a hotel, restaurant, and wine bar, allowed Amy to bring a half dozen kids into the courtyard to take photos. They have a beautiful, colorful, and fanciful, Escher-inspired design which the kids enjoyed.
Karla was just bubbling over with enthusiasm, taking pictures of anything and everything with wide-eyed abandon as we roamed the town. She could also steal your heart away in an instant - she got mine anyway.
Cesar had more fun playing with this wheelbarrow, resting in it, or figuring out ways to get it over the bamboo bar than any child could have doing anything.
Here's Amy with her "kids" finishing up the field trip before going inside to upload the days' fun.
A slideshow with music has them all captivated as each child uploads his/her photos to Amy's computer.
And now it's time for Amy to say goodbye for another year to her "kids." Cameras for Kids in Ecuador has brought something new and different to these kids who in many cases have lived very difficult lives. Your help to Amy and/or SALEM has brought the kids joy and unleashed wonderful creativity.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
For the past few years, Amy has been visiting Mindo, Ecuador and conceived, planned, and carried out teaching photography to kids at a disadvantaged children's home operated by the SALEM International folks ( Salem International Link. ) Many of Amy’s photographer friends in the US have donated cameras to her project. See Amy’s link for more info ( Cameras for Kids in Ecuador ). Above is most of the group that went out on the walk.
Since Amy is usually the photographer instead of the photographee (not a real word), here’s a shot with her included for a change.
We walked out into the surrounding nature areas to give the kids a chance to try out the new batch of cameras.
This beautiful river is the Mindo River that thunders down from the surrounding mountains and rain forest and was the end point of the walk.
Once back at the SALEM facility, the kids all crowd around Amy as she uploads the photos for viewing on the computer. Please visit Amy’s link or the SALEM link above if you want to know more about either effort.
This is our "home" in Mindo - it's part hostal ($15 per person per night including hot running water and breakfast), part restaurant, part coffee and dessert bar, and part chocolate factory. Although it is not unusual in Ecuador (or any developing country) to see houses in various stages of completion, with El Quetzal it serves a purpose. The open air third floor is where the various machines are located for processing the cocao beans in preparation for export or to make some chocolate locally. The concrete room behind the logo/name is where the bags of cocao nibs are stored awaiting shipment to the US and also where the grinder and press is kept to separate out the cocoa butter from the pure chocolate. The cocoa they serve in the bar is 100% chocolate - NOTHING added - you must even spoon in your own sugar to taste. The beans used by by El Quetzal are of the "arriba" variety, endemic to Ecuador, and said by many to contain the very best flavor in the world.
Here's Amy enjoying breakfast on a typical December morning at El Quetzal. She sure looks like she misses those cold, dark, New England mornings, eh?
Located in the middle of El Quetzal's organic gardens, this building looks like a plastic covered greenhouse on the outside, but inside is a cocao bean processing plant. The multi-layered bins in the foreground are where the beans are fermented before spreading out on the drying racks in the background. Note the structural members of the greenhouse are exclusively made of bamboo.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Awakening shortly after sunrise, this was our view from bed.
For breakfast outside on the patio, we were surrounded by these beautiful flowers.
Downtown Mindo, about two hours west of Quito via a winding, death-defying road, is small, rural, and friendly - the location is a world-renowned birding location and offers other eco-friendly pursuits, too.
Here's one of the four legged natives wondering the streets untethered - his "girlfriend" is off-screen left chomping on some grass.
El Quetzal, is our combination hostal and chocolate factory.
Here's the source of the constant rushing we heard from our room at El Quetzal, one of the mountain rivers that rush through the Mindo area.
Christmas Day sunrise at Boston Logan Airport marked the beginning of our family trip to Ecuador. We left on time on a clear, bright, and cold day, only two days before a winter blizzard slammed the northeast United States with the season's first major storm.
Not much of a photo technically speaking but, it shows us departing south over Plymouth, MA in the foreground and White Horse Beach in the upper left.
Nestled in a high Andean valley along the "Avenue of the Volcanoes," Quito, Ecuador is the second highest capital city in the world at approximately 9,300 feet above sea level. It's much like any other large city in the world except the population sprawl climbs up the extinct volcano sides.
This downtown area pictured is Plaza Foch in the "new town." Lots of restaurants, hotels, hostals, clubs, and nightlife. The driving Latin music beat didn't stop throbbing the hotel walls until 4am.