July 20, 2013

An ending and a beginning

Even an ending is a beginning. As I wrote in the previous blog post, I'm amazed by how little of the future we can imagine, even if we try to know as much as possible beforehand. Greg did a ton of research before we decided to move to Fort Collins. When he got the job at Poudre High School, we knew that we were finally moving back, even if all the pieces weren't perfectly put together. The pieces almost never truly align anyway.

Before we moved to Munich, we didn't fully understand what living a European lifestyle really meant. We didn't know what it would be like to be living in a country without knowing much of the language. We didn't know how open other expats and teachers would be to accepting us into their lives, or to what extent the Germans could be both reserved and enthusiastic.

Before we moved to Quito, we didn't really get what it meant to be in a developing country. We didn't realize how incredibly lucky we were to have well-paying jobs (by Ecuadorian standards) and be able to take vacations and see the country. It was a privilege that not many in that country have. We didn't understand real poverty until we went there, but we also didn't understand how people with so little can be so helpful and kind. At the same time, we didn't expect Ecuadorians to be so shy about making friends with foreigners.

Of course, it hasn't been all uncertainty. But there is a big difference between what you know ahead of time and what actually greets you upon arrival and how it fits into the grand scheme of things in a country. Moving back to the US will be easy in some ways, but very difficult in others.

I don't remember a lot of thoughts and details I had before we left for Germany, but one thought stands out vividly. It was the idea that I had that we would not truly understand what was going on around us for a long time. That thought turned out to be so true. It came out in daily frustrations and funny mistakes alike.

Even with my level of Spanish, I know now I can never truly assimilate into another culture. It takes so much more than just language, or even just having strong relationships with locals. You really cannot re-learn a whole mindset. But the good news is that any experience is always your own, even when you share it with others.

This may not be our last blog post, but it will be one of them. This blog hasn't always been easy to keep up. Many times though, we both felt so excited to share our experiences with you all. I cannot tell you what a comfort it has been to have you guys out there reading, responding, and supporting us in our journey overseas. Thank you very much!

July 17, 2013

Our New Apartment

I'm writing this from our new apartment in Fort Collins. An apartment that I did not even know about or could have imagined when we were packing our suitcases in Quito and saying goodbye to good friends there.

Here is what I can tell you: Fort Collins is green. Both in the eco-friendly sense and in the foliage sense of the word. Most of Colorado around this time of year is brown, beige, and yellow (trust me, we just saw this scene last week when we flew in). But Fort Collins feels like a little oasis. There are streams and rivers in the city. Huge trees line many city blocks. Even in our new apartment, we've got a huge green lawn that we look out over. Scoots keeps watch over the numerous dogs that frolic in the backyard.

The apartment we choose is by far the smallest place we have lived in together. It's a one bedroom on the ground floor with a patio that lets us walk out on to the lawn. It is cozy and peaceful. I'm unashamed of my love for the dishwasher after two years of hand washing dishes almost every single day. We are right next to an organic grocery store with reasonable prices, a vet, a pet food store, and a little neighborhood coffee shop.

This apartment will be our transition place to a house as we get to know Fort Collins and potential neighborhoods we'd want to live in. We already have bikes and Greg is going to build a bike trailer that we can take to run errands and more. We still hope to live without a car, although we are seriously considering an ELF. So many people bike here! There are nice wide side streets and bike lanes as well as beautiful trails along rivers.

I hope you all will hear more about our new location, but maybe this time in person rather than through the blog!

June 27, 2013

What Living Abroad Has Taught Me (Ayelet's Perspective)

As you all know, we've lived abroad for four years now. We've each learned our own lessons about living in new places. Greg will write his own perspective later, but for now, here's what I've learned in our last four years.

Talking to Strangers
Asking questions of people you don't know is not something I generally had to do a whole lot of in the US. What I've learned is that people love getting asked for directions, recommendations, etc. You just need to meet them halfway there - know the actual name of the place you're trying to get to or give them something to go on if you're asking for a recommendation (e.g., don't just ask for a restaurant for example - ask for a vegetarian-friendly restaurant). The more sheepish or helpless you can look, the better!

The ones who don't like your questions aren't worth talking to anyway. 

Being Resourcefulness
One area where I have had to be incredibly resourceful is the food department. We can't find all the ingredients of dishes and desserts I've wanted to make here. I'm always on the lookout for recipes I can make or that I can find simple substitutes for. This type of resourcefulness extends to making things that I could buy, but don't want to get rid of when we leave. 

For example, instead of buying a bunch of frames or bulletin board to put photos up in my studio, I created a makeshift picture holder with wire hangers and clothes pins, and I figured out a way to put it upwithout having to drill into the concrete wall either. It's awesome and I love to look up from my designs to see my family, friends, and inspiring pictures looking down on me.

Living Simply
Like I mentioned in a previous blog post, we are going to come back with three suitcases, two carry-ons, a backpack, and a cat pack. That's not a lot of space, which is good in a way. It means that anytime I think about buying something, I think to myself "Will this be one of the few things that makes it back with us?" If I know it won't, I don't buy it.

That means that what I do buy here are things that I truly love and want to have in a future home. I hope I can extend this mindset when we have a home to settle into.

Doing Without a Car
If you told me five years ago that we would go this long without a car, I probably wouldn't have believed you. Europe was extremely easy to get around without a car and in Quito, it's easier to travel around without a car than with one. It would be nice to have a car here for weekend trips, but we've found car rental services for those rare getaways. 

It may be harder to get groceries to our home and sometimes that means the trip will take longer. But benefits to my health has been huge. Before I left the US, my doc told me that I had high triglyceride levels (aka bad cholesterol; it runs in the family). But since we've been without a car, it hasn't been a problem. I also feel stronger, more able to stand for long periods of time, and more willing to be active in other ways because we don't have a car to rely on. I feel more connected to my community and the neighborhood we live in because of it, too. 

We hope to go without a car in the US so we're not tempted to rely on it - Fort Collins looks like a great place to bike and use mass transit. 

Learning the Language
I can't even begin to express exactly how much easier and better the overseas experience is when you know the language. I hear a lot of frustrations and bitterness among the teachers and other friends here who don't know Spanish. And I'm so thankful that my Spanish is good enough that I understand what people are saying. I still have grips about things that relate more to society, but that also has been a great experience.

It's easy to think that things could be better if only they did it like they do in the US or if only they did this instead of that. But another country isn't the US and never will be. And that's the whole reason why we came overseas - to see a different culture and try our darnedest to understand why things are the way they are here. It would take years to really, truly understand the culture and society.

I'm sure there is much, much more that living abroad has taught me - it may only come out when we return to the US in a week and a half. Stay tuned!

June 11, 2013

Quinoa Burgers

Once upon a time, we attempted to make bean burgers. Those sloppy-joe-like patties were not making the cut. Then we evolved to mushroom burgers. These were great, but did not offer the variety we sought. Finally, we have settled on the quinoa burger. This tasty item is the perfect blend of for any diet. They are easy to make. Best of all, they freeze better than most foods and are reheated to perfection in less than a minute.

So, without delay, I give you the quinoa burger...or at least the steps for you to make them.

Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes (unless you use more pans)
Makes 24 burgers

1 Pound Quinoa
2 Cups Water
1 Onion
5 Cloves of Garlic
1 Carrot Shredded
1 Zucchini Shredded
1/2 Pound of Mushrooms
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Paprika
2 Eggs
1 to 2 Cups Bread Crumbs
Veggie Oil for Frying

Note that all items should be diced into very small cubes for easier burger shaping. You can also substitute other veggies as long as they do not get too wet while cooking.

Step 1:
Start boiling the quinoa in the water.
Fry the onion until brown.
Add the garlic.
 Step 2:
Add shredded carrot and cook for a few minutes.
Then add shredded zucchini.
These items help to bind the burgers.
Step 3:
Finely dice your mushrooms.

 Step 4:
Check that your quinoa is cooked and has very little liquid (about 20 minutes).
Then transfer your cooked veggies from the frying pan to quinoa.
Fry your mushrooms. Drain excess liquid if needed.
Step 5:
Add the mushrooms, eggs, salt, and spices to the mix. Stir this together.

Slowly add the bread crumbs until the mixture is dry enough to handle but still holds together. When making burgers, you hands will get some of the mixture on, but it should not be too sticky.
Step 6:
Patty up the burgers (to the size of your anticipated buns) and fry in oil on medium heat. Fry each side for 3-5 minutes.

Step 7:
Flip your burgers.
Step 8:
Cook both sides until they are dark brown.
Step 9:
Stack up burgers on a plate to cool.
We like to top our burgers with tomato, rucola, cheese, ketchup, and mustard. I usually consider this one of my traditional American meals.

If you are feeling like making this an all home cooked meal, then I suggest making a focaccia while you cook. You can use the dough from my next post, stove top pizza, for the focaccia.

Remember to freeze all of those extras for quick lunches. Enjoy!

June 8, 2013

On the Subject of Food

The moment you leave your neighborhood, food can start to look, taste, and smell a bit different. Four years ago, Ayelet and I jumped an entire ocean that forced us to rethink our 3 daily meals.

Over those four years, we have broadened our palettes with new flavors, meals, fruits, and vegetables. Many of our favorite new foods were cheeses or desserts. But one thing we quickly realized was that being vegetarian in a foreign country and with a foreign language can be tricky, especially right when we arrived in a new place.

Ironically, we assumed so much about food before our moves to Germany and then Ecuador. And the great part was that we got everything WRONG! Germany, we assumed was meat-centric and that we would be stricken to a pretty poor selection of veg. We were pleasantly surprised in the first days of going out. Every beer garden always had those huge pretzels we loved and the local restaurants served my favorite kasespatzle.

Then, we moved to Ecuador. We figured that as a developing country, with farming produce as a main industry, going out for food as vegetarians would be even easier. We were going to get the freshest ingredients in the world at every restaurant. It did not take us long to figure out that going out to eat was a luxury here for the average person, and that most of the Ecuadorians are not vegetarians. However, we still had personal access to all of that fresh produce so our own kitchen became our cooking school.

I think these types of situations are what we have cherished most about living abroad. We have had to be open to breaking our assumptions completely. Our lives were pretty routine 4 years ago (and still are in many ways), but we have been challenged in the most basic daily needs: food.

So, with that in mind, I would like to share two of my recipes we have really enjoyed over the past two years. I sometimes wonder if we had stayed in the U.S. if we ever would have tried so many new things. In my next two posts, I am going to branch away from pure travel and show a few of our home-cooked favorites. ¡Buen provecho!

June 5, 2013

Llamas Yamas!

I'm not even going to write that much in this post. I just wanted to show you all the amazing llamas we were surrounded with when we were at the Black Sheep Inn. They acted as the inn's natural lawn-mowers.

Beautiful creatures and these were actually friendly! Greg got a lick on the hand from one of them. Another one was chilling outside our cabin on Saturday morning. Enjoy!

"Good morning" says the baby llama

June 2, 2013

Check out This Big Ol' Hole

The view from our cabin
Last weekend we road tripped to Chugchilan and the Quilotoa crater with two friends for the long weekend. Ecuador celebrated an important independence battle on May 24th, so we took advantage and checked off one more trip on our bucket list. This will  be the last new trip of our time here and it didn't disappoint. It was easily one of the best trips we've done here.

Glass bottle wall at the lodge - one way to build
 in an eco-friendly and beautiful way
The Black Sheep Inn is an eco-lodge set about 4 hours away from Quito - the last two hours were rough riding, but we made it fine! After lunch at the lodge, Greg and one of our friends went on a hike, and myself and our other friend stayed in the hammocks in their sunroom and took some naps.

We really had the hard life because after a nap, we all checked out the wood-heated sauna and hot tub until dinner. There were many interesting expats and tourists at the lodge so our dinner discussions were extra fun.

We must have come on the Jewish weekend or something because at least six other Jewish people were there that weekend. After all this time of barely knowing any other Jewish people, it was funny we got to know so many others on this trip.

The next day we went to the big ol' hole, aka the Quilotoa crater, for a day of hiking and picnics. It was basically a volcano that exploded long ago and its top fell in to create a giant lake. We got lucky because it was bright and sunny in the morning when we got there. But it was cold. Hat, gloves, warm layers, and windbreakers were all needed! Later in the day, as we were leaving, a thick fog rolled in and you couldn't see more than 100 yards in front of you.
Countryside we passed through to get to Quilotoa
The lake itself  - the dark spots are cloud shadows

All ready for the cold and wind!
Greg along the ridge
There was the possibility to hike down and back up, or hike about 5-6 hours around the crater ridge. We opted to hike around the ridge until we got tired and turned around. I'm glad we didn't have to hike through the fog because it would have been all pain and no gain since we wouldn't have seen anything.

Yellow flowers along the ridge
Close-up of the flowers
Passing along the ridge, you have the crater on one side and beautiful rolling hills and fields on the other. These bright yellow flowering bushes were in bloom and it was a beautiful contrast to the blue-green color of the crater lake. I told Greg I hope we can plant some of these flowers in Colorado one day and have ourselves a little Ecuadorian alpine garden.

We dubbed this pup Poop-Face because he had poop on his snout.
Poop on the snout or not, he was super cute and got food out of us.
You can see the fog that's starting to roll in to the left there. It was pretty cool to watch.
Back at the lodge, we soaked in the hot tub and read for the rest of the afternoon. At night, we scrounged up marshmallows, biscuits, and chocolate for makeshift s'mores. They were delicious. I wish we were still at the lodge - it was a beautiful trip!

May 22, 2013

It's Started

Moving is a pain in the neck. I can better understand now why people live in the same place for 30+ years. I've started saying if I could sleep through the whole moving out part and wake up in Colorado, I'd be happy. Poor Greg and Scoots - they'd have to fend for themselves.

Today I cleaned my studio and got rid of scraps I'd been holding on to for years. Scraps that I brought from the US, and then Germany. Don't ask me why - I don't know. It does feel good to put order to the chaos that was my studio in the last few weeks.

This morning made me think about our attachment to stuff that ends up being just clutter. Gifts were never used. Papers with notes that are of no use anymore because the events are long over. Cat toys that a certain grey tuxedo cat (not naming names) doesn't play with. Dried flowers that have faded in the sun. Dead batteries. Rolls of thread and bobbins for sewing. Cute little containers. Notebooks whose pages are all filled. Computer wires and cables, speakers, microphones. And the list goes on...

At the end of a time somewhere, what is the point to keeping half this stuff? Some might say it's because of the memories or the nagging thought that once you throw it away, you'll need that thing again. I'm here to say that's not true - you'll always have the memories and you won't ever need that thing you've been holding on to. Throwing or giving away your items is liberating. You focus on the people and things that are most important to you - Greg, Scoots, health, good food, warm shelter, not having to move again. It gives you clarity.

We still have a month and a half to go so there's time. A friend told me she usually starts the moving out process about six months before. I feel like I should do this mass cleaning every six months regardless of moving or not. For now, our goal is to get our pile of stuff down to fit in three suitcases and two carry-on bags as well as a backpack. We'll be donating, selling, and tossing a lot in the next month and a half. 

I'm sure this won't be the last you hear about our move out of Quito, but we do have a lot of other activities we want to do before we leave, too. This weekend is a long weekend and we're going here with two friends: 

Quilotoa crater (image found here)
I think our pictures won't be as scenic as this one (the lake doesn't look this green in other photos) so fair warning! We've been looking forward to this trip for a while and it'll be our last new place we visit here. Stay tuned for more!

May 3, 2013

Yoga Retreat, then Finals

I'll be a little quiet on here in the next two weeks because of the end of my class (2 exams and a paper due in next two weeks... but no more presentations!), designing, and work. But before all that, I'm going on a yoga retreat tomorrow (you may remember this one from last year). I remember I came back so relaxed and well-fed last year - I hope that same happens this year.

I also wanted to share some photos I took of the last full moon - it was huge that night! I woke up early and thought the stadium's spotlights were on, but the angle that the light was shining in was off. When I took a look out the window, the moon was massive and so bright. Enjoy the shots and I'll write more in a couple weeks!

yes, that's the moon up there.
Moon as the sun came up

April 24, 2013

Great Day in Quito

You know when you have those days where you just feel like you need to be outside. Well, the weather in Quito usually pretty good, but today was PERFECT! I know, talking about the weather is a little clique, but after a week of rain you would feel invigorated too. Ayelet and I enjoyed a warm walk in park today as the Sun set behind Pichincha (you've seen it in previous posts).

Now, luckily I am in a career that allows me to get outside as much as needed. And today just happened to be a day that we needed a 70 meter long stretch of grass. My middle school students were doing a lesson that I like to call "Space Race," where they create a scale model of our solar system. Here is a little taste of our backdrop from school on a clear day from Quito after a long stretch of snow being dumped on the mountains. Remember, we are surrounded by a bunch of old volcanoes that create amazing views.

Cayambe (the pointy one in the next few pics)
View from my classroom
Students setting up the inner solar system. The tree is the Sun. 
On our scale, Neptune is 60 meters from the Sun
Everyone enjoyed the view. 
Mars was 3 meters from the Sun. 
Antisana from my class. Supplies about 10% of water to Quito. 

April 23, 2013

Latin American Artists in Nueva York: Orozco and Tamayo

Alright, we left off at Jose Clemente Orozco and Rufino Tamayo, two great Mexican artists. Orozco was considered one of "los tres grandes" (three important ones), referring to the three great muralists of that time: Rivera, Siqueiros, and Orozco. Siqueiros also was in New York at this time, but since I'm not a huge fan of his work, I won't go much more into him - beyond the little tidbit that he influenced Jackson Pollack with his use of industrial paints, like airplane paint, in his art. Ok, on to Orozco.

Orozco on the East Coast
Orozco lived in New York for a while - 1927 until 1934 and then again in 1940 and 1946.

One of his amazing murals is in a basement room in Dartmouth College. You'd be right to say that Dartmouth isn't in New York; it's in New Hampshire. But the mural he painted there is so amazing - I just have to write about it. It's called "The Epic of American Civilization" and it's 92-feet long. It portrays American civilization from the invasion of Mexico during the conquest to the Mexican revolution to scenes in the United States during the 1930s.

One segment of "The Epic of American Civilization", Jose Clemente Orozco, 1934, via Dartmouth
Orozco also painted scenes of New York life, such as "The Subway." Greg said it's like a jail cell. The dark and dreariness of the scene is very much like Orozco - his themes often have an apocalyptic overtone to them.

What stuck out to me is that the people look blurry and faraway, just like they would if you were trying to avoid seeing other people on a subway car. Beyond just the need to have space in a big city (even if it's only mental space), there's also a survival need there. You never know who you might meet on the subway and whether they are sane, unfriendly, or even short-tempered to the point of being murderous. Orozco shows the distance we place between ourselves and others in this painting.

"The Subway," Jose Clemente Orozco, 1928, via MoMA

Rufino Tamayo in New York

"I went to New York to get to know what painting really was... We were blind here, and New York made me aware of all the trends and currents that existed in those years. It showed me what art was."- Rufino Tamayo (via this New York Times article)
During the late 1920s, Tamayo was being eclipsed by the three great Mexican muralists of his time. There was really no need because Tamayo was an excellent painter who painted in a more universal style than the muralists. He wanted to base his art in principles of modern art, meaning flat compositions and abstract forms. Tamayo lived in New York between 1926-1928 and again in 1936 until 1950.

He exhibited in several galleries in New York and also had a major retrospective at the Guggenheim museum in New York in 1979. Not convinced? Here are two of his paintings that he did while in New York:

"Animales," Rufino Tamayo, 1941, via MoMA
Tamayo painted Animales right in the middle of WWII. It clearly communicates the fear and uncertainty that was rampant at this time in the world. These dogs are clearly hungry (see picked-clean bones at the bottom) and inspire fear in whoever would encounter them, especially in a dark alleyway somewhere. The animals are displayed with cubist lines and sinister colors. These are not your average domestic dogs here.
"Woman with a Pineapple," Rufino Tamayo, 1941, via MoMA
In total contrast, this peaceful scene of a woman with a pineapple. You can really see the influence of Picasso and cubism here. The colors also are interesting - you may never find a face with those types of colors (or shapes) in real life, but that's why it's art. Also, the subject matter evokes Gauguin with his island women.

Next up: Miguel Covarrubias and Joaquin Torres Garcia! Hope you're enjoying my presentation over many blog posts.

April 20, 2013

Latin American Artists in Nueva York: Diego Rivera

Now we can start on the artists - like I said before, I've got more information on Mexican artists than others so this is heavily skewed to them. There were plenty of other Latin American artists in New York during this time period, but not as much info on them. So, first up is Diego Rivera...

Diego Rivera in New York

He came to New York with his yet-unknown-artist/wife Frida Kahlo - nowadays more people know her than him, but back then, it was the other way around. He was fascinated by the modern technology that the city was using. Because he leaned heavily towards leftist politics, Rivera thought modern technology would free up the workers from hard labor tasks. 

The reason he saw all this modern technology at work was because the city was expanding greatly. It was the age of the skyscrapers in New York. Rivera created a three-piece mural for his successful MoMA exhibit in 1931-1932 and the subject had to do with this modern technology.

"Pneumatic Drill", Diego Rivera, 1931-2, via MoMA
 The first painting was called "Pneumatic Drill." This depicts the construction done for the Rockefeller Center, a place that will factor scandalously into Rivera's life a little later. The workers all have indistinct faces that imply they are simply hired hands. I found it interesting how the modern machine is in the front, but there are men using old technology (axes and such) in the background. It shows how old technology is the past and the new technology is the future.

"Frozen Assets", Diego Rivera, 1931-2, via MoMA
The next painting, "Frozen Assets," shows the city on three levels. The uppermost level is the newly-built skyscrapers in New York. The middle level shows a warehouse or homeless shelter full of homeless men, packed together and watched over by a guard. They were most likely the workers on these skyscrapers. In this painting, it appears that they are the foundation of the skyscrapers in the way they are positioned. In the bottom level, the rich are in a bank's safety vault, storing or reviewing their enormous wealth. Notice how this painting contrasts the few rich people at the bottom level with the vast number of homeless in the middle level.

"Electric Power", Diego Rivera, 1931-2 via MoMA

The last mural, "Electric Power," depicts workers in the Hudson Avenue Power Station where they generated steam power for the city during that time. Again, the workers aren't showing their faces, but two of them are looking at sources of light, which could signify that they are hopeful for the future.

Although Rivera was successful in New York at this time, he also was plagued by scandal. He was commissioned by Rockefeller Jr. to create a mural in the Rockefeller Center titled "Man at Crossroads." After placing Lenin's face in the mural, there was such an outcry in the press that Rockefeller was forced to tear down the mural. Or so they say...

"Man at Crossroads," Diego Rivera, 1934, via PBS

Another version that has been hypothesized is that Rockefeller was actually okay with Lenin's face on the mural. But what he didn't approve of was his own face on the mural. Rivera may have painted him in, drinking and dancing with women. Considering Rockefeller was religious (a Baptist) and a Prohibitionist, this personal insult was too much for him. This hypothesis may be true because Rivera later recreated the mural in Mexico and it had the scene with Rockefeller partying in it.

Lending credence to this belief of the personal slight is that Rockefeller ordered the mural destroyed while he was in negotiations with the MoMA for them to take the mural off his hands. Why would he have not sold the mural to the MoMA if only Lenin's face bugged him? He was a business man after all. 

Stay tuned for info and analysis on Orozco and Tamayo next time!

April 17, 2013

Latin American Artists in Nueva York: Intro

I recently gave a 30-minute (more like 45-minute) presentation to my art history class on Latin American artists who lived or passed through New York during the 1920s-1940s. You probably immediately think of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo's husband, the legendary Mexican muralist if you've seen the movie about Frida. But there were lots more. I did end up focusing more on the Mexican artists during this time, but there were some from Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Cuba, and even Ecuador (you might remember I mentioned Camilo Egas here).

I'm going to break up this post into at least two different posts so stay tuned for the rest. For now, enjoy learning a bit about the New York art scene during the '20s, '30s, and '40s, and how Latin American artists were treated during this time...

New York Art Scene in the 1920s

Art during this time was still relatively conservative in New York. The center of the modern art world was still Paris (and would be until WWII). The only gallery in town that was really showing modern art was Alfred Stieglitz's Gallery 291. H tried to get an avant-garde movement going in NY and would show more than just photography in his gallery. Even though New York wasn't known for its modern art yet, the US as a whole was known as an advanced and modern nation. Also, in case you forgot, Prohibition went from 1920-1933.

New York Art Scene in the 1930s

In the 1930s, the Great Depression raged in the US and around the world. In response, the art movement called social realism that displayed poverty and struggle grew in New York. Some American artists were given support by the government through the Works Projects Administration to create public art at this time. New York also experienced the immigration of artists and intellectuals from Europe who were fleeing unstable situations across Europe. They brought modern art movements with them, such as cubism for example.

New York Art Scene in the 1940s

During this decade, abstract expressionism grew in New York. The city also became a modern art center of the world because Paris was stuck in the middle of WWII. Lots of artists, both North American and Latin American, were influenced by leftist politics.

Latin American Artists Specifically

What I found really interesting was that Latin American artists who came to New York during the twenties/thirties/forties often were already well-known artists in their own countries and in Europe before they arrived in the US. What they did in New York added to their fame, but it didn't start their careers. Museums, like the MoMA, and galleries held exhibits for these artists.

North Americans during this time saw Latin American art, especially art from Mexico, as something exotic and picturesque, even though the artists were following the same art trends that North American artists were following. They just added their own Latin touch to the artwork and North Americans loved it! The Latino art also inspired North American artists and writers to visit Mexico and Cuba to experience the landscape and culture for themselves.

Also, President Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy tried to build better relationships with Latin American countries using cooperation and business, rather than military force, to stabilize the region. The government sponsored some exhibits of Latin American art during this time period, too.

One last interesting thing (and then you'll just have to wait until the next installment) was that art during this time influenced one another. As mentioned above, the famous photographer Alfred Stieglitz exhibited modern art work, including caricatures by Marius de Zayas in his gallery. The Mexican caricaturist, Miguel Covarrubias, was influenced by Jazz and Blues music, as well as African-American dancing. And Frida Kahlo loved watching movies and included a famous actor in one of her paintings when she was in New York.

I'll leave you with that wealth of information until next time. I'll list my bibliography at the end of this series so you all can research more.

April 15, 2013

The Air is Thin Up Here

Continuing on our weekend journey from Riobamba, we decided to climb Chimborazo, the world's highest mountain (taller than Mt. Everest due to the earth's bulge at the equator). From the center of the earth, Chimborazo is 6,384 meters/20,944.9 feet high. Everest loses by 2 kilometers/6561 feet. It looks pretty imposing when you drive up to it.

Did we get to the top? Heck no! That would take hours and require amazing levels of fitness that I, for one, did not have.

What you do is you drive into the park and go about 8 kilometers by car along a very bumpy, gravel road. Along the way you see vicunyas, special alpine llamas-meet-deer, and fog rolls in and out. We were lucky because the top of Chimborazo came into view a few times for us.

You park your car at the car park at the first refuge, which is at 4785 m/15,700 feet, and then start walking to the second. You can literally see the second refuge up there. It also seems closer than it is because the air is thinner up there and things appear clearer because of it.

The two buildings are the two refuges -
they're not that far apart, but it feels farther when you're hiking it at altitude.
Another side effect of the air being thinner is that you have a hard time catching your breath and your heart starts racing. At least mine did. I was the slowest member of our group, but I did make it up without feeling too sick or out of breath.
V for Victory!

The second refuge is at 5000m/16,400ft. high. A lot of the Ecuadorians were going a little further up to play in the snow since they hardly ever get to see snow. However, I was ready to get back to slightly thicker air so Greg and I hiked back down to have some tea and cookies in the first refuge. Our friends joined us and then, we got ready to go. Little did we know that we had left the car with its lights on while we were hiking.

Chimborazo's summit peeking out for us
We get in the car and -lo and behold!- it doesn't start! We're stuck at 15,700 feet with a drained car battery. So we get out to push it down the hill so it can charge the battery. Keep in mind the air is thin up here and our arms/legs get tired more quickly. We push and push, and at some point, another guy comes to help take my spot pushing because my arms felt like limp noodles.

The car starts to roll down the hill and it turns on! I know most of you who know about cars were probably thinking "well, duh" at this point, but I had no idea if this pushing idea would really work or not.

The rest of our trip down Chimborazo and back home was fairly uneventful. We did pass the most beautiful river valley I've ever seen, but nothing was as exciting as pushing a car down a mountain. And there were friendly llamas, which always make life better.

Enjoy the llama cuteness!